Hamlet's aunt betrays the family failing, and indulges in a soliloquy on 'blood' Twenty-sixth illustration by Fred Barnard for Chapter XXV, ""Good and Bad Angels,"," in the 1872 Household Edition of David Copperfield, 177. 10.6 x 13.8 cm (4 ¼ by 5 ½ inches), framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it; mouse over links.]

Passage Illustrated: David attends an upper-middle-class dinner party

Phiz's original serial illustration of the dinner-party as a group study does not focus on David: Uriah persists in hovering near us, at the dinner-party (January 1850).

Uriah, Traddles, and I, as the junior part of the company, went down last, how we could. I was not so vexed at losing Agnes as I might have been, since it gave me an opportunity of making myself known to Traddles on the stairs, who greeted me with great fervour; while Uriah writhed with such obtrusive satisfaction and self-abasement, that I could gladly have pitched him over the banisters. Traddles and I were separated at table, being billeted in two remote corners: he in the glare of a red velvet lady; I, in the gloom of Hamlet’s aunt. The dinner was very long, and the conversation was about the Aristocracy — and Blood. Mrs. Waterbrook repeatedly told us, that if she had a weakness, it was Blood.

It occurred to me several times that we should have got on better, if we had not been quite so genteel. We were so exceedingly genteel, that our scope was very limited. A Mr. and Mrs. Gulpidge were of the party, who had something to do at second-hand (at least, Mr. Gulpidge had) with the law business of the Bank; and what with the Bank, and what with the Treasury, we were as exclusive as the Court Circular. To mend the matter, Hamlet’s aunt had the family failing of indulging in soliloquy, and held forth in a desultory manner, by herself, on every topic that was introduced. These were few enough, to be sure; but as we always fell back upon Blood, she had as wide a field for abstract speculation as her nephew himself. [Chapter XXV, "Good and Bad Angels," 186]


As Steerforth's friend and now an articled clerk at the Doctor's Commons, David finds himself in a smart upper-middle-class professional set in London. Having invited David to this dinner party, Agnes warns David about Steerforth's influence, but he downplays her advice at the time, although Steerforth's subsequent behaviour with the Peggottys will reveal how correct her assessment is. Ironically, trying to be both literary and witty, David refers to the class-conscious Mrs. Waterbrook as "Hamlet's aunt," but of course in the Shakespeare play Hamlet has no such relative.

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.

Other Illustrated Editions of this Novel (1849 through 1910)

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.]


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 14 June 2009

Last modified 31 July 2022