Title: The works of Charles Dickens vol 33
The Mystery Of Edwin Drood And Master Humphrey’s Clock
Author: Charles Dickens
THE last novel of Dickens, though only a fragment, needs a few prefatory words. He furnished Mr. Forster with some hints as to its nature in July, 1869, but he changed his ideas about the course of the tale in August. The ” originality” was to consist in the murderer’s own review of his career and its temptations ; therefore Jasper was to kill somebody, though it is not absolutely so certain that he killed the right person, his nephew. The ring (worn by Edwin in the novel) was to lead to identification. Dickens was working hard at his book at Gadshill, and writing the chapter on Rochester which closes the fragment, in the evening before his sudden stroke, June 8, 1870.
By a curious omen, a clause as to arrangements in case of his death had been, for the first time, inserted in the agreement with the publishers. Indeed, his health for a long time had caused anxiety. It is difficult to agree with Longfellow that the fragment is ” one of the most beautiful of his works ” or with Mr.Forster, that Honeythunder and the too incredible Sapsea are “first-rate comedy.” For first-rate comedy we must go back to his earlier pieces. The best part about Sapsea is in the isolated fragment which Mr.Forster discovered and published in the last chapter of the Life.