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The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Drood serial cover.jpg
Cover of serial No. 6, September 1870
AuthorCharles Dickens
IllustratorSamuel Luke Fildes
Cover artistCharles Allston Collins
April 1870 -
September 1870
(six of twelve numbers completed)
GenreFiction; Murder Mystery; Social Commentary
PublisherChapman & Hall
Publication date
Media typePrint (Serial, Hardback, and Paperback)
ISBNISBN 0198124392
Preceded byOur Mutual Friend 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the last novel of Charles Dickens. It was not finished when he died.


The story is set in a fictional town called Cloisterham, which is believed to be based on Rochester. It begins as John Jasper is leaving a place in London where opium (a powerful drug) is taken by lots of people. Jasper leads a choir (group of singers) in a large church in Cloisterham. The next day Jasper is visited by his nephew Edwin Drood. Edwin tells Jasper he is worried about getting married to a girl called Rosa Bud. He has to get married to her because his parents and Rosa’s parents said they had to.

The next day, Edwin finds Rosa in a nun’s house which is a school. At the same time, Jasper wants to learn about the graveyard, so he goes to find a man called Durdles, who knows a lot about the graveyard. A person called Neville Landless has a twin sister called Helena. They are both sent to a school in Cloisterham. Helena goes to live with Rosa in the nuns’ house, and Neville is taught by a reverend named Crisparkle.

We find out that Neville doesn’t like his stepfather who is a nasty man. He tells this to Crisparkle. Rosa tells Helena that she doesn’t like Jasper, who is her music teacher. She says she finds him scary. When Neville meets Rosa, he falls in love with her. He is angry that Edwin Drood doesn’t like her very much, but still wants to get married. Edwin makes Neville angry, and Neville attacks him. Jasper tells everyone that Neville is a violent (hurts a lot of people) person.

Reverend Crisparkle wants Edwin and Neville to be friends. He wants to say sorry to Edwin, but only is Edwin accepts the apology (saying sorry). They all decide to have dinner the day before Christmas at Jasper’s house, so that everyone can say sorry.

Mr. Gregious who takes care of Rosa, tells Rosa that she has a lot of money. This money is from her father who is dead. She asks him if they money will still be given to her if she doesn’t marry Edwin. Mr Gregious says that she will still get the money even if she doesn’t marry Edwin. Mr. Gregious meets Edwin and gives him a ring. The ring belonged to Rosa’s father, and gave is to Rosa’s mother when they got married. Mr Gregious says that if Edwin loves Rosa and wants to stay with her forever, he must give her the ring. If he doesn’t love Rosa, and doesn’t want to stay with her forever, he must give the ring back to Mr. Gregious. There is another man watching to make sure Mr. Gregious and Edwin follow the rules. Rosa and Edwin talk and they say they both don’t want to get married anymore. They want ask Mr. Grewgious to tell Jasper this. Edwin says he will soon give the ring back.

Meanwhile, Jasper is in the graveyard again with Durdles. Jasper gives Durdles some very strong wine, which makes him drunk. Jasper finds out that Durdles can tap the stone coffins and knows what is in them from this. Jasper is interested in this trick. Suddenly they see a boy called Deputy. Jasper thinks the boy was following them, so he holds him by the neck. He doesn’t kill him though, and lets him go.

On Christmas Eve, Neville buys a stick for walking. He wants to do some walking in his spare time in the countryside. Edwin goes to a jewellery shop because his watch is broken. A woman who uses opium (powerful drug) asks him what his first name is. He tells her. She says that she is happy his name is not Ned. She says that Ned is in danger. Edwin doesn’t listen to her, but he knows that Jasper sometimes calls him Ned.

They have the planned dinner, and everyone is friends again. Edwin and Neville go down to the river to see the storm. The next day, we find out that Edwin is missing. Jasper tells everyone that Neville killed him. Neville goes off for a walk, but the village people bring him back to the town.

Reverend Crisparkle stops Neville from going to jail by saying that he will look after him. He says that he will bring Neville forward whenever he is needed. Jasper is then told that Edwin and Rosa won’t get married. He is very upset. Crisparkle finds Edwin’s watch and other belongings at the river.

Half a year later Neville is living in London. A man called Mr. Tartar meets Neville and he wants to share his garden with him. He lives near Neville. A new character called Dick Datchery comes to Cloisterham. He lives near Jasper and watches him. Datchery meets Deputy and asks where Jasper lives. Deputy doesn’t ever go near there because he is afraid Jasper will choke (grab his neck) him again.

Jasper goes and visits Rosa. He tells her that he loves her. She tells him to leave. He doesn’t give up, and says he will destroy Neville unless she loves him. Because Neville is the brother of her friend Helena, Rosa is frightened. She goes to Mr. Grewgious in London, and Crisparkle follows her. Mr. Tartar meets him and asks him if he knows who he is. Crisparkle remembers that Tartar once saved him from dying in a river. They tell Rosa not to talk to Neville or Helena in case Jasper is watching. However, Tartar lets Rosa meet Helena. Grewgious finds a place for Rosa to live with another woman.

We see that Jasper is visiting the place where lots of people smoke opium in London. He has not been there for a long time. The woman who owns the place follows him. She promises not to lose him again like last time. She follows him all the way to Cloisterham. She meets Mr. Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name. He also says that he is going to sing in the church service in the morning. The woman is called Princess Puffer. She goes to the service and shakes her fist (a sign of anger and hate) at Jasper.


Dickens died before the story was finished. He made a summary of the story as planned in a letter to his friend John Forster.

His first fancy for the tale was expressed in a letter in the middle of July. "What should you think of the idea of a story beginning in this way?--Two people, boy and girl, or very young, going apart from one another, pledged to be married after many years—at the end of the book. The interest to arise out of the tracing of their separate ways, and the impossibility of telling what will be done with that impending fate." This was laid aside; but it left a marked trace on the story as afterwards designed, in the position of Edwin Drood and his betrothed.

I first heard of the later design in a letter dated "Friday the 6th of August 1869", in which after speaking, with the usual unstinted praise he bestowed always on what moved him in others, of a little tale he had received for his journal, he spoke of the change that had occurred to him for the new tale by himself. "I laid aside the fancy I told you of, and 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." The story, I learnt immediately afterward, was to be that of the murder of a nephew by his uncle; the originality of which was to consist in the review of the murderer's career by himself at the close, when its temptations were to be dwelt upon as if, not he the culprit, but some other man, were the tempted. The last chapters were to be written in the condemned cell, to which his wickedness, all elaborately elicited from him as if told of another, had brought him. Discovery by the murderer of the utter needlessness of the murder for its object, was to follow hard upon commission of the deed; but all discovery of the murderer was to be baffled till towards the close, when, by means of a gold ring which had resisted the corrosive effects of the lime into which he had thrown the body, not only the person murdered was to be identified but the locality of the crime and the man who committed it. So much was told to me before any of the book was written; and it will be recollected that the ring, taken by Drood to be given to his betrothed only if their engagement went on, was brought away with him from their last interview. Rosa was to marry Tartar, and Crisparkle the sister of Landless, who was himself, I think, to have perished in assisting Tartar

finally to unmask and seize the murderer.[1]


  1. John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, 1876, vol. 1, pp. 451–452

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