Page 5. " Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. "

David Copperfield was written in 1849-1850 and was Dickens' eighth full-length novel, though the first to be written in the first person. It is a Bildungsroman (a coming of age novel) and draws on many of the details of Dickens' own life.


Page 5. " I was born with a caul, which was advertised for sale "
Amniotic Sac
GNU Free Documentation LicenseAmniotic Sac - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He was born with his head helmeted by part of the amniotic sac. This was considered to be a lucky omen. The caul was auctioned off as a talisman to protect against drowning. 

Page 6. " my first childish associations with his white grave-stone in the churchyard "
St. James Church Graveyard
GNU Free Documentation LicenseSt. James Church Graveyard - Credit: Clem Rutter

 St. James Church in Cooling, Kent is thought to be the inspiration for scenes in both David Copperfield and Great Expectations.


Google Map
Page 7. " Saracen's Head in a Dutch clock "

“Saracen” was the term used by the ancient Romans to denote the inhabitants of Syria. By Dickens' time the word had become synonymous with Arabs, Heathens or warlike savages.

“Dutch” may be a corruption of the word “Deutsch,” meaning German. Compared to the famous Swiss models, German clocks were less reliable and less expensive.

Page 10. " Calls a house a rookery when there’s not a rook near it "
GNU Free Documentation LicenseRook - Credit: Rafal Komorowski

The name of David Copperfield’s childhood home is symbolic and foreshadows future events. Folklore has it that the rook is able to predict the weather and sense approaching death.

A rookery is the nesting area for these birds, and it was thought that an abandoned rookery brought bad luck to the owners of the land.

Page 13. " Ham Peggotty, who went to the national school, and was a very dragon at his catechism "
Former National School
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeFormer National School - Credit: Philip Halling
In nineteenth century England national schools were founded by the National Society for Promoting Religious Education to educate the children of the poor.

A catechism was a kind of religious user's manual and was often styled as a series of questions and answers.

Page 16. " Lazarus was raised from the dead. "
The Gospel of John recounts how Jesus raised Lazarus of Bethany from the dead. The miracle is considered a precursor to Christ’s own resurrection.
Page 18. " I see a stray sheep - I don't mean a sinner, but mutton "

A reference to the Parable of the Lost Sheep as recorded by Matthew and Luke in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.