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Bleak House | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House | Chapters 66–67 | Summary



Chapter 66

Sir Leicester Dedlock now lives full time at Chesney Wold. He has brought Lady Honoria Dedlock's body home to lie in the family mausoleum with his ancestors. Sir Leicester, attended by Mr. George, sometimes visits her there. Lawrence Boythorn tried to end the feud, but Sir Leicester was offended to think Boythorn did it because of his illness, so Boythorn continues the feud to humor him. Boythorn, though, sees how both men have loved and lost two sisters. Mr. George lives in one of the lodges by the stables, and Phil Squod keeps everything polished brightly. Matthew Bagnet and Mrs. Bagnet visit sometimes with their family. Sir Leicester is getting old and blind; it won't be long before he, too, joins his ancestors. Volumnia Dedlock reads to him about the politics of the moment; she has discovered she stands to inherit something if anything should happen to Sir Leicester. For that she puts up with the boredom of being there. The Dedlock cousins tend to visit only during "the shooting season."

Chapter 67

It has been seven years since Allan Woodcourt and Esther Summerson married. Richard Carstone's son was born not long after his death and was named Richard. Ada Clare and young Richard stayed with Allan and Esther at their Bleak House until she grew strong again. Then she went to stay with John Jarndyce at the original Bleak House, where she always referred to him as guardian—as do the children to this day. Esther and Allan have two daughters.

Charley Neckett has married the miller whose mill Esther can see from her window. Charley's sister, Emma Neckett, is Esther's maid, and her brother, Tom Neckett, is apprenticed to the miller. Prince Turveydrop has become lame, so Caddy Jellyby has to work more than ever; still, she's happy. Their daughter, Esther, is deaf. Mr. Jellyby still visits Caddy regularly, and Mrs. Jellyby, having given up on her African work, "has taken up with the rights of women to sit in Parliament," which involves writing more letters than ever. Peepy Jellyby is working and doing well, and Mr. Turveydrop is unchanged; the two remain close.

Allan and Esther have added a growlery to their house for her guardian's use, and he is a part of their extended family—Allan's best friend, Ada's and little Richard's father, Esther's "dear guardian." The wind is never in the east. Ada still wears black but no longer looks sad. Her son, Richard, calls both Ada and Esther "mama." Allan is loved and appreciated by his patients, and so is Esther. One night Allan comes home and asks what Esther has been thinking. She confesses she was thinking about her "old looks" and "it was impossible that [Allan] could have loved [her] any better, even if [she] had retained them." Allan tells her she is "prettier now." But Esther thinks everyone around her is so beautiful, she doesn't need to be.


In typical Dickensian fashion, Chapters 66 and 67 wrap up everyone's story that remains unfinished. Chapter 66 focuses on those tied to Chesney Wold, and Chapter 67 deals with the people surrounding Esther.

George has brought life to Chesney Wold, but not into the hall itself. Like the aristocracy, things there are becoming darker, slower, unused, and empty. There is a distinct sense that when Sir Leicester dies, his class will go with him. This is not true, of course, but his death is a sign of things to come. The picture of Chesney Wold is in stark contrast to the mood and images surrounding George when he visited his brother in Chapter 63; there everything was bustling. The factory was producing iron in many forms, the workers were filling the city, and the family was growing and reaching out to other countries to reinvigorate its knowledge. George, however, has chosen the way of life he left behind as a young man. He is not about to let his mother or Sir Leicester down again.

Life at Bleak House cottage as depicted in Chapter 67 also forms quite a contrast to the Chesney Wold of Chapter 66. Children are growing up, everyone is healthy and happy. Esther gives some sad details in passing, such as the condition of her namesake, Caddy Jellyby's daughter, who is deaf. But this seems to be Caddy's fate—to have to take care of everyone around her. Her father is too depressed to do anything; her father-in-law is too vain; her husband, the dance instructor, is now lame so he can't work; and her child is deaf. Caddy, though, in spite of the impossible odds, is full of energy and is happy in the knowledge that her efforts are appreciated. The child's condition can also be seen as an echo of Caddy's mother, whose philanthropic work kept her from hearing anything Caddy said or speaking to Caddy directly as a human being. At least the child is not shutting Caddy out by choice, which in Caddy's book means there's still hope.

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