‘Amateur Reader’ is doing a lovely series of posts on his reading of David Copperfield over at Wuthering Expectations. Up so far:
Dickens had reached a dead end, and he knew it. Many of his most rhetorically complex passages only barely serve the story of which they were nominally a part. The Haunted Man, is, at times, barely comprehensible. Dombey and Son is never that bad, but is still extraordinarily thick in places.
I had not read David Copperfield (1849-50) when I wondered if its switch to the first person was partly an attempt by Dickens to tame his own prose. It was!
Charles Dickens switched to a first person narrator in David Copperfield. Once, influenced by baleful Modernists, I would have found myself surprised that Dickens was interested in, and wanted to answer, the usual first person questions. No more, though. Nineteenth century writers were no fools.
The whiff of Proust is in that air, with the smell of earth and leaves. Standing at the window (a real action) evokes a more or less conscious memory, the visual image of the tramps, which reminds Copperfield of his own journey as a tramp (ending, more or less, at this window), accompanied, involuntarily, by some associated (non-visual) memories.