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Bleak House

Bleak House

by Charles Dickens

Bleak House Chapter 39 Summary

Attorney and Client

  • (Third-person narrator returns.)
  • OK, now we get a long aside about the legal system. The narrator is not a fan. The main gist is this:
    1. Men like Vholes have a surface veneer of respectability (in this case, the daughters and the father).
    2. The whole point of the legal system is to keep creating work for itself.
    3. Any time any kind of reform is proposed in Parliament, lawyers testify that the whole bunch of super-respectable lawyers like Vholes will be out of work.
  • And of course all of this is surrounded by the black comedy of Vholes himself, who is always described as either a predator or death. Hardy har har.
  • The Court of Chancery wraps up for the season and goes on summer vacation.
  • Richard is totally furious because, of course, nothing got done.
  • He has a long conversation with Vholes, who tells him that he never takes vacation even if the court does, and any time Richard wants him, Vholes is at his disposal. Oh, and by the way, here is a bill for his services.
  • Vholes is constantly doing a self-contradicting kind of double talk: "If I were the kind of man who gave his clients hope, I would tell you that you have a good chance of getting a bunch of money, but I won't tell you that."
  • Richard is total sucker for this drivel, which is how Vholes got him to leave Kenge and Carboy and transfer his legal case to Vholes in the first place, and also how he got Richard to start mistrusting and being paranoid about Jarndyce.
  • Leaving the office, Richard passes Guppy and Jobling.
  • Those two are on their way to Krook's place to pick up Jobling's stuff and try to look around in the process, just in case those letters from Captain Hawdon didn't get destroyed after all.
  • When they get there they see the Smallweed family digging through all the crap in the shop. It's a crazy, horrible mess and will take a very long time to get through.
  • Guppy and Jobling manage a very quick look around, don't find anything, and go upstairs to pack up.
  • They run into Tulkinghorn, who, as always, is hovering unseen in the shadows.
  • Tulkinghorn tries to ask Guppy some questions about Lady Dedlock and why he was there talking to her when someone of her social status should be totally inaccessible to a lowly clerk like him.
  • Guppy is kind of half-scared and half-confused but manages not to say anything too horribly incriminating.

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