Bleak House is a nineteenth century novel by English author Charles
Dickens, first published as a serial between March 1852 and September
1853. The novel has many characters and several sub-plots, and the
story is told partly by the novel's heroine, Esther Summerson, and
partly by an omniscient narrator. At the centre of
Bleak House is a
long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which came about
because someone wrote several conflicting wills. Dickens uses this
case to satirise the English judicial system. Though the legal
profession criticised Dickens' satire as exaggerated, this novel
helped support a judicial reform movement, which culminated in the
enactment of legal reform in the 1870s.
There is some debate among scholars as to when
Bleak House is set. The
English legal historian Sir William Holdsworth sets the action in
1827; however, reference to preparation for the building of a
railway in Chapter LV suggests the 1830s.
2 Characters in Bleak House
2.1 Major characters
2.2 Minor characters
3 Analysis and criticism
4 Locations of Bleak House
6 Musical references
7 Original publication
8 Critical editions
11 External links
Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Honoria live on his estate at
Chesney Wold. Unknown to Sir Leicester, Lady Dedlock had a lover,
Captain Hawdon, before she married and had a daughter by him. Lady
Dedlock believes her daughter is dead.
The daughter, Esther, is in fact alive and being raised by Miss
Barbary, Lady Dedlock's sister. Esther does not know Miss Barbary is
her aunt. After Miss Barbary dies, John Jarndyce becomes Esther's
guardian and assigns the Chancery lawyer "Conversation" Kenge to take
charge of her future. After attending school for six years, Esther
moves in with him at Bleak House.
Jarndyce simultaneously assumes custody of two other wards, Richard
Carstone and Ada Clare (who are both his and one another's distant
cousins). They are beneficiaries in one of the wills at issue in
Jarndyce and Jarndyce; their guardian is a beneficiary under another
will, and the two wills conflict. Richard and Ada soon fall in love,
but though Mr Jarndyce does not oppose the match, he stipulates that
Richard must first choose a profession. Richard first tries a career
in medicine, and Esther meets Allan Woodcourt, a physician, at the
house of Richard's tutor. When Richard mentions the prospect of
gaining from the resolution of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Jarndyce
beseeches him never to put faith in what he calls "the family curse".
Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock is also a beneficiary under one of the wills.
Early in the book, while listening to the reading of an affidavit by
the family solicitor, Mr Tulkinghorn, she recognises the handwriting
on the copy. The sight affects her so much she almost faints, which
Tulkinghorn notices and investigates. He traces the copyist, a pauper
known only as "Nemo", in London. Nemo has recently died, and the only
person to identify him is a street-sweeper, a poor homeless boy named
Jo, who lives in a particularly grim and poverty-stricken part of the
city known as Tom-All-Alone's. ("Nemo" is Latin for "nobody".)
Lady Dedlock is also investigating, disguised as her maid,
Mademoiselle Hortense. Lady Dedlock pays Jo to take her to Nemo's
grave. Meanwhile, Tulkinghorn is concerned Lady Dedlock's secret could
threaten the interests of Sir Leicester and watches her constantly,
even enlisting her maid to spy on her. He also enlists Inspector
Bucket to run Jo out of town, to eliminate any loose ends that might
connect Nemo to the Dedlocks.
Esther sees Lady Dedlock at church and talks with her later at Chesney
Wold – though neither woman recognises their connection. Later, Lady
Dedlock does discover that Esther is her child. However, Esther has
become sick (possibly with smallpox, since it severely disfigures her)
after nursing the homeless boy Jo. Lady Dedlock waits until Esther has
recovered before telling her the truth. Though Esther and Lady Dedlock
are happy to be reunited, Lady Dedlock tells Esther they must never
acknowledge their connection again.
Upon her recovery, Esther finds that Richard, having failed at several
professions, has disobeyed his guardian and is trying to push Jarndyce
and Jarndyce to conclusion in his and Ada's favour. In the process,
Richard loses all his money and declines in health. He and Ada have
secretly married, and Ada is pregnant. Esther has her own romance when
Mr Woodcourt returns to England, having survived a shipwreck, and
continues to seek her company despite her disfigurement.
Unfortunately, Esther has already agreed to marry her guardian, John
Hortense and Tulkinghorn discover the truth about Lady Dedlock's past.
After a confrontation with Tulkinghorn, Lady Dedlock flees her home,
leaving a note apologising for her conduct. Tulkinghorn dismisses
Hortense, who is no longer of any use to him. Feeling abandoned and
betrayed, Hortense kills Tulkinghorn and seeks to frame Lady Dedlock
for his murder. Sir Leicester, discovering his lawyer's death and his
wife's flight, suffers a catastrophic stroke, but he manages to
communicate that he forgives his wife and wants her to return.
Attorney and Client
Inspector Bucket, who has previously investigated several matters
related to Jarndyce and Jarndyce, accepts Sir Leicester's commission
to find Lady Dedlock. At first he suspects Lady Dedlock of the murder
but is able to clear her of suspicion after discovering Hortense's
guilt, and he requests Esther's help to find her. Lady Dedlock has no
way to know of her husband's forgiveness or that she has been cleared
of suspicion, and she wanders the country in cold weather before dying
at the cemetery of her former lover, Captain Hawdon (Nemo). Esther and
Bucket find her there.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce seems to take a turn for the better
when a later will is found, which revokes all previous wills and
leaves the bulk of the estate to Richard and Ada. Meanwhile, John
Jarndyce cancels his engagement to Esther, who becomes engaged to Mr
Woodcourt. They go to Chancery to find Richard. On their arrival, they
learn that the case of
Jarndyce and Jarndyce is finally over, but the
costs of litigation have entirely consumed the estate. Richard
collapses, and Mr Woodcourt diagnoses him as being in the last stages
of tuberculosis. Richard apologises to John Jarndyce and dies. John
Jarndyce takes in Ada and her child, a boy whom she names Richard.
Esther and Woodcourt marry and live in a Yorkshire house which
Jarndyce gives to them. The couple later raise two daughters.
Many of the novel's subplots focus on minor characters. One such
subplot is the hard life and happy, though difficult, marriage of
Caddy Jellyby and Prince Turveydrop. Another plot focuses on George
Rouncewell's rediscovery of his family, and his reunion with his
mother and brother.
Characters in Bleak House
As usual, Dickens drew upon many real people and places but
imaginatively transformed them in his novel (see character list below
for the supposed inspiration of individual characters).
Although not a character, the
Jarndyce and Jarndyce case is a vital
part of the novel. It is believed to have been inspired by a number of
real-life Chancery cases involving wills, including those of Charles
Day and William Jennens, and of Charlotte Smith's father-in-law
Esther Summerson is the heroine. She is Dickens's only female
narrator. Esther is raised as an orphan by Miss Barbary (who is in
fact her aunt). She does not know her parents' identity. Miss Barbary
holds macabre vigils on Esther's birthday each year, telling her that
her birth is no cause for celebration, because the girl is her
mother's "disgrace." Because of her cruel upbringing she is
self-effacing, self-deprecating and grateful for every trifle. The
discovery of her true identity provides much of the drama in the book.
Finally it is revealed that she is the illegitimate daughter of Lady
Dedlock and Nemo (Captain Hawdon).
Honoria, Lady Dedlock is the haughty mistress of Chesney Wold. The
revelation of her past drives much of the plot. Before her marriage,
Lady Dedlock had an affair with another man and bore his child. Lady
Dedlock discovers the child's identity (Esther Summerson), and because
she has revealed that she had a secret predating her marriage, she has
attracted the noxious curiosity of Mr Tulkinghorn, who feels bound by
his ties to his client, Sir Leicester, to pry out her secret. At the
end of the novel, Lady Dedlock dies, disgraced in her own mind and
convinced that her husband can never forgive her moral failings.
John Jarndyce is an unwilling party in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, guardian
of Richard, Ada, and Esther, and owner of Bleak House. Vladimir
Nabokov called him "one of the best and kindest human beings ever
described in a novel". A wealthy man, he helps most of the other
characters, motivated by a combination of goodness and guilt at the
mischief and human misery caused by Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which he
calls "the family curse." At first, it seems possible that he is
Esther's father, but he disavows this shortly after she comes to live
under his roof. He falls in love with Esther and wishes to marry her,
but gives her up because she is in love with Mr Woodcourt.
Richard Carstone is a ward of Chancery in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
Straightforward and likeable but irresponsible and inconstant, Richard
falls under the spell of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. At the end of the
book, just after
Jarndyce and Jarndyce is finally settled, he dies,
tormented by his imprudence in trusting to the outcome of a Chancery
The little old lady
Ada Clare is another young ward of Chancery in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
She falls in love with Richard Carstone, a distant cousin. They later
marry in secret and she has Richard's child.
Harold Skimpole is a friend of Jarndyce "in the habit of sponging his
friends" (Nuttall). He is irresponsible, selfish, amoral, and without
remorse. He often refers to himself as "a child" and claims not to
understand human relationships, circumstances, and society – but
actually understands them very well, as he demonstrates when he
enlists Richard and Esther to pay off the bailiff who has arrested him
on a writ of debt. He believes that Richard and Ada will be able to
acquire credit based on their expectations in Jarndyce and Jarndyce
and declares his intention to start "honoring" them by letting them
pay some of his debts. This character is commonly regarded as a
portrait of Leigh Hunt. "Dickens wrote in a letter of 25 September
1853, 'I suppose he is the most exact portrait that was ever painted
in words! ... It is an absolute reproduction of a real man.' A
contemporary critic commented, 'I recognised Skimpole instantaneously;
... and so did every person whom I talked with about it who had ever
had Leigh Hunt's acquaintance.'"
G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton suggested that
Dickens "may never once have had the unfriendly thought, 'Suppose Hunt
behaved like a rascal!'; he may have only had the fanciful thought,
'Suppose a rascal behaved like Hunt!'".
Lawrence Boythorn is an old friend of John Jarndyce's; a former
soldier who always speaks in superlatives; very loud and harsh, but
goodhearted. Boythorn was once engaged to (and very much in love with)
a woman who later left him without giving him any reason. That woman
was in fact, Miss Barbary, who abandoned her former life (including
Boythorn) when she took Esther from her sister. Boythorn is also a
neighbour of Sir Leicester Dedlock's, with whom he is engaged in an
epic tangle of lawsuits over a right-of-way across Boythorn's property
that Sir Leicester asserts the legal right to close. He is thought to
be based on the writer Walter Savage Landor.
Sir Leicester Dedlock is a crusty baronet, very much older than his
wife. Dedlock is an unthinking conservative who regards the Jarndyce
and Jarndyce lawsuit as a mark of distinction worthy of a man of his
family lineage. On the other hand, he is shown as a loving and devoted
husband towards Lady Dedlock, even after he learns about her secret.
Mr Tulkinghorn is Sir Leicester's lawyer. Scheming and manipulative,
he seems to defer to his clients but relishes the power his control of
their secrets gives him. He learns of Lady Dedlock's past and tries to
control her conduct, to preserve the reputation and good name of Sir
Leicester. He is murdered, and his murder gives Dickens the chance to
weave a detective plot into the closing chapters of the book.
Mr Snagsby is the timid and hen-pecked proprietor of a law-stationery
business who gets involved with Tulkinghorn and Bucket's secrets. He
is Jo's only friend. He tends to give half-crowns to those he feels
Miss Flite is an elderly eccentric. Her family has been destroyed by a
long-running Chancery case similar to Jarndyce and Jarndyce, and her
obsessive fascination with Chancery veers between comedy and tragedy.
She owns a large number of little birds which she says will be
released "on the day of judgement."
William Guppy is a law clerk at Kenge and Carboy. He becomes smitten
with Esther and makes an offer of marriage (which she refuses). Later,
after Esther learns that Lady Dedlock is her mother, she asks to meet
Mr Guppy to tell him to stop investigating her past. He fears the
meeting is to accept his offer of marriage (which he does not want to
pursue now she is disfigured). He is so overcome with relief when she
explains her true purpose that he agrees to do everything in his power
to protect her privacy in the future.
Inspector Bucket is a detective who undertakes several investigations
throughout the novel, most notably the investigation of the murder of
Mr Tulkinghorn. He is notable in being one of the first detectives in
English fiction. This character is probably based on Inspector
Charles Frederick Field
Charles Frederick Field of the then recently formed Detective
Department at Scotland Yard. Dickens wrote several journalistic
pieces about the Inspector and the work of the detectives in Household
Inspector Bucket may well have been based on Jack Whicher, one of the
'original' eight detectives set up by
Scotland Yard in the middle 19th
century. This is according to Kate Summerscale, a researcher, in her
2008 award winning book, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. Her book
revisits the 1860 murder of Saville Kent who was found in the outside
toilet of the Road Hill English house. Jack Whicher was convinced that
his mother, Constance Kent perpetrated the murder, but was unable to
prove it at the time due to being unable to find the dress she was
said to be wearing; he was sure it would have been bloody. Whicher
was, however, vindicated many years later. Ms Summerscale further
comments in her research that
Charles Dickens actually met and
observed Jack Whicher, who was well known to be a successful
Mr George is a former soldier (having served under Nemo) who owns a
London shooting-gallery and is a trainer in sword and pistol. The
prime suspect in the murder of Mr Tulkinghorn, he is exonerated and
his true identity is revealed, against his wishes. He is George
Rouncewell, son of the Dedlocks' housekeeper, Mrs Rouncewell, who
welcomes him back to Chesney Wold. He ends the book as body-servant to
the stricken Sir Leicester Dedlock.
Caddy Jellyby is a friend of Esther's, secretary to her mother. Caddy
feels ashamed of her own "lack of manners," but Esther's friendship
heartens her. Caddy falls in love with Prince Turveydrop, marries him,
and has a baby.
Krook is a rag and bottle merchant and collector of papers. He is the
landlord of the house where Nemo and Miss Flite live and where Nemo
dies. He seems to subsist on a diet of gin. Krook dies from a case of
spontaneous human combustion, something that Dickens believed could
happen, but which some critics (such as the English essayist George
Henry Lewes) denounced as outlandish. Amongst the
stacks of papers obsessively hoarded by the illiterate Krook is the
key to resolving the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
Jo is a young boy who lives on the streets and tries to make a living
as a crossing sweeper. Jo was the only person with whom Nemo had any
real connection. Nemo expressed a paternal sort of interest in Jo,
(something that no human had ever done). Nemo would share his meagre
money with Jo, and would sometimes remark, "Well, Jo, today I am as
poor as you," when he had nothing to share. Jo is called to testify at
the inquiry into Nemo's death, but knows nothing of value. Despite
this, Mr Tulkinghorn pays Mr Bucket to harry Jo and force him to keep
"moving along" [leave town] because Tulkinghorn fears Jo might have
some knowledge of the connection between Nemo and the Dedlocks. Jo
ultimately dies from a disease (pneumonia, a complication from an
earlier bout with smallpox which Esther also catches and from which
she almost dies).
Allan Woodcourt is a surgeon and a kind caring man who loves Esther
deeply. She in turn loves him but feels unable to respond, not only
because of her prior commitment to John Jarndyce, but also because she
fears her illegitimacy will cause his mother to object to their
Grandfather Smallweed is a moneylender, a mean, bad-tempered man who
shows no mercy to people who owe him money and who enjoys inflicting
emotional pain on others. He lays claim to the deceased Krook's
possessions because Smallweed's wife is Krook's only living relation,
and he also drives Mr George into bankruptcy by calling in debts. It
has been suggested that his description (together with his
grandchildren) fits that of a person with progeria, although
people with progeria only have a life expectancy of 14 years, while
Grandfather Smallweed is very old.
Mr Vholes is a Chancery lawyer who takes on Richard Carstone as a
client, squeezes out of him all the litigation fees he can manage to
pay, and then abandons him when
Jarndyce and Jarndyce comes to an end.
Conversation Kenge is a Chancery lawyer who represents John Jarndyce.
His chief foible is his love of grand, portentous, and empty rhetoric.
Mr Gridley is an involuntary party to a suit in Chancery (based on a
real case, according to Dickens's preface), who repeatedly seeks in
vain to gain the attention of the Lord Chancellor. He threatens Mr
Tulkinghorn and then is put under arrest by Inspector Bucket, but
dies, his health broken by his Chancery ordeal.
Nemo (Latin for "nobody") is the alias of Captain James Hawdon, a
former officer in the British Army under whom Mr George once served.
Nemo is a law-writer who makes fair copies of legal documents for
Snagsby and lodges at Krook's rag and bottle shop, eventually dying of
an opium overdose. He is later found to be Lady Dedlock's former
lover, and the father of Esther Summerson.
Mrs Snagsby is Mr Snagsby's highly suspicious and curious wife, who
has a "vinegary" personality and incorrectly suspects Mr Snagsby of
keeping many secrets from her: she suspects he is Jo's father.
Guster is the Snagsbys' maidservant, prone to fits.
Neckett is a debt collector – called "Coavinses" by debtor Harold
Skimpole because he works for that business firm.
Charley is Coavinses' daughter, hired by John Jarndyce to be a maid to
Esther. Called "Little Coavinses" by Skimpole.
Tom is Coavinses' young son.
Emma is Coavinses' baby daughter.
Mrs Jellyby is Caddy's mother, a "telescopic philanthropist" obsessed
with an obscure African tribe but having little regard for the notion
of charity beginning at home. It's thought Dickens wrote this
character as a criticism of female activists like Caroline Chisholm.
Mr Jellyby is Mrs Jellyby's long-suffering husband.
Peepy Jellyby is the Jellybys' young son.
Prince Turveydrop is a dancing master and proprietor of a dance
Old Mr Turveydrop is a master of deportment who lives off his son's
Jenny is a brickmaker's wife. She is mistreated by her husband and her
baby dies. She then helps her friend look after her own child.
Rosa is a favourite lady's maid of Lady Dedlock whom Watt Rouncewell
wishes to marry. The proposal ends in nothing when Mr Rouncewell's
father asks that Rosa be sent to school to become a lady worthy of his
son's station. Lady Dedlock questions the girl closely regarding her
wish to leave, and promises to look after her instead. In some way,
Rosa is a stand-in for Esther in Lady Dedlock's life.
Hortense is lady's maid to Lady Dedlock. Her character is based on the
Swiss maid and murderer Maria Manning.
Mrs Rouncewell is housekeeper to the Dedlocks at Chesney Wold.
Mr Robert Rouncewell, the adult son of Mrs Rouncewell, is a prosperous
Watt Rouncewell is Robert Rouncewell's son.
Volumnia is a cousin of the Dedlocks, given to screaming.
Miss Barbary is Esther's godmother and severe childhood guardian.
Mrs Rachael Chadband is a former servant of Miss Barbary's.
Mr Chadband is an oleaginous preacher, husband of Mrs Chadband.
Mrs Smallweed is the wife of Mr Smallweed senior and sister to Krook.
She is suffering from dementia.
Young Mr (Bartholemew) Smallweed is the grandson of the senior
Smallweeds and friend of Mr Guppy.
Judy Smallweed is the granddaughter of the senior Smallweeds.
Tony Jobling, who adopts the alias Mr Weevle, is a friend of William
Mrs Guppy is Mr Guppy's aged mother.
Phil Squod is Mr George's assistant.
Matthew Bagnet is a military friend of Mr George's and a dealer in
Mrs Bagnet is the wife of Matthew Bagnet.
Woolwich is the Bagnets' son.
Quebec is the Bagnets' elder daughter.
Malta is the Bagnets' younger daughter.
Mrs Woodcourt is Allan Woodcourt's widowed mother.
Mrs Pardiggle is a woman who does "good works" for the poor, but
cannot see that her efforts are rude and arrogant, and do nothing at
all to help. She inflicts her activities on her five small sons, who
are clearly rebellious.
Arethusa Skimpole is Mr Skimpole's "Beauty" daughter.
Laura Skimpole is Mr Skimpole's "Sentiment" daughter.
Kitty Skimpole is Mr Skimpole's "Comedy" daughter.
Mrs Skimpole is Mr Skimpole's ailing wife, who is weary of her husband
and his way of life.
Analysis and criticism
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Much criticism of
Bleak House focuses on its unique narrative
structure: it is told both by a third-person omniscient narrator and a
first-person narrator (Esther Summerson). The omniscient narrator
speaks in the present tense and is a dispassionate observer. Esther
Summerson tells her own story in the past tense (like David in David
Copperfield or Pip in Great Expectations), and her narrative voice is
characterised by modesty, consciousness of her own limits, and
willingness to disclose to us her own thoughts and feelings. These two
narrative strands never quite intersect, though they do run in
parallel. Nabokov felt that letting Esther tell part of the story was
Dickens's "main mistake" in planning the novel Alex Zwerdling, a
scholar from Berkeley, after observing that "critics have not been
kind to Esther," nevertheless thought Dickens's use of Esther's
narrative "one of the triumphs of his art".
Tom All Alones
Esther's portion of the narrative is an interesting case study of the
Victorian ideal of feminine modesty. She introduces herself thus: "I
have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of
these pages, for I know I am not clever" (chap. 3). This claim is
almost immediately belied by the astute moral judgement and satiric
observation that characterise her pages. In the same introductory
chapter, she writes: "It seems so curious to me to be obliged to write
all this about myself! As if this narrative were the narrative of MY
life! But my little body will soon fall into the background now"
(chap. 3). This does not turn out to be true.
For most readers and scholars, the central concern of
Bleak House is
its indictment of the English Chancery court system. Chancery or
equity courts were one half of the English civil justice system,
existing side-by-side with law courts. Chancery courts heard actions
having to do with wills and estates, or with the uses of private
property. By the mid-nineteenth century, English law reformers had
long criticised the delays of Chancery litigation, and Dickens found
the subject a tempting target. (He already had taken a shot at
law-courts and that side of the legal profession in his 1837 novel The
Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club or The Pickwick Papers).
Scholars – such as the English legal historian Sir William Searle
Holdsworth, in his 1928 series of lectures
Charles Dickens as a Legal
Historian published by Yale University Press – have made a plausible
case for treating Dickens's novels, and
Bleak House in particular, as
primary sources illuminating the history of English law.
Dickens claimed in the preface to the book edition of
Bleak House that
he had "purposely dwelt upon the romantic side of familiar things".
And some remarkable things do happen: One character, Krook, smells of
brimstone and eventually dies of spontaneous human combustion. This
was highly controversial. The nineteenth century saw the increasing
triumph of the scientific worldview. Scientifically inclined writers,
as well as doctors and scientists, rejected spontaneous human
combustion as legend or superstition. When the instalment of Bleak
House containing Krook's demise appeared, the literary critic George
Henry Lewes accused Dickens of "giving currency to a vulgar
error". Dickens vigorously defended the reality of spontaneous
human combustion and cited many documented cases, as well as his own
memories of coroners' inquests that he had attended when he had been a
reporter. In the preface of the book edition of Bleak House, Dickens
wrote: "I shall not abandon the facts until there shall have been a
considerable Spontaneous Combustion of the testimony on which human
occurrences are usually received."
George Gissing and
G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton are among those literary critics
and writers who consider
Bleak House to be the best novel that Charles
Dickens wrote. As Chesterton put it: "
Bleak House is not certainly
Dickens' best book; but perhaps it is his best novel". Harold Bloom,
in his book The Western Canon, considers
Bleak House to be Dickens's
greatest novel. Daniel Burt, in his book The
Novel 100: A Ranking of
the Greatest Novels of All Time, ranks
Bleak House number 12. Horror
and supernatural fiction author
Stephen King named it among his top 10
Locations of Bleak House
Bleak House in Broadstairs, Kent, where Dickens wrote David
Copperfield and other novels.
The house named
Bleak House in Broadstairs, is not the original.
Dickens stayed with his family at this house (then called Fort House),
for at least one month every summer from 1839 until 1851. However,
there is no evidence that it formed the basis of the fictional Bleak
House, particularly as it is so far from the location of the fictional
The house is on top of the cliff on Fort Road, and was renamed Bleak
House after his death, in his honour. It is the only four storey
grade II listed mansion in Broadstairs.
Dickens locates the fictional
Bleak House in St Albans, Hertfordshire,
where he wrote some of the book. An 18th-century house in Folly Lane,
St Albans, has been identified as a possible inspiration for the
titular house in the story since the time of the book's publication
and was known as
Bleak House for many years.
In the late nineteenth century, actress
Fanny Janauschek acted in a
stage version of
Bleak House in which she played both Lady Dedlock and
her maid Hortense. The two characters never appear on stage at the
same time. In 1876 John Pringle Burnett's play, Jo found success in
London with his wife, Jennie Lee playing Jo, the crossing-sweeper.
In 1893, Jane Coombs acted in a version of Bleak House.
A 1901 short film, The Death of Poor Joe, is the oldest known
surviving film featuring a
Charles Dickens character (Jo in Bleak
In the silent film era,
Bleak House was filmed in 1920 and 1922. The
latter version featured
Sybil Thorndike as Lady Dedlock.
In 1928, a short film made in the UK in the
Bransby Williams as Grandfather Smallweed.
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 broadcast a radio adaptation of five hour-long
Michael Kitchen as John Jarndyce.
BBC has produced three television adaptations of Bleak House. The
first serial, Bleak House, was broadcast in 1959 in eleven half-hour
episodes. The second Bleak House, starring
Diana Rigg and Denholm
Elliott, aired in 1985 as an eight-part series. In 2005, the third
Bleak House was broadcast in fifteen episodes starring Anna Maxwell
Martin, Gillian Anderson, Denis Lawson, Charles Dance, and Carey
Mulligan. It won a
Peabody Award that same year because it
"created “appointment viewing,” soap-style, for a series that
greatly rewarded its many extra viewers."
Charles Jefferys wrote the words for and
Charles William Glover wrote
the music for songs called Ada Clare and Farewell to the Old
House, which are inspired by the novel.
Anthony Phillips included a piece entitled "Bleak House" on his 1979
Progressive Rock release, "Sides." The form of the lyrics roughly
follows the narrative of Esther Summerson, and is written in her
Like most Dickens novels,
Bleak House was published in 20 monthly
instalments, each containing 32 pages of text and two illustrations by
Phiz (the last two being published together as a double issue). Each
cost one shilling, except for the final double issue, which cost two
Date of publication
Charles Dickens, Bleak House, ed.
Nicola Bradbury (Harmondsworth:
Charles Dickens portal
^ Oldham, James. "A Profusion of Chancery Reform". Law and History
^ Holdsworth, William S. (1928).
Charles Dickens as a Legal Historian.
Yale University Press.
^ Dickens, Charles (2003). Bleak House. New York: The Penguin Group.
p. 21. ISBN 978-0-141-43972-3.
^ Dunstan, William. "The Real Jarndyce and Jarndyce." The Dickensian
93.441 (Spring 1997): 27.
^ Jacqueline M. Labbe, ed. The Old Manor House by Charlotte Turner
Smith, Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2002
ISBN 978-1-55111-213-8, Introduction p. 17, note 3.
^ Dickens, Charles (2003). Bleak House. New York: The Penguin Group.
p. 30. ISBN 978-0-141-43972-3.
^ Vladimir Nabokov, "Bleak House," Lectures on Literature. New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. p. 90.
^ Page, Norman, editor, Bleak House, Penguin Books, 1971, p. 955 (note
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^ Roseman, Mill et al. Detectionary. New York: Overlook Press, 1971.
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^ Hack, Daniel (2005). The Material Interests of the Victorian Novel,
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^ "Digital Collections - Music - Glover, Charles William, 1806-1863.
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Bleak House Map
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bleak House.
Bleak House at Internet Archive.
Bleak House at Project Gutenberg
Bleak House at Faded Page (Canada)
Dark Plates The ten "dark plates" executed by H.K. Browne for Bleak
Reprinted Pieces at
Project Gutenberg "The Detective Police", "Three
Detective Anecdotes", "On Duty with Inspector Field". Last piece first
published in Household Words, June 1841.
Bleak House public domain audiobook at LibriVox
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This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Wood, James, ed. (1907). "Skimpole, Harold". The
Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.