Oliver Twist

First Page: Text and Wordlist


Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent

to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one

anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this

workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat,

inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the

business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this


For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, by the parish

surgeon, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to

bear any name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than probable that these

memoirs would never have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a

couple of pages, they would have possessed the inestimable merit of being the most

concise and faithful specimen of biography, extant in the literature of any age or


Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a workhouse, is in itself

the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befall a human being, I

do mean to say that in this particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist that

could by possibility have occurred. The fact is, that there was considerable difficulty in

inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration,--a troublesome practice,

but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence; and for some

time he lay gasping on a little flock mattress, rather unequally poised between this

world and the next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter. Now, if, during

this brief period, Oliver had been surrounded by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, 

experienced nurses, and doctors of profound wisdom, he would most inevitably and

indubitably have been killed in no time. There being nobody by, however, but a pauper

old woman, who was rendered rather misty by an unwonted allowance of beer; and a parish 

surgeon who did such matters by contract; Oliver and Nature fought out the point between 

them. The result was, that, after a few struggles, Oliver breathed, sneezed,

and proceeded to advertise to the inmates of the workhouse the fact of a new burden 

having been imposed upon the parish, by setting up as loud a cry as could reasonably have 

been expected from a male infant who had not been possessed of that very useful 

appendage, a voice, for a much longer space of time than three minutes and a quarter.


refrain from: stop

fictitious: fake

to wit: in other words

inasmuch as; since, considering that

mortality: death

ushered in: brought in

sorrow: sadness

parish: area controlled by a church

surgeon: doctor

memoirs: life stories

comprised: contained, made p of

merit: good quality

concise: well-said with a small number of words

specimen: medical sample, example

extant: existing

disposed to: likely to

enviable: great

befall: happen to

occurred: happened

inducing: causing

rendered: made, gave, given

gasping: suddenly taking short breaths

poised: positioned, calm and confident

decidedly: very

the latter: the last thing mentioned

pauper: poor person

unwonted: rarely seen

allowance: sum of ,money given

proceeded: went ahead, mover forward

burden: heavy load

been imposed: been forced on people

appendage: something that sticks out