'No one is useless in this world,' retorted the Secretary,
'who lightens the burden of it for any one else.'
Old English. Old Saxon byrþen. West Germanic burþinnia, from base of birth.
1) that which is bourne, a load of labour, duty, sorrow etc.
2) a load, as a measure of quantity; the carrying capacity of a ship, as a measure of weight, tonnage.
3) an oracle, an oracular judgement, understood as a burdensome or heavy lot or fate.
4) the bass or undersong of a melody, the drone of a bagpipe. (rare)
5) encumber, oppress, lay a burden on, load.
This quote is from Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, Book III, chapter 9. Published serially over two years 1864-1865.
Charles Dickens lived from 1812 to 1870 in England and is one of the greatest novelist of that century. Read continuously, Dickens work is adapted to film and television to this day.
The BBC describes his life and contributions here.
Joyce Carol Oates wrote an essay, The Mystery of Charles Dickens in August 2012 reviewing 2 books about him in The New York Review of Books.
And the brilliant Christopher Hitches wrote The Dark Side of Dickens: Why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men for The Atlantic in 2010.
PBS broadcast the BBC version of Our Mutual Friend in 2000, starring Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) and Keeley Hawes (MI-5) and Peter Vaughan (Game of Thrones). Here is the official Masterpiece Theatre website. You can watch on iTunes here.