Patrick Galloway: The Solution to The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Originally posted at Pat's Lit Page, 1997

T MUST BE stated at the outset that Edwin Drood was not murdered. To understand the chain of events leading up to his disappearance, it is necessary to go back to the Christmas Eve dinner hosted by John Jasper. During dinner, Neville Landless found his former animosity toward Edwin Drood completely erased, due to the latter's friendly, if somewhat melancholic, manner and his easy good humor. Both young men, however, could not help but notice a certain strangeness underlying the forced smile of their host. After dinner, during their walk by the river to observe the storm, Neville tells Edwin of Rosa Bud's anxiety regarding Jasper's affections towards her, as related by his sister, Helena. Edwin puts this together with the ominous words of Princess Puffer regarding "Ned" and decides that his safety, if not his life, are in danger and confides in Neville his decision to flee Cloisterham. He swears Neville to secrecy, and promptly "disappears".

Meanwhile, Princess Puffer is hot on the trail of Jasper and is, likewise, the object of equally hot pursuit by Dick Datchery. We discover that Jasper, in one of his opium-induced trances, has revealed his foul intentions toward "Ned." The Princess has been retained by Mr. Grewgious to follow Jasper and gather information.

Soon, enough circumstantial evidence is compiled to bring Jasper before the magistrates of the Old Bailey on charges of murder. Edwin, of course, appears at the last minute and clears Jasper.

Thus the case is solved. All that remains now is to relate the inevitable Dickensian sewing-up process:

1) Dick Datchery: He is not only the father of Edwin Drood, but of Neville Landless, Helena Landless, and Mr. Tartar. Mr. Datchery, we learn, had many years earlier married one Margaret Drabble, later revealed to be Princess Puffer, and traveled to Turkey. There they had a son (Mr. Tartar-the name is the giveaway) whom they subsequently lost in a bazaar. The couple returned to London brokenhearted and turned to opium. Datchery becomes attached to his young brother John (Jasper) to whom he tells tales of his experiences in Turkey. (This much older brother has long since faded from Jasper's memory, yet the images of Turkey occasionally arise from his subconscious during opium trips, such as the one at the opening of the book.) Soon, Dick and Margaret have another son, Edwin, but what with Margaret's growing addiction, Dick decides to put the son up for adoption. In a twist of fate, Edwin is found by Jasper. Dick, his life a shambles, flees for India, and, finally, Ceylon. Here he settles, marries, and has two children, the twins Neville and Helena Landless. All is well for a time, until a typhoon strikes the family's tiny Ceylonese village. Dick escapes with his life, his wife is killed, and he assumes his children have perished as well.

2) Durdles: He is the father of Rosa Bud. Having been shattered by the drowning of his young wife, he makes arrangements for the care of his daughter with his best friend Mr. Grewgious and subsequently fakes his own suicide. Durdles' association with death and tombstones is the clue to his true identity.

3) Conclusion: Rosa marries Mr. Tartar, for whom we have already witnessed a growing affection prior to the premature ending of the original text. Edwin Drood proposes to Helena Landless. It is revealed that the two have been carrying on clandestine meetings in London throughout the remainder of the book. It is significant that these meetings are the one thing which Helena does not relate to Neville, Edwin having begged her to keep them a secret. This shows the extent of Helena's love and devotion toward Edwin. Unfortunately, they find they are brother and sister, and the marraige is called off. As for Neville, due to numerous chance meetings with Mr. Bazzard, he becomes interested in the theatre and winds up in the starring role in Bazzard's play, "The Thorn of Anxiety." During production, he falls in love, and marries, his leading lady, one Victoria Swoon, the replacement ward of none other than Mr. Honeythunder, whose opinion of the pairing is one of vociferous philanthropic disapprobation.

Needless to say, this is only a rough outline of the events which conclude the story. Many additional factors must be clarified to sufficiently resolve all the questions posed in the first half of the book, such as: What about the ring? What brings Datchery back into the story? How did the various orphans get their names? Why was Edwin's watch and chain found by the weir? And what about the relationship between Datchery and Durdles? There is clearly no room here to go into such details. It is, however, my hope that, in the space allotted, I have, to the reader's satisfaction, shed adequate light on The Mystery of Edwin Drood.