Bleak House | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House | Chapters 63–65 | Summary



Chapter 63

At the start of Chapter 63, Mr. George has given up his shooting gallery and moved to Chesney Wold to look after Sir Leicester Dedlock. Today he goes to see his older brother. When he asks for Rouncewell's, he learns there's a bank, a factory, and house by that name. A workman directs him to the factory, where he sees a young man who looks like he did at that age. He assumes it is his nephew and asks to see the young man's father. The young man takes him to the office and asks what name to give. "Steel," says George. When "Mr. Steel" introduces himself as someone who once knew Mr. Rouncewell's brother in the army, Mr. Rouncewell immediately recognizes him and greets him with joy. He invites him to a family party; his son, Watt Rouncewell, is going to marry Rosa. They invite him to the wedding, too, and ask him to give away the bride. Mr. Rouncewell wants George to join his business, but George says his "plans are made." He asks his brother's advice on how to get their mother to cut him out of her will. He thinks it wrong he should come back after staying away for years and reduce the amount Mr. Rouncewell's children would receive. But Mr. Rouncewell tells him their mother would never do that; George should just accept any inheritance and then pass it on in his own will.

George asks his brother to take a look at a letter he has written to Esther Summerson and offer his opinion of it. The letter tells Esther three things: (1) among Mr. Tulkinghorn's papers was found a letter to Mr. George asking him to deliver a letter to Lady Dedlock, though before she had married; (2) the letter had been meant "as a proof for handwriting only"; and (3) if he had known Captain Hawdon was alive, he would have "shared his last farthing with him." He closes by saying he esteems Esther's "qualities ... above all others." Mr. Rouncewell says the letter is a little formal, but acceptable. It is sent with the factory post. Mr. Rouncewell accompanies George on the first stage of his journey back to Chesney Wold. In the morning each brother goes his own way.

Chapter 64

In Chapter 64 John Jarndyce gives Esther Summerson £200 to prepare for her wedding. She is hoping for a quiet wedding; perhaps they might not tell anyone about it until they are already married. The only person she tells is Mrs. Woodcourt, who approves. The only thing she and her guardian disagree about is the new Jarndyce will—she is hopeful, while he is not.

Courts are nearly back in session when Jarndyce is called to Yorkshire "on Mr. Woodcourt's business." Soon afterward he writes to Esther, asking her to join him there. She arrives at night, and he tells her over supper he has bought and fixed up a house for Allan Woodcourt to thank him for all his efforts with Jo and with Richard and Ada. He wants Esther to have a look and determine "whether things were all as they ought to be." Esther cries and insists "with pleasure." She is still crying in bed that night, and is not certain it's "with pleasure." When they go to the house the next morning, the garden has been designed like hers at Bleak House. The house is a "rustic cottage," and it is decorated and furnished in exactly her style. She loves it but worries that having so many reminders of her around him will make Allan Woodcourt sad. Jarndyce leads Esther to the porch and points out the name of the house: Bleak House. Jarndyce then tells her he realized she and Woodcourt were in love. He wants above all for her to be as happy as possible. Now he is her "guardian and ... father." He told Woodcourt yesterday. But he told Mrs. Woodcourt when he invited her to London, and he believes she has come to love Esther as much as he does. He also says that the night Allan told her he loved her, he did so with Jarndyce's knowledge and reported back to Jarndyce. Suddenly Allan is beside Esther, and Jarndyce says to him, "Take from me a willing gift, the best wife that ever man had ... Take with her the little home she brings you ... Let me share its felicity sometimes, and what do I sacrifice? Nothing, nothing." It is agreed Allan and Esther will marry in less than a month.

Allan, Esther, and Jarndyce return to London together. William Guppy has come to the house three times to see Esther, and she tells Jarndyce about his earlier proposal. When Guppy calls again, they have him sent in. His mother is with him, as is Tony Jobling. Guppy announces he has passed the bar and is now an attorney. Also, his mother has an annuity. He has taken a house that will also be his office. Tony will be his clerk. Finally, Guppy comes to his point and renews his proposal, and Jarndyce says it's "very magnanimous." It is Jarndyce who gives Esther's reply—a "decided rejection." Guppy is incredulous, and his mother is furious. She keeps telling Jarndyce if her son isn't good enough, to get out and find someone who is. Together William and Tony remove Mrs. Guppy, who is still yelling that Jarndyce and Esther should get out.

Chapter 65

In Chapter 65 the Jarndyce case is finally to be heard again, and Esther Summerson cannot quench her hope that "it might lead to some result." Allan Woodcourt and Esther are on their way to Westminster Hall, where court is to meet that day, when Caddy Jellyby comes by in a carriage and stops to congratulate them. As a result they arrive at court a little late. It's so crowded they can't get in, and something has happened that amuses many of the "professional gentlemen"; some of the younger ones are "doubled ... up with laughter." They ask someone what case is being heard. He says Jarndyce and Jarndyce and that it's "over for good." They meet Conversation Kenge and Mr. Vholes, who are walking out together. Kenge tells them the new will was not discussed. As he speaks, Allan realizes "the whole estate is found to have been absorbed in costs." Mr. Vholes says, if they are looking for Richard Carstone, he is in court "resting." Allan tells Esther to go to John Jarndyce with the news and then meet him later at Ada Clare's.

Jarndyce is pleased to have the case over and done with, but he feels sorry for Richard and Ada. At Ada's, Allan tells Esther that Richard had wanted to speak to the judge but couldn't because his mouth was full of blood. When Richard realizes Esther is there, he says how happy he is for her and Allan. Later Jarndyce arrives and comes to Richard, who breaks into tears and says Jarndyce is a "good man." Richard says he has learned a hard lesson, but must now begin in a new way. He would like to see Allan and Esther's house, and everyone agrees it's just the thing. He apologizes to everyone and says, "I will begin the world!" He dies in Ada's arms.

Later Miss Flite comes to Esther crying and says she has "given her birds their liberty."


Once again George expects to be judged harshly. That's why he invents a name, meaning to gauge his brother's reactions to him before admitting his own identity. But Mr. Rouncewell doesn't seem to think George did anything wrong. He's just glad to see him. He also knows George was their mother's favorite son but feels no resentment. George was obviously always well loved by those closest to him. Mr. Rouncewell wants George to come and work with him and is somewhat taken aback that George would want to join the household at Chesney Wold. It is likely George doesn't know yet that there are ill feelings between Mr. Rouncewell and Sir Leicester. Still, there are close family connections between the very traditional household of Chesney Wold and the modern one of Rouncewell's—not just the brothers (and their mother) but Rosa, too, who will always think with love on the person Sir Leicester loved most.

In Chapter 64 Guppy renews his proposal and seems to think Esther should be pleased to have him, given her disfigurement. He has even brought witnesses who can attest to his professional status (Jobling) and private expectations (elderly mother with an annuity of her own). Like the first time, he goes about proposing in a very lawyerly fashion, building his case on facts and numbers. But why does he want her so suddenly? Dickens does not explain this beyond Guppy's statement that "the image [he thought] had been eradicated from [his] 'eart is not eradicated. Its influence ... is still tremenjous." It is likely that seeing Esther again in Kenge's office a few weeks earlier (Chapter 62) set him thinking about her again. Moreover, if he wants a wife who will keep his house and business going well, Esther would be a logical choice. The scene is a humorous one, but readers know more about Guppy than they did the first time he proposed.

With the Jarndyce case finished and nothing left to hope for, Richard feels cleansed and ready to "begin the world." But it is not the beginning his loved ones hope for. He dies of tuberculosis on the very day the Jarndyce case ends. But before dying, he apologizes to Ada, thanks Esther and Allan for their unfailing support, and makes peace with Jarndyce. He is free of the clutches of Chancery and can at least die in peace.

Kenge calls the Jarndyce case "a monument of Chancery practice." This is an statement of dramatic irony that can be interpreted in three ways:

  • On the surface he means it was a large and fascinating case from which professionals learned a great deal.
  • From Kenge's point of view—and that of other professionals involved in the case—it was a large and lucrative case from which they earned a great deal.
  • From the point of view of the suitors in the case, especially Richard and Ada, it was a disaster that robbed them of money they should have inherited and destroyed the life of at least one of them.

At the end of Chapter 65 Miss Flite says she has freed her birds, which she had always intended to do when the Jarndyce case finally ended. But readers will remember that in Chapter 14 Krook remarked that, when they were freed, "the birds that have never been caged would kill 'em." Two of the freed birds were the Wards in Jarndyce, and one of the actual wards in Jarndyce has already died.

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