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"Backgrounds" offers all of Dickens' correspondence about Bleak House as well as contextual materials that document the Victorian controversy over pollution, a theme central to the novel, and present contemporary attitudes toward the government, the courts, and the police, to enhance the setting of the story.
Also featured are several hundred annotations which fully elucidate for today's readers the allusions and topical references in this remarkably allusive Victorian masterpiece.
Especially helpful is a clear exposition of the nature of law procedures in the Court of Chancery, which is crucial to an understanding of the central action of the story.
"Critical essays" reprinted here include interpretations by G. K. Chesterton, J. Hillis Miller, George Ford, A. O. J. Cockshut, W. J. Harvey, H. M. Daleski, and Ian Ousby.