Many questions about the changing role of the clergy in society have become inextricably linked in recent historical writing with the claim that the early modern period saw the emergence of several 'professions' (100). Lawyers spring most readily to mind, but by the mid-seventeenth century most clerics were university
graduates, many were connected by marriage, and analysis of will bequests suggests that they saw themselves as an elite who even lent each other money. The social origins of the majority may have been low, but a significant number were beginning to be drawn from the ranks of the gentry. The status of a clergyman had undoubtedly risen, even though the financial rewards of the job remained pOOL A reasonable career ladder existed for bright and well-linked graduates, dependent though this remained on an uncertain patronage system.