Summary of Chapter XXIX: The Young Man
The Dedlocks move to their London house for the winter. Lady Dedlock has come to fear Mr. Tulkinghorn who “pursues her doggedly” with “no touch of compunction, remorse, or pity” (p. 306). The servant suddenly announces “The young man of the name of Guppy.” Surprised, she receives him alone, as her husband leaves.
Guppy has been writing to Lady Dedlock and now has a solid offer for her. He mentions that Esther Summerson looks like Lady Dedlock, and that his friend, Mrs. Chadband, who knew Esther as a girl has given him some information about Esther. He wants to clear the mystery of her birth because he loves her and has proposed to her, but admits she has refused him. Lady Dedlock smiles.
He goes on that Mrs. Chadband worked for Miss Barbary. Lady Dedlock’s face is pale. The little girl’s name was Esther Hawdon, not Summerson.
Lady Dedlock says, “My God!” Guppy goes on that the dead law-writer was Captain Hawdon, and that it is known she went in disguise to see his grave. Hawdon left a batch of letters, which he, Guppy, can retrieve and bring, if she is willing.
Alone, she cries and sobs, “O my child.” Her cruel sister had told her that the baby died, and had secretly taken and raised the child.
Commentary on Chapter XXIX
Finally, some mysteries are solved and facts put together. Lady Dedlock had some kind of love affair with Hawdon and obviously still loves him. She was separated from her child by force, from her cruel sister, Miss Barbary. The love letters are the ones that Krook must have taken from Hawdon’s room after his death before anyone else could find them. Krook was unable to read to ascertain their value, but Guppy somehow can get them from him.
At this point, Lady Dedlock’s secrets are being pursued separately by Guppy from the office of Kenge and Carboy, and Tulkinghorn, the Dedlock’s attorney. Guppy seems to be ahead of Tulkinghorn at the moment. Guppy thinks knowing the secret of Esther’s birth is a way to marriage. He thinks it is his ticket into Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
It is interesting to learn that Esther looks like Lady Dedlock, for we are told repeatedly how beautiful she is, and we never hear mention of what Esther looks like. Esther would have us believe Ada is the beauty, and she is plain, but with three men after her, and a likeness to Lady Dedlock, we have to form our own opinion.