Harrison Middleton University

Book Club with Bleak House

Book Club with Bleak House

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.

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December 22, 2023

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

Solely due to A Christmas Carol, every winter I begin to long for a bit of Dickens. This year, I decided to tackle that monument of a book: Bleak House. I won’t lie, it’s a daunting book. Not only is it dense, but the character list feels endless. However, as it is the beginning of our break, I encourage you to pick up the book with me. In the coming weeks, this blog will feature a section or two from Bleak House and highlight some of my wanderings through the text. I hope that you’ll join me.

To remove some of your fears about finding time to read such a book, I want to explain the many ways that you might join me. You can listen to the book. LibriVox offers a free version, but some of the versions by actors are really worth your time. For example, David Case created a different voice for each character and I cannot imagine how he keeps them separate. Such artistry!

If an audiobook is not your style, then try one of the various television adaptations. Gillian Anderson stars in a BBC production from 2005 and there is also a 1985 version. Either will do, though be aware that the television adaptations have rearranged the order of the story quite a bit.

Regardless of how you enter the Bleak House world, I hope you will consider spending some of your break with great literature. I consider it a form of book club and therefore I invite you to send comments and feedback, either through this platform, or email me at as****@hm*.edu. I look forward to our exchange.

As a final hope of enticement, I simply want to enchant you with some of Dickens’ excellent prose. In this scene at the very beginning of the book, fog enters like a character. Fog settles around the permanently confused court of Chancery. Curl up with a cup of tea in a winter sort of mind and open this book with me.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time—as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look.

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.”

Happy reading! And happy break!

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Everett Collection

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