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June 04 , 2011

Young Oliver: or the Thoughtless Boy (Illustrated)


Little Oliver was born of respectable parents, who lived in a pleasant and fruitful part of the country. They had a small farm of their own, and were very industrious in cultivating it. Little Oliver used to drive the horses, while his[Pg 6] father held the plough. Mrs. Oliver kept the house neat and clean, and made excellent butter and cheese, which were in great repute all the country round. Their daughter milked the cows, and assisted her mother in cleaning the house, and in[Pg 7] doing any thing else that was wanted; for she was a dutiful girl, and so good-tempered, that all their neighbours directed their children to imitate the behaviour of Patty Oliver. But, notwithstanding all these prosperous circumstances, misfortunes, to[Pg 8] which all are liable, came upon them, and they were reduced to poverty.

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I thought still I was to be fooled, so I called upon my old schoolfellow, who used to say, "Snatch at her cunt, and show her your cucumber." He had been one at the frigging match, and had just been appointed assistant-surgeon at a hospital; he was a bachelor and baudy-minded as ever. "M...," said I, "have you ever seen a…

[milking cow]

The fields of Old Oliver were frequently overrun with men and dogs employed to hunt and shoot.

[dog chasing deer]

The fences were broken down so often, it was[Pg 9] impossible to keep them up. The hunting horses of the 'Squire over-topped the best that could be made. The corn was trod and eaten. Complaints were made in vain. Every day brought some fresh oppression. At last, the 'Squire wanted to buy it. What could the old people do? daily insulted, weary of life, they took what he chose to give them. It was not above one half the real value of the farm. Yet no other person would buy it, every body knew the[Pg 10] proud temper of the 'Squire, and his contempt of those who were in lower circumstances than himself. No poor man ever found comfort under his roof. The very dogs about his house were taught to bite those whom poverty had clothed[Pg 11] in mean garments. Old Oliver was particularly his aversion. The ground about, to the distance of ten miles, was all the 'Squire's, except that which belonged to Old Oliver, and he wished eagerly to have that likewise. He considered it disgraceful to have so mean looking a tenement on the border of his estate.


Old Oliver with the sum of one hundred pounds began to open a shop, at an adjoining town. He had not been bred to any[Pg 12] business beside farming, and with that he was disgusted. He resolved therefore to try another that he imagined would render him more independant on such persons as the 'Squire.

He began to sell sugar, butter, and such articles as poor people wanted constantly to buy. Numbers flocked in as customers, and seeing Old Oliver so good-natured a man they contracted debts which they never paid. Thus was his stock reduced, and he had[Pg 13] not sufficient money to lay in more goods. He was not a judge of every article he bought, so depended on the words of those of whom he had them, and was cheated. He frequently was forced to sell such goods for less money than he had given for them.

His daughter, the comfort of his life, was lured away from him by a villain of fortune, who introduced her to the company of women that had nothing to recommend them besides[Pg 14] their fine and tawdry apparel, and a short time after went abroad, forsook her, and left her abandoned to the wide world. She never was heard of more.

[fancy ladies]

His wife died of a disease brought on by grief.


He had no person now to[Pg 15] speak to but Little Oliver. The old man sold off all his goods, and paid his creditors each their share. One, more tender-hearted than the rest, returned him five guineas. With this money, he put young Oliver to school for awhile, and then bound him apprentice to the[Pg 16] trade of a joiner, and retired, for his few remaining days, to the workhouse of his parish.

Young Oliver made a quick progress in the trade. In five years he could work as well as any in the shop. In joiner's shops there are many apprentices and journeymen. Some of them were of a thoughtless disposition, and much inclined to frequent alehouses. Young Oliver had little money; he could not indulge his inclination to go[Pg 17] with them, so often as they wanted to persuade him. His master allowed him to work what is called over-hours, by which means he gained a little pocket-money. Thus the time passed, till his term of servitude was at an end.

He now wished for nothing so much as to become a master; but he wanted money.


A merchant, hard by, had often seen the young man, for he had done him some work in a very neat manner.[Pg 18] He knew he was remarkably industrious, and attended church regularly. Oliver heard he was a worthy man, and did all the good he could, to any person who stood in need and whom he thought deserving. Oliver mustered courage enough to[Pg 19] wait on him. He stated his case, mentioned his wishes to begin trade, and asked for assistance. The merchant lent him one hundred pounds to begin business.

You may guess at Oliver's joy. He had the money in his pocket. It never contained so much before. He thought he had already a work-shop of his own and some journeymen. He began to reckon how many customers came to order goods, and what money he should have at the end of the year.

[Pg 20]

In the midst of these emotions of joy, he met an old fellow-workman. An alehouse was at hand. "Come," said Oliver, as they both entered it, "I will, for once, have a little pleasure out of a purse of money I have in my pocket. I will spend six-pence."

He did not well know whether to call for punch. It was his favourite liquor. He thought it was too soon to give way to enjoyment. Reason suggested to him, he should, first of all, try to[Pg 21] pay back what the good merchant had lent him. At present, thought he, it is not honest for me to lay out a penny of the money, for any thing not necessary. These notions impressed him so strongly, he was ready to return.

His companion now asked him what he stood moping there for. "Come, sit down," said he. "What shall we have to drink?" Oliver was diverted from thinking more, and called for six-pennyworth of punch.[Pg 22] He thought to himself, if I spend six-pence of the money I shall have ninety-nine pounds, nineteen shillings, and six-pence left. Such a sum is enough to set up trade, and a single hour's industry will make up again such a small expence as the present.

It was thus, taking up the glass, he sought to quiet his inward scruples; but alas, this conduct opened to him a door for ruin.

On the morrow he recollected what agreeable chat[Pg 23] and good liquor he had at the alehouse. It filled his mind; and he was not scrupulous about spending one shilling more. The alehouse was near; he again stepped in. He tried wine. He had never drank any before. He liked it exceedingly, and determined to have a pint more.

On the days following he longed for more liquor, and constantly visited his beloved alehouse. He began to drink each time more than the preceding. You know,[Pg 24] he began with six-pence, then he spent a shilling; now, each time, he spends half-a-crown. He made indeed at the first half-crown, a short reflection; but, afterwards, he consoled himself with saying, "'Tis but two-and-six-pence I am spending. O, I need not fear but I shall have enough left to carry on my trade."

So powerful is habit; so deluding is temptation to low indulgencies! reason would now and then urge a contrary conduct; but[Pg 25] company led him on, and he was inexperienced in the world.

[in the alehouse]

Oliver's money at first was one hundred pounds. He had yet ninety pounds left. He now determined to begin business. He made bargains, which never were transacted but in his favourite alehouse. He must needs have some[Pg 26] liquor at every bargain, and some more when payment was made. The people of whom he bought wood could not afford to spend money and sell cheap; so were obliged to charge a good deal more to Oliver than to other persons. Oliver thus lost his time, laid in his goods too high, and attended very little to his shop.

Would Oliver have done well, he should have been sober and diligent as formerly. The good employment of all his money depended on a careful use of the smallest[Pg 27] part. These thoughts did not at all strike him.

[boy beaten]

You may perceive, my little friends, how by want of thought Oliver by degrees became fond of liquor, low company, and a vagrant life. Check, therefore, the most trifling inclination to the company of bad boys, who[Pg 28] deserve whipping till they grow better, and be careful to avoid bad ways. You that have parents, listen to their advice and never forget what they say to you. So will you be loved by good men, and prosper in the world. Oliver had no parents; but had he listened to reason and common sense he would have acted quite differently.

After he received the money from his best friend, the merchant, Oliver never called any more at his house.[Pg 29] He was ashamed to see him, conscious he was acting wrong.

The merchant made enquiries frequently about Oliver; wondering much he did not hear some account from his own lips. The merchant having required no recompense for the use of his money, thought gratitude would have induced Oliver to have now and then called to give some account of his success in business. The merchant considered himself Oliver's best friend, having proved[Pg 30] himself so by lending him money at a time when it was not likely any other person would have done the like. Besides, as Oliver had been unfortunate in losing his parents, who loved him more than any one, the merchant expected he would have wanted some advice in many things of which youth are ignorant.

The merchant had much experience, and would have taken great pleasure in pointing out what was best. He had received some hints of[Pg 31] Oliver's proceedings, but wished to think better of him than was represented. He concluded, Oliver would by and by call at his house, and clear up every evil report. He hoped, at present, Oliver was too busy in his trade and could not spare time. The merchant's good disposition caused him to judge too favourably of the vices of others. In this instance he was sadly deceived; the case was different.


Oliver found no longer any joy in industry. He[Pg 32] frequently locked up his shop to go to the alehouse. He thought not of the evil days that were to come.—Days that might have been pleasant to him. He thought only of the money in his pocket, which was likely to last yet a long time. He[Pg 33] trusted to some good fortune, as he called it, for more. From day to day his present stock was diminishing. What blindness, what folly could lead him on thus madly!

Conviction at last came. Came like a clap of thunder. Alas! it came too late. His creditors wanted money; he had none left. He could ask no more of the merchant, he knew he would not lend him any. The merchant perceived he had done Oliver an injury. Elated with having[Pg 34] so much money, he acted as if it would never have diminished. The merchant had not considered the MIND of Oliver.


Oliver's mind was weak and trifling; and might be compared to a butterfly, always roving about, but[Pg 35] never gaining any thing by it. As he mixed only with low company, his ideas were grovelling; and, though an excellent workman, his genius, was of an ordinary kind. He was not formed for the execution of any thing great or noble. He had, indeed, natural good sense sufficient, but he did not hearken to what it dictated; bad habits had suppressed every generous principle of the mind.

Overcome with shame and grief, he sought to stifle[Pg 36] reflection by hard drinking. The frightful moment came. His few effects were sold and divided among his creditors. Thus did ruin fall on him. He was now disgusted with industry. He would not work. He was himself an object of horror. Life became a burden. A scene of poverty opened before him.

[pirate ship]

He fled from his country; followed by goadings of conscience, and despair. He joined a gang of smugglers, formidable for the ravages they spread through every[Pg 37]country on the coast. God did not permit their violence to continue for a long time unpunished. Their ship was taken, the whole gang were seized, and Oliver, with the rest, was committed to prison. He was put into a solitary cell, loaded with[Pg 38] fetters, deprived nearly of light, and allowed only bread and water to subsist upon. His bed was composed of straw. In this miserable situation he remained two months. He was then tried, found guilty of many crimes, and condemned to be shot to death. I will spare you the[Pg 39] pain you would feel on hearing the account of his exit. Let this suffice, he ended his short term of wickedness by much repentance and a disgraceful death.

[man shooting rifle]

Alas! had Oliver listened at first to reason, his case would not have been thus. Had the dictates of conscience been regarded, all would have been well. His situation would have been easy; his pleasures temperate, as become a sensible being. He would have enjoyed repute and honour, and the repose[Pg 40] of opulent old age; have lived respectably, and died happily.

Surely, my young friends, you shudder at such lamentable folly. I hope as you grow up you will avoid bad company, and the love of more liquor than nature requires. Always attend to what your friends advise. So may God prosper your pursuits. Be good, and you will sooner or later be happy. If not in this life, in that beyond the grave.

Be always careful of your[Pg 41] money; laying it out on something that may be useful. Money is intended for some good purpose. You may sometime want it extremely. Never buy any thing, without asking your friends what is most proper for your age and capacity. Never spend it without thought.

Days, months, and years pass on. At times, look back, and examine if a good use has been made of them, and if we may not do[Pg 42] something better in future. The design of this life is to prepare our minds and dispositions to enter upon a state of existence perfectly happy; where no care or misery is known, but where all people, who have been virtuous here, enjoy complete felicity. In that future state, those who have done evil actions in this world, feel misery that cannot be described; and better would it have been for them, had they never possessed rational faculties,[Pg 43] but have been brute beasts, without understanding, yea, never to have existed.


If vice at any time appears to us in an engaging dress, it is occasioned by overlooking the deformities it endeavours to hide. The disposition of a wolf is not changed, though he put on[Pg 44] the clothing of a sheep. If vice ensnares for a moment, think of the story of Young Oliver, and be wise ere it is too late.

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Date release: October 27, 2013

Kids, People and Places, Teen
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