"Rosa Dartle sprang up from her seat; recoiled; and in recoiling struck at her, with a face of such malignity, so darkened and disfigured by passion, that I had almost thrown myself between them." 1870s. Forty-ninth illustration by Fred Barnard for the 1872 Household Edition of David Copperfield (Chapter L, "Mr. Peggotty's Dream Comes True," but situated on p. 353). Descriptive Headline: "Two Voices in Martha's Room" (357). 10.8 x 13.7 cm (4 ⅛ by 5 ½ inches), framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it. Mouse over text for links.]

Passage Illustrated: Rosa Dartle Reveals a Sadistic Streak

"No! no!" cried Emily, clasping her hands together. "When he first came into my way — that the day had never dawned upon me, and he had met me being carried to my grave! — I had been brought up as virtuous as you or any lady, and was going to be the wife of as good a man as you or any lady in the world can ever marry. If you live in his home and know him, you know, perhaps, what his power with a weak, vain girl might be. I don’t defend myself, but I know well, and he knows well, or he will know when he comes to die, and his mind is troubled with it, that he used all his power to deceive me, and that I believed him, trusted him, and loved him!"

Rosa Dartle sprang up from her seat; recoiled; and in recoiling struck at her, with a face of such malignity, so darkened and disfigured by passion, that I had almost thrown myself between them. The blow, which had no aim, fell upon the air. As she now stood panting, looking at her with the utmost detestation that she was capable of expressing, and trembling from head to foot with rage and scorn, I thought I had never seen such a sight, and never could see such another.

"You love him? You?" she cried, with her clenched hand, quivering as if it only wanted a weapon to stab the object of her wrath.

Emily had shrunk out of my view. There was no reply. [Chapter L, "Mr. Peggotty's Dream Comes True," 358]

Commentary: "With an imploring effort to clasp the skirt of her dress"

As Martha conducts David back to the poor rooms she shares with the returned penitent, Em'ly Peggotty, they hear voices. The bitterly jealous Rosa Dartle is berating Em'ly. Just after Rosa leaves, Dan'l Peggotty arrives, and the scene closes with the girl's fainting in her uncle's arms. He carries her, unconscious, down the stairs.

The sharply contrasting light and dark areas of what amounts to a dark plate, but engraved on wood rather than steel, marks Em'ly's nadir as the suffering she has endured after Steerforth's abandonment of her is intensified by Rosa's vitriolic speech and physical brutality. Barnard focuses on capturing the moment before the enraged Rosa vainly attempts to land a blow on the prostrate Emily. The illustrator puts Em'ly in the position of a supplicant before the judgmental upper-middle-class woman "as inflexible as a figure of brass." Outside the darkened room a church spire points heavenward, as if suggesting what Rosa's conduct towards the fallen woman, so in need of Christian charity and forbearance, should be.

Realisations of Em'ly's Moral Reclamation (1850 and 1910)

Left: Harry Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Edition climax to the scene: Mr. Peggotty finds Em'ly (1910). Right: Phiz's original version of Dan'l Peggotty's clasping his neice emphasizes David as the reporter and observer: Mr. Peggotty's Dream comes true (August 1850).

Related Material

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.]

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.


Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). The Centenary Edition. 2 vols. London and New York: Chapman & Hall, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911.

_______. The Personal History of David Copperfield. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. Vol. V.

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

_______. The Personal History and Experiences of David Copperfield. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. X.

Created 17 August 2016

Last modified 20 August 2022