David Copperfield, Week 4 ~ and a Week 3 Wrap-Up


(Banner Image: by Fred Barnard. Scanned image by Philip V. Allingham for Victorian Web.)

by Frank Reynolds

By the members of the #DickensClub, edited/compiled by Rach

Friends, Chapter 31 ended with a bang after all the foreshadowing and brooding in regard to Steerforth: he has run off with Emily, who has long determined to become “a lady.”

We’ve discussed the women in Dickens. We’ve discussed the doubling–especially in regard to James and David, and to Emily and Martha. We’ve discussed a number of aspects of Dickens’s “writing lab,” and how David Copperfield differs from our previous reads. As the Stationmaster said, David Copperfield is, perhaps, simply “about life.”

Before we jump in, a few quick links:

  1. General Mems
  2. David Copperfield, Chs 22-31: A Summary
  3. Discussion Wrap-Up
  4. Upcoming Installments from Dr. Christian Lehmann: Reading the Victorian Novel – David Copperfield
  5. A Look-Ahead to Week Four of David Copperfield (2-8 May, 2023)

General Mems

Friends, we have two questions for you this week:

  1. How are you liking the altered pacing for Copperfield so far? (6 weeks per longer read, instead of 4-5 wks.) Please comment below! We are looking at altering the schedule based on our recent poll–Option #1.
  2. We’re trying to schedule our next online group chat, and we’re looking at Saturday, 27 May, 11am PT (USA)/2pm ET (USA)/7pm GMT (London time). Unfortunately, your co-hosts are out of town on the other Saturday of our next break (June 3rd). Please let us know if you would like to make it but cannot make that date–if we have too many who cannot make it, we can schedule it for early in our Bleak House reading.

If you’re counting, today is Day 483 (and week 70) in our #DickensClub! This week, we’ll be on the fourth week of David Copperfield, our seventeenth read of the group. Please feel free to comment below this post for the fourth week’s chapters, or use the hashtag #DickensClub if you’re commenting on twitter.

No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us. Heartfelt thanks to our dear Dickens Fellowship, The Dickens Society, and the Charles Dickens Letters Project for retweets, and to all those liking, sharing, and encouraging our Club, including Gina Dalfonzo, Dr. Christian Lehmann and Dr. Pete Orford. Huge “thank you” also to The Circumlocution Office (on twitter also!) and The Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery for providing such marvelous online resources for us. And for any more recent members or for those who might be interested in joining: the revised two-and-a-half year reading schedule can be found here. If you’ve been reading along with us but aren’t yet on the Member List, we would love to add you! Please feel free to message Rach here on the site, or on twitter.

And for any more recent members or for those who might be interested in joining: the revised two-and-a-half year reading schedule can be found here. (Note: it does not show the changes based on our recent poll about the schedule–coming soon!) For Boze’s marvelous intro to our current read, David Copperfield, please click here. For a supplement to the introduction from Peter Ackroyd that Chris shared with us, click here. If you’ve been reading along with us but aren’t yet on the Member List, we would love to add you! Please feel free to message Rach here on the site, or on twitter.

David Copperfield, Chs 22-31: A Summary

(Note: The below illustrations are by “Phiz,” Hablot Knight Browne, from the original edition, and have been downloaded from the marvelous Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery. Thank you!)

“Steerforth and I stayed for more than a fortnight in that part of the country. We were very much together…but occasionally we were asunder…”

David revisits some scenes of his youth at Blunderstone: the grave of his parents, his old home (now occupied by “a poor lunatic gentleman, and the people who took care of him”), his former neighbors, the Graypers, who have gone abroad, and Mr Chillip—now married and with “a weazen little baby”. When David returns, he finds Steerforth alone and in a curiously brooding mood, alluding to regret at the father he never had.

“’My dear Steerforth, what is the matter?’

‘I wish with all my soul I had been better guided!’ he exclaimed. ‘I wish with all my soul I could guide myself better!’”

Later, however, Steerforth continues to charm everyone. He has bought a boat which he has named the “Little Em’ly.” But as they watch Ham and Emily approach—

“Suddenly there passed us—evidently following them—a young woman whose approach we had not observed…

‘That is a black shadow to be following the girl,’ said Steerforth, standing still; ‘what does it mean?’”

Steerforth’s man Littimer has come to join him by Steerforth’s request, and David makes the acquaintance of Mrs Mowcher, small of stature and large of personality, who is there because she is also native to the area. She makes comments on being of service in the hair-cutting and nail-trimming line, and when Emily is brought up, Steerforth acknowledges that Emily should have been born a lady.

Upon returning to the home of Peggotty and Mr Barkis, David sees the mysterious “shadow” from earlier now talking to Emily—away from Mr Peggotty’s boat house, so as not to worry him. She is an outcast, desperate woman, Martha Endell—David had recognized her as having worked in Mr Omer’s shop—who had known Emily from youth and now is in need of money to start afresh in London. Ham and Emily give the money to her.

David and Steerforth leave, to the regret of all. Aunt Betsey is overjoyed to see David, and David, having had advice from Steerforth and his own inclinations, considers apprenticing as a proctor in a law office. They journey together to the law office of Spenlow and Jorkins, and David is to work there, with lodgings at Mrs Crupp’s. On the way to the office, however, David had, for the first time, seen a mysterious man—giving credence to Mr Dick’s earlier anxieties—who has some kind of a claim upon Aunt Betsey and who can extract money from her. She doesn’t fully explain the circumstances and asks David to keep it a secret.

David pays a visit to the Steerforth home and stays to dinner, but Steerforth himself isn’t there. However, he does drop in on David the following day, and they dine together at David’s lodgings with a couple of Steerforth’s friends (Markham and Grainger), and David gets very drunk, inadvertently running into Agnes in that condition, and, hungover and dejected the following morning, is comforted by Mrs Crupp.

David attempts to write a letter of apology to Agnes, and pays her a visit where she is staying at the Waterbrooks’ home, where she warns him of Steerforth. She relates to David that Uriah is now Mr Wickfield’s business partner, and is distressed by this change.

David is included in the invitation to a dinner at the Waterbrooks’ the following day, and there he introduces Agnes to Traddles. Uriah Heep, meanwhile, makes clear his romantic designs on Agnes, the thought of which makes David want to do something violent to him.

Meanwhile, David is introduced to his boss’ daughter, Dora Spenlow, and falls desperately in love.

David visits Traddles at his new, cramped lodgings, and Traddles is cheerful as ever—more so because he is engaged to “the dearest girl,” Sophy Crewler, though she is so relied on by her family that he knows they may be waiting a long time. David comes to find out that Traddles is lodging right above—our old friends, the Micawbers! David finds an excuse not to accept their invitation to dinner—thinking that it might not be easy for them, financially–but asks instead that they join him for a dinner party. Mr Micawber relates to David after that his affairs are in a bad state.

The dinner party at David’s does not begin fortuitously. However, the resourceful Micawber rescues the undercooked mutton and makes it ready to serve. An unexpected visitor arrives: Mr Littimer. He is looking for Steerforth, half thinking he might be found with David. He leaves not long after. The Micawbers are still in difficulties, and David discovers that Traddles has injudiciously cosigned a loan for Mr Micawber.

Then, Steerforth himself unexpectedly visits, having recently arrived from another boating excursion in Yarmouth. He brings David a letter from Peggotty: Mr Barkis is nearing death. David decides to visit right away—with only a delay for visiting the Steerforths in Highgate before. At the Steerforths, Rosa, with her her usual passive-aggressive implications, seems to know that Steerforth has fallen in love with someone. She feigns good-humor, and Steerforth half-flirtatiously draws close to her to say that shey should love each other and not be constantly quarrelling—she retorts by striking at him and leaving the room. Steerforth, still brooding over something as yet unknown, encourages David to remember him at his best.

Back at Yarmouth, David talks with Mr Omer about Emily, who has been a good worker, but whose wedding has been postponed on account of Mr Barkis’ health. When David goes to the home of Peggotty and Mr Barkis, Emily appears withdrawn. Mr Barkis, before dying, repeats with his last breath, “Barkis is willin’”.

Mr Barkis’s final resting place is in the same churchyard where David’s mother lies. David helps Peggotty in his role as proctor by looking over the contents of the box that Mr Barkis (always a bit miserly) had kept so close. His wife is well provided for.

“His property in money amounted to nearly three thousand pounds. Of this he bequeathed the interest of one thousand to Mr. Peggotty for his life; on his decease, the principal to be equally divided between Peggotty, little Emily, and me, or the survivor or survivors of us, share and share alike. All the rest he died possessed of, he bequeathed to Peggotty; whom he left residuary legatee, and sole executrix of that his last will and testament.”

Later, while David is at the Peggottys’ boat house and all are in good spirits, Ham comes in in an altered state, and without Emily. He takes David aside to have him read a letter that Emily has left for Ham: she has run away to become a lady. It is assumed that she has run away with Steerforth, as she was just seen with his man Littimer.

David is distraught, and Mrs Gummidge tries to calm the angry but resolved Mr Peggotty, who intends to go and seek his niece through the world.

“I’m a going to seek my niece.’

‘Where?’ cried Ham, interposing himself before the door.

‘Anywhere! I’m a going to seek my niece through the wureld. I’m a going to find my poor niece in her shame, and bring her back. No one stop me! I tell you I’m a going to seek my niece!’”

Discussion Wrap-Up

Miscellaneous–and What We Loved

The Stationmaster shares some insights into the characters this week, and the marvelous scene at David’s dinner party, which Chris will discuss later:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Character Spotlight: Betsey Trotwood and the Novel’s “Moral Center”

We discussed the marvelous Miss Betsey a good deal last week, and Daniel continues the conversation about her and how she is perhaps the best candidate to be considered the “moral center” of the novel:

Daniel M. comment

The Stationmaster shares his joy about Miss Betsey, and those character touches that makes her so well-rounded:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Dickens’s “Writing Lab” 1: “David Copperfield Feels Like It’s About Life”

The Stationmaster considers several characters and themes (e.g. alcoholism), as well as the tone of certain scenes–e.g. Barkis’s death, and whether it is supposed to be quasi-humorous–and contrasts David Copperfield with some of Dickens’s earlier works:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Dickens’s “Writing Lab” 2: Characterization; Emily; The Women in Dickens

A lot of our character and thematic discussions overlap this week–e.g. the doubling between Emily and Martha, James and David, and their relations toward one another–so keep in mind that the following sections of the discussion wrap-up will be closely connected.

Here are Chris’s thoughts on Emily, her quiet pleading, and the fact that everyone seems to be “talking around her”:

Chris M. comment

Dickens’s “Writing Lab” 3: Chapter 22, James Steerforth, & “Shadows”; “Fatherless boys”; Dr Christian’s Lecture; the Commodification of Women; Doubling: James/David, Emily/Martha

I couldn’t help but put the multifaceted discussion about Steerforth under the heading of the “Writing Lab” rather than a character spotlight, as so much of what we discussed about him deals with wider issues and recurring themes: the women in Dickens, the doubling; the relation to Rosa Dartle and Emily; fatherless boys; Steerforth not only as David’s shadow but as a character grappling with his own “shadow”; the “shadowy” Chapter 22.

First of all, Chris wanted to correct her comment from last week, on James’s isolation:

Chris M. comment

Lenny responds to the Stationmaster’s earlier comment on Steerforth, and indications of his darker side:

Lenny H. comment

I wrote about the ongoing Dickensian trick of “doubling,” and how it manifests so strongly in Chapter 22, with Emily/Martha and David/Steerforth:

Rach M. comment
Rach M. comment

Lenny responds, considering that long passage at the opening of the chapter, where James is shown as brooding. (In previous novels, we had discussed how many of Dickens’s characters–especially positive characters–are shown as staring into the fire, an indication of thoughtfulness, memory, imagination. The fact that Steerforth is doing so here is perhaps an indication of a more truthful side of him grappling with his shadow; a moment of self-awareness, perhaps, before he dismisses it.)

(Note: the passage below is in slideshow format.)

Lenny H. comment

I respond to Lenny, considering Dr. Christian’s lecture on this chapter, and how Steerforth’s purchase and renaming of the boat is emblematic of his commodification of, and desire to possess, “Little Em’ly”:

Rach M. comment

Chris continues the discussion of Dickens and doubling:

Chris M. comment

Lenny adds an entirely new layer to the “shadowy” aspects of Chapter 22, considering the narrator’s perspective and how we are to read the perceptions here:

Lenny H. comment

Dora, Jip, and the Victorian Spaniel Craze

Boze and I have been reading Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (Boze much more assiduously for the next week or two, as I’m also locked into Judith Flanders’ The Victorian City and Peter Ackroyd’s biography of London–is anyone else suffering “London fever”?). Here, Boze comments on the Victorian spaniel craze, and what this implies about the Spenlows:

Boze H. comment

I respond:

Rach M. comment

Upcoming Installments from Dr Christian Lehmann: Reading the Victorian Novel – David Copperfield

Installment XI (Chapters 32-34)

Installment XII (Chapters 35-37)

Installment XIII (Chapters 38-40)

…and an additional one on Miss Mowcher:

A Look-Ahead to Week Four of David Copperfield (2-8 May, 2023)

This week, we’ll be reading Chapters 32-40, which constitute the monthly numbers XI-XIII, published between March to May 1850. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts, or to use the #DickensClub hashtag if commenting on twitter!

If you’d like to read it online, you can find it at a number of sites such as The Circumlocution Office, or download it from sites such as Gutenberg.


  1. I remember really despising Mrs. Steerforth in Chapter 32, but rereading it this time, I sympathized with her a schmeesny bit. The book does say that she was slightly moved by Daniel Peggotty’s “rugged eloquence” at one point and it does sound like her son really hurt, though it’s incedibly obnoxious how she maintains that she’s the only one who’s been hurt.

    It seemed earlier that Rosa Dartle was the only one who could see the bad in Steerforth. While she still says he “has a false corrupt heart and is a traitor,” she weirdly seems even more vitriolic towards Emily and her family when previously it was she who (sort of) defended their humanity when Steerforth condescended toward them. I’ve read some opine that Steerforth and Miss Dartle had an affair in the past and that’s why she hates Emily. Personally, I think her rhetoric makes more sense if she herself never got to consummate her love for Steerforth. But I suppose the character can be interpreted either way.

    I love the stuff about David’s infatuation with Dora. It’s somehow really humorous while also sincerely exhilarating. And Jip is hilarious. I’m under the impression that Dickens was a dog person, but he really captured how annoying dogs can be.

    Part of me wishes the battles of wills between Peggotty and Mrs. Crupp and between Betsey Trotwood and Mrs. Crupp could have been portrayed in full rather summarized. I remember when the restaurant in my small town closed down for the first time (it goes through owners regularly), there was a sign on the door saying it was being closed due to lack of community support with those last words underlined. Mrs. Crupp’s letter in Chapter 34 reminds me of that sign. LOL.

    We see more of Betsey Trotwood’s character development as she can see that a marriage between David and Dora would be a bad idea, or at least that it wouldn’t work out as well as David believes, but she doesn’t rant against it and is actually quite gentle with him. You could argue that in this case, she’s actually too gentle and it might be good for her to throw some cold water on David’s romanticism. Speaking of which, I don’t remember him telling her about Dora. Did Agnes tell her, or did I miss something?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I know this is last week, but I would say that Betsey found out about Dora from he ‘gossip’ with Peggotty:

      ‘Ah! Mercy upon us!’ sighed my aunt. ‘I know all about it, Trot! Barkis and myself had quite a gossip while you were out with Dick. I know all about it. I don’t know where these wretched girls expect to go to, for my part. I wonder they don’t knock out their brains against—against mantelpieces,’ said my aunt; an idea which was probably suggested to her by her contemplation of mine.

      ‘Poor Emily!’ said I.

      ‘Oh, don’t talk to me about poor,’ returned my aunt. ‘She should have thought of that, before she caused so much misery! Give me a kiss, Trot. I am sorry for your early experience.’

      As I bent forward, she put her tumbler on my knee to detain me, and said:

      ‘Oh, Trot, Trot! And so you fancy yourself in love! Do you?’

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Since Chris was big enough to confess that last week’s reading contradicted what she’d written about Steerforth, I’m going to confess that this week’s reading contradicted what I’ve written about Mr. Spenlow. I’d described him as not wanting Dora to marry anyone, but in Chapter 38, he refers to “projects he may contemplate for his daughter’s advancement.” Presumably, this means a socially advantageous marriage for her, an understandable goal given what we learn about his financial situation. I still feel like my larger point stands that he never really imagined or prepared for Dora living without him hence his not leaving a will. Her reaction to David telling her to learn about housekeeping certainly indicates no one ever suggested it to her before.

    As long as I’m confessing, I have to admit that, like Jack Maldon, I don’t really get emotional about news reports of terrible things happening in the world because of how regular they are. I suppose it is callous but, in my experience, people who do get upset over them aren’t really able to change the terrible things and just make themselves miserable. Man, that’s twice I’ve confessed something and then defended myself! I probably need to be less defensive.

    Dora’s responses to David’s confession of poverty and Miss Murdstone discovering her secret letters give us our first look at how useless she is in a crisis. I feel like Agnes would have handled those situations better. It’s a mark of Agnes’s nobility that sympathizes with Dora and doesn’t try to use her hysteria to convince David to drop her. Then again, as I wrote in my other comment, maybe someone, besides Mr. Spenlow, should have tried to convince him of that.

    You’ll remember that I went on record as agreeing with G. K. Chesteron, to an extent, that Agnes was a boring character. (By “to an extent,” I mean that he’d say she was boring, and I’d say she wasn’t interesting.) Still, I love her advice to David when he’s second guessing his decision to write to Dora’s aunts. “Perhaps it would be better only to consider whether it is right to do this; and, if it is, to do it.”

    There are brief moments in Chapter 39 where I actually pity Uriah Heep, mainly when he talks about how “umble” people have to take care they’re not “pushed to the wall by them as isn’t umble” and when he talks about his education and how it was stressed he had to grovel all the time. Then again, he says that he “took to” this with an appetite, which could indicate their education brought something out in him and his father that was always there.

    I’m scared it sounds like I sympathize with the main villains in this book more than I actually do because I point it out whenever it happens. I assure everyone reading this I hate Murdstone, despise the Steerforth and shudder at Uriah Heep. (I recently noticed that Heep rhymes with creep.) But that’s the thing. Because my overwhelming impression of these characters is so negative, I think it’s interesting that there are moments, however brief, when I do feel sorry for them and if I don’t point it out, who will?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do think the best villains are also those we can, to some degree, feel some sympathy with…love your analysis here! I think Dickens gives us that opportunity with Steerforth too–we see those moments of self-recognition and brooding, and, of course, feel David’s attachment to him in spite of his better judgement. I’d say the same about Uriah Heep, & he’s as much a product of his mother’s tuition and the way society encourages the fawning ambition –and unfair advantages to some–than anything?

      Though with Murdstone, I can’t think of *any* moment where I sympathize with him…ugh. *shudder*


  3. Hey! I do think the 6 week reading schedule is a good one. I personally have been pushing ahead this time and am close to finishing the book. I’m speeding up partly because I want to know what happens, but also because I have another reading project that I need to finish.

    I am looking forward to reading everyone’s comments once I’m done.

    I am available for a Zoom meeting on 5/27.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, great!! Thank you so much, Jeff!! I’m just getting caught up on the comments…I really appreciate it! It does feel like the longer schedule is working well! So glad you can make it…I know not everyone can so I’ll make a post and throw out a few more dates, but I still think the 27th is the likeliest 🙂


  4. Aunt Betsey’s wisdom, “We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live misfortune down, Trot!” (Ch XXXIV), seem to be the theme of this section. As incidents unfold or present themselves in less than favorable colors, we struggle with the characters to understand their import. All we can do is read on as the characters “act the play out”: How will Mr Peggotty’s fare on his journey; will Mrs Steerforth & Rosa remain adversarial; will David overcome the sudden hurdles to his promising romance with Dora; is the something that turned up for Mr Micawber really a good thing?; how will Mr Wickfield and Agnes fare under their virtual house arrest since Uriah Heep and his mother moved in; will Annie Strong be able to resist Jack Maldon. Aunt Betsey’s ruin, while a sad turn, has its upsides. It brings her back into the action, which is a good thing, especially as it gives David some direction and sense of discipline. It also allows her to become friends with Peggotty – something I always wait for because these two women are a sisterhood of sense and practicality.
    Dickens the craftsman so subtly adds depth and nuance that is easily missed because it is so natural and familiar. Once again ahead of his time, Dickens employs an as yet unnamed phenomenon as a foreshadowing technique:

    Ch XXV – Heep is confiding in David about his ambition to marry Agnes:
“I believe I had a delirious idea of seizing the red-hot poker out of the fire, and running him through with it. It went from me with a shock, like a ball fired from a rifle: but the image of Agnes, outraged by so much as a thought of this red-headed animal’s, remained in my mind when I looked at him, sitting all awry as if his mean soul griped his body, and made me giddy. He seemed to swell and grow before my eyes; the room seemed full of the echoes of his voice; and the strange feeling (to which, perhaps, no one is quite a stranger) that all this had occurred before, at some indefinite time, and that I knew what he was going to say next, took possession of me.”

    Ch XXXIX – Micwaber has just highly complimented Agnes and expressed surprise that she, rather than the mysterious “D”, isn’t David’s beloved. David muses:
    “We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and done before, in a remote time – of our having been surrounded, dim ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances – of our knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly remembered it! I never had this mysterious impression more strongly in my life, than before he uttered those words.”

    The expression “deja vu” was not coined until 1876 (wikipedia), yet here is Dickens, through David, clearly describing the sensation. David experiences each incident during a conversation wherein Agnes is the topic and his feelings about her are roused, as if his latent emotions for her are struggling to come to the surface. But the rose-colored lens through which he views Dora works in concert with his long held familial regard for Agnes inhibiting him from viewing Agnes in any other light even as her actions, words and demeanor are bathed in the light of her love for him. “Blind, blind, blind” as Aunt Betsey says.
    Uriah’s presence and web-spinning becomes ever more uncomfortable and unpalatable as he moves himself and his mother into the Wickfield house. Mrs Heep in her watchfulness of Agnes and David takes on a decidedly Madam Defarge character what with her “plying her knitting-needles as monotonously as an hourglass might have poured out its sands” and her “evil eye passing [from David] and going on to [Agnes], and coming back to [David] again, and dropping furtively upon the knitting. What the knitting was, [David] didn’t know . . . but it looked like a net; and as she worked away . . . she showed in the firelight like an ill-looking enchantress . . . getting ready for a cast of her net by-and-by”. (Ch XXXIX) Heep’s sense of entitlement to claim Agnes confirms the fallacy of his “umblenesss”. While his assertion that he has “as good a right” to aspire to be Agnes’s husband “as another man” is not wrong, his conviction that he has “a better right to it than any other man” is superior, self-assertive, territorial and rude – the exact opposite of humbleness. David is right to exact a promise from Agnes that she “will never sacrifice [her]self to a mistaken sense of duty”, but can we rely on such a promise when such a serpents as Heep and his mother are in the nest? [NOTE: Again Aunt Betsey’s wisdom, “‘If you’re an eel, sir, conduct yourself like one. If you’re a man, controul your limbs, sir! Good God!’ said my aunt, with great indignation, ‘I am not going to be serpentined and corkscrewed out of my senses!’” (Ch XXXV)]
    Mr Peggotty’s visit to Mrs Steerforth is so predictable in terms of its outcome, yet so disheartening. Their positions are exactly the same. Both love their child to distraction, have spoiled their child and expected loyalty from that child. Both are devastated by the loss of their child and the manner in which they were lost. Both will forgive their child if/when they return – but here is where their positions differ. Mr Peggotty will forgive Em’ly unconditionally and welcome her home “My unchanged love its with my darling child, and I forgive her.”; Mrs Steerforth demands acknowledgement of her position of authority:

    “If [James] can stake his all upon the lightest object, I can stake my all upon a greater purpose. Let him go where he will, with the means that my love has secured to him! Does he think to reduce me by long absence? He knows his mother very little if he does. Let him put away his whim now, and he is welcome back. Let him not put her away now, and he never shall come near me, living or dying, while I can raise my hand to make a sign against it, unless, being rid of her for ever, he comes humbly to me and begs for my forgiveness. That is my right. This is the acknowledgement if WILL have. This is the separation that there is between us!” (Ch XXXII)

    The egotistical, arrogant pride of Mrs Steerforth, so reminiscent of Mr Dombey, belies the loving mother while her callousness of speech belies the “better” of her so called better class – “Such a marriage would irretrievably blight my son’s career, and ruin his prospects” she says, as if this is not what has happened to Em’ly already. The double standards of class and of gender are on display and while the Peggottys’s of the world come out on top in terms of emotional understanding, they forever lose in terms of reputation. Rosa’s incredulity that David would champion Mr Peggotty is born of her “rage and scorn”, perhaps at the application of the double standards upon her own situation. That she can know James Steerforth as she does and not comprehend why she “need . . . know or care about this fellow, and his common niece” at once lacks sympathy from her and stifles sympathy for her. How much better Rosa’s rant against Mr Peggotty and Em’ly – “They are a depraved worthless set” – describes herself and the Steerforths.

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    1. Chris…wow! So many wonderful insights that I’d love to respond to! But I just have to say: I love the idea that Mrs Heep is a precursor to Madame Defarge! How did I miss that connection? Perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Friends, Boze and I were chatting last night, and I’ve had some tight work deadlines this week (in addition to wanting to alter our reading schedule and ask a few other general questions for the group), so, if you wouldn’t mind, shall we go ahead and read the next section this week–I’ll make a post reminding about the next section tomorrow morning–and then I’ll do the summary/wrap up for both weeks 4 & 5 together a week from tomorrow? We could keep the thread of discussion going here as we continue on into the next section…I know I for one often feel the thread of discussion is only really getting good & going when we’re wrapping it up already! 🙂 But this will give me a bit more time to get some scheduling and practical things done for the group as we move ahead.

    On that note, on our recent poll, though we also had an interest in keeping the schedule the same, the majority of the votes were pretty well split between Option 1 (6 weeks for the longer books; 4-5 for the shorter works) and Options 2/3, which are similar (8 weeks for all the books except for Hard Times, Uncommercial Traveler, and Drood) — though Option 3 is a more flexible approach. So, we’re about to get to what is arguably Dickens’s most lauded work, one of his longest, and arguably the greatest Victorian novel: Bleak House. As I wrote in the comments below the poll post, what if we do a trial of Option 2 for Bleak House the way we are doing a trial of Option 1 for Copperfield, and allow a full 8 weeks for Bleak House, and after that do another check in about length? The one thing I would probably do differently is, if we go for the longer schedule, I will probably do a summary/wrap-up every other week instead of every week. The bonus of this approach (potentially) is it not only gives us more time to read, but more time to comment and really get into the *discussion* aspect, responding to some of these wonderful things brought up…I often feel like the discussion on a subject is just really getting going when we’re wrapping it up already! 🙂

    Side note: Each wrap-up (though it is hard to calculate because it is worked on sporadically as I can) probably takes 6 hours–mostly because I’m slow with the web stuff, downloading illustrations and making/saving/uploading screenshots of comments and organizing everything, and making a summary of the chapters. I know the wrap-ups will take a little longer if we have 2 weeks to cover rather than 1, but the structure of the site and the organization will already be in place, so it’ll take less time overall, and perhaps encourage me to jump in on the discussion a little more. Anyway, forgive the practical comments here! Believe me, this is the opposite of a complaint because I frankly LOVE doing it–it is absolutely my labor of love and I honestly never want the group to end!

    So…it might be fun to try it this way for Bleak House, and see whether or not it works? Of course, we don’t want to lose momentum either, if we’re reading more slowly and with fewer wrap-ups, so it really will be a trial run.


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    1. I’m open to following any schedule. I appreciate how difficult it is to put the wrap-ups together – they are SO BEAUTIFULLY done! And I agree that often the discussion seems to get cut short because we move on to the next section – I know I usually have more to say each week – so I’m all for more time.

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      1. Aw, wonderful…thank you, Chris!! 🖤 I’m all for more time too, and BH will require the extra time to ponder, I think…so a good way to give the longer schedule a shot!

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  6. I’m up to Chapter 46 at this point.

    Here’s yet another example of the characters in this book impressing me with their nuance. Miss Lavinia and Miss Clarissa are minor comic characters, but what they say about “mature affection” vs. “the light inclinations of young people” actually ends up being part of the book’s moral. At any rate, it’s the message of David’s love story.

    I love the subplot of David and Dora’s marriage. It’s highly unusual for Dickens to dramatize life for a couple after the wedding and the ensuing anticlimax. That’s not the only thing unique about it either. Most couples in Dickens are either entirely dysfunctional or fully functional. With David and Dora, their marriage was not a good idea but neither character is vilified and their both committed to each other and to making the best of a bad situation. Sheesh, that’s not just an unusual character dynamic for Dickens. It’s arguably unusual for fiction in general. While you’d expect David to be the smart one, or the one who wants to be smart anyway, there are actually some ways in which Dora is wiser than he. She sees potential issues with their relationship on the horizon long before David does, though she doesn’t have the strength of character to call off the marriage. She also immediately sees Agnes as a potential romantic rival, but she can’t help liking her anyway. And she seems to be the only one who mourns for her father and, depending on your interpretation anyway, feels guilty about her marriage which she knows he was against. You could argue Mr. Spenlow was a bad person, and she shouldn’t feel obliged to honor his wishes. But you could also argue David is a bit of a jerk for only seeing Mr. Spenlow as an obstacle and seeing even the man’s death in terms of how it affected himself.

    Remember what I wrote before about Betsey Trotwood being self-aware about her eccentricities in one scene? Well, in this week’s reading, Dr. Strong is also self-aware about his naivety. (“I am a man quite unaccustomed to observe”) And we learn that Mr. Dick knows that Betsey Trotwood is humoring him about his mental facilities. But maybe not as much as he thinks because in Chapter 45, he takes advantage of people’s perceptions of him to save the day. Every adaptation I’ve seen, including the long miniseries, cut the subplot of the Strongs, which unfortunately means the depth it brings to Mr. Dick’s character is also lost. He becomes simply a loveable comic relief character and Betsey Trotwood’s assertions about him are never proven correct. To its credit though, the 2019 movie tries to compensate by giving him a larger role in the climax of the Uriah Heep plot.

    This is such a long comment, and I haven’t even gotten to all the great comedy in this section of the book. You’ve got to love David and Dora’s problems with their staff, the sufferings of Traddles at their dinner party and Betsey Trotwood trying to suppress her exasperation with Mrs. Markleham during a big dramatic scene. It makes me smile to be reminded that while she’s becoming much more tolerant and easygoing, she’s still the same old Betsey Trotwood.

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  7. Here are some things I forgot to mention in my comments for last week’s reading.

    One of the most surprising parallels in the book, which Betsey Trotwood points out, is that between David’s first marriage and his mother’s second marriage. Both feature a young naive inexperienced woman with a more serious-minded man who wants to form her mind. With David’s mother’s marriage, she was mainly a victim, and her husband was a contemptible villain. With David’s marriage, it’s more like we see him as a victim of Dora’s ditziness. What could Dickens be up to here? Does this make Murdstone potentially sympathetic in retrospect? Or is it hinting at a potential dark side to David?

    While we’re on the subject of the commodification of women, Miss Mowcher is an example of a woman who has had to commodify herself. (I know that wasn’t Dickens’s original plan for the character and he had to change it on the fly to keep from being sued, but it’s cool how it still fit in with the themes he was already setting up.)

    Now on to more of this week’s reading, which I’ve finished now.

    I never noticed before that Littimer seems to take pleasure in Rosa Dartle’s jealousy at how admired Emily has been. (“I saw him steal a glance at her, and slightly smile to himself.”) It makes his character a little more human, though not in a good way.

    The first time I read the book, I believed I would never sympathize with Mrs. Steerforth after her interview with Mr. Peggotty. Then, when she made the wistful comment about David’s mother being proud of him in Chapter 46, Dickens made me feel sorry for her. He did that with certain characters.

    In comparing Martha to Dickens’s other “hooker with a heart of gold” character, Nancy from Oliver Twist, I feel like she’s not as effective, not because of the writing so much as the plot structure. Unlike Nancy, we only see her in highly emotional/dramatic scenes. We don’t get to know her in her day-to-day life, as we do Nancy, so she feels less like a real person. Still, as far as dramatic scenes go, David and Daniel Peggotty saving her from drowning herself is pretty unforgettable.

    The prospect of David trying to improve Dora by reading Shakespeare to her makes me laugh, knowing all the violence and sexual references in Shakespeare. No wonder she considered him “a terrible fellow.” David giving “practical wisdom” to Traddles for Dora’s benefit whenever they’re in the same room is also pretty hilarious. I can’t help but think this must have been very awkward for him (Traddles) as well as her.

    Dora has long reminded me of Penny Parker from MacGyver. Maybe you’d need to be someone like MacGyver to be married to her.

    It’s always stood out to me how quickly the book jumps over the grief David and Dora must have felt over their infant child’s death. Presumably, it was too painful for David (or Dickens?) to write about. Still, it’s really jarring considering how intimate David is with the reader and how much access he gives them to every other painful part of his life. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing though. It functions sort of like “the Jaws principle.” What we don’t see is more painful than what we do.

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  8. Stationmaster, I think you bring up some GREAT points here, and I was reflecting on them this morning while relistening to Dr Christian’s lectures for what are our “Week 5” installments (installments XIV-XVI, or essentially Chapters 41-50).

    What you say here about the comparison between the Murdstone/Clara Copperfield marriage with David/Dora is just spot on — including the question of what Dickens is doing here…whether, as you put it, he is advising some sympathy with Murdstone, or a potential “darker side” to David. Perhaps a bit all of the above…Dr Christian brings out that a little of what Dickens was intending to bring out in the text based on his working notes, doesn’t *quite* come out the way he intended; though David is not in the least malicious, he is perhaps a little self-deceived, and tries to make the reader feel his own frustrations about Dora, and be sympathetic with his patience with her. But as you say, Stationmaster, she is in many ways wiser than he; she has more intelligence than she’s given credit for, and intuits what David can’t allow himself to–that it is an unsuitable marriage because of what David hopes for from her, which she has not been brought up to do or cultivate. I can’t help but have a little shiver about the whole attempt to “form” her mind–that is very much what Murdstone was doing with Clara, even if Murdstone is more cruel and culpable because of his age and experience, and his desire for power. (I also can’t help but think of Scottie in Vertigo–trying to remake Judy into the image of Madeleine!) With David, it perhaps comes more from inexperience and a naivete of his own, and it is never suggested that he is cruel in desire or intention. But a bit self-absorbed? Yes, it would seem so.

    I love what Dr Christian brought out in the illustrations: firstly, the marriage illustration by Phiz: Dora is seen in the front and center, low in the image and looking downward, while all eyes, including David’s, are on her– a small young woman literally “weighed down” in the image by all of the objects and people around her with such expectations. Also, Dr Christian brought up the dual images of David’s mother and Dora – both with the spilled workboxes, as though to highlight the parallel between them.

    Here’s a link to the dual images from a screenshot of his lecture: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GQVYkt7HuDbrAUKd9

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    1. Gosh! Those workboxes in the images are a lovely touch drawing that parallel.

      Young David has not had many real world examples to draw from for his notions of wooing and courtship. He has as far as we can tell the examples of Murdstone with his mother and also the notable wooing of that greatest of romantics, Mr Barkis.

      One would assume from his readings of Smollett, Sterne and Fielding that he would have vague notions of courtship from those adventures, but I think there is evidence all through of his emulating what he was seen with his own eyes.

      Going back to the first retrospect in Chapter 18 and David’s ‘love’ for Miss Shepherd – there is evidence of the Barkis mode of wooing here for sure!

      “Why do I secretly give Miss Shepherd twelve Brazil nuts for a present, I wonder? They are not expressive of affection, they are difficult to pack into a parcel of any regular shape, they are hard to crack, even in room doors, and they are oily when cracked; yet I feel that they are appropriate to Miss Shepherd. Soft, seedy biscuits, also, I bestow upon Miss Shepherd; and oranges innumerable.”

      This recalls Barkis’s long list of strange gifts left for Peggotty (Chapter 10)

      Oranges tied up in a handkerchief were the first gift left, and then:

      “Among them I remember a double set of pigs’ trotters, a huge pin-cushion, half a bushel or so of apples, a pair of jet earrings, some Spanish onions, a box of dominoes, a canary bird and cage, and a leg of pickled pork.”

      and David must have learnt a habit of staring from somewhere:

      “Whispers reach me of Miss Shepherd having said she wished I wouldn’t stare so…”

      might it be from he who is willin’

      Mr. Barkis’s wooing, as I remember it, was altogether of a peculiar kind. He very seldom said anything; but would sit by the fire in much the same attitude as he sat in his cart, and stare heavily at Peggotty, who was opposite.

      Murdstone is slightly more complex in that he gives rise both to example and the notion of a threat!

      With the Eldest Miss Larkins,

      She admires a flower (pink camellia japonica, price half-a-crown), in my button-hole. I give it her, and say:

      ‘I ask an inestimable price for it, Miss Larkins.’

      ‘Indeed! What is that?’ returns Miss Larkins.

      ‘A flower of yours, that I may treasure it as a miser does gold.’

      the request for the flower recalls Murdstone and the ‘famous geranium’ (Chapter 2)

      He came in, too, to look at a famous geranium we had, in the parlour-window. It did not appear to me that he took much notice of it, but before he went he asked my mother to give him a bit of the blossom. She begged him to choose it for himself, but he refused to do that—I could not understand why—so she plucked it for him, and gave it into his hand. He said he would never, never part with it any more; and I thought he must be quite a fool not to know that it would fall to pieces in a day or two.

      the last part of the above bears similarity to David’s consolation in Chapter 18:

      “I am imperfectly consoled for this disappointment by the sacred pledge, the perished flower.”

      Later on, in Chapter 33 (Blissful – that most wonderful of chapters) the placing of Murdstone before the picnic can be considered a clever bit of foreshadowing and a warning, but it also points out connections with a few of David’s behaviours in his courtship which recall Murdstone’s courtship from earlier with his mother.

      The bouquet of flowers links agin to the ‘famous geranium’

      The Gallant Grey that David hires to ride upon recalls Murdstone’s impressive horse from the day of the visit to Lowestoft.

      The placing of a threat to happiness denominated “Red Whisker” recalls the childish aversion to the threat presented by Murdstone’s Black Whisker:

      “Gradually, I became used to seeing the gentleman with the black whiskers. I liked him no better than at first, and had the same uneasy jealousy of him; but if I had any reason for it beyond a child’s instinctive dislike, and a general idea that Peggotty and I could make much of my mother without any help, it certainly was not THE reason that I might have found if I had been older.”

      All in all, I think it’s a jolly clever, well-written book!! 😀

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  9. There’s something I meant to write about in my last comment, but I forgot. This is the section of the book where David talks the most about being an author-and it isn’t very much. (“It is not my purpose, in this record, though in all other essentials it is my written memory, to pursue the history of my own fictions. They express themselves, and I leave them to themselves. When I refer to them, incidentally, it is only as a part of my progress.”) Pretty much every adaptation tries to make being an author a big part of his character, but the book doesn’t make a big deal about it. Dickens clearly believed that a person’s morality was defined by how they treated others, not by their being a great artist.

    That’s why I’m not as offended by his negative portrayals of career women as some are. I wouldn’t say he had no double standards for men vs. women, but there’s less of one there than I think people assume. It’s not like Dickens thought his male characters’ main life goal should be to have a successful career while his female characters’ was to be good wives and mothers. He expected men to hold down jobs and be responsible but this was mainly so they could provide for their wives and children-and men who provide for their families financially but don’t care for them in other ways didn’t get a pass from him either. It’s the men who are most enthusiastic about their work, like Dombey or Scrooge, tend to be the bad guys in Dickens. Even when his lead was an author like himself, he didn’t view that as super important.

    That being said, as someone who loves the character, I kind of wish we could learn more about the books David wrote. Most adaptations seem to assume he just wrote all of Dickens’s books in the David Copperfield universe, but I don’t quite buy this. There are only occasional references to David being interested in the social issues that so concerned Dickens like Union workhouses or Yorkshire boarding schools.

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  10. This post relates to our Week 5 reading – I’m putting it here to follow the lead of Stationmaster per the recommendation of that week’s post by Rach.

    In response to Stationmaster’s comment above about how the book jumps over David & Dora’s grief over the loss of their child, I suspect David does not dwell on Dora’s miscarriage because such an event was not wholly unanticipated in the 1840’s (infant mortality being about 1 in 4 in 1840 per https://www.statista.com/statistics/1041714/united-kingdom-all-time-child-mortality-rate/). Further, Dora’s diminishing health following the event would have of much greater concern to David. Losing a newborn with whom he had no opportunity to bond was indeed sad, but that loss could never match the fear of losing Dora whom he loves so dearly. Symbolically, the miscarriage indicates that Dora is incapable of achieving the ideal of [Victorian] womanhood – becoming a mother. Dora is a perpetual child, the self-described “child-wife”. David says, “I had hoped that lighter hands than mine would help to mould her character, and that a baby-smile upon her breast might change my child-wife to a women. It was not to be.” (Ch XLVIII) Nothing can “form” or “mould” Dora because, again as David says, “Dora’s mind was already formed.”

Dora’s awareness of her child-nature reminds me of Harold Skimpole whom we will meet in “Bleak House”, though Dora’s childishness is much more endearing. Like Skimpole, Dora’s awareness of her nature makes me question her sincerity – though I know that being aware of one’s nature it does not necessarily follow that one is able to change or alter it – “the figures had the old obstinate propensity – they WOULD NOT add up”. (Ch XLIV) I don’t think Dora is being obstinate, but I also don’t think she’s making a great enough effort (to borrow from Mrs Chick). Wouldn’t she want to lighten poor Doady’s mind by helping out around the house a bit more? But that analysis is a grown-up analysis – why should she make an effort to behave like a grown up when she “seemed by one consent to be regarded like a pretty toy or plaything” (Ch XLII) by the adults around her? As David realizes, her mind was formed to expect this type of treatment long before we met her and she was taught to demand it via pouts and fluttering eyelashes and curls and baby talk etc., etc., etc.

    On the other end of the spectrum from Dora, in a strange way, is Rosa Dartle (I’ve just noticed the odd similarity in their names) – where Dora can’t help but be lovable, Rosa can’t help but be upsetting and jarring. Rosa’s obsession with Steerforth is strangely similar to David’s obsession with Dora. She sees his flaws but overlooks them because she is too blindly in love to hold them against him. He threw a hammer at her – disfigured her for life – teases and taunts her in front of his friends for sport – leads her on only to neglect her – and yet she loves him – obsessively, possessively loves him. Rosa knows his character, his way of using people, and yet she holds Emily responsible for enticing Steerforth away. A nagging question I have is – is Steerforth’s escapade with Emily the first time he acts on this type of sexual impulse or had he acted at least once before with Rosa – “he used all his power to deceive me, and that I believed him, trusted him, and loved him!” says Emily, is this what happened to Rosa, too? (Ch L)

    In Steerforth’s defense, if it’s possible to defend him, his feelings for Emily were strong enough to induce him to plan and execute their elopement even at the cost of creating a breach with his family. This was a huge step! According to Littimer, “Mr James took quite uncommonly to the young woman; and was more settled, for a length of time, that I have known him to be since I have been in his service.” (Ch XLVI) But this is where the defense of Steerforth breaks down. Even if he were serious about her at first, as soon as she begins “to weary Mr James by giving way to her low spirits and tempers of that kind”, that is, as soon as she becomes human, individual, assertive on her own behalf and ceases to be a timid, pleasing plaything, the spoiled, narcissistic James shows his true colors and simply leaves her.

    Getting back to Rosa, then, her jealousy and hatred of Emily is born out of the fact that Emily was the enticement that caused Steerforth to take the extreme step of planning and executing the elopement. Being unable to secure Steerforth’s love to herself Rosa is desperate to know what kind of woman COULD secure his love or, at least, entice him to take such an extreme step. And how humiliating for Rosa to find that woman to be “this low girl whom he picked out of the tided-mud” (Ch XLVI), “This piece of pollution, picked up from the water-side” (Ch L). Really, what Rosa wants to know is, What does she have that I don’t have?

    But Rosa can’t stop there because Emily failure to hold on to Steerforth is even more enraging. How could a woman once blessed with the admiration and attention of Steerforth throw it away? Rosa cannot conceive of Emily having feelings of love or of remorse – recall her comment in Ch XX, “It’s such a delight to know that, when they suffer, they don’t feel!”, “they” being “that sort of people”, the Mr Mell’s and Peggotty’s of the world – and is convinced that Emily remains a threat. Nowhere does Rosa ascribe any responsibility or blame onto Steerforth other than his being led on by Emily.
    Rosa’s anger at Emily is the same as Ham’s, Mr Peggotty’s and David’s against Steerforth. If Ham, Mr Peggotty or David had met Steerforth would they not have felt the rage against him that Rosa felt toward Emily? Rosa, however, is no gentleman or more appropriately gentle man, but a woman scorned and her rage cannot be contained behind rules of decorum – it must find vent. Thankfully it only vents itself in words and not in action – “I would have this girl whipped to death.” (Ch L) And, no doubt, the bulk of her rage is at herself for loving Steerforth in the first place.

    Backing up a bit, I’m wondering why Peggotty didn’t become David & Dora’s housekeeper, except, perhaps, that she, like Aunt Betsey, knew better than to interfere with the newlyweds – there is such a fine line between helping and meddling. David & Dora are so endearing in their housekeeping though so inept.

    And who knows better how to thread the line between helping and meddling that Mr Dick? He so naturally and easily takes control of both Dr Strong and Annie, and he manages their reconciliation so expertly. Annie Strong is one of my favorite characters. She finally gets her moment to shine, and shine she does. How unfortunate that she must explain herself to her beloved husband – an explanation that would unnecessary but for her mother’s interference and insistence on Jack Maldon’s presence and upkeep. Annie’s explanation is solid and she advocates for herself in such a commanding way, Dr Strong’s belief in her is justified, and all the gossips and critics are silences once and for all.

    Martha is another woman who nearly loses her battle for herself; she finds strength through the one thing that has almost defeated her. She is given a new lease on life – a purpose – by the desperation of Mr Peggotty and David to find Emily. This is something she can do, something that will help her atone for her past digression, something that will show she is not as worthless as her reputation would suggest. Her unfortunate position gives her access to the underworld of London which Mr Peggotty and David cannot penetrate. Once Emily is found and secured, Martha fulfills her promise by alerting Mr Peggotty, who is away, and by bringing David to the safehouse where they find Emily being accosted by Rosa Dartle. My question here is – why doesn’t David intervene between Emily and Rosa. David says, “Much as I desired to put an end to the interview, I felt that I had no right to present myself; that it was for Mr Peggotty alone to see her and recover her.” (Ch L) I find this rationalization unsatisfactory. While I understand David’s feeling that it is Mr Peggotty’s place to recover Emily, I don’t understand why David is reluctant to protect Emily from Rosa’s tirade. He knows Rosa is unreasonable, wrong, out of control, and he cringes at the accusations Rosa hurls at Emily, but does nothing to spare Emily. It’s almost as if he wishes Emily to hear the worst, to feel the pain of what she has done – as if she hasn’t said all these things to and felt them herself already. I see David as a coward in this scene, a passive observer who doesn’t want to get involved but who wants to be able to say “I saw the whole thing”. How much more of a friend would he have been had he stood between Rosa and Emily and championed Emily in the face of outrageous accusations.

    Even Mr Micawber has more nerve than David. After a considerable period of being “cut off from everything that makes life tolerable” and being “under a Taboo in that infernal scoundrel’s service”, Micawber has organized his suspicions, gathered evidence, and formulated his plan to “blow[ ] to fragments – the – a – destestable – serpent – HEEP!” (Ch XLIX) I’m looking forward to this scene!

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    1. Gosh, Chris. This is a wonderful post (as usual) I wish I had your skill in being able to focus specific thoughts and threads of interest. This novel is so rich in its content that I find that so many thoughts about this and that crowd and jostle in upon me that I find it hard to restrain them.
      I especially love these thoughts about Rosa overlooking what she knows to be Steerforth’s way 🙂

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      1. Thanks, Rob! My biggest problem is knowing where/when to stop – I always have more to say. Not enough time to get ALL my thoughts in focus. Agreed, this novel – these novels! – are just jam-packed with so much to comment on, discuss, analyze, dissect, go-down-rabbit-holes-with! I absolutely love everybody’s posts and I always learn something new or find a new way of looking at something. Thank you all!

        And to your friend’s question below, my humble opinion is an emphatic NO, it’s impossible to read too much Dickensiana!

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    2. Also, Peggotty would have been great for David and Dora, but she had to return to Yarmouth in Chapter 37, ‘when it was necessary for her to return home, and enter on the discharge of the duties she had undertaken in behalf of Ham.’

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      1. Thanks, Chris 🙂
        I’ll be sure to let my friend know! He will be most relieved, I know. Because in addition to cramming his head full of Dickensiana he has allowed rabbit-holes to lead him no-one knows whither!

        In quest of greater background understanding there have been dippings in and out of Fieldings Tom Jones, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and a few samples of Smollett!

        Also, I know he has been at great pains to work out whether Dickens, poised as he is between the Romantic and Realist movements in all varieties of art, is more of one than the other or is in fact a unique compound of whatever he fancied himself to be – drawing from numerous artistic movements!

        The Bildungsroman concept has even led in the direction of Dostoevsky’s 1849 publication of (the subsequently unfinished) Netochka Nezvanova which begins:

        I DON’T remember my father. He died when I was two years old. My mother married a second time. This second marriage brought her a great deal of sorrow, though it was a marriage of love.

        (I know… spooky, right?!)

        and also generally pondering on the nature of romantic declarations in Literature, and the fact that when Mr. Darcy says:

        “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

        and Sydney Carton says:

        “I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.”

        that both of the above are pretty much in the same condition as David was when he recalls:

        “I don’t know how I did it. I did it in a moment. I intercepted Jip. I had Dora in my arms. I was full of eloquence. I never stopped for a word. I told her how I loved her. I told her I should die without her. I told her that I idolized and worshipped her. Jip barked madly all the time.

        When Dora hung her head and cried, and trembled, my eloquence increased so much the more. If she would like me to die for her, she had but to say the word, and I was ready. Life without Dora’s love was not a thing to have on any terms. I couldn’t bear it, and I wouldn’t. I had loved her every minute, day and night, since I first saw her. I loved her at that minute to distraction. I should always love her, every minute, to distraction. Lovers had loved before, and lovers would love again; but no lover had loved, might, could, would, or should ever love, as I loved Dora. The more I raved, the more Jip barked. Each of us, in his own way, got more mad every moment.”

        Alas! my friend has too much enthoosymoosy for his own good. I’m glad I’m not like that… that’s all I can say 😉

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    3. I personally don’t interpret Rosa Dartle as having ever had sex with Steerforth, mostly because of the extremely negative language she uses to describe the no-longer-a-virgin Emily. Of course, she could just be a huge hypocrite or really be angry at herself and taking it out on Emily. But, for me, it makes most sense to assume that she’s angry because Emily got the thing from Steerforth that she, Rosa, really wanted but couldn’t get. (I guess technically that’s still being hypocritical.)

      But, hey, it could be that she and Steerforth were lovers at some point (using a specific definition of “lovers.”) The familiar language he uses to address her could be seen as implying that. I’d describe it as up to interpretation.

      I think the real reason David didn’t intervene in Rosa and Emily’s scene is that Dickens wanted to dramatize the scene but had also decided to have the book be told from David’s perspective. Maybe the awkwardness this created was partially what inspired him to write Bleak House partly in first person and partly in third.

      And, yes, Mr. Micawber’s big speech in Chapter 49 is awesome! (And this line is really funny. “I am a straw upon the surface of the deep and am tossed in all directions by the elephants—I beg your pardon; I should have said the elements.”) Maybe I should have mentioned it in one my comments but most of them were on the lengthy side and I’m going to have a lot to say about Micawber in the following section.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m loving all these comments. I thought that once past Chapter 45 I might be able to comment in a way that would avoid spoilers. The trouble is that there is always something just about to happen round the corner that obtrudes itself into my thoughts.
    The scope of this novel is vast… it IS about Life! and any thread is so intricately and beautifully woven into the luxurious weave of the narrative that I find it hard to unpick the details I am questing after.

    One thing I will say though is that it keeps sending me back to look at comparison passages in Dombey and Son as something here reminds me of something there. I’m also reading Forster’s biography alongside of Copperfield and that throws up all kinds of links. Is it possible to read too much Dickensiana? (asking for a friend!)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Somehow I didn’t get notified of these recent comments…wow wow WOW!!!! Such joy, enthoosymoosy, insightfulness, research…thank you, all!

    Rob, Boze and I have been having that same instinct, almost wanting to take a detour to read those 18th-century works that influenced Dickens…right now, we’re stuck on Mayhew and Ackroyd and general London history…oh my, the nerdery never ends…!!! Your friend is AWESOME 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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