The Mystery of Edwin Drood Summary
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The Mystery of Edwin Drood is Charles Dickens' unfinished mystery novel that follows John Jasper, a choirmaster and secret opium addict whose nephew disappears. Chapman & Hall published the book in a serialized form in 1870.
As the novel opens, John Jasper is leaving an opium den and heading toward the Cloisterham Cathedral where he is the choirmaster. After the service, Edwin Drood, Jasper's nephew, comes to him and confesses that he has some misgivings about his betrothal to Rosa Bud.
Rosa Bud lives in a boarding school called Nun's House and has a guardian named Mr. Grewgious, as she is an orphan as well. Rosa and Edwin were arranged in marriage by their parents before their deaths.
Edwin visits Rosa at Nun's House and the two banter.
Meanwhile, twins Neville and Helena Landless have arrived at Cloiseterham. There, the two will receive their respective educations, the former under Reverend Mr. Crisparkle and the latter at Nun's House. Neville confesses to Crisparkle that he hates his stepfather as he was abusive toward Helena, and he might have killed the man had he not been sent away.
Rosa and Helena get along right away, and Rosa tells her friends that she's afraid of Jasper, the music instructor. Neville, believing that Edwin doesn't appreciate his betrothal to Rosa, exchanges "high words" with him. Jasper intervenes before the argument gets too heated. Rev Mr. Crisparkle later convinces Neville to apologize to Edwin, and he arranges for them to meet for dinner at Jasper's on Christmas Eve.
Mr. Grewgious informs Rosa that she has inherited a substantial amount from her parents and that the fortune doesn't have any prerequisite that she marry Edwin.
In another private meeting, Mr. Grewgious offers Rosa's mother's ring to Edwin with the understanding that he will give it back should he decide not to marry Rosa. Edwin and Rosa agree to end the engagement the next day. Mr. Grewgious is chosen to inform Jasper of the change.
Jasper gets Durdles, a man knowledgeable about the cathedral crypt, to give him a tour. On the way down, Durdle drinks some wine that Jasper offers him and quickly passes out. The only thing he remembers is watching Jasper enter the crypt alone. On their way out of the crypt, they run into a boy called Deputy. Jasper accuses Deputy of spying and grabs him by the throat and chokes him, but releases him unharmed.
Edwin wears a pocket watch, chain and shirt pin. On Christmas Eve, he takes the pocket watch to a jeweler for repairs. There, he meets an opium addict who asks him his name. He tells her "Edwin," and she replies that "Ned" is in danger. Jasper is the only person that uses the nickname "Ned" for Edwin, so Edwin is confident she's not referring to him. The same day, Jasper buys a black, silk scarf.
Edwin and Neville meet for their Christmas Eve dinner, and the two make amends. They walk to the river to watch a windstorm.
The next day, Neville heads out early for a hike. Unbeknownst to him, Edwin is missing, and Jasper is spreading accusations against Neville in town. The townspeople find Neville and take him to jail where Crisparkle later retrieves him.
That night, Mr. Grewgious tells Jasper that Rosa and Edwin have broken their betrothal and Jasper is agitated by the revelation, more-so than the news that his nephew may have been murdered.
Crisparkle finds Edwin's jewelry by the river weir.
Half a year passes. Neville's neighbor Mr. Tartar tells Neville that he's welcome to share his garden with him. The two live above the same courtyard in London near Mr. Grewgious' office.
Jasper tells Rosa that he's in love with her, and Rosa rejects him. Jasper threatens to harm Neville, and Rosa goes to London to consult Mr. Grewgious on the matter.
The following day, Crisparkle arrives in London and is speaking with Mr. Grewgious and Rosa when Mr. Tartar arrives. Crisparkle recalls that Tartar saved him from drowning years ago. They devise a plan to tell Helena and Neville of the danger they're in by going into Tartar's chambers and contacting Helena via the courtyard.
Rosa and Miss Twinkelton rent a place from Mrs. Billickin so that Rosa doesn't have to return to Nun's House where Jasper can find her.
Jasper revisits the opium den and is followed out by a woman called Princess Puffer. Puffer follows him to Cloisterham and runs into Mr. Datchery, another border at Cloisterham, who provides her with Jasper's name and occupation. She goes to Jasper's service the next morning and hides behind a pillar, shaking her fist at Jasper.
Dickens died before he could finish the story, but according to his friend, John Forster, Dickens had written him concerning the text. Forster says that Dickens intended to close the novel with Jasper in a cell, having been found out for murdering his nephew when Rosa's mother's ring fails to corrode in quick lime. Jasper was to recount from his jail cell that he killed Edwin so that he might have Rosa for himself only to discover that their betrothal was broken before the murder took place. Mr. Datchery is a private detective, and Neville was meant to die while apprehending Jasper. Rosa would have married Tartar and Crisparkle, Helena.