Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 18

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 18

Lady Dedlock

  • (Esther narrating.)
  • Oh, Richard, Richard, Richard. You kind of suck. Like the Katy Perry song goes, "he's hot and he's cold" about medicine and the law. Sometimes he's into it, sometimes not, and always totally unconcerned and way too relaxed about his future.
  • Finally they get him into Kenge's office and rent a little apartment for him in London, since Bleak House is too far away to commute. He promises to be good and is left to his own devices.
  • The rest of the gang goes away to visit Boythorn in Lincolnshire (remember, his estate is right next to the Dedlocks').
  • On the way there Skimpole is mooching off Jarndyce, as usual. He tells them his house and furniture have been seized because he hasn't been paying his rent. Esther wonders what's going on with his wife and kids, but he doesn't seem to think about them at all.
  • The weather is beautiful, the landscape gorgeous, and they have a great ride out to the country.
  • Boythorn meets them with his usual mix of crazed angry speech and delicately kind actions. He tells them about Sir Dedlock, his gout, and the fact that if they want to go for a walk through the park at Chesney Wold, they are welcome to, but he won't come with them. He also fills them in on Mrs. Rouncewell, Watt Rouncewell and Rosa (talk about a small town – that this random guy would know the marriage plans of Watt!). And he shows them the totally amazing castle and grounds of the Dedlock estate.
  • Boythorn's house is beautiful and has an amazing fruit and vegetable garden. It's the most lush, fruitful, abundant piece of land ever.
  • On one side of the property, however, Boythorn has stationed a permanent guard, a bulldog, and a bunch of signs warning trespassers – all to do with his many lawsuits with Dedlock.
  • All of them walk to Church, since it's Sunday.
  • Esther sees Rosa, Sir Dedlock, and the French maid Hortense. Then, as she suddenly meets eyes with Lady Dedlock... she totally flips out.
  • She starts having crazed flashbacks to her childhood, to her aunt, her aunt's eyes, and then describes looking at Lady Dedlock as like looking into a broken mirror. Then she starts hearing the sermon not in the preacher's voice but in her aunt's.
  • All of this she rationalizes by saying that maybe Lady Dedlock looks a little bit like her aunt.
  • Um, OK.
  • After church is over, Skimpole and Boythorn have an argument about whether it's better to get along with the rich and powerful by just agreeing to whatever they say and hoping they give you money or influence (Skimpole's position) or whether it's better to have principles (Boythorn). It's kind of a silly argument.
  • Skimpole talks about how well-suited he is to a life of leisure. (Well yeah, that's great if someone else is bankrolling you.)
  • A week later, Esther, Ada, and Jarndyce are out walking around when it starts to rain.
  • They just make it to a lodge to take cover, and discover inside... Lady Dedlock!
  • She apparently knows Jarndyce. Whoa!
  • He used to know her sister better – but she and her sister apparently do not talk at all anymore. She is cold and haughty, as she normally is, and treats Ada and Esther like children.
  • Suddenly Lady Dedlock's carriage drives up and out come Hortense and Rosa. It turns out that Lady Dedlock had called for an attendant and they didn't know which one of them she meant.
  • She meant Rosa.
  • Hortense is furious.
  • After Rosa and Lady Dedlock drive away (it's a two-seater carriage), Hortense is so enraged that she takes off her shoes and walks back to the house barefoot through the wet grass and the rain.
  • Jarndyce is all, wow, dudes, she is totally bonkers!
  • But no, apparently she is just really mad because she's already been fired and is just serving out her last few days as Lady Dedlock's maid. Since this was such a high position, as far as serving work goes anyway, she is crazy angry about being let go.

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