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at the University Press





A. K. S.



IT needs a considerable amount of assurance
to add yet another book to the compara-
tively long list of those which have been
written upon the subject of Dickens's un-
finished story, and it is no sufficient justifi-
cation to assert that the writer is sincerely
convinced that his contribution to the dis-
cussion will afford some assistance in the
solution of the problem, seeing that practically
everyone who has ventilated his ideas upon
the subject has expressed a similar conviction.
Proctor, for instance, who was the first to
examine Edwin Drood in a quasi-scientific
way, was absolutely satisfied that in identi-
fying Datchery with Edwin, he had discovered
the " mystery " which Dickens had taken
such pains to hide, and so strongly did he feel
that his solution was correct, that he exhibited
considerable impatience with those who failed
to swallow it whole. Mr J. Cuming Walters,
again, the originator of the highly ingenious

viii Preface

Helena-Datchery theory, is equally convinced
that he has unearthed Dickens's secret, and,
like Proctor, he has supported his views by
means of numerous arguments drawn from the
text, which, if they do not carry conviction
to every mind, are nevertheless sufficiently
weighty to call for very careful examination,
more particularly as they have succeeded in
securing as adherents of the theory two such
acute critics and eminent scholars as Dr Henry
Jackson and Sir W. R. Nicoll. In these
circumstances the present writer considers
that it would be presumption on his part to
express any definite opinion as to the accuracy
of his own conclusions, and he feels that some
apology is needed for the dogmatism which,
upon a re-reading of this little essay, seems
to him at times to be only too apparent.
His excuse must be, that when an idea takes
possession of the mind so completely as to
become almost an obsession, it is liable to
warp the judgment to such an extent that
even the possibility of any other view being
reasonably entertained seems too remote to
require serious consideration, and as this book
was written red-hot under the influence of

Preface ix

such an idea, it is inevitable that it must be
tainted with the fault of over-assurance. The
same cause has also led him to criticise the
work of other enquirers more freely than he
otherwise would have done, and certainly
more confidently than his literary inexperi-
ence warrants, and accordingly he hastens to
assure those who may think it worth while
to examine and dissect his own arguments,
that he will not resent any strictures, however
severe, that they may feel called upon to pass
on the views which he has enunciated or
developed. It is hardly necessary for him
to state that he is painfully aware of his
literary short-comings, and that he asserts no
pretensions to style, being satisfied if he has
succeeded in expressing his views clearly, and
in bringing out the full force of the arguments
which he believes can be adduced in their
support ; he trusts, therefore, that such
criticisms as may be expressed with reference
to his work, will be addressed rather to the
matter than the form of it, and he will sin-
cerely welcome criticism of this nature, as
tending to test and evaluate the strength of
his arguments and the validity of his various

X Preface

theories. However confidently he may appear
to have expressed the views which he has
advanced, he hopes that he has a sufficiently
open mind fully to appreciate the force of the
objections which may be urged against them,
and he is not so strongly wedded to any
particular theory as to be desirous of sup-
porting it against the weight of evidence.
His sole desire is to discover, or to assist in
discovering, the true solution of Dickens's
puzzle, and if his own ideas are shown to be
untenable, he will have no hesitation in
abandoning them.

If, however, it should be considered that
he has been fortunate enough to have hit upon
the true solution of any of the numerous
problems which Edwin Drood presents, he
would point out that he has enjoyed the
immense advantage of being in a position to
profit by the work of prior investigators, by
whom the ground has been so thoroughly
surveyed and minutely examined as in several
cases almost to compel him, by the mere
process of exhaustion, to adopt the conclu-
sions at which he has arrived. As one
instance of this may be cited the identification

Preface xi

of Datchery, and as another, his interpretation
of the enigmatic picture forming the lower
part of the original wrapper of the monthly-
Parts, which has given rise to almost as many-
readings as there have been commentators.
The suggestion now advanced with regard to
this picture is not, and, in the circumstances,
could not be, original, but in the opinion of
the writer it gains greater probability both
from the fact that it is the logical outcome
of the main plot which he has outlined, and
from the circumstance that it explains and
justifies the much-debated title of Chapter xiv.
In the same way, many of the arguments
which he has employed to support his own
theories, or to combat those of earlier en-
quirers, have no doubt been presented before,
and probably with far superior clarity and
greater cogency, and he accordingly hesitates
to advance a claim to originality in respect
of anv one of them, but as his first-hand
acquaintance with the literature upon the
subject does not extend beyond the magazine
articles of Proctor, and the works of Sir W. R.
Nicoll and Dr Henry Jackson, he may perhaps
be acquitted of having consciously plagiarised

xii Preface

the ideas of other writers. He desires, how-
ever, to acknowledge his very great indebted-
ness to Sir W. R. Nicoll, without the aid of
whose scholarly and exhaustive book this
little essay could hardly have been written,
and although the conclusions at which he
has arrived are in most instances totally at
variance with those adopted by Sir William,
yet his obligations to that work are in no
wise diminished on that account.

It is only due to the " Dickens Fellowship "
to state that this essay owes its origin to the
fact that the writer's attention was drawn to
the fascinating problem of the discovery of
Dickens's secret by the press notices of the
mock trial of John Jasper for the murder of
Edwin Drood, which that society organised
in January last. While obviously it would
not be fair to try and shift on to other
shoulders the responsibility which naturally
devolves upon a writer who is venturesome
enough to advance a new theory concerning
Dickens's plot, it is impossible to dispute the
fact that the society must be held accountable
for the interest in the problem which the trial
aroused, and to that extent, therefore, it must

Preface xiii

be prepared to accept responsibility for the
natural consequences of its act.

Lastly, the author wishes to express his
gratitude to the Syndics of the Cambridge
University Press for having kindly undertaken
the publication of this book.

M. S.
St'pt, 1914.




Dickens's new idea ....... 1

Datchery ......... 35


Was Edwin murdered ? . . . . . .92

Princess Puffer, and others .... 109

Minor matters ....... 131


Dickens's new idea

Dickens's unfinished story presents us not
with one, but with many mysteries, none of
which, I believe, has yet been satisfactorily
solved. Efforts have, up to the present, been
principally directed to the solution of the
problems connected with the identity of
Datchery, the death or escape of Edwin, and
the identity of the opium woman, and the
main idea of the book has been either com-
pletely overlooked, or treated as of secondary
importance only ; logically, I think the pro-
cess should have been reversed, and that the
theme around which Dickens wove his ro-
mance should have received primary attention,
inasmuch as discovery of the leading motive
might possibly throw light upon the minor
mysteries, and accordingly I shall endeavour
in the first place to ascertain whether there
is any material from which the nature of the

s. 1

2 The Mystery in the Drood Family

main theme can fairly be inferred, regarding
this, in fact, as the main mystery.

So far as regards external evidence, we find
Dickens writing to Forster : "I have a very
curious and new idea for my new story ; not
a communicable idea (or the interest of the
book would be gone) but a very strong one,
though difficult to work." I lay some stress
upon the word " new," first, because Mr R. A.
Proctor, who identifies Datchery with Edwin,
considers the main theme of the story to be
the tracking of Jasper, the supposed murderer,
by Edwin, his supposed victim, an idea which
Dickens had admittedly already used on
several previous occasions, and secondly, be-
cause, as Sir W. Robertson Nicoll points out,
the idea of a young girl assuming a disguise
had been used in No Name. I think, there-
fore, that if Dickens had meant either of those
ideas to form his main plot, he would hardly
have qualified it as new, and for that reason
I suggest that neither Proctor's nor Mr Cuming
Walters' s theory, even if correct, which I doubt,
would satisfactorily explain Dickens's state-
ment quoted above. The supporters of the
Helena-Datchery view certainly partly avoid

Dickens's New Idea 3

this particular objection, as the assumption
by a young girl of the character of such a man
as Datchery was, I think, new, so far as
Dickens was concerned ; but I hardly think
that Dickens would have said of an idea of
this nature that it was " very curious " or
that it was " not a communicable idea " or
" a very strong one, though difficult to work."
In the first place, I cannot see that the
" interest of the book would be gone," even
although we knew Helena to be Datchery ;
in the second place, a craftsman like Dickens
would hardly have considered such an idea
as " difficult to work," and lastly, I am con-
vinced that he would not have qualified it as
" very strong." The difficult-to-work objec-
tion seems the gravest, as there would seem
to have been no great difficulty either in
effectually disguising Helena, had Dickens set
out with the intention of doing so, or in
locating her in Cloisterham, instead of taking
her up to London, as he does, but both the
" very curious " and " very strong " expres-
sions appear to me also to be quite inappli-
cable to the Helena-Datchery hypothesis.
Neither of the theories of attempted-


4 The Mystery in the Brood Family

murder-and-escape, and murder-and-discovery-
by-the-ring, seems to me in itself to merit
Dickens's description of " very curious and
new, incommunicable, very strong, difficult to
work," and I am consequently of opinion that
we must look elsewhere for " the plan," as
Sir W. R. NicoU puts it, which " Dickens
had in his mind, and half revealed and half
concealed." The first likely suggestion that
we find in the story itself is in Chapter in,
where animal magnetism and two states of
consciousness are referred to, and this sugges-
tion is somewhat strengthened by the scene
at the piano described in Chapter vii, by
Crisparkle's memorable night-walk, which we
find in Chapter xvi, and finally by the whole
of the conversation between Jasper and Rosa,
set out in detail in Chapter xix. It is not at
all improbable that animal magnetism was in
some way intended to be used by Dickens ;
it would certainly be " incommunicable, or
the interest of the book would be gone," but
I cannot say whether the idea would have
been new at the time Edwin Brood was being
written, nor whether at that time it would
have been thought " very curious." At the

Dickens's New Idea 5

same time it hardly appears to me to merit
the epithet " a very strong one " employed by
Dickens himself, and personally, I should be
inclined to regard it as easy, rather than
difficult, to work ; that, however, is purely
a matter of opinion, and I cannot pretend to
the slightest authority on this point. On the
whole, however, while admitting that animal
magnetism may quite possibly have something
to do with the plot, and while, like Mr
Grewgious, keeping an eye on every direction
that may present itself, I incline to the opinion
that the suggestion that I am now about to
put forward embodies Dickens's leading idea.
In the notes which Dickens made for the
chapters which he wrote, we find, under
Chapter xii, the following entry : " Jasper's
diary ? Yes," and again under Chapter xvi,
a similar note : " Jasper's diary." The notes
for Chapter xii are, comparatively speaking,
long, and deal with so many points that, in
my opinion, it would not have been possible
to dispose of them all in one chapter ; we
find, as a fact, that in Chapter x, although
there is nothing in the notes to this effect,
Jasper produces his diary to Crisparkle,

6 The Mystery in the Drood Family

wherein he has set out his fears for Edwin at
the hands of Neville, and this, I take it, dis-
poses of the note under Chapter xii. The
production of the diary to Crisparkle at this
point, is, in my view, evidently intended to
prepare the reader for the later production at
the end of Chapter xvi, so that it may then
appear natural, and not excite any particular
attention ; if this supposition be correct,
Dickens certainly succeeded in achieving his
object. Under the notes for Chapter xvi,
immediately after the words " Jasper's diary,"
we find, " I devote myself to his destruction,"
and if we turn to the end of that chapter,
where the quotation from the diary appears
in full, we see how this last phrase has been
expanded : "I now swear, and record the
oath on this page, that I never more will discuss
this mystery with any human creature until
I hold the clue to it in my hand. That I will
never relax in my secrecy or in my search.
That I will fasten the crime of the murder of
my dear dead boy upon the murderer. That
I will devote myself to his destruction."

Now, if Jasper were a murderer (or in-
tended to be a murderer) and desired to put

Dickens's New Idea 7

Crisparkle off the scent, the earlier production
of his diary to the latter, before Edwin's
disappearance, would have sufficed to attain
this object ; from this point of view, the
communication at the end of Chapter xvi,
made, as Dickens states, " without one spoken
word," really took the matter no further.
This consideration, in conjunction with
Dickens's notes, leads me to the belief that the
entry in Jasper's diary last referred to, was
quoted in order to convey something to the
reader, if he could only perceive it. Can we
discover what that something was ? Suppose,
now, that Dickens meant every line and every
word of this entry to be read literally, as
conveying the simple truth ; that he meant
it to be fulfilled word for word, and letter
for letter ; and suppose also that Jasper was,
or thought himself to be (for it does not very
much matter for this purpose which view we
adopt) the murderer. We are forced, upon
these lines, to " a very curious and very strong
idea, difficult to work, and not communicable
without endangering the interest of the story";
namely, the idea of a murderer attempting
and intending to fasten his crime on to

8 The Mystery in the Drood Family

another, but in reality tracking himself, and
involuntarily putting the noose round his own
neck ! So far as I am aware, such an idea
was entirely new, and in Dickens's hands it
would have been highly dramatic ; he would
have seen and rejoiced in its possibilities,
although we can quite understand that he
would also have foreseen the difficulties of its

That Jasper was and had good reason for
being at work endeavouring to fix the crime
upon Neville, is plainly to be gathered from
subsequent passages. First, there is the inter-
view with Honeythunder, where the latter
tells Crisparkle that he would be better em-
ployed in devoting himself to the discovery
and punishment of the murderer than in
leaving that duty to be undertaken by a
layman, showing clearly that Jasper had been
in communication with Honeythunder on this
subject. (Dickens deleted this passage, for some
unknown reason ; possibly desiring, as Honey-
thunder was a character he intended to utilise
further, not to disclose the presumably close
relations between him and Jasper. I think,
by the way, that Honeythunder was present

Dickens's New Idea 9

at Mrs Crisparkle's dinner-party, in order
that Jasper might make his acquaintance
naturally.) Next, there is the conversation
between Sapsea and Datchery (which Dickens
also deleted) in which Sapsea, Jasper's tool,
stated that there were more than suspicions,
all but certainties, of some one. Thirdly, there
is Jasper's own declaration to Rosa: "Mr Cris-
parkle knows under my hand that I have
devoted myseK to the murderer's discovery
and destruction, he he whom he might, and that
I determined to discuss the mystery with no
one until I should hold the clue in which to
entangle the murderer as in a net. I have
since worked patiently to wind and wind it
round him ; and it is slowly winding as I
sjpeahy And lastly, there is the fact of
Jasper watching Neville, as Grewgious had
discovered. Jasper the murderer, whether in
deed or intention, Honeythunder the bully,
Sapsea the jackass, possibly also Bazzard the
fool, are all labouring to convict Neville of
the crime, a task in which we have every
reason for believing that they did not succeed ;
would it not be an excellent denouement if
Jasper and his allies in this nefarious plot

10 The Mystery in the Drood Family

merely succeeded in achieving the result
which Justice demands, namely, that of con-
victing Jasper himself of the deed ?

While there is not, and cannot be, any
direct evidence that this was the plot which
Dickens had in his mind, nevertheless I think
that I am justified in saying that it fits in
better with all the known facts than any of the
other theories yet advanced. In particular,
it satisfactorily explains Dickens's note to
Forster, in every detail, while it also supplies
a valid reason for the second production to
Crisparkle of Jasper's diary, a communication
which otherwise seems to me to be quite object-
less. I think it likely that Rosa's mother's
ring would have been used by Dickens as the
means for bringing about the desired end, —
as I shall show later on ; Jasper was to get
to hear of it, designedly or by accident, and,
meaning to place it in Neville's possession
secretly, was to attempt to gain possession of
it ; in the act of doing so he would be sur-
prised (at Mrs Sapsea's tomb, possibly) by
the person knowing him to have the informa-
tion, whereby Jasper's guilty knowledge would
be disclosed by his own act. We have to give

Dickens's New Idea 11

due weight to the emphatic words in Chapter
XIII, "a chain. ..gifted with invincible force
to hold and drag," and although of course
these words fit in, more or less well, with any
theory involving Jasper's discovery of the
existence and search for the ring, I hope to
be able to give them their true value. I only
wish to point out here that there is no other
theory, so far as I am aware, than the one
I am advancing, which necessitates the re-
moval of the ring by Jasper from its hiding-
place for any specific purpose. He might, of
course, desire to abstract it so as to prevent
identification of the remains, if and when
discovered, but it appears to me that his
interest is really all the other way ; if he
desires to convict Neville otherwise than by
tracing the ring to his possession, it would
surely answer his purpose to allow the ring
to remain on the body, so that the identifica-
tion may be certain when the corpse is dis-
covered. Proctor suggested that Jasper was
driven to remove the ring from the tomb,
because it was a fatal witness to his crime,
and that Grewgious and Edwin meant to
punish him by forcing him to go through the

12 The Mystery in the Drood Family

terrible ordeal of groping in the dust of his
victim to recover the ring. Against this I
think I may fairly urge that Jasper would
have been satisfied that the chances of the
corpse being discovered or disturbed were so
small, that he would have taken the risk of
the simultaneous discovery of the ring, rather
than face such an ordeal ; at the same time,
we must also not forget, as has indeed been
frequently pointed out, that Edwin must have
had about him other metal articles, such as
keys, buttons, and so on, which would have
led to the identification of the corpse just as
surely as the ring, so that on this ground also
Proctor's theory is weak. I think, therefore,
that my suggestion that Jasper was to attempt
to recover the ring in order to place it in
Neville's possession, is the more likely one,
and as it entirely fits in with my explanation
of Dickens's plot as a whole, it may be accepted
as a working hypothesis, in which case it
strongly corroborates my main position.

The page headings, if they are authentic,
also confirm my view ; they are respectively,
" Mr Jasper's Diary," and " Mr Jasper regis-
ters a vow." In the former, stress is laid

Dickens's New Idea 13

upon the diary, in the latter upon Jasper's
oath, and I think that it is a fair inference to
draw, that it is to the oath itself that Dickens
wished eventually to be able to point as
embodying the '' mystery " of his plot. The
heading of Chapter xvi, " Devoted," also
leads in the same direction, more particularly
when it is remembered that a secondary
meaning of the word, which we must assume
was known to Dickens, is " given up to doom."
Again, we find, according to Sir W. R. Nicoll,
that upon the back of the number-plan for
part four, Dickens had made this entry :

Edwin Disappears.

The Mystery. Done already.

This could not, of course, refer to the
Datchery mystery, as that character does not
appear until the next number, neither could
it refer to the opium woman, about whom
there is nothing really mysterious before
Chapter xxiii. It might possibly relate to
the manner of the murder, but I regard this
as highly improbable on account of the first
note quoted above, " Edwin Disappears."
There is apparently, therefore, nothing left to

14 The Mystery in the Drood Family

which the words can reasonably be held to
have been intended to apply, with the excep-
tion of the " mystery " contained in the last
extract from Jasper's diary, and accordingly
I regard this note as exceedingly strong
corroborative evidence in support of my

But even this is not all. Sir W. R. NicoU
has set out, at page 57 of his most valuable
book. The Problem of Edwin Drood — to which,
once for all, I desire to acknowledge my extreme
indebtedness for numerous details — the various
titles for his new story which Dickens noted
down but subsequently discarded. They may,
perhaps, not unfairly be regarded as indicating
the working of his mind at the different periods
when they were jotted down, for I do not
suppose that they were noted otherwise than
at intervals. I transcribe the whole page
here, with due acknowledgments.

Dickens's New Idea


Friday, Twentieth August 1869

The loss of James Wakefield

James's Disappearance

Gilbert Alfred Edwin

Jasper Edwyn

Michael Oswald




Mr Honeythunder

Mr Honeyblast

The Dean

Mrs Dean

Miss Dean


The Loss of Edwyn Brood
The Loss of Edwyn Brude
The Mystery in the Drood Family
The Loss of Edwyn Drood

The Flight of Edwyn Drood. Edwin Drood in Hiding
The Loss of Edwin Drude.
The Disappearance of Edwin Drood
The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Dead ? Or Alive ?

I take it that we here see Dickens vacil-
lating between two opposing ideas, uncertain
whether his title shall relate to his main

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