(From Guardian Unlimited)
London. Fog everywhere. And in the very heart of the fog, the Lord Chancellor's court where the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on, the nature of its contestation long since lost to all parties, save to the lawyers who eagerly count the costs. Though on this day some progress is made as two young people are made wards of their uncle, John Jarndyce, who resides at Bleak House.
Meanwhile in Lincolnshire My Lady Dedlock, some 20 years younger than her husband, Sir Leicester, is receiving the family lawyer, Mr Tulkinghorn, prior to her departure from the tedium of the country for Paris. He shows her an affidavit and My Lady blanches. "Who copied this?" she asks, before delicately fainting.
Oh silly me! I can't think what possessed me to think I was clever enough to write a first person narrative all about silly old me, but I've started so I might as well carry on. Where was I? Oh yes, affecting to be a great deal stupider than I am. I rather think you might find that quite annoying after a while. But then as I'm also consistently nice the whole time, you might find that annoying too. But I am getting ahead of myself. My name is Esther Summerson. My parents are unknown to me and my early years were spent with my godmother. After she died I was sent away to a school and six years on I received a letter -- as you do -- saying that a Mr John Jarndyce wanted me to be a companion to his niece and nephew. …