BLEAK HOUSE is one of
Charles Dickens 's major novels, 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
Jarndyce and Jarndyce , which came about because someone
wrote several conflicting wills. Dickens uses this case to satirise
the English judicial system, and he makes use of his earlier
experiences as a law clerk and as a litigant seeking to enforce
copyright on his earlier books.
Though the legal profession criticised Dickens's 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.
* 1 Synopsis
* 2 Characters in
* 2.1 Major characters
* 2.2 Minor characters
* 3 Analysis and criticism
* 4 Locations of
* 5 Adaptations
* 6 Musical references
* 7 Original publication
* 8 References
* 9 Sources
* 10 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. Consecrated ground
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 Jarndyce.
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.
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
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
* 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 sorry for.
* 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
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
Household Words .
* 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
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" 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
* 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
* 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
* 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
* 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 ironmaster .
* 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
* 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
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
Bleak House containing Krook's demise appeared, the
George Henry Lewes
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.
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 located so far from the location of the
The house is located on top of the cliff on Fort Road, and was
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
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
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 portal
* Literature portal
* Novels portal
* ^ Oldham, James. "A Profusion of Chancery Reform". Law and
* ^ 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
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