Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 14

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 14


  • (Esther narrates.)
  • Before Richard sets off to the Badger college of doctor knowledge, he and Ada talk about the Chancery suit.
  • Richard is definitely the kind of guy who would buy Lotto tickets, cause you never know. In his heart of hearts he's convinced they're about to hit the big time with a settlement from the suit.
  • Ada rationally tries to talk him down, saying it's best to just pretend the suit doesn't even exist and go about their lives normally. Richard half-heartedly, jokingly agrees, and leaves.
  • Ada and Esther set out to visit Mrs. Jellyby, but neither she nor Caddy are at home – they are out doing more Africa business. Esther asks about Peepy, the little boy whose head was stuck in the railing. No one knows where he is; the cook thinks maybe he wandered off to the marketplace to look at sheep. Granted, back then they weren't so stressed about child abduction, but still, he's only like 6 and probably shouldn't be wandering around London by himself. It's a case of shocking neglect, though it's played a little bit for laughs.
  • The next morning, Caddy and Peepy come to return the visit (the 19th-century version of returning someone's phone call). Caddy looks great, and Peepy is still in ridiculous state of being half-dressed and half-mud-caked.
  • Caddy rants a little bit about the Jellyby household and warns Esther that Mr. Jellyby is nearing financial ruin. With no one supervising the household, every merchant and servant is taking advantage by overcharging or even outright stealing from them.
  • Caddy then confesses that soon she's going to be out of there because... she's engaged!
  • Esther is a little worried. The guy is a dancing teacher who has yet to tell his own father about the engagement. The father is, according to Caddy, some big to-do, "celebrated, almost everywhere, for his Deportment" (14.58). ("Deportment" being his manners and behavior.)
  • This is sort of mysterious. Esther agrees to go with Caddy to her next dancing lesson to meet her fiancé, Prince Turveydrop. He is named Prince after the Prince Regent.
  • Wait, the who now? No worries. George IV, who started reigning as the Prince Regent while his father George III was a few cards short of a full deck, was a fun king, the total opposite of sour-faced, prissy Queen Victoria. His Court was all about eating, drinking, and general wastefulness and debauchery. In fact he was so into the good life that he ended dying from it.
  • Prince turns out to be a really nice, quiet guy, who works crazy hard.
  • While Caddy dances, Esther and Peepy sit and watch. Esther starts chatting with another observer, who is totally furious at the Turveydrop situation. It turns out that old Mr. Turveydrop, Prince's father, has modeled himself on the Prince Regent. He's fat like him, obsessed with appearances like him, and wants to be a gentleman who doesn't work for a living like him. But obviously someone's got to work for a living, right? That ended up being Prince's mother, who was also a dancing teacher and died young from overwork. Now it's Prince who works nonstop, wears cheap clothes, and doesn't even have a watch so that his father can prance around all decked out. To top it all off, Prince seems to think his father actually deserves this life.
  • Finally Esther has a few words with Mr. Turveydrop himself, and he is as affected, fake, and poser-ish as they come.
  • Lots of crappy parenting in this novel, no?
  • After the lesson Prince rushes off to his next class, and Caddy tells Esther that she's been learning a few rudimentary things about how to manage a house from Miss Flite.
  • Esther is totally touched by how sweet Caddy is and how hard she's trying.
  • They get Ada and Mr. Jarndyce and go to visit Miss Flite.
  • At Krook's house there's an ad for the second-floor apartment, and Caddy fills the gang in on Nemo's death.
  • Esther goes into the empty room and gets really freaked out. Oooooh, spooky!
  • Miss Flite is being examined by a nice young doctor named Woodcourt. He tells them that although he was too late to the scene to help Nemo, he decided to take care of Miss Flite instead. She was really discombobulated by the whole experience but is now back to her old self.
  • Miss Flite then tells them that she is somehow mysteriously getting a small stipend every week. She thinks it's from the Lord Chancellor. It's obviously from Jarndyce.
  • Krook comes in the room, insisting that since he is also the Lord Chancellor, he should be introduced to Jarndyce.
  • Krook finally tells everyone the names of Miss Flite's birds. Ready?
  • "Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach" (14.151). Wow, quite a list, with almost infinite meanings.
  • Everyone is creeped out.
  • On the way out Krook keeps invading Jarndyce's personal space. He then shows him a corner of his weird shop where he is apparently teaching himself how to read.
  • Jarndyce asks why he doesn't get someone else to teach him, and Krook says he's afraid another person would teach him wrong. Talk about paranoid!
  • Mr. Woodcourt explains that Krook is not actually mentally unbalanced, though.
  • Caddy and Peepy go home.
  • All of a sudden, Esther – again out of order – tells us that she forgot to mention that Woodcourt was the same guy she met at the Badgers' house. Oh, and that he has since come to dinner at Bleak House. Oh, and also that Ada made some crack about him, which Esther won't repeat to us. Wink, wink, hint, hint, nudge, nudge everyone. It's not a spoiler if it's obvious.

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