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The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)

de Charles Dickens

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3,149594,299 (3.58)1 / 280
Classic Literature. Fiction. Mystery. HTML:

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the final, uncompleted novel by Charles Dickens. John Jasper is a choirmaster who is in love with one of his pupils, Rosa Bud. She is the fiancee of his nephew, Edwin Drood. A hot-tempered man from Ceylon also becomes interested in her and he and Drood take an instant dislike to one another. Later, Drood disappears, and as Dickens never finished the novel, Drood's fate remains a mystery indeed.

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But Mr. Grewgious seeing nothing there, not even a light in the windows, his gaze wandered from the windows to the stars, as if he would have read in them something that was hidden from him. Many of us would, if we could; but none of us so much as know our letters in the stars yet -- or seem likely to do it, in this state of existence -- and few languages can be read until their alphabets are mastered.

Not one of my favourites, this is perhaps an unfair claim to lodge against a half-finished work. Drood, Dickens 15th novel and the last of his 24 "major" works, was to be published in 12 monthly volumes, but he sadly passed away while putting the finishing touches on instalment 6.

What we are left with is an intriguing mystery in which the core questions seem to have obvious answers, but the purpose of it all remains undefined. Edwin Drood, a seemingly attractive and nice lad, if a bit cocksure, mutually breaks off his engagement with Rosa Bud, his lovely fiancee-since-childhood, receives an ominous warning from the mistress of a local opium den, and then goes walking with a new friend from Ceylon before disappearing into the mist, never to be seen again. Amidst the murky cast of characters who inhabit the world around the intimidating Rochester Cathedral are the two orphans from Ceylon, a quick-witted reverend, an alcoholic gravekeeper, a playwriting secretary and a mysterious new arrival to town (the latter two of whom may be one and the same).

Aesthetically, the novel is a surprise turn, coming after Dickens' dense, autumnal late works like Bleak House and (especially) Our Mutual Friend. Flowers bloom, music fills the air, and Dickens' authorial voice is less controlling, allowing the characters to speak quickly and to the point. The 1860s had been a decade of turmoil for Dickens on a personal level, and one feels like he was breaking away from the heaviness that characterised his most recent novels. There's more in common, perhaps, with his Uncommercial Traveller series written across the mid-to-late '60s, in which Dickens captures moments of life in London and the countryside. At the same time, this has a major drawback in that most of the characters, including Edwin himself, lack many defining traits. Indeed, Helena and Neville - the Ceylonese orphans - are so vague that we're still not sure whether they're merely "dark" from the sun, or are in some way natives!

Much of this is intentional, of course. The late arriving figures of Tartar and Datchery were intended to be filled out later, and no doubt the same is true of Helena and Neville. The novel plays more with Reverend Crisparkle, who seems to be the Inspector Bucket of this piece, and Rosa Bud, who emerges perhaps not fully formed but at least a woman with some great level of initiative, combining the best parts of both Lizzie and Bella from Our Mutual Friend. At the heart of the piece is Edwin's uncle, John Jasper, a man deep in unrequited love and addled by his addiction to opium. Much like Edwin, though, John's character journey comes to an unwitting end and, sadly, it feels like the next instalment would've been the beginning of Dickens piecing together all of the disparate threads.

Evidence from Dickens' family, friends and letters suggests that he wasn't that concerned about the two key mysteries - who is Datchery and what happened to Edwin - being all that ... mysterious. Indeed, he wrote to one friend a suggestion that the novel might become, in its final chapters, a meditation on the evil of the murderer, rather than a surprise revelation. This is actually very fitting, when you consider one of the most tortured characters from Our Mutual Friend, who spends the second half of the novel preparing for, then covering up, a vicious crime, in chapters that are the closest - give or take Lady Dedlock - to internal character study Dickens ever came.

On the subject of endings, I thoroughly recommend Gwyneth Hughes' 2012 adaptation for the BBC, of which the final 40 minutes or so comprise entirely original material. While removing Tartar (who seems intended to become the male romantic lead in Dickens' original mind), Jones follows the commonly believed (obvious?) answers to Datchery and the killer, but then throws in numerous surprises, none of which seem at all unreasonable given what came before. In fact, I daresay a few of them sound downright likely.

So, is Drood worth reading despite being unfinished? I'd probably rank it below any other Dickens novel, primarily because of its half-completed status. At the same time, once you've read it, it's fascinating to gaze into the 150 years of Drood-specific arguments that have come from academics and writers of all kinds. There's some great beauty in this novel, particularly the Cathedral which looms large as a character and which almost certainly (as Gwyneth Hughes knew) would have been the setting for the book's climax, whatever that may have been. As a work, the book lacks the sublime level of symbolism that characterised Little Dorrit's creaking buildings, Bleak House's combustible crooks, or Our Mutual Friend's piles of dust. It also lacks satisfying character arcs, since everyone except for Rosa seems to be half-hidden from us, by the very nature of the piece.

Still, for Dickens completists, and those who don't mind a read that ends mid-thrust, it's not half bad. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
Difficult to rate and discuss an unfinished book. Lots of great characters as per usual Dickens fare! ( )
  LDVoorberg | Dec 24, 2023 |
This is a re-read of Dickens's last and famously unfinished novel. This has many of the elements of a classic mystery story, a disappeared and probably murdered victim, and more than one suspect, albeit not the plethora of suspects familiar from the novels of Agatha Christie and others. The murderer of the title character can really either only be his uncle John Jasper, a rival for the hand of Drood's fiancée Rosa, or Neville Landless, an angry young man from Ceylon who faces prejudice. It is heavily implied that Neville and his sister Helena are of mixed race, from the comments of others characters and from the illustrations, though also Neville looks down on the native people of Ceylon ("I have been brought up among subject and servile dependents of an inferior race"). This novel also deals quite openly with opium taking through John Jasper's addiction and through the personality of the aged Princess Puffer, who keeps the opium den he frequents. In practice, the evidence points pretty clearly to John Jasper as the murderer, so the mystery may be less of one than one might think initially, though alternative theories and continuations have been produced over the 150 years or so since the novel's publication in monthly parts, culminating in September 1870 three months after the author's death and leaving readers hanging rather bathetically as the mysterious Dick Datchery starts to eat a meal prepared by his landlady Mrs Tope. Had this been finished I feel this would have been good addition to the Dickens canon, though probably not one of his very best. ( )
  john257hopper | Oct 22, 2023 |
It's a pity this book was not completed. It started slow as Dickens took time to build the plot and introduce new characters like Dick Datchery and Mr. Tartan. Nevertheless, you could anticipate the role they would play, and that of Mr. Grewgious, if Dickens had finished the book. Similarly, you could anticipate the unraveling of the mystery and relish how delightful the book could be. ( )
  siok | Sep 9, 2023 |
Este libro es la historia de la desaparición de Edwin Drood y del extraño afecto, o aversión, que sintió por él su tío John Jasper. El asesinato como tema literario y la elaboración de tramas complejas habían interesado siempre a Dickens. El último libro que escribió fue esta novela policial.
  Natt90 | Mar 27, 2023 |
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» Adicionar outros autores (40 possíveis)

Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Dickens, Charlesautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Aydin, IsilTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Browne, Hablot K.Ilustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Cardwell, MargaretEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Collins, CharlesIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Fildes, LukeIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lehmusoksa, RistoTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lehtonen, PaavoPosfácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Paroissien, DavidEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Piffard, HaroldIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Roberts, Sydney CastleIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Thorn, DavidNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Wilson, AngusIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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An ancient English Cathedral Tower?
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A drowsy city, Cloisterham, whose inhabitants seem to suppose, with an inconsistency more strange than rare, that all its changes lie behind it, and that there are no more to come. A queer moral to derive from antiquity, yet older than any traceable antiquity.
"Is there anything new down in the crypt, Durdles?" asks John Jasper.

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PLEASE NOTE: The D. Case: The Truth About The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a separate book and should not be combined with The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

The D. Case is a completion of Dickens' incomplete novel, and was collaborated on by two other writers. This is not the same as Charles Dickens' book. Although Dickens' entire text is included, the additional material is more than Dickens' contribution. Please do not combine these two works.

Do not combine with any edition which has been "completed" by another author.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. Mystery. HTML:

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the final, uncompleted novel by Charles Dickens. John Jasper is a choirmaster who is in love with one of his pupils, Rosa Bud. She is the fiancee of his nephew, Edwin Drood. A hot-tempered man from Ceylon also becomes interested in her and he and Drood take an instant dislike to one another. Later, Drood disappears, and as Dickens never finished the novel, Drood's fate remains a mystery indeed.

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