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Inspector Bucket
In Bleak House Dickens introduced one of the first detectives in English Literature: Inspector Bucket. Hired by lawyer Tulkinghorn to inquire into Lady Dedlock's secret past, Bucket later investigates Tulkinghorn's murder. Dickens based Bucket on real life detective Charles F. Field, a member of London's new police force. Dickens wrote several stories featuring Field (sometimes under the name of Wield) in his weekly journal Household Words, including On Duty with Inspector Field (June 1851).

Detective Field

Spontaneous Human Combustion
Dickens sparked controversy in Bleak House when he has rag and bone dealer Krook die by spontaneous human combustion, a phenomenon where the human body catches fire as a result of heat generated by internal chemical action. Although scientists have denied the existence of this phenomenon, supposed cases of spontaneous human combustion are still reported today.

Court of Chancery
The Court of Chancery was founded during the reign of Richard II and in Dickens' time was a model of inefficiency. Properties tied up 'in Chancery' were not financially accessible to possible beneficiaries. The court was presided over by the Lord Chancellor, disputants in Chancery cases used solicitors to state their case to hired barristers who presented them in court. In Bleak House Richard Carstone hires Vholes as his solicitor in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce Chancery case.

St. Albans
Dickens located John Jarndyce's Bleak House near the old Roman town of St. Albans in Hertfordshire, about 20 miles north of London.

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Bleak House
Bleak House (2005) DVD
Gillian Anderson, Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson

Dickens Redressed - Alexander Welsh
Dickens Redressed
Alexander Welsh
The Art of Bleak House and Hard Times

Dickens' life during the serialization of Bleak House
Mar 1852 - Sep 1853

Dickens' age: 40-41

March 1852

Son Edward Bulwer Lytton (Plorn) Dickens born

Summer 1852

Dickens' amateur acting troupe performing Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Not so Bad as We Seem throughout England for the benefit of the Guild of Literature and Art.

February 1853

Becomes involved in a controversy concerning spontaneous combustion, from which Krook dies in the novel. George Henry Lewes argued that the phenomenon was a scientific impossibility, Dickens maintained that it could happen.

June 1853

Seriously ill with a recurrence of a childhood kidney complaint. Bedridden for six days, he then went to Boulogne, France to fully recover.

August 1853

Celebrates finishing the novel with a banquet in Boulogne. In attendance were his publishers Bradbury and Evans, friends Mark Lemon, and Wilkie Collins.

September 1853

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Bleak House

Bleak House - Published in monthly parts Mar 1852 - Sep 1853
Read it online | Shop for the Book | Shop for the Video | Illustrations | Locations

Bleak House 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.

Plot (contains spoilers)

The case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in the High Court of Chancery, has been going on for a long time. The current Jarndyce, John, owner of Bleak House, has little hope of gaining anything from it. On her aunt's death
Esther Summerson is adopted by Jarndyce and becomes companions to his wards, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. Carstone has hopes that the chancery case will make his fortune.

As the story unfolds it is revealed that Esther is the illegitimate daughter of Captain Hawdon and Lady Dedlock. When the Dedlock's lawyer, Tulkinghorn learns of this, and tries to profit by the information, he is murdered by Lady Dedlock's former maid. Lady Dedlock flees and later dies at the gates of the cemetery where Hawdon lies buried.

John Jarndyce has fallen in love with Esther and asked her to marry him. She consents out of respect for Jarndyce but during the engagement she falls in love with Allan Woodcourt. When Jarndyce learns of her feelings for Allan he releases her from the engagement and she marries Woodcourt. The chancery case comes to a close with court costs eating up all of the estate. Carstone, who has married Ada, dies in despair.

Principal Characters:
Character descriptions contain spoilers
Esther Summerson
Miss Barbary
Mrs Rachael
John Jarndyce
Mr. Tulkinghorn
William Guppy
Lady Dedlock
Sir Leicester Dedlock
Volumnia Dedlock
Ada Clare
Richard Carstone
Miss Flite
Harold Skimpole
Rev Chadband
Mrs. Jellyby
Caroline (Caddy) Jellyby
Mr. Turveydrop
Prince Turveydrop
George Rouncewell
Phil Squod
The Bagnets
Mrs. Rouncewell
The Badgers
The Smallweeds
Charlotte (Charley) Neckett
Tony Jobling (Weevle)
Jo, the Crossing Sweeper
Allan Woodcourt
Mr. Bucket
Nemo (Capt Hawdon)
Bleak House Links:
The Dickens Page
The Victorian Web
Wikipedia - Bleak House
PBS - Bleak House
Soft Soaping Dickens: Andrew Davies, BBC-1 and 'Bleak House' - Robert Giddings examines the popular belief that were Dickens alive today he would be writing soap operas for television

Bleak House Locations
  1. Lincoln's Inn - Kenge and Carboys offices, Jarndyce and Jarndyce heard at Lincoln's Inn Hall, also at Westminster Hall
  2. Cursitor Street: Sol's Arms Tavern
  3. Cursitor Street: Krook's Rag and Bottle Shop - Miss Flite, Gridley, Nemo (Capt Hawdon), and Tony Jobling (Weevle) residence
  4. Cooks Court: Snagby's Law Stationer Shop
  5. Thavie's Inn - Jellyby's home
  6. Hatton Garden - Jellyby's home after bankruptcy
  7. Lincoln's Inn Fields - Tulkinghorn's residence
  8. Symond's Inn - Vholes' office, Richard and Ada's residence after marriage

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