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Episode #1.4 

Jarndyce tells Esther about an old letter of her aunt. Smallweed then visits Sgt. George and seeks a handwriting sample letter for Tulkinghorn. Finally, Guppy reveals to Lady Dedlock that he may acquire some old Hawdon letters.


Ross Devenish


Arthur Hopcraft


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Episode credited cast:
Suzanne Burden Suzanne Burden ... Esther Summerson
Kathy Burke ... Guster
Sylvia Coleridge ... Miss Flite
Hilary Crane Hilary Crane ... Mrs. Snagsby
Graham Crowden ... Lord Chancellor
Eileen Davies ... Judy Smallweed
Charlie Drake ... Smallweed
Denholm Elliott ... John Jarndyce
Philip Franks Philip Franks ... Richard Carstone
Bernard Hepton ... Krook
Lucy Hornak Lucy Hornak ... Ada Clare
Anthony Ingram Anthony Ingram ... Policeman (as Antony Ingram)
Harry Jones Harry Jones ... Phil Squod
Sam Kelly ... Snagsby
Dave King ... Sergeant George


Jarndyce tells Esther about an old letter of her aunt. Smallweed then visits Sgt. George and seeks a handwriting sample letter for Tulkinghorn. Finally, Guppy reveals to Lady Dedlock that he may acquire some old Hawdon letters.

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Drama | Crime



Release Date:

1 May 1985 (UK) See more »

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User Reviews

The importance of letters

Have always loved and respected period dramas/adaptations and watch as many as possible without fail. Regardless of how they fare as adaptations or how faithful they are to the source material, there are many (too numerous to list) that are good or more as standalones.

There will always be inevitable comparisons to which is the preferred adaptation of 'Bleak House', this or 2005. From a personal point of view, there is no real preference as both adaptations are outstanding in their own way. And not just as adaptations, but also on their own merits as well, which is every bit as important, actually for me even more important being someone who judges films and adaptations (or aims to) on their own. The book is compelling, atmospheric and rich in characterisation. It is a mammoth book, and one of Dickens' least accessible (from first-time personal experience, the law stuff took its time to get completely). Both are exceptionally well-made, tell the story extremely well indeed and brilliantly written and acted. The 2005 adaptation's characterisation is a little richer, but this adaptation is a little more atmospheric.

Not everybody will find the 70s-80s Dickens serial adaptations their cup of tea. They may find them slow, long and with a lot of talk. That isn't the case with me. Of the ones seen, they respect their source material (even with omissions and changes here and there), are detailed, very evocative and Dickensian and are well-made, written and acted. And that is the case with this 'Bleak House' exactly (great and faithful as an adaptation, without being too faithful).

Loved the first two episodes and loved the third episode even more, with more going on and a tighter pace. The same goes for the fourth episode, this 'Bleak House' is the sort of series that gets better with every episode and to me that should be the case.

Visually, the costumes and sets look beautiful and very detailed, succeeding also in capturing the bleak nature of the book. They are also full of atmosphere and don't come across as too clean. The music is a pleasing mix of haunting overtones and delicate chamber-music-like, and fit with each scene excellently, even if some may prefer the more understated quality in the 2005 adaptation.

Scoring highly too is the writing. The dialogue is intelligently adapted, there is a lot of talk but they weren't that tedious to me. The heartfelt tragedy, poignancy, sharp observations and nobility of Dickens' writing comes through loud and clear, the writing distinctively Dickensian in style. The characters are getting richer all the time and the attention to detail likewise.

There's a lot of characterisation and plotting going on, with much of the episode revolving around different kinds of letters, so interest is always maintained. Things can unfold slowly but there is more going on here and it's more meaty, so the pace is not as draggy. The book is also huge and has so much to tell, so the pace was somewhat necessary.

Acting is very fine from all. Diana Rigg is an aristocratic Lady Deadlock. Denholm Elliot is a noble, gentle and moving Mr Jarndyce, like Rigg he was born for the role. Jonathan Moore's endearing Guppy and Charlie Drake's suitably repellent Smallweed are beautifully characterised, both characters playing bigger roles here than before.

Overall, a terrific fourth episode. 10/10

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