Author(s): DICKENS CHARLES
Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Lady Honoria live on his estate at Chesney Wold. Unknown to Sir Leicester, Lady Dedlock had a lover, Captain Hawdon, before she married - and had a daughter by him. Lady Dedlock believes her daughter is dead. The daughter, Esther, is in fact alive, and being raised by Miss Barbary, Lady Dedlock's sister. Esther does not know Miss Barbary is her aunt. After Miss Barbary dies, John Jarndyce becomes Esther's guardian and assigns the Chancery lawyer "Conversation" Kenge to take charge of her future. After attending school for six years, Esther moves in with him at Bleak House. Jarndyce simultaneously assumes custody of two other wards, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare (Esther's cousins). They are beneficiaries in one of the wills at issue in Jarndyce and Jarndyce; their guardian is a beneficiary under another will, and the two wills conflict. Richard and Ada soon fall in love, but though Mr. Jarndyce doesn't oppose the match, he stipulates that Richard must first choose a profession. Richard first tries a career in medicine, and Esther meets Dr. Allan Woodcourt at the house of Richard's tutor. When Richard mentions the prospect of gaining from the resolution of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Jarndyce beseeches him never to put faith in what he calls "the family curse".