*The Project Gutenberg Etext of Puzzle of Dickens's Last Plot*
By a coincidence, in September, 1869, Dickens was working over the
Jasper is secretly in love with Rosa, the FIANCEE of his nephew, and
Jasper now tells Sapsea, and the Dean, that he is to make "a moonlight
About six months later, Helena Landless is to join Neville, who is
Nothing "new" in all this, as Forster must have seen. "The
A MISTAKEN THEORY
Mr. Proctor next supposes, we saw, that Drood got into touch with
MR. CUMING WALTERS'S THEORY
Beneath Edwin and Rosa is, first, an allegorical female figure,
The surtout of the period is shown, worn by Jasper, in Sir L. Fildes's
The climax, in fact, as devised by Mr. Cuming Walters, is rather too
Jasper was certainly tried and condemned; for Dickens intended "to
#5 in our series by Andrew Lang
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The Puzzle of Dickens's Last Plot by Andrew Lang
Scanned and proofed by David Price
The Puzzle of Dickens's Last Plot
FORSTER tells us that Dickens, in his later novels, from BLEAK HOUSE
onwards (1853), "assiduously cultivated" construction, "this essential
of his art." Some critics may think, that since so many of the best
novels in the world "have no outline, or, if they have an outline, it
is a demned outline," elaborate construction is not absolutely
"essential." Really essential are character, "atmosphere," humour.
But as, in the natural changes of life, and under the strain of
restless and unsatisfied activity, his old buoyancy and unequalled
high spirits deserted Dickens, he certainly wrote no longer in what
Scott, speaking of himself, calls the manner of "hab nab at a
venture." He constructed elaborate plots, rich in secrets and
surprises. He emulated the manner of Wilkie Collins, or even of
Gaboriau, while he combined with some of the elements of the detective
novel, or ROMAN POLICIER, careful study of character. Except GREAT
EXPECTATIONS, none of his later tales rivals in merit his early
picaresque stories of the road, such as PICKWICK and NICHOLAS
NICKLEBY. "Youth will be served;" no sedulous care could compensate
for the exuberance of "the first sprightly runnings." In the early
books the melodrama of the plot, the secrets of Ralph Nickleby, of
Monk, of Jonas Chuzzlewit, were the least of the innumerable
attractions. But Dickens was more and more drawn towards the secret
that excites curiosity, and to the game of hide and seek with the
reader who tried to anticipate the solution of the secret.
In April, 1869, Dickens, outworn by the strain of his American
readings; of that labour achieved under painful conditions of
ominously bad health - found himself, as Sir Thomas Watson reported,
"on the brink of an attack of paralysis of his left side, and possibly
of apoplexy." He therefore abandoned a new series of Readings. We
think of Scott's earlier seizures of a similar kind, after which
PEVERIL, he said, "smacked of the apoplexy." But Dickens's new story
of THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, first contemplated in July, 1869, and
altered in character by the emergence of "a very curious and new
idea," early in August, does not "smack of the apoplexy." We may
think that the mannerisms of Mr. Honeythunder, the philanthropist, and
of Miss Twinkleton, the schoolmistress, are not in the author's best
vein of humour. "The Billickin," on the other hand, the lodging-house
keeper, is "in very gracious fooling:" her unlooked-for sallies in
skirmishes with Miss Twinkleton are rich in mirthful surprises. Mr.
Grewgious may be caricatured too much, but not out of reason; and
Dickens, always good at boys, presents a GAMIN, in Deputy, who is in
not unpleasant contrast with the pathetic Jo of BLEAK HOUSE. Opinions
may differ as to Edwin and Rosa, but the more closely one studies
Edwin, the better one thinks of that character. As far as we are
allowed to see Helena Landless, the restraint which she puts on her
"tigerish blood" is admirable: she is very fresh and original. The
villain is all that melodrama can desire, but what we do miss, I
think, is the "atmosphere" of a small cathedral town. Here there is a
lack of softness and delicacy of treatment: on the other hand, the
opium den is studied from the life.
On the whole, Dickens himself was perhaps most interested in his plot,
his secret, his surprises, his game of hide and seek with the reader.
He threw himself into the sport with zest: he spoke to his sister-in-
law, Miss Hogarth, about his fear that he had not sufficiently
concealed his tracks in the latest numbers. Yet, when he died in
June, 1870, leaving three completed numbers still unpublished, he left
his secret as a puzzle to the curious. Many efforts have been made to
decipher his purpose, especially his intentions as to the hero. Was
Edwin Drood killed, or did he escape?
late Lord Lytton's tale for ALL THE YEAR ROUND, "The Disappearance of
John Ackland," for the purpose of mystifying the reader as to whether
Ackland was alive or dead. But he was conspicuously defunct! (ALL
THE YEAR ROUND, September-October, 1869.)
The most careful of the attempts at a reply about Edwin, a study based
on deep knowledge of Dickens, is "Watched by the Dead," by the late
ingenious Mr. R. A. Proctor (1887). This book, to which I owe much
aid, is now out of print. In 1905, Mr. Cuming Walters revived "the
auld mysterie," in his "Clues to Dickens's Edwin Drood" (Chapman &
Hall and Heywood, Manchester). From the solution of Mr. Walters I am
obliged to dissent. Of Mr. Proctor's theory I offer some necessary
corrections, and I hope that I have unravelled some skeins which Mr.
Proctor left in a state of tangle. As one read and re-read the
fragment, points very dark seemed, at least, to become suddenly clear:
especially one appeared to understand the meaning half-revealed and
half-concealed by Jasper's babblings under the influence of opium. He
saw in his vision, "THAT, I never saw THAT before." We may be sure
that he was to see "THAT" in real life. We must remember that,
according to Forster, "such was Dickens's interest in things
supernatural that, but for the strong restraining power of his common
sense, he might have fallen into the follies of spiritualism." His
interest in such matters certainly peeps out in this novel - there are
two specimens of the supernormal - and he may have gone to the limited
extent which my hypothesis requires. If I am right, Dickens went
further, and fared worse, in the too material premonitions of "The
Signalman" in MUGBY JUNCTION.
With this brief preface, I proceed to the analysis of Dickens's last
plot. Mr. William Archer has kindly read the proof sheets and made
valuable suggestions, but is responsible for none of my theories.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1905.
THE STORY - DRAMATIS PERSONAE
FOR the discovery of Dickens's secret in EDWIN DROOD it is necessary
to obtain a clear view of the characters in the tale, and of their
relations to each other.
About the middle of the nineteenth century there lived in Cloisterham,
a cathedral city sketched from Rochester, a young University man, Mr.
Bud, who had a friend Mr. Drood, one of a firm of engineers -
somewhere. They were "fast friends and old college companions." Both
married young. Mr. Bud wedded a lady unnamed, by whom he was the
father of one child, a daughter, Rosa Bud. Mr. Drood, whose wife's
maiden name was Jasper, had one son, Edwin Drood. Mrs. Bud was
drowned in a boating accident, when her daughter, Rosa, was a child.
Mr. Drood, already a widower, and the bereaved Mr. Bud "betrothed" the
two children, Rosa and Edwin, and then expired, when the orphans were
about seven and eleven years old. The guardian of Rosa was a lawyer,
Mr. Grewgious, who had been in love with her mother. To Grewgious Mr.
Bud entrusted his wife's engagement ring, rubies and diamonds, which
Grewgious was to hand over to Edwin Drood, if, when he attained his
majority, he and Rosa decided to marry.
Grewgious was apparently legal agent for Edwin, while Edwin's maternal
uncle, John Jasper (aged about sixteen when the male parents died),
was Edwin's "trustee," as well as his uncle and devoted friend.
Rosa's little fortune was an annuity producing 250 a-year: Edwin
succeeded to his father's share in an engineering firm.
When the story opens, Edwin is nearly twenty-one, and is about to
proceed to Egypt, as an engineer. Rosa, at school in Cloisterham, is
about seventeen; John Jasper is twenty-six. He is conductor of the
Choir of the Cathedral, a "lay precentor;" he is very dark, with thick
black whiskers, and, for a number of years, has been a victim to the
habit of opium smoking. He began very early. He takes this drug both
in his lodgings, over the gate of the Cathedral, and in a den in East
London, kept by a woman nicknamed "The Princess Puffer." This hag, we
learn, has been a determined drunkard, - "I drank heaven's-hard," -
for sixteen years BEFORE she took to opium. If she has been dealing
in opium for ten years (the exact period is not stated), she has been
very disreputable for twenty-six years, that is ever since John
Jasper's birth. Mr. Cuming Walters suggests that she is the mother of
John Jasper, and, therefore, maternal grandmother of Edwin Drood. She
detests her client, Jasper, and plays the spy on his movements, for
his own pupil in the musical art. He makes her aware of his passion,
silently, and she fears and detests him, but keeps these emotions
private. She is a saucy school-girl, and she and Edwin are on
uncomfortable terms: she does not love him, while he perhaps does
love her, but is annoyed by her manner, and by the gossip about their
betrothal. "The bloom is off the plum" of their prearranged loves, he
says to his friend, uncle, and confidant, Jasper, whose own concealed
passion for Rosa is of a ferocious and homicidal character. Rosa is
aware of this fact; "a glaze comes over his eyes," sometimes, she
says, "and he seems to wander away into a frightful sort of dream, in
which he threatens most. . . The man appears to have these frightful
dreams even when he is not under opium.
OPENING OF THE TALE
The tale opens abruptly with an opium-bred vision of the tower of
Cloisterham Cathedral, beheld by Jasper as he awakens in the den of
the Princess Puffer, between a Chinaman, a Lascar, and the hag
herself. This Cathedral tower, thus early and emphatically
introduced, is to play a great but more or less mysterious part in the
romance: that is certain. Jasper, waking, makes experiments on the
talk of the old woman, the Lascar and Chinaman in their sleep. He
pronounces it "unintelligible," which satisfies him that his own
babble, when under opium, must be unintelligible also. He is,
presumably, acquainted with the languages of the eastern coast of
India, and with Chinese, otherwise, how could he hope to understand
the sleepers? He is being watched by the hag, who hates him.
Jasper returns to Cloisterham, where we are introduced to the Dean, a
nonentity, and to Minor Canon Crisparkle, a muscular Christian in the
pink of training, a classical scholar, and a good honest fellow.
Jasper gives Edwin a dinner, and gushes over "his bright boy," a
lively lad, full of chaff, but also full of confiding affection and
tenderness of heart. Edwin admits that his betrothal is a bore:
Jasper admits that he loathes his life; and that the church singing
"often sounds to me quite devilish," - and no wonder. After this
dinner, Jasper has a "weird seizure;" "a strange film comes over
Jasper's eyes," he "looks frightfully ill," becomes rigid, and admits
that he "has been taking opium for a pain, an agony that sometimes
overcomes me." This "agony," we learn, is the pain of hearing Edwin
speak lightly of his love, whom Jasper so furiously desires. "Take it
as a warning," Jasper says, but Edwin, puzzled, and full of confiding
tenderness, does not understand.
In the next scene we meet the school-girl, Rosa, who takes a walk and
has a tiff with Edwin. Sir Luke Fildes's illustration shows Edwin as
"a lad with the bloom of a lass," with a CLASSIC PROFILE; AND A
GRACIOUS HEAD OF LONG, THICK, FAIR HAIR, long, though we learn it has
just been cut. He wears a soft slouched hat, and the pea-coat of the
SAPSEA AND DURDLES
Next, Jasper and Sapsea, a pompous ass, auctioneer, and mayor, sit at
their wine, expecting a third guest. Mr. Sapsea reads his absurd
epitaph for his late wife, who is buried in a "Monument," a vault of
some sort in the Cathedral churchyard. To them enter Durdles, a man
never sober, yet trusted with the key of the crypt, "as contractor for
rough repairs." In the crypt "he habitually sleeps off the fumes of
liquor." Of course no Dean would entrust keys to this incredibly
dissipated, dirty, and insolent creature, to whom Sapsea gives the key
of his vault, for no reason at all, as the epitaph, of course, is to
be engraved on the outside, by Durdles's men. However, Durdles
insists on getting the key of the vault: he has two other large keys.
Jasper, trifling with them, keeps clinking them together, so as to
know, even in the dark, by the sound, which is the key that opens
Sapsea's vault, in the railed-off burial ground, beside the cloister
arches. He has met Durdles at Sapsea's for no other purpose than to
obtain access at will to Mrs. Sapsea's monument. Later in the evening
Jasper finds Durdles more or less drunk, and being stoned by a GAMIN,
"Deputy," a retainer of a tramp's lodging-house. Durdles fees Deputy,
in fact, to drive him home every night after ten. Jasper and Deputy
fall into feud, and Jasper has thus a new, keen, and omnipresent
enemy. As he walks with Durdles that worthy explains (in reply to a
question by Jasper), that, by tapping a wall, even if over six feet
thick, with his hammer, he can detect the nature of the contents of
the vault, "solid in hollow, and inside solid, hollow again. Old 'un
crumbled away in stone coffin, in vault." He can also discover the
presence of "rubbish left in that same six foot space by Durdles's
men." Thus, if a foreign body were introduced into the Sapsea vault,
Durdles could detect its presence by tapping the outside wall. As
Jasper's purpose clearly is to introduce a foreign body - that of
Edwin who stands between him and Rosa - into Mrs. Sapsea's vault, this
"gift" of Durdles is, for Jasper, an uncomfortable discovery. He goes
home, watches Edwin asleep, and smokes opium.
Two new characters are now introduced, Neville and Helena Landless,
(1) twins, orphans, of Cingalese extraction, probably Eurasian; very
dark, the girl "almost of the gipsy type;" both are "fierce of look."
The young man is to read with Canon Crisparkle and live with him; the
girl goes to the same school as Rosa. The education of both has been
utterly neglected; instruction has been denied to them. Neville
explains the cause of their fierceness to Crisparkle. In Ceylon they
were bullied by a cruel stepfather and several times ran away: the
girl was the leader, always "DRESSED AS A BOY, AND SHOWING THE DARING
OF A MAN." Edwin Drood's air of supercilious ownership of Rosa Bud
(indicated as a fault of youth and circumstance, not of heart and
character), irritates Neville Landless, who falls in love with Rosa at
first sight. As Rosa sings, at Crisparkle's, while Jasper plays the
piano, Jasper's fixed stare produces an hysterical fit in the girl,
who is soothed by Helena Landless. Helena shows her aversion to
Jasper, who, as even Edwin now sees, frightens Rosa. "You would be
afraid of him, under similar circumstances, wouldn't you, Miss
Landless?" asks Edwin. "Not under any circumstances," answers Helena,
and Jasper "thanks Miss Landless for this vindication of his
The girls go back to their school, where Rosa explains to Helena her
horror of Jasper's silent love-making: "I feel that I am never safe
from him . . . a glaze comes over his eyes and he seems to wander away
into a frightful sort of dream in which he threatens most," as already
quoted. Helena thus, and she alone, except Rosa, understands Jasper
thoroughly. She becomes Rosa's protectress. "LET WHOMSOEVER IT MOST
CONCERNED LOOK WELL TO IT."
Thus Jasper has a new observer and enemy, in addition to the
omnipresent street boy, Deputy, and the detective old hag of the opium
Leaving the Canon's house, Neville and Edwin quarrel violently over
Rosa, in the open air; they are followed by Jasper, and taken to his
house to be reconciled over glasses of mulled wine. Jasper drugs the
wine, and thus provokes a violent scene; next day he tells Crisparkle
that Neville is "murderous." "There is something of the tiger in his
dark blood." He spreads the story of the FRACAS in the town.
Grewgious, Rosa's guardian, now comes down on business; the girl fails
to explain to him the unsatisfactory relations between her and Edwin:
Grewgious is to return to her "at Christmas," if she sends for him,
and she does send. Grewgious, "an angular man," all duty and
sentiment (he had loved Rosa's mother), has an interview with Edwin's
trustee, Jasper, for whom he has no enthusiasm, but whom he does not
in any way suspect. They part on good terms, to meet at Christmas.
Crisparkle, with whom Helena has fallen suddenly in love, arranges
with Jasper that Edwin and Landless shall meet and be reconciled, as
both are willing to be, at a dinner in Jasper's rooms, on Christmas
Eve. Jasper, when Crisparkle proposes this, denotes by his manner
"some close internal calculation." We see that he is reckoning how
the dinner suits his plan of campaign, and "CLOSE calculation" may
refer, as in Mr. Proctor's theory, to the period of the moon: ON
CHRISTMAS EVE THERE WILL BE NO MOONSHINE AT MIDNIGHT. JASPER, having
worked out this problem, accepts Crisparkle's proposal, and his
assurances about Neville, and shows Crisparkle a diary in which he has
entered his fears that Edwin's life is in danger from Neville. Edwin
(who is not in Cloisterham at this moment) accepts, by letter, the
invitation to meet Neville at Jasper's on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile Edwin visits Grewgious in his London chambers; is lectured
on his laggard and supercilious behaviour as a lover, and receives the
engagement ring of the late Mrs. Bud, Rosa's mother, which is very
dear to Grewgious - in the presence of Bazzard, Grewgious's clerk, a
gloomy writer of an amateur unacted tragedy. Edwin is to return the
ring to Grewgious, if he and Rosa decide not to marry. The ring is in
a case, and Edwin places it "in his breast." We must understand, in
the breast-pocket of his coat: no other interpretation will pass
muster. "Her ring - will it come back to me?" reflects the mournful
THE UNACCOUNTABLE EXPEDITION
expedition with Durdles among the tombs, vaults, towers, and ruins to-
night." The impossible Durdles has the keys necessary for this,
"surely an unaccountable expedition," Dickens keeps remarking. The
moon seems to rise on this night at about 7.30 p.m. Jasper takes a
big case-bottle of liquor - drugged, of course and goes to the den of
Durdles. In the yard of this inspector of monuments he is bidden to
beware of a mound of quicklime near the yard gate. "With a little
handy stirring, quick enough to eat your bones," says Durdles. There
is some considerable distance between this "mound" of quicklime and
the crypt, of which Durdles has the key, but the intervening space is
quite empty of human presence, as the citizens are unwilling to meet
In the crypt Durdles drinks a good deal of the drugged liquor. "They
are to ascend the great Tower," - and why they do that is part of the
Mystery, though not an insoluble part. Before they climb, Durdles
tells Jasper that he was drunk and asleep in the crypt, last Christmas
Eve, and was wakened by "the ghost of one terrific shriek, followed by
the ghost of the howl of a dog, a long dismal, woeful howl, such as a
dog gives when a person's dead." Durdles has made inquiries and, as
no one else heard the shriek and the howl, he calls these sounds
They are obviously meant to be understood as supranormal premonitory
sounds; of the nature of second sight, or rather of second hearing.
Forster gives examples of Dickens's tendency to believe in such
premonitions: Dickens had himself a curious premonitory dream. He
considerably overdid the premonitory business in his otherwise
excellent story, THE SIGNALMAN, or so it seems to a student of these
things. The shriek and howl heard by Durdles are to be repeated, we
see, in real life, later, on a Christmas Eve. The question is - when?
More probably NOT on the Christmas Eve just imminent, when Edwin is to
vanish, but, on the Christmas Eve following, when Jasper is to be
All this while, and later, Jasper examines Durdles very closely,
studying the effects on him of the drugged drink. When they reach the
top of the tower, Jasper closely contemplates "that stillest part of
it" (the landscape) "which the Cathedral overshadows; but he
contemplates Durdles quite as curiously."
There is a motive for the scrutiny in either case. Jasper examines
the part of the precincts in the shadow of the Cathedral, because he
wishes to assure himself that it is lonely enough for his later
undescribed but easily guessed proceedings in this night of mystery.
He will have much to do that could not brook witnesses, after the
drugged Durdles has fallen sound asleep. We have already been assured
that the whole area over which Jasper is to operate is "utterly
deserted," even when it lies in full moonlight, about 8.30 p.m. "One
might fancy that the tide of life was stemmed by Mr. Jasper's own
gate-house." The people of Cloisterham, we hear, would deny that they
believe in ghosts; but they give this part of the precinct a wide
berth (Chapter XII.). If the region is "utterly deserted" at nine
o'clock in the evening, when it lies in the ivory moonlight, much more
will it be free from human presence when it lies in shadow, between
one and two o'clock after midnight. Jasper, however, from the tower
top closely scrutinizes the area of his future operations. It is,
probably, for this very purpose of discovering whether the coast be
clear or not, that Jasper climbs the tower.
He watches Durdles for the purpose of finding how the drug which he
has administered works, with a view to future operations on Edwin.
Durdles is now in such a state that "he deems the ground so far below
on a level with the tower, and would as lief walk off the tower into
the air as not."
All this is apparently meant to suggest that Jasper, on Christmas Eve,
will repeat his expedition, WITH EDWIN, whom he will have drugged, and
that he will allow Edwin to "walk off the tower into the air." There
are later suggestions to the same effect, as we shall see, but they
are deliberately misleading. There are also strong suggestions to the
very opposite effect: it is broadly indicated that Jasper is to
strangle Edwin with a thick black-silk scarf, which he has just taken
to wearing for the good of his throat.
The pair return to the crypt, Durdles falls asleep, dreams that Jasper
leaves him, "and that something touches him and something falls from
his hand. Then something clinks and gropes about," and the lines of
moonlight shift their direction, as Durdles finds that they have
really done when he wakens, with Jasper beside him, while the
Cathedral clock strikes two. They have had many hours, not less than
five, for their expedition. The key of the crypt lies beside Durdles
on the ground. They go out, and as Deputy begins stone-throwing,
Jasper half strangles him.
PURPOSE OF THE EXPEDITION
Jasper has had ample time to take models in wax of all Durdles's keys.
But he could have done that in a few minutes, while Durdles slept, if
he had wax with him, without leaving the crypt. He has also had time
to convey several wheelbarrowfuls of quicklime from Durdles's yard to
Mrs. Sapsea's sepulchre, of which monument he probably took the key
from Durdles, and tried its identity by clinking. But even in a
Cathedral town, even after midnight, several successive expeditions of
a lay precentor with a wheelbarrow full of quicklime would have been
apt to attract the comment of some belated physician, some cleric
coming from a sick bed, or some local roysterers. Therefore it is
that Dickens insists on the "utterly deserted" character of the area,
and shows us that Jasper has made sure of that essential fact by
observations from the tower top. Still, his was a perilous
expedition, with his wheelbarrow! We should probably learn later,
that Jasper was detected by the wakeful Deputy, who loathed him.
Moreover, next morning Durdles was apt to notice that some of his
quicklime had been removed. As far as is shown, Durdles noticed
nothing of that kind, though he does observe peculiarities in Jasper's
The next point in the tale is that Edwin and Rosa meet, and have sense
enough to break off their engagement. But Edwin, represented as
really good-hearted, now begins to repent his past behaviour, and,
though he has a kind of fancy for Miss Landless, he pretty clearly
falls deeper in love with his late FIANCEE, and weeps his loss in
private: so we are told.
Christmas Eve comes, the day of the dinner of three, Jasper, Landless,
and Edwin. The chapter describing this fateful day (xiv.) is headed,
WHEN SHALL THESE THREE MEET AGAIN? and Mr. Proctor argues that Dickens
intends that THEY SHALL meet again. The intention, and the hint, are
much in Dickens's manner. Landless means to start, next day, very
early, on a solitary walking tour, and buys an exorbitantly heavy
stick. We casually hear that Jasper knows Edwin to possess no
jewellery, except a watch and chain and a scarf-pin. As Edwin moons
about, he finds the old opium hag, come down from London, "seeking a
needle in a bottle of hay," she says - that is, hunting vainly for
Please remark that Jasper has run up to town, on December 23, and has
saturated his system with a debauch of opium on the very eve of the
day when he clearly means to kill Edwin. This was a most injudicious
indulgence, in the circumstances. A maiden murder needs nerve! We
know that "fiddlestrings was weakness to express the state of"
Jasper's "nerves" on the day after the night of opium with which the
story opens. On December 24, Jasper returned home, the hag at his
heels. The old woman, when met by Edwin, has a curious film over her
eyes; "he seems to know her." "Great heaven," he thinks, next moment.
"Like Jack that night!" This refers to a kind of fit of Jasper's,
after dinner, on the first evening of the story. Edwin has then seen
Jack Jasper in one of his "filmy" seizures. The woman prays Edwin for
three shillings and six-pence, to buy opium. He gives her the money;
she asks his Christian name. "Edwin." Is "Eddy" a sweetheart's form
of that? He says that he has no sweetheart. He is told to be
thankful that his name is not Ned. Now, Jasper alone calls Edwin
"Ned." "'Ned' is a threatened name, a dangerous name," says the hag,
who has heard Jasper threaten "Ned" in his opium dreams.
Edwin determines to tell this adventure to Jasper, BUT NOT ON THIS
NIGHT: to-morrow will do. Now, DID he tell the story to Jasper that
night, in the presence of Landless, at dinner? If so, Helena Landless
might later learn the fact from Neville. If she knew it, she would
later tell Mr. Grewgious.
The three men meet and dine. There is a fearful storm. "Stones are
displaced upon the summit of the great tower." Next morning, early,
Jasper yells to Crisparkle, who is looking out of his window in Minor
Canon Row, that Edwin has disappeared. Neville has already set out on
his walking tour.
AFTER THE DISAPPEARANCE
Men go forth and apprehend Neville, who shows fight with his heavy
stick. We learn that he and Drood left Jasper's house at midnight,
went for ten minutes to look at the river under the wind, and parted
at Crisparkle's door. Neville now remains under suspicion: Jasper
directs the search in the river, on December 25, 26, and 27. On the
evening of December 27, Grewgious visits Jasper. Now, Grewgious, as
we know, was to be at Cloisterham at Christmas. True, he was engaged
to dine on Christmas Day with Bazzard, his clerk; but, thoughtful as
he was of the moody Bazzard, as Edwin was leaving Cloisterham he would
excuse himself. He would naturally take a great part in the search
for Edwin, above all as Edwin had in his possession the ring so dear
to the lawyer. Edwin had not shown it to Rosa when they determined to
part. He "kept it in his breast," and the ring, we learn, was "GIFTED
WITH INVINCIBLE FORCE TO HOLD AND DRAG," so Dickens warns us.
The ring is obviously to be a PIECE DE CONVICTION. BUT our point, at
present, is that we do not know how Grewgious, to whom this ring was
so dear, employed himself at Cloisterham - after Edwin's disappearance
- between December 25 and December 27. On the evening of the 27th, he
came to Jasper, saying, "I have JUST LEFT MISS LANDLESS." He then
slowly and watchfully told Jasper that Edwin's engagement was broken
off, while the precentor gasped, perspired, tore his hair, shrieked,
and finally subsided into a heap of muddy clothes on the floor.
Meanwhile, Mr. Grewgious, calmly observing these phenomena, warmed his
hands at the fire for some time before he called in Jasper's landlady.
Grewgious now knows by Jasper's behaviour that he believes himself to
have committed a superfluous crime, by murdering Edwin, who no longer
stood between him and Rosa, as their engagement was already at an end.
Whether a Jasper, in real life, would excite himself so much, is
another question. We do not know, as Mr. Proctor insists, what Mr.
Grewgious had been doing at Cloisterham between Christmas Day and
December 27, the date of his experiment on Jasper's nerves. Mr.
Proctor supposes him to have met the living Edwin, and obtained
information from him, after his escape from a murderous attack by
Jasper. Mr. Proctor insists that this is the only explanation of
Grewgious's conduct, any other "is absolutely impossible." In that
case the experiment of Grewgious was not made to gain information from
Jasper's demeanour, but was the beginning of his punishment, and was
intended by Grewgious to be so.
But Dickens has been careful to suggest, with suspicious breadth of
candour, another explanation of the source of Grewgious's knowledge.
If Edwin has really escaped, and met Grewgious, Dickens does not want
us to be sure of that, as Mr. Proctor was sure. Dickens deliberately
puts his readers on another trail, though neither Mr. Walters nor Mr.
Proctor struck the scent. As we have noted, Grewgious at once says to
Jasper, "I HAVE JUST COME FROM MISS LANDLESS." This tells Jasper
nothing, but it tells a great deal to the watchful reader, who
remembers that Miss Landless, and she only, is aware that Jasper
loves, bullies, and insults Rosa, and that Rosa's life is embittered
by Jasper's silent wooing, and his unspoken threats. Helena may also
know that "Ned is a threatened name," as we have seen, and that the
menace comes from Jasper. As Jasper is now known to be Edwin's rival
in love, and as Edwin has vanished, the murderer, Mr. Grewgious
reckons, is Jasper; and his experiment, with Jasper's consequent
shriek and fit, confirms the hypothesis. Thus Grewgious had
information enough, from Miss Landless, to suggest his experiment -
Dickens intentionally made that clear (though not clear enough for Mr.
Proctor and Mr. Cuming Walters) - while his experiment gives him a
moral certainty of Jasper's crime, but yields no legal evidence.
But does Grewgious know no more than what Helena, and the fit and
shriek of Jasper, have told him? Is his knowledge limited to the
evidence that Jasper has murdered Edwin? Or does Grewgious know more,
know that Edwin, in some way, has escaped from death?
That is Dickens's secret. But whereas Grewgious, if he believes
Jasper to be an actual murderer, should take him seriously; in point
of fact, he speaks of Jasper in so light a tone, as "our local
friend," that we feel no certainty that he is not really aware of
Edwin's escape from a murderous attack by Jasper, and of his continued
Presently Crisparkle, under some mysterious impression, apparently
telepathic (the book is rich in such psychical phenomena), visits the
weir on the river, at night, and next day finds Edwin's watch and
chain in the timbers; his scarf-pin in the pool below. The watch and
chain must have been placed purposely where they were found, they
could not float thither, and, if Neville had slain Edwin, he would not
have stolen his property, of course, except as a blind, neutralised by
the placing of the watch in a conspicuous spot. However, the
increased suspicions drive Neville away to read law in Staple Inn,
where Grewgious also dwells, and incessantly watches Neville out of
watched at intervals by Jasper, who, again, is watched by Grewgious as
the precentor lurks about Staple Inn.
About the time when Helena leaves Cloisterham for town, a new
character appears in Cloisterham, "a white-headed personage with black
eyebrows, BUTTONED UP IN A TIGHTISH BLUE SURTOUT, with a buff
waistcoat, grey trowsers, and something of a military air." His shock
of white hair was unusually thick and ample. This man, "a buffer
living idly on his means," named Datchery, is either, as Mr. Proctor
believed, Edwin Drood, or, as Mr. Walters thinks, Helena Landless. By
making Grewgious drop the remark that Bazzard, his clerk, a moping owl
of an amateur tragedian, "is off duty here," at his chambers, Dickens
hints that Bazzard is Datchery. But that is a mere false scent, a
ruse of the author, scattering paper in the wrong place, in this long
As for Helena, Mr. Walters justly argues that Dickens has marked her
for some important part in the ruin of Jasper. "There was a
slumbering gleam of fire in her intense dark eyes. Let whomsoever it
most concerned look well to it." Again, we have been told that Helena
had high courage. She had told Jasper that she feared him "in no
circumstances whatever." Again, we have learned that in childhood she
had dressed as a boy when she ran away from home; and she had the
motives of protecting Rosa and her brother, Neville, from the
machinations of Jasper, who needs watching, as he is trying to ruin
Neville's already dilapidated character, and, by spying on him, to
break down his nerve. Really, of course, Neville is quite safe.
There is no CORPUS DELICTI, no carcase of the missing Edwin Drood.
For the reasons given, Datchery might be Helena in disguise.
If so, the idea is highly ludicrous, while nothing is proved either by
the blackness of Datchery's eyebrows (Helena's were black), or by
Datchery's habit of carrying his hat under his arm, not on his head.
A person who goes so far as to wear a conspicuous white wig, would not
be afraid also to dye his eyebrows black, if he were Edwin; while
either Edwin or Helena MUST have "made up" the face, by the use of
paint and sham wrinkles. Either Helena or Edwin would have been
detected in real life, of course, but we allow for the accepted
fictitious convention of successful disguise, and for the necessities
of the novelist. A tightly buttoned surtout would show Helena's
feminine figure; but let that also pass. As to the hat, Edwin's own
hair was long and thick: add a wig, and his hat would be a burden to
What is most unlike the stern, fierce, sententious Helena, is
Datchery's habit of "chaffing." He fools the ass of a Mayor, Sapsea,
by most exaggerated diference: his tone is always that of indolent
mockery, which one doubts whether the "intense" and concentrated
Helena could assume. He takes rooms in the same house as Jasper, to
whom, as to Durdles and Deputy, he introduces himself on the night of
his arrival at Cloisterham. He afterwards addresses Deputy, the
little GAMIN, by the name "Winks," which is given to him by the people
at the Tramps' lodgings: the name is a secret of Deputy's.
JASPER, ROSA, AND TARTAR
Meanwhile Jasper formally proposes to Rosa, in the school garden:
standing apart and leaning against a sundial, as the garden is
commanded by many windows. He offers to resign his hopes of bringing
Landless to the gallows (perhaps this bad man would provide a CORPUS
DELICTI of his own making!) if Rosa will accept him: he threatens to
"pursue her to the death," if she will not; he frightens her so
thoroughly that she rushes to Grewgious in his chambers in London.
She now suspects Jasper of Edwin's murder, but keeps her thoughts to
herself. She tells Grewgious, who is watching Neville, - "I have a
fancy for keeping him under my eye," - that Jasper has made love to
her, and Grewgious replies in a parody of "God save the King"!
"On Thee his hopes to fix
Damn him again!"
Would he fool thus, if he knew Jasper to have killed Edwin? He is not
certain whether Rosa should visit Helena next day, in Landless's
rooms, opposite; and Mr. Walters suggests that he may be aware that
Helena, dressed as Datchery, is really absent at Cloisterham.
However, next day, Helena is in her brother's rooms. Moreover, it is
really a sufficient explanation of Grewgious's doubt that Jasper is
lurking around, and that not till next day is a PRIVATE way of
communication arranged between Neville and his friends. In any case,
next day, Helena is in her brother's rooms, and, by aid of a Mr.
Tartar's rooms, she and Rosa can meet privately. There is a good deal
of conspiring to watch Jasper when he watches Neville, and in this new
friend, Mr. Tartar, a lover is provided for Rosa. Tartar is a
miraculously agile climber over roofs and up walls, a retired
Lieutenant of the navy, and a handy man, being such a climber, to
chase Jasper about the roof of the Cathedral, when Jasper's day of
JASPER'S OPIUM VISIONS
In July, Jasper revisits the London opium den, and talks under opium,
watched by the old hag. He speaks of a thing which he often does in
visions: "a hazardous and perilous journey, over abysses where a slip
would be destruction. Look down, look down! You see what lies at the
bottom there?" He enacts the vision and says, "There was a fellow
traveller." He "speaks in a whisper, and as if in the dark." The
vision is, in this case, "a poor vision: no struggle, no
consciousness of peril, no entreaty." Edwin, in the reminiscent
vision, dies very easily and rapidly. "When it comes to be real at
last, it is so short that it seems unreal for the first time." "And
yet I never saw THAT before. Look what a poor miserable mean thing it
is. THAT must be real. It's over."
What can all this mean? We have been told that, shortly before
Christmas Eve, Jasper took to wearing a thick black-silk handkerchief
for his throat. He hung it over his arm, "his face knitted and
stern," as he entered his house for his Christmas Eve dinner. If he
strangled Edwin with the scarf, as we are to suppose, he did not lead
him, drugged, to the tower top, and pitch him off. Is part of
Jasper's vision reminiscent - the brief, unresisting death - while
another part is a separate vision, is PROSPECTIVE, "premonitory"?
Does he see himself pitching Neville Landless off the tower top, or
see him fallen from the Cathedral roof? Is Neville's body "THAT" - "I
never saw THAT before. Look what a poor miserable mean thing it is!
THAT must be real." Jasper "never saw THAT" - the dead body below the
height - before. THIS vision, I think, is of the future, not of the
past, and is meant to bewilder the reader who thinks that the whole
represents the slaying of Drood. The tale is rich in "warnings" and
DATCHERY AND THE OPIUM WOMAN
The hag now tracks Jasper home to Cloisterham. Here she meets
Datchery, whom she asks how she can see Jasper? If Datchery is Drood,
he now learns, WHAT HE DID NOT KNOW BEFORE, THAT THERE IS SOME
CONNECTION BETWEEN JASPER AND THE HAG. He walks with her to the place
where Edwin met the hag, on Christmas Eve, and gave her money; and he
jingles his own money as he walks. The place, or the sound of the
money, makes the woman tell Datchery about Edwin's gift of three
shillings and sixpence for opium. Datchery, "with a sudden change of
countenance, gives her a sudden look." It does not follow that he is
NOT Drood, for, though the hag's love of opium was known to Drood,
Datchery is not to reveal his recognition of the woman. He does what
any stranger would do; he "gives a sudden look," as if surprised by
the mention of opium.
Mr. Walters says, "Drood would not have changed countenance on hearing
a fact he had known six months previously." But if Drood was playing
at being somebody else, he would, of course, give a kind of start and
stare, on hearing of the opium. When he also hears from the hag that
her former benefactor's name was Edwin, he asks her how she knew that
- "a fatuously unnecessary question," says Mr. Walters. A needless
question for Datchery's information, if he be Drood, but as useful a
question as another if Drood be Datchery, and wishes to maintain the
Datchery keeps a tavern score of his discoveries behind a door, in
cryptic chalk strokes. He does this, says Mr. Walters, because, being
Helena, he would betray himself if he wrote in a female hand. But
nobody would WRITE secrets on a door! He adds "a moderate stroke,"
after meeting the hag, though, says Mr. Walters, "Edwin Drood would
have learned nothing new whatever" from the hag.
But Edwin would have learned something quite new, and very important -
that the hag was hunting Jasper. Next day Datchery sees the woman
shake her fists at Jasper in church, and hears from her that she knows
Jasper "better far than all the reverend parsons put together know
him." Datchery then adds a long thick line to his chalked score, yet,
says Mr. Walters, Datchery has learned "nothing new to Edwin Drood, if
This is an obvious error. It is absolutely new to Edwin Drood that
the opium hag is intimately acquainted with his uncle, Jasper, and
hates Jasper with a deadly hatred. All this is not only new to Drood,
if alive, but is rich in promise of further revelations. Drood, on
Christmas Eve, had learned from the hag only that she took opium, and
that she had come from town to Cloisterham, and had "hunted for a
needle in a bottle of hay." That was the sum of his information. Now
he learns that the woman knows, tracks, has found, and hates, his
worthy uncle, Jasper. He may well, therefore, add a heavy mark to his
We must also ask, How could Helena, fresh from Ceylon, know "the old
tavern way of keeping scores? Illegible except to the scorer. The
scorer not committed, the scored debited with what is against him," as
Datchery observes. An Eurasian girl of twenty, new to England, would
not argue thus with herself: she would probably know nothing of
English tavern scores. We do not hear that Helena ever opened a book:
we do know that education had been denied to her. What acquaintance
could she have with old English tavern customs?
If Drood is Datchery, then Dickens used a form of a very old and
favourite FICELLE of his: the watching of a villain by an improbable
and unsuspected person, in this case thought to be dead. If Helena is
Datchery, the "assumption" or personation is in the highest degree
improbable, her whole bearing is quite out of her possibilities, and
the personation is very absurd.
Here the story ends.
THEORIES OF THE MYSTERY
WE have some external evidence as to Dickens's solution of his own
problem, from Forster. (2) On August 6, 1869, some weeks before he
began to work at his tale, Dickens, in a letter, told Forster, "I have
a very curious and new idea for my new story. Not communicable (or
the interest of the book would be gone), but a very strong one, though
difficult to work." Forster must have instantly asked that the
incommunicable secret should be communicated to HIM, for he tells us
that "IMMEDIATELY AFTER I learnt" - the secret. But did he learn it?
Dickens was ill, and his plot, whatever it may have been, would be
irritatingly criticized by Forster before it was fully thought out.
"Fules and bairns should not see half-done work," and Dickens may well
have felt that Forster should not see work not even begun, but merely
simmering in the author's own fancy.
Forster does not tell us that Dickens communicated the secret in a
letter. He quotes none: he says "I was told," orally, that is. When
he writes, five years later (1874), "Landless was, I THINK, to have
perished in assisting Tartar finally to unmask and seize the
murderer," he is clearly trusting, not to a letter of Dickens's, but
to a defective memory; and he knows it. He says that a nephew was to
be murdered by an uncle. The criminal was to confess in the condemned
cell. He was to find out that his crime had been needless, and to be
convicted by means of the ring (Rosa's mother's ring) remaining in the
quicklime that had destroyed the body of Edwin.
originality," he explains, "was to consist in the review of the
murderer's career by himself at the close, when its temptations were
to be dwelt upon as if, not he the culprit, but some other man, were
But all this is not "hard to work," and is not "original." As Mr.
Proctor remarks, Dickens had used that trick twice already.
("Madman's Manuscript," PICKWICK; "Clock Case Confession," in MASTER
HUMPHREY'S CLOCK.) The quicklime trick is also very old indeed. The
disguise of a woman as a man is as ancient as the art of fiction: yet
Helena MAY be Datchery, though nobody guessed it before Mr. Cuming
Walters. She ought not to be Datchery; she is quite out of keeping in
her speech and manner as Datchery, and is much more like Drood.
"A NEW IDEA"
There are no new ideas in plots. "All the stories have been told,"
and all the merit lies in the manner of the telling. Dickens had used
the unsuspected watcher, as Mr. Proctor shows, in almost all his
novels. In MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT, when Jonas finds that Nadgett has been
the watcher, Dickens writes, "The dead man might have come out of his
grave and not confounded and appalled him so." Now, to Jasper, Edwin
WAS "the dead man," and Edwin's grave contained quicklime. Jasper was
sure that he had done for Edwin: he had taken Edwin's watch, chain,
and scarf-pin; he believed that he had left him, drugged, in
quicklime, in a locked vault. Consequently the reappearance of Edwin,
quite well, in the vault where Jasper had buried him, would be a very
new idea to Jasper; would "confound and appall him." Jasper would
have emotions, at that spectacle, and so would the reader! It is not
every day, even in our age of sixpenny novels, that a murderer is
compelled to visit, alone, at night, the vault which holds his
victim's "cold remains," and therein finds the victim "come up,
Yes, for business purposes, this idea was new enough! The idea was
"difficult to work," says Dickens, with obvious truth. How was he to
get the quicklime into the vault, and Drood, alive, out of the vault?
As to the reader, he would at first take Datchery for Drood, and then
think, "No, that is impossible, and also is stale. Datchery cannot be
Drood," and thus the reader would remain in a pleasant state of
puzzledom, as he does, unto this day.
If Edwin is dead, there is not much "Mystery" about him. We have as
good as seen Jasper strangle him and take his pin, chain, and watch.
Yet by adroitly managing the conduct of Mr. Grewgious, Dickens
persuaded Mr. Proctor that certainly, Grewgious knew Edwin to be
alive. As Grewgious knew, from Helena, all that was necessary to
provoke his experiment on Jasper's nerves, Mr. Proctor argued on false
premises, but that was due to the craft of Dickens. Mr. Proctor
rejected Forster's report, from memory, of what he understood to be
the "incommunicable secret" of Dickens's plot, and I think that he was
justified in the rejection. Forster does not seem to have cared about
the thing - he refers lightly to "the reader curious in such matters"
- when once he had received his explanation from Dickens. His memory,
in the space of five years, may have been inaccurate: he probably
neither knew nor cared who Datchery was; and he may readily have
misunderstood what Dickens told him, orally, about the ring, as the
instrument of detection. Moreover, Forster quite overlooked one
source of evidence, as I shall show later.
MR. PROCTOR'S THEORY
Mr. Proctor's theory of the story is that Jasper, after Edwin's return
at midnight on Christmas Eve, recommended a warm drink - mulled wine,
drugged - and then proposed another stroll of inspection of the
effects of the storm. He then strangled him, somewhere, and placed
him in the quicklime in the Sapsea vault, locked him in, and went to
bed. Next, according to Mr. Proctor, Durdles, then, "lying drunk in
the precincts," for some reason taps with his hammer on the wall of
the Sapsea vault, detects the presence of a foreign body, opens the
tomb, and finds Drood in the quicklime, "his face fortunately
protected by the strong silk shawl with which Jasper has intended to
This is "thin," very "thin!" Dickens must have had some better scheme
than Mr. Proctor's. Why did Jasper not "mak sikker" like Kirkpatrick
with the Red Comyn? Why did he leave his silk scarf? It might come
to be asked for; to be sure the quicklime would destroy it, but why
did Jasper leave it? Why did the intoxicated Durdles come out of the
crypt, if he was there, enter the graveyard, and begin tapping at the
wall of the vault? Why not open the door? he had the key.
Suppose, however, all this to have occurred, and suppose, with Mr.
Proctor, that Durdles and Deputy carried Edwin to the Tramps'
lodgings, would Durdles fail to recognize Edwin? We are to guess that
Grewgious was present, or disturbed at his inn, or somehow brought
into touch with Edwin, and bribed Durdles to silence, "until a scheme
for the punishment of Jasper had been devised."
All this set of conjectures is crude to the last degree. We do not
know how Dickens meant to get Edwin into and out of the vault.
Granting that Edwin was drugged, Jasper might lead Edwin in,
considering the licence extended to the effects of drugs in novels,
and might strangle him there. Above all, how did Grewgious, if in
Cloisterham, come to be at hand at midnight?
If I must make a guess, I conjecture that Jasper had one of his
"filmy" seizures, was "in a frightful sort of dream," and bungled the
murder: made an incomplete job of it. Half-strangled men and women
have often recovered. In Jasper's opium vision and reminiscence there
was no resistance, all was very soon over. Jasper might even bungle
the locking of the door of the vault. He was apt to have a seizure
after opium, in moments of excitement, and HE HAD BEEN AT THE OPIUM
DEN THROUGH THE NIGHT OF DECEMBER 23, for the hag tracked him from her
house in town to Cloisterham on December 24, the day of the crime.
Grant that his accustomed fit came upon him during the excitement of
the murder, as it does come after "a nicht wi' opium," in chapter ii.,
when Edwin excites him by contemptuous talk of the girl whom Jasper
loves so furiously - and then anything may happen!
Jasper murders Edwin inefficiently; he has a fit; while he is
unconscious the quicklime revives Edwin, by burning his hand, say,
and, during Jasper's swoon, Edwin, like another famous prisoner, "has
a happy thought, he opens the door, and walks out."
Being drugged, he is in a dreamy state; knows not clearly what has
occurred, or who attacked him. Jasper revives, "look on't again he
dare not," - on the body of his victim - and HE walks out and goes
home, where his red lamp has burned all the time - "thinking it all
"Another way," - Jasper not only fails to strangle Drood, but fails to
lock the door of the vault, and Drood walks out after Jasper has gone.
Jasper has, before his fit, "removed from the body the most lasting,
the best known, and most easily recognizable things upon it, the watch
and scarf-pin." So Dickens puts the popular view of the case against
Neville Landless, and so we are to presume that Jasper acted. If he
removed no more things from the body than these, he made a fatal
Meanwhile, how does Edwin, once out of the vault, make good a secret
escape from Cloisterham? Mr. Proctor invokes the aid of Mr.
Grewgious, but does not explain why Grewgious was on the spot. I
venture to think it not inconceivable that Mr. Grewgious having come
down to Cloisterham by a late train, on Christmas Eve, to keep his
Christmas appointment with Rosa, paid a darkling visit to the tomb of
his lost love, Rosa's mother. Grewgious was very sentimental, but too
secretive to pay such a visit by daylight. "A night of memories and
sighs" he might "consecrate" to his lost lady love, as Landor did to
Rose Aylmer. Grewgious was to have helped Bazzard to eat a turkey on
Christmas Day. But he could get out of that engagement. He would
wish to see Edwin and Rosa together, and Edwin was leaving
Cloisterham. The date of Grewgious's arrival at Cloisterham is
studiously concealed. I offer at least a conceivable motive for
Grewgious's possible presence at the churchyard. Mrs. Bud, his lost
love, we have been told, was buried hard by the Sapsea monument. If
Grewgious visited her tomb, he was on the spot to help Edwin,
supposing Edwin to escape. Unlikelier things occur in novels. I do
not, in fact, call these probable occurrences in every-day life, but
none of the story is probable. Jasper's "weird seizures" are meant to
lead up to SOMETHING. They may have been meant to lead up to the
failure of the murder and the escape of Edwin. Of course Dickens
would not have treated these incidents, when he came to make Edwin
explain, - nobody else could explain, - in my studiously simple style.
The drugged Edwin himself would remember the circumstances but
mistily: his evidence would be of no value against Jasper.
Grewgious, and I have added the circumstances which might take
Grewgious to the churchyard. Next, when Edwin recovered health, he
came down, perhaps, as Datchery, to spy on Jasper. I have elsewhere
said, as Mr. Cuming Walters quotes me, that "fancy can suggest no
reason why Edwin Drood, if he escaped from his wicked uncle, should go
spying about instead of coming openly forward. No plausible
unfantastic reason could be invented." Later, I shall explain why
Edwin, if he is Datchery, might go spying alone.
It is also urged that Edwin left Rosa in sorrow, and left blame on
Neville Landless. Why do this? Mr. Proctor replies that Grewgious's
intense and watchful interest in Neville, otherwise unexplained, is
due to his knowledge that Drood is alive, and that Neville must be
cared for, while Grewgious has told Rosa that Edwin lives. He also
told her of Edwin's real love of her, hence Miss Bud says, "Poor, poor
Eddy," quite A PROPOS DE BOTTES, when she finds herself many fathoms
deep in love with Lieutenant Tartar, R.N. "'Poor, poor Eddy!' thought
Rosa, as they walked along," Tartar and she. This is a plausible
suggestion of Mr. Proctor. Edwin, though known to Rosa to be alive,
has no chance! But, as to my own remark, "why should not Edwin come
forward at once, instead of spying about?" Well, if he did, there
would be no story. As for "an unfantastic reason" for his conduct,
Dickens is not writing an "unfantastic" novel. Moreover, if things
occurred as I have suggested, I do not see what evidence Drood had
against Jasper. Edwin's clothes were covered with lime, but, when he
told his story, Jasper would reply that Drood never returned to his
house on Christmas Eve, but stayed out, "doing what was correct by the
season, in the way of giving it the welcome it had the right to
expect," like Durdles on another occasion. Drood's evidence, if it
was what I have suggested, would sound like the dream of an
intoxicated man, and what other evidence could be adduced? Thus I had
worked out Drood's condition, if he really was not killed, in this
way: I had supposed him to escape, in a very mixed frame of mind,
when he would be encountered by Grewgious, who, of course, could make
little out of him in his befogged state. Drood could not even prove
that it was not Landless who attacked him. The result would be that
Drood would lie low, and later, would have reason enough for
disguising himself as Datchery, and playing the spy in Cloisterham.
At this point I was reinforced by an opinion which Mr. William Archer
had expressed, unknown to me, in a newspaper article. I had described
Edwin's confused knowledge of his own experience, if he were
thoroughly drugged, and then half strangled. Mr. Archer also took
that point, and added that Edwin being a good-hearted fellow, and fond
of his uncle Jasper, he would not bring, or let Grewgious bring, a
terrible charge against Jasper, till he knew more certainly the whole
state of the case. For that reason, he would come disguised to
Cloisterham and make inquiries. By letting Jasper know about the
ring, he would compel him to enter the vault, and then, Mr. Archer
thinks, would induce him to "repent and begin life afresh."
I scarcely think that Datchery's purpose was so truly honourable: he
rather seems to be getting up a case against Jasper. Still, the idea
of Mr. Archer is very plausible, and, at least, given Drood's need of
evidence, and the lack of evidence against Jasper, we see reason good,
in a novel of this kind, for his playing the part of amateur
DICKENS'S UNUSED DRAFT OF A CHAPTER
Forster found, and published, a very illegible sketch of a chapter of
the tale: "How Mr. Sapsea ceased to be a Member of the Eight Club,
Told by Himself." This was "a cramped, interlined, and blotted"
draft, on paper of only half the size commonly used by Dickens. Mr.
Sapsea tells how his Club mocked him about a stranger, who had
mistaken him for the Dean. The jackass, Sapsea, left the Club, and
met the stranger, A YOUNG MAN, who fooled him to the top of his bent,
saying, "If I was to deny that I came to this town to see and hear
you, Sir, what would it avail me?" Apparently this paper was a rough
draft of an idea for introducing a detective, as a YOUNG man, who
mocks Sapsea just as Datchery does in the novel. But to make the spy
A YOUNG man, whether the spy was Drood or Helena Landless, was too
difficult; and therefore Dickens makes Datchery "an elderly buffer" in
a white wig. If I am right, it was easier for Helena, a girl, to pose
as a young man, than for Drood to reappear as a young man, not
himself. Helena MAY be Datchery, and yet Drood may be alive and
biding his time; but I have disproved my old objection that there was
no reason why Drood, if alive, should go spying about in disguise.
There were good Dickensian reasons.
A QUESTION OF TASTE
Mr. Cuming Walters argues that the story is very tame if Edwin is
still alive, and left out of the marriages at the close. Besides,
"Drood is little more than a name-label, attached to a body, a man who
never excites sympathy, whose fate causes no emotion, he is saved for
no useful or sentimental purpose, and lags superfluous on the stage.
All of which is bad art, so bad that Dickens would never have been
guilty of it."
That is a question of taste. On rereading the novel, I see that
Dickens makes Drood as sympathetic as he can. He is very young, and
speaks of Rosa with bad taste, but he is really in love with her, much
more so than she with him, and he is piqued by her ceaseless mockery,
and by their false position. To Jasper he is singularly tender, and
remorseful when he thinks that he has shown want of tact. There is
nothing ominous about his gaiety: as to his one fault, we leave him,
on Christmas Eve, a converted character: he has a kind word and look
for every one whom he meets, young and old. He accepts Mr.
Grewgious's very stern lecture in the best manner possible. In short,
he is marked as faulty - "I am young," so he excuses himself, in the
very words of Darnley to Queen Mary! (if the Glasgow letter be
genuine); but he is also marked as sympathetic.
He was, I think, to have a lesson, and to become a good fellow. Mr.
Proctor rightly argues (and Forster "thinks"), that Dickens meant to
kill Neville Landless: Mr. Cuming Walters agrees with him, but Mr.
Proctor truly adds that Edwin has none of the signs of Dickens's
doomed men, his Sidney Cartons, and the rest. You can tell, as it
were by the sound of the voice of Dickens, says Mr. Proctor, that
Edwin is to live. The impression is merely subjective, but I feel the
impression. The doom of Landless is conspicuously fixed, and why is
Landless to be killed by Jasper? Merely to have a count on which to
hang Jasper! He cannot be hanged for killing Drood, if Drood is
MR. PROCTOR'S THEORY CONTINUED
Mr. Proctor next supposes that Datchery and others, by aid of the
opium hag, have found out a great deal of evidence against Jasper.
They have discovered from the old woman that his crime was long
premeditated: he had threatened "Ned" in his opiated dreams: and had
clearly removed Edwin's trinkets and watch, because they would not be
destroyed, with his body, by the quicklime. This is all very well,
but there is still, so far, no legal evidence, on my theory, that
Jasper attempted to take Edwin's life. Jasper's enemies, therefore,
can only do their best to make his life a burden to him, and to give
him a good fright, probably with the hope of terrifying him into
Now the famous ring begins "to drag and hold" the murderer. He is
given to know, I presume, that, when Edwin disappeared, he had a gold
ring in the pocket of his coat. Jasper is thus compelled to revisit
the vault, at night, and there, in the light of his lantern, he sees
the long-lost Edwin, with his hand in the breast of his great coat.
Horrified by this unexpected appearance, Jasper turns to fly. But he
is confronted by Neville Landless, Crisparkle, Tartar, and perhaps by
Mr. Grewgious, who are all on the watch. He rushes up through the
only outlet, the winding staircase of the Cathedral tower, of which we
know that he has had the key. Neville, who leads his pursuers,
"receives his death wound" (and, I think, is pitched off the top of
the roof). Then Jasper is collared by that agile climber, Tartar, and
by Crisparkle, always in the pink of condition. There is now
something to hang Jasper for - the slaying of Landless (though, as far
as I can see, THAT was done in self-defence). Jasper confesses all;
Tartar marries Rosa; Helena marries Crisparkle. Edwin is only twenty-
one, and may easily find a consoler of the fair sex: indeed he is
"ower young to marry yet."
The capture of Jasper was fixed, of course, for Christmas Eve. The
phantom cry foreheard by Durdles, two years before, was that of
Neville as he fell; and the dog that howled was Neville's dog, a
character not yet introduced into the romance.
Such is Mr. Proctor's theory of the story, in which I mainly agree.
Mr. Proctor relies on a piece of evidence overlooked by Forster, and
certainly misinterpreted, as I think I can prove to a certainty, by
Mr. Cuming Walters, whose theory of the real conduct of the plot runs
thus: After watching the storm at midnight with Edwin, Neville left
him, and went home: "his way lay in an opposite direction. Near to
the Cathedral Jasper intercepted his nephew. . . . Edwin may have been
already drugged." How the murder was worked Mr. Cuming Walters does
not say, but he introduces at this point, the two sounds foreheard by
Durdles, without explaining "the howl of a dog." Durdles would hear
the cries, and Deputy "had seen what he could not understand,"
whatever it was that he saw. Jasper, not aware of Drood's possession
of the ring, takes only his watch, chain, and pin, which he places on
the timbers of the weir, and in the river, to be picked up by that
persistent winter-bather, Crisparkle of the telescopic and microscopic
As to the ring, Mr. Cuming Walters erroneously declares that Mr.
Proctor "ignores" the power of the ring "to hold and drag," and says
that potent passage is "without meaning and must be disregarded."
Proctor, in fact, gives more than three pages to the meaning of the
ring, which "drags" Jasper into the vault, when he hears of its
existence. (3) Next, Mr. Cuming Walters supposes Datchery to learn
from Durdles, whom he is to visit, about the second hearing of the cry
and the dog's howl. Deputy may have seen Jasper "carrying his burden"
(Edwin) "towards the Sapsea vault." In fact, Jasper probably saved
trouble by making the drugged Edwin walk into that receptacle.
"Datchery would not think of the Sapsea vault unaided." No - unless
Datchery was Drood ! "Now Durdles is useful again. Tapping with his
hammer he would find a change . . . inquiry must be made." Why should
Durdles tap the Sapsea monument? As Durdles had the key, he would
simply walk into the vault, and find the quicklime. Now, Jasper also,
we presume, had a key, made from a wax impression of the original. If
he had any sense, he would have removed the quicklime as easily as he
inserted it, for Mr. Sapsea was mortal: he might die any day, and be
buried, and then the quicklime, lying where it ought not, would give
rise to awkward inquiries.
Inquiry being made, in consequence of Durdles's tappings, the ring
would be found, as Mr. Cuming Walters says. But even then, unless
Deputy actually saw Jasper carry a man into the vault, nobody could
prove Jasper's connection with the presence of the ring in the vault.
Moreover, Deputy hated Jasper, and if he saw Jasper carrying the body
of a man, on the night when a man disappeared, he was clever enough to
lead Durdles to examine the vault, AT ONCE. Deputy had a great
dislike of the Law and its officers, but here was a chance for him to
distinguish himself, and conciliate them.
However these things may be, Mr. Cuming Walters supposes that Jasper,
finding himself watched, re-enters the vault, perhaps, "to see that
every trace of the crime had been removed." In the vault he finds -
Datchery, that is, Helena Landless! Jasper certainly visited the
vault and found somebody.
EVIDENCE OF COLLINS'S DRAWINGS
We now come to the evidence which Forster strangely overlooked, which
Mr. Proctor and Mr. Archer correctly deciphered, and which Mr. Cuming
Walters misinterprets. On December 22, 1869, Dickens wrote to Forster
that two numbers of his romance were "now in type. Charles Collins
has designed an excellent cover." Mr. C. A. Collins had married a
daughter of Dickens. (4) He was an artist, a great friend of Dickens,
and author of that charming book, "A Cruise on Wheels." His design of
the paper cover of the story (it appeared in monthly numbers)
contained, as usual, sketches which give an inkling of the events in
the tale. Mr. Collins was to have illustrated the book; but, finally,
Mr. (now Sir) Luke Fildes undertook the task. Mr. Collins died in
1873. It appears that Forster never asked him the meaning of his
designs - a singular oversight.
The cover lies before the reader. In the left-hand top corner appears
an allegorical female figure of joy, with flowers. The central top
space contains the front of Cloisterham Cathedral, or rather, the
nave. To the left walks Edwin, with hyacinthine locks, and a
thoroughly classical type of face, and Grecian nose. LIKE DATCHERY,
HE DOES NOT WEAR, BUT CARRIES HIS HAT; this means nothing, if they are
in the nave. He seems bored. On his arm is Rosa; SHE seems bored;
she trails her parasol, and looks away from Edwin, looks down, to her
right. On the spectator's right march the surpliced men and boys of
the Choir. Behind them is Jasper, black whiskers and all; he stares
after Edwin and Rosa; his right hand hides his mouth. In the corner
above him is an allegorical female, clasping a stiletto.
looking at a placard, headed "LOST," on a door. Under that, again, is
a girl in a garden-chair; a young man, whiskerless, with wavy hair,
kneels and kisses her hand. She looks rather unimpassioned. I
conceive the man to be Landless, taking leave of Rosa after urging his
hopeless suit, for which Helena, we learn, "seems to compassionate
him." He has avowed his passion, early in the story, to Crisparkle.
Below, the opium hag is smoking. On the other side, under the figures
of Jasper and the Choir, the young man who kneels to the girl is seen
bounding up a spiral staircase. His left hand is on the iron railing;
he stoops over it, looking down at others who follow him. His right
hand, the index finger protruded, points upward, and, by chance or
design, points straight at Jasper in the vignette above. Beneath this
man (clearly Landless) follows a tall man in a "bowler" hat, a "cut-
away" coat, and trousers which show an inch of white stocking above
the low shoes. His profile is hid by the wall of the spiral
staircase: he might be Grewgious of the shoes, white stockings, and
short trousers, but he may be Tartar: he takes two steps at a stride.
Beneath him a youngish man, in a low, soft, clerical hat and a black
pea-coat, ascends, looking downwards and backwards. This is clearly
Crisparkle. A Chinaman is smoking opium beneath.
In the central lowest space, a dark and whiskered man enters a dark
chamber; his left hand is on the lock of the door; in his right he
holds up a lantern. The light of the lantern reveals a young man in a
soft hat of Tyrolese shape. His features are purely classical, his
nose is Grecian, his locks are long (at least, according to the taste
of to-day); he wears a light paletot, buttoned to the throat; his
right arm hangs by his side; his left hand is thrust into the breast
of his coat. He calmly regards the dark man with the lantern. That
man, of course, is Jasper. The young man is EDWIN DROOD, of the
Grecian nose, hyacinthine locks, and classic features, as in Sir L.
Fildes's third illustration.
Mr. Proctor correctly understood the unmistakable meaning of this last
design, Jasper entering the vault -
"TO-DAY THE DEAD ARE LIVING,
THE LOST IS FOUND TO-DAY."
Mr. Cuming Walters tells us that he did not examine these designs by
Mr. Collins till he had formed his theory, and finished his book. "On
the conclusion of the whole work the pictures were referred to for the
first time, and were then found to support in the most striking manner
the opinions arrived at," namely, that Drood was killed, and that
Helena is Datchery. Thus does theory blind us to facts!
Mr. Cuming Walters connects the figure of the whiskerless young man
kneeling to a girl in a garden seat, with the whiskered Jasper's
proposal to Rosa in a garden seat. But Jasper does not kneel to Rosa;
he stands apart, leaning on a sundial; he only once vaguely "touches"
her, which she resents; he does not kneel; he does not kiss her hand
(Rosa "took the kiss sedately," like Maud in the poem); and - Jasper
had lustrous thick black whiskers.
Again, the same whiskerless young man, bounding up the spiral
staircase in daylight, and wildly pointing upwards, is taken by Mr.
Cuming Walters to represent Jasper climbing the staircase to
reconnoitre, at night, with a lantern, and, of course, with black
whiskers. The two well-dressed men on the stairs (Grewgious, or
Tartar, and Crisparkle) also, according to Mr. Cuming Walters, "relate
to Jasper's unaccountable expedition with Durdles to the Cathedral."
Neither of them is Jasper; neither of them is Durdles, "in a suit of
coarse flannel" - a disreputable jacket, as Sir L. Fildes depicts him
- "with horn buttons," and a battered old tall hat. These
interpretations are quite demonstrably erroneous and even impossible.
Mr. Archer interprets the designs exactly as I do.
As to the young man in the light of Jasper's lamp, Mr. Cuming Walters
says, "the large hat and the tightly-buttoned surtout must be
observed; they are the articles of clothing on which most stress is
laid in the description of Datchery. But the face is young." The
face of Datchery was elderly, and he had a huge shock of white hair, a
wig. Datchery wore "a tightish blue surtout, with a buff waist-coat
and grey trousers; he had something of a military air." The young man
in the vault has anything but a military air; he shows no waistcoat,
and he does not wear "a tightish blue surtout," or any surtout at all.
sixth and ninth illustrations. It is a frock-coat; the collar
descends far below the top of the waistcoat (buff or otherwise),
displaying that garment; the coat is tightly buttoned beneath,
revealing the figure; the tails of the coat do not reach the knees of
the wearer. The young man in the vault, on the other hand, wears a
loose paletot, buttoned to the throat (vaults are chilly places), and
the coat falls so as to cover the knees; at least, partially. The
young man is not, like Helena, "very dark, and fierce of look, . . .
of almost the gipsy type." He is blonde, sedate, and of the classic
type, as Drood was. He is no more like Helena than Crisparkle is like
Durdles. Mr. Cuming Walters says that Mr. Proctor was "unable to
allude to the prophetic picture by Collins." As a fact, this picture
is fully described by Mr. Proctor, but Mr. Walters used the wrong
edition of his book, unwittingly.
Mr. Proctor writes:- "Creeping down the crypt steps, oppressed by
growing horror and by terror of coming judgment, sickening under fears
engendered by the darkness of night and the charnel-house air he
breathed, Jasper opens the door of the tomb and holds up his lantern,
shuddering at the thought of what it may reveal to him.
"And what sees he? Is it the spirit of his victim that stands there,
'in his habit as he lived,' his hand clasped on his breast, where the
ring had been when he was murdered? What else can Jasper deem it?
There, clearly visible in the gloom at the back of the tomb, stands
Edwin Drood, with stern look fixed on him - pale, silent, relentless!"
Again, "On the title-page are given two of the small pictures from the
Love side of the cover, two from the Murder side, and the central
picture below, which presents the central horror of the story - the
end and aim of the 'Datchery assumption' and of Mr. Grewgious's plans
- showing Jasper driven to seek for the proofs of his crime amid the
dust to which, as he thought, the flesh and bones, and the very
clothes of his victim, had been reduced."
There are only two possible choices; either Collins, under Dickens's
oral instructions, depicted Jasper finding Drood alive in the vault,
an incident which was to occur in the story; or Dickens bade Collins
do this for the purpose of misleading his readers in an illegitimate
manner; while the young man in the vault was really to be some person
"made up" to look like Drood, and so to frighten Jasper with a pseudo-
ghost of that hero. The latter device, the misleading picture, would
be childish, and the pseudo-ghost, exactly like Drood, could not be
acted by the gipsy-like, fierce Helena, or by any other person in the
MR. WALTERS'S THEORY CONTINUED
Mr. Cuming Walters guesses that Jasper was to aim a deadly blow (with
his left hand, to judge from the picture) at Helena, and that Neville
"was to give his life for hers." But, manifestly, Neville was to lead
the hunt of Jasper up the spiral stair, as in Collins's design, and
was to be dashed from the roof: his body beneath was to be "THAT, I
never saw before. THAT must be real. Look what a poor mean miserable
thing it is!" as Jasper says in his vision.
Mr. Cuming Walters, pursuing his idea of Helena as both Datchery and
also as the owner of "the YOUNG face" of the youth in the vault (and
also of the young hands, a young girl's hands could never pass for
those of "an elderly buffer"), exclaims: "Imagine the intense power
of the dramatic climax, when Datchery, the elderly man, is re-
transformed into Helena Landless, the young and handsome woman; and
when she reveals the seemingly impenetrable secret which had been
closed up in one guilty man's mind."
The situations are startling, I admit, but how would Canon Crisparkle
like them? He is, we know, to marry Helena, "the young person, my
dear," Miss Twinkleton would say, "who for months lived alone, at
inns, wearing a blue surtout, a buff waistcoat, and grey - " Here
horror chokes the utterance of Miss Twinkleton. "Then she was in the
vault in ANOTHER disguise, not more womanly, at that awful scene when
poor Mr. Jasper was driven mad, so that he confessed all sorts of
nonsense, for, my dear, all the Close believes that it WAS nonsense,
and that Mr. Jasper was reduced to insanity by persecution. And Mr.
Crisparkle, with that elegant dainty mother of his - it has broken her
heart - is marrying this half-caste gipsy TROLLOP, with her blue
surtout and grey - oh, it is a disgrace to Cloisterham!"
dramatic for the comfort of a minor canon. A humorist like Dickens
ought to have seen the absurdity of the situation. Mr. Walters MAY be
right, Helena may be Datchery, but she ought not to be.
WHO WAS THE PRINCESS PUFFER?
Who was the opium hag, the Princess Puffer? Mr. Cuming Walters
writes: "We make a guess, for Dickens gives us no solid facts. But
when we remember that not a word is said throughout the volume of
Jasper's antecedents, who he was, and where he came from; when we
remember that but for his nephew he was a lonely man; when we see that
he was both criminal and artist; when we observe his own wheedling
propensity, his false and fulsome protestations of affection, his
slyness, his subtlety, his heartlessness, his tenacity; and when,
above all, we know that the opium vice is HEREDITARY, and that a YOUNG
man would not be addicted to it unless born with the craving; (5)
then, it is not too wild a conjecture that Jasper was the wayward
progeny of this same opium-eating woman, all of whose characteristics
he possessed, and, perchance, of a man of criminal instincts, but of a
superior position. Jasper is a morbid and diseased being while still
in the twenties, a mixture of genius and vice. He hates and he loves
fiercely, as if there were wild gipsy blood in his veins. Though
seemingly a model of decorum and devoted to his art, he complains of
his "daily drudging round" and "the cramped monotony of his
existence." He commits his crime with the ruthlessness of a beast,
his own nature being wholly untamed. If we deduce that his father was
an adventurer and a vagabond, we shall not be far wrong. If we deduce
that his mother was the opium-eater, prematurely aged, who had
transmitted her vicious propensity to her child, we shall almost
certainly be right."
WHO WAS JASPER?
Who was Jasper? He was the brother-in-law of the late Mr. Drood, a
respected engineer, and University man. We do not know whence came
Mrs. Drood, Jasper's sister, but is it likely that her mother "drank
heaven's-hard" - so the hag says of herself - then took to keeping an
opium den, and there entertained her son Jasper, already an
accomplished vocalist, but in a lower station than that to which his
musical genius later raised him, as lay Precentor? If the Princess
Puffer be, as on Mr. Cuming Walters's theory she is, Edwin's long-lost
grandmother, her discovery would be unwelcome to Edwin. Probably she
did not live much longer; "my lungs are like cabbage nets," she says.
Mr. Cuming Walters goes on -
"Her purpose is left obscure. How easily, however, we see
possibilities in a direction such as this. The father, perhaps a
proud, handsome man, deserts the woman, and removes the child. The
woman hates both for scorning her, but the father dies, or disappears,
and is beyond her vengeance. Then the child, victim to the ills in
his blood, creeps back to the opium den, not knowing his mother, but
immediately recognized by her. She will make the child suffer for the
sins of the father, who had destroyed her happiness. Such a theme was
one which appealed to Dickens. It must not, however, be urged; and
the crucial question after all is concerned with the opium woman as
one of the unconscious instruments of justice, aiding with her trifle
of circumstantial evidence the Nemesis awaiting Jasper.
"Another hypothesis - following on the Carker theme in 'Dombey and
Son' - is that Jasper, a dissolute and degenerate man, lascivious, and
heartless, may have wronged a child of the woman's; but it is not
likely that Dickens would repeat the Mrs. Brown story."
Jasper, PERE, father of John Jasper and of Mrs. Drood, however
handsome, ought not to have deserted Mrs. Jasper. Whether John
Jasper, prematurely devoted to opium, became Edwin's guardian at about
the age of fifteen, or whether, on attaining his majority, he
succeeded to some other guardian, is not very obvious. In short, we
cannot guess why the Princess Puffer hated Jasper, a paying client of
long standing. We are only certain that Jasper was a bad fellow, and
that the Princess Puffer said, "I know him, better than all the
Reverend Parsons put together know him." On the other hand, Edwin
"seems to know" the opium woman, when he meets her on Christmas Eve,
which may be a point in favour of her being his long-lost grandmother.
take Mr. Fildes to a condemned cell in Maidstone, or some other gaol,
in order to make a drawing." (6) Possibly Jasper managed to take his
own life, in the cell; possibly he was duly hanged.
Jasper, after all, was a failure as a murderer, even if we suppose him
to have strangled his nephew successfully. "It is obvious to the most
excruciatingly feeble capacity" that, if he meant to get rid of proofs
of the identity of Drood's body by means of quicklime, it did not
suffice to remove Drood's pin, watch, and chain. Drood would have
coins of the realm in his pockets, gold, silver, bronze. Quicklime
would not destroy these metallic objects, nor would it destroy keys,
which would easily prove Drood's identity. If Jasper knew his
business, he would, of course, rifle ALL of Edwin's pockets minutely,
and would remove the metallic buttons of his braces, which generally
display the maker's name, or the tailor's. On research I find "H.
Poole & Co., Savile Row" on my buttons. In this inquiry of his,
Jasper would have discovered the ring in Edwin's breast pocket, and
would have taken it away. Perhaps Dickens never thought of that
little fact: if he did think of it, no doubt he found some mode of
accounting for Jasper's unworkmanlike negligence. The trouser-buttons
would have led any inquirer straight to Edwin's tailor; I incline to
suspect that neither Dickens nor Jasper noticed that circumstance.
The conscientious artist in crime cannot afford to neglect the
humblest and most obvious details.
ACCORDING to my theory, which mainly rests on the unmistakable
evidence of the cover drawn by Collins under Dickens's directions, all
"ends well." Jasper comes to the grief he deserves: Helena, after
her period of mourning for Neville, marries Crisparkle: Rosa weds her
mariner. Edwin, at twenty-one, is not heart-broken, but, a greatly
improved character, takes, to quote his own words, "a sensible
interest in works of engineering skill, especially when they are to
change the whole condition of an undeveloped country" - Egypt.
These conclusions are inevitable unless we either suppose Dickens to
have arranged a disappointment for his readers in the TABLEAU of
Jasper and Drood, in the vault, on the cover, or can persuade
ourselves that not Drood, but some other young man, is revealed by the
light of Jasper's lantern. Now, the young man is very like Drood, and
very unlike the dark fierce Helena Landless: disguised as Drood, this
time, not as Datchery. All the difficulty as to why Drood, if he
escaped alive, did not at once openly denounce Jasper, is removed when
we remember, as Mr. Archer and I have independently pointed out, that
Drood, when attacked by Jasper, was (like Durdles in the
"unaccountable expedition") stupefied by drugs, and so had no valid
evidence against his uncle. Whether science is acquainted with the
drugs necessary for such purposes is another question. They are
always kept in stock by starving and venal apothecaries in fiction and
the drama, and are a recognized convention of romance.
So ends our unfolding of the Mystery of Edwin Drood.
(1) Landless is not "Lackland," but a form of de Laundeles, a Lothian
name of the twelfth century, merged later in that of Ormistoun.
(2) LIFE OF DICKENS, vol. iii. pp. 425-439.
(3) J. Cuming Walters, p. 102; Proctor, pp. 131-135. Mr. Cuming
Walters used an edition of 1896, apparently a reprint of a paper by
Proctor, written earlier than his final book of 1887. Hence the error
as to Mr. Proctor's last theory.
(4) Mrs. Perugini, the books say, but certainly a daughter.
(5) What would Weissmann say to all this?
(6) So Mr. Cuming Walters quotes Mr. Hughes, who quotes Sir L. Fildes.
HE believes that Jasper strangled Edwin with the black-silk scarf,
and, no doubt, Jasper was for long of that opinion himself.
By a coincidence, in September, 1869, Dickens was working over the
Jasper is secretly in love with Rosa, the FIANCEE of his nephew, and
Jasper now tells Sapsea, and the Dean, that he is to make "a moonlight
About six months later, Helena Landless is to join Neville, who is
Nothing "new" in all this, as Forster must have seen. "The
A MISTAKEN THEORY
Mr. Proctor next supposes, we saw, that Drood got into touch with
MR. CUMING WALTERS'S THEORY
Beneath Edwin and Rosa is, first, an allegorical female figure,
The surtout of the period is shown, worn by Jasper, in Sir L. Fildes's
The climax, in fact, as devised by Mr. Cuming Walters, is rather too
Jasper was certainly tried and condemned; for Dickens intended "to