James Woodforde's The Diary of a Country Parson

Many, many years ago, when I first started reading Miss Read's Fairacre and Thrush Green novels, I discovered the delightful diaries of James Woodforde: The Diary of a Country Parson. Miss Read, real name Dora Saint, always has Woodforde's Diary beside the bed. She dips into the Diary when she can't sleep, when she's hungry or, conversely, when she's overeaten!

My first edition of the Diary was an Oxford paperback, heavily abridged. This was followed by a five volume, complete, edition. This was excellent, but the condition wasn't brilliant. So, I was delighted to find the Oxford edition of the Diaries in Kerr and Sons' bookshop in Cartmel. As soon as we could leave home for reasons other than work and exercise, we popped up to Cartmel. We enjoyed a mooch around the shop, and my lovely husband bought me the Diaries, as well as a few other books!

Parson Woodforde's life was relatively unremarkable but for one thing: for nearly 45 years he kept a diary, with almost daily entries detailing the life and times of his wonderful parish.

The Diary gives a unique insight into life in rural 18th century England. He is renowned for his good works but also for his legendary capacity for food… all washed down with copious amounts of ale, claret and port!

"We had for dinner some boiled beef, very good, a couple of chickens roasted and a boiled tongue, a couple of roast ducks, plum tarts and blancmange. Peaches, apples,plums and nuts after dinner...."

I'm not sure that the Diaries are bedside reading for me, but I'll enjoy dipping into them, just like Miss Read.