Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Sacristan of St. Botolph, by William Gilbert

The Sacristan of St. Botolph was written by William Gilbert in 1866. It is a part of the Oxford Collection of English Short Stories. When they say ‘English’ they don’t mean written in English, they mean England. A. S. Byatt edited this collection and sought stories that were really English, with English sensibilities. If this first short story is any indication, I think that I’m going to quite enjoy the rest.

The Sacristan of St. Botolph is really about truth, inner truth. Through devious means, the little imp helps the sacristan to become a better person. The sacristan, though by all appearances a faithful church-goer, in reality is a bad man. Not that he’s a murderer; he’s just selfish and prideful. Why does the imp bother with this man? Perhaps beneath this exterior, the imp knew there was true goodness within. Perhaps not. Perhaps this was a test, a test that in some way another man might fail. It was exactly what it seemed.

The next story is by Dickens. I can’t wait to get started.


  1. The Oxford Book of English Short Stories incorrectly lists William Gilbert's life as spanning 1540-1603. This apparently confuses the short story author with 16th century doctor William Gilbert (1544-1603) who is remembered for his scientific publications on electrostatic and magnetic attraction. The William Gilbert (1804-1890) who wrote The Satristan of St Botolph is the father of William S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan.

  2. That's interesting. I supposed artistic talents run in the family. As for the misprinted dates, I didn't really pay attention to them.