Bleak House is arguably Dickens' most accomplished novel, blending an enjoyable story with a relevant societal critique. As orphaned Esther journeys to the home of her appointed guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, she meets his two other wards, Ada and Richard. The presence of Inspector Bucket, often called the first significant detective in literature, and Mr. Tulkinghorn, a nosy lawyer, threaten to reveal characters' pasts and upset the comfortable lives they lead. As these characters learn to navigate a world filled with mystery, murder and romance, Dickens implores readers to see the unnecessary harm caused by misguided institutions that seek to serve themselves over the public.
Charles Dickens was born in 1812 near Portsmouth where his father was a clerk in the navy pay office. The family moved to London in 1823, but their fortunes were severely impaired. Dickens was sent to work in a blacking-warehouse when his father was imprisoned for debt. Both experiences deeply affected the future novelist. In 1833 he began contributing stories to newspapers and magazines, and in 1836 started the serial publication of Pickwick Papers. Thereafter, Dickens published his major novels over the course of the next twenty years, from Nicholas Nickleby to Little Dorrit. He also edited the journals Household Words and All the Year Round. Dickens died in June 1870.