Joseph Wright's Arkwright's Cotton Mill by Moonlight....
From Shirley
by Charlotte Brontë in 1849
Chapter I
. . OF late years, an abudant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England: they lie very thick on the hills; every parish has one or more of them; they are young enough to be very active, and ought to be doing a great deal of good. But not of late years are we about to speak; we are going back to the beginning of this century: late years – present years are dusty, sun-burnt, hot, arid; we will evade the noon, forget it in siesta, pass the mid-day in slumber, and dream of dawn.
. . If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never wore more mistaken. Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reveries? Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard, Something real, cool, and solide lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto. It is not positively affirmed that you shall not have a taste of the exciting, perhaps towards the middle and close of the meal, but it is resolved that the first dish set upon the table shall be one that a Catholic – ay, even an Anglo-Catholic – might eat on Good Friday in Passion Week: it shall be cold lentils and vinegar without oil; it shall be unleavened bread with bitter herbs, and no roast lamb.
. . Of late years, I say, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England: but in eighteen-hundred-eleven-twelve that affluent rain had not descended: curates were scarce then: there was no Pastoral Aid – no Additional Curates' Society² to stretch a helping hand to worn-out old rectors and incumbents, and give them the wherewithal to pay a vigorous young colleague from Oxford or Cambridge. The present successors of the Apostles, disciples of Dr Pusey and tools of the Propaganda, were at that time being hatched under cradle-blankets, or undergoing regeneration, by nursery-baptism in wash-hand-basins. You could not have guessed by looking at any one of them that the Italian-ironed double frills of its net-cap surrounded the brows of a preordained, specially sanctified successor of St Paul, St Peter, or St John; nor could you have foreseen in the folds of its long night-gown the white surplice in which it was hereafter cruelly to exercise the souls of its parishioners, and strangely to nonplus its old-fashioned vicar by flourishing aloft in a pulpit the shirt-like raiment which had never before waved higher than the reading-deck³.
. . Yet even in those days of scarcity there were curates: the precious plant was rare, but might be found. A certain favoured district in the West Riding of Yorkshire could boast three rods of Aaron4 blossoming within a circuit of twenty miles. You shall see them, reader. Step into this neat garden-house on the skirts of Whinbury, walk forward into the little parlour – there they are at dinner. Allow me to introduce them to you: – Mr Donne, curate of Whinbury; Mr Malone, curate of Briarfield; Mr Sweeting, curate of Nunnely. These are Mr Dunne's lodgings, being the habitation of one John Gale, a small clothier. Mr Donne has kindly invited his brethren to regale with him. You and I will join the party, see what is to be seen, and hear what is to be heard. At present, however, they are only eating; while they eat we will talk aside.
[It is two paragraphs from here that the parsons dine, and it is quoted that they share 'as good a joint' as they can together].
From Chapter XXIV
Valley of the Shadow of Death
. . The servents in the kitchen, hearing the strain, stole to the stairfoot to listen: even old Helstone, as he walked in the garden, pondering over the unaccountable and feeble nature of women, stood still among his borders to catch the mournful melody more distinctly. Why it reminded him of his forgotten dead wife, he could not tell; nor why it made him more concerned that he had hitherto been for Caroline's fading childhood. He was glad ro recollect that he had promised to pay Wynne, the magistrate, a visit that evening. Low spirits and gloomy thoughts were very much his aversion: when they attacked him he usually found means to make them march in double-quick time. The hymn followed him faitly as he crossed the fields: he hastened his customary sharp pace, that he might get beyond its reach.
  'Thy word commands our flesh to dust, –  
    "Return, ye sons of men:"  
  All nations rose from earth at first,  
    And turn to earth again.  
  'A thousand ages in thy sight  
    Are like an evening gone;  
  Short as the watch that ends the night  
    Before the rising sun.  
  'Time, like an ever-rolling stream,  
    Bears all its sons away;  
  They fly, forgotten, as a dream.  
    Dies at the opening day.  
  'Like flowery fields, the nations stand,  
    Fresh in the morning light;  
  The flowers beneath the mower's hand  
    Lie withering ere 't is night.  
  'Our God, our help in ages past, –  
    Our hope for years to come;  
  Be thou our guard while troubles last, –  
    O Father, be our home!'  
1. 'Levitical': chapter introduces us to the curates. Traditionally, the Levites were the priests of Israel.
2. no additional Curates' Society: The Pastoral Aid Society was founded by Bishop Blomfield in 1836. Its purpose was to provide adequate service by the clergy of the Church of England in all the parishes in the country. It gave finiancial assistance to the poorer parishes. The Additional Curates' Society was founded in the following year by the wine merchant Joshua Watson, who also founded the National Society for the Provision of Church Schools and the Church Building Society. These were all attempts by the Church of England, with its rigid and old-fashioned parochial system, to meet the problems posed by the growth and movement of population which partly accompanied, partly caused, and partly resulted from the Industrial Revolution.
3. higher than the reading-desk: Most of this paragraph makes satirical reference to the Oxford Movement. This movement (1833-45), within the Church of England, was centred on the University of Oxford and aimed to restore the High Church ideals of the seventeenth century. Its chief objects were the defence of the Church of England as a divine institution, the maintenance of the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession, and the Book of Common Prayer as a rule of faith. Among the group's acknowledged leaders Dr Pusey was perhaps the most sympathetic. With the Oxford Movement, there gradually and inevitably arose a party which tended more and more towards submission to Rome. To this party Charlotte Brontë refers when she speaks of the 'tools of the Propaganda'. The Sacred Congregation of Propaganda was the Roman Catholic Congregation concerned with missions to heathen countries and the administration of territories, like England in 1811-12, where there was no properly established hierarchy. Within the Church of England the effective influence of the Oxford Movement was revealed most obviously in the sphere of worship and ceremony which came to play a much larger part in the life of the Church than in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
4. three rods of Aaron: Aaron was the first priest of the Jews. See Exodus xxviii, 2-4.
These Georgian parsons were obviously taking a hand in teaching their parishoners the benefits of managing your weed.
It's a Yorkshire thing (according to Charlotte Brontë).