Mr. Jarndyce goes to Yorkshire to see Allan Woodcourt. Soon he invites Esther to join them. He has settled Allan in a new "Bleak House." Upon seeing Esther's face when she reads the name of the new house, Jarndyce decides not to be selfish and releases Esther from her promise to marry him. He knows that she will be happier as Allan's wife than she would be as his. Esther is dumbfounded. Allan accepts Jarndyce's offer of Esther's hand, and Esther agrees. Esther passes from being the mistress of one Bleak House, to being mistress of the new one.
Mr. Guppy, back at the St Alban's Bleak House, still pursues Esther. He has set up a business with Jobling, and has brought his mother to propose marriage to Esther again. Jarndyce doesn't even have to consult Esther to know that she will refuse him, and he refuses for her. In a funny scene, Mrs. Guppy is so put out by her refusal that she orders Mr. Jarndyce out of his own room in his own house. Esther's scars are slowly fading, and her good looks are coming back.
In Chapter 65 the Jarndyce case is finallly ready to be argued before the court, but in Westminster Hall. On the way, the young people see Caddy Turveydrop, who congratulates Esther on her engagement to Woodcourt, and embraces her.
They arrive late in court, and they learn that, although the estate would have been conferred entirely on Ada and Richard, it has been completely consumed in costs. The irony is so great that even though Richard, who is very ill, resolves to "begin the world," he dies that day. Miss Flite arrives, weeping. She has finally freed her birds.
In Chapter 66, we learn that Lady Dedlock, her body retrieved by her husband, has been buried in the family mausoleum at Chesney Wold. The world does not know how she died, and Sir Leicester keeps it a mystery. He rides around the estate with George, honoring her memory.
The dispute with Boythorn continues, but with less real vehemence on both sides. The world of Chesney Wold becomes quieter, as Sir Leicester is an aging widower uninterested in society. He confers the estate on Volumnia.
The final chapter jumps forward seven years to the happy Esther Woodcourt living in Lincolnshire. She and Allan are blessed with two little girls, and Ada's little boy, named Richard, was born not long after his father's death. Ada divides her time between both Bleak Houses.
Esther's maid, Charley, is happily married to a miller. Esther now has little Emma, the youngest Neckett, as a maid. We have one more look at Mrs. Jellyby, how has decided that Africa is a lost cause and now campaigns for women in Parliament. Caddy is a happy wife and mother, though her child is deaf and dumb, and Prince has grown lame from too much dancing. Even Peepy Jellyby is reprised, all grown up and preparing to go into the Custom House like his father. Jarndyce, Ada, Woodcourt, and Allan all live happily ever after.
Dicken's bright and happy ending is only marred by the death of Richard (which has been a foregone conclusion for at least half the novel). The fact that none of the surviving main characters are interested with documents or suits or "signs and tokens" ensures their happiness. The feelings is that most of the people who have lived through this novel have gotten their just desserts. Only Jenny the brickmaker's wife is left out of the winding up.
The surprising happy ending of Sir Leicester is perhaps the least expected of the bunch. Also, Esther's wish that Jarndyce not marry anyone else is fulfiled, and Jarndyce remains the foster father/Guardian of Ada and Esther.
This novel has so many parallels between characters that sometimes multiple ones can be drawn. The Skimpole/Turveydrop characters of superficiality, the Jenny/Lady Dedlock polar opposites, the high and low extremes of Sir Leicester and Jo the Crossing Sweeper are only a few. Dickens delighted in repeating his ideas in different characters, as well as injecting wholly unique ones, like Inspector Bucket, into the mix.
To some critics, the ending of Esther with Woodcourt seems a bit saccharine. That a destitute young woman who depended soley on her Guardian for her support would hesitate to marry him has been criticized as anti-intuitive, especially regarding Esther's commitment to duty. Also, Ada's misguided love of Richard, and her ineffectuality at saving him, has been put forward as proof that Dickens didn't have much respect for women's powers of persuasion.
But the domestic bliss that intermittently pops up, and, ultimately triumphs in the end of Bleak House has the marks of authenticity to it. Dickens really did believe that it was the most important state, and considered it far more important than any institution of his day. This novel clearly illustrates his belief, and does a very good job of convincing the reader of it, too.