The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Last Updated on September 25, 2021

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was the fifteenth novel of Charles Dickens.  Dickens was only halfway finished with the book when he died.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Dickens’s Life At The Time

Gad's Hill Place

Gad’s Hill Place

During October of 1869, at Gad’s Hill Place, Dickens began work on The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

On March 15, 1870 Dickens gave his final public reading.

In April of 1870 publication of Drood began.  

On June 8, 1870 Dickens spent the day working on The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  During dinner he collapsed.  

On June 9, 1870 Dickens died at Gad’s Hill Place.

Public Readings

Charles Dickens giving a public reading

“Charles Dickens as he appears when reading.” Illustration in Harper’s Weekly, December 1867.

In 1853 Dickens gave the first public reading of one of his works.  He read A Christmas Carol for a charity event.  The readings were a combination of oratory and passionate acting.  They were very popular.  In 1858 he began giving professional readings and continued to do so throughout his life.

Dickens was an electrifying performer.  One of his most popular performances was Sikes and Nancy from Oliver Twist.  It was an exceptionally dramatic selection in which Dickens acted out Nancy’s murder.

When Dickens was performing he threw himself into the characters heart and soul.  So much so that the performances began to endanger his health.

In 1869 his doctor advised him against giving further readings. The strain to his system was too great.  Dickens arranged a farewell tour and gave his last reading in March of 1870.  It is thought that the effects of the readings was one of the factors leading to his death.

Possible Endings for The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Edwin Drood and Rosa Bud

Edwin Drood and Rosa Bud, image by Luke Fides

There is a lot of speculation about how The Mystery of Edwin Drood was to have ended.   Dickens didn’t leave any notes outlining the plot so no one will ever really know what he intended.

One of the most popular beliefs is that John Jasper, Edwin’s uncle, is the murderer.  Jasper lead the double life of a  choirmaster and opium addict.  He was also in love with Rosa Bud, the woman his nephew was to marry.  Conversations Dickens had before he died seem to support this theory.  John Forester, his good friend, said Dickens told him that Jasper had indeed murdered Drood.  Dickens’ son, Charley, also stated that his father told him  Drood really was dead.

Some people speculate that Edwin Drood, like John Harmon in Our Mutual Friend, wasn’t really dead.  The fact that Edwin’s body was never found adds weight to this theory.

Themes of The Mystery of Edwin Drood

John Jasper and Rosa Bud

John Jasper and Rosa Bud – Illustration by Luke Fides

As mentioned earlier, John Jasper lead a double life.  “You are always training yourself to be, mind and body, as clear as crystal, and you always are, and never change; whereas I am a muddy, solitary, moping weed,” he says to Mr. Crisparkle.  Little did Mr. Crisparkle know the truth of that statement.

Dickens used this theme in Our Mutual Friend as well.  In that novel the respectable Mr. Bradley Headstone is not all that he appears. 

To some extent the same could be said for Dickens himself.  He was always careful to keep his relationship with Ellen Ternan a secret from the public.  He also kept the secret of his childhood troubles a secret from almost everyone.  

More About The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Collection of Quotations from The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Quotes from The Mystery of Edwin Drood