Blathering on about Bleak House, Part 9.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Chapters 54-59

Aha! Hortense is found out and Mr. Bucket gets his suspect.

Mr. Guppy has finally redeemed himself for being a shallow, self-serving little toad. He has admirably preserved Esther’s honor and carried out her wishes not to stir up trouble, and now he has acted honorably and warned Lady Dedlock about the possibility of Mr. Smallweed’s possessing her letters to Hawdon, and trying to profit off them.

Lady Dedlock remains cold as ever, but I found this passage on her character to be a satisfying explanation of her manner:

In truth, she is not a hard lady naturally; and the time has been when the sight of the venerable figure sueing to her with such strong earnestness would have moved her to great compassion. But, so long accustomed to suppress emotion, and keep down reality; so long schooled for her own purposes, in that destructive school which shuts up the natural feelings of the heart, like flies in amber, and spreads one uniform and dreary gloss over the good and bad, the feeling and the unfeeling, the sensible and the senseless; she has subdued even her wonder until now.

But back to Mr. Bucket. I was really impressed by the sudden turn that the story took into the arena of Holmesian detective fiction. I can now see why this is considered a precursor to the development of that genre. I couldn’t sleep for want of getting to the heart of the mystery and very nearly stayed up all night just to know what was going to happen to Lady Dedlock. Unfortunately, no good could come of it, but Mr. Bucket proved his mettle as a detective and Esther proved her worth as a woman of good sense. The shifts from omniscient to first person narration as the narrative went from Mr. Bucket’s experience to Esther’s added a sense of urgency and suspense to the plot that made these chapters fly.

I found myself suddenly endearing myself to Sir Leicester Dedlock when he learned of his Lady’s past. His forgiveness and sorrow showed a side of their relationship, and his devotion, that was hinted at throughout the novel but really came to the surface after her disappearance. I naively hoped for a better ending for the Dedlock’s, but it was not to be.

The Bleak House Read-Along is hosted by Amanda at The Zen Leaf.

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