Clarence F. Buhler : "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" — Is it Solved at Last?

A Startling State­ment from Ger­many

First pub­lished in the "New York Evening Mail" on 20 De­cem­ber 1871


re­cent issue of "Die Berlin­er Zeitung" con­tains an ar­ti­cle of so startling a na­ture that the ed­i­tors ap­pend a card from the cel­e­brat­ed Dr. Siebert cer­ti­fy­ing to the ve­rac­i­ty of the writ­er. He mere­ly signs the ini­tials "J. R." but is said to be a wealthy and ec­cen­tric man whose res­i­dence is fur­nished through­out with ar­ti­cles which have be­longed to de­ceased celebri­ties. And it is al­leged that at the sale of Mr. Dick­ens' ef­fects he pur­chased a ma­hogany es­critoire in which he found an out­line of the en­tire plot of "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood" in the hand­writ­ing of Mr. Dick­ens. In this "out­line" the events are of course ar­ranged in the order of their oc­cur­rence, and not in the order in which they were to be nar­rat­ed in the story. I give it ver­batim, and it will be ob­served that "J. R." has in­ter­po­lat­ed the num­bers of the chap­ters in which Mr. Dick­ens had al­ready writ­ten up nu­mer­ous sec­tions there­of. It reads thus:

A Mrs. Bud is ac­ci­den­tal­ly drowned in Eng­land, and one year af­ter­ward her hus­band dies of a bro­ken heart (9). His only con­sol­er has been a friend named Drood (9). Bud leaves a daugh­ter Rosa, and Drood, who soon fol­lows him, leaves a son Edwin (9). The par­ents di­rect in their wills that these chil­dren shall in­ter­mar­ry when Edwin at­tains ma­tu­ri­ty (3 & 9). Mean­while, Rosa lives at the sem­i­nary of Miss Twin­kle­ton in Clois­ter­ham (9), and her guardian is an old flame of her moth­er's named Grew­gious, who has an of­fice in Lon­don (11).

Edwin is ed­u­cat­ed as an en­gi­neer (8), and in­tends go­ing on an en­gi­neer­ing tour di­rect­ly after his mar­riage (2). His guardian is his uncle John Jasper, of whose di­a­bol­i­cal char­ac­ter he is ig­no­rant. Jasper is Pre­cen­tor in the Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral, and lives in the Gate House ad­joining (2).

The wed­ding-day ap­proach­es, for it is now the close of the year (2), and the mar­riage is to take place in the com­ing May (9). Edwin has a dan­ger­ous rival in the per­son of John Jasper, who has fall­en in love with Rosa while act­ing as her mu­si­cal in­struc­tor. She ab­hors him as she would a snake but he ex­erts a snake's power over her with his eyes, and, with­out ut­ter­ing a threat, looks so menac­ing that for a long time she is afraid to ac­quaint any­one with his per­se­cu­tion of her (7). There­fore, Edwin is so un­conscious of it that he hangs her por­trait in Jasper's room and ex­as­per­ates him by fre­quent al­lu­sions to the pend­ing mar­riage (2).

Jasper sees that he can only pre­vent the mar­riage by de­stroy­ing his rival, and re­solves to kill him and con­ceal his body, when­ev­er he can di­vert sus­pi­cion from him­self. He re­lieves his men­tal agony by smok­ing opium in a Lon­don den, whose pro­pri­etress is known as the Princess Puffer (1 & 23). In his opium dreams he takes a fiendish de­light in re­hears­ing his crime (23). He is fear­ful of be­traying his se­cret, but on find­ing the mut­ter­ings of his fel­low-smokers un­in­tel­li­gi­ble (1) he con­cludes that his own have been equal­ly so. But he is mis­tak­en, for the Princess Puffer has un­der­stood enough to know that he threat­ens some­one called "Ned" (14).

Jasper learns from Dur­dles, the Cathe­dral mason, that the Sapsea vault has space to inter an­oth­er body (5), and there­fore se­lects that as the place for the conceal­ment of Edwin's corpse. He sees Dur­dles put the key of this vault in his bun­dle (4), and watch­es for an opportu­nity to ab­stract it. As the mur­der­ous deed will be commit­ted at night, he fa­mil­iar­izes him­self with the precincts after dark by vis­it­ing them in com­pa­ny with Dur­dles, and by stu­pe­fy­ing the lat­ter with drugged liquor he also ob­tains pos­ses­sion of the key (12). On leav­ing the Cathe­dral, he finds they have been watched by a raga­muf­fin called Deputy, who re­ceives a re­ward for ston­ing Dur­dles home when­ev­er he catch­es him out late at night (5). Jas­per is so in­fu­ri­at­ed at being watched by Deputy that he as­saults him, and thus in­curs his en­mi­ty (12).

The op­por­tu­ni­ty for Jasper to com­mit the crime and trans­fer sus­pi­cion to an­oth­er ar­rives at last. Mr. Crisparkle, the Minor Canon, has a pupil and board­er named Neville Land­less, whose twin sis­ter He­le­na is at the Sem­i­nary (6). They are na­tives of Cey­lon, and have hot blood in their veins (7). Edwin and Neville quar­rel and Jasper over­hears them. Pre­tend­ing to act as media­tor, he in­vites them into the Gate House and by means of drugged liquors and tan­ta­liz­ing re­marks brings about a col­li­sion, after which Neville rush­es bare­head­ed from the house (8). Jasper takes the hat to Crisparkle, and telling him of the af­fray, ex­press­es the fear that Neville will re­venge him­self on Edwin (8). He also im­proves the oppor­tunity to prej­u­dice the pub­lic against Neville.

The lat­ter ad­mits to Crisparkle that his dis­like of Edwin is based upon an at­tach­ment to Rosa (10), but it is fi­nal­ly ar­ranged that he and Edwin are to meet at Jas­per's on Christ­mas Eve, for the pur­pose of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion (10). Prior to this meet­ing, Grew­gious en­trust­ed to Edwin a be­trothal-ring which had be­longed to Rosa's moth­er, and which was to be re­turned in case the en­gage­ment was bro­ken (11).

The day be­fore Christ­mas, Jasper goes about pur­chasing lit­tle lux­u­ries "for his dear nephew" (14). He also in­forms Mayor Sapsea, be­fore whom the sus­pect­ed per­son will be ar­raigned, that the in­flammable Neville is to dine with his nephew that evening (14). Under pre­tence of hav­ing a cold he wears a large scarf, with which he plans to stran­gle Edwin (14). Christ­mas Eve finds him all pre­pared for the crime, for it is not until after com­mit­ting it that he finds it was ren­dered un­nec­es­sary by a pre­vi­ous dis­so­lu­tion of the en­gage­ment be­tween Edwin and Rosa (13). Had they been left to a choice they might have formed a match, but as it was, each had a sus­pi­cion of be­ing forced on the other (2).

Grew­gious is to be at Clois­ter­ham at Christ­mas-time (9), and is then to be in­formed of the bro­ken en­gage­ment and to no­ti­fy Jasper of it (13).

On his way to Jasper's on Christ­mas Eve, Edwin meets the Princess Puffer, who warns him that "Ned" is a threat­ened name (14). Jasper is the only one who calls him that; but he pays no par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the warn­ing. There is a vi­o­lent wind­storm that night (14) and about mid­night Edwin and Neville go to see the ef­fects on the river (15). Edwin af­ter­ward leaves Neville at Crisparkle's and re­turns to the Gate House (15). Jasper in­vites him to take a walk in the church­yard (2), and of­fers him some liquor "to keep out the cold." Chilled by his stroll with Neville, Edwin grate­ful­ly drains the gob­let of drugged wine.

When they ar­rive at the Sapsea vault, Jasper un­locks the door and mo­tions for Edwin to enter. After clos­ing the door be­hind them, Jasper lights a lantern he had left there ear­li­er. Stunned by the drink, Edwin is in­ca­pable of strug­gle or en­treaty when Jasper throws the large black scarf around his neck, pulls it tight, and stran­gles him to death. (Edwin's demise has been con­firmed by Charles A. Collins in his re­cent let­ter to Au­gustin Daly, which ap­peared in Mr. Daly's "Bill of the Play for the Fifth Av­enue The­atre" dated Septem­ber 5th, 1871.—C. F. B.)

Jasper then re­moves from Edwin's cloth­ing the only ar­ti­cles of jew­el­ry he knew of (14) {thus leav­ing the ring), and push­es the body into some of the quick-lime which Dur­dles had point­ed out to him (12). Jasper keeps a light in his win­dow all night long (14), in order to cre­ate the im­pression that he did not leave his rooms that night. Later he throws the watch and shirt-pin into Clois­ter­ham Weir, so that on their being found it will be sup­posed that Neville dis­card­ed them there (16).

The next day Neville is ar­rest­ed on sus­pi­cion (15). Jasper en­deav­ors to in­cul­pate him, and by superintend­ing the search for Edwin's body, de­flects sus­pi­cion away from him­self (15).

Grew­gious sus­pects him, how­ev­er, and ob­serves his re­morse at hear­ing from him (Grew­gious) of the circum­stance which ren­dered his crime un­nec­es­sary (15). After being in­formed of it, Jasper en­cour­ages the idea that Edwin has ab­sent­ed him­self in con­se­quence of the bro­ken en­gage­ment (16), but he re­news his ef­forts to fas­ten the crime on Neville when Crisparkle men­tions that the lat­ter is in­fat­u­at­ed with Rosa (16). Fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of Edwin's jew­el­ry at the Weir, Jasper records an oath in his diary ex­pres­sive of his de­ter­mi­na­tion to bring about the mur­der­er's de­struc­tion (16).

As Edwin's body is not found, Neville is dis­charged from cus­tody (16), and being an ob­ject of sus­pi­cion in Clois­ter­ham, he goes to Lon­don, where he de­votes him­self to the study of law (17). Grew­gious hires apart­ments for him op­po­site his own of­fice, and thus has them con­stant­ly under his eye. He also keeps a watch on Jasper, whom he dis­cov­ers lurk­ing near by (17).

The cham­bers ad­join­ing Neville's are oc­cu­pied by Mr. Tar­tar, a for­mer lieu­tenant in the Royal Navy (17). He is an old friend of Crisparkle's, whose life he saved when they were boys at school to­geth­er (21). Tar­tar be­friends Neville, and agrees to visit him often, in the hope that Jasper will dis­close to the sailor his schemes to iso­late and tor­ment young Land­less (22).

While Grew­gious acts as de­tec­tive in Lon­don, it is also nec­es­sary to have one at Clois­ter­ham. For this pur­pose he em­ploys a pro­fes­sion­al in­ves­ti­ga­tor, who, under the name of Dick Datch­ery, ap­pears at Clois­ter­ham sport­ing a thick shock of white hair and black eye­brows (18). In short order Datch­ery scrapes ac­quain­tance with Deputy, Jasper, Sapsea and Dur­dles (18).

Jasper avails him­self of the first op­por­tu­ni­ty to ask Rosa to marry him, and when she re­coils in hor­ror, he threat­ens, if she fa­vors Neville, to fas­ten the Drood mur­der upon him (19). In her alarm she flies to Grew­gious (20), who di­verts her mind from her dread of Jasper by re­lating the his­to­ry of his clerk, Mr. Baz­zard. Later Grew­gious en­gages board for her in Lon­don, and in­vites Miss Twin­kle­ton to spend the va­ca­tion with her (22).

Datch­ery learns of Jasper's con­nec­tion with the Prin­cess Puffer, and, with Deputy's help, as­cer­tains her place of abode (23). Going there, he bribes her to co-op­er­ate with him, for she can pre­pare opium that makes Jasper an­swer ques­tions while under its in­flu­ence, and he has al­ready con­fessed to her some of the par­tic­u­lars of his crime (23). In this way Datch­ery ob­tains from him enough ev­i­dence to se­cure a war­rant for his ar­rest; and the detec­tive, joined by Tar­tar, Crisparkle and Neville, pro­ceeds to Clois­ter­ham to ar­rest him. Mean­while, Baz­zard has in­gratiated him­self with Jasper, and has told him of the es­pousal-ring that Grew­gious pre­sent­ed to Edwin be­fore the lat­ter dis­ap­peared (11).

Ap­prised of the ring, Jasper re­turns to the Sapsea vault to re­trieve it, so as to pre­vent the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Edwin's body. When he en­ters the vault, he finds Datch­ery wait­ing for him there (the de­tec­tive hav­ing un­locked the door with a skele­ton key).

Pan­ic-strick­en, Jasper rush­es from the vault to the Cathe­dral and up the tower stairs, leav­ing all far be­hind with the ex­cep­tion of Neville, who bounds after him two steps at a time. Reach­ing the sum­mit of the tower, Jasper glares wild­ly over his shoul­der, and sees his pur­suer close upon him. As Land­less springs for­ward to seize him, Jas­per dodges nim­bly aside and Neville stum­bles head­long over the para­pet and falls to his death on the stones be­low. But Jasper does not es­cape. Tar­tar and Crisparkle over­pow­er him, and Datch­ery places him under ar­rest.

When Jasper is tried for the mur­der of Edwin Drood, the tes­ti­mo­ny of the Princess Puffer and Dick Datch­ery proves de­ci­sive, and he is found guilty and sen­tenced to death. But he re­fus­es to con­fess, and con­tin­ues to in­sist it was Neville Land­less who killed Edwin Drood. De­nouncing the ver­dict, Jasper's well-wish­ers, led by Mayor Sapsea, pe­ti­tion the gov­ern­ment to grant him a par­don.

Be­fore the au­thor­i­ties can act, Neville's twin sis­ter He­le­na finds a way to break Jasper's re­solve. She dress­es in Neville's clothes (7) and goes to the jail where the mur­derer is await­ing ex­e­cu­tion. When he sees "Neville" en­tering his prison cell, Jasper is shocked into sub­mis­sion.

Pressed by He­le­na, he signs a con­fes­sion ex­cul­pat­ing her in­no­cent broth­er.

After Jasper has been ren­dered in­ca­pable of re­venge, three courtships progress to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion. The par­ties to one of them are Crisparkle and He­le­na, whose re­gard for each other has steadi­ly in­creased ever since she kissed his hand at the riv­er-side (10). The sec­ond is be­tween Tar­tar and Rosa, who fell in love at their first en­counter (21). And the third? It tran­spires that Grew­gious was not al­to­geth­er dis­in­ter­est­ed in bring­ing Miss Twin­kle­ton to Lon­don (22), for it is not long be­fore she be­comes Mrs. Grew­gious. An ac­count of these three wed­dings (at one of which the fate­ful ring is brought into req­ui­si­tion) brings to a close "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood."