The Praise of Chimney Sweepers

The writer provides an emotional account of his interaction with the young boys who used to sweep the soot-covered chimneys in industrial England. They would begin at dawn and spent hours to get the soot sticking to the chimney ducts.

Yet, even with all their troubles, they would laugh and sing together. They would crack jokes and live an honest life. There used to be a year-end fair for the chimney sweepers which was like Christmas to them and they had lots of fun in it.

He also gives an indication of the dark side of such an occupation when the sweepers would use younger and smaller kids for the work. Due to their tiny size, they could go deeper into the ducts than adults. He also ignores the risks and dangers involved in the profession in order to paint a rather storybook image of their lives.

He imagines the fear they must encounter when travelling through the dark pits of narrow pipes and ducts. They used to sing in order to entertain themselves. But even more tragic was that they were still so underpaid and under-rewarded. The writer even encouraged his mates to offer them small amounts in return for their brave and dangerous service.

Then he describes their love affair with Sassafras tea which was like nectar to them as they flooded at the tea counters in large numbers. At least Mother Nature appreciated their toil and offered a sweet reward to them.

He remembers one day he took a misstep and fell and the onlooking sweepers laughed at his fall. But he did not mind their laughter as it was well earned. It might one of those rare moments when they could forget about their pain and have fun, even if it is at the expense of a faltering man.

On the whole, he describes their general attitude as being gentle and polite maybe due to the hardships that they must have suffered in younger days or at home. One of the writer’s friends James was also one such person that shared his sympathy for these people.

He was a charitable man and organized the year-end fair for their enjoyment and celebrations. They were given tasty treats at a gratifying dinner. However, when James died so did his generosity. There was no more dinner and the occasion became too disturbing and unpalatable for the more privileged people of the land.

Video Summary