"Kilvert is a real literary discovery", so says A.L. Rowse in his introduction. And Susan Hill would concur. I've already mentioned what a gem of a book is Howards End is on the Landing, so no surprise that the more I read the more I like, and the more I am adding new (or rediscovered) titles to my own reading list. Her reference to the Reverend Francis Kilvert piqued my curiosity. As it happened the library had a copy of selections from said Rev.'s diary so I thought I might just take a peek since it was so close at hand. It was meant to only be idle curiosity, but he charmed me, so I had to take it home.
I love reading diaries for much the same reason as Hill.
"I think the greatest satisfaction of reading published diaries is that of being admitted into other people's worlds, of living in their houses, knowing their friends, accompanying them on their travels-and and at the same time being party to their views of it all. It is like plunging into the imaginary world of a novel and yet satisfying in a rather different way--one I have not quite managed to put my finger on."
She, however, isn't quite so keen on feeling a voyeur when reading about a diarist who is more contemporary and closer to living in our own era.
"I do not feel an intruder into Kilvert's world because both he and those about whom he writes are so very far away, and all of them dead. And Kilvert is almost always gentle and generous in his portrayal of others, as his Christianity bade him to be. There is the occasional sigh, the occasional ironic aside, but in general, he is accepting and forgiving even as he portrays people so clearly--and that in itself is no mean feat."
So the copy I have at hand was published in 1947 and covers the years 1870-1879, and then it contains only selections. His diaries of rural life (he lived in Wiltshire) covered over fifty years. So from Susan Hill over to Rev. Kilvert. Shall I share a few entries?
Okay, so this one caught my eye and is one of those occasional ironic asides, but you'll understand his disparaging tone.
Saturday, 17 December 
"That liar and thief of the world Sarah Thomas, Mrs. Challoners' servant, is gone. The evening she went no one knew what had become of her all the early part of the night. Probably she passed it under some hedge and not alone. At a quarter before midnight she asked for a bed, which Mrs. Price very properly refused. I hope she has cleared out of this village. Beast."
Ouch. I wonder if there were extenuating circumstances or she was just taking advantage of a good situation?
Friday, 28 July 
"Gipsy Lizzie was at the School. Again I am under the influence of that child's extraordinary beauty. When she is reading and her eyes are bent down upon her book her loveliness if indescribable."
Sunday, 4 March 
"Supper at the Castle and home under the clear sky brilliant flashing moving with quick lights of the stars and bands of Orion, the sweet influences of the Pleiades and Arcturus with his sons."
Wednesday, 16 July 
"As I walked along the field path I stopped to listen to the rustle and solemn night whisper of the wheat, so different to its voice by day. The corn seemed to be praising God and whispering its evening prayer. Across the great level meads near Chippenham came the martial music of a drum and fife band, and laughing voices of unseen girls were wafted from farms and hayfields out of the wild dusk."
Quite pleasant, don't you think? It reminds me of the setting of a Thomas Hardy novel (without all the tragedy Hardy's work elicits). I might have to just start from the beginning and read my way through.