The Mystery of Edwin Drood Plot Summary | Course Hero

The Mystery of Edwin Drood | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Mystery of Edwin Drood | Plot Summary




The Mystery of Edwin Drood is set in the town of Cloisterham, England. This small town houses a Cathedral and a boarding school for girls. Miss Twinkleton is in charge of the girls in the Nuns' House. Rosa Bud is a teenage girl who has lived at the Nuns' House since the death of her parents when she was five years old. Other members of the church assist in educating the students. John Jasper is the choirmaster and is responsible for Rosa Bud's vocal training.

John Jasper's nephew Edwin Drood is betrothed to Rosa Bud by an agreement between their parents. Both Edwin Drood and Rosa Bud lack enthusiasm for their upcoming marriage. The love they share more closely resembles that of siblings than spouses. John Jasper is in love with Rosa Bud. John Jasper calms his internal turmoil with visits to a local opium den or drug house run by a woman named Princess Puffer.

Edwin Drood arrives in the town of Cloisterham to visit his uncle John Jasper. Edwin Drood and John Jasper discuss Rosa Bud's birthday and her studies. John Jasper suddenly pauses and looks ill when the effects of the opium take hold. He then shares his dislike of his job and warns Edwin Drood not to make the same mistake as John Jasper did by committing to a life not fitting for him.

John Jasper meets the well-known stonemaster named Durdles through Mr. Sapsea. Durdles knows his way around the crypts and tombs and will carve an inscription for the tombstone of Mr. Sapsea's deceased wife. John Jasper is intrigued with Durdles and wishes to have Durdles show him around the tombs at some point.

Philanthropist Mr. Honeythunder brings twins Neville Landless and Helena Landless to the Cloisterham Cathedral. They are orphans who have suffered a terrible upbringing by their stepfather who recently died. Helena Landless and Rosa Bud instantly become friends. Neville Landless falls in love with Rosa Bud and quickly clashes with Edwin. Neville Landless does not think that Edwin Drood appreciates Rosa Bud and defends Rosa Bud's honor which angers Edwin. Helena Landless stays at the Nuns' House with Rosa Bud. Mr. Crisparkle who is the Minor Canon or member of the church staff takes Neville Landless as his student.

Rosa Bud learns from her guardian Mr. Grewgious that she will not forfeit her inheritance if she does not marry Edwin. Rosa Bud decides to discuss the matter with Edwin Drood and meet again with Mr. Grewgious.


Mr. Grewgious meets with Edwin Drood and gives him the ring that belonged to Rosa Bud's mother. Mr. Grewgious asks Edwin Drood to return the ring if he decides not to marry Rosa Bud. Edwin Drood and Rosa Bud end their engagement the very next day.

One evening John Jasper and Durdles head down into the crypts to tour the tombs. Durdles becomes intoxicated with the alcohol John Jasper provides and passes out. John Jasper is unaccounted for while Durdles sleeps off the alcohol. Durdles awakens some time later and the two of them leave the crypt. John Jasper and Durdles run into a ragged boy named Deputy on their way home. John Jasper accuses Deputy of following them and grabs Deputy by the throat. Durdles defends Deputy and John Jasper releases him unharmed.

The same evening Edwin Drood and Neville Landless agree to meet on Christmas Eve at John Jasper's chambers to shake hands and forgive their previous disagreement. Edwin Drood stops at a jewelry shop to have his pocket watch fixed. He later runs into Princess Puffer on his way to John Jasper's place. The two chat and Princess Puffer asks Edwin Drood his name. She is relieved when he tells her that his name is Edwin because she knows that a man named Ned is in danger. Princess Puffer does not realize that John Jasper sometimes refers to Edwin Drood as Ned. Meanwhile, John Jasper buys a black silk scarf.

Edwin Drood and Neville Landless meet at John Jasper's place and make amends. They leave together after the meeting and head down to the river for a walk before returning home.

The next day Edwin Drood goes missing. A group of men accost Neville Landless while he is on a walk and take him to jail. Mr. Crisparkle later retrieves him and vows to be responsible for Neville.

John Jasper learns of the broken engagement between Edwin Drood and Rosa Bud from Mr. Grewgious. John Jasper responds with an emotional outburst. Mr. Crisparkle later finds Edwin's watch and shirt pin in the river. The decision is made to send Neville Landless to Mr. Grewgious to protect him from the scrutiny of the townspeople and John Jasper.

Six Months Later—Summer

Mr. Crisparkle visits Neville Landless in London. John Jasper follows Mr. Crisparkle there and lurks outside Mr. Grewgious's place. John Jasper and Crisparkle unite and go out for dinner. Neville Landless encounters a man named Tartar who is lurking on the windowsill when Neville Landless returns from a walk. Mr. Tartar tells Neville Landless that he once was a First Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

A man named Dick Datchery arrives in the town of Cloisterham and looks for a place to stay. He takes a waiter's recommendation and books a room at Mr. Tope's home. Mr. Tope also houses John Jasper. Datchery meets Mr. Sapsea, Durdles, and the boy named Deputy.

Miss Twinkleton sends the girls in the Nuns' House home for the summer. Helena Landless is gone and only Rosa Bud is left behind. John Jasper calls on Rosa Bud and meets her in the garden. He professes his love to her. Rosa Bud resists his advances and recoils in fear. She decides that she must flee and sets her sights on Mr. Grewgious's place. She leaves a note for Miss Twinkleton that she needs to see her guardian and leaves for London.

Mr. Grewgious is surprised by Rosa Bud's arrival. Rosa Bud tells him what happened with John Jasper. Mr. Grewgious sets her up at the Furnival Inn.

The next morning Mr. Crisparkle arrives to see Rosa Bud. Mr. Grewgious fills him in on what Rosa Bud shared the day before. Mr. Tartar arrives. Mr. Tartar and Mr. Crisparkle were once close friends. Mr. Tartar had saved Mr. Crisparkle from drowning many years ago. Mr. Tartar facilitates a meeting between Rosa Bud and Helena Landless at his chambers. Rosa Bud is impressed by Mr. Tartar's residence and imagines what the girls in the Nuns' House would say if they saw her walking with him.

Helena Landless and Rosa Bud talk about John Jasper. Helena Landless does not want Rosa Bud near John Jasper. Then Helena Landless asks if Mr. Tartar would be open to visiting Neville Landless who refuses to go anywhere. Mr. Grewgious arranges to have Miss Twinkleton come to London to be with Rosa Bud for a month. Miss Twinkleton arrives and sets up residence with Mrs. Billickin. Rosa Bud continues her studies with Miss Twinkleton.

The Mystery Deepens

Back in the town of Cloisterham, John Jasper decides to take time away from work and decides to go to London to the opium den. Princess Puffer questions John Jasper while he is under the influence of opium. She follows him when he leaves. She runs into Dick Datchery and tells him about her encounter with Edwin Drood the previous year.

The next day John Jasper leads the choir in the worship service at the cathedral. Princess Puffer hides behind the pillar of the cathedral and shakes her fists at John Jasper as he sings. Dick Datchery witnesses this and finds the woman after the service. Princess Puffer tells Datchery that she knows John Jasper well.

At breakfast that same morning Datchery takes a piece of chalk from a kitchen cabinet at Mr. Tope's home. He adds a line to a score drawn inside the cupboard.

The story ends.

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