By Shelley Mary
By Shelley Mary
Considered one of the first- if not the first- science fiction novel, Frankenstein began as a short story by Mary Shelley, which she wrote while on a trip with P. B. Shelley in Geneva, Switzerland. She was encouraged to expand on the idea, and ended up publishing the novel in 1818. Frankenstein combines styles from both the Gothic and Romantic literary movements, with the monster’s natural tendency towards good and the peace he finds in nature examples of the latter.
Mary Shelley- born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin- was the daughter of a feminist writer and radical father. She grew up amongst such writers as Thomas Paine and William Blake and was thus primed for a literary life. She met Percy Bysshe Shelley while still a teenager and they went on a trip across Europe. After Percy’s wife committed suicide, the two married.
The novel is framed as pieces of correspondence being mailed by Robert Walton to his sister (whom we never read from). Robert is planning an ambitious trip to the Arctic and while stuck in some ice, sees a large figure in the distance on a sledge. Later, they come upon Victor Frankenstein, who is slowly nursed back to health. Once better, Victor explains that he was chasing the large figure, and decides to tell Robert his tale as he sees in him the same blind ambition he once possessed.
Victor tells the story of how his parents were wed after his father married his friend’s daughter after saving her from poverty. Victor was their first-born and Elizabeth was adopted soon after as the mother wanted a daughter badly. Victor describes his childhood as joyful, gaining the friendship of Henry Clerval and gaining two younger brothers. Victor’s interest in science begins with reading about the ones from antiquity, and their grand designs inspire Victor.
Years later, Elizabeth gets sick with the scarlet fever and Victor’s mother catches it due to nursing Elizabeth back to health. Victor goes off to college in Germany where he combines the practical knowledge of modern chemistry with the goals of older scientists and discovers the process of creating life. He uses this knowledge to create another being, but quickly regrets his creation once finished, since it is hideous and large. The monster flees and Victor enters a long sickness but is nursed back to health by Henry.
Upon getting better and ready to go home, Victor receives a letter from his father informing him that their youngest family member was strangled. Victor is convinced that it was the monster that committed the crime, but a trial marks the family’s maid as the guilty one, condemning her to death. Victor takes a trip to the mountains to get away from the terrible events, where he runs into the monster, who is suddenly erudite and thoughtful. Though Victor wants to take revenge on the creature, the monster convinces him to listen to his story.
After coming to life, the monster escapes the apartment that served as Victor’s home and lab and wanders the forest, where he learns about light, fire, food, and water. He comes upon a village when hungry, but the terrified villagers pelt him with stones and drive him away. He eventually finds a hovel placed against a cottage, where he is able to secretly watch the family living inside.
He learns that the family is named the De Lacey’s and that they are French exiles that lost their fortune helping a wrongly incarcerated man. Against that man’s wishes, his daughter falls in love with the De Lacey son and escapes to live with him and the rest of the family in the cottage. As the family teaches her how to speak English, the monster is able to participate in the lessons as well, learning to speak, read, and write. He desires to have a meaningful relationship with the family and one day decides to introduce himself to the blind father. The father takes to the monster, but upon walking into their conversation, the De Lacey son attacks the monster due to his horrendous appearance. The family leaves the cottage, causing the monster to feel abandoned and burns down the small house. Having learned about Victor from a journal stored in the pockets of some clothes he took from the apartment, the monster decides to look for him.
On his trip, he saves a drowning girl, but is shot for how he looks. His hate for humanity grows, and it culminates when he reaches Switzerland and runs into William, whom he murders upon finding out he is related to Victor and plants evidence on the maid to make her seem guilty. The monster argues that Victor- as his creator- owes him some bit of happiness and demands a companion be made for him. Victor hesitantly agrees to the demands, as he sees reason in the monster’s argument.
Victor travels to England to acquire information that he needs to build a monster, and Henry travels with him. They split up in Scotland, where Victor begins building a female monster. He then realizes that there’s no guarantee that this new, thinking monster will abide by any deals made before her time, nor that they won’t make children and unleash a race of immensely strong beings on the world to dominate man. Victor destroys the body, whereupon the monster comes in and swears revenge on Victor, saying he’ll be there on his wedding night.
While dumping the evidence of his work, Victor ends up drifting into Ireland where he is immediately arrested for the murder of a man found on the beach earlier. Victor is shown the body, and it’s Henry’s, strangled with the same marks as William was. Victor descends into delirium for two months. He is eventually acquitted of the crime and brought back home by his elderly father. Having arrived home, he finally marries Elizabeth.
On their wedding night, Victor awaits the monster- stalking the house and surrounding area while armed. He hears the scream of Elizabeth and knows that she has been strangled, as well. Returning home to his father with the bad news, the elderly Frankenstein dies within a few days. Victor swears to kill the monster and begins a worldwide chase of him that ends with Victor tracking the monster in the Arctic. After nearing death and having his entire sledge dog team dead, Victor is picked up by Walton’s ship, where the stories intersect.
The crew of Walton’s ship threatens mutiny, since some have already died and they are again stuck in the ice. Walton concedes, and Victor dies soon after the ship manages to get free. Walton runs into the monster mourning over Victor’s body, and the two talk. While Walton wants to blame the monster, the latter makes a sort of defense of himself, saying that his actions were both done by choice, but made inevitable because of the circumstances. As Victor died feeling justified in choosing not to be a good creator to his creation, so does the monster feel justified in his motivations of being given life without any hope. The monster decides to immolate himself in the Arctic so no other man can ever make another being like him again and leaves the ship on a raft of ice.
Easily the most prominent location in the novel, the De Lacey cottage in a German forest provides the first safe place for the monster to inhabit. Symbolically, there’s something womb-like about the small hovel that the monster inhabits, an experience he didn’t have as he his existence starts with an abrupt awakening in a small apartment. Once the De Lacey’s leave and the monster feels abandoned though, he burns the cottage down.
The telling of the entire story takes place here, at the ends of the earth where Victor has finally chased the monster down. The desolation of the place serves as a perfect metaphor for what Victor’s life has become. Driven by a passionate feeling, he ends up desolate without any companions pursuing something he has wrought with his own hands.
The creature serves as a type of experiment in human personality. The question the creature poses at the end of the book is whether his actions were a result of his circumstances or of choice. The monster argues that he was naturally good, as when he was learning about humans from the De Lacey’s he seriously desired to be as kind as them, and then wanted to be as virtuous as the people in the books he read. While he doesn’t deny that he was responsible for his actions, he also points out that he was driven to it because every time he tried to act correctly he was attacked. Seemingly, the argument of a naturally good being turned evil by society fits in with the Romanticism literature of the time.
Robert Walton begins the novel by noting that he wants to do historic things and is willing to pay a high price for it. It is this characteristic that convinces Victor to tell his story in an attempt to convince Robert that some accomplishments are worth the sacrifice.
Victor is a young man whose eagerness to learn is evident from a young age as he takes to reading books about scientists of antiquity. He is also ambitious, thinking that modern scientists’ goals don’t match those of ancient scientists, and wishes to combine the practical knowledge of modernity with the far-flung goals of yore- such as being able to create life. Blinded by this ambition, he ends up creating the monster without considering the consequences of building a thinking creature.
Throughout the novel, Frankenstein questions his obligations towards his own creation and to his own race. He eventually sides with the latter, choosing to destroy the monster after losing everyone in his life due to murder or death. He dies in this pursuit, having left his goal unfulfilled.
Created from an amalgamation of human parts, the monster is initially an incapable creature that slowly becomes an erudite speaker and abstract thinker. After watching the intimacy of the De Laceys, he desires a similar relationship with another being. The monster is able to comprehend ideas of virtue and evil and prefers the former to the latter, but feels driven to evil by both circumstances and choices.
In revenge of the creator that abandoned him and the race that despises him due only to his appearance, the monster begins a murderous spree that has him killing, William, Henry, Elizabeth and Justine. After having the prospect of his companion refused and killing Victor’s companions, he makes him follow on a worldwide chase that leads to the Arctic.
The orphaned daughter of Italian nobility, Elizabeth was adopted by the Frankensteins, since the mother wanted a daughter. She grows up with Victor, and the two are presumed to one day marry each other. While her character isn’t developed, she provides for Victor an ideal and serenity that he can find on where else. She dies on her wedding night at the monster’s hands.
The son of an entrepreneur, Henry is an artist forced to live in the world of business and is Victor’s lifelong friend. He nurses Victor back to health after the monster is created, and travels with him to Scotland as a companion. He is murdered by the monster as revenge for Victor not creating another companion monster.
The De Laceys
The De Laceys- Felix, Agatha, and the father- are French exiles that have lost their fortune due to fixing an injustice in their country. Living in a hovel placed up against their cottage, the monster learns most everything he knows about human existence from them. Though they are good and generous people, their prejudices make them attack the monster on first sight when he reveals himself to them.
The novel’s framing is that it’s a letter being sent off to the sister of a man named Robert Walton. Robert is an ambitious sailor who- after spending a life of having his dream denied- spends years training as a sailor to find a sea passage through the Arctic. Victor sees the same ambition in Robert that drove him to create the monster and warns him of it. Robert ends the series of letters by describing that his trip is up, and he is turning around due to the threat of mutiny.
The novel begins with the letters of a Captain Robert Walton writing to his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. He writes from St. Petersburg in December as he heads out to start a trip to the North Pole. He describes how excited he is to be the one to possibly discover a passage through the ice that would allow ships to travel faster or solve the mystery of the magnet. He describes the North Pole with idyllic language, mentioning how he’ll also be able to walk where no other man has.
Robert recounts to his sister how he loved the idea of sailing when he was young, though his father’s deathbed wish was that his son wouldn’t pursue the occupation. Robert then became a failed poet and writer, and it wasn’t until he inherited a cousin’s fortune that he saw the opportunity to pursue his original dream. He took six years of training by studying sciences of practical uses for sailors and getting hired aboard various whaling ships; he even refused a second-in-command position to continue his journey.
He describes his plans to reach Archangel, hire out a ship and some sailors, and then head out in June.
Writing in March, Robert tells his sister that he is disheartened that he doesn’t have a friend going with him on the voyage to share his happiness and sadness with. He could write, but describes how since his first fourteen years of life were spent without a school structure and the only education he got was from books, he doesn’t believe himself able enough to properly convey what he feels in the medium.
Describing some members of his new crew, he tells the tale of his new shipmaster. The man- after gaining enough money to win her hand in marriage- let his fiancee marry another man whom she was truly in love with, giving this other suitor all the money and property he had earned in pursuit of his fiancee. As Robert is still uncomfortable with the level of violence and cruelty that happens aboard ships even after six years of experience, the new shipmaster’s reputation for both kindness and obedience endeared him to Robert.
He describes the north with poetic language again, using it as an opportunity to just as vividly describe his own enthusiasm and ambition.
The next letter comes to Margaret from August and has three entries. The first describes how when they were stuck in the ice, the crew noticed in the distance a man of giant proportions driving a dog sled. The sight baffles the crew as they assumed they were miles away from land. The ice breaks up, but the men don’t push forward yet as they don’t want to risk running into a glacier. Robert is woken up when some of the crew discovers another man in a dog sled floating on a piece of the broken ice next to the ship. Only one dog is left alive from the team, and the man himself is freezing and emaciated. It’s only after this man is assured that the ship is going farther North that he is willing to go aboard.
After recovering a bit, the stranger explains that he is this far up to find someone. After the crew reveals that they may have seen his person of interest with the giant man, the stranger begins asking questions about him, and whether the broken ice could’ve possibly killed him. The stranger also respects that Robert hasn’t pried into his motivations.
In the second entry, Robert describes how his empathy for the stranger- driven by both sympathy and admiration for the man’s intellect- has grown. He converses with the stranger about his own desires, and how he is willing to sacrifice much to make a crucial discovery. Upon hearing this, the stranger begins to weep, telling him that they must share the same madness and urges him to listen to his story.
It remains untold though as the outburst exerts the strangers too much. They continue to talk and discuss companionship. The stranger describes how he has lost everything and has no chance to make a new life.
The last entry describes how the stranger is going to tell Robert an unbelievable tale that would be laughable, were they not in the foreign landscape of a frozen sea. Robert tells his sister that he is eager to hear the story, and plans to write as much of the story as he can.
The stranger- Victor Frankenstein- describes his family history. Alphonse Frankenstein is from Switzerland and has lived much of his life as a public servant in various offices. A close friend of his ends up losing his fortune, and takes what little he has and goes off to Lucerne, hiding his tracks. Alphonse desires to help his friend, but it takes some ten months to find the man. In those ten months, the merchant became sick and died, though his daughter Caroline was there to take of him every step of the way. Alphonse takes pity on the young woman and gets a relative to take care of her. They end up married two years later.
Alphonse loves Caroline deeply, and Victor is born while travelling through Italy. They love their child just as much, and Victor recalls with wonder how much affection they were able to draw for both each other and him. The couple visits poorer neighborhoods to help, as both of them remember the dire circumstances that Caroline lived through. On one of these trips, they happen upon a large family who has a daughter that stands out amongst the rest of their children. It turns out the daughter isn’t theirs, but that of a nobleman’s who wife died during childbirth. The daughter was given to the couple to nurse, but the father ended up either captured or dead in the fight for Italy’s freedom- his fate is unknown. After some convincing, Caroline manages to adopt the little girl- Elizabeth Lavenza.
The entire family loves her, including Victor, who sees Elizabeth as his life partner. The two children refer to each other as cousins.
Victor describes that after the couple had another son- William- they settled in Switzerland. Victor and Elizabeth grew up happily, with Elizabeth interested in poetry and the arts while Victor is interested in the scientific explanation of things. As the home they live in is out of the way of active city life, Victor’s own personality takes a similar direction, preferring small groups over large. The only friend he seems to care about from school is Henry Clerval. Henry is himself interested in the arts and the romance of chivalry and fantasy. Elizabeth tempers both of them, allowing Victor a more sociable attitude that may have been lost in spending time by himself with books and labs, and giving Henry a moral direction for his ambitions.
Victor goes on to detail how he became interested in science. He recalls an event where his father tried to casually discourage him from reading scientists of antiquity without explaining why. This made Victor curious enough to pursue the matter, learning everything he could from them including the Philosopher’s Stone and the much more appealing Elixir of Life. This bedrock of knowledge shook though, when a family friend was with them when lightning obliterated a tree, and he offered a more modern explanation to the occurrence. This made Victor abandon the older scientists in favor of newer ones and started learning about electricity, as well. Victor believes that the culmination of these events long in the making is his fated destruction.
When Victor was seventeen, it was determined that he should go to college in Germany. On the day of his departure though, Elizabeth gets sick with the scarlet fever. The family tries to keep Caroline away from her, but to no success. Caroline stays by Elizabeth to see her get better, but ends up catching the fever and dying of it herself. After a period of mourning, Victor finally leaves for school.
Arriving at school, he is subtly mocked by a teacher for having spent so many years learning from ancient books. While Victor understands the criticism, he also wants to keep the ambitions of those ancient writers, as modern scientists seemed content with only small accomplishments. He then meets Waldman, the college’s chemistry teacher. After hearing a lecture from the man that reinforces Victor’s negative predisposition to modern science, he goes to the teacher the following morning convinced he should follow another path, describing his education by the ancients. The teacher then shows respect for the antiquarian writers, noting how modern ones are indebted to them. He tells Victor to become educated in all the disciplines if he truly wants to be a man of science, showing him his own lab which he offers use of to Victor once he becomes competent in the skills.
Victor takes to the natural sciences with an interest in the natural philosophy in particular. His learning and passion take him to the point where he believes that studying there doesn’t afford him any new ideas, and considers going home. Victor also gains a fascination with the idea of animated life. He wasn’t raised to be superstitious, so only believes in the natural causes of human existence and wonders how it comes about. Following his interests, Victor manages to find a way to create life. While narrating, he notices Robert’s interest in the claim, but Victor insists that he won’t reveal the process of doing so as though it’s scientifically marvelous, the consequences are too pricey.
Deciding between giving life to something small or complex, Victor chooses the latter, deciding to make a human being. Though the goal seems extremely complex, Victor is undeterred. He picks a large proportioned body as his goal, and revels at the thought of being a father to a new species of beings. He even thought himself able to perhaps one day bring the dead back to life.
Victor becomes obsessed with his experiment, forgetting to write his family. He warns about the dangers of becoming obsessed with anything- including the pursuit of knowledge- as it will drive people away from the small, important pleasures of life. He slowly gets more sick and nervous as his work continues, but believes he’ll be able to recuperate quickly with exercise and activity once he is finished.
After two years of effort, one night Victor manages to bring life to the body he had been creating. Though he had chosen pieces of corpses that he thought had been beautiful, the end result was hideous, save for the hair and teeth. The skin was yellow and wrinkled, while the lips are straight and black. Victor attempts to go to sleep, but has a nightmare where he kisses Elizabeth and then her body turns into that of his dead mother- worms crawling out of her clothes.
Upon waking up, the monster is standing over Victor, making noises and seemingly trying to stop him from getting up. Victor escapes to the street, where he walks around considering the terrible thing he has done and what he has sacrificed for it. While walking along, he stops at the inn where carriages tended to drop off passengers. There, he eyes one coming along and then is surprised to see that it is Henry Clerval who has arrived. After a happy greeting where Henry explains how he convinced his father to let him come to college and how Victor’s own family was worried by his lack of writing, Victor heads alone upstairs to his apartment only to find it empty- the monster had fled.
Victor continues to act nervous though, making Henry concerned. Victor then starts to become immediately sick. The two years of late nights and obsessions have taken his toll on him, making him sick for many months. Henry stays by his bed and hears Victor talk about the monster in dreams. After a long recovery, Victor gives his thanks to Henry, who notifies Victor that he has a letter from his sister.
The letter from Elizabeth wishes Victor well, mentioning how much effort it has taken on her part to convince their father from visiting Victor at his sick bed after so many months of silence. She mentions Ernest- one of Victor’s younger brothers- and how he wants to enlist in the Swiss Army. She also goes into extensive detail about a girl who used to live with them named Justine, who returned to her mother just before her death after losing all her siblings.
Victor then writes her back and begins to introduce Henry to the college’s professors. Just talking of science physically hurts Victor, which leads him to join Henry in studying Oriental languages. After passing the summer and then waiting out the winter, Victor decides to go home as he feels he has returned to his happy self. The two friends spend a couple of weeks exploring the city as a sort of extended goodbye party.
Victor then receives a letter from his father explaining that William was murdered. He describes how the family went out for a walk in the woods, and both Ernest and William went to go play. Ernest then comes to his father and cousin, asking if they’ve seen William as they were playing hide and seek and he himself couldn’t find him. After searching, they come upon William’s body, which had been strangled. Elizabeth blames herself, since she had let William wear a locket with his mother’s picture in it- the locket now missing from the body.
While riding back home, Victor spots the monster and instantly knows it was he who committed the murderer. He attempts to chase him, but loses him in the forest and only spots him for a second climbing up the steep face of a mountain. Victor also notes that it has been two years since the he had brought the monster to life.
When Victor arrives home, he learns from Ernest that Justine- the girl who lived with them/maid- was the once arrested for the crime. Victor know it’s not her, but after hearing his father say something about the trial, is convinced that the evidence isn’t enough to convict her. Victor takes hope in this, since he doesn’t want to tell everyone about his experiments, nor believes that anyone would find them credible anyway.
The day of the trial, the evidence mounts against Justine. She had been missing the night of the murder and had been spotted early in the morning in the city market place. When asked where she had been by a town resident, she responded in a confused manner. The morning after, she laid in bed sick when a fellow servant happened upon the locket William had been wearing in her clothes. Justine explains that she had been at an aunt’s house and heard that William had gone missing while returning home. She then tried to find the boy herself, until the city gates had closed and she could not enter. She slept in the barn of some acquaintances without telling them since she didn’t want to bother them but felt confident they would have allowed her stay. After being unable to sleep all night, she manages a few minutes of it in the morning, though hearing steps wake her up.
Elizabeth acts as a character witness, affirming Justine’s innocence, but neither testimony is enough to convince the judges. Victor goes to the court the next day to hear that they’ve voted ‘guilty’ and that she had also confessed. Victor is baffled a moment, wondering if what he had chased in the forest earlier was only due to madness. He visits Justine with Elizabeth, where it’s found out that Justine was pressured into confessing so as to make the punishment a little more lenient- though it doesn’t work. Victor’s guilt increases exponentially, knowing that Justine will die, and William died due to his creation of the monster.
The family returns to live in their house by the lake, where they continue their mourning. Victor is constantly anxious about the monster coming back to kill someone else. Elizabeth tells Victor that her worldview has been changed by the event as she now believes that the world is inherently evil if both William and Justine can be dead while their murderer lives. Victor goes on a trip to the Andes to deal with the emotions he’s dealing with.
Victor goes alone amongst the mountains, reflecting on nature and its beauties. While on a mountain peak, he sees a large figure approaching from the distance and realizes that it’s the monster. Victor reacts violently, wanting to fight the creature immediately. The monster manages to evade the attack easily though as it was built physically superior intentionally. The monster then attempts to persuade Victor to listen to its story. It notes how even its own creator hates him, thus assuring that no other human will have empathy towards him. He says that Victor as his creator- owes him at least that, as even accused criminals have the opportunity to speak for themselves. The monster notes that he was once a good person, but has been turned evil by misery due to being incapable of enjoying life as humans do. It also tells Victor that the responsibility will fall on the man to determine whether the monster will leave humanity alone and live in peace, or continue to destroy what Victor holds dear.
The monster directs them to a hut where Victor won’t be so affected by the cold. While following the monster, Victor decides that it has good reasons to demand an audience. He also wants to be assured that it was him that killed William. It’s here where the perspective of the book turns to the monster as he tells Victor his story.
The monster begins to describe his existence from the very beginning, how- after taking some clothes from Victor’s apartment- fled from it in fear. His dull senses perceive the moon and objects, and he soon learns that he can eat berries. As his eyes sharpen, he sees and hears birds chirping, and then attempts to express himself verbally, as well. He is fascinated by the sun and moon. He spots a fire left over by some beggars and begins to learn about how it gives light and warmth, but also gives pain. He attempts to imitate what he saw the beggars do when cooking food, and cooks nuts and berries to varying levels of success.
As food in the area gets scarce, he decides to move on, travelling three days through the forest until he reaches open fields. There, he finds snow and a small hut. Inside the hut is an old man whom- when the monster comes inside- runs away in fear, leaving his breakfast behind. The monster likes that the hut protects him from the elements and enjoys the farmer’s food. He spends the night there and sets out the next morning.
He comes upon a city and is enchanted by it, noticing the vegetables and food laid out in windows and gardens. He attempts to enter a house, but is immediately driven away by panicked villages as they pelt him with rocks and other things. He goes back to the open country, where he finds a small hovel next to a cottage. The hovel is made of wood, doesn’t have a floor, and is so small that the monster can barely sit up in it, but his previous experience with humans makes him anxious to enter the cottage.
He sets up the cottage to be more convenient, closing the cracks that let in the breeze and placing clean hay on the floor. He notices that the wall of the hovel made up by the cottage includes a window that is now boarded up. There’s a hole large enough for him to see through though, and he watches his human neighbors.
There’s an older man who plays an instrument, along with a young woman and young man who live there, as well. The older man looks happy, but both the younger ones seem somewhat sad. One night he watches the man play the instrument and the woman starts to cry.
The older man consoles her, causing the monster to have emotions he has not yet had. He watches the young man help the older one on some walks in front of the cottage, and then hears him read to the other two one night, though the monster doesn’t understand the words being said nor the concept. He is also interested in how they’re able to create light past daytime.
The monster is tempted to join the family, but remains scared of humans. He comes to learn that the older man is blind, which is why he often plays his instrument or just sits and thinks. He spots the two younger people crying, though he doesn’t understand why as they have home and food. It turns out they live poverty, surviving with what little they grow and a cow that doesn’t give much milk. The monster had often taken food from them to survive himself, but after seeing the younger folk give the older one food without having any themselves, he stops the practice and goes back to gathering nuts, berries and roots from the forest. The monster attempts to help by taking the young man’s tools one night and cutting down lots of firewood. He’s happy to see their pleasant reaction the morning after.
The monster sees that they’re able to use speech to communicate to each other and attempts to imitate them. While he doesn’t learn language properly, he does come to know that the young man is called Felix, the young woman is called Agatha and that they are both children of the older man. Felix works for a neighboring farmer as he often leaves for entire days bringing back food. Though Felix is markedly sadder than his sister and father, he also seems to make the most effort at being cheerful, sincerely enjoying his father’s company and making life easier for his sister. The monster admires their beauty and manners, as when other humans stop by- a rare occurrence- they are ruder in manner. The monster desires to meet the family, but knows he must become eloquent enough to make them overlook his hideousness.
He continues to live there through the winter, performing the duties that he sees Felix do- like clearing the pathway of snow and chopping wood. He hears the siblings remark upon the acts as done by a ‘good spirit,’ but doesn’t understand them. He fantasizes about being accepted by them and how the moment will happen when it finally does. Though he thinks little of his speaking voice, he continues to practice. He looks upon the family with immense admiration, thinking they will decide his fate somehow.
The monster skips forward in time to spring to tell another part of his story. While watching the family sit around while the father plays guitar and noticing that Felix is again quite sad, the monster notices two riders approach- one of which is clothed and veiled. Felix quickly gets up and kisses the stranger’s hand and calls her his sweet Arabian. Dismissing the rider, the woman- named Safie- enters the house. Everybody in the home rejoices, but the monster notices that Safie and the family don’t understand each other. He takes the opportunity to learn what they attempt to teach her. He again tries to understand their conversation, but fails.
As the months continue, the monster learns the language quickly, learning about human society as well due to the books that Felix uses to teach Safie. The monster hears of humans acting nobly and wickedly, wondering how they were capable of such extremes. He also becomes more depressed as he knows that not only does he not have property, but also his physical form is monstrous and he has no family like the one he watches. Having seen no one else like him, he becomes distinctly aware of his solitude.
The monster then decides to tell the story of the people in the cottage. Their surname is De Lacey, and they used to be upper class residents of Paris. A Turkish merchant named Muhammadan is one day arrested by the government on some trumped up charges- the monster receives the impression that it was due to his religion and wealth. The injustice of his arrest is evident to many Parisian residents, and Felix happens to be in court on the day of his conviction. Felix decides to help Muhammadan escape and happens to meet his beautiful daughter- Safie- while speaking to him. Safie’s mother was a Christian European who married Muhammadan after being enslaved for some time. She taught Safie her religion and an independence that wasn’t allowed for women in Islamic countries.
Safie admires Felix’s character, and the two start a budding romance that is encouraged by her father as a way to further entice Felix to help him. Felix draws up a plan that includes getting passports under the names of his father and sister. The two themselves help by announcing they’ll be going on a trip and then secluding themselves in the city. The night before Muhammadan’s execution, Felix gets the man out and picks up Safie along the way. They manage to get to Northwestern Italy where Felix receives the news that his father and sister were arrested. He tells Muhammadan that he should continue his flight if he gets a chance, but to leave Safie in Italy if he does. When Felix returns to Paris, he is jailed with his family for five months, which causes them to lose their fortune and be exiled. It is then that they find the cottage in Germany.
Once Muhammadan hears of Felix getting imprisoned, he tells Safie to stop thinking of him. Muhammadan never wanted his daughter to marry Felix as he couldn’t stand the idea of her marrying a Christian European. He ends up having to leave quickly as he fears his location has been given away, but leaves Safie behind to manage his property and wealth, which had not yet arrived in Italy. Safie manages to learn where the De Laceys went after their exile, and takes one of her father’s servants from the local area that understands Arabic and sets off to find them. The servant ends up dying quite close to the De Lacey’s cottage, but the woman who lived in the home they were staying in helps Safie find her way there.
Muhammadan sent only a pittance of money to the family as thanks, and it was this- along with losing Safie- that had Felix so depressed for such a long time. The monster understands that this is why Safie’s arrival to the cottage was so valuable to Felix.
As the residents of the cottage are always kind and generous to each other, the monster only understands evil as a far off concept. This begins to change as one night in the forest he chances upon a pouch with some clothes and three books. Having learned to read from watching Safie’s lessons, he starts to read these works. The first book that he reflects on is The Sorrows of Werter– an epistolary novel about a man who commits suicide after finding out his love won’t be requited. The monster admires the novel’s protagonist, and sympathizes with the feelings of love that drive him to his own death.
The second book is Plutarch’s Lives– a book of collected biographies of Greeks and Romans. The monster begins to understand virtue and cruelty more, desiring to enact the former and forget the latter. The last book is Paradise Lost– an epic that dramatizes the first few stories of Genesis from the Bible. The monster takes these books as he has taken the others- historical accounts. His imagination is excited by the concept of a god, but is confused as to who he relates more to, Adam or Satan.
The monster had taken some clothes from Victor’s apartment when he fled, and realizes that in the pockets are papers that are Victor’s journals of the four months leading up to the monster’s awakening. The monster become depressed upon reading them, but gains hope in considering that the De Lacey’s might accept him once he reveals himself to them.
Winter comes again, and the monster notes that it has been one year since his awakening. Safie had brought some jewels and money when she left Italy, so life is a little easier on the family as they hire servants. He finally builds up the courage and gets the chance to approach the family when the children go on a long walk and the servants are at a fair, leaving the blind father alone by his request. The monster knocks on the door and has a conversation with him, describing his situation of how he wants to be accepted by some kind people, but feels they will hate him due to prejudice. The old man agrees to listen to the monster’s story and help in any way he can, feeling sympathetic due to his own unjust treatment. The monster begins to sob when suddenly he hears the Felix, Agatha, and Safie walking up. The monster panics and grabs the old man’s arm, begging for help.
Agatha faints when she sees the monster, and Safie runs away. Felix pulls the monster off of his father and starts to hit him with a stick. The monster runs away and manages to hide back in the hovel due to the family’s distraction.
When night comes, the monster heads off into the woods to weep. He feels anger, sadness, and regret. After some howling, he realizes that what he should’ve done was to get into the father’s good graces and then have him be the one to do the introductions to the family. The monster feels as if the situation is still repairable and decides to go back after hiding in the woods for the day. The following morning, he notices that the cottage is empty. Felix comes by the house later in the day with another man, and the monster hears him cancelling his lease on the cottage.
The monster is filled with sadness at first, and then rage as his sense of abandonment grows. When night comes again, he destroys the cottage by lighting it on fire. He realizes that the only person that he should be angry towards is the one that gave him life, who is also the only person to whom he could turn for mercy and answers. Having discovered Victor’s home from his journals, the monster heads out to find him.
He moves his way through the forest, arriving in Switzerland when spring starts. While walking on a particularly sunny day, the monster begins to feel happiness again, moving him to tears. He comes upon a river and waits behind the tree line. A woman appears to be cheerfully running when she slips into the strong river. The monster doesn’t hesitate in rescuing her, attempting to revive her when the man she was running with takes her from the monster’s arm. The monster is confused and follows the man until the latter turns around and fires a gun. The monster is wounded, and again swears war upon all humanity for repaying his kindness with violence.
Two months later, he reaches Geneva, where he sees a young boy playing in the woods while resting. The monster gets the idea that the child might be unprejudiced and could be formed into a companion. He grabs the young boy and reveals that his father is Frankenstein, making the child William Frankenstein. The monster strangles the boy and rejoices in the death, knowing it will make Frankenstein despair. He takes the necklace the boy wears and sneaks away to a barn where he sees a woman- Justine- sleeping. The monster is angry with her as he knows that no woman will ever love him. He places the locket in her dress and escapes knowing enough about human laws to know that she will be considered suspect for the murder.
The monster says that he has one request of Victor- to build a woman as deformed as him so as to have a companion.
The monster explains that the only reason he is malicious is because he is miserable and lonely. He claims that if here were to have an equally deformed companion, neither would be happy, but at least they wouldn’t be alone. He says that he will move to South America and leave humans alone if he is granted this request. Denied, he will continue to make Victor’s life a misery and make him wish he were never born. Victor is unsure of the value of the creature’s promise and is still angry over the death of William, but sees reason in the creature’s argument. Victor consents to the wish and starts heading down the mountain.
The monster’s story took an entire day for it’s telling, and walking down, Victor begins to despair his circumstances. Arriving home, he knows that he needs to make another creation for the sake of the ones he loves.
Victor’s dour disposition makes his father ask him if his mood is due to feeling like he is being forced to marry Elizabeth. Victor affirms that it isn’t, but does want to delay the marriage. He makes up an excuse to go to England, where he needs to go to get information for creating another monster and to have a place away from his family to do so. His father agrees to the trip, glad to see Victor taking an interest in travel considering recent events, but he an Elizabeth arrange for Henry to join along.
After meeting up with Henry the two head north where the latter praised landscape and its people for the beauty they contained. Victor breaks the tale by beginning to wax nostalgic about his friend- who he reveals is dead. He apologizes to Robert then continues. The two men eventually reach England with no outstanding events.
Once they arrive, Victor immediately begins gathering the information he needs to build another monster. Henry is busy using his entrepreneurial skills and language abilities to start new businesses in India and is often occupied. A letter from a friend that had stayed with the Frankensteins invites the travelling companions up to Scotland, to which the two agree to visit and pass along particular cities on the way.
Travelling north, they stop along Oxford, Windsor, Westmoreland and Cumberland. While Victor watches his friend enjoy new experiences, he himself had his mind occupied on the monster. He wonders if it’s at home waiting to kill his family or about to kill Henry as a sign of impatience. When they finally reach Perth, Victor insists on separating from Henry for a couple of months. The latter agrees with some hesitation, and Victor rents a small cottage on an island whose residents are so poor that they don’t bother him at all, just happy to have some money.
There, Victor begins his work on the next monster. While eagerness to be rid of the monster motivates him initially, the horror of his work starts to weigh on him.
Victor stops to think through the consequences of his current actions. While the monster had promised to move to the New World and leave humans alone, this current one he was making had not agreed to any terms. This new monster’s personality was unpredictable, and could very well choose to not honor the deal or be a creature that merely enjoyed pain and the suffering of others. And what if the monsters wanted children and created a race of things that would eventually destroy humans? While considering all these possibilities, Victor notices that the monster is staring at him through a window. Victor snaps and destroys the body of the she-monster, causing the monster to howl. It swears vengeance on Victor, promising to be with him on his wedding night.
Victor receives a letter from Henry, informing the former that the latter has pressing business in London to attend and would appreciate the company of his friend if only for a little bit. Victor is ready to go, but has to get rid of the evidence of his experiments. He packs everything away- body parts and chemistry tools alike- and sails out in the evening to sink it all in the ocean. Enjoying the evening there, he decides to lie down in the boat for rest.
He awakes to find himself in the middle of the day and surrounded on all sides by water. He panics and begins to start rowing, thinking about dying in the middle of the ocean and the monster murdering his loved ones to sate its desire in place of murdering Victor. After some time, he spots land and rows in. Disheveled, he lands to a surprised group of people and finds out that its Ireland. After some confusion, Victor finds out he is under suspicion for the death of a man who was found on that shore murdered that past night and is arrested.
Brought to Magistrate Kirwin’s office, witnesses arrive to have their testimony heard. The man who discovered the body speaks, explaining how he was returning home from fishing with his son and brother-in-law when he tripped over the body. They assumed it was a drowned corpse that had washed ashore, but found that it was neither wet nor cold. They took it to a nearby house to attempt to revive it, but the man was most assuredly dead, with only black finger marks around the neck indicating the cause of death. The brother-in-law gave the same testimony, adding that he saw a boat exactly like the one Victor had out in the sea with one person. The people assume it’s possible that Victor dumped the body on the shore and was forced to return due to strong winds, ending up near where he dumped the body as he was unfamiliar with the town. Victor is shown the body, and it’s revealed that the corpse is that of Henry Clerval.
After some dramatics and falling unconscious, Victor goes into a sickness that lasts two months. He rambles about murdering Henry, William, and Justine, and asks the jailers in the prison to help him kill the monster. As he does this all in Swedish, only the magistrate understands him.
Two months having passed, Victor finally becomes lucid again and speaks to the magistrate. The magistrate knows that Victor’s innocence can be proven, and also informs him that his father has arrived. They talk and Victor slowly starts to get better. He attends a trial that affirms his innocence and is released, allowing him and his father to go home. While sailing back, Victor continues to be wracked by guilt and fear.
Victor continues to express guilt over the deaths he has inadvertently caused, though his father thinks they are just a bit of delirium that remains from the sickness. When in Paris, he receives a letter from Elizabeth telling him that he is not obligated to marry her if he doesn’t want to as all she wants is for him to be happy. The message reminds Victor of the monster’s threat of being there on his wedding night, and realizes that the monster will hurt people whether he gets married or not, so there’s no point in delaying what little happiness he can give to others and have himself if misery is inevitable. He writes back to affirm his lover for her.
When he gets back, the marriage is quickly arranged. Victor’s father manages to get from the Austrian government- who had possession of some of Elizabeth’s rebel father’s property- a bit of riverside land in North Italy where the couple will spend their honeymoon. Victor starts arming himself in case the monster comes to take his revenge, and his anxiety continues increases. The couple leaves the wedding right after the ceremony and set sail down the river.
They arrive at the house, and Victor prepares for a fight with the monster. He tells Elizabeth to go to bed early as he waits up searching the house and surrounding area. He then hears a scream from her and goes to her room to find that she has been strangled. He faints and awakes surrounded by inn workers. He goes back up to the room to find the monster staring at him through the window and grinning. Victor fires off a shot, but misses. They search the surrounding area but don’t find whatever Victor was shooting at. He returns to Geneva that day as he is scared that the monster will continue its rampage upon his other family members. Upon hearing the news of Elizabeth’s death, Victor’s father becomes sick and dies within a few days.
Victor is again arrested and remembers the experience only as a haze. When he comes to, he goes to the local magistrate to tell him his story and ask for help. The magistrate seems interested, but when asked to use his official powers to track down such a fantastic creature, he begins to patronize Victor, saying he will if he can but most likely the monster is out of man’s reach. Victor remains resolved to chase the monster down, with or without anyone’s help.
Victor takes some money and jewelry, then packs up some gear and heads out to look for the monsters. He has no idea where to head, but ends up at the grave of his family members. There, the monster mocks his despair from afar and the chase begins. From the Mediterranean, to central Asia to Russia, Victor chased the monster. The monster would often leave little clues or outright insults to Victor, beckoning him onward, further north. Victor bought, traded, and hunted for food from the increasingly impoverished people along the way.
Victor reveals that he has been this far north for about three weeks, chasing the figure in the distance when the ship had found him and his dead sled team. Victor admits that had they not been going north, he wouldn’t have joined them- preferring to die in pursuit rather than give up. Victor asks Robert to kill the monster if he happens to see him.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The novel then return to the letters of Robert Walton to describe contemporary events. A week has passed since they’ve picked up Victor. Robert recalls from an earlier letter that he much desired a friend on this trip and seems to have found that potential friend in Victor, which makes him sad to see that Victor is convinced he will die soon. Robert attempts to cheer him up with the possibility of a new life, but Victor says that not only would it never be as good as the one he could’ve had, but that he doesn’t deserve it.
The ice returns to surround the ship, causing it to stop. The possibility of mutiny arises, and a group of men come to speak to Robert while he is visiting Victor. They ask him that if they do get out of this situation and that he will turn the ship around and head back. Robert doesn’t answer immediately, allowing Victor to speak up. He tells them that this trip was undertaken for the very purpose of its danger and that they risk being called cowards and failures if they return. Robert asks them to think about what was said, but the next letter indicates that the men decided that turning back was preferable, to which Robert concedes.
The ice finally breaks, and they turn the ship around. Upon hearing that they are no longer heading North, Victor attempts to leave the ship, but faints just from standing up too quickly. The ship’s doctor informs him that Victor is on the verge of death. Victor tells Robert that he doesn’t regret his actions, as though the monster was right in deserving happiness, Victor had a greater obligation to the human race. He asks him again to kill the monster if he happens upon him, but understands that it may not happen. Victor dies soon after.
The letter mentions Robert hearing noises around the ship and going to examine. The next paragraph describes how he ran into the monster looking over Victor’s dead body. They then have a conversation, where Robert wants to blame the monster for the death and misery he has caused. The monster concedes that he has chosen to do horrible things, but wonders aloud how much of his fate was determined. The monster feels justified in his revenge as his creator dared to have happiness while denying his creation any sort despite being obliged to do so. The monster asks why it was that Robert doesn’t equally blame Felix for being so quick to judge and abandon, or the man who shot the monster after it had saved a drowning girl. The monster says that it is his own death that will end the misery, and that he plans to go further north and burn himself on a funeral pyre so as to make sure his body will never give any clues to someone else as to how to make another like him. He jumps out the window and floats away on a piece of ice.