Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life,
or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
(David Copperfield, page 1).
Considered somewhat autobiographical, Charles Dickens published David Copperfield in 1849-50 (After Oliver Twist, but before A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations). Like most of Dickens' novels, David Copperfield originally came out as a monthly serial between May 1849 and November 1850 in 32-page pamphlets.
The protagonist David Copperfield narrates the story, beginning with his birth continuing through all of the traditional rites of passage. However, I don't think Dickens intended David Copperfield to be loved for its clever plot or any suspenseful surprises. I think he wanted it to be like our own lives, marked with many of the same milestones and events, but made memorable by endearing characters. For instance, Uriah Heep is a famous villain for a reason -- not because he does any particularly dastardly deeds, but because of the character sketching, the mannerisms, the quirks, and simple strokes that Dickens uses to create him.
It's a delightful read (not as elegant nor as creepy as Great Expectations
) with many charming characters
and some rather heartbreaking moments
-- really quite tragic
if only because they are told in a narrative that, while sweetly childish
, speaks with the wisdom of sad experiences
. It reminds the reader how much one sees and feels as a child.
I've included the Preface to David Copperfield, as I think Dickens' own words about the book explain better what he felt for it. It is as follows:
"I remarked in the original preface to this book that I did not find it easy to get sufficiently far away from it
, in the first sensations of having finished it, to refer to it with the composure which this formal heading would seem to require. My interest in it was so recent and strong
, and my mind was so divided between pleasure and regret
--pleasure in the achievement of so long a design, regret in the separation from many companions--that I was in danger of wearying the reader with personal confidences and private emotions
"Besides which, all that I could have said of the story, to any purpose, I had endeavoured to say in it.
"It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of a two years' imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of himself into the shadowy world
, when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him for ever. Yet, I had nothing else to tell
; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which might be of less moment still), that no one can ever believe this Narrative, in the reading, more than I believed it in the writing
"So true are these avowals at the present day that I can now only take the reader into one confidence more. Of all my books, I like this the best.
It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them. But, like many fond parents, I have in my hearts a favorite child. And his name is David Copperfield.
I will write more about the characters later, but I think this will do as a general overview. I will start noding the characters below....(WORK IN PROGRESS)
Peggotty or Clara Peggotty or C.P. Barkis
Clara Copperfield or Mrs. David Copperfield
David Copperfield's mother
"I was in the carrier's cart when I heard her calling to me. I looked out, and she stood at the garden-gate alone, holding her baby up in her arms for me to see. It was cold still weather; and not a hair of her head, nor a fold of her dress, was stirred, as she looked intently at me, holding up her child."
David Copperfield's wife
"I was not merely over head and ears in love with her, but I was saturated through and through. Enough love might have been wrung out of me, metaphorically speaking, to drown anybody in; and yet there would have remained enough within me, and all over me, to pervade my entire existence."