The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Cover of serial No. 6, September 1870
AuthorCharles Dickens
IllustratorSamuel Luke Fildes
Cover artistCharles Allston Collins
GenreNovel (Murder Mystery)
PublishedSerialized and book form 1870
PublisherChapman & Hall
Media typePrint

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the last novel written by Charles Dickens.[1][2] The novel was not finished at the time of Dickens's death (9 June 1870) and his ending for it is unknown.

Summary[change | change source]

The story is set in a fictional town called Cloisterham, which is believed to be based on Rochester. It begins as John Jasper is leaving a place in London where opium (a powerful drug) is taken by lots of people. Jasper leads a choir (group of singers) in a large church in Cloisterham. The next day Jasper is visited by his nephew Edwin Drood. Edwin tells Jasper he is worried about getting married to a girl called Rosa Bud. He has to get married to her because his parents and Rosa’s parents said they had to.

The next day, Edwin finds Rosa in a nun’s house which is a school. At the same time, Jasper wants to learn about the graveyard, so he goes to find a man called Durdles, who knows a lot about the graveyard. A person called Neville Landless has a twin sister called Helena. They are both sent to a school in Cloisterham. Helena goes to live with Rosa in the nuns’ house, and Neville is taught by a reverend named Crisparkle.

We find out that Neville doesn’t like his stepfather who is a nasty man. He tells this to Crisparkle. Rosa tells Helena that she doesn’t like Jasper, who is her music teacher. She says she finds him scary. When Neville meets Rosa, he falls in love with her. He is angry that Edwin Drood doesn’t like her very much, but still wants to get married. Edwin makes Neville angry, and Neville attacks him. Jasper tells everyone that Neville is a violent (hurts a lot of people) person.

Reverend Crisparkle wants Edwin and Neville to be friends. He wants to say sorry to Edwin, but only is Edwin accepts the apology (saying sorry). They all decide to have dinner the day before Christmas at Jasper’s house, so that everyone can say sorry.

Mr. Gregious who takes care of Rosa, tells Rosa that she has a lot of money. This money is from her father who is dead. She asks him if they money will still be given to her if she doesn’t marry Edwin. Mr Gregious says that she will still get the money even if she doesn’t marry Edwin. Mr. Gregious meets Edwin and gives him a ring. The ring belonged to Rosa’s father, and gave is to Rosa’s mother when they got married. Mr Gregious says that if Edwin loves Rosa and wants to stay with her forever, he must give her the ring. If he doesn’t love Rosa, and doesn’t want to stay with her forever, he must give the ring back to Mr. Gregious. There is another man watching to make sure Mr. Gregious and Edwin follow the rules. Rosa and Edwin talk and they say they both don’t want to get married anymore. They want ask Mr. Grewgious to tell Jasper this. Edwin says he will soon give the ring back.

Meanwhile, Jasper is in the graveyard again with Durdles. Jasper gives Durdles some very strong wine, which makes him drunk. Jasper finds out that Durdles can tap the stone coffins and knows what is in them from this. Jasper is interested in this trick. Suddenly they see a boy called Deputy. Jasper thinks the boy was following them, so he holds him by the neck. He doesn’t kill him though, and lets him go.

On Christmas Eve, Neville buys a stick for walking. He wants to do some walking in his spare time in the countryside. Edwin goes to a jewellery shop because his watch is broken. A woman who uses opium (powerful drug) asks him what his first name is. He tells her. She says that she is happy his name is not Ned. She says that Ned is in danger. Edwin doesn’t listen to her, but he knows that Jasper sometimes calls him Ned.

They have the planned dinner, and everyone is friends again. Edwin and Neville go down to the river to see the storm. The next day, we find out that Edwin is missing. Jasper tells everyone that Neville killed him. Neville goes off for a walk, but the village people bring him back to the town.

Reverend Crisparkle stops Neville from going to jail by saying that he will look after him. He says that he will bring Neville forward whenever he is needed. Jasper is then told that Edwin and Rosa won’t get married. He is very upset. Crisparkle finds Edwin’s watch and other belongings at the river.

Half a year later Neville is living in London. A man called Mr. Tartar meets Neville and he wants to share his garden with him. He lives near Neville. A new character called Dick Datchery comes to Cloisterham. He lives near Jasper and watches him. Datchery meets Deputy and asks where Jasper lives. Deputy doesn’t ever go near there because he is afraid Jasper will choke (grab his neck) him again.

Jasper goes and visits Rosa. He tells her that he loves her. She tells him to leave. He doesn’t give up, and says he will destroy Neville unless she loves him. Because Neville is the brother of her friend Helena, Rosa is frightened. She goes to Mr. Grewgious in London, and Crisparkle follows her. Mr. Tartar meets him and asks him if he knows who he is. Crisparkle remembers that Tartar once saved him from dying in a river. They tell Rosa not to talk to Neville or Helena in case Jasper is watching. However, Tartar lets Rosa meet Helena. Grewgious finds a place for Rosa to live with another woman.

We see that Jasper is visiting the place where lots of people smoke opium in London. He has not been there for a long time. The woman who owns the place follows him. She promises not to lose him again like last time. She follows him all the way to Cloisterham. She meets Mr. Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name. He also says that he is going to sing in the church service in the morning. The woman is called Princess Puffer. She goes to the service and shakes her fist (a sign of anger and hate) at Jasper.

Ending[change | change source]

Dickens died before the story was finished. He made a summary of the story as planned in a letter to his friend John Forster.[3]

Modern versions[change | change source]

Despite its lack of completeness, the novel has a history of media exposure. There are two films (1935 and 1993) and three television versions (1960 and 2012 in English, and 1980 in Russian). The novel has been on radio and in the theatre. There are a number of versions in print.

In general, people have believed what Dicken's friend John Forster reported: Jasper murdered Drood. In 2015, the UK newspaper The Daily Mail and the University of Buckingham asked the public for their solution to the mystery. Out of 15,000 responses, the overwhelming verdict was that Jasper killed his own nephew and stashed his body in the church crypt, the same solution proposed by Dickens' friends and family.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. Dubberke, Ray. Dickens, Drood, and the Detectives, New York: Vantage Press, 1992. ISBN 0-533-09639-1.
  2. Kate Dickens Perugini, "Edwin Drood and the Last Days of Charles Dickens", Pall Mall Magazine, Vol. 37 (1906).
  3. John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, 1876, vol. 1, pp. 451–452
  4. Gye, Hugo (19 May 2015). "At last, the Mystery of Edwin Drood is SOLVED". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 6 June 2017.

Other websites[change | change source]