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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Bleak House Chapters 11~13

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Published in June 1862
For discussion of these chapters


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I really thought that we were going to learn about Nemo as a brother to Tulkinghorn, but it seems to be the term brother Is being used in the more figurative sense. Perhaps it applies the the help that Nemo gives to poor Jo acting as a brother might to that young orphan child.

So, did Nemo kill himself, or was it something sinister?

Seems like Dickens had little use for the beadles.


message 3: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Johnson (jrjohnson1408) I understood "brother" to refer to the words in the funeral service, which are something like: Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our dear brother here departed and commit his body to the ground...

Jo interests me conciderably; these poor, pathetic orphans usually have a big impact on the story (at least in the world of Dickens). I am anxious to see what connection he has to the rest of the characters.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Oh thanks, Jackie. That makes wonderful sense.

So any thoughts as to the "secret something" that seems to have taken place between Lady Dedlock and Mr. Turlkinghorn? Why was she ever so interested in Nemo? There is something mysterious going on there.


message 5: by Sherin (last edited Nov 22, 2011 05:49AM) (new)

Sherin Punnilath (shery_7) | 10 comments The surgeon says "He has purchased opium of me for the last year and a half."

Wasn't opium considered to be a drug at that time? Wouldn't there be a law against distributing it freely?


message 6: by Valetta (new)

Valetta | 27 comments Marialyce wrote: "Oh thanks, Jackie. That makes wonderful sense.

So any thoughts as to the "secret something" that seems to have taken place between Lady Dedlock and Mr. Turlkinghorn? Why was she ever so interested..."


I have my theory here, I think they were lover once. She recognized his handwriting and a reason could be that he sent her love letters. But then, who is really Nemo? And why his relationship with Lady Dedlock ended?
I think Lady Dedlock is a great charachter, by the way, under this layer of coldness and haughtiness there is completely different person. And I love the way Dickens mockes her always being bored.


message 7: by Valetta (new)

Valetta | 27 comments Sherin wrote: "The surgeon says "He has purchased opium of me for the last year and a half."

Wasn't opium considered to be a drug at that time? Wouldn't there be a law against distributing it freely?"


I think that opium became illegal around the beginning of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century there were two Opium Wars between Britain and China for the control of opium's market, which was not illegal at the time.


message 8: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments There is something mysterious going on that will take about 900 pages to unravel. The novel is a mystery - and so much more.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 604 comments Opium was commonly used in the 19th century, both medically and recreationally. Common prescription for PMS in the States in the period, I'm told.


message 10: by Katie (new)

Katie (katies_books) | 21 comments Valetta wrote: I have my theory here, I think they were lover once. She recognized his handwriting and a reason could be that he sent her love letters.

I think so, too! Which could possibly explain the origins of one of our orphans....

Marialyce wrote: I really thought that we were going to learn about Nemo as a brother to Tulkinghorn, but it seems to be the term brother Is being used in the more figurative sense.

The notes in my edition say that "our dear brother" is taken from the traditional funeral service of the time, in The Book of Common Prayer.

Can I say that when Esther's narrative returned in chapter 13, I was really happy? Her narratives are starting to feel like letters from a good friend now. :)


message 11: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments Susanna wrote: "Opium was commonly used in the 19th century, both medically and recreationally. Common prescription for PMS in the States in the period, I'm told."

There are many references to laudanum in Victorian literature. This drug, also known as tincture of opium, was 10% opium and 90% alcohol. It seems to have been prescribed to respectable ladies for everything from pain to "nerves". I imagine there were more than a few addicts created by this practice.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laudanum


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 604 comments Yup, lots of laudanum floating around.


message 13: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 22, 2011 05:08PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) So it was kind of like the recreational drug of the time!

I seem to remember that it was mentioned a lot in the Jack the Ripper stories.

..and wasn't Poe an opium addict?


message 14: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I am struck by the irony of Harold Skimpole's indulgence as a "child" with the lot of all the poor neglected actual children we meet in this novel.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Does he strike you as a bit sinister/scary in a way? His character just does not sit right with me....

...and how about Richard? He will now study medicine. He just seems to be like a breeze blowing in all kinds of non focused directions?
Who is that dark complexioned surgeon that struck Esther as being nice? Will he become her love interest?

Don't you just marvel at the cliffhangers at the end of each installment?


message 16: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 2 comments Re: opium - Victorians would distinguish between the taking of laudanum (often prescribed by a doctor)and opium smoking (often done in seedy "opium dens"). Both were, of course, addictive, but only the latter was seen as wholly recreational and morally suspect.


message 17: by Sherin (new)

Sherin Punnilath (shery_7) | 10 comments Thanks :)


message 18: by Sherin (new)

Sherin Punnilath (shery_7) | 10 comments "Mrs. Piper has a good deal to say, chiefly in parentheses and without punctuation, but not much to tell."

That's a good line!


message 19: by Sherin (new)

Sherin Punnilath (shery_7) | 10 comments Found chapter 12 to be unnecessarily dragging.


message 20: by Valetta (last edited Nov 25, 2011 12:47AM) (new)

Valetta | 27 comments Katie wrote: I think so, too! Which could possibly explain the origins of one of our orphans...."

Are you thinking that Esther could be Lady Dedlock's daughter too?

And what about Richard? Maybe I'm influenced by Esther's point of view but he's starting to worry me: he doesn't seem convinced of studying medicine and I think he relies too much on the idea that he and Ada will inherit a lot of money once Jarndyce vs Jarndyce will be closed.


message 21: by Katie (new)

Katie (katies_books) | 21 comments Valetta wrote: Are you thinking that Esther could be Lady Dedlock's daughter too?

And what about Richard? Maybe ..."


I've read farther than chapter 13 now, but Dickens is hinting more and more that there is a strong connection between Lady Dedlock and Esther, and Lady Dedlock and "Nemo." At first it was a subtle little wink, now it's turning into a big old theatrical wink from across the room! Dickens may throw us a curve ball later, though!

For Richard, it feels like he just hasn't found his focus in life yet. But he's still pretty young, so it's not too unusual. I'm not worried at this point.

Bea wrote: I am struck by the irony of Harold Skimpole's indulgence as a "child" with the lot of all the poor neglected actual children we meet in this novel.

This is a really good observation. Dickens keeps bringing in more and more narrative portraits of children, as well as their relationships with their parents. This seems to be turning into a major theme!


message 22: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) Valetta wrote: "And what about Richard? Maybe I'm influenced by Esther's point of view but he's starting to worry me: he doesn't seem convinced of studying medicine and I think he relies too much on the idea that he and Ada will inherit a lot of money once Jarndyce vs Jarndyce will be closed. ..."

I'm still on the fence regarding Richard. His career choices seem a bit flighty. He wants to go to sea, but it sounded like he wanted a small ship of his own to captain; however, he lacks any experience at leading men and sailing a ship! He then switches over to being a doctor because Jarndyce suggested that field.

He does seem overly concerned with a possible settlement, which could still take years.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) He is a flighty character.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 604 comments He has "expectations," and it's not doing him any good, I am afraid.


message 25: by Greg (new)

Greg | 16 comments Katie wrote: "Valetta wrote: Are you thinking that Esther could be Lady Dedlock's daughter too?

And what about Richard? Maybe ..."

I've read farther than chapter 13 now, but Dickens is hinting more and more th..."


I certainly hope this is the case, otherwise I'm terribly confused as to the detail being developed in these chapters. Additionally, I was happy to see that Jarndyce is formally discussed as the substitute for the father - it was somewhat obvious but good to put to rest.


message 26: by Deedee (new)

Deedee | 34 comments This segment was more difficult to read than the previous segments. Dickens makes many references to people and locations and fashions that I'm not familiar with --- thank goodness I have the internet, and footnotes, to sort it all out! The last segment with Esther narrating picks up the pace again. She's not surprised that Richard and Ada are now a couple, and from Mr. Jarndyce's reaction, that was part of his intention when he put the two young people so much in together.

My edition has a footnote that opium was available over the counter (like aspirin is today).

On to the next segment!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Deedee, I felt that when Esther was the narrator that things seemed more clarified. I always have a reaction when novels say cousins marry or court. I guess it seems very strange to people now since we know more of the dangers of family marrying family. Hope you enjoy the next section.


message 28: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments Although I think marriages between first cousins were not unusual during Victorian times, I did not get the feeling that Ada and Richard were so closely related. They are described in Chapter 3 as "distant cousins" who had never met before the day they met in Chancery.


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