Great Expectations: Uncommon fond of reading

One night I was sitting in the chimney corner with my slate, expending great efforts on the production of a letter to Joe.… With an alphabet on the hearth at my feet for reference, I contrived in an hour or two to print and smear this epistle:—

“MI DEER JO i OPE U R KR WITE WELL i OPE i SHAL SON B HABELL 4 2 TEEDGE U JO AN THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN i M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME INF XN PIP.”

There was no indispensable necessity for my communicating with Joe by letter, inasmuch as he sat beside me and we were alone. But I delivered this written communication (slate and all) with my own hand, and Joe received it as a miracle of erudition.

“I say, Pip, old chap!” cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide, “what a scholar you are! An’t you?”

“I should like to be,” said I, glancing at the slate as he held it; with a misgiving that the writing was rather hilly.

“Why, here’s a J,” said Joe, “and a O equal to anythink! Here’s a J and a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe.”

I had never heard Joe read aloud to any greater extent than this monosyllable, and I had observed at church last Sunday, when I accidentally held our Prayer-Book upside down, that it seemed to suit his convenience quite as well as if it had been all right. Wishing to embrace the present occasion of finding out whether in teaching Joe, I should have to begin quite at the beginning, I said, “Ah! But read the rest, Jo.”

“The rest, eh, Pip?” said Joe, looking at it with a slow, searching eye, “One, two, three. Why, here’s three Js, and three Os, and three J-O, Joes in it, Pip!”

I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my forefinger read him the whole letter.

“Astonishing!” said Joe, when I had finished. “You ARE a scholar.”

“How do you spell Gargery, Joe?” I asked him, with a modest patronage.

“I don’t spell it at all,” said Joe.

“But supposing you did?”

“It can’t be supposed,” said Joe. “Tho’ I’m uncommon fond of reading, too.”

“Are you, Joe?”

“On-common. Give me,” said Joe, “a good book, or a good newspaper, and sit me down afore a good fire, and I ask no better. Lord!” he continued, after rubbing his knees a little, “when you do come to a J and a O, and says you, “Here, at last, is a J-O, Joe, how interesting reading is!”

I derived from this, that Joe’s education, like Steam, was yet in its infancy.…

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Pip would have been a natural at text messaging!

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2 comments on “Great Expectations: Uncommon fond of reading

  1. Jonathan says:

    I know people who read like that in the present day. Thanks for bringing this one back up!

  2. Sylvia says:

    Heh. Thanks for the comment, Jonathan!

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