The Battle on the Green. 1872. Sixteenth illustration by Fred Barnard (engraved by the Dalziels) for the Household Edition of David Copperfield (Chapter XIII, "The Sequel of My Resolution," 97). 10.3 x 13.8 cm (4 ⅛ by 5 ⅜ inches), vignetted. [Click on the image to enlarge it; mouse over links.]

Passage Illustrated: A Farcical Confrontation in Aunt Betsey's Garden

Phiz's original serial illustration emphasizes the meeting of David and Aunt Betsey in the garden after she and Janet have chased off the donkeys (retreating in the distance): I make myself known to my Aunt (September 1849).

"Go along with you!" cried my aunt, shaking her head and her fist at the window. "You have no business there. How dare you trespass? Go along! Oh! you bold-faced thing!"

My aunt was so exasperated by the coolness with which Miss Murdstone looked about her, that I really believe she was motionless, and unable for the moment to dart out according to custom. I seized the opportunity to inform her who it was; and that the gentleman now coming near the offender (for the way up was very steep, and he had dropped behind), was Mr. Murdstone himself.

"I don’t care who it is!" cried my aunt, still shaking her head and gesticulating anything but welcome from the bow-window. "I won’t be trespassed upon. I won’t allow it. Go away! Janet, turn him round. Lead him off!" and I saw, from behind my aunt, a sort of hurried battle-piece, in which the donkey stood resisting everybody, with all his four legs planted different ways, while Janet tried to pull him round by the bridle, Mr. Murdstone tried to lead him on, Miss Murdstone struck at Janet with a parasol, and several boys, who had come to see the engagement, shouted vigorously. But my aunt, suddenly descrying among them the young malefactor who was the donkey’s guardian, and who was one of the most inveterate offenders against her, though hardly in his teens, rushed out to the scene of action, pounced upon him, captured him, dragged him, with his jacket over his head, and his heels grinding the ground, into the garden, and, calling upon Janet to fetch the constables and justices, that he might be taken, tried, and executed on the spot, held him at bay there. This part of the business, however, did not last long; for the young rascal, being expert at a variety of feints and dodges, of which my aunt had no conception, soon went whooping away, leaving some deep impressions of his nailed boots in the flower-beds, and taking his donkey in triumph with him. [Chapter XIV, "My Aunt Makes up Her Mind about Me," 103]

Commentary: Physical Humour replaces the Sentimentality of David's meeting his Aunt

Phiz, in his original serial program, had made David's final meeting his Aunt Betsey a sentimental moment — this was after Dickens had rejected a trial plate of Miss Trotwood having fallen on the ground in surprise. Barnard, however, enjoys the comic relief of her reprimanding the donkey-boys for trespassing in her garden just as her other unwanted visitors, the Murdstones, arrive. Jane strikes the maid Janet with her parasol as David's unpleasant stepfather attempts to calm his sister's mount. In the background, at the open gate (left) stand Mr. Dick and David as mere observers of the pitched combat. This is not the initial encounter with the donkeys and their handlers from Chapter 13, as the presence of Jane Murdstone, her rented pony, and her brother (right) makes obvious, although this edition juxtaposes the original confrontation and the illustration of the second.

Relevant Illustrated Editions of this Novel (1863 through 1910)

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). The Centenary Edition. 2 vols. London and New York: Chapman & Hall, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911.

Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield, with 61 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1872.

Steig, Michael. Chapter 5. "David Copperfield: Progress of a Confused Soul." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. Pp. 113-130.

The copy of the Household Edition from which this picture was scanned was the gift of George Gorniak, Editor of The Dickens Magazine, whose subject for the fifth series, beginning in January 2010, is this novel.

Last modified 13 June 2009