pockets, stood looking out of the window; and I stood look-
ing at them all.
" David," said Mr. Murdstone, " to the young, this is a
world for action; not for moping and droning in."
— " As you do," added his sister.
" Jane Murdstone, leave it to me, if you please. I say,
David, to the young, this is a world for actio-n, and not for
moping and droning in. It is especially so for a young
boy of your disposition, which requires a great deal
of correcting; and to which no greater service can be done
than to force it to conform to the ways of the working world,
and to bend it and break it."
" For stubbornness won't do here," said his sister. " What
it wants, is to be crushed. And crushed it must be. Shall
be, too !"
He gave her a look, half in remonstrance, half in approval,
and went on:
" I suppose you know, David, that I am not rich. At
any rate, you know it now. You have received some con-
siderable education already. Education is costly; and even
if it were not, and I could afford it, I am of opinion that it
would not be at all advantageous to you to be kept at school.
What is before you, is a fight with the world; and the sooner
you begin it, the better."
I think it occurred to me that I had already begun it, in
my poor way: but it occurs to me now, whether or no.
" You have heard * the counting-house' mentioned some-
times," said Mr. Murdstone.
" The counting-house, sir ?" I repeated.
" Of Murdstone and Grinby, in the wine trade," he replied.
I suppose I looked uncertain, for he went on hastily:
" You have heard the ' counting-house' mentioned, or the
business, or the cellars, or the wharf, or something about it "
" I think I have heard the business mentioned, sir," I said,
remembering what I vaguely knew of his and his sister's re-
sources. "But I don't know when."
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 155
" It does not matter when," he returned. " Mr. Quinion
manages that business."
I glanced at the latter deferentially as he stood looking
out of the window.
" Mr. Quinion suggests that it gives employment to some
other boys, and that he sees no reason why it shouldn't, on
the same terms, give employment to you."
" He having," Mr. Quinion observed in a low voice, and
half turning round, " no other prospect, Murdstone."
Mr. Murdstone, with an impatient, even an angry gesture,
resumed, without noticing what he had said:
" Those terms are, that you will earn enough for yourself
to provide for your eating and drinking, and pocket-money.
Your lodging (which I have arranged for) will be paid by me.
So will your washing — "
— " Which will be kept down to my estimate," said his
" Your clothes will be looked after for you, too," said Mr.
Murdstone; " as you will not be able, yet awhile, to get them
for yourself. So you are now going to London, David, with
Mr. Quinion, to begin the world on your own account."
" In short, you are provided for," observed his sister; " and
will please to do your duty."
Though I quite understood that the purpose of this an-
nouncement was to get rid of me, I have no distinct remem-
brance whether it pleased or frightened me. My impression
is, that I was in a state of confusion about it, and, oscillat-
ing between the two points, touched neither. Nor had I
much time for the clearing of my thoughts, as Mr. Quinion
was to go upon the morrow.
Behold me, on the morrow, in a much-worn little white
hat, with a black crape round it for my mother, a black
jacket, and a pair of hard, stiff corduroy trousers — which
Miss Murdstone considered the best armor for the legs in
that fight with the world which was now to come off; behold
me so attired, and with my little worldly all before me in a
small trunk, sitting, a lone lorn child (as Mrs. Gummidge
might have said), in the post-chaise that was carrying Mr.
Quinion to the London coach at Yarmouth ! See, how our
house and church are lessening in the distance; how the grave
beneath the tree is blotted out by intervening objects; how
the spire points upward from my old playground no more,
and the sky is empty.
IS6 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
I BEGIN LIFE ON MY OWN ACCOUNT, AND DON't LIKE IT.
I KNOW enough of the world now, to have almost lost the
capacity of being much surprised by anything; but it is mat-
ter of some surprise to me, even now, that I can have been
so easily thrown away at such an age. A child of excellent
abilities, and with strong powers of observation, quick, eager,
delicate, and soon hurt bodily or mentally, it seems wonder-
ful to me that nobody should have made any sign in my be-
half. But none was made; and I became, at ten years old,
a little laboring hind in the service of Murdstone and Grinby.
Murdstone and Grinby's warehouse was at the water side.
It was down in Blackfriars. Modern improvements have al-
tered the place; but it was the last house at the bottom of a
narrow street, curving down hill to the river, with some stairs
at the end, where people took boat. It was a crazy old house
with a wharf of its own, abutting on the water when the tide
was in, and on the mud when the tide was out, and literally
overrun with rats. Its paneled rooms, discolored with the
dirt and smoke of a hundred years, I dare say; its decaying
floors and staircase; the squeaking and scuffling of the old
gray rats down in the cellars; and the dirt and rottenness of
the place; are things, not of many years ago, in my mind,
but of the present instant. They are all before me, just as
they were in the evil hour when I went among them for the
first time, with my trembling hand in Mr. Quinion's.
Murdstone and Grinby's trade was among a good many
kinds of people, but an important branch of it was the supply
of wines and spirits to certain packet ships. I forget now
where they chiefly went, but I think there were some among
them that made voyages both to the East and West Indies.
I know that a great many empty bottles were one of the con-
sequences of this traffic and that certain men and boys were
employed to examine them against the light, and reject those
that were flawed, and to rinse and wash them. When the
empty bottles ran short, there were labels to be pasted on
full ones, or corks to be fitted to them, or seals to be put up-
on the corks, or finished bottles to be packed in casks. All
this work was my work, and of the boys employed upon it I
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 157
There were three or four of us, counting me. My work-
ing place was established in a corner of the warehouse,
where Mr. Quinion could see me, when he chose to stand up
on the bottom rail of his stool in the counting-house, and
look at me through a window above the desk. Hither, on
the first morning of my so auspiciously beginning life on my
own account, the oldest of the regular boys was summoned
to show me my business. His name was Mick Walker, and
he wore a ragged apron and a paper cap. He informed me
that his father was a bargeman, and walked, in a black velvet
head-dress, in the Lord Mayor's show. He also informed
me that our principal associate would be another boy whom
he introduced by the — to me — extraordinary name of Mealy
Potatoes. I discovered, however, that this youth had not
been christened by that name, but that it had been bestowed
upon him in the warehouse, on account of his complexion,
which was pale or mealy. Mealy's father was a waterman,
who had the additional distinction of being a fireman, and
was engaged as such at one of the large theatres; where some
y^ung relation of Mealy's — I think his little sister — did Imps
in the Pantomimes.
No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I
sunk into this companionship; compared these henceforth
every-day associates with those of my happier childhood —
not to say with Steerforth, Traddles, and the rest of those
boys: and felt my hopes of growing up to be a learned and
distinguished man crushed in my bosom. The deep re-
membrance of the sense I had, of being utterly without hope
now; of the shame I felt in my position; of the misery it
was to my young heart to believe that day by day what I
had learned, and thought, and delighted in, and raised my
fancy and my emulation up by, would pass away from me,
little by little, never to be brought back any more; cannot be
written. As often as Mick Walker went away in the course
of that forenoon, I mingled my tears with the water in which
I was washing the bottles; and sobbed as if there were a
flaw in my own breast, and it were in danger of bursting.
The counting-house clock was at half-past twelve, and
there was general preparation for going to dinner, when Mr.
Quinion tapped at the counting-house window, and beckoned
to me to go in. I went in, and found there a stoutish, mid-
dle-aged person, in a brown surtout and black tights and
shoes, with no more hair upon his head (which was a large
iS8 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
one, and very shining) than there is upon an egg, and with
a very extensive face, which he turned full upon me. His
clothes were shabby, but he had an imposing shirt-collar on.
He carried a jaunty sort of a stick, with a large pair of rusty
tassels to it; and a quizzing-glass hung outside his coat, —
for ornament, I afterwards found, as he very seldom looked
through it, and couldn't see anything when he did.
" This," said Mr. Quinion, in allusion to myself, " is he."
'^ This," said the stranger, with a certain condescending
roll in his voice, and a certain indescribable air of doing
something genteel, which impressed me very much, *' is Master
Copperfield. I hope I see you well, sir ?"
I said I was very well, and hoped ^he was. I was suffi-
ciently ill at ease. Heaven knows; but it was not in my
nature to complain much at that time of my life, so I said I
was very well, and hoped he was.
" I am," said the stranger, " thank Heaven, quite well. I
have received a letter from Mr. Murdstone, in which he
mentions that he would desire me to receive into an apart-
ment in the rear of my house, which is at present unoccupied
— and is, in short, to be let as a — in short,"said the stranger,
with a smile and in a burst of confidence, " as a bed-room —
the young beginner whom I have now the pleasure to — "
and the stranger waved his hand, and settled his chin in his
" This is Mr. Micawber," said Mr. Quinion to me.
. " Ahem !" said the stranger, " that is my name."
" Mr. Micawber," said Mr. Quinion, " is known to Mr.
Murdstone. He takes orders for us on commission, when he
can get any. He has been written to by Mr. Murdstone, on the
subject of your lodgings, and he will receive you as a lodger."
" My address," said Mr. Micawber, " is Windsor Terrace,
City Road. I — in short," said Mr. Micawber, with the same
genteel air and in another burst of confidence — " I Hve there."
I made him a bow.
" Under the impression," said Mr. Micawber, " that your
peregrinations in this metropolis have not yet been exten-
sive, and that you might have some difficulty in penetrating
the arcana of the Modern Babylon in the direction of the
City Road— in short," said Mr. Micawber, in another burst
of confidence, "that you might lose yourself — I shall be
happy to call this evening, and install you in the knowledge
of the nearest way."
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 159
I thanked him with all my heart, for it was friendly in him
to offer to take that trouble.
'' At what hour," said Mr. Micawber, '' shall I — "
" At about eight," said Mr, Quinion.
"At about eight," said Mr. Micawber. "I beg to wish
you good day, Mr. Quinion. I will intrude no longer."
So he put on his hat, and went out with his cane under
his arm : very upright, and humming a tune when he was
clear of the counting-house.
Mr. Quinion then formally engaged me to be as useful as
I could in the warehouse of Murdstone and Grinby, at a
salary, I think, of six shillings a week. I am not clear
whether it was six or seven. I am inclined to believe, from
my uncertainty on this head, that it was six at first and seven
afterwards. He paid me a week down (from his own pocket,
I believe), and I gave Mealy sixpence out of it to get my
trunk carried to Windsor Terrace at night : it being too
heavy for my strength, small as it was. I paid sixpence
more for my dinner, which was a meat pie and a turn at a
neighboring pump ; and passed the hour which was allowed
for that meal, in walking about the streets.
At the appointed time in the evening, Mr. Micawber reap-
peared. I washed my hands and face, to do the greater
honor to his gentility, and we walked to our house, as I
suppose I must now call it, together ; Mr. Micawber ini-
pressing the names of streets, and the shapes of corner
houses upon me, as we went along, that I might find my
way back easily in the morning.
Arrived at his house in Windsor Terrace (which I noticed
was shabby, like himself, but also, like himself, made all the
show it could), he presented me to Mrs. Micawber, a thin
and faded lady, not at all young, who was sitting in the
parlor (the first floor was altogether unfurnished, and the
blinds were kept down to delude the neighbors), with a baby
at her breast. This baby was one of twins ; and I may re-
mark here that I hardly ever, in all my experience of the
family, saw both the twins detached from Mrs. Micawber at
the same time. One of them was always taking refreshment.
There were two other children : Master Micawber, aged
about four, and Miss Micawber, aged about three. These,
and a dark-complexioned young woman, with a habit of
snorting, who was servant to the family, and informed me,
before half-an-hour had expired, that she was "a Orfling,"
i6o DAVID COPPERFIELD.
and came from St. Luke's workhouse in the neighborhood,
completed the establishment. My room was at the top of
the house, at the back: a close chamber, stenciled all over
with an ornament which my young imagination represented
as a blue muffin, and very scantily furnished.
" I never thought," said Mrs. Micawber, when she came
up, twin and all, to show me the apartment, and sat down
to take breath, '' before I was married, when 1 lived with
papa and mamma, that I should ever find it necessary to take
a lodger. But Mr. Micawber being in difficulties, all con-
siderations of private feeling must give way."
I said: *' Yes, ma'am."
" Mr. Micawber's difficulties are almost overwhelming just
at present," said Mrs. Micawber; " and whether it is pos-
sible to bring him through them, I don't know. When I
lived at home with papa and mamma, I really should have
hardly understood what the word meant, in the sense in
which I now employ it, but experientia does it — as papa used
I cannot satisfy myself whether she told me that Mr.
Micawber had been an officer in the Marines, or whether I
have imagined it. I only know that I believe to this hour
that he was in the Marines once upon a time, without know-
ing why. He was a sort of town traveler for a number of
miscellaneous houses, now; but made little or nothing of it,
I am afraid.
** If Mr. Micawber's creditors 7£////«^/ give him time," said
Mrs. Micawber, " they must take the consequences; and the
sooner they bring it to an issue the better. Blood cannot
be obtained from a stone, neither can anything on account
be obtained at present (not to mention law expenses) from
I never can quite understand whether my precocious self-
dependence confused Mrs. Micawber in reference to my age,
or whether she was so full of the subject that she would have
talked about it to the very twins if there had been nobody
else to communicate with, but this was the strain in which she
began, and she went on accordingly all the time I knew her.
Poor Mrs. Micawber ! She said she had tried to exert
herself; and so, I have no doubt, she had. The centre of
the street-door was perfectly covered with a great brass-
plate, on which was engraved " Mrs. Micawber's Boarding
Establishment for Young Ladies;" but I never found that
MR, MICAWBER IMPRESSING THE NAMES OF STREETS AND THE IH/.Pr?. OF XTORy.ER KOUOE*} UPON_Ma,
i AS WE WENT ALONG, THAT I MIGHT FIND MY WAY BAC'I^ , £A]Rii^ IN VWE_MOWf^J>^
DAVID COPPERFIELD. i6i
any young lady had ever been to school there; or that any
young lady ever came, or proposed to come: or that the
least preparation was ever made to receive any young lady.
The only visitors I ever saw or heard of, were creditors.
They used to come at all hours, and some of them were quite
ferocious. One dirty-faced man, I think he was a bootmaker,
used to edge himself into the passage as early as seven o'clock
in the morning, and call up the stairs to Mr. Micawber —
" Come ! You ain't out yet, you know. Pay us, will you ?
Don't hide, you know; that's mean. I wouldn't be mean if
I was you. Pay us, will you ? You just pay us, d'ye hear ?
Come !" Receiving no answer to these taunts, he would
mount in his wrath to the words " swindlers " and " robbers;"
and these being ineffectual too, would sometimes go to the
extremity of crossing the street, and roaring up at the win-
dows of the second floor, where he knew Mr. Micawber was.
At these times, Mr. Micawber would be transported with
grief and mortification, even to the length (as I was once
made aware by a scream from his wife) of making motions
at himself with a razor; but within half an hour afterwards,
he would polish up his shoes with extraordinary pains, and
go out, humming a tune with a greater air of gentility than
ever. Mrs. Micawber was quite as elastic. I have known
her to be thrown into fainting fits by the king's taxes at three
o'clock, and to eat lamb chops, breaded, and drink warm ale
(paid for with two teaspoons that had gone to the pawn-
broker's) at four. On one occasion, when an execution had
just been put in, coming home through some chance as early
as six o'clock, I saw her lying (of course with a twin) under
the grate in a swoon, with her hair all torn about her face;
but I never knew her more cheerful than she was, that very
same night, over a veal-cutlet before the kitchen fire, telling
me stories about her papa and mamma, and the company they
used to keep.
In this house, and with this family, I passed my leisure time.
My own exclusive breakfast of a penny loaf and a penny
worth of milk, I provided myself. I kept another small
loaf, and a modicum of cheese, on a particular shelf of a
particular cupboard, to make my supper on when I came
back at night. This made a hole in the six or seven shillings,
I know well; and I was out at the warehouse all day, and
had to support myself on that money all the week. From
Monday morning until Saturday night, I had no advice, no
i62 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance,
no support, of any kind, from any one, that I can call to
mind, as I hope to go to heaven !
I was so young and childish, and so little qualified — how
could I do otherwise ? — to undertake the whole charge of
my own existence, that often in going to Murdstone and
Grinby's, of a morning, I could not resist the stale pastry
put out for sale at half-price at the pastry cook's doors, and
spent in that, the money I should have kept for my dinner.
Then, I went without my dinner, or bought a roll or a slice
of pudding. I remember two pudding-shops, between which
I was divided, according to my finances. One was in a
court close to St. Martin's Church — 'at the back of the
church — which is now removed altogether. The pudding
at that shop was made of currants, and was rather a special
pudding, but was dear, twopenny-worth not being larger
than a pennyworth of more ordinary pudding. A good shop
for the latter was in the Strand — somewhere in that part
which has been rebuilt since. It was a stout pale pudding,
heavy and flabby, and with great flat raisins in it, stuck in
whole at wide distances apart. It came up hot at about my
time every day, and many a day did I dine off it. When I
dined regularly and handsomely, I had a saveloy and a
penny-loaf, or a fourpenny plate of red beef from a cook's
shop; or a plate of bread and cheese and a glass of beer,
from a miserable old public-house opposite our place of
business, called the Lion, or the Lion and something else
that I have forgotten. Once, I remember, carrying my own
bread (which I had brought from home in the morning),
under my arm, wrapped in a piece of paper, like a book,
and going to a famous alamode beef-house near Drury-Lane,
and ordering a " small plate" of that delicacy to eat with it.
What the waiter thought of such a strange little apparition
coming in all alone, I 'don't know; but I can see him now,
staring at me as I ate my dinner, and bringing up the other
waiter to look. I gave him a halfpenny for himself, and I
wish he hadn't taken it.
We had half-an-hour, I think, for tea. ' When I had money
enough, I used to get half-a-pint of ready-made coffee and a
slice of bread and butter. When I had none, I used to look
at a venison-shop in Fleet-street; or I have strolled, at such
a time, as far as Co vent Garden Market, and stared at the
pine-apples. I was fond of wandering about the Adelphi,
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 163
because it was a mysterious place, with those vjark arches. I
see myself emerging one evening from some o* these arches,
on a little public-house close to the river, with an open space
before it, where some coal-heavers were dancing; to look at
whom, I sat down upon a' bench. I wonder what they
thought of me !
I was such a child, and so little, that frequently when I
went into the bar of a strange public-house for a glass of
ale or porter, to moisten what I had had for dinner, they
were afraid to give it to me. I remember one hot evening
I went into the bar of a public-house, and said to the landlord:
" What is your best — your very best — ale a glass ?" For it
was a special occasion. I don't know what. It may have
been my birth-day.
" Twopence-halfpenny,'* says the landlord, " is the price
of the Genuine Stunning ale."
" Then," says I, producing the money, " just draw me a
glass of the Genuine Stunning, if you please, with a good
head to it."
The landlord looked at me in return over the bar, from
head to foot, with a strange smile on his face; and instead
of drawing the beer, looked round the screen, and said some-
thing to his wife. She came out from behind, with her
work in her hand, and joined him in surveying me. Here
we stand, all three, before me now. The landlord in his
shirt-sleeves, leaning against the bar window-frame, his wife
looking over the little half-door: and I, in some confusion,
looking up at them from outside the partition. They asked
me a good many questi9ns; as, what my name was, how old
I was, where I lived, how I was employed, and how I came
there. To all of which, that I might commit nobody, I in-
vented, I am afraid, appropriate answers. They served me
with the ale, though I suspect it was not the Genuine
Stunning; and the landlord's wife opened the little half-
door of the bar, and bending down, gave me my money
back, and gave me a kiss that was half admiring and half
compassionate, but all womanly and good, I am sure.
I know I do not exaggerate, unconsciously and uninten-
tionally, the scantiness of my resources or the difficulties of
my life. I know that if a shilling were given me by Mr.
Quinion at any time, I spent it in a dinner or a tea. I know
that I worked, from morning until night, with common men
and boys, a shabby child. I know that I lounged about the
i64 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
streets, insufficiently and unsatisfactorily fed. I know that,
but for the mercy of God, I might easily have been, for any
care that was taken of me, a little robber or a little vagabond.
Yet I held some station at Murdstone and Grinby's too.
Besides that Mr. Quinion did what a careless man so oc-
cupied, and dealing with a thing so anomalous, could, to
treat me as one upon a different footing from the rest, I
never said, to man or boy, how it was that I came to be
there, or gave the least indication of being sorry that I was
there. That I suffered in secret, and that I suffered ex-
quisitely, no one ever knew but I. How much I suffered,
it is, as I have said already, utterly beyond my power to tell.
But I kept my own counsel, and I did my work. I knew
from the first, that, if I could not do my work as well as any
of the rest, I could not hold myself above slight and con-
tempt. I soon became at least as expeditious and as skillful
as either of the other boys. Though perfectly familiar with
them, my conduct and manner were different enough from