The Puzzle of Dickens's Last Plot, by Andrew Lang


According to my theory, which mainly rests on the unmistakable evidence of the cover drawn by Collins under Dickens’s directions, all “ends well.” Jasper comes to the grief he deserves: Helena, after her period of mourning for Neville, marries Crisparkle: Rosa weds her mariner. Edwin, at twenty-one, is not heart-broken, but, a greatly improved character, takes, to quote his own words, “a sensible interest in works of engineering skill, especially when they are to change the whole condition of an undeveloped country”— Egypt.

These conclusions are inevitable unless we either suppose Dickens to have arranged a disappointment for his readers in the tableau of Jasper and Drood, in the vault, on the cover, or can persuade ourselves that not Drood, but some other young man, is revealed by the light of Jasper’s lantern. Now, the young man is very like Drood, and very unlike the dark fierce Helena Landless: disguised as Drood, this time, not as Datchery. All the difficulty as to why Drood, if he escaped alive, did not at once openly denounce Jasper, is removed when we remember, as Mr. Archer and I have independently pointed out, that Drood, when attacked by Jasper, was (like Durdles in the “unaccountable expedition”) stupefied by drugs, and so had no valid evidence against his uncle. Whether science is acquainted with the drugs necessary for such purposes is another question. They are always kept in stock by starving and venal apothecaries in fiction and the drama, and are a recognized convention of romance.

So ends our unfolding of the Mystery of Edwin Drood.

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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57