Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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A proud, strong, and determined woman, Lady Dedlock is the wife of Sir Leicester Dedlock and the mother of Esther Summerson. Lady Dedlock is not from a noble family but has used her fashionable image to progress socially and attract the attention of Sir Leicester, an aristocrat who is hopelessly in love with her. Before her marriage, though, Lady Dedlock gave birth to Esther in secret. She is deeply ashamed of the fact that she fell pregnant outside of wedlock, and despite her public image of indifference to scandal and haughty disdain for anyone who gossips about her, she truly feels that she deserves to be punished for the birth of her illegitimate child, whom she thinks has died at birth. Before her marriage to Sir Leicester, Lady Dedlock was in love with Captain Hawdon, with whom she conceived Esther. Despite her marriage, and her husband’s adoration, Lady Dedlock still cares deeply for the Captain; she visits his grave after his death and chooses this place to die after her secret is discovered and she faces public ruin. Lady Dedlock is excellent at controlling her emotions and maintaining a cold mask, which suggests that she is bored with everyone and everything. However, underneath, she is passionate and loving woman who has only learned how to repress her feelings and does not do so naturally. She is devastated when she discovers Esther’s existence and realizes that because of her reputation, she may never be openly affectionate with her daughter. Sir Leicester’s lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn, persecutes Lady Dedlock throughout the novel. Mr. Tulkinghorn seeks power over Lady Dedlock and wishes to control her because he knows her secret. Although he does succeed in eventually driving Lady Dedlock is driven to despair and out of her home, she does not let him see that his threats have affected her. She is committed to her husband and cares deeply about his wellbeing. Her concern about her secret being made publicly is more for his sake than for her own.

Lady Dedlock Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below are all either spoken by Lady Dedlock or refer to Lady Dedlock. 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 2 Quotes

Sir Leicester Dedlock is only a baronet, but there is no mightier baronet than he. His family is as old as the hills, and infinitely more respectable. He has a general opinion that the world might get on without hills, but would be done up without Dedlocks. He would on the whole admit Nature to be a good idea (a little low, perhaps, when not enclosed with a park-fence), but an idea dependent for its execution on your great county families.

Related Characters: Lady Dedlock, Sir Leicester Dedlock
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

A whisper still goes about, that she had not even family; howbeit, Sir Leicester had so much family that perhaps he had enough, and could dispense with any more. But she had beauty, pride, ambition, insolent resolve, and sense enough to portion out a legion of fine ladies. Wealth and station, added to these, soon floated her upward; and for years, now, my Lady Dedlock has been at the center of the fashionable intelligence.

Related Characters: Lady Dedlock, Sir Leicester Dedlock
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

‘Submission, self-denial, diligent work, are the preparations for a life begun with such a shadow on it. You are different from other children, Esther, because you were not born, like them, in common sinfulness and wrath. You are set apart.’

Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

What connection can there be, between the place in Lincolnshire, the house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabouts of Jo the outlaw with the broom, who had that distant ray of light upon him when he swept the churchyard step? What connection can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs, have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together! Jo sweeps his crossing all day long, unconscious of the link, if any link there be. He sums up his mental condition, when asked a question, by replying that he ‘don’t know nothink.’

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Lady Dedlock, Sir Leicester Dedlock
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

Even in the thinking of her endurance, she drew her habitual air of proud indifference about her like a veil, though she soon cast it off again.
‘I must keep this secret, if by any means it can be kept, not wholly for myself. I have a husband, wretched and dishonoring creature that I am!’

Related Characters: Esther Summerson (speaker), Lady Dedlock (speaker), Sir Leicester Dedlock, Captain Hawdon / Nemo
Page Number: 436
Explanation and Analysis:

‘I dread one person very much.’
‘An enemy?’
‘Not a friend. One who is too passionless to be either. He is Sir Leicester Dedlock’s lawyer; mechanically faithful without attachment, and very jealous of the profit, privilege, and reputation of being master of the mysteries of great houses.’

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 437
Explanation and Analysis:

‘I am resolved. I have long outbidden folly with folly, pride with pride, scorn with scorn, insolence with insolence, and have outlived many vanities with many more. I will outlive this danger, and outdie it, if I can. It has closed around me, almost as awfully as if these woods of Chesney Wold had closed around the house; but my course through it is the same. I have but one: I can have but one.’

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 437-438
Explanation and Analysis:

The way was paved here, like the terrace overhead, and my footsteps from being noiseless made an echoing sound upon the flags. Stopping to look at nothing, but seeing all I did see as I went, I was passing quickly on, and in a few moments should have passed the lighted window, when my echoing footsteps brought it suddenly into my mind that there was a dreadful truth in the legend of the Ghost’s Walk; that it was I, who was to bring calamity upon the stately house; and that my warning feet were haunting it even then.

Related Characters: Esther Summerson (speaker), Lady Dedlock, Sir Leicester Dedlock
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 440
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 54 Quotes

Heaven knows what he sees. The green, green woods of Chesney Wold, the noble house, the pictures of his forefathers, strangers defacing them, officers of police coarsely handling his most precious heirlooms, thousands of fingers pointing at him, thousands of faces sneering at him. But if such shadows flit before him to his bewilderment, there is one other shadow which he can name with something like distinctness even yet, and to which alone he addresses his tearing of his white hair, and his extended arms.

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 629-630
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lady Dedlock Character Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the character Lady Dedlock appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
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Lady Dedlock , a woman who is well known in fashionable circles, has returned to London after... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock is the wife of Sir Leicester Dedlock, a baronet from a stately line of English... (full context)
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Sir Leicester is 20 years older than Lady Dedlock and married for love rather than status; it is rumored that Lady Dedlock is not... (full context)
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Although her youthful beauty has faded, Lady Dedlock is still an attractive woman, but she seems bored and disinterested in life. She has... (full context)
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...looks like “Mercury in powder”—shows a reserved-looking gentleman into the room where Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock are seated together. His name is Mr. Tulkinghorn, and he knows all the personal secrets... (full context)
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Like many people of her class, Lady Dedlock believes that she is very mysterious and that the people who serve and cater to... (full context)
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Mr. Tulkinghorn has come to update Lady Dedlock on Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which was in court that day and in which Lady Dedlock... (full context)
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Mr. Tulkinghorn begins to read the day’s report to Lady Dedlock but pauses when she asks him who wrote the document he’s reading from. Mr. Tulkinghorn... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...Lincolnshire, at Chesney Wold, the rain continues to fall. The house is quiet—Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock are in Paris—and the horses in the stables and the dogs in the kennels dream... (full context)
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...tour very boring, but Mr. Guppy suddenly livens up when he sees a portrait of Lady Dedlock . He seems very struck by the picture and remarks that he knows the lady’s... (full context)
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...Mrs. Rouncewell says it is not possible to disgrace the Dedlock name. She says that Lady Dedlock often hears the footsteps on the Ghost’s Walk, and that the sound is impossible to... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Mr. Boythorn has great respect for Lady Dedlock , however, and will say nothing against her. Mr. Boythorn asks if they have heard... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The weather has improved at Chesney Wold, and Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock are on their way back from Paris, where Lady Dedlock has been very bored. In... (full context)
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...in the trees seem to discuss their return. Mrs. Rouncewell and Rosa greet them, and Lady Dedlock is struck by Rosa’s beauty. She compliments the girl and Rosa is deeply flattered. She... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock ’s maid, a Frenchwoman named Mademoiselle Hortense, is jealous of the attention that Lady Dedlock... (full context)
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...Mr. Tulkinghorn’s room is always left unoccupied because he may arrive unannounced at any moment. Lady Dedlock watches out for him from the window and seems to anticipate his arrival. Mademoiselle Hortense... (full context)
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...feels should be hanged for making such a nuisance of himself. Inside, Mr. Tulkinghorn tells Lady Dedlock that he has found the person whose handwriting she enquired about, but that this person... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock and Mr. Tulkinghorn watch each other very intensely throughout this conversation. Lady Dedlock then retires... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Lady Dedlock is at Chesney Wold and is very restless. Sir Leicester is laid up with “the... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock has several parties to attend that night, and Sir Leicester is left alone with Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...the feud between the two men. Sir Leicester is in Lincolnshire, at Chesney Wold, but Lady Dedlock is away. Mr. Boythorn calls Sir Leicester all sorts of names but he speaks very... (full context)
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...tells them that he works at Chesney Wold and that he is engaged to Rosa, Lady Dedlock ’s maid. The house is quaint and the garden is very pretty. The walkway over... (full context)
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...French maid. A respectful hush falls over the congregation which signals that Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock have arrived. Esther looks up and catches Lady Dedlock’s eye. She is startled by the... (full context)
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Esther thinks that Lady Dedlock looks like her godmother, and, also, that she looks a little like herself. She is... (full context)
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...the doorway so that they can watch the rain. They are startled to discover that Lady Dedlock stands behind them, and that she, too, has taken refuge from the storm. (full context)
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Lady Dedlock warmly introduces herself to Mr. Jarndyce and asks after Richard, whom Mr. Jarndyce wrote to... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock talks with Mr. Jarndyce as the storm continues. She thinks that he may have known... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Esther does not see Lady Dedlock again while she is at Mr. Boythorn’s, except in church on Sundays. When she does... (full context)
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...greets Esther passionately and begs her to employ her as a maid. She complains that Lady Dedlock is too proud and that she would be honored to serve Esther. Esther is taken... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Lady Dedlock is very popular with these cousins. One evening, Sir Leicester, Lady Dedlock, and Volumnia are... (full context)
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That night, as Rosa helps her prepare for bed, Lady Dedlock asks her maid if she is in love with Watt. Rosa is startled and says... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock retreat to their townhouse, and Chesney Wold is occupied only by the ghosts of Dedlock... (full context)
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One evening, as Sir Leicester reads from the newspaper to Lady Dedlock , and Lady Dedlock grows bored with the political content of the article, their servant... (full context)
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...he works for Kenge and Carboy’s and that he has connections with Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Lady Dedlock ’s attention is piqued by this. He also informs her that he knows Mr. Tulkinghorn,... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock says that she has met the girl once. Mr. Guppy asks if Lady Dedlock noticed... (full context)
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...raise Esther and that this woman worked for a Miss Barbary. The color drains from Lady Dedlock ’s face, but she gives no other sign that she is interested. Mr. Guppy asks... (full context)
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...Miss Barbary admitted to his acquaintance that Esther’s real name is not Summerson, but Hawdon. Lady Dedlock utters an exclamation but recovers her poise quickly. A man of this name was found... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock observes Mr. Guppy with cold fury as he explains that a bundle of letters has... (full context)
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The house remains silent as Mr. Guppy goes downstairs to leave. In Lady Dedlock ’s room, however, she falls to her knees and tugs at her hair. Her mouth... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Mr. Guppy looks at the portrait of Lady Dedlock on Mr. Weevle’s wall. Mr. Weevle thinks it is strange that Krook chose midnight as... (full context)
Chapter 33
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Mr. Guppy pays a visit to Lady Dedlock . She seems, as usual, perfectly indifferent and disdainful of him. He tells her contritely... (full context)
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...to see the lawyer here and wishes him good day. Mr. Tulkinghorn, however, has met Lady Dedlock ’s eye and a predatory look passes over his face. The moment passes quickly, and... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...family history, she does not visit Chesney Wold because of her strange awkward feeling about Lady Dedlock . (full context)
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...she notices a figure coming towards her and is shocked to find that it is Lady Dedlock , who rushes towards her with a face full of concern. Esther is so startled... (full context)
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When Charley has left them, Lady Dedlock sits down beside Esther and Esther is amazed when Lady Dedlock produces the handkerchief, which... (full context)
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Esther asks if anyone knows the secret and Lady Dedlock replies that she dreads that one man does—a mercenary, unfeeling man who seeks nothing but... (full context)
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...her maid that she will go to bed early and, once in her room, reads Lady Dedlock ’s letter. It tells Esther what she already knows: that she was raised by her... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Esther does not tell Ada about her discovery out of respect for Lady Dedlock ’s secret. However, Ada is very curious about the mistress of Chesney Wold. Charley informs... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...quite right and bids them good day. Before he goes, he takes the picture of Lady Dedlock from the wall and admires it. As soon as he is gone, Mr. Guppy begin... (full context)
Chapter 40
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...and move. The illusion is very brief, however, and shadow falls swiftly in the gallery. Lady Dedlock ’s portrait sits in darkness. (full context)
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The Dedlocks arrive the next evening, with all the cousins in tow. Lady Dedlock is unwell and does not often join the cousins, who engage in many pleasurable pursuits... (full context)
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While Sir Leicester, Volumnia, and Lady Dedlock are in the library one evening, discussing the state of the country, Mr. Tulkinghorn is... (full context)
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...Rouncewell had help from his son, Watt, and Sir Leicester opens his mouth to address Lady Dedlock . She cuts him off and tells him that she will not dismiss Rosa, but... (full context)
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...Her husband, meanwhile, nearly died from grief. Mr. Tulkinghorn concludes his tale and hopes that Lady Dedlock , who remains frozen by the window, has not been upset by it. She does... (full context)
Chapter 41
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Mr. Tulkinghorn returns to his rooms and is very pleased with himself. Not long after, Lady Dedlock arrives and confronts the lawyer. She asks him how long he has known her story... (full context)
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Mr. Tulkinghorn tells Lady Dedlock that his story was hypothetical, but Lady Dedlock thanks him because she is now prepared... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock tells Mr. Tulkinghorn where her jewelry is kept and that she has a little money,... (full context)
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...way, but that it is not his fault, since she revealed her secret to him. Lady Dedlock rushes to the window and he seems concerned for a second that she will jump... (full context)
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...as this would destroy Sir Leicester, Mr. Tulkinghorn insists, and he wishes to prevent this. Lady Dedlock says that, if she leaves, this will be avoided, but Mr. Tulkinghorn says her flight... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock considers for a moment and Mr. Tulkinghorn presses her to agree. Lady Dedlock concedes and... (full context)
Chapter 42
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 43
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...greatly and invites Mr. Skimpole to visit Chesney Wold in future. Sir Leicester then gives Lady Dedlock ’s regards to Mr. Jarndyce and mentions that his Lady has told him that she... (full context)
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...for his guidance. Esther finds him in his office and asks him if he remembers Lady Dedlock ’s reference to her estranged sister when they were trapped in the rain together. Mr.... (full context)
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...day, Mr. Boythorn received a letter from her which ended the engagement. Esther confesses that Lady Dedlock is her mother. She is reassured by her guardian’s sympathetic reaction. He asks her to... (full context)
Chapter 44
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...of her mother’s fears about Mr. Tulkinghorn. Mr. Jarndyce knows who this is and feels Lady Dedlock is right to be concerned. Esther then tells him about Mr. Guppy—whom Mr. Jarndyce almost... (full context)
Chapter 48
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The Dedlocks are in London, and Lady Dedlock is in her sitting room with Rosa. She calls Rosa to her side and tells... (full context)
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Not long after this, Mr. Rouncewell arrives and Lady Dedlock informs him that he must take Rosa away because she is still in love with... (full context)
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Sir Leicester goes out on government business after dinner and Lady Dedlock is left alone. Mr. Tulkinghorn comes to see her and tells her that she has... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock understands that this is a warning to her, and that Mr. Tulkinghorn now intends to... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock leaves her home by the back door and takes the key from the servant who... (full context)
Chapter 52
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...that George has been arrested for Mr. Tulkinghorn’s murder. Esther is horrified when she remembers Lady Dedlock ’s hatred of the lawyer and rushes inside with Mr. Woodcourt to consult Mr. Jarndyce.... (full context)
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...too, both for George’s sake, but also because of Mr. Tulkinghorn’s relationship with her mother, Lady Dedlock . (full context)
Chapter 53
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...many in such a short amount of time. He opens it, reads the words “ Lady Dedlock ,” and is not surprised. Mr. Bucket enters the library and sees that Sir Leicester... (full context)
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...and discourses with one of the servants. He flatters the man and asks him if Lady Dedlock dines out often. He asks the man what his father did and then tells him... (full context)
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While they talk, Lady Dedlock returns and sweeps past Mr. Bucket towards the stairs. She briefly asks him if there... (full context)
Chapter 54
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...Sir Leicester arrives late and explains that he suffers from gout in times of stress. Lady Dedlock has not come down, and Sir Leicester thinks it best if they talk in private.... (full context)
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Mr. Bucket begins to speak of Lady Dedlock , and Sir Leicester furiously announces that he must have a good reason for this.... (full context)
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...He brings Mrs. Chadband forward and she scornfully tells Mr. Bucket that she helped raise Lady Dedlock ’s child, which her Ladyship’s sister took from her at birth. Mr. Bucket contemptuously suggests... (full context)
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...that she could follow him more easily. Mademoiselle Hortense spits upon the floor and calls Lady Dedlock an unclean woman. Mr. Bucket silences her and explains that she is under arrest. He... (full context)
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...these reports, Mr. Bucket concluded that Mademoiselle Hortense murdered Mr. Tulkinghorn in order to frame Lady Dedlock . Sir Leicester rises from his chair and swoons a little. Mr. Bucket passes him... (full context)
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...that Mademoiselle Hortense silenced the gun using curtain fabric from Chesney Wold, and that she, Lady Dedlock , and George all visited Mr. Tulkinghorn that night in a relatively short space of... (full context)
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...her away. She spits and swears and screams that she would love to claw at Lady Dedlock . Once they are out of the room, Sir Leicester falls to his knees and... (full context)
Chapter 55
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...and Mrs. Rouncewell says that she must go to Sir Leicester’s townhouse and speak to Lady Dedlock . Mrs. Bagnet accompanies her and drops her at the front door. Mrs. Rouncewell finds... (full context)
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Mrs. Rouncewell says that she has received a letter accusing Lady Dedlock . Although Mrs. Rouncewell does not believe it, she begs Lady Dedlock to reveal any... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock stands horrified and knows that her secret will soon be exposed. She thinks that she... (full context)
Chapter 56
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...Volumnia is wandering about when she stumbles Sir Leicester, face down on the library floor. Lady Dedlock ’s note still lies upon the table. Sir Leicester is not dead, but he seems... (full context)
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Sir Leicester begs to see Lady Dedlock . Mrs. Rouncewell fetches the letter upon the table without reading it and gives it... (full context)
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...the slate and Mr. Bucket immediately understands. He promises Sir Leicester that he will find Lady Dedlock and tells Mrs. Rouncewell that George is no longer a suspect and that she must... (full context)
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...the situation and says that he wishes to take Esther with him to track down Lady Dedlock . He shows Mr. Jarndyce the letter Lady Dedlock left, which he thinks is a... (full context)
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...places in London he knows where homeless and desperate people go and where among these Lady Dedlock is likely to venture. (full context)
Chapter 57
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...downstairs, still dazed and half asleep, and listens with horror as Mr. Bucket reads her Lady Dedlock ’s letter. She puts on warm clothes and follows Mr. Bucket outside where a carriage... (full context)
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At the station, another policeman writes up a description of Lady Dedlock and Esther confirms the likeness with her mother. It is already very late, and Esther... (full context)
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...establishment. Esther remains in the carriage, wrapped up against the cold. Mr. Bucket hears that Lady Dedlock has walked this way a few hours earlier and they drive on until they come... (full context)
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...that he told him to stay out of London because he knew too much about Lady Dedlock through Mr. Tulkinghorn. (full context)
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...but Jenny is not with them. Esther asks if they can tell her anything about Lady Dedlock —who Mr. Bucket says has been at their house recently—and Liz gives Esther a look... (full context)
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...husband answers unpleasantly that she has gone to “Lunnun.” Esther asks if Jenny left after Lady Dedlock ’s visit and they say yes. Lady Dedlock came to them to ask if the... (full context)
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...that it is time to go. As he leads her outside, he tells her that Lady Dedlock has given one of the brickmakers her watch. He knows this because the brickmaker has... (full context)
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...seems unsure of their route. He still hears from people that a woman dressed like Lady Dedlock has gone by, however. The next night, they stop at an inn run by a... (full context)
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...kindness towards her. They keep going for several more hours and find no trace of Lady Dedlock . Mr. Bucket seems to have lost the trail when, suddenly, he announces that they... (full context)
Chapter 58
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It has been publicly put about that Lady Dedlock has gone to Chesney Wold but, already, rumors fly all over London and discuss Lady... (full context)
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...Rouncewell, goes to him every now and then and expresses her concern. She fears that Lady Dedlock is dead and that the Dedlock name is on the verge of collapse. She has... (full context)
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...powers of speech or movement, that she must make it known that his feelings towards Lady Dedlock have not changed and that he still holds her in the highest regard. As it... (full context)
Chapter 59
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...handwriting—it is her mother’s. Esther reads the first part of the letter, which states that Lady Dedlock went to Bleak House to see if she could have one last glimpse of Esther... (full context)
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The next part of the letter is still in Lady Dedlock ’s hand, but the writing is shaky, as though she is tired. It says that... (full context)
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...should let her go. Esther runs to the woman and lifts her head. It is Lady Dedlock , who lies there dead, frozen in the snow. (full context)
Chapter 60
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Esther has a short illness after Lady Dedlock ’s death but recovers quickly. They remain in London, and Mr. Jarndyce says that they... (full context)
Chapter 66
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It is quiet down at Chesney Wold, and Lady Dedlock is buried in the family crypt. Sir Leicester is an invalid now and goes about... (full context)