When I started reading Bleak House, I began with the Centennial Edition. It was going so fast, and had so few pages compared to most of Dickens’s other novels, that I did a little bit of research, and found that it is abridged. At first I had thought that “Arranged for Modern Reading” just referred to the formatting, but apparently it means that it is abridged. I am referring to the Centennial Edition of Bleak House by Charles Dickens, with an Introduction by Donald Friede, illustrated by Edward Gorey, published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York. This edition of Bleak House is completely missing chapter 63, “Steel and Iron”, instead it goes straight to chapter 64, “Esther’s Narrative”, and thus has only 66 instead of 67 chapters.
An example of what has been removed:
Chapter 62 — “Another Discovery” ends (underlining shows what has been deleted from the Centennial Edition):
“To which I shall pay, of course, my usual attention.”
“Still bent, my dear sir,” said Mr. Kenge, showing us throughout the outer office to the door, “still bent, even with your enlarged mind, on echoing a popular prejudice? We are a prosperous community, Mr. Jarndyce, a very prosperous community. We are a great country, Mr. Jarndyce, we are a very great country. This is a great system, Mr. Jarndyce, and would you wish a great country to have a little system? Now, really, really!”
He said this at the star-head, gently moving his right hand as it it were a silver trowel, with which to spread the cement of his words on the structure of the system, and consolidate it for a thousand ages.
Then, of course, the following chapter was completely removed.
I had to start over again from an unabridged volume for my reading for the Dickens Project. From my observation, much of what was removed was completely unnecessary to the story, but some of it does curtail Dickens’s characterizations, and certainly alters his style. So, if you want the full Dickens experience, this is not the edition for you!