January 25, 1851

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield


Jan 25 Saturday.  Have been sweeping and dusting the house and 

have done a little of everything and not much of anything.  Have got

the chambers in pretty good order for once in my life.  Have

mended Mr Ames coat & vest.  Took the time when he was 

from home because he has but one suit beside his go to meeting

poor man!  Called at Mr Torreys just at night.  This eve

have been mending & have had no time to read.  Commenced

reading David Copperfield.  Mr Ames at Boston.  Very warm & fine

Evelina could be critical of others, but she was most critical of herself.  Her self-deprecation often took a humorous tone, as in having done “a little of everything and not much of anything.”  She really tried to get things organized at home today, tackling perhaps one of her biggest challenges: keeping her husband Oakes in decent clothes.

Family lore would have it that Evelina was miserly, lore that is reinforced by Reverend William Chaffin.  Chaffin blamed Evelina for Oakes’ shabby “pantaloons,” believing that Evelina  “being economical kept them well mended instead of encouraging him to buy new ones.”  Yet Chaffin also acknowledged Oakes’s indifference to outfit, telling us that while on a trip into Boston with a friend, Reuben Meader, Oakes responded to Meader’s suggestion that he should wear better clothes by saying: “Oh, I can wear poor clothes if I want to, but some men can’t.”

Oakes spent money on gifts; he was well-known and well-liked for his charitable instincts.  However, unlike his brother, Oliver Jr., who shopped for bespoke outfits in Boston, Oakes didn’t spend a dime on his apparel; he simply didn’t care, so  Chaffin was unjustified to blame Oakes’s appearance on Evelina.  She tried to keep him mended, and we know that she was willing to spend money on clothes; certainly she kept the dressmakers in Easton occupied.  But she must have met resistance if and when she tried to improve her husband’s wardrobe.

Today’s hard work had a reward: opening the pages of David Copperfield, the newest book by Charles Dickens.

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