8. Bits And Bobs

There are re­peat­ed ref­er­ences to Jack and the Beanstalk in Drood. This is be­cause:

  • the Ogre is a tyrant who wants to grind peo­ple’s bones.
  • the beans are amaz­ing­ly fruit­ful and shoot up to the sky.
  • the magic ‘bean-stalk coun­try’ that Rosa en­coun­ters in Tar­tar’s cabin en­forces her iden­ti­ty as a fairy. It puts her in a fairy­tale world and it’s a fairy in the sky-gar­den who di­rects Jack to the Giant.
  • Dick­ens is up to his iron­ic tricks again and the roles are re­versed in his story. Edwin calls Jasper ‘Jack’ and it’s Jack who’s the mon­ster (Edwin to Rosa: “I am more than half afraid he didn't like to be charged with being the Mon­ster who had fright­ened you”) while Tar­tar is a ‘wa­ter-giant’ who lives in ‘the coun­try of the magic bean-stalk’ and is des­tined to ‘slay him’. (Jasper: “Cir­cum­stances may ac­cu­mu­late so strong­ly [against a man] that ... point­ed, they may slay him”.) Jack in the fairy­tale ‘changed his com­plex­ion’ and dis­guised him­self to pre­vent recog­ni­tion but it’s Tar­tar (‘the wa­ter-giant’) who adopts a dis­guise in Drood (be­com­ing Datch­ery). Jack slays the Giant ‘on the longest day’ (1820 ver­sion); on Mid­sum­mer’s Day (or the short­est day) ‘the wa­ter-giant’ would have ‘slain’ Jack. The fairy pro­tects Jack from the Giant; the ‘wa­ter-giant’ helps to pro­tect the ‘fairy’ from Jack.

Dick­ens even took one of his own ideas for a story (from his Book of Mem­o­ran­da) and in­vert­ed that i.e. ‘Two peo­ple — boy and girl, or very young — going apart from one an­oth­er, pledged to be mar­ried after many years — at the end of the book. The in­ter­est to arise out of the trac­ing of their sep­a­rate ways, and the im­pos­si­bil­i­ty of telling what will be done with that im­pend­ing Fate.’ In Drood, Rosa and Edwin are forced to­geth­er, not apart, by their par­ents and de­cide early in life not to marry. (Cheek­i­ly, after John Forster had made it pub­lic, Wilkie Collins pinched Dick­ens’s orig­i­nal idea and used it for his novel The Two Des­tinies.)

The Moon­stone con­sists of the first-per­son tes­ti­mo­ni­als of nu­mer­ous char­ac­ters, ex­clud­ing that of the crim­i­nal. Now what would be the re­verse of that?

What hap­pened to Edwin Drood’s body? Con­sid­er these points:

  • Dick­ens told Forster that Jasper ‘had thrown the body’ into lime.
  • Jasper to Dur­dles: “What I dwell upon most ... is the re­mark­able ac­cu­ra­cy with which you would seem to find out where peo­ple are buried”. Jasper, un­der­stand­ably alarmed by Dur­dles’s tal­ent for un­earthing corpses, pumps him to find out his se­cret. And hav­ing done so, will en­sure that Dur­dles won’t be able to use his tap­ping trick to dis­cov­er the body of Edwin. This, to­geth­er with the pre­vi­ous point, rules out the Sapsea tomb ...
  • Ex­cept as a tem­po­rary hid­ing place until Dur­dles has been stoned to bed. Dur­dles spent the pre­vi­ous Christ­mas Eve and early Christ­mas morn­ing in the crypt, so if Jasper want­ed ac­cess he’d like­ly have to wait. And since he couldn’t leave Edwin’s corpse lying out in the open ...
  • For Jasper the most sat­is­fy­ing place for Edwin’s body would be a site in plain view that he could see from his room.
  • ‘Some stones have been dis­placed upon the sum­mit of the great tower ... it is nec­es­sary to send up work­men, to as­cer­tain the ex­tent of the dam­age done.’ Noth­ing hap­pens in a Dick­ens novel with­out good rea­son.
  • Jasper, in his ac­counts of his ‘jour­ney’ to Princess Puffer, is ev­i­dent­ly high up.
  • There are bod­ies for Dur­dles to search for in the crypt but none in the tower.
  • Bear­ing in mind (a) that Clois­ter­ham, with its one long street, isn’t a place easy to get lost in (so why have some­one go astray?), and (b) that Datch­ery has gone to Clois­ter­ham to try to find out what has be­come of Edwin, con­sid­er the fol­low­ing pas­sage: Datch­ery ‘soon be­came be­wil­dered, and went bog­gling about and about the Cathe­dral Tower, when­ev­er he could catch a glimpse of it, with a gen­er­al im­pres­sion on his mind that Mrs. Tope's was some­where very near it, and that ... he was warm in his search when he saw the Tower, and cold when he didn't see it.’
  • ‘Until suf­fo­cat­ed in her own pil­low by two flow­ing-haired ex­e­cu­tion­ers.’ This is an al­lu­sion to the young princes who Richard III had mur­dered in the Tower. In A Child’s His­to­ry of Eng­land, Dick­ens re­counts how the killers ‘smoth­ered the two princes with the ... pil­lows and car­ried their bod­ies down the stairs, and buried them under a great heap of stones at the stair­case foot’. So Edwin’s corpse was car­ried up the Tower and buried in a pit of lime at the stair­case top.
  • The cover of Drood — in Collins’s orig­i­nal draw­ing — shows a hat­less man with long flow­ing hair (sure­ly Datch­ery) point­ing (to­wards Edwin in an ad­ja­cent panel) and run­ning up the tower fol­lowed by three po­lice­men. One po­lice­man has his trun­cheon out so they must be after Jasper ... But why should Jasper be up the tower? John Forster pro­vides the an­swer, I think. Dick­ens had told him that ‘all dis­cov­ery of the mur­der­er was to be baf­fled till ... by means of a gold ring ... not only the per­son mur­dered was to be iden­ti­fied but the lo­cal­i­ty of the crime and the man who had com­mit­ted it’.
  • A ques­tion for John Jasper: “Did Edwin leave a ring — a gold ring — in your rooms? If not, it must be on him still (hooray!) and would iden­ti­fy his body”. This would pro­voke John Jasper into un­der­tak­ing a sec­ond ‘un­ac­count­able’ late-night ex­pe­di­tion. An ex­pe­di­tion that would be shad­owed. And his fol­low­ers — Tar­tar, Crisparkle and Neville — are de­pict­ed on the wrap­per.
  • The yin-yang na­ture of the cover con­firms this in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Bot­tom left is an opi­um-smok­ing woman; bot­tom right is an opi­um-smok­ing man. Top left is a lady strew­ing flow­ers (love and peace); top right is a woman wield­ing a knife (hate and vi­o­lence). Top cen­tre is above ground out­side the cathe­dral; bot­tom cen­tre is un­der­ground in the crypt. Down the left side are roses; down the right side are thorns. The two left pan­els show Edwin Drood (mis­tak­en­ly drawn with a mous­tache) kiss­ing a bored-looked Rosa, and Rosa read­ing a ‘Lost’ sign above: so it’s Edwin Drood Lost; and the scene on the right, with Tar­tar dra­mat­i­cal­ly point­ing, de­picts Edwin Drood Found.
  • Was there a suit­able cav­i­ty high up in the Cathe­dral Tower at Rochester that could have been filled with lime and used to gob­ble up a body? Or did Dick­ens sim­ply in­tend to in­vent a Clois­ter­ham one?
  • The rea­son I’ve list­ed Neville as one of Jasper’s fol­low­ers is be­cause he’s re­peat­ed­ly linked in the text with Cain. In the Bible, Cain is made an out­cast for mur­der­ing his broth­er, ‘and the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any find­ing him should kill him’ and so Cain isn’t killed. Neville is out­cast for a mur­der he didn’t com­mit, threat­ens “to set his mark upon” oth­ers, and (con­tin­u­ing the in­vert­ed logic) is killed — prob­a­bly by being pushed off the tower by Jasper. This also ties in with John Forster’s ac­count: ‘Land­less ... was ... I think, to have per­ished in as­sist­ing Tar­tar fi­nal­ly to un­mask and seize the mur­der­er’.

On the original cover by Charles Collins, Jasper and Durdles are shown (bottom centre) on their ‘unaccountable ... expedition’. (Jasper: “How could I entertain the possibility of [Edwin] ... leaving this place, in a manner ... so unaccountable”.) Jasper, clothed pretty much as described in the book, is pointing ahead with a look of mild enquiry on his face, having obviously asked Durdles a question.

Jasper shouldn’t have a mous­tache, though, so Fildes re­moved it for the final ver­sion, and also added Dur­dles’s din­ner-bun­dle and key di­rect­ly above. He also made one other change. Jasper is no longer point­ing; he’s tak­ing some­thing out of his pock­et. It’s noth­ing sin­is­ter, though, mere­ly his wick­er-cased bot­tle. On ei­ther side of this cen­tral scene a man and woman are smok­ing them­selves into an opium stu­por. A nice touch, then, to have the opi­um-laced wine, that would short­ly lay Dur­dles low, being pro­duced out of Jasper’s pock­et.

Fur­ther points to con­sid­er:

  • Other char­ac­ters con­nect­ed to Egyp­tian or Roman gods. Bil­likin’s and Tar­tar’s ‘se­cret names’. The Book that re­vealed ‘all that is hid­den in the stars’ in Egyp­tian mythol­o­gy.
  • Lady Mac­beth (and her clos­et). Other char­ac­ters from Mac­beth who are mir­rored in Drood. How does the open­ing of Drood re­verse that of Mac­beth’s? Rosa is twice re­ferred to as ‘Queen’, so by killing Edwin in the hope of mar­ry­ing Rosa him­self, Jasper, like Mac­beth, was try­ing to ...
  • Demetrius and Lysander. Re­versed weath­er and rose buds.
  • The night­ly red light burn­ing in John Jasper’s room dur­ing Sat­ur­na­lia.
  • ‘Rustling through the room like the leg­endary ghost of a dowa­ger in silken skirts’. Was this her? Does it fit the theme?
  • The Story of the Year by Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen e.g. ‘the gold­en evening’ [‘Mr Sapsea ... be­guiles the gold­en evening’], ‘gold­en fruit’, clever spar­rows [‘spar­rows’ of ‘tiny un­der­stand­ings’], ‘They kissed each other, and were be­trothed’ [‘They [Edwin and Rosa] kissed each other’ and were no longer be­trothed] etc
  • ‘Gold­en rain’; ‘gold­en youth’.
  • Dur­dles pay­ing to have him­self stoned. Who’s the male Pa­tron Saint of stone­ma­sons?
  • Why — apart from its util­i­ty (such as for dis­guis­ing clues) — does Edwin Drood re­verse its sources?

Ac­cord­ing to Dick­ens’s bi­og­ra­phers, ‘a large tear crept down his face’ short­ly be­fore he died. A tear prin­ci­pal­ly shed, I can’t help but think, for The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood, the book that he knew he’d never com­plete.