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  1. #1
    laughter994's Avatar
    Junior Member

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    Jan 2012

    What is Mercury in powder mean in Charles Dickens' Bleak House?

    I am reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens and he makes several references to Mercury in powder in the chapters about Lady Dedlock. Could someone please explain what it is? I feel like I am missing a key part of the story...

  2. #2
    Harrumble's Avatar
    A Mercury in powder means a footman in full livery, only ever employed by the fabulously wealthy.
    The Mercury part refers to the Roman messenger to the Gods (in Roman mythology. The Greek equivalent is Hermes), and
    "in powder" refers to the powdered wig that footmen wore along with their livery.

  3. #3
    Accurate's Avatar

    Address Book2 Correct Answer

    Mercury is the name of the footman and 'in powder' means he is wearing a powdered wig. The classical name 'Mercury' suggests the footman is of African heritage. If so, there is the suggestion of a contrast between the colour of his powdered wig and his face. This is likely why the image is referenced several times.



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