Bleak House: Character Profiles

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Character Profiles

Bayham Badger

Mr. Badger is Kenge’s cousin, a surgeon in Chelsea, to whom Richard Carstone is apprenticed.

Mrs. Bayham Badger

Mrs. Badger talks about her three husbands, and Mr. Badger is always in the shadow of the other two.

Matthew Bagnet

Bagnet owns a music shop and is a former soldier friend of George Rouncewell. His nickname  is “Lignum Vitae” because he is tough and hard. Yet Bagnet depends upon his wife to run the family. He co-signs the promissory note with George to Mr. Smallwood.

Mrs. Bagnet

Mrs. Bagnet is the sensible and strong wife of Matthew, who gives advice to George Rouncewell and reunites Mrs. Rouncewell with her son, George.

Bagnet children

The Bagnet children, Woolwich, Quebec and Malta are named for where they were born.

Miss Barbary

Miss Barbary is the supposed godmother but actual aunt of Esther (Hawdon) Summerson, a narrow-minded religious fanatic, who tells her sister Honoria (Dedlock) that her baby daughter is dead. She raises the illegitimate child in secrecy. She was once in love with Lawrence Boythorn, but broke the relationship to raise Esther and cover up her sister’s shame.

Mrs. Blinder

Mrs. Blinder is the kindly landlady of the boarding house in Bell Yard that houses Tom Gridley and the Neckett family. She looks out for the orphans and does not charge them rent. Later she takes in Miss Flite.

Lawrence Boythorn

Boythorn is the old school friend of John Jarndyce who is “always in extremes.” He speaks of everything in superlatives and is belligerent though kind underneath. He wants to fight for “rights” such as the right of way between his property and Sir Leicester Dedlock’s with whom he has gone to court. He was once in love with Miss Barbary, Lady Dedlock’s sister. This character is modeled on the poet, Walter Savage Landor.

Inspector Bucket

Inspector Bucket is the police detective who solves the Tulkinghorn murder. He is enterprising, crafty, relentless in pursuit, and yet kind underneath.

Mrs. Bucket

Mrs. Bucket helps her husband solve the crime by spying.

William Buffy, M. P.

Buffy is the conservative Member of Parliament, friend of Sir Leicester Dedlock, who assures him the country is going to pieces with all the old values gone.

Richard Carstone

Richard or Rick is the handsome nineteen-year-old orphan, another ward of John Jarndyce. He falls in love with his cousin Ada Clare and becomes engaged to her but may not marry till he has a profession. He tries one after the other—medicine, law, and army—but he does not apply himself because he waits for his supposed inheritance from the Jarndyce case. He and Ada elope, but he goes into debt, loses his health, and dies when the case is eaten up in costs.

Rosa Cartwright

Rosa is the pretty village girl who becomes personal maid to Lady Dedlock, replacing Hortense. She is engaged to Watt Rouncewell, the ironmaster’s son. Lady Dedlock treats her as a daughter and sends her away to save her reputation before the scandal hits.

Mr. Chadband

Mr. Chadband is an Apostolic minister, full of grand oratory, who pronounces on everything and gives a sermon over Jo as an example of sinfulness. He is sponsored by the Snagsbys.

Mrs. Rachel Chadband

Mrs. Chadband, or Mrs. Rachel, was the housekeeper of Miss Barbary, who knows the secret of Esther’s birth, and her true name, Hawdon. Guppy and Tulkinghorn learn the secret from her.

The Lord High Chancellor

The Chancellor is the judge of the Court of Chancery.

Ada Clare

Ada Clare is the beautiful young cousin and ward of John Jarndyce, seventeen years old. She has blonde hair and is quite charming and innocent. Jarndyce hires Esther Summerson to be her companion. She elopes with the hapless Richard Carstone when she comes of age and bears his son after his death. Mr. Jarndyce takes in her and the baby at Bleak House.

Coavinses

Coavinses is Skimpole’s nickname for Mr. Neckett, the sheriff’s officer, who arrests Skimpole for debt.

Lady Honoria (Barbary) Dedlock

Lady Dedlock is the beautiful wife of the baronet, who married to get wealth and position, and the center of the mystery. She is finally bored with her life, after social climbing to the top. She and her husband have no children. She travels around, from her estate in Lincolnshire to a London townhouse to Paris. Involved in the Jarndyce case, she faints after seeing the handwriting of one of the legal copies written by Captain Hawdon, the father of her daughter, Esther Summerson. Tulkinghorn finds out about her illegitimate child and emotionally blackmails her. Thinking she has shamed her husband and is wanted for Tulkinghorn’s murder, she runs away and dies a tragic death.

Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet

Sir Leicester is twenty years older than his wife. He married out of love, for his wife brought no family or money. He is somewhat self-important and proud of his name but a decent man. When he finds out about his wife’s past, he has a stroke, then sends Bucket to find her and convey his forgiveness. He buries her with full honors in the family vault.

Volumnia Dedlock

Volumnia is a flighty older cousin of Sir Leicester Dedlock who comes to Chesney Wold for visits. She finds Sir Leicester after he has a stroke, helps nurse him, and becomes Sir Leicester’s heir.

Miss Flite

Miss Flite is the mad old woman who has been waiting every day in Chancery Court for the “Day of Judgment.” She is a lodger in Krook’s Rag and Bottle Wareshop, a bit of refuse herself from the Jarndyce case. She is eccentric but kindly.

Mr. Gridley

Mr. Gridley is “the man from Shropshire” whose case is delayed in Chancery. He is ruined by the delay, bitter, and belligerent. He is cited for contempt of court by Tulkinghorn and hides out at Mr. George’s gallery where he dies.

Mr. William Guppy

Mr. Guppy is the ambitious clerk at Kenge and Carboy’s who proposes to Esther and tracks down her history and Lady Dedlock’s secret.

Guster

Guster, or Augusta, is the clumsy woman from the workhouse who works for the Snagsbys and has fits when she gets excited.

Captain Hawdon

Captain Hawdon was  a military man whom everyone thought dead; in later life he lost everything. He called himself “Nemo,” became a law-writer and became addicted to opium. He dies as a lodger at Krook’s of an overdose of opium.  He is the former commanding officer of George Rouncewell and the father of Esther Summerson by Lady Dedlock.

Mademoiselle Hortense

Hortense is Lady Dedlock’s personal maid, who swears revenge when Lady Dedlock rejects her for Rosa. Hortense tries to get other positions, and thinks Tulkinghorn will help her. When he doesn’t, she shoots him.

John Jarndyce

Mr. Jarndyce is Esther’s guardian and the guardian of the Jarndyce wards, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. He is a single man living in Bleak House, about sixty but still handsome. He inherited Bleak House from Tom Jarndyce and tries to make up for some of the family injustice by adopting the orphans in the case. He is quick and sensitive and shy, going around doing charitable works without wanting to be thanked.  He proposes marriage to Esther, but realizing he is too old for her, he arranges for her and Woodcourt to marry.

Tom Jarndyce

Tom Jarndyce was a suitor in the Jarndyce case who blew his brains out in despair waiting for judgment. He was the owner of “Bleak House,” and John Jarndyce inherited the house from him.

Mrs. Jellyby

Mrs. Jellyby is a London philanthropist who is concerned with the African natives of Borrioboola-Gha, while neglecting her own husband and seven children. Ada, Richard, and Esther stay there in the chaos and befriend the eldest daughter Caddy.

Mr. Jellyby

Mr. Jellyby is the patient and neglected husband of Mrs. Jellyby, who has to fight bankruptcy because of his wife’s unruly housekeeping and  charity projects.

Caddy (Caroline) Jellyby

Caddy Jellyby is forced to take her mother’s dictation all day for the African project instead of getting an education herself. She becomes Esther’s friend and marries Prince Turveydrop, eventually running his dance academy. They have a child who is deaf and dumb.

Peepy Jellyby

Peepy is the dirty and unkempt youngest Jellyby child, who is severely neglected.

Jo

Jo is the crossing-sweeper boy who has no last name and lives in the slum of Tom-all-Alone’s on the street. He is starving and gets occasional handouts from Mr. Snagsby and Nemo. He gets mixed up in the mystery because he shows Lady Dedlock where Nemo (Hawdon) lived and died. Stricken with smallpox, he gives it to Charley and Esther when they take him to Bleak House to help him. Tracked by Bucket, he is told to stay out of London so he won’t spread stories. He dies at Mr. George’s gallery.

Conversation Kenge

Mr. Kenge is a lawyer at Kenge and Carboy’s who handles the affairs of Mr. Jarndyce. He is called that because he likes to hear himself talk.

Mr. Krook

Krook is a sleezy, greasy man who has a rag and bottle shop that buys refuse. He is short, withered and cadaverous. He always seems to be on fire within. He cannot read or write but collects documents. Called by the neighbors the Lord Chancellor and his shop the Court of Chancery, he eventually dies of too much gin by spontaneously combusting.

Jenny

Jenny is the abused wife of a brickmaker whose baby dies when Esther visits her cottage. She helps Jo when he is sick, and changes clothes with Lady Dedlock so Bucket can’t find her.

Liz

Liz is one of the brickmaker’s wives, the friend of Jenny, who comforted her when her baby died.

Mercury

Mercury is the footman in the London home of Sir Leicester Dedlock.

Mr. Neckett

Mr. Neckett (“Coavinses”) is a sheriff’s officer who follows and arrests men in debt. He arrested Harold Skimpole. Neckett’s wife died giving birth, and he followed shortly after, leaving three orphans, whom Mr. Jarndyce helps.

Charley Neckett

Charlotte or Charley is the oldest of the three orphaned Neckett children—Charlotte, Tom, and Emma. She becomes the maid to Esther Summerson and nurses Esther when she has smallpox.

Mrs. Pardiggle

Mrs. Pardiggle is a Puseyite who delivers religious tracts to the poor, trying to convert them. She drags Esther and Ada with her on her rounds.

Mrs. Rouncewell

Mrs. Rouncewell is  the loyal  Dedlock housekeeper at Chesney Wold for fifty years. She has two sons, George and Mr. Rouncewell, the ironmaster.

Mr. Rouncewell

Mr. Rouncewell is Mrs. Rouncewell’s ironmaster son who confronts the Dedlocks with the proposal of marriage between his son Watt and Lady Dedlock’s maid, Rosa. He represents the new industrial middle class who feels they are as good as the gentry. He and Sir Leicester have opposed views on running the country.

Mr. George Rouncewell

“Mr. George” is a man of fifty, good looking and athletic, an old trooper who runs a shooting gallery. He teaches Richard Carstone how to shoot and fence, and he hides Gridley from the police. He owes money to Mr. Smallweed, as did his old friend, Mr. Nemo (Captain Hawdon). Compassionate, he protects his assistant Phil and takes in the dying Jo. He is arrested for the murder of Tulkinghorn but let go when the real murderer is found.

Watt Rouncewell

Watt is Mr. Rouncewell’s son, and Mrs. Rouncewell’s grandson, who falls in love with Rosa and marries her.

Harold Skimpole

Harold Skimpole is the irresponsible and child-like “Amateur” “unfortunate in his affairs,” who sponges off John Jarndyce. He is the “child” or artist who can’t be bothered with responsibility and becomes a debilitating influence on Richard Carstone. He is based on the figure of Leigh Hunt, liberal journalist.

Grandfather Smallweed

Grandfather Smallweed is an old crippled man, described as a mere clothes-bag wearing a skull cap. He believes in “Compound Interest,” and is the moneylender who entraps people like Nemo and Mr. George until they get into too much debt. He likes to squeeze and ruin people. He sells Lady Dedlock’s love letters to Sir Leicester.

Grandmother Smallweed

Grandmother Smallweed is the senile wife of Mr. Smallweed. He throws pillows at her.

Bart and Judy Smallweed

Bart and Judy are the twin grandchildren of old Smallweed who are “sent out early” to earn their livings. Bart is a clerk at Kenge and Carboy’s, and Judy is studying how to make artificial flowers.

Mr. Snagsby

Mr. Snagsby is the kindly owner of the Law-Stationer’s shop in Cook’s Court, who employs Nemo. He is plump and cowed by his wife. He befriends the street boy, Jo.

Mrs. Snagsby

Mrs. Snagsby runs the Law-Stationer’s shop and her husband. She is thin, having drunk vinegar and lemon juice when young to keep her figure. She makes everyone miserable with her jealousy and inquisitive nature.

Phil Squod

Phil Squod is the old deformed tinker that Mr. George takes on as an assistant in his shooting gallery. Phil has a good and loyal heart but cannot walk straight and sidles around the walls with one shoulder braced against the wall, leaving a grease mark.

The Honourable Bob Stables

The Honourable Bob Stables is a Dedlock cousin who would like to get a government post with no responsibilities.

Esther (Hawdon) Summerson

Esther Summerson is one of the main narrators of the story. She is an intelligent but humble and affectionate young woman, who is good to everyone she meets. Her main goal is to be loved by someone because she was not loved as a child. She is brought up by her aunt, Miss Barbary, in Windsor, told she is a disgrace and kept isolated from others. After Miss Barbary dies, she is sent to school by a mysterious patron, who turns out to be John Jarndyce, one of the people in the Jarndyce lawsuit. After school, she keeps house for him at Bleak House and is the companion of Ada Clare, a Jarndyce ward. Stricken with smallpox by helping Jo, she is scarred, but wooed by Allan Woodcourt. Lady Dedlock confesses to her that she is her daughter by Captain Hawdon. Esther marries Woodcourt and settles in a new Bleak House in Yorkshire.

Mr. Tulkinghorn

Mr. Tulkinghorn is the lawyer of the Dedlocks, who has been taking care of the Jarndyce case. He wears black, is older and is the epitome of respectability, living alone in an elegant old house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He gathers information and uses it against people for his own ends, tormenting people like Lady Dedlock, Mr. George, and Hortense. He is killed by Hortense.

Mr. Turveydrop

Mr. Turveydrop is the model of Deportment, a fat old gentleman who dresses in Regency style. He makes his son Prince support him, so he will have time to be “greatly admired.”

Prince Turveydrop

Prince Turveydrop is Caddy Jellyby’s fiancé and then husband, whom she met when she took dance lessons at his academy. He is overworked by his selfish father and cannot read. When he becomes lame, Caddy takes over running the academy.

Mr. Vholes

Mr. Vholes is the bloodsucking lawyer who preys on Richard Carstone.

Allan Woodcourt

Allan Woodcourt is the benevolent doctor who treats the poor and falls in love with Esther. His patients include Nemo, Miss Flite, Caddy, Jenny, and Jo. He goes to sea to get money so he can marry, but is in a shipwreck and becomes a hero. Mr. Jarndyce helps him get a job and house in Yorkshire so he can marry Esther.

Mrs. Woodcourt

Mrs. Woodcourt is a fanatic about her son’s Welsh pedigree and honor. She opposes the match with Esther at first until she gets to know her.

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