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The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

By: Charles Dickens, Peter Preston (Introduction by), S. L. Fildes (Illustrator), Hablot K. Browne, (Phiz) (Illustrator), Dr. Keith Carabine (Editor)

Paperback

Published: June 1997
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This novel includes illustrations by S.L. Fildes and Hablot K. Browne (Phiz). Dickens' final novel, left unfinished at his death in 1870, is a mystery story much influenced by the 'Sensation Novel' as written by his friend Wilkie Collins. The action takes place in an ancient cathedral city and in some of the darkest places in Victorian London. Drugs, disappearances, sexual obsession, disguise and a possible murder are among the themes and motifs. A sombre and menacing atmosphere, a fascinating range of characters and Dickens' usual command of language combine to make this an exciting and tantalising story. Also included in this volume are a number of unjustly neglected stories and sketches, with subjects as different as murder, guilt and childhood romance.

Who killed Edwin Drood? Was he, in fact, murdered at all? And who is the very white-haired (and black-eyebrowed) Datchery? Those were the major questions left in mystery when Dickens died after writing only about half of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. And Garfield's attempt at completing the book - hardly the first such - wisely chooses to solve the murder mystery in the most generally accepted manner, the manner clearly indicated by Dickens' notes and conversations: opium addict Jasper is the killer, and he deposited his nephew's body in the quicklime beneath the Cathedral. On other counts, however, the plot turns here are somewhat disappointing. Datchery is not the lawyer Grewgious in disguise nor Helena Landless . . . but an actor-turned-detective working for Grewgious: an awfully mundane explanation. A second murder - of Neville Landless - seems arbitrary, And Jasper's death-cell confession - though based (perhaps too literally) on Dickens' own stated intentions - seems rather more akin to Tony Perkins' schizoid Psycho revelation than to anything that Dickens would have written. As for Garfield's style in the concluding 100 pages - it's an agreeable enough compromise: a modern equivalent of a Dickensian style instead of an imitation. But it must be said that Dickens' other-worldly aura collapses almost immediately in Garfield's chapters: the dark themes are not picked up on; the pace is too hurried (Dickens' own finale would probably have been at least half-again as long); the shifts between past and present tense become noticeably jarring (with Dickens, they're invisible); there's a contemporary flatness to the similes and digressions. All in all, then, this is a tasteful, talented, cautious job of work - good enough to give lucky readers an excuse to read (or re-read) the original, but not (how could it be?) the much-missed second half of a minor masterpiece. (Kirkus Reviews)

Extra Illustrationsp. vi
Introductionp. vii
Note on the Textp. xvii
A Chronology of Charles Dickensp. xviii
Contentsp. xxiii
List of Illustrationsp. xxv
The Mystery of Edwin Droodp. 1
Manuscript List of Projected Names and Titlesp. 218
The Number Plansp. 219
The Sapsea Fragmentp. 232
Explanatory Notesp. 236
Select Bibliographyp. 240
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.
Charles Dickens

One of the grand masters of Victorian literature

Charles Dickens was born at Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, the second of eight children. Dickens's childhood experiences were similar to those depicted in David Copperfield. His father, who was a government clerk, was imprisoned for debt and Dickens was briefly sent to work in a blacking warehouse at the age of twelve.

He received little formal education, but taught himself shorthand and became a reporter of parliamentary debates for the Morning Chronicle. He began to publish sketches in various periodicals, which were subsequently republished as Sketches by Boz. The Pickwick Papers were published in 1836–7 and after a slow start became a publishing phenomenon and Dickens's characters the centre of a popular cult.

Part of the secret of his success was the method of cheap serial publication which Dickens used for all his novels. He began Oliver Twist in 1837, followed by Nicholas Nickleby (1838) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–41).After finishing Barnaby Rudge (1841) Dickens set off for America; he went full of enthusiasm for the young republic but, in spite of a triumphant reception, he returned disillusioned. His experiences are recorded in American Notes (1842). Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–4) did not repeat its predecessors' success but this was quickly redressed by the huge popularity of the Christmas Books, of which the first, A Christmas Carol, appeared in 1843.

During 1844–6 Dickens travelled abroad and he began Dombey and Son while in Switzerland. This and David Copperfield (1849–50) were more serious in theme and more carefully planned than his early novels. In later works, such as Bleak House (1853) and Little Dorrit (1857), Dickens's social criticism became more radical and his comedy more savage.

In 1850 Dickens started the weekly periodical Household Words, succeeded in 1859 by All the Year Round; in these he published Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1860–61). Dickens's health was failing during the 1860s and the physical strain of the public readings which he began in 1858 hastened his decline, although Our Mutual Friend (1865) retained some of his best comedy.

His last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was never completed and he died on 9 June 1870. Public grief at his death was considerable and he was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

A Note on our choice

The Works of Charles Dickens are available in many different editions, published by many different publishers.

The Booktopia Book Guru has recommended the Penguin Black Classic paperback editions here, as Australian readers have had a long established relationship with the Penguin Black Classic editions, with their informative and erudite introductions and notes.

There are, however, other options (see the series tab below). Both Oxford Classics and Vintage Classics publish Dickens, with notes and introductions. As do many US publishing houses.

Wordsworth Classics publish cheaper, no frills, editions of the classics, Dickens included, but the cheapest option, for those who have don’t want to read the classics but have to in order to pass a course, the US publisher, Dover, issues a thrift edition: these are cheap and cheerful, read and discard productions, which offer nothing but the text.

Visit Charles Dickens's Booktopia Author Page


ISBN: 9781853267291
ISBN-10: 1853267295
Series: Wordsworth Classics
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 496
Published: June 1997
Dimensions (cm): 19.6 x 12.7  x 2.7
Weight (kg): 0.3