Shop-talk and mordant wit

by
05 December 2007

The full Crockford story has never been told — until now. In our two-part series, Christopher Currie and Glyn Paflin salute the ‘100th Edition’

Crockford: common misconceptions

The first volume was published in 1857
It was completed in 1857, but not published as a book until 1858

The next edition will be the 100th Crockford
100th Clerical Directory, yes; but 99th Crockford’s Clerical Directory

Crockford was the only national directory of the clergy
It was the third significant one, and did not have a monopoly till 1917

Crockford was a mythical character
John Crockford was the first publisher and business manager

It was not intended to be a yearly publication
The initial advertisement shows that it was

It was not intended to be a yearly publication
The initial advertisement shows that it was

But it came out every year until recently
It was annual from 1876 to the First World War

Crockford always had a long preface
The first did not fill two pages

Crockford always had a long preface
The first did not fill two pages

The preface was always a discursive article . . .
This developed gradually after 1870

. . . concerning the state of the Church . . .
Not mainly until 1907

. . . and always written by an anonymous cleric

It was sometimes written by a lay editor before 1921

. . . concerning the state of the Church . . .
Not mainly until 1907

. . . and always written by an anonymous cleric

It was sometimes written by a lay editor before 1921

THIS December, Crockford’s Clerical Directory claims to reach its 100th edition. Next year is the 150th anniversary of the first published volume of the Directory, and November has just seen the 190th anniversary of publication of the very first national clergy directory in 1817, one of three 19th-century publications to which today’s Crockford is successor in title.

In surveying their story, we echo the Crockford preface of 1907: “Many subjects might have been inserted beyond those treated of in this issue, but want of space has to be considered, and those only of chief importance have been selected.”

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THAT first title was the Clerical Guide or Ecclesiastical Directory, the brainchild of Richard Gilbert (c. 1794-1852). It was, perhaps, surprising that no one had succeeded in producing one earlier. The late 18th and early 19th centuries were increasingly an age of directories: the Army List and Navy List were already old; other professional directories had begun to appear from the 1760s, and court directories from 1792; a proliferation of local trades directories was amplified in the 1790s by the Universal British Directory; and the Post Office Directories began to appear in 1800, though it was not until Frederick Kelly acquired the publishing rights in 1835 that they became prominent.

In 1817, Richard Gilbert, the second son of the printer John Gilbert, was an accountant for the SPCK. He had also become a printer at St John’s, Clerkenwell, on the death of his father in 1815, and remained active in the religious life of Clerkenwell, as a vestryman and generous contributor to building of new churches there. He also became a governor of Christ’s Hospital and of Bart’s. His Clerical Guide was published by Rivingtons, a long-established high-church publisher, and later the issuer of Tracts for the Times.

In 1830, William Rivington became a partner in Gilbert’s printing business, thereafter called Gilbert & Rivington. The 1817 issue of the Clerical Guide named Gilbert as the printer, but not the compiler; the second edition in 1822 was “corrected by Richard Gilbert”, as if he were putting right someone else’s mistakes. Besides the Clerical Guide, Gilbert produced other clerical and educational reference works, such as the Clergyman’s Almanack (1819) and the Liber Scholasticus (1829), later retitled the Parents’ School and College Guide (1843).

Gilbert proclaimed The Clerical Guide as a celebration of “an establishment founded upon the noblest principles, designed for the best of purposes, supported by a happy union of wisdom and policy, and affording an illustrious example of the advantages of sound learning under the guidance of Religion and Piety”. The full title, The Clerical Guide or Ecclesiastical Directory: containing a Complete Register of the Prelates and other Dignitaries of the Church; A List of all the Benefices in England and Wales Arranged Alphabetically in their several Counties, Dioceses, Archdeaconries &c; the Names of their respective Incumbents, the Population of the Parishes, Value of the Livings, Name of the Patrons, &c &c; And an Appendix, containing Alphabetical Lists of those Benefices, which are in the Patronage of the Crown, the Bishops, Deans and Chapters, and other Public Bodies, indicates its aims.

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His preface states that he had “endeavoured to supply an obvious deficiency in that useful class of publications denominated books of reference” by a work “which . . . embraces a comprehensive view on the whole Ecclesiastical Establishment of England”. Gilbert boasted of “an arrangement, now for the first time adopted, which presents, at a single glance, the description of a Benefice”. In practice, the work provided more than the title or preface indicated: besides an alphabetical list of benefices, there was an alphabetical list of incumbents, and it included Wales as well as England. The preliminary pages read like an extensive guide to the unreformed establishment, with lists of bishops and dignitaries giving their first fruits, the college of doctors of laws, the Chapel Royal, the King’s preachers and chaplains, Sion and Gresham colleges, the Universities, and the fellows and schoolmasters of Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Harrow, Manchester, and St Paul’s.

Gilbert urged patrons and incumbents to send in corrections, and set a pattern for future compilers’ prefaces in his elaborate excuses for error. He noted “the impossibility, in some instances, of gaining access to authentic records, notwithstanding reiterated solicitations, and entreaties made with the most respectful earnestness”, and hoped that the errors “which the utmost exertions of his industry and assiduity have not been able to prevent . . . will . . . meet with the candid indulgence of all who know how to estimate the literary drudgery of so multifarious a compilation”.

The Clerical Guide and Ecclesiastical Directory was not intended to be published yearly, and the lists of bishops and deans were set with generous line spacing, so that they could be (and were) easily grangerised with the names of successors. Nevertheless, it went through four editions between 1817 and 1836, and another new edition (not found in libraries) was advertised in 1838. Thereafter it seems to have remained dormant, until revived by Thomas Bosworth in 1886.

The Clerical Guide ended just too early to benefit from the improved communications of the late 1830s and early 1840s — railways, telegraphs, lowered stamp-duty on publications, the Penny Post — that made the job of directory publishers much easier. The baton passed to another publication, this time a spin-off from a newspaper. In July 1838, J. W. Parker, publisher to the SPCK, and printer to Cambridge University, published at his office in the Strand “with episcopal sanction” the first issue of the Ecclesiastical Gazette: or Monthly Register of the affairs of the Church of England and of its religious societies and institutions. It was to supply “the want of a proper medium for communicating to the whole of the Parochial Clergy authentic intelligence upon ecclesiastical matters” impartially: “in such a manner as may be acceptable to all parties”. The Gazette was to be neutral: “not intended to be a vehicle for theological discussions or opinions, but a record of facts and a general medium of intelligence”, and it was to be run by clerics of standing.

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It was the new Stamp Act, said Parker, that made such a publication possible (in 1837, the duty on newspapers fell from 4d. to 1d.). The first issue, paid for by the laity, was sent gratis to the 11,000 parishes of the Church, but clergy were encouraged to subscribe by the printing of the names of clerical subscribers each month. The Gazette appears to have been modelled on the London Gazette, and served as an outlet for official notices and formal reports. In 1839, its offices moved from the Strand to 14 Southampton Street near by, with Charles Cox as publisher.

Parker had already been publishing a Church Year Book in 1838. In 1839, the Gazette, claiming that “there has never been a general list of the clergy of the Church of England,” announced that is was preparing one. It failed, despite help from several bishops.

In February, 1840, however, Cox and his editors decided that “the facilities of communicating with the clergy through . . . this Gazette” and “the new arrangements of the Post Office” — the introduction in January of the Universal Penny Post — warranted another go. The work, to be called the Clergy List and General List of the Benefices of the Church of England, would be published annually under the same “episcopal sanction” (and perhaps the same clerical management) as the Ecclesiastical Gazette. Sold at a price between 6s. and 7s., it would have three parts: an alphabetical list of the whole body of the clergy, from dignitaries to lecturers and those without duty; a general list of all the benefices; and lists of patronage in the hands of the Crown, the bishops, and other patrons. “Most of the secular professions already enjoy this advantage.”

Cox sought returns from the clergy of every parish or benefice, who were to include not only all their curates and lecturers but also resident clergy without preferment or duty; thus ensuring that everyone was covered.

Cox at first hoped to publish by May 1840, and much was in type by July, but incomplete returns and the scale of the work delayed publication till January 1841. A second edition came out later in the year, and thereafter the Clergy List appeared annually until 1917.

The first issue was a little more ambitious than Cox suggested: besides the lists of clergy, of benefices, and of patronage, it had lists of clergy ordained in December 1840, of bishops and cathedral establishments, of collegiate churches from Brecon to Wolverhampton (with Heytesbury an afterthought), of Irish bishops, of (ten) colonial bishops, of the Rt Revd Chaplain of the British Embassy in France (the predecessor of the Diocese in Europe), of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and a third benefice list arranged under ecclesiastical divisions.

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By 1859, it also included the houses of convocation, the Chapel Royal, the preachers at the Inns of Court, deans of peculiars, army and navy chaplains, prison chaplains, all the Irish clergy, and all the clergy of colonial and overseas churches, including Gibraltar and Jerusalem; that list ran to 32 pages, reflecting the enormous expansion of the Communion since the 1830s. Charles Cox was still the publisher in 1866, but by 1881 he had been succeeded by John Hall in Parliament Street.

In 1888, the Clergy List was taken over by Hamilton, Adams, who had acquired Bosworth’s Clerical Guide and Ecclesiastical Directory and merged the latter into it for the 1889 edition, selling it on to Kelly’s in 1890. Various changes were made to the contents at the same time. Kelly’s continued to publish the Clergy List until the First World War.

A reviewer in 1865 said of the Clergy List that “of all the Annual Volumes issued, few equal and none exceed” it “in general utility. It would be difficult to find any question connected with the Church . . . which cannot be satisfactorily answered by a reference to it; for the information it contains is, we believe, as trustworthy as it is abundant.” It is thus surprising that anyone should have sought to establish a rival annual directory serving the same market: but one gradually emerged between 1855 and 1876.

A reviewer in 1865 said of the Clergy List that “of all the Annual Volumes issued, few equal and none exceed” it “in general utility. It would be difficult to find any question connected with the Church . . . which cannot be satisfactorily answered by a reference to it; for the information it contains is, we believe, as trustworthy as it is abundant.” It is thus surprising that anyone should have sought to establish a rival annual directory serving the same market: but one gradually emerged between 1855 and 1876.

THAT was the work of two Taunton men, Edward William Cox (1809-79) — probably no relation of Charles — and John Crockford (1824/25-1865). Their original fields were far from ecclesiastical publication. Crockford was the son of a local schoolmaster; Cox was a local solicitor who was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1843. Coming to London, Cox immediately realised the opportunity for a professional paper, which he established as the Law Times, published from an office in Essex Street. Within less than a year, it had nearly collapsed. Cox sacked the publisher, the negligent Thomas Launder, and in November 1843 brought in young Crockford, who turned it round. Launder had already spun off the paper’s book-review section as The Critic of Literature, Art, Science, and Drama, which Crockford nursed until it foundered in 1863.

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THAT was the work of two Taunton men, Edward William Cox (1809-79) — probably no relation of Charles — and John Crockford (1824/25-1865). Their original fields were far from ecclesiastical publication. Crockford was the son of a local schoolmaster; Cox was a local solicitor who was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1843. Coming to London, Cox immediately realised the opportunity for a professional paper, which he established as the Law Times, published from an office in Essex Street. Within less than a year, it had nearly collapsed. Cox sacked the publisher, the negligent Thomas Launder, and in November 1843 brought in young Crockford, who turned it round. Launder had already spun off the paper’s book-review section as The Critic of Literature, Art, Science, and Drama, which Crockford nursed until it foundered in 1863.

Crockford’s biggest success was with The Field, first published in 1853, which was failing when E.W. Cox bought it in 1854; Crockford restored it to profitability over five years, and at length Cox is said to have made £20,000 a year from it.

Before starting on The Field, Crockford had noticed that many of the Critic’s subscribers were clerics, and that they wanted more ecclesiastical literature reviewed. Crockford therefore decided to combine it with “a complete collection of facts and news” for members of the Established Church. In May 1853, the Church Journal and Clerical and University Chronicle: A Record of Ecclesiastical Literature and Art began monthly publication.

Crockford hoped to appeal to the laity, but, realising from subscriptions and correspondence that the clergy were his paymasters, he changed the title to Clerical Journal and Church and University Chronicle in July, and began to publish fortnightly, securing the services as editor of the Revd Dr Henry Burgess, a biblical scholar converted from Nonconformity. It continued to appear until 1869.

The Church Journal had to make a space for itself by denouncing (correctly) other unnamed church newspapers as partisan — “no-one of them can be said to be the organ of the whole Church” — and stressing its own neutrality and factuality: but that brought it into head-on competition with the Ecclesiastical Gazette, which it had to attack on other grounds, with an appeal to advertisers.

“They must go to the Guardian to catch the eye of one party, and to the Record to come before another, and so on, before they can be seen by all. The largest publicity they can obtain is through the Gazette, and for this they are compelled to pay enormously. Thus, while the lawyer or the surgeon can make known his wants for 5s, or the poor author can advertise his book for the same sum, the seller of an advowson, seeking a purchaser, the tutor looking for pupils, the preacher publishing a sermon, cannot publish the shortest announcement of it in the Gazette under nine shillings [his italics], and all advertisements are charged more than double the regular prices.

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“One object of the Church Journal will be to supply to the Clergy and members of the Church, and to all who want to address them, a means of doing so at the same prices as are charged by the other respectable professional journals.”

Crockford did not make clear at that point, of course, that the annual subscription to his paper was no less than that to the Gazette, and would soon be more.

Nearly a third of the first issue was advertisements, and half of it classified book reviews, the rest being “sayings and doings”, “notes and queries”, and “correspondence” — beginning with a planted letter from “Vicarius”’ attacking the Ecclesiastical Gazette for lack of news and expensive advertisements. He wanted a systematic correspondence with one or more clerics in each diocese.

The content was thus quite different from the dry-as-dust Gazette’s, and the advertising market proved more elastic than Crockford thought. By the end of 1853, although the Clerical Journal was getting plenty of advertising, the Ecclesiastical Gazette had increased its advertisements from 15 to 16 pages. Nevertheless, Crockford and Burgess could feel as confident, as in July, that experience had showed “a void which required to be filled and a want to be supplied”. The coverage had expanded to include news from the Colonial and American Churches, including the deposition of a former bishop of North Carolina for joining the Roman Catholics, and some information about Bishop Griswold (of Massachusetts).

IN 1855, Crockford saw a way of undermining another pillar of the Ecclesiastical Gazette — the Clergy List. The “conductors of the Clerical Journal”, unlike the 1865 reviewer mentioned above, “were in a position to know how very unreliable and unsatisfactory were all present books of reference relating to the Clergy and the Church. It seemed to them desirable to have a correct Alphabetical List of the Clergy, which should be something more than a Directory, and which should give, besides a list of names, certain other information, rendering the book a Biographical Directory of the Clergy and a Statistical Guide to the Church.”

It was to be a “yearly guide to the Church of England”.

The “conductors” probably did not expect that their new promotion would still be on the road long after the wheels had come off the Clerical Journal, or that it would take years to become yearly. Initially it was published as a supplement to the journal, once or twice a month, not alphabetically but as numbered names, as the information came in.

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The biographical information was at first little more than that in the Clergy List, chiefly consisting of ordination details and the name of the ordaining bishop, although it attached the value of the living to the name of the cleric — but Crockford had hit on a winner: he flattered the clergy by including each cleric’s publications. Moreover the entries in the supplement served as proofs, to be corrected by the clergy themselves, for the complete compilation.

Like Charles Cox before them, Crockford and E. W. Cox underestimated the scale of the work. It needed a full-time editor (who remained anonymous), a huge army of staff, and, in more than two years, “an outlay of more than £500 on postage stamps alone”, implying more than 120,000 out-letters. Cox’s other publications had provided him with the capital to meet the cost. The title of the supplement changed six times before the last part came out on 8 August 1857, with the 18,859th entry.

In 1858, the whole was republished as a single volume, the Clerical Directory, with continuous pagination, but uncorrected running heads (and six titles), and an index to the numbered entries. Hagiographical accounts do not really convey what a mess it looks. Crockford was named as the publisher, but not in the title.

The preface predicted a reissue with alphabetical entries on 1 January 1859, at a price of 12s., or twice the Clergy List’s. Only in 1860, however, did the improved second issue, now called Crockford’s Clerical Directory for 1860: being a Biographical and Statistical Book of Reference for Facts, relating to the Clergy and the Church, Published Annually, appear. It had attracted 3000 advance subscriptions.

The alphabetical list now included in some cases a cleric’s previous posts, and had begun to include some colonial clergy. Like the Clergy List, the work now included a table of benefices and curacies in England and Wales. Its separate list of Irish clergy was copied by permission from Thom’s Almanac, and its list of the Scottish Episcopal Church was arranged by diocese. It replaced the names of ordaining bishops in the main list by a separate chronological list of bishops of England and Wales from 1774.

It advertised yet another Crockford wheeze, a free registry of clerical and scholastic wants and vacancies. That failed to compete with the for-fee agencies, but the Directory continued, though not annually. It appeared in 1862, 1865, and 1868.

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In January 1865, John Crockford died suddenly, at the age of about 40. The fortune that he had helped to amass — not from Crockford, but from the Law Times, the Field, and the Queen, which the firm acquired in 1862 from Mrs Beeton’s husband, who had mismanaged it — was for E. W. Cox, not himself. Cox used it to become a serjeant-at-law, and then, in 1877, to buy Serjeant’s Inn and to move its contents to Moat Mount House, Mill Hill, surrounded by an estate that is now one of outer London’s largest open spaces. Crockford had a large semi off Haverstock Hill, Hampstead, an income probably of about £600, and an estate at death of less than £1000.

The loss of their “old and valued servant” forced Cox’s family to take over the business management themselves. His son Irwin Cox, another lawyer, was manager to 1880, assisted, and increasingly displaced, by E. W.’s nephew Horace Cox, who remained the manager and publisher until 1918.

They appointed, from 1869, a new and combative editor, who stayed in post until at least 1896, but remained anonymous. He succeeded in bringing out Crockford at regular two-yearly intervals until 1876. Thereafter, it came out annually, at last a direct competitor to the cheaper Clergy List.

The content continued to expand. Biographical details came to include clerics’ full career. The 1870 edition had begun to include the elaborate preliminary material of older directories — the Chapel Royal, the Inns’ preachers, deans of peculiars; it included alphabetical lists of Irish, Scottish, and colonial clergy, bishops of the United States, and matter on tithe commutation. By 1880, the historical list of bishops had been expanded to cover the period from a “first appointment” to the see — a feature retained in today’s Crockford (after being dropped in 1980-82 for reasons of economy) and colonial clergy were included in the main alphabetical list, though “Scotch” episcopal clergy had their own list.

By 1896, the preliminary matter included, besides that of 1870, lists of, or information on, theological colleges, mission colleges, training colleges, Prime Ministers, bishops of London, bishops of the American Church, persons who had availed themselves of the Clerical Disabilities Act, historical lists of Scottish bishops, Irish and colonial bishops, diocesan and capitular establishments, bishops suffragan, bishops who had resigned their sees, houses of Convocation, Scottish, Irish and overseas cathedral establishments, and rural deaneries in England and Wales, and ran to 107 pages, besides 1522 pages of the clergy list and 545 of the benefice lists of home and colonial churches.

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CROCKFORD now increasingly eclipsed the Clergy List. That presumably survived by competing on price, but, like a Neanderthal trying pathetically to imitate a Cro-Magnon toolkit, gradually incorporated some of the biographical features of Crockford, notably entering dates of ordination, and later flagging them in bold Gothic type; by 1915, it, too, gave full careers.

The 1869 editor also expanded the preface, and gradually developed it into the extensive survey for which Crockford became famous. At first it mainly consisted of comments on the book, reactions to suggestions and complaints from correspondents, and scolding inadequate returns and impostures. His first preface, in 1870, was only two pages long, but castigated the clergy for confusing returns on income. The distinction of net and gross income, and the legal and practical complications of tithe commutation and rentcharge, became a running feature of prefaces’ comment for many years, so that wider comment on legal changes affecting benefices and the Church crept in.

The much longer preface of 1880 was still mostly shop-talk. It combated suggestions for shortening and cheapening the book by omitting clergy publications. Some clerics resented paying for the inclusion of someone’s penny sermons, but the editor stressed that the publications had always been included in Crockford biographies.

Conversely, he regretfully resisted a suggestion that the work should contain an index of places on the Continent where there were permanent chaplains. He discussed an analysis of the 1878 edition, supplied by a correspondent, showing what proportion of clergy came from the various universities and theological colleges.

He warned against an impostor from the West of England who had tried to get his name in: “I have ascertained on the highest authority that this person has not received Holy Orders at all. He is, therefore, a person to be entirely avoided.” He thanked the many clerics who had helped, or praised the Directory’s value. “Such testimony . . . from men of character and position, far outweighs the puerile complaints of those who think themselves unfairly treated by some trivial error, or omission, from which it often happens that they are themselves accountable.”

In 1896, to celebrate 20 years’ annual publishing, he looked back, though his survey gave rise to three widely repeated myths: that the book first came out in weekly parts, that the first full volume was published in 1857, and that there had been no intention of yearly publication at first.

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The style of editorial letters to the Church Times suggests that the old editor was still running Crockford after 1900, but it may have been a successor who, in the 12-page 1907 preface, commented on “those who delighted in finding fault” that “Their time has now come to an end.” “The Preface therefore has no longer to deal with such cases, but the subjects are confined to such matters as are of general interest to the clergy.”

He went on to talk about clergy pensions, assessment, gross and net income, dilapidations, sequestration, Easter offerings (quoting in full a Times report of 1906 on the taxation thereof), refusal to make a return of clerical income, and “the Education question”, with long quotations from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London.

THE First World War put a strain on all directory publications. Crockford and the Clergy List were no exception. The story is a familiar one: the attrition of increasingly exhausted combatants, an old empire at last giving up in 1917 and being overrun by the central power, which then saw its ruler dethroned in 1918 and itself defeated by an unexpected new entrant.

Crockford’s prefaces turned to the theological evils of the Germans. By 1917, it could no longer maintain yearly publication. Even the 1917-18 issue was late.

The preface, though still of 12 pages, mostly discussed the part played by God in the war, and noted the number of clerics serving as temporary chaplains to the forces. It returned to the old theme of imposture and bogus degrees. A correspondent wrote that the diplomas of the Guild of Church Musicians were worthless: the Guild was started by a certain Dr Lewis, and had been exposed in one of the musical journals and in Truth. It commented on the state purchase of the liquor trade, and rejected a Canadian request to add information on the 5800 American clergy, which would have added 290 pages.

But if Crockford was in poor shape, the Clergy List was in worse: its last issue came out in 1917, and later in the year it was taken over by Crockford, whose 50th issue, for 1918-19, triumphantly added on the title page “with which is incorporated the Clergy list, Clerical Guide and Ecclesiastical Directory”.

Too late: Horace Cox died in 1918, and the firm was rudderless. He was perhaps “the important member of editorial staff” whose death in 1918 was said by the 1918-19 preface, dated December 1918, to have delayed publication. The next issue should have come out in January 1920, but in 1921 Crockford was sold to Oxford University Press.

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The 1918-19 preface nevertheless maintained the tradition of discursive comment: on wartime increase of clerical incomes, clergy efficiency and discipline, degrees, navy and army chaplains, the National Mission and Christian Fellowship, tithes, gross and net incomes, patronage, dilapidations, and the new see of Coventry. It stated that from the Clergy List were retained the lists of church and benevolent societies and institutions, diocesan charities, and universities of Great Britain and Ireland: altogether nine pages of the prelims.

It also noted that “Several of the clergy have requested us to reprint the prefaces to Crockford from the first year of publication. They severally write in highly appreciative terms of the portion of the work by various editors; but however flattered we may feel by such expressions of approval, the commercial mind of the proprietors cannot view the proposition favourably, as the possible sale would be very small.”

That preface was written by the anonymous editor, R. P. Rose, the assistant business manager of Cox’s firm Windsor House, who had taken on the editorship as an extra chore. “This had to be kept dark, for it was always understood to be the province of a clergyman.”

OXFORD instead appointed a real clergyman, R. H. Malden, a former lecturer at Selwyn College, Cambridge, who was Vicar of Headingley, in Ripon diocese, from 1919, then from 1933 Dean of Wells. He can hardly have done much detailed editorial work from those bases. His job was to write the prefaces, which remained anonymous, signed by the Editor, from 1921-22 until his last one in 1944. During his term of service, they were much admired for their mordant wit.

That preface was written by the anonymous editor, R. P. Rose, the assistant business manager of Cox’s firm Windsor House, who had taken on the editorship as an extra chore. “This had to be kept dark, for it was always understood to be the province of a clergyman.”

OXFORD instead appointed a real clergyman, R. H. Malden, a former lecturer at Selwyn College, Cambridge, who was Vicar of Headingley, in Ripon diocese, from 1919, then from 1933 Dean of Wells. He can hardly have done much detailed editorial work from those bases. His job was to write the prefaces, which remained anonymous, signed by the Editor, from 1921-22 until his last one in 1944. During his term of service, they were much admired for their mordant wit.

Besides many years of ghost-writing prefaces, Malden was a notable writer of ghost stories. His collection Nine Ghosts appeared in 1943. Politically High Tory with a hint of Erastianism, he always went about in a frock coat and top hat. He was a distinguished classicist, and his love of Latin quotations shows in his work. Since 1877, this quotation had appeared on the title page of Crockford:

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Satis est equitem mihi plaudere,

  ut audax

Contemptis aliis explosa Arbuscula

  dixit.

In 1937, he expressed pained surprise after receiving letters that had questioned its appropriateness. He attributed this criticism to the lack of classical scholarship among the clergy. The lines are from Horace (Satires 1.10.77), and in the source are preceded by the question “Do you want your poems to be read out in cheap schools?” “Not I,” read the lines chosen for Crockford: “it is enough if a knight applauds me, as bold Arbuscula [a mime-actress of the first century BC] said when booed off the stage, paying no regard to anyone else.” Malden summed up his own outlook when he paraphrased this as: “Crockford does not play to the gallery.”

Yet he always felt that he spoke for the ordinary clergy. Of the themes on which Malden dwelt, the main ones were the operation and inequity of the Pensions Measure; the supply of candidates for holy orders; and the clergy’s financial position. A recurring feature of the Prefaces was detached and critical comment on the Church Assembly, which occasionally caused offence to its members. In his introduction to Crockford Prefaces: The Editor Looks Back, a 25th-anniversary selection he edited anonymously (Oxford, 1947), he wrote: “So far [the Assembly] has not come up to the expectation of its originators; which does not mean that it has been of no value. It carries little weight with the Church or nation as a whole. A large number of the clergy distrust and dislike it, for reasons which are not far to seek.”

The dry sense of humour was never far away. In the 1929 edition, the first after the Prayer Book crisis in Parliament, he wrote: “The year 1928 was a memorable one in the history of the Church of England; inter alia for the fact that there was no edition of Crockford. This hiatus valde deflendus was not due to any weaking on our part of the sense of the duty which we owe to the Church and nation. But certain alterations which we had decided to introduce into the arrangement and printing of the volume made it impossible for us to do more than issue a brief Supplement. . .”

As for the 1928 Prayer Book itself, in 1930 he commented on the Bishops’ urging the clergy to “familiarise their people with the contents of the Book”, and “to see that copies are readily accessible”. Malden suggested that the only way to do this was to give incumbents unfettered discretion to use it, disregarding the protests of the laity. “There are some things, even useful or necessary things, which cannot be done more democratico: as Mr Gladstone discovered when he wanted to abolish the sale of commissions in the army.”

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In 1923, Crockford started to include the names of the newly elected Proctors in Convocation, and to list the patron, the gross and net income, and the population in the list of English parishes. In 1924, rural deaneries were shown for the first time under their archdeaconries, and the names of naval and military chaplains and prison chaplains were listed. “One correspondent has addressed us in the Baganda language, and we are informed that his letter suggests that Crockford should be translated into that tongue for use in Western Equatorial Africa. We appreciate the compliment, but fear that the circulation which this version could command would not justify the labour and expense of production.”

In 1937, a new feature in the biographies was mention of religious communities: at first four, CR, SSJE, SSM, and OSB, Nashdom. A correspondent in the US who wrote to “The Secretary, Crockford’s, The Church of England’s ‘Who’s Who,’ London,” congratulated the editor on the extraordinary quickness with which his change of work had been noted. “It is nice to think that there are English firms who can teach the Americans how to hustle.”

The Second World War, with paper rationing, inflation, and skilled-labour shortages, was even more disastrous for directories than the First. Trades directory publishing collapsed after 1940 and never recovered. Crockford experienced severe difficulties; it produced a full issue in 1941, but thereafter only short supplements till 1944. In 1941, Malden noted: “Japan has been caught by an eddy of the Euroclydon of fanaticism from Central Europe”; and suggested that the term “Cockney” could never be a term of reproach again. Virgil had foreseen today’s Cockney when he wrote: Si fractur illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinae.

THE next full volume was in 1947. Given the problems of other directories, it was creditable that OUP resumed publication. This time the preface was wholly anonymous, not being attributed to any editor.

At this time, the editor’s attention became occupied by the diocesan arms shown in the Directory. It was found that more than 100 dioceses were using arms without official authority, and the editor felt that the principal obstacle to registration was the fee of £76 10s., and it was thought that the College of Arms should be approached.

As a result, this was taken up by the Richmond Herald, and the College agreed to grant arms to dioceses at a reduced fee of £38. The response from the bishops was reported to be good, and in 1951 it was possible to announce that “From and including this issue of Crockford only registered arms can be shown, and we hope that the numerous blank shields will be filled before this generous concession is withdrawn.”

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As a result, this was taken up by the Richmond Herald, and the College agreed to grant arms to dioceses at a reduced fee of £38. The response from the bishops was reported to be good, and in 1951 it was possible to announce that “From and including this issue of Crockford only registered arms can be shown, and we hope that the numerous blank shields will be filled before this generous concession is withdrawn.”

Malden died in 1951. For several years, the mantle passed to the Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge, J. S. Bezzant. Bezzant was a brilliant liberal theologian, long associated with Ripon Hall, and indeed the executor of Canon B. H. Streeter, whose papers and nearly Bezzant himself were lost when the Japanese sank HMS Repulse in the Far East in 1941. Bezzant had tended the sick and dying, using a hypodermic syringe, until everyone able had left the ship, and when she heeled over he had climbed out and over the bulge, and was only saved by clinging to the wreckage after he had gone down with the ship. His obituarist described him as “undoubtedly a handful”, and noted for his repartee.

Malden died in 1951. For several years, the mantle passed to the Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge, J. S. Bezzant. Bezzant was a brilliant liberal theologian, long associated with Ripon Hall, and indeed the executor of Canon B. H. Streeter, whose papers and nearly Bezzant himself were lost when the Japanese sank HMS Repulse in the Far East in 1941. Bezzant had tended the sick and dying, using a hypodermic syringe, until everyone able had left the ship, and when she heeled over he had climbed out and over the bulge, and was only saved by clinging to the wreckage after he had gone down with the ship. His obituarist described him as “undoubtedly a handful”, and noted for his repartee.

In 1950, Geoffrey Cumberlege of the OUP wrote to him (in a letter now in St John’s College Library), inviting him to write the preface for the next edition. Bezzant was told by an official of the Press, R. C. Goffin, that the prefaces had proved “somewhat troublesome” in the past, but they did not want them to lose their character; and he gave Bezzant complete freedom to air his opinions.  That edition of Crockford produced what Cumberlege called a “summer storm” when it was published in the middle of 1952. Under a marginal heading, “The Church’s Intellectual Armaments”, Bezzant had suggested that the bishops on the whole were not intellectually equal to the challenges of the day. “Some of the bishops are still, happily, learned men; though their learning is seldom very relevant to the present pressing need. But, at the risk of giving offence and with no desire to do so, it must be written that far too many of them bring no intellectual gifts or accomplishments to adorn the episcopal office, but derive their only personal authority from it.

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“Their influence is confined to the faithful. This would be less serious if the deficiencies were made good by deans and residentiary canons, whose preferments are traditionally those of learning and should afford opportunity of increasing and using it. We can count about half a dozen deans in various ways distinguished; besides whom we know not any others; while expect for those whose residentiary canonries are annexed to professorships, these cathedral dignitaries are in no better case.”

He also attacked episcopal habits of dress. “There is one respect in which none could suggest that bishops nowadays do not adorn their office. We refer to robes and external decorations, high matters in which we have no expert knowledge. Our information is that long traditional practice and restraint have been largely displaced by sartorial idiosyncrasy. Of copes and mitres we speak no evil; but we think that parading in the scarlet robe which belongs to the university degree of Doctor, or in that garment shorn of the coloured facings appropriated to Doctors’ degrees by bishops not thus distinguished, is ridiculous if not worse.”

Other shafts were directed at crosses attached to Bishop’s signatures, what Bezzant considered to be the low level of the religious press — marking the demise of The Guardian — and Pope Pius XII’s promulgation of the dogma of the Assumption. The letter drew a critical one to the Press from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, wondering whether the Crockford preface was the place for such opinions to be aired.

Much of his next preface (1953-54) was devoted to an erudite attack on the indissolubilist position on divorce which was set to become embodied in the revised Canons. Bezzant (who was married) wrote: “In an age of competing dogmatisms it is natural for churchmen to feel they must at all costs be definite; but this is to forget that the nature of the Church’s mission and influence is such that there can be no permanent gain, but only ultimate loss, in being definite unless the definite is also right.”

After the controversial comments in the previous edition, Bezzant was encouraged by Cumberlege to include a paragraph discussing the reactions. He was moved to note “a growing ecclesiastical tendency to resent all criticism, not because it is groundless or unfair, but simply because it is criticism, and to regard it as lèse-majesté. This is pretentious nonsense, and we shall continue to call it by its name. . .

“We suggest to the Archbishops that a criticism, far more damaging than any of our, was made when [a commentary on the Preface in The Church of England Newspaper] added that speculation about the identity of the preface-writer ‘has tended to hit upon men who have abandoned the hope of preferment’. . . One cannot abandon that for which one has never had the least desire. We have no faintest sense of grievance about the treatment accorded us by the Church authorities, which in fact has always been fair and kindly beyond our deserving. We should, we think, not have been uncontrollably distressed had it been otherwise.”

  He stated that there had been no official attempt to get the preface suppressed; no Roman Catholic had ever in any degree influenced a Crockford preface; and Crockford was in no sense an official publication, although it relied on official sources.

In November 1955, Cumberlege wrote to Bezzant to tell him his decision that the next preface should be written by somebody else, since Bezzant’s position as preface-writer was now “uncomfortable” because so many people now knew the writer’s identity.

Confidentiality about the prefaces’ authorship has always been taken very seriously at the Press. When David L. Edwards became a preface-writer during his time at Westminster in the 1970s, he asked the identity of his immediate predecessor, and was told very firmly: “That’s a secret.” The Press’s archives still contain about 20 editorial files on Crockford, and the archivist says that the Press continues to respect the confidentiality of the authors.

Confidentiality about the prefaces’ authorship has always been taken very seriously at the Press. When David L. Edwards became a preface-writer during his time at Westminster in the 1970s, he asked the identity of his immediate predecessor, and was told very firmly: “That’s a secret.” The Press’s archives still contain about 20 editorial files on Crockford, and the archivist says that the Press continues to respect the confidentiality of the authors.

In 1957, a light-hearted poem “The Fugitive”, published in Time for a Rhyme (Mowbrays) by S. J. Forrest, a gently satirical Anglican priest-poet, has a macabre edge to it, in the light of the so-called “Crockford affair” of 30 years later. It tells of “A lone, eremitical, fugitive soul” who dwells in a remote hovel, suspected by gossipers of “moral or criminal guilt”. His tale is a tragic one:

The burdensome secret

  oppressing his soul,

His guilty, anonymous fame,

Impelled the recluse to a

  desperate end,

In dark, ignominious shame.

One day in a frenzy of agonized

  fear,

He stood in a bullet’s trajectory.

For he was the man who had

  secretly penned

The preface to Crockford’s

Directory.

The preface to Crockford’s

Directory.

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