The Clerk's Tale
Young Men and Moral Life in Nineteenth-Century America
Thomas Augst follows clerks as they made their way through the boarding houses, parlors, and offices of the big city. Tracing the course of their everyday lives, Augst shows how these young men used acts of reading and writing to navigate the anonymous world of market culture and claim identities for themselves within it. Clerks, he reveals, calculated their prospects in diaries, composed detailed letters to friends and family, attended lectures by key thinkers of the day, joined libraries where they consumed fiction, all while wrestling with the boredom of their work. What results, then, is a poignant look at the literary practices of ordinary people and an affecting meditation on the moral lives of men in antebellum America.