the packet vessel that brought me home

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Gabriel Aparta

Senior Member
Español - Venezuela
Hi everyone, please, from David Coppefield by Dickens:

These, with their perplexities and inconsistencies, were the shifting quicksands of my mind, from the time of my departure to the time of my return home, three years afterwards. Three years had elapsed since the sailing of the emigrant ship; when, at that same hour of sunset, and in the same place, I stood on the deck of the packet vessel that brought me home, looking on the rosy water where I had seen the image of that ship reflected.

This chapter is called Absence and describes David being abroad after the death of his wife and two friends. Does that phrase in bold mean that the same ship in which he left is the one that brought him back?

Thanks!
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    A packet(-boat) is a ship that travels at regular intervals between two ports, carrying mail. David had left on a long-distance (= emigrant) ship and now returned on a local one.
     

    Gabriel Aparta

    Senior Member
    Español - Venezuela
    Thanks for the help :). Maybe that emigrant ship is the one where Mr. Peggoty, Emily and Mr. Micawber and his family left to Australia, and maybe David later left in a packet vessel, the same that's bringing him now. Would you think that possible.
     

    Gabriel Aparta

    Senior Member
    Español - Venezuela
    Right, sorry, the word when made me confused, thank you both for the help and patience! It's curious the contrast in weather in the beginning of the next chatper, which is the next page:

    I landed in London on a wintry autumn evening. It was dark and raining, and I saw more fog and mud in a minute than I had seen in a year.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    A packet(-boat) is a ship that travels at regular intervals between two ports, carrying mail. David had left on a long-distance (= emigrant) ship and now returned on a local one.
    Packet boats and packet ships originally carried mail and newspapers on a regular schedule, but by the time David Copperfield was published, the larger packet ships carried goods and passengers as well as mail and newspapers. The packet ships that sailed from ports like New York to ports like Liverpool were the first (in the early 19th century) to establish regular departure times, so that passengers and merchants could plan ahead. Before that time, shipping and transportation was irregular; ships left according to individual captains' decisions. Packet shipping lines like the Black Ball Line were the ancestors of 20th century ocean liners.
    So by 1850, if the vessel in the passage is the one that came from Australia, it's like the mid-19th century equivalent of an ocean liner making a regularly scheduled voyage from Australia (assuming that packet ships to and from Australia were like the ones to and from the US and Canada).
     
    Last edited:

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Did the emigrant ship sail from London?

    I believe lots of ships sailed from points farther west. For instance, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower that are famous in American history sailed from Plymouth.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Did the emigrant ship sail from London?

    I believe lots of ships sailed from points farther west. For instance, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower that are famous in American history sailed from Plymouth.
    I'm not sure I'd call the Mayflower an emigrant ship. I see 'emigrant ship' applied to ships that left Europe for other continents in the 19th century, when there were already well-established colonies or countries on those other continents. For instance, there were emigrant ships from Norway to the US in the 18th century, and emigrant ships that left Liverpool with victims of the potato famine in Ireland.
    But yes, LIverpool was a common point of embarkation to the US, at least, during the exodus from Ireland in the 1840s.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I just used it as an example of a ship sailing west whose embarkation point I knew. I wasn't equating the two. I believe it was far easier to leave from a western port than from London, in general.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I just used it as an example of a ship sailing west whose embarkation point I knew. I wasn't equating the two. I believe it was far easier to leave from a western port than from London, in general.
    The problem with London is that the Thames opens to the sea on the east side of England, One then has to continue east - the wrong direction, if one's objective is North America - around Kent before turning south and going through the English Channel, probably tacking back and forth against the prevailing winds. Far better to leave from someplace further west in England in the first place.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    From what I've read (I'm not a sailor) you could only effectively leave London when the tide was right back in the days when ships didn't have engines. If you didn't have the tide with you, you weren't going anywhere.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I think #3 is closest to it. At any rate, this has nothing to do with America. The Pegotties and Micawbers emigrated to Australia, David travelled to Europe. I take the packet to be something much more local, or at most it may be a cross-channel ferry which docks at the same place that the Australia-bound ship had left from three years earlier. You'd need to read the novel to be certain.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ... At any rate, this has nothing to do with America...
    Absolutely correct. However, the logic of leaving from a point in the west of England applies to ships bound for Australia as well, since they had to round the Iberian Peninsula and then western Africa before turning east and going through the Southern Ocean. (On the return voyage they also sailed east, passing New Zealand and rounding Cape Horn at the tip of South America, to take advantage of the prevailing winds.)
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    For instance, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower that are famous in American history sailed from Plymouth.
    Not exactly. The Pilgrims first embarked on the Mayflower from a point on the Thames near London (either Blackwall or Wapping) in July of 1620. They anchored off Southampton to await the Speedwell coming from Leiden, which arrived on July 22. They sailed from Southampton on August 5, but the Speedwell developed a leak, and so they put into Dartmouth for repairs. They started again, but there was another leak in the Speedwell, and they returned, this time to Plymouth. The Speedwell was abandoned there, and a final start was made again with the Mayflower alone on September 6. Thus, while the Mayflower did indeed have Plymouth as its last English port, it was not intentional, and no passengers boarded there.
     
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