ENTRY: Kilvert, Rev. Francis
Rev. Robert Francis Kilvert
(b. 1840 – d. 1879), was born at Hardenhuish, near Chippenham, Wiltshire,
to the Rev. Robert Kilvert, Rector of Langley Burrell, Wiltshire, and
Thermuthis Kilvert. He is remembered for his diaries, reflecting rural
life in the 1870s, which were published several years after his death.
Schooled at Rugby, he went up to Wadham College, Oxford, then entered the
Church and became a rural curate, working primarily in the Welsh Marches.
From 1863 to 1864 he was Curate to his father at Langley Burrell, and
in 1865 he became Curate of Clyro, Radnorshire; he remained there
until 1872 when he rejoined his father at Langley Burrell.
From 1876 to 1877 he was Vicar of St Harmon, Radnorshire, and
from 1877 to his death in 1879 he was Vicar of Bredwardine, Herefordshire.
Kilvert is best known as the author of voluminous diaries describing
rural life. After his death, his frank and open diaries came into the
possession of prudish and censorious relatives, and only three of the twenty or
more volumes are known to have survived deliberate burning.
These three volumes have since been used as the source for published
collections. His Diaries are considered to be classics, and also
of historical importance for the study of remote rural life and Victorian society.
His detailed diaries tell of an deeply historic, almost mystical landscape, but one tied to the ordinary human
frailties and affections that are interwoven with it.
Poet William Plomer published the most widely-known selection of the diaries,
as Kilvert's Diary, 1870-1879 (Penguin, 1938 — corrected in the 1960s, and with
an abridged and illustrated version for children published as Ardizzone's Kilvert
in 1976). A somewhat different selection from that of Plomer was published as
Journal of a Country Curate: Selections from the Diary of Francis Kilvert
by The Folio Society in 1960. In 1992 a new selection was published under the
editorship of David Lockwood, Kilvert, the Victorian: A New Selection from Kilvert's Diaries
(Seren Books, 1992). Out of print since 1970, a 3-volume indexed edition was reprinted
in 2006 by O'Donoghue Books of Hay-on-Wye.
Kilvert's life was the loose basis for Mary Webb's novel
Gone to Earth; a curate in the Welsh Marches falls in love at first sight with a
fey half-gypsy girl. Webb's novel was filmed by Powell & Pressburger
on location in the Welsh Marches as Gone to Earth (1950 in re-cut form, but
fully restored by the National Film Archive in 1985).
P. Dunham. "An Angel-Satyr walks these hills": landscape and identity in Kilvert's Diary (2005)
David Lockwood. Francis Kilvert (1992)
John Toman. Kilvert: The Homeless Heart (1992)
Frederick Grice. Francis Kilvert and His World (1980)
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