Bleak House

Bleak House Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-13


Tulkinghorn and Krook find Nemo dead, apparently from an overdose of opium. Krook claims no knowledge of Mr. Nemo's identity or habits, and is chagrined because Nemo owes him six weeks' rent. Dr. Woodcourt (though he is not named immediately) arrives on the scene and reveals that Nemo has bought opium from him for a year and a half. Tulkinghorn learns from the ragamuffin Jo, a crossing-sweeper, that Nemo was a kind man, and gave Jo money when he had it. "He wos wery good to me, he wos!"

An inquest is held regarding Nemo's death, a silly proceeding in a tavern complete with a comic vocalist, and he is officially found dead by accident. Since Nemo had no money or family, he is buried in a pauper's grave.

In Chapter 12, the scene returns to Chesney Wold. The Dedlocks have returned, and have guests. Meanwhile Lady Dedlock continues to suffer ennui. Lady Dedlock meets the young maid Rosa for the first time, and takes a liking to her. This causes jealousy to arise in Lady Dedlock's personal lady's maid, Mademoiselle Hortense.

Tulkinghorn comes to Chesney Wold to inform Sir Leicester of the lawsuit brought upon him by his neighbor Boythorn. Tulkinghorn also has a message for Lady Dedlock concerning Nemo, whose handwriting was on the paper she had such interest in the last time he was at Chesney Wold, and tells of the law writer's death. She pretends that the death doesn't especially concern her; Tulkinghorn, unfooled, sees otherwise. The rest of the visit Lady Dedlock and Tulkinghorn watch each other carefully and surreptitiously.

In Chapter 13 Richard's future is under futher discussion. His education has been soley the Classics (meaning, in those days, ancient Latin and Greek literature). Richard knows nothing about what he would like to do, except that he doesn't want to become a minister in the Church of England. Mr. Jarndyce suggest the medical profession, and Richard quickly (too quickly) seizes upon the idea.

Mr. Boythorn -- along with Mr. Kenge, who is also present -- is enthusiastic about Richard's proposed medical career and propounds the maltreatment of doctors aboard Navy ships. The men discuss how Richard is to be gotten into the profession, and Mr. Kenge plans for his cousin, Dr. Bayham Badger, to take Richard as an apprentice.

As Mr. Badger lives in London, the party goes to London a few weeks later to get Richard settled. In London, Esther attends the theatre and is followed and stared at by the lovestruck Mr. Guppy. Ada and Richard's romance continues to blossom.

At Mr. Badger's house the party meets Dr. Allan Woodcourt, and Esther finds him attractive. The talk at the Badgers' is of an unconventional kind -- namely the wealth and prestige of Mrs. Badgers two deceased husbands. Esther tells Mr. Jarndyce that Ada and Richard are in love, but he advises the lovers that because they are too young, and because Richard is not yet established, they should wait to be married.


Nemo's death, so eerie and sordid, leaves the reader thinking he can only be an ancillary and not central character in regards to Esther. But Allan Woodcourt's assertion that "he must have been something better once" leaves the door open for interpretation as to who this mysterious No-One could have been.

Lady Dedlock conceals her interest in Nemo's handwriting with consummate skill. In her we see a brittle, hardened society creature, who is unwilling to show her weakness, especially in a matter so scandalous as a penniless law writer's death. That Tulkinghorn could ever ferret out who Nemo might have been seems like a remote possibility to the reader, but Lady Dedlock has known Tulkinghorn for years, and she seems to fear that, even with only the barest hints of a mystery, the canny lawyer could find out the truth. It is evident that her fashionable boredness is covering great emotions, but the nature of those emotions is not yet revealed.

The Badgers, whose name implies a rooting, grumbling type of animal, are presented as interesting specimens of middle-class snobbery. The bizarre nature of both of the Badgers' fascination with Mrs. Badger's former husbands mars the scene of Richard's new venture with a taint of indecency. Dickens is fond of portraying fantastically illogical and objectionable wives (Mrs. Snagsby, Mrs. Pardiggle, Mrs. Jellyby, and now Mrs. Badger) and, to a lesser extent husbands (the brickmaker, Mr. Skimpole).

Mr. Guppy's attentions, never welcome, have become abhorrent to Esther, and the only thing that keeps her from informing her guardian is the fear that Guppy will lose his job on account of her. In this action, or lack of action, Esther shows another of her virtues -- her unwillingness to cause another person harm, even in though their actions may be injurious to herself.

Ada and Richard are painted rather romantically, and no real shadow of their future has fallen across them yet. They are not told that they may not marry, simply that they must wait. Both Ada and Esther wish fervently for Richard to prosper in his new position.