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Bleak House | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • November

    Lady Dedlock asks about the handwriting on a legal document; Tulkinghorn gets curious.

    Chapter 2
  • About the same time

    Esther, Ada, and Richard move in with John Jarndyce at Bleak House; Esther takes over housekeeping.

    Chapter 6
  • In winter

    Tulkinghorn and Krook find Nemo dead; Krook steals some letters; Nemo is put in the burial ground.

    Chapter 11
  • Summer

    Richard quits medicine to start working at Kenge and Carboy's; Guppy starts investigating Nemo.

    Chapter 20
  • Cold fall morning

    George refuses to give Tulkinghorn a sample of Captain Hawdon's handwriting.

    Chapter 27
  • Soon afterward

    Guppy tells Lady Dedlock Esther is Captain Hawdon's daughter; she realizes her child is alive.

    Chapter 29
  • Later

    Esther falls ill and briefly loses her sight; her face is scarred from the illness.

    Chapter 31
  • Late fall

    Krook dies of spontaneous combustion; the Smallweeds and Tulkinghorn search his property.

    Chapter 32
  • Soon afterward

    Tulkinghorn gets handwriting sample from George; Lady Dedlock tells Esther she's Esther's mother.

    Chapter 34
  • Summer

    Tulkinghorn tells Lady Dedlock he knows about Captain Hawdon; he threatens to have Hortense jailed.

    Chapter 41
  • About the same time

    Esther tells Jarndyce Lady Dedlock is her mother; he asks Esther to marry him, and she accepts.

    Chapter 43
  • Sometime later

    Richard devotes himself to the Jarndyce case; Woodcourt promises Esther he'll watch over Richard.

    Chapter 45
  • Winter

    Woodcourt finds Jo on the street and takes him to George; Jo receives several visitors before dying.

    Chapter 46
  • The same day

    Tulkinghorn threatens to tell Sir Leicester about Hawdon and is later shot dead in his office.

    Chapter 48
  • The next day

    Bucket arrests George for Tulkinghorn's murder; Mrs. Bagnet goes to Chesney Wold to find his mother.

    Chapter 49
  • A day later

    Bucket tells Sir Leicester what Tulkinghorn knew and arrests Hortense; Sir Leicester has a stroke.

    Chapter 54
  • At the same time

    A letter accuses Lady Dedlock of the murder; her secret is out; she writes a suicide note.

    Chapter 55
  • The next day

    Bucket and Esther pursue Lady Dedlock but find her too late; she is dead on the burial ground step.

    Chapter 56
  • Summer

    Woodcourt tells Esther he loves her; Jarndyce secretly buys a cottage for them, and they marry.

    Chapter 61
  • After summer recess

    The Jarndyce case ends—the money has all gone to costs; Richard dies; Miss Flite releases her birds.

    Chapter 65

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Preface–Chapter 1 A Chancery judge once told Dickens any delays in Chancery were due to the "parsimony of the public," who didn't want a... Read More
Chapters 2–3 Chapter 2 presents the world of fashion and the fashionable as like the world of Chancery in that both "are things of ... Read More
Chapters 4–6 As Chapter 4 opens, Conversation Kenge tells Esther Summerson, Ada Clare, and Richard Carstone that they are to stay t... Read More
Chapters 7–9 At the opening of Chapter 7 Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife, Lady Honoria Dedlock, are still in Paris, and at Chesn... Read More
Chapters 10–12 Readers learn in Chapter 10 that Mr. Snagsby came into his ownership of the law stationer's shop several decades ago b... Read More
Chapters 13–15 Esther Summerson and John Jarndyce try to get Richard Carstone to decide which profession he would like to enter, but ... Read More
Chapters 16–18 Sir Leicester Dedlock is laid up with gout, a family affliction. Lady Honoria Dedlock has gone up to town. She has bee... Read More
Chapters 19–21 The courts are closed for their annual summer break, and the lawyers and judges are off enjoying the four-month vacati... Read More
Chapters 22–24 Mr. Tulkinghorn is enjoying a glass of 50-year-old port with Mr. Snagsby. Snagsby is repeating something he reported t... Read More
Chapters 25–27 Mrs. Snagsby realizes something is troubling Mr. Snagsby. He is irritable and distracted; he's having nightmares. It a... Read More
Chapters 28–29 Sir Leicester Dedlock is suffering through a visit from a number of poor Dedlock cousins to Chesney Wold. Among them a... Read More
Chapters 30–31 Mrs. Woodcourt writes with news of her son, Allan Woodcourt, and John Jarndyce invites her to come to Bleak House; she... Read More
Chapters 32–34 It is night. In the Inns of Court only a few people are still at work. The cool, humid air carries the unpleasant odor... Read More
Chapters 35–36 Esther Summerson is delirious for days, imagining she is "labor[ing] up colossal staircases" even though she is vaguel... Read More
Chapters 37–38 Esther Summerson considers the conditions of her birth Lady Dedlock's secret and not her own, so she decides she will ... Read More
Chapters 39–42 Vholes and his client, Richard Carstone, have returned from court. Richard "looks the portrait of young despair" and c... Read More
Chapters 43–45 Esther Summerson lives in constant fear that somehow she will lead to her mother's "betrayal." If at all possible, she... Read More
Chapters 46–47 Chapter 46 begins at dawn in Tom-all-Alone's. Allan Woodcourt finds a woman sitting on a doorstep and examines a bad b... Read More
Chapters 48–49 As Chapter 48 opens, Sir Leicester Dedlock and Lady Honoria Dedlock are at their house in London. Lady Dedlock is haug... Read More
Chapters 50–52 In Chapter 50 readers learn Caddy Jellyby has a baby daughter named Esther; Caddy's health is "delicate," and the baby... Read More
Chapters 53–54 Mr. Bucket is busy investigating. He is at Sir Leicester Dedlock's London house, then at Chesney Wold, and then in Lin... Read More
Chapters 55–56 In the early hours of the day that Mr. Bucket will arrest Hortense, Mrs. Bagnet and Mrs. Rouncewell are in a chaise tr... Read More
Chapters 57–59 In Chapter 57 when John Jarndyce explains why Mr. Bucket needs her, Esther Summerson is "thrown into ... a tumult of a... Read More
Chapters 60–62 In Chapter 60 John Jarndyce tells Esther Summerson they will be staying in London so they can be near Ada Clare and ke... Read More
Chapters 63–65 At the start of Chapter 63, Mr. George has given up his shooting gallery and moved to Chesney Wold to look after Sir L... Read More
Chapters 66–67 Sir Leicester Dedlock now lives full time at Chesney Wold. He has brought Lady Honoria Dedlock's body home to lie in t... Read More
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