A few weeks ago, I let Dickens lead us into a very foggy and polluted London. I didn’t continue with that first chapter, but if I had, I would have led you to the equally murky civil law of Dickens’ day. There we would have first heard of the infamous law suit, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which forms the basis of the first, outer, plot of Bleak House.
In chapter two, we go out on that same bleak day but move to a far, far more fashionable part of Town where Dickens introduces us to Lady Deadlock, a woman who couldn’t move a finger without the action being reported by the fashion journalists in the leading three papers. The fashion world knew she had bored of Lincolnshire and was spending a few days in Town before crossing to Paris for a short visit. After Paris? Not even the leading fashion experts could guess.
Lady Deadlock’s husband, Sir Leicester was also in Town (and also going to Paris, but frankly, nobody cared). Although he was only a baronet, his family was as old as the hills, and far more respectable than the hills. In fact, Sir Leicester could imagine a world without hills, but not a world without Deadlocks (yes, I stole that from Dickens). Sir Leicester at 70 was still dashing, if no longer quite in the prime of his life. And despite his complete devotion to the traditions of the past, he had married out of love and so didn’t mind that she had no family (he had plenty to spare…) and wasn’t in the same economic class as he was. And he continued to dote on her as much as he did the day they were married.
At 50, the Lady Deadlock was in the prime of her life. She was strikingly beautiful and held herself in a way to make her seem taller than she actually was; stand out. She embodied the best characteristics of the females of her class and knew it. She was cold and haughty, her beauty seen as a marble on Mt. Olympus, not a mere mortal.
And she was as inscrutable as that marble Hera.
So imagine Sir Leicester’s lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn’s, surprise when he noticed some emotion in my Lady. Not that he would ever show surprise, not he, a man that knew more secrets about the present aristocracy than the present aristocracy knew had existed in the last 1000 years, since Alfred’s day. His face was even stonier than Lady Deadlock’s.
How would one of the leading lights of the top one percent of the top one percent (a true 00.01%-er) recognize the hand writing of a copyist, the lowest person on the totem pole of law, part of a nameless rabble? A pair of her socks would cost more money than a man like that was likely to see in a year. Two years.
Mr. Tulkinghorn, of course, had a secret resentment against Sir Leicester, one that he could never even think about, let alone act upon. But the Lady Deadlock, who was not one of his clients, who was not born into such nobility?
He would find her secret.
And thus begins the second plot of Bleak House, the mysteries of Lady Deadlock.
Sound intriguing? Well, join us in our Bleak House Challenge!
Yvette Prior and myself are doing a Bleak House challenge, like the Little Dorrit challenge we did last year.
We are planning on having a series of posts on or around the 9th of June. Actually, I plan on a series of posts that week, perhaps from Sunday, June 5 to Saturday, June 11. That is less than two weeks away!
Not only are Yvette and myself going to do a series of posts, we want others to get involved. We would, of course, love to have others do Bleak House posts themselves, but also encourage discussion on our posts. As an incentive, we are going to put the names of the participants into a drawing for an Amazon gift certificate so you can buy more Dickens’ books. OK, just more books, they don’t have to be Dickens… ;)
This is a long book so you need to get a head start! And I will let you know right now that, unlike last year when I waited for the last minute, I have already finished reading Bleak House! So go get your copy now! No money for books until you win that gift card? You can get a free version here: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1023
There have been a few posts about this . Here they are so far:
It’s only a couple of weeks away, start reading now ;)