David Copperfield Read-Along, Chapters 19&20

Chapter 19

  • David is done with high school. He has NO CLUE what his job should be, which is interesting as David often has a surplus of ideas and direction. At present he also doesn’t have much of a vocational outlook towards work, but then I think a lot of the ‘I want to work towards something good in the world’ vs ‘I want a job’ is really classed, and perhaps indicative of a later cultural stage of thinking about work? There’s an optimistic reading of such desire, but perhaps Fromm et al might think in terms of—this is capitalism so having colonised psychologies that we believe we can Do and Mean in the world/actualise ourselves primarily via career success and productivity.
  • Betsey’s like, give it a think over a couple weeks’ break? And so David goes to London, en route to going to see Peggotty on a surprise visit.
  • In London David, gayer than ever, is swept away by the magic of the theatre!! and runs into his ex. Re-met Steerforth continues to be flattered by David’s high opinion of him, but ultimately unable to commit any direction in life, or to any lasting or meaningful relationship that involves self-criticism, growth and responsibility. What a fuckeroni.Picture1We’ve all been there mate, dreaming of Ancient Rome, Steerforth and Friendship. I too have been a young, useless gay, as have we all.Picture2

 

Chapter 20

  • David and Steerforth go on a nice London Date. The gay energy is undeniable but so is the fuckboi energy, and there is nothing I abhor more deeply. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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  • So David spends the weekend at Steerforth’s, meeting his weird mom and cousin/fuckbuddy??/frenemy Rosa Dartle (best played by Jacqueline Pearce). David is terrified of and turned on by Steerforth’s pet passive-aggressive bitchqueen, who apparently took the same ‘how to lose friends, but influence people’ conversational correspondence course as Uriah.
  • This is a really good conversation, with Rosa uncomfortably skinning James’ easy self-centred assumptions. David’s believing the best of this situation without due cause is about to become unsafe for him and devastating for people in more precarious positions. For example they’re about to go down together (for a lark, on Steerforth’s part), to visit the Peggotys. This will end badly.
  • I’m not sure Steerforth’s mom really gets what Rosa is doing in these exchanges. Which sort of furthers a thought I’ve had before, that actually maybe a lot of people don’t half-get, in the way David always does, that Uriah is mocking them. Maybe Rosa and Uriah’s shit pleases people who want to hear that kind of thing, and only makes someone like David, already a bit innately ill at ease with the underlying assumptions in play, uncomfortable.
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David Copperfield Read-Along, Chapters 17&18

Chapter 17

  • So the Pettiest Bourgeoisie has made some solid hatevows, and this wee 11 year old jackass is like ‘hey 15 year old who’s been a law clerk 5 years, I could teach you Latin in my spare time’

Uriah: gee. Thanks. Gosh. WOW.

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  • When do they have this conversation? When Uriah has guilt-tripped David into coming to tea with his mother, which is a normal and straight thing to passive-aggressively whine at an acquaintance about.
  • There’s a lot of BIZARRE ott shit about ‘oh if only your father had lived to see this day!!’ re: David’s visit, which is 1. fake as shit, 2. taking the piss, 3. figures David as a fiancé, like, this is the reaction to that, but displaced here??
  • Then the two Heeps work to squeeze David’s whole life story out of him which I guess is supposed to be about possible future evil plan use, but it never quite is (nothing about Wickfield’s port drinking wasn’t already physically obvious in his complexion to a ten-year-old), and again, the emotional intelligence, play with femme performativity, closeness of Mother-and-self is all a bit ‘proto-Psycho, but what if repeatedly stabbing the middle classes with the knife of the spectre of the mobility that’s supposed to underlie this stage of capitalism but actually doesn’t at all’?
  • Micawber shows back up in the narrative, walking by the Heep’s house and seeing David RIGHT THERE. David is a bit worried Micawber will rumble his urchin-past, and tired of choking down the world’s worst scones in the company of the world’s nosiest people, so he heads out with Micawber and has a Homies Rendezvous with him and the Never-Deserting.
  • Y’all will be shocked to learn they’ve still got money troubles.
  • This Siegfried Farnon Hot Topic Goth ass motherfucker, who among us is not sick of Micawber’s shit??

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  • I mean Micawber is right, but like, people would have died, so best not to imagine?

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  • This is interesting though, because while Micawber is only indulging in his habit of bigging-up people, he’s never actually wrong in that? David is indeed super capable, and will prove so. Traddles will go on to become an important judge. Uriah decides to love himself after his Wickfield Fraud goes south and nearly takes down the Bank of England in a LEGENDARY fraud scheme. Mrs Micawber is constantly bigging-up her husband, but per his eventual success in Australia, she is also right??
  • Drunk white people have been trying to sing along to ‘La Bamba’ since the dawn of time.

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  • The Micawbers leave, and David is like to be real it was great to see you, and great to see the back of you. :/ They are a lot of work.
  • Earlier there was some Subplot Shit about David’s good friend, a young woman who’s a newly-wed with a much older husband (David’s headmaster, Doctor Strong). Her mom is obnoxious and wants New Husband to support every indigent family member they have going, including Annie’s slimy cousin, the aforementioned Jack Maldon, who the Doctor buys a post for in India. Is there anything going on between Annie and her hot but too-perpetually-bored-to-eat-his-own-dinner asshole cousin? No of course there isn’t, because Annie’s not a fucking moron and Jack sucks large, but later catty bitch Uriah will start some drama about it for under-supported reasons that pretty much only make sense if he’s fucking with David for the sake of doing so/because he’s desperate for attention!

 

Chapter 18

  • We are now treated to a Growing Up Montage because Dickens doesn’t know what the cinematic gaze is, but he loves it. Important in this process: David wearing so much hair gel he looks like the Tenth Doctor. David having UNDYING CRUSHESSSSS on Every Girl.
  • Wtf is ‘turning in her toes’ and why is it a problem? (I am informed it is: bad posture.)
  • Spoilers: David gets his ass handed to him in pieces.

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  • The moral is if you’re five-nothing and gayer than a field of pansies don’t—try to be butch. Just. Just find a butch. Ask for help. Know your lane.
  • ‘In retrospect, bathing in Axe body spray twice daily was both expensive and a mistake.’

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  • Spoilers: it doesn’t work out with Miss Larkins, who is fucking 30 to David’s 17.
  • FURTHER SPOILERS: David works hard and becomes head boy, yay. David works HARDER and manages to not lose to the butcher!!! I only believe it because of David’s pure angry terrier tenacity.
  • Agnes grows from looking like a shrunken version of the 2-d painting of her dead mom to looking like an exact copy I’m not kidding this is the text someone fucking save this very boring child.
  • Wickfield becomes more of an alcoholic. Which is like character growth.

David Copperfield Read-Along, Chapter 16

 

  • I should say something about Mr Wickfield and his daughter Agnes having entered the narrative, but Wickfield is a weird figure. David always thinks he’s a bit better than he is, in some ways bc he’s handsome, nice to DAVID, and has an Air. This is all shit David’s a bit weak for.
  • The book does know Wickfield is a bit Much, though it’s gentler than I might be. Maybe because the perspective is inevitably filtered via David, who’s like THANKS FOR TAKING ME IN&FEEDING ME, LUV2NOT STARVE IN THE STREET!! And thus not available for super fine judgments on this family, even when he’s older. (David loves to construct fictive engagements with families he can be part of, it’s one of his favourite ways of relating to his friends and especially his love interests. David is HUNGRY for family.) And to be fair to David, compared to Murdstone, Wickfield’s angelic. I don’t think David knows until quite late in his life, after working hard to understand as much, that you can be in pain/a victim of others’ bullshit and hurting other people–as a child he’s inclined to see people as either threats or co-victims entitled to his empathy.
  • Wickfield’s alcoholism and monomania drain and stifle Agnes (see also: Little Nell). He’s not at all a good professional mentor to Uriah: their business relationship is the nominal charity of a Bad Advisor who makes his student do the graft.
  • Wickfield probably doesn’t deserve the way Uriah grows into the constraints placed on him and uses them to torment his employer. He doesn’t DO anything wrong. He’s a Nice Guy (in a system that doesn’t ask that much of him, that inclines to abusive power relations). But he doesn’t do much RIGHT either, and he hugely burdens the people around him?
  • Making Agnes his Little Housekeeper is a bit jeepers-creepers overbearing protective with soft incest vibes (though I know he NEVER did anything reprehensible in that way). Agnes is REALLY drained out, with an underdeveloped self directed towards making men happy and occupying an Angel of the House moral performativity.
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  • People think Dickens is a BROAD WRITER, but this one verb, ‘pushed’, is going to come up hundreds of pages later as a synecdoche for Uriah’s absolute hatred of Maldon et al and such people’s total dismissal of him. It’s the Wickfields Jack apologises to for simply intruding on, not Uriah, who he shoves.

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  • Between two gentlemen in 1830, that kind of physical insult would range from being something the offender was apologetic about to a duelling offence. But Uriah’s a sort of servant, which is like a sort of animal, right? It’s key that David alone bothers to notice, but, to Uriah’s extreme frustration, not to notice.  
  • Uriah is being a sarcastic cunt: he is not Grateful ™. Given Victorian miasma disease theory, I’d argue Uriah believes that the council ‘generously!!’ giving his dad the sexton gig killed him. (Working digging graves, to the Victorian understanding of contagion, is about the least salubrious gig possible.)

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  • He’s worked here since 10, and he’s right: David is Destined for Agnes and the practice (think about who will eventually inherit this money–it is David), not him, who’s actually worked hard to enrich this firm with minimal support. There’s a sort of primal, moral understanding that people who work the land ought to own it one doesn’t need Marx to grasp.

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David Copperfield Read-Along, Chapter 15

  • Back at it—Betsey still has 0 fucks.

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  • Betsey has decided David needs any kind of formal education that doens’t suck total ass, so takes him to her lawyer, Mr Wickfield, to be like yo what’s the best boy’s school in town? Wickfield angles for David to board at his house because he’s got a daughter about David’s age, and thinks it’ll be nice for her to Know Anyone, I guess. More on why she doesn’t already in a little bit.
  • A good quarter of the way into the novel we run into Uriah Heep, whose life has been running on a parallel course to David’s (father died early, sent out to work at 10, here at Wickfield’s). Uriah is here to out-gay even David, be ginger, ruin his enemies and fuck with the bourgeoisie.
  • WHAT A LITTLE WEIRDO?? This is never explained, we never delve into Uriah’s strong Horse Girl energies. Also the portrait suggests a wild Bastard Uriah Wickfield theory. I want to go back to the 70s, call myself ‘Eunice Bumptington’ and publish on this.

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  • If the physical descriptions often sound like Peake to you, especially re Heep, it’s bc he straight up lifted a lot of them word for word. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Uriah knows David is the protagonist and he isn’t: somehow this beanpole motherfucker knows the novel is a bourgeois form, that he is in one, and that it’s not his. He’s OBSESSED with David from the word ‘go’. Later he just–says as much? And per usual, David’s like ‘Mm yeah #juststraightthings 🙂 ’. I will say this: having essentially a lifelong infatuation with David must be fucking exhausting.
  • This is only arguably gay, but it’s inarguably WAY OTT mutual attentiveness. And then that night David imagines Uriah staring into his bedroom from the roof and dreams Uriah’s a pirate tying him to the mast or some shit, idk guys it’s a lot.Picture3.png
  • So that’s Day 1 of the Meet Hideous.
  • After telling David not to fuck up, Betsey rides off. FOR NOW.
  • YOU MADE ME FEEL MY OWN FEELINGS!!

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David Copperfield Read-Along, Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14

Chapter 10

  • After Clara’s funeral David’s step-dad and the step-dad’s horrible sister don’t give a shit about him and are fine with his going down to Peggotty’s family for a while. They’ve fired Peggotty (though she’d like to stay with David, who she’s helped almost co-parent since his birth and who’s just lost his mother and brother), so it’s a one-way ticket on her part.
  • Peggotty intimates that the time’s come to say yes to Barkis. It’s a practical sort of marriage, but she’s cheerful about the prospect. It’s a good situation, he likes her a lot, and she finds him funny.
  • Oh my god, after his mom’s HORRIBLE second marriage changing everything between David and his mom, Peggotty is like, ‘David, would you be okay with it if I got married?” And David’s like, ‘would you still love me?’ Peggotty has to excuse herself to DIE OF FEELINGS.
  • Young David is only consoled after his mother’s death by thinking about how gay he is for Steerforth. His friends are kindly going ‘there there, think of your great natural gayness David, this will soothe you in even the darkest hour—’

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  • David gets home and spends some months wondering what they’re going to do with him now, since they’re not interested in sending him back to school.
  • Our ‘maybe the hero’ is then sent to child labour funtime sleepaway camp by his stepdad&step-aunt who’re like YEAH UR WELCOME FOR THIS GREAT BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY 🎉 exposure!! 🎉

Chapter 11

  • In London, David lives with the Micawbers. Now, WHILE WE ALL LOVE THESE INSOLUBLE FUCKUPS, Mrs M is also like ‘hi David, nice to meet you, lemme start by saying we’re in a financial crisis and I never realised the promise of my youth. 😬‘ David: I am extremely 10. Pro tip: don’t involve children in your life crises. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • David’s earning less than a shilling a day: even in Victorian, these intern wages suck major ass. He’s also slaving away to benefit his shitty step-dad’s floundering business—his step dad who KNEW EVERYTHING!!, except 1. how to do his own fucking job, and 2. not mismanage Clara-now-David’s tiny inheritance.
  • To be clear, I’m not sure how Clara’s remarriage affected that annuity and whether it passes to David. However I’m pretty fucking sure that by moral rights, any proceeds on his father’s small house are his. This fucker gets his inheritance snatched twice in the same novel! [A/N: More on the annuity question in a moment.] Anyway, David’s too young to advocate for himself or go ‘isn’t this my fucking house, could you leave?’ It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Murdstones have maybe-sort-of sent David off to die, because hey, free house? 🏡 It’d certainly be convenient for them. Probably Betsey could take up David’s cause when she adopts him, but if she did, Murdstone might suddenly find he wanted to keep David. Besides, Betsey’s been through a messy Victorian divorce, so I doubt she ever wants to fuck with barrister-law again, everrrr.
  • You may remember the devastating start of Sense and Sensibility, especially in the version so perfectly played by Harriet Walter/adapted by Emma Thompson/directed by sang Lee, where the heir of an estate and his wife whittle the man’s half-sisters out of their home and life by Reasonable degrees. Murdstone similarly excuses sending David to a shitty school, then excuses totally ignoring him for months, then excuses interminably sentencing David to something lower and more damaging than any legitimate internship. Murdstone sucks ass, but if you’d said this final step to him before his marriage, even he probably would have balked.
  • It’s chickenshit of Orwell to suggest that the problem of David being shipped off to do child labour is purely that someone of David’s class status was put in this position—there’s a wealth of evidence to support that child neglect/labour being things that exist are CD’s 🥩. There are about two sentences which could be read as ‘this work is evil, but particularly unfit for David as a middle class boy’. Though you’d have to read ungenerously to get there, and to be honest, what’s that get you? Do you want a prize for pointing out that it’s hard for even a lower-class Victorian or modern person to entirely decouple conceptions of privilege and worth? Are you trying to say Dickens was uniquely culpable here? It’d be hard to do. If you just want to say look, I found traces of socialisation, well. What… of it? What does that mean for the novel’s project, or for the freedom-work, to invoke Keguro, of striving to unmake class? He Was No Angeling often works in the service of hegemonies.
  • Katerina Ivanovna from Crime and Punishment, who I met first, back when I despised Dickens, and who impressed herself indelibly on me, is almost another angle on Mrs Micawber–the helpless exaggerated gentility of her lost life, the ridiculousness.
  • The Micawbers are in debtors’ jail for living too large/aka just poor people things.

Chapter 12

  • The Micawbers are now out of jail for their many and varied fuckeries with small tradesmen, and off to find new small tradesmen to inconvenience in Portsmouth. ADVENTURE!!
  • David has no one without them, and so he attempts to run away to his aunt, aka only living relative. He has a crappola time getting there, i.e. WALKING FROM LONDON TO DOVER ALONE AGE 10 WITH NO MONEY, and is harassed by like 8 chancers in a row. At one point he gets to stare up at the sky and think about how he’s gay for Steerforth again, but that’s about it.

Chapter 13

  • There’s a slight but affecting episode with a tinker’s abused wife, who cleverly tries to keep the tinker from harassing this unknown small child–only to get hit for her pains. Shades of Nancy.
  • Betsey’s housemaid Janet is buying rice when David finds her. It’s like 1830, what is she eating rice with? Genuinely interested. UPDATE! Doctor Rachel Moss thinks it could be this 1861 savoury baked rice pudding, or indeed its forbearer. I’m inclined to agree because they then had a bird and ‘a pudding’ for lunch—perhaps the servant nipped out to get the rice for it.
  • We are re-introduced to Betsey, and ah, the wait has been worth it. ‘Janet! Donkies!’ is the stuff of fucking legends.
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  • So basically David’s found his aunt, but said bitch has not forgiven him for being a boy yet.DzocwbYWkAIZf60.jpg
  • Betsey is the prime example of Dickens’ eucatastrophe with characters: someone is portrayed as possibly threatening or simply negatively, but they turn out to be great, so completely and convincingly it seems as if the narrative universe is changing its mind about them (though Dickens was mostly a thoughtful planner rather than a discovery-writer, and none of these about-faces feel retrospectively under-prepared-for). This is huge in Bleak House, for example, with Esther’s guardian and the disparity between that initial coach ride they share and her later meeting with him.

Chapter 14

  • ‘In which I realise I will never meet a badder ass’.
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  • Murdstone tells Betsey that Clara’s annuity ‘died with her’. The house was her property rather than David’s, and so his rather than her child’s. No one made a stipulation about this to protect David at the time of the marriage. Cool cool cool. Cool.
  • I don’t think Murdstone is an out and out fraud, but would he be circumspect about the particulars if he were in straightened means (as he is) and things were otherwise, say if David’s inheritence were tied to his majority? Sure. And is it pretty fucking ridiculous and potentially very contestable that the house is Murdstone’s and not David’s? I suspect so.
  • I’m just putting in the whole thing, because this is the most beautiful invitation to get fucked in English literature. Dover is conveniently near the sea and this dick is commanded to get in it.Dzpc4f2W0AAawJp.jpgDzpc4fsWkAAvTg3.jpg
  • Betsey has adopted David, who feels that if he keeps up the good behaviour Betsey might like him as much as she would a girl!DzpgHZIXgAEAW0X.jpg-large.jpeg