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Old 02-11-2019, 08:05 AM   #1
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March 2019 Discussion • Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens is the March selection for the New Leaf Book Club. Dickens's last novel, it had six of twelve installments written by his death on June 9, 1870.



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Although Dickens had included touches of the Gothic and horrific in his earlier works, Edwin Drood was his only true mystery story. He left few clues as to how he intended to end the work, and the solution itself remains a mystery.

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Old 03-15-2019, 06:33 AM   #2
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It's time to discuss Edwin Drood. Have we solved his mystery?
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Old 03-15-2019, 07:34 AM   #3
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No, but it should be fun trying! After I read the book, plus the two documents which Catlady discovered, I found this site, which might be fun for people to explore:

http://www.droodinquiry.com/home

You can read the information there and then vote on various questions.

I think there are four main questions:

1. Was Edwin Drood killed or did he survive?
2. Who was Datchery?
3. Why does Princess Puffer hate John Jasper so much?
4. How significant were the images on the wrapper - ie those shown in the illustration above?
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:50 AM   #4
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Andrew Lang, in “The Puzzle of Dickens’s Last Plot”, examines some of the earlier attempts to solve the mystery as well as adding his own. I don’t find any of the “solutions” very convincing. Despite this, Lang makes a significant and clever use of the images and the cover illustrations as well as the various hints thrown out by Dickens. His conclusions are:

Neville dies in the process of arresting Jasper
“Jasper comes to the grief he deserves”
Helena marries Crisparkle
“Rosa weds her mariner”.

Edwin has been alive and “at twenty-one, is not heart-broken, but, a greatly improved character” and becomes an engineer in Egypt.

The Delphi ebook edition of Dickens does give four early attempts to finish the novel but I am going to read the completion by David Madden done in 2012. It is quite inexpensive in The UK Kindle store and gets some good reviews. The introduction by Madden is particularly interesting.

As to the novel as it stands, I feel that it shows Dickens at his best. Had it been completed I suspect that it would have been one of his finest works.
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:54 AM   #5
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I rather enjoyed Dan Simmon's attempt on the matter - Drood. Any novel that has an opium-addled Wilkie Collins as a terribly unreliable narrator is always going to be a ride.
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Old 03-15-2019, 09:37 AM   #6
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As mentioned elsewhere, I fear my mood was not good for Dickens at this time.

I didn't enjoy this very much at all. There were parts in it that I recognised as Dickens' humour, but I found little of it funny. Better were the dark and murky pieces, but they still failed to establish my involvement in the story. As soon as I met Drood and the dreadful Rosa Bud I began planning their demise, and as warned by Victoria, more were to follow. (Of course Dickens had to introduce an annoying little git like Deputy.) By the end I had quite a morbid list indeed. I probably would have kept Durdles and The Princess Puffer, because they were bizarre and because I kept feeling that there had to be a reason for them.

When it comes down to it, I don't find "Jasper done it" (whatever "it" may be) to be a very satisfying story - it seems far too obvious. From the very first chapters you have your eyes drawn inexorably to Jasper as the guilty party. This means that the only mysteries that Dickens has given us are: Is Edwin really dead? and How does Jasper get his comeuppance? These seem inadequate to me. If I had my way, Crisparkle would be found guilty; he's far too nice a man to be anything but acting the part. (Okay, so Jasper is really creepy, but if he didn't kill Drood his only bad behaviour is to Rosa and I don't like her anyway. ... All right, so drugging Neville, and maybe Durdles, wasn't nice either.)

It's tempting to review this looking for ways to exonerate Jasper. But just like those others trying to divine the conclusion the result would probably be inconclusive and unconvincing, because almost all of the hints have multiple possibilities. (Maybe Drood absconded with the ring and he's only going to show up just as Jasper is about to swing - or even too late - and say he's sorry.)

I did enjoy the links Catlady posted, and I particularly liked the droodinquiry link from Bookpossum, above. Not only are the caricatures neatly done, there is the "Witness Statement" from Kate Peruginni (Dickens' daughter).
Quote:
he was quite as deeply fascinated and absorbed in the study of the criminal Jasper, as in the dark and sinister crime that has given the book its title, but it was through his wonderful observation of character, and his strange insight into the tragic secrets of the human heart, that he desired his greatest triumph to be achieved.
This sounds like Dickens to me. I wonder if he had a plan to redeem Jasper in some way, if not in the story then perhaps in the reader's understanding of the character.
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Old 03-15-2019, 09:45 AM   #7
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I enjoyed reading Andrew Lang's analysis, but I think he and others make far too much of the cover images. That bottom centre image could be a ghost on the let of it, it's pale enough, or it could be the action before the murder/attempted murder ... or any number of explanations. The same sorts of ambiguity exists for the figures running up the stairs. And as for one of stair climbers pointing to Jasper in the image above, it looks to me that he's pointing either to Drood or Rosa, or maybe that small figure on the left of the steps in the top centre. Is that my favourite, Crisparkle?
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Old 03-15-2019, 10:05 AM   #8
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I rather enjoyed Dan Simmon's attempt on the matter - Drood. Any novel that has an opium-addled Wilkie Collins as a terribly unreliable narrator is always going to be a ride.
I really enjoyed Dan Simmon’s Drood. This was a re-read for me and the path to get here was a wandering journey. Those are the best! I’m the type of person who doesn’t have good retention on books and movies. I didn’t remember much about my previous read other than I thought his uncle did it. So this time around I was looking for clues for other solutions and rather like the idea that he disappeared/survived.

For this read I decided to do an audiobook. I chose a version narrated by David Thorn, which I very much enjoyed. Listening to Dickens by audio really brought the story to life! The narrator was very expressive with the different voices and dialogue. I am going to have try more Dickens by audio and recommend it to others.

I first learned of The Mystery of Edwin Drood when I saw it as a musical about 30 years ago. It was pretty fun - the audience voted to determine what ending the actors would do. In the 2008-2010 time period, I was reading many classics, especially mysteries. I read The Woman in White and Moonstone and decided that I loved Wilkie Collins’s books! Then I read The Mystery of Edwin Drood in April 2010. When I saw that Collins and Dickens were in a fictional book together that had just been published called Drood than I just had to read it! Immediately after reading that book, I read The Signalman by Dickens.

I would like to read The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl next.

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Old 03-15-2019, 10:16 AM   #9
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I did enjoy the links Catlady posted, and I particularly liked the droodinquiry link from Bookpossum, above. Not only are the caricatures neatly done, there is the "Witness Statement" from Kate Peruginni (Dickens' daughter).

This sounds like Dickens to me. I wonder if he had a plan to redeem Jasper in some way, if not in the story then perhaps in the reader's understanding of the character.
I agree that the idea of a character study of Jasper does fit Dickens. The book starts out rather dark in the opium den. Much of the early focus is on Jasper. Then he reacts more strongly to news that Edwin and Rosa had broken off their engagement than he does to Edwin’s death. Maybe the reaction was because he learns the murder was unnecessary if its motive was that he wanted Rosa for himself. Then to say that Dickens intended to end it in a prison cell in reflection, like one of his friends asserts, seems appropriate.

From Wikipedia, according to his friend and biographer John Forster:
Quote:
The story, I learnt immediately afterward, 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, 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.
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Old 03-15-2019, 10:24 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bookpossum View Post
4. How significant were the images on the wrapper - ie those shown in the illustration above?
Interesting! I hadn’t really thought of this question. I read somewhere that his illustrator claimed to have been told the intended ending. Can anyone explain please how the book installments were published? Were they soft-bound? Did each installment have a different image or was the same one used over and over?

Did Dickens choose the title himself? If yes, then why did he pick that title? It is “mystery” and not “murder.” Was it to emphasize that he was trying his hand at writing a mystery this time?
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Old 03-15-2019, 01:10 PM   #11
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Where’s the Mystery in Edwin Drood?

I’m glad I read it. But honestly, I didn’t find it very satisfying, as a mystery. It seemed to me that Dickens just didn’t have the right temperament to write a good mystery. I think it should have been called the ‘Murder of Edwin Drood’, because there was no mystery

There was absolutely no subtly or finesse in the book. So many melodramatic facial expressions! And he’s so worried that we’re too thick to ‘get it’, that he always tells us how the person who witnessed an important event will remember and reflect on it later.

Within a couple of chapters you know that Jasper plans to kill Edwin, and set up Neville. There are never any surprises, because he overwrites every scene. We can’t even wonder if Edwin actually slipped off and went to Egypt, because he has Jasper directly tell the opium seller that he completed the act. I don’t think it’s just a reflection of the time in which he wrote. Sherlock Holmes was published not long afterwards.

I also don’t think all the finger pointings at Jasper were red herrings. I think gmw and Bookworm_Girl have it right, and Dickens was more interested in exploring how a man like Jasper could commit a such crime, than constructing a good mystery.

As Bookpossum says though, there are many things left unfinished, and it’s fun to try and guess just where Dickens was headed. Who was Dick Datchery? Did Mr. Grewgious hire him to catch Jasper?

My unanswered question is what the heck did Jasper do after he drugged Durdles? I couldn’t see how that helped him any, since Durdles kept the keys to the crypt.

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Old 03-15-2019, 01:30 PM   #12
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I'm afraid I wasn't in a mood for Dickens right now. I tried, I really did. Plus, like Victoria, I found the mystery not terribly mysterious. I'll have some more thoughts later, but just wanted to check in today.
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Old 03-15-2019, 02:29 PM   #13
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Did Dickens choose the title himself? If yes, then why did he pick that title? It is “mystery” and not “murder.” Was it to emphasize that he was trying his hand at writing a mystery this time?
It’s an interesting question. “Mystery” may have been chosen by the publisher to increase public interest. According to Wikipedia, Dickens died on June 9, 1870, following a stroke; the first of 6 instalments was published in April 1870. However his health was already precarious before the first release.

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Old 03-15-2019, 04:03 PM   #14
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It’s an interesting question. “Mystery” may have been chosen by the publisher to increase public interest. (According to Wikipedia, Dickens died on June 9, 1870; the first of 6 instalments was published in April 1870, following a stroke; however his health was already precarious before the first release. )
Madden in his interesting introduction to his continuation of the novel does make reference to the fact that all the evidence is pointing to Edwin’s murder by Jasper. But there is still a mystery. He goes on to say:

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is not an early whodunit, competing with the writing of Dickens’ colleague Wilkie Collins, but a novel about the disappearance and death of Drood, presumably to include how Jasper managed to carry it out, how he was discovered and punished, and how these circumstances affected both him and the other dramatis personae. As Dickens’ daughter Katey reminds us, her father “was quite as deeply fascinated and absorbed in the study of the criminal Jasper, as in the dark and sinister crime that has given the book its title”.

So what deeper impulses, fantasies, and delusions motivated him? He “loves” Rosa Bud—but why and how? What in his background drew him to opium and why the hatred of the old woman who supplies him?

Further, I think Dickens is writing at the top of his form and had he lived I suspect that Drood would have been a masterpiece. The characters are vividly created and memorable. Personally, I very much like Crisparkle and see him as a foil to the poisonous Jasper— who is also unforgettable. I’m not happy about the name, “Rosa Bud” and she verges on being one of Dickens’s appalling “good girls”. But she has some common sense and initiates the ending of the engagement to Drood. And I suspect that she would not have been the major love interest in the conclusion.

I do look forward to the Madden continuation.
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Old 03-15-2019, 05:23 PM   #15
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I usually enjoy Dickens, so this was not going to be a stretch for me. I always enjoy the caricature characters that Dickens draws. I relish his plays on words that were clearly intended to push his wordcount up (he was paid by the word for his serials). Outlandish? You bet, but very entertaining to me nonetheless. I enjoy hating his dastardly and dumb characters, and I enjoy both main female characters in this one as well.
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