They drew him to my very feet — insensible — dead. Fifty-third illustration by Fred Barnard for the 1872 Household Edition of David Copperfield (Chapter LV, "Tempest," but positioned on p. 385). Descriptive Headline: "Ham and the Wrecked Ship" (395). 10.9 x 13.9 cm (4 ¼ by 5 ½ inches), framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it. Mouse over text for links.]

Passage Illustrated: Steerforth's Corpse Recovered on the Yarmouth Shore

And now he made for the wreck, rising with the hills, falling with the valleys, lost beneath the rugged foam, borne in towards the shore, borne on towards the ship, striving hard and valiantly. The distance was nothing, but the power of the sea and wind made the strife deadly. At length he neared the wreck. He was so near, that with one more of his vigorous strokes he would be clinging to it, — when a high, green, vast hill-side of water, moving on shoreward, from beyond the ship, he seemed to leap up into it with a mighty bound, and the ship was gone!

Some eddying fragments I saw in the sea, as if a mere cask had been broken, in running to the spot where they were hauling in. Consternation was in every face. They drew him to my very feet—insensible — dead. He was carried to the nearest house; and, no one preventing me now, I remained near him, busy, while every means of restoration were tried; but he had been beaten to death by the great wave, and his generous heart was stilled for ever. [Chapter LV, "Tempest," p. 396]

Commentary: The First of Two Shipwreck Scenes

The unprecedented tempest and disastrous shipwreck at Yarmouth which Dickens describes so vividly have afforded illustrators a rare opportunity to realise in epic terms the eternal conflict of nature versus humanity. In a pair of dramatic scenes Barnard marks the death of Steerforth and Ham Peggotty's heroic attempt to rescue the lone sailor who is clinging to the mast of the sinking Iberian sailing vessel in The Storm (facing page 396, which contains Dickens's descriptions of the deaths of the young men of different classes whose lives are linked by their love for Em'ly.

Realisations of News of the Deaths of Ham and Steerforth (1850, 1872, and 1910)

Left: Fred Barnard's epic Household Edition realization of the stalwart Ham, preparing to rescue the sole survivor of the wreck: The Storm (1872). Centre: Phiz's original version of the scene in which David's announces Steerforth's death to his mother and Rosa Dartle: I am the bearer of evil tidings (October 1850). Right: Harry Furniss's dramatic realisation of David's seeing Steerforth's body washed ashore: The End of Steerforth (1910).

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 24 August 2022