Aubrey Boyd: A New Angle on the Drood Mystery

First pub­lished in Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty stud­ies. v.9 1921-1922.

The fol­low­ing ar­ti­cle was prompt­ed by a re-read­ing of Mr. J. Cum­mings Wal­ters' Com­plete Edwin Drood, (Lon­don: Chap­man and Hall, 1912) — an un­usu­al­ly in­ter­est­ing re­view of the facts and the­o­ries con­nect­ed with the Drood con­tro­ver­sy, — and the pre­sent writ­er, while dif­fer­ing with Mr. Wal­ters' main con­tention, wish­es to ac­knowl­edge a great in­debt­ed­ness to his con­ve­nient and sug­ges­tive sum­ma­ry, as well as to the bib­li­og­ra­phy with which it is sup­ple­ment­ed. Such a re­view is an im­mea­sur­able aid to the in­ves­ti­ga­tor, and when made by so able an ed­i­tor as Mr. Wal­ters, dears one's early path of many ob­struc­tive ir­rel­e­van­cies. I take plea­sure, also, in stat­ing an obli­ga­tion to Pro­fes­sor W. Roy Macken­zie and Pro­fes­sor Otto Heller of Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, for sev­er­al valu­able sug­ges­tions.

I have in­clud­ed in the in­tro­duc­to­ry pages cer­tain data fa­mil­iar to every stu­dent of the Drood prob­lem, with the ob­ject of mak­ing the sub­se­quent dis­cus­sion im­me­di­ate­ly clear to the gen­er­al read­er, and of em­pha­siz­ing the facts that are par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant to the the­o­ry I have set forth in con­clu­sion. Since, how­ev­er, it is the mark of the true Drood­ist, (as of the lit­er­ary en­thu­si­ast in every other field), that such re­hearsals are rather wel­come than oth­er­wise, the ex­pla­na­tion is per­haps un­nec­es­sary.


rit­ers of fic­tion have often mar­velled at the ease with which Na­ture, when she turns iron­ic, can sur­pass their shrewdest peripeties. Her prece­dence in such art was never more sharply demon­strat­ed than by the un­time­ly death, in 1870, of Charles Dick­ens, whose pen she chose to ar­rest at the very crux of the most baf­fling of his mys­tery sto­ries. To the end of his life, he had care­ful­ly con­cealed the de­noue­ment to­ward which his novel was tend­ing, and this swift catas­tro­phe, over­whelm­ing au­thor and plot in the same pre­ma­ture con­clusion, plunged the Mys­tery of Edwin Drood at one stroke al­most be­yond the reach of con­jec­ture, into a sun­less limbo of un­cer­tain­ty. A re­gion of ul­ti­mate rid­dle en­closed the enig­ma of his fic­tion, and though the se­cret he guard­ed so close­ly, has for fifty years been the sub­ject of con­tin­u­al in­quiry, no one has yet suc­ceed­ed in wrest­ing it from the silent and uni­ver­sal cus­to­di­an of mys­ter­ies to whom it was con­signed at his death.

Not that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been hin­dered by any lack of en­ter­prise. In 1875, a cer­tain anony­mous cit­i­zen of Brat­tle­bor­ough, Ver­mont, with an as­sur­ance less typ­i­cal of an­gels than of our coun­try­men, com­plet­ed the book by means of a "spir­it pen," with which he tran­scribed the prompt­ings of Dick­ens' shade from the other world. Over the re­sults of this un­der­tak­ing we had best draw a deco­rous veil. There is sim­i­lar oc­ca­sion for ret­i­cence re­gard­ing the two other Amer­i­can so­lu­tions of the prob­lem, pub­lished some­what ear­li­er by Or­pheus C. Kerr and Henry Mor­ford. Equal­ly spir­it­ed in the at­tempt, they proved cor­re­spond­ing­ly dull in the achieve­ment, and while all of them as­sumed the dra­mat­ic guise of se­quels to the un­fin­ished story, the il­lu­sion ceased at its out­set; in style and con­tent they pro­claimed from thé first their own ab­sur­di­ty.

In this, as­sured­ly, there swells no bugle note of encourage­ment to fresh ad­ven­ture. The Amer­i­can writ­er who pre­sumes to renew the at­tack under a stan­dard so dis­cred­it­ed, and under the old dis­ad­van­tage of re­mote­ness from the field of con­tro­ver­sy, not only has a very doubt­ful au­gury of suc­cess, he must show cause why the so­lu­tion of the prob­lem should not be left en­tire­ly in the hands of Dick­ens' com­pa­tri­ots, who are near­er some of the data than we, and there­fore bet­ter qual­i­fied, pre­sum­ably, to draw sound con­clu­sions. The lat­ter ob­jec­tion would be unan­swer­able, if it did not in­volve, I think, an un­just re­flec­tion on an au­thor who nei­ther wrote for, nor at­tract­ed, a mere­ly epony­mous group of read­ers. Like every other great writ­er, Dick­ens ad­dressed the world, and if the prin­ci­ples of all great art are uni­ver­sal, his major de­signs, and the in­ter­nal in­dices of them, ought to be as read­i­ly intelli­gible to read­ers of one na­tion­al­i­ty as of an­oth­er. This truth finds con­fir­ma­tion in the fact that the prox­im­i­ty of Dick­ens' fel­low-En­glish­men to the cir­cum­stances af­fect­ing his art has by no means pre­vent­ed them from writ­ing their full share of non­sense on the sub­ject of the Drood mys­tery. Their ex­travagance has never been as im­petu­ous and com­plete as ours, but the dif­fer­ence is large­ly at­tributable to a na­tion­al trait of mod­er­a­tion; they have been id­i­ot­ic in a for­mal and quiet way, es­cap­ing our wilder fan­ta­sia through a racial an­tipa­thy for the ve­he­ment, and re­main­ing dazed­ly cir­cum­spect where with us the lu­na­cy has been ar­dent, whole-heart­ed, and unre­strained.

An ob­sta­cle of a much less formidable kind is of­fered by the fa­mil­iar type of airy and dry-shod crit­ic, who, stand­ing con­spicuously aloof from the wel­ter of dis­pute, af­fects to dis­miss the prob­lem as nei­ther sol­u­ble nor worth solv­ing. He need not de­tain any­one who pos­sess­es even an el­e­men­tal under­standing of lit­er­a­ture. If art as a whole is worth dis­cussing, any work that em­bod­ies its prin­ci­ples must be equal­ly so. And the great ad­van­tage of such dis­cus­sion is that, how­ev­er fruit­less it may be with re­gard to its im­me­di­ate ob­jec­tive, it nec­es­sar­i­ly de­mands an ex­am­i­na­tion of the laws of art as ob­served by a par­tic­u­lar au­thor, to the con­se­quent clar­i­fi­ca­tion of opin­ion con­cern­ing both au­thor and art. Even the ex­travagances of the dis­putants are il­lu­mi­nat­ing.

It is true, of course, that no pur­pose can be served by wan­ton­ly adding to the list of these ex­trav­a­gances, and the un­rea­son that seems to be the doom of so many in­ves­ti­ga­tors of the mys­tery is a warn­ing not light­ly to be dis­re­gard­ed. The most log­i­cal thinker can hard­ly main­tain an un­wa­ver­ing san­i­ty while pick­ing his way through the labyrinth and frag­ments of this ex­traor­di­nary novel. There is an ar­ti­fice here that lures the mind into strange mazes, per­suad­ing it the while that the blin­d­est trails and tan­gled av­enues are straight high­roads of dis­cov­ery. A stray or fan­cied glim­mer across one's path, an odd­i­ty picked up at haz­ard by the way­side, as­sumes in an­oth­er in­stant the color of a clue, or, on re­sum­ing its true guise, pro­duces a dou­ble be­wil­der­ment. These are to­kens not mere­ly of the story's in­com­plete­ness, but of the skill with which the au­thor con­struct­ed his puz­zle, and the pre­sent writ­er pre­tends to no im­mu­ni­ty from the gen­er­al ver­ti­go. But some of the caus­es of ab­sur­di­ty in the pre­vi­ous com­men­taries no longer exist; some are read­i­ly avoid­able, and the late-com­er has the great privi­lege of being guid­ed by both the hits and miss­es of his fore­run­ners. By this I do not mean that I in­tend to sim­pli­fy the prob­lem; on the con­trary, I be­lieve that hith­er­to the in­vestigators of the mys­tery have erred chiefly through an un­der­rat­ing of its in­tri­ca­cy, and a ten­den­cy to be con­tent with a facile or su­per­fi­cial so­lu­tion. Even those who point out the com­plex­i­ty of the prob­lem are apt to offer at last some trite ex­pla­na­tion that is at once an in­sult to the au­thor's art and their own con­sis­ten­cy. And the par­tic­u­lar un­hap­pi­ness of the Amer­i­can con­tri­bu­tions has been part­ly the re­sult of a na­tion­al dis­in­cli­na­tion (though one we have for­tu­nate­ly out­grown) to con­sid­er Dick­ens as a se­ri­ous and care­ful artist. Per­haps our coun­try­men of the last cen­tu­ry hoped to salve the sting of his irony in Mar­tin Chuz­zle­wit and the Amer­i­can Notes, when they de­scribed him as an ec­cen­tric lit­er­ary car­toonist. But what­ev­er the cause, the fact is now as ob­vi­ous as it is de­plorable, that an Amer­i­can in­ves­ti­ga­tor of the Drood mys­tery can se­cure for his work the dis­tinc­tion of nov­el­ty mere­ly by as­sum­ing that Dick­ens, in his last novel, was build­ing to­ward a con­clu­sion of no je­june or com­mon­place sort, in a man­ner nei­ther tri­fling nor per­func­to­ry.

One name is too often pro­faned to be ad­duced again in sup­port of our shak­en lit­er­ary pres­tige, but there was an Ameri­can crit­ic, who, had he lived to see the pub­li­ca­tion of Edwin Drood, would have made these com­ments point­less. He was one of Dick­ens' most dis­crim­i­nat­ing ad­mir­ers, and a fel­low- crafts­man whose skill in the weav­ing of mys­ter­ies was a by­word in his time. I refer of course to Edgar Poe. No writ­er could have brought to bear on the Drood prob­lem a finer ge­nius for con­struc­tive anal­y­sis, or a bet­ter equip­ment for clear­ing the con­fu­sion that sur­rounds it. In 1842 he per­formed the same of­fice for Barn­a­by Rudge, while that novel was run­ning in se­ri­al form, and still in­com­plete. To at­tempt ei­ther to em­u­late with re­gard to Drood his in­ci­sive anal­y­sis of the Rudge mys­tery, or to du­pli­cate his unique method of crit­i­cism would be a fa­tu­ity; his name is cited here be­cause, as I be­lieve, and hope later to show, his com­ments on the ear­li­er mys­tery novel had a de­terming ef­fect on the composi­tion of the later one.

With which cau­tious pream­ble we may con­sid­er the manes of crit­i­cism ap­peased, and aban­don the vestibules.

All those who have made a care­ful study of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood are agreed that it was to have been the most close­ly con­struct­ed of Dick­ens' mys­tery sto­ries. There is abun­dant ev­i­dence that the au­thor had taken to heart some of the stric­tures on the loose plot­ting of his ear­li­er nov­els, and was re­solved that this one should offer no oc­ca­sion for such cen­sure. It seems idle to en­ter­tain, there­fore, any assump­tion that the minor de­tails of the story may be in­signif­i­cant, or ir­rel­e­vant to its main pur­pose. Up to the last hour of writ­ing, the au­thor was on his met­tle; very sat­is­fied with what he was doing, and what he in­tend­ed to do; ex­treme­ly care­ful in the re­vi­sion of his proofs, and, as both his daugh­ter, Mme Pe­rug­i­ni, and his friend, Forster, as­sure us, never more alert in in­tel­lect and imag­i­na­tion. His phys­i­cal health had been im­paired by a life­time of over­work, and there is a clause in the con­tract for his last novel men­tion­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of his death be­fore its com­ple­tion, which shows that he knew his strength to be wan­ing, and was aware that he might never live to com­plete an­oth­er book. Nat­u­ral­ly, this would only in­crease his de­ter­mi­na­tion to make The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood su­pe­ri­or to its pre­de­ces­sors.

The theme of the story was to be equal­ly un­usu­al. His first idea (af­ter­wards dis­card­ed) was ex­pressed to Forster in a let­ter dated July, 1869. "What should you think of the idea of a story be­gin­ning in this way? ...Two peo­ple, boy and girl, or very young, 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." "This idea," said Forster, "left a marked trace on the story as af­ter­wards de­signed." But a lit­tle later Dick­ens wrote to say that he had changed his mind. "I laid aside the fancy I told you of, and have a very cu­ri­ous and new idea for my new story. Not a com­mu­ni­ca­ble idea, (or the in­ter­est of the book would be gone), but a very strong one, though dif­fi­cult to work." The idea was not, in fact, com­mu­ni­cat­ed to Forster, though the broad plot in­ci­dents were, to­geth­er with the fate of sev­er­al of the char­ac­ters. The other in­di­ca­tions show that Dick­ens was deeply fas­ci­nat­ed by his theme, feel­ing in its develop­ment some­thing of Steven­son's ex­hil­a­ra­tion over that of the equal­ly ill-fat­ed Weir of Her­mis­ton.

The scene of the novel was laid in Rochester (re-chris­tened Clois­ter­ham in the fic­tion), a town that had al­ways in­ter­est­ed Dick­ens, and to whose ap­pro­pri­ate­ness as a set­ting for a story of mys­tery he had pre­vi­ous­ly al­lud­ed (The Seven Poor Trav­el­ers,1851). He was in­ti­mate­ly con­ver­sant with all its land­marks, but for the pur­pos­es of his art was chiefly at­tract­ed by the cas­tle and the cathe­dral, and their sug­ges­tion of mi­as­mic gloom and decay. Against this ef­fect, the pic­turesque beau­ty of the cathe­dral's sur­round­ings of­fered an ad­mirable op­por­tu­ni­ty for re­lief. "The spot," as Mr. Cum­ings Wal­ters points out, "was well cho­sen for mys­tery, with its dark by­ways, its no thor­ough­fares, its Monk's Vine­yard, its crum­bling walls, its Gate House, and its postern stairs." When the au­thor adapt­ed it in Drood, the cathe­dral be­came the key to the story, dom­i­nat­ing all the other de­tails of the set­ting with some­thing of the ef­fect of Notre Dame in Hugo's novel.

The tale it­self, up to the point where the last ill­ness of the au­thor in­ter­rupt­ed it, is as fol­lows. I have used what I think to be the fair pre­rog­a­tive of de­tail­ing such fea­tures of the plot as seem im­por­tant to what I con­sid­er its final ob­jec­tive.

John Jasper, the choir­mas­ter at Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral, is dis­covered at the open­ing of the story in a Lon­don smok­ing-den, half stu­pe­fied with the fumes of opium. The re­sort is one of the low­est type, kept by a hag­gard old woman who is also ad­dict­ed to the drug. Its other in­mates are a Chi­na­man and a Las­car. Jasper, when he re­cov­ers a lit­tle from his stu­por, shakes the sleep­ing Ori­en­tals, and lis­tens in­tent­ly to their mut­ter­ings, but sat­is­fies him­self that the jar­gon they speak is un­in­tel­li­gi­ble. The same af­ter­noon he re­turns to Clois­ter­ham, and to his du­ties at the church. He is de­scribed as a dark young man of some twen­ty-six years, good look­ing in a som­bre way, with thick, lus­trous, black hair and whiskers. Ev­ery­thing in his ap­pear­ance, and in that of the room at the Clois­ter­ham Gate House, where he lodges, sug­gests shad­ow and se­cre­cy.

He has a nephew named Edwin Drood, a youth with whose sunny sim­plic­i­ty and frank­ness his own char­ac­ter is in marked con­trast, but who is pro­found­ly at­tached to him, and under his in­flu­ence. Edwin is be­trothed to a pret­ty lit­tle girl of the light, whim­si­cal, and af­fec­tion­ate type so much es­teemed by Dick­ens and his read­ers. Her name is Rosa Bud, and she is a mem­ber of a sem­i­nary for young ladies kept by a spin­ster named Miss Twin­kle­ton. Rosa and Edwin have been af­fi­anced by their par­ents, now dead, and the girl's af­fairs are in the hands of one Grew­gious, an ec­cen­tric and ami­able old lawyer, who keeps rather dis­mal cham­bers in Lon­don, alone with his clerk Baz­zard. The last is some­thing be­tween a "fa­mil­iar" and a shab­by so­lic­i­tor's devil, but he atones for the anoma­ly of his po­si­tion by ex­act­ing from Grew­gious a scrupu­lous def­er­ence to his feel­ings, and an ab­surd de­gree of cer­e­mo­ny in their re­la­tion­ship. As a final touch of the grotesque, he has been try­ing for an in­def­i­nite pe­ri­od to dis­pose of a play he has writ­ten, and makes Grew­gious the priv­i­leged shar­er of his se­cret. Grew­gious is not with­out an iron­i­cal sense of his clerk's stupid ego­ism, but be­friends him from kind­ness of heart, and per­haps from some thought of re­liev­ing his own lone­li­ness.

The love af­fair be­tween Edwin and Rosa is hin­dered by two ob­sta­cles. One is the fear on Rosa's part that their at­tach­ment is large­ly a mat­ter of habit and duty, and that they are sim­u­lat­ing a deep­er feel­ing than friend­li­ness mere­ly to ful­fil their par­ents' wish­es, — an ap­pre­hen­sion that later ap­pears to be well ground­ed. This com­plex­i­ty is charm­ing­ly con­veyed in a gar­den scene be­tween the two, where the fact is also dis­closed that Edwin has pre­pared him­self for the en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sion, and plans to go to Egypt on some con­struc­tive pro­ject, tak­ing Rosa with him. In her child­ish bad­i­nage, she refers to the story of Bel­zoni, who was dragged out of the pyra­mids half choked with bats and dust, and won­ders if Edwin is going to be buried there. While they are talk­ing, they ap­proach the Cathe­dral win­dows, and hear a re­sound­ing chord from the organ with­in, and the sound of Jasper's voice, singing. With a strange trep­i­da­tion, Rosa begs Edwin to go back with her to the school, and is only com­posed again when they are out of range of the sound.

The other ob­sta­cle, though Edwin Drood is un­aware of it, has to do with this in­ci­dent. His uncle Jasper, the choir­mas­ter, whom they have heard singing in the Cathe­dral, has con­ceived a pas­sion­ate de­sire for Rosa, and a brood­ing jeal­ousy of her be­trothed, which he dis­guis­es under a man­ner of benev­o­lent af­fec­tion. Rosa has an in­tu­ition of this, but her fiancé sus­pects noth­ing. When Drood, later, speaks of mar­ry­ing her and going to Egypt, Jasper warns him in a cryp­tic way of dan­ger. Short­ly af­ter­wards Jasper vis­its Sapsea, the mayor of Clois­ter­ham, a vul­gar and pompous dig­ni­tary, from whom he learns the par­tic­u­lars of Mrs. Sapsea's buri­al in the Cathe­dral vaults; at the mayor's house he also meets Dur­dles, a drunk­en stone mason, who car­ries with him the keys of the vaults. Tak­ing these from Dur­dles' hand, Jasper clinks them to dis­tin­guish their sounds. There­after he goes home, and watch­es Drood asleep, "with a fixed and deep at­ten­tion." On re­tir­ing to his own room, he pre­pares a pipe of opium, and spends the night in dreams.

About this time two or­phans ar­rive in Clois­ter­ham from Cey­lon, — a broth­er and sis­ter named Neville and He­le­na Land­less. They both have a dark and for­eign look, hold them­selves mis­trust­ful­ly aloof and are in turn mis­trust­ed, and show, or at least the broth­er does, a som­bre en­mi­ty, — even at times a smoul­der­ing sav­agery of man­ner, that has re­sult­ed from years of ill treat­ment under harsh guardians. This un­hap­py es­trange­ment from other so­ci­ety has in­creased their de­vo­tion to each other, and there is be­tween them a kind of sympathe­tic un­der­stand­ing, so strong that the broth­er claims for his sis­ter the power of di­vin­ing even in his ab­sence what he may be think­ing or doing. They are in­tro­duced to Crisparkle, the minor canon of the church, by Hon­eythun­der, a schem­ing phi­lan­thropist. Crisparkle is a kind­ly man, — a Chris­tian of the prac­ti­cal, chival­rous, and muscu­lar sort. He takes the two or­phans under his care, and the spell of his kind­ness grad­u­al­ly breaks down their sulky de­tach­ment. It is to him that Neville Land­less men­tions the pe­cu­liar un­der­stand­ing exist­ing be­tween He­le­na and him­self, and re­lates the story of their child­hood. They had, it ap­pears, at­tempt­ed sev­er­al times to run away from their guardians; in each of these at­tempts He­le­na had shown a mascu­line courage and res­o­lu­tion, going so far as to cut her hair short, and dress in boy's clothes in order to aid their es­cape.

As their strangeness wears off under Crisparkle's friend­ly treat­ment, they are drawn into more in­ti­mate touch with the life of Clois­ter­ham. Neville be­comes in­ter­est­ed in Rosa, and has an im­petuous dis­like for Drood, be­cause of the lat­ter's air of pro­pri­etor­ship over her. He­le­na also is fond of Rosa, and is quick to per­ceive her fear of Jasper and the cause of it. The dom­i­na­tion ex­ert­ed by Jasper over the be­trothed pair ap­pears strong­ly in a scene at the piano, where Rosa is singing to his ac­com­pa­ni­ment, and he watch­es her lips with ex­traor­di­nary in­tent­ness while she sings. The room is full of peo­ple, none of whom sus­pects that any­thing un­usu­al is to­ward, least of all Drood, since Jasper's con­cen­tra­tion on the girl's face can be at­tribut­ed to his pro­fes­sion­al in­ter­est in her as a pupil. But when He­le­na and Neville are ush­ered in upon this scene, and though they have never seen Jasper be­fore, there pass­es be­tween them, a look of in­stan­ta­neous com­pre­hen­sion, in which Crisparkle seems to rec­og­nize the un­der­stand­ing men­tioned by Neville. At last Rosa breaks down and cries out in ter­ror that she can stand it no longer. He­le­na takes care of her, and when they are alone ques­tions her as to the cause of this ner­vous cri­sis. Rosa speaks vague­ly and halt­ing­ly of an un­spo­ken threat she reads in Jasper's eyes and feels in his pres­ence, and of the power he wields over her, but He­le­na di­vines more than the fright­ened girl has words to ex­plain.

Again Jasper uses his as­cen­dan­cy over his nephew in fo­ment­ing a quar­rel be­tween the lat­ter and Neville Land­less. Suc­ceed­ing in pro­voking Neville to a burst of fury, he re­ports to Crisparkle that the young man is mur­der­ous. Crisparkle in­ter­me­di­ates, and three days later Drood writes a note to Neville, ex­press­ing his re­gret at the quar­rel. Jasper, pre­tend­ing to fur­ther the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, ar­ranges a din­ner, at which the two young men are to be his guests on Christ­mas Eve, at the Gate House.

In the mean­time Drood calls on Grew­gious, Rosa's guardian in Lon­don. The old lawyer gives him a be­trothal ring which had be­longed to Rosa's moth­er, with an im­pres­sive warn­ing that if he should de­cide to break the en­gage­ment with Rosa, he must re­turn the ring. Drood agrees, and Baz­zard is wit­ness to the com­pact. In Clois­ter­ham, Jasper pays a mid­night visit to the vaults with Dur­dles. They pass a mound of quick­lime, about which Jasper ques­tions his guide. In the shad­ows of Minor Canon cor­ner, Jasper stops short be­hind a piece of old dwarf wall in time to es­cape ob­ser­va­tion by Crisparkle and Neville Land­less, who are saun­ter­ing by, un­aware of being ob­served. "Jasper folds his arms upon the top of the wall, and with his chin rest­ing on them, watch­es. He takes no note what­ev­er of the Minor Canon, but watch­es Neville as though his eye were at the trig­ger of a load­ed rifle, and he had cov­ered him, and were going to fire. A sense of de­struc­tive power is so ex­pressed in his face that even Dur­dles paus­es in his munch­ing, and looks at him, with an un­munched some­thing in his cheek." On reach­ing the vaults, Jasper gives Dur­dles a drugged bot­tle of wine. While the lat­ter is drink­ing it, he tells Jasper of a strange cry he has often heard is­su­ing from the vaults. When he has fall­en asleep, Jasper pur­loins his keys and con­tin­ues the ex­plo­ration alone.

Rosa and Drood de­cide to break off their en­gage­ment, to the great re­lief of both of them, Drood being so heart-free in the mat­ter as to think ro­man­ti­cal­ly of He­le­na Land­less al­most at the mo­ment he sep­a­rates from his be­trothed. They agree not to tell Jasper of their de­ci­sion, though Drood still be­lieves in his uncle's af­fec­tion for him­self, and can­not un­der­stand Rosa's aver­sion. He does not, of course, give Rosa the ring; in fact, after some hes­i­ta­tion, he re­solves not to tell her of it at all. Rosa un­der­takes to write to Grew­gious about their bro­ken en­gage­ment.

On Christ­mas Eve, the date set by Jasper for the din­ner, Neville Land­less buys a heavy walk­ing stick, prepara­to­ry to start­ing next day on a walk­ing tour, and tells Crisparkle of his plan. Edwin Drood strolls about Clois­ter­ham, and has his watch re­paired by a jew­eller, who tries to in­ter­est him in some pur­chas­es. Drood ex­plains that he wears no other jew­el­ry than a watch and chain and a shirt pin; the jew­eller replies that he is aware of this, hav­ing learned it from Jasper while try­ing to per­suade him to buy a pre­sent for his nephew's wed­ding. Drood also meets an aged woman, in whom the read­er rec­og­nizes the keep­er of the opium den; she warns him that "Ned" is a threat­ened name. Jasper sings in the choir in beau­ti­ful voice, tells Crisparkle of his im­proved health and spir­its, and goes singing to his house; ar­rived there he paus­es for an in­stant under the arched en­trance to pull off a great black scarf he has been wear­ing, and hang it in a loop over his arm. "For that brief mo­ment his face is knit­ted and stern." A vi­o­lent storm is gath­er­ing as he goes up the postern stair, — where the oth­ers have pre­ced­ed him, in the order named.

The next morn­ing Jasper rush­es to Crisparkle's house with the tid­ings that Drood has dis­ap­peared, and claims to have last seen him going to­ward the river in com­pa­ny with Land­less. Drood can­not be found, but Neville, who has start­ed on his walk­ing trip, is pur­sued and brought back. Not re­al­iz­ing at first what he is want­ed for, and hav­ing no clear rec­ol­lec­tion of what had hap­pened after the din­ner, he re­sists the sher­iff's of­fi­cers, and in the scuf­fle is slight­ly hurt. Some drops of blood fall on the walk­ing stick, and con­geal­ing quick­ly in the cold air, serve to in­crim­i­nate him still fur­ther, though against all rea­son. Grew­gious, Rosa's guardian, comes to Clois­ter­ham from Lon­don, ev­i­dent­ly in re­sponse to her let­ter, and vis­it­ing Jasper, in­forms him that Drood had bro­ken his en­gage­ment with Rosa a day or two be­fore his dis­ap­pear­ance. On re­ceiv­ing this news, Jasper gives a ter­ri­ble shriek and swoons. His con­duct awak­ens in Grew­gious a live­ly sus­pi­cion that he is not with­out knowl­edge of the man­ner of Drood's dis­ap­pear­ance.

The case against Neville Land­less deep­ens when Crisparkle finds Drood's watch and chain and shirt pin in the weir, as Neville was re­port­ed to have last been seen walk­ing to­ward the river with the miss­ing man. But noth­ing more being found against him, he is set at large again, for lack of ev­i­dence, with a "blight on his name." Jasper, how­ev­er, hands Crisparkle a writ­ten ex­pres­sion of his con­viction that Drood has been mur­dered, and de­clares him­self sworn to track down the mur­der­er.

Six months later, Neville is liv­ing in Lon­don, near the lodg­ings of Grew­gious, where Crisparkle vis­its him from time to time, bring­ing him books, and try­ing to save him from de­spon­den­cy. Dur­ing this time Crisparkle and Grew­gious have both been busy in an at­tempt to clear up the mys­tery of Drood's dis­ap­pear­ance. When Crisparkle calls on him, Grew­gious no­tices Jasper's stealthy fig­ure in the street below Neville's win­dow, and vague­ly in­ti­mates to the Minor Canon his sus­pi­cion of the choir­mas­ter.

A new char­ac­ter is now in­tro­duced in the per­son of Lieu­tenant Tar­tar, a breezy and vig­or­ous naval of­fi­cer, who ap­pears sud­den­ly one mid­night at Neville's win­dow, which he has reached by a dizzy tran­sit from his own, (op­po­site on the top floor), trail­ing with him some scar­let run­ners with the kind­ly pur­pose of al­low­ing the lone­ly young man to share his flow­ers. The two rooms are thus joined, and after talk­ing to Neville for a lit­tle, he bids him good­night and swing­ing out of the win­dow, and along the trail of scar­let run­ners, he van­ish­es into the dark­ness. (In his com­ments on the plot, Dick­ens ex­pressed a fear that the chap­ter im­me­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing had been in­tro­duced ''too soon.'')

"About this time a stranger ap­pears in Clois­ter­ham." He gives the name of Dick Datch­ery, and takes lodg­ings with Tope, the verg­er. He is de­scribed as a white­haired per­son­age with black eye­brows. "Being but­toned up in a tight­ish blue surtout with a buff waist­coat and grey trousers, he has some­thing of a mil­i­tary air ...but he an­nounces him­self as an idle dog who lives upon his means," and states that he is tak­ing rooms in the town for a month or two, with a view to set­tling there def­i­nite­ly if he likes it. One of the first per­sons he meets is a boy named Deputy, a waif, whose chief func­tion in life is to stone Dur­dles home when he is drunk. Deputy points out to Datch­ery Jasper's house, (at which the stranger looks with consider­able in­ter­est), and then di­rects him to the Topes' place. He talks with Mrs. Tope about the Drood case, show­ing a very con­fused knowl­edge of the events in ques­tion, and gives a faulty sum­ma­ry of the facts, seem­ing­ly with the pur­pose of being cor­rect­ed' by Mrs. Tope, and elic­it­ing in­for­ma­tion. There­after he in­ter­views Sapsea, the Mayor, to ver­i­fy as he says, the cre­den­tials of Mr. Tope. At the mayor's house he meets Jasper, and is in­tro­duced to him. Sapsea's first im­pres­sion of the stranger, con­veyed in a ques­tion as to his oc­cu­pa­tion, is that he is a re­tired army man; next that he be­longs to the navy, and third, that he is some­thing or other in diplo­ma­cy. Datch­ery con­fess­es to an in­ter­est in the last named pro­fes­sion. Through­out their con­ver­sa­tion and there­after his man­ner of speak­ing is breezy and crisp, with a faint un­der­tone of irony. The fact is em­pha­sized in the in­ter­view that he seems to have dif­fi­cul­ty in re­membering whether or not he is wear­ing his hat, and later he shakes his head, as if his mane of white hair made him un­com­fort­ably warm. On re­turn­ing to his rooms, he looks at his hair in the mir­ror, remark­ing to him­self, "For a sin­gle buffer, of an easy tem­per, liv­ing idly on his means, I have had a rather busy af­ter­noon!"

Jasper makes a pas­sion­ate dec­la­ra­tion of love to Rosa, and threat­ens the Land­less­es with vengeance. In ter­ror she flies to Grew­gious in Lon­don. Her guardian re­ceives her kind­ly, and tells her of his own ab­hor­rence of Jasper. Crisparkle also calls upon Grew­gious, and meets Tar­tar, in whom he rec­og­nizes an old col­lege mate, who had once saved him from drown­ing. Tar­tar is taken into their con­fi­dence, and places his rooms at Rosa's dis­pos­al.

Rosa and Tar­tar be­come close friends, and there is a clear sug­gestion of a grow­ing at­tach­ment be­tween them. He­le­na, who now ar­rives in Lon­don, is sim­i­lar­ly in­ter­est­ed in Crisparkle. Apart­ments are fi­nal­ly taken for Rosa and Miss Twin­kle­ton at a wid­owed cousin of Baz­zard, Grew­gious's play­writ­ing clerk. Grew­gious keeps watch on Jasper when he se­cret­ly vis­its Lon­don.

Jasper vis­its the old woman in the opium den, and speaks strange­ly of some­thing he has done, "pleas­ant to do." "It was," he says, "a dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous jour­ney, there was one who was often his fel­low-trav­eller on this jour­ney in his pre­vi­sions of it. But that one sus­pect­ed noth­ing. At the end, there was no strug­gle, no con­sciousness of peril, no en­treaty" — and yet he "never saw that be­fore." His speech trails off into the in­co­heren­cies of an opium dream, the old woman lis­ten­ing in­tent­ly the while.

Jasper leaves Lon­don; the old woman fol­lows him, ar­rives at Clois­ter­ham, and meets Datch­ery. The stranger ques­tions her as to what she wants with Jasper. She evades that point, but tells him of her pre­vi­ous meet­ing with Edwin. On leav­ing her, Datch­ery en­coun­ters Deputy, with whom he has struck up a friend­ship dur­ing his stay in Clois­ter­ham, and who sleeps at the trav­eller's lodg­ing where the old woman has taken quar­ters. The boy in­forms him that the old woman is called the "Princess Puffer" and lives among the Jacks and Chi­na­men in Lon­don. For a shilling, he promis­es to find out ex­act­ly where she lives. On re­turn­ing to Tope's, Datch­ery, in the old tav­ern way of keep­ing scores, chalks a small stroke on the inner side of a cup­board door, with the words "A very small score, this; a very poor score!" Later, after ser­vice at the Cathe­dral, he sees the old woman from be­hind a pil­lar shake her fist at Jasper. He ac­costs her, and asks her if she knows the choir­mas­ter. She replies that she knows him far bet­ter than all the Rev­erend Par­sons put to­geth­er. Datch­ery, when he reach­es home, "adds one thick line to the score, ex­tend­ing from the top of the cup­board door to the bot­tom."

[The story ends abrupt­ly at this point, with­in two pages of the end of the twen­ty-third chap­ter.]

The first, and in many ways the best out­line of Dick­ens' plan for the re­main­der of the novel is con­tribut­ed by his friend, John Forster, a man with whom he was on terms of the clos­est in­ti­ma­cy, and to whom he might be ex­pect­ed to im­part all those de­tails of the story that an au­thor will di­vulge be­fore com­menc­ing to write. Nov­el­ists vary great­ly in this re­spect, some being as ret­i­cent as oth­ers are com­mu­nica­tive, but there are few of them who do not guard even from their clos­est friends the more in­ti­mate fea­tures of their plan, par­tic­u­lar­ly when it in­volves a final sur­prise. We may look, ac­cord­ing­ly, on the scheme com­mu­ni­cat­ed to Forster as true, so far as it goes, but as only part of the truth, es­pe­cial­ly in view of the au­thor's ex­press state­ment that the crux of his story was "in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble". Forster re­ports that the story was to be of the mur­der of a nephew by his uncle, "the orig­i­nal­i­ty of which was to con­sist in the re­view of the mur­der­er's ca­reer by him­self at the close, when its temp­ta­tions were to be dwelt upon as if, not he, the cul­prit, but some other man were the tempt­ed. The last chap­ters were to be writ­ten in the con­demned cell, to which his wicked­ness, all elab­o­rate­ly elicit­ed from him as if told of an­oth­er, had brought him. Dis­cov­ery By the mur­der­er of the utter need­less­ness of the mur­der for its ob­ject was to fol­low hard upon the com­mis­sion of the deed, but all dis­cov­ery of the mur­der­er was to be baf­fled till to­ward 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." Rosa was to marry Tar­tar, and Crisparkle, the sis­ter of Land­less, who was him­self to have per­ished in as­sist­ing Tar­tar fi­nal­ly to un­mask and seize the mur­der­er.

This is frag­men­tary, and nec­es­sar­i­ly omits the "incom­municable" el­e­ment which Dick­ens re­served, but it is, in the main, borne out by the trend of the story, and can only be in­val­i­dat­ed by proof that Forster's mem­o­ry was de­fec­tive, that he ob­tained his data by in­fer­ence, rather than from Dick­ens' state­ment, or, (which is un­like­ly, but more prob­a­ble) that the au­thor slight­ly al­tered his plot in the course of its de­vel­op­ment. No such proof is forth­com­ing, how­ev­er, and Forster's tes­ti­mo­ny re­mains the best di­rect ev­i­dence we have.

There seems to be no cause, be­yond the caprice of the­o­rists, for ques­tion­ing it. (The other con­tem­po­rary ev­i­dence lies in the au­thor 's notes for the novel, the de­po­si­tion of his daugh­ter, and of his chief il­lus­tra­tor, and the il­lus­tra­tions in the book, all of which are ei­ther neg­a­tive, or con­firm Forster's state­ment)

So much for the donné. Out of this ma­te­ri­al has arisen a twofold prob­lem, which can be stat­ed in this way: (a) Was Drood mur­dered, or not? (b) Who is Datch­ery? There are good rea­sons for con­sid­er­ing the prob­lem three­fold, as I shall show later, but hith­er­to the dis­cus­sion has cen­tered around these two is­sues.

Re­gard­ing the first point, — whether Drood was mur­dered, or es­caped and later re­turned to Clois­ter­ham, there seems lit­tle oc­ca­sion for doubt. The man­i­fest plot in­di­ca­tions are here cor­rob­o­rat­ed by the per­son­al tes­ti­mo­ny of the three con­temporaries of the au­thor best qual­i­fied to give an opin­ion: Forster, his friend; Sir Luke Fildes, his il­lus­tra­tor; and Mme Pe­rug­i­ni, his daugh­ter. Mr. Cum­ings Wal­ters, in his Com­plete Edwin Drood has very co­gent­ly summed up all this ev­i­dence to prove that Dick­ens in­tend­ed Drood to be mur­dered, and has added to it other such data as the au­thor's own notes for the ti­tles and chap­ter di­vi­sions. The ques­tion as to whether Drood was ac­tu­al­ly mur­dered was first se­ri­ous­ly raised by R. A. Proc­tor, who early ad­vanced the the­o­ry that the au­thor in­tend­ed to re­peat here a theme he had used in sev­er­al pre­vi­ous works, and which was sym­bol­i­cal­ly termed "Watched by the Dead," the no­tion being that Drood was to be "im­per­fect­ly mur­dered," and was to re­turn later to watch and con­found the crim­i­nals. This, it will be no­ticed, hard­ly aligns with Forster 's state­ment that Tar­tar was to un­mask the mur­der­er. And to main­tain that such a well worn idea was to be the cen­tral theme of Drood, in the face of Dick­ens' an­nounce­ment that for the new novel he had hit upon a "very cu­ri­ous, new, and in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble idea, dif­fi­cult to work," is a lit­tle pre­pos­ter­ous.

The the­o­ry can be just as read­i­ly upset by an­oth­er type of ar­gu­ment. In the novel, Drood ap­pears nei­ther as a res­o­lute nor a re­source­ful char­ac­ter, and, in fact, comes as far short of cap­tur­ing the read­er's sym­pa­thy as could be con­ceived. He is given enough youth and guile­less­ness to black­en Jasper's crime, be­yond that he is noth­ing more than an oc­ca­sion for the story. Six months after his dis­ap­pear­ance the read­er is high­ly sat­is­fied to see Rosa in­ter­est­ed in a suit­or of a more manly mould, and one in every way bet­ter fit­ted to track down the male­fac­tor, if, in­deed, it is con­ceivable that Drood on re­turn­ing would have had any­one to track down, or any­thing to do but im­peach Jasper and put a sud­den end to the story. In other words, if Drood were to re­turn, there would be no place for him in the plot. He would find the girl he had been en­gaged to, in­ter­est­ed in some­one else; the other girl to whom his thoughts had twice turned with a mild, ro­man­tic con­jec­ture, in love with the Minor Canon; and there being no other pos­si­ble or "not im­possible she" in the off­ing, his only al­ter­na­tive in a well-man­aged Vic­to­ri­an fic­tion would be to die. His pres­ence in the ac­tion would oc­ca­sion con­sid­er­able em­bar­rass­ment to the story and to the au­thor, no less than to Rosa Bud, — and it may be noted in pass­ing, that Dick­ens never had the heart to sub­ject a ten­der hero­ine to the hu­mil­i­a­tion of comic bathos. And if, in con­for­mi­ty with the idea that

He who lives more lives than one,
More deaths than one must die,

Drood was to be, with re­gard to He­le­na or Rosa, the Enoch Arden of this story, — a char­ac­ter hero­ical­ly re­nun­ci­a­to­ry, or poignant­ly trag­ic, there never was a more in­ef­fec­tu­al pre­paration for a de­noue­ment than the open­ing part of the Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. Proc­tor's the­o­ry is hos­tile equal­ly to the pos­tu­lates of art and logic, and ne­ces­si­tates charg­ing Dick­ens with many faults of heart and head from which he was em­i­nent­ly free.

Mr. Cum­ings Wal­ters, one of the more re­cent com­men­ta­tors, shifts the prob­lem to the sec­ond gound. The only ques­tion of im­por­tance the novel pre­sents to him is "Who is Datch­ery?'' " Let us as­sume,'' he says, " that Dick­ens, whose idea was in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble, prompt­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed [the plot out­line men­tioned above] to Forster. It sim­ply proves that the mur­der was not the prin­ci­pal part of the story, and that it was not the new, and very cu­ri­ous, and very strong idea, dif­fi­cult to work. What was the part not com­mu­ni­cat­ed, never even hint­ed at? The an­swer is easy. There was no men­tion of Mr. Datch­ery!"

This rea­son­ing seems to sat­is­fy most of those who have ad­vanced so­lu­tions of the prob­lem. At any rate, none of the so­lu­tions, in­ge­nious though many of them are, con­sists of much more than con­jec­tures and the­o­ries about the iden­ti­ty of the stranger in Clois­ter­ham. Such has been the fe­cun­di­ty of re­search in this di­rec­tion, that hard­ly a char­ac­ter in the book has es­caped can­di­da­ture for the part of Datch­ery. But with all re­spect to Mr. Wal­ters, and the many ac­cep­tors of his propo­si­tion, I can­not be­lieve that the an­swer is quite so "easy." To men­tion a very ob­vi­ous ob­jec­tion, the words of Forster much more than "hint at" the fact that Tar­tar was Datch­ery.

But the basic ob­jec­tion to Mr. Wal­ter's con­tention is this. It is ridicu­lous to main­tain that the mere rev­e­la­tion of Datch­ery's iden­ti­ty, as the de­noue­ment of the mys­tery, is any more new, in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble, cu­ri­ous, strong or dif­fi­cult to work than the plot el­e­ment pro­posed by Proc­tor, or, in fact, at all dif­fer­ent, gener­i­cal­ly, from it. To main­tain that it is, is mere­ly to ex­change one con­tra­dic­tion for an­oth­er. I be­lieve, and am as­ton­ished to find my­self vir­tu­al­ly alone in con­tend­ing that Dick­ens re­gard­ed the iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery as a fea­ture of minor in­ter­est in his story, nec­es­sary to sus­tain the sus­pense until the re­al­ly ex­traor­di­nary cli­max and de­noue­ment, and no more. Noth­ing sure­ly was less new in the fic­tion of his time than the avenger incog­ni­to. The most un­ex­pect­ed identifica­tion at the end could not make it an ex­traor­di­nary story el­e­ment, — not even the grotesque rev­e­la­tion, (sug­gest­ed by Mr. Wal­ters, Mr. W. Robert­son Nichol, and Mr. An­drew Lang), of He­le­na Land­less as Datch­ery. The idea of a woman in such a part was al­ready los­ing some of its fresh­ness in the days of Tasso, and cer­tain­ly had noth­ing cu­ri­ous and new about it in 1869.

To look on the iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery as the in­du­bitable key­stone of the mys­tery, in­volves an­oth­er con­tra­dic­tion. Every­one who has plot­ted sto­ries of this kind, must have no­ticed that he has at his com­mand two gen­er­al meth­ods of achiev­ing sur­prise: he can con­trive an ex­traor­di­nary con­clu­sion, or he can se­cure the nec­es­sary el­e­ment of un­ex­pect­ed­ness in the means by which the con­clu­sion is brought about. In the lat­ter case it is op­tion­al with him whether he allow the con­clu­sion to be an­tic­i­pat­ed or not; if it is fore­seen, the in­ter­est of the story will be in no way com­pro­mised. And, in­deed, it is often prefer­able to give the read­er a clear pre­vi­sion of the out­come of the com­pli­ca­tion. If the read­er fore­sees, and de­sires a cer­tain end­ing, and yet can imag­ine no pos­si­ble means of its re­al­iza­tion, the au­thor has often a firmer hold on his in­terest than if the issue had been kept com­plete­ly un­cer­tain. (Of course the terms here used are rel­a­tive, since the out­come must re­main to some de­gree un­cer­tain until the means of achiev­ing it has been as­cer­tained, but in a broad way, the dis­tinc­tion will be found to hold.) Now Dick­ens made no se­cret of the con­clu­sion to­ward which he was lead­ing his plot; on the con­trary, he open­ly de­clared it to Fos­ter, while with­hold­ing, how­ev­er, what he re­gard­ed the main el­e­ment of in­ter­est in the story. This lat­ter el­e­ment of com­mand­ing in­ter­est must there­fore have con­cerned the means with which he planned to pre­cip­i­tate the out­come, and on it he must have de­pend­ed large­ly for his sur­prise. It will be in­stant­ly ob­ject­ed, that Dick­ens also re­vealed this means to Forster, as would ap­pear from the lat­ter's state­ment that the mur­der was to be lo­cat­ed, the body iden­ti­fied, and the cul­prit in­crim­i­nat­ed "by means of a gold ring which had re­sist­ed the cor­ro­sive ef­fects of the lime into which the body had been thrown." But there is this dif­fer­ence be­tween an end and a means, name­ly, that the end must be one, but the means can be many. In the pre­sent in­stance, Dick­ens, no doubt, re­vealed to Forster one of the sev­er­al means which were to pro­duce the con­clu­sion, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly the im­por­tant one; it is pos­si­ble and log­i­cal that he should have con­cealed from Forster an­oth­er de­ter­min­ing fac­tor, with­out which the ring would have had no value as a final cause, or per­haps by means of which the ring it­self was dis­cov­ered, But Datch­ery can­not be re­gard­ed as that yet un­di­vulged de­cid­ing cause. His res­o­lu­tion to track the crime to Jasper's door is per­fect­ly ap­par­ent from the first. Nor can his iden­ti­ty be so con­sidered. His incog­ni­to char­ac­ter is equal­ly ap­par­ent, and the ques­tion of his true iden­ti­ty is sub­or­di­nate to the real per­plex­i­ty in the read­er's mind as to how Jasper is to be brought to jus­tice. If we were to brief the plot as fol­lows: Ex­pect­ed Out­come: in­crim­i­na­tion and pun­ish­ment of Jasper; Ex­traor­di­nary and Un­known De­ter­min­ing Force: a track­er down, and avenger in dis­guise, named Datch­ery; the contra­diction I have spo­ken of would re­veal it­self in­stant­ly. The only thing un­known about Datch­ery is his right name, and how­ev­er in­trigu­ing this may be in it­self, it could never be made the de­ter­min­ing fac­tor of the story. As stat­ed above, the in­gre­di­ents are those of a very poor plot, that only es­capes being no plot at all by the mys­ti­fi­ca­tion we are in over the side issue of Datch­ery's iden­ti­ty. This plot — of which Dick­ens ought never to have been ac­cused — could be strength­ened only by hav­ing Datch­ery em­ploy some un­usu­al and as yet un­re­vealed means of in­crim­i­nat­ing Jasper. And when this is con­ced­ed, as it must be, the rel­a­tive­ly minor im­por­tance of who may or may not be mas­querad­ing as Datch­ery should be clear­ly man­i­fest.

What the ex­traor­di­nary de­ter­min­ing fac­tor was to be will be dis­cussed present­ly; in the mean­time, the dis­pute over Datch­ery's iden­ti­ty, based as it is on a wrong as­sump­tion, is worth ex­am­in­ing as an il­lus­tra­tion of the wrong way to ap­proach any such prob­lem in fic­tion.

An im­por­tant prin­ci­ple that seems to have been large­ly ig­nored in these dis­cus­sions, is that a mys­tery in fic­tion is a very dif­fer­ent thing from a mys­tery in fact. When a mur­der, for ex­am­ple, is com­mit­ted in real life, and the iden­ti­ty of the crim­i­nal is un­known, he can often be traced by im­me­di­ate clues. That is to say, every fea­ture of the crime that corres­ponds with some fea­ture of his char­ac­ter, or per­son, or life will link him di­rect­ly with the crime. But in fic­tion the in­vestigator has to deal with an­oth­er fac­tor. The au­thor inter­venes be­tween the ev­i­dence and the hunt­ed truth. He ma­nip­u­lates the ev­i­dence so as to throw the read­er into false trains of rea­son­ing. If the iden­ti­ty of some char­ac­ter is in ques­tion, he will sub­tly di­rect the read­er's sus­pi­cion to­ward the wrong per­son, and will mul­ti­ply the num­ber of sus­pects in order to aug­ment his mys­tery and final sur­prise. In other words, the clues in a fic­tion­al mys­tery trace de­vi­ous­ly to their source through the au­thor.

This is uni­ver­sal­ly true of the story that in­volves a sup­pressed iden­ti­ty, and is def­i­nite­ly ap­pli­ca­ble to Edwin Drood. But the solvers of the Datch­ery prob­lem have for the most part ap­proached it with­out duly reck­on­ing with their au­thor. They vied with each other in pil­ing up circum­stantial ev­i­dence to prove that this or that char­ac­ter in the story was Datch­ery, with­out re­flect­ing that the char­ac­ter to whom the fin­ger of or­di­nary in­fer­ence points most emphatical­ly, may be a decoy em­ployed by the au­thor to de­flect at­ten­tion from his real ob­jec­tive. They have over­looked the fact, per­haps be­cause of its very tru­ism, that the ev­i­dence in a fic­tion­al mys­tery is "fixed" by the au­thor. Con­se­quent­ly aris­es the para­dox that the most co­gent of their di­rect ar­gu­ments to prove that Datch­ery was He­le­na Land­less, or Baz­zard, or who not, may ac­tu­al­ly tend to prove that he was some­one else.

There could be no more strik­ing token of this error than ap­pears in their apt­ness to re­gard the case against Jasper, or for Datch­ery, as a case in court. With re­gard to Jasper, Mr. Frank Marzials writes, that "by all the laws of cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence he was guilty of the mur­der of Edwin Drood...The course pur­sued by Mr. Jasper is re­al­ly too suspicious...No in­tel­li­gent jury would think of ac­quit­ting him of the mur­der of his nephew.'' Now Jasper was cer­tain­ly guilty of the mur­der of Edwin Drood, — a fact that Dick­ens was ex­ceedingly care­ful to make clear, but we are con­vinced of this cir­cum­stance by other means than the ev­i­dence Mr. Marzials writes of. We have all been mis­led by cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence as de­ployed by the wily fic­tion writ­er, and in time, most of us grow wary: we refuse to ac­cept it on its face value. We do this in­stinc­tive­ly or con­scious­ly, and in pro­por­tion, among other con­sid­er­a­tions, to the num­ber of times we have been so mis­led. The cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence against Jasper has there­fore no con­clu­sive weight in it­self, to per­suade us that he was guilty. Our con­fi­dence in that con­clu­sion de­pends not so much upon the laws of ev­i­dence as on the laws of art, and upon our con­fi­dence in Dick­ens' ob­ser­vance of them.

This may not be quite clear; I will ex­plain. There is a cer­tain kind of de­cep­tion that no self-re­spect­ing au­thor will em­ploy to deep­en a mys­tery: he will not lie in order to in­crease the con­fu­sion and non­plus the read­er. In his own per­son, that is, he will not say any­thing in the course of his story di­rect­ly con­trary to the facts he in­tends to re­veal in the de­noue­ment. He may, and will mis­lead, but the false trails will be vol­un­tar­i­ly pur­sued by the read­er; the au­thor will not force his read­er to a false an­tic­i­pa­tion by a mis­state­ment. The art of the final sur­prise de­mands that the read­er, on reach­ing the de­noue­ment, can won­der at the ex­tent to which he has been de­ceived in his con­jec­tures, with­out feel­ing that the au­thor has de­fraud­ed him.

Where­by hangs the no less im­por­tant corol­lary that a good au­thor will avoid even the ap­pear­ance of this kind of wrong­doing. To be more ex­plic­it, his free­dom in mis­lead­ing the read­er, even when he has not been guilty of a ver­bal false­hood, is far from ab­so­lute. The logic of the con­clu­sion to his tale must be in­stant­ly con­vinc­ing. If it is in the least de­gree "wrenched" or forced, so­phis­ti­cal, quib­bling, or specious, the read­er's plea­sure in it is gone. This means that the va­lid­i­ty of the logic must be in­stant­ly ap­par­ent. A de­tec­tive story, for ex­am­ple, which, after throw­ing the sus­pi­cion of a crime on one char­ac­ter, de­rives its sur­prise from the rev­e­la­tion of an­oth­er as the true male­fac­tor, will be suc­cess­ful if a reason­ably nim­ble wit­ted read­er can make the re-ori­en­ta­tion with­out puz­zling over it, and turn­ing what should be an in­stan­ta­neous plea­sure into a pro­tract­ed task. But this con­sum­ma­tion will be im­pos­si­ble if the mis­lead­ing ev­i­dence is too com­pli­cat­ed, or not ma­te­ri­al and tan­gi­ble enough to be read­i­ly ex­plained away, if the clues are so nu­mer­ous as to defy rec­ol­lec­tion in ret­ro­spect, and if the read­er has been firm­ly con­vinced by them of any point that is to be con­tra­dict­ed later. By the state­ment that the mis­lead­ing ev­i­dence must be ma­te­ri­al and tan­gi­ble, I mean that it must be suf­fi­cient­ly ex­tra­ne­ous to the char­ac­ters to per­mit its being trans­posed or jet­ti­soned with­out in­jury to them; it must not be very in­ti­mate­ly at­tached to the sub­jec­tive el­e­ment, to the inner na­ture and men­tal­i­ty of the per­sons con­cerned. If it is, the final re­ver­sal will tear and de­face the char­ac­ters as the plot ca­reens, and the read­er's mind will suf­fer a kin­dred vi­o­lence. If the false clues are too nu­mer­ous to be read­i­ly re­mem­bered by the read­er, ap­a­thy or fa­tigue will pre­vent him from mak­ing the new syn­the­sis and tak­ing plea­sure in it; and fi­nal­ly, if the au­thor has con­vinced him of the truth of some­thing not true, by the sug­ges­tive force of a hun­dred minor de­tails, too slight and sub­tle to be re­called, he will rebel at any con­trary dis­clo­sure. From this we can draw the in­verse con­clu­sion that when a good au­thor steeps his read­er's mind in a rain of such minute ev­i­dence, he does so in all good faith and sin­cer­i­ty. When clues are so ideal, sub­jec­tive, del­i­cate, com­plex, and nu­mer­ous as to form an al­most im­pal­pa­ble ground of sug­ges­tion, and when the im­pres­sion so con­veyed is for­ti­fied by strong tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence that ful­fils what the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion has pre­pared for, we can be as­sured that it is not the au­thor's in­ten­tion ei­ther to mis­lead or con­fuse us; he means ex­act­ly what he im­plies.

If we con­sid­er The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood in the light of these prin­ci­ples, the rea­sons for our cer­tain­ty of Jasper's guilty in­ten­tion are patent. They de­pend on our faith in the nar­ra­tor. The in­di­ca­tions of the choir­mas­ter's guilty de­sign are so many, so var­ied, and so in­trin­sic to the char­ac­ter: they so per­me­ate to its in­most es­sen­tials, that it is im­pos­si­ble to con­ceive of an artis­tic de­noue­ment in which he will ap­pear in­no­cent; the bur­den of guilt could not be shift­ed with­out vi­o­lent­ly con­fus­ing our rea­son, and pre­sent­ing us with a vol­ume of ev­i­dence to re­con­struct, much of which has es­caped our con­scious mem­o­ry, but has sunk into the in­tel­li­gence as a con­viction or ef­fect. On top of this, no con­trary de­noue­ment will con­vince us. So as­sured are we of Jasper's guilty pur­pose, that we un­hesi­tat­ing­ly at­tribute his re­morse when he dis­cov­ers that Drood had re­nounced all claim to Rosa, to his sense of the fu­til­i­ty of his crime; should the au­thor at­tempt in the con­clu­sion to ex­plain that re­morse on other grounds, he would not be be­lieved. To para­phrase a re­mark of Steven­son's with re­gard to an­oth­er type of lit­er­ary mis­con­duct, "a thing like that rais­es .up a de­spair­ing spir­it of op­po­si­tion in a man's read­ers; they give him the lie fierce­ly, as they read." Our con­fi­dence that Jasper's re­morse was well found­ed, and that he was not de­ceived in be­liev­ing that he had killed Drood — as some in­ge­nious crit­ics have pro­posed — de­pends on the artis­tic laws of cli­max and co­or­di­na­tion, which have been in­dicated in the re­view of Proc­tor's the­o­ry.

The whole dis­cus­sion of Jasper's guilt seems a ques­tion­ing of the ob­vi­ous. In a postscript to Our Mu­tu­al Friend Dick­ens re­torts on sev­er­al ill-ad­vised crit­ics, whose acu­men, as he says, had been mis­di­rect­ed in dis­cov­er­ing that he was at great pains to con­ceal ex­act­ly what he had been at great pains to sug­gest. In Drood, sim­i­lar­ly, there is every sug­gestion, short of un­equiv­o­cal state­ment, that Jasper mur­dered his nephew. And I have made the above anal­y­sis, not to prove this self-ev­i­dent fact, but to il­lus­trate the truth that the so­lu­tion of a mys­tery in fic­tion must ground it­self on the laws of art, no less than on those of ev­i­dence.

Mr. Cum­ings Wal­ters has dis­cern­ment enough to see that the mur­der of Drood is an "in­dis­putable and pal­pa­ble fact," but is pro­voked by Marzial's dis­missal of the prob­lem as too sim­ple, and by his state­ment that "no in­tel­li­gent jury would think of ac­quit­ting Jasper of the mur­der of his nephew,'' into the equal­ly naive re­tort that "quite in­tel­li­gent ju­ries have done this." Again it must be in­sist­ed that the Drood pro­blem is not a prob­lem in law. If any re­duc­tio ad ab­sur­dum of the legal at­ti­tude was need­ed, it was fur­nished sev­er­al years ago in Lon­don, when a num­ber of promi­nent Dick­en­sians as­sem­bled in a moot court to try Jasper for the mur­der. The pro­ceed­ings of the court soon be­came thor­ough­ly in­co­her­ent, and con­tin­ued so, until Mr. Chester­ton, with his usual good sense and artist's in­stinct, en­ticed the dis­cus­sion into a labyrinth of ex­trav­a­gance, and mer­ci­ful­ly an­ni­hi­lat­ed it. Even then there was a cho­rus of protest that so promis­ing an oc­ca­sion for elu­ci­dat­ing the mys­tery had been lost through un­seemly lev­i­ty.

With re­gard to the iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery, legal pro­cess­es are no more help­ful. One can­not as­sert too em­phat­i­cal­ly that the Mys­tery of Edwin Drood is not a plot against the king's peace by a crim­i­nal, or against a crim­i­nal by a sleuth, but against the read­er's in­tel­li­gence by the au­thor of both these shrewd per­son­ages. And if we are to un­rav­el it, we must keep the idea con­stant­ly in mind that our wits are being chal­lenged not only by con­fused ev­i­dence, but by a wily au­thor who ma­nip­u­lates it to our con­fu­sion, and that the facts with which he lays the ground for his de­noue­ment will not be of the most ob­vi­ous and tan­gi­ble kind, but of the most sub­dued, and yet sub­tly in­sis­tent. The art of sug­gest­ing a fact with­out mak­ing the read­er con­scious of it: in other words, the art of in­sin­u­at­ing with­out in­form­ing, is a very del­i­cate one, but Dick­ens had ob­tained a mas­tery of it through long train­ing and study.

There are only four char­ac­ters in the book who can reason­ably be con­ceived of in the part of Datch­ery. They are: He­le­na Land­less, Baz­zard, Grew­gious, and Tar­tar. The rea­sons for elim­i­nat­ing Drood him­self from the list of candi­dates have al­ready been stat­ed. The sin­gle re­main­ing hy­poth­e­sis, that Datch­ery might have been a new char­ac­ter, and per­haps a pro­fes­sion­al de­tec­tive, is ar­tis­ti­cal­ly un­ten­able.

Of the four per­son­ages named, the most ob­vi­ous claimant for the part is He­le­na Land­less. Sev­er­al ar­gu­ments have been ad­vanced in her sup­port, but of wide­ly vary­ing qual­i­ty. The most strik­ing of them are, that she is in­tro­duced early in the story, with a ref­er­ence in so many words to her mas­cu­line courage and strong mind­ed­ness, and an il­lus­tra­tion of these traits from an in­ci­dent in her child­hood, when she had dressed up as a boy in order to es­cape from tyran­i­cal guardians; that her move­ments be­tween Lon­don and Clois­ter­ham are vague­ly drawn by the au­thor, with the pur­pose, it is pre­sumed, of allow­ing her a greater free­dom for es­pi­onage; and that Datch­ery's for­get­ful­ness as to whether or not he is wear­ing his hat, would be nat­u­ral in a woman wear­ing a wig. — I will not here dis­cuss the truth of the psy­chol­o­gy un­der­ly­ing this last con­tention, fur­ther than to state an en­tire scep­ti­cism of it. — But the other ar­gu­ments ad­duced in He­le­na's favor lack even the color of rea­son. Mr. Cum­ings Wal­ters car­ries his en­thu­si­asm for a pos­te­ri­ori de­duc­tion so far as to say that Datch­ery's sub­stantial meal of fried sole, veal cut­let, and a pint of sher­ry is a demon­stra­tion of He­le­na's ro­bust­ness, (so much has been wrung from Dick­ens' ca­su­al phrase "dar­ing of a man") and that the "leg" which Datch­ery makes is prac­ti­cal­ly the curt­sey of a woman. "My God, Archer," (who, by the way, com­bats the the­o­ry,) "what women!"

As a whole, how­ev­er, the He­le­na-Datch­ery the­o­ry in­vites the grave ob­jec­tion that the leads for He­le­na are too ob­vi­ous and tan­gi­ble. Even if one as­sumes, as the He­le­na the­o­rists do not, that the iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery is a point of minor mys­tery in the story, it is not con­ceiv­able that Dick­ens would have of­fered his read­ers so ready a key to it as the clues men­tioned above would con­sti­tute. He must have fore­seen that the boy's clothes worn by He­le­na on an ear­li­er oc­ca­sion, would di­rect in­stant sus­pi­cion to­ward her as a pos­si­ble Datch­ery, par­tic­u­lar­ly in view of the age and fa­mil­iar­i­ty of this plot de­vice. And being a skil­ful story teller, bent on out­doing his pre­vi­ous ef­forts at mys­tery, he can hard­ly have used this and the other clues in­di­cat­ing He­le­na, oth­er­wise than as a ruse to con­ceal his real in­ten­tion. He­le­na would cer­tain­ly be the first guess of any read­er at all versed in mys­tery sto­ries, and Dick­ens was an au­thor so­phis­ti­cat­ed in compos­ing such tales for an equal­ly ex­pe­ri­enced au­di­ence. Could such an out­worn ma­noeu­vre as this be, as Mr. Wal­ters sug­gests, the "new and cu­ri­ous idea, in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble and diffi­cult to work," which Dick­ens men­tioned to Forster? Or could it even have been the basis of a minor mys­ti­fi­ca­tion over the iden­ti­ty of an im­por­tant char­ac­ter in the book? Sure­ly the an­swer to both ques­tions is clear enough.

It was Mr. G. K. Chester­ton's dis­tinc­tion to put the argu­ment on a saner plane by ex­am­in­ing He­le­na's claims from the view point of artis­tic con­gruity. "There is one final ob­jec­tion to the the­o­ry," he writes, "and that is sim­ply this, that it is comic. It is gen­er­al­ly wrong to rep­re­sent a great mas­ter of the grotesque as being grotesque ex­act­ly where he does not in­tend to be. And I am per­suad­ed that if Dick­ens had re­al­ly meant He­le­na to turn into Datch­ery, he would have made her from the first in some way more light, ec­cen­tric, and laugh­able; he would have made her at least as light and laugh­able as Rosa. As it is, there is some­thing strange­ly stiff and in­credible about the idea of a lady so dark and dig­ni­fied dress­ing up as a swag­ger­ing old gen­tle­man in a blue coat and grey trousers."

And to fol­low up this course of ar­gu­ment, our knowl­edge of Dick­ens' sound dra­mat­ic sense should also pre­vent us from con­sid­er­ing Baz­zard se­ri­ous­ly. On this head the broth­ers Chester­ton op­pose each other, rea­son re­sid­ing with the elder. "Datch­ery may be Baz­zard, but it is not very ex­cit­ing if he is; for we know noth­ing about Baz­zard and care less. Again, he might be Grew­gious, but there is some­thing point­less about one grotesque char­ac­ter dress­ing up as an­oth­er grotesque char­ac­ter ac­tu­al­ly less amus­ing than him­self." Proc­tor dis­missed the Baz­zard the­o­ry even more im­pa­tient­ly. "Baz­zard, car­ing for no one but him­self, con­found­ed with a man who thinks wist­ful­ly of Edwin's trou­bles! Baz­zard is not only a fool but a dull one, and a cur­mud­geon; Datch­ery is nei­ther the one nor the other. Baz­zard has no sense what­ev­er of humor; Datch­ery is full of dry fun." And other con­trasts to the same ef­fect. It may be added that the lit­tle we do know about Baz­zard would lead us more nat­u­ral­ly to an op­po­site con­jec­ture about him than that he is Datch­ery. He is ac­tu­al­ly bet­ter fit­ted to com­bat Grew­gious and Neville than to aid them: his iso­la­tion and self-ab­sorp­tion, and his en­tire lack of grat­i­tude to the old lawyer pre­pare him bet­ter as an ally of Jasper, than as an avenger. A very good ar­gu­ment could be made for this hy­poth­e­sis, but it is suf­fi­cient mere­ly to in­di­cate it as a sign of basic weak­ness in the Baz­zard-Datch­ery the­o­ry.

There re­mains Tar­tar, the breezy sailor, who is in­tro­duced into the story short­ly be­fore the ap­pear­ance of the stranger in Clois­ter­ham. The di­rect ev­i­dence that would iden­ti­fy him with Datch­ery is rather slight, but this fact soon­er strength­ens than in­val­i­dates his claim. It will be noted that all the points in his favor strike at first with a del­i­cate in­sis­tence, and in­sin­u­ate them­selves into the con­scious­ness with­out awak­en­ing a def­i­nite sus­pi­cion of the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he is Datch­ery. He rep­re­sents prac­ti­cal­ly the last guess of the crit­ics, but when Mr. G. F. Gadd sug­gest­ed him for the part, the other an­a­lysts of the prob­lem were forced to admit that his case was a strong one. The chief of Mr. Gadd's ar­gu­ments were that Datch­ery's face, like Tar­tar's, sug­gests for­eign ser­vice, that he has some­thing of a mil­i­tary air, that he is of chival­rous na­ture, that he is in love with Rosa, who is to be saved from Jasper, that he is an "idle man," (an echo of Datch­ery's "idle buffer" and an ex­cel­lent qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the part); that he is breezy and whim­si­cal, pow­er­ful, re­li­able, determin­ed, and coura­geous — ideal traits of char­ac­ter that in­ti­mate­ly con­nect him with Datch­ery. These points of par­al­lel are con­veyed in the nar­ra­tive by the most in­di­rect means, and are never ob­trud­ed on the read­er. If Tar­tar is Datch­ery, Dick­ens' han­dling of these clues is a mas­ter­piece of half rev­e­la­tion. Mr. Gadd fur­ther sug­gests that Datch­ery gaz­ing at the stars, Datch­ery with his hands clasped be­hind him, Datch­ery look­ing wist­ful­ly at the bea­con, all be­to­ken Tar­tar the sailor, "whose far see­ing eyes looked as if they had been used to watch dan­ger afar off."

Some other traits of the same kind might be sub­joined. There is a strain of high spir­it­ed quixoti­cism about Tar­tar that equips him ad­mirably for the part of Datch­ery. His sud­den ap­pear­ance at mid­night on the sill of Neville's win­dow, which he has reached by a dan­ger­ous as­cent along a line of scar­let run­ners, is a feat in what we con­ceive to be the Datch­ery vein; the sort of thing, at any rate, that Datch­ery must be ca­pa­ble of when oc­ca­sion aris­es. The vivid­ness of this ges­ture may, in­deed, have been the cause of Dick­ens' fear that he had in­tro­duced the stranger in Clois­terham too early. It will be re­mem­bered that Datch­ery ap­pears in the chap­ter im­me­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing this agile per­for­mance of Tar­tar's, and the au­thor's un­easi­ness, which the crit­ics have as­signed to other struc­tural rea­sons, at­tach­es to noth­ing more nat­u­ral­ly than to the prox­im­i­ty of the two char­ac­ters in the chap­ter se­quence. Dick­ens' orig­i­nal rea­son for juxta­posing them can be read­i­ly con­jec­tured. In a way, the in­troduction of the dis­guised char­ac­ter on the heels of the other dis­in­clines the read­er to as­so­ci­ate them to­geth­er, and this was very prob­a­bly the au­thor's ob­ject in so link­ing them. The dis­qui­et in his mind was due, I think, to his un­cer­tain­ty whether in his game of out­guess­ing the read­er, he had based his stratagem on a sound psy­cho­log­i­cal prin­ci­ple, and whether the ruse, while it would mis­lead the sub­tle read­er, might not un­de­ceive the sim­ple-mind­ed. This is a para­dox well known to the ex­pe­ri­enced nov­el­ist. It is also fa­mil­iar to plot­ters of what­ev­er kind whose pur­pose is to de­feat an­tic­i­pa­tion. Thack­er­ay and Poe both al­lud­ed to it, with a ref­er­ence to the school boy's game of odd or even, where­in the hold­er of the mar­bles makes a prees­ti­mate of the guess­er's shrewd­ness be­fore de­ter­min­ing on the se­quence he will choose. An au­thor is usu­al­ly guid­ed in such dilem­mas by the rule of the great­est mys­ti­fi­ca­tion to the keen­est minds, but the sim­ple often worry him, as do also his fel­low crafts­men, who are ac­quaint­ed with the pro­cess, and are apt to dis­cern it.

A prac­tised nov­el­ist might also an­tic­i­pate other uses for Tar­tar's char­ac­ter­is­tics in the rôle of Datch­ery. Forster's di­rect tes­ti­mo­ny is that "Rosa was to marry Tar­tar, and Crisparkle, the sis­ter of Land­less, who was him­self to have per­ished in as­sist­ing Tar­tar fi­nal­ly to un­mask and seize the mur­der­er." In­ci­den­tal­ly, it may be noted that the omis­sion of any ref­er­ence in Forster 's out­line to Datch­ery, who has the lin­ea­ments of an im­por­tant char­ac­ter in the book, is in it­self some­thing of an in­di­ca­tion that Tar­tar was Datch­ery. But that aside. On the cover of the orig­i­nal green wrap­per that en­closed the month­ly in­stall­ments of the novel, there are some il­lus­tra­tions drawn at Dick­ens' di­rec­tion, by his son-in-law, Charles All­ston Collins, and pro­nounced by the au­thor to be ex­cel­lent. The draw­ings are rather rough­ly done, and to base any elab­o­rate the­o­ry upon them would be a fu­til­i­ty. But one of the char­ac­ters is very ob­vi­ous­ly wear­ing a wig, and can rep­re­sent no one in the story but Datch­ery. He is run­ning up a wind­ing stair­way of the Cathe­dral with two other men fol­low­ing, and is point­ing up­wards to some­one he is ev­i­dent­ly pur­su­ing. No­tice now Forster's phrase, "Tar­tar was to un­mask and seize the mur­der­er." This seems to con­tain a ref­er­ence to some phys­i­cal strug­gle in which the con­test be­tween Tar­tar and Jasper was to ter­mi­nate. Tar­tar's agili­ty in scal­ing dizzy heights has al­ready been men­tioned. I do not think it is strain­ing anal­o­gy or con­jec­ture too far to imag­ine the vigor of Tar­tar, as Datch­ery, brought climatic­ally into play in some final strug­gle in the upper por­tion of the Cathe­dral, as was that of Hugo's very dif­fer­ent, but equal­ly agile agent of re­venge, Quasi­mo­do, in Notre Dame. Nor can the fan­tas­tic in­ci­dent of the scar­let run­ner vines in the ear­li­er part of the story be more sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly ac­count­ed for than as a prepa­ra­tion for Datch­ery's pur­suit of Jasper by way per­haps of the ivy, or some pre­cip­i­tous part of the cathe­dral façade. Nor can any more rea­son­able oc­ca­sion be imag­ined for Neville's death. This may seem mere ar­bi­trary sur­mise to those who build their the­o­ries on cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence alone; but in view of the slight­ness of the ev­i­dence it has at least an equal value with Mr. Wal­ters' ar­gu­ment for that queer off­spring of his logic, the gym­nas­tic He­le­na.

In any event, how­ev­er, I am much less con­cerned in strength­en­ing the case for Tar­tar, than in main­tain­ing that the ques­tion whether he is or is not Datch­ery is rel­a­tive­ly im­ma­te­ri­al. I have al­ready in­sist­ed to the point of redun­dancy that there is noth­ing new, cu­ri­ous, in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble, or dif­fi­cult to work in a plot that de­pends main­ly for its in­ter­est on the rev­e­la­tion of a con­cealed iden­ti­ty. It need not be re­peated that the de­vice is one of the old­est in the reper­to­ry of the writ­er of de­tec­tive sto­ries, and it is clear that had Dick­ens de­pend­ed on it alone, he would have mer­it­ed the damn­ing faint praise of An­drew Lang, who de­scribed the novel as "much bet­ter Ga­bo­ri­au than I had thought." The im­por­tant fact is that it is a much bet­ter story even than Lang fi­nal­ly con­cluded, and not Ga­bo­ri­au at all. Among the rea­sons for be­lieving that in Drood, Dick­ens in­tend­ed to su­per­sede and excel all pre­vi­ous mys­tery de­vices, the fol­low­ing are worth dwelling on.

In May, 1841, while Barn­a­by Rudge was in a course of se­ri­al pub­li­ca­tion, Edgar Allen Poe wrote a proph­esy of the con­clu­sion of the plot, re­veal­ing the mur­der­er of Haredale to be Rudge, the stew­ard, and ac­count­ing for the id­io­cy and the mark on the wrist of the lat­ter's son Barn­a­by, with the ex­planation that Rudge had grasped his preg­nant wife's wrist, just be­fore the birth of the child, with hands still bloody from the mur­der, and had thus pro­duced a pre­na­tal fright, with some of its pe­cu­liar con­se­quences. Poe fur­ther ex­plained that Rudge, after mur­der­ing Haredale, had cre­at­ed the most pow­er­ful of al­i­bis, by killing the gar­den­er, ex­chang­ing clothes with him, putting his own watch and ring on the dead gar­dener's per­son, and throw­ing the body into a near-by pond. Rudge had then dis­ap­peared, leav­ing it to be wrong­ly in­ferred that he him­self had been mur­dered by the gar­den­er, and that the lat­ter, after com­mit­ting the dou­ble crime had made his es­cape. The pas­sage in the novel on which Poe based his the­o­ry was that in which the body of Rudge is de­scribed as hav­ing been found "at the bot­tom of a piece of water in the grounds, scarce­ly to be rec­og­nized but by his clothes, and by the watch and ring he wore.'' The fea­ture in this descrip­tion that struck Poe as sig­nif­i­cant was that the au­thor did not give it in his own per­son, but went out of his way to put it into the mouth of one of the char­ac­ters in the story. Poe rea­soned that since it was the au­thor's de­sign to make the mur­der of Rudge ap­pear a cer­tain­ty, his care to avoid stat­ing in his own per­son that Rudge was dead was a strong in­di­ca­tion that Rudge had in fact not been mur­dered, but that Dick­ens was cre­at­ing an il­lu­sion that he had been, while show­ing due re­spect for the artis­tic canon that the au­thor in his own per­son must never lie. Poe's proph­esy was essent­ially borne out by the story as it reached com­ple­tion. No­tice that the com­mand­ing premise in this re­mark­able de­duc­tion was a rule of art. Also that the de­tailed con­clu­sion was as much a mat­ter of artis­tic co­or­di­na­tion as of log­i­cal elimina­tion. If Rudge had not been mur­dered, it was an artis­tic cer­tain­ty, (though by no means a log­i­cal one), that Rudge was the mur­der­er of Haredale; by the same token, since the gar­den­er had dis­ap­peared, and the body found in the pond bore Rudge's clothes, watch and ring, the stew­ard must have mur­dered him, and sub­sti­tut­ed these ar­ti­cles on the dead body in order to cre­ate an alibi, and pre­vent his guilt of the mur­der of Haredale from being dis­cov­ered; and the red mark on the wrist of Barn­a­by fit­ted in with the the­o­ry on the pre­sump­tion, (con­firmed by the law of artis­tic econ­o­my), that Rudge had vis­it­ed his wife after the dou­ble mur­der, frighten­ed her with a rev­e­la­tion of his crime, grasped her wrist with his bloody hand, and thus pro­duced an ab­nor­mal­i­ty in the yet un­born child. In life, these would not be sure de­duc­tions; as re­gards the fic­tion they are the con­fi­dent hy­pothe­ses of an artist who se­lects from a num­ber of ex­pla­na­tions that which he knows to be ar­tis­ti­cal­ly the most ef­fec­tive. They also pos­tu­late a cer­tain de­gree of artis­tic skill and pro­bity on the part of the au­thor of the fic­tion under re­view.

In a later crit­i­cism of the novel writ­ten after its com­ple­tion in 1842, Poe drew ex­cep­tion to one of Dick­ens' vi­o­la­tions of the role re­ferred to above, in that he had made a false as­sertion in his own per­son, though a minor one, when he des­ig­nat­ed Mrs. Rudge, after the mur­der, as "the widow.'' His prin­ci­pal other ob­jec­tions to the struc­ture of the story were that the Pop­ery riots were ex­tra­ne­ous to the plot; that some of the points in the tale were not ac­count­ed for in the dénoue­ment ; and that some of the pas­sages that ex­cit­ed antici­pation had the dis­ad­van­tage of being un­sur­pass­able in the con­clu­sion. "No mat­ter,'' he writes, "how ter­rif­ic be the cir­cum­stances which in the de­noue­ment shall ap­pear to have oc­ca­sioned the ex­pres­sion of coun­te­nance ha­bit­u­al­ly worn by Mrs. Rudge, still they will not be able to sat­is­fy the mind of the read­er. He will sure­ly be dis­ap­point­ed.'' An­oth­er im­por­tant crit­i­cism was that "the ef­fect of the nar­ra­tive might have been ma­te­ri­al­ly in­creased by con­fin­ing the ac­tion with­in the lim­its of Lon­don. The Notre Dame of Vic­tor Hugo af­fords a fine ex­am­ple of the force which can be gained by con­cen­tra­tion or unity of place.''

With re­gard to the use made of Barn­a­by in the novel, Poe thought that Dick­ens had missed a fine op­por­tu­ni­ty:

"The con­vic­tion of the as­sas­sin, after the lapse of twen­ty-two years, might eas­i­ly have been brought about through the son's mys­te­ri­ous awe of blood — an awe cre­at­ed in the un­born by the as­sas­si­na­tion it­self, — and this would have been one of the finest pos­si­ble em­bod­i­ments of the idea we are ac­cus­tomed to at­tach to po­et­ic jus­tice."

But the chief of all his ob­jec­tions was the fol­low­ing:

"That this fic­tion, or in­deed that any fic­tion writ­ten by Mr. Dick­ens should be based in the ex­cite­ment and main­te­nance of cu­rios­i­ty, we look upon as a mis­con­cep­tion on the part of the writ­er of his own very great, yet very pe­cu­liar powers...In tales of or­di­nary se­quence he may and will long reign tri­umphant. He has a tal­ent for all things, but no pos­i­tive ge­nius for adap­ta­tion, and still less for the meta­phys­i­cal art in which the souls of all mys­ter­ies lie. Caleb Williams is a far less noble work than The Old Cu­rios­i­ty Shop, but Mr. Dick­ens could no more have con­struct­ed the one than Mr. God­win could have dreamed of the other.''

And again, in a sim­i­lar con­nec­tion:

"The the­sis of the novel may be re­gard­ed as based on cu­rios­i­ty. Every point is so ar­ranged as to per­plex the read­er, and whet his de­sire for elucidation...Now there can be no doubt that by such means, many points which are com­par­a­tive­ly in­sipid, eveil if given in full de­tail in a nat­u­ral se­quence, are en­dued with the in­ter­est of mys­tery; but nei­ther can it be de­nied that a vast many more points are at the same time de­prived of all ef­fect, and be­come null, through the im­pos­si­bil­i­ty of com­pre­hend­ing them with­out the key...Let the read­er repe­ruse Barn­a­by Rudge, and with a pre­com­pre­hen­sion of the mys­tery, these points of which we speak break out in all di­rec­tions like stars, and throw a quadru­ple bril­liance over the nar­ra­tive — a bril­liance which a cor­rect taste will at once de­clare un­prof­itably sac­ri­ficed at the shrine of the keen­est in­ter­est of more mys­tery.''

It is in­con­ceiv­able that any au­thor could see his plot thus an­tic­i­pat­ed with en­tire equa­nim­i­ty, or look with in­dif­fer­ence on the crit­i­cisms of a writ­er ca­pa­ble of such a pre­dic­tion, and of such a clear sight­ed anal­y­sis of his de­fects. And there is every rea­son to be­lieve that Dick­ens was con­sid­er­ably im­pressed by Poe's com­ments on Barn­a­by Rudge, if not ac­tu­al­ly piqued by them. One of his let­ters to Poe him­self, re­ferred to by the lat­ter in the essay on the Phi­los­o­phy of Com­position, and dis­cussing the plot of Caleb Williams, puts the fact be­yond doubt. Nor were any of his other crit­ics so spe­cif­ic and def­i­nite in their stric­tures on his plot­ting as was Poe. More­over, these were the crit­i­cisms of a fel­low artist, whose skill in con­struct­ing mys­ter­ies was uni­ver­sal­ly ac­knowl­edged. Can there be any­thing ex­trav­a­gant in the as­sump­tion that these com­ments on the ear­li­er mys­tery story would have a cer­tain weight with him in the com­po­si­tion of a novel with which he de­signed to re­fute every charge that had pre­vi­ous­ly been lev­elled against his construc­tive pow­ers? Can such a sup­po­si­tion com­pare in rash­ness with the the­sis of Mr. Wal­ters and the other ex­pounders of the Drood prob­lem, who would have us be­lieve that Dick­ens in this last of his nov­els, while de­sign­ing to vin­di­cate his chal­lenged prowess in the mys­tery type of fic­tion, was to em­ploy as his new, cu­ri­ous, strong, and in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble theme, mere "cu­rios­i­ty" again, sus­tained and con­clud­ed by es­sen­tial­ly the same means as in Barn­a­by Rudge?

I think this con­cep­tion is so far from being true that Dick­ens re­al­ly en­deav­ored to meet and elim­i­nate in the Mys­tery of Edwin Drood every one of the ob­jec­tions that Poe had made to the struc­ture of the ear­li­er novel. In the first place, there is a very ev­i­dent care on his part to avoid pre­dic­tion through any such an­oth­er rift in his plot scheme as that so deft­ly pierced by Poe. There is an equal­ly ap­par­ent re­solve to pre­serve the unity of place, which the Rudge story had ig­nored. It is true that while the cen­tral mi­lieu of Edwin Drood is the Cathe­dral of Clois­ter­ham and its sur­round­ings, the story opens in Lon­don and oc­ca­sion­al­ly shifts there; but these ex­cur­sions are spo­radic, and care is al­ways taken to keep the Clois­ter­ham set­ting dom­i­nant. In the Lon­don opium den at the very be­gin­ning, for ex­am­ple, Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral is in­tro­duced as the com­mand­ing fea­ture in Jasper's dream.

"An an­cient En­glish Cathe­dral tower? How can the an­cient Eng­lish Cathe­dral tower be here? The well-known mas­sive gray square tower of its old Cathe­dral? How can that be here? There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, be­tween the eye and it, from any point of the real prospect.

"What is the spike that in­ter­venes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Sul­tan's or­ders for the im­pal­ing of a horde of Turk­ish rob­bers, one by one. It is so, for cym­bals clash, and the Sul­tan goes by to his palace in long pro­ces­sion. Ten thou­sand danc­ing-girls strew flow­ers. Then fol­low white ele­phants ca­parisoned in count­less gor­geous colours, and in­fi­nite in num­ber and at­ten­dants. Still the Cathe­dral tower rises in the back­ground, where it can­not be, and still no writhing fig­ure is on the grim spike."

Third­ly, the novel very clear­ly en­vis­ages some "extraordin­ary em­bod­i­ment of the idea of po­et­ic jus­tice." Re­mem­ber Forster's words: "The orig­i­nal­i­ty of the story was to con­sist in the re­view of the mur­der­er's ca­reer by him­self at the close, when its temp­ta­tions were to be dwelt upon as if, not he the cul­prit, but some other man were the tempt­ed.'' I shall refer to this again. There is a strik­ing minor in­ter­est of the same kind of irony in Jasper's dis­cov­ery that his mur­der of Drood was use­less, see­ing that im­me­di­ate­ly be­fore the crime Drood and Rosa had sep­a­rat­ed. And the em­phat­ic po­si­tion of this in­ci­dent, at the end of a vivid chap­ter, in­di­cates the au­thor's in­ten­tion to make some cli­mat­ic use of it later in the story.

It is to be as­sumed that the an­ti­cli­max in Rudge, con­sist­ing in a mere rev­e­la­tion of a dis­guised iden­ti­ty, after the read­er had been aroused to an an­tic­i­pa­tion of a more stir­ring con­clusion, would like­wise have been avoid­ed in Drood, had the au­thor com­plet­ed it. The un­cer­tain iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery might have been, and very ob­vi­ous­ly was em­ployed as a minor plot el­e­ment, but the main ef­fect and theme of the story must have been sought for in some quite dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. (The use of a watch and a ring in both nov­els has a sim­i­lar sig­nif­i­cance. The au­thor would never have made this du­pli­ca­tion un­less the in­ter­est of his main idea were unique enough to sub­merge such a tri­fle com­plete­ly. This circum­stance also tends to show that Barn­a­by Rudge was in the au­thor's mind when he planned his last novel.)

The idea of a man given up as dead, and re­turn­ing to elu­ci­date a mys­tery, as Rudge re­turned to the War­rens, has been shown to be an old theme with Dick­ens, and one that great­ly an­te­dates him as a de­vice in fic­tion. We can there­fore rule out fi­nal­ly the no­tion that the com­pli­ca­tion in Drood was to be solved in this (way) way. It has been shown that there is noth­ing new or re­mark­able in the rev­e­la­tion of a dis­guised char­ac­ter's iden­ti­ty as the key of a mys­tery, if, in­deed, the fact ever need­ed any demon­stra­tion. We can, there­fore, dis­pense with the iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery as em­body­ing the new, cu­ri­ous, in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble and dif­fi­cult theme on which Dick­ens re­lied for his strong ef­fect. What is there left? Some writ­ers have stressed the fact that the novel is a study of opium and its ef­fects. This is of course in some de­gree true, but at the time Drood was writ­ten there was noth­ing new in the use of opium for fic­tion­al pur­pos­es, and we can­not look in that di­rec­tion for the in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble theme. Wilkie Collins had al­ready all but ex­haust­ed opium of its pos­si­bil­i­ties as a theme in fic­tion, no­tably in Moon­stone, and while Dick­ens had read and ad­mired this novel, we can pre­sume, for that very rea­son, that his cen­tral idea was a dif­fer­ent one, what­ev­er minor uses he might make of opium in Edwin Drood.

There re­mains one other pos­si­bil­i­ty. The in­di­ca­tions of it are nu­mer­ous, but very sur­rep­ti­tious­ly in­tro­duced by the au­thor, and they have been ne­glect­ed by all those who have at­tempt­ed to sur­mise his plan. One of these clues is con­tained in a sen­tence that im­me­di­ate­ly sug­gests a part of the Moon­stone plot, which is per­haps the rea­son for its hav­ing been passed over by the com­men­ta­tors, who ar­gued ac­cu­rate­ly enough that Dick­ens would avoid re­peat­ing Collins' idea. The sen­tence oc­curs very early in the novel, and is ren­dered in­con­spic­u­ous by being ap­plied hu­mor­ous­ly to Miss Twin­kle­ton. "As in some cases of drunk­en­ness, and in oth­ers of an­i­mal mag­netism, there are two states of con­scious­ness that never clash, but each of which pur­sues its sep­a­rate course as though it were con­tin­u­ous in­stead of bro­ken, (thus if I hide my watch when I am drunk, I must be drunk again to remem­ber where), so Miss Twin­kle­ton has two dis­tinct and sep­a­rate phas­es of being.'' The fig­ure, it may be noted, has no se­ri­ous ap­pli­ca­bil­i­ty to Miss Twin­kle­ton in the para­graph that fol­lows.

The term to be em­pha­sized in this sen­tence is an­i­mal mag­netism. With­in it, ac­cord­ing to the usage of his time Dick­ens in­clud­ed the phe­nom­e­na of men­tal telepa­thy, "clair­voy­ance,'' and hyp­not­ic sug­ges­tion. I may as well state here that I re­gard it as the key to the "very cu­ri­ous and in­communicable" theme of his last novel, and ask the read­er to bear it in mind while some phas­es of the story are re­viewed.

The abun­dance of in­ci­dent in Edwin Drood is apt at first glance to ob­scure the fact that it is re­al­ly a psy­cho­log­i­cal story. A clos­er ex­am­i­na­tion shows it to con­tain the in­gredients of a most in­ter­est­ing study of the human mind: its va­garies and pe­cu­liar re­ac­tions. These will sug­gest them­selves so read­i­ly that they need no de­tailed point­ing out.

Suf­fi­cient to men­tion the in­tel­lec­tu­al con­trasts be­tween the var­i­ous char­ac­ters, the coun­ter­play of creeds, the high­ly ner­vous char­ac­ter of some of the main ac­tors — Neville and Rosa for in­stance, and the sharp di­vi­sion of the char­ac­ters into two class­es of men­tal­i­ty, which Dick­ens no doubt con­ceived of as pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, as in the case of Jasper and Drood. So in­trigu­ing is this men­tal mise en scene, and so vivid­ly ac­tu­al are all of the ac­tions and re­ac­tions of the dif­fer­ent minds in­volved, that the think­ing read­er re­volts from the prospect of a mere "study of opium and its ef­fects," or of hav­ing any part of the drama cloud­ed in the phantas­magoria of drugs. And the au­thor does not so dis­ap­point him at any point. Re­al­iz­ing that he has some­thing more ab­sorb­ing in play than the phe­nom­e­na of opium dreams, he touch­es very briefly and light­ly on this as­pect of his story, just enough to de­rive a color of dread and mys­tery from it, and re­serves his em­pha­sis and de­tail for the dis­play of mind under more tense con­di­tions. As if to re­fute Poe's charge that he lacked a ge­nius for the meta­phys­i­cal art in which the souls of all mys­ter­ies lie, he seems to shun the type of mys­tery that is in­voked by mere grue­some­ness of in­ci­dent and strangeness of set­ting, for the stranger pageant of human fears, de­sires, and re­solves. I am in­clined to think that the opium, the Chi­na­man, and the Las­car in the open­ing scene, and even the Princess Puffer are rather thrown in to pla­cate a com­mon pub­lic avid of such fa­mil­iar ma­te­ri­al, while the more ex­traor­di­nary and dif­fi­cult theme is being de­vel­oped, than that they are es­sen­tial to the au­thor's final pur­pose. No doubt, the re­main­der of the Ori­en­tal mat­ter with which the tale is so thick­ly strewn, has been ex­plained as of a piece with the opium el­e­ment, but the no­tion hard­ly bears anal­y­sis. Edwin's plan to go to Egypt as an en­gi­neer does not link con­vinc­ing­ly with any as­pect of the opium idea. Rosa's al­lu­sions to the pyra­mids and Bel­zoni are mere­ly called forth by the pre­ced­ing fact, and are a fore­shad­ow­ing of Drood's fate. And soon there ar­rive on the scene the two swarthy Land­less­es from Cey­lon, for whom the so­porif­ic tra­di­tion of the east can fur­nish no touch­stone what­ev­er. Per­haps I wrong some of the Drood­ists in imag­in­ing that they imply such co­or­di­na­tions in their con­fi­dent an­nounce­ment that the story is a '' study of opium and its ef­fects,'' but if they do not ex­plain the ref­er­ences to the East on this ground, they cer­tainly give them no basis in any other. Viewed in an­oth­er light, how­ev­er, Ori­en­tal sug­ges­tions have the clos­est kind of con­gruity with the psy­cho­log­i­cal theme I have re­ferred to.

As a mere word the East spells mys­tery, and Ori­en­tal names have been crude­ly drawn into many a tale for the sheer necro­man­cy of their sound. I take it that Dick­ens had a high­er use for his ori­en­tal­ism in Drood. The con­trast be­tween Ori­en­tal and Goth­ic im­agery in the open­ing scene of the book, where daz­zling scim­i­tars and flow­er girls op­pose and mys­ti­cal­ly fuse with the grim shad­ows of the old Cathe­dral, is, of course, an artis­tic ef­fect of no mean order, but the au­thor's de­sign went fur­ther. The ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the east­ern ori­gin of the two Land­less­es, ap­pears not only in the strangeness and aloof­ness which it gives them, but in a pas­sion­ate and pagan in­ten­si­ty of na­ture that puts them into vivid re­lief against the serene Chris­tian­i­ty of Crisparkle, the frag­ile in­no­cence of Rosa, the dingy ab­ne­ga­tion of Grew­gious. When they en­counter Jasper, on the other hand, we feel that pagan has met pagan (I had al­most said "East has met East." What­ev­er it may mean, there is an odd cir­cum­stance in the opium scene with which the novel be­gins: Jasper's shak­ing the sleep­ing Ori­en­tals to dis­cov­er whether or not the drug makes their speech un­in­tel­li­gi­ble, is ra­tio­nal only if he un­der­stands their lan­guage. Has he also lived in the Ori­ent? The au­thor does not ex­plain.), and that a strug­gle of no com­mon sort is on. He­le­na has about her some­thing in­scrutably pro­found, tac­i­turn and di­vin­ing, such as we, su­per­sti­tious­ly per­haps, at­tach to the tra­di­tion of the Ori­ent. We are led to sus­pect in her a more than nor­mal un­der­stand­ing and power, a quiet and smoul­der­ing fire of mas­tery. In­tel­lec­tu­al­ly she seems ev­ery­thing that Rosa, a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of Oc­ci­den­tal girl­hood, is not. These traits are sug­gest­ed in her ap­pear­ance and man­ner when she first en­ters the story; soon af­ter­wards and more ex­plic­it­ly in what her broth­er says of them both.

He first makes an ac­knowl­edge­ment to Crisparkle re­gard­ing him­self:

"I have been brought up among ab­ject and servile de­pen­dents of an in­fe­ri­or race, and I may eas­i­ly have con­tract­ed some affin­i­ty with them. Some­times I don't know but that it may be a drop of what is tiger­ish in their blood."

Then of He­le­na:

"In a last word of ref­er­ence to my sis­ter, sir, (we are twin chil­dren), you ought to know that noth­ing in our mis­ery ever sub­dued her, though it often cowed me. When we ran away from it, (we ran away four times in six years, to be soon brought back and cru­el­ly pun­ished), the flight was al­ways of her plan­ning and lead­ing. Each time she dressed as a boy, and showed the dar­ing of a man. But I re­mem­ber, when I lost the pock­et knife with which she was to have cut her hair short, how des­per­ate­ly she tried to tear it out, or bite it off."

And later:

"You don't know, sir, yet, what a com­plete un­der­stand­ing can exist be­tween my sis­ter and me, though no spo­ken word — per­haps hard­ly as much as a look — may have passed be­tween us. She not only feels as I have de­scribed, but she very well knows that I am tak­ing this op­por­tu­ni­ty of speak­ing to you, both for her and for my­self."

Crisparkle finds an ev­i­dent dif­fi­cul­ty in com­pre­hend­ing or be­liev­ing this last state­ment.

What Neville Land­less says above, would under or­di­nary cir­cum­stances imply noth­ing more than the sym­pa­thy that is gen­er­al­ly thought to exist be­tween twins, but the con­di­tions under which he speaks, his strangeness of speech, and im­pres­sive­ness of tone, and the pe­cu­liar men­tal­i­ty of him­self and his sis­ter, give the im­pres­sion that he is claim­ing the ex­is­tence of a strong tele­path­ic rap­port be­tween them. Mr. Crisparkle ev­i­dent­ly feels some­thing of this im­pli­ca­tion too, for he looks in Neville's face "with some in­creduli­ty, but it ex­press­es such ab­so­lute and firm con­vic­tion of the truth of the state­ment, that Mr. Crisparkle looks at the pave­ment, and muses, until they come to his door again." This in­ti­ma­tion oc­curs dur­ing the first con­ver­sa­tion be­tween them.

Neville's words are con­firmed very short­ly af­ter­wards in a most pe­cu­liar way:

Mr. Jasper was seat­ed at the piano as they came into his draw­ing room, and was ac­com­pa­ny­ing Miss Rose­bud while she sang. It was a con­se­quence of his play­ing the ac­com­pa­ni­ment with­out notes, and of her being a heed­less lit­tle crea­ture, very apt to go wrong, that he fol­lowed her lips most at­ten­tive­ly with his eyes as well as his hands; care­ful­ly and soft­ly hint­ing the keynote from time to time. Stand­ing with an arm drawn round her, but with a face far more in­te­nion Mr. Jasper than on her singing, stood He­le­na, be­tween whom and her broth­er an in­stan­ta­neous recog­ni­tion passed, in which Mr. Crisparkle saw, or thought he saw, the un­der­stand­ing that had been spo­ken of, flash out.

What is it that He­le­na and her broth­er rec­og­nize in this tacit and mys­te­ri­ous fash­ion? It is not Jasper; the en­su­ing part of the story shows that they have never seen him be­fore. It is not mere­ly the fact that Rosa ex­pe­ri­ences fear in the pres­ence of an ex­act­ing tutor, though there is a tinc­ture of that too. It is some­thing more sin­is­ter in Jasper's at­ti­tude, and in his dom­i­na­tion of the girl's mind. The some­thing be­comes clear­er in the suc­ceed­ing pas­sage.

The song went on. It was a sor­row­ful strain of part­ing, and the fresh young voice was very plain­tive and ten­der. As Jasper watched the pret­ty lips, and ever and anon hint­ed the one note, as though it were a low whis­per from him­self, the voice be­came less steady, until all at once the singer broke into a burst of tears, and shrieked out, with her hands over her eyes: 'I can't bear this! I am fright­ened! Take me away!'

With one swift turn of her lithe fig­ure, He­le­na laid the lit­tle beau­ty on a sofa, as if she had never caught her up. Then on one knee be­side her, and with one hand on her rosy mouth, while with the other she ap­pealed to all the rest, He­le­na said to them: 'It is noth­ing; it's all over; don't speak to her for one minute and she is well!'

Jasper's hands had, in the same in­stant, lift­ed them­selves from the keys, and were now poised above them, as though he wait­ed to re­sume. In that at­ti­tude he yet sat quiet: not even look­ing round, when all the rest had changed their places and were re­as­sur­ing one an­oth­er.

I shall omit for brevi­ty's sake, some of the text im­me­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing, though it all has the same im­port. When the guests have gone, and Rosa and He­le­na are left alone, an iden­ti­cal theme ap­pears, but more em­phat­i­cal­ly still. He­le­na grad­u­al­ly en­tices the truth from Rosa, for whom she has con­ceived a pro­tec­tive af­fec­tion. " 'You will be a friend to me, won't you!' " she asks of Rosa, "search­ing the face with her dark fiery eyes, and ten­der­ly ca­ress­ing the small fig­ure." Rosa says she hopes so, but that the idea of her being a friend to He­le­na seems too ab­surd. "I am such a mite of a thing, and you are so wom­an­ly and hand­some. You seem to have res­o­lu­tion and power enough to crush me. I shrink into noth­ing by the side of your pres­ence even." ..."He­le­na's mas­ter­ful look was in­tent on her face for a few mo­ments, and then she im­pul­sive­ly put out her hands and said, 'You will be my friend and help me?' "

There is a sense in which Rosa could help her, but it is very ap­par­ent that her ob­ject is to get a state­ment from the younger girl about Jasper. Fi­nal­ly she puts the words in Rosa's mouth that Jasper loves her, and that she knows it.

"Oh, don't, don't, don't!" cried Rosa drop­ping on her knees, and cling­ing to her new re­source. "Don't tell me of it. He haunts my thoughts like a dread­ful ghost. I feel that I am never safe from him. I feel as if he could pass through the wall when he is spo­ken of." She ac­tu­al­ly did look round, as if she dread­ed to see him stand­ing in the shad­ow be­hind her.

"Try to tell me more about it, dar­ling."

"Yes, I will, I will. Be­cause you are so strong. But hold me the while, and stay with me af­ter­wards."

"My child! You speak as if he had threat­ened you in some dark way."

'' He has never spo­ken a word to me about — that — never.''

"What has he done?"

"He has made a slave of me with his looks. He has forced me to un­der­stand him with­out say­ing a word; and he has forced me to keep si­lence, with­out his ut­ter­ing a threat. When I play, he never moves his eyes from my hands. When I sing, he never moves his eyes from my lips. When he cor­rects me and strikes a note, or a chord, or plays a pas­sage, he him­self is in the sounds, whis­per­ing that he pur­sues me as a lover, and com­mand­ing me to keep his se­cret. I avoid his eyes, but he forces me to see them with­out look­ing at them. Even when a glaze comes over them (which is some­times the case), and he seems to wan­der away into a fright­ful sort of dream in which he threat­ens most, he obliges me to know it, and that he is sit­ting close at my side, more ter­ri­ble to me than ever."

"What is this imag­ined threat­en­ing, pret­ty one!"

"I don't know. I have never even dared to think or won­der what it is."

"And was this all, to-night?"

"This was all; ex­cept that to-night when he watched my lips so close­ly as I was singing, be­sides feel­ing ter­ri­fied, I felt ashamed and pas­sion­ate­ly hurt.. .It was as if he kissed me, and I couldn't bear it, but cried out. You must never breathe this to any­one. Eddy is de­vot­ed to him. But you said to-night that you would not be afraid of him, under any cir­cum­stances, and that gives me — who am so much afraid of him — courage to tell only you. Hold me! Stay with me! I am too fright­ened to be left by my­self."

The lus­trous gypsy face drooped over the cling­ing arms and bosom, and the wild hair fell down pro­tect­ing­ly over the child­ish form. There was a slum­ber­ing gleam of fire in the in­tense dark eyes, though they were then soft­ened with com­pas­sion and ad­mi­ra­tion. Let whom­soever it most con­cerned look well to it.

Even were the mes­mer­ic sug­ges­tion con­veyed in no other scene than this at the piano, I should think it dif­fi­cult to read the above pas­sage with­out feel­ing that had Dick­ens com­plet­ed the Mys­tery of Edwin Drood, Du Mau­ri­er's Tril­by and Sven­gali would have been an­tic­i­pat­ed by sev­er­al years, or at least cheat­ed of en­tire nov­el­ty. But there are suf­fi­cient other in­di­ca­tions of the same sort to es­tab­lish firm­ly the the­o­ry that the cu­ri­ous, new, strong, in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble, and dif­fi­cult theme of which Dick­ens made men­tion to Forster, was to be this re­cent­ly con­firmed fact of psy­chol­o­gy, op­er­at­ing both in the per­pe­tra­tion and de­tec­tion of the crime, with Jasper, who had the mag­net­ic gift in a con­sid­er­able de­gree, op­posed by He­le­na, the fiery dark-eyed gypsy, whose pow­ers of div­ina­tion and sug­ges­tion had been em­pha­sized through­out the story. The pas­sages I have quot­ed have been used by the pro­po­nents of the He­le­na Land­less-Datch­ery the­o­ry, mere­ly to prove that she was fit­ted for the mas­cu­line part of Datch­ery. I do not say that this is im­pos­si­ble, but it seems su­pereroga­to­ry. The Datch­ery role is nec­es­sary to Tar­tar to give him an ad­e­quate func­tion in the story; it is not nec­es­sary to He­le­na, who can as­cer­tain truths by far more sub­tle and swift means than de­duc­tion from ev­i­dence. The pur­pose of Dick­ens, as I con­ceive it, was that Datch­ery should gath­er ev­i­dence that would carry the pur­suit of the crim­i­nal for­ward until an im­passe was reached, which He­le­na, by her re­mark­able gift, would tran­scend. From this view­point, the in­ter­est of the plot would con­sist in the mems by which the crime was dis­cov­ered, and the ex­traor­di­nary new el­e­ment, ex­hib­it­ed in the phase of telepa­thy, sug­ges­tion, an­i­mal mag­netism, hyp­no­tism, or what you will, and func­tion­ing in the story from the first, would rep­re­sent at last its an­i­mat­ing and fus­ing prin­ci­ple.

In the light of this con­cep­tion, the ori­en­tal­ism of the novel ac­quires a cer­tain rel­e­vance that it can­not be given on any other basis. At the time Drood was writ­ten, the mys­ti­cism of the East was be­gin­ning to cap­ture the fancy of the En­glish read­ing pub­lic, through the in­flu­ence of Har­ri­et Mar­tineau and oth­ers, and nov­el­ists were mak­ing ten­ta­tive ex­cur­sions in new fields of psy­chol­o­gy. Had Dick­ens fin­ished Edwin Drood he would have given the first ar­tic­u­late ex­pres­sion in an En­glish novel to an idea with which Poe had ex­per­i­ment­ed vague­ly in the Amer­i­can short story, which Bul­w­er Lyt­ton had pre­sent­ed mys­ti­cal­ly and sym­bol­i­cal­ly in "Zanoni," which sev­er­al French au­thors, in­clud­ing Alexan­dre Dumas, the elder, had touched on in fic­tion, and that Steven­son was later to use more ex­plic­it­ly, as in some parts of the "Mas­ter of Bal­lantrae." There are signs, too, that Dick­ens in­tend­ed in Drood to em­ploy some vari­ant of the theme of dis­so­ci­a­tion of per­sonality, which Collins had mere­ly fringed on in Moon­stone, and which Steven­son was later to adapt ef­fec­tive­ly to fic­tion pur­pos­es. If this is true, and there is ample ground for so be­lieving, it is not to be won­dered at that Dick­ens should have called the theme of his last novel new, very cu­ri­ous, strong, in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble, and dif­fi­cult to work.

In the mid­dle of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry the writ­ings of Miss Mar­tineau had an ex­traor­di­nary vogue, due part­ly to the nov­el­ty in Eng­land of some of her the­o­ries, and none of these caused more dis­cus­sion than the new prin­ci­ple of mes­merism, which she be­lieved in, and demon­strat­ed to her doubt­ing coun­try­men. Macready, the actor, seems to have had dif­fi­cul­ty in cred­it­ing her state­ments on this head, but was fi­nal­ly con­vinced, hav­ing a great re­spect for Miss Mar­tineau's in­tegri­ty and judg­ment. Macready was one of Dick­ens' most in­ti­mate friends, and he men­tions in his diary and rem­i­nis­cences the in­ter­est which the new the­o­ry aroused in the minds of the Forster group.

There are nu­mer­ous ref­er­ences to mes­rtierism in all Miss Mar­tineau's writ­ings; her vol­ume East­ern Life, Past and Pre­sent (1848), with which Dick­ens was un­doubtedly very fa­mil­iar, has a fur­ther im­por­tance in the back­ground it pro­vid­ed for writ­ers of fic­tion with an Ori­en­tal set­ting. In this work she men­tions the story of Bel­zoni, to which Rosa makes ref­er­ence in the early part of Edwin Drood. Her nar­ra­tive de­scribes in de­tail sev­er­al in­stances of hyp­no­tism, and dis­cuss­es the phe­nomenon as a sci­en­tif­ic fact. The fol­low­ing quo­ta­tion may be sig­nif­i­cant.

"I hope it will not be long be­fore some sat­is­fac­to­ry course of mes­mer­ic ex­periment, like that so tri­umphant­ly pur­sued by Dr. Es­daile in India, is sub­sti­tut­ed in Egypt, or at Jerusalem, with Arabs for sub­jects.

As far as our knowl­edge goes (which is but a lit­tle way at pre­sent) it ap­pears that the dark skinned races, — as the Hin­doos and the ne­groes, — are em­i­nent­ly sus­cep­ti­ble; and it is a loss to sci­ence not to as­cer­tain what they can do... I mes­mer­ized a sick friend at Cairo, and found the ex­haus­tion so great, — so un­like any­thing I ever ex­pe­ri­enced from mes­mer­iz­ing at home, that I was warned to be pru­dent, for my party's sake even more than my own. But I wish some few of the many I met abroad who know the truth of mes­merism would unite to in­sti­tute a course of ex­per­i­ments on Arab sub­jects. All the naval sur­geons I met in the Mediter­ranean know the truth of Mes­merism as well as I do, and admit its im­por­tance ... so does every man of ed­u­ca­tion who has re­al­ly at­tend­ed to the sub­ject. If oth­ers of our coun­try­men abroad would fol­low Dr. Es­daile's ex­am­ple in using their op­por­tu­ni­ties, they may yet re­deem us from the dis­grace we lie under with the ed­u­cat­ed class­es of every coun­try in Eu­rope, for our want of a true philo­soph­i­cal spir­it of in­quiry and teach­able­ness in re­gard to the facts of Mes­merism."

She men­tions also the crit­i­cism of an il­lus­tri­ous for­eign­er, who ex­pressed his as­ton­ish­ment at the slow­ness of En­glish men of cul­ture to in­ter­est them­selves in this por­tion of sci­ence. "When it is shown that man has a new fac­ul­ty of the mind, — a fac­ul­ty hith­er­to not num­bered among his pow­ers, — what can one say to in­dif­fer­ence to such a dis­cov­ery as that, — the great­est that man has ever made, or can ever make! It is a shame for your coun­try."

Here is a chal­lenge in­deed! I have scrupu­lous­ly avoid­ed in this dis­cus­sion car­ry­ing ev­i­dence be­yond the point of cer­tain­ty, but will admit that the "dark skins," and the al­lu­sion to the ac­quain­tance of naval sur­geons in the Mediter­ranean are a temp­ta­tion in re­gard to the Land­less­es, and Tar­tar. The lat­ter must have such an ac­quain­tance with the sci­ence of hyp­no­tism, if the theme of the story is what I be­lieve it to be. His naval ex­pe­ri­ence is a link, cer­tain­ly, be­tween him and the Egyp­tian and Ori­en­tal al­lu­sions in the story.

«No­tably Monte Cristo, and The Cor­si­can Broth­ers. The lat­ter novel has an in­ter­est­ing anal­o­gy with Drood, in the psy­chi­cal rap­port re­vealed as ex­ist­ing be­tween two twins. One of Dick­ens's al­ter­na­tive ti­tles for Drood was "The Two Kins­men," an­oth­er, "A Kins­man's De­vo­tion." In The Cor­si­can Broth­ers one of the kins­men is given, in a trance, a clair­voy­ant knowl­edge of dan­ger to the other and has­tens to his aid. In­ter­est in hyp­no­tism was awak­ened ear­li­er in France and Ger­many than in Eng­land, and made an ear­li­er ap­pear­ance in fic­tion. Balzac touch­es on it in at least one of his sto­ries. Ori­en­tal­ism and Egyp­tol­o­gy led Gau­ti­er into it, and he used it cred­u­lous­ly, as Bul­w­er Lyt­ton, in spite of a sim­i­lar trend in his fic­tion, never did. In Ger­many It was em­ployed by sev­er­al writ­ers in the early nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, — con­spic­u­ous­ly by E. T. A. Hoff­man and Wil­helm Hauff.

In 1869, when the Mys­tery of Edwin Drood was begun, the the­o­ry of an­i­mal mag­netism was at the height of its pop­u­lar­i­ty. At its in­cep­tion by Mes­mer in 1766, it was hearti­ly con­demned by the sci­en­tif­ic au­thor­i­ties, and dur­ing the cen­tu­ry fol­low­ing it passed through suc­ces­sive phas­es of ap­proval and dis­cred­it. As late as 1840 the phe­nomenon was in­ves­ti­gat­ed and dis­missed by the French Acade­my as a delu­sion, though it con­tin­ued to ex­cite a great deal of pop­u­lar reduli­ty. It ob­tained its first cre­dence in Eng­land, be­tween 1840 and 1850, as the re­sult of the re­search­es of Dr. James Braid, a Manch­ester sur­geon. Mes­mer's con­cep­tion of hyp­no­sis has been in most of its de­tails re­fut­ed by sub­se­quent experi­ment, but to 1870, it ex­erts a marked in­flu­ence even on the ex­per­i­ments of the sci­en­tists. Mes­mer be­lieved that a respon­sive in­flu­ence ex­ist­ed be­tween the heav­en­ly bod­ies, the earth, and an­i­mat­ed bod­ies; that a sub­tle, im­pal­pa­ble, com­mu­nica­tive fluid was the means of this in­flu­ence; that the an­i­mal body was di­rect­ly af­fect­ed by its in­sin­u­a­tion into the sub­stance of the nerves; that this mag­netism could be com­mu­ni­cat­ed from one an­i­mat­ed body to an­oth­er; that it could pen­e­trate mat­ter from any dis­tance, and that it was com­mu­ni­cat­ed, prop­a­gat­ed, and in­creased by sound. In Mes­mer's ex­per­i­ments, the most com­mon man­i­fes­ta­tions of the mag­net­ic in­flu­ence on the human per­son were crises of hys­te­ria, and ner­vous pa­tients re­spond­ed most read­i­ly to his treat­ment. Braid's re­search­es in Eng­land tend­ed to show that the phe­nomenon was due to "a sub­jec­tive state, in­de­pen­dent of all ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences," but Mes­mer's orig­i­nal con­cep­tion per­sist­ed in many minds. On this basis were also ex­plained many ap­par­ent in­stances of thought trans­fer­ence, clair­voy­ance, and men­tal sug­ges­tion. One must re­mem­ber, in con­sid­er­ing Dick­ens' use of the prin­ci­ple, that its na­ture was, in his day, as yet only par­tial­ly as­cer­tained, and that its op­er­a­tion in the novel would nat­u­ral­ly be tinged with many of the mis­con­cep­tions of his con­temporaries. Con­cen­tra­tion of will in the op­er­a­tor was at this time re­gard­ed by many as in­dis­pens­able to the in­duc­tion of hyp­no­sis, and from the anal­o­gy of "min­er­al mag­netism" his re­la­tion to his sub­ject was con­ceived to be that of a "pos­i­tive" to a "neg­a­tive" men­tal­i­ty.

In the light of all this, ob­serve the fol­low­ing fea­tures in the Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. — I shall mere­ly enu­mer­ate them briefly, leav­ing the read­er to sup­ple­ment them, and to make the ap­po­si­tion. — First con­sid­er the hys­te­ria of Rosa in the piano scene. Then no­tice the con­cen­trat­ed de­struc­tive pur­pose in Jasper's face, when, dur­ing the mid­night visit to the vaults, he sees Neville pass­ing in the shad­ow, and lev­els at him the dead­ly malev­o­lent look that caus­es Dur­dles to pause in won­der, "with an un­munched some­thing in his cheek". Re­mem­ber­ing Mes­mer's the­o­ry that the mag­net­ic in­flu­ence is in­creased and prop­a­gat­ed by sound, re­mark the var­i­ous sounds that ac­com­pa­ny Jasper's pro­jec­tions of his sin­is­ter will: tfie swelling organ note that fright­ens Rosa in the gar­den, the in­sis­tent keynote in the piano scene ("care­ful­ly and soft­ly hint­ing the keynote from time to time." And later: "watched the pret­ty lips, and hint­ed the one note as though it were a low whis­per from him­self."), the storm that rages out­side the Gate House on the fatal night, with an elec­tric in­ten­si­ty, also, that points to Mes­mer's con­cep­tion of the re­spon­sive re­la­tion be­tween the heav­ens and human sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to mag­netism. Bear­ing in mind Mes­mer's the­o­ry that this in­flu­ence could pen­e­trate mat­ter at any dis­tance, reread Rosa's ex­pla­na­tion to He­le­na of her fear of Jasper. "I feel that I am never safe from him: I feel as if he could pass through the wall when he is spo­ken of." And if the read­er thinks that Dick­ens in­tend­ed this sim­ply as a fig­u­ra­tive ex­pres­sion of ner­vous ex­cite­ment, he will find Crisparkle re­ject­ing that ex­pla­na­tion of a very sim­i­lar phe­nomenon in a pas­sage short­ly to be cited. Mean­while, no­tice how, when Neville is in­ter­cept­ed by the au­thor­i­ties on his walk­ing tour, and brought back to an­swer the charge of mur­der, Jasper walks silent­ly at his side, "a fixed look on his face, and never quit­ting that po­si­tion." Mark Neville's en­tire for­get­ful­ness of the in­ci­dents of the fatal night, (one of the af­ter-symp­toms of hyp­no­sis), and refer that to what was said by the au­thor, in his al­lu­sion to an­i­mal mag­netism, about "two par­al­lel states of con­scious­ness that never clash." The al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tion that Neville's for­get­ful­ness is due to his hav­ing been drugged by Jasper on the night of the mur­der is, of course, quite ob­vi­ous, but it may also be re­gard­ed as a tem­po­rary ex­pla­na­tion, de­signed by the au­thor to keep his read­ers' minds ap­peased until the real cause is re­vealed. Some plau­si­ble cause had to be in ev­i­dence to pre­vent this lapse of mem­o­ry from caus­ing undue per­plex­i­ty, or from seem­ing a forced and ar­bi­trary plot in­ci­dent; and the opium ex­pla­na­tion is in­ferred by the read­er: the au­thor does not even hint at it. This may have been one of the "dif­fi­cult" phas­es of the plot. But if the read­er is not con­vinced in the two cases above, I con­cede him the con­ceiv­able doubt: with such an abun­dance of other proof, it mat­ters lit­tle.

Now con­sid­er, with ref­er­ence to Mes­mer's the­o­ry of the re­la­tions of the plan­ets and ex­ter­nal na­ture to an­i­mal mag­netism and men­tal sug­ges­tion, the fol­low­ing pas­sage from the chap­ter in which Crisparkle finds Drood's watch and chain in the Weir:

"He stood lis­ten­ing in­tent­ly to the water. A fa­mil­iar pas­sage in his read­ing, about airy tongues that syl­la­ble men's names, rose so un­bid­den to his ear that he put it from him with his hand, as if it were tan­gi­ble.

It was starlight. The Weir was full two miles above the spot to which the young men had re­paired to watch the storm. No search had been made up there, for the tide had been run­ning strong­ly down, at that time of the night of Christ­mas Eve, and the like­li­est place for the dis­cov­ery of a body, if a fatal ac­ci­dent had hap­pened under such cir­cum­stances, all lay, — both when the tide ebbed and when it flowed again — be­tween that spot and the sea. The water came over the Weir, with its usual sound on a cold starlight night, and lit­tle could be seen of it; yet Crisparkle had a strange idea that some­thing un­usu­al hung about the place.

He rea­soned with him­self: What was it? Where was it? Put it to the proof. Which sense did it ad­dress? No sense re­port­ed any­thing un­usu­al there. He lis­tened again, and his sense of hear­ing again checked the water com­ing over the Weir, with its usual sound on a cold starlight night.

Know­ing very well that the mys­tery with which his mind was oc­cu­pied, might of it­self give the place this haunt­ed air (Here Crisparkle en­ter­tains for a mo­ment an ex­pla­na­tion of this pe­cu­liar ex­pe­ri­ence, which the read­er has no doubt ap­plied to some of the other strange phe­nom­e­na I have point­ed out, name­ly that such ab­nor­mal pre­sen­ti­ments as he feels here, and Rosa felt with re­gard to Jasper, are mere fig­ments of an over­wrought fancy. But later Crisparkle has cause to dis­miss that ex­pla­na­tion, as must also, on sec­ond thought, the most skep­ti­cal read­er, — that is, so far as the fic­tion is con­cerned.), he strained those hawk­like eyes of his for the cor­rec­tion of his sight. He got clos­er to the Weir, and peered at its well-known posts and tim­bers. Noth­ing in the least un­usu­al was re­mote­ly shad­owed forth. But he re­solved that he would come back early in the morn­ing.

The Weir ran through his un­bro­ken sleep, all night, and he was back again at sun­rise. It was a brief frosty morn­ing. The whole com­po­si­tion be­fore him, when he stood where he had stood last night, was clear­ly dis­cernible in its min­utest de­tails. He had sur­veyed it close­ly for some min­utes, and was about to with­draw his eyes, when they were at­tract­ed keen­ly to one spot.

He turned his back upon the Weir, and looked far away at the sky, and at the earth, and then looked again at that one spot. It caught his sight again im­me­di­ate­ly, and he con­cen­trat­ed his vi­sion upon it. He could not lose it now, though it was but a speck in the land­scape. It fas­ci­nat­ed his sight. His hands began pluck­ing off his coat. For it struck him that at that spot — a cor­ner of the Weir — some­thing glis­tened, which did not move and come over with the glis­ten­ing water drops, but re­mained sta­tion­ary. He as­sured him­self of this, he threw off his clothes, he plunged into the icy water, and swam for the spot Climb­ing the tim­bers he took from them, caught among their in­ter­stices by its chain, a gold watch, bear­ing en­graved upon its back E. D.

He brought the watch to the bank, swam to the Weir again, climbed it, and dived off. He knew every hole and cor­ner of all the depths, and dived and dived and dived, until he could bear the cold no more. His no­tion was that he would find the body; he only found a shirt pin stick­ing in some mud and ooze."

The con­no­ta­tion of this pas­sage is so clear that it re­al­ly needs no ital­ics, but is worth the read­er's study. Why should Crisparkle, in the dense­ness of night, feel the pres­ence in the Weir of an ob­ject which was al­most in­vis­i­ble to his hawk­like eye in the clear light of day! What gave him the fore­bod­ing, and what di­rect­ed him to the spot? I leave the read­er, if he cares, to note the other pe­cu­liar­i­ties of the episode; (they are very ob­vi­ous, and all point the same way), and in­vite him to at­tempt the im­pos­si­ble feat of ex­plain­ing it on any other basis than that I have in­di­cat­ed.

Space per­mits me only to state here the the­o­ry and some of its more strik­ing at­tes­ta­tions. If the novel is reread with this idea in mind, many other ver­i­fi­ca­tions of it will pre­sent them­selves to an ob­ser­vant read­er. In­deed, I be­lieve it would be quite pos­si­ble, from the new angle thus af­ford­ed, to de­termine much more of the au­thor's de­sign for the un­writ­ten chap­ters than the an­a­lysts have hith­er­to thought pos­si­ble. To take mere­ly one in­stance, Jasper's final con­fes­sion (Cf. Forster's out­line) of the crime as if it had been com­mit­ted by an­oth­er, would on this basis link up much more sug­ges­tive­ly with the pre­ced­ing ac­tion, than on the as­sump­tion that he in­crim­i­nat­ed him­self while under the in­flu­ence of opium. It might also be pos­si­ble to prove that Jasper ac­tu­al­ly forced Neville to mur­der Drood and dis­pose of the body. He had pre­vi­ous­ly roused young Land­less to fury of re­sent­ment against Drood that ended in a threat to kill him; his scheme may well have been not only to di­rect sus­pi­cion against Neville after the crime, but to make him the ac­tu­al in­stru­ment in com­mit­ting it. Among Dick­ens' notes for the novel is the fol­low­ing mem­o­ran­dum for chap­ter XII, the pas­sage in the story that con­cerns Jasper's noc­tur­nal visit to the vaults with Dur­dles: "Lay the ground for the man­ner of the mur­der to come out at last." Aside from the al­lu­sion to quick­lime in this chap­ter, which is not di­rect­ly con­nect­ed with the man­ner of the mur­der, what­ever it may have to do with the oblit­er­a­tion of the traces of it, the only part of the nar­ra­tive that sug­gests di­rect pre­paration for that man­ner, is Jasper's fixed and de­struc­tive stare, "as if his eye were at the trig­ger of a load­ed rifle," the look di­rect­ed at Neville, when the lat­ter pass­es them un­knowingly in the dark­ness. In this chap­ter Dur­dles also men­tions a weird cry that is some­times heard to issue from the cathe­dral vaults, — an hal­lu­ci­na­tion that no doubt was to recur in de­ter­min­ing the con­clu­sion of the story, and pos­si­bly was con­nect­ed with the "that" which Jasper had never seen be­fore (Cf. Mes­mer's the­o­ry of a re­spon­sive re­la­tion be­tween inan­i­mate na­ture and the human mind.). Per­haps in pur­suance of the ref­er­ence to "airy voic­es that syl­la­ble men's names," some­thing was to be re­vealed too of the mayor's re­la­tions with his wife prior to her death: some­thing not en­tire­ly con­sis­tent with the flour­ish of rhetoric on her tomb­stone. This last is con­jec­ture, but there is small con­jec­ture in the con­clu­sion that the cir­cum­stances of Jasper's crime were to be "elicit­ed from him as if told of an­oth­er" by means of the tele­path­ic prin­ci­ple to which He­le­na held a key.

Di­a­bolism and man­i­fes­ta­tions of the spir­it world were, of course, a com­mon­place in En­glish fic­tion be­fore Dick­ens' time, — as for ex­am­ple in the long line of gloomy ro­mances cul­mi­nat­ing in Lewis' Monk and the nov­els of Mrs. Rad­cliffe, — but the fab­ric of their mys­tery was that of me­di­ae­val super­stition and leg­end. And while the more re­cent of these sto­ries showed a marked progress to­ward a ra­tio­nal­iza­tion of the su­per­nat­u­ral, al­most ful­filled in Mrs. Rad­cliffe's work, and in such con­ces­sions to plau­si­bil­i­ty as Brock­den Brown's Wieland, the final ex­pla­na­tion they put for­ward usu­al­ly in­volved an an­ti-cli­max that was worse than the fault it was de­signed to avoid, — as when Brock­den Brown ex­pound­ed his airy myster­ious voic­es as tricks of ven­tril­o­quism. With the warn­ing of these prece­dents be­fore him, Dick­ens was not like­ly to re­lapse into the me­di­ae­val error of treat­ing the mag­i­cal as an ob­jec­tive thing or into the Geor­gian fault of ex­plain­ing it with a triv­ial ma­chin­ery. Chester­ton's al­lu­sion to him as "the last of the mythol­o­gists'' was not in­tend­ed lit­er­al­ly. His ten­den­cy, like that of his time, was to pre­sent sub­jec­tive phe­nom­e­na as such, and to give mys­tery, in the end, a ra­tio­nal cause; and when his last novel was con­ceived, the sci­ence of his day of­fered him the added ad­van­tage of a ra­tio­nal con­clu­sion that was free from any peril of bathos. In this, I think, lay the ex­traor­di­nary nov­el­ty of his de­sign for The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood: he planned to re­vive the ef­fect of the old Goth­ic ro­mance, and to give its strangeness a rea­son­able source in a proven but as yet half-mirac­u­lous truth of psy­chol­o­gy. Here was a tick­lish and un­tried ven­ture, but in the course of it he could and did rely on the more fa­mil­iar, though hard­ly less re­mark­able phe­nom­e­na of opium dreams, made pop­u­lar by Collins in the Moon­stone plot, to carry him at last with­in hail of his very cu­ri­ous, new, dif­fi­cult, and in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble ob­jec­tive.

* * *

The above ar­ti­cle was writ­ten be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion of Mr. Percy Car­den's new study of the Dood prob­lem. Thus far, I have seen only a re­view of Mr. Car­den's book, but I am glad to no­tice that he con­firms Mr. Gadd's the­o­ry about Tar­tar as Datch­ery.

Until I can make sure of the con­tents of Mr. Car­den's book, I have de­ferred dis­cussing sev­er­al minor points in the novel that have in­trigued me, and that he may pos­si­bly have no­ticed, though I can find no ref­er­ence to them in pre­vi­ous crit­i­cisms: for in­stance, the pe­cu­liar cir­cue­tance that Jasper should shake the sleep­ing Ori­en­tals in the opium den and lis­ten to their speech in order to de­termine whether it is in­tel­li­gi­ble, where­as the au­thor, nei­ther in this scene nor later, gives us ground for think­ing that Jasper un­der­stands their lan­guage. In view of the vague­ness of Jasper's ori­gin, can one infer that he also, like the Land­less­es, has lived in the Ori­ent, and that this is rel­e­vant to the plot?