‘Bleak House’ Comes To The End

Last night I finished reading my Folio Society edition of ‘Bleak House’ By Charles Dickens.

First published in instalments from March 1852 to August 1853, this is a superb novel from a writer at the peak of his powers. As is my wont I will not provide details of the story which other readers may wish to discover for themselves, save to say that, through the interminable case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, it is a scathing attack on the Court of Chancery, but so much more besides. The scope and complexity of the author’s work reflects that of the legal system itself.

A host of brilliantly depicted characters thread their ways through the narrative in a more thoroughly composed manner than in any of his previous works. There is an abundance of Dickens’s wit and humour and both bucolic and sordid urban descriptions.

There is romance and mystery awaiting resolution at the end of the book, when, as usual, the concluding situations of the panoply of protagonists and supporting characters are strung together like neatly tied bundles of Chancery papers.

There are also desperately tragic lives hopelessly ruined by conditions of the day.

Christopher Hibbert’s introduction is as knowledgeable and informative as usual.

Before lunch I scanned the last four illustrations by the truly inimitable Charles Keeping.

In ‘ ‘I beg to lay the ouse, the business, and myself before Miss Summerson’ ‘ Keeping has suggested the gulf between the speaker and his audience both by the use of the space in the double spread, and by the expressions on the faces.

‘Even the clerks were laughing’ has its own story to tell.

‘The mausoleum in the park’ is suitably forbidding;

and ‘Bleak House’ Mark 2 quite the opposite.

Following Flo’s lead of transferring barrow loads of compost to the Rose Garden yesterday,

Jackie, who had cleaned out the water fountain, and I continued tidying the

said Garden, now featuring plentiful forget-me-nots and bluebells.

Later, Flo spread more compost on the Pond Bed.

(Yvonne, you need read no further)

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfectly cooked roast lamb dinner; complete with crisp Yorkshire pudding, sage and onion stuffing, and roast potatoes, including the sweet variety; crunchy carrots, firm broccoli, and tender cabbage; all with meaty gravy. Rice pudding laced with strawberry jam was to follow. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2019.

A Keeping Range

I felt so much better today that I was beginning to get itchy feet, especially when Jackie and Flo went for a shopping trip this afternoon. Common sense prevailed and I stayed at home and read four more chapters of ‘Bleak House’.

Earlier, I had posted https://derrickjknight.com/2022/04/06/a-knights-tale-123-nearing-leicester/

Later, I scanned the next set of Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations to Dickens’s novel.

‘Near journey’s end’ is startlingly accurate.

‘A very quiet night’ demonstrates the artist’s ease with architecture.

In ‘Mr Bucket takes Quebec and Malta on his knees’ the child’s expression displays her doubt about the unusual attention from a virtual stranger.

A mother’s tenderness is portrayed in ‘I used to lay my small namesake in her arms’

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie with sautéed potato topping; crunchy carrots, firm broccoli, and tender runner beans, followed by rice pudding which, having been left in my charge, needed a certain amount of revivification.

Probate Administration And Four More Chapters

With all three ladies having streaming head colds, no-one was going anywhere today.

This afternoon I scanned and e-mailed to the cemetery officials a copy of Mum’s grant of probate. Apparently this is necessary to have our mother’s name added to our father’s gravestone. I then focussed on completing a form for recovery of Jean Knight’s Premium Bonds, until I realised that I cannot do this until the Bank Account has been freed.

Checking the renewal of our home insurance policy was straightforward enough.

Next, I read four more chapters of Charles Dickens’s ‘Bleak House’ and scanned the relevant illustrations.

‘Mr Tulkinghorn, standing in the darkness opposite’

‘Sir Leicester finds the cousins useful’

‘Pacing her rooms, her figure twisted as if by pain’

‘She flings the sovereigns on the floor’

This evening, while the others grazed, Jackie and I dined on her delicious chicken and vegetable stewp with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.

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.

Inimitable

This afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2022/03/06/a-knights-tale-111-a-photographic-assignment/

Jackie is feeling rather better today, but we thought it wise to stay indoors.

I read more of ‘Bleak House’ and scanned another set of the inimitable Charles Keeping’s illustrations to my Folio Society edition.

‘Mr Snagsby at his door’

‘ ‘Don’t leave the cat there’ ‘

‘My Lady lounges’

‘I saw Mr Guppy looking up at me’

‘Old Mr Turveydrop, in the full lustre of his Deportment’

In the early days Charles Dickens wrote under the pen name of Boz, and facetiously signed his letters ‘The Inimitable Boz’. I had not known that when first applying that epithet to Charles Keeping.

This evening we dined on Red Chilli’s excellent takeaway fare. We both enjoyed Ponir Tikka starters, a plain paratha, and egg fried rice; my main course was tiger prawn dhansak while Jackie’s was chicken sag. I drank more of the Appassimento.

“It’s The Second Of March Today”

Another drizzle day, and Jackie’s cold, kept us inside today.

One of the consequences of retirement for me is that I often don’t know what the date is. That is my excuse for what follows, and I am sticking to it.

When I descended from our bedroom this morning I found this photograph had been moved from its shelf at the window and placed on the table between my chair and a sofa in the sitting room.

“What’s that doing there?” I asked Mrs Knight.

“It’s the second of March today”, was the smiling reply.

“Ah”, said I, rapidly realising that it was the 54th anniversary of our first wedding in 1968. Jackie won’t be well enough to dine out today, so we’ll have to take a rain check on that.

I also have the second one, on 17th October 2017, to remember. Life can become complicated.

This afternoon I began scanning the pages of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to Charles Dickens’s ‘Bleak House’.

The Frontispiece ‘Fog everywhere’ and the next two illustrations demonstrate Keeping’s masterful depiction of elemental precipitations.

‘That leaden-headed old obstruction, Temple Bar’ invites the viewer to peer into the fog.

‘The place in Lincolnshire left to the rain’ makes me wonder whether the artist was inspired for this image by the sight of his car wing mirror on a rainy day.

‘We drove through the dirtiest and darkest streets that ever were seen’

‘Nobody ever was in such a state of ink’

‘A large grey cat leapt on his shoulder’

I will comment on the book as soon as I have finished the task of scanning the rest of these pages, which I hope to achieve by the beginning of June.

Last Saturday, thinking she would be going to Elizabeth’s event without me on account of my indisposition, and that I would have wanted something bland left for me, Jackie had begun preparing a pot of chicken stewp. In fact I accompanied her to my sister’s and she retained the gentle meal for another occasion. Now she had a cold it was just the job for her. I was on jankers today and got off lightly because all I had to do was heat it up and prepare the crusty bread. I finished the Malbec that had been open for nearly a week. It was still drinkable.

A Touch Of The Sun

This morning I finished reading my Folio Society edition of ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.

I will adhere to my normal practice of not giving away the story, despite its great reputation. The book is very well crafted, displaying a number of developing relationships in a young man’s transition from humble origins to gentrification. There is plenty of humour in this otherwise tragic, yet romantic, tale. Two major characters are unforgettable, and “What larks” is a phrase still enjoyed. Dickens’s descriptive powers of place and scene are at their height. Much of the action is carried along at a fast pace; its dramatic opening and penultimate sequences are gripping.

Christopher Hibbert’s erudite introduction puts the novel into the context of the author’s life and work.

I scanned the last seven of Charles Keeping’s emotional, detailed, illustrations which demonstrate his mastery of line.

In ‘She withdrew her hands from the dish and fell back a step or two’ the artist faithfully portrays these hands as the author describes them.

‘I saw her running at me, shrieking, with a whirl of fire blazing all about her’

‘Mr Jaggers stood before the fire. Wemmick leaned back in his chair, staring at me’

‘I saw in his hand a stone hammer with a long heavy handle’

‘We went ahead among many skiff and wherries, briskly’

‘I laid my hand on his breast, and he put both his hands upon it’

‘What I had never felt before was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand’

Late in the afternoon the lingering pall draped over our land gave way to a sunny period, so we drove into the forest to enjoy it. Given the hour, we could take just one option before the light failed.

We settled on Highwood Lane in the north.

Ripples and reflections supplemented the stream running alongside;

smoke spiralled into the atmosphere redolent of burning leaves;

working horses some in rugs, were fed or rested.

I wandered about the woodland, so different from yesterday’s murky scenes. A touch of the sun makes all the difference.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away fare, with which Jackie finished the Chenin Blanc and I drank more of the Shiraz.

Focus On The Windscreen

Nick Hayter visited this morning to assess the post-refurbishment decorating work he is to undertake. We enjoyed his usual pleasant conversation.

The unconsolable skies shed continuous profuse tears throughout the afternoon, which we began with a trip to the Lymington Post Office collection office to claim a parcel undelivered because of a shortage of £2 in postage. The good news was that there was no queue. The bad news was that the office was closed. I took an alternative option which was to stick the extra postage on the back of their card and post it back to them.

We then drove into the forest to make

a record picture of the lake at Pilley which is avidly collecting more liquid sustenance. I chose not to walk round to the other side for that view since I was already feeling a drip.

While waiting for a train at the Lymington level crossing I had plenty of time to focus on the windscreen.

Perhaps it is the intensity; perhaps the consistently fast pace; perhaps the comparative shortness; perhaps the bloodthirstiness of the historical context of Charles Dickens’s ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ that renders it apparently the most widely read of the master’s novels, in which there is no room for his customary dry wit, and little for his comic turns.

Later this afternoon I finished reading the work which becomes impossible to put down; and scanned the last four of Charles Keeping’s perfectly matched illustrations to my Folio Society 1985 edition.

‘ ‘Hope has quite departed from my breast’ ‘

‘He spoke with a helpless look straying all around’

‘Miss Pross seized her round the waist and held her tight’

‘She kisses his lips; he kisses hers’

This evening we dined on double egg and chips with sausages and baked beans, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Comté Tolosan Rouge.

‘What Has Gone Wrong?’

This afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/12/29/a-knights-tale-84-charles-and-betty/

Afterwards, having read enough more of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, I scanned another five of Charles Keeping’s extremely expressive illustrations to this Dickens novel.

‘Father and son, looking silently on at the morning traffic’

‘ ‘How say you? Are they very like each other?’ ‘

‘Both resorted to the drinking-table without stint’

‘ ‘What has gone wrong?’ said Monsieur, calmly looking out’ gives the artist an opportunity to employ his device of sandwiching a slice of text between the bread of two parts of a picture, thus indicating the space between them.

‘The Marquis took a gentle little pinch of snuff’

Mat, Tess, and Poppy having returned to Sussex late this morning, the rest of us grazed this evening. Jackie and I enjoyed tempura prawns and her tasty savoury rice with a slice of Tess’s excellent Christmas cake. I drank Côtes de Gascogne Merlot-Tannat 2019.

The Sun Must Be Over The Yardarm

Elizabeth paid us a visit just as we were settling down with lunch and an antiques programme. She declined to join us but was happy to make herself a coffee while we turned off the TV and enjoyed a chat and an exchange of presents to be placed under our respective Christmas trees.

Afterwards I made a start on reading

This frontispiece, illustrated by the inimitable Charles Keeping, depicts ‘Carton stood over him with his hand in his breast’

The next three drawings show ‘A horse and rider came slowly through the eddying mist’;

‘ ‘I kiss your hand, miss’ ‘;

and ‘Madame Defarge said nothing when her lord came in’

This afternoon, while preparing tomorrow’s festive dinner, the Culinary Queen lost all track of time, and, thinking the sun must be over the yardarm,

brought me a glass of Lirac at ten past three.

Soon afterwards, Becky and Ian arrived. Later we were joined by Mat, Tess, and Poppy. We all dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away.