Such strength


I'm reading Bleak House at the moment and it is a true joy. Today, as I read Esther's narrative with tears in my eyes (always, always Esther makes me weep), I realized something. When Bleak House begins and Esther begins it all seems so quaint and lovely and rosy and overdone that it is easy to dismiss her goodness and amiability and general effect on everyone as so exaggerated that it must be comical.

But there is something so sincere and endearing and absolutely noble and joyful about her that her narrative becomes something that I grip on to and cherish. When she tells of her illness and does not tell of her love -- when she communicates her worries and her joys -- when she iterates and reiterates the importance of duty, duty known intuitively and steadfastly -- when she worries about the ravages the fever has taken on her looks and admits to herself some small scrap of vanity (but always for the sake of someone else) -- it is all so touching, so heart-wrenching. She is never saccharine, never insipid, never a caricature of the virtuous little woman. She is a beautiful person -- she gives hope and joy to everyone around her, and Dickens is so, so careful to communicate this.

Not before I was alone in my own room for the night, and I had again been dejected and unhappy there, did I begin to know how wrong and thankless this state was. But from my joyful darling who was coming on the morrow, I found a joyful letter, full of such loving anticipation that I must have been made of marble if it had not moved me; from my guardian too, I found another letter, asking me to tell Dame Durden, if I should see that little woman anywhere, that they had moped about most pitiably without her, that the housekeeping was going to rack and ruin, that nobody else could manage the keys, and that everybody in and about the house declared it was not the same house, and was becoming rebellious for her return. Two such letters together made me think how far beyond my deserts I was beloved, and how happy I ought to be. That made me think of all my past life; and that brought me, as t ought to have done before, into a better condition.