Bleak House (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Bleak House (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

by Charles Dickens, Tatiana M. Holway

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Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.


Often considered Charles Dickens’s masterpiece, Bleak House blends together several literary genres—detective fiction, romance, melodrama, and satire—to create an unforgettable portrait of the decay and corruption at the heart of English law and society in the Victorian era.

Opening in the swirling mists of London, the novel revolves around a court case that has dragged on for decades—the infamous Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs. As Dickens takes us through the case’s history, he presents a cast of characters as idiosyncratic and memorable as any he ever created, including the beautiful Lady Dedlock, who hides a shocking secret about an illegitimate child and a long-lost love; Mr. Bucket, one of the first detectives to appear in English fiction; and the hilarious Mrs. Jellyby, whose endless philanthropy has left her utterly unconcerned about her own family.

As a question of inheritance becomes a question of murder, the novel’s heroine, Esther Summerson, struggles to discover the truth about her birth and her unknown mother’s tragic life. Can the resilience of her love transform a bleak house? And—more devastatingly—will justice prevail?


Tatiana M. Holway received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. A specialist in Victorian literature and society, she has published a number of articles on Dickens and has taught at a variety of undergraduate institutions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781411431843
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 912
Sales rank: 76,384
File size: 15 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is probably the greatest novelist England has ever produced, the author of such well-known classics as A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. His innate comic genius and shrewd depictions of Victorian life — along with his indelible characters — have made his books beloved by readers the world over.

Date of Birth:

February 7, 1812

Date of Death:

June 18, 1870

Place of Birth:

Portsmouth, England

Place of Death:

Gad's Hill, Kent, England


Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington

Read an Excerpt

From Tatiana M. Holway’s Introduction to Bleak House

“‘What do you think of Bleak House?’ is a question which everybody has heard propounded within the last few weeks, when this serial was drawing towards its conclusion; and which, when the work was actually closed, formed, for its own season, as regular a portion of miscellaneous chitchat as ‘How are you?’”


So began a review of Dickens’s ninth novel, commenting on the commentary Bleak House was generating and attesting, in this way, not just to the popularity of the writer but, even more, to the supra-literary status of his works. “His current story was really a topic of the day,” a reviewer later reminisced; “it seemed something almost akin to politics and news—as if it belonged not so much to literature as to events.” There was a difference, though: in the serial form in which Dickens’s novels were originally published, the topic of the day stretched on for many, many weeks and months, and with most of them being published in nineteen monthly numbers, these works were before the public for over a year and a half.


By the time the serialization of Bleak House, in September of 1853, Dickens had been publishing prodigiously for seventeen years, and his continuous, unprecedented popularity was itself a “regular . . . portion” of contemporary criticism. From the day that “‘Boz’ first carried away the prize of popular applause . . . by the publication of the unrivaled Pickwick . . . he has had no equal in the favor of the reading public,” another review of Bleak House began. Other Victorian writers could sell more books: G. M. Reynolds, for one, whose career began with a plagiarism of The Pickwick Papers, far surpassed Dickens in sales of his sensational series on The Mysteries of London (1845–1855). But Dickens sold extraordinarily well: “I believe I have never had so many readers as in this book,” he remarked in the preface to Bleak House. And these readers were confined to no class. Dickens was a fixture at “every fireside in the kingdom.” When it came to Bleak House —“To ‘recommend’ it would be superfluous. Who will not read it?”


Such a popular novel “is, to a certain extent, independent of criticism,” yet another reviewer asserted, effectively throwing up his hands. Nonetheless, critics had to say something, and what they said was quite mixed. There was censure: “Bleak House is, even more than any of its predecessors, chargeable not simply with faults, but absolute want of construction.” There was praise: Bleak House is “the greatest, the least faulty, the most beautiful of all the works which the pen of Dickens has given to the world.” Most readers of Dickens had long agreed that “the delineation of character is his forte,” but whether the characters of Bleak House were “life-like” or “contrived,” “truthful” or “exaggerated” was another matter. So, too, was the plot: in this regard, the novel represented either “an important advance on anything that we recollect in our author’s previous works” or, quite simply, a “failure.” In short, there may have been a great deal of talk about Bleak House, but there was little consensus in what critics said about Bleak House.


Such controversy is notable in itself. Although Dickens’s reputation among critics had fluctuated somewhat, especially in the 1840s, never before had assessments of his work been so conflicting. Nor had derogatory commentary been so pointed. Going beyond the “merits” and “defects” of the work—which was, after all, not exempt from such judgments—criticism of Bleak House became criticism of the author, whose “usefulness, instructiveness, and value” were coming to be increasingly questioned and whose very popularity was becoming grounds for alarm. “Author and public react on one another,” another critic began; where “truth of nature and sobriety of thought are largely sacrificed to mannerism and point,” the effect was not good. Within a few years, Dickens’s reputation among critics—though not his sales—would take an even more pronounced turn for the worse.


Now, though, we bask in Bleak House. Resurrected by a series of influential twentieth-century readers, such as George Orwell and Edmund Wilson, Bleak House has come, once again, to be a “regular portion” of literary inquiry, its interest sustained and augmented by the many modes of reading we have available to us, both within academic institutions and without. In the last twenty-five years, more than four hundred studies of one form or another have been devoted to Bleak House, and, although disagreements certainly persist, Dickens’s most ambitious novel has come to be widely regarded as his most accomplished one, too. Still, the question of what he accomplished in Bleak House remains worth asking, however partial and provisional the answers may be.


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Bleak House (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 252 reviews.
jmh23 More than 1 year ago
Take it from a person who has read alot of Dickens: "Bleak House" is Dickens at his finest. From the sweeping Chancery case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce and the epic struggle of all of those blighted by the case's corrupting touch to the shocking revelation of Esther's true pedigree, this novel entertains, enlightens, engrosses, and enriches the reader. Deeply evocative, this hefty novel, like so many other gargantuan tomes (e.g. War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged, The Brothers Karamazov, etc) has wisely been kept, surviving the ages for new generations to enjoy and revere. I highly recommend "Bleak House!" P.S. My review was kind enough to leave out major plot points - why can't other people do that? - but this is really a slammer towards Barnes and Noble. To my great dismay, the back cover of your edition ruined the climax and denouement of several major plot lines in this book. Maybe next time you should actually increase intrigue in the book - like a good cover synopsis is supposed to do - instead of telling the story. Everyone who reads this novel has read books before, and I think 99% of the population can pretty much figure out one major plot line given away by the synopsis - or should I say spoiler - you have so fittingly placed on the back cover. If I wanted to find the plot line to "Bleak House" in three seconds, I would have bought your Sparknotes product for this book and not spent 4 weeks arduously reading, yet savoring, every one of Dickens well-placed, well-selected words!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Bleak House' is, alas, one of those books by Dickens that few people ever read because of its great length, which is certainly a metaphor for the interminable estate lawsuit that forms one of the major themes. However, Dickens' fluid writing style makes it quite an easy read (one day I was able to cover almost 100 pages), full of rich description, wonderful humor, pointed opinion about the English social and legal systems, and of course a myriad of those dotty denizens with imaginatively colorful names that Dickens is so famous for (Lord and Lady Dedlock, Mr. Krook, Mr. Turveydrop, Miss Flite). There are elements of a number of his other works here -- the distressed 'Oliver Twist' children, the 'David Copperfield' transplanted orphans, the hopes for good fortune of 'Great Expectations'. The reader also needs to be patient with the atmosphere of fog and murk, both within the setting in the Court of Chancery (among other places) and also concealing the secrets of plot and character that lurk in shadow for a while (shadows, some with symbolic color, play a role all their own) and pop up suddenly into the light at different times throughout the book. If you would know the mature Dickens, this is a definitive book. This fine Barnes & Noble edition is a great advantage to modern American readers because of the many excerpts of early newpaper reviews and of literary criticism, as well as a large number of footnotes and endnotes, so the reader should have at least two bookmarks handy. The average reader who is not a proofreader (as this reviewer is) should be able to overlook the numerous typos and loose periods scattered about in the middle of sentences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bleak house is a masterful mystery but this version has nonsense words not in the original. I will delete it because it is unreadable in this format.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are many editions of this classic Dickensian work, but if you're interested in reading BLEAK HOUSE¿in fact, if you're interested in reading any of the classics of the 18th and 19th centuries¿I strongly recommend looking at the Barnes & Noble Classics Series. Physically, the covers are heavy with a satin finish for a good grip, the bindings are strong, the paper is of a good weight, and the quality of the typesetting is excellent (no noted typos in 800+ pages). For editorial content, I give them top marks the introduction was educational, the footnotes provide immediate explanation of the odd Victorian word or phrase, the end-notes add a great deal of context for the more curious reader, the period woodcuts are clear and often humorous, and this title also has a London map, a Dickensian timeline, and a Dramatis Personae. My only wish is that it had a couple of ribbon bookmarks, though I've supplied my own without trouble. As for the novel itself, it's one of Dickens' darkest books, if not the darkest. The satire is sharp, the humor is dry, the characters are exceedingly memorable. Some might find the character of Esther Summerson a bit too Pollyannish, but I think her first-person narrative brings a welcome change from the starker tone of the third-person/present-tense omniscient who relates the other parts of the story. Moreover, I find that while Esther starts out quite too good to be true, she undergoes a subtle but consistently discernable transformation from girl to woman, precipitated by her situation, an illness, and the discovery of her own personal history. Long? Yes, it's a long book. And if you haven't read any Victorian fiction, you might want to start with something a little shorter. However, though there is a good bit of bleakness in Bleak House, it's far and away a brighter, more cheerful book than Thomas Hardy's works, so take that into account.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book - not as slow as some other Dickens stories. It is acutally my favorite Dickens book - great story line. Warning - this is a DRM book, so it cannot be saved to Calibre on a computer so that it will open. I like to back up my favorite books after I purchase them, and you are unable to with this version.
TedK More than 1 year ago
I have acquired the habit of reading a classic every third or fourth novel I read. Bleak House was the best novel that I have read in a long time, beating out Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner which I liked immensely. I liked the subtle humor in it as well as the outrageous depiction of some of the key characters that were undoubtedly based on people that Dickens knew. The original illustrations were marvelous. My only negative comment has to do with the introduction written by a scholar who is an expert in Victorian literature, and I would recommend skipping it because it is largley incoherent.
Beviereads More than 1 year ago
Could not lay this book down....Dickens was a writing genius!!!!!!! Not for the faint of heart.... a pretty accurate depiction of humanity......not to far off the mark of life in todays world....just the fashions have changed...and some of the living conditions.
Brenna Fischer More than 1 year ago
A wonderful version with beautiful pictures. I doubt there is a better version of Bleak House.
Shaday09 More than 1 year ago
Bleak House by Charles Dickens is one of the BBC's top 100 books to read.I am glad I waited till now to read this novel, because I think I would have been lost if I attempted this book in middle school or high school. There are many major characters; Harold Skimpole is my favorite. However, there are many more minor characters throughout the novel; therefore, it can be difficult for a reader to keep a grasp on everyone. Esther Summerson is the main character of the novel and the mystery that surrounds her life and identity is the meat of this story. Definitely another long book that I had to put down and pick up again several times while I was reading this novel. Readers are thrown into copious amounts of storylines that link together to main conflict of the book whicj is the investigation into Lady Dedlock's past. This is a novel that has a combination of murder, compassion and mystery that can keep readers engaged for the 880 pages of the story (with only a few lulls). I probably would never read this book again, but would definitely recommend it to those whom can appreciate tons of foreshadowing that makes a reader postulate about the storylines and the characters past and their futures.
Nyota24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I smiled when I saw that one reviewer was assigned this book in law school. I wish we had been assigned it in Jurisprudence. As it is, however, I was assigned Bleak House as an English major and only finished it in the BookCrossing readalong just recently. It does start slowly, but I was easily pulled along by Dickens's vivid settings and his wonderful cast of characters. The nasty little Mr. Smallweed and the appearance of Mr. Bucket (Columbo's literary ancestor) were special highlights for me.
jaimjane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I read this after I saw the series starring Gillian Anderson. This helped me follow the plotline a little better. It is true that there is an amazingly large cast of characters and many twists and turns throughout this complex story. But the heavy detail made everyone so real and alive. I wanted to live at Bleak House! As usual, the book is much better than the T.V. series as good as that was.
Zommbie1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book could have used a good editor. Not sure what all the characters "job" was. Part of me wonders if I am just looking at it with my modern eyes and I want resolution much faster but at the same time there were parts where I was just really lost. I did feel for the characters though.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
2012 being the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, last December I decided to make reading Dickens, in its many forms, my 2012 reading goal. I started my journey with his mammoth Bleak House based on the recommendation of my LT friend (and Dickens lover) LizzieD. The only other Dickens I read was in high school when I was assigned Great Expectations and that was eons ago. Although the first bit of the book was slow going as the author set up the story, it takes off after that and I could hardly put it down until some 900 pages later, when I finished the final chapter. It was quite a ride.With a cast of thousands, this book is a celebration of Dickens immense characterization skills. Just the coining of the names is a feat to behold: Harold Skimpole, Grandfather Smallweed, Mr. Vholes, Mr. Turveydrop and Mrs. Pardiggle to name a few. Immediately you begin to imagine a picture in your mind that Dickens then quickly fleshes out.. The names are just the jumping off point for the characterizations themselves. Harold Skimpole, for instance, cons others into settling his debts and, basically, supporting him in one way or another:¿For he must confess to two of the oldest infirmities in the world: one was that he had no idea of time, the other that he had no idea of money. In consequence of which he never kept an appointment, never could transact any business, and never knew the value of anything.¿He frequently had to remind others that he was merely ¿a child,¿ and therefore couldn¿t be expected to work or make money in any way. His freeloading somehow never resonates with his friends, who are continually taken advantage of. At the end of the story he finally gets his comeuppance to the cheers of every reader, I¿m sure.And that¿s just the portrayal of one character in a book that is loaded with complex, interesting, and not always likable, characters and one of the things I liked best about the novel.The main theme of the book is the law, in the form of the British Court of Chancery, the slow moving behemoth that ties up people¿s lives and fortunes and Dickens skewers the Court from every angle. The case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce impacts and has far-reaching effects on almost all of the main characters and has languished for years, chewing up currency at a wild rate. The plight of the poor is illustrated and the failure of the English society to intervene, which is pretty standard Dickens narrative, is depicted painstakingly:¿Jo lives---that is to say, Jo has not yet died---in a ruinous place known to the like of him by the name Tom-all-Alone¿s. It is a black, dilapidated street, avoided by all decent people, where the crazy houses were seized upon, when their decay was far adevanced by some bold vagrants who after establishing their own possession took to letting them out in lodgings. Now, these tumbling tenements contain, by night, a swarm of misery. As on the ruined human wretch vermin parasites appear, so these ruined shelters have bred a crowd of foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps in walls and boards; and coils itself to sleep, in maggot numbers, where the rain drips in; and comes and goes, fetching and carrying fever and sowing more evil in its every footprint.¿Plot? You mean plots, don¿t you? Plots, sub-plots galore, all told through the most engaging dialogue and an interesting narrative fashion. The story is told partly through a first person narrator, Esther Summerson, the book¿s heroine looking back at her life and partly through a third person omniscient narrator.Don¿t wait as long as I did to read Dickens. And Bleak House is a great place to start.
bacillicide on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Charles Dickens is a genius with his cast. Another thing I find really enjoyable about his work is he has a way of making you assume things that aren't true, to the point you don't even question them, which makes for good plot twists.I think this is my favorite Charles Dickens novel (though to be fair, this is only my second novel) because I adore Esther and Woodcourt. I spent the majority of the book practically aching for them to be together, which is a feeling I don't get in a lot of "modern" or "contemporary" romances.
jandj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I agree with Geoffrey Tillotson that "Bleak House is, all told, the finest literary work the nineteenth century produced in England".
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One of the best books I had read. Simply amazing!
raoulOH More than 1 year ago
Intricately nuanced characters, poignant descriptions, narration from two points of view, and a plot covering a broad sweep of Victorian England. Dickens' greatness comes through on every page. Barnes and Noble Classics annotation in Nook Book is thorough, with easy one touch assess to each note, and invaluable to the reading experience.
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The free one with one 5 star review has very few typos. Very easy to read.
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