It’s A Long Long Way to Bleak House


From Bleak House by Charles Dickens:

"It was interesting when I dressed before daylight to peep out of the window, where my candles were reflected in the black panes like two beacons, and finding all beyond still enshrouded in the indistinctness of last night, to watch how it turned out when the day came on. As the prospect gradually revealed itself and disclosed the scene over which the wind had wandered in the dark, like my memory over my life, I had a pleasure in discovering the unknown objects that had been around me in my sleep. At first they were faintly discernable in the mist, and above them the later stars still glimmered. That pale interval over, the picture began to enlarge and fill up so fast that at every new peep I could have found enough to look at for an hour. Imperceptibly my candles became the only incongruous part of the morning, the dark places in my room all melted away, and the day shone bright upon a cheerful landscape, prominent in which the old Abbey Church, with its massive tower, threw a softer train of shadow on the view than seemed compatible with its rugged character.  But so from rough outsides (I hope I have learnt), serene and gentle influences often proceed."



From A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry:

"And in one of those kingdoms he saw for the first time his princess, Gretta Lawlor, who truly was one of the beauties of the city, there would be no lie in that. Dublin could show many beauties, skinny and destitute though they might seem. And she was among the finest, though of course she knew nothing of that.

She was sitting by a window writing on a piece of paper, though he never found out what she was writing. Her face made his stomach weak, and her arms and breasts made his legs of poor use to him. She had the strange look of an old painting because the light was on her face. It was a neat, delectable face and she had long yellow hair like something caught in the act of falling. Maybe in her work, if she had work, she kept it tied and pinned. But here in her privacy it was glistening with the secret lights of the old room. Her eyes had the green of the writing on a tram ticket. Her breasts in a soft blue linen dress were small, thin, and fiercely pointed. It was almost a cause for fainting on his part, he had never witnessed the like. He held the pheasants up in the gloom and noticed for the first time that they had a curious smell, as if left hanging too long, and they were starting to decompose. She was just thirteen in that time."


Totally  unrelated? Not completely. In the Bleak House quote Esther Summerson is falling in love with John Jarndyce, though she might be shocked if someone pointed this out to her. She's his ward, and he her guardian. The age difference is significant, though not insurmountable. She trembles and fumbles when he's near but doesn't quite recognize what she's feeling is attraction. Not yet. And as for him? He's genial and kind, protective and thus thoroughly loveable, though not in a designing way. For Esther everything in the world is coming alive. She'll connect the dots soon enough.

Fast forward in time to just before WW I, hop across the pond to Ireland, and young Willie Dunne is struck by the beauty of Gretta Lawlor. She's so pretty she makes him forget he's holding (gag) dead pheasants. Now that, my friends, is pretty.

Each is awakening to the prospect of first love slowly unfolding, Esther the prim Victorian and Willie the adolescent Irishman. And, both scenes involve a window. Significant? Oh, I think so.

Funny, I wanted to post quotes from both works, because I'm alternating reading them at present, but didn't see the similarities until I'd typed them out. Interesting, the subconscious mind, isn't it?


One thought on “It’s A Long Long Way to Bleak House

  1. I love, love, love finding connections like this. Now I must start thinking about parallel scenes described through windows. And yes, it all comes clear once you write it out. I’ve read that extroverts almost don’t have their thoughts until they say them; well I the introvert almost don’t have my thoughts until I write them.


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