were called minor orders, and in 1350 the privilege was extended to secular as well as to religious clerks; and, finally, the test of being a clerk was the ability to read the opening words of verse 1 of Psalm li., hence generally known as the “neck-verse.” Even this requirement was abolished in 1705. In 1487 it was enacted that every layman, when convicted of a clergyable felony, should be branded on the thumb, and disabled from claiming the benefit a second time. The privilege was extended to peers, even if they could not read, in 1547, and to women, partially in 1622 and fully in 1692. The partial exemption claimed by the Church did not apply to the more atrocious crimes, and hence offences came to be divided into clergyable and unclergyable. According to the common practice in England of working out modern improvements through antiquated forms, this exemption was made the means of modifying the severity of the criminal law. It became the practice to claim and be allowed the benefit of clergy; and when it was the intention by statute to make a crime really punishable with death, it was awarded “without benefit of clergy.” The benefit of clergy was abolished by a statute of 1827, but as this statute did not repeal that of 1547, under which peers were given the privilege, a further statute was passed in 1841 putting peers on the same footing as commons and clergy.
Clergy reserves, in Canada. By the act of 1791, establishing the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, the British government set apart one-eighth of all the crown lands for the support of “a Protestant clergy.” These reservations, after being for many years a stumbling-block to the economic development of the province, and the cause of much bitter political and ecclesiastical controversy, were secularized by the Canadian parliament in 1854, and the proceeds applied to other purposes, chiefly educational. Owing to the wording of the imperial act, the amount set apart is often stated as one-seventh, and was sometimes claimed as such by the clergy.
CLERK (from A.S. cleric or clerc, which, with the similar Fr. form, comes direct from the Lat. clericus), in its original sense, as used in the civil law, one who had taken religious orders of whatever rank, whether “holy” or “minor.” The word clericus is derived from the Greek κληρικός, “of or pertaining to an inheritance,” from κλῆρος, “lot,” “allotment,” “estate,” “inheritance”; but the authorities are by no means agreed in which sense the root is connected with the sense of the derivative, some conceiving that the original idea was that the clergy received the service of God as their lot or portion; others that they were the portion of the Lord; while others again, with more reason as Bingham (Orig. Eccl. lib. i. cap. 5, sec. 9) seems to think, maintain that the word has reference to the choosing by lot, as in early ages was the case of those to whom public offices were to be entrusted.
In the primitive times of the church the term canon was used as synonymous with clerk, from the names of all the persons in the service of any church having been inscribed on a roll, or κανών, whence they were termed canonici, a fact which shows that the practice of the Roman Catholic Church of including all persons of all ranks in the service of the church, ordained or unordained, in the term clerks, or clergy, is at least in conformity with the practice of antiquity. Thus, too, in English ecclesiastical law, a clerk was any one who had been admitted to the ecclesiastical state, and had taken the tonsure. The application of the word in this sense gradually underwent a change, and “clerk” became more especially the term applied to those in minor orders, while those in “major” or “holy” orders were designated in full “clerks in holy orders,” which in English law still remains the designation of clergymen of the Established Church. After the Reformation the word “clerk” was still further extended to include laymen who performed duties in cathedrals, churches, &c., e.g. the choirmen, who were designated “lay clerks.” Of these lay clerks or choirmen there was always one whose duty it was to be constantly present at every service, to sing or say the responses as the leader or representative of the laity. His duties were gradually enlarged to include the care of the church and precincts, assisting at baptisms, marriages, &c., and he thus became the precursor of the later parish clerk. In a somewhat similar sense we find bible clerk, singing clerk, &c. The use of the word “clerk” to denote a person ordained to the ministry is now mainly legal or formal.
The word also developed in a different sense. In medieval times the pursuit of letters and general learning was confined to the clergy, and as they were practically the only persons who could read and write all notarial and secretarial work was discharged by them, so that in time the word was used with special reference to secretaries, notaries, accountants or even mere penmen. This special meaning developed into what is now one of the ordinary senses of the word. We find, accordingly, the term applied to those officers of courts, corporations, &c., whose duty consists in keeping records, correspondence, and generally managing business, as clerk of the market, clerk of the petty bag, clerk of the peace, town clerk, &c. Similarly, a clerk also means any one who in a subordinate position is engaged in writing, making entries, ordinary correspondence, or similar “clerkly” work. In the United States the word means also an assistant in a commercial house, a retail salesman.
Clerke, Agnes Mary (1842–1907), English astronomer and scientific writer, was born on the 10th of February 1842, and died in London on the 20th of January 1907. She wrote extensively on various scientific subjects, but devoted herself more especially to astronomy. Though not a practical astronomer in the ordinary sense, she possessed remarkable skill in collating, interpreting and summarizing the results of astronomical research, and as a historian her work has an important place in scientific literature. Her chief works were A Popular History of Astronomy during the 19th Century, first edition 1885, fourth 1902; The System of the Stars, first edition 1890, second 1905; and Problems in Astrophysics, 1903. In addition she wrote Familiar Studies in Homer (1892), The Herschels and Modern Astronomy (1895), Modern Cosmogonies (1906), and many valuable articles, such as her contributions to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1903 she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society.
CLERKENWELL, a district on the north side of the city of London, England, within the metropolitan borough of Finsbury (q.v.). It is so called from one of several wells or springs in this district, near which miracle plays were performed by the parish clerks of London. This well existed until the middle of the 19th century. Here was situated a priory, founded in 1100, which grew to great wealth and fame as the principal institution in England of the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Its gateway, erected in 1504, and remaining in St John’s Square, served various purposes after the suppression of the monasteries, being, for example, the birthplace of the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1731, and the scene of Dr Johnson’s work in connexion with that journal. In modern times the gatehouse again became associated with the Order, and is the headquarters of the St John’s Ambulance Association. An Early English crypt remains beneath the neighbouring parish church of St John, where the notorious deception of the “Cock Lane Ghost,” in which Johnson took great interest, was exposed. Adjoining the priory was St Mary’s Benedictine nunnery, St James’s church (1792) marking the site, and preserving in its vaults some of the ancient monuments. In the 17th century Clerkenwell became a fashionable place of residence. A prison erected here at this period gave place later to the House of Detention, notorious as the scene of a Fenian outrage in 1867, when it was sought to release certain prisoners by blowing up part of the building. Clerkenwell is a centre of the watch-making and jeweller’s industries, long established here; and the Northampton
- The accepted English pronunciation, “clark,” is found in southern English as early as the 15th century; but northern dialects still preserve the e sound (“clurk”), which is the common pronunciation in America.