Major Characters.

Richard Carstone.

Like Ada Clare, Richard Carstone is an orphan, and a ward of Chancery, taken into Bleak House by John Jarndyce. He’s good-natured and well-meaning, and soon falls in love with Ada. But he’s gradually consumed by his prospects of great fortune in the Jarndyce case.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Richard Carstone was played by English actor Patrick Kennedy.

Ada Clare.

Ada’s a ward of the court, with her fortunes tied up in the protracted case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. She’s an orphan – and is sent to live at Bleak House under the wing of John Jarndyce. She falls in love with Richard Carstone, who is a distant cousin.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Ada Clare was played by English actress Carey Mulligan.

Lady Honoria Dedlock.

Mistress of Chesney Wold. The revelation of her past drives much of the plot. Before her marriage, Lady Dedlock had an affair with another man and bore his child. Lady Dedlock discovers the child’s identity (Esther Summerson), and because she has revealed that she had a secret predating her marriage, she has attracted the noxious curiosity of Mr Tulkinghorn, who feels bound by his ties to his client, Sir Leicester, to pry out her secret. At the end of the novel, Lady Dedlock dies, disgraced in her own mind and convinced that her husband can never forgive her moral failings.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Lady Dedlock was played by American actress Gillian Anderson. In 2006 she won Best Actress at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for her performance (ahead of fellow nominee Anna Maxwell Martin who played Esther Summerson). She was also nominated for a 2006 Primetime Emmy Award in the category Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television at the 2007 Golden Globes for the role.

Sir Leicester Dedlock.

Elderly husband of Lady Dedlock, a proud and rich aristocrat. Owner of the Chesney Wold estate in Lincolnshire.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Sir Leicester Dedlock was played by English actor Timothy West.

John Jarndyce.

John Jarndyce is the proprietor of Bleak House. He becomes guardian to the young wards of court Ada and Richard and takes Esther Summerson in as a companion for Ada, promoting her to housekeeper. Generous and caring, Jarndyce develops a deep love for Esther.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, John Jarndyce was played by Scottish actor Denis Lawson. In 2006 he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the category Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, for his performance.

Esther Summerson.

The heroine of the story, Esther’s employed as a companion to Ada and goes to live at Bleak House. Raised by her aunt, Esther’s parentage is a mysterious secret.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Esther Summerson was played by English actress Anna Maxwell Martin, who won Best Actress award at the 2006 British Academy Television Awards for her performance (ahead of fellow nominee Gillian Anderson who played Lady Dedlock). She was also nominated in the category Best Actress at the 2006 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards.

Mr. Tulkinghorn.

Mr. Tulkinghorn is the Dedlocks’ family lawyer. Secretive, scheming and manipulative, he never reveals more information than is absolutely necessary, described as a great reservoir of confidences, not to be so tapped and a speechless repository of noble confidences. Tulkinghorn gives the appearance of being subservient to his clients but enjoys power that control of their secrets gives him. Using other people he uncovers Lady Dedlock’s past and attempts to control her, in an attempt to preserve the good name and reputation of Sir Leicester. Tulkinghorn is murdered by one of the people he has used to uncover Lady Dedlock’s secret, thereby giving rise to a detective plot in the closing chapters of the book.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Mr. Tulkinghorn was played by English actor Charles Dance. In 2006 he won Best Actor at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for his performance. He was also nominated for a 2006 Primetime Emmy Award in the category Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for the role.

Minor Characters.

Inspector Bucket.

Mr. Bucket is a police inspector who manages to solve the murder of the lawyer Tulkington.

Lawrence Boythorn.

Life long friend of John Jarndyce who visits Bleak House. Involved in a property dispute with his neighbour, Sir Leicester Dedlock. Dickens based Boythorn on his highly litigious personal friend, the poet and writer Walter Savage Landor.

Revd. Mr. Chadband.

A pompous preacher who takes any opportunity to orate. The characteristics of Mr. Chadband has led to the adjective Chadbandian entering the Oxford English Dictionary, meaning sanctimoniously hypocritical or sermonizing.

Miss Flite.

Miss Flite is an eccentric lodger of Mr. Krook. She is another long-serving suitor in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce legal case, although has given up on getting a resolutuion. Flite befriends Esther, Ada and Richard.

Sergeant George.

Sergeant George is an ex-soldier, he now owns a shooting gallery and gym, who served with the mysterious person known as Nemo, and later identified as Captain Hawdon. Although a noble man, George remains crippled by debts he owes to Mr. Smallweed.

Mrs. Jellyby.

Mrs. Jellyby is a philanthropist, obsessed with helping causes far-away whilst ignoring those around her, including the needs of her own family.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Mrs. Jellyby was played by English actress and television and radio presenter Liza Tarbuck.

Jo the sweeper.

Jo is an illiterate, destitute, orphaned boy who sweeps the street for handouts. He is totally vulnerable and unprotected from people, disease, and the horrors of poverty. Even his key knowledge of some of the facts that unravel the novel’s mystery only brings him more trouble.

Mr. Krook.

The brother of Mrs. Smallweed, Mr. Krook is a landlord and proprietor of the Krook, Rag and Bootle Warehouse situated close to Lincoln’s Inn Field, the main legal area of London. Although illiterate, Krook hoards heaps of legal documents within the shop which he has accumulated amongst the other clutter. Krook’s tenants are the elderly eccentric Miss Flint and a mysterious man known as Nemo (the Latin word for nobody). When Nemo passes away, Krook steals his personal letters which will attract the attention of Mr. Guppy and Mr. Tulkinghorn who also seek them. Krook possesses a cat named Lady Jane who torments Miss Flint’s pet birds. His body diluted by his love of alcohol, Krook dies by the unusual method of spontaneous human combustion, a phenomenon Dickens believed in.

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Mr. Krook was played by English comedian and actor Johnny Vegas.
Illustration of Mr. Krook by the British artist Kyd (Joseph Clayton Clark).
Illustration of Mr. Krook (with his cat Lady Jane) by the British artist Kyd (Joseph Clayton Clark).

Mrs. Pardiggle.

Mrs. Pardiggle is the wife of O. A. Pardiggle, the philanthropic neighbour of John Jarndyce. She is mother to five sons: Egbert, Oswald, Francis, Felix, and Alfred, and even forces her children to give their money to her charities.

Harold Skimpole.

Harold Skimpole is a friend of John Jarndyce who lives of the means of others.

  • Click here to see our collection of quotations related to the character of Harold Skimpole.

Joshua Smallweed (Grandfather Smallweed).

Joshua Smallweed is an elderly miser, the husband of Mrs. Smallweed, and the grandfather of Bart Smallweed and Judy Smallweed. He is an invalid and is carried everywhere in a chair from his living room. He comes from a long line of men who worked as moneylenders and accountants and who were obsessed with wealth. Mr. Smallweed is a cruel elderly man, passing his hatred of the world onto others around such as the tormenting of his wife and manipulation of people for his own financial gain. Smallweed gloats over his successful exploitation of other people, which is usually be his excessive interest charges on loans dealt during some dubious business practices. 

  • In the 2005 BBC television adaptation of Bleak House, Joshua Smallweed was played by English actor Phil Davis.

Allan Woodcourt.

Allan Woodcourt is a handsome Welsh surgeon who falls for Esther upon meeting her. Woodcourt treats the poor dwellers of London’s slums for free and as fairly as he does the patients who can pay. Unable to earn enough to support himself he is forced to enlist as a ship’s surgeon for the Royal Navy.

John Jarndyce express his frustration at the Chancery suit that dominates the story of Bleak House.