The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the final novel by Charles Dickens. The novel was left unfinished at the time of Dickens' death, and readers have often speculated what the ending might have been. The novel is named after Edwin Drood, but it mostly tells the story of his uncle, a Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque choirmaster named John Jasper, who is in love with his pupil, Rosa Bud. Miss Bud is Drood's fiancée, and has caught the eye of the high-spirited and hot-tempered Neville Landless, who comes from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) with his twin sister, Helena, and immediately makes an enemy of Drood. In the musical version (see below) all of these, along with the Reverend Crisparkle (with whom the Landless twins live), a mysterious opium dealer called only the Princess Puffer, and Crisparkle's assistant, Mister Bazzard, are all considered possible suspects for the murder of Drood. In the book it is hinted strongly that Jasper is the murderer, but it is not known whether Dickens had a surprise in mind.
Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science
The story is set in Cloisterham, a lightly fictionalised Rochester, and feelingly evokes the atmosphere of the town as much as its streets and buildings.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
It was filmed in 1935 by Universal Pictures. Directed by Stuart Walker, it starred Claude Rains, Douglass Montgomery, Heather Angel, Valerie Hobson and David Manners.
A musical comedy adaptation (later renamed Drood) by Rupert Holmes was first produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival. It opened on Broadway in 1985, winning the Tony, Drama Desk and Edgar awards and has since played successfully in regional and many amateur productions. Because the book was left unfinished, Holmes hit on a novel idea: the audience votes as to which of the characters is the murderer: brief alternate endings are provided for each potential killer, even the most unlikely. Betty Buckley, Cleo Laine, George Rose, Donna Murphy, Judy Kuhn, and Howard McGillin were in the cast.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood was scheduled to be published in twelve installments (shorter than Dickens' usual twenty) from April 1870 to March 1871, each costing one shilling and illustrated by Luke Fildes. Only six of the installments were completed before Dickens' death in 1870. It is exactly half finished.
- I - April 1870 (chapters 1-4);
- II - May 1870 (chapters 5-9);
- III - June 1870 (chapters 10-12);
- IV - July 1870 (chapters 13-16);
- V - August 1870 (chapters 17-20);
- VI - September 1870 (chapters 21-23);
- VII - October 1870 (planned);
- VIII - November 1870 (planned);
- IX - December 1870 (planned);
- X - January 1871 (planned);
- XI - February 1871 (planned);
- XII - March 1871 (planned).
Supplying a conclusion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood has occupied writers from the time of Dickens's death to the present day, even involving some trying to get into spirit contact with the dead author. Two of the most recent of these posthumous collaborations are The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens and Leon Garfield (1980) and The Decoding of Edwin Drood (1980) by Dickens and Charles Forsyte.
- In 2005, Charles Dickens became, for one episode, a character in the science-fiction television series Doctor Who. In the episode "The Unquiet Dead", Dickens encounters the Doctor and helps the time traveller fight off a ghostly alien invasion on Christmas Eve, 1869. The episode ends with Dickens declaring his intention to incorporate his adventure with the Doctor into his work in progress, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and that the murderer would be revealed as one of the "blue elementals" that he'd encountered that night. The Doctor, upon departing 1869, sadly notes that Dickens would never get to finish his tale.
- Edwin Drood also is the name of a fictional band from the TV series Jonathan Creek - possibly a parody of the band Uriah Heep, who also owe their name to Dickens.
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood, available freely at Project Gutenberg
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Searchable HTML version.
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Easy to read HTML version.
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood - An analysis explaining Edwin Drood's themes and allusions, and offering a solution to its mysteries, including the identity of Datchery and Jasper's split personality.