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Bleak House > Bleak House, Chapters 23-25

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message 1: by Kim (last edited Aug 22, 2015 02:29PM) (new)

Kim Hello Pickwickians,

We are now at Chapter 23 which is titled "Esther's Narrative" again, and we find that Esther, Ada and Mr. Jarndyce have returned to Bleak House after six pleasant weeks visiting Mr. Boythorn. I suppose Mr. Skimpole has also come to Bleak House with them since he had been at Mr. Boythorn's with them, but I don't remember Esther mentioning him and the less of Mr. Skimpole the better. Esther says she hasn't seen any more of Lady Dedlock except at church, but whenever she does see her Esther is still drawn to her, she doesn't know whether it is painful or pleasurable. She also thinks that Lady Dedlock is just as disturbed by Esther, although she doesn't know why.

Esther recounts an incident that occurred before she left Mr. Boythorn’s house. One day, Esther is walking in the garden with Ada when she is told someone wants to see her. She goes inside and finds that the person wanting to see her is Mademoiselle Hortense, Lady Dedlock's French maid. She says Esther is good, accomplished, and as beautiful as an angel. Hortense tells her that she has quit her post as Lady Dedlock’s servant and asks Esther to hire her as a maid telling her that she will do more for her than she can do for herself. Esther says she keeps no maid, Hortense kisses Esther's hand and leaves.

We move on to Richard who has been constant in his visits. Richard says he is very industrious, but unfortunately his industry is misdirected. Instead of being focused on his career in law he is totally focused on Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Richard tells them that he has got to the core of the mystery of the case and is sure that they will soon get justice, saying that this happy conclusion could not be much longer delayed. They find that he has begun going to court every day and he sees Miss Flite there; he says he pities her without seeing the link between Miss Flite and himself.

He finally tells Esther that he is not settled down in the law and can never be settled while the case remains in such an unsettled state. He tells her he wishes he were a more constant sort of fellow and could be steady and systematic but he isn't able to. He also tells her he is now in debt and says this:

"You are kinder to me than I often am to myself," he returned. "My dear Esther, I am a very unfortunate dog not to be more settled, but how CAN I be more settled? If you lived in an unfinished house, you couldn't settle down in it; if you were condemned to leave everything you undertook unfinished, you would find it hard to apply yourself to anything; and yet that's my unhappy case. I was born into this unfinished contention with all its chances and changes, and it began to unsettle me before I quite knew the difference between a suit at law and a suit of clothes; and it has gone on unsettling me ever since; and here I am now, conscious sometimes that I am but a worthless fellow to love my confiding cousin Ada."

I have been trying to think of a Dicken's character who seems similar to Richard, but I can't come up with one. Since so many of Dickens books and Dickens characters have happy endings I was hoping I could think of someone who is going down the same road as Richard but ended up with a happy ending. Unfortunately, I can't think of any, I can't see much of a happy ending for Richard. I wonder when he began to be so fascinated with this case. He was nineteen I think when he came to live with Mr. Jarndyce, I wonder if, even before that he was thinking of the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case making him wealthy someday or if he only began thinking of it when he came to live at Bleak House.

He also says:

"I have looked well into the papers, Esther. I have been deep in them for months," he continued, recovering his cheerfulness in a moment, "and you may rely upon it that we shall come out triumphant. As to years of delay, there has been no want of them, heaven knows! And there is the greater probability of our bringing the matter to a speedy close; in fact, it's on the paper now. It will be all right at last, and then you shall see!"

He then tells Esther that he wants to leave the law and enlist in the army which seems like an even less likely to succeed idea that his first two careers ended up being. But enough of Richard for now. Esther now meets up with Caddy Jellyby, who tells her that Prince Turveydrop has a very high opinion of her and respects her deeply. Caddy says if it were anyone else she would be jealous, but she isn't jealous of Esther because she is the best and the first friend she has ever had. Caddy asks Esther to accompany her and Prince when they tell their parents of their engagement, she agrees and goes with them to tell Mr. Turveydrop.

At the Turveydrops, the elder Mr. Turveydrop, after a little persuading, accepts their news and tells them he will always live with them as long as they will provide him with his usual comforts, of course. I don't mind Mr. Turveydrop, I would be doing a lot of eye rolling and shaking of my head when he wasn't looking, but the way Prince worships his father would annoy me much more than the way Mr. Turveydrop acts. I do wonder as I read it, if the three of them, Mr. Turveydrop, Prince and Caddy actually do believe all this stuff, and what other people think when Mr. Turveydrop is walking around town showing his deportment:

"For myself, my children," said Mr. Turveydrop, "I am falling into the sear and yellow leaf, and it is impossible to say how long the last feeble traces of gentlemanly deportment may linger in this weaving and spinning age. But, so long, I will do my duty to society and will show myself, as usual, about town. My wants are few and simple. My little apartment here, my few essentials for the toilet, my frugal morning meal, and my little dinner will suffice. I charge your dutiful affection with the supply of these requirements, and I charge myself with all the rest."

When Esther and Caddy go to the Jellyby's to break the news to Caddy's family they find Mr. Jellyby is shut up in the dining-room with two gentlemen looking over account books and papers, trying to understand his affairs. Esther says Mr. Jellyby was now on a list of bankrupts and the house is looking dirtier and gloomier than ever. When they go upstairs to Mrs. Jellyby she is still reading and writing letters and when Caddy tells her she is engaged Mrs. Jellyby doesn't seem to care.

"I hope, Ma," sobbed poor Caddy at last, "you are not angry?"

"Oh, Caddy, you really are an absurd girl," returned Mrs. Jellyby, "to ask such questions after what I have said of the preoccupation of my mind."

"And I hope, Ma, you give us your consent and wish us well?" said Caddy.

"You are a nonsensical child to have done anything of this kind," said Mrs. Jellyby; "and a degenerate child, when you might have devoted yourself to the great public measure. But the step is taken, and I have engaged a boy, and there is no more to be said. Now, pray, Caddy," said Mrs. Jellyby, for Caddy was kissing her, "don't delay me in my work, but let me clear off this heavy batch of papers before the afternoon post comes in!"


Finally, when Esther returns home that evening she finds Charley in her room, she has been hired by Mr. Jarndyce to be Esther's maid:

"And oh, miss," says Charley, clapping her hands, with the tears starting down her dimpled cheeks, "Tom's at school, if you please, and learning so good! And little Emma, she's with Mrs. Blinder, miss, a-being took such care of! And Tom, he would have been at school—and Emma, she would have been left with Mrs. Blinder—and me, I should have been here—all a deal sooner, miss; only Mr. Jarndyce thought that Tom and Emma and me had better get a little used to parting first, we was so small. Don't cry, if you please, miss!"

"I can't help it, Charley."

"No, miss, nor I can't help it," says Charley. "And if you please, miss, Mr. Jarndyce's love, and he thinks you'll like to teach me now and then. And if you please, Tom and Emma and me is to see each other once a month. And I'm so happy and so thankful, miss," cried Charley with a heaving heart, "and I'll try to be such a good maid!"



message 2: by Kim (last edited Aug 22, 2015 02:39PM) (new)

Kim Chapter 24 is titled "An Appeal Case" and Richard's future doesn't seem any brighter to me. Richard tells Mr. Jarndyce what he and Esther had talked about and we're told that Mr. Jarndyce wasn't totally surprised. They then spend a lot of time together on "disagreeable business" which finally ends with Richard's name being entered:

"at the Horse Guards as an applicant for an ensign's commission; the purchase-money was deposited at an agent's; and Richard, in his usual characteristic way, plunged into a violent course of military study and got up at five o'clock every morning to practise the broadsword exercise. "

I'm not sure what a Horse Guard or an ensign commission is, but I assume the whole thing means Richard has entered the army. He is being sent to join a regiment Ireland and he and Mr. Jarndyce have a disagreement regarding him and Ada. Mr. Jarndyce thinks that the engagement should be at an end and they should return to just being cousins. He says that Richard has not made the beginning he had hoped he would, but they are young and there is still time, but until then he and Ada should both be free. Esther says:

"It was strange to me that Richard should not be able to forgive my guardian for entertaining the very same opinion of him which he himself had expressed of himself in much stronger terms to me. But it was certainly the case. I observed with great regret that from this hour he never was as free and open with Mr. Jarndyce as he had been before. He had every reason given him to be so, but he was not; and solely on his side, an estrangement began to arise between them."

Richard's entering the army brings us back to Mr. George because no matter how many characters Dicken's gives us in this novel they are all in some way linked to every other character in the novel. Not even by the six degrees of separation thing, I think every single person in this novel has had some interaction with every other person in the novel. At least that's how it seems to me. Richard has been taking fencing and shooting lessons from Mr. George in preparation for joining the army, Mr. George however, tells them this of Richard:

"And what kind of a shot and what kind of a swordsman do you make of Mr. Carstone?" said my guardian.

"Pretty good, sir," he replied, folding his arms upon his broad chest and looking very large. "If Mr. Carstone was to give his full mind to it, he would come out very good."

"But he don't, I suppose?" said my guardian.

"He did at first, sir, but not afterwards. Not his full mind. Perhaps he has something else upon it...."


And so I don't think Richard will do any better in the army then in anything else. It is now Richard's last day before leaving and he wants to spend it in court listening to Jarndyce and Jarndyce of course. Which turns out like this:

"I think it came on "for further directions"—about some bill of costs, to the best of my understanding, which was confused enough. But I counted twenty-three gentlemen in wigs who said they were "in it," and none of them appeared to understand it much better than I. They chatted about it with the Lord Chancellor, and contradicted and explained among themselves, and some of them said it was this way, and some of them said it was that way, and some of them jocosely proposed to read huge volumes of affidavits, and there was more buzzing and laughing, and everybody concerned was in a state of idle entertainment, and nothing could be made of it by anybody. After an hour or so of this, and a good many speeches being begun and cut short, it was "referred back for the present," as Mr. Kenge said, and the papers were bundled up again before the clerks had finished bringing them in.

I glanced at Richard on the termination of these hopeless proceedings and was shocked to see the worn look of his handsome young face. "It can't last for ever, Dame Durden. Better luck next time!" was all he said."


Meanwhile Miss Flite comes to sit with them, and then for reasons I can't figure out, if there is a reason, they run into Miss Rachael:

Richard had given me his arm and was taking me away when Mr. Guppy came up.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Carstone," said he in a whisper, "and Miss Summerson's also, but there's a lady here, a friend of mine, who knows her and wishes to have the pleasure of shaking hands." As he spoke, I saw before me, as if she had started into bodily shape from my remembrance, Mrs. Rachael of my godmother's house.

"How do you do, Esther?" said she. "Do you recollect me?"

I gave her my hand and told her yes and that she was very little altered.

"I wonder you remember those times, Esther," she returned with her old asperity. "They are changed now. Well! I am glad to see you, and glad you are not too proud to know me." But indeed she seemed disappointed that I was not.

"Proud, Mrs. Rachael!" I remonstrated.

"I am married, Esther," she returned, coldly correcting me, "and am Mrs. Chadband. Well! I wish you good day, and I hope you'll do well."


They now meet Mr. George who is at court looking for Miss Flite. It seems that Gridley has been hiding at Mr. George's home and has asked to see Miss Flite. He has also asked to see Mr. Jarndyce, so Esther writes a note to her guardian and Richard and Esther go along with Mr. George to the Shooting Gallery. There they are met with a man who says he is a physician but turns out to be Mr. Bucket there to arrest Gridley, however they find Gridley laying on a sofa looking "so changed that at first I recognized no likeness in his colourless face to what I recollected."

Esther tells us that even though Gridley was sick and in hiding he was still been writing in his hiding place, hour after hour. Manuscript papers and worn pens covered a table and some shelves. Miss Flite is sitting next to him holding his hand. Gridley tells them:

"I thought, boastfully, that they never could break my heart, Mr. Jarndyce. I was resolved that they should not. I did believe that I could, and would, charge them with being the mockery they were until I died of some bodily disorder. But I am worn out. How long I have been wearing out, I don't know; I seemed to break down in an hour. I hope they may never come to hear of it. I hope everybody here will lead them to believe that I died defying them, consistently and perseveringly, as I did through so many years."

And a sad chapter comes to an end this way:

"The roof rang with a scream from Miss Flite, which still rings in my ears.

"Oh, no, Gridley!" she cried as he fell heavily and calmly back from before her. "Not without my blessing. After so many years!"

The sun was down, the light had gradually stolen from the roof, and the shadow had crept upward. But to me the shadow of that pair, one living and one dead, fell heavier on Richard's departure than the darkness of the darkest night. And through Richard's farewell words I heard it echoed: "Of all my old associations, of all my old pursuits and hopes, of all the living and the dead world, this one poor soul alone comes natural to me, and I am fit for. There is a tie of many suffering years between us two, and it is the only tie I ever had on earth that Chancery has not broken."



message 3: by Kim (new)

Kim Chapter 25 is titled "Mrs. Snagsby Sees It All" and we find that Mrs. Snagsby suspects her husband is keeping a secret from her, mainly because of the very guilty way he is acting, anyone would think he is keeping some sort of secret. The narrator tells us that Mr. Snagsby is unsettled by the role he has played in the affair with Jo, Mr. Bucket, and Mr. Tulkinghorn. He doesn’t know what is going on and feels like he is “party to some dangerous secret.” He is edgy and gets nervous when anyone comes to the shop looking for him. As our narrator tells us:

"Mr. Snagsby cannot make out what it is that he has had to do with. Something is wrong somewhere, but what something, what may come of it, to whom, when, and from which unthought of and unheard of quarter is the puzzle of his life."

So Mr. Snagsby appears to feel guilty for keeping a secret of which he has no idea of what the secret is. Poor Mr. Snagsby. Every time the shop door opens he expects a letter, a messenger, or Mr. Bucket himself, therefore if anyone comes in and asks for him, he chases them out. Mrs. Snagsby knows Mr. Snagsby has a secret, the entire town knows he has a secret. Mrs. Snagsby searches his letters, pockets, ledger, the cash box and iron safe while he’s sleeping. She is always alert to his movements.

One day Mr. Chadband runs into Jo on the street and convinces him, mostly by scaring him, to come to Cook’s Court to be "improved". Mrs. Snagsby decides that this is the perfect time to watch Jo very closely. When the group arrives at the house Mrs. Snagsby watches Jo carefully. She sees him look at Mr. Snagsby when he enters the room and wonders why, then she thinks that Snagsby is sending an obvious signal when he coughs. The conclusion she comes to is that Jo is Mr. Snagsby’s son. Meanwhile Mr. Chadband is droning on again with things like this:

"Peace, my friends," says Chadband, rising and wiping the oily exudations from his reverend visage. "Peace be with us! My friends, why with us? Because," with his fat smile, "it cannot be against us, because it must be for us; because it is not hardening, because it is softening; because it does not make war like the hawk, but comes home unto us like the dove. Therefore, my friends, peace be with us! My human boy, come forward!"

When Mr. Chadband is asking, "What is that light? What is it? I ask you, what is that light?", and I'm wondering if there is any way the answer he gives will be Christ, he answers:

"It is," says Chadband, "the ray of rays, the sun of suns, the moon of moons, the star of stars. It is the light of Terewth."

I don't know what I expected him to say but it wasn't the "light of Terewh", in fact, I had no idea what that was until I looked it up and saw it was just his way of saying "truth". And Mr. Chadband telling us that the reason Jo is "devoid of parents, devoid of relations, devoid of flocks and herds, devoid of gold, of silver, and of precious stones" is because he lacks the light of truth doesn't make any sense to me.

Then we have a much too long (as most are) silly sermon by Mr. Chadband during which I was amused to see Jo fell asleep.

"No, my friends, it is neither of these. Neither of these names belongs to it. When this young heathen now among us—who is now, my friends, asleep, the seal of indifference and perdition being set upon his eyelids; but do not wake him, for it is right that I should have to wrestle, and to combat and to struggle, and to conquer, for his sake—when this young hardened heathen told us a story of a cock, and of a bull, and of a lady, and of a sovereign, was THAT the Terewth? No. Or if it was partly, was it wholly and entirely? No, my friends, no!"

At one point we are told this about poor Jo:

"Jo never heard of any such book. Its compilers and the Reverend Chadband are all one to him, except that he knows the Reverend Chadband and would rather run away from him for an hour than hear him talk for five minutes."

And I am in total agreement with Jo when it comes to Mr. Chadband, I too would not want to listen to any more of his talk. As Jo leaves Guster stops him and gives him her supper of bread and cheese telling him that like him, she also never knew her mother and father. Mr. Snagsby then stops Jo and gives him another half-crown and thanks him for not saying anything about where they had gone the other night. Mrs. Snagsby is watching and sees it all:

"A ghostly shade, frilled and night-capped, follows the law-stationer to the room he came from and glides higher up. And henceforth he begins, go where he will, to be attended by another shadow than his own, hardly less constant than his own, hardly less quiet than his own. And into whatsoever atmosphere of secrecy his own shadow may pass, let all concerned in the secrecy beware! For the watchful Mrs. Snagsby is there too—bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, shadow of his shadow."


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter Kim wrote: "Hello Pickwickians,

We are now at Chapter 23 which is titled "Esther's Narrative" again, and we find that Esther, Ada and Mr. Jarndyce have returned to Bleak House after six pleasant weeks visitin..."


Funny how readers relate to characters. I always find a favourite character (or even a few) in each novel. Often, my "favourite" character is not the main person in the novel. A favourite character may be the "bad" character. Carker was great, Quilp was delightful and in BH who can really dislike Tulkinghorn?

Is it only me that finds Richard very wearying and Skimpole frustrating? I just can't engage with these characters. I don't enjoy them, their eccentricities or their place in the novel. I realize that structurally they have their place but I just don't find them interesting.

Speaking of structure, I found the beginning and end of Ch. 23 to be framed curiously. the beginning of the chapter sees Hortense offering her services to Esther as a lady's maid, but Esther rejecting her offer. At the end of the same chapter Charley comes to Esther's door and comments "I'm a present to you, with Mr Jarndyce's love." This time, Esther accepts the offer of a maid. Interesting.


message 5: by Peter (new)

Peter Ch 24 finds Mr. Jarndyce calling Ada "my bird." There's another one for the list, Kim!

In this chapter Esther heads off to The Shooting Gallery, perhaps not her first choice of a place to go, but in terms of plot, a key setting. Esther comments that Mr. George "looked at me now, in three or four successive glances." Mr. George then comments "I thought I had seen you somewhere." To Esther's negative reply to his question Esther further comments "I remember faces very well." George's final "So do I miss!" increases the tension around Esther's appearance. Mr. Guppy, Lady Dedlock and now Mr. George all add pieces to the puzzle of Esther's mysterious background, but it is, I think, the illustration of Jo pointing to the grave of Nemo that leads us most assuredly to the answer to Esther's past.


message 6: by Peter (new)

Peter Chapter 25 begins with a pointing forefinger, this time Mr. Bucket's. I really enjoy how Dickens continually echoes his major symbols. Allegory constantly hovers over the reader at Tulkinghorn's, Jo's finger lingers in our minds due to the illustration, and now the detective's finger has become part of the landscape. Blend these occurrences with the fact that Ch 23's Turveydrop illustration shows Esther's face, once again hidden by her bonnet, and then Mr George's puzzlement about Esther's face and we have two symbols to watch, follow and puzzle over as we read on.


message 7: by Peter (new)

Peter With the addition of Chadband we have three targets for Dickens to take aim at in regards to religion and the plight of the poor. Mrs. Jellyby continues to save the offshore masses as her own children tumble about in her own home unacknowledged, Mrs. Pardiggle's children follow her as she marches around but blindly ignores the plight of poor, and now Chadband, plump and ever-hungry, pontificates on the poor between bites of food. At least he doesn't have any children of his own in which to model poor parenting skills.


message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim

Chapter 23

A model of parental deportment

"Engaged!" cried Mr. Turveydrop, reclining on the sofa and shutting out the sight with his hand. "An arrow launched at my brain by my own child!"

"We have been engaged for some time, father," faltered Prince, "and Miss Summerson, hearing of it, advised that we should declare the fact to you and was so very kind as to attend on the present occasion. Miss Jellyby is a young lady who deeply respects you, father."

Mr. Turveydrop uttered a groan.

"No, pray don't! Pray don't, father," urged his son. "Miss Jellyby is a young lady who deeply respects you, and our first desire is to consider your comfort."

Mr. Turveydrop sobbed.

"No, pray don't, father!" cried his son.

"Boy," said Mr. Turveydrop, "it is well that your sainted mother is spared this pang. Strike deep, and spare not. Strike home, sir, strike home!"

"Pray don't say so, father," implored Prince, in tears. "It goes to my heart. I do assure you, father, that our first wish and intention is to consider your comfort. Caroline and I do not forget our duty — what is my duty is Caroline's, as we have often said together — and with your approval and consent, father, we will devote ourselves to making your life agreeable."

"Strike home," murmured Mr. Turveydrop. "Strike home!" But he seemed to listen, I thought, too.

"My dear father," returned Prince, "we well know what little comforts you are accustomed to and have a right to, and it will always be our study and our pride to provide those before anything. If you will bless us with your approval and consent, father, we shall not think of being married until it is quite agreeable to you; and when we ARE married, we shall always make you — of course — our first consideration. You must ever be the head and master here, father; and we feel how truly unnatural it would be in us if we failed to know it or if we failed to exert ourselves in every possible way to please you."

Mr. Turveydrop underwent a severe internal struggle and came upright on the sofa again with his cheeks puffing over his stiff cravat, a perfect model of parental deportment.

"My son!" said Mr. Turveydrop. "My children! I cannot resist your prayer. Be happy!"



message 9: by Kim (new)

Kim

Chapter 24

Mr. Chadband 'Improving' a Tough Subject

Commentary:

"Phiz here beautifully captures one of Dickens's oily Evangelical clergymen. From the begining of his career, the novelist presents Evangelicals preying upon women, and although Chadband is not quite as despicable as Stiggins from the Pickwick Papers, since he does not appear as an alcoholic cadging food and drink from a poor family, his combination of self-satisfaction, clichés, and rhetorical questions makes his preaching to Jo particularly despicable. Bleak House contrasts the hypocritical self-serving false religiosity of Chadband with the truer Christianity of both Esther and Woodcourt.
Dickens does not seem to criticize Evangelical Anglicans — that is, Evangelicals within the establshed Church — and he claimed "one of my most constant and most earnest endeavours has been to exhibit in all my good people some faint reflections of our great Master, and unostentatiously to lead the reader up to those teachings as the great source of all moral goodness. All my strongest illustrations are drawn from the New Testament; all my social abuses are shown as departures from its spirit; all my good people are humble, charitable, faithful, and forgiving" (Letter to Reverend D. Macrae)"



message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim Here is Jo by Kyd:




message 11: by Peter (new)

Peter Kim wrote: "

Chapter 23

A model of parental deportment

"Engaged!" cried Mr. Turveydrop, reclining on the sofa and shutting out the sight with his hand. "An arrow launched at my brain by my own child!"

"We ..."


Kim. Again, as always thank you for providing the illustrations. In this one, we once again get only a side view of Esther. The majority of illustrations of her are like this so far, as we have discussed earlier. We also have Mr Guppy and now Mr. George also finding her facial features of interest. Further, there have been a couple of passing references to her face elsewhere in the text. One would think that all this is happening for at least one significant reason.

Then again, there might be more than one reason as we read on ... ;-)


message 12: by Peter (new)

Peter Kim wrote: "

Chapter 24

Mr. Chadband 'Improving' a Tough Subject

Commentary:

"Phiz here beautifully captures one of Dickens's oily Evangelical clergymen. From the begining of his career, the novelist prese..."


Dickens book The Life of Our Lord, not published until the 1930's, attests to the fact that Dickens was certainly not against religion, but rather the ways it was twisted and abused by too many people. His good works are legion. His connection with Angela Burdett-Coutts further demonstrates how he successfully blended his fame with her fortune for good purposes.

Vanessa has pointed out to me that Burdett Street here in Victoria was named for Burdett-Coutts due to her support of the Anglican Diocese here. There is also a home called Angela's House that is named after her. So even here, on the West Coast of Canada, by association, there exists, however faintly, a touch of Dickens. While not too much of a Romantic, I confess that when I park in front of Angela's House, which is on Burdett Street, I do smile a bit.


message 13: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Has Dickens ever ridiculed a representative of the established Church in his country? At the moment, I can't think of any example and there are just Stiggins and Chadband coming to my mind, both being outside the circle of "orthodox" religion, while at the same time there are often country parsons thrown in in Dickens as examples of honest and true Christianity.

So I would agree with Peter and Kim in saying that Dickens never criticized Christianity as a religion. Indeed, as Kim points out, the narrator in Chapter 25 even makes it clear that Jo would probably not fall asleep if he heard the Gospel and if he was told about Jesus in an honest and unpretentious way.

As far as I know, Dickens also advised Wilkie Collins against poking fun at the Church in The Moonstone but I've only got that from hearsay.


message 14: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Mlle Hortense intimates that she is able to render Esther a great service, and she is very mysterious about it. This reminds me of the allusions made by Mr. Guppy when is he wooing Esther. He, too, says that he could work good for her. Apparently all these characters seem to know something about Esther that she herself is ignorant about.

As to Dickens's bringing all his characters into close-knit interrelations, let's remember it was not only Richard and Mr. Gridley that came to the shooting gallery to practise their hand - but also some strange Frenchwoman. Probably Mlle Hortense is up to something.


message 15: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy I don't know about you but I found Charley's words very strange: "If you please, miss, I am a little present with his love, and it was all done for the love of you."

First of all, it goes against the grain of hearing a person being referred to as a prsent, and then it seems to me as though Mr. Jarndyce helped Charley by putting her into the position of a maidservant only in order to oblige, or please, as you'll have it, Esther.


message 16: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Peter,

I can understand your lack of interest in Skimpole and Richard. Especially Skimpole is a character I don't warm up to in the least - not even as a villain because I think he is easy to see through.

My favourite characters in this novel include

a) Mr. Guppy - he thinks himself so deep;

b) Mr. Krook - I like the idea of the Lord Chancellor's ugly brother;

c) Mr. Smallweed - a typically Dickensian caricature,

d) Mr. Boythorn - for obvious reasons, HAHAHA.

I'd say there are so many characters in the novel that everyone will find somebody they can like.


message 17: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Up to now, there are five deaths, if I'm not mistaken:

1) Miss Barbary

2) Jenny's baby

3) Mr. Neckett

4) Nemo the law-writer

5) Mr. Gridley

That's rather bleak, isn't it?


message 18: by Peter (new)

Peter Tristram

For me, favourite characters include Jo, Tulkinghorn, Lady Dedlock, Mr. George and, of course, Miss Flite.


message 19: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 392 comments I always assumed that Jarndyce hired Charley as an act of kindness. Giving her a job in service was certainly a step up for her and gives her a solid future. I think Esther accepted her for the same reason, even after turning away Hortense.

But did anyone else find it curious that he should hire a lady's maid for his housekeeper, but not his ward, Ada? It seems completely wrong to me that Esther should have a maid when Ada doesn't. Why is this?


message 20: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 392 comments My favorite characters in BH -

Mr. Bucket - I love that he seems to be friendly with everyone, but never shirks his duty for the sake of friendship. And I respect a man who's good at his job.

Jarndyce - I admire his quiet philanthropy, his diplomatic and patient (if ineffective) handling of Rick, and I love that he has a growlery to go to when the wind is in the east.

Mr. George - a good man who takes care of his friends.

Jo - also inherently good

Mr. Snagsby - how he ended up with that suspicious wife of his, I'll never know. One of my laugh-out-loud moments was when Mrs. Snagsby decided that obviously Jo was Snagsby's son. Too bad she's blind to the good man she has, and doesn't appreciate him.

Mr. Guppy - I feel as though we aren't really supposed to like him, but I can't help it. I find him endearing and amusing. He's so artless.


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim Mary Lou wrote: "But did anyone else find it curious that he should hire a lady's maid for his housekeeper, but not his ward, Ada? It seems completely wrong to me that Esther should have a maid when Ada doesn't. Why is this?"

No, now that you mention this, I have never noticed this before. I wonder why he did this? Maybe he thought Charley would be better off with Esther than with Ada, which she will if Ada ends up married to Richard - I see no good coming from that - but still, you think Ada would also have a maid.


message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim As for my favorite character that would depend on who Tristram and Everyman like the least, or the most, either one.


message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim Fred Barnard's illustration of Chapter 23:



"Caddy untied the strings of her bonnet, took her bonnet off, and letting it dangle on the floor by the strings, and crying heartily, said, "Ma, I am engaged."

"Oh, you ridiculous child!" observed Mrs. Jellyby with an abstracted air as she looked over the dispatch last opened; "what a goose you are!"



message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim

"Of all my old associations, of all my old pursuits and hopes, of all the living and the dead world, this one poor soul alone comes natural to me, and I am fit for. There is a tie of many suffering years between us two, and it is the only tie I ever had on earth that Chancery has not broken!"

Chapter 24

Fred Barnard


message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim

"What's gone of your father and your mother, eh?"

Chapter 25

Fred Barnard


message 26: by Peter (new)

Peter Kim wrote: ""What's gone of your father and your mother, eh?"

Chapter 25

Fred Barnard"


Kim. The Barnard illustrations for ch. 24 and ch.25 show the two people who perhaps best illustrate the ills that Dickens attacks in BH. Jo is the innocent victim of the social horrors of Victorian England and Miss Flite the victim of its legal system. The illustrations give more power to the written word.


message 27: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Mary Lou wrote: "But did anyone else find it curious that he should hire a lady's maid for his housekeeper, but not his ward, Ada? It seems completely wrong to me that Esther should have a maid when Ada doesn't. Why is this?"

That is most certainly a very good question! So good that it never occurred to me ;-) The reason behind this may be that Mr. Jarndyce wants to do both Charley and Esther a favour - Charley in placing her with an understanding and gentle mistress (which can also be said of Ada), and Esther maybe because he must have noticed that she is the more active of the two young women, and was probably the first of the two to take a kindly interest in the young girl's welfare. Maybe there is also another reason; remember how disappointed Mr. Jarndyce seemed when it became clear to him that Esther sees him in the light of a father?


message 28: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Mary Lou wrote: "Mr. Guppy - I feel as though we aren't really supposed to like him, but I can't help it. I find him endearing and amusing. He's so artless. "

That's exactly how I feel about him. And he is artless in his assumed artfulness ;-)


message 29: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "As for my favorite character that would depend on who Tristram and Everyman like the least, or the most, either one."

The characters I like least in the novel are:

1) Mr. Skimpole - I don't know how anyone can find him amusing. My house couldn't be empty enough for me to see any entertainment in him, and I'd rather read the whole essays by Emerson and Whitman's complete poetry than sit and listen to one Skimpolian monologue.

2) Esther - Another goody-two-shoes, who professes to be full of modesty but who makes sure that her narration includes all the praise that other people heap on her.

3) Mr. Jarndyce - I would definitely like him in real life, but as a character in a novel he comes off as rather pale and boring.

Now make your choice, Kim ;-)


message 30: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: ""Of all my old associations, of all my old pursuits and hopes, of all the living and the dead world, this one poor soul alone comes natural to me, and I am fit for. There is a tie of many suffering..."

I like Barnard, but here Miss Flite seems to be very young.


message 31: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: ""What's gone of your father and your mother, eh?"

Chapter 25

Fred Barnard"


Here I like Barnard devoting an illustration to the good-hearted and horror-stricken Guster.


message 32: by Peter (new)

Peter Mary Lou wrote: "I always assumed that Jarndyce hired Charley as an act of kindness. Giving her a job in service was certainly a step up for her and gives her a solid future. I think Esther accepted her for the s..."

Like Tristram and Kim I have no idea, and I also confess I never thought about it in the framework of your question. Good question!

I'll go along with Tristram's comments. Perhaps later in the novel another reason or two will pop up. We'll have to wait and see.


message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim Tristram wrote: "The characters I like least in the novel are:

1) Mr. Skimpole - I..."


Well it won't be Mr. Skimpole, I can't stand that guy. I'll join you in your essays and poetry if my other choice is listening to him.

Esther drives me crazy with that "my darling" "my dear" "my love" "my pet" stuff. And when you said that about dear Esther being modest I had to laugh, so not Esther either.

That leaves me with Mr. Jarndyce, I'll have to think about him for awhile.


message 34: by Kim (new)

Kim Well, I've thought of it long enough. Anyone who can put up with Skimpole and actually think he is delightful can't be my favorite character, so Mr. Jarndyce is out too. We have more characters coming so I still have a chance of finding a favorite.


message 35: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy How about good old Mrs. Rouncewell, Kim? Whenever I read about her I have to think about my maternal grandmother.


message 36: by Mark (new)

Mark | 97 comments My favorites are: Lady Dedlock and Jo -- who together span the spectrum of society.

And Miss Flite is another favorite.

I like JJ for his good nature and generosity, and Tulkinghorn is a very mean spidery villain.

And I get a kick out of Krook and the Smallweeds (Shake me up, Judy!).


message 37: by Peter (new)

Peter Kim wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "But did anyone else find it curious that he should hire a lady's maid for his housekeeper, but not his ward, Ada? It seems completely wrong to me that Esther should have a maid whe..."

Me again. The question of why Charlie would have been a gift of Mr. Jarndyce to Esther and not Ada continues to rattle around in my mind. Expanding on Tristram's comment that Esther was the busier of the two we do see Esther as taking on the role of the household manager. We don't know how Mr. Jarndyce managed his accounts prior to Esther's arrival and we don't know who fulfilled the role of house matron. What we do know is that now Esther has the keys to the house, joyfully rattles them, knows where all the keys fit, does the household accounts, and appears to serve as an agent for Mr. Jarndyce's multiple philanthropic enterprises.

No doubt Jarndyce would be sensitive to the amount of work that Esther unselfishly performs, and, by extension, all that Ada does not do. Jarndyce certainly is aware of all of Esther's charms and abilities. Given the fact that the chapter opens with Esther turning down Hortense's offer to be her maid since Esther saw herself as unworthy and too humble to have such a luxury, the fact that Jarndyce gifts Esther with a maid at the end of the chapter because he thinks she is worthy, is an action we should perhaps keep in mind for later chapters.


message 38: by Peter (new)

Peter Mark wrote: "My favorites are: Lady Dedlock and Jo -- who together span the spectrum of society.

And Miss Flite is another favorite.

I like JJ for his good nature and generosity, and Tulkinghorn is a very ..."


They say great men think alike and fools seldom differ. I agree with your favourite list.


message 39: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 392 comments Joy wrote: "Well I am still around here but not loving this book. Just way too many characters and I hate the way one chapter seems to have nothing to do with any of the others. (Hmmm, just like every other Di..."

Joy -- I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that one of the things I like about BH more than some other Dickens books is that several of the stories are resolved earlier on, rather than all the loose ends being tied up in the last few pages. Stick with it - I hope you'll approve of the way this one was done. There are a lot of side stories!


message 40: by Mark (new)

Mark | 97 comments One of the things I like about Bleak House is that it manages to pull together all these different people from all stations of society and they will all collide together... I don't know of a Dickens novel that has the span of Dedlocks to Jo.

Another thing I admire about the work is that, like the patent office bureaucracy in Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House presents a society that has an inhuman bureaucracy working within it that destroys people without appeal or reason. The Chancery isn't bad because someone in charge is evil. It is irrational and out-of-control because of its own structure is so thoughtless and powerful. We have many cases in modern life where "The System" seems to have a will of its own and is uncontrollable even with the best of intentions. (In the US we have cases where someone can enter a school near where I lived and shoot children and teachers and nothing is done about it. Everyone wants it to stop, we're a Republic and yet it's all the same...nothing was changed.) Even though there are villains in BH, society itself is shown as having irrational and out-of-control elements. It is a darker view of the human condition, I think, although we can hope some will find a way out of the Labyrinth. This is the Dickens that Kafka loved. (Think of Das Schloss.)

Also I find his experiment with telling a complex story through two different perspectives very daring. And it gives a nice solution when writing about secrets to only let you see their shadows dimly reflected through Esther's questioning eyes.

And lastly I really admire the way Dickens builds toward, fleshes out, the story that is the beating heart of this novel. It is very well done.


message 41: by Mark (new)

Mark | 97 comments Oops the patent office was in Little Dorrit!


message 42: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Mark wrote: "One of the things I like about Bleak House is that it manages to pull together all these different people from all stations of society and they will all collide together... I don't know of a Dickens novel that has the span of Dedlocks to Jo."

Yes, the book is a real microcosm, full of detail, of cross-references and connexions, and of darkness. All this makes me consider it Dickens's masterpiece - what "The Searchers" is to John Ford, or "Nostromo" to Joseph Conrad ;-)


message 43: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Mark wrote: "Another thing I admire about the work is that, like the patent office bureaucracy in Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House presents a society that has an inhuman bureaucracy working within it that destroys people without appeal or reason. The Chancery isn't bad because someone in charge is evil. It is irrational and out-of-control because of its own structure is so thoughtless and powerful. We have many cases in modern life where "The System" seems to have a will of its own and is uncontrollable even with the best of intentions. (In the US we have cases where someone can enter a school near where I lived and shoot children and teachers and nothing is done about it. Everyone wants it to stop, we're a Republic and yet it's all the same...nothing was changed.) Even though there are villains in BH, society itself is shown as having irrational and out-of-control elements. It is a darker view of the human condition, I think, although we can hope some will find a way out of the Labyrinth. This is the Dickens that Kafka loved. (Think of Das Schloss.)"

Sign, Mark! Presenting society and particular institutions as sources of evil - like, later, the infamous Circumlocution Office - makes these novels particularly bleak, and also grown-up. We no longer have Punch-and-Judy-show-villains like Squeers or Quilp, but that is what enhances the sense of evil in those later books and makes them more compelling.


message 44: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Although, Joy, the parts about Bleak House itself are, to my taste, the least interesting ones.


message 45: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Peter wrote: "Kim wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "But did anyone else find it curious that he should hire a lady's maid for his housekeeper, but not his ward, Ada? It seems completely wrong to me that Esther should hav..."

Charley suggests another reason why Jarndyce has given her to Esther: "he thinks you'll like to teach me now and then." Trained as a governess (thanks to Jarndyce), Esther is the better person to teach Charley, I suppose. I agree that he probably meant the arrangement to benefit both of them.

I had the impression that Jarndyce brought Esther to Bleak House to be a companion to Ada, perhaps because it would be inappropriate for him to adopt the latter without another woman in the house (that could be ironic!). Possibly an additional lady's maid for Ada would be excessive. I'm also assuming there must be other general servants in the house we're not seeing, as you suggest, Peter.

The chapter structure is indeed very interesting, with Hortense first offering her services to Esther (but not Ada). Since she is so observant, I agree that Hortense appears to have seen something special in Esther, as have a few other characters mentioned.


message 46: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments Peter wrote: "His connection with Angela Burdett-Coutts further demonstrates how he successfully blended his fame with her fortune for good purposes.

Vanessa has pointed out to me that Burdett Street here in Victoria was named for Burdett-Coutts due to her support of the Anglican Diocese here...."


According to author Terry Reksten, Queen Victoria, when she heard of Burdett's proposal to her young secretary, exclaimed "Lady Burdett really must be crazy". So I smile when I park on that street, too. She sounds like a great Dickens character!


message 47: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Vanessa wrote: "Charley suggests another reason why Jarndyce has given her to Esther: "he thinks you'll like to teach me now and then." Trained as a governess (thanks to Jarndyce), Esther is the better person to teach Charley, I suppose. I agree that he probably meant the arrangement to benefit both of them. "

Thank you for pointing that aspect out, Vanessa. I must admit that I have missed it completely, and it is an important aspect since it shows that Mr. Jarndyce is probably thinking of Charley here and of providing her with an understanding teacher. This really tones down my first impression of the arrangement.


message 48: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 364 comments There are so many details in this wonderful novel, I'm appreciating seeing things I might have missed (or forgot) on the first read. I'm also enjoying skimming Skimpole's part! (I'm still behind though...)


message 49: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy I must admit that I have difficulty enjoying Skimpole but then I enjoy Mssrs Guppy and Weevle, and also the terrible Grandfather Smallweed.


message 50: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Sep 28, 2015 08:32AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) Peter wrote: "Is it only me that finds Richard very wearying and Skimpole frustrating?"

I find similarities between Richard and Prince. Both are nice guys but with fundamental character flaws. Neither is able to assert himself or face certain realities. Richard can't make a decision about his future yet is engaged, and his obsession with Jarndyce vs Jarndyce is a flight into escapism. Ada is beautiful and nice, but there isn't much else there, so is completely dependent on others. When married that will be Richard, and John Jarndyce, seeing a disaster in the making, rightly insists on an end to to the engagement.

I like Prince. He is a very decent fellow, and I see why Caddy would want him. But Prince is also weak when it comes to his father and maybe weak, as well, when it comes to dealing with people in general. He can't tell his dad no, and his promise to his dad is a form of escapism too. He just keeps thinking that somehow it will all work out, when there is every indication that it won't. I wonder if he will become another Mr. Jellyby. So where does this leave Caddy, a character I much admire and like, perhaps my favorite in the book, along with Charley. Prince's dad is a lot like Mrs. Jellyby in the way he treats his son. The last thing Caddy needs is another overbearing, uncaring parent. I worry about her.

But here is the difference: John Jarndyce sees the disaster coming and does what he can to stop it. I think Esther sees the disaster coming too, but with Caddy and Prince, and approves of the engagement, thinking it is better than what Caddy has now. But will it be? Might Caddy not end up where she started?


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