I had made a brief attempt once before to read Bleak House, but didn’t get past the fog, which is like, two paragraphs. I don’t know why I failed so utterly then, because this time it’s been very enjoyable, even when he’s going on about how awful the Court of Chancery was. The case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is legendary even in Chancery. This case has been going on forever and almost no one knows what it’s about. Generations have been born, grown up and died during its course and it shows no sign of coming to an end. In the first sixth of the book, we meet a variety of people from Miss Flite who’s in court every moment the case is on, to the two young and orphaned wards who are brought into the care of Mr. Jarndyce who seems to have kept a mentally-healthy distance from the case along with Esther whom he is also guardian of, though she’s not got a connection to the case that we know of. The three young people manage to stay just this side of sickeningly sweet.
There is also a wonderful cast of characters interacting with our heroes – Lady Dedlock the proud, wealthy, and extremely bored aristocrat who takes a strange interest in the handwriting of a legal file from the case to which she’s a party. Mrs. Jellyby whose thoughts are so set on philanthropy in Africa that her home and family are completely neglected. Her put-upon eldest daughter Caddy who takes dictation on African philanthropy from morning ’til night. Miss Flite’s landlord Krook, who deals in all kinds of odds and ends and is trying to teach himself to read. Mr. Skimpole who is a great deal more amusing to our young heroes than he is to me. A ghost that walks. Poor Mr. Guppy whose love Esther treats with unbecoming scorn. And many more.
In following up the interest of Lady Dedlock in the write of that legal brief, the lawyer Tulkinghorn traces him through Mr. Snagsby’s to Krook’s house. He’s the other roomer, besides Miss Flite and when Tulkinghorn goes in to his room, he finds he has journeyed to the great beyond with the help of some opium. The doctor is sent for. The beadle is sent for. Krook is questioned. Miss Flite is questioned. But no one knows anything about the man except that he was kind to a street urchin called Jo. Who was he? What is his connection to Lady Dedlock? Eager to find out, but it’s going to take hundreds more pages, I’m sure. Thanks to Reading Rambo for hosting!