It is well known that, during the nineteenth century in England, there was widespread criticism of the traditional professions. Their members, it was alleged, formed an excessively privileged group owing their position more to patronage than to personal merit or competence. It is equally well known that patronage was believed to be particularly rampant in the nineteenth-century Church of England. (The novels of Trollope have ensured this.) It has been suggested, all the same, that of all institutions providing professional services to the nineteenth-century public, the Church of England escaped the reforming spirit of the age most completely. I hope in the course of my argument here to illustrate that this was not so and to show that problems which beset other professional men during the century affected the clergy of the Church of England also. I hope to demonstrate that doubts about the appropriateness of patronage as a device for recruiting and promoting parish clergy were, at times, widespread among the clergy themselves, among practising members of the Church of England and among the general public. Indeed, it becomes clear that, at certain crises, Church patronage (and especially patronage in the hands of private individuals) was subject to vigorous attack. It also becomes clear that, by the end of the century, the experiences and arguments of the preceding years were having their effect—that shifts in attitudes towards patronage were taking place and being translated into practice either directly by legislation or more subtly by social convention.