BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
5. Chapter V - the Keynote
COKETOWN, to which Messrs. Bounderby and Gradgrind now walked, was
a triumph of fact; it had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs.
Gradgrind herself. Let us strike the key-note, Coketown, before
pursuing our tune.
It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if
the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a
town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage.
It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which
interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and
ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a
river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of
building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling
all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked
monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state
of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very
like one another, and many small streets still more like one
another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went
in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same
pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same
as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the
last and the next.
These attributes of Coketown were in the main inseparable from the
work by which it was sustained; against them were to be set off,
comforts of life which found their way all over the world, and
elegancies of life which made, we will not ask how much of the fine
lady, who could scarcely bear to hear the place mentioned. The
rest of its features were voluntary, and they were these.