Frederic G. Kitton: The Novels of Charles Dickens: "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"

Chapter XIII from "The Novels of Charles Dickens: A Bibliography and Sketch", 1897


HERE is nat­u­ral­ly a pa­thet­ic in­ter­est at­tach­ing to this, the last, work of Charles Dick­ens, whose pre­ma­ture death un­hap­pi­ly pre­vent­ed the com­ple­tion of what promised to be one of his most dra­mat­ic ef­forts in lit­er­a­ture. While prepar­ing the early num­bers of "Edwin Drood," the nov­el­ist was en­gaged upon his Farewell Read­ings, these tak­ing place in Lon­don at in­ter­vals dur­ing Jan­uary, Febru­ary, and March, 1870. It is gen­er­al­ly con­ced­ed that the ex­cite­ment and fa­tigue in­ci­den­tal to these Read­ings in­du­bitably has­tened the end; à pro­pos of which Mr. Ruskin wrote four years af­ter­wards, in reply to an in­vi­ta­tion to lec­ture: "The mis­er­able death of poor Dick­ens, when he might have been writ­ing blessed books till he was eighty, but for the pes­tif­er­ous de­mand of the mob, is a very solemn warn­ing to us all, if we would take it." In order to avoid the men­tal an­guish which, when trav­el­ling on the rail­way, the nov­el­ist in­vari­ably ex­pe­ri­enced after the Sta­ple­hurst ac­ci­dent, he tem­porar­i­ly left Gad's Hill to take up his res­i­dence in the town house of his friend Mr. Mil­ner Gib­son, at 5, Hyde Park Place. Here, in a bed­room which com­mand­ed a splen­did view of the Park, much of "Edwin Drood" was writ­ten; al­though the roar of Ox­ford Street be­neath made it­self very ob­vi­ous, he was not af­fect­ed by it, being sin­gu­lar­ly un­sus­cep­ti­ble to noise.

Dick­ens began the writ­ing of his final ro­mance long be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion of the ini­tial part, being anx­ious to spare him­self by hav­ing sev­er­al in­stal­ments ready in ad­vance. A hint of his first fancy for the tale was given to his bi­og­ra­pher in July, 1869: "What should you think," he wrote, "of the idea of a story be­gin­ning in this way? — Two peo­ple, boy and girl, or very young, going apart from one an­oth­er, pledged to be mar­ried after many years — at the end of the book. The in­ter­est to arise out of the trac­ing of their sep­a­rate ways, and the im­pos­si­bil­i­ty of telling what will be done with that im­pend­ing fate." Al­though this no­tion was laid aside, it left a marked trace on the story, as in­di­cat­ed in the ren­der­ing of the hero and his be­trothed. A short tale Dick­ens had re­ceived for All the Year Round, en­ti­tled "An Ex­pe­ri­ence" (pub­lished in the 37th num­ber of the New Se­ries), sug­gest­ed an al­ter­ation of plot. "I laid aside the fancy I told you of," he wrote in Au­gust, "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 story was to be that of the mur­der of a nephew by his uncle, and its orig­i­nal­i­ty was to con­sist in the re­view of the mur­der­er's ca­reer by him­self at the close, the last chap­ters to be writ­ten in the "con­demned" cell to which his wicked­ness had brought him. Soon after the com­mis­sion of the deed, the mur­der­er was to re­alise the utter need­less­ness of it to se­cure his ob­ject; and all dis­cov­ery of the mur­der­er was to be baf­fled until near the close of the tale, 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 vic­tim was to be iden­ti­fied, but also the lo­cal­i­ty of the crime and the per­pe­tra­tor of it.(1) It will be re­mem­bered that the ring, to be given by Drood to his be­trothed only if their en­gage­ment con­tin­ued, was brought away with him at their last in­ter­view; Rosa was to marry Tar­tar, and Crisparkle the sis­ter of Land­less, who (says Mr. Forster, in his rec­ol­lec­tions of the pro­posed course of the plot) was to have per­ished in as­sist­ing Tar­tar fi­nal­ly to un­mask and seize the mur­der­er. It has been sur­mised that Dick­ens stud­ied a por­tion of a cu­ri­ous Amer­i­can work en­ti­tled "Foot­falls on the Bound­ary of An­oth­er World," by R. Owen (1860), with a view to su­per­nat­u­ral events in the story.

The plan for the first num­ber of "Edwin Drood" was thus briefly in­di­cat­ed: "Mr. Sapsea. Old Tory jack­ass. Con­nect Jasper with him. (He will want a solemn don­key by and by)"; which was ef­fect­ed by bring­ing to­geth­er both Dur­dles and Jasper, for con­nec­tion with Sapsea, in the mat­ter of the epi­taph for Mrs. Sapsea's tomb. The last of the mem­o­ran­da, and the final words writ­ten by Dick­ens in the note-book con­tain­ing them, are these: "'Then I'll give up snuff.' Bro­bity. — An alarm­ing sac­ri­fice. Mr. Bro­bity's snuff-box. The Pawn­bro­ker's ac­count of it?" As Mr. Forster says, "What was pro­posed by this must he left to con­jec­ture; but 'Bro­bity' is the name of one of the peo­ple in his un­fin­ished story, and the sug­ges­tion may have been meant for some in­ci­dent in it. If so, it is the only pas­sage in the vol­ume which can be in any way con­nect­ed with the piece of writ­ing on which he was last en­gaged."

It ap­pears that this ro­mance gave its au­thor more trou­ble than any of his for­mer nov­els. His thoughts did not flow so freely as of yore; he re­vised and cor­rect­ed his work con­tin­u­al­ly, and some­times en­tire­ly re­mod­elled his sen­tences. Nor was he so suc­cess­ful as usual in es­ti­mat­ing the amount of "copy" re­quired for each num­ber, the re­sult, prob­a­bly, of such ex­ces­sive cor­rec­tion and in­ter­lin­eation. On De­cem­ber 22nd, 1869, he re­marked: "When I had writ­ten, and, as I thought, dis­posed of the first two Num­bers of my story, Clowes in­formed me to my hor­ror that they were, to­geth­er, twelve print­ed pages too short!!! Con­se­quent­ly I had to trans­pose a chap­ter from num­ber two to num­ber one, and re­mod­el num­ber two al­to­geth­er." He com­plet­ed the first Part dur­ing the third week of Oc­to­ber, 1869, and on the 26th read it at Mr. Forster's house "with great spir­it." The au­thor ex­pe­ri­enced a keen plea­sure in the story as the plot de­vel­oped, and in a let­ter to his Amer­i­can friend, Mr. J.T. Fields (Jan­uary 14th, 1870), he wrote: "There is a cu­ri­ous in­ter­est steadi­ly work­ing up to No. 5, which re­quires a great deal of art and self-de­nial. I think also, apart from char­ac­ter and pic­turesque­ness, that the young peo­ple are placed in a very novel sit­u­a­tion. So I hope — at Nos. 5 and 6 the story will turn upon an in­ter­est sus­pend­ed until the end." Lit­tle did he then an­tic­i­pate that, for him, alas! the end was rapid­ly ap­proach­ing — that the in­ge­nious plot he had men­tal­ly evolved would never be di­vulged.

Al­though suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous­ly at times from local hæmor­rhage and a re­cur­rence of the trou­ble in his foot, Dick­ens en­joyed in­ter­vals of com­par­a­tive free­dom from pain; in­deed, on the morn­ing of June 8th, 1870 — the eve of "that sor­row­ful day" — he was in ex­cel­lent spir­its, talk­ing to Miss Hog­a­rth about his book, at which he was work­ing in the pret­ty Swiss chalet, amongst the trees in his gar­den at Gad's Hill Place, leav­ing it once about noon­time to smoke a cigar in the con­ser­va­to­ry. It was dur­ing din­ner that the fatal seizure came. All human help was un­avail­ing, and on the evening of Thurs­day June 9th he passed away peace­ful­ly in his 59th year, leav­ing the world to mourn the loss of one who had de­light­ed mil­lions of read­ers — the great En­glish nov­el­ist who had so often cheered them in their sor­row, sym­pa­thised with them in their joy, cham­pi­oned them when ha­rassed by no­to­ri­ous so­cial abus­es. Short­ly be­fore his death, he was walk­ing with a dear friend, when the lat­ter, speak­ing of "Edwin Drood," re­marked: "Well, you, or we, are ap­proach­ing the mys­tery — — " The nov­el­ist, who had been, and was at the mo­ment, all vi­vac­i­ty, ex­tin­guished his gai­ety, and fell into a long and silent rever­ie, from which he never broke dur­ing the re­main­der of the walk. Was he pon­der­ing an­oth­er and deep­er mys­tery than any his brain could un­rav­el, facile as its mas­tery was over the hearts and brains of his brethren?(2)

Dur­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of "Edwin Drood," a let­ter was re­ceived by Dick­ens from Mr. J.M. Make­ham, who there­in re­ferred to a pas­sage in the tenth chap­ter of the story, re­spect­ing which he sug­gest­ed that the nov­el­ist had, per­haps, for­got­ten that the fig­ure of speech al­lud­ed to by him, "in a way which was dis­taste­ful to some of his ad­mir­ers, was drawn from a pas­sage of Holy Writ which is great­ly rev­er­enced by a large num­ber of his coun­try­men as a prophet­ic de­scrip­tion of the suf­fer­ings of our Saviour." [The pas­sage re­ferred to reads thus: "... would the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus sub­mis­sive­ly be led, like the high­ly-pop­u­lar lamb who has so long and un­re­sist­ing­ly been led to the slaugh­ter, and there would he, un­like that lamb, bore no­body but him­self."] To this Dick­ens replied, in one of the very last let­ters he wrote: —

"DEAR SIR, — It would be quite in­con­ceiv­able to me — but for your let­ter — that any rea­son­able read­er could pos­si­bly at­tach a scrip­tural ref­er­ence to a pas­sage in a book of mine, re­pro­duc­ing a much-abused so­cial fig­ure of speech, im­pressed into all sorts of ser­vice, on all sorts of in­ap­pro­pri­ate oc­ca­sions, with­out the faintest con­nec­tion of it with its orig­i­nal source. I am truly shocked to find that any read­er can make the mis­take. I have al­ways striv­en in my writ­ings to ex­press ven­er­a­tion for the life and lessons of our Saviour; be­cause I feel it; and be­cause I rewrote that his­to­ry for my chil­dren — every one of whom knew it from hav­ing it re­peat­ed to them, long be­fore they could read, and al­most as soon as they could speak. But I have never made procla­ma­tion of this from the house-tops. "Fath­ful­ly yours, "CHARLES DICK­ENS.

Longfel­low, on hear­ing of the death of the fa­mous En­glish fic­tion­ist, im­me­di­ate­ly wrote to Mr. Forster ex­press­ing a hope that his book was fin­ished. "It is cer­tain­ly one of his most beau­ti­ful works," added the poet, "if not the most beau­ti­ful of all. It would be too sad to think the pen had fall­en from his hand, and left it in­com­plete!" This gen­er­ous praise found a warm sup­port­er in Mr. Forster him­self, who con­sid­ered that "some of the char­ac­ters in the story were touched with sub­tle­ty, and in its de­scrip­tion his imag­i­na­tive power was at its best. Not a line was want­ing to the re­al­i­ty, in the most minute de­tail, of places the most wide­ly con­trast­ed; and we saw with equal vivid­ness the lazy cathe­dral town and the lurid opi­um-eater's den."

How lit­tle Dick­ens sus­pect­ed that his won­der­ful ca­reer was draw­ing to a close is shown by the fact that in his last let­ter to the man­ag­er of All the Year Round, Mr. Holdsworth, writ­ten the day be­fore his death, he asked him to pur­chase at "one of those Great Queen Street shops" a writ­ing-slope for Gad's Hill, such as he had in use at the of­fice. The slope hith­er­to used by him was pre­sent­ed as a me­men­to of the de­ceased nov­el­ist to his friend Mr. Ed­mund Yates. At the lat­ter's death in 1895 it was sold at Messrs. Sothe­by's rooms for a hun­dred guineas, the pur­chas­er being Mr. S.B. Ban­croft, the well-known actor, who gen­er­ous­ly pre­sent­ed it to the South Kens­ing­ton Mu­se­um. This unique relic of the most pop­u­lar nov­el­ist of the age has since been added to the Forster Col­lec­tion of Dick­ens MSS.

In the final in­stal­ment of "Edwin Drood" ap­peared the fol­low­ing Postscript by Messrs. Chap­man and Hall: —

"All that was left in manuscript of EDWIN DROOD is con­tained in the Num­ber now pub­lished — the sixth. Its last en­tire page had not been writ­ten two hours when the event oc­curred which one very touch­ing pas­sage in it (grave and sad, but also cheer­ful and as­sur­ing) might seem al­most to have an­tic­i­pat­ed. The only notes in ref­er­ence to the story that have since been found con­cern that por­tion of it ex­clu­sive­ly which is treat­ed in the ear­li­er Num­bers. Be­yond the clues there­in af­ford­ed to its con­duct or catas­tro­phe, noth­ing what­ev­er re­mains; and it is be­lieved that what the au­thor him­self would have most de­sired is done, in plac­ing be­fore the read­er with­out fur­ther note or sug­ges­tion the frag­ment of THE MYS­TERY OF EDWIN DROOD. "12th Au­gust, 1870."

When mak­ing pe­cu­niary ar­range­ments re­spect­ing "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood," it was agreed that the sum to be paid at once for 25,000 copies was £7,500, pub­lish­ers and au­thor shar­ing equal­ly in the prof­it of all sales be­yond that im­pres­sion; in ad­di­tion to which the sum of £1,000 was to be paid for ad­vance sheets sent to Amer­i­ca. Dick­ens es­pe­cial­ly stip­u­lat­ed by deed that Messrs. Chap­man and Hall should be re­im­bursed for any pos­si­ble loss that might ac­crue to them should he be pre­vent­ed by death or sick­ness from com­plet­ing the work. It was the first time such a clause had been in­sert­ed in one of his agree­ments, but it proved sadly per­ti­nent in this case. The de­mand for "Edwin Drood" was em­i­nent­ly sat­is­fac­to­ry. "We have been doing won­ders with No. 1" he wrote to Mr. Fields on April 18th, 1870. "It has very, very far out­stripped every one of ifs pre­de­ces­sors." The num­ber at­tained dur­ing the au­thor's life­time was 50,000.

Var­i­ous re­ports were cir­cu­lat­ed at the time that the novel would be fin­ished by other hands, and in 1882 the ru­mour was re­vived to the ef­fect that Mr. Wilkie Collins was en­gaged in com­plet­ing it; it was fur­ther in­ti­mat­ed that he had been asked to bring the story to a con­clu­sion, but de­clined doing so. Such er­ro­neous state­ments were prompt­ly de­nied by Messrs. Chap­man and Hall, who, in a let­ter to the Times, an­nounced that the de­ceased nov­el­ist had fin­ished three num­bers in ad­di­tion to the three al­ready pub­lished, and de­clared that, as no other writ­er could be per­mit­ted by them to com­plete the work, it would re­main a frag­ment. It was hoped that Dick­ens had left among his pa­pers a clue to the re­main­ing por­tion of the plot, but it tran­spired that noth­ing had been writ­ten of the main parts of the de­sign ex­cept what is found in the pub­lished num­bers, nor could there be dis­cov­ered a hint as to the au­thor's in­ten­tions re­spect­ing the se­quel. It was all a blank, al­though Mr. Forster, when en­gaged upon his Life of the nov­el­ist, be­lieved he had stum­bled upon a so­lu­tion of the plot in some pages of near­ly il­leg­i­ble manuscript, which, how­ev­er, proved to be a scene in which Sapsea was in­tro­duced as the prin­ci­pal fig­ure among a group of new char­ac­ters. (3) Con­cern­ing this Mr. Forster sug­gests that Dick­ens, "hav­ing be­come a lit­tle ner­vous about the course of the tale, from a fear that he might have plunged too soon into the in­ci­dents lead­ing on to the catas­tro­phe," con­ceived the idea of open­ing some fresh veins of char­ac­ter in­ci­den­tal to the in­ter­est of the story.

Se­ri­ous at­tempts have been made to solve the mys­tery of "Edwin Drood." The most note­wor­thy ex­per­i­ment is that of the late Mr. R.A. Proc­tor, F.R.A.S., whose lit­tle vol­ume en­ti­tled "Watched by the Dead: A Lov­ing Study of Charles Dick­ens's half-told Tale," 1887,(4) in­di­cates that the au­thor had at­ten­tive­ly stud­ied the ro­mance; rea­son­ing from cer­tain data, he points out the prob­a­ble fate of cer­tain char­ac­ters in the story, and con­cludes that Jasper was watched by Edwin Drood in the per­son of Datch­ery, and thus he was to have been tracked re­morse­less­ly "to his death by the man whom he sup­posed he had slain." Mr. Thomas Fos­ter has also earnest­ly es­sayed, in a se­ries of ar­ti­cles, to point out the gen­er­al di­rec­tion of the path along which the story was to be con­duct­ed, and its final goal; (5) while an anony­mous writ­er in the Corn­hill Mag­a­zine, March, 1884, of­fers sug­ges­tions for a con­clu­sion. Mr. Luke Fildes, R.A., the il­lus­tra­tor of the story, is con­vinced that Dick­ens in­tend­ed Edwin Drood should be killed by his uncle — an opin­ion strength­ened by the ad­mis­sion of Mr. Charles Dick­ens the Younger, whom the nov­el­ist him­self in­formed that Drood was dead. Other in­ter­est­ing in­di­ca­tions as to the plot are made by Mr. Fildes, who, from his artis­tic as­so­ci­a­tion with the story, is nat­u­ral­ly en­abled to throw light upon the sub­ject, al­though he can but fur­nish a soli­tary miss­ing-link. It seems that, while en­gaged upon the il­lus­tra­tions, he was so shrewd in his guess­es re­spect­ing the "mys­tery" that Dick­ens be­came afraid he would be un­able to keep the pub­lic from an­tic­i­pat­ing the point he was en­deav­our­ing so care­ful­ly to con­ceal. Mr. Charles Collins, the de­sign­er of the cover, was un­con­scious of the mean­ing of his de­signs, hav­ing pro­duced them under the nov­el­ist's di­rec­tions.

A promi­nent fea­ture of "Edwin Drood" is the graph­ic ac­count of opi­um-dens and their fre­quenters, which are still to be found in the East End of Lon­don. Dick­ens's Amer­i­can friend, Mr. J.T. Fields, has record­ed that, dur­ing his stay in Eng­land in the sum­mer of 1869, he ac­com­pa­nied the nov­el­ist one night (under po­lice es­cort) to some lock-up hous­es, watch-hous­es, and opi­um-dens, it being from one of the lat­ter that he gath­ered the in­ci­dents which are re­lat­ed in the open­ing pages. "In a mis­er­able court," says Mr. Fields, "we found the hag­gard old woman blow­ing at a kind of pipe made of an old penny ink-bot­tle.(6) The iden­ti­cal words which Dick­ens puts into the mouth of this wretched crea­ture in 'Edwin Drood' we heard her croon as we leaned over the tat­tered bed on which she was lying. There was some­thing hideous in the way this woman kept re­peat­ing 'Ye'll pay up ac­cord­ing, deary, won't ye?' and the Chi­na­men and Las­cars made nev­er-to-be-for­got­ten pic­tures in the scene." We also have Dick­ens's state­ment that what he de­scribed he saw — ex­act­ly as he had de­scribed it — down in Shad­well in the au­tumn of 1869. "A cou­ple of the In­spec­tors of Lodg­ing-hous­es knew the woman, and took me to her as I was mak­ing a round with them, to see for my­self the work­ing of Lord Shaftes­bury's Bill." Rel­a­tive to his sketch of opi­um-smok­ing, Sir John Bowring (who had been British Am­bas­sador to China and Gov­er­nor of Hong-Kong) point­ed out to Dick­ens what ap­peared to him an in­ac­cu­ra­cy in his de­lin­eation of that scene, and sent him an orig­i­nal Chi­nese sketch of the form of the pipe and the man­ner of its em­ploy­ment. While thank­ing him for the in­for­ma­tion, the nov­el­ist replied that he had only chron­i­cled what ac­tu­al­ly came under his own ob­ser­va­tion in the neigh­bour­hood of the Lon­don docks. Sir John's com­ment upon this is as fol­lows: "No doubt the Chi­na­man whom he [Dick­ens] de­scribed had ac­com­mo­dat­ed him­self to En­glish usage, and that our great and faith­ful drama­tist here as else­where most cor­rect­ly por­trayed a piece of ac­tu­al life."

Dick­ens placed the scene of Jasper's opi­um-smok­ings in a court just be­yond the church­yard of St. George's-in-the-East, Step­ney. The Rev. Harry Jones, rec­tor from 1873 to 1882, men­tions that the old crone was known as Las­car Sal, and was liv­ing at the time he wrote (1875). The John Chi­na­man of whom she was so jeal­ous in her trade was George Ah Sing, who died in 1889, he resid­ed at 131, Corn­wall Road, St. George's-in-the-East, and at the in­quest it tran­spired that death was due to the rup­ture of a blood-ves­sel ac­cel­er­at­ed by des­ti­tu­tion. When the nov­el­ist vis­it­ed him, he kept an opi­um-den in New Court, Vic­to­ria Street, E., which used to be a house of call for Chi­nese sea­men com­ing to this coun­try and oth­ers who in­dulged in the use of the drug. The par­tic­u­lar den de­scribed in the story was pulled down some years ago to make room for a Board-school play­ground, while the bed­stead, pipes, etc., were pur­chased by Amer­i­cans and oth­ers in­ter­est­ed in cu­ri­ous relics.

The pic­ture of the Nuns' House in "Edwin Drood" was in­spired by a six­teenth-cen­tu­ry struc­ture called East­gate House, in High Street, Rochester — once ac­tu­al­ly a board­ing-school for young ladies, and now a Work­men's In­sti­tute. On the op­po­site side of the street is a fine old tim­bered house, No. 146, which is point­ed out as the res­i­dence of Sapsea the auc­tion­eer, who is stat­ed to have been drawn from two Rochester per­son­ages, one a for­mer mayor and auc­tion­eer, while the wood­en ef­fi­gy "rep­re­sent­ing Mr. Sapsea's fa­ther" (as de­pict­ed in the tale) for­mer­ly stood over the door­way.

The ven­er­a­ble verg­er at Rochester Cathe­dral, Mr. Miles, be­lieves, with some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, that he is the orig­i­nal of Mr. Tope; the nov­el­ist was fre­quent­ly seen by him to be study­ing the sa­cred fane and its precincts most at­ten­tive­ly at the time he was en­gaged upon "Edwin Drood." In an­oth­er local char­ac­ter, the late vet­er­an Mr. John Brook­er, of High­am (whose fa­ther plant­ed the fa­mous cedars at Gad's Hill Place), were recog­nised some of the bet­ter qual­i­ties and pe­cu­liar­i­ties of Dur­dles, al­though it is sug­gest­ed that a "drunk­en old Ger­man stone-ma­son" who, some thir­ty years ago, was al­ways prowl­ing about the Cathe­dral, was the ac­tu­al pro­to­type; it seems prob­a­ble that the ef­fi­gy of John de Shep­pey (A.D. 1360) in the Cathe­dral gave rise to the con­cep­tion of Dur­dles's con­stant ref­er­ences to the "old uns." Dick­ens's de­scrip­tion of Jasper, the choir-mas­ter, is said to have more close­ly re­sem­bled the per­son­al­i­ty of the or­gan-bel­lows blow­er than that of any other of­fi­cial con­nect­ed with the Cathe­dral; his cog­nomen, how­ev­er, is still an hon­oured one in Rochester, the city it­self being thin­ly dis­guised as "Clois­ter­ham" in the nar­ra­tive.

"The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood" was orig­i­nal­ly in­tend­ed to com­prise twelve month­ly parts, but only six of these were pub­lished. They were is­sued by Messrs. Chap­man and Hall in the usual green wrap­pers, demy oc­ta­vo, at one shilling each, com­menc­ing in April, 1870, and end­ing in Septem­ber fol­low­ing. Be­sides a por­trait of Dick­ens en­graved on steel, the work con­tained twelve wood­cut il­lus­tra­tions by Luke Fildes, R.A., the same artist being also re­spon­si­ble for the vi­gnette on the ti­tle-page of Rochester Cathe­dral and Cas­tle. Mr. Charles Collins (broth­er of Mr. Wilkie Collins) was orig­i­nal­ly thought of as the new il­lus­tra­tor, but this proved im­prac­ti­ca­ble. He de­signed the cover for the month­ly parts, and it is just­ly con­sid­ered that here is pre­fig­ured the course of the story as in­tend­ed by Dick­ens.

In 1870, "Edwin Drood" was pub­lished in one vol­ume, cloth, at 7s. 6d. — Col­la­tion, pp. viii., 190, with a Prefa­to­ry Note, dated "12th Au­gust, 1870, re­fer­ring to the un­fin­ished state in which the story was left at the au­thor's death. It has since been oc­ca­sion­al­ly reis­sued with or with­out a date, but is not in­clud­ed in the first Cheap Edi­tion.

The story in parts, as is­sued, is cat­a­logued at from 6s. to 10s. The orig­i­nal MS., with mem­o­ran­da and head­ings for chap­ters, is at South Kens­ing­ton; one folio of the open­ing of the eleventh chap­ter, viz., the por­tion de­scrib­ing Sta­ple Inn, is un­for­tu­nate­ly miss­ing.

It may, with­out ex­ag­ger­a­tion, be said that no un­com­plet­ed work of fic­tion has ex­cit­ed so much com­ment, or caused such an amount of con­jec­ture con­cern­ing the au­thor's in­ten­tions with re­spect to the plot, as this re­mark­able frag­ment of Charles Dick­ens's last novel, "The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood."


(1) Such an in­ci­dent as that here re­ferred to ac­tu­al­ly hap­pened in Rochester many years ago. An in­hab­i­tant of the town was ap­point­ed trustee and guardian of his nephew, who went to sea, and even­tu­al­ly re­turned to his uncle's house. The young sea­far­er then mys­te­ri­ous­ly dis­ap­peared, and noth­ing more was heard of him. The uncle died, and when the house in which he resid­ed un­der­went cer­tain al­ter­ations in order to ren­der it suit­able for other pur­pos­es, a human skele­ton was dis­cov­ered, sup­posed to have been that of the miss­ing nephew.

(2) Vide "A Day with Charles Dick­ens," by Blan­chard Jer­rold, 1872.

(3) This scene is given in Forster's Life of Dick­ens, Vol. III., 433-9.

(4) An ar­ti­cle on the same sub­ject, also by Mr. Proc­tor, was pub­lished in the Manch­ester Ex­am­in­er, Au­gust 1st, 1888.

(5) Bel­gravia, June, 1878; "Leisure Read­ings," 1882; and Knowl­edge, Septem­ber 12th to Novem­ber 14th, 1884.

(6) Mr. James Platt, jun., of St. Mar­tin's Lane, who was per­son­al­ly ac­quaint­ed with the old woman and her sur­round­ings, de­clares that the pipe was a "scratch" one, made out of an old fla­geo­let and a door-knob, the lat­ter serv­ing as a bowl, which Mr. Fields mis­took for an ink-bot­tle.