Study Guide

Sir Leicester Dedlock in Bleak House

By Charles Dickens

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Sir Leicester Dedlock

A rich and powerful Baronet, Sir Dedlock is at the top of the London social and economic world. He is a conservative, fearing change and new ways of doing things – basically a dying breed.

You think you know a guy, right? Take Sir Dedlock. From the beginning he seems to be a pretty clear-cut figure: old, rich, elitist, aristocratic. He likes things the way they are – or, better yet, the way they were when he was a younger man. With his trophy wife on his arm (Lady Dedlock is twenty years younger), he engages in obnoxious and meaningless disputes over land with his neighbor, treats servants with condescension, and expects the world to accommodate all his desires.

And yet all that gets turned on its ear when we discover that he is really, truly, deeply, madly in love with his wife, and always has been. Not only that, but even when he learns that she has an illegitimate daughter and has been engaged before (a super big deal at the time), Sir Dedlock has nothing but love, pity, and sympathy for the suffering she must have gone through. That's some pretty enlightened thinking right there. How would the novel be different if Sir Dedlock immediately wanted a divorce upon hearing about Lady Dedlock's past? Does his love for her change the way we respond to some of his more intolerant ideas, like his distaste for Mr. Rouncewell as an upstart?

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