Sketches by Boz HTML version

2. The Curate. The Old Lady. The Half-Pay Captain
We commenced our last chapter with the beadle of our parish, because we are deeply
sensible of the importance and dignity of his office. We will begin the present, with the
clergyman. Our curate is a young gentleman of such prepossessing appearance, and
fascinating manners, that within one month after his first appearance in the parish, half
the young-lady inhabitants were melancholy with religion, and the other half,
desponding with love. Never were so many young ladies seen in our parish church on
Sunday before; and never had the little round angels' faces on Mr. Tomkins's monument
in the side aisle, beheld such devotion on earth as they all exhibited. He was about five-
and-twenty when he first came to astonish the parishioners. He parted his hair on the
centre of his forehead in the form of a Norman arch, wore a brilliant of the first water on
the fourth finger of his left hand (which he always applied to his left cheek when he read
prayers), and had a deep sepulchral voice of unusual solemnity. Innumerable were the
calls made by prudent mammas on our new curate, and innumerable the invitations with
which he was assailed, and which, to do him justice, he readily accepted. If his manner
in the pulpit had created an impression in his favour, the sensation was increased
tenfold, by his appearance in private circles. Pews in the immediate vicinity of the pulpit
or reading-desk rose in value; sittings in the centre aisle were at a premium: an inch of
room in the front row of the gallery could not be procured for love or money; and some
people even went so far as to assert, that the three Miss Browns, who had an obscure
family pew just behind the churchwardens', were detected, one Sunday, in the free
seats by the communion-table, actually lying in wait for the curate as he passed to the
vestry! He began to preach extempore sermons, and even grave papas caught the
infection. He got out of bed at half-past twelve o'clock one winter's night, to half-baptise
a washerwoman's child in a slop-basin, and the gratitude of the parishioners knew no
bounds - the very churchwardens grew generous, and insisted on the parish defraying
the expense of the watch-box on wheels, which the new curate had ordered for himself,
to perform the funeral service in, in wet weather. He sent three pints of gruel and a
quarter of a pound of tea to a poor woman who had been brought to bed of four small
children, all at once - the parish were charmed. He got up a subscription for her - the
woman's fortune was made. He spoke for one hour and twenty-five minutes, at an anti-
slavery meeting at the Goat and Boots - the enthusiasm was at its height. A proposal
was set on foot for presenting the curate with a piece of plate, as a mark of esteem for
his valuable services rendered to the parish. The list of subscriptions was filled up in no
time; the contest was, not who should escape the contribution, but who should be the
foremost to subscribe. A splendid silver inkstand was made, and engraved with an
appropriate inscription; the curate was invited to a public breakfast, at the before-