Spontaneous Combustion

Today’s Royal Mail post brought the probate grant documentation. I will begin the work of collecting and distributing the assets next week.

This afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2022/03/25/a-knights-tale-118-the-long-walk-begins/

Later I scanned the next four of Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations to ‘Bleak House’

‘Rolling up the slip of paper, Mr Guppy proceeds’

‘Mr Jellyby groaned, and laid his head against the wall again’

‘ He went bareheaded against the rain’

‘O Horror, he IS here!’ depicts the discovery of an incident of spontaneous combustion.

‘One of the true believers in spontaneous combustion was Charles Dickens, who even killed off Krook, the alcoholic rag dealer in Bleak House, by means of a fire that left nothing of the old man except an object looking like a “small charred and broken log of wood.” Dickens had read everything he could find on the subject and was convinced that its veracity had been proved. His description of the demise of Krook was based closely on that of an Italian aristocrat, Countess Cornelia di Bandi, who was consumed by a fireball in her bedroom. Her case was reported in 1731 by a clergyman called Giuseppe Bianchini, and subsequently translated by a famous Italian poet and Fellow of the Royal Society, Paolo Rolli,’ whose version appears in full at https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/564288/charles-dickens-bleak-house-spontaneous-combustion-death

Dickens’s description follows that of Rolli to the letter.

Ian rejoined us this afternoon. Jackie produced tasty liver and bacon casserole; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots; and firm Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli with which she and Ian drank Hoegaarden, Becky drank Zesty, and I drank more of the Tulga.


  1. More evocative illustrations and interesting information about Dickens and spontaneous combustion. I think Mulder may have told Scully about some of it. ?

  2. I think that Dickens, like Emile Zola, used to keep newspaper cuttings of events such as SHC, so that he could argue the point more easily with detractors. You don’t seem to hear so much of it, nowadays. I wonder if that is connected with the drop in the number of cigarette smokers.

  3. There was an episode of NCIS that focused on spontaneous combustion. In the end, the patient thought to have expired in such a way was found to have been murdered to cover up a botched surgery. His surgeon had created a time fuse from a lit cigarette, then placed the cigarette next to him. She disconnected his oxygen and somehow inserted the tube into his body — can’t remember the details, but in a few minutes: BOOM!

  4. Dickens need not have fretted for his depiction of Krook’s end, yet he seems to have done his research. Ever the master, Keeping has captured the incident exceedingly well. The tortuous, bareheaded walk against the rain has been illustrated beautifully.

  5. The details in Mr. Keeping’s art always intrigues me and keeps me pouring over it! Thanks for sharing these illustrations, Derrick!
    Interesting about Dickens and spontaneous combustion! As a kid, the first time I heard about it I was like, “Say what?!?!” 😮 Ka-Boom! 🙂
    I saw a cartoon of two women looking at a pile of ashes, and smoke, in a recliner…A pair of men’s shoes on the floor in front of the chair. The first woman says to the second woman, “That’s the first time my husband’s ever done anything spontaneous.” 😉 😀
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  6. When I go, combustion might be the cheapest way. On the other hand, I’d miss the broccoli and cauliflower which we’ll be enjoying ourselves in a short while. (Aside: 23f now but wind chill makes it feel like 13f…all I can say about the weather is f it…)

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