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Ashley J. King

Ordination and Livings in the Church of England

Teaching Notes


"Ordinations and Livings in the Church of England" was first presented at the Jane Austen Summer Program of 2016, entitled "Mansfield Park and Its Afterlives." Ashley J. King provides an explanation of what religious livings and ordinations involved during Austen's time. 

Discussion Questions

  1. To Henry Crawford, Edmund insists that he has “no idea but of residence” (i.e. he will live full-time in his parish). Since it was not uncommon for clergy to hold multiple livings, nonresidency became an important social issue and was even debated in Parliament (leading to the passage of the Pluralities Acts of 1838 and 1850, which tightened the restrictions on holding multiple clerical positions, termed “pluralism”). What then do we make of Sir Bertram’s strong speech about residency (p. 228-229)? Is Austen critiquing nonresident clergymen here? Or is the issue not so clear cut?

  2. In another exchange with Henry, Edmund seems to lament the lack of professionalization among the clergy, particularly in the “art of reading.” Based upon Edmund and Henry’s conversation, is the ability to read and deliver sermons with “distinctness and energy” derived from natural talent or something that is garnered through practice or training? How does their conversation illuminate the type of religious training available to clergymen in the nineteenth century? Does Henry speak “lightly, irreverently” on this subject (as he suspects Fanny condemns him for)? Does his consideration of religious practice seem surprising in light of his behavior throughout the novel?


Jane Austen Scholarship:

Collins, Irene. Jane Austen and the Clergy. Rio Grande, Ohio: Hambledon Press, 1994. Print.

Collins, Irene. Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter. New York: Hambledon Press, 1998. Print.

Giffin, Michael. Jane Austen and Religion : Salvation and Society in Georgian England. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Print. 

White, Laura Mooneyham. Jane Austen’s Anglicanism. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011. Print.


Historical Context:

Knight, Frances. The Nineteenth-century Church and English Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.

Melnyk, Julie. Victorian Religion : Faith and Life in Britain. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008. Print.


Historical Accounts: 

Gilpin, William. My Dearest Betsy : a Self-portrait of William Gilpin, 1757-1848, Schoolmaster and Parson, from His Letters and Notebooks. Ed. Peter Benson. London: D. Dobson, 1981. Print.

Holland, William. Paupers and Pig Killers : the Diary of William Holland, a Somerset Parson, 1799-1818. Ed. Jack Ayres. Gloucester: A. Sutton, 1984. Print.

"Ordination and Livings" handout 
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