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 . . .

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of Christ in the Psalms, Christ in His Saints, and The Trial of Job (all from Conciliar Press). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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