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    illustration by Hablot Knight Browne from the first edition of David Copperfield

    God Forgive Us All

    Strong-minded Betsey Trotwood softens her heart.

    By Charles Dickens

    December 15, 2021
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    A selection from The Gospel in Dickens, an anthology edited by Gina Dalfonzo.


    David Copperfield’s great-aunt, Betsey Trotwood, was treated so badly by her husband that she had to separate from him, but this does not prevent her from showing him kindness and grace at the end of his life.

    We went back next day to my aunt’s house—not to mine; and when she and I sat alone, as of old, before going to bed, she said:

    “Trot, do you really wish to know what I have had upon my mind lately?”

    “Indeed I do, aunt. If there ever was a time when I felt unwilling that you should have a sorrow or anxiety which I could not share, it is now.”

    “You have had sorrow enough, child,” said my aunt, affectionately, “without the addition of my little miseries. I could have no other motive, Trot, in keeping anything from you.”

    “I know that well,” said I. “But tell me now.”

    “Would you ride with me a little way to-morrow morning?” asked my aunt.

    “Of course.”

    “At nine,” said she. “I’ll tell you then, my dear.”

    illustration by Hablot Knight Browne of David Copperfield and Betsey Trotwood from the first edition of David Copperfield

    Hablot Knight Browne, David Copperfield Introducing Himself to His Aunt from the first edition of David Copperfield

    At nine, accordingly, we went out in a little chariot, and drove to London. We drove a long way through the streets until we came to one of the large hospitals. Standing hard by the building was a plain hearse. The driver recognized my aunt, and in obedience to a motion of her hand at the window, drove slowly off; we following.

    “You understand it now, Trot,” said my aunt. “He is gone!”

    “Did he die in the hospital?”

    “Yes.”

    She sat immovable beside me; but, again I saw the stray tears on her face.

    “He was there once before,” said my aunt presently. “He was ailing a long time – a shattered, broken man, these many years. When he knew his state in this last illness, he asked them to send for me. He was sorry then. Very sorry.”

    “You went, I know, aunt.”

    “I went. I was with him a good deal afterwards.”

    “He died the night before we went to Canterbury?” said I.

    My aunt nodded. “No one can harm him now,” she said. “It was a vain threat.”

    We drove away, out of town, to the churchyard at Hornsey. “Better here than in the streets,” said my aunt. “He was born here.”

    We alighted; and followed the plain coffin to a corner I remember well, where the service was read consigning it to the dust.

    “Six-and-thirty years ago, this day, my dear,” said my aunt, as we walked back to the chariot, “I was married. God forgive us all!”

    We took our seats in silence; and so she sat beside me for a long time, holding my hand. At length she suddenly burst into tears, and said:

    “He was a fine-looking man when I married him, Trot – and he was sadly changed!”

    It did not last long. After the relief of tears, she soon became composed, and even cheerful. Her nerves were a little shaken, she said, or she would not have given way to it. God forgive us all!


    Source: David Copperfield Chapter 54: “Mr. Micawber’s Transactions”

    Contributed By CharlesDickens Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was the most popular author of his day and is still widely considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

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