I am currently reading No Name, by the excellent Wilkie Collins. If you haven’t heard of him, for shame. If you haven’t read anything of his, you are pitiable above all creatures. To relieve (if only temporarily) your miserable wretchedness, I offer to you, without any pretense of context, a brilliant extract which merely feels at the edges of the creativity of this long dead, yet terrifically talented author.

Captain Wragge, the Swindler

“Swindler is nothing but a word of two syllables. S, W, I, N, D—swind; L, E, R—ler; Swindler. Definition: A moral agriculturist; a man who cultivates the field of human sympathy. I am that moral agriculturist, that cultivating man. Narrow-minded mediocrity, envious of my success in my profession, calls me a Swindler. What of that? The same low tone of mind assails men in other professions in a similar manner—calls great writers scribblers—great generals, butchers—and so on. It entirely depends on the point of view. Adopting your point, I announce myself intelligibly as a Swindler”…

“Now observe…Here am I, a needy object. Very good. Without complicating the question by asking how I come to be in that condition, I will merely inquire whether it is, or is not, the duty of a More >