A tour of the places of Bleak House.
It occurs to me that in order to understand the whole of a city, and even of a book, we must begin somewhere. And where better to begin with than the setting!
We begin, as most people do when they arrive somewhere unfamiliar, by learning a little about the places in which we will be moving. Mr Dickens sets Bleak House in England, as he does all his works, focusing on London, where he lived, and its environs. London, of course, is England’s capital and its economic and cultural heart, and it is at the heart of Bleak House. But Bleak House also takes us to Lincolnshire, and the country seat of Sir Leicester Dedlock, and to St Albans, where the house known as ‘Bleak House’ is located. So we will have a little journey to make!
Thematically, London is the place to where everything and everyone eventually comes in the world of Bleak House, and from whence they spill out. And in the London of Bleak House, everyone is connected, however remotely. Indeed, every character plays a part, however small, in the whole design, just as every place has significance.
I find this thought a little challenging at times. Indeed, when I consider the size and scope of London, and the size, scope of this novel and its vast assemblage of characters, I feel somewhat daunted. As indeed you may also feel!
I therefore invite you on a quick tour of important places in the city that Mr Dickens depicted with such precision and imagination. These are places where important events occur, or important ideas are conveyed.
We will begin with London itself, then move to the specific places where events and action occur: the Law Courts of Chancery; the poverty of Tom-All-Alone’s, the wealth and power of Chesney Wold, and the comfort of Bleak House itself.
Make sure that your walking shoes are comfortably laced, and prepare yourself!