To go into Bleak House (the novel) you must get into the fog, the thick fog at the begining of the book. First you see it wetting and clogging streets, boats, rooms, river banks, the whole sky and the whole city of London. Then it turns into a metaphorical fog inside Chancery Lane. And it’s not only the fog, but also the mud, mud and mire, a sticky, churning substance that clings to people and carriages, dogs, horses and dresses, reason, justice and good will, soiling them, wearing them off.
So I entered the fog, it’s visions, I listened to the voice of the omniscient narrator (which is, more or less, Charles Dickens’ voice). This had the power to summon all kinds of things while it kept the fog going, moving slowly, sticking to them so they would move slowly too.
And I, the reader, got entangled in those tentacles of pale, dirty clouds, and moved ahead with difficulty. It happened that my had was also a bit foggy those days.
I hadn’t read a XIXth century novel for a while and I came from much quicker roads, so I also had to adapt to the new pace and rythm. It took some time and I took my time, just as the author had took his to write the novel.
Modern novels are films. Old ones are a mix of drama and comedy represented on the stage of the reader’s mind.
Everything was slower, broader, more detailed and adorned in those days when novels were written along large, minute chapters and published in installments.
One of their pleasures is the slow time they invite us to.
In Bleak House the parts that flow from the voice of the omniscient narrator are the slowest, with wonderful descriptions that bring to life characters and places, long sentences full of connections and irony (which is a particular form of connecting things), while the narrative undertaken by Esther Summerson is more vivacious, written in a plainer English, but also representative of her wit and her whole personality.
So I went through the fog and started a delightful journey.
A hot, dreary summer was waiting pages ahead, and a cruel winter, and more. Bleak House and Chesney Wold, Tom’s All Alone and the Deadlocks’ house in London… A whole world of places and characters that would act their parts in the living fog of my imagination.