The Archdeacon by Anthony Trollope.

Venerable Conway Benning, LLD,
Archdeacon of Dromore (1737 - 1823).
The Archdeacon is the fourth essay in Anthony Trollope's Clergymen of the Church of England (1866). I started reading these last year but stopped, so for the remainder of this year I'm picking them back up and hoping to finish them. 

These essays not only describe the roles of the various clergymen within the church of England but also give a humorous stereotype of the sort of person who usually adopts these roles. In the Archdeacon's case, Trollope paints the portrait of a rather hard-done-by sort of chap. It begins, 
A dean has been described [in the previous chapter] as a Church dignitary who, as regards his position in the Church, has little to do and a good deal to get. An archdeacon, on the other hand, is a Church dignitary, who in diocesan dignity is much equal to a dean, and in diocesan power is much superior to a dean, but who has a great deal to do and very little to get. Indeed, as to that matter of getting, the archdeacon, - as archdeacon, - may be said to get almost nothing. It is quite in keeping with the traditional polity and well understood peculiarities of our Church that much work should be required from those officers to whom no payment is allotted, or payment that is next to none; whereas from those to whom affluence is given little labour is required. And the system works well enough. There has yet been no dearth of archdeacons; nor shall we probably experience any such calamity.
Trollope continues to assure the reader that archdeacons are "seldom allowed to starve", and that the archdeacon does manage to scrape together a living, however it is more typical that said archdeacon has some "private means" and quite frequently comes from a line of churchmen -
He is, perhaps, the son or nephew of a bishop, or has married a wife from the palace, or has, after some fashion, sat in his early days at episcopal feet.
It is imperative that the bishop is able to place trust in his archdeacon, and an archdeacon without means, without a few curates, without a carriage, or without a bank account is enough to raise suspicion. For that reason, as Trollope has said, it's best for him that he does have some private means. But it's not all about money. Trollope continues, writing that "above all things, an archdeacon should be a man of the world". 

From here Trollope goes on to assert that in reality, the archdeacon is in fact more of a bishop than a bishop, though that is not reflected in his power it is reflected in his knowledge of the goings on in his diocese, much as, Trollope suggests, a financial secretary at the Treasury next to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Despite that, his opportunity of promotion is limited:
High promotion in the Church now comes form political influence or from the friendship of Ministers, - from those things, combined of course with high clerical attainments - and an archdeacon is not often in the way to obtain political influence or the friendship of Ministers.
Furthermore as deans tend to live in towns, archdeacons tend to be found in the country, usually in opposition to the country gentleman, which does not help his cause. But, as Trollope says, "they make the most of it".

The essay is rounded off by Trollope pointing out a few ways in which they can advance, and goes on to praise the archdeacon, calling him a gentleman. He concludes,
... an archdeacon is not raised by his dignity above a capability for jovial intimacy, and yet he walks with his head pleasantly raised above the heads of other parsons around him.
And there ends the essay. It's funny, well-observed, and warm - one of my favourites so far.

And that was 32nd title from the Deal Me In Challenge (just 20 more to go, which means there's just 20 more weeks of the year - heavens). Next week, another one from Clergymen of the Church of England - The Modern English Archbishop.


  1. one doesn't actually hear much about the humor in Trollope... i'm a ways into "Orly Farm" and it's quite amusing: T has a sort of tongue in cheek method of describing his characters that's rather taking...

    1. Yes, I agree. He can be quite dry-humoured. Not read Orly Farm yet - I will one of these days, but I've had a few bad Trollope reads so I need to be gently eased back into him :)


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