Context: Following his wife's death, David Copperfield prepares to leave on a trip to the continent for a change of scene, but he has a last duty to perform before his departure: his childhood friend, Emily, who was deserted by her husband, Steerforth, has sailed for Australia in hopes of finding a new life, and she writes a last letter to her brother, Ham, asking Copperfield to deliver it for her. On the way to Yarmouth he becomes alarmed at the threatening appearance of the sky, and at the increasingly high winds. By the time he reaches the port city, the storm, the worst in the people's memory, is hurling immense waves across the beaches. He knew what the storms of the area were like, but had seen nothing like the present one. The next day a ship is wrecked, and the courageous Ham loses his life attempting to rescue a lone survivor, who, ironically, is discovered to be Steerforth.
When the day broke, it blew harder and harder. I had been in Yarmouth when the seamen said it blew great guns; but I had never known the like of this, or anything approaching to it.'" Long before we saw the sea, its spray was on our lips, and showered salt rain upon us. The water was out, over miles and miles of the flat country adjacent to Yarmouth; and every sheet and puddle lashed its banks, and had its stress of little breakers setting heavily toward us.