David Copperfield #4 – The ends of Yule logs are bad for you, and surely Em’ly is just Emily?
We know that David’s old school friend, Steerforth is a bad ‘un straight away, in spite of David’s hero worship. When they meet at school Steerforth ‘helps’ David to spend his money on food then ‘helps’ him eat it. Although, I’m not one to talk as every Christmas I do my daughter the favour of eating the end of the Yule log, yes dear, I know it looks great as it has a thick layer of chocolate, but it’s the end, rather like the tough crust of a loaf, so I shall choke it down for you.
It’s the engagement of little Em’ly (‘Please sir, can I have another vowel? And better still, can you explain why an apostrophe is being used where only one letter is missing?’) where he shows us it’s about more than conning cake and berry wine. On a trip to Yarmouth, accompanied by Steerforth, they hear of Em’ly’s engagement to Ham, who I think is technically her cousin. I don’t know about you, but when I read or see anything where the historical norm of cousin marrying is mentioned, I think of my own. No offence to any of my cousins, but it’s kind of slim pickings/cradle robbing.
Anyway, everyone is delighted, even miserable Mrs Gummidge, but Steerforth has commented on how she is wasted on Ham, even though Ham is a great guy. I have yet to get to the part where he breaks them up, but I’m pretty sure it’s coming. Em’ly seems the fickle sort, and a hint earlier from David when she was playing on a beach and he feared her swept away, but maybe all things considered that would have been for the best for her to die as a child, tells me poor Ham may end up wifeless, and living in the boat with Mr Peggoty and Mrs Gummidge until they both die, and he will be all alone, singing quietly to himself – allllll byyyy myself, don’t wanna live, all by myself, and it will all be Steerforth and Em’ly’s fault.
And now I am at the part where David has moved to London to start his training to be a proctor, has a little flat, and is getting drunk with Steerforth and making a prat of himself at the theatre in front of Agnes, and Uriah Heep is up to no good and taking advantage of Agnes’ alcoholic father business-wise.
Most of all, I’m finding myself not liking David. No protagonist can be perfect, they have to grow and make mistakes or risk being unrealistic and boring, but I just don’t like him. I’d rather it was a book about Betsy Trotwood, I could read about her all day. I have yet to properly watch an adaptation, but there is one with Daniel Radcliffe as David and Maggie Smith as Betsy, which is great and all but there’s also one where Hugh Dancy is an older David and Paul Bettany is Steerforth. I bet he plays and awesomely smarmy Steerforth, I wish I could cross-pollinate the two productions!