The Mystery Of Edwin Drood – Charles Dickens
The Mystery of Edwin Drood was Charles Dickens‘ last novel and remained – unfortunately – unfinished. There was a lot of discussion about what Dickens could have had in his mind as solution for the plot. Was Mr. Jasper really a murderer? What was the real mystery of Edwin Drood’s death? We will never know, but this novel will surely make your mind reel after you read it to the … end?
The Mystery Of Edwin Drood.
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Plot summary of The Mystery of Edwin Drood (from Wikipedia):
The novel begins as John Jasper leaves a London opium den. The next evening, Edwin Drood visits Jasper, who is the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral. Edwin confides that he has misgivings about his betrothal to Rosa Bud. The next day, Edwin visits Rosa at the Nuns‘ House, the boarding school where she lives. They quarrel good-naturedly, which they apparently do frequently during his visits. Meanwhile, Jasper, having an interest in the cathedral crypt, seeks the company of Durdles, a man who knows more about the crypt than anyone else.
Neville Landless and his twin sister Helena are sent to Cloisterham for their education. Neville will study with the minor canon, Rev. Mr. Crisparkle; Helena will live at the Nuns‘ House with Rosa. Neville confides to Rev. Mr Crisparkle that he had hated his cruel stepfather, while Rosa confides to Helena that she loathes and fears her music-master, Jasper. Neville is immediately smitten with Rosa and is indignant that Edwin prizes his betrothal lightly. Edwin provokes him and he reacts violently, giving Jasper the opportunity to spread rumours about Neville’s reputation of having a violent temper. Rev. Mr Crisparkle tries to reconcile Edwin and Neville, who agrees to apologise to Edwin if the former will forgive him. It is arranged that they will dine together for this purpose on Christmas Eve at Jasper’s home.
Rosa’s guardian, Mr. Grewgious, tells her that she has a substantial inheritance from her father. When she asks whether there would be any forfeiture if she did not marry Edwin, he replies that there would be none on either side. Back at his office in London, Mr. Grewgious gives Edwin a ring which Rosa’s father had given to her mother, with the proviso that Edwin must either give the ring to Rosa as a sign of his irrevocable commitment to her or return it to Mr. Grewgious. Mr. Bazzard, Mr. Grewgious’s clerk, witnesses this transaction.
Next day, Rosa and Edwin amicably agree to end their betrothal.
They decide to ask Mr. Grewgious to break the news to Jasper, and Edwin intends to return the ring to Mr. Grewgious. Meanwhile, Durdles takes Jasper into the cathedral crypt. On the way there Durdles points out a mound of quicklime. Jasper provides a bottle of wine to Durdles. The wine is mysteriously potent and Durdles soon loses consciousness; while unconscious he dreams that Jasper goes off by himself in the crypt. As they return from the crypt, they encounter a boy called Deputy, and Jasper, thinking he was spying on them, takes him by the throat – but, seeing that this will strangle him, lets him go.
On Christmas Eve, Neville buys himself a heavy walking stick; he plans to spend his Christmas break hiking around the countryside. Meanwhile, Edwin visits a jeweller to repair his pocket watch; it is mentioned that the only pieces of jewellery that he wears are the watch and chain and a shirt pin. By chance he meets a woman who is an opium user from London. She asks Drood’s Christian name and he replies that it is ‚Edwin‘; she says he is fortunate it is not ‚Ned,‘ for ‚Ned‘ is in great danger. He thinks nothing of this, for the only person who calls him ‚Ned‘ is Jasper. Meanwhile, Jasper buys himself a black scarf of strong silk, which is not seen again during the course of the novel. The reconciliation dinner is successful and at midnight, Drood and Neville Landless leave together to go down to the river and look at a wind storm that rages that night.
The next morning Edwin is missing and Jasper spreads suspicion that Neville has killed him. Neville leaves early in the morning for his hike; the townspeople overtake him and bring him back to the city. Rev. Mr Crisparkle keeps Neville out of jail by taking responsibility for him: he will produce him anytime his presence is required. That night Jasper is grief-stricken when Mr. Grewgious informs him that Edwin and Rosa had ended their betrothal; he reacts more strongly to this news than to the prospect that Edwin be dead. The next morning Rev. Mr Crisparkle goes to the river weir and finds Edwin’s watch and chain and his shirt pin.
A half-year later, Neville is living in London near Mr. Grewgious’s office. Mr. Tartar introduces himself and offers to share his garden with Landless; Mr. Tartar’s chambers are adjacent to Neville’s above a common courtyard. A stranger who calls himself Dick Datchery arrives in Cloisterham. He rents a room below Jasper and observes the comings and goings in the area. On his way to the lodging the first time, Mr. Datchery asks directions from Deputy. Deputy will not go near there for fear that Jasper will choke him again.
Jasper visits Rosa at the Nuns‘ House and professes his love for her. She rejects him but he persists; he says that if she gives him no hope, he will destroy Neville, the brother of her dear friend Helena. In fear of Jasper, Rosa goes to Mr. Grewgious in London.
The next day Rev. Mr Crisparkle follows Rosa to London. When he is with Mr. Grewgious and Rosa, Mr. Tartar calls and asks if he remembers him. Rev. Crisparkle does remember him, as the one who years before saved him from drowning. They do not dare let Rosa contact Neville and Helena directly, for fear that Jasper may be watching Neville, but Mr. Tartar allows Rosa to visit his chambers to contact Helena above the courtyard. Mr. Grewgious arranges for Rosa to rent a place from Mrs. Billickin and for Miss Twinkleton to live with her there so that she can live there respectably.
Jasper visits the London opium den again for the first time since Edwin’s disappearance. When he leaves at dawn, the woman who runs the opium den follows him. She vows to herself that she will not lose his trail again as she did after his last visit. This time she follows him all the way to his home in Cloisterham; outside she meets Mr. Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name and that he will sing the next morning in the cathedral service. On inquiry, Datchery learns she is called „Princess Puffer.“ The next morning she attends the service and shakes her fists at Jasper from behind a pillar.
Dickens’s death leaves the rest of the story unknown; according to his friend and biographer John Forster, after Dickens had written him two brief letters which relate to the plot (but not the murder), he had supplied Forster with an outline of the full plot:
His first fancy for the tale was expressed in a letter in the middle of July. „What should you think of the idea of a story beginning in this way?—Two people, boy and girl, or very young, going apart from one another, pledged to be married after many years—at the end of the book. The interest to arise out of the tracing of their separate ways, and the impossibility of telling what will be done with that impending fate.“ This was laid aside; but it left a marked trace on the story as afterwards designed, in the position of Edwin Drood and his betrothed. I first heard of the later design in a letter dated „Friday the 6th of August 1869“, in which after speaking, with the usual unstinted praise he bestowed always on what moved him in others, of a little tale he had received for his journal, he spoke of the change that had occurred to him for the new tale by himself. „I laid aside the fancy I told you of, and have a very curious and new idea for my new story. Not a communicable idea (or the interest of the book would be gone), but a very strong one, though difficult to work.“ The story, I learnt immediately afterward, was to be that of the murder of a nephew by his uncle; the originality of which 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 the tempted. The last chapters were to be written in the condemned cell, to which his wickedness, all elaborately elicited from him as if told of another, had brought him. Discovery by the murderer of the utter needlessness of the murder for its object, was to follow hard upon commission of the deed; but all discovery of the murderer was to be baffled till towards the close, when, by means of a gold ring which had resisted the corrosive effects of the lime into which he had thrown the body, not only the person murdered was to be identified but the locality of the crime and the man who committed it. So much was told to me before any of the book was written; and it will be recollected that the ring, taken by Drood to be given to his betrothed only if their engagement went on, was brought away with him from their last interview. Rosa was to marry Tartar, and Crisparkle the sister of Landless, who was himself, I think, to have perished in assisting Tartar finally to unmask and seize the murderer.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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