"You have heard Miss Murdstone," said Mr. Spenlow, turning to me. "I beg to ask, Mr. Copperfield, if you have anything to say in reply?" — Thirty-eighth illustration by Fred Barnard for the 1872 Household Edition of David Copperfield (Chapter XXXVIII, "A Dissolution of a Partnership," but situated in Chapter XXXVI, p. 265). Half-page, 9.4 cm by 13.8 cm (3 ¾ by 5 ⅜ inches), framed. Headline: "Mr. Spenlow's Last Will and Testament" (275). [Click on the image to enlarge it. Mouse over text for links.]

Passage Illustrated: David's Adult Encounter with a Terrible Figure from Childhood

Here she ceased; and snapping her reticule again, and shutting her mouth, looked as if she might be broken, but could never be bent.

"You have heard Miss Murdstone," said Mr. Spenlow, turning to me. "I beg to ask, Mr. Copperfield, if you have anything to say in reply?"

The picture I had before me, of the beautiful little treasure of my heart, sobbing and crying all night — of her being alone, frightened, and wretched, then — of her having so piteously begged and prayed that stony-hearted woman to forgive her — of her having vainly offered her those kisses, work-boxes, and trinkets — of her being in such grievous distress, and all for me — very much impaired the little dignity I had been able to muster. I am afraid I was in a tremulous state for a minute or so, though I did my best to disguise it.

"There is nothing I can say, sir," I returned, ‘except that all the blame is mine. Dora —"

"Miss Spenlow, if you please," said her father, majestically. [Chapter XXXVIII, "A Dissolution of a Partnership," 274]

<>h3>Commentary: Mr. Spenlow Breaks off the Relationship as "Unsuitable" — and Dies

From Miss Murdstone's having intercepted David's letter to Dora, the companion (who is more like a jailor) has deduced the nature of David's attachment. Determined to win her employer's confidence, she reveals the incipient relationship between his employee and his daughter (who, of course, is a chattel, and therefore not to be consulted at this family conference). However, having played the role of the dictatorial Pater Familias, Mr. Spenlow dies that very night, intestate, leaving his affairs in chaos. Dora now goes to live with her maiden-aunts in Putney, an arrangement that will advance David's matrimonial prospects. Barnard captures well the gloomy Miss Murdstone's self-righteousness, the sparrow-like, punctilious Mr. Spenlow's enjoying exercising his authority, and David's consternation.

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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Dickens, Charles. The Personal History of David Copperfield, illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). The Centenary Edition. London & New York: Chapman & Hall, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911 [rpt. from 1850]. 2 vols.

_______. David Copperfield, with 61 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1872. Vol. 3.

_______. David Copperfield. Illustrated by W. H. C. Groome. London and Glasgow: Collins Clear-type Press, 1907. No. 1.

The copy of the Household Edition from which this picture was scanned was the gift of George Gorniak, Editor of The Dickens Magazine, whose subject for the fifth series, beginning in January 2010, is this novel.

Created 23 August 2016

Last modified 15 August 2022