Francis Kilvert

For the mayor of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, see Francis Edwin Kilvert.
The Reverend
Robert Francis Kilvert
The English diarist Robert Francis Kilvert (1840–1879)
Church Church of England
Personal details
Born (1840-12-03)3 December 1840
Chippenham, Wiltshire
Died 23 September 1879(1879-09-23) (aged 38)

Robert Francis Kilvert (3 December 1840  23 September 1879), always known as Francis, or Frank, was an English clergyman remembered for his diaries reflecting rural life in the 1870s, which were published over fifty years after his death.


Kilvert was born at The Rectory, Hardenhuish Lane, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, to the Rev. Robert Kilvert, rector of Langley Burrell, Wiltshire, and Thermuthis, daughter of Walter Coleman and Thermuthis Ashe. He was educated privately in Bath by his uncle, Francis Kilvert, before going up to Wadham College, Oxford. He then entered the Church of England and became a rural curate, working primarily in the Welsh Marches between Hereford and Hay on Wye. Initially, from 1863 to 1864, he was curate to his father at Langley Burrell, and in 1865 he became curate of Clyro, Radnorshire; he remained there until 1872 when he rejoined his father at Langley Burrell. From 1876 to 1877 he was vicar of St Harmon, Radnorshire, and from 1877 to his death in 1879 he was vicar of Bredwardine, Herefordshire.

In August 1879 he married Elizabeth Ann Rowland (1846–1911), whom he had met on a visit to Paris, but he died a few days after returning from his honeymoon in Scotland from peritonitis, aged 38.


Kilvert is best known as the author of voluminous diaries describing rural life. After his death, his diaries were edited and censored, possibly by his widow. Later they were passed on to William Plomer who transcribed the remaining diaries and edited and published a three-volume selection Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert (Jonathan Cape, Vol I: 1870–1871 pub. 1938, Vol II: 1871–1874 pub.1939, Vol III: 1874–1879 pub.1940), and later a one-volume selection Kilvert's Diary, 1870–1879 (Jonathan Cape, 1944corrected in 1960, and with an abridged and illustrated version for children published as Ardizzone's Kilvert in 1976). A different selection from Plomer's original version was published as Journal of a Country Curate: Selections from the Diary of Francis Kilvert by The Folio Society in 1960. In 1992 a new selection was published under the editorship of David Lockwood, Kilvert, the Victorian: A New Selection from Kilvert's Diaries (Seren Books, 1992). Out of print since 1970, the three-volume indexed edition was reprinted in 2006 by O'Donoghue Books. The complete surviving diaries were destroyed, for reasons unknown, by an elderly niece who owned them, except for the volumes listed below, which had been given to other people, while Plomer's own transcription was destroyed by fire in the Blitz. Kilvert also privately published pleasant but conventional poetry.

The Cornish Diary: Journal No.4, 1870—From July 19 to August 6, Cornwall was published by Alison Hodge in 1989.[lower-alpha 1] The National Library of Wales, which holds two of the three surviving volumes, published The Diary of Francis Kilvert: April–June 1870 in 1982 and The Diary of Francis Kilvert: June–July 1870 in 1989.


Kilvert was an enthusiast for, and regarded public bathing in the nude as natural and healthy.[2] The first entry in Kilvert's diaries in which he records his naked bathing was for 4 September 1872, at Weston-super-Mare. He writes: "Bathing in the morning before breakfast from a machine. Many people were openly stripping on the sands a little further on and running down into the sea and I would have done the same but I had brought down no towels of my own". However, next day Kilvert joins in the fun: "I was out early before breakfast this morning bathing from the sands. There was a delicious feeling of freedom in stripping in the open air and running down naked to the sea where the waves were curling white with foam and the red morning sunshine glowing upon the naked limbs of the bathers".[3][4]

Adaptations to film

A John Betjeman BBC television documentary on Kilvert, Vicar of this Parish, was shown in 1976. This led to Kilvert's Diary being dramatised (18 × 15 minute episodes) on British television between 1977 and 1978, with Timothy Davies in the title role. All episodes survive.

Notes and references

  1. From 20 July to 6 August 1870, Kilvert stayed with the family of William Hockin at Tullimaar, Perranarworthal.[1]
  1. Kilvert 1989.
  2. Smith 1996, p. 15.
  3. Kilvert Society Newsletter March 1979
  4. Conradi, Peter J (17 July 2009). "Book Of A Lifetime: The Diaries, By Francis Kilvert". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-05-02.

Further reading

External links

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