Many had lost only one parent, others were abandoned or neglected, perhaps for reasons of penury, and many were illegitimate and marginalized. Victorian times showed no compassion towards children who had no control over their parentage. (Banerjee ibid). Orphans were very often homeless and vulnerable, prey to criminals who used them for their own abusive purposes, turning innocent children into hardened thieves (Sadrin 1994).
Those who were the hardiest managed to survive, ‘...hungry, roaming singly or in packs like young wolves, snatching, stealing, stone-throwing, destructive, brutish, and cruel when not merely hopeless and lost.’ (Roe 27)
There were thousands, and they came into contact with most inhabitants of large British cities, so it was inevitable that they would enter the literature of the day. Authors such as Dickens, Eliot, and Brontë were joined by Charles Kingsley, who wrote The Water Babies, Thomas Hughes, who wrote Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Mrs. Gaskell, who wrote John Halifax, Gentleman, and there is of course George Eliot’s other novel, Silas Marner, among many others.
So much so, that even modern day works such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince give us hints of Victorian influence in characters such as Lord Voldemort, and Mrs. Cole, who seems to be modeled on Dickens’ Mrs. Thingummy in Oliver Twist, who was also an orphan and lived in an institution. (Washick 2009)
Charles Dickens did not only use his own childhood as a background for David Copperfield, but described the whole pervasive atmosphere and environment which was London in his early experience and that of all its inhabitants of the time. Little Davy in the novel endures hardship and penury - not only his own, but that of others around him, because he had no father - and he takes it as a matter of course that he and his mother are treated badly.
His whole personality is saturated with the rigors of practical ‘making-do’, which