In the penultimate chapter of David Copperfield, David and Agnes, after ten years of uneventful but blissful marriage - 'I had advanced in fame and fortune, my domestic joy was perfect' - are sitting by the fire in their house in London, one night in spring, when they receive a visit from an elderly stranger. This man turns out to be Mr Peggotty, who emigrated to Australia with what remained of his family ten years previously, together with the Micawbers. And they have all 'thrived': Em'ly has recovered her virtue; Martha has married; even Mrs Gummidge has received a proposal; and Mr Micawber has not only paid off all his debts but been appointed District Magistrate. It's quite a paradise, Australia: 'What with sheep-farming, and what with stock-farming, and what with one thing and what with t'other, we are as well to do, as well could be'; when a traveller comes along, 'we took him in, and giv him to eat and drink, and made him welcome. We all do that, all the colony over.' It is in pursuit of such myths that Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda set out for the promised land; they learn the realities of life in the colony the hard way.
LRB 8 February 2001 | PDF Download