Bleak House (English Library)

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9780140430639: Bleak House (English Library)

Bleak House was first published as a serial between March 1852 and September 1853, and it is one of Charles Dickens's major novels. The novel has many characters and several sub-plots, and the story is told partly by the novel's heroine, Esther Summerson, and partly by an omniscient narrator. At the centre of Bleak House is the long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which came about because someone wrote several conflicting wills. This legal case is used by Dickens to satirize the English judicial system, and he makes use of his earlier experiences as a law clerk, and as a litigant seeking to enforce copyright on his earlier books.[citation needed] Though the legal profession criticised Dickens's satire as exaggerated, this novel helped support a judicial reform movement, which culminated in the enactment of legal reform in the 1870s. There is some debate among scholars as to when Bleak House is set. The English legal historian Sir William Holdsworth sets the action in 1827; however, reference to preparation for the building of a railroad in Chapter LV suggests the 1830s. Summary : Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Lady Honoria live on his estate at Chesney Wold. Unknown to Sir Leicester, Lady Dedlock had a lover, Captain Hawdon, before she married – and had a daughter by him. Lady Dedlock believes her daughter is dead.[3] The daughter, Esther, is in fact alive, and being raised by Miss Barbary, Lady Dedlock's sister. Esther does not know Miss Barbary is her aunt. After Miss Barbary dies, John Jarndyce becomes Esther's guardian and assigns the Chancery lawyer "Conversation" Kenge to take charge of her future. After attending school for six years, Esther moves in with him at Bleak House. Jarndyce simultaneously assumes custody of two other wards, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare (Esther's cousins). They are beneficiaries in one of the wills at issue in Jarndyce and Jarndyce; their guardian is a beneficiary under another will, and the two wills conflict. Richard and Ada soon fall in love, but though Mr. Jarndyce doesn't oppose the match, he stipulates that Richard must first choose a profession. Richard first tries a career in medicine, and Esther meets Mr. Allan Woodcourt at the house of Richard's tutor. When Richard mentions the prospect of gaining from the resolution of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Jarndyce beseeches him never to put faith in what he calls "the family curse". Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock is also a beneficiary under one of the wills. Early in the book, while listening to the reading of an affidavit by the family solicitor Mr. Tulkinghorn, she recognises the handwriting on the copy. The sight affects her so much she almost faints, which Tulkinghorn notices and investigates. He traces the copyist, a pauper known only as "Nemo," in London. Nemo has recently died, and the only person to identify him is a street-sweeper, a poor homeless boy named Jo, who lives in Tom-All-Alone's. Lady Dedlock is also investigating, disguised as her maid, Hortense. She pays Jo to take her to Nemo's grave. Meanwhile, Tulkinghorn is concerned Lady Dedlock's secret could threaten the interests of Sir Leicester, and watches her constantly, Extrait : A Chancery judge once had the kindness to inform me, as one of a company of some hundred and fifty men and women not labouring under any suspicions of lunacy, that the Court of Chancery, though the shining subject of much popular prejudice (at which point I thought the judge’s eye had a cast in my direction), was almost immaculate. There had been, he admitted, a trivial blemish or so in its rate of progress, but this was exaggerated and had been entirely owing to the ‘parsimony of the public,’ which guilty public, it appeared, had been until lately bent in the most determined manner on by no means enlarging the number of Chancery judges appointed—I believe by Richard the Second, but any other king will do as well.

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Review:

Bleak House is a satirical look at the Byzantine legal system in London as it consumes the minds and talents of the greedy and nearly destroys the lives of innocents--a contemporary tale indeed. Dickens's tale takes us from the foggy dank streets of London and the maze of the Inns of Court to the peaceful countryside of England. Likewise, the characters run from murderous villains to virtuous girls, from a devoted lover to a "fallen woman," all of whom are affected by a legal suit in which there will, of course, be no winner. The first-person narrative related by the orphan Esther is particularly sweet. The articulate reading by the acclaimed British actor Paul Scofield, whose distinctive broad English accent lends just the right degree of sonority and humor to the text, brings out the color in this classic social commentary disguised as a Victorian drama. However, to abridge Dickens is, well, a Dickensian task, the results of which make for a story in which the author's convoluted plot lines and twists of fate play out in what seems to be a fast-forward format. Listeners must pay close attention in order to keep up with the multiple narratives and cast of curious characters, including the memorable Inspector Bucket and Mr. Guppy. Fortunately, the publisher provides a partial list of characters on the inside jacket. (Running time: 3 hours; 2 cassettes)

From the Publisher:

This book is in Electronic Paperback Format. If you view this book on any of the computer systems below, it will look like a book. Simple to run, no program to install. Just put the CD in your CDROM drive and start reading. The simple easy to use interface is child tested at pre-school levels.

Windows 3.11, Windows/95, Windows/98, OS/2 and MacIntosh and Linux with Windows Emulation.

Includes Quiet Vision's Dynamic Index. the abilty to build a index for any set of characters or words.

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