‘One moral improvement, more allied to the machinery of life than perhaps any other’: Mid-nineteenth-century punctuality in context

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Mid-nineteenth-century Britain saw a significant output of fictional texts, conduct books and tracts with an explicit focus on the concept of punctuality. This article examines a number of such texts by linking the notion of punctuality to the general nineteenthcentury wish for self-improvement and social progress. Three central facets of midnineteenth-century punctuality are identified and discussed: punctuality for individual self-improvement, as a means of achieving efficiency and success in life; punctuality for the sake of others, as in selfless consideration and kindness or as an honest way of conducting a business transaction; and punctuality as a means for religious improvement. Although the texts examined show a variety in genre, aimed readership and style, the article shows how they nonetheless display a marked conformity regarding intent and opinion. The article also demonstrates how writers sought to establish the value of punctuality through intricate calculations of the time lost due to lack of
punctuality, and how images pertaining to the industrial world were used to compare the household to a mill or the individual to an efficient piece of machinery.


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Sidor (från-till)861-883
TidskriftEnglish Studies
StatusPublished - 2010
Peer review utfördJa