Quiz: Clergymen in Austen’s England

“Let us walk around and quiz people”–John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey. (This is a different meaning of “quiz”; Thorpe used it to mean to stare intently at people or make fun of them!)

How much do you know about clergymen in Jane Austen’s England? Test yourself! The correct answer(s) will turn green. Clicking on wrong answers may add more information. (Note that if you subscribe to the blog and are receiving this by email, you will probably have to go to the website for this one.)

This is not a test, but a way to learn, so enjoy clicking on all the answers!

Which of these words does Jane Austen NOT use to mean a clergyman?
Used only to refer to a government official. “Pastor” is also NOT used in the novels.
Used about 40 times in the novels.
Parish Priest
Used once, in Mansfield Park.
Used four times in the novels.
How many clergymen (ministers) were in Jane’s immediate family?
Her father and her two brothers, James and Henry, were clergymen.

See Irene Collins, Jane Austen and the Clergy or Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter for more on Austen’s large network of relations who were ministers in the church.

Clergymen were mainly supported by tithes given by those in their parish. Tithes were:
Ten percent of each farmer’s produce, or ten percent of the income of others.
This defines a tithe.
Mandatory; everyone legally had to pay their tithe to the clergyman.
The government required everyone to pay tithes to the Church of England clergyman, even if they belonged to other, Dissenting, denominations.
Voluntary offerings to the church
Mandatory tithes were not abolished and replaced by voluntary offerings until the twentieth century.
Usually paid in cash
This was changing in Austen’s time, but most farmers paid in “kind,” with farm produce. In some places, the clergyman even had to go around and collect every tenth egg from farms!
Dr. Grant and Fanny
Dr. Grant, rector of Mansfield Park, assists Fanny Price
A rector received all the tithes from a parish, while a vicar received only a part of the tithes. Which of these Austen characters was a vicar, not a rector?
Mr. Elton
In Emma, Mr. Elton was a vicar, who lived in a vicarage. He had some of his own money, but needed a rich wife to supplement his income! Obviously the living was not a rich one, at least for the vicar. Mrs. Bates, the widow of the previous vicar, lives in poverty.
Mr. Collins
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins is quite proud of “his right as rector.”
Edward Ferrars
In Sense and Sensibility, when Colonel Brandon offers Edward the living of Delaford, he explains that “It is a rectory, but a small one,” meaning Edward will receive all the tithes, but they aren’t large.
Dr. Shirley
In Persuasion, Dr. Shirley had been rector of Uppercross for forty years, and Henrietta Musgrove hopes he will allow a curate (her beloved Charles Hayter) to take over his duties.
A clergyman’s income often came from farming a plot of land, called glebe or meadow, as well as from tithes. Challenge Question: For which of these clergymen does Austen NOT mention their “meadow”?
Mr. Elton
No additional source of income is mentioned for Mr. Elton.
Mr. Collins
Mr. Collins wants to lead his visitors around his “two meadows.”
Edmund Bertram
In Mansfield Park, Henry Crawford assumes that certain “very pretty meadows . . . finely sprinkled with timber” belong to Edmund Bertram’s living at Thornton Lacey.
Henry Tilney
Henry Tilney has exercised his genius in building “a walk around two sides of a meadow.”
Because a country clergyman generally farmed for part of his living, his wife had responsibilities like those of a farmer’s wife. Which clergyman’s wife was wishing for “rather better pasturage for their cows”?
Elinor Ferrars
Near the end of Sense and Sensibility, Edward and Elinor “had in fact nothing to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and Marianne, and rather better pasturage for their cows.” 
Charlotte Collins
Mrs. Collins also has cows. Lady Catherine instructs Charlotte “as to the care of her cows and her poultry.”
Mrs. Grant
Mrs. Grant of Mansfield Park has poultry, and wishes she were in London where “the nurseryman and the poulterer” would take care of her plants and birds for her!
Harriet Martin
Harriet’s husband Robert Martin, in Emma, is a farmer, not a clergyman.  His family says a pretty little Welch cow shall be called Harriet’s cow.
Harriet's cow
Harriet’s Cow
The third source of a clergyman’s income was fees. Which of these “rites and ceremonies,” for which the clergyman was paid a fee, does Pride and Prejudice NOT mention?
Churching a woman after childbirth
The clergyman did receive a fee for performing this service welcoming a woman back to church and thanking God for her safe delivery. However, it is not mentioned in P&P. Elizabeth Bennet interprets Mr. Collins’ being “ever ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted by the Church of England” as “his kind intention of christening, marrying, and burying his parishioners whenever it were required.”
A fee was due the parson for performing a wedding ceremony.
A fee and gifts such as gloves were given to the parson for performing a funeral.
A fee was also due the parson for baptizing a baby, whether at home (if the baby was not expected to survive long) or in church.

Real-life Parson Woodforde said in his journal that when he performed services for very poor people, he would have them pay, then he would return their fees to them.

A curate, who substituted for or helped a rector or vicar, received only a very minimal salary, with no access to tithes. Which book has two curate characters, and refers to a “country curate, without bread to eat”?
Persuasion has two curate characters, Charles Hayter and Captain Wentworth’s brother. The quote is from Sir Walter Elliot, describing the father of Lord St. Ives, who Sir Walter looks down on for his ancestry.
No curates in Emma.
Northanger Abbey
Henry Tilney has a curate who leads church services while Henry is at his father’s house or in Bath.
Mansfield Park
Dr. Grant has a curate who Mary Crawford says “does all the work”; however, Fanny Price says that Dr. Grant preaches “very good sermons,” so he did at least that part of his work himself!
Church livings (jobs as rectors or vicars) were awarded by either organizations, such as the universities, or individuals. Which of these people is NOT mentioned as a patron who could give someone a church living?
Sir Walter Elliot
Sir Walter very likely had a church living in his gift, but it is not mentioned, and it seems unlikely he would have bothered himself with it much!
Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Lady Catherine provides Mr. Collins’ living when “a fortunate chance . . . recommended him to her.”
Colonel Brandon
Colonel Brandon offers Edward Ferrars a living because of Edward’s honorable behavior toward his fiancée Lucy.
Sir Thomas Bertram
Sir Thomas has two livings in his gift (meaning that he chooses the clergyman for the living).
Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine
Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Who sells a living in order to pay his son’s debts?
Sir Thomas Bertram
Sir Thomas gave the living of Mansfield Park to his brother-in-law Mr. Norris, and intended it for his son Edmund, but had to sell it to Dr. Grant to pay his son Tom’s debts.
Mr. Morland
Mr. Morland holds two family livings himself, where he is both the patron and the incumbent clergyman. He agrees to sign one of the livings over to his son James so that James can marry when he is old enough to take the living.
Colonel Brandon
John Dashwood believes Colonel Brandon should have sold the living of Delaford for fourteen hundred pounds, rather than giving it to Edward Ferrars.
General Tilney
Thornton Lacey is a “family living,” like Mansfield Park, and was given to the general’s son Henry.
A living, especially a family living, might be taken temporarily until the person who was going to hold it was old enough to be ordained and take it (23). Which clergyman takes a temporary living?
Charles Hayter
In Persuasion, Charles Hayter is given a living that enables him to marry Henrietta. He is asked to hold it “for a youth who could not possibly claim it under many years.”
Mr. Collins
Mr. Collins has his living for life.
Edward Ferrars
John Dashwood assumes that Colonel Brandon is giving Edward Ferrars a living to hold for someone it’s been sold to, but he is mistaken.
George Wickham
Wickham claims that he was promised a living and that it came open just as he was “of an age to hold it,” but it was given to another man.
School of Moral Philosophy smaller Oxford Bodleian - 1
Entrance to the old School of Moral Philosophy, (or ethics, the study of right and wrong) at the Bodleian Library at Oxford
Where did Church of England clergymen normally study?
Oxford or Cambridge
The vast majority of clergymen studied at one of these Universities; about half of the undergraduates intended to become clergymen.
Theological seminaries
it was believed that clergymen should study the same course as the gentlemen they were going to work with. However, Dissenters (those outside of the Church of England) were generally not accepted at the universities, and they started their own academies and seminaries to train their ministers.
They studied on their own.
In some cases, for remote, poor parishes, clergymen were ordained who did not have a university education. In other cases, those who were self-taught might be accepted but with difficulty; John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace,” was one of these.
Bible schools
These didn’t exist in the way we think of them today. The Bible was taught in many schools, however. The universities did not specifically teach Bible courses to undergraduates.
How could a church rector or vicar lose his job?
He could be accused and convicted of serious sin, such as sexual immorality, and be suspended or removed from his living.
This was the only way a clergyman with a living (rector or vicar) could be removed. It was extremely rare.
The patron who gave him the living could remove him and choose someone else.
No, too late. Even Lady Catherine could not remove Mr. Collins if she got tired of him!
The bishop could decide he wasn’t appropriate there and move him elsewhere.
The clergyman might get an additional living or another post (as Dr. Grant does in Mansfield Park) and choose to move there, but he would still keep the living he had. A curate would take his duties, but the rector or vicar would continue to receive the tithes.
He couldn’t; he held it until he died.
In essence this was true, as clergymen were very rarely convicted of serious sin and removed. It was possible for him to resign a living, however, if he chose to do so.
Though Austen’s clerical characters are rectors, vicars, or curates, she also mentions in passing a few other jobs held by clergymen. Which of these is NOT mentioned in Austen’s novels?
A bishop supervised the clergyman in his diocese, which included a number of parishes. Bishops in Austen ordain people or provide them with livings.
Archdeacons assisted the bishops in visiting parishes and reporting on them.
An archbishop supervised the bishops in a region. England has two archbishops, of Canterbury and of York. Mr. Collins, with his usual pomposity, says that the archbishop would not object to his dancing!
Dr. Grant in Mansfield Park is promoted to a “stall in Westminster.” This was a prebendal stall (a special seat in the abbey), making him a prebendary. He was supported by a prebend, which was part of the abbey’s endowments, usually income from a specific parish.

For more on Austen and the clergy, see the four-part series beginning with “Sense and Sensibility and the Church, Part 1.”

Austen’s clergymen were supported very differently from clergymen today. What do you think was good about their system, and might be helpful to us? What do you think was flawed in their system?

I am developing a quiz like this to use in a presentation to a group, and need feedback. If you’re willing to help, would you please comment below on any aspect of the quiz you want to?  You might answer some of these questions you wish:

What was the most interesting or fun question in this quiz?

What question or questions were too hard or not interesting?

What question or questions were too easy?

Thanks very much!

12 thoughts on “Quiz: Clergymen in Austen’s England

  1. This is a super quiz! As a vicar’s wife and a Reader in the C of E, as well as an Austen reader, I thought that it would be too easy, but it was just right. There were sufficient questions that made me think and work my way through the novels, and some I got wrong! I wish I could offer more specific comments, but it seemed to me about right. Challenging yet not too difficult. I also admire the technical wizardry and bonus information; I wish I could do this so well!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh yes! I forgot to comment on the cool skills surely required to make a quiz that interacts with your readers!!! Super cool!


  2. I think the questions were interesting, but there seemed to be a lot in my opinion. I’m not sure how many you have here, but I stopped about halfway through.

    Also, I did note that Mr. Elton had two questions that were near each other so it was easier to answer the second one…the one about his extra income from his meadow, I think. The previous question about him needing a rich wife made me choose rightly for the extra income question.

    Just info! Good luck on your questions and preparation!


    1. I think so, especially since your quiz is fun but requires a bit more brain power than a subjective quiz (e.g. “Which Disney Princess Are You?”). Perhaps, there’s a way you can further break the quiz into different categories?


  3. LOL! I’ve already split my ideas into three quizzes, by splitting them into categories, and this is just one of them! But I am looking for which questions are most interesting so I can make it shorter and be more focused when I use it elsewhere. I really appreciate your insights; thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was pretty challenging, and I got a lot wrong. Of course, I’m an Anglican in Southern California, so I’m not very familiar with all of the English terms except through Jane Austen and other British authors of the 19th century.

    I felt that the quiz was about the right length, and I enjoyed the informative answers. Well done!! 🙂

    Soli deo Gloria,
    Susanne 🙂


  5. Great quiz. Do you need to make clearer that there is no contradiction between the question that says a living may be given to someone temporarily, and the one that says, in practice, a clergyman could only be removed from a living when he died? In the former case (of a living given temporarily until the destined holder came of age), was this written into some kind of contract?


  6. Great question, Catriona! Yes the clergyman who took a temporary living had to sign a resignation bond saying he would either resign when requested or pay a huge fine. (Such bonds later became illegal.)


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