David Winn: Can We Solve The Mystery of Edwin Drood?

Впервые опубликовано на dickensvictoria.50webs.com

Ac­tu­al­ly, we have sev­er­al mys­ter­ies, which I group under three main ques­tions:

~ First, does Edwin Drood die? and if he does, is it mur­der? and if so, who is his killer?
~ Sec­ond­ly, how would Charles Dick­ens have com­plet­ed the novel, had he not died in the mid­dle of its com­po­si­tion? and
~ Third­ly, what sig­nif­i­cant themes or mes­sages did he in­tend to pre­sent to his read­ers?

The first main ques­tion is about the out­turn of events in the fic­tion­al work. And al­though these may well ex­cite our in­ter­est, still we can hope to dis­cern more im­por­tant is­sues. In Bleak House, the mur­der of the lawyer Tulk­inghorn leads to sus­pi­cion being thrown on George Rouncewell and also on Lady Ded­lock, with var­i­ous ef­fects on the un­fold­ing of the story – but still, what im­press­es us about that book? Is it not the fog? and that great in­sti­tu­tion which the fog sym­bol­izes, the Court of Chancery? and the im­pov­er­ished suit­ors caught up in it? and the lawyers feed­ing off them?

Going on to the sec­ond ques­tion (which, if re­solved, will dis­pose of the first), we can find var­i­ous in­di­ca­tions of Dick­ens's in­ten­tions. I have re­ferred to the text it­self, in the Pen­guin Clas­sics edi­tion, 1985, where­in, it is im­por­tant to note, the ed­i­tors re­stored text that had been elim­i­nat­ed be­fore orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion in order to fit the pre­de­ter­mined size of the month­ly in­stal­ments). [Chap­ter num­bers ap­pear here in square brack­ets.] And to Dick­ens's notes and num­ber plans (ap­pear­ing here in "dou­ble quo­ta­tion marks," and colorized), which are es­pe­cial­ly sig­nif­i­cant be­cause, being work­ing notes for him­self, not for pub­li­ca­tion, they could safe­ly dis­close that which in the text it­self would be treat­ed in­di­rect­ly, through al­lu­sions. And also to tes­ti­mo­ny of his col­leagues, friends, and fam­i­ly. How­ev­er, lack­ing time, and wish­ing to see how I would man­age un­aid­ed by the re­search and the­o­ries of oth­ers, I did not refer to any of the ap­par­ent­ly ex­ten­sive lit­er­a­ture on "The Mys­tery of" The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood.

To start with tes­ti­mo­ny: John Forster, Dick­ens's friend and bi­og­ra­pher, says Dick­ens spoke of '...a 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 the temp­ta­tions were to be dwelt upon as if, not he the cul­prit, but some other man, were the tempt­ed... Dis­cov­ery by the mur­der­er of the utter need­less­ness of the mur­der for its ob­ject, was to fol­low hard upon the com­mis­sion of the deed, but all dis­cov­ery of the mur­der was to be baf­fled till to­wards the close, when by the 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... piano - stageRosa 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.' (These quot­ed com­ments, and those ap­pear­ing below, are taken from Angus Wil­son's in­tro­duc­tion to the Pen­guin Clas­sics edi­tion.)

Luke Fildes, the novel's il­lus­tra­tor, quotes Dick­ens as say­ing, 'Can you keep a se­cret? I must have the dou­ble neck­tie. It is nec­es­sary for Jasper stran­gles Edwin Drood with it.'

In Dick­ens's work­ing notes and num­ber plans there are var­i­ous phras­es that are con­sis­tent with John Forster's ac­count:

Chap­ter 1, "Touch the key note 'When the Wicked Man'----" [a quo­ta­tion from Ezekiel, and part of the An­gli­can litur­gy].
Chap­ter 2, "Uncle and Nephew... Mur­der very far off ... You won't take warn­ing then?"
Chap­ter 7, "quar­rel (Fo­ment­ed by Jasper) Gob­let... Jasper lays his ground".
Chap­ter 10, "Smooth­ing the Way ---That is for Jasper's plan" [a sub­tle touch, be­cause the title os­ten­si­bly refers to the hoped-for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Edwin and Neville].
Chap­ter 12, "Lay the ground for the mur­der, to come out at last".
Chap­ter 15, "Jasper's fail­ure in the one great ob­ject made known by Mr Grew­gious".
Chap­ter 16, "Jasper's art­ful use of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion on his re­cov­ery."

All this seems straight­ for­ward, as far as it goes. The self-tor­ment­ed Jasper has fore­run­ners, such as Bill Sikes, Fagin, Jonas Chuz­zle­wit, Cark­er, Bradley Head­stone.

There was, how­ev­er, a se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tion: Rudolph Lehmann in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy says, 'Henry Wills [Dick­ens's co-ed­i­tor of All the Year Round] told me that Dick­ens, while in the midst of se­ri­al pub­li­ca­tion of Edwin Drood, al­tered the plot and found him­self hope­less­ly en­tan­gled as in a maze of which he could not find the issue.'

Often in Dick­ens's writ­ings we see his in­spi­ra­tion take flight, and leave be­hind his crafts­man's care­ful con­struc­tion, as in Great Ex­pec­ta­tions, where Mag­witch makes his en­trance as a blood­thirsty mon­ster, cre­at­ing an un­for­get­tably grip­ping open­ing scene, but mak­ing less plau­si­ble his later af­fec­tion to­wards Pip.

After Dick­ens was warned by his doc­tor to end the read­ing tours, it was pru­dent of him to em­bark on a short­er novel rather than a typ­i­cal­ly long one - so long as he dis­ci­plined his imag­i­na­tion and kept to a plan, be­cause a short book is less for­giv­ing, not more; it is less ca­pa­ble of sur­viv­ing prob­lems from in­spired im­pro­vi­sa­tions. And under the strict regime of se­ri­al pub­li­ca­tion, Dick­ens could not go back and change ear­li­er chap­ters. And, trag­i­cal­ly, the en­tan­gle­ment re­ferred to by Lehman may have has­tened Dick­ens's death.

We don't know whether Dick­ens could have com­plet­ed the re­main­ing in­tend­ed in­stal­ments to his own sat­is­fac­tion, even if his health had held out. So I don't feel dif­fi­dent about con­struct­ing a the­o­ry for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the novel, even though I may leave some loose ends.

We have to con­sid­er the var­i­ous al­ter­na­tives ac­cord­ing to their prob­a­bil­i­ty and plau­si­bil­i­ty; and our stan­dard is not the real world, but the fic­tion­al world of Dick­ens. As an in­stance, in Bleak House I find the scene lead­ing to the dis­cov­ery of Krook's re­mains ut­ter­ly com­pelling and con­vinc­ing, and fully wor­thy of its place in a mas­ter­piece; but some lit­er­al-mind­ed crit­ics com­plained at the time that Dick­ens had re­sort­ed to a dis­cred­it­ed be­lief in the pos­si­bil­i­ty of death by Spon­ta­neous Com­bus­tion. Dick­ens pub­licly de­fend­ed his ac­tion, by cit­ing record­ed cases, al­though he may have had his tongue in his cheek; the only re­sponse I think he need­ed was, Does it work, in the book? be­cause, if so, then it is jus­ti­fied.

I con­sid­er, then, that we should judge the­o­ries about the book's out­come ac­cord­ing to whether they ring true for Dick­ens, tak­ing into ac­count what we know about the man and his pre­vi­ous writ­ings, but al­low­ing also for his evolv­ing fur­ther, for his going in new di­rec­tions.

I do not be­lieve that Dick­ens could have in­tend­ed Jasper to be in­no­cent. Dick­ens had some­times mis­lead­ing­ly made his char­ac­ters ap­pear to go to the bad, the ones that spring to my mind being old Mar­tin Chuz­zle­wit; and in Our Mu­tu­al Friend, Mr Bof­fin. But these de­cep­tive ap­par­ent per­son­al­i­ty changes do not work very well; and per­haps Dick­ens came to re­al­ize this. In any case, in the half-book that we have there is no such change in Jasper, but rather an al­ter­na­tion be­tween con­trast­ing states, the ur­bane, re­spect­ed church mu­si­cian, and the opium ad­dict. And Dick­ens gives many signs that the ur­ban­i­ty is a mask: iron­ic touch­es, such as the repet­i­tive and cloy­ing 'my dear boy'; hints that Jasper is putting drugs in peo­ple's drinks, when he is with Edwin and Neville [8], and later with Dur­dles [12]; be­haviour that seems like the prac­tis­ing of mes­merism (which Dick­ens him­self had ex­per­i­ment­ed with) to in­flu­ence Rosa [7], and Edwin and Neville [8] (where­as He­le­na re­al­izes what Jasper is doing, and is con­fi­dent of being proof against him [7]). The mask, and what it hides, are brought to­geth­er vivid­ly in Chap­ter 19 - Shad­ow on the Sun-Di­al: 'If any­thing could make his words more hideous to her than they are in them­selves, it would be the con­trast be­tween the vi­o­lence of his look and de­liv­ery, and the com­po­sure of his as­sumed at­ti­tude.'

To my mind, Dick­ens has put too much weight into his por­tray­al of Jasper as an em­bod­i­ment of evil in dis­guise, for him to dis­miss it at the end as a de­cep­tion prac­tised on the read­er. Dick­ens said about the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of John Har­mon in Our Mu­tu­al Friend, 'I fore­saw the like­li­hood that a class of read­ers and com­men­ta­tors would sup­pose that I was at great pains to con­ceal ex­act­ly what I was at great pains to sug­gest.' And I think his sug­ges­tions about Jasper, plus the in­di­ca­tions in his work­ing notes, are piled so high that they must carry con­vic­tion.

It is sig­nif­i­cant, I be­lieve, that in the half-book which we have, Dick­ens never shows us Jasper on the in­side. The clos­est we get to his feel­ings is see­ing the ex­pres­sion of them; for ex­am­ple, sev­er­al times his whitened lips; and the hor­ri­fy­ing scene when Grew­gious stretch­es out his re­count­ing of the am­i­ca­ble ter­mi­na­tion of Edwin and Rosa's en­gage­ment [15]. With all other major char­ac­ters, we are al­lowed to ex­pe­ri­ence their feel­ings on the in­side, even if, as with Grew­gious and Neville, only rarely. But so long as Dick­ens is sug­gest­ing Jasper's guilt, he can­not let us in­side his mind; that will come at the end, in the con­demned pris­on­er's cell.

I think Dick Datch­ery, with his pe­cu­liar and mys­te­ri­ous sys­tem of record­ing and con­nect­ing clues, using sym­bols writ­ten in chalk, may be a pro­fes­sion­al de­tec­tive (a lit­er­ary cousin of In­spec­tor Buck­et) [22]. He may have been hired by Grew­gious (a Lon­don lawyer, able to find a de­tec­tive through his con­nec­tions), who sus­pects Jasper, ever since wit­ness­ing Jasper's re­ac­tion to the news that Edwin and Rosa had bro­ken off their be­trothal [15, with a re­minder in 22].

Datch­ery em­ploys Deputy to fer­ret out in­for­ma­tion in Clois­ter­ham. Deputy has a 'stony' re­la­tion­ship with Dur­dles, who has an un­can­ny tal­ent for find­ing ob­jects hid­den be­hind stone (or, amaz­ing­ly, be­hind stone, then space, then more stone!) [5] Dur­dles has also had the un­can­ny ex­pe­ri­ence of hear­ing the ghost of a shriek [12]. Now, when Dick­ens in­tro­duces into his fic­tion­al world some­thing re­quir­ing sus­pen­sion of the read­er's dis­be­lief, it is rea­son­able to sup­pose that Dick­ens plans to make use of it, after the lapse of a de­cent in­ter­val in the rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion that the read­er will by then have be­come less scep­ti­cal, more ac­cept­ing.

Dick­ens may, on the other hand, have in­tend­ed Datch­ery to be Baz­zard in dis­guise, thus mak­ing use of Baz­zard's con­nec­tion with the the­atre. Datch­ery, when out walk­ing with Sapsea, is un­cer­tain whether he is wear­ing a hat; he says he leaves his hat off for cool­ness; and when, back in his room, he is shak­ing out his white hair, per­haps it is ac­tu­al­ly OFF his head - it could be a wig [18]. This role would ex­plain Baz­zard's ab­sence from Grew­gious's of­fice [20]. The weak­ness in this the­o­ry is that Dick­ens does not at­tribute any ex­per­tise in de­tec­tive work to Baz­zard; and it would be un­busi­nesslike to em­ploy an am­a­teur in­stead of a pro­fes­sion­al; and Grew­gious makes a point of being busi­nesslike and ex­pect­ing oth­ers to be [11]. On the other hand, if Datch­ery is not Baz­zard, why does Baz­zard dis­ap­pear, and what use will be made of Baz­zard's con­nec­tion with the the­atre?

Also, if Datch­ery is wear­ing a dis­guise, who is he hid­ing from? So far as we are told, Baz­zard has met only Edwin; while a pro­fes­sion­al de­tec­tive from Lon­don would not nec­es­sar­i­ly know any­body in Clois­ter­ham. Per­haps this is part of the en­tan­gle­ment that Dick­ens ran into? And cor­re­spond­ing­ly, this is for me an un­re­solved loose end.

Lieu­tenant Tar­tar comes into the story [17] as a suit­able suit­or for Rosa, hav­ing first carved out a ca­reer, and then come into a for­tune; and hav­ing es­tab­lished ex­treme­ly neat and clean and or­der­ly habits [21], which pre­sum­ably in Dick­ens's eyes will pro­vide a steady­ing in­flu­ence for the im­ma­ture Rosa (al­though I be­lieve such habits would drive many peo­ple to dis­trac­tion; I sus­pect that for Dick­ens, per­fect tidi­ness had an emo­tion­al ap­peal; it rep­re­sent­ed a haven - or heav­en - of peace). Tar­tar is very sun­burnt, in­creas­ing to THREE the num­ber of major char­ac­ters with dark faces, the oth­ers being the twins Neville and He­le­na. Datch­ery, I pre­sume, be­comes ac­quaint­ed with Tar­tar, who has formed an at­tach­ment to Rosa [20, 21], and has an in­ter­est in find­ing the true killer of her ex-fi­ancé and in clear­ing Neville's name.

Through Deputy's work at a cheap lodg­ing-house, Datch­ery con­nects with the Princess Puffer, who has eaves­dropped on Jasper's re­peat­ed re­heasals of the mur­der in her opium den [22]. (Jasper mis­tak­en­ly thinks he is safe, hav­ing lis­tened to the un­con­scious mur­mur­ings of his fel­low opi­um-smok­ers: 'Un­in­tel­li­gi­ble!' he says [1].)

The Princess may have a con­nec­tion with Jasper, be­fore the opi­um-smok­ing; per­haps she is even an older sis­ter, which would make her also Edwin's aunt - or per­haps she is Edwin's moth­er, and did not die, but dis­ap­peared, in dis­grace. (Dick­ens had a habit of keep­ing com­plex fam­i­ly his­to­ries up his sleeve, to be re­vealed at the end as part of the pro­cess of bring­ing the plot to an or­der­ly con­clu­sion.) We can work out that Jasper had at least one older sis­ter, Edwin's moth­er, since he is un­mar­ried, and, at twen­ty-six or there­abouts, is a mere half-dozen years older than his nephew Edwin, and they have dif­fer­ent sur­names. (The Princess was mod­elled on a real opi­um-deal­er, a woman who looked 80 and was re­al­ly 26; Dick­ens de­scribes the Princess as 'hag­gard,' but does not call her old.) If the Princess were Jasper's sis­ter, then, being pre­ma­ture­ly aged in looks, she would have an ad­van­tage in rec­og­niz­ing him, with­out her­self risk­ing being iden­ti­fied. (And under the ef­fects of opium, she even looks Chi­nese [1].)

She has en­coun­tered Edwin Drood and, being ap­par­ent­ly a for­tune-teller, has pre­dict­ed his doom [14]. (Al­though she may have pieced to­geth­er scraps of in­for­ma­tion, part­ly from Jasper's mut­ter­ings dur­ing his opium dreams.) When the film and the shak­ing come over her, Edwin rec­og­nizes the same look that he had seen in his uncle; but per­haps he also un­know­ing­ly catch­es in that mo­ment a fam­i­ly re­sem­blance?

I as­sume that the Princess sells to Datch­ery her dis­cov­ery, from her eaves­drop­ping on Jasper in her opium den, of the planned method of the mur­der, in­clud­ing the lo­ca­tion where the body is to be dis­posed of (a vault in the grave­yard, as in­di­cat­ed by Dick­ens's notes for Chap­ter 12). Dur­dles di­vines, through his spe­cial tal­ents - which were bound to come in handy, soon­er or later! - the pres­ence of some­thing extra in one of the vaults, and Datch­ery & Co dis­cov­er some re­mains in a pile of quick­lime [see 12], and the ring iden­ti­fy­ing Drood, which Jasper (who boast­ed to the jew­eller [14] about hav­ing an in­ven­to­ry of Edwin's jew­ellery, name­ly watch, chain, and shirt-pin) did not know about (be­cause Edwin had de­cid­ed not to tell Jasper until later), and con­se­quent­ly had not re­cov­ered when he re­moved from the corpse other means of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Then there is some con­fronta­tion be­tween Jasper and Neville Land­less, who has ob­tained in­for­ma­tion from Princess Puffer link­ing Jasper to the mur­der. Jasper kills Neville, and then forges a sui­cide note, pur­port­ing to come from Neville, with a con­fes­sion to the mur­der of Edwin Drood.

Even­tu­al­ly Datch­ery, Grew­gious & Co set a trap for Jasper. They trick him into re­turn­ing to the vault, to look for some damn­ing ev­i­dence (the ring) and dis­pose of it; he is un­nerved by a vi­sion in the lamp­light (my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the cover de­signs by Charles Collins and Luke Fildes) which he takes to be Neville re­turned from the dead (but which is He­le­na dis­guised - Neville's twin sis­ter, with a his­to­ry of dress­ing as a male [7]). Jasper tries to es­cape up the steps (also based on the cover de­signs), but is con­front­ed by an­oth­er vi­sion of Neville (this one being Tar­tar, the third dark-faced char­ac­ter, in dis­guise - he keeps in the shad­ows, and any­way Jasper is too dis­traught to see through the de­cep­tion); Deputy, who hates Jasper, blocks his exit by throw­ing stones; and fi­nal­ly Crisparkle, the mus­cu­lar Chris­tian, strikes Jasper down with a well-prac­tised straight left (thus com­plet­ing his qual­i­fi­ca­tions for tak­ing on the formidable He­le­na in mat­ri­mo­ny); and Jasper con­fess­es.

On top of the com­pli­ca­tion of Dick­ens's en­tan­gle­ment in the maze of the al­tered plot, he did have to re­sort to adding, delet­ing, and mov­ing text in order to meet the size tar­gets for the month­ly is­sues, which would have dis­rupt­ed his plans and cre­at­ed extra stress. His oth­er­wise me­thod­i­cal notes for the novel show no de­tail other than chap­ter ti­tles for Chap­ters 18 to 22, and for Chap­ter 23 not even a title - it seems as though his method was break­ing down, as though he was con­cen­trat­ing his en­er­gy on putting down the words on paper from the ideas in his head and was try­ing to do with­out the chap­ter-notes stage. Per­haps the prob­lem was main­ly one of size: the rigid sched­ule of twelve fixed-length month­ly in­stal­ments had be­come a slavedriv­er; ei­ther he was ap­proach­ing the con­clu­sion faster than he in­tend­ed, and was wor­ry­ing about how he might spread out the re­main­der of the writ­ing so as to fill up the sec­ond half; or he had too much to say, and too lit­tle space.

The third ques­tion is about sig­nif­i­cant themes or mes­sages.

Dick­ens was haunt­ed by his ex­pe­ri­ences at the age of twelve when he had suf­fered a kind of aban­don­ment by his im­prov­i­dent fa­ther (who had been ar­rest­ed for debt and put away in the Mar­shalsea debtors' prison). The young Dick­ens, an in­tel­lec­tu­al­ly cu­ri­ous boy, was re­moved from his school­ing and for some months was put to me­nial tasks in a black­ing fac­to­ry. When he grew up he used his ex­cep­tion­al tal­ents and en­er­gy to earn a large in­come and con­struct a re­spect­ed po­si­tion in so­ci­ety - and still he was tor­ment­ed by self-doubt; he wor­ried that what the world saw was a mere hol­low fa­cade. Like­wise, William Dor­rit, prov­i­den­tial­ly lib­er­at­ed from the Mar­shalsea and made wealthy, tor­ment­ed him­self with imag­in­ings of sneers and slights from his own ser­vants.

I sus­pect that in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood Dick­ens had a very se­ri­ous pur­pose, to ex­plore this self-doubt, and to do this by cre­at­ing and ex­am­in­ing char­ac­ters who con­tained con­trasts or con­tra­dic­tions.

And I think the key is in the quot­ed in­ten­tion for the mur­der­er, in the con­clu­sion of the book, to dwell on the temp­ta­tions as if, not he the cul­prit, but some other man, were the tempt­ed - in a way, a sep­a­ra­tion from re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. Jasper lives two lives: the re­spect­ed man of the church; and the opium ad­dict, dream­ing of mur­der.

Sev­er­al char­ac­ters in this novel have dou­ble lives of some sort. Dick­ens de­scribes Miss Twin­kle­ton's 'two dis­tinct and sep­a­rate phas­es of being,' so that in the evening after the young ladies have re­tired she can in­no­cent­ly rem­i­nisce about 'The Wells' and 'Fool­ish Mr Porters' [3]. Dick­ens's notes say, "Miss Twin­kle­ton and her dou­ble ex­is­tence."

Canon Crisparkle is gen­tle, ur­bane, slow to con­demn; and he prac­tis­es box­ing. He com­pli­ant­ly ac­cepts his moth­er's doses of herbs when­ev­er she de­tects some signs of ail­ment in him; and it is from this back­ground of home reme­dies that he com­pli­ments Jasper on look­ing bet­ter, and ad­vis­es Jasper to con­tin­ue with his own med­i­ca­tion - which Crisparkle does not re­al­ize is ac­tu­al­ly opium.

With the twins Neville and He­le­na Land­less, we have dou­ble lives in two per­sons; with the same harsh up­bring­ing, they have re­act­ed dif­fer­ent­ly, and have be­come dif­fer­ent; iron­i­cal­ly, the clenched fist that is part of the rou­tine of Crisparkle's box­ing ex­er­cis­es be­comes ob­jec­tion­able when­ev­er the Canon sees it dis­played by Neville in an ex­pres­sion of anger. I think it is Neville's in­abil­i­ty to mas­ter his anger that is the lit­er­ary jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for his dying in an at­tempt to un­mask Jasper (the mur­der­er of Neville's care­less and un­ap­pre­ci­at­ing rival for the love of Rosa) and thus re­deem­ing him­self - as Dick­ens may have seen it. (Neville's death will also neat­ly dis­pose of his at­tach­ment to Rosa.)

Grew­gious sees him­self as a 'par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar' per­son, but he cher­ish­es his old love for Rosa's drowned moth­er - and Dick­ens gives him some of the most elo­quent and po­et­ic speech­es in the book. (I like to think that he ends up with Miss Twin­kle­ton!)

Deputy is one of a col­lec­tion of youth­ful delin­quents, one not even worth giv­ing a dis­tinc­tive name to - and Dick­ens often made a point of show­ing how nam­ing prac­tices could be used to pin peo­ple to par­tic­u­lar roles - but Dur­dles is in­spired to see a po­ten­tial good use for Deputy's stone-throw­ing habit, and em­ploys the boy as an un­con­ven­tion­al es­cort to see him home. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, I think, Jasper does not ac­cept Dur­dles' ten­ta­tive sug­ges­tion that there may be some ed­u­ca­tion­al value in this strange ar­range­ment; and also sig­nif­i­cant­ly, Jasper and Deputy be­come ex­treme­ly an­tag­o­nis­tic to­wards each other. Here, I think, Dick­ens is il­lu­mi­nat­ing Jasper's de­nial of re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for his own mur­der­ous in­ten­tions, which is at the root of the alien­ation of Jasper the mur­der­er from Jasper the de­scriber of the mur­der. Jasper can­not bear to en­ter­tain the pos­si­bil­i­ty that a youth as de­praved as Deputy might have some good in him, might be re­deemable; be­cause that would put Jasper in a worse light, since after all he could de­cide to make the best of the life and ca­reer that he is bored with, or else could try start­ing fresh in some­thing dif­fer­ent. (Deputy's hos­til­i­ty to Jasper is, I think, ex­plain­able sim­ply as Jasper's hos­til­i­ty bring­ing out the worst in Deputy.)

Also, per­haps Deputy is a ver­sion of Dick­ens who was not res­cued from the black­ing fac­to­ry.

An­oth­er theme is par­ent­hood, not lit­er­al par­ents, but parental-type roles. Par­ents may be nur­tur­ing, help­ing, guid­ing; or prej­u­di­cial, con­dem­na­to­ry, dam­ag­ing. And here I be­lieve that Dick­ens was con­scious­ly or un­con­scious­ly seek­ing to re­solve his own un­sat­is­fac­to­ry re­la­tion­ship with his own par­ents. We have Miss Twin­kle­ton and Mrs Tish­er, in a pro­tec­tive role over their young fe­male stu­dents. (In the evenings Miss Twin­kle­ton takes a hol­i­day from her parental re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, to rhap­sodise about 'Fool­ish Mr Porters.')

We have two guardians, Grew­gious who is pro­tec­tive in his 'An­gu­lar' way over his ward, Rosa (and she sees be­yond his An­gu­lar­i­ty, and calls him 'a good, good man,' and de­scribes his man­ner as 'so kind­ly'); and he gives un­com­fort­ably frank ad­vice to her fiancé Edwin, in par­al­lel with the del­i­cate­ly sup­port­ive ad­vice he has given ear­li­er to Rosa. And we have the other guardian, Hon­eythun­der the 'phi­lan­thropist,' who is for ever find­ing some­one to con­demn for some­thing.

Canon Crisparkle, at 35, has a re­cip­ro­cal parental re­la­tion­ship with his el­der­ly moth­er, wit­ti­ly and gen­tly shown, for ex­am­ple, in his pre­tence that her eye­sight is so much su­pe­ri­or to his own, that he has to ask her aid in de­ci­pher­ing Hon­eythun­der's let­ter [6]. He also takes on a parental role to­wards the hot-blood­ed Neville, who be­comes his house-guest and stu­dent, Crisparkle pro­vid­ing moral guid­ance from the out­set, and pro­tec­tion against the later ac­cu­sa­tions.

Crisparkle's su­pe­ri­or at the Cathe­dral, the Dean, demon­strates a hyp­o­crit­i­cal aban­don­ing of parental-type re­pon­si­bil­i­ty, when he in­sin­u­ates to Crisparkle that it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate to de­fend and sup­port Neville [16].

Dur­dles and Deputy have a mu­tu­al­ly pro­tec­tive re­la­tion­ship; Dur­dles pro­vides money; Deputy acts as an es­cort. The vi­o­lence of the stone-throw­ing is bound­ed by pro­to­cols, which Dur­dles ap­peals to: 'You never cried Widdy Warn­ing be­fore you begun tonight' [5]. The par­ent (young Deputy) is sup­posed to give the child (old Dur­dles) a chance to be­have, be­fore re­sort­ing to cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

Jasper is in a for­mal parental-type re­la­tion­ship with his nephew Edwin Drood, as legal guardian, and be­trays that re­spon­si­bil­i­ty by at­tempt­ing to se­duce Edwin's fiancée Rosa, and by even mur­der­ing him after much pre­med­i­ta­tion.

In the part­ly au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal David Cop­per­field, Dick­ens dis­pos­es of var­i­ous char­ac­ters who have not lived up to re­quire­ments: Mr Mi­caw­ber, who can­not man­age money (a ver­sion of Dick­ens's fa­ther), is shipped off to Aus­tralia (where, in­cred­i­bly, he pros­pers as a solid cit­i­zen); the dis­graced Emily is like­wise shipped off to Aus­tralia with her ev­er-for­giv­ing fa­ther; and the adorable but in­com­pe­tent Dora dies, leav­ing the field clear for the placid and de­pend­able Agnes. Un­com­fort­ably like a good spring-clean­ing and gen­er­al tidy­ing-up. Dick­ens had got his wife Cather­ine out of the way, and was pur­su­ing a re­la­tion­ship with a young ac­tress, Ellen Ter­nan. Per­haps he rec­og­nized that his wealth and fame put him at an un­fair ad­van­tage over the young woman. Would she not have been bet­ter off with a man of her own gen­er­a­tion? He may often have won­dered whether she cared for him for him­self, or for his fame and for­tune.

Jasper con­sis­tent­ly seems so much older than his stat­ed age of about twen­ty-six. Is Dick­ens get­ting car­ried away by his ex­plo­ration of his own feel­ings? Dick­ens sounds as though he speaks from his heart when he has Jasper throw at Rosa's feet ev­ery­thing that is sup­posed to be im­por­tant to him [19]...

[I wrote this in Febru­ary 2000, and re­vised it slight­ly in March 2011. I thought orig­i­nal­ly it need­ed a firm con­clu­sion. Now I am not sure.]


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