Charles Dickens, David Copperfield: Ch. 10

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All this time I was so conscious of the waste of any promise I had given, and of my being utterly neglected, that I should have been perfectly miserable, I have no doubt, but for the old books. They were my only comfort; and I was as true to them as they were to me, and read them over and over I don't know how many times more.

I now approach a period of my life, which I can never lose the remembrance of, while I remember anything: and the recollection of which has often, without my invocation, come before me like a ghost, and haunted happier times.

I had been out, one day, loitering somewhere, in the listless, meditative manner that my way of life engendered, when, turning the corner of a lane near our house, I came upon Mr. Murdstone walking with a gentleman. I was confused, and was going by them, when the gentleman cried:

'What! Brooks!'

'No, sir, David Copperfield,' I said.

'Don't tell me. You are Brooks,' said the gentleman. 'You are Brooks of Sheffield. That's your name.'

At these words, I observed the gentleman more attentively. His laugh coming to my remembrance too, I knew him to be Mr. Quinion, whom I had gone over to Lowestoft with Mr. Murdstone to see, before—it is no matter—I need not recall when.h

'And how do you get on, and where are you being educated, Brooks?' said Mr. Quinion.

He had put his hand upon my shoulder, and turned me about, to walk with them. I did not know what to reply, and glanced dubiously at Mr. Murdstone.

'He is at home at present,' said the latter. 'He is not being educated anywhere. I don't know what to do with him. He is a difficult subject.'

That old, double look was on me for a moment; and then his eyes darkened with a frown, as it turned, in its aversion, elsewhere.

'Humph!' said Mr. Quinion, looking at us both, I thought. 'Fine weather!'

Silence ensued, and I was considering how I could best disengage my shoulder from his hand, and go away, when he said:

'I suppose you are a pretty sharp fellow still? Eh, Brooks?'

'Aye! He is sharp enough,' said Mr. Murdstone, impatiently. 'You had better let him go. He will not thank you for troubling him.'

On this hint, Mr. Quinion released me, and I made the best of my way home. Looking back as I turned into the front garden, I saw Mr. Murdstone leaning against the wicket of the churchyard, and Mr. Quinion talking to him. They were both looking after me, and I felt that they were speaking of me.

Mr. Quinion lay at our house that night. After breakfast, the next morning, I had put my chair away, and was going out of the room, when Mr. Murdstone called me back. He then gravely repaired to another table, where his sister sat herself at her desk. Mr. Quinion, with his hands in his pockets, stood looking out of window; and I stood looking at them all.

'David,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'to the young this is a world for action; not for moping and droning in.' —'As you do,' added his sister.

'Jane Murdstone, leave it to me, if you please. I say, David, to the young this is a world for action, and not for moping and droning in. It is especially so for a young boy of your disposition, which requires a great deal of correcting; and to which no greater service can be done than to force it to conform to the ways of the working world, and to bend it and break it.'h

X [h] His laugh coming to my remembrance too, I kne…

Mr. Quinion, from the Lowestoft episode, is the means by which David is sent to Murdstone & Grinby's. Something vaguely analogous occurred in Dickens's life, as a friend of his father suggested the boy be placed at Warren's Blacking.

X [h] to which no greater service can be done than …

Education

A reprise of the Murdstone theory of childhood, which as we have seen resembles the John Wesley/Isaac Watts theory that a child's spirit must first be broken.