BLEAK HOUSE – CHARLES DICKENS

1. Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds. (p.3)

2. My Lady Dedlock, having conquered her world, fell, not into the melting, but rather into the freezing mood. An exhausted composure, a worn-out placidity, an equanimity of fatigue not to be ruffled by interest or satisfaction, are the trophies of her victory. (p.10)

3. ‘We are not so prejudiced as to suppose that in private life you are otherwise than a very estimable man, with a great deal of poetry in your nature, of which you may not be conscious.’ (p.66)

4. (…) and rattled hilariously that the best of all ways to lengthen our days was to steal a few hours from Night, my dear! (p.69)

5. (…) while the raindrops are pattering round their inactivity. (p.73)

6. A dark-eyed, dark-haired, shy village beauty comes in – (p.76)

7. I don’t think we knew what it was either, but this is what our politeness expressed. (p.90)

8. I thought it very touching to see these two women, coarse and shabby and beaten, so united; to see what they could be to one another; to see how they felt for one another; how the heart of each to each was softened by the hard trials of their lives. I think the best side of such people is almost hidden from us. What the poor are to the poor is little known, excepting to themselves and God. (p.96)

9. (…) as her pity bent her head. (p.97)

10. Here he is today, quiet at his table. An Oyster of the old school, whom nobody can open. (p.114)

11. Come night, come darkness, for you cannot come too soon, or stay too long, by such a place as this! Come, straggling lights into the windows of the ugly houses; and you who do iniquity therein, do it at least with this dread scene shut out! Come, flame of gas, burning so sullenly above the iron gate, on which the poisoned air deposits its witch-ointment slimy to the touch! (p.130)

12. ‘Rick, the world is before you; and it is most probable that as you enter it, so it will receive you. Trust in nothing but in Providence and your own efforts. Never separate the two, like the heathen waggoner. Constancy in love is a good thing; but it means nothing, and is nothing, without constancy in every kind of effort. If you had the abilities of all the great men, past and present, you could do nothing well, without sincerely meaning it, and setting about it. If you entertain the supposition that any real success, in great things or in small, ever was or could be, ever will or can be, wrested from Fortune by fits and starts, leave that wrong idea here, or leave your cousin Ada here.’ (p.155)

13. ‘I see nothing to succeed us, but a race of weavers.’ (p.167)

14. ‘This is unreasonable and inconvenient. If you had a blue-eyed daughter you wouldn’t like me to come, uninvited, on her birthday?’ (p.178)

15. What connection can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of the world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs, have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together! (p.187)

16. Now, these tumbling tenements contain, by night, a swarm of misery. As, on the ruined human wretch, vermin parasites appear, so, these ruined shelters have bred a crowd of foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps in walls and boards; and coils itself to sleep, in maggot numbers, where the rain drips in; and comes and goes, fetching and carrying fever and sowing more evil in its every footprint than Lord Coodle, and Sir Thomas Doodle, and the Duke of Foodle, and all the fine gentlemen in office, down to Zoodle, shall set right in five hundred years — though born expressly to do it. (p.189)

17. (…) but, like fire and water, though excellent servants, they were very bad masters. (p.197)

18. ‘Do it without saying it, and then I may begin to believe you.’ (p.255)

19. Mr Tulkinghorn, sitting in the twilight by the open window, enjoys his wine. As if it whispered to him of its fifty years of silence and seclusion, it shuts him up the closer. More impenetrable than ever, he sits, and drinks, and mellows as it were in secrecy; pondering, at that twilight hour, on all the mysteries he knows, associated with darkening woods in the country, and vast blank shut-up houses in town; and perhaps sparing a thought or two for himself, and his family history, and his money, and his will — all a mystery to every one — and that one bachelor friend of his, a man of the same mould and a lawyer too, who lived the same kind of life until he was seventy-five years old, and then, suddenly conceiving (as it is supposed) an impression that it was too monotonous, gave his gold watch to his hair-dresser one summer evening, and walked leisurely home to the Temple, and hanged himself. (p.264)

20. – a drunken face tied up in a black bundle, and flaring out of a heap of rags on the floor of a dog-hutch (…) (p.268)

21. Mr Snagsby makes a suitable response; and goes homeward so confused by the events of the evening, that he is doubtful of his being awake and out — doubtful of the reality of the streets through which he goes — doubtful of the reality of the moon that shines above him. (p.273)

22. And I looked up at the stars, and thought about travellers in distant countries and the stars they saw, and hoped I might always be so blest and happy as to be useful to someone in my small way. (p.288)

23. From suspicion to jealousy, Mrs Snagsby finds the road as natural and short as from Cook’s Court to Chancery Lane. And thus jealousy gets into Cook’s Court, Cursitor Street. Once there (and it was always lurking thereabout), it is very active and nimble in Mrs Snagsby’s breast — prompting her to nocturnal examinations of Mr Snagsby’s pockets; to secret perusals of Mr Snagsby’s letters; to private researches in the Day Book and Ledger, till, cash-box, and iron safe; to watchings at windows, listenings behind doors, and a general putting of this and that together by the wrong end. (p.305)

24. Finally, becoming cataleptic, she has to be carried up the narrow staircase like a grand piano. (p.311)

25. Wintry morning, looking with dull eyes and sallow face upon the neighbourhood of Leicester Square, finds its inhabitants unwilling to get out of bed. Many of them are not early risers at the brightest of times, being birds of night who roost when the sun is high, and are wide awake and keen for prey when the stars shine out. Behind dingy blind and curtain, in upper story and garret, skulking more or less under false names, false hair, false titles, false jewellery, and false histories, a colony of brigands lie in their first sleep. Gentlemen of the green baize road who could discourse, from personal experience, of foreign galleys and home treadmills; spies of strong governments that eternally quake with weakness and miserable fear, broken traitors, cowards, bullies, gamesters, shufflers, swindlers, and false witnesses; some not unmarked by the branding-iron, beneath their dirty braid; all with more cruelty in them than was in Nero, and more crime than is in Newgate. (p.312)

26. The person, who is one of those extraordinary specimens of human fungus that spring up spontaneously in the western streets of London, (…) (p.318)

27. I hope he found some consolation in walls. (p.363)

28. It was very odd, to see what old letters Charley’s young hand had made; they, so wrinkled, and shrivelled, and tottering; it, so plump and round. (p.365)

29. (…) and how there appeared to be a general impression among them that frequently calling him ‘Old Chap’ was likely to revive his spirits. (p.372)

30. The old conspiracy to make me happy! Everybody seemed to be in it! (p.423)

31. Then the way went by long lines of dark windows, diversified by turreted towers, and porches, of eccentric shapes, where old stone lions and grotesque monsters bristled outside dens of shadow, and snarled at the evening gloom over the escutcheons they held in their grip. (p.440)

32. ‘You appear to me to be the very touchstone of reponsibility.’ (p.453)

33. I never shall forget those two seated side by side in the lantern’s light; Richard, all flush and fire and laughter, with the reins in his hand; Mr Vholes, quite still, black-gloved, and buttoned up, looking at him as if he were looking at his prey and charming it. I have before me the whole picture of the warm dark night, the summer lightning, the dusty track of road closed in by hedgerows and high trees, the gaunt pale horse with his ears pricked up, and the driving away at speed to Jarndyce and Jarndyce. (p.457)

34. I look along the road before me, where the distance already shortens and the journey’s end is growing visible; and, true and good above the dead sea of the Chancery suit, and all the ashy fruit it cast ashore, I think I see my darling. (p.457)

35. Mr Vholes’s office, in disposition retiring and in situation retired, is squeezed up in a corner, and blinks at a dead wall. Three feet of knotty-floored dark passage bring the client to Mr Vholes’s jet-black door, in an angle profoundly dark on the brightest midsummer morning and encumbered by a black bulk-head of cellarage staircase, against which belated civilians generally strike their brows. Mr Vholes’s chambers are on so small a scale, that one clerk can open the door without getting off his stool, while the other who elbows him at the same desk has equal facilities for poking the fire. A smell as of unwholesome sheep blending with the smell of must and dust is referable to the nightly (and often daily) consumption of mutton fat in candles, and to the fretting of parchment forms and skins in greasy drawers. The atmosphere is otherwise stale and close. The place was last painted or whitewashed beyond the memory of man, and the two chimneys smoke, and there is a loose outer surface of soot evervwhere, and the dull cracked windows in their heavy frames have but one piece of character in them, which is a determination to be always dirty, and always shut, unless coerced. This accounts for the phenomenon of the weaker of the two usually having a bundle of firewood thrust between its jaws in hot weather. (p.466)

36. Make man-eating unlawful, and you starve the Vholeses! (p.468)

37. Now is the time for shadow, when every corner is a cavern, and every downward step a pit, when the stained glass is reflected in pale and faded-hues upon the floors, (…) (p.482)

38. They look at each other, like two pictures. (p.491)

39. Mr. Tulkinghorn transfers himself to the stale heat and dust of London. (p.497)

40. Like a dingy London bird among the birds at roost in these pleasant fields, where the sheep are all made into parchment, the goats into wigs, and the pasture into chaff, the lawyer smoke-dried and faded, dwelling among mankind but not consorting with them, aged without experience of genial youth, and so long used to make his cramped nest in holes and corners of human nature that he has forgotten its broader and better range, comes sauntering home. In the oven made by the hot pavements and hot buildings, he has baked himself dryer than usual; and he has, in his thirsty mind, his mellowed port-wine half a century old. (p.497)

41. Mr. Vholes remained immovable, except that he secretly picked at one of the red pimples on his yellow face with his black glove. (p.523)

42. (…) while Mr. Vholes gauntly stalked to the fire, and warmed his funeral gloves. (p.524)

43. Mr Vholes put his dead glove, which scarcely seemed to have any hand in it, on my fingers, and then on my guardian’s fingers, and took his long thin shadow away. I thought of it on the outside of the coach, passing over all the sunny landscape between us and London, chilling the seed in the ground as it glided along. (p.525)

44. Approaching, he observes that she has journeyed a long distance, and is footsore and travel-stained. (p.534)

45. ‘(…) he undoubtedly is a – rum customer.’ (p.543)

46. Dirty, ugly, disagreeable to all the senses, in body a common creature of the common streets, only in soul a heathen. Homely filth begrimes him, homely parasites devour him, homely sores are in him, homely rags are on him: native ignorance, the growth of English soil and climate, sinks his immortal nature lower than the beasts that perish. Stand forth, Jo, in uncompromising colours! From the sole of thy foot to the crown of thy head, there is nothing interesting about thee. (p.544)

47. Sir Leicester has magnificently disengaged himself from the subject, and retired into the sanctuary of his blue coat. (p.558)

48. ‘You see,’ said Richard, with something pathetic in his manner of lingering on the point, though it was off-hand and unstudied, (…) (p.588)

49. (…) and I folded her lovely face between my hands, (…) (p.593)

50. (…) and in the musty rotting silence of the house, (…) (p.594)

51. Such crowding reflections, (…) (p.595)

52. Glancing at the angry eyes which now avoid him, and at the angry figure trembling from head to foot, yet striving to be still, Mr Bucket feels his way with his forefinger, and in a low voice proceeds. (p.616)

53. (…) where there are rumours of tunnels; everything looks chaotic, and abandoned in full hopelessness. (p.630)

54. ‘The naturalest way is the best way, and the naturalest way is your own way.’ (p.657)

55. As all partings foreshadow the great final one, – so, empty rooms, bereft of a familiar presence, mournfully whisper what your room and what mine must one day be. (p.668)

56. Upon this wintry night it is so still, that listening to the intense silence is like looking at intense darkness. If any distant sound be audible in this case, it departs through the gloom like a feeble light in that, and all is heavier than before.  (p.673)

57. ‘- with your soul too large for your body, (…) (p. 681)

58. He stood behind me, with his long black figure reaching nearly to the ceiling of those low rooms; feeling the pimples on his face as if they were ornaments, and speaking inwardly and evenly as though there were not a human passion or emotion in his nature. (p.692)

59. There is a ruin of youth which is not like age. (p.694)

60. (…) her voice rising a stair higher every time her figure got a stair lower, (…) (p.728)

61. (…) he gave one gasp as if he had swallowed the last morsel of his client, and his black buttoned-up unwholesome figure glided away to the low door at the end of the Hall. (p.731)

62. (…) peachy-cheeked charmers with the skeleton throats, (…) (p.734)

63. A shaggy little damaged man, withal, not unlike an old dog of some mongrel breed, who has been considerably knocked about. He answers to the name of Phil. (p.735)

64. A labyrinth of grandeur, less the property of an old family of human beings and their ghostly likenesses, than of an old family of echoings and thunderings which start out of their hundred graves at every sound, and go resounding through the building. A waste of unused passages and staircases, in which to drop a comb upon a bed-room floor at night is to send a stealthy footfall on an errand through the house. A place where few people care to go about alone; where a maid screams if an ash drops from the fire, takes to crying at all times and seasons, becomes the victim of a low disorder of the spirits, and gives warning and departs. (p.737)

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