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David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
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David Copperfield (1850)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (172)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (182)
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my own analogy-

" David Copperfield is to a fine seven course meal what modern fiction is to a drive thru burger joint."

Excellent character development, timeless story and a wonderful,leisurely read.Enjoyed it immensely!!!! ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
Another Dickens down! Not the best but still well worth it. Best character by far is Micawber. Hilarious. ( )
  polarbear123 | Jul 28, 2016 |
[From Ten Novels and Their Authors Heinemann, 1954, pp. 144-51:]

[Spoilers ahead!]

In a famous essay Matthew Arnold insists that poetry to be truly excellent must have a high seriousness, and because he finds it lacking in Chaucer, refuses him, though praising him handsomely, a place among the greatest poets. Arnold was too austere not to look upon humour with a faint misgiving, and I don’t suppose he could ever have been brought to admit that there might be as high a seriousness in Rabelais’ laughter as in Milton’s desire to justify the works of God to man. But I see his point, and it does not apply only to poetry. It may be because this high seriousness is lacking in Dickens’s novels that, for all their great merits, they leave us faintly dissatisfied. When we read them now with the great French and Russian novels in mind, and not only those, but George Eliot’s, we are taken aback by their naïveté. In comparison with them, Dickens’s are scarcely adult. But, of course, we must remember that we do not read the novel he wrote. We have changed, and they have changed with us. It is impossible to recapture the emotions with which his contemporaries read them, as they came hot from the press.

For my part, I find myself still immensely amused by Dickens’s humour, but his pathos leaves me cold. I am inclined to say that he had strong emotions, but no heart. I hasten to qualify that. He had a generous heart, a passionate sympathy with the poor and oppressed, and, as we know, he took a persistent and effective interest in social reform. But it was an actor’s heart, by which I mean that he could feel intensely an emotion that he wished to depict in the same way as an actor playing a tragic part can feel the emotion he represents. ‘What’s he to Hecuba or Hecuba to him?’ […] I have no doubt that Dickens was sincere, but it was an actor’s sincerity; and that, perhaps, is why now, no matter how he piled up the agony, we feel that his pathos was not quite genuine and so are no longer moved by it.

But we have no right to ask of an author more than he can give, and if Dickens lacked that high seriousness which Matthew Arnold demanded of the greatest poets, he had much else. He was a very great novelist. He had enormous gifts. He thought David Copperfield the best of all his books. An author is not always a good judge of his own work, but in this case Dickens’s judgement seems to me correct. David Copperfield, as I suppose everyone knows, is in great part autobiographical; but Dickens was writing a novel, not an autobiography, and though he drew much of his material from his own life, he made only such use of it as suited his purpose. For the rest, he fell back on his vivid imagination. He was never much of a reader, literary conversation bored him, and such acquaintance with literature as he made later in life seems to have had little effect in lessening the very strong impressions he had received from the works he first read as a boy at Chatham. Of these it was, I think, the novels of Smollett that in the long run chiefly influenced him. The figures Smollett presents to the readers are not so much larger than life as more highly coloured. They are “humours” rather than characters.

So to see people well suited the idiosyncrasy of Dickens’s temper. Mr Micawber was drawn from his father. John Dickens was grandiloquent in speech and shifty in money matters, but he was no fool and far from incompetent; he was industrious, kindly and affectionate. We know what Dickens made of him. If Falstaff is the greatest comic character in literature, Mr. Micawber is the greatest but one. Dickens has been blamed, to my mind unjustly, for making him end up as a respectable magistrate in Australia, and some critics have thought that he should have remained reckless and improvident to the end. Australia was a sparsely settled country. Mr. Micawber was a man of fine presence, of some education and of flamboyant address; I do not see why, in that environment and with those advantages, he should not have attained official position. But it was not only in his creation of comic characters that Dickens was masterly. Steerforth’s smooth servant is admirably drawn; he has a mysterious, sinister quality which sends cold shivers down one’s back. Uriah Heep smacks of what used to be called transpontine melodrama; but for all that he is a powerful, horrifying figure, and he is most skilfully presented. Indeed, David Copperfield is filled with characters of the most astonishing variety, vividness and originality. There never were such people as the Micawbers, Peggotty and Barkis, Traddles, Betsy Trotwood and Mr Dick, Uriah Heep and his mother: they are the fantastic inventions of Dickens’s exultant imagination; but they have so much vigour, they are so consistent, they are presented with so much verisimilitude and with so much conviction, that while you read you cannot but believe in them. They may not be real; they are very much alive.

Dickens’s general method of creating character was to exaggerate the traits, peculiarities, foibles, of his models and to put into the mouth of each one some phrase, or string of phrases, which stamped his quintessence on the reader’s mind. He never showed the development of characters and, on the whole, what his creatures were at the beginning they remain at the end. (There are in Dickens’s work one or two exceptions, but the change of nature he has indicated is highly unconvincing; it is occasioned to bring about a happy ending.) The danger of drawing character in this way is that the limits of plausibility may be exceeded, and the result is caricature. Caricature is all very well when the author presents you with character at whom you can laugh, as you can at Mr Micawber, but it will not serve when he expects you to sympathize. Dickens was never particularly successful with his female characters unless, like Mrs. Micawber, with her “I will never desert Mr. Micawber”, and Betsy Trotwood, they were caricatured. Dora, drawn after Dickens’s first love, Maria Beadnell, is too silly and too childish; Agnes, drawn after Mary and Georgy Hogarth, is too good and too sensible: they are both fearfully tiresome. Little Em’ly seems to me a failure: she only got what she asked for. Her ambition was to be a “lady”, and in the hope, presumably, that she would be able to get Steerforth to marry her, she ran away with him. She seems to have made him a most unsatisfactory mistress, sullen, tearful and sorry for herself; and it is no wonder that he grew tired of her. The most baffling female character in David Copperfield is Rosa Dartle. I suspect that Dickens meant to make greater use of her in his story than he did, and if he did not do so, it was because he feared to offend his public. I can only suppose that Steerforth had been her lover and she hated him because he had abandoned her, but, notwithstanding, loved him still with a jealous, hungry, vindictive love. Dickens here invented a character that Balzac would have made much of. Of the leading actors in David Copperfield, Steerforth is the only one that is drawn “straight”, using the word as actors do when they speak of a “straight part”. Dickens has given the reader an admirable impression of Steerforth’s charm, grace and elegance, his friendliness, his kindliness, his amiable gift of being able to get on with all kinds of people, his gaiety, his courage, his selfishness, his unscrupulousness, his recklessness, his callousness. He has drawn here a portrait of the sort of man that most of us have known, who gives delight wherever he goes and leaves disaster behind him. […] To-day, the novelist is under the necessity of making the events he relates not only likely, but so far as possible inevitable. Dickens was under no such constraint. That Steerforth, coming from Portugal by sea after an absence from England of some years, should be wrecked and drowned in sight of Yarmouth just when David Copperfield had gone there on a brief visit to his old friends, is a coincidence that really puts too great a strain on the reader’s credulity. If Steerforth had to die in order to satisfy the Victorian demand that vice should be punished, Dickens might surely have thought of a more plausible way of bringing this about.

It was a misfortune for English literature that Keats died too soon and Wordsworth too late; it was a misfortune almost as serious that, just at the time when the greatest novelists our country has produced were in full possession of their gifts, the methods of publication then prevalent encouraged, to the detriment of their production, the tendency to diffuseness and prolixity and digression to which by their nature English novelists have for the most part been inclined. The Victorian novelists were working men who lived by their pen. They had to accept contracts to provide a definite amount of copy for eighteen, twenty or twenty-four numbers, and they had so to arrange their narrative as to end each number in such a way as to induce the reader the buy the following one. They doubtless had in mind the main lines of the story they set out to tell, but we know that they were satisfied if they had two or three numbers written before publication started. They wrote the rest as they were needed, trusting that their invention would provide them with enough material to fill the requisite number of pages; and we know, from their own admissions, that on occasion their invention failed them and they had to make the best job they could when they had nothing to write about. Sometimes it happened that their story was finished when there were perhaps two or three numbers still to be written, and then they had to use any device they could think of to delay the conclusion. Naturally their novels were shapeless and long-winded; they were forced to digression and prolixity.

[…]

Dickens did not escape the danger that confronts the author of a semi-autobiographical novel in which himself is the principal character. David Copperfield at the age of ten was put to work by his stern stepfather, as Charles Dickens was by his father, and suffered from the “degradation” of having to mix with boys of his own age whom he did not consider his social equals, in the same way as Dickens, in the fragment of autobiography which he gave to Forster, persuaded himself that he had suffered. Dickens did all he could to excite the reader’s sympathy for his hero, and indeed on the celebrated journey to Dover, when David ran away in order to seek the protection of his aunt Betsy Trotwood, a delightful, amusing character, he loads his dice without scruple. Innumerable readers have found the narration of this escapade wonderfully pathetic. I am made of sterner stuff. I am surprised that the little boy should have been such a ninny as to let everyone he came across rob and cheat him. After all, he had been in the factory for some months and had wandered about London early and late; one would have thought that the other boys at the factory, even though they were not up to his social standard, would have taught him a thing or two; he had lived with the Micawbers and pawned their bits and pieces for them, and had visited them at the Marshalsea: if he had really been the bright boy he is described to be, even at that tender age he would surely have acquired some knowledge of the world and enough sharpness to fend for himself. But it is not only in his childhood that David Copperfield shows himself sadly incompetent. He is incapable of coping with a difficulty. His weakness with Dora, his lack of common sense in dealing with the ordinary problems of domestic life, are almost more than one can bear; and he is so obtuse that he does not guess that Agnes is in love with him. I cannot persuade myself that in the end he became the successful novelist we are told he did. If he wrote novels, I suspect that they were more like those of Mrs. Henry Wood than those of Charles Dickens. It is strange that his creator should have given him none of his own drive, vitality and exuberance. David was slim and good-looking; and he had charm, or he would not have attracted the affection of almost everyone he encountered; he was honest, kindly and conscientious; but he was surely a bit of a fool. He remains the least interesting person in the book. Nowhere does he show himself in so poor a light, so feckless, so incapable of dealing with an awkward situation, as in the monstrous scene between Little Em’ly and Rosa Dartle in the attic in Soho which David witnesses but, for the very flimsiest reason, makes no attempt to stop. This scene affords a good example how the method of writing a novel in the first person may result in the narrator being forced into a position so shockingly false, so unworthy of a hero of fiction, that the reader is justly indignant with him. If described in the third person, from the standpoint of omniscience, the scene would still have been melodramatic and repellent, but, even though with difficulty, credible. But of course the pleasure one gets from reading David Copperfield does not arise from any persuasion one may have that life is, or ever was, anything like what Dickens describes. That is not to depreciate him. Fiction, like the kingdom of heaven, has many mansions, and the author may invite you to visit whichever he chooses. One has just as much right to exist as another, but you must suit yourselves to the surroundings into which you are led. […] David Copperfield is a fantastication, sometimes gay, sometimes pathetic, on life, composed out of recollections and wish-fulfilments by a man of lively imagination and warm feelings. You must read it in the same spirit as you read As You Like It. It provides an entertainment almost as delightful.
  WSMaugham | Jul 17, 2016 |
Coming to David Copperfield (DC) as an adult, I enjoyed DC for its big sloppy storyline, gobs of predictable but heart-rending melodrama, and vivid development of characters big and small. In particular, Dickens’s portrayals of Tommy Traddles, Uriah Heep, and Wilkins Micawber were masterful. Despite DC’s length and ponderous language, Dickens engaged me from the start and held my attention throughout. In the end, I knew he could be counted on to award each character his or her just desserts. The book was a relaxing and fun escape! ( )
  EpicTale | Jun 26, 2016 |

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

5 stars

Audio book version narrated by Simon Vance - 34hrs

I think I first met David Copperfield about 40 years ago. I’ve read and reread this book many times. I was very, very choosey when it came to investing time and money on an audio version. Simon Vance did not let me down, and performing this book must have been a gargantuan task. Every voice from the incurable Mr. Micawber to the obscure Miss Mowcher was exactly as I expected them to be. Some of his female voices simpered annoyingly, but then the characters simper annoyingly so that is as it should be. Vance’s interpretations of Miss Betsy (“Janet! Donkeys! ), and Mrs. Micawber (“I never will desert you, Micawber!) were perfect. When David tried to sell his jacket to the dreadful old man (Oh, my lungs and liver, what do you want? Oh, goroo, gorooo), Vance had me feeling so scared I wanted to run away myself.
This book is so full of wonderful characters and so many little alleyways of sub-plots that I’ve always forgotten bits of it between readings. Listening instead of reading forced my attention to descriptive nuances that I might have missed. I remembered, of course, how slimy and despicable Uriah Heep was, but I’d forgotten how sarcastically funny he could be.
(“You know what I want” said my aunt. “A straight-waistcoat,” said he.) I’d completely forgotten Miss Mowcher and her revenge on the evil Mr. Littimer.
Now I’m completely filled up with David Copperfield trivia. I highly recommend this book and this recording.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
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David Copperfield relates the story of his life - transmuting many of the early experience of his creator - right from his birth to his attainment of settled maturity and successful authorship. On his journey, David encounters a gallery of memorable characters, kind, cruel or grotesque: Mr Micawber, Uriah Heep and Steerforth are among the many who shape his development.

By turns absorbingly comic, dramatic, ironic and tender, the novel brings into energetic life the society and preoccupations of the mid-Victorian world
added by letonia | editPenguin Popular Classics
 

» Add other authors (166 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Austen, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buck Jr., Philo MelvynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, George H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gunnarsson, JakobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, EdgarAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lang, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malden, R. H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
PhizIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Priestley, J. B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, EdithEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Affectionately inscribed to the Hon. Mr and Mrs Richard Watson, of Rockingham, Northamptonshire
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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. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.
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I shall never desert Mr. Micawber
To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is the main work for David Copperfield. It should not be combined with any adaptation, abridgement, student edition, etc. If this is your book but you have an abridged or adapted version, please update your title and ISBN, so that your book can be combined with the correct abridgement or adaptation.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140439447, Paperback)

Beginning in 1854 up through to his death in 1870, Charles Dickens abridged and adapted many of his more popular works and performed them as staged readings. This version, each page illustrated with lovely watercolor paintings, is a beautiful example of one of these adaptations.

Because it is quite seriously abridged, the story concentrates primarily on the extended family of Mr. Peggotty: his orphaned nephew, Ham; his adopted niece, Little Emily; and Mrs. Gummidge, self-described as "a lone lorn creetur and everythink went contrairy with her." When Little Emily runs away with Copperfield's former schoolmate, leaving Mr. Peggotty completely brokenhearted, the whole family is thrown into turmoil. But Dickens weaves some comic relief throughout the story with the introduction of Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, and David's love for his pretty, silly "child-wife," Dora. Dark nights, mysterious locations, and the final destructive storm provide classic Dickensian drama. Although this is not David Copperfield in its entirety, it is a great introduction to the world and the language of Charles Dickens.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:32 -0400)

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A young boy in nineteenth-century London runs away from an unhappy home, finds employment in a wine factory, and becomes acquainted with a wide variety of characters in the city streets.

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