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The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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The Mystery of Edwin Drood > MED, Chapters 1 - 5

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message 1: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Dear Curiousities,

Hello friends, I'm a little early, but I thought I'd get this done before my next visit with my pain pills. :-) We are beginning the book that makes me sad each time I read it. Every page I turn of MED is one page closer to the book being "finished", and once that last page is turned all writings by Dickens are done, the last page he wrote that day is the last page that he wrote at all. Well, except for him finishing the book after he was dead through a medium, but that's for later. For now we begin with our first chapter titled, "The Dawn", and beginning with the Cathedral tower, the Cathedral, and the people whose lives are linked to it will play an important part in our book. In fact in the notes for the first monthly installment he had written, "Opium-Smoking" and then a little later, "Cathedral town running throughout." We begin with this:

An ancient English Cathedral Tower? How can the ancient English Cathedral tower be here! The well-known massive gray square tower of its old Cathedral? How can that be here! There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, between the eye and it, from any point of the real prospect. What is the spike that intervenes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Sultan’s orders for the impaling of a horde of Turkish robbers, one by one. It is so, for cymbals clash, and the Sultan goes by to his palace in long procession. Ten thousand scimitars flash in the sunlight, and thrice ten thousand dancing-girls strew flowers. Then, follow white elephants caparisoned in countless gorgeous colours, and infinite in number and attendants. Still the Cathedral Tower rises in the background, where it cannot be, and still no writhing figure is on the grim spike. Stay! Is the spike so low a thing as the rusty spike on the top of a post of an old bedstead that has tumbled all awry? Some vague period of drowsy laughter must be devoted to the consideration of this possibility.

While we begin with the Cathedral Tower, we aren't anywhere near it, instead we find ourselves in an opium den, an awful place to be. In this room we find a man just coming out of an opium daze, or whatever it's called, this is what he finds on waking;

Shaking from head to foot, the man whose scattered consciousness has thus fantastically pieced itself together, at length rises, supports his trembling frame upon his arms, and looks around. He is in the meanest and closest of small rooms. Through the ragged window-curtain, the light of early day steals in from a miserable court. He lies, dressed, across a large unseemly bed, upon a bedstead that has indeed given way under the weight upon it. Lying, also dressed and also across the bed, not longwise, are a Chinaman, a Lascar, and a haggard woman. The two first are in a sleep or stupor; the last is blowing at a kind of pipe, to kindle it. And as she blows, and shading it with her lean hand, concentrates its red spark of light, it serves in the dim morning as a lamp to show him what he sees of her.

This woman tries to get him to "have another" saying he's had five since he's been there. She goes on to tell him business is getting so bad there being few Chinamen about the Docks, and fewer Lascars these days. I had to look up what a Lascar was and found;

A lascar was a sailor or militiaman from South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arab world, and other territories located to the east of the Cape of Good Hope, who were employed on European ships from the 16th century until the middle of the 20th century.

This poor, awful woman goes on to say that she began getting the next one ready when she saw he was waking up, she says;

‘O me, O me, my lungs is weak, my lungs is bad! It’s nearly ready for ye, deary. Ah, poor me, poor me, my poor hand shakes like to drop off! I see ye coming-to, and I ses to my poor self, “I’ll have another ready for him, and he’ll bear in mind the market price of opium, and pay according.” O my poor head! I makes my pipes of old penny ink-bottles, ye see, deary—this is one—and I fits-in a mouthpiece, this way, and I takes my mixter out of this thimble with this little horn spoon; and so I fills, deary. Ah, my poor nerves! I got Heavens-hard drunk for sixteen year afore I took to this; but this don’t hurt me, not to speak of. And it takes away the hunger as well as wittles, deary.’

I felt sorry for her having to take away the hunger by using this method, then again, if she wasn't using this method perhaps she could buy food. But before she can hand him the pipe she collapses on to the bed herself. For reasons I don't understand the only awake person in the room now spends some time rather abusing the other three trying to get them to talk to see what they dream about, or something like that.

There has been chattering and clattering enough between them, but to no purpose. When any distinct word has been flung into the air, it has had no sense or sequence. Wherefore ‘unintelligible!’ is again the comment of the watcher, made with some reassured nodding of his head, and a gloomy smile. He then lays certain silver money on the table, finds his hat, gropes his way down the broken stairs, gives a good morning to some rat-ridden doorkeeper, in bed in a black hutch beneath the stairs, and passes out.

I don't know if he was listening for something in particular, or if what he was doing meant nothing. Whatever the meaning, he now leaves the den and we find ourselves going to that Cathedral we read about in the beginning of the chapter. All of us, including the opium smoking first character in the book;

That same afternoon, the massive gray square tower of an old Cathedral rises before the sight of a jaded traveller. The bells are going for daily vesper service, and he must needs attend it, one would say, from his haste to reach the open Cathedral door. The choir are getting on their sullied white robes, in a hurry, when he arrives among them, gets on his own robe, and falls into the procession filing in to service. Then, the Sacristan locks the iron-barred gates that divide the sanctuary from the chancel, and all of the procession having scuttled into their places, hide their faces; and then the intoned words, ‘When the Wicked Man—’ rise among groins of arches and beams of roof, awakening muttered thunder.


message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Chapter 2 is titled, "A Dean, and A Chapter Also", I have to quote the first paragraph simply because of the bird reference for Peter.

Whosoever has observed that sedate and clerical bird, the rook, may perhaps have noticed that when he wings his way homeward towards nightfall, in a sedate and clerical company, two rooks will suddenly detach themselves from the rest, will retrace their flight for some distance, and will there poise and linger; conveying to mere men the fancy that it is of some occult importance to the body politic, that this artful couple should pretend to have renounced connection with it. Similarly, service being over in the old Cathedral with the square tower, and the choir scuffling out again, and divers venerable persons of rook-like aspect dispersing, two of these latter retrace their steps, and walk together in the echoing Close.

Two men come out of the Cathedral door, one being Mr. Jasper who hurries off quickly, while the other, Mr. Tope, the Chief Verger, he stops to talk with the Dean and Mr. Crisparkle. They talk of Mr. Jasper being ill that day. According to Tope:

‘Mr. Jasper’s breathing was so remarkably short’—thus discreetly does Mr. Tope work his way round the sunken rock—‘when he came in, that it distressed him mightily to get his notes out: which was perhaps the cause of his having a kind of fit on him after a little. His memory grew Dazed.’ Mr. Tope, with his eyes on the Reverend Mr. Crisparkle, shoots this word out, as defying him to improve upon it: ‘and a dimness and giddiness crept over him as strange as ever I saw: though he didn’t seem to mind it particularly, himself. However, a little time and a little water brought him out of his Daze.’ Mr. Tope repeats the word and its emphasis, with the air of saying: ‘As I have made a success, I’ll make it again.’

The Dean asks Mr. Crisparkle to look in on Mr. Jasper to see how he is, and Mr. Crisparkle agrees. Dickens describes him this way:

Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon, fair and rosy, and perpetually pitching himself head-foremost into all the deep running water in the surrounding country; Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon, early riser, musical, classical, cheerful, kind, good-natured, social, contented, and boy-like; Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon and good man, lately ‘Coach’ upon the chief Pagan high roads, but since promoted by a patron (grateful for a well-taught son) to his present Christian beat; betakes himself to the gatehouse, on his way home to his early tea.

Looking in, he finds Mr. Jasper is feeling fine (at least he says so), saying it was nothing and Tope made too much out of it. He also says he is looking forward to his nephew coming home which will do him more good than any doctor. That nephew is Edwin Drood.

Mr. Jasper is described as a "dark man of some six-and-twenty, with thick, lustrous, well-arranged black hair and whiskers." I'm not sure why, but in my previously reading this book I would have thought Jasper was at least 20 years older than that. We're also told:

He looks older than he is, as dark men often do. His voice is deep and good, his face and figure are good, his manner is a little sombre. His room is a little sombre, and may have had its influence in forming his manner. It is mostly in shadow.

And now as Mr. Crisparkle makes his way out of Jasper's apartment, he meets Edwin Drood on the way in. Mr. Jasper is delighted to see Edwin, even catching him in his arms as he enters the room. This follows:

‘My dear Edwin!’

‘My dear Jack! So glad to see you!’

‘Get off your greatcoat, bright boy, and sit down here in your own corner. Your feet are not wet? Pull your boots off. Do pull your boots off.’

‘My dear Jack, I am as dry as a bone. Don’t moddley-coddley, there’s a good fellow. I like anything better than being moddley-coddleyed.’

With the check upon him of being unsympathetically restrained in a genial outburst of enthusiasm, Mr. Jasper stands still, and looks on intently at the young fellow, divesting himself of his outward coat, hat, gloves, and so forth. Once for all, a look of intentness and intensity—a look of hungry, exacting, watchful, and yet devoted affection—is always, now and ever afterwards, on the Jasper face whenever the Jasper face is addressed in this direction. And whenever it is so addressed, it is never, on this occasion or on any other, dividedly addressed; it is always concentrated.


There's something not quite right about that last paragraph, but I'm not sure what it is. I'm not sure if Mr. Jasper is as thrilled to see him as he seems, maybe that's just me. Thrilled or not, he is here and one of the first things he mentions to Jasper is that it is "Pussy's" birthday. We learn that Pussy is Rosa Bud, and the only person who calls her Pussy is Edwin. We learn that Rosa is a music student of Jasper's, also the plan of her and Edwin's fathers is that they will one day marry:

Mr. Jasper lifts his dark eyebrows inquiringly.

‘Isn’t it unsatisfactory to be cut off from choice in such a matter? There, Jack! I tell you! If I could choose, I would choose Pussy from all the pretty girls in the world.’

‘But you have not got to choose.’

‘That’s what I complain of. My dead and gone father and Pussy’s dead and gone father must needs marry us together by anticipation. Why the—Devil, I was going to say, if it had been respectful to their memory—couldn’t they leave us alone?’

‘Tut, tut, dear boy,’ Mr. Jasper remonstrates, in a tone of gentle deprecation.

‘Tut, tut? Yes, Jack, it’s all very well for you. You can take it easily. Your life is not laid down to scale, and lined and dotted out for you, like a surveyor’s plan. You have no uncomfortable suspicion that you are forced upon anybody, nor has anybody an uncomfortable suspicion that she is forced upon you, or that you are forced upon her. You can choose for yourself. Life, for you, is a plum with the natural bloom on; it hasn’t been over-carefully wiped off for you—’


This is where we find out who it was for sure that was in that opium den in the first chapter;

‘Good Heaven, Jack, you look frightfully ill! There’s a strange film come over your eyes.’

Mr. Jasper, with a forced smile, stretches out his right hand, as if at once to disarm apprehension and gain time to get better. After a while he says faintly:

‘I have been taking opium for a pain—an agony—that sometimes overcomes me. The effects of the medicine steal over me like a blight or a cloud, and pass. You see them in the act of passing; they will be gone directly. Look away from me. They will go all the sooner.’

With a scared face the younger man complies by casting his eyes downward at the ashes on the hearth. Not relaxing his own gaze on the fire, but rather strengthening it with a fierce, firm grip upon his elbow-chair, the elder sits for a few moments rigid, and then, with thick drops standing on his forehead, and a sharp catch of his breath, becomes as he was before. On his so subsiding in his chair, his nephew gently and assiduously tends him while he quite recovers. When Jasper is restored, he lays a tender hand upon his nephew’s shoulder, and, in a tone of voice less troubled than the purport of his words—indeed with something of raillery or banter in it—thus addresses him:

‘There is said to be a hidden skeleton in every house; but you thought there was none in mine, dear Ned.’


Taking opium for anything doesn't sound fun to me, at least not if you have the reactions to it as Mr. Jasper does. I am sure, well almost, that at one time I read that when Mr. Crisparkle visited Mr. Jasper he also smoked a pipe of opium, but I can't find where I read that now, it was a long time ago. I see no hint of it in this time reading it. We find that Mr. Jasper is not at all happy being the Cathedral choirmaster, but instead, to Edwin's surprise, hates it.

‘I hate it. The cramped monotony of my existence grinds me away by the grain. How does our service sound to you?’

‘Beautiful! Quite celestial!’

‘It often sounds to me quite devilish. I am so weary of it. The echoes of my own voice among the arches seem to mock me with my daily drudging round. No wretched monk who droned his life away in that gloomy place, before me, can have been more tired of it than I am. He could take for relief (and did take) to carving demons out of the stalls and seats and desks. What shall I do? Must I take to carving them out of my heart?’

‘I thought you had so exactly found your niche in life, Jack,’ Edwin Drood returns, astonished, bending forward in his chair to lay a sympathetic hand on Jasper’s knee, and looking at him with an anxious face.


Jasper goes on to tell Edwin that even a poor monotonous chorister and grinder of music may be troubled with some stray sort of ambition, aspiration, restlessness, dissatisfaction, and Edwin should take it as a warning. When Edwin says that he is a shallow type of fellow and doesn't think this warning would do him any good. I am a little puzzled as to what Edwin should be warned about. It feels like there is some secret meaning to me. We end with this:


‘You won’t be warned, then?’

‘No, Jack.’

‘You can’t be warned, then?’

‘No, Jack, not by you. Besides that I don’t really consider myself in danger, I don’t like your putting yourself in that position.’

‘Shall we go and walk in the churchyard?’

‘By all means. You won’t mind my slipping out of it for half a moment to the Nuns’ House, and leaving a parcel there? Only gloves for Pussy; as many pairs of gloves as she is years old to-day. Rather poetical, Jack?’

Mr. Jasper, still in the same attitude, murmurs: ‘“Nothing half so sweet in life,” Ned!’

‘Here’s the parcel in my greatcoat-pocket. They must be presented to-night, or the poetry is gone. It’s against regulations for me to call at night, but not to leave a packet. I am ready, Jack!’

Mr. Jasper dissolves his attitude, and they go out together.



message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Chapter 3 is titled "The Nun's House" and it is where Rosa Bud lives. The Nun's House is described as:

a venerable brick edifice, whose present appellation is doubtless derived from the legend of its conventual uses. On the trim gate enclosing its old courtyard is a resplendent brass plate flashing forth the legend: ‘Seminary for Young Ladies. Miss Twinkleton.’ The house-front is so old and worn, and the brass plate is so shining and staring, that the general result has reminded imaginative strangers of a battered old beau with a large modern eye-glass stuck in his blind eye.

This is where we meet Rosa, or Pussy:

The pet pupil of the Nuns’ House is Miss Rosa Bud, of course called Rosebud; wonderfully pretty, wonderfully childish, wonderfully whimsical. An awkward interest (awkward because romantic) attaches to Miss Bud in the minds of the young ladies, on account of its being known to them that a husband has been chosen for her by will and bequest, and that her guardian is bound down to bestow her on that husband when he comes of age.........

The Nuns’ House is never in such a state of flutter as when this allotted husband calls to see little Rosebud. (It is unanimously understood by the young ladies that he is lawfully entitled to this privilege, and that if Miss Twinkleton disputed it, she would be instantly taken up and transported.) When his ring at the gate-bell is expected, or takes place, every young lady who can, under any pretence, look out of window, looks out of window; while every young lady who is ‘practising,’ practises out of time; and the French class becomes so demoralised that the mark goes round as briskly as the bottle at a convivial party in the last century.


Here we meet Miss Twinkleton's assistant Mrs. Tisher. I mention this because what it says about her doesn't make sense to me. Maybe the pain in my foot is messing up my brain, but the following I just don't understand. What about this makes the departed Tisher a hairdresser?

Miss Twinkleton’s companion in both states of existence, and equally adaptable to either, is one Mrs. Tisher: a deferential widow with a weak back, a chronic sigh, and a suppressed voice, who looks after the young ladies’ wardrobes, and leads them to infer that she has seen better days. Perhaps this is the reason why it is an article of faith with the servants, handed down from race to race, that the departed Tisher was a hairdresser.

When Edwin makes his visit this time I was surprised to see how Rosa acts. She enters the room with her apron over her head? It brings back memories of Little Dorrit, isn't that the book where the maid was always covering her head with her apron? But here it is Rosa, and she is acting much younger, or perhaps sillier, than I thought she was;

The last new maid, who has never seen the young gentleman Miss Rosa is engaged to, and who is making his acquaintance between the hinges of the open door, left open for the purpose, stumbles guiltily down the kitchen stairs, as a charming little apparition, with its face concealed by a little silk apron thrown over its head, glides into the parlour.

‘O! it is so ridiculous!’ says the apparition, stopping and shrinking. ‘Don’t, Eddy!’

‘Don’t what, Rosa?’

‘Don’t come any nearer, please. It is so absurd.’

‘What is absurd, Rosa?’

‘The whole thing is. It is so absurd to be an engaged orphan and it is so absurd to have the girls and the servants scuttling about after one, like mice in the wainscot; and it is so absurd to be called upon!’

The apparition appears to have a thumb in the corner of its mouth while making this complaint.

‘You give me an affectionate reception, Pussy, I must say.’

‘Well, I will in a minute, Eddy, but I can’t just yet. How are you?’ (very shortly.)

‘I am unable to reply that I am much the better for seeing you, Pussy, inasmuch as I see nothing of you.’

This second remonstrance brings a dark, bright, pouting eye out from a corner of the apron; but it swiftly becomes invisible again, as the apparition exclaims: ‘O good gracious! you have had half your hair cut off!’

‘I should have done better to have had my head cut off, I think,’ says Edwin, rumpling the hair in question, with a fierce glance at the looking-glass, and giving an impatient stamp. ‘Shall I go?’

‘No; you needn’t go just yet, Eddy. The girls would all be asking questions why you went.’

‘Once for all, Rosa, will you uncover that ridiculous little head of yours and give me a welcome?’

The apron is pulled off the childish head, as its wearer replies: ‘You’re very welcome, Eddy. There! I’m sure that’s nice. Shake hands. No, I can’t kiss you, because I’ve got an acidulated drop in my mouth.’



Listening to these two talk to each other, I can't quite imagine them ever married to each other. Not happily anyway. Them talking about Rosa's birthday celebration at the school only turns into another argument between the two.

‘Any partners at the ball?’

‘We danced with one another, of course, sir. But some of the girls made game to be their brothers. It was so droll!’

‘Did anybody make game to be—’

‘To be you? O dear yes!’ cries Rosa, laughing with great enjoyment. ‘That was the first thing done.’

‘I hope she did it pretty well,’ says Edwin rather doubtfully.

‘O, it was excellent!—I wouldn’t dance with you, you know.’

Edwin scarcely seems to see the force of this; begs to know if he may take the liberty to ask why?

‘Because I was so tired of you,’ returns Rosa. But she quickly adds, and pleadingly too, seeing displeasure in his face: ‘Dear Eddy, you were just as tired of me, you know.’

‘Did I say so, Rosa?’

‘Say so! Do you ever say so? No, you only showed it. O, she did it so well!’ cries Rosa, in a sudden ecstasy with her counterfeit betrothed.


Even when they go out for a walk "pretending" that they aren't engaged they still quarrel, although why pretending should have stopped them from quarreling I'm not sure:

The two youthful figures, side by side, but not now arm-in-arm, wander discontentedly about the old Close; and each sometimes stops and slowly imprints a deeper footstep in the fallen leaves.

‘Well!’ says Edwin, after a lengthy silence. ‘According to custom. We can’t get on, Rosa.’

Rosa tosses her head, and says she don’t want to get on.

‘That’s a pretty sentiment, Rosa, considering.’

‘Considering what?’

‘If I say what, you’ll go wrong again.’

‘You’ll go wrong, you mean, Eddy. Don’t be ungenerous.’

‘Ungenerous! I like that!’

‘Then I don’t like that, and so I tell you plainly,’ Rosa pouts.

‘Now, Rosa, I put it to you. Who disparaged my profession, my destination—’

‘You are not going to be buried in the Pyramids, I hope?’ she interrupts, arching her delicate eyebrows. ‘You never said you were. If you are, why haven’t you mentioned it to me? I can’t find out your plans by instinct.’

‘Now, Rosa, you know very well what I mean, my dear.’

‘Well then, why did you begin with your detestable red-nosed giantesses? And she would, she would, she would, she would, she would powder it!’ cries Rosa, in a little burst of comical contradictory spleen.

‘Somehow or other, I never can come right in these discussions,’ says Edwin, sighing and becoming resigned.

‘How is it possible, sir, that you ever can come right when you’re always wrong?


These two really should not be married, not until they grow up anyway. Eventually Rosa bursts into tears and they end up sitting on a bench until Rosa can once again compose herself. They are seated near the Cathedral, (of course, everything that has happened so far is near the Cathedral) and listen to the organ playing, but when Edwin mentions that he can hear Jasper's voice Rosa jumps up and insists on leaving. Why? The rather sad last few sentences are these;

‘Now say, what do you see?’

‘See, Rosa?’

‘Why, I thought you Egyptian boys could look into a hand and see all sorts of phantoms. Can’t you see a happy Future?’

For certain, neither of them sees a happy Present, as the gate opens and closes, and one goes in, and the other goes away.



message 4: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

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Our next chapter is titled, "Mr. Sapsea" and I find I'm not having a very easy time of finding someone I like in this book so far. I don't like Mr. Jasper at all, there is just something about him, even other than his opium habit, that isn't right, I don't care for Edwin or his future wife Rosa, and now we can put Mr. Sapsea on my list. As Dickens says:

Accepting the Jackass as the type of self-sufficient stupidity and conceit—a custom, perhaps, like some few other customs, more conventional than fair—then the purest jackass in Cloisterham is Mr. Thomas Sapsea, Auctioneer.

Mr. Sapsea dresses like the Dean, looks like the Dean, gets addressed like he's the Dean, he is proud of this, and even conducts his auctions in a voice like the Dean. He has many admirers, he is a credit to Cloisterham, or again as Dickens says:

He possesses the great qualities of being portentous and dull, and of having a roll in his speech, and another roll in his gait; not to mention a certain gravely flowing action with his hands, as if he were presently going to Confirm the individual with whom he holds discourse. Much nearer sixty years of age than fifty, with a flowing outline of stomach, and horizontal creases in his waistcoat; reputed to be rich; voting at elections in the strictly respectable interest; morally satisfied that nothing but he himself has grown since he was a baby; how can dunder-headed Mr. Sapsea be otherwise than a credit to Cloisterham, and society?

I believe there are a few hints of how I feel about Mr. Sapsea in that paragraph. He reminds me of a previous Dickens character, but I haven't been able to remember which one it was yet. On this particular day Mr. Sapsea is visited by Mr. Jasper. After they get through the usual, usual for them anyway, welcome, I am honored to be here, I am honored to have you here, sort of thing, they move on to Mr. Sapsea being a man of the world through the things he auctions, not through traveling. I'm not sure how or why they are on that topic, but eventually get to the reason Mr. Jasper has been invited there, Mrs. Sapsea. The late Mrs. Sapsea that is. It appears that there once was a lady by the name of Miss Brobity who kept an establishment much like the one at the Nun's house, but in a different part of town. According to Sapsea she enjoyed coming to his auctions, she was there whenever she could be, everyone knew she admired him and his style, even copying it in her school, and finally she marries him. I guess someone had to do it.

‘Miss Brobity’s Being, young man, was deeply imbued with homage to Mind. She revered Mind, when launched, or, as I say, precipitated, on an extensive knowledge of the world. When I made my proposal, she did me the honour to be so overshadowed with a species of Awe, as to be able to articulate only the two words, “O Thou!” meaning myself. Her limpid blue eyes were fixed upon me, her semi-transparent hands were clasped together, pallor overspread her aquiline features, and, though encouraged to proceed, she never did proceed a word further. I disposed of the parallel establishment by private contract, and we became as nearly one as could be expected under the circumstances. But she never could, and she never did, find a phrase satisfactory to her perhaps-too-favourable estimate of my intellect.(I could) To the very last (feeble action of liver), she addressed me in the same unfinished terms.’

But now she has died and Mr. Sapsea has written an inscription for her tombstone, it will be one of a kind, at least I hope so;

ETHELINDA,
Reverential Wife of
MR. THOMAS SAPSEA,
AUCTIONEER, VALUER, ESTATE AGENT, &c.,
of this city.
Whose Knowledge of the World,
Though somewhat extensive,
Never brought him acquainted with
A SPIRIT
More capable of
looking up to him.
STRANGER, PAUSE
And ask thyself the Question,
CANST THOU DO LIKEWISE?
If Not,
WITH A BLUSH RETIRE.


Poor Ethelinda, whether alive or dead, poor Ethelinda. Jasper finds the inscription "admirable" calling it "striking, characteristic, and complete.’ I agree. And now Durdles arrives. Of Durdles we are told;

Durdles is a stonemason; chiefly in the gravestone, tomb, and monument way, and wholly of their colour from head to foot. No man is better known in Cloisterham. He is the chartered libertine of the place. Fame trumpets him a wonderful workman—which, for aught that anybody knows, he may be (as he never works); and a wonderful sot—which everybody knows he is. With the Cathedral crypt he is better acquainted than any living authority; it may even be than any dead one.

Durdles always has a two-foot rule in his pocket, and a mason's hammer almost always in his hand. He goes continually sounding and tapping all about the Cathedral looking for "another old 'un". He leads a gipsy sort of life, carrying his dinner with him and sitting on tombstones to dine. He is an old bachelor, and lives in an unfinished house built from stones stolen from the city wall. In this unfinished house two journeymen incessantly chip, and two other journeymen incessantly saw stone. I thought for awhile how hard it must be to carve the inscriptions on tombstones. Durdles is given the inscription, but he shows no emotion when reading it, he simply measures it and tells Mr. Sapsea it will come in to an eighth of an inch. He also tells them he isn't feeling well;

‘How are you Durdles?’

‘I’ve got a touch of the Tombatism on me, Mr. Jasper, but that I must expect.’

‘You mean the Rheumatism,’ says Sapsea, in a sharp tone. (He is nettled by having his composition so mechanically received.)

‘No, I don’t. I mean, Mr. Sapsea, the Tombatism. It’s another sort from Rheumatism. Mr. Jasper knows what Durdles means. You get among them Tombs afore it’s well light on a winter morning, and keep on, as the Catechism says, a-walking in the same all the days of your life, and you’ll know what Durdles means.’

‘It is a bitter cold place,’ Mr. Jasper assents, with an antipathetic shiver.

‘And if it’s bitter cold for you, up in the chancel, with a lot of live breath smoking out about you, what the bitterness is to Durdles, down in the crypt among the earthy damps there, and the dead breath of the old ’uns,’ returns that individual, ‘Durdles leaves you to judge.


Shortly after that Durdles takes his leave, being told by Sapsea that it is to be done at once. When Jasper asks him why he is sometimes called Stony, Durdles leaves without replying. Mr. Sapsea and Jasper spend the rest of the evening playing backgammon (a game I always found boring), and with a supper of cold roast beef and salad. I almost feel sorry for Jasper having to spend an evening with him.


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Chapter 5 sees us still with Durdles as Jasper returns home from his evening with Sapsea. Durdles is leaning against the iron fence of the burial-ground while a "hideous small boy" flings stones at him. Sometimes the stones hit him and sometimes they miss him, but Durdles doesn't move. When Jasper stops the boy insisting on the boy handing the stones to him, the boy tells him that Durdles gives him a penny to stone him home if he catches him out too late. Jasper asks Durdles if he knows the boy and Durdles says he does, he is "Deputy". Deputy tells him that he is a servant at the Traveller's Twopenny and all the man-servants are named Deputy. I have to quote this line:

Durdles was making his reflections here when you come up, sir, surrounded by his works, like a poplar Author.

I can now picture Dickens in his library surrounded by his works. Jasper points out the different monuments to Jasper as Dickens could point out different works to us. They walk along together with Deputy following them all the way. I'm not at all sure how I feel about a character who allows someone to stone them yet. When Jasper asks why he allows Deputy to stone him Durdles tells him;

‘That’s it, sir,’ returns Durdles, quite satisfied; ‘at which he takes aim. I took him in hand and gave him an object. What was he before? A destroyer. What work did he do? Nothing but destruction. What did he earn by it? Short terms in Cloisterham jail. Not a person, not a piece of property, not a winder, not a horse, nor a dog, nor a cat, nor a bird, nor a fowl, nor a pig, but what he stoned, for want of an enlightened object. I put that enlightened object before him, and now he can turn his honest halfpenny by the three penn’orth a week.’

As they walk they have this curious conversation:

Without any endeavour to correct the literality of this opinion, Jasper surveys his companion—covered from head to foot with old mortar, lime, and stone grit—as though he, Jasper, were getting imbued with a romantic interest in his weird life.

‘Yours is a curious existence.’

Without furnishing the least clue to the question, whether he receives this as a compliment or as quite the reverse, Durdles gruffly answers: ‘Yours is another.’

‘Well! inasmuch as my lot is cast in the same old earthy, chilly, never-changing place, Yes. But there is much more mystery and interest in your connection with the Cathedral than in mine. Indeed, I am beginning to have some idea of asking you to take me on as a sort of student, or free ’prentice, under you, and to let me go about with you sometimes, and see some of these odd nooks in which you pass your days.’

The Stony One replies, in a general way, ‘All right. Everybody knows where to find Durdles, when he’s wanted.’ Which, if not strictly true, is approximately so, if taken to express that Durdles may always be found in a state of vagabondage somewhere.

‘What I dwell upon most,’ says Jasper, pursuing his subject of romantic interest, ‘is the remarkable accuracy with which you would seem to find out where people are buried.


I find it curious because I wonder why it is that Jasper wants to learn Durdles business. Perhaps it is just because he is interested in what Durdles does, perhaps not. And now they have reached Durdle's home and the chapter ends with Jasper returning to his own home;

John Jasper returns by another way to his gatehouse, and entering softly with his key, finds his fire still burning. He takes from a locked press a peculiar-looking pipe, which he fills—but not with tobacco—and, having adjusted the contents of the bowl, very carefully, with a little instrument, ascends an inner staircase of only a few steps, leading to two rooms. One of these is his own sleeping chamber: the other is his nephew’s. There is a light in each.

His nephew lies asleep, calm and untroubled. John Jasper stands looking down upon him, his unlighted pipe in his hand, for some time, with a fixed and deep attention. Then, hushing his footsteps, he passes to his own room, lights his pipe, and delivers himself to the Spectres it invokes at midnight.



message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Taking us back to the opium den I found this:

Dickens is famous for his portrayal and caricature of nineteenth-century London. So it is significant that he has immortalized this opium den in east London, identifying it as part of the fabric-weave of Victorian London. The establishment "run by the Chinaman" described in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was based on a real opium den. It was run by Ah Sing, or John Johnston as he was known to his clients, an immigrant from Amoy in China. Some of the literary elite of the time including Arthur Conan Doyle (see "The Man with the Twisted Lip") and Dickens himself visited the area, although whether they themselves took up the "pipe" has remained undisclosed. Ah Sing's opium den was probably the most famous of the dens in Victorian London, attracting gentlemen from the very elite of London's high society.


Photograph of two women outside Ah Sing's Opium den

http://www.worldhistory.biz/ancient-h...


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Dear Curiousities,

Hello friends, I'm a little early, but I thought I'd get this done before my next visit with my pain pills. :-) We are beginning the book that makes me sad each time I read it. ..."


Dickens certainly knows how to capture the reader’s attention. The cathedral town swirls into our imaginations, but does so with questions. The cathedral’s “massive” presence with towers is contrasted with a place that is described as “the meanest and closest of small rooms.” Within the first sentences of the novel Dickens establishes the concept of space, both constrictive and expansive. This feeling of space is enhanced by the fact that the setting is indeterminate. We begin the novel with a series of questions. We are given no answers.

Did anyone else find that the opening to MED is similar to that of ACC? There too a character encounters an initial situation where reality seems warped, untended, and tilted.

The end of the chapter gives us another juxtaposition. Jasper “gropes his way down the broken stairs [and] gives a good morning to some rat-ridden door-keeper.” We are then told that “[t]hat same afternoon, the massive grey square tower of an old Cathedral rises before the sight of a jaded traveller.” Dickens has introduced both the surreal and the concrete and the transitory impermanence and the historical presence to the novel. Two places and two possibilities for life.

I’m using the Penguin Classics edition of MED. A note at the end of the chapter identifies the phrase “When The Wicked Man” as referring to Ezekiel 18.27 “Again, when the wicked man turned his away from his wickedness that he hath committed and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” I don’t think it is chance that Dickens wanted to point out the the contrary states of good and evil and how one must act to be lawful and right and to “save his soul.”

We are in for a mystery of good verses evil and the state of imperminance and surreal verses the foundations of eight, order and justice.


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Taking us back to the opium den I found this:

Dickens is famous for his portrayal and caricature of nineteenth-century London. So it is significant that he has immortalized this opium den in east ..."


Kim

Thanks for the link. What horrors those dens must have been.


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Chapter 2 is titled, "A Dean, and A Chapter Also", I have to quote the first paragraph simply because of the bird reference for Peter.

Whosoever has observed that sedate and clerical bird, the roo..."


Thanks Kim. What would I do without a few bird references to keep me happy. Rooks. Clerical birds. I’ll file that away for now.

Since this was meant to be a shorter novel Dickens is wasting little time introducing his cast of characters. Also, Dickens gets right into an apparent love connection between young Edwin Drood and a young lady named Rosa Bud (aka Pussy). Edwin has started to draw a picture of Pussy, but it is as yet incomplete and hangs over Jasper’s fireplace. Edwin and Jack discuss the unfinished work as they crack nuts.

Well, I’m starting to wonder about all this. Why does Jack have a picture of Edwin’s girlfriend over his fireplace? Does Jack mean more than it seems when he says that everyone has skeletons in their closets? Surely Jack’s abuse of opium and its obvious effects on him established so early in the story mean something? Am I trying to find a mystery where no mystery yet exists? Time will tell.

Further, we have the Dean note how “[o]ur affections, however laudible, in this transitory world, should never master us; we should guide them, guide them.” John Jasper takes opium, he has a picture of another man’s girlfriend over his mantle, and Edwin Drood has a passion for a woman. Much is being built in these early chapters.


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Chapter 5 sees us still with Durdles as Jasper returns home from his evening with Sapsea. Durdles is leaning against the iron fence of the burial-ground while a "hideous small boy" flings stones at..."

Durdles is a great creation of Dickens. I find it very interesting that Jasper has much interest in him. They seem, on the surface, to have little in common except their mutual connection to the church. Now, why would Dickens tell us that Durdles spends much of his time tapping amid the stones of the church and why would Dickens tell us about “Durdles, down in the crypt among the earthly damps there, and the dead breath of the old ‘uns” and why would Jasper have any interest in Durdles taking him on as “as a sort of student ... and to ... go about with you sometimes, and see some of these odd nooks in which you pass your days.” Rather Gothic in flavour don’t you think? Rather suspicious as well.


message 11: by Débora (last edited Oct 22, 2017 11:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Débora Paias | 37 comments Wow, those were a lot of meticulous and organized observations about the first five chapters from you, Kim!

I enjoyed the beginning of the book a lot, maybe because I was simply too excited to participate on a group reading like this one.
Everytime I start reading a Dickens novel, I feel like I'm visiting an old friend, he prepares me a cup of tea and we sit on a very cozy room while he tells me a story.

This time was different. I read the first paragraph, and I was not understanding it at all. It didn't felt cozy either. Something about cathedrals, sultans, elephants... what? I kept going, then I finally understood that Dickens was exploring a person under the efects of opium. Now it does make sense!

I can't exactly precise why I'm liking this reading so much. It doesn't have to do with my attachment to the characters, because I'm not feeling it yet. I think it is because of the feeling of the story, the climate, you know? It reminds me a lot the beginning of some Agatha Christie novel (maybe because I read Christie a lot), we have some characters being introduced, a small english town, some tumbs and graveyards, small and apparently superfluous details of everyday lives being revealed... it's obvious something very mysteryous will happen very soon. It's like the heavy clouding skies and the thick air before a thunderstorm. This is how I feel MED so far.

Also, all this cathedral theme reminded me The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, by Victor Hugo. You know, some strange people around a cathedral (that looks like a character itself), all of them with secrets, ambitions and "hidden skeletons in the house", as Jasper would say. With that comparison in mind, I couldn't help myself to compare Jasper with Frollo. They both look like very austere men, who have an appearance of a steady life, but have deep down themselves some secrets and locked desires (what I'm trying to say is that I think Jasper is in love with Rosebud and that he is very jealous of his nephew, but I'm not sure).

So that were my first impressions! I never read MED before and I'm not very aware of the plot, so maybe my observations are completely wrong. But that's part of the fun!

A little note: Even with me reading the english edition of MED, I decided to rent an abridged brazilian translated copy of it on the library, to help me to understand the story better. On this copy, there is not an observation that this book is an unfinished work! And it's not just that: there are more chapters in it than the english editon! I don't understand it at all, but I'll continue reading both and I'll let you know if there is an ending on this copy and what that ending may be.


message 12: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 363 comments I just read through chapter 3 this morning but have not read through the above comments yet. I wanted to chime in with my thoughts so far, though.

My main question at this point is why did Edwin and Rosa's fathers coordinate to have them married? And it seems quite silly and unfortunate that while both Edwin and Rosa feel bound to each other yet are not looking forward to being married to each other, they are still planning on going ahead with the marriage even though their fathers are both deceased. Essentially the deceased are planning the futures of the living, and the living are not happy in the arrangement. At least Edwin it trying to be optimistic about their future marriage, while Rosa is being a pill about it. Or, maybe she is just being realistic as they seem to end up arguing every time they spend time together.

On the other hand, I found it interesting that although Jasper has his future in his own hands, he is also not happy with his current lot in life. Also, I wonder what his ailments are that are causing him to turn to opium as a pain remedy.

I liked this sentence, and the imagery of fluttering leaves in the ground leading to the introduction of two characters:

Their fallen leaves lie strewn thickly about. Some of these leaves, in a timid rush, seek santuary within the low-arched cathedral door; but two men coming out resist them, and cast them forth again with their feet; this done, one of the two locks the door with a goodly key, and the other flits away with a folio music-book.

Peter - I was happy to spy some birds in the form of rooks! I wonder if these rooks will be regular visitors in the remaining chapters.


message 13: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John (jdourg) | 1038 comments Two of his last books seem to have an "arranged marriage" issue in them.

Was this a preoccupation of Dickens throughout his career or something later in life, if at all?


message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Débora, I have three copies of MED. Putting number three aside for the moment, the first two end with the same number of pages, but one book has three more chapters than the other. I haven't attempted to figure that out yet. I just started reading the one that has the chapters as Tristram listed in the schedule, I get who's opening what chapters which week confused enough as it is without throwing three more into the mix.

The other copy is finished. Supposedly. I haven't read it yet, but from what I can tell Charles Dickens after he died spoke to a medium and told him the rest of the novel. There is a prologue by the author (Dickens I think) and another by the medium (I can't remember his name), I haven't read any of it yet though. I would have thought that Dickens would have had better things to do once he was dead than finishing books through other people. I know I will. :-)


message 15: by Peter (last edited Oct 22, 2017 02:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "I just read through chapter 3 this morning but have not read through the above comments yet. I wanted to chime in with my thoughts so far, though.

My main question at this point is why did Edwin a..."


Hi Linda

Yes. As you well know a Dickens novel without birds is, well, somewhat of an empty nest.

It was good to read your post. Welcome home! I agree with you that it is rather strange that Rosa and Edwin seem doomed to an arranged marriage, even though both of the arrangers are deceased. John has also noted that the arranged marriage issue is one to reflect upon.

While we don’t find such a preponderance or arranged marriages of major characters in the earlier novels we seem to be getting them late in Dickens’s career. With a wild surmise on my part would it be possible to see this as some form of comment on Dickens’s own life and marriage? While his marriage to Catherine Hogarth was not arranged by their parents there might have been a touch of expediency since Catherine's father was connected to the world of publishing and Dickens was a young writer .... ?

Now separated from Catherine Dickens, Charles was free to pursue his heart to the young Ellen Turnan. There is, perhaps, more than a touch of irony in the fact that while Dickens and Ellen were together her mother was never far away. Ellen’s mother was even with them during the rail disaster, and thus was, no doubt, with her daughter and Charles while they were on the continent.


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Chapter 5 sees us still with Durdles as Jasper returns home from his evening with Sapsea. Durdles is leaning against the iron fence of the burial-ground while a "hideous small boy" flings stones at..."

Kim

I completely agree with you. Why would Jasper want to learn Durdles business. Why would anyone want to know how to tap their way to discovering hollow spaces and crypts in a church? Would it be as a hobby, a need to find secret places, or a way to find empty spaces to put secret objects? This mystery business is making me very suspicious.

Oh, and since we have left OMF will the Curiosities now be meeting in a cosy corner of the Travellers’ Twopenny?


Débora Paias | 37 comments Kim wrote: "Débora, I have three copies of MED. Putting number three aside for the moment, the first two end with the same number of pages, but one book has three more chapters than the other. I haven't attemp..."

Yeah, Kim, these MED copies are very strange indeed.

I discovered now through the internet that the library brazilian copy is a translation that contains the medium ending. I felt a little deceived, because there is no indication about it in the copy at all.

So I think I'll concentrate myself on my english edition after all. ;)


message 18: by Ami (last edited Oct 22, 2017 07:15PM) (new) - added it

Ami | 372 comments I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined or discovered Dickens true intentions as to the novel’s conclusion. The first five chapters in and I'm obviously in trouble because I have nothing BUT questions. Glad to be reading this with some support on my side! LOL!

The Dawn
I loved the first sentence, it being a question. I get the sense that this novel is more textural in description? How can this cathedral be present in the vicinity that it is, the appearance relegated to resembling a grim spike? The second paragraph continues to shed a little more light on our beginnings, the hazy point of view belonging to a man who has over indulged himself in the opium den. A haggard lady points out, Ye've smoked as many as five since ye come in at midnight...Oh, my! It's a bizarre start to the novel but by the end, this jaded traveler has made haste back to the cathedral. All said and done, at chapter's end, I ask the question who is this man, and considering the importance of set and setting in the majority of Dickens's novels, what significance will it hold as we continue to progress through the story?

A Dean, and a Chapter Also
Enter, Mr. Edwin Drood...Nephew of the choirmaster, Mr. Jasper. Their relationship is a curious one, Dickens pointing out both Drood and Jasper are close in age, leaving Jasper in a position of both uncle and maybe even a brother figure? I too found something "not quite right" with that second paragraph, specifically with this sentence, A look of intentness and intensity–a look of hungry, exacting, watchful, and yet devoted affection... I can't quite put my finger on it, but it reminded me of an interaction between two wolves?

After Jasper's warning to Drood, Drood says, I am afraid I am but a shallow, surface kind of fellow...I'm not sure if this serves as a grounds for something to be underway? Meaning, is it a reason for some unseemly event to befall, poor Edwin?

The Nun's House
Whether they were ever walled up alive in odd angles and jutting gables of the building for having some ineradicable leaven of busy mother Nature in them which has kept the fermenting world alive ever since; these may be matters of interest to its haunting ghosts…
Did this strike anybody as a blatant attempt to foreshadow some terrible event, by Dickens?

Or, here, when Rosa talks about an occurrence in Egypt...
somebody, dragged out by the legs, half choked with bats and dust.
She later questions Edwin, in jest,
You are not going to be buried in the Pyramids, I hope?

but when Edwin mentions that he can hear Jasper's voice Rosa jumps up and insists on leaving. Why?
Kim, I think she's afraid of him.

Mr. Sapsea & Chapter 5
I come away from this chapter with more questions than answers, a trend, considering what I've posted thus far.

Dickens does a great job of continuing to build an air of suspense around Uncle Jasper: his fear evoking physical features, the opium addiction, and what's his fascination with the key to the tombs in the cathedral, the prospects of a lover's triangle (Jasper, Rosa, Edwin), and standing above Edwin for some time while he was sleeping, with a fixed and deep attention? All of these events are leading to a tragic event, and so far, the only villainous character I see is Uncle Jasper. Having just read "OMF," with its theme of veiled truths, I can't help myself from thinking perhaps, Uncle Jasper too, is not all he seems? Hopefully?


message 19: by Pamela (last edited Oct 23, 2017 01:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) I really enjoyed that opening chapter. Lesser novelists might have opened with a straightforward description of the cathedral town, but Dickens brings us to it in a more oblique and dramatic (and grim) way through the scene in the opium den.

I agree with all those who see John Jasper as a sinister figure. Despite the fact that he is only a few years older than Edwin, he seems much older to me, and world-weary. Edwin seems very naive, and Rosa is obviously afraid of Jasper.

Durdles is a gem, and the idea of him keeping the young lad out of trouble by paying him to throw stones at Durdles himself is truly comical.


message 20: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John (jdourg) | 1038 comments Ami wrote: "I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined or discovered Dickens tru..."

I must admit also a sense of anxiety -- and sadness -- that this was his last work and that he passed away in the active act of creating it.


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined or discovered Dickens tru..."

Hi Ami

I always enjoy reading your thoughtful commentaries. I agree that the opening chapters cause great unease and present many questions but no answers. Jasper is a rather curious and perhaps even sinister person isn’t he?

Because the novel’s title is “The Mystery ...” and we know the novel remains unfinished, I find myself reading it in a slightly different, more cautious way. Already I’m eagerly awaiting our final speculations at the end of the novel.


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "I really enjoyed that opening chapter. Lesser novelists might have opened with a straightforward description of the cathedral town, but Dickens brings us to it in a more oblique and dramatic (and g..."

Hi Pamela

Yes. Durdles is a great Dickensian creation. I hope we get to read much more about him as the novel progresses.


Débora Paias | 37 comments Ami wrote: "I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined or discovered Dickens tru..."

Oh, Ami, I didn't realize about this pyramid remark of Rosa... This looks like a creepy flashforward to me...


message 24: by Pamela (last edited Oct 23, 2017 08:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) I was also quite fascinated by the reference to Belzoni and the pyramids. I found this article on a book which makes him sound a bit of a disaster http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/boo...

So is Rosa being merely facetious about Edwin's imaginary fiancée and their imaginary life in Egypt, or is this a creepy foreshadowing? Or a bit of both? More questions....


Peter | 3030 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "I was also quite fascinated by the reference to Belzoni and the pyramids. I found this article on a book which makes him sound a bit of a disaster http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/boo......"

Pamela

Thanks for the link to the Belzoni article. He certainly is a larger-that-life character. Dare we say he is very Dickensian?

I really enjoy how Dickens weaves so many anecdotes into his novels. His original readers would have, no doubt, more clearly understood such references. For us, the joy is in the discovery.


Pamela (bibliohound) I agree, Peter, I am sure Belzoni was still rather well-known in Dickens' time. I also find joy in uncovering these little facts.


message 27: by Ami (last edited Oct 23, 2017 10:26AM) (new) - added it

Ami | 372 comments Débora wrote: "Wow, those were a lot of meticulous and organized observations about the first five chapters from you, Kim!

I enjoyed the beginning of the book a lot, maybe because I was simply too excited to par..."


So that were my first impressions! I never read MED before and I'm not very aware of the plot, so maybe my observations are completely wrong. But that's part of the fun!
It sounds like you're understanding of the chapter is pretty spot on, Débora. Cathedrals, Sultans, Elephants, maybe Dickens smoked a little opium when writing this? Hmmm...

I can't wait to read more about your Brazilian translation... Keep us posted! :)

Ah, I just read your other post about the "medium translation..." what exactly does that mean, Débora?

Oh, Ami, I didn't realize about this pyramid remark of Rosa... This looks like a creepy flashforward to me...
It's not conspicuous because she says it in such a nonchalant manner, but I found it odd, following the story she was telling him about the incident in Egypt.


message 28: by Ami (last edited Oct 23, 2017 10:16AM) (new) - added it

Ami | 372 comments Peter wrote: "Kim wrote: "Chapter 5 sees us still with Durdles as Jasper returns home from his evening with Sapsea. Durdles is leaning against the iron fence of the burial-ground while a "hideous small boy" flin..."

Why would Jasper want to learn Durdles business. Why would anyone want to know how to tap their way to discovering hollow spaces and crypts in a church?
Maybe there's more than just the obvious hidden in the crypts. Jasper is on the hunt, that's for sure. But for "what," is the question.

I always enjoy reading your thoughtful commentaries.
You're too kind to me, Peter. I wish I could have gifted you with some thoughtful commentary, instead plying everybody with my barrage of questions! LOL!

Because the novel’s title is “The Mystery ...” and we know the novel remains unfinished, I find myself reading it in a slightly different, more cautious way. Already I’m eagerly awaiting our final speculations at the end of the novel.
yes, I agree. This is exactly what I'm doing as well, and it feels so instinctual...Reading it a little differently knowing it's unfinished.


message 29: by Ami (last edited Oct 23, 2017 10:28AM) (new) - added it

Ami | 372 comments John wrote: "Ami wrote: "I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined or discovered..."

yes, this anxiety and sadness...These personal feelings, in spite them, this first chapter really grabbed me as a reader. I loved reading the descriptions of this Cathedral town seen through the eyes of an opium addict.


message 30: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Ami, one copy of the book Débora and I have was finished by a "medium", Thomas James, who wrote it while Dickens spirit told him what to write, I haven't read it, but here's some information about it.

1873, a young Vermont printer, Thomas James, published a version which he claimed had been literally 'ghost-written' by him channelling Dickens's spirit. A sensation was created, with several critics, including Arthur Conan Doyle, a spiritualist himself, praising this version, calling it similar in style to Dickens's work; and for several decades the James version of Edwin Drood was common in America. Other Drood scholars disagree. John C. Walters "dismiss[ed it] with contempt", stating that the work "is self-condemned by its futility, illiteracy, and hideous American mannerisms; the mystery itself becomes a nightmare, and the solution only deepens the obscurity."


message 31: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Ami wrote: "I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined or discovered..."

From the introduction to the copy I have;

During the last days of May he was working on the sixth number in the offices of All The Year Round in Wellington Street. It should not be forgotten that, busy and infirm as he was, he still continued to edit this weekly periodical. His son, Charles Dickens Jr. came in to bid him goodbye. He found his father 'writing very earnestly', and said a few words to him. Dickens looked up, but showed no awareness of his presence. His son spoke out again, and Dickens looked at him. But he did not see him. He was so enveloped in the world of Cloisterham and Jasper that he saw nothing around him. 'He was in dreamland with Edwin Drood,' Charles wrote later, 'and I left him - for the last time.'


message 32: by Ami (new) - added it

Ami | 372 comments Kim wrote: "Peter wrote: "Ami wrote: "I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined..."

Kim, stop it...Really? A medium? Oh, boy. That should be interesting!

Thank you so much!


message 33: by Ami (new) - added it

Ami | 372 comments I don't mean to obsess, but I have been. This first paragraph, I wonder...

An ancient English Cathedral Tower? How can the ancient English Cathedral tower be here! The well-known massive gray square tower of its old Cathedral? How can that be here! There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, between the eye and it, from any point of the real prospect. What is the spike that intervenes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Sultan’s orders for the impaling of a horde of Turkish robbers, one by one. It is so, for cymbals clash, and the Sultan goes by to his palace in long procession. Ten thousand scimitars flash in the sunlight, and thrice ten thousand dancing-girls strew flowers. Then, follow white elephants caparisoned in countless gorgeous colours, and infinite in number and attendants. Still the Cathedral Tower rises in the background, where it cannot be, and still no writhing figure is on the grim spike. Stay! Is the spike so low a thing as the rusty spike on the top of a post of an old bedstead that has tumbled all awry? Some vague period of drowsy laughter must be devoted to the consideration of this possibility.
Could it be, in his opium induced state, he is in a reverie of memories past? We don't know Uncle Jasper's history at present, maybe he was overseas at some point where he saw impaled, writhing bodies cast on a grim spike? He's conflating his past with his present.


Débora Paias | 37 comments Ami wrote: "Débora wrote: "Wow, those were a lot of meticulous and organized observations about the first five chapters from you, Kim!

I enjoyed the beginning of the book a lot, maybe because I was simply too..."


Yes, Ami, as Kim explained, the copy I picked from the library was finished through a "medium". It is also an abrigded version of the story, and a translation to brazilian portuguese, so you can imagine how much of Charles Dickens is still in there. As I felt a little betrayed because this edition doesn't have any information about all these additions to the original story (it only tells it is a "special" edition...), I kind of gave up on it, and I'll continue the reading directly from my Kindle edition, which is unfinished and in english.


Débora Paias | 37 comments Kim wrote: "Peter wrote: "Ami wrote: "I'm already feeling some anxiety as I embark upon Dickens's last novel. Knowing it became one of the greatest mysteries in literature, as none have convincingly determined..."

That's a sad story...


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Linda | 363 comments Two thoughts after finished chapters 4 and 5:

Dickens gave me a chuckle by initially describing Mr. Sapsea as a "jackass", but it soon became very apparent why, and that the description suits him well. I couldn't get over what he plans to have inscribed on his wife's headstone! :/

Second, I'm wondering why Jasper is keen on learning from Durdles and, in particular, what skills he is looking for. Very peculiar, and even a bit suspicious.


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Linda | 363 comments Kim wrote: "We are beginning the book that makes me sad each time I read it. Every page I turn of MED is one page closer to the book being "finished", and once that last page is turned all writings by Dickens are done, the last page he wrote that day is the last page that he wrote at all."

This is my first time reading MED, but I had these exact same thoughts as I began reading the first pages. So sad to think of Dickens with all the plans for this book flurrying about in his head, so many possibilities, and then to know that he only completes half of it. And Kim, your mentioning that the last page he wrote here is the last that he wrote at all will stick with me when I finally reach that last page, I'm sure.


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Linda | 363 comments Kim wrote: " I haven't read it yet, but from what I can tell Charles Dickens after he died spoke to a medium and told him the rest of the novel. There is a prologue by the author (Dickens I think) and another by the medium (I can't remember his name), I haven't read any of it yet though. I would have thought that Dickens would have had better things to do once he was dead than finishing books through other people. I know I will. :-) "

Your comment here made me smile, Kim. :)


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Linda | 363 comments Peter wrote: "It was good to read your post. Welcome home!"

Thanks Peter! It's good to be back with the group, it is like being home. I love reading everyone's comments and insights. And finding those flighty birds of yours. :)

Interesting possible parallel between Dickens' marriages and the arranged marriage story lines. Thanks for that bit of information. I really do need to make time to read a Dickens biography one of these days.


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Linda | 363 comments Ami wrote: "but when Edwin mentions that he can hear Jasper's voice Rosa jumps up and insists on leaving. Why?

Kim, I think she's afraid of him."


Ooh, I think I missed this potential clue! This, coupled with the question that Peter brought up of why Jasper has a painting of Rosa over his mantle, there does seem to be some suspicion and mystery concerning Jasper and Rosa's relationship.


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Linda | 363 comments Kim wrote: "Ami, one copy of the book Débora and I have was finished by a "medium", Thomas James, who wrote it while Dickens spirit told him what to write, I haven't read it, but here's some information about it.

1873, a young Vermont printer, Thomas James, published a version which he claimed had been literally 'ghost-written' by him channelling Dickens's spirit."


Oh my, I didn't realize that when you mentioned this "medium", that you were being serious, Kim! I had no idea about this history. When you said that Dickens' was busy in his afterlife, you were not kidding. lol.


Tristram Shandy | 4451 comments Mod
Yes, reading MED puts me into a sad mood as well because it becomes obvious to me that Death took the pen out of Dickens's hand when the Inimitable still wanted to keep on writing and had so much to tell his audience. On the other hand, Dickens had such a story of success to look back upon, a story that puts him head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries, and after all, even though Death had taken the quill out of Dickens's hand, He did not managed to silence Dickens's voice because Dickens is immortal as long as people read and enjoy his books!

The first five chapters of MED made me marvel at Dickens's new style, which sounds somewhat more sombre and enigmatic, and which make the initial question programmatic. This is a narrative voice like in some uneasy dream - concentrating on details while keeping the wider picture in the dark. It's surely no coincidence that the rooks are drawing their circles in the skies above Cloisterham! While I was stunned by the unusual style, I felt somewhat dismayed by the re-appearance of the motif of two young people tied together by a will. One should have thought that Dickens might have exhausted that motif to a certain extent, but I'll just wait and see. I also couldn't help discovering a certain likeness in the self-complacent Sapsea, with a character from the preceding novel, namely Mr Podsnap. There is a lot of Podsnappery in Sapsea, isn't there?

As to the mystery, I would not expect too much from Dickens here: We are all of us used, more or less, to pot-boilers of sensational novels with intricate twists in the tales, but I think we can put down Mr Jasper very safely as a bad apple because there is definitely something wrong with him. Maybe, Dickens was more interested in describing the inner conflict of this somewhat jaded character than in really mystifying his readers with a whoddunit?


Tristram Shandy | 4451 comments Mod
Further thoughts:

I love Durdles, and hope we'll get a lot of him exploring the tombs of Cloisterham. I picture him as some kind of stone-made person, in a way, almost surrealistic.

I cannot stand Edwin Drood and his Eugene-Wrayburn-like going on about Pussy. I was almost on the verge of throwing the book through my room after the umpteenth mention of "Pussy", but as I was reading the Kindle-version, I thought better of it ;-)


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Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Charles Allston Collins' illustrations for Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood


Collins was 12 years older than his 21-year-old bride, Kate (Catherine Elizabeth Macready) Dickens, and Dickens admired his son-in-law's work as an artist. He became a member of Dickens's circle by virtue of the artistic collaboration between his brother, Wilkie, and Dickens in the 1850s. Apparently, other than the cover, these sketches are as far as Collins got in the project when his health failed him, and the commission then passed to another young artist, Luke Fildes.



Draft of the cover for“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

Charles Allston Collins

1869


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Cover for“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

Charles Allston Collins

1869

Commentary:

Charles Allston Collins, the initial illustrator engaged to work on Chapman and Hall's monthly serialization of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, completed but one design. Collins — Wilkie Collins's brother, associate of the Pre-Raphaelites, and Dickens's son-in-law — bowed out of the illustration project supposedly because of ill health. The single contribution of this associate of Hunt and Millais, however, has elicited more critical and amateur comment than any other illustration produced for one of Dickens's works during his lifetime. The general feeling among Drood aficionados has been that, if one could only decipher the clues that Dickens has provided on the wrapper, one could accurately graph the direction that the author had intended the narrative to take. Since Collins's major paintings, such as Berengaria's Alarm, make use of complex symbolism, one might expect he used it in his illustrations, too.

Whether the secret to The Mystery of Edwin Drood lurks within the wrapper has to be determined by each careful reader. As Jane Rabb Cohen points out, the fact "that most of the wrapper vignettes in this instance could, at best, suggest only scenes not yet written, actions not yet worked out, and characters not yet totally conceived, has only spurred on the would-be detectives". Since no letters from Dickens to Collins about The Mystery of Edwin Drood discussing the project survive from the period during which Dickens conceived and wrote the story, it is difficult to assess precisely how much of the novel's plot the author revealed to Collins, the designer of the wrapper. Most of Dickens's correspondence that alludes to the artist dwells on his declining health; ironically, he outlived his vigorous father-in-law by three years, dying at the age of 45. Certainly, after Collins moved into Gad's Hill with his wife, the novelist must have provided instructions and suggestions orally, but (according to what he told Fildes after Dickens's death) the illustrator undertook the wrapper design without understanding in the least the meaning or significance of the ten vignettes it contains. In a letter to Frederic Chapman dated 24 September 1869, Dickens requested his publisher to send the illustrator "any of our old green covers that you may have by you". No surviving correspondence indicates which covers Chapman arranged to have sent, although we may certainly speculate that those of fairly recent novels (including Marcus Stone's wrapper for Our Mutual Friend and, perhaps, Phiz's wrapper for A Tale of Two Cities) were still in stock. When illness forced Collins to bow out, Dickens replaced him with Luke Fildes; however, since once again the novelist delivered many of his instructions in person, in meetings with the artist at Hyde Park, no correspondence between the collaborators about the re-drafted design of the wrapper survives.

What Collins knew or did not know we shall never learn. Dickens, having decided on a mystification, would not be likely to tell the artist all about it and ask him to give the secret away on the wrapper. He would aim at as much concealment as possible, and, where revelation was unavoidable, would make the revealing obscure and delusive.

In Chapter 17 of Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators (1980), Jane Rabb Cohen has reproduced the original draft (now in the Dickens House Museum, London) that Collins prepared for Dickens. There are only a few discrepancies between this provisional design and Fildes' final version: in the draft, the allegorical figure of Murder (upper right) is either androgynous or masculine; the figures climbing the winding staircase (right) are uniformed police; the figure whom Jasper encounters (bottom centre) has a moustache; the clergyman in the extreme upper left is behind Rosa rather than Edwin; and the opium-smoker in the lower right with feminine hair and clad in a nightgown but of masculine proportions is not specifically Chinese; and Durdles' key, dinner bundle, and shovel and the words "with illustrations" are not present in the draft. It is logical to assume that these differences reflect authorial intention--that is, Dickens was responsible for each of these changes to the design. Otherwise, the elements of the wrapper--including the "Wheel of Life" organization of the eight scenes--are much the same except for small particulars (such as Jasper's hair being darkened and Edwin's losing his moustache) in draft and finished production:

The sparseness of detail in Collins's much discussed sketch for the wrapper design, together with the angularity of its lines, suggests his hesitation as well as his ill health. He lacked the further knowledge of the plot, as well as self-confidence, to supply additional details. The artist drew two figures holding back the curtains at the upper corners of his design quite tentatively, although their allegorical significance seems clear enough. The female figure overlooking the romantic scenes, involving women on the left-hand side of the wrapper, represents Love. Her male counterpart, clasping a dagger [or stiletto] as he soberly overlooks scenes of suspicion or retribution involving only male characters, represents Hate or Revenge. Surrounding the crudely lettered title, the artist has placed bare branches. One extended branch, however, bears roses--some in bud, others in bloom — interspersed with thorns and wilted petals, suggesting the general love and death themes of the narrative as well as playing on two specifics: the name of the heroine, Rosa Bud, and the name of Bazzard's play, The Thorn of Anxiety.

In his appendix regarding the illustrations, David Paroissien, editor of the Penguin edition of the novel, explicates the real and allegorical figures in much the same manner as Cohen. Each month as the narrative unfolded in letter-press and illustration, the serial reader would have been able to make more and more sense of the pictorial elements of the wrapper, creating and/or revising identifications and connections as he or she pondered the meaning of those pieces yet to be introduced. In perusing and re-perusing the wrapper, then, the reader would have been engaged in narrative recapitulation, anticipation, and consolidation, grounding projection in what he or she had previously encountered.


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Kim | 5693 comments Mod


Titlepage

Sir Luke Fildes

1870

Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood


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Kim | 5693 comments Mod


Titlepage

Sir Luke Fildes

1880

Master Humphrey and His Clock

I suppose there must have been two printings ten years apart or why would we need two title pages?


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"In the Court"

Sir Luke Fildes

Used as Frontispiece for Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Other Stories

Commentary:

Lacking Dickens's ability to reveal John Jasper's public and private selves simultaneously, Luke Fildes focuses on the East End opium den in the opening plate, "In The Court." In terms of his respectable middleclass clothing and his standing upright, Jasper's figure contrasts that of the jumbled sleepers on the "large unseemly bed" in the first chapter, "The Dawn." To the right of Jasper (supporting himself with his right hand, his payment in coin clutched in his left), there is some semblance of order, the chair, table, and fireplace being far tidier than the confusion of figures and the ramshackle four-poster to the left. These humble, domestic objects represent the workaday world, while the chaos of the bed and its occupants suggests what critic Harry Stone has termed "the night side," the world of the subconscious, of horrible visions, of phantom cathedrals, and imagination (suggested by the initial references in the text to the Arabian Nights). The Lascar and the haggard woman (hardly recognizable as a woman) in the center strive against their stupor, but cannot rise. Thus, the disposition of the figures has psychological significance. The passage illustrated occurs in the penultimate paragraph of the opening chapter:

As he falls, the Lascar starts into a half-risen attitude, glares with his eyes, lashes about him fiercely with his arms, and draws a phantom knife. It then becomes apparent that the woman has taken possession of this knife, for safety's sake; for, she too starting up, and restraining and expostulating with him, the knife is visible in her dress, not in his, when they drowsily drop back, side by side."

As yet the "He" of the passage, from whose perspective Dickens narrates the chapter in the limited omniscient, is not identified by name [John Jasper] when he "lays certain silver money on the table," but the image in anticipation of the final paragraph of the chapter establishes this focal character as (at least outwardly) not a denizen of this underworld but a representative of the respectable middle class, trying desperately in Fildes' plate to cling to his own identity and not to become merely another addict like the undistinguished heap of semi-humanity on the bed. Thus, even before the text proper has introduced us to the hidden life of John Jasper and his opium-supplier (today, we would say "pusher") Princess Puffer, the plate opposite the title-page has prepared the reader for some of the book's principal issues and themes, notably the loss of self and the dangers of addiction, and has introduced us to one of the chief characters, John Jasper, who appears in a total of seven of the twelve illustrations.


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Kim | 5693 comments Mod
Chapter 1



Jasper in the opium den

Chapter 1

Charles Allston Collins

1869


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"Under the Trees"

Chapter 3

Sir Luke Fildes

Commentary:

Why, one wonders, has Dickens permitted the leaves in the background to be on the trees rather than "underfoot" as in the text. Because Fildes took pains to place his fictional characters in real settings and give them striking poses, Dickens was impressed by the almost photographic realism of Fildes' work. It is possible, then, that, although the author noticed the discrepancy between his autumnal setting and Fildes' use of a spring backdrop, Dickens chose not to object or require modification because the plate conveys so well the characters and situation of the couple.

Visually, Fildes has connected Edwin Drood and Rosa Bud by the style and material of their clothing and by situating them on the central bench in close proximity. The stripes and solids of Edwin's well-made pants and jacket (the latter less formal than Jasper's in the first plate) correspond precisely to the stripes and solids of Rosa's fashionable skirt and jacket. If this is, however, a late fall day, the couple's attire is probably insufficient; nevertheless, the absence of coats which a more seasonally accurate depiction would require enables the viewer to appreciate their youthful litheness and to evaluate the meanings of their postures. For so emotional a moment as Dickens describes, the couple seem curiously detached and tranquil in Fildes' realization of the textual moment in the old Close:

and then — she becoming more composed, and indeed beginning in her young inconstancy to laugh at herself for having been so moved — leads her to a seat hard by, under the elm-trees.

The second plate for the April number thus is in steep contrast to the sordid, social realism of the first, and yet an essential "want of something" lingers behind both images. Whereas the bed and other interior objects of the first plate fill up the opium den, Fildes has taken pains to open up the outdoor scene by making the "seat" a wooden bench, and placing the cloister walls well back from the couple. Fildes has imbued his Rosa, unlike her textual counterpart, with a dignity and seriousness that make her more sympathetic. Gazing introspectively at the tip of her umbrella (not mentioned in the text), Rosa is pensive and withdrawn, in contrast to casual ease of young Edwin Drood, her fiancé. Though more thoughtful, however, Fildes's Rosa is equally uncomfortable with the engagement that has been imposed upon her. Juxtaposed against the page in which the young couple attempt to define their relationship, Fildes' illustration clarifies their characters, their class, and their regard for one another. Although hardly earnest enough for an incipient engineer determined to bring practical science to a developing nation (Egypt), Fildes' Edwin, like Rosa, enlists our support by virtue of his reflective features, and the subtle movement he makes towards her. Thus, in the April number of the novel, Fildes has in the accompanying plates sensitively and effectively introduced the story's three most important characters, who constitute the romantic triangle that will fuel the enmity between the anguished John Jasper and his affable nephew, Edwin Drood.


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