Bleak House

The African project at present employs my whole time.‘ is a quotation from Bleak House (Chapter 4).

item Bleak House was the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, intended to illustrate the evils caused by long, drawn-out legal cases in the Court of Chancery.



item Taken from the following passage in Chapter 4 of Bleak House:

 ‘You find me, my dears,” said Mrs. Jellyby, snuffing the two great office candles in tin candlesticks, which made the room taste strongly of hot tallow (the fire had gone out, and there was nothing in the grate but ashes, a bundle of wood, and a poker), “you find me, my dears, as usual, very busy; but that you will excuse. The African project at present employs my whole time. It involves me in correspondence with public bodies and with private individuals anxious for the welfare of their species all over the country. I am happy to say it is advancing. We hope by this time next year to have from a hundred and fifty to two hundred healthy families cultivating coffee and educating the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger.”

item Dickens used the novel Bleak House to attack charity abroad whilst causes more closer to home were ignored. He termed this ‘telescopic philanthropy‘ (and also the title of Chapter 4 of the novel). In the novel, Mrs. Jellyby is too preoccupied with helping causes in Africa, ignoring the closer needs of her family and home.


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