The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices
In the autumn month of September, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, wherein
these presents bear date, two idle apprentices, exhausted by the long, hot
summer, and the long, hot work it had brought with it, ran away from their
employer. They were bound to a highly meritorious lady (named Literature), of
fair credit and repute, though, it must be acknowledged, not quite so highly
esteemed in the City as she might be. This is the more remarkable, as there is
nothing against the respectable lady in that quarter, but quite the contrary; her
family having rendered eminent service to many famous citizens of London. It
may be sufficient to name Sir William Walworth, Lord Mayor under King Richard
II., at the time of Wat Tyler's insurrection, and Sir Richard Whittington: which
latter distinguished man and magistrate was doubtless indebted to the lady's
family for the gift of his celebrated cat. There is also strong reason to suppose
that they rang the Highgate bells for him with their own hands.
The misguided young men who thus shirked their duty to the mistress from whom
they had received many favours, were actuated by the low idea of making a
perfectly idle trip, in any direction. They had no intention of going anywhere in
particular; they wanted to see nothing, they wanted to know nothing, they wanted
to learn nothing, they wanted to do nothing. They wanted only to be idle. They
took to themselves (after HOGARTH), the names of Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr.
Francis Goodchild; but there was not a moral pin to choose between them, and
they were both idle in the last degree.
Between Francis and Thomas, however, there was this difference of character:
Goodchild was laboriously idle, and would take upon himself any amount of pains
and labour to assure himself that he was idle; in short, had no better idea of
idleness than that it was useless industry. Thomas Idle, on the other hand, was
an idler of the unmixed Irish or Neapolitan type; a passive idler, a born-and- bred
idler, a consistent idler, who practised what he would have preached if he had
not been too idle to preach; a one entire and perfect chrysolite of idleness.
The two idle apprentices found themselves, within a few hours of their escape,
walking down into the North of England, that is to say, Thomas was lying in a
meadow, looking at the railway trains as they passed over a distant viaduct -
which was HIS idea of walking down into the North; while Francis was walking a
mile due South against time - which was HIS idea of walking down into the North.
In the meantime the day waned, and the milestones remained unconquered.
'Tom,' said Goodchild, 'the sun is getting low. Up, and let us go forward!'
'Nay,' quoth Thomas Idle, 'I have not done with Annie Laurie yet.' And he
proceeded with that idle but popular ballad, to the effect that for the bonnie young