"Approach me again, you — you — you HEEP of infamy," gasped Mr. Micawber, "and if your head is human, I'll break it. Come on, come on!" [to Uriah Heep.] Fiftieth illustration by Fred Barnard for the 1872 Household Edition of David Copperfield (Chapter LII, "I Assist at an Explosion," but positioned on p. 353). Descriptive Headline: "Uriah Heep in Difficulties" (373). 9.5 x 13.9 cm (3 ¾ by 5 ½ inches), framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it. Mouse over text for links.]

Passage Illustrated: Micawber denounces Heep as am Embezzler at Canterbury

‘“In an accumulation of Ignominy, Want, Despair, and Madness, I entered the office — or, as our lively neighbour the Gaul would term it, the Bureau—of the Firm, nominally conducted under the appellation of Wickfield and — HEEP, but in reality, wielded by — HEEP alone. HEEP, and only HEEP, is the mainspring of that machine. HEEP, and only HEEP, is the Forger and the Cheat.”’

Uriah, more blue than white at these words, made a dart at the letter, as if to tear it in pieces. Mr. Micawber, with a perfect miracle of dexterity or luck, caught his advancing knuckles with the ruler, and disabled his right hand. It dropped at the wrist, as if it were broken. The blow sounded as if it had fallen on wood.

"The Devil take you!" said Uriah, writhing in a new way with pain. "I'll be even with you."

"Approach me again, you — you — you HEEP of infamy," gasped Mr. Micawber, "and if your head is human, I'll break it. Come on, come on!"

I think I never saw anything more ridiculous . . . . [Chapter LII, "I Assist at an Explosion," 373]

Commentary: Micawber Now Denounces Heep to His Face

A week previously, Micawber had made these accusations against Uriah Heep in Aunt Betsey's parlour at Highgate, a comic scene which Barnard has rendered as "And the name of the whole atrocious mass — Heep!" for Chapter XLIX, "I Am Involved in a Mystery." Now, as in later illustrations by both Groome and Furniss, Micawber levels these accusations in a highly melodramatic manner in front of those other characters personally affected by Heep's malpractice: David and Agnes Wickfield (extreme left), Tommy Traddles (at Micawber's shoulder), and Betsey Trotwood (extrene right); the aged woman attempting to console the cringing Uriah is, of course, his 'umble mother.

Both later illustrators have charged the scene with more energy and realised Micawber's indignation more vividly. Groome (1907) may have reacted to the somewhat cluttered and stagey Barnard original by adding characters and creating a sense of entrapment as Groome's Uriah is surrounded in a tight situation, in the law offices of Heep and Wickfield in Canterbury. And Harry Furniss (1910) outdoes both Groome and Barnard in the sheer energy of Micawber's vitriolic attack on the rascal. In the Household Edition illustration that seems to have served as the model for both Groome and Furniss, Micawber is simply too static, too self-controlled, despite his ineffectually striking Heep with his ruler. Furniss seems to have been determined to inject intense Baroque action into the frozen moment as a dervish of a Micawber passes judgment upon the devious malefactor who has caused the other characters so much trouble, and has robbed Micawber of his sense of self. Barnard'a witnesses are entirely passive, whereas those in the later illustrations manifestly respond to the dramatic scene unfolding before them.

Realisations of Micawber's Chastisement of His Devious Employer (1907 and 1910)

Left: Harry Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Edition version of the same scene heightens the domestic melodrama as Micawber flourishes the ruler: Mr. Micawber achieves the Downfall of Heep (1910). Right: W. H. C. Groome's more realistic and somewhat more crowded version of this same scene: "You — you Heep of infamy." (1907).

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