Hard Times HTML version

BOOK II: 4. Men And Brothers
'OH, my friends, the down-trodden operatives of Coketown! Oh, my friends and fellow-
countrymen, the slaves of an iron-handed and a grinding despotism! Oh, my friends and
fellow-sufferers, and fellow-workmen, and fellow-men! I tell you that the hour is come,
when we must rally round one another as One united power, and crumble into dust the
oppressors that too long have battened upon the plunder of our families, upon the sweat
of our brows, upon the labour of our hands, upon the strength of our sinews, upon the
God- created glorious rights of Humanity, and upon the holy and eternal privileges of
'Good!' 'Hear, hear, hear!' 'Hurrah!' and other cries, arose in many voices from various
parts of the densely crowded and suffocatingly close Hall, in which the orator, perched
on a stage, delivered himself of this and what other froth and fume he had in him. He
had declaimed himself into a violent heat, and was as hoarse as he was hot. By dint of
roaring at the top of his voice under a flaring gaslight, clenching his fists, knitting his
brows, setting his teeth, and pounding with his arms, he had taken so much out of
himself by this time, that he was brought to a stop, and called for a glass of water.
As he stood there, trying to quench his fiery face with his drink of water, the comparison
between the orator and the crowd of attentive faces turned towards him, was extremely
to his disadvantage. Judging him by Nature's evidence, he was above the mass in very
little but the stage on which he stood. In many great respects he was essentially below
them. He was not so honest, he was not so manly, he was not so good-humoured; he
substituted cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe solid sense. An ill-
made, high-shouldered man, with lowering brows, and his features crushed into an
habitually sour expression, he contrasted most unfavourably, even in his mongrel dress,
with the great body of his hearers in their plain working clothes. Strange as it always is
to consider any assembly in the act of submissively resigning itself to the dreariness of
some complacent person, lord or commoner, whom three-fourths of it could, by no
human means, raise out of the slough of inanity to their own intellectual level, it was
particularly strange, and it was even particularly affecting, to see this crowd of earnest
faces, whose honesty in the main no competent observer free from bias could doubt, so
agitated by such a leader.
Good! Hear, hear! Hurrah! The eagerness both of attention and intention, exhibited in all
the countenances, made them a most impressive sight. There was no carelessness, no
languor, no idle curiosity; none of the many shades of indifference to be seen in all other
assemblies, visible for one moment there. That every man felt his condition to be,
somehow or other, worse than it might be; that every man considered it incumbent on
him to join the rest, towards the making of it better; that every man felt his only hope to
be in his allying himself to the comrades by whom he was surrounded; and that in this
belief, right or wrong (unhappily wrong then), the whole of that crowd were gravely,
deeply, faithfully in earnest; must have been as plain to any one who chose to see what