2. Was Edwin Drood murdered?

HE STROLLS about and about, to pass the time until the din­ner-hour. It some­how hap­pens that Clois­ter­ham seems re­proach­ful to him to-day; has fault to find with him, as if he had not used it well; but is far more pen­sive with him than angry. His wont­ed cal­lous­ness is re­placed by a wist­ful look­ing at, and dwelling upon, all the old land­marks. He will soon be far away, and may never see them again, he thinks. Poor youth! Poor youth!

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T

HESE lines, taken from the four­teenth chap­ter of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood, epit­o­mize the life of the young en­gi­neer whose mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance forms the basis of the pre­sent study. With an enig­mat­ic head­ing for this chap­ter where­in Edwin Drood goes up the postern stair to his uncle's lodg­ings and to that fate­ful din­ner on Christ­mas Eve, Charles Dick­ens raised a ques­tion that has not yet re­ceived a final an­swer. "When shall these Three meet again?" he called it; by "these Three" he meant Neville Land­less, Edwin Drood, and John Jasper. As every read­er of the un­fin­ished novel knows, Edwin Drood was never seen again after that night. Was he mur­dered by his uncle Jasper, who had ev­i­dent­ly been plot­ting to do away with his nephew be­cause of his own pas­sion for Rosa Bud, Edwin's fiancée since child­hood, or did he some­how es­cape his uncle's evil de­signs and come back to Clois­ter­ham in that half of the novel which Dick­ens was never to write? I shall pre­sent the ev­i­dence of the story it­self, to­geth­er with the tes­ti­mo­ny of sev­er­al con­tem­po­raries of Charles Dick­ens, to per­suade the read­er that there can be but one an­swer to the ques­tion: Edwin Drood died the vic­tim of a mur­der­ous at­tack by his uncle.

I have said that the lines quot­ed at the be­gin­ning of this study epit­o­mize the life of Edwin Drood. They are a pic­ture in lit­tle of the young man as we know him in what would doubt­less be one third of the novel's length, had it reached com­ple­tion. Young Drood strolls about and about, to pass the time until the din­ner hour, just as he trav­eled be­tween Lon­don and Clois­ter­ham to see his fiancée and to pass the time until they should be mar­ried and set forth for Egypt, where he hoped to make a name for him­self in his pro­fes­sion. Clois­ter­ham re­proach­es him even as Rosa did, for the young cou­ple were un­hap­py in their re­la­tion­ship, forced upon them by their re­spec­tive fa­thers. The cathe­dral town finds fault with him, just as Rosa did; is more pen­sive than angry, as was Rosa. His break with his fiancée has chas­tened his easy­go­ing na­ture and made some­thing of a man of him, but he is marked for death. And in the last four words of the pas­sage, Charles Dick­ens vir­tu­al­ly writes his epi­taph.

"Poor youth! Poor youth!" Lest any read­er should in­ter­pret these words as an ex­cla­ma­tion of self-pity aris­ing in Edwin's own mind, let me set down here the sen­tence Dick­ens orig­i­nal­ly wrote to fol­low: "He will soon be far away, and may never see them again, he thinks." I am in­debt­ed to Mr. Percy Car­den for the in­for­ma­tion that the manuscript of the novel, housed in the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert­Mu­se­um in South Kens­ing­ton, Lon­don, goes on as fol­lows: "Ah, he lit­tle knows how near a case he has for think­ing so." Sure­ly here is a com­ment made by Dick­ens him­self — a com­ment he ev­i­dent­ly con­sid­ered too re­veal­ing of what was to come, since he re­placed it by the briefer: 'Poor youth! Poor youth!" I con­tend that Dick­ens was fully aware of the fate in store for Edwin Drood, and that he in­tend­ed the young man to meet death at the hands of his uncle.

Prob­a­bly the out­stand­ing ex­po­nent of the the­o­ry that Edwin Drood was to es­cape the mur­der­ous at­tack of his uncle Jasper and live to con­front him in the un­writ­ten por­tion of the novel was Richard A. Proc­tor. His fa­mous book, Watched by the Dead: A Lov­ing Study of Dick­ens's Half-told Tale, ap­peared in 1887; in it he de­vel­oped at the out­set an ar­gu­ment best ex­pressed in his own words: "The idea which more than any other had a fas­ci­na­tion for Dick­ens, and was ap­par­ent­ly re­gard­ed by him as like­ly to be most po­tent in its in­flu­ence on oth­ers, was that of a wrong-do­er watched at every turn by one of whom he has no sus­pi­cion, for whom he even en­ter­tains a feel­ing of con­tempt." And on the very next page of his study he adds: "It be­came a fa­vorite idea of Dick­ens to as­so­ci­ate the thought of death ei­ther with the watch­er or the watched; and, un­less I mis­take, in the final and finest de­vel­op­ment of his favourite theme, he made one 'dead and buried as all men sup­posed' watch the very man who sup­posed him dead, and not only buried but de­stroyed." In other words, Proc­tor ar­gues that Edwin Drood re­turns to Clois­ter­ham in the guise of Dick Datch­ery and ul­ti­mate­ly tracks Jasper to his doom.

Now Mr. Proc­tor cites ex­am­ples to bol­ster up his con­tention. In The Old Cu­rios­i­ty Shop, Samp­son and Sally Brass are watched by the Mar­chioness; in Mar­tin Chuz­zle­wit, Jonas Chuz­zle­wit is watched by Nad­gett, and Peck­sniff is watched by old Mar­tin Chuz­zle­wit; Dombey, of Dombey and Son, is under the cal­cu­lat­ing eye of Cark­er; Cark­er in turn is watched by old Moth­er Brown and her daugh­ter. In Bleak House, Made­moi­selle Hort­ense is watched by In­spec­tor Buck­et's wife. In Lit­tle Dor­rit, Rigaud is dogged by Cav­al­let­to. Mag­witch watch­es Pip in Great Ex­pec­ta­tions, while Com­peyson watch­es Mag­witch. And so it is only nat­u­ral, ar­gues Proc­tor, that John Jasper should be watched by Edwin Drood. But Proc­tor ev­i­dent­ly failed to ob­serve that Jasper is watched by Hiram Grew­gious, whom I be­lieve to be Dick Datch­ery, by the Opium Woman, and by Deputy. Nor does he ap­pear to be aware of how re­lent­less­ly John Jasper spied upon Neville Land­less.

Speak­ing of Edwin Drood at a later point in his study, Proc­tor states: "There is not one note of death in aught that he does or says. As the time ap­proach­es for Jasper's at­tack on him, there is much in the music of the story to sug­gest that trou­ble is ap­proach­ing; but he is not to die, al­beit the read­er is to think him dead. The music of his words was under Dick­ens's con­trol in the same sense that the tim­bre of his nat­u­ral voice was under his con­trol. He might dis­guise it more or less suc­cess­ful­ly, ac­cord­ing to the qual­i­ty of his hear­er's au­di­tion; he could not re­al­ly change it. So he does all he can to con­ceal by his words the ideas which, nev­er­the­less, the sound of his voice sug­gests to those who have ears to hear."

With all due re­spect for Proc­tor, I con­sid­er most of what he says to be mere as­ser­tion, and I still con­tend that Edwin Drood was marked for death. I admit that he does not do or say any­thing that hints at his ap­proach­ing end. How could he, since he was en­tire­ly un­aware of his uncle's slow­ly ma­tur­ing plan to mur­der him? But what does Dick­ens him­self say with re­gard to young Drood? When John Jasper goes in quest of Dur­dles on the night of their un­ac­count­able ex­pe­di­tion to the cathe­dral crypt and tower, Dick­ens has this to say in his de­scrip­tion of the old stone­ma­son's yard: "The two jour­ney­men have left their two great saws stick­ing in their blocks of stone; and two skele­ton jour­ney­men out of the Dance of Death might be grin­ning in the shad­ow of their shel­ter­ing sen­try-box­es, about to slash away at cut­ting out the grave­stones of the next two peo­ple des­tined to die in Clois­ter­ham. Like­ly enough, the two think lit­tle of that now, being alive, and per­haps merry. Cu­ri­ous, to make a guess at the two; — or say one of the two!" (The ital­ics are mine.) Does not Dick­ens refer to Edwin Drood in those last words? Why should the read­er be in­vit­ed to make a guess at two — or one (with an ex­cla­ma­tion mark) — if they or he be utter strangers to the story? There is no point to Dick­ens's sug­ges­tion un­less he is hint­ing at Edwin's ul­ti­mate fate.

Again, in the chap­ter en­ti­tled "Both at their Best," where­in Edwin and Rosa agree to break off their irk­some en­gage­ment and be­come as broth­er and sis­ter, Dick­ens says, with ref­er­ence to young Drood: "He called her Pussy no more. Never again." Now we know that Hiram Grew­gious took Edwin to task for re­fer­ring ca­su­al­ly and open­ly to his sweet­heart by this en­dear­ment; the old lawyer held: "A name that it would be a priv­i­lege to call her by, being alone with her own bright self, it would be a lib­er­ty, a cold­ness, an in­sen­si­bil­i­ty, al­most a breach of good faith, to flaunt else­where." Sup­pos­ing Edwin to have re­called the old lawyer's re­proach on that score, we might un­der­stand that he called Rosa "Pussy" "no more," even though he was alone with her on the oc­ca­sion in ques­tion. But "Never again" is a re­dun­dan­cy. It smacks of too much em­pha­sis — un­less Dick­ens had some hid­den mean­ing be­hind the force­ful re­it­er­a­tion. In that case, it be­comes sug­ges­tive of fi­nal­i­ty. I main­tain that the "Never again" is the nov­el­ist's way of in­form­ing the read­er that Edwin was soon to die. Had he lived to marry Rosa — the bro­ken en­gage­ment hav­ing un­der­gone re­pair, — he would un­doubt­ed­ly have called her Pussy in their fonder mo­ments, and "Never again" would have been de­lib­er­ate­ly mis­lead­ing.

I do not un­der­stand too clear­ly what Proc­tor means when he says: "The music of his words was under Dick­ens's con­trol in the same sense that the tim­bre of his nat­u­ral voice was under his con­trol. He might dis­guise it more or less suc­cess­ful­ly, ac­cord­ing to the qual­i­ty of his hear­er's au­di­tion; he could not re­al­ly change it. So he does all he can to con­ceal by his words the ideas which, nev­er­the­less, the sound of his voice sug­gests most clear­ly to those who have ears to hear" If I were to para­phrase the pas­sage just quot­ed, I should do so in the fol­low­ing man­ner: "Dick­ens could write sen­tences ex press­ing clear­ly his fun­da­men­tal ideas, just as he could say what he ac­tu­al­ly meant. He might change his voice suf­fi­cient­ly to de­ceive an inept lis­ten­er, al­though his voice would be es­sen­tial­ly the same. So he does all he can to write sen­tences in such a way that the read­er will be de­ceived about their real mean­ing — but an acute ob­serv­er and stu­dent of the nov­el­ist's style will see through the sub­terfuge and grasp the true mean­ing of these sen­tences."

In other words, Proc­tor seems to imply that when Dick­ens writes a pas­sage ap­par­ent­ly con­vey­ing the idea that Edwin Drood is to die, he re­al­ly does not mean that at all; he re­al­ly means that Drood is to live. Whether or not Proc­tor ac­tu­al­ly does mean that the nov­el­ist could write cer­tain sen­tences em­body­ing this lit­er­ary sleight of hand, and so con­vey one mean­ing to the or­di­nary read­er at the same time that he of­fered some­thing vast­ly dif­fer­ent to those of keen­er per­cep­tion, I shall leave for my own read­ers to judge. If they deem that to be the idea un­der­ly­ing this rather ob­scure bit of writ­ing, let me, quote a later por­tion of Proc­tor's ar­gu­ment and con­sid­er its va­lid­i­ty in the light of two pas­sages taken from Edwin Drood.

Proc­tor says of Rosa: "She learns from Grew­gious, be­fore Clois­ter­ham knows any­thing about it, that Drood has been the vic­tim of a ter­ri­ble and mur­der­ous at­tack, but has been saved as by a mir­a­cle; and she has had it earnest­ly im­pressed upon her that she is not to show by word or deed that she knows of Drood's safe­ty. Later she is to wear mourn­ing for him, as dead. But Mr. Grew­gious keeps care­ful­ly from her the knowl­edge that the man who loves her so hate­ful­ly is the man who would have slain her once af­fi­anced lover, still loved as a dear broth­er. That she should re­main in ig­no­rance on this point is es­sen­tial to Mr. Grew­gious's and Edwin Drood's plans for pun­ish­ing Jasper." I do not un­der­stand how Proc­tor can make such an as­ser­tion when the fol­low­ing pas­sages, writ­ten by Charles Dick­ens, are con­sid­ered. When Neville Land­less is taken be­fore Mayor Sapsea and ex­am­ined at length after Minor Canon Crisparkle's dis­cov­ery of Edwin's watch and chain on Clois­ter­ham Weir, Dick­ens writes: "Even the broad sug­ges­tion that the lost young man had ab­scond­ed, was ren­dered ad­di­tion­al­ly im­prob­a­ble on the show­ing of the young lady from whom he had so late­ly part­ed; for, what did she say, with great earnest­ness and sor­row, when in­ter­ro­gat­ed? That he had, ex­press­ly and en­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly, planned with her, that he would await the ar­rival of her guardian, Mr. Grew­gious. And yet, be it ob­served, he dis­ap­peared be­fore that gen­tle­man ap­peared." This is an ab­stract of Rosa's tes­ti­mo­ny, and Dick­ens has ccrt­in1y con­cealed from me by his art­ful use of words any idea that Rosa had learned from Grew­gious that Edwin has been the vic­tim of a ter­ri­ble and mur­der­ous at­tack from which he has been saved as by a mir­a­cle. If her sor­row and earnest­ness on this oc­ca­sion are feigned, as Proc­tor must in­evitably as­sume, then she pos­sessed histri­on­ic abil­i­ty not to be de­duced from Dick­ens's por­tray­al of her.

Sim­i­lar­ly, when Jasper has his in­ter­view with Rosa in the gar­den of the Nuns' House, Dick­ens says: "She can­not look up at him for ab­hor­rence, but she has per­ceived that he is dressed in deep mourn­ing. So is she. It was not so at first; but the lost has long been given up, and mourned for, as dead." If Proc­tor is cor­rect in his as­sump­tion that Rosa knows Edwin to be alive, and that she is play­ing a part to en­able her erst­while fiancée and Grew­gious to carry out their plans for pun­ish­ing Jasper, why did she not wear mourn­ing from the start? Why was it as­sumed only at a later date? And how could Dick­ens add the words "and mourned for" and still play fair with his read­ers? Those words are in­dica­tive of Rosa's per­son­al feel­ings, and we are to infer — if I can un­der­stand plain En­glish — that she ac­tu­al­ly felt sor­row and grief for the man to whom she was once af­fi­anced, and that she truly be­lieved him to be dead.

No, I am afraid that Proc­tor fell in love with a tempt­ing the­o­ry, and so over­looked a great deal 4 straight­for­ward writ­ing on the part of Dick­ens. Ev­i­dence that this con­clu­sion is valid is the com­plete fal­si­ty of a state­ment he makes on page 77 of his study: "Mr. Grew­gious was to dine with Rosa on Christ­mas day." What are the facts of the sit­u­a­tion? The whole ques­tion of the visit comes up when Grew­gious calls upon Rosa at the Nuns' House to sound her out on her at­ti­tude with re­gard to her even­tu­al mar­riage to Edwin. "Could I," Rosa asks, at the close of their con­ver­sa­tion, "could I ask you, most kind­ly to come to me at Christ­mas, if I had any­thing par­tic­u­lar to say to you ?"

"Why, cer­tain­ly, cer­tain­ly," Grew­gious replies. "As a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar man, I do not fit smooth­ly into the so­cial cir­cle, and con­se­quent­ly I have no other en­gage­ment at Christ­mas-time than to par­take, on the twen­ty-fifth, of a boiled turkey and cel­ery sauce with a — with a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar clerk I have the good for­tune to pos­sess, whose fa­ther, being a Nor­folk farmer, sends him up (the turkey up), as a pre­sent to me, from the neigh­bour­hood of Nor­wich. I should be quite proud of your wish­ing to see me, my dear."

All of which mere­ly sig­ni­fies that Grew­gious would break his en­gage­ment if Rosa were to send for him.

What ac­tu­al­ly hap­pens? When Rosa and Edwin have their final talk re­sult­ing in the am­i­ca­ble break­ing off of their en­gage­ment — and this is on Fri­day, De­cem­ber 23, be­cause Edwin tells her: "I dine with the dear fel­low [his uncle] to­mor­row and next day — Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day," — Rosa says: "My guardian promised to come down, if I should write and ask him. I am going to do so."

Now she could not have writ­ten her let­ter to Grew­gious be­fore Fri­day evening, for Dick­ens tells us that "the bright, frosty day de­clined as they walked and spoke to­geth­er. The sun dipped in the river far be­hind them." And she could not rea­son­ably have post­ed her let­ter be­fore Sat­ur­day morn­ing, De­cem­ber 24, in which case it cer­tain­ly would not have reached Grew­gious, who resid­ed in Lon­don, in time to en­able him to come to Clois­ter­ham on Christ­mas Day. Fur­ther­more, we know from Rosa's tes­ti­mo­ny given be­fore Sapsea that Edwin dis­ap­peared prior to the old lawyer s ar­rival in Clois­ter­ham. There­fore I con­clude that Proc­tor is in error, and that Grew­gious dined with his clerk, Baz­zard, as he had orig­i­nal­ly planned.

Again Proc­tor says, with ref­er­ence to the startling news given to Edwin's uncle by the old lawyer after he has at last reached Clois­ter­ham in re­sponse to Rosa's let­ter: "Jasper learns that he has mur­dered Drood use­less­ly, and, mur­der­ous vil­lain though he is, he is hor­ri­fied." I must re­mark in pass­ing that I can­not com­pre­hend Proc­tor's use of the verb form "mur­dered" or of the term "mur­der­ous vil­lain" if he re­al­ly be­lieves Edwin to be alive. He goes on: "But it does not seem to have been no­ticed that Grew­gious has no spe­cial rea­son, un­less he is cer­tain that Jasper be­lieves him­self to be the mur­der­er of Drood, for sup­pos­ing that Jasper will be star­tled by the news he brings. Yet he does sup­pose so." I imag­ine that Proc­tor ar­rives at this con­clu­sion be­cause he has said of Grew­gious on a pre­ced­ing page: "It is ab­so­lute­ly im­pos­si­ble that he can have any in­for­ma­tion jus­ti­fy­ing his cruel tone with Jasper, ex­cept from Drood him­self,"

When we ex­am­ine the ac­tu­al text of the novel, Proc­tor's ar­gu­ment falls to pieces. We find that Grew­gious does have some in­for­ma­tion jus­ti­fy­ing his tone with Jasper; he does have a spe­cial rea­son for sup­pos­ing that his news will sur­prise the choir­mas­ter. As the old lawyer him­self says upon this very oc­ca­sion: "I have just left Miss Land­less." And note that he makes this re­veal­ing state­ment only after the di­a­logue which I now re­pro­duce:

Jasper: Have you seen his sis­ter?

Grew­gious: Whose?

Jasper: The sus­pect­ed young man's. [Jasper refers to Neville Land­less.]

Grew­gious: Do you sus­pect him?

Jasper: I don't know what to think. I can­not make up my mind.

Grew­gious: Nor I. But as you spoke of him as the sus­pect­ed young man, I thought you had made up your mind. — I have just left Miss Land­less.

We learn that Grew­gious has talked with He­le­na Land­less, who is well aware of Jasper's pas­sion for Rosa. She has learned of this pas­sion from Rosa's own lips; she knows how ab­hor­rent it is to her young friend. And when He­le­na and her broth­er had their talk with Minor Canon Crisparkle by the river, He­le­na ex­claimed, after the good man had urged Neville to apol­o­gize to Drood for the quar­rel which took place be­tween the two young fel­lows in Jasper's rooms: "Mr. Crisparkle, would you have Neville throw him­self at young Drood's feet, or at Mr. Jasper's, who ma­ligns him every day?" (The ital­ics are mine.) Can we doubt, then, that He­le­na has poured out her heart to the old lawyer in de­fense of her broth­er, or that she has told him all she knows about Jasper? It is as much a cer­tain­ty as though Dick­ens had in­formed us of the fact in so many words. Here, then, is Grew­gious's jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for adopt­ing his "cruel tone" with Jasper.

And we may be just as cer­tain that Rosa has in­formed Grew­gious of her in­ter­view with Edwin — else why did she write to her guardian ? — and of the mu­tu­al break­ing off of their en­gage­ment. This con­clu­sion is con­firmed by what Grew­gious says to Jasper later on in this dra­mat­ic scene:

"One of this young cou­ple, and that one your nephew, fear­ful, how­ev­er, that in the ten­der­ness of your af­fec­tion for him you would be bit­ter­ly dis­ap­point­ed by so wide a de­par­ture from his pro­ject­ed life, for­bore to tell you the se­cret, for a few days, and left it to be dis­closed by me, when I should come down to speak to you, and he would be gone. I speak to you, and he is gone.

"I have now said all I have to say: ex­cept that this young cou­ple part­ed, firm­ly, though not with­out tears and sor­row, on the evening when you last saw them to­geth­er."

Here is ample ev­i­dence that the old lawyer has re­ceived Rosa's com­plete con­fi­dence, and that she has re­vealed to him all that tran­spired be­tween her and Edwin. Will such news be no sur­prise to Jasper, who is so des­per­ate­ly in love with Rosa that he has com­mit­ted mur­der to re­move the ob­sta­cle ex­ist­ing be­tween him and the ob­ject of his pas­sion? We must give Grew­gious cred­it for some shrewd­ness, even if Proc­tor does not. And when Jasper refers to Neville as "the sus­pect­ed young man," what must be the old lawyer s con­clu­sion? It is my con­tention that he sus­pects Jasper of the mur­der of his nephew, that he sees through the whole plot, but that he re­mains silent be­cause there is no ev­i­dence — di­rect or cir­cum­stan­tial — to bring against the choir­mas­ter so long as there is no cor­pus delic­ti. And it is ob­vi­ous­ly be­cause of what is in his mind that he re­fus­es to sit down and eat with the man whom he con­sid­ers to be a mur­der­er.

I have di­gressed to some ex­tent from the main pur­pose of this study, that pur­pose being to an­swer the ques­tion, Was Edwin Drood mur­dered? Yet in a sense I have not gone too far afield, for I be­lieve I have shown be­yond a rea­son­able doubt that Proc­tor's the­o­ry is not ir­refutable; that Edwin Drood may rea­son­ably be as­sumed to have met his death at the hands of his uncle. One more ref­er­ence to Watched by the Dead, and I shall have done with Proc­tor. The grand cli­max of his work comes on page i66 when he says: "Jasper was to have been tracked re­morse­less­ly to his death by the man whom he sup­posed he had slain. Risen from his grave, Drood was to have driv­en Jasper to his tomb, there to seek for the dread­ed ev­i­dence of his guilt; but to find there in­stead, alive and im­pla­ca­ble, the man whom he had doomed to a sud­den and ter­ri­ble death, and in whose dust he had come to seek for the dread­ed ev­i­dence of his guilt."

Such a con­clu­sion is the log­i­cal out­come of Proc­tor's en­tire ar­gu­ment, but un­for­tu­nate­ly it does not square with all the ev­i­dence ob­tain­able from the text — ev­i­dence that proves de­ci­sive­ly that Edwin Drood died on the night of De­cem­ber 24-25, mur­dered by his uncle, John Jasper.

Among all the var­i­ous and var­ied com­men­taries I have read on Edwin Drood, I have yet to find one em­pha­siz­ing the fact that John Jasper was a young uncle. Yet there can be no doubt about it, for Dick­ens in­forms us that Mr. Jasper was "a dark man of some six- and-twen­ty, with thick, lus­trous, well-ar­ranged black hair and whiskers." It has oc­curred to me that the nov­el­ist had a def­i­nite rea­son for mak­ing Edwin's uncle, a man whose age span was but a few years longer than that of his nephew. And I have al­ways pic­tured Jasper as a lean, wiry man pos­sessed of con­sid­er­able strength — per­haps be­cause of the ad­mirable il­lus­tra­tions drawn by Sir Luke Fildes to ac­com­pa­ny the text; per­haps, too, be­cause the lus­trous black hair and whiskers are some­how in­dica­tive of viril­i­ty. If Jasper is in­deed the mur­der­er of his nephew, as I firm­ly be­lieve, there is every rea­son why he should have been en­dowed by his cre­ator with com­par­a­tive youth; he could not have been many years older than Edwin if he were to deal with his nephew in a phys­i­cal con­test such as might arise out of an at­tempt at mur­der by the means Jasper was plan­ning to em­ploy. And com­par­a­tive youth — plus viril­i­ty — was need­ed by Dick­ens in his con­cep­tion of the choir­mas­ter to make plau­si­ble the lat­ter's in­tense pas­sion for Rosa Bud, a mere school­girl still in her teens. Jasper's lust for his pupil, stronger than the un doubt­ed deep af­fec­tion he felt for his nephew, forms the basic mo­tive for the mur­der of Edwin; it was in­evitable, given Jasper's age and tem­per­a­ment, that the prompt­ings of the flesh should over come those of the spir­it.

I feel very strong­ly that Dick­ens gave his read­ers a di­rect hint that Jasper was to be the agent of his nephew's death. When Miss Twin­kle­ton ad­dress­es her young ladies on the day fol­low­ing the heat­ed quar­rel be­tween young Land­less and Edwin Drood, she al­ludes to "the im­mor­tal SHAKE­SPEARE, also called the Swan of his na­tive river, not im­prob­a­bly with some ref­er­ence to the an­cient su­per­sti­tion that that bird of grace­ful plumage — sang sweet­ly on the ap­proach of dea1th." (The ital­ics are mine.) In sim­i­lar fash­ion, on De­cem­ber 24, when the sands of Edwin's life are run­ning out, John Jasper sings "sweet­ly on the ap­proach of death." Dick­ens makes the im­pli­ca­tion clear­ly: "Mr. Jasper is in beau­ti­ful voice this day. In the pa­thet­ic sup­pli­ca­tion to have his heart in­clined to keep this law, he quite as­ton­ish­es his fel­lows by his melo­di­ous power. He has never sung dif­fi­cult music with such skill and har­mo­ny, as in this day's An­them. His ner­vous tem­per­a­ment is oc­ca­sion­al­ly prone to take dif­fi­cult music a lit­tle too quick­ly; to-day, his time is per­fect."

He­le­na Land­less rec­og­nizes in John Jasper a po­ten­tial mur­der­er, or I am much mis­tak­en in the mean­ing un­der­ly­ing cer­tain of her ref­er­ences to him. I have al­ready had oc­ca­sion to com­ment on her speech to Minor Canon Crisparkle: "Oh Mr. Crisparkle, would you have Neville throw him­self at young Drood's feet, or at Mr. Jasper's, who ma­ligns him every day " And short­ly af­ter­ward, when the Minor Canon urges the twin broth­er and sis­ter to ac­knowl­edge open­ly the wrong done by Neville — a wrong they both ac­knowl­edge in­stinc­tive­ly, — He­le­na asks: "Is there no dif­fer­ence be­tween sub.. mis­sion to a gen­er­ous spir­it" — mean­ing Crisparkle's — "and sub­mis­sion to a base or triv­ial one?" It is cer­tain that she has Jasper in mind as a base spir­it, where­as Edwin is one of a triv­ial sort. And still later, when Rosa has fled from Jasper's de­test­ed love­mak­ing and taken refuge with her guardian in Lon­don, He­le­na voic­es her opin­ion of the choir­mas­ter in even stronger terms. The two young women have met in Tar­tar's rooms, and as they are about to sep­a­rate after their heart-to-heart talk, Rosa pleads: "Tell me that you are sure, sure, sure, I couldn't help it."

"Help it, love?" prompts He­le­na.

"Help mak­ing him" — Jasper — "ma­li­cious and re­venge­ful. I couldn't hold any terms with him, could I?"

You know how I love you, dar­ling, an­swers He­le­na, with in­dig­na­tion; "but I would soon­er see you dead at his wicked feet."

Yet it is Rosa her­self, achiev­ing ma­tu­ri­ty as a re­sult of the or­deal through which she has passed, who en­ter­tains the deep­est sus­pi­cion of Jasper; who re­al­izes only too well the mo­tive im­pelling her music mas­ter to mur­der. With a pre­ci­sion which makes im­pos­si­ble any ac­cep­tance of Proc­tor's the­o­ry that Rosa had been told by her guardian that Edwin was still alive, Dick­ens re­veals the con­fu­sion ex­ist­ing in her mind through­out the six months that had elapsed since the young man's dis­ap­pear­ance. "A half-formed, whol­ly un­ex­pressed sus­pi­cion tossed in it, now heav­ing it­self up, and now sink­ing into the deep; now gain­ing pal­pa­bil­i­ty, and now los­ing it. Jasper's self-ab­sorp­tion in his nephew when he was alive, and his un­ceas­ing pur­suit of the in­quiry how he came by his death, if he were dead, were themes so rife in the place, that no one ap­peared able to sus­pect the pos­si­bil­i­ty of foul play at his hands. She had asked her­self the ques­tion, 'Am I so wicked in my thoughts as to con­ceive a wicked­ness that oth­ers can­not imag­ine?' Then she had con­sid­ered, Did the sus­pi­cion come of her pre­vi­ous re­coil­ing from him be­fore the fact? And if so, was not that a proof of its base­less ness? Then she had re­flect­ed, 'What mo­tive could he have, ac­cord­ing to my ac­cu­sa­tion?' She was ashamed to an­swer in her mind, The mo­tive of gam­ing me!

What of the other per­sons who were close­ly con­nect­ed with Edwin Drood and his uncle? How did they feel about John Jasper? In the final chap­ter of the frag­ment — the last one he was ever to set down on paper — Dick­ens tells us: "The dread­ful sus­pi­cion of Jasper, which Rosa was so shocked to have re­ceived into her imag­i­na­tion, ap­peared to have no har­bour in Mr. Crisparkle's." No­tice the use of the word "ap­peared," which in­tro­duces an el­e­ment of doubt. "if it ever haunt­ed He­le­na's thoughts or Neville's, nei­ther gave it one spo­ken word of ut­ter­ance. Mr. Grew­gious took no pains to con­ceal his im­pla­ca­ble dis­like of Jasper" — the ad­jec­tive em­ployed by Dick­ens is force­ful, — "yet he never re­ferred it, how­ev­er dis­tant­ly, to such a source." With­out stat­ing it in a forthright way, Dick­ens gives us here, I am con­vinced, a list of those per­sons who deep down in their hearts sus­pect­ed Jasper of the mur­der of his nephew.

It should now ap­pear with some de­gree of clar­i­ty that Edwin Drood was mur­dered, and that John Jasper was his mur­der­er. What, then, was the method se­lect­ed by the choir­mas­ter to de­stroy the young man who had be­come his rival? Dick­ens gives sev­er­al ref­er­ences to stran­gu­la­tion, the way in which Edwin Drood was done to death — and hints at a se­cret buri­al place, since such a grave alone pro­vides a rea­son why there was no cor­pus delic­ti. With­out tak­ing up space to lo­cate the exact points in the novel where these ref­er­ences ap­pear, I shall list them, and let them speak for them­selves. The ital­i­cized parts of the ex­cerpts are my own.

1. Then he comes back, pounces on the Chi­na­man, and seiz­ing him with both hands by the throat, turns him vi­o­lent­ly on the bed.

2. … whether they were ever walled up alive in odd an­gles and jut­ting gables of the build­ing for hav­ing some in­erad­i­ca­ble leav­en of busy Moth­er Na­ture in them which has kept the fer­ment­ing world alive ever since.

3. Tire­some old bury­ing-grounds! … And then there was Bel­zoni, or some­body, dragged out by the legs, half-choked with bats and dust. All the girls say: Serve him right, and hope it hurt him, and wish he had been quite choked.

4. "You are not going to be buried in the Pyra­mids, I hope?"

5. "And as to Beizoni, I sup­pose he's dead; — I'm sure I hope he is — and how can his legs or his chokes con­cern you?"

6. "How do you do, Mr. Edwin? Dear me, you're chok­ing!"

7. … and the dar­ing Miss Fer­di­nand had even sur­prised the com­pa­ny with a spright­ly solo on the comb-and-curl-pa­per, until suf­fo­cat­ed in her own pil­low by two flow­ing-haired ex­e­cu­tion­ers.

8." 'Cos I ain't-a-goin' to be lift­ed off my legs and 'ave my braces bust and be choked; not if I knows it, and not by 'Im."

Sure­ly these pas­sages in­di­cate a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion, on the part of the au­thor, with stran­gu­la­tion, and num­bers I and 8 have to do with Jasper, who mur­dered his nephew by that method — who used his great black silk scarf as the in­stru­ment of his crime. There is like­wise ap­par­ent in the por­tions of the story I have quot­ed briefly a hint that Edwin's body will be walled up in some mon­u­ment — the Sapsea tomb, to be more spe­cif­ic, in the buri­al ground ad­ja­cent to Clois­ter­ham cathe­dral.

I have saved one par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to stran­gu­la­tion for spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion, since I be­lieve it to be of deep­er sig­nif­i­cance than all the oth­ers com­bined. One of the most fa­mous chap­ters in the frag­ment Dick­ens left us is the twelfth: A Night with Dur­dles. Here­in we find the grip­ping ac­count of that "un­ac­count­able ex­pe­di­tion" made by Jasper in com­pa­ny with the old stone­ma­son to the cathe­dral crypt; here­in we see the two men as­cend the great tower. That Dick­ens him­self con­sid­ered this chap­ter to be of un­usu­al im­por­tance is ev­i­denced by a note he set down be­neath its title in his "Num­ber Plans" — a mem­o­ran­dum in­tend­ed for his eyes alone. And what was the tenor of this note? "Lay the ground for the man­ner of the mur­der, to come out at last."

Of all the the­o­ries I have read in ex­pla­na­tion of this chap­ter and note, I con­sid­er that of Pro­fes­sor Henry Jack­son to be not only the most in­ter­est­ing but the most orig­i­nal. It may be found in the third part of his un­usu­al book About Edwin Drood. I should like to quote a few sen­tences from that part, and I shall en­deav­or to se­lect them in such a way as to do no in­jus­tice to Jack­son's log­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion of his ideas.

Sure­ly this "un­ac­count­able ex­pe­di­tion" [he says], made with Dur­dles on Dec. i, is a re­hearsal of the jour­ney which, as we have seen, Jasper pro­pos­es to make, and ac­tu­al­ly makes, with the in­dis­pens­able fel­low trav­el­er:

and pre­sum­ably the study of the re­hearsal will en­able us to an­tic­i­pate some de­tails of the tragedy. From the top of the tower Jasper "con­tem­plates the scene, and es­pe­cial­ly that stillest part of it which the Cathe­dral over­shad­ows," Pre­sum­ably one of his pur­pos­es is to es­ti­mate the suit­abil­i­ty of the Close for mur­der and con­ceal­ment. But I think that the es­ti­mate formed is un­favourable…

Let us sup­pose then that Jasper, as he walks to and fro "among the lanes of light," finds a mound of lime sim­i­lar to that which Dur­dles in his yard had de­scribed as "quick enough to eat your boots: with a lit­tle handy stir­ring, quick enough to eat your bones." To make away with the body of the vic­tim would be bet­ter than to de­posit it where it might be found: Dur­dles' ham­mer could do noth­ing against a heap of lime: and no ca­su­al pass­er-by could watch what was done in the crypt. The scheme is now com­plete. Drood, under the in­flu­ence of strong drink, is to be flung or pushed down the wind­ing stair­case of the tower, and his body is to be de­posit­ed in a mound of quick­lime in the crypt of the cathe­dral. More­over, Jasper has made him­self ac­quaint­ed with the route which he is to take: he has as­cend­ed and de­scend­ed the stair­case, and has noted the places where Dur­dles stum­bled: he has ob­served the ef­fects pro­duced upon Dur­dles by the strong drink: hav­ing, no doubt, al­ready taken an im­pres­sion of the key of the iron gate, he has now taken one of the key of the crypt: some­where in the crypt he has dis­cov­ered a heap of quick­lime. In short, with Dur­dles for cor­pus vile, Jasper has re­hearsed in all its de­tails "the jour­ney," that is to say, the as­cent of the tower, which he is to make with Edwin on the fol­low­ing Sat­ur­day, Dec. 24. "The ex­pe­di­tion" of Dec. 19 is then for us no longer "un­ac­count­able."

My the­o­ry is then, in brief, as fol­lows. When Drood re­turned to the gate­house not long after mid­night on Christ­mas Eve, Jasper, hav­ing hos­pitably pressed upon him some of his "good stuff," pro­posed a visit to the Cathe­dral tower, and Drood was noth­ing loth. As they de­scend­ed the stair­case of the tower, Jasper threw his scarf over Drood's head, and, hav­ing thus si­lenced, blind­ed, and dis­abled him, pushed him down the steep stairs. Drood, if he was not killed, was stunned by the fall. Jasper dragged the body into the crypt, and, hav­ing re­moved from it the watch and the shirt-pin, buried it in the heap of quick­lime.

In the clos­ing pages of his book Jack­son states: "Mr. Cum­ing Wal­ters and Mr. Charles think that Drood did not es­cape, and I agree with them."

While I dis­agree in many re­spects with the con­clu­sions reached by Jack­son, as will be seen if one con­sults my ear­li­er re­marks on "John Jasper — Mur­der­er," yet I am im­pressed by the orig­i­nal­i­ty of his the­o­ry and by his painstak­ing at­ten­tion to every small de­tail. I have quot­ed at some length from About Edwin Drood be­cause so bril­liant an in­ter­pre­ta­tion shows just how clev­er­ly Dick­ens con­cealed the real an­swer to the ques­tion raised by that brief note writ­ten for his own guid­ance: What was "the man­ner of the mur­der, to come out at last"?

Pro­fes­sor Jack­son failed to find that an­swer, I be­lieve, as have many oth­ers. I my­self failed to dis­cov­er it when I was writ­ing my study of Edwin Drood's uncle. The twelfth chap­ter is so mas­ter­ly a piece of at­mo­spher­ic writ­ing that the an­swer, com­ing as it does at the end — "at last" — is en­tire­ly over­looked. And Dick­ens had method in his re­it­er­a­tion of the phrase: "an un­ac­count­able ex­pe­di­tion." He there­by fixed the read­er's at­ten­tion so firm­ly on the ac­tiv­i­ties of Jasper and Dur­dles while they were in the cathe­dral crypt and on the sum­mit of the great tower that the "man­ner of the mur­der made no im­pres­sion when it was ac­tu­al­ly re­vealed. The para­graph de­scrib­ing the as­cent of the tower is writ­ten with so much power that it still lingers in the read­er's mind as he hur­ries on to the end of the chap­ter. The ac­count of Dur­dles's dream weaves a sim­i­lar spell; it gives an added im­pact to the imag­i­na­tion al­ready deeply stirred by the climb up the wind­ing stair­case and the jour­ney through strange places.

And so, with his con­sum­mate artistry, Dick­ens con­cealed "the man­ner of the mur­der" until the end — al­though he had hint­ed at it often enough, as I have al­ready shown. Jasper and Dur­dles have left the precincts of the cathe­dral, and each is about to turn home­ward when Deputy yelps out his "Widdy widdy wen" jar­gon, and pelts them with stones. And now let the mas­ter speak in his own words:

"'What! Is that ba­by-dev­il on the watch there!' cries Jasper in a fury: so quick­ly roused, and so vi­o­lent, that he seems an older devil him­self.' I shall shed the blood of that imp­ish wretch! I know I shall do it!' Re­gard­less of the fire, though it hits him more than once, he rush­es at Deputy, col­lars him, and tries to bring him across.

But Deputy is not to be so eas­i­ly brought across. With a di­a­bol­i­cal in­sight into the strongest part of his po­si­tion, he is no soon­er taken by the throat than he curls up his legs, forces his as­sailant to hang him, as it were, and gur­gles in his throat, and screws his body, and twists, as al­ready un­der­go­ing the first ag­o­nies of stran­gu­la­tion." (The ital­ics are mine.)

Why, at this par­tic­u­lar point, did Dick­ens in­dulge in a de­tailed — one might al­most say, a clin­i­cal — anal­y­sis of "the first ag­o­nies of stran­gu­la­tion? There was no real need of it, for the av­er­age read­er is in­clined, in my opin­ion, to be rather fond of the imp­ish Deputy, and Jasper's as­sault on the boy is as un­nec­es­sar­i­ly bru­tal as is the de­scrip­tion of its at­ten­dant tor­ture. Cer­tain­ly the scene did not re­sult from any sadis­tic el­e­ment in the nov­el­ist's na­ture. No, with all due apolo­gies to Pro­fes­sor Jack­son, it is Deputy — not Dur­dles — who is Jasper's cor­pus rule. It is Deputy who en­acts for the read­er what Edwin Drood is to suf­fer at the gate­house on that mo­men­tous night of De­cem­ber 24-25 when his uncle, made wiser by his ex­pe­ri­ence with Deputy's re­ac­tions, comes upon his nephew from be­hind, to throt­tle him with his great black scarf. Sure­ly here is the "ground for the man­ner of the mur­der, to come out at last."

It seems per­fect­ly clear to me that Charles Dick­ens meant Edwin Drood to meet his death at the hands of John Jasper, his uncle. There is some­thing about the youth's very name that sug­gests his un­time­ly ex­tinc­tion. Edwin Drood: the dull al­lit­er­a­tive re­cur­rence of the "d's" is like so many clods thump­ing down on a plain wood­en cof­fin; the odd sur­name holds a brood­ing sense of doom, a sug­ges­tion of dread and death. I sup­pose we shall never know to what de­gree Cather­ine Dick­ens, her­self a Scotch­wom­an, made her hus­band cog­nizant of Scot­tish words. But to me, at least, it is rather sig­nif­i­cant that the noun "droud" — sim­i­lar in sound if not in spelling to Edwin s fam­i­ly name — is Scot­tish for a cod­fish; a dull, lump­ish fel­low."

In a cer­tain sense Edwin Drood re­al­ly is a dull sort of fel­low, with the swag­ger­ing self-as­sur­ance and self-im­por­tance char­ac­ter­is­tic of young men who have the im­pul­sive en­thu­si­asms of youth with­out the ex­pe­ri­ence of ma­tu­ri­ty to con­trol and di­rect them, In my study "Who Was Dick Datch­ery?" I have di­rect­ed at­ten­tion to the fact that Dick­ens never de­scribes young Drood with the same care­ful de­tail as he does the other char­ac­ters in the novel; he does em­pha­size his youth, and he shows by im­pli­ca­tion that Edwin was not gift­ed with a quick, per­cep­tive mind. When young Drood is first in­tro­duced to us upon his visit to his uncle, Dick­ens stress­es these traits, as the two pas­sages that fol­low will show.

As the boy (for he is lit­tle more) lays a hind on Jasper's shoul­der, Jasper cor­dial­ly and gaily lays a hand on his shoul­der -

Lay­ing an af­fec­tion­ate and laugh­ing touch on the boy's ex­tend­ed hand, as if it were at once his giddy head and his light heart, Mr. Jasper drinks the toast in si­lence.

I have al­ways felt that the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of Edwin, deft­ly char­ac­ter­ized though he is, were slurred over by Dick­ens be­cause the nov­el­ist knew that the youth was soon to dis­ap­pear from the scene. With his great cre­ative ge­nius, Dick­ens could make a mem­o­rable fig­ure of the ver­i­est su­per­nu­mer­ary, but Edwin ap­pears more like a cog req­ui­site to the mech­a­nism of the novel's plot than any other per­son in the frag­ment. Even the firm of which Edwin's fa­ther was a for­mer part­ner, and upon which the young man him­self was a charge until he should come of age, never evinced — so far as we know — the slight­est con­cern about a fu­ture share­hold­er when Edwin dis­ap­pears. Whether this is an over­sight on the part of Dick­ens, or whether the firm re­lied upon Mr . Grew­gious to sup­ply them with such in­for­ma­tion as might come to light con­cern­ing young Drood's where­abouts, is a mat­ter for spec­u­la­tion. At any rate, we can­not feel — nor do I be­lieve Dick­ens in­tend­ed us to feel — any deep or last­ing sor­row when Edwin is blot­ted out of the pic­ture.

The young man was not, how­ev­er, with­out hon­or­able in­ten­tions; had he lived, he would have re­turned the ring of di­a­monds and ru­bies — the ring gift­ed with such power "to hold and drag" — to old Hiram Grew­gious. And as­sured­ly he would never have al­lowed Neville Land­less to re­main under a cloud of sus­pi­cion as the prob­a­ble agent of his dis­ap­pear­ance had he been in a po­si­tion to come for­ward and clear young Land­less. Dick­ens makes such as­sump­tions log­i­cal be­yond the shad­ow of a doubt, if one will but con­sid­er the pas­sages list­ed here­after:

1. He had a con­science.

2. He must ei­ther give the ring to Rosa, or he must take it back.

3. "1 will be guid­ed by what she says, and by how we get on," was his de­ci­sion, walk­ing from the gate­house to the Nuns' House. "What­ev­er comes of it, I will bear his words in mind [Edwin here refers to Mr. Grew­gious] and try to be true to the liv­ing and the dead."

4. And now, Edwin Drood's right hand closed again upon the ring in its lit­tle case, and again was checked by the con­sid­er­a­tion: "It is cer­tain, now, that I am to give it back to him; then why should I tell her of it?"

5. He would re­store them [the jew­els] to her guardian when he came down.

Dick­ens's re­peat­ed em­pha­sis on Edwin's firm in­ten­tion to re­turn the ring to Grew­gious can have no rai­son d'être un­less we are to infer that the young man could not keep his pledge to make such resti­tu­tion be­cause he was dead. His com­plete si­lence in re­gard to the all-im­por­tant jewel proves his death.

There is some­thing else that does so as well — some­thing I have never seen men­tioned in any work I have read con­cern­ing this most fas­ci­nat­ing of mys­ter­ies. I sup­pose most read­ers of the novel are aware that there is a break of six months in the time pat­tern of the story short­ly after Edwin has dis­ap­peared. Chap­ter xvii be­gins with the words: "Full half a year had come and gone, and Mr. Crisparkle sat in a wait­ing-room in the Lon­don chief of­fices of the Haven of Phi­lan­thropy, until he could have au­di­ence of Mr. Hon­eythun­der." To the best of my knowl­edge, only once be­fore in his writ­ing ca­reer did Dick­ens have re­course to any such lapse of time; that was in Barn­a­by Rudge. It might be in­ter­est­ing to look into these two sit­u­a­tions more close­ly, en­deav­or­ing to es­tab­lish, if pos­si­ble, the rea­sons un­der­ly­ing the two time laps­es.

In the case of Barn­a­by Rudge, which opens in the year 1775, we shall have no dif­fi­cul­ty in find­ing a so­lu­tion to our prob­lem. We learn from John Forster with re­gard to this novel that, "begun dur­ing the progress of Oliv­er Twist, it had been for some time laid aside; the form it ul­ti­mate­ly took had been com­prised only par­tial­ly with­in its first de­sign." We like­wise dis­cov­er that it was begun be­fore the end of Jan­uary, 1841. In Febru­ary of the same year, Dick­ens writes to Forster that he is re­ly­ing on Grip the raven, and the Var­den house­hold, to arouse in­ter­est in his story. In March, the pet raven lend­ing the nov­el­ist in­spi­ra­tion for Grip sick­ens and dies. In June, men­tion is made to Forster of Lord George Gor­don; in Septem­ber, Dick­ens writes of the prison riots. The nov­el­ist had closed chap­ter xxxii of Barn­a­by Rudge in the fol­low­ing abrupt and au­to­crat­ic man­ner: "And the world went on turn­ing round, as usual, for five years, con­cern­ing which this Nar­ra­tive is silent." With chap­ter xxxi­ii we are ush­ered in upon a win­try evening in 1780, and are soon plunged into the mad mael­strom of the Gor­don Riots.

Now it is not dif­fi­cult to de­duce that Dick­ens had not orig­i­nal­ly meant to use these riots as ma­te­ri­al for his novel, and that the lapse of five years was im­posed upon him by virtue of ne­ces­si­ty if he wished to be his­tor­i­cal­ly ac­cu­rate when he did in­tro­duce them. See­ing their dra­mat­ic pos­si­bil­i­ties, he de­cid­ed to fea­ture them, and so took the leap for­ward in time.

Such is not the case, how­ev­er, when we turn to Edwin Drood, for no his­tor­i­cal event plays a part in the ac­tion of the story. As Pro­fes­sor Jack­son so ably demon­strat­ed, Dick­ens fol­lows a close­ly knit and fair­ly ev­i­dent time sched­ule up to the sev­en­teenth chap­ter, where­in we have a lapse of fully half a year. I have puz­zled a good deal over this cu­ri­ous fact, for which there seems no ob­vi­ous rea­son. Even the ac­tion of the story has been sus­pend­ed to a con­sid­er­able de­gree dur­ing these six months, al­though this hia­tus does not par­tic­u­lar­ly im­press a read­er who is not over­crit­i­cal or an­a­lyt­i­cal.

It was only while I was mak­ing a vain search for some au­thor­i­ta­tive ex­pla­na­tion of the ac­tion of quick­lime on a ca­dav­er that a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion of the prob­lem oc­curred to me. Tempt­ing though it was, since it af­ford­ed ad­di­tion­al proof that Edwin Drood was dead, I still felt the ne­ces­si­ty of ob­tain­ing ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing quick­lime and its ef­fect on a body, for this knowl­edge I deemed fun­da­men­tal to the whole sit­u­a­tion. I had come to the con­clu­sion that Dick­ens con­sid­ered the six months' time lapse an ab­so­lute es­sen­tial if he were to make rea­son­ably cer­tain an im­por­tant fac­tor in his plot; to achieve this re­sult, he had to pro­ceed on the as­sump­tion that with­in such a space of time the quick­lime em­ployed by John Jasper in the se­cret buri­al of his vic­tim had com­plete­ly de­stroyed the youth's body. But was his as­sump­tion sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly sound?

Mak­ing a final at­tempt to set­tle this ques­tion, I pre­sent­ed my prob­lem in a let­ter ad­dressed to Dr. Alan R. Moritz, a crim­i­nal pathol­o­gist and head of the De­part­ment of Legal Medicine at Har­vardMed­i­calSchool. A week later I re­ceived a high­ly in­for­ma­tive reply from Robert P. Brit­tain. Just how great­ly in­debt­ed I am to him and to Dr. Moritz will ap­pear from the para­graphs which, with per­mis­sion, I now quote.

The an­swer to your prin­ci­pal ques­tion can be given cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly. A body buried in quick­lime over a pe­ri­od of six months would not be en­tire­ly oblit­er­at­ed or even near­ly so. This ap­plies not only to the bones but to the "soft parts" — mus­cles and in­ter­nal or­gans.

It may be of in­ter­est to you to have a lit­tle more back­ground on this mat­ter. It is a com­mon be­lief that lime, es­pe­cial­ly in the form of quick­lime, caus­es rapid de­struc­tion and dis­so­lu­tion of the body. Ex­per­i­ments have been car­ried out which show that this is not so. The­o­ry here co­in­cides with prac­tice. There are a num­ber of el­e­ments which play a part in nor­mal pu­tre­fac­tion, the chief of which are mois­ture, pres­ence of bac­te­ria, and the pres­ence of air. Quick­lime ab­sorbs mois­ture from the air or soil and from the body — form­ing slaked lime; it acts as an an­ti­sep­tic and re­strains the growth of bac­te­ria; its phys­i­cal pres­ence helps to ex­clude air and by caus­ing minor burn­ing and dry­ing of the body sur­face it tends to pre­vent free ac­cess of air to the deep­er tis­sues. It may, fur­ther, ef­fect a com­bi­na­tion with fatty tis­sues — again in­creas­ing re­sis­tance to pu­tre­fac­tion.

In brief, quick­lime does not has­ten de­com­po­si­tion and any ac­tion it has on this pro­cess is in the other di­rec­tion.

The Crip­pen Case which oc­curred in Eng­land in 1910 is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in this re­gard. Dr. Crip­pen mur­dered his wife and buried her in quick­lime on or about the 31St of Jan­uary. Dis­in­ter­ment took place on July 13. The body had been cut in pieces and parts were miss­ing (not by dis­so­lu­tion), but the re­main­der was in a fair state of preser­va­tion. Hair also was found and cloth­ing with the maker's name still leg­i­ble on it, and a skin scar was iden­ti­fi­able.

I can not help but re­mark at this point that the in­ter­val be­tween the buri­al of Mrs. Crip­pen and the dis­in­ter­ment of her body close­ly ap­prox­i­mates the six months' time jump in "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood." Sure­ly this is a strik­ing co­in­ci­dence be­tween fact and fic­tion.

Lime has been used by other mur­der­ers ei­ther in the mis­tak­en be­lief that it would de­stroy the body or to ab­sorb and con­ceal un­pleas­ant odors. Cases are those of Man­ning and of Wain­wright. In the lat­ter chlo­ride of lime was used.

Dr. Moritz has pe­rused this let­ter and con­curs with it.

From my study of the plot struc­ture of the novel as we have it today, and in view of the de­tailed in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the let­ter from which I have quot­ed at length, I am forced to the con­clu­sion that Dick­ens en­ter­tained the com­mon but en­tire­ly er­ro­neous be­lief that quick­lime was ca­pa­ble of com­plete­ly de­stroy­ing a body, and that he acted upon such a be­lief when he planned and wrote The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. That John Forster was of the same opin­ion is ev­i­denced by his ref­er­ence to the plot of the novel as Dick­ens out­lined it to him: "all dis­cov­ery of the mur­der­er was to be baf­fled till to­wards the close, when, by 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." I am like­wise con­vinced that the nov­el­ist, mis­tak­en though he was with re­spect to the ac­tu­al prop­er­ties of quick­lime, felt that he had made ac­cept­able, through the six months' time lapse, the total oblit­er­a­tion of Edwin Drood's re­mains. If he had not gone upon such an as­sump­tion, Dick­ens would never have writ­ten what he did about the ring of di­a­monds and ru­bies — the one ob­ject car­ried by Edwin Drood upon his per­son of which John Jasper had not the slight­est inkling; the only ex­ist­ing clue to the se­cret buri­al place and iden­ti­ty of the lost youth : — "Among the mighty store of won­der­ful chains that are for ever forg­ing, day and night, in the vast iron-works of time and cir­cum­stance, there was one chain forged in the mo­ment of that small con­clu­sion [Edwin's de­ci­sion not to speak of the ring to Rosa], riv­et­ed to the foun­da­tions of heav­en and earth, and gift­ed with in­vin­ci­ble force to hold and drag." Thus the nov­el­ist fore­shad­ows the high­ly im­por­tant part the ring is to play in the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion of the mys­tery.

Fi­nal­ly, the in­ter­est which Edwin Drood had begun to take in He­le­na Land­less im­press­es me as in­di­rect proof that he was to die. Dick­ens refers to the young man's feel­ing on no fewer than three sep­a­rate and dis­tinct oc­ca­sions. First men­tion of it is made when Edwin Drood and Neville Land­less fall into bit­ter con­ver­sa­tion on their way home after es­cort­ing Rosa and He­le­na to the Nuns' House: "Now, there are these two cu­ri­ous touch­es of human na­ture work­ing the se­cret springs of this di­a­logue. Neville Land­less is al­ready enough im­pressed by Lit­tle Rose­bud, to feel in­dig­nant that Edwin Drood (far below her) should hold his prize so light­ly. Edwin Drood is al­ready enough im­pressed by He­le­na, to feel in­dig­nant that He­le­na's broth­er (far below her) should dis­pose of him so cool­ly, and put him out of the way so en­tire­ly."

Again, when Edwin and Rosa have agreed to ter­mi­nate their en­gage­ment and be hence­forth as broth­er and sis­ter, Dick­ens says:

"And yet there was one reser­va­tion on each side; on hers, that she in­tend­ed through her guardian to with­draw her­self im­me­di­ate­ly from the tu­ition of her mu­sic-mas­ter; on his, that he did al­ready en­ter­tain some won­der­ing spec­u­la­tions whether it might ever come to pass that he would know more of Miss Land­less."

And fi­nal­ly, when we fol­low Edwin Drood through the streets of Clois­ter­ham on De­cem­ber z, as he "strolls about and about, to pass the time until the din­ner-hour" at the gate­house, we read:

"Though the image of Miss Land­less still hov­ers in the back­ground of his mind, the pret­ty lit­tle af­fec­tion­ate crea­ture [Rosa], so much firmer and wiser than he had sup­posed, oc­cu­pies its stronghold.... And still, for all this, and though there is a sharp heartache in all this, the van­i­ty and caprice of youth sus­tain that hand­some fig­ure of Miss Land­less in the back­ground of his mind."

I have said that this pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with He­le­na Land­less is in­di­rect proof of Edwin's death, for it does not re­veal its full sig­nif­i­cance until it is linked with the later love af­fair de­vel­op­ing be­tween Rosa and Lieu­tenant Tar­tar, and with the deep­en­ing re­spect and love that He­le­na Land­less feels for Minor Canon Crisparkle. If in some mirac­u­lous fash­ion Dick­ens had brought Edwin back to life in that sec­ond half of the novel he was des­tined never to write, there would have been no woman to be young Drood's mate. These twists and turns of the com­pli­cat­ed plot had their pur­pose; John Forster knew where­of he spoke when he wrote: "Rosa was to marry Tar­tar, and Crisparkle the sis­ter of Land­less."

Some per­sons might argue that there is not much "mys­tery" to the novel if it is a fore­gone con­clu­sion that Edwin Drood is mur­dered by his uncle; if we have only the ul­ti­mate track­ing down of an iden­ti­fied mur­der­er and his pun­ish­ment to an­tic­i­pate. In that event, they might ask, what is the sig­nif­i­cance of the story's title: "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood"? My an­swer would be that there is still some­thing more than meets the eye in this last un­fin­ished cre­ation of the ge­nius we know as Charles Dick­ens. The mys­tery was more than a per­son­al mat­ter, more than a puz­zle in­volv­ing Edwin Drood and the cir­cum­stances of his dis­ap­pear­ance; it em­braced as well the most dom­i­nat­ing fac­tor in the young man's life — his uncle. Shake­speare called his great tragedy of pas­sion­ate love and jeal­ousy Oth­el­lo, but what would that drama have been with­out Iago, who is the dark dy­nam­ic force that sets the tragedy in mo­tion? So it is with Edwin Drood. Dick­ens was, in my opin­ion, far more con­cerned with the char­ac­ter and men­tal­i­ty of John Jasper — for rea­sons I have stat­ed in an ear­li­er study — than with the mys­tery per­tain­ing to young Drood. The world was once shocked by the cal­lous bru­tal­i­ty of the Lind­bergh kid­nap­ping — yet some time elapsed be­fore it was re­al­ized that the cen­tral fig­ure be­hind that fright­ful crime was an ob­scure car­pen­ter. The mys­tery of Edwin Drood's dis­ap­pear­ance would have been solved, I be­lieve, only when the greater mys­tery of the com­plex mind of his mur­der­er had been fully re­vealed — had fate per­mit­ted — by the skill of the nov­el­ist.

It has been my en­deav­or to show how the novel it­self proves, if I have in­ter­pret­ed it cor­rect­ly, that Edwin Drood was done to death by his uncle. What is the tes­ti­mo­ny of Dick­ens him­self in this re­spect, as well as that of per­sons who were close­ly con­nect­ed with him, and who had some in­for­ma­tion about his last novel? When I speak of Dick­ens and the ev­i­dence we may ob­tain from him, I have in mind the frag­men­tary notes he jot­ted down for guid­ance in the de­vel­op­ment of his plot, chap­ter by chap­ter, as he wrote his story. I ac­knowl­edge my in­debt­ed­ness to W. Robert­son Nicoll for these notes, re­pro­duced in his book The Prob­lem of "Edwin Drood": A Study in the Meth­ods of Dick­ens. Under chap­ter ii, "A Dean and a Chap­ter Also," we find: "Uncle & Nephew. Mur­der very far off." Again, under chap­ter xii, "A Night with Dur­dles," we have that sig­nif­i­cant sen­tence al­ready dis­cussed in this study: "Lay the ground for the man­ner of the mur­der, to come out at last." Fi­nal­ly, there are the in­trigu­ing en­tries under chap­ter xvi, "De­vot­ed": "Edwin dis­ap­pears. THE MYS­TERY. DONE AL­READY." Now it is in­con­ceiv­able to me that Dick­ens, set­ting down these notes for his own use, un­aware that they would ever be seen by the eyes of oth­ers, should have re­ferred to a "mur­der" if he had no more than the in­ten­tion of writ­ing about a mur­der­ous at­tack that some­how failed of its pur­pose. That would have been car­ry­ing his nat­u­ral de­sire to keep his plot se­cret to an un­nat­u­ral and ex­ag­ger­at­ed de­gree of cau­tion. He had no rea­son what­so­ev­er to de­ceive him­self. It must be re­mem­bered also that the notes quot­ed under chap­ter xvi come after: "Jasper's Diary. 'I de­vote my­self to his de­struc­tion." Mon­tagu Saun­ders has ar­gued bril­liant­ly that in so de­vot­ing him­self John Jasper was ac­tu­al­ly putting a noose about his own neck. In my study, "John Jasper — Mur­der­er," I have added some am­pli­fi­ca­tions to Saun­ders's the­o­ry, which I staunch­ly sup­port. And so we may safe­ly as­sume that Charles Dick­ens in­tend­ed Edwin Drood to be mur­dered, and that his uncle was to be his mur­der­er.

The tes­ti­mo­ny of John Forster — for years one of Dick­ens's most in­ti­mate friends — bears me out in such an as­sump­tion. After quot­ing part of the fa­mous let­ter he re­ceived from the nov­el­ist on Fri­day, Au­gust 6, 1869, Forster adds: "The story, I learnt im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter­ward, was to be that of the mur­der of a nephew by his uncle." It has been dis­put­ed whether Forster re­ceived his in­for­ma­tion by let­ter or by word of mouth from Dick­ens him­self. The ar­gu­ments need not con­cern us here; in ei­ther case, Forster speaks with au­thor­i­ty of "the mur­der of a nephew by his uncle." And in his sub­se­quent re­marks he gives a brief but com­pre­hen­sive out­line of the basic plot of the story, with­out, how­ev­er, re­fer­ring to the Datch­ery as­sump­tion. His au­thor­i­ty has been ques­tioned more than once, of course, but it seems il­log­i­cal to sup­pose that Dick­ens with­held the truth of the mat­ter from him. Had he done so, Forster would in­evitably have de­tect­ed some dis­crep­an­cy be­tween the in­for­ma­tion he re­ceived and the novel as he heard it read from the manuscript pre­pared for pub­li­ca­tion in month­ly parts.

He fin­ished his first num­ber of Edwin Drood in the third week of Oc­to­ber [1869], and on the 26th read it at my house with great spir­it.

At my house on New Year's Eve he read to us a fresh num­ber of his Edwin Drood.

And on the 25th [of Febru­ary, 1870], when he read the third num­ber of his novel.

And on 21 March, when he read ad­mirably his fourth num­ber.

On the night (7 May) when he read to us the fifth num­ber of Edwin Drood.

Thus wrote John Forster in his bi­og­ra­phy of Dick­ens.

I have no hes­i­ta­tion in ac­cept­ing Dick­ens's old friend as a re­li­able wit­ness to sup­port my con­tention that Edwin Drood was mur­dered, for the nov­el­ist's own daugh­ter Kate, who be­came Mrs. Charles Al­is­ton Collins, and later Mrs. Pe­rug­i­ni, gives Forster an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion for hon­esty. In an ar­ti­cle in the Pall Mall Gazette for June, 1906, en­ti­tled "Edwin Drood and Dick­ens's Last Days," she made the fol­low­ing com­ments:

It was not upon the Mys­tery alone that [my fa­ther] re­lied for the in­ter­est and orig­i­nal­i­ty of his idea. The orig­i­nal­i­ty was to be shown, as he tells us, in what we may call the psy­cho­log­i­cal de­scrip­tion the mur­der­er gives us of his temp­ta­tions, tem­per­a­ment, and char­ac­ter, as if told of an­oth­er; and my fa­ther speaks open­ly of the ring i Mr. Forster — I do not mean to imply that the mys­tery it­self had no strong hold on my fa­ther's imag­i­na­tion — [but] he was quite as deeply fas­ci­nat­ed and ab­sorbed in the study of the crim­i­nal Jasper, as in the dark and sin­is­ter crime that has given the book its title. And he also speaks to Mr. Forster of the mur­der of a nephew by an uncle. He does not say that he is un­cer­tain whether he shall save the nephew, but has ev­i­dent­ly made up his mind that the crime is to be com­mit­ted.

And at a later point:

If my fa­ther again changed his plan for the story of Edwin Drood the first thing he would nat­u­ral­ly do would be to write to Mr. Forster and in­form him of the al­ter­ation. We might imag­ine for an in­stant that he would per.. haps de­sire to keep the change as a sur­prise for his friend, but — Mr. Forster's [jeal­ous and ex­act­ing] char­ac­ter ren­ders this sup­po­si­tion out of the ques­tion. — That he did not write to Mr. Forster to tell him of any di­ver­gence from his sec­ond plan for the book we all know, and we know also that my el­dest broth­er Charles pos­i­tive­ly de­clared that he had heard from his fa­ther's lips that Edwin Drood was dead. Here, there­fore, are two very im­por­tant wit­ness­es to a fact that is still doubt­ed by those who never met my fa­ther, and were never im­pressed by the grave sin­cer­i­ty with which he would have given this as­sur­ance.

I shall let Charles Dick­ens the younger, the sec­ond wit­ness men­tioned by Mrs. Pe­rug­i­ni, speak for him­self. In the in­tro­duc­tion which he wrote for an edi­tion of Edwin Drood in ii he says:

It was dur­ing the last walk I ever had with him at Gad­shill, and our talk, which had been prin­ci­pal­ly con­cerned with lit­er­ary mat­ters con­nect­ed with All the Year Round, present­ly drift­ing to Edwin Drood, my fa­ther asked me if I did not think that he had let out too much of his story too soon. I as­sent­ed and added: "Of course, Edwin Drood was mur­dered?" Where­upon he turned upon me with an ex­pres­sion of as­ton­ish­ment at my hav­ing asked such an un­nec­es­sary ques­tion, and said: "Of course; what else did you sup­pose?"

As a final of­fer­ing, I should like to bring for­ward the ev­i­dence of Sir Luke Fildes, able il­lus­tra­tor of the text of the novel. He first be­came ac­quaint­ed with Charles Dick­ens when he was cho­sen to re­place Charles Al­is­ton Collins, a broth­er of Wilkie Collins, and Kate Dick­ens's first hus­band. Charles Collins was the de­sign­er of the green cover for the month­ly parts of Edwin Drood — the cover with the pic­tures that have been so con­tro­ver­sial through­out the past sev­en­ty-odd years. He was to have il­lus­trat­ed the text as well, but fail­ing health made the lat­ter un­der­tak­ing im­pos­si­ble. Sir Luke Fildes was there­fore cho­sen to re­place him, and his draw­ings proved won­der­ful­ly in har­mo­ny with the grim tone of the mys­tery.

J. W. T. Ley, in The Dick­ens Cir­cle, tells us some­thing of in­ter­est about the re­la­tion­ship ex­ist­ing be­tween Charles Dick­ens and his il­lus­tra­tor, then a young man:

They had known one an­oth­er for only a few months when the nov­el­ist was struck down. That sor­row­ful event oc­curred on a Wednes­day evening. On the fol­low­ing morn­ing Dick­ens was to have gone to Lon­don for the re­main­der of the week, and he was to have been ac­com­pa­nied on his re­turn by the young artist, whose visit had been ar­ranged so that he might be­come ac­quaint­ed with the neigh­bour­hood in which most of the scenes in the books [sic] were laid. We know that he was to have ac­com­pa­nied the nov­el­ist to Maid­stone Gaol, there to see the con­demned cell, with a view to a sub­se­quent il­lus­tra­tion.

An­oth­er sen­tence or two from Ley's book will serve to in­tro­duce the warm yet dig­ni­fied let­ter writ­ten by Fildes, a let­ter which I con­sid­er in­valu­able in the light of the ev­i­dence it con­tains.

A few years ago Sir Luke Fildes gave ex­pres­sion to his re­gard for the nov­el­ist in an in­dig­nant let­ter he wrote to "The Times." A re­view­er of An­drew Lang's book, "The Puz­zle of Dick­ens's Last Plot," had sug­gest­ed that the hints dropped by Dick­ens to Forster and to mem­bers of his fam­i­ly as to the plot, might have been in­ten­tion­al­ly mis­lead­ing.

The let­ter it­self, ad­dressed to the Ed­i­tor of The Times, fol­lows.

SIR, — in an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled "The Mys­ter­ies of Edwin Drood," in your issue of to-day [Oc­to­ber 27, 1905], the writ­er, spec­u­lat­ing on the var­i­ous the­o­ries ad­vanced as so­lu­tions of the mys­tery, ven­tures to say: -

"Nor do we at­tach much im­por­tance to any of the hints Dick­ens dropped, whether to John Forster, to any mem­ber of his fam­i­ly, or to ei­ther of his il­lus­tra­tors. He was very anx­ious that his se­cret should not be guessed, and the hints which he dropped may very well have been in­ten­tion­al­ly mis­lead­ing."

I know that Charles Dick­ens was very anx­ious that his se­cret should not be guessed, but it sur­pris­es me to read that he could be thought ca­pa­ble of the de­ceit so light­ly at­tribut­ed to him.

The "hints he dropped" to me, his sole il­lus­tra­tor — for Charles Collins, his son-in-law, only de­signed the green cover for the month­ly parts, and Collins told me he did not in the least know the sig­nif­i­cance of the var­i­ous groups in the de­sign; that they were drawn from in­struc­tions per­son­al­ly given by Charles Dick­ens, and not from any text — these "hints" to inc were the out­come of a re­quest of mine that he would ex­plain some mat­ters, the mean­ing of which I could not com­pre­hend, and which were for me, his il­lus­tra­tor, em­bar­rass­ing­ly hid­den.

I in­stanced in the print­ers' rough proof of the month­ly part sent to me to il­lus­trate where he par­tic­u­lar­ly de­scribed John Jasper as wear­ing a neck­er­chief of such di­men­sions as to go twice round his neck. I called his at­ten­tion to the cir­cum­stance that I had pre­vi­ous­ly dressed Jasper as wear­ing a lit­tle black tie once round the neck, and I asked him if he had any spe­cial rea­sons for the al­ter­ation of Jasper's at­tire, and, if so, I sub­mit­ted I ought to know. He, Dick­ens, ap­peared for the mo­ment to be dis­con­cert­ed by my re­mark, and said some­thing mean­ing he was afraid he was "get­ting on too fast" and re­veal­ing more than he meant at that early stage, and after a short si­lence, cog­i­tat­ing, he sud­den­ly said, "Can you keep a se­cret?" I as­sured him he could rely on me. He then said, "I must have the dou­ble neck­tie! It is nec­es­sary, for Jasper stran­gles Edwin Drood with it."

I was im­pressed by his earnest­ness, as in­deed, I was at all my in­ter­views with him — also by the con­fi­dence which he said he re­posed in me, trust­ing that I would not in any way refer to it, as he feared even a chance re­mark might find its way into the pa­pers "and thus an­tic­i­pate his 'mys­tery' "; and it is a lit­tle startling, after more than thir­ty-five years of pro­found be­lief in the no­bil­i­ty of char­ac­ter and sin­cer­i­ty of Charles Dick­ens, to be told now that he prob­a­bly was more or less of a hum­bug on such oc­ca­sions. — ! am, Sir, yours obe­di­ent­ly.

LUKE FILDES

Har­ro­gate, Oc­to­ber 27.

Nowhere in the text of the novel as we have it today is there any de­scrip­tion of John Jasper wear­ing a neck­er­chief "of such di­men­sions as to go twice round his neck." it is clear to me that the print­ers' rough proof was re­vised by Dick­ens, and that he sub­sti­tut­ed for the dou­ble neck­tie that great black silk scarf which Jasper hung in a loop upon his arm be­fore he, too, went up the postern stair to greet his din­ner guests. But there is no doubt­ing the ring of utter sin­cer­i­ty in the let­ter Sir Luke Fildes wrote from his heart. Ev­ery­thing in the novel points to the fact that Edwin Drood was to meet death by stran­gu­la­tion at the hands of his uncle Jasper — that he was to be mur­dered.

Both Charles Dick­ens the younger and Sir Luke Fildes bear wit­ness to the nov­el­ist's con­cern lest he had been get­ting on too fast and had let out too much of his story too soon. John Forster has writ­ten to the same ef­fect, al­though he had in mind Dick­ens's anx­i­ety about the early in­tro­duc­tion of the Datch­ery as­sump­tion.

I do not think that the great nov­el­ist need have con­cerned him­self in this way; his worry on these scores is to me a rev­e­la­tion of his ill health and of the ap­proach­ing cul­mi­na­tion of his dy­nam­ic life. De­spite his fears, and even in its half-com­plet­ed form, The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood has never been solved to the com­plete sat­is­fac­tion of ev­ery­one. It re­mains an abid­ing mys­tery in a very real sense. There will be other books and ar­ti­cles writ­ten about it in the years to come; they will deal with new the­o­ries con­cern­ing the true iden­ti­ty of Dick Datch­ery, or the enig­mat­ic na­ture of John Jasper, or all those fore­shad­ow­ings of things to come that point in so tan­ta­liz­ing a man­ner to this or that con­cep­tion of how Dick­ens might have de­vel­oped the plot in the six parts never to ap­pear be­fore our eyes in print. But it is my firm be­lief that he played fair with his read­ers; that we may at least be cer­tain of the death of Edwin Drood — cer­tain that he was mur­dered by his uncle. Even with such as­sur­ance, mys­tery still re­mains. We have mere­ly begun to un­rav­el the strands that form only a part of the com­pli­cat­ed tex­ture; its final pat­tern we may never whol­ly re­con­struct.

On Jan­uary 7, 1914, there was heard by Jus­tice Gilbert Keith Chester­ton, sit­ting with a spe­cial jury in the King's Hall, Covent Gar­den, the trial of John Jasper, Lay Pre­cen­tor of Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral in the Coun­ty of Kent, for the mur­der of Edwin Drood, En­gi­neer. I have read the ver­ba­tim re­port of this trial — a lit­er­ary tour de force of vary­ing de­grees of in­ter­est — print­ed from the short­hand notes of J. W. T. Ley. It last­ed al­most five hours; no less a per­son­age than Mr. Bernard Shaw was fore­man of the jury; the ver­dict was manslaugh­ter.

With that Sha­vian drollery for which he is so just­ly renowned, the dis­tin­guished play­wright re­turned the ver­dict as fol­lows:

My Lord, — I am happy to be able to an­nounce to your Lord­ship that we, fol­low­ing the tra­di­tion and prac­tice of British Ju­ries, have ar­ranged our ver­dict in the lun­cheon in­ter­val. I should ex­plain, my Lord, that it un­doubt­ed­ly pre­sent­ed it­self to us as a point of ex­traor­di­nary dif­fi­cul­ty in this case, that a man should dis­ap­pear ab­so­lute­ly and com­plete­ly, hav­ing cut off all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with his friends in Clois­ter­ham; but hav­ing seen and heard the so­ci­ety and con­ver­sa­tion of Clois­ter­ham here in Court to-day, we no longer feel the slight­est sur­prise at that. Now, under the in­flu­ence of that ob­ser­va­tion, my Lord, the more ex­treme char­ac­ters, if they will allow me to say so, in this Jury, were at first in­clined to find a ver­dict of Not Guilty, be­cause there was no ev­i­dence of a mur­der hav­ing been com­mit­ted; but on the other hand, the calmer and more ju­di­cious spir­its among us felt that to allow a man who had com­mit­ted a cold-blood­ed mur­der of which his own nephew was the vic­tim, to leave the dock ab­so­lute­ly un­pun­ished, was a pro­ceed­ing which would prob­a­bly lead to our all being mur­dered in our beds. And so you will be glad to learn that the spir­it of com­pro­mise has pre­vailed, and we find the pris­on­er guilty of Manslaugh­ter.

We rec­om­mend him most earnest­ly to your Lord­ship's mercy, whilst at the same time beg­ging your Lord­ship to re­mem­ber that the pro­tec­tion of the lives of the com­mu­ni­ty is in your bands, and beg­ging you not to allow any sen­ti­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tion to deter you from ap­ply­ing the law in its ut­most vigour.

Sure­ly a most un­ac­count­able ver­dict!

With it in mind, I should like to pro­pose an­oth­er — one which the read­er of this study shall re­ceive as judge. Let him sup­pose that John Jasper has again been on trial for his life, charged with mur­der in the first de­gree, will­ful and pre­med­i­tat­ed. The ev­i­dence of the novel it­self to sup­port the con­tention that Edwin Drood died as the re­sult of a mur­der­ous as­sault com­mit­ted upon his per­son by his uncle has been pre­sent­ed to the best of my abil­i­ty. The tes­ti­mo­ny of var­i­ous com­pe­tent wit­ness­es has been taken. The mem­bers of the jury are now re­turn­ing to the court­room to de­liv­er their ver­dict. They file slow­ly into the box; the read­er, as judge, looks at their faces and re­al­izes that they are all ei­ther char­ac­ters of fic­tion or ac­tu­al per­son­ages long since de­part­ed from this life. This jury is com­posed of both men and women, and its panel reads as fol­lows:

1) Hiram Grew­gious, fore­man; he has waived his right of ex­emp­tion. Being a lawyer, he might well have de­clined to serve, but he is a man of ab­so­lute in­tegri­ty, with a stern duty to per­form.

2) Rosa Bud, soon to be­come Mrs. Tar­tar.

3) He­le­na Land­less, pledged to Minor Canon Crisparkle.

4) Dur­dles, the stone­ma­son, in a state of un­hap­py so­bri­ety.

5) The Rev. Sep­ti­mus Crisparkle. He, too, has waived his right of ex­emp­tion.

6) Deputy, who feels gin­ger­ly of his neck as he looks at the de­fen­dant in the dock.

7) The Opium Woman, re­strain­ing with dif­fi­cul­ty an im­pulse to shake her fists at the de­fen­dant.

8) Sir Luke Fildes, R.A.

9) Charles Dick­ens the younger.

10) Mrs. Pe­rug­i­ni, for­mer­ly Kate Dick­ens.

11) John Forster, lit­er­ary crit­ic, au­thor, and bi­og­ra­pher.

12) Charles Dick­ens.

Sure­ly an im­prob­a­ble jury! But with lit­er­ary li­cense, with com­plete dis­re­gard for strict prac­tice and pro­ce­dure, and with no con­cern for the fact that Rosa Bud and Deputy are mi­nors, the twelve may be al­lowed to re­turn their ver­dict. If I mis­take not, the read­er — as judge — will hear old Hiram Grew­gious say in mea­sured, de­lib­er­ate tones: "Guilty, my Lord!"