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.2
'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 INNOCENTS4
THOMAS GRADGRIND,5 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.6
'Girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with
his square forefinger, 'I don't know that girl. Who is that girl?'7
'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.8 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;9 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,'12 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.13 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!14
CHAPTER III - A LOOPHOLE15
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.
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