Samuel Ward: Puritan diarist
Studying the creation and spread of new genres of writing, such as the self-revelatory diary, autobiography, and letters, helps us reconstrue subjectivities of earlier times. Not only this, but perhaps such "technologies" themselves have an influence on the formation of, and enunciation of, subjecthood. Greenblatt (1980) believes that during the Renaissance there was a trend towards "deliberate" self-exploration through writing, and that writing is itself a component expression of such "self-fashioning". Books could serve as exemplars of virtuous, or problematic, lives and Puritans had many "good books" to point the way towards the "practice of piety". The following example of Samuel Ward6 derives from a rich tradition of Puritan spiritual diary keeping. Politically, it is also of interest since, having aligned himself amongst the moderate reformers, Ward finally suffered imprisonment at the hands of his former student, Oliver Cromwell, charged with not having supported the Parliament cause in the war. My account is dependent on Todd's (1992) explication of the dairy.
Late in Elizabeth's reign, a young Cambridge scholar of Christ and Emmanuel Colleges began a diary which was his attempt at self-examination. The institutional location was significant, Puritan colleges being noted for their commitment to the training of Protestant preachers. In them, Samuel Ward found inspiration in certain role models, notably Laurence Chaderton, the master of Emmanuel and "pope of Cambridge puritanism", who served as good example to Ward of the Christian life. The ideas of example and imitation had specific connotations for Puritans and reformism: Christ was seen as the ultimate example (exemplum exemplorum) and the mode of imitatione Christi, from Luther onwards, stressed the spirit rather than the outward deed in faith and religion. Berkovitch (1975) writes of the shifting ground of private identity from "institution to individual"; "the concept of imitatio makes every man his own church" (p. 11). In Ward's case, inspired by Chaderton and others, he resolves to become preacher and his diary increasingly deploys the notion of preacher as model.
The diary takes the form of a confession, with a turning around of, or remaking of self, indirectly influenced by a confessional tradition reaching back to St. Augustine (an important cultural model for Christians). Taylor (1989) comments on a "language of interiority" that St. Augustine created, of much significance to later reformist practices: "Do not go outward: return within yourself. In the inward man dwells truth" (p. 129). As for Ward, he was "... clearly intent on transforming his frivolous, fun-loving, proud self into a more somber, disciplined, pious character" (Todd, 1992, p. 242) and notes in his diary, "My purpose this day is taking a new course of life. . more diligently serving God" p. 242). One of his techniques is the listing of "sins", of which the most frequently confessed was pride, including ambition and pride in achievements both academic and spiritual. To the modern reader, this can be difficult to comprehend, given our cultural and psychotherapeutic valuations of "healthy" expressions of pride and achievement. But to Ward, pride, like greed, is one of those feelings most easily perverted into purposes of sin. Bercovitch (1975) in his analysis of the rhetorics of Puritan self-fashioning, draws attention to the appearance of negative self-compounds in Puritan writing associated with sin: self-affection, self-confident, self-fullness, self-sufficiency, and others. Even the mirror, much noted in its importance as an invention (being able to see oneself as a whole image as never before), was hardly neutral in its ramifications for Puritans, since looking at oneself in the mirror might encourage earthly diversions, self as the "great snare".
Ward's self-fashioning involved drawing discursive lines between himself and the enemy, both from without and from within. We have already touched upon the latter in the progress of the soul's journey, through the admission of sin to internal reconciliation. But, in Ward's wider "discursive construction of antagonism" (Laclau, personal communication) the figure and guises of the "anti-Christ" are everywhere. The anti-Christ is a force from within as well as without. Of course, this was a feature of the Puritanism of the day and illustrates how Puritans sought to hegemonise their picture of the world and its constituent, vital forces. Hence, the diary could be seen as an anti-Catholic text, with "popery" regarded as the ultimate threat to God's Word and Christ's Kingdom.
Ward's diary and confessions chronicle his voyage of repentance and "turning around". This is an essential and characteristic feature in the religious thinking of the day. In assuming the identity of preacher, the diaries constitute an interesting combination of attitudes, with Ward as both preacher and auditor, exhorter and penitent, often addressing himself in the second person. Todd (1992) summarises the wider Protestant theme woven into Ward's account of "human helplessness before the power of sin" and the "overriding aim as permanent conversion to an object reliance on what protestants called the grace of God for that transformation" (p. 258).
The diary is a fascinating insight into the Puritan process of self-definition and points to the centrality of the person relating to biblical texts, of identifying in communal rather than individualistic terms (particular fellowships, those emotional and imagined communities of the godly), and the need for constant watchfulness concerning the forces of the anti-Christ, either in Cambridge, further afield, but, moreover, deep within one's own mind. The diary reads as "a dialogue, between individual and God, conscience and actor, reader and text, the self and himself" (Todd, 1992, p. 241).
Ward's diary gives contemporary readers a glimpse into how a given Puritan individual saw the world and himself within it. Of course, this could not be the product of the individual alone, since Ward, like anyone else, was preconstructed by the times and discursive/symbolic possibilities that surrounded him. Puritan values supplied, as it were, many of the elements or sources of discursivity and identity: a view of true belief, the nature of sin and grace, the nature of threats to "good life", a notion of what "looking inwards" means and what one might find there. A version of good and virtue, or moral sources, goes hand in hand with construction of self, with "flesh" and "spirit" defining contrary impulses within man (Porter, 2003; Taylor, 1989). Beyond the contingencies of his family life, education, and other influences, Ward still choose one identity amongst other possibilities, fashioning himself in a particular way. In the world of Protestantism at the time, even though certain patterns and practices were available (including the self-disclosing moral diary or journal), they could not determine what Ward made of himself. There still is a process of self-interpretation, a response to potential conflicts of interpellation or calling by competing communities (Pecheux, 1982). He could, after all, have become a radical sceptic or, had he turned from religious preoccupations, an indifferent libertine; or any number of alternatives within the horizon set by the social, discursive world at that time. Group membership and identity is integral to the process, as Puritans were not isolated figures; they were sustained by appropriate emotional fellowships or communities. What Jones (2002) points out with respect to an earlier period of the Reformation, has equal relevance to the seventeenth-century context, in that there was always a tension between institutional responses and individual choices: "No single institution represents or rules an individual. Personal choices are always possible" (p. 5).
It is the ensemble of articulations and interpellations which endow a particular ideology its relative unity and consistency (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985). Communities are glued by the shared elements, assumed and imagined, that unite them. The "individual" Puritan lies at the confluence—like Foulkes's "nodal point"—of a variety of discourses that call upon him as much as he calls upon them, with the process by which these elements bond representing articulations, outcomes of efforts to fix meaning in particular ways.