Chapter I: Treats Of The Place Where Oliver Twist Was Born And Of The Circumstances Attending His Birth
Chapter II: Treats Of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, And Board
Chapter III: Relates How Oliver Twist Was Very Near Getting A Place Which Would Not Have Been A Sinecure
Chapter IV: Oliver, Being Offered Another Place, Makes His First Entry Into Public Life
Chapter V: Oliver Mingles With New Associates. Going To A Funeral For The First Time, He Forms An Unfavourable Notion Of His Master's Business
Chapter VI: Oliver, Being Goaded By The Taunts Of Noah, Rouses Into Action, And Rather Astonishes Him
Chapter VII: Oliver Continues Refractory
Chapter VIII: Oliver Walks To London. He Encounters On The Road A Strange Sort Of Young Gentleman
Chapter IX: Containing Further Particulars Concerning The Pleasant Old Gentleman, And His Hopeful Pupils
Chapter X: Oliver Becomes Better Acquainted With The Characters Of His New Associates
Chapter XI: Treats Of Mr. Fang The Police Magistrate
Chapter XII: In Which Oliver Is Taken Better Care Of Than He Ever Was Before. And In Which The Narrative Reverts To The Merry Old Gentleman And His Youthful Friends.
Chapter XIII: Some New Acquaintances Are Introduced To The Intelligent Reader, Connected With Whom Various Pleasant Matters Are Related, Appertaining To This History
Chapter XIV: Comprising Further Particulars Of Oliver's Stay At Mr. Brownlow's, With The Remarkable Prediction Which One Mr. Grimwig Uttered Concerning Him, When He Went Out On An Errand
Chapter XV: Showing How Very Fond Of Oliver Twist, The Merry Old Jew And Miss Nancy Were
Chapter XVI: Relates What Became Of Oliver Twist, After He Had Been Claimed By Nancy
Chapter XVII: Oliver's Destiny Continuing Unpropitious, Brings A Great Man To London To Injure His Reputation
Chapter XVIII: How Oliver Passed His Time In The Improving Society Of His Reputable Friends
Chapter XIX: In Which A Notable Plan Is Discussed And Determined On
Chapter XX: Wherein Oliver Is Delivered Over To Mr. William Sikes
Chapter XXI: The Expedition
Chapter XXII: The Burglary
Chapter XXIII: Which Contains The Substance Of A Pleasant Conversation Between Mr. Bumble And A Lady
Chapter XXIV: Treats On A Very Poor Subject. But Is A Short One, And May Be Found Of Importance In This History
Chapter XXV: Wherein This History Reverts To Mr. Fagin And Company
Chapter XXVI: In Which A Mysterious Character Appears Upon The Scene
Chapter XXVII: Atones For The Unpoliteness Of A Former Chapter
Chapter XXVIII: Looks After Oliver, And Proceeds With His Adventures
Chapter XXIX: Has An Introductory Account Of The Inmates Of The House, To Which Oliver Resorted
Chapter XXX: Relates What Oliver's New Visitors Thought Of Him
Chapter XXXI: Involves A Critical Position
Chapter XXXII: Of The Happy Life Oliver Began To Lead With His Kind Friends
Chapter XXXIII: Wherein The Happiness Of Oliver And His Friends, Experiences A Sudden Check
Chapter XXXIV: Contains Some Introductory Particulars Relative To A Young Gentleman Who Now Arrives Upon The Scene
Chapter XXXV: Containing The Unsatisfactory Result Of Oliver's Adventure
Chapter XXXVI: Is A Very Short One, And May Appear Of No Great Importance In Its Place, But It Should Be Read Notwithstanding, As A Sequel To The Last, And A Key To One That Will Follow When Its Time Arrives
Chapter XXXVII: In Which The Reader May Perceive A Contrast, Not Uncommon In Matrimonial Cases
Chapter XXXVIII: Containing An Account Of What Passed Between Mr. And Mrs. Bumble, And Mr. Monks, At Their Nocturnal Interview
Chapter XXXIX: Introduces Some Respectable Characters With Whom The Reader Is Already Acquainted, And Shows How Monks And The Jew Laid Their Worthy Heads Together
Chapter XL: A Strange Interview, Which Is A Sequel To The Last Chamber
Chapter XLI: Containing Fresh Discoveries, And Showing That Surprises, Like Misfortunes, Seldom Come Alone
Chapter XLII: An Old Acquaintance Of Oliver's, Exhibiting Decided Marks Of Genius, Becomes A Public Character In The Metropolis
Chapter XLIII: Wherein Is Shown How The Artful Dodger Got Into Trouble
Chapter XLIV: The Time Arrives For Nancy To Redeem Her Pledge To Rose Maylie. She Fails.
Chapter XLV: Noah Claypole Is Employed By Fagin On A Secret Mission
Chapter XLVI: The Appointment Kept
Chapter XLVII: Fatal Consequences
Chapter XLVIII: The Flight Of Sikes
Chapter XLIX: Monks And Mr. Brownlow At Length Meet. Their Conversation, And The Intelligence That Interrupts It
Chapter L: The Pursuit And Escape
Chapter LI: Affording An Explanation Of More Mysteries Than One, And Comprehending A Proposal Of Marriage With No Word Of Settlement Or Pin-Money
Chapter LII: Fagin's Last Night Alive
Chapter LIII: And Last
Once upon a time it was held to be a coarse and shocking circumstance, that some of the characters in these pages are chosen from the most criminal and degraded of London's population.
As I saw no reason, when I wrote this book, why the dregs of life (so long as their speech did not offend the ear) should not serve the purpose of a moral, as well as its froth and cream, I made bold to believe that this same Once upon a time would not prove to be All-time or even a long time. I saw many strong reasons for pursuing my course. I had read of thieves by scores; seductive fellows (amiable for the most part), faultless in dress, plump in pocket, choice in horse-flesh, bold in bearing, fortunate in gallantry, great at a song, a bottle, pack of cards or dice-box, and fit companions for the bravest. But I had never met (except in HOGARTH) with the miserable reality. It appeared to me that to draw a knot of such associates in crime as really did exist; to paint them in all their deformity, in all their wretchedness, in all the squalid misery of their lives; to show them as they really were, for ever skulking uneasily through the dirtiest paths of life, with the great black ghastly gallows closing up their prospect, turn them where they might; it appeared to me that to do this, would be to attempt a something which was needed, and which would be a service to society. And I did it as I best could.
In every book I know, where such characters are treated of, allurements and fascinations are thrown around them. Even in the Beggar's Opera, the thieves are represented as leading a life which is rather to be envied than otherwise: while MACHEATH, with all the captivations of command, and the devotion of the most beautiful girl and only pure character in the piece, is as much to be admired and emulated by weak beholders, as any fine gentleman in a red coat who has purchased, as VOLTAIRE says, the right to command a couple of thousand men, or so, and to affront death at their head. Johnson's question, whether any man will turn thief because Macheath is reprieved, seems to me beside the matter. I ask myself, whether any man will be deterred from turning thief, because of Macheath's being sentenced to death, and because of the existence of Peachum and Lockit; and remembering the captain's roaring life, great appearance, vast success, and strong advantages, I feel assured that nobody having a bent that way will take any warning from him, or will see anything in the play but a flowery and pleasant road, conducting an honourable ambition - in course of time - to Tyburn Tree.
In fact, Gay's witty satire on society had a general object. which made him quite regardless of example in this respect, and gave him other and wider aims. The same may be said of Sir Edward Bulwer's admirable and powerful novel of Paul Clifford, which cannot be fairly considered as having, or as being intended to have, any bearing on this part of the subject, one way or other.
What manner of life is that which is described in these pages, as the everyday existence of a Thief? What charms has it for the young and ill-disposed, what allurements for the most jolter-headed of juveniles? Here are no canterings on moonlit heaths, no merry-makings in the snuggest of all possible caverns, none of the attractions of dress, no embroidery, no lace, no jack-boots, no crimson coats and ruffles, none of the dash and freedom with which 'the road' has been time out of mind invested. The cold wet shelterless midnight streets of London ' the foul and frowsy dens, where vice is closely packed and lacks the room to turn; the haunts of hunger and disease; the shabby rags that scarcely hold together; where are the attractions of these things?
There are people, however, of so refined and delicate a nature, that they cannot bear the contemplation of such horrors. Not that they turn instinctively from crime; but that criminal characters, to suit them, must be, like their meat in delicate disguise. A Massaroni in green velvet is an enchanting creature; but a Sikes in fustian is insupportable. A Mrs. Massaroni, being a lady in short petticoats and a fancy dress, is a thing to imitate in tableaux and have in lithograph on pretty songs; but a Nancy, being a creature in a cotton gown and cheap shawl, is not to be thought of. It is wonderful how Virtue turns from dirty stockings; and how Vice, married to ribbons and a little gay attire, changes her name, as wedded ladies do, and becomes Romance.
But as the stern truth, even in the dress of this (in novels) much exalted race, was a part of the purpose of this book, I did not, for these readers, abate one hole in the Dodger's coat, or one scrap of curl-paper in Nancy's dishevelled hair. I had no faith in the delicacy which could not bear to look upon them. I had no desire to make proselytes among such people. I had no respect for their opinion, good or bad; did not covet their approval; and did not write for their amusement.
It has been observed of Nancy that her devotion to the brutal house-breaker does not seem natural. And it has been objected to Sikes in the same breath - with some inconsistency, as I venture to think - that he is surely overdrawn, because in him there would appear to be none of those redeeming traits which are objected to as unnatural in his mistress. Of the latter objection I will merely remark, that I fear there are in the world some insensible and callous natures, that do become utterly and incurably bad. Whether this be so or not, of one thing I am certain: that there are such men as Sikes, who, being closely followed through the same space of time and through the same current of circumstances, would not give, by the action of a moment, the faintest indication of a better nature. Whether every gentler human feeling is dead within such bosoms, or the proper chord to strike has rusted and is hard to find, I do not pretend to know; but that the fact is as I state it, I am sure.
It is useless to discuss whether the conduct and character of the girl seems natural or unnatural, probable or improbable, right or wrong. IT IS TRUE. Every man who has watched these melancholy shades of life, must know it to be so. From the first introduction of that poor wretch, to her laying her blood-stained head upon the robber's breast, there is not a word exaggerated or over-wrought. It is emphatically God's truth, for it is the truth He leaves in such depraved and miserable breasts; the hope yet lingering there; the last fair drop of water at the bottom of the weed-choked well. It involves the best and worst shades of our nature; much of its ugliest hues, and something of its most beautiful; it is a contradiction, an anomaly, an apparent impossibility; but it is a truth. I am glad to have had it doubted, for in that circumstance I should find a sufficient assurance (if I wanted any) that it needed to be told.
In the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty, it was publicly declared in London by an amazing Alderman, that Jacob's Island did not exist, and never had existed. Jacob's Island continues to exist (like an ill-bred place as it is) in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, though improved and much changed.
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.
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