Drunkard's Progress: Narratives of Addiction, Despair, and Recovery / Edition 1

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"Twelve-step" recovery programs for a wide variety of addictive behaviors have become tremendously popular in the 1990s. According to John W. Crowley, the origin of these movements—including Alcoholics Anonymous—lies in the Washingtonian Temperance Society, founded in Baltimore in the 1840s. In lectures, pamphlets, and books (most notably John B. Gough's Autobiography, published in 1845), recovering "drunkards" described their enslavement to and liberation from alcohol. Though widely circulated in their time, these influential temperance narratives have been largely forgotten.

In Drunkard's Progress, Crowley presents a collection of revealing excerpts from these texts along with his own introductions. The tales, including "The Experience Meeting," from T. S. Arthur's Six Nights with the Washingtonians (1842), and the autobiographical Narrative of Charles T. Woodman, A Reformed Inebriate (1843), still speak with suprising force to the miseries of drunkenness and the joys of deliverance. Contemporary readers familiar with twelve-step programs, Crowley notes, will feel a shock of recognition as they relate to the experience, strength, and hope of these old-time—but nonetheless timely—narratives of addiction, despair, and recovery.

"I arose, reached the door in safety, and, passing the entry, entered my own room and closed the door after me. To my amazement the chairs were engaged in chasing the tables round the room; to my eye the bed appeared to be stationary and neutral, and I resolved to make it my ally; I thought it would be safest to run, as by that means I should reach it sooner, but in the attempt I found myself instantly prostrate on the floor... How long I slept I know not; but when I awoke I was still on the floor, and alone... I have since been through all the heights, and depths, and labyrinths of misery; but never, no never, have I felt again the unutterable agony of that moment. I wept, I groaned, I actually tore my hair; I did every thing but the one thing that could have saved me."—from Confessions of a Female Inebriate, excerpted in Drunkard's Progress

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Canadian Bulletin of Medical History - Ian Baird

Crowley's editing is discreet and his introductions to the individual selections provide brief yet instructive contextual backgrounds... He has done a valuable service in 'recovering' these narrative of despair and hope and placing them at the disposal of a wide range of possible readers and researchers.

Presents excerpts of eight of the 15 examples of the genre Crowley has found from 1840s, the heyday of the Washington Temperance Society in Baltimore. Each highlights one or more themes of the movement, such as compassion, the critique of drinking customs and facilities for inebriates, inebriety as disease and insanity, and class tensions. They are not indexed. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknew.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801860072
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

John W. Crowley is a professor of English and director of the Humanities Doctoral Program at Syracuse University, where he has taught since 1970. Best known as a scholar of William Dean Howells, he has written other works on alcohol-related topics, including the widely praised The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Note on the Texts
Introduction 1
1 "The Experience Meeting," from Six Nights with the Washingtonians (1842) 29
2 From A Long Voyage in a Leaky Ship (1842) 59
3 Confessions of a Female Inebriate (1842) 69
4 From Narrative of Charles T. Woodman, A Reformed Inebriate (1843) 80
5 From Autobiography of a Reformed Drunkard (1845) 97
6 From An Autobiography by John B. Gough (1845) 111
7 From The Life and Experience of A. V. Green (1848) 173
8 From Incidents in the Life of George Haydock (1847) 191
Bibliography 199
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