Friday, April 3, 2015

A to Z Challenge: C & D is for Charles Dickens' Bleak House

I'm finishing off the first week with a double post for the letter's C & D for the A-Z Challenge.  This may seem like a stretch but when you consider Charles Dickens and the novel, Bleak House, you can understand why I'm doing a double post.

Written from 1852- 1853, Bleak House was Charles Dickens ninth novel and was to many classic lit enthusiasts, considered one of Dickens greatest works.  Even though I'm a huge fan of Dickens, I actually didn't know much Bleak House.  What I found in my research was so extensive, it was somewhat overwhelming.  Below is my best attempt highlighting some of particulars about this wonderfully written story.

Bleak House

Dickens' Bleak House, like many of his novels was written in a series and then published later in novel format.  During the Victorian era, penny dreadfuls were very popular.  I found an interesting book called, White Magic: The Age of Paper, written by Lothar Müller, where he discusses how the invention of the paper machine led to the many penny dreadfuls.  It also mentions how Dickens, not being a fan penny dreadful authors like G.W.M. Reynolds, did capitalize on the "newly literate audience" by writing his own detective story which featured key characters like the narrator and heroine, Esther Summerson.  The cast of memorable characters feels endless and I won't even dive into that.  In typical Dickens fashion, his storytelling is legendary, using perfectly flawed characters and tying them into an real-life intricate plots and subplots.  The Bleak House was a detective story and it's premise provided a window into how the English Chancery court system worked during the early to mid 1800s.  Trials and legal proceedings could remain stagnate for decades, leaving the poor to carry the brunt of the farcical legal system.  In truth that same process can be similarly compared to many of the legal cases or proceedings we see today.  Dickens mocked his time's legal system which many surmised was based on her own personal experience.  Did you know Dickens worked as a law clerk and court reporter?  Yes he did.  Additionally, his father was sent to prison for debt which undoubtedly had an impact on how he perceived and wrote about the system and all it's follies.

Although this book isn't a classic horror tale, it certainly highlights the darkness of humanity.  Greg Buzzell from the British Library wrote an articulate piece called  Charles Dickens, Victorian Gothic and Bleak House  where he discusses how Dickens' "incorporates and evolves Gothic imagery, settings and plot devices."  Dickens did have a knack for writing incredibly descriptive scenes that gave a dark or goth-like vibe to the reader.  He could easily shine a harsh and often truthful light on the people's ignorance, inadequacies and even stoic heroism.

Lastly, the artwork in Bleak House was amazing to say the least.  The illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne (pen name Phiz) "is most known for David Copperfield, Pickwick, Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit and Bleak House."

Where can I get a copy of Bleak House?

I found my e-copy on Amazon again and you guessed's free!   Click here to get your copy.  

PBS's Masterpiece Theater

Did you know the PBS's Masterpiece Theater produced a mini series back in 2005?  And apparently in 1985 as well.  Yup.  The reviews for both series were high.  The most recent one had reviews listed at above an 8 on IMDB which is pretty impressive.  The latest version had classically-trained actors like Anna Maxwell Martin, Carey Mulligan, Denis Lawson, Charles Dance and cult-fan X-File's favorite, Gillian Anderson.

And to answer your question, no I haven't seen it yet.  I've put it on my watch-list though.

Have your read classic tale? What about the mini-series?  Do you have a favorite Dickens novel?

Have a great weekend!

Mina Burrows


Sophie Duncan said...

My mum has that version of Bleak House on DVD - she was watching it just the other day. Jandyce and Jandyce is the perfect example of the folly of such a flawed legal system.
Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
Wittegen Press

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

Wow. I never read much Dickens (one of the few classics not mandatory in Hungarian lit classes) but this one definitely sounds like it would be worth the read. And with a female lead too!

@TarkabarkaHolgy from
Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

Stephanie Bird said...

Mina, I'm learning so much from you about things I've missed. Keep it coming...

cleemckenzie said...

Doing a C/D post today is clever, Mina. That Dickens was one heck of a writer, and I've enjoyed his tales since I was a kid. They aren't easy reading anymore since English has morphed into such a different language, but his stories still fascinate.

Thanks for the great theme.

S. L. Hennessy said...

I love Bleak House, but then I love just about everything Dickens so no surprise there!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've read several of his novels (partial to A Christmas Carol) but I haven't read that one.

Nick Wilford said...

I'm going to stand up and say the only Dickens story I've read is A Christmas Carol! No excuse when my wife has lots of hardbacks and they're free on Kindle. It's just a matter of time.

djinnia said...

Watched many a movie of dickens but have not read him yet. Have bleak house queued to watch on Netflix. So all hope is not list. I'm only sad that he never finished Edwin drood so we don't know who really killed him!

Lisa Mandina said...

This is one Dickens story that I haven't read. I might be more interested after reading your post. Thanks for sharing this! And sneaky way to get two posts done at once! :-) If you have time you should stop by and check out my C post.

Lisa Mandina said...

This is one Dickens story that I haven't read. I might be more interested after reading your post. Thanks for sharing this! And sneaky way to get two posts done at once! :-) If you have time you should stop by and check out my C post.

Carrie Ann Tripp said...

Minion Carrie dropping by to cheer you on! Keep up the excellent work! :D Enjoy your day off tomorrow and have a blessed Easter!

Sonia Lal said...

This book just sounds so . . . bleak.

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