illustration of two young men standing in 19th century garb and looking at one another

David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens

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"My Child-wife"

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Context: Dickens was at his best when he was creating the unforgettable characters of his novels. One of the most enchanting and pathetic of all is Dora, the young and soon-dead wife of David Copperfield. When he first meets his eventual bride, he says of her, "She had the most delightful little voice, the gayest little laugh, the pleasantest and most fascinating little ways, that ever led a lost youth into hopeless slavery." When, however, later on, he attempts to impress upon Dora that, because of his reduced circumstances, they will have to live very frugally, she faints dead away. "A thing of light, and airiness, and joy," she has not grown up at all. After the marriage and after a particularly bad dinner at which Copperfield has been embarrassed for his guest, Dora comes to him, asks him to call her his "child-wife," and says,

"I don't mean, you silly fellow, that you should use the name instead of Dora. I only mean that you should think of me that way. When you are going to be angry with me, say to yourself, 'it's only my child-wife!' When I am very disappointing, say, 'I knew, a long time ago, that she would make but a child-wife!' When you miss what I should like to be, and I think can never be, say, 'still my foolish child-wife loves me!' For indeed I do."

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