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Mystery of Edwin Drood

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An unfinished novel by Dickens, published 1870.

The fathers of Edwin Drood and Rosa Bud, both widowers, have before their deaths betrothed their young children to one another. The orphan Rosa has been brought up in Miss Twinkleton's school at Cloisterham (Rochester), where Edwin, also an orphan, has an uncle, John Jasper, the precentor of the cathedral, to whom he is devoted and who appears to return the devotion. Jasper, a sinister and hypocritical character, gives Rosa music lessons and loves her passionately, but inspires her with terror and disgust. There now come upon the scene two other orphans, Neville and Helena Landless. Neville admires Rosa and is disgusted at Edwin's unappreciative treatment of her. This enmity is secretly fomented by Jasper and there is a violent quarrel between the young men. On the last of Edwin's periodical visits to Cloisterham Rosa and he recognize that marriage will not be for their happiness and break off the engagement. That same night Edwin disappears under circumstances pointing to foul play and suggesting that he has been murdered by Neville Landless, a theory actively supported by Jasper. But Jasper receives with uncontrollable symptoms of dismay the intelligence that the engagement of Edwin and Rosa had been broken off before Edwin's disappearance, and this betrayal of himself is noted by Mr Grewgious, Rosa's eccentric, good‐hearted guardian. Neville is arrested but, as the body of Edwin is not found, is released untried. He is ostracized by public opinion and is obliged to hide himself as a student in London. The remainder of the fragment of the novel is occupied with the continued machinations of Jasper against Neville and his pursuit of Rosa, who in terror of him flies to her guardian in London; with the countermoves prepared by Mr Grewgious, assisted by the amiable minor canon Mr Crisparkle and a new ally, the retired naval officer Mr Tartar; also with the proceedings of the mysterious Mr Datchery, directed against Jasper.

Other notable characters include the fatuous Mr Sapsea, auctioneer and mayor; Mr Honeythunder, the bullying ‘philanthropist’; the grim stonemason Durdles; and his attendant imp ‘Deputy’.

Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

Charles Dickens (1812—1870) novelist