Charles Dickens.

The personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 3) online

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Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 31)
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University of Illinois '^J^}.
at Urbana-Champaign J^l













(which he never meant to be published on any account.)






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in 2010 with funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


I DO not find it easy to get sufficiently far away
from this Book, in the first sensations of having finished
it, to refer to it with the composure which this formal
heading would seem to require. My interest in it, is
so recent and strong; and my mind is so divided be-
tween pleasure and regret — pleasure in the achieve-
ment of a long design: regret in the separation from
many companions — tliat I am in danger of wearying
tlie reader whom I love, with personal confidences,
and private emotions.
- Besides which, all that I could say of the Story,
to any purpose, I have endeavoured to say in it.

It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to
know, how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the
close of a two-years' imaginative task; or how an
Author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of
himself into the shadowy world, when a crowd of the


creatures of his brain are going from hiin for ever.
Yet, I have nothing else to tell, unless, indeed, I were
to confess (which might be of less moment still) that
no one can ever believe this Narrative, in the reading,
more than I have believed it in the writing.

Instead of looking back, therefore, I \vill look for-
ward, I cannot close these Volumes more agreeably to
myself, than with a hopeful glance towards the time
when I shall again put forth my two green leaves* once
a month, and with a faithful remembrance of the genial
sun and showers that have fallen on these leaves of
David Copperfield, and made me happy.

London, October, 1850.

» This refers to the London publications which appear in green




CHAPTER I. A dissolution of partnership 1

CHAPTER 11. Wiclifield and Heep ...... 23

CHAPTER III. The wanderer 48

CHAPTER IV. Dora's aunt , . . 59

CHAPTER V. Mischief 80

CHAPTER VI. Another retrospect 106

CHAPTER VII. Our housekeeping 116

CHAPTER VIII. Mr. Dick fulfils my aunt's prediction . . 136

CHAPTER IX. Intelligence 156

CHAPTER X. Martha ns

CHAPTER XL Domestic . 187

CHAPTER XII. I am involved in mystery 202

CHAPTER XIII. Mr. Peggotly's dream comes true , • . 218

CHAPTER XIV. The beginning of a longer journey ... 231

CHAPTER XV. I assist at an explosion 253


CHAPTER XVI. Another retrospect 283

CHAPTER XVII. Mr. Micawber's transactions .... 290

CHAPTER XVIII. Tempest 310

CHAPTER XIX. The new wound, and the old . . . . 325

CHAPTER XX. The emigrants 333

CHAPTER XXI. Absence ........ 347

CHAPTER XXII. Return 356


CHAPTER XXIV. I am shown two interesting penitents . . 389

CHAPTER XXV. A light shines on my way .... 405

CHAPTER XXVI. A visitor 416

CHAPTER XXVII. A last retrospect ...... 426




A (lissolulion of partnership.

I DID not allow my resolution, with respect to the Par-
liamentary Debates, to cool. It was one of the irons I began
to heat immediately, and one of the irons I kept hot, and
hammered at, with a perseverance I may honestly admire.
I bought an approved scheme of the noble art and mystery of
stenography (which cost me ten and sixpence); and plunged
into a sea of perplexity that brought me, in a few weeks, to
the confines of distraction. The changes that were rung upon
dots, which in such a position meant such a thing, and in
such another position something else, entirely difi'erent; the
wonderful vagaries that were played by circles; the unac-
countable consequences that resulted from marks like flies*
legs ; the tremendous effects of a curve in a wrong place; not
only troubled my waking hours, but reappeared before me in
my sleep. When I had groped my way, blindly, through
these difficulties, and had mastered the alphabet, which was
jPavtd Copper field. III. 1

an Egyptian Temple in itself, there then appeared a pro-
cession of new horrors , called arbitrary characters; the most
despotic characters I have ever known; who insisted, for
instance, that a thing like the beginning of a cobweb, meant
expectation, and that a pen and ink sky-rocket stood for
disadvantageous. When I had fixed these wretches in my
mind, I found that they had driven everything else out of it;
then, beginning again, I forgot them; while I was picking
them up, I dropped the other fragments of the system; in
short, it was almost heart-breaking.

It might have been quite heart-breaking, but for Dora,
who was the stay and anchor of my tempest- driven bark.
Every scratch in the scheme was a gnarled oak in the forest
of difficulty, and I went on cutting them down, one after
another, with such vigour, that in three or four months I was
in a condition to make an experiment on one of our crack
speakers in the Commons. Shall I ever forget how the crack
speaker walked off from me before I began, and left my im-
becile pencil staggering about the paper as if it were in a fit!

This would not do , it was quite clear. I was flying too
high, and should never get on, so. I resorted to Traddles
for advice; who suggested that he should dictate speeches to
me, at a pace, and with occasional stoppages, adaptec' to my
weakness. Very grateful for this friendly aid, I accepted
the proposal; and night after night, almost every night, for
a long time, we had a sort of private Parliament In Bucking-
ham Street, after I came home from the Doctor's.

I should like to see such a Parliament anywhere else ! My
aunt and Mr. Dick represented the Government or the Op-
position (as the case might be), and Traddles, with the as-
sistance of Enfield's Speaker or a volume of parliamentary
orations, thundered astonishing Invectives aeainst them.
Standing by the table, with his finger in the page to keep

the place, and his right arm flourishing above his bead,
Traddles, as Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Burke,
Lord Castlereagh, Viscount Sidmouth, or Mr. Canning, would
work himself into the most violent heats , and deliver the most
withering denunciations of the profligacy and corruption of
my aunt and Mr. Dick; while I used to sit, at a little distance,
with my note-book on my knee, fagging after him with all
my might and main. The inconsistency and recklessness of
Traddles were not to be exceeded by any real politician. He
was for any description of policy, in the compass of a week;
and nailed all sorts of colours to every denomination of mast.
My aunt, looking very like an immoveable Chancellor of the
Exchequer, would occasionally throw in an interruption or
two, as"HearI'* or"Nol'* or"OhI" when the text seemed
to require it: which was always a signal to Mr. Dick (a perfect
country gentleman) to follow lustily with the same cry. But
Mr. Dick got taxed with such things in the course of his
Parliamentary career, and was made responsible for such
awful consequences, that he became uncomfortable in his
mind sometimes. I believe he actually began to be afraid he
really had been doing something, tending to the annihilation
of the British constitution , and the ruin of the country.

Often and often we pursued these debates until the clock
pointed to midnight, and the candles were burning down.
The result of so much good practice was, that by-and-by I
began to keep pace with Traddles pretty well, and should
have been quite triumphant if I had had the least idea what
my notes were about. But, as to reading them after I had
got them, I might as well have copied the Chinese inscriptions
on an immense collection of tea-chests, or the golden cha-
racters on all the great red and green bottles in the chemists'
shops I

There was nothing for it, but to turn back and begin all


over again. It was very hard, but I turned back, though
with a heavy heart, and began laboriously and methodically
to plod over the same tedious ground at a snail's pace ; stop-
ping to examine minutely every speck in the way, on all sides,
and making the most desperate efforts to know these elusive
characters by sight wherever I met them. I was always
punctual at the office; at the Doctor's too: and I really did
work, as the common expression Is, like a cart-horse.

One day , when I went to the Commons as usual , I found
Mr. Spenlow in the doorway looking extremely grave, and
talking to himself. As he was in the habit of complaining
of pains in his head — he had naturally a short throat, and I
do seriously believe he overstarched himself — I was at first
alarmed by the idea that he was not quite right in that direc-
tion ; but he soon relieved my uneasiness.

Instead of returning my "Good morning" with his usual
affability, he looked at me in a distant, ceremonious manner,
and coldly requested me to accompany him to a certain coffee-
house, which, in those days, had a door opening Into the
Commons , just within the little archway In St. Paul's church-
yard. I complied, in a very uncomfortable state, and with
a warm shooting all over me, as If my apprehensions were
breaking out into buds. When I allowed him to go on a little
before, on account of the narrowness of the way, I observed
that he carried his head with a lofty air that was particularly
unpromising ; and my mind misgave me that he had found out
about my darling Dora.

If I had not guessed this, on the way to the coffee-house,
I could hardly have failed to know what was the matter when
1 followed him into an up-stairs room, and found Miss Murd-
stone there, supported by a back-ground of sideboard, on
which were several Inverted tumblers sustaining lemons , and
two of those extraordinary boxes, all corners and flutings,

for sticking knives and forks in, which, happily for mankind,
are now obsolete.

Miss Murdstone gave me her chilly finger-nails, and sat
severely rigid. Mr. Sfenlow shut the door, motioned me
to a chair, and stood on the hearth-rug in front of the fire-

"Have the goodness to show Mr. Copperfield,*' said Mr.
Spenlow, "what you have in your reticule. Miss Murdstone."

I believe it was the old identical steel-clasped reticule of
my childhood, that shut up like a bite. Compressing her lips,
in sympathy vnth. the snap, Miss Murdstone opened it —
opening her mouth a little at the same time — and produced
my last letter to Dora, teeming with expressions of devoted

"I believe that is your writing, Mr. Copperfield?'* said
Mr. Spenlow.

I was very hot, and the voice I heard was very unlike mine,
when I said, "It is Sir!"

"If I am not mistaken," said Mr. Spenlow, as Miss Murd-
stone brought a parcel of letters out of her reticule, tied
round with the dearest bit of blue ribbon, "those are also
from your pen, Mr. Copperfield? "

I took them from her with a most desolate sensation; and,
glancing at such phrases at the top, as "My ever dearest and
own Dora," "My best beloved angel," "My blessed one
for ever," and the like, blushed deeply, and inclined my

"No, thank youl " said Mr. Spenlow coldly, as I mechani-
cally offered them back to him. "I will not deprive you of
them. Miss Murdstone, be so good as to proceed I "

That gentle creature, after a moment's thoughtful survey
of the carpet, delivered herself with much dry unction as


"I must confess to having entertained my suspicions of
Miss Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for some
time. I observed Miss Spenlow and David Copperfield, when
they first met; and the impression Inade upon me then was
not agreeable. The depravity of the human heart is such — "

"You will oblige me, Ma'am," interrupted Mr. Spenlow,
"by confining yourself to facts."

Miss Murdstone cast down her eyes , shook her head as if
protesting against this unseemly interruption, and with frown-
ing dignity resumed :

"Since I am to confine myself to facts, I will state them
as dryly as I can. Perhaps that will be considered an ac-
ceptable course of proceeding. I have already said. Sir, that
I have had my suspicions of Miss Spenlow, in reference to
David Copperfield, for some time. I have frequently en-
deavoured to find decisive coroboration of those suspicions,
but without efi*ect. I have therefore forborne to mention them
to Miss Spenlow's father;" looking severely at him; "know-
ing how little disposition there usually is in such cases, to
acknowledge the conscientious discharge of duty."

Mr. Spenlow seemed quite cowed by the gentlemanly
sternness of Miss Murdstone's manner, and deprecated her
severity with a conciliatory little wave of his hand,

"On my return to Norwood, after the period of absence
occasioned by my brother's marriage," pursued Miss Murd-
stone in a disdainful voice, "and on the return of Miss Spen-
low from her visit to her friend Miss Mills, I imagined that
the manner of Miss Spenlow gave me greater occasion for
suspicion than before. Therefore I watched Miss Spenlow

Dear, tender little Dora, so unconscious of this Dragon's
eye I

"Still," resumed Miss IMurdstone, "I found no proof

until last night. It appeared to me that Miss Spenlow received
too many letters from her friend Miss Mills; but Miss Mills
being her friend with her father's full concurrence," another
telling blow at Mr. Spenlow, "it was not for me to interfere.
If I may not be permitted to allude to the natural depravity of
the human heart, at least I may — I must — be permitted, so
far to refer to misplaced confidence."

Mr. Spenlow apologetically murmured his assent.

"Last evening after tea," pursued Miss Murdstone, "I
observed the little dog starting, rolling, and growling about
the drawing-room, worrjing something. I said to Miss Spen-
low, *Dora, what is that the dog has in his mouth? It's
paper.' Miss Spenlow immediately put her hand to her frock,
gave a sudden cry, and ran to the dog. I interposed, and
said 'Dora my love, you must permit me.'"

Oh Jip, miserable Spaniel, this wretchedness, then, was
your work 1

"Miss Spenlow endeavoured," said Miss Murdstone, "to
bribe me with kisses, work-boxes, and small articles of jewel-
lery — that, of course , I pass over. The little dog retreated
under the sofa on my approaching him, and was with great
difficulty dislodged by the fire-irons. Even when dislodged,
he still kept the letter in his mouth ; and on my endeavouring
to take it from him , at the imminent risk of being bitten , he
kept it between his teeth so pertinaciously as to sufier himself
to be held suspended in the air by means of the document.
At length I obtained possession of it. After perusing it, I
taxed Miss Spenlow with having many such letters in her pos-
session; and ultimately obtained from her, the packet which
is now in David Copperfield's hand."

Here she ceased; and snapping her reticule again, and
shutting her mouth, looked as if she might be broken, but
could never be bent.


"You have heard Miss Murdstone," said Mr. Spenlow,
turning to me. "I beg to ask, Mr. Copperfield, if you have
anything to say in reply? "

The picture I had before me, of the beautiful little treasure
of my heart, sobbing and crying all night — of her being
alone, frightened, and wretched, then — of her having so
piteously begged and prayed that stony-hearted woman to
forgive her — of her having vainly offered her those kisses,
work-boxes , and trinkets — of her being in such grievous
distress, and all for me — very much impaired the little dignity
I had been able to muster. I am afraid I was in a tremu-
lous state for a minute or bo, though I did my best to dis-
guise it.

"There is nothing I can say. Sir," I returned, "except
that all the blame is mine. Dora — "

"Miss Spenlow, if you please," said her father, majestically.

" — was induced and persuaded by me," I went on, swal-
lowing that colder designation, "to consent to this conceal-
ment, and I bitterly regret it."

"You are very much to blame. Sir," said Mr. Spenlow,
walking to and fro upon the hearth-rug, and emphasizing what
he said with his whole body instead of his head, on account
of the stiffness of his cravat and spine. "You have done a
stealthy and unbecoming action, Mr. Copperfield. When I
take a gentleman to my house, no matter whether he is nine-
teen, twenty-nine, or ninety, I take him there in a spirit of con-
fidence. If he abuses my confidence, he commits a dishonour-
able action, Mr. Copperfield."

"I feel it. Sir, I assure you," 1 returned. "But I never
thought so, before. Sincerely, honestly, indeed, Mr. Spen-
low, I never thought so, before. I love Miss Spenlow to that
extent — "

"Pooh! nonsense 1" said Mr. Spenlow, reddening. "Pray

don't tell me to my face that you love my daughter, Mr. Cop-
perfield 1 "

" Could I defend my conduct if I did not, Sir ? " I returned,
with all humility.

"Can you defend your conduct if you do, Sir?" said Mr.
Spenlow, stopping short upon the hearth-rug. "Have you
considered your years, and my daughter's years, Mr. Copper-
field? Have you considered what it is to undermine the con-
fidence that should subsist between my daughter and myself?
Have you considered my daughter's station in life, the projects
I may contemplate for her advancement, the testamentary in-
tentions I may have withreference to her? Have you consider-
ed anything, Mr. Copperfield?"

"Very little, Sir, I am afraid;" I answered, speaking to
him as respectfully and sorrowfully as I felt; "but pray believe
me, I have considered my own worldly position. When I ex-
plained it to you, we were already engaged — "

"I BEG," said Mr. Spenlow, more like Punch than I had
ever seen him, as he energetically struck one hand upon the
other — I could not help noticing that even in my despair;
"that you will NOT talk to me of engagements, Mr. Copper-
field I"

The otherwise immoveable Miss Murdstone laughed con-
temptuously in one short syllable.

"When I explained my altered position to you. Sir," I be-
gan again, substituting a new form of expression for what was
so unpalatable to him, "this concealment, into which lam so
unhappy as to have led Miss Spenlow, had begun. Since I
have been in that altered position, I have strained every nerve,
I have exerted every energy, to improve it. I am sure I shall
improve it in time. Will you grant me time — any length of
time? We are both so young. Sir, — "

"You are right," interrupted Mr. Spenlow, nodding his


head a great many times, and frowning very much, "you are
both very young. It 's all nonsense. Let there be an end of
the nonsense. Take away those letters, and throw them in
the fire. Give me Miss Spenlow's letters to throw in the fire ;
and although our future intercourse must, you are aware, be
restricted to the Commons here, we will agree to make no fur-
ther mention of the past. Come, Mr. Copperiield, you don't
want sense ; and this is the sensible course."

No. I couldn't think of agreeing to it. I was very sorry,
but there was a higher consideration than sense. Love was
above all earthly considerations, and I loved Dora to idolatry,
and Dora loved me. I didn't exactly eay so ; I softened it
down as much as I could; but I implied it, and I was resolute
upon it. I don't think I made myself very ridiculous, but I
know I was resolute.

"Very well, Mr. Copperfield,'* said Mr. Spenlow, "I must
try my influence with my daughter."

MissMurdstone, by an expressive sound, a long drawn
respiration, which was neither a sigh nor a moan, but was like
'both, gave it as her opinion that he should have done this
at first.

"I must try," said Mr. Spenlow, confirmed by this support,
"my influence with my daughter. Do you decline to take
those letters, Mr. Copperfield?" For I had laid them on
the table.

Yes. I told him I hoped he would not think it wrong, but
I couldn't possibly take them from Miss Murdstone.

"Nor from me? " said Mr. Spenlow.

No , I replied with the profoundest respect ; nor from him.

"Very welll" said Mr. Spenlow.

A silence succeeding, I was undecided whether to go or
stay. At length I was moving quietly towards the door, with
the intention of saying that perhaps I should consult his feel-


ings best by withdrawing: when he said, with his hands in his
coat pockets, into which it was as much as he could do to get
them; and with what I should call, upon the whole, a deci-
dedly pious air:

"You are probably aware, Mr. Copperfield, that I am not
altogether destitute of worldly possessions, and that my
daughter is my nearest and dearest relative ? "

I hurriedly made him a reply to the effect, that I hoped the
error into which I had been betrayed by the desperate nature
of my love, did not induce him to think me mercenary too?

"I don't allude to the matter in that light," said Mr. Spen-
low. *'It would be better for yourself, and all of us, if you
were mercenary, Mr. Copperfield — I mean, if you were more
discreet and less influenced by all this youthful nonsense. No,
I merely say , with quite another view, you are probably aware
I have some property to bequeath to my child?"

I certainly supposed so.

"And you can hardly think,'* said Mr. Spenlow, "having
experience of what we see, in the Commons here, every day,
of the various unaccountable and negligent proceedings ot
men, in respect of their testamentary arrangements — of all
subjects, the one on which perhaps the strangest revelations
of human Inconsistency are to be met with — but that mine
are made?'*

I inclined my head In acquiescence.
, "I should not allow," said Mr. Spenlow, with an evident
Increase of pious sentiment, and slowly shaking his head as he
poised himself upon his toes and heels alternately, "my suita-
ble provision for my child to be influenced by a piece of youth-
ful folly like the present. It is mere folly. Mere nonsense.
In a little while, it will weigh lighter than any feather. But I
might — I might — if this silly business were not completely
relinquished altogether, be induced in some anxious moment


to guard her from, and surround her with protections against,
the consequences of, any foolish step in the way of marriage.
Now, Mr. Copperfield, I hope that you will not render it ne-
cessary for me to open, even for a quarter of an hour, that
closed page in the book of life, and unsettle, even for a quarter
of an hour, grave affairs long since composed."

There was a serenity, a tranquillity, a calm-sunset air about
him, which quite affected me. He was so peaceful and resign-
ed — clearly had his affairs in such perfect train, and so syste-
matically wound up — that he was a man to feel touched in the
contemplation of. I really think I saw tears rise to his eyes,
from the depth of his own feeling of all this.

But what could I do? I could not deny Dora and my own
heart. When he told me I had better take a week to consider
of what he had said, how could I say I wouldn't take a week,
yet how could I fail to know that no amount of weeks could
influence such love as mine?

"In the meantime, confer with Miss Trotwood, or with any
person with any knowledge of life,*' saidMr.Spenlow, adjusting
his cravat with both hands. "Take a week, Mr. Copperfield."

I submitted; and, with a countenance as expressive as I was
able to make it of dejected and despairing constancy, came
out of the room. Miss Murdstone's heavy eyebrows followed
me to the door — I say her eyebrows rather than her eyes,
because they were much more important in her face — and she
looked so exactly as she used to look, at about that hour of
the morning, in our parlour at Blunderstone, that I could have
fancied I had been breaking down in my lessons again, and
that the dead weight on my mind was that horrible old spell-
ing-book, with oval wood-cuts, shaped, to my youthful fancy,
like the glasses out of spectacles.

When ;i got to the office, and, shutting oat old Tiffey and
the rest of them with my hands, sat at my desk, in my own


particular nook, thinking of this earthquake that had taken

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 31)