frontispiece and title page
The New York Public Library, Berg Collection of
English and American Literature

"The butterflies are free."
This is the title page of the first book edition of Bleak House, published in one volume by Bradbury and Evans in September 1853, almost simultaneously with the last number of the novel's serial publication. Illustrations were again by "Phiz" (Hablot K. Browne). The deeply serious (or, as some would complain, deeply gloomy) Bleak House was far from a roman à clef, but it did offer two important characters who were clearly and amusingly inspired by living personages: Lawrence Boythorn owed much to Dickens's friend, the writer Walter Savage Landor; and Harold Skimpole was all too recognizably the very embodiment of the writer, critic and much-practiced cadger Leigh Hunt. The latter was gravely offended by Dickens's cruel caricature of his eccentricities, and no wonder: "I only ask to be free," Hunt/Skimpole is given to say in chapter 6. "The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!"

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