Bleak House, Dickens's most daring experiment in the narration of a complex plot, challenges the reader to make connections — between the fashionable and the outcast, the beautiful and the ugly, the powerful and their victims. Nowhere in Dickens's later novels is his attack on an uncaring... read more
Esther Summerson describes her childhood and says she is leaving for the home of a new guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, along with Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. On the way to the home, called Bleak House, they stop overnight at the Jellybys’ chaotic home. When they finally reach Bleak House, they... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Esther Summerson describes her childhood and says she is leaving for the home of a new guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, along with Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. On the way to the home, called Bleak House, they stop overnight at the Jellybys’ chaotic home. When they finally reach Bleak House, they meet Mr. Jarndyce and settle in. They meet Mr. Skimpole, a man who acts like a child.
The narrator describes a ghost that lurks around Chesney Wold, the home of Lady and Sir Leicester Dedlock.
Esther meets the overbearing charity worker Mrs. Pardiggle, who introduces her to a poor brickmaker’s wife named Jenny, whose baby is ill. Esther says she is sure that Ada and Richard are falling in love. She meets Mr. Boythorn, as well as Mr. Guppy, who proposes marriage. Esther refuses him.
At Chesney Wold, Tulkinghorn shows the Dedlocks some Jarndyce documents, and Lady Dedlock recognizes the handwriting. Tulkinghorn says he’ll find out who did it. He asks Mr. Snagsby, the law-stationer, who says a man named Nemo wrote the documents. Tulkinghorn visits Nemo, who lives above a shop run by a man named Krook, and finds him dead. At the coroner’s investigation, a street urchin named Jo is questioned and says that Nemo was nice to him. Later, Tulkinghorn tells Lady Dedlock what he’s learned.
Richard struggles to find a suitable career, eventually deciding to pursue medicine. But he is more interested in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit, which he believes will make him rich. Neither Esther nor the narrator ever fully explains the lawsuit, because nobody remembers what originally prompted the parties to begin the suit.
In London, Esther meets a young girl named Charlotte who is caring for her two young siblings. A lodger who lives in the same building, Mr. Gridley, helps care for the children as well.
A mysterious lady approaches Jo and asks him to show her where Nemo is buried.
Mr. Jarndyce tells Esther some details about her background. He reveals that the woman who raised Esther was her aunt. The next day, a doctor named Mr. Woodcourt visits before leaving on a trip to China and India. An unidentified person leaves a bouquet of flowers for Esther.
Richard begins working in the law. Esther, Ada, and others visit Mr. Boythorn, who lives near Chesney Wold. There, Esther meets Lady Dedlock for the first time and feels a strange connection to her. Lady Dedlock has a French maid, Mademoiselle Hortense, who is jealous that Lady Dedlock has a new young protégée named Rosa.
A man named Mr. Jobling, a friend of Mr. Guppy’s, moves into Nemo’s old room above Krook’s shop.
Two men, George and Grandfather Smallweed, talk about some money that George owes Smallweed. They reach an agreement, and George leaves.
Tulkinghorn introduces Bucket and Snagsby, and Snagsby introduces Bucket to Jo. Bucket figures out that the woman Jo led to the burial ground was disguised in Mademoiselle Hortense’s clothes. Mademoiselle Hortense soon quits her post at Chesney Wold.
Caddy Jellyby tells Esther she is engaged to Prince Turveydrop. Charley Neckett becomes Esther’s maid. Mr. Jarndyce warns Ada and Richard to end their romantic relationship since Richard is joining the army. Gridley dies.
Smallweed visits George and says that Captain Hawdon, a man he thought was dead, is actually alive, and that a lawyer was asking about some handwriting of his. He asks George if he has any handwriting to offer. George visits Tulkinghorn, who explains that George will be rewarded if he gives up some of Hawdon’s handwriting. George refuses.
Guppy visits Lady Dedlock in London and tells her he thinks there is a connection between her and Esther. He says that Esther’s former guardian was someone named Miss Barbary and that Esther’s real name was Esther Hawdon. He says that Nemo was actually named Hawdon, and that he left some letters, which Guppy will get. When Guppy leaves, Lady Dedlock cries: Esther is her daughter, who her sister claimed had died at birth.
Charley and Esther visit Jenny and find Jo lying on the floor. He is sick, and Esther takes him back to Bleak House, putting him up in the stable. In the morning, he has disappeared. Charley gets very ill. Then Esther gets extremely ill.
Guppy and his friend Jobling want to get Hawdon’s letters from Krook. But when they go down to Krook’s shop, they find that he has spontaneously combusted. Later, Grandfather Smallweed arrives to take care of Krook’s property. Guppy eventually tells Lady Dedlock the letters were destroyed.
Smallweed demands payment from George and the Bagnets, on whose behalf he borrowed the money. Desperate, he tells Tulkinghorn he’ll turn over the Hawdon’s handwriting if he’ll leave the Bagnets alone.
Esther recovers slowly. Miss Flite visits her, telling her that a mysterious woman visited Jenny’s cottage, asking about Esther and taking away a handkerchief Esther had left. She also tells Esther that Mr. Woodcourt has returned. Esther goes to Mr. Boythorn’s house to recover fully. She looks in a mirror for the first time and sees that her face is terribly scarred from the smallpox. While there, Lady Dedlock confronts her and tells her she’s Esther’s mother. She orders Esther to never speak to her again, since this must remain a secret.
Richard pursues the Jarndyce lawsuit more earnestly, aided by a lawyer named Vholes. He no longer speaks to Mr. Jarndyce, who doesn’t want anything to do with the suit.
Esther visits Guppy and instructs him to stop investigating her.
Tulkinghorn visits Chesney Wold and hints that he knows Lady Dedlock’s secret. She confronts him and says she will leave Chesney Wold immediately because she knows her secret will destroy Rosa’s marriage prospects. Tulkinghorn convinces her to stay, since fleeing will make her secret known too fast. When Tulkinghorn is back home, he is visited by Mademoiselle Hortense, who demands he help her find a job. He threatens to arrest her if she keeps harassing him.
Esther tells Mr. Jarndyce about Lady Dedlock. He reveals that Boythorn was once in love with Miss Barbary, who left him when she decided to raise Esther in secret. Mr. Jarndyce gives Esther a letter that asks her to marry him. Esther accepts.
Esther tries to convince Richard to abandon the Jarndyce suit. While she is visiting him, he tells her he has left the army and devoted himself entirely to the lawsuit. Esther sees Mr. Woodcourt on the street. She asks Mr. Woodcourt to befriend Richard in London, and he agrees.
In London, Woodcourt runs into Jo on the street and gives him some food. He discovers that Jo once stayed with Esther. Jo tells him that a man forced him to leave and that he’s now scared of running into him. Woodcourt helps Jo find a hiding place at George’s Shooting Gallery. Jo soon dies.
Lady Dedlock dismisses Rosa with no explanation in order to protect her. Tulkinghorn is enraged and says he’ll reveal the secret. That night, Tulkinghorn is shot through the heart. The next day, Bucket arrests George for the murder.
Ada reveals to Esther that she and Richard have been secretly married.
Bucket investigates Tulkinghorn’s murder. He receives a few letters that say only “Lady Dedlock.” He confronts Sir Leicester and tells him what he knows about Lady Dedlock’s past. Instead of arresting Lady Dedlock, however, he arrests Mademoiselle Hortense, who killed Tulkinghorn and tried to frame Lady Dedlock.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Rouncewell, the housekeeper at Chesney Wold, finds out that George is her long-lost son. She begs Lady Dedlock to do anything she can to help him. Guppy arrives and tells Lady Dedlock that the letters were actually not destroyed. Lady Dedlock writes a note to Sir Leicester, saying she didn’t murder Tulkinghorn, and then she flees.
Sir Leicester collapses from a stroke. Mrs. Rouncewell gives him Lady Dedlock’s letter, and he orders Bucket to find her, saying he forgives her for everything. Bucket asks Esther to join him, and they set out in search of Lady Dedlock in the middle of the night. While Sir Leicester waits at home, unable to speak clearly, Esther and Bucket search. Eventually Bucket figures out where to find her. They finally find Lady Dedlock at the gate of the burial ground where Hawdon is buried. She is dead.
Richard is sick and still obsessed with Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Ada is pregnant and hopes the baby will distract Richard from his obsession with the lawsuit. After visiting Richard one night, Woodcourt walks Esther home and confesses he still loves her as he once did. She tells him she is engaged to Mr. Jarndyce.
Smallweed finds a Jarndyce will among Krook’s property and gives it to Vholes.
George moves to Chesney Wold, where he helps tend to Sir Leicester.
Esther begins to plan the wedding. Mr. Jarndyce goes to Yorkshire on business and then sends for her. When she arrives, she finds out that Mr. Jarndyce has bought a house for Woodcourt out of gratitude. He shows her the house, which is decorated in Esther’s style, and tells her that he’s named the house Bleak House. Then he reveals that he knows she loves Woodcourt and that they should be married. He says he will always be her guardian. Woodcourt appears, and he and Esther reunite.
The Jarndyce and Jarndyce case is finally dismissed. No one gets any money since the inheritance had been used up to pay the legal fees. Richard dies.
Esther says she and Woodcourt have two daughters and that Ada had a son. She is very happy.
“This is the Court of Chancery, which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire, which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse and its dead in every churchyard, which has its ruined suitor with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress borrowing and begging through the round of every man's acquaintance, which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right, which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give—who does not often give—the warning, "Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!"”This quotation is from the first few pages of the book.
“Thus Chesney Wold. With so much of itself abandoned to darkness and vacancy; with so little change under the summer shining or the wintry lowering; so sombre and motionless always . . . ; passion and pride, even to the stranger’s eye, have died away from the place in Lincolnshire, and yielded it to dull repose.”This quotation concludes chapter 66, “Down in Lincolnshire,” as well as the third-person narrator’s portion of the novel.
“And now I come to a part of my story, touching myself very nearly indeed, and for which I was quite unprepared when the circumstance occurred. . . . I have suppressed none of my many weaknesses on that subject, but have written them as faithfully as my memory has recalled them. And I hope to do so, and mean to do so, the same down to the last words of these pages: which I see now, not so very far before me.”This quotation appears in chapter 61, “A Discovery,” just before Esther finds out that Woodcourt still loves her.
“It was grand to see how the wind awoke, and bent the trees, and drove the rain before it like a cloud of smoke; and to hear the solemn thunder, and to see the lightning; and while thinking with awe of the tremendous powers by which our little lives are encompassed, to consider how beneficent they are, and how upon the smallest flower and leaf there was already a freshness poured from all this seeming rage, which seemed to make creation new again.”This quotation appears in chapter 18, “Lady Dedlock,” one week after Esther saw Lady Dedlock for the first time and felt a strange connection to her.
“They appear to take as little note of one another, as any two people, enclosed within the same walls, could. But whether each evermore watches and suspects the other, evermore mistrustful of some great reservation; whether each is evermore prepared at all points for the other, and never to be taken unawares; what each would give to know how much the other knows—all this is hidden, for the time, in their own hearts.”In this passage, which concludes chapter 12, “On the Watch,” the narrator describes the uneasy relationship between Lady Dedlock and Mr. Tulkinghorn. Tulkinghorn, Sir Leicester’s lawyer, is a frequent visitor at Chesney Wold, and he is accustomed to Lady Dedlock’s haughty, constant boredom and lack of interest in everyone and everything around her.
“I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages, for I know I am not clever.”These words, which form the first sentence of chapter 3, “A Progress,” are the first words of Esther’s narrative, the first we hear of her voice.
which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right, which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give—who does not often give—the warning, 'Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!'Highlighted by 12 Kindle customers
I think the best side of such people is almost hidden from us. What the poor are to the poor is little known, excepting to themselves and GOD.Highlighted by 11 Kindle customers
There is much good in it; there are many good and true people in it; it has its appointed place. But the evil of it is that it is a world wrapped up in too much jeweller's cotton and fine wool, and cannot hear the rushing of the larger worlds, and cannot see them as they circle round the sun. It is a deadened world, and its growth is sometimes unhealthy for want of air.Highlighted by 10 Kindle customers
Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of Heaven and earth.Highlighted by 10 Kindle customers
He is of what is called the old school—a phrase generally meaning any school that seems never to have been young—andHighlighted by 9 Kindle customers
He is an honourable, obstinate, truthful, high-spirited, intensely prejudiced, perfectly unreasonable man.Highlighted by 9 Kindle customers
there were two classes of charitable people; one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.Highlighted by 9 Kindle customers
The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world.Highlighted by 8 Kindle customers
Mrs. Rouncewell holds this opinion because she considers that a family of such antiquity and importance has a right to a ghost. She regards a ghost as one of the privileges of the upper classes, a genteel distinction to which the common people have no claim.Highlighted by 6 Kindle customers
The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.Highlighted by 5 Kindle customers
1. In Chancery
2. In Fashion
3. A Progress
4. Telescopic Philanthropy
5. A Morning Adventure
6. Quite At Home
7. The Ghost's Walk
8. Covering a Multitude of Sins
9. Signs and Tokens
10. The Law-Writer
11. Our Dear Brother
12. On The Watch
13. Esther's Narrative
15. Bell Yard
17. Esther's Narrative
18. Lady Dedlock
19. Moving On
20. A New Lodger
21. The Smallweed Family
22. Mr. Bucket
23. Esther's Narrative
24. An Appeal Case
25. Mrs. Snagsby sees it All
27. More Old Soldiers than One
28. The Ironmaster
29. The Young Man
30. Esther's Narrative
31. Nurse and Patient
32. The Appointed Time
34. A Turn of the Screw
35. Esther's Narrative
36. Chesney Wold
37. Jarndyce and Jarndyce
38. A Struggle
39. Attorney and Client
40. National and Domestic
41. In Mr. Tulkinghorn's Room
42. In Mr. Tulkinghorn's Chambers
43. Esther's Narrative
44. The Letter and the Answer
45. In Trust
46. Stop Him!
47. Jo's Will
48. Closing In
49. Dutiful Friendship
50. Esther's Narrative
53. The Track
54. Springing a Mine
57. Esther's Narrative
58. A Wintry Day and Night
59. Esther's Narrative
XIX and XX
61. A Discovery
62. Another Discovery
63. Steel and Iron
64. Esther's Narrative
65. Beginning the World
66. Down in Lincolnshire
67. The Close of Esther's Narrative
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