2. John Jasper

Jasper: “Rosa, I am self-re­pressed again”.

Self-re­pressed ... John Jasper has spent most of his adult life sav­age­ly re­press­ing his feel­ings with con­se­quences truly ap­palling. “I must sub­due my­self to my vo­ca­tion”, he tells Edwin, but “No wretched monk who droned his life away in that gloomy place, be­fore me, can have been more tired of it than I am. He could take for re­lief (and did take) to carv­ing demons out of the stalls and seats and desks. What shall I do? Must I take to carv­ing them out of my heart?”.

Jasper, one imag­ines, feels some­thing like the wicked­ly ill-treat­ed bat­tery hen. He feels “cramped”, “cooped up” and “gird­ed in”. Whol­ly un­suit­ed to monotonous life in claus­tro­pho­bic Clois­ter­ham (Jasper calls him­self a “mop­ing weed” and ‘the fa­mous def­i­ni­tion of a weed [is] a thing grow­ing up in a wrong place’), Jasper forces him­self to en­dure it while deep in­side, his re­sent­ment and ha­tred of his life builds and builds, ever threat­en­ing to erupt more vi­o­lent­ly. (In the Mid­dle Ages, jasper was con­sid­ered to be the stone of war­riors — im­part­ing a war­like spir­it — so with an in­trin­si­cal­ly ag­gres­sive na­ture, it’s small won­der that Jasper strug­gles to sub­due it.)

‘Bet­ter out than in’ holds so much truth that it has now be­come a cliché, but, cru­cial­ly, Jasper has no out­let for his feel­ings — apart from one, which proves dis­as­trous. Un­like Miss Twin­kle­ton, his work­ing day often stretch­es from early morn­ing until late at night. Nor does he have a con­fi­dante. He has to re­sort to con­fid­ing in his diary. Edwin prob­a­bly served as con­fi­dante once, but envy hav­ing twist­ed love to hate, Jasper is at his most re­pressed with Edwin. That’s why ‘a look of in­tent­ness and in­ten­si­ty — a look of hun­gry [Edwin is the prey], ex­act­ing [Iron-con­trol is re­quired if you’re pre­tend­ing to love some­one you hate — it’s no easy task to fake your body lan­guage], watch­ful [In case an un­guard­ed fa­cial ex­pres­sion or vocal in­flec­tion has aroused Edwin’s sus­pi­cion, for signs of which Jasper has to watch Edwin’s own re­ac­tions], and yet de­vot­ed af­fec­tion — is al­ways ... on the Jasper face when­ev­er the Jasper face is ad­dressed in this di­rec­tion’. [Mac­beth: “False face must hide what the false heart doth know”.]

Jasper’s one re­lief is opium. “I came to get the re­lief, and I got it. It WAS one! It WAS one!” But un­for­tu­nate­ly, by ‘harm­less­ly’ act­ing out his dark­est fan­ta­sy — and end­less­ly stran­gling Edwin — Jasper in­ures him­self to the idea of com­mit­ting the deed in re­al­i­ty. Al­co­hol, when taken in large amounts, strips away so­cial con­straints and often leads to vi­o­lence. Dick­ens sug­gests that opium smok­ing, too, es­pe­cial­ly when in the tran­si­tion­al (glazed eyes) state — half-awake, half-dream­ing — ex­erts a sim­i­lar in­flu­ence. Cer­tain­ly, it un­shack­les the devil with­in Jasper and when in opium’s grip he be­comes, and con­sid­ers him­self to be, a whol­ly dif­fer­ent per­son — the pre­cur­sor of Dr Jekyll’s Mr Hyde — a man ruled by his dark, an­i­mal pas­sions.

Few things pro­voke ha­tred like envy and jeal­ousy, and Edwin has ev­ery­thing that Jasper lusts after: the prospect of an ex­cit­ing, re­ward­ing job (in ex­ot­ic Egypt) and saucy Rosa hand­ed to him on a plat­ter.

It’s small won­der that Jasper suc­cess­ful­ly pro­vokes Neville’s rage against Edwin. He puts into words his very own feel­ings. Both for Neville and Jasper, noth­ing is more in­tol­er­a­ble than that Edwin, in­stead of ap­pre­ci­at­ing his good for­tune, treats it with care­less in­dif­fer­ence and even be­moans it. Jasper, in his pe­cu­liar way, wor­ships Rosa and to hear her fiancé pa­tro­n­ise and care­less­ly slight her ... Rosa’s por­trait, too, is a con­stant re­minder of Edwin’s at­ti­tude: a comic, mock­ing sketch that Edwin couldn’t be both­ered to fin­ish — though Jasper doubt­less finds it arous­ing, de­pict­ing Pussy at her wickedest.

‘“Don't stop, dear fel­low. Go on.” “Can I any­how have hurt your feel­ings, Jack?” “How can you have hurt my feel­ings?” [Edwin has just made com­ments that could not have in­fu­ri­at­ed Jasper more — bit­ter­ly be­wail­ing his own ‘mis­for­tunes’ and con­trast­ing them with Jasper’s ‘lucky’ lot, mad­den­ing­ly re­peat­ing “it's all very well for YOU”, “YOU can take it eas­i­ly”, “YOUR life is not”, “YOU have no”, “YOU can choose for your­self”, “Life, for YOU, is a plum” — and Jasper is des­per­ate­ly fight­ing the urge to leap up and stran­gle the self­ish swine on the spot! It’s a very close run thing.] “Good Heav­en, Jack, you look fright­ful­ly ill! There's a strange film come over your eyes.” [Rosa: “When a glaze comes over [his eyes,] he seems to wan­der away into a fright­ful sort of dream in which he threat­ens most” i.e. he’s be­come ‘Mr Hyde’] Mr. Jasper, with a forced smile, stretch­es out his right hand, as if at once to dis­arm ap­pre­hen­sion and gain time to get bet­ter. After a while he says faint­ly: “I have been tak­ing opium for a pain ... The ef­fects of the medicine steal over me like a blight or a cloud, and pass. You see them in the act of pass­ing; they will be gone di­rect­ly. [Lady Mac­beth: “The fit is mo­men­tary. Upon a thought he will again be well. If much you note him you shall of­fend him and ex­tend his pas­sion”.] Look away from me. They will go all the soon­er.” [Lady Mac­beth’s words about a ‘fit’ are to cover for her hus­band who, ap­palled by the pres­ence of the mur­dered Ban­quo’s ghost, is in dan­ger of be­tray­ing his guilt to his guests. Jasper, in his sav­age rage, is al­most un­done by the pres­ence of the man he’s plan­ning to mur­der and near­ly be­trays his mur­der­ous in­tent.] With a scared face the younger man com­plies by cast­ing his eyes down­ward at the ashes on the hearth. [And Jasper now con­cludes his Her­culean strug­gle to re­gain con­trol and re­press his mur­der­ous other self.] Not re­lax­ing his own gaze on the fire, but rather strength­en­ing it with a fierce, firm grip upon his el­bow-chair, the elder sits for a few mo­ments rigid, and then, with thick drops stand­ing on his fore­head, and a sharp catch of his breath, be­comes as he was be­fore.’ [‘“We have had an awful scene with him [i.e. Mr Hyde],” says Jasper, in a low voice. “Has it been so bad as that?” “Mur­der­ous! ... He might have laid my dear boy dead at my feet. It is no fault of his, that he did not. But that I was, through the mercy of God, swift and strong with him, he would have cut him down on my hearth. ... See­ing what I have seen tonight [which is not what Jasper was talk­ing about pre­vi­ous­ly], and hear­ing what I have heard, I shall never know peace of mind when there is dan­ger of those two [Edwin and Mr Hyde] com­ing to­geth­er, with no one else to in­ter­fere. It was hor­ri­ble. There is some­thing of the tiger [‘Jasper says this with a sav­age air, and a spring or start at her’] in his dark [wicked] blood ... Even you have ac­cept­ed a dan­ger­ous charge.” “You need have no fear for me, Jasper,” re­turns Mr. Crisparkle, with a quiet smile. “I have none for my­self.” “I have none for my­self,” re­turns Jasper ... ‘be­cause I am not, nor am I in the way of being, the ob­ject of his hos­til­i­ty. But you may be, and my dear boy has been. Good night!”’ Note that Jasper’s brief trans­for­ma­tion was in­duced (on this oc­ca­sion) by anger — the same trig­ger that turns Dr Ban­ner into The In­cred­i­ble Hulk! Jasper is even, as we shall see, ap­palled by his other self’s strength.

Jasper is de­lib­er­ate­ly linked with Mac­beth (e.g. Jasper is de­scribed as ‘that lov­ing kins­man’, while Dun­can says of Mac­beth: “We love him high­ly”, “That is a peer­less kins­man”), but while Mac­beth is a re­luc­tant mur­der­er, re­grets killing Dun­can and is hor­ri­fied by vi­sions of the mur­dered Ban­quo, Jasper is eager for the kill and re­turns to the opium den in order to enjoy the vi­sion of stran­gling Edwin again. (Mac­beth: “Look on’t again I dare not”.) Jasper’s only re­gret is that Edwin’s mur­der was too easy and quick, so that “when it was re­al­ly done, it seemed not worth the doing, it was done so soon”. For Mac­beth, how­ev­er: “If it were done, when ‘tis done then ‘twere well it were done quick­ly”. Sim­i­lar­ly, Mac­beth’s “Nor time nor place did then ad­here” is re­versed in Drood to “Time and place are both at hand”. In fact, al­most every plot line or pas­sage of text al­lud­ed to in Drood is recre­at­ed in in­vert­ed form, so that the events and char­ac­ters are turned on their head. The words of Jasper just quot­ed, for ex­am­ple, come from a scene in which ‘Her Royal High­ness the Princess Puffer’ (the witch) in­ter­ro­gates Jasper/Mac­beth but finds him (delet­ed text) “too deep to talk too plain”. In the par­al­lel scene in Shake­speare’s play, his royal high­ness Mac­beth ques­tions the witch­es and ul­ti­mate­ly dis­cov­ers that they were too deep for him. They “pal­ter with us in a dou­ble sense”, he says, while in Drood it’s Jasper who has a pen­chant for dou­ble-speak.

Here’s Dick­ens’s orig­i­nal ver­sion of Jasper’s fit:

‘” ... There is no cause for alarm. You see them in the act of pass­ing. Put those knives out at the door — both of them!” [Or ‘Mr Hyde’ will grab one up and cut Edwin down at his feet.]

“My dear Jack, why?”

“It’s going to light­en, they may at­tract the light­ning, put them away in the dark.”

With a scared and con­found­ed face, the younger man com­plies. No light­ning flash en­sues, nor was there, for a mo­ment, any pass­ing like­li­hood of a thun­der storm. He gen­tly and as­sid­u­ous­ly tends his kins­man who by slow de­grees re­cov­ers and clears away that cloud or blight [ma­lig­nant in­flu­ence]. When he, (Jasper) — is quite him­self and is as it were once more all re­solved into that con­cen­trat­ed look ...’

Both scenes are fore­shad­owed at the be­gin­ning of the book. Jasper has to with­draw to an arm­chair by the hearth and ‘sit in it, hold­ing tight, until he has got the bet­ter of this un­clean spir­it [Bib­li­cal­ly, to have an ‘un­clean spir­it’ means to be pos­sessed by a demon — or in this case by ‘Mr Hyde’] of im­i­ta­tion. Then he comes back, pounces on the Chi­na­man, and [seizes] him with both hands by the throat’. In re­sponse, the opi­um-drugged Las­car ‘draws a phan­tom knife. It then be­comes ap­par­ent that the woman has taken pos­ses­sion of this knife, for safe­ty’s sake’.

Here are four ex­am­ples of Dick­ens’s in­ver­sion tech­nique:

  • ‘“The proverb says that threat­ened men live long,” [Edwin] tells [the opium woman]’, so in Drood threat­ened men don’t live long and Edwin dies that very night.
  • ‘And then the in­toned words, “WHEN THE WICKED MAN — ”’, which con­tin­ues in the Bible, ‘turns away from his wicked­ness that he has com­mit­ted, and does that which is law­ful and right, he shall save his soul alive’. Jasper doesn’t turn away from his wicked­ness and save his soul alive.
  • Mr Grew­gious has set­tled down ‘under the dry vine and fig-tree of P. J. T’. Micah 4.4: ‘They will sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and no one will make them afraid’. Mr Grew­gious is def­i­nite­ly a lit­tle afraid of Baz­zard who’s ‘pos­sessed of some strange power over’ him e.g. “Let me help you [to a drink]. I’ll help Baz­zard too, though he IS asleep. He mightn’t like it else”.
  • Mac­beth says “They have tied me to a stake; I can­not fly”. In Drood it’s Neville, the in­no­cent party, who’s “tied to a stake”. Sim­i­lar­ly, Mac­beth says “Give me my staff” while Neville says “Here is my staff”.

Dick­ens isn’t the only one to re­verse things, though. Jasper also turns things top­sy-turvy in his diary to pro­tect him­self from pry­ing eyes and make a fool of Crisparkle. When he writes (or says) ‘Neville Land­less’ it’s code for his tiger­ish other self (no one calls the real Neville Land­less by his full name) and when he writes ‘the mur­der­er’ (who’s John Jasper) he means Mr Neville.

To Jasper: “Ye've smoked as many as five since ye come in at mid­night”. [Jasper, re­mem­ber, kills Edwin “over and over” in his opium dreams. “I al­ways made the jour­ney first.”]

After look­ing at Edwin asleep, Jasper ‘pass­es to his own room, lights his pipe, and de­liv­ers him­self to the Spec­tres it in­vokes at mid­night’.

Jasper: “My Diary is, in fact, a Diary of Ned's life too. You will laugh at this entry; you will guess when it was made: ‘Past mid­night. — After what I have just now seen [in his opium dreams], I have a mor­bid dread upon me of some hor­ri­ble con­se­quences re­sult­ing to my dear boy, that I can­not rea­son with or in any way con­tend against. All my ef­forts are vain. The de­mo­ni­a­cal [“Must I take to carv­ing (demons) out of my heart?”] pas­sion of this Neville Land­less, his strength in his fury, and his sav­age rage for the de­struc­tion of its ob­ject, appal me. [‘Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast be­fore the acts of Ed­ward Hyde.’] So pro­found is the im­pres­sion, that twice since I have gone into my dear boy’s room, to as­sure my­self of his sleep­ing safe­ly, and not lying dead in his blood’. [Jasper’s mur­der­ous vi­sions are so con­vinc­ing he needs to check that he hasn’t re­al­ly killed Edwin. And when is Edwin fi­nal­ly mur­dered? “Not long after he left Mr Jasper’s house at mid­night.”] “Here is an­oth­er entry next morn­ing: ‘Ned up and away. Light-heart­ed and un­sus­pi­cious as ever. He laughed when I cau­tioned him, and said he was as good a man as Neville Land­less any day. I told him that might be, but he was not as bad a man. [Rosa to Jasper: “you forced me, for his own trust­ing, good, good sake, to keep the truth from him, that you were a bad, bad man!”] He con­tin­ued to make light of it, but I trav­elled with him as far as I could [“To think . . . how often fel­low-trav­eller, and yet not know it! To think how many times he went the jour­ney, and never saw the road!”], and left him most un­will­ing­ly. I am un­able to shake off these dark in­tan­gi­ble pre­sen­ti­ments of evil — if feel­ings found­ed upon star­ing facts are to be so called.’” [When Edwin meets Princess Puffer, half-in­ca­pac­i­tat­ed by opium, ‘her eyes are star­ing’ and when Crisparkle awak­ens Jasper from his mur­der­ous opium dream, Dick­ens refers to ‘the glare of [Jasper’s] eyes’.]

“Again and again,” said Jasper, in con­clu­sion, twirling the leaves of the book be­fore putting it by, “I have re­lapsed into these [mur­der­ous] moods, as other en­tries show. But I have now your as­sur­ance at my back, and shall put it in my book, and make it an an­ti­dote to my black hu­mours.” [Jasper’s ‘black hu­mours’ are his mur­der­ous vi­sions and thoughts, which will be­come re­dun­dant once Edwin has been stran­gled — so killing Edwin will be a very ef­fec­tive an­ti­dote. And Mr Crisparkle’s as­sur­ance (of a com­pli­ant Neville) smoothes the way for this ‘an­ti­dote’ by al­low­ing Jasper to make Neville his scape­goat: ‘“You ex­pect Mr. Neville, then?” said Mr. Crisparkle. “I count upon his com­ing,” said Mr. Jasper’.]

“You are my wit­ness,” said Jasper ... “what my state of mind hon­est­ly was, that night ... and in what words I ex­pressed it. You re­mem­ber ob­ject­ing to ‘mur­der­ous!’, as being too strong? It was a stronger word than any in my Diary.” [Jasper ac­tu­al­ly says: “re­mem­ber ob­ject­ing to a word I used” but the word in ques­tion was ‘mur­der­ous’.] (NB. From “I was dream­ing at a great rate” — be­cause opi­um-in­duced vi­sions flash through a smok­er’s mind — ev­ery­thing Jasper says until the end of Chap­ter 10 is true, but in a pal­ter­ing, dou­ble sense.)

Jasper to Crisparkle on Christ­mas Eve: “We were speak­ing, the other evening, of my black hu­mours [‘Black’ in the sense of threat­en­ing, ma­lig­nant and wicked] ... I mean to burn this year’s Diary at the year’s end ... Be­cause I feel that I have been out of sorts . . . brain-op­pressed [A “heat-op­pressed brain” caus­es Mac­beth to see a bloody vi­sion of the mur­der weapon] ... But I am in a health­i­er state now. [His mur­der­ous hate is at long last about to be given free rein and he al­ready feels much hap­pi­er.] A man lead­ing a monotonous life ... dwells upon an idea [The idea — at first only a fan­ta­sy — of gain­ing Rosa by killing Edwin] until it loses its pro­por­tions. That was my case with the idea in ques­tion. So I shall burn the ev­i­dence of my case [the in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence], when the book is full, and begin the next vol­ume with a clear­er vi­sion”. [Clear of his mur­der­ous vi­sions.]

Jasper’s opium dreams are so real that he has trou­ble dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fan­ta­sy from re­al­i­ty. How, then, can he be cer­tain that his ac­tu­al mur­der of Edwin wasn’t mere­ly a vi­sion?

Jasper: “... there was no quar­rel or dif­fer­ence be­tween the two young men at their last meet­ing. We all know that their first meet­ing [So Mr Hyde is a fair­ly re­cent phe­nomenon] was un­for­tu­nate­ly very far from am­i­ca­ble; but all went smooth­ly and qui­et­ly when they were last to­geth­er at my house. [Be­cause the mur­der was planned for out­side it.] My dear boy was not in his usual spir­its . . . and I am bound hence­forth to dwell upon the cir­cum­stance the more, now that I know there was a spe­cial rea­son for his being de­pressed: a rea­son, more­over, which may pos­si­bly have in­duced him to ab­sent him­self.”

“I pray to Heav­en it may turn out so!” ex­claimed Mr. Crisparkle.

I pray to Heav­en it may turn out so!” re­peat­ed Jasper. [Much bet­ter for Edwin to have dis­ap­peared of his own ac­cord than risk being hung for his need­less mur­der.] “You know — and Mr. Grew­gious should now know like­wise — that I took a great pre­pos­ses­sion against Mr. Neville Land­less [the tiger­ish Mr Hyde], aris­ing out of his fu­ri­ous con­duct on that first oc­ca­sion. You know that I came to you, ex­treme­ly ap­pre­hen­sive, on my dear boy's be­half, of his mad vi­o­lence. You know that I even en­tered in my Diary, and showed the entry to you, that I had dark fore­bod­ings against him. Mr. Grew­gious ought to be pos­sessed of the whole case . . . I wish him to be good enough to un­der­stand that the com­mu­ni­ca­tion he has made to me has hope­ful­ly in­flu­enced my mind [maybe the events of that night re­al­ly were just an opi­um-in­duced vi­sion], in spite of its hav­ing been, be­fore this mys­te­ri­ous oc­cur­rence took place, pro­found­ly im­pressed against young Land­less [the re­cent­ly emerged Mr Hyde].”

Jasper’s last diary entry: ‘My dear boy is mur­dered. The dis­cov­ery of the watch and shirt-pin [Proof that it wasn’t all a vi­sion] con­vinces me that he was mur­dered ... All the delu­sive hopes I had found­ed on his sep­a­ra­tion from his be­trothed wife, I give to the winds. They per­ish be­fore this fatal dis­cov­ery. I now swear, and record the oath on this page, That I nev­er­more will dis­cuss this mys­tery with any human crea­ture until I hold the clue to it in my hand. [Very con­ve­nient. Jasper’s taken a vow not to an­swer any­one’s ques­tions!] That I never will relax in my se­cre­cy or in my search. That I will fas­ten the crime of the mur­der of my dear dead boy upon the mur­der­er. [Who’s John Jasper, and thus, Neville Land­less.] And, That I de­vote my­self to his de­struc­tion’. Which is ex­act­ly what Jasper does. He de­votes him­self to the de­struc­tion of Neville Land­less. Though he does offer to for­swear him­self and not pur­sue Neville if Rosa agrees to marry him.

From Dr Jekyll’s writ­ten con­fes­sion: ‘With­in I was con­scious of a heady reck­less­ness, a cur­rent of dis­or­dered sen­su­al im­ages run­ning like a mill race in my fancy, a so­lu­tion of the bonds of obli­ga­tion, an un­known but not an in­no­cent free­dom of the soul.’ ‘My devil had been long caged, he came out roar­ing.’ ‘I had now two char­ac­ters ... one was whol­ly evil, and the other was still the old Henry Jekyll, that in­con­gru­ous com­pound of [good and bad] whose re­for­ma­tion and im­prove­ment I had al­ready learned to de­spair. The move­ment was thus whol­ly to­ward the worse.’ Dr Jekyll, as he con­tin­ued to drink his po­tion, found his own iden­ti­ty grow­ing ever fainter. Fi­nal­ly, he was per­ma­nent­ly trans­formed into the wicked Mr Hyde. Sim­i­lar­ly, by con­tin­u­ing to smoke the opium which un­leashed the devil with­in him, the ‘Dr Jekyll’ of Jasper’s na­ture was slow­ly cor­rupt­ed by the id-gov­erned ‘Mr Hyde’.

Al­though, when the novel be­gins, Jasper’s ex­ces­sive af­fec­tion for Edwin is en­tire­ly and con­scious­ly hyp­o­crit­i­cal (to con­ceal his mur­der­ous in­ten­tions), Jasper’s in­ten­si­ty of feel­ing for his nephew is ev­i­dent­ly well-known and long­stand­ing. But why should Jasper, year after year, con­scious­ly fake ex­treme love for a man he’s slow­ly grown to hate? It makes no sense. He might hide his dis­like, but not ex­trav­a­gant­ly pur­sue its an­tithe­sis. One pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion is pro­vid­ed by a strat­e­gy Freud termed ‘re­ac­tion-for­ma­tion’. David Steven­son gives this ex­pla­na­tion: ‘To ward off an anx­i­ety-caus­ing and un­ac­cept­able im­pulse, one may [un­con­scious­ly] re­place it with its over-em­pha­sized di­a­met­ri­cal op­po­site. For ex­am­ple, the young boy who hates his older broth­er for his ac­com­plish­ments and the re­wards and praise which he re­ceives may trans­form this ha­tred into ag­gres­sive love and praise. This re­place­ment of his ha­tred with its op­po­site, love, re­press­es the ha­tred, and sat­is­fies his su­perego's guide for what is ac­cept­able, but does not elim­i­nate the orig­i­nal im­pulse. The best in­di­ca­tion that an emo­tion or act is a formed re­ac­tion is any no­tice­able per­sis­tence or ex­cess in the be­hav­ior.’ This clear­ly fits Jasper ex­act­ly — as well as the book it­self which is found­ed on an­tithe­sis. But Jasper was far too smart and self-aware — and his un­der­ly­ing ha­tred far too in­tense — to de­ceive him­self for­ev­er. And it’s in­ter­est­ing that his sub­se­quent be­haviour is based on guilt-re­liev­ing dis­so­ci­a­tion: ‘as if, not he the cul­prit, but some other man, were the tempt­ed’. It’s not Jasper who’s to blame for killing Edwin (though he takes vi­car­i­ous plea­sure in it), it’s his other self, ‘Mr Hyde’, who’s the truly guilty party.

Edwin: “Why, sis­ter Rosa, sis­ter Rosa, what do you see from the tur­ret?”

An­swer from the Blue­beard tale: “I see noth­ing but the sun ... and the grass”. Rosa’s own eyes ‘see noth­ing but the grass’ when she’s with Jasper in the ‘Sun-Dial’ chap­ter. Blue­beard mur­dered six wives to be rid of them; Jasper kills Edwin, and threat­ens to mur­der all of Rosa’s fu­ture suit­ors, in order to gain a wife.

John Jasper is Janus-like in being two-faced and in hav­ing tran­si­tion as a key char­ac­ter­is­tic. (Dick­ens cre­at­ed a char­ac­ter in House­hold Words called Jasper Janus.) If Jasper’s rooms are taken as an ex­ten­sion of his char­ac­ter (such as by being ‘most­ly in shad­ow’) then Mr Tope en­forces the Janus con­nec­tion: “There’s his own soli­tary shad­ow be­twixt his two win­dows — the one look­ing this way, and the one look­ing [the other. That’s to say:] down into the High Street”. Jasper lives in a gate­house above a gate­way; Janus was the Roman god of doors and gate­ways. ‘Gate­way’ can be in­ter­pret­ed meta­phys­i­cal­ly — a door be­tween life and death (through which Jasper as­sists Edwin) — and it’s Dick­ens who makes the con­nec­tion: ‘One might fancy that the tide of life was stemmed by Mr Jasper's own gate­house. The mur­mur of the tide is heard be­yond; but no wave pass­es the arch­way, over which his lamp burns red be­hind his cur­tain, as if the build­ing were a Light­house’. So Life is on one side, Death on the other, with Jasper’s gate­house in-be­tween, shin­ing out like a dev­il-red bea­con. (Janus is the God of Be­gin­nings and is some­times linked with Christ; Jasper is all about end­ings and is linked with Lu­cifer. Janus, as war­den of doors and gates, was fre­quent­ly de­pict­ed with keys. In Drood it’s Dur­dles who un­locks doors and Jasper is forced to ‘bor­row’ his keys. The keys of Jasper’s pro­fes­sion are only piano keys.)

Dur­dles: “And here I fell asleep. And what woke me? The ghost of a cry. The ghost of one ter­rif­ic shriek, which shriek was fol­lowed by the ghost of the howl of a dog: a long, dis­mal, woe­ful howl, such as a dog gives when a per­son’s dead. That was MY last Christ­mas Eve.”

My guess is that the shriek was Jasper’s and the howl that of the dog he’d mor­tal­ly wound­ed, which is why Jasper is so ag­i­tat­ed by Dur­dles’s ac­count. Need­less to say, the sounds weren’t re­al­ly of un­earth­ly ori­gin. Dur­dles only as­sumes they were su­per­nat­u­ral as no­body else heard the cries. But since the crypt is so iso­lat­ed — as Dick­ens is at pains to point out — it’s not like­ly that they would.

But why should Jasper kill a dog? And why the strange co­in­ci­dence of dates — the same day (it was al­most cer­tain­ly past mid­night) that Edwin was mur­dered? Well, hav­ing spent his life re­press­ing his neg­a­tive and ag­gres­sive feel­ings, Jasper (Mr Hyde) would sure­ly have pre­vi­ous­ly given them vent. And a sav­age act against man’s best friend, ac­com­pa­nied by a half-tri­umphant, half-de­spair­ing shriek, would be an ef­fec­tive way to let them out. Peo­ple com­mon­ly yell to re­lease frus­tra­tions and psy­chopaths often have a his­to­ry of an­i­mal abuse.

Jasper finds his ‘re­li­gious’ life in­tol­er­a­ble, and Christ­mas, with all its holy as­so­ci­a­tions, would be the most in­tol­er­a­ble time of all — the pe­ri­od when Mr Hyde would be most like­ly to break out. Fur­ther­more, just as the monks got re­lief from carv­ing demons in a holy place, and ‘the Imp finds [ston­ing the dead] a rel­ish­ing and piquing pur­suit ... be­cause their rest­ing-place is an­nounced to be sa­cred’, so Mr Hyde gets ad­di­tion­al rel­ish from mur­der­ing Edwin (and killing a dog) on the holy day cel­e­brat­ing the birth of Christ. In­deed, with­in min­utes of Jesus’s sup­posed time of birth.

It’s note­wor­thy that Jasper sings so beau­ti­ful­ly on Christ­mas Eve. About to let loose his long re­pressed ha­tred and break free from his monotonous daily rou­tine, he’s happy and re­laxed. And with vo­cals no longer forced and me­chan­i­cal, he sings an­gel­i­cal­ly. We’re told that there’s an ‘an­cient su­per­sti­tion that [swans] sang sweet­ly on the ap­proach of death’. Jasper sings sweet­ly ahead of his vic­tim’s death.

And what was to be Jasper’s ul­ti­mate fate? A speech near the end of Mac­beth spells it out. All’s up with Mac­beth but “Why should I play the Roman fool and die on mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gash­es do bet­ter upon them”. So, con­trari­wise, John Jasper would have com­mit­ted sui­cide.