Context: When David Copperfield began school at Canterbury, he met Mr. Wickfield, a lawyer, and his daughter Agnes. At this time also he first set eyes on Uriah Heep, Mr. Wickfield's scheming clerk. As years pass, Heep takes advantage of Wickfield's weakness for wine and by various deceptions becomes his partner, gaining control of the business and of him. Copperfield, visiting the Wickfields in Canterbury, is witness to an unpleasant scene in which Mr. Wickfield gives way to despair and hatred for Uriah Heep when the repulsive creature expresses a desire for Agnes' hand. Attempting to silence his victim, Heep assumes a repentant air and says that regrettable things are best forgotten.
". . . You and me know what we know, don't we? Let sleeping dogs lie–who wants to rouse 'em? I don't. Can't you see I am as umble as I can be? I tell you, if I've gone too far, I'm sorry. What would you have, Sir?"