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As illustrated in a 1912 edition of the book


Alternative forms[edit]


Micawber (plural Micawbers)

  1. A person who is poor but eternally optimistic, believing that "something will turn up", like the fictional character Wilkins Micawber in the 1850 Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield.
    • 1862, Algernon Charles Swinburne, The Yale Edition of the Swinburne Letters, 1854-1869, Volume 1 (Yale, 1959) page 65
      As it is I see Destitution and Despair ahead of me, and have begun an epitaph in the Micawber style for my future grave in the precincts of my native County's jail.
    • 1873, Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand, Volume 2, Chapter XVI (B. Tauchnitz, 1873) [1]
      ... a state of feeling which I may perhaps best describe as the Micawber condition. If only gold would turn up! Gold might turn up any day! But as gold did not turn up, — then would not Providence be so good as to allow something else to turn up!
    • 1887, William Tufts Brigham, Guatemala: the Land of the Quetzal: A Sketch, Chapter II (Scribner, 1887) page 30
      Micawbers far from home, they waited for something to turn up.
    • 1901, Walter Sichel, Bolingbroke and His Times, Volume 1, Chapter X (London: Nisbet, 1901) page 419
      Austria was the Micawber of Europe. After all something might turn up.
    • 1928, Herman Klein, "The Operatic Situation", Gramophone (August 1928) [2]
      We are constantly being assured, not by one Mr. Micawber, but by three or four Mr. Micawbers, that something is on the point of "turning up." Yet nothing ever does turn up.
    • 1939, William Faulkner, The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem] (Random House, 1939) [3]
      His reason was no longer concern that the news might destroy her accord with what she was concentrating on, since that was no longer valid now, if it had ever been, and it was no longer the possibility that he might find something else before she would need to know, for that was not valid either now, since he had tried that and failed, nor was it the Micawber-like faith of the inert in tomorrow; it was partly perhaps the knowledge that late enough would be soon enough, but mostly (he did not try to fool himself) it was a profound faith in her.
    • 2011, Edward Pearce, The Great Man: Sir Robert Walpole: Scoundrel, Genius and Britain's First Prime Minister (Random House, 2011) [4]
      The Micawber rules of debt as ruin oppressed ministers as much as individuals.


Micawber (third-person singular simple present Micawbers, present participle Micawbering, simple past and past participle Micawbered)

  1. To be optimistic that "something will turn up", in the style of Wilkins Micawber.
    • 1865, "Suggestions to Bank Officers", Proceedings of the National Bank Convention, Held in New York City, Wednesday, October 19, 1864 (Journal Book and Job Office, 1865) page 45
      To hope that the Administration and Congress will become Anti-National Bank, and thereby expect something, is Micawbering in dread earnest.
    • 1872, Adeline Dutton Train Whitney, Sights and Insights: Patience Strong's Story of Over the Way Volume 1 (J.R. Osgood & Company, 1876) page 151
      ... not growing a single spiritual inch, for putting forth his powers as a man should; just amiably Micawbering along, and most Micawberly devoted to somebody he would like well enough to marry when the times comes and things "turn up;" ....
    • 1895, Marwell Hall, "E. J. Ratcliffe", Gallery of Players from The Illustrated American, Volume 1, number 5 (Lorrilard Spencer, 1895) page 34
      He found his native land overcrowded with young men of education and refinement, in the same predicament as himself—waiting for something to turn up; and while he was thus “Micawbering,” he met Miss Mary Anderson at the Farm street church, and from her obtained an engagement to take a singing part in “Ingomar.”
    • 1973, R. Rao Opinion, volume 114 [5]
      No Indian, unless he has micawbered himself into self-complacency, would think 1973 a happy year, let alone a year of achievement.

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