The word "curate" had two principal designations in the Victorian period. The first applied to so-called "perpetual curates" who had basically same responsibilities as a vicar or rector within a parish but who received a cash stipend rather, as with a vicar or rector, an allotment tied directly to the parish's tithes.
Curates of the second kind were often called "assistant curates." These were priests who were subcontracted by a rector or vicar to handle clerical tasks such as helping out with certain parts of a worship service or conducting services in the incumbent priest's absence. Using the example of one curate, John Hunt, David Yeandle shows that the curate's life wasn't difficult simply due to often insufficient wages and the temporary nature of employment. Hunt's experiences highlight the degree to which a curate was at the mercy of the incumbent, and not only in determining the length of the position and the responsibilities he'd perform (for example, Hunt liked to preach but wasn't always permitted to do so). The incumbent could also influence a curate's subsequent trajectory by putting in an ill-word when asked for a reference by a prospective employer or an aid organization, such as the Pastoral Aid Society, which supplemented the pay of curates.
Hunt, John. Clergymen Made Scarce. 2nd Ed. London: Hall and Co., 1867.
Yeandle, David. A Victorian Curate: A Study of the Life and Career of the Rev. Dr John Hunt. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2021. [Review]
Created 1 June 2021