Part 1 out of 7
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
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BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
CHAPTER I - THE ONE THING NEEDFUL
'NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing
but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else,
and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of
reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any
service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own
children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these
children. Stick to Facts, sir!'
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and
the speaker's square forefinger emphasized his observations by
underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster's
sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's square wall of a
forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found
commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall.
The emphasis was helped by the speaker's mouth, which was wide,
thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's
voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis
was helped by the speaker's hair, which bristled on the skirts of
his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its
shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum
pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts
stored inside. The speaker's obstinate carriage, square coat,
square legs, square shoulders, - nay, his very neckcloth, trained
to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a
stubborn fact, as it was, - all helped the emphasis.
'In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!'
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person
present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the
inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order,
ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they
were full to the brim.
CHAPTER II - MURDERING THE INNOCENTS
THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and
calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and
two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into
allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir - peremptorily
Thomas - Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and
the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh
and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what
it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple
arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief
into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John
Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent
persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind - no, sir!
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself,
whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in
general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words 'boys and
girls,' for 'sir,' Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind
to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before
mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with
facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of
childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus,
too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young
imaginations that were to be stormed away.
'Girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with
his square forefinger, 'I don't know that girl. Who is that girl?'
'Sissy Jupe, sir,' explained number twenty, blushing, standing up,
'Sissy is not a name,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Don't call yourself
Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.'
'It's father as calls me Sissy, sir,' returned the young girl in a
trembling voice, and with another curtsey.
'Then he has no business to do it,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Tell him
he mustn't. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?'
'He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.'
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with
'We don't want to know anything about that, here. You mustn't tell
us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, don't he?'
'If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break
horses in the ring, sir.'
'You mustn't tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then.
Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I
'Oh yes, sir.'
'Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and
horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse.'
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)
'Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!' said Mr. Gradgrind,
for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. 'Girl number
twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest
of animals! Some boy's definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.'
The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on
Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of
sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the
intensely white-washed room, irradiated Sissy. For, the boys and
girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies,
divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the
corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a
sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other
side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But, whereas the girl
was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a
deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon
her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same
rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever
possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the
short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate
contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their
form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation
of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so
unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as
though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.
'Bitzer,' said Thomas Gradgrind. 'Your definition of a horse.'
'Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four
grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the
spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but
requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.'
Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
'Now girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'You know what a
She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could
have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time. Bitzer,
after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once,
and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that
they looked like the antennae of busy insects, put his knuckles to
his freckled forehead, and sat down again.
The third gentleman now stepped forth. A mighty man at cutting and
drying, he was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other
people's too), a professed pugilist; always in training, always
with a system to force down the general throat like a bolus, always
to be heard of at the bar of his little Public-office, ready to
fight all England. To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a
genius for coming up to the scratch, wherever and whatever it was,
and proving himself an ugly customer. He would go in and damage
any subject whatever with his right, follow up with his left, stop,
exchange, counter, bore his opponent (he always fought All England)
to the ropes, and fall upon him neatly. He was certain to knock
the wind out of common sense, and render that unlucky adversary
deaf to the call of time. And he had it in charge from high
authority to bring about the great public-office Millennium, when
Commissioners should reign upon earth.
'Very well,' said this gentleman, briskly smiling, and folding his
arms. 'That's a horse. Now, let me ask you girls and boys, Would
you paper a room with representations of horses?'
After a pause, one half of the children cried in chorus, 'Yes,
sir!' Upon which the other half, seeing in the gentleman's face
that Yes was wrong, cried out in chorus, 'No, sir!' - as the custom
is, in these examinations.
'Of course, No. Why wouldn't you?'
A pause. One corpulent slow boy, with a wheezy manner of
breathing, ventured the answer, Because he wouldn't paper a room at
all, but would paint it.
'You must paper it,' said the gentleman, rather warmly.
'You must paper it,' said Thomas Gradgrind, 'whether you like it or
not. Don't tell us you wouldn't paper it. What do you mean, boy?'
'I'll explain to you, then,' said the gentleman, after another and
a dismal pause, 'why you wouldn't paper a room with representations
of horses. Do you ever see horses walking up and down the sides of
rooms in reality - in fact? Do you?'
'Yes, sir!' from one half. 'No, sir!' from the other.
'Of course no,' said the gentleman, with an indignant look at the
wrong half. 'Why, then, you are not to see anywhere, what you
don't see in fact; you are not to have anywhere, what you don't
have in fact. What is called Taste, is only another name for
Fact.' Thomas Gradgrind nodded his approbation.
'This is a new principle, a discovery, a great discovery,' said the
gentleman. 'Now, I'll try you again. Suppose you were going to
carpet a room. Would you use a carpet having a representation of
flowers upon it?'
There being a general conviction by this time that 'No, sir!' was
always the right answer to this gentleman, the chorus of NO was
very strong. Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes: among them
'Girl number twenty,' said the gentleman, smiling in the calm
strength of knowledge.
Sissy blushed, and stood up.
'So you would carpet your room - or your husband's room, if you
were a grown woman, and had a husband - with representations of
flowers, would you?' said the gentleman. 'Why would you?'
'If you please, sir, I am very fond of flowers,' returned the girl.
'And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon them, and
have people walking over them with heavy boots?'
'It wouldn't hurt them, sir. They wouldn't crush and wither, if
you please, sir. They would be the pictures of what was very
pretty and pleasant, and I would fancy - '
'Ay, ay, ay! But you mustn't fancy,' cried the gentleman, quite
elated by coming so happily to his point. 'That's it! You are
never to fancy.'
'You are not, Cecilia Jupe,' Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated,
'to do anything of that kind.'
'Fact, fact, fact!' said the gentleman. And 'Fact, fact, fact!'
repeated Thomas Gradgrind.
'You are to be in all things regulated and governed,' said the
gentleman, 'by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of
fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people
to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard
the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You
are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a
contradiction in fact. You don't walk upon flowers in fact; you
cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don't find
that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your
crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and
butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds
going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented
upon walls. You must use,' said the gentleman, 'for all these
purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of
mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and
demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is
The girl curtseyed, and sat down. She was very young, and she
looked as if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the
'Now, if Mr. M'Choakumchild,' said the gentleman, 'will proceed to
give his first lesson here, Mr. Gradgrind, I shall be happy, at
your request, to observe his mode of procedure.'
Mr. Gradgrind was much obliged. 'Mr. M'Choakumchild, we only wait
So, Mr. M'Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one
hundred and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at
the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so
many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety
of paces, and had answered volumes of head-breaking questions.
Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy,
geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound
proportion, algebra, land-surveying and levelling, vocal music, and
drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled
fingers. He had worked his stony way into Her Majesty's most
Honourable Privy Council's Schedule B, and had taken the bloom off
the higher branches of mathematics and physical science, French,
German, Latin, and Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of
all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the
peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all
the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all
their boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the
compass. Ah, rather overdone, M'Choakumchild. If he had only
learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught
He went to work in this preparatory lesson, not unlike Morgiana in
the Forty Thieves: looking into all the vessels ranged before him,
one after another, to see what they contained. Say, good
M'Choakumchild. When from thy boiling store, thou shalt fill each
jar brim full by-and-by, dost thou think that thou wilt always kill
outright the robber Fancy lurking within - or sometimes only maim
him and distort him!
CHAPTER III - A LOOPHOLE
MR. GRADGRIND walked homeward from the school, in a state of
considerable satisfaction. It was his school, and he intended it
to be a model. He intended every child in it to be a model - just
as the young Gradgrinds were all models.
There were five young Gradgrinds, and they were models every one.
They had been lectured at, from their tenderest years; coursed,
like little hares. Almost as soon as they could run alone, they
had been made to run to the lecture-room. The first object with
which they had an association, or of which they had a remembrance,
was a large black board with a dry Ogre chalking ghastly white
figures on it.
Not that they knew, by name or nature, anything about an Ogre Fact
forbid! I only use the word to express a monster in a lecturing
castle, with Heaven knows how many heads manipulated into one,
taking childhood captive, and dragging it into gloomy statistical
dens by the hair.
No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon; it was up in
the moon before it could speak distinctly. No little Gradgrind had
ever learnt the silly jingle, Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I
wonder what you are! No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on
the subject, each little Gradgrind having at five years old
dissected the Great Bear like a Professor Owen, and driven
Charles's Wain like a locomotive engine-driver. No little
Gradgrind had ever associated a cow in a field with that famous cow
with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who worried the cat who
killed the rat who ate the malt, or with that yet more famous cow
who swallowed Tom Thumb: it had never heard of those celebrities,
and had only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous ruminating
quadruped with several stomachs.
To his matter-of-fact home, which was called Stone Lodge, Mr.
Gradgrind directed his steps. He had virtually retired from the
wholesale hardware trade before he built Stone Lodge, and was now
looking about for a suitable opportunity of making an arithmetical
figure in Parliament. Stone Lodge was situated on a moor within a
mile or two of a great town - called Coketown in the present
A very regular feature on the face of the country, Stone Lodge was.
Not the least disguise toned down or shaded off that uncompromising
fact in the landscape. A great square house, with a heavy portico
darkening the principal windows, as its master's heavy brows
overshadowed his eyes. A calculated, cast up, balanced, and proved
house. Six windows on this side of the door, six on that side; a
total of twelve in this wing, a total of twelve in the other wing;
four-and-twenty carried over to the back wings. A lawn and garden
and an infant avenue, all ruled straight like a botanical account-
book. Gas and ventilation, drainage and water-service, all of the
primest quality. Iron clamps and girders, fire-proof from top to
bottom; mechanical lifts for the housemaids, with all their brushes
and brooms; everything that heart could desire.
Everything? Well, I suppose so. The little Gradgrinds had
cabinets in various departments of science too. They had a little
conchological cabinet, and a little metallurgical cabinet, and a
little mineralogical cabinet; and the specimens were all arranged
and labelled, and the bits of stone and ore looked as though they
might have been broken from the parent substances by those
tremendously hard instruments their own names; and, to paraphrase
the idle legend of Peter Piper, who had never found his way into
their nursery, If the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped at more than
this, what was it for good gracious goodness' sake, that the greedy
little Gradgrinds grasped it!
Their father walked on in a hopeful and satisfied frame of mind.
He was an affectionate father, after his manner; but he would
probably have described himself (if he had been put, like Sissy
Jupe, upon a definition) as 'an eminently practical' father. He
had a particular pride in the phrase eminently practical, which was
considered to have a special application to him. Whatsoever the
public meeting held in Coketown, and whatsoever the subject of such
meeting, some Coketowner was sure to seize the occasion of alluding
to his eminently practical friend Gradgrind. This always pleased
the eminently practical friend. He knew it to be his due, but his
due was acceptable.
He had reached the neutral ground upon the outskirts of the town,
which was neither town nor country, and yet was either spoiled,
when his ears were invaded by the sound of music. The clashing and
banging band attached to the horse-riding establishment, which had
there set up its rest in a wooden pavilion, was in full bray. A
flag, floating from the summit of the temple, proclaimed to mankind
that it was 'Sleary's Horse-riding' which claimed their suffrages.
Sleary himself, a stout modern statue with a money-box at its
elbow, in an ecclesiastical niche of early Gothic architecture,
took the money. Miss Josephine Sleary, as some very long and very
narrow strips of printed bill announced, was then inaugurating the
entertainments with her graceful equestrian Tyrolean flower-act.
Among the other pleasing but always strictly moral wonders which
must be seen to be believed, Signor Jupe was that afternoon to
'elucidate the diverting accomplishments of his highly trained
performing dog Merrylegs.' He was also to exhibit 'his astounding
feat of throwing seventy-five hundred-weight in rapid succession
backhanded over his head, thus forming a fountain of solid iron in
mid-air, a feat never before attempted in this or any other
country, and which having elicited such rapturous plaudits from
enthusiastic throngs it cannot be withdrawn.' The same Signor Jupe
was to 'enliven the varied performances at frequent intervals with
his chaste Shaksperean quips and retorts.' Lastly, he was to wind
them up by appearing in his favourite character of Mr. William
Button, of Tooley Street, in 'the highly novel and laughable hippo-
comedietta of The Tailor's Journey to Brentford.'
Thomas Gradgrind took no heed of these trivialities of course, but
passed on as a practical man ought to pass on, either brushing the
noisy insects from his thoughts, or consigning them to the House of
Correction. But, the turning of the road took him by the back of
the booth, and at the back of the booth a number of children were
congregated in a number of stealthy attitudes, striving to peep in
at the hidden glories of the place.
This brought him to a stop. 'Now, to think of these vagabonds,'
said he, 'attracting the young rabble from a model school.'
A space of stunted grass and dry rubbish being between him and the
young rabble, he took his eyeglass out of his waistcoat to look for
any child he knew by name, and might order off. Phenomenon almost
incredible though distinctly seen, what did he then behold but his
own metallurgical Louisa, peeping with all her might through a hole
in a deal board, and his own mathematical Thomas abasing himself on
the ground to catch but a hoof of the graceful equestrian Tyrolean
Dumb with amazement, Mr. Gradgrind crossed to the spot where his
family was thus disgraced, laid his hand upon each erring child,
Both rose, red and disconcerted. But, Louisa looked at her father
with more boldness than Thomas did. Indeed, Thomas did not look at
him, but gave himself up to be taken home like a machine.
'In the name of wonder, idleness, and folly!' said Mr. Gradgrind,
leading each away by a hand; 'what do you do here?'
'Wanted to see what it was like,' returned Louisa, shortly.
'What it was like?'
There was an air of jaded sullenness in them both, and particularly
in the girl: yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her
face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with
nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself
somehow, which brightened its expression. Not with the brightness
natural to cheerful youth, but with uncertain, eager, doubtful
flashes, which had something painful in them, analogous to the
changes on a blind face groping its way.
She was a child now, of fifteen or sixteen; but at no distant day
would seem to become a woman all at once. Her father thought so as
he looked at her. She was pretty. Would have been self-willed (he
thought in his eminently practical way) but for her bringing-up.
'Thomas, though I have the fact before me, I find it difficult to
believe that you, with your education and resources, should have
brought your sister to a scene like this.'
'I brought him, father,' said Louisa, quickly. 'I asked him to
'I am sorry to hear it. I am very sorry indeed to hear it. It
makes Thomas no better, and it makes you worse, Louisa.'
She looked at her father again, but no tear fell down her cheek.
'You! Thomas and you, to whom the circle of the sciences is open;
Thomas and you, who may be said to be replete with facts; Thomas
and you, who have been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas
and you, here!' cried Mr. Gradgrind. 'In this degraded position!
I am amazed.'
'I was tired, father. I have been tired a long time,' said Louisa.
'Tired? Of what?' asked the astonished father.
'I don't know of what - of everything, I think.'
'Say not another word,' returned Mr. Gradgrind. 'You are childish.
I will hear no more.' He did not speak again until they had walked
some half-a-mile in silence, when he gravely broke out with: 'What
would your best friends say, Louisa? Do you attach no value to
their good opinion? What would Mr. Bounderby say?' At the mention
of this name, his daughter stole a look at him, remarkable for its
intense and searching character. He saw nothing of it, for before
he looked at her, she had again cast down her eyes!
'What,' he repeated presently, 'would Mr. Bounderby say?' All the
way to Stone Lodge, as with grave indignation he led the two
delinquents home, he repeated at intervals 'What would Mr.
Bounderby say?' - as if Mr. Bounderby had been Mrs. Grundy.
CHAPTER IV - MR. BOUNDERBY
NOT being Mrs. Grundy, who was Mr. Bounderby?
Why, Mr. Bounderby was as near being Mr. Gradgrind's bosom friend,
as a man perfectly devoid of sentiment can approach that spiritual
relationship towards another man perfectly devoid of sentiment. So
near was Mr. Bounderby - or, if the reader should prefer it, so far
He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer, and what not.
A big, loud man, with a stare, and a metallic laugh. A man made
out of a coarse material, which seemed to have been stretched to
make so much of him. A man with a great puffed head and forehead,
swelled veins in his temples, and such a strained skin to his face
that it seemed to hold his eyes open, and lift his eyebrows up. A
man with a pervading appearance on him of being inflated like a
balloon, and ready to start. A man who could never sufficiently
vaunt himself a self-made man. A man who was always proclaiming,
through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice of his, his old
ignorance and his old poverty. A man who was the Bully of
A year or two younger than his eminently practical friend, Mr.
Bounderby looked older; his seven or eight and forty might have had
the seven or eight added to it again, without surprising anybody.
He had not much hair. One might have fancied he had talked it off;
and that what was left, all standing up in disorder, was in that
condition from being constantly blown about by his windy
In the formal drawing-room of Stone Lodge, standing on the
hearthrug, warming himself before the fire, Mr. Bounderby delivered
some observations to Mrs. Gradgrind on the circumstance of its
being his birthday. He stood before the fire, partly because it
was a cool spring afternoon, though the sun shone; partly because
the shade of Stone Lodge was always haunted by the ghost of damp
mortar; partly because he thus took up a commanding position, from
which to subdue Mrs. Gradgrind.
'I hadn't a shoe to my foot. As to a stocking, I didn't know such
a thing by name. I passed the day in a ditch, and the night in a
pigsty. That's the way I spent my tenth birthday. Not that a
ditch was new to me, for I was born in a ditch.'
Mrs. Gradgrind, a little, thin, white, pink-eyed bundle of shawls,
of surpassing feebleness, mental and bodily; who was always taking
physic without any effect, and who, whenever she showed a symptom
of coming to life, was invariably stunned by some weighty piece of
fact tumbling on her; Mrs. Gradgrind hoped it was a dry ditch?
'No! As wet as a sop. A foot of water in it,' said Mr. Bounderby.
'Enough to give a baby cold,' Mrs. Gradgrind considered.
'Cold? I was born with inflammation of the lungs, and of
everything else, I believe, that was capable of inflammation,'
returned Mr. Bounderby. 'For years, ma'am, I was one of the most
miserable little wretches ever seen. I was so sickly, that I was
always moaning and groaning. I was so ragged and dirty, that you
wouldn't have touched me with a pair of tongs.'
Mrs. Gradgrind faintly looked at the tongs, as the most appropriate
thing her imbecility could think of doing.
'How I fought through it, I don't know,' said Bounderby. 'I was
determined, I suppose. I have been a determined character in later
life, and I suppose I was then. Here I am, Mrs. Gradgrind, anyhow,
and nobody to thank for my being here, but myself.'
Mrs. Gradgrind meekly and weakly hoped that his mother -
'My mother? Bolted, ma'am!' said Bounderby.
Mrs. Gradgrind, stunned as usual, collapsed and gave it up.
'My mother left me to my grandmother,' said Bounderby; 'and,
according to the best of my remembrance, my grandmother was the
wickedest and the worst old woman that ever lived. If I got a
little pair of shoes by any chance, she would take 'em off and sell
'em for drink. Why, I have known that grandmother of mine lie in
her bed and drink her four-teen glasses of liquor before
Mrs. Gradgrind, weakly smiling, and giving no other sign of
vitality, looked (as she always did) like an indifferently executed
transparency of a small female figure, without enough light behind
'She kept a chandler's shop,' pursued Bounderby, 'and kept me in an
egg-box. That was the cot of my infancy; an old egg-box. As soon
as I was big enough to run away, of course I ran away. Then I
became a young vagabond; and instead of one old woman knocking me
about and starving me, everybody of all ages knocked me about and
starved me. They were right; they had no business to do anything
else. I was a nuisance, an incumbrance, and a pest. I know that
His pride in having at any time of his life achieved such a great
social distinction as to be a nuisance, an incumbrance, and a pest,
was only to be satisfied by three sonorous repetitions of the
'I was to pull through it, I suppose, Mrs. Gradgrind. Whether I
was to do it or not, ma'am, I did it. I pulled through it, though
nobody threw me out a rope. Vagabond, errand-boy, vagabond,
labourer, porter, clerk, chief manager, small partner, Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown. Those are the antecedents, and the
culmination. Josiah Bounderby of Coketown learnt his letters from
the outsides of the shops, Mrs. Gradgrind, and was first able to
tell the time upon a dial-plate, from studying the steeple clock of
St. Giles's Church, London, under the direction of a drunken
cripple, who was a convicted thief, and an incorrigible vagrant.
Tell Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, of your district schools and
your model schools, and your training schools, and your whole
kettle-of-fish of schools; and Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, tells
you plainly, all right, all correct - he hadn't such advantages -
but let us have hard-headed, solid-fisted people - the education
that made him won't do for everybody, he knows well - such and such
his education was, however, and you may force him to swallow
boiling fat, but you shall never force him to suppress the facts of
Being heated when he arrived at this climax, Josiah Bounderby of
Coketown stopped. He stopped just as his eminently practical
friend, still accompanied by the two young culprits, entered the
room. His eminently practical friend, on seeing him, stopped also,
and gave Louisa a reproachful look that plainly said, 'Behold your
'Well!' blustered Mr. Bounderby, 'what's the matter? What is young
Thomas in the dumps about?'
He spoke of young Thomas, but he looked at Louisa.
'We were peeping at the circus,' muttered Louisa, haughtily,
without lifting up her eyes, 'and father caught us.'
'And, Mrs. Gradgrind,' said her husband in a lofty manner, 'I
should as soon have expected to find my children reading poetry.'
'Dear me,' whimpered Mrs. Gradgrind. 'How can you, Louisa and
Thomas! I wonder at you. I declare you're enough to make one
regret ever having had a family at all. I have a great mind to say
I wish I hadn't. Then what would you have done, I should like to
Mr. Gradgrind did not seem favourably impressed by these cogent
remarks. He frowned impatiently.
'As if, with my head in its present throbbing state, you couldn't
go and look at the shells and minerals and things provided for you,
instead of circuses!' said Mrs. Gradgrind. 'You know, as well as I
do, no young people have circus masters, or keep circuses in
cabinets, or attend lectures about circuses. What can you possibly
want to know of circuses then? I am sure you have enough to do, if
that's what you want. With my head in its present state, I
couldn't remember the mere names of half the facts you have got to
'That's the reason!' pouted Louisa.
'Don't tell me that's the reason, because it can't be nothing of
the sort,' said Mrs. Gradgrind. 'Go and be somethingological
directly.' Mrs. Gradgrind was not a scientific character, and
usually dismissed her children to their studies with this general
injunction to choose their pursuit.
In truth, Mrs. Gradgrind's stock of facts in general was woefully
defective; but Mr. Gradgrind in raising her to her high matrimonial
position, had been influenced by two reasons. Firstly, she was
most satisfactory as a question of figures; and, secondly, she had
'no nonsense' about her. By nonsense he meant fancy; and truly it
is probable she was as free from any alloy of that nature, as any
human being not arrived at the perfection of an absolute idiot,
The simple circumstance of being left alone with her husband and
Mr. Bounderby, was sufficient to stun this admirable lady again
without collision between herself and any other fact. So, she once
more died away, and nobody minded her.
'Bounderby,' said Mr. Gradgrind, drawing a chair to the fireside,
'you are always so interested in my young people - particularly in
Louisa - that I make no apology for saying to you, I am very much
vexed by this discovery. I have systematically devoted myself (as
you know) to the education of the reason of my family. The reason
is (as you know) the only faculty to which education should be
addressed. 'And yet, Bounderby, it would appear from this
unexpected circumstance of to-day, though in itself a trifling one,
as if something had crept into Thomas's and Louisa's minds which is
- or rather, which is not - I don't know that I can express myself
better than by saying - which has never been intended to be
developed, and in which their reason has no part.'
'There certainly is no reason in looking with interest at a parcel
of vagabonds,' returned Bounderby. 'When I was a vagabond myself,
nobody looked with any interest at me; I know that.'
'Then comes the question; said the eminently practical father, with
his eyes on the fire, 'in what has this vulgar curiosity its rise?'
'I'll tell you in what. In idle imagination.'
'I hope not,' said the eminently practical; 'I confess, however,
that the misgiving has crossed me on my way home.'
'In idle imagination, Gradgrind,' repeated Bounderby. 'A very bad
thing for anybody, but a cursed bad thing for a girl like Louisa.
I should ask Mrs. Gradgrind's pardon for strong expressions, but
that she knows very well I am not a refined character. Whoever
expects refinement in me will be disappointed. I hadn't a refined
'Whether,' said Gradgrind, pondering with his hands in his pockets,
and his cavernous eyes on the fire, 'whether any instructor or
servant can have suggested anything? Whether Louisa or Thomas can
have been reading anything? Whether, in spite of all precautions,
any idle story-book can have got into the house? Because, in minds
that have been practically formed by rule and line, from the cradle
upwards, this is so curious, so incomprehensible.'
'Stop a bit!' cried Bounderby, who all this time had been standing,
as before, on the hearth, bursting at the very furniture of the
room with explosive humility. 'You have one of those strollers'
children in the school.'
'Cecilia Jupe, by name,' said Mr. Gradgrind, with something of a
stricken look at his friend.
'Now, stop a bit!' cried Bounderby again. 'How did she come
'Why, the fact is, I saw the girl myself, for the first time, only
just now. She specially applied here at the house to be admitted,
as not regularly belonging to our town, and - yes, you are right,
Bounderby, you are right.'
'Now, stop a bit!' cried Bounderby, once more. 'Louisa saw her
when she came?'
'Louisa certainly did see her, for she mentioned the application to
me. But Louisa saw her, I have no doubt, in Mrs. Gradgrind's
'Pray, Mrs. Gradgrind,' said Bounderby, 'what passed?'
'Oh, my poor health!' returned Mrs. Gradgrind. 'The girl wanted to
come to the school, and Mr. Gradgrind wanted girls to come to the
school, and Louisa and Thomas both said that the girl wanted to
come, and that Mr. Gradgrind wanted girls to come, and how was it
possible to contradict them when such was the fact!'
'Now I tell you what, Gradgrind!' said Mr. Bounderby. 'Turn this
girl to the right about, and there's an end of it.'
'I am much of your opinion.'
'Do it at once,' said Bounderby, 'has always been my motto from a
child. When I thought I would run away from my egg-box and my
grandmother, I did it at once. Do you the same. Do this at once!'
'Are you walking?' asked his friend. 'I have the father's address.
Perhaps you would not mind walking to town with me?'
'Not the least in the world,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'as long as you
do it at once!'
So, Mr. Bounderby threw on his hat - he always threw it on, as
expressing a man who had been far too busily employed in making
himself, to acquire any fashion of wearing his hat - and with his
hands in his pockets, sauntered out into the hall. 'I never wear
gloves,' it was his custom to say. 'I didn't climb up the ladder
in them. - Shouldn't be so high up, if I had.'
Being left to saunter in the hall a minute or two while Mr.
Gradgrind went up-stairs for the address, he opened the door of the
children's study and looked into that serene floor-clothed
apartment, which, notwithstanding its book-cases and its cabinets
and its variety of learned and philosophical appliances, had much
of the genial aspect of a room devoted to hair-cutting. Louisa
languidly leaned upon the window looking out, without looking at
anything, while young Thomas stood sniffing revengefully at the
fire. Adam Smith and Malthus, two younger Gradgrinds, were out at
lecture in custody; and little Jane, after manufacturing a good
deal of moist pipe-clay on her face with slate-pencil and tears,
had fallen asleep over vulgar fractions.
'It's all right now, Louisa: it's all right, young Thomas,' said
Mr. Bounderby; 'you won't do so any more. I'll answer for it's
being all over with father. Well, Louisa, that's worth a kiss,
'You can take one, Mr. Bounderby,' returned Louisa, when she had
coldly paused, and slowly walked across the room, and ungraciously
raised her cheek towards him, with her face turned away.
'Always my pet; ain't you, Louisa?' said Mr. Bounderby. 'Good-bye,
He went his way, but she stood on the same spot, rubbing the cheek
he had kissed, with her handkerchief, until it was burning red.
She was still doing this, five minutes afterwards.
'What are you about, Loo?' her brother sulkily remonstrated.
'You'll rub a hole in your face.'
'You may cut the piece out with your penknife if you like, Tom. I
CHAPTER V - THE KEYNOTE
COKETOWN, to which Messrs. Bounderby and Gradgrind now walked, was
a triumph of fact; it had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs.
Gradgrind herself. Let us strike the key-note, Coketown, before
pursuing our tune.
It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if
the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a
town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage.
It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which
interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and
ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a
river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of
building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling
all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked
monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state
of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very
like one another, and many small streets still more like one
another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went
in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same
pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same
as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the
last and the next.
These attributes of Coketown were in the main inseparable from the
work by which it was sustained; against them were to be set off,
comforts of life which found their way all over the world, and
elegancies of life which made, we will not ask how much of the fine
lady, who could scarcely bear to hear the place mentioned. The
rest of its features were voluntary, and they were these.
You saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful. If the
members of a religious persuasion built a chapel there - as the
members of eighteen religious persuasions had done - they made it a
pious warehouse of red brick, with sometimes (but this is only in
highly ornamental examples) a bell in a birdcage on the top of it.
The solitary exception was the New Church; a stuccoed edifice with
a square steeple over the door, terminating in four short pinnacles
like florid wooden legs. All the public inscriptions in the town
were painted alike, in severe characters of black and white. The
jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been
the jail, the town-hall might have been either, or both, or
anything else, for anything that appeared to the contrary in the
graces of their construction. Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the
material aspect of the town; fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the
immaterial. The M'Choakumchild school was all fact, and the school
of design was all fact, and the relations between master and man
were all fact, and everything was fact between the lying-in
hospital and the cemetery, and what you couldn't state in figures,
or show to be purchaseable in the cheapest market and saleable in
the dearest, was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen.
A town so sacred to fact, and so triumphant in its assertion, of
course got on well? Why no, not quite well. No? Dear me!
No. Coketown did not come out of its own furnaces, in all respects
like gold that had stood the fire. First, the perplexing mystery
of the place was, Who belonged to the eighteen denominations?
Because, whoever did, the labouring people did not. It was very
strange to walk through the streets on a Sunday morning, and note
how few of them the barbarous jangling of bells that was driving
the sick and nervous mad, called away from their own quarter, from
their own close rooms, from the corners of their own streets, where
they lounged listlessly, gazing at all the church and chapel going,
as at a thing with which they had no manner of concern. Nor was it
merely the stranger who noticed this, because there was a native
organization in Coketown itself, whose members were to be heard of
in the House of Commons every session, indignantly petitioning for
acts of parliament that should make these people religious by main
force. Then came the Teetotal Society, who complained that these
same people would get drunk, and showed in tabular statements that
they did get drunk, and proved at tea parties that no inducement,
human or Divine (except a medal), would induce them to forego their
custom of getting drunk. Then came the chemist and druggist, with
other tabular statements, showing that when they didn't get drunk,
they took opium. Then came the experienced chaplain of the jail,
with more tabular statements, outdoing all the previous tabular
statements, and showing that the same people would resort to low
haunts, hidden from the public eye, where they heard low singing
and saw low dancing, and mayhap joined in it; and where A. B., aged
twenty-four next birthday, and committed for eighteen months'
solitary, had himself said (not that he had ever shown himself
particularly worthy of belief) his ruin began, as he was perfectly
sure and confident that otherwise he would have been a tip-top
moral specimen. Then came Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby, the two
gentlemen at this present moment walking through Coketown, and both
eminently practical, who could, on occasion, furnish more tabular
statements derived from their own personal experience, and
illustrated by cases they had known and seen, from which it clearly
appeared - in short, it was the only clear thing in the case - that
these same people were a bad lot altogether, gentlemen; that do
what you would for them they were never thankful for it, gentlemen;
that they were restless, gentlemen; that they never knew what they
wanted; that they lived upon the best, and bought fresh butter; and
insisted on Mocha coffee, and rejected all but prime parts of meat,
and yet were eternally dissatisfied and unmanageable. In short, it
was the moral of the old nursery fable:
There was an old woman, and what do you think?
She lived upon nothing but victuals and drink;
Victuals and drink were the whole of her diet,
And yet this old woman would NEVER be quiet.
Is it possible, I wonder, that there was any analogy between the
case of the Coketown population and the case of the little
Gradgrinds? Surely, none of us in our sober senses and acquainted
with figures, are to be told at this time of day, that one of the
foremost elements in the existence of the Coketown working-people
had been for scores of years, deliberately set at nought? That
there was any Fancy in them demanding to be brought into healthy
existence instead of struggling on in convulsions? That exactly in
the ratio as they worked long and monotonously, the craving grew
within them for some physical relief - some relaxation, encouraging
good humour and good spirits, and giving them a vent - some
recognized holiday, though it were but for an honest dance to a
stirring band of music - some occasional light pie in which even
M'Choakumchild had no finger - which craving must and would be
satisfied aright, or must and would inevitably go wrong, until the
laws of the Creation were repealed?
'This man lives at Pod's End, and I don't quite know Pod's End,'
said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Which is it, Bounderby?'
Mr. Bounderby knew it was somewhere down town, but knew no more
respecting it. So they stopped for a moment, looking about.
Almost as they did so, there came running round the corner of the
street at a quick pace and with a frightened look, a girl whom Mr.
Gradgrind recognized. 'Halloa!' said he. 'Stop! Where are you
going! Stop!' Girl number twenty stopped then, palpitating, and
made him a curtsey.
'Why are you tearing about the streets,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'in
this improper manner?'
'I was - I was run after, sir,' the girl panted, 'and I wanted to
'Run after?' repeated Mr. Gradgrind. 'Who would run after you?'
The question was unexpectedly and suddenly answered for her, by the
colourless boy, Bitzer, who came round the corner with such blind
speed and so little anticipating a stoppage on the pavement, that
he brought himself up against Mr. Gradgrind's waistcoat and
rebounded into the road.
'What do you mean, boy?' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'What are you doing?
How dare you dash against - everybody - in this manner?' Bitzer
picked up his cap, which the concussion had knocked off; and
backing, and knuckling his forehead, pleaded that it was an
'Was this boy running after you, Jupe?' asked Mr. Gradgrind.
'Yes, sir,' said the girl reluctantly.
'No, I wasn't, sir!' cried Bitzer. 'Not till she run away from me.
But the horse-riders never mind what they say, sir; they're famous
for it. You know the horse-riders are famous for never minding
what they say,' addressing Sissy. 'It's as well known in the town
as - please, sir, as the multiplication table isn't known to the
horse-riders.' Bitzer tried Mr. Bounderby with this.
'He frightened me so,' said the girl, 'with his cruel faces!'
'Oh!' cried Bitzer. 'Oh! An't you one of the rest! An't you a
horse-rider! I never looked at her, sir. I asked her if she would
know how to define a horse to-morrow, and offered to tell her
again, and she ran away, and I ran after her, sir, that she might
know how to answer when she was asked. You wouldn't have thought
of saying such mischief if you hadn't been a horse-rider?'
'Her calling seems to be pretty well known among 'em,' observed Mr.
Bounderby. 'You'd have had the whole school peeping in a row, in a
'Truly, I think so,' returned his friend. 'Bitzer, turn you about
and take yourself home. Jupe, stay here a moment. Let me hear of
your running in this manner any more, boy, and you will hear of me
through the master of the school. You understand what I mean. Go
The boy stopped in his rapid blinking, knuckled his forehead again,
glanced at Sissy, turned about, and retreated.
'Now, girl,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'take this gentleman and me to
your father's; we are going there. What have you got in that
bottle you are carrying?'
'Gin,' said Mr. Bounderby.
'Dear, no, sir! It's the nine oils.'
'The what?' cried Mr. Bounderby.
'The nine oils, sir, to rub father with.'
'Then,' said Mr. Bounderby, with a loud short laugh, 'what the
devil do you rub your father with nine oils for?'
'It's what our people aways use, sir, when they get any hurts in
the ring,' replied the girl, looking over her shoulder, to assure
herself that her pursuer was gone. 'They bruise themselves very
'Serve 'em right,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'for being idle.' She
glanced up at his face, with mingled astonishment and dread.
'By George!' said Mr. Bounderby, 'when I was four or five years
younger than you, I had worse bruises upon me than ten oils, twenty
oils, forty oils, would have rubbed off. I didn't get 'em by
posture-making, but by being banged about. There was no rope-
dancing for me; I danced on the bare ground and was larruped with
Mr. Gradgrind, though hard enough, was by no means so rough a man
as Mr. Bounderby. His character was not unkind, all things
considered; it might have been a very kind one indeed, if he had
only made some round mistake in the arithmetic that balanced it,
years ago. He said, in what he meant for a reassuring tone, as
they turned down a narrow road, 'And this is Pod's End; is it,
'This is it, sir, and - if you wouldn't mind, sir - this is the
She stopped, at twilight, at the door of a mean little public-
house, with dim red lights in it. As haggard and as shabby, as if,
for want of custom, it had itself taken to drinking, and had gone
the way all drunkards go, and was very near the end of it.
'It's only crossing the bar, sir, and up the stairs, if you
wouldn't mind, and waiting there for a moment till I get a candle.
If you should hear a dog, sir, it's only Merrylegs, and he only
'Merrylegs and nine oils, eh!' said Mr. Bounderby, entering last
with his metallic laugh. 'Pretty well this, for a self-made man!'
CHAPTER VI - SLEARY'S HORSEMANSHIP
THE name of the public-house was the Pegasus's Arms. The Pegasus's
legs might have been more to the purpose; but, underneath the
winged horse upon the sign-board, the Pegasus's Arms was inscribed
in Roman letters. Beneath that inscription again, in a flowing
scroll, the painter had touched off the lines:
Good malt makes good beer,
Walk in, and they'll draw it here;
Good wine makes good brandy,
Give us a call, and you'll find it handy.
Framed and glazed upon the wall behind the dingy little bar, was
another Pegasus - a theatrical one - with real gauze let in for his
wings, golden stars stuck on all over him, and his ethereal harness
made of red silk.
As it had grown too dusky without, to see the sign, and as it had
not grown light enough within to see the picture, Mr. Gradgrind and
Mr. Bounderby received no offence from these idealities. They
followed the girl up some steep corner-stairs without meeting any
one, and stopped in the dark while she went on for a candle. They
expected every moment to hear Merrylegs give tongue, but the highly
trained performing dog had not barked when the girl and the candle
'Father is not in our room, sir,' she said, with a face of great
surprise. 'If you wouldn't mind walking in, I'll find him
directly.' They walked in; and Sissy, having set two chairs for
them, sped away with a quick light step. It was a mean, shabbily
furnished room, with a bed in it. The white night-cap, embellished
with two peacock's feathers and a pigtail bolt upright, in which
Signor Jupe had that very afternoon enlivened the varied
performances with his chaste Shaksperean quips and retorts, hung
upon a nail; but no other portion of his wardrobe, or other token
of himself or his pursuits, was to be seen anywhere. As to
Merrylegs, that respectable ancestor of the highly trained animal
who went aboard the ark, might have been accidentally shut out of
it, for any sign of a dog that was manifest to eye or ear in the
They heard the doors of rooms above, opening and shutting as Sissy
went from one to another in quest of her father; and presently they
heard voices expressing surprise. She came bounding down again in
a great hurry, opened a battered and mangy old hair trunk, found it
empty, and looked round with her hands clasped and her face full of
'Father must have gone down to the Booth, sir. I don't know why he
should go there, but he must be there; I'll bring him in a minute!'
She was gone directly, without her bonnet; with her long, dark,
childish hair streaming behind her.
'What does she mean!' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Back in a minute? It's
more than a mile off.'
Before Mr. Bounderby could reply, a young man appeared at the door,
and introducing himself with the words, 'By your leaves,
gentlemen!' walked in with his hands in his pockets. His face,
close-shaven, thin, and sallow, was shaded by a great quantity of
dark hair, brushed into a roll all round his head, and parted up
the centre. His legs were very robust, but shorter than legs of
good proportions should have been. His chest and back were as much
too broad, as his legs were too short. He was dressed in a
Newmarket coat and tight-fitting trousers; wore a shawl round his
neck; smelt of lamp-oil, straw, orange-peel, horses' provender, and
sawdust; and looked a most remarkable sort of Centaur, compounded
of the stable and the play-house. Where the one began, and the
other ended, nobody could have told with any precision. This
gentleman was mentioned in the bills of the day as Mr. E. W. B.
Childers, so justly celebrated for his daring vaulting act as the
Wild Huntsman of the North American Prairies; in which popular
performance, a diminutive boy with an old face, who now accompanied
him, assisted as his infant son: being carried upside down over
his father's shoulder, by one foot, and held by the crown of his
head, heels upwards, in the palm of his father's hand, according to
the violent paternal manner in which wild huntsmen may be observed
to fondle their offspring. Made up with curls, wreaths, wings,
white bismuth, and carmine, this hopeful young person soared into
so pleasing a Cupid as to constitute the chief delight of the
maternal part of the spectators; but in private, where his
characteristics were a precocious cutaway coat and an extremely
gruff voice, he became of the Turf, turfy.
'By your leaves, gentlemen,' said Mr. E. W. B. Childers, glancing
round the room. 'It was you, I believe, that were wishing to see
'It was,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'His daughter has gone to fetch him,
but I can't wait; therefore, if you please, I will leave a message
for him with you.'
'You see, my friend,' Mr. Bounderby put in, 'we are the kind of
people who know the value of time, and you are the kind of people
who don't know the value of time.'
'I have not,' retorted Mr. Childers, after surveying him from head
to foot, 'the honour of knowing you, - but if you mean that you can
make more money of your time than I can of mine, I should judge
from your appearance, that you are about right.'
'And when you have made it, you can keep it too, I should think,'
'Kidderminster, stow that!' said Mr. Childers. (Master
Kidderminster was Cupid's mortal name.)
'What does he come here cheeking us for, then?' cried Master
Kidderminster, showing a very irascible temperament. 'If you want
to cheek us, pay your ochre at the doors and take it out.'
'Kidderminster,' said Mr. Childers, raising his voice, 'stow that!
- Sir,' to Mr. Gradgrind, 'I was addressing myself to you. You may
or you may not be aware (for perhaps you have not been much in the
audience), that Jupe has missed his tip very often, lately.'
'Has - what has he missed?' asked Mr. Gradgrind, glancing at the
potent Bounderby for assistance.
'Missed his tip.'
'Offered at the Garters four times last night, and never done 'em
once,' said Master Kidderminster. 'Missed his tip at the banners,
too, and was loose in his ponging.'
'Didn't do what he ought to do. Was short in his leaps and bad in
his tumbling,' Mr. Childers interpreted.
'Oh!' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'that is tip, is it?'
'In a general way that's missing his tip,' Mr. E. W. B. Childers
'Nine oils, Merrylegs, missing tips, garters, banners, and Ponging,
eh!' ejaculated Bounderby, with his laugh of laughs. 'Queer sort
of company, too, for a man who has raised himself!'
'Lower yourself, then,' retorted Cupid. 'Oh Lord! if you've raised
yourself so high as all that comes to, let yourself down a bit.'
'This is a very obtrusive lad!' said Mr. Gradgrind, turning, and
knitting his brows on him.
'We'd have had a young gentleman to meet you, if we had known you
were coming,' retorted Master Kidderminster, nothing abashed.
'It's a pity you don't have a bespeak, being so particular. You're
on the Tight-Jeff, ain't you?'
'What does this unmannerly boy mean,' asked Mr. Gradgrind, eyeing
him in a sort of desperation, 'by Tight-Jeff?'
'There! Get out, get out!' said Mr. Childers, thrusting his young
friend from the room, rather in the prairie manner. 'Tight-Jeff or
Slack-Jeff, it don't much signify: it's only tight-rope and slack-
rope. You were going to give me a message for Jupe?'
'Yes, I was.'
'Then,' continued Mr. Childers, quickly, 'my opinion is, he will
never receive it. Do you know much of him?'
'I never saw the man in my life.'
'I doubt if you ever will see him now. It's pretty plain to me,
'Do you mean that he has deserted his daughter?'
'Ay! I mean,' said Mr. Childers, with a nod, 'that he has cut. He
was goosed last night, he was goosed the night before last, he was
goosed to-day. He has lately got in the way of being always
goosed, and he can't stand it.'
'Why has he been - so very much - Goosed?' asked Mr. Gradgrind,
forcing the word out of himself, with great solemnity and
'His joints are turning stiff, and he is getting used up,' said
Childers. 'He has his points as a Cackler still, but he can't get
a living out of them.'
'A Cackler!' Bounderby repeated. 'Here we go again!'
'A speaker, if the gentleman likes it better,' said Mr. E. W. B.
Childers, superciliously throwing the interpretation over his
shoulder, and accompanying it with a shake of his long hair - which
all shook at once. 'Now, it's a remarkable fact, sir, that it cut
that man deeper, to know that his daughter knew of his being
goosed, than to go through with it.'
'Good!' interrupted Mr. Bounderby. 'This is good, Gradgrind! A
man so fond of his daughter, that he runs away from her! This is
devilish good! Ha! ha! Now, I'll tell you what, young man. I
haven't always occupied my present station of life. I know what
these things are. You may be astonished to hear it, but my mother
- ran away from me.'
E. W. B. Childers replied pointedly, that he was not at all
astonished to hear it.
'Very well,' said Bounderby. 'I was born in a ditch, and my mother
ran away from me. Do I excuse her for it? No. Have I ever
excused her for it? Not I. What do I call her for it? I call her
probably the very worst woman that ever lived in the world, except
my drunken grandmother. There's no family pride about me, there's
no imaginative sentimental humbug about me. I call a spade a
spade; and I call the mother of Josiah Bounderby of Coketown,
without any fear or any favour, what I should call her if she had
been the mother of Dick Jones of Wapping. So, with this man. He
is a runaway rogue and a vagabond, that's what he is, in English.'
'It's all the same to me what he is or what he is not, whether in
English or whether in French,' retorted Mr. E. W. B. Childers,
facing about. 'I am telling your friend what's the fact; if you
don't like to hear it, you can avail yourself of the open air. You
give it mouth enough, you do; but give it mouth in your own
building at least,' remonstrated E. W. B. with stern irony. 'Don't
give it mouth in this building, till you're called upon. You have
got some building of your own I dare say, now?'
'Perhaps so,' replied Mr. Bounderby, rattling his money and
'Then give it mouth in your own building, will you, if you please?'
said Childers. 'Because this isn't a strong building, and too much
of you might bring it down!'
Eyeing Mr. Bounderby from head to foot again, he turned from him,
as from a man finally disposed of, to Mr. Gradgrind.
'Jupe sent his daughter out on an errand not an hour ago, and then
was seen to slip out himself, with his hat over his eyes, and a
bundle tied up in a handkerchief under his arm. She will never
believe it of him, but he has cut away and left her.'
'Pray,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'why will she never believe it of him?'
'Because those two were one. Because they were never asunder.
Because, up to this time, he seemed to dote upon her,' said
Childers, taking a step or two to look into the empty trunk. Both
Mr. Childers and Master Kidderminster walked in a curious manner;
with their legs wider apart than the general run of men, and with a
very knowing assumption of being stiff in the knees. This walk was
common to all the male members of Sleary's company, and was
understood to express, that they were always on horseback.
'Poor Sissy! He had better have apprenticed her,' said Childers,
giving his hair another shake, as he looked up from the empty box.
'Now, he leaves her without anything to take to.'
'It is creditable to you, who have never been apprenticed, to
express that opinion,' returned Mr. Gradgrind, approvingly.
'I never apprenticed? I was apprenticed when I was seven year
'Oh! Indeed?' said Mr. Gradgrind, rather resentfully, as having
been defrauded of his good opinion. 'I was not aware of its being
the custom to apprentice young persons to - '
'Idleness,' Mr. Bounderby put in with a loud laugh. 'No, by the
Lord Harry! Nor I!'
'Her father always had it in his head,' resumed Childers, feigning
unconsciousness of Mr. Bounderby's existence, 'that she was to be
taught the deuce-and-all of education. How it got into his head, I
can't say; I can only say that it never got out. He has been
picking up a bit of reading for her, here - and a bit of writing
for her, there - and a bit of ciphering for her, somewhere else -
these seven years.'
Mr. E. W. B. Childers took one of his hands out of his pockets,
stroked his face and chin, and looked, with a good deal of doubt
and a little hope, at Mr. Gradgrind. From the first he had sought
to conciliate that gentleman, for the sake of the deserted girl.
'When Sissy got into the school here,' he pursued, 'her father was
as pleased as Punch. I couldn't altogether make out why, myself,
as we were not stationary here, being but comers and goers
anywhere. I suppose, however, he had this move in his mind - he
was always half-cracked - and then considered her provided for. If
you should happen to have looked in to-night, for the purpose of
telling him that you were going to do her any little service,' said
Mr. Childers, stroking his face again, and repeating his look, 'it
would be very fortunate and well-timed; very fortunate and well-
'On the contrary,' returned Mr. Gradgrind. 'I came to tell him
that her connections made her not an object for the school, and
that she must not attend any more. Still, if her father really has
left her, without any connivance on her part - Bounderby, let me
have a word with you.'
Upon this, Mr. Childers politely betook himself, with his
equestrian walk, to the landing outside the door, and there stood
stroking his face, and softly whistling. While thus engaged, he
overheard such phrases in Mr. Bounderby's voice as 'No. I say no.
I advise you not. I say by no means.' While, from Mr. Gradgrind,
he heard in his much lower tone the words, 'But even as an example
to Louisa, of what this pursuit which has been the subject of a
vulgar curiosity, leads to and ends in. Think of it, Bounderby, in
that point of view.'
Meanwhile, the various members of Sleary's company gradually
gathered together from the upper regions, where they were
quartered, and, from standing about, talking in low voices to one
another and to Mr. Childers, gradually insinuated themselves and
him into the room. There were two or three handsome young women
among them, with their two or three husbands, and their two or
three mothers, and their eight or nine little children, who did the
fairy business when required. The father of one of the families
was in the habit of balancing the father of another of the families
on the top of a great pole; the father of a third family often made
a pyramid of both those fathers, with Master Kidderminster for the
apex, and himself for the base; all the fathers could dance upon
rolling casks, stand upon bottles, catch knives and balls, twirl
hand-basins, ride upon anything, jump over everything, and stick at
nothing. All the mothers could (and did) dance, upon the slack
wire and the tight-rope, and perform rapid acts on bare-backed
steeds; none of them were at all particular in respect of showing
their legs; and one of them, alone in a Greek chariot, drove six in
hand into every town they came to. They all assumed to be mighty
rakish and knowing, they were not very tidy in their private
dresses, they were not at all orderly in their domestic
arrangements, and the combined literature of the whole company
would have produced but a poor letter on any subject. Yet there
was a remarkable gentleness and childishness about these people, a
special inaptitude for any kind of sharp practice, and an untiring
readiness to help and pity one another, deserving often of as much
respect, and always of as much generous construction, as the every-
day virtues of any class of people in the world.
Last of all appeared Mr. Sleary: a stout man as already mentioned,
with one fixed eye, and one loose eye, a voice (if it can be called
so) like the efforts of a broken old pair of bellows, a flabby
surface, and a muddled head which was never sober and never drunk.
'Thquire!' said Mr. Sleary, who was troubled with asthma, and whose
breath came far too thick and heavy for the letter s, 'Your
thervant! Thith ith a bad piethe of bithnith, thith ith. You've
heard of my Clown and hith dog being thuppothed to have morrithed?'
He addressed Mr. Gradgrind, who answered 'Yes.'
'Well, Thquire,' he returned, taking off his hat, and rubbing the
lining with his pocket-handkerchief, which he kept inside for the
purpose. 'Ith it your intenthion to do anything for the poor girl,
'I shall have something to propose to her when she comes back,'
said Mr. Gradgrind.
'Glad to hear it, Thquire. Not that I want to get rid of the
child, any more than I want to thtand in her way. I'm willing to
take her prentith, though at her age ith late. My voithe ith a
little huthky, Thquire, and not eathy heard by them ath don't know
me; but if you'd been chilled and heated, heated and chilled,
chilled and heated in the ring when you wath young, ath often ath I
have been, your voithe wouldn't have lathted out, Thquire, no more
'I dare say not,' said Mr. Gradgrind.
'What thall it be, Thquire, while you wait? Thall it be Therry?
Give it a name, Thquire!' said Mr. Sleary, with hospitable ease.
'Nothing for me, I thank you,' said Mr. Gradgrind.
'Don't thay nothing, Thquire. What doth your friend thay? If you
haven't took your feed yet, have a glath of bitterth.'
Here his daughter Josephine - a pretty fair-haired girl of
eighteen, who had been tied on a horse at two years old, and had
made a will at twelve, which she always carried about with her,
expressive of her dying desire to be drawn to the grave by the two
piebald ponies - cried, 'Father, hush! she has come back!' Then
came Sissy Jupe, running into the room as she had run out of it.
And when she saw them all assembled, and saw their looks, and saw
no father there, she broke into a most deplorable cry, and took
refuge on the bosom of the most accomplished tight-rope lady
(herself in the family-way), who knelt down on the floor to nurse
her, and to weep over her.
'Ith an internal thame, upon my thoul it ith,' said Sleary.
'O my dear father, my good kind father, where are you gone? You
are gone to try to do me some good, I know! You are gone away for
my sake, I am sure! And how miserable and helpless you will be
without me, poor, poor father, until you come back!' It was so
pathetic to hear her saying many things of this kind, with her face
turned upward, and her arms stretched out as if she were trying to
stop his departing shadow and embrace it, that no one spoke a word
until Mr. Bounderby (growing impatient) took the case in hand.
'Now, good people all,' said he, 'this is wanton waste of time.
Let the girl understand the fact. Let her take it from me, if you
like, who have been run away from, myself. Here, what's your name!
Your father has absconded - deserted you - and you mustn't expect
to see him again as long as you live.'
They cared so little for plain Fact, these people, and were in that
advanced state of degeneracy on the subject, that instead of being
impressed by the speaker's strong common sense, they took it in
extraordinary dudgeon. The men muttered 'Shame!' and the women
'Brute!' and Sleary, in some haste, communicated the following
hint, apart to Mr. Bounderby.
'I tell you what, Thquire. To thpeak plain to you, my opinion ith
that you had better cut it thort, and drop it. They're a very good
natur'd people, my people, but they're accuthtomed to be quick in
their movementh; and if you don't act upon my advithe, I'm damned
if I don't believe they'll pith you out o' winder.'
Mr. Bounderby being restrained by this mild suggestion, Mr.
Gradgrind found an opening for his eminently practical exposition
of the subject.
'It is of no moment,' said he, 'whether this person is to be
expected back at any time, or the contrary. He is gone away, and
there is no present expectation of his return. That, I believe, is
agreed on all hands.'
'Thath agreed, Thquire. Thick to that!' From Sleary.
'Well then. I, who came here to inform the father of the poor
girl, Jupe, that she could not be received at the school any more,
in consequence of there being practical objections, into which I
need not enter, to the reception there of the children of persons
so employed, am prepared in these altered circumstances to make a
proposal. I am willing to take charge of you, Jupe, and to educate
you, and provide for you. The only condition (over and above your
good behaviour) I make is, that you decide now, at once, whether to
accompany me or remain here. Also, that if you accompany me now,
it is understood that you communicate no more with any of your
friends who are here present. These observations comprise the
whole of the case.'
'At the thame time,' said Sleary, 'I mutht put in my word, Thquire,
tho that both thides of the banner may be equally theen. If you
like, Thethilia, to be prentitht, you know the natur of the work
and you know your companionth. Emma Gordon, in whothe lap you're a
lying at prethent, would be a mother to you, and Joth'phine would
be a thithter to you. I don't pretend to be of the angel breed
myself, and I don't thay but what, when you mith'd your tip, you'd
find me cut up rough, and thwear an oath or two at you. But what I
thay, Thquire, ith, that good tempered or bad tempered, I never did
a horthe a injury yet, no more than thwearing at him went, and that
I don't expect I thall begin otherwithe at my time of life, with a
rider. I never wath much of a Cackler, Thquire, and I have thed my
The latter part of this speech was addressed to Mr. Gradgrind, who
received it with a grave inclination of his head, and then
'The only observation I will make to you, Jupe, in the way of
influencing your decision, is, that it is highly desirable to have
a sound practical education, and that even your father himself
(from what I understand) appears, on your behalf, to have known and
felt that much.'
The last words had a visible effect upon her. She stopped in her
wild crying, a little detached herself from Emma Gordon, and turned
her face full upon her patron. The whole company perceived the
force of the change, and drew a long breath together, that plainly
said, 'she will go!'
'Be sure you know your own mind, Jupe,' Mr. Gradgrind cautioned
her; 'I say no more. Be sure you know your own mind!'
'When father comes back,' cried the girl, bursting into tears again
after a minute's silence, 'how will he ever find me if I go away!'
'You may be quite at ease,' said Mr. Gradgrind, calmly; he worked
out the whole matter like a sum: 'you may be quite at ease, Jupe,
on that score. In such a case, your father, I apprehend, must find
out Mr. - '
'Thleary. Thath my name, Thquire. Not athamed of it. Known all
over England, and alwayth paythe ith way.'
'Must find out Mr. Sleary, who would then let him know where you
went. I should have no power of keeping you against his wish, and
he would have no difficulty, at any time, in finding Mr. Thomas
Gradgrind of Coketown. I am well known.'
'Well known,' assented Mr. Sleary, rolling his loose eye. 'You're
one of the thort, Thquire, that keepth a prethiouth thight of money
out of the houthe. But never mind that at prethent.'
There was another silence; and then she exclaimed, sobbing with her
hands before her face, 'Oh, give me my clothes, give me my clothes,
and let me go away before I break my heart!'
The women sadly bestirred themselves to get the clothes together -
it was soon done, for they were not many - and to pack them in a
basket which had often travelled with them. Sissy sat all the time
upon the ground, still sobbing, and covering her eyes. Mr.
Gradgrind and his friend Bounderby stood near the door, ready to
take her away. Mr. Sleary stood in the middle of the room, with
the male members of the company about him, exactly as he would have
stood in the centre of the ring during his daughter Josephine's
performance. He wanted nothing but his whip.
The basket packed in silence, they brought her bonnet to her, and
smoothed her disordered hair, and put it on. Then they pressed
about her, and bent over her in very natural attitudes, kissing and
embracing her: and brought the children to take leave of her; and
were a tender-hearted, simple, foolish set of women altogether.
'Now, Jupe,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'If you are quite determined,
But she had to take her farewell of the male part of the company
yet, and every one of them had to unfold his arms (for they all
assumed the professional attitude when they found themselves near
Sleary), and give her a parting kiss - Master Kidderminster
excepted, in whose young nature there was an original flavour of
the misanthrope, who was also known to have harboured matrimonial
views, and who moodily withdrew. Mr. Sleary was reserved until the
last. Opening his arms wide he took her by both her hands, and
would have sprung her up and down, after the riding-master manner
of congratulating young ladies on their dismounting from a rapid
act; but there was no rebound in Sissy, and she only stood before
'Good-bye, my dear!' said Sleary. 'You'll make your fortun, I
hope, and none of our poor folkth will ever trouble you, I'll pound
it. I with your father hadn't taken hith dog with him; ith a ill-
conwenienth to have the dog out of the billth. But on thecond
thoughth, he wouldn't have performed without hith mathter, tho ith
ath broad ath ith long!'
With that he regarded her attentively with his fixed eye, surveyed
his company with his loose one, kissed her, shook his head, and
handed her to Mr. Gradgrind as to a horse.
'There the ith, Thquire,' he said, sweeping her with a professional
glance as if she were being adjusted in her seat, 'and the'll do
you juthtithe. Good-bye, Thethilia!'
'Good-bye, Cecilia!' 'Good-bye, Sissy!' 'God bless you, dear!'
In a variety of voices from all the room.
But the riding-master eye had observed the bottle of the nine oils
in her bosom, and he now interposed with 'Leave the bottle, my
dear; ith large to carry; it will be of no uthe to you now. Give
it to me!'
'No, no!' she said, in another burst of tears. 'Oh, no! Pray let
me keep it for father till he comes back! He will want it when he
comes back. He had never thought of going away, when he sent me
for it. I must keep it for him, if you please!'
'Tho be it, my dear. (You thee how it ith, Thquire!) Farewell,
Thethilia! My latht wordth to you ith thith, Thtick to the termth
of your engagement, be obedient to the Thquire, and forget uth.
But if, when you're grown up and married and well off, you come
upon any horthe-riding ever, don't be hard upon it, don't be croth
with it, give it a Bethpeak if you can, and think you might do
wurth. People mutht be amuthed, Thquire, thomehow,' continued
Sleary, rendered more pursy than ever, by so much talking; 'they
can't be alwayth a working, nor yet they can't be alwayth a
learning. Make the betht of uth; not the wurtht. I've got my
living out of the horthe-riding all my life, I know; but I
conthider that I lay down the philothophy of the thubject when I
thay to you, Thquire, make the betht of uth: not the wurtht!'
The Sleary philosophy was propounded as they went downstairs and
the fixed eye of Philosophy - and its rolling eye, too - soon lost
the three figures and the basket in the darkness of the street.
CHAPTER VII - MRS. SPARSIT
MR. BOUNDERBY being a bachelor, an elderly lady presided over his
establishment, in consideration of a certain annual stipend. Mrs.
Sparsit was this lady's name; and she was a prominent figure in
attendance on Mr. Bounderby's car, as it rolled along in triumph
with the Bully of humility inside.
For, Mrs. Sparsit had not only seen different days, but was highly
connected. She had a great aunt living in these very times called
Lady Scadgers. Mr. Sparsit, deceased, of whom she was the relict,
had been by the mother's side what Mrs. Sparsit still called 'a
Powler.' Strangers of limited information and dull apprehension
were sometimes observed not to know what a Powler was, and even to
appear uncertain whether it might be a business, or a political
party, or a profession of faith. The better class of minds,
however, did not need to be informed that the Powlers were an
ancient stock, who could trace themselves so exceedingly far back
that it was not surprising if they sometimes lost themselves -
which they had rather frequently done, as respected horse-flesh,
blind-hookey, Hebrew monetary transactions, and the Insolvent
The late Mr. Sparsit, being by the mother's side a Powler, married
this lady, being by the father's side a Scadgers. Lady Scadgers
(an immensely fat old woman, with an inordinate appetite for
butcher's meat, and a mysterious leg which had now refused to get
out of bed for fourteen years) contrived the marriage, at a period
when Sparsit was just of age, and chiefly noticeable for a slender
body, weakly supported on two long slim props, and surmounted by no
head worth mentioning. He inherited a fair fortune from his uncle,
but owed it all before he came into it, and spent it twice over
immediately afterwards. Thus, when he died, at twenty-four (the
scene of his decease, Calais, and the cause, brandy), he did not
leave his widow, from whom he had been separated soon after the
honeymoon, in affluent circumstances. That bereaved lady, fifteen
years older than he, fell presently at deadly feud with her only
relative, Lady Scadgers; and, partly to spite her ladyship, and
partly to maintain herself, went out at a salary. And here she was
now, in her elderly days, with the Coriolanian style of nose and
the dense black eyebrows which had captivated Sparsit, making Mr.
Bounderby's tea as he took his breakfast.
If Bounderby had been a Conqueror, and Mrs. Sparsit a captive
Princess whom he took about as a feature in his state-processions,
he could not have made a greater flourish with her than he
habitually did. Just as it belonged to his boastfulness to
depreciate his own extraction, so it belonged to it to exalt Mrs.
Sparsit's. In the measure that he would not allow his own youth to
have been attended by a single favourable circumstance, he
brightened Mrs. Sparsit's juvenile career with every possible
advantage, and showered waggon-loads of early roses all over that
lady's path. 'And yet, sir,' he would say, 'how does it turn out
after all? Why here she is at a hundred a year (I give her a
hundred, which she is pleased to term handsome), keeping the house
of Josiah Bounderby of Coketown!'
Nay, he made this foil of his so very widely known, that third
parties took it up, and handled it on some occasions with
considerable briskness. It was one of the most exasperating
attributes of Bounderby, that he not only sang his own praises but
stimulated other men to sing them. There was a moral infection of
clap-trap in him. Strangers, modest enough elsewhere, started up
at dinners in Coketown, and boasted, in quite a rampant way, of
Bounderby. They made him out to be the Royal arms, the Union-Jack,
Magna Charta, John Bull, Habeas Corpus, the Bill of Rights, An
Englishman's house is his castle, Church and State, and God save
the Queen, all put together. And as often (and it was very often)
as an orator of this kind brought into his peroration,
'Princes and lords may flourish or may fade,
A breath can make them, as a breath has made,'
- it was, for certain, more or less understood among the company
that he had heard of Mrs. Sparsit.
'Mr. Bounderby,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'you are unusually slow, sir,
with your breakfast this morning.'
'Why, ma'am,' he returned, 'I am thinking about Tom Gradgrind's
whim;' Tom Gradgrind, for a bluff independent manner of speaking -
as if somebody were always endeavouring to bribe him with immense
sums to say Thomas, and he wouldn't; 'Tom Gradgrind's whim, ma'am,
of bringing up the tumbling-girl.'
'The girl is now waiting to know,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'whether she
is to go straight to the school, or up to the Lodge.'
'She must wait, ma'am,' answered Bounderby, 'till I know myself.
We shall have Tom Gradgrind down here presently, I suppose. If he
should wish her to remain here a day or two longer, of course she
'Of course she can if you wish it, Mr. Bounderby.'
'I told him I would give her a shake-down here, last night, in
order that he might sleep on it before he decided to let her have
any association with Louisa.'
'Indeed, Mr. Bounderby? Very thoughtful of you!' Mrs. Sparsit's
Coriolanian nose underwent a slight expansion of the nostrils, and
her black eyebrows contracted as she took a sip of tea.
'It's tolerably clear to me,' said Bounderby, 'that the little puss
can get small good out of such companionship.'
'Are you speaking of young Miss Gradgrind, Mr. Bounderby?'
'Yes, ma'am, I'm speaking of Louisa.'
'Your observation being limited to "little puss,"' said Mrs.
Sparsit, 'and there being two little girls in question, I did not
know which might be indicated by that expression.'
'Louisa,' repeated Mr. Bounderby. 'Louisa, Louisa.'
'You are quite another father to Louisa, sir.' Mrs. Sparsit took a
little more tea; and, as she bent her again contracted eyebrows
over her steaming cup, rather looked as if her classical
countenance were invoking the infernal gods.
'If you had said I was another father to Tom - young Tom, I mean,
not my friend Tom Gradgrind - you might have been nearer the mark.
I am going to take young Tom into my office. Going to have him
under my wing, ma'am.'
'Indeed? Rather young for that, is he not, sir?' Mrs. Spirit's
'sir,' in addressing Mr. Bounderby, was a word of ceremony, rather
exacting consideration for herself in the use, than honouring him.
'I'm not going to take him at once; he is to finish his educational
cramming before then,' said Bounderby. 'By the Lord Harry, he'll
have enough of it, first and last! He'd open his eyes, that boy
would, if he knew how empty of learning my young maw was, at his
time of life.' Which, by the by, he probably did know, for he had
heard of it often enough. 'But it's extraordinary the difficulty I
have on scores of such subjects, in speaking to any one on equal
terms. Here, for example, I have been speaking to you this morning
about tumblers. Why, what do you know about tumblers? At the time
when, to have been a tumbler in the mud of the streets, would have
been a godsend to me, a prize in the lottery to me, you were at the
Italian Opera. You were coming out of the Italian Opera, ma'am, in
white satin and jewels, a blaze of splendour, when I hadn't a penny
to buy a link to light you.'
'I certainly, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a dignity serenely
mournful, 'was familiar with the Italian Opera at a very early
'Egad, ma'am, so was I,' said Bounderby, ' - with the wrong side of
it. A hard bed the pavement of its Arcade used to make, I assure
you. People like you, ma'am, accustomed from infancy to lie on
Down feathers, have no idea how hard a paving-stone is, without
trying it. No, no, it's of no use my talking to you about
tumblers. I should speak of foreign dancers, and the West End of
London, and May Fair, and lords and ladies and honourables.'
'I trust, sir,' rejoined Mrs. Sparsit, with decent resignation, 'it
is not necessary that you should do anything of that kind. I hope
I have learnt how to accommodate myself to the changes of life. If
I have acquired an interest in hearing of your instructive
experiences, and can scarcely hear enough of them, I claim no merit
for that, since I believe it is a general sentiment.'
'Well, ma'am,' said her patron, 'perhaps some people may be pleased
to say that they do like to hear, in his own unpolished way, what
Josiah Bounderby, of Coketown, has gone through. But you must
confess that you were born in the lap of luxury, yourself. Come,
ma'am, you know you were born in the lap of luxury.'
'I do not, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit with a shake of her head,
Mr. Bounderby was obliged to get up from table, and stand with his
back to the fire, looking at her; she was such an enhancement of
'And you were in crack society. Devilish high society,' he said,
warming his legs.
'It is true, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, with an affectation of
humility the very opposite of his, and therefore in no danger of
'You were in the tiptop fashion, and all the rest of it,' said Mr.
'Yes, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a kind of social widowhood
upon her. 'It is unquestionably true.'
Mr. Bounderby, bending himself at the knees, literally embraced his
legs in his great satisfaction and laughed aloud. Mr. and Miss
Gradgrind being then announced, he received the former with a shake
of the hand, and the latter with a kiss.
'Can Jupe be sent here, Bounderby?' asked Mr. Gradgrind.
Certainly. So Jupe was sent there. On coming in, she curtseyed to
Mr. Bounderby, and to his friend Tom Gradgrind, and also to Louisa;
but in her confusion unluckily omitted Mrs. Sparsit. Observing
this, the blustrous Bounderby had the following remarks to make:
'Now, I tell you what, my girl. The name of that lady by the
teapot, is Mrs. Sparsit. That lady acts as mistress of this house,
and she is a highly connected lady. Consequently, if ever you come
again into any room in this house, you will make a short stay in it
if you don't behave towards that lady in your most respectful
manner. Now, I don't care a button what you do to me, because I
don't affect to be anybody. So far from having high connections I
have no connections at all, and I come of the scum of the earth.
But towards that lady, I do care what you do; and you shall do what
is deferential and respectful, or you shall not come here.'
'I hope, Bounderby,' said Mr. Gradgrind, in a conciliatory voice,
'that this was merely an oversight.'
'My friend Tom Gradgrind suggests, Mrs. Sparsit,' said Bounderby,
'that this was merely an oversight. Very likely. However, as you
are aware, ma'am, I don't allow of even oversights towards you.'
'You are very good indeed, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, shaking her
head with her State humility. 'It is not worth speaking of.'
Sissy, who all this time had been faintly excusing herself with
tears in her eyes, was now waved over by the master of the house to
Mr. Gradgrind. She stood looking intently at him, and Louisa stood
coldly by, with her eyes upon the ground, while he proceeded thus:
'Jupe, I have made up my mind to take you into my house; and, when
you are not in attendance at the school, to employ you about Mrs.
Gradgrind, who is rather an invalid. I have explained to Miss
Louisa - this is Miss Louisa - the miserable but natural end of
your late career; and you are to expressly understand that the
whole of that subject is past, and is not to be referred to any
more. From this time you begin your history. You are, at present,
ignorant, I know.'
'Yes, sir, very,' she answered, curtseying.
'I shall have the satisfaction of causing you to be strictly
educated; and you will be a living proof to all who come into
communication with you, of the advantages of the training you will
receive. You will be reclaimed and formed. You have been in the
habit now of reading to your father, and those people I found you
among, I dare say?' said Mr. Gradgrind, beckoning her nearer to him
before he said so, and dropping his voice.
'Only to father and Merrylegs, sir. At least I mean to father,
when Merrylegs was always there.'
'Never mind Merrylegs, Jupe,' said Mr. Gradgrind, with a passing
frown. 'I don't ask about him. I understand you to have been in
the habit of reading to your father?'
'O, yes, sir, thousands of times. They were the happiest - O, of
all the happy times we had together, sir!'
It was only now when her sorrow broke out, that Louisa looked at
'And what,' asked Mr. Gradgrind, in a still lower voice, 'did you
read to your father, Jupe?'
'About the Fairies, sir, and the Dwarf, and the Hunchback, and the
Genies,' she sobbed out; 'and about - '
'Hush!' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'that is enough. Never breathe a word
of such destructive nonsense any more. Bounderby, this is a case
for rigid training, and I shall observe it with interest.'
'Well,' returned Mr. Bounderby, 'I have given you my opinion
already, and I shouldn't do as you do. But, very well, very well.
Since you are bent upon it, very well!'
So, Mr. Gradgrind and his daughter took Cecilia Jupe off with them
to Stone Lodge, and on the way Louisa never spoke one word, good or
bad. And Mr. Bounderby went about his daily pursuits. And Mrs.
Sparsit got behind her eyebrows and meditated in the gloom of that
retreat, all the evening.
CHAPTER VIII - NEVER WONDER
LET us strike the key-note again, before pursuing the tune.
When she was half a dozen years younger, Louisa had been overheard
to begin a conversation with her brother one day, by saying 'Tom, I
wonder' - upon which Mr. Gradgrind, who was the person overhearing,
stepped forth into the light and said, 'Louisa, never wonder!'
Herein lay the spring of the mechanical art and mystery of
educating the reason without stooping to the cultivation of the
sentiments and affections. Never wonder. By means of addition,
subtraction, multiplication, and division, settle everything
somehow, and never wonder. Bring to me, says M'Choakumchild,
yonder baby just able to walk, and I will engage that it shall
Now, besides very many babies just able to walk, there happened to
be in Coketown a considerable population of babies who had been
walking against time towards the infinite world, twenty, thirty,
forty, fifty years and more. These portentous infants being
alarming creatures to stalk about in any human society, the
eighteen denominations incessantly scratched one another's faces
and pulled one another's hair by way of agreeing on the steps to be
taken for their improvement - which they never did; a surprising
circumstance, when the happy adaptation of the means to the end is
considered. Still, although they differed in every other
particular, conceivable and inconceivable (especially
inconceivable), they were pretty well united on the point that
these unlucky infants were never to wonder. Body number one, said
they must take everything on trust. Body number two, said they
must take everything on political economy. Body number three,
wrote leaden little books for them, showing how the good grown-up
baby invariably got to the Savings-bank, and the bad grown-up baby
invariably got transported. Body number four, under dreary
pretences of being droll (when it was very melancholy indeed), made
the shallowest pretences of concealing pitfalls of knowledge, into
which it was the duty of these babies to be smuggled and inveigled.
But, all the bodies agreed that they were never to wonder.
There was a library in Coketown, to which general access was easy.
Mr. Gradgrind greatly tormented his mind about what the people read
in this library: a point whereon little rivers of tabular
statements periodically flowed into the howling ocean of tabular
statements, which no diver ever got to any depth in and came up
sane. It was a disheartening circumstance, but a melancholy fact,
that even these readers persisted in wondering. They wondered
about human nature, human passions, human hopes and fears, the
struggles, triumphs and defeats, the cares and joys and sorrows,