Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 19

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 19

Moving On

  • (Start your best mustache twirl – the third-person narrator returns.)
  • The whole legal profession is on summer break. Everyone who can gets out of the hot city and goes to the shore.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby can't really leave, but obviously they have a lot less to do. They are waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Chadband to come to tea. Chadband is a self-proclaimed preacher, though that's pretty unofficial since he has no congregation and isn't affiliated with any denomination.
  • Chadband is fat and oily. He talks in a weird question-and-answer format that sounds like he's saying something deep and meaningful when he's really just blathering on about nothing.
  • Mrs. Snagsby is totally into this nonsense, though, and is all excited to have the Chadbands over. After a couple of speeches, Chadband digs into the food.
  • Suddenly there is a commotion in the shop and Snagsby goes to investigate.
  • A policeman is there, holding Jo by the arm.
  • The policeman complains that although he's been telling Jo to "move on," the boy hasn't actually gone anywhere. (Move on where, Shmoop? Well, officially Jo – as a beggar – counts as a loiterer. Back then, the police had a legal right to shoo bums off to a different part of the city.)
  • Jo says he is constantly moving on and really he has nowhere to move on to.
  • Snagsby acknowledges that he knows the boy and thinks he's not a danger. He is clearly compassionate. Meanwhile, Mrs. Snagsby (the very religious one, remember) is standing behind him doing her best to kick Jo out and have nothing to do with him.
  • The cop says he found a bunch of money on Jo. How could someone like him come by money without some kind of illegal activity being involved?
  • Jo tells a garbled version of his story – that some veiled woman hired him to walk her around to the places associated with Nemo then gave him money. He complains that most of what she gave him was stolen at Tom-all-Alone's.
  • The cop doesn't really believe him.
  • Suddenly, into the shop comes Mr. Guppy, who happened to be walking by and heard the commotion.
  • The cop leaves and Guppy questions Jo, only to get the same general answers.
  • When Mrs. Chadband finds out that Guppy works for Kenge's office, she exclaims that she's known that firm for years!
  • A long time ago, before she was married, Mrs. Chadband was in charge of a child named Esther Summerson. Whoa.
  • Guppy is a little floored by this news.
  • Meanwhile, Chadband seizes on Jo and starts preaching to him and says how great it is to be a boy. This is just a shocking, horrendously insensitive thing to say to someone who lives the kind of non-boy life Jo leads in the streets. Dickens really hates hypocritically religious people.
  • Finally Chadband stops, and makes Jo promise to come back the next day to listen to more of the same.
  • Jo just wants to get away so he promises to come. Then he goes away, finds a corner somewhere to hide in, and eats the little bit of food that Snagsby managed to secretly give him before he went away.

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