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David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield (1850)

by Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,570207204 (4.1)4 / 1057
  1. 161
    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (ncgraham)
  2. 100
    Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (aces)
  3. 50
    Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: David Copperfield is partly autobiographical, and it's fascinating to compare it to Tomalin's fascinating, shrewd biography.
  4. 30
    Dickens' London by Charles Dickens (BINDINGSTHATLAST)
  5. 20
    The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (kara.shamy)
  6. 20
    Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Bildungsroman
  7. 10
    A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: In A Tale of Two Cities Dickens reworked the ideas around self-sacrifice that he used in The Battle of Life into a full length novel
  8. 11
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (kara.shamy)
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English (193)  Spanish (6)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  All languages (207)
Showing 1-5 of 193 (next | show all)
I know many people consider it one of Dickens's best-- my Penguin Classics edition's introduction by Jeremy Tambling makes the case that it unites the "early" Dickens with the "late" Dickens-- but for me, I think it's solidly middle-tier. It's no Great Expectations or Our Mutual Friend, but neither is it as dull as Hard Times or A Tale of Two Cities.

The first quarter or so of the novel, however, surely ranks among Dickens's best writing. Young David has a horrible life, and Dickens executes it with his trademark combination of melancholy, comedy, and well-observed character. The story of David's actual birth is hilarious (I subjected a lot of people to it after reading it), but the story of David's life with his stepfather and step-aunt is depressing and hard to take, especially what ends up happening to his mother. The stuff about David at school is funny; David's attempt to leave London and find his aunt is depressing and funny all at once. His relationship with Peggotty is touching.

The effect is all aided by some nice narrative choices by Dickens. We (and I kind of blame the modernists for this) like to stereotype Victorian fiction as being very staid. But there are some bits of David Copperfield we might call "experimental," except I think Dickens was less concerned with experimenting and more concerned with just telling the story the best way possible. Though most of the story is told in the first-person past tense, every now and again the narrator (an older David; the full title is The Personal History and Experience of David Copperfield the Younger) shifts into the present tense as he re-enacts a particularly vivid memory. It's a neat technique and usually very effective, isolating key moments and heightening their emotional repercussions-- because you can tell how important they still are to the narrator all those years later, so much so they he thinks of them as still happening.

After David reunites with his aunt, though, I found the energy of the novel dissipated. The last three-quarters just don't have the same drive as the first quarter. Not that it's ever bad: nothing here ever sinks as low as the tedium of the middle of A Tale of Two Cities or Hard Times, and there are lots of good jokes still (I liked when David tries to get out of his apprenticeship at the law firm). But for big chunks, the stakes are vague, and I have to admit I never really cared about Uriah Heep. But every now and then you still get that flash of Dickensian brilliance, and the ending is excellent, so there you go.
  Stevil2001 | Mar 16, 2019 |
Mr. Dick and Aunt Betsey are the coolest people this side of Robert and Clara Schumann!


Uriah Heep needs to be enrolled in an emergency self-esteem course.


Pain comes to all, yes, even to Steerforth.


“I want to feel a hundred times more thankful than I do.”


Steerforth the tempter.


“I want to solve the problem of corruption in this country!”

*five seconds later*

“I want to fall in love!”


I like how the lost-Emily subplot continues; it’s a good example of the length paying off.


Well that’s enough marriage-plot; I think it’s time to get lost in London.


Martha: .... so I give up, in despair! Despair!
Louise Hay: Just say, ‘I—‘
Martha: Nope! I’m despicable, the end!
Louise Hay: *shrugs, like: I have no idea what to do with this chick*
Gabby Bernstein: *deep breath* Martha, if you only knew what a great novel you’re a part of, you wouldn’t feel so bad.


Uriah Heep: I’m so humble; I over-correct; I’m Important.
Martha: Worthless, worthless.
Uriah Heep: over, over, over, over-correct.
Martha: Worthless, worthless.
Uriah Heep: But Impor, Impor, Impor-tant.
  smallself | Feb 8, 2019 |
Reading Dickens in publication order, this novel has the best first two hundred pages yet. Aided by Dickens' proficient use of first-person perspective, David is entirely sympathetic as a child. It's the best grasp of childhood I've read since Joyce's Portrait while David suffers awfully under the Murdstones' tyranny, and Aunt Betsey is my favourite Dickens character yet. Up to this point I was readying this novel's praises.

But then ... the novel inexplicably turns away from David and he is merely witness to various drama. There's a good assortment of the usual wonderful characters here that Dickens can always muster: Pegotty and her brother are earthy and loving; Mr. Dick is a hoot; Uriah is plenty conniving, albeit not the nastiest villain Dickens has shown me (that's still Pecksniff); Emily and Agnes are only dull angels but Rosa Dartle is under a darker cast, tremendous in her vindictiveness but justified in her heart. Even so, it wasn't enough to make this portion of the story interesting, while David remained a non-player and the novel transmitted no sense of direction.

But then ... David stands up to a villain, finds romance, and the novel blooms once more. Its momentum is again largely driven by his actions and choices, and from there to the end I enjoyed all the rest. It has a neat and tidy ending that's full of charm, if unlikely in some details, and it all concludes on a high note. If only it weren't for that middle portion. ( )
2 vote Cecrow | Nov 7, 2018 |
Written in 1850, Dickens' 16th major work, and 8th novel, is a solid four-star work. Combining the picaresque bildungsroman from Dickens' early period with the more complex character studies he was becoming known for, it's perhaps his best book to this point. Perhaps because parts of the novel are autobiographical, David starts to feel a bit real in a sense that perhaps no other character in his canon had perhaps yet reached. There's a wonderful array of supporting characters and a real sense of forward movement and thematic unity. I'm ultimately more in tune with Dickens' last works, but David Copperfield is another rung on Dickens' ladder to immortality. He's not a Tolstoy or a Flaubert, and we shouldn't expect him to be. He treats character more as something to be chronicled than to be dissected. Nevertheless, there are many great, detailed little moments in David's life, and the world around him, that suggest the continuous development of this great author. ( )
2 vote therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
I finished this book today with a sigh of relief. I love Dickens's novels usually, which kept me going, but I found this one a chore: hellishly long (837 pages of small print), a superfluity of characters and caricatures, all of whom are afflicted with verbal diarrhoea; and burdened with a plodding narrative and a colourless central character. Much of the dialogue was mawkish, even by this author's standards. For hardened Dickens fans only. ( )
1 vote cappybear | Oct 14, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 193 (next | show all)
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 (172 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dickens, CharlesAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Austen, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blount, TrevorForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buck Jr., Philo MelvynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Degen, PaulIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, George H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gunnarsson, JakobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, EdgarAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malden, R. H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
PhizIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Priestley, J. B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, EdithEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tambling, JeremyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary 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
This Christmas book is cordially inscribed to my English friends in Switzerland.
First words
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.
Once upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought.
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.)
Disambiguation notice
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)

(see all 8 descriptions)

David Copperfield, whose stepfather casts him out after the death of David's mother, lives through trials and tribulations, first at a boys' school and then as a young man in London before he goes to live with his great-aunt and eventually finds happiness.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140439447, 0141031751, 0141199164, 0141343826

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