Hard Times HTML version

BOOK I: 7. Mrs. Sparsit
MR. BOUNDERBY being a bachelor, an elderly lady presided over his establishment, in
consideration of a certain annual stipend. Mrs. Sparsit was this lady's name; and she
was a prominent figure in attendance on Mr. Bounderby's car, as it rolled along in
triumph with the Bully of humility inside.
For, Mrs. Sparsit had not only seen different days, but was highly connected. She had a
great aunt living in these very times called Lady Scadgers. Mr. Sparsit, deceased, of
whom she was the relict, had been by the mother's side what Mrs. Sparsit still called 'a
Powler.' Strangers of limited information and dull apprehension were sometimes
observed not to know what a Powler was, and even to appear uncertain whether it
might be a business, or a political party, or a profession of faith. The better class of
minds, however, did not need to be informed that the Powlers were an ancient stock,
who could trace themselves so exceedingly far back that it was not surprising if they
sometimes lost themselves - which they had rather frequently done, as respected
horse-flesh, blind-hookey, Hebrew monetary transactions, and the Insolvent Debtors'
The late Mr. Sparsit, being by the mother's side a Powler, married this lady, being by the
father's side a Scadgers. Lady Scadgers (an immensely fat old woman, with an
inordinate appetite for butcher's meat, and a mysterious leg which had now refused to
get out of bed for fourteen years) contrived the marriage, at a period when Sparsit was
just of age, and chiefly noticeable for a slender body, weakly supported on two long slim
props, and surmounted by no head worth mentioning. He inherited a fair fortune from
his uncle, but owed it all before he came into it, and spent it twice over immediately
afterwards. Thus, when he died, at twenty-four (the scene of his decease, Calais, and
the cause, brandy), he did not leave his widow, from whom he had been separated
soon after the honeymoon, in affluent circumstances. That bereaved lady, fifteen years
older than he, fell presently at deadly feud with her only relative, Lady Scadgers; and,
partly to spite her ladyship, and partly to maintain herself, went out at a salary. And here
she was now, in her elderly days, with the Coriolanian style of nose and the dense black
eyebrows which had captivated Sparsit, making Mr. Bounderby's tea as he took his
If Bounderby had been a Conqueror, and Mrs. Sparsit a captive Princess whom he took
about as a feature in his state-processions, he could not have made a greater flourish
with her than he habitually did. Just as it belonged to his boastfulness to depreciate his
own extraction, so it belonged to it to exalt Mrs. Sparsit's. In the measure that he would
not allow his own youth to have been attended by a single favourable circumstance, he
brightened Mrs. Sparsit's juvenile career with every possible advantage, and showered
waggon-loads of early roses all over that lady's path. 'And yet, sir,' he would say, 'how
does it turn out after all? Why here she is at a hundred a year (I give her a hundred,