David Copperfield – 1849- 1850 – a monthly serialised novel
David with Mr Micawber
David Copperfield, Dickens’s eighth novel, was first published as a serial. The first instalment was published in May of 1849, the last was issued in November of 1850.
The novel follows the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity.
David Copperfield held a special place in Dickens’s heart. In the preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens wrote, ‘like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.’
The novel was autobiographical in some ways.
David Visits Uriah Heep, by Phiz
David Copperfield is born at Blunderstone Suffolk, six months after his father’s death. Edward Murdstone starts courting his widowed mother, David does not like him.
The boy goes to Yarmouth for two weeks to visit Peggotty and her family, she was his mother’s housekeeper. Her brother lives there. Mr Peggotty, a fisherman. He has two children Emily and Ham, and he has an elderly widow to help him, Mrs Gummidge,
On his return he learns that his mother has married Murdstone and he bridles. Murdstone’s sister Jane moves in with them, the pair dominate his mother, and him. As a result his studies are affected and during a beating by his stepfather he bites him.
He is therefore sent away to a boarding school near London. This is Salem House Academy that is run by Mr Creakle. He is forced to wear a sign around his neck saying ‘Be careful of him, He bites’.
He makes friends with several older pupils, James Steerforth and Tommy Traddles. On his trip back home he learns that his mother has had a baby boy. But he learns that both she and the baby has died.
Peggotty marries a local carrier called Barkis. Ham and Emily are to be married too,
David is taken out of school and sent to work for a wine merchant, part owned by Murdstone. His landlord is Wilkins Micawber, who is arrested for debt and sent to the King’s Bench Prison for several months and them he moves to Plymouth.
David decides to run away and Micawber has advised he should go to Dover where his last remaining relative, a great-aunt, Betsey Trotwood lives.
Trotwood agrees to raise him and renames him Trotwood Copperfield, Trot for short. She sends him to a better school in Canterbury, run by Dr Strong. He lodges with Mr Wickfield and his daughter Agnes. Wickfield’s clerk, Uriah Heep, also lives at the house and becomes a friend to David.
David moves to London to be an apprentice proctor. In Camden Town he meets his old friend Traddles who lodges with the Micawbers, still fighting to remain solvent.
Barkis is dying, so David goes to visit them and his friend Steerforth runs away with Emily, stolen away from Ham.
By some means Heep gains a form of control over the aging alcoholic Wickfield, and plans to marry Agnes, she is none too keen. Micawber has been hired as secretary, and discovers that Heep has been acting fraudulently.
David’s great-aunt’s financial situation has worsened so David has to make a living instead of training as an apprentice proctor.
His other school friend, Steerforth, dishonours Emily and deserts her in Europe. Her uncle Mr Peggotty finds her,
With his great-aunt’s fortunes restored she advances the money for Peggotty to take Emily, Mrs Gummidge and the Micawbers to Australia where they find security and happiness.
David witnesses Ham trying to assist a ship, he dies in a fierce storm, Steerforth was aboard the ship and dies too.
David works as a secretary for his ex-teacher Dr Strong, then learns shorthand, and with Traddles help becomes a parliamentary reporter for a newspaper.
He becomes a fiction writer, which brings him fame and fortune. With his situation changed David falls in love with Dora Spenlow and marries her. The marriage is not without problems. She dies in childbirth and asks Agnes to take care of David.
David goes to Switzerland for three years to recover from the loss and realises that he loves Agnes Wickfield. He returns to London, marries her and they live together contentedly. They have five children, including a daughter named after Betsey Trotwood.
Copperfield, David – the main protagonist
Copperfield, Clara – his mother, innocently childish
Peggotty, Clara – the faithful servant to the Copperfield family
Barkis, Freddie – he marries Peggotty, ‘Barkis is willin’!’
Trotwood, Betsey – David’s great-aunt who raises him
Micawber, Wilkins – a kind-hearted, optimistic gentleman
Murdstone, Edward – the original antagonist
Heep, Uriah – the later antagonist, presents himself as ‘umble
Chillip, Mr – a local doctor
Murdstone, Jane – Edward’s sister, dominates his mother
Peggotty, Daniel – Yarmouth fisherman, his nephew and niece
Peggotty, Emily – Daniel’s niece, and David’s early crush
Peggotty, Ham – Daniel’s nephew tall and strong
Gummidge, Mrs – the widow of Daniel’s partner
Creakle, Mr Regis – headmaster at Salem House school
Steerforth, James – an older student at Salem House
Traddles, Tommy – an older student at Salem House
Strong, Doctor Marcus – director at Canterbury school
Wickfield, Agnes – David’s eventual second wife
Clickett (The Orfling)
Copperfield, David Sr
Crewler, Reverend Horace
Crewler, Sophy – Traddles love interest
Dartle, Rosa – cousin to Steerforth, in love with him
Dick, Mr – an unusual individual lives with Betsey Trotwood
Endell, Martha – friend of Emily’s who has gone off the tracks
Grayper, Mr and Mrs
Gulpidge, Mr and Mrs
Heep, Mr – father to Uriah
Heep, Mrs Edie – mother to Uriah
Jorkins, Tom – seldom seen partner of Mr Spenlow
Larkins, Miss (eldest)
Larkins, Miss (youngest)
Littimer – valet to Steerforth
Maldon, Jack – childhood sweetheart of Annie Markham
Markleham, Mrs Diane – Annie’s mother
Mell, Charles – the only teacher who befriends David
Micawber, Emma – Wilkins Micawber’s wife
Mills, Julia – friend to Dora Spenlow
Mithers and Lady Mithers
Mowcher, Miss – a dwarf, Steerforth’s hairdresser
Paragon, Mary Anne
Sharp, Mr Hector – the chief teacher at Salem House
Spenlow, Dora – David’s first wife
Spenlow, Francis – employs David as an apprentice proctor
Spiker, Mr and Mrs Henry
Steerforth, Mrs Emma – wealthy widowed mother
Wickfield, Mr Brad – father of Agnes, lawyer to Betsey
I – May 1849 (chapters 1–3);
II – June 1849 (chapters 4–6);
III – July 1849 (chapters 7–9);
IV – August 1849 (chapters 10–12);
V – September 1849 (chapters 13–15);
VI – October 1849 (chapters 16–18);
VII – November 1849 (chapters 19–21);
VIII – December 1849 (chapters 22–24);
IX – January 1850 (chapters 25–27);
X – February 1850 (chapters 28–31);
XI – March 1850 (chapters 32–34);
XII – April 1850 (chapters 35–37);
XIII – May 1850 (chapters 38–40);
XIV – June 1850 (chapters 41–43);
XV – July 1850 (chapters 44–46);
XVI – August 1850 (chapters 47–50);
XVII – September 1850 (chapters 51–53);
XVIII – October 1850 (chapters 54–57);
XIX-XX – November 1850 (chapters 58–64).