Last Updated January 12, 2023.
Mr. Bounderby has an elderly housekeeper named Mrs. Sparsit. She has high social connections and takes pride that her husband was connected to the socially enviable Powler family. Mrs. Sparsit’s marriage, however, was unsatisfactory to say the least, and her husband died young, leaving her in poverty and in a feud with her only relative, Lady Scadgers. Therefore, Mrs. Sparsit manages Mr. Bounderby’s household, and he honors her social standing and prominent upbringing with great enjoyment and, often, exaggeration.
Mr. Bounderby now expresses his opinion of Mr. Gradgrind’s acceptance of Sissy Jupe, whom he calls “the tumbling-girl.” Sissy is actually staying at the Bounderby home so that Mr. Gradgrind can firmly determine if she will be a decent companion for Louisa. Mr. Bounderby expresses his opinions of Louisa and his intentions of apprenticing Tom and praises Mrs. Sparsit’s high-society past.
Mr. Gradgrind then arrives and asks for Sissy to be sent in. The girl curtseys to everyone except Mrs. Sparsit, earning Mr. Bounderby’s rebuke. Mr. Gradgrind then questions Sissy, explaining his intentions to educate her and make her a helper to Mrs. Gradgrind. Sissy recalls the wonderful fantasy books she used to read to her father, and Mr. Gradgrind reprimands her sharply for her appreciation of “such destructive nonsense.” Then he takes Sissy back to Stone Lodge.