Charles Dickens, David Copperfield: Ch. 1

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'And was David good to you, child?' asked Miss Betsey, when she had been silent for a little while, and these motions of her head had gradually ceased. 'Were you comfortable together?'

'We were very happy,' said my mother. 'Mr. Copperfield was only too good to me.'

'What, he spoilt you, I suppose?' returned Miss Betsey.

'For being quite alone and dependent on myself in this rough world again, yes, I fear he did indeed,' sobbed my mother.

'Well! Don't cry!' said Miss Betsey. 'You were not equally matched, child—if any two people can be equally matched—and so I asked the question. You were an orphan, weren't you?' 'Yes.'

'And a governess?'h

'I was nursery-governess in a family where Mr. Copperfield came to visit. Mr. Copperfield was very kind to me, and took a great deal of notice of me, and paid me a good deal of attention, and at last proposed to me. And I accepted him. And so we were married,' said my mother simply.

'Ha! Poor Baby!' mused Miss Betsey, with her frown still bent upon the fire. 'Do you know anything?'

'I beg your pardon, ma'am,' faltered my mother.

'About keeping house, for instance,' said Miss Betsey.

'Not much, I fear,' returned my mother. 'Not so much as I could wish. But Mr. Copperfield was teaching me—'

('Much he knew about it himself!') said Miss Betsey in a parenthesis. —'And I hope I should have improved, being very anxious to learn, and he very patient to teach me, if the great misfortune of his death'—my mother broke down again here, and could get no farther.

'Well, well!' said Miss Betsey. —'I kept my housekeeping-book regularly, and balanced it with Mr. Copperfield every night,' cried my mother in another burst of distress, and breaking down again.

'Well, well!' said Miss Betsey. 'Don't cry any more.' —'And I am sure we never had a word of difference respecting it, except when Mr. Copperfield objected to my threes and fives being too much like each other, or to my putting curly tails to my sevens and nines,' resumed my mother in another burst, and breaking down again.

'You'll make yourself ill,' said Miss Betsey, 'and you know that will not be good either for you or for my god-daughter. Come! You mustn't do it!'

This argument had some share in quieting my mother, though her increasing indisposition had a larger one. There was an interval of silence, only broken by Miss Betsey's occasionally ejaculating 'Ha!' as she sat with her feet upon the fender.

'David had bought an annuityw for himself with his money, I know,' said she, by and by. 'What did he do for you?'

'Mr. Copperfield,' said my mother, answering with some difficulty, 'was so considerate and good as to secure the reversion of a part of it to me.'d

'How much?' asked Miss Betsey.

'A hundred and five pounds a year,'h said my mother.

'He might have done worse,' said my aunt.

X [h] 'And a governess?'


(Search Austen and the Brontës.)

A governess is one of the few acceptable occupations open to an unmarried middle-class woman without a dowry.  Governesses often were the daughters of impoverished clergy, for though penniless the governess had the advantage of education, manners, and a respectable family. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bront…

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X [w] annuity


David Sr. invested money in bonds or some other source that provided him with a guaranteed annual income determined by the interest. Depending on the conditions, the annuity could be transferred upon his death to his wife or another person. 

X [d] to secure the reversion of a part of it to me…


He assigned a portion of the annuity, which paid out, the reversion, interest on the principal of £105/year. The implication is that the remaining portion would go to their unborn child.

X [h] 'A hundred and five pounds a year,'


Assuming the year is about 1812, I estimate (and it's a murky, uncertain business) that the amount in current U.S. dollars would be arrived at by multiplying by some 80-90, or $8400-$9450 per year (Search money). This is not a princely sum yet it bought more then. Clara Copperfield has few expenses other than food for herself and Peggoty, Peggoty's wages, which could be £10 per yea…

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