A Field Guide to the English Clergy: A Compendium of Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; All Anglican, Some Even Practising

Written by The Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie
Review by Douglas Kemp

This is a brief but utterly delightful and funny series of mini-biographies of English clergymen who exhibited a bewildering range of eccentric behaviour throughout the ages. Most of these men (and they are all dead white chaps, of course!) are now justifiably obscure, but just a few are still quite well known, such as the Cornish vicar Sabine Baring-Gould. Perhaps not a book to read in one sitting, though it is short enough to do so, but rather it’s best to take in just a few of these eccentrics/carpet-chewing loonies at a time to appreciate fully the range of their loopy behaviour and beliefs. It is not an academic study by any means (a bibliography would have been useful, to chase up a few of the more recondite sources), and there are hilarious descriptions of the some of the more outré behaviours of these bizarre clergymen, who mostly were left alone to follow their weird predilections in a range of obscure English country parishes.