Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Bleak House can help.
Krook, Mrs. Smallweed’s brother, is an old drunk who keeps a rag and bone shop in back street behind the court of Chancery. Krook is illiterate and cannot read the heaps of legal documents contained within the shop. He tries to teach himself to read by spelling out individual letters in chalk on the walls of the shop and asking people to read the words back to him. However, he never makes any real progress towards literacy and is constantly drunk on gin. Krook is a sinister and implicitly threatening old man. He keeps a bad-tempered cat who claws things on his command, and he spies upon his tenants and closely questions people who visit the shop. It is unclear how much Krook knows about the lawsuits and secrets which are contained in the documents that populate his shop, but he is clearly a greedy and miserly old man and wishes to keep these secrets to himself, and always to gather new ones, even if he does not understand what they mean. His proximity to the courthouse has earned him the nickname the “Lord Chancellor,” and he is a parody of the Chancery court and the confusing jumble of papers which the real Lord Chancellor presides over. The amount of gin that Krook drinks means that his breath is ripe with alcohol fumes, and he sees to steam at the mouth. This description ties in to the idea that Krook is a fairy tale villain, like a dragon or a wolf, which is he also associated with by his lodger Miss Flite, and that he unknowingly guards the treasure which reveals the key to Esther Summerson’s identity: the letters from her mother, Lady Dedlock, to her father, Captain Hawdon, who is also Krook’s lodger, Nemo. Krook is also associated with a dragon in the manner of his death; he spontaneously combusts, and Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle discover his ashes. This suggests that Krook’s insides catch on fire—that he is consumed from the inside out by a fire caused by the gin he drinks and perhaps his own smoldering greed.

Krook Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below are all either spoken by Krook or refer to Krook. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Wordsworth edition of Bleak House published in 1993.
Chapter 5 Quotes

A little way within the shop-door, lay heaps of old crackled parchment scrolls, and discolored and dog’s-eared law- papers […] One had only to fancy, as Richard whispered to Ada and me while we all stood looking in, that yonder bones in a corner, piled together and picked very clean, were the bones of clients, to make the picture complete.

Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 39 Quotes

They gradually discern the elder Mr Smallweed, seated in his chair upon the brink of a well or grave of waste paper; the virtuous Judy groping therein, like a female sexton; and Mrs Smallweed on the level ground in the vicinity, snowed up in a heap of paper fragments, print and manuscript, which would appear to be the accumulated compliments that have been sent flying at her in the course of the day. The whole party, Small included, are blackened with dust and dirt, and present a fiendish appearance not relieved by the general aspect of the room.

Page Number: 477
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF

Krook Character Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the character Krook appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...the court into a dingy street and stops outside a shop with the written sign “Krook, Rag and Bottle Warehouse.” Miss Flite leads them into the shop, which is cluttered with... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
At the back of the shop, they meet the proprietor, Krook, a scrawny old man whose breath seems to come out of his mouth like steam.... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Miss Flite unlocks the door to the stairs and tells Krook to go away; she is entertaining the wards of Jarndyce. Krook seems impressed by this... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...comes to an end. She cannot allow the birds to sing much, she says, because Krook’s cat wants to kill them and waits outside the door like a “wolf.” (full context)
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...to have sold his soul to the devil as she leads them back down into Krook’s shop. (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
They pass Krook as they move back through the shop and see him poring over some papers. He... (full context)
Chapter 10
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...Tulkinghorn asks where he can find Nemo, and Mr. Snagsby agrees to lead him to Krook’s shop, where Nemo lives. On the way, Mr. Snagsby tells Mr. Tulkinghorn that Nemo is... (full context)
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Tulkinghorn pretends to leave the street, but then turns back and enters Krook’s shop. Krook directs him to Nemo’s room and warns Mr. Tulkinghorn that Nemo is a... (full context)
Chapter 11
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Krook appears behind Mr. Tulkinghorn and asks what the matter is. He goes to fetch a... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Krook complains that Nemo owes him several weeks’ rent. The young surgeon says that he saw... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...took a liking to the man and insisted upon giving him work. Mr. Tulkinghorn asks Krook to look over the room for any important papers that Nemo may have kept, but... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...front of. They search the room and the chest and find nothing of value, before Krook sends Miss Flite to fetch the beadle. Mr. Tulkinghorn leaves to go home. (full context)
Chapter 14
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
As they arrive at Krook’s, Caddy tells Esther that the other lodger has died, and that Miss Flite has been... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Miss Flite is about to tell them the names of her birds, when she hears Krook outside the door. Mr. Jarndyce opens the door and finds Krook eavesdropping. He enters the... (full context)
Chapter 16
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...back. She gives him some money, and Jo leads her to Mr. Snagsby’s, then to Krook’s, and then on to the cemetery. The graveyard is blocked off by a locked iron... (full context)
Chapter 19
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
...Chancery Lane boils in the heat and fills up with stray dogs looking for shade. Krook sits outside of his shop and teaches himself to read on the pavement. (full context)
Chapter 20
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...Guppy suggests that Mr. Jobling should go to Mr. Snagsby for writing work and to Krook to rent a room, as he knows that Krook is looking for a lodger. Mr.... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...Jobling gratefully thanks Mr. Guppy and accepts his offer. Mr. Guppy tells Mr. Jobling that Krook’s previous lodger died in the room but Mr. Jobling seems unconcerned by this. Bart Smallweed... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Bart Smallweed leaves them, and Mr. Guppy and Mr. Jobling go on to Krook’s shop. They find Krook asleep in the shop, with a gin bottle beside him, reeking... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Krook shows Mr. Guppy and Mr. Jobling the room—Mr. Jobling assumes the false name, Mr. Weevle,... (full context)
Chapter 32
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...most of the lawyers’ offices are dark. In Cook’s Court, Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Perkins, Krook’s neighbors, gossip on a doorstep in the clammy air. At Krook’s shop, Mr. Weevle goes... (full context)
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...his room and complains that he cannot stand the place, with its morbid history and Krook lurking in the shop below. Mr. Guppy wants to know why Mr. Weevle was speaking... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...portrait of Lady Dedlock on Mr. Weevle’s wall. Mr. Weevle thinks it is strange that Krook chose midnight as the time to give him the letters as, by this time, Krook... (full context)
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...he found out about the letters and Mr. Weevle tells him that it was after Krook asked him to spell out “Hawdon” for him. Mr. Weevle’s plan is to bring Krook... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Guppy says that, if Krook detects the false letters, they will call his bluff because the letters are neither theirs... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Weevle muses on Krook’s strange habit of spelling out words. He will never learn to read, he thinks, but... (full context)
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Weevle goes down the stairs but, suddenly, charges back up. He cries that Krook is not there but that the air is thick with grease and smells like something... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...discovery, Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle rush out of the house and call for help. Krook has died from spontaneous combustion, a fiery death fit for the “Lord Chancellor.” (full context)
Chapter 33
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
An inquest will be held for Krook, just as an inquest was held for Nemo, and Krook’s death is also the talk... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...irritably decide on a story to tell at the inquest, which explains their presence in Krook’s shop, and Mr. Weevle says that he plans to leave his lodgings immediately. Mr. Guppy... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
...learn about the recent accident. Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle tell him that they discovered Krook. (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Mr. Smallweed tells them that Krook was Mrs. Smallweed’s brother, and that they have come to take possession of the shop.... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
The street is in a frenzy of excitement all day. A coffin is obtained for Krook, despite the manner of his death, and scientists, doctors, and journalists gather in the street,... (full context)
Chapter 39
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle discuss the Smallweed family; they are still in Krook’s shop and seem to be sifting through all the documents that the old man had... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
The street around Krook’s shop is a hive of gossip and activity and the pub nearby does a roaring... (full context)
Chapter 47
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...cannot eat much. Mr. Woodcourt is determined to find him a room and goes to Krook’s shop to find Miss Flite. He is told that she has moved to Mrs. Blinder’s.... (full context)
Chapter 54
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...himself and Sir Leicester seems amazed by this intrusion. Mr. Smallweed announces that his brother-in-law, Krook, had a bundle of letters from a lady named Honoria to a Captain Hawdon. Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 62
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...that Mr. Smallweed has found a will made out in the name of Jarndyce in Krook’s shop, and the old man slouches miserably in his chair and glares at Mr. Bucket.... (full context)