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    Genteel or respectable? The material culture of rural clergy in late Georgian England

    Stobart, Jon ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9771-4741 (2021) Genteel or respectable? The material culture of rural clergy in late Georgian England. In: The Social Life of the Early Modern Protestant Clergy. University of Wales Press. ISBN 9781786837141

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    The vicar and rector often formed part of the elite in English rural communities, elevated in social and moral terms, but also economically and materially. They occupied what was frequently the largest house in the village and sometimes enjoyed close links with the local gentry – as even a cursory reading of the novels of Austen and Elliot makes clear. Indeed, lucrative livings formed one possible option for the younger sons of gentry families. Beyond literary representations, however, we know relatively little about the material lives of these men: the ways in which their houses were furnished or decorated. How deeply did gentility penetrate their domestic arrangements, equipping them to participate in the social rituals and cultural lives of the elite? In this paper, I draw on a collection of sale catalogues for rural and small town clergymen in Northamptonshire, in the English Midlands, to discover the nature and quality of their domestic material culture, from porcelain to cooking pots and from beds to books. Comparisons are drawn with the houses of neighbouring gentry to determine whether these clergymen were genteel, respectable or occupied a particular social and material niche.

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