In 19th century psychiatry, monomania was a form of partial insanity, conceived as single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind. The term was coined by the French psychiatrist Jean-Etienne Dominique Esquirol around 1810. The idea was that, rather than being totally insane, a particular part of the sufferer’s psyche was diseased and deranged while in other facets he was normal.
Esquirol differentiated between emotional monomania, where the patient is obsessed with only one emotion, and intellectual monomania, where the patient has only one kind of delirious idea.
Monomania was retained as one of seven recognized categories of mental illness in the 1880 US census. However, its importance as a diagnostic category declined from the mid-19th century.
Gloaming is a synonym for twilight, the time after sunset and before dark. Sunlight scatters in the upper atmosphere, illuminating the lower atmosphere, although the sun itself is below the horizon.
A sexton is a church officer charged with the maintenance of church buildings and/or the surrounding graveyard. The word derives from the Medieval Latin word sacristanus meaning ‘custodian of sacred objects’. Traditionally, the sexton’s role included the digging of graves.
The word clerk is derived from cleric. In medieval times the clergy were one of the few groups who could read, and were therefore often employed to do bookkeeping and similar work. Church clerks are responsible for minute-keeping, correspondence and other documentation.
In a small parish, it would not be unusual to combine the offices of clerk and sexton.