Bleak House: Chapter 39
Summary of Chapter XXXIX: Attorney and Client
This chapter gives a blow by blow account of Richard’s visit to his attorney Vholes, showing how he plays on the young man’s weakness to keep him hooked on the case.
Richard is full of despair at nothing happening in the case, and now it is the long vacation. Vholes tries to convince him that something is happening and that he is keeping an eye on his interests, not even going on vacation himself. He says, “the wheel is going round” (p. 417). He convinces Richard that Mr. Jarndyce is his enemy, and that it was wise to take a separate attorney. It is again mentioned that Skimpole got a commission for finding Richard as a client for Vholes.
Guppy and Weevle go to Krook’s shop to collect Tony’s things and there they see the Smallweeds dirty and going through Krook’s junk looking for something valuable. No one knows for sure whether the letters of Hawdon were burned up with the body. The evil cat, Lady Jane, “Almost looks as if she was Krook” (p. 425). Tulkinghorn is there and asks to speak to Guppy, whom he intimidates.
Commentary on Chapter XXXIX
It seems that many people are looking for the missing letters from Lady Dedlock to Hawdon in hopes of using them to extort money or create scandal. Tulkinghorn is digging around as well. He puts Guppy in his place as small fry.
Vholes is one of the dozens of bloodsucker lawyers making a living off Jarndyce and Jarndyce. It is mentioned in the beginning that 70, 000 pounds has so far been spent on court costs. One wonders if there could possibly be anything left.
Weevle sees Richard come out of Vholes’s office and mentions that “there’s combustion going on there . . . smouldering combustion,” that means he is heading towards Krook’s combustion (p. 422). Richard’s heart is “heavy with corroding care, suspense, distrust, and doubt” because he is “fighting with shadows and being defeated by them” (421). Vholes knows how to give him just enough hope to keep him going.