Light by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne) for Part 16 of Bleak House (June 1853), p. 493 (ch. 51, "Enlightened"). 12 cm high by 14 cm wide (4 ⅞ by 5 ¾ inches), vignetted. Esther here achieves "Enlightenment" about the young couple's recent marriage, but Richard is far from achieving a fuller understanding of his predatory attorney, of the pointlessness of the litigation in which he is engaged, or of the true merits of his guardian, John Jarndyce. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Ada and Richard have married

"Sometimes I hope, my dear,and sometimes I — don't quite despair, but nearly. I get," said Richard, relinquishing my hand gently and walking across the room, "so tired!"

He took a few turns up and down and sunk upon the sofa. "I get," he repeated gloomily, "so tired. It is such weary, weary work!"

He was leaning on his arm saying these words in a meditative voice and looking at the ground when my darling rose, put off her bonnet, kneeled down beside him with her golden hair falling like sunlight on his head, clasped her two arms round his neck, and turned her face to me. Oh, what a loving and devoted face I saw!

"Esther, dear," she said very quietly, "I am not going home again."

A light shone in upon me all at once.

"Never any more. I am going to stay with my dear husband. We have been married above two months. Go home without me, my own Esther;I shall never go home any more!" With those words my darling drew his head down on her breast and held it there. And if ever in my life I saw a love that nothing but death could change, I saw it then before me. [Chapter LI, "Enlightened," 493; Project Gutenberg etext (see bibliography below)]

Michael Steig's Note on the Irony of the Plate's Title

The immediate consequence of the murder, Lady Dedlock's increasing sense of guilt, as though she had committed that crime, and her preparation for flight, are depicted and summed up emblematically in Shadow (ch. 53), which is paired with another plate whose caption, Light (ch. 51), seems intended to suggest a link. Although Richard Carstone's decline in the toils of Chancery, the subject of Light, and Lady Dedlock's impending flight do belong to separate strands of the plot, within Dickens' scheme they are in fact thematically related. Both individuals are seen as victims of their society's inhumane codes and institutions, yet both share some of the responsibility for their plight. The irony of the seemingly antithetical captions is that the plates are not really in contrast: Light refers only to Esther's sudden realization that Ada and Richard are married, and that Ada is devoting herself to him wholly in his decline; and the halo of light surrounding the couple sets off more starkly the hopelessness of Richard's condition. Visually, the illustration is linked to its companion through the figure of Esther, nearly central in the composition and with a hidden face, like Lady Dedlock in Shadow. The latter caption refers back to the symbolic shadow encroaching upon her portrait, and here the shadows are closing in, so that only a portion of Lady Dedlock's figure remains in light. [152/153]

Other​ Illustrations​ of Ada and Richard revealing their secret, 1873 and 1910

Left: Harry Furniss's study of the three friends shows Richard much contorted: Richard and Ada Married (1910). Right: Fred Barnard's Household Edition composite woodblock wood-engraving features a badly run-down Richard, his room a mess: "Esther, dear," she said very quietly, "I am not going home again." (1873).

Related Material, including Other Illustrated Editions of Bleak House

Image scan and text by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


"Bleak House — Sixty-one Illustrations by Fred Barnard." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, Being Eight Hundred and Sixty-six Drawings by Fred Barnard, Gordon Thomson, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), J. McL. Ralston, J. Mahoney, H. French, Charles Green, E. G. Dalziel, A. B. Frost, F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes. London: Chapman and Hall, 1907.

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Brown, John Buchanan. Phiz! Illustrator of Dickens' World. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1978.

Burton, Anthony. "Vision and Designs. Review of John Harvey, Victorian Novelists and heir Illustrators. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1970. Pounds 3.50." Dickensian, 67.2 (1971): 105-109.

Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). London: Bradbury & Evans. Bouverie Street, 1853.

_______. Bleak House. Project Gutenberg etext prepared by Donald Lainson, Toronto, Canada (, with revision and corrections by Thomas Berger and Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D. Seen 9 November 2007.

_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Works of Charles Dickens. The Household Edition. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1863. Vols. 1-4.

_______. Bleak House. Project Gutenberg etext prepared by Donald Lainson, Toronto, Canada (, with revision and corrections by Thomas Berger and Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D. Seen 9 November 2007.

_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. XI.

Harvey, John R. "Conditions of Illustration in Serial Fiction." Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970. Pp. 182-198.

Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Steig, Michael. Chapter 6. "Bleak House and Little Dorrit: Iconography of Darkness." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 131-172.

Vann, J. Don. "Bleak House, twenty parts in nineteen monthly instalments, October 1846—April 1848." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985. 69-70.

Created 15 November 2007

Last modified 20 March 2021