Thursday, April 21, 2016

Beware Berkshire's "Unfrequented Lanes."

Mary Russell Mitford

The novelist Mary Russell Mitford lived for thirty years in a house with no room larger than 8-feet square! No wonder she enjoyed her walks in the Berkshire fields and lanes in autumn. No prettier country could be found than "this shady and yet sunny Berkshire, where the scenery, without rising into grandeur or breaking into wildness, is so peaceful, so cheerful, so varied, and so thoroughly English." November days, wrote Mary, were made for walks "by yellow commons and birch-shaded hollows and hedgerows bordering unfrequented lanes." 

Good for Mary Mitford but perhaps inadvisable for a married clergyman to be known to be ambling down such "unfrequented" Berskshire lanes with his Sunday School teacher. Yet that is what befell the Rev. Herbert Taylor Howes and Miss Mary Beechey one November day in 1864. Ostensibly looking for the footpath to Binfield they became lost on the lands of Leonard Barber, tenant of Bean Oak Farm. Old Barber was no fool; when he found the two intruders resting in a copse, he leapt to his conclusion and, eyeing Mr. Howes' collar, added, "Why, Dammit, you're a Parson, too!" It was said there was no gossip worse than village gossip. Could the reputations of the pastor of Bracknell and his luckless Sunday School teacher be saved?

The "Clerical Scandal at Bracknell" is told in the new Kindle E-book: CLERICAL ERRORS - A VICTORIAN SERIES, Volume 1.

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