Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Bleak House can help.
Miss Flite is a poor, mad old lady who rents a room above Krook’s shop and who spends her day awaiting a judgement on her Chancery suit in the courthouse. Miss Flite immediately takes an interest in Richard Carstone and Ada Clare because they are wards in Jarndyce and Jarndyce. She also becomes friends with Esther Summerson, their companion, as well as Mr. Jarndyce, their guardian. She is very close to a poor man called Gridley, who also has a case in Chancery and who, like Miss Flite, spends his days in the court. Miss Flite has gone mad while she waits for her verdict and believes that she is a very important person in the court. She is a kindly and affectionate woman, and her friends tolerate her delusions and humor her when she tells them that she expects a judgement very soon—as with all Chancery cases, it is unlikely that hers will ever be satisfactorily resolved. Miss Flite explains to her friends that her father, brother, and sister all went mad and died while they oversaw the lawsuit. She inherited the case from them, and though she resolved to stay out of it, she felt helplessly drawn to the court and eventually started going there almost every day. She believes that Chancery exercises a sinister magic force over its victims. Miss Flite’s story also foreshadows Richard’s descent into madness as he waits for a verdict in Jarndyce and Jarndyce. However, Miss Flite is often quite lucid in her madness and recognizes that Chancery suits send people mad because they force them to put their lives on hold. She keeps a number of caged birds in her room, which represent the hopes, dreams, youth, and beauty of Chancery’s victims, which waste away while they wait for their cases to end. She plans to release the birds on “judgement day,” which refers both to the end of the case and to the biblical apocalypse.

Miss Flite Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Flite or refer to Miss Flite. 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 1 Quotes

This is the Court of Chancery; which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire; which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse, and its dead in every churchyard; which has its ruined suitor, with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress, borrowing and begging through the round of every man’s acquaintance; […] there is not an honorable man among its practitioners who would not give—who does not often give—the warning, ‘Suffer any wrong that can be done you, rather than come here!’

Related Characters: Richard Carstone, Miss Flite
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

‘We are never to get out of Chancery! We have come by another way to our place of meeting yesterday, and—by the Great Seal, here’s the old lady again!’

Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

She partly drew aside the curtain of the long low garret-window, and called our attention to a number of bird-cages hanging there: some containing several birds. There were larks, linnets, and goldfinches—I should think at least twenty. ‘I began to keep the little creatures,’ she said, ‘with an object that the wards will readily comprehend. With the intention of restoring them to liberty. When my judgment should be given. Ye-es! They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly things, are so short in comparison with Chancery proceedings, that, one by one, the whole collection has died over and over again.’

Related Characters: Esther Summerson (speaker), Miss Flite (speaker), Ada Clare, Richard Carstone, Caddy Jellyby
Related Symbols: Miss Flite’s Birds
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF

Miss Flite Character Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Flite appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
The woman, whose name is Miss Flite , tells them that when she first came to court, to “hear a judgement” on... (full context)
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
...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 junk and heaps of old law... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...out of his mouth like steam. He asks them if they are selling anything while Miss Flite unlocks a door, which leads to flats above. She cordially begs them to follow her,... (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... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Miss Flite lives on the top floor in a very bare room that looks out at the... (full context)
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
The bells in the square outside begin to ring, and Miss Flite cries out that she must attend the court. They all hurry downstairs, but the old... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
...she hurries from the shop. He continues to watch them as they bid goodbye to Miss Flite . (full context)
Chapter 11
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...he returns and they enter the room, they discover that Nemo is dead. Krook sends Miss Flite for a doctor and two medical men return with her. One is an older, Scottish... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...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
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...father, Mr. Turveydrop, is a very noble man. They have often met in secret at Miss Flite ’s room, and Caddy has grown fond of the old woman. Esther agrees to go... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...his son so hard. She thinks about this as she departs with Caddy to visit Miss Flite . (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...been educated in nothing else, plans to help him with this. She has been helping Miss Flite clean her rooms so that she can learn how to keep her future home tidy. (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...they arrive at Krook’s, Caddy tells Esther that the other lodger has died, and that Miss Flite has been ill because of the shock. As they pass Nemo’s door, Esther feels a... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Miss Flite tells them that she has been very anxious and disturbed ever since Nemo’s death, and... (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... (full context)
Chapter 17
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...them to her. Caddy, however, tells Esther that the flowers were left for her at Miss Flite ’s house by someone who was in a rush to board a ship. Ada teases... (full context)
Chapter 23
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...close to unravelling the mystery. He spends his days at the court, often accompanied by Miss Flite . When Esther is alone with Richard, she asks him if he feels “settled” in... (full context)
Chapter 24
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...know a mad old lady who sits in the court, and Esther directs him to Miss Flite . George says that Gridley is hidden at his gallery and has asked for the... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
...him. He does not arrest Gridley right away, however, but allows him some time with Miss Flite . (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
George leads Miss Flite to Gridley’s bedside while the others wait. Mr. Jarndyce, who has heard about Gridley, arrives,... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...when Gridley is not roused and admits that he sees him as an “old acquaintance.” Miss Flite lets out a scream, and the others realize that Gridley has died. The sun sets,... (full context)
Chapter 33
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...them of this relation. They help carry Mr. Smallweed up through Krook’s shop and into Miss Flite ’s room, which is currently deserted. (full context)
Chapter 35
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...she is well enough to travel; he will be out of town for some weeks. Miss Flite has also come out to see her, having walked all the way from London. Mr.... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...but she is too anxious to pull back the curtain and show Ada her face. Miss Flite arrives the next day and enters Esther’s room in a flood of tears. Esther calms... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther asks if the woman’s name was Jenny, and Miss Flite confirms that it was. Charley tells Esther that Jenny has often come to the house... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther cannot explain this but thinks that the woman may be Caddy. Miss Flite suggests that the woman is the Lord Chancellor’s wife and Esther busies herself with tending... (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 seems very anxious about her judgement and Esther, seeing her distress, suggests that she should... (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 says that she can feel this invisible force of Chancery pulling at her, just as... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Esther feels uncomfortable about this, and Miss Flite says that, when her judgement is finally delivered, she will free her birds. She changes... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Miss Flite says that Mr. Woodcourt deserves a title, but Esther skeptically says that he will not... (full context)
Chapter 37
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 suit, but Richard says that he cannot live “in an unfinished house.” Esther recalls Miss Flite ’s words and the story of old Tom Jarndyce. Esther tries to remind him of... (full context)
Chapter 45
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther talks to Mr. Woodcourt about his travels and tells him how Miss Flite gets on. She notices that Mr. Woodcourt seems very uncomfortable with her and puts this... (full context)
Chapter 47
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...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. When Mr. Woodcourt arrives... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
George is pleased to see Miss Flite and listens gravely to Jo’s story. Mr. Woodcourt tells him that Jo needs a place... (full context)
Chapter 60
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...paler and more distracted by the day. One evening, on her way there, Esther meets Miss Flite who tells her that she has just left Richard at the court with Mr. Vholes.... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Esther is unhappy to hear this but hides it from the old woman. Miss Flite leans towards her and tells her confidentially that she has added two new birds to... (full context)
Chapter 65
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...and child. They tell him very soon, and Ada holds him as he dies. When Miss Flite arrives, she tells them that she has set her birds free. (full context)