Wendy S. Jacobson: The Companion to the Mystery of Edwin Drood

Wendy S. Jacobson is Senior Lecturer at Rhodes University, South Africa.



The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood is as res­o­nant with the ex­pe­ri­ences, read­ing and writ­ing of Dick­ens's life­time as Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral Is with its past. An­no­ta­tion of the novel has re­vealed the ex­tent to which its rich­ness, com­plex­i­ty and hu­mour arise from three im­por­tant kinds of in­flu­ence.

One of the in­flu­ences re­flect­ed in the wide range of al­lu­sions in the novel orig­i­nates in Dick­ens's live­ly in­ter­est in con­tem­po­rary and near-con­tem­po­rary events, is­sues and per­son­al­i­ties. For ex­am­ple, Charles Kings­ley's phi­los­o­phy of Mus­cu­lar Chris­tian­i­ty an­i­mates the por­trait of the Rev­erend Crisparkle (chap­ter 2), just as John Bright and his in­volve­ment with phi­lan­thropy and the Gov­er­nor Eyre con­tro­ver­sy an­i­mate the por­trait of Hon­eythun­der (chap­ters 6, 17). The de­pic­tion of Baz­zard as a frus­trat­ed play­wright is a wicked­ly witty per­son­al at­tack on R. H. Home, with whom Dick­ens broke off re­la­tions in 1869 (chap­ter 20). The pub­lic in­quiry which began in the 1840s into in­ter­ment in church­yards and ceme­ter­ies is part­ly re­spon­si­ble for the re­cur­rent con­cern of the novel with modes of buri­al. Al­lu­sions to this top­i­cal sub­ject occur in the de­scrip­tion of Clois­ter­ham's 'earthy fla­vor', its cathe­dral crypt and monas­tic graves (chap­ter 3); in the char­ac­ter of the chron­i­cal­ly drunk sex­ton, Dur­dles (chap­ter 4); and in Jasper's in­ter­est in the use of quick­lime to de­com­pose corpses (chap­ter 12). A re­lat­ed sub­ject, the aes­thet­ic de­bate among re­form­ers of ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal art to im­prove the stan­dards of sepul­chral mon­u­ments, un­der­lies the med­i­ta­tion of Dur­dles on tomb­stones (chap­ter 5) and the pride of Mr Sapsea in his epi­taph for ETHE­LIN­DA (chap­ter 4).

Edwin Drood's de­ci­sion to go out to Egypt as an en­gi­neer aris­es from such events as the in­tro­duc­tion to Egypt of Eu­ro­pean in­flu­ence and com­merce which began in the 1830s. the open­ing of the Over­land Route to India, and the com­ple­tion of the Suez Canal In 1869 (chap­ter 2). The British fas­ci­na­tion with Egypt is man­i­fest­ed in other ways in the novel. For ex­am­ple, the quan­ti­ty of trav­el guides and his­to­ry books pub­lished on Egypt, and the va­ri­ety of ex­hi­bi­tions in Lon­don dis­play­ing Egyp­tian arte­facts are, we can pre­sume, the source of Miss Twin­kle­ton's ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of the coun­try. More whim­si­cal­ly, Rosa Bud, al­though bored by Egypt, sucks on 'Lumps-of-De­light' — the sweet­meat as com­mon in Egypt as in Turkey — in the midst of her com­plaint about Miss Twin­kle­ton's lessons:' "Tire­some old bury­ing-grounds! Isis­es, and Ibis­es, and Cheopses, and Pharaohses; who cares about them?" ' (chap­ter 3).

It is well known that Dick­ens's per­son­al ex­pe­ri­ences of opi­um-eat­ing (the drink­ing of lau­danum) and his visit to an opium den in the East End of Lon­don com­bine to In­form the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of John Jasper. But an equal­ly im­por­tant in­flu­ence on the de­pic­tion of the Princess Puffer's den and on her es­o­ter­ic knowl­edge of opi­um-smok­ing are ar­ti­cles pub­lished in Lon­don So­ci­ety and the Ragged School Union Mag­a­zine in 1868: 'East Lon­don Opium Smok­ers' and 'In an Opium Den'(chap­ter 1). Many more ex­am­ples of the ways in which as­pects of the novel de­rive from bi­o­graph­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and con­tem­po­rary oc­cur­rences and top­ics are Iden­ti­fied in the an­no­ta­tion it­self.

A sec­ond kind of in­flu­ence on The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood is Dick­ens's ear­li­er writ­ing — his nov­els, sto­ries and jour­nal­ism. The most im­por­tant sources in his own works of the con­cerns and ideas which can be seen to be re­worked in his last novel arc ex­am­ined below in the con­text of how he might have in­tend­ed the novel to end.

Two ex­am­ples of such in­flu­ence might be men­tioned here, how­ev­er: his Christ­mas sto­ries,'The Haunt­ed Man' and 'Tom Tid­dler's Ground'. 'The Haunt­ed Man" deals with mem­o­ry berth as the cause of pain and as a source of com­pas­sion and gen­eros­i­ty of spir­it. Mem­o­ry and the loss of mem­o­ry are im­por­tant is­sues in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood on ac­count of Jasper's opium ad­dic­tion and the ex­tent to which his ad­dic­tion might in­flu­ence his rec­ol­lec­tion of events on the night of Edwin's dis­ap­pear­ance, a rec­ol­lec­tion which af­fects the time-scheme of the novel. One of the tales in "Tom Tid­dler's Ground' por­trays a girl's school, a school­mistress and a pupil, all pre­cur­sors of the Nuns' House, Miss Twin­kle­ton and Rosa Bud. The use of a cathe­dral town is it­self a re­turn to an ear­li­er set­ting. Many com­men­ta­tors have no­ticed how Dick­ens in a sense ends where he began in choos­ing as the orig­i­nal of Clois­ter­ham the town of his boy­hood, Rochester, the set­ting for much of The Pick­wick Pa­pers.

The third major kind of in­flu­ence on the novel is the works of other writ­ers. Of these, The Moon­stone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is the most promi­nent. It could he said that in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood Dick­ens is of­fer­ing a kind of an­swer to the novel by his young friend, a novel which he ad­mired but, per­haps, tried to bet­ter. The Hunch­back of Notre-Dame (1831) by Vic­tor Hugo fea­tures a haunt­ing Cathe­dral set­ting much clos­er in at­mo­sphere to Dick­ens's novel than are the Barset­shire nov­els of Trol­lope, some­times con­sid­ered to be com­pa­ra­ble to The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. Hugo's por­trait of an in­tense and bril­liant priest en­dur­ing a re­pressed and em­bit­tered pas­sion for a young girl is also clos­er to Dick­ens than is Trol­lope. The third im­por­tant work of in­flu­ence is Mac­beth. The novel con­tains many echoes of phras­ing from the play, and both works have an am­bigu­ous char­ac­ter at their cen­tre. They also share a sim­i­lar­i­ty of de­sign. The opium woman, who is overt­ly pre­sent­ed as a witch, opens the novel just as the witch­es open the play. More­over, Jasper's re­turn to the den halfway through the novel to re­cap­ture the re­lief he de­rives from the spec­tres in­duced by opium par­al­lel Mac­beth's re­turn to the coven in the cen­tral scene of the play in order to seek re­as­sur­ance of his power.

Less promi­nent an in­flu­ence, but nev­er­the­less in­ter­est­ing, is Con­fes­sions of an En­glish Opi­um-Eater (1821; 1822) and other of De Quincey's works. Southes's bal­lad, 'Jas­par' (1798, 1799), about a mur­der­er of that name and his in­no­cent as­so­ci­ate called Jonathan, gave Dick­ens the name for his choir­mas­ter and per­haps in­flu­enced the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. Like­wise, Gold­smith's The Vicar of Wake­field (1766), with its bal­lad about the lovers called Edwin and An­geli­na, pro­vid­ed Dick­ens with the name for Jasper's nephew and may also have had a hear­ing on as­pects of theme and plot. The leg­end of Eu­gene Aram, made fa­mous by the poem of Thomas Hood (1829; 1831) and the novel by Bul­w­er-Lyt­ton (1832), is echoed in the motif of the learned and tal­ent­ed mur­der­er who suf­fers parox­ysms of re­morse. Fi­nal­ly, echoes of the Old and New Tes­ta­ments and of the Book of Com­mon Prayer re­ver­ber­ate in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood as fre­quent­ly as in any of Dick­ens's other nov­els.

The Mys­ter­ies

No study of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood would be com­plete with­out a con­sid­er­a­tion of the frag­men­tary stale of the novel and the pos­si­ble hints of what was in­tend­ed to fol­low: the dan­ger of miss­ing pos­si­ble sig­nals is at least as great as that of see­ing sig­nif­i­cance where none ex­ists. The title it­self alerts the read­er to the need to re­spond to the some­times con­fus­ing and even baf­fling de­tails of the nar­ra­tive. The search for a so­lu­tion to the mys­tery has often con­cen­trat­ed on what is not there, while ig­nor­ing the artis­tic in­tegri­ty of the frag­ment. Au­thors, schol­ars and arm­chair de­tec­tives have been tempt­ed to com­plete the work in a re­mark­able va­ri­ety of styles. Even ghosts have been sum­moned by spir­i­tu­al­ists claim­ing to be in con­tact with the dead nov­el­ist. Dick­ens was fa­mil­iar with the pro­duc­tions of his nov­els put on the stage be­fore he had com­plet­ed them him­self, and he de­liv­ered his judge­ment on the per­pe­tra­tors of such coun­ter­feit ver­sions in 1838, in Nico­las Nick­le­by.

You cake the un­com­plet­ed books of liv­ing au­thors, fresh from their hands, wet from the press, cut, hack, and carve them to the pow­ers and ca­pac­i­ties of your ac­tors, and the ca­pa­bil­i­ty of your the­atres, fin­ish un­fin­ished works, hasti­ly and crude­ly vamp up ideas not yet worked out by their orig­i­nal pro­jec­tor, but which have doubt­less cost him many thought­ful days and sleep­less nights, by a com­par­i­son of in­ci­dents and di­a­logue, down to the very last word he may have writ­ten a fort­night be­fore, do your ut­most to an­tic­i­pate his plot — all this with­out his per­mis­sion, and against his will; and then, to crown the whole pro­ceed­ing, pub­lish in some mean pam­phlet, an un­mean­ing far­ra­go of gar­bled ex­tracts from his work, to which you put your name as au­thor, with the honour­able dis­tinc­tion an­nexed, of hav­ing per­pe­trat­ed a hun­dred other out­rages of the same de­scrip­tion. Now, show me the dis­tinc­tion be­tween such pil­fer­ing as this, and pick­ing a man's pock­et in the street. (48).

Most at­tempts to com­plete The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood are char­ac­ter­ized by a stub­born in­sis­tence that the prof­fered the­o­ry is unas­sail­able: Drood­i­ans seem to be di­vid­ed be­tween those who be­lieve Edwin to have died at the hand of his uncle, and chose who be­lieve that he es­capes. The ma­jor­i­ty seem to be­lieve that Edwin is mur­dered. But Dick­ens wrote the per­fect mys­tery: it can­not and will not be fi­nal­ly solved for the rea­son that the novel is half-fin­ished and he left al­most no clues out­side the text ex­cept for those re­port­ed by Forster, Luke Fildes and Charles Dick­ens Ju­nior (the de­tails if not the va­lid­i­ty of which are not par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful). If the in­tegri­ty of the frag­ment is to be re­spect­ed, the fairest method of in­quiry is to ask the ques­tions sug­gest­ed by the text it­self, and then make con­jec­tures based on the pos­si­bil­i­ties im­plied in the text.

There are, of course, sev­er­al un­solved mys­ter­ies in the novel. Per­haps the sim­plest of them is the iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery. To ac­count for the new set­tler in Clois­ter­ham, com­men­ta­tors have pro­posed can­di­dates from the en­tire cast of char­ac­ters in the novel, in­clud­ing Grew­gious but at least ex­clud­ing Rosa. Some­times new char­ac­ters have been in­vent­ed, and W. W. Rob­son has in­ge­nious­ly ar­gued that Datch­ery is Dick­ens (' "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood" the so­lu­tion?". The Times Lit­er­ary Sup­ple­ment, 11 Novem­ber 1983, 1246. 1259). It seems like­ly, how­ev­er, that Dick Datch­ery is sim­ply him­self — but, if not, then he may be Baz­zard, off-du­ty from Grew­glous's of­fice at about the time Datch­ery ar­rives in Clois­ter­ham.

A more in­ter­est­ing ques­tion than 'Who is Datch­ery?' is 'Who is the Princess Puffer?' Why does she hate Jasper? What has she heard him say in the opium rever­ie that pre­cedes the open­ing of the novel? How can she know Jasper' "bet­ter far, that all the Rev­erend Par­sons put to­geth­er know him" ' (chap­ter 23)? What is her con­nec­tion with Jasper that she should twice fol­low him with ma­li­cious com­pul­sion to Clois­ter­ham? What does she know about 'Ned' that she should warn him, and what does she know about his sweet­heart?

He­le­na Land­less also tempts cu­rios­i­ty. Her 'in­tense dark eyes' are 'soft­ened with com­pas­sion and ad­mi­ra­tion' for Rosa, but what does their slum­ber­ing gleam of fire' sig­ni­fy for 'whom­so­ev­er it most con­cerned' and who should 'look well to it' (chap­ter 7)? What In­ter­pre­ta­tion, more­over, can be put upon the strange mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion she shares with her broth­er? Who are the Land­less­es? Neville speaks only of his moth­er, who died when they were chil­dren, but who was their fa­ther? What is the sig­nif­i­cance of the phrase in the work plans that refers to the 'Mix­ture of Ori­en­tal blood — or im­per­cep­ti­bly ac­quired na­ture — in them'? Will He­le­na marry the Minor Canon, or will Edwin's nascent ad­mi­ra­tion of her come to fruition?

Dur­dles and Deputy also pre­sent puz­zles: Dur­dles's abil­i­ty to find out 'with re­mark­able ac­cu­ra­cy' where bod­ies are buried seems clear­ly to hint at some later rev­e­la­tion, pos­si­bly in con­nec­tion with the un­ex­plained "ghost of one ter­rif­ic shriek" he heard at Christ­mas a year ago (chap­ter 12), The tap­ping and the dream in­ter­est and ag­i­tate Jasper, but why? As for Deputy, what could he have wit­nessed that could be held in ev­i­dence against Jasper, who so un­rea­son­ably loathes him? Dur­dles points out that the grave of Edwin's fa­ther is in Clois­ter­ham, but where does Edwin's moth­er lie? Where is Tar­tar at the end of chap­ter 22 so that Rosa seems to be los­ing her spir­its as she looks 'so wist­ful­ly and so much out of the grit­ty win­dows'? What role is he des­ig­nat­ed to play? One can as­sume that he is given agili­ty and strength, as Crisparkle, his old friend, is given phys­i­cal prowess, for a pur­pose. Is his being a sailor a due? Why should the at­ti­tude of Grew­gious to­wards Jasper change from ge­nial­i­ty to im­pla­ca­ble dis­like? What has Grew­gious learnt that caus­es him to view Jasper's fit so cold­ly, and how has he learnt what he knows?

The End­ings

Two ques­tions more im­por­tant than these puz­zles are those which con­cern Jasper's am­bigu­ous per­son­al­i­ty and whether or not he kills Edwin Drood. The plot of the novel de­pends for its out­come not on de­vices, but, rather, on the char­ac­ter of John Jasper, and in par­tic­u­lar upon his opium ad­dic­tion and his dou­ble per­son­al­i­ty. The motif of the dop­pelgänger is ubiq­ui­tous in Dick­ens's fic­tion (see below), but is no­tably pre­sent­ed in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood in the re­spectable pub­lic per­sona of the choir­mas­ter who is un­der­mined by his mur­der­ous in­stinct and his de­sire for Rosa. The motif is re­flect­ed in Miss Twin­kle­ton's 'two states of ex­is­tence' and, less com­i­cal­ly, in the pair of twins and in the two lo­ca­tions, Clois­ter­ham and Lon­don. The dou­bling seems to move to­wards in­te­gra­tion when the Princess Puffer hob­bles into the Cathe­dral, the an­tithe­sis of her opium den. A spec­tre like Ban­quo's ghost, she brings to­geth­er the dis­parate parts of Jasper's life. Can this be a par­o­dy of a pos­si­ble in­te­gra­tion of jasper's per­son­al­i­ty? Cer­tain­ly, his two worlds con­join at Morn­ing Ser­vice in the last chap­ter when 'glo­ri­ous light from mov­ing boughs, songs of birds, scents from gar­dens, woods, and fields... pen­e­trate into the Cathe­dral... and preach the Res­ur­rec­tion and the Life'.

One as­pect of Jasper's per­son­al­i­ty is his ad­dic­tion to opium. His habit is the most ob­vi­ous of the novel's many sim­i­lar­i­ties to The Moon­stone, a novel in which opi­um-eat­ing is the crux of the mys­tery. The di­a­mond is stolen by Franklin Blake after he un­wit­ting­ly drinks lau­danum. Dr Jen­nings sus­pects this and, in order to per­suade Blake to par­tic­i­pate in his ex­per­i­ment, quotes the same pas­sage from John El­liot­son's Human Phys­i­ol­o­gy that Dick­ens quotes in chap­ter 3. On the basis of El­liot­son's prin­ci­ple, 'if I hide my watch when I am drunk, I must be drunk again be­fore 1 can re­mem­ber where', Jen­nings re­con­structs the cir­cum­stances of the theft, ad­min­is­ters the opium to Blake, and solves the mys­tery Dick­ens would have known of the irony that Collins ac­tu­al­ly dic­tat­ed the last chap­ters of The Moon­stone under the in­flu­ence of lau­danum and was not able to rec­og­nize them when he read through them later.

If, like Blake, Jasper suf­fers from a delu­sion caused by opium and has not in fact killed Edwin, then Edwin's dis­ap­pear­ance needs to be ex­plained. He could be suf­fer­ing from am­ne­sia. An ar­ti­cle in the Spec­ta­tor (9 Jan­uary 1869),'The Man with Two Mem­o­ries', re­port­ed the cu­ri­ous case of George Nick­en of New Or­leans: after a fall he was de­prived of his sens­es, but on re­cov­ery he lost his mem­o­ry. The prog­no­sis is that some other trau­ma may re­turn his mem­o­ry to him, al­though he would then lose any rec­ol­lec­tion of the in­ter­ven­ing pe­ri­od. In a novel by Bul­w­er-Lyt­ton pub­lished in A11 the Year Round, A Strange Story (1862), the doc­tor who nar­rates the tale ex­plains that '"obliv­ion after bod­i­ly ill­ness or men­tal shock are fa­mil­iar enough to the prac­tice of all med­i­cal men"'

The works of Collins and Bul­w­er-Lyt­ton may well have in­spired Dick­ens to give Edwin am­ne­sia, but a like­li­er pos­si­bil­i­ty is that after the din­ner at the Gate House he in fact has sought out Grew­glous's aid and guardian­ship, as does Rosa later on. We sus­pect that Grew­gious knows some­thing about Jaspet that mo­ti­vates an­tipa­thy. Grew­gious may wish to keep Edwin away from his friends in

order to en­trap Jasper. By the same token, he keeps an eye on Neville, as he says, in order to pro­tect him from being vic­tim­ized any fur­ther.

The sup­po­si­tion that Edwin is not dead but mere­ly in hid­ing is based on four pieces of ev­i­dence: a dele­tion in the manuscript re­gard­ing Edwin's pos­si­ble re­turn to Clois­ter­ham; the cover de­sign for the wrap­per of the month­ly parts; the list of pro­ject­ed ti­tles for the novel (p. 15); and a con­sid­er­a­tion of ear­li­er themes in Dick­ens's works.

In chap­ter 14, Edwin wan­ders about Clois­ter­ham be­fore the din­ner at the Gate House and wist­ful­ly looks at 'all the old land­marks. He will soon be far away, and may never see them again, he thinks. Poor youth! Poor youth!' Dick­ens re­vised this from:' Poor youth! Poor youth!' For Mar­garet Card­well, this dele­tion means an "im­pend­ing suc­cess­ful mur­der". She thinks that as Eu­gene Wray­burn es­caped in Our Mu­tu­al Friend, so might Edwin, but that the 'ar­gu­ment in favour of Dick­ens's not using the same out­come twice is prob­a­bly the stronger' (1969, 275). On the con­trary: Dick­ens used the theme of a man re­turn­ing from the dead more than once, and it there­fore seems like­ly that he in­tend­ed to do so again.

As a sec­ond piece of ev­i­dence, the cover de­sign for the wrap­per of the month­ly parts sug­gests that Jasper would be com­pelled to re­vis­it the vault in which he sup­pos­es Edwin's body to lie, and there, in the light of the lantern, find the liv­ing Edwin. The face and fig­ure of the young man are rec­og­niz­ably those of the young man at the top left of the il­lus­tra­tion: Edwin with Rosa on his arm. And he stands with one hand in his breast pock­et, much as Edwin would have stood as his hand crept to the ring given to him by Grew­gious for Rosa. Al­though it has been ar­gued that the young man in the vault is He­le­na, Datch­ery, Baz­zard or Neville dis­guised as Edwin, the use of dis­guise would weak­en the im­pact of rev­e­la­tion and, any­way, Dick­ens den­i­grat­ed dis­guise in a novel as mere de­vice.

A third piece of ev­i­dence lies in the manuscript list of pro­ject­ed names and ti­tles for the novel. Not all the ti­tles are rel­e­vant: 'Sworn to avenge it' refers to Jasper's re­ac­tion to the loss of his nephew, as do 'One Ob­ject in Life' and 'A Kins­man's De­vo­tion'. 'The loss of James Wake­field', how­ev­er, sug­gests some­thing else. (Is Dick­ens think­ing of The Vicar of Wake­field, from which Edwin's name prob­a­bly de­rives, and of the com­bi­na­tion of the words 'wake' and 'field'?) There are five ti­tles be­gin­ning with the word 'loss', the only vari­ants being Edwin's name, which al­ters sev­er­al times. 'Loss' changes to 'dis­ap­pear­ance' and 'James's Dis­ap­pear­ance' and 'The Dis­ap­pear­ance of Edwin Drood'. 'The Mys­tery in the Drood Fam­i­ly' (al­lud­ing, per­haps, to the skele­ton in the cup­board re­ferred to in chap­ter 2) is only slight­ly less am­bigu­ous than the title fi­nal­ly cho­sen, which is also list­ed to­wards the end. The re­main­ing four ti­tles point to Drood's hav­ing sur­vived: 'Flight And Pur­suit' and 'The flight of Edwyn Drood' are strong enough hints, but 'Dead? Or alive?' and in par­tic­u­lar 'Edwin Drood in hid­ing' seem to be even stronger ev­i­dence that Edwin is not dead, is in hid­ing, and that he will re­turn.

It must be ac­knowl­edged that the manuscript and cover de­sign alone re­veal few clues to the res­o­lu­tion of the novel. Fur­ther ev­i­dence can be found in Dick­ens's ear­li­er works, ev­i­dence that can pro­mote an un­der­stand­ing of the im­pe­tus psy­chol­o­gy of the novel, in­deed, a study of Dick­ens's re­work­ings of cer­tain pre­occupations man­i­fest in his ear­li­er writ­ings may throw light upon the mys­tery. That he re­worked the pre­oc­cu­pa­tions so fre­quent­ly and for so long sug­gests some inner com­pul­sion never re­solved which in­formed his art to the end.

His as­so­ci­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion with Wilkie Collins cu­ri­ous­ly pro­duced a re­mark­able num­ber of sto­ries about the re­turn from the dead. His tale of The Two Robins' in A Lazy Tour of Two Idle Ap­pren­tices, an ac­count of a hol­i­day he shared with Collins, tells of a dead man who has come to life again. In "A Mes­sage from the Sea' (Christ­mas Sto­ries), which he wrote with Collins, a man be­lieved to have drowned is found by a cap­tain who pre­pares his wife for his re­turn.

'I make up sto­ries of broth­ers brought to­geth­er by GOD, -of sons brought back to moth­ers, hus­bands brought back to wives, fa­thers raised from the deep, for lit­tle chil­dren like her­self.'

The theme oc­curs in two of Collins's own sto­ries for House­hold Words. 'Gabriel's Mar­riage' tells of a fish­er­man who be­lieves he has mur­dered a trav­eller. The vic­tim sur­vives the as­sault and comes back to the fish­er­man's cot­tage;

The door was opened. On a love­ly moon­light night François Sarzeau had stood on that thresh­old years since, with a bleed­ing body in his arms; on a love­ly moon­light night, he now stood there again, con­fronting the very man whose life he had at­tempt­ed, and know­ing him not. (1853,7.188)

'Sis­ter Rose' (1855, 11.293-303) tells of a man who be­trays his wife and her broth­er to the Reign of Ter­ror in France; they sur­vive for the broth­er to con­front Danville among friends who have come to wit­ness his re­mar­riage. Danville's hand goes cold in the clasp of the girl he in­tends to marry; he is trans­fixed at the sight of the man whose death he be­lieves he ar­ranged.

Fi­nal­ly, a story in All the Year Round on which Dick­ens and Collins col­lab­o­rat­ed is strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar to The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. In "No Thor­ough­fare' (18, Christ­mas Num­ber, 1-48), Oben­reiz­er be­lieves that he has mur­dered George Ven­dale, al­though in fact Ven­dale is only wound­ed. Bin­trey dis­cov­ers this and finds an op­por­tu­ni­ty to have Ven­dale stand "be­fore the mur­der­er, a man risen from the dead'. Oben­reiz­er had used opium 'to try' his vic­tim, in much the same way that Jasper drugs Dur­dles. There are other sim­i­lar­i­ties. A 'cer­tain name­less film' would come over Oben­reiz­er's eyes just as 'a strange film' comes over the eyes of Jasper. Joey Ladle, the cel­lar­man who com­plains of the un­nat­u­ral­ness of work­ing un­der­ground, is a char­ac­ter in the same tra­di­tion as Dur­dles. And Oben­reiz­er's mo­tive for mur­der is jeal­ousy of Ven­dale's win­ning the heart of his niece, Mar­guerite. Like Rosa, Mar­guerite flees to the pro­tec­tion of a trust­ed fam­i­ly lawyer, Bin­trey.

In Dick­ens's nov­els, the theme of the re­turn from the dead is some­times inter­twined with an­oth­er of his pre­oc­cu­pa­tions, the dop­pelgänger motif. Our Mu­tu­al Friend in par­tic­u­lar con­tains no­table an­tic­i­pa­tions of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. Bradley Head­stone's tor­ment­ed, guilt-rid­den mind, and his strug­gle to keep up the ap­pear­ance and the rou­tine of a well-reg­u­lat­ed life pre­fig­ure John Jasper. Eu­gene Wray­burn is at­tacked, thrown into the river and res­cued. After his re­cov­ery from a long ill­ness, he feels him­self to be a dif­fer­ent per­son and a bet­ter man, and he be­comes wor­thy of Lizzie. Edwin Drood, as feck­less as Eu­gene, also seems to have some­thing to learn be­fore he can de­serve the hand of ei­ther Rosa Bud or He­le­na Land­less, Like­wise, in­te­gra­tion and re­demp­tion may also have been in­tend­ed for Jasper.

Is Edwin Drood dead? Cer­tain­ly, we are left with the im­pres­sion that Eu­gene Wray­burn is:

Eu­gene was light, ac­tive, and ex­pert; but his arms were bro­ken, or he was paral­ysed, and could do no more than hang on to the man, with his head swung back, so that he could see noth­ing but the heav­ing sky. After drag­ging at the as­sailant, he fell on the bank with him, and then there was an­oth­er great crash and then a splash, and all was done. (4.6)

And we are also left with the im­pres­sion that John Har­mon is dead. As to why he should have as­sumed the iden­ti­ty of an­oth­er man after he has been at­tacked and pre­sumed drowned, Har­mon ex­plains that be­cause he is be­lieved to be dead he feels he has lost his own iden­ti­ty:

Next day while I hes­i­tat­ed, and next day while I hes­i­tat­ed, it seemed as if the whole coun­try were de­ter­mined to have me dead. The In­quest de­clared me dead, the Gov­ern­ment pro­claimed me dead; I could not lis­ten at my fire­side for five min­utes to the outer nois­es, but it was borne into my ears that I was dead. (2.13)

The mo­ment when he 'rises from the dead' in front of the two men who be­lieve that he was drowned at their in­sti­ga­tion cre­ates the same kind of en­counter as that il­lus­trat­ed in the cover de­sign of the month­ly wrap­per of The Mys­tery of Edam Drood. The in­sti­ga­tors of John Har­mon's 'mur­der' are as shocked by his reap­pear­ance as John Jasper seems shocked by Edwin's. They re­spond as if they were see­ing a ghost:

Bella's hus­band stepped soft­ly to the half-door of the bar, and stood there ... Mr Kib­ble had stag­gered up, with his lower jaw dropped, catch­ing Pot­ter­son by the shoul­der, and point­ing to the half-door. He now cried out: 'Pot­ter­son! Look! Look there!' Pot­ter­son starred up, start­ed back, and ex­claimed: 'Heav­en de­fend us, what's that!'(4.12)

Sev­er­al other of Dick­ens's nov­els fea­ture, with vary­ing de­grees of promi­nence, the idea of the dead re­turned to life. In The Crick­et on the Hearth, Ed­ward Plum­mer, thought of as lost and dead (' "If my boy in the Gold­en South Amer­i­c­as was alive" ') re­turns in time to save his child­hood sweet­heart from an un­de­sir­able mar­riage. In Dombey and Son, the scene de­scrib­ing Wal­ter Gay's last night at home con­tains hints of his re­port­ed loss at sea very sim­i­lar to (he hints given of Edwin Drood's dis­ap­pear­ance in the scene of his farewell to Clois­ter­ham:

Wal­ter's heart felt heavy as he looked round his old bed­room, up among the para­pets and chim­ney-pots, and thought that one more night al­ready dark­en­ing would close his ac­quain­tance with it, per­haps for ever. Dis­man­tled of his lit­tle stock of books and pic­tures, it looked cold­ly and re­proach­ful­ly on him for his de­ser­tion, and had al­ready a fore­shad­ow­ing upon it of its com­ing strangeness. (19)

Yet Wal­ter does come home. So, too, does Waller's uncle, Solomon Gills, who has also been given up for dead. In the light of the fate pos­si­bly in­tend­ed for John Jasper, it is sig­nif­i­cant, more­over, that Dombey and Son ul­ti­mate­ly turns upon the re­demp­tion of Mr Dombey.

In Bleak House, Mr George sends a let­ter to Es­ther ex­plain­ing that her fa­ther, his se­nior of­fi­cer, 'was (of­fi­cial­ly) re­port­ed drowned', or he would as­sured­ly have sought him out to save him from the lone­ly pau­per's death he suf­fers (63). Mr George him­self, in­ci­den­tal­ly, turns out to be the long-lost son of Mrs Rouncewell.

Sure­ly the fore­most ex­am­ple of Dick­ens's in­ter­weav­ing of the two themes is found in A Tale of Two Cities. What is most ger­mane to the is­sues in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood is Syd­ney Car­ton's mem­o­ry of the Buri­al Ser­vice, pre­sag­ing his vi­sion of a re­demp­tive sac­ri­fice (3.9). The same words that form the bur­den of Canon's thoughts as he walks along the banks of the Seine on the night be­fore his death are woven into the last chap­ter of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. The promise of re­demp­tion given in the last chap­ter is first made in the open­ing chap­ter when Jasper re­turns from his de­bauch in Lon­don and moves to­wards the in­ton­ing of Even­song. The phrase from Ezekiel, 'WHEN THE WICKED MAN...', seems to point to Jasper, but the words not quot­ed that fol­low these are an as­sur­ance of for­give­ness after re­pen­tance. This promise is taken up in the last chap­ter when a note of pathos is struck in the sug­ges­tions of the Res­ur­rec­tion and the Life which reach sym­bol­i­cal­ly into the Cathe­dral in the light of the 'bril­liant morn­ing' that 'shines on the old city', so that there seems to be a bless­ing on the world. This pas­sage is by no means the only ref­er­ence in the novel to the Bible. One im­por­tant ex­am­ple is that Neville, after Edwin's dis­ap­pear­ance, is re­peat­ed­ly iden­ti­fied with Cain (chap­ters 16.17). Al­though it is not pos­si­ble to be cer­tain of the man­ner in which Dick­ens in­tend­ed to de­vel­op these as­so­ci­a­tions. The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood may very well be pat­terned on that cycle of sin and re­demp­tion which the les­son of the Buri­al Ser­vice Im­plies. The stress on the theme of in­te­gra­tion and res­ur­rec­tion re­stores The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood to lovers of lit­er­a­ture. The ne­glect­ed artistry of the novel, a pro­found­ly sug­ges­tive ro­mance of great charm and beau­ty, rests its claim as a work of art upon its ex­plo­ration of the mys­tery of life, not upon its being a source for lit­er­ary de­tec­tives.

It is on Christ­mas Eve that the sup­posed mur­der of Edwin Drood takes place. That night Edwin, Neville and Jasper dine to­geth­er, after which Neville and Edwin go down to the river to watch the storm. There the mys­tery re­mains. What was the state of mind, the de­gree of ad­dic­tion, the dosage con­sumed of John Jasper on that night.' We know that Dick­ens knew that the eu­phoric sense of power that opium can give is delu­so­ry. So in­stead of ask­ing the ques­tion, 'Did Jasper at­tempt to mur­der his nephew', should we not ask: 'Did Jasper mur­der his nephew at all"? In­deed, did Jasper re­mem­ber what had ac­tu­al­ly taken place, and when? What is the force of the power Jasper seems to wield? It may be that this power is ul­ti­mate­ly im­po­tent, is mere delu­sion. Alas, the promise of re­demp­tion, the gift of res­ur­rec­tion re­main — as ever — the mys­tery of Edwin Drood.