Summary of Chapter XXXII: The Appointed Time
At Krook’s shop, Snagsby is out for a walk and talks to Mr. Weevle (Jobling) his new law-writer who is outside waiting for someone. They remark on how greasy the air is. Snagsby says he couldn’t live in that room where Nemo died. Weevle agrees the house gives him the horrors. Snagsby leaves and Guppy comes up.
Guppy and Weevle discuss the appointment at midnight with Krook when they will get the letters from him that Guppy will take to Lady Dedlock. It seems Krook had taken the letters from Nemo’s trunk, was able to spell out “Hawdon” and agreed to let them look at the letters.
They plot about giving him back a fake bundle. They too talk about the air being oily, and even more so in Weevle’s room where Nemo died. There is soot falling everywhere and Guppy puts his hand on the windowsill where there is a repulsive yellow oil. At midnight they go to meet Krook, but he is not there. There are his charred clothes and a bundle of ashes. Krook has gone up in smoke in a case of Spontaneous Combustion.
Commentary on Chapter XXXII
In the author’s preface, Dickens defends the reality of “spontaneous human combustion” when a body burns up, “engendered in the corrupted humours of the vicious body itself” (p. 346). Krook’s body was soaked in alcohol, and in the wick theory, he could have ignited sitting by the fire. Dickens, however, maintains there was no external source of fire, and this fits in with his symbolism of the corruption of Chancery. Corruption must sooner or later explode of its own nature, like Krook, the mock Lord Chancellor. He has died the death that all die “where false pretenses are made, and where injustice is done” (p. 346).