Tuesday, December 01, 2020

148. David Copperfield

David Copperfield. Charles Dickens. 1850. 882 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I AM BORN Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.

Premise/plot: David Copperfield is a fictional autobiography of a novelist, David Copperfield. That's the most succinct way to describe the novel. The novel itself is a bit lengthy and not at all concise. It tells of the many adventures and misadventures of his life from birth through old age. And there are plenty of close calls--well, not life-or-death close calls--but moments where he is surely outsmarted, outwitted, fooled, tricked, manipulated. In other words, the character is a bit of a dunce when it comes to having common sense. David's choices don't always make the best sense to readers--or in some cases any sense. But despite his limitations David is a charming enough hero. 

Relationships are key to the novel. It isn't so much that many, many things happen--in an action-packed way--but relationships develop, grow, change, deteriorate or strengthen. If you don't care about David's relationships with others--then you might find yourself bored waiting for "something exciting" to happen. Now a few things DO happen. Namely concerning a few characters--Emily and her uncle; Uriah Heep and his schemes; Agnes' predicament with her father, to name a few.

My thoughts: I don't know that I fully appreciated David Copperfield the first time I read it. I haven't reread my review--yet--but I don't remember really loving it. I definitely loved it this second time. Not because I love, love, love the character of David Copperfield. But because I really came to care about a handful of the people he knows, loves, considers family. In many ways, the novel is about a person CHOOSING his family--and only one is truly his biologically speaking.

Dickens' characters are something. Even the ones I hated--loathed--felt fleshed out and well written. And there are some despicable characters in David Copperfield. (Namely Edward Murdstone, James Steerforth, Uriah Heep, etc.) His characters are memorable.

One thing continues to puzzle me: how David Copperfield could be so UTTERLY blind, stupid, stuck on James Steerforth. I mean there are WARNING SIGNS everywhere that this guy is bad news. That for better or worse he's not exactly honorable and worthy of trust and loyalty. But David seems so head over heels besotted with being bestie best best friends with him that he makes horribly bad choices over and over again just to stay near and stay close. When his villainy is revealed, David's response is WEIRD and WRONG: "What is natural in me, is natural in many other men, I infer, and so I am not afraid to write that I never had loved Steerforth better than when the ties that bound me to him were broken. In the keen distress of the discovery of his unworthiness, I thought more of all that was brilliant in him, I softened more towards all that was good in him, I believed that if I had been brought face to face with him, I could not have uttered one reproach. I should have loved him so well still—though he fascinated me no longer—I should have held in so much tenderness the memory of my affection for him, that I think I should have been as weak as a spirit-wounded child, in all but the entertainment of a thought that we could ever be re-united. What his remembrances of me were, I have never known—they were light enough, perhaps, and easily dismissed—but mine of him were as the remembrances of a cherished friend, who was dead."


  • We made no more provision for growing older, than we did for growing younger.
  • “Barkis is willin’. That’s the message,” I readily undertook its transmission.
  • “But fashions are like human beings. They come in, nobody knows when, why, or how; and they go out, nobody knows when, why, or how. Everything is like life, in my opinion, if you look at it in that point of view.”
  • What is before you, is a fight with the world; and the sooner you begin it, the better.
  • He solemnly conjured me, I remember, to take warning by his fate; and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a-year for his income, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy, but that if he spent twenty pounds one he would be miserable.
  • “I say,” returned Mr. Micawber, quite forgetting himself, and smiling again, “the miserable wretch you behold. My advice is, never do to-morrow what you can do to-day. Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!”
  •  Her first proceeding there was to unlock a tall press, bring out several bottles, and pour some of the contents of each into my mouth. I think they must have been taken out at random, for I am sure I tasted aniseed water, anchovy sauce, and salad dressing.
  • “Never,” said my aunt, “be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you.”
  • “How very nice!” exclaimed Miss Dartle. “What a comfort! Really conscientious? Then he’s not—but of course he can’t be, if he’s really conscientious. Well, I shall be quite happy in my opinion of him, from this time. You can’t think how it elevates him in my opinion, to know for certain that he’s really conscientious!”
  • “Really!” said Miss Dartle. “Well, I don’t know, now, when I have been better pleased than to hear that. It’s so consoling! It’s such a delight to know that, when they suffer, they don’t feel! Sometimes I have been quite uneasy for that sort of people; but now I shall just dismiss the idea of them, altogether. Live and learn. I had my doubts, I confess, but now they’re cleared up. I didn’t know, and now I do know, and that shows the advantage of asking—don’t it?”
  • “It’s in vain, Trot, to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.
  • All was over in a moment. I had fulfilled my destiny. I was a captive and a slave. I loved Dora Spenlow to distraction! I was swallowed up in an abyss of love in an instant.
  •  I don’t remember who was there, except Dora. I have not the least idea what we had for dinner, besides Dora. My impression is, that I dined off Dora, entirely, and sent away half-a-dozen plates untouched.
  •  ‘My unchanged love is with my darling child, and I forgive her!’”
  • It was the first time it had ever occurred to me, that this detestable cant of false humility might have originated out of the Heep family. I had seen the harvest, but had never thought of the seed.
  • “I didn’t marry to be reasoned with. If you meant to reason with such a poor little thing as I am, you ought to have told me so, you cruel boy!”
  • As to the washerwoman pawning the clothes, and coming in a state of penitent intoxication to apologise, I suppose that might have happened several times to anybody.
  •  “Gentlemen,” returned Mr. Micawber, “do with me as you will! I am a straw upon the surface of the deep, and am tossed in all directions by the elephants—I beg your pardon; I should have said the elements.”
  • What is the matter, gentlemen? What is not the matter? Villainy is the matter; baseness is the matter; deception, fraud, conspiracy, are the matter; and the name of the whole atrocious mass is—HEEP!” “I’ll put my hand in no man’s hand,” said Mr. Micawber, gasping, puffing, and sobbing, to that degree that he was like a man fighting with cold water, “until I have—blown to fragments—the—a—detestable—serpent—HEEP!  I’ll partake of no one’s hospitality, until I have—a—moved Mount Vesuvius—to eruption—on—a—the abandoned rascal—HEEP!  Refreshment—a—underneath this roof—particularly punch—would—a—choke me—unless—I had—previously—choked the eyes—out of the head—a—of—interminable cheat, and liar—HEEP! I—a—I’ll know nobody—and—a—say nothing—and—a—live nowhere—until I have crushed—to—a—undiscoverable atoms—the—transcendent and immortal hypocrite and perjurer—HEEP!”
  • He is such an incarnate hypocrite, that whatever object he pursues, he must pursue crookedly.
  • Mr. Murdstone delivers public addresses sometimes, and it is said,—in short, sir, it is said by Mrs. Chillip,—that the darker tyrant he has lately been, the more ferocious is his doctrine.” “Mrs. Chillip does go so far as to say,” pursued the meekest of little men, much encouraged, “that what such people miscall their religion, is a vent for their bad-humours and arrogance. And do you know I must say, sir,” “that I don’t find authority for Mr. and Miss Murdstone in the New Testament?” “I never found it either,” said I.
  • Whatever betides, whatever new ties you may form, whatever changes may come between us, I shall always look to you, and love you, as I do now, and have always done. You will always be my solace and resource, as you have always been. Until I die, my dearest sister, I shall see you always before me, pointing upward!”

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Kelly-Belly said...

I've made two attempts and only made it through the first few chapters. I thought there was a quote along the lines of .... she never met an invalid she didn't want .... or it may have been ... she never met and invalid that she couldn't nurse back to health. Anyway, I can't seem to find it and it is driving me crazy.