Oliver Twist HTML version

Chapter 2
For the next eight or ten months, Oliver was the victim of a systematic course of
treachery and deception. He was brought up by hand. The hungry and destitute situation
of the infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish
authorities. The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities,
whether there was no female then domiciled in 'the house' who was in a situation to
impart to Oliver Twist, the consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The
workhouse authorities replied with humility, that there was not. Upon this, the parish
authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be 'farmed,' or, in
other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off,
where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the
floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the
parental superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the
consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence-halfpenny's
worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-
halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly
female was a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children;
and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated
the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial
generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby
finding in the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental
Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory
about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he
had got his own horse down to a straw a day, and would unquestionably have rendered
him a very spirited and rapacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four-and-
twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air. Unfortunately
for, the experimenal philosophy of the female to whose protecting care Oliver Twist was
delivered over, a similar result usually attended the operation of HER system; for at the
very moment when the child had contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of
the weakest possible food, it did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten,
either that it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-
smothered by accident; in any one of which cases, the miserable little being was usually
summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in
Occasionally, when there was some more than usually interesting inquest upon a parish
child who had been overlooked in turning up a bedstead, or inadvertently scalded to death
when there happened to be a washing--though the latter accident was very scarce,
anything approaching to a washing being of rare occurance in the farm--the jury would
take it into their heads to ask troublesome questions, or the parishioners would
rebelliously affix their signatures to a remonstrance. But these impertinences were