Bleak House was the ninth novel from Charles Dickens, intended to illustrate the evils caused by long, drawn-out legal cases in the Courts of Chancery. The novel is considered one of Dickens’ finest work although has not been his most popular.

The Story.

Bleak House tells the story of the icily beautiful Lady Dedlock, who nurses a dark secret in her past, and the merciless lawyer Tulkinghorn, who seeks to uncover it. Then there’s the generous John Jarndyce, struggling with his own past, and his two attractive young wards Richard and Ada. Like Lady Dedlock, they’re all caught up in the infamous case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, which will make one of them rich beyond imagination – if it can ever be brought to a conclusion.

The story is told through Esther Summerson, a girl without a past. John Jarndyce takes Esther under his wing as a companion for Ada, but then falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Esther’s mysterious connection with Lady Dedlock may bring ruin to them both.


Like most Dickens novels, Bleak House was published in 20 monthly installments, each containing 32 pages of text and two illustrations by Phiz (the last two being published together as a double issue). Each cost one shilling, except for the final double issue, which cost two shillings. Bleak House was first published between 18521853.

Popular Culture.

In 2005, Bleak House was turned into an award winning 15-episode television series by the BBC.

In a series of articles to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens the magazine Time said Bleak House was Dickens’s best work.

Read Bleak House.

You can read all of Bleak House on The Circumlocution Office.

If you want the location of particular Bleak House pages or chapters for reference or academic purposes you can use our study links page.