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Bleak House > Bleak House, Chapters 17-19

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message 1: by Kim (new)

Kim Hello again Pickwickians,

It's my turn once again, at least I think it is, to open the thread. We are now at the sixth installment, which back when Dickens was writing it would have been the August 1852 installment and then we would have to wait another month for the seventh, and it would drive me crazy waiting. Crazier.

This week we begin with Chapter 17 which is another one of "Esther's narratives" and that is the title of the chapter, again. Esther begins by telling us that Richard comes to visit them often while they are in London and his visits are always delightful, I'm not sure I would think so, I find him annoying, but then again not nearly as annoying as Mr. Skimpole, so perhaps his visits are delightful. We are told this about Richard:

"They were good qualities, without which no high place can be meritoriously won, but like fire and water, though excellent servants, they were very bad masters. If they had been under Richard's direction, they would have been his friends; but Richard being under their direction, they became his enemies."

I'm a little confused as to what these good qualities are that no high place can be won without them. Is it his" good spirits, his good temper, his gaiety and freshness" she mentions? because she also says he had no habits of concentration and application, which would seem as important to me for a high place as being cheerful. Anyway, whatever it is he doesn't seem to be winning that higher place, for when Mr. and Mrs. Badger come for a visit, after they get past the droning on about the past husbands of Mrs. B they do finally tell them that Richard "has not chosen his profession advisedly". Mrs. Badger tells them that Richard has no interest in the profession and finds it a tiresome pursuit. When Mr. Badger is asked whether he agrees with his wife he says:

"Why," said Mr. Badger, "to tell the truth, Miss Clare, this view of the matter had not occurred to me until Mrs. Badger mentioned it. But when Mrs. Badger put it in that light, I naturally gave great consideration to it, knowing that Mrs. Badger's mind, in addition to its natural advantages, has had the rare advantage of being formed by two such very distinguished (I will even say illustrious) public men as Captain Swosser of the Royal Navy and Professor Dingo. The conclusion at which I have arrived is—in short, is Mrs. Badger's conclusion."

I couldn't help wondering if the man ever got through a conversation without mentioning the two first husbands. When Richard comes to visit the next day he admits that the Badgers are right he "doesn't care much about it". But he says it'll do as well as anything else. Then he goes on to say his interest is in the law. Richard says he would like to be placed with Kenge, and although he claims he will become "a lawyer that has never been seen yet", he also says:

"if I were placed under articles to Kenge, I should have my eye on the—hum!—the forbidden ground—and should be able to study it, and master it, and to satisfy myself that it was not neglected and was being properly conducted. I should be able to look after Ada's interests and my own interests (the same thing!); and I should peg away at Blackstone and all those fellows with the most tremendous ardour."

This sounds like a disaster is headed for Richard and probably Ada too. I found it surprising that both Esther and Mr. Jarndyce seemed to support this decision, although Mr. Jarndyce does seem troubled about it later in the night. Later that evening Mr. Jarndyce decides he should tell Esther of her own history:

"Nine years, my dear," he said after thinking for a little while, "have passed since I received a letter from a lady living in seclusion, written with a stern passion and power that rendered it unlike all other letters I have ever read. It was written to me (as it told me in so many words), perhaps because it was the writer's idiosyncrasy to put that trust in me, perhaps because it was mine to justify it. It told me of a child, an orphan girl then twelve years old, in some such cruel words as those which live in your remembrance. It told me that the writer had bred her in secrecy from her birth, had blotted out all trace of her existence, and that if the writer were to die before the child became a woman, she would be left entirely friendless, nameless, and unknown. It asked me to consider if I would, in that case, finish what the writer had begun."

I listened in silence and looked attentively at him.

"Your early recollection, my dear, will supply the gloomy medium through which all this was seen and expressed by the writer, and the distorted religion which clouded her mind with impressions of the need there was for the child to expiate an offence of which she was quite innocent. I felt concerned for the little creature, in her darkened life, and replied to the letter."

I took his hand and kissed it.

"It laid the injunction on me that I should never propose to see the writer, who had long been estranged from all intercourse with the world, but who would see a confidential agent if I would appoint one. I accredited Mr. Kenge. The lady said, of her own accord and not of his seeking, that her name was an assumed one. That she was, if there were any ties of blood in such a case, the child's aunt. That more than this she would never (and he was well persuaded of the steadfastness of her resolution) for any human consideration disclose. My dear, I have told you all."


I'm not sure why he decided he needed to tell her this, if I'm remembering everything correctly she should already have known all this. And then there is this:

"And oftener still," said I, "she blesses the guardian who is a father to her!"

At the word father, I saw his former trouble come into his face. He subdued it as before, and it was gone in an instant; but it had been there and it had come so swiftly upon my words that I felt as if they had given him a shock. I again inwardly repeated, wondering, "That I could readily understand. None that I could readily understand!" No, it was true. I did not understand it. Not for many and many a day."


It makes me wonder why trouble would come into his face because she thinks of him as a father. Could it be because he really is her father, or that he doesn't have the feelings of a father for Esther? I'm not sure yet. I guess I'll find out after many and many a day. The next day, Allan Woodcourt, accompanied by his mother, comes to say goodbye. Allan is bound for the Orient as a ship's surgeon. Esther tells us that he isn’t rich and is seven years older than she is, although she says these details aren't important. Allan brings his mother with him who is pretty but proud. She tells them of an ancestor of theirs who was the most illustrious person that ever was known and whose relations were a sort of royal family. She is sure Allan would always remember his pedigree and would on no account form an alliance below it. The following morning, Caddy Jellyby delivers flowers that were left for Esther at the home of Mrs. Flite:

"At poor Miss Flite's," said Caddy. "Somebody who has been very good to her was hurrying away an hour ago to join a ship and left these flowers behind. No, no! Don't take them out. Let the pretty little things lie here," said Caddy, adjusting them with a careful hand, "because I was present myself, and I shouldn't wonder if somebody left them on purpose!"

During this chapter they once again were annoying me with all the "name calling". Esther is called Dame Durden, Mother Hubbard, Mrs. Shipton, Minerva, little woman; I don't know what else, but it gets on my nerves, and that isn't even including the "my pet" names for Ada. I had to look up who Mrs, Shipton was and I got a Mother Shipton, I'll assume it's the same person:

"Ursula Southeil (c. 1488–1561) better known as Mother Shipton, is said to have been an English soothsayer and prophetess. The first publication of her prophecies, which did not appear until 1641, eighty years after her reported death, contained a number of mainly regional predictions, but only two prophetic verses – neither of which foretold the End of the World, despite widespread assumptions to that effect.

One of the most notable editions of her prophecies was published in 1684. It states that she was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, in a cave now known as Mother Shipton's Cave which, along with the Petrifying Well and associated parkland, is operated as a visitor attraction. She was reputed to be hideously ugly. The book also claims that she married Toby Shipton, a local carpenter, near York in 1512 and told fortunes and made predictions throughout her life.

It is recorded in the diaries of Samuel Pepys that whilst surveying the damage to London caused by the Great Fire in the company of the Royal Family they were heard to discuss Mother Shipton's prophecy of the event. Quite who Mother Shipton was or what exactly she said is not definitively known. What is certain is that her name became linked with many tragic events and strange goings on recorded all over the UK, Australia and North America throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Many fortune tellers used her effigy and statue, presumably for purposes of association marketing. Many pubs were named after her. Only two survive, one near her birthplace in Knaresborough (now renamed the Dropping Well) and the other in Portsmouth where there is a statue of her above the door."





message 2: by Kim (new)

Kim Chapter 18 is titled "Lady Dedlock" but we begin the chapter with Richard, at first still unable to decide between law and medicine for a career. Finally at midsummer he leaves Mr. Badger and begins an experimental course with Kenge and Carboy. He promises to be in earnest this time but Mr. Jarndyce now finds the wind always in the east. Me too. They now find for him a neat little furnished lodging in a quiet old house near Queen Square and Richard immediately spends all the money he has on furnishing his new home. Esther tells us:

"He immediately began to spend all the money he had in buying the oddest little ornaments and luxuries for this lodging; and so often as Ada and I dissuaded him from making any purchase that he had in contemplation which was particularly unnecessary and expensive, he took credit for what it would have cost and made out that to spend anything less on something else was to save the difference."

Now that Richard is as settled as he gets they go for a visit to Mr. Boythorn's unfortunately taking Skimpole with them. I don't know why Mr. Boythorn invited him, but he did. Esther tells us they had a pleasant journey down into Lincolnshire by the coach and had an entertaining companion in Mr. Skimpole. I just can't figure out what is so entertaining about him. I do not like this guy at all, he doesn't seem like such a child to me, after all, he is married apparently and has children. And where are they when he spends all his time drifting from place to place eating the food paid for by other people, sleeping in their beds, where is his family? Ah, if I think too much about Mr. Skimpole I run the risk of becoming grumpy so I'll leave him to the rest of you for now.

I found it interesting to compare the descriptions of Chesney Wold, the first is from the second chapter when Lady Dedlock was there and bored:

"My Lady Dedlock's place has been extremely dreary. The weather for many a day and night has been so wet that the trees seem wet through, and the soft loppings and prunings of the woodman's axe can make no crash or crackle as they fall. The deer, looking soaked, leave quagmires where they pass. The shot of a rifle loses its sharpness in the moist air, and its smoke moves in a tardy little cloud towards the green rise, coppice-topped, that makes a background for the falling rain. The view from my Lady Dedlock's own windows is alternately a lead-coloured view and a view in Indian ink. The vases on the stone terrace in the foreground catch the rain all day; and the heavy drops fall—drip, drip, drip—upon the broad flagged pavement, called from old time the Ghost's Walk, all night."

Now that Esther, Ada, Mr. Jarndyce and Mr. Skimpole are seeing it for the first time, Esther describes it this way:

"It was a picturesque old house in a fine park richly wooded. Among the trees and not far from the residence he pointed out the spire of the little church of which he had spoken. Oh, the solemn woods over which the light and shadow travelled swiftly, as if heavenly wings were sweeping on benignant errands through the summer air; the smooth green slopes, the glittering water, the garden where the flowers were so symmetrically arranged in clusters of the richest colours, how beautiful they looked! The house, with gable and chimney, and tower, and turret, and dark doorway, and broad terrace-walk, twining among the balustrades of which, and lying heaped upon the vases, there was one great flush of roses, seemed scarcely real in its light solidity and in the serene and peaceful hush that rested on all around it. To Ada and to me, that above all appeared the pervading influence. On everything, house, garden, terrace, green slopes, water, old oaks, fern, moss, woods again, and far away across the openings in the prospect to the distance lying wide before us with a purple bloom upon it, there seemed to be such undisturbed repose."

It makes me feel sorry for Lady Dedlock but I'm not sure why. Mr. Boythorn's house is described as a very pretty house, with cherry trees and apple trees heavy with fruit, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, my only problem with the entire thing was I don't think all these different fruits, vegetables, not to mention the flowers, would be ripe at the same time.

Sunday morning they attend church and amoung the people there Esther notices the pretty girl who is a servant of Lady Dedlock and another girl who Esther did not find agreeable for though she also was handsome, she seemed "maliciously watchful of this pretty girl, and indeed of every one and everything there. It was a Frenchwoman's." Finally she sees Lady Dedlock:

"Shall I ever forget the rapid beating at my heart, occasioned by the look I met as I stood up! Shall I ever forget the manner in which those handsome proud eyes seemed to spring out of their languor and to hold mine! It was only a moment before I cast mine down—released again, if I may say so—on my book; but I knew the beautiful face quite well in that short space of time.

And, very strangely, there was something quickened within me, associated with the lonely days at my godmother's; yes, away even to the days when I had stood on tiptoe to dress myself at my little glass after dressing my doll. And this, although I had never seen this lady's face before in all my life—I was quite sure of it—absolutely certain."


Hmm, something quickened inside of her? Something about Lady Dedlock reminded her of her godmother, and of her days as a child looking in the mirror. She says she knew the face quite well. Ok, now I'm thinking if Esther's godmother is her aunt, and Lady Dedlock reminds her of her godmother, than Lady Dedlock should be either another aunt, a much older sister, or what I'm betting on, Esther's mother. So if I now think that Lady Dedlock is her mother and earlier Mr. Jarndyce looked troubled when she said he was a father to her, were Mr. Jarndyce and Lady Dedlock once lovers? I can't imagine it. I'm still thinking though. This six degrees of separation thing is getting confusing.

And finally, the next Saturday Esther, Ada and Mr. Jarndyce are out in the woods sitting at a favorite place when it starts raining and they take shelter in a nearby keeper's lodge. They find that Lady Dedlock has already taken shelter there and when Esther hears her voice this happens:

"The beating of my heart came back again. I had never heard the voice, as I had never seen the face, but it affected me in the same strange way. Again, in a moment, there arose before my mind innumerable pictures of myself."

Lady Dedlock is introduced to Ada and Esther, but when she is introduced to Esther she quickly turns away. She also asks Mr. Jarndyce if he knew her sister when they were abroad, and he says that he did. Lady Dedlock then says she and her sister have gone their separate ways. When the carriage arrives for Lady Dedlock, both the pretty girl and the Frenchwoman are in it. When Lady Dedlock asks why the have both come and Hortense says that she is her maid for the present. Lady Dedlock, however, makes it clear that she had requested only the young girl. She gets in the carriage taking Rosa with her and leaving Hortense still standing there. I think Hortense is going to be trouble, this is the end of the chapter:

"I suppose there is nothing pride can so little bear with as pride itself, and that she was punished for her imperious manner. Her retaliation was the most singular I could have imagined. She remained perfectly still until the carriage had turned into the drive, and then, without the least discomposure of countenance, slipped off her shoes, left them on the ground, and walked deliberately in the same direction through the wettest of the wet grass.

"Is that young woman mad?" said my guardian.

"Oh, no, sir!" said the keeper, who, with his wife, was looking after her. "Hortense is not one of that sort. She has as good a head-piece as the best. But she's mortal high and passionate—powerful high and passionate; and what with having notice to leave, and having others put above her, she don't take kindly to it."

"But why should she walk shoeless through all that water?" said my guardian.

"Why, indeed, sir, unless it is to cool her down!" said the man.

"Or unless she fancies it's blood," said the woman. "She'd as soon walk through that as anything else, I think, when her own's up!"

We passed not far from the house a few minutes afterwards. Peaceful as it had looked when we first saw it, it looked even more so now, with a diamond spray glittering all about it, a light wind blowing, the birds no longer hushed but singing strongly, everything refreshed by the late rain, and the little carriage shining at the doorway like a fairy carriage made of silver. Still, very steadfastly and quietly walking towards it, a peaceful figure too in the landscape, went Mademoiselle Hortense, shoeless, through the wet grass.



message 3: by Kim (new)

Kim Finally for this week we have Chapter 19 which has the title Moving On. The narrator begins by describing the long vacation in Chancery Lane. It is summertime, and many courts are out of session. Everyone goes on vacation. The narrator tells us:

"The bar of England is scattered over the face of the earth. How England can get on through four long summer months without its bar—which is its acknowledged refuge in adversity and its only legitimate triumph in prosperity—is beside the question; assuredly that shield and buckler of Britannia are not in present wear.......Scarcely one is to be encountered in the deserted region of Chancery Lane. If such a lonely member of the bar do flit across the waste and come upon a prowling suitor who is unable to leave off haunting the scenes of his anxiety, they frighten one another and retreat into opposite shades."

Mr. Snagsby, the law-stationer, can now relax and this is the time when he and Mrs. Snagsby usually receive company. Today Mr. and Mrs. Chadband are visiting the Snagsbys. Mr. Chadband is in the ministry although attached to no particular denomination. They are described this way:

"Mr. Chadband is a large yellow man with a fat smile and a general appearance of having a good deal of train oil in his system. Mrs. Chadband is a stern, severe-looking, silent woman. Mr. Chadband moves softly and cumbrously, not unlike a bear who has been taught to walk upright. He is very much embarrassed about the arms, as if they were inconvenient to him and he wanted to grovel, is very much in a perspiration about the head, and never speaks without first putting up his great hand, as delivering a token to his hearers that he is going to edify them."

And speak he does, in fact he rarely stops speaking and certainly must love hearing his own voice for not too many other people could. The first thing out of his mouth is this:

"My friends," says Mr. Chadband, "peace be on this house! On the master thereof, on the mistress thereof, on the young maidens, and on the young men! My friends, why do I wish for peace? What is peace? Is it war? No. Is it strife? No. Is it lovely, and gentle, and beautiful, and pleasant, and serene, and joyful? Oh, yes! Therefore, my friends, I wish for peace, upon you and upon yours."

I did enjoy this:

"My friends," says he, "what is this which we now behold as being spread before us? Refreshment. Do we need refreshment then, my friends? We do. And why do we need refreshment, my friends? Because we are but mortal, because we are but sinful, because we are but of the earth, because we are not of the air. Can we fly, my friends? We cannot. Why can we not fly, my friends?"

Mr. Snagsby, presuming on the success of his last point, ventures to observe in a cheerful and rather knowing tone, "No wings." But is immediately frowned down by Mrs. Snagsby."


Mr. Chadband is interrupted by the arrival of Jo being held by a constable. The constable tells Mr. Snagsby that the boy has been told he must move on but he won’t leave the area even though he has been told "five hundred times". The boy says he has nowhere to go and the constable says it is his job to move him on and his instructions don't go into where. The constable says Jo claims to know Mr. Snagsby, which Mr. Snagsby says he does, from the inquest regarding the dead man. He doesn’t reveal that he gave Jo a half-crown. At that moment, Mr. Guppy arrives and Jo is asked to explain how he got the money that was found on him. Jo says that it is the remains of a gold sovereign paid to him for showing a lady where Mr. Nemo lived, worked, and was buried. Questioning Jo, Mr. Guppy learns the entire story. Mrs. Chadband reveals to Mr. Guppy that she has known Kenge and Carboy’s office for years, because of a situation concerning a child. She explains that she was left in charge of a child named Esther Summerson. Mr. Guppy tells her that he was the one who met Esther when she first came to London.

As the chapter ends Mr. Chadband can't resist giving another one of his speeches centered mainly on Jo. Finally his speech ends with him making Jo promise to come back over and over again.

"My friends," says Chadband, looking round him in conclusion, "I will not proceed with my young friend now. Will you come to-morrow, my young friend, and inquire of this good lady where I am to be found to deliver a discourse unto you, and will you come like the thirsty swallow upon the next day, and upon the day after that, and upon the day after that, and upon many pleasant days, to hear discourses?"

And now Mr. Guppy throws Jo a penny and Mr. Snagsby gives him the extra food, and Jo moves on.

"And there he sits, munching and gnawing, and looking up at the great cross on the summit of St. Paul's Cathedral, glittering above a red-and-violet-tinted cloud of smoke. From the boy's face one might suppose that sacred emblem to be, in his eyes, the crowning confusion of the great, confused city—so golden, so high up, so far out of his reach. There he sits, the sun going down, the river running fast, the crowd flowing by him in two streams—everything moving on to some purpose and to one end—until he is stirred up and told to "move on" too."

Now I'm off to find the illustrations.


message 4: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Thanks, Kim, for looking up the Mother Shipton reference. At first, I took Mother Shipton for somebody from a nursery rhyme, like Jack Sprat or Little-Bo-Peep. But Esther as a fortune teller? It only makes sense to me with a view to Ada and Richard's always asking for her advice on things because apparently she is cleverer than she makes herself out to be.

And yes, I would also say that Mr. Jarndyce did not tell Esther a whole lot of news.


message 5: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Hmm, something quickened inside of her? Something about Lady Dedlock reminded her of her godmother, and of her days as a child looking in the mirror. She says she knew the face quite well. Ok, now I'm thinking if Esther's godmother is her aunt, and Lady Dedlock reminds her of her godmother, than Lady Dedlock should be either another aunt, a much older sister, or what I'm betting on, Esther's mother. So if I now think that Lady Dedlock is her mother and earlier Mr. Jarndyce looked troubled when she said he was a father to her, were Mr. Jarndyce and Lady Dedlock once lovers? I can't imagine it. I'm still thinking though. This six degrees of separation thing is getting confusing."

I agree with your judgment on Mr. Skimpole, whom I like less and less as the novel proceeds. Mr. Boythorn makes it quite clear in their conversation that Skimpole lacks principle, and Skimpole's readiness to agree with whosever hospitality his is scrounging on should make us regard him with suspicion. Then there is this comment by Skimpole, which is absolutely ghastly and shows his ruthless egocentrism:

"'Enterprise and effort,' he would say to us (on his back), 'are delightful to me. I believe I am truly cosmopolitan. I have the deepest sympathy with them. I lie in a shady place like this and think of adventurous spirits going to the North Pole or penetrating to the heart of the Torrid Zone with admiration. Mercenary creatures ask, 'What is the use of a man's going to the North Pole? What good does it do?' I can't say; but, for anything I CAN say, he may go for the purpose—though he don't know it—of employing my thoughts as I lie here. Take an extreme case. Take the case of the slaves on American plantations. I dare say they are worked hard, I dare say they don't altogether like it. I dare say theirs is an unpleasant experience on the whole; but they people the landscape for me, they give it a poetry for me, and perhaps that is one of the pleasanter objects of their existence. I am very sensible of it, if it be, and I shouldn't wonder if it were!'


As to any link between Mr. Jarndyce and Lady Dedlock, in the sense of their being lovers, I don't know if they would converse thus formally with each other if they had been lovers once. Mr. Jarndyce is not too good at dissimulation. But the idea of there being a connexion between late Mrs. Barbary and Lady Dedlock is very convincing.


message 6: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy I enjoyed Chapter 19 a lot because it shows, among other things, that although Mr. Snagsby is very meek and a henpecked husband, he still stands up for Jo when his wife would have rather had the poor boy arrested. I also liked this little passage:

"'My little woman,' says Mr. Snagsby to the sparrows in Staple Inn, 'likes to have her religion rather sharp, you see!'"

On the whole, the marriage relation between Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby reminds me a bit of the Varden household.


message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim

Caddy's Flowers

Chapter 17

"Why, Caddy, my dear," said I, "what beautiful flowers!"

She had such an exquisite little nosegay in her hand.

"Indeed, I think so, Esther," replied Caddy. "They are the loveliest I ever saw."

"Prince, my dear?" said I in a whisper.

"No," answered Caddy, shaking her head and holding them to me to smell. "Not Prince."

"Well, to be sure, Caddy!" said I. "You must have two lovers!"

"What? Do they look like that sort of thing?" said Caddy.

"Do they look like that sort of thing?" I repeated, pinching her cheek.

Caddy only laughed in return, and telling me that she had come for half an hour, at the expiration of which time Prince would be waiting for her at the corner, sat chatting with me and Ada in the window, every now and then handing me the flowers again or trying how they looked against my hair. At last, when she was going, she took me into my room and put them in my dress.

"For me?" said I, surprised.

"For you," said Caddy with a kiss. "They were left behind by somebody."

"Left behind?"

"At poor Miss Flite's," said Caddy. "Somebody who has been very good to her was hurrying away an hour ago to join a ship and left these flowers behind. No, no! Don't take them out. Let the pretty little things lie here," said Caddy, adjusting them with a careful hand, "because I was present myself, and I shouldn't wonder if somebody left them on purpose!"



message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim

The Little Church in the Park

Chapter 18

"The congregation was extremely small and quite a rustic one with the exception of a large muster of servants from the house, some of whom were already in their seats, while others were yet dropping in. There were some stately footmen, and there was a perfect picture of an old coachman, who looked as if he were the official representative of all the pomps and vanities that had ever been put into his coach. There was a very pretty show of young women, and above them, the handsome old face and fine responsible portly figure of the housekeeper towered pre-eminent. The pretty girl of whom Mr. Boythorn had told us was close by her. She was so very pretty that I might have known her by her beauty even if I had not seen how blushingly conscious she was of the eyes of the young fisherman, whom I discovered not far off. One face, and not an agreeable one, though it was handsome, seemed maliciously watchful of this pretty girl, and indeed of every one and everything there. It was a Frenchwoman's.

As the bell was yet ringing and the great people were not yet come, I had leisure to glance over the church, which smelt as earthy as a grave, and to think what a shady, ancient, solemn little church it was. The windows, heavily shaded by trees, admitted a subdued light that made the faces around me pale, and darkened the old brasses in the pavement and the time and damp-worn monuments, and rendered the sunshine in the little porch, where a monotonous ringer was working at the bell, inestimably bright. But a stir in that direction, a gathering of reverential awe in the rustic faces, and a blandly ferocious assumption on the part of Mr. Boythorn of being resolutely unconscious of somebody's existence forewarned me that the great people were come and that the service was going to begin.

"'Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight — '"

Shall I ever forget the rapid beating at my heart, occasioned by the look I met as I stood up! Shall I ever forget the manner in which those handsome proud eyes seemed to spring out of their languor and to hold mine! It was only a moment before I cast mine down — released again, if I may say so — on my book; but I knew the beautiful face quite well in that short space of time.

And, very strangely, there was something quickened within me, associated with the lonely days at my godmother's; yes, away even to the days when I had stood on tiptoe to dress myself at my little glass after dressing my doll. And this, although I had never seen this lady's face before in all my life — I was quite sure of it — absolutely certain.

It was easy to know that the ceremonious, gouty, grey-haired gentleman, the only other occupant of the great pew, was Sir Leicester Dedlock, and that the lady was Lady Dedlock. But why her face should be, in a confused way, like a broken glass to me, in which I saw scraps of old remembrances, and why I should be so fluttered and troubled (for I was still) by having casually met her eyes, I could not think."



message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter Ah, yes. The name game for Esther. I'm keeping my list (and checking it twice). As Tristram said earlier, thanks Kim for tracking down the reference to Mother Shipton. I can't see a logical link either.

I remain slightly puzzled by Mr. Jarndyce. He seems both logical and practical in his assessment of Richard's continuing job flutterings. He quickly appraises Richard and, with delicacy, speaks his mind. On the other hand, he seems oblivious to the squandering of his money by Mrs. Jellyby, Mrs. Pardiggle and especially Skimpole.

I noticed some interesting bits in Dickens's style of writing in this chapter. At one point Esther takes out "some ornamental work for our house" and then amends that by placing "I mean Bleak House" in brackets. A revealing little slip of phrase with Esther, or just an innocent comment?

Also, while Esther has a series of pet/nicknames I found the conversation between Jarndyce and Esther where Jarndyce reveals some of Esther's past to be of interest. John Jarndyce refers to Esther by the phrase "little woman" twice in a short period of time. Then, Jarndyce refers to Esther as "my dear" three times in rapid succession. This, to me, is a conscious use of anaphora by Dickens. I believe it is a deliberate attempt by Dickens to set up the passage that Kim comments on. When Esther says of herself that "she blesses the Guardian who is a Father to her!" Dickens comments "At the word Father, "I saw his former trouble come into his face." Shortly thereafter, Jarndyce comments "Take a fatherly goodnight, my dear ..." There is the fourth time the phrase "my dear" has been used by Dickens.

I, too, think that there is more than plot advancement going on here. Structurally, we have the lovers Ada and Richard at the beginning of the chapter being discussed, Caddy, a girl in love passing a bouquet of flowers to Esther at the end of the chapter that "look like that sort of thing" [a love token], and in the middle of the chapter a use of repetition and curious glances between Jarndyce and Esther. Hmmmm...


message 10: by Peter (last edited Aug 09, 2015 05:20PM) (new)

Peter Kim

Great idea to give us two contrasting descriptions of Chesney Wold. Chesney Wold is both dreary and delightful. We should keep these perspectives in mind as we read through the novel. Something indeed is linking Lady Dedlock to Esther. Even the annoying Mr. Guppy is on the scent to discover the link.

Hortense is described as a person who would "as soon walk through [blood] than anything else." This reminds me of the story of the Ghost of Chesney Wold. Footsteps, blood, ghosts, thunderstorms, faces. All rather Gothic. All portents of the future?


message 11: by Peter (last edited Aug 09, 2015 05:34PM) (new)

Peter A woman in a vale has allegedly given Jo a sovereign to show her the place the mystery man died and where he was buried. Dickens uses great irony when after Jo describes all the ways he has been cheated/thieved out of the sovereign the police officer has no concern about the law being repeatedly broken and Jo being a victim, but rather says "You don't expect anybody to believe this, about the lady and the sovereign, do you? Jo can only respond "I don't expect nothing at all sir, much, but that's the true hist'ry on it."

Dickens's ending of the chapter with Jo looking up at the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral while the hypocrite Chadband stuffs his face with food and babbles his nonsense at the Snagsby's is a powerful bit of writing.


message 12: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "

The Little Church in the Park

Chapter 18

"The congregation was extremely small and quite a rustic one with the exception of a large muster of servants from the house, some of whom were already ..."


That's a brilliant illustration, Kim, wonderfully rich in detail. However, I have not been able to identify Mlle Hortense there. Any ideas?


message 13: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "I noticed some interesting bits in Dickens's style of writing in this chapter. At one point Esther takes out "some ornamental work for our house" and then amends that by placing "I mean Bleak House" in brackets. A revealing little slip of phrase with Esther, or just an innocent comment?"

An interesting detail, Peter! When I read Esther's correctio I thought that she clarified the Bleak House thing because she might have thought that readers could refer "our house" to their London place. But why should she make ornaments for it? Maybe, her calling Bleak House "our" house shows that she feels very much at home there.

I would also interpret Mr. Jarndyce's ways of addressing Esther as signs that he would not like very much to be seen as a father figure by Esther. Esther, on the other hand, protests too much with regard to Mr. Woodcourt, and Woodcourt's mother might have her own reasons for pointing out that when her son is going to marry, it would have to be a very special woman ;-)


message 14: by Tristram (last edited Aug 10, 2015 08:17AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "Hortense is described as a person who would "as soon walk through [blood] than anything else." This reminds me of the story of the Ghost of Chesney Wold. Footsteps, blood, ghosts, thunderstorms, faces. All rather Gothic. All portents of the future?"

Actually, Hortense seems like a foreshadowing of the blood-thirsty Mme Defarge to me ... In the notes to my edition of the novel it says that Hortense was modelled on a real-life Belgian murderess by the name of Maria Manning, whose execution Dickens witnessed in 1849. In her earlier life, Mrs. Manning had been a lady's maid.


message 15: by Kim (new)

Kim Tristram wrote: "In the notes to my edition of the novel it says that Hortense was modelled on a real-life Belgian murderess by the name of Maria Manning, whose execution Dickens witnessed in 1849."

The first thing I thought of when I read what you wrote wasn't "who was Maria Manning" but "why in the world did Dickens attend an execution?". So I went searching and first I found out about Maria Manning of course:

"Marie Manning was a Swiss domestic servant who was hanged outside Horsemonger Lane Gaol, England, on 13 November 1849, after she and her husband were convicted of the murder of her lover, Patrick O'Connor, in the case that became known as "The Bermondsey Horror." It was the first time a husband and wife had been executed together in England since 1700. Marie had made the acquaintance of Patrick O'Connor, a gauger in the London Docks, and this friendship was continued after her marriage. O'Connor, besides being a figure on the docks, was also a money lender, and one who charged extraordinary interest. As a result he was extremely wealthy, and was smart enough to invest his money wisely.

On 9 August 1849, O'Connor dined with the Mannings at their house, 3 Minver Place, Bermondsey. Following a pre-arranged plan, the Mannings murdered their guest and buried his body under the flagstones in the kitchen. On the same day Mrs. Manning visited O'Connor's lodgings, Greenwood Street, Mile End Road, stealing the dead man's railway shares and money. She returned the next day to complete the robbery. However, it is apparent that the couple were planning to double cross each other; Marie fled with most of the loot, Frederick took the smaller portion and also fled.
The police discovered O'Connor's remains on 17 August, and soon after apprehended his murderers. Marie was tracked down to Edinburgh, where she was caught when trying to exchange some of O'Connor's property (a listing had been published). Frederick was caught on Jersey. They were tried at the Old Bailey on 25 and 26 October 1849. The trial was not one of the most fascinating in terms of legal problems, except that it was argued that the jury had to include people of French or Swiss ancestry in fairness to Marie.

During the trial, Frederick said that he "never liked him [O'Connor] very much". They were found guilty, Marie yelling imprecations at the British as a perfidious race. They were reconciled shortly before they were executed by William Calcraft at Horsemonger Lane Gaol on 13 November 1849. Mrs. Manning wore a black satin dress on the scaffold, resulting in the myth that the material went out of fashion for many years (though, following the execution, fashion catalogues continued to show black satin garments, suggesting no evidence to support the myth).

Charles Dickens wrote a letter to The Times on the wickedness and levity of the mob during the execution.

Wilkie Collins in his novel The Woman In White (1860) has one of his heroines comment (referring to the fat villain, Count Fosco) that "Mr. Murderer and Mrs. Murderess Manning were not both unusually stout people?" In fact, Marie would have been considered overweight today, but in the 1840s she was considered quite attractive with her chubby features, which at the time were considered to imply that the person had the means to be somewhat "plump". The novel is set in 1850, a year after the "Bermondsey Horror."


Now I still didn't figure out what Dickens was doing there in the first place and I have to see if I can dig up his letter.

I wonder if Hortense will murder her lover? I can't imagine her having one. Or a husband.


message 16: by Kim (new)

Kim Here's Dickens letter:

"I was a witness of the execution at Horsemonger Lane this morning. I went there with the intention of observing the crowd gathered to behold it, and I had excellent opportunities of doing so, at intervals all through the night, and continuously from day-break until after the spectacle was over... I believe that a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun. The horrors of the gibbet and of the crime which brought the wretched murderers to it faded in my mind before the atrocious bearing, looks, and language of the assembled spectators. When I came upon the scene at midnight, the shrillness of the cries and howls that were raised from time to time, denoting that they came from a concourse of boys and girls already assembled in the best places, made my blood run cold. As the night went on, screeching, and laughing, and yelling in strong chorus of parodies on negro melodies, with substitutions of 'Mrs. Manning' for 'Susannah', and the like, were added to these. When the day dawned, thieves, low prosti-tutes, ruffians, and vagabonds of every kind, flocked on to the ground, with every variety of offensive and foul behaviour. Fightings, faintings, whistlings, imitations of Punch, brutal jokes, tumultuous demonstrations of indecent delight when swooning women were dragged out of the crowd by the police, with their dresses disordered, gave a new zest to the general entertainment. When the sun rose brightly-as it did-it gilded thousands upon thousands of upturned faces, so inexpressibly odious in their brutal mirth or callousness, that a man had cause to feel ashamed of the shape he wore, and to shrink from himself, as fashioned in the image of the Devil. When the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgement, no more restraint in any of the previous obscenities, than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world, and there were no belief among men but that they perished like the beasts."

Charles Dickens to the Editor of The Times, Letters. Nov. 13, 1849


message 17: by Peter (new)

Peter Thanks for finding this letter Kim. Dickens is passionate, forthright but not hysterical. A very controlled and serious tone that makes his points without too grand a flight of fancy.

The hanging sounds like some event in a Roman forum or grotesque movie.


message 18: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 392 comments Peter wrote: "I mean Bleak House"

Remember, they are at Boythorn's home now, so I think that's why Esther makes the distinction.

As for the executions, if you google images of hangings it's amazing - and disturbing - to me that such crowds of people came out to watch. In one photo I saw a few months back, there were people who had climbed up trees in order to get a better look. I guess it's the same bloodlust that attracts some to bullfighting, cockfighting, etc. Like Dickens, it makes my blood run cold.


message 19: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy And yet Dickens went there himself - probably with a view to using his impressions for execution scenes in novels to come? Since public executions were not rare at that time, it remains to be asked whether this was the first and only execution Dickens witnessed.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim This is Fred Barnard's illustration of Chapter 17:



"I soon found myself very busy. But I had left some silk downstairs in a work-table drawer in the temporary growlery, and coming to a stop for want of it, I took my candle and went softly down to get it. To my great surprise, on going in I found my guardian still there, and sitting looking at the ashes. He was lost in thought, his book lay unheeded by his side, his silvered iron-grey hair was scattered confusedly upon his forehead as though his hand had been wandering among it while his thoughts were elsewhere, and his face looked worn. Almost frightened by coming upon him so unexpectedly, I stood still for a moment and should have retired without speaking had he not, in again passing his hand abstractedly through his hair, seen me and started."


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim And his illustration of Chapter 18:



"Lady Dedlock had taken shelter in the lodge before our arrival there and had come out of the gloom within. She stood behind my chair with her hand upon it. I saw her with her hand close to my shoulder when I turned my head.

"I have frightened you?" she said.

No. It was not fright. Why should I be frightened!

"I believe," said Lady Dedlock to my guardian, "I have the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Jarndyce."

"Your remembrance does me more honour than I had supposed it would, Lady Dedlock," he returned."



message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim Here's Kyd's idea of Mr. Chadband:




message 23: by Peter (new)

Peter Kim wrote: "And his illustration of Chapter 18:

"Lady Dedlock had taken shelter in the lodge before our arrival there and had come out of the gloom within. She stood behind my chair with her hand upon it. I s..."


Somehow this illustration does not work for me. It does not seem to be as dramatic as the written scene suggests. Is it me, or does Lady Dedlock seem to be about the same age as Esther?


message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim Yes, this is not one of my favorite Bernard illustrations. I think all three ladies not only look the same age but look nearly identical.


message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim Earlier when I looked up Marie Manning and found that she and her husband being executed in 1849 was the first time a husband and wife had been executed together in England since 1700. I had to go find who the 1700 couple were.

"MICHAEL VAN BERGHEN, CATHERINE VAN BERGHEN AND DROMELIUS, THEIR SERVANT, PUBLICANS

Executed 10th of July, 1700, for the Murder of their Guest, Mr Oliver Norris

THESE criminals were natives of Holland, who, having settled in England, kept a public-house in East Smithfield in 1700, and where Geraldius Dromelius acted as their servant. Mr Oliver Norris was a country gentleman who lodged at an inn near Aldgate, and who went into the house of Van Berghen about eight o'clock in the evening, and continued to drink there till about eleven. Finding himself rather intoxicated, he desired the maidservant to call a coach to carry him home.

As she was going to do so her mistress whispered to her, and bade her return in a little time and say that a coach was not to be procured. These directions being observed, Norris, on the maid's return, resolved to go without a coach, and accordingly took his leave of the family; but he had not gone far before he discovered that he had been robbed of a purse containing a sum of money; whereupon he returned and charged Van Berghen and his wife with having been guilty of the robbery. This they positively denied, and threatened to turn him out of the house; but he refused to go, and resolutely went into a room where the cloth was laid for supper.

At this time Dromelius entered the room, and threatening Mr Norris in a cavalier manner, the latter resented the insult, and at length a quarrel ensued. At this juncture, Van Berghen seized a poker, with which he fractured Mr Norris's skull, and in the meantime Dromelius stabbed him in different parts of the body, Mrs Van Berghen being present during the perpetration of the horrid act. When Mr Norris was dead they stripped him of his coat, waistcoat, hat, wig, etc., and then Van Berghen and Dromelius carried the body and threw it into a ditch which communicated with the Thames; and in the meantime Mrs Van Berghen washed the blood of the deceased from the floor of the room.

The clothes which had been stripped from the deceased were put up in a hamper and committed to the care of Dromelius, who took a boat and carried them over to Rotherhithe, where he employed the waterman to carry the hamper to lodgings which he had taken, and in which he proposed to remain until he could find a favourable opportunity of embarking for Holland.

The next morning, at low water, the body of a man was found, and several of the neighbours went to take a view of it, and endeavoured to try if they could trace any blood to the place where the murder might have been committed; but not succeeding in this, some of them who were up at a very early hour recollected that they had seen Van Berghen and Dromelius coming almost from the spot where the body was found, and remarked that a light had been carried backwards and forwards in Van Berghen's house.

Upon this the house was searched; but no discovery was made, except that a little blood was found behind the door of a room which appeared to have been lately mopped. Inquiry was made after Dromelius, but Van Berghen and his wife would give no other account than that he had left their service. On which they were taken into custody, with the servant-maid, who was the principal evidence against them. At this time the waterman who had carried Dromelius to Rotherhithe, and who knew him very well, appeared, and he was likewise taken into custody.

The prisoners were tried by a jury of half Englishmen and half foreigners, to circumstances above mentioned appeared so striking that they did not hesitate to find the prisoners guilty, and accordingly they received sentence of death. They were executed near the Hartshorn brewhouse, East Smithfield, being the nearest convenient spot to the place where the murder was committed, on the 10th of July, in the year 1700. The bodies of the men were hung in chains between Bow and Mile End, but the woman was buried."



message 26: by Peter (new)

Peter Kim: This story reads like the precis of a novel. I've just finished reading Jack Sheppard by Ainsworth, a friend of Dickens, and think Ainsworth would be the perfect author to write the novel. Evidently, the "Newgate Novel" was quite the rage in early/mid Victorian times.

As always, thanks for the information.


message 27: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy It's not a premeditated murder, though, and that is probably why it has been executed in such a sloppy way. Fancy having the maidservant implied in it by asking her to say there was no coach available! I think the first rule if you want to commit a murder is that you should do it on your own, murder being the lonely man's crime.

Nevertheless, I think the story would make an excellent novel if you centred on the relationship of the three murderers after the crime when the police are coming round investigating. That would make a fascinating novel, probably more fascinating than if you just had a solitary murderer.


message 28: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Catching up on the summaries and comments... I loved the scenes where Esther's heart responds to a sense of deja vu when she sees (and hears) Lady Deadlock for the first time. Combined with the Gothic elements Peter mentioned (the Ghost's Walk, etc), I wonder if BH could be seen as a forerunner of magic realism?

Also this passage brought to mind some odd twists on the Cinderella tale, that I hadn't noticed on my first read. In childhood, Esther had a dead mother, an evil God(step)mother, and a secret benefactor (Godfather figure?) in Jarndyce, who provides her with the means to transform herself. I enjoyed the contrasting descriptions of Chesney Wold that Kim pointed out, and the transformation it underwent in Esther's eyes.

We passed not far from the house a few minutes afterwards. Peaceful as it had looked when we first saw it, it looked even more so now, with a diamond spray glittering all about it, a light wind blowing, the birds no longer hushed but singing strongly, everything refreshed by the late rain, and the little carriage shining at the doorway like a fairy carriage made of silver.


message 29: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Kim wrote: "

Caddy's Flowers

Chapter 17

"Why, Caddy, my dear," said I, "what beautiful flowers!"

She had such an exquisite little nosegay in her hand.

"Indeed, I think so, Esther," replied Caddy. "They ar..."


I enjoyed Caddy and Ada teasing Esther in this scene, making fun of her inability to imagine herself worthy of admiration. If Esther can't imagine it, at least her friends can on her behalf. They turned the tables on Esther, who is so often busy disregarding herself.


message 30: by Peter (new)

Peter Vanessa wrote: "Catching up on the summaries and comments... I loved the scenes where Esther's heart responds to a sense of deja vu when she sees (and hears) Lady Deadlock for the first time. Combined with the G..."

Hi Vanessa

You have introduced two very interesting concepts into the mix. There have been times when I have had a sense of the fairy tale in Dickens's novels, but not in BH. Thanks for pointing us to it. As for magic realism, wow, I have never put that style together with Dickens at all. Now that I think of it, some of Dickens's weather settings have that feel to them, as well as physical settings such as Tom All Alones. Certainly Dickens makes wonderful use of personification in his novels, and that can be just a short hop to magic realism. Great ideas.


message 31: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 392 comments Okay -- I'd never heard of magic realism. I googled it, but if one of you could give me some literary examples I may be familiar with, that would help me to get it.


message 32: by Peter (last edited Sep 04, 2015 07:20AM) (new)

Peter Hi Mary Lou

Here are three examples. I put them in order of, to me at least, increasing difficulty of reading. I found MR took a bit of getting used to in terms of style. Like Water for Chocolate ; The House of the Spirits ; One Hundred Years of Solitude. I found One Hundred Years of Solitude to be a real reading test, worth it in the end, but definitely not a book to try and read while waiting for supper. To me, it required lots of time.

I hope this helps.


message 33: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 392 comments Not really -- I haven't read any of them! :-) Perhaps I'll add LWFC to my ever-growing to-read list just to get a taste of what you're talking about. I notice they're all by Latin American authors. Coincidence, or is this a genre generally limited to Central and South America?


message 34: by Peter (new)

Peter Mary Lou wrote: "Not really -- I haven't read any of them! :-) Perhaps I'll add LWFC to my ever-growing to-read list just to get a taste of what you're talking about. I notice they're all by Latin American author..."

You are right. Magic Realism has its deepest roots in Central/South America. I am no expert, in any way, of the genre, but your phrase "generally rooted" I think is a good one. Like Water For Chocolate would be a good first read. It has a good story line, interesting characters and the elements of MR do not jar too much with a first reading.

100 YoS was a real struggle for me. Some of William Faulkner's scenes and characters are said to have elements of MR, and I think that is true. In the case of Dickens, I think it is his description of some settings, events and characters that brush against the style of MR.


message 35: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Peter wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "Catching up on the summaries and comments... I loved the scenes where Esther's heart responds to a sense of deja vu when she sees (and hears) Lady Deadlock for the first time. Com..."

Thanks, Peter. I agree the weather and settings at times become an extension of the characters who inhabit them. And then there is the magic of several characters hearing the tread of the Ghost's Walk, which they accept as part of their surroundings. I was also thinking of a later scene with an even more supernatural element. I was surprised to learn magic realism is thought to date from the 20th C, when Dickens used several aspects of it.


message 36: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Not really -- I haven't read any of them! :-) Perhaps I'll add LWFC to my ever-growing to-read list just to get a taste of what you're talking about. I notice they're all by Latin American author..."

If you'd like a quicker taste (sorry, bad pun), I'd recommend the movie version of LWFC, Mary Lou. You can also search by country for other 'magic realist novels' besides Latin American ones, on Wiki.


message 37: by Peter (new)

Peter Vanessa wrote: "Peter wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "Catching up on the summaries and comments... I loved the scenes where Esther's heart responds to a sense of deja vu when she sees (and hears) Lady Deadlock for the fi..."

If I am thinking of the scene you are referring to we will come upon it soon. It would fit in quite well with MR. Not to drag literary definitions too much into the discussion but do you find, like I do, that Dickens's use of pathetic fallacy stretches into MR on occasion. I say this in retrospect, building on what you introduced in your earlier post. I had never thought of framing his work and writing around the concept of MR before you first mentioned it. Thanks :-)


message 38: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Well, I had to look up pathetic fallacy, Peter! Perhaps the comparison of Chesney Wold's park (that Kim quoted above) could fit that. It's not a clear personification, but gives me the impression that Lady Dedlock's depression has been imprinted on her home -- "her place" is "extremely dreary", seen from the "lead-coloured view" of her room. The sounds are also dulled in the rain, and the dripping all night implies she can't sleep, and might be as haunted as her predecessor ghost. The latter certainly verges into the magical, for me. Not to mention the pure magic of Dickens' style:)


message 39: by Peter (last edited Sep 05, 2015 05:35PM) (new)

Peter Yes. Literary definitions can and do tend to muddy the water as much as help us understand a concept. Perhaps like reading instructions to assemble a desk or bookcase. All the parts are there, and there is a picture as well, but still nothing seems to help put the darn thing together.

My simplistic definition of Pathetic Fallacy is "when the elements of Nature show, reflect or reveal the nature or mood of Man." Thus, as you mention, Chesney Wold, the weather, Lady Dedlock, her mind and her secrets are all bound up together. Pathetic Fallacy is a greatly exaggerated appearance and use of atmosphere and mood.

In Magic Realism I find most authors really hyperextend the interplay between humans and nature. Human attributes and emotions often take on almost mythic proportions.


message 40: by Kim (new)

Kim I loved what you said about reading the instructions, I know of no person - none related to me anyway - who will use the instructions, except me, and I usually give up after a while. :-)


message 41: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Now I once bought a wardrobe that had to be assembled, and there were lots of small pieces and screws, and nuts and bolts and all that. For whatever reason the instruction was in Polish ... in Polish only. And I had half a mind of leaving the wardrobe in its box for half a year and learn Polish first, but then my neighbour luckily knew a Polish guy who came over and helped me with the instructions.

About the introduction of literary terms, I quite like it in a way because to me they are some kind of ideal types, of labels that apply or don't to a certain degree. Besides Peter and Mary Lou just expanded my horizon because they made me look up MR. I think there is quite a lot of MR in Dickens, especially in his early novels: I would regard such characters as Quilp and Squeers as inspired by MR altogether.

However, MR seems to be a very vague concept, doesn't it? We could even find it in the writings of another of my favourite, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. In Uncle Silas, for instance, the evil French governess, as described through the eyes of the heroine, achieves the supernatural ghastliness of a witch - although she probably is not one.


message 42: by Peter (new)

Peter Yes. I too enjoy all the twists and turns our discussions take. Our meanderings often take me to wonderful new places of thought and insight.

There were a couple of enterprising guys back in Toronto who worked as installers/puzzle-solvers for all those companies you buy stuff from but need to assemble yourself. After staring at dozens of bits and bolts for a new desk I had just bought I gave up and called them. A guy came over and zip-zap the desk was put together in no time with no left over parts or hardware. Perhaps the best $50.00 I have ever spent.


message 43: by Kim (new)

Kim Tristram wrote: "Now I once bought a wardrobe that had to be assembled, and there were lots of small pieces and screws, and nuts and bolts and all that. For whatever reason the instruction was in Polish ... in Poli..."

How did you ever manage to buy something that the instructions were in Polish? For that matter how would you know it was Polish in the first place? I have gotten instructions in this order: English, then Spanish, and finally French. No Polish, no Russian, no German. :-) And as to the evil French governess, I say if she's not a witch she missed her true calling.

Now I'm going to look up Polish words. :-)


message 44: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy I don't know why the instructions were in Polish. Maybe it was a packaging problem, and some guys in Poland ended up with German manuals. I knew, however, that it was Polish because of the typical letter combinations; I don't think you'll get sz, cz, rj at the beginning of words in any other language. And then it was the l with the little stroke through it that finally gave the language away as Polish to me.

Peter, my wife is able to assemble the most complicated things without instructions, too - but at that time I did not know her yet.


message 45: by Peter (new)

Peter Tristram wrote: "I don't know why the instructions were in Polish. Maybe it was a packaging problem, and some guys in Poland ended up with German manuals. I knew, however, that it was Polish because of the typical ..."

Ah. Now the question is do you let her arrange the books on your book shelves?


message 46: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy No way, Peter! But that is more because my wife is hardly into books at all. She is far too energetic to sit down and read for an hour or so.


message 47: by Xan (last edited Sep 24, 2015 03:41PM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) When Guppy sees Lady Deadlock's portrait at Chesney Wold, he immediately returns to Bleak House to propose to Esther. When Esther sees Lady Dedlock for the first and second times, she is immediately overcome by a feeling of connection. Yet Jarndyce, who has known Lady Dedlock and her sister for some time, and who admits to having received a letter from Esther's godmother about the care of Esther, seems to recognize nothing outwardly. That strikes me as odd. Could Jarndyce have been fibbing to Esther when he told her she now knows everything he knows? There are too many coincidences here for this to be coincidence.

And Lady Dedlock is very interested in the Legal Writer from the moment she recognizes the handwriting. So much so that she wants/needs to see where he lived, how he lived, and where he is buried. And she is quite distressed over the conditions of his final resting place. This doesn't strike me as some general feeling of distress -- she is too uncaring about people in general -- but a distress over the plight of a very specific person. Quite an interest in a nobody by a bored and haughty Lady who seems to care little about somebodys.


message 48: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) I'm amazed at how direct and powerful Dickens, a writer who has raised satire and comic exaggeration to an art form, can be when he wants to be. There are some very powerful passages in this book, as has been noted by others.


message 49: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Yet Jarndyce, who has known Lady Dedlock and her sister for some time, and who admits to having received a letter from Esther's godmother about the care of Esther, seems to recognize nothing outwardly. That strikes me as odd. Could Jarndyce have been fibbing to Esther when he told her she now knows everything he knows? There are too many coincidences here for this to be coincidence."

A very good point, which has never occurred to me. However, I found it very strange that Esther should have experienced that feeling of connection in the church and that Lady Dedlock should have, too. Very melodramatic and unrealistic. Guppy's immediate proposal seems to imply that he has ulterior motives.

But coming back to your first point, it now seems quite likely to me that Mr. Jarndyce knew more than he let out.


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