The Rectory in Literature

I have spent the weekend reading a curious, but unexpectedly enjoyable book which I picked up in the shop at Charleston on Friday.   It’s called The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory and charts the place of the rectory – it seems mostly to be the rectory, not the vicarage – in the life of English writers, beginning with Tennyson who was brought up in the rectory at Somersby in deepest Lincolnshire, to Dorothy Sayers, who was brought up in the rectory at Bluntisham in the fens north west of Cambridge, to Rupert Brooke mourning the Old Vicarage in Grantchester from a café in Berlin.   After chapters on R.S. Thomas in rural Wales and Vikram Seth buying George Herbert’s rectory at Bemerton, it ends with Bensons and de Waals in the Chancery at Lincoln.   Rectories harboured families that were high minded, puritanical, and impoverished, the perfect place for a writer, as is argued in the book, because of the sense of history and social displacement.

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