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David Copperfield - Group Read 1 > May - June 2020: David Copperfield: chapters 15-29

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message 1: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited Sep 29, 2020 12:22PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
The Second thread for David Copperfield:


Original wrappers for the serialisation

Second Thread:

Chapter 15 (Message 2)



VI – October 1849 (chapters 16–18);

Chapter 16 (Message 24)

Chapter 17 (Message 40)

Chapter 18 (Message 60)



VII – November 1849 (chapters 19–21);

Chapter 19 (Message 75)

Chapter 20 (Message 98)

Chapter 21 (Message 120)




VIII – December 1849 (chapters 22–24);

Chapter 22 (Message 144)

Chapter 23 (Message 172)

Chapter 24 (Message 202)



IX – January 1850 (chapters 25–27);

Chapter 25 (Message 215)

Chapter 26 (Message 235)

Chapter 27 (Message 270)



X – February 1850 (chapters 28–31);

Chapter 28 (Message 281)

Chapter 29 (Message 292)


Above are links to all the chapter summaries in this thread, provided by Nisa! Clicking on each underlined chapter number will take you directly to that chapter's summary.
Thank you for doing this, Nisa!

We are now a quarter of the way through David Copperfield, and moving on to chapter 15. Davy has already had many trials and tribulation in his young life, but is now under the guardianship of Miss Betsey Trotwood.

In this thread we will discuss the second quarter of the book, taking a chapter a day as before. There is no need to use spoiler tags for anything which happened in the first 14 chapters. Thanks all!


message 2: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 15, 2020 06:07AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Chapter 15:

A short chapter to introduce Davy, or "Trotwood" as his Aunt Betsey calls him, to his new life.

David is happy, and often goes out with Mr Dick to fly his kite. He notices that writing the "Memorial" seems to cause Mr Dick difficulty and confusion, and flying his kite always helps.

Aunt Betsey has been thinking about Davy's education, and this pleases him. She suggests finding a school in Canterbury, and the next day they both set off for Canterbury, with Aunt Betsey in charge of a grey pony and chaise she has hired for the day. Mr Dick stays behind, dejected at the prospect of David going away, but cheering up a little at the thought of regular visits.

Before seeing any schools, they go to see a lawyer called Mr Wickfield, whom Aunt Betsey knows and trusts. A strange unhealthy-looking youth of about 15 is outside, and we learn this is Uriah Heep, who works there.



Uriah Heep depicted by 'Kyd' (J. Clayton Clarke)

When they are shown inside, they meet Mr Wickfield, and Aunt Betsey explains about David. After considering, Mr Wickfield suggests one school, but explains that David would have to board elsewhere. He suggests that they visit the school without David, and David willingly stays behind.

During this time, he is aware that Uriah Heep, whilst pretending to work, is stealthily watching him, which makes David uncomfortable. At last Aunt Betsey and Mr Wickfield return. The school is satisfactory, but sadly they did not like any of the boarding houses. Mr Wickfield suggests that David stays with him temporarily, and they come to an arrangement both are happy with.

David is shown to the room which will be his, and also meets Mr Wickfield's daughter Agnes, who is about his own age. Mr Wickfield clearly dotes on her, calling her his "little housekeeper". David also likes her at first sight, because of her happiness and composure.

Aunt Betsey has to go home quite early, because of the drive, and gives David some good advice before she leaves. He is surprised she seem to be so abrupt, but sees out of the window that she is sad to have left him.

Mr Wickfield, Agnes and David dine together, and David notices that Mr Wickfield drinks quite a lot of port wine, both then, and through the evening, when they are relaxing. When David goes up to bed, he sees Uriah Heep shutting up the office, and goes to shake his hand in an effort to be friendly. But the cold, clammy feeling of Uriah Heep's hand stays with him for a long time.

David goes to sleep, considering the strange changes in his life, and especially the contrast between when he plodded miserably through Canterbury in rags, on his way to Aunt Betsey's, and his fortunate position now.


message 3: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 15, 2020 06:00AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
This is another bright "beginning", and a quarter of the way through we are still meeting new characters who are going to play very important parts in David's life.

I'm still loving both Aunt Betsey and Mr Dick. The image of Betsey Trotwood so upright, and in charge of a pony and chaise stays with me. Also her kindness in not letting David see how upset she really was, to leave him.

Another detail which strikes me, is one also mentioned in the previous chapter. Mr Dick writes on his kite and sends it up high into the air, to disperse his ideas to the world. But David noticed that that writing on the papers attached to the kite, was actually unsuccessful drafts and that Mr Dick felt relieved, and freer in his mind after he had released them. This struck me as remarkable prescient of Charles Dickens; in fact the theory is bang up to date. He seems to be using a "visualisation" technique employed in psychology - the idea of imagining putting all your problems and bad thoughts into eg., a hot air balloon, then letting it go and watching all the negativity drift away. Amazing!

And did anyone else notice the fairytale feel of the second part of the chapter, as soon as David sets eyes on Mr Wickfield's house. It is described in such a magical way, and we meet the king (Mr Wickfield) a princess (Agnes) an evil sort of troll (Uriah Heep) a magic spell or curse when he breathed into the horse's nostrils ...

Or am I just being fanciful? My husband Chris says he can always tell if I'm reading Dickens on my kindle because (apparently) I have a happy smile on my face!


message 4: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 15, 2020 06:09AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
A little more ...?

We've been spotting how many characters are based on real people, and often those who were friends or relatives of Charles Dickens himself. Once you know it, this next one is unforgettable!

Uriah Heep:

He of the clammy hands - one of Charles Dickens's most deliciously awful grotesques :) Here is our first encounter with him:

"The low arched door then opened, and the face came out. It was quite as cadaverous as it had looked in the window, though in the grain of it there was that tinge of red which is sometimes to be observed in the skins of red-haired people. It belonged to a red-haired person — a youth of fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older — whose hair was cropped as close as the closest stubble; who had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep. He was high-shouldered and bony; dressed in decent black, with a white wisp of a neckcloth; buttoned up to the throat; and had a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention, as he stood at the pony's head, rubbing his chin with it, and looking up at us in the chaise."

Here's an illustration by Fred Barnard of Uriah Heep:



Now what's surprising is not so much that he's based on a real person - we're used to that with Charles Dickens by now - but just exactly who it is. His physical appearance and mannerisms are based on ... Hans Christian Andersen!

It's well known now that there was no love lost between these two. Originally they were the best of friends, but Hans Christian Andersen did not have a proper home of his own, and scrounged visits to his friends, always overstaying his welcome. When he finally left, Charles Dickens scrawled on the mirror that he had stayed for 5 long weeks,

"which seemed to the family simply ages!"

and one of Dickens's daughters, who had originally thoroughly enjoyed Hans Christian Andersen's storytelling sessions agreed, eventually referring to him as, "the bony bore". Here he is:



and there's another great photo of the eccentric author on his Goodreads author page.

It does seem a little unkind of Charles Dickens, this particular portrayal, however mean and mingy his erstwhile friend had been!


message 5: by Robin P (new)

Robin P | 331 comments You can tell there is no way Uriah Heep (great name!) will be a kindly or helpful character, while Wickfield and Agnes are good. I would guess that the fairy tale aspect was intentional even if unconscious to Dickens. His children's book, The Magic Fishbone, makes an ordinary family into a royal one, even if they are always waiting for the Quarter Day wages.


message 6: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 240 comments It's good to see David, or should I say Trot, to have a chance to go to school and live at such a wonderfully clean house with Wickfield and Agnes.
It is touching to see Mr. Dick's reaction when he learns that David will be going to school. As for Aunt Betsey, she has a heart of gold.

I love the name Uriah Heep! It gives me the creeps.


message 7: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1084 comments I laughed buckets at Aunt Betsey plowing her way through the market with the pony and cart and sitting through it so regally. How dare they get in the way? 😇

Dickens is masterful in conveying that Uriah Heep is not going to be someone we will like--that clammy hand was a dead giveaway. Jean, thanks for much for the info on Andersen. I had never heard that Uriah was based on him, and that gives the fairytale atmosphere another dimension altogether. I wonder how many of Dickens' original readers would have recognized famous personages in Dickens' writing or whether it would just have been an inside joke among his close friends and relatives. Even more, I wonder if Andersen recognized himself.


message 8: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 15, 2020 09:30AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Robin - Charles Dickens loved his fairy tales, and all his works are peppered with references to them. Some are overt and we've noticed parallels to stories in earlier chapters. In novels such as The Old Curiosity Shop, he would refer quite deliberately to "the fairy" or "the goblin" or "the ugly old woman", as if to put those prototypes in our minds.

They can also be used sometimes to guard the identity of a character (Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities - oh and Barnaby Rudge too). And then there are times in earlier novels when Charles Dickens hasn't quite decided on which particular version of a name he prefers. The perils of serial publishing - he had to be sure before it went to press! And as you and Rosemarie have both pointed out, his names are pitch perfect. "Creepy Heep" :)

So it's really good for me to be reading this with others, as my radar is up for references to fairy tales - and all the other motifs like birds, clocks, water and so on that Charles Dickens loved to include - and I have to be careful not to let my own imagination run away with me! I'm sure you'll bring me down to earth if I'm fantasising ;)

Thanks for reminding me about The Magic Fishbone. The edition I've linked to is the one I have, with lovely illustrations from 1922, (though there are lots of attractive modern editions too).


message 9: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Sara wrote: "I wonder if Andersen recognized himself..."

Ohhh Sara - I do hope not :(


message 10: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1084 comments lol. Me too, Jean. I was thinking how painful it would be the see yourself painted in such a way and know it was out there in the world for everyone to see.


message 11: by Elizabeth A.G. (last edited May 15, 2020 11:00AM) (new)

Elizabeth A.G. | 122 comments There is a real contrast in motives in sending David to school. Mr. Murdstone in sending David to Salem House wants him punished, shamed, and ultimately self-sufficient so that Murdstone won't have to support him. On the other hand, Aunt Betsey's principal motive in educating David is the formation of his moral character. "Trot, be a credit to yourself, to me and Mr. Dick." and "Never be mean, never be false, never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you." We see here that David now is expected to have some obligation and responsibility as he becomes an adult. Betsey couldn't have given him better advice and demonstrates her love for him, not overtly with kisses and hugs, but with sound advice.


message 12: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1084 comments Oh, yes, Elizabeth. I loved her advice and you have nailed the contrast in motives! All the beatings and cruelty of Murdstone could never have shaped David into a better man, but the love and guidance of Aunt Betsey certainly can. He will want to strive to live up to her faith in him. Best decision of a lifetime--running away.


message 13: by France-Andrée (last edited May 15, 2020 11:14AM) (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments I loved the idea of "visualisation" being used by Dickens, it does show that what we think as modern and discovered quite recently is not always true, the descriptions might be true but using the methods might not be. Thank you for that detail, Jean.

Having David completely happy for once is a nice interlude, Mr. Dick is very lucky to have aunt Betsey because in his world 99.9% of time he would have been in an asylum. I always feel for characters that have a mental problem because in there time I would have been placed early in my childhood when the problems started; reading about those years, make you appreciate the present.

School at last! I really don't remember that school so I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Uriah Heep, it's so funny then the description started I thought "that makes me think of Uriah Heep, but he's not in this novel, he's in Nicholas Nickleby", I wonder what character I got mixed up with; I have placed Uriah since and I do remember he is BAD NEWS. Are the pictures for Uriah from later on in the novels? because he looks older than 15.

I hope everyone can take to heart aunt Betsey's Never be mean in anything, never be false; never be cruel..., I agree those are vice to avoid, but if we fall to one of them, it is better to recognize it and try to be better in the future. I think we have to let ourselves be human too.


message 14: by France-Andrée (last edited May 15, 2020 11:21AM) (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments Elizabeth: our comments were written at same time, but I agree with and how this advice is good for all of David’s life not just his now.


message 15: by Elizabeth A.G. (last edited May 15, 2020 11:41AM) (new)

Elizabeth A.G. | 122 comments While Betsey gives David her advice, by no means does she mean not to stand up for oneself when the occasion arises - as she did with Mr. Murdstone and his sister. She is blunt, outspoken and at times self-righteous but her heart is in the right place. Considering her abused background, she does retain bitterness, especially toward men, but she overcomes it with her kindness to David and to Mr. Dick. As someone once said, " it is human to err" but we can all live with integrity.


message 16: by Pamela (last edited May 15, 2020 11:47AM) (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) The description of Uriah is wonderfully creepy, the eyes "like two red suns" are like a demon from a medieval tale. They stare at Trot in a really disconcerting way, yet Dickens still can't resist a touch of humour "whenever I looked towards those two red suns, I was sure to find them, either just rising or just setting." Brilliant.


message 17: by Candi (new)

Candi (candih) | 41 comments I love Mr. Dick and his kite flying! I thought a bit that no one had ever really taken David out to do any such thing - those types of activities that fathers and sons would likely do together - until now.

At the beginning of the book, I really could not have imagined Aunt Betsey becoming such a heroine at this point in the story! What a delight! I'm glad that David caught that last glimpse of her riding away and understanding that it was not easy for her to separate herself from him already.

Uriah Heep - we can't go long without an eccentric or the grotesque or a villain, can we?!! He doesn't seem to quite fit into that household!


message 18: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 15, 2020 03:12PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
France-Andrée - The 'Kyd' illustration of Uriah Heep is just a generic one, in that he was an artist who painted pictures of Dickensian characters for playing cards, tea cards etc., and not as actual scenes in the novel. The other one is similar ie., not a particular scene. I agree that he looks older in both - although David himself said that he was: "a youth of fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older".

I too am glad that Richard Babley, or "Mr Dick", has his protector in Aunt Betsey. Richard Dadd had over 4 decades of being incarcerated in an asylum, actually dying there, yet in his early life he had travelled to the Far East. He must have felt it keenly, and I wonder if Charles Dickens was imagining a better alternative life for the great artist :) Yes, I agree Candi it's a nice image of a father - but also a sort of young brother to David - all mixed up :)

Elizabeth - great point contrasting the motives. Mr Wickfield - ever the lawyer - asked Aunt Betsey straight out what her motives were, and I suspect Charles Dickens wanted to highlight this so we would zoom in on it. As I read it, it reminded me of Polonius's advice to his son Laertes in Hamlet!


message 19: by France-Andrée (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments I had completely forgot that Uriah is supposed to look older; even reading a chapter at a time sometimes I miss some things that’s why I love all the different views the comments here give us.


message 20: by Lori (new)

Lori | 123 comments I’m sorry I’m late today and I’ve missed such a great discussion about this chapter. I love all the comments!

I do want to add a quick aside. As a first time reader I had to do a double take when I discovered that Uriah Heep is a character in this story. I only knew there was a band by the same name. I believe it’s a British band. Anyway, I am constantly amazed by the many ways Dickens has influenced society.


message 21: by Robin P (new)

Robin P | 331 comments Yes, besides Scrooge, some of other characters have become immortal. There is a Pickwickian syndrome of narcolepsy because of the boy in Pickwick who is always falling asleep. Many people who haven't even read the books know of Oliver Twist (maybe through the musical or movie), Little Nell and others.


message 22: by Elizabeth A.G. (last edited May 15, 2020 09:00PM) (new)

Elizabeth A.G. | 122 comments France- Andree - I had forgotten about Polonius' advice to Laertes on how to get along in the world as he was leaving for France. It seems most of that advice is given to protect Laertes when he is out in the world, EXCEPT FOR Polonius' statement:
"To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not be false to any man."
Betsey's advice seems aimed more toward maintaining one's moral compass to maintain one's honor and integrity rather than to maneuver and guide oneself in a new society. But Laertes gives good fatherly advice also.

Pamela - Yes, Dickens' writing is such a pleasure to read not just due to the story-line but to his verbal imagery that makes a scene or character almost tangible so that the reader seems to experience it also. His description of Uriah fits this to a "T" as does his description of the Wickfield's "bulging house" that was leaning out to see who passed by. And David sees the cadaverous face at a window and then, not a person, but Dickens says - "the face came out." - creepy way to say Uriah came out to greet them.
We've all experienced the uncomfortable feeling of shaking someone's cold, clammy hand! as David describes the sensation as "ghostly to the touch and to the sight."


message 23: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 16, 2020 05:57AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Lori - that's hilarious that you knew the name "Uriah Heep" because of the band! I suppose this happens quite often - that we don't always know the origin of something.

Elizabeth - actually it was I who mentioned Polonius's advice, (oh I think France-Andree followed it up) but as you say. Aunt Betsey's was different (and more succinct!) Sometimes I'm not sure why I make a particular Charles Dickensconnection.

I too am loving all the verbal imagery. Charles Dickens is so good at personnification. Houses, furniture and even small objects seem to have their one life and character :)

Robin - yes so many names have been derived from Charles Dickens's characters. Two more I can think of are "Pickwickian" and Pecksniffian". This will be great to talk about on our "favourite characters" thread, so we don't lose it :)


message 24: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 16, 2020 06:24AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Chapter 16:

David is taken by Mr Wickfield to see his new school, and meets Doctor Strong, who is the head teacher. He also meets his wife, Annie, who is so young that Davy wonder if she is his daughter. We learn that Dr Strong is 62, and Annie is 20, and they have been married for a year. The differences between their ages is emphasised throughout this chapter, both by the older David, and by the other characters.

Doctor Strong is a kindly amiable fellow, and his school is "as different from Mr. Creakle’s as good is from evil". He is so open and generous, that even his pupils try to protect him from unscrupulous beggars. When he is not with them, he spends his time writing a dictionary.

He introduces the topic of Jack Maldon, a cousin of Annie's whom he would like to assist. The conversation turns on whether Jack is to be found work in England or abroad. Mr Wickfield asks about Dr Strong's motive, which puzzles him. Mr Wickfield assumes that a placement abroad would be best.

David is introduced to the boys, who number 25, and is greeted pleasantly by the head boy. He is very conscious that his recent experience, both in working at the factory, selling things to a pawnbrokers and as a ragged boy, is far removed from what a young gentleman's should be: "In what I did know, I was much farther removed from my companions than in what I did not." He embarrassed and ashamed, and reliveved to be back at Mr Wickfield's when the day is over.

Agnes greets him back at the house, and is delighted to see her father when he arrives home. Mr Wickfield is clearly preoccupied with something, and asks David to always treat Dr Strong kindly. He is not worldly, he says, and easily taken advantage of. Uriah Heep comes in and says Jack Maldon would like to speak to Mr Wickfield, and we learn that this is where Mr Wickfield has been.

When Jack Maldon comes in, he talks about his future, referring to Doctor Strong as "the Old Doctor" and Annie as "a charming young girl", who could easily get her way with him. He too seems to be hinting at reasons why he is being got away so quickly, but says that he doesn't want to "look a gift-horse in the mouth". David's impression of him was that: "He was rather a shallow sort of young gentleman, I thought, with a handsome face, a rapid utterance, and a confident, bold air."

The Wickfields and David spend a pleasant evening together, and Agnes helps David with his schoolwork. He is full of admiration for Agnes, but stresses that it is not the same as he feels for Little Em'ly. Again we get the angelic image: "there are goodness, peace, and truth, wherever Agnes is; and that the soft light of the coloured window in the church, seen long ago, falls on her always, and on me when I am near her, and on everything around."

Mr Wickfield asks David where he would rather live, and David says emphatically that he would like to stay with them. Mr Wickfield has again drunk a lot of wine, and is morose about his life. He misses his wife, whom Agnes resembles closely, and worries about Agnes's future and his too.

David goes to see Uriah Heep in his office, and attempts to get on good terms. He compliments Uriah, says he expect he is a lawyer - or that he soon will be. Uriah says he has worked for Mr Wickfield for 4 years (so we know he started there at about the sane age as David is now). Uriah attempts to ingratiate himself, stressing all the time how "humble" and low he is, and what an honour it would be if David would visit him and his mother for tea at their "numble abode".

Uriah diverts the conversation round to Agnes, and it is clear that he admires her very much, and takes it as a personal compliment when David confirms that his Aunt Betsey does too. He says that David will be in the business before too long, in such a way that David has to protest. Through the conversations, David noticed Uriah's unpleasant writhing demeanour, and has bad dreams about him that night.

David's time at the school is happy, and "Murdstone and Grinby" seems a long time ago in his past. He notices Doctor Strong's "pretty young wife", and his "fatherly, benignant way of showing his fondness for her". The couple seem to be very happy, except that Annie is afraid of Mr Wickfield. David is often with Annie Strong, who takes an interest in him, and they often chance to meet Jack Malton unexpectedly. 

David meets Annie Strong's mother, Mrs. Markleham, who is nicknamed "the Old Soldier" by the boys, because she is sharp, and takes charge of things. There is a farewell party for Jack Maldon, who is going to India as a cadet. She delights in talking of old times, and dropping hints. We learn how Annie and Jack used to be sweethearts when they were tiny, just as David and Little Em'ly were. Under the pretence of gratitude to Doctor Strong for all his generosity to her family, she makes it plain how Annie married him out of honour and respect, saying “I am extremely young ... and I hardly know if I have a heart at all”. Annie feels awkward to have this revealed, but Dr Strong does not mind. When "the Old Soldier" follows this by asking for a favour, he is keen to help.

As the evening progresses, Annie seems more and more unhappy and frail. Jack Maldon too is abnormally quiet, but Doctor Strong is content and oblivious. Eventually the chaise arrives for Jack, and the last David sees of him is "an agitated face, and something cherry-coloured in his hand".

Annie has fainted on the hall floor. Doctor Strong gently cares for her until she is conscious again, but she is very white and weak. He and her mother sit her on a sofa. Mrs Markleham notices that she has lost a bow from the bosom of her dress, which was made from cherry-coloured ribbon. David notices how deeply Annie blushes when this is noticed. Everyone spends the rest of the evening looking for the bow, but it is nowhere to be found.



Annie Strong and her husband by Phiz

Later, Agnes discover she has left her little handbag ("reticule" or later "dolly bag") in the supper room, so David goes to fetch it for her. He sees a tender moment between Dr Strong and his wife, as he reads to her from his dictionary. But Annie's expression is unfathomable, with a mixture of conflicting emotions. Dr Strong is sure she must be tired by now, but Annie begs him to let her stay close to him.


message 25: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 16, 2020 06:27AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
This chapter is so full of portents, overt hints and internal interpretations by the character themselves, that it is hard to summarise objectively (and without giving anything away). We are left wondering and guessing about so many things!

As we've all said, Charles Dickens is great at selecting his names according to whether the characters are to be admired or despised. So we had the odious headmaster Mr Creakle and now we have an admirable teacher Dr. Strong. You couldn't get a more positive name.

Dr Strong is based on a teacher whom Charles Dickens had when he was very young. But, interestingly, the name "Strong" is actually taken from his own experience too, as if you remember "Aunt Betsey" is based on a Miss Mary Pearson Strong.

However, I do not like Mrs Markleham (Annie Strong's mother, and consequently mother-in-law to Dr. Strong) and her silly hat (hilarious though it may be!)

"Her name was Mrs. Markleham; but our boys used to call her the Old Soldier, on account of her generalship, and the skill with which she marshalled great forces of relations against the Doctor. She was a little, sharp-eyed woman, who used to wear, when she was dressed, one unchangeable cap, ornamented with some artificial flowers, and two artificial butterflies supposed to be hovering above the flowers ... it always made its appearance of an evening ... the butterflies had the gift of trembling constantly; and ... improved the shining hours at Doctor Strong’s expense, like busy bees."

Apart from all the suspicions we are being encouraged to harbour about her motives, she's such an opinionated old biddy, of the type Dickens writes so well.


message 26: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 16, 2020 06:34AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
A little more ...

about Uriah Heep:

"I am well aware that I am the 'umblest person going, let the other be where he may. My mother is likewise a very 'umble person. We live in a numble abode, Master Copperfield, but have much to be thankful for."

We've got the measure of him now! And we know about Uriah Heep's physical appearance, and body language:

"He had a way of writhing when he wanted to express enthusiasm, which was very ugly; and which diverted my attention ... to the snaky twistings of his throat and body"

and that his general parsimony and meanness was based on Charles Dickens's rather jaded view of Hans Christian Andersen.

But other critics have commented that Uriah Heep's character is based on Blifil from The Adventures of Tom Jones. Apparently he was the antagonist of the story, whose vile nature was camouflaged by "sugary hypocrisy"

Also, there might be a biblical connection to Uriah. In the Bible, Uriah the Hittite was the husband of Bathsheba. The Biblical David was enamoured of Bathsheba, and in David Copperfield we have two male characters, both of whom admire Agnes Wickfield.

Interesting? Or a possible escape route, in case Hans Christian Andersen did recognise himself and objected?


message 27: by Robin P (last edited May 16, 2020 07:31AM) (new)

Robin P | 331 comments Bionic Jean wrote: "This chapter is so full of portents, overt hints and internal interpretations by the character themselves, that it is hard to summarise objectively (and without giving anything away). We are left w..."

Your quote at the end includes the reference to "improve the shining hour". That comes from a children's poem all Dickens' readers would have known. This note from "The Victorian Web" reminds us that it was satirized as "How Doth the Little Crocodile" in Alice in Wonderland . The Victorians loved to harangue children about their duties and the dangers of bad behavior.

"How doth the Little Bee" is one of Isaac Watts's didactic poems for children that Lewis Carroll parodies in Alice in Wonderland:

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.

In Works of Labour or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.

In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last. [1715]


message 28: by Lori (new)

Lori | 123 comments At first, I thought that Agnes was going to be a new love interest for David but we know differently now. Then, I remembered that Wickfield introduced Agnes as his “little housekeeper”. I looked back and read through that section.

“She had a little basket-trifle at her side, with keys in it; and she looked as staid and discreet a housekeeper as the old house could have.”

So, what a contrast to the nasty Jane Murdstone! I seem to remember her taking Clara’s keys from her. I am now considering a different role for Agnes but time will tell.

Jean; Very interesting about Uriah Heep! I don’t know how I got to my age without reading more Dickens but I credit you for rectifying that situation. I do have mixed emotions about reading David Copperfield. The pleasure of reading this for the first time and having the story unfold vs. feeling I missed out on something wonderful for so long. Enough gushing!

I suppose Dickens could have felt that it was too obvious that Uriah Heep was a thinly veiled portrayal of Andersen and took up his pen.


message 29: by Lori (new)

Lori | 123 comments Thank you for the poem! Now I need to read Alice in Wonderland again!


message 30: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 16, 2020 08:19AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Wow, thank you Robin! That poems sounds so familiar, that I don't know if I too "conned" it by heart as a child (though I'm not that old LOL!) or know it from Lewis Carroll's marvellous parody.

Maybe my mum taught it to me. Great information!

Lori - I'm delighted you're enjoying it so much :)


message 31: by Robin P (new)

Robin P | 331 comments There are 2 examples here of young women devoting themselves to older men, Agnes with her father and Annie with her husband. David has had a chance to observe various partnerships already, such as the Murdstones and the Micawbers, also Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick.


message 32: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 240 comments Mrs. Markleham is bad news, and really obnoxious. I feel sorry for Annie, who obviously cares for her cousin very much. When they couldn't find her at first, I thought she might have run off with Jack.

The new school sounds like a great place for David to get back into the learning mode.


message 33: by France-Andrée (last edited May 16, 2020 01:19PM) (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments First to Robin, thank you for posting the poem. We are lucky now that when reading books, we can do our quick research ourselves.

Lots a new characters in this chapter, it's hard not to feel for Annie who obviously was coherced by her mother to marry Dr. Strong. Annie loves Dr. Strong, but we can see who she's in love with.

Agnes being her father's housekeeper remind me a lot of Esther Summerson's relationship with John Jarndyce (view spoiler), how both relationships are very much father / daughter.

It's funny because I started a book in French yesterday and I'm searching words in the dictionnary more than in reading Dickens (for my defense it's a book in "français de France" like we say here and that means a lot of words are not in a vocabulary of French-Canadian, the two "languages" have had their own evolution). I always thought Dickens words very easy to understand, I probably was looking more in the dictionary the first time around, but I've read a lot of 19th Century novels and I understand the language very well.


message 34: by Nisa (last edited May 16, 2020 03:05PM) (new)

Nisa | 69 comments The characters we met in this chapter I can't say I like them or not. They have their good and bad sides and mostly I'm neutral with them.

Dr. Strong has a good character and tries to help people in need almost to the point of being at fault. But he had a side that let him took advantage of Annie's hard conditions. And Annie while she cares Dr. Strong seems she still can't ignore her cousin. And feel a need to be with Dr. Strong so she won't betray him but she doesn't mind having some planned meeting with her cousin (she is mostly pitiful).

About Mr. Wickfield, I can say he is a loving father and cares for his daughter but I don't feel like he would let her marry even if she met someone she loves and would like to marry. And Agnes seems like the only one who fully innocent but I don't feel like we yet to know her better.

Uriah Heep is the only one who Charles Dickens made obvious I won't like. Thank you, Jean, for sharing about the person who he took after. It was interesting.
I'm not sure for now, but I feel like we won't see Mr. Jack Maldon again or if we see him again it will be eventful. :))

I'm mostly curious about how they will affect David's life.


message 35: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 16, 2020 03:04PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Robin and France-Andree - Charles Dickens often has examples of young women looking after older men, be they husbands or fathers. And yes, Agnes reminded me too a little of Esther Summerson in this.

A "little housekeeper" is used a term of approbation; Charles Dickens clearly views it as a most desirable quality in a young women.

But what a contrast between the angelic Agnes Wickfield, who "had a little basket-trifle hanging at her side, with keys in it;" and the cold metallic Jane Murdstone, who took possession of the keys, as it gave her power.

And then another contrast, this time between Agnes and Annie Strong. After Jack Maldon's leaving party, Agnes forgot her reticule and David returned to find it and return it to her. Also that evening, Annie "lost" a ribbon (cherry-red - very symbolic!), which it is heavily indicated was taken by Jack. So two things were lost by two young women. Jack takes something frivolous, and David returns something valuable.

I think Charles Dickens may be indicating more than the surface events here.

In fact it occurs to me that there is a lot of Christian symbolism connected with Agnes. Her name, for a start derives from the word for "chaste." And "agneau" (as our French speakers will know!) means "lamb." Charles Dickens keeps linking Agnes with a church's stained glass window, and many church windows have a representation of Christ holding a lamb; Christ as the shepherd.

David a little while ago had to shed his old clothes, and was given a bath - symbolically, perhaps a baptism - after much suffering and a long walk. What's more, he has been give a new name: "Trotwood". David has been born again.


message 36: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Nisa - I like the way you have picked out the negative side of both Dr Strong, and Mr Wickfield. Both are a little selfish, despite Charles Dickens highlighting their good qualities.

It's good that we see shades of their personalities. Thank you!


message 37: by Elizabeth A.G. (last edited May 16, 2020 04:25PM) (new)

Elizabeth A.G. | 122 comments Well, I think we can all agree that in terms of Christian symbols, it is easy to recognize the Satan-like Uriah Heep in how David describes him with reddish skin and eyes, no eyelashes and of his breathing into the pony's nostrils similar to the serpent who tempts Eve in the Bible. David observes Heep's "way of writhing" and the "snaky twistings of his throat and body."

Also while Heep calls himself "umble," he has ambition in his study to be a lawyer - to become a law partner with Wickfield?? - and seems to suspect that he may have competition in Trotwood Copperfield. It was Satan in the Bible who attempted to take God's place. Heep seems to be testing the potential competition in his attempt to elevate his "umble" self. It is humorous how Heep "writhed himself quite off his stool in the excitement of his feelings" after discussing Agnes with David.

In another sense, a serpent or snake can also be the symbol of rebirth and transformation because of its shedding of skin - here again we are reminded of Heep's ambition to improve himself and elevate his status by studying "Tidd's Practice," thus uplifting his social situation from that of his deceased father who was a sexton. Ironic that his father was connected to the church by caring for the churchyard and perhaps also a gravedigger. Uriah wants to rise up from his background in both profession and in pursuit of Agnes whom he admires, I suspect, in a lascivious way.


message 38: by Robin P (new)

Robin P | 331 comments For Agnes - In Latin Agnus Dei is Lamb of God, one of the names for Jesus.

As far as what France-Andree said about looking up words vs being used to the style, I grew up reading a lot of British books, like Mary Poppins and the wonderful books of E. Nesbit. So over time I figured out that the English said "boots" for any kind of shoe, "tea" for what would be supper for American children, what were pinafores, ginger beer in syphons, etc. Even expressions, like "Oh, bother!" and "Crikey" that no one I knew ever used, or having a "row" where we would say quarrel or fight


message 39: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 17, 2020 05:45AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Elizabeth - thank you so much for this brilliant observation! I'd often pondered about Uriah Heep's red eyes, and you make a convincing case. I like this very much indeed :)

Robin - any time something is too bafflingly English, please just say, and either or Allie (who I think is Scots) may well recognise - or even regularly use - it. I pick up ones which are archaic, such as "reticule", but am not always sure of what is unfamiliar, because (as you say) you have read English children's classics - and this will be far more than I have read American children's ones.


message 40: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 17, 2020 06:04AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
Chapter 17:

Because this is called "Somebody Turns Up", we can guess who will feature in this chapter!

At first though, David is keen to return the money he had borrowed from Peggotty, and Peggotty has news from home. Peggotty had been so very upset to hear of David's troubles and long journey, that her letter to him was blotched with tears, but she assures him there will always be a place for him in her home.

All the furniture from "Blunderstone Rookery" has now been sold. The Murdstones have gone away, and the house is shut up, to be let or sold. Everyone else is well. David gives the information to his Aunt Betsey, but does not mention Little Em'ly's flirtatious comment, as he thinks his Aunt would not approve of her.

Once his Aunt realises that David is settled at Dr Strong's school, she makes less frequent visit, and they fall into a regular pattern of once a month. Mr Dick also visits every fortnight, on a different day. He is a huge success with the boys, as flies his kite and enthusiastically joins in with their games. He is very skilful at making models out of almost any material.

On one visit, Mr Dick asks David if he know about the man who hides, but is secretly watching Aunt Betsey. He says she seems to be frightened of him. David is not sure whether to believe this story, or whether it is a fantasy, like that of Charles I inhabiting Mr Dick's head.

Mr Dick becomes so popular that Dr Strong asks to meet him, and also Annie, who nowadays is looking very pale. Mr Dick is a regular visitor to the school, and take long walks with Dr Strong, who reads his dictionary to him.

When David is accompanying Mr Dick to the coach office one day, he happens to meet Uriah Heep, who reminds him that he has not yet taken tea with Uriah and his mother. He is so obsequious and overtly "humble", that David is affronted to be thought proud, and a visit is arranged for 6 o'clock.



Uriah Heep, his mother, and David

The visit is an uncomfortable affair for David. He feels continually pumped for information by Uriah and his mother, who is an identical version of Uriah in manner and appearance, except that she is shorter: "A tender young cork, however, would have had no more chance against a pair of corkscrews ... than I had against Uriah and Mrs. Heep." David divulges a lot more about his past than he had meant to, but manages to avoid mentioning his time at "Murdstone and Grinby's" - of which he continues to feel ashamed - nor his desperate flight to Aunt Betsey's.

David wishes he were out of the visit when a familiar voice calls from the doorway. Mr Micawber had been passing, and recognised him through the open door. He tells David his latest news (which is more of the same) and asks to be introduced. Mr Micawber is exactly the same, and almost boastful about his "pecuniary difficulties" (being short of money) and David worries, when he mentions the wine trade, that he will divulge the part of David's life that he wishes to keep secret. He tells Mr Micawber that he is at school at Dr Strong's, and suggests that they go to see Mrs Micawber.

Mr and Mrs Micawber are staying in a small room at an inn used by commercial travellers. David asks them about Plymouth, but is told that there had been no position for a man of Mr Micawber's qualities, and that Mrs Micawber's relatives are not helping them financially, because of the four children. Mr Micawber had decided to look at the Medway Coal Trade, and then to see if there were any openings for him in Canterbury.

The next day David is surprised to see Mr Micawber and Uriah Heep walking together along the road, arm in arm. Later, Mr Micawber tells David that he went home to visit the Heeps, and that he is impressed with Uriah Heep's acuity: "your friend Heep is a young fellow who might be attorney-general" and ability to manage financial affairs.

There is a festive atmosphere for the final evening of the Micawbers' stay, where they have a lavish feast, and enjoy themselves drinking and singing. David has never seen them so jovial. He is therefore shocked to receive a letter from Mr Micawber the next morning, signing himself as "the beggared outcast" as, once more, they have had to flee from those to whom they owe money. David is very upset, and runs off to find them, but is overtaken on the way by the couple in a cart, enjoying themselves, and behaving as if nothing at all is wrong. David decides not to say anything, but to go on to school as normal, feeling: "upon the whole, relieved that they were gone; though I still liked them very much, nevertheless".


message 41: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 17, 2020 06:05AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
I love the fortuitous coincidence of Mr Micawber happening to pass by the Heep's home! The illustration I shared by Phiz is, typically, packed with detail! We've learnt about the Heeps' "corkscrewing" out of facts about David, and there is a corkscrew hanging on the wall.

There are other metaphors too, such as a stuffed owl (representing the predatory watchfulness of the Heeps) the mousetrap and cats. There are both ceramic cats, and a real cat next to Mrs. Heep.

And why is the doorknocker pulling such a face? Who is actually annoyed? Or is it because David is annoyed at these characters meeting up?


message 42: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited May 17, 2020 06:15AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5401 comments Mod
A little more ...?

about Uriah Heep:

Is there more to Heep's repulsiveness than we are being told. Or is Dickens merely prejudiced as he reports from David's naive viewpoint?

Interestingly Uriah Heep may have had a form of dystonia,

"Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures ... Many sufferers have continuous pain, cramping, and relentless muscle spasms due to involuntary muscle movements. Other motor symptoms are possible including lip smacking."

And about Richard Dadd, the inspiration for Mr Dick:

The detailed models Mr Dick creates with such skill echo the painstaking work of Richard Dadd. Not only was he classed as insane, but also other members of his family were too. His brother George was also admitted to "Bethlem Asylum" when Richard was on the run after killing their father. His sister Maria married in 1844, but was insane by 1853, and in an asylum by 1859. Another brother was said to have a private attendant.

What an unfortunate family. We have to hope that Charles Dickens is hoping to somehow lay the ghost, by creating Mr Dick.


message 43: by Katy (new)

Katy | 193 comments Bionic Jean wrote: "I love the fortuitous coincidence of Mr Micawber happening to pass by the Heep's home! The illustration I shared by Phiz is, typically, packed with detail! We've learnt about the Heeps' "corkscrewi..."

Thank you for pointing out the details in the picture Jean. They are too small to see on my computer screen.

I do not like the way the Heeps are finding out all of the information they can about David. It does not bode well.


message 44: by Katy (new)

Katy | 193 comments The man who is keeping an eye on Aunt Betsey is also worrisome.


message 45: by Petra (new)

Petra | 970 comments Nisa, I agree that both Dr. Strong and Mr. Wickfield's kindnesses and generosity have a negative side.
I'm particularly concerned for Agnes, who has a loving father but one who stifles her and keeps her boxed in so many ways, not allowing her to grow and be a fully developed person.

It's sad that Mrs. Strong is in a relationship that is, perhaps, not of her choosing. Her mother really is trouble.

Uriah Heep is interesting. Yes, there are hints and descriptions that show that he's probably a despicable type of person. However, he's been with Mr. Wickfield since he was 11, just after he lost his father. He was a confused, mourning little boy taken in by a kind man. There must be some elements of good in him. His character is as much a polarity as Mr. Wickfield and Dr. Strong. He's a penniless (?) boy taken under the wing of a lawyer and being trained to a good profession through this kindness. Would he betray that with ugly behavior? Would he not be grateful for the opportunity given him by this kind man?
At the moment, I have forebodings about Uriah but think that he may be on the cusp of a choice (?) or possibility, perhaps. A lawyer can be both of good or bad moral stamina. I may be optimistic to hope that Uriah has a choice, will recognize it and will take the kind, good road.


message 46: by Debra Diggs (last edited May 17, 2020 11:26AM) (new)

Debra Diggs Edited. I came back and put this in a spoiler because I trust Sara's judgement in comment #47. (This is about Aunt Betsey's mystery man.) (view spoiler)

Petra, I also keep thinking there must be some good in Uriah Heep since he has been with Mr. Wakefield from a young age.


message 47: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1084 comments I am not as optimistic about Uriah. We see no bad behavior in him really, but he is like Eddie Haskell of Beaver fame...just a little to self-effacing and cloying to be real, very anxious to gather information (to use how?) and Dickens keeps painting him physically in a monstrous way...along with all the clammy hands, etc.

I have a speculation about Aunt Betsey's mystery man and wondered (view spoiler) Not really a spoiler, since it is just my thoughts and I do not know if they are right or wrong, but just in case no one wants to share them at this juncture.

The Micawbers are good people, but they are unstable enough that they will not lend stability to David and might unintentionally do him harm. I did not like the idea of Uriah weaseling his way into their confidence. Mr. Micawber would readily share any and all information and think nothing of the damage it might do. I was not surprised that nothing "turned up" in Plymouth. {I felt a pang for poor Charles Dickens, knowing that this was the way he saw his parents.}


message 48: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 240 comments Sara, I had the same thoughts about Betsey's mystery man.

As for Uriah and his mother-they managed to extract a lot of information out of David during his visit there. And I have a feeling that Micawber may have borrowed money from Heep, since I can't see him knowing anyone else that would lend him money.

One of my favourite sections of this chapter are the Wednesday visits of Mr. Dick. It is good to see how much he enjoys the visits to David's school.


message 49: by France-Andrée (last edited May 17, 2020 01:00PM) (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments I like that in David Copperfield the titles of chapters are not spoilers, I have read other of Dickens' books where it is better not to read the titles. I hadn't thought it was Micawber that was going to show up, my foreknowledge got me confused with another character.

I liked how Mr. Dick is protrayed with all that talent and sociability; even now people with mental illness are often badly portrayed and prejudices do come out, so having a positive portrayal in 1849 must have been original. I agree with the opinions voiced by a couple of fellow readers about who Aunt Betsey's "mystery man" is.

It's hard to know if the Heeps grilling of David is, for now, knowledge for knowledge sake or if they are planning something. I think it's more a storing of knowledge that might be used in the future or might not. Their attitude of being "umble" doesn't bode well, people that feign an inferioty complex are often suffering of a superiority complex (especially in fiction).

The Micawbers haven't changed at all and David seems to realize that they can be good friends from afar, but that having them in his life permanently might complicate things. Uriah being in intimate conversation with Micawber and the former being very good at extracting information and the later too open with it, makes one think that Uriah knows things now that David did not want him to know.


message 50: by Nisa (last edited May 17, 2020 01:15PM) (new)

Nisa | 69 comments Debra, Sara I didn't think about Aunt Betsey's mystery man much. But when I read your thoughts it sounds right.

Petra, you express better than me what I feel about Dr. Strong and Mr. Wickfield's. It is sad when they are showing kindnesses and generosity to other people (even the ones they don't know well) when they are selfish towards their family. I agree with you about Uriah Heep. To think he is being all evil is sad while all he sees kindness from Mr. Wickfield. But I guess we see it from one side of the story maybe he suffer from other's cruelty before. But with you, I will hope he will recognize he has a choice and will take the kind, good road.

Even though David was cautious not to share as far as he can. It seems he already shared too much with Heeps.

Sara, Uriah Heep paying special attention to Mr. Micawber doesn't sound good at all. And I feel it can harm David. Like you point out it is sad to know Dickens saw his parents' same way with Micawbers. With that, Dickens made David feel shameful just knowing them and to be close Micawbers, just how he felt about their being his family.


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