Bleak House

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Bleak House , first edition 1852

Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens .

The novel, which is set in the 1820s, was published in 20 installments from March 1852 to September 1853. Each episode contained two illustrations by Phiz and cost one shilling , the last two episodes were published together and cost two shillings.

The main storyline is a longstanding inheritance dispute between Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Dickens tells the story of many people who are directly and indirectly connected to the case. The characters and stories are more and more interwoven in the many narrative threads. In addition to an omnipresent narrator, Esther Summerson , one of the main characters in the novel, tells parts of the novel from her perspective of the first- person narration .

Bleak House is on the one hand a social novel that characterizes the life of the English upper class and their relationships with the middle and lower classes in the 19th century, on the other hand a satirical account of the English legal system, in particular the Court of Chancery , which, among other things, settled inheritance disputes. In the last chapters the book also contains elements of a detective novel.

Vladimir Nabokov dedicated one of his lectures on literature to the novel . In 2015, 82 international literary critics and scholars voted the novel one of the most important British novels .

Brief content

Bleak House

Esther Summerson grew up as a child with Miss Barbery without knowing that she was her aunt or who her parents were; she only learns that her mother has brought great shame on herself. After the death of her aunt, Esther is taken in by John Jarndyce , a wealthy and benevolent member of the upper class who is one of the participants in the above-mentioned Jarndyce versus Jarndyce inheritance dispute. She works there as the housekeeper of Bleak House and as a partner of Ada Clare and her distant cousin Richard Carstone , two other parties involved in the legal dispute over the inheritance in the Jarndyce case, which John Jarndyce takes on as a guardian in Bleak House.

At the same time, Sir Leicester and his much younger wife, Lady Dedlock, are introduced to a legal dispute over a borderline interpretation in which they are represented by their family lawyer, Tulkinghorn . It turns out that Esther Summerson is the result of a premarital affair of Lady Dedlock and that this is her mother. Of course, this fact must remain secret, and so its discovery may lead to a. through the lawyer Tulkinghorn to dramatic entanglements that finally culminate in the death of Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock .

In the meantime, Ada and Richard have married (initially without the knowledge of their guardian John Jarndyce ). Richard, however, is an unstable character who, for lack of other goals in life, delves into the Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce case in a self-destructive manner and bases his life planning entirely on a (for him and Ada) positive outcome of the proceedings. When he threatens to sink into a vortex of debt, illness and self-contempt, a new will emerges that is favorable to him and Ada. He rushes to the court with his wife, where he actually learns that the Jarndyce proceedings against Jarndyce have finally been closed after many years - albeit not with a verdict, but on the basis of the finding that the inheritance to be distributed has now been paid for by court and legal fees is consumed.

After Richard's death, Ada and her son are taken back to Bleak House by John Jarndyce . In the meantime, he had planned to marry Esther Summerson . However, he recognizes her love for Allan Woodcourt , releases her for him and gives them both a small estate in the country.

Translations into German


  • Björn Oellers: Crisis and Integration of Civil Society in Novels by Charles Dickens . Kovacs, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8300-5128-2 .


Web links

Wikisource: Bleak House  - Sources and full texts (English)
Commons : Bleak House  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. In German translation: Vladimir Nabokov : Lectures on Western European Literature (Collected Works, Vol. 18). Rowohlt, Reinbek b. Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-498-04656-9 . Pp. 143-262.
  2. ^ The Guardian: The best British novel of all times - have international critics found it? , accessed on January 2, 2016