Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 42 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr. Tulkinghorn returns to London the next day and makes his way through the hot city to Lincoln’s Inn and his apartment. When he arrives, he finds Mr. Snagsby in the hall and asks the stationer what he wants. Mr. Snagsby meekly explains that Mademoiselle Hortense has been hanging around the shop because Mr. Tulkinghorn will not see her. She wants Mr. Snagsby to make her an appointment with the lawyer. Mr. Snagsby complains that this has made Mrs. Snagsby very jealous and has made the neighbors talk and caused a great deal of trouble at home.
Mademoiselle Hortense seems to think that Mr. Snagsby has influence with Mr. Tulkinghorn, although he does not really. True to character, Mrs. Snagsby is paranoid and assumes that Mr. Snagsby and Mademoiselle Hortense are having an affair.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Tulkinghorn does not know what Mademoiselle Hortense wants and thinks she might be mad. He tells Mr. Snagsby to send her to him the next time she comes. Mr. Snagsby leaves satisfied, and Mr. Tulkinghorn is about to go to his cellar when there is a knock at his door. Mademoiselle Hortense barges into the room. Mr. Tulkinghorn finds that she puts him on edge; her movements are very sharp and erratic.
Mademoiselle Hortense is a very intense woman, and Mr. Snagsby’s assertion that she is mad seems to be correct. She is prepared to go to great lengths to get her way.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mademoiselle Hortense claims that Mr. Tulkinghorn has used her. She came to him expecting revenge against Lady Dedlock and instead he used her to settle a bet. She begs him to use her to destroy Lady Dedlock or to find her a new service position. She throws the money that he gave her back at him and says that she does not need it because she is “rich in hate.”
Mr. Tulkinghorn has not told Mademoiselle Hortense why she was brought to his room wearing Lady Dedlock’s dress. Mr. Tulkinghorn only told her that she was there to settle a bet—he has not revealed his suspicions about Lady Dedlock’s secret to her. Mademoiselle Hortense is obsessed with Lady Dedlock and intent on destroying her.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Tulkinghorn sneers at her and tells her that if she ever comes to him again, or goes to Mr. Snagsby’s, he will have her thrown in jail. Mademoiselle Hortense spits back that she dares him to try and raves at him until he successfully forces her out. When she is gone, he perches in his usual chair beneath the pointing figure of Allegory.
Mr. Tulkinghorn is not afraid of Mademoiselle Hortense because he feels he has the law on his side. He underestimates Mademoiselle Hortense’s madness, however, and the lengths she will go to have her way. The image of Allegory suspended over the lawyer’s head, which has cropped up several times throughout the novel, seems to spell doom.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
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