The A-Z format seems
a strange choice for a book on Welsh clergymen. It stands to reason, bearing
in mind the paucity of Welsh surnames, that a lot of Joneses and Davieses are going to have to be left out in order to make
room for the Birketts and Isaacsons of this world, who might appear less worthy of inclusion. The N entry, for example (the
subject being one Owen Alexander Nares) is actually headed "A quiet, dignified and uneventful life". This begs some obvious questions.
My instincts tell me that the motivation behind this collection of disparate characters is the authors annoyance
at hearing the praises of nonconformist ministers constantly sung. This is partly
confirmed by the introduction, which explains that the concept first saw the light of day as a series of articles in a magazine
called Welsh Church Life, which, sadly (but perhaps not surprisingly), folded.
The book has several merits, not the least being its cheapness; and I'm not being funny. Only in Wales, with its plethora of small subsidised presses, is one likely to find
a book of this quality for £4.25. Whether the 65 pages really deserve the attention that has been lavished on them is another matter; couldn't this
material have been covered equally effectively in pamphlet form? Gwasg Carreg
Gwalch have done a reasonable job with the presentation. The cover, with its
muted colours, though not exactly exciting, is not unattractive. Unfortunately,
GCGs web site is poorly designed; if you can make use of it to access further information about this book, you're a better
man than I am.
However, my main criticism is the brevity of the entries. If
what Roger L Brown (himself a vicar) really intended was to shed light on the everyday lives of the clergy, he has not entirely
succeeded. Many of the entries consist of nothing more than an anecdote. Take, for example, William Felton, curate of Newtown, who died in 1741. His sole claim to fame is the alarming request made of him by the local squire. Sir John Pryce did not even bother to visit the sick curate; he merely wrote asking him to pass on his
regards to his two late wives when he arrived in heaven. Amusing, but it tells
us a lot more about Sir John than it does about the Reverend Felton.
To be fair, this
book doesn't pretend to be anything more than the series of articles it is. It
seems the original articles were well received, and this was the impetus behind its expansion and publication in book form. To my mind, it has not been expanded anywhere near enough. I would have liked a book that investigated in more detail the life of the average vicar over the centuries. No doubt this has been done before, and perhaps the market for it would have been
equally limited. What we are given in its place is neither one thing nor the other.