'I tell you, Clara,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'I have been often flogged myself.'

Category: Writing & Reading | Type: Historical | Title: David Copperfield (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: I Fall into Disgrace

To put this into context, fewer than 50 years earlier, John Wesley was saying: "It is never too early to begin to break a child's spirit," a view pretty much shared by Bronson Alcott, the father of Louis May. Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience portray the suffering of especially poor children in English society, as in  "The Chimney-Sweeper" (1789):

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved: so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

And so he was quiet; and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight, -
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy. 

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