Young men like to drink. This is what is called a fact, and facts, as Dickens has taught us, are all that matter. Young men are also dumb. Dickens knew this as well; therefore, he decided to infuse these two deep truths into his depiction of the twenty-year-old first-apartment experience. David Copperfield’s twenty-fourth chapter renders the Young Drunkard’s psychology through prose; and, in this frightening accuracy of a well-oiled sophomore there exists enough potency to turn any beer-frothed bachelor into a love-seeking teetotaler.
But who wasn’t excited about his first apartment? Sure, the heat didn’t work, the walls were made of paper, and the neighbors dealt drugs, but that didn’t take away from the certitude that you had a “wonderfully fine…lofty castle to (your)self.” You could “let (your)self in and out,” and perform that particularly lovely ritual of “com(ing) and go(ing) without a word to anyone.” Furthermore, it was a “wonderfully fine thing to walk about town with the key of (your) house in (your) pocket,” which supported the notion that you could likely open the door once you returned, and bring in with you anyone who tickled your fancy.
Ultimately, however, you were lonely; “(you) wanted somebody to talk to,”and “after two days and nights, (you) felt as if (you) had lived there for a year.” Your friends had yet to show up at your new place, which lead you to suspect that “ (they) must be ill,” so you left your beloved apartment with any excuse to bring anyone back to it. This plan did not work. Therefore, when your friend, by chance, stumbled into your forgotten orifice the next morning, it was to “(your) unbounded joy.” From there, “(you) showed him over the establishment, not omitting the pantry, with no little pride, and (your friend) commended it highly.” After your friend denied breakfasting with you, you asked him to come over for dinner, to which he mentioned that he “can’t upon (his) life,” as he had plans with The Boys tonight. So, you blurted, “then bring them to dinner here.” Reluctance was at all-time high. But somehow you were to play the host.
You made food of questionable quality in great amounts, and, after this browsing was completed “did not spare the wine.” Your friends appreciated the booze, but, somehow there lingered inside of you a feeling that you were with “not quite such good company during dinner as (you) could have wished to be.”
Once the wine began to alter the consistency of your blood, however, things became “singularly cheerful and light-hearted.” After this vinous change in mood, there were “half-forgotten things to talk about.” The inclination to “laugh heartily at (your) own jokes” was as strong as the inclination to laugh at “everyone else’s.” You then announced that you “meant to have a dinner party like that, once a week, until further notice,” which was followed with the “passing of wine faster and faster yet, and continually starting up with a corkscrew to open more wine, long before any was needed.” You mentioned that an acquaintance of yours was “(your) dearest friend,” moreover stating to that very same acquaintance that “you’retheguidingstarofmyexistence.”
Then, things got rowdy. Someone said something objectionable, whereupon you “took objection to (it), and (you) couldn’t allow it,” to which that someone remonstrated that “a man was not to be dictated to,” against which you firmly disagreed. This led him to “confess(ed) that (you) (were) a devilish good fellow, and then you “instantly proposed to his health.”
Then you realized that “somebody was smoking…(you) were all smoking.” It was not soon after that hazy moment that you realized “somebody was hanging out of (your) bedroom window, refreshing his forehead against the cool stone of the parapet.” And just when things were at their rowdiest, someone shouted “‘Let us go to the theatre!” This, as well as every other idea, sounded great, so you took the proper precautions to exit, however:
“owing to some confusion in the dark, the door was gone. (You) were feeling for it in the window-curtains, when (your friend), laughing, took (you) by the arm and led (you) out. (You) went down-stairs, one behind another. Near the bottom, somebody fell and rolled down. Somebody else said it was (you). (You) were angry at that false report, until, finding (your)self on (your) back in the passage, (you) began to think there might be some foundation for it.”
After getting out the door, which was no easy task, there was “indistinct talk,” and, when someone asked if you were “all right” you told him that you were “‘Neverberrer’.”
This group promenade complete, you found yourself “very high up in a very hot theatre,” which had “a stage with people upon it, talking about something or other, but not at all intelligible.” This theatre assailed you with its “abundance of bright lights…music…ladies…and (you) don’t know what more,” and “the whole building looked to (you) as if it were learning to swim; it conducted itself in such an unaccountable manner, when (you) tried to steady it.” Amorous as you always were when you were drunk, on somebody’s suggestion that you all “go downstairs to the dress-boxes, where the ladies were,” naturally, you followed. The result of these adventures with young women was not altogether positive, the total of your correspondence with one young lady being that of “Lorblessmer…I”mafraidyou’renorwell…Amigoarawaysoo…” Then, you got home, and, while attempting to dose off, “the bed [was] a rocking sea that was never still.”
What you said after that evening’s gallivant was the precursor to maturity. You mentioned how drinking had made you feel “the agony of mind, the remorse, and the shame … next day! (Your) horror of having committed a thousand offences (you) had forgotten…(your) disgust in the very sight of the room where the revel had been held—(your) racking head—the smell of smoke, the sight of glasses, the impossibility of going out, or even getting up!
I think it was that day when you swore off drinking. And I think it was that night when we did it all over again.