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Bleak House : Clothbound Classics   - Charles Dickens

Bleak House

Clothbound Classics

By: Charles Dickens, Nicola Bradbury (Introduction by), Coralie Bickford-Smith (Designed by)

Hardcover

Published: 9th December 2011
For Ages: 18+ years old
In Stock. Usually ships in 1-2 business days
RRP $19.99
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Part of Penguin's beautiful hardback Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design.

As the interminable case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce grinds its way through the Court of Chancery, it draws together a disparate group of people: Ada and Richard Clare, whose inheritance is gradually being devoured by legal costs; Esther Summerson, a ward of court, whose parentage is a source of deepening mystery; the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn; the determined sleuth Inspector Bucket; and even Jo, the destitute little crossing-sweeper. A savage, but often comic, indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens's most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the poorest of London slums.

About the Author

Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812. He is the author of such Classics as Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield. In later works, such as Bleak House and Little Dorrit, Dickens's social criticism became more radical and his comedy more savage. His last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was never completed and he died on 9 June 1870.

About the Designer

Coralie Bickford-Smith is an award-winning designer at Penguin Books (U.K.), where she has created several highly acclaimed series designs. She studied typography at Reading University and lives in London.

[Coralie Bickford-Smith's] recent work for Penguin Classics is nothing short of glorious Anna Cole Co.

Chapter One

In Chancery

London. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus,forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn-hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes-gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas, in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales

of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time-as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look.

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest, near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation: Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds, this day, in the sight of heaven and earth.

On such an afternoon, if ever, the Lord High Chancellor ought to be sitting here-as here he is-with a foggy glory round his head, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains, addressed by a large advocate with great whiskers, a little voice, and an interminable brief, and outwardly directing his contemplation to the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog. On such an afternoon, some score of members of the High Court of Chancery bar ought to be-as here they are-mistily engaged in one of the ten thousand stages of an endless cause, tripping one another up on slippery precedents, groping knee-deep in technicalities, running their goat-hair and horse-hair warded heads against walls of words, and making a pretence of equity with serious faces, as players might. On such an afternoon, the various solicitors in the cause, some two or three of whom have inherited it from their fathers, who made a fortune by it, ought to be-as are they not?-ranged in a line, in a long matted well (but you might look in vain for Truth at the bottom of it), between the registrar's red table and the silk gowns, with bills, cross-bills, answers, rejoinders, injunctions, affidavits, issues, references to masters, masters' reports, mountains of costly nonsense, piled before them. Well may the court be dim, with wasting candles here and there; well may the fog hang heavy in it, as if it would never get out; well may the stained glass windows lose their color, and admit no light of day into the place; well may the uninitiated from the streets, who peep in through the glass panes in the door, be deterred from entrance by its owlish aspect, and by the drawl languidly echoing to the roof from the padded dais where the Lord High Chancellor looks into the lantern that has no light in it, and where the attendant wigs are all stuck in a fog-bank! This is the Court of Chancery; which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire; which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse, and its dead in every churchyard; which has its ruined suitor, with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress, borrowing and begging through the round of every man's acquaintance; which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right; which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope; so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart; that there is not an honorable man among its practitioners who would not give-who does not often give-the warning, "Suffer any wrong that can be done you, rather than come here!"

Who happen to be in the Lord Chancellor's court this murky afternoon besides the Lord Chancellor, the counsel in the cause, two or three counsel who are never in any cause, and the well of solicitors before mentioned? There is the registrar below the Judge, in wig and gown; and there are two or three maces, or petty-bags, or privy-purses, or whatever they may be, in legal court suits. These are all yawning; for no crumb of amusement ever falls from Jarndyce and Jarndyce (the cause in hand), which was squeezed dry years upon years ago. The short-hand writers, the reporters of the court, and the reporters of the newspapers, invariably decamp with the rest of the regulars when Jarndyce and Jarndyce comes on. Their places are a blank. Standing on a seat at the side of the hall, the better to peer into the curtained sanctuary, is a little mad old woman in a squeezed bonnet, who is always in court, from its sitting to its rising, and always expecting some incomprehensible judgment to be given in her favor. Some say she really is, or was, a party to a suit; but no one knows for certain, because no one cares. She carries some small litter in a reti-cule which she calls her documents; principally consisting of paper matches and dry lavender. A sallow prisoner has come up, in custody, for the half-dozenth time, to make a personal application "to purge himself of his contempt;" which, being a solitary surviving executor who has fallen into a state of conglomeration about accounts of which it is not pretended that he had ever any knowledge, he is not at all likely ever to do. In the meantime his prospects in life are ended. Another ruined suitor, who periodically appears from Shropshire, and breaks out into efforts to address the Chancellor at the close of the day's business, and who can by no means be made to understand that the Chancellor is legally ignorant of his existence after making it desolate for a quarter of a century, plants himself in a good place and keeps an eye on the Judge, ready to call out "My lord!" in a voice of sonorous complaint, on the instant of his rising. A few lawyers' clerks and others who know this suitor by sight, linger, on the chance of his furnishing some fun, and enlivening the dismal weather a little.

Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated, that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes, without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant, who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled, has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps, since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery-lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the Court, perennially hopeless.

Jarndyce and Jarndyce has passed into a joke. That is the only good that has ever come of it. It has been death to many, but it is a joke in the profession. Every master in Chancery has had a reference out of it. Every Chancellor was "in it," for somebody or other, when he was counsel at the bar. Good things have been said about it by blue-nosed, bulbous-shoed old benchers, in select port-wine committee after dinner in hall. Articled clerks have been in the habit of fleshing their legal wit upon it. The last Lord Chancellor handled it neatly, when, correcting Mr. Blowers the eminent silk gown who said that such a thing might happen when the sky rained potatoes, he observed, "or when we get through Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Mr. Blowers;"-a pleasantry that particularly tickled the maces, bags, and purses.

How many people out of the suit, Jarndyce and Jarndyce has stretched forth its unwholesome hand to spoil and corrupt, would be a very wide question. From the master, upon whose impaling files reams of dusty warrants in Jarndyce and Jarndyce have grimly writhed into many shapes; down to the copying clerk in the Six Clerks' Office, who has copied his tens of thousands of Chancery-folio-pages under that eternal heading; no man's nature has been made the better by it. In trickery, evasion, procrastination, spoliation, botheration, under false pretences of all sorts, there are influences that can never come to good. The very solicitors' boys who have kept the wretched suitors at bay, by protesting time out of mind that Mr. Chizzle, Mizzle, or otherwise, was particularly engaged and had appointments until dinner, may have got an extra moral twist and shuffle into themselves out of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The receiver in the cause has acquired a goodly sum of money by it, but has acquired too a distrust of his own mother, and a contempt for his own kind. Chizzle, Mizzle, and otherwise, have lapsed into a habit of vaguely promising themselves that they will look into that outstanding little matter, and see what can be done for Drizzle-who was not well used-when Jarndyce and Jarndyce shall be got out of the office. Shirking and sharking, in all their many varieties, have been sown broadcast by the ill-fated cause; and even those who have contemplated its history from the outermost circle of such evil, have been insensibly tempted into a loose way of letting bad things alone to take their own bad course, and a loose belief that if the world go wrong, it was, in some off-hand manner, never meant to go right.

Thus, in the midst of the mud and at the heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
Acknowledgments
Introduction

Charles Dickens: A Brief Chronology

A Note on the Text

Bleak House

Appendix A: Dickens's Working Notes for Bleak House

Appendix B: The Reception of Bleak House

Appendix C: The Role and Status of Women

1. Marriage and the Law: From William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-69)
2. Support for Conventional Views
3. Opposition to Conventional Views
4. Personal Testimonies From Women
5. Women in Contemporary Fiction

Appendix D: The Court of Chancery

1. "Reform in the Court of Chancery," The Times (1 April 1850)
2. "Delays in Chancery," The Times (8 August 1850)
3. "Court of Chancery," The Times (25 December 1850)
4. Leading Article, The Times (1 January 1851)
5. From Alfred Cole and W.H. Wills, "The Martyrs of Chancery," Household Words
6. From Edward B. Sugden, "Prisoners for Contempt of the Court of Chancery," The Times (7 January 1851)
7. From "A Chancery Bone of Contention," Punch (June 1852)

Appendix E: Attitudes to Religious and Other Proselytizing

1. From Charles Dickens, "Whole Hogs," Household Words (August 1851)
2. From Clare Lucas Balfour, "Stopping Half Way," The Temperance Offering (1852)
3. Charles Dickens, Letter to the Reverend H. Christopherson (9 July 1852)
4. From R.W. Vanderkiste, Notes and Narratives of a Six Years' Mission Principally among the Dens of London (1852)
5. From the London Quarterly Review (January 1871)

Appendix F: Contemporary Attitudes to Class Inequality

1. From Thomas Carlyle, Chartism (1839)
2. From Arthur Helps, The Claims of Labour (1844)
3. From Jessie Boucherett, "Endowed Schools" (1852)
4. From J.S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1859)

Appendix G: Conditions of the Working Class

1. Living Conditions as Described in Dickens's Household Words
2. From "A December Vision" (December 1850)
3. Burial Grounds
4. Disease
5. Epidemics and Sanitation

Select Bibliography
Charles Dickens

One of the grand masters of Victorian literature

Charles Dickens was born at Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, the second of eight children. Dickens's childhood experiences were similar to those depicted in David Copperfield. His father, who was a government clerk, was imprisoned for debt and Dickens was briefly sent to work in a blacking warehouse at the age of twelve.

He received little formal education, but taught himself shorthand and became a reporter of parliamentary debates for the Morning Chronicle. He began to publish sketches in various periodicals, which were subsequently republished as Sketches by Boz. The Pickwick Papers were published in 1836–7 and after a slow start became a publishing phenomenon and Dickens's characters the centre of a popular cult.

Part of the secret of his success was the method of cheap serial publication which Dickens used for all his novels. He began Oliver Twist in 1837, followed by Nicholas Nickleby (1838) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–41).After finishing Barnaby Rudge (1841) Dickens set off for America; he went full of enthusiasm for the young republic but, in spite of a triumphant reception, he returned disillusioned. His experiences are recorded in American Notes (1842). Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–4) did not repeat its predecessors' success but this was quickly redressed by the huge popularity of the Christmas Books, of which the first, A Christmas Carol, appeared in 1843.

During 1844–6 Dickens travelled abroad and he began Dombey and Son while in Switzerland. This and David Copperfield (1849–50) were more serious in theme and more carefully planned than his early novels. In later works, such as Bleak House (1853) and Little Dorrit (1857), Dickens's social criticism became more radical and his comedy more savage.

In 1850 Dickens started the weekly periodical Household Words, succeeded in 1859 by All the Year Round; in these he published Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1860–61). Dickens's health was failing during the 1860s and the physical strain of the public readings which he began in 1858 hastened his decline, although Our Mutual Friend (1865) retained some of his best comedy.

His last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was never completed and he died on 9 June 1870. Public grief at his death was considerable and he was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

A Note on our choice

The Works of Charles Dickens are available in many different editions, published by many different publishers.

The Booktopia Book Guru has recommended the Penguin Black Classic paperback editions here, as Australian readers have had a long established relationship with the Penguin Black Classic editions, with their informative and erudite introductions and notes.

There are, however, other options (see the series tab below). Both Oxford Classics and Vintage Classics publish Dickens, with notes and introductions. As do many US publishing houses.

Wordsworth Classics publish cheaper, no frills, editions of the classics, Dickens included, but the cheapest option, for those who have don’t want to read the classics but have to in order to pass a course, the US publisher, Dover, issues a thrift edition: these are cheap and cheerful, read and discard productions, which offer nothing but the text.

Visit Charles Dickens's Booktopia Author Page


ISBN: 9780141198354
ISBN-10: 0141198354
Series: Clothbound Classics
Audience: General
For Ages: 18+ years old
For Grades: 12+
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 1088
Published: 9th December 2011
Dimensions (cm): 20.6 x 13.9  x 4.5
Weight (kg): 0.93
Edition Number: 1