David Copperfield

David Copperfield

David Copperfield Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
David sees Uriah again a few days later as he says goodbye to Agnes at the coach office. For Agnes's sake, David again tries to be civil with Uriah. Nevertheless, he is extremely worried about Agnes, in part because he suspects she would make "any sacrifice" on behalf of Mr. Wickfield. He cannot bring himself to voice his concerns to Agnes herself, however, and he broods over the Wickfields' situation for weeks afterward. He also finds himself thinking of Steerforth (who is away from London) with a "lurking distrust" he attributes to Agnes's influence.
David's fear is that Agnes will marry Uriah in an attempt to help her father. Given Agnes's selflessness—a virtue in a Victorian woman—David's concerns aren't unreasonable.
Themes
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David's trial period at Spenlow and Jorkins is now over, and he is apprenticed outright. There is a small party at the office when he is "articled," and Mr. Spenlow says that he would have been happy to have him over to his home if his daughter hadn't so recently returned from school in Paris. He promises to invite David over another time, however, and asks him to spend a weekend shortly afterwards. On the day David is scheduled to go, the clerks in the office gossip about how luxurious Mr. Spenlow's house is.
Although he's not drawing a salary, David now effectively has a job, placing him one step closer to adulthood and finding a vocation that suits him.
Themes
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David and Mr. Spenlow take a phaeton (carriage) together from Doctors' Commons to the latter's house. During the ride, Mr. Spenlow talks at length about how illustrious David's choice of profession is, and advises David that the best (that is, most profitable) cases involve disputed wills. He also praises the Doctors' Commons in general, going so far as to say that it is responsible for the well-being of the entire country. David privately finds this hard to believe but defers to Mr. Spenlow's opinion.
Mr. Spenlow's admiration for the Commons stems largely from what others (by Spenlow's own admission) view as "corruption": it's an elitist and cliquish institution where everyone involved knows everyone else. From Spenlow's perspective, however, this is why the Commons is so vital to the stability of the entire country: it's an institution largely interested in preserving the status quo.
Themes
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David and Mr. Spenlow arrive at the latter's house, which has a beautiful garden. As they go inside, Mr. Spenlow asks for his daughter Dora, and David is immediately struck by the name. A moment later, David sees Dora and falls instantly in love with her. He is so distracted, in fact, that he doesn't immediately notice Miss Murdstone's presence until she says that she and David have already met. Mr. Spenlow explains that Miss Murdstone is Dora's companion, though David notices that Dora doesn't seem especially fond of her.
In recounting his relationship with Dora, David often adopts a gently self-deprecating tone. It's clear, for example, that in retrospect he views his instantaneous "love" for Dora with some amusement and skepticism; at least at this early stage of the relationship, his feelimgs have more to do with infatuation than with genuine love. However, there's also a strong element of nostalgia clouding these memories, and therefore a suggestion that David may partly regret the loss of this more innocent and enthusiastic self.
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David has difficulty dressing for dinner because he is so consumed with thoughts of Dora. At dinner, he is wildly jealous of anyone who seems to know Mr. Spenlow better than he does, and spends most of his time talking to Dora, who has "the most delightful little voice, the gayest little laugh, [and] the pleasantest and most fascinating little ways." When Dora and Miss Murdstone retire to the drawing-room after dinner, David worries that Miss Murdstone will prejudice Dora against him.
To a large extent, what David finds charming about Dora is her childishness—or, as he puts it, everything that is "little" about her. This is in part a reflection of the times, since women in the nineteenth century were often described as childlike in their innocence and simplicity. It's also a function of David's love for his mother, who was similarly childish. Either way, the novel ultimately suggests that Dora's childishness is a hindrance to David's own maturity.
Themes
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David, Mr. Spenlow, and the rest of the men rejoin Dora and Miss Murdstone, who pulls David aside. Although she can't help but complain a bit about Miss Betsey's treatment of her (and about David's childhood character), Miss Murdstone proposes that they now treat each other as "distant acquaintances" and keep their private opinions to themselves. David agrees, but also says that he thinks she and Mr. Murdstone treated both him and Clara horribly.
Although Miss Murdstone proposes letting bygones be bygones, it's clear that she still holds a grudge against David. Her refusal to forgive and forget will become important later, when she spitefully attempts to sabotage David and Dora's relationship.
Themes
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Miss Murdstone walks away, and David spends the rest of the evening listening adoringly as Dora sings songs "to the effect that, whatever was the matter, we ought always to dance, Ta ra la, Ta a la!" Before he goes to bed, he sees himself in the mirror looking "idiotic," which sends him into a state of depression.
Although genteel Victorian women were generally expected to practice hobbies like playing an instrument, Dora's singing offers additional insight into her character. The lyrics in particular suggest that she views life largely as one long string of amusements (rather than as, for example, a time to grow and learn). In fact, the song is much like Dora herself, in the sense that it is pretty and entertaining but not especially practical or deep.
Themes
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David wakes up the next morning as infatuated as ever and decides to take a walk in the garden. On the way there, he comes across Dora's dog, Jip, who snarls at him. Nevertheless, he continues to fantasize about Dora as he takes his walk, although his thoughts do not even extend as far as marriage: he simply wants to be able to "worship" her.
Despite his dislike of David, Jip is in many ways a symbol for Dora: like his mistress, he is spoiled and excitable, but good-natured at heart. Meanwhile, David's shortsightedness—that is, the fact that he's not thinking of Dora as a potential wife—is another hint that the relationship isn't truly mature, or suited to marriage. 
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While he is strolling, David runs into Dora herself, who complains that Miss Murdstone hadn't wanted to let her outside, even though it is the "brightest time of the whole day." David awkwardly attempts to compliment Dora by saying that it is brighter now than it had been a moment earlier, but doesn't quite manage to carry it off. He then asks her about Paris, and—when she says he ought to visit it—declares that he won't leave England for any reason "under existing circumstances." At that moment, Jip appears and begins yapping at David, who in turn grows jealous when Dora picks the dog up and caresses him. 
David's stilted attempts to flirt with Dora are partly the result of his own youth and inexperience, and partly the result of Dora's naiveté: when David attempts to compliment her, Dora takes him quite literally and asks whether the weather has changed.
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Dora asks whether David knows Miss Murdstone well and complains about her some more, saying that Jip could just as easily be her "protector." She continues to talk to the dog, saying that she and Jip can find their own friends, and that they will spite Miss Murdstone by being happy regardless of her own gloominess. David finds all of this enchanting and is hard-pressed to avoid declaring his love for Dora on the spot. Instead, he walks with Dora inside the greenhouse, which seems like "Fairyland" to him. In fact, he says that to this day, the scent of geraniums moves him.
Once again, David finds Dora's childlike mannerisms charming—in this case, carrying on a conversation with Jip. Although he seems to find the intensity of his own infatuation slightly ridiculous in retrospect, it's also clear that he recalls the exchange with a great deal of tenderness. In particular, David's description of the walk through "fairyland" evokes images of a magical, lost paradise.
Themes
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Miss Murdstone eventually comes and fetches Dora and David for breakfast and church. David continues to fantasize about Dora throughout the service and the rest of the day; by the time he goes to bed, he is imagining that Mr. Spenlow has given his permission for David and Dora to marry.
David's daydreaming about the future continues to be naïve and impractical—especially his assumption that Mr. Spenlow will be pleased about the budding romance.
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David and Mr. Spenlow have to leave early the next day to attend a case in Court. David is naturally distressed to leave Dora and can't focus on his work. In fact, this proves true for the next several weeks; David pays no attention to what is going on in Court except insofar as it relates to Dora (any mention of a will, for instance, causes him to fantasize about how he would spend an inheritance on Dora). Meanwhile, he buys several new waistcoats and continuously wears a pair of too-small boots, all in an attempt to impress Dora. He also takes to walking around any area of London where he thinks she might be out shopping. He manages to run into her a few times, but always tortures himself afterwards with thoughts of everything he did wrong during their conversation.
Although it will eventually inspire him to work harder, David's infatuation with Dora initially proves to be a distraction from his chosen career. Much as David predicted it would, the slow pace of courtroom business allows him to wander off into daydreams rather than focus his attention on a single task or goal. Far from shaping him into a more purposeful and active person, life as a proctor seems to encourage David's more fanciful tendencies.
Themes
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Despite his promise to Agnes, David can't bring himself to tell her about his latest infatuation. Mrs. Crupp, however, manages to figure out that David is in love with someone, and urges him to cheer up. David asks how she has discovered his secret, and Mrs. Crupp says that she is a "mother herself," and knows that when a young man is taking too much (or not enough) care of himself, it means he is in love. In fact, she says, the previous tenant was in love with a barmaid. David protests strenuously against associating Dora with a barmaid, but Mrs. Crupp simply urges him again to cheer up and "know his own [v]alue." David thinks this is kind of her, even though he knows she mostly came to his room to drink his brandy.
David attributes his hesitation with Agnes to a lack of courage, but it isn't clear exactly what he's afraid of. It's possible he's worried she won't approve of Dora, but it's also possible that he feels awkward discussing the topic with Agnes on account of his own unconscious feelings for her. Regardless, David's reluctance is another indication that Agnes, rather than Dora, is the woman he's "supposed" to marry.
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