H. M. MacVicar: The Datchery Assumption — Expostulations

Sir — As a reg­u­lar En­glish read­er of The Trol­lop­i­an I have been in­ter­est­ed in the ar­ti­cles on Edwin Drood and the en­deav­ors of the writ­er to prove his the­o­ry that Dick Datch­ery was Mr. Grew­gious in dis­guise, and as I be­lieve this the­o­ry to be er­ro­neous, I hope you will allow me space to give my rea­sons. The writ­er is no doubt cor­rect in his ar­gu­ment that Dick Datch­ery en­deav­oured to dis­guise his iden­ti­ty by a large wig of white hair, and it is ob­vi­ous that he was at Clois­ter­ham to col­lect ev­i­dence to prove that Jasper was the mur­der­er of Edwin Drood. It is also ob­vi­ous that Mr. Grew­gious, and oth­ers, were sus­pi­cious of Jasper, but be­yond this I see no ev­i­dence to iden­ti­fy Dick Datch­ery with Mr. Grew­gious and a great deal against it.

Mr. Grew­gious was an el­der­ly man, the lover of Rosa’s moth­er, and well known at Clois­ter­ham to Miss Twin­kle­ton, Mr. Crisparkle, and oth­ers, and in­deed to Jasper him­self, and yet we are asked to be­lieve that by sim­ply as­sum­ing a wig of white hair no sus­pi­cion of his iden­ti­ty could arise among any of these peo­ple. Dick­ens would sure­ly not have stretched the creduli­ty of his read­ers to that ex­tent! Again, Mr. Grew­gious is rep­re­sent­ed as a busy Lon­don lawyer, with­out a part­ner, and we are to as­sume that such a man could dis­ap­pear from his home and of­fice with­out, ap­par­ent­ly, his ab­sence at­tract­ing any no­tice, and take up his res­i­dence at Clois­ter­ham for an in­def­i­nite time. As a fur­ther small point, al­though Mr. Grew­gious knew Jasper’s lodg­ings quite well, Mr. Datch­ery on his first ap­pear­ance at Clois­ter­ham ap­par­ent­ly did not know where they were, and had to be shown his way to them by the “hideous small boy, Deputy,” and when he saw them for the first time looked at them “with some in­ter­est.” All of this, it seems to me, makes it very un­like­ly that Mr. Datch­ery was re­al­ly Mr. Grew­gious; but it hap­pens that there is fur­ther di­rect ev­i­dence against their iden­ti­ty.

When Rosa flies from Clois­ter­ham and goes straight to Mr. Grew­gious’s of­fice, which is after the time when Dick Datch­ery ap­peared at Clois­ter­ham, and they have tea to­geth­er, the fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tion takes place:

“Do you al­ways live here, sir?” asked Rosa.
“Yes, my dear.”
“And al­ways alone? ”
“Al­ways alone, ex­cept that I have daily com­pa­ny in a gen­tle­man by the name of Baz­zard; my clerk.”

This, of course, would have been a di­rect lie on the part of Mr. Grew­gious, on the as­sump­tion that he was Dick Datch­ery, and I refuse to be­lieve that Dick­ens would have put a lie into his mouth in con­ver­sa­tion with Rosa.

It may be asked, if Dick Datch­ery was not Mr. Grew­gious, was he any other char­ac­ter in Edwin Drood, and I think the an­swer is clear, al­though there is not very much ev­i­dence. One would ex­pect him to be some­one who, for no given rea­son, had been ab­sent for some time from his usual haunts. Is there any­one an­swer­ing to this de­scrip­tion? The an­swer comes in the con­tin­u­a­tion of the con­ver­sa­tion, al­ready quot­ed above, be­tween Rosa and Mr. Grew­gious. This con­tin­ues, after Mr. Grew­gious’s ref­er­ence to Mr. Baz­zard, his clerk:

“He doesn’t live here?”
“No, he goes his ways after of­fice hours. In fact, he is off duty here al­to­geth­er, just at pre­sent, and a Firm down­stairs with whom I have busi­ness re­la­tions, lends me a sub­sti­tute.”

This seems to me to be con­clu­sive. Here is some­one “off duty al­to­geth­er, just at pre­sent” whom Mr. Grew­gious could have sent to Clois­ter­ham, with­out any of that risk of al­most cer­tain dis­cov­ery which would have at­tend­ed his going there in per­son.

It may be ob­ject­ed that it is al­most as un­like­ly that a lawyer should have sent his clerk on this sort of de­tec­tive work as that he should have gone him­self. It hap­pens, how­ev­er, that in Orley Farm, one of An­tho­ny Trol­lope’s best books, which was pub­lished about ten years be­fore Edwin Drood and would no doubt have been read by Charles Dick­ens, that dis­tin­guished bar­ris­ter Mr. Fur­ni­val does send his clerk, Crab­witz, under a false name down to Ham­worth to try and buy off Mr. Dock­wrath, which Mr. Crab­witz, under the name of Mr. Corke, fails to do. It seems just pos­si­ble that the idea of mak­ing Mr. Grew­gious em­ploy Mr. Baz­zard on sim­i­lar work may have oc­curred to Charles Dick­ens from read­ing Orley Farm.

At any rate, I claim that if Dick Datch­ery is in fact any of the char­ac­ters men­tioned in what re­mains of Edwin Drood, the most like­ly per­son­age is not Mr. Grew­gious, but his clerk, Mr. Baz­zard.

H. M. MacVicar

Bath, Eng­land 

The Datch­ery As­sump­tion: Reply

Sir: — I should like to di­rect Mr. MacVicar’s at­ten­tion to the fol­low­ing points, which were not in­clud­ed in my brief study of Hiram Grew­gious. I sub­mit them as ad­di­tion­al ev­i­dence that the old lawyer and Datch­ery are one and the same.

1. Is it not high­ly sig­nif­i­cant that the para­graph where­in Mr. Grew­gious first ap­pears in the novel is pre­ced­ed by one deal­ing with an im­per­son­ation? The news of the quar­rel be­tween young Drood and Neville Land­less had aroused the cu­rios­i­ty and in­ter­est of the young ladies in the Nuns’ House; and Miss Twin­kle­ton had done her best to min­i­mize its ef­fects upon her pupils by re­duc­ing it to the pro­por­tions of a “slight fra­cas.” Do you re­mem­ber that Dick­ens says: “But the sub­ject so sur­vived all day, nev­er­the­less, that Miss Fer­di­nand got into new trou­ble by sur­rep­ti­tious­ly clap­ping on a paper mous­tache at din­ner-time, and going through the mo­tions of aim­ing a wa­ter-bot­tle at Miss Gig­gles”? Mr. Grew­gious makes his en­trance hard upon the rev­e­la­tion of Miss Fer­di­nand’s im­per­son­ation of Neville Land­less, and I con­tend that Dick­ens thus fore­shad­owed the role the old lawyer was to play later when he be­came Dick Datch­ery.

2. Dick­ens’s de­scrip­tion of the old lawyer makes him the log­i­cal can­di­date for the Datch­ery as­sump­tion. “Mr. Grew­gious,” the nov­el­ist tells us, “had been well se­lect­ed for his trust, as a man of in­cor­rupt­ible in­tegri­ty, but cer­tain­ly for no other ap­pro­pri­ate qua1i­ties dis­cernible on the sur­face.” The last four words imply that Rosa’s guardian had ad­di­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions, al­though they were in­ter­nal, and not out­ward­ly ap­par­ent. “He had a scanty flat crop of hair,” we find later, “in colour and con­sis­ten­cy like some very mangy yel­low fur tip­pet; it was so un­like hair, that it must have been a wig, but for the stu­pen­dous im­prob­a­bil­i­ty of any­body’s vol­un­tar­i­ly sport­ing such a head.” Note the clever in­tro­duc­tion of the word “wig,” a fore­shad­ow­ing of Datch­ery’s “shock of white hair.” That Dick­ens played fair with his read­ers is read­i­ly proved when one con­sid­ers how this part of the old lawyer’s de­scrip­tion reads in the manuscript of Edwin Drood. There we find: “He had a scanty flat crop of hair, in color and con­sis­ten­cy like some very com­mon yel­low fur tip­pet or the mane of the cheap­est de­scrip­tion of toy horse.” Orig­i­nal­ly, the idea of the ar­ti­fi­cial­i­ty of Grew­gious’s hair was even more strong­ly em­pha­sized, yet when Dick­ens delet­ed the toy horse’s mane, he al­lowed the rest of the de­scrip­tion to stand. The ad­jec­tives “scanty” and “flat” will also take on greater sig­nif­i­cance if one turns to a cer­tain pas­sage in Nicholas Nick­le­by, writ­ten years be­fore Edwin Drood. In his de­scrip­tion of Vin­cent Crumm­les, the strolling play­er, Dick­ens wrote: “he had — very short black hair, shaved off near­ly to the crown of his head — to admit (as he [Nicholas] af­ter­wards learnt) of his more eas­i­ly wear­ing char­ac­ter wigs of any shape or pat­tern.” When Dick­ens, the friend of noted play­ers like Macready and Fechter, and him­self an am­a­teur actor of al­most pro­fes­sion­al stature, pre­sents Mr. Grew­gious as a sec­ond Vin­cent Crumm­les so far as the ap­pear­ance and quan­ti­ty of his hair are con­cerned, I main­tain that he did so for a def­i­nite pur­pose. I sub­mit that he meant the old lawyer to wear the “char­ac­ter” wig of Dick Datch­ery. In­ci­den­tal­ly, Baz­zard would have had no need what­so­ev­er to dis­guise him­self, for no one in Clois­ter­ham knew him or had ever seen him.

3. When Dick­ens says of Grew­gious: “Re­ceiv­er and Agent now, to two rich es­tates, and deput­ing their legal busi­ness, in an amount worth hav­ing, to a firm of so­lic­i­tors on the floor below,” the nov­el­ist makes it in­fer­able that Mr. Grew­gious is a man of some means, not busy or de­pen­dent upon his pro­fes­sion, and that he could read­i­ly ab­sent him­self from his cham­bers. When in Lon­don, he comes into close con­tact with only one per­son, his clerk; and there is ample ev­i­dence in the chap­ter “Phi­lan­thropy, Pro­fes­sion­al and Un­pro­fes­sion­al” to show that he has al­ready sent Baz­zard away.

4. Apro­pos of Baz­zard, why does Dick­ens, when he in­tro­duces us to the clerk for the first and only time in chap­ter xi, say that “this at­ten­dant was a mys­te­ri­ous being, pos­sessed of some strange power over Mr. Grew­gious” Baz­zard’s mys­tery is never solved in the frag­ment, but I main­tain that his strange power was close­ly con­nect­ed with his un­achieved am­bi­tion to be a writ­er of tragedies that would one day be pro­duced suc­cess­ful­ly upon the stage. Dick­ens does not even tell us in this chap­ter that Baz­zard has writ­ten a tragedy; he will not dis­close that fact until much later. But he keeps hint­ing at it, and Mr. Grew­gious keeps hint­ing at it in such a mys­te­ri­ous way, that I can­not help con­clud­ing that the old lawyer is some­how fas­ci­nat­ed by his clerk’s con­nec­tion—re­mote though it may be — with the the­atri­cal world. In other words, I see in this mys­tery hov­er­ing about Baz­zard and his tragedy a sug­ges­tion of Mr. Grew­gious’s fond­ness for play­ing a part, for dom­i­nat­ing a sit­u­a­tion, for being, in short, the actor he will be­come. And I also be­lieve that the old lawyer took the name of Dick Datch­ery from a char­ac­ter in Baz­zard’s tragedy, The Thorn of Anx­i­ety, with which he was un­doubt­ed­ly fa­mil­iar.

5. When he penned the title of the fa­mous con­tro­ver­sial chap­ter xviii, Dick­ens had in mind a dou­ble mean­ing for the word “set­tler,” and it in­cludes the old lawyer. The nov­el­ist was sug­gest­ing not only the man who “an­nounced that he had a mind to take a lodg­ing in the pic­turesque old city for a month or two, with a view of set­tling down there al­to­geth­er,” but also the man who was to be a “set­tler” in an­oth­er sense: one who set­tles some­thing. Hiram Grew­gious, alias Dick Datch­ery, is going to set­tle the where­abouts of Edwin Drood’s body, and at the same time re­cov­er the ring he val­ues so high­ly — the ring that is his only me­men­to of his lost love. Since he is first, last, and al­ways Rosa’s cham­pi­on, he has the strongest in­cen­tive to set­tle the ques­tion of who mur­dered Edwin Drood and there­by brought sor­row and dis­tress to his ward. In this re­spect Hiram Grew­gious and John Jasper were in­tend­ed by Dick­ens to be an­tag­o­nists not un­like Ham­let and King Claudius.

6. Fi­nal­ly, I would point out the fact that Dick Datch­ery never comes in con­tact with Miss Twin­kle­ton, Mr. Crisparkle, or any of the per­sons whom Grew­gious met in Clois­ter­ham, with the ex­cep­tion of John Jasper. And when Datch­ery meets the choir­mas­ter, on one sin­gle oc­ca­sion, it is in the lat­ter’s room, which was “som­bre” and “most­ly in shad­ow,” as Dick­ens him­self tells us in chap­ter ii. Fur­ther­more, as Dr. R. Austin Free­man states in The Mys­tery of An­geli­na Frood: “All dis­guise is a form of bluff. It acts by sug­ges­tion. And the sug­ges­tion is ef­fect­ed by a set of mis­lead­ing cir­cum­stances which pro­duce in the dupe a state of mind in which a very im­per­fect dis­guise serves to pro­duce con­vic­tion.” The white wig, the eye­brows dyed black, an al­tered voice, and the mil­i­tary-look­ing cos­tume of Datch­ery con­vinced Jasper that the man was what he pur­port­ed to be; the choir­mas­ter, in his gloomy room, had no rea­son to sus­pect oth­er­wise.

7. Datch­ery did know where Jasper’s lodg­ings were, but Dick­ens could not say so with­out giv­ing away the whole show. The speech, “‘In­deed?’ said Mr. Datch­ery, with a sec­ond look of some in­ter­est,” was not to have ap­peared in the print­ed ver­sion; it was delet­ed from the final proof by Dick­ens him­self, prior to his death, but was al­lowed to stand by John Forster. This and sev­er­al other pas­sages were cut out by Dick­ens be­cause they point­ed too strong­ly to the iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery, and to his in­ter­est in Jasper.

8. Grew­gious did not lie to Rosa when he said “Yes, my dear” in an­swer to her ques­tion “Do you al­ways live here, sir?” Sta­ple Inn was his per­ma­nent res­i­dence, and he would so con­sid­er it. We can­not put too lit­er­al an in­ter­pre­ta­tion on “al­ways,” or we should doubt that Grew­gious ever went out­side his rooms.

Of course Dick­ens want­ed to have his read­ers be­lieve that Baz­zard, or Tar­tar, was the man who ap­peared in Clois­ter­ham as Dick Datch­ery. The true iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery was to have been one of the sur­pris­es the nov­el­ist had in store for them. But Baz­zard is too ob­vi­ous­ly put forth as a red her­ring. In his last story Dick­ens was de­ter­mined to sur­pass The Moon­stone; he would not have turned to the most ob­vi­ous de­vices for his novel, which is a mas­ter­piece of in­tri­cate plot con­struc­tion. Nor do I be­lieve that he would have copied an in­ci­dent from Orley Farm. The con­flict in Edwin Drood is be­tween Hiram Grew­gious and John Jasper; they typ­i­fy the forces of good and evil. Evil is tri­umphant until over­thrown by good, and it is Grew­gious, in the guise of Datch­ery, who brings about Jasper’s down­fall and the final vic­to­ry of right and jus­tice over wrong.

Richard M. Baker
Kent, Con­necti­cut