Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Diary of a Country Clergyman, 1848-1851

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Diary of a Country Clergyman, 1848-1851

Article excerpt

M.E. REISNER, ED. The Diary of a Country Clergyman, 1848-1851. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000. Pp. Ixxxvii + 393, appendices, notes, index. $65.00.

The Reverend James Reid, "[a] Scot by birth, and originally a Gaelic-speaking presbyterian" (p. xxxi), served as an Anglican clergyman for well over thirty years in Quebec-what in the mid-nineteenth century was called Lower Canada. The Eastern Townships at the time were predominantly English-speaking; they would not, as some say, be "Frenchified" until the late nineteenth century when Quebec's French-speaking Catholics enjoyed one oi the highest birth rates in the world and were encouraged by the nationalists among them to possess English-speaking territory for ultramontane Catholicism. (Following the American Civil War some claimed that eventually portions of northern New England would be annexed to Quebec-the fruit of French Canadian emigration to the United States.) It is thus no surprise that the Reverend Reid's diaries-or at least the small portion of them published in this volume (of the original thirty-six volumes only four are extant)-do not have much to say about Francophone-Anglophone relations, a twentieth-century obsession happily overlooked by earlier generations.

What Reid does write of is pretty much what one would expect of a sincerely devout man of the cloth in charge of ordinary people. "Yesterday was Easter," he wrote on 9 April 1849. "I gave the Sacrament to 36 communicants. There are roots of bitterness among them. A misunderstanding has grown up between the two families since the year 1843" (p. 29). There is also much commentary on the necessary tedium of running a parish: "Last Wednesday the Ladies of the congregation and their kind girls met and washed the Church-Pews and windows in a very creditable manner" (p. 169). In these pages there is death, life, marriage, rejoicing, anger, and friendship.

At times Reid conveys his discouragement in the face of general religious indifference-"There is neither religious nor moral principle to depend upon among the bulk of our population" (p. …

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