Friday, June 8, 2012

Bleak House - by Charles Dickens

There are few authors as entertaining as Charles Dickens.  If you do not know Bleak House, it is his 1852 indictment of the English Civil Courts. (US Edition)  (UK Edition)  

You might say that one of the main characters is a lawsuit, "Jarndyce and Jarndyce." 
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 favour.  Some say she really is, or was, a party to a suit, but no one knows for certain because no one cares. 
But there are other characters:
Suddenly a very little counsel with a terrific bass voice arises, fully inflated, in the back settlements of the fog, and says, "Will your lordship allow me?  I appear for him.  He is a cousin, several times removed.  I am not at the moment prepared to inform the court in what exact remove he is a cousin, but he IS a cousin."
Leaving this address (delivered like a sepulchral message) ringing in the rafters of the roof, the very little counsel drops, and the fog knows him no more.  Everybody looks for him.  Nobody can see him.

It is not entirely about Jarndyce vs. Jarndyde.  With Dickens there is often a mystery
And yet I, little Esther Summerson, the child who lived a life apart and on whose birthday there was no rejoicingseemed to arise before my own eyes, evoked out of the past by some power in this fashionable lady, whom I not only entertained no fancy that I had ever seen, but whom I perfectly well knew I had never seen until that hour.
A couple of Amazon Reader Reviews complain about the formatting and run-together text. I saw paragraph marks in sections of the book, but not to an extent that made it unreadable.   The paragraphing itself is fine and the marks not too obtrusive.  The book is too good to let this formatting error keep you from downloading it!  

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