Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Mr. Smallweed Character Analysis

Mr. Smallweed is an elderly miser, the husband of Mrs. Smallweed, and the grandfather of Bart Smallweed and Judy Smallweed. He is an invalid and is carried everywhere in a chair from his living room. He comes from a long line of men who worked as moneylenders and accountants and who were obsessed with wealth. Mr. Smallweed is a vile old man—he hates and torments his wife and thinks about nothing but how to trick and manipulate people for his own financial gain. He gloats horribly whenever he exploits people successfully and enjoys nothing except tricking and using others. Mr. Smallweed charges excessive interests on loans he has paid out and has a murky history of corrupt business practices. The ex-soldier, George, owes money to Mr. Smallweed for a loan on which he has paid back more than double in interest to the old man. George implies that Mr. Smallweed once tricked him into trying to track down Captain Hawdon, who was George’s commanding officer and who had an affair with Lady Dedlock in her youth and became the father of Esther Summerson. Mr. Smallweed is a coward and is afraid of George, who is very physically strong. He tries to pretend that he is not responsible for charging George interest but that this order comes from a “friend in the city,” who is a terrifying and sinister man. George, however, knows that this is a tactic which Mr. Smallweed uses to try and scare his clients and to evade responsibility for his own malpractice. Mr. Smallweed’s wife, Mrs. Smallweed, is Krook’s sister, and the Smallweeds inherit the shop after Krook’s death. Predictably, they try to use legal documents they find, which prove that Lady Dedlock had a child outside of wedlock, to blackmail her husband, Sir Leicester Dedlock. However, Mr. Smallweed’s obsessive greed backfires, and the documents are seized by the policeman, Mr. Bucket, who gives him only a tiny sum for the papers.

Mr. Smallweed Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Smallweed or refer to Mr. Smallweed. 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 21 Quotes

Everything that Mr. Smallweed’s grandfather ever put away in his mind was a grub at first, and is a grub at last. In all his life he has never bred a single butterfly. The father of this pleasant grandfather, of the neighborhood of Mount Pleasant, was a horny-skinned, two-legged, money-getting species of spider, who spun webs to catch unwary flies, and retired into holes until they were entrapped. The name of this old pagan’s God was Compound Interest.

Page Number: 248
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:
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Mr. Smallweed Character Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Smallweed appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 21
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...spot called Mount Pleasant. Mrs. Smallweed is mad and unable to care for herself, and Mr. Smallweed is paralyzed from the waist down. Mr. Smallweed is the son of an accountant who... (full context)
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...drab little apartment, the elderly Smallweeds sit opposite each other in front of the fire. Mr. Smallweed keeps his equity documents and bills of wealth under his chair, near a cushion which... (full context)
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
The force of this throw knocks Mr. Smallweed back in his chair, and Judy lifts him up by the collar and shakes him... (full context)
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Bart arrives home and tells them where he has been, and Mr. Smallweed praises him for dining at his friend’s expense, rather than spending his own money. Bart... (full context)
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...her to eat the table scraps. A man named George arrives and asks to see Mr. Smallweed . He is tall and sturdy and has the look of an ex-military man. George... (full context)
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George wonders aloud what Mr. Smallweed does all day and suggests that, as soon as he is slightly late with a... (full context)
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...him—and, under his breath, asks if the man’s name starts with a D. George shakes Mr. Smallweed himself when he throws the cushion at Mrs. Smallweed, who has begun shouting again. George... (full context)
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Mr. Smallweed says that, if George had found “the Captain,” his fortune would have been made. George... (full context)
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Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Smallweed feels that Captain Hawdon has tricked him, and he grows angry as he thinks about... (full context)
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George gets up to leave, teasing Mr. Smallweed as he goes about the possibility of his missing a payment. Mr. Smallweed plays along... (full context)
Chapter 26
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...plates and goes to work cleaning the weapons. They hear footsteps in the passage and Mr. Smallweed is brought into the room, carried on his chair by a young man. This young... (full context)
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Phil lifts Mr. Smallweed ’s chair effortlessly and deposits him by the fire. He hisses in the heat from... (full context)
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Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Smallweed tells George that he “his friend in the city” has recently done a deal with... (full context)
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Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...it. George goes to a safe and withdraws a sheet of paper. Phil then carries Mr. Smallweed to a carriage, which waits outside, and Judy and George follow him into the cab. (full context)
Chapter 27
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...cab when George realizes that they are on their way to Mr. Tulkinghorn’s. They carry Mr. Smallweed upstairs and wait for Mr. Tulkinghorn in his office. Mr. Tulkinghorn enters, and Mr. Smallweed... (full context)
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...to Mr. Tulkinghorn’s proposal and resolutely decides he wants nothing to do with the business. Mr. Smallweed begins to swear at George and George becomes confused and asks Mr. Tulkinghorn why he... (full context)
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...to consult a friend. Mr. Tulkinghorn placidly agrees to this and George offers to carry Mr. Smallweed downstairs. Mr. Smallweed, however, addresses the lawyer in a low voice and tells him that... (full context)
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Once outside, George breaks away from Mr. Smallweed and makes his way to Elephant and Castle. He passes a music shop and approaches... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...walk along the road, they pass a carriage which contains most of the Smallweed family. Mr. Smallweed leans out of the window and excitedly calls to Mr. Guppy. He asks him to... (full context)
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Mr. Smallweed tells them that Krook was Mrs. Smallweed’s brother, and that they have come to take... (full context)
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...and the likelihood of spontaneous combustion. Mr. Guppy lingers around and is disheartened to see Mr. Smallweed lock up the shop before he departs. (full context)
Chapter 34
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In George’s shooting gallery, George is shocked to receive a letter from Mr. Smallweed which asks for the full repayment of his debt. George asks Phil what he makes... (full context)
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...only just received the letter, he explains, and is just about to go to see Mr. Smallweed . Mrs. Bagnet quickly forgives George and admits that she knows he would never trouble... (full context)
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They arrive at Mr. Smallweed ’s, and Judy sneers at them as they enter. Mr. Smallweed is perched in his... (full context)
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...to resolve the dispute amicably and to renew his debt, as he always has before. Mr. Smallweed ’s joking manner suddenly evaporates and he snarls at George that he will “crush” and... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...They are admitted and go, squinting, into the shadowy gloom from the bright sunlight outside. Mr. Smallweed is seated at the back of the shop beside a hole in the floor that... (full context)
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...room. He and Mr. Guppy are shocked to see Mr. Tulkinghorn in the shadows behind Mr. Smallweed , who gives them a wicked grin and introduces the lawyer as his solicitor. Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 54
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A servant interrupts them, and Mr. Smallweed is carried into the room, followed by Mrs. Snagsby and Mr. and Mrs. Chadband. Mr.... (full context)
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Mr. Bucket says that he will give Mr. Smallweed 50 pounds for them, and Mr. Smallweed demands 500. Mr. Bucket laughs at this and... (full context)
Chapter 62
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
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...Bucket is announced. The private investigator enters the room, followed by two men who carry Mr. Smallweed . Mr. Bucket explains that Mr. Smallweed has found a will made out in the... (full context)