Summary and Analysis
David goes to visit Tommy Traddles, who lives in a very poor section of Camden Town, where garbage and junk clutter the streets. David finds Traddles' apartment house, whose "genteel air" reminds him of the days he spent with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. They discuss their school days and Traddles' life since leaving school. He explains to David that he went to his uncle's household to live, but his uncle didn't like him. After his uncle's death, Traddies began to copy law writings for a living and then to "state cases" and make abstracts. This led him to the study of law, which exhausted his limited funds. He then found jobs with a couple of other offices, including Mr. Waterbrook's, as well as with a firm that was preparing to publish an encyclopedia. Finally, he "managed to scrape up" the hundred pounds necessary for him to be "articled." Traddles also reveals that he is engaged to be married to one of the ten daughters of a curate in Devonshire. He expects it to be a long engagement, but they have made a beginning by buying two small pieces of furniture.
David is surprised and delighted to learn that Traddles' landlord is Mr. Micawber, who is still patiently waiting for something to turn up. David talks with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber and learns that they are expecting another child. He is invited to dinner but declines the invitation; instead, he asks them to dine with him at a later date.
David makes arrangements about the dinner party which he plans for the Micawbers and Tommy Traddles, but he has to compromise with Mrs. Crupp by agreeing to eat out for the next two weeks; otherwise, she will not cook the meal. When his guests arrive, Mr. Micawber becomes involved in preparing the punch, while Mrs. Micawber sits at the dressing table and gets herself ready for the party.
As they all sit around eating the mutton, Littimer arrives and asks David if he has seen Steerforth. When David says that he hasn't, Littimer says that Steerforth will probably be coming up from Oxford tomorrow. He insists that David be seated, and he then takes over the task of preparing the remainder of the mutton. During Littimer's presence, everyone is uncomfortable, and it is only when the servant leaves that they seem "to breathe more freely." Before Littimer goes, David asks him if he remained long at Yarmouth. Littimer says that he stayed to see the boat completed but he does not know if Steerforth has seen it yet.
The conversation turns to Mr. Micawber's employment. It is agreed that the corn business, in which Micawber is employed, is not very profitable and that Mr. Micawber should advertise his talents in the papers — "throw down the gauntlet" to society, as it were — to see what will turn up. The cost of this advertising will be met by a promissory note. Before the party adjourns, David warns Traddles not to act as cosigner for any bills, but Traddles says that he has already done so.
Shortly afterward, Steerforth appears. David, as a result of Agnes' warning, has been feeling a slight uneasiness about him. However, he is now so overjoyed at seeing his friend that he feels "confounded and ashamed" at having doubted him. Steerforth has just come from Yarmouth, and he gives David a letter from Peggotty, which says that Barkis is gravely ill. David decides to visit Peggotty, but Steerforth persuades David to spend the next day with him at his home before going to Yarmouth.
In the opening of Chapter 27, David is reminded of the Micawbers. This may lead readers familiar with Dickens to believe that, before the chapter ends, Mr. Micawber will put in an appearance. Dickens does not disappoint these readers. This is another unlikely coincidence, but something one has to understand is part of Dickens' technique, just as was his having Miss Murdstone show up in Chapter 26, as an employee in the Spenlow household. The possibility of this happening in real life is very remote, but it helped lace together Dickens' intricate network of plots and subplots.
When we get to Chapter 28, we see that David has matured from the time he first knew Mr. Micawber, and he now realizes that his old friend is a failure. This is clearly shown when he warns Traddles not to co-sign any bill with Micawber.
Steerforth, while discussing the approaching death of Barkis, reveals a ruthlessness in his nature. "It's a bad job . . . but the sun sets every day, and people die every minute, and we mustn't be scared by the common lot. No! Ride on! Roughshod if need be, smooth-shod if that will do, but ride on! Ride over all obstacles and win the race!"
David shows the first indication of his having matured in regard to Steerforth when, after leaving him, he remembers what his friend said about riding over all obstacles and winning the race. David finds himself wishing, for the first time, that Steerforth "had some worthy race to run."