Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 10

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 10

The Law-Writer

  • (Third-person narrator is back! Quick, everyone practice raising your eyebrow ironically.)
  • New people coming through. First, Mr. Snagsby, who is a law stationer. You guessed it – he has a special shop selling blank legal forms, parchment, pens, sealing wax, etc. The other thing he does is send out law documents to be copied (which back then was done by hand – everything was just rewritten).
  • He is married to Mrs. Snagsby, who is the third woman we've met so far who wears the pants in the marriage. And yet again, it's not doing any favors for her appeal. She is loud, jealous, domineering, and controlling.
  • They have a couple of daughters, a couple of shop assistants, and a young woman named Guster who is kind of a jack-of-all-trades. She is an epileptic orphan from the workhouse. (Brain snack: workhouses were sweatshops where orphans, unclaimed illegitimate children, and extremely poor people were basically worked to death. The idea was to make being poor so horrible that you'd try to avoid it at all costs. Nice, huh? People definitely had different notions of psychology and economics back then.)
  • One day Tulkinghorn is working in his office in London. It's stuffy, filled with antiques, and generally unpleasant. The ceilings have paintings on them, and in his office is a picture of Allegory pointing his finger down at the viewer.
  • Tulkinghorn leaves, and goes over to Snagsby's. This is totally unusual, because Tulkinghorn is way too important a person to every go to the stationer's himself.
  • He is all cool and nonchalant and asks Snagsby who did the legal copy on the document Lady Dedlock was fascinated by earlier.
  • Snagsby tells him about the law writer who rents the second-floor room at Krook's. His name is Nemo.
  • Tulkinghorn is all "what?" because Nemo means "no one" in Latin.
  • Brain snack! Other characters named "No one" include Captain Nemo, the Indian explorer in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey, who escapes from the cyclops Polyphemus by telling him his name is "outis", or "no man" in Greek (which also sounds like Odys, a short version of his name).
  • So Tulkinghorn goes over to Krook's. Krook tells him that word on the street has it that Nemo has sold his soul to the devil, "but you and I know better – [the Devil] don't buy" (10.64).
  • They go into Nemo's room and find him lying with his eyes open on the bed, totally out of it.
  • Tulkinghorn smells opium, and neither of them can shake Nemo awake.
  • Stay tuned! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

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