Dressing Up with Arthur Dent

May 7, 2009

Arthur Dent’s The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven is a great read. It’s colourful and direct. Whilst the dialogue is contrived in places this classic of late Elizabethan Puritan divinity still reads well. It was among the books that Ussher recommended to ordinands.

Among the social evils decried by preacher Theologus is pride in dress. The predictable anxieties about conspicuous consumption, foreign foppery, and chasing of fashions, all made possible by the growing urban economy and international trade, are all there, as is the blurring of boundaries when one dresses above one’s social rank. But the deeper problem is pride. Philagathus, the godly man, joins in and gets hot under the collar as he describes these dedicated followers of fashion:

Yet we see how proud many (especially women) be of such baubles. For when they have spent a good part of the day in tricking and trimming, pricking and pinning, pranking and pouncing, girding and lacing, and braving up themselves in most exquisite manner, then out they come into the streets, with their pedlar’s shop upon their back, and carry their crests very high, taking themselves to be little angels, or at least somewhat more than other women. Whereupon they do so exceedingly swell with pride, that it is to be feared they will burst with it, as they walk in the streets. And truly we may think the very stones in the street, and the beams in the houses do quake, and wonder at their monstrous, intolerable, and excessive pride. For it seemeth that they are altogether a lump of pride, a mass of pride, even altogether made of pride, and nothing else but pride, pride.

Let me just add that men do come under fire too, especially as Theologus discusses the judgement prophesied by Zephaniah on the ‘mincing minions of Jerusalem’. As I said, colourful stuff and some good theology thrown in. You can download it here. You might also want to look out for the Soli Deo Gloria reprint.


2 Responses to “Dressing Up with Arthur Dent”

  1. JD Says:

    It is interesting that you make this commmet on dress. The reason I say this is that I have just read an interesting piece by Don Whitney entitled ‘Clothing tips for ministers’ on his website. Is someone trying to tell me somthing? But as I am not a minister and at an age when, according Mrs. D., I have lost all sense of dress corodination anyway I’m not sure that either piece affects me. I will say this, however, about Dent’s book; it is a gem that speaks to our present culture and should be read, particularily by our young people. The Soli Deo Gloria edition is well worth buying.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip to NI and also to ‘you know where’ with Mrs. S. – Did you leave empty-handed?

  2. RS Says:

    It was good to bump into you in Belfast. Please tell Mrs. D. that she is the one who lacks dress sense. You cut quite a dashing figure around town and I now look up to you as a kind of sartorial role model. I’m trying to get the look right but it would help if you could send me the address of your tailor.
    And no, I didn’t leave empty handed.

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