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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Bleak House General Information

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) For information relating to Bleak House

message 2: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 12, 2011 02:44AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Illustrations of characters done by Hablot Browne (Phiz)

Dickens' ninth novel, illustrated by Phiz, was intended to illustrate the evils caused by long, drawn-out suits in the Courts of Chancery. Dickens had observed the inner workings of the courts as a reporter in his youth and observed that "The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself." Bleak House is often considered Dickens' finest work although not his most popular. (from David Perdue)

message 3: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments I actually don't intend to jump into discussion about Bleak House specifically because I am not prepared yet. However, I know the amount that the chancery court situation fills that book makes it more difficult to read -- for me -- but at the same time I was totally fascinated by it. It seems to really make that novel so distinctive to me in how it says that even your own lifetime is not always enough time to resolve things. Or that our woes or struggles are so universal as to literally pass down to the next in line or the nearest beside us.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I know, Sarah, as I read the Preface, I thought to myself the more things change, the more they remain the same. I felt that Dickens could have been writing about the present., the lawsuits that seem to drag on for years, the confusion that often occurs, and the way we, who are not lawyers, feel so out of it in understanding at times.

message 5: by Deanne (new)

Deanne | 83 comments A distant cousin told me that a branch of the family tree the Woodroffes were wealthy, connections to the eldest daughter of the Duke of Northumberland. However there was a huge row about a will, he even said it was like the case in Bleak House. All the money went to the lawyers and the family was left with nothing.

message 6: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Nov 15, 2011 01:12PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 628 comments I think the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce was partly inspired by a will that took over thirty years to get through Chancery.

message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Susanna wrote: "I think the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce was partly inspired by a will that took over thirty years to get through Chancery."

Several legal cases have been suggested as the inspiration for Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. There is no exact parallel, but it seems clearly based on a sort of combination of several famous cases, including Thellusson v. Woodford and the resulting cases on the Thellusson estate which ate up vast amounts of the corpus of the estate, the Charlotte Smith estate case which spent more than 30 years in Chancery, and a few other.

My wills professor in law school opened each class by reading a bizarre provision from an actual will. Some of them were truly bizarre, making the wills in such novels as Middlemarch and Our Mutual Friend look positively benign in comparison.

That was a while back, and I only remember one of them; the legacy was conditioned on the legatee, on the last day of each month, going to the gates of Holloway prison, intercepting the first prostitute released from the prison on that day, and purchasing for her a new dress, a new hat, and a new copy of the Bible. The very substantial corpus of the estate was to be held in trust and the income paid to the legatee as long as each month he presented to the trustee proof of fulfilling this requirement; if he ever failed to do so, the entire estate was to be turned over to some private asylum for the insane the name of which I have long forgotten. But that particular provision was hard to forget!

(It's also noteworthy that he assumed that there were enough prostitutes imprisoned that there would always be one to treat to these items.)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) ......and we think people who leave their money to their pets are crazy!

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