The Drood Inquiry
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Charles Dickens Jnr

In an introduction to a 1923 edition of these events, published by Macmillan, Charles Dickens Jnr recounted a conversation with his father.

It was during the last walk I ever had with him at Gadshill, and our talk, which had been principally concerned with literary matters connected with All the Year Round, presently drifting to Edwin Drood, my father asked me if I did not think he had let out too much of his story too soon. I assented, and added, ‘Of course, Edwin Drood was murdered?’ Whereupon he turned upon me with an expression of astonishment at my having asked such an unnecessary question, and said: ‘Of course, what else do you suppose?'

The story, being told fifty-three years after the event, seems fairly conclusive evidence of Drood’s death, and yet when Augustin Daly wrote to Dickens Jnr in 1871 in search of the mystery’s conclusion, he wrote back saying “it was as great a mystery to him as to the public at large.” Was Dickens Jnr protecting his father’s story in 1871, mindful of his fears that ‘he had let out too much of his story too soon’? Or is the later story an elaboration or misremembered anecdote? Note also Dickens Snr’s reaction is all inferred by his son – could the father have been playing a trick on the son? If we choose to take the account as true, then Edwin is dead and Dickens Snr is astonished his son should presume otherwise, which therefore begs the question that if Dickens presumes everyone knows Edwin’s fate, then what are the other details beyond this that he worried he had made too obvious?

It should be noted that Charles Dickens Jnr did go on to write a play of Edwin Drood, which was never performed, but of course it is impossible to determine which of the plot points are the father’s invention, and which are the son’s.