I find the Dickens entertaining to read in this second week of the Bleak House readalong at Unputdownables, but had a lot of back-and-forthing this second week as I struggled to remember who was who, and at one time was even confounded by the incomplete list of characters when I went to find the name of Esther’s godmother. (It’s Miss Barbary.) But when I finally got my Jarndyces clear from my Dedlocks and such, things moved along at quick pace.
In Chapter 6, Esther, Richard and Ada are introduced to Mr. Skimpole, an importuning friend of Mr. Jarndyce’s, who descibes him as childlike. Does he mean childlike, as in selfish and without remorse or appropriate empathy for others? Because that’s what it seemed to me. We are again shown how sweet and good Esther is when she comes to his rescue over a bad debt. Again, this is Esther doing the telling, so what do we make of her own tendency to toot her own horn?
Chapter 7, ‘The Ghost Walk’ transports us to the Dedlock’s house, while they are in Paris. We meet the proud housekeeper, Mrs. Rouncewell, her grandson Watt and the pretty housemaid Rosa, who gives a tour to Mr. Guppy and another man when they show up to see the house. Mr. Guppy mostly droops about, but perks up when he sees a portrait of Lady Dedlock, who he thinks looks familiar. Hmm, now who could he be reminded of?
Chapter 8, ‘Covering a Multitude of Sins’ we meet yet another dreadful do-gooder, Mrs. Pardiggle and her angry gaggle of allowance-deprived boys. There is a very sad story about a brickmaker’s wife and a baby, but of course, it’s Esther and her goodness that are in the spotlight of her own tale. As far as I’m concerned, Esther more than deserved all the pinches those boys gave her.
Chapter 9, ‘Signs and Tokens’ we meet Mr. Jarndyce’s friend Boythorn, a good man and loud, who had been in love as a youth but lost her. Hmm. Who could he have been in love with? Also, Mr. Guppy pitches woo at Esther who does not handle his advances with equanimity.
Bleak House is good fun to read, and has moments of humor and sadness, though some do feel contrived. It’s full of delicious sentences, and I look forward to the next section.