Summary and Analysis
Two mornings after the dinner party, just as David is about to leave his room, a messenger arrives with a letter from Agnes, asking him to meet her at the home of Mr. Waterbrook, her father's London agent. When David meets Agnes, he reproaches himself for his conduct at the theatre. Agnes is forgiving, and David calls her his "good Angel." She warns David against Steerforth, his "bad Angel," but David insists that Steerforth is a good and loyal friend.
Agnes then relates her growing fears about Uriah Heep, who seems to be gaining more and more power over her father. In fact, Agnes believes that Uriah is going to enter the firm as a partner. David is indignant about this and tells Agnes that she must prevent it. Agnes, however, asks David to be congenial to Uriah for her father's sake.
The next day David attends a dinner party at Mr. Waterbrook's and encounters Uriah Heep again. While David is with Agnes, he senses Uriah's "shadowless eyes and cadaverous face, to be looking gauntly down . . . from behind." David is pleased to find Tommy Traddles, his old schoolmate, at the party. He learns that Traddles is preparing for the bar and, at the same time, working for the pompous Mr. Waterbrook. After the party, David suddenly remembers Agnes' plea to be kind to Uriah Heep, and so he invites him to his room for coffee. There, Uriah reveals his increasing sense of power and even confides that he loves Agnes and hopes to marry her. David is appalled at this prospect. Uriah asks if he can spend the night, and in the morning, after Uriah leaves, David asks Mrs. Crupp to "leave the windows open, that my sitting-room might be aired and purged" of his presence.
When Agnes leaves to return to Canterbury, Uriah Heep appears and boards the same coach. David is uneasy and fears that Uriah may succeed in his desire to marry Agnes. In addition, Steerforth is now at Oxford, and although letters pass between them, David remembers Agnes' warning and harbors "some lurking distrust" of him.
David begins his apprenticeship with the firm of Spenlow and Jorkins. One day, Mr. Spenlow invites David to come for a visit to his house at Norwood to meet his daughter, who has been attending school in Paris. When Mr. Spenlow and David arrive at the house, David is introduced to Dora Spenlow and is immediately overcome with her loveliness. "All was over in a moment. I had fulfilled my destiny. I was a captive and a slave. I loved Dora Spenlow to distraction!"
David is understandably startled to find Miss Murdstone at the Spenlow home; she is serving as a hired companion and protector for Dora. David at first fears that Miss Murdstone will disparage him to Dora, but he and Miss Murdstone, when they are alone, agree to keep their past relationship a secret. David learns that Dora does not like Miss Murdstone; her closest friend is her dog, Jip.
Back in London, David lives in a dream about Dora and buys sumptuous waistcoats, "not for myself; I had no pride in them, for Dora."
Chapter 25 is important primarily because it introduces Agnes Wickfield; she is the first person in the book to sense the true character of Steerforth. Everyone else, including David, has been dazzled by his charms. However, Dickens has already suggested to the reader that Steerforth's seeming perfection hides weak self-indulgence (for which his mother is largely responsible). We suspect that he is furthering an interest in little Em'ly, despite her engagement to Ham.
When Dickens relates the discussion at the dinner party in this chapter, note how carefully he portrays the shallowness of human feeling as he describes the "upper classes." Here, the conversation centers around the "terribly" great importance of "blood" — meaning that only families of the aristocracy are of any concern.
David's feelings for Dora, in contrast, are handled realistically; in fact, most critics believe that they are based on Dickens' own life. When Dickens was about eighteen, he fell in love with Maria Beadnell, but her father sent her away to Paris so that she could not see the young suitor and Dickens saw very little of her after that.