16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 12


The Parish Clerk. By P. H. Ditchfield, M.A. (Methuen and Co. 7s. 6d. net.)—The judicious parson nowadays declines to appoint a parish clerk, for this reason : the office is a freehold, and a quite possible source of trouble, if the holder is not a satisfactory person. There are some who believe that the parson's office itself should be formally deprived of this character. If this were done it might be constituted afresh, made, for instance, a post to be held by one of the assistant clergy. This, indeed, has been tried. At the parish church of Leeds there used not many years ago to be —there may be now, for all that we know—a parish clerk in Holy Orders. Where the mother-church retains the privilege of cele- brating marriages, &c., the fees amount to a considerable sum. About a century ago the parish clerk of St. Andrew's, Holborn, was a General officer in the Army (retired), who appointed a deputy, and made a handsome profit out of the transaction. In small parishes the office is practically merged in that of sexton, and the chief part of the emoluments comes from burial payments. Generally, it may be said, the office has suffered a great decline. There is no place for it in the present- day service, and it was from his functions in public worship that the parish clerk derived his importance, if not his emoluments. Other causes, too, have contributed to diminish his status. To furnish the " Bills of Mortality," for instance, was an important duty ; but this has been taken from him by the system of registration. The thing is, of course, much better done, but there is a loss of the picturesque. The Parish Clerks' Company, one of the Guilds of London, is a standing memorial of what has boon. It is now a nominis umbra, a survival which it would be a great pity to interfere with, but a survival only. Mr. Ditchfield has much that is entertaining to say about the subject, one which is entirely to his liking. He tells many curious things about the office, and many more, still more curious, about the holders of it.