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 . . .