David Copperfield character

Daniel Peggotty
"A hale grey-haired old man." (ch. LXIII)
Art by Frank Reynolds (1910)
Created by Charles Dickens
Nationality British
Peggotty and little David. Art by Frank Reynolds (1910).

The Peggotty family are fictional characters in Charles Dickens's 1850 novel David Copperfield.

Daniel Peggotty

Yarmouth fisherman Daniel Peggotty is the brother of Clara. Referred to as "Mr. Peggotty", he is a fisherman and dealer in lobsters, crabs, and crawfish. He lives in a converted boat on the beach at Yarmouth with Emily, Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge. When Emily abandons them to elope with Steerforth, Daniel vows to find her. Steerforth later leaves Emily and she is re-united with Daniel. At the end of the novel Daniel, Emily, and Mrs. Gummidge resettle in Australia.

Clara Peggotty

Clara Peggotty is usually referred to as simply 'Peggotty' so as not to confuse her with David's mother, who is also called Clara. Peggotty is the housekeeper of the family home and plays a big part in David's upbringing. Peggotty is the sister of Yarmouth fisherman Daniel Peggotty, and the aunt of Ham Peggotty and Little Em'ly.[1] Early in the novel, David's aunt, Betsey Trotwood, dismisses Peggotty's surname (had it been a given name) as being pagan:

"Peggotty!" repeated Miss Betsey, with some indignation. "Do you mean to say, child, that any human being has gone into a Christian church, and got herself named Peggotty?"[1]

Mrs Copperfield then explains that Peggotty is known by her surname to avoid confusion with herself as they share the same first name. As a "peggotty" or a "knitting nancy" (also known as a knitting loom) is a knitting device, the name may be a reference to Clara Peggotty's fondness for knitting.

Peggotty is described as having cheeks like a red apple. Peggotty is gentle and caring, opening herself and her family to David whenever he is in need. She remains faithful to David Copperfield all her life, being like a second mother to him, never abandoning him, his mother, or his great-aunt Miss Betsey Trotwood. In her kind motherliness, Peggotty contrasts markedly with the harsh and unloving Miss Murdstone, the sister of David's cruel stepfather Mr Murdstone.[2]

She marries carrier Mr Barkis and is afterwards sometimes referred to as Mrs. Barkis, a name Aunt Betsey Trotwood regards as much more suitable. On her husband's death Peggotty inherits £3,000 — equivalent to about £290 thousand in present-day terms.[3] After his death, she becomes Betsy Trotwood's servant and companion.

Peggotty has been played by Judy Cornwell (2000), Pauline Quirke (1999), Jenny McCracken (1986), Lila Kaye (1966), Elsa Vazzoler (1965), Barbara Ogilvie (1958), Jessie Ralph (1935), and Karen Caspersen (1922).[4]

Ham (right) and Daniel Peggotty

Ham Peggotty

A big and simple fisherman and boatbuilder, Ham Peggotty is the orphaned nephew of Clara and Daniel Peggotty and is the fiancé of Emily, to whom he became engaged on the visit of David Copperfield and Steerforth to the boat house at Great Yarmouth. He drowns trying to rescue Steerforth during a storm at sea off Yarmouth.[5] "He was a huge, strong fellow of six feet high, broad in proportion, and round-shouldered; but with a simpering boy's face and curly light hair that gave him quite a sheepish look. He was dressed in a canvas jacket, and a pair of such very stiff trousers that they would have stood quite as well alone, without any legs in them. And you couldn't so properly have said he wore a hat, as that he was covered in a-top, like an old building, with something pitchy."


  1. 1 2 Dickens, Charles 'David Copperfield' Published by Bradbury & Evans (1850)
  2. Peggotty on
  3. UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  4. Peggotty on the Internet Movie Database
  5. Michael Pointer, Who's Who in Dickens Bison Books Ltd (1995) pg 110
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