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The Barchester Reformer
Mr Harding has been now precentor of Barchester for ten years; and, alas, the murmurs
respecting the proceeds of Hiram's estate are again becoming audible. It is not that any
one begrudges to Mr Harding the income which he enjoys, and the comfortable place
which so well becomes him; but such matters have begun to be talked of in various parts
of England. Eager pushing politicians have asserted in the House of Commons, with very
telling indignation, that the grasping priests of the Church of England are gorged with the
wealth which the charity of former times has left for the solace of the aged, or the
education of the young. The well-known case of the Hospital of St Cross has even come
before the law courts of the country, and the struggles of Mr Whiston, at Rochester, have
met with sympathy and support. Men are beginning to say that these things must be
looked into.
Mr Harding, whose conscience in the matter is clear, and who has never felt that he had
received a pound from Hiram's will to which he was not entitled, has naturally taken the
part of the church in talking over these matters with his friend, the bishop, and his son-in-
law, the archdeacon. The archdeacon, indeed, Dr Grantly, has been somewhat loud in the
matter. He is a personal friend of the dignitaries of the Rochester Chapter, and has written
letters in the public press on the subject of that turbulent Dr Whiston, which, his admirers
think, must wellnigh set the question at rest. It is also known at Oxford that he is the
author of the pamphlet signed 'Sacerdos' on the subject of the Earl of Guildford and St
Cross, in which it is so clearly argued that the manners of the present times do not admit
of a literal adhesion to the very words of the founder's will, but that the interests of the
church for which the founder was so deeply concerned are best consulted in enabling its
bishops to reward those shining lights whose services have been most signally
serviceable to Christianity. In answer to this, it is asserted that Henry de Blois, founder of
St Cross, was not greatly interested in the welfare of the reformed church, and that the
masters of St Cross, for many years past, cannot be called shining lights in the service of
Christianity; it is, however, stoutly maintained, and no doubt felt, by all the archdeacon's
friends, that his logic is conclusive, and has not, in fact, been answered.
With such a tower of strength to back both his arguments and his conscience, it may be
imagined that Mr Harding has never felt any compunction as to receiving his quarterly
sum of two hundred pounds. Indeed, the subject has never presented itself to his mind in
that shape. He has talked not unfrequently, and heard very much about the wills of old
founders and the incomes arising from their estates, during the last year or two; he did
even, at one moment, feel a doubt (since expelled by his son-in-law's logic) as to whether
Lord Guildford was clearly entitled to receive so enormous an income as he does from
the revenues of St Cross; but that he himself was overpaid with his modest eight hundred
pounds--he who, out of that, voluntarily gave up sixty-two pounds eleven shillings and
fourpence a year to his twelve old neighbours--he who, for the money, does his
precentor's work as no precentor has done it before, since Barchester Cathedral was
built,--such an idea has never sullied his quiet, or disturbed his conscience.