Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xviii

At some point in the midsummer of 1840, the tailor James Carter (1792–1853) embarked on a new undertaking, endeavoring to write “some account of myself ” in the spare moments of a life otherwise dominated by poor health and uninterrupted toil.1 A century and a half later the production of these labors, arter’s Memoirs of a Working Man (1845), arrived at Indiana University as one document on a roll of microfilm I had requested. After I left Indiana, Carter and his Memoirs stuck with me. It seemed no matter what pathway into the culture of nineteenth-century Britain I followed, I always found the tailor and his autobiography waiting for me. This book represents my attempt to bring this lingering fascination to a close....

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Introduction: James Carter’s Britain, 1792–1853

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pp. 1-14

In the spring of 1810 the seventeen-year-old tailor James Carter “resolved” to go to London. Carter later related the history of this decision and its consequences in his Memoirs of a Working Man, published anonymously in 1845. Reflecting on the move from the vista of the 1840s, the tailor recalled that initially he had viewed the choice favorably. “On reviewing the step I had taken,” he noted, “I was, upon the whole, satisfied that it was a proper one.” The older Carter of the 1840s was less certain. “Now,” he wrote, “I question whether my real interest was thereby promoted.” He concluded, however, that his decision’s relative balance of personal profits and losses was a moot point. It was the move...

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Chapter 1 The Tailors’ Industrial Revolution

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pp. 15-50

Distance—be it physical, cultural, or chronological—defines, and often distorts, our perceptions. This is certainly the case where James Carter is concerned. From the vista of the twenty-first century it is the work of Carter’s pen that reveals his presence in the broader nineteenth-century landscape. Had he never composed and published his Two Lectures on Taste (1834) and Memoirs of a Working Man (1845), it is unlikely that he would have left enough traces in the nineteenth-century archive to influence the contents of any historical study, much less one dedicated to analyzing British society as he experienced...

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Chapter 2 Literacy and the Learned Tailor

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pp. 51-94

Over the course of Carter’s lifetime the British population’s relationship to reading, writing, and print changed dramatically. This revolution involved not only an increase in overall literacy among the populace but also changes in the contents and practices of reading and in the production of reading materials —in the ways print media were composed, manufactured, marketed, and con- sumed.1 The expansion of reading audiences resulted in a parallel expansion in opportunities for writing, creating the conditions in which it was first truly possible for a few talented individuals to live by the proceeds of authorship alone...

Illustrations

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pp. 95-104

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Chapter 3 The Countryman in London

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pp. 105-141

If James Carter’s life was shaped by the business of tailoring, the act of reading, and the labor of writing, it was also conditioned by the physical and social environments in which these activities transpired. Until 1810 this setting was the town of Colchester and the immediate Essex countryside. In 1810 Carter went to London. After this move, the remainder of his life was split fairly evenly between these two environments. With the exception of a few short excursions of no more than a week’s time, none of which took him out of Southeast England, the entirety of Carter’s life unfolded against the backdrop of either London...

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Chapter 4 The City in the Country

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pp. 142-176

Carter claimed in his Memoirs that the initial experience of London life in 1810 had left him permanently transformed—that it had involved a change whose consequences could be neither “altered or obviated”—yet this assertion seems to be at odds with the brevity of the tailor’s initial sojourn in the metropolis, which lasted less than six months.1 What followed was, in fact, a series of migrations between country and city, city and country, and back again, over the course of almost three decades. Thus, the permanent personal change Carter claimed to have undergone in 1810 only became a permanent physical change...

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Chapter 5 The Man and the Mass

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pp. 177-221

In 1845 the first volume of James Carter’s autobiography appeared in print. Its title page foregrounded an essential tension at work in the British culture in which the tailor was enmeshed: that existing between the individual and the category, solitude and society, the man and the mass. The work appeared anonymously, but not entirely so. The title of the Memoirs proclaimed them to be the production of a “Working Man.” Here the use of the singular simultaneously gestured to the plural. The individual quickly became the representative of the class; the isolated social atom was subsumed into one substratum of the social...

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Conclustion: “Great Men” and the Making of Modern Britain

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pp. 222-226

Shortly before his death in 1853, James Carter published an essay, “On Men Who Have Been Called Great.” In it he reflected on the deeds of many of the “great men” of ancient and recent history, including Alexander of Macedon, Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and William Wilberforce. Carter concluded the essay, however, by arguing that the “really honourable” would be found exclusively among the ranks of the “humbler classes”—that the “strictest integrity and uprightness” were most “praiseworthy” when combined with “deep poverty.” Thus, in the year before his death, Carter—himself...

Notes

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pp. 227-256

Bibliography

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pp. 257-286

Index

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pp. 287-296