Bleak House: Chapter 42
Summary of Chapter XLII: In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Chambers
When Tulkinghorn returns to London, he meets Snagsby who complains that the Frenchwoman (Hortense) has been haunting his shop, and his wife is jealous. She will not go away. Tulkinghorn says to send her to him. He goes to his chambers where he prepares to get out his old wine.
The “feline” (p. 445) Hortense comes in and angrily demands Tulkinghorn find her a position. She accuses him of using him to catch Lady Dedlock; he had given her two sovereigns, but she flings them on the floor. She wants a job, either a position, or to be used to destroy Lady Dedlock.
Tulkinghorn threatens her with prison if she ever bothers him or Snagsby again. She dares him and leaves.
Commentary on Chapter XLII
Tension builds around Tulkinghorn. A lot of people hate him because he holds power over them: Lady Dedlock, Mr. George, and Hortense. It is implied he has already destroyed many, like Gridley. The figure of Allegory, the armed Roman painted on his ceiling, is always pointing at him in warning. It foreshadows ill for the lawyer.
When a servant is dismissed without references, it is difficult to get a new job. Hortense is described as a half-mad violent person, dismissed by Lady Dedlock for her unmanageable nature. She speaks in a “grinding manner” (p. 444) and confesses she is “rich in hate” (p. 446), and it seems that she made some kind of vow to ruin her former employer. She refuses Tulkinghorn’s two sovereigns because she wants a position, an income. Tulkinghorn thinks, “These women were created to give trouble, the whole earth over” (pp. 444-45).