George F. Gadd: The History of a Mystery

A Review of the Solutions to "Edwin Drood"

CHAPTER I
AUTHENTIC SUGGESTIONS

D

URING the progress of Barnaby Rudge a startling disclosure of Dickens's carefully-guarded secret — the surprise concerning the supposed murder of Rudge, steward to Reuben Haredale — was prematurely made by an American writer whose genius for imagination and mystery has become world-famous. Edgar Allan Poe's tour-de-force was, in fact, astonishingly accurate, and highly remarkable as the result of penetrating insight and scientific inference, but its quotation in these pages is merely intended to suggest that, had Poe survived Charles Dickens, and brought his peculiar powers to bear upon the mystery of Edwin Drood, a not unconvincing solution would have issued from his pen. Assuredly, in that event, much nonsense which has been written on this subject would never have seen the light, and, on the other hand, clever but misguided analysts might have been denied the thrill arising from an inborn conviction of triumph.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a particularly perplexing problem for two important reasons. In the first place, it is full of misleading suggestion: redolent of the red herring drawn across the path. In the second place, the amount of external hint or clue left by the novelist is disappointingly small, and does not go far towards helping out the sequel.

The first suggestion of mystery peeps out in a letter sent by Dickens to his friend John Forster on 6 August, 1869. "I laid aside the fancy I told you of, and have a very curious and new idea for my new story. Not a communicable one (or the interest of the book would be gone), but a very strong one, though difficult to work." Part of this curious idea Forster was able to disclose at the latter end of his admirable biography.

"The story," he explains, "was to be that 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.... 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 commission of the deed; but all discovery of the murder was to be baffled till towards 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."

It is interesting to observe how unfailingly this statement agrees with the written part of the story. John Jasper, the guilty uncle, is, we know, consumed by a secret passion for Rosa Bud, Drood's betrothed. He encourages, while seeming to deprecate, the quarrelsome spirit arising between his nephew and Neville Landless. He indulges in strange nocturnal excursions about the cathedral, in company with Durdles the stonemason, and makes the acquaintance of several keys, including that of Mrs. Sapsea's vault. On the first of these expeditions he is warned off a heap of quicklime. "Quick enough," says Durdles, "with a little handy stirring, to eat your bones." Further, the story introduces a diamond ring, entrusted to Edwin by Rosa's guardian, Mr. Grewgious, and to be returned in case doubt exists on either side as to the wisdom of the betrothal. The boy and girl agree to part, and Edwin, in consequence, makes no reference to the jewel in his pocket.

After Drood has disappeared, such of his valuables as Jasper is aware of are found in the river, but nothing more is told of the ring. Finally, Grewgious comes to Cloisterham and calls upon the stricken uncle. Choosing a most inappropriate occasion, and almost entirely ignoring the catastrophe, he imparts the comparatively insignificant news of the broken engagement; whereat Jasper swoons away, not at all to the surprise of Grewgious, who evidently knows that he has disclosed "the needlessness of the murder for its object."

We are enormously indebted to Forster for the light thrown upon the intended use of the betrothal ring. Even Poe's powers might have failed to connect this bauble with the heap of lime in the mason's yard. Not so much reliance, however, is to be placed upon the statement that the original part of the scheme was Jasper's confession in the cell, though there is little doubt that the villain was to come to that ignominious end. Dickens himself shows that the real mystery lay in another direction. Writing to Mr. J.T. Fields in January of 1870, he thus refers to his work: "There is a curious interest steadily working up to number 5, which requires a great deal of art and self-denial.... I hope, at numbers 5 and 6, the story will turn upon an interest suspended until the end."

The novelist evidently refers to the appearance upon the scene of Mr. Dick Datchery, the mysterious white-haired stranger who keeps such a close watch upon Jasper, and who is so elated by the discovery of an old opium woman from London, come down to Cloisterham to track the villain, that the hieroglyphic score upon the inside of his cupboard is made to record an almost overwhelming access of intelligence.

The identity of Datchery is enshrouded in mist; it is the heart of the entire problem, and has been interpreted in a variety of ways, as we shall see. Yet this character forms the subject of the only detached note of any importance left by the author.

The first number-plan, or sketch-chapter, of the story — "Mr. Sapsea. Old Tory Jackass, connect Jasper with him (He will want a solemn donkey by and by)" — does no more than confirm our certainty of Jasper's guilt,; but the accidentally discovered manuscript called, "How Mr. Sapsea ceased to be a member of the Eight Club," gives us a group of new characters, throws a possible light upon Datchery, and enables a more complete estimate to be formed of the great Mr. Sapsea himself. The chapter is fully quoted in Forster's "Life," but the part of it which most nearly concerns the mystery-solver is the broken fragment of conversation between the inflated auctioneer and the obsequious Mr. Poker, for the latter is surely a study sketch of the "Idle Buffer" who lived upon his means, at Mrs. Tope's, in Cloisterham.

In the following chapters it is intended to set forth data which, it is hoped, may not only be interesting reading, but be sufficient to give a clear idea of the nature of the many different solutions of the "mystery" which have been published in this country and in America, and so present a complete record of all that has been written on the subject, much of which is not easily accessible to the general reader to-day.

CHAPTER II
THE FIRST SOLUTION

"R

UMOUR," said Miss Twinkleton to the ladies of her select seminary, "has been represented by the Bard of Avon as painted full of tongues."

Some of these tongues were very busily whispering shortly after it became known that Dickens had not lived long enough to finish his work: whispering that another writer would be appointed to supply the deficiency; that the younger Charles, or Wilkie Collins, or both, or some other, had already been approached on the matter. So persistent, in fact, did these "airy breaths" become, that at length it was deemed advisable to issue an authoritative denial. This took the form of a letter to the Times, from Messrs. Chapman and Hall, who emphatically stated that the three numbers still in hand would be published without any added matter whatsoever. "No other writer," they asserted, "could be permitted by us to complete the work which Mr. Dickens left." And, to the present day, this very commendable attitude has been preserved by the excellent firm so long associated with the works of our author.

But there was the unauthorized Continuator to reckon with, which genus was particularly active during the early days following the death of Dickens. It may, or may not, be a tribute to our national modesty that none of these hasty attempts to assume the cloak of the Prophet is of British origin, but it is not the less certain that, for a number of years, America virtually held a monopoly in continuations of Edwin Drood.

We may now examine these extraordinary attempts in some detail.

Right of priority, at least, is due to Mr. R.H. Newell, who, as "Orpheus C. Kerr," published in 1870 an extravagant burlesque entitled The Cloven Foot, professedly "an adaptation of the English novel to American scenes, characters, customs, and nomenclature." Originally issued at New York, this grotesque work found its way to London, where it first received notice in the pages of the Piccadilly Annual for 1870. In the following year an English edition was printed, under a new title, The Mystery of Mr. E. Drood, and with several minor alterations. The publisher was John Camden Hotten, of Piccadilly.

Considering the circumstances of the time, the vein in which this book is conceived must have appeared singularly infelicitous; but it may be that burlesque was the author's strong point, and certainly this comic paraphrase exhibits considerable cleverness in its close parallel with the original, while the humour, although it perhaps relies too frequently upon the alcoholic vagaries of the chief character, is at times irresistible.

A remarkable peculiarity of the work is that it forms a burlesque, in part without an original, for the story is carried to a definite conclusion. It is a book with a theory, too. Whether a seriously advanced theory or not it would be difficult to say, but the clue is derived from chapter iii. of Edwin Drood, wherein a suggestion of dual consciousness in man is illustrated by the strange remark: "If I hide my watch when I am drunk, I must be drunk again before I can remember where."

In the adaptation, Mr. John Bumstead (Jasper) divides his affection amongst three objects: his nephew, an umbrella, and powerful stimulants. Under the influence of the last-named he disposes of the two others and fails to recollect their whereabouts, until Mr. Tracey Clews (Datchery), following an inspiration, screws him up to precisely the same condition of inebriety as before, when discovery results.

Space forbids any but the briefest quotation from Mr. Newell's book, but the following extracts from the chapter describing Jasper's meeting with his nephew at the gatehouse may convey some idea of the author's methods: —

"Mr. Bumstead, lighting his lamp, has, abstractedly, almost covered it with his hat... but you can just detect, above the mantel, an unfinished sketch of a schoolgirl. There is no artistic merit in this picture; in which, indeed, a simple triangle on end represents the waist, another, and slightly larger triangle the skirts, and straight lines, with rake-like terminations, the arms and hands.... A young man fourteen years old enters the room with his carpet bag.

"'My dear boys! My dear Edwins!'

"Thus speaking, Mr. Bumstead sidles eagerly at the new-comer, with open arms, and falling upon his neck, does so too heavily, and bears him with a crash to the ground. Mr. Bumstead rises slowly, and with dignity.

"Excuse me, my dear Edwin. I thought there were two of you."

"... Mr. Bumstead motions with his whole right side towards an adjacent room in which a table is spread, and leads the way thither in a half circle. After dinner Edwin Drood produces pea-nuts. Bumstead, with a wet towel round his head, drinks a great deal of water.

"'Crack!' on Edwin Drood's part.

"'Hic!' on Mr. Bumstead's part....

"Mr. Bumstead, very carefully poising himself on both feet, puts on his hat over the wet towel, gives a sudden horrified glance downward towards one of his boots, and leaps frantically over an object.

"'Why, that was only my cane,' says Edwin.

"Mr. Bumstead breathes hard, and leans heavily on his nephew as they go out together."

CHAPTER III
"JOHN JASPER'S SECRET"

T

HAT Edwin Drood should reappear upon the scene, safe and sound, was an idea quite in keeping with the spirit of burlesque adopted by "Orpheus C. Kerr," and possibly that writer had no other reason for advancing it; but his suggestion of the identity of Datchery with Mr. Grewgious's clerk Bazzard was probably the outcome of conviction, and must take its place in the list of solutions. Many reader of Edwin Drood are attracted by the seeming importance attaching to Bazzard, who is said to labour, during off hours, on a tragedy, and who on one occasion in the story, is markedly "conspicuous by his absence." Possibly these readers have in mind the parallel case of Wemmick (Great Expectations), another lawyer's clerk, and certainly a man with two distinct sides to his character; but if so, they underrate the objection that their theory charges Dickens with flagrant repetition.

In suggesting that Jasper has innocently spirited away his nephew whilst under the influence of his favourite narcotic, the author of The Cloven Foot is entirely alone, but in the other important suppositions noted above he is corroborated by subsequent writers, including the authors of the work to which we must now refer.

Not long after Mr. Bumstead made his first appearance in English circles, a New York journalist named Henry Morford arrived in London, and, with the assistance of his wife, entered upon the laborious task of preparing an elaborate sequel. Firm in the belief that Dickens had "unwittingly supplied hints for a much closer estimate of the bearings of those portions remaining unwritten than he could possibly have believed while in life," this ambitious pair pursued energetic inquiries into the details of the book itself, and amongst newspaper or other published announcements, adding variety to their work by frequent excursions to Staple Inn, Rochester, Cobham, or other localities likely to yield information concerning the story. The result of this labour appeared simultaneously in Frank Leslie's Newspaper in America, and in The Chimney Corner, a weekly periodical, in England, but a subsequent publication in eight monthly parts, at one shilling each, more closely approached to the conditions under which the original novel was issued. These parts, appearing from October, 1871, to May of the following year, were sold in green pictorial wrappers, uniform in size with Edwin Drood, with eighteen woodcuts, twelve of which were reproduced in miniature on the cover.

Meanwhile the complete work, entitled John Jasper's Secret: a Sequel to Charles Dickens's Unfinished Novel "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," appeared in the form of a volume (Peterson and Bros., Philadelphia), and, presumably, met with a degree of success, for an English reprint followed in 1872. This latter contained two extra drawings, and was described as "a narrative of certain events following and explaining" the mystery. Copies of these early examples have become so rare that they have been advertised at eight or nine times their published price; but a much more recent edition, issued by Fenno and Company, East Sixteenth Street, New York, in 1901, somewhat discounts that valuation, notwithstanding the fact that the whole of the illustrations are omitted.

The work was originally anonymous, but later a singularly audacious statement of authorship was allowed to creep in and still remains. The names of Charles Dickens the younger and Wilkie Collins, jointly associated with this book, recall the rumours to which Messrs. Chapman and Hall opposed their announcement, and one wonders how far those rumours are responsible for an absurd claim which scarcely needs the emphatic contradiction to be obtained from a letter written by Wilkie Collins in December, 1878. "I was asked to finish the story, and positively refused."

So many inquiries concerning John Jasper's Secret have been made, at various times, through the pages of Notes and Queries and elsewhere, that the foregoing lengthy explanation may be deemed excusable, although, perhaps, disproportionate to the merits of the subject. For information concerning the actual authorship and certain other details, acknowledgment is due to Mr. H. Snowden Ward, who adds, in his published statement, that future editions of the book will bear the names of the true authors.

Like all continuations in the fictional form, this literary effort must, of course, meet with a certain amount of disapproval on principle. Attempts here and there to imitate the style of Dickens are, as might be expected, not a success. Neither do the actors in the story retain the characteristics with which we have learned to associate them: they employ their own, or similar, phrases, but that is a very different thing. Nevertheless, as an attempt to grapple with a complex problem the book is not without interest, and, if some of the threads left by the original author are incorrectly manipulated, few are entirely neglected. The salient features of the solution may be briefly noted as follows: During one of the "strange expeditions," when Jasper finds himself at liberty to wander over the cathedral, he makes the discovery that the edifice is doubly walled, a space, only partially filled in, being left between the two erections. Into this safe hiding-place, through a hole made by him in the roofing, he casts his nephew, thinking he has strangled him effectually. The betrothal ring he discovers and carries away, using it long afterwards in a further attempt to incriminate Landless.

Drood, rescued by Durdles, discloses the crime to Bazzard, who thereupon assumes the character of Datchery. Edwin, on his recovery, returns, also disguised, and is present at an interview when Jasper is startled by the production of an article supposed by him to be buried with the body. Later, the murderous scarf is "found," and Jasper, feeling insecure, revisits the scene of his crime. He is about to descend into the pit in search of the body, when the boy Deputy, attracted by an unusual light in the cathedral, yelps out his war-cry, and sends a stone crashing through a window, entirely destroying the remnant of Jasper's nerves. To complete the punishment, the wretched man is inveigled into the crypt by Durdles and confronted with Edwin Drood. Helena Landless, Grewgious, and Tartar pursue an independent course. Dressed as a boy, the sister of Neville invades the opium den, and supplies Jasper with a potent "mixture," which causes him to babble his secret. A second dose, administered by the Opium Woman, who has recognized an old enemy, proves too powerful, and Jasper ends where the original story found him. Landless joins the Church, Rosa accepts Tartar, and Helena gives her hand to Edwin Drood.

CHAPTER IV
A SPIRIT SOLUTION

T

HE uninitiated reader may be readily excused if he assumes that the present subject is largely dependent upon conjecture, but it, now becomes our duty to disclose a sequel or conclusion which is far from acknowledging any such uncertain basis. The birthplace of this, unique production is the village of Brattleborough, Vermont, United States of America; the date is 1873, and the alleged author is — Charles Dickens! Not the younger Charles this time, but the originator of the mystery.

We will not stay to inquire why Brattleborough, so far away from Gadshill, has been selected for so much honour; nor will we seek to know why the world has deliberately preferred the darkness of ignorance to this astounding flood of light. It were better to proceed at once with our examination, and, perhaps, these reasons may appear unsought.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood Complete is a motley production of nearly five hundred pages, containing two titles, two prefaces, and a great mass of amazing inanity cheek by jowl with the old familiar text. It is stated that "Part the Second" is "By the Spirit Pen of Charles Dickens, through a Medium," and the further information is afforded that the next work, to appear through the same channel of communication, shall be entitled The life and Adventures of Bockley Wickleheep. (A published foretaste of the spirit solution appears to have given this name as "Nickleheep." Until the promised novel appears, there will probably remain a doubt on the point.)

The peculiar setting of the dedication to "The Honest Poor" is, presumably, responsible for that inscription being reminiscent of Sapsea's epitaph; but, whether or no, the reader will view it leniently, for there is little enough in the second part of the book which, in any degree, serves to recall the genius of the first. Not a few of the original characters are altogether abandoned, without regard to any possible purpose for which they were created, and new puppets are introduced in a spirit of irresponsible prodigality, tending to burden the final chapters with a crowd of ticketed marionettes. But those faults are as nothing in presence of the awful grammatical vagaries, the inexplicable blunders in relation to locality or situation, the entire disregard of early device, suggestion, and definite statement, confounding the artistic sense at every turn of the leaf. These, indeed, make us thankful that the spirit of Dickens abroad amongst the numerous branches of the Fellowship owns no kinship to the ghostly author of this precious continuation.

Certainly it is not extremely distressing to learn that "Grewgious is most always at home," or that he "loaned the portrait to Tartar," or that Rosa wondered if Drood "had changed any" during his long absence. The position of Brattleborough on the map prepares us, in some measure, for such-like attacks. But when we are told that "bidding each other good-night, the reverend gentleman wended his way homeward," or that "a quarrel takes place between he and young Landless," our sorrow is more than that of parting, on the one hand, or of sympathetic agitation on the other.

The Dickensian who has learned to associate the Gate House in Rochester with Jasper's lodging will note, with some surprise, that Mr. Crisparkle, standing in the road, could peer through the window into the choirmaster's room; and the same reader will probably be a little puzzled at the reference to a "cross street leading directly" out of the High Street "to the river," for he will conclude, with some reason, that the most direct cut to the river is by way of the High Street itself. But these details, however interesting, must give way to a brief inquiry into the nature of the solution. The explosion of the Datchery mystery is perfectly in accord with the remainder of the explanation that eccentric individual is not Mr. Bazzard, the lawyer's clerk; he is not Grewgious himself; he is not one of the other prominent characters of the "earth-life" fragment; he is not even the "Flying Waiter" of the Grewgious dinner, although, as an ingenious wit has suggested, this lowly character has a claim to consideration by reason of the fog described as hanging about him. Datchery, in point of fact, proves a total disappointment, in that his actual personality is less familiar to us than his assumption. As the Opium Woman's son, with no apparent reason for watching Jasper, and with a definite grievance quite distinct from that of Drood, he leaves his early actions in Cloisterham more of a mystery than ever. Moreover, it seems a paltry excuse for a risky disguise that it is assumed in order to be "on the safe side," there being little probability that the wearer would be recognized, in any case.

As to the rescued Edwin, a stained face and cropped hair suffice to meet his modest ideas of concealment, though he certainly deems it expedient to envelop himself in boguey white when appearing to his uncle in the crypt.

Jasper lends material assistance to the designs of his enemy by rather carelessly dropping the betrothal ring at the opium den; and on a later occasion, after another storm has broken open the Sapsea vault, he further expedites matters by a most injudicious line of action. Altogether he is in danger of forfeiting the reader's respect for his artistic criminality when he saves the situation by qualifying for a madhouse and so escaping the prison. Helena and Crisparkle, Rosa and Drood, pair off. To complete Edwin's joy, Princess Puffer and her long-lost son take up their abode with him. Grewgious, too, is invited, but fortunately declines.

The discovery, on a snowy Christmas morning, of Jasper's dead body, brings this extraordinary sequel to a dramatic conclusion.

CHAPTER V
"A GREAT MYSTERY SOLVED"

T

HE "authentic" solution of the Drood problem having thus proceeded in 1873 from the United States, there could be no possible reason why America should attempt to "go one better" in any spirit of patriotic rivalry. Accordingly, it need-not surprise us to find that, henceforward, the mania for constructing sequels to Dickens's work was permitted to die out of the New World.

But Great Britain, hitherto silent — save in protest or commentary — becoming, evidently, too sceptical of the Brattleborough Spirit's claims to accept the situation, began in course of time to publish guesses at the secret on her own account; and, to her credit be it said, these efforts assumed in the main the reverent attitude of the analyst rather than the presumptuous arrogance of the "continuator."

It was not, however, until the year 1878 that the new era actually commenced, though probably long before that date the midnight oil of preparation was burning. In the early autumn of the year named there appeared a three-volume conclusion entitled A Great Mystery Solved, written, under the curious pen-name of "Gillan Vase," by a lady of some literary reputation in the North of England. This pretentious work was, the preface informs us, the outcome of a desire to see the broken threads of the fragment gathered up and the story woven to its end. The authoress — ignorant of or ignoring the glorious productions of her literary cousins across the water — grew weary of waiting for a continuation, and at length began to solve the Mystery for herself; at first merely for her own amusement and the gratification of a few kindly interested friends, but afterwards in obedience to the dictates of a growing ambition. Indeed, she found, to her consternation, that she had "idly entered upon a road from which there is no turning back."

"Gillan Vase" launched her book in fear and trembling, expecting her "audacious venture" to be punished, "either by having to run the gauntlet of sharpest criticism, or — a thousand times worse — being passed over in contemptuous silence." Fortunately, the milder fate befell the work; but it must be confessed that the criticism of the reviewer who noticed it in the columns of The Examiner on October 5th, 1878, was sharp indeed.

"The head and front of 'Gillan Vase's' offending," said this remorseless penman, who might have mixed less vinegar with his ink had he guessed the sex of his victim, "is not that he has attempted to continue Dickens to the best of his ability and has failed, but that he has, with a great deal of perverted ingenuity, set seriously to work to mimic Dickens, and in a lamentable way may be said to have succeeded. It is the reverse of the old fairy tale when straw was spun into gold. Mr. Vase has, indeed, gathered up the broken threads of the story, but these threads of pure gold have magically and imperceptibly become transformed by his touch into common straw; and the worst of the matter is that it is extremely difficult to realize afterwards that they ever were threads of gold."

No student of Dickens will be disposed to disagree with this judgment, nor with the rest of the review, which is sufficiently lengthy to have afforded Gillan Vase a gloomy kind of consolation; but we may perhaps be forgiven for assuming that the critic, if he had been doomed to plough through the earlier solutions, would have welcomed "A Great Mystery Solved" — which he prefers to call "A Great Work Spoiled" — with open arms and a thankful heart.

Gillan Vase has, in fact, produced immeasurably the best of the story continuations — whatever that commendation may be worth — and has at least given us an Edwin Drood free from that unholy thirst for vengeance which, despite the assertions of her predecessors, cannot be fitted anyhow into the nature of our cherished author.

The ingenuity of the work is not confined to its mimicry. There is something startling in the suggestion that the heap of lime in the mason's yard was destined to receive the body of the defunct Mrs. Sapsea, in order that room might be provided in the vault for Edwin without exciting the suspicions of stone-tapping Durdles. What better hiding-place than a coffin supposed to contain a legitimately buried corpse? What more natural result of Drood's unseen escape from the tomb than the confounding of Jasper by this same Durdles, who cries, in the words of his early demonstration to the scheming villain "Holloa! Hollow!"? The ring having been left in the coffin, Jasper's act is thus brought to light without the complicity of Edwin Drood. That stricken youth, changed by illness and grief almost beyond recognition, and further disguised by the aid of blue spectacles, takes service with Grewgious in succession to Bazzard, choosing to be considered as dead rather than bring punishment upon his erring relative. He is able, without disclosing his identity, to save Rosa from her persecutor's clutches, and incidentally from a watery grave; but he hesitates to clear the fame of poor Landless at Jasper's expense, and for this latter adherence to his principle he can scarcely be commended. John Jasper is, however, laid by the heels at last, and destroys himself in Cloisterham Gaol after horrifying Crisparkle with a detailed account of his criminal proceedings.

The Datchery nut — always a particularly hard one to crack, and, it would seem, only to be properly broken in the door of the cupboard on which the buffer kept his cryptic score — is crushed shapeless under the heel of misconception. Mrs. Tope's lodger is revealed as a detective in the employ of Mr. Grewgious, and we are left to wonder why in the world he should have imperilled his secret and inconvenienced his person, parading before all Cloisterham in that aggressive white wig.

CHAPTER VI
SOLUTION BY INFERENCE

F

OR the sake of clearness, we have disposed of the "Gillan Vase" conclusion a trifle out of the correct chronological order; insomuch that, in June of the same year, 1878, there appeared in the Belgravia magazine a clever article — signed "Thomas Foster" — by a writer whose brain was more usually devoted to the elucidation of abstruse scientific problems. The mystery of "Edwin Drood" appears to have possessed a remarkable power of attraction for this learned mathematician. An anonymous contribution to The Cornhill Magazine for March, 1884 ("Suggestions for a Conclusion"), attempting to explain the mystery on the lines laid down by Forster in the Dickens biography, immediately produced from the enthusiastic "Belgravian" the first of a long series of articles in the analytical vein — "Dickens's Story Left Half Told" —which appeared in the pages of the scientific periodical Knowledge, founded by Richard A. Proctor.

Subsequently (1887) the whole of the writer's work on this subject, including contributions to Leisure Readings (of the Knowledge Library Series) was collected, revised, and republished in the form of a volume, bearing the extremely unscientific title Watched by the Dead: a loving study of Dickens's half-told tale. This book, as we shall see, essayed to prove that Drood: had not met his death at Jasper's hands; that he had already reappeared upon the scene, and that, in fact, he was none other than the mysterious buffer Datchery himself. The same book indubitably proved that Thomas Foster, writer of the scattered articles, and Richard Proctor, astronomer and editor, were one and the same person. So did it come about that Watched by the Dead took its place amongst volumes of able discourses concerning other worlds than ours.

A considerable portion of the; argument is concerned with the methods adopted by Jasper in preparing for his crime, and many of the unrevealed details are convincingly deduced with admirable skill.

Jasper's peculiar action of clinking the stonemason's keys together during the interview at Sapsea's has been noted by various solutionists, with equally various results. The Brattleborough Spirit asserts that Jasper's object was to so dent the wards of the vault key that he might readily recognize it by sight. Mr. Proctor is more artistic in his perception. He argues truly that a trained musician like Jasper would but need to hear the tone of the key to distinguish it from others, in light or darkness. Durdles, on this occasion, cries — "You can't make a pitch-pipe of 'em, Mr. Jasper." And: again, in a later scene — "You pitch your note, don't you? So I sound for mine." The theorist is on solid ground of his own when he takes up the question of the moonlight; and it is not a little instructive to note how conclusively he shows that the night of the murder was necessarily a dark one — notwithstanding "Gillan Vase," who makes our satellite a fitful but evident witness of the crime.

Proctor's case for the reappearance of Drood is a very elaborate one, based mainly upon three grounds: the significant heading to chapter XIV. "When shall these three meet again?"; the general demeanour of Mr. Datchery, and the strange conduct of Grewgious after the disappearance. The last-named certainly forms a strong support for the theory.

The lawyer is more than suspicious. But why should he suspect? The average reader has become so certain of Jasper's guilt that the importance of this question is overlooked. Grewgious has not the knowledge which the reader possesses. He has not accompanied Jasper and Durdles on those strange nocturnal expeditions; he has not seen the stern, knitted face as the murderous hand unwound the black scarf from its owner's throat he has not observed the choirmaster's elation at Edwin's disposition to quarrel with Landless, nor noted how that quarrel was deliberately encouraged. Whence does he derive his knowledge? From Drood, answers Mr. Proctor triumphantly. From the only one — save Jasper himself — who could tell the story of that night of villainy.

As to the Datchery-Drood argument — for which the solutionist reserves his greatest enthusiasm, and which he attempts to force home with a degree of impatience, we are offered a comparison, in considerable detail, of the various passages in which the two characters are referred to. Notably attention is drawn to the interviews with the opium woman. That unpleasant old person, telling Datchery of her previous meeting with Drood, instinctively feels — at least Proctor says so — that he is the same person, and asks for the same sum. "He changes countenance when he learns it is for opium, but does not recognise the full significance of the fact." Neither does the solutionist. It has always seemed to the present writer that this part of Mr. Proctor's evidence is amply sufficient to disprove his pet theory. Neither the solutionist nor his supporters appear to have noticed the fact that Drood was fully aware this woman smoked opium. He had asked her the question point-blank. Datchery may have forgotten the information, but its repetition would certainly not startle him.

The rescue of Drood by Durdles of course dispenses with Forster's explanation of the betrothal ring and the destructive lime. Proctor, however, evades this difficulty with characteristic ingenuity. The ring is speedily restored to its former owner, and "so soon as Drood and Grewgious knew that Jasper's main idea in removing the watch and pin was that they might not afford evidence against him, the power to inflict a terrible punishment would be manifest. They would force on Jasper the completion of his main purpose. What horror to find he has unwittingly left a fatal witness within the tomb!" Mr. Proctor' pictures the wretch creeping down the crypt steps (a strange mistake as to the location of Sapsea's vault), holding up his lantern, and shuddering at the thought of what it may reveal. He sees Drood sternly confronting him, and flies up the winding staircase of the tower, pursued by Landless, Tartar, Drood, and Crisparkle. There is struggle at the top, and Neville is killed. Jasper is captured and cast into prison, but not until he has been made to feel how, while he supposed himself safe, every movement had been watched by one whom he had thought dead.

This conclusion, though apparently confirmed by one of the original cover illustrations, which the theorist reproduces, has, nevertheless, serious defects. Its weakness is not so much that it presents Edwin as burrowing about in search of clues leading to already familiar facts for, as a supporter has recently suggested on his own account, perhaps Drood was not sure that Jasper was his assailant. Nor is it altogether the old objection of empty vengeance on the part of characters better disposed by nature, though in this respect Mr. Proctor is decidedly inferior to "Gillan Vase." It is rather the insuperable difficulty that an innocent man must be mentally tortured to the verge of the grave in order to create a dramatic situation, and for this reason, if for no other, the solution should be rejected.

CHAPTER VII
MINOR CONTRIBUTIONS

I

T is now necessary to retrace our steps a little in order to fully cover the period separating Proctor's earliest "loving study" from his final volume, Watched by the Dead.

Reference was made in the last chapter to a contribution in the Cornhill Magazine for March, 1884, entitled "The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Suggestions for a Conclusion." This purports to be written from the point of view of a reader, on internal evidence only, and, as the first attempt to solve the problem in accordance with Forster's statement, it calls for some consideration at our hands, quite apart from the circumstance that Proctor specially selected it for attack. A considerable portion of the article is devoted to the superfluous question of Jasper's guilt, but, having established that proposition to his complete satisfaction, the author proceeds to consider the more subtle difficulties of the plot. The sole mystery, we are told, lies in the method of concealing the crime. Jasper contrives to obtain the Sapsea key while in temporary possession of Durdles's bundle, and either takes a cast then and there, or substitutes a false key, with which he may have come prepared. "If the substituted key," says the theorist, "were not precisely similar to the real one, it would not open the tomb, which would be all the more advantageous to Jasper." In what way the inevitable detection of such a fraud would benefit the choirmaster's plans is not at all clear, and the writer does not explain further. Lime, of course, is placed in the tomb, and the strangled Edwin is cast into it. Datchery, who, as "Gillan Vase" suspected, is a professional detective in the employ of Grewgious, prevails upon the opium woman to permit his presence at the den on the occasion of Jaspers next orgy, and the gallant Mr. Tartar, in sailor rig, likewise attends to furnish additional proof. As in John Jasper's Secret, the criminal unwittingly discloses his crime before interested company, whereupon a search for the body is instituted, and pursued with the aid of the stonemason's peculiar faculty for discovery. The stones of the betrothal ring are found and identified by Grewgious and Bazzard; the chain of evidence is completed by Durdles, Deputy, Puffer, and others, and Jasper is brought to justice. All the principal characters fare according to Forster, excepting Neville, who is allowed to live and "begin the world anew."

Early in 1885 a well-known paper, The Weekly Budget, included in its contents the opening chapters of a serial tale by Mrs. C.A. Read, called The Welfleet Mystery. According to the preface, "the story may be termed an outgrowth of Dickens's last work. The first half necessarily follows the plot of Edwin Drood very closely, although it has been the writer's aim to vary the characters, incidents, and conversations, so that they may not seem simply a tame repetition to those who have read the great master's work"

Certainly tameness is not an obvious failing of this production. If one might judge from the rude illustration of Welfleet Cathedral and graveyard on a moonlight night — with John Knight (Jasper) muffled, like Monks, in a long cloak, and listening in apparent dismay to the inopportune pleadings of a mysterious female who is certainly not the Puffer — one might be disposed to consider the story of a very wild and thrilling character indeed. The text, too, reminds one of the cheap sensational literature of the time rather than recalls the mature work of our great novelist. All the familiar figures of the original story revel, in these pages, in a complete change of name, and their personal characteristics are distorted, perhaps in accord with that circumstance.

In September, 1887, the Belgravia Magazine returned to the subject, but this time the celebrated mystery was employed for the purposes of a short story. Mystery on Mystery, by Edward Salmon, is the supposed narration of an author of recognized "Dickensesque" powers, who is editorially commissioned to write a conclusion. He accepts, but is deterred from his task by the appearance of Dickens's ghost, which utters a solemn protest. How little Mr. Salmon's author penetrated into the real mystery is evident from the statement that at the end of a week's study he had "spotted" the murderer, and discovered where the body was hidden. To "spot" the criminal is no great feat. As Mr. Marzials says in his Life of Dickens: "Guilty, guilty, most certainly guilty. Let the judge put on the black cap and Jasper be devoted to his merited doom."

CHAPTER VIII
FINAL CLUES

W

HETHER Watched by the Dead was generally regarded as a satisfactory solution, or whether public interest and individual ingenuity alike declined after that work appeared, the fact remains that for many years no further attempt was made to revive the subject of this alluring problem. The smithy which had so long resounded to the ring of hammer on anvil, as links were forged to complete the unfinished chain, became silent and dark. The links themselves, powerless to "hold and drag," lay neglected, and almost forgotten, all of them covered with the rust of time, and many well-nigh hidden beneath the dust of obscurity.

Nevertheless, further work remained to be done. In June of the present year Mr. J. Cuming Walters published his now well-known little book in green covers, Clues to Dickens's Mystery of Edwin Drood, setting forth therein an entirely new theory. This solution, at once surprising in its nature and admirable in its presentment, fully admits the Forster explanation of Dickens's intentions, and at the same time furnishes abundant evidence of the novelty and ingenuity which were promised by the great author at the outset of the story. It is a noteworthy fact that the first serious inquirers into the mystery handled the very thread or clue which Mr. Walters has operated so successfully; and it is, perhaps, still more strange that the two deductions should be so widely different.

Readers of Edwin Drood will freely admit that the seventh chapter of that work gives a vivid impression of the character of Helena Landless. Her past history and present demeanour are set forth in detail too clear to be lightly disregarded. The authors of John Jasper's Secret, a sequel now nearly thirty-five years old, duly noted Helena's early essays in male impersonation, and dispatched her, once more in boy's attire, to Jasper's opium haunt in London. Mr. Walters sees in Miss Landless the capacity for a much more difficult task, and is firmly of opinion that he has laid his hand upon the real Mr. Datchery, white wig and all. With the double motive of protecting Rosa, and of vindicating the fair fame of her brother, Helena thus establishes an unsuspected watch on Jasper's movements, and, having accumulated her share of the evidence, contrives to lure the criminal to the scene of his evil deed, as suggested by the most significant of the cover illustrations. Mr. Walters conceives that Neville Landless receives his death-blow whilst protecting his sister, and so gives Jasper a double claim to the gallows.

It is no part of our present purpose to enter into details which are readily accessible to all, but a few words of criticism will be in keeping with the methods we have adopted throughout this review.

The most important objection to be offered is, of course, the enormous difficulty of such an assumption as is suggested. It certainly requires the exercise of considerable imagination to picture a young and lovely girl successfully masquerading as an elderly man. But the standard of real life should not be applied too inflexibly. Probably no one ever succeeded in evading detection by the stage device of a false beard hooked round the ears, yet we have Rokesmith, in Our Mutual Friend, donning and doffing an oakum wig and whiskers with facility and security.

But if we are to admit Mr. Walters's theory, we ought to know why Datchery, "alone and unobserved," was apparently unable to find Mrs. Tope's, notwithstanding the "fatally precise" directions of the Crozier waiter. Tope was the verger, well-known in the city. Helena had lived for six months in Cloisterham, and must have been as fully aware of the situation of Tope's and Jasper's as of the cathedral itself. We ought also to be able to explain why Datchery rushed into Jasper's presence so impatiently, as though courting detection. One would think that Helena would postpone a meeting with the enemy until she and others were familiarized with her disguised self. Further, it behoves us to inquire whether Miss Landless would not greatly fear a disastrous meeting with Mr. Crisparkle, and, finally, whether Datchery was wise to impress upon Cloisterham his determination to "settle" in the city, knowing that frequent journeys must be taken to the country of the Magic Beanstalk.

To all these queries Mr. Walters may be able to furnish satisfactory answers. Meanwhile we take leave of his little work with the firm conviction that it marks the high-water level of Drood solutions, and is deserving of unstinted praise.

After a preliminary canter in the pages of Longman's Magazine for September, Mr. Andrew Lang seated himself more firmly on the Drood hobby-horse by the issue, in October, of a small volume of argument in opposition to that of his immediate predecessor. The Puzzle of Dickens's Last Plot claims to be an endorsement of Proctor's theory — with variations. It may seem ironical to congratulate the author upon a variation which goes far to overset the theory. Nevertheless Mr. Lang has knocked away the strongest prop of his adopted solutionist by means of a discovery of the first importance. It has hitherto been supposed that the extraordinary attitude of Grewgious towards Jasper at the memorable interview after Drood's disappearance is only explainable on the assumption of Edwin's return to life; but now a new and sufficient reason is apparent. "I have just left Miss Landless," says the old lawyer pointedly, and we wonder how it is that the keen Proctor and others after him failed to note so significant a remark Rosa, we know, had been reticent with her guardian, but Grewgious could learn from Helena sufficient to make him suspect the possibility of worse behind. The angular man disclosed to Jasper a piece of news and this now stands out vividly, not as the beginning of Drood's scheme of punishment, but as an ingenious test of Jasper's guilt. Taken by surprise, the criminal fell, and the worst suspicions of Grewgious were realized. Mr. Lang vigorously attacks other difficulties, but, like Proctor, he cannot satisfactorily patch the great flaw of Neville's abandonment to the execration of the world. It will not do to say that Edwin could not come forward until his evidence was complete. He had no need to "come forward." A word in Neville's ear would have changed despair into joy; but that word was certainly never spoken.

At the eleventh hour, information reaches the writer concerning a unique solution, properly belonging to the early days when The Cloven Foot made its appearance in America. About six months after the death of Dickens, there was produced, at the Surrey Theatre, London, a drama in four acts, by Mr. Walter Stephens, bearing the same title as the work on which it is founded. The author, by means of free transposition, managed to condense into the compass of a few scenes all the important features of the half-told tale. The tragic event of the play is brought about within the gloomy vaults of the cathedral, where Datchery and Durdles witness Jasper's efforts to cast Rosa into the pit containing Drood's remains. The Buffer effects a timely rescue and when he removes his wig, we are surprised to find that Neville Landless has been working out his own deliverance. Jasper takes a large dose of opium, and, as officers enter to apprehend him, he falls — presumably to slow music.