Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House by Charles Dickens



Bleak House by Charles Dickens

The World of Dickens’ works is teeming with more or less negative characters of members of the legal profession. Dickens is consistent in the manner of his description of them: he seems to state a highly critical opinion of the legal staff – at least on the surface. With a few exceptions, they are portrayed as vile and abominable creatures – both in their appearance and deed. Not only does Dickens seem to vilify individual lawyers, attorneys, law clerks, barristers and solicitors, moreover, he appears to apply his criticism to the whole law system of his time, Victorian England.

This essay explores Dickens’s descriptions of the lawyers; a few most striking and exemplary characters are chosen in order to provide a general and consistent pattern of Dickens’ treatment of the members of the legal profession. The main thesis of this essay is a question whether under the negative and repulsive surface of Dickens’ descriptions of lawyers there may not be something positive or valuable – either intended or unintended by Dickens. This work tries to find, identify and, hopefully, prove the existence of such good and worthy personal traits, skills and virtues under the hideous externals of Dickens’ lawyers.

The procedure of this work is as follow. First, a brief summary of Dickens’ books from which the examples of lawyers have been chosen: Bleak House, Great Expectation. Second, the detailed analysis of the lawyers commences, the main focus being on the negative side of their characters and behaviour. Third, this is a crucial part of the work because the author tries to defend some of the lawyers’ apparently offensive, immoral and even criminal acts and deeds. Furthermore, the author, by comparing the lawyers with their antithetical, antagonistic characters from Dickens’ books, provides arguments for his hypothesis about the existence of valuable traits and characteristics in Dickens’ lawyers. Forth, the conclusive summary produces the results of the arguments and issues some general statements concerning the legal profession and the legal system as it is portrayed in Dickens’ books.

Bleak House and Great Expectation

The story of Bleak House centres around the “great” court case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce which is essentially an example of judicial malpractice because the court procedure in this case is unduly prolonged and artificially made complicated by the endeavour of the members of the legal profession to make profit out of both parties to the case – the plaintiff and the defendant. As is typical in Dickens, the story has numerous sub-plots and irregularities, but should we have to state the basic story line, we would be obliged to say that the plot revolves around two story directions. The one concerns characters around John Jarndyce who takes care of his orphaned young cousins, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare, and a young girl, Esther Summerson, a companion for Ada and a housekeeper at Jarndyce’s house. The other story direction that concerns Sir Leicester Deadlock, the member of nobility, and his wife, Lady Deadlock, the couple that seems to represent Victorian age upper society.
However, Lady Deadlock has a secret: prior to her marriage to Sir Leicester she had given birth to a child who was raised without knowledge of who her parents were, and who later proves to be Esther Summerson, Mr Jarndyce’s protégée. The Lady Deadlock’s fear of exposure of the fact, and the endeavour of the various characters to find out and reveal the fact to profit by it, is the main driving element of the story. Eventually, the secret is unveiled; Lady Deadlock flees only to die two days later. The main conspirator, who used his power as a legal adviser of Sir Leicester to his own ends, is Mr Tulkinghorn. Another conspirator is Mr William Guppy, whose behaviour was triggered by his ambition. Whereas the characters around John Jarndyce seem to represent good, Christian values, and those around Sir Leicester Deadlock those of prejudiced, upper class, snobbish view of the world, the characters of the lawyers appear to abuse the powers delegated on them by their employers to their often immoral ends.

The story of Great Expectations centres on Pip, a young orphan living with his sister and her husband. One day, an escaped convict who orders him to bring some food and a file in order to get rid of his iron chains encounters Pip, sitting at his parents’ graves in a cemetery. Pip does as instructed. Though the convict is captured, he protects Pip, claiming that he has stolen the food and the file himself. Then Pip is introduced by his uncle to Satis House, the home of an eccentric old woman, who wears her wedding dress and keeps all the clocks in her house at the same time. He visits the house regularly and falls in love with a cold and overbearing young girl called Estella. Pip plays with an idea that, perhaps, Miss Havisham plans to make him a gentleman and marry him to Estella. This proves to be an illusion. Miss Havisham helps Pip to be apprenticed to Joe, his brother-in-law, the village blacksmith. Biddy, a kind girl, helps Pip to learn to read and write. At work, Pip struggles with Orlick, a rude, brute worker. Orlick is later responsible for an attack on Pip’s sister, after which she is left mute. Then comes the big news: Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, announces that Pip is liable to a great fortune provided by Pip’s secret benefactor. Pip is ordained to London where he must begin his education as a gentleman, according to his benefactor’s wish. Pip thinks that Miss Havisham is responsible for the sudden change in his life and he begins to hope about marrying Estella one day. In London he makes friends with Herbert Pockets and Wemmick, Mr Jagger’s law clerk. Pip somehow disengages himself from his friendship with Joe, his brother in law. He studies under the guidance of Herbert’s father, Matthew. When Pip reaches the age of twenty-one, he begins to collect his fortune. Pip and Herbert start leading an easy and free life in London, soon running up debts. Pip’s sister dies and Pip goes to her funeral, feeling remorse. One night, the convict, Magwitch, appears at Pip’s room, announcing that he is Pip’s secret benefactor, who have amassed the great fortune in Australia. Both the police and Compeyson, his former partner in criminal acts, pursue Magwitch. After an initial horror, Pip befriends the convict and he tries to help him flee England. Pip also discovers that Compeyson is the man who abandoned Miss Havisham at the wedding, and that Estella is Magwitch’s daughter, who was raised by Miss Havisham as her tool of revenge against men, which explains cruel Estella’s behaviour to Pip when he was a boy. However, Estella marries Bentley Drummle who later treats her badly and Miss Havisham asks Pip to forgive her for letting Estella to play with his affection. Finally, Pip’s attempt to help Magwitch flee is unsuccessful, and in the process of it, Compeyson dies and Magwitch is caught and sentenced to death, the fact he bears in peace, regarding it as God’s forgiveness. Having lost his fortune, Pip goes abroad with his friend Herbert to start a new life. On his return, after many years, he encounters widowed Estelle in the garden at Satis House. Her character has changed and, finally, they leave the garden holding their hands.
Mr Tulkinghorn

Dickens described many character of lawyers in his works, but nearly all of them may be condensed into two exemplary characters of Mr Tulkinghorn of Bleak House and Mr Jaggers of Great Expectations. So, describing and analysing these two examples will reveal the pattern of Dickens’s portrayal of lawyers revealed in all its aspects. The author begins with the analysis of Mr Tulkinghorn.

“The old gentleman is rusty to look at but is reputed to have made good thrift out of aristocratic wills, and to be very rich. He is surrounded by a mysterious halo of family confidences; of which he is know to be the silent depositary. There are noble Mausoleums rooted for centuries in retired glades of parks, among growing timber and the fern, which perhaps hold fewer noble secrets that walk among men, shut up in the breast of Mr Tulkinghon” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.47).

Tulkinghorn, as Mr Leicester’s legal adviser, is entrusted much intimate information, which is necessary in order for him to be able to act on behalf of, and in interest of his client. He has an access to confidential information, being “silent depository of family secrets” ( Dickens, Bleak House, p.55). The story of Bleak House begins to graduate when Mr Tulkinghorn ceases to be “silent” about one of such intimate family secrets concerning Lady Deadlock’s pre-marital affair and subsequent child-birth, and begins to investigate the matter without either knowledge or, consequently, consent of his client, Lady Deadlock’s husband.

The scrutiny of Mr Tulkinghorn’s appearance follows:

“One peculiarity of his black clothes, and of his black stockings, be they silken or worsted is, that they never shine. Mute, close, irresponsive to any light, his dress is like himself. He never converses, when not professionally consulted” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.57).

What kind of human being is portrayed here? A person who never indulges in a friendly, simple exchange of a “good will”, or human sympathy, however seemingly trifling these may be. One wonders about the inner world of such an outwardly passionless, expressionless, distant human being. One wonders whether it is simply a lack of passion and compassion, or he is just so self-sufficient, independent and aloof that he simply has no need of, and stands above, such social communication.

The author proceeds to a description of Tulkinghorn’s lodging.

“Here he is today, quiet at his table. An Oyster of the old school, whom nobody can open. Like as he is to look at, so is his apartment in the dusk of the present afternoon. Rusty, out of date, withdrawing from attention, able to afford it. Heavy
broad-backed old-fashioned mahogany and horsehair chairs, not easily lifted, obsolete tables with spindle – legs and dusty baize covers, presentation prints of the holders of great titles in the last generation, or the last but one, environ him. A thick and dingy Turkey-carpet muffles the floor where he sits, attended by two candles in old-fashioned silver candlesticks that give a very insufficient light to his large room. The titles on the backs of his books have retired into the binding; everything that can have a lock has got one; no key is visible” ( Dickens, Bleak House, p.120).

As is typical of Dickens, descriptions of the characters’ places of habitation contribute exceedingly to the overall impression the characters produce on the audience. Thus, in this instance, one experiences an acute sense of omnipresent gravity and solitude – solitude rather as chosen, premeditated, as a wish. Just hear these solemn heavy words of Dickens’ description: rusty, not easily lifted, dusty, thick, dingy, muffles, locks, no key. Who could live in this mute, twilight atmosphere? One imagines a silent human being existing as if in void behind an impenetrable shell – really an oyster, which nobody can open. Who can guess what being lives behind such a shell? Who can guess how hard to grasp is that slimy oyster-like being both for others and, who knows, even to himself? These psychological riddles cross one’s mind upon encountering such a seemingly outlandish human being.

But Dickens does not imprison Tulkinghorn in this rigid frame, he allows him to breath a little more in the passage like this:

”Mr Tulkinghorn, sitting in the twilight by the open window, enjoys his wine. As if it whispered to him of its fifty years of silence and seclusion, it shuts him up closer. More impenetrable than ever, he sits, and drinks, and mellows as it were, in secrecy; pondering, at that twilight hour, on all the mysteries he knows, associated with darkening woods in the country, and vast blank shut-up houses in the town: and perhaps sparing a thought or two for himself, and his family history, and his money, and his will – all mystery to everyone – and that bachelor friend of his, a man of the same mould and a lawyer too, who lived the same kind of life until he was seventy-five years old, and then, suddenly conceiving ( as it is supposed ) an impression that it was too monotonous, gave his old watch to his hairdresser one summer evening, and walked leisurely home to the Temple, and hanged himself” ( Dickens, Bleak House, p.281)

Does one not senses Tulkinghorn’s appreciation or even love of power he holds through acquisition of his clients’ secrets, the fact he later abuses in the case of Sir Leicester Deadlock? In a way Tulkinghorn does not conform to an ordinary way of life. He seems to be a bachelor on purpose. Not to let anyone approach too close to him and his manner of life, seems to have been premeditated by him. We can only speculate that this was caused by enormous experience he acquired through his vocation as a lawyer. Therefore, no wife, no children, or close friends around him. As a consequence, he is free to do as he pleases, focusing all his energy, thoughts onto his profession.

“He is indifferent to everything but his calling. His calling is the acquisition of secrets, and the holding possession of such power as they give him, with no sharer or opponent in it.” ( Dickens, Bleak House, p.468)

This is a testimony of Lady Deadlock regarding Tulkinghorn. By not revealing anything personal about himself, by not talking to anyone “when not professionally consulted”, by always acting with a cold, logical precision, he is a difficult, dangerous adversary – one that has to be counted with. Dickens substantiates the argument about his “conversational closeness” by these lines:

“It is a part of Mr Tulkinghorn’s policy and mastery to have no political opinions; indeed, no opinions.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.523)

On the other hand one can be sure about abundant richness of Tulkinghorn’s mind. Given his enormous experience, his art of observation and listening, one is save to presuppose a mind saturated with numerous pros and cons. So, Tulkinghorn’s lack of personal opinions is the result of his legal prudence he acquired through experience, and not some kind of personal flaw on his part – he simply does not communicate himself.

Tulkinghorn operates between two worlds. The Chesney Wold, the Deadlock estate in Lincolnshire, and London. These two worlds differ exceedingly: the snobbish, upper-class ceremonies and pretensions of Chesney Wold, and London “under-world”, where Tulkinghorn seeks to gain documents and information necessary to his legal ends, and where he consorts even with “low-class” people if they can be of any use to him.

“From the verdant undulation and the spreading oaks of the Deadlock property, Mr Tulkinghorn transfers himself to the stale heat and dust of London. His manner of coming and going between the two places is one of his impenetrabilities. He walks into Chesney Wold as if it were next door to his chambers, and returns to his chambers as if he had never been out of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He never changes his dress before the journey, nor talks of it afterwards.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.237)

How these two worlds relate? It is from the London’s under-world” that Tulkinghorn purchases an incriminating documents about the law-writer, Captain Hawdon, lady Deadlock’s lover and the father of the child who lady Deadlock abandoned to her sister. Tulkinghorn uses his powers of knowledge, perseverance, skill at manipulating people and self-control to gather and finally secure the evidence to build the case against Lady deadlock. He confronts her with his discovery in chapter XLI, In Mr Tulkinghorn Room, from which the following extracts were chosen. The first describes Tulkinghorn shortly before the revelation.

“Mr Tulkinghorn arrives in his turret room, a little breathed by the journey up, though leisurely performed. There is an expression on his face as if he had discharged his mind of some grave matter, and was, in his close way, satisfied. To say of a man so severely and strictly self repressed that he is triumphant, would be to do him as great an injustice as to suppose him troubled with love or sentiment, or any romantic weakness. He is sedately satisfied. Perhaps there is a rather increased sense of power upon him, as he loosely grasps one of his venous wrists with other hand, and holding it behind his back walks noiselessly up an down.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.527)

This extract again speaks in favour of our assumption of Tulkinghorn’s love of power. How he cherishes the final moments before the disclosure, revelling, as it were, in a heightened feeling of power. This line also betrays him:

“The blood has not flushed into his face so suddenly and redly for many a long year, as when he recognizes Lady Deadlock.” ( Dickens, Bleak House, p.528)

Another line shows his reaction to lady Deadlock’s intention to leave Chesney Wold forever:

“Lady Deadlock, have the goodness to stop and hear me, or before you reach the staircase I shall ring the alarm-bell and raise the house. And then I must speak out, before every guest and servant, every man and woman in it. He had conquered her. She falters, trembles, and puts her hand confusedly to her head. Slight tokens these in any one else; but when so practiced an eye as Mr Tulkinghorn’s see indecision for a moment in such a object, he thoroughly knows its value.” ( Dickens, Bleak House, p.578))

Tulkinghorn makes a deal with lady Deadlock, by which virtue she becomes yet another person over whom he holds power.

Let it be stated that Tulkinghorn’s faults are mainly inherent in his character: his love of power, treachery and cold heart. These personal characteristics may cause much harm when possessed by a lawyer who has an access to much intimate and confidential information.

Let us reflect on a manner Tulkinghorn handled Lady Deadlock’s case. Why did not he confine the matter to his client, Mr Leicester Deadlock? Why did he begin and continue the secret investigation of the matter without his client’s consent? Why didn’t he approach and consult Lady Deadlock on the outset of the investigation: she alone was in possession of the whole truth. The question is whether she would trust him concerning such an intimate matter, because she hated him and “has often, often, wished him dead” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.582). Moreover, he undertook the investigation with direct or indirect involvement of others who later, especially after Tulkinghorn’s death, used the fact to their own hands – namely, to making profit in an expense of Deadlock family. Tulkinghorn took the matter entirely into his own hands by not informing his client, Sir Leicester, and by threatening Lady Deadlock with revealing her secret in a rather brutal way as we have seen above.

Tulkinghorn may be charged with overstepping his authority as the Deadlock’s solicitor and legal advisor. Yet he defends himself by stating that his client’s interest was his consideration. Even on the occasion of his threatening Lady Deadlock, he manages to elicit her admission that he had been faithful to Sir Leicester:

“I can attest your fidelity, sir.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.582)

Even Sir Leicester himself considers him as faithful and devoted in his own words:

“Always correct and exact” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.211)

The author now proceeds to an instructive passage concerning a comparison of Tulkinghorn’s conduct with contemporary American ethical standards for the legal profession.

“Tulkinghorn is a principal villain in Bleak House, but whether he violates contemporary American ethical standards for the legal progression is far less certain.” (M.K.McCrystal, At the Foot of the Master: What Ch.Dickens Got Right About What Lawyers Do Wrong, p.24)

This client-lawyer relationship has been a subject of much discussion on the literature on the lawyer ethos. The author submits a view of professor M. Freedman on the subject:

“Accordingly, the attorney acts both professionally and morally in assisting clients to maximize their autonomy, that is by counselling clients candidly and fully regarding the clients’ legal rights and moral responsibilities as the lawyer perceive them, and by assisting clients to carry out their lawful decisions. Further, the attorney acts unprofessionally and immorally by depriving clients of their autonomy, that is by denying them information regarding their legal rights, by otherwise pre-empting their moral decisions, or by depriving them of the ability to carry out their lawful decisions.” (M.H.Freedman, Understanding Lawyer’s Ethics, p.54)

To sum up this chapter, let it be stated that apart from his personal vices, i.e. love of power, unscrupulous way in which he achieves his objectives, Mr Tulkinghorn can hardly be indicted with a crime or misdemeanor in the case of his handling the pre-marital affair of Lady Deadlock. The pivotal argument being that the lawyer can withhold legal information, should such information be seriously detrimental to the client’s physical or psychological state, the argument, that might have applied in the case of Mr Leicester Deadlock, who was heard by Mr Tulkinghorn several times that if something bad should meet Lady Deadlock, it would be the end of him. On such grounds Mr Tulkinghorn’s reasons for not informing his client could be understood, given an unsatisfactory health condition of his client.


Mr Jaggers

Another example of the typical lawyer is presented in the character of Mr Jaggers in Great Expectations. It may be assumed that he is a prototype of lawyers described by Dickens. In this very character all the members of legal profession from various Dickens’ books merge together, thus creating a powerful specimen in whom there must be embodied Dickens’ opinions concerning legal staff and law system itself. By analysing Mr Jaggers the author explores Dickens’ view of lawyers. The author commences by describing Mr Jaggers’ physique, and the reader will notice that the description is far more detailed that the preceding one of Mr Tulkinghorn.

‘I had known him the moment I saw him looking over the settle, and now I stood confronting him with his hand upon my shoulder, I checked off again in detail, his large head, his dark complexion, his deep-set eyes, his bushy black eyebrows, his large watch-chain, his strong black dots of beard and whiskers, and even the smell of scented soap on his great hand.’ (Dickens, Great Expectation, p.140)

This was Pip’s description of Mr Jaggers on their second encounter. The phrase ‘large head’ may well be symbolical of Mr Jaggers’ powerful intellect, which is manifested throughout the story of Great Expectation. The phrase ‘his dark complexion’ may connote Mr Jaggers’ involvement with a ‘dark side’ of human life: he works as a defendant of people accused of criminal acts. Parallel to his being exposed fully to this obscure, dark, criminal London underworld, his complexion is correspondingly dark and obscure, symbolizing Mr Jaggers’ knowledge of the dark side of human life. ‘Large watch-chain’, another symbol which may signify Mr Jaggers’ manner of doing business: punctual, factual, matter-of-fact, business-like way with no space for anything that does not directly concern the matter at hand, e.g. emotions. The phrase ‘his deep-set eyes’ may denote an allusion to Mr Jaggers’ keen powers of observation: the position of his sense apparatus – his eyes – being so close to his powerful brain. ‘The smell of scented soap on his great hand,’ this phrase refers to Mr Jaggers’ habit of thoroughly cleansing his hands after every contact and communion with his clients, probably for the purpose of purging himself of all ‘unclean’ and ‘dirty’ things which he had been exposed to during the meeting.

The author now proceeds to a description of Mr Jaggers’ place of work. Such a description will further illuminate the character of the lawyer.

‘Mr Jaggers’ room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a most dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically patched like a broken head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down at me through it. There were not so many papers about, as I should have expected to see; and there were some odd objects about, that I should not have expected to see – such as an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several strange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on a shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose. Mr Jaggers’ own high-backed chair was of deadly black horse-hair, with rows of brass nails round it, like a coffin; and I fancied I could see how he leaned back in it, and bit his forefinger at the clients. The room was but small, and the clients seemed to have a habit of backing up against the wall: the wall, especially opposite to Mr Jaggers’ chair, being greasy with shoulders. I recalled, too, that the one-eyed gentleman had shuffled forth against the wall when I was the innocent cause of his being turned out.’
(Dickens, Great Expectation, p.179)

We encounter the room furnished with bare necessities and strange objects; the room that breathes desolate air devoid of human hope. What does the skylight signify? Perhaps it serves as a metaphor of Mr Jaggers legal mind shedding a stream of light on the dark, criminal space under it. The strange objects – an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several strange looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts – these objects point to various criminal cases, possibly being murderous weapons, or in the case of the casts – with his clients appearance. The simile of Mr Jaggers’ chair as a coffin may indicate that he, as a lawyer, has to deal with death, i.e. with murders, weapons, dead bodies, guilty minds, accusations, scaffold. The lawyer acts in this sense as a sort of intermediary between life and death, not unlike the priest.

Now the consideration is given to Mr Jagger’s critical and precise thinking when discussing with Pip the sum necessary to start his life in London:

‘Go it!’ said Mr Jaggers, with a short laugh. ‘I told you you’d get on. Well! How much do you want?’
I said I didn’t know how much.
‘Come!’ retorted Mr Jaggers. ‘How much? Fifty pounds?’
‘Oh, not nearly so much.’
‘Five pounds?’ said Mr Jaggers.
This was such a great fall, that I said in discomfiture, ‘Oh! More than that.’
‘More than that, eh!’ retorted Mr Jaggers, lying in wait for me, with his hands in his pockets, his head on one side, and his eyes on the wall behind me; ‘how much more?’
‘Come!’ said Mr Jaggers. ‘Let’s get at it. Twice five; will that do? Three times five; will that do? Four times five; will that do?’
I said I thought that would do handsomely.
‘Four times five will do handsomely, will it?’ said Mr Jaggers, knitting his brows. ‘Now what do you make of four times five?’
‘What do I make of it!’
‘Ah!’ said Mr Jaggers; ‘how much?’
‘I suppose you make it twenty pounds,’ said I smiling.
‘Never mind what I make it, my friend,’ observed Mr Jaggers with a knowing and contradictory toss of the head. ‘I want to know what you make it?’
‘Twenty pounds, of course.’
‘Wemmick!’ said Mr Jaggers, opening his office door. ‘Take Mr Pip’s written order, and pay him twenty pounds.’ (Dickens, Great Expectations, p.198)

This is the way Mr Jaggers deals with people. He proceeds with a cold-blooded, mechanical precision, and his professional demand of accuracy is instructively revealed in the text. He does not compromise himself by admission of any kind. His way of dealing with people is very directive, i.e. he decides the course and manner of communication and action. He is direct and straightforward: there is nothing ornamental about him; he is a personification of his gloomy, bare office. He deals only with hard facts and evidence that is his business. In his own words:

‘Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.’ (Dickens, Great Expectations, p.202)

This cleft, or a distance from people is further extended by Mr Jaggers being a bachelor, as was the case with Mr Tulkinghorn, the fact we can regard as one of the typical characteristics of Dickens’ lawyers in general. Mr Jaggers, as Mr Tulkinghorn, keeps his distance from people; he is not directly involved with any woman. His approach to life and people seems to be purely professional and business-like. In a sense both Tulkinghorn and Jaggers are strangely asexual beings. His clerk, Mr Wemmick gives the following evidence of Mr Jaggers’ distance from other people:

‘Always seems to me,’ said Wemmick, ‘as if he had set a mantrap and was watching it. Suddenly – click – you’re caught!’ (Dickens, Great Expectations, p.234)

There is another example:

‘Mind you, Mr Pip, said Wemmick… ‘I don’t know that Mr Jaggers’ does a better thing than the way in which he keeps himself so high. He’s always so high. His constant height is of a piece with his immense abilities… don’t you see? – And so he has’em, body and soul.’ (Dickens, Great Expectations, p.238)

Yet another example of Mr Jaggers’ directive way of dealing with his clients:

‘Now, I have nothing to say to you, said Mr Jaggers, throwing his finger at them. ‘I want to know no more than I know. As to the result, it’s a toss-up. I told you from the first it was a toss-up. Have you paid Wemmick?’
‘We made the money up this morning, sir,’ said one of the men, submissively, while the other perused Mr Jaggers’s face.
‘I don’t ask you when you made up, or where, or whether you made it up at all. Has Wemmick got it?
‘Yes, sir,’ said both the men together.
‘Very well; then you may go. Now, I won’t have it! Said Mr Jaggers, waving his hand at them to put them behind him. ‘If you say a word to me, I’ll throw up the case.’
‘We thought, Mr Jaggers – ‘ one of the men began, pulling of his hat.
‘That’s what I told you not to do, said Mr Jaggers. ‘You thought! I think for you; that’s enough for you. If I want you, I know where to find you; I don’t want to find me. Now I won’t have it. I won’t hear a word.’ (Dickens, Great Expectations, p.248)

He confronts his clients with an air of contempt and sarcasm. He manoeuvres them precisely where he wants to have them. Yet he remains aloof, unsoiled by the contact with their criminal conditions; he is watchful and observant of every move or word done or spoken in his presence – nothing slips through his fingers unnoticed by him.

In contrast to Mr Tulkinghorn, Dickens does not seem to indicate Mr Jaggers with any specific breach of law or misconduct, save the fact that he works as an attorney, solicitor and legal advisor to people accused of crimes or representing a violent, disquieting and disturbing strain of life to express the concept figuratively.


The Intermezzo

The author deems it useful to pause for a moment and acknowledge the state of the proceedings of this work so far. In short, it was stated in the beginning that Dickens’ portrayal of lawyers is negative, as may seem from above mentioned characteristics of the two lawyers. In the case of Mr Tulkinghorn, the evidence seems to suggest some personal, if not necessarily professional, faults in his conduct as a lawyer, i.e. his not informing his client fully about the conduct he had chosen to enhance his client’s interests. However, in the case of Mr Jaggers, no such misdemeanour can be safely assumed, at least not any which may be treated as not conforming to the current law system.

Life is intricately connected both with things pleasing and displeasing. Some people adhere to resolve this ambiguity of life by retorting to their own means and resources; others by retorting to priests; others by retorting to psychologists; and others by retorting to lawyers. People have their needs and wants that do not necessarily agree with each other – often the opposite is the case. As economics teaches us, people’s needs are simply unlimited and our resources are scarce. Hence follows conflicts and problems that have been suggested above. Hence there exist people whose vocation is to facilitate, if not solve, these problems – be they doctors, teachers, priests, lawyers. They make their living by it, the fact that is both useful and potentially dangerous – as is the case with lawyers in Dickens’ works.

Of course, people would be happier either not to have any problems at all, or to be able to help themselves. Since this is not always possible, given the complexity of the world, they are often forced to retort to the above-mentioned people with an aim that they will help them, or resolve their problems themselves; people pay them for their effort. That this arrangement is not perfect is clear.

To say, in a manner of Françoise Rabelaise, that doctors deal with our urine and defecation-products, and make living out of it, is the same as accusing lawyers of making their living out of people’s problems.

Do people feel in a subordinate position to these intermediates between our well-being and a painful situation? Sure they do. Do they trust them? They have no choice. Do they complain? Often. That is human nature; a main topic of Charles Dickens’ works, the main topic, really, of this essay.



The Dilettante versus The Master

This part centres on a comparison of Mr Skimpole, Mr Jarndyce’s friend, and Mr Wholes, Richard Carstone’s solicitor, the characters of Bleak House. This comparison is intended to serve to illuminate some good, valuable and worthy traits in the members of legal profession, as was stated in the beginning of this work. Although Dickens portrays Mr Wholes as a vile and abhorrent man, who uses his clients only to make profit out of them, still the author uses this character because Mr Wholes seems to have been created solely as an antithesis of Harold Skimpole, a dilettante, child-like, childish and, above all, selfish man.

The reader has heard much talk about severity, coldness, sterility and extreme rationality of lawyers in this work. The antithesis of these concepts is now delivered in the character of Mr Skimpole. Mr Jarndyce introduces him in these lines:

‘He is a musical man; an Amateur, but might have been a Professional. He is an Artist, too; an Amateur, but might have been a professional. He has been unfortunate in his affairs, and unfortunate in his pursuits, and unfortunate in his family; but he don’t care – he’s a child!’
‘Did you imply that he has children of his own, sit?’ inquired Richard.
‘Yes, Rick! Half-a-dozen. More! Nearer a dozen, I should think. But he has never looked after them. How could he? He wanted somebody to look after him. He is a child, you know!’ said Mr Jarndyce. (Dickens, Bleak House, p.64)

Aside from depicting Mr Skimpole as an egoistic and totally irresponsible man Dickens seems to open the question of dilettantism as opposed to mastery. Dickens himself had to work hard to achieve the mastery of his craft, as we gather from his biographers, and in Skimpole’s character he seems to project the very antithesis of achievement and mastery.

As contrast, Mr Wholes, like his two predecessors, Tulkinghorn and Jaggers, is calculating, methodical and perseverant when it comes to his duties.

‘Mr Wholes is a very respectable man. He never misses a chance in his practice; which is a mark of respectability. He never takes any pleasure; which is another mark of respectability. He is reserved and serious; which is another mark of respectability.’ (Dickens,Bleak House, p.488))

When Richard Carstone accuses Mr Wholes of insensitivity, the solicitor explains:

‘In attending to your interests, I wish to have all possible checks upon me; it is right that I should have them; I court inquiry. But your interests demand that I should be cool and methodical, Mr Carstone; I cannot be otherwise – no, sir, not even to please you.’ Dickens, Bleak House, p.503)

In contrast, Mr Skimpole is a living contradiction of rational thought and methodology. He may be a man of talents, but he squanders all his gifts. His creations, be they paintings or poetry, are mere fragments – never to be finished. That very perseverance we find in Mr Vholes is utterly lacking in a Bohemian Mr Skimpole. Two extracts, relating to this matter follow. First, Mr Vholes speaks to Mr Carstone:

“You Sir, thought fit to withdraw your interest and to offer them to me. Those interests are now paramount in this office. My digestive functions, as you may have heard me mention, are not in a good state, and rest might improve them; but I shall not rest, Sir, while I am your representative. Whenever you want me, you will find me here. Summon me anywhere, and I will come. During the long vacation, Sir, I shall devote my leisure to studying your interests more an more closely, and to making arrangements for moving heaven and earth after Michaelmas term.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.506)

Such is the determination of Mr Vholes regarding his duties. Perhaps a speculation might be made that young Dickens himself felt similar determination – when he started advancing in his carrier as a writer. Now an example of Mr Skimpole’s lack of persistence to complete his “works”:

“Mr Skimpole betook himself to beginning some sketch in the park which he never finished, or to playing fragments of airs on the piano, or to lying down on his back under the tree and looking at the sky – which he couldn’t help thinking, he said, was what he was meant for; it suited him so exactly.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.68)

Another extract illuminates Mr Skimpole’s worldview. The narrator speaks about Skimpole:

“His good friend Jarndyce and some other of his friends then helped him to several openings in life; but to no purpose, for he must confess to two of the oldest infirmities in the world: one was, that he had no idea of time; the other, that he had no idea of money. In consequence of which he never kept an appointment, never could transact any business, and never knew the value of anything! Well! So he had got on in life, and there he was! He was very fond of reading the papers, very fond of making fancy sketches with a pencil, very fond of nature, very fond of art. All he asked of society was, to let him live. That wasn’t much. His wants were few. Give him the papers, conversation, music, mutton, coffee, landscape, fruit in the season, a few sheets of Bristol-board, and a little claret, and he asked for no more. He was a mere a child in the world, but he didn’t cry for the moon. He said to the world, ‘Go your several ways in peace! Wear red coats, blue coats, lawn sleeves, put pens behind your ears, wear aprons; go after glory, holiness, commerce, trade, any object you prefer, only – let Harold Skimpole live!” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.84)

These lines show an utter lack of any practical skills in transacting ordinary and regular business of life. This man is a parasite – a parasite with good conscience, as is evident from one of his amusing monologues:

“Possession is nothing to me. Here is my friend Jarndyce’s excellent house. I feel obliged to him for possessing it. I can sketch it, and alter it. I can set it to music. When I am here, I have sufficient possession of it, and have neither trouble, cost, nor responsibility. My steward’s name, in short, is Jarndyce, and he can’t cheat me.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.214)

Here is another passage:

“I don’t feel any vulgar gratitude to you. I almost feel as if you ought to be grateful to me, for giving you the opportunity of enjoying the luxury of generosity. I know you like it. For anything I can tell, I may have come to the world expressly for the purpose of increasing your stock of happiness. I may have been born to be a benefactor to you, by sometimes giving you an opportunity of assisting me in my little perplexities. Why should I regret my incapacity for details and worldly affairs, when it leads to such pleasant consequences? I don’t regret it therefore.” (Dickens, Bleak House, p.222)

In a way, Mr Skimpole’s statements, using a figurative language, may well be imagined to be used by lawyers, with a view of confusing an argument, as a means of evasion. Consequently, Mr Skimpole could be seen as not a person devoid of any tactics as he would like us to believe. He plays with words and concepts in the same way as lawyers do. In fact, his amusing little speeches may be regarded, we don’t know whether it was Dickens’s intention, as only another example of ambiguity of language – the principal means that lawyers use in their work. He is skilful with language, as well as lawyers generally are. Consequently, in a paradoxical way, Mr Skimpole, however insufficient or childish he may be in the “worldly matters”, he is still affiliated with lawyers, his apparent opposites, in a way he uses language and plays with concepts. He is articulate, he gives reasons, he enchants, though he is easily refuted by facts – the thing he differs from lawyers who generally tend to be in possession of facts. In short, he is merely amusing, where lawyers have to be persuasive and factual.

The discussion now shifts to an idea expressed by Ronald Baughman in his Dickens and His Lawyers, the idea the author of this work affiliates with. Baughman states:

“Apparently, Dickens felt there was a similarity between the young lawyer and the young artist, for he dramatized the two as having parallel occupational goals. Dickens indicates in David Copperfield that the young artist and the young lawyer must approach their occupation with the same earnestness of heart and mind; they must work hard at their trade to achieve success.” (Baughman, Dickens and His Lawyers, p.54)

That is the proposition that is disputed in the next chapter. Now the reader will hear a great revelation about Dickens from the same source:

“The novelist (Dickens) himself expressed a desire to be in law.” (Baughman, Dickens and His Lawyers, p.58)

Ronald Baughman now quotes Dickens’s words to his friend:

“I am (nominally, God Knows!) a Law student, and I have a certain number of ‘terms to keep’ before I can be called to the Bar; and it would be well for me to be called as there are many little pickings to be got pretty easily within my reach – which can only be bestowed on Barristers.” (Baughman, Dickens and His Lawyers, p.63)

Ronald Baughman further states:

“This desire to be a magistrate was more than a mere „outbreak of momentary discontents” in 1846, but, represented a long-held ambition.” (Baughman, Dickens and His Lawyers,p.59)

So, an idea of affiliation between the young lawyer and the young artist, and a revelation of Dickens’s ambition to become a lawyer, these two facts shed quite an interesting light on Dickens’s treatment of lawyers in his masterpieces. These ideas are the theme of the next chapter.

The Artist and The Lawyer

When one is compelled to, as Dickens was, to forge an character of a lawyer, again and again, and to make such an character a part of each of his work, than it may be safely presumed that Dickens was in a way mesmerized and highly attracted, even drawn to such a character, i.e. a lawyer. Let it be no objection that he seemed to portray them negatively. There must have been secret admiration of them under the surface of their negative appearance; after all the readers have heard of his ambition to become lawyer.

Dickens, being a realist writer, simply had to admire, and wish to possess abilities and a world-view of lawyers, because what is realism, i.e. a literary movement of 19 century, if not a drive to understand and describe the world as it is; a drive not to be beguiled too easily; a drive to describe the world objectively – at least, in our human sense, for we know now that precisely this is not possible.

Needless to say, if we look at it from this point of view, it may be stated that there is a close affiliation between a realist writer and a lawyer. Artists and lawyers, above all, want to understand, comprehend the world. Moreover, their ambition is to influence, direct, play with, the entities, situations, and objects, people. We have been the witness to these efforts on the part of the lawyers in the preceding chapters. In the same way as Dickens invents, characterizes, plays with the characters of his plots, so do lawyers do with aspects, problems, shortcoming of this life. Dickens may have been obsessed by law and its subjects, i.e. lawyers, more obsessed, perhaps, if I may venture this hypothesis, because he did not become one himself.

As regards the aloofness, seeming inhumanity, impenetrability of the lawyers discussed in this work, one may say that artists perhaps also share in such a characterization. For have not been artists regarded by laity, the common people, as splendidly and abundantly endowed with above-mentioned characteristics? Have they not been regarded as heretics and dangerous-to life elements? Just witness the history art. Why? The answer is simple enough: artists have always, if we exempt dilettantes and would-be artists like Mr Skimpole, questioned the very values of the societies they lived in; they have always posed dangerous question marks concerning the best and highest values of such societies; they have always tried to re-evaluate and create above such established value-systems, i.e. moralities.

Needless to say, artists have had gathered wrath, misunderstanding and contempt of their fellow human beings for such an effort. Once again, let me emphasize that I do not talk about an ephemeral, superfluous, pseudo-artists, the kind which forms the majority of artists; I talk about the species of artist who are real and earnest, endowed with uncommon abilities and virtues that simply do not conform to the pre-fabricated lives of their respective societies.

Given the assumed similarity between artists and lawyers, is it surprising that lawyer pose a similar threat to people? Are not people dismayed by the manner the lawyers, similar to artists, handle their worldly affairs? Do people sense a grain of contempt on the part of both artists and lawyers when they are interpreting their (peoples’) deeds, thoughts and emotions?

The author now proceeds to the statement produced by Ronald Baughman in his Dickens and His Lawyers in order to further illustrate the affinity between lawyers and artists. He quotes Dickens:

“Periodical writers have to handle topics with which they are little familiar, exactly as barrister are liable to be called upon to plead in cases of whose technical details they are completely ignorant… A writer, like a barrister, may take the trouble to get up his subject, “cramming” for it, in examination phrase, making himself acquainted with all the minutes of the matter in dispute, before addressing the court or the public. Not a bad plan is first to get together all available evidence and information – bushels of books, packets of documents, plans, maps, drawings, - not neglecting personal visits, inspections and inquiry, should such be needed – and then mentally to digest the whole, applying to the work such common sense and acuteness as one happens to be gifted with.” (Baughman, Dickens and His Lawyers, p.65)


Ronald Baughman continues:

“In this parallel the artist’s approach to work is exactly the same as the lawyer’s. It might be argued that this view makes the artist appear as a mental bricklayer. Careful consideration of the passage, however, will indicate that the novelist is advocating an exacting, dispassionate, almost clinical approach to writing. Hard work and thorough knowledge of one’s material seems to be essential not only to the lawyer but to the artist as well.” (Baughman, Dickens and His Lawyers, p.68))

Since much discussion evolved around phrases like critical judgment, critical thinking, impersonality and objectivity, the author of this work deems it necessary to shed more light on such concepts. The author thinks that no better lector that can enlighten us, laity, on the subject is a German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who ponders on such things in these lines:

“One must learn to see, one must learn to think, one must learn to speak and write: the goal in all three is noble culture. Learning to see – accustoming the eye to calmness, to patience, to letting things come up to it; postponing judgment, learning to go around and grasp each individual case from all sides. That is the first preliminary schooling for spirituality: not to react at once to a stimulus, but to gain control of all inhibiting, excluding instincts.

Learning to see, as I understand it, is almost what, unphilosophically speaking, is called a strong will: essential feature is precisely not to “will” – to be able to postpone decision. All un-spirituality, all vulgar commonness, depend on the inability to resist stimulus: one must react, one follows every impulse. In many cases, such a compulsion is already pathology, decline, a symptom of exhaustion – almost everything that unphilosophical crudity designates with the word “vice“ is merely this physiological inability not to react. A practical application of having learned to see: as a learner, one will have become altogether slow, mistrustful, and recalcitrant. One will let strange, new things of every kind come up to oneself, inspecting them with hostile calm and withdrawing one’s hand. To have all doors standing open, to lie servile on one’s stomach before every little fact, always to be prepared for the leap of putting oneself into the place of, or of plunging into, others and other things – in short, the famous modern “objectivity” is a bad taste, is ignoble par excellence. (Nietzsche, Twilight of Idols, p.45)

Perhaps, at every law school the following words of Nietzsche are, or should be taught. He talks about the 19-century higher education in Germany:

“Learning to think: in our schools one no longer has any idea of this. Even in the universities, even among the real scholars of philosophy, logic as a theory, as a practice, as a craft, is beginning to die out.

There is no longer the remotest recollection that thinking requires a technique, a teaching curriculum, a will to mastery – that thinking wants to be learned like dancing, as a kind of dancing.” (Nietzsche, Twilight of Idols, p.52))

Lawyers as well as artists have to share similar approach towards the art of thinking that has just been quoted. The both have to be somehow “aloof” and disinterested, but at the same time they have to be emotionally involved in what they do, they have to be obsessed with their craft in order to acquire all necessary skills required.


The main aim of this work is to discover some good and worthy traits under the negative and often hideous externals of Dickens’ lawyers. The two typical examples were analysed in the characters of Mr Tulkinghorn and Mr Jaggers.

First, the author sums up the case of Mr Tulkinghorn. Apart from his personal vices, i.e. love of power; unscrupulous way in which he achieves his objectives, Mr Tulkinghorn can hardly be indicted with a crime or misdemeanour in the case of his handling the pre-marital affair of lady Deadlock. The opinion of an expert on law ethics, Mr McCrystal, was submitted with the conclusion that it is not certain whether Mr Tulkinghorn violated contemporary American ethical standards for legal profession. The pivotal argument for the statement being that the lawyer can withhold legal information, should such information be seriously detrimental to the client’s physical or psychological state, the argument, that might have applied in the case of Mr Leicester Deadlock, who was heard by Mr Tulkinghorn several times that if something bad should meet Lady Deadlock, it would be the end of him. On such ground Mr Tulkinghorn’s reason for not informing his client could be well understood, given an unsatisfactory health condition of his client.

Furthermore, Mr Tulkinghorn’s relentless pursuit of Lady Deadlock’s secret, should not be seen as anything which would contradict contemporary ethical standards for legal profession, for Mr Tulkinghorn, being Leicester Deadlock’s solicitor, simply had to be in possession of much intimate information concerning his client’s legal rights: that was clearly the case of Lady Deadlock’s pre-marital affair and subsequent child-birth.

Consequently, even though Charles Dickens portrays Mr Tulkinghorn as vile, cold, unfeeling, brutal creature whose love of power causes him to manipulate with people, still, it must be stated that, professionally or legally speaking, Mr Tulkinghorn is not liable to any criminal offence or misdemeanour, and if there were any legal proceedings against him, he would probably “stand his ground” and put up vigorous defence.

Second, the author now sums up the case of Mr Jaggers. There is not even a hint of any liability to criminal offence against Mr Jaggers. Again, as Mr Tulkinghorn, he is endowed with all professional characteristic of legal profession which Dickens implanted to his characters of lawyers, e.g. cold heart, severity, rationality at any cost, even inhumanity, manipulation of people, contempt, sarcasm. All these characteristics may belong to the sphere of morality, and could be discussed under the heading of social norms and values. For the author it is sufficient that Mr Jaggers cannot be charged with criminal offence or professional malpractice. He, as well as Tulkinghorn, may be disliked, even abhorred by readers for his personal characteristics, but legally speaking he is perfectly innocent.

A vice, avarice, is embodied in the character of Mr Vholes. He uses law as a vehicle to literary bleeding his clients dry. Mr Vholes is an embodiment of the whole lawsuit, Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, around which centres the story line of Bleak House. Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, a monstrous lawsuit, an example of the legal malpractice, as justice having gone awry. The court case that seems to go on solely for the purpose of feeding such members of legal profession as Mr Vholes.

Having stated all these observations, still, one would have as immense difficulties to actually prove to Mr Vholes that he had done anything criminal. His design was to incite Richard Carstone to pursue his interest in the lawsuit, which Carstone did. Once Carstone “caught the hook”, he is lost: Mr Vholes mechanically and with cold precision begins to “milk his cow”. However, let it be emphasized once again: Mr Vholes probably did not breach any law by his conduct regarding Richard Carstone. The reader can abhor Vholes for his avarice and inhumanity, but, again, legally speaking, he is innocent: he did not violate any contemporary ethical standards for legal profession, as well as Tulkinghorn and Jaggers.

This puts lawyers and law system into an ambivalent light. No wonder that laity often regards them with caution and apprehension. It is the very intimacy that lawyers have of our innermost problems that causes our caution. They share our most precious and fragile secrets. As we have seen in the case of Mr Tulkinghorn, such secrets can be used by lawyers to augment their feeling of power – to the detriment of their clients.

Another point is that lawyers are supposed to know and advance their clients’ interests. Given the complexity of the world and the law, the manner in which lawyers pursue their clients’ objectives may not be seen as parallel with what clients themselves think is good for them or how to achieve it: but this is only due to intricacies and complexity of Law; and there may not be any ill-intent on the part of lawyers. Hence follow numerous misunderstanding and misconceptions between laity and lawyers. Perhaps it could be remarked that some qualities of human conduct, which are painful and unpleasant, are inherent in that aspect of human life we call Law.

Nevertheless, the kind of malpractice as witnessed in the lawsuit, Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, should not be tolerated, and Dickens was right to warn the readers about the potential and real dangers that law holds for common people. It could be remarked that, as is often the case with Dickens, his descriptions of the 19-century law system sounds familiar and strangely up-to-date to the ear of the contemporary reader. Just witness what a number of lawsuits virtually “drag on” for years in this country, being similar to the Jarndyce versus Jarndyce lawsuit.

Now the author sums up the chapter The Lawyer and the Artist. It was stated in this chapter that there exists a close affiliation between the lawyer and the artist. They both have to be earnest and zealous when pursuing their goals. They have to think and observe scientifically, and this approach may cause an apprehension of lay people. Consequently, Dickens describes the lawyers’ proceedings as “cold blooded, inhuman, cruel or insensitive; nevertheless, this denouncement of lawyers’ way of thinking is not objective, because as was stated before, lawyers simply reason differently than other people or professions, because they are a part of an intricate, often ambiguous aspect of life, called Law, or Justice. So, when Dickens criticizes Mr Jaggers’, Mr Tulkinghorn’ or Mr Vholes’ legal proceedings, his view of them may not be entirely correct.

On the other hand, Dickens may not have intended to apply negative qualities to the lawyers. He may have just described the lawyers at work, without necessarily wanting to be negative towards them. He must have understood the causes why lawyers reason differently from laity, and why laity is apprehensive about lawyers. Dickens himself wanted to become a lawyer. How could he hold only negative view of lawyers? Law must have attracted him in the similar way as he was by literature; law and literature, both domains having significant resemblances and affiliations for Dickens.

The lawyer, as the artist, goes deeper under the surface of life upon which people like Harold Skimpole live. They are both driven to understand the core of things, to express it figuratively. Their way of reasoning may cause apprehension of others, but their way of cautious, critical thinking is surely the only way how to get hold of “fleeting reality”. To follow this line of thought, it may be said that even their distance from people is a necessary condition of their professional, and perhaps even personal life. In this way they are like monks or priests, another mediators of good and evil. So again, distance from people, solitude as chosen, cherished, these concepts are not necessarily of negative value, as the readers usually assume in the characters of Dickens’ lawyers.

In short, Dickens’ lawyers certainly have personal flaws in their characters: avarice, cold heart, love of power, insensitivity, to name few. Other people share these qualities as well, be they lawyers or not. Nevertheless the author stated with a good reason, that they (Tulkinghorn, Jaggers, Vholes) did not perpetrate any criminal offence or misdemeanour.

Now the author states the qualities in Dickens’ lawyers, which have positive value. First, their way of thinking: great power of analytical, synthesizing, creative, logical thinking. Needless to say their reading and debating skills are also great. The reader has been a witness to numerous examples of Dickens’ lawyers proving these skills and abilities. Second, their hard work ethics: Dickens’ lawyers are hard working people who do their job with zeal and enthusiasm. Third, their solitude may be seen as a kind of sacrifice to their professional life. They, in a manner of monks, “let their personal life go”, in order to strive towards their goals with more freedom.

So let it be stated that there do exist positive qualities in Dickens’ lawyers under their often-repulsive externals. There do exist skills that the lawyers possess that one does well to imitate. Dickens himself may have felt it to be so – his ambition to become a lawyer, and his life preoccupation with characters of lawyers speak for itself.


This work aimed at discovering some valuable qualities and abilities under the seemingly negative appearance of Dickens’ lawyers. The two exemplary examples of Dickens’ lawyers were chosen and analysed: Mr Tulkinghorn and Mr Jaggers. Some personal flaws were revealed by the analysis, but, simultaneously, no evidence of any criminal offence was proven. Then, the comparison of Mr Skimpole and Mr Vholes followed, which highlighted the lawyers’ hard work ethics, as opposed to dilettantism of laity. Then the affiliation between artists and lawyers were disputed. The comprehensive conclusion stated that indeed there do exist some good qualities in Dickens’ lawyers, despite their apparent unattractiveness. The qualities and skills such as their ability of clear, precise thinking, hard work ethics, their zealous, single-minded quest after their goals, their aloofness and solitude, can safely be termed positive, and are worth imitating.



1. Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Mandarin Paperback. 1991. P.495. ISBN: 0749307609
2. Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. Penguin Books LTD. 1994. p.808. ISBN: 135791080642
3. Freedman, M.H., Understanding Lawyers‘ Ethics. New York: M.Bender. 1990. ISBN:0820505250
4. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of Idols. 1990. P.120. ISBN:0140445145
5. McChrystal, M.K., At the Foot of the Master: What Dickens Got Right About What Lawyers Do Wrong, Oregon Law Review, Spring 1999-Volume 78, Number 2, University of Oregon
6. Baughman, Ronald. Dickens and His Lawyers. ALSA Forum. 1982. Volume 6, Number 2

by Petr Piskač                  

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Bleak House by Charles Dickens


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Bleak House by Charles Dickens



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Bleak House by Charles Dickens