In Charles Dickens’s novel Hard Times, Mrs. Sparsit is a snooping, manipulative, and jealous woman. At one time, Mrs. Sparsit was a woman of high social status because she had married well, but her marriage fell apart, and she is no longer living in high society. Rather, she lives in an apartment above the bank that Bounderby owns. Now, as Bounderby’s housekeeper, Mrs. Sparsit has her sights set on marrying him, as he is quite wealthy. Also, because she resents Bounderby’s marriage to the young and beautiful Louisa, she hopes to break that marriage apart.
Mrs. Sparsit’s plan is to follow Louisa in order to catch her running off with the dashing Tom Harthouse. She has grown suspicious of their friendship and believes they were falling in love. After Mrs. Sparsit eavesdrops on Louisa and Tom’s conversation, she believes that they are running off separately and then meeting at a secret place. While following Louisa, Mrs. Sparsit loses her at the train stop, and by the end of chapter 11 in book 2, Mrs. Sparsit is portrayed as washed up and worn out:
But, Mrs. Sparsit was wrong in her calculation. Louisa got into no coach, and was already gone. The black eyes kept upon the railroad-carriage in which she had travelled, settled upon it a moment too late. The door not being opened after several minutes, Mrs. Sparsit passed it and repassed it, saw nothing, looked in, and found it empty. Wet through and through: with her feet squelching and squashing in her shoes whenever she moved; with a rash of rain upon her classical visage; with a bonnet like an over-ripe fig; with all her clothes spoiled; with damp impressions of every button, string, and hook-and-eye she wore, printed off upon her highly connected back; with a stagnant verdure on her general exterior, such as accumulates on an old park fence in a mouldy lane; Mrs. Sparsit had no resource but to burst into tears of bitterness and say, “I have lost her!”
Mrs. Sparsit’s plan fails. She wouldn’t have had much to report back to Bounderby anyway. Louisa ends up at her father’s home in order to confront him about the damage his philosophy had on her life.