Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Sir Leicester Dedlock Character Analysis

Sir Leicester Dedlock, Lady Dedlock’s husband, is an aristocrat and the descendant of the noble Dedlock line, who have been extremely powerful and important in England for many generations. Although Sir Leicester is very conservative, and dislikes social change and the increased social mobility of the 19th century, he married a woman who is not of noble birth. Sir Leicester is heavily involved in politics and does not believe that the British establishment and political system are in need of reform—a perspective which would be considered old-fashioned and outdated by Dickens’ middle-class audience. Sir Leicester believes that social reform will lead to social degeneration, and he generally dislikes mixing among the classes and disapproves of social mobility. He is a symbol of the old upper classes, as opposed to the industrialists of the period, who grew wealthy through trade and manufacturing rather than family connections, and is a relic of a time which, Dickens suggests, is nearly over in Britain. Sir Leicester Dedlock is extremely proud of his social position and his family history. His weakness is his love for Lady Dedlock, which he pursues even though she is from a poor background. Despite his social intolerance, Sir Leicester is an honest and well-meaning man. He is extremely gallant and attentive towards his wife and, on a personal level, takes people on an individual basis rather than judging them based on class. Even when Sir Leicester discovers Lady Dedlock’s secret, he forgives her immediately and intends to take her back, despite the revelation that she has an illegitimate child (Esther). He is physically and mentally destroyed by the loss of his wife and the trappings of his wealth and lineage become relatively meaningless in comparison with her memory. Like many aristocrats of this period, Sir Leicester prefers to patronize individuals rather than participate in philanthropy or give money to people who he has no personal connection with.

Sir Leicester Dedlock Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below are all either spoken by Sir Leicester Dedlock or refer to Sir Leicester 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 28 Quotes

Service, however (with a few limited reservations; genteel but not profitable), they may not do, being of the Dedlock dignity. So they visit their richer cousins, and get into debt when they can, and live but shabbily when they can’t, and find—the women no husbands, and the men no wives—and ride in borrowed carriages, and sit at feasts that are never of their own making, and so go through high life. The rich family sum has been divided by so many figures, and they are the something over that nobody knows what to do with.

Page Number: 335
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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Sir Leicester Dedlock Character Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the character Sir Leicester 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 is the wife of Sir Leicester Dedlock, a baronet from a stately line of English nobles. He is extremely proud of... (full context)
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Sir Leicester is 20 years older than Lady Dedlock and married for love rather than status; it... (full context)
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...no more outlets for her ambition. She will spend a few days in town, in Sir Leicester ’s lavish London house, before she departs for Paris. (full context)
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...of the servants—who 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... (full context)
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...Lady Dedlock is bored with the suit and doesn’t expect it will ever be resolved. Sir Leicester , however, feels that Chancery is an essential and respectable institution and that the length... (full context)
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...later, however, she turns faint and asks a servant to take her to her room. Sir Leicester is surprised as Lady Dedlock is rarely ill but asks Mr. Tulkinghorn to continue reading... (full context)
Chapter 7
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In 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... (full context)
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Sir Leicester is a good master and relies on Mrs. Rouncewell to manage all household affairs. Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...group. Richard still has not selected a profession. Although Mr. Jarndyce writes to Richard’s relative, Sir Leicester Dedlock, asking Sir Leicester to provide an income for Richard, Sir Leicester politely declines, and... (full context)
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...on Jarndyce and Jarndyce—which is one of violent disapproval—and tells them about his feud with Sir Leicester Dedlock. The two men have had a fallen out because of a patch of land... (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... (full context)
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...challenging ideas. Lord Boodle, an eminent noble, is among them and has many conversations with Sir Leicester about how the world has changed for the worse. They complain about the political system... (full context)
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...observes this and Lady Dedlock is irritable with her. One evening, when Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester are on the Ghost’s Walk, Mr. Tulkinghorn arrives and walks across the lawn to meet... (full context)
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Mr. Tulkinghorn discusses Sir Leicester ’s running feud with Mr. Boythorn, who Sir Leicester feels should be hanged for making... (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 family gout,” which he has proudly inherited from his Dedlock... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock has several parties to attend that night, and Sir Leicester is left alone with Mrs. Rouncewell. He complains that the rain is very loud on... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...his own carriage and find him furious that the cart is late. They must bypass Sir Leicester ’s property, because of the feud between the two men. Sir Leicester is in Lincolnshire,... (full context)
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...is quaint and the garden is very pretty. The walkway over which Mr. Boythorn and Sir Leicester have been arguing about is at the back of the house and is guarded by... (full context)
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...a sour looking 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... (full context)
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...warmly introduces herself to Mr. Jarndyce and asks after Richard, whom Mr. Jarndyce wrote to Sir Leicester about. Mr. Jarndyce thanks her and introduces her to Esther and Ada. She greets Ada... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Sir Leicester has recovered from his gout and is at Chesney Wold. The weather is bad, however,... (full context)
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Lady Dedlock is very popular with these cousins. One evening, Sir Leicester , Lady Dedlock, and Volumnia are in the drawing room, when Volumnia comments on how... (full context)
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 In fact, says Sir Leicester , Mr. Rouncewell is waiting downstairs to speak to them about Rosa. Volumnia and the... (full context)
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...hear something in the distance, possibly a step upon the Ghost’s Walk. The next day, Sir Leicester speaks at length to the cousins about the collapse of society—which he thinks is due... (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... (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... (full context)
Chapter 40
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...spirits up. Volumnia takes an interest in the nation’s fortunes and often talks privately with Sir Leicester about it, although she does not always understand his opinions and is very naïve about... (full context)
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While Sir Leicester , Volumnia, and Lady Dedlock are in the library one evening, discussing the state of... (full context)
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Mr. Tulkinghorn enters and informs Sir Leicester that the Dedlocks’ favored party has been ousted in one constituency, and that Mr. Rouncewell... (full context)
Chapter 41
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...he has not decided how to treat her case and that the real consideration is Sir Leicester and the Dedlock line, with which Sir Leicester is inseparably attached. (full context)
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A discovery such as this would destroy Sir Leicester , Mr. Tulkinghorn insists, and he wishes to prevent this. Lady Dedlock says that, if... (full context)
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...private—a distraught woman, wild with grief. Mr. Tulkinghorn goes to bed happy that night, and Sir Leicester and the cousins, and the Dedlocks in the family vault, sleep soundly beneath the stars. (full context)
Chapter 43
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...and sings for them in the library when they get home. Midway through this performance, Sir Leicester Dedlock is announced, much to everybody’s amazement, and he is shown into the room. Esther... (full context)
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Sir Leicester is especially eager to meet Mr. Skimpole, who he has heard is an artist. Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 48
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Sir Leicester goes out on government business after dinner and Lady Dedlock is left alone. Mr. Tulkinghorn... (full context)
Chapter 49
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Mr. Bucket explains that Sir Leicester Dedlock has put up a large reward for the imprisonment of Mr. Tulkinghorn’s murderer. Realizing... (full context)
Chapter 53
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...Mr. Tulkinghorn’s house accompanied by the lodger. After the funeral, Mr. Bucket goes to see Sir Leicester and enters the house without any trouble because he is on familiar terms with the... (full context)
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...words “Lady Dedlock,” and is not surprised. Mr. Bucket enters the library and sees that Sir Leicester is not present. There are no letters addressed to Sir Leicester on the table, and... (full context)
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Mr. Bucket is summoned to the drawing room after dinner and finds Sir Leicester with Volumnia and another aged cousin. Mr. Bucket flirts a little with Volumnia and then... (full context)
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...very odd secrets can be discovered in families, even very wealthy and prodigious ones, and Sir Leicester is quite indignant at this possibility. From here, Mr. Bucket goes to another part of... (full context)
Chapter 54
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The next morning, Mr. Bucket waits for Sir Leicester in the drawing room. Sir Leicester arrives late and explains that he suffers from gout... (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. Mr. Bucket replies that... (full context)
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...room, followed by Mrs. Snagsby and Mr. and Mrs. Chadband. Mr. Bucket introduces himself and Sir Leicester seems amazed by this intrusion. Mr. Smallweed announces that his brother-in-law, Krook, had a bundle... (full context)
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...like this. He slams the door behind them as they go and turns back to Sir Leicester . (full context)
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Mr. Bucket tells Sir Leicester that the murderer is in the house, and that he is about to arrest them.... (full context)
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Mr. Bucket forces Mademoiselle Hortense to sit on the sofa and tells Sir Leicester that she has been stalking Mr. Tulkinghorn. She took the room near the court so... (full context)
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...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 the letters he... (full context)
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...she would love to claw at Lady Dedlock. Once they are out of the room, Sir Leicester falls to his knees and stares helplessly at the trappings of Dedlock heritage and luxury... (full context)
Chapter 55
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...hopes Mrs. Rouncewell can persuade George to get a lawyer, and Mrs. Rouncewell says that Sir Leicester will help prove George’s innocence. Every now and then, Mrs. Rouncewell murmurs a distressed “my... (full context)
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Mrs. Bagnet prepares to leave, 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... (full context)
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...pens a letter, which says that she is innocent of the murder and apologizes to Sir Leicester . After this, she dresses in her winter clothes and rushes out into the snowy... (full context)
Chapter 56
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In Sir Leicester ’s townhouse, Volumnia is wandering about when she stumbles Sir Leicester, face down on the... (full context)
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Sir Leicester begs to see Lady Dedlock. Mrs. Rouncewell fetches the letter upon the table without reading... (full context)
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Sir Leicester writes “Full Forgiveness. Find…” on the slate and Mr. Bucket immediately understands. He promises Sir... (full context)
Chapter 58
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...discuss Lady Dedlock’s treachery and the scandal which has attached itself to the Dedlock name. Sir Leicester , who is still in a great deal of pain and struggles to be understood... (full context)
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Volumnia sits with Sir Leicester when Mrs. Rouncewell is absent but is easily bored with her duty as caregiver. When... (full context)
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Later that afternoon, Sir Leicester tells Volumnia that, if he grows worse and loses his powers of speech or movement,... (full context)
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...night and Volumnia stalks the halls, wondering forlornly what will happen to her inheritance if Sir Leicester dies. At last, she allows George to escort her to bed, and George himself sits... (full context)
Chapter 63
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George is now an attendant for Sir Leicester and goes on a visit to an industrial town in the north of England to... (full context)
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...George into the family business, but George explains that he has taken a post as Sir Leicester Dedlock’s attendant. Mr. Rouncewell seems unhappy about this, but George tells him that he has... (full context)
Chapter 66
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...is quiet down at Chesney Wold, and Lady Dedlock is buried in the family crypt. Sir Leicester is an invalid now and goes about the grounds with George by his side. Sir... (full context)
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Volumnia has been written into the will so that, in the event of Sir Leicester ’s death, she will be taken care of. In general, though, the cousins do not... (full context)