Kilvert’s Diary

I’ve been dipping in and out of this diary, written by the Reverend Francis Kilvert who at the time was a curate in Clyro on the Welsh borders, for a long time now. It was almost certainly a personal journal and not intended for publication, yet there is some effortlessly wonderful descriptive writing and lovely droll humour. I think I’ve copied out a short extract in the past, and here’s a slightly longer one describing a funeral procession:

The bearers had been selected not at all with reference to their fitness for the task… One of the bearers on the right side was very short, so short that he could not properly support the coffin level… the men staggered under the weight and the coffin lurched and tilted to one side over the short bearer. One very fat man had constituted himself chiefest mourner of all and walked next the coffin before my father and myself. The bearers, blinded by the sweeping pall, could not see where they were going and nearly missed the cloister arch, but at length we got safe into the narrow dark passage and into the Cloisters…

So the clergy and choir came to meet us at the door, then turned and moved up the Cathedral nave chanting in solemn procession, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life saith the Lord”. But meanwhile there was a dreadful struggle at the steps leading up from the Cloisters to the door. The bearers were quite unequal to the task and the coffin seemed crushingly heavy. There was a stamping and a scuffling, a mass of struggling men swaying to and fro, pushing and writhing and wrestling while the coffin sank and rose and sank again. One or twice I thought the whole mass of men must have been down together with the coffin atop of them and someone killed or maimed at least. But now came the time of the fat chief mourner.

Seizing his opportunity he rushed into the strife…and the rescued coffin rose. At last by a wild effort and tremendous heave the ponderous coffin was borne up the steps and through the door into the Cathedral, where the choristers, quite unconscious of the scene and fearful struggle going on behind, were singing up the nave like a company of angels.

In the Choir there was another dreadful struggle to let the coffin down. The bearers were completely overweighted, they bowed and bent and nearly fell and threw the coffin down on the floor…



About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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