Book submission: The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse

Title: The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse
Author: Keble, John
Publication date: New York, 1860
Library: University of South Carolina
Call number:
Submitted by: Jamie Rathjen
Description:
An 1860 edition of The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse, originally published in 1827 by the English churchman Rev. John Keble, harbors among various examples of non-verbal marginalia two distinct references to the death of the Rev. Alexander Glennie (1804-1880), the locally eminent rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Georgetown County, S.C. Perhaps fittingly, his death came on the evening before All Saints Day (1 November), so that both inscriptions say the same thing: “Mr Glennie called to his reward on All Saints eve 1880 at Charlott Virginia.” This is indeed a reference to Charlottesville, as no other place name in Virginia begins with “Charlotte,” but, unfortunately from a UVa point of view, what Glennie was doing in the area was limited to a trip to higher elevations for the sake of his health. In fact, this book contains the only reference I have found to his being in Charlottesville; any others, such as his cenotaph in the All Saints churchyard, only give the state. The owner of the book, who I have not been able to identify despite an owner’s inscription in the front (which has proven largely illegible), it appears need not have known Glennie personally; they could have easily been an eager parishioner, for example. Yet the nature of the verses they have selected makes it clear that they held him in high regard.

Rev. Alexander Glennie was born on 8 July 1804 in the south-east of England, yet was through his parents a full-blooded Scot. He originally became the rector of his parish in 1832, the boundaries of which were the Waccamaw River, the ocean, and the North Carolina border, leaving a narrow strip of land about 50 miles long that includes modern Myrtle Beach (Freeman). The South Carolina Historical Magazine notes “There is very little information to be obtained in regard to this Parish before 1800;” thus, perhaps it was brought to relative prominence with Glennie. His church was in the southern part of the parish, on Pawleys Island, and the current building dates from the early 20th century, but the rectory (i.e. Glennie’s house) survives from 1822. His journal, largely consisting of a list of church functions he performed in the 1850s and the people for which he performed them, and secondarily the constitution of the church’s Sunday school from the 1830s, survives and has been digitized, revealing that he ministered to both blacks and whites. While, as with almost all southern states, teaching slaves to read or write was illegal in South Carolina, apparently teaching them in religion was not, and Glennie regularly visited each of his parish’s 10 plantations in turn. In 1866, Glennie moved to the nearby Prince George Winyah episcopal church, across the river in Georgetown (Freeman). Throughout this period, he also found the time to keep voluminous observations of the weather in the area on both a monthly and daily scale from ca. 1834 until 1880, leaving an important resource for historical research into the lowcountry climate, and they formed the weather section of a local paper, the Georgetown Times and Comet, for “30 or 35 years” until shortly before his death. Yet the recordings stop in May 1880, a few months before his death. Around this period, Glennie left the area with his second wife and daughter, both named Mary, for a recuperative “trip to the mountains” in Virginia. It was on this trip, as it was later put in another local newspaper, the Georgetown Enquirer, that he was “called to his long reward.”

The Christian Year is laid out with one verse for each significant day in the religious year, starting with Advent and looping back around to All Saints’ Day and the Sundays just before Advent, with the remainder of the book being given to saints’ days and verses for events (baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.). The poems appear to be inspired at least in part by a Bible verse presented before the text of each; they can be expanded upon Paradise Lost-style, or perhaps Keble inserts a word from the verse into the poem (for example, “hoary”). The two most substantial references to Glennie come in the second stanza of, appropriately, “All Saints’ Day,” as well as at the end of “Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity,” which in 1880 would have been 14 November, or two weeks after Glennie’s death. Of the two, the book’s owner could have found the latter more relevant: “Say not it dies, that glory, / ‘Tis caught unquenched on high” begins the final stanza. Yet it is the next two lines that receive a small marking next to them: “Those saint-like brows so hoary / Shall wear it in the sky.” Clearly, the book’s owner thinks Glennie worthy of high praise. In “All Saints’ Day,” it is five lines that are marked, such as “Such calm old age as conscience pure / And self-commanding hearts ensure.” It appears that any lines associating old age with wisdom, discipline, and any other generally enviable qualities have caught the owner’s eye in this section of the book.

A third reference to Glennie appears in “Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity,” where a simple “Mr. Glennie” has been written next to the next-to-last stanza. Another mention of the “Christian Pastor” has interested the owner, but with a different attitude towards the preacher: “bow’d to earth / With thankless toil, and vile esteem’d.” An accompanying set of two lines just below summarizes the pastor’s attitude: “Yet steadfast set to do his part, / And fearing most his own vain heart.” Perhaps Keble (and the book’s owner) feel sympathy for the unappreciated preacher: the verse for this poem, as well as the poem itself, is a story from Daniel about the attempted burning of three Jews in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The king finds that not only were they not burned, but a fourth figure has appeared who looks “like the Son of God.” The verse and the poem, then, argue that those who righteously follow their religion can even withstand death.

Besides the book’s various markings, it also harbors an insertion of a poem by contemporary English poet Rodon Noel (1834-1894), here called “Dying” but also “The Old,” in the middle of the verse “Twentieth Sunday after Trinity.” This verse is not necessarily even about death like “Twenty-Fifth Sunday” is, rather, it takes place on top of a mountain, representing a place of contemplation. The first three of the six stanzas are devoted to the scene, and in the latter three Keble writes in the voice of God to scold a slightly lapsed would-be believer. A possible connection to “Dying” is that Noel sets a similar atmosphere of, indeed, silence and reflection. Yet two observations about the poem and its surroundings in the book indicate that perhaps it is a different sort of insertion, or came later, than all the others. The first is that there appears to be pencil lines, in the same manner as the other places in the book, under the outline indicating where the poem was placed, i.e. they seem to be obscured by the poem. The second is that as far as I can tell, “Dying” was first published only in 1892, and only in collections of Noel’s work; one such collection places it under the header of “Poems First Published in the ‘Canterbury Poets’ Series,” which was indeed in 1892, as opposed to another section indicating one of Noel’s books. Both of these point to “Dying” being a later, yet topical, insertion.

This copy of The Christian Year functions primarily as a memorial to Glennie in a variety of different ways: the written notes, the bracket-like markings picking out specific lines, and the insertion of “Dying.” As the rector of a church whose parish covered a wide area and many plantations within, Glennie need not have been personally known to the owner of the book, but the depth to which the owner was affected by Glennie’s death, as well as being practically the only source I have found for the preacher’s being in Charlottesville, suggests that perhaps he was, or at the very least that the owner was a devotee. They had possessed the book for some time: it was published in 1860 and the readable part of the inscription dates it to 1869, and it was perhaps found fitting for this purpose.

Works Cited
Buxton, Victoria Noel. The Collected Poems of Roden Noel. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Company Limited, 1902.

Corey, Sharon Freeman. “All Saints Waccamaw Episcopal Cemetery.” Images of America: Georgetown County’s Historic Cemeteries. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2016.

Galbraith, J. E. H. “All-Saints Waccamaw. Mural Tablets and Tombstone Inscriptions.” The South Carolina Historical Magazine 13 (1912): 163-176.

Glennie, Alexander. Daily Meteorological Observations, 1863-1880. Vol. 6. Lowcountry Digital Library. .

⸺. Alexander Glennie Journal, 1831-1859. Lowcountry Digital Library.

Keble, John. The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse. New York: James Miller, 1860.

“Alexander Glennie [Prince George].” Find A Grave, 26 June 2014. Web.

“Rev Alexander Glennie [All Saints].” Find A Grave, 10 Oct 2006. Web.

Georgetown Times and Comet. 14 Aug 1879. https://newspaperarchive.com/georgetown-times-and-comet-aug-07-1879-pageno-328071007?tag=glennie&rtserp=tags/glennie?psi=87&pci=7&ndt=by&py=1828&pey=1880&psb=date/

Georgetown Enquirer. 10 Nov 1880. https://newspaperarchive.com/georgetown-enquirer-nov-10-1880-pageno-328059927?tag=glennie&rtserp=tags/glennie?psi=87&pci=7&ndt=by&py=1828&pey=1880&psb=date/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *