Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lexie's davy blog-along!

As promised, here's my older sister Lexie's blog-along. I made myself wait until I'd written mine to read hers. I really enjoyed reading her thoughts, and seeing where our thoughts overlapped and what new points she brought to light.

Thanks for being my Davy buddy, Lex!

The Personal History, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the younger
of Blunderstone Rookery (which he never meant to be published on any account)

By Charles Dickens

From the preface to the ‘Charles Dickens’ edition:

“Of all my books, I like this one 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 heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.”

David Copperfield is the story of a boy (not the magician), as described by himself, from his very earliest days all the way to manhood, in England during the late Industrial Revolution/early Victorian era. He encounters adversity through many harsh trials, perseveres and forms lasting friendships, learns to stand up for himself, and above all, to be true to himself. I don’t want to give too much away, because if there is one Dickens novel you should read, it’s this one.

 I won’t say it’s a quick read, with my edition topping out at a little over 800 pages, but I enjoyed immensely the care Dickens takes in crafting the characters, the masterful way he weaves their stories together, the genuineness of Davy himself, and the laugh out loud humor. I think it would be difficult to convey here the extent of the endearing qualities of Davy, or how well the characters come together, so I’ll just share a few of my favorite passages and leave it at that.

Davy’s great-aunt is one of my favorites of the large cast of supporting characters. She is a determined lady, and rather eccentric. One of her eccentricities is that she always takes wine cut with water and toast as a bedtime snack. The toast has to be cut in strips, so she can dip it into the wine. She also has a great aversion to donkeys, which Davy discovers when he first comes to live with her at about ten years old.

-       “Janet had gone away to get the bath ready, when my aunt, to my great alarm, became in one moment rigid with indignation, and hardly had voice to cry out, ‘Janet! Donkeys!’ Upon which, Janet came running up the stairs as if the house were in flames, darted out on a little piece of green in front, and warned off two saddle-donkeys, lady-ridden, that had presumed to set hoof on it; while my aunt, rushing out of the house, seized the bridle of a third animal laden with a bestriding child, turned him, led him forth from those sacred precincts, and boxed the ears of the unlucky urchin in attendance who had dared to profane that hallowed ground.”

When Davy has just finished grammar school, and setting off for London, he’s about 17, and like most boys (and girls) at that age, eager to be considered “grown up.”

-       “I got away from Agnes and her father, somehow, with an indifferent show of being very manly, and took my seat upon the box of the London coach. […] The main object in my mind, I remember, when we got fairly on the road, was to appear as old as possible to the coachman, and to speak extremely gruff. The latter point I achieved at great personal inconvenience; but I stuck to it, because I felt it was a grown-up sort of thing.”

Later, he is studying to be a proctor (which seems to be a kind of lawyer in the English House of Commons), and is renting a set of rooms. His childhood housekeeper and friend, Peggotty, comes to stay for a while, and his current housekeeper takes offense.

-       “… Mrs. Crupp had resigned everything appertaining to her office (the salary excepted) until Peggotty should cease to present herself. Mrs. Crupp, after holding diverse conversations respecting Peggotty, in a very high-pitched voice, on the staircase – with some invisible Familiar it would appear, for corporeally speaking she was quite alone at those times – addressed a letter to me, developing her views. […] that at all periods of her existence she had a constitutional objection to spies, intruders, and informers. […] After this, Mrs. Crupp confined herself to making pitfalls on the stairs, principally with pitchers, and endeavouring to delude Peggotty into breaking her legs. I found it rather harassing to live in this state of siege, but was too much afraid of Mrs. Crupp to see any way out of it.”

As a child Davy becomes a lodger of Mr. Micawber and his family, and retains their friendship through adulthood. Mr. Micawber is an over-the-top drama queen, always lamenting of his “pecuniary liabilities,” but he’s a good man, and loyal to his wife and children. He does secure a paying job for some time, but his employer is one of the villains of the book, and he takes pleasure in reminding Mr. Micawber how much he owes him for taking him in. I greatly enjoyed Mr. Micawber’s flair in sharing this information.

-       “ ‘The subsistence of my family, ma’am,’ returned Mr. Micawber, ‘trembles in the balance. My employer – […] once did me the favour to observe to me, that if I were not in the receipt of the stipendiary emoluments appertaining to my engagement with him, I should probably be a mountebank about the country, swallowing a sword-blade, and eating the devouring element. For anything that I can perceive to the contrary, it is still probable that my children may be reduced to seek a livelihood by personal contortion, while Mrs. Micawber abets their unnatural feats by playing the barrel-organ.’ ’’

(Translation: Be thankful I gave you a job, because if I hadn’t, you and your family might have to leave the city and become traveling circus performers!)

Of the several works by Dickens that I have read, I must say that I loved this one best. I remember picking it up when I was in high school, I think, or maybe a summer during college, and putting it down again, finding it difficult to get into. But this time, once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. Dickens drew me in with his charismatic characters, his way of starting in on a tale, then stopping briefly by the side of the story to fill in a little background, never going too far as to lose your interest, and then dropping you back in to continue on. The book is narrated by David himself, and I felt as he went along that I was there with him, that I felt his hardships and tribulations sorely, and rejoiced with him in his successes. I was happy to see it all come out right for him in the end, but also sorry to have to put the book down, because it meant that I had to say goodbye to Davy.

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