Context: David Copperfield, at the age of ten, is placed by his stepfather in an intolerable job, and he runs away to the only source of help, his father's maiden aunt, Betsy Trotwood. She allows to stay in her house a relative of hers, Mr. Dick, who is mentally weak, but kindly; and after David is sent to a boys' school, Mr. Dick comes to visit him each week. During one of these visits, Mr. Dick attempts to remember the year when he first saw what he regards as a mysterious figure hanging about his house. His poor brain cannot cope with dates, and the only one he can recall is 1649, the year of the execution of Charles I. It was a mistake, he says, to make him study history, which, it seemed to him, set his own mind to grappling with the problems Charles was facing. To Mr. Dick, the study of history meant personal involvement with living people.
". . . it was very soon after the mistake was made of putting some of the trouble out of King Charles's head into my head, that the man first came."