79 pages 2 hours read

Charles Dickens

Bleak House

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1853

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Preface and Chapters 1-10

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Preface Summary

In a short preface, Dickens describes what he has learned about the Court of Chancery and its judges. The ensuing characterization of the court, Dickens says, is “substantially true.” Even as he writes, a case has spent 20 years being deliberated by the court. Another has waited decades for a decision. Dickens also assures readers that spontaneous combustion is a real phenomenon.

Chapter 1 Summary: “In Chancery”

On a cold November afternoon, a fog crawls through the streets of London, through “the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city” (6). The fog darkens the streets around Temple Bar and the nearby Court of Chancery. The Court of Chancery is a special part of the British legal system that handles unique cases. Among those who regularly attend the court are an old woman who carries a bag of “documents” (later revealed to be Miss Flite) and an angry man whose existence the Chancellor is “legally unaware” of (later revealed to be Gridley). Of all the cases that have dragged on in Chancery, Jarndyce and Jarndyce is the most prominent. Most reporters have lost interest in the case, which is now regarded as a “joke.