Chapters 8-10 Summary

Mr. Jarndyce takes Esther into his study, which he calls his “Growlery,” and tells her that the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is now less about the will itself and more about costs. He asks her to determine from Richard what the young man’s plans are in life. Esther feels unequal to all the new responsibility given her, but she takes it up with grace. Mrs. Pardiggle, a local humanitarian, takes Esther and Ada on one of her tours of goodwill. At a brick maker’s hovel, Esther observes the squalor, violence, and poverty of the poor. A woman, who has obviously been beaten, is holding a small baby. When Ada bends down to see it, she discovers that it is dead. Esther takes charge of the baby’s body because the family does not seem too concerned about it. The father rejects Mrs. Pardiggle’s attempts at charity, stating that it is ineffectual in their destitute circumstances. The girls return to Bleak House, and Richard comforts Ada, who is still upset about the dead baby.

Esther notices that Richard and Ada are falling in love. When Richard expresses an interest in becoming a sailor, Mr. Jarndyce writes to Sir Leicester Dedlock (who is a distant relation to Richard by way of Lady Dedlock), who promises assistance. Esther notices at this time that Richard is quite careless about money. This will prove a problem in the future.

Mr. Jarndyce receives a letter from an old school friend, Lawrence Boythorn, who is planning a visit to Bleak House. Mr. Jarndyce greets his arrival with joy. Boythorn informs him that he is involved in a legal case with his neighbor, Sir Leicester Dedlock, who is cutting off the road to Boythorn’s estate on the grounds that Sir Leicester owns the right of way. Esther asks Mr. Jarndyce if Mr. Boythorn has ever been married, and Mr. Jarndyce replies that he almost was at one time. The next day, Mr. Guppy arrives and hints at a proposal of marriage to Esther, who states that this would be impossible. He tells her that his feelings for her will remain the same. After he leaves, Esther laughs about it but then finds herself crying.

In London, Mr. Tulkinghorn visits the home of Mr. Snagsby, who hires out the copying of legal papers. Mr. Tulkinghorn asks him who copied the document he had shown to Lady Dedlock that so upset her. Mr. Snagsby tells him that it was hired out to a law writer named Nemo (which is Latin for “no one”), who lives above Mr. Krook’s shop. Mr. Tulkinghorn goes to Mr. Krook’s and asks to see Nemo. When he goes up to Nemo’s room, he finds it filled with the smoke of opium; Nemo is unresponsive on the bed.