Summary and Analysis
Chapter 12 - On the Watch
The Dedlocks return from Paris, prepare Chesney Wold for guests, and then entertain them. Still, however, Lady Dedlock is bored.
One evening Tulkinghorn brings news about Boythorn's legal action against Sir Leicester. While the lawyer is there, Lady Dedlock thanks him for sending her a message about the handwriting that caught her interest earlier. When she hears about Nemo's death, she insists on hearing the whole story. She pretends to be only "casually" interested, but Tulkinghorn sees this is only a deception.
In the Snagsbys and their maid Guster, Dickens again shows his penchant for oddity, caricature, and the grotesque. Like other Victorian novelists, Dickens gives far more attention to such minor characters than is demanded by the plot. Such generosity in creation was more acceptable to Dickens' readers than to today's. The Victorian age, recall, was less hurried than ours and, in any event, it took more delight in reading.
The main plot develops further as Tulkinghorn intensifies his interest in the legal handwriting and in Lady Dedlock's curiosity about the copyist (Nemo). The ridiculously conducted inquest continues Dickens' disdainful satire of legal institutions and procedures. The same satire is conveyed by the tone which Dickens adopts when he depicts the legal stationery items sold in Snagsby's shop.