Project Canterbury

Life and Letters of
Thomas Thellusson Carter
Warden of the House of Mercy, Clewer,
Hon. Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and
For Thirty-Six years Rector of Clewer.

Edited by the Ven. W. H. Hutchings, M.A.
Archdeacon of Cleveland.

London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1903.

Chapter 2. Ordination and Earliest Parochial Work

THOMAS THELLUSSON CARTER had always been intended by his father for Holy Orders, and he himself "never had any other thought." He was ordained Deacon on Sunday, October 21, 1832, by Bishop Burgess, in Salisbury Cathedral, to the curacy of St. Mary's, Beading, Berkshire being then in the diocese of Salisbury.

It is characteristic of the time that his rector, the Rev. H. H. Milman, afterwards Dean of St. Paul's, went, on his first arrival, for a six-weeks' holiday, leaving the parish in charge of the young deacon. The only services, besides those of Sunday, were on Wednesday and Friday, when the clerk was accustomed to keep watch for a possible congregation, and if he saw no one coming, would say to the curate, "No prayers, sir, to-day." Even when the rector was at home, Mr. Carter was sometimes left with unexpected responsibilities. Mr. Milman was occasionally called on, on Sunday, for a Times article, and the curate would have to preach with scant time for preparation.

"Milman was at that time rather under a cloud because of his 'History of the Jews,' of which he said to me that it had been published fifty years too soon, a very true prophecy. It was one of the first-fruits of the Broad School, then just struggling into life through the growing study of German literature. Milman's sermons were very elegant compositions, much liked by the educated--of the essay kind. He once said that he had almost exhausted the Scripture subjects--an essay-like idea. I thought he knew his parish well.

"Milman and his wife were both very kind to me. But I was most at home at the Moncks' at Coley Park, friends of my father's. Invitations came from country families out of regard to my own family, and from townspeople because of my position in the town. And there was a very hospitable spirit all round me. Altogether the social calls were too much, and I was thankful when, at the end of my first year, my father becoming Vicar of Burnham, there came what seemed a clear call to seek another sphere free from these social entanglements."

The Rev. T. T. Carter, to use his most familiar name, was ordained priest at Buckden on Sunday, December 22, 1833, by Dr. Kaye, Bishop of Lincoln, a diocese which then included Buckinghamshire, and became curate to his father.

"My Burnham curacy was a most happy time. I lived at the vicarage. My father left me free to do what I could in the parish, my dear mother giving me all possible encouragement also. The Wesleyans were active at that time. The wife of one of the local preachers kept the Church Sunday-school; her husband used to attend the church, and both, I think, at times communicated there. Wesleyan preachers were very busy in the outer hamlets; I owe a debt to one of these preachers. He called on me one morning, and began an earnest talk as to the spiritual needs of the people, and their desire of being visited, with many details of their state. I was young and inexperienced, and could not but be struck with his earnestness. And I date from that time a change in my habits. I had been accustomed to one's old college use of reading, or other like occupation, in the morning, and outdoor exercise in the afternoon, only substituting parish visiting for the constitutional. But I then began to give up to the parish the morning also.

"It was, I think, soon after going to Burnham, that I made the voyage to Madeira. It was thought good for my health. I stayed about a fortnight in the island, while the vessel, a brig of the old type, was unlading and relading. It was the custom then for wine-merchants to receive visitors into their houses. The hotel was an indifferent one, and Mr. Dickinson, a cousin of the Grover family, kindly entertained me. The return for the hospitality was an order for wine. a delightful opportunity of seeing the exceeding beauty and luxuriance of the island before the rich wonders of its vintage were destroyed. The vintage was going on while I was there.
"At that time we were at a great loss as to parish work, without training, and without guidance. At that time I had my first experience of a parish trouble, the breaking up of the parish choir, which, with various wind instruments, had established itself in the gallery in a very independent position. It was a time when we had only Tate and Brady's version of the Psalms, and there was a strong feeling at the time that one ought to keep to what was in the Prayer-book. As the choir broke up, I went over to Windsor in a great extremity, and found B., a shoemaker in Bier Lane, who, with his solitary flageolet, commenced a new and more docile form of choir.

"There was equally an entire want of guidance as to what books or what line of theology one should adopt. This want of guidance ran throughout. It was while we were thus floating without authority to guide us, that the Oxford tracts appeared. It is impossible to exaggerate the immediate effect. In reading them as they came out, one felt a sense of interest and earnestness in religious doctrines one had not known before. Doctrines new to one were vividly taught, and those with which one was familiar, but had held in a somewhat perfunctory way, started into fresh life. The Church, its Priesthood and Sacraments, acquired a reality un-felt before. Calls then came from Oxford to vote on critical questions, and then one met old friends and talked over the new teaching. 'Have you read the tract on Apostolic Succession? What does it all mean?' I remember asking. All questions seemed to present themselves in a new way.

"It was while I was at Burnham I first saw the Eastward position taken at the Altar. I can still recall the surprise it gave me. It was at the old Margaret Street chapel, on the site of which All Saints' Church now stands. Oakley was then vicar, and a good deal of talk was caused about this new departure in celebrating. I went often on purpose to see him celebrate, as many others did. It struck one with a new idea of the service.

"As the Oxford movement advanced, there was no difficulty in learning what books to read. The 'Library of the Fathers' and the 'Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology' became our standard, and a rich abundance of material on similar lines was constantly being supplied. These influences came to bear on me more on my marriage."

On November 26, 1835, Mr. Carter married Mary Anne, daughter of John Gould, Esq., then residing at Amberd, near Taunton. His wife's girlhood had been spent in the neighbourhood of Totnes, where her father lived before his removal to Somersetshire. Dartington Rectory, then held by Archdeacon Froude, and Dartington Hall, where Isaac Williams found a wife, were close by.

"Hurrell Froude had been in early days a playmate of my dear wife and her sisters. They were diligent readers of the British Magazine, the periodical of which Hugh James Rose was the editor, and in which Newman's and Keble's short poems first appeared. It was distinctly the forerunner of the Tracts for the Times, even as the Christian Year was a deeper herald of the coming change. I was thus introduced into a new order of family life and a new set of associations on different Church foundations from my own. Devonshire thought among serious minded families was of a different stamp from that of Eton. The Oxenhams, to whom I and mine were doubly related, were also close intimates of the Froudes, as well as of other Devonshire higher Churchmen, and among them of the Cornishes, Keble's friends.

"Burnham has ever remained to me a most precious memory, the place of my first real ministerial work and of my early married life. I left it at Easter, 1838, for Piddlehinton, six miles from Dorchester."

During this time Mr. Carter's first printed works appeared.

"The Eton system of Education Vindicated, and its Capabilities of Improvement Considered," a pamphlet published in 1834, contains a striking passage on the value of daily service in schools and colleges.

"That man is not to be envied whose heart does not turn, with love and reverence to those collegiate chapels where, alone in our land, the God to whom the eyes of all look up for their daily bread, receives His daily offering of public praise and thanksgiving. . , . They are the links that bind us to past times and to modes of life which are no more. They realize to our senses the habits of devotion that prevailed in Christendom, when religion was all in all. They are the standing memorials and visible proofs of the deep, heartfelt impressions that Christianity wrought in the world when it was first preached. . . . The summons to chapel at the commencement and close of every day, the recurring consciousness of the sacred duty, the constant representation of their dependence upon their Maker, the contrast of the devout ceremony and its solemn warnings, with the scene and the conversation which may have just been left, the support and direction afforded to the transient and wavering aspirations after better things,--these are influences so congenial to all our purer feelings, so beneficially associated with the general training of young minds, that their effects can be destroyed or impaired only by some unnatural perverseness or insensibility."

A short tract addressed "To the Parishioners of Burnham," "on the Blessings of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper," was published in 1835, in which there breathes already that love of the Blessed Sacrament, though differently expressed to what it would have been in later years, which marked the Founder of the Confraternity. The Christian "sees with the eye of faith the Lord Jesus standing at His holy table. He draws near with a full assurance of faith: as he eats the broken bread, he knows the Spirit of his Lord is feeding his heart; as he drinks of the cup of wine, he knows that Christ is sprinkling His Blood upon his heart; he knows that the unspeakable consolation spreading over his spirit is the very peace of God which passeth all understanding, that the lifting up of his heart is the love of God 'shed abroad over his heart by the Holy Ghost that is given him;' that the new power over sin he then feels is an unusual outpouring of the Spirit of Christ."

This was followed in 1836 by a paper on "The Duties and Blessings of the Christian Sabbath, considered with Reference to the Present State of Society," Mr. Carter's last publication while Curate of Burnham.

A book of MSS. sermons, preached in 1837-38, is also in existence, written in the same clear, beautiful hand as the Scottish journals of his boyhood, and prepared, like them, as a gift to his parents, to whom the volume is dedicated "with feelings of sincerest affection and reverence."

In 1838 Mr. Carter was presented by his father to the Rectory of Piddlehinton, a living in the gift of Eton College, situated about six miles from Dorchester, and twelve from Weymouth, and he entered on his new work at Easter in that year.

The change from the atmosphere of Eton and Oxford, from congenial society, from the rising stir of Church life in which he had already begun to take part, to this solitary village, which lies, surrounded by orchards and water-meadows, in a valley amid the Dorsetshire downs, was great indeed. Of his clerical neighbours, two or three were strongly Calvinistic, the greater number were sportsmen or farmers. "What will he find to do?" one of them is reported to have said, on hearing that the new rector neither shot nor fished.

A letter written four or five years later, when he had left the neighbourhood, will give an idea of the society in which Mr. Carter now found himself.

"Piddletrenthide, Sept. 24.


"Many thanks for your last kind letter, to which I will reply as well as I can, though I assure you I feel more in need of advice than able to give it, on the interesting subjects introduced by your comprehensive questions. . . . I am now going to give you an account of our Visitation, etc., which I know will interest you much. The Bishop's charge you will, of course, see, and no doubt you know by the questions put us what it was going to be. Everything went off as usual at first--an excellent sermon, of course, by the preacher for the day, Mr. Waugh; many more reverend brethren addressed than were present--as usual. Dinner as usual. The Bishop kind and mild and gentle as usual, and by his behaviour, as well as by his charge, likely, one would have thought, to bind the hearts of all as one man in love towards each other, and respect towards himself in his office at least. The Bishop proposed Church and Queen and Queen Adelaide as usual. Mr. G. made a long speech as usual, containing some matter and more tautology than was suitable to our organs of digestion in the midst of ducks and potatoes, and port wine and nuts, and grapes and apples; and Mr. G.'s speech called forth a speech from Mr. W., which, however, much to be lamented at the time, inasmuch as it gave evident pain to our good Bishop, will do good by opening his eyes. Mr. W. objected to the charge, told the Bishop he had contradicted himself, wanted to make him eat his own words, and, I believe, thought by one vigorous attack to prevent its publication. What must have been his chagrin at seeing his lordship quickly drink his wine, and, in the name of the clergy, his own health, because they did not do it for him, for they had no time, and then get up apparently to make a reply. The reply was to this effect: his lordship felt sorry that any objection was made to his charge. Of course, having been requested to print it, and having promised to do so, he should print it; hoped that no one would be so silly as to think that he should consider Mr. W. answerable for what he had said, and concluded by assuring them that he did not consider it necessary to make any further reply. The conversation was immediately changed, and Mr. G. spoke of the comparative anatomy of potato-gardens and national schools, and this was followed by certain most valuable observations on the part of Mr. G. on turnip flies, riots, turnpikes, railways, etc., etc. The only desideratum was one of Billy Butler's plum puddings to make the thing perfect of its kind."

The writer of this letter, the Rev. James Hicks, was a bright exception to the general dreariness, a really like-minded and sympathetic friend. Another was found in Arthur H. D. Acland, better known, perhaps, by the name which he bore in later life, as Mr. Troyte of Huntsham, who then lived in Dorchester. He, like Mr. Hicks, had been deeply affected by the Oxford movement, and threw himself heart and soul into the struggle to raise up a new and vigorous life in the Church. His little book of "Hours "was one of the earliest of such recovered helps to devotion, and his "Daily Steps towards Heaven," a book of Meditations founded on a Latin work, but selected and arranged by himself, is still in use.

Mr. Carter needed the refreshment of such congenial society. The parish seems to have been sadly neglected. The most earnest people were Wesleyans. There was no Church school in the place. He succeeded in forming a dame's school, and placed a converted Wesleyan girl as mistress. A chief object was the restoration of the church. To earn money for this purpose, he took pupils, and by this means, with some help from subscriptions, the work was accomplished. "The removal of the gallery," he wrote, "was a terrible grievance, and so was the breaking up of the choir, to make a fresh beginning, as had been done at Burn-ham; but the main body of the people bore all this very kindly."

Greater trouble was caused by what seems a very trivial matter. It was the custom that the rector, at Christmas, should give a mince pie, a loaf of bread, and a quart of ale, to each individual in the parish, of every class, character, and age, down to the baby in arms. The ale was brewed at the Rectory, and a baker came from Dorchester to make the mince pies. This appeared a very undesirable waste of money, but the custom was of such antiquity that Mr. Carter thought it well to consult a lawyer before attempting to abolish it.

"With the sum thus spent (£10), I planned a clothing club for the poor, using the money for a 'bonus' to aid contributors. There was a great sensation, and the farmers, who used to come on tithe days for a supper at the Rectory, refused to appear ever afterwards. I believe all reasonable people felt it was a right thing to do. I trust it was so. The custom seemed to me most hurtful. But some, I am afraid, never forgave me. After I had been some while at Clewer, once on a Christmas Day a large parcel arrived, and at the bottom of a heap of rags and straw appeared a mince pie."

A glimpse of his home life, in which he found relaxation from these parish cares, is afforded by a letter to a little daughter, which is also very characteristic of the writer's mind.

"Piddlehinton, May 29 (1840).

"I feel a very great desire to know how you are, and how you are behaving, and if you obey everybody in everything, and particularly dearest Mama, and if you do your lessons very nicely. I shall hope to hear you read very much better when you come home. And above all, I hope that you do all you can to please and comfort dearest Mama, now that I am away, and cannot do anything for her. You must always remember that you cannot love or obey her too much, and that the way to show you love her is to do all she bids you to do.

"I have been very busy in the garden; I watered your garden with the large watering-pot yesterday evening, and I saw many of your seeds coming up, amongst the rest some sweet peas; and there is a pretty rose close to your garden, which is in full bloom.

"You cannot tell how many beautiful plants I have been preparing for dearest Mama. I planted so many to-day that we could not find enough things to cover them. We got all the sea-kale pots, an old beehive, some boxes from the tool-house, besides the flower-pots, and so we had enough. . . . Gilbert (one of the pupils) is very fond of the garden, and helps me greatly. I think you will like him, for he is very kind."

Mr. Carter lived and worked at Piddlehinton for four years, and here, in 1841, his only son was born. The relaxing climate tried him greatly, and he was compelled to spend two winters at Weymouth, for health's sake. In 1842 he obtained leave of absence, and after this he returned to Burnham as his father's curate.

He remained at Burnham for two years, residing in a small house--since pulled down--with a large and pretty garden, called the Priory Cottage, and situated nearly opposite the house now bearing that name. At this time we find the first traces of an anxiety and trouble which often recurred during the troubled years which followed the first bright dawn of the Oxford movement. A lady, whose faith in the English Church was shaken, came to him for advice. Mr. Carter laid the case before Dr. Pusey, and thus began an intercourse which lasted, growing ever closer and nearer, for forty years. His letter is not forthcoming, but some passages may be given from his answers. It is without date of year, but the allusion to Newman seems to place it before 1843.


"I am at any time glad to hear from you, especially in a case when I can be of any use. I received your letter just as I was setting out on a journey, which prevented my answering it at once. I at first adopted the same plan as yourself with regard to those who were in perplexity about the R[oman] C[hurch], arguing on points of detail. But afterwards it became plain to me that these were not the grounds upon which their conduct was meant to depend, that it was appealing to them on subjects beyond their reach, and at the same time taking them, by controversy, off from themselves and their own responsibilities. It was making them judges of churches, instead of teaching them to be obedient children of that in which God had placed them. It was, too, misleading them, as though they could judge, whereas they cannot judge; e.g. supposing that the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome depended on a certain number of the passages of the Fathers and could be proved or disproved by them, yet simple minds must be entirely dependent on others as to any questions about the genuineness of passages, their interpretation, so that it was only a circuitous way in which at last they would depend upon one's self and one's own authority, as completely as if they at once avowedly did so. It is plain that for the main part of our flocks, the little ones and lambs of Christ, those who are His special care, this is not the way intended. Their convictions must rest on something more immediate and cognizable by all.

"This seems to me to be supplied by St. Paul's rule, 'Wherein a man was called, there let him abide with God.' It was not meant that he should change; all change implies something defective; the plain line, unless something intervene extraordinary, is to work out our salvation where He hath called us. Unless there be some great cause, breaking His order, it is not our business to go back to first principles, or examine foundations, but to 'build ourselves up in that most holy faith' which we have received, to live in and on that faith, not to examine for ourselves whether it be the faith. If we are placed where obedience is required, it is our duty mostly to obey, not to inquire. This, which is the plain duty of most simple Christians, is their privilege also. Life is not long enough for endless disputations, what we are to believe, where we are to be. It is for acting, growing in grace, not for disputing. The only question, then, seems to be whether we are in a body founded and ordered by God, which has the presence of Christ and the grace of the Sacraments; in other words, whether, where we are, we have the covenanted means of salvation. Now, to a member of a Church, her very existence as a Church guarantees this . . . but now, in proportion to increasing difficulties, God seems to be bestowing upon us nearer and more immediate proofs, which appeal more directly to our consciences, and aid us more than abstract truth is wont to do. It, too, meets graciously the very difficulties we have. We are pressed from without with the question, 'Have we not, by having lost visible unity, and being severed from the rest of Christendom, lost also the privilege of a Church, while we preserve its form?' To this He has now given us the answer by tokens of His Presence among us. Every one, one may say the whole world, those of our Communion, and those who have rejected us, see that a great work is being carried on among us. Never, perhaps, has such a change been brought over the face of a Church as here in ours in the last ten years. And the work is evidently with our whole Church. It is not that a few individuals are being called out, it is a leavening of the whole Church; everything is in motion and everything in our direction; things prosperous and adverse, near or remote, in Church and State, all have one effect. Whatever change is made is towards truth and restoration. Nothing can be touched but it turns to good; every one receives something more than he did some years past; even those who oppose what is going on are themselves carried onward and take higher ground than they did before. With growth of truth there is also growth in life; there is everywhere, among the young especially, a deeper devotional life; children are often not what they used to be, but out of their mouths praise is perfected; we have deepening holiness, enlarged self-denial, stricter self-discipline, deepening humility, both in individuals and as a Church. There is an earnest yearning for something better than we are; all are amazed at it, forcing a R[oman] C[atholic] after so long separation (to) look with interest and attention towards our Church, begin to acknowledge it, and to think individuals safe in it. One can only say, 'This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.' ... I can hardly understand how people, who see what God is doing, can think of leaving the place of His Presence. ... I may say (though this is very subordinate, knowing the tempers of many who have gone over and those who, being tempted, have stayed) I should have no doubt, on this ground only, with whom I should wish my portion to be ... I have, I think, found it most useful when people's minds have been disturbed to lead them to look back in what this disturbance originated. 'The most peaceful, dutiful, humble minds are not disturbed; how is it that I am?' ... Does our friend know Mr. N[ewman's] sermon, 'Obedience the Remedy for Religious Perplexity'? Then his three articles in the B[ritish] C[ritic] on 'Geraldine,' [A religious novel, which Dr. Pusey considered "likely to do extensive mischief."] the Catholicity of the English Church, and on private judgment, are the best I know for settling a mind perplexed on this point. . . .

"Remember me very gratefully to your father, whenever you have an opportunity, and believe me,

"Yours most faithfully,


"Vigil of S. Simon and S. Jude." [1842?]

Mr. Carter kept a copy of his answer to this letter.

"Burnham, Nov. 2.


"On returning home after a rather long absence, I have been fully occupied with arrears of parochial business, or I would not have so long delayed writing to you to thank you for so kindly complying with my request, indeed so very far beyond my utmost expectations. You will excuse me, I hope, for saying that I have ever had cause of deepest gratitude to you for your publick writings, but above all, now for your great help to me personally. I have thought much on your views, and hope to act upon them, trusting that I may not myself be insensible to their power.

"I do not know whether I am yet blinded and hindered by the lower interests of controversy, and ought at once to lay aside all discussion on details such as I spoke of; but while I endeavour to confirm myself and to quiet others in the simply submissive faith you describe, yet, in the case now before me, I hardly quite feel that I can pass by all the details of the question. At least I hope that I should not be erring against your principles if I explain, where I can, the difficulties and objections which have influenced ------, for she has read much of the opposite teaching, and rests on passages of authority which she has seen quoted in evidence; and I feel that those passages will lie in her mind and possess it, unless cleared away. And thus much I think I might try to do, consistently with your principles, for clear explanation, and answering difficulties already strongly felt, is not disputation. What I propose, then, to myself is, to suggest answers to all false grounds or evidences which I may find existing, and no further, always at the same time trying to lead her to live in the spirit, and on the principles you have unfolded to me. My opportunities are rare, but I have already written on the plan which I mention. I earnestly hope that such a method would not be censured by you.

"If I feel the need of your help again, I will take advantage of your kindness. I find that the discussions on the great principles of the Church system are now rapidly descending from the higher to the lower classes even in the country, and agitating the minds of many. Within a few days I have been grieved to find a much sterner and stronger opposition to them, even in our adherents, than I had expected. The extent of latitudinarianism and self-dependent judgment seems to open to me more and more.

"I am sometimes at a loss to know how to speak on such subjects to the more unlearned classes. They seem quite unprepared for the spirit of dependent faith, which would submissively lend itself to any authoritative teaching.

"They are incapable of seeing the grounds on which such a spirit rests; as incapable they are of discussing the question and seeing the force of arguments. I speak generally.

"I am at a loss often to know whether it be better to speak boldly, content merely to witness to the doctrines; trusting that God will cause them to work as He wills, or else to act upon a kind of economy, leading them they know not how, to the end in view.

"But this latter seems scarcely possible now with the adults, for they are demanding things and realities; and are questioning the very groundwork, and there is no keeping off from the very conclusions themselves. It seems as if there must be an actual collision, and that we must openly take our stand on the ground that is to be won, and show them that they must come there too, and not merely guide them up to it by such an imperceptible track as might be practicable in other conditions of the national mind. I feel that we are driven to this, and though I would most earnestly avoid everything which might make me wear, in the eyes of nay parishioners, the semblance of what they deem a party, yet I am impressed with the conviction that the occasions of the time do not admit of this, and that, even in less important posts of the holy Church, a decided and bold avowal of great principles must be made, meekly indeed as we may, but yet unequivocally. It seems necessary now for the triumph of Truth, come though it may in other generations. Anything like doubt, or what has been falsely called (as I suppose) moderation, seems to have no right place now. I am speaking more of the minister's tone in conversation with his people than in his preaching, for it is then that the difficulty is generally most felt.

"But I ought not thus to detain; and would close with again expressing my very sincere gratitude for your kindness.

"Yours most faithfully,


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