Not tightly tied in with the book’s main lines of action or its main themes, Sir Leicester nevertheless becomes one of the more interesting characters. Change tends to be interesting, and Sir Leicester changes; at least, later in the story we see aspects of his character that had not been clearly visible earlier. But from the very beginning, he seems more knowable and more complicated (if less ideal or admirable) than his wife, and somewhat more interesting than she or her daughter. Sir Leicester’s very defects (they are relatively harmless ones) help make him, if satirical, also real. His eventual physical and spiritual sufferings are far out of proportion to his faults.
In the end, what seemed to be an idle and insulated aristocrat turns out to be a far from spiritually idle human being: He opens himself to the reality of continuing sorrow, bears his bereavement nobly, actively befriends George Rouncewell, and even more actively honors the memory of his dead wife. He becomes an even more poignant and haunting figure than he might otherwise have been because we perceive him as inseparable from his estate at Chesney Wold. We see him that way because Dickens describes the decline and the new melancholy of that estate with some of the most moving descriptive prose ever penned in English literature.