Dark Desires: Dickens’ Edwin Drood

‘Edwin, Edwin, Edwin,’ she repeats, trailing off into a drowsy repetition of the word; and then asks suddenly: Is the short of that name Eddy?’
‘It is sometimes called so,’he replies, with the colour starting to his face.
‘Don’t sweethearts call it so?’ she asks, pondering.
How should I know!’
Haven’t you a sweetheart, upon your soul?’
She is moving away, with another ‘Bless ye, and thank’ee. deary!’ when he adds: You were to tell me something; you may as well do so.’
‘So I was, so I was. Well then. Whisper. You be thankful that your name ain’t Ned.’
He looks at her, quite steadily, as he asks: ‘Why?’
‘Because it is a bad name to have just now.’
‘How a bad name?’
‘A threatened name. A dangerous name.’

Charles Dickens’ last novel is an unresolved mystery. At its heart, is the enigmatic figure of John Jasper. A respected personage in the town of Cloisterham, where he is associated with the church as a choir master; Jasper leads a double life, of a drug addict who frequents sleazy opium dens in London (the first chapter, in fact, opens in an opium den, and it’s one of the most brilliant openings ever). He also harbours a secret desire for the (oh so childlike and frail) Rosebud. Only trouble is, Rosa is betroth to his nephew, the young and easy-going, Edwin Drood. The girl, who learns music from Jasper is aware of his insidious intentions but cannot confide in Edwin as he is fond of his uncle who also loves him deeply. Moreover, the young couple though on the threshold of matrimony are not really sure of their feelings for each other or whether they would like to spend their years together.

Meanwhile enter two siblings Neville and Helena Landless into the plot. Neville, promptly and without any reason whatsoever (except that she is oh so frail and childlike, in a nutshell en-chan-ting) falls in love with Rosa at the first glance. Like any other devotee, he thinks that Edwin doesn’t care or show enough regard for his goddess.(Damn it all! He calls her Pussy!!)  Result is that Edwin and he get into a violent quarrel which Jasper, of course, tells to all and sundry. However as the wedding day approaches, efforts are made to reconcile the two young man, notably and surprisingly by Jasper, who invites them both to his house. After a pretty amiable dinner, Edwin and Neville take a walk…
The next day a distraught Jasper is seen running round the town searching for his nephew who hasn’t returned home after the post-dinner stroll and Neville is caught with bloodstains on his clothes and with a heavy stick in his hand while he is on a walking tour (running away?)
Did Edwin really die? If yes, was he murdered by Neville? What devious plot did Jasper conjure? These questions will remain unanswered as Dickens died before completing his book. But it is not so much the crime that is so fascinating about the novel. It is the figure of John Jasper. How does he reconcile his two selves? The repressed desires for Rosa, how do they come in the way of his love for his nephew? Did he hatch and carry out the diabolical plan of getting Edwin out of his way:
‘It was a journey, a difficult and dangerous journey. That was the subject in my mind. A hazardous and perilous journey, over abysses where a slip would be destruction. Look down, look down! You see what lies at the bottom there?’….’ Well; I have told you. i did it, here, hundreds of thousands of times. What do I say? I did it millions and billions of times. i did it so often, and through such vast expanses of time, that when it was really done, it seemed not worth the doing, it was done so soon.

For whom does he utter these enigmatic lines? Edwin or his own divided self:

‘To think,’he cries,’how often fellow-traveller, and yet not know it! To think how many times he went the journey, and never saw the road!’

For a look into the inner recesses of the heart, read the novel.

First Line: An ancient cathedral town?
Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Publication Details: Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1983
First Published: 1870.
Pages: 302
Other Books read by the same author: A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two CitiesGreat Expectations, Hard Times, Oliver Twist

Book(s) with similar theme(s)


The book is easily available in book shops, and libraries; and can also be downloaded from the net for free. Long on my wishlist, I borrowed it from the University library [0111, 3M12, ME L4].



Submitted for the following challenges: A Classics Challenge, A-Z (Titles), AZRC, Back to the Classics, British Books, Death by Gaslight, Find the Cover, Mystery and Suspense, Smooth Criminals, Vintage Mystery, Wishlist.

15 thoughts on “Dark Desires: Dickens’ Edwin Drood

  1. I read this quite a long time ago–one of the Dickens that I really like. Since then I've read several novels that claim to give the \”real\” solution–including one that involves Sherlock Holmes!


  2. There was also another book with the same title, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD which proposes a not very satisfactory resolution. But I've forgotten the author. I know I read it, but old lady memory strikes again. It was a pretty good book, I think I remember from years ago. Can't be sure of the title now that I think of it, cause I can't find it on google. Oh well, pretend I didn't post this. Ha.


  3. I agree Bev. Yesterday I finished The Last Dickens but didn't like it much. I have Pearl's The Poe Shadow too but now I am not sure I'll be reading it.


  4. I'm reading this for this challenge, but for the Mystery category. I didn't know much about it, other than the synopsis on goodreads.com so I was glad to see your post about it. I can't wait to read it! 🙂


  5. I am also reading this for the Back to the Classics Challenge, but for the Mystery Category. I've only read the goodreads.com synopsis, so I am happy to see your post about it. Can't wait to read it!


  6. Dear Enchantedbybooks. Thanks for having a look. I really liked this novel and would love to read your view on it. Please don't be bothered about the double comments – the more the merrier. 🙂


  7. Drood was an interesting spin on Dickens and the 'other' novelist of his time, Wilkie Collins. At the time I read it I wasn't all that happy with the ending but the atmosphere of the writing and the portrait of London at the time was gripping. At times it was downright horrifying!It's one of those books that gets better after I finished it and had time to let it percolate.


  8. I haven't as yet completed Drood but I am quite enjoying (despite the dark tone) Collins' acerbic remarks regarding the Inimitable.Thanks for having a look.


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