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I KNOW how to read and write, and I
have a pretty knack at ciphering, in all the
branches of that useful art which overshadow
the human mind on this side of Vulgar
Fractions. As to any attainments, however,
beyond these, I think I may safely say
(having due consideration for my superior
station in life) that I am, out of all comparison,
the most ignorant man in this country.
I attribute my want of information on every
subject under the sun, to the unnecessary
and vexatious difficulties which beset the
acquisition of knowledge in all directions.
Everything else that I want, I can get easily.
My apartments (furnished, in an excellent
neighbourhood), my little tasteful dinner,
my gentlemanly clothing, my comfortable
reserved seat at public amusements; my neat
carriage, to take me out and bring me home;
my servant, who bears with my small
caprices, and takes troubles of all kinds off
my handsthese accessories, which revolve
round the great fact of my existence, come
obediently at my call whenever I want them,
and dance attendance, in excellent time, to
the faintest jingle of my silver and gold.
But Knowledge, scrubby Knowledge, declines
to be summoned at five minutes' notice;
scorns an invitation from me, even when I
deliver it myself at the end of my purse;
wants my time instead of my money, and my
patience instead of my patronage; expects
me to follow, where I am accustomed to lead;
meets me, in short, on audaciously equal
terms, and, as a natural and proper
consequence, fails to enjoy the honour of my

I had written thus far the day before
yesterday, turning my sentences, I think, very
prettily, with a soothing use of metaphor
and a pleasing crispness in my arrangement
of wordsI had written thus far, when my
brother (a very useful unassuming man)
brought me a present of a little book, which
informed me, the moment I opened it, that
Knowledge had, so to speak, come to its
senses at last, and had learnt the necessity of
offering itself on reasonably easy terms to all
persons of distinction who might desire to
possess it.

The book in question is called Things Not
Known. It is short; it is
portable; it may be taken up one minute and
put down the next; it presents abstruse
information ready cut and dried into short
paragraphs on all subjects-- on Domestic
Manners, and Life and Death; on the Animal
Kingdom, and Church and State; on the
Marvels of the Heavens, and the Dignities
of the Earth. I am much obliged to my
brother (a well-meaning man, but without
ambition or talents for society) for giving
me this book. I am much obliged to Mr.
John Timbs, the industrious person who
put it together. I intend to recommend
him.  Why should I not? He saves me
the trouble of digging up my own
information out of the mine of Knowledge, just
as my tailor saves me the trouble of making
my own clothes; just as my cook saves me
the trouble of preparing my own dinner.
He also assists me in realising the one
aspiration which my prosperous position in
the world has left me free to form. Handsome,
engaging, perfectly dressed, comfortably
rich, the one thing I want to complete me is
to be well-informed, without the inconvenience
of preliminary study. My solitary
deficiency is now supplied on the most easy
and reasonable terms. I can rush forthwith,
by a short cut, into the reputation of a man
of vast knowledge, and a talker of unlimited
capacity. I can silence all men; I can astonish
and captivate all women. Is this mere
idle boasting? Certainly not. I have my
inestimable pocket Manual of ready-made
wisdom, to fit all minds; I have modest
assurance, and an excellent memory; I have
a brother who will make himself useful as a
prompter, and who can be depended on to
lead all up to my favourite subjects. What
follows, as a matter of course, from these
advantages to start with? Conversation
which is, by the very nature of it, a
monologue, because it bristles at all points with
Things Not Generally Known.

I am candour itself: I desire to conceal
nothing; and I warn society that I am going
to begin covering myself with glory, as a
great talker and a mine of information, on
Thursday week. I have a dinner invitation
on that day, to meet a posse of clever
people. It is to be followed by a soiree
with more clever people. I am not in the

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