Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Advice from David Copperfield

I know it's been a while since my last David Copperfield post, but I promised you more good advice from Dickens' memorable characters. I am not quite finished with my rereading, but I have a great bit of gold from David Copperfield's great aunt Betsy Trotwood. She is a lady who made a notable appearance as David's mother was in labor with him, and she sat by patiently, waiting for her beloved "niece" to be born. When she found out it was a boy--David--she left without another word, and she didn't appear in the story again until David, friendless, hopeless, a starving runaway, shows up on her doorstep, filthy and looking just as much a boy as before.

But she doesn't walk away from him the second time, although she does take to calling him Trotwood Copperfield instead of David. She learns a great deal from this young man, even in her old age. And when he is about to set off into the world, she gives him some advice in return. She says, "Never... be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you."

Now, all I can wish is that every parent and guardian gave his or her children the same advice, that the world taught its kids to be kind, to be true, and to cause happiness instead of pain to those around them. Think of how different the world would be if we lived like this. War would be impossible, for no one would knowingly intend harm to anyone else. Gossip would be unacceptable, for if one began sniping about someone else, those who heard the snipe would refuse to take part. 

Would all sadness cease? No, of course not. We would still do stupid things. We would still make mistakes. But instead of laughing at someone we accidently knocked to the ground, we'd hold out a hand and apologize, and we'd truly be sorry we'd hurt them. 

This advice has caused me to do all kinds of nice things just over the last week. I took my kids to the library today, even though I didn't have time (they were almost teary from the books they found). I saved the last piece of carrot cake for my husband (and I really wanted it, too). It made me sign three people into one of my day classes even though I only had room for one (I just couldn't turn the other two down!). 

I still have much to learn from this little kernel of wisdom. I should paint it on the walls of my office, so that I can read it through every day. I'd be a better person if I did.


  1. A world where no one hurt another intentionally. It seems like such obvious advice, the kind we should all follow.

    I still dream of such a day, but, since I can't *make* it happen, I will try to be a part of the solution.

  2. I have never understood why people laugh at another's pain or misfortune. Thanks for bringing attention to how thoughtless actions affect others. Everyone should have a Betsy Trotwood to remind them to be kind and honest. Thanks for the reminder!