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Isaac Walton's account of Richard Hooker's life and last days at Bishopsborne is so exceedingly beautiful, that it deserves to be reproduced here verbatim. To abbreviate it to any serious extent, or to express it in language other than that in which it appears in the venerable biographer’s Life, would be equally open to criticism. Any fresh or original account is obviously out of the question.
“ This parsonage of Borne is from Canterbury
* three miles, and near to the common road that leads from that city to Dover: in which parsonage Mr. Hooker had not been twelve months, but his Books, and the innocency and sanctity of his life became so remarkable, that many turned out of the road, and others (scholars especially) went purposely to see the man, whose life and learning were so much admired; and alas ! as our Saviour said of St. John Baptist, 'What went they out to see? a man clothed in purple and fine linen ?' No, indeed; but an‘obscure, harmless man; a man in poor
clothes, his loins usually girt in a coarse gown, or canonical coat; of a mean stature, and stooping, and yet more lowly in the thoughts of his soul; his body worn out, not with age, but study, and holy mortifications; his face full of heat-pimples, begot by his unactivity and sedentary life. And to this true character of
his person, let me add this of his disposition
, and behaviour: God and nature blessed him with so blessed a bashfulness, that as in his younger days his pupils might easily look him out of countenance; so neither then, nor in his age, ‘did he ever willingly look any man in the face; and was of so mild and humble a nature, that his poor parish-clerk and he did never talk but with both their hats on, or both off, at the same time:' and to this may be added, that though he was not purblind, yet he was short or weak-sighted; and where he fixt his eyes at the beginning of his sermon, there they continued till it was ended; and the reader has a liberty to believe, that his modesty and dim sight were some of the reasons why he trusted Mrs. Churchman to choose his wife.
“ This parish-clerk 1 lived till the third or i The parish-clerk in former days was a very considerable and important person, having the position of more than an ordinary layman. * It is not improbable," writes Sir Walter Phillimore (Book of Church Law, 6th ed., p. 287), “ that when parish choirs were universal, or nearly so, throughout the Church of England, there was one of the lay clerks whose duty it was to be constantly present, even when the other lay clerks were absent, at every service which was celebrated by the parish minister, to say or sing the responses as the leader, or the representative, of the laity, and that the parish-clerk of modern days is thus a very ancient officer of the Church. This is confirmed by the rubrics of the Prayer Book, which several times mention the 'minister and clerks,' or 'the priest and clerks; and which once, in the Marriage Service, besides speaking of them in the plural, as engaged in the saying or singing of the psalm, also directs that the bridegroom shall lay on the book the accustomed duty to the priest and clerk, using the word in the singular number.”
fourth year of the late long parliament: betwixt which time and Mr. Hooker's death, there had come many to see the place of his burial, and the monument dedicated to his memory by Sir William Cooper,1 (who still lives,) and the poor clerk had many rewards for shewing Mr. Hooker's grave-place, and his said monument, and did always hear Mr. Hooker mentioned with commendations and reverence; to all which, he added his own knowledge and observations of his humility and holiness; and in all which discourses, the poor man was still more confirmed in his opinion of Mr. Hooker's virtues and learning: but it so fell out, that
There is no mention of the parish-clerk in the Canons of 1571 ; but in those of 1603, which were in force at the time named above, Canon xci. runs—"No parish-clerk upon any vacation shall be chosen, within the city of London, or elsewhere within the province of Canterbury, but by the parson or vicar And the said clerk shall be of twenty years of age at the least, and known to the said parson, vicar, or minister, to be of honest conversation, and sufficient for his reading, writing, and also for his competent skill in singing, if it may be. And the said clerks so chosen shall have and receive their ancient wages Cardwell, Synodalia, Oxford 1842 i. 298. In the year 1576, Archbishop Grindal, in his visitation articles at Canterbury, required that parish-clerks should be “able to read the first Lesson, the Epistle, and the Psalms, as is used.”—Grindal's Remains, Parker Soc., p. 168. From the date of this direction and the proximity of Bishopsborne to Canterbury, it is more than probable that Hooker's parish-clerk performed these functions. On the whole subject, see Dr. Wickham Legg's The Clerk's Book of 1549, Henry Bradshaw Soc., 1903, which is packed with information.
1 The inscription on this monument is given later in this volume, p. 91.