Four New Spots

As work proceeds at what sometimes seems like a glacial pace, I would like to present these four recently-completed small illustrations. I’ve strived to provide some context for each with excerpts from the book.

It may seem like there are some spoilers here, but BLEAK HOUSE is so jam-packed with catastrophic plot twists that you’ll forget all about these once you’re reading the book!


Here, Lord Dedlock’s flighty cousin Volumnia, a fairly minor character, stumbles upon his prostrate body in the dark.

The Dedlock town house changes not externally, and hours pass before its exalted dullness is disturbed within. But Volumnia the fair, being subject to the prevalent complaint of boredom and finding that disorder attacking her spirits with some virulence, ventures at length to repair to the library for change of scene. Her gentle tapping at the door producing no response, she opens it and peeps in; seeing no one there, takes possession.

The sprightly Dedlock is reputed, in that grass-grown city of the ancients, Bath, to be stimulated by an urgent curiosity which impels her on all convenient and inconvenient occasions to sidle about with a golden glass at her eye, peering into objects of every description. Certain it is that she avails herself of the present opportunity of hovering over her kinsman’s letters and papers like a bird, taking a short peck at this document and a blink with her head on one side at that document, and hopping about from table to table with her glass at her eye in an inquisitive and restless manner. In the course of these researches she stumbles over something, and turning her glass in that direction, sees her kinsman lying on the ground like a felled tree.
Volumnia’s pet little scream acquires a considerable augmentation of reality from this surprise, and the house is quickly in commotion. Servants tear up and down stairs, bells are violently rung, doctors are sent for, and Lady Dedlock is sought in all directions, but not found. Nobody has seen or heard her since she last rang her bell. Her letter to Sir Leicester is discovered on her table, but it is doubtful yet whether he has not received another missive from another world requiring to be personally answered, and all the living languages, and all the dead, are as one to him.


Mr. George, one of the nobler characters in the book, views himself as a failure for his vagabonding way of life. He travels to the North Country to finally meet his estranged brother, who has become a very successful ironmill owner. Embarrassed by his long absence, George attempts to introduce himself by an assumed name.

“What name shall I say to my father?” asks the young man.

George, full of the idea of iron, in desperation answers “Steel,” and is so presented. He is left alone with the gentleman in the office, who sits at a table with account-books before him and some sheets of paper blotted with hosts of figures and drawings of cunning shapes. It is a bare office, with bare windows, looking on the iron view below. Tumbled together on the table are some pieces of iron, purposely broken to be tested at various periods of their service, in various capacities. There is iron-dust on everything; and the smoke is seen through the windows rolling heavily out of the tall chimneys to mingle with the smoke from a vaporous Babylon of other chimneys.


Jo (the shortest name of any of Dickens’s characters) is an utterly insignificant street sweeper, except that he becomes a major character in this novel. His broom has long been an icon of the story of BLEAK HOUSE.

What connexion can there be between the place in Lincolnshire, the
house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabout of Jo the
outlaw with the broom, who had that distant ray of light upon him
when he swept the churchyard-step? What connexion 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.” He knows that it’s hard to
keep the mud off the crossing in dirty weather, and harder still to
live by doing it. Nobody taught him even that much; he found it out.


Inspector Bucket of the Detective is, hands down, my absolute favorite character in this book. One of the first great detective characters in fiction, he is pre-dated by Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), but precedes Sherlock Holmes (1887).

He is the best kind of confidence man, instantly ingratiating himself with street urchins as easily as lords and ladies, chatting like an old friend on any subject from farming to musical instruments, assuming the best of everyone and chatting amiably right up to the moment he slaps the cuffs on.

Fortunately (or not), Bucket’s best scenes are long on either dialog or action, so it was difficult to find a brief excerpt that does him justice. I’ve chosen his very first appearance, which begins at the end of a confidential interview between Mr. Snagsby the law stationer, and the lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn.

Then, with fidelity, though with some prolixity, the law-stationer repeats Jo’s statement made to the assembled guests at his house. On coming to the end of his narrative, he gives a great start and breaks off with, “Dear me, sir, I wasn’t aware there was any other gentleman present!”

Mr. Snagsby is dismayed to see, standing with an attentive face between himself and the lawyer at a little distance from the table, a person with a hat and stick in his hand who was not there when he himself came in and has not since entered by the door or by either of the windows. There is a press in the room, but its hinges have not creaked, nor has a step been audible upon the floor. Yet this third person stands there with his attentive face, and his hat and stick in his hands, and his hands behind him, a composed and quiet listener. He is a stoutly built, steady-looking, sharp-eyed man in black, of about the middle-age. Except that he looks at Mr. Snagsby as if he were going to take his portrait, there is nothing remarkable about him at first sight but his ghostly manner of appearing.

“Don’t mind this gentleman,” says Mr. Tulkinghorn in his quiet way. “This is only Mr. Bucket.”

“Oh, indeed, sir?” returns the stationer, expressing by a cough that he is quite in the dark as to who Mr. Bucket may be.

Thanks very much for stopping by to see my progress! You can drop me a line any time at .

Author: mooney2021

I am a commercial artist and illustrator from New York and now retired. I'm also a longtime Charles Dickens fan and I've embarked on a project to illustrate his great BLEAK HOUSE.

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