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Childhood and youth—Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, in the southern central coastal area of England, to John and Elizabeth Dickens. By the time he was ten, his family had already moved twice and now resided in Camden, in North London. When Charles was twelve, his father landed in debtors’ prison for three months, owing to his inability to support his large family on his small income as a naval clerk. He was followed soon afterwards by his wife and Charles’s three youngest siblings. Charles had to temporarily leave school to work in a boot-blacking factory. When his father was released after receiving an inheritance following his mother’s death, Charles returned to school, this time to the Wellington House Academy.

Early career—At fifteen, he worked as an administrative assistant for a lawyer. By 1829, he had learned shorthand and begun working as a reporter, eventually establishing himself as a Parliamentary reporter (essentially a transcriptionist) in 1831 for the Mirror of Parliament, a weekly documentation of Parliamentary debates. In 1834, he began working for the Morning Chronicle as a journalist.

Love and Marriage—At seventeen, Dickens fell in love with Maria Beadnell, a banker’s daughter. The relationship lasted four years, until 1833, in part failing because of her family’s objections. Three years later, he married Catherine Hogarth, whose father, George Hogarth, edited the Evening Chronicle, and with whom Dickens would father ten children. In 1857, he fell in love with the young actress, Ellen Ternan, which caused a final separation between his wife and himself a year later. Dickens and Ternan’s relationship was not public, and they burned all related letters, but in his will, Dickens left Ternan enough money to support her for the remainder of her life.

Writing career—In 1833, at twenty-one years of age, Dickens first story, “A Dinner at Poplar Walk” appeared in the Monthly Magazine. This would be the beginning of his rapid success as a writer. From there he went on to publish Sketches by Boz (his pen name) and The Pickwick Papers, which originally came out in serial form, a technique he was to use for many of his ensuing works. This was the beginning of his prolific output as an author as well as an editor and, in some cases, publisher of various journals, including Bentley’s Miscellany (1836-1839), Master Humphrey’s Clock (1840-1841), Household Words (1850-1859), and All the Year Round (1859-1870). Major works, often initially published in serial form, included Oliver Twist (1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1839), The Olde Curiosity Shoppe (1840), Barnaby Ridge (1841), and A Christmas Carol (1843). Dickens so-called dark period, considered to be his mature period, began in 1848 with the publication of Donbey and Son, followed by twenty years of an extraordinary creative output that would include such masterpieces as David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. His last work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was interrupted by his death in 1870.

David CopperfieldThe novel David Copperfield, written initially in serial form in the years 1849-1850, is Dickens’s most autobiographical work. It has been observed that the initials DC, for David Copperfield, are the reverse of Dickens’s own initials (though this wasn’t intentional), and there are many other similarities to Dickens’s own life: the Micawbers’ financial difficulties and their house in Camden; their stint in debtors’ prison; young Davy’s experience as a factory worker; David’s less than satisfying first marriage; his travels to Europe; his charitable feelings toward the poor and oppressed; his job as a stenographer and his ultimate success as a novelist. Conditions of the times—Most of Dickens’s career took place during Queen Victoria’s reign, which began in 1837, when Dickens was in his mid-twenties. Contemporary circumstances in England included severe working conditions, child labor, underemployment, and industrialization, which produced significant changes in the economy and labor conditions. Dickens’s work as a newspaper, court, and Parliamentary reporter would have thoroughly familiarized him with contemporary events and, coupled with his detailed knowledge of London, provided food for his stories.

Political and charitable involvement—Dickens himself was passionately opposed to the horrible working conditions of the times, and in 1841, he openly protested the laws that sustained them. In 1847, having returned to London after spending time abroad, he responded to a request for help from Lady Angela Burdett-Coutts, a philanthropist and one of England’s wealthiest heiresses. Her idea was to help establish Urania Cottage, a home where former prostitutes could learn a new way of life. Dickens managed the home for a decade. Around 1850, he became involved in amateur theater, which included many performances for charity.

Miscellaneous—In 1842, Dickens and his wife went on a first tour to America, but even though the author was well received, his impressions of the country were negative, and that in turn had a negative effect on his popularity. In 1844, the Dickens family spent a year in Genoa, Italy, followed about a year later by six months in Switzerland and Paris, after which they returned to London. In 1858, Dickens began giving public readings, which benefited him economically but wore him down physically, costing him his health. In 1865, on his way back to London from Paris, Dickens, Ternan, and Ternan’s mother were involved in the Staplehurst rail accident, a major train disaster that resulted in the derailment of most cars, though it spared their own. The experience had a deep effect on Dickens. In 1867, he embarked on a second hectic tour of the United States, which had to be limited to the East coast because of his failing health. He was again well received, in spite of his earlier negative statements on American ways. Back in London in 1868, he embarked on a final tour of farewell public readings, which also had to be interrupted for health reasons. He died of a stroke on June 9, 1870, the same date as the Staplehurst rail disaster five years earlier. He is buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.

Birth—David Copperfield is Charles Dickens’s semi-autobiographical account that begins with the story of a young boy whose father dies before he is born. His great-aunt, Miss Betsey Trotwood, who is now the head of the family and who came to witness the birth, is disappointed that David is a boy. She bashes the doctor in the head with her bonnet, leaves, and is never heard from again, giving everyone the impression that she is both eccentric and difficult.

Early childhood—After a while, David’s pretty, softhearted mother marries a man who is harsh and abusive. She does this secretly without consulting David, who is whisked away with his nurse, called Peggotty, to Yarmouth, where he stays for two weeks with her family at her brother’s boathouse. There he meets Mr. Peggotty (Peggotty’s brother), Ham, Little Emily, and Mrs. Gummidge. All three (Ham, Emily, and Mrs. Gummidge) were either orphaned or widowed, and Mr. Peggotty being related to them in some way, he took them in out of the goodness of his heart.

David is sent away to school—When David returns home, he finds his mother married to Mr. Murdstone, a man he seriously dislikes. Together with his sister Jane, who moves in with them, Mr. Murdstone tries to break both his young wife’s and her son’s spirits, almost beating David to death at one point. Shortly after that incident, when David is about nine, Mr. Murdstone sends him to an equally abusive school, Salem House. At school, he meets James Steerforth and Thomas Traddles, both of whom feature strongly in his later life. When David returns home for Christmas vacation, he finds his mother has given birth to a baby boy but also notices that she is obviously frail. After an arduous month at home, he returns to school, not realizing that it will be the last time he sees his mother.

David is shipped off to work and runs away to his aunt—On his birthday in March, David receives word that both his mother and her baby have died. He is sent back home, where he is completely neglected and finally shipped off to London to work in a wine-shipping warehouse part-owned by the Murdstones. He rooms with Mr. Micawber, a quaint, verbose gentleman who, together with his wife and four children, is in constant dire straits financially. The Micawbers end up in debtors’ prison but are released under the Insolvent Debtors’ Act and head off for new adventures. Arrangements are made for David to room somewhere else, but by now he has made up his mind to run away to his great-aunt, though he is unsure of his reception. He asks Peggotty to lend him a half-crown, which is promptly stolen, along with his belongings. The result is that he has to walk from London to Dover, selling pieces of clothing along the way so that he can eat. He finally arrives at Aunt Betsey’s looking like a little vagabond. Fortunately, Aunt Betsey, after recovering from her initial shock, believes his story and takes him in. Together with Mr. Dick, a weak-minded but kind and friendly gentleman who is her protégé, Aunt Betsey becomes David’s guardian, raising, educating, guiding, and providing for him.

David is sent to a good school in Canterbury—From Dover, David is sent to Canterbury, where the school he attends is the opposite of Salem House. He rooms with the Wickfields, Mr. Wickfield being Aunt Betsey’s legal and financial advisor. Mr. Wickfield’s wife died years ago, but he has a young daughter, Agnes, who is David’s age and who becomes his lifelong best friend and his future (second) wife. It’s at this point, too, that David meets Uriah Heep, the slithery, slimy archvillain of the story. But right now, Uriah Heep is Mr. Wickfield’s fifteen-year-old legal apprentice—a generous move on Mr. Wickfield’s part, given Uriah’s poor background and the fact that apprenticeships usually cost money.

In Canterbury, David grows into a fine young gentleman and scholar under the tutelage of Dr. Strong, the kind, gentle principal, whose great preoccupation in life is the Greek dictionary he is working on. Dr. Strong’s practical absentmindedness is compensated for by his lovely, young wife Annie, who looks after his more down-to-earth needs. Their relationship and the difficulties created by her careless childhood friend, Jack Maldon, as well as other people’s suspicions is one of the subplots of the story. In the end, the seeming rift is mended through Mr. Dick’s loving perception and ingenuity.

David takes a short trip to decide on a career and meets an old friend—When David graduates from school, having achieved head boy status, Aunt Betsey sends him on a month-long trip to London and Yarmouth so that he can look around and decide on a future career. It’s at this point that he coincidentally meets Steerforth again and they pick up where they left off with what had been a growing friendship. Steerforth was the most influential person at Salem House—someone who had it all and led a seemingly charmed existence. He also had a great deal of personal power, with the ability to easily shape any situation to his advantage. With everything coming so easily to him, life was nothing more than a game, and it apparently never occurred to him that other people had feelings and lives of their own.

Seeing Steerforth led to an invitation to Steerforth’s home, where David met Steerforth’s mother and her companion, Rosa Dartle, an edgy woman who was secretly in love with Steerforth and resented whatever got in the way of that (though her feelings never got beyond the day-dream stage). After that, David and Steerforth both went to Yarmouth together, where Steerforth met the Peggottys. Ham and Emily had just become engaged, but Emily, who always had dreams of being a lady, was fascinated by Steerforth, who was equally taken by her beauty and charm. That provided the beginning to another of the story’s many subplots, in which Emily disappears with Steerforth, prompting Mr. Peggotty, her uncle, to set out on a long journey to find and rescue her.

David decides to become an apprentice at the Doctors’ Commons—His month’s journey being ended, and on his aunt’s and Steerforth’s prompting, David decides to become a legal apprentice at the Doctors’ Commons, a stuffy but prestigious group of lawyers known for their gentility and good salaries. His aunt, who has met him in London, sets him up with a river-view apartment in chambers at the Adelphi, leaving David to realize how far he has come in the world since he used to roam the Adelphi’s lower arches as a poor, abandoned young boy.

David and Traddles meet again and become good friends—This is an exciting but lonely period in David’s life, since it’s the first time he is exploring the world on his own as an adult. It’s during this time, too, through several coincidences, that he meets both Dora Spenlow, his future first wife, and Traddles, his former schoolmate at Salem House. David discovers that Traddles is coincidentally rooming with the Micawbers, so that brings them back into David’s life, though he also met them previously—again coincidentally—during his stay in Canterbury.

Dora Spenlow—Dora Spenlow is the young, beautiful, and charming daughter of Mr. Spenlow, the advocate who introduces David to the Doctors’ Commons and who oversees his apprenticeship. When David meets Dora at Mr. Spenlow’s home, it is love at first sight for him, and she seems to like him, too, though he’s not sure in what way or how much. Being young and uncertain, he moons and pines away for months before confessing his feelings for her. It turns out that she feels the same way, and they embark on a secret courtship. Eventually, her father finds out, to his dismay, and forbids David from continuing to see her. But it quickly becomes a moot point when his father suddenly dies. After Dora mourns for some time, Dora and David have a fairytale wedding, and their married life begins. Unfortunately, it does not turn out as David hoped. They love each other dearly, but Dora is hopeless when it comes to practical matters or anything vaguely serious, and after trying various things to help her grow in that direction, David finally gives up but finds himself unfulfilled. That, too, becomes a moot point, when Dora’s health begins to weaken after a failed childbirth. She gradually fades and dies at a young age, though she is cheerful, playful, and loving to the last.

More changes—In the meantime, several changes have taken in place in David’s life. Back before David’s marriage, Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick arrive in David’s apartment one day with all their belongings. Aunt Betsey announces that she is financially ruined and that they will need to stay with David for a while. This obviously comes as a shock to everyone, but it has many positive results. Both David and Mr. Dick are determined to help Aunt Betsey, so David studies stenography and takes a secretarial job with Dr. Strong, who has since moved to Highgate outside of London. That means long days, starting at 5 a.m. and going till midnight, since in between his job and studies, he is still working on his legal apprenticeship. On Traddles’s advice, Mr. Dick tries his hand at copying and excels at it, which gives him a great feeling of accomplishment, especially since it now means (in his mind) that Aunt Betsey won’t starve. It’s during this time that David and Dora marry, and both the young couple and Aunt Betsey move to nearby cottages in Highgate, where they live until Dora dies.

Subplots—In fact, it’s difficult to tell exactly when that happens, because so many subplots unravel within that time frame. There was Barkis’s death (Barkis was the cart driver Peggotty married after David’s mother died); Steerforth’s disappearance with Emily and her eventual reappearance, with the help of the desolate Martha and the faithful Mr. Peggotty; the horrendous Yarmouth storm that killed Steerforth in a shipwreck; the Micawbers’ various ups and downs; Uriah Heep’s coercive partnership with Mr. Wickfield and its eventual exposure by Mr. Micawber; and finally, the decision by a number of parties, including the Micawbers, Mr. Peggotty, and Emily to emigrate to Australia. These are only some of the subplots that unfold throughout the novel, but the point in listing them here is that when David finally sets out on his journey following Dora’s death, his sense of loss is much greater than just the loss of one person, difficult as that is to bear.

David goes on a long journey—The short period of time between Dora’s death and the emigrant ship’s departure was probably one of the most intense experiences of loss and change in David’s entire lifetime, so that by the time he left on his own journey, he was too numb to consciously process his grief. He spent nine months traveling through Europe in this state, until he finally settled for a while a Swiss valley. In those pure, calming surroundings, his soul began to awaken again, and for the first time, he allowed himself to fully grieve.

Before Dora’s decease and David’s journey abroad, David had also tried his hand at writing, with good success, so that he was able to quit his stenography work. He had formed regular, disciplined writing habits that ensured his success, but during his traveling and mourning phase, he stopped for a while. Now he decided to take a few more months before starting again, but in the meantime, he began to reconnect with people, especially Agnes, who had written him a letter full of hope and faith in his choices—a letter that would have a strong effect on him. He resolved to become what she saw, and he wrote to tell her so.

Three months later, David started to write again and to make friends locally, splitting his time between the valley and Geneva. He even finished a novel, which he sent to Traddles, who had it published for him. Three years after the onset of his journey, David was ready to return to England. In that time, he had also recognized that his feelings for Agnes, who had always been his best friend, were now something more. But he wondered if he could express that to her and if she felt the same way. In his confusion, he felt that he had missed his chance, but if nothing else, at least, he could be to her what she had always been to him—a friend and confidant.

Return to England—Back in England, David discovers that Traddles and Sophy, his fiancée, have finally married after a ten-year engagement, and his doubts about his friend’s success in the legal field are allayed when he sees Traddles’s joy, generosity, and steady patience in action, strengthened by the same qualities in his wife. As yet, David is unable to express his feelings to Agnes, but fortunately, Aunt Betsey has sensed something between them and gently but subtly pushes him in that direction. Agnes has the same difficulties expressing herself on this issue, but it finally all bursts forth when David, realizing he has misinterpreted her silence, confesses the full extent of his love for her. She returns the feeling and, after breaking the news to Aunt Betsey, Mr. Dick, and Peggotty (who now lives with them), Agnes and David are married two weeks later. Eventually, they move to London, have a family, and David continues with his successful writing career.

A variety of endings—The last two chapters are a synopsis of what has happened to the different characters who have paraded through the book. In the next-to-last chapter, Mr. Peggotty returns for his final visit to England before going back to Australia for good. Through him, we learn what has happened to all the emigrants and find that it’s generally good news. The exception is Emily, who has a hint of sadness about her, though she’s contented and cheerful when around her uncle.

The final chapter details the fates of those who remained in England. Before these two chapters, we learned that Uriah Heep and Littimer, Steerforth’s former personal servant, are both making the most of their time in jail, prior to transportation. The rest of the characters have all evolved according to their choices and characters, continuing in the same way they always lived, for better or worse. But the outstanding light and love of David’s life is Agnes, and she will remain so throughout his time on earth.

Choice And Character As The Key To Fate

In David Copperfield, the fate of each person depends on choice as much as character, though character is obviously one of the sources of an individual’s choices. However, choices can also direct and define a person’s character, as David indicates when, as a young child in a difficult situation, he wonders how he will turn out under the present regime of poor treatment resulting from, in this case, his mother’s choices. David is the most complex of all the book’s characters, and his choices do not necessarily follow the path of wisdom, which gives us a chance to witness the connection between choice, character, and fate through David’s own development. The other aspect of this theme, made clearest by Aunt Betsey, is that an individual chooses his character, and therefore his fate, by choosing which qualities to develop. It’s with this thought in mind that most of the following themes are presented.


Love And Kindness Versus Severity And Cruelty

The theme of mercy versus severity is one that runs throughout the book. In David’s own life, his direct experience of cruelty mostly occurs early on, when he is exposed to the Murdstone’s cold, abusive tactics and Mr. Creakle’s whip at Salem House. Things improve when he runs away to his aunt, who, for all her bluntness and vehemence is kindhearted and rational. Most of the characters in the book are kindhearted, and the reader is led to see that patience, faith, and generosity go much further toward producing a positive result than any amount of severity or neglect.


The Power Of Pure Love And Trust

A related theme is the power of pure love and trust, not as opposed to the use of cruelty but in relation to its ability to accomplish an outcome. One of its characteristics is that it never forces a result. Rather, it trusts that all things will work out for the good of all and always allows others a choice. There are many examples of this kind of love: Agnes’s love for David and her devotion to her father; Mr. Peggotty’s faith that he would find and save Emily; Aunt Betsey’s faith in both David and Mr. Dick; the Doctor’s trust in Annie; Annie’s deep love of the Doctor; and Mr. Dick’s pure love that brought the Strongs back together. It was Mr. Peggotty and David’s trust in Martha that gave her a chance to rise above her misery and express her own love for Emily—and through that, to build her life anew. Such love is not momentary or dependent on outward appearances, but it runs so deep that it has the power to shape the future.


Simplicity And Goodness Versus Worldly Pride

This is another of the book’s main themes that come through to different degrees in the lives of various characters. It is not so much related to life station as it is to each character’s ability to be content with his or her lot. Those who do this—Peggotty, Traddles and Sophy, Agnes, Mr. Peggotty, Ham, and Aunt Betsey—lead fruitful, productive lives that are mostly happy. Even Ham, who has a certain sadness about him, expresses a joy that comes only from unselfishness. Those characters who allow even a small amount of worldly vanity to dominate at any point—David’s young mother, Emily, Steerforth and his relations, Littimer, and Uriah Heep—end up paying for it, often causing others unnecessary misery as well. Contentment and modesty do not imply apathy or a lack of effort. The characters who embody these virtues are inevitably hardworking and giving, but they accept life’s ups and down with relative equanimity and would never dream of harming or cheating another person for their own benefit.


The Value Of Faith, Hard Work, And Dedication

The best two instances of this theme are David and Traddles, who with persistence, faith, and diligence manage to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and achieve success and happiness despite various obstacles. The theme comes through in other characters, too. Agnes, Aunt Betsey, and Peggotty all keep immaculate homes and accomplish their chores through ongoing effort. Emily, Ham, and Mr. Peggotty are all known as competent and productive, and later, Mr. Peggotty is determined to travel the world till he finds Emily. Mr. Micawber, who ultimately rises to distinction in Australia, shows himself to be as hard a worker as anyone else, and even Mrs. Gummidge is praised for her hard work and cheerfulness. Traddles’s fiancée Sophy is another instance of someone who is extremely productive and cheerful. Even little Miss Mowcher manages to overcome the obstacle of size through ingenuity, faith in herself, and hard work. Conversely, those who try to attain their goals through fraud and manipulation mostly end up either dead, in jail, or miserable, like the Murdstones.


Generosity And Financial Responsibility

Dickens makes it clear that generosity must proceed from a wealthy state of mind and that no one can be truly wealthy without an honest desire to include others. Many of the characters who obtain wealth work hard for it and are always ready to share it with their families, friends, and those in need. Among the clearest examples in David Copperfield are Dr. Strong, who finds joy in giving, and Traddles and Sophy, who are always ready to serve others, no matter what obstacles it presents for them. Traddles and Sophy don’t start out with a lot of income, but they make the most of what they have and find ways to give regardless of their current means. Other similar characters include Agnes, Peggotty, Mr. Peggotty, Ham, Mr. Dick, Aunt Betsey, Annie, and even Mr. Wickfield, who all demonstrate in varying degree the power of generosity that is born of love. Steerforth, too, exhibits great generosity on many levels in his relationship with David, which accounts in part for David’s love of him. But in Steerforth’s case, there is no issue of financial responsibility, since his source of income is his mother, who gives him whatever he wants.

The best counterexample of financial responsibility is Mr. Micawber, whose enthusiasm for life often gets the better of his sense of financial discipline. But in the end, his selfless integrity wins out, and his life takes a different turn. The best counterexamples of wealth and generosity are the Murdstones and Uriah Heep, who end up struggling financially or, in Uriah’s case, in jail.


Honesty Versus Deception

Another key quality in David Copperfield is honesty, which is considered critical for happiness and success, while deception inevitably leads to a bad fate. Steerforth’s deception of Emily, David, and the boathouse residents resulted in misery for many people and a recklessness that eventually led to his own death at sea. Uriah’s ongoing fraud and forgery caused much consternation and pain, finally landing him in jail.

Honesty, coupled with humane motives, is also the power that sees through all types of disguises. The most obvious example is Miss Mowcher, who saw through Steerforth’s manipulations and, later, Littimer’s physical disguise as he tried to escape his fate as a thief. Aunt Betsey, too, with her blunt honesty, recognized the pattern of abuse in the Murdstones’ self-righteousness, and her directness ensured that they would never trouble her or David again.


Looks Can Be Deceiving

Dickens likes to equate outward appearances with inner states, and most of the time this holds. Uriah Heep is as slimy inwardly as he is outwardly; Agnes is pure; David is innocent in his younger days; his mother is softhearted; Mr. Murdstone is harsh; and so on—all in line with their outward appearance. However, there are exceptions to this. Aunt Betsey’s sharp, rough demeanor at first hides her good, kind nature from many who meet her. But the most notable example is Miss Mowcher, the dwarf hairdresser, who is obviously sharp but whose exaggerated mannerisms make you wonder at first how honest or serious she it. She proves herself, though, when she figures out what Steerforth was doing during his final stay in Yarmouth. Ashamed at her slowness of perception, she moves quickly to make amends and latches onto Littimer as he tries to make his escape, despite the danger and pain to herself. She is Dickens’s mouthpiece for the idea that character should never be judged on the basis of physical traits like size.


Happiness In Relation To Circumstances

There are two messages that run throughout the book in relation to this idea. The first, seen through the changing circumstances and moods in David’s life, is that an individual’s happiness can be greatly affected by circumstances. The most obvious change in relation to this occurs when David runs away from his factory job and is taken in by his aunt. Uriah Heep also acts as a negative factor in the Wickfields’ life, almost entirely destroying Mr. Wickfields’ health and peace of mind.

But there is another thread that the book teaches, which is that a person can achieve contentment and even joy without perfect circumstances. Traddles and Sophy in their early days are a perfect example of this. When money was still tight, they contented themselves with simple pleasures, such as window shopping, half-price theater tickets, or sitting by the fire together. The key was that they made the most of what they had and enjoyed it. The other great example is Mr. Omer, who found great joy and excitement even in a wheelchair, which had many advantages, though he had lost the use of his limbs. In fact, Mr. Omer gives the most obvious verbal expression of this idea.


The Environment As A Symbol And Premonition

“Environment” in this case refers not only to nature but to the different environments created by people. There is a strong connection between the inner and the outer in the novel, so David’s different descriptions of the places he encounters are his way of observing different states. From the bleakness of Salem House or the dismal environment near Millbank Prison to the serenity of Canterbury or the quaint, bustling seaside streets of Yarmouth, David’s detailed descriptions are the key to his experiences and feelings. Sometimes his perceptions presage future events, as when the mist rolls in like the sea at Steerforth’s Highgate home. And sometimes his experiences mirror David’s own changing states, as when he looks out onto the moonlit sea at a new and better life in Dover, or he senses new hope in the pure surroundings of a Swiss valley after a long, dark night of the soul.


The Role Of The Sea

One of the story’s most powerful and dramatic symbols is the sea, and not just the sea but its tributaries. Its character changes from place to place, and its power is unquestioned. Martha felt this most clearly in the river, which began pure and clear in the countryside and then changed as it entered the city, where it became increasingly polluted. She felt her miserable life deserved to become one with the river until it was swallowed up in the sea, and only a pure and noble aim could rescue her from an otherwise overpowering sense of dread.

At the outset of the story, the sea has already been responsible for the drownings of several people we never meet, such as Ham and Emily’s fathers. It is not surprising, therefore, that many who live on its coasts have a deep respect for it but also a deep dread. On the day of Steerforth’s death, the wind blew so hard and the waves towered so high that the townsfolk feared they would engulf the town. That day, the sea appeared as the agent of retribution, and nothing, not even the great goodness of one such as Ham, could stop it in its mission to destroy.

But the sea is also a bringer of good. It is the source of Mr. Peggotty and Ham’s living and the basis of transport by ship, making it the means not only of trade and adventure but the way to a new life beyond the home shores, when it takes the emigrants to Australia.

David Copperfield

David Copperfield is the star of the novel and a semi-autobiographical version of Dickens himself. Orphaned at an early age, he winds up working in a warehouse through the negligence of his coldhearted stepfather. That experience prompts David to run away to his great-aunt in Dover, who, despite her reputation for eccentricity and irascibility, adopts him, educates him, funds his legal apprenticeship, and teaches him the values that stand him in good stead for the rest of his life: generosity, kindness, strength, honesty, and earnestness. All this sits well with David, who by nature has the same values. His life goes through a series of ups and downs, but in the end he becomes a successful author, marries his best friend from childhood, and has a family of his own and wonderful friends.


Miss Betsey Trotwood, Also Known As Aunt Betsey

Aunt Betsey is David’s great-aunt, who, as the current head of the family, deserted him at birth when he came out a boy instead of a girl. Considered a rude, eccentric recluse by many, she proves to be one of the noblest, kindest, strongest characters in the book. She took in Mr. Dick when he was on the verge of being abandoned, and ten years later, she did the same for David, who appeared on her doorstep looking like a little vagabond. It is Aunt Betsey who raises and cares for David, whom she renames Trotwood Copperfield, and of all the novel’s characters, she plays one of the most decisive roles in shaping David’s life and character into one that is fruitful and good. There is a good deal of comedy invested in Aunt Betsey’s character. Her eccentricities include a horror of donkeys and the fear that London is always about to burn down. But she is extremely astute, and for all her bluntness, which can be fierce, she has a kind and tender heart, and it’s impossible not to love her.


Clara Peggotty, Aka “Peggotty”

Peggotty, so called because she had the same first name as David’s mother, is David’s faithful old nurse, who has known him since the time he was born. Loyal, kind, straightforward, and down-to-earth, she loves David with all her heart and is always there when he needs her. She is an excellent cook and housekeeper, is constantly seen with her sewing implements, and goes out of her way to save David’s special things and always provide for him, trusting that he would do the same for her. Peggotty is the sister of Mr. Peggotty, the patriarch of the Yarmouth boathouse family.


Mr. Daniel Peggotty

One of the noblest characters in the book, Mr. Peggotty, is a rugged seaman and fisherman. Out of the goodness of his large heart, he took in two orphans and a widow, who together constitute his family and live with him in a boathouse in Yarmouth. When his niece Emily—one of the orphans and his pride and joy—is seduced by Steerforth and disappears with him, Mr. Peggotty travels the world to find and rescue her. After he finally does find her in a poorhouse in London, they emigrate to Australia together, whether they start a new life.


Little Emily

Little Emily is Mr. Peggotty’s beautiful, talented niece, whom he adopted after her father drowned at sea, her mother having died before that. She is David’s first love as a child, and she dreams of someday being a lady, which becomes her nemesis. Already on first hearing of Steerforth, she is fascinated by him, just as he is taken by her beauty. As a guest at the boathouse, where he was introduced through David, he secretly convinces Emily to flee with him to Europe, even though she is already engaged to Ham Peggotty, the other orphan and her faithful, loving friend. But Emily, who has massive guilt feelings and misses her family, becomes depressed. Steerforth eventually tires of this and abandons her for a life at sea. She reacts violently, runs away from his servant, and ends up in London, where she narrowly escapes a life of prostitution (or so Dickens implies). Mr. Peggotty finally finds her in a poorhouse, and they emigrate to Australia, where she lives with her uncle and shies away from others except when helping those in need.


Ham Peggotty

Ham Peggotty was the other orphaned child taken in by Mr. Peggotty when Ham’s father drowned at sea. Ham, like his uncle, is a seaman, fisherman, and boat repairer. He has a kind, large heart, and he is a strong, hard worker. As they grow up, Ham falls in love with Emily, who is not directly related to him, so he proposes to her. But Emily has her sights set on being a lady and rejects him. Eventually, though, she realizes that he is a good person, and she changes her mind. Ironically, Steerforth enters her life on the night of their engagement and secretly convinces her to leave with him. After she disappears with Steerforth, Ham’s life changes, and he senses a grim foreboding as he looks out to sea. His qualities of kindness, hard work, and fearless dedication become even more pronounced, but he takes little thought for his own needs and desires, having put any idea of marriage behind him. When Yarmouth is hit by a raging storm with towering waves, Ham volunteers to rescue the lone seaman struggling on the remains of a battered ship offshore. He dies in the attempt, just a swim stroke away from saving the seaman, who is also killed and washed ashore, where his body is recognized as Steerforth’s.


James Steerforth

One of the “villains” in the story, though never in David’s eyes, James Steerforth has it all—looks, brains, money, social status, talent, ability, energy, and charm. The only thing he lacks is enough compassion to make him a humane person, rather than someone who sees life as a game. One of Steerforth’s outstanding characteristics is his personal power. Unfortunately, he uses it to seduce and manipulate, which is how he gets Emily to run away with him. But it’s said that pride is the precursor of ruin, and it certainly was in Steerforth’s case. His impatience, willfulness, and restlessness drove him to leave Emily and seek adventure at sea, but the sea had other plans, and Steerforth was no match for them. He ends up shipwrecked and dead, his body washed up onto the shore near the remnants of the boathouse that once sheltered the family who welcomed him, only to bear the pain caused by his carelessness.


Wilkins Micawber

One of the novel’s more comical characters, Mr. Micawber does his best to appear genteel, but his gentility is always mixed with a degree of shabbiness. This is largely due to his habit of spending more than he earns, which is not much. He is blessed with an extremely loyal wife, who is also the mother of their five children (four, at first). Both Mr. and Mrs. Micawber are prone to melodramatic mood swings that can go from hysterical and even suicidal to cheerful and content—or the reverse—in a matter of minutes. In spite of his emotional and financial instability, Mr. Micawber inadvertently becomes a hero when, as Uriah Heep’s clerk, he can no longer stand his employer’s underhanded, criminal ways. This leads Mr. Micawber to diligently collect evidence of ongoing forgery, fraud, and manipulation on Uriah’s part. Mr. Micawber’s diligence and integrity are rewarded, and the family moves to Australia, where they finally find success.


Mr. Dick

Mr. Richard Babley, known simply as Mr. Dick, became Aunt Betsey’s protégé around the time of David’s birth, when his brother moved to lock him up in an insane asylum because of his eccentricities and “weak” mind. Aunt Betsey, however, refused to allow this, took him in as a boarder, and insisted he receive his rightful monetary inheritance. She was convinced he was an extraordinary man that only she understood, and she believed he would prove that someday. He, in turn, believed her to be the best woman in the world.

Aside from his perpetual work on his Memorial and his love of flying seven-foot kites as a way of transmitting his thoughts, Mr. Dick’s great claim to fame is his large heart and his common sense, which crops up at just the right moments. He does eventually prove himself in numerous ways, one of the most outstanding being the gentle way he helped heal the sad rift that had grown between Dr. Strong and his wife Annie. Together with Aunt Betsey, he was David’s guardian while David was growing up.


Uriah Heep

The archvillain of the story, Uriah Heep is depicted as less than human, both inwardly and outwardly. His features remind David of a corpse, and he has a bad habit of writhing, twisting, and making strange faces in an effort to seem “humble,” which he learned early on was the best way for the poor to advance in the world. He is therefore always in fawning mode, but his real motives are greed and power, and he will use any means to achieve them. When David first meets him, he works for Mr. Wickfield, a Canterbury lawyer and Aunt Betsey’s financial adviser. He is also lucky to be Mr. Wickfield’s legal apprentice, an opportunity not normally available to the poor. But being what he is, Uriah uses and manipulates Mr. Wickfield, forces a partnership, and secretly plots to marry Mr. Wickfield’s beautiful, virtuous daughter Agnes. The extent of his villainy is finally uncovered by Mr. Micawber, whom he hires as his clerk and swears to secrecy. Uriah Heep ultimately lands in jail and is eventually transported.


Agnes Wickfield

Agnes Wickfield is David’s longtime friend since childhood, when David moved into the Wickfield home in Canterbury, where his aunt sent him to school. Agnes’s mother, whom she strongly resembles, died when she was a baby, leaving Agnes to be the main love and focus of her father’s life. She has also been his “little housekeeper” since the time she was a child, making her doubly indispensable to him, not least because she filled the role so perfectly. Her devotion to her father is lifelong, and when things are finally resolved after the Uriah Heep fiasco, she uses her ingenuity to provide for them by starting a school and renting a part of their large, old, beautiful home. She has a serenity, goodness, and wisdom about her that make her feel like home to David, and ultimately she becomes his second wife (his first wife dies) and the embodiment of the relationship he always dreamed of. He considers her the guiding light of his life.


Dr. Strong And His Wife Annie

Dr. Strong, also simply known as “the Doctor,” is the kind, gentle principal of David’s school in Canterbury. He is known for his generosity, gentleness, and thoughtfulness, and he is consequently loved and respected by all his students. He knew his young wife Annie since the time she was a baby, and he married her in large part to guide and protect her, so that when he died and left her a sizable inheritance, she would have the maturity to make good decisions. However, he never told her this outright until a rift caused by Jack Maldon, her childhood friend but also an irresponsible, careless young man, created much suffering for the Doctor and Annie. It was Mr. Dick who helped bring them together again by gently broaching the topic and getting them to speak. And it was through this speech by Annie that David learned of the nature of a true and mature love. Dr. Strong’s other great passion was the Greek dictionary he was working on, which was always stuffed here and there in his clothing and, at his current rate, was estimated to be completed in over 1600 years.


Dora Spenlow

Dora Spenlow was David’s young, charming, and beautiful first wife, though she preferred to be called his child-wife. And with good reason, since she had no head for practicalities, preferring instead to teach her little dog Jip new tricks or to play the guitar and paint. It wasn’t that she didn’t try. It was simply that the effort exhausted and frustrated her, being intellectually and temperamentally unsuited to anything other than play and other pleasant pastimes. She was the daughter of Mr. Spenlow, the advocate at the Doctors’ Commons who set David up with his apprenticeship. When Mr. Spenlow heard of David’s relationship with his daughter, he was opposed to it, but that issue was resolved when he died suddenly and unexpectedly. That naturally threw Dora into a mourning period, though it ultimately helped to open the way for her marriage to David, since David now only had to deal with her two aunts.

Dora’s health began to fail after she gave birth to a child that died shortly afterwards. At first, there was hope that Dora would recover, but though she remained cheerful and charming, she continued to weaken until it became obvious that she was dying. The day she died, Dora’s little dog Jip went, too. Dora died in the arms of Agnes, whom she loved. She had often wondered why David hadn’t married Agnes, with all her beauty, kindness, and intelligence. Much later, after David and Agnes were married, Agnes revealed to him that Dora had made her promise that only she could take Dora’s place.


Thomas Traddles

David first met Thomas (“Tommy”) Traddles at Salem House, his first school, where Traddles stood out because of his honorable and good nature. When no one else spoke up, Traddles would tell the truth, defending what was right even if it earned him a beating, which it always did. Traddles and David met again much later when David heard Traddles’s name announced at a party. After that, David and Traddles became good friends and helped each other a great deal. Another coincidence that linked them was that Traddles was rooming with the Micawbers, which David had done earlier in his life. Being generous, Traddles helped the Micawbers more than he should have. Luckily, David was able to advise him, but the situation also highlighted Traddles’s patience and kindness. His friendship with the Micawbers paid off when Mr. Micawber enlisted Traddles to help him with the Uriah Heep case, and Traddles became Mr. Wickfield’s legal advisor. It was not an easy road for Traddles, but he eventually succeeded in his legal career and, after a ten-year engagement, married a wonderful woman named Sophy, who was just as giving and cheerful as he was. Their life together, which was full of joy and love from the beginning, grew from its frugal beginnings to a life of wealth and an open door to her large family and their friends.

Birth Of David Copperfield


Chapter I of David Copperfield immediately draws us in with the intimacy of its first-person narrative. It is considered Dickens’s most autobiographical work, and in his second preface, written seventeen years later in 1867, he still calls it his favorite work.

One of the novel’s peculiarities is that David is rarely called by his actual name. His aunt eventually renames him Trotwood or “Trot,” and different characters assign him various nicknames, such as Doady or Daisy, or they call him by his last name, usually “my dear Copperfield” or “Mr. Copperfield.” For simplicity’s sake, however, this summary will refer to him as either David or Davy.

Birth timing—The novel begins with David’s retelling of the story of his birth as recalled by those who witnessed it. His arrival in this world on a Friday at midnight prompted some women in the neighborhood to predict that he would be both unlucky and prone to seeing spirits. David’s comment on the first prediction was that his life spoke for itself. As for the second, he had no awareness of possessing any such talent, nor did he have any interest in it and was happy to bequeath the possibility to someone else.

Born with a caul—David’s birth was a caul birth, which means that part of the fetal membrane was still covering his head when he came out of the womb. Unlike his Friday midnight birth, this was considered good luck and was supposed to ensure whomever possessed it against drowning. He writes that he witnessed its purchase years later at an auction. Ironically, it was bought by an elderly lady who was opposed to sea travel in spite of its benefits, such as transporting the tea she habitually enjoyed. The whole scene, especially seeing a portion of his own body on sale, gave him mixed feelings, and he found himself wanting to inform the elderly lady that without sea travel, there would be no tea. This passage may seem irrelevant at first, but the sea plays a significant role in the context of the novel as a whole, and the concept of protection against drowning also gains meaning as the novel progresses.

Family circumstances—David was born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, on the eastern coast of England, six months after his father’s death. As a child, he used to empathize with the loneliness of his father’s grave as compared with the warmth of the family’s home. His father being dead, the highest position in the family was now held by Miss Betsey Trotwood, David’s great-aunt, referred to as “Miss Betsey” by his mother. Miss Betsey had married a much younger handsome man, whose character did not match his looks. It was said that he beat Miss Betsey, who eventually paid him off and separated from him. He supposedly died in India ten years later, whereupon Miss Betsey moved to a seaside cottage, where, aside from one servant, she was rumored to be spending her remaining years as a recluse.

Miss Betsey’s visit—The main topic of the chapter is Miss Betsey’s visit on the day of David’s birth. Miss Betsey had a reputation for being rude and irascible. Instead of ringing the doorbell, she pressed her nose against the windowpane and stared into the house, startling David’s mother. Once in the house, she acted like she was in charge, demanding to know why the house was named “Rookery,” when there no birds, and ordering Peggotty to bring tea for the expectant mother to make her feel better. She also stuffed her ears with cotton and ignored the social niceties, speaking with Mr. Chillip, the doctor, only when necessary. When Ham, Peggotty’s nephew, sneaked a peek into the parlor, Miss Betsey more or less abused him, apparently as a vent for her own agitated state.

Miss Betsey’s great disappointment—Mrs. Copperfield, who was young, sensitive, and still in mourning, was intimidated by Miss Betsey and kept breaking into tears for no obvious reason. In her own way, Miss Betsey tried to calm her, a hint that she wasn’t as harsh as people thought. She also had a strong concern for the as yet unborn child, though this got mixed in with her eccentricity and her need to be in charge. She had determined that the child would be a girl, to be named after her: Betsey Trotwood Copperfield. She was to be raised and protected, a process Miss Betsey would oversee so that the girl would be spared the unnecessary suffering Miss Betsey had endured in her own life. Unfortunately for Miss Betsey’s plans, the child was a boy. On hearing that, she bashed the doctor in the head with her bonnet and left, never to return.

Davy Observes


Early memories—Davy’s earliest memories were of his mother and Peggotty, and as a baby, he would toddle from one to the other. Davy’s mother was young and shapely, with beautiful hair, while Peggotty (who was identified by her last name because she had the same first name as Davy’s mother) was rough and red, without any clear shape, and with exceedingly dark eyes.

The house—Davy’s next memory was of the house. First there was the kitchen and backyard, with various farm animals such as chickens and geese, which seemed large and frightening to the young boy. Next there was a long hallway with a combination pantry and general storage room on the side. There were also two parlors: the informal parlor served as a family room, while the formal parlor was associated with his father’s death and therefore had a less comfortable atmosphere.

The church and churchyard—Near the house was the green and peaceful churchyard and the church, where the family had its own pew. From the pew, Davy could see their house, which he found entertaining, though Peggotty kept trying to get him to focus on the minister. But he was more interested in watching the people and imagining what a great play castle the pulpit would make. Eventually, he would fall asleep, and Peggotty would carry him out.

The seasons at “Blunderstone Rookery,” the Copperfield home—Next he describes the exterior of the house and yard. David Copperfield, Sr. had named the house “Rookery” because of the rook’s nests in the surrounding elms, although there had been no rooks for a long time. Rooks or no rooks, the air was fresh and the backyard full of butterflies and fruit trees, and the memories of summer fruit-picking were vivid and idyllic to Davy’s young mind. In the winter, which came quickly, the scene switched to the parlor, a center of warmth, comfort, and entertainments such as dancing.

Davy’s affection for Peggotty—Back in those childhood days, Davy and his mother were both slightly intimidated by Peggotty and therefore inclined to do as she said. Still, Master Davy, as Peggotty called him, was fond of her. One night, when his mother was out and he had been reading to Peggotty, he asked her whether she had ever been married. The question took her by surprise, and she asked what prompted him to think about marriage. He answered that in his view, she was attractive in her own way, though it was the opposite of his mother’s type of attractiveness.

Peggotty denies ever being married and changes the subject—Peggotty was not so convinced of her own looks, and after Davy asked a few more questions about marriage, she declared she had never been married and never expected to be. That was all she knew about it. Davy wasn’t sure what to make of her curt tone, so he checked to see whether she was angry with him. But Peggotty laid down her sewing, gave him a big hug, and asked to hear more about crocodiles, the subject of the book. So Davy read to Peggotty all about crocodile life, though he wasn’t sure how much she understood.

Davy’s negative reaction to his mother’s new gentleman friend—Just as they finished reading, the outside bell rang. It was Davy’s mother, accompanied by a handsome, dark-haired, dark-eyed man who had walked her home from her evening out. Davy recognized him from the previous Sunday, when the man accompanied them home after church. The boy had observed his mother’s youthful beauty before, and he noticed that she looked particularly lovely this evening. He also noticed that as the three of them interacted, the man’s hand repeatedly touched his mother’s. Davy felt tinges of jealousy and instinctively disliked the man. The man, however, took his obvious negative reaction with good humor and tried to be friendly, anyway. His mother also encouraged him to be friendly, but Davy stubbornly refused. As he was leaving, the gentleman gave them a final glance that only strengthened Davy’s negative impression of him. That evening, Davy’s mother seemed unusually cheerful. Davy noticed that instead of sitting near the fire, as she usually did, she sat farther away from Davy and Peggotty and sang to herself.

Peggotty’s negative reaction and her argument with Davy’s mother—Like Davy, Peggotty had a negative response to the gentleman. She immediately bolted the door after he left, and after exchanging some stiff niceties with Davy’s mother, she voiced her real opinion. Davy, who had fallen asleep in the meantime, awoke to hear both of them arguing and crying. Peggotty was convinced that Mrs. Copperfield’s late husband would not have approved of this man, but Davy’s mother protested that she was no longer a girl and had a right to treat herself like the attractive woman she was. She felt accused by Peggotty of frivolousness and selfishness in relation to her child, and she in turn accused Peggotty of being cruel. At last, all three ended up crying, and though they tried to make up with each other, they went to bed depressed.

The gentleman becomes a regular visitor; Peggotty distances herself—The gentleman friend did not disappear from their lives but showed up regularly. At the same time, Davy and his mother’s relationship with Peggotty, though still good, grew more distant as Peggotty spent less time with them in the evenings.

Mr. Murdstone takes Davy on a visit to a yacht—One fall day, the gentleman, whose name was Mr. Murdstone, came by on his horse and offered to take Davy with him to visit some friends on their yacht. Davy’s feelings toward Mr. Murdstone hadn’t changed, but between the fresh air and the horse’s excitement, Davy was convinced. So off they went, first to a seaside hotel and then to the yacht. On the way, Davy couldn’t help noticing the strange, shallow look in Mr. Murdstone’s dark eyes—something less than human that made the boy uncomfortable.

Davy observes the men on the yacht—The two men they met at the hotel seemed coarse and flippant to Davy. Both were chronic smokers, judging by their cigars and the smell of their coats, which looked like they had been exposed to smoke since they were new. After Mr. Murdstone introduced Davy, they mentioned something about “bewitching” the pretty young Copperfield widow, and they seemed to refer to her as a business venture. Mr. Murdstone cautioned them to take care of their comments—that “someone” was sharp.

Davy’s confusion and further observations—Davy thought at first that Mr. Murdstone was talking about him, but when he asked about it, Mr. Murdstone pretended to be speaking about someone named “Brooks of Sheffield,” a made-up name that referred back to his comment about “someone” being “sharp,” since Sheffield was known for its manufacture of knives. That was enough to keep Davy confused, and the men had a little further fun by making Davy say a toast to “Brooks’s” confusion. On board the yacht, Davy observed the three men discussing business down below, while another took care of him on deck. Davy noticed that Mr. Murdstone was a good deal more serious than the other two men and that he also seemed to be in a superior position, since they watched their actions around him.

Davy’s mother asks him about his day—Back home early that evening, Davy did his best to answer his mother’s questions about the day’s adventure and about what the men had said. His mother knew enough to understand that the men were being flippant, but in her naiveté, she also found their comments flattering and didn’t realize she was being manipulated.

Davy leaves home for the first time when Peggotty invites him to Yarmouth—Davy’s mother planned to spend some time at Mrs. Grayper’s, a neighbor she had been visiting a lot lately. While she was gone, Davy would spend two weeks with Peggotty in Yarmouth, her hometown. They would stay at her brother’s place, and Peggotty assured Davy that the company would be pleasant. When the day came to leave, Davy and his mother bid each other an affectionate goodbye, but as the cart drew farther away, the boy saw Mr. Murdstone arrive and appear to scold Davy’s mother for her affection and attachment. The scene left Peggotty angry and frowning, as she always was when Mr. Murdstone was there, and as Davy left his home for the first time in his life, he wondered if he would ever find his way back.



The trip to Yarmouth—The trip to Yarmouth by horse-drawn cart was slow but sure. In fact, the horse was so sure of where it was going that Davy was convinced that even with all its detours and deliveries, the cart would make it to its destination with or without the driver, who was always nodding off, anyway. Peggotty had brought more than enough food, so she and Davy spent most of their time eating and sleeping along the way.

Yarmouth—They finally arrived in Yarmouth, which seemed extremely wet and flat at first. Davy hinted to Peggotty that a few hills and more distance from the water might improve the landscape, but Peggotty, like most Yarmouth natives, was proud of her hometown. As Davy got used to it, he soon changed his mind. Yarmouth had all the busyness and variety of a port town, and with its smell of fish and its sailors, carts, and shipbuilding materials, Davy could easily see what made it so attractive to natives.

Meeting Ham—Ham (“Am” to Peggotty), greeted Davy like a long-lost friend. He was at Blunderstone on the day of Davy’s birth, where his job had been to fetch the doctor for the delivery. Now he sealed their friendship by carrying Davy on his back. Ham had grown significantly since Davy’s birth and measured a powerful six feet, though he still had a boyish head. On their way to the house, they passed through an industrial shipbuilding area until they finally reached what Davy described as a “dull waste,” the flat, wet area he noticed upon their arrival.

The boathouse—Ham pointed enthusiastically at their “house,” which was actually a barge. Davy quickly warmed to the idea of a boathouse, and things only got better on entering. It was clean, neat, and simply but imaginatively decorated with items like a painted tea tray, a Dutch clock,[i] and some drawers. There was a Bible and several pictures with religious themes such as Daniel in the lion’s den. Davy’s bedroom at the back of the boat was particularly appealing, with its white walls, shell-rimmed mirror, bouquet of seaweed, and little window. There was also a pervasive smell of fish, explained by the mound of shellfish kept near the pots and pans, the result of Mr. Peggotty’s daily labors.

Boathouse inhabitants—Mr. Daniel Peggotty was Peggotty’s brother and the master of the boathouse. Dickens’s description of him is of a large, hairy, jovial, kind man. Next were Mrs. Gummidge, who wore a white apron and curtseyed when Davy’s party arrived, and little Em’ly, a beautiful young girl, who shied away from Davy when he first tried to kiss her. After tea, they all settled down to various activities. Mr. Peggotty enjoyed his pipe; Mrs. Gummidge did her knitting by the fireplace, while Peggotty took up her usual needlework; and Ham taught Davy how to play the card game All Fours, as little Em’ly, now no longer shy, sat next to her new friend. The atmosphere was welcoming and cozy, and against the lonely backdrop of fog and wind, the setting seemed magical.

Davy asks about the household relationships—Assuming Mr. Peggotty was Ham’s father, Davy asked whether Ham’s name was inspired by the resemblance of their home to Noah’s ark. He discovered, however, that Ham’s father, Mr. Peggotty’s late brother, had drowned at sea. What about little Em’ly? She was his niece, and her father—Mr. Peggotty’s brother-in-law—had also drowned. Mr. Peggotty himself was unmarried and had no children, though he was the head of the household. Mrs. Gummidge, the woman in the apron whom Davy assumed at first to be Mrs. Peggotty, was now properly introduced to him, but before Davy could ask anything else, Peggotty, his nurse, motioned to him to avoid any more questions.

Peggotty answers his remaining questions—The rest of the evening was spent in silence, but once they were alone in Davy’s cabin, Peggotty told him that her brother had adopted Ham and Em’ly when they were orphaned and that he had taken in Mrs. Gummidge, his late partner’s poor widow. She said that while her brother had a heart of gold, he would throw a fit if anyone mentioned his generosity. It was the only time he became violent. That night, Davy fell asleep to the sounds of the wind and sea, knowing that he was safe inside a boat with a strong and good man on board.

Davy and little Em’ly on the beach—The next morning, Davy was up and about on the beach, collecting pebbles and shells with little Em’ly. Observing that she must be quite a sailor, he discovered that she was afraid of the ocean. She had seen it rip a boat apart and therefore knew it as something fierce. Davy asked whether the boat was the one on which her father drowned. No, he died when she was still too young to remember. That much they had in common, but Em’ly had no grave to visit, and her mother had died even before her father. Besides, she said, Davy came from aristocracy, while she was the offspring of fishermen. Still, she knew that Mr. Peggotty, her Uncle Dan, was the best of men, and someday she would reward him handsomely if she ever became a lady. When Davy asked further about her dream to be a lady, he was happy to learn that it included the desire to help poor fishermen in case stormy weather ever left them in need.

Little Em’ly’s relationship to the sea—It was clear to Davy by this time that Em’ly wasn’t entirely afraid of the ocean. She walked boldly—too boldly, he thought—along the wooden planks of the pier, with no apparent fear of falling in. She agreed that in that sense she had no fear of it. Only the storms frightened her, especially when she imagined Ham and Uncle Dan in desperate straits. Still, as he watched her run boldly and wildly along the planks, he couldn’t help wondering whether she harbored a secret attraction to death by sea, perhaps out of love for her father. Later, in his adulthood, he found himself wondering in retrospect whether it wouldn’t have been better if she had died that day, killed by a sudden wave.

Little Em’ly and Davy’s love for each other—After beachcombing, Davy and little Em’ly went to breakfast, stopping first to kiss each other. They were in love in the pure way that two young, innocent children fall in love. To Davy, Em’ly seemed like an angel, and she returned his passion. Their love was also obvious to the others, who made no effort to hide their enjoyment of it, and it was not marred by memories of the past or worries about the future.

Mrs. Gummidge’s bitterness—Mrs. Gummidge was surprisingly morose, given the help she had received from Mr. Peggotty. She fretted unnecessarily about things like Mr. Peggotty’s periodic visits to the pub, and every small mishap confirmed her opinion that she was a forlorn creature who experienced nothing but trouble. When people pointed out that the same events happened to others, Mrs. Gummidge replied that she felt things more acutely. It didn’t matter that she had the warmest, most comfortable spot on a cold day. Her perception of it was the opposite, especially since that confirmed her sense of being forlorn and prone to trouble. No matter how cheerful the rest of the boat’s inhabitants were, Mrs. Gummidge would repeatedly cry and express her bitterness.

Mr. Peggotty’s sympathy for Mrs. Gummidge’s mourning—When Mr. Peggotty arrived home from the pub at around nine, everyone else greeted him, but Mrs. Gummidge remained downcast, prompting Mr. Peggotty to ask her what was wrong. Nothing, she replied, as she wiped her tears. All further attempts to cheer her up failed. She even insisted that she was the reason Mr. Peggotty felt compelled to go to the pub at all, which he denied, since he went for enjoyment, not because he felt driven there by negative conditions at home. After she had beaten herself down sufficiently and retired to bed, convinced that she had ruined the day for everyone (though she hadn’t), Mr. Peggotty explained to the rest of the group that Mrs. Gummidge had been thinking of the “old ‘un,” by which he meant her deceased husband. He always said this with great sympathy and no resentment toward her for her bitterness.

Davy’s time in Yarmouth comes to an end—Davy’s couple of weeks in Yarmouth passed, with the only changes in rhythm brought about by the varying tides, which affected Dan and Ham’s work hours. When the time finally came to leave, Davy found it hardest to part with Em’ly. Soon, however, as their carriage trundled onwards toward Blunderstone Rookery, he thought more and more about his home and his mother, neither of which had entered his mind during his whole time away.

Davy arrives home to changed conditions—Finally, they stood before the front door, where Davy expected to see his mother but instead was greeted by a servant he did not recognize. Confused and upset, he turned to Peggotty, who had been trying to contain his anticipation throughout their journey. After leading him to the kitchen and shutting the door, she explained in reply to his worried questions that he now had a new father. This bit of information was difficult for Peggotty to convey and just as difficult for Davy to receive. He had no desire to meet his new father, but Peggotty brought him to the large parlor and then left. There sat Mr. Murdstone and Davy’s mother, who, when she immediately rose to greet Davy, was reminded by her new husband to control herself. Mr. Murdstone’s own greeting was restrained, and Davy’s mother’s actions were more inhibited than usual as she quickly sat back down to resume her work.

After leaving the room, which Davy did as soon as he could, he went first to his room and then to the rest of the house and garden, looking for some sign of familiar surroundings. Everything seemed different. Even his bed had been moved, and outside, the kennel that before had been empty now contained a large, ferocious dog.

[i] An old wall clock with large, hanging chimes; similar to a cuckoo clock but without the bird



Davy feels unwelcome and unhappy—In an effort to make sense of it all, Davy concluded that his present misery stemmed from having to part from little Em’ly, who loved him, only to find himself in an unfamiliar place where he felt unwelcome. Dejected, he fell asleep crying.

Davy awakens to his mother and Peggotty—The next morning, he was awoken by Peggotty and his mother, who tried to console him, without success. Surprised at his mother’s inability to see what was wrong, Davy hid his face from her. This prompted his mother to accuse Peggotty of turning him against her, and instead of trying to understand, she blamed Davy and Peggotty for ruining her honeymoon. By now, Mr. Murdstone had entered the room and intervened by touching Davy’s arm and scolding Clara, Davy’s mother, for failing to be “firm.” It was clear to Davy from Murdstone’s interaction with his mother, which combined harshness with tenderness, that he could manipulate and shape her however he chose. Before long, she was instructed to leave the room. Peggotty was next, after being reprimanded for neglecting to call Davy’s mother by her new last name.

Mr. Murdstone disciplines Davy—Finally, Davy was left alone with Mr. Murdstone, who wasted no time informing the boy that his methods for disciplining animals and people included severe beating. He then asked Davy what was on his face, which was tearstained from a night of crying. Inwardly refusing to ever admit the truth to Mr. Murdstone, Davy claimed it was dirt, even though he knew Mr. Murdstone knew better. Davy did wash up, though, when asked to do so, and afterwards, Mr. Murdstone brought him down to the parlor, where he informed the boy’s mother that Davy would no longer be a problem. But Murdstone had done little to gain Davy’s love and trust, and any signs of responsiveness were more out of fear than loyalty or enthusiasm.

Jane Murdstone—Their small family of three was soon joined by Mr. Murdstone’s sister Jane. Neither she nor her brother worked but had both inherited part of the profits of a wine business that was connected with their family. She arrived after dinner that same evening. Dressed in black, she had the same dark, harsh quality as her brother, whom she resembled, with her dark eyes and thick brows. Davy also noticed that she had a strong taste for metallic things, including two boxes, a steel purse, and a number of metal ornaments. And while she herself was made to feel welcome, she made no attempt to be friendly toward Davy, instead dismissing him with the statement that she disliked boys and that he lacked manners.

Miss Murdstone takes charge of the household affairs—Like her brother, Jane Murdstone wasted no time asserting her dominance in household matters. An early riser, she was already up and about the next morning rearranging the storage area. To make sure she maintained control over the household affairs, Miss Murdstone insisted on taking over both the household keys and the responsibility previously held by Davy’s mother. At first, Clara was somewhat flattered by Jane’s assertion that she (Clara) was “too pretty and thoughtless” to be bothered with home affairs. But when Jane and her brother failed to include her in their planning, she protested in her tearful, girlish way. This did not sit well with Mr. Murdstone, who scolded her, especially when she referred to the home as her house rather than their or his house.

The Murdstones’ reign of tyranny and cruelty—Davy quickly deduced that the Murdstone policy of “firmness” was their way of asserting total control. Mr. Murdstone held the primary power, followed by his sister, with Davy’s mother being a mere shadow who bent to their wishes. But that night she had not yet comprehended her place in the household, and she still protested the unfairness of the Murdstone approach. This drew a threat from Jane to leave by morning, while her brother berated his young wife, twisting the situation to make it look like he and Jane were doing her a favor by correcting her flaws. She was informed that unless she bent to his will and became what he wanted, his former affection for her would be replaced by coldness, a condition she could not bear. Once Clara had acquiesced, Davy was promptly sent to bed, having been told that the conversation was inappropriate for his ears. His eyes full of tears for his mother’s sake, he struggled to find his way up the stairs to his room. Peggotty told him later the same evening that his mother had gone to bed early and unhappily. By the next morning, it was clear to Davy that the work of completely bending his mother’s will had been accomplished, as he heard her asking Jane for forgiveness and once and for all handing over any authority she had previously held.

The Murdstones’ severe approach to religion—The Murdstones’ approach to religion was an extension of their severity. Sitting next to Jane Murdstone in church, Davy got the impression that she enjoyed condemning her fellow men. He constantly had to watch himself, too, to avoid having her jab him with her prayer book. The walk home was no better. Gone were the more lighthearted days when he would walk with his mother, accompanied by Peggotty. Peggotty no longer came to church with them, and Davy had to follow behind, while his mother walked between her husband and his sister.

An abusive, unproductive teaching style—This same severity affected Davy’s homeschooling. His lessons with his mother used to be fun and affectionate, and he responded well to this type of treatment. Now they were plagued by the presence of both Murdstones, who insisted on a cruel approach in the name of firmness. But Davy froze under these conditions and often forgot what he had learned, which just brought on more cruelty and “firmness.” The result was a downward spiral.

Davy’s mother suffered as much from this situation as her son. Officially, she was in charge of his education, except that the Murdstones were constantly monitoring her approach, with disastrous results. Their mean spirit and lack of patience made it impossible for Davy to concentrate. His unfinished lessons piled up, and he felt more and more stupid, until he finally stopped trying to undo what seemed like an impossible mess. If his mother tried to hint at the answer, she received a warning from Jane, and Davy would be physically abused by Mr. Murdstone.

A negative view of children—According to the Murdstones, children were evil by nature and were therefore to be kept busy and apart from each other. Davy was kept constantly working and was prevented from playing with other children his own age. Not surprisingly, half a year of this regimen, together with an increasing distance between him and his mother, did little for either Davy’s mood or learning ability.

The saving grace of imaginative books—Only one factor saved him from total inner ruin—­the books left by his father. They included The Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe, Don Quixote, and The Tales of the Genji. They fed his imagination and allowed him to imbue his life and surroundings with grandeur and meaning, inspired by the heroes of the stories he read. Seeing himself as a heroic character and the Murdstones as villains made it possible to tolerate his otherwise intolerable circumstances. It was in this imaginative context that the adult David Copperfield asks the reader to view his memory of the following episode.

The new threat of whipping—One morning, Davy came downstairs to his lessons to find all three adults gathered in the parlor, as usual. This morning, however, his mother seemed apprehensive, and Davy noticed that Mr. Murdstone was preparing a whip, which he occasionally flicked in the air. He was telling the two women that he, too, had been whipped, and when Davy’s mother asked whether it had done him any good, Mr. Murdstone replied that it hadn’t hurt him. Seeing Davy, he warned him to be especially careful that day.

A severe beating—If the threat of whipping was supposed to improve Davy’s learning ability, it failed and instead had the opposite effect. Davy had thoroughly prepared his lesson, but his mind still went blank. By the end of the lesson, Davy’s mother was in tears as Mr. Murdstone led Davy upstairs to his room to be beaten. Pleading for mercy, Davy tried to explain the difficulty he experienced when the Murdstones were present, but Mr. Murdstone wouldn’t listen. He caught the boy’s head in a vice grip, which prompted Davy to bite Murdstone’s hand. Murdstone responded with a violent beating that left the child lying on the floor, feverish and lacerated from the blows of the whip. Hearing the noise, both Davy’s mother and Peggotty came running upstairs, but Mr. Murdstone had locked the door and left when he was done. Afterwards, Davy remembered the house being unusually still, and as his pain and fever subsided, he felt a growing sense of evil and guilt within himself that nothing could offset, not even the horrible sight of his swollen face in the mirror.

Davy’s imprisonment—For the next five days, Davy was kept locked in his room. The only person he saw during that time was Miss Murdstone, who delivered his food and informed him that he was allowed half an hour a day to walk outside in the yard. She also escorted him to the parlor for evening prayers, though no one in the room acknowledged his arrival or presence. Other than that, he was left completely alone to wonder about his future and to endure the nightmarish thoughts that haunted him about any possible punishment for his evil act of biting Mr. Murdstone’s hand, which was now in a large linen bandage. The fact that Mr. Murdstone deserved it for nearly beating Davy to death seems to have been ignored by everyone, including Davy, while Davy himself was treated like a criminal.

Peggotty secretly visits Davy—On the fifth night of his imprisonment, Davy heard a mysterious voice whispering his name. Realizing that it was coming through the keyhole, he guessed it was Peggotty. She had snuck up to his room to secretly inform him that he was going to be sent off to school near London the next morning, and she begged him to never forget her. Their conversation was deeply affectionate as they whispered back and forth and kissed each other through the keyhole. Davy also asked Peggotty to greet her relatives in Yarmouth, and he hoped they would understand that he was not as bad as he seemed. The depth of the affection he felt for Peggotty following that conversation was a unique and irreplaceable feeling that was new to him.

Davy is sent away to school—The next morning, Miss Murdstone, who had already packed Davy’s clothes in a box, came to inform him of his immediate departure for school. After he tearfully ate his breakfast and said goodbye to his mother, Miss Murdstone escorted him to the waiting cart, and he was off to his new destination.

Davy Is Sent Away To School


Peggotty surprises Davy with presents and hugs—Before the cart had gone far, Peggotty suddenly appeared along the way to deliver some cakes, a small purse, and—not least—hugs, which she gave with her whole heart. She had a habit of bursting the buttons off her clothing whenever she did anything with great feeling, and Davy was convinced that she had no buttons left in this case. Having fulfilled her mission, Peggotty took off again, leaving Davy and the driver alone.

Davy looks at his presents—By this point, Davy had done all the crying he could and decided that it wasn’t suitable for a heroic character like the ones in his books. Instead, he looked inside the leather purse, where he found three bright shillings from Peggotty, along with two half-crowns sent from his mother with love. It made him want to cry all over again, but the driver, who was drying Davy’s handkerchief on the horse’s back, talked him out of it.

Barkis, the driver, is interested in Peggotty—The cart was only going as far as Yarmouth, where Davy would transfer to a coach that would take him the rest of the way. As the horse trotted along at its lazy pace, Davy decided to give Mr. Barkis, the driver, one of Peggotty’s cakes. Impressed with Peggotty’s baking, Barkis asked Davy to convey a written message to her that he was “interested.” Davy suggested that Barkis could deliver the message himself the next time he visited Blunderstone Rookery, but Barkis insisted that it should come through Davy.

Davy checks in at the Yarmouth inn—Finally, the cart arrived at the Yarmouth inn, where there was some confusion over Davy’s identity until he mentioned the name Murdstone. Once that was resolved, he was shown to the dining room by a friendly waiter, who set the table, brought food and ale, and stood by while Davy ate. Embarrassed by the waiter’s watchful presence, Davy slopped on himself, but to his relief, the waiter remained friendly.

The waiter eats most of Davy’s meal—Unfortunately, the waiter’s friendliness had its price. First, he convinced Davy that the ale was bad and likely to make him ill or even kill him. The waiter was used to it, though, and could drink it safely, which he did with one gulp. Next he ate most of Davy’s dinner of pork chops and potatoes. Finally, he raced Davy to see who could eat the pudding faster. Naturally, being an adult and using a tablespoon against Davy’s teaspoon, the waiter won, and Davy ended up having a light meal.

The waiter overcharges Davy, and Davy learns a few things about his new school—Still basically trusting and pleased that the waiter remained friendly, Davy drummed up the courage to ask for ink and paper to write Barkis’s message. When the waiter asked him which school he would be attending, Davy learned that it was a harsh environment, where one young boy had two ribs broken from a whipping. When Davy finished writing his message, he asked the waiter how much he owed for everything. In his usual friendly but unscrupulous manner, the waiter convinced him to pay more than he probably should have, though Davy didn’t realize this in his innocence.

Davy spends the night hungry—As Davy boarded the coach, he overheard the servants making fun of him for eating so much all by himself. Because of that, he felt ashamed to eat at all and pretended he didn’t need to, even when the coach stopped for dinner. Having eaten little and forgotten his cakes, he spent the night hungry. Even then, he couldn’t escape being made fun of for supposedly being a heavy eater.

Traveling to London—Traveling through a village that evening, Davy wondered how the people there lived and whether the boys who swung on the coach’s back were happy and had fathers. That night, he found himself squashed between two large men, his legs cramped by a basket belonging to the lady across from him. But he survived, and in the morning, he was rewarded with the amazing sight of London in the distance.

A young schoolmaster picks Davy up at the station—The coach arrived at the inn in Whitechapel, where the coach guard called out to see if anyone was waiting for a boy under the name of Murdstone or Copperfield. When no one answered, the station clerk let Davy sit on the luggage scale behind the counter, where he worried himself into a fever over his future. Eventually, he was picked up by a gaunt young man in an ill-fitting black suit. Their destination was Salem House, where the young man was one of the schoolmasters. They would be catching another coach, but first they had to walk six miles.

The master lets Davy stop to buy some food—Once they had already walked some distance, Davy found the courage to ask about his box, and they turned around and went back to the station to arrange for its pickup. When they were underfoot again, Davy explained that he hadn’t eaten much the night before and that he didn’t think he could manage the full six miles unless he bought some food. The master seemed surprised, but, taking care that the food he got was nourishing, he let Davy stop to buy some brown bread, bacon, and an egg. There was a poor elderly woman the master needed to visit on the way, and she would fix his breakfast for him and give him some milk.

They stop by the home of the poor old woman—The old woman, who appeared to be the master’s mother, was tending the fire when they entered. She greeted the master warmly, curtseyed when she saw Davy, and readily agreed to cook his breakfast, much to the resentment of another old woman, Mrs. Fibbitson, who was using the fire to warm herself (even though it was warm outside) and now had to share it. Characters like Mrs. Fibbitson, who is eccentric and ornery to the point of seeming a little crazy, are not critical to the plot, but they serve as a form of scenery, part of the description of London and its surroundings. Their importance lies in the impressions they make on the young (and later, the adult) David Copperfield as he learns about life and himself.

The master’s mournful flute-playing has a detrimental effect on Davy—While Davy heartily enjoyed his breakfast, the first old woman asked the master to play his flute. He had stored it in his coat in three pieces, and after screwing them together, he began to produce the worst sounds Davy had ever heard. The master’s terrible playing had three effects on Davy: it made him cry by reminding him of his troubles; it ruined his appetite; and it made him so tired that he fell asleep at the table. In his half-awake state, it seemed to Davy that everyone else was enjoying the music, and he thought he saw the first old woman interrupt the playing at one point to hug the master’s neck.

Davy arrives at Salem House—When the flute playing finally stopped, the master woke Davy, and they proceeded to a nearby coach, which took them up a steep hill. Salem House, Davy’s new school, was surrounded by a wall and described as “dull.” A heavyset, mean-looking man with a wooden leg answered the gate, and the young master, whose name was Mr. Mell, introduced Davy as “the new boy.”

Mr. Mell brings Davy into Salem House and reluctantly places a warning sign on him—Mr. Mell then escorted Davy the rest of the way. Davy noticed that Salem House was unusually silent, and Mr. Mell explained that it was vacation time and that Davy had been brought there early as a punishment. The schoolroom was messy and dirty, with a rotting smell. Along with two white mice and a bird in a tiny cage, there were bits of notebook paper and ink strewn and splattered all over the room. There was also a sign, inscribed in beautiful letters, that read: “Take care of him. He bites.” Thinking it referred to a ferocious dog, Davy climbed onto a desk to protect himself. Mr. Mell explained apologetically that the sign referred not to a dog but to Davy and that he would have to wear it on his back. Furthermore, the one-legged man, who held some sort of authority, never allowed Davy to stand with his back hidden. Instead, the sign had to always be visible. This caused Davy a great deal of suffering in the form of constant imaginings and nightmares, and he even began to believe what it said and to fear himself.

Mr. Mell and Davy occupy themselves as they wait for the start of school—When Davy wasn’t at his meals or lessons with Mr. Mell—which he managed to complete successfully and without strain—he was under the watchful eye of the one-legged man. Aside from teaching, Mr. Mell was also in charge of sorting out the accounts from the previous six months, and when he was done with his work for the day, he would play his flute.

Davy dreads meeting the other boys but appreciates Mr. Mell—Davy couldn’t help noticing how old and out of sorts everything looked, from the building itself to the trees that surrounded it. All in all, it was a lonely, apprehensive time for Davy, who yearned for the things he loved and dreaded the reopening of school. Mr. Mell was not particularly talkative, but he was at least reasonable and never mean. And though he had certain quirks, such as pulling his hair, clenching his teeth, and talking to himself, he and Davy provided each other with a degree of companionship.

New Acquaintances


The beginning of school and the return of Mr. Creakle, the principal—About a month after Davy’s arrival, he noticed the one-legged man mopping the place for the beginning of the school term. That also meant the return of Mr. Creakle, the principal, who had been spending his vacation on the beach with his wife and daughter. One night before bed, after being told by Mr. Mell that Mr. Creakle had arrived, Davy was brought to see him by the one-legged man, and he noticed that Mr. Creakle lived in relative comfort and even had a small garden, in contrast to the dry and dusty playground.

Mr. Creakle—Like so many of Dickens’s characters, Mr. Creakle is something of a caricature. Dickens describes him as portly, with small, deep-set eyes and a fiery expression. His chin was large, his nose was small, the veins on his forehead protruded, and his grey hair, instead of parting in the middle of his forehead, met there. But the most striking thing about him was the fact that he whispered, and that meant that the one-legged man had to repeat everything Mr. Creakle said to make sure it was understood.

Mr. Creakle examines Davy and his sign—It turned out that Mr. Creakle knew Mr. Murdstone well and admired him for his firm, decisive character, which he, too, possessed to some extent. He even described himself as a “Tartar,” meaning that he got what he wanted. His first interest was to examine Davy and find out whether anything had been reported against him. This meant turning him around to inspect the sign he was wearing on his back. To Mr. Creakle’s disappointment, nothing was amiss so far. Davy noticed that Mrs. Creakle and her daughter were sitting nearby in the parlor, and it seemed to him that they were sympathetic to him and glad that there was nothing to report. In spite of his fear, Davy drummed up the courage to ask Mr. Creakle if he could have the sign removed from his back, but Mr. Creakle gave him such a fright when he leapt out of his chair that Davy ran all the way to his bed and was unable to sleep for several hours.

Mr. Sharp, the other schoolmaster—The next person Davy encountered was Mr. Sharp, Mr. Mell’s superior as a teacher. Davy relates that Mr. Sharp was privileged to dine with Mr. Creakle, while Mr. Mell ate with the boys. A frail man, Mr. Sharp had a habit of tilting his head, and Davy also learned that his wavy hair was actually a wig.

The students return—The first boy to return was Tommy Traddles, who, luckily for Davy, made a fun game out of showing every other boy Davy’s sign, which lessened his embarrassment. Davy did not completely escape being made fun of, but the whole episode did not turn out as badly as he expected. Some of the boys danced around him like Indians, while others patted him as though he were a dog. He noticed, though, that many of them were dejected at having to return, and this alone put a damper on any tendency toward mockery.

James Steerforth—The most notable student was J. Steerforth, a handsome young man who was considerably older than Davy and said to be academically brilliant. On meeting him, Davy was asked to give an account of his penance, which Steerforth proclaimed a “jolly shame.” This was a relief to Davy, so when Steerforth gave him the option of safeguarding his money with him, Davy did not hesitate. At least, not at first. But when Steerforth kept coming up with more and more ways to spend his money, Davy began to have doubts. It turned out that Davy was assigned to the same bedroom as Steerforth, who in the end appropriated all seven of Davy’s remaining shillings to get currant wine and cakes. That night, Steerforth, with Davy’s consent, divided the wine and cakes between the boys in the room, and they whispered among each other about the different goings-on at the school.

Mr. Creakle’s background—Davy may have lost his money to Steerforth’s spendthrift habits, but he gained information in return. He learned, for example, that Mr. Creakle was a vicious ignoramus who had formerly been in the hops business. After going bankrupt and spending all of his wife’s money, he switched to the business of education and brought his assistant, the one-legged Mr. Tungay, with him. Now his occupation consisted in preying upon the boys whenever he could. He even banished his own son when the latter protested against the way his father treated some of the students and Mrs. Creakle. Apparently, though—and this was a great mystery to Davy—Mr. Creakle never dared abuse Steerforth. Steerforth was aware of this, and when questioned by another boy about what he would do if Creakle ever tried anything, he was ready with his answer: he would knock him on the head with the ink bottle on the mantelpiece.

More school gossip—There was a good deal more gossip among the boys that night. Davy heard that Mr. Sharp’s real hair was red; that Mr. Mell and his mother were as poor as could be; that Miss Creakle was rumored to be in love with Steerforth; that the coal that fueled the school was traded for one of the boys’ educations; and so on throughout the evening. Many of the boys went to bed after the food and wine were gone. Davy, though, chose to stay up with some others.

Davy wonders about his new friend and protector—When he finally bid Steerforth goodnight, the older boy promised he would look after the younger newcomer. Davy spent a long time thinking about Steerforth after that. Steerforth had a habit of laying his head on his arm when he slept, and that was how he lay now as Davy occasionally glanced over at his face and form in the moonlight. To him, Steerforth seemed to lead a charmed life, with no hidden agendas and no unexpected turns.

Salem House


Mr. Creakle’s tyrannical ways—The next day was the first official day of school. When Mr. Creakle and Mr. Tungay appeared together in the classroom after breakfast, the previously noisy room fell suddenly silent. After transmitting the initial threatening announcement that the boys should be extra careful this semester, Mr. Tungay left. Mr. Creakle then made the rounds on his own, beginning with Davy. His message and methods were similar to Mr. Murdstone’s, except that Mr. Creakle was much freer with his favorite instrument of torture, which was his cane. Davy estimated that Creakle had ruthlessly hit and hurt half the boys before the day started, and he hesitated to guess the rest. Creakle particularly enjoyed hitting chubby boys, and since Davy was in that category, it made things worse for him.

The need to always be on guard—Davy could not understand how such an ignorant man could command so much attention. But the reason was obvious: it was the perpetual abuse he dished out to the boys, who constantly eyed him, partly out of fear and partly out of a morbid fascination. To be caught off guard at any point was to earn a whipping, so it paid to watch even when Creakle seemed to be out of sight.

Tommy Traddles—Of all the boys, Tommy Traddles seemed to get the worst of it, having been beaten nearly every day that semester. Yet somehow he managed to regain his cheerfulness even before his tears were fully dry. He had a fondness for drawing skeletons, which Davy decided had something to do with their simplicity and the fact that they symbolized an end to all woe. But Traddles’s outstanding qualities were his honor and courage. He never failed to watch out for the other boys, even when someone else was at fault, as with the time when Steerforth laughed during the church service and Traddles got the blame. But neither the congregation’s stares nor the beating nor a full day of being locked up could change his honorable stance, and for this he got the highest praise from Steerforth.

Davy’s gratitude for Steerforth’s friendship—By now, Davy was thoroughly convinced that his friendship with Steerforth was a good thing. Even compared to the two masters, Mr. Sharp and Mr. Mell, Steerforth was impressive. Davy enjoyed watching him walk to church with Miss Creakle, who, though she was not as pretty as little Em’ly, was certainly refined. Most of the time, too, Steerforth protected Davy, although that did not include protection from Mr. Creakle’s cane.

Davy’s role as bedtime storyteller strengthens his friendship with Steerforth—One day, Davy happened to mention Peregrine Pickle, one of the characters in his storybooks, when talking to Steerforth on the playground. Steerforth asked him about the reference later that evening. He wondered whether Davy still had his storybooks, and when he discovered that he didn’t, he arranged to have Davy tell him stories to help with his insomnia late at night and early in the morning. As a result, Davy got less sleep, but his storytelling strengthened the bond between them and gained him a better reputation among the boys. Steerforth also helped Davy with his more difficult assignments. But Davy stresses that his motive for narrating the stories was neither fear nor gain but only love and admiration for Steerforth. It never occurred to him to say no.

Steerforth’s unfairness toward Mr. Mell—Davy’s inability to say no to Steerforth meant that he kept nothing secret from him, including his visit to Mr. Mell’s mother’s house. It never entered Davy’s mind that this information would be used against Mr. Mell, though it had already saddened Davy more than once to see Steerforth’s rude and unfair treatment of the master, especially since Mr. Mell had always been kind to Davy and shown a particular interest in him.

Mr. Mell’s loss of patience and Steerforth’s rude response—One Saturday, when Mr. Mell was in charge of the boys, the atmosphere was particularly rowdy. That day, Mr. Creakle had not made his usual rounds with his cane, so there was a general euphoria, expressed in all kinds of boyish behavior. There was singing, dancing, laughing, making faces, taunting—all the things boys usually do when in high spirits. At one point, the noise became unbearable to Mr. Mell, who was trying to concentrate on his work. In a sudden fit of impatience, he rose from his seat, slammed a book on the desk, and cried, “Silence!” Steerforth, who was casually standing at the back of the room, rudely replied, “Silence yourself.” Creakle’s favoritism toward Steerforth had not escaped Mr. Mell’s notice, and the two of them went back and forth until Steerforth called Mr. Mell an “impudent beggar” for daring to reprimand him for being generally rude and abusing his power over the other boys.

Steerforth’s baneful influence and Mr. Mell’s dismissal—The inspiration for Steerforth’s insult was the fact that Mr. Mell’s mother was poor. Mr. Mell never mentioned this directly, but he did state that Steerforth should have more compassion for the less fortunate. Compassion, however, was not Steerforth’s strong suit, and instead he took full advantage of the situation, turning it in his favor and against Mr. Mell. While this was going on, Mr. Creakle entered the room unobserved, followed by his wife, daughter, and Mr. Tungay, who was always close by his side. But on this day, Mr. Creakle’s hoarse whisper was so loud that Tungay’s services as an interpreter were unnecessary. The idea that anyone in his school could be a “beggar” was so offensive to Mr. Creakle that he promptly fired Mr. Mell. Mr. Mell did not contest Mr. Creakle’s action, despite its injustice, but agreed to leave immediately. All of this saddened and confused Davy, who regretted being the source of the information, especially since Mr. Mell had been so kind. Yet never for one moment did Mr. Mell blame Davy for having any part in Mr. Creakle’s decision and Steerforth’s unjust behavior. In light of that, what confused and saddened Davy even more was that he found himself falling in line with the other boys as they cheered the situation on, even though doing so was obviously unfair and mean.

Tommy Traddles tells the truth and is beaten; Steerforth’s ability to twist the truth—The only one who had the courage to speak up for Mr. Mell and against Steerforth was Traddles, and when Traddles was later found crying over Mr. Mell’s leaving, Mr. Creakle beat him, and Steerforth put him down. Steerforth’s motives were pride and vanity, but no matter what motives he harbored, he always managed to distort people’s perceptions to suit himself. Somehow the smallest act of kindness on his part was perceived as grand and noble, while an act of true courage and nobility, if performed against him by someone else, was twisted to demean the other person. So when Tommy Traddles spoke out against Steerforth and proclaimed the truth of the situation, Steerforth made Traddles look bad and himself look good in everyone else’s eyes.

Steerforth’s power—In his more honest moments, when Davy was alone, he knew in his heart that Mr. Mell had been wronged. Life went on, however, and until the new teacher arrived, Steerforth acted as a substitute. When the master did arrive, it was a tribute to Steerforth’s position at Salem House that the new teacher was formally introduced to him at a dinner and that Steerforth’s approval of the teacher had a major influence on Davy’s attitude.

A visit from Mr. Peggotty and Ham—Steerforth was as capable of putting others at ease as he was of using his personal magnetism against them. One of Davy’s strongest memories from that semester was of an unexpected visit by Mr. Peggotty and Ham, who brought him an impressive gift of shellfish, already boiled by Mrs. Gummidge. They observed how Davy had grown, and when he asked about little Em’ly, they mentioned that she, too, had grown and was turning into quite a woman—pretty, educated, and with excellent penmanship. They beamed with pride as they talked about her, and Davy couldn’t help noticing what good, honest people they were in spite of their roughness and simplicity.

The lighter side of Steerforth’s charm—Just at that point, Steerforth walked through the room, singing to himself. He said he hadn’t realized that Davy was there, and as he continued on his way out, Davy called him over to introduce him to his friends. Without a shred of arrogance, Steerforth put Mr. Peggotty and Ham at ease, and they responded with warmth and openness. Watching Steerforth, Davy was convinced he possessed a spellbinding quality few could match. In this particular situation, he was modest, warm, and gracious, and Davy’s friends thanked him for his kindness and extended him an open invitation to the boathouse in Yarmouth.

Feasting on shellfish—That night, the boys feasted on shellfish, though Traddles, in his usual unlucky way, got sick and was later punished for keeping silent about the real reason. In an unusual moment of reserve, Davy thought of mentioning little Em’ly to Steerforth but decided against it. He was not wholly comfortable with the idea of her becoming a woman, and he thought Steerforth might make fun of him.

The end of term—Those were the two most distinct incidents among a host of other memories that had mostly to do with cold days, dark nights, repetitive food, and constant studies, in addition to the regular abuse and dirty, ink-filled environment that were basic to the Salem House experience. Finally, though, the holiday season rolled around, and Davy found himself in a coach on his way home.

Winter Vacation


On the way to Blunderstone—The mail coach that transported Davy finally arrived, this time at a different inn, where Davy, in spite of first sitting by the downstairs fireplace with a cup of hot tea, spent a cold night in a room with the designation “Dolphin” on the door. He talks about climbing into the Dolphin’s bed and snuggling up in the Dolphin’s blankets.

Progress of Mr. Barkis’s courtship of Peggotty—As Mr. Barkis and Davy continued their journey the next day, Davy asked what had happened with the message he sent to Peggotty for him. It turned out that Peggotty had not responded, and Barkis was disappointed. Davy asked Barkis whether he had asked Peggotty himself. When Barkis said no, Davy offered to do it for him, a suggestion Barkis accepted. The conversation came to an end as Barkis made a note to himself of Peggotty’s full name, Clara Peggotty, which seemed to carry special meaning for him.

Davy dreads returning to Blunderstone—Davy was no longer sure what to feel about going home, except that he knew it would never again be what it had been before the Murdstones arrived. He dreaded seeing their faces in the window, but when the cart finally delivered him to the doorstep, no dismal Murdstone greetings awaited him, and he was able to enter the house unobserved.

Davy finds his mother holding a baby—The first thing he heard was his mother’s singing, and the sound took him straight back to his infant days, opening and filling his heart. As he quietly entered the room, he noticed his mother was holding a baby. Her reaction on seeing him was to go to him, kneel down beside him with the baby in her arms, and lovingly hug and kiss him as she proclaimed him her own dear Davy and introduced the baby as his little brother. To Davy, this was a moment in heaven he wished he could capture forever.

A happy reunion while the Murdstones are out—While this was going on, Peggotty entered with a similar ecstatic reaction, which continued for a good fifteen minutes. Davy learned that his early arrival had been unexpected and had come at a good time, since both Murdstones would be out visiting until nighttime. For a short time, things could be as before.

Just like the old days—And so they were. Peggotty waited on them, but on Davy’s mother’s insistence, she ate with them, too, and afterwards, she brought her work and sat with them by the fire. For dinner, she made sure Davy had his special plate with a picture of a warship, his mug with his name on it, and his own special silverware. She had gone out of her way to store these safely for him.

Playful talk of Barkis’s courtship—During dinner, Davy asked Peggotty about Mr. Barkis’s message to her, which caused Peggotty to throw her apron over her head and laugh. Davy’s mother asked Peggotty what was wrong and, on discovering the issue, laughingly called Peggotty a “stupid creature” and “ridiculous thing” when she refused to consider Barkis’s proposal. There was nothing offensive in this to Peggotty. A little later, when Davy’s mother showed her concern that Peggotty might leave after all, Peggotty vehemently denied it and asked her what could have put that in her “silly little head.”

Peggotty’s lack of interest in marriage and her faithfulness to the Copperfield family—Peggotty had no interest in marriage and considered it wise on Barkis’s part that he never dared to bring up the subject, since her reaction would have been to slap him. Her life plan was to stay with her mistress for as long as she could be useful, and when she was too old to do any good, she would go and live with Davy. She never doubted he would take her in, and he affirmed he would be happy to have her.

Davy’s mother’s frailness—For all their bantering, Davy couldn’t help noticing that his mother looked more anxious and worn than before. There was a frailness about her that was most noticeable in her hands, which seemed almost transparent to him. His mother was so concerned that Peggotty might leave her, she practically pleaded with her to stay, adding that it might not be for long. The impression we get is that Davy’s mother, aside from being unhappy in her marriage, is not well and does not think she has long to live.

An uncertain conversation—The three of them gathered by the fire that evening, and as Peggotty worked away at darning what seemed to Davy an endless supply of socks, she suddenly began to muse about Miss Betsey, Davy’s eccentric great-aunt, and whether she would leave Davy anything in her will. Perhaps, now that Davy had a little brother, Miss Betsey would find it in her heart to forgive him for being a boy. Davy’s mother was shocked that Peggotty would even think of Miss Betsey, given her negative attitude toward Davy, and her response was to go off on a tangent about Peggotty’s ingratitude toward the Murdstones’ goodwill. Peggotty denied talking about them either directly or indirectly, but Davy’s mother insisted she had. Yet her statements lacked conviction. It seemed like she was trying to believe them herself, but without complete success. Finally, Davy’s mother relented and proclaimed Peggotty her only true friend, but something told Davy the conversation was about more than what appeared on the surface.

Visiting until the Murdstones come home—The rest of the evening was spent listening to Davy talk about Salem House, Mr. Creakle’s mean-spirited behavior, and, of course, Steerforth. For old times’ sake, Davy read to Peggotty from the crocodile book, which Peggotty had safeguarded all this time. When the Murdstones arrived home at ten o’clock, Davy’s mother rushed him up to bed, knowing that the Murdstones would not be happy seeing a child up so late.

Davy asks Mr. Murdstone for forgiveness but still can’t trust him—The next morning, after several false starts, Davy managed to make it downstairs, where he greeted Mr. Murdstone in the parlor and asked for forgiveness for biting his hand. Mr. Murdstone’s initial reaction on seeing Davy was to be aloof, as though he didn’t recognize him. But when Davy apologized, Mr. Murdstone acknowledged the boy and even extended his hand, which still showed a small red scar from the bite. Even so, the look on Mr. Murdstone’s face still made Davy uncomfortable.

Jane Murdstone does her best to make Davy feel unwelcome—Dealing with Jane Murdstone was no better. When Davy asked her how she was, she sighed and calculated the number of days till the holidays were over, ticking them off on the calendar one by one and growing visibly happier as they neared the end. When Davy took the baby in his arms, Miss Murdstone shrieked and from then on prevented him from ever touching his little brother again. When his mother lovingly compared Davy’s and the baby’s eyes as being exactly alike, Jane took offense. Calling Clara a fool, she stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

A stultifying atmosphere—To sum it up, it was not a welcoming atmosphere. In fact, the Murdstones’ dislike of Davy was so strong that even those who loved him felt they couldn’t show it, and Davy himself felt severely limited in his expression. The slightest move or look would too often be misinterpreted and get his mother into trouble, so his remedy was to stay away from the parlor as much as possible. At first, he took refuge in his room and his books, and for company, he enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with Peggotty. But neither of these choices sat well with Mr. Murdstone, who soon put an end to them. Davy was called on his “sullen” disposition and his preference for “low” company, and he was ordered to sit in the parlor with the rest of the family. Unable to express himself freely or read entertaining books, he spent hours studying the wall, watching the clock, or examining boring math textbooks. To keep himself awake, he sang songs in his head, took imaginary walks, or wondered whether the steely Miss Murdstone would ever marry. He found himself looking forward to school and Steerforth’s company, in spite of the looming threat of Mr. Creakle.

Davy says goodbye to his mother and her baby—Finally, the day of his departure arrived, and in spite of Miss Murdstone’s mean-spirited watchfulness of his mother’s every move, Davy managed to hug and kiss his mother and little brother goodbye. But his final poignant memory was of his mother standing by the gate, calling after him, with her baby held high and an earnest look that spoke of the distance that had been forced between them. He did not know it then, but it was the last time he would see her.

A Memorable Birthday


One outstanding memory—The two months at school following that vacation were eclipsed in Davy’s memory by one event, which happened to take place in March on his birthday. Other than that, only Steerforth stood out, and he shone more brightly than ever during that time. Maybe it was because he was leaving soon and therefore even braver in his self-expression, the quality that had been most squashed at Blunderstone.

Davy’s hopeful reaction on being called to the office—The day of the memorable occasion was etched in Davy’s mind as a cold, damp, foggy day, even inside the schoolroom, where the boys’ breath was visible as they tried to warm their hands. When Mr. Sharp called Davy into the parlor, Davy’s first reaction was to feel cheerful, thinking there might be a gift basket from Peggotty. The other boys thought the same thing and called out for first dibs on whatever she had sent. But Mr. Sharp’s compassionate advice to Davy to take his time did not support their excitement, though the boys and Davy were too busy imagining good things to notice.

Mrs. Creakle gently informs Davy of his mother’s death—When Davy reached the parlor, it was Mrs. Creakle who addressed him. Mr. Creakle continued eating his breakfast and reading his paper, though Davy saw him shake his head and suppress a sigh. In any case, there was no basket, only a letter that Mrs. Creakle held as she brought Davy over to the couch. Gently and kindly, Mrs. Creakle informed Davy that his mother had died. At first she told him she was gravely ill, but he knew the truth instinctively, and she quickly changed “ill” to “dead.”

Davy is treated with sensitivity by all—Mrs. Creakle spent most of the day with Davy in the parlor, occasionally leaving him by himself to cry until he had exhausted both his tears and himself. Later, when he returned to the playground, he felt he was viewed with a greater sense of importance. No storytelling was required of him that night, and Traddles even offered him his pillow and a skeleton drawing for comfort.

Davy leaves Salem House for the last time—Davy left Salem House the next afternoon to attend the funeral, not realizing it would be his last time. The coach from the school took him to Yarmouth first, where Davy was met by Mr. Omer, whom Dickens describes as small, old, jovial, easy-going, extremely fat, and short of breath. Dressed in black, he wore a wide-brim hat, and his knickers were decorated at the knees with ribbons. He addressed Davy as “Master David.”

Mr. Omer and family—Mr. Omer was the owner of a family business that dealt in things related to clothing and funerals. In the back room of the shop, three young women were industriously sewing a large amount of black cloth, and outside, Davy could hear a rhythmic hammering noise. At least one of the young women, Minnie, was Mr. Omer’s daughter, and when Mr. Omer asked her how things were going, she merrily replied that all was progressing well. She then jokingly commented on his girth as she waited for him to catch his breath. He took her statement good-naturedly, his philosophy being that to do otherwise was useless. In fact, according to his daughter, everyone there was good-natured and cheerful.

Business as usual at Omer’s as life goes on—Once he’d caught his breath, Mr. Omer brought Davy into another room to take his measurements. Davy remembered him making a speech that compared life with the changing fashions—how both would come and go suddenly and incomprehensibly. At the time, the sentiment went over Davy’s head. Next, Mr. Omer yelled an order down a small flight of stairs to bring Davy some breakfast. Being surrounded by all that black made eating unappealing to Davy, but he tried, anyway, as he listened to Mr. Omer and the ever-present tapping in the background. Mr. Omer informed Davy that he’d known of him for a long time, having buried his father. When Davy asked how his little brother was doing, Mr. Omer sadly stated that the baby was resting in its mother’s arms. Davy knew that meant he was dead, too, and the information brought back his tears, in spite of Mr. Omer’s advice to try to not make too much of it. When Davy went to another table to place his head down and cry, Minnie made sure to quickly clear the cloth away to avoid any tear stains. Shortly afterwards, a young man named Joram came in carrying a hammer, with the nails still in his mouth. He was a handsome young man, and it soon became evident that he and Minnie were lovers. It also became quickly apparent to Davy that Joram had been building his mother’s coffin. On some level, Davy could see that this was business as usual for the Omers, and though they were cheerful and kind, they never let things like death or emotion interfere with regular practical concerns or everyday life.

On the way to Blunderstone, Davy wonders how the Omers can be so cheerful—Mr. Omer had gone to fetch the carriage, while the others carried on their work happily and efficiently, with Minnie folding the clothes and the two other girls tidying up the shop and standing by to serve any customers that might come. When the carriage came, the goods were loaded first, then Davy, followed by Joram and Minnie, who sat on either side of Mr. Omer. Their ongoing cheerfulness throughout the ride and at dinnertime was mystifying to Davy, who felt that they were almost a different species who lacked normal human emotions.

Back at Blunderstone Rookery—When the carriage finally arrived at Blunderstone Rookery, a grief-stricken Peggotty was the first to greet Davy. The Murdstones, who were in the parlor, barely took notice of him, except that Jane Murdstone stopped to ask whether he had brought his shirts and had his measurements taken. She was too metallic to ever be cheerful like the Omers, and she showed no natural human affection, sympathy, or grief but carried on with the necessary arrangements. Mr. Murdstone stayed in his chair, crying softly and appearing to read, though not actually doing so.

Peggotty’s love and faithfulness—In line with the house rules, Peggotty mostly continued to maintain her distance from Davy. But she kept the promise she had made when he first returned home that she would never desert her beloved mistress and her baby until they lay beneath the ground. Out of her deep love for Davy, Peggotty also sat by his bedside at night until he fell asleep.

The parlor before the funeral—The details of the funeral day remained forever etched in Davy’s mind. That day, his senses were heightened as everything—from the glow of the wine to the shape of the tableware and the smells in the room—took on an added presence and intensity. Mr. Chillip, the doctor, approached Davy in a comforting manner, but when Davy was unable to respond, Mr. Chillip tried engaging Miss Murdstone in pleasant conversation. Failing that, he retired to a corner, bringing Davy with him.

The funeral—The only other person in the parlor was the neighbor, Mr. Grayper, although the burial itself was attended by many faces that Davy recognized from the village and the church. At last, the procession began, moving through the front gate to the familiar churchyard. As the party surrounded the gravesite, Davy observed an unusual sadness and solemnity. In a moving moment, he describes how he heard Peggotty weeping and how he was sure that this kind and good person, whom he now loved more than anyone else alive, would someday be rewarded by her Lord for a job well done.[i]

Peggotty tells Davy about his mother’s death—After the ceremony finished and the group returned to the house, Davy got leave from Mr. Chillip to go to his room. Soon Peggotty joined him there and told him the sad facts of his mother’s final days. His mother had been in poor health for some time, and though Peggotty hoped she would improve after the delivery, she continued to worsen. But Davy’s mother never felt comfortable telling the Murdstones how she felt and instead pretended to be the lighthearted, foolish girl they thought she was. But she was unhappy, and her health continued to fade. Finally, a week before her death, she told Mr. Murdstone. Despite the Murdstones’ evil influence, Peggotty was proud to say that her own relationship with Davy’s mother always remained the affectionate interchange it had been from the beginning. His mother had even loved the Murdstones, simply because that was her nature. But she found rest in Peggotty, and this became more and more obvious toward the end, when Peggotty’s soothing presence helped her fall asleep. In the end, she died in the arms of her old servant, as Peggotty had predicted, and in her dying moments, Davy’s young and lovely mother returned to a happier time—a time when her former husband had cherished her loving nature, holding it to be true wisdom. Having given her last instructions to bury her baby with her, should it also die, she left all the pain and misery behind her.

A perpetual memory of a happier time—The moment Davy heard these words, his mother regained her joy and bloom, forever to remain so in his memory. And the child that was buried with her was his inner child, the eternal symbol of a happier time.

[i] The reference Dickens makes in this paragraph is to Matthew 25:23 in the New Testament of the Bible, where Jesus is teaching the parable of the talents: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

Davy Is Neglected And Provided For


Peggotty is given a month’s notice, and Davy is ignored—Following the funeral, Miss Murdstone wasted no time giving Peggotty a month’s notice, and Peggotty, in turn, informed Davy they would have to separate, even though she would have stayed out of love for him. Davy’s own fate was more nebulous. He only knew he would not be returning to school, but he could discover nothing more than that. What did become obvious was that he was no longer being forced into the strict discipline that had previously been imposed upon him. His presence in the parlor was no longer desired. He could visit with Peggotty as long as he kept out of Mr. Murdstone’s sight, and he didn’t have to endure the torture of lessons with the Murdstones anymore.

Davy wonders about his future—In short, Davy was completely neglected, which left him wondering about his future. Would he grow into a lazy, ill-tempered person who led a useless life? Or would he embark on a heroic journey, like the characters in his favorite books? His musings led nowhere except to the conclusion that he had no idea what his future held.

Davy gets permission to take two weeks in Yarmouth when Peggotty leaves—One thing seemed clear to Davy: Mr. Murdstone did not like him one bit. In fact, he seemed to tolerate him even less than before. Peggotty tried to explain it away as part of his grieving, but Davy thought otherwise. The anger Mr. Murdstone expressed whenever Davy entered the parlor did not seem like the reaction of a mourning heart. Peggotty mentioned that she planned to go to Yarmouth for two weeks once her month was up, and she thought it might do Davy good to come along. Davy’s concern that the Murdstones would resist the idea was put to rest when Jane suddenly entered the kitchen to go to the storeroom and Peggotty took the opportunity to ask her. Miss Murdstone’s answer, which was yes, was partly based on her belief that Davy was basically lazy and this might help to keep him busy (though she had her doubts). The other issue was that Mr. Murdstone needed to be undisturbed. Thrilled at the prospect, Davy nevertheless stifled his enthusiasm, though he thanked Miss Murdstone. He figured that, given her joyless temperament, showing his happiness might backfire.

Mr. Barkis gets goofy—A month later, Mr. Barkis arrived with his cart, and for the first time ever, he entered the house, motivated by the desire to help Peggotty with her boxes. Once they were settled in the cart and on the way, Barkis was silent and unexpressive as long as Peggotty was crying, which she did for a while after leaving the place that had been her home for so long. But eventually, as Peggotty settled in and seemed more content and talkative—at least, with Davy—Barkis began wearing a silly grin. When Davy made a polite attempt to include Barkis in the conversation by informing him that Peggotty was comfortable, Barkis, after some thought, repeatedly asked her whether she was indeed comfortable, as he squeezed closer and closer to her and Davy. When Peggotty pointed out that he was causing Davy considerable discomfort, he immediately made space. Periodically, he would repeat the whole process until later in the journey, when he fortunately had to concentrate more on his driving.

Mr. Barkis’s social ineptitude—It was clear that neither subtlety nor self-expression were Barkis’s strong points, and though he understood the process of courtship on one level, he lacked the social wit to implement it gracefully. At least, he had the presence of mind to treat Peggotty and Davy to dinner at a pub, but his advances toward Peggotty were clumsy. The same gracelessness appeared on being introduced to Ham and Mr. Peggotty after dropping Peggotty and Davy off in Yarmouth, and when he tried to privately convey his hopes about Peggotty to Davy, he only succeeded in sounding completely cryptic.

Peggotty’s changed thoughts on Barkis—Fortunately, Peggotty had a good deal of both common sense and social sense. She understood what Barkis was trying to do, even if his delivery was awkward. She had already made up her mind that, given her current situation, marriage might be a good thing after all. Now she privately asked Davy what he thought of the idea. Davy received it with enthusiasm, since to him, it meant that Peggotty would always be close by and that she could visit him often, especially as she would have free access to the cart. That had been her thought process exactly. Davy’s one concern was whether Peggotty would still love him just as much as she did now. Her response, which got the attention of all around her, was to throw her arms around him and profess her undying, unconditional love. He was her highest priority, even if he was against the idea of her marrying Barkis, in which case she would relinquish it. But he wasn’t, and she was thrilled to have his support. She had spent many hours thinking about it, and she guessed that although Barkis was a simple man, still he was a good man and one she wagered she could please sufficiently to make herself, in his words, “pretty comfortable.”

The boathouse is unchanged—That statement set them both laughing until they arrived at the boathouse, which was exactly as Davy had left it. Mrs. Gummidge was still standing by the door, the shellfish still lay in a heap, and the bouquet of seaweed still decorated his bedroom. The one thing missing from the scene was little Em’ly, who was at school and due to arrive home within the half hour. Otherwise, everything was the same. Mrs. Gummidge even still moaned about being a “lone lorn creetur,” especially since little Em’ly no longer spent most of her time at home.

Dickens’s language—One thing worth mentioning here is Dickens’s language. For the most part, his prose is comprehensible, but once in a while, he uses phrases that require a bit more concentration to interpret. One of those crops up here, when he describes Mr. Peggotty as “wiping the heat consequent on the porterage of Peggotty’s box from his forehead.” In plain modern English, that translates into: “wiping the sweat from his brow after carrying Peggotty’s box.” If you occasionally find yourself tripping over such phrases, the best way to get through them is to slow down for a moment and pick them apart word by word. You can deduce that “consequent” means “resulting from” and that “porterage” must be related to “porter.” The rest of the sentence is self-explanatory and makes perfect sense in that context.

Little Em’ly begins to grow up—Little Em’ly’s absence was a disappointment to Davy and temporarily colored his view of the boathouse for the worse. He found himself walking outside to look for her and presently saw her coming down the path. She did not look that different except that all her qualities seemed more intense. Her eyes were bluer, her face brighter, and her manner was more girlish and playful than before. At first, they pretended not to recognize each other. Then, when she ran from Davy, he ran after her and tried to kiss her, but she laughingly evaded him. She also avoided sitting next to him at tea, preferring instead to sit next to Mrs. Gummidge—and she did all this with great glee, just as she enjoyed wrapping Mr. Peggotty around her little finger. But little Em’ly was also compassionate, for when Mr. Peggotty spoke of the recent sad events in Davy’s life, Davy noticed she was crying. There followed some banter about how the three of them, Davy, Em’ly, and Ham, were all orphans, yet Em’ly and Ham seemed happy and well in spite of it. Davy was sure that if Mr. Peggotty had been his guardian, he, too, would be happy.

Emily is captivated by talk about Steerforth—The subject next switched to Steerforth, Davy’s favorite. Mr. Peggotty asked Davy how his friend was doing, and that started Davy talking excitedly about Steerforth’s many fine points—his looks, brains, talent, courage, skill, and the remarkable ease with which he conquered life. All this was confirmed by Mr. Peggotty, and at one point, Davy was so captivated by Em’ly’s rapt attention that the rest of the household turned to look at her. Peggotty commented that Em’ly seemed to want to meet Steerforth as much as she did, which caused little Em’ly to run away and hide for the remainder of the evening. That night, Davy was reminded of those he had loved and lost, as he fell asleep to the sounds of the wind and sea, comforting himself with the prayer that he would one day marry little Em’ly.

Subtle changes in Davy and Em’ly’s relationship—In fact, things were no longer quite as they had been between little Em’ly and Davy. She was busy with school and chores, and there was more distance between them now than there had been a year ago. She was also unexpectedly womanly, though still a girl, and she seemed to derive great pleasure from teasing Davy. Davy’s favorite times were when he would read to her by the doorstep as she worked. In those moments, the world seemed most beautiful to him.

Barkis’s ongoing courtship of Peggotty—While Davy admired little Em’ly, Mr. Barkis continued his awkward courtship of Peggotty. Every night, he would come by and grace Peggotty’s family with his silent presence, afterwards depositing some new gift by the door without mentioning why. The first time, Ham ran after him, thinking he’d left his bag of oranges behind by accident. But Mr. Barkis explained that they were for Peggotty, and after that, he left an eclectic series of gifts—everything from apples to dominoes to jet earrings. The most aggressive thing he ever did in terms of showing his interest was to pocket the wax candle she used for her needlework. But most of the time he contented himself with just being in her presence. Peggotty herself found it all most entertaining, as did the rest of the household, with the usual exception of Mrs. Gummidge.

Peggotty and Barkis invite Davy and Em’ly on a special outing—Shortly before Davy was scheduled to return to Blunderstone Rookery, Mr. Barkis and Peggotty arranged to take a day trip together, and they invited Davy and Em’ly to come along. When Mr. Barkis arrived to pick them up in the morning, instead of the cart and his usual clothing, he drove a carriage and was all dressed up. To see them off, Mr. Peggotty had Mrs. Gummidge throw an old shoe after them for luck, which she did only after much goading and a final insistence from Peggotty herself, and even then she was unable to refrain from crying and moaning.

Davy expresses his affection for Em’ly—Their first stop was a church, and while Mr. Barkis and Peggotty went inside, Davy suggested to Em’ly that since he was due to leave soon, and since she was the great love of his life, they should show their love as much as possible. Em’ly was agreeable, though she thought he was silly, which bothered Davy. But her charm and laughter were so enchanting to him that he enjoyed himself, anyway.

Peggotty and Barkis are married—When Barkis and Peggotty finally returned to continue their countryside excursion, Mr. Barkis made a guessing game about Peggotty’s name. After two tries, Davy still hadn’t guessed it correctly, so to Peggotty’s surprise, Barkis exclaimed with a loud laugh that it was now Clara Peggotty Barkis! Other than that unexpected outburst and Peggotty’s sudden emotionality as she repeatedly hugged Davy, it was an entirely quiet, private affair, just as Peggotty had wished.

A relaxing day at an inn—Their next stop was an inn, where they spent a relaxing day, enjoying a midday meal together and having tea later that afternoon. It occurred to Davy that Peggotty could not have been more relaxed, having quickly reverted to her usual self; and Mr. Barkis seemed content to smoke his pipe while the others took a walk together between meals. They all left the inn after sunset, which gave Davy the occasion to thoroughly educate them about the stars and impress Mr. Barkis in the process. When Davy ran out of astronomical information, he spent the rest of the time sitting with Em’ly, dreaming of a happy future together that on some level he knew would never take place.

A pleasant evening among friends after Peggotty goes off to her new home—The carriage first delivered Em’ly and Davy to the boathouse and then took Peggotty to her new home with Barkis. In that moment, Davy felt a sudden hole in his heart. Luckily, he was surrounded by goodhearted people, including little Em’ly, and they filled his need with their loving company and dinner waiting on the table. The day, delightful in itself, could not have ended better, with little Em’ly by his side till bedtime.

Davy spends his last night in Yarmouth in his permanent room at Peggotty’s new home—The next morning, Peggotty picked Davy up to take him to her beautiful new home. There he immediately fell in love with an old desk with a retractable cover, under which he found a large volume of Fox’s Book of Martyrs, a classic Protestant text full of gruesome but fascinating pictures. That day, Davy also bid farewell to his friends at the boathouse and spent the night at Peggotty’s before returning to the Rookery. His room was a little bedroom in the attic that Peggotty promised to always keep for him, no matter how far away he lived, and in it she kept that memento of his childhood, the crocodile book.

From warmth and love to cold neglect—That was Davy’s last night in a warm and friendly environment, for on the following day, Peggotty and her new husband delivered Davy to the doorstep of Blunderstone Rookery, now a cold, forbidding place. Davy’s life from then on would be one of constant neglect. He would take his meals with the Murdstones, but beyond that, there was little to no contact of any kind, whether for social, educational, or any other purposes. They did not beat or malign him, but their neglect of him was thorough, deliberate, and cold. It even extended to preventing him from becoming too close with anyone else, though Peggotty still made it a point to visit once a week and never failed to bring gifts in spite of a pronounced miserliness on Mr. Barkis’s part. Other invitations for social contact, whether from Mr. Chillip or for visits to Peggotty’s home, had to remain unfulfilled for the most part, and Davy was relegated to taking comfort in his old books.

One of Mr. Murdstone’s business acquaintances recognizes Davy—One day, as Davy was walking through the village, he happened to meet Mr. Murdstone accompanied by another man, who remembered Davy as “Brooks of Sheffield.” Davy wasn’t sure what to make of him at first, but on looking at him more closely, he recognized him as Mr. Quinion from the boat he had visited with Mr. Murdstone. Despite Murdstone’s discouragements, Mr. Quinion took an obvious interest in Davy, remembering him as a sharp young fellow.

Davy is sent to London to work in the Murdstones’ wine business—The next day, Davy found out that Mr. Quinion managed the wine business associated with the Murdstones. Since the Murdstones’ finances were tight, it was arranged for Davy to go to London to work under Mr. Quinion. Davy’s room, clothing, and laundry expenses would be taken care of, but he would earn his own food and pocket money. Mr. Murdstone did not have the money to educate Davy, so his education would begin in the world, where he would learn to fight for his place.

Davy leaves the next day for a new life—As usual in Davy’s life, the news came suddenly, and the next day, he was on his way to a new life. As the carriage with Mr. Quinion and him drew farther and farther away from his childhood village and home, Davy watched the landmarks of his former existence slowly fade into the distance.

Davy Dislikes Life On His Own


Davy is sent to work in Murdstone and Grinby’s warehouse—And so, at the tender age of ten, Davy was sent to work at Murdstone and Grinby’s warehouse down by the riverfront in the Blackfriars section of central London. The warehouse, which had its own pier, stood right by the water. Davy vividly remembered it as being a “crazy” old building, dirty from the grime and smoke, with rotting stairs and floorboards, and infested with rats. One of Murdstone and Grinby’s businesses was to ship liquor and wine abroad. Davy’s job, which he shared with several other men and boys, involved checking the empty bottles for flaws and then either discarding them or washing and rinsing the; or when there were no empties to deal with, corking, sealing, and labeling the full bottles.

Davy’s coworkers—There were just a few other boys who regularly worked in the old warehouse. The oldest, Mick Walker, had the task of training Davy on his first day as he took his assigned position in the corner, where Mr. Quinion could keep an eye on him from the counting room. Their other main coworker went by the unusual name of Mealy Potatoes, a nickname inspired by his pale complexion. Both their fathers worked on the water: Mick’s father was a bargeman, and Mealy’s was a waterman (a ferryman on the Thames). Mick’s father’s claim to fame was that he walked in the Lord Mayor’s annual parade, while Mealy’s father was a fireman at a London theater.

Davy finds his circumstances depressing—To Davy, this was not impressive company, and the realization that he would be spending most of his time with them was painful and depressing. His job was no better. He saw himself as far more gifted and privileged than his current situation implied, and between training sessions, when Mick would leave him by himself, he would privately shed tears as he watched his hopes and dreams fade away.

Davy meets Mr. Micawber—At half past noon, Mr. Quinion called Davy into the counting room, where he introduced him to a portly middle-aged man with a large bald head and an equally large, intent face. He was dressed in a scruffy brown overcoat and black tights, and he carried a tasseled cane and a quizzing glass,[i] the latter apparently for show, since it did nothing for his vision.

Davy’s new landlord—The gentleman, who already knew Davy’s name, would be his new landlord. His home had a spare room, which he had agreed to rent to Davy, having received a written request from Mr. Murdstone, who was familiar to him through the man’s relationship as a commissioned salesman to Murdstone and Grinby’s. Since Davy did not know London at all, the gentleman, who in the meantime had been introduced to Davy as Mr. Micawber, would return to show him the way to Windsor Terrace, his home address. So far, Mr. Micawber appeared friendly and kind enough. The genteel quality he so obviously cultivated was a bit overdone, but this didn’t bother Davy too much and even impressed him a little.

Back to work—Between Mr. Micawber’s departure and his return at eight, Davy was set to work again. He had calculated that he was being paid six or seven shillings a week, which Mr. Quinion gave him in advance. He used part of this to have his trunk transported to his new home and another part to buy dinner and a drink during some of his allotted mealtime hour, the rest of which he spent roaming London’s streets.

Mr. Micawber brings Davy to his new home—When Mr. Micawber returned at eight, he and Davy set out toward the house. Along the way, Mr. Micawber made certain to point out street names and landmarks so that Davy could find his own way the next day. The house itself, like Mr. Micawber, had seen better days but was nevertheless presented in its best light. So far, it appeared to have little in the way of furnishings, with nothing on the first floor, and the most remarkable feature of Davy’s small room on the top floor were the blue muffin-like stencilings that decorated the walls.

Davy meets the Micawber family—On first entering, Davy met Mrs. Micawber, who was nursing one of her infant twins. There were two other young children, a four-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, in addition to the babies. Mrs. Micawber herself was neither young nor robust, being on the contrary quite frail. Finally, there was the servant girl, a young orphaned woman (or, as she pronounced it, “Orfling”), whom the Micawbers had found at St. Luke’s workhouse.

Mrs. Micawber shows Davy to his room and talks about the family’s financial woes—It was Mrs. Micawber who showed Davy to his room. Her ongoing concern, which she expressed without hesitation, was the straitened financial condition that currently troubled the Micawbers. It bothered her, having been raised in a well-to-do family, that her own immediate family was now compelled to give up its privacy and take a boarder. Poverty had never been a part of her vocabulary before her marriage, but she had come to accept that life sometimes doled out unexpected lessons. As a salesman, Mr. Micawber had had little success, which left Mrs. Micawber worried about creditors and legal costs. Mrs. Micawber herself had tried to set up a boarding school for young women, even putting a sign above the door of the house, but nothing came of it. The only ones who ever came to the house were the creditors, and they came all the time, even early in the morning or late in the evening. They could be extremely rude and aggressive, sometimes yelling up the stairs or from outside the house.

The Micawbers’ sudden mood changes—The Micawbers’ reactions to these assaults would vary, sometimes within the hour. The initial impact might cause an almost suicidal reaction, but this would soon be replaced by a completely contrasting cheerfulness. This ability to suddenly shift moods was characteristic of both Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, and the more negative reactions were not confined to their responses toward creditors but extended to other types of harsh news. Yet something as simple as enjoying a good meal or, in Mr. Micawber’s case, polishing his shoes and setting out to work, could occasion a total turnaround.

Life on his own—Davy’s seven shillings per week went mostly toward food, a simple breakfast of a loaf of bread and milk, and later, a similar dinner of bread and cheese. Sometimes, he would treat himself to a loaf of bread with sausage or beef, or he would have a mug of beer with his bread and cheese dinner. Sometimes, in his childish enthusiasm, he would splurge on a half-price day-old pastry in the morning, but this meant that he either had to miss dinner altogether or just eat a bit of bread or pudding, and the pudding varied in quality depending on what he could afford. The workers at Murdstone and Grinby’s were also allowed a half hour for tea, and Davy would treat himself to bread, butter, and coffee when he could. When he was broke, he would walk around different areas, such as Fleet Street or Covent Garden Market, where he would content himself with looking at foods like venison or pineapple. When he wasn’t staring at food, he would explore the Adelphi, with its mystery-laden arches, or watch people dancing. And always he wondered how people saw him, so young and alone.

Advantages and disadvantages of being young—That question intensified when Davy visited a restaurant or pub. Once, on some special occasion (he forgot what), he ordered the best ale in the house, but before serving it, the owner asked him a slew of questions and then called his wife to join in the interrogation. Finally, satisfied with his answers, they poured him some ale (though Davy wondered if it was the ale), and the owner’s wife came out, kissed him gently, and quietly returned his money to him.

Davy suffers in silence—For all his suffering, Davy never let on that he was in pain or that he felt himself too good for his work, nor did he ever mention why he was there in the first place. Yet he noticed that Mr. Quinion treated him differently from the others, and many of the other workers recognized a certain distinction in him. The packer’s foreman even called him “the little gent.” Davy, for his part, learned to equal the others in skill and efficiency, since he recognized that not doing so would spell trouble. And though he felt an inner despair at the state of his life, he managed to conceal it so well that even Peggotty never knew about it.

Things get worse for the Micawbers—Davy’s compassion for the Micawbers only added to the weight of his own misery. As the situation at the Micawbers’ became increasingly dire, Mr. Micawber’s mood swings became more acute. Saturdays were the worst, when Mr. Micawber came home in despair, though being easygoing, he quickly recovered. Perhaps the contrast seemed more extreme when set against Davy’s weekly Saturday payday and his more leisurely breakfasts on Sunday mornings.

Mrs. Micawber quietly asks Davy to sell their belongings—One day, Mrs. Micawber confided in Davy that there was no food in the house. Davy had been sensitive to this issue and careful to never accept any offers to dine with the family. He did, however, offer to lend Mrs. Micawber his only three shillings, but she refused. What she wanted, since Mr. Micawber was too emotionally attached to his possessions, was for Davy to sell their belongings for them. He agreed and set about doing so immediately that evening, continuing the next morning and every following morning before going to work.

Davy’s customers—One of Davy’s customers for the Micawbers’ belongings was a bookseller with a drinking habit, whose wife would scold and hit him, judging partly from his beat-up face. At least, she had the advantage of being more organized than her husband, and she was always able to dredge up the necessary money for the transaction. Another client was a pawn broker who loved to have Davy educate him in Latin grammar while they took care of business. In appreciation of Davy’s efforts, Mrs. Micawber would sometimes cook him dinner, which for Davy was always a real treat.

Mr. Micawber is sent to debtors’ prison—Unfortunately, Davy’s selling excursions were not enough to turn around Mr. Micawber’s fortunes, and eventually, Mr. Micawber was taken to the debtors’ prison called King’s Bench Prison. This segment of the story, along with Davy’s long, hard, depressing hours at Murdstone and Grinby’s, closely mirrored Dickens’s own life. Davy’s affection and compassion for the Micawbers reflects the fact that Dickens’s own family landed in debtors’ prison; and Dickens’s childhood sense of abandonment during this period, when he worked as a boot blacker in a warehouse, provided the emotional background for Davy’s work experience.

Mr. Micawber’s ongoing mood swings—Mr. Micawber had his usual dramatic reaction to this event, which left him feeling abandoned by God. But as usual, he recovered quickly. The same thing happened when Davy visited him the Sunday after his imprisonment. At first, they wept together. Then Davy listened to Mr. Micawber’s warning about spending beyond one’s means. Immediately after that, though, Mr. Micawber’s mood brightened when he borrowed a shilling for beer and wrote Davy an IOU.

Mr. Micawber makes the most of his jail experience; Davy’s impressions of prison life—Following that, a fellow inmate entered with a mutton loin for their dinner. Davy was sent upstairs to Captain Hopkins, another prisoner, to borrow a fork and knife for Mr. Micawber. While there, he noted Captain Hopkins’s grungy and tattered appearance as well as the shabby cell and furnishings. He also noticed a dirty woman and two girls, both with a “shock” of hair. Somehow he guessed that the woman was not the Captain’s wife but that the girls were his daughters. Back in Mr. Micawber’s cell, Davy found himself enjoying the meal, which reminded him of the wild gypsy life. When he returned home later to tell Mrs. Micawber about it, he records that she fainted at first but then made them some egghot (similar to eggnog, but made with beer) to cheer them up.

Mr. Micawber gets his own cell and is joined by his family; Davy rents a room—Eventually, most of the Micawbers’ furniture was sold, and the family and Davy confined themselves to the home’s two parlors. When Mr. Micawber obtained his own cell, Mrs. Micawber and the children joined him in prison. The Micawbers’ beds were shipped to their cell, and Davy and the “Orfling” servant girl got rented rooms near the prison. Davy also got to keep his bed, and he was glad to be near the Micawbers, since they had all grown attached to each other. He was pleased with his new room, which was located in a quiet alley and had a view of a lumberyard. In the context of his life, it was heaven.

Davy’s life goes on more or less unchanged—Davy’s own condition changed little, though he was aware of looking scruffier. He was relieved that the Micawbers’ issues had been resolved, even if not perfectly. Some friends and relatives had come forward to help them, and that was a load off his mind. Prison also seemed to be more comfortable for them than their home had been. Davy never mentioned any of these changes at work, so he was unsure whether his employer or Mr. Murdstone knew of his new whereabouts. He kept more or less the same schedule, dividing his time between work, sleep, meals, and lunch-hour wanderings. His social life was as limited as before, except that he would visit the Micawbers, eating breakfast, taking walks, or playing games with them. At times, he would sit by himself under London Bridge, or when the orphan girl joined him, he would tell her made-up stories about London Tower and the waterfront.

Mr. Micawber’s influence in prison; Davy’s childlike impressions—Mr. Micawber’s debts were complicated by some legal deed, which was eventually cleared out of the way. His wife’s relatives then advised him to take advantage of the Insolvent Debtors Act to apply for his release. That put him in an optimistic frame of mind as he contemplated an entirely new existence, should anything “turn up,” a favorite expression. He subsequently wrote a petition to change the debtors’ imprisonment laws. His goal was to file it with the House of Commons, and to this end, he would have it signed by as many men as possible. The source for these signatures was a club he belonged to at the prison, where his status as a gentleman gave him considerable influence. This was a great occasion for the prisoners, who lined up to sign the petition. One by one, they filed into the room. Those who hadn’t yet read it were privileged to listen to a specially cleaned-up Captain Hopkins, who read it to them in a resounding voice.

A child’s view—To Davy’s childlike imagination, this seemed an event worth watching, and he even got time off from work for it. But in retrospect, he recognized that the event itself was less significant than the meaning he assigned to it in his imagination, with its storehouse of heroic tales from his childhood books. And he pondered how much he overlaid his otherwise dismal surroundings and the wretched events of his life with a child’s innocent wonder.

[i] Similar to a magnifying glass, though often fancier

Davy Makes A Resolution


The Micawbers are released from jail and plan to move—Under the Insolvent Debtors Act, Mr. Micawber was ultimately released from jail once the details of repaying his debts were resolved. That night, he celebrated with the other club members, while Mrs. Micawber and Davy had a special dinner of lamb’s fry[i] and flip, a hot, sugar-sweetened beverage made of spirits and beer. Mrs. Micawber felt it appropriate to toast her deceased parents, who had meant a great deal to her. Davy asked her what she and her husband planned to do next, now that he was free and no longer in dire straits. She replied that her family’s suggestion was that they move to the country, where Mr. Micawber, whom she saw as extremely talented, could reestablish his career. Her family carried some weight at the Plymouth Custom House, so they thought he should be in the right place in case any opportunities arose.

Mrs. Micawber expresses her undying loyalty to her husband—When Davy innocently asked Mrs. Micawber whether she would accompany her husband, she went into a frenzy, sobbing and emphasizing that she would never leave Mr. Micawber under any circumstances, that he was her beloved husband and the father of her children. Mrs. Micawber was aware of her husband’s flaws and the hardship they had created, but that made no difference to her resolve, no matter how much she had to sacrifice.

Mr. Micawber drops what he’s doing to comfort his wife—This exaggerated and unexpected reaction mortified Davy, who guessed it was caused by the day’s drama, the alcohol, and the stress of always nursing at least one twin, and he ran to fetch Mr. Micawber from the club room. Mr. Micawber had been leading the other members in song and at some point in the evening had stuffed his jacket with the remains of the shrimp he had been eating. Hearing of Mrs. Micawber’s hysterics, he dropped what he was doing and, without emptying his jacket, ran up to the cell, himself in tears. Mr. Micawber already knew his wife would never leave him, and he fervently tried to calm and comfort her, though with the opposite effect as she continued her hysterical sobbing and exclaiming.

Davy is mystified by the Micawbers’ stubborn dejection in spite of their good fortune—Finally, he asked Davy to sit outside the room while he put Mrs. Micawber to bed. When Mr. Micawber came out, Davy inquired about her condition, and Mr. Micawber replied that it was poor. Mr. Micawber’s mood had also plummeted in the meantime, and in spite of the recent upturn in events, he lamented his family’s misfortune at losing everything. This seemed strange to Davy, who had expected them to be merry. He guessed that they were unused to good news and had even become so attached to their troubles that they didn’t know what to do without them. He couldn’t help observing that the Micawbers’ moods, which had always been flexible, were now more stubbornly miserable than he had ever seen them.

Davy and the Micawbers enjoy their last week together—Whatever their current mood, it was clear to Davy that the Micawbers would soon be leaving. He had grown attached to them, and the thought of losing them and having to start over with a new group of people intensified his feelings of humiliation and unhappiness. Until their departure, however, the Micawbers rented a room in the same house where Davy was staying, and they spent much of their last week together. They had all grown fond of one another, and they celebrated their final evening together with a special dinner. Davy also gave gifts to the two older children and a shilling to the orphan girl, who would soon be on her own as well.

Mr. Micawber recommends Davy; Mr. Quinion makes new living arrangements for him—Mr. Micawber personally visited Murdstone and Grinby’s to give Davy a high recommendation and to tell Mr. Quinion that he would no longer be housing him. Mr. Quinion therefore arranged to have Davy room with Tipp, the carter, who happened to be renting.

The Micawbers’ parting words of gratitude and advice—The Micawbers’ regard for Davy was genuine. Mrs. Micawber told him she would never look back on those difficult days without thinking of his compassion for them. To her, he was a friend, someone who truly cared about them. Mr. Micawber, too, expressed his heartfelt admiration and appreciation for Davy, describing him as compassionate, intelligent, and practical. He regretted that he had nothing to give the boy but advice. Nevertheless, he held his own opinion in high esteem, and on that note, he advised Davy to never procrastinate, a sentiment Mrs. Micawber immediately upheld as one of her father’s sayings. Mr. Micawber also reminded Davy of the importance of not overspending, since to do so brought unhappiness, of which he was the proof. Ironically, this statement was followed by Mr. Micawber’s obvious delight as he downed some punch and whistled a happy tune.

Davy sees the Micawbers off—The following morning, Davy sadly saw the Micawbers off. With heartfelt gratitude and affection, Mr. and Mrs. Micawber wished him well, and Mr. Micawber hoped he would someday be in a position to help Davy materially, but if not, at least he wished that the example of his own life might save him from a similar fate. Davy was convinced that just before the coach was about to leave, Mrs. Micawber must have suddenly realized that Davy was still just a child. He remembered her calling him to her with a look of deep love, accompanied by a hug and a kiss. Davy had to quickly climb down as the coach pulled away and disappeared amid a flurry of waving handkerchiefs, leaving him and the orphan girl alone. There was nothing left to do for them but to say goodbye and go their separate ways.

Davy decides to run away and try his luck with Aunt Betsey—And so, Davy headed off to work, but by now something had changed. He had decided to flee Murdstone and Grinby’s, and since he had nowhere else to go, he made up his mind to try his luck with his Aunt Betsey, even if that prospect seemed grim. He persuaded himself that there might be a glimmer of hope in one detail of the story his mother had always told him: that Aunt Betsey, tough and determined as she was, had once touched his mother’s hair with unexpected gentleness.

The next step was to find out where Aunt Betsey lived, and the most likely source for that information was Peggotty, whom he also petitioned for a half crown[ii] so he could leave Murdstone and Grinby’s without the mental burden of having to steal his payday advance.

Davy makes arrangements to leave—As always, Peggotty came through. The only problem was that, though she knew Miss Betsey lived near Dover, she didn’t know the exact address. Fortunately, the area was small enough that that wasn’t a huge problem, so Davy continued making the necessary practical arrangements to give a message to Mr. Quinion and to have his box of things transported to the Dover post office. Mick Walker would take care of the first errand, having been told that Davy would be unable to collect his money at the regular time because he was moving to his new room at Tipp’s. But the second errand had to be handled with discretion, since it involved leaving instructions directly on the box so that the Dover Post Office would hold it for Davy. If the wrong person saw it, his plan to run away might fail. He put the half crown and the box instructions in his pocket, and he headed back to his old room,

Davy hires a carter, who robs him of his belongings and most of his money—On his way there, Davy noticed a tall young man with a donkey cart. Davy wasn’t thrilled with the young man’s impudent attitude, but he had the advantage of being there and promptly agreed to do the job for sixpence. They brought the box down together, but since Davy wanted to wait to attach the instructions, he asked the carter to meet him at the King’s Bench Prison wall. The donkey cart took off at top speed, with Davy running after it as fast as he could. When they reached the wall, he accidentally dropped his half-crown as he was removing the box instructions from his pocket. To keep it safe, he held it between his teeth while he attached the instruction card to the box. Suddenly, he felt the carter knock the money out of his mouth. He smiled wickedly, exclaiming that he knew what Davy planned to do and that he would take him to the police, where they would decide whose money it was. With that, the carter took off, money, box, and all, leaving Davy once again to run as fast as he could to keep up. After much running, panting, falling, and crashing into things, Davy finally gave up the chase. With tears in his eyes and barely a possession in the world, he resolved to make his way to Dover.

[i] Defined by the OED as “lamb’s offal, esp. testicles” in British English

[ii] Worth thirty pence, or two-and-a-half shillings

Running Away To Dover


Davy begins his journey to Dover—Davy’s first destination was Greenwich, since that lay along Kent Road on the way to Dover. It was already ten o’clock at night when he sat down to rest, exhausted from what had taken place so far. He was grateful for the fair summer weather, but he knew the worst winter storms could not have driven him back to his former misery. Somehow, through the week, he had managed to hang on to three halfpence, but beyond that and the clothes on his back, he had nothing. With gloomy images filling his head, he was pondering his fate as a possible statistic when he passed a second-hand clothing shop.

Davy sells his vest—It occurred to Davy, with his recent second-hand sales experience, that he could try selling his vest. After timidly negotiating a price with Mr. Dolloby, the shop’s owner, Davy settled for ninepence, half his original offer but more than the owner wanted to pay, claiming he would have to “rob” his family by accepting less. The feeling that he was robbing others was not Davy’s preferred way of doing business, but in his present dire condition, his sensitivities had to take a back seat.

Davy sleeps by a haystack near Salem House—Next he had to decide where to sleep for the night. He remembered a corner with a haystack by the wall behind his former school, and the idea that his old dorm room and schoolmates would be nearby seemed comforting to him, even though they would be ignorant of his presence. He eventually found Salem House and made his way to the corner, and there he lay down for the night, unsheltered and alone.

Davy continues on his journey the next morning—Davy spent a cold and troubled night, at times waking to see the stars above him and thinking of his old schoolmates, Steerforth and Traddles. He was reasonably certain they were already gone, and in Traddles’s case, if he was still there, entrusting him with his situation was probably not advisable. When the sun finally rose and the morning bell went off, Davy embarked again on his journey, conscious of having reached a new low. Dirty and scruffy, with tousled hair, he had to walk by the churches and churchgoers. He could hear the bells ringing and the hymns being sung, and he could feel the restfulness of a Sunday morning. But he did not feel a part of it. Instead, he endured the church usher’s cruel judgment of him as he passed by on his long journey, fortunate to find himself with more courage than fear or doubt.

Davy arrives in Chatham, where he spends the night outdoors by the naval shipyard—Twenty-three miles later, Davy arrived in Rochester, exhausted and hurting. He had resisted the room rental signs and had bought a loaf of bread instead, knowing that he had to make the most of the few pence he had. His fellow vagabonds looked too frightening to associate with, so he continued alone on his way to Chatham, a dockyard for the Royal Navy since the time of Henry VIII. At last, exhausted from a long day’s walk, he found a raised grassy area near a cannon and lay down to sleep, to the comforting sound of a guard’s footsteps on the street below.

Davy decides to rest and look for a secondhand shop to sell his jacket—The next day, he awoke to the sound of drums and troops marching. Sore from the previous day, he decided it would be wise to rest and find a suitable place to sell his jacket. There were lots of secondhand shops, but many of them dealt in more expensive items, such as naval officers’ coats, so Davy had to search a while before he found a likely possibility.

Ashamed to try the better shops, Davy chooses the secondhand shop from hell—The shop he finally chose was probably the worst choice anyone could have made, as he later found out when the neighborhood boys shouted at the owner about having sold himself to the devil. However, Davy felt too self-conscious about his appearance to try some of the better shops.

The shop was dark and dingy and bordered by stinging nettles, and the road on which it stood was dirty. Many of the goods were rusty, and the owner himself was filthy and reeked of rum. Instead of greeting Davy normally, he leapt at him and yanked his hair. In what Dickens describes as a “fierce, monotonous whine” resembling the rising and falling sound of a gust of wind, the owner demanded to know what Davy wanted. He had a strange habit, too, of perpetually injecting “Oh!” and at least one “goroo!” into every sentence or phrase, while he moaned about his eyes, limbs, lungs, and liver.

The owner tries to rip Davy off—When Davy told him he wanted to sell his jacket, the old man finally let go of the boy’s hair to take a better look. When asked how much he wanted, Davy replied he would like a half crown. That elicited another tirade from the shop owner about his lungs and liver, followed by a counteroffer of eighteen pence—or a bit more than half the original offer. Satisfied, Davy made the deal, only to have the old man take the jacket, put it on the shelf, and refuse to pay him, insisting that Davy settle for an exchange. Unable to accept the offer, Davy explained his situation and said he was prepared to sit outside all day and wait for the money. It was during this patient sitting period that Davy discovered the old man’s reputation—that he was said to have gobs of money tucked away in a mattress and that he had sold his soul to get it. The boys who came to taunt and coerce the old man mistook Davy for being related to him and abused him, too, partly stripping him and throwing things at him.

Davy is rewarded for his endurance—But Davy’s patience was rewarded. The shop owner, after multiple attempts to barter with him, gradually brought out the money in halfpence increments. Even after all his persistence, Davy finally left that evening with only sixteen pence, but at least he knew he wouldn’t starve. Famished and weaker than ever, he bought himself a meal for threepence, and having revived somewhat, continued on his journey for another seven miles.

Davy learns to avoid the tramps; a vision of his mother guides him to Dover—That night, he again settled down next to a haystack, having washed and treated the blisters on his feet. The advent of daylight revealed a different landscape: orchards and hop fields ready for harvesting flanked the road—a beautiful and uplifting sight. He imagined that such beauty would brighten the general mood, but instead, he found the vagabonds in that area to be violent and fierce. One in particular, a tinker, stood out in his memory. He used threats and manipulation to bend Davy to his will. Fortunately, the tinker’s companion, a woman with a black eye (no doubt from him), knew better and motioned to Davy to resist giving in to the tramp’s demands for beer money. When her companion tried to steal Davy’s silk handkerchief, she threw it back. She paid for that, though, when the tramp knocked her down, causing her head to bleed. The distraction gave Davy a chance to escape, and after that, he was careful to hide from the other vagabonds, though this slowed him down considerably. What kept him going through all his difficulties was the image of his mother as a young woman before his birth. Somehow it gave him strength and comfort along the way until he reached his final destination, where the vision that had guided him suddenly disappeared.

A kind carriage driver helps Davy find his aunt and gives him a penny—Once in Dover, Davy tried to find out from various people exactly where his aunt lived. But whether he asked the boatmen, carriage drivers, or shopkeepers, the answers he got were all unhelpful and rude, mocking his aunt or judging him by his appearance and, in the shopkeepers’ case, refusing to even give him the time of day. Broke, exhausted, and despairing, he sat down to contemplate his next move, when a friendly-looking carriage driver happened to pass by and accidentally drop his horsecloth. Picking it up for him, Davy drummed up the courage to again ask for directions. Fortunately, the driver was kind and gave Davy as much information as he could. He even gave him a penny, since he was unsure the boy would receive a warm welcome.

Davy walks up the hill and meets his aunt’s servant by chance—Grateful for the directions and the money, though discouraged by the driver’s assessment of his aunt, Davy bought himself a loaf of bread for much-needed nourishment and set out again to find his aunt. The driver didn’t know exactly where she lived, but he knew enough to point Davy up the hill and toward the sea, where he would see some houses and from there be able to inquire further. It took a while, but the houses eventually came into view, and seeing a general store, Davy went in to ask about his aunt’s whereabouts. The shopkeeper was in the middle of a transaction when Davy asked his question, and the young woman he was waiting on turned around suddenly and asked Davy what his purpose was. It turned out that she was his aunt’s maid, and though she at first thought Davy was a beggar, she let him follow her to the house.

Davy contemplates things from outside the cottage—Aunt Betsey’s cottage was small and well-kept, with a charming flower garden out front. Having shown Davy the way, the maid quickly went indoors, while Davy remained at the gate. Ashamed of his shabby condition, and trembling and confused at being called a beggar, he stood outside and contemplated the parlor window, afraid of what he might encounter. The maid had good reason to mistake Davy for a beggar. From head to toe, his body and clothing spoke of a tramp’s existence. His sunburnt brown skin, tangled hair, battered shoes, and torn and stained clothing were covered in dust and chalk. In this shameful state, he now had to introduce himself to his aunt. Matters were made worse when he noticed some strange behavior by an older gentleman in the window above the parlor. Nodding and shaking his head, the whole time with one eye shut, the gentleman laughed and finally left. Discouraged and confused by these gestures, Davy was about to leave, when a lady dressed in gardening gear emerged from the house and began shooing him off with “No boys here!” He instantly knew by her rough, stalking walk, described so many times by his mother, that she must be Aunt Betsey.

Davy gets Aunt Betsey’s attention, and she takes pity on him—Having made her decisive statement, Aunt Betsey ignored Davy and went off to do her gardening. Desperate, Davy entered the garden, quietly walked up to her as she bent over her chores, and touched her lightly to get her attention. When she looked up, he politely addressed her as his aunt, which brought forth an amazed “Eh?” as she sat there in a state of shock. That gave Davy the chance to tell his story, and when he finished, he burst into tears. Seeing that galvanized her into action as she dragged him into the house, where she fed him with various bottles of liquid that tasted like anchovy paste, salad dressing, and anise extract, which he guessed were supposed to have some medicinal function. After this, she placed him on the couch, taking measures to prevent the dirt from soiling things. She then went behind the screen to release her emotions, and once she had finished with her exclamations, she called Janet, the maid, to fetch Mr. Dick, the strange gentleman Davy had seen in the upstairs window.

Davy meets Mr. Dick—When Mr. Dick arrived in the parlor, still laughing, Davy’s aunt stopped pacing and immediately admonished him to not be a fool and to show discretion, noting that he was perfectly capable of the latter. Mr. Dick responded by instantly changing his attitude, though Davy imagined that his facial expression subtly suggested that the boy not mention his earlier behavior. Referring to Davy’s father, Aunt Betsey asked Mr. Dick whether he recalled the name David Copperfield, adding that they both knew perfectly well that Mr. Dick’s memory was intact and not to pretend otherwise. Davy wasn’t sure by Mr. Dick’s reaction that he did remember the name, but Mr. Dick pretended to in any case. Having extracted the desired response, Aunt Betsey introduced Davy as David Copperfield’s son. That bit of information seemed to engage Mr. Dick’s attention more fully.

Aunt Betsey asks Mr. Dick for advice—Aunt Betsey then informed Mr. Dick that Davy had run away. That, she assured him, would never have happened had the child been born a girl and lived with Miss Betsey herself. Mr. Dick confirmed that the girl (referred to as Davy’s sister) would have had nowhere to run from or to. Pleased with this remark, Aunt Betsey got to the point: she wanted advice on what to do with the boy, and since Mr. Dick was clearly capable of good judgment when he wanted to be, she was asking him. After a few moments, he had the brilliant idea that they should wash him! Without missing a beat, Aunt Betsey instructed Janet to prepare the bath. Davy mentions here that Aunt Betsey had a subtle look of triumph on her face, apparently related to her view that Mr. Dick had set everything right.

Davy observes his new companions—While Davy listened intently to this exchange, he took the opportunity to observe his new companions. His aunt was tall and severe-looking, and though her manner was stiff, she wasn’t ugly. Her most notable feature were her eyes, which were sharp and bright, and except for the gold men’s watch, her hair and clothing were simple. On the surface, Mr. Dick looked like a normal English gentleman, in his morning coat,[i] vest, and white trousers, with his watch and coins in his various pockets. But there was something strange about his eyes, which, together with his childlike and sometimes vacant attitude, made Davy wonder whether Mr. Dick was completely sane, and if not, how his relationship with Aunt Betsey had come about. Finally, there was Janet. Barely twenty, she was young, pretty, and as neat as Aunt Betsey, who had taken it upon herself to train a number of girls like her to adopt a more secluded lifestyle. From what Davy gathered, however, the “training” had the opposite effect, and the girls ended up marrying.

Davy describes the room—The room itself had a neat, polished, traditional look, and the cottage being near the sea, there was both the scent of flowers and the fresh smell of the ocean air. From his place on the sofa, Davy observed a bow window with a green fan, a table and chairs, a carpet, a bowl of rose petal potpourri, a cabinet with pots and pans, some antique china, two canaries, and a cat. In this clean and orderly setting, the most out-of-place object was his own dust-covered body.

Aunt Betsey’s ongoing battle with donkeys—Davy’s observations were interrupted by horrified screams from his aunt, who had spotted some donkeys treading on the strip of grass in front of the house. These were not wild donkeys but three saddle animals being ridden by two ladies and a child. Davy soon realized that donkeys were the bane of his aunt’s existence, and the battle between her and any donkey who dared to tread on that spot would immediately grab her attention, and whatever she was doing would be cast aside while she and Janet would race out to chase them away and chastise the responsible party. Whether the strip of green was public or private property was unclear to Davy, but legally justifiable or not, these dramatic donkey disturbances took place day and night and had already occurred three times by the time Davy got in the bath.

Davy gets cleaned up and takes a nap—After a soothing bath that alleviated Davy’s aches and pains, Aunt Betsey and Janet gave him a clean set of clothes from Mr. Dick’s wardrobe and wrapped him in some shawls. Exhausted from his journey, Davy soon went to sleep on the couch. He didn’t know whether he dreamt it, but he imagined someone—his aunt, perhaps—gazing compassionately at him in his sleep and adjusting his head for greater comfort.

They eat dinner, and afterwards Davy tells his story—His aunt waited until Davy awoke, and shortly afterwards, they ate a dinner of pudding and roast fowl of some kind. During dinner, Aunt Betsey would sometimes exclaim out of concern and compassion for her nephew. Unfortunately, these exclamations were not comforting to Davy, who was worried about his ultimate fate. Dinner was followed by sherry, and Mr. Dick was called down to listen to Davy’s tale, which his aunt extracted from him by degrees. Aunt Betsey seemed to have a disciplinary relationship with Mr. Dick, because during this time, she watched him carefully, taking pains to prevent him from falling into one of his smiling modes.

Aunt Betsey laments Davy’s mother’s choice to remarry—In listening to Davy’s story, Aunt Betsey could not understand why his mother chose to remarry. Mr. Dick suggested that she might have fallen in love or done it to please herself, but these notions seemed inconceivable to Aunt Betsey, especially in view of the results. Her second husband had obviously abused her. Why hadn’t she contented herself with one husband and the baby he gave her? And why hadn’t she produced a girl, as she should have? His aunt had vehement feelings on this subject, to the alarm of both Davy and Mr. Dick. But male or female children aside, to marry a murderer, or someone with a similar-sounding name, was to disrupt the life of the present child, who was now forced to wander like Cain, though still a boy. That analogy prompted Mr. Dick to take a good look at Davy to see if the description matched.

Aunt Betsey is impressed by Davy’s loyalty to Peggotty—Davy’s aunt then turned her vehemence on Peggotty, who had also had the gall to marry. Feeling that Peggotty deserved to be punished for such an act, she hoped her husband would turn out to be a wife beater. That idea was not one that Davy would stand for. Peggotty was too good and faithful a soul, and Davy set about to correct his aunt on that point. When he was done defending her, he burst into tears, covered his face, and laid his head on the table. Impressed with his loyalty, his aunt agreed that his defense of his faithful old nurse was the right thing to do.

More donkeys ruin Davy’s chances of asking his aunt for help—The conversation was interrupted by the appearance of donkeys, followed by cries for Janet. Davy believed that that moment ruined his chances of appealing to his aunt for further help. Right before that, she had placed her head on his shoulder out of sympathy. Now, however, she ran out to deal with the donkeys, and from then on till after tea, she could think of nothing else.

More brilliant advice from Mr. Dick—Once her mind had settled, Davy’s aunt asked Mr. Dick for advice on what to do next. Mr. Dick’s brilliant idea, again received with satisfaction by Aunt Betsey, was to put the child to bed. The bedroom being prepared, Davy was led upstairs, flanked before and behind by Janet and his aunt. That and the fact that his aunt locked the bedroom door from the outside made him feel like a prisoner, but he attributed her actions to his having run away and the fact that she didn’t yet know that was not his regular habit.

Davy is grateful for a comfortable bed; he thinks of his mother as he looks out at the moonlit sea—In spite of this, Davy enjoyed his room. It was on the top floor, with a view of the sea and a bright moon shining down upon the water. Memories of his sweet and gentle mother in her final parting pose, with the baby held high in her arms, came back to him as he contemplated the bright night sky, reminiscent of a heavenly pathway. Turning toward the bed, he looked forward to sleeping on a soft mattress amidst white curtains and sheets. As he drifted off, he sent up a prayer to always remember the homeless and that he, too, should never be homeless again.

[i] Similar to modern tails (formal wear) in appearance, the nineteenth-century English morning coat was a standard part of an English gentleman’s informal morning attire.

Aunt Betsey Reaches A Conclusion


Davy is horrified on discovering that Aunt Betsey has written to Mr. Murdstone—The next morning, Davy encountered his aunt in such a deep state of reflection that she didn’t realize the water from the urn had already overflowed the teapot and was flooding the table. Once Davy was settled and eating his breakfast, he caught her looking at him with such intensity that he couldn’t help being embarrassed, and he repeatedly fumbled with his silverware and food and choked on his tea. At last, she broke the silence and informed him she had written to his stepfather, Mr. Murdstone. Horrified, Davy asked if Mr. Murdstone knew where he was. His aunt replied that she had told him, but she could not give Davy a definitive answer about what would happen to him. This upset him a great deal, but his aunt, having finished her breakfast, seemed unconcerned with Davy’s emotional state and went on with her day, cleaning her already immaculate house and performing whatever other tasks she needed to do.

The background to Mr. Dick’s name—Presently, she asked Davy to look in on Mr. Dick, give him her regards, and find out how he was progressing with the Memorial he was working on. Before Davy could leave the room, Aunt Betsey broached the subject of Mr. Dick’s name. She presumed that Davy had probably noticed how short it was. His full name, she explained, was Mr. Richard Babley, but Davy was by no means to call him that. It held too many associations with relatives who had abused him, which was why he chose to be known simply as Mr. Dick.

Mr. Dick’s room—When Davy arrived at Mr. Dick’s door, he found him so concentrated on his writing that the boy had a chance to examine the room, which was full of pens, manuscripts, and numerous half-gallon jars of ink. There was also a good-sized kite tucked in a corner. When Mr. Dick finally noticed Davy, he greeted him enthusiastically, calling him “Phoebus” (Apollo), and then told him in a mysterious tone that the world was mad.

The Memorial and Charles I—After Davy delivered his message, Mr. Dick returned the greeting and stated somewhat doubtfully that he had “made a start” on his manuscript. Davy had seen him working on his Memorial before, so he reasoned that he must have already made considerable progress on it. In that context, Mr. Dick’s assessment made little sense, but things got even stranger when Mr. Dick asked Davy whether, having attended school, he knew the date of the beheading of Charles I. Davy remembered it as happening in 1649. Mr. Dick agreed that that complied with the history books, but it didn’t explain why some of Charles I’s thoughts had been transferred to his own head.

Mr. Dick shows Davy his kite—But that was of no great import. He was fine and conveyed his greetings to Miss Trotwood. Before Davy left, however, Mr. Dick pointed out the seven-foot kite in the corner. It was covered with densely written manuscripts, and Davy even noticed some references to Charles I. It was Mr. Dick’s way of sending his thoughts out into the world, and he promised that he and Davy would fly it together. Davy couldn’t help noticing how good-natured and cheerful Mr. Dick was. He wasn’t sure, though, whether Mr. Dick was humoring him, so he played along by laughing with him, thus sealing their friendship.

Aunt Betsey explains how Mr. Dick came to live with her—On delivering the message to his aunt, Davy found her eager to know his impression of Mr. Dick. Unsure of how to respond, Davy hesitated, which brought on the decisive comment that his sister, Betsey, never would have done so and that he should imitate her as much as possible and just spit it out. Still unsure but feeling he had no choice, Davy timidly asked whether Mr. Dick was not a little mad. Absolutely not, was his aunt’s retort. He was nothing of the sort, though he had been called that—by decent people, too, even members of his own family. Gradually, the story came out. Ten years ago, since Davy’s birth (or, as his aunt put it, the disappointing failure of his sister Betsey to arrive), Mr. Dick came to live with her. That decision was the result of a struggle on her part to prevent him from being permanently locked in an asylum by his brother, who had been entrusted with his care but was too ashamed of his eccentricities. At that point, Aunt Betsey decided to intervene. She plainly stated that Mr. Dick was saner than his brother and that he was welcome to stay with her and should be given the small income that was due him. She had to fight to make this happen, but she was proud of her achievement, especially since he was such a pleasant man and so gifted in his ability to give advice. On that last point, she was convinced she knew more of his mind than anyone else.

Some more background—Then she added another telling bit of information. Mr. Dick’s favorite sister, a kind and loyal person, “did what they all do”—she married. Moreover, the man she married was an abusive husband who made her miserable (something all men did). Between his sister’s misery and his brother’s lack of compassion, Mr. Dick lost his composure (in Aunt Betsey’s words, he was thrown “into a fever”). She refused, however to accept that as being madness, instead attributing it to his sensitivity, which made it difficult for him to think back on the situation.

Mr. Dick’s difficulties keeping Charles I out of his Memorial manuscript—Aunt Betsey asked Davy whether Mr. Dick had mentioned Charles I. When Davy said yes, she explained that that was Mr. Dick’s allegorical way of expressing himself, which she accepted, although she forbade him to use Charles I in the Memorial. That had created a quandary for Mr. Dick, who was unable to resist mentioning him. In fact, for the last ten years, this had been the main obstacle to the Memorial’s completion. Davy asked whether Mr. Dick was writing his own Memorial, to which his aunt replied yes but then added that it was being written about some lord, which was perhaps related to Mr. Dick’s tendency to equate his own mental disturbances with larger events. It seemed to be the only way he could express himself. She brushed this aside. At least, she said, it kept him busy. In any case, she refused to acknowledge Mr. Dick as mad or to fault him for his eccentricities, such as kite-flying. After all, didn’t Benjamin Franklin fly a kite? Yet he was considered a great man.

Davy notices his aunt’s complexity—Davy got the feeling that his aunt’s vocal musings about Mr. Dick were not so much intended to persuade him as they were to convince herself. He just happened to be standing there. But in listening, he couldn’t help noticing that his aunt’s character was more complex and commendable than he had thought. Certainly, she was eccentric, flying outside to shoo away trespassing donkeys or defend Janet from ogling eyes. But in getting to know her, he found himself comforted by a growing trust and respect.

Waiting for Mr. Murdstone’s reply—The time spent waiting for Mr. Murdstone’s reply to Aunt Betsey’s letter was agonizing for Davy, but out of consideration for his aunt and Mr. Dick, he hid his feelings. He would have been more social had he not still been wearing the same bundle of shawls and oversized clothes he was given on the day of his arrival, but because he looked awkward, he spent most of his time indoors. Otherwise, he would have gone kite-flying with Mr. Dick. For the moment, though, the most he ventured outside was to go on nighttime walks on the cliff overlooking the sea, where his aunt took him before bedtime to maintain his health. Finally, Mr. Murdstone’s letter arrived with the awful news that he would be making a personal visit the next day to discuss Davy’s future. While Davy dreaded every minute of the wait, his aunt seemed relatively unchanged—perhaps a little more severe and domineering, but otherwise the same as she went about her daily business.

Miss Murdstone arrives on a donkey—It was already late afternoon when Aunt Betsey suddenly noticed a donkey out front and went to the window to shoo it away. As it happened, the donkey was carrying Miss Murdstone and was standing right on the patch of grass that was deemed off limits. To Aunt Betsey’s annoyance and confusion, her wild gestures and warnings had no effect on Miss Murdstone. By now, Davy had informed his aunt who the trespasser was, but she didn’t care. By the time Mr. Murdstone arrived, along with some rowdy boys who had come for the show, Davy’s aunt had ordered Janet to lead the donkey off the strip of green. As the donkey balked and Jane Murdstone bashed Janet with a parasol, the boys started shouting. Davy’s aunt, who by now had recovered her presence of mind, ran out, grabbed the boy responsible for the donkey, dragged him into the garden, and yelled at Janet to fetch the police to apprehend him and bring him to justice. The boy, however, escaped with the donkey, trampling the flower garden on the way.

Aunt Betsey chastises Mr. Murdstone—The fray now being over, the Murdstones waited for Aunt Betsey by the door, but she walked right by without even acknowledging them. Afraid of confronting the Murdstones, Davy asked whether he should leave, but his aunt wouldn’t hear of it, insisting that he sit through the interview and providing him with a chair in the corner near her. At that point, the Murdstones entered the room, having now been properly announced by Janet. Miss Betsey made no attempt to ingratiate herself to them and instead straightway informed them that no one, no matter who it was, was allowed to ride a donkey onto the strip of green in front of the house. That was the beginning of what amounted to an ongoing scolding of Mr. Murdstone’s behavior toward his late wife and her young son. Without hesitation, Aunt Betsey put it to him bluntly: Clara would have been better off had she never met him. He had unjustly wreaked havoc in her life and the life of her son.

Aunt Betsey summons Mr. Dick and continues ripping into Mr. Murdstone—Before the conversation got seriously underway, Miss Betsey had Janet call Mr. Dick, whom she introduced as an old and trusted friend whose judgment she valued, hinting that he should act the part. He had been biting his forefinger and looking silly when he arrived, but he quickly made the adjustment. In the conversation that followed, Miss Betsey revealed herself as a person of immense character—strong, principled, forthright, and compassionate. She was also astute, and she and Mr. Murdstone eyed each other carefully during the whole exchange. She had already formed a strong opinion about Mr. Murdstone’s character and the effect he had on Davy’s mother, whom Aunt Betsey saw as a soft, innocent young woman. She was also unimpressed that he failed to provide for Davy, even though the boy’s mother inherited Blunderstone Rookery. In short, having witnessed enough suffering, coupled with what she had heard and seen of Mr. Murdstone, she was not too open to his suggestions.

Davy pleads with his aunt, and Mr. Dick saves the day—Mr. Murdstone’s plan was to take Davy back and discipline him according to his own rules and his negative view of the boy’s character. When he made it clear that he wanted no interference from Davy’s aunt, Aunt Betsey turned to Davy and asked him what he wanted. Davy passionately pleaded with his aunt to on no account send him back with the Murdstones, who had been unkind and unfair to him. He finished by begging for her protection, if for no other reason, then in his father’s memory. Miss Betsey next asked Mr. Dick for his opinion on what should be done. In his usual pleasant, harmless manner, Mr. Dick ruminated a bit and then came up with the brilliant idea of measuring Davy for a new suit. As always, Davy’s aunt was convinced that Mr. Dick’s suggestion set all things right, and she thanked him heartily for his common sense. Turning to the Murdstones, she informed them that they could leave. She did not believe a word of what they said about Davy, and she would risk her luck with him. As Mr. Murdstone rose to leave, he made a final attempt to manipulate her, but she wouldn’t hear of it. To Mr. Murdstone, she was unbendingly direct. She repeated that he was a tyrant, a manipulator, and an abuser, who would have done better to leave his childlike late wife and her son alone.

Aunt Betsey puts the Murdstones in their place—Throughout the conversation, Miss Murdstone had tried to interject her views, but she mostly received a cold shoulder from Miss Betsey who, after putting her in her place, completely ignored her. That was at least true until the end of Miss Betsey’s statement, when she promised to knock off and crush Miss Murdstone’s bonnet, should she ever dare to ride a donkey onto her territory again. Aunt Betsey’s delivery was so fiery that it left both Murdstones speechless. As Mr. Murdstone backed away toward the door, Davy observed a smile on his lips that did not match the look in his eyes. He and his sister left, as arrogant as ever, with the definite understanding that they should never return again.

Davy is thrilled with the outcome; Aunt Betsey gives him a new name—When it became clear that the Murdstones were not likely to return, Aunt Betsey, who had been standing watch at the window, gradually relaxed her expression. Davy could not repress his joy and gratitude as he kissed his aunt and hugged her around the neck. She had determined that she and Mr. Dick would be his guardians, which they were both happy to do. Aunt Betsey even had the idea of calling Davy “Trotwood.” Mr. Dick originally thought she was referring to his last name, but Aunt Betsey’s idea was to use Trotwood as a first name, as in “Trotwood Copperfield.” Mr. Dick wasn’t sure what to make of this, but decided to be agreeable. From that day on, Davy found all his new clothes marked “Trotwood Copperfield.” And so, Davy was finally able to look forward to a new life and to shut the door on one of the most painful episodes in his experience.

Davy’s New Life


Davy and Mr. Dick become good friends—With the grim saga of the Murdstones behind him, Davy began a new life with his aunt and Mr. Dick. It did not take long for Davy and Mr. Dick to become close friends. Davy watched with compassion as Mr. Dick unsuccessfully slaved away at his Memorial, unable to prevent Charles I from making repeated appearances, which meant that Mr. Dick had to start fresh again and again. It did not seem to matter much from a practical perspective, since the Memorial had no clear purpose that Davy could determine. In fact, the only thing he could reasonably determine was that it would never be done.

It did have one useful purpose, though. The discarded manuscript leaves from prior attempts now decorated the large kite that Mr. Dick and Davy flew together during their leisure hours. Watching him, it was clear to Davy that Mr. Dick genuinely believed that the act of kite flying somehow dispersed the thoughts on the manuscript leaves into the atmosphere. As his mind followed the kite into the air, he seemed to find a peace that he was unable to feel at any other time. When it descended again, Mr. Dick’s spirit seemed to descend with it, and the forlorn look on his face as he picked up the kite inspired deep pity in Davy.

Davy leaves for school in Canterbury; Mr. Dick says goodbye—Davy’s friendship with Mr. Dick strengthened his aunt’s affection for him. Within a few weeks, she had even given him the nickname “Trot,” and shortly after that, she broached the subject of his schooling. Would he like to attend school in Canterbury, and would he like to start tomorrow? Excited at the prospect and by now used to his aunt’s sudden decisions, Davy wholeheartedly agreed. The only troubling effect, at first, was Mr. Dick’s reaction. He became depressed over the idea of losing Davy and did not cheer up until he found out that they could visit each other on Saturdays at the cottage and on Wednesdays at the school. The next day, though, Mr. Dick’s mood was low again, and he tried to console himself by giving Davy all his money, but Miss Betsey insisted on limiting the amount. When the coach arrived at ten and Davy and Mr. Dick had said their goodbyes, Mr. Dick waited affectionately at the gate until Davy and his aunt disappeared from sight.

Aunt Betsey drives the coach to Canterbury—Miss Betsey drove like a seasoned coachman, thoroughly in control of the horse. At one point, she asked Davy if he was happy, to which he replied that he definitely was. That pleased his aunt, who expressed her affection by patting his head with her whip, since both hands were full. On the way, they conversed about various things until they arrived in Canterbury, where it was market day. That meant wending their way through countless stands, baskets, and carts, often to unfavorable looks, not that any of that ever bothered Davy’s imperturbable aunt.

First impressions of the Wickfield home and Uriah Heep, the doorkeeper—They finally came to an old but immaculate house with latticed windows, protruding upper stories, and picturesque details such as the ornamental brass door knocker carved with flowers and fruit. Once the coach stopped, Davy noticed a corpselike face peering through one of the windows. When the person belonging to the face emerged from the house, Davy could see he was a redhead with what he believed were the typical features (although his description of Uriah’s red eyes probably relates more to albino features). Uriah seemed old for his age, too, though he was only in his mid-teens at the time. Even close up, he made a skeletal impression, with his gaunt face and bony hands and body. Addressing the young man by the name Uriah Heep, Davy’s aunt asked whether Mr. Wickfield was home. Yes, came the answer, as he pointed to where they should wait inside. As they went into the house, Davy turned to see Uriah Heep breathing into the horse’s nose and then covering it, as though with some magical intent. Once in the house, he noticed a portrait of a middle-aged man with grey hair and another of a sweet-faced woman, who seemed to gaze at Davy.

Meeting Mr. Wickfield—Just then, the gentleman in the first portrait entered the room, though it was clear from his white hair that he was now older. The man was Mr. Wickfield, a lawyer and the manager of the estate of one of the county’s wealthy citizens. He was pleasant-looking and well-dressed, with a hearty complexion and girth that Davy had learned from Peggotty was associated with the regular consumption of port.

Aunt Betsey states her mission to find Davy a good boarding school—Responding to Mr. Wickfield’s question as to why she was there, Miss Betsey introduced Davy as her nephew, explaining that she was looking for the best boarding school available, where Davy would receive a good education and decent treatment. Mr. Wickfield, who was obsessed with people’s underlying motives, wanted to know her reasons, but she was not at all impressed by the question, stating that she had no motive other than the obvious—to give the boy a chance to become a happy, useful individual. She insisted on adding that not everyone harbored ulterior motives and that Mr. Wickfield couldn’t possibly be the only person in the world who was straightforward about his intentions. He delighted in pointing out, however, that he was unusual in that he had only one strong motive in his life, unlike most people, who were often distracted by many goals. By now, however, he had figured out that Aunt Betsey’s main goal was indeed to educate Davy at the best school. Unfortunately, there was currently no boarding option for that school. Undeterred, Aunt Betsey inquired whether there might be other boarding situations. Mr. Wickfield thought so and would go with her to visit both the school and the boarding houses.

Uriah keeps secretly staring at Davy—While they were gone, Davy sat down in one of the office chairs that happened to line up with the small room where he had first seen Uriah Heep. From his seat, Davy could see that Uriah was engrossed in making a copy of a manuscript that was hanging from a frame, so that it blocked their mutual view. Or so Davy thought, until he looked over and saw Uriah staring at him from underneath the suspended writing for as long as a minute. Uncomfortable, Davy tried moving to a less visible spot, but whenever he looked back in Uriah’s direction, he caught Uriah avoiding his glances.

Mr. Wickfield offers to board Davy for the time being—After some time, Mr. Wickfield and Miss Betsey returned, to Davy’s relief. The school was excellent, but Miss Betsey was not pleased with the boarding possibilities and was at a loss as to what to do, when Mr. Wickfield suggested letting Davy board with him temporarily. Mr. Wickfield anticipated no problems with Davy, and the house was an excellent place for studying. Miss Betsey was grateful but hesitant to accept the offer. However, Mr. Wickfield assured her she shouldn’t feel uneasy about accepting a favor and that she was free to pay on easy terms, if she wanted to do so. Relieved, Miss Betsey agreed, and Mr. Wickfield then took them to meet his “little housekeeper.”

The Wickfield’s beautiful old home—To Davy, it was a fascinating old house. The staircase had a huge banister, practically big enough to walk on. That led up to the wonderful old drawing room, with its latticed windows, polished oak floor and seats, beamed ceiling, and numerous nooks and crannies. Among other things, the room had a piano, flowers, and various quaint pieces of furniture in each corner, so that Davy felt a sense of discovery every time he came across a new nook. And all of it was immaculate, just like the outside of the house.

Davy and his aunt meet the “little housekeeper,” Agnes, who shows Davy his new room—The door Mr. Wickfield knocked on was immediately opened by a young girl, more or less the same age as Davy. Davy instantly noticed a strong resemblance between her expression and the female portrait he had seen upon entering. Both had a serenity and a goodness to them, though the girl, who now kissed Mr. Wickfield, was much younger and “bright and happy.” Her name was Agnes, and it seemed to Davy that she must be the single great life motive Mr. Wickfield kept mentioning. In spite of her age, she was the perfect picture of a housekeeper—responsible, proper, attentive, and pleasant. But what impressed Davy most—what he never forgot—was the peace that emanated from her good and quiet soul. After hearing her father’s account of Davy, Agnes showed them up to Davy’s bedroom at the top of the stairs, another wonderful room with oak beams and latticed windows.

Aunt Betsey gives Davy her parting advice and returns to Dover—The time had come for Aunt Betsey to leave, and as the Wickfields went off to attend to their chores or business, she and Davy had a moment of privacy. She assured Davy that he would be well cared for. She then gave him her parting words of advice to never be selfish, dishonest, or cruel. The specific words she used were “mean, false, and cruel,” which produce a greater impact because of their multiple nuances. The word “mean” has the definition of either “selfish,” “petty,” or “stingy;” the word “false” can signify either “dishonest,” “disloyal,” or “untrustworthy;” and the word “cruel” carries an impact that goes beyond the milder terms “unkind” or “mean.” Her words carried even more power because her life confirmed them. If Davy (or Trot) could follow that advice, she believed he would be all right. Deeply moved by her kindness and advice, he thanked her profusely, promised to do his best, and conveyed his warm greetings to Mr. Dick. When the pony carriage arrived, his aunt gave him a quick hug and ran out the door. Worried at first that he had offended her, Davy could tell by the saddened way that she climbed onto the carriage and drove off without looking back that their parting was hard on her, too.

Davy’s first evening at the Wickfields’—Dinner was served at five, and though Agnes didn’t eat with Davy and Mr. Wickfield, she sat with her father. She was clearly an indispensable element in his life. Afterwards, they moved up to the drawing room, where Mr. Wickfield spent several hours enjoying his port, while Agnes played the piano. Davy noticed that Mr. Wickfield’s general cheerfulness was sometimes interrupted by a melancholy musing as he watched Agnes, but she was sensitive to these moments and would move quickly to bring him out of them.

Feeling friendly, Davy says goodnight to Uriah and regrets it—Davy recalls that toward the end of the evening, before going to bed, he went downstairs and outside a short ways to familiarize himself with Canterbury’s cathedral and old houses. On the way back up to his room, he happened to see Uriah Heep in the process of closing up the office for the night. He was feeling especially gregarious, so he stopped to talk with Uriah and give him a goodnight handshake. The instant he did this he regretted it. Uriah’s cold, clammy touch matched the rest of his deathlike appearance and again left Davy with a strong eerie feeling. He ended the evening trying to wipe the feeling off his hand.

Once back in his room, Davy evidently confused Uriah with a gargoyle (though he knew better) and hastily shut the window to prevent him from staring in, in case Uriah had climbed up the outside of the house.

The New Boy


Davy visits his new school and meets Dr. Strong and his young wife Annie—The next day, Davy went to see his new school and meet Dr. Strong, his new master. The school was in a solemn-looking building that stood in a courtyard surrounded by a brick wall, with iron gates and large stone urns spaced at intervals all along the top. Mr. Wickfield and Davy met Dr. Strong in the library. He was in a state of obvious dishevelment, as though he had lost interest halfway through dressing himself. Aside from his generally unkempt hair and clothing, he had neglected to finish buttoning or closing his knee breeches, gaiters, and shoes. Even when he extended his hand toward Davy, the movement seemed halfhearted, leaving Davy uncertain about what to do.  Fortunately, a cheerful, lovely young woman named Annie speedily came to the rescue as she finished dressing Dr. Strong. Judging from Dr. Strong’s conversation with Mr. Wickfield, she was Dr. Strong’s wife, which came as a surprise to Davy because of the age difference.

Dr. Strong and Mr. Wickfield discuss the future of Annie’s cousin, Jack Maldon—Davy deduced their relationship through Dr. Strong’s question to Mr. Wickfield about whether he had found a job for his wife’s cousin and friend, John Maldon. After all, he said, the devil would find ways to turn idleness into mischief. Mr. Wickfield objected to this statement. Busy people, especially those who went after power and money, were just as likely to get into mischief. Returning to the original subject, Dr. Strong replied that he feared Jack Maldon would never busy himself too much with either.

Mr. Wickfield questions Dr. Strong’s motive, but the Doctor has nothing to hide—Mr. Wickfield admitted he had not yet succeeded in finding Jack a job and then raised the issue of Dr. Strong’s motive, claiming that it complicated things. Dr. Strong countered that his only motive was to help his wife’s cousin and childhood playmate. In reply, Mr. Wickfield stressed the phrase “at home or abroad,” which confused Dr. Strong. When Mr. Wickfield insisted that he must have a preference, Dr. Strong assured him he did not. Nor did he have any hidden motive to send him abroad, which surprised Mr. Wickfield, whose mistaken impression of the situation had led him to make things more difficult than necessary. Again, Dr. Strong looked puzzled, but he soon relaxed and broke into an extremely pleasant smile that reassured Davy that he was not the ponderous, lackluster person he appeared to be at first. Dr. Strong having assured Mr. Wickfield multiple times that his motives were simple, it was now Mr. Wickfield’s turn to be confused. Davy quietly noticed that he kept shaking his head as they followed Dr. Strong to the schoolroom.

Dr. Strong takes Davy to meet his new classmates—The schoolroom overlooked the garden, away from any noise and with a view of sunny peach trees, about six stone urns, and two large aloes, which Davy forever afterwards associated with silence and seclusion. When Davy, the Doctor, and Mr. Wickfield entered the room, the boys, which were roughly twenty-five in number, were studying quietly. After they respectfully stood and greeted Dr. Strong, the Doctor introduced Davy as Trotwood Copperfield, the new boy.

Davy senses that he will need to adjust to his pleasant new environment—Adams, the head boy, rose to welcome Davy, show him to his seat, and introduce him to the masters, all in a friendly, polite manner. Normally, Davy would have felt comfortable under such circumstances. But his life had taken too many arduous twists and turns for him to feel like a normal schoolboy in a new place. Memories of experiences these boys would never encounter flooded his mind, and he felt like a semi-impostor. There was much book learning and social experience that, given his age and social status, he should have known but didn’t. Because of his lack of knowledge, he was placed in the lowest grade. But perhaps worse, there was a great deal that Davy did know about things that seemed shameful in his present environment—things like debtors’ prison, homelessness, poverty, desperate secondhand sales, and a detailed knowledge of London’s worst sections. He worried that he might be found out, which caused him to crawl into himself. Wary of making the wrong move, he would leave the premises as soon as the school day ended.

A new hope dawns in the serene old Wickfield home—That uncomfortable feeling faded quickly on returning to the Wickfields’. As he carried his new schoolbooks upstairs, Davy felt a sense of comfort from the quaint, old house. School being out at three, he spent the hours between then and dinnertime studying. And in that time, the old, painful memories began to fade, and he began to sense a new hope for his life.

Davy and Agnes talk about school and Agnes’s importance to her father—Mr. Wickfield was still speaking with someone in his office by the time the dinner hour arrived. Meanwhile, Agnes waited for him in the drawing room, and she and Davy talked about his impressions of school and the fact that she had been homeschooled all her life. Her mother, whose portrait Davy had seen in the entrance hall, had been dead since shortly after Agnes’s birth, and her father was therefore unable to spare Agnes, since she was his housekeeper. Davy mentioned how much she resembled her mother, which pleased her.

Mr. Wickfield counsels Davy to never abuse Dr. Strong’s kind character—At that moment, Agnes’s father appeared, and they greeted each other affectionately. Turning to Davy, Mr. Wickfield informed him of his good fortune in having such a kind and gentle master in Dr. Strong. Davy should never abuse the Doctor’s innocent character, as some people did. Davy, whom Mr. Wickfield called “Trotwood,” could tell that Mr. Wickfield was troubled by something, but he didn’t pursue the issue, since it was now time for dinner.

Jack Maldon interrupts the Wickfields’ dinner—Just as they sat down, Uriah Heep appeared and announced that Jack Maldon was asking to see Mr. Wickfield. Mr. Wickfield had in fact just finished speaking with Mr. Maldon in his office, but before anyone could do or say anything, Jack Maldon himself pushed his way past Uriah. He carelessly hinted something about being “banished,” even though Annie preferred to have her friends close by. Judging from his earlier conversation with Mr. Wickfield, it seemed to him that the Doctor had changed his mind and wanted to ship him abroad, so Jack figured the sooner he could leave, the better. He was a bold, flippant young man, who referred to Dr. Strong as “the old doctor” because of the age difference between the Doctor and his young, attractive wife Annie. Maldon even had the gall to say that Annie had her husband so completely wrapped around her little finger that she only had to ask in order to get her way. These sentiments were offensive to Mr. Wickfield, who had to continually remind Mr. Maldon of the proper mode of addressing them as Dr. and Mrs. Strong, instead “the old doctor” and Annie. Throughout the conversation, Mr. Wickfield had been restrained in his expression and continued eating his dinner. Now he invited Jack Maldon to join them, but Mr. Maldon declined, saying that he would be dining with Annie. With that, he left, leaving Mr. Wickfield in a pensive mood. Davy’s own impression of Jack Maldon was that he was quick, bold, and handsome but shallow.

A calm evening in the drawing room, though Mr. Wickfield drinks more wine than usual—The evening proceeded as usual. After dinner in the drawing room, Mr. Wickfield drank more wine than usual, but otherwise, Agnes did the usual entertainment and preparations for the wine and, later, the tea. Watching her, so calm and orderly, Davy recognized that she had a strong beneficial influence on him as well. Davy was not in love with her as he was with Em’ly, but the peaceful goodness he felt with Agnes was equated in his mind with the time he saw her standing under the soft light of a stained-glass window.

Davy happily accepts Mr. Wickfield’s invitation to board there long-term—After Agnes went to bed, Davy was about to excuse himself when Mr. Wickfield detained him to ask whether he would rather remain with them in the old house or board elsewhere. Davy did not hesitate. He wanted to stay with them. Mr. Wickfield asked whether it was not too boring for him. No more than for Agnes, was Davy’s reply. Davy’s response was actually an enthusiastic “no,” and the statement about Agnes was meant in a positive way, but it troubled Mr. Wickfield. In an aside to himself, he mused that he felt a sense of guilt about keeping her there, but he realized he could not bear to let her go. His life was miserable enough, and the thought of life without her was inconceivable. But he brightened at the thought of Davy staying, reckoning that they would all be good company for each other. Mr. Wickfield added that Davy was always welcome to visit or read with him in his room, either after Agnes had gone to bed or in his spare time. Grateful, Davy decided to take him up on his offer that night, since he was not yet tired.

Davy stops in to see Uriah Heep, who is studying law in his workroom—On the way to Mr. Wickfield’s room, Davy noticed a light still on in Uriah’s workroom, and knowing that they were mutually curious about each other, he decided to take a look. He found Uriah poring over a huge volume, Tidd’s Practice of the Court of King’s Bench, and Uriah was extremely impressed with the book. Looking at Uriah, Davy could not help noticing his strange habits: the forced grin, dull eyes, flaring nostrils, and a constant tendency to rub, squeeze, and wipe the cold moisture off his hands. When Davy commented that Uriah must be adept at law, Uriah denied it. His family had always been “umble” people, though they had much to be grateful for.

Davy learns that Uriah is Mr. Wickfield’s legal apprentice; Uriah invites Davy for tea—Further questioning revealed Uriah had been with Mr. Wickfield almost four years, following Uriah’s father’s death a year before that. He was fortunate to be Mr. Wickfield’s legal apprentice, since such training would normally be out of his reach. When Davy amiably suggested that Uriah might one day partner with Mr. Wickfield, Uriah protested vehemently—his origins were much too humble for that. He then launched into a speech about his admiration for Mr. Wickfield, Miss Betsey, and lastly, Agnes, for whom he had a special regard. Davy noticed another hideous mannerism here. When Uriah expressed enthusiasm, he would writhe and twist. Having maneuvered himself off his seat, he noticed the time and excused himself. He needed to head home so his mother wouldn’t worry, adding that they had a strong mutual devotion. If Davy ever felt so inclined, they would be honored to have him over for tea at their humble abode.

Uriah learns that Davy will be staying long-term and predicts that Davy will become a partner—Davy graciously accepted this offer, and Uriah asked whether he would be staying only temporarily. Davy replied that he expected to stay for as long as he attended school there. Hearing this, Uriah became excited, sure that Davy was destined to become a partner in Mr. Wickfield’s business. Now it was Davy’s turn to protest. Nothing like that had been discussed or arranged, and the thought hadn’t entered his own mind. Still, Uriah kept repeating his assertion.

Davy has a nightmare about Uriah—Uriah then asked Davy whether it would be all right to turn off the light, and when Davy said yes, he immediately put it out. Davy couldn’t help again noticing Uriah’s cold, clammy touch when they shook hands. After Uriah exited the house, Davy was left to stumble in the dark as he made his way upstairs. That night, he had a nightmare that Uriah Heep hijacked Mr. Peggotty’s boathouse, turning it into a pirate ship with the name “Tidd’s Practice,” with the mission to kidnap and drown Davy and little Em’ly.

Davy adjusts and excels in his benign new school and home environment—With time, however, as Davy became more involved and, through hard work and determination, began to excel at his new life, both the horror of the dream and his past life at Murdstone and Grinby’s faded, and he felt more at home. Much of this could be attributed to Dr. Strong’s school, which was the opposite of Salem House. The new school’s approach was to assume the best about the boys and to expect them to act accordingly until they proved otherwise, which they rarely did. As a result, the school and its students earned a good reputation among the townspeople, and the boys themselves developed a warm sense of loyalty for the school.

Davy learns a little more about Dr. Strong from his fellow schoolmates—Davy learned from some of the other boys that Dr. Strong had only been married to Annie for a year. The word was that he married her for love, since beside her beauty, she had nothing to offer but a poor family. Also, the Doctor was working on a Greek dictionary and was therefore constantly contemplating the roots of Greek words, which accounted for his brooding expression and his tendency to look down. According to Adams, at his present rate, the dictionary would take another 1649 years to finish.

Dr. Strong is loved and protected by the whole school, owing to his kind, giving nature—Dr. Strong was beloved throughout the school because of his kind and generous nature. His tendency to give the shirt off his back to every stray beggar who asked was so well known that the head boys and other masters took care to prevent them from even coming near him. He was so innocent in these matters that he once even gave his gaiters to a beggar woman who first displayed her baby while going from door to door and then traded the gaiters in for gin at a thrift store. It was said that the only person in town who didn’t recognize them was the Doctor himself, who from time to time would stop by the store and admire them.

Dr. and Mrs. Strong’s relationship—From what Davy could tell, Annie and the doctor liked each other a great deal. She always took good care of him and would walk with him in the garden while he explained the details of his dictionary, though this particular subject never interested her much. The Doctor, however, was thoroughly engrossed in it and always carried around bits and pieces of the dictionary tucked in his hat and pockets.

Mrs. Strong’s affection for Davy and her fear of Mr. Wickfield—Mrs. Strong’s immediate and kindly interest in Davy and her affection for Agnes meant that she would often visit the Wickfields’. Davy couldn’t help noticing that she was ill at ease with Mr. Wickfield and that she never accepted his offers to accompany her home and would leave with Davy instead. Strangely, they would often meet Jack Maldon when they were least expecting to.

Annie’s mother, Mrs. Markleham (the Old Soldier)—Mrs. Markleham, Annie’s mother, was nicknamed the “Old Soldier” by the boys at the school. This had something to do with her ability to gather masses of relatives together to join against Dr. Strong. In any case, Davy enjoyed her, and he describes her as being small, keenly observant, and wearing a hat with fake flowers and butterflies.

Dr. Strong’s birthday and Jack Maldon’s going-away party—Dr. Strong’s birthday had been celebrated at the school during the day, first with gifts and then with a speech delivered by Adams, which was followed with great jubilation. Later, in the evening, Mr. Wickfield, Agnes, and Davy gathered at Dr. Strong’s for a small private party which included a celebration in honor of Jack Maldon, who would be leaving that night for India as a cadet, courtesy of Mr. Wickfield’s arrangements. On first entering, Davy noticed Annie and her cousin Jack by the piano. Annie wore a white dress with cherry-colored ribbons, and though she looked as lovely as ever, she seemed paler than usual.

Mrs. Markleham, Annie’s mother, embarrasses her daughter—Davy’s observations were interrupted by Annie’s mother, Mrs. Markleham, who wished Dr. Strong a happy birthday. However, being a talker, Mrs. Markleham, or could not stop there. She had to wish Dr. Strong many, many more, not just for herself but for her whole family—Annie and Jack Maldon and many others besides. Here she got distracted and started reminiscing about how, when Annie and Jack were children, he would “make baby love” to her by the bushes. This was, of course, embarrassing to Annie, who tried to get her mother off the subject. But Mrs. Markleham persisted. As an “old married woman,” Annie should be able to tolerate such things. Here Jack Maldon interrupted: how could she call Annie old? Annie’s mother corrected him. Of course, she didn’t mean old in terms of age. How could she? Annie was only twenty. But in terms of being settled and married to a doctor, a man of influence who could help out other members of the family—in that sense, she was “old.” In particular, she was referring to Jack as one of the beneficiaries. Dr. Strong, who was always kind, tactful, and modest, brushed the whole thing off.

Annie’s mother talks about Dr. Strong’s marriage proposal to Annie—Mrs. Markleham, however, was not about to be put off so easily. Repeatedly placing her fan on his arm to make her point, Mrs. Markleham recounted how surprised she had been when Dr. Strong proposed. He had known Annie since she was a baby, and Annie’s mother simply hadn’t thought of him as her daughter’s future husband. Dr. Strong again tried to brush the whole thing off, but Mrs. Markleham felt compelled to tell all about her interchange with Annie, much to her daughter’s dismay. According to her mother, Annie, being young, had been upset at having to make such a decision. Her mother claimed that she didn’t pressure her at all. She did make it clear, though, that Dr. Strong was impatient for an answer and that they should relieve his anxiety. Still upset, Annie evidently felt the need to accept, out of honor, respect, and consideration for the Doctor. Pleased, her mother maintained that Dr. Strong would now not only be a husband to her but also a father and the new patriarch of the family, since Annie’s own father had died.

Mrs. Markleham’s indiscreet babble and her attempts to get money from the Doctor—Annie, who had been looking down the whole time, now asked her mother in a timid voice whether she was done. Jack Maldon had been standing next to her, and he, too, had lowered his eyes during Mrs. Markleham’s speech. “No,” came the answer from her mother. Annie was being unnatural in that she was not fulfilling her responsibilities to her relatives. On Mrs. Markleham’s urging, the doctor had turned toward Annie with a kindly look, but she was too embarrassed to look up. Her mother continued. She had asked her daughter to beg a favor of the Doctor, but Annie had refused, knowing that she would get whatever she asked for. Surprised, the Doctor gently told her that she had erred in depriving him of something that gave him joy. Pleased with his reaction, Mrs. Markleham arranged to speak with Dr. Strong in private.

Jack Maldon’s plans—At this point, some new guests arrived, including Adams, the head boy, and two of the masters. Mrs. Markleham returned to her former seat, and the topic switched to Jack Maldon’s plans. It had been decided that he would leave that evening by coach for Gravesend, where his ship would depart for India.

The party continues, but Annie feels unwell—As the party continued, there were indications that Annie was not well. Davy knew her to be a lovely singer, having heard her on her own. But that evening, her voice failed her, both during a duet with Jack and, later, when she tried a solo at the piano. That only increased her shame, so the Doctor, thinking her nervous, suggested a card game. The problem was that he knew nothing about the game, but Mrs. Markleham, ever the opportunist, came to the rescue and offered to be his partner if he gave her jurisdiction over all the silver he had on him. The card game was fun, even though the doctor kept making mistakes, to the annoyance of Mrs. Markleham. Annie was still feeling unwell, so she decided not to play, though she occasionally gave the doctor suggestions. Davy noticed that she was pale and even shaking slightly. The doctor, however, seemed oblivious to such details, and Annie spent the rest of the time sitting on the couch talking to Jack Maldon, once he had finished packing for his trip.

Jack Maldon’s departure—Dinner was socially a bit awkward. Jack Maldon talked too much, and Mrs. Markleham kept telling childhood stories about him. As usual, Dr. Strong was oblivious to any issues, believing all to be well. At one point, Dr. Strong realized it was time for Jack to leave, and to send him off, the kind Doctor made a warm and gracious speech, wishing him a good trip, a successful life abroad, and a fortunate return. Mrs. Markleham, who always seemed to be thinking about money, directed her gaze toward the Doctor as she hinted that such a fine, self-sacrificing young man deserved support. The Doctor further suggested that, given his own age, he might not be there to welcome Jack home. Nevertheless, Jack had a fine example to emulate in his cousin Annie, and he should strive to be like her. But something seemed not quite right to Davy, and as Jack Maldon’s coach rode off amidst cheers from the schoolboys gathered on the lawn, Davy noticed he was holding something cherry-colored and looking ill at ease.

Where’s Annie?—Back inside, the guests had gathered around the Doctor to discuss Jack’s departure, when Mrs. Markleham suddenly realized that Annie was missing. They finally found her in the hallway on the floor, where she had fallen down in a faint. Fortunately, she responded to the normal treatments, and the kindly Doctor assumed her cousin’s leaving had been too hard on her. As she came to, she arose, placed her head on Dr. Strong’s shoulder, and though she was pale and weak, she insisted on joining the others in the living room.

The missing ribbon and the end of the party—In her usual blatant way, her mother pointed out that Annie was missing one of the cherry-colored ribbons from her dress—the one she had worn near her breast. When her mother asked her where she had it last, Davy noticed that Annie turned bright red as she told her mother she believed she had kept it in a safe place and that it wasn’t worth bothering with. But the guests kept looking, and Annie kept asking them not to until everyone went home. By then, Davy noticed that Annie seemed to have recovered.

Davy returns to fetch Agnes’s bag—The walk home with the Wickfields was especially slow that night, and Davy noticed Mr. Wickfield looking down the whole time while Davy and Agnes looked up at the moon. When Agnes realized she had forgotten her bag, Davy happily volunteered to retrieve it.

Annie sits at the Doctor’s knees—The dining room at the Doctor’s house, where Agnes had left her bag, was dark when Davy arrived. But seeing a light coming from the study, Davy went over to fetch a candle. Looking into the study, Davy saw Annie sitting on a low stool by the Doctor’s knees. Dr. Strong himself was in his armchair and was reading to her about something to do with the dictionary. But what captured Davy’s attention most was Annie’s face as she looked up at the Doctor. It was pale and beautiful, but the expression Annie wore was difficult for Davy to define. It had an odd mixture of love, trust, pride, shame, repentance—and pervading them all, a horrified, disturbed look that was hard to comprehend. When the Doctor suggested in his kindhearted way that it might be time for Annie to go to bed instead of listening to his dull readings, she begged to stay, as though being there would be a comfort to her that night. And so Davy left them, with Annie looking up at the gentle Doctor.

Somebody Turns Up


Ongoing communications with Peggotty—In all the flurry of change since leaving London, Davy never forgot Peggotty. He wrote to her when his aunt first took him in; again, in more detail, when she adopted him; and finally, when he arrived at Dr. Strong’s school and felt the hope of a new life. He even returned the half-crown she loaned him—the one that was stolen by the donkey-cart driver—and nothing gave him more pleasure.

Peggotty’s responses—Davy describes how Peggotty’s responses were prompt, even if they were verbose and incoherent, with no punctuation except large blots, precious to him because he knew they were caused by her tears. He could see that she was not yet convinced that Aunt Betsey’s character was indeed different from her legend, and he noticed that she kept hinting that the fare to Yarmouth would always be available to him, as though she was concerned he might run away again.

Blunderstone Rookery abandoned—The hardest piece of news for Davy was that his old home, Blunderstone Rookery, had been abandoned by the Murdstones. The furniture had been sold and the house put up for rent or sale. It saddened Davy to imagine all the desolate scenes that implied: the empty moonlit rooms, the untended garden and walkways, the cold winter weather beating against the forsaken old house—and the lonely grave in the nearby churchyard, symbol of a bygone time.

News of friends and family—Peggotty’s final bit of news was about those close to her and Davy. She was extremely pleased with her new husband, even if he was a bit miserly. But she was quick to acknowledge that no one was perfect, and she certainly had her faults (though Davy had no idea what were). Her boathouse relations were as always: Ham and her brother were well, Mrs. Gummidge was forlorn, and Em’ly was somewhere between stand-offish and affectionate, preferring to have Peggotty compose her message for her.

Visits from Aunt Betsey—Davy also received periodic surprise visits from Aunt Betsey, who would drop in on him at odd hours. She soon realized, however, that these visits were unnecessary, as Davy was consistently proving his worth both at school and home. It got so that he only saw her once or twice a month on his visits to Dover.

Visits from Mr. Dick—Mr. Dick, too, was a regular visitor, bringing his Memorial manuscript every other Wednesday, when he would spend the night in Canterbury at the county inn. Davy noticed that there was now an increased urgency to his writing, as though there was pressure to finish it. He also learned that Mr. Dick had to account to Miss Betsey for whatever money he spent and that she placed limits on his spending. For example, she had Davy set up a tab for him at the bakery, where he could pick up his beloved gingerbread, but he was only allowed to get a certain amount per day. Mr. Dick did not mind this at all, being convinced that Miss Betsey was the best and wisest of women, which he would whisper to Davy with an air of great mystery.

A mysterious man approaches Miss Betsey—One day, the mysterious whispering took a different turn, when Mr. Dick wanted to know who the man was who would suddenly appear at night near Miss Betsey’s home, surprising and frightening her and demanding money. That anyone could frighten Miss Betsey was a great surprise to Mr. Dick. Davy guessed at first that he might be a beggar, but Mr. Dick did not accept this idea. Next, Davy harbored the notion he might be a figment of Mr. Dick’s imagination, partly because of Mr. Dick’s confusion about when the man first appeared (Mr. Dick couldn’t convince himself that it was 1649) and because he supposedly would disappear into the ground after doing his business with Miss Betsey. It occurred to Davy that someone might be blackmailing his aunt in relation to Mr. Dick. But the man, who had only shown up a few times, had not reappeared for some time, and Mr. Dick himself seemed happily oblivious of any danger.

Mr. Dick’s enjoyment and popularity—Mr. Dick thoroughly enjoyed his Wednesdays in Canterbury. He never participated in the games or sports, but he loved watching and cheering them on, and for this and other qualities, he was a favorite among the schoolboys. He was legendary at making things out of all sorts of scraps. Straw, string, wire, and other items were turned into boats, chessmen, wheels, and whatever else struck his fancy. Even Dr. Strong took an interest in him and asked to be introduced. That started a friendship, in which Mr. Dick was invited to come to the Doctor’s office if Davy was late picking him up at the station. Eventually, he made his way into the school, where he had his own stool and would sit listening with interest and admiration to the lessons.

Mr. Dick and the Doctor’s walks—Mr. Dick and Dr. Strong soon began walking together for an hour at a time, and the Doctor even began reading to him from his dictionary. For Mr. Dick, who held the Doctor in high esteem, this was a great privilege. For Davy, it was an immensely pleasant and rewarding thing to watch. Mr. Dick’s friendships were not confined to the school, either. He quickly befriended Agnes, strengthened his relationship with Davy, and even met Uriah.

Uriah invites Davy to tea—On one particular morning, Davy was about to escort Mr. Dick to the station when he saw Uriah, who expressed his wish to have Davy over for tea, though he quickly added that he didn’t expect Davy to follow through on his promise, since Uriah and his mother were so poor. This statement was accompanied by strange writhing motions, which didn’t help Davy’s intensely mixed feelings about Uriah. However, unwilling to seem arrogant, Davy tried to smooth things over by saying he had been waiting for an invitation. That prompted Uriah to invite him for that evening. But, he stipulated, if their poverty offended Davy, he hoped Davy would admit it.

On the way to the Heeps’—Of course, Davy wasn’t offended by their poverty, and at six that evening, he and Uriah made their way to the Heeps’ “umble” home. The entire way there, Uriah could not let go of his “umbleness,” which he saw as a stumbling-block to his progress in life. To Davy, this was nonsense, and he even said so, at the same time offering to teach Uriah his knowledge of Latin and other subjects. But Uriah was stuck in his lowliness and declined Davy’s gracious offer.

Tea with Uriah and his mother—Still dressed in mourning after many years, Uriah’s mother, who looked like a shorter version of him, was as focused on their poverty and lowly station as her son. She even apologized for kissing her son in greeting, explaining that poor people had feelings, too—as though that was necessary. On the whole, however, Davy’s impression of her was pleasant.

The Heeps’ humble home—The Heeps’ parlor and kitchen shared the same room, and the overall look was meager, though the individual furnishings seemed normal enough. They included a part chest, part writing desk for Uriah, Uriah’s books and papers, a table, a cupboard, a fireplace, and so on. When they first entered, the kettle was boiling and the table already set.

A guest of honor—From all appearances, the Heeps were deeply honored to have Davy as their guest. It was such a special event to them that Mrs. Heep even mused that if her husband had had any reason to remain alive, this event would have been it. In keeping with this, the Heeps insisted on giving Davy the best of the humble tidbits they had to offer. Their adulation embarrassed Davy, but he tried to keep it in perspective.

Master manipulators—As the evening progressed, Davy noticed that the Heeps both moved closer and closer to him. Somehow they managed to extract a great deal of personal information about his family background by first casually talking about their own. The one thing that prevented him from revealing too much about Mr. Murdstone was Aunt Betsey’s earlier warning not to do so. Another secret he kept locked up was his time at Murdstone and Grinby’s and his runaway adventure. But when the topic switched to Mr. Wickfield and Agnes, Davy again found that the Heeps had the upper hand in extracting information that he preferred to keep private. They did this so skillfully that Davy only had to respond with a few words to accidentally give them what they wanted. When this happened, Uriah’s nostrils would flare with satisfaction. Davy called it “twinkling,” as though Uriah’s nostrils made up for his eyes, which rarely changed their dull expression.

A surprise visitor—Davy was beginning to regret his visit, when a random passerby suddenly doubled back to look in, the door being open to let in the cool air. Extending his hand in greeting, the visitor enthusiastically recognized Davy as “Mr. Copperfield,” proclaiming what a fortunate and unexpected event it was to meet a cherished friend from a critical period in his life. It was none other than Mr. Micawber, unchanged in his dress and behavior. He happened to see Davy as he was walking along in the hope (as usual) of having something turn up. For his part, Davy was happy to see Mr. Micawber, but seeing him there added to his discomfort. He didn’t let on, though, instead warmly greeting his friend and asking about Mrs. Micawber, who had finally weaned the twins, which had improved her health. She was currently traveling with Mr. Micawber and would no doubt enjoy seeing Davy again.

Mr. Micawber asks for an introduction—Of course, Mr. Micawber had no suspicion of the Heeps, and after looking around at both the room and the Heeps, he requested a formal introduction to the people who were so kindly entertaining Davy. Feeling he had no choice, Davy obliged and watched the Heeps go through their usual routine about being “umble.” Oblivious to the nuances and gracious as ever, Mr. Micawber proclaimed himself at the service of any of Davy’s friends. He then asked Davy if he was still in the wine business. Embarrassed, Davy told him he was a student at Dr. Strong’s school. On hearing that, Mr. Micawber launched into an enthusiastic description of Davy’s high intelligence and how, though he had no need of schooling, he would no doubt do exceedingly well. This elicited a particularly hideous writhing movement from Uriah, prompting Davy to guide Mr. Micawber away as quickly as possible by suggesting they visit Mrs. Micawber. Unfortunately, Mr. Micawber first felt compelled to mention his financial hardships to the Heeps, which further embarrassed Davy, though it didn’t surprise him. That led to another round of praise for his Davy, whose friendship had been a comfort to Mr. Micawber at a difficult time. Once finished, Mr. Micawber bowed graciously to the Heeps and left in one of his best moods.

Mrs. Micawber tells Davy of their misfortune in Plymouth—The Micawbers were staying in a small inn in a room above the kitchen and close to the bar, judging from the smell of grease, alcohol, and tobacco smoke, the moisture on the walls, and the sound of glasses clinking. Mrs. Micawber was lying on the couch when Mr. Micawber introduced Davy as one of Dr. Strong’s students. He trusted Mrs. Micawber would tell Davy all about their current state of affairs. She was happy to see and confide in Davy, informing him first that Plymouth had not worked out as expected. Mr. Micawber was too talented for the Custom House job, and her family, aside from having insufficient influence to help them, came across as cool and even hostile (the word she used was “personal,” but judging from Davy’s unhappy reaction, the implication was that they mistreated Mr. Micawber).

Mrs. Micawber explains their next move and their current dire situation—Consequently, the Micawbers decided to return to London after borrowing the travel money from the same relatives. Mrs. Micawber’s next move was to ask her other relatives what they thought would be the best course of action for Mr. Micawber. They recommended the coal industry in Medway, but after going there and researching the situation, Mrs. Micawber concluded that it required both talent and money, which made it an unlikely prospect. From there, however, the Micawbers realized they were close to Canterbury, and since they wanted to see the Cathedral and thought that a cathedral town might be a good place for opportunity, they made their way there. So far, they had been there for three days and were now waiting for money from London to pay their hotel bills. But until that happened, Mrs. Micawber—and here she became emotional—was suffering, being far from her home and children.

Mr. Micawber hints at suicide as a solution and then orders a hearty breakfast—Davy was deeply sympathetic to the Micawbers’ plight and expressed his regret that he wasn’t able to help them financially. Mr. Micawber thanked Davy for being a true friend, but his distress was clear from his reply that if things got beyond repair, a man could always resort to “shaving materials” (meaning a razor). After that, he burst into tears, while his wife consoled him with her embrace. But Mr. Micawber always bounced back quickly and was soon ordering a hearty breakfast for the following day. The Micawbers were eager to have Davy over for dinner before they left, and after ironing out the logistical issues, it was finally arranged. When Mr. Micawber came to the school to confirm the dinner arrangements with Davy, Davy asked whether the remittance had arrived, but Mr. Micawber simply squeezed his hand and left.

Mr. Micawber returns to the Heeps and becomes friends with Uriah—In the meantime, Davy was surprised to see Mr. Micawber and Uriah linking arms as they walked down the street together. It turned out that Mr. Micawber had gone back to the Heeps’, where he had enjoyed some brandy with his new friend. Even more surprising, Mr. Micawber’s impression of Uriah was that he would make a fine attorney general someday. He even imagined that knowing Uriah back when his own family’s finances became a serious problem would have significantly improved his relationship with his creditors. This made no sense to Davy, but he didn’t pursue the issue. He was also concerned about how much Mr. Micawber had told Uriah, but again, he was unwilling to make the Micawbers uncomfortable, so he said nothing.

A warm and merry dinner with the Micawbers—Davy describes his dinner with the Micawbers as being a delicious meal of various fish, meat, and fowl dishes, in addition to pudding. There was also wine and ale, and Mrs. Micawber personally made some hot punch for dessert. Mr. Micawber was in exceptional spirits, so much so that his face shone as he sang Canterbury’s praises and expressed his appreciation of the pleasant time he and his wife had passed there. After that, they all toasted each other, Mr. Micawber spoke about Mrs. Micawber’s outstanding qualities, and they all finished with a moving rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” which lost none of its feeling even though none of them had a clue as to the meaning of the last phrase. This joyful feeling lasted throughout the evening, all the way through their goodbyes.

Davy receives a desperate message from Mr. Micawber—Early the next morning, Davy received a shocking message from Mr. Micawber. The money the Micawbers were waiting for had not come after all, which meant that he had to write the inn a promissory note, knowing he would be unable to pay it two weeks from then. To him, that meant inevitable destruction. The message, which had a hopeless tone throughout, was written fifteen minutes after Davy left the Micawbers the night before. It confessed that the evening’s happy atmosphere had been a cover-up, and Mr. Micawber signed off with the statement that he hoped his life would act as an example for Davy. He added that this would be his final message to Davy.

Davy catches sight of the Micawbers on their way to London—Davy’s reaction to this distressing note was to head immediately to the hotel before going to school. His intention was to comfort the Micawbers, but on his way there, he happened to see them on the stagecoach to London as it passed by. Neither of the Micawbers saw Davy, and since they appeared content and carefree, he decided not to pursue the matter and had to admit to a sense of relief that they were leaving.

School Day Reminiscences


The Cathedral—Chapter 18 is a general retrospective of Davy’s school days as he grew out of childhood into a young man. His first recollection is of the Cathedral, where the boys would all go together once a week. His memories of the place—the darkness, the echoing sound of the organ, and what he called the Cathedral’s “earthy” smell—all evoked in him a feeling of being apart from the world.

The head boy—Davy’s rank among the boys had gone up since he first arrived at the school. He was not close to the head boy as he had been with Steerforth, but he held him in high esteem and thought it impossible that he himself should ever attain his level, though Agnes believed he would. He was curious to see what would become of him on entering the world beyond school.

Miss Shepherd—Suddenly his memory turned to Miss Shepherd, his muse at the time. He knew her as one of Miss Nettingall’s boarders and described her as being small and round-faced, with curly, blonde hair and a snug jacket. She became his focus at church, though he wasn’t sure whether she returned the feeling.

Finally, they met at the dance school, where they were assigned as partners. When Davy happened to touch her glove, the feeling that ran through his arm to his head was so thrilling that no words were needed, and they both knew it was mutual. Following that encounter, Davy would give Miss Shepherd small presents of things like Brazil nuts, oranges, and biscuits, and once he even kissed her secretly.

Changes—But things eventually grew cool between Miss Shepherd and him. She came to favor Master Jones, a boy who had no outstanding qualities from what Davy could see. It became clear from her behavior toward Davy that she was no longer interested. Consequently, Davy grew tired of Miss Nettingall’s girls, especially as his status in the school increased. He was becoming known as excellent Latin scholar, and he had taken to leaving his shoelaces untied and had altogether lost his interest in girls or dancing, though his relationships with his aunt, Mr. Dick, and Dr. Strong continued to strengthen.

The town bully—Canterbury also had a bully, a young thick-necked, red-cheeked butcher, who would punch the smaller boys and threaten Davy and others, claiming he could overpower them. Fed up, Davy decided to fight him, so they met one summer’s evening, both with a group of companions—Davy with some boys from the school and the butcher with some others from his own social class. What followed was a ferocious fight between the two of them. Half the time, Davy didn’t know what was happening because of how violently the butcher was knocking him around. He returned some decent punches, but they had little effect. Finally, he awoke in a dazed state to see the young butcher leaving with his companions, so he figured—correctly—that the butcher had won.

Badly beaten, Davy takes a few days off to recover—Back home at the Wickfields’, Davy’s considerable wounds were treated with old-fashioned remedies, such as steaks on his eyes and a brandy-and-vinegar mixture on his other wounds. The butcher had also managed to give him a swollen lip. Unable to go to school for several days because of his condition, Davy was grateful to have Agnes, who kept him company, read to him, and sympathized with him as he told her all about his encounters with the bullying butcher.

Adams, the head boy, moves on—As the years passed at Dr. Strong’s school, things gradually changed. Adams, the former head boy, had left long ago, and barely any of the boys recognized him on his occasional visits. Davy was also surprised that he who had seemed so mighty and talented had so far left no significant mark on the world, though he was about to become a lawyer.

Davy and Agnes grow up—At this point, Davy’s school memories become a blur of heroic deeds told through the channels of history and literature. The next significant memory he has is of himself as the head boy, just as Agnes predicted. The young boy who showed up on the doorstep of Strong’s school all those years ago has become nothing but a faded memory. He now dresses the part of an English gentleman, complete with tails and a gold watch and ring. Agnes, too, is no longer a little girl but the image of the portrait downstairs in the Wickfields’ house. She is Davy’s trusted friend and “sister,” as he likes to think of her, and a beneficent influence on all she meets.

Miss Larkins—What else was new? Oh, yes—Davy was in love again, at least, from a distance. This time, his muse was a tall, dark, lovely thirty-year-old named Miss Larkins. She was the eldest daughter of Mr. Larkins and would often be seen walking down the street enjoying herself with her younger sister. She had a thing for officers, and they seemed to like her, too, much to Davy’s dismay as he watched them cross the street to greet her or enter the Larkins’s house for a social gathering. Davy spent a good deal of time making himself presentable for her, walking the streets in an effort to run into her and greet her, and circling her house at night trying to figure out which room was hers. He would fantasize about rescuing her from a fire and dying in the process. Or he would see himself proclaiming his love and having the feeling returned by her and accepted by her father, who would give them his blessing and plenty of money. The problem in all of this was that he was only seventeen, but he persuaded himself this didn’t matter and that he would be twenty-one soon, anyway.

The Larkins’ ball—Then came the night of the Larkins’ ball, that memorable event that changed everything. Miss Larkins looked ravishing in her blue dress, her hair decorated with blue forget-me-nots. Davy felt a bit out of place amid the gala surroundings of his first adult party, complete with officers (his competition). It didn’t help when Mr. Larkins, apparently trying to make him feel comfortable, inadvertently insulted him by asking about his schoolmates. All this, however, faded into the background, when Miss Larkins approached and asked him if he danced. Forgetting his shyness, he told her he would be happy to dance with her and only her. Miss Larkins seemed pleased by this comment and agreed to the next dance, which was a waltz. She began to tell him that if he didn’t waltz, Captain Bailey would be able to take the dance. Davy happened to be a good waltzer, though, and wouldn’t even let her finish her thought. After an ecstatic dance with the woman of his dreams, he and Miss Larkins ended up off by themselves, seated on a couch in a small side room. When she complimented Davy on the pink flower in his buttonhole, he gave it to her in exchange for one of her blue forget-me-nots, which he brought to his lips and kissed. She laughed, calling him bold, and then asked him to escort her back to Captain Bailey. Still in a state of semi-ecstasy, Davy noticed Miss Larkins again a short while later with an elderly, non-descript gentleman, whom she introduced as Mr. Chestle. Mr. Chestle, a successful hops grower, was extremely gracious toward Davy, telling him that he admired his taste and that if he were ever near Ashford, he would be welcome to stay with them for any length of time. Davy in turn responded gratefully and warmly, especially since he sensed that Mr. Chestle was a family friend. That night, he went home a happy young man.

Davy discovers that Miss Larkins is engaged—That didn’t last long. First, Miss Larkins suddenly disappeared. Then, a couple of evenings later in the drawing room, Agnes innocently asked Davy (Trotwood) whether he knew who was getting married, adding it was someone he admired. Davy’s first guess was that it was Agnes herself. That idea tickled her, but no—it was Miss Larkins. Stammering slightly, Davy again guessed incorrectly that she would be marrying Captain Bailey. No, she would be marrying Mr. Chestle.

The end of an era—That news sent Davy into a state of semi-mourning. He dressed down, removed his jewelry, and reverted to his pre-love condition. The butcher bully was bothering him again, so having tossed away Miss Larkins’s flower, he decided have it out with him. This time, he beat him roundly. After that, Davy began dressing normally, thus marking the end of his younger teenage years.

David Takes A Short Journey And Discovers Something


Time to graduate—David had mixed feelings about graduating and leaving high school. As the head boy, he was the most successful among his peers. He was also fond of Dr. Strong, and overall, he had had a happy experience. Still, he had become a young man, and the urges of a young man to get out into the world and make his mark had begun to take effect. Unlike some more dramatic separations, leaving school was not a memorable event, and it paled in comparison to the anticipation he felt about his future in the big, wide world.

Deciding on a career—Then there was the matter of his career, a serious ongoing topic between David and his aunt. Mr. Dick also like to sit in on these meetings, but the only suggestion he ever made (a brass worker—which struck David as strange) was so poorly received by Aunt Betsey that Mr. Dick, who had tried to be earnest, kept his ideas to himself after that. David himself had no ideas except for the romantic dream of becoming a world-traveling sea captain. But since he lacked both the necessary knowledge and opportunity, he decided he should come up with something more practical that would be less of a strain on Aunt Betsey’s resources.

Aunt Betsey suggests a short trip—One day around Christmastime, it occurred to Aunt Betsey that a short trip away from his usual surroundings might give David a fresh, more adult perspective and help him decide on an appropriate course. Her idea was that he should consider visiting Peggotty (whose name she could never remember because she found it so offensive). To David, this was a delightful idea, which was no surprise to his aunt, who found his reaction “natural and rational” and hoped that he would always manifest those qualities so that he would be a credit to his sister Betsey, who certainly would have demonstrated a strong and fine character. Aunt Betsey had an occasional habit of describing David’s mother as a soft baby, and now, though she was proud of David’s growth and accomplishments, both mentally and physically, in character she compared him to his late mother and father. She then launched into a determined speech about how she wanted him to be a man of strong will and character, who only changed his mind for solid reasons. That was why, to start him on the path to becoming this fine adult, she decided to send him to Peggotty’s by himself.

No requirements except to observe and report—David’s aunt outfitted him with plenty of money and sent him off with plenty of kisses. The only requirements for his journey, which was to last from three weeks to a month, were that he should look around, consider what he saw, and report back to her three times weekly. Aunt Betsey even suggested spending several days in London, if it suited him. But other than those basic requirements, “Trot” was free to do what he wanted.

First stop: Canterbury, Agnes, and talk of love—David’s first stop from Dover was Canterbury. He still had his old room at the Wickfields’, and he felt he hadn’t yet said a proper goodbye to either the Wickfields or Dr. Strong. Agnes was as happy to see David as he was to see her, and she told him that things were not the same without him. David also told her that she held a special place in his heart as someone he could always confide in and whose advice he trusted. His life was not the same without her, and he was certain that her goodness and wisdom affected all who came in contact with her. But Agnes, in her sweet and pleasant way, did not take David’s comments seriously and said he sounded like he was talking about Miss Larkins. That turned the conversation to the subject of being in love, and though David was embarrassed at first, he promised he would always confide in her on that issue, even if things became serious. Laughing, Agnes said his loves were serious, but David protested that those were childish infatuations and that he was growing up. He wondered, though, why she had never fallen in love, but he quickly added that the man who deserved her would have to be unusually noble. So far, no one had measured up, and he would watch carefully and expect a great deal before approving of anyone.

Troubling changes in Mr. Wickfield—The conversation suddenly turned serious as Agnes asked David whether he had noticed any changes in her father. She looked concerned and even tearful. David confessed he had observed an increasing nervousness and distractedness in Mr. Wickfield. He would get a wild-eyed look, accompanied by unclear speech and a shaking hand, all of which seemed related to his business dealings. Agreeing, Agnes added that those symptoms specifically related to his dealings with Uriah. That detail had not escaped David, who observed that Mr. Wickfield grew worse by the day, apparently because he didn’t know how to handle the situation. David had even seen him crying recently. Agnes motioned to David to be quiet, then rose to greet her father with the utmost tenderness and compassion. The moving expression on her face conveyed an earnest pleading with David to deal gently with her father in both thought and deed.

Tea at Dr. Strong’s—The three of them had been invited to Dr. Strong’s for tea. There they joined Annie, her mother, and the Doctor by the fireplace in the study, where the Doctor treated David like a guest of honor about to go on a distant journey. He had ordered more wood to be added to the fire so he could have a bright flame by which to see his old student’s face.

Dr. Strong’s decision to retire—Dr. Strong also confessed to Mr. Wickfield that he was getting tired and would be retiring in half a year. Mr. Wickfield remarked that Dr. Strong had been promising to retire for a decade. This time, however, the Doctor said he was serious and would therefore be needing Mr. Wickfield’s legal services to write up the contracts that would hand over the reins to the Doctor’s first master. Mr. Wickfield noted that they should make certain that the contracts provided the Doctor with adequate protection, since that wasn’t Dr. Strong’s habit. Referring to his retirement, the Doctor remarked contentedly that he would be free to think only of his dictionary and Annie, whom he referred to as his “other contract-bargain.”

Letters from India—Mr. Wickfield looked over at her, and his look became more concentrated as Annie’s eyes fearfully avoided his. He mentioned he had noticed that mail had arrived from India. Yes, the Doctor confirmed with excitement—and Jack Maldon had sent letters! At this point, Mrs. Markleham interrupted. It seemed that India was not a good climate for “poor” Jack and that he was not well. Mr. Wickfield asked whether he had said so, which elicited the reply from Mrs. Markleham that he would never say so. Jack would rather die in India—and he was likely to do so soon—than interfere with Dr. Strong’s plans for him. Annie reprimanded her mother at one point for her babbling, but it had no effect except to strengthen her resolve to speak her mind. Mr. Wickfield then clarified that the plans made for Jack were his doing, and the Doctor, kind as always, said he would be happy to relinquish them in favor of some more suitable arrangement for Jack Maldon. This brought an elated and overwhelmed reaction from Annie’s mother, who scolded Annie for not showing more appreciation when such kind things were done for her family and friends. Annie remained silent and evasive, and Mr. Wickfield kept looking at her, absorbed in his own thoughts. When he asked whether Mr. Malden had written the letters himself, Mrs. Markleham immediately produced the letter sent to Dr. Strong, and added that the information in Annie’s letter was even clearer.

Mr. Wickfield’s discomfort—Annie was hesitant to hand over the letter but finally did. As David took it from her to give to her mother, he noticed her hand was shaking. Her mother audibly went through different sections of the letter, looking for places indicating that Jack was unwell. Any references to Annie’s relationship to Jack, past and present, seemed nothing more than innocent remarks to her, as they did to the Doctor. But Mr. Wickfield seemed disturbed by the whole subject of Jack Maldon, especially in relation to Annie and the Doctor, and his response to the snippets read from the letter was to look down at the ground in silence. Occasionally, he would also look at Dr. Strong or Annie, and it was clear to a sensitive observer like David that something was bothering him.

Dark suspicions and a change of feeling—Even Annie’s relationship with Agnes bothered him. They had sung together that evening, and Annie seemed in much better spirits because of Agnes, who also enjoyed Annie’s company. But when they went to give each other a goodbye embrace, Mr. Wickfield came between them, seemingly by chance. David’s thoughts had already begun to revert to the night of Jack Maldon’s departure, and the change on Annie’s face as she found herself separated from Agnes now took him straight back. He was no longer sure whether he could trust Annie, who once seemed so innocent to him. And as he left that night, he was aware of a dark sense of possible treachery toward the kind and esteemed Doctor, and he could no longer think of his beloved former school with a feeling of peace.

David says goodbye to the Wickfields—The next day, David packed his remaining things to ship to his aunt’s. Leaving the Wickfield’s house was hard for him. He knew he would be back, but he also knew that an era had come to an end. His main concern at the moment was to seem more adult, which to him meant controlling his emotions on saying goodbye to Agnes and Mr. Wickfield. He played the same game with the coachman, William, whom he knew, trying to act sterner and more knowledgeable than he actually was about the coachman’s questions. As they passed the butcher, David softened for a moment, and in the spirit of forgiveness, he considered making a friendly gesture but then changed his mind.

Trials of young adulthood—The coachman changed the subject to horse breeding and bet that the gentleman sitting behind them on the coach was a horse breeder. The gentleman in question was ogling the lead horses as he squinted with one eye and stuck his large chin over the coachman’s shoulder. He was wearing a white top hat and shabby pants that buttoned all the way up the sides. All in all, David was not impressed, so when the coachman suggested to him that the proper thing to do would be to yield his front seat to him, it was a blow to ego. David had specifically ordered this seat and had paid good money for. He had even dressed up for the occasion, and since he was already insecure, this only intensified the feeling by reminding him of how young he was after all. He considered this incident the first failure of his life as an adult.

A different perspective—In spite of this discouraging incident, it was a funny feeling to be going back by the same route that had first brought him in this direction. In appearance, wealth, and education, David was now the opposite of the poverty-stricken, lost vagabond child who journeyed all those miles to his aunt’s home in Dover. Now, as the coach rode along, he looked out for the places along the way where he had spent the night, even recognizing some of the tramps he encountered. When they approached Salem House, he wished he could step down from the coach and legally give Mr. Creakle a well-deserved beating, afterwards releasing all the boys who were locked up there.

Second stop: London and the Golden Cross Inn—The dingy inn they stopped at in Charing Cross was called the Golden Cross. David’s room was small and smelled like a horse carriage, and he couldn’t help noticing that no one seemed too impressed by him because of his youth. The chambermaid more or less ignored him, while the waiter tried to give him advice about what young gentlemen typically ate. Along with his meal, David ordered a half-pint of sherry and was displeased to observe that the waiter poured together the dregs from some other decanters for his own order. But he was too shy to say anything, even though the sherry tasted flat. Earlier, he tried to impress the waiter by asking him to check on whether there was any mail under his name, which he gave as Trotwood Copperfield, Esquire. Of course, there wasn’t.

Covent Garden Theatre—Feeling more relaxed after the wine, David decided to go to Covent Garden Theatre, where he saw the play Julius Caesar. The excitement of the theater was a new experience for him. Up until then, his knowledge of Romans had always been confined to the history books. Now, the combination of the drama, audience, impressive scene changes, lights, and music was overwhelming. At midnight, when David reemerged into the busy, rainy London streets, his head still full of theatrical images, it took him a while to readjust. He eventually made his way back to the hotel, where he had a midnight snack of port and oysters as he sat watching the fire and thinking about his theater experience.

A surprise encounter—While he was sitting there, he noticed a handsome young man, well dressed in a casual way. As David headed off to bed, he took a closer look and immediately recognized Steerforth. That night, with several glasses of wine in him and still high from his Covent Garden experience, he felt no hesitation about going over to Steerforth and greeting him with warmth and enthusiasm. It took Steerforth a moment, but when he did recognize David, he was just as excited to see him. The two of them spent a few minutes catching up on what they had been doing and what had brought them to the Golden Cross. David told Steerforth how his aunt had adopted him and sent him to school in Canterbury. He had just arrived in Charing Cross that day by coach. Steerforth was attending Oxford and was currently on his way to visit his mother. He hadn’t changed. Everything bored him—Oxford, his mother’s house, the play he had just seen, which happened to be the same play David found so exciting. At least David’s freshness amused him.

A happy ending to the first day of David’s journey—Steerforth still exhibited the influence over people he had had at Salem House. Calling the waiter over, he asked him which room David had been given. When he discovered it was Room 44, a tiny loft space above the stables, Steerforth ordered the waiter to have it changed immediately, making it clear how ignorant he considered the hotel for giving David that room to begin with. The waiter apologized sheepishly and complied right away. The night ended as Steerforth invited David to breakfast at ten the next morning. Bidding each other a warm good night, they went to their respective rooms, which happened to be right next door. Pleased with his new room, David fell asleep on a huge four-post bed amid plenty of pillows, with happy dreams inspired by the night’s events.

Steerforth’s Home


The start of Day 2—The next morning at eight, the maid knocked on David’s door as she delivered his shaving water. That simple act brought out all his insecurities about being young, since he hadn’t yet reached the stage where he needed to shave. Embarrassed, he hesitated to go downstairs in case he met her on the way, so instead he stared out the window at the statue of King Charles on horseback. The day was foggy and rainy, and there were hackney coaches (the equivalent of taxicabs) everywhere. Mundane as it seemed to him, the scene gave David an excuse to procrastinate until the waiter informed him that he was expected downstairs.

A transformed experience—Steerforth had arranged to have breakfast in a special small room, with Turkish carpets, red curtains, and a fireplace. David felt shy at first, but Steerforth’s confident, relaxed manner soon put him at ease, and his ability to transform David’s experience at the Golden Cross from dreary to luxurious was nothing short of amazing. Even the waiter’s behavior had undergone a complete shift from casual to respectful.

Steerforth invites David to his mother’s home in Highgate—Steerforth wanted to know all about what David was doing. He even mentioned that he felt like he owned him, which David liked. Hearing David was at leisure to do what he pleased, Steerforth invited him to meet his mother at his home in Highgate after showing him some of London’s sights. His mother doted on him excessively but was sure to like anyone who liked her son.

Steerforth shows “Daisy” around London—Still dazed from this fortunate turn of events, David took some time after breakfast to write his aunt and tell her about what had happened, and then Steerforth took him on a coach sightseeing tour of London. That included the museum, where David was astounded at the breadth of Steerforth’s knowledge, though Steerforth himself seemed unimpressed. When David mentioned that Steerforth was bound to earn an impressive degree at university, Steerforth immediately put an end to the idea. He had no interest in the opinions of a group of old men or in the supposed value of some piece of paper. He had all he needed for his purposes. In saying so, he playfully called David “Daisy,” referring to his freshness and naiveté, though he had the decency to first ask him if that was all right. David had no problem with the nickname and even seemed enthusiastic. He could not understand, though, why Steerforth would give up the chance to distinguish himself, but Steerforth thought it was all nonsense and was content to hand the opportunity over to someone else.

Arrival in Highgate—After lunch, they took the coach to Highgate. By the time they arrived, nighttime had almost set in because of the shortness of the winter days. The Steerforths’ home was at the top of a hill, and David and Steerforth were greeted by Steerforth’s mother, an elegant older lady, who warmly embraced her son. David describes the house as old-fashioned and sedate, with a view of fog-covered London in the distance.

Miss Rosa Dartle—Mrs. Steerforth lived with a companion named Rosa Dartle, a short, thin woman with black hair and black eyes. David also noticed a thin scar on her lip that became more obvious when she got excited or grew pale. He guessed she was around thirty, and his overall impression of her was mixed. She had the potential to be attractive and might have had the desire to be married, but being single for so long had made her less careful about her appearance. Something about her also seemed unwell, making her appear gaunt. But the most prominent thing about Miss Dartle was her intensity and her annoying habit of doubting and double-checking every statement she made, or if she disagreed, she would hint at it instead of just saying it. Then, when she got the desired information, she would announce to her satisfaction that she could base all relevant future actions on it, even though what she had heard was just someone’s opinion. The whole process was tedious for everyone else. Even Steerforth’s mother, who had lived with her for a long time, did not hide her impatience with Miss Dartle’s circuitous approach to communicating.

Steerforth gives some background on Rosa—Steerforth’s private opinion of Rosa was that she wore everything down to such a degree that she had ground herself down to the overanxious person she now was. When David asked about her scar, Steerforth revealed that he had caused it when, as a child, he threw a hammer at her out of impatience. The memory obviously bothered him, and David regretted asking the question. There didn’t seem to be any great love between Steerforth and Rosa, and all he would say about her was that when his father died, his mother took her in as the semi-orphaned child of one her late husband’s cousins. Other than that, she had a nest egg of a few thousand pounds that she was building up from the annual interest it earned. But Steerforth disliked the subject of Rosa, and his mood brightened as soon as it changed.

Mrs. Steerforth’s love for her son—Mrs. Steerforth’s outstanding quality was her love for her son, which dominated her thoughts and conversation. While Steerforth and Rosa played backgammon, Mrs. Steerforth entertained David with pictures of her son at different ages, and she had to be stopped by Steerforth from reading out loud from the letters he had sent her over the years. She had heard of David from Steerforth and knew that they met at Salem House. Now she confided in David that the school had not been the best choice for her son in some ways. Its main advantage was that its principal, Mr. Creakle, was willing to make allowances for Steerforth, whom his mother described as high-spirited. That leeway seemed the most important thing at the time, since she didn’t think Steerforth would stand for anything else. Even with that temperament, she saw him as unfailingly noble and generous. David’s love and devotion to Steerforth quickly gained him Mrs. Steerforth’s appreciation and the assurance that Steerforth would always take care of him.

The Steerforths invite David to stay another week; Steerforth plans to accompany David to Yarmouth—In spite of Miss Dartle’s intense interest in the game of backgammon, David was sure she had heard every word of his conversation with Mrs. Steerforth. Later that evening, Steerforth discussed the possibility of accompanying David to Yarmouth, and both he and his mother invited David to stay with them for another week, since there was no rush. When Steerforth called David “Daisy,” Miss Dartle latched onto it, wanting to know the background story to the name. She guessed it had something to do with David’s innocence and youth, which left David feeling embarrassed, a fine point that seemed to slip right by Miss Dartle. That in itself was ironic, since earlier that evening, she made a big fuss over the relative insensitivity of the “common” folk.

Dreams of Miss Dartle—Miss Dartle and Mrs. Steerforth then went to bed, followed shortly by Steerforth and David. Looking in Steerforth’s room, David noticed it had every imaginable comfort, all of it surveyed by a portrait of his loving mother. David’s own room was also comfortable, until he noticed that it, too, had a portrait: Miss Dartle, with her usual intense look, was staring down at him from the wall above the mantelpiece. He couldn’t understand why they had to hang her portrait there, and it made him so uneasy that he got ready for bed and turned off the light as fast as possible. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. David fell asleep with her annoying voice in his head and dreamt he adopted her speech patterns.

Little Em’ly


Littimer—Steerforth had brought with him from Oxford a highly respectable male servant. He was so respectable that he could transform any situation or characteristic into something respectable. He was clean shaven and proper in his appearance, and the only thing that stood out about him as slightly odd was the way he pronounced the letter s—with an emphatic whisper—but he even managed to make that a part of his respectability. Overall, his manner was quiet and watchful, available when needed and otherwise unobtrusive. Even his name, Littimer (no one knew his first name), was respectable. With all this respectability, it was understood that did no menial labor, and David noticed the female servants were careful to take care of such things while Littimer sat by the kitchen fire and read the paper.

The morning ritual—The morning after David’s arrival in Highgate, he awoke to see Littimer bringing in the (still unnecessary) shaving water, straightening his boots, and dusting off his coat, all with an air of perfect respectability. When David asked him the time, he took out an extremely proper pocket watch, and after discreetly lifting the lid, he informed David that it was eight thirty. Breakfast would be served in an hour, and there would be a warning bell in half an hour. After Littimer asked David if there was anything else he could do for him, David said no and thanked him. That prompted Littimer to thank him in turn, indicating that that was the more appropriate exchange, after which he respectfully left the room. It was all highly proper, and for the next week, the scene would repeat itself on a daily basis.

Littimer’s unsettling effect on David—Somehow, all this respectability, or perhaps Littimer himself, whom David estimated to be somewhere between thirty and fifty, brought out David’s insecurities about being young and naive. Neither of the Steerforths nor Miss Dartle had that effect, but Littimer did. It didn’t matter that he was a servant or that Steerforth, his master, was so gifted and knowledgeable in so many ways. Steerforth was teaching David all kinds of skills—fencing, boxing, riding—and David never felt any shame at being relatively ignorant. But whenever Littimer was on hand (which he always was) to give them the necessary equipment, David felt embarrassed by his naiveté.

A special relationship—The week went by quickly. David enjoyed getting to know Steerforth better and found such a large number of things to admire that the time seemed like much more than a week. He felt a special bond with Steerforth and believed Steerforth’s playfulness and affection when treating him like a toy to be part of that warm and special relationship.

Littimer’s unmistakable expression—Steerforth decided to leave Littimer behind for the trip, a fate Littimer accepted in a gracious and detached manner. On the day of their departure, as the coach drove away from Highgate, David could not help thinking yet again that Littimer’s look expressed his conviction that David was hopelessly young and naive.

Arrival in Yarmouth—It was dark when they got to Yarmouth, and David was pleased when Steerforth sized it up as a quaint place. On arriving at the inn, they went to bed immediately, and in the morning, they had a late breakfast, although Steerforth had gotten up early and had already been exploring the beach and chatting with the boatmen. He had even seen what he thought was the boathouse and had been tempted to go over and pretend to be David all grown up. When did David plan on introducing him? This evening, was the answer. David’s idea was to surprise his friends as they were gathered around the fire in their usual evening ritual. Steerforth agreed it would be no fun if it weren’t a surprise. He wanted to see them in their “aboriginal condition.” They agreed that David would go see Peggotty, and in two hours, Steerforth would join him in whatever mood David wanted.

Yarmouth revisited—As David walked down Yarmouth’s streets, they seemed smaller to him now that he was grown. The day was bright, cold, and crisp, and he was feeling unusually happy and friendly. He passed what used to be Omer’s and was now Omer and Joram’s. Looking in, he saw a pretty woman, who turned out to be Minnie, with a baby and a young child. In the background, he could hear the faint sound of a hammer building a coffin.

Visiting with the Omers—Walking into the shop, he asked if Mr. Omer was available. Mr. Omer was having breathing difficulties because of his asthma, but Minnie asked her young son to call him. The boy did it so loudly that it surprised even him, upon which he hid his face in his mother’s apron. Presently Mr. Omer arrived, huffing and puffing. None of them recognized David yet, but he gently led them to recognize who he was and thanked them for their kindness to him all those years ago.

Little Em’ly now working at Omer’s—David discovered that that day had been the exact day that Minnie and Joram had set for their wedding date. He also discovered that someone he knew was now working at the shop—little Em’ly, who was rumored to be so beautiful and have such a knack for fashion that half the women in the town resented her. The other reason for that feeling was that she wanted to be a lady, a fact that David confirmed from their childhood conversations. Em’ly had first tried working for an elderly lady, but when that didn’t work out, she finally found her way to Omer’s, where she had been an asset ever since. Minnie made sure to add that she had had no part in the gossip and bad feeling directed at Em’ly. David wondered whether Em’ly might be there now. The answer was yes. She was working in the back room, and he should feel free to go in. Not wanting to confuse Emily or himself, he declined, but he quietly looked in on her through the window, where he saw her working away while nearby a small child was at play. Her eyes were just as blue, her face bright and laughing. He still saw much of her former flirtatiousness and willfulness, but he did not detect anything resembling the kind of virtue that might make for happiness or goodness.

Reunion with Peggotty—Bidding Mr. Omer and his family farewell, David headed over to Peggotty’s, now Barkis’s. He knocked on the door and was greeted immediately by Peggotty, who had been in the kitchen cooking. Not recognizing him, she gave him a blank look, even though David smiled at her. He then decided to play a little. In the gruffest tone he could muster, he asked if Mr. Barkis was home. Mr. Barkis was in bed with rheumatism. David asked whether he still went to Blunderstone and gradually led the conversation in such a way that Peggotty finally recognized him, at which point they fell into each other’s arms, laughing and crying. This went on for a while, in between attempts to bring David upstairs to Barkis, who she was sure would be glad to see him.

Seeing Barkis—Barkis, who was lying in bed with only his face and nightcap showing, received David with great enthusiasm. He was too arthritic to shake hands, so he just had David shake his nightcap. They reminisced for a while about their rides back and forth to Blunderstone, and Barkis was pleased to confirm he had made the right choice in marrying Peggotty, who turned out to be exactly as promised, cooking and baking everything. The subject then switched to money, with Barkis claiming to be a poor man. With great strain, he drew out his right hand to indicate a box he had stored under the bed, informing David that he wished it were full of money but that all it contained was old clothes.

Barkis’s box—The whole time, David played along with Barkis’s statements in a tactful and compassionate manner. Barkis finally turned to Peggotty, and after praising her for being the best, most useful woman, he urged her to get something special for their dinner guest tonight and then asked them both to let him “rest” for a few minutes. In fact, he wanted them to leave the room so he could get the money from his secret stash. Peggotty knew full well what he was doing, since this was his usual technique, but both she and David played along. She informed David, once they were outside the room, that Barkis would suffer untold pains to procure one coin from his box but that he would feel better about things afterwards.

Steerforth visits the Barkis home—David’s next move was to let Peggotty know of Steerforth’s impending arrival, which happened soon afterwards. In his usual light, effortless way, Steerforth accommodated himself to the moment and the people he encountered. His natural, affectionate treatment of David quickly won Peggotty over, and he breezed into Barkis’s room, bringing with him a feeling of light and cheer. They enjoyed each other’s company until dinnertime, and when Peggotty mentioned that David’s room was ready for him, David hesitated at first, feeling he should spend the time with Steerforth, since they had come all that way together. But Steerforth, again in his natural, effortless way, immediately took the situation in hand and said that he would stay at the hotel and that David should certainly stay with Peggotty, as that was the natural thing to do.

Steerforth’s shifting modes—It never occurred to David that Steerforth’s ability to effortlessly shift from situation to situation and person to person might be nothing more than a self-serving act, and if anyone had told him this at that time, David guessed his reaction would have been one of fury. It wasn’t that Steerforth deliberately tried to hide anything. When he and David were alone together, as they were immediately after they left Barkis’s to go to the boathouse, Steerforth’s moods would shift more abruptly, and he was more apt at times to reveal his real thoughts and feelings. But if he sensed anything amiss, his natural keenness quickly brought him back to his game-playing mode. A lot of this stemmed from his overall view that he was superior to others, and though he had the ability to be sensitive, so much of life was just a game to him, and people were just a part of the game that he shaped with his astounding storehouse of knowledge, skill, and raw instinct. That instinct had served him earlier that day, when he commented that the boathouse, which they now approached, was the same one he had gravitated to on his morning beach stroll. By now, it was dark, and David commented on the wildness of the area. A bit heavier than usual, Steerforth remarked how the sea seemed to roar with a hunger for their bodies.

A scene of unusual joy—As they approached, they could hear sounds from inside the boathouse, so they entered quietly to surprise the family. The scene they saw was unusually mirthful. Even Mrs. Gummidge, who was normally despondent, was clapping her hands with delight. Ham and Emily were holding hands, while Mr. Peggotty beamed down upon them, his arms opened wide to receive Emily’s embrace. Something unusual was clearly going on, but as soon as David and Steerforth entered, the scene dissipated.

A happy greeting, followed by the story of Ham and Emily’s engagement—The attention now turned to David and Steerforth. Mr. Peggotty and Ham recognized them immediately and were delighted to see them. Emily became suddenly bashful, but Mr. Peggotty beamed with pride as he informed them of their arrival on a truly special day. Soon, both Emily and Mrs. Gummidge disappeared, while Mr. Peggotty proceeded to talk about Ham and Emily’s engagement. Ham had fallen in love with her some time ago but had been too shy to approach her. He spent his days following her around and mooning over her until Mr. Peggotty decided to approach Emily in his stead. At the time, Emily rejected the idea—1Ham was too goodhearted. Mr. Peggotty understood and agreed that she should be free to choose. He then went back to Ham and advised him to take it like a man and go back to just being a good friend to her. Ham agreed and stood by his promise for two years, though he still took good care of her. In the meantime, though, Emily had matured and changed her mind, deciding it would be a good idea to be Ham’s wife and that she would be the best wife she could be to him. That night, they walked home in the dark, as usual, and when they arrived at the boathouse, they joyfully announced their intention to marry.

Steerforth smoothes things out—Ham was obviously thrilled. To him, Emily meant everything, and he said as much. David’s own reaction was happy but mixed. He was moved by Ham’s happiness and glad to see everyone so joyful, but he was unsure as to whether he still harbored feelings for Emily. He was therefore glad to have Steerforth by his side to maintain the evening’s joyous atmosphere. Steerforth needed no prompting. He had been listening intently to Mr. Peggotty’s narrative and shaping his reactions to whatever emotion was appropriate. Now he congratulated Ham and Mr. Peggotty and instructed Mr. Peggotty to bring Emily out of her hiding place so the fireside circle would be complete. Not only would he give up his seat for her, but he would leave if she didn’t appear.

Steerforth’s magic—Emily did reappear, and so did Mrs. Gummidge. Steerforth was his usual adept self, dealing perfectly with each person as needed. With Emily, he was gentle and sensitive until she finally got over her bashfulness and confusion. She said little throughout the evening, but her attention was fully on Steerforth as he told his stories of shipwrecks and personal adventures, and at one point, her musical laughter echoed throughout the boat. With Mr. Peggotty, he talked about ships and other things of the sea, and he complimented him on the boathouse and even got him to sing later on. Steerforth sang, too—so beautifully and with such emotion that the wind itself seemed to listen in the rapt, attentive silence. Even Mrs. Gummidge came under his spell as he managed to keep her spirits lifted throughout the evening. David noticed, though, that Steerforth did not dominate the conversation. When Emily and David were reminiscing later by the fire about their walks on the beach, Steerforth watched them silently and pensively. David also noticed that although Emily sat on the same locker with Ham, she kept her distance from him throughout the evening.

The walk back—David and Steerforth left at around midnight, with the boathouse family all standing at the door waving them goodbye. As the two young men walked off by themselves, Steerforth commented on Emily’s beauty and the quaintness of both the place and the company. David mentioned how lucky they had been to spend time with them on the day of Ham and Emily’s wedding announcement, but Steerforth’s response surprised him when he described Ham as being too “chuckleheaded” for Emily. To David, this cold response seemed to contradict the warmth Steerforth had shown them. Looking at his friend, he noticed he was laughing, and he chided him for making fun of the poor. But David quickly added that watching Steerforth’s behavior with Peggotty and the others convinced him that Steerforth had a genuine understanding and sympathy for their emotions, and this made David love him all the more. Taking a moment to look directly in David’s face, Steerforth realized he meant every word. He concluded that David was a good person, adding that he wished everyone were. Having said that, he brushed it all off, singing as he moved quickly forward.

Old Scenes And New People


Steerforth’s enjoyment of Yarmouth—David and Steerforth spent over two weeks in Yarmouth, and though they were together most of time, they also spent hours and even days apart. Unlike David, who felt the need to be considerate of Peggotty’s schedule, Steerforth could come and go as he pleased, and he spent entire nights out on the moonlit sea. He could find endless ways to entertain himself and was a great favorite among the boatmen, spending time with them at the pub and often going out to sea with Mr. Peggotty, something David preferred to avoid because of his mediocre seamanship.

David’s visits to Blunderstone—Blunderstone was another cause for their spending time apart. As David’s childhood home, it held a natural place in his heart, while for Steerforth, one visit was enough to quench his interest. David therefore spent three to four entire days at his old home, meeting Steerforth only early in the morning and late in the evening, when they would get together for breakfast and dinner. As for what Steerforth did during those hours, David had no idea.

David’s trips to Blunderstsone were like forays into his past: the familiar sights along the road; his visits to the gravesite, lovingly tended by Peggotty all those years; the old house and its surroundings. The area by his parents’ grave, which had blossomed into a garden under Peggotty’s care, was bound together with thoughts of his future and his great contribution to the world, as though his mother had been alive and encouraged him all along.

The house and garden, on the other hand, showed the ravages of time and lack of care. The tops of the surrounding trees had been hacked off, and the rooks’ nests were gone. The garden was overgrown, and the house, now inhabited by a mad gentleman and his caretakers, was half boarded up. The neighborhood, too, showed signs of the passage of time. The Graypers had moved to South America, and the outside of their now abandoned home had been damaged by the rain. Mr. Chillip, the doctor, now had a thin, stark-looking wife and a weak, sickly-looking baby.

David finds Steerforth in a dark mood—David used to walk the long stretches from Yarmouth to Blunderstone and back, and on the night of his last visit, he stayed longer so that by the time he returned to the boathouse, it was already much later than usual. He found Steerforth sitting in front of the fire, so absorbed in his thoughts that he took no notice of David when he entered. The boathouse was otherwise deserted, and Steerforth’s mood seemed unusually heavy. When David touched him on the shoulder to make him aware of his presence, he reacted with anger at the surprise and then launched into a speech about how he wished he had had a father to guide him in his youth—how to be like these clunky, good-natured fishermen would be a blessing compared to the half hour of hell he had just experienced as himself. Confused by the sudden change, David asked Steerforth what had happened, but Steerforth evaded the question, indicating only that his thoughts and attitudes were such a torment to him that he sometimes even feared himself. David mentioned that Steerforth never seemed afraid of anything. Steerforth’s response was mixed. That might seem true, but something was still disturbing him. However, in an instant, he dismissed it, as he made the effort to return to his usual lighthearted self, although there was a dark tinge to his jesting as he compared himself to Macbeth.

Steerforth shifts his mood with the arrival of Mrs. Gummidge—Suddenly, the topic changed. Where was everybody? The question was soon answered by Mrs. Gummidge’s arrival. She had quickly gone out shopping to purchase some needed item, since Mr. Peggotty was due to return soon. Ham and Emily were also expected soon. Seeing Mrs. Gummidge, Steerforth immediately shifted into his social mode, with the aim of brightening Mrs. Gummidge’s mood. In the process, he lifted his own spirits, so when he and David headed on their way immediately afterwards, he was his usual quick and lively self.

Steerforth’s rapid learning ability and his lack of commitment to one thing—As they headed off to dinner, the conversation turned toward the fact that they were leaving the next day. Steerforth observed that he had almost forgotten that there was more to life than going out to sea, and he wished that weren’t the case. David quickly added that that would only last until he got tired of it. Steerforth observed a bit of sarcasm in David’s comment, though David acknowledged how rapidly Steerforth had learned his helmsman skills. Even Mr. Peggotty was impressed. David knew, though, that Steerforth had the ability to quickly master whatever skill he wanted, and it seemed strange that he should be satisfied to expend his energies in such an erratic way. Steerforth’s reply was that he was never satisfied, and as to being restless and erratic, he knew that commitment was not his strong point.

Steerforth buys a clipper ship, “The Little Emily,” and instructs Littimer to outfit it—It turned out that Steerforth had bought himself a clipper boat, which Mr. Peggotty would be looking after in his absence. This surprised David, since he doubted Steerforth’s ongoing interest in Yarmouth, and he attributed the boat purchase to his generous nature—his desire to do for others. Steerforth, who claimed to have a fondness for Yarmouth, was unconvinced of David’s starry-eyed view of him, but he said little and preferred to change the subject. He did mention that Littimer had come up on his orders and that he would be making sure that the boat was properly rigged. Littimer had also brought a letter from Mrs. Steerforth. Steerforth looked pale when he relayed this, at the same time giving David a concentrated look, which made David think that something might be wrong between Steerforth and his mother. Steerforth, however, cheerfully denied this. He also mentioned that he would be renaming the boat. He had originally called it “Stormy Petrels,”[i] but now, supposedly out of consideration for Mr. Peggotty, he would rename it “The Little Emily.” Again, David was pleased at what seemed a generous act. But again, Steerforth gazed at him intently and preferred to keep silent. David therefore let the subject be, which seemed to ease Steerforth’s mind.

David and Steerforth meet Emily and Ham along the way—Just at that moment, they noticed Ham and little Emily approaching. In the interim since David had last seen him, Ham had become a boatbuilder and had become quite good at it. Now as he walked with Emily by his side, his open, honest face beamed with love and pride. Emily seemed particularly bashful around David and Steerforth, blushing as she shook their hands. She also seemed more restrained toward Ham. She had taken her arm out of his, and now, as they walked off in the distance under moonlight, she still kept her distance from him. Both David and Steerforth saw that as some merely charming aspect of her behavior.

A strange young woman follows after Ham and Emily—Then, seemingly from nowhere, a strange figure appeared—a young woman who looked like a beggar and whose face seemed vaguely familiar to David. She came across as both bold and poverty-stricken, and she seemed intent only on catching up with Ham and Emily. David and Steerforth watched her go after them as she disappeared into the darkness.

Steerforth is troubled by the image of the young woman—When Steerforth wondered where she had come from so suddenly, David guessed that she had emerged from the shadow cast by the wall and had followed the couple to beg from them. But to Steerforth, her appearance that night was particularly strange, since just beforehand, he had flashed on a similar image. He tried to shake the incident off by changing his focus to dinner, but he kept looking back, unable to put it out of his mind until they were inside at dinner, with the warm glow of the hearth to cheer them.

Littimer informs Steerforth that Miss Mowcher is in town and has asked to see him—Toward the end of their dinner, Littimer, who had been waiting on them, informed Steerforth that someone name Miss Mowcher was in town. Steerforth’s reaction was unabashed surprise. Littimer explained that she was from the area and that she came annually on business. She wished to know if she could see Steerforth that evening after their dinner. Steerforth asked David if he knew her, indicating that she was quite large by calling her a “giantess” and describing her as being among the world’s seven wonders. Littimer was to escort her in upon her arrival. In the meantime, Steerforth’s only response to David’s curious questions was to laugh and say nothing.

Miss Mowcher arrives—Finally, a good half hour after dinner, as they were drinking wine by the fire, Steerforth announced Miss Mowcher’s name with his usual grace. David kept looking toward the door, expecting to see someone come through it. Suddenly, he noticed a dwarf of a woman, with a large head and torso, tiny arms that made it hard for her to touch her nose, and no legs to speak of, though she had feet. David figured she was in her early to mid-forties, and she now leered at Steerforth with her impish grey eyes.

Miss Mowcher launched into a rapid monologue directed at Steerforth. So he was there, she said, probably up to no good. But he was a sharp-witted one, like her. She burst out laughing, adding that she bet he never expected to see her there. Well, she was all over! After a bit more babble, she stopped to remove her bonnet and sit down. Panting, she teased Steerforth that she was sure he would think she was an attractive woman if he saw her leaning out a window. Steerforth didn’t miss a beat, replying that he would think so under any circumstances—not that Miss Mowcher believed him. She went on to say that she had been at Lady Mithers, where she had seen both the lady and her husband. When Steerforth asked her what she had been doing there, she didn’t give a direct answer but hinted that it had something to do with the lady’s appearance, either her hair or face. Immediately after that, though, she implied that whatever she said was nonsense.

Steerforth introduces Miss Mowcher to David—All this time, David was staring at her, amazed by her overall appearance and behavior, such as her exaggerated wink and a tendency to cock her head when listening. Miss Mowcher began plunging her short arms all the way into her bag as she pulled out all sorts of grooming paraphernalia. All of a sudden, to David’s surprise, she turned to Steerforth and wanted to know who his friend was. Steerforth introduced him as Mr. Copperfield, adding that David wanted to get to know her. That was her cue to trundle over and introduce herself, exclaiming that David had a “face like a peach,” which she found “tempting,” though she didn’t specify what she meant by that. David gave a polite reply that he was honored to meet her. Miss Mowcher, who didn’t hold much store by good manners, at first exclaimed how polite he was and then added that they were all full of humbug. She stuck her arm back in her bag and pulled out some nail clippings from the Prince of Russia, one of her clients. Steerforth commented that he hoped he paid well, to which Miss Mowcher replied that he paid through the nose (the same way he spoke), unlike some other skinflints. In fact, the Prince’s nails were her best marketing tool with the aristocracy, better than all her expertise. In her view, society took all its cues from such things as the Prince’s nails.

Miss Mowcher prepares to do Steerforth’s hair—Steerforth thought this was hilarious, and David laughed along while Miss Mowcher performed her usual facial and head contortions, winking her eye and cocking and shaking her head. Next she invited Steerforth to come over and have his hair done, exclaiming as she got up on the table that if either of them had seen her ankles, she would go home and kill herself. They both immediately and emphatically denied seeing them. With that assurance, Miss Mowcher decided she could go on living and called “ducky” (or Steerforth) to have his head inspected with a magnifying glass, claiming that if she didn’t treat his hair, the top of his head would be bald within a year.

Miss Mowcher gossips about her aristocratic clients—As she scraped and rubbed his head with a treated brush, Miss Mowcher gossiped about the aristocracy. Did Steerforth know the duke’s son, Charley Pyegrave? A bit, came the answer. She babbled on and on about how Charley had tried to get along without her services, even when he was in the royal cavalry. He had even gone to buy some dye to do his own moustache … and so on and so forth. Next she gossiped about the various ladies she dealt with and how she had them all fooled, agreeing with whatever they believed and saying what they wanted to hear. She seemed to be enjoying herself immensely but then added that there wasn’t much demand in the immediate area for her services, since there were no pretty women there. Steerforth and David seemed surprised at this and informed her that they could show her one.

Miss Mowcher is surprised to hear about Little Emily’s beauty—Now it was Miss Mowcher’s turn to be surprised, and she waited for verification. Was she David’s sister? Miss Mowcher wanted to know. It came out that David had once been in love with her, but now she was engaged to someone of her own social rung, and David admired her for her virtue as well as her beauty. Steerforth then decided to dispel all curiosity by giving Miss Mowcher the full report. He told her where Emily worked; the names and occupations of both her fiancé and uncle; the fact that she was the loveliest, most charming young woman he had ever seen; and that he was convinced she was meant to be a lady. He said this all slowly and clearly as Miss Mowcher listened intently. Then she launched into her speech of how it should end, all the while playing on the letter E. Miss Mowcher was just playing games, but in doing so, she included the words “enticing,” “engaged,” “exquisite,” and “elopement.”

Miss Mowcher’s parting entertainment—Having finished treating Steerforth’s hair and trimming his whiskers, she next offered to spruce up David’s appearance, but he declined her services so repeatedly that she finally gave up. With his help, she hopped down off the table, put her bonnet back on, and informed Steerforth of the price (after he asked). When he gave her the money, she flipped the coins in the air and slapped them in her pocket, leading David to think to himself that she was indeed as impulsive as she claimed to be. As she collected all her paraphernalia into her bag, she again babbled on and on in her colorful way and then finally bid them goodnight in a joking version of mangled French: “Bob Swore,” instead of “Bon soir.” Admonishing them to not be too heartbroken at her departure, she offered them a lock of her hair, chanted her favorite phrase “Ain’t I volatile?” and touched her nose with her finger (one of her favorite gestures) as she exited the room.

David and Steerforth spend the evening talking about Miss Mowcher—Following this display, Steerforth burst out laughing so long and hard that David had to follow suit. They spent most of the rest of the evening talking about Miss Mowcher, but though David tried to eke out information about her character, Steerforth ignored or missed his questions altogether and focused instead on her business practices and abilities. As she indicated earlier, she traveled extensively, had numerous connections and skills of all types, and hired herself out for all sorts of services, including her dwarfism and blood-letting. As they parted that night, Steerforth merrily called out, “Bob Swore!”

Ham tells David about Martha, the dark figure he passed earlier—The evening took a different turn when David arrived at Barkis’s to see Ham pacing in front of the house. When he asked why, Ham explained that Emily was talking to someone inside, and it was better under the circumstances for him to wait outside. Further questioning revealed that it was the desperate figure David and Steerforth had seen earlier that night. She was someone Emily knew from before, though Ham felt that Emily deserved better company, as this young woman was now shunned by the whole town. It turned out that she used to work at Omer’s, and when David heard this, he remembered seeing her there all those years before when he had first set foot in the shop. Something had happened in the meantime, and now the destitute young woman, whose name was Martha Endell, had gone to Mr. Peggotty’s boathouse and was begging Emily for help through the window. Knowing that her uncle would try to protect her from such company, Emily realized that she would have to sneak out when he wasn’t there, so she gave Martha a penciled note to take to Peggotty at Barkis’s, trusting that Peggotty would take her in and let her warm herself by the fire until Emily arrived. As soon as she could, Emily pleaded with Ham to take her to Barkis’s, having informed him of what was going on; and though Ham felt protective of her, he could not resist her tears.

Emily and Ham help Martha make a new start in London—Within a short while, Peggotty opened the door, invited both Ham and David to come in, and led them into the kitchen. Martha was sitting on the floor next to the fire, with her face buried in the seat of a chair. Emily and Peggotty had obviously both been crying, and for a while, the room was silent. In a hushed voice, Emily informed Ham that Martha wanted to go London. When he asked why London, Martha herself answered without looking up that it would be better for her to leave Yarmouth, where everyone knew her story. Martha acted like she was in pain or sick, and when Ham asked what she would do in London, Martha looked at him bleakly, and Emily questioned Peggotty about whether Ham or David knew the details of Martha’s plight. They didn’t, and both Emily and Peggotty kept silent. Emily then went over to Ham, who handed her a little purse. Realizing that it wasn’t her own purse, she tried to give it back to Ham, but he protested that she should take it—that all that he owned was hers and that he had no pleasure in anything except to give it all to her. With tears in her eyes, she brought it to Martha, who thanked her, saying that it was more than enough. With her shawl covering her head and the money in her bosom, Martha sobbed as she slowly walked toward the door. Her only wish at this point was to be where no one knew her, where she could try to make the best of her situation. Groaning, she shut the door behind her.

Emily’s unhappiness—As soon as Martha left, Emily began to weep. Ham tried to console her, but Emily’s tears came from the deep conviction that she was not a good enough person, that she didn’t deserve the generosity she had received and that she lacked sufficient gratitude. She felt she was fickle and vain and moody toward Ham, even though he experienced none of it. She felt he should have someone who was more faithful and more loving toward him, though he protested that he was happy just being around her. In fact, Emily was so miserable that she asked to cry on Peggotty’s shoulder. Her pain was genuine, arising from her deep desire to be a better, more grateful person—to be at peace—and she earnestly pleaded with Peggotty, Ham, and David to help her.

As Peggotty comforted her, Emily gradually calmed down. Eventually, the three of them got her to talk, then smile and laugh, and Peggotty made her presentable again so that Mr. Peggotty wouldn’t notice anything amiss.

Something in Emily seems different—As David watched Ham and Emily leave for the boathouse, he saw her kiss Ham’s cheek and then stay close to him the whole time as they walked home arm in arm. It seemed to David that something in Emily had changed.

[i] A “storm petrel” is a small seabird.

David Chooses A Career


David decides not to talk about Emily’s emotional distress—The day after witnessing Emily’s emotional upset at Barkis’s, David resolved to keep the knowledge to himself. He felt he had seen something private and that to tell even Steerforth would be a violation of the innocent memories of his and Emily’s childhood relationship, which would always hold a special place in his heart. His resolve was aided when Peggotty gave him a letter from Aunt Betsey containing information appropriate for discussion with Steerforth. David decided they would talk about that instead on their way home.

David and Steerforth leave Yarmouth—David and Steerforth departed by coach that day, and practically all Yarmouth came out to see them. There were Barkis and Peggotty, Mr. Peggotty’s family, the Omer and Joram clan, and a whole slew of volunteer seamen who had befriended Steerforth. Littimer, who helped them get ready to leave, was staying behind to take care of leftover business.

David tells Steerforth about Aunt Betsey’s letter, a reminder to think about his career—After some silence, while they each pondered their own thoughts, Steerforth suddenly brightened and asked David about the contents of the letter. David said his aunt had reminded him of the purpose of the trip, which was to look around and consider what he saw in relation to a possible career. Unfortunately, David had forgotten all about that aspect of his journey. Aunt Betsey had suggested being a proctor, which Steerforth then explained, since David didn’t know what it was. According to Steerforth, a proctor was an elite type of lawyer who worked at the Doctors’ Commons, a group that dealt with ecclesiastical issues, outmoded acts of Parliament, and seafaring disputes. Steerforth did not think it was a particularly useful establishment.

Steerforth explains the difference between proctor and advocate—David wanted to know whether proctor and advocate were the same profession. Steerforth explained they were not, though they worked in the same building. Advocates were specialists in civil law who received their training at college. They worked for the proctors, who learned their trade through apprenticeship. Steerforth advised David to think favorably of the Doctors’ Commons, since its members were paid well and prided themselves on their good breeding. The idea had occurred to Miss Betsey on a recent visit to the Doctors’ Commons for the purpose of changing her will for David’s benefit. There was no pressure for David to agree, but given Steerforths information, he considered it a good possibility and would definitely consider it.

David and Steerforth separate in London and make plans to meet for breakfast—Aunt Betsey’s letter also informed David that she would meet him in London, where she had rented a private hotel room in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in central London, for one week. On arriving in London, Steerforth left for Highgate, while David continued with the coach to meet his aunt. The two friends would get together again in the morning.

An affectionate reunion troubled by the thought of donkeys—David’s reunion with his aunt was full of affection, with enough tears and hugs that an innocent onlooker might think they had been apart for much longer. Janet was there, too, though Mr. Dick was absent. When David asked about it, Aunt Betsey became visibly perturbed. She was not at all certain that Mr. Dick possessed the necessary temperament to ward off trespassing donkeys. Moreover, she was sure there had been one there that afternoon because of a chill she felt running up and down her body, and worst of all, she was sure it was her least favorite—the same one Miss Murdstone (whose name she always confused with “Murdering”) had ridden. Janet believed that that donkey was no longer used for that purpose, but Aunt Betsey would not let go of the idea.

Aunt Betsey asks David what he thinks of being a proctor—After dinner, which was served in Miss Betsey’s hotel room, Janet helped Miss Betsey get ready for bed. Following that, David made her usual pre-bedtime snack of warm diluted white wine and toast. By then, David and Aunt Betsey were alone in the room, so she asked him his opinion about becoming a proctor. David’s response was extremely favorable except for one lingering doubt: since the Doctors’ Commons was such an exclusive institution, he wondered whether the cost of getting him in wouldn’t be too high. His aunt, who had been looking at him benevolently, informed him that the price for an apprenticeship was a thousand pounds. That seemed uncomfortably expensive to David, and he was concerned about whether she could afford it. He was deeply grateful to his aunt for all her help, but he wondered if there wasn’t a more economical possibility, some inexpensive way of beginning in a promising career that would ultimately yield its rewards to those willing to make the effort.

Aunt Betsey pledges her support—Aunt Betsey turned to David with her full attention. Trot, she informed him, both she and Mr. Dick were determined to give him what he needed in life so that he could grow to be a happy, reasonable, and good person. If there was one purpose in her life, that was it. She took his hand in her own and continued. There was no point in dwelling on the past unless it somehow helped the present. Her own past was not perfect. She knew she could have behaved more kindly to David’s parents and that she could have chosen to be there for David at his birth. She might have thought more kindly of him when he showed up on her doorstep looking like a little vagabond. But since then his impeccable behavior as her adopted son had won her heart and made her proud. Moreover, there was no one else vying for her income. She seemed to doubt her statement for a moment but then continued. All she asked was that he be kind and tolerant with her in her old age, and by doing so he would more than repay her. David’s aunt said all of this with quiet certainty, and though he said nothing, she must have felt his gratitude and esteem, because she kissed him and considered the matter settled. They would pay a visit to the Doctors’ Commons the next day.

An unknown man accosts Aunt Betsey—The following day, they headed toward the Doctors’ Commons in the late morning. David’s aunt, who was convinced that every male Londoner was a pickpocket, had him carry her purse, which was how he knew that it contained ten gold guineas as well as some silver coins. At noon, they watched the giants striking the bells at the Church of St. Dunstan’s in Fleet Street. As they were walking farther up the street toward St. Paul’s Churchyard, David’s aunt suddenly sped up. A shabby, angry-looking man had been staring at them and was now close on their heels. Aunt Betsey was clearly frightened and didn’t know what to do, though David tried to assure her that he was probably just a beggar and that he would handle the man for her. But she replied that he didn’t know who he was and that she would have to deal with him alone. Taking her purse, Aunt Betsey and the unknown man entered a coach together, and Aunt Betsey instructed the coachman to drive straight ahead. Amazed and surprised, David resisted at first but realized that he had better not interfere, since his aunt claimed to know what she was doing. When the coach returned, the man was gone, and so were the ten guineas.

David relates the incident to Mr. Dick’s stories—In the time between the coach’s departure and return, David remembered Mr. Dick’s stories about Aunt Betsey’s strange encounters with a man who would suddenly show up and demand money. He had thought they were figments of Mr. Dick’s imagination, but now he began to change his mind. When his aunt returned in the coach half an hour later, she was too unsettled to immediately visit the Doctors’ Commons, so they drove around a bit until she calmed down. Once she recovered, they continued down some quieter side streets until they reached the Doctors’ Commons and the office of Spenlow and Jorkins.

The Doctors’ Commons—As one of the clerks went to fetch Mr. Spenlow from the courtroom, David took the opportunity to carefully observe his surroundings. On top of the faded, old writing table were bundled papers dealing with a multitude of different courts. There were large books of evidence and volumes of histories, so that David wondered how long it would take to master all this information. These were just some of the objects among the dusty old furnishings, and by the time Mr. Spenlow arrived, David had a reasonably good idea of what it took to be a proctor.

Mr. Spenlow—Mr. Spenlow was a fair, small man who moved so stiffly that he reminded David of the puppet character Punch. He wore a stiff white collar and neckband, and his clothing was tightly buttoned. After a polite introductory exchange, Mr. Spenlow raised the topic of David’s apprenticeship. David asserted that he was interested but wanted to know about costs, time frames, and the possibility of a trial period before making a commitment. Mr. Spenlow affirmed that a trial apprenticeship was the standard procedure, but as far as costs were concerned, though he was himself a lenient man, his partner, Mr. Jorkins, had the last word.

David agrees to a trial apprenticeship—They agreed that David could start his one-month trial apprenticeship whenever he was ready. The relevant papers would be sent to his aunt for her signature, so she was free to go home to Dover. Mr. Spenlow then took him to see the courtroom, while Miss Betsey remained outside of her own will. David’s suspicion was that she thought all courtrooms were in danger of exploding.

The courtroom—The courtroom itself was large and sparse, reminding David of a chapel. The proctors and advocates sat on either side of a separate U-shaped section, the proctors above and the advocates below, while the judge sat on the upper level in the center. David could see by his dress that Mr. Spenlow was an advocate. There were only two members of the public there, one of them a boy, and except for the slow drone of the lawyer who was reading through the endless evidence, the place was silent. It all seemed exceptionally quaint and cozy to David, and he could see the comfort in a being member of this sleepy group.

Aunt Betsey finds David an apartment—Having seen enough, David returned to his aunt, and they went back to the hotel with no worse incident than spotting a street food vendor’s donkey by his cart. Once back at the hotel, David knew that his aunt didn’t enjoy London much and was eager to return home, so he assured her he would be all right on his own. But she was already ahead of him as she produced an ad for a furnished apartment in the Adelphi that she thought would be perfect for him. She was right. The ad described a small, high-quality apartment with a river view. It was available immediately at a reasonable rate with flexible terms. Target market: young gentlemen employed by the court or similar. It was perfect! Aunt Betsey was decisive: they should go straight over and see it.

Mrs. Crupp shows them the apartment—Once there, they rang the bell for a lady named Mrs. Crupp, who showed them a small top floor apartment with a pantry, bedroom, sitting room, and the promised river view. The furniture was old, but David was still extremely pleased with the place. Mrs. Crupp and Aunt Betsey finalized the terms, which included the option to stay the whole year. Aunt Betsey wanted to know whether the furniture had belonged to the previous resident and what had become of him. Mrs. Crupp coughed her way through the answer as she explained that he had died from drinking and smoking. At least that wasn’t contagious, which had been Aunt Betsey’s concern.

Aunt Betsey returns home; David muses on how his life has changed—Satisfied that her adopted son was now in a position to learn self-reliance, Aunt Betsey felt she could return home. On her last day there, she made arrangements to have David’s belongings sent from the Wickfields’, and she made sure David had plenty of money for the month. Her only disappointment was that she never got to meet Steerforth, who neglected to show when promised. As the coach with Aunt Betsey and Janet disappeared in the distance, David thought of the good fortune that had lifted him from the Adelphi’s lower arches to a better life.

David’s First Dissipation


David enjoys his new life—David enjoyed his young bachelor’s life, especially in the morning when the sun was shining. But as the day went on and, above all, at night by candlelight, he found himself lonely and wished he had Agnes to confide in. Still, having his own keys and being able to come and go as he pleased was a new and wonderful experience for him.

David goes to Highgate to look for Steerforth—After a couple of days, he began to worry that Steerforth was sick, so he made his way to Highgate, where he was pleasantly received by Mrs. Steerforth. He accepted her dinner invitation and spent the day with her, mostly talking about Steerforth, who had gone off to visit with some Oxford friends, which made David feel a bit jealous. Mrs. Steerforth expected her son to return the following day. Miss Dartle was her usual hinting, probing self, but David had such an enjoyable time with the two ladies that he even found himself falling in love with her a little.

Steerforth shows up at David’s apartment—The next day, as David sat eating his breakfast in his apartment, who should arrive but Steerforth himself, who heartily approved of David’s surroundings. David invited him to breakfast, but Steerforth was expected by his two Oxford friends and had to decline. Next, David invited him to dinner, but again Steerforth had a prior commitment with his two friends. When he suggested that David could go to dinner with them, David insisted on inviting them to his place so he could have a housewarming party and show off his new apartment. They set the time for six that evening, which left only the need to make arrangements with Mrs. Crupp.

David makes arrangements for a housewarming party—Once Steerforth left, David informed Mrs. Crupp of his plans. She replied that he would have to hire a certain young man to be the waiter (she wouldn’t do it) and a young woman to do the dishes. As far as the meal planning was concerned, for some unknown reason, Mrs. Crupp’s fireplace was only able to handle meat and potatoes. Her suggestion, therefore, was to order practically the entire meal from the pastry cook. That way, she would only have to worry about the potatoes and the appetizer. David ordered the meal himself from the pastry cook, bought the dessert at Covent Garden Market, and a procured a large amount of wine from the wine seller (although he noticed two bottles missing later).

David celebrates with Steerforth and this two Oxford friends—Steerforth’s friends proved to be energetic and entertaining company. The older one was named Grainger and the younger, Markham. Markham, who was around twenty, had a habit of referring to himself as “a man” instead of “I,” which made his conversation sound stilted, though that didn’t detract from the festivities. Feeling a little out of his league, David insisted on having Steerforth sit at the head of the table, and Steerforth made sure that everything ran smoothly. That was a good thing, because David himself was a bit distracted. From his seat at the opposite end of the table, he could see the waiter’s shadow on the side of the door, and it looked like the waiter was enjoying a drink. The kitchen maid had her issues as well. After finishing her washing, she would stand by the pantry door and peek in at the company, and in the process, she would break some of the plates she had placed there. Consequently, when dinner was over and it was time to focus on wine and dessert, David dismissed them both.

David experiences his first drinking bout—That moment began David’s first real night of drinking and self-abandonment. He drank and toasted and drank and toasted again. He opened the wine before it was needed, took excessive amounts of Grainger’s snuff (which made him sneeze so much that he had to excuse himself and go into the pantry for ten minutes), accepted several invitations to Oxford, broke his glass, slurred his words, and above all, praised Steerforth to the skies. At one point Markham broke into song, and afterwards he and David got into a little fight when Markham proposed a toast to “Woman” instead of to “Ladies,” but it all turned out well in the end.

David gets seriously drunk—David’s tipsiness quickly turned into full-fledged drunkenness, though he didn’t know yet what he was experiencing or even who was experiencing it. As the story’s narrator, he spends an entire page talking about himself as “somebody” doing or experiencing one thing or the other—smoking (which repulsed him), leaning out the window, seeing himself in the mirror, stumbling around trying to find the door in the dark, falling down the stairs. For moments here and there, he would notice that that “somebody” was himself, and though David saw Steerforth laughing, he also heard him express genuine concern.

The group goes to the theater—The group of young men went out together into London’s foggy streets to go to the theater. There, high up in the hot balcony, the crowds below seemed blurry, the stage action confusing, and the whole theater itself seemed to be moving so that David felt the need to try and steady it. Next, the party decided to move to the dress boxes below, where there were ladies. Being out of control, David spoke too loudly as he entered and was greeted with angry looks and hushes in return.

David sees Agnes and embarrasses himself—Suddenly, David noticed Agnes sitting immediately in front of him. Delighted, he tried to communicate in his drunken speech, but her reply was to be quiet and concentrate on the stage. When he mentioned to her that she didn’t seem well, she quietly and earnestly asked him to leave.

Back at home, David’s drunkenness gradually wears off—Before David knew it, he was back in his apartment with Steerforth, who helped him undress and get into bed. At first, he still felt removed from himself, but gradually, his mind and body readjusted as his stupor turned into a nightmare of severe physical discomfort and emotional shame and disgust.

Reality hits home—The next day was just as bad. David regretted seeing Agnes while in his drunken state and wanted to run back home to Dover and tell all. The sight and smell of his apartment disgusted him, and he feared following in the footsteps of the former tenant. The chapter ends as Mrs. Crupp comes to deliver some food, and David considers throwing himself in her arms for comfort but stops because he’s still unsure that he can trust her in such a personal way.

Good And Bad Angels


David receives a kind invitation to meet Agnes, who is currently staying in London—The next day, as David was leaving his apartment, he was met by a ticket porter (a licensed porter in London), who was looking for T. Copperfield, Esquire. Nervous, David took the letter and asked the porter to wait for him outside the door of his apartment. The letter required a reply, but it was a while before David could bring himself to open it, and once he read the kind invitation from Agnes to meet him at four that afternoon, it took even longer for him to compose an answer. He was so regretful of his behavior the other night that he threw out several versions, including a poem, before finally handing his reply over to the porter.

Agnes does not judge David’s behavior at the theater but warns him about Steerforth—Having left the Doctors’ Commons that afternoon with plenty of time to spare, David arrived early to see Agnes but couldn’t bring himself to ring the bell until a quarter past four. Agnes was staying with Mr. Waterbrook, her father’s agent, whose business was on the bottom floor of the building. Still remorseful over his behavior at the theater, David launched into a tearful apology when he saw Agnes, but she only touched his arm in such a loving way that he felt compelled to kiss her hand and call her his good angel. Hearing that, she turned serious as she said that she hoped he would listen if she warned him of his bad angel. David guessed immediately that she meant Steerforth but protested that her assessment of him was unjust and that he had been nothing but a good friend. She answered that her impression was based on many things, which included not only what she had heard of him from David but also the effect that Steerforth had on him. She admitted that she was inexperienced in worldly things, but she felt certain of this. However, she didn’t expect David to change his mind immediately, especially given his trusting nature. It was difficult for David to hear Agnes say this, but there was something in her serious tone that made him listen and that already began to affect his image of Steerforth.

Agnes is worried that Uriah is about to become her father’s business partner—After quickly checking on David’s love life, which always gave her much amusement, Agnes asked whether he had seen Uriah, who had been making daily visits downstairs. Agnes was distressed that there was a good chance that Uriah would soon become her father’s partner. David was surprised and still harbored a bad feeling about him, but Agnes, though she had a clear sense of Uriah’s manipulative character and its negative effect on her father, did not feel that they had any strong evidence of wrongdoing on Uriah’s part. She did, however, suspect that he had forced her father into it, after playing upon his weaknesses, and she felt tremendous guilt about possibly steering her father in the wrong direction. She knew that he had concentrated all his caring and attention on her, and she felt that that had weakened him. When the question of Uriah’s potential partnership arose, she encouraged her father to go along with it, though she knew of the manipulation behind it. Uriah had also threatened to leave, which left Agnes’s father in a quandary, so she felt that taking Uriah on as his partner would ease his mind. Now she wasn’t sure that she had done the right thing.

Agnes asks David to be kind to Uriah for the Wickfields’ sake—Agnes was crying, and David could not remember ever seeing her in such agony. Knowing of David’s negative feelings toward Uriah, she asked him to think kindly of him, if only for her own and her father’s sake.

David is invited to dinner—Their conversation was interrupted as Mrs. Waterbrook entered the room in a dress so full David couldn’t tell where the dress ended and the woman began. He thought he recognized her from the theater the other night, and he quickly deduced that she certainly recognized him. It took her a while to determine whether he was indeed the hopeless drunk she had seen, but when he proved otherwise, she became friendlier, even inviting him to dinner on the following day. On his way out the door, David checked whether Uriah was still there, and seeing he had gone, he left his card for him.

Dinner at the Waterbrooks’—The next day arrived, and as David entered the Waterbrooks’ home, he immediately perceived that this was not an intimate dinner. The smell of mutton permeated the air, and the same ticket porter who had delivered the letter now showed David up the stairs as they pretended not to recognize one another.

The guests—Most of the guests had already assembled. There was Mr. Waterbrook himself, a pleasant, successful man, who reminded David of a pug because of his face and neck construction. There were Mrs. and Mr. Henry Spiker, who held an esteemed position in people’s minds because of Mr. Spiker’s career as a solicitor, which had something to do with the Treasury. Mrs. Spiker wore all black, and Mr. Spiker came across as cold, so that David’s impression of them lacked enthusiasm. Then there were the Gulpidges, and again, Mr. Gulpidge’s career was related to legal bank matters. Uriah was there, too, being his usual writhing, obsequious self and constantly following David around, especially when he spoke to Agnes.

Traddles is among the guests—One name in particular caught David’s attention even before the guest arrived. It was Traddles, who, as soon as he arrived and was announced, withdrew to a corner. David was excited. Could this be the same Tommy Traddles from Salem House, the one who drew endless numbers of skeletons? David tried to find out by talking to Mr. Waterbrook, who thought that though Traddles was a good fellow, he was his own worst enemy, often getting in his own way. In spite of this, when dinner was announced and the guests all filed downstairs according to rank, David was pleased to have a chance to reintroduce himself to Traddles, who responded with great enthusiasm.

The dinner conversation: “Blood” and money—As it turned out, David and Traddles were seated at opposite ends of the table, and David couldn’t help noticing that the dinner conversation was severely limited, with the dominant topics being legal banking matters and “Blood,” meaning aristocratic blood. Many at the table, including Mrs. Waterbrook, Mrs. Spiker, and a weak-legged gentleman who escorted Agnes to the dinner table, were convinced that “Blood” was the best of all things. It was palpable instead of abstract, and it could be instantly spotted in the shape of a person’s features. The general opinion was that it was always better to deal with someone who had “Blood,” even if that person was against you. Following that satisfying conversation, the ladies left the table. The conversation then turned to legal and money matters, which were discussed between Mr. Gulpidge and Mr. Spiker in such discreet, cryptic terms that no one else knew what they were talking about.

Agnes meets Traddles—This went on for a while, and since David had little to add, he gladly made his way upstairs, where he introduced Agnes to Traddles. Traddles, too, had warm memories of Steerforth, but his good words did not impress Agnes, though she kept silent about her thoughts. Since Traddles had to go out of town the next day, he and David spent little time together but arranged to meet on his return in a month.

David happily visits with Agnes until the evening comes to an end—David stayed for as long as he could that evening to be with Agnes, especially since she would be leaving in a few days. It was just like the old days at the Wickfields’, when they would visit and she would sing. But when he realized that all the guests had gone and he had no more excuses, it was his turn to leave.

Uriah follows David home—“All the guests” did not include Uriah, who still lingered behind and now followed David out the door and down the street. David still felt negative toward him, but remembering Agnes’s request to be kind, he invited Uriah up for coffee despite his strong urge to avoid him. Uriah admired the apartment by candlelight while David heated the coffee, at the same time feeling that he wanted to burn Uriah with it.

Uriah reveals two secrets to David—The conversation between them, at least on David’s part, was tense and uncomfortable. Uriah was his usual fawning self, but his main intention was to disclose two secrets to David—that he was about to become Mr. Wickfield’s partner and that he had a deep affection for Agnes and intended to make her his wife one day. No one but David knew the second one, and Uriah trusted that David would not make things difficult for him. More than once David felt violent urges toward Uriah, and now he was even more horrified. But Agnes’s kind admonition about Uriah would come back to him again, and he would stop himself. David’s feelings about Uriah were not at all unwarranted. At one point, Uriah hinted something about Mr. Wickfield being imprudent. Anyone else less “umble” than Uriah would have had him under his thumb by now—and with that, Uriah forcefully pressed his thumb into the table while slowly pronouncing every syllable of the phrase “under his thumb.”

Uriah spends the night—The crowning touch of the evening came when Uriah looked at his watch and realized that it was already half past one in the morning. David offered to give him his bed, but Uriah insisted on sleeping by the fire, so David made a bed for him out of sofa cushions, table covers, and similar items.

David spends a sleepless night and is glad when Uriah leaves the next morning—It was a long, sleepless night for David, as he pondered what he could do for Agnes, finally concluding that doing nothing would be the best solution. In between going into the sitting room to stare in horror at Uriah, David endured troubled nightmares about the Wickfields and about running Uriah through with the burning hot fire poker, something that had also occurred to him earlier. Fortunately, it was not a serious urge, but David was relieved when Uriah declined to have breakfast in the morning and left. Once Uriah was gone, it seemed as though he took the night with him, but just to be sure, David left the windows open that day to thoroughly clear out his energies.

David Falls In Love


Agnes returns to Canterbury; David is worried she might sacrifice her happiness—Agnes and Uriah left on the same coach back to Canterbury, but David was glad to see that Agnes sat inside the coach, while Uriah was relegated to sitting in the back on the roof. Agnes still seemed unaware of Uriah’s designs on her as she waved goodbye to David, and he was troubled by the thought that her devoted, self-sacrificing nature might someday lead her to make a choice that would rob her of her own happiness on behalf of her father. Still, he concluded that it would be better for her if he kept Uriah’s secret plan to himself.

David realizes it’s better that Steerforth is away for now—After they left, David found himself alone most of the time. Steerforth was at Oxford, which was a good thing, since Agnes’s opinion of him was still having its effect on David’s thoughts, even though his correspondence with Steerforth was affectionate. It seemed better right now to not let Steerforth’s physical presence distract him.

David celebrates his new apprenticeship at the theater; Mr. Spenlow promises to invite him to his home—David began his apprenticeship at Spenlow and Jorkins without fanfare or celebration of any kind, except that he took himself to the theater that night. The next day, Mr. Spenlow explained apologetically that he would have invited David to his home to honor the occasion, except that his daughter was due to arrive from Paris just at that time. However, when circumstances permitted, he would make up for it.

David settles in to his new apartment but finds himself lonely—David’s apartment had by then been rented for twelve months, and apart from that and his basic expenses, he had an additional income from his aunt. But evenings in his apartment still seemed dreary, and he spent them drinking massive amounts of coffee and writing poetry about his loneliness.

Mr. Spenlow invites David to dinner—Mr. Spenlow made good on his promise, and a week or so later, he invited David to spend the weekend at his home in Norwood. This elicited awe from the stipendiary clerks, who rumored Mr. Spenlow’s home life to be one of great wealth and luxury, where champagne flowed like ordinary beer and meals were served on china and silver.

The carriage ride to the Spenlows’ home—Court session on the appointed day took longer than usual, but when they finished their business, Mr. Spenlow and David drove off in the Spenlows’ exceptionally fine carriage. David noticed that it vied with the other carriages at the Doctors’ Commons, where competition was keen in matters of display, especially when it came to starched clothing. On the way there, Mr. Spenlow gave David professional advice, informing him of the privileged position held by proctors, who were far superior to solicitors, though these were unfortunately their main employers. To be a proctor implied a high degree of gentility, an easy-going approach, and better earnings. The conversation went on about similar matters. The best sort of case to handle, in reply to David’s question, was a will settlement involving a thirty- to forty-thousand pound estate. Then there was a long explanation about the advantages of the Doctors’ Commons. Mr. Spenlow’s opinion, contrary to those who thought it needed reforming, was that the welfare of the country wholly depended on the welfare of that venerable institution. David wasn’t so sure about this, but he decided not to argue.

The conversation then turned to lighter things such as the play David had seen and the spirited horses that drew their carriage. At last, they reached the Spenlow home, which, even at that time of year, had a beautiful garden, with a lawn, flowers, bushes, trellises, and walks. The distressing thought came to David that Mr. Spenlow’s daughter must take her walks there all alone.

David falls hopelessly in love with Dora Spenlow—As they entered the well-lit vestibule, Mr. Spenlow asked for his daughter, Dora, and David was immediately entranced by the beautiful name. But the name paled in comparison to Dora herself. As soon as he was introduced to her, everything else in the room disappeared. Even Mr. Spenlow’s voice as he presented his daughter seemed remote.

Miss Murdstone is Dora’s official confidante and protector—A fourth person in the room quickly recognized David. It was Miss Murdstone, which normally might have upset David, but he was in such a state of entrancement that nothing bothered him, and he responded with a cordial inquiry about her own and Mr. Murdstone’s well-being. Mr. Spenlow, who was widower, had engaged Miss Murdstone as a confidante and protector for Miss Spenlow, though David observed that Miss Murdstone wasn’t suited to the role, and Dora Spenlow didn’t seem too interested.

David has difficulty concentrating on anything but Dora—The first dinner bell rang, which was a cue to dress, but once in his room, all David could do was think of the beautiful Dora. When the second bell rang, he still had done nothing and had to rush to arrive downstairs on time—not the ideal approach for the occasion. This mad state of love brought out his insecurities, and he found himself unusually jealous and distracted. When he saw Dora speaking with an elderly gentleman, he was jealous. When Mr. Spenlow was conversing with another man on some unfamiliar subject, David felt left out. At dinner, he could see and think of nothing but Dora, ignoring the multiple plates that were set before him. Fortunately, he was sitting next to her and got to experience her petite, gracious, magical manner up close. But after dinner, he was still so distracted he could barely pay attention when conversing with anyone else, though he pretended to.

Miss Murdstone privately suggests they forgive and forget the past—The thought occurred to David that Miss Murdstone might speak ill of him to Dora, but this thought was soon put to rest by Miss Murdstone herself, who now approached him privately. The gist of the conversation was that Miss Murdstone did not want to bring up their mutual past. She even admitted that she might have been wrong about David, and she saw no reason to broach old issues. David cordially agreed, though he also made it clear that he thought she and her brother had done his mother and him an injustice. The matter was settled, though. Miss Murdstone’s cold fingers briefly touched David’s hand, and she walked away.

David realizes he’s hopelessly in love—David spent the remainder of the evening in a state of rapture as he listened to Dora singing some French ballads. He was the picture of a typical lover—refusing to eat or drink and having eyes only for the object of his adoration. When she retired for the evening with Miss Murdstone, she gave him her beautiful hand and smiled. Later, he saw himself in the mirror looking silly and woke up the next day in the same state of total infatuation.

David and Dora coincidentally meet in the garden—The morning still being early, David resolved to go walking in the garden. On his way out the door, he encountered Dora’s little dog, Jip, and tried to pet him but received only growls and bared teeth in return, so he continued on his way. David was not long in the garden before Dora herself joined him. Aside from being bewitchingly beautiful, she was cheerful and direct, and David soon discovered that she had no great love for Miss Murdstone, whom she found tedious. She had no idea what her father was thinking when he chose her to be her companion and protector, and she missed not having a kind mother to fill the gap. But she was resolved to be as happy as possible under the circumstances.

Jip, Dora’s little dog and companion—By now, Jip had come running out and was soon in Dora’s arms. Jip was jealous of David, and David was jealous of Jip, who had the luxury of being held by his lovely owner, with her beautiful curls and her straw hat and blue ribbon. Dora continued that she (and Jip, whom she constantly addressed, as in, “Isn’t that right, Jip?”) didn’t need a protector, and she would choose her own friends and confidantes—thank you very much.

Miss Murdstone interrupts “fairyland”—David and Dora had been on their way to the greenhouse together, and now they reached it—just in time, since the conversation about Miss Murdstone was becoming unbearable to him. Being in the greenhouse with his lovely new friend and the scent and sight of geraniums and other flowers was like a trip to fairyland. The magical spell, however, was soon broken by Miss Murdstone herself, who had come to retrieve them for breakfast.

The infatuation continues—From then on, David’s entire existence would be taken up with thoughts of Dora. At breakfast, he drank too much tea because she made it. At church, even with Miss Murdstone between them, he could hear nothing but Dora’s singing, and the whole sermon seemed to be about her. The rest of the day was spent quietly, and little did Mr. Spenlow know, as they all sat together in the evening reading, that David was imagining him as his father-in-law.

A change in focus—The next morning, Mr. Spenlow and David left early, bidding goodbye to Dora as she stood there holding Jip. Back at work, David could still think of nothing else as every detail of every case took on her image. Day in and day out, he thought of nothing but Dora, even taking daily long walks in the vague hope of accidentally meeting her. And once in a while, he did. His frequent long walks took him down the Norwood road as well as around London, and at times he would see Dora waving from a coach, or they would take short walks together, accompanied Miss Murdstone. But none of this was satisfying, and though he hoped for another invitation to the Spenlows’, none was forthcoming.

Mrs. Crupp notices David’s lovesickness and counsels him to take better care of himself—None of this escaped Mrs. Crupp, who broached the subject one day only a few weeks after the onset of David’s lovesickness. She explained to him that, being a mother herself and having taken care of other young gentlemen, she knew that when they wore their clothes either too large or too small (David had switched to wearing his boots too small, which gave him corns), and when they stopped caring for themselves, inevitably there was a young lady involved. Her advice to him was that if things didn’t work out in this case, there would undoubtedly be other young ladies and that he should learn to value himself. So far, David had told no one—not even Agnes. And though it took him a while to admit to Mrs. Crupp that this was indeed the case, he finally did, but it left him thinking that he needed to do a better job of concealing his secret.

Tommy Traddles


David visits Traddles—One of Mrs. Crupp’s pieces of advice to David was to take up skittles (nine pins) as a way of getting into healthier habits. That word may have reminded him of “Traddles,” because the next day David decided to seek out his former schoolmate. Traddles lived in Camden Town, near the Veterinary College, and on arriving in Traddles’s street, David was dismayed to see it littered with decaying vegetable matter and all sorts of other debris.

Traddles’s house reminds David of the Micawbers, especially with a creditor at the door—The house where Tommy lived reminded David of the Micawbers’ former residence because of its worn genteel air, though otherwise it resembled the rest of the houses on the street. His impression was confirmed by the presence of the milkman, who was demanding a long overdue bill in an impatient tone that he directed past the maid and somewhere into the house. The fierce milkman was not yet finished. Directing his look toward the servant girl, he asked her whether she liked milk, and on receiving a “yes,” he informed her that there would be none tomorrow. With that, he delivered his milk and left.

The maid shows David the way to Traddles’s room—Next it was David’s turn. Did Mr. Traddles live there, and was he home? The servant girl replied “yes” in both instances, on being cued by another voice from within the house. Following the maid’s instructions, David made his way upstairs, with the sense that someone was watching him as he passed the parlor at the end of the hall.

Traddles admits to a modest, frugal lifestyle—Traddles greeted David warmly on the landing and took him into his small room, which was sparse but tidy. He had tried to make the most of what he had, but it was clear that he didn’t have much. In any case, they were both happy to see each other, and Traddles confided that he didn’t normally give out that address. He had another work address in chambers that he rented along with three other men, and together they also split the cost of a clerk. But he admitted he was struggling—he had no reason to hide it. In giving out his address, though, he tried to be considerate of other people’s needs.

Traddles law studies are delayed through financial bad luck—David said that he had heard that Traddles was studying for the bar, which Traddles confirmed, though his apprenticeship had begun a while ago and had been delayed. They reminisced about Salem House, and David could see that Tommy was still his same good-natured self—and still prone to bad luck, as he had been back then. That perception proved true when Tommy informed David that he had lost all but fifty pounds of his inheritance because his uncle, who raised him, didn’t like him as an adult and left his money to his wife and former housekeeper instead.

Traddles finds work through an acquaintance and saves for his law apprenticeship—With nothing but that small sum of money to his name, Traddles was at a loss as to what to do for himself professionally. Fortunately, an acquaintance from Salem House, Yawler by name, got him a job copying legal writings. Following that, he got work making abstracts and stating cases, which gave him the idea to study law. That, however, required paying a hundred pounds, so Traddles procured more work compiling material for a publishing house that was working on an encyclopedia. In fact, he was working on that right now, he said, referring to the papers strewn all over his desk. Gradually, he managed to save the money for his law study, but it was obvious that it had been a struggle.

Traddles is engaged for the long term until his finances improve—There was another piece of news, though, that he didn’t want to keep from David: Traddles was engaged. His fiancée was the daughter of a curate and lived in Devonshire. In fact, it was she he had gone to visit for a month, and he had walked the whole way. She was slightly older than Traddles, and they loved each other dearly. They had adopted the motto “Wait and hope,” apparently because they lacked the money to get married soon. Traddles didn’t say so directly, but he implied it by his statement that they would probably have a long engagement and that they had made a slow but steady start toward collecting furnishings for their new home. He was worried about having enough for linens and candlesticks and such, but he was determined to “wait and hope” for the best. Until then, he would continue to live a frugal life, managing as best he could, and he was happy to have the company of his landlords, the Micawbers.

David reconnects with the Micawbers, Traddles’s landlords—David could not help exclaiming on hearing their name. On David’s urging, Traddles called Mr. Micawber, who hadn’t changed a bit—same appearance, same manner, same conversation. It took him a while to recognize David, who in the meantime had asked about Mr. Micawber, his wife, and his children. Finally, when David smiled, Mr. Micawber took a step back and realized, to his delight, who was standing before him. They shook hands warmly, and Mr. Micawber called out to Mrs. Micawber to meet Traddles’s gentleman guest. While she prepared herself, Mr. Micawber recounted the usual tale: how they were in a less than fortunate position but were expecting something to turn up soon so that they could make the “spring” to better life prospects.

Mrs. Micawber soon arrived and was so taken by surprise on hearing the news of David’s visit that Mr. Micawber needed to fetch some water to revive her. Once she came to, she was delighted to see David, and he asked her about the children, who had all supposedly grown large or even giant-sized—though he didn’t get to see them this time to verify that.

David invites Traddles and the Micawbers to dinner—Mr. Micawber had the idea that David should stay for dinner, but with his usual sensitivity, David surmised that that would be hard on them and made up an excuse about being previously engaged. He did, however, arrange to have them and Traddles over to his place for dinner, though because of Traddles’s busy schedule, it would be some time from then.

Mr. Micawber speaks to David privately of his troubles—It was time for David to leave, and Mr. Micawber walked with him to the corner so they could have a moment to speak privately. Mr. Micawber first expressed his gratitude for having a “gleaming” mind such as Traddles’s under his roof. His other neighbors included a washerwoman and a police investigator, which he apparently felt were beneath his station. Financially, he was struggling as a corn salesman, but he expected something to turn up soon that would enable him to take care of his family and Traddles. Finally, he hinted that Mrs. Micawber was pregnant again and that her family didn’t approve—though he vehemently felt it was none of their business. All that being said, Mr. Micawber shook David’s hand and went his way.

Mr. Micawber’s Gauntlet


David makes arrangements for the dinner—David continued to pine over Dora, with the result that he subsisted mostly on his love for her and coffee until the day of his dinner appointment with the Micawbers and Traddles. By some miracle, he managed to convince Mrs. Crupp to cook the dinner, even though she protested vehemently at first and would only agree to do it if he ate out for two weeks following the party. This was the lady who was supposed to be his landlady and housekeeper, but instead he found her to be a tyrant who took advantage of him whenever the opportunity presented itself. His bed would go unmade until five in the afternoon, and he had to ring the doorbell several times to get her to answer—and even then there was no guarantee, or she would show her resentment and exhaustion at having to come to the door.

The waiter David had hired the previous time turned out to be a thief, so this time David bought a used serving cart instead. He rehired the girl as a dishwasher but made her wait on the landing instead of in the pantry between bringing in dishes so that she wouldn’t accidentally break them. David decided that Mr. Micawber should be in charge of making the punch, for which he laid out all the ingredients. He also laid out various items for Mrs. Micawber, such as lavender water and pins, so she could groom herself before dinner.

David welcomes his guests, who express their enthusiasm over his arrangements—When the guests arrived, they expressed their appreciation of David’s “luxurious” apartment, and Mrs. Micawber was thrilled at the grooming arrangements that had been made especially for her. Mr. Micawber mentioned that the apartment reminded him of his bachelor days, before he asked Mrs. Micawber to marry him. Something about his wording led the couple into a small argument, which was quickly resolved, but in the process, Mr. Micawber let slip that their water had been turned off because they failed to pay the bill. To change the subject, David led Mr. Micawber to the punch bowl ingredients, where Mr. Micawber immediately set about making the punch with great joy. Meanwhile, Mrs. Micawber went into David’s bedroom, complete with a fire in the fireplace for her comfort, and came out looking refreshed, happy, and lovely.

A failed meal is turned into an enjoyable event—Unfortunately, the meal itself was a failure. The fish was all right, but the mutton was half-cooked and appeared to have landed in the ashes, and the pigeon pie didn’t contain much of anything. The gravy never made it past the stairs, where it was dropped by the kitchen maid and where it remained. All of this might have ruined the evening, except that David’s guests were so pleasant and forgiving. In fact, Mr. Micawber, after consoling David with the knowledge that such things happened at times, suggested cooking the mutton themselves over a gridiron in the fireplace. Everyone contributed to the cooking, and the idea was such a hit and the aroma so delicious that between the cooking and eating, everyone was having a wonderful time, and even David’s appetite returned.

Littimer arrives looking for Steerforth and casts a damper on the festivities—As they were all making merry, David realized that someone else was in the room. It was Littimer, who had come looking for Steerforth. As they tried to determine what was going on with Steerforth, Littimer suddenly requested, in the most respectful manner, to allow him to take over the cooking. As he said that, he quietly took the fork out of David’s hand and began to tend to the mutton. His presence had a dampening effect on the entire room as the guests all made an attempt to appear more proper. With more propriety came less enjoyment and less appetite. Littimer was soon clearing the plates and bringing in the next course and, finally, the wine.

Littimer sets things in order and takes his leave—Once he had discreetly set all things in order, he asked whether he could do anything else. David gratefully replied that he had no further needs but inquired whether Littimer wouldn’t also have some dinner. Littimer thanked him but declined. Before he left, David wanted to know whether Steerforth was coming from Oxford. He had asked him twice before, but every time, Littimer evaded the question. His only response was that Steerforth would likely come tomorrow, though he had expected him that day. As Littimer was heading toward the door, David asked him whether he had stayed in Yarmouth to see the boat’s completion and also whether Steerforth had seen it. Yes, came Littimer’s reply, he had stayed for that reason, but he didn’t know whether Steerforth had seen it. He respectfully bowed goodnight to David and his guests.

Mr. Micawber serves the punch—With Littimer now gone, the whole room seemed relieved. David, in particular, could never understand the effect Littimer had on him, and he was pondering this when Mr. Micawber interrupted his thoughts to sing Littimer’s praises. More importantly, though, it was time for the punch! First, Mr. Micawber toasted the good, old days, when he and David were struggling together in the world, which left Traddles wondering what he meant.

Mrs. Micawber discusses the Micawbers’ financial situation—As Mr. Micawber poured his wife another glass, Mrs. Micawber, feeling that they were among friends, saw fit to raise the topic of their economic woes, with an eye to finding a solution. Coal had been a bad idea, and corn was unprofitable: so what was there for Mr. Micawber to do? Commission was also out of the question because it was uncertain. Mrs. Micawber had always felt that the beer business would suit her husband, but the beer companies declined to answer any of his letters. Next, there was the banking industry, which would make good use of his manners, but again, the banks refused to acknowledge him, and Mrs. Micawber’s family would not back them in starting their own banking business. It was clear, she concluded, that they needed to live, and in order to live, something needed to turn up. But things did not turn up on their own, and therefore, they needed to plant some seeds to aid the process. She was convinced of Mr. Micawber’s talent—even genius—yet he had no prospects. So what should they do?

Mrs. Micawber suggests that Mr. Micawber advertise his services—According to Mrs. Micawber, the responsibility now lay with society, and it was time for Mr. Micawber to throw down the gauntlet and see who picked it up. But how should they do that in practice? The answer was: advertising. Mr. Micawber should advertise his services in the paper. Of course, advertising was expensive, which meant having to raise the money. If her family was unwilling to help, then Mr. Micawber should go to the money markets and request their help. But, she insisted, the advertising expense should be viewed as an investment. Having stated her case and made it clear that this was her advice to Mr. Micawber and that her judgment had often been praised by her father, even though women were not generally considered to have good judgment in such matters, Mrs. Micawber removed herself to David’s bedroom.

Mr. Micawber adds his own bit and makes a few toasts—Both David and Traddles were impressed with Mrs. Micawber’s nobility and discernment, and both congratulated Mr. Micawber on his good fortune in having such a wife. After a moment of embarrassment, Mr. Micawber fully recovered and launched into his own speech. He began with the value of children, since it was through them that we lived on. And if Mrs. Micawber’s family was unsupportive—well, they could “go to the Devil.” Next he praised Traddles’s character (which he could not imitate) and toasted his fiancée, declaring how blessed they were in their mutual affection. David also toasted her, and Traddles sincerely thanked them both and repeated how dear she was to him, one of his favorite sayings.

David admits to Mr. Micawber that he’s in love—Mr. Micawber then gently and subtly alluded to David’s emotional state, implying that he must be in love and that only David’s denial could convince him otherwise. Embarrassed, David did deny it at first but then finally admitted that there was someone whose name began with “D.” Thrilled, Mr. Micawber ran to tell Mrs. Micawber, who reacted with equal enthusiasm.

Mr. Micwaber’s plans to move his family to a better home—Mr. Micawber next turned to more practical issues. He was not happy living in Camden Town[i] and eventually hoped to move near Hyde Park,[ii] but in the meantime he would settle for an apartment on a street like Piccadilly.[iii] He was sure that, by making a few changes here and there, they could create a comfortable living space for the interim. Wherever they were, though, Traddles would always have a place to stay, and David would always be welcome for dinner.

The evening ends with tea, conversation, and Mrs. Micawber’s singing—The conversation was interrupted by Mrs. Micawber, who came out to make tea. That being done, they conversed for a while by the fire, and Mrs. Micawber sang two songs for which she had been famous in her youth and which convinced Mr. Micawber that she was the woman he should marry.

The guests leave; David quietly warns Traddles not to lend the Micawbers money—The Micawbers left between ten and eleven, at which point Mr. Micawber quietly handed David a letter to read when he got the chance. Traddles had gotten ready to leave with the Micawbers, but as they headed down the stairs, David motioned to him to wait. He quickly told him that although Mr. Micawber meant no harm, Traddles should avoid lending him anything. Traddles replied that he nothing to give, but David countered that he had his name. It hadn’t occurred to Traddles that his name was of value, and unfortunately it was too late—he had already loaned it to Mr. Micawber, though not for his advertising purposes, which according Mr. Micawber were “provided for.” At that point, Mr. Micawber, who was now at the bottom of the stairs with his wife, looked up in their direction. Traddles thanked David, who had given his friend one final warning. But as David watched them leave together, he wondered whether Traddles’s good nature would prevent him from adequately protecting himself.

Steerforth arrives immediately afterwards—No sooner had David’s guests left than he heard another faster set of footsteps on the stairs, and he soon recognized them as Steerforth’s. Remembering Agnes’s warning, he felt apprehensive about confronting Steerforth just yet, but as soon as his friend came through the door, whatever darkness he had attached to him disappeared. He realized that he loved both Agnes and Steerforth equally, and he felt remorse over the feelings he had entertained.

David explains the party and mentions Traddles—Steerforth was amused to see the remains of a party and laughingly concluded that David was leading a wild lifestyle with his acquaintances from the Doctors’ Commons. David admitted there had been a small party with three other people but denied any wild revelings. Steerforth said he had met them outside just now and wondered who the man in the tights was. David gave him a brief description, which amused Steerforth, and then asked him whether he recognized the other man in the group. He didn’t, and when David told him it was Traddles, it took Steerforth a moment to remember who he was. Steerforth’s reaction indicated to David that he didn’t think too highly of Traddles, so in Traddles’ defense, David praised him as much as possible.

Steerforth relates that he spent the week in Yarmouth and says that Barkis is not well—Still smiling and obviously not taking any of it too seriously, Steerforth asked David whether he had anything to eat. While Steerforth dug into the pigeon pie with great enthusiasm, David learned he had just come from Yarmouth. Surprised, David mentioned Littimer’s visit and his belief that Steerforth would be coming from Oxford. Steerforth brushed it off as ridiculous that Littimer should even be looking for him. He had been in Yarmouth for a week, where he had spent most of his time at sea. When David asked about his friends and whether little Emily was married yet, Steerforth replied that he hadn’t seen much of them and that Emily wasn’t due to be married for several weeks or months—he didn’t know exactly. He then remembered that Peggotty had given him a letter to deliver. Barkis was not doing well and was probably on his last legs. Steerforth had seen the pharmacist, who told him all about it, and that was what it sounded like to Steerforth.

David reads Peggotty’s letter about Barkis—Steerforth directed David to his overcoat, where he would find the letter in the breast pocket. Peggotty’s letter was brief, simple, and straightforward, though less legible than usual. It told about Barkis’s dire health condition and how his increasing miserliness made him harder to take care of. David noticed that Peggotty didn’t mention the toll it was taking on her but only had good words for her husband.

Steerforth’s philosophy of life: to forge ahead and not to let things like death bother you—Steerforth wasn’t too perturbed by the situation, though he sympathized as much as he was able. People died all the time, just as the sun set on a daily basis. You couldn’t let such things prevent you from forging ahead with life and doing what you intended to do. Death happened to everyone. To fear it was to guarantee defeat in life, when you should be running the race full speed ahead, regardless of obstacles.

Steerforth means what he says; David invites him to come to Yarmouth—David wanted to know what race he meant. Why, the race you had begun. To Steerforth, this was no mere philosophy, and he discharged his speech with great energy, punctuating it several times with “Ride on!” David thought that Steerforth’s face showed signs of making good on his philosophy, and it occurred to him to warn him of the dangers of what he saw as a desperate use of his high spirits, but instead he changed the subject. Would Steerforth consider going with him on a short trip to Yarmouth?

Steerforth convinces David to come to Highgate first—Steerforth had already decided that he needed to visit his mother at Highgate, and he wanted David to postpone his Yarmouth visit for a day and come with him. Why did he need to go flying off to Yarmouth? Besides, he needed David as a buffer between himself and Rosa Dartle. David noted that Steerforth did his own fair share of flying off to different places, but he finally agreed to spend the next day with him at Highgate and to go to Yarmouth from there.

David wishes Steerforth had nobler aims—That being settled, Steerforth got ready to leave. Together they walked to the road, and as David watched him go in his light and spirited way, he thought of his daring and energetic life philosophy and found himself wanting to see Steerforth put all that energy to a nobler use.

Mr. Micawber’s letter details his money woes, his wife’s pregnancy, and Traddles’s financial involvement—Back in his apartment, David remembered Mr. Micawber’s letter when it fell as he was changing his clothes. He first noticed the date: just an hour and a half before their gathering that night. He then noticed the quasi-legal phrasing, which was typical of Mr. Micawber during times of transition. The letter opened formally with “Sir” and a comment that Mr. Micawber felt uncomfortable addressing David in more familiar terms. The gist of the letter was that Mr. Micawber’s fortunes had fled, and several times he referred to himself as “Crushed.” All of his own and Traddles’s belongings, including the home, had been possessed by a broker. To add to this depressing state of affairs, a sum of money loaned to him by Traddles (which was detailed so specifically that the impression was that Traddles had given Mr. Micawber most of his money) was overdue, with no possibility of repayment. Furthermore, another baby was due to arrive within six months. Mr. Micawber stated all of this melodramatically and signed off with the statement that dust and ashes should forever be strewn upon his head.

David worries about the impact of the Micawbers’ troubles on Traddles and his fiancée—David knew better by now than to worry about Mr. Micawber, who always seemed to bounce back from these fateful blows. But he spent a fitful night wondering how the Micawbers’ hopeless situation would affect Traddles and the “dear girl” who had pledged herself to him.

[i] London’s least expensive residential neighborhood at the time, though a “small” house back then had six to ten rooms

[ii] One of London’s largest Royal Parks

[iii] London’s main fashionable thoroughfare, also known for its wealthy mansions

David Visits Steerforth At Highgate


David asks Mr. Spenlow for a short leave of absence—The following day, David asked Mr. Spenlow for a short leave of absence, and since he was an unpaid apprentice, there was no problem arranging it. Next, David barely got up the courage to ask about Miss Spenlow, to which Mr. Spenlow courteously answered that she was well. It was clear, however, that he had no clue that the question had any further significance to David.

Miss Dartle is especially intense and wants to know all about Steerforth—On reaching Highgate, David was pleased to see that Littimer was absent that day, having been replaced by a pleasant parlor maid. Miss Dartle, however, was unusually intense with her glances, which shifted back and forth as they compared David with Steerforth. All day, she constantly hovered, watching their every move. When the three of them and Mrs. Steerforth took a walk later on, she latched onto David’s arm, asking him whether his work could be so engrossing that he should have no time to visit them. She offered her usual excuse for her intensity—she only wanted to know. The problem was that she had such a tedious way of getting to the point. In this case, what began as an inquiry about David soon shifted to Steerforth. Steerforth and his mother were walking ahead of David and Miss Dartle, so the conversations were separate. Rosa Dartle continued: Where had Steerforth been, and what was he doing? David protested that he knew as little as she did about Steerforth’s doings. But being circuitous in her approach, Miss Dartle was not apt to take what others said at face value, and she got that intense expression on her face that always accentuated the scar on her lip and made her look repulsive to David. For some reason, she expected David to know all about Steerforth’s whereabouts, motives, and actions, and she wasn’t going to back down until David let out his secrets. Unfortunately for her, David had no secrets to tell, and she finally gave up after telling him to keep quiet about their interchange.

David recognizes the similarity between Steerforth and his mother—David’s attention turned to Steerforth and his mother, who seemed particularly affectionate toward each other that day. Looking at them, David realized how similar they were—that Mrs. Steerforth portrayed the same qualities as her son but in an older, quieter, feminine version. Something Miss Dartle had once said over dinner made him wonder whether an argument between two such similar people would be more difficult to resolve than a disagreement between opposing natures. Miss Dartle had specifically been referring to Mrs. Steerforth and her son, but Mrs. Steerforth had quickly set her straight by assuring her that they each knew their obligations to each other.

Steerforth charms Rosa into relaxing for a short while—The other episode that David remembered from that visit was Steerforth’s decision to use his full charm on Rosa Dartle, gradually melting her pointed, argumentative approach into something softer and more relaxed. Being habitually defensive, she resisted at first, but she gave way, and soon they were all sitting by the fire enjoying themselves.

Rosa’s otherworldly harp playing turns into a violent reaction when Steerforth teases her—Eventually, Miss Dartle retired to the drawing room to play her harp, something she had never done except in the presence of Mrs. Steerforth. When Steerforth and David entered the room, she rose immediately, but Steerforth begged her to sit and sing and play an Irish song for them. Reluctant at first, she suddenly drew the harp toward herself and began to sing and play in such an otherworldly way that David was completely entranced. The spell was broken when, after she had finished, Steerforth walked over, playfully embraced her with one arm, and said to her that they should always love each other a great deal from then on. That brought a violent reaction from Miss Dartle, causing her to hit him and run out of the room in a rage. Mrs. Steerforth wanted to know what was wrong with her, but Steerforth simply attributed her behavior to a pendulum swing from the angelic to its opposite. His mother implied that Miss Dartle had been through enough trials for now and should not be tested. When David asked about it later, Steerforth remarked that her edgy temperament made her hard on everything, including herself, and dealing with her was like walking on eggshells.

Steerforth asks David to think of him in his best light, should they ever be separated—David bid Steerforth good night, letting him know that he would be gone before Steerforth was up. Steerforth held him by the shoulders for a while and, calling him Daisy, as he almost always did, uttered the wish that he, too, could have that name. He made David promise that in the future, if ever they were parted, to always think of him in his best light. To David, there was no best or worst with Steerforth. David loved him at all times. He wanted to confess his remorse for having ever thought anything less of Steerforth, but not knowing what to say and thinking of Agnes held him back, and Steerforth finished the conversation with “God bless you,” followed by good night.

David leaves the next morning while the household is still asleep—The next morning at dawn, David looked in on his sleeping friend, lying there in the easy, relaxed way that came so naturally to him, with his arm extended and his head resting upon it. The chapter ends as David leaves the Steerforths’ home while all are still asleep, not knowing then that it would be his last time with his friend.

A Loss


David stays at Yarmouth’s inn to make things easier on Peggotty—David decided to stay at the inn on arriving in Yarmouth. He figured there must be enough going on at Barkis’s, and he could make things easier for everyone by not staying in Peggotty’s spare room.

David stops by Omer’s to inquire about Barkis—By the time David had eaten dinner and started out into the town, it was ten in the evening. Much of the town had shut down, but he noticed the door open at Omer and Joram’s, so he looked in and found Mr. Omer smoking his pipe. Mr. Omer was pleased to see David, and after they exchanged greetings, David asked him whether he knew how Mr. Barkis was doing. Mr. Omer explained that one of the drawbacks of his profession was that he had to refrain from asking about the state of those who were near death. The best they could do there was to rely on little Emily for information, since she wouldn’t judge them the wrong way for asking. In fact, she was at Barkis’s this moment, and Minnie and Joram had also gone over to see him.

Mr. Omer was drinking his rum shrub,[i] and now he offered David some, which David declined. Mr. Omer still had a hard time breathing, as he had before, and he had convinced himself that smoking his pipe and drinking his shrub helped him.

David asks about Emily, who is restless and upset—David asked him about little Emily. Mr. Omer replied that she was upset and restless at the moment but would likely improve once she was married. She was lovelier than ever and worked just as hard, but she wasn’t happy. And though she had always been affectionate, she now clung to her uncle more and more. For his own part, Mr. Omer wanted to make things as easy on her as possible. Once Emily was married, she was free to leave work when it suited her or to take some work home with her, if she wanted. Omer and Joram had gotten far more from her than they had ever imagined, and they were grateful. In Mr. Omer’s view, whatever happened, they had only gained. Ham, too, was doing well economically and had bought and furnished a small house, so everything was ready for Emily and him. The only thing postponing the marriage was Mr. Barkis’s condition, and until he died, things would be unsettled.

David asks about Martha, but the conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Minnie and Joram—David asked Mr. Omer whether he had heard anything about Martha. Mr. Omer told David it was a sad story, and he was on the verge of telling him more when he heard footsteps, which meant that Minnie and Joram had returned. He indicated to David that they had better not discuss it right then.

David goes straight to Barkis’s on hearing about Barkis’s condition—According to Minnie and Joram, Mr. Barkis was beyond the help of the doctors and pharmacists. Hearing this, David took leave of Mr. Omer and his family and immediately headed over to Barkis’s. He was greeted at the door by Mr. Peggotty, who, together with Ham, thanked him for his unusually kind gesture in coming all the way to Yarmouth. Emily, who had been sitting near the fire, was despondent, and she wouldn’t speak to David but went over to her uncle and clung to him. Mr. Peggotty attributed her behavior to grief and suggested that she let Ham take her home, since it was late. Emily, however, wanted to stay with her uncle, which made Ham want to stay, too. But Mr. Peggotty insisted that Ham needed his rest as a working man. Seeing the wisdom in this, Ham agreed to go home. Emily would, after all, be in good hands, as his uncle assured him.

Peggotty welcomes David and brings him to see Barkis—Mr. Peggotty’s next task was to go upstairs to tell his sister that David had arrived. He tried to convince Emily to stay and warm herself by the fire, but she insisted on going with him. In the meantime, David waited in the kitchen, and soon Peggotty came down and was hugging him and thanking him for being there in her time of need. Leading David upstairs, she told him between sobs that Barkis had always been fond of him and would be pleased to see him, should he awake at any point.

Barkis is unconscious, with his arm on his box—It did not look likely to David that Mr. Barkis would ever wake again. He lay on his bed now with his arm on his precious box that he had always kept close. Since he could no longer access it from under the bed, it now sat on the chair next to him.

Mr. Peggotty explains how the tides affect life on the coast—Peggotty tried to rouse her husband to tell him that David had come. When there was no response, Mr. Peggotty commented that he was “going out with the tide.” He explained that death and birth on the coast were closely linked to the tides. The incoming tides were linked to births, which couldn’t happen without them, and the outgoing tides were linked to death. Now the tide was ebbing and would be at low tide within half an hour, and Barkis would go then, too.

Barkis says his final goodbyes and goes out with the tide—Peggotty noticed that Barkis was becoming conscious, and she greeted him lovingly. His voice was weak, but he managed to say her name and the phrase he had always reserved for her—that there was not a better woman anywhere. Peggotty directed him toward David, but before David could say anything, Barkis reached out to him, smiled, and spoke his final words: “Barkis is willin’.”

[i] A juice mix with rum or brandy

A Greater Loss


David uses his legal skills to help Peggotty—Mr. Barkis’s remains were to be buried in the Blunderstone churchyard, where Peggotty had bought a little burial plot next to David’s mother’s grave. Until that happened, David would continue staying at the inn, in response to Peggotty’s request. David was happy to be a comfort and support to Peggotty at that time, but the event also gave him one of his first opportunities to test his skills as a proctor, which gave him a great sense of pride. Being the only one there who knew about such things, David took over the business associated with Barkis’s will, which included going through his box.

Mr. Barkis’s box and the details of his will—The box, which Mr. Barkis had always guarded closely, contained almost three hundred pounds as well as numerous odds and ends, some valuable, some mere oddities. The will itself was hidden underneath some hay and other objects in a horse’s feedbag. Most of Barkis’s estate, which included three thousand pounds, went to Peggotty, who was also the sole executor of his will. Of the money, a third had been set aside and the interest willed to Mr. Peggotty for the rest of his life. When he died, Peggotty, David, and Emily would each receive a third of the principal.

Barkis’s simple funeral—Barkis’s funeral a week later was small and quiet. Of the family members, the only ones present were Peggotty, her brother, and David. Otherwise, it was Mr. Chillip (the doctor) and his family, Mr. Omer, and the minister.

Here the narrative pauses, as David remembers with dread what came next.

David walks to Yarmouth, arriving in the evening—After walking around the graveyard for an hour, David bid Peggotty and her brother goodbye in front of the old Blunderstone home. The family had arranged to all meet that night at the boathouse, which gave David plenty of time to walk back to Yarmouth. He first made a southern detour to Lowestoft and later stopped to eat, so by the time he reached the ferry, evening had already arrived, and though there was wind and heavy rain, the hidden moon still lit the scene.

A familiar scene—As David entered the boathouse, he recognized the same cozy scene he had witnessed as a little boy, when he first laid eyes on it. Peggotty was in her old place by the fire, doing what she always did. Mrs. Gummidge was moaning, Mr. Peggotty was his cheerful, welcoming self, and Emily’s seat was ready for her when she and Ham arrived. David asked Peggotty how she was, but her brother interrupted before she could answer. She had done her duty to Barkis, and Barkis had done so to her—and that made everything fine. Mrs. Gummidge moaned that she didn’t deserve to be among people with money, but Mr. Peggotty replied that he needed her more than ever. What would he do with all that money?

Mr. Peggotty puts a candle in the window for Emily and reminisces about their past—Peggotty tugged at his shirt to leave her be, since both of them knew that times like this brought back memories of her husband. Mr. Peggotty then trimmed the wick of a candle, which he lit and placed in the window for Emily. That way, she could see her way home, and she would know that her uncle was there. Peggotty affectionately called him a baby, and he agreed that he was a baby disguised as a huge sea porcupine, which made him roar with laughter. He remembered playing make-believe games with Emily when she was a child, and David noticed that whenever he touched anything of hers, he handled it as delicately as if it were Emily herself.

Ham takes David outside to tell him that Emily is gone—Mr. Peggotty must have heard something at that moment, because he remarked that she had arrived, but when the door opened, only Ham came in. Mr. Peggotty asked where Emily was, but Ham said nothing, indicating with a head gesture that she was outside. When Mr. Peggotty went over to tend the fire, Ham grabbed David on the pretext that he should come outside to see something he and Emily had brought. Once outside, though, David could see that Ham was horribly pale, and Ham then broke down and cried. It was a heartbreaking scene that David would never forget. Emily was gone, and Ham wanted to know what to do. How could he tell his uncle?

Mr. Peggotty discovers that Emily has disappeared—At that moment, the door opened. By instinct, David tried to prevent it, but Mr. Peggotty burst through. The next thing David remembered was Mr. Peggotty inside again, wailing and out of control as the women tried to calm him. David was holding a letter Ham put in his hand, and now Mr. Peggotty was asking him to read it, slowly.

David reads Emily’s letter to Ham out loud—The letter was written to Ham from Emily, and it was dated the night before. It began by saying that she would be far away when he read it—he who loved her more than she deserved, even in her childhood. Mr. Peggotty interrupted to take in the meaning, and then David continued. It was obvious from the letter’s tone and content that Emily was leaving what she deeply loved, her home and family, especially her uncle. She did not plan on returning, unless “he”—the man she left with—brought her back a lady. She did not feel she deserved the love she had received from Ham, and she knew that her actions would be hurtful. But she begged Ham to move on and find someone worthy of himself, and she asked him to comfort her uncle, whom she would miss so much.

Mr. Peggotty demands to know who took Emily—Mr. Peggotty stood there transfixed. When he finally recovered, the first thing he wanted to know was who it was. Who was the man who had taken Emily? David felt a sudden shock when Ham looked at him, and Ham asked him to go outside for his own sake. But David was too overcome with shock and could do nothing more than sit.

Ham explains the circumstances of Emily’s disappearance—Mr. Peggotty repeated his question, and Ham explained that a gentleman and his servant had been seen in the area for a while now, and the night before, the same servant—who was now in hiding—was seen with Emily. At this point, Ham again implored David to leave, but David, who now felt Peggotty embracing him, couldn’t move. That morning around dawn, an unrecognized coach was seen by the Norwich road, and the servant was spotted guiding Emily to the coach, with the man inside.

They all realize that Steerforth took Emily; Mr. Peggotty resolves to find his niece and destroy Steerforth’s boat—Mr. Peggotty knew then that the man was Steerforth, and poor Ham cried out to David that it wasn’t his fault but that Steerforth was a villain. By now, Mr. Peggotty had stopped agonizing. He had reached a decision and was pulling on his coat and hat. He was going to find Emily, if it meant traveling the whole world. But first he was going to sink Steerforth’s boat where he should have sunk Steerforth himself. He was determined, and nobody was to stop him.

Mrs. Gummidge saves the day—Then, of all people, Mrs. Gummidge intervened. Upset and crying, she pleaded with him to wait—to first calm down and to remember the good he had done in taking in a forlorn widow and two orphan children, reminding him of Christ’s admonition that to do good to a child was to do good to him. That goodness could never fail under the roof that had sheltered them for so long.

Rage and regret turn to tears—Her words sunk in. Mr. Peggotty’s rage turned to tears, and David, who had felt only guilt and remorse and the need for forgiveness, now also found himself in tears.

The Start Of Long Journey


David finds it impossible to think badly of Steerforth even now—David’s love for Steerforth was so steadfast that he could not bring himself to think ill of him, even after the incident with Emily. He knew now that things were over between him and Steerforth, but distance heightened his memory of his friend’s good qualities. He knew also that Steerforth had done a great wrong, but he didn’t believe he could ever rebuke him in person.

The townsfolk’s feelings—The townsfolk were not so forgiving, though they mostly criticized Emily. Their feelings toward Mr. Peggotty and Ham, though, were full of respect and compassion.

Mr. Peggotty and Ham spent a sleepless night—David found Ham and Mr. Peggotty on the beach the next day. The sun was just beginning to rise, and there was a gleam on the horizon where the dark sky met the tranquil sea. Neither Mr. Peggotty nor Ham had slept, and both were in a solemn mood. It was obvious they were tired, because Mr. Peggotty was more stooped than David had ever seen him.

Mr. Peggotty’s plans—Mr. Peggotty and Ham had talked a lot and now knew what to do. For a moment, David was frightened when he looked at Ham’s face, for although he didn’t look angry, David had the impression that he would kill Steerforth if he ever met him.

Mr. Peggotty’s whole aim in life now was to find Emily, and he asked David whether he was headed for London the next day. David answered that he would go whenever Mr. Peggotty was ready. Meanwhile Ham would live with Peggotty and continue in the same line of work. Mrs. Gummidge would continue living in the boathouse, though she would be the only one. Mr. Peggotty’s desire was that it should be the same as it had always been, and each night there should be a candle in the window, in case Emily ever returned. But he warned Ham that if he ever heard a knock at Peggotty’s door at night, he was to let Peggotty answer and be the first to see his “fallen child.”

Ham’s premonition—Once again, David noticed the same stern expression on Ham’s face as he looked out to sea. After several unsuccessful attempts to get his attention, David was finally able to ask him what he was thinking. Ham replied that he was thinking about what lay ahead of him and “over yon’,” meaning out at sea. It seemed to him that he was seeing the end, but he didn’t know exactly what that meant. He had been thinking how everything had started there, and then he would suddenly sense the end, even if just for a moment. He tried to reassure David that there was nothing to be afraid of, but he admitted to being confused, and his statements troubled David for a long time afterwards.

Mrs. Gummidge is a changed woman–When they arrived at the boathouse, Mrs. Gummidge was fixing breakfast. Since Emily’s disappearance and the obvious pain it caused Mr. Peggotty, Mrs. Gummidge was a changed woman, considerate and soft-spoken as she tended to Mr. Peggotty’s needs. After waiting on everyone, she continued working diligently, packing Mr. Peggotty’s clothes for his trip and promising to write and look after the boathouse. Mr. Peggotty expressed concern that she would be all alone, but Mrs. Gummidge assured him she would be fine and would have plenty to keep her busy looking after the boathouse and keeping it in shape for the time he or anyone else should return.

David was astonished at the work he saw Mrs. Gummidge do that day. Even with help, she worked all day running all sorts of errands and hauling lobster traps, sails, oars, and a variety of fishing and sailing paraphernalia from the beach to the outhouse for storage. Not once did she mention her sorrows but was cheerful all day until evening, when she burst into tears after Mr. Peggotty fell asleep in the living room. But she quickly fixed her appearance so that Mr. Peggotty wouldn’t be troubled if he awoke.

David visits Omer’s and finds Minnie and her little daughter in distress over Emily—David left the boathouse between nine and ten that night, stopping by Omer’s on his way to Peggotty’s. At Omer’s, he saw Minnie, who at first had no kind words to say about Emily. But eventually, she broke down and cried as her real feelings emerged. She could not understand how Emily could be so hardhearted, but she was also concerned for her welfare. And what would she tell her own little Minnie, who loved Emily but kept crying and asking whether she was bad? Mr. Joram must have heard his wife’s distress, because he came to look after her. That prompted David to continue on his way, but the scene did nothing for his already low spirits.

David gets a visit from an upset Miss Mowcher—Peggotty was spending the night at the boathouse, so the only person at Barkis’s was a temporary housekeeper, whom David gave the night off. As he sat in the kitchen musing about his recent experiences, he heard a knock on the lower part of the door. On opening it, he found a huge umbrella with Miss Mowcher beneath it. She was wringing her hands, and her expression was so anxious and earnest that David felt sympathetic. He asked her what was wrong, but she handed him the umbrella and hurried into the kitchen, where he found her sitting by the fireplace, rocking herself back and forth in anguish. Again, David asked what was wrong, but she only said that she felt sick over something she could have prevented, had she not been so thoughtless.

Miss Mowcher protests that size has nothing to do with a person’s humanity—David mentioned that he was surprised to see her in such a state, which got Miss Mowcher going about how people misjudged her because she was small. Being small didn’t mean that she had no feelings. Besides, what part did she have in her own creation? Her whole family was like this, and she had to make do with what she had. She was proud that she had been able to make her way in the world without having to depend on anyone.

Miss Mowcher reveals Steerforth and Littimer’s manipulative ploy—She then changed the subject. She had seen David in the street and tried to catch up with him but couldn’t. She had also been to Barkis’s earlier, but Peggotty wasn’t at home. She had learned of Peggotty and the other events in town at Omer’s, from her visit early this morning. She then asked David whether he remembered their conversation about Emily, whom she called “that unfortunate girl.” Again, she rocked back and forth in her distress, cursing Steerforth and saying that she had mistaken David as being the one with strong feelings for Emily.

Miss Mowcher unwittingly becomes a pawn in Steerforth’s scheme—Gradually, the story unfolded about how Emily had been convinced to go with Steerforth. Steerforth knew exactly how to manipulate David to get him to blush and react in other ways that would convince Miss Mowcher that he was in love with Emily. Littimer then lied to her about David and Emily having mutual feelings for each other, and he told her that Steerforth was determined to make sure that no one, especially David, would be hurt by it. Having seen David’s reactions, it all made sense to her, so when they asked her to give Emily a letter, Miss Mowcher had no idea that she was a pawn in a manipulative scheme. Two nights ago, when she was making her rounds in Norwich, she learned about their secret movements in the area. Sensing something was wrong, she took the night coach from London, but by the time she arrived in the morning, it was too late.

Miss Mowcher gives David advice and pledges her help—Miss Mowcher tried to warm her cold feet in the fireplace ashes, and they both sat staring at the hearth in silence. Finally, she announced that she needed to leave, and looking pointedly at David, she asked him whether he trusted her. She saw right through his hesitation. If she were a full-grown woman, he would have believed in her more easily. David knew it was true and felt ashamed. Forgiving him because of his youth, Miss Mowcher then delivered one of the most profound lines in the book. It is especially interesting because Dickens likes to equate internal states with external appearances, whether of people, the landscape, the weather, or some combination. But occasionally he makes his most unlikely characters (according to that way of thinking) the mouthpieces for deeper wisdom, as he does now with Miss Mowcher. Calling herself a “three foot nothing,” she advised David to avoid linking physical defects with mental deficiency, unless he had a good reason for doing so. David felt his mistrust melt away and told her so, which she appreciated. As she was leaving, she turned to tell him that she had heard that Steerforth and Emily had gone overseas and that if she learned anything else, she would tell him. If she could do anything to help Emily, who had been betrayed, she would—and Littimer had better watch out! Miss Mowcher trundled down the street, occasionally struggling with her umbrella and losing control, so that David had to rescue her several times, after which he went home and to bed.

Saying goodbye at the coach station—Early the next morning, David, Peggotty, and her brother met Ham and Mrs. Gummidge at the stagecoach station. Concerned about his uncle, Ham drew David aside. His uncle’s life had been turned upside down, and now he was going on a long voyage, one that might take his whole lifetime. Would David be a loyal friend to him? David assured him he would. Ham also wanted him to give his uncle a message. Now that Ham had lost his love, he had more than enough money and no one to spend it on, so he wanted his uncle to know that if he ever needed money, it would be there for him. David gently told Ham that he hoped he wouldn’t always be alone, but Ham insisted that he had put all that behind him—what he had lost could not be replaced. David also reminded him that his uncle had his own modest income. They then bid each other farewell. But Ham’s strong and humble character, combined with his grief, made a deep impression on David. Mrs. Gummidge, too, showed her affection on parting. She ran alongside the coach, fending off her tears, bumping into people, even losing a shoe, and finally needing to sit to catch her breath.

Once in London, David and the Peggottys quickly found the Peggottys a clean place to stay over a chandler’s shop[i] near David’s apartment, and afterwards David invited them up for tea at his place. This did not sit well with Mrs. Crupp, especially since Peggotty immediately began dusting David’s room.

Mr. Peggotty visits Mrs. Steerforth—One of Mr. Peggotty’s goals in going to London was to confront Mrs. Steerforth. He had told this to David, so to soften the blow for Mrs. Steerforth, David sent her a letter saying what had happened and describing Mr. Peggotty’s humble but good and kind character. He hoped that she would be amenable to seeing him and gave two in the afternoon as the time of their arrival.

At two, they were greeted by the pleasant parlor maid—Littimer’s whereabouts being unknown—who escorted them into the drawing room. There they found Mrs. Steerforth already seated, with Miss Dartle standing behind her. Looking at Mrs. Steerforth’s face, it occurred to David that she must have already heard the news from her son. He did not think that his letter by itself could have caused the paleness and depth of feeling he now saw.

Mrs. Steerforth and Mr. Peggotty confront each other—Mrs. Steerforth and Mr. Peggotty looked at each other silently, each with an equally fixed gaze. Mrs. Steerforth appeared proud, elegant, firm, and detached. When she invited Mr. Peggotty to sit, he declined, saying that it would be uncomfortable for him. After another silence, Mrs. Steerforth said she knew why he was there, she was deeply sorry, and she asked what he would now like of her. Mr. Peggotty took out Emily’s letter and handed it to her, explaining that it was written by his niece.

Mrs. Steerforth refuses to allow a marriage between Emily and her son—After reading the letter, Mrs. Steerforth handed it back with no change of expression. Mr. Peggotty emphasized the part about returning as a lady or not at all. Would her son keep his word? No, came the abrupt answer. Her son could not possibly marry someone of such an inferior status. Even with all else being equal, Emily’s relations were in a class that was way beneath them. Mrs. Steerforth had not wanted to speak so bluntly, but Mr. Peggotty’s questions left her no choice.

Mr. Peggotty expresses his desire to prevent Emily from being disgraced—Now it was his turn to speak, and he did so with great feeling. He knew that they could both relate to loving their children. But Mrs. Steerforth had never lost a child, and now he had. Nothing could ever replace Emily, who was so loved by her family. All he wanted was to prevent her disgrace, and they would be content to think of her from far away.

Mrs. Steerforth mentions “compensation”—David thought he detected a slight softening in Mrs. Steerforth’s response. She did not make excuses, but she could not approve of such a marriage, which would ruin her son’s career chances. Was there any other way to make up for it?

Mr. Peggotty loses his temper at the suggestion of money—Her mistake was that she used the word “compensation,” which sent Mr. Peggotty into a tirade Comparing her own face with her son’s, he spoke of how her son’s smiling treachery graced his home, his boat, and many other places, and that he grew furious just thinking about it. And now a lady’s version of that face was offering him money at his own child’s expense, making him wish that it would burn.

Mrs. Steerforth’s anger flares as she talks about her son’s betrayal in return for her devotion—Mrs. Steerforth could no longer control herself, and her anger flared as she asked Mr. Peggotty how he could make it up to her for the separation between her and her son. How, after all, could Mr. Peggotty’s love compare to hers? She had been entirely devoted to her son since his birth, and now he had deceived and deserted her for a “miserable girl.” She could not understand how he could abandon her, when he owed her a love and respect that should be second to none.

By now, Rosa had tried twice to calm her, but it was no use. Mrs. Steerforth’s ranting was more against her son for his desertion of her than against anything else. She felt that he owed her, but instead, he ran off, using what she had provided him. As for Emily, she had become a symbol of separation from her son rather than a person in her own right. Emily, instead of Steerforth’s mother, was the object of his misplaced affection, and if Steerforth didn’t get rid of her and beg his mother for forgiveness, she would never see him again. Mrs. Steerforth was unable to see the tyranny she had created. All she could see was the harm that had been done to her.

The meeting ends in a stalemate—David realized, watching her, that she and her son did indeed have the same underlying willfulness. Collecting herself again, Mrs. Steerforth asked to end the meeting. Mr. Peggotty assured her that he would not trouble her again. He had done what he could, but he could see that there was no point in trying any further.

Miss Dartle reveals the full extent of her contempt—On their way out, they were met by Rosa Dartle, who had hurried after them. Her manner was filled with contempt as she asked David why he had brought “this fellow” to their home. Why was he causing unnecessary division? As she spoke, her rage increased, and her whole appearance became disfigured. In her view, Steerforth was deceitful and corrupt, but she had no sympathy for the sufferings of Emily and her common family. If it were up to her, she would destroy all them in whatever way possible, and she would do it personally. David tried to convince her to be reasonable and compassionate, but he finally had to rebuke her contempt and lack of humanity and leave her in her outraged state.

Mr. Peggotty sets out on his journey—Mr. Peggotty had left before Miss Dartle finished her tirade, and he had an earnest expression when David caught up with him. His goals in London being fulfilled, he was resolved to leave tonight to search the world for Emily. The two of them and Peggotty had dinner together—beefsteak pie, one of Peggotty’s specialties—and afterwards, they all sat together for a while. Mr. Peggotty then got his things, Peggotty gave him enough money for the month, and he blessed them both and said goodbye, promising to keep in touch. He was going out into the world to find his darling child and bring her to where she would be safe and loved. If anything happened to him, they were to tell her that he still loved her as always and that he forgave her. Having said these words, Mr. Peggotty headed down the road and disappeared into the red light of the setting sun.

[i] Typically, a shop for candles, wax, and soap, but the Victorian “chandler’s shop” had a broader definition that included grocer and goods dealer. Peggotty’s apartment was above the chandler’s shop.



David is still madly in love with Dora—Whatever else was going on in David’s life, he was still madly in love with Dora. To him, she was more than human—she was an ethereal being of light who elevated his sense of life and comforted him in times of distress. The love that he felt for her was so overwhelming that it colored everything he did and thought, and his first act on returning from Yarmouth was to walk around the Spenlows’ home in Norwood. There, inspired by his love and the moonlight, he climbed the fence to blow kisses at the windows. He even told Peggotty, who was now spending more time with him. Peggotty could not understand his insecurities. In her view, both Dora and her father should be happy to have David as Dora’s suitor, although David himself was not so confident.

David grows tired of the dried-up atmosphere at the Doctors’ Commons—Mr. Spenlow, too, had taken on an aura of light that did not apply to any of the other lawyers, whom David now loathed. He knew that none of them would be moved, as he was, by Dora’s slightest act. They seemed dull and dried up, and the bar and bench themselves, being devoid of poetry and romance, had grown tedious.

David and Peggotty go sightseeing on their way to taking care of legal business—David had taken on the responsibility for dealing with Peggotty’s legal and financial arrangements, and they now mixed business with pleasure as they did some sightseeing in the area, taking in the waxworks in Fleet Street, a needlework exhibit, the Tower of London, and the view from St. Paul’s Cathedral, which Peggotty thought inferior to the picture of the same view on her workbox.

Mr. Murdstone applies for a new marriage license—When they got to the Doctors’ Commons to settle Peggotty’s bill, David and Peggotty discovered that Mr. Spenlow was out swearing in a client for a marriage license. When Mr. Spenlow returned, their attention immediately went to the gentleman accompanying him. It was Mr. Murdstone, looking much as he always had, with his thick, dark hair and his evil glance.

Mr. Murdstone addresses David discreetly—Mr. Spenlow was aware that they knew each other, but he had no idea what had gone on between them. Seeing both David and Peggotty was not a comfortable experience for Mr. Murdstone, but he handled it by approaching them and carrying on a discreet, private conversation over to one side of the outer office. The conversation was tense and direct, and the best thing that could be said about it was that it was restrained, with both sides readily acknowledging the unhappy nature of their relationship. Peggotty was having a hard containing her anger, which kept David occupied enough that it took his mind off his own challenges with the same issue.

Mr. Murdstone repeats his old tricks; Peggotty settles her legal bill—Mr. Murdstone left after receiving his marriage license from Mr. Spenlow, and David and Peggotty now waited for Mr. Tiffey, the elderly clerk, to return with Peggotty’s bill. Mr. Spenlow had joined them in the meantime, and now he commented casually on Mr. Murdstone’s upcoming marriage. The bride-to-be was apparently wealthy, beautiful, and young. In fact, it seemed they had been waiting for her to reach adult age. Hearing that, Peggotty burst out, “Lord, deliver her!” Luckily, Tiffey soon returned with the bill, which distracted everyone from the discomfort caused by her outburst. The bill was paid (it could not be lowered due to Jorkins’s regrettable influence), after which Peggotty left to go to her apartment.

David expresses some of his reformist ideas—David and Mr. Spenlow then went to hear a questionable marriage annulment case that succeeded in spite of its inherent lack of justice. Mr. Spenlow’s reply when David mentioned his doubts was that the entire system contained both good and bad, which he apparently considered both acceptable and beyond change. It was simply the way of the world. David refrained from suggesting that the world could stand some reforming, but he did mention that the Commons might be a good candidate. Mr. Spenlow was quick to inform him that that was not the thinking of a gentleman, but he still expressed an interest in what David meant specifically. Since they happened to be walking by the Prerogative Office, David decided to use it as an example of a poorly run institution. The Prerogative Office’s Registry housed all of Canterbury’s wills from the last three centuries in an unsafe building, with no organization to speak of. The building wasn’t even fireproof. The whole way they handled their business was casual at best, and David thought they would do well to donate a fraction of their large salaries to better ensure the safety of the legal documents they were storing. Furthermore, while some people held comfortable, well-paid positions, others slogged away doing important work in dark places with little reward or recognition.

Mr. Spenlow’s preference for the status quo—Although Mr. Spenlow admired David’s passion, he believed that the gentleman’s role was to go along with the present order of things. He argued that whether something worked or not was a matter of perception, and if the public felt that all was well, why rock the boat? Perfection was not to be expected of anything, and besides, the Prerogative Office would last a good long while yet. And so it did, in spite of a report documenting the same complaints David had made.

David is invited to Dora’s birthday party—This conversation eventually led into broader topics and ultimately resulted in an invitation to Dora’s birthday party a week from then. The next day, David was presented with a lacy invitation indicating a special mention by Dora’s father, and his reaction was to turn into a loveswept fool for the week. This was at least how he viewed it later in his life. But that week he went all out with his preparations. He bought a new tie that later made him blush, and he wore painfully tight boots. He also rented a horse and bought a bouquet of fresh flowers and a picnic basket, complete with crackers with sweet sayings.

Dora happily receives David and his flowers; Jip still growls at him—On the morning of the party, David rode out to the Spenlow house, where he found Dora (after pretending not to see her the first time) in the garden under a lilac tree. Dora looked lovely in her white bonnet and blue dress, and David was elated as she admired his flowers, showing them to Jip as well, who was still in the habit of growling at David and now his flowers, too.

Miss Julia Mills, Dora’s friend and confidante—Dora was accompanied by a close friend named Miss Julia Mills, whom David estimated to be around twenty—slightly older than Dora herself. Miss Mills had evidently gone through some difficult love experience that resulted in a habitual state of emotional remove. Even so, she had an understanding, benign quality that would prove comforting and helpful to David.

Dora is pleased that Miss Murdstone is on vacation—Dora informed David that they were fortunate to have Miss Murdstone gone for the time being. She would be attending Mr. Murdstone’s wedding for the next several weeks, which suited Dora just fine, since she disliked her intensely.

The ride to the party—Mr. Spenlow soon came outside, and they all joined him by the open-air carriage. Dora, her father, and Miss Mills rode in the carriage, while David rode behind them on his horse. For David, it was an unforgettable ride, with Dora turned toward him, her flowers on one side and Jip on the other. David remembered riding his horse through the dust behind the carriage, despite Mr. Spenlow’s admonitions. They made no difference. For David, there was nothing but Dora.

The birthday picnic and David’s jealous state—Eventually, they came to a green hill, with trees and heather and a view of the natural surroundings. David was dismayed to see more people there, and his possessive feelings toward Dora quickly turned to jealousy and intense rivalry, especially toward one young man whom he nicknamed Red Whisker. Still, he pretended to have a good time and tried to distract himself by flirting with a young girl in pink, but the whole time his mind was on Dora.

Miss Mills facilitates a budding love affair—As the picnic lunch started to break up, David went off by himself. Passionately unhappy, he was debating whether to ride off when Dora and Miss Mills approached. In her perceptive way, Miss Mills noticed that both David and Dora were “dull.” They each protested in turn, but Miss Mills saw right through their protests and advised them (in poetic language) to not allow a small misinterpretation to interfere with a blossoming love. His passion released by her speech, David kissed Dora’s and Miss Mills’s hands, and after that, his feeling was that they were all in heaven for the rest of the evening. At first, David and Dora walked together by themselves but then joined the others when they heard Dora’s name being called. They wanted her to sing, and she appointed David to fetch and unpack her guitar. To David, this was a great coup over Red Whisker, who had offered to do so; and though there were others listening and clapping, too, David felt that her singing was entirely directed at him and no one else.

A dream come true—All this happiness seemed like a dream, and David was afraid it would suddenly disappear. But there was more singing by both Dora and Miss Mills, followed by tea, and then the party dissipated. That made David even happier, especially when Mr. Spenlow fell asleep in the carriage, because it meant that he had Dora more to himself as he rode along next to them.

Miss Mills invites David to visit Dora and herself at her home—But David also had a friend and ally in Miss Mills, who beckoned him to speak with her a moment. She quietly informed him that Dora would be staying with her in a day or so, and she was sure her father would welcome him if he wanted to call on them. David, of course, was ecstatic and deeply grateful, and Miss Mills, having done her part to sustain love in the world, urged him to go back to Dora.

The love potion lasts all the way home—When they arrived in Norwood (which was too soon), Mr. Spenlow, who had just woken up, invited David in for a rest and a snack. David describes how completely enraptured he was on seeing Dora in the light. But having had their sandwiches and wine, and seeing that Mr. Spenlow had fallen asleep again, David realized that it was time to leave. Still in ecstasy on his ride home, he constantly replayed every scene in his mind until finally arriving home to his bed.

David drums up the courage to visit Dora at Miss Mills’s home—The next morning, David knew he had to take his chances in proclaiming his love to Dora. For three days, he agonized over a variety of potential negative scenarios, until he finally got the courage to visit Miss Mills’s house. Once there, he stalled again, but finally knocked on the door. Miss Mills answered and led him upstairs. Her father was not home, which none of them minded, but she was pleased that David had come. She and Dora had been involved in different artistic pursuits. David was thrilled to recognize the flowers Dora was painting as the ones he had bought, and he noticed that Miss Mills was copying a song titled “Affection’s Dirge,” in keeping with her general mental state. Now that he had arrived, though, she left them by themselves.

The moment of truth—David knew that the moment of truth had come, but he was still vacillating inwardly. After some polite conversation about how his horse had weathered the journey the other night, David finally blurted out that the journey might have been long for the horse because it did not have Dora’s love to sustain its happiness. Dora hesitated for a moment and then, referring to David’s flirtation with the girl in pink, expressed her doubt as to his sincerity. She went on a bit like this and had just called Jip over, when David suddenly took her in his arms and proclaimed his passionate, undying love, while Dora cried and Jip barked. After all the commotion settled, there was peace again, with all three of them sitting on the sofa and David and Dora engaged. They agreed to keep their love a secret for now, but Dora insisted that they would need her father’s approval to get married.

Walking on air—From that time on, David felt as if he was walking on air. He had fond memories of meeting with Dora, of buying her a ring, of their first fight and near break-up just a week later, and of Miss Mills coming to the rescue after David implored her to help them. Looking back, it all seemed like youthful foolishness, but he remembered it as one of the happiest times of his life.

A Shocking Surprise From David’s Aunt


David writes to Agnes about recent events—David immediately wrote to Agnes on being engaged to Dora. This was not like the foolish infatuations of his younger years, and he was certain that there had never been another relationship quite like it. Yet as he sat by his open window and thought of Agnes, a feeling of calm trust, of home, came over him. He did not mention Steerforth in his letter, but he did speak of Emily’s disappearance and the double wound created by the way it had happened, figuring that Agnes would be quick—as she always was—to guess what lay behind that statement.

Peggotty takes care of David, and Mrs. Crupp takes advantage—Peggotty was now a frequent visitor and David’s self-appointed caretaker. This did not sit well with Mrs. Crupp, who resented and mistrusted Peggotty and attempted to sabotage her by placing things in her way on the stairs. However, Mrs. Crupp’s resentment did not prevent her from using Peggotty’s presence for her own convenience. She informed David in writing that until Peggotty left, she would relinquish her duties toward David while still insisting on prompt payment. Being afraid of Mrs. Crupp, David went along with it.

Traddles praises Sophy, his fiancée—During David’s absence, Traddles had stopped by several times but had found Peggotty instead, and since Peggotty loved to talk about David, Traddles had gotten an earful on the subject. This time, however, he made an appointment, and now he appeared at the apartment on time in spite of all the obstacles lining the stairway. After the usual greetings, David was caught off guard at first when Traddles mentioned “Miss D.,” but Traddles’s sensitivity enabled David to quickly recover, and they compared notes on their love relationships. To Traddles, Sophy, his fiancée, was the dearest girl on earth. She took care of her invalid mother and the nine other children, including an invalid sister and young boy, whom she educated. All that responsibility made it hard for her to leave Devonshire. Consequently, they couldn’t see each other too often, but Traddles makes it clear throughout the novel that Sophy is worth the sacrifice.

Traddles helps the Micawbers and has his property seized as a result—There was also news of the Micawbers. Mr. Micawber had since gone undercover. He had changed his name to Mortimer, went out only at night, and had taken to wearing glasses. Traddles, who was no longer living with the Micawbers, had again loaned his name to the Micawbers’ bill, spoken of earlier in the story, to prevent seizure of their property as payment for rent. This elicited a “Hum” from David. Though Traddles was happy to help out, he realized that the beneficial result of allaying the Micawbers’ fears and forestalling the seizure of their property was short-lived. Less than a week later, another writ of execution was issued, and Traddles’s property—the small marble table and the flowerpot he had bought for himself and Sophy—were also seized and then priced so high that he couldn’t buy them back. He recently noticed, though, that the pawn shop had finally lowered its prices, and he was wondering if Peggotty could take his money and buy them for him, since he feared the pawnbroker would raise the prices on seeing him. David agreed to this as long as Traddles promised to no longer lend his name to the Micawbers’ bills. Traddles had already made that promise to himself because he felt that he had been unfair to Sophy, but he happily confirmed his resolve to David.

Peggotty buys back Traddles’s wedding furniture at a good price—The two of them set off to the chandlers’ shop[i] to retrieve Peggotty, who was happy to oblige and who, with Traddles out of sight, managed to strike a good bargain for the items and their delivery to his place that evening. Traddles, however, wanted to carry the flowerpot home in his arms and, Peggotty being happy to get it for him, he walked home in a state of pure delight.

Peggotty and David take a long time getting home as Peggotty window shops—Peggotty and David then returned to his apartment and took a long time getting there, even though it was close, because Peggotty was so fascinated by the shops. David found this amusing, and since he loved his old nurse, he stopped as often as she wanted to.

Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick have moved into David’s apartment—On arriving home, they were surprised to see that the pitchers and other obstacles Mrs. Crupp had placed on the stairs were gone and that there were new footprints. The apartment door was also open, and they could hear people talking. On entering, David was surprised to see Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick, surrounded by a load of luggage. Mr. Dick also had his kite, and Aunt Betsey had her birds and her cat and was sipping tea. Mrs. Crupp was there, too, making tea and waiting on them.

Aunt Betsey sizes up Mrs. Crupp—David was delighted to see them, though Peggotty was still afraid of Aunt Betsey, who even now refused to call her by that name, though she found “Barkis” acceptable. Seeing that Miss Betsey was making an effort to be friendly in her blunt, imperious way, Peggotty relaxed a little. David tried to make his aunt more comfortable by offering her the sofa or an armchair, but she preferred to sit on her box in order to guard her property. It was obvious by the way she looked at Mrs. Crupp at that moment that she didn’t trust her, and she informed Mrs. Crupp that they wouldn’t be needing her anymore. Meanwhile, Mrs. Crupp, who had been acting especially obliging, though in a phony way, was making every offer possible to serve Aunt Betsey with tea or a fresh egg or whatever, but Aunt Betsey steadfastly declined her offers. Once Mrs. Crupp left the room, Aunt Betsey pinned her as being a “wealth-worshipper” and asked Peggotty (now “Barkis”) to get her another cup of tea.

David knows something is wrong but decides to let Aunt Betsey speak in her own time—Knowing his aunt, David began to wonder what was behind their sudden appearance. He hadn’t yet told her about Dora and wondered if it was related. But he knew his aunt would speak when she was ready, so he acted as casual as he could. The whole time, Mr. Dick, who was standing behind Aunt Betsey, kept gesturing that something was wrong, pointing at David’s aunt and shaking his head.

Aunt Betsey explains that she is financially ruined and discusses what’s being done—Finally, having finished her tea, Aunt Betsey spoke. First, she wanted to know if David (“Trot”) had become self-reliant. David believed he had. Peggotty must have made a move to leave the room, because Miss Betsey quickly informed her there was no need. It turned out that Aunt Betsey was financially ruined. Everything she owned was in that room, which was why she was sitting on her box. The exception was the cottage in Dover, which Janet would now put up for rent. Outside of finding Mr. Dick a place to stay, they would discuss the details the next day. Aunt Betsey herself would be content to sleep on whatever could be made up for her in David’s apartment.

Aunt Betsey is determined to turn things around—David was in total shock. For a moment, his aunt broke down and cried on his shoulder, more for him than for herself. But then she quickly recovered, and true to her character, she announced that they must rise above misfortune and meet it head on!

[i] Typically, a shop for candles, wax, and soap, but the Victorian “chandler’s shop” had a broader definition that included grocer and goods dealer. Peggotty’s apartment was above the chandler’s shop.



David brings Mr. Dick to his new apartment—Once David recovered, he brought Mr. Dick over to the apartment above the chandler’s shop in Hungerford Market, where he would take over the room Mr. Peggotty had stayed in before going on his journey. Mr. Dick was pleased with his surroundings in spite of Mrs. Crupp’s protests that the apartment wasn’t big enough to “swing a cat” in. Mr. Dick, however, later earnestly confided to David that he had no interest in swinging a cat.

Mr. Dick is concerned about Aunt Betsey’s financial well-being—Mr. Dick had little understanding of Aunt Betsey’s recent plight or its causes. He had placed his full confidence in Miss Betsey’s wisdom and David’s intelligence, and he was so dismayed to hear from David of the full implications of the term “ruin” that David had to take great pains to cheer him up. Concerned, Mr. Dick asked how they could help, but David suggested that for now the best thing they could do was to act as cheerful as possible. This, however, was hard for Mr. Dick, and later at dinner, he couldn’t refrain from looking at Miss Betsey with great concern. David also noticed him stuffing bits of bread and cheese in his pockets, as if to guard them all against the day of starvation.

Aunt Betsey adjusts to her new situation—Aunt Betsey herself was calm and collected, which impressed David a great deal. They arranged for her to sleep in David’s bed, while he would make his own bed in the sitting room, where he could guard her. Since it was getting late, Peggotty and Mr. Dick left for the chandler’s shop, while David went out to fetch some ale for his aunt, who had decided to substitute it for the wine she usually had for her nighttime ritual. That way they could save the wine for medicinal uses.

By the time David returned she was dressed and ready for her nighttime snack and ritual. David dutifully made her snack, and on tasting the ale, she proclaimed it better than wine. David had his doubts, but she seemed to be genuinely enjoying it. Whether she was or not, it was clear that she was determined to take her current situation in stride.

Peggotty’s generosity wins Aunt Betsey over—Aunt Betsey next changed the subject to Peggotty, or rather, “Barkis,” since “Peggotty” was unacceptable to her. She had had a chance to talk with her while David took Mr. Dick to his new room, and aside from her name, Aunt Betsey now saw many good points in “Barkis.” On first meeting her all those years ago, she had found her “ridiculous,” and still did, but she related with tears of pleasure how Peggotty had begged to give them some of her own money, since she was convinced that she had too much.

Aunt Betsey advises David to cultivate earnestness so that he can improve himself—They also talked about Emily and Dora. She could not understand why girls like Emily did what they did. As for Dora, Aunt Betsey did understand the nature of young love, but was Dora at all serious, or was she just lightheaded? The question had never occurred to David, and though he knew his aunt meant well, he was a bit offended. When he protested that their love was one of a kind, his aunt smiled and uttered the phrase “blind, blind, blind.” Still, for all his aunt’s directness, her manner was so kind that David was moved. His affection, adaptability, and earnestness reminded her of David’s mother, but of all those qualities, she felt he should cultivate his earnestness above all. Young love was blind, and though it might develop into something, earnestness was reliable and would help him to improve both his life and himself. David was discouraged by these statements, but he was glad to be open with his aunt, and he knew that she had his best interests at heart. He therefore thanked her deeply, and she went off to bed.

David and Aunt Betsey both have trouble sleeping—David spent an unhappy night thinking about the change in his fortune and how it might affect his prospects with Dora. He could no longer present himself with the same style or bring her presents, and he felt it would only be right to tell her the facts of his situation. He felt selfish thinking mostly about his own issues, but he could not help himself. His dreams, too, were of poverty-stricken conditions, and though they came in different and surprising shapes and sizes, they seemed to come in a state of half waking. Aunt Betsey was also having a hard time sleeping. Several times she got up and came into the sitting room, which frightened David the first time. At times, he would hear her muttering, and it became apparent that she was thinking mostly of him, which made him feel even worse because of his own self-centeredness.

David gets the idea to cancel his apprenticeship and get a refund—At last, the morning came, and David decided to slip out as quietly as possible and take a dip in the cold waters of the nearby Roman bath. He hoped to clear his head between that and a walk, and the treatment worked. The idea came to him to cancel his apprenticeship and retrieve the payment. He arrived early at the Doctors’ Commons, and as soon as he saw Mr. Spenlow, he asked to speak to him. While Mr. Spenlow was putting on his robes, David posed the fateful question about quitting his apprenticeship, but Mr. Spenlow was astonished to hear it and did not recommend it as a desirable professional course of action.

Dealing with Mr. Jorkins—Of course, there was also the matter of Mr. Jorkins, who always stood in the way of any financial adjustments that did not favor the Doctors’ Commons. David had already changed his request to only a partial refund when he saw the blank look on Mr. Spenlow’s face, but he was not about to be completely dissuaded. He would brave Mr. Jorkins alone, if necessary, and he now offered to speak with him by himself. Mr. Spenlow agreed, and when Mr. Jorkins arrived—which was always late—David went up to his office to see him.

On the surface, Mr. Jorkins was milder-looking than David supposed he would be, but when it came to a refund, there was no budging. Furthermore, he had another meeting at the bank and was in a hurry. Their meeting ended abruptly, and David returned to see Mr. Spenlow, who assured him there would be no negotiating.

David happens to meet Agnes, who is on her way to see Aunt Betsey—Dejected, David was on his way home from the Doctors’ Commons, when he was stopped by a coach and the sight of a lovely hand stretched out in greeting. It was Agnes, on her way to meet his aunt. David was overjoyed to see her and felt that the meeting could not have been better timed.

Agnes tells David that the Heeps have moved into the Wickfields’ home—Aunt Betsey and Agnes had liked each other since Agnes’s and David’s childhood, and Agnes now told him that Aunt Betsey had written a short note to her about the change in fortune. Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep, who in the meantime had become partners, were also in London on business. In fact, that had been part of Agnes’s motive in coming. She did not trust Uriah with her father and wanted to keep an eye on the situation. Back in Canterbury, things had changed. Uriah and his mother had moved into the Wickfield home, where Uriah had taken over David’s bedroom. Agnes still had her own room from before and was gratified to learn that thinking of it brought back happy memories for David, too. But now that Mrs. Heep was there, Agnes felt that she had to spend time with her, even though she often preferred not to. Mrs. Heep loved to sing Uriah’s praises, which Agnes understood, since he was good to his mother.

Agnes places her faith in the law of truth and love—David looked for some hint in her face indicating that she had an inkling of Uriah’s plan to marry her, but he saw nothing—only the usual innocence and goodness. Agnes continued to say that the worst of it was Uriah’s constant monopoly of her father’s time and presence, which interfered with her own ability to watch over him for his benefit. She hoped, though, that truth and love would triumph over evil in the end. Agnes asked whether David knew the reasons behind Aunt Betsey’s reversal of fortune, but he didn’t. He noticed, though, that Agnes looked more serious than usual, and he thought he felt her arm shake slightly.

David tells of his attempt to get back his apprenticeship money; Aunt Betsey explains the cause of her misfortune–On arriving at the apartment, they found that Peggotty and Mr. Dick had gone sightseeing, while Aunt Betsey was in an uproar over an argument she had had with Mrs. Crupp. Fortunately, Aunt Betsey was calmer now, and she welcomed Agnes in good spirits. Once they settled in, David told them about his attempt to quit his apprenticeship and retrieve the payment. Aunt Betsey praised his generosity but did not consider it a wise move. She then unveiled the cause of her misfortune, explaining that she had ceased to use her former business advisor, Mr. Wickfield, because she felt his judgment in business matters was no longer adequate. Instead, she struck out on her own and made various foreign investments that all ended up plummeting, so that she was now left with nothing but the cottage.

Aunt Betsey asks for advice on what to do but also advises David to keep his apprenticeship—In spite of all this, Aunt Betsey seemed in good spirits and determined to recover. Agnes looked pale during Aunt Betsey’s speech, and though she looked better now, she asked whether that was the whole story. Aunt Betsey answered that she hoped it was sufficient, but now she posed the question to both Agnes and David about what they should do to mend the situation. Renting the cottage would bring in seventy pounds a year, and although Mr. Dick received a hundred pounds, she was not about to use his money. David was determined to help, and now he said as much. His aunt was equally vehement, though, that he should not go off to become a soldier or seaman but should keep studying to be a proctor.

Agnes suggests that David get a part-time job with Dr. Strong—Agnes asked whether the lease on the apartment was a long-term one. Aunt Betsey praised her for getting to the point and replied that they had at least another six months there unless they sublet it. Agnes then suggested to David that Dr. Strong had retired, moved to London, and was looking for a secretary. She thought they might be a good fit because of their past relationship and the fact that David’s schedule matched the Doctor’s work habits.

David is grateful for Agnes’s effortless wisdom and ability—Once again, David was immensely grateful to have Agnes in his life. She had the ability to make order out of chaos and to bring wisdom and knowledge to any situation and. And she did it all quietly and effortlessly. David immediately wrote the Doctor a letter and left to mail it, and between then and his return, Agnes had hung up the birdcage, placed Aunt Betsey’s green fan in the window, and rearranged David’s books. In the short time that David was gone, she had made the apartment into more of a home—all without fanfare.

Mr. Wickfield arrives with Uriah Heep—A knock at the apartment door revealed Mr. Wickfield, who had promised Agnes he would come. He was accompanied by Uriah Heep, who now seemed to dominate him, much to David’s dismay. Mr. Wickfield, too, was aware of it, and he was clearly disheartened. Uriah was being his usual strange self, with his unnatural smile and twisting movements. Miss Betsey’s face revealed nothing, and her thoughts only became apparent when she spoke in her typical blunt manner. She addressed Mr. Wickfield, informing him of her financial blunders because she had chosen to handle her own affairs, having ceased to trust him. She added that Agnes alone was worth the entire company.

Aunt Betsey is unusually abrupt with Uriah, who says that he only came to help—This inspired Uriah Heep to say that he wished Agnes were a partner in the firm. Aunt Betsey made no attempt to be friendly or welcoming toward Uriah but was instead unusually curt. At one point, he made a comment about Agnes’s beauty that made him writhe so much that Aunt Betsey finally snapped at him to control his movements and act like a man instead of an eel. After that outburst, Uriah turned to David. His purpose in coming there was to say that he and his mother as well as Wickfield and Heep stood ready to help them in their time of need.

Something is not right between Mr. Wickfield and Uriah—Mr. Wickfield agreed with what he said and confirmed that Uriah had been a boon to the business. However, the dullness of Mr. Wickfield’s face and voice told a different story. Agnes asked her father if he would accompany her and David back to where they were staying. David noticed that Mr. Wickfield was about to check with Uriah, when Uriah himself came to the rescue, claiming to have a previous appointment. With Uriah gone, Mr. Wickfield began to relax a bit more as David, Agnes, and he reminisced about their days in Canterbury. He still seemed generally dejected, but David noticed that Agnes’s calm, kind manner had a beneficial influence.

David walks back with the Wickfields and spends the evening with them—David walked back with the Wickfields that evening and had dinner with them, afterwards sitting together with Agnes and her father, while Mr. Wickfield drank his wine—just like the old days in Canterbury. When her father fell asleep on the couch, Agnes gently propped his head with pillows and then joined David by the window. David could see in the half-lit room that she had tears in her eyes.

David realizes that the love between Agnes and him is special—David’s infatuation with Dora did not lessen through his association with Agnes. If anything, it was purified and strengthened. He realized that Agnes was like an angel in his life, fostering the good and discouraging the bad. He knew even then that it was a love that in some ways was unmatched by any other in his life. But David still had a young and foolish side, and as he left the Wickfields, he passed a beggar on the street, who echoed Aunt Betsey’s earlier words: “Blind, blind, blind!”



David is determined to be worthy of his aunt—By the next morning, David’s depression had been replaced by his determination to be worthy of his aunt’s generosity. The hard lessons of his past had given him the capacity for the discipline he now needed to turn his present situation around, with his ultimate goal being Dora. Now, on the walk to Highgate, his pace was quick and resolute, and he had worked himself into such a steam that he arrived a full hour early. On the way, he stopped to look at a cottage for himself, Dora, his aunt, and Jip, and afterwards he felt compelled to go by Steerforth’s house, even though it was across town from the Doctor’s. But seeing Steerforth’s room closed up and Rosa fiercely pacing outside, he regretted having gone there and silently left.

David visits Dr. Strong—The Doctor’s cottage, though old, showed signs of recent repairs and was surrounded with trees and a few rocks, just like his place in Canterbury. When David approached, Doctor Strong was walking outside, dressed as he always was and with the same thoughtful attitude. To catch his attention, David went through the gate and walked toward the Doctor, who received him enthusiastically. He was pleased to see how David had grown into a fine young man, and David asked whether he and Annie were doing well. In those first few moments, David learned that not only were they well but so were Annie’s mother and Jack Maldon, who had returned from India and gotten a comfortable job at the patent office through the Doctor’s generosity.

The Doctor hires David but makes him promise to move on if anything better comes up—Following that, the Doctor broached the subject of David’s employment with him. In his kind, encouraging way, he had placed his hand on David’s shoulder as they walked, and now he asked him whether he didn’t think he could better. His education had been excellent, and he had done exceedingly well. He would be a great boon to Dr. Strong, but the Doctor had his doubts as to whether David should be wasting his energies on a lesser job that only paid seventy pounds a year. David explained that the job would be in addition to his apprenticeship as a proctor and that it would double their current annual income. The kind Doctor still seemed concerned in spite of his intention to add an annual bonus to the base income. He was pleased to have David in his employ, and the small amount he would be paying seemed like an unequal trade to him. He would therefore only take David on the condition that as soon as he could do better, he would move on. David swore on his word, as they had always done at school whenever the Doctor appealed to their honor. That being settled, the Doctor was thrilled that David’s schedule matched his perfectly, and David was thrilled that his task would be to help with the dictionary.

David is happy with the terms of the job—The Doctor warned David that the manuscript was in a bit of disarray, partly because Jack Maldon had done some copying for the Doctor. Aside from being ill-suited to the job, he had doodled all over the manuscript. Apart from that minor challenge, David considered the terms of the job easy. He would work five hours a day, in the mornings and evening, five days a week, with weekends off.

The Doctor and Annie invite David to breakfast; Jack Maldon arrives—Following their discussion, the Doctor invited David to join Annie and him for breakfast. They had specifically waited for David, and once settled at the table, they were soon joined in the house by Jack Maldon, who arrived on horseback. Jack, however, declined to take breakfast (it bored him). Having settled into an armchair, he seemed so indifferent to everything—including any dramatic world news—that David couldn’t help thinking that he hadn’t improved at all.

Jack wants Annie to go to the opera with him; the Doctor encourages her to enjoy herself—

Jack’s intention in visiting that day was to invite Annie to the opera that evening, especially since the singer was worth hearing. The Doctor was enthusiastic and encouraged her to go. He wanted her to enjoy her youth, and besides, how could she sing the songs to him unless she learned them? Annie, who wouldn’t look at Jack, preferred to stay there but was finally convinced by the Doctor to go.

Annie visits Agnes with the Doctor instead of going to the opera—The next day, David discovered that Annie had not gone to the opera after all. Instead, she had persuaded the Doctor to go with her to visit Agnes, and by the Doctor’s account, they had had a lovely walk home. David’s general impression of Annie was that she was not happy, though she seemed to be a good person.

David is happy with his efforts, and he plans to tell Dora of the changes in his life—David was pleased to be busy. His days were long—from five a.m. till nine or ten p.m.—and all his hard work made him feel deserving of a good future with Dora. So far, he hadn’t yet informed her of his new thoughts and plans. He would do that when she came to visit Miss Mills in several days.

David wants to do more and decides to ask Traddles for advice—All this effort didn’t seem like enough to David, so he resolved to go see Traddles for advice. David had already written him to inform him of recent events, and Traddles had responded like the good friend that he was. David also decided to take Mr. Dick with him to keep him occupied, since the news of Aunt Betsey’s financial woes had made it hard for him to concentrate on the Memorial. He also thought Traddles might help with finding Mr. Dick something to do that would increase his sense of usefulness, if only in his own mind.

David decides to learn stenography and become a court reporter to further his career—First, David broached the subject of his own career. It seemed to him that many excellent careers had started out in the job of court reporter, and he was interested in learning the necessary skills. Since Traddles was interested in journalism, he thought he might know something about it. According to Traddles, the most important basic skill for that job was stenography, which he equated to learning six languages. Considering this a minor obstacle, David decided to begin learning it at once. He would teach himself from a book and practice while listening to the court speeches at the Doctors’ Commons. Traddles looked at him wide-eyed, surprised to find him so resolute.

Traddles suggests Mr. Dick try his hand at copying manuscripts—The next issue to resolve was Mr. Dick’s need for some kind of useful occupation. Traddles had heard from David that Mr. Dick had outstanding penmanship, so he suggested he try his hand at copying. David and Mr. Dick explained the issue with Charles I’s head, which kept creeping into Mr. Dick’s work with the Memorial. David and Traddles therefore conferred in private and came up with the idea of using the Memorial as a safeguard. Whenever Charles I would appear, Mr. Dick would switch from whatever he was copying to the Memorial.

Mr. Dick finds his calling and earns money for Miss Betsey—They decided to give it a try. Traddles brought the documents to be copied, and Mr. Dick, under Miss Betsey’s watchful eye, spent his time in David’s apartment copying, being careful to switch to the Memorial whenever Charles I intruded. According to Aunt Betsey, he switched a lot at first, but finding this tiring, he soon focused entirely on the copying and by the end of Saturday had earned ten shillings ninepence. That made him the happiest, proudest man on earth, as he was now convinced that he could save Aunt Betsey from starvation. He even traded in the shillings for sixpence, which he arranged on a tray in the shape of a heart and then presented to Aunt Betsey.

Mr. Micawber finds a job and invites David and Traddles to a farewell celebration before moving—In the excitement of finding Mr. Dick gainful employment, Traddles had almost forgotten about the letter from Mr. Micawber that was stashed in his pocket. The letter, addressed to David, stated in the elaborate way unique to Mr. Micawber that he had procured a job, was moving to a smaller town with his family, and would be pleased to see David and Traddles at his home one last time before going.

David and Traddles learn that Mr. Micawber will be working for Uriah Heep—The invitation was for that night, so Traddles and David headed straight to the Micawbers’. On arriving, they saw that the Micawbers were packed and ready to go, and Mr. Micawber was making punch in a basin usually reserved for face and hand washing. The whole family was there: Master Micawber, who had the restlessness typical of a young teenage boy; Miss Micawber, who was the youthful image of her mother; and the twins, who were now around nine years old. After Mr. Micawber apologized for any inconvenience and Mrs. Micawber once again professed her undying loyalty to Mr. Micawber, it came out that they were moving to Canterbury, where Mr. Micawber would work as a clerk for Uriah Heep.

The Micawbers have irrational expectations but don’t know it—The Micawbers had the notion that from there Mr. Micawber could advance to a position more suited to his abilities, such as a judge or chancellor, but in the meantime this would do as way of providing for themselves and getting out of debt. Traddles gently tried to explain that a position like the ones they had in mind would require a different course of action, not to mention five years of study. He further tried to explain that even then there was no guarantee, but Mrs. Micawber, who saw herself as the wise orchestrator of her husband’s future, chose the most convenient interpretation of Traddles’s information—if not the most accurate. The idea of some exalted legal position obviously appealed to Mr. Micawber, too, though he seemed more focused on meeting their present needs for now.  David then informed them of his aunt’s financial hardship, which seemed to make them feel better about their own condition.

Mr. Micawber presents Traddles with a formal IOU—Since the punch was nearly finished, David proposed a toast, and afterwards, Mr. Micawber made a speech about the coming changes in his life and his satisfaction that things were moving in a positive direction. He also had one final piece of business to do before moving on, and that was to present Traddles with an IOU for the sum of the two bills to which he had signed his name. To him, this was the honorable thing to do, and he presented it to Traddles with such conviction of noble purpose that David and Traddles got the impression that Mr. Micawber almost felt as though he had already paid it.

David is relieved that Mr. Micawber never asked him for money—They parted with warm goodbyes, and having accompanied Traddles to his place, David walked the rest of the way home by himself. It occurred to him that the memories of his boyhood poverty and his knowledge of David’s character must have prevented Mr. Micawber from ever asking him for money. And for this he was grateful, since he knew he did not have the strength to refuse him.

A Little Cold Water


David keeps working hard and plans to tell Dora of all the changes soon—David remained firm in his resolve to be practical and untiring in his efforts to dig himself and his relations out of their dire circumstances. The more he exhausted himself, the more justified he felt in his existence. And throughout all this, the great object of his life was Dora. Dora herself was still unaware of what was going on, although the time to tell her was drawing near, and Miss Mills had arranged for them to meet one Saturday evening as soon as her father left the house.

Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick settle into an acceptable routine–Meanwhile, back at the apartment, life had settled into an acceptable routine. Mr. Dick had happily mastered the art of copying documents, and Aunt Betsey had mastered Mrs. Crupp. The pitchers and such no longer appeared on the stairs without being heaved out the window, and Mrs. Crupp, who thought Aunt Betsey was insane, spent most of her time hiding in the kitchen or behind a door.

Aunt Betsey makes multiple home improvements—Aunt Betsey had fixed up the apartment in so many different ways that they seemed to David to be better off than before. He had his own dressing room where the pantry used to be, and his aunt went out of her way for him, even buying him a new bedstead that she thought would better suit him as a budding proctor.

Peggotty returns to Yarmouth with many loving promises to David—Peggotty had also had a hand in the transformation of David’s apartment, but now it was time for her to return to Yarmouth to help out Ham, and she and Aunt Betsey parted with more affection than either of them ever imagined possible. David took her to the station, where she expressed her trust that he would be a faithful friend to Mr. Peggotty, who still hadn’t communicated with them. She also said to him that if he ever needed money, whether he was a struggling apprentice or a young professional setting things up, she would be pleased if he came to her to lend it to him. And when he was ready to marry his “pretty angel,” whom she wished she could have seen, she would love to make their house beautiful for them. David expressed his enthusiasm for both those ideas, and Peggotty left in a happy state.

David breaks the news to Dora—That evening, David made his way to the Mills’ house and waited for the birdcage to appear in the window—the sign that Mr. Mills had left. He waited a long time, but Mr. Mills finally came out, and Dora herself hung the birdcage up and then came with Jip to greet him at the drawing room door. It was a happy meeting, but David quickly (though unintentionally) ruined it. He was still in his heroic mode and hadn’t prepared Dora at all for the fateful question he suddenly posed about whether she could be happy loving a beggar. Dora didn’t know what to make of this question, since she only associated beggars with invalids and vagabonds. David exclaimed that he was the beggar, but other than being pouty, she could not take him seriously and kept threatening to make Jip bite him if he didn’t stop being so absurd.

David was serious, though, and he kept trying to impress this upon Dora, who kept responding in a childish, petulant way. When she finally realized that he was serious, she became frightened and began to cry and call for Julia, so that David had to do everything he could to calm and console her. Once he had changed her horror back to affection, David told Dora how he loved her and felt he should give her the option to be free of their engagement because of his poverty. Still, he could not bear to lose her, and he waxed eloquent trying to convey to her his newfound mentality of resourcefulness and determination. When he asked her whether she still loved him, she was adamant that she did, but she didn’t want to hear any more about poverty or working hard. And, she informed him, Jip would die if he didn’t get his daily mutton chop on time.

Dora tries her best to understand—Fortunately, David found Dora’s childish ways charming, and he promised that Jip would not be deprived of his mutton chop. He kept trying to paint a positive picture of their future frugal existence, and though she still proclaimed her total love for him and was trying to make the best of it in her mind, it was not at all natural for her to think in terms of frugality, sacrifice, and resourcefulness.

David loses it when Dora has problems adjusting—David decided to try again in spite of Dora’s protests of fear and shock at having to think about practical matters. David wanted her to see the advantage of qualities like endurance and strength, but Dora’s playful nature wouldn’t allow it, and she kept bringing Jip into the picture as a distraction. It worked—for a while. Then David tried again. Wouldn’t she consider learning some useful skills, such as looking after the accounts or housekeeping—or cooking? This was too much for Dora, and she became frantic, which sent David into a tailspin. As he tried to rectify things, he just made them worse, sprinkling water on her face, getting down on his knees, tearing out his hair, confusing things, dropping things, and acting generally insane. Thankfully, Miss Mills came to the rescue.

David and Miss Mills explain the different sides of the situation to each other—In his confusion, David had dropped a box of needles on the floor, and he readily confessed when Miss Mills asked what had happened. She soon understood the situation through Dora’s sympathetic lamenting over her “poor laborer” and through David’s explanation. While Dora went upstairs to freshen up, David mentioned to Miss Mills his attempts to convince Dora of the value of practicality. Miss Mills, however, explained to him that whereas suffering might have a positive effect on some, it would not work to approach a creature of light and joy, like Dora, in that way. David asked Miss Mills whether she would help to guide Dora into a more earnest, practical state of mind. Miss Mills agreed to try, but she did not seem optimistic.

Dora recovers until David mentions having to get up early for work—When Dora came back downstairs, she looked so beautiful that David felt like a monster who had invaded fairyland. The three of them had tea together, and afterwards, Dora sang and played her guitar until David let slip that he had to get up at five in the morning. That dampened her spirits so much that she stopped making music for the rest of the evening. The notion that they needed to work in order to earn a living was completely foreign to her, and she wouldn’t hear of it.

David keeps loving Dora but does not know how to reconcile their needs—Dora’s lack of practicality didn’t stop David from loving her, nor did it stop him from the efforts he was making toward a better future. But sometimes at night, when he and his aunt would sit together, he would remember how scared and shocked Dora looked, and he would vainly try to imagine how to get through life with nothing more than a guitar.

A Partnership Dissolves


David learns stenography with the help of his friends—David was serious about sticking to his intention to study shorthand, and for ten shillings and sixpence he bought himself a book on the art of stenography and studied all the different possibilities of dots and lines and other symbols until they haunted his waking hours and invaded his dreams. It was not an easy study, but he got to a point where he felt ready to test his skills on one of the best speakers at the Doctors’ Commons—except that the speaker walked out on him before he had a chance to do anything. He realized he was aiming too high too soon, so he sought out Traddles, who agreed to play the role of a Parliamentary speaker so that David could hone his skills. Mr. Dick and Aunt Betsey also played along, interjecting “Oh!” and “Hear!” every so often. For several months from then on, each night after working at the Doctor’s, David practiced his stenography while Traddles belted out different Parliamentary speeches from a large book, often until as late as midnight. The only issue left, once David had learned to take notes quickly, was to figure out how to decipher them—and this meant going back and starting from the beginning.

David and Dora’s love relationship is discovered by Miss Murdstone, who tells Dora’s father—All this stenographic effort did not interfere with David’s other work, and he was always on time to both places. One morning, on arriving at the Commons, he was met by Mr. Spenlow, who wore an unusually serious expression. Mr. Spenlow did not even bother saying good morning but immediately directed David to follow him to a nearby coffeehouse. It was obvious to David that something wasn’t right, and it occurred to him that Mr. Spenlow might have uncovered his love relationship with Dora. His suspicion was confirmed when Mr. Spenlow led him to an upper room, where Miss Murdstone was waiting for them. On Mr. Spenlow’s request, she produced a love letter from David to Dora. Miss Murdstone had a handful of other letters as well, and she explained that she had suspected something between them for a long time. She thought that the number of letters coming from Miss Mills was excessive, but she only recently confirmed her suspicions when she was able to pry one of the letters from the dog’s mouth. She said that Dora had begged her not to reveal their secret and had even tried to bribe her.

Mr. Spenlow asks David to burn the letters and forget the relationship—Mr. Spenlow, who had been cold toward David the entire time, was horrified that David would betray his trust, and he urged him to burn the letters and forget the past. They would associate at the Commons from then on, but that would be the extent of it. To him, that seemed the sensible thing to do. David protested that love far outweighed common sense in importance, and without being too obvious, he implied that both he and Dora loved each other beyond the norm, his own love being extreme. Hearing this, Mr. Spenlow resolved to speak to Dora instead, since he felt he was getting nowhere with David. After some silence, David began to quietly leave, when Mr. Spenlow started speaking about his material provision for Dora, assuring David that he had taken care of matters relating to his will. If the foolishness between Dora and David continued, Mr. Spenlow might have to take extra protective measures for his child. He hoped that would not be case and that they could lay the matter to rest.

David protests that his love for Dora is unshakable—Mr. Spenlow seemed at peace after that speech. David assured him that he had no interest in her money, but he could not deny his feelings to himself, nor could he desert Dora. Mr. Spenlow told him to take a week off and to speak to his aunt, but David knew that he would not change his mind, no matter how much time he took or how much worldly advice he acknowledged.

David writes a passionate letter to Mr. Spenlow asking him to be gentle with Dora—David returned to his desk, where he shielded his face from the rest of the men in the office. His thoughts and emotions ran wild in the unexpected misery of the situation. Thinking of Dora and her fragile feelings, he wrote an impassioned letter to Mr. Spenlow, pleading with him to be gentle with her, as though he were some evil monster. Once done, he placed it on Mr. Spenlow’s desk.

Mr. Spenlow tells him not to worry and to forget the whole thing—Mr. Spenlow read David’s letter on returning to his office, and later in the day, he called him in to speak to him. There was no need to be concerned that he would do his fatherly duty for his daughter. He accurately saw himself as indulgent toward her, and all he asked of both David and Miss Murdstone (whom David had mentioned) was that they forget the whole affair.

David meets with Miss Mills, and they determine that he should see Dora—For David, that was no small thing. He wrote a desperate letter to Miss Mills, pleading with her to see him that night, whatever it took. That evening, he went to her house, where he was secretly let in by the maid through the back way. He later realized it probably wasn’t necessary but that Miss Mills enjoyed romantic intrigue. Dora had also written her a note, with the same desperate tone, pleading with her to visit, but Miss Mills considered this unwise for the moment. Instead, she attempted to console David with poetic sentiments about Love’s rainbow spanning the gulf created a by a cruel world, where Love was destined to suffer. David had the impression that Miss Mills’s approach was a bit self-indulgent, and his own letter reminded him of Mr. Micawber’s letters. But his desperation overshadowed everything else, and he and Miss Mills agreed that she should visit Dora in the morning and somehow discreetly convince her of his love and his present wretched condition.

Sudden, unexpected news—Having gone home and spoken with Aunt Betsey, David still felt miserable. The next day he was in the same emotional state, but being Saturday, he headed over to the Doctors’ Commons. On arriving, he noticed that the building looked closed and a small crowd had gathered outside. Inside, things seemed unsettled. The clerks were not at their usual tasks, and Mr. Tiffey announced that a “dreadful calamity” had taken place: Mr. Spenlow was dead. The room seemed to swirl around him as David felt himself swooning. Once the clerks had revived him with some water, Mr. Tiffey explained that Mr. Spenlow had taken the carriage into town to have dinner on his own. Once there, he had dismissed his groom, who went home by coach. This was not uncommon, but later Mr. Spenlow’s carriage arrived at the house stables without him. Aside from the reins being broken, the horses seemed in normal condition. A search party of three was immediately dispatched from the house, and they found him, already dead and lying on his face by the roadside, over a mile away from the house and near the church.

Dora still loves David, but she needs time to herself—The news of Mr. Spenlow’s death put David in a strange frame of mind, where he felt jealous of Death—that it would take over the position he had once held in Dora’s mind. He wanted to be the only one to console her, to be there in her hour of grief. The best he could do, though, was to sneak a letter to her through Miss Mills in his aunt’s name. In it, he let her know that her father had spoken only tender words about her, yet he admitted to himself that his main motive for doing this was the selfish wish to get her attention. The next day he received a reply from Miss Mills through his aunt, to whom the envelope was addressed. Dora was in no state to think of anything but her poor papa, though she did not deny her love for David.

Mr. Spenlow leaves behind a financial mess and no will—In the meantime, Mr. Jorkins had returned from Norwood to the office and, together with Mr. Tiffey, had begun looking for Mr. Spenlow’s will. Now they motioned to David to join them in Mr. Spenlow’s old office to help in the search. The three of them searched all over the office but found no will. When Tiffey and Jorkins suggested that there wasn’t any, David protested that he knew there was one—Mr. Spenlow had said so himself just yesterday. Mr. Jorkins and Mr. Tiffey, who both had years of experience in such matters, informed David that there was no situation in which men were less consistent than with their wills, and Mr. Spenlow’s affirmation that he made provision for it was no guarantee. They were sure there was no will. In fact, Mr. Spenlow’s affairs were not at all what they seemed on the surface. He had not kept his financial affairs in order and had spent beyond his means, which were not significant. In the end, counting the sale of his property and the settlement of his debts, his net worth would be less than a thousand pounds.

Dora goes to live with her aunts—It took roughly six weeks to figure this out, at which time Dora was still in a state of grief and still unable to think of anything but her poor papa. Dora’s only remaining relatives were two spinster aunts who had been distant since her birth, when they were offended because they had been invited to tea instead of dinner at Dora’s christening. These two aunts lived in Putney, a suburb of London about six miles from David’s residence, and they now took Dora as well as Jip and Julia Mills to live with them.

Miss Mills’s journal gives David his only connection to Dora—Somehow David was able to find the time to go to Putney, though he still had no access to Dora. Miss Mills came to the rescue, as always, to the extent that she could. To satisfy his thirst for news from Dora, Miss Mills kept a daily journal of Dora’s moods and movements, and she would meet David on the common[i], where she would either read it to him or let him borrow it. The chapter ends with an example of the types of things Miss Mills would write, usually short snippets depicting how some small thing would cause Dora to burst into tears. The last entry of the week tells of how Jip was lost and then found, causing Dora to dance and then, when Miss Mills dared to mention David’s name, start sobbing again.

As little as this was, it was all David could get of his darling Dora at that time. It left him feeling that his dreams had been dashed to pieces and that nothing but love itself could transport him across the divide that kept him from his beloved.

[i] A probable reference to Putney Common, near Wimbledon.

Wickfield And Heep


David’s aunt sends him to Dover to take care of business and get his mind off Dora—Seeing David’s ongoing depression, his aunt decided to send him to Dover to check on affairs at the cottage and to negotiate and finalize the rental agreement, preferably for a longer lease. As much as he didn’t want to break communication with Miss Mills, he realized it would give him a chance to visit Agnes, which he always found calming and beneficial. All that was needed was the Doctor’s permission, and this was readily granted.

David loses interest in the Doctors’ Commons—David’s wasn’t overly concerned with his apprenticeship at the Commons. Mr. Jorkins was not the hardnosed businessman he was rumored to be, and since Mr. Spenlow’s death, both the Commons’ business and its reputation with the best proctors had gone downhill. Even worse, the Commons itself now joined in the hard selling that had always gone on outside its doors by small-time independent operators, who snapped up the business from likely passersby and then used proctors for the legal work. They focused on certain types—people in mourning, lovelorn gentlemen—and the competition was so fierce that David himself got pulled in a few times on his way to work until the competitors began to recognize him.

All is well in Dover; David walks to Canterbury on a brisk winter’s day—Once in Dover, David was pleased to report to his aunt that all was well at the cottage and that the new tenant had taken over the job of fending off the donkeys. As Aunt Betsey already knew, Janet had since gone to work for Dr. Strong as a help to Annie. So all things being settled in Dover, David made his way by foot to Canterbury in the bracing winter weather, which helped to improve his mood.

Canterbury’s peaceful atmosphere remains unchanged and reminds David of Agnes—It was remarkable to David how little Canterbury had changed and how much its quiet, peaceful atmosphere resembled Agnes’s quiet, calm spirit—as though the two were inseparable. As he walked through the old streets, past the old buildings, he couldn’t help noticing that he, too, had changed little since he last lived there as a boy.

David sees Mr. Micawber on entering the Wickfields’—The first person David met on entering the Wickfield home was Mr. Micawber, who was hard at work in his office in the little room where Uriah used to keep watch. Mr. Micawber offered to take David to see Uriah Heep, but David reminded him that he had lived there before and knew his way around. On asking Mr. Micawber how he liked the law, Mr. Micawber replied that it was a “great pursuit,” even though it didn’t make use of his imagination and required an extraordinary amount of detail.

The Micawbers have moved into the Heeps’ old home; Mr. Micawber is uneasy about Uriah Heep—David then discovered that the Micawbers were living in the Heeps’ “humble” old home (which would do for now) and that Uriah had helped Mr. Micawber with his financial problems, a fact that surprised David. When he asked about Mr. Micawber’s relationship with Uriah Heep and whether Mr. Micawber ever saw Mr. Wickfield, his friend became cagey and checked to see whether the door was closed. According to Mr. Micawber, Mr. Wickfield was obsolete, and as far as the other matter was concerned, he made it abundantly clear that he was not at liberty to speak about anything that went on between him and Uriah Heep.

Mr. Micawber’s intuition—The subject then turned to Agnes, for whom Mr. Micawber had great admiration. He even stated that, had he not known better, he would have thought that David’s favorite letter was A and not D. At that moment, David had a powerful sense of déjà vu, such as he never had before nor since.

David tells Agnes of her calming, settling effect on him—After leaving Mr. Micawber, David made his way upstairs, where he found Agnes writing at her desk in her own little room. He had checked the drawing room before that but had found nothing other than evidence of Mrs. Heep’s presence in the house. But there Agnes was, and now he poured out his heart to her about how much he trusted and relied on her. She gave him something no one else did—a feeling of calm and certainty that he had not managed to develop himself. Without her, he would sometimes lose himself in his difficulties, but then he would come back to her, and all would be well.

Agnes counsels David to balance his practical problem-solving with patience and sensitivity toward Dora—Agnes listened calmly and quietly but then asked whether it shouldn’t be Dora that he placed his foremost trust in. David tried to explain that Dora meant well but that she was fragile, flighty, and easily upset. He told her how, when he had spoken to her about poverty, discipline, and practicality, she had not responded well. Agnes lovingly reproached him for being too abrupt with such a fragile, inexperienced soul. She felt that he could have done a better job balancing the need to solve his problems and the need to communicate the situation to Dora.

Agnes advises David to focus on doing the right thing and write openly to Dora’s aunts—David felt that Agnes was embracing Dora, and his gratitude toward her deepened. When he asked her what he should do next, she advised him to write openly to Dora’s two aunts. She did not feel that being secretive was the right way to approach things, nor should he second-guess the two ladies or Dora’s possible reactions. He should simply concentrate on doing what was right.

David visits Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep and notices the changes in the business setup—David decided to write the letter that afternoon, after first visiting Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep downstairs. Uriah now had a new office, especially built for him, which was full of papers and books. He accompanied David to Mr. Wickfield’s office, which stood relatively bare now that many of its furnishings had been transferred to Uriah. When Mr. Wickfield asked whether David would be spending the night with them, Uriah made a great show of offering David his old room, but after David vehemently declined it, Uriah let off.

Mrs. Heep keeps an eye on David and Agnes—Back upstairs, David found that Mrs. Heep had joined them under the pretext of being inconvenienced by the draft and needing to warm herself by the fire. It was clear that Mrs. Heep’s overriding interest in life was her son, and it was for his sake (though no one knew this yet) that she now sat and, while knitting some unspecified item, kept an eye on David and Agnes. David’s impression was that she was some evil witch, whose baneful influence was eased only by Agnes’s equally benevolent presence. The same evil watchfulness took place both at the dinner table and after dinner in the drawing room, so that David had the distinct impression that she had been told to observe them. That impression was borne out the next day: Mrs. Heep was around so much that Agnes and David were barely able to have a private moment together.

Uriah Heep follows David outside—By sunset, David needed to get away, and though he invited Agnes to join him for a walk, she felt compelled to keep Mrs. Heep company because she wasn’t feeling well. As David approached the town’s edge, he heard someone calling him. Uriah had hurried after him and wanted to walk with him. David explained to him that he had planned to spend some time by himself, having had too much time around people. Uriah asked him whether he was referring to his mother, to which David answered yes. Uriah now confessed that his mother had been given the job of keeping an eye on David and Agnes. He considered David a “dangerous rival” and needed to make sure that David’s superior station in life didn’t diminish his chances with “his” Agnes. After some goading by Uriah, David explained to him that he was engaged to another young lady and that his feelings for Agnes were brotherly. Uriah chided him for not revealing his love interest sooner. David was openly offended that Uriah would expect him to confide in him, which didn’t surprise Uriah who knew that David had never liked him. Now he squeezed David’s hand with his own cold, damp fingers and then coerced him into walking with him arm in arm.

David tells Uriah that Agnes is too good for him; Uriah talks about his background—As they headed back, having been forcefully turned around by Uriah, David informed him that he thought Agnes was as far above him as the moon, which now shone down upon them. Uriah knew then that David didn’t like him, but as usual, he ascribed it to his “umbleness.” He explained that he, his mother, and his father, who had successfully worked as a sexton, had been taught to be humble in school, where they had not learned much else. They were to bow and scrape for the rest of their lives, and that, they were told, would stand them in good stead. His father found it to be useful advice and had passed it on to his son, but the effect on Uriah had not been entirely good. Moreover, Uriah knew that he had gained a little power, and he was going to make the most of it. David could see that he had never truly learned the lesson of humility but that it instead intensified his bitterness and the determination to extract what he could by cunning and manipulation.

Uriah hints at dinner that he is looking to get married—By now, Uriah had let go of David’s arm, and they walked mostly in silence until they reached the house. At dinner, he was more spirited than usual. At one point, he even mentioned that he was getting too old to be single, and it took all of David’s restraint not to punch him for the look he gave Agnes. Since before dinner, and especially after Mrs. Heep’s watchfulness, David wondered whether he should tell Agnes of Uriah’s designs on her.

Uriah takes advantage of Mr. Wickfield’s drinking habit after the women leave—Agnes had been trying to help her father restrain his drinking, but that night, once the women left, Uriah was quick to take advantage of Mr. Wickfield’s weakness. He proposed a toast to David, with the result that Mr. Wickfield toasted a string of people, drinking two glasses per toast. It was obvious to David that he knew what he was doing and that the shame at his lack of control ran deep. Meanwhile, Uriah was writhing in triumph, so that David was in pain just watching the scene.

Mr. Wickfield flies into a rage when Uriah mentions marrying Agnes—Finally, Uriah was so full of himself that he mentioned his intention to marry Agnes. David had been aware of the changes in Mr. Wickfield’s demeanor as Uriah led up to his statement, but Uriah had been too focused on his own desires, and he got carried away and just kept going. Barely had the words gone out of Uriah’s mouth, when Mr. Wickfield stood up and let out a horrible cry. Uriah, now pale, tried to defend his right to court Agnes, but Agnes’s father was wild with rage and deaf and blind to anything else. David, who was holding him, tried to talk him down from his rage. At last, Mr. Wickfield calmed down, but now he spilled out the thoughts that had been pent up inside him—that Uriah was the tormenter who had gradually led him and his business to destruction.

Uriah backs off; Mr. Wickfield realizes his mistake in concentrating all his love on Agnes—Uriah, who by now had crawled into a corner, protested and kept warning David to silence Mr. Wickfield, implying that there would be consequences if Mr. Wickfield didn’t contain himself. Uriah also realized that he had gone too far in revealing his intentions toward Agnes, and he apologized and promised to back off. But it was too late. Beyond Uriah’s manipulation and base character, there was the issue of Mr. Wickfield’s own weakness and self-indulgence. His purest motives—his love for his late wife and his beautiful daughter had turned to sickness because he had failed to love beyond them.

Agnes comes to rescue her father—Before long, Agnes entered and, knowing her father was unwell, escorted him out of the room as he leaned heavily upon her. David could see from just a moment’s glance between Agnes and himself that she was aware of what had happened.

David tries to make sure that Agnes will never fall prey to Uriah; Agnes entrusts all to God—Uriah tried to excuse his behavior, but David ignored him and instead went upstairs, where he tried to read, though he was too distracted to do so successfully. At midnight, Agnes came to say goodbye to him, since he would be leaving in the morning. He could see that she had been crying but that she had recovered in the meantime. He wanted to know whether there was anything he could do, but she declined, saying that they should trust in God. David asked her to promise that she would never sacrifice her precious love to some horrible situation. That request disturbed her. She even took a step back, but when she looked at him again, he could see that there was not a trace of fear in her face.

Uriah Heep still intends to marry Agnes—Early the next morning, just before dawn, David was getting into the coach when he was accosted by Uriah Heep. He wanted to tell David that all things had been repaired between him and Mr. Wickfield. Uriah said that he had simply picked a pear before it was ripe, but he was convinced that it would ripen, and he would wait until then. As the coach drove away, David could see him licking his lips with anticipation.

The Wanderer


David’s aunt is upset about what happened at the Wickfields’—David’s aunt was so disconcerted by the news of what had happened at the Wickfields’ that she spent the whole evening pacing the floor. This was her habit when she was upset, but that night she seemed more upset than usual, because she lengthened the pacing stretch by opening the bedroom door and then walked for a full two hours. Her nighttime snack also went untouched, even after David reminded her. Yet she assured him that she was full of affection—she was just upset.

David writes to Dora’s aunts and waits for a response—Mr. Dick had been there, too, sitting by the fire with David, and after he left, David wrote his letter to Dora’s aunts. The next morning, he mailed it, having received Aunt Betsey’s approval. And then began the waiting game. Almost a week later, he still had heard nothing.

David sees a familiar-looking woman but can’t place her—That night, as he left Dr. Strong’s, the snow lay thick on the ground, muffling the sounds of footsteps and carriages. Because of the weather, David took the shortest way home. As he was rounding the corner by the church, he came face to face with a woman who seemed familiar to him, though he couldn’t place her. Seeing her made an emotional impact, too, but he didn’t know what to make of it.

Mr. Peggotty recognizes David; David realizes that the woman was probably Martha—Sitting on the church steps was another figure—a man, hunched over, with his pack on the ground. They looked at each other briefly, and David kept going. But Mr. Peggotty had recognized David and now stood and followed him. On realizing who it was, it occurred to David that the woman was Martha, and David remembered Ham telling him how Mr. Peggotty had wanted to protect Emily from being seen with her.

David and Mr. Peggotty go to a pub—After a warm mutual greeting, Mr. Peggotty mentioned that he had wanted to call on David at his apartment, until he found out that David’s aunt was living there and thought it might be too late in the evening. He had already been to Yarmouth and would be leaving again early the next day. He was about to look for a place to stay for the night, so he and David headed off in that direction and then entered a pub across the street.

David sees from Mr. Peggotty’s appearance that he has been through a lot—It was warm inside, so they sat down and ordered Mr. Peggotty some ale. Now that David could see Mr. Peggotty better, it was obvious that he had been through all sorts of weather and rough conditions. His hair was greyer, his face darker and more lined. In spite of that, he looked strong and determined.

Mr. Peggotty talks about his travels and people’s ongoing kindness toward him—His story began back in Emily’s childhood, when she used to speak of sunny coasts with dark blue waters. Mr. Peggotty figured from that that Steerforth, whom he never mentioned by name but only called “he,” would figure out how to lure her to come with him and that they would travel in that direction. That led Mr. Peggotty across the channel to France. There he met an Englishman in a position of authority who got him his papers and even offered him money, which Mr. Peggotty declined. The gentleman also said he would notify various people by word of mouth and in writing of Mr. Peggotty’s journey. Apparently, he made good on his promise, because everywhere Mr. Peggotty went, he was treated with the utmost kindness. Even the French-speaking soldiers he met as he walked along the road appreciated his company, just as he appreciated theirs, even though they couldn’t communicate verbally. Wherever he went, he would wait until an English-speaking person came along to the town inn, and then he would explain his situation and inquire as to who was staying there. It got so that people heard about him before he arrived in their town, and they would feed him, find him lodging, and let him play with their children as he sat on their doorsteps.

Martha quietly listens in at the door—Mr. Peggotty was sitting with his back to the pub door while he was talking, and David noticed that Martha opened the door and stood there listening in the snow and wind. She motioned to David to please let her stay, so he refrained from mentioning it to Mr. Peggotty.

Mr. Peggotty continues after a brief breakdown—As Mr. Peggotty remembered sitting and playing with the townspeople’s children like they might have been Emily’s own children, he broke down and cried but soon recovered. He had covered his face, and when David tenderly touched his hand, Mr. Peggotty thanked him and told him not to mind his brief breakdown—he would be all right. Mr. Peggotty went on. Once he got to the coast, it wasn’t hard for him to earn his passage across the sea to Italy, being a seaman himself. He found the people were kind to him there, too, and it was in Italy that he got word that Emily, Steerforth, and Littimer had traveled toward the Swiss mountains. He heard different rumors of towns they might have gone to, but no matter where he looked, he couldn’t find her—yet he never lost hope and would even dream that he heard her voice at night. He believed that he would find her and whisk her away from Steerforth, who he was sure had broken her heart. After a while, however, having exhausted his leads, he decided to come home.

Mr. Peggotty shows David two letters from Emily, both of which contained money—That was four days ago. On arriving back at the boathouse, he found that Mrs. Gummidge had received two letters, which Mr. Peggotty now pulled from his breast pocket. The first contained a £50 bank note, still untouched, and had arrived just a week after he left on his journey. The second, which came several months ago and contained £5, was an impassioned letter from Emily. She still could not forgive herself for what she had done, and she begged her family’s forgiveness just long enough that they would write to let her know how her uncle was doing. She also wrote some kind, grateful words about Ham, but it was clear that she was in deep pain and did not feel that she deserved a place in heaven. She felt that the wind itself was speaking against her to God for the wrong she had done to her uncle and Ham.

Mrs. Gummidge and Ham tried to contact Emily—David wanted to know if Emily’s letters were answered. Mr. Peggotty told him that Ham and Mrs. Gummidge had worked together to send word to Emily of her uncle’s efforts to find her. The return address, however, was not where she was staying, and it was clear that a deliberate attempt had been made to obscure it.

A recent third letter provides Mr. Peggotty with a new lead—There was a third letter, too, which contained only money. That one had come two days ago, and Mr. Peggotty was now determined to set out to find Emily again, using the postmark location as his lead. It was on the Upper Rhine, and Mr. Peggotty had already gotten help devising a map and a route.

David asks about Ham—David then asked about Ham. He was as well as he could be, though he no longer cared much for his own interests. He worked constantly, was always the first to volunteer for dangerous assignments, and was known for his kindness toward others.

Mr. Peggotty plans to leave in the morning to fulfil his mission to find Emily—Mr. Peggotty put the letters back in his pocket. He was glad to see David and could now go on his way in the morning. His mission was to find Emily and give back the money that had been sent to him, and he knew that he couldn’t rest until he achieved it. Even death wouldn’t stop him, though if he died before he found Emily, he hoped the news of his death would drive her home.

David accompanies Mr. Peggotty partway, looks for Martha, and finally walks home in the silent snow—It was still snowing outside, and by now, Martha had left. As they went outside, David could still see her walking away in the distance, so he distracted Mr. Peggotty until she was gone. He then walked him toward his lodging on the road to Dover. After leaving him, David went back to see if he could find Martha, but she was gone, and the only footprints remaining were his own. As he walked alone in the silence of the night, he felt all things were honoring the great soul of Mr. Peggotty.

Dora’s Aunts


Dora’s aunts invite David to meet with them—David finally received a response from Dora’s aunts, who, on reviewing his letter, professed to have taken “the happiness of both parties” into consideration. He was not thrilled with this phrasing, since it usually meant something other than what was on the surface. However, Dora’s aunts did invite him to meet with them, as they preferred to discuss these things in person, and they gave him the option of bringing a trusted friend. David, of course, replied immediately and gratefully informed them that he would be accompanied by Traddles.

Miss Mills leaves for India when David most needs her—At this time, David strongly felt that he could have used Miss Mills’s help, so he was dismayed to discover that her father was journeying to India at the same time and bringing her with him. Furthermore, the house that had served as such a useful meeting place was now being put on the market and all the furniture disposed of. In the wake of Mr. Spenlow’s death, this was too much for David to digest calmly.

Trying to look presentable—In deciding how to dress for the meeting with Dora’s aunts, David opted for something between elegance and practicality. When the day came and he and Traddles set out for Putney, he couldn’t help asking Traddles to flatten his hair, which was always sticking up. To David’s surprise, Traddles’s good-natured reply was that he had no control over it. His hair had always been like that, and nothing anyone did could make it lie down. Fortunately, he and Sophy had learned to laugh about it, though her family made fun of it.

Traddles tells of the perils of getting engaged—That comment led David to ask Traddles whether he had any suggestions for dealing with family reactions to a couple’s engagement. It turned out that Traddles’s own engagement had been arduous, since Sophy’s family had grown so dependent on her that they didn’t want to let her go. They had dubbed her the “old maid,” assuming that she would never marry and therefore always be there for their needs. The mother was the first to relent, but only after Sophy’s father, a reverend, reminded her that the Christian thing to do in this case would be to sacrifice her self-interest for her daughter’s happiness. Then there was the invalid sister, Sarah, who clenched her fists and refused to eat for two days. In addition, there were the two youngest children, who depended on Sophy for their education—not to mention the other six, who had their needs as well. All in all, it was a difficult idea for them to get used to, and Traddles and Sophy learned that it was better to not mention their engagement.

Traddles suggests a relaxing drink at a nearby pub to allay David’s nervousness—By now, they were nearing the home of Dora’s two aunts, and seeing David’s agitated state, Traddles suggested having some ale at a nearby pub before they went in. Following their pub visit, they made their way to the Spenlow house, where they were led into the drawing room by the maid. After a clumsy beginning, in which David almost pushed Traddles into the fireplace and then sat on a cat, the two young gentlemen bowed and sat down at the aunts’ invitation.

Dora’s aunts—Dora’s aunts were both petite elderly ladies, whose movements reminded David of birds. Clarissa appeared to be the eldest, and she spent most of the time sitting upright (as they both did when not speaking) with her arms folded. Both strongly resembled Mr. Spenlow, though he had obviously been the youngest. Lavinia, the other sister, seemed to be in charge of the meeting, judging from the fact that she held the letter in her hand and would refer to it periodically. She had had some past love interest that came to nothing because of the early death of her supposed suitor (in David’s opinion, this love interest was mostly in her head), and that presumably made her an expert on the subject. Clarissa’s main contribution to the conversation—in spite of her sister’s insistence that it was irrelevant—were her repeated references to the social error that her brother and his wife committed many years ago, when they failed to seat the two sisters at the couple’s wedding dinner table. That single mistake created a permanent rift between sisters and brother, in which each party went its separate way.

Dora’s aunts agree to let David visit—David’s main goal was to be allowed to see Dora, for whom he kept professing intense love. The aunts’ main concern was that David and Dora’s love was the result of youthful passion and lacked the qualities associated with mature love. However, Lavinia perceived at one point that Traddles might understand what she meant, and she turned to him for confirmation. Traddles supported David to the best of this ability, so the aunts finally resolved to allow David to visit under the supervision of Miss Lavinia. Traddles asked David whether he thought that was reasonable, and David naturally gave an ecstatic reply. The aunts then left the two young gentlemen alone for a few minutes so they (David and Traddles) could contemplate the idea in private, even though David insisted it wasn’t necessary.

Stipulations for David’s visits—When the aunts returned, Clarissa read off the precise requirements for the visits. David was to come once a week for Sunday dinner at three and no more than twice a week for tea at 6:30 in the evening. Also Aunt Betsey (Miss Trotwood, to Dora’s aunts) was to visit them periodically, assuming she saw fit to do so. David graciously received all these stipulations and finished by kissing each aunt’s hand.

David is allowed to see Dora—Following all of this, Miss Lavinia led David to see Dora, who was still her beautiful, childlike, flighty self. And, of course, David was still madly in love with her and thrilled to see her. On first entering the house, David had imagined he heard Jip’s muffled barks, and now he understood why. Jip was seated on a plate warmer with a towel around his head. Dora herself, who looked beautiful even in her mourning clothes, was facing the wall and plugging her ears. Soon enough, they all relaxed, happy to see each other, except that Dora insisted that she wanted neither Traddles nor David’s aunt to visit. David protested that they were both excellent people, but that made Dora even more determined.

Supportive friends and relatives—David discovered that Dora reminded Miss Lavinia of herself at the same age, and it was clear that Lavinia had great affection for her niece. After another futile attempt to introduce Dora to Traddles, David and Traddles left the Spenlow home. On the way home, Traddles and David compared notes about which instruments their fiancées played, and on arriving at his apartment, David immediately informed Aunt Betsey of all that had gone on. Naturally, Aunt Betsey was happy for him, and she promised to visit Dora’s aunts soon. David also wrote to Agnes, who was pleased that her advice had caused such a good outcome.

Aunt Betsey’s visits to Putney—Aunt Betsey quickly made good on her promise, and despite David’s fears that they might not get along, he found that she and Dora’s aunts had a good relationship. The aunts were tolerant of Aunt Betsey’s eccentricities, such as walking all the way to Putney at odd times and wearing her bonnet however she pleased, and Aunt Betsey adjusted her behavior to some extent for David’s benefit. Jip, on the other hand, could not get used to Aunt Betsey’s presence. He would bark, howl, growl, and bare his teeth so that Dora finally had to resort to the towel and plate warmer after trying everything else.

Dora is hopelessly childlike—One thing bothered David a great deal. He noticed that all the aunts, including his own, treated Dora like a toy. Now that Dora and he were allowed to walk alone together in the garden, he broached the subject with her but found she was no help. Dora herself, being playful by nature, was happy with the aunts’ treatment. What frustrated her were the more practical concerns, such as cooking, bookkeeping, and general domestic matters, even though she did her best to learn. She finally gave up, though, and resorted to playing her guitar, singing, and painting, which suited her better. And the things that David had invested in to ease the practical learning process—the cookbook and the pencil case—became the means of teaching Jip new tricks.



David contemplates the qualities needed for success—Chapter 42 begins with David modestly recounting how hard he worked at his shorthand, his goal being to do right by Dora and her aunts. That led him to muse about the qualities that had brought him the most good in his life, namely, patience and diligence. To these qualities he added orderliness, punctuality, and focus. He knew that some people worked hard and achieved less success and recognition. But he also knew that without hard work and concentration, no amount of talent or opportunity would help anyone, and because of this belief, he always maintained a positive outlook and gave everything he had to every task, small or large.

The Wickfields and Heeps visit the Strongs—David’s ability to put all this into words had much to with Agnes, and for that he was grateful. Both Agnes and her father were visiting Dr. Strong for two weeks at the Doctor’s invitation, inspired by his desire to help his old friend. Mrs. Heep and Uriah were also in the area, Mrs. Heep having asked for a change of air to benefit her joints. Agnes had therefore gotten her a place to stay, and Uriah came the next day.

Uriah Heep is determined to not let anything get in the way of his “right” to court Agnes—On seeing David in the Doctor’s garden, Uriah informed him that people who loved often became jealous and therefore watched their loved ones carefully. Uriah was referring to Annie’s relationship with Jack Maldon and to the Doctor’s complete obliviousness to it. Uriah had some resentment toward both Annie and Mr. Maldon, because he felt they had always snubbed him. He was also worried that Annie might prevent Agnes from considering Uriah as a suitor by suggesting someone better, and he believed he needed to guard his courtship rights by separating them. He was not about to have people “plotting against” him. David observed that Uriah was the one who was always plotting and that he was most likely projecting his own motives onto others. Revealing his deep ruthlessness, Uriah replied that he had a goal, and he needed to get everyone out of his way. David didn’t understand what he meant, and the explanation was cut short by the arrival of Jack Maldon on horseback. For some reason, his arrival made Uriah double up with voiceless laughter, a gesture David found so grotesque that, without another word, he abruptly left Uriah standing there in his doubled-up state.

Agnes meets Dora and her aunts—That Saturday, two days later, David and Agnes went to Putney for tea. David had set up the meeting with Aunt Lavinia, and now he was anxious about its outcome. There was no need. Dora had been afraid to meet Agnes but as soon as she saw her benevolent face, all fear dissolved, and Dora lovingly embraced her new friend. The feeling was mutual. In fact, the whole evening was perfect. Even Jip took an immediate liking to Agnes’s gentle, winning manner.

Dora’s insecurities and admiration of Agnes—For all her beauty and charm, Dora was insecure about her intelligence and wanted desperately to be liked. Agnes seemed so superior to her in many ways, and toward the end of the evening, shortly before David and Agnes were expected to leave, Dora came up to David privately as he was standing by the fire. She wondered if she might have grown up to be more intelligent if she had had Agnes as a friend early on. She also asked how David was related to Agnes and that it was curious that he had fallen in love with Dora—meaning, instead of Agnes, though she didn’t mention the last part. Nor did it occur to David that that was what Dora meant, even though she kept referring to it.

Agnes reassures David—Jip was in the middle of showing off his tricks when the coach came. Agnes and Dora hastily said goodbye, and Dora came running out at the last minute to remind Agnes to write. David felt that he loved Dora more than ever, and he attributed much of that feeling to Agnes’s influence. He mentioned his thoughts to her on the walk to the Doctor’s house and also asked how she was doing and whether things were better at home. She answered that she was fine and, reading his mind, she hinted that he should not fear that she would ever marry Uriah. She figured it would be a while before she and David would see each other again, and she urged him not to be concerned about her own and her father’s troubles and that David’s happiness made her happy. By now, they had reached the Doctor’s home, so Agnes bid David goodnight and went into the house.

David finds a dismayed Dr. Strong in the company of Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep—When David saw that the light was still on in the Doctor’s study, he decided to see whether the Doctor was at work on the dictionary. If not, at least, he could wish him good night. As he quietly entered the house and looked into the study, he was astonished to see Uriah. Doctor Strong and Mr. Wickfield were also there, the Doctor with his hands over his face and Mr. Wickfield making a half-hearted attempt to comfort him. Realizing what was going on, David tried to leave, but the Doctor motioned to him to stay.

Uriah confronts the Doctor about Annie’s relationship with Jack Maldon—Uriah explained that he had felt it his duty to make clear to the Doctor what was going on between Annie and Jack Maldon. David tried to comfort the Doctor, but other than placing his own comforting hand on David’s shoulder, the Doctor could not bring himself to look up. Uriah kept elaborating on the subject with such a lack of compassion and sensitivity that David wondered later why he didn’t strangle Uriah then and there.

Mr. Wickfield is drawn into the discussion and begs his old friend for forgiveness—Uriah tried to draw Mr. Wickfield into his heartless conversation, but Mr. Wickfield had too much compassion for his old friend and would at first only admit to having had doubts at one point. He thought that the Doctor, too, had had his doubts about the relationship between Annie and Maldon, but the Doctor insisted he had never entertained the slightest notion in that direction. With Uriah’s constant goading, Mr. Wickfield gradually admitted that his previous tendency of viewing people in terms of master motives had misled him and even made him want to separate Agnes from Annie in order to avoid her influence. He felt terrible for his unwarranted suspicions and now begged for forgiveness, which the Doctor readily signaled by extending his hand to his friend.

Uriah tries to involve David in the discussion—Next, Uriah drew David into the picture, claiming that he, too, had known all along what was going on. Reluctant to hurt the Doctor, David tried to deny it, but the Doctor could see the truth written in his face, even though he only glanced at it for a moment.

The Doctor reveals his innermost thoughts on the subject—There was silence for a while, and then the Doctor, after walking around the room a bit, spoke from the depths of his kind and honest heart. Rather than blame Annie, he felt that he was to blame. Had she not married him, she never would have been exposed to the thoughts that were now being directed her way. He knew that he was not in the habit of observing people carefully, so if several completely different people saw the same thing, he had no doubt there must be some truth to it. But at no point did he accuse or suspect Annie, and that genuine kindness and respectfulness on the Doctor’s part raised him immeasurably in David’s eyes. The Doctor’s only interest had always been Annie’s happiness, and every action related to her had been with that in mind. He had been oblivious to anything else, and now he felt remorse for the pain he had caused her by marrying her and forcing her to forfeit her young life to the dull routine of his older existence. He had only meant well, though. He knew her father, and his aim in marrying Annie was to guide and protect her in her youth so that when he died, her youth and beauty, which she would still possess, would be backed by a greater maturity. He still did not believe she was to blame for anything other than natural, innocent feelings of regret in relation to her childhood friend, and he wanted to keep her name untainted. If anything, she should blame him. Beyond all this, he hoped she might gain some freedom and happiness from his provision for her on his death, which he now hoped would come soon, God willing. Having revealed his innermost thoughts, he asked all present to keep the matter confidential and then requested that his old friend, Mr. Wickfield, accompany him upstairs.

David loses his temper with Uriah—After they left, Uriah, though recognizing the Doctor’s goodness, admitted he had expected the information to bring a different result. He called the Doctor blind and implied that the family was ruined. In that moment, David lost his temper. Resenting the fact that Uriah had manipulated him into the conversation, David called him a villain and forcefully struck him across the cheek. They stood there, staring at each other, when Uriah broke the silence by asking David if he had taken leave of his senses. David replied that he had taken leave of him and wanted nothing more to do with him, but Uriah acted as though he had no choice. David made it clear that he had nothing good to say about Uriah, and since Uriah was always wreaking havoc anyway, David no longer felt the need to guard his words.

Uriah pursues and torments David—Uriah took full advantage of the event, chiding David for hating him, even though Uriah had always liked David and was determined to forgive him. He would say nothing about this to anyone. But David didn’t trust him and made no attempt toward reconciliation. He left the house both to get away from Uriah and because they were having to strain themselves to keep their voices low so as not to disturb the rest of the house. Uriah, however, was staying with his mother instead of at the Doctor’s, and he quickly caught up with David on the street. That gave him a chance to torment him further, claiming he was amazed that David would stoop even lower than him. David said nothing, but he knew that Uriah had gotten to him, and he didn’t sleep well that night. The next day, which was a Sunday, Uriah greeted him as though the event had never taken place. David noticed, though, that Uriah’s face was bandaged, and he guessed that he had lost a tooth and learned that he visited the dentist in London the following day.

The Doctor withdraws—Following the conversation in the study, the Doctor spent most of his time alone and claimed to be feeling poorly, even during his friends’ visit. It would be several weeks before he began working on the dictionary again. He also gave David a short note requesting that he keep the whole matter secret, although David had already told his aunt.

Annie senses that something is not right and becomes depressed—It seemed to David that Annie had no idea of what had happened, but the Doctor’s behavior had changed, and she gradually caught on that something was not right. It wasn’t that he was cruel or remote toward her. The opposite was true. He was unusually solicitous and kind, though he seemed more serious and older. He made sure that her mother was there to keep her company, and he kept her and her mother busy with different excursions to keep Annie’s life from being dull. The effect on Annie, however, was not positive. David often saw her weeping, especially after some particularly kind gesture by the Doctor, and in general she seemed to lack interest in amusements.

Mr. Dick comes to the rescue—The unlikely hero in this dismal scene was Mr. Dick, whose innocent love for both the Doctor and Annie saved the day. David observes here that a deep and genuine affection—or what he calls the “mind of the heart”—contains an understanding that intellect cannot match, and that was the case with Mr. Dick’s unfeigned love for the Strongs. He knew that something was wrong, and out of pure love and sensitivity, he did everything he could to be there for both of them. He would get up early to spend more time with the Doctor and have him read from the dictionary. And he would help Annie with various tasks in the garden, quietly and gently keeping her company. He was also careful not to mention anything resembling misery, such as Charles I, and through his affectionate presence, Mr. Dick was able to give the Doctor and Annie a sense of connection.

Mrs. Micawber sends David a strange letter—During the Wickfields’ stay at the Doctor’s, David noticed that Uriah was getting several letters a day from Mr. Micawber. He assumed from that that things were going well for the Micawbers, until he received a letter from Mrs. Micawber explaining that a great change had come over her husband, and not knowing what to do, she was seeking David’s advice as a trusted friend. Whatever else was going on in their lives, Mr. Micawber and his wife, Emma, had always been close, and every night he had told her about the events of the day. But lately he was secretive and distant. Not only that, he showed no interest or affection toward his children or most recent friend (apparently meaning Traddles). Instead, his manner had grown cold, harsh, and mean-spirited.

David wonders what’s happening with the Micawbers—Mrs. Micawber was not used to such behavior from her husband, and she was at a loss about what to do. Not that David felt qualified to advise her. He could only tell her to be kind and patient with her husband, but for his own part, he couldn’t help wondering what was going on.

Another Retrospective: David And Dora’s Wedding


David finds success as a stenographer and writer—Chapter 43 begins by recounting the passage of time in David’s life—of months and years and changing seasons, though nothing changed within the household of Dora’s two aunts. In the meantime, other than his continuing courtship of Dora, David finally mastered the art of stenography and managed to gain both a decent reputation and a decent living, even if it left him with a jaded attitude toward British politics. He also tried his hand at writing and found it so well received that before long he had sold and published several small works, which augmented his income enough that he considered himself in good financial shape.

David’s life feels like a dream as preparations are made for David and Dora’s wedding—David and his aunt had moved from their apartment to a small cottage, although Aunt Betsey, who made a good profit from selling her Dover house, planned to move to her own cottage to make way for David’s bride-to-be. Dora’s aunts had finally given their approval and were now bustling about making preparations for the wedding, hiring dressmakers and looking for furniture. Peggotty, too, came to thoroughly clean the cottage, which she did three times over. Mr. Peggotty had also returned by now, though David hadn’t spoken to him but had only seen him wandering the streets at night. David’s wedding was only two days away, and he felt like he was in a dream.

David and Traddles pick up the marriage license; the wedding participants gather—Then there was the marriage license—complete with David’s and Dora’s names as well as the official approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Stamp Office. Traddles was David’s constant companion and guarantor during that time, and David sincerely hoped that the next time Traddles visited the licensing office, it would be for his own marriage license. Traddles was pleased that Sophy had been invited to be a bridesmaid, and she and Agnes, also a bridesmaid, would be arriving in London separately that evening. Later that night, they all gathered at the home of the Spenlow sisters. David congratulated Traddles on choosing such a pleasant, honest girl in Sophy, and he was happy to see that Agnes and Traddles got along perfectly. The general atmosphere was extremely happy, but to David, it still felt like a dream, and time itself seemed distorted, with months of living compressed into a few days.

David and Dora’s cottage is ready—The following day, they all went to inspect David and Dora’s cottage, which was all beautiful and new, with flower and plant motifs on the walls and carpets. Everything was in order for the couple to move in, including the oversized Chinese pagoda doghouse Dora bought instead of the practical kitchen items Aunt Clarissa and Aunt Betsey suggested. And still it all seemed like a dream.

Aunt Lavinia shows off Dora in her bridal dress; David makes the mistake of hugging her—That evening, the dream continued when Aunt Lavinia presented David with Dora all dressed in her bridal gown and bonnet. Overcome, David hugged her, which sent the bonnet flying and made Lavinia scream. Dora was not to be touched, only admired. After a few minutes of confused admiration, Dora was back in her usual dress, playing with Jip.

The wedding party dresses for the occasion—The next morning, David rose early and went by to pick up Aunt Betsey, who had been beautifully dressed by Janet in lavender silk. Mr. Dick would be giving away the bride and had had his hair done for the occasion, Traddles was looking festive, and Peggotty and Janet would be there as well. As they rode along in the carriage, the day seemed like a fairytale, and David wished he could share it with everyone he saw.

On the way to the wedding—Aunt Betsey held David’s hand the whole time on the way to the church and told him that she couldn’t have been prouder if he had been her own child. They both thought of her mother, and David expressed his deep gratitude for all his aunt had done for him. Aunt Betsey, Traddles, Mr. Dick, and David, who had all come in the same coach, then held each other’s hands and afterwards walked into the church together.

The dream wedding—Here David gives a detailed description of the wedding—mostly of who was there and what they contributed in tears, smiles, kisses, tremblings, whisperings, emotional breakdowns, and in the case of the stray old seaman, the rum on his breath. But it was a happy wedding, and the whole thing, like the rest of the events in this chapter, felt like a dream.

Hazy memories of the wedding breakfast—The same was true of the wedding breakfast. David hardly knew what he ate, even though there was plenty of excellent food and drink. Nor did he know what he said in his speech. He was in another space, feeding on love. He did remember that his aunt made a speech about Dora’s aunts and that Jip had a bad reaction to the wedding cake he ate.

After the wedding: the dream comes true—Finally, it came time to say goodbye, and it was the same dreamlike flurry of activity that it had been for the past few days. It was only when Dora and David were alone in the carriage that he realized he wasn’t dreaming after all as he heard the voice of his beloved, childlike Dora asking him whether he was finally happy or if he had changed his mind.



Married life—David loved having Dora there with him all the time, but it took some getting used to. He no longer needed to go out of his way to see her or to make extraordinary efforts to be at all in contact with her. But aside from the wonderful pastime of making love, the romance and uncertainty of courtship was over, and the only challenge now was to make each other happy.

Housekeeping challenges and David and Dora’s first domestic fight—Neither David nor Dora was good at housekeeping, but they did have a maid, Mary Anne, who was supposed to be competent, honest, and sober. Unfortunately, the facts suggested otherwise, and to make things worse, she took advantage of her young employers. In fact, Mary Anne was the subject of their first quarrel when David noticed that dinnertime had already passed by a full hour, with dinner still nowhere in sight. He wished that Dora would speak to her, but Dora did not feel comfortable doing so. She also didn’t like being reasoned with and reacted peevishly, even though dinner had been late or underdone several times in a row. The problem was that David had to go to work afterwards, and tonight he would go hungry. Dora, however, took his complaints personally, and instead of broaching the subject with Mary Anne, became overly emotional.

Aunt Betsey’s advice to David about his marriage—That evening, David felt like a criminal for having upset his young wife, and when he came home, he found Aunt Betsey waiting for him. She had been keeping “Little Blossom” company and advised David to be patient with her and not to expect too much too fast. In fact, she might never develop certain qualities, and since he had chosen her, he would have to come to terms with that. When he asked his aunt whether she would speak to Dora, she vehemently declined, insisting that they needed to work things out themselves and that she didn’t want to repeat the mistake she had made with his mother of being too hardhearted, when to do so served nothing. She also didn’t want to appear cruel in Dora’s eyes. Once David had walked his aunt home and come back to his own house, Dora came downstairs and they made up, promising each other to never have an argument again.

A string of inept, dishonest servants—Their next great challenge was to find a suitable housekeeper, which was easier said than done. Mary Anne was finally fired because of some mischief by her male cousin, who often visited and was found down in the coal hole and subsequently brought to the front yard, where he was handcuffed by the men who found him. Mary Anne herself had been stealing, which David suspected was the reason she didn’t argue when she was let go. Her successors were no better. All were inept, one borrowed Dora’s hat without asking, and another ran up a tab at the local pub under Dora’s name. There was also something funny going on with the retailers’ books. David and Dora never had any food in the house, yet according to the stores’ books, they should have had a whole cellar full of butter and enough pepper to feed most of the town. Moreover, the laundress sold some of their clothes (which she admitted when she was in a drunken state), and the chimney caught on fire.

More domestic challenges—The servants were not the only ones who took advantage of David and Dora. Shop owners regularly gave them the worst cuts of meat or loaves of bread. David’s cooking experiences fared no better. Even when he thought he had figured out the timing on his meat cooking, it still came out either too raw or too charred.

The dinner fiasco—One of their more ambitious domestic exploits was the time they had Traddles over for dinner. First of all, the house was small, and there was hardly enough room for Traddles to move, though he assured David that things were fine. Then there was the fact that Jip was allowed to walk all over the table, made worse by his tendency to get his feet in the salt and butter. The condiment bowls were all askew, the mutton was strangely shaped even before carving, and Jip spent a good part of the evening barking at Traddles and lunging at this plate. Still, David did not feel that he could say anything for fear of hurting Dora’s feelings.

When David noticed Dora fidgeting with a dish, he asked her what it was. She had heard that Traddles loved oysters, so she had bought a barrel especially for him, but there seemed to be something wrong with them. On further inspection, Traddles noticed that they had not been opened, and since David had no oyster knives and they couldn’t open the barrel anyway, they were unable to eat them. The mutton, too, was partly raw, but fortunately there was some bacon in the storeroom. Otherwise, David felt that Traddles would have eaten the raw mutton out of pure friendship, so he opted to prevent that. Dora was relieved that David wasn’t angry, and after dinner, Dora made tea and then played her guitar and sang while David and Traddles played cribbage.

David and Dora both admit their lack of domestic skill; Dora asks David to think of her as his “child-wife”—After Traddles left, Dora apologized for being so unskilled in domestic things and asked David to teach her, but David replied honestly and simply that he, too, needed to learn. She then asked him for a silly favor. From now on, would he think of her as his “child-wife?” It would help him to endure the disappointments and to remember that she truly did love him.

Dora tries to improve, though without much success—David realized she was being serious, and her request had a deep effect on him. It was not hard to comply with her wish, since the name suited her well. Still, she resolved to do her best to improve her domestic skills. And she did make a real go of it. She polished and sewed and did her best to balance the accounts. But somehow the numbers never added up, and then Jip would get in the way and smear the ink, or she would get ink all over her finger. She made a number of attempts like this but usually got distracted, even when David tried to teach her, and she would give up sooner or later and resort to playing with Jip or strumming her guitar, or some other lighter pastime.

David resigns himself to being the practical, serious one in an unequal marriage—David had resigned himself to the fact that theirs was an unequal marriage in many ways, and though he ideally wished for a wife who was a guide and confidante, he knew that he would have to bear the serious and practical aspects of married life by himself. At least, he was glad to see that this suited Dora and that she seemed happy with her childlike routine, even if the rest of their domestic life was less than perfect.

David keeps Dora happy by playing housekeeping games with her—Still, Dora had a desire to be useful—or at least to feel useful, though it wasn’t clear that she knew the difference. She loved to watch David write, and she begged to be allowed to hold his pens for him. To help her feel more useful, he would often request another pen or sometimes ask her to copy a manuscript page, and this thrilled her. She also took over the housekeeping keys, although she didn’t seem to know what they were for other than to entertain Jip, and housekeeping itself was more of an idea or a game to her. At least, she was happy in this mode.

Dora charms Aunt Betsey, too—David wasn’t the only one affected by Dora’s childlike affection, and he found it remarkable how solicitous Aunt Betsey was of his young wife. Aunt Betsey would go out of her way to please her, and she would even restrain herself more than usual for her sake. Dora, too, loved Aunt Betsey and was glad she wasn’t the “cross, old thing” she had imagined. And because Aunt Betsey lived nearby, it wasn’t unusual to hear her calling out for her “Little Blossom.”

Mr. Dick’s Triumph


Mrs. Markleham’s self-absorbed carelessness—Mrs. Markleham’s primary aim in life was amusement, and she attributed the same goal to her daughter Annie. Unfortunately, this was not true, but Mrs. Markleham was too self-absorbed to realize it, just as she was too self-absorbed to recognize that she might be causing the Doctor pain by bringing up the difference in age and interests between him and Annie. In general, the “Old Soldier” meant her comments as compliments, being appreciative of all the Doctor had done to accommodate Annie. But her expression of this appreciation was careless, and she seemed oblivious to the fact that the Doctor’s efforts to keep Annie entertained benefited her, the mother, more than anyone else.

Jack Maldon no longer visits, but the Doctor and Annie still seem unhappy—David also noticed that Jack Maldon was no longer a frequent visitor to the Strongs’. Once in a while, Dora and Aunt Betsey or Dora alone would accompany Annie and her mother on their excursions, and David no longer harbored his previous suspicions. But the Doctor and Annie were still clearly unhappy. Aunt Betsey even commented on it and couldn’t figure it out, but it seemed to her that Mr. Dick had something in mind.

Mr. Dick asks David a pointed question—One day, Mr. Dick popped his head into the cottage while David was writing. Dora and Aunt Betsey were having tea with Dora’s aunts, so there was no danger of being interrupted. Mr. Dick wanted to know what David honestly thought of him. David’s first response was that he was a good friend. But that was not what Mr. Dick wanted to hear. Pointing to his head, he asked him again, but this time he was more specific: did he consider him weak in the head? David hesitantly agreed. Mr. Dick was insistent, even enthusiastic. He knew he was simpleminded. He knew that if Aunt Betsey had not rescued him, he would have been locked up somewhere, and he was deeply grateful to her.

Mr. Dick has an idea—But now he had a further question. He could see that Doctor Strong was a wise and brilliant man, and he was profoundly grateful for his friendship. He had even attached a piece of paper with the Doctor’s name on it to his kite, and he thought that it brightened the sky. He had only good things to say about Annie, too—the Doctor’s beautiful wife, whom he described as a “star.” But he knew there was something wrong. Clouds had passed over their relationship and were dimming the brightness. He now looked to David for an answer, and David tried to explain that something that could not be discussed had come between them. Mr. Dick understood that to mean that the Doctor was not angry at Annie. No, David confirmed, he was extremely devoted to Annie. That was wonderful news for Mr. Dick. He had an idea of how to fix this situation. Why, for example, had neither Aunt Betsey nor David attempted to fix the problem? Both were exemplary in their own way but had done nothing. David explained that the issue was too delicate and therefore tricky to deal with. Precisely! was Mr. Dick’s response. That was why he, with his simpleminded reputation, could step in and do what no one else could, because people would allow for unusual behavior in him that they wouldn’t tolerate in others. He would bring the Doctor and Annie back together! But it was to be a secret.

Aunt Betsey and David walk over to Dr. Strong’s one evening—After that, David heard nothing about Mr. Dick’s idea for a while, and he wondered if Mr. Dick had forgotten. But then, one evening, David and his aunt decided to walk over to the Doctor’s. Dora had opted to stay home, so it was just the two of them. It was getting dark when they arrived, and Mr. Dick was still in the garden, where he was helping the gardener with some stakes. Annie had just finished her own gardening work, and Dr. Strong was in a meeting in his study and was expected to be done shortly.

Mrs. Markleham discovers extraordinary news—Before long, Annie’s mother came rushing into the drawing room, where David, his aunt, and Annie were gathered. Mrs. Markleham was puffing and panting and holding her newspaper. It was her habit to read it in Dr. Strong’s study, where there was more light and a comfortable chair, but today she had been unaware that Dr. Strong had official visitors. The result was that she walked in when the Doctor was putting the final touches on this will and was just in the process of affirming that he wanted to leave his entire estate, without condition, to Annie. This was enough to send Mrs. Markleham stumbling out of the study and into the drawing room, where she felt compelled to reveal the Doctor’s intention to Annie and their family friends, David and Miss Betsey.

They all gather in the study—Annie received the information thoughtfully and went out onto the porch by herself. Mrs. Markleham, on the other hand, kept babbling on about her fortunate choice of recommending Dr. Strong as a husband. Just then, a bell signaled that the visitors were leaving, and Mrs. Markleham, who was retiring to the study to read her paper, invited Aunt Betsey and David to come along, since they had come to see Dr. Strong. The Doctor was at his desk, looking downward and surrounded by his manuscripts. Then Annie came in, shaking and pale. She was escorted by Mr. Dick, who now touched the Doctor’s arm to get his attention. When he raised his head, Annie fell down on her knee and looked up into his face. All this happened almost simultaneously.

Mr. Dick mentions that something is wrong and needs attention; Annie begs to know what the problem is—Mr. Dick was the first to speak. Something was wrong, and the Doctor needed to attend to it. The Doctor implored Annie to rise, but she would not. She could no longer bear the gulf that had come between them, and she needed an explanation. Her mother, who had been staring in shock at her daughter kneeling, had by now recovered and told Annie to get up so that she wouldn’t disgrace her relatives. But Annie informed her that even her wishes counted for nothing in this case and that her own plea was directed toward her husband. That made Mrs. Markleham huff and puff and order Annie to get her a glass of water, but the entire room ignored her. The Doctor gently tried to explain to his young wife that none of it was her fault and that he felt the same love and admiration he had always felt for her. Again, he implored her to rise, and again she refused. This time, with her head on his knee, she pleaded that if anyone in the room knew anything about the reason for the rift that had grown between them, that person should speak up out of friendship to her, no matter what the subject.

David explains what happened and tells of the Doctor’s request for confidentiality—It was David who finally broke the deep silence that settled upon the room. He revealed that the Doctor had requested total secrecy on the subject, but after Annie’s heartfelt request, David felt that, for the good of all, the time had come to speak. With Annie’s earnest encouragement and her assurance that she would speak for herself afterwards, he explained what had gone on the night Uriah, Mr. Wickfield, the Doctor, and he had gathered in the study.

Annie tells her side of the story—When he was done, Mr. Dick raised Annie up, and as she stood looking at the Doctor, she gently began to tell her side of the story. It came out that she had known the Doctor, a friend of her father, since she was a child, and since then, she had felt nothing but a growing love and respect. She was honored that he had guided and taught her from early on, and once she recovered from the shock of his marriage proposal, presented through her mother, she was honored to be his wife. She was glad that, by having a chance to mature, she had been spared the miserable trap she might have fallen into had she succumbed to her untempered youthful feelings and perhaps married Jack Maldon. But her own genuine feelings for the Doctor had always been true and steadfast, and the night Jack Maldon revealed his passion for her was a night of deep distress. She was also distressed that people believed she had married the Doctor for his money, even more so because of his unfailing generosity and trust not only toward herself but toward Mr. Maldon, who never made the effort to earn it in return and who suspected her of a similar character. But she again assured him that she never felt anything but a love and respect that grew each year, and she begged him to take her to his heart and never to reject her.

Aunt Betsey shows her appreciation for Mr. Dick and motions to him and David that it’s time to leave—When she was done and silence had settled in, Aunt Betsey walked over to Mr. Dick and, after hugging and kissing him, pronounced him a “remarkable man.” She then motioned to David and Mr. Dick that it was time for them to leave, upon which they silently exited the house.

Annie’s wise words have a deep effect on David—It was clear from Annie’s speech and from the Doctor’s tender, trusting interjections that husband and wife were equally devoted to each other. And despite the comic relief provided by her mother’s minor interruptions and Aunt Betsey’s muttered responses, Annie said some things that struck such a chord with David that he remembered and pondered them afterwards. Marriage, she had said, should entertain no “disparity … of mind and purpose,” as it would have if she had followed the “undisciplined” urges of a youthful heart, and she later added that her love had been “founded on a rock.” As Mr. Dick, Aunt Betsey, and David walked home through the autumn wind and leaves, Annie’s words rang in David’s heart.



Miss Dartle asks to speak with David—David often had to walk by the Steerforths’ house on his way home from work, though he usually tried to take a different way. When he did pass it, he couldn’t help noticing its closed-down look. By this time, David had been married about a year and was increasingly successful as an author, having just started his first fiction work. That evening, as he passed by the house, he was thinking about his writing and a dozen other things when he was suddenly interrupted by Mrs. Steerforth’s parlor maid, who informed him that Miss Dartle had requested his presence.

David learned from the maid that Mrs. Steerforth was not well and that she seldom came out of her room. The maid then escorted David to the porch, where Miss Dartle was seated looking out at the view. The light that evening was morose and glaring, a perfect match in David’s mind for the same qualities in Miss Dartle.

News of Emily through Littimer—Miss Dartle, who looked even thinner and edgier than before, stood up on seeing David but made no other effort to hide her contempt except to offer him a seat, which he declined. Informing David that Emily had run away from Steerforth, she wanted to know whether she had been found. She seemed to enjoy the idea that Emily might be dead, and it occurred to David that he had never seen such a haughtily cruel face. She asked him whether, being a friend of Emily’s relations, he wanted to know the details of her disappearance. He replied that he did and followed her to an arched holly hedge, where she retrieved Littimer, who now stood behind her as she sat back down facing David.

There was no change in Littimer’s demeanor. He was as “respectable” and unflappable as ever. He began by saying that Steerforth, Emily, and he had traveled all over Europe. Steerforth was extremely enamored of Emily, and for some time Littimer noticed a new calm about him. Emily was so gifted in many ways, including linguistically, that she was greatly admired by all and her actual background was impossible to discern.

Steerforth deserts Emily—But Emily was prone to depression, and the more she yielded to her feelings, the less tolerance Steerforth had for her. They fought a lot and made up a lot, and in Littimer’s opinion, the whole affair lasted longer than originally imagined. Eventually, Steerforth got tired of it and decided to leave, presumably for the good of all involved. They were staying at his villa in Naples at the time, and he left Littimer with instructions to break the news to her. Littimer also had the job of informing her of her option to marry another highly respectable person—both David and Miss Dartle were privately convinced he meant himself—which he considered a kind gesture toward Emily on Steerforth’s part and a good possibility for her, considering her background.

Emily disappears—To Littimer’s surprise, Emily reacted violently, even insanely, to the first bit of news, and the second bit sent her completely over the edge. Littimer had to lock her in her room so she wouldn’t harm anyone (meaning himself). David interjected that he respected her more for her reaction. In his opinion, Littimer was a rogue for even thinking she should want to marry him. As usual, Littimer was not at all perturbed by David’s opinion. He continued his story, saying that Emily managed to escape. She broke through a window, slid down a vine, and disappeared.

Varied reactions to Emily’s disappearance—Miss Dartle seemed happy at the thought that she might be dead, and Littimer concurred that she might have committed suicide by drowning. Then again, the boatmen and their families might have helped her in some way. She had often spent her days talking to them when Steerforth was gone, and it bothered him that she told them of her background. A great compassion welled up in David for Emily, who might have known the happiness of children and family, had she chosen differently.

Littimer leaves Steerforth after Steerforth insults him—When it became apparent to Littimer that Emily was lost to them, he went to see Steerforth at the address he had given him for correspondences, but Steerforth was so insulting to him that Littimer decided to leave him and return to England, where he would try to ease Mrs. Steerforth’s worries by telling her what he knew. Miss Dartle interjected here that she had paid him for this, which Littimer acknowledged. That was all he knew. He also mentioned that he was currently unemployed and seeking a favorable position.

David asks whether Emily ever got Mr. Peggotty’s letters—Miss Dartle asked David whether he had any questions, but he had only one—whether Emily had ever received Mr. Peggotty’s letter. All Littimer would say, however, was that Steerforth did not encourage any correspondence that might have a negative effect on Emily’s mood. To say more would be to betray Steerforth’s trust. The only other thing David had to say was that he planned to relay the information to Mr. Peggotty, and he therefore advised Littimer to guard his movements. With his usual composure, Littimer replied that those who took the law into their own hands endangered themselves more than others and that he would go where he pleased.

The mutual desire to keep Steerforth and Emily apart—After Littimer left, Miss Dartle added that he had told her that Steerforth was sailing the coast of Spain, last he heard, and would do so until he grew tired of it. Steerforth’s willfulness had put a greater separation between himself and his mother, and Miss Dartle did not believe it could be healed. The only other thing she wished to add was that she believed that Emily was alive, and though Miss Dartle had no goodwill toward her, she and David had the common interest of keeping Emily away from Steerforth. In Miss Dartle’s view, Emily was the predator, and whatever David could do to keep her happy and away from Steerforth would be a good thing.

Mrs. Steerforth puts in an appearance—At this point, Mrs. Steerforth approached. She had aged a great deal but still carried herself with dignity and had the handsomeness and even a bit of the tenderness David had noticed before, not to mention the proud, quick expression David knew so well from Steerforth’s own face. Hearing that David had been completely informed, she repeated their desire to keep Emily away from Steerforth, though David explained that the notion that Emily would want to go near Steerforth was delusional. Miss Dartle must have made a motion to reply, because Mrs. Steerforth assured her that it was all right. She then changed the subject. She had heard that David was married and was doing well in his career. David confirmed the report, and Mrs. Steerforth ended the conversation by saying that his mother, were she still alive, would have been proud of him.

A premonition—They said goodbye, and David observed Mrs. Steerforth’s controlled dignity. As he walked away, he looked back to see her and Miss Dartle gazing out onto the sea of mist that was taking over the evening scene stretched out before them. From his retrospective vantage point years later as he wrote the story, he knew that a greater sea would encroach upon their lives before they met again.

David informs Mr. Peggotty—David’s next move was to contact Mr. Peggotty, so the following night, he went looking for him. Mr. Peggotty often wandered London’s streets at night, but he had a small apartment above the chandler’s shop, so David decided to look there.

Mr. Peggotty was reading next to the window when David knocked and entered, and he didn’t notice David until he touched his shoulder. David observed that the apartment was neat and clean, as though Mr. Peggotty wanted to be ready for Emily at any time. Mr. Peggotty warmly welcomed his friend but became nervous when David told him he had news of Emily. He listened quietly while David recounted the story, and when David was done, Mr. Peggotty asked him what he felt. David answered that he thought Emily was alive. At first, Mr. Peggotty had his doubts as he wondered whether the sea that had fascinated her for so long had at last swallowed her up. But he couldn’t help feeling in his bones that she was alive, and it gave him a new resolve. Neither one of them, though, felt she would go home first. David believed she would try to lose herself in the vastness of London, and the most likely person she would go to would be Martha. Mr. Peggotty was aware that Martha was in London, but because of his poor opinion of her, he avoided her. Now David revealed to him how Emily and Ham had helped Martha and how Martha had listened at the pub door that snowy night when David found Mr. Peggotty sitting on the church steps.

The search for Martha—Mr. Peggotty believed he knew where to find her, so they decided to go looking for her then and there, even though it was dark outside. David noticed before they left that his friend took special care, from unconscious habit, to make little preparations in case Emily came back that night: the candle in the window, the clothing and bonnet on the chair, the general neatness of the place.

David asks about Ham—As they left the building, David asked Mr. Peggotty how Ham was doing. He was still the same—working hard, never complaining, kind to others, though caring little for his own needs. They both wondered what Ham would do if he ever met Steerforth, and David referred Mr. Peggotty back to the time on the beach right after Emily and Steerforth disappeared. Did he remember the look on Ham’s face and his talk of the end, and what did he make of it? Mr. Peggotty didn’t know what to think. Ham hadn’t spoken of it since, and Mr. Peggotty believed that those thoughts had been submerged deep below the conscious level. Still, he believed they were connected to Ham’s recklessness with regard to his own life. And though he thought Ham would never do anyone else harm, he’d still prefer that he and Steerforth never met.

The two men spot Martha and follow her—They walked in silence, Mr. Peggotty going into the concentrated mode that took over whenever he went on his search for Emily. As they approached Blackfriars Bridge, Mr. Peggotty pointed out a woman across the street, and David immediately recognized her as Martha. David thought it might be better to talk to her in a more private place, so they followed her at a distance till they got to a less public area. But she favored the busier streets, and it was a long time before they finally left the crowds behind and could pick up their pace to connect with her.



Martha turns off onto a dark side street near the river—It was around Westminster where Martha turned off into a dark, quiet street. David and Mr. Peggotty had a hard time keeping up with her because she walked so quickly, and now she sped up even more and crossed the street to avoid them. The road had a dismal atmosphere, and when David caught sight of the water, something told him to lay low, so he motioned to Mr. Peggotty to back off a bit.

Martha’s destination is a desolate, polluted area by the river’s edge—Martha’s footsteps led them down to the polluted river, which David had already guessed would be their last stop. Millbank Prison, a large penitentiary, stood nearby in an area where the riverbank was a combination of marsh, wild grasses, and stinking weeds. One section featured the ruins of half-built houses, while another showed the remains of accumulated junk—sails, wheels, anchors, pipes, and other items—rotting and rusting away. Along the river, smoke and fire belched forth from various industrial works, and here and there, pathways snaked between rotting wooden posts, covered with green, slimy, hairlike matter. David recalled a rumor that the area had once been a burial site for the Great Plague, and the general sense of death and decay was confirmed by tattered flyers, posted on higher ground, announcing the search for drowned men.

David and Mr. Peggotty make their presence known—It was low tide, and Martha, whose own desolate appearance matched the dismal environment, now made her way down to the water’s edge. David and Mr. Peggotty had hidden themselves behind the remains of some stranded boats, but now David came forward to address Martha, though not without a shaking sense of terror from the way she stood and looked at the water. As he took hold of her arm and said her name, she let out a scream and made such a violent struggle that it took Mr. Peggotty’s own strong hand and presence to tame the situation. Seeing his face, Martha fell to the ground and was carried up to drier land by the two men.

Martha’s desperate relationship with the river, the symbol of her own state—No sooner had they placed her down than Martha began to repeatedly wail, “Oh, the river!” To Martha, the river was a metaphor for herself. It had begun innocently enough in the country, where it still flowed pure, but when it reached the polluted city streets, its character and destiny changed, until at last it was swallowed up in the ever troubled sea. She felt that she and the river were one and that they had the same end. She could not keep away from it and felt its terrifying, relentless pull day and night. Even worse, she no longer felt suitable for anything else.

Martha worries that she will be blamed for Emily’s disappearance—Seeing her in this state evoked all of Mr. Peggotty’s fears for Emily. David noticed that his hands were ice-cold, his whole body was trembling, and his face showed a mixture of extreme dread and profound empathy. David tried to reassure him, but Mr. Peggotty could only point at Martha, who had again burst out crying. They waited until she was calmer, and then David asked her if she recognized Mr. Peggotty. She weakly admitted that she did. She also thought she remembered David from the night when Emily had helped her, and he confirmed that he was the same person. David asked if she was calm enough to talk with them about Emily’s disappearance. She wanted Mr. Peggotty to know that she was not to blame, for if she had been, she would not have been able to forgive herself and would have been dead in the river a long time ago. Emily was always kind to her, and Martha lamented that her own heart wasn’t better. Maybe the outcome of Emily’s life would have been better. When things went bad in her own life, she feared being permanently separated from Emily, and when Emily disappeared, she dreaded being blamed, when in truth she would have sacrificed anything—even her whole life’s happiness—to save Emily.

Martha insists that she loves Emily but wonders whether anyone will believe her—In between speaking, Martha would wail and writhe and clench in her misery. Suddenly, she turned to Mr. Peggotty and urged him to kill her. How could she expect him to believe anything she said? She knew that she and Emily were nothing alike, but she loved her and was grateful to her. Let him think whatever he wanted, but let him never think that she didn’t love Emily!

Mr. Peggotty gently explains that things have changed—Mr. Peggotty lifted Martha up and spoke to her with great gentleness. He had no right to judge Martha, and since Emily had left, many things had changed. But he and David wanted to speak with her, and he wanted her to listen.

Mr. Peggotty asks Martha to help them find Emily—Mr. Peggotty’s honesty and compassion had its effect, and for the first time, Martha began to calm down and listen. He explained that Emily was like a daughter to him and that she would normally travel far and wide to see him. But he also knew that she felt shame, and that shame might be a barrier between them. David and he thought there was a good chance she’d come to London and that the most likely person she would seek out would be Martha. Would Martha therefore help them find her?

Martha is deeply moved by their trust and vows to help find and save Emily—Their trust meant more to Martha than anything else they could have said or done. She had to make sure they meant it, and once convinced, she vowed to do all she could—and if she ever failed to keep that vow, then she was sure she deserved to end up in the river. She was deeply grateful to have some pure, good aim in her life, and she promised to talk to Emily, share whatever lodging she had, and tell Mr. Peggotty and David when she found her.

The two men offer Martha money, but she declines, feeling that it will defile her mission —David then told her all they knew and afterwards wrote down his own and Mr. Peggotty’s address in response to her query. When he asked for hers, though, he discovered she had no steady place to live, and she assured him it would be better if he didn’t know of the interim locations. Mr. Peggotty and David also offered her money, insisting that she take it in return for her help, but she refused. She didn’t want the taint of money corrupting the purity of her mission, despite her dire need. She would try to get work. The goodness of the goal, she felt, was the only thing keeping her from the river. David cried out that she should let go of that idea. Everyone was capable of doing at least some good. This seemed to frighten her—it had been so long since anyone had trusted her, and nothing good had ever come of her actions. But she was grateful to them for making the effort.

David and Mr. Peggotty watch Martha leave—David noticed from Martha’s tired, gaunt look that she had probably been sick for a while and had led a deprived life. Now, as she left them, she touched Mr. Peggotty and went her way. They did not follow her, feeling it would betray their newfound trust. Instead they walked home together and finally split once they got closer to their individual destinations.

David checks on his aunt and finds the shabby, hostile stranger in her garden—As David passed his aunt’s cottage at around midnight, he noticed the front door was open and a light was on, so he decided to check on his aunt. There in the garden, a furtive, restless man was eating and drinking. He was the same man who accosted David’s aunt in London and then took almost all her money. David watched from behind some bushes while his aunt came out and gave the man some money, confessing it was all she could afford. He didn’t seem impressed, but she insisted it was all she had to give. She had sustained too much financial loss, and it was only because of her weakness that she allowed him to take advantage of her. He had already taken most of what she had and treated her shamefully. The least he could do was leave.

Aunt Betsey tells David the truth about the strange man and asks him to keep it secret—Realizing it was hopeless, the man slunk out of the garden. Seeing his chance, David acted like he had just arrived, and as they passed each other, they exchanged unfriendly looks. David wanted to talk to him for his aunt, but Aunt Betsey told him to come in and be silent for the next ten minutes. Once she regained her composure, Aunt Betsey sat down next to David and explained that the man was her husband. That surprised David. Her husband was supposed to be dead. He was, she explained—to her. In the sense that she still had to deal with him, though, he was alive. At one point in her life, she had harbored romantic feelings and would have done anything for that man, but he used her financially and abused her emotionally, so she left him. She could have gotten a legal separation in her favor, but instead she was generous toward him despite his unkindness. He went on to lead a dissolute life, even marrying again, and ended up in his current beggarly state. She knew she had married and loved foolishly, but she had loved truly. And though she had put all that behind her, she couldn’t bring herself to treat him harshly, so she paid him to leave. That was the whole of her “grumpy, frumpy story,” and all she asked now was that it should be their secret.



David succeeds as a writer and quits his court reporter career—David continued working as a stenographer for some time, but by now he had also published his first novel, which was a success. His talents and opportunities had come together in fortunate ways, and between the praise he received from others and his own observations, he felt confident in his career choice. He was also earning such a good living from his newspaper articles and other submissions that he felt he could finally leave stenography, having grown tired of recording the same dull political routines over and over again.

The Copperfields’ substandard servants—It was now about a year and a half since David and Dora were married, and their housekeeping issues had settled into a mediocre state of resignation. They had a boy servant, who constantly fought with the cook, even during social gatherings, when the boy would yell and the cook would throw things at him despite the presence of guests. Moreover, both servants were thieves. The boy himself had stolen Dora’s gold watch and then pawned it and wasted the money on coach rides. The cook, as revealed by the boy page, had emptied the whole stock of wine bottles and delegated to her daughter the job of stealing the Copperfields’ bread on a daily basis. And that was only some of what they did.

The Copperfields’ page is finally arrested and deported for thievery—All of this should have made it easy for David to fire the page. But he was an orphan, and any time David so much as hinted at the possibility, the boy would break into tears at the thought of being separated from them. When he was finally arrested for thievery, the boy kept trying to make up for it by reporting everyone else’s crimes. But this only gave David more of a headache, and he was only relieved of the trouble when the page was finally brought to trial and sent out of the country to become a shepherd somewhere far away.

David tries unsuccessfully to talk to Dora about their domestic situation—Embarrassed, and tired of being a constant victim, David broached the topic with Dora. She, however, took it personally, even though David was as gentle as possible in the way he presented it. He thought something in their own behavior might be causing this constant stream of victimizations, and he felt that a different approach might fix it. Dora understood this as an accusation that she was like the page-boy thief who had been jailed and transported. Her reaction was so emotional and irrational that David finally had to drop the subject altogether.

David feels alone and mismatched—David’s inability to communicate with Dora about anything serious left him feeling alone and mismatched. He still loved her, and he knew he had to make the most of his choice, but he couldn’t help wishing that his partner in life was more equal to him in intellect and more serious in purpose.

David tries forming Dora’s mind, which only exhausts and frustrates her—Since the direct approach had failed, David decided to try “forming” Dora’s mind. To him, that meant acting solemn when she behaved childishly, reading Shakespeare to her, and speaking to her about whatever happened to mentally engage him at the moment. This was all tiring and tedious for Dora, who instinctively understood what was going on and consequently resented Shakespeare. David even tried bringing Traddles into the effort, and he managed to spew a great deal of wisdom in his direction. But none of it made any impact on Dora, except to frighten and frustrate her.

David accepts Dora as she is but feels unfulfilled—One day, David realized that this, too, was futile. Dora was who she was, and he needed to be content with that, so he bought Jip a new collar and Dora some earrings, and he went home to make up for the rift that had existed between them for too long. Dora was delighted with the gifts and brightened at the thought of not having to put up with any more efforts to shape her, which she affirmed did not sit well with her. But David was left with the gnawing feeling that something in him was unresolved. He knew that the dreams of youth had to remain only dreams, but he felt he had also left behind certain possibilities—the contented times he used to spend with Agnes—that could now no longer be fulfilled.

David remembers Annie’s speech and tries to make adjustments—It wasn’t that David didn’t love Dora. He loved her bright eyes, her playfulness, her beauty, her charm. And there was no doubt that she loved him and was immensely proud of his accomplishments. But David had to learn what Dora had always known—that try as she might, she could not grow into anything more than what she was, and it would be best to be content with what was there. Eventually David learned to submerge his doubts for the most part. But sometimes they would return to haunt him—even in his dreams—in the form of those telling phrases uttered by Annie in her moving speech to Doctor Strong, phrases that spoke of youthful impulses and the mismarriage of hearts, minds, and wills. And David did not simply remember them. He tried to implement them for the benefit of his own marriage, and to some extent, it worked. Even if it meant forfeiting some of his own needs and self-expression, the adjustment made Dora happy, and that made him happy.

Dora’s baby dies at birth, and Dora’s health begins to fail; Jip, too, starts to grow old—But Dora was delicate, not just emotionally but also physically. David thought it might help her to mature if she were a mother, but her baby died at birth, and after that, Dora’s health began to fail. Jip was also getting sluggish, which Aunt Betsey attributed to age. Age! It hadn’t occurred to Dora, who still believed she would recover and make Jip run again. Aunt Betsey reassured her that he would live a long while yet. Even so, she didn’t think he was up to racing, but she would get her Little Blossom another little dog for that purpose. Oh, no, that wouldn’t do. Dora and Jip were old friends, and Dora couldn’t do that to Jip just because he had gotten a little slow.

Dora continues to weaken, and though she remains cheerful, David senses the presence of death—A week or so later, Dora still hadn’t recovered as expected. Traddles had dinner with them every Sunday, and though Dora was cheerful and lovely as ever, her body lacked her former energy, and she could no longer dance as she used to. It became so that David had to carry her up and down the stairs to the bedroom, and the whole group of them made a parade out of it: David and Dora were first, followed by Aunt Betsey with pillows and shawls, Mr. Dick carrying a candle, and Traddles at the base of the steps, taking happy messages from Dora for Sophy. Yet for all their festiveness, David sometimes felt a cold, indefinable numbness, which he tried to shut out of his mind. But one evening, as he sat by himself, he felt it so strongly that he couldn’t help thinking that his Little Blossom was fading fast.

David Takes Part In A Mystery


A desperate invitation—One day, David received an unexpected letter from Mr. Micawber. In his usual imaginative style, Mr. Micawber informed David that things were not right with him. Given the difference in their circumstances and David’s outstanding achievements, Mr. Micawber did not feel worthy to address him as a close friend. Circumstances beyond his control had brought him to a painful position that had destroyed his peace of mind and made him feel undeserving of human company. Even Mrs. Micawber was unable to help. He would therefore be taking a two-day break to revisit some of his favorite former haunts in London, and he planned to be at the south wall of the King’s Bench Prison at 7 p.m. the day after next. He did not feel worthy to ask either David or Traddles to join him, but he had decided to send out the invitation on the off chance they might do so. With that, he signed off as the “ruined vestiges” and “Fallen Tower” of his former self. In a postscript, he added that Mrs. Micawber was to know nothing of his plans.

Traddles arrives—As David was trying to decipher Mr. Micawber’s convoluted prose, Traddles walked in. His timing couldn’t have been better, and David took advantage of the occasion to ask his opinion on Mr. Micawber’s letter. Amazed at the coincidence, Traddles mentioned that he, too, had received a letter—from Mrs. Micawber.

Another desperate request—Mrs. Micawber’s letter was less convoluted in its phrasing than her husband’s, but in a roundabout way, she, too, was asking Traddles to meet with her husband and intervene for their family. She described how Mr. Micawber had become sullen, secretive, and even violent, all for no obvious reason. The most innocent request could produce an irrational reaction, and the family lived in a constant state of anxiety. It didn’t help that Mr. Micawber repeatedly mentioned that he had sold his soul to the devil. Being an observant wife, Mrs. Micawber figured out that her husband would be visiting London’s West End. The coach’s final stop would be the Golden Cross in Charing Cross, and she humbly hoped that Traddles would be kind enough to meet him and speak to him.

David and Traddles determine that the Micawbers’ two letters are somehow connected—David and Traddles had exchanged letters, and they each wondered what the other thought. They concluded that, although the Micawbers had not conspired, the two letters were related, and there was more going on than either of the Micawbers was saying. David felt bad that he hadn’t been more attentive to Mrs. Micawber’s previous letter, and he and Traddles wrote her a sympathetic response saying that they would certainly meet her husband in London. They even consulted Aunt Betsey after mailing it, but she was unable to help them unravel the mystery.

David and Traddles meet Mr. Micawber by the King’s Bench Prison wall—David and Traddles arrived early to find Mr. Micawber already there. He was wistfully staring at the spikes on top of the prison wall, apparently remembering happier times. Greeting him, they noticed he had dressed as he used to before working in a law office, though with less genteel flair and more tension in his overall manner. After a formal beginning on Mr. Micawber’s part, David begged him to address them normally. Mr. Micawber thanked him deeply for his warmth and friendship.

Mr. Micawber wishes he had never left prison and refuses to talk about Uriah Heep—Referring to the prison, Mr. Micawber recalled the days when he was free from harassing debtors’ visits and when he could still view his fellow men on equal terms. Sadly, he no longer felt worthy as a human being. Looking back on his life, he now wished he had never left the debtors’ prison. Traddles commented that Mr. Micawber must be extremely depressed, and he hoped it wasn’t related to working with the law. Mr. Micawber admitted that he was depressed but said nothing more. After a pause, David asked him how Uriah Heep was doing. That brought forth an excited response as the color drained from Mr. Micawber’s face. He was obviously upset by Mr. Heep’s devilish ways and preferred not to talk about him.

Mr. Micawber’s self-esteem is at an all-time low; David invites him to his aunt’s home—David apologized for bringing it up and asked about the Wickfields instead. Mr. Micawber blurted out that Miss Wickfield’s steadfast goodness was the only bright light in his life. Overcome with emotion, he asked to turn into a more private street, where he pulled out a handkerchief and began to cry. He confessed that, for all his admiration of Agnes, her virtue was a rebuke to him, that he was unworthy of better company, and that only death would settle things for him now. David and Traddles thought it best to ignore this statement and invited him to Highgate to take his mind off his troubles. He could spend the night at Miss Betsey’s, where he would be among friends.

Mr. Micawber is warmly received by Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick—On arriving in Highgate, Aunt Betsey freely welcomed Mr. Micawber despite his depressive mood, and Mr. Dick, who was always particularly kind toward anyone who was suffering, shook his hand repeatedly and asked about his well-being with great warmth. Mr. Micawber was so overcome by Mr. Dick’s natural human feeling that he even commented on it to Miss Betsey, who replied that Mr. Dick was no ordinary man. Mr. Micawber even went so far as to characterize him as a gushing, green oasis, such as he had never met before in his entire existence.

Aunt Betsey gradually gets Mr. Micawber to talk—Normally, David would have found this entertaining, but Mr. Micawber’s gloomy state and his indecision about whether or not to reveal his troubles put both David and Traddles on edge. Aunt Betsey, who was always astute, was even more focused than usual, and she managed to draw Mr. Micawber out of himself. But when he described his family as “Aliens and Outcasts,” she bluntly asked him what he was talking about. He began to speak about how their welfare was threatened by the precariousness of his job because of his employer, but then he hesitated and went back to focusing on preparing the punch, which had been delegated to him partly because it was one of his specialties and partly to distract him from his woes.

With Mr. Dick’s encouragement, Mr. Micawber begins to talk about Uriah Heep—Mr. Dick gently nudged him, reminding Mr. Micawber that he had mentioned his employer. Mr. Micawber thanked him and said that Uriah Heep had reminded him that were it not for his employment of him, Mr. Micawber would likely have to travel around as the equivalent of a snake-oil salesman, braving the wind and rain. Whether or not that was true, Mr. Micawber himself was dismayed to think that his wife and children would probably have to earn their keep as street entertainers. On concluding this sad speech, he made a suicidal gesture with his knife and went back to fixing the punch.

Mr. Micawber is having a hard time concentrating on punch preparations—David noticed his aunt studying Mr. Micawber intently, and he himself considered questioning him further despite Mr. Micawber’s previous resistance to revealing anything. But then he noticed Mr. Micawber acting extremely confused. His punch preparations were all mixed up. Among other things, he was trying to pour hot water from a candlestick, and he was throwing the different ingredients into all the wrong places—the snuffer tray, the kettle, a jug.

Mr. Micawber snaps, and the truth bursts forth—Suddenly, Mr. Micawber threw down his utensils, stood up, and started sobbing. He confessed he was in no condition to prepare the punch, which required a clear mind and a calm heart. The others all stood at once, shocked by his violent outburst, and David urged Mr. Micawber to speak, assuring him that he was with friends. After that, all Mr. Micawber’s pent-up misery came pouring out. In fits and starts, as though he was fighting some great battle, Mr. Micawber told them how he wanted his life and his family back. For a long time, he had been a miserable wretch, caught in an awful web of deception and manipulation—and the source of it all was the evil Uriah Heep. Mr. Micawber was now determined to break through this horrible mess, and he would not allow himself the slightest comfort until he had undone that miserable serpent, Heep!

Mr. Micawber reveals his plan and dashes out of the house—During all this, Mr. Micawber was so overheated and beside himself that David became worried about his condition and tried to calm him. But Mr. Micawber would not allow it. He would not stop until the evil done by “HEEP,” which always took him tremendous effort to pronounce, was put right. Mr. Micawber had a plan, which he now sputtered out to his friends. He wanted them all to come to the Canterbury Inn at breakfast a week from then. He specified that that was the inn where he and Mrs. Micawber had once sung “Auld Lang Syne” with David, and there he would reveal to the world the crimes committed by that villain, HEEP. Proclaiming himself unable to deal with company, Mr. Micawber dashed out of the house, leaving everyone in a state of amazement.

Mr. Micawber sends his friends a follow-up note—Before they had all even begun to calm down, they received a letter from Mr. Micawber, which he wrote and sent from a neighboring pub. The letter was a brief note addressed to David, in the hope that he would relay the information to the rest. Mr. Micawber wanted to apologize for his volcanic outburst and to make sure they all understood where and when to meet him. He ended the note by saying that once his duty to humankind was done, he would then consign himself to the grave. Mr. Micawber usually finished his letters with an elaborate signature, but this time, aside from quoting two lines from a dirge, his signature was short and simple.

Emily Returns


Mr. Peggotty’s faithfulness and goodness—Several months after their meeting with Martha, Mr. Peggotty and David still hadn’t heard anything about Emily. David worried that she was dead after all, but Mr. Peggotty never lost faith and never complained. He was constantly saving money to provide for her when she arrived, and he followed every lead that might bring him closer, even traveling as far as Naples after hearing Littimer’s story from David. There was a rugged yet noble honesty and goodness about him that caused David to hold him in the highest esteem. Here he specifically mentions Dora’s wondering eyes when Mr. Peggotty visited their home and David’s own happy boyhood memories of the boathouse.

Martha visits Highgate to alert David—Martha did show up again one night near Mr. Peggotty’s apartment, but all she told him was that he should remain in London until she brought further information. She wasn’t able to say when that would be. Then, two days after Mr. Micawber’s dramatic revelation, Martha appeared near David’s cottage. The rain, which had continued all day, had stopped, and David was out walking in the garden as evening fell on the wet landscape. Looking out past the ivy trellis, he noticed a dark cloaked form motioning to him, and he recognized it as Martha. She explained that she had looked for Mr. Peggotty, but not finding him, she had left him a note about where to go. Now she wanted David to come with her immediately. He hailed an oncoming coach, and the two of them made the trip to Golden Square in London, according to Martha’s instructions. Aside from saying that they needed to go as fast as possible, she hunched in a corner of the coach the whole time, silent and tense.

Martha brings David to a dilapidated mansion near Golden Square—On arriving in Golden Square, Martha directed David to one of the side streets then featuring dilapidated old mansions that housed the poor. The home they entered was crowded with residents, many of whom peered out of their windows and doors at David and Martha as they went through the front door and up the large, carved wooden staircase. The one-time grandeur of the place was now marred by the dirt and rot that had accumulated over the years, and the feeble attempts at repair were no help. The windows were broken and, in many cases, boarded up; the incoming air was polluted; and the yard and neighboring houses were in an equally dismal condition.

David recognizes Miss Dartle ahead of them on the staircase—Inside, the lighting was dim, and as David and Martha proceeded up the stairs, several times they noticed a lady ahead of them. Martha’s room was on the top floor, and as they got closer, she was surprised to see the lady enter her room. In the meantime, David had recognized her. It was Miss Dartle. Martha decided to bypass her room, so she led David to an adjacent garret, where they could catch a glimpse into the other room and hear the conversation.

Miss Dartle enters Martha’s room, where she finds Emily and expresses her contempt—In the meantime, Miss Dartle had spoken to someone on entering Martha’s room, but neither David nor Martha could make out what she said. After a pause, Miss Dartle spoke again. She was not interested in seeing Martha but the person in the room. David recalls hearing a gentle voice respond, and he knew instantly that the speaker was Emily. Miss Dartle’s voice, by contrast, was hateful and severe. She had come to see the object of Steerforth’s affection and admiration so that she could shower her contempt on her. Emily tried to run for the door, but Miss Dartle got there before her and threatened her if she attempted to leave. David wanted to rush in and save Emily, but he restrained himself, thinking it should be Mr. Peggotty’s privilege to rescue her. He only hoped he would come soon. So did Martha.

Emily pleads for compassion—By now, Emily had begun speaking up for herself, pleading with Miss Dartle for compassion. Miss Dartle, however, considered Emily to be beneath her and worthy only of severe punishment for her crime of seducing Steerforth and making others miserable in the process. Emily assured her that her home had been constantly in her thoughts since she left and that she took no comfort in the fact that everyone there had always been kind to her, because she felt she didn’t deserve it.

Emily defends her upbringing and insists that she loved Steerforth, who seduced her—Of course, Miss Dartle’s primary concern was for herself and Mrs. Steerforth, since the “common” folk were a lower species in her eyes. To Miss Dartle, Emily was nothing more than a piece of garbage, a toy Steerforth had picked up to play with for a short while. But Emily protested. She had been raised in a good way and was on her way to a good life and marriage, when Steerforth appeared and used all his seductive powers on her. She did not excuse herself for yielding to her vanity, but she did insist that she believed him and loved him. This sent Miss Dartle over the edge. Her contempt turned to rage and mockery as she insulted and abused Emily, calling her “carrion” and hardly capable of love.

Miss Dartle abuses and threatens Emily—It is hard to tell at first whether Miss Dartle was being sincere or sarcastic when she called Emily a “pure fountain of love,” an “ill-used innocent.” But gradually it comes out that she thought Emily’s finer qualities—her beauty, innocence, and love—were a mask that hid her true character. For that reason, Rosa Dartle would not simply leave Emily to her misery. Instead, she threatened to “expose” her if she didn’t get as far away as possible or drop the “pretense” and reveal her “true” self. In Miss Dartle’s opinion, Emily should marry Littimer and be content. But if not, Miss Dartle would seek her out, with Littimer’s help, and dispense with her. More than once, Miss Dartle bluntly stated her wish to see Emily dead.

Mr. Peggotty rescues his beloved niece—David had been hoping this whole time that Mr. Peggotty would arrive soon. Just before Miss Dartle left the room, promising to make good on her threat as she exited, David heard footsteps and recognized them as Mr. Peggotty’s. Emily’s uncle and Miss Dartle passed each other on the stairs, and as he entered the room, Emily fainted in his arms. Mr. Peggotty kissed her tenderly, thanked God for His guidance, and carried Emily home.

The Start Of A Longer Journey


Mr. Peggotty visits David and Aunt Betsey—Mr. Peggotty appeared early the next day to speak with David. Aunt Betsey, who happened to be walking with David in the garden, greeted Mr. Peggotty warmly and then, knowing the delicate nature of the subject he had come to discuss, offered to go inside, with the excuse that she needed to tend to Dora. Mr. Peggotty, however, replied in his quaint country English that he would be most appreciative if she stayed, as long as she didn’t mind his chattering. Surprised, but gratified, Aunt Betsey agreed, and the three of them made their way to the summer house to hear Mr. Peggotty’s story.

Mr. Peggotty tells what happened after Emily’s escape—After Mr. Peggotty brought Emily back to his apartment, it took her a while to recover and even to recognize him. Once she did, though, she went down on her knees before him to tell her tale of humiliation and woe, and it pained him to see his beloved child in that state, though he was grateful to have found her. He said that when Emily escaped from Littimer, she ran wildly along the beach, confused and out of her wits. Thinking she was back in Yarmouth, she kept looking for the boathouse—for home. She had escaped at night, and in the morning, she was found half-conscious by the rocks.

Emily is bewildered and temporarily loses part of her memory—The young Italian woman who found her was someone Emily knew from her visits with the fishermen’s families. Seeing Emily like this, she asked what was wrong, but in her delirium Emily had forgotten all her Italian. The young woman’s husband was currently away on a sea expedition, so she let Emily stay with her. Mr. Peggotty paused a moment here to collect himself, being moved by the woman’s kindness.

Emily falls sick with a fever; her memory returns—For a while, Emily was sick with a fever and was delirious, again thinking she was back in Yarmouth at the boathouse and that Littimer and Steerforth were lying in wait for her. For a while, too, she slept and felt weak, but finally, she awoke one day and recognized where she was and the person who had taken her in. At that point, she remembered what happened and burst into tears on her friend’s breast. Her Italian still eluded her, though, until one day, when a little girl recognized her and called her “fisherman’s daughter,” a name Emily herself had requested, and it all came flooding back, along with her tears.

Emily gets better and moves to a French port town; she leaves for England when she spots Steerforth—Gradually, Emily mended. By now, her friend’s husband had returned, so she gratefully bid them farewell (they refused to take the little money she had, though they, too, were poor) and set out for France. Arriving in a port town, she found a job at an inn, but when she caught sight of Steerforth one day, she immediately fled for England.

Emily goes to London, where she is immediately offered a “needlework” job—Once in Dover, she was too ashamed to return home, so she made her way to London, where she got a job supposedly doing needlework. But the “needlework” job was a cover for something like prostitution, though Mr. Peggotty never explicitly said what it was. He was in awe that a pretty, young girl should find herself alone in London, and he observed that Emily met the woman who offered her the job almost immediately. He said that Emily had “found (as she believed) a friend,” and there were promises of lots of work and a place to stay. He gratefully acknowledged that Martha found her right at that time and, with unusual courage and strength, rescued her from “that black pit of ruin.” He couldn’t even begin to think what would have happened otherwise.

Martha rescues Emily from a horrible fate—Here he was overcome with gratitude toward David for thinking of Martha as a resource, and he was even more overcome by Martha’s faithfulness and courage. He said that the people at the place where Emily was staying had tried to stop Martha, but led by a fierce single-mindedness, Martha ignored them and brought Emily out of there and away from what she, too, believed to be worse than living death.

Martha informs David and Mr. Peggotty, who saves Emily—Martha took care of Emily the whole following day and then went looking for Mr. Peggotty and David. Unfortunately, Miss Dartle got there before them. But how or why that happened was irrelevant now—he had his Emily back. So far, she hadn’t said much to him. She had spent the whole night comforted by him, and they both now knew that they could trust each other forever.

An emotional reaction to the story—When Mr. Peggotty finished, Aunt Betsey wiped her tears and expressed her own gratitude for the chance to be David’s godmother, even if Betsey Trotwood, his mythical sister, had “disappointed” her. They were silent for a while, collecting their thoughts and feelings between Aunt Betsey’s sobs and laughter at her own emotionality.

Mr. Peggotty decides to move to Australia to give Emily a new start—Finally, David asked about Mr. Peggotty’s plans for the future. Mr. Peggotty said he had decided to move with Emily to Australia, where she could have a fresh start. He already knew which ship they would be taking and that it would be leaving in six to eight weeks. Peggotty herself would not be going. She felt responsible for Ham and was too attached to England and those she loved who lived there, like David. As for Mrs. Gummidge, Mr. Peggotty had decided that the trip and the change would be too hard for her, and that, in turn, would be hard on most of the people around her. He would therefore provide her with a home and a comfortable allowance, but he would not be bringing her along.

David accompanies Mr. Peggotty to Yarmouth—Mr. Peggotty had also thought carefully about how to return the bank notes he still had from Steerforth. Immediately before leaving for Australia, he would mail the money to Mrs. Steerforth, with instructions to forward it to her son, along with the message that he himself could no longer be reached, in case she or Steerforth tried to return it. He would also be going to Yarmouth the next day to tie up loose ends and say goodbye, and he was wondering if David would go with him. When David checked with Dora, she encouraged him to go, so off they went the next morning. On arriving in Yarmouth, David felt that Mr. Peggotty should have some time alone with Ham and Peggotty, so when the coach approached Omer and Joram’s, he decided to get off and visit with Mr. Omer.

David visits with Mr. Omer, who makes the most of life in spite of being in a wheelchair—David found Mr. Omer enjoying his pipe by himself in the shop. He was his usual cheerful, pleasant self, despite his breathing difficulties and the fact that he was now confined to a wheelchair. Even so, he found much to be grateful for, including the wheelchair, which to his mind was a wonderful invention with many advantages. It enhanced his pipe-smoking pleasure (it even had its own special place to put the pipe), improved his social life (more people stopped by to chat), was a perfect reading chair, and rolled about with ease. Even his little granddaughter Minnie could push it with no problem. Besides, Joram’s business was successful, and he and Minnie were like young lovers. In Mr. Omer’s mind, you had to take the good with the bad in life. So what if his limbs weren’t functioning? Life was still good.

Mr. Omer is happy to hear about Emily and expresses kind intentions toward Martha—Mr. Omer then praised David’s writing endeavors. He was proud to have once served the family of such a talented author. Knowing Mr. Omer would be interested, David mentioned what had happened with Emily and Martha. Mr. Omer was thrilled to hear that all had turned out well, yet at the same time, he was concerned for Martha’s future. David, too, had been thinking about that. He knew Mr. Peggotty would not forget Martha, but so far he hadn’t said anything about what could be done to help her future prospects. Mr. Omer kindly added that he wanted to be included in any efforts made on her behalf. He was sure that his daughter Minnie would, too, even if she seemed negatively disposed toward Martha on the surface. If David could let him know what was needed, Mr. Omer would be happy to send it along. It was his firm belief that no matter what age a person was, kindness was always the right action. Here he specifically mentioned Ham, who would visit him in the evenings and whose whole life was an act of kindness.

Mr. Omer’s little granddaughter, Minnie, wheels him around—Before David left, Mr. Omer wanted him to see his little granddaughter, Minnie, his “little elephant.” As soon as he called her, she came running down, and he proudly introduced her. Then, with great pleasure on his part and energy on hers, he had her wheel him into his bedroom while David watched.

David visits Ham’s house, where he sees Peggotty, Mrs. Gummidge, and Ham—David’s next stop was Ham’s house, where Peggotty also lived now, having rented Barkis’s house to the new coachman. David could see when he entered that they already knew about Emily. Peggotty and Mrs. Gummidge, who was visiting, were both crying, and Ham had gone for a walk on the beach. Having David there seemed to help, and they talked about many things, but no direct mention was made of Emily.

Of all of them, Ham was the calmest, but Peggotty told David later that that was his normal state. She believed he was heartbroken, even though his life was a model of virtue and hard work. In his usual intuitive way, David got the impression that Ham wanted to speak to him in private, so he determined he would meet with him the next day.

Ham asks David to deliver messages to Emily and Mr. Peggotty—The next day, David met Ham near his workplace, and they walked together a bit. David’s impression had been right. It wasn’t long before Ham asked him whether he had seen Emily and if he planned to see her again. David replied he had only seen her briefly after she fainted, and he thought it would be too hard on her feelings to try seeing her again. David did offer to write to her, though, for which Ham was grateful. Ham’s message was simple. He had forgiven her, but more importantly, he asked her for forgiveness. She had always confided in him as a friend, and he felt that if he hadn’t pressured her to marry him, she might have said something about the situation with Steerforth, and that would have spared her a lot of pain and trouble. Ham also asked David to tell Emily that he was all right, that he still loved her and would never marry again but that he didn’t want her to feel burdened by sorrow or guilt. Also, he knew he would never see his uncle again, so he asked David to bid him a warm goodbye.

David visits the old boathouse, which is being cleared out and left—Ham also knew that David was going to the old boathouse. He himself was too emotional to go there again, knowing that it was being cleared out and was about to be abandoned, so he said goodbye to David then and there. On entering the boathouse, David saw that all the furniture was already gone. Only an old locker remained for Mrs. Gummidge to sit on—the same locker David and Emily used to share. Mr. Peggotty was also there, watching the last sparks go out in the fireplace. He was back to being his warm and cheerful self, and when David commented on all the work they had done, he was quick to give Mrs. Gummidge the credit. As David looked at the bare little bedroom he once slept in and listened to the moaning wind, memories of his childhood and fears of meeting Steerforth came to mind. Mr. Peggotty, who would be returning the keys to the landlord that night, told David that the townsfolk now considered the old boat unlucky, so it would probably be empty for a while.

Mrs. Gummidge’s urgent request—It was time for them to leave. Mr. Peggotty wanted to carry the locker outside, so he asked Mrs. Gummidge to stand up. Suddenly, Mrs. Gummidge grabbed him by the arm. She had something urgent to relay before they left their old home: on no account did she want to be left behind. Mr. Peggotty was shocked, but she went on. She would mend her ways. She would stop complaining and be as cheerful as anyone. She would work hard and help Emily and him, but she would not and could not be left behind. It was obvious from the way she addressed “dear Dan’l” that she loved him and would go anywhere with him. Out of consideration, Mr. Peggotty tried to talk her out of it. It would be a long, hard trip, and Australia was a rough place. But Mrs. Gummidge meant every word. She was up to it, and she had grown from just watching all the toil and trouble he had endured. She had put her forlorn self behind, and she wanted to be there for him. Her passionate plea worked, and the following day, Mrs. Gummidge was on her way to London with Mr. Peggotty and David.

The Explosion


Arriving in Canterbury to meet the Micawbers—David, Aunt Betsey, Mr. Dick, and Traddles arrived at the hotel in Canterbury late the night before their meeting with Mr. Micawber. Aunt Betsey originally meant to stay and take care of Dora, but Dora put up such a fight, affectionately insisting Aunt Betsey should go and that Jip would take care of her in the meantime, that Aunt Betsey finally yielded. Once at the inn, the group found a letter informing them that Mr. Micawber would arrive at 9:30 sharp the next morning.

David’s early morning walk through Canterbury—David got up early the next day to walk through the old town he knew and loved so well. In some ways, things never seemed to change in Canterbury. Time appeared to stand still in this place of old buildings, peaceful streets, and fresh countryside. Yet time did move, and things did change, and in the sad sound of the church bells, David thought he heard the stories of those who had come and gone, some before their time—and he thought of Dora, who was still so young.

David also stopped to look at the Wickfields’ old house, though he realized he needed to be discreet so as to preserve Mr. Micawber’s plan. After that, he took an hourlong country walk and then returned to a slowly awakening town.

A nervous breakfast—Except for Mr. Dick, the atmosphere at breakfast was nervous and distracted as they awaited Mr. Micawber’s arrival. Aunt Betsey started pacing, Traddles made a half-hearted attempt to read the paper, and David stood by the window watching for Mr. Micawber.

Mr. Micawber reveals he has already consulted with Traddles; he instructs the group—Mr. Micawber did not disappoint. As soon as David notified the rest of the group that he was coming, they adjusted their clothing to look more formal. Even Mr. Dick, who wasn’t sure what was going on, decided to copy the others. Mr. Dick’s attempt, which consisted in pulling his hat over his ears, lasted only until Mr. Micawber’s entrance, at which point he pulled it right off and greeted Mr. Micawber with an enthusiastic handshake. Miss Betsey then informed Mr. Micawber that they were ready for anything he had in store, even an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. To David’s surprise, Mr. Micawber revealed that he had previously consulted with Traddles’s on what was about to unfold, and he now asked his guests to meet him in the office at the Wickfields’ five minutes after he left the inn. When they arrived, they were to ask for Agnes. Mr. Micawber then bowed and left.

Mr. Micawber leads the group to Uriah Heep’s office—Within a few minutes, the group followed Mr. Micawber’s cue, arriving at Wickfield and Heep as specified. David greeted Mr. Micawber and then asked for Miss Wickfield, upon which Mr. Micawber explained that her father was sick with a fever but that Miss Wickfield would no doubt enjoy seeing them. In the meantime, he led them all directly to what had been Mr. Wickfield’s office and was now the office of Uriah Heep.

Uriah is suspicious; Agnes comes into the room, and Traddles quietly slips out—Uriah Heep was surprised and a little suspicious at first on seeing them all, but he quickly switched to his fawning mode. Even so, he continued being visibly suspicious and nervous at various points in the conversation, especially when speaking with Traddles, whom he had only seen once before. Eventually, Agnes came into the room, looking a bit tired and anxious, though still beautiful in her quiet way. While the others were distracted by her arrival, David noticed a subtle signaling between Traddles and Mr. Micawber, after which Traddles quietly slipped out of the room.

Uriah orders Mr. Micawber to leave, but Mr. Micawber ignores him—It was at this point that Uriah, seeing Mr. Micawber still standing by the door, made the mistake of dismissing him without any effort at kindness or courtesy. Mr. Micawber, however, simply stood there. Annoyed, Uriah repeated his request and finally demanded to know why he still stayed. Mr. Micawber’s reply was that he chose to stay.

Realizing something is underfoot, Uriah threatens the group with various tactics—That was the statement that turned the tables. Uriah no longer made any attempt to conceal his real nature, accusing Mr. Micawber of being dissipated and threatening to fire him. Mr. Micawber responded by calling him the biggest scoundrel on earth. By now, Uriah’s expression had changed from fawning to evil and dark as he concluded that he was the object of a conspiracy. First, he lashed out at David for being his enemy from the beginning. Then he called Mr. Micawber the “scum of society” and reminded David that he, too, had once been in that category. Next he threatened Aunt Betsey with blackmail in relation to her husband if she didn’t end the conversation. Even Agnes received the same treatment as he threatened to destroy her father if she had anything to do with it.

Traddles returns with Mrs. Heep and reveals himself as Mr. Wickfield’s legal agent—Suddenly he realized that Traddles was no longer in the room, and he cried out to know where his mother was. At that moment, Traddles escorted her in, and on being questioned by Uriah as to his authority, Traddles announced himself as Mr. Wickfield’s agent, with full power of attorney.

Uriah loses whatever is left of his veneer—By now, Uriah had lost all discretion, describing Mr. Wickfield as a drunk “old ass” and disclosing that Mr. Wickfield had been defrauded, though he didn’t say by whom. Traddles agreed with Uriah on that point and handed the conversation over to Mr. Micawber. Mrs. Heep anxiously tried to intervene, but Uriah rudely interrupted her, insisting she leave matters to him. David had always disliked Uriah intensely, but this extreme change in his surface behavior shocked even him. As David contemplated how Agnes could have lived under the same roof as Uriah, Uriah began ripping into David again. He then insultingly urged Mr. Micawber to speak.

Mr. Micawber begins to read from a letter; Uriah tries to grab it—That was all it took. Mr. Micawber unfolded a large piece of paper and read from it. It was addressed to Miss Trotwood and the gentlemen present with her in the room. The gist of the letter was that Uriah had taken over the firm of Wickfield and Heep and had cheated Mr. Wickfield through fraud and forgery. Enraged, Uriah tried to grab the letter, but Mr. Micawber intercepted his hand with a large ruler. That appeared to break Uriah’s wrist and caused him great pain in any case. As Uriah swore and threatened to get even, Mr. Micawber started blandishing the ruler as though it was a sword, so that Traddles and David had to make a concerted effort to restrain him.

Mr. Micawber describes his investigation of Uriah’s fraud and forgery activities—Once he had regained some calm, Mr. Micawber resumed reading. With his usual exaggerated phrasing, he stated that his base salary was miniscule, and any additional pay rested on his willingness to go along with Uriah’s evil schemes. He soon became indebted to Uriah, and it was apparent to Mr. Micawber that he had walked into a deliberate trap. Uriah’s goal, despite acting like a grateful admirer of Mr. Wickfield, was to fool and defraud his partner, and for this, he needed Mr. Micawber’s assistance. But the conflict became too great for Mr. Micawber, and between the proddings of his own conscience and Agnes’s urging, he set about investigating the matter in detail for a full year.

Falsification and extortion—First, Uriah falsified the books and took advantage of Mr. Wickfield (whom Mr. Micawber referred to as “Mr. W.) when he was at his worst. That included extortion for a large sum of money, which Uriah later blamed on Mr. Wickfield and repeatedly used against him. Mr. Micawber also mentioned a pocket notebook Uriah had thrown into the fire but which had only been partially damaged and was found by Mr. Micawber when his family moved into the Heep’s former home. Here Mrs. Heep tried to intervene again, exhorting Uriah to be humble and work things out, but he refused.

Lies and forgeries; the evidence of the half-burnt pocket notebook—Mr. Micawber’s next accusation was forgery. David pauses here to note Mr. Micawber’s love of verbose speeches, though that trait wasn’t unusual. Apparently, many men felt pleased with themselves, especially in legal matters or at important gatherings, if they could utter lots of words, however unnecessary. Getting back to Mr. Micawber’s speech, in short, Uriah forged both Mr. Wickfield’s and Mr. Micawber’s signatures as witnesses to events that never took place. That was where the half-burnt pocket notebook came in, since it contained examples of Mr. Wickfield’s signature forged by Uriah.

Mrs. Heep pleads with her son; Uriah accuses David—Mrs. Heep pleaded once again with her son to be humble and work out some sort of agreement, but Uriah just told her to consider shooting him. Uriah’s mother was deeply concerned for her son, though, and kept insisting he should humble himself for his own good, while Uriah kept confronting David as though he was the mastermind behind the investigation.

Blackmail, manipulation, and false accusation—Mr. Micawber continued. There was a third accusation: blackmail and manipulation. Mr. Wickfield had been manipulated out of much of his money, and Mr. Micawber hinted that Uriah intended to get Agnes under his thumb as well. He even got Mr. Wickfield to give up his part of the partnership and to agree to the sale of his furniture, to be bought by Uriah on a quarterly basis. Furthermore, the decline of Mr. Wickfield’s business and the bad business moves for which he was blamed were actually caused by Uriah, who at the same time had twisted the situation so that Mr. Wickfield felt completely dependent on him.

The promise of facts and the hope that he did some good—Mr. Micawber finished his speech by saying that he now had only to prove his points with facts. After that, he and his family would disappear and be left to their miserable fate or death, all of which he outlined in dramatic detail. At least, he hoped his efforts in Canterbury had done some good and that his selflessness in this undertaking, despite his difficulties, would be recognized.

Traddles lays down the law, demanding that Uriah hand over all relevant documents—After Mr. Micawber finished, it occurred to Uriah to check the safe, which turned out to be empty. Earlier, Mr. Micawber had removed the books and given them to Traddles, who now took charge of them despite Uriah’s protests of theft. Suddenly, Aunt Betsey lunged at Uriah and, grabbing him by the collar, demanded her property back. David quickly managed to calm her down, assuring her that all would be set right in due time. Meanwhile, Mrs. Heep had been pleading on her knees for the sake of her son, who now, still supposing David to be in charge, asked him what he wanted him to do. It was Traddles who answered with a clear, calm decisiveness that gave David a newfound respect for his friend. Uriah was to hand over the deed of relinquishment then and there, and Traddles saw right through Uriah’s protests that he didn’t have it. After that, he was to hand over everything else. Uriah wanted time to think about it, which Traddles cordially allowed, but he was to remain in his room, without speaking to anyone. When Uriah refused, Traddles suggested Maidstone Prison as an alternative and sent David to fetch two officers. Again, Mrs. Heep went down on her knees to plead for her son, and between her pleading and Traddles’s order to David to get the officers, Uriah broke down and agreed to hand over the deed. Traddles therefore had Mr. Dick escort Mrs. Heep to retrieve it, which she dutifully did, along with some other relevant items. With that accomplished, Traddles gave Uriah leave to go to his room and think, but he made it clear before everyone there that his demands were to be met immediately and that there was no other course of action.

Still threatening and accusing, Uriah goes to his room, as ordered—As Uriah shuffled out of the room, he still felt compelled to express his hatred for David, as though he had been in charge of his demise. David did not defend himself but simply explained that greed and manipulation always met a bad end. With a final threat to Mr. Micawber, Uriah left the room.

Mr. Micawber invites everyone to witness his family’s renewed happiness—Mr. Micawber next invited everyone to witness the restoration of his family’s happiness, which had been marred too long by his own unhappiness and the need for secrecy. Those who could attend—David, Aunt Betsey, and Mr. Dick—did. But Agnes needed to care for her father, and Traddles agreed to watch Uriah, so they remained behind.

The Micawber family is happy to see Mr. Micawber back to his old self—When they arrived at the house, Mr. Micawber rushed in, crying for his wife. She immediately returned his affection, and all the children, from infant to teenagers, responded with varying demonstrations of joy to see their father’s true spirit restored. Mr. Micawber promised that nothing would ever interfere with their happiness and trust again, no matter how dire their outward situation became (a notion that didn’t exactly appeal to them).

Aunt Betsey asks about the children and Master Micawber’s training—Following her initial joy, Mrs. Micawber fainted but was promptly revived by Mr. Micawber and Aunt Betsey, who, after being introduced, asked whether the entire brood of children was their own. Next, she wanted to know what young Master Micawber had been trained to do as a career. She learned that Mr. Micawber had tried to place him the Westminster Choir without success, since there were no openings. Master Micawber himself seemed confused about which direction he should take.

Aunt Betsey recommends emigrating to Australia and pledges her support—After some thought, Aunt Betsey asked why they had never emigrated and suggested that now would be an excellent time. Money, came the answer—they lacked the funds. That did not deter Aunt Betsey. They could find him the money, especially considering his recent contribution. Mr. Micawber insisted he would only take a loan and was assured by Aunt Betsey that it could definitely be done on whatever terms he desired. She then informed the Micawbers about the ship that would soon be bound for Australia and suggested they could go with Mr. Peggotty and the rest. Mrs. Micawber was immediately intrigued by the idea, but was there a place for a talented man like Mr. Micawber to work his way up? According to Aunt Betsey, it was the land of opportunity for a decent, hardworking person.

An optimistic outlook—To both Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, this seemed a good match, and they made up their minds to go. David was amused at how quickly their thoughts and mood shifted. Life was full of hope again as the Micawbers contemplated a prosperous new life in the land of kangaroos!

Another Retrospective


Dora has been ill for a long time—Dora had been ill for some time now, though she was still cheerful and beautiful—just more patient and less impetuous. Jip, too, was not his old self and no longer barked at Aunt Betsey all the time. The doctors had apparently given up hope, because they no longer tried to pass their encouragement on to David, who now spent many hours by Dora’s bedside.

Two outstanding memories—A few instances during that time stood out more clearly to David. There was the morning they both sat together, and Dora’s beautiful curls brought memories of the day David brought her flowers and they confessed they loved each other. That morning, she was sure she would get better, and they would go back to some of their old haunts to recall their silly, happy early days. Another evening, Dora gently asked David whether he would write to Agnes for her. By that time, Dora was confined to her bed all the time and had a great desire to see Agnes, even though she didn’t want to impose, knowing that Mr. Wickfield was ill. By this time, Dora, too, had a sense that she was dying, though she still possessed her natural happiness.

Dora’s last conversation with David; Dora asks for Agnes—David’s next memory was of nighttime. Aunt Betsey, Agnes, and David had been with Dora all day, but now David sat with her alone. The doctors had told him that she would die soon, but though he mourned for her, he could not fully embrace the idea. As they sat there alone, Dora confessed to David that she now believed she was too young to be a good wife. She would not have been able to keep up with his cleverness, and sooner or later, he would have grown tired of her. She thought things would be better this way.

David thinks back on their life together as Agnes sits privately with Dora—Dora also wanted to speak with Agnes, but she wanted complete privacy with her, and while David waited downstairs, the little memories of their life together came back to him through his tears. He thought of the many beautiful moments they shared, even though they were young and foolish. And he thought of the many times it occurred to him that their love was not what he had always hoped for, and he regretted those moments, realizing that life was after all a series of moments.

Jip goes with his Dora—Jip had been lying in the Chinese house that was his bed, and now he came out and indicated that he wanted to go upstairs. But David told him that tonight was not a good night for that. In fact, there might never be another time to see his Dora. Poor little, tired Jip walked over to David, looked up, licked him, and lay down and died.

Agnes returns, crying—By then, Agnes had come down again, and as David turned to her to show her what had happened, he saw that she, too, was crying, and he knew it was all over.

Mr. Micawber’s Transactions


Agnes’s quiet, benign influence; David plans to go abroad for a while—David’s full consciousness of his grief was interrupted and lightened somewhat by the other events in his life that now took his attention and by the sweet memories of his time with Dora. Someone suggested he travel overseas for a while to help him ease his mind. He couldn’t remember who gave him the idea, though he thought it might have been Agnes, whose gentle influence now seemed stronger than ever. She was like a heavenly presence, comforting and peaceful, and later he heard that Dora had died happy in her arms.

Traddles calls David, Aunt Betsey, and Agnes back to Canterbury—After Dora’s burial, only two things still delayed David’s trip: Mr. Micawber’s need to resolve the issue with Uriah Heep and the departure date of the ship to Australia. In the meantime, Traddles had called David, his aunt, and Agnes back to Canterbury, where Traddles had been taking care of business.

Mr. Micawber discusses his emigration plans—Traddles had arranged for the group to meet at the Micawbers’, and once they were settled, Aunt Betsey immediately asked the Micawbers whether they had decided to act on her idea to emigrate. There is a comic element here in the way Dickens contrasts Aunt Betsey’s one-line observations with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber’s longwinded answers. In short, Mr. Micawber’s answer was yes, but he needed to extend the time he originally proposed to repay his debt, since they might not have reaped the harvest of their labors by then (David got the impression he was thinking in terms of farming), and laborers were probably hard to come by in Australia. Aunt Betsey replied that he should arrange things however he saw fit. Mr. Micawber added that, since he was entering a new chapter in his life, he felt it important to be businesslike and on time with his payment arrangements. Therefore, he would like to arrange for a bill or bond to document the agreement. Ignoring his constant repetitions of the phrase “man to man,” Aunt Betsey said that should be no problem, since both parties were flexible.

The Micawber family’s preparations for their new life as Australian farmers—Mr. Micawber next explained what his family was doing in preparation for their new life. Mr. Micawber himself was learning how to bake; his daughter was milking cows at five every morning; his son had made some attempts at herding cows, though the herders mostly shooed him away; and the twins had been sent to observe pigs and fowl.

Mrs. Micawber’s wish to reconcile her husband with her family—Aunt Betsey tactfully inquired about what Mrs. Micawber was doing. Mrs. Micawber replied she had been writing to her family. She believed it was time to forget the past and for Mr. Micawber and her family to be reconciled. She believed their main differences revolved around money. However, since her husband’s money problems were about to come to an end, she felt that her family should have a celebration in his honor, where they would toast his future and he could make a speech on his opinions. Mr. Micawber was quick to intercept her. He had no desire to unfold his views before her family. His guess was that they would not appreciate them, being (in his opinion) snobs and bullies. Mrs. Micawber replied that they had never understood each other and that she felt sorry for her family, as it was their loss. Mr. Micawber then apologized if he had hurt her feelings and resolved that if they responded positively, he would go along with her wishes. If not, he would rather leave without a special sendoff from them. Seeing that Traddles had some business he wanted to broach with the others, the Micawbers excused themselves and left the room arm in arm.

Aunt Betsey’s secret issue—Traddles’s first move was to ask David how he was doing. David replied that he was all right but that his aunt seemed concerned about something and, given all she had done for others, their attention should be focused on helping her. He added that she had been back and forth to London for the last two weeks, sometimes for entire days, though she refused to say anything. Aunt Betsey was silent while he spoke, but now she took his hand and, with tears in her eyes, told him it was nothing. The problem had been resolved, and she would tell him about it someday. She then changed the subject, stating that they should deal with the business at hand.

Traddles expresses praise and appreciation for all who helped with the Uriah Heep case—With that, Traddles took over. First, he wanted to put in a good word for a few people. Mr. Micawber, despite a history of personal failure, had clearly worked extremely hard and done a phenomenal job of investigating, compiling, and communicating in the Uriah Heep case. He had even gone so far as to write Traddles letters when he was sitting immediately opposite him. Mr. Dick, too, had been an invaluable help in watching Uriah and, when he was done with that, tending to Mr. Wickfield. Besides that, he was pleased to act as a gopher and copyist. Aunt Betsey interjected that she had always known he was an extraordinary man. Finally, Traddles was happy to report to Agnes that Mr. Wickfield had greatly improved, now that Uriah’s influence had been removed. In fact, he had proved indispensable in clarifying certain difficult points.

Mr. Wickfield comes out debt-free; Agnes decides to provide for them both by running a school—But on to more concrete business. First, Traddles wanted to assure Agnes that, after sorting all deliberate and accidental confusion, Mr. Wickfield had sustained no losses and could retire debt-free. However, the remainder, which included the sale of the house, probably only amounted to several hundred pounds. Traddles therefore thought it only right to suggest that Mr. Wickfield, with the help of advice from his friends, should remain in charge of the estate. Agnes interrupted to say that she had thought about this issue for some time and disagreed. She was pleased that her father had regained his honor, and she felt she owed him much for all he had done. Her devotion to him was a lifelong commitment, and now she wanted to provide for both of them. David asked her how she planned to do that. She replied she could run a school and rent the house. She had a good relationship with the townsfolk, and she and her father had few needs. She was sure it would work, and she would be content doing it.

Aunt Betsey regains her entire investment, and Mr. Wickfield’s name is cleared—Next Traddles moved on to Aunt Betsey’s investment. He confirmed with Aunt Betsey that its value had originally been £8000, held in government bonds, but he could only account for £5000 of that. Aunt Betsey confessed that she had sold three of the bonds—one to pay for David’s apprenticeship. The other two she had secretly stashed in case of future hardship. She also wanted to see how David would handle himself under difficult circumstances, and she was pleased that both he and Mr. Dick came through with flying colors. Hearing that, Traddles was delighted to announce that they had gotten back all of Aunt Betsey’s money. It turned out that Uriah Heep had fraudulently sold the bonds and then manipulated Mr. Wickfield into taking the responsibility. Aunt Betsey added that Mr. Wickfield had written her a letter describing himself as a thief. In response, she went to visit him, burned the letter in his presence and then admonished him to keep the whole thing secret for Agnes’s sake or, if and when he could, to make things right, including for himself. When Aunt Betsey asked how they had managed to get the money back, Traddles revealed that Uriah found himself forced into a corner through Mr. Micawber’s cleverness and persistence. Uriah even admitted that it wasn’t greed so much as his hatred of David that made him take the money in the first place.

The Heeps escape to London—Aunt Betsey wanted to know what had happened to Uriah. All Traddles could tell her was that he and his mother, who had never stopped pleading for her son, had taken the night coach to London. David wondered if he had gotten any money. Traddles was convinced he had gotten plenty using different underhanded means, but in his view, money—no matter how much—would never satisfy his greed, nor would his hypocrisy ever allow him to do anything in an upright manner.

Provisions are made for the Micawbers in return for Mr. Micawber’s extraordinary efforts—Next there was the matter of Mr. Micawber’s debts. The general feeling, expressed by Aunt Betsey, was that he should be paid back for his extraordinary efforts in unearthing and proving Uriah Heep’s villainy. His debts amounted to £105, but beyond that Traddles knew nothing of the details and was concerned that Mr. Micawber would be arrested. Well, then, Aunt Betsey replied, they would have to bail him out however many times was necessary. Knowing Mr. Micawber’s habits, Traddles and David decided it would be better to give him a small amount of money to start in order to pay the debts incurred while working for Uriah and provide the Micawbers with travel expenses and an extra £100. They would formalize the payment agreement, as requested by Mr. Micawber, and David would recruit Mr. Peggotty as a confidential back-up, in case the Micawbers ran into financial trouble. Mr. Micawber would also be made aware of Mr. Peggotty, since David felt they could benefit each other in the new world.

Traddles tactfully asks about Aunt Betsey’s husband in relation to Uriah’s earlier threats—Traddles now hesitated before mentioning one more issue. During this prolonged business conversation, Aunt Betsey had twice asked to be left alone, claiming to be emotionally upset, even though she seemed composed. Apologizing for any pain the subject caused, Traddles asked about Uriah’s threatening reference to Aunt Betsey’s husband. Was this a real person? Aunt Betsey confirmed that it was. Traddles was concerned that Uriah might attempt to use the information against them. David noticed that his aunt shed a few tears, and Traddles asked if they could help in any way. Aunt Betsey replied that they couldn’t but hinted that Uriah’s threat had no power. She then suggested they call the Micawbers back into the room.

Mr. Micawber’s childlike delight as he stamps his promissory notes—When the Micawber family had reassembled in the room, Aunt Betsey explained how their debts and other financial issues were to be taken care of. Mr. Micawber became so enthusiastic on hearing this that he ran out to buy stamps for this promissory notes, though he shortly returned in the company of two officers who had arrested him on a non-payment charge brought against him by Uriah Heep. However, payment was promptly made, as promised, and Mr. Micawber was soon happily stamping his notes. Seeing his delight in the whole process, Aunt Betsey mentioned that it would be good idea for him to put his overspending habits behind him.

Wrapping things up—The business being concluded, David and Aunt Betsey would return to London the following morning, after spending the night at the Wickfields’, which, now that the Heeps were gone, felt like home again. The Micawbers and Agnes would also come to London, once the Micawbers’ domestic affairs and Mr. Wickfield’s business matters were settled.

Aunt Betsey explains her secret to David—When David and his aunt arrived back at her place in Highgate the next day (he wasn’t ready to go to his own home), Aunt Betsey promised to explain to him what she had kept secret from the others. The next morning at nine, David and his aunt took a carriage to a London hospital, where they saw a hearse parked outside. The driver had been waiting for Aunt Betsey and, on receiving her signal, led the way to Hornsey, her late husband’s birth town. Aunt Betsey’s husband had been sick before, but this time the illness was serious, and he had asked her to come. She said he expressed his deep sorrow to her for what he had done. He died the night before she left for the meeting in Canterbury.

Aunt Betsey remembers the past for a moment—After attending the burial service at the churchyard on the town outskirts, Aunt Betsey and David walked back to the carriage. On the way, she explained that on that same day, thirty-six years earlier, she was married. Her tears flowed as she remembered how the handsome man she married turned into a sad wreck, but she soon recovered, not being the type to give in to her emotions for too long.

Mr. Micawber’s latest letter—Arriving back at the cottage, David and his aunt noticed a letter from Mr. Micawber. Uriah Heep had made another claim, and Mr. Micawber had lost all hope of ever emigrating. His future was in prison, and all he could wish for was that some traveler would someday find his initials etched on the prison wall. That sad statement was followed by a p.s., which Mr. Micawber had written after previously sealing the letter. The Micawber family had unexpectedly attained the pinnacle of “earthly bliss,” when Mr. Traddles, through the good graces of Miss Betsey Trotwood, had stepped in and paid the bill.



David and his aunt move; David finally writes Ham’s message to Emily—With all the recent changes and David’s plans to go abroad, he and his aunt moved to a temporary residence in the Covent Garden area of London.[i] While waiting for the emigrant ship’s departure date, David realized that he had seen much of the Peggottys and the Micawbers but nothing of Emily, nor did he expect to see her. He hadn’t yet written the message entrusted to him by Ham, and it occurred to him that Emily might appreciate a chance to respond to Ham’s letter instead of receiving it at the last minute through her uncle. There wasn’t much time left, but there was just enough to deliver her response to Ham, if she chose to send one. So with the thought of the letter fresh in his mind, David headed home and immediately sat down to compose Ham’s message, which he then left for the mailman to deliver to Mr. Peggotty the next day.

Mr. Peggotty delivers Emily’s response the next day—David didn’t fall asleep until dawn the next morning, and the next day he was awoken by his aunt informing him that Mr. Peggotty was there with a response from Emily. Her message to David through her uncle was to please take responsibility for the letter, if he saw no harm in her answer. Her brief but impassioned note to Ham thanked him for his goodness and kindness, which, though it was a rebuke to her own error, was also a comfort and a hope. For through his and her uncle’s goodness, she thought she could catch a glimpse of God, and He would receive her. Finally, knowing they would never see each other again, she bid Ham goodbye forever. Maybe, if she had the chance, she would awake forgiven and renewed—an innocent child in another world, where she would go to him in love.

David resolves to personally deliver the message to Ham—Since there was just enough time, David wanted to personally deliver the message to Ham. He was feeling restless, anyway, and he thought it would be nice if Emily could know for sure that Ham had received it.

On the way to Yarmouth, David and the coach driver notice the ominous sky—David left for Yarmouth that same evening. Mr. Peggotty had reserved him the seat next to the driver’s, and as they set out down the road outside London, David commented on the strangeness of the sky. Neither he nor the driver had ever seen anything like it, and the driver observed that it meant heavy winds and danger at sea.

The weather grows worse and worse, with heavy rain and gales—He was right. As the day progressed, the wind got worse and worse. It was still late summer, but in spite of that, dense clouds darkened the sky, and the coach was met with driving sheets of rain. By nighttime, the wind was so fierce that the lead horses sometimes stalled or tried to turn back, and it seemed as though the coach itself would topple.

They stop briefly in Ipswich; there, and along the way, they see the havoc the storm has wreaked—By late the following night, they had gotten only as far as Ipswich, a little more than halfway, having had to fight the storm for most of the way. Ipswich is more inland than Yarmouth, but even so, both here and elsewhere the gales had already caused severe damage to trees, ricks,[ii] and the Ipswich church tower, and people were huddled in the inn yard and marketplace for fear that their own chimneys would fall on them in their sleep.

The coach finally makes it to Yarmouth through gale-force conditions—Back on the road again after changing horses, David and the driver saw the storm grow stronger and stronger as they neared Yarmouth and the sea. Evidence of the sea’s presence—the spray, salt, and water—was everywhere long before they could see the ocean’s towering waves, and their arrival in Yarmouth the next day was considered an event in itself.

After checking in, David joins the other townsfolk outside to witness the hurricane—David checked into the inn and then went out into the storm to look at the sea. He wasn’t the only one out there. Despite blinding gale-force winds, half the town had gathered behind various buildings to watch the towering waves that threatened to swallow their town. Sand, seaweed, and rocks were flying everywhere as the winds howled around them. Many of the women, whose husbands, sons, and brothers had set out to sea that day, were in despair, and old seamen shook their heads as though there was no hope.

David looks for Ham, who has been called to another town till the next day—David did not see Ham, so he checked his house. Not finding him there, either, he went to his work place, where he was informed that Ham had been called to Lowestoft on a special boat repair assignment that required his expertise. He was expected back the following day.

David hears of several wrecks and other struggling ships offshore—It was five o-clock by the time David got back to the hotel and cleaned up. Unable to sleep, he went down to the inn café to sit by the fire. Within minutes, a waiter told him that two coal barges had sunk, leaving no survivors, and several ships were seen in the roadstead[iii] trying their best not to crash into the shore.

David thinks of Ham and inquires about his safety; the storm worsens—Hearing that, David instantly thought of Ham and was concerned that he might try to come back from Lowestoft by sea, so to prevent that, he went back to Ham’s work place to check on the likelihood of that happening and, if necessary, go to Lowestoft himself. When the boatbuilder laughingly assured him there was no need to worry, especially about Ham Peggotty, David returned to the inn. On the way, he noticed the storm getting even worse. The sky had grown dark and threatening, the waves towered even higher, the wind shrieked, and the buildings—including the inn itself—shook.

Unable to eat or sleep, David goes downstairs, where others are also watching—David had ordered dinner, but he couldn’t eat. His thoughts, as wild as the storm outside, could find no resting place, except for the haunting notion that Ham was unsafe. After several glasses of wine, he took a nap by the fire and awoke with an unexplainable, all-consuming sense of dread. Exhausted, yet restless and unable to concentrate on anything, he finally went to bed but found that he could not sleep. Everything seemed intensified, and after hours of listening to the howling wind and imagining the worst on land and at sea, he finally got dressed and joined the group of servants who had elected to stay up all night and watch. At one point, he opened the outside gate to look out on the stormswept town, but the wind was blowing so hard he needed help closing it again.

David’s dream carries a premonition; he wakes the next morning to news of a shipwreck offshore—Back in his room after spending two hours downstairs, David had no problem falling asleep. His dreams incorporated the raging sounds of the storm outside, and he was dreaming that he and two good friends—though he didn’t know who–were firing cannonballs, when he was awoken in the morning by knocking on his door and the news that there was a shipwreck nearby. As fast as he could, David ran outside to the beach, passing numerous townsfolk on the way.

The storm, already fierce, is even worse; the townsfolk watch the struggling ship—Overnight, the storm had grown in intensity, and the waves were higher than David had ever seen them. Between the shrieking wind and the massive waves, David could not make out the shipwreck until a boatman pointed to it right ahead and close to the shore. The waves were beating fiercely and relentlessly at one side of the ship, and one of the masts was down. David could see some men working hard with axes to cut away the broken part of the vessel. One in particular stood out—a commanding, dynamic figure with curly, long hair. As the onlookers watched, they could make out the screams as men, cargo, and equipment were swept overboard by the ferocious waves. The boatman at David’s side pointed out that the ship was splitting in two, and after another large swell, they could see the curly-haired man and three men below him on the mast that was still intact. There was another swell, and the people on shore grew frantic as they saw another two men disappear. Only the curly-haired man and one other were left now. David and some others ran madly around, looking for help in a hopeless situation. Some of the men tried to explain, through wind and storm, that a lifeboat had already gone out an hour earlier, but the effort had been futile.

The ship splits in two; only one man, who stood out among the others, is left—By now, the curly-haired man was the only one left. The ship’s bell had rung wildly several times just before another wave of destruction. Now, as the ship finally broke in two and the bell rang again, the seaman waved it off, as though to defy the sea and death, and something in that gesture reminded David of an old friend.

Ham breaks through the crowd, determined to attempt a rescue—Suddenly, there was a commotion as Ham broke through the crowd. David’s first thought was to ask him for help, but when he saw the look on his face—the same grim look he had seen the day after Emily disappeared—he begged the other men to not let Ham go, that it would be certain death. But there was no use trying to dissuade Ham. Taking David’s hands in his and with only joy in his face, Ham told David that if his time was up, then it was up, and if not, he would be back.

Ham is killed trying to save the lone seaman—David was quickly escorted away from Ham and the men who were helping him. The men had gotten a capstan,[iv] and the next time David could see Ham, he had a rope tied around himself, which several of the strongest men would hang onto from the beach. By now, the ship had almost completely split in half, as the curly-haired man clung to the remains. Ham waited for the right moment, then ran madly into the water. But the waves were too strong and too high as they lashed him up and down and then pushed him back toward the shore. The men pulled him in, and David could see that his face was bleeding. He seemed to be telling the men to give him more rope, and soon he was back in the water, heading for what remained of the ship. He was just one swim stroke within reach of it, when a massive wave swept both Ham and the ship away. David ran to where the men were pulling him in, and as they drew him to where he stood, he could see that he was unconscious. Taking him to the closest house, they did everything to bring him back, but the sea had given his body too hard a beating, and Ham was dead.

A fisherman shows David another body near the boathouse, now destroyed—A rugged fisherman caught David’s attention from the doorway and asked him to follow him. Obviously upset, he informed David that another body had washed ashore. A feeling of dread came over David. Something about the fisherman’s manner made him think of the moment of recognition he had earlier, and he asked the fisherman whether he knew the person. There was no answer. David could see remnants of the old boathouse strewn where he and Emily used to play, and among them, Steerforth, now dead, lay as he had always lain—with his head resting on his arm.

[i] Dickens mentions here that Aunt Betsey was planning to move back to her Dover home, apparently forgetting that she sold it in Chapter 43 (“… my aunt … who has sold the house at Dover, to good advantage …). There are other apparent inconsistencies like this scattered throughout the text, along with sentence structure (allowing for Victorian stylistic differences) and spelling issues that are not modern publishing oversights but Dickens’s own errors. Dickens’s various errors may be related to the fact that, like his semi-autobiographical counterpart, David Copperfield, he led an extremely busy life. He also published this and other novels in installments, revising as he received feedback. Whatever the reason, it’s an example of how not all great writing is tied to perfectionism.

[ii] Stacks of straw, hay, corn, etc., especially shaped and thatched

[iii] Also roads; an area of the sea close to shore that is less protected than a harbor

[iv] A spoollike drum used for winding cable or rope

The New And The Old Wound


David takes charge of transporting Steerforth’s body back to London—Steerforth’s body was carried to the same cottage that currently housed Ham’s body, but once they got him there, it seemed wrong to the carriers to have him under the same roof, so they brought him to the inn. The body didn’t remain there long. Knowing he was the only one who could break the news to Steerforth’s mother, David wasted no time getting an appropriate means of transport from Joram’s, and he set out for London that night at around midnight. Even at that hour, contrary to expectation, groups of townspeople waited to watch them leave.

David arrives at the Steerforth home, which looks shut down—David arrived in Highgate the next day. Leaving the carriage driver with orders to wait for further instructions, he walked the rest of the way to the Steerforth home. The parlor maid who answered the door could see immediately that something was wrong. She asked David whether he was ill, but he replied that he was just tired and distraught. As he sat in the drawing room waiting for the maid to return from announcing his arrival, David noticed that the house had a dismal, shut-down look. The harp hadn’t been played in a while, and he learned from the maid that Mrs. Steerforth never left her room anymore. She had taken to living in her son’s room, probably out of loneliness over his absence.

Miss Dartle quickly loses her composure—After the usual greeting and introductory conversation, David tried to break the news to Mrs. Steerforth as gently as possible, but Miss Dartle caught on quickly and lost her composure. She began to rail on Mrs. Steerforth and David, too, when he tried to calm her down or berate her for her lack of compassion. In Miss Dartle’s mind, no one loved Steerforth more than she had. She would have been his devoted, self-sacrificing wife if she had had the chance. Instead, she received a scar on her lip that marred her face for life. In her view, Mrs. Steerforth had ruined him, encouraging his faults and discouraging whatever was good in him. As far as she was concerned, the mother had gotten what she deserved.

Mrs. Steerforth becomes nonfunctional on hearing the news—Throughout this diatribe, Miss Dartle showed no compassion and a good deal of contempt and mockery of Steerforth’s mother. But it almost didn’t matter. Once the mother realized what had happened, she lapsed into a semi-catatonic state, with an occasional moan being the only sign that she was alive.

Miss Dartle finally expresses compassion for Mrs. Steerforth—David was concerned that Miss Dartle would remain in her relentlessly cruel mode, but just before he left, she drastically changed her manner and began showing affection and concern for Mrs. Steerforth. Still, all Mrs. Steerforth could do was stare into space with a fixed look and moan. As David left the room, he was followed by Miss Dartle’s curses.

Steerforth’s body is returned home; David says his last farewell to his friend—David returned later that day with Steerforth’s body. Mrs. Steerforth was still in catatonic mode, despite multiple attempts by the doctors to help her. She and Miss Dartle hadn’t left Steerforth’s room, so David and those who helped to carry the body laid it on Mrs. Steerforth’s own bed. Before leaving the house, David closed all the curtains and shades, leaving the room with Steerforth for last. In a final act of farewell to his friend, he took Steerforth’s motionless hand and placed it against his heart.

The Emigrants


David takes steps to prevent Mr. Peggotty and Emily from learning about Ham and Steerforth–David was determined not to let word of Ham’s and Steerforth’s deaths get back to his emigrant friends, so he told no one, with the exception of Traddles and Mr. Micawber, whose help he enlisted. Mr. Micawber’s job, which he took on with great flourish and enthusiasm, was to prevent Mr. Peggotty from seeing a newspaper.

The Micawbers adjust their style for the great outdoors—As preparation for his new life in Australia, Mr. Micawber had outfitted himself with an oilskin jacket, a straw hat, and a telescope. Mrs. Micawber had wrapped herself in a shawl and put on a tight bonnet, as had Miss Micawber. Master Micawber wore a Guernsey shirt and sailor pants, and the younger children were all dressed in waterproof clothing. In short, they were ready for the great outdoors.

Everyone gathers to help with the preparations—David found the Micawbers in front of the Hungerford Steps as they watched some of their belongings leave by boat. They were staying in a room overlooking the river above a nearby pub, where David also found Agnes, his aunt, and Peggotty helping with last-minute clothing preparations before 7 a.m. the next day, when all emigrants had to be on board. Mr. Peggotty was there, too, and in the midst of all the commotion, David quietly told him the false but comforting message that Emily’s note had been delivered to Ham and that all was well. David’s goal was to see his friends off happy and untroubled, no matter how dark the reality was.

Mr. Micawber invites his friends for one last round of punch—Mr. Peggotty announced that all well-wishers could see their friends off the following day in the afternoon at Gravesend, where the ship would be docked before leaving. Until then, Mr. Micawber added, the men would be busy guarding their families and things, and, as Traddles just reminded him, there should be time for one more cup of punch—and all were invited!

More adjustments for life in the bush—David noticed that all the older Micawbers now carried bush knives, and it was his own foot-long version that Mr. Micawber now used to prepare the punch after first getting the ingredients from the bar downstairs. He even went so far as to wipe the knife on his sleeve. Moreover, the Micawbers no longer drank out of glasses but out of tin cups, apparently to get used to the rugged life that awaited them.

Another arrest and bail-out; Mrs. Micawber keeps hoping her family will appear—As Mr. Micawber was expounding upon this, he received a message asking him to come downstairs. Mrs. Micawber’s hunch was that it was someone from her family, finally come to make amends and say goodbye. In fact, it was an officer who had come to arrest Mr. Micawber on another charge by Uriah Heep. David was presently informed of this through another note, and promptly went downstairs to pay it and have Mr. Micawber released. Returning to the room upstairs, Mr. Micawber gave a vague excuse for his absence and then, apparently to ease his own mind, handed Traddles an elaborate calculation of his remaining debts, with compound interest. Unaware of the real reason for her husband’s momentary disappearance, and disappointed but undeterred in her hopes, Mrs. Micawber still believed that her family would show up at Gravesend at the last minute.

Mrs. Micawber’s faith in Mr. Micawber’s prospects in the brave new world of Australia—Aunt Betsey and David urged Mrs. Micawber to write when she got the chance. Both Mrs. and Mr. Micawber assured them they would, and Mr. Micawber added that it would be an easy thing, with all the ships going back and forth, and that the distance wasn’t worth mentioning—an exaggerated assessment in David’s view. Mrs. Micawber then launched into a speech about Mr. Micawber’s talents, his position in the new world, and her expectation that it would strengthen his ties with their home country, which had never given him the credit or opportunity he deserved. She felt he was an uncommon case and that he would rise to a high position in Australia, which would gain him recognition back in England. In her opinion, he should take charge of his destiny now and claim his due. Mr. Micawber, who was ready to put his experience in Britain behind him, had his doubts at first, but gradually saw the merit in her point of view and expressed his gratitude for her determined confidence. On that note, Aunt Betsey proposed a toast, and a beaming Mr. Peggotty shook hands with Mr. Micawber. In that moment, David felt that all would be well and that Mr. Peggotty, too, would do well wherever he went.

A final farewell on board the ship; one last arrest and bail-out—When David checked on them the following day, the Micawbers had already left by 5 a.m. in a boat for Gravesend, where he and Peggotty later met them to say their final goodbyes. The ship itself was mid-river, so that they had to take a smaller boat to get to it, which was apparent from the many boats that already surrounded it. Arriving on deck, David discovered from Mr. Peggotty that Mr. Micawber had been arrested one final time. But per David’s request, Mr. Peggotty had paid the bill, and now David paid him back.

A variety of emigrants and well-wishers crowd the boat; David spots Emily—In the dim lighting of the ship’s hull, David could see it was crowded with emigrants and their belongings. There were people of all different types, ages, and careers: smiths, farmers, children, parents, young adults, newborn infants, old people—all engaged in various activities as they said goodbye and prepared to leave on their long voyage. Off to the side by an open porthole, David noticed someone who resembled Emily. Another woman had just kissed her goodbye and moved off, but by the time David realized that her graceful manner reminded him of Agnes, he had already lost her in the crowd.

David and Mr. Peggotty say their final farewells; David finds Martha among the emigrants—The time had come for all visitors to leave, and Mr. Peggotty turned to David and asked him whether he had any last-minute messages or concerns. David answered that there was one—Martha. Just before that, David had noticed a young woman in black who was helping Mrs. Gummidge organize their belongings. Mr. Peggotty tapped her on the shoulder, and as she stood up, David saw that it was Martha. She was so overcome with emotion just then that she burst into tears. David blessed Mr. Peggotty for taking her with him, and in that moment he felt a deep love and respect for this kind and good man. David’s only other remaining mission was to give Mr. Peggotty Ham’s parting message, without revealing that Ham had died. That was hard, but even harder was not reacting when Mr. Peggotty gave him a loving message in return.

Last goodbyes as the ship moves off into the sunset—Peggotty had been sitting on a chest, crying, and David now said his final goodbyes to his emigrant friends before taking his dear old nurse with him into the little boat. It was sunset by then, and the beauty of the ship, with all the people crowded on deck in silence as they waited to wave their final farewells, left him with feelings of both sadness and hope. As the ship started to sail away, cheers arose from the small boats and were returned by the ship’s passengers. All of a sudden, David noticed Emily standing next to her uncle, who now pointed out David and Peggotty. Seeing Emily waving to them for the last time, David wished in his heart that she would be true to her uncle, who loved and cared for her. As the ship sailed off into the fading light and night fell on the English shore, David felt that night had fallen on his life.



David’s journey: an outline of his inner changes—Chapter 58 is about David’s journey abroad, though it’s more about his inner journey than about his external travels, which he barely mentions. Even then, the chapter is fairly simple as it explains how he went from a sense of overall numbness to grief and despair and, finally, to the remembrance of an old love that might once have become something more.

A three-year journey as a means of processing his emotions—David’s travels abroad lasted three years and encompassed many places and sights, but with little enthusiasm and with an ongoing sense of being removed from it all. As the shock of his recent losses gradually wore off, their reality began to hit home, and David’s suppressed grief rose to the surface. It encompassed not only his own losses, mistakes, and youthful dreams, but what might have been—lives that might have blossomed more fully had they not been cut short.

David’s heart begins to open in the purity of the Swiss countryside—After many months of aimless wandering, David finally arrived in the Swiss mountains. There, in the beauty of a Swiss valley at sunset, he began to feel a faint sense of peace and hope. Something of the purity and wonder of the place opened his heart, and for the first time since Dora’s death, he sobbed from the depths of his soul.

David receives a packet of letters—Immediately before that, David had picked up some letters at the village post office. He had barely kept in touch with his friends and relations, informing them of his latest destination but unable to write anything beyond that. This was the first packet he had received in a while, having missed a number of others.

David reads a comforting letter from Agnes—The letter he opened was from Agnes, who after one brief line about her own happiness and success in her latest endeavors, proceeded to write about her hope and confidence in David’s character and future development. She knew that, no matter what difficulties befell him, no matter how much pain he experienced, he would make the right choices and grow from his trials. He had done this before as a boy, and he would do it again. And she would always be there beside him, proud of his past and future accomplishments. That letter of comfort and hope was exactly what David needed. He read it many times and wrote Agnes, telling her that although he did not yet measure up to her view of him, he would work toward becoming that.

The dawning of a new life—This chapter contains some of the book’s most beautiful scenic descriptions, and like many scenic descriptions in Dickens, they depict a state of being. In this case, the pure beauty of the Swiss valley—the green trees and pasture, the sunlit snow-capped mountains, the singing shepherds’ voices, the fading colors of the sunset—all point to the dawn of a new life and hope, a new purity, like the clearing of the air after a violent storm. At the end of the last chapter, night fell as the ship sailed away, and now, having lived through the dark night of his own soul, David began to see a new light dawning in his heart through the words of one who had been a steady guide and comfort to him since his boyhood.

Agnes’s encouragement gives David new hope and resolve—Buoyed by Agnes’s sense of confidence in him, David resolved to try to become what she saw in him. One thing he appreciated about Agnes was that her vision for him was never accompanied by any sense of pressure. In that spirit, he allowed himself another three months to just be. By then, a year would have elapsed since the beginning of his journey, and he would decide what to do next.

David spends another two years in Switzerland, begins to write again, and regains a sense of self—David spent those three months in the valley, and when they were up, he decided to stay in Switzerland a while longer and write, wintering in Geneva and spending the rest of his time in the valley. He began to come out of his shell again and soon had many warm new friendships, and he took comfort and inspiration from nature. He also resumed his disciplined routine of writing and before long had sent Traddles a finished story for publication. After a break, he started his third novel, and before it was halfway through, he realized he was ready to go home. Aside from regaining a sense of self, he had accumulated much in the way of knowledge and experience, and he felt healthy again, which was not the case when he left England.

David becomes aware of his complex feelings for Agnes—There was one other thing David wanted to mention before leaving this chapter of his life. His complex feelings for Agnes, which remained suppressed for a long time, began to surface during his period of darkness and despair. It occurred to him that, through the impetuous choices of his younger years, he had undervalued her love and possibly thrown away the opportunity of its evolving into something more. Dora’s intuitions on the subject had also haunted him, and he had an inkling that Agnes might have felt something more for him at one point, but he wasn’t sure. Now as he returned to his native shores three years later, he knew he had feelings and thoughts of that nature, but he felt the opportunity to realize them was gone, and he didn’t want to disrupt what they had.



Returning to London in the fall—David returned to London on a cold, dreary, foggy evening in autumn, before the long summer vacation for the courts and universities had ended, Michaelmas term not beginning until October. After his travels through Europe, London’s houses, though familiar, seemed bleak to him, and some had even been pulled down to make way for changes in the neighborhood.

A lonely return by himself in the London fog—Change was, of course, to be expected not only in the physical surroundings but in the lives of those close to him. Traddles was slowly breaking into the legal field and was living in chambers at Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court, and Aunt Betsey had returned to her house in Dover. David’s friends and relatives weren’t expecting him so soon, and because he wanted to surprise them, he hadn’t arranged for anyone to meet him and therefore felt a bit lonely. This was quickly eased, however, by the warmth from the familiar shop windows glowing through the fog.

David inquires about Traddles at the inn—On entering into the coffee shop at Gray’s Inn, where David would also be spending the night, he inquired about Traddles’s exact address. He next asked how Traddles was doing in his career as a lawyer. The first waiter David asked was not aware of any great reputation on his part, and the head waiter had never heard of him, nor did he seem interested. He was more intent on taking David’s dinner order.

After a discouraging response, David wonders if Traddles will succeed—David felt sorry for Traddles and wondered if he would ever make a go of it. It didn’t help that the heavy, traditional environment of Gray’s Inn, personified by the head waiter and the coffee room, seemed full of rules and regulations, unbending and unchanging. Everything was perfectly polished and maintained—sedate, old, and expensive. In such an environment, where little changed in a decade, someone like Traddles would come across as an unlikely upstart, and the thought that his friend stood no chance saddened David.

David hears girls laughing as he walks up to Traddles’s apartment—David quickly finished his dinner and headed off to see his old friend. Traddles lived on the top floor of No. 2 in the Court, and as David made his way up the dimly lighted staircase, he was surprised to hear the sound of girls laughing. When he stopped to listen, one of the old, decrepit planks gave way, and the noise he made upon stumbling interrupted the laughter.

A happy reunion—Arriving at Traddles’s door, he was greeted by a young boy attendant, who, after some hesitation, let David in and escorted him to the sitting room to see Traddles. Traddles was sitting at a table, apparently working, and both the boy and Traddles looked out of breath. But whatever hesitation was previously there disappeared when Traddles saw David. Instead, there was a happy reunion, with hugs, handshaking, and a mutual exchange of warm greetings and new information.

Traddles and Sophy are recently married; the laughing girls are her sisters—Traddles was impressed by David’s growing fame, and David learned that Traddles had finally married the “dearest girl in the world” just six weeks earlier. Apparently, David had not received Traddles’s latest letter. Sophy, who had been hiding behind the curtain, now came out, beaming. The laughing girls, it turned out, were her sisters, and just as David was coming up the stairs, Traddles had been playing with them. He had stopped when he heard a visitor arrive in the interest of looking professional.

Traddles makes the best of his situation—Traddles was delighted to have the laughter of young girls in his apartment. He felt it brought a sense of lightness and life to the heaviness of Gray’s Inn, even if it was deemed unprofessional. Living there with Sophy was also considered unprofessional, but they had no other options, and Sophy was extremely capable, which justified it in Traddles’s mind. And, as Traddles mentioned several times, they were ready to “rough it.” David asked which of the girls were there at the moment and learned that there were five, including the oldest (the “Beauty”), the invalid, and the two younger ones, whom Sophy had educated. Sophy had organized beds for all her sisters in their three-room apartment, while she and Traddles cheerfully made do with the floor the first week, afterwards graduating to a small attic room, which Sophy fixed up and which had an excellent view.

Traddles’s patience and determination—Traddles was also thrilled to point out the marble table and flowerpot he had been saving for so long. The other furniture was just functional, and they still didn’t have any silver, but all that would come in due time and would mean even more when they finally had it. After all, it had been a long wait for both Traddles and Sophy, so when Traddles began to make headway as a lawyer, he went down to Devonshire to convince Sophy’s father, the Reverend Crewler, that the time had come for him and Sophy to be married. Sophy, too, was willing, even though Traddles wasn’t completely settled. Her father agreed, on the condition that Traddles would earn £250 a year and provide a decent living space. Traddles also promised that if anything happened to the two parents, he would take care of the girls, assuming he was in a position to do so. The Reverend agreed to convince Sophy’s mother that it was time to let go of her daughter, even if she had been a great help to the whole family. That was easier said than done. Sophy had been so useful to the family that they resented having Traddles take her from them. But they did let go, and Traddles was happy and cheerful, even though he rose at five and worked constantly and hard.

David meets Sophy’s sisters—Suddenly, their attention shifted. The girls had come into the room, and Traddles now introduced them to David, who was impressed with their freshness, describing them as a “perfect nest of roses.” David found them all pretty, especially the oldest, but Sophy had a brightness and cheer that made her unique, and it was clear that she loved and believed in Traddles (“Tom,” to her) as much as he did her. She also emphasized that Traddles was David’s devoted friend and that when they visited with Aunt Betsey and Agnes in Kent, the main subject on everyone’s mind was David.

Traddles and Sophy’s cheerful generosity and competency leaves David with a feeling of hope—Another thing that delighted David about both Sophy and Traddles was their generosity and helpfulness toward Sophy’s sisters. Neither of them was troubled by the girls’ various whims and demands, which were ongoing. Instead, they were constantly and cheerfully at their service. They seemed to take great pleasure in being there for others and never appeared exhausted or upset. In the process of serving everyone, Sophy’s knowledge and capabilities in different areas—whether of singing songs, fixing hair, writing notes, or whatever else—had grown so much that no one thought of relying on anyone but her, out of all the sisters, to do anything. In return for all their love and good cheer, Sophy and Traddles received a tremendous amount of love and respect, and the whole experience left David in good spirits. It was like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dry and staid environment, and it left him with a feeling of hope about Traddles’s future, regardless of his surroundings.

David recognizes Mr. Chillip in the coffee room—It was in this mood that David returned to the coffeehouse and sat down by the fire. Before long, his thoughts turned from Traddles’s happiness to the difficulties of his own life, and he thought of Agnes and what he had lost by preventing that relationship from ever growing into something more than a brother-sister interaction. As he sat musing on these things, he noticed meek, little Mr. Chillip, the delivery room doctor, sitting off in a corner by himself reading the newspaper. David therefore walked up to him and asked him how he was. After a bit of bantering, Mr. Chillip still couldn’t figure out who David was, so David finally told him. That elicited an emotional reaction, and they got to talking about many things—that David looked like his father, that his fame as a writer was spreading, and that Mr. Chillip and his family had moved from Blunderstone to Bury St. Edmunds about seven years earlier because his wife had inherited some property.

David buys Mr. Chillip a drink and hears about the Murdstones’ latest escapades—David noticed that Mr. Chillip had emptied his glass of negus,[i] so he offered to buy them both another drink. The topic turned to David’s loss of Dora. Mr. Chillip had heard about it through Miss Murdstone, whose distinctive character had made an impression on him. In fact, the Murdstones had moved to the same neighborhood as the doctor and his family. Mr. Murdstone had once again married a young, fresh, innocent woman, and he and his sister then proceeded to terrorize her into a state of misery, weakness, and imbecility. Throughout the conversation, the doctor kept quoting Mrs. Chillip, a “great observer,” who noticed, among other things, that Mr. Murdstone referred to himself as a Divine Nature and delivered dark, severe speeches in the name of religion. Mr. Chillip himself could see no support for the Murdstones’ doctrine in the New Testament, and it was no surprise that the entire neighborhood disliked them, which, in the Murdstones’ view, meant they were all consigned to hell.

Memories of David’s birth; opinions on Aunt Betsey—After a bit more chatting, David discovered that Mr. Chillip was at Gray’s Inn as a professional witness in a hospital patient insanity case. He confessed that such cases made him nervous, just as Aunt Betsey’s behavior at the time of David’s birth had had a detrimental effect on him that took a while to unravel. David noted that he was on his way to visit the same Aunt Betsey and that she was, in fact, a wonderful, kind woman. That was too much for Mr. Chillip to process, and he took it as his cue to go to bed.

A cheerful reunion in Dover—The next day, David arrived at his aunt’s old cottage in Dover, where he was warmly and joyfully received by Aunt Betsey, Mr. Dick, and Peggotty, who now kept house for them. Aunt Betsey got a good laugh from Mr. Chillip’s fearful memory of her, and both Peggotty and David’s aunt went on about Mr. Murdstone and his “murdering” sister.

[i] Similar to hot toddy, a heated mixture of liquor, water, sugar, and spices



Catching up on the news—David and Aunt Betsey spent the evening by the fire talking of things like the emigrants’ successful beginnings in the new world, Janet’s marriage to a prosperous Dover tavern owner, and Aunt Betsey’s approval as shown by her decision to attend the wedding. Mr. Dick, too, was doing well. He had found a new vocation in copying, through which he managed to keep Charles I at bay.

Aunt Betsey steers the conversation toward the subject of David and Agnes’s relationship—Changing the subject, Aunt Betsey wanted to know when David planned to go to Canterbury. His aunt had picked up on something going on between Agnes and him, even though they hadn’t yet admitted it to each other, and now she steered the conversation in that direction. But David wasn’t ready to talk about his love for Agnes, so while it was obvious Aunt Betsey understood, she refrained from being too direct.

More detail about the Wickfields; Aunt Betsey’s intuitive understanding of David’s feelings—Before David even mentioned Agnes, Aunt Betsey read his mind and warned him that Mr. Wickfield had aged but also grown in his understanding of human nature. Agnes, on the other hand, was as beautiful and good as always, and she was busy with her school. In Aunt Betsey’s opinion, if she educated the girls to be like her, she would do much for the world. David hesitated before asking whether Agnes was romantically involved. According to Aunt Betsey, she had many suitors and could have married any number of times. Were there any viable ones, though—any that deserved her? Aunt Betsey had her suspicions but wouldn’t say anything beyond that. David’s stated hope was that Agnes would confide in him as a brother, just as he had always confided in her. But it was clear from the way Aunt Betsey looked at David throughout the conversation that she understood there was more going on. Now she said nothing but quietly placed her hand on his shoulder as they both looked into the fire.

David visits Agnes the following day—David rode to Canterbury the next day. On arriving at the old house, he hesitated at first but finally got up the courage to go in. The maid led him up the stairs to the drawing room, and David was relieved to see that all vestiges of the Heeps’ presence were gone. He had only told the maid he was a friend from abroad, so it was a happy surprise for Agnes when she saw him, and he, too, was happy to be in her peaceful presence again as he hugged her closely. She embodied home for him, a feeling of goodness, welcome, peace, and understanding he had long yearned for. Now she sat beside him, and though he still couldn’t bring himself to express his feelings, her calming influence had already begun its soothing magic, even when she spoke of Emily and of Dora’s grave.

David asks Agnes about herself but backs off when she seems uncomfortable—David asked Agnes about her own personal life, claiming she never spoke about herself. Agnes didn’t know what to say. They had their home back, and her father was healthy and content again, and that, to her, was everything. David pressed for more, but she denied there was anything else. Even so, she seemed uncomfortable, and he noticed a paleness in her face and a sadness to her smile at that moment. He changed the subject, and they spoke of different things—how the school kept her busy, how long David planned to visit, and that the old house was restored to its former happy self.

An evening with the Wickfields brings up thoughts about the past—Agnes had to finish teaching school for the day, so David went out for a walk about the town. The conversation had left him unconvinced that he could ever be anything more to Agnes than a loving brother, so he resolved to do this as faithfully as possible, as she had done for him. When David returned for dinner, Agnes’s father was back from his gardening, his latest pastime, located a bit beyond Canterbury. They had dinner with Agnes and about six little schoolgirls, and after dinner, they all went up to the drawing room, where they had tea while the little girls studied, played, and sang. After the girls left, the three of them reminisced about the past, although Mr. Wickfield spoke of many regrets. Yet Agnes had made it all worthwhile for him, and he would not change anything. For the first time, too, Mr. Wickfield spoke of his wife, who died of a broken heart after her father, a severe man who disapproved of her marriage, renounced her. Agnes was only two weeks old at the time of her death, and in her, Mr. Wickfield saw much of his wife and feared his daughter had suffered in similar ways. David wondered what he meant by this last statement. Yet even without a full understanding on David’s part, Agnes’s devotion for her father was clear, and David now gained a deeper sense of it.

Restrained communication between Agnes and David—When her father finished, Agnes played some old tunes on the piano. While she played, she asked David whether he had any thoughts of going abroad again. He asked her how she felt about it, and when she said she hoped he didn’t, he made it clear that her wish was his wish. He was trying to broach the subject of their relationship, and he finally did, but in a hesitant way. The most he could do at this point was to profess his undying love and commitment to her as a brother, no matter whom she loved or married. He felt he didn’t deserve her after all the years of falling in love with other women, and he misinterpreted the restrained emotional play he saw on her face.

David’s silent hopes—David had promised to be back in Dover by nighttime, and as he thought of their conversation on the way back, it seemed to him that neither of them was happy. He had resigned himself to a restrained love on earth, but he hoped that someday the transcendent nature of their true love would unfold in a heavenly realm.

Two Interesting Penitents


David visits Traddles to sort through his fan mail, delivered there since his stay abroad—David spent several months in Dover finishing his book, with periodic visits to London to soak up city life or visit Traddles. Traddles had been managing David’s business affairs since his journey abroad, and in the meantime, David’s fan mail had grown so large that he arranged to have it delivered to Traddles’s address. Every so often, David would stop by to discuss some business point with Traddles and to sift through the bushels of mostly irrelevant letters.

Sophy trains herself as a copyist to help out Traddles—By now, Sophy’s sisters had returned to Devonshire, and Sophy herself kept busy managing their domestic affairs and, when necessary, staying out of sight of the stuffy legal types who might disapprove of the presence of a woman in chambers. David also noticed on many visits that Sophy would quickly shove a copybook into a drawer, and he wondered why. Eventually he discovered from Traddles that she had been training herself as a copyist so she could take over that job when “Tom” became a judge someday. He was proud of the professional results she had achieved and had no qualms about saying so, but Sophy herself felt it was better to keep it secret because of current attitudes toward women in the professions.

Traddles praises Sophy’s many wonderful qualities—David commented on what a wonderful wife she was, which got Traddles praising her many good qualities. She was cheerful and adaptable, always on time, discreet in her movements while staying in chambers, an excellent housekeeper, attractive and energetic, a good cook and baker, creative within their means, and fun to be with. For them, taking walks together to go window shopping and dream of what they would buy each other was as good as actually buying the thing. Or they would buy half-price theater tickets and enjoy every minute, or just sit together in a warm apartment on a cold night. Traddles was thrilled to be so lucky.

Mr. Creakle, now a magistrate, invites David to inspect a “model” prison system—David wondered if Traddles ever drew skeletons anymore, and Traddles had to admit that he did occasionally indulge in it. That got them talking about Mr. Creakle, and David remembered he had a letter from their old schoolmaster, who had since been appointed a Middlesex Magistrate and had invited David to observe how well their prison system worked. They claimed that solitary confinement was the secret to creating model prisoners, and David wanted to know if Traddles would come along to verify this great achievement. David also found it interesting that Mr. Creakle, who had been a tyrant toward the schoolboys, was gentle and considerate toward the worst criminals. Traddles was not surprised, and they both agreed to say nothing of their former treatment, which had apparently been forgotten now that David was famous.

David and Traddles tour the prison; David finds the prisoners’ excellent conditions ironic—A day or two later, David and Traddles visited the huge prison, which David remembered cost a great deal to build. They were met by several magistrates and some other visiting gentlemen. Mr. Creakle looked more or less the same, though older, and judging from his manner toward Traddles and David, he had no recollection of his former tyrannical behavior as their school principal. David was struck by the extreme concern the group had for the prisoners’ comfort as well as by the gentlemen’s total focus on prison life. Their tour began in the kitchen, coincidentally at around dinnertime, where David couldn’t help noticing the high quality of the meals being delivered to the prisoners’ cells. It occurred to him that the mass of workers who earned an honest living, including soldiers and sailors, rarely enjoyed a meal of that quantity and quality.

A flawed “perfect” system—The system’s supposed efficacy was based on the “perfect” isolation of individual prisoners, but as the men toured the building, David noticed that the isolation was not as perfect as claimed and that it was likely (and eventually proved) that the prisoners communicated enough that they knew a lot about each other, which was the opposite of the goal. The other thing he noticed repeatedly as they visited the prisoners’ cells was that their professions of remorse and reform all sounded strangely similar. Nor did he get a feeling of trust from any of them. It was easy to profess reform where there was no chance of temptation, but he doubted they would be able to resist reverting to their old ways under real outside circumstances.

Model Prisoner No. 27, the cream of the prisoner crop—Throughout the tour, the group kept hearing about Model Prisoner No. 27, who supposedly far outshone the others in his degree of reformation and his belief in the system that had converted him. He had such a good reputation at the prison that the tour leaders were saving his cell for last, so by the time they got there, David’s curiosity had reached its peak. When they finally arrived at his cell, Mr. Creakle, after looking through the keyhole, reported that No. 27 was reading a hymn book. The excitement that followed that revelation created so much competition for the keyhole that they decided to allow No. 27 to come out and meet the visitors in person.

No. 27 is brought out to meet the visitors—To Traddles’s and David’s great surprise, they found themselves looking at Uriah Heep. Uriah recognized them immediately and inquired after their well-being, which impressed the gentlemen on the tour. When Mr. Creakle asked him how he was, Uriah gave his usual profession of humility. Every time someone asked about his comfort, he used it as a chance to confess how wrong he had been and how much he had changed. Most of the party believed him.

Model Prisoner No. 28; the model prisoners speak—The magistrates now brought out another model prisoner, No. 28, who turned out to be none other than Mr. Littimer. Mr. Littimer emerged reading a book, with his “highly respectable” veneer perfectly intact. Each model prisoner had a champion, Mr. Creakle being Uriah’s and another gentleman being in charge of Littimer, and these champions guided the conversation. When asked how he was, Littimer’s answers had the same hollow ring to them as Uriah’s, but other than David and Traddles, the gentlemen visitors seemed not to pick up on this. The other thing Uriah and Littimer had in common, once they had made a show of how reformed they were, was to point the finger at other people, either as being the cause of their own guilt or as being in need of reform, as though the whole of London shared their qualities and backgrounds. Both Uriah and Littimer specifically addressed David, and Littimer even asked him to relay his “forgiveness” of Emily, in spite of her bad behavior when he tried to “save” her. Uriah gave a similarly sanctimonious speech, mentioning that David had hit him (to the horror of the naïve gentlemen) but that he forgave him. David couldn’t help noticing at one point that Uriah’s expression was more evil than ever and that when Littimer excused himself to return to his cell, he and Uriah exchanged looks as though they knew each other.

David asks a warden about the two prisoners’ crimes—David noticed that the magistrates were not keen to talk about the prisoners’ crimes, so he quietly asked one of the wardens, who he guessed had a more honest, less deluded view of the prisoners. He learned that Uriah was in prison for forgery, fraud, and conspiracy against the Bank of England. He had almost gotten away with the crime, but the bank managed to lure him into revealing himself. He was sentenced to permanent transportation. Littimer had been arrested for stealing £250 worth of valuables and cash from a young gentleman. He was on his way to America when he was recognized, in spite of his disguise, by Miss Mowcher, who grabbed his legs and wouldn’t let go. Littimer tried to beat her off, but even the arresting officers couldn’t pry her away, and she ended up being a star witness in court. Littimer was also sentenced to transportation.

David and Traddles’s conclusions about the model prison—David and Traddles left the prison convinced that no real reform had taken place. Littimer and Heep were the same deceivers they had always been, and the system that was supposed to be so promising held no real promise at all.

A Light Shines


David and Agnes still keep their real feelings to themselves—Two months passed, and it was now Christmastime. David had visited Agnes once a week or more during that time, and his deep love and respect for her remained as strong as ever. Still, he could not express his real feelings and had relegated his desires to a mental shelf, where they would take a backseat to whomever she chose as her husband. His only consolation, other than her company, was that he could be to her what she had been to him for so many years—a trusted confidant, counselor, and friend—and that was what he now committed himself to being.

Aunt Betsey’s intuitions; David decides to find out if there’s another man—The only person who had any inkling of their feelings was Aunt Betsey, who silently surmised it through her usual astute observation of her nephew’s face. However, they never spoke of it directly, although Aunt Betsey left broad hints now and then, and there seemed to be a deep understanding between them. Agnes herself showed no signs of change, except for the occasional thoughtful look and sad smile, and she did not seem to have any awareness of David’s real feelings. All this reticence increased whatever confusion already existed, and David convinced himself there had to be another man, but he could not understand why Agnes kept her secret from him. In his determination to repay her for her faithfulness, he resolved to clear things up.

David gets the wrong idea from Aunt Betsey—It was in this frame of mind that David bid his aunt goodbye on his way out into the cold winter’s night. But before leaving, he could not refrain from asking her whether she knew anything more about Agnes’s secret love. Aunt Betsey said she thought she did, and when he asked her whether she was sure, she offered that she thought Agnes was going to marry. Determined to stick to his resolve and face this cheerfully, David wished God’s blessing upon her. His aunt, agreeing, blessed her husband, too. Hearing this bit of news from his aunt, David mounted his horse and set out for Canterbury, more determined than ever to broach the subject with Agnes.

David asks Agnes to reveal her secret love to him—Arriving at the Wickfields’, David found Agnes reading by herself. She quickly realized he was in a serious mood and gave him all her attention. It didn’t take David long to tell her that he knew she had a secret and he wanted her to share it with him, to let him be there for her. He assured her that his motives weren’t selfish, that he could take a back seat to whomever else she chose.

Agnes refuses to tell David and fends him off—Apparently, he struck a painful chord in her. As though she couldn’t face it, she moved quickly to the window, and he saw that she was crying, but something about her tears gave him hope. At the same time, he didn’t want to cause her pain, so he begged her to tell him what was going on, but she was adamant—she couldn’t speak about it just now. As she fended him off, David searched for some clue, and he began to wonder if there wasn’t some hope, after all, for the feelings he had buried. At first, he brushed them off. He wanted her to know that his motives were pure and unselfish, that he would be there for her no matter how their relationship changed outwardly. Hearing this, Agnes quietly informed him that he had misunderstood. Her secret was nothing new. She had held it within her for many years, but it was not something she would share, and she could bear it alone.

In a burst of passion, David and Agnes finally tell each other the truth—David’s thoughts were racing now as he realized the implications of what she was saying. As she began to walk away, he took her by the waist and held her close to him. He hadn’t come to tell her his deeper feelings, but now all his love, passion, and hopes burst forth as he dared to believe she might love him as something more than a friend. It was the closest thing to a marriage proposal, and when he saw her shedding tears of joy, he knew he had understood correctly. All the struggles he had felt in the last few years, the incompleteness he had sensed in his earlier marriage, the feeling of guidance and home she had always provided—all of it came spilling out now, and Agnes, too, admitted that she had loved David her whole life. That night, they walked together in the wintry fields, looking up at the moon and the stars and feeling at last that they had found peace and happiness together.

David and Agnes make their new relationship known to Aunt Betsey—The next day, David and Agnes went to Dover together, arriving in time for dinner. At first, they revealed nothing, but Aunt Betsey sensed something was different because she kept looking at David for clues, which meant putting on her spectacles. When she saw no hint of anything, she would remove them and use them to rub her nose, a sign that something was bothering her. Following dinner, when David told Aunt Betsey he had mentioned their conversation to Agnes, his aunt was perturbed and scolded him for betraying her trust. But when David put his arm around Agnes and they both leaned over her chair together, she caught on and became hysterical with joy—the only time David ever saw her like that. She hugged Peggotty and then hugged Mr. Dick. It was a happy moment for everyone.

David and Agnes are married; Dora’s secret request—Two weeks later, David and Agnes were married. It was a small but joyous wedding, with only the Traddles and the Strongs as guests. Afterwards, as David and Agnes drove off together, David felt at last that this was the love he had waited for all his life. But Agnes had one more thing to confess. Could David guess what it was? The night Dora died, she made Agnes promise that no one else would take her place.

A Visitor


Ten years later, David is a wealthy, successful author who lives in London with his family—It has been ten years since David and Agnes’s wedding. In the meantime, David has grown wealthy and famous as an author, and he and Agnes have moved to London and now have at least three children. When Chapter 63 opens, the family is together in the sitting room on a spring evening. There is a fire in the fireplace, the children are playing, and the scene is one of contentment and peace.

Mr. Peggotty visits from Australia—A servant announces the arrival of a personal visitor, a simple, rugged man resembling a farmer. It is Mr. Peggotty, and there is a joyful reunion. He is older, but still healthy and strong, and the children are immediately drawn to him. Mr. Peggotty recounts how he decided to take the long trip from Australia to visit David and his family before he got too old to do so. He would be staying in England for a month.

Mr. Peggotty tells of the hard work and success of the whole group of emigrants—After insisting that he stay with them, David and Agnes sat on either side of Mr. Peggotty, eager to see him and hear everything he had to tell. The word was that with hard work and patience, all the emigrants had prospered, between sheep farming, cattle raising, and other things. Mr. Peggotty felt with certainty that their group had been blessed.

Emily lives with her uncle, avoiding other people except when helping those in need—David and Agnes both wanted to know how Emily was doing. She had settled in with her uncle and was happy when around him, but she shied away from other people, except when helping those in need. Between that and her chores, she stayed busy. She could have married many times but felt that possibility was over for her, and there was something sorrowful and shy in her manner. No one there knew her history or why she was the way she was, though many people liked her.

Mr. Peggotty thanks David for keeping secret the bad news about Ham and Steerforth—Mr. Peggotty also thanked David for keeping the bad news about Steerforth and Ham from them. Mr. Peggotty himself, when he finally found out, managed to keep it from Emily for a year, but eventually she found out through an old newspaper brought by a traveler. David and Agnes wanted to know if the news had changed Emily. Mr. Peggotty said it did for a long time, but being away from people, out in nature, and staying busy helped her get through it. He saw her too often to gauge it correctly, but he thought he had noticed a difference and wondered whether David would recognize her.

Martha marries and moves to the bush—Agnes and David asked next about Martha. Mr. Peggotty told them that Martha married a year or so after they arrived. Women were few there, and her husband was a farmhand who had traveled a considerable distance. He proposed to her, and they moved to their own solitary place in the bush country. Before doing so, she asked Mr. Peggotty to tell her suitor her real life story, which he did.

Mrs. Gummidge decks a marriage suitor but remains loyal and helpful to Mr. Peggotty—What about Mrs. Gummidge? Mr. Peggotty started roaring with laughter when he heard the question, and soon they were all laughing uncontrollably. Even Mrs. Gummidge received a marriage proposal, and she reacted by smashing a pail over the suitor’s head. That incident aside, she remained completely changed. She totally dispensed with her lost, forlorn attitude and was the most helpful, hardworking, faithful person you could imagine.

The emigrants move to Port Middlebay after thriving in the bush; Mr. Peggotty pulls out the town paper—Finally, there was Mr. Micawber. What happened to him and his family? David and Agnes knew he had paid all his debts, which spoke well for him, but they were curious to learn more. Mr. Peggotty smiled and pulled out a newspaper. He explained they had all gotten their start in the bush country, where Mr. Micawber had worked as hard as anyone. Eventually, though, they had prospered so much they all moved to a town called Port Middlebay Harbour. Mr. Peggotty presented the Port Middlebay Times to tell the rest of the story.

Mr. Micawber fulfills Mrs. Micawber’s prediction; all the Micawbers and Mr. Mell, now Dr. Mell, and his family are thriving—The paper told of a dinner given in honor of Mr. Micawber, who was now a District Magistrate and regular columnist for the paper. The large room was packed to overflowing, and the town’s elite had crowded in to pay their respects to Wilkins Micawber, Esquire. He was introduced and toasted by Dr. Mell, David’s former teacher at Salem House, who had founded his own grammar school in Port Middlebay and was now married with children of his own, one of whom, Helena, was applauded for her beautiful dancing. Mr. Micawber’s own speech was received with great enthusiasm and applause. Further toasts were extended to Mrs. Mell and all the Micawbers: Mrs. Micawber and her extended family in England; Master Micawber, who delighted the audience with his singing; and the former Miss Micawber, now Mrs. Ridger Begs. The dinner and toasts were followed by dancing.

Mr. Peggotty points out a letter in the paper addressed to David and written by Mr. Micawber—Mr. Peggotty now drew their attention to another article, this one written by Mr. Micawber himself and addressed in formal terms to David, with the subtitle “The eminent author.” It was a public expression of gratitude and admiration for David’s contribution and achievements as an author. Mr. Micawber especially wanted to express that the people of Port Middlebay, who were as civilized as anyone, were his avid readers and always interested in David’s latest venture.

Seeing Peggotty and Aunt Betsey; visiting Ham’s grave; saying goodbye for the last time—During Mr. Peggotty’s time with David and Agnes, Peggotty and Aunt Betsey also came to see him. Toward the end, he and David took a trip to Yarmouth to see Ham’s grave, and in keeping with a promise he made to Emily, Mr. Peggotty collected some of the earth. Finally, David and Agnes both saw him off, and David knew it would be for the last time.

A Final Retrospective


What became of everyone?—In his short closing chapter, David recalls the faces of those still living who played a role in his journey, and now he traces the outcome of their lives.

Aunt Betsey—First, there is Aunt Betsey, now in her eighties. Her eyesight might be weaker, but she still stands as tall and strong and energetic as ever, even walking six miles in the cold. Aunt Betsey’s longstanding wish for a goddaughter named Betsey Trotwood has been fulfilled, and that child was followed by a younger sister named Dora.

Peggotty—Then there’s Peggotty, also wearing glasses but still with her wax candle and needlework, and shoved in her pocket is the crocodile book, a cherished remnant of David’s childhood.

Mr. Dick—Entertaining himself and a new generation of boyish Davids with his kites is Mr. Dick. He still holds Aunt Betsey in the highest regard, but he is no longer too concerned with the Memorial.

Mrs. Steerforth and Rosa Dartle—Mrs. Steerforth has grown old and hunched over, and her mind is weak. She is easily confused, until she remembers that her pride and joy, her son, is dead, and she is struck by the pain of that realization. Her companion, Rosa Dartle, is the same edgy, bitter, impatient person, but when needed, she still has some compassion left for Steerforth’s mother.

Julia Mills, Jack Maldon—Julia Mills, now married to an extremely wealthy Scotchman, has returned from India. She is surrounded by the trappings of money and “society,” which includes the likes of such shallow individuals as Jack Maldon—and she has forgotten love and romance. To David, such an existence is the opposite of the things that make life worth living.

Dr. Strong, Annie, and Mrs. Markleham—Dr. Strong, that kindly old gentleman, has gotten as far as the letter D in his dictionary. But his marriage with Annie is happy, and his mother-in-law has been tamed.

Traddles and Sophy—Of course, there’s also Traddles. Time has moved a bit further along at this point, and Traddles is balding now, though what remains is as unruly as ever. He is on his way to becoming a judge, though he is modest about it. And he’s thrilled that he’s achieved all his life goals, and more. He is earning almost twice as much money as he expected to, his boys are receiving excellent educations, and Sophy’s sisters are either happily married or living with either them or their father, the Reverend. Only the “Beauty,” now a widow, is unhappy, having been through an imperfect marriage. But Traddles feels they can and will restore things.

It is Sophy’s birthday, and the house is full of relatives. It is one of the houses Sophy and Traddles once dreamt of owning, long before they could afford it. Now that they actually live there, they still give away the best rooms to Sophy’s sisters, who always seem to be staying with them for one reason or another. But for all their wealth, there is still the same simple good cheer that has always been a part of their home.

Agnes—Such are the faces that people David’s life. Yet among them all, one stands out and shines more brightly than all the others. It is Agnes, the guiding light of his life, who is beside him now and will be there till the end.

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