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Home -> Charles Dickens -> Hard Times -> Chapter 2

Hard Times - Chapter 2

1. Book First - Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Book Second - Chapter 1

18. Chapter 2

19. Chapter 3

20. Chapter 4

21. Chapter 5

22. Chapter 6

23. Chapter 7

24. Chapter 8

25. Chapter 9

26. Chapter 10

27. Chapter 11

28. Chapter 12

29. Book Third - Chapter 1

30. Chapter 2

31. Chapter 3

32. Chapter 4

33. Chapter 5

34. Chapter 6

35. Chapter 7

36. Chapter 8

37. Chapter 9


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,
and curtseying.

'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
his hand.

'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
dare say?'

'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
horse is.'

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
Sissy Jupe.

'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
world afforded.

'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
for you.'

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
much more!

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!

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