Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 26

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 26


  • (Still third-person narrator.)
  • Morning time at Mr. George's place. His gym shooting gallery is in the neighborhood where all the card sharks and con artists live. He's the only one who gets up early in the morning.
  • He and Phil get up and talk about Phil's dream about seeing swans in the country. This is a surprising dream, because Phil has never actually been to the country.
  • Mr. George has kind of a day-dreamy moment and tells Phil that he actually grew up in the country and knows all sorts of trees and animals.
  • Then they talk about the past.
  • Phil doesn't know how old he is because it's a number higher than he can count.
  • But he does remember being an orphan and becoming a helper to a traveling tinkerer. (A tinkerer was like a fix-it guy. This was way before the disposable consumer culture we know and love – back when people used to actually hang onto things that broke and tried to get fix them.)
  • It was a hard life, maybe one or two steps up from being a straight-out beggar. When his boss died, Phil tried to take over the business, but he was too awkward with people and too hideously ugly to make it work.
  • Phil's face is marked with every kind of thing imaginable – burns from working near a fire, scars from fistfights with his drunken boss, weird bald patches from burns. It's not a good look. He knows it but it doesn't seem to bother him.
  • In any case, one day, when he was still a tinkerer, Mr. George stopped him in the street thinking he was a war veteran. One thing led to another, and here they are.
  • One thing is clear: Phil worships the ground Mr. George walks on.
  • All of a sudden visitors arrive. It's Grandpa Smallweed and Judy.
  • Smallweed is all freaked out at being in the shooting gallery, what with all the weapons around. At least he's self-aware enough to know there's ample reason to want to kill him.
  • There's a lot of Judy trying to prop up and adjust her grandfather. This is something she does with the least amount of niceness possible. She's pretty clearly just waiting for him to finally die.
  • At long last, Smallweed gets to the point.
  • He would like a piece of Captain Hawdon's handwriting, not for himself, but for a famous lawyer who's been asking about it.
  • Mr. George doesn't want to even admit he has any such thing, but he's willing to go talk to the lawyer face to face to figure out what this is all about.
  • Before they go, Smallweed busts out with the news that Richard has been borrowing money from him. Mr. George tries to get him to leave Richard alone, but Smallweed is pretty clever and knows all about Richard's various collaterals: "He has good friends, and he is good for his pay, and he is good for the selling price of his commission, and he is good for his chance in a lawsuit, and he is good for his chance in a wife, and – " (26.102).
  • As they're about to leave, Judy sees Mr. George put something in his breast pocket.

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