Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 38

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 38

A Dissolution of Partnership

  • David continues with his plan on reporting on Parliamentary Debates.
  • He learns shorthand, but it is really hard.
  • Traddles, Miss Betsey, and Mr. Dick help him to learn by staging debates slowly, with pauses for him to catch up.
  • David really is working very hard: he is always on time at both Doctor Strong's home and at the law offices.
  • One day, he finds Mr. Spenlow muttering to himself and looking cold and reserved.
  • Mr. Spenlow asks David to follow him to a coffee shop.
  • David worries that Mr. Spenlow has found out about his engagement to Dora.
  • Once they arrive at one of the private rooms of the coffee shop, they find Miss Murdstone waiting for them. .
  • Miss Murdstone is holding several letters in David's handwriting written to Dora.
  • She continues that she has long suspected Dora of loving David, but she hasn't had any evidence until now.
  • Miss Murdstone did notice that, since she returned from her brother's wedding, Dora has been getting an awful lot of letters from Miss Mills.
  • Unluckily, Jip happened to be playing with one of these letters in Miss Murdstone's presence.
  • She saved it from the dog, read it, and found that it was from David.
  • Miss Murdstone then managed to bully Dora into giving up all of David's love letters.
  • Mr. Spenlow asks David to explain himself.
  • David says that the fault is all his, not Dora's.
  • Mr. Spenlow answers that David is to blame, for sneaking into his house and keeping this whole love affair a secret.
  • Dora's father says that David cannot truly love Dora because he hasn't considered Dora's station in life or potential future with David.
  • David agrees that it's true that he hasn't though much of the future, but they are engaged.
  • Mr. Spenlow tells David not to talk about engagements. It's all nonsense, and he insists that David stop thinking of Dora.
  • Forget about the past, Mr. Spenlow encourages David.
  • David doesn't want to make Mr. Spenlow angry, but he does tell him that he's committed to Dora.
  • Mr. Spenlow answers that he's going to influence Dora to forget the whole thing.
  • Miss Murdstone snorts, suggesting that it's about time that Mr. Spenlow intervene.
  • David is slowly edging towards the door when Mr. Spenlow tells David that he has money to leave to his daughter.
  • David protests that he's not in this for the money.
  • Mr. Spenlow is sure that David isn't, but even so – he's thinking about changing his will to include conditions against foolish marriages.
  • Mr. Spenlow gives David a week to consider this, a week that David won't use: he can't deprive Dora and himself a chance at happiness.
  • Miss Murdstone stares after David the same way she used to when he messed up his lessons.
  • David sits in his little office and writes a letter to Mr. Spenlow begging him not to frighten Dora further, nor to make her cry.
  • He leaves the letter on Mr. Spenlow's desk.
  • Mr. Spenlow warns David that, if he keeps on about this, Mr. Spenlow will have to send Dora abroad again.
  • David then writes to Miss Mills and asks to meet her.
  • Miss Mills weeps with David and promises to go to Dora the next morning to reassure her of David's commitment.
  • Miss Mills seems to be enjoying all of this love drama.
  • David then passes all of this news on to Miss Betsey, who tries to comfort him.
  • The next day, David goes in to the office, which is odd.
  • All of the clerks, including Mr. Tiffey, are standing around and not working.
  • Mr. Tiffey gives David the news: Mr. Spenlow is dead.
  • David staggers, and the clerks help him to a chair.
  • Mr. Spenlow's usual carriage arrived home without him.
  • They found Mr. Spenlow's body about a mile back on the road.
  • He appears to have either fallen or jumped out of the coach on his way home and been overcome by a sudden illness.
  • David is absolutely shocked. He also feels a bit guilty because he's jealous of Dora's grief for someone other than David.
  • That night, David travels to Mr. Spenlow's house.
  • He finds Miss Mills there, and gives her a letter to pass on to Dora.
  • The next day, David receives a letter from Miss Mills about Dora, who is weeping constantly.
  • Mr. Jorkins comes into the office to look for Mr. Spenlow's will.
  • David is also eager to find the will, since he wants to know what Dora's future holds.
  • They look all around the office but can't find one.
  • Oddly enough, when David reassures Mr. Jorkins and Mr. Tiffey that Mr. Spenlow had told him hat Mr. Spenlow had a will all drawn up, they shake their heads.
  • Mr. Jorkins and Mr. Tiffey agree that people are weird about their wills, and often lie about them.
  • That proves to be true: even though Mr. Spenlow's whole law career was built on wills, he did not, in fact, leave one.
  • What's even more extraordinary is that, after paying off all of Mr. Spenlow's bills and debts, there isn't actually much money left over for Dora.
  • Mr. Spenlow had two estranged sisters who agree to take Dora into their home.
  • David manages to visit her new neighborhood quite often.
  • Miss Mills goes so far as to keep a diary of Dora's activities for David.
  • This journal is quite hilarious: Miss Mills's little comments are filled with intense emo.

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