I fall into captivity
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
Etching on steel
Dickens's David Copperfield, chapter 26, "I Fall into Captivity."
Source: Centenary Edition, facing page 466.
Image scan, caption, and commentary below by Philip V. Allingham.
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According to J. A. Hammerton (1910), "I fall into captivity," the second illustration for the ninth monthly number (chapters 25, 26, and 27), realizes the scene in chapter 26 in which David Copperfield meets Dora Spenlow, daughter of his employer, at Mr. Spenlow's estate at Norwood:
I heard a voice say, "Mr. Copperfield, my daughter Dora, and my daughter Dora's confidential friend!" It was, no doubt, Mr. Spenlow's voice, but I didn't know it, and I didn't care whose it was. All was over in a moment. I had fulfilled my destiny. I was a captive and a slave. I loved Dora Spenlow to distraction! 
Although David is appalled at the notion of Uriah Heep's courting Agnes Wickfield, and, indeed, seems obsessed with the impropriety of the putative relationship, he does not hesitate to be smitten at first sight with the daughter of his own employer, a Proctor in Doctors' Commons and partner in the firm of Spenlow and Jorkins, where David is articling. By sheer Dickensian coincidence the chaperon of the young lady, just home from "finishing" in Paris, is none other than Miss Jane Murdstone, the bane of David's childhood after his mother's second marriage, last seen "The momentous interview" in chapter 14.
David's courtship and marriage to Dora is probably the activity to which the hero devotes the most passion in the novel, and it is given a series of important and carefully worked out illustrations, most of which are thick with emblematic details. In the one already mentioned, "I fall into captivity," perhaps the only strictly emblematic detail is the diorama of birds under glass, suggesting the exceedingly preserved and sheltered life of Dora. But a piano is also present which in view of the rest of the series may represent Dora's eternal singing of "enchanted ballads ... generally to the effect that, whatever was the matter, we ought always to dance, Ta ra la, Ta ra la!" (ch. 26, p. 277). [Steig 121-122]
Since David at this point has not even shared a conversation with Dora Spenlow, the reader should conclude that the protagonist once again has exhibited a preference for a stylish veneer over the underlying substance, as has been the case with James Steerforth. Phiz underscores Dora's vanity and superficiality as well as her physical attractiveness by including an oil painting of her (or her mother) immediately above her father's head. Her piano music, strewn on the floor, suggests her mental untidiness. Here as in later plates, Phiz associates Dora with domestic disorder and carelessness, qualities that he has also associated with David's mother in "Changes at home" in the July number. As Cohen remarks of David and Dora once they are husband and wife, the birds may foreshadow their married life: "The couple are as trapped by their own inexperience and immaturity as their caged birds" (104). Born to a life of privilege, raised by a stylish widower, and hence without a suitable female role model, the charming and well-meaning Dora will prove utterly inept as a housekeeper and useless as a moral guide and intellectual companion. Thus, although as physically attractive as Agnes, the only young woman in the number's companion plate, Dora is a complete contrast to David's other good angel.
Additional information about the plate
Second January 1850 illustration. Source: Centenary Edition (1911), volume one, facing page 466. All forty Phiz plates were etched in duplicate, as was the case with Dombey and Son, the duplicates differing only slightly from the originals. Phiz contributed forty etchings and the "life of every man" wrapper design.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield, il. Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). The Centenary Edition. London and New York: Chapman & Hall, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911.
Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana U. P., 1978.
Last modified 25 December 2009