Somebody turns up by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). October 1849. Steel etching. Illustration for Charles Dickens's David Copperfield Source: Centenary Edition (1911), volume one. Chapter XVII, "Somebody Turns Up," facing page 308. 9.3 x 13.4 mm (3 ¾ by 5 ⅜ inches) vignetted. Instalment No. 6 (October 1849). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Micawber interrupts David's tea with the obsequious Heeps

Harry Furniss's reinterpretation of the teatime scene has eliminated Micawber entirely: David visits Uriah and Mrs. Heep (Charles Dickens Library Edition, 1910).

I had begun to be a little uncomfortable, and to wish myself well out of the visit, when a figure coming down the street passed the door — it stood open to air the room, which was warm, the weather being close for the time of year — came back again, looked in, and walked in, exclaiming loudly, "Copperfield! Is it possible?"

It was Mr. Micawber! It was Mr. Micawber, with his eye-glass, and his walking-stick, and his shirt-collar, and his genteel air, and the condescending roll in his voice, all complete!

"My dear Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, putting out his hand, "this is indeed a meeting which is calculated to impress the mind with a sense of the instability and uncertainty of all human—in short, it is a most extraordinary meeting. Walking along the street, reflecting upon the probability of something turning up (of which I am at present rather sanguine), I find a young but valued friend turn up, who is connected with the most eventful period of my life; I may say, with the turning-point of my existence. Copperfield, my dear fellow, how do you do?"

I cannot say — I really cannot say — that I was glad to see Mr. Micawber there; but I was glad to see him too, and shook hands with him, heartily, inquiring how Mrs. Micawber was.

"Thank you," said Mr. Micawber, waving his hand as of old, and settling his chin in his shirt-collar. "She is tolerably convalescent. The twins no longer derive their sustenance from Nature’s founts — in short," said Mr. Micawber, in one of his bursts of confidence, ‘they are weaned — and Mrs. Micawber is, at present, my travelling companion. She will be rejoiced, Copperfield, to renew her acquaintance with one who has proved himself in all respects a worthy minister at the sacred altar of friendship."

I said I should be delighted to see her.

"You are very good," said Mr. Micawber.

Mr. Micawber then smiled, settled his chin again, and looked about him.

"I have discovered my friend Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber genteelly, and without addressing himself particularly to anyone, "not in solitude, but partaking of a social meal in company with a widow lady, and one who is apparently her offspring — in short," said Mr. Micawber, in another of his bursts of confidence, "her son. I shall esteem it an honour to be presented." [Chapter XVII, "Somebody Turns Up," Vol. I, pp. 307-308]


For the second illustration in the sixth monthly part, for October 1849, Phiz reintroduces Wilkins Micawber (right, in the doorway) somewhat improbably as David pays a visit to the "umble" cottage of Uriah Heep, Mr. Whitfield's legal clerk, and his unctious mother. One can scarcely credit the coincidence of the Micawbers' having abandoned metropolitan London for a mere provincial capital in hopes that "something will turn up" and (not to put too fine a point upon it) that they can escape debts amassed in the capital. Phiz uses the illustration to introduce the obsequious clerk and his pious mother into the narrative-pictorial sequence.

Michael Steig's comment on this scene emphasizes Phiz's utilizing background details to reveal the true natures of Uriah and his mother, even though at this point in the narrative David does not really understand Uriah's hypocrisy, although it certainly makes him "a little uncomfortable":

"Somebody turns up" (ch. 17) finds David in his new, middle-class existence, now a young gentleman, someone to be deferred to by the Heeps, although actually as much a victim as ever. His pride at being "entertained, as an honoured guest" (p. 181) by the fawning Heeps is indicated in the pleasure with which his prissy little face and figure seem to be enjoying Uriah's obsequiousness; it is understandable why he is not glad of Micawber's interruption, but his annoyance is shown in the door knocker's grimace at that gentleman rather than in his own face. Yet the real nature of the event taking place, the corkscrewing of facts about himself out of David — the metaphor is Dickens' own — is indicated by the corkscrew hanging on the wall, the stuffed owl which implies the predatory watchfulness of the Heeps, the mousetrap, and even the ceramic cats, which, together with the real cat next to Mrs. Heep, could represent the Heeps' ability alternately to fawn and purr, and to hiss, spit, and scratch, or destroy a "mouse." [Steig 120-121]

Cohen also notes the mousetrap as symbolic, and the juxtaposition of the legal almanac with it and the two ceramic cats; she does not, however, mention either the many legal documents and books on the sideboard and precarious shelf above it, or the portrait of a magistrate in a wig in the right hand corner, all of which imply both the determined Uriah's methods of advancement and his pretensions to power, status, and, above all, respectability. In the text, David "reads" none of these objects, but in such details "Browne's illustrations often bridge the gap between the hero's naivete and the world's realities" (Cohen 105).

Other Studies of Uriah Heep from Other Editions (1867-1910)

eft: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s dual character study of the 'umble pair: Uriah Heep and his Mother (Diamond Edition, 1867). Centre: Fred Barnard's Household Edition study of the oily villain: "Oh, thank you, Master Copperfield," said Uriah Heep, "for that remark! It is so true! Umble as I am, I know it is so true! Oh, thank you, Master Copperfield!". (1872). Right: Kyd's vivid watercolour study of an indelible character: Uriah Heep (c. 1910). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

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.

Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio U. P., 1980.

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.

_______. The Personal History of David Copperfield. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. Vol. V.

_______. David Copperfield, with 61 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1872. Vol. III.

_______. The Personal History and Experiences of David Copperfield. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. X.

Hammerton, J. A., ed. The Dickens Picture-Book: A Record of the the Dickens Illustrations. London: Educational Book, 1910.

Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978.

Created 2 December 2009

Last modified 7 March 2022