Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 23

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 23

I Corroborate Mr. Dick and Choose a Profession

  • Having seen Emily's raw emotion after meeting with Martha Endell, David feels that he has witnessed something extremely private. He doesn't even want to talk about her with Steerforth.
  • David gets a letter from Miss Betsey asking what he wants to do next.
  • After parting from all the Yarmouth Peggottys and Mr. Omer and his family, Steerforth and David leave Yarmouth.
  • David tells Steerforth about his aunt's question: what should he do with his life?
  • Miss Betsey has suggested that David become a proctor (in a word, a lawyer).
  • Steerforth says that he may as well become a proctor, but it'll be horribly boring and old-fashioned.
  • David continues: apparently, his aunt got the idea when she went to visit her own proctor to get her will settled in David's favor.
  • When Steerforth hears this, he encourages David to do as Miss Betsey wishes.
  • David meets up with his aunt at an inn in London, where she is waiting with her servant, Janet, to dine with David.
  • Miss Betsey has left Mr. Dick at home to watch the house, but she is sure that he won't be firm enough to keep the donkeys off her lawn.
  • Miss Betsey refuses to eat very much at the inn because she feels that all London tradesmen are liars.
  • After dinner, Janet helps Miss Betsey prepare for bed.
  • Once she is all ready for a pre-sleep snack, Miss Betsey asks David what he thinks of the proctor plan.
  • David thinks it's a great idea, but he's worried about how much it will cost to find him an apprenticeship with a proctor.
  • Miss Betsey tells him that it will be about a thousand pounds – which is about a hundred thousand dollars in today's money.
  • David worries that Miss Betsey has already spent a lot on his education – she shouldn't have to spend so much more on his apprenticeship.
  • Miss Betsey brushes off his concerns: after all, David has been a pleasure for Miss Betsey to raise from the moment he arrived on her doorstep. The only thing she asks of him is to be a loving child to her.
  • David is impressed by Miss Betsey's generosity, and they agree to go to Doctors' Commons (a society of civil lawyers back in the day) to find David a job.
  • The next day, David and Miss Betsey head to the office of Spenlow and Jorkins.
  • On the way, they stop to see several famous sights in London.
  • Suddenly, Miss Betsey grows extremely startled to see a man in poor clothing staring at her.
  • She asks David what she should do.
  • David is utterly confused: he thinks the man is just a beggar.
  • Miss Betsey tells David to go on alone and then wait for her at St. Paul's Churchyard (which is near their destination).
  • Miss Betsey plans to meet with this man who has so frightened her.
  • David is taken aback that Miss Betsey has decided to meet with this fellow.
  • He wonders if this beggar is the same man Mr. Dick described as terrifying Miss Betsey on their evening walks back in Dover.
  • Finally, after waiting for her for half an hour at Saint Paul's, Miss Betsey appears in front of David.
  • Miss Betsey tells David never to ask about what just happened.
  • David finds that Miss Betsey has spent all of her money during this mysterious outing he can never mention again.
  • The two head in to Doctors' Commons to meet with Mr. Spenlow.
  • Mr. Spenlow welcomes David to his new profession, asks him delicately for the thousand pounds David owes for learning the business, and confirming David's fears that he can earn no salary at this job. (So, David is entering into the equivalent of an unpaid internship these days – an internship he has to pay for.)
  • Mr. Spenlow keeps pretending that he wants to be more generous with his clerks, but he can't be for fear of his partner, Mr. Jorkins.
  • David discovers later that the terrifying Mr. Jorkins is, in fact, a mild-mannered man who mostly keeps out of Mr. Spenlow's way.
  • Mr. Spenlow takes David around to meet the other lawyers and clerks at Doctors' Commons.
  • After signing all the necessary documents, Miss Betsey takes David to a nearby neighborhood where she has found a room that seems appropriate for David.
  • David is delighted with the place – which is run by a Mrs. Crupp – and can't wait to move in. He's feeling very grown-up indeed.
  • Miss Betsey tells David that she trusts he will become firm and self-reliant as he sets out to a new life in London.
  • With that, Miss Betsey heads back to Dover.

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