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A Victorian Curate: A Study of the Life and Career of the Rev. Dr John Hunt

David Yeandle
The Rev. Dr John Hunt (1827-1907) was not a typical clergyman in the Victorian Church of England. He was Scottish, of lowly birth, and lacking both social connections and private means. He was also a witty and fluent intellectual, whose publications stood alongside the most eminent of his peers during a period when theology was being redefined in the light of Darwinís Origin of Species and other radical scientific advances.

Hunt attracted notoriety and conflict as well as admiration and respect: he was the subject of articles in Punch and in the wider press concerning his clandestine dissection of a foetus in the crypt of a City church, while his Essay on Pantheism was proscribed by the Roman Catholic Church. He had many skirmishes with incumbents, both evangelical and catholic, and was dismissed from many of his curacies.

This book analyses his career in London and St Ives (Cambs.) through the lens of his autobiographical narrative, Clergymen Made Scarce (1867). David Yeandle has examined a little-known copy of the text that includes manuscript annotations by Eliza Hunt, the wife of the author, which offer unique insight into the many anonymous and pseudonymous references in the text. 

A Victorian Curate: A Study of the Life and Career of the Rev. Dr John Hunt is an absorbing personal account of the corruption and turmoil in the Church of England at this time. It will appeal to anyone interested in this history, the relationship between science and religion in the nineteenth century, or the role of the curate in Victorian England.

A Victorian Curate: A Study of the Life and Career of the Rev. Dr John Hunt
David Yeandle | Forthcoming
ISBN Paperback: 9781800641525
ISBN Hardback: 9781800641532
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781800641549
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781800641556
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781800641563
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781800641570
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0248
Categories: BIC: BG (Biography: general), BJ (Diaries, letters and journals), HRLB (Theology), DS (Literature: history and criticism), HBLL (Modern history to 20th century: c. 1700 to c. 1900), 3JH (c. 1800 to c. 1900); BISAC: BIO007000 (BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Literary Figures), BIO006000 (BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Historical), BIO018000  (BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Religious), HIS010000 (HISTORY / Europe / General), HIS015060 (HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Victorian Era (1837-1901)). 

2. John Hunt

This chapter provides an introduction to the character and person of the Rev. Dr John Hunt and his relevance within the context of the Victorian Church of England. Sections are devoted to his family and upbringing in Perth as the son of a shoemaker, his education in Scotland, including early influences on his religious development and his studies at St Andrews. Brief sections explore his scholarship and his two marriages.

3. Clergymen Made Scarce

This chapter investigates Huntís 48-page booklet by that name, the second, more extensive, edition of which he published in 1867, documenting his experiences as a curate from 1855 to 1866.

4. Town Life

This chapter explores Huntís ordination in the Church of England and first curacy (1) in working-class Bishopwearmouth (1855Ė59). It then examines his first metropolitan curacy (2) in Islington (1859), which proved to be unsatisfactory, and from which he was dismissed, owing to disagreements with his incumbent. Problematic interactions with the Bishop of London are documented as well as the funding of curacies by the Pastoral Aid Society. Applications for new curacies, following an advertisement in the Evangelical Record, and Huntís experiences obtaining references and going for trial engagements, some extraordinary, culminating in a successful, but unlicensed, engagement at Walham Green (3) are examined, which he has to leave after three months, owing to difficulties with the funding.

5. Essays and Reviews Controversy

This chapter traces the consequences of Huntís refusal to sign a petition condemning the controversial Essays and Reviews. By this time (1860), he had arrived at Edmonton (4), from whence he was dismissed on account of his liberal theology and acceptance of Essays and Reviews. As he had no licence, he had no recourse to the Bishop. Further applications, following another advertisement in the Record, ensue, each of which Hunt details, some of which had bizarre conditions attached.

6. Unemployment and Applications

This chapter documents a three-month period of unemployment, in 1860, during which time the chronology is uncertain. Huntís many experiences are described, including the results of further applications via the Curatesí Registry and the High-Church Guardian.

7. Final Metropolitan Applications

This chapter recounts an amusing case of mistaken identity and Huntís next successful application (5) at Christ Church, Hoxton, where he remained from 1860Ė63.

8. The Anatomist Curate

This chapter documents Huntís time at St Botolphís, Aldgate (1863Ė64), where he got into trouble over his clandestine dissection of a foetus in the crypt of the church, and the ensuing scandal made the national press, including the Spectator and Punch (6). He was dismissed from this curacy, and his prospects looked bleak.

9. Country Life

This chapter documents a brief interlude in Swallow, Lincolnshire (1864), where Hunt held a temporary curacy (7) and wrote the first part of Clergymen Made Scarce.

10. St Ives, Hunts

There is a wealth of detail given by Hunt about the ensuing clash of churchmanship, resulting once more in his dismissal. The last section looks at his final curacies at St Maryís, Lambeth (9) (1866Ė76) and St Nicholasís, Sutton, Surrey (10) (1876Ė78).

11. Conclusions

This chapter sums up Huntís time as a curate and its significance in the context of the Victorian Church.

12. Postscript: John Hunt in Otford

The postscript investigates Huntís time as Vicar of Otford, preferment, which he gained at the age of fifty-one.