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The Watchful Clothier

The Watchful Clothier

Matthew Kadane
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Watchful Clothier
    Book Description:

    A clothier and a deeply religious man, Joseph Ryder faithfully kept a diary from 1733 until his death, two and a half million words later, in 1768. Recently rediscovered and brilliantly interpreted by historian Matthew Kadane, Ryder's diary provides an illuminating, real-life perspective on the relationship between capitalism and Protestantism at a time when Britain was rapidly changing from a traditional to a modern society. It also provides fascinating insights on the early modern family, the birth of industrialization, the history of Puritanism, the origins of Unitarianism, melancholy, and the making of the British middle class.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18893-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Note on Style
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1. Double-Minded Men
    (pp. 1-14)

    Thanks to an ongoing debate Max Weber started a century ago, we know more than we once did about the relationship between capitalism and Christianity. Most historians could now agree that spiritual and material interests can be complementary, that devout Protestants have been gifted (though not uniquely) in their commercial pursuits, and that the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Britain together represent a major episode in the long process by which amassing wealth beyond need ceased being a Christian sin. We still know less than we should, however, about the birth pangs of modern capitalism felt by the pious people...

  5. 2. “My Character & Conduct”
    (pp. 15-42)

    Opening a diary can be like “walking into a room full of strangers,” or so the historian Laurel Ulrich wrote about her first encounter with the diary of Martha Ballard, an early American who recorded, yet said little else about, the names of countless people she came across as a midwife.¹ Opening Joseph Ryder’s diary, where the names so often go unmentioned and events are alluded to in indecipherable fragments, is more like walking into a room full of strangers who speak a mostly foreign language. Half-comprehended phrases hint at interesting stories, but most everything is initially inscrutable. Even if...

  6. 3. “That Single Word Watch”
    (pp. 43-83)

    Ryder’s first entry may begin in the middle of things, but it doesn’t lack in dramatic foreshadowing. After using the adjective “watchful” and the noun “watchfulness,” he forcefully ended the passage with a word he hoped would prefigure the rest of the diary as much as the rest of his life: “May the Lord help me to keep in mind that Solemn Warning which Christ Left his Disciples upon record, & Consequently all his followers in that Single Word Watch.” It is an obviously revealing sentence. As unequivocally as he ever says anything, Ryder tells us in the final statement of...

  7. 4. “An Active Frame in Courts Below”
    (pp. 84-108)

    It may be the fate of any author of a work as subtle, dense, and complex asThe Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalismto be misunderstood. Nowhere in this text did Max Weber claim that only Protestants (or Christians) can be good capitalists, that without Protestantism capitalism cannot happen, that ideas and culture should simply replace materialism in the attempt to understand motive forces, or that the West is somehow superior to the rest of the world. His argument was that the relatively difficult search for salvation that Protestantism made central to the lives of its believers encouraged...

  8. 5. “The Sparks That Fly Upward”
    (pp. 109-132)

    Thus an anonymously written manuscript defined the early-eighteenth-century paternalist: master of the house (and the basic unit of the economy); spiritual mentor; sanctioned by scripture, nature, and reason to guide and govern the bodies and souls of wives, children, and other domestics. A more concise anatomy of the basic structure of the early-eighteenth-century household and its governance would be difficult to find. But if asked to describe his own family, Ryder would have needed to tell a more elaborate story. The spiritual paternalism of this particular manuscript may have captured the basic structure of life at home, but two other...

  9. 6. Mourning, Melancholy, and Money
    (pp. 133-155)

    So many of Ryder’s displayed emotions reside in the basic definition the West has long offered of depression and melancholy (the two words were often interchangeable in the eighteenth century and will be here).¹ To feel such emotions—dejection, sorrow, despair, sadness, unhappiness, despondency—at one time or another may simply derive from being human, and to articulate them in a religious culture that exalted self-abnegation is not necessarily the same as always feeling them. But there is an unmistakable specificity, consistency, and intensity in Ryder’s expressions of, particularly, his remorse about his vain thoughts and worldliness, his expectations of...

  10. 7. The Changing Meaning of God and Man
    (pp. 156-182)

    At the beginning of Ryder’s life, most Dissenters accepted the interlocked assumptions of the Reformed tradition: that God intervenes in the cosmos with a constancy and inscrutability that demand vigilance on the part of human beings who, by their nature, are morally depraved. At the end of Ryder’s life, Mill Hill’s young minister, the utopian polymath Joseph Priestley, was helping to invent a new denomination, Unitarianism, whose interlocked major premises were that Jesus was a mere human being, humans are perfectible, and the laws of the universe are Newtonian. This was no mere change that Ryder witnessed. A watchful God...

  11. 8. The Making of a Middle-Class Mind
    (pp. 183-196)

    The man we have gotten to know in this book can admittedly look unusual. He was born posthumously, had no siblings, and lived in a childless marriage that did not begin until he was forty. He held to a fading religion while newer faiths were thriving and knew an urban life not in London but in Leeds, in the northern part of a country celebrated for the south. More anomalous is his self-account, a diary of exceptional length even in a religious culture obsessed with the word. Yet Ryder never encouraged these things that set him apart from others. He...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 197-200)
  13. Appendix 1. Ryder’s Diary Volumes
    (pp. 201-203)
  14. Appendix 2. Deaths and Burials
    (pp. 204-220)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 221-284)
  16. Manuscript Sources
    (pp. 285-286)
  17. Index
    (pp. 287-302)