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David Copperfield > Copperfield, Chapters 35 - 37

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message 1: by Tristram (last edited May 03, 2015 02:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tristram Shandy Dear Fellow-Pickwickians,

I am glad to be back and to find discussions going on so vividly! The parallels between Steerforth and Uriah Heep, for instance, never occurred to me during my first reading of the book and it was due to your insightful comments that I noticed this aspect of how well-constructed Dickens’s major novel (according to himself; I prefer Bleak House) actually is. This is just one example of how I profit from our regular exchange, and all I can say is that it’s splendid to be back :-)

Chapter 35 is – most unpromisingly – entitled “Depression”, and although the title is unpromising, Dickens definitely keeps his promise in that most of the events described here dragged me down: David and his aunt think about how to come to terms with their new financial situation, and the first thing David does is – unwittingly – scare Mr. Dick to death by explaining to him the dire implications of financial ruin. A first step David is trying to take in order to mend his aunt’s financial predicament is to convince Mr. Spenlow of “un-articling” him and giving him back at least part of the 1,000 £ that went as a premium to Spenlow and Jorkins, but the sly old proctor refers to Mr. Jorkins’s adamant business attitude and says that he is afraid it can’t be done. David’s talk with Jorkins would have shown to anybody but David himself (and probably two or three other nitwits) that Jorkins is but a front man and scapegoat for Mr. Spenlow’s egoistic policy.

Aunt Betsey and David also have a talk about his love for Dora, and though the old lady wishes him well it becomes quite apparent that she thinks David has fallen blindly in love. It’s David’s love for Dora that also gives his thoughts a temporarily egoistic turn since he is worrying more about being poor in the eyes of Mr. Spenlow and being less brilliant and attractive in the eyes of Dora than about how his aunt can bear her new situation and what he can do to improve it. Nevertheless, David soon realizes this, and his readiness to sacrifice his own professional future for the sake of his aunt show that his thoughts may sometimes be egoistic whereas his actions usually aren’t.

The most depressing bit of Chapter 35, however, does not concern David and Aunt Betsey but Mr. Wickfield and Agnes. When Agnes comes for a visit – Wickfield and Uriah are in town, too – Aunt Betsey gives her and David an account of how her ruin came about, and from Agnes’s behaviour it becomes clear that she was quite worried that her father – whose capacities for business Aunt Betsey has started to doubt in the first place – might have played an ignoble role in her downfall but apparently that was not the case. All the same, Agnes’s sky is cloudy and grim because Uriah Heep’s influence over her father has steadily increased: Now not only is he partner to the firm but his mother and he have also moved into the Wickfield’s house, and they are stalking Agnes’s every single step. Mr. Wickfield and Uriah’s arrival makes David realize the grossness of Uriah’s mastery of his old employer:

”It was not that he looked many years older, though still dressed with the old scrupulous cleanliness; or that there was an unwholesome ruddiness upon his face; or that his eyes were full and bloodshot; or that there was a nervous trembling in his hand, the cause of which I knew, and had for some years seen at work. It was not that he had lost his good looks, or his old bearing of a gentleman—for that he had not—but the thing that struck me most, was, that with the evidences of his native superiority still upon him, he should submit himself to that crawling impersonation of meanness, Uriah Heep. The reversal of the two natures, in their relative positions, Uriah's of power and Mr. Wickfield's of dependence, was a sight more painful to me than I can express. If I had seen an Ape taking command of a Man, I should hardly have thought it a more degrading spectacle.“

I can’t say that I particularly like that simile because after all, Uriah Heep, for all his creepiness, is a human being – and David, as a narrator, is redolent of rather unpleasant late 19th century writers here. Nevertheless, Uriah’s unassailable position of power seems to me the result of some dishonesty going on, probably Mr. Wickfield did something not quite legal and this gave Uriah the opportunity to blackmail him.

Then there is this passage:

”He jerked himself about, after this compliment, in such an intolerable manner, that my aunt, who had sat looking straight at him, lost all patience.
'Deuce take the man!' said my aunt, sternly, 'what's he about? Don't be galvanic, sir!'
'I ask your pardon, Miss Trotwood,' returned Uriah; 'I'm aware you're nervous.'
'Go along with you, sir!' said my aunt, anything but appeased. 'Don't presume to say so! I am nothing of the sort. If you're an eel, sir, conduct yourself like one. If you're a man, control your limbs, sir! Good God!' said my aunt, with great indignation, 'I am not going to be serpentined and corkscrewed out of my senses!'
Mr. Heep was rather abashed, as most people might have been, by this explosion; which derived great additional force from the indignant manner in which my aunt afterwards moved in her chair, and shook her head as if she were making snaps or bounces at him.”


Coming to think of it that Uriah Heep's convulsions might be the result of a serious, and painful, disease, that rebuff is a bit unfair of Aunt Betsey.


message 2: by Tristram (last edited May 03, 2015 02:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tristram Shandy Quite in the vein of yin and yan and perfect balance, Dickens chooses the title „Enthusiasm“ fort he next chapter because after all that Depression, Enthusiasm is the thing we all need. It all starts with Mr. Dick, whose anxiety is turned into positive energy with the help of good old Traddles, who is able to find adequate work for Mr. Dick – copying legal documents –, which imbues Mr. Dick with a sense of pride. Good! Next, Aunt Betsey, with the help of Peggotty a.k.a. Barkis, improve David’s household matters quite a lot, and Aunt Betsey finally has it out with Mrs. Crupp – or did that happen in Chapter 37? –, cowing her impertinent spirit to such a degree that the venerable landlady dare not longer show herself. Fancy telling Mrs. Crupp that she is smelling of David’s brandy :-)! Touché!

Although David tends to romanticize his new position, completely misinterpreting Dora’s character, he is also practically-minded enough to take up a secretaryship in Doctor Strong’s household, which takes up two hours before his work in Mr. Spenlow’s business and three more hours in the evening. Additionally, like the real Dickens – so there’s another autobiographical detail –, David is going to learn shorthand in order to be able to report on parliamentary debates. Doctor Strong has moved to Highgate – which gives David an opportunity to sneak a peek of Mrs. Steerforth’s house, where he witnesses Rosa Dartle walk the garden like an imprisoned beast –, in order to work on his dictionary. Not only his wife, but that feckless Jack Maldon, who has obtained a sinecure through the Doctor, are with him. It is quite interesting that Minnie seems to do her best in order to minimize her contact with Maldon, whereas the unsuspecting Doctor does his best (or worst) in order to encourage her to spend time with the young cadger. Well, wherever that might end?

And who else should suddenly appear like a bolt from the blue? Why, the Micawbers! Once again, Mr. Micawber is sure that something has turned up, and he invites Traddles and David to celebrate the occasion together with his family. In the course of the festivities he not only, generously, hands Traddles an I.O.U. for the money he has borrowed from him, but he also lets out that he has been employed by Uriah Heep, whom he calls his friend … I wonder if Uriah Heep has not found another dupe here. The Chapter ends with the following reflection by David:

” We parted with great heartiness on both sides; and when I had seen Traddles to his own door, and was going home alone, I thought, among the other odd and contradictory things I mused upon, that, slippery as Mr. Micawber was, I was probably indebted to some compassionate recollection he retained of me as his boy-lodger, for never having been asked by him for money. I certainly should not have had the moral courage to refuse it; and I have no doubt he knew that (to his credit be it written), quite as well as I did.”

Some of you distrust Micawber, and he certainly did not scruple too much about drawing money from Traddles. In my edition it says that Micawber was partly modeled on Dickens’s father – with regard to both his lack of financial prudence and his grandiloquence.


Tristram Shandy I have just made sure that the warfare between Aunt Betsey and Mrs. Crupp is actually part of Chapter 37, which is called “A Little Cold Water” and which is a rather short chapter – probably with regard to the quantifier “little” in its title.

The little bit of cold water is, of course, meant metaphorically but it does not succeed in cooling off David’s raving enthusiasm about Dora. When he finally meets her – with the help of the untiring Miss Mills, who – by the way – seems a more likeable person to me than her childish friend – he tries to explain to her the turn that his fortunes have taken and to carefully make her realize that she, too, might have to take on certain responsibilities. Urging her to read a cooking book, by the way, seems to show that David himself is not really aware of what life in poverty might mean to a young family. Dora cannot bear the thought of being practical-minded and of facing reality – and David … actually adores her for that. “Blind, blind, blind.”

The parting scene cleverly puts things in a nutshell and is therefore quoted here:

” 'Now don't get up at five o'clock, you naughty boy. It's so nonsensical!'
'My love,' said I, 'I have work to do.'
'But don't do it!' returned Dora. 'Why should you?'
It was impossible to say to that sweet little surprised face, otherwise than lightly and playfully, that we must work to live.
'Oh! How ridiculous!' cried Dora.
'How shall we live without, Dora?' said I.
'How? Any how!' said Dora.
She seemed to think she had quite settled the question, and gave me such a triumphant little kiss, direct from her innocent heart, that I would hardly have put her out of conceit with her answer, for a fortune.”


In a way, Dora Spenlow reminds me of the wife Dr. Lydgate in Middlemarch has taken, but I also wonder if she bears any resemblance to Dickens’s wife Catherine?


Peter Kim wrote: "

Mr. Micawber delivers some valedictory remarks

Chapter 36

"My dear Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, rising with one of his thumbs in each of his waistcoat pockets, "the companion of youth: if I..."


Once again, thank you Kim for posting the illustrations. The detail provided from the Ch 35 illustration is really interesting. More and more, I am being drawn to the illustrations, and each week your added commentary open up much thought for me. The picture on the wall of "Sunrise at Dover" as it contrasts to what is seen outside the frame of the window is really interesting. Two worlds drawn together. Wow!


message 5: by Peter (last edited May 03, 2015 05:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter Tristram wrote: "Dear Fellow-Pickwickians,

I am glad to be back and to find discussions going on so vividly! The parallels between Steerforth and Uriah Heep, for instance, never occurred to me during my first read..."


"Blind! Blind! Blind!" This was a chapter of blindness. David calls Agnes his "Angel" but he only sees his love for Dora. David sees Mr. Wickfield again and notices the vast changes in his features and personality.

On the positive side of the ledger David does see that he must step forward and assume a more responsible manner in order to help Aunt Betsey. As Tristram suggested, however, "Depression" is an apt title for this chapter. More blindness is on the horizon. Will David be able to perceive the future for Aunt Betsey, Dora, and himself? Is it ever possible, and if so, how will he ever see his angel?


Peter Is David finally maturing? When he reflects on the state of affairs for his Aunt Betsey David comments " What I had to do, was, to show my aunt that her past goodness to me had not been thrown away on an insensible, ungrateful object."

David also comments that "Dora must be won." We see here a blending, a merging maturity seasoned with a still-naive boy, but the process and change in David's maturation seem to be first signalled in this chapter.

The maturation and change occurs when David begins his new job with the Doctor in order to earn more money. David will work on the Dictionary project each day. If we blend in the fact that Mr. Dick's book is a Memorial to King Charles we come up with the fact that both of these books are concerned with bringing the past into the present, their interpretation of them is to bring the history of words or events into the present.

There is, of course, a third book of the past, a book that looks back in order to explain and understand the present. That is the novel that David is writing, which is the story of his life, as he looks back on it, interprets it and brings it to his readers who are reading it in the present.


message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim In the very first paragraph of Chapter 35 David says this:

"The chandler's shop being in Hungerford Market, and Hungerford Market being a very different place in those days, there was a low wooden colonnade before the door (not very unlike that before the house where the little man and woman used to live, in the old weather-glass), which pleased Mr. Dick mightily."

I just had to go see what Hungerford Market is and why it was "a very different place in those days" and here it is:

"Hungerford Market was a rival market to Covent Garden which existed from the close of the seventeenth century down to 1862, when it was pulled down to make room for the Charing Cross Hotel and Railway Station, and was built on the property of a family of the same name. There had been a magnificent mansion which was cut up and converted into small tenements, which together formed a market, being connected by a covered piazza of not very attractive appearance. Over the market was a large room called "the French Church," from having once been used as a place of worship by the Protestant refugees expelled from that country.This building afterwards became a charity school for the parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields and was in a very dilapidated state. It was subsequently converted into a tavern and music-hall.

The market was rebuilt early in the 1830s in a very heavy Italian style of architecture, by Mr. Fowler, the architect of Covent Garden Market. The upper part of the market consisted of three avenues, with shops on each side, the whole roofed into one mass. The business done in the sale of fish was very considerable, and there were also shops or stalls for the sale of fruit, vegetables, and butchers' meat. The market found itself unable to challenge more specialist markets, such as Billingsgate, and Covent Garden, and was badly damaged when Hungerford Hall burned down in 1854. It was sold to the South Eastern Railway in 1862 which demolished it to make way for Charing Cross railway station, which opened on January 11, 1864."


This is what Dickens said about Hungerford Market, the blacking factory he worked at as a young boy was located at Hungerford Market, 30 Hungerford stair.:

"One Jonathan Warren (the famous one was Robert), living at 30, Hungerford Stairs, or Market, Strand (for I forget which it was called then), claimed to have been the original inventor or proprietor of the blacking-recipe, and to have been deposed and ill used by his renowned relation. At last he put himself in the way of selling his recipe, and his name, and his 30, Hungerford Stairs, Strand (30, Strand, very large, and the intermediate direction very small), for an annuity; and he set forth by his agents that a little capital would make a great business of it. He bought this right and title, and went into the blacking-business and the blacking-premises in an evil hour for me, as I often bitterly thought."

"The blacking-warehouse was the last house on the left-hand side of the way, at old Hungerford Stairs. It was a crazy, tumble-down old house, abutting of course on the river, and literally overrun with rats."

"I was so young and childish, and so little qualified—how could I be otherwise?—to undertake the whole charge of my own existence, that, in going to Hungerford Stairs of a morning, I could not resist the stale pastry put out at half-price on trays at the confectioners' doors in Tottenham Court Road; and I often spent in that the money I should have kept for my dinner."

"Until old Hungerford market was pulled down, until old Hungerford Stairs were destroyed, and the very nature of the ground changed, I never had the courage to go back to the place where my servitude began. I never saw it. I could not endure to go near it. For many years, when I came near to Robert Warren's in the Strand, I crossed over to the opposite side of the way, to avoid a certain smell of the cement they put upon the blacking-corks, which reminded me of what I was once. It was a very long time before I liked to go up Chandos Street. My old way home by the borough made me cry, after my eldest child could speak.

"In my walks at night I have walked there often, since then, and by degrees I have come to write this. It does not seem a tithe of what I might have written, or of what I meant to write."



message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I was in total agreement with Mr. Dick on this:

" Mrs. Crupp had indignantly assured him that there wasn't room to swing a cat there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me, sitting down on the foot of the bed, nursing his leg, 'You know, Trotwood, I don't want to swing a cat. I never do swing a cat. Therefore, what does that signify to ME!'"

I see no reason that anyone would swing a cat or any other animal for that matter. If the cat wasn't hurt by this I would think it was certainly terrorized, so it would be mean to swing a cat and I think you could find a better way to spend your time than torturing cats. I went searching for the reason for the cat swinging and found this:

"No Room to Swing a Cat -It derives from the British Royal Navy when the punishment of whipping with a cat of nine tails was administered on the poop or upper deck of a ship as on the main decks below there wasn't room to swing a cat. The entire ship's company was required to witness flogging at close hand. The crew might crowd around so that the Bosun's Mate might not have enough room to swing his cat o' nine tails."

Whether this is true or not I'm not sure, I find just as many sites saying this is not true as those that say it is. Unfortunately the ones that say it isn't true don't give a better explanation other than it was a real cat. If anyone starts swinging cocker spaniels they better be far, far away from me.


Peter Kim wrote: "In the very first paragraph of Chapter 35 David says this:

"The chandler's shop being in Hungerford Market, and Hungerford Market being a very different place in those days, there was a low wooden..."


There is such pain in these words. Kim, your research, as always, makes our reading all the more intimate and insightful. Thank you.


message 10: by Ami (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ami Tristram wrote: "Quite in the vein of yin and yan and perfect balance, Dickens chooses the title „Enthusiasm“ fort he next chapter because after all that Depression, Enthusiasm is the thing we all need. It all star..."
Some of you distrust Micawber, and he certainly did not scruple too much about drawing money from Traddles.
Tristram, I only do because by Mr. Micawber giving Traddles an I.O.U., it seemed as if it was his way of thinking he was paying back the debt; when all it really is is an I.O.U.. Mr. Micawber is very grandiose in his delivery for only an I.O.U...Did it not seem odd to you?

I cannot express how extremely delighted they both were, by the idea of my aunt's being in difficulties; and how comfortable and friendly it made them (540).

In Chapter 36, I was taken aback by the reaction of the Micawbers when David told them of Miss Betsey's reversal in fortune...They seemed to show more jubilence rather than empathy? Am I missing something here, or are they reveling in somebody else's misery since their circumstances have improved?


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "Aunt Betsey and David also have a talk about his love for Dora, and though the old lady wishes him well it becomes quite apparent that she thinks David has fallen blindly in love."

And of course she's right, isn't she?


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "Coming to think of it that Uriah Heep's convulsions might be the result of a serious, and painful, disease, "

We can only hope. Well, we can also hope fatal.


Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Tristram wrote: "Nevertheless, Uriah’s unassailable position of power seems to me the result of some dishonesty going on, probably Mr. Wickfield did something not quite legal and this gave Uriah the opportunity to blackmail him..."

It's been an ongoing question for me, of when Agnes's mother died (did we ever find out?), and the impact of her death on Mr. Wickfield. My impression was that grief (and the fear of losing Agnes as well) drove him to drink, and eventually it catches up with him, leaving him prone to errors, which Heep would use to his advantage. I hadn't really thought of him actively blackmailing Wickfield.


Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Peter wrote: "Is David finally maturing? ...

There is, of course, a third book of the past, a book that looks back in order to explain and understand the present. That is the novel that David is writing, which is the story of his life, as he looks back on it, interprets it and brings it to his readers who are reading it in the present. "


I was quite surprised to find a more direct reference to David's older self when he mentioned having a daughter, in describing the ring he had bought Dora (in an earlier chapter). I'm hoping that his reduced naivety is at least partly due to witnessing Steerforth's deceit. It is interesting that his maturity is developing by incorporating the past, including his own childhood labour.


message 15: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "In a way, Dora Spenlow reminds me of the wife Dr. Lydgate in Middlemarch has taken, but I also wonder if she bears any resemblance to Dickens’s wife Catherine?"

Does this sound like Dora? Dickens is rather nasty in it.

A friend described Catherine as: "A pretty little woman, plump and fresh-colored, with the large, heavy-lidded blue eyes so much admired by men. The nose was slightly retrousse, the forehead good, mouth small, round and red-lipped with a genial smiling expression of countenance, notwithstanding the sleepy look of the slow-moving eyes."

There's also this:

"She was not clever or accomplished like his sister Fanny and could never be his intellectual equal, which may have been part of her charm: foolish little women are more often presented as sexually desirable in his writing than clever, competent ones.... His decision to marry her was quickly made, and he never afterwards gave any account of what had led him to it, perhaps because he came to regard it as the worst mistake in his life."

In April 1856 Dickens wrote to John Forster in reference to his wife (here's the nasty part):

"I find that the skeleton in my domestic closet is becoming a pretty big one." He also said that he feared that "one happiness I have missed in life, and one friend and companion I have never made."

Dickens began to question Catherine's intelligence in front of friends. He wrote to a female acquaintance:

"It is more clear to me than ever that Kate is as near being a Donkey, as one of that sex... can be."

Dickens also disliked the way his wife had put on weight. He told Wilkie Collins how he had taken her to his favourite Paris restaurant where she ate so much that she "nearly killed herself".


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "

Mr. Wickfield and his partner wait upon my Aunt

Chapter 35

"When he came in, he stood still; and with his head bowed, as if he felt it. This was only for a moment; for Agnes softly said to him..."


Thanks a lot, Kim! These comments on the pictures are very fascinating. Do you know if there is any book about illustrations to Dickens's novels?


Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "Is David finally maturing? When he reflects on the state of affairs for his Aunt Betsey David comments " What I had to do, was, to show my aunt that her past goodness to me had not been thrown away on an insensible, ungrateful object."

David also comments that "Dora must be won." We see here a blending, a merging maturity seasoned with a still-naive boy, but the process and change in David's maturation seem to be first signalled in this chapter."


I like this idea of yours of David's blending his sense of responsibility with his romanticed idea of sharing a life in poverty - or straightened circumstances - with Dora. Somehow I can't help thinking that even though David has grasped the seriousness of the situation and is ready to take measures to meet the demands of the hour, he is still somewhere in cloud-cuckoo-land. However, his talk with Dora would have been apt to waking him up - e.g. when she says that she hopes Aunt Betsey will stay in her room when living with them -, but he is still blind with love.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "I was in total agreement with Mr. Dick on this:

" Mrs. Crupp had indignantly assured him that there wasn't room to swing a cat there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me, sitting down on the fo..."



Any mention of cats always brings this passage from Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary to my mind:

"Cat, n. A soft indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle."


Tristram Shandy Ami wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Quite in the vein of yin and yan and perfect balance, Dickens chooses the title „Enthusiasm“ fort he next chapter because after all that Depression, Enthusiasm is the thing we all ..."

You are quite right, Ami, that these details make Micawber seem a very egocentric person. They also show his complete lack of understanding the meaning of poverty. Just because he does not take his responsibilities seriously - neither does his wife -, he imagines that a life in destitution will be a lark for Aunt Betsey, too. Whereas all this shows that Micawber is like a grown-up child, or a child-like adult, rather, I still don't think that there is calculation behind this facade of ineptitude, as in the case of a character we are getting to know in the next novel.


Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Coming to think of it that Uriah Heep's convulsions might be the result of a serious, and painful, disease, "

We can only hope. Well, we can also hope fatal."


Shall we send for Dr. Watson?


Tristram Shandy Vanessa wrote: "Peter wrote: "Is David finally maturing? ...

There is, of course, a third book of the past, a book that looks back in order to explain and understand the present. That is the novel that David is w..."


Can you still remember the actual passage, Vanessa? I didn't mark it and now I can't find it.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "In a way, Dora Spenlow reminds me of the wife Dr. Lydgate in Middlemarch has taken, but I also wonder if she bears any resemblance to Dickens’s wife Catherine?"

Does this sound l..."


To me, it very much sounds like Dora. I am also quite shocked that Dickens was so callous with his wife.


message 23: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "Can you still remember the actual passage, Vanessa? I didn't mark it and now I can't find it."

It's from Chapter 33 "Blissful" - I just happened to come across it a few minutes ago:

"When I measured Dora's finger for a ring that was to be made of Forget-me-nots, and when the jeweller, to whom I took the measure, found me out, and laughed over his order-book, and charged me anything he liked for the pretty little toy, with its blue stones—so associated in my remembrance with Dora's hand, that yesterday, when I saw such another, by chance, on the finger of my own daughter, there was a momentary stirring in my heart, like pain!"


message 24: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim There is also this, it is also on the internet but I haven't looked at it yet, this is from the cover:

CHARLES DICKENS
and His Original Illustrators
By Jane R. Cohen

"Even casual readers of Charles Dickens have always recognized
Mr. Pickwick, Fagin, and Scrooge when they see them
in pictures, though they may not know the names of the
artists who first portrayed them. For better or worse, consciously
or unconsciously, our conception Dickens's work
seems ineluctably tied to the representations of his characters
and scenes by the eighteen draftsmen with whom he
variously and closely worked.
In undertaking to treat systematically comprehensively
for the first time in this century Dickens's personal and
professional relations with the first illustrators of his books,
Dr. Cohen proceeds on the basis of her conviction that
knowledge of these artists and their special contributions is
essential to a rounded understanding of the novelists s life
and works, and argues that the indivisible blend of historical,
psychological, aesthetic, and technical facts that
shaped representative illustrations serves best to elucidate
them.
As Dr. Cohen demonstrates, Dickens himself left abundant
testimony to his intense involvement in most of the
nearly nine hundred original illustrations to his books; and
the drawings were apart of the initial publication of nearly all
of his major works from Sketches by Boz of 1836 to The
Mystery of Edwin Drood of 1870."



Peter Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Thanks a lot, Kim! These comments on the pictures are very fascinating. Do you know if there is any book about illustrations to Dickens's novels?"

I don't have any, but there is ..."


Charles Dickens in Context edited by Sally Ledger has a chapter on Dickens and his Illustrators. I've just done a book review on Goodreads of this book. Since Kim has been giving us all the wonderful illustrations from a wide variety of artists, I've become really interested in learning more.

The great asset of this book is a listing of follow-up texts. There are several listings for the illustrators. I have not followed up on these books as yet since I'm out of town just now, but the information seems very interesting.


Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Can you still remember the actual passage, Vanessa? I didn't mark it and now I can't find it."

It's from Chapter 33 "Blissful" - I just happened to come across it a few minutes a..."


This chapter also alludes to 20 years having gone by, for the narrator David. So it seems he is at least middle-aged (by Victorian standards). That didn't surprise me, as much as the daughter, which sort of took me out of the story. I wanted to congratulate him.


Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Kim wrote: "In the very first paragraph of Chapter 35 David says this:

"The chandler's shop being in Hungerford Market, and Hungerford Market being a very different place in those days, there was a low wooden..."


Thanks for this, Kim, as well as the illustrations. I didn't imagine Hungerford as so central. It's a good reminder that cities continue to evolve.

The added perspective that having children can give, made this line especially poignant:
My old way home by the borough made me cry, after my eldest child could speak.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Vanessa wrote: "This chapter also alludes to 20 years having gone by, for the narrator David. So it seems he is at least middle-aged (by Victorian standards)."

Which emphasizes that he is writing his biography from a considerable distance of time, which raises the valid question how accurate is his memory of childhood events, and how valid are the judgments he made then. Perhaps, for one example, Mr. Murdstone wasn't all that bad a stepfather at all, but David was a naturally disobedient and wilful child and needed a firm hand, but resented it and so turned Mr. Murdstone into a monster. And he may have wrongly blamed the Murdstones for his mother's death, which would have alienated him from them invalidly.


Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Yes, the first-person narration is very subjective. However, the views of Peggotty and Aunt Betsey back up David's memories. (Even Creakle told David that Murdstone and he understood one another.) I was disappointed with David's reaction to meeting the Murdstones again, and glad that Peggotty confronted him more directly. When David agrees with Dora that Miss Murdstone's absence for her brother's wedding is 'delightful', knowing what that could mean for the bride, it does seem jarring to me. I suppose Dickens may have intended to show just how besotted David is with Dora, but it felt incongruent after he had recently encountered Murdstone again.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Thanks a lot, Kim! These comments on the pictures are very fascinating. Do you know if there is any book about illustrations to Dickens's novels?"

I don't have any, but there is ..."


Thanks for the information, Kim! It has only lately occurred to me - by your input - that it worthwhile giving some more thought and attention to the illustrations.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Can you still remember the actual passage, Vanessa? I didn't mark it and now I can't find it."

It's from Chapter 33 "Blissful" - I just happened to come across it a few minutes a..."


So we know that David as the narrator got married after all and has at least one daughter. The pain the little trinket evokes in him does not forebode well for Dora, though.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Thanks a lot, Kim! These comments on the pictures are very fascinating. Do you know if there is any book about illustrations to Dickens's novels?"

I don't have any, but there is ..."


Wow, I just had a look at Amazon and found out that the books you mention are really very expensive, at least on the German Amazon platform.


Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "This chapter also alludes to 20 years having gone by, for the narrator David. So it seems he is at least middle-aged (by Victorian standards)."

Which emphasizes that he is writing ..."


Does it not say somewhere, or rather does the narrator not say somewhere in the earlier chapters that he is endowed with a very detailed memory? Of course, since this comes from David himself, it need not be true but it was probably Dickens's way of forestalling criticism as to the little likelihood of somebody remembering all the details David gives and even remembering whole conversations by heart.

And yet, I have never considered David to be as unrealiable a narrator as you seem to imply here, Everyman. He is even so reliable that we as the readers can easily see what a birdbrained and spoilt person his Dora really is. So I don't believe that we completely failed to realize the natures of the Murdstones at all.


message 34: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "Does it not say somewhere, or rather does the narrator not say somewhere in the earlier chapters that he is endowed with a very detailed memory?"

He says this in chapter two although I'm not absolutely sure if this is what you are referring to:

"This may be fancy, though I think the memory of most of us can go farther back into such times than many of us suppose; just as I believe the power of observation in numbers of very young children to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy. Indeed, I think that most grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may with greater propriety be said not to have lost the faculty, than to have acquired it; the rather, as I generally observe such men to retain a certain freshness, and gentleness, and capacity of being pleased, which are also an inheritance they have preserved from their childhood.

I might have a misgiving that I am 'meandering' in stopping to say this, but that it brings me to remark that I build these conclusions, in part upon my own experience of myself; and if it should appear from anything I may set down in this narrative that I was a child of close observation, or that as a man I have a strong memory of my childhood, I undoubtedly lay claim to both of these characteristics."



message 35: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "And yet, I have never considered David to be as unrealiable a narrator as you seem to imply here, Everyman."

I didn't intend to imply definitively that he was an unreliable narrator. But I think it's a question worth discussing.

Even if he is accurately remembering his thoughts at the time, they were, after all, the thoughts of a child. And being a parent and grandparent I know that children can sometimes be very wrong about people (but also sometimes very right), and that at times they will go off on a tangent that is quite divorced from reason. (Wrrying about monsters under the bed, for just one example. Or taking an unreasonable and permanent dislike to a person becasue of one bad interaction.)

So we really have two interrelated but separate issues to think about: One, the reasonableness of David's judgments at the time he made them, and two, the accuracy of his memory of them. Only if we believe that he was an accurate judge of character at the time AND has correctly remembered his thoughts can we rely on what he says now about the people he interacted with in his childhood.


Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Tristram wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Coming to think of it that Uriah Heep's convulsions might be the result of a serious, and painful, disease, "

We can only hope. Well, we can also hope fatal."

S..."


A belated thanks to Kim for the info about dystonia. I wasn't able to look it up until later, and was appalled to learn it was prevalent in a disease that killed my grandmother. I expect diseases like this weren't understood then (or even very well in the 20th C), which would explain Aunt Betsey's reaction. Despite knowing how unfair it might be, she is so forthright, I can still somehow find her funny.

I continue to see parallels between David and Uriah in these chapters. David's dreams of poverty, and of trying to get a marriage license with only one of Heep's gloves, brings him closer to Heep's lower position in pursuing Agnes. And then Uriah takes over David's room in Wickfield's house...! I think he is a very clever creation by Dickens, in that it is so difficult to separate his insidious character from the physical manifestations.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Does it not say somewhere, or rather does the narrator not say somewhere in the earlier chapters that he is endowed with a very detailed memory?"

He says this in chapter two altho..."


Thank you, Kim! That is exactly the passage I had in mind, and it seems to me that Dickens here tried to foresee and counter any criticism as to the unlikelihood for a person to remember so many details of their life so vividly.


Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: "And yet, I have never considered David to be as unrealiable a narrator as you seem to imply here, Everyman."

I didn't intend to imply definitively that he was an unreliable narrat..."


That's a good point, Everyman - and it is very hard to really prove that David is not unconsciously misrepresenting things because, after all, all we have to go by is the text written by David, and there is no other testimony.

However, David's being sent to work in a factory after his mother's death is an undeniable fact - and that alone sheds some bad light on the Murdstones. Likewise does the school Murdstone picked for David; he knew Creakle and he even made sure that his stepson would be humiliated with the help of that infamous poster he had to wear.

Unless we are prepared to deny the factual value of these details reported by David, I think we have some evidence to go by that shows Murdstone and his sister as anything but dutiful wardens. From this I would also conclude that David's account of Murdstone's behaviour to his mother can be trusted.


message 39: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "Thank you, Kim! That is exactly the passage I had in mind, and it seems to me that Dickens here tried to foresee and counter any criticism as to the unlikelihood for a person to remember so many details of their life so vividly.
"


But of course we have to rely on David himself for that. If he's inaccurate about facts from his youth, but believes he is accurate, isn't that just what he would say?

In the end, it proves nothing, unless it proves that he recognizes that there will be an issue there and wants to forestall people like me raising it.


message 40: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "However, David's being sent to work in a factory after his mother's death is an undeniable fact - and that alone sheds some bad light on the Murdstones. "

But we only have David's version for how bad he found it. Maybe it was objectively bad. Or maybe he just resented having to work for his living and would have complained about any job the Murdstones found for him. Did he expect his step-father and sister to pay his way through his whole life? This is the 1800s -- young people were expected to go out at quite an early age and earn their daily bread.

I'm not saying it wasn't a bad place. Maybe it was. But then again, maybe it wasn't, and maybe the Murdstones really did care about him and were trying their best to raise a responsible, hardworking young man.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Thanks for all your really enjoyable comments and for all your illustrations and background information, Kim.


message 42: by Bionic Jean (last edited Dec 02, 2015 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) As I was reading these chapters and wanting to knock some sense into that little noodle Dora, (as I never fail to do every time I read this book!) I was struggling to remember which other character she reminded me of. Yes, it was not in Dickens at all, but in Middlemarch ... Dr Tertius Lydgate's wife Rosamond! Thanks for reminding me of this :)

Another parallel I could see here was Mr Dick's great literary enterprise of "the Memoir", and Dr Strong's of "the Dictionary". Both are absentminded characters; one far more eccentric than the other admittedly, but both being naive, gentle and kind.

I'm now wondering if there's a prototype for this in Dickens's own life.


Peter Jean wrote: "As I was reading these chapters and wanting to knock some sense into that little noodle Dora, (as I never fail to do every time I read this book!) I was struggling to remember which other character..."

The fascination with recorded information, producing mounds of paper and then facing the problem of what to do with all the paper will also appear, in all its glory (?) in BH. We do speculate about your question about a prototype a bit in BH. I think there are certainly candidates to be the prototype.


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Oh good!


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