Kilvert's Diary 1870-1879: Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert

Kilvert's Diary 1870-1879: Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert

Kilvert's Diary 1870-1879: Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert

Kilvert's Diary 1870-1879: Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert

Excerpt

Kilvert is a real literary discovery. Just before the war there came to light some twenty-two note-books containing the diary of this young Victorian clergyman, and, from these, selections have been made for the present volume. I find it fascinating reading; for, even apart from a liking for diaries in general, this one has quite exceptional qualities. It gives an extraordinarily sensitive and observant picture of country life in the seventies, mostly of Radnorshire and central Wales, where Kilvert was a curate, but also of the west country, for his home was in Wiltshire, and during this year, 1870-1, he visited a good deal in Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset. But, more important, he wrote like an angel; his gift was for prose rather than verse -- though his verses are quite charming too. The result is an addition to literature. In an odd way, the discovery of this unknown curate reminds one of the resurrection of Gerard Hopkins, though Kilvert was a gentler, less striking genius than that.

Kilvert came from a good old west country family; and, though he spent most of the years covered by his diary as a curate in a remote part of Wales, he did not think of it as exile, but lived a very full and enjoyable social life. He was a welcome guest at all the country houses round, especially at Clyro Court, in his own parish, with the family at which he was on friendly, affectionate terms. He clearly had great social gifts, though he had a real gift for solitude too, and can say: "I have a peculiar dislike to meeting people, and a peculiar liking for a deserted road". He was an out-of-doors man who liked riding, fishing, and, above all, walking -- that favourite pursuit of the intellectually-minded. Not that he was an intellectual; he does not appear to have been a great reader; his reactions to public events -- the Franco-German War, the Mordaunt case -- were conventional enough. He was something more and better than that; he was an artist, with a passionate love of life.

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