Everett Franklin Bleiler: The Dilemma of Datchery

ED­I­TOR'S NOTE: Al­though Ev in­clud­ed a prefa­to­ry note to go with this ar­ti­cle, I think a por­tion of his cover let­ter says it bet­ter and I have taken the lib­er­ty of mak­ing the sub­sti­tu­tion with­out con­sult­ing him. Here it is:

I think that in sub­ject mat­ter this is a fair­ly im­por­tant paper. It was the first solid at­tempt to iden­ti­fy Datch­ery rig­or­ous­ly, and so far as I know there is no rea­son to alter it. It has been in my file cab­i­net for many years, and every now and then I have planned to take it out and rewrite it, but have never got­ten to it. But as I see from Robert Fleiss­ner's ar­ti­cle in the Win­ter 1980 TAD, the world is start­ing to catch up with me.

On its non-pub­li­ca­tion his­to­ry. In a splurge of en­er­gy in 1954 and 5, I wrote a batch of Sher­lock­ian ma­te­ri­al and this paper, along with my first ver­sion of "Be­fore Poe: The Pre­his­to­ry of the De­tec­tive Story", and did noth­ing with most of it. The Sher­lock­ian ma­te­ri­al got lost by a clown on the West Coast, who planned to pub­lish it then dis­ap­peared. And "Be­fore Poe" I de­cid­ed need­ed more work and put aside. "The Dilem­ma of Datch­ery," if my mem­o­ry serves me cor­rect­ly, was never sub­mit­ted any­where. I meant to send it to "The Dick­en­sian" but never got around to it.

So, if you want to pub­lish it, here it is. It will have to be as is, for I don't have the time or in­cli­na­tion to rewrite, and while I might write it bet­ter today, I think that it is cer­tain­ly pass­able ed­i­to­ri­al­ly.

* * *


OME eighty-five years ago [1870] Charles Dick­ens began his last novel, "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood", which was to have been a mys­tery story in the man­ner of Wilkie Collins. Like most other de­vis­ers of sus­pense and de­tec­tion, Dick­ens un­doubt­ed­ly in­tend­ed tem­porar­i­ly to puz­zle his read­ers, and in a back­hand­ed way he was all to suc­cess­ful, more suc­cess­ful, in fact, than any other mys­tery story writ­er in any time or tongue; for he died sud­den­ly, leav­ing "Edwin Drood" ap­prox­mate­ly half fin­ished, with no clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the many minor mys­ter­ies which in­ter­weave to form the com­plex plot. But Dick­ens's death was no bar­ri­er to his ad­mir­ers. Some dozen as­sort­ed writ­ers have tried their hands at fin­ish­ing "Edwin Drood", build­ing from Dick­ens's hints and their own imag­i­na­tions; while scores have writ­ten more or less schol­ar­ly ar­ti­cles at­tempt­ing to solve the prob­lems in "Edwin Drood". Dick­ens, how­ev­er, build­ed well, for de­spite these ar­ti­cles fan­ci­ful and grave, there is still no agree­ment among schol­ars as to Dick­ens's in­ten­tions, and "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood" is still a mys­tery.

The plot of "Edwin Drood," as far as it was writ­ten out, is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly Vic­to­ri­an in mo­tives and sur­face treat­ment. There was, once, vis­it­ing in Clois­ter­ham (Rochester, Kent), a young man named Edwin Drood, an or­phan, who sud­den­ly dis­ap­peared as mys­te­ri­ous­ly as a ma­gi­cian's as­sis­tant. Sus­pi­cion im­me­di­ate­ly fell upon Neville Land­less, a young fire-eater whom Drood had in­sult­ed and quar­relled with, but no corpse was to be found, and charges could not be pressed. The read­er, how­ev­er, knows more: that John Jasper, mar­vel­lous mu­si­cian, opi­u­mist, guardian and near­ly co­eta­neous uncle of the miss­ing Drood, was madly in love with Drood*s fi­ancee (Rosa Bud), and, amid opium dreams of grandeur and crime, has plot­ted to mur­der Drood. Just as Neville Land­less is the burn of heat, John Jasper is the shad­ow of cold. And as the first part of the text clos­es, we are left with a sin­gle major mys­tery: "What has hap­pened to Edwin Drood?"

The sec­ond half of our text, be­gin­ning with the sev­en­teenth chap­ter, is set ap­prox­i­mate­ly six months later, and de­vel­ops the sec­ond major mys­tery: "Who is Dick Datch­ery?" While John Jasper broods in Clois­ter­ham, "carv­ing dev­ils from his heart," coun­ter­ac­tion is emerg­ing in Lon­don. There, a cir­cle is grad­u­al­ly so­lid­i­fy­ing from those whom Jasper has in­jured. Rosa, Drood's fi­ancee, has fled to Lon­don to es­cape Jasper's suit; and Neville Land­less and his sis­ter have joined forces with her. Hiram Grew­gious, Rosa's guardian, is open­ly sus­pi­cious of Jasper. And in Clois­ter­ham, a new per­son­al­i­ty en­ters the story: Dick Datch­ery, a most en­gag­ing re­tired "buffer" with long white locks and black brows, who sits sen­tinel upon Jasper's move­ments. And, as our text abrupt­ly ends, a pat­tern is be­gin­ning to shake it­self free from the hith­er­to seem­ing­ly ran­dom as­so­ci­a­tions and hu­mors. A net is being laced around John Jasper. The Lon­don­ers, in vary­ing de­grees, sus­pect him; Datch­ery has a wit­ness to Jasper's opium rav­ings. And the net is be­gin­ning to close... But the fish­er­man died and the net was nei­ther closed nor re­leased. In­stead, a host of minor fish have been swim­ming about since June 8, 1870.

Out text of "Edwin Drood" is only half fin­ished, and there is dis­con­cert­ing­ly lit­tle sec­ondary ma­te­ri­al to show the trend which the un­writ­ten re­main­der would have taken, for Dick­ens wrote no gen­er­al out­line. In­deed, se­crc­tivenc­ss and sen­si­tiv­i­ty per­vad­ed this last novel, and Dick­ens so re­sent­ed ques­tions about it that he would give only the most grudg­ing and guard­ed an­swers. Even his im­me­di­ate fam­i­ly and his con­fi­dant, John Forster, knew only the barest out­lines of the plot, so lit­tle, in fact, that all they pre­served could be pressed into a sin­gle short para­graph which leaves un­touched all too great an area. And sub­sidiary ma­te­ri­al, like cor­re­spon­dence, and chap­ter notes, and pos­si­ble in­struc­tions to the il­lus­trat­ing artists are no more than chameleon skins which change color as they are adapt­ed to each suc­ces­sive in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Drood.

Our first mys­tery, nev­er­the­less, the fate of Edwin Drood, is eas­i­ly dis­posed of. John Forster is very ex­plic­it that Drood was re­al­ly mur­dered, and that the Lon­don cir­cle will un­mask Jasper as the mur­der­er. And our other two sources, Charles Dick­ens, Ju­nior, and Sir Luke Fildes, who il­lus­trat­ed the pe­ri­od­i­cal num­bers of "Drood", un­hesi­tat­ing­ly con­firm Forster: Charles Dick­ens stat­ed clear­ly in con­ver­sa­tion that Drood was re­al­ly dead. And there is thus no re­an­i­mat­ing his car­cass, as some would, with print­er's ink. This death is un­shak­able. But our sec­ond mys­tery, the iden­ti­ty of Dick Datch­ery, is far less firm, for none of our sources iden­ti­fied Datch­ery, and those who plan to re­con­struct "Edwin Drood" have too many dif­fi­cult clues to eval­u­ate. That Datch­ery came to Clois­ter­ham to in­ves­ti­gate John Jasper is ob­vi­ous from the text, and that there is at least a mys­tery about him is equal­ly cer­tain. No other char­ac­ter is de­scribed with such in­ge­nious am­bi­gu­i­ty as to at once sug­gest and un­der­mine the pos­si­bil­i­ty of im­pos­ture. From his ap­pear­ance he is a dishar­mo­ny. He is at first white-haired with black brows, yet later gray-haired. He has a mil­i­tary air, yet dis­claims army or navy. He ob­vi­ous­ly has a pur­pose in Clois­ter­ham, yet he pre­tends to be a re­tired "buffer" look­ing for a com­fort­able haven. And he pays ex­ces­sive heed to his long hair, con­tin­u­al­ly shak­ing it, while there are hints (though no more than hints) that he wears a wig. The mas­ter­ful cau­tion with which Datch­ery is hedged with mys­tery truly re­futes those who see Drood as a total fail­ing of Dick­en's pow­ers, for ev­ery­where the au­thor very sure­ly treads a ra­zor-sharp bridge of sug­gest­ing in­fini­ties and yield­ing, re­al­ly, ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing.

In the crit­i­cal lit­er­a­ture Datch­ery has been over­whelm­ing­ly iden­ti­fied as some other per­son­al­i­ty in Edwin Drood in dis­guise. The Fa­vorites have been Drood him­self (who, ac­cord­ing to some the­o­rists, es­caped Jasper), He­le­na Land­less, Tar­tar (an ex-naval of­fi­cer who joins the Lon­don cir­cle), Hiram Grew­gious (Rosa Bud's guardian), and Baz­zard (Grew­gious's law clerk). These iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, in­deed, have gone in cy­cles. The Vic­to­ri­ans pre­ferred Drood or He­le­na Land­less; our own age, which sees transvestism dif­fer­ent­ly, has fa­vored Baz­zard or Grew­gious. Baz­zard, all in all, is at pre­sent, as Vin­cent Star­rett has put it, "the peo­ple's choice," though the most de­tailed Drood study in re­cent years, Richard M. Baker's "The Drood Mur­der Case" fa­vors Hiram Grew­gious.

These var­ied iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, un­for­tu­nate­ly, have all too fre­quent­ly been sen­ti­men­tal­ly con­ceived, and have been based more upon the re­searcher's whim than the au­thor's text, for the text, in­com­plete though it is, pre­sents clear and ir­refutable means for elim­i­nat­ing most of the masks which have been ad­vanced, if, of course, we as­sume that Charles Dick­ens knew what he was doing.

In "Edwin Drood" there are ap­prox­i­mate­ly thir­ty per­sons who have both names and speak­ing parts, and to them may be ap­plied sev­er­al cir­cles of ex­clu­sion drawn from Dick­ens's com­plete unedit­ed text, cir­cles which rely as lit­tle as pos­si­ble upon sub­jec­tive fac­tors. First, sev­er­al per­sons arc ruled out as true iden­ti­ties for Datch­ery by their co-pres­ence with Dick Datch­ery. These are: John Jasper, the Topes, Sapsea, Crisparkle, the Opium Hag, Dur­dles, and Deputy. (For­tu­nate­ly, no one, to our knowl­edge, has yet sug­gest­ed that Datch­ery is sim­ply an em­bod­ied dis­so­ci­at­ed con­science for John Jasper.)

Al­most all re­main­ing per­sons, sec­ond­ly, are elim­i­nat­ed by a sin­gle ac­tion on Mr. Datch­ery's part, an ac­tion whose as­ton­ish­ing im­por­tance has ap­par­ent­ly es­caped all re­searchers:

So when he had done his din­ner, he was duly di­rect­ed to the spot, and sal­lied out for it. But the Crozi­er being a hotel of the nost re­tir­ing dis­po­si­tion, and the wait­er's di­rec­tions being fa­tal­ly pre­cise, he soon be­came be­wil­dered, and went bog­gling about and about the Cathe­dral Tower, wher­ev­er he he could catch a glimpse of It, with a gen­er­al im­pres­sion on his mind that Mrs. Tope's was some­where very near it, and that like the chil­dren in the game of hot boiled beans and very good but­ter, he was warm in his search when he saw the Tower, and cold when he didn't see it. He was get­ting very cold in­deed when he came upon a frag­ment of buri­al-ground.... ["The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood", Chap­ter XVIII.]

In this text, which Dick­ens later trimmed, Datch­ery is by au­tho­ri­al om­ni­science of­fi­cial­ly, un­mis­tak­ably, and im­mutably de­clared, "Lost!" And so, Datch­ery was a stranger to Clois­ter­ham.

We can now drop, with­out ques­tion, Drood, Rosa Bud, He­le­na and Neville Land­less, Grew­gious, and all the es­tab­lish­ment at the Nuns' House, for the area of ac­tion in Clois­ter­ham is lim­it­ed; the build­ings where the chief char­ac­ters live are all vis­i­ble or near­ly vis­i­ble from the Tope es­tab­lish­ment. Drood, ob­vi­ous­ly, knew where the Tope Hotel was — with­in touch­ing dis­tance of Jasper's Gate­house, where he had stayed so long; and un­less Drood were strick­en with am­ne­sia, an ex­pla­na­tion hith­er­to spared us, could hard­ly be­come lost in his own front­yard. Neville Land­less lived ap­prox­i­mate­ly three months, and his sis­ter He­le­na ap­prox­i­mate­ly nine months, with­in a stone's throw of the Tope hotel, with He­le­na even being able to see the near vicin­i­ty of the hotel. Rosa Bud seems to have spent years in Clois­ter­ham. And as for Hiram Grew­gious — in many ways the best mask for Datch­ery — not only is he per­fect­ly fa­mil­iar with the cathe­dral area from many vis­its to the town, but he is even stat­ed to have sum­moned Mr. and Mrs. Tope when Jasper faint­ed.

Four per­sons re­main to us: Bil­lickin, Hon­eythun­der, Tar­tar, and Baz­zard. Bil­lickin may be dis­card­ed im­me­di­ate­ly, for this el­der­ly lady who op­er­ates a Lon­don room­ing house can hard­ly be Datch­ery, while Hon­eythun­der, who vis­it­ed Clois­ter­ham once, is an ob­vi­ous "hu­mour": he sin­cere­ly be­lieves Land­less to be guilty of mur­der. We are left with Tar­tar and Baz­zard.

Two more ex­emp­tions can rid us of ex-lieu­tenant Tar­tar. First, as Mr. Baker has point­ed out, Datch­ery is not en­tire­ly sure of the mean­ing of a slang naval term ("jacks") , which an ex-naval of­fi­cer, like Tar­tar, would not have ques­tioned. Sec­ond­ly, Dick Datch­ery, in Chap­ter XXIII, gives us one un-dis­guis­able flash of his true iden­ti­ty. When he drops a coin be­fore the Opium Hag, he "red­dens with the ex­er­tion" of pick­ing it up. And so Tar­tar leaves us, for much stress has been placed upon Tar­tar's ath­let­ic prowess and al­most simi­an agili­ty, as he clam­bers over roofs as light­ly as up rig­ging, and hangs out win­dows like an im­pos­si­bly reck­less glazier. No, Tar­tar can­not be Datch­ery, and Baz­zard alone of the named char­ac­ters — or a new per­son­age — re­mains to us, for Baz­zard, though rel­a­tive­ly young, has been char­ac­ter­ized as slug­gish in physique. Baz­zard may well red­den when he stoops.

Baz­zard alone can sur­vive our neg­a­tive tests; and he can also be re­in­forced as a claimant by pos­i­tive ev­i­dence. At the time that Datch­ery ap­pears in Clois­ter­ham — We re­ject, as ut­ter­ly with­out rea­son, Pro­fes­sor Henry Jack­son's con­jec­ture that the chap­ters in Edwin Drood should be re­ar­ranged — Baz­zard is not in his ac­cus­tomed place in Grew­gious's of­fice. He is — as Mr. Grew­gious puts it — "off duty here, al­to­geth­er, just at pre­sent." And, again, Baz­zard, whom Grew­gious rates high­ly, is the log­i­cal con­fi­dant to Grew­gious's sus­pi­cions of John Jasper. Baz­zard is prob­a­bly a stranger to Clois­ter­ham, though our text is silent here, and Baz­zard might well have to wear a dis­guise, for it is very like­ly that Jasper has seen him. Baz­zard, too, is en­am­oured of the stage. He wrote a play called "The Thorn of Anx­i­ety", and may be fa­mil­iar with make-up and board-strut­ting. All this ev­i­dence, neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive, brings us to the con­clu­sion that Dick­ens in­tend­ed that the read­er iden­ti­fy Datch­ery and Baz­zard. Please note, how­ev­er, that this is not the same as say­ing that Datch­ery was Baz­zard.

A pe­cu­liar­i­ty of Edwin Drood must now be men­tioned, a high­ly sig­nif­i­cant pe­cu­liar­i­ty: that it is damnably hard to prove one's own the­o­ry, but rel­a­tive­ly easy to cloud one's op­po­nent's the­o­ries. And Baz­zard, de­spite his suc­cess in run­ning the neg­a­tive gaunt­let, is very vul­ner­a­ble. The at­tack moves in two lines: against Baz­zard the actor, and against Baz­zard the man. First, point out the op­po­nents of Baz­zard, too much has been read into "The Thorn of Anx­i­ety." Dick­ens is very ex­plic­it in say­ing that Baz­zard wrote a play, and that he is a mem­ber of a co­terie who ded­i­cat­ed their (pre­sum­ably bad) works to one an­oth­er. Dick­ens is here ob­vi­ous­ly satir­i­cal. There is ab­so­lute­ly no hint that Baz­zard ever acted, or even un­der­stood the art of make­up. A dra­maturge is not the same as an actor. And Datch­ery, if mere­ly an as­sump­tion by a named char­ac­ter, is the sum­mit of in­cred­i­bly able act­ing.

Ar­gu­ment two: Baz­zard, as de­scribed, is sim­ply too weak to bear the weight of Datch­ery. Baz­zard, as he ap­pears in Chap­ter XI, is a surly, self-pity­ing ego­tist, os­ten­ta­tious in mock-hu­mil­i­ty; a glut­ton, and a boor. He is only a hu­mour, a sort of re­verse Uriah Heep. Can such a per­son, argue his op­po­nents, be the witty, mel­low, log­i­cal, sen­si­tive Datch­ery, whose de­vi­ous and nim­ble mind can en­snare a half-dozen asses and apes in their own stu­pid­i­ty; whose va­grant fan­ta­sy can see the work­ings of fate in an an­cient inn-reck­on­ing? No more, say the an­ti-Baz­zardites, than Pis­tol could have im­per­son­at­ed Ham­let.

* * *

We have worked our­selves into a mild dilem­ma: our lead­ing sus­pect for Datch­ery-ship stands in­se­cure in essence. What shall we do? We shall now rec­og­nize that Baz­zard's post-scrip­tal an­tics are not iso­lat­ed, but part of a pat­tern, for "Edwin Drood" is noth­ing more than an enor­mous quag­mire of false trails and quick­sands. Hard­ly a di­rec­tion is put forth with­out, in near se­quence, its can­cel­la­tion and then — its reemer­gence. These trails — as is the case with Baz­zard — lead in all di­rec­tions, but ar­rive nowhere. And it is these false trails, we feel, that have mis­led pre­vi­ous re­searchers, most of whom have can­tered along a sin­gle one — and de­fend­ed it — rather than ex­am­in­ing the web of roads.

The name of this web is "de­lib­er­ate mis­di­rec­tion." Let us con­sid­er only two plot ques­tions, al­though many more could be sim­i­lar­ly anat­o­mized. Is Drood dead? Pro: John Jasper has as good as con­fessed guilt; once, in words, to Rosa Bud; an­oth­er time, in ac­tion, to Grew­gious. Con: no corpse has been found, and (we must em­pha­size) Jasper, in strict log­i­cal­i­ty, had no rea­son on earth to con­ceal the body if there was one. His plans in­clud­ed "fram­ing" Neville Land­less, and had there been a corpse avail­able at the prop­er mo­ment, Land­less would have hanged. Pro: the book abounds with sym­bols and over­tones of death. Con: sur­vival hints are also pre­sent. A chap­ter head­ing, "When shall these three meet again," and the cover il­lus­tra­tion which was drawn to Dick­ens's spec­i­fi­ca­tions, can be in­ter­pret­ed, if in­ge­nu­ity be ex­er­cised, as in­di­cat­ing that Drood sur­vived.

The same con­flict­ing ev­i­dence can be found in the ques­tion of Datch­ery's true iden­ti­ty. It is not sim­ply per­verse­ness, or in­abil­i­ty to read plain En­glish, or mad­ness which has boxed the com­pass to find the man, or woman, of whom Datch­ery is a facet. It is Charles Dick­ens him­self, who has care­ful­ly scat­tered dozens of hints, mis­lead­ing and gen­uine, for his read­ers. Is Datch­ery a new char­ac­ter, and not sim­ply a mask for an­oth­er per­son­al­i­ty? Pro: he is dif­fer­ent in ap­pear­ance and per­son­al­i­ty from all other char­ac­ters. Con: con­sid­er his disin­gen­u­ous ac­tions, the mat­ter of his pos­si­ble wig. What is his iden­ti­ty, if a mask? Per­haps He­le­na Land­less: she has mo­tive, in­tel­lect, and is apt in the­atri­cal make­up. She de­light­ed, when younger, in male im­per­son­ation. Grew­gious? He is the first, ap­par­ent­ly, to sus­pect Jasper's guilt; he has an­nounced his in­ten­tion to have Jasper watched; he is pre­oc­cu­pied with his hair, as is Datch­ery; and, most im­por­tant of all, he is the clos­est in per­son­al­i­ty, men­tal pow­ers, and (in­ferred) age to Dick Datch­ery. The scale is truly heav­i­ly swung for Grew­gious (though, of course, he is re­al­ly elim­i­nat­ed). Baz­zard? Weight­ed down, as we have seen with clues.

All these clues and sug­ges­tions are mu­tu­al­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry, but they form, nev­er­the­less, a pat­tern. And that pat­tern is de­lib­er­ate mis­di­rec­tion. Charles Dick­ens very ob­vi­ous­ly tried — with con­sid­er­able suc­cess — to mis­lead his read­ers as far as he was hon­est­ly able. Am­bi­gu­i­ty is the motif of the day.

Baz­zard alone re­mains to us, after the text has been ex­am­ined, as a pos­si­ble prime for Datch­ery. And of Baz­zard we are both sus­pi­cious and in­cred­u­lous, for al­though tex­tu­al speci­fici­ties will not de­mand his de­struc­tion, the nu­ances and over­tones of both the story and Dick­ens's lit­er­ary per­son­al­i­ty show Baz­zard as sim­ply the great­est and red­dest of all red her­ring, the one that near­ly got away with it.

Baz­zard, as has often been point­ed out, is re­al­ly un­able to bear the weight of Datch­ery's char­ac­ter, and any at­tempt­ed rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween his grub­by ego­tism and Datch­ery's slight­ly dod­der­ing whim­si­cal­i­ty, while not im­pos­si­ble, is ren­dered sus­pect by Baz­zard's own name. It was the prac­tice of Dick­ens, in "Edwin Drood" as in most of his other work, to name his minor char­ac­ters with slight­ly dis­tort­ed words sug­ges­tive of their hu­mour. Here, in "Drood", for ex­am­ple, Sapsea is "sapsy," a school­boy's en­dear­ing diminu­tive for a sap; Tar­tar is a tar; Rosa Bud is, fig­u­ra­tive­ly, a rose-bud; Land­less is land­less and home­less; Bil­lickin, who dig­ni­fies a room­ing house, is a bil­likin, a small do­mes­tic uten­sil; and Baz­zard is — a buz­zard. (En­glish pro­nun­ci­a­tion, where the first "a" would ap­prox­i­mate the sound of "a" in Bosto­ni­an "calf," makes this iden­ti­ty must more ob­vi­ous than the usual Amer­i­can pro­nun­ci­a­tion of "a" as in "cat.") What bet­ter sym­bol could be found for this law-clerk than this filthy fowl?

This name, I am in­clined to be­lieve, is a sure in­di­ca­tion that Baz­zard is only what he seems to be, and a token for be­liev­ing that Datch­ery shall not bloom out of Baz­zard like a lotus out of mud.

We find a fur­ther thread to fol­low — though, to be sure, a near­ly col­or­less thread — in the cir­cum­stances of Datch­ery's first in­ter­view with John Jasper. Datch­ery, it will be re­mem­bered, fi­nal­ly found the Tope es­tab­lish­ment, and be­spoke lodg­ings there, de­pen­dent, how­ev­er, upon Mr. John Jasper's giv­ing a fa­vor­able "char­ac­ter" to the Topes. Datch­ery there­upon in­ter­viewed Jasper, and learned that the Topes were de­pend­able. This all, at first glance, seems open and un­de­vi­ous, but clos­er ex­am­i­na­tion of the cir­cum­stances shad­ows out in­vis­i­ble pat­tern­ings. Datch­ery, ac­tu­al­ly, had no rea­son to seek a ref­er­ence from Jasper or any­one else. Datch­ery came to Clois­ter­ham, as all au­thor­i­ties (and Charles Dick­ens) agree, to watch John Jasper, and the Tope hotel was ideal for his pur­pos­es, seem­ing­ly the only hotel there. It seems ob­vi­ous that Datch­ery, for one rea­son or an­oth­er, wished to meet Jasper, and used Tope sim­ply as an ex­cuse to force an in­ter­view. Why? For so­cial ends, as we might think in an­oth­er con­text? No, for Datch­ery did not fol­low up his in­tro­duc­tion to Jasper, but, in­deed, made no pre­tense, later, of hid­ing his dis­like for Jasper. But per­haps Datch­ery did not know Jasper, and sim­ply want­ed to iden­ti­fy him?

If we in­ter­pret this scene as the trick of a "de­tec­tive" who wants to learn Jasper's ap­pear­ance — and we freely admit that this is in­ter­pre­ta­tion rather than au­tho­ri­al state­ment — Baz­zard elim­i­nates him­self as an iden­ti­ty for Datch­ery. If Baz­zard knew Jasper, from a pos­si­ble visit of Jasper's to Mr. Grew­gious's es­tab­lish­ment in Lon­don, Baz­zard had no rea­son to press for an in­ter­view. If Baz­zard did not know Jasper, and vice versa, there was no ur­gent rea­son for a cum­brous im­pos­ture and dis­guise. Datch­ery, as a third point against Baz­zard, is, to me, ob­vi­ous­ly an el­der­ly man, not sim­ply a young man in white locks and grease­paint wrin­kles. It is age that caus­es him to red­den when he stoops. And he is char­ac­ter­ized as an el­der­ly man. He is mel­low, so­cial­ly adept, er­rant­ly whim­si­cal, and high­ly in­di­vid­u­at­ed. And for Dick­ens, as a rule, such in­di­vid­u­a­tion as Datch­ery's, such de­vel­op­ment of full per­son­al­i­ty, come only in later life. Young men, for him, are usu­al­ly un­crys­tal­lized, often not far from being only types. Such is the case with all the very young per­son­al­i­ties in Edwin Drood. Edwin, him­self, we must point out to those who dis­like him, is not re­al­ly "an­tipati­co," he is sim­ply cal­fish and un­de­vel­oped. Had he lived, it is hint­ed, he would have grown. Jasper, Crisparkle and Tar­tar, as the next level of age, as­sume greater in­de­pen­dence from their bi­o­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal moulds, while Grew­gious, the old­est named char­ac­ter (save the near­ly se­nile Mrs. Crisparkle), is by far the most com­plex un­ques­tioned per­son­al­i­ty in the novel. And this same pat­tern, be it con­scious or un­con­scious on the part of the au­thor, is to be found in Dick­ens's other work. Can one imag­ine a child Mi­caw­ber? A child Fagin, or Brown­low, or Gabriel Var­dan? Or an el­der­ly Oliv­er Twist or Cop­pcr­field? For Dick­ens true in­di­vid­u­a­tion, es­pe­cial­ly the gift of whim­sy, comes in later life, and by all counts, there­fore, Datch­ery is an el­der­ly man. And there­by, he is, of ne­ces­si­ty, a new char­ac­ter in "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood".

If Datch­ery is a new char­ac­ter, two pos­si­ble iden­ti­ties are most ob­vi­ous. Datch­ery may sim­ply be a de­tec­tive, per­haps hired by Grew­gious; per­haps oth­er­wise ac­quaint­ed with the case. Or, sec­ond­ly, Mr. Datch­ery may be a "ghost," a "watch­er from the dead" — an ex­em­plar of a theme which seems to have fas­ci­nat­ed Dick­ens.

In much Vic­to­ri­an lit­er­a­ture there are pe­cu­liar as­sump­tions about the uni­verse. Most ob­vi­ous of these is the height­en­ing of so­cial in­ter­course, so that per­sons known to us keep bob­bing up and reemerg­ing in the most un­ex­pect­ed places and sit­u­a­tions, a prac­tice which to us mod­erns is "co­in­ci­den­tal" and dis­turb­ing. Lives, for the Vic­to­ri­ans, in­ter­sect like the paths of inked balls rolling about the hol­low in­te­ri­or of a pa­per-lined sphere. (In Edwin Drood, for ex­am­ple, Tar­tar, who en­ters the story by the bare chance of liv­ing next door to Land­less, is not suf­fered to re­main a stranger, but is un­ex­pect­ed­ly — and in­cred­i­bly — re­vealed to be a child­hood friend of Crisparkle's.) And be­sides this, an­oth­er slight­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry per­mis­sion is yield­ed: that there is a dim penum­bra sur­round­ing each novel, a limbo of bi­o­log­i­cal­ly nec­es­sary per­sons, who may sud­den­ly pre­cip­i­tate them­selves into the story like ac­tors-from-the-wings as long-lost broth­ers, or un­cles, or fa­thers, or moth­ers; per­sons who have been pock­et­ed in time by ship­wreck, or loss of mem­o­ry, or degra­da­tion, or cap­tiv­i­ty among sav­ages, or for­tune-grub­bing in the New World. One such phan­tom may be ma­te­ri­al­iz­ing as Datch­ery.

Or is this, too, one of the mis­di­rec­tions which Dick­ens cal­cu­lat­ed for his au­di­ence? Note the id­iosyn­crat­ic vague­ness of the text. Rosa's par­ents are un­ques­tion­ably dead, but Drood's fa­ther is glossed over silent­ly. We know ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing about him, nor of the pe­cu­liar cir­cum­stances which gave Drood a near­ly co­eta­neous "uncle." Nor do we know any­thing of Land­less, Sr. The Ori­ent per­vades this novel, just as do opium fumes, and ei­ther man may per­haps have been res­i­dent upon some trop­i­cal is­land, in mild dal­liance, until the prop­er mo­ment.

The fa­ther of Edwin Drood could pass all our ex­clu­sions and in­ter­pre­ta­tions. He might, upon re­turn­ing to Eng­land un­ex­pect­ed­ly, con­tact his old friend Grew­gious, and from him learn of the pe­cu­liar sit­u­a­tion at Clois­ter­ham. His knowl­edge of the crime would be sec­ond-hand, as Datch­ery's seems to be. He would be a stranger to the dusty cathe­dral town, ig­no­rant of Jasper's face, el­der­ly, and he would sim­ply be telling the truth when he refers to him­self as a "buffer" look­ing for a rest — after he has avenged his son.

Datch­ery brings to his quest not the calm, dis­pas­sion­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a pro­fes­sion­al, but the emo­tions of a man who feels the crime deeply. He is con­cerned. His ac­tions and words are those of a man who re­al­ly hates John Jasper, of a man who takes lit­tle care to hide his ha­tred. Such emo­tion could well be ex­pect­ed of Drood Sr. (or, less like­ly, of a Land­less uncle) upon learn­ing that his son or nephew has been mur­dered (or "framed") by a lust­ful, con­niv­ing scoundrel. And his per­son­al­i­ty, ad­mit­ted­ly new to the story, can be le­git­i­mate­ly unique; we need in­voke no strange trans­for­ma­tions be­neath the crum­bling death of Clois­ter­ham.

1980 Ad­den­dum: The thought has oc­curred to me a cou­ple of timeo that the name "Datch­ery" might be an echo of Pondicher­ry, the French colony in India.