Burton E. Stevenson: The Fate of Erwin Drood

Published in The Bookman, May 1913


T was G. K. Chester­ton who re­marked that Charles Dick­ens failed to fin­ish the only one of his nov­els which re­al­ly need­ed fin­ish­ing. The oth­ers might have stopped any­where, and any thor­ough Dick­en­sian could have sup­plied an out­line of the miss­ing part; but The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood has de­fied the most acute. This is due prin­ci­pal­ly to the fact that there are no prece­dents to go by. Dick­ens was en­ter­ing a new field. It was "not his tenth novel but his first de­tective story" that he was writ­ing when he died, and it is im­pos­si­ble to say just how his mind would have worked in the un­ac­cus­tomed har­ness of rigid plot con­struction. There are ev­i­dences that the har­ness was chaf­ing him and that he was ill at ease. No doubt his ge­nius would have mas­tered the dif­fi­cul­ties which he saw ahead, but death took him at the crit­i­cal mo­ment when he was prepar­ing to cast the net of ev­i­dence about his vil­lain. Just as it was mount­ing to its cli­max, the tale stopped for­ev­er.

A num­ber of ob­scure per­sons immedi­ately tried to hitch their wag­ons to a star by fur­nish­ing con­tin­u­a­tions of their own. Or­pheus C. Kerr called his solu­tion The Cloven Foot; Henry Mor­ford called his John Jasper's Se­cret, and at­tempted to foist it on the pub­lic as the work of Charles Dick­ens, Jr., and Wilkie Collins. A medi­um at Brat­tle­bor­ough, Ver­mont, went both of them one bet­ter by giv­ing to the world The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood Com­plete, by the Spir­it Pen of Charles Dick­ens. It has al­ways been a mat­ter of re­mark that, how­ev­er gift­ed a writ­er may have been on earth, he in­vari­ably makes a fool of him­self when he takes up a Spir­it Pen. It was so in this case, and the Brat­tle­bor­ough reve­lation would be di­vert­ing if it were not so painful. In 1878, Gillan Vase pub­lished an elab­o­rate se­quel in three vol­umes, and a year later an un­known French­man shied his hat into the ring with Le Crime de Jasper. There were plays, too — lurid melo­dra­mas for the most part. One of them was by Dick­ens's son Charles. It was so bad that no man­ag­er could be found to pro­duce it.

All of these are neg­li­gi­ble as lit­er­a­ture or as se­ri­ous at­tempts to solve the mys­tery of Dick­ens's first and last plot. But in 1887, Mr. Richard A. Proc­tor, whose fame as an as­tronomer as­sured him a re­spectful hear­ing, pub­lished his Watched by the Dead, in which he tried to show that Edwin Drood was not dead at all; and this was the first of a long se­ries of in­ter­est­ing and in­ge­nious guess­es at the rid­dle, to which such em­i­nent men as William Archer, J. Cum­ing Wal­ters, An­drew Lang, G. K. Chester­ton, Hal­dane Mac­fall, B. W. Matz and Henry Jack­son con­tribut­ed. Of re­cent years, in­ter­est in the sub­ject has in­creased rather than di­min­ished. A bib­li­og­ra­phy of the books and mag­a­zine ar­ti­cles about "Ed­win Drood" pub­lished since 1905 runs to nine­ty-three en­tries.

The lat­est and in many ways the most valu­able ad­di­tion to this se­ries is Sir William Robert­son Nicoll's The Prob­lem of Edwin Drood. His con­tri­bu­tion to the data avail­able to stu­dents of the con­tro­ver­sy is a list of the al­ter­ations made by Dick­ens in the proofs, but not car­ried out by Forster, who, after Dick­ens's death, saw the last three num­bers through the press. It may as well be said at once that, though Sir William Nicoll lays con­sid­er­able stress upon them, these al­ter­ations are of very lit­tle im­por­tance. A few pas­sages of some length were in­di­cat­ed by Dick­ens for omis­sion, but when they are read care­fully in con­nec­tion with their con­text, it is ev­i­dent that they were cut out be­cause Dick­ens re­alised they were inept and su­per­flu­ous. Only in the eigh­teenth chap­ter, "A Set­tler in Clois­ter­ham," do the changes have any dis­cov­er­able bear­ing on the prob­a­ble de­vel­op­ment of the story. To these changes ref­er­ence will be made later on.

Sir William Nicoll has also ex­am­ined the en­tire manuscript, as well as the proofs, with the idea that the rewrit­ten pas­sages and proof changes made by Dick­ens might yield some clue to his in­ten­tions. These changes nat­u­ral­ly con­sist al­most en­tire­ly of the dele­tion of re­dun­dant sen­tences, the re­mod­elling of phras­es, the in­ser­tion of qual­i­fy­ing words, and such gen­er­al fur­bish­ing up as every au­thor gives his work in the final re­vi­sion. Sir William Nicoll does not at­tempt to draw any in­fer­ences from them, but there is one sen­tence so sig­nificantly strength­ened, that it is very im­por­tant, as will present­ly be shown.

It is in its con­clud­ing chap­ters that Sir William Nicoll's book is most valu­able, for his anal­y­sis of the story is one of the best and most close­ly rea­soned that has ap­peared any­where. It is far su­pe­ri­or to Mr. Lang's, and fully equal to the re­markable mono­graph by Dr. Henry Jack­son, of Cam­bridge, pub­lished a year or two ago. It is true that, in one impor­tant par­tic­u­lar, both Dr. Jack­son and Sir William Nicoll wan­der far astray, but their pre­sen­ta­tion of the prob­lem is a real de­light.

the prob­lems pre­sent­ed

The prob­lems pre­sent­ed by The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood are three: (1) was Drood mur­dered; (2) who was Datch­ery; and (3) how was the story to end?

To the first of these, Sir William Nicoll re­turns what is un­ques­tion­ably the cor­rect an­swer: Yes. To sup­pose that Jasper, a thor­ough­ly com­pe­tent vil­lain, after plan­ning the mur­der with great care and after see­ing his plans work out in every de­tail, should at the last mo­ment have bun­gled it, and should have yet be­lieved that he had killed his nephew, is a wild ab­sur­di­ty. Al­most equal­ly ab­surd is Mr. Lang's re­mark that, if Drood is re­al­ly dead, there is not much of a mys­tery. There is, in fact, a con­sid­er­able mys­tery, for, while the read­er is aware of the crime, he does not know how it was com­mit­ted; and, while the crim­i­nal is sus­pect­ed, it is not at all clear how his crime is to be brought home to him. Sure­ly it is ap­par­ent that in this book Dick­ens con­ceived him­self to be writ­ing a tragedy. To pro­duce Drood alive at the last mo­ment by some sleight-of-hand, as a con­juror pro­duces a rab­bit from a hat, would have been to turn it into a farce.

But, aside from the ques­tion of lit­er­ary pro­pri­ety, there are many ev­i­dences, as Sir William Nicoll points out, that Dick­ens meant Jasper to mur­der Drood. To John Forster, his con­fi­dant and clos­est friend, he stat­ed ex­plic­it­ly that the story was to be based upon the mur­der of a nephew by his uncle; none of his chil­dren, to whom he read the manuscript as fast as he com­plet­ed it, doubt­ed for an in­stant that Drood was re­al­ly dead, and one of them, Charles Dick­ens the younger, af­ter­ward de­clared that his fa­ther had told him in so many words that such was the case; to Sir Luke Fildes, who was il­lus­trat­ing the story, Dick­ens point­ed out that Jasper must be shown with a long, dou­ble neck­tie, be­cause it was with that neck­tie he was to stran­gle his nephew, and one of the final il­lus­tra­tions was to show Jasper in the con­demned cell at Clois­ter­ham jail; in his mem­o­ran­da for the story, Dick­ens refers more than once to the mur­der as to an ac­com­plished fact. These proofs would in them­selves be con­clu­sive, were any proof need­ed out­side the pages of the story. For the pages abound in proofs, to which it is not nec­es­sary to refer here, ex­cept to say that there is ab­so­lute­ly no rea­son to bring Drood to life again. He is paint­ed as an ego­tis­ti­cal young ass, whom no­body re­al­ly miss­es, and whose sweet­heart prompt­ly falls in love with some­body else. If he had come back, he would have found him­self very much out of it! But he never did come back.

The the­o­ry that Drood was not re­al­ly mur­dered arose, no doubt, from the mis­taken idea that, in a de­tec­tive story, the more un­ex­pect­ed and startling the de­noument is the more ef­fec­tive it is. But this is not at all the case. A plot must be log­i­cal; its end must be in­evitable from the be­gin­ning; and the read­er's plea­sure in the tale aris­es large­ly from his per­ception of this. As he fin­ish­es the last page, the men­tal glance he casts back­ward over the story must show him that it was to­ward this con­clu­sion, and no other, that every pre­ced­ing page point­ed. To at­tempt to fool him at the end by a trick or sub­terfuge just­ly ir­ri­tates him, and is a de­vice un­wor­thy of the lit­er­ary artist.

Now, to bring Drood to life after hav­ing so ev­i­dent­ly mur­dered him could have been ac­com­plished only by a trick; for Dick­ens would have been com­pelled to ex­plain not only how Jasper, with ev­ery­thing in his favour and be­liev­ing him­self to have suc­ceed­ed, should yet have failed, but also why Drood, if he were alive, did not at once de­nounce his uncle and so save in­no­cent peo­ple from sus­pi­cion and suf­fer­ing. A great many in­tel­li­gent men and women have racked their brains to find such an ex­pla­na­tion, but not one has suc­ceed­ed. By an ex­planation is meant, of course, a plau­si­ble and con­vinc­ing one.

Mr. Proc­tor was by no means the orig­i­na­tor of the the­o­ry that Drood was not re­al­ly killed. Both, Or­pheus Kerr and Henry Mor­ford, in their so­lu­tions, bring him to life again. Kerr, whose Cloven Foot is re­al­ly only a bur­lesque, bases his ex­pla­na­tion upon this sen­tence in the third chap­ter of the story, which he con­sid­ers the key to the whole mys­tery:

As, in some cases of drunk­en­ness, and in oth­ers of an­i­mal mag­netism, there are two states of con­scious­ness which 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 ani drunk, I must be drunk again be­fore I can re­mem­ber where), so Miss Twin­kle­ton had two dis­tinct and sep­a­rate phas­es of being.

In pur­suance of this the­o­ry, which is not with­out a kind of merit, Kerr has Jasper par­tial­ly stran­gle Drood and hide him in the Sapsea mon­u­ment while under the in­flu­ence of opium, and then for­get all about it until, while in an­oth­er opium trance, he makes his way back to the scene of the crime and is ar­rest­ed. Mor­ford sup­pos­es that Jasper lured his nephew up the cathe­dral tower, drugged and par­tial­ly stran­gled him, and then dropped him down' a hole be­tween the inner and outer walls of the cathe­dral. Dur­dles, who is con­ve­nient­ly moon­ing about in the crypt, hears the cries and groans of the im­pris­oned man and digs him out. Mr. Proc­tor sup­pos­es that, after Drood has been drugged and par­tially stran­gled by Jasper and dragged into the crypt and placed in a bed of quick­lime in the Sapsea mon­u­ment, Dur­dles, who has been lying drunk in the neigh­bour­hood, opens the mon­u­ment and finds Drood, "his face for­tu­nate­ly pro­tect­ed by the strong silk shawl with which Jasper had in­tend­ed to throt­tle him." This would have been for­tu­nate in­deed!

"We may sup­pose," Mr. Proc­tor con­tinues, "that Dur­dles dragged the body out of the tomb and out of the crypt," and he pro­ceeds to weave an ex­pla­na­tion of the sub­se­quent events out of a tis­sue of ab­sur­di­ties which need not be set down here, for the whole the­o­ry is com­plete­ly in­val­i­dat­ed by Mr. Proc­tor's cu­ri­ous mis­take in as­sum­ing that the Sapsea monument is in the crypt of the cathe­dral, where­as Dick­ens dis­tinct­ly states that it is in the grave­yard out­side, and vis­i­ble from the street. Mr. Proc­tor's whole so­lu­tion, in­deed, is based not so much upon any kind of proof as upon a nu­ance of feel­ing. "All the char­ac­ters who die in Dick­ens's sto­ries," he says, "are marked for death from the be­gin­ning. But there is not one note of death in aught that Edwin Drood says or does." It is, of course, im­pos­si­ble to argue with a man who at­tributes his be­liefs to in­tuition.

Mr. Lang, who seemed for a time in­clined to be­lieve that Drood was not re­al­ly dead, was forced to con­fess, after long con­sid­er­a­tion of the prob­lem, that "fancy can sug­gest no rea­son why Edwin Drood, if he es­caped from his wicked uncle, should go spy­ing about in­stead of com­ing open­ly for­ward. No plau­si­ble, un­fan­tas­tic ex­pla­na­tion could be in­vented." This is un­doubt­ed­ly true.

It has seemed to some per­sons that to have Edwin Drood re­turn and watch the man who be­lieved him­self to be his mur­derer, to gath­er ev­i­dence - against him, and fi­nal­ly to de­nounce him, would be a thrilling­ly dra­mat­ic sit­u­a­tion. In re­al­i­ty, it would be ridicu­lous, be­cause, since Drood al­ready knew his uncle had tried to mur­der him, there was no fur­ther evi­dence for him to look for. Mr. Proc­tor tries to ex­plain it by the the­o­ry that what Drood re­al­ly wished to find out was whether the crime was im­pul­sive or pre­meditated, but that is sim­ply silly. Fi­nal­ly, if the mur­der hadn't come off, Jasper's crime was triv­ial to what he be­lieved it to be, and his pun­ish­ment would be triv­ial, too. The whole point of the story is his trag­ic re­al­i­sa­tion that he had com­mit­ted a need­less mur­der. Take this pun­ish­ment from him, and he might well laugh at any other. To pun­ish him for at­tempt­ed mur­der would be inane, in­deed! In a word, if Jasper is not a mur­der­er, the whole story is an empty hoax.

The only faintest scin­til­la of ev­i­dence that Dick­ens ever thought of bring­ing Drood to life is the fact that he was in trou­ble with his story. This is not re­markable, since it was being pub­lished in month­ly parts as fast as it was being writ­ten. In­deed, Dick­ens had to exert him­self to keep ahead of the press­es. There was no chance for re­vi­sion — no chance to turn back and change any­thing. How tremen­dous a hand­i­cap this was no one but a writ­er of mys­tery' sto­ries can re­alise. For mys­tery sto­ries, to be per­fect­ly co­her­ent, must, in a sense, be writ­ten back­wards. The be­gin­ning must be made to fit the end. By the time the end is reached, the be­gin­ning in­vari­ably stands in need of re­vi­sion and read­just­ment. This is not a ques­tion of lack of ge­nius — it is a ques­tion of human lim­i­ta­tion. No man, how­ev­er gift­ed, can fore­see from the start all the minute ram­i­fi­ca­tions of a two-hun­dred-thou­sand word story, any more than he can fore­see all the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of a game of chess at the mo­ment he ad­vances his first pawn.

But It was not pos­si­ble for Dick­ens to strength­en or re-plan his foun­da­tion — that had been laid for all the world to see. He had to make the best of it, and go on build­ing; and it is ev­i­dent from the story it­self, from the in­ter­lined and rewrit­ten manuscript, and from the butchered proofs, as well as from his re­marks to Forster, Fildes and Mrs. Col­lins, that be­fore he was half done, he found the struc­ture, if not ac­tu­al­ly totter­ing, at least alarm­ing­ly weak. With the loose con­struc­tion of his other nov­els se­ri­al pub­li­ca­tion did not great­ly inter­fere; but to a novel de­pend­ing whol­ly upon a close­ly knit plot it was most em­barrassing. So, when he found his story de­vel­op­ing un­ex­pect­ed weak­ness­es, he must have cast about in his mind for some way of strength­en­ing it, and It is pos­si­ble that the idea of bring­ing Drood to life may have oc­curred to him. If it did, he never men­tioned it to any one nor made a note of it; and cer­tain­ly, after he had ex­am­ined it and per­ceived Its es­sen­tial ab­sur­di­ty, he must have re­jected it.

who was datch­ery?

The sec­ond ques­tion In re­gard to the story is, "Who was Datch­ery?"

Some six months after Drood's disap­pearance, it will be re­mem­bered, a stranger ap­pears at Clois­ter­ham — a white-haired per­son­age, with black eye­brows, but­toned up in a tight­ish blue surtout, with buff waist­coat and grey trousers; a per­son­age with some­thing of a mil­i­tary air, who de­scribes him­self as an "idle dog liv­ing upon his means," "a sin­gle buffer" who has come to Clois­terham to look for lodg­ings, with a view of set­tling down and spend­ing his "re­maining span of life" there. He is ec­centric in be­haviour, lo­qua­cious in con­versation, and the­atri­cal in de­port­ment, and it is made clear to the read­er that his ob­ject in com­ing to Clois­ter­ham Is to watch Jasper. He gets lodg­ings in the same house with him, and be­gins al­most at once to col­lect, bit by bit, evi­dence against him — and then the story ends.

Datch­ery's age is not men­tioned, but from his white hair, which Dick­ens also refers to more than once as grey, from the fact that his ap­pear­ance sug­gests to Sapsea and oth­ers that he has re­tired from the army or navy, and from his own ref­er­ence to his "re­main­ing span of life," it is ev­i­dent that he im­press­es those he meets as well past mid­dle age.

All the com­men­ta­tors upon the story are agreed that the long white hair so fre­quent­ly re­ferred to is a dis­guise, and that Datch­ery is not used to wear­ing a wig, since he ha­bit­u­al­ly car­ries his hat in his hand, and when he puts it on does so "as if with some vague ex­pec­ta­tion of find­ing an­oth­er hat there." Most go a step far­ther and agree, very prop­er­ly, that Dick­ens would not in­tro­duce a new char­acter of such im­por­tance so late in the story, and that Datch­ery is some one who has al­ready been in­tro­duced in his prop­er per­son. Dick­ens as much as said so to his daugh­ter when he re­ferred to the "Datch­ery as­sump­tion."

But as to the Iden­ti­ty of this per­son there is the widest dis­agree­ment. Those who be­lieve that Drood was not re­al­ly mur­dered, also be­lieve that Datch­ery is Drood. But, even ad­mit­ting for the mo­ment that Drood is not dead, it is ab­surd to sup­pose that the adop­tion of a wig and an ar­ti­fi­cial man­ner could dis­guise him from peo­ple who were well ac­quainted with him, even if there was a plau­si­ble rea­son why he should wish to as­sume such a dis­guise. There are a dozen in­di­ca­tions that Datch­ery is not Drood, but the whole the­o­ry is too fool­ish to waste time upon.

The the­o­ry adopt­ed by Sir William Nicoll, by Dr. Jack­son, and by many other em­i­nent but mis­guid­ed commenta­tors upon the story, is that Datch­ery is He­le­na Land­less, the twin sis­ter of Nev­ille Land­less — the young man upon whom Jasper tries so des­per­ate­ly to fas­ten the crime, but who, after being ar­rested, is fi­nal­ly re­leased for lack of evi­dence. In sup­port of this the­o­ry, they argue very adroit­ly that He­le­na pos­sesses in per­fec­tion the men­tal qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to the im­per­son­ation — the courage, the re­source­ful­ness, the aplomb; that Dick­ens takes pains to tell us that, when run­ning away from school years be­fore, she had put on boy's clothes and dis­played all the dar­ing of a man; and that she gives many dark hints that she is not afraid of Jasper and has some­thing up her sleeve.

The the­o­ry is a pic­turesque one, but it is not nec­es­sary to dis­cuss these argu­ments in favour of it, for there is to it one in­su­per­a­ble ob­jec­tion, and that is this: How­ev­er fit­ted men­tal­ly He­le­na may have been to as­sume the dis­guise, she was ut­ter­ly un­fit­ted for it phys­i­cal­ly. To sup­pose that a "lithe, un­usu­al­ly hand­some" girl of twen­ty, dark, rich in colour, with an em­phat­ic and unmistak­able per­son­al­i­ty, could, by putting on trousers and a wig, dis­guise her­self as an el­der­ly gen­tle­man — and, more es­pe­cial­ly, that she could, for an in­stant, de­ceive peo­ple who had known her, the sus­picious Jasper among them — is prepos­terous.

It is true that in real life women have some­times suc­cess­ful­ly dis­guised them­selves as men; but a young woman never suc­cess­ful­ly dis­guised her­self as an old man. How, in the full light of day, could a fresh and healthy young face put on the hue of age? How could the bright dark eyes put on the glaze of years? How could the soft and round­ed cheeks put on the lines that the years are sure to bring? How could that downy skin put on the look of hav­ing been shaved for forty years? Or are we to sup­pose that a man with a great shock of hair and heavy eye­brows was beard­less? How could a girl, be she never so slen­der, but­ton her­self up in a "tight­ish surtout" with­out be­tray­ing her sex? Be­sides, while the fact is not ex­press­ly stat­ed, the whole im­pres­sion of Datch­ery — his habit of chaffing, his ex­u­ber­ance, his good hu­mour, his hearty ap­petite, his pride in his leg — is that of a port­ly man. Re­mem­ber, too, that the im­per­son­ation was kept up, not for an hour, but for days and weeks, and that it took place, not on an ar­ti­fi­cial­ly light­ed stage with' the spec­ta­tors at a dis­tance, but in the full light of the sun with the spec­ta­tors all about and close at hand. In view of all these dif­fi­cul­ties; the con­clu­sion is un- es­capable that, how­ev­er en­gag­ing the the­o­ry may be, it is, in fact, un­tenable.

Who, then, is Datch­ery? It Is the opin­ion of the pre­sent writ­er that Datch­ery is Baz­zard. This is not a very ex­citing the­o­ry, but there are many things to in­di­cate that it is the right one. Briefly stat­ed, they are as fol­lows:

Baz­zard, it will be re­mem­bered, is clerk to Hiram Grew­gious, that admir­able and sound-heart­ed old lawyer who is guardian to Rosa Bud, and who is the first to sus­pect Jasper of Edwin Drood's mur­der. It is Grew­gious who deter­mines to un­mask the vil­lain, who takes charge of the af­fair, and who de­cides that Jasper must be watched. What more nat­u­ral than that he should choose for this task his clerk, in whom he ex­press­es the great­est con­fi­dence and whom no one at Clois­ter­ham knows?

Baz­zard is de­scribed as a "pale, puffy- faced, dark-haired per­son of thir­ty, with big dark eyes that whol­ly want­ed lus­tre, and a dis­sat­is­fied doughy com­plex­ion," "a gloomy per­son, with tan­gled locks," and a very mys­te­ri­ous man­ner. It turns out that he has the­atri­cal as­pi­ra­tions, that he has writ­ten a tragedy which has never been pro­duced, that he con­sorts with other dis­ap­point­ed play­wrights, and pre­sumably fre­quents the the­atre. Now, it has been con­tend­ed that Baz­zard does not pos­sess the men­tal qual­i­fi­ca­tions nec­es­sary to a Datch­ery; but this is, at least, dis­putable. The most that can be said is that we know too lit­tle of him to pass any cer­tain judg­ment. The fact that he has writ­ten a play, how­ev­er bad, would in­di­cate that he had some brains, Grew­gious ev­i­dent­ly con­sid­ers him a man of parts, and his as­so­ci­a­tion with the the­atre would ex­plain the the­atri­cal­i­ty of Datch­ery's be­haviour. Baz­zard's dark hair and eyes cer­tain­ly cor­re­spond with Datch­ery's black eye­brows and show the ne­ces­si­ty for a grey wig, if he is to pose as an el­der­ly man. His physique also cor­re­sponds with what we must sup­pose Datch­ery's to have been, and he has in con­ver­sa­tion a stilt­ed and ar­ti­fi­cial style very like Datch­ery's. Fi­nal­ly, at the pre­cise time Datch­ery ap­pears at Clois­ter- ham, Grew­gious re­marks ca­su­al­ly to a vis­i­tor that Baz­zard "is off duty here, al­to­geth­er, just at pre­sent."

The ad­her­ents of the He­le­na Land­less the­o­ry as­sert that this re­mark was in­serted by Dick­ens mere­ly as a blind; but it is not a blind. On the con­trary, it is one of those clues which every writ­er of a mys­tery story must strew along his path, but whose im­por­tance the av­er­age read­er does not re­alise until he looks back from the end of the story. It is a very sig­nif­i­cant fact that this sen­tence was care­ful­ly strength­ened by Dick­ens in the proofs. Orig­i­nal­ly, Grew­gious's ref­er­ence to Baz­zard was in these words: "No, he goes his way after of­fice hours. In fact, he is off duty at pre­sent. ... But it would be dif­fi­cult to re­place Mr. Baz­zard." In the final text, Grew­gious says: "No, he goes his way, after of­fice hours. In fact, he is off duty here, alto­gether, just at pre­sent. ... But it would be ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult to re­place Mr. Baz­zard." This, as has been said be­fore, is by far the most im­por­tant of the proof changes dis­cov­ered by Sir Will­iam Nicoll. Sure­ly, when Dick­ens made this al­ter­ation he had clear­ly in his mind the fact that Baz­zard was al­ready on duty at Clois­ter­ham.

The the­o­ry that Datch­ery is Baz­zard is by no means a new one. Both Kerr and Mor­ford ad­vance it. More signifi­cant is a let­ter to the Pall Mall Maga­zine for June, 1906, from Dick­ens's daugh­ter, Mrs. Kate Pe­rug­i­ni, in which she dis­cuss­es the story and re­marks in­cidentally that "there are rea­sons in the story against the sup­po­si­tion that He­le­na is Datch­ery, and many to sup­port the the­o­ry that the 'old buffer' is Baz­zard." Other crit­ics have ar­rived at the same con­clu­sion; but all of them have been be­rat­ed by the ad­her­ents of the Drood and He­le­na Land­less the­o­ries as com­monplace and unimag­i­na­tive. Mr. Proc­tor says, "No one at all fa­mil­iar with Dick­ens's method would for a mo­ment imag­ine that Datch­ery is Baz­zard." Mr. Cum­ing Wal­ters says, "Lit­er­ary art re­bels against the idea. Baz­zard was one of Dick­ens's favourite low com­e­dy char­ac­ters." Dr. Jack­son says, "I am sure that Baz­zard is in­ca­pable of play­ing the part of Datch­ery." Sir William Nicoll adds, "In these judg­ments I agree."

It might be point­ed out that these are not so much judg­ments as ex­pres­sions of opin­ion. As to Baz­zard's al­leged inca­pacity, there is ab­so­lute­ly no proof of it in the story. And the part of Datch­ery, with his melo­dra­ma and air of tragedy and mys­tery, is one which Baz­zard would have loved to play. He would have played it just as Datch­ery does, in fact, play it. As to the the­o­ry being ob­vi­ous and com­mon­place, it should be point­ed out that the writ­er of mys­tery sto­ries who re­lies for his so­lu­tions upon the­o­ries which are strange and far­fetched is rid­ing for a fall. The high­est art in the de­tec­tive story is to im­press the read­er with the en­tire rea­son­able­ness of every de­tail; not to star­tle him at the end by ex­plod­ing an un­ex­pect­ed bomb, but to hold his in­ter­est by the log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of the plot, whose- end he may, to some ex­tent, fore­see. Per­haps Dick­ens was in­ca­pable of this pe­cu­liar art; he was never first-rate at plot, and he was writ­ing this story under the tre­mendous dis­ad­van­tage of im­me­di­ate pub­lication in parts; but sure­ly he was in­capable of at­tempt­ing to fool his read­ers by a grotesque trick.

And yet, at this point, the manuscript gives elo­quent tes­ti­mo­ny to the fact that Dick­ens was in trou­ble. The eigh­teenth chap­ter, in which Datch­ery is in­tro­duced, shows an un­usu­al num­ber of ad­di­tions and era­sures. It has been gone over with great care, for Dick­ens was ev­i­dent­ly afraid that he might, in­ad­ver­tent­ly, give a hint as to Datch­ery's iden­ti­ty. If we add to the manuscript changes the changes made in proof, we have a still fur­ther ev­i­dence of his anx­i­ety on this point. Which brings us to the two omis­sions marked by Dick­ens and not car­ried out by Forster which are of real im­por­tance.

Datch­ery, hav­ing been in­formed that Mrs. Tope, liv­ing near the Cathe­dral, has lodg­ings to let, sets out to look for them. "But the Crozi­er being an hotel of a most re­tir­ing dis­po­si­tion, and the wait­er's di­rec­tions being fa­tal­ly pre­cise, he soon be­came be­wil­dered, and went bog­gling about and about the Cathe­dral Tower, when­ev­er he could catch a glimpse of it, with a gen­er­al im­pres­sion on his mind that Mrs. Tope's was some­where very near it, and that, like the chil­dren In the game of hot boiled beans and very good but­ter, he was warm in his search when he saw the Tower, and cold when he didn't see it."

A lit­tle far­ther on he finds a boy, whom he asks to guide him to the spot.

"Look­ie yon­der," says the boy. "You see that there winder and door?"
"That's Tope's?"
"Yer lie; it ain't. That's Jasper's."
"In­deed?" said Mr. Datch­ery with a look of some in­ter­est.

It seems a rather re­mark­able coinci­dence that in the pre­sent writ­er's copy of Edwin Drood both these pas­sages should have been marked as giv­ing the strongest ev­i­dence that Datch­ery is Baz­zard, and that, after care­ful con­sideration, Dick­ens should have cut them both out of the final proofs. The parts he marked for omis­sion are pre­cise­ly the sig­nif­i­cant parts: in the first quo­ta­tion, from "with a gen­er­al im­pres­sion on his mind" to the end of the para­graph; and in the sec­ond, the phrase "with a look of some in­ter­est."

The point is this: If Datch­ery was Edwin Drood or He­le­na Land­less or any one else fa­mil­iar with Clois­ter­ham, he might, in­deed, in­ten­tion­al­ly seem to lose his. way in order to de­ceive any one who might be watch­ing him, and go "bog­gling about and about the Cathe­dral Tower," but it could not pos­si­bly have been "with a gen­er­al im­pres­sion on his mind that Mrs. Tope's was some­where very near it." If that clause in­di­cates his men­tal state, then Datch­ery was un­questionably a stranger to Clois­ter­ham, since it in­di­cates that he was re­al­ly lost; and If it had stood un­al­tered in the text it would prove con­clu­sive­ly that he was nei­ther Drood nor He­le­na. But Dick­ens, in his final re­vi­sion of the chap­ter, cut it out, al­though Forster al­lowed it to re­main in the print­ed book.

Now Dick­ens cut it out for one of two rea­sons: ei­ther he feared that it point­ed too clear­ly to Datch­ery's iden­ti­ty, or he per­ceived that it was not in keep­ing with that iden­ti­ty. The first of these rea­sons Is un­doubt­ed­ly the right one. Dick­ens was very anx­ious to throw every pos­si­ble cloud about Datch­ery, for this was one of the few se­crets re­main­ing in the story, but here, in a sin­gle sen­tence, was the proof that he was a stranger to Cloister­ham. It was a fin­ger point­ing straight at Baz­zard, the only stranger to Clois­terham who had thus far ap­peared in the ory. On the other hand, if Datch­ery had been Drood or He­le­na, or any one else fa­mil­iar with the town, Dick­ens would never have writ­ten the words. He would have seen at once that no such thought could have been in Datch­ery's mind.

The ex­ci­sion of the clause "with a look of some in­ter­est," is of less im­por­tance. But, un­less Datch­ery was a stranger to the town, there was no rea­son why he should look at Jasper's win­dow with in­terest; and this thought, per­haps, oc­curred to Dick­ens, and de­cid­ed him to cut the words out.

One point more. When Datch­ery is ask­ing the wait­er at the Crozi­er to refer him to pos­si­ble lodg­ings, he is very par­ticular to ex­plain that what he wants is "some­thing old, some­thing odd and out of the way; some­thing ven­er­a­ble, archi­tectural and in­con­ve­nient." As the wait­er hes­i­tates and scratch­es his head, Mr. Datch­ery adds, "Any­thing cathe­dral­ly, now." It is ev­i­dent that the whole ob­ject of these in­quiries is to guide the wait­er's thoughts to Mrs. Tope, who, with her hus­band, oc­cu­pies the old gate­house of the cathe­dral, and who lets lodg­ings to John Jasper, and it has been ar­gued that they prove that Datch­ery was fa­mil­iar with Clois­ter­ham. But they prove no such thing. They prove mere­ly that his em­ploy­er, Mr. Grewgious, had told him that it was at Tope's he must get lodg­ings, and had care­ful­ly coached him in the ques­tions to be asked.

There is one other point which the ad­vocates of the He­le­na-Datch­ery the­o­ry have strange­ly over­looked. In the story as print­ed, it is ob­vi­ous­ly im­pos­si­ble for He­le­na to be Datch­ery, be­cause Datch­ery ap­pears In Clois­ter­ham in Chap­ter XVIII, which is en­tire­ly de­vot­ed to his do­ings, while it is not until the fol­low­ing chap­ter that He­le­na's school at Cloister­ham clos­es for the sum­mer va­ca­tion and leaves her free to join her broth­er in Lon­don. Dr. Jack­son, how­ev­er, dis­covered by an ex­am­i­na­tion of the manu­script that what is now Chap­ter XVIII was in­tend­ed orig­i­nal­ly by Dick­ens to be Chap­ter XIX, and that the two chap­ters were trans­posed after what is now

Chap­ter XIX was com­plete­ly writ­ten, and when what is now Chap­ter XVIII was about half done. As orig­i­nal­ly placed, the chap­ter would not bring Datch­ery to Clois­ter­ham until at least a week after He­le­na had gone to Lon­don, where, it is sup­posed — en­tire­ly with­out any cor­rob­o­ra­tive ev­i­dence — the plan of dis­guis­ing her­self and re­turn­ing to Clois­ter­ham to watch Jasper is car­ried out with the knowl­edge and as­sis­tance of her broth­er and Grew­gious.

In set­ting the chap­ter for­ward, Dr. Jack­son and Sir William Nicoll argue, Dick­ens over­looked this very se­ri­ous clash in the chronol­o­gy of the story; and this in spite of the fact that the open­ing para­graph of the very next chap­ter, which was al­ready writ­ten and which Dick­ens must have had clear­ly in his mind, is con­cerned with the clos­ing of He­le­na's school. They fur­ther argue that, even in the proofs, Dick­ens did not de­tect this blun­der. But the true in­ference is, not that Dick­ens thus care­lessly and blind­ly wrecked his whole plot, but that there was no con­nec­tion in his mind be­tween He­le­na and Datch­ery, and so no ne­ces­si­ty to delay Datch­ery's ap­pearance at Clois­ter­ham until after He­le­na's de­par­ture from it. In fact, the trans­po­si­tion of these chap­ters is a very strong proof that He­le­na is not Datch­ery.

how was it to end?

To the third ques­tion, "How was the story to end?" it is pos­si­ble to give a par­tial an­swer, in spite of the fact that Dick­ens left ab­so­lute­ly no notes nor mem­o­ran­da for the un­writ­ten chap­ters. Jasper, of course, was to be caught and pun­ished; the in­stru­ment of de­tec­tion was to be the ring which Drood car­ried next his heart un­known to Jasper, and which would serve to iden­ti­fy the body, which Jasper had par­tial­ly de­stroyed by quick­lime. It seems prob­a­ble that an ad­ver­tise­ment writ­ten by Grew­gious and ei­ther in­sert­ed in a news­pa­per or print­ed as a broad­side, stat­ing that the ring was on Drood's per­son when he dis­ap­peared and of­fer­ing a re­ward for its re­turn, was to be used to lure Jasper to the place where he had hid the body, and so into the arms of the law — a de­vice al­ready used by C. Au­guste Dupin, and after­ward to be used many times by Sher­lock Holmes. Rosa is to marry Tar­tar, and He­le­na is to marry Crisparkle; Neville is to be killed in the cap­ture of Jasper, which will be only after a chase up the tower and over the roof of the cathe­dral a chase for which Tar­tar, with his ex­traordinary agili­ty, is care­ful­ly pre­pared be­fore­hand.

So much is fair­ly cer­tain from the in­ternal ev­i­dence of the story, as well as from the hints which Dick­ens Inadver­tently let drop. But he found him­self con­front­ed by this dif­fi­cul­ty: he had wound up his plot and must now begin to un­wind it — but his book was only half done. It was to run to twelve num­bers and he had writ­ten only six. The un­winding could not pos­si­bly be pro­longed for more than a num­ber or two. There­fore it was nec­es­sary to in­tro­duce some sec­ond­ing story to oc­cu­py at least four num­bers.

That this sec­ond­ing story was to be con­cerned with the old opi­um-wom­an and with the rea­sons for her ha­tred of Jasper seems very prob­a­ble, but there is ab­so­lute­ly no clue to its de­tails. An­drew Lang goes so far as to as­sert that Dick­ens him­self did not know how the story was to end. But be­fore he com­menced it, he had out­lined its plot rough­ly to Forster, and had stat­ed that its orig­i­nal­i­ty "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."

There is noth­ing to show that Dick­ens had given up this plan, but it does not seem to be very orig­i­nal or very promis­ing. It is doubt­ful if the av­er­age read­er would care to know in de­tail about Jas­per's life pre­vi­ous to the open­ing of the story; cer­tain­ly no one would care to hear from Jasper's lips what the ac­tion of the story had al­ready dis­closed. It is im­pos­si­ble to Imag­ine this as a satisfac­tory cli­max, but there is no telling what Dick­ens's ge­nius would have made of it. Prob­a­bly he would have found him­self com­pelled to mod­i­fy it very great­ly.

It Is rather the fash­ion to speak of Edzvin Drood as a mas­ter­piece; but as a de­tec­tive story, which is the only way in which it should be judged, it has many faults. Al­though his main oc­cu­pa­tion should have been with plot, Dick­ens could not re­sist the temp­ta­tion to amble aside into car­i­ca­ture. Sapsea, with his un­be­liev­able in­scrip­tion for his wife's mon­u­ment, is car­i­ca­ture; Mrs. Bil­lickin is car­i­ca­ture, and rather poor and tire­some car­i­ca­ture, too — cer­tain­ly not good enough to delay the flow of the story, with which it has ab­so­lute­ly no con­cern. One great req­ui­site of the de­tec­tive story is that it should flow with­out se­ri­ous in­ter­rup­tion from the first page to the last. It must be re­gret­ful­ly added that Dick­ens drops oc­ca­sion­al­ly into the dark and mys­te­ri­ous man­ner of Wilkie Col­lins, whose work in this field he great­ly ad­mired, and that some of his clues leave the read­er in­cred­u­lous.

It will be suf­fi­cient to anal­yse only one of these. Two or three days after Drood's dis­ap­pear­ance, Crisparkle, the ath­let­ic Minor Canon of the cathe­dral, is moved by some mys­te­ri­ous and unex­plained in­flu­ence to walk to Clois­ter­ham weir, two miles above the town. As he stands gaz­ing at it, he de­scries, far out from the bank, a bright ob­ject sparkling on the weir, and, swim­ming otit to it, finds that it is a gold watch firm­ly caught be­tween the tim­bers by its chain — so firm­ly that the sweep of the water over the weir has not dis­lodged it. After re­peated div­ing, he also finds "a shirt-pin stick­ing in some mud and ooze." Both watch and pin are iden­ti­fied as hav­ing be­longed to Drood, and ev­ery­body at once jumps to the con­clu­sion that the mur­der­er, hav­ing re­moved these ar­ti­cles from the body to pre­vent its identifica­tion, sought to get rid of them by cast­ing them into the river.

A mo­ment's thought will show how pre­pos­ter­ous all this is. In the first place, the chances against the watch-chain being caught in that way by ac­ci­dent would be about a mil­lion to one. In the sec­ond place, if watch and pin had been thrown into the river to­geth­er, the pin, being much the lighter, would have fall­en far short of the watch. If they had been thrown sep­a­rate­ly, they would very prob­ably have been thrown in dif­fer­ent di­rections. In nei­ther case could the pin have been "stick­ing" in the mud, since, as the head was the heav­ier, it must have gone to the bot­tom head-first. Of course it might have stuck in the mud head­first, but this is ev­i­dent­ly not what Dick­ens meant, for in that case Cris- parkle would have had to per­form the in­cred­i­ble feat of dis­cov­er­ing a pin-point pro­trud­ing from the mud at the bot­tom of a river. The feat, as Dick­ens indi­cated that he did per­form it, is sure­ly re­mark­able enough!

The plain in­fer­ence to be drawn from these cir­cum­stances is that the watch reached the spot where it was found not by ac­ci­dent but by de­sign, that it could have been placed there only by the mur­derer, who then pro­ceed­ed to drop the pin into the water as he sat on top of the weir (we must over­look the "stick­ing," which is ev­i­dent­ly a slip); and that his pur­pose in doing all this must have been to throw sus­pi­cion upon some one else, or at least to di­vert it from him­self. This is so very ob­vi­ous that, out­side of a book, it would be at once ap­par­ent to any think­ing per­son — so ob­vi­ous, in­deed, that the very fact that Jasper sought to avail him­self of a de­vice so clum­sy and trans­parent is con­vinc­ing proof that he was only an or­di­nary vil­lain, after all!