Ina Rae Hark: Marriage in the Symbolic Framework of the Mystery of Edwin Drood


OR over a cen­tu­ry se­ri­ous Dick­ens schol­ars and am­a­teur Drood­i­ans alike have spec­u­lat­ed on every pos­si­ble per­mu­ta­tion of the plot of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. In view of the con­tro­ver­sies which have in­variably arisen over each new so­lu­tion, it is sur­pris­ing that one as­pect of the story has pro­voked lit­tle de­bate: the mar­riages that, in typ­i­cal Dick­en­sian fash­ion, might con­clude the novel. Al­though John Forster's res­o­lu­tion of the plot in his Life of Dick­ens has come under fire from all sides, few have chal­lenged his con­clu­sions on mat­ri­mo­ni­al mat­ters: "Rosa was free 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."' Set­ting aside for a mo­ment the ques­tion of whether Forster's pre­dic­tions seem plau­si­ble, one still mar­vels at how ca­su­al­ly they have been ac­cept­ed.* Only a hand­ful of twen­ti­eth- cen­tu­ry com­men­ta­tors even deal with the prob­lem at all; those who do unan­i­mous­ly ac­cept Tar­tar, es­pe­cial­ly, as an "amans ex machi­na" in­troduced late in the story "to pro­vide a love in­ter­est for Rosa." Drood after all of­fers an un­solved mur­der mys­tery, and with the un­mask­ing of Dick Datch­ery and the crim­i­nal psy­chol­o­gy of John Jasper left for­ev­er to the imag­i­na­tion, a wed­ding seems of slight im­por­tance.

But Drood, mys­tery though it be, is not sim­ply an Agatha Christie type of puz­zler. It is Charles Dick­ens's last work. As Angus Wil­son ar­gues, Dick­ens had in­clud­ed mys­ter­ies in his nov­els ever since Oliv­er Twist, and Wil­son sees no rea­son to as­sume that "Charles Dick­ens in his last novel had de­part­ed com­plete­ly from the kind of nov­els that he had pre­vi­ous­ly pro­duced, noth­ing to sug­gest that he was in­tent upon cre­at­ing a novel whose major in­ter­est lay sole­ly in sus­pense and mys­tery, ... less still upon writ­ing the sort of com­plex tech­ni­cal mys­tery story which so many of the in­ge­nious un­rav­ellers of Drood's puz­zle have in­vent­ed."

And dur­ing the lat­ter part of his ca­reer love and mar­riage had taken on great sig­nif­i­cance for Dick­ens. J. Hillis Miller main­tains that in his later nov­els Dick­ens re­peat­ed­ly sets against man's de­struc­tive re­la­tion­ship to so­ci­ety "an in­creas­ing­ly pro­found anal­y­sis of the mys­tery of a di­rect rela­tion be­tween two peo­ple with­out in­ter­me­di­ary: the re­la­tion of love." Cer­tain­ly a sub­stan­tial por­tion of the the­mat­ic tex­ture of works such as Lit­tle Dor­rit, Great Ex­pec­ta­tions, and Our Mu­tu­al Friend de­rives from the love re­la­tions of Arthur Clen­nam and Amy Dor­rit, Pip and Es­tel­la, Bella Wil­fer and John Har­mon, Eu­gene Wray­burn and Lizzie Hexam. Their mar­riages—or the de­ci­sion not to marry in the orig­i­nal end­ing of Great Ex­pec­ta­tions—con­sti­tute a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flicts in their re­spec­tive nov­els.

The major con­flicts in Drood re­volve around Rosa Bud. John Jasper is doubt­less the most in­trigu­ing per­son­al­i­ty in the novel, but "Rose­bud" stands at the cen­ter of a plot struc­ture in which pas­sion and sex­u­al jeal­ousy mo­ti­vate much of the ac­tion. Edwin, Jasper, and Neville in­volve them­selves one way or an­oth­er in the pur­suit of her af­fec­tions. Jasper has ap­par­ent­ly mur­dered in order to ob­tain them. Grew­gious, who had as­pired silent­ly for her moth­er's love, is her guardian and sub­sti­tute fa­ther. He­le­na be­comes her close friend, and through the Land­less­es Crisparkle and Tar­tar rally to her sup­port. Were she mere­ly a pas­sive nexus for this com­plex of char­ac­ter re­la­tion­ships, she would de­serve more study than she has re­ceived. But the novel in ad­di­tion con­tains sev­er­al in­di­ca­tions that Rosa was to be an ac­tive hero­ine as well, the lead­ing fig­ure in a Bil­dungsro­man. Her name, Rosa Bud, rather over- ob­vi­ous­ly sug­gests such an in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Grew­gious puns on the name when he tries to ex­plain his sin­gu­lar course of mat­u­ra­tion: "No per­sonality is in­tend­ed to­wards the name you will so soon change, when J re­mark that while the gen­er­al growth of peo­ple seem to have come into ex­is­tence, buds, I seem to have come into ex­is­tence a chip. I was a chip— and a very dry one—when I first be­came aware of my­self." When Drood opens, Rosa has spent al­most her en­tire life in the womb­like se­cu­ri­ty of the Nuns' House. Dick­ens em­pha­sizes the fact that she has never been forced to cope with any se­ri­ous prob­lems:

Thus Rosa had grown to be an ami­able, giddy, wil­ful, win­ning lit­tle crea­ture; spoilt, in the sense of count­ing upon kind­ness from all around her; but not in the sense of re­pay­ing it with in­dif­fer­ence. Pos­sess­ing an ex­haust­less well of affec­tion in her na­ture, its sparkling wa­ters had fresh­ened and bright­ened the Nuns' House for years, and yet its depths had never been moved: what might be­tide when that came to pass; what de­vel­op­ing changes might fall upon the heed­less head, and light heart, then; re­mained to be seen (pp. 63-64).

Soon Edwin's dis­ap­pear­ance and Jasper's ad­vances force her to Lon­don and the re­al­iza­tion that life has more un­pleas­ant as­pects than she had hith­er­to sus­pect­ed. In a pas­sage which gives chap­ter 22 its title she muses on the "grit­ty state of things":

"Can­not peo­ple get through life with­out grit­ty stages, I won­der!" Rosa thought next day, when the town was very grit­ty again, and ev­ery­thing had a strange and an uncomfort­able ap­pear­ance on it of seem­ing to wait for some­thing that wouldn't come. No. She began to think, that, now the Clois­ter­ham school-days had glid­ed past and gone, the grit­ty stages would begin to set in at in­ter­vals and make them­selves weari­ly known! (p. 197).

Mar­riage will erase the Bud and no doubt sym­bol­ize Rosa's at­tain­ment of a ma­ture re­la­tion­ship with the world around her. It emerges, there­fore, as a ques­tion in­ex­tri­ca­bly bound up with the deep­er mean­ing of the novel, a crown­ing ex­pres­sion of its themes and im­ages. While an anal­y­sis of those themes and im­ages can­not with cer­tain­ty re­veal who Rosa's hus­band was to be, it can point up the sig­nif­i­cance of each of the pos­si­ble mar­riages as res­o­lu­tions to both the novel's major con­flicts and to Dick­ens's bril­liant ca­reer.

Droods philo­soph­ic rather than lit­er­al mys­tery seems to be the same one that had ab­sorbed its au­thor's at­ten­tions from the out­set: How is man to sur­vive, both phys­i­cal­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly, in a world in­creas­ing­ly frag­ment­ed, chaot­ic, and im­per­son­al? The grit­ty stages must come; how can one deal with them? In pre­vi­ous nov­els Dick­ens had cre­at­ed power­ful sym­bols for this grow­ing lack of mean­ing in the cos­mos—the rail­road in Dombey and Son, the fog of Bleak House, the fac­to­ry smoke of Coke­town, the dust heaps of Our Mu­tu­al Friend. Drood is no ex­cep­tion. Here, how­ev­er, the sym­bol­ism is twofold. Dick­ens in­tro­duces it in the novel's first para­graph, which de­scribes one of John Jasper's opium dreams:

An an­cient En­glish Cathe­dral town? How can the an­cient En­glish Cathe­dral town be there! The well-known mas­sive grey square tower of its old Cathe­dral? How can that be here! there is no spike of rusty iron in the air be­tween the eye and it from any point of the real prospect. What IS the spike that in­ter­venes' and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Sul­tan's or­ders for the im­pal­ing of a horde of Turk­ish rob­bers, one by one. It is so, for cym­bals clash, and the Sul­tan goes by to his palace in long pro­ces­sion. Ten thou­sand scimi­tars flash in the sun­light, and thrice ten thou­sand danc­ing- girls strew flow­ers. Then, fol­low white ele­phants ca­parisoned in count­less gor­geous col­ors, and in­fi­nite in num­ber and at­tendants. Still, the Cathe­dral Tower rises in the back­ground, where it can­not be, and still no writhing fig­ure is on the grim spike (p. 1).

Con­cern­ing this pas­sage, Dick­ens noted in his Num­ber Plans: "Touch the Key note" (see p. 220).

In one of the most per­cep­tive read­ings of Drood to date, Charles Mitchell iden­ti­fies the Sul­tan's pro­ces­sion and the Cathe­dral spire as man­i­fes­ta­tions of the war­ring inner and outer selves. Mitchell de­fines du­al­i­ty in Jasper, and all men, as fol­lows:

The inner man is that part of a per­son which de­ter­mines his being as an en­ti­ty sep­a­rate from the world around him. It in­cludes those fac­ul­ties which de­ter­mine what is real with­in the in­di­vid­u­al con­scious­ness, where­as the outer man is that part of a man which pro­vides him with a re­al­i­ty out­side his in­dividual con­scious­ness, in the world. In their ideal states the inner and outer parts of man are so bal­anced and blend­ed that they can­not be dis­tin­guished an­a­lyt­i­cal­ly, but in fall­en or cor­rupt­ed man, these two con­di­tions of self be­come sep­a­rat­ed. ... For Dick­ens the para­dox of the du­al­is­tic self is that while the ex­te­ri­or man makes him­self un­re­al by forsak­ing his inner self, the in­te­ri­or man makes him­self un­re­al by-los­ing con­tact with the out­side world.

The treat­ment of this du­al­i­ty and its rep­re­sen­ta­tion in terms of two op­posing sym­bol­ic pat­terns does not mark an in­no­va­tion in Dick­ens's tech­nique; the con­trast be­tween Grad­grind's Coke­town and Sleary's Cir­cus in Hard Times of­fers per­haps the clos­est ana­logue. But the man­ner in which Dick­ens views pri­vate and pub­lic man, imag­i­na­tion and so­cial role, has al­tered sig­nif­i­cant­ly. Al­though he had al­ways urged a bal­ance of the two as the only path to sur­vival, the pri­ma­ry dan­ger of im­balance had pre­vi­ous­ly em­anat­ed from the outer world. In­sti­tu­tions like the rail­road, Chancery, or the Cir­cum­lo­cu­tion Of­fice threat­en to over­power in­di­vid­u­al­i­ty and snuff out the imag­i­na­tion. The world of fan­ta­sy, fairy tale, and ro­mance must sub­sume Grad­grindery, there­by humaniz­ing it. And it is true that in Drood the Cathe­dral, and the whole ethos of Clois­ter­ham it stands for, offer lit­tle hope for life. Clois­ter­ham ex­ists in a state of tem­po­ral sta­sis and phys­i­cal decay. The nar­ra­tion pro­vides ex­tensive tours of its tombs and moul­der­ing crypts. We learn that "All things in it are of the past." It is "a monotonous, silent city, de­riv­ing an earthy flavour through­out, from its Cathe­dral crypt, and so abound­ing in ves­tiges of monas­tic graves, that the Clois­ter­ham chil­dren grow small salad in the dust of ab­bots and abbess­es, and make dirt pies of nuns and fri­ars" (pp. 14-15). How­ev­er, if liv­ing by the outer self leads to this death in life, the in­te­ri­or fan­ta­sy life no longer re­tains the benef­i­cence of Sleary's. As Angus Wil­son ob­serves: "Fancy and won­der have been taken over by the black, the goth­ic and the evil forces of Jasper" (p. 24). The Ara­bi­an Nights fairy tale — that early nur­tur­er of Dick­ens's own imag­i­na­tion — has meta­mor­phosed into an opium dream of vi­o­lent death. Clois­ter­ham is stag­nant but safe; the imag­i­na­tion has lethal ten­den­cies.

So the usual Dick­en­sian pro­cess re­vers­es it­self as it be­comes neces­sary for the outer life to sub­sume fan­ta­sy, as the soil of the Cathe­dral town as­sim­i­lates its leg­endary me­dieval in­hab­i­tants. Dick­ens also in­dicates that a very small layer of vi­tal­i­ty suf­fices to re­deem Clois­ter­ham's decay: "The most abun­dant and the most agree­able ev­i­dences of pro­gress­ing life in Clois­ter­ham are the ev­i­dences of veg­etable life in many gar­dens" (p. 15). A de­scrip­tion of Minor Canon Cor­ner, the res­i­dence of Sep­ti­mus Crisparkle, one of the most pos­i­tive char­ac­ters in the novel, fur­ther il­lus­trates this prin­ci­ple, using the sym­bol­ic terms of ro­mance ver­sus re­al­i­ty which pre­vail in Drood:

Swag­ger­ing fight­ing men had had their cen­turies of ramp­ing and rav­ing about Minor Canon Cor­ner, and beat­en serfs had had their cen­turies of drudg­ing and dying there, and pow­er­ful monks had had their cen­turies of being some­times use­ful and some­times harm­ful there, and be­hold they were all gone out of Minor Canon Cor­ner, and so much the bet­ter. Per­haps one of the high­est uses of their ever hav­ing been there was that there might be left be­hind, that blessed air of tran­quil­i­ty which per­vad­ed Minor Canon Cor­ner, and that serene­ly ro­man­tic state of the mind—pro­duc­tive for the most part of pity and for­bear­ance—which is en­gen­dered by a sor­row­ful story that is all told, or a pa­thet­ic play that is played out (pp. 39-40).

When ab­stract­ed to a story to move oth­ers, fan­ta­sy re­tains cu­ra­tive spir­i­tu­al pow­ers. But ro­mance in the mak­ing often re­sults from the most bru­tal in­di­vid­u­al­i­ty of its "heroes." To read ro­mances may be nec­es­sary if one is to avoid des­ic­ca­tion of the soul; to live in one may well pro­duce un­hap­pi­ness and an­ti­so­cial im­puls­es. For ex­am­ple, Rosa and Edwin's be­trothal fur­nish­es the sen­ti­men­tal fan­ta­sy need­ed to leav­en the confin­ing rou­tine of Nuns' House for both the stu­dents and their head­mistress, Miss Twin­kle­ton. Yet this sit­u­a­tion, so ro­man­tic to oth­ers, leaves Edwin and Rosa mis­er­able. Sim­i­lar­ly, the music Jasper cre­ates de­lights his nephew (and Clois­ter­ham) as "Beau­ti­ful! Quite ce­les­tial," while tortur­ing its maker: "It often sounds to me quite dev­il­ish. I am so weary of it! The echoes of my own voice among the arch­es seem to mock me with my daily drudg­ing round" (p. 11). One's own fan­tasies are in­evitably dis­torted and thrown back in one's face by the pres­sures of un­yield­ing ex­ternal re­al­i­ty.

Through Jasper, par­tic­u­lar­ly, Dick­ens links the ex­pres­sion of art with the story that is all told, the artist with the actor in the tale for whom its work­ing out was sor­row­ful. He fur­ther im­plies that the fan­ta­sy-mak­ing inner self achieves its only con­tact with the outer world through artis­tic cre­ation. Dick­ens's own art, which "dwelt upon the ro­man­tic side of fa­mil­iar things,"8 might serve as a paradigm of this ac­tivity. How­ev­er, if Jasper is, as Ed­mund Wil­son and oth­ers have sug­gested, a phar­makos upon whom Dick­ens has load­ed his guilt over the Ellen Ter­nan af­fair, the guilt may also have caused him to search out any con­nec­tion be­tween his "crimes" and his art. There is a def­i­nite sugges­tion that the im­puls­es which make Jasper an artist may also make him a crim­i­nal. His high­ly de­vel­oped inner self, the source of his music, is frus­trat­ed by the "cramped monotony of my ex­is­tence" in Clois­ter­ham. To free it­self, the imag­i­na­tion must push back the re­straints of pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­i­ty, so Jasper takes refuge in the opium dens of Lon­don, where he ap­par­ent­ly con­ceives and re­hears­es the final break with exter­nal obli­ga­tion—the mur­der of Edwin Drood, his beloved nephew.

Other char­ac­ters in the novel who dis­play artis­tic ten­den­cies like­wise suf­fer from ego-cen­tered dis­tor­tions of ex­pe­ri­ence and lose sen­sitivity to the needs of oth­ers, al­though not to Jasper's homi­ci­dal ex­treme. Edwin's in­dif­fer­ent por­trait of "Pussy" pro­ceeds from a na­ture "too self-con­scious and self-sat­is­fied" (p. 169). He can nei­ther ac­cept his pre­or­dained fu­ture cheer­ful­ly nor take the pains nec­es­sary to alter it. The rude­ness and ca­su­al big­otry he di­rects to­ward Neville also in­di­cate a re­fusal to rec­og­nize the needs of any­one but him­self. The clerk Baz­zard feels hu­mil­i­at­ed about his sub­or­di­nate po­si­tion to his bene­fac­tor Grew­gious, sim­ply be­cause the au­thor­ship of an un­pro­duced tragedy, The Thorn of Anx­i­ety, has given him a se­vere case of artis­tic snob­bery. Even Sapsea, with his fan­tas­tic epi­taph for his brow­beat­en wife and his wild re­con­struc­tions of events, may be con­sid­ered an artist of sorts; there is no doubt of his utter self­ish­ness and blind­ness to ob­jec­tive fact.1'

By using an Ara­bi­an Nights set­ting to sym­bol­ize the inner self in Jasper's dream, Dick­ens has cre­at­ed a handy metaphor­i­cal short­hand to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the imag­i­na­tion. Through­out the novel he mere­ly splits the image, with the fairy tale, ro­mance, or leg­end rep­re­sent­ing fan­ta­sy's in­no­cent and ther­a­peu­tic func­tion, while the Ori­ent stands for its dan­gers. The Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral and its en­vi­rons sim­i­lar­ly sig­ni­fy ex­ter­nal re­al­i­ty and the pre­dom­i­nance of the outer man. As Rosa be­gins her life jour­ney, the char­ac­ters she en­counters dis­play vary­ing de­grees of bal­ance or im­bal­ance be­tween the two halves of self. While wag­ing their own bat­tles to gain an equi­lib­ri­um, the other char­ac­ters ad­di­tion­al­ly serve as ob­ject lessons to guide Rosa in the for­ma­tion of her per­son­al­i­ty. She must judge them only by their ac­tions and words, but the read­er re­ceives in­stant in­sight into char­ac­ters through the image pat­terns with which they are as­so­ci­at­ed.

Much has been writ­ten about the re­peat­ed ref­er­ences to the East in Drood, but be­cause they occur in a nom­i­nal mys­tery, they have usu­al­ly been taken lit­er­al­ly as clues rather than metaphor­i­cal­ly.10 But al­though the lit­er­al ex­pla­na­tions often be­come far­fetched, trac­ing the East as a sym­bol leads one con­sis­tent­ly to those who be­come so wrapped up in their dreams that they ig­nore the needs of oth­ers, feel ut­ter­ly su­pe­ri­or to them, and there­fore claim in cer­tain cir­cum­stances the right to do vi­o­lence to them. Jasper, in whom the im­bal­ance is most ex­treme, fair­ly reeks of the Ori­ent (and finds Clois­ter­ham the most con­fin­ing). He has a dark com­plex­ion, smokes opium among Chi­na­men and Las­cars in a den to­ward which he trav­els "east­ward and still east­ward through the stale streets" of Lon­don, and, ac­cord­ing to Howard Duffield, ex­hibits char­ac­ter­is­tics of a mem­ber of the In­di­an Thugee cult." Edwin plans a ca­reer as an en­gi­neer in Egypt. Neville Land­less comes from Cey­lon and has a "tiger­ish" el­e­ment in his blood which man­i­fests it­self through a vi­o­lent, un­govern­able tem­per. Like Jasper's, his frus­tra­tions arise from a feel­ing of su­pe­ri­or­i­ty to his sur­round­ings, where he was brought up "among ab­ject and servile de­pen­dents, of an in­fe­ri­or race" under the "strong hand" of a tyran­ni­cal guardian. Al­though ac­tu­al­ly sprung from the Nor­folk yeo­man­ry, Baz­zard has "a gen­er­al air of hav­ing been reared under the shad­ow of that bale­ful tree of Java which has given shel­ter to more lies than the whole botan­i­cal king­dom" (p. 90). Sapsea de­clares he has put his fin­ger on 'Pekin, Nankin, and Can­ton.' It is the same with Japan, with Egypt, and with bam­boo and san­dal­wood from the East In­dies" (p. 26). The pompous phi­lan­thropist Hon­eythun­der, who wants to re­make the world in his own dis­tort­ed image, is one of "your reg­u­lar Pro­fes­sors of all de­grees (who] run amuck like so many mad Malays" (p. 152). He is also con­nect­ed with cer­tain ori­en­tal char­i­ties which bring the Land­less­es under his doubt­ful tute­lage.

Since Dick­ens's pri­ma­ry con­cern in Drood is the dan­ger of the self de­tach­ing it­self from re­al­i­ty, he por­trays fewer char­ac­ters who suf­fer a de­fi­cien­cy of imag­i­na­tion and fan­ta­sy; but those he does offer all have af­finity with Clois­ter­ham. "Stony" Dur­dles be­comes al­most in­distinguishable from the tombs he tends. The an­gu­lar Grew­gious is sur­rounded with im­ages of sand, wood­en­ness, and dry­ness. His dwelling at Sta­ple Inn, an "an­cient" "smoky nook," seems a kind of Clois­ter­ham— Metropoli­tan Branch, and Dick­ens links the two in his ini­tial descrip­tion: "In the days when Clois­ter­ham took of­fence at the ex­is­tence of a rail­road afar off, ... in those days no neigh­bor­ing ar­chi­tec­ture of lofty pro­por­tions had arisen to over­shad­ow Sta­ple Inn. The wes­t­er­ing sun be­stowed bright glances on it, and the south­ward wind blew into it un­impeded" (p. 88, my ital­ics). Miss Twin­kle­ton, pro­pri­etress of the Nuns* House, hi­lar­i­ous­ly bowd­ler­izes any ro­man­tic sto­ries Rosa man­ages to ob­tain.

Even at their most unimag­i­na­tive, how­ev­er, these char­ac­ters ap­pear comic rather than threat­en­ing. They do not pro­duce the blight­ing ef­fect of a Dombey Se­nior or Grad­grind, while Jasper men­aces many of the other main char­ac­ters, an in­di­ca­tion of how rad­i­cal­ly Dick­ens has shift­ed ground. More­over, Grew­gious and Miss Twin­kle­ton show signs of right­ing the dishar­mo­ny in their per­son­al­i­ties. She at­tains a ten­u­ous bal­ance through a com­plete split, form­ing "two states of con­scious­ness which never clash." By day the mat­ter-of-fact schoolmistress, she is by night a sen­ti­men­tal gos­sip, har­bor­ing mem­o­ries of an amorous sea­son at Tun­bridge Wells. But for Grew­gious Dick­ens of­fers hope of a gen­uine rein­te­gra­tion of inner and outer man. Rosa's plight re­vives in him the feel­ings of love he never per­mit­ted him­self to ex­press to her moth­er, and the nar­ra­tor in­forms us that "there are such un­ex­plored ro­man­tic nooks in the un­like­li­est men" (p. 99). Some of those with ex­ces­sive­ly de­vel­oped inner selves, most no­tably Neville and Edwin, also strug­gle to re­gain equi­lib­ri­um, but Dick­ens gives them a much rock­i­er path.

There are, how­ev­er, two char­ac­ters who have al­ready achieved a har­mo­nious being by over­com­ing, re­spec­tive­ly, East­ern and Clois­ter­ham ten­den­cies: He­le­na Land­less and Minor Canon Crisparkle. Neville's ac­count of their child­hood re­veals that his twin was once more "tiger­ish" than he. Yet as an adult, in Crisparkle's words, "Your sis­ter has learnt how to gov­ern what is proud in her na­ture. She can dom­i­nate it even when it is wound­ed through her sym­pa­thy with you" (p. 155). A mem­ber of the Cathe­dral cler­gy, Crisparkle has some­how es­caped its death­ly shad­ow. (Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, six elder broth­ers have died in in­fan­cy.) He in­habits that same Minor Canon Cor­ner which by­gone ro­mance has so pleas­ant­ly var­nished. His healthy ego is sym­bol­ized by his vig­or­ous swim­ming through which, Mitchell ob­serves, he dives "into the deep wa­ters of self' (p. 245). It seems prob­a­ble that he and He­le­na may wed at the end of the novel, per­haps pro­vid­ing a model for Rosa and her prospec­tive mate in their ef­forts to achieve a sim­i­lar har­mo­ny.

With Drood only half com­plet­ed, it is dif­fi­cult to tell how much of a strug­gle Rosa was to have in rec­on­cil­ing her self with the world around it, or even if she was to ac­com­plish the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. But the be­gin­nings of a strug­gle are clear­ly in­di­cat­ed. At Nuns' House Rosa is a "fairy- fig­ure," self­ish with the child's in­no­cent ego­cen­trism, not that of the mal­ad­just­ed adult. Since her de­sires have as yet met lit­tle op­po­si­tion, how­ev­er, her abil­i­ty to cope with a re­al­i­ty which frus­trates the inner self has not been test­ed. The test­ing be­gins when her mar­riage to Edwin moves out of the vague fu­ture and into the im­mi­nent pre­sent. A conver­sation in which the two man­u­fac­ture a fic­ti­tious fiancée for Edwin ex­tremely un­like her­self al­lows Rosa, under the cover of "let's pre­tend," to ex­press her dis­sat­is­fac­tion at the prospect of being car­ried off to Egypt to live among "Arabs, and Turks, and Fel­lahs, and peo­ple," and es­pe­cial­ly the Pyra­mids (p. 21). In her abil­i­ty to laugh at Edwin's con­ceit­ed fan­tasies about his East­ern ad­ven­ture—he plans "to change the whole con­dition of an un­der­de­vel­oped coun­try"—Rosa may seem more re­al­is­tic than he. Yet dur­ing the en­tire ex­change she is chew­ing on Lumps-of- De­light, "a Turk­ish sweet­meat, sir." She only re­jects Edwin's East, in­cluding its un­ro­man­tic "boil­ers and things," be­cause it is not hers, does not ful­fill her own inner fan­tasies.

The na­ture of those fan­tasies emerges more clear­ly when she runs up against the grit­ty stages after her flight to Lon­don. Seek­ing an es­cape from an ev­er­more un­bear­able re­al­i­ty, she finds Lieu­tenant Tar­tar, the near-unan­i­mous choice for Mr. Rosa Bud. While there can be no doubt that Rosa be­comes in­fat­u­at­ed with Tar­tar al­most in­stant­ly, the im­ages that sur­round him sug­gest that her at­tach­ment is not al­to­geth­er healthy. I have pur­pose­ly re­frained from men­tion­ing Tar­tar in ref­er­ence to the Clois­ter­ham/East di­choto­my thus far, be­cause he at first seems an ex­ception to it. Al­though he ap­pears to be a thor­ough­ly ad­mirable and well-bal­anced young man, Dick­ens has over­whelmed him with both East­ern and fairy tale as­so­ci­a­tions. His name, Duffield re­marks, is "as redo­lent of the East as a whiff of hashish" (p. 582); it is more­over a name that Car­lyle, who in­flu­enced Dick­ens con­sid­er­ably, fre­quent­ly uses to char­ac­ter­ize par­tic­u­lar­ly bar­barous Ori­en­tals. His deep tan sug­gests naval voy­ages to trop­i­cal, pos­si­bly In­di­an, climes. When Rosa as­cends to his rooftop gar­den apart­ment, she seems "to get into a mar­velous coun­try that came into sud­den bloom like the coun­try on the sum­mit of the magic beanstalk" (pp. 187-88). There he serves her "a daz­zling en­chant­ed repast," con­sist­ing of "won­der­ful mac­a­roons, glit­ter­ing li­queurs, mag­i­cal­ly pre­served trop­i­cal spices and jel­lies of ce­les­tial trop­i­cal fruits" (p. 192). And when, dur­ing their school­days, he saved Crisparkle from drown­ing, he struck out for the shore "like a wa­ter-gi­ant" (p. 184).

Yet Tar­tar dis­plays no ev­i­dence of the psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tur­bances which trou­ble all other char­ac­ters in the novel who are linked with the East. One pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion is that he has no psy­che to dis­turb. Dick­ens never al­lows us in­side Tar­tar's per­son­al­i­ty, and his characteriza­tion is far less re­al­is­tic than that of the other major fig­ures. In fact, he seems too mar­velous to be true. In keep­ing with his beanstalk coun­try abode, his ac­tiv­i­ties take on an al­most su­per­nat­u­ral qual­i­ty. He could save Crisparkle de­spite the fact that Sep­ti­mus was at the time "a big heavy se­nior" and Tar­tar "the small­est of ju­niors" (p. 184). He trav­els from his cham­bers to Neville's by scam­per­ing over the house­tops. Even in the prag­mat­ic busi­ness of keep­ing an or­der­ly house, he is all su­perla­tives: "Mr. Tar­tar's cham­bers were the neat­est, the clean­est, and the best-or­dered cham­bers ever seen under the sun, moon, and stars" (p. 188). His en­chant­ed viands "dis­played them­selves pro­fuse­ly at an in­stant's no­tice." His gar­den in the air above the dingy en­vi­rons of Sta­ple Inn re­calls the gar­dens that ex­pressed the hid­den vi­tal­i­ty of Clois­ter­ham; the scar­let run­ners into which he ducks to "go below" ex­act­ly par­al­lel those in the gar­den of Cloistcrham's the­ater, which re­ceives "the foul fiend, when he ducks from its stage into the in­fer­nal re­gions, among scar­let-beans, or oys­ter-shells, ac­cord­ing to the sea­son of the year" (p. 15). The the­atri­cal devil as­so­ci­ates Tar­tar both with the world of artis­tic fancy and with the dan­gers of that world.

I would there­fore sug­gest that Tar­tar is not a per­son at all, in the sense that Rosa or Jasper or Edwin is a per­son, but a fan­ta­sy come to life, ap­pear­ing mag­i­cal­ly when the need aris­es like a friend­ly wiz­ard or Cin­derel­la's fairy god­moth­er. (Sig­nif­i­cant­ly he and that other walk­ing fic­tion, Dick Datch­ery, are the only char­ac­ters whose first ap­pear­ance Dick­ens fails to note in the Num­ber Plans.) Cer­tain­ly he ful­fills many of Rosa's day­dreams. No soon­er has she heard the story of his res­cue of Crisparkle than she muses, "If Heav­en ... had but sent such courage and skill to her poor moth­er's aid!" (p. 185). Later, as he es­corts her to his cham­bers, she won­ders what the passers­by think, see­ing her "con­trast­ed with the strong fig­ure that could have caught her up and car­ried her out of any dan­ger, miles and miles with­out rest­ing" (p. 187). Her re­al­iza­tion that the grit­ty stages can­not be en­tire­ly avoid­ed is prompt­ed by Tar­tar's fail­ure to call upon her after their row­ing ex­pe­di­tion on the Thames. She re­cov­ers her spir­its only by "light­ing on some books of voy­ages and sea- ad­ven­ture" (p. 202). Through this de­vice Dick­ens in­di­cates that Rosa's pas­sion for Tar­tar is not far re­moved from her pas­sion for those tales of ro­mance of which she imag­ines him a hero.

Thus Tar­tar com­bines East­ern and fairy-tale im­ages be­cause he is a liv­ing sym­bol of both the virtues and per­ils of the imag­i­na­tion. The bean­stalk coun­try can en­chant a vis­i­tor and allow him to tran­scend his lim­it­ed re­al­i­ty, just as the read­ing of a ro­man­tic story can. And Dick­ens, far from de­sir­ing its ex­tinc­tion, places upon it the bene­dic­tion, "May it flour­ish for ever!" (p. 188). But to live there con­tin­u­al­ly sur­pass­es the power of mor­tals. Even the orig­i­nal coun­try at the sum­mit of the magic beanstalk was ruled by a bru­tal, man-eat­ing ogre. To ig­nore this re­al­i­ty leads to un­re­liev­able frus­tra­tion and the warped soul of a John Jasper. He­le­na, gen­er­al­ly a voice of rea­son, warns Rosa that Tar­tar's lit­tle world is "like a dream," and the open­ing chap­ter has vivid­ly il­lus­trat­ed the con­se­quences of liv­ing in a dream. The nar­ra­tor also ob­serves: "But Mr. Tar­tar could not make time stand still; and time, with his hard-heart­ed fleet­ness, strode on so fast, that Rosa was obliged to come down from the beanstalk coun­try to earth, and her guardian's cham­bers" (p. 192). As Mitchell gloss­es this pas­sage: "One must de­scend back to the level of or­di­nary re­al­i­ty out­side the fan­tis­tic [sic!] self' (p. 244).

Al­though Tar­tar's sym­bol­ic as­so­ci­a­tions can­not con­clu­sive­ly prove that he will not marry Rosa, they do demon­strate that such a mar­riage would rep­re­sent a re­gres­sion in Dick­ens's art, a re­turn to the fairy-tale end­ings of Pick­wick or Oliv­er Twist in which the heroes en­counter the evil in the world only to be whisked away in the nick of time to an is­land of safe­ty. In the early Dick­ens the harsh­er as­pects of re­al­i­ty re­main, but the pro­tag­o­nists are per­mit­ted to es­cape them. To allow Rosa to re­treat to the coun­try on the sum­mit of the magic beanstalk would, how­ev­er, place the end­ing of Drood in a whol­ly dif­fer­ent cat­e­go­ry from that of Lit­tle Dorr it, in which Amy and Arthur Clen­nam go down into the streets where "the noisy and the eager, and the ar­ro­gant and the froward and the vain, fret­ted, and chafed, and made their usual up­roar,"13 or that of the novel's im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor Our Mu­tu­al Friend, in which Eu­gene Wray­burn de­cides to re­main in Eng­land and face so­ci­ety's scorn at his pu­ta­tive mis­al­liance with Lizzie Hexam. Nor does such a with­draw­al seem con­sis­tent with Drood's death-laden at­mo­sphere and its dis­trust of the lands of ro­mance.

But if not Tar­tar, who? He is usu­al­ly award­ed Rosa by de­fault, since there seems to be no one else left for her. Ac­tu­al­ly sev­er­al other po­ten­tial mates exist, al­though they labor under the shad­ow of death. Neville Land­less is the ob­vi­ous choice. He loves Rosa and is strug­gling man­ful­ly to sub­due his East­ern im­puls­es in order to be­come wor­thy of her. If the re­sult­ing mar­riage ap­pears rather con­ven­tion­al—it was the end­ing adopt­ed in the 1935 Uni­ver­sal film ver­sion of Drood—it is at least consis­tent both with the novel's themes and those of Dick­ens's later works. How­ev­er, Neville be­comes sur­round­ed with an aura of doom after Edwin's dis­ap­pear­ance brings him under sus­pi­cion. There are re­peat­ed ref­er­ences to his de­clin­ing health and wast­ed ap­pear­ance. The strain of his bat­tle with his inner self could prove fatal. Death even more strong­ly threat­ens an­oth­er of Rosa's po­ten­tial hus­bands: Edwin Drood. Yet if he is alive, his mar­riage to Rosa might pro­vide the most sat­is­fac­to­ry conclu­sion of all. While this is not the place to enter into the con­tro­ver­sy be­tween the "Res­ur­rec­tion­ists" and those who be­lieve Edwin mur­dered, it does not seem im­pos­si­ble that the epony­mous hero would have re­turned alive. Jasper, from his ac­tions, cer­tain­ly must be­lieve he has mur­dered his nephew; but he has lived through the in­ci­dent so often in his opium dreams—and is like­ly to have for­ti­fied him­self with the drug be­fore at­tempt­ing the ac­tu­al deed—that he might fall into a stu­por with the mur­der half-com­plet­ed, fin­ish­ing it in the world of fan­ta­sy, not fact. An in­jured Edwin could then es­cape, per­haps with the aid of Deputy or the Princess Puffer. His dis­ap­pear­ance might be at­tributable to a post-at­tack ill­ness or am­ne­sia, or a flight to his po­si­tion in Egypt to es­cape Jasper's threat yet avoid de­nounc­ing him.

The re­turn-to-life theme per­vades Dick­ens's works from the mo­ment Mr. Pick­wick steps out of prison until Lizzie Hexam pulls Eu­gene Wray­burn out of the river. And it is only one of sev­er­al re­cur­ring Dick­en­sian mo­tifs that Edwin's reap­pear­ance and even­tu­al mar­riage to Rosa would con­tin­ue. Al­though they do break off their en­gage­ment, many char­ac­ters in pre­vi­ous nov­els have like­wise over­looked the lover close at hand, only to re­turn to him or her after gain­ing a few lessons from life, e.g., David Cop­per­field and Agnes, Arthur Clen­nam and Amy Dor­rit, Es­tel­la and Pip, Bella Wil­fer and John Har­mon. An­oth­er signifi­cant plot pat­tern oc­curs in the ro­mances of a num­ber of Dick­ens's fe­male pro­tag­o­nists. Their fu­ture hus­bands are, like Edwin, threat­ened with death or as­sumed dead. Flo­rence Dombey be­lieves Wal­ter Gay drowned for a great part of Dombey and Son. Allan Wood­court in Bleak House is also ship­wrecked, though Es­ther knows of his sur­vival. Pre­sumed dead, John Har­mon as­sumes the alias Roke­smith, thus allow­ing his be­trothed, Bella Wil­fer, to fall in love with him out­side the con­straints of their ar­ranged mar­riage. This sit­u­a­tion re­sem­bles that of Edwin and Rosa, just as Bradley Head­stone sug­gests John Jasper. A mar­riage be­tween Edwin and Rosa would there­fore tele­scope the Har­mon-Wil­fer and Wray­burn-Hex­am-Head­stone love plots of Our Mu­tu­al Friend into one. Here mys­tery con­nois­seurs might ob­ject that Dick­ens would not have re­peat­ed sit­u­a­tions from his pre­ced­ing novel for fear of de­stroy­ing Drood's sur­prise. Yet it is clear that the prob­lems of mak­ing an ar­ranged mar­riage work were still on his mind at the time of the novel's in­cep­tion, and he had as­sert­ed that the Har­mon mys­tery it­self was made to be seen through. In July 1869 he wrote to Forster: "What should you think of the idea of a story be­gin­ning 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." The idea was sup­pos­ed­ly- dis­card­ed, but it could linger as an un­der­plot, bring­ing Edwin and Rosa to­geth­er at the end of Drood.

Such an un­der­plot would fit the spe­cif­ic themes of the novel as well. The ar­ranged mar­riage de­mands too much of the ex­ter­nal self from Edwin and Rosa. The wish-ful­fill­ment love of a Tar­tar (or of He­le­na Land­less, Tar­tar's equal­ly ex­ot­ic coun­ter­part in Edwin's af­fec­tions) may oblige the inner self too much, but a be­trothal from birth re­press­es it un­fairly. That it is their lack of free will in the mat­ter, not each other, they most ob­ject to be­comes clear in one of Edwin's con­ver­sa­tions with his uncle: "Isn't it un­sat­is­fac­to­ry to be cut off from choice in such a mat­ter? There, Jack! I tell you! If I could choose, I would choose Pussy from all the pret­ty girls in the world" (p. 10). Al­low­ing Edwin and Rosa the free­dom to choose one an­oth­er would pro­vide a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of inner and outer selves ap­pro­pri­ate to the res­o­lu­tion of their per­son­al con­flicts and those of the novel as a whole. Edwin's last record­ed thoughts sug­gest that, if he were to sur­vive, he would re­con­sid­er the ter­mi­na­tion of his en­gage­ment:

Edwin Drood pass­es a soli­tary day. Some­thing of deep­er mo­ment than he had thought, has gone out of his life; and in the si­lence of his own cham­ber he wept for it last night. Though the image of Miss Land­less still hov­ers in the back­ground of his mind, the pret­ty lit­tle af­fec­tion­ate crea­ture, so much firmer and wiser than he had sup­posed, oc­cu­pies its stronghold. It is with some mis­giv­ing of his own un- wor­thi­ness that he thinks of her, and of what they might have been to one an­oth­er, if he had been more in earnest some time ago; if he had set a high­er value on her; if, in­stead of ac­cepting his lot in life as an in­her­i­tance of course, he had stud­ied the right way to its ap­pre­ci­a­tion and en­hance­ment (p. 124).

Dick­ens has, nev­er­the­less, care­ful­ly pre­pared a lime pit and a hid­den ring; and though he often em­ploys co­in­ci­dences he rarely re­sorts to red her­rings. Hillis Miller has said of this novel, "What is be­neath the sur­face, in Drood, is com­plete­ly de­struc­tive, com­plete­ly other than the day­time life of the sur­face. In no other novel by Dick­ens are the sym­bol­ic op­po­sites fur­ther from one an­oth­er and less rec­on­cil­able" (p. 321). Per­haps Edwin is dead, and Neville will die, and the stair­way to the beanstalk coun­try will close to Rosa. We can­not know the ex­tent to which Dick­ens's new­found fear of the imag­i­na­tion's de­mon­ic po­ten­tial might lead him to de­spair of love and art. The Clois­ter­ham steril­i­ty may have to smoth­er them ut­ter­ly if it is to neu­tral­ize the ma­lig­nant East; the force which snuffed out the first six lit­tle Crisparkles may leave Rosa hus­band­less and child­less. Whichev­er pos­si­bil­i­ty Dick­ens might have cho­sen, the mys­tery of Rosa Bud's hus­band re­mains in­ex­tri­ca­ble from the mean­ing of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. Ei­ther her mar­riage to Edwin (or Neville) after each had achieved a bal­ance of inner and outer selves, or her final lack of a mate would be con­sis­tent with the de­vel­op­ment of Dick­ens's later fic­tion and with the the­mat­ic struc­ture of the ex­ist­ing half of the novel. Only a mar­riage to Tar­tar would mark a re­gres­sion in tech­nique and an eva­sion of the dark ques­tions Drood rais­es. Iron­i­cal­ly, it is this lat­ter so­lu­tion, most deroga­to­ry to our opin­ion of its au­thor's pow­ers at the con­clu­sion of his ca­reer, that too many com­men­ta­tors on Drood have un­think­ing­ly adopt­ed.