Die Phänomenologie des Geistes

Die Phänomenologie des Geistes ist das unmögliche Buch.

Die Wenigsten werden bei ihrer Lektüre überhaupt ans Ende kommen. Die Allerwenigsten werden das Gefühl haben, es zu verstehen. Dennoch, es ist das Buch der Bücher. Eine Bibel der Philosophie. Hier wurde das Unmögliche versucht und das Ausdrucksmittel Sprache bis zum Äußersten belastet. Das ist der Grund, warum dieses Buch seit 1807 immer wieder neu aufgelegt wird – und immer wieder von Neuem nicht verstanden und nicht begriffen wurde.

Aber die Zeit ist ein guter Richter über die Frage, was in der Geisteswelt Bestand hat, und was nicht. Unstreitbar ist, dass die Phänomenologie seit mehr als 200 Jahren Bestand hat, dass sie gewirkt hat, dass sie in die Geistesgeschichte entscheidende Auswirkungen hatte und wohl auch weiter haben wird.

So schwer das Buch also zu lesen ist, so unmöglich ist es doch, ihm aus dem Weg zu gehen. Das Argument, hier sei nur unverständliches Kauderwelsch zwischen zwei Buchdeckel gepresst worden, hatte schon zu Lebzeiten Hegels keine Chance – und hat es auch heute nicht.

Man kann nicht sagen, dass Hegel an der Sprache gescheitert ist. Dies obwohl er mit der deutschen Sprache zweifellos seine Probleme hatte. Er war ein schlechter Redner, und auch am Ende seines Theologiestudiums ein schlechter Prediger. Er konnte sich des Ausdrucksmittels Sprache nicht auf elegante Weise bedienen. Er war dieser Herausforderung nicht gewachsen. – Vielleicht ist es zutreffender, das Gegenteil zu behaupten: Die Sprache war seinem gedanklichen Tiefgang nie gewachsen.

Ja, es ist gerade die Sprache, die in diesem Buch auf schmerzhafte Weise an ihre Grenzen gerät: Jeder Satz wird bis aufs Äußerste mit Bedeutung befrachtet. Im “Sprachgerüst” biegen sich die Balken. Das Gebälk der Sätze ächzt und quietscht unter der Last des Gemeinten.

Mit Kommata wird hemmungslos geschachtelt, eingeschoben, unterbrochen und wieder aufgenommen. So lange, bis das Ganze kaum mehr zusammengehalten werden kann, und bis der Sinn der Sätze sich dem Verständnis des Lesers so weit entzogen hat, dass nur noch die Erkenntnis bleibt: Hier ist Textarbeit nötig, sonst geht gar nichts mehr!

Wir sind nicht dazu auserkoren, in einem kurzen Vorwort zu paraphrasieren oder auf den Punkt zu bringen, was in diesem Buch geschrieben steht. Das haben schon Bessere versucht, und viele haben dabei Beachtliches geleistet.

Wikipedia gilt heute als Paradebeispiel für die Verramschung des Wissens. Die akademische Welt schaut oft noch immer mit Verachtung darauf herab. Es gibt dort aber auch Juwelen, und Juwel der Wikipedia-Artikel über die Phänomenologie ist so einer. Wer eine Ahnung davon bekommen möchte, worum es in diesem Buch geht, der sei zuerst dort hin verwiesen.

Darüber hinaus gibt es eine riesige Bibliothek seriöser Sekundärliteratur, über die man sich seinen Weg zurück in dieses Buch bahnen kann, wenn man das so möchte. Aber das wird ein Weg durch eine trockene, um nicht zu sagen ausgedorrte Landschaft sein. Da blüht kein Blümchen am Wegesrand. Und am Ende des Weges warten doch wieder Hegels Schachtelsätze auf einen.

Fruchtbar wird das Ganze erst dann, wenn es gelingt, den Staub von den Büchern zu blasen und diesen Philosophen mit dem wahren Leben zu konfrontieren. Und mit der Gegenwart. Dann blüht er auf!

Genau genommen ist auch das Ringen mit diesem Buch das Thema desselben, nämlich ein Werden des Geistes. Gründlich, vollständig und “wissenschaftlich”. “Wissenschaftlich” ist hierbei gemeint in dem ehrfurchtheischenden und respektvollen Sinne, in dem dieser Begriff vor zweihundert Jahren geformt worden ist, als die Wissenschaftlichkeit als Grundlage eines neuen Wertesystems entwickelt wurde, das bis heute existiert.

Das Buch ist auf der Suche nach der absoluten Wahrheit. Was Wahrheit ist, dazu soll Hegel dann doch noch kurz zitiert werden:

Die Wahrheit ist die Bewegung ihrer an ihr selbst, […]

Eines von vielen Zitaten aus dem Buch, die das Potential haben, einem den Atem zu rauben. Es klingt die Dialektik an, für die Hegel so berühmt ist. Aber die Dialektik ist weitaus mehr als ein Mühlespiel von These und Antithese, wie dasjenige, was den Weg in die Allgemeinbildung geschafft hat. Für Hegel ist Dialektik etwas sonderbar Fließendes. Sie ist ein Vorgang, eine Bewegung, eine Entwicklung und kein Denkmechanismus.

Wer jetzt neugierig geworden ist und sich nicht hat abschrecken lassen, dem rufe ich zu:

TOLLE LEGE

Ich für meinen Teil habe diesem Buch bisher nur eine Ahnung von dem abringen können, was vermutlich in ihm steckt. Die Ahnung aber genügte, um eine jahrzehntelange Faszination bei mir auszulösen, die bis heute nicht verglüht ist. Es ist wert, sich immer wieder von Neuem in Hegels sperriges Wortgestrüpp zu wagen.

Für Hegel gilt das, was wohl für alle große Denker gilt: Er hat etwas geschaffen, dessen Bedeutung er selbst noch nicht absehen konnte. Das Buch hat sich zwei Jahrhunderte lang über die ursprünglich Intention des Verfassers hinaus entwickelt. Es ist im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes fruchtbar geworden.

Damit lässt Hegel immer wieder neue Deutungen zu, und wir sollten uns auf die Suche nach der Bedeutung machen, die für unsere Zeit am Besten passt.

Little Dorrit 001


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PREFACE TO THE 1857 EDITION

I have been occupied with this story, during many working hours of two years. I must have been very ill employed, if I could not leave its merits and demerits as a whole, to express themselves on its being read as a whole. But, as it is not unreasonable to suppose that I may have held its threads with a more continuous attention than anyone else can have given them during its desultory publication, it is not unreasonable to ask that the weaving may be looked at in its completed state, and with the pattern finished.

If I might offer any apology for so exaggerated a fiction as the Barnacles and the Circumlocution Office, I would seek it in the common experience of an Englishman, without presuming to mention the unimportant fact of my having done that violence to good manners, in the days of a Russian war, and of a Court of Inquiry at Chelsea. If I might make so bold as to defend that extravagant conception, Mr Merdle, I would hint that it originated after the Railroad-share epoch, in the times of a certain Irish bank, and of one or two other equally laudable enterprises. If I were to plead anything in mitigation of the preposterous fancy that a bad design will sometimes claim to be a good and an expressly religious design, it would be the curious coincidence that it has been brought to its climax in these pages, in the days of the public examination of late Directors of a Royal British Bank. But, I submit myself to suffer judgment to go by default on all these counts, if need be, and to accept the assurance (on good authority) that nothing like them was ever known in this land.

Some of my readers may have an interest in being informed whether or no any portions of the Marshalsea Prison are yet standing. I did not know, myself, until the sixth of this present month, when I went to look. I found the outer front courtyard, often mentioned here, metamorphosed into a butter shop; and I then almost gave up every brick of the jail for lost. Wandering, however, down a certain adjacent ‘Angel Court, leading to Bermondsey’, I came to ‘Marshalsea Place:’ the houses in which I recognised, not only as the great block of the former prison, but as preserving the rooms that arose in my mind’s-eye when I became Little Dorrit’s biographer. The smallest boy I ever conversed with, carrying the largest baby I ever saw, offered a supernaturally intelligent explanation of the locality in its old uses, and was very nearly correct. How this young Newton (for such I judge him to be) came by his information, I don’t know; he was a quarter of a century too young to know anything about it of himself. I pointed to the window of the room where Little Dorrit was born, and where her father lived so long, and asked him what was the name of the lodger who tenanted that apartment at present? He said, ‘Tom Pythick.’ I asked him who was Tom Pythick? and he said, ‘Joe Pythick’s uncle.’

A little further on, I found the older and smaller wall, which used to enclose the pent-up inner prison where nobody was put, except for ceremony. But, whosoever goes into Marshalsea Place, turning out of Angel Court, leading to Bermondsey, will find his feet on the very paving-stones of the extinct Marshalsea jail; will see its narrow yard to the right and to the left, very little altered if at all, except that the walls were lowered when the place got free; will look upon rooms in which the debtors lived; and will stand among the crowding ghosts of many miserable years.

In the Preface to Bleak House I remarked that I had never had so many readers. In the Preface to its next successor, Little Dorrit, I have still to repeat the same words. Deeply sensible of the affection and confidence that have grown up between us, I add to this Preface, as I added to that, May we meet again!

London May 1857

BOOK THE FIRST: POVERTY

CHAPTER 1. Sun and Shadow

Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.

A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there. Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

There was no wind to make a ripple on the foul water within the harbour, or on the beautiful sea without. The line of demarcation between the two colours, black and blue, showed the point which the pure sea would not pass; but it lay as quiet as the abominable pool, with which it never mixed. Boats without awnings were too hot to touch; ships blistered at their moorings; the stones of the quays had not cooled, night or day, for months. Hindoos, Russians, Chinese, Spaniards, Portuguese, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Genoese, Neapolitans, Venetians, Greeks, Turks, descendants from all the builders of Babel, come to trade at Marseilles, sought the shade alike–taking refuge in any hiding-place from a sea too intensely blue to be looked at, and a sky of purple, set with one great flaming jewel of fire.

The universal stare made the eyes ache. Towards the distant line of Italian coast, indeed, it was a little relieved by light clouds of mist, slowly rising from the evaporation of the sea, but it softened nowhere else. Far away the staring roads, deep in dust, stared from the hill-side, stared from the hollow, stared from the interminable plain. Far away the dusty vines overhanging wayside cottages, and the monotonous wayside avenues of parched trees without shade, drooped beneath the stare of earth and sky. So did the horses with drowsy bells, in long files of carts, creeping slowly towards the interior; so did their recumbent drivers, when they were awake, which rarely happened; so did the exhausted labourers in the fields. Everything that lived or grew, was oppressed by the glare; except the lizard, passing swiftly over rough stone walls, and the cicala, chirping his dry hot chirp, like a rattle. The very dust was scorched brown, and something quivered in the atmosphere as if the air itself were panting.

Blinds, shutters, curtains, awnings, were all closed and drawn to keep out the stare. Grant it but a chink or keyhole, and it shot in like a white-hot arrow. The churches were the freest from it. To come out of the twilight of pillars and arches–dreamily dotted with winking lamps, dreamily peopled with ugly old shadows piously dozing, spitting, and begging–was to plunge into a fiery river, and swim for life to the nearest strip of shade. So, with people lounging and lying wherever shade was, with but little hum of tongues or barking of dogs, with occasional jangling of discordant church bells and rattling of vicious drums, Marseilles, a fact to be strongly smelt and tasted, lay broiling in the sun one day.

In Marseilles that day there was a villainous prison. In one of its chambers, so repulsive a place that even the obtrusive stare blinked at it, and left it to such refuse of reflected light as it could find for itself, were two men. Besides the two men, a notched and disfigured bench, immovable from the wall, with a draught-board rudely hacked upon it with a knife, a set of draughts, made of old buttons and soup bones, a set of dominoes, two mats, and two or three wine bottles. That was all the chamber held, exclusive of rats and other unseen vermin, in addition to the seen vermin, the two men.

It received such light as it got through a grating of iron bars fashioned like a pretty large window, by means of which it could be always inspected from the gloomy staircase on which the grating gave. There was a broad strong ledge of stone to this grating where the bottom of it was let into the masonry, three or four feet above the ground. Upon it, one of the two men lolled, half sitting and half lying, with his knees drawn up, and his feet and shoulders planted against the opposite sides of the aperture. The bars were wide enough apart to admit of his thrusting his arm through to the elbow; and so he held on negligently, for his greater ease.

A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men, were all deteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and haggard, so the iron was rusty, the stone was slimy, the wood was rotten, the air was faint, the light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a tomb, the prison had no knowledge of the brightness outside, and would have kept its polluted atmosphere intact in one of the spice islands of the Indian ocean.

The man who lay on the ledge of the grating was even chilled. He jerked his great cloak more heavily upon him by an impatient movement of one shoulder, and growled, ‘To the devil with this Brigand of a Sun that never shines in here!’

He was waiting to be fed, looking sideways through the bars that he might see the further down the stairs, with much of the expression of a wild beast in similar expectation. But his eyes, too close together, were not so nobly set in his head as those of the king of beasts are in his, and they were sharp rather than bright–pointed weapons with little surface to betray them. They had no depth or change; they glittered, and they opened and shut. So far, and waiving their use to himself, a clockmaker could have made a better pair. He had a hook nose, handsome after its kind, but too high between the eyes by probably just as much as his eyes were too near to one another. For the rest, he was large and tall in frame, had thin lips, where his thick moustache showed them at all, and a quantity of dry hair, of no definable colour, in its shaggy state, but shot with red. The hand with which he held the grating (seamed all over the back with ugly scratches newly healed), was unusually small and plump; would have been unusually white but for the prison grime.

The other man was lying on the stone floor, covered with a coarse brown coat.

‘Get up, pig!’ growled the first. ‘Don’t sleep when I am hungry.’

‘It’s all one, master,’ said the pig, in a submissive manner, and not without cheerfulness; ‘I can wake when I will, I can sleep when I will. It’s all the same.’

As he said it, he rose, shook himself, scratched himself, tied his brown coat loosely round his neck by the sleeves (he had previously used it as a coverlet), and sat down upon the pavement yawning, with his back against the wall opposite to the grating.

‘Say what the hour is,’ grumbled the first man.

‘The mid-day bells will ring–in forty minutes.’ When he made the little pause, he had looked round the prison-room, as if for certain information.

‘You are a clock. How is it that you always know?’

‘How can I say? I always know what the hour is, and where I am. I was brought in here at night, and out of a boat, but I know where I am. See here! Marseilles harbour;’ on his knees on the pavement, mapping it all out with a swarthy forefinger; ‘Toulon (where the galleys are), Spain over there, Algiers over _there_. Creeping away to the left here, Nice. Round by the Cornice to Genoa. Genoa Mole and Harbour. Quarantine Ground. City there; terrace gardens blushing with the bella donna. Here, Porto Fino. Stand out for Leghorn. Out again for Civita Vecchia, so away to–hey! there’s no room for Naples;’ he had got to the wall by this time; ‘but it’s all one; it’s in there!’

He remained on his knees, looking up at his fellow-prisoner with a lively look for a prison. A sunburnt, quick, lithe, little man, though rather thickset. Earrings in his brown ears, white teeth lighting up his grotesque brown face, intensely black hair clustering about his brown throat, a ragged red shirt open at his brown breast. Loose, seaman-like trousers, decent shoes, a long red cap, a red sash round his waist, and a knife in it.

‘Judge if I come back from Naples as I went! See here, my master! Civita Vecchia, Leghorn, Porto Fino, Genoa, Cornice, Off Nice (which is in there), Marseilles, you and me. The apartment of the jailer and his keys is where I put this thumb; and here at my wrist they keep the national razor in its case–the guillotine locked up.’

The other man spat suddenly on the pavement, and gurgled in his throat.


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Oliver Twist 001


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CHAPTER I

TREATS OF THE PLACE WHERE OLIVER TWIST WAS BORN AND OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING HIS BIRTH

Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, by the parish surgeon, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than probable that these memoirs would never have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a couple of pages, they would have possessed the inestimable merit of being the most concise and faithful specimen of biography, extant in the literature of any age or country.

Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befall a human being, I do mean to say that in this particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist that could by possibility have occurred. The fact is, that there was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration,–a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence; and for some time he lay gasping on a little flock mattress, rather unequally poised between this world and the next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter. Now, if, during this brief period, Oliver had been surrounded by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, experienced nurses, and doctors of profound wisdom, he would most inevitably and indubitably have been killed in no time. There being nobody by, however, but a pauper old woman, who was rendered rather misty by an unwonted allowance of beer; and a parish surgeon who did such matters by contract; Oliver and Nature fought out the point between them. The result was, that, after a few struggles, Oliver breathed, sneezed, and proceeded to advertise to the inmates of the workhouse the fact of a new burden having been imposed upon the parish, by setting up as loud a cry as could reasonably have been expected from a male infant who had not been possessed of that very useful appendage, a voice, for a much longer space of time than three minutes and a quarter.

As Oliver gave this first proof of the free and proper action of his lungs, the patchwork coverlet which was carelessly flung over the iron bedstead, rustled; the pale face of a young woman was raised feebly from the pillow; and a faint voice imperfectly articulated the words, ‚Let me see the child, and die.‘

The surgeon had been sitting with his face turned towards the fire: giving the palms of his hands a warm and a rub alternately. As the young woman spoke, he rose, and advancing to the bed’s head, said, with more kindness than might have been expected of him:

‚Oh, you must not talk about dying yet.‘

‚Lor bless her dear heart, no!‘ interposed the nurse, hastily depositing in her pocket a green glass bottle, the contents of which she had been tasting in a corner with evident satisfaction.

‚Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have, sir, and had thirteen children of her own, and all on ‚em dead except two, and them in the wurkus with me, she’ll know better than to take on in that way, bless her dear heart! Think what it is to be a mother, there’s a dear young lamb do.‘

Apparently this consolatory perspective of a mother’s prospects failed in producing its due effect. The patient shook her head, and stretched out her hand towards the child.

The surgeon deposited it in her arms. She imprinted her cold white lips passionately on its forehead; passed her hands over her face; gazed wildly round; shuddered; fell back–and died. They chafed her breast, hands, and temples; but the blood had stopped forever. They talked of hope and comfort. They had been strangers too long.

‚It’s all over, Mrs. Thingummy!‘ said the surgeon at last.

‚Ah, poor dear, so it is!‘ said the nurse, picking up the cork of the green bottle, which had fallen out on the pillow, as she stooped to take up the child. ‚Poor dear!‘

‚You needn’t mind sending up to me, if the child cries, nurse,‘ said the surgeon, putting on his gloves with great deliberation. ‚It’s very likely it _will_ be troublesome. Give it a little gruel if it is.‘ He put on his hat, and, pausing by the bed-side on his way to the door, added, ‚She was a good-looking girl, too; where did she come from?‘

‚She was brought here last night,‘ replied the old woman, ‚by the overseer’s order. She was found lying in the street. She had walked some distance, for her shoes were worn to pieces; but where she came from, or where she was going to, nobody knows.‘

The surgeon leaned over the body, and raised the left hand. ‚The old story,‘ he said, shaking his head: ’no wedding-ring, I see. Ah! Good-night!‘

The medical gentleman walked away to dinner; and the nurse, having once more applied herself to the green bottle, sat down on a low chair before the fire, and proceeded to dress the infant.

What an excellent example of the power of dress, young Oliver Twist was! Wrapped in the blanket which had hitherto formed his only covering, he might have been the child of a nobleman or a beggar; it would have been hard for the haughtiest stranger to have assigned him his proper station in society. But now that he was enveloped in the old calico robes which had grown yellow in the same service, he was badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once–a parish child–the orphan of a workhouse–the humble, half-starved drudge–to be cuffed and buffeted through the world–despised by all, and pitied by none.

Oliver cried lustily. If he could have known that he was an orphan, left to the tender mercies of church-wardens and overseers, perhaps he would have cried the louder.

CHAPTER II

TREATS OF OLIVER TWIST’S GROWTH, EDUCATION, AND BOARD

For the next eight or ten months, Oliver was the victim of a systematic course of treachery and deception. He was brought up by hand. The hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities. The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether there was no female then domiciled in ‚the house‘ who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist, the consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities replied with humility, that there was not. Upon this, the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be ‚farmed,‘ or, in other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.

Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he had got his own horse down to a straw a day, and would unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rampacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air. Unfortunately for, the experimental philosophy of the female to whose protecting care Oliver Twist was delivered over, a similar result usually attended the operation of _her_ system; for at the very moment when the child had contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food, it did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by accident; in any one of which cases, the miserable little being was usually summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in this.

Occasionally, when there was some more than usually interesting inquest upon a parish child who had been overlooked in turning up a bedstead, or inadvertently scalded to death when there happened to be a washing–though the latter accident was very scarce, anything approaching to a washing being of rare occurrence in the farm–the jury would take it into their heads to ask troublesome questions, or the parishioners would rebelliously affix their signatures to a remonstrance. But these impertinences were speedily checked by the evidence of the surgeon, and the testimony of the beadle; the former of whom had always opened the body and found nothing inside (which was very probable indeed), and the latter of whom invariably swore whatever the parish wanted; which was very self-devotional. Besides, the board made periodical pilgrimages to the farm, and always sent the beadle the day before, to say they were going. The children were neat and clean to behold, when _they_ went; and what more would the people have!

It cannot be expected that this system of farming would produce any very extraordinary or luxuriant crop. Oliver Twist’s ninth birthday found him a pale thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature, and decidedly small in circumference. But nature or inheritance had implanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver’s breast. It had had plenty of room to expand, thanks to the spare diet of the establishment; and perhaps to this circumstance may be attributed his having any ninth birth-day at all. Be this as it may, however, it was his ninth birthday; and he was keeping it in the coal-cellar with a select party of two other young gentleman, who, after participating with him in a sound thrashing, had been locked up for atrociously presuming to be hungry, when Mrs. Mann, the good lady of the house, was unexpectedly startled by the apparition of Mr. Bumble, the beadle, striving to undo the wicket of the garden-gate.

‚Goodness gracious! Is that you, Mr. Bumble, sir?‘ said Mrs. Mann, thrusting her head out of the window in well-affected ecstasies of joy. ‚(Susan, take Oliver and them two brats upstairs, and wash ‚em directly.)–My heart alive! Mr. Bumble, how glad I am to see you, sure-ly!‘

Now, Mr. Bumble was a fat man, and a choleric; so, instead of responding to this open-hearted salutation in a kindred spirit, he gave the little wicket a tremendous shake, and then bestowed upon it a kick which could have emanated from no leg but a beadle’s.

‚Lor, only think,‘ said Mrs. Mann, running out,–for the three boys had been removed by this time,–‚only think of that! That I should have forgotten that the gate was bolted on the inside, on account of them dear children! Walk in sir; walk in, pray, Mr. Bumble, do, sir.‘

Although this invitation was accompanied with a curtsey that might have softened the heart of a church-warden, it by no means mollified the beadle.


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