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MUCH attention has been given to the illustrations on the wrapper and their significance. So far as I can find, the question was first raised in the Spectator. On 1st October 1870, in a review of the first edition of Edwin Drood, the Spectator complained that the publishers had not given a facsimile of the vignetted cover. The critic proceeds: "By whom was the lamplight discovery of a standing figure, apparently meant for Edwin Drood, in the vignette at the bottom of the page, intended to be made?" He inquired also whether the man entering with the lanthorn was John Jasper, and what were the directions given by Mr. Dickens as to the ascent of the winding staircase represented on the right hand of the cover. The Spectator asked for any authentic indications which might exist of the turn which Dickens intended to give to the story. "Nor can we see how it can be possible that no such indications exist, with this prefiguring cover to prove that he had not only anticipated, but disclosed to some one or other, many of the situations he intended to paint." Since then others, and in particular Mr. Andrew Lang, have with much insistency declared that the bottom picture represents a meeting of the risen Edwin Drood with his horror-stricken uncle, John Jasper.

  In reply to these questions certain considerations may be adduced:

  1. We have already shown from the testimony of Charles Allston Collins, as reported by his widow, and by Sir Luke Fildes, that he, at least, was not aware of any such intention in the mind of Dickens. On the contrary, Madame Perugini and Sir Luke Fildes are convinced that Edwin Drood was murdered. More than this, Charles Dickens the younger, who was more or less in his father's confidence, agreed with them. As we have noted, he affirmed that his father had told him that Edwin Drood was murdered, and he constructed his play on that basis.

  2. I attach much weight to Madame Perugini's suggestion that whatever her father meant or did not mean, he was certainly not the man to give away on the cover the answer to the mystery. He may have meant--he very probably did--before he began the story to mystify his readers a little. This is shown, I think, by the various suggested titles printed on page 57. But as he rejected those titles, it is plain that he thought them unsatisfactory, and that he refrained from raising in the title at least the question whether the murder of Edwin Drood was accomplished.

  3. I had prepared materials for a chapter on the wrappers of Dickens's novels as used in the monthly parts, but it is not necessary to go into particulars. I am glad to find myself in full agreement with the eminent Dickens scholar, Mr. B.W. Matz, who attaches no importance to the covers. I put no trust in the wrapper of Edwin Drood any more than I should in that of Pickwick, Martin Chuzzlewit, Little Dorrit, Dombey and Son, and many others, for a suggestion of any intricate points in any of their plots. The only covers which may be reliable in this respect are A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and Sketches by Boz. Each of these works was issued in parts after their respective stories had appeared complete in other forms. All the others must have been designed before the first parts were published, and knowing the freedom which Dickens allowed himself we can attach little importance to the evidence of a particular cover as an index to the story.

  When Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A., completed his seventy-second year, on 4th July 1912, he was interviewed by a representative of the Morning Post, and said:

  The cover of Our Mutual Friend, with the representation of different incidents in the story, I drew after seeing an amount of matter equivalent to no more than the first two one-shilling monthly parts. Here it is: you will see that I depicted among other characters, Mr. Silas Wegg. Well, I was aware that Wegg had a wooden leg, but I wanted to know whether this was his right or his left leg, as there was nothing in the material before me that threw light on this point. To my surprise, Dickens said: "I do not know. I do not think I had identified the leg." That was the only time I ever knew him to be at fault on a point of this kind, for as a rule he was ready to describe down to the minutest details the personal characteristics, and, I might almost add, the life-history of the creations of his fancy.

  4. But the final proof of the impossibility of making trustworthy deductions from the cover is to be found in the fact that no readers read it in the same way. In proof of this I give the readings of Professor Henry Jackson, Mr. Andrew Lang, Dr. M.R. James, and Mr. Cuming Walters. Through the great kindness of Mr. Hugh Thomson the artist, who has made a study of this subject and has given me his results, I am able to add another interpretation certainly of no lower authority than those which accompany it.


  We may fairly presume that the figures in the four corners represent comedy, tragedy, the opium-woman, and the Chinaman. In the nave of the Cathedral, Edwin and Rosa pair off against Jasper and Crisparkle. Despite the discrepancy which Mr. Lang points out, I think that the lower of the two pictures on our left shows Jasper and Rosa in the garden of the Nuns' House. In the upper side-piece, the girl is, I am sure, Rosa flying from Jasper's pursuit, in full view of a placard announcing Edwin's disappearance. It is true that the hatless girl with her hair streaming down her back does not answer very well to Dickens's description of Rosa, and has no resemblance to Sir L. Fildes's pictures of her: but if Dickens, when he had not yet thought out his conception of her personality, told Collins to draw a frightened girl of seventeen running away from school, no more than this could be expected. For the scheme of the sketch, compare the picture in Bleak House, which shows Lady Dedlock, as she mounts the staircase, turning to look at a bill announcing a reward for the discovery of the murderer of Tulkinghorn. That placards and advertisements, imploring Edwin to communicate with his uncle, had been widely circulated, we have been told at p. 182. On the right, the two men in the lower picture are, I suppose, Jasper and Durdles ascending the tower on the night of "the unaccountable expedition"; while the man above is Jasper on Christmas Eve looking down at "that," p. 276: "Look down, look down! You see what lies at the bottom there?" p. 274. I demur to Mr. Lang's statements that the young man whom I venture to identify with Jasper is represented as "whiskerless," and that the figure which I take to be Durdles is well-dressed.

  Professor Jackson then mentions the views of Mr. Proctor and Mr. Lang on the important vignette at the bottom of the page:

  For my own part, I suspect that the upright figure represents Drood, but that the Drood which it represents is a phantom of Jasper's imagination. Let us suppose that an advertisement for a ring known to have been in the possession of the late Edwin Drood appears in the local newspaper, and that Jasper, now for the first time aware of the ring's existence, goes to the crypt to look for it. Dickens might well suppose him at such a moment to see a vision of the murdered man, and might instruct Collins to represent what Jasper imagined himself to see. Indeed, I fancy that I recognise an intentional contrast between the two figures: the one in the foreground, full of movement, solidly drawn; the other, in the background, statuesque, and a little shadowy. Doubtless Dickens was anxious that the reader should not know too much; and if he made Collins give visible form to a hallucination of Jasper's brain, I for one do not think the procedure illegitimate. It is sad that Dickens did not live to explain the innocent deception which, as I imagine, he meant for a few months to practise upon his readers.


  The cover lies before the reader. In the left-hand top corner appears an allegorical female figure of joy, with flowers. The central top space contains the front of Cloisterham Cathedral, or rather, the nave. To the left walks Edwin, with hyacinthine locks, and a thoroughly classical type of face, and Grecian nose. Like Datchery, he does not wear, but carries his hat; this means nothing, if they are in the nave. He seems bored. On his arm is Rosa; she seems bored; she trails her parasol, and looks away from Edwin, looks down, to her right. On the spectator's right march the surpliced men and boys of the choir. Behind them is Jasper, black whiskers and all; he stares after Edwin and Rosa; his right hand hides his mouth. In the corner above him is an allegorical female, clasping a stiletto.

  Beneath Edwin and Rosa is, first, an allegorical female figure, looking at a placard, headed "LOST," on a door. Under that again, is a girl in a garden-chair; a young man, whiskerless, with wavy hair, kneels and kisses her hand. She looks rather unimpassioned. I conceive the man to be Landless, taking leave of Rosa after urging his hopeless suit for which Helena, we learn, "seems to compassionate him." He has avowed his passion, early in the story, to Crisparkle. Below, the opium hag is smoking. On the other side, under the figures of Jasper and the choir, the young man who kneels to the girl is seen bounding up a spiral staircase. His left hand is on the iron railing; he stoops over it, looking down at others who follow him. His right hand, the index finger protruded, points upward, and, by chance or design, points straight at Jasper in the vignette above. Beneath this man (clearly Landless) follows a tall man in a "bowler" hat, a "cut-away" coat, and trousers which show an inch of white stocking above the low shoes. His profile is hid by the wall of the spiral staircase: he might be Grewgious of the shoes, white stockings, and short trousers, but he may be Tartar: he takes two steps at a stride. Beneath him a youngish man, in a low, soft, clerical hat and a black pea-coat, ascends, looking downwards and backwards. This is clearly Crisparkle. A Chinaman is smoking opium beneath.

  In the central lowest space, a dark and whiskered man enters a dark chamber; his left hand is on the lock of the door; in his right he holds up a lantern. The light of the lantern reveals a young man in a soft hat of Tyrolese shape. His features are purely classical, his nose is Grecian, his locks are long (at least, according to the taste of to-day); he wears a light paletot, buttoned to the throat; his right arm hangs by his side; his left hand is thrust into the breast of his coat. He calmly regards the dark man with the lantern. That man, of course, is Jasper. The young man is EDWIN DROOD, of the Grecian nose, hyacinthine locks, and classic features, as in Sir L. Fildes's third illustration.

  Mr. Proctor correctly understood the unmistakable meaning of this last design, Jasper entering the vault:

To-day the dead are living,
The lost is found today."


  In the Cambridge Review for 9th March 1911 Dr. James says:

  Now, as to the figures at the angles and the scene at the top there is general agreement. As to those on the left, H.J. is, I think, right in calling the upper one Rosa's flight; but the lower one cannot be Jasper and Rosa. The young man has a moustache. Jasper had none, and has none in the two pictures of him on this same cover. Also, the artist has carefully emphasised the fact that the girl is indifferent to her suitor. The figures, I believe, represent Rosa and Neville Landless.

  On the right, H.J. assumes that there are two scenes. I am clear that there is but one: for, whereas, on the left side the two scenes are separated by a sprig of the rose-wreath which surrounds the centre, and a similar sprig parts them from the top scene, there is on the right only the division from the top scene, managed in the same way as on the left. And yet, had the scene been two, there was great necessity to separate them, inasmuch as they are taking place in the same surroundings, namely, the winding staircase. As to the identity of the three men, the lowest one is a cleric, Crisparkle, the next above him I will not identify; the uppermost is either Jasper or just possibly (since he is pointing pretty directly at the figure of Jasper in the top scene, and seems to be acting as a guide to those below him) Datchery.

  Dr. James dissents from Dr. Jackson as to the central vignette at the bottom. No phantom of the imagination is there. We have a real person, as is shown by the fact that he casts a shadow on the wall behind him.


  Mr. Hugh Thomson wrote the following notes on 3rd April 1912, and they are now printed for the first time:

  But to get to the cover to which you particularly directed my attention. It was designed, I take it, primarily as a decoration, and not as a series of representations of the characters to appear in the book. Consequently, there is but little definite character-drawing in any of the groups with the exception of the one at the bottom of the page, where Jasper is depicted exactly as I should wish him depicted, dark and saturnine "with thick, lustrous black hair and whiskers." If the other figure is merely a wraith conjured up by Jasper's evil opium-soaked conscience, it is as substantial as one of the ghosts of Hamlet's father given to us on the stage time after time without protest, But in a black and white design for a popular serial it is scarcely possible to be subtle, and at the same time plainly intelligible. So it may be a ghost, or it may be Edwin in the flesh, or Neville Landless got up to represent Edwin. It is a very effective little cut. In the other groups, Jasper is not so unmistakable, but, of course, in the upper drawings the sleek, clerical-looking personage with his hand at his mouth is meant to represent Jasper. The staircase groups, I can't identify. The young men in both may be meant to represent Jasper. They are not in the least like that sombre personage, but just colourless young men. In the garden scene one cannot think that the kneeling figure pressing the girl's fingers to his lips is meant for Jasper at all. It has a mop of fair hair and boasts a moustache, and in the scene in the garden of the Nuns' House Rosa did not permit Jasper to approach her so nearly. In the picture there is no suggestion of the repugnance and fear with which she regarded Jasper. Don't you think it reasonable to suggest that this little picture illustrates a scene to take place much later in the book, a scene Dickens did not live to write? It might be Edwin Drood returned from abroad or from disguise. Edwin Drood making love to Helena Landless. In chapter viii. he was "already enough impressed by Helena to feel indignant that Helena's brother should dispose of him (Edwin) so coolly" to Rosebud.

  Or could it be Tartar proposing to Rosebud? But Tartar had no moustache either as himself or as Datchery, and the girl's figure has a suggestion of lithe dignity which I don't associate with the "little beauty" Rosebud.

  I agree with the author of About Edwin Drood that Edwin was not worth while bringing back, but it is possible that he was to return, and that this is he in the garden scene. In the space above this the female figure scanning a placard "LOST" is, I think, merely allegorical, and not meant to represent Rosebud fleeing from Jasper. In the book she leaves Cloisterham so neat and pretty that Joe, the omnibus man, would have liked to keep for himself the love she sent to Miss Twinkleton.


  There is another view to which I strongly incline, first stated by Mr. Cuming Walters. I take the erect figure in the bottom vignette to be Datchery. It is not Edwin. The large hat and the tightish surtout are the articles of clothing on which Dickens lays stress in his description of Datchery. Mr. Lang says that the figure is that of a young man in a longish loose greatcoat, not a tightish surtout such as Datchery wore, but I agree with Mr. Cuming Walters that the figure corresponds with the description of Datchery. Edwin as seen above with Rosa in the cathedral is not wearing a coat of this sort. His hat also is different. On examining the figure Mr. H.B. Irving said to me: "That looks uncommonly like a woman in disguise."

  None of us has a right to dogmatise, but the variety of opinions among those who have studied the cover shows that no certain conclusion can be drawn from the illustrations. The arguments advanced previously tend to make this practically certain. In the discussion of the problem a wholly disproportionate weight has been laid on the illustrated cover. It would hardly bear that weight even if every one were agreed as to the reading of the pictures, and there is no such agreement.