From the March/April, 2018 issue of Touchstone
Ashibag Unscripted by Patrick Henry Reardon

As It Is Written . . .

Abishag Unscripted

by Patrick Henry Reardon

Early in the first autobiographical account in Bleak House, Esther Sommerson speaks of Mrs. Rachael, a domestic servant of Miss Barbary, who is Esther’s aunt and guardian. Mrs. Rachael, a fairly non-descript person in the early part of the novel, disappears after the death of Miss Barbary, nor is there any reason to suppose, at that point, that we should ever hear about her again.

Later in the book, nonetheless, Dickens brings the same lady back, now the wife of a pompous preacher named Chadband. At a crucial point in the narrative, it is this Mrs. Chadband who recognizes Esther’s name in a context that throws light on her parentage. Thus, Dickens uses an otherwise minor character, who appears in only two s . . .


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more from the online archives

23.1—January/February 2010

The Audacity of the State

It’s Bent on Bringing Down the House on the Family & the Church by Douglas Farrow

15.6—July/August 2002

Things Hidden Since the Beginning of the World

The Shape of Divine Providence & Human History by James Hitchcock

28.2—March/April 2015

As Goes Sweden

Neo-Pagan Family Policies Doom Any Recovery by Allan Carlson

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