Reading & Writing Bleak House

Lady Dedlock's Final Place

Apr 23, 2012 by Allison J Gran in Phiz


Image via Victorian Web 

I think this image by Phiz is particularly striking and interesting not only to look at, but also to consider and to question why he drew it as he does. If we look at the accompanying text, the space of the mausoleum is one of darkness and death, exemplified by the dead trees looming above in Phiz's sketch. However, it is interesting to note to little spot of life he places in the bottom of the image with the appearence of the ferns, as if there is still hope for new life to come. This is, of course, inarguably refuted by the impending darkness of the image, but I couldn't help but notice the possibility of it, particularly as it is placed directly in the front of the image and thus inescapable from the view of the reader.

I also couldn't help but make the connection between Sir Leicester and the trees keeping watch over the location. The bent stature of the trees reminds me distinctly of his bent and invalid body going past, as if there is some part of him which still refuses to give her up. There is, of course, no way to know if this was at all in Phiz's mind when he drew this, but it would be interesting to consider the possibility. 



Like Allison, I too was struck by this image. It is interesting that Phiz’s images get a lot darker and gloomier by the end starting with Ester’s search for her mother in The lonely figure on page 865 and The Night on page 871. They also appear more landscape like with fewer figures. The images are dark and the figures become more blurred. Though the narrative becomes less bleak as we see Ester and Ade getting married and living happily ever after Phiz’s only depicts the remnants of Esters mother. Phiz seems to be emphasizing a need to hold on to the past. That is why Sir Leicester has Lady Deadlock’s body buried in mausoleum in the park at Chesney Wold. Sire Leicester is mentioned as having “paid some who could have spoken out, to hold their peace; but it is a lame story, feebly whispering and creeping about, and any brighter spark of life it shows soon dies away” (981). This shows that he wants to keep the good memories of her alive and is trying to forget her shameful story by paying people to in order to keep the “peace.” Graveyard places are supposed to be peaceful yet her story of who she really is said to be “creeping about.” This implies that it is not a peaceful place. It reminded me of the ghost walk story that never gets fully explained. Lastly, Phiz plants her grave at the center of the image thus emphasizing Lady Deadlock as the center of past memories.

Posted by Elizabeth Tallmadge on April 29, 2012 at 10:13 PM EDT #

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