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BOOK II: 7. Gunpowder
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE, 'going in' for his adopted party, soon began to score. With
the aid of a little more coaching for the political sages, a little more genteel listlessness
for the general society, and a tolerable management of the assumed honesty in
dishonesty, most effective and most patronized of the polite deadly sins, he speedily
came to be considered of much promise. The not being troubled with earnestness was
a grand point in his favour, enabling him to take to the hard Fact fellows with as good a
grace as if he had been born one of the tribe, and to throw all other tribes overboard, as
conscious hypocrites.
'Whom none of us believe, my dear Mrs. Bounderby, and who do not believe
themselves. The only difference between us and the professors of virtue or
benevolence, or philanthropy - never mind the name - is, that we know it is all
meaningless, and say so; while they know it equally and will never say so.'
Why should she be shocked or warned by this reiteration? It was not so unlike her
father's principles, and her early training, that it need startle her. Where was the great
difference between the two schools, when each chained her down to material realities,
and inspired her with no faith in anything else? What was there in her soul for James
Harthouse to destroy, which Thomas Gradgrind had nurtured there in its state of
It was even the worse for her at this pass, that in her mind - implanted there before her
eminently practical father began to form it - a struggling disposition to believe in a wider
and nobler humanity than she had ever heard of, constantly strove with doubts and
resentments. With doubts, because the aspiration had been so laid waste in her youth.
With resentments, because of the wrong that had been done her, if it were indeed a
whisper of the truth. Upon a nature long accustomed to self-suppression, thus torn and
divided, the Harthouse philosophy came as a relief and justification. Everything being
hollow and worthless, she had missed nothing and sacrificed nothing. What did it
matter, she had said to her father, when he proposed her husband. What did it matter,
she said still. With a scornful self-reliance, she asked herself, What did anything matter -
and went on.
Towards what? Step by step, onward and downward, towards some end, yet so
gradually, that she believed herself to remain motionless. As to Mr. Harthouse, whither
he tended, he neither considered nor cared. He had no particular design or plan before
him: no energetic wickedness ruffled his lassitude. He was as much amused and
interested, at present, as it became so fine a gentleman to be; perhaps even more than
it would have been consistent with his reputation to confess. Soon after his arrival he
languidly wrote to his brother, the honourable and jocular member, that the Bounderbys
were 'great fun;' and further, that the female Bounderby, instead of being the Gorgon he
had expected, was young, and remarkably pretty. After that, he wrote no more about