Nothing new under the sun

For a little over a month now, I’ve been enjoying Librivox recordings. They are audio versions of books in the public domain, and so far I’ve kept company with Jane Austen (3 novels completed) and Charles Dickens (1 novel completed). Right now, I’m working on Our Mutual Friend, Dickens’ last completed novel, and one chapter in particular had me laughing out loud as it described what resembled a fairly recent phenomenon— that of online scams.

Some background info on the chapter in question: Nicodemus Boffin has inherited the estate that belonged to his former employer, on the death of the latter’s only surviving son. Boffin is thus catapulted into high society, and the news of his good fortune spreads far and wide. He is therefore on the receiving end of an amount of correspondence from people wishing to help him spend his good fortune.

Here are some excerpts:

Among these correspondents are several daughters of general officers, long accustomed to every luxury of life– except spelling– who little thought, when their gallant fathers waged war in the peninsula, that they would ever have to appeal to those to whom providence, in its inscrutable wisdom, has blessed with untold gold.

A lot of spam and scam email totally disregard the rules of grammar, spelling punctuation. This is normally a good indicator of the sender not being on the up-and-up.

There are the inspired beggars, too. These were sitting only yesterday evening, musing over a fragment of candle which must soon go out and leave them in the dark for the rest of their nights, when surely some angel whispered the name of Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire to their souls, imparting rays of hope, nay, confidence, to which they had long been strangers.

A friend of mine recently got an e-mail purporting to offer her a job. When she asked how they got her name and address, they refused to say. Surely, some angel had whispered her name to them…

There are the nobly independent beggars, too. These, in the days of their abundance, ever regarded gold as dross, and have not got over that only impediment in their way of amassing wealth; but they want no dross from  Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire. No, Mr Boffin. The world may term it pride; paltry pride, if you will, but they wouldn’t take it if you offer it. A loan, sir, for 14 weeks to the day. Interest calculated a t the rate of 5% per annum, to be bestowed upon any charitable institution you may name is all they want of you. And if you have the meanness to refuse it, count on being despised by these great spirits.

I include this because of all those forwards that have at the end something like “send this to x number of people within y minutes, or else…” or “funny how you send all other kinds of forwards, but not these Christian ones…” or “if you love Jesus, please forward this…” Just so that you know, I don’t forward 98% of such messages— but that’s another whole blog post.

Here’s the link to listen to the entire chapter (12 minutes, 53 seconds long): Book 1, Chapter 17: A Dismal Swamp.

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