Charles Dickens: A Brain on Fire! 🔥

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD 📚: with Pete Orford

September 15, 2023 Dominic Gerrard Episode 35
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD 📚: with Pete Orford
Charles Dickens: A Brain on Fire! 🔥
More Info
Charles Dickens: A Brain on Fire! 🔥
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD 📚: with Pete Orford
Sep 15, 2023 Episode 35
Dominic Gerrard

Welcome to a new series of Charles Dickens: A Brain on Fire!🔥

Today we take a deep dive into Dickens’ final, unfinished novel,  The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Joining us to talk about this extraordinary book, is the inimitable Dr Pete Orford who is a Lecturer in English Literature, and Course Director for the MA research in Charles Dickens, at the University of Buckingham.

Pete has written extensively on Shakespeare, Dickens but also Terry Pratchet, Philip Pulman and JK Rowling. With contributions to The Oxford Handbook and Blackwell Companion to Charles Dickens and he is currently editing Pictures From Italy for Oxford University Press.

Pete is also the author of Edwin Drood: Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel and our endless attempts to end it - which means following swiftly on the back of this episode he will be joining us again to talk about all the ‘what if’s’ and conspiracy theories that have sprung up in trying to solve the unanswered questions of what was Dickens going to write next at the point where his novel stops! 

But right now, in this first part, our focus is on the text that exists …

Support the Show.

If you like to make a donation to support the costs of producing this series you can buy 'coffees' right here https://www.buymeacoffee.com/dominicgerrard

Host: Dominic Gerrard
Series Artwork: Léna Gibert
Original Music: Dominic Gerrard

Thank you for listening!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to a new series of Charles Dickens: A Brain on Fire!🔥

Today we take a deep dive into Dickens’ final, unfinished novel,  The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Joining us to talk about this extraordinary book, is the inimitable Dr Pete Orford who is a Lecturer in English Literature, and Course Director for the MA research in Charles Dickens, at the University of Buckingham.

Pete has written extensively on Shakespeare, Dickens but also Terry Pratchet, Philip Pulman and JK Rowling. With contributions to The Oxford Handbook and Blackwell Companion to Charles Dickens and he is currently editing Pictures From Italy for Oxford University Press.

Pete is also the author of Edwin Drood: Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel and our endless attempts to end it - which means following swiftly on the back of this episode he will be joining us again to talk about all the ‘what if’s’ and conspiracy theories that have sprung up in trying to solve the unanswered questions of what was Dickens going to write next at the point where his novel stops! 

But right now, in this first part, our focus is on the text that exists …

Support the Show.

If you like to make a donation to support the costs of producing this series you can buy 'coffees' right here https://www.buymeacoffee.com/dominicgerrard

Host: Dominic Gerrard
Series Artwork: Léna Gibert
Original Music: Dominic Gerrard

Thank you for listening!

Speaker 1:

Pete, hello and welcome to Charles Dickens, A Brain On Fire. I'm so thrilled to have you here. Thank you, Dom. It's great to be here too. And oh gosh, we're looking at the Mystery of Edwin Druid, which, I have to say, I don't know where to begin For the shortest book. There's so much to talk about, isn't there? So that we're actually going to split this episode into two parts, the first I've ever done. So, yeah, where to start? I mean, what do you think? Where should we kick off?

Speaker 2:

I mean, first of all, I'm really glad we are doing it in two parts, because one of my biggest issues with Edwin Druid is how we always focus on what has been written rather than what has been written, you know and obviously we'll come to that next time and look at all the theories and solutions. But so much focus on that means we don't pay enough attention to what's actually there in front of us. And then, of course, edwin Druid's last work, what is written for us as well. And the thing is, this is a good story. Had it been if only it had been finished it would be a good story. There's some great characters here, some great themes and Dickens doing some really interesting stuff.

Speaker 2:

So thank you first of all for letting us talk about this first half in its entirety, because I think it's really important we do. I think we need more of this. There's been a real tendency After all the flowy solutions, there's a time when people thought we've solved it. Now. Therefore, druid is done, no more to talk about. That's it done. You've got people talking about our mutual friend as being Dickens' last complete novel and therefore the one to focus on as well. So Druid got kind of sidelined for a long time as well, because it is incomplete and therefore feels like only half of work, half of kind of experience too. But what is there? Some great stuff there. So let's delve in, let's get into Druid and what's going on there as well, oh, excellent, yeah.

Speaker 1:

No, I'm very happy to think of Druid as a kind of incomplete whole in itself, and I hope you don't get it the wrong way. But I had to stop in preparation for this first part. I had to stop reading your book, which is all about the potential outcomes and solutions and theories and everything, and I thought no, no, no, I've got to get back to just the source and not get ahead of myself and get too excited, because it is fun as well, isn't it? You can see why people go down all these conspiracy rabbit holes, because you can't help it. It's so intriguing. I thought just to start with, this is nearly a question for you in a sense, but I wondered whether it would be worth just setting the scene about what Cloisterham is, its presence and its effect on its inhabitants.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Cloisterham really has its own characteristic. Now we know everyone knows it's a very well-known, open secret that it's based on Rochester, where Dickens lived another time. So we know this as a location for it, as its original inspiration. And you go to Rochester now and they've got all the signs saying this is where the topes lived, you're like they weren't real people.

Speaker 2:

But you know so there is a real temptation to go to Rochester and walk around and see John Jasper's gatehouse and see the nun's house and walk the path, which again helps a lot of the theories later on, trying to work out who was where and what night and how. But equally it is a fictional place. So, yes, rochester inspires it. But Dickens then goes what can I do with this town? What can I make of it? So the very name Cloisterham, you know you immediately got the cathedral front and centre there in the word Cloister, but also claustrophobic, closed in, you know, in trapped. And what I find fascinating with Cloisterham is, in theory it is the traditional safe space, it's an old town, it's a small town, but you look at the book and all the danger, all the threat is in Cloisterham and London. London of all places is the place of safety and sanctuary people escaped to. So it flips the narrative where usually you have your nice safe village and you go to the big city like an Oliver Twist, you know, or David Copperfield, and that's where the danger is. Suddenly London is the safe space and this old, backward, looking over, nostalgic town becomes stifling, you know, and a place where you are always being watched. And on the one hand it shows that community for those who've always lived there before your landless twins, or even for thatchery. You come in there as a newcomer and you feel out of place and excluded as well. So it's really interesting that Dickens would use Rochester for this. Now, I'm not. This is not a pile in Rochester. Rochester is a great place. I love Rochester.

Speaker 2:

I don't think Dickens is attacking Rochester at all. I'm not saying that whatsoever. But what he's bringing out there really is this idea of going back home. You know he starts Pickle Papers in Rochester, he goes back to it for Edwin Drude and in his own lifetime he's just done the whole reading tour. He's been around the UK and America and now because of ill health, he's back in Gadshill by Rochester. And again you get a sense of stifling Like well, I've just traveled the world and I'm back in Rochester and back home again and you can't go home.

Speaker 2:

And there's this really beautiful passage in the chapter where Edwin goes missing in fact, when should these be made to get? And it starts with Christmas Eve and close to him and it describes Christmas Eve and close to him and this idea of all these old faces coming back to see the town again and wonder how shrunk it is. And it is at that experience we all have a going home at Christmas time and going, oh, this is where I grew up, but actually it feels smaller now. It's not what it was. I've changed and that sense of trapped, stuck, you know, unable to really fulfill what you want to do, having seen a wider world, come back again now and feeling unfulfilled.

Speaker 2:

And so it is also that place of a smaller community, whereas London offers anonymity. You know the idea of being able to, you know, escape to, to go into the streets and not be known by your neighbour. And close to him, everyone knows who you are. And this is where you go into Agatha Christi territory with Miss Marlborough, because a small village is where all the best murders happen, because everyone is watching, everyone has each other's secrets as well. Close to him is a perfect place for this kind of dark deed to happen.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that Christmas Eve and Cloisterham passage you mentioned. It has that phrase where people talking about the people saying the circle of their lives was nearly traced and the beginning and the end were drawing close together. So that full circle thing that you're talking about is so interesting and of course and I'm trying to keep it at the door I really am, but then of course you know that Dickens is going to die, I don't know. So you're thinking on one level. Is he feeling that himself?

Speaker 1:

Perhaps, I suppose, maybe with the ill health he would at least have a sense of his limits and mortality, wouldn't he, even if he didn't imagine he would not be able to finish the book?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So two things have happened here of importance. One of course is the Staplehurst crash, which happens in 1865. So he's had that brush of death. To compare it to an earlier event, which is the death of Mary Hogarth when Mary Hogarth dies he writes about all his friends like, oh, it's such a tragedy, oh, I'm so sad as well. And there is, for all of his sadness, a performative nature to it. He's kind of relishing the drama there.

Speaker 2:

Staplehurst don't get quite that same sense of wallowing, he's genuinely shaken by it. I mean he's signature on the letter he writes about is actually shaking because he's in shock as well. So Staplehurst has an effect because it is that brush of death. Like God, I was close then and you know I'm not immortal. And then the reading tools he has ill health. He's told to stop real health. So again he is starting to confront the idea that he's not going to live forever. Now it doesn't mean he knows he's going to die immediately, but it means he is thinking about I'm not a young man anymore.

Speaker 2:

And so with our mutual friend and Edwin Drude, for the first time he has a clause in his publishing contract about what happens if he dies. Before completion for both of those two texts. Yeah, so if I die then you know Forster's got the manuscript. So this goes here and this is where the money goes to or return to if I'm not completed this work in time. So that kind of thinking ahead too. I'm signing a contract here, but if I don't complete, then this is what will happen with the monies and so forth too. Yeah, but that's for both of these last two works, not just Edwin Drude. So there is that awareness, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Yes, I mean, I don't know of any other story that's so centered around tombs and vaults and ancient you know, I tried to do a kind of word count here, but I think the word cathedral, for example, appears 72 times. So the cathedral is Cloistering. Cathedral is an enormous presence throughout, and it's sometimes a warm presence and sometimes it's an old, mouldering, threatening kind of presence as well, isn't it?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, one of the more convincing discussions I've seen about Edwin Drude is the way in which it is focusing on the church. In the way that, you know, you have the circumlocution office and you have attacking on money and otherwise, and Dorot as well, you have attacks on politics. This does seem to be centering on the church as an area for discussion. Now, dickens, as we know, was Christian, but he was wary of the establishment. You know he was wary of this abyss church, and so something like a cathedral is a mixed environment for Dickens. On the one hand, he's going to be very much in favour of the fundamental message, but he is wary of all the hierarchy or the pop around it as well.

Speaker 2:

So it's entirely like Dickens to use this as an opportunity to talk about the hypocrisy within it, because you have got good characters. Reverend Chris Barkle is a good Christian man, ok, but John Jasper is not OK. So he's showing that the two sides there. You know that it's not a given fact and he really pulls on as a dear of the choirmaster being a villain or at least a troubled man as well, and so don't just trust on faith while he's a Christian man there, for he's a good man. Question everything as well.

Speaker 1:

So interesting that you, as you as we spin the character wheel, you've brought in already Jasper, and that first opening paragraph of the novel is through Jasper's eyes, isn't it? Even though it's not 100% first person. That's right, isn't it? Yeah, he's in an opioid haze. Yeah, I just think that's extraordinary, that question about how can that cathedral be here and there it is.

Speaker 2:

And there's so much on that opening paragraph because what you've got there is, you know, the reader has no idea where you are. It's the first paragraph of the story. You don't know what's happening. So when you get this line an ancient cathedral tower, how can it be here? It perfectly captures that sense of waking up and that kind of that blurry. Where am I? What's going on as well, you know.

Speaker 2:

But in that paragraph you get references to cathedral town. You get eventually references to London, but also all these exotic references to Arabian nights and this far off Orientalism excitement there as well, which really is a key theme throughout the story. We have Egypt coming up as well. We're going to have opium. Obviously, we have the landless twins come from Salon. So as an opening paragraph it really does tick all the boxes of this is where we are, but actually a lot's going on here. So, yes, we're in a cathedral town, but you're going to get London, you're going to get, you know, the Oriental coming in here as well. It's all feeding into this. There's kind of melting pot of different cultures going on too.

Speaker 1:

Yes, very interesting, isn't it? Because it's a kind of serene, calm opening in one sense. But then, very quickly, you've got images of Turkish robbers being impaled on the cathedral spike. You know it's incredibly violent. And then when you start to learn more about John Jasper, it starts to make sense. But I've got it. I'm going to confess something to you right now. I read that first chapter and, bearing in mind I hadn't read Edwin Druda Tool up to this point, I read that first chapter and somehow managed to miss that the central character was Jasper, which meant that it took me quite a few chapters to suddenly go. Oh God, that was him in the opium which changed my entire reading, which made it more difficult, because Dickens doesn't waste too much time letting us know that he's, you know, a troubled character at the very least, at the very best. But yeah, there you go.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, this is a great Dickens opening in that tradition of how do I start this? In a way that's really put speed on edge, Pali, what's going on? How do I follow this to Immediately tapping into some key themes of the whole story and that sense of don't trust what you see here, Don't take it into granted as well For a mystery story, especially going through here. You know, don't take everything on faith as you go through here.

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Speaker 2:

And it's fascinating to see the idea of having this character who is dealing with a social drug addiction as well and really exploring the impact on his mind as well. And what we'll never know because again it's not finished is how much we are supposed to blame the opium as a cause or what's happened to Jasper or as a side effect of his own psyche as well. He's taken this open, he's having his visions of what he might do. In some ways it's an easy way of marking about as a troubled mind or even a villainous mind as well. And yet at the same time you know you've got this it's a remarkable depiction of those scenes in the Open Dane and the other characters too, and this depravity and it's not glamorous, that's for sure it's very accurate, I suppose.

Speaker 2:

I mean Dickens did do these night walks. He would go see these kind of scenes himself. So this is not unfamiliar to him, but it would be to his readers, who would be shocked by this kind of depiction, you know. And it is going to the slums and showing this as well, and so as much as it's kind of an easy marker to show that Jasper is a troubled character, nor is it completely condemning Haver as well. You know it's still got that ambiguity of here is a place where this is depravity, but what do we do about this? You know, and it's presenting it as is for you to make your own mind up there too.

Speaker 1:

When it comes to Jasper, I'm fascinated by him because I feel like the other six instalments, if they'd been written, would have given us so much more. But we've talked about but Beth, haven't we in the run up to this, and how often it's referenced in this, and obviously the tragedy of that is. But Beth is this great guy that falls, whereas Jasper doesn't seem to have fallen very far from his first, from the first time we see him. Do you see him? He's already in that kind of bad place.

Speaker 2:

This is where an ending would be helpful, because what is not clear here is how tormented is Jasper? How much is it's affectation, you know? Is he as tormented as he seems? And for me personally, I think he is. I mean, there's enough talk before this where you see the struggle he's going through, the unhappiness too. He's not somebody who is enjoying the situation he's in. That's some of that, which is why he is Macbeth, you know, rather than Richard III. Now he's not gleefully going through and making a sides to the reader and then making jokes about it. He is grappling with the psychological cost of his own.

Speaker 2:

Well, we can't say for certain. I'm fairly certain he's the guy who kills Ed and Jude. Let's let Jasper spoiler. I'm fairly certain, you know and we'll come back to that perhaps in a moment but definitely somebody who's in love of his nephew's. You know fiance as well, you know. So I say he's not a happy character. So, for whatever his faults are, he has at least enough moral awareness to know there is a fault and to be haunted by that too. So I think he is a nuanced character.

Speaker 1:

Yes, it's interesting because I think I think what we're missing perhaps is the guilt that when the conscience is conscious, catches him properly. In Martin Choswit is it Jonas? Some of the fantastic sections there about his guilt at having murdered Montague T.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Montague T, Really I'm prepared to bring in these references, sorry, thank you for helping. You're doing very well yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I think we're possibly missing that. That would have been really interesting, but yeah, I mean even Bill Sykes.

Speaker 2:

you know murders and antebelly. You have then the aftermath as well and the kind of the awkwardness, the haunting of him with his dog as well. So I mean Dickens does do that and I mean again, inevitably. Today we're going to talk about the ending. It's a some extent, you know, we won't get too involved in that, but you know Forster's idea of what Dickens says to him is that the ending is meant to be magnificent, unlike anything done before, that condemned man and his cell confessing. My idea is that it would almost be the antithesis to the Sydney Carton monologue at the end of Tel Aviv, the villains monologue, effectively. But that would be potential for either the guilt that we're talking about or, worse, the lack of guilt and the almost kind of pride, or open, frank acknowledgement what's happened as well, but that the ending would have crowned all. That's the annoying thing. It's not as if this is unfinished or back, it's one where the ending really would have been a killer ending to as well.

Speaker 1:

One of the things you're saying about how much is Jasper responsible for his actions, how much is it his fault or how much is it the opium? And I've got to admit here, my brain is so excited at the possibility of pouring in Macbeth references that I'm looking for them where they aren't there, and you know. So, just to warn you. But the, the princess puffer character, the lady who deals the opium, she has so much of the weird sisters about her, doesn't she? She?

Speaker 2:

really does and fortune.

Speaker 1:

And it's just so interesting, isn't it? The idea that the spell that she possibly casts on him, although it seems that actually she's wanting to well bring him down and punish him, I think you're right.

Speaker 2:

I think actually seeing her as a witch is fantastic. I've not thought up. Well, that's a really interesting idea, because she is morally ambiguous. She's not a villain, but she's not a hero either, you know. So she is the person who is giving Jasper the drugs, resents him for his attitude towards her and then so seeks revenge, justice. She just wants to, you know, cause pain to a guy that she feels has slighted her in some way as well.

Speaker 2:

But again, if you want to do the Macbeth thing, then if the witch gives Macbeth a vision of the future, then Princess Puffer gives the opium and Jasper has these fantasies, visions of what might be as well. Now, just like Macbeth, you can argue that comes from within and his own ambitions first, but nonetheless the opium then gives him that place where he can see, it, realize, and then wants to make it real as well. So there's definitely a sort of a teasing there, and I'd say I've got the opium, or you've got the idea of a man with severe mental issues as well, you know, and one popular theory is that you may have a case of split personality. That's another idea too. So again, that distancing as well that he is, you know, an ill man and therefore not in control. You know the age old thing of using insanity as a plea cause for murder. Here is a potential defensive adjustment. But you know, is he truly in control of his own actions, or is it beyond him too?

Speaker 1:

Okay, oh, that's interesting, and I think you know the moment that made me think of Princess Puffer as a weird sister was actually in the chapter To title the. When shall these three meet again? Obviously, play on. When should we three meet again? Where? Where Edwin meets her in the street and all of that, all of that information she gives him about his name and it being a dangerous name, and that is purely Shakespearean, isn't it?

Speaker 2:

That's huge, which like, yes, edwin's, Edwin's not a safe name to have, or Ned's not a safe name to have as well. So she, yeah, and on the one hand, again she is. She's just relaying what she's heard in the opening and she's heard Jasper saying the name Ned and going that's not a safe name. But equally, you're right, it has this almost supernatural feel of her predicting the future and warning him and that idea of fate that it's the name that makes him unsafe as well. You know he's fated to be unsafe here too. And Beth is running through this whole book and we've said elsewhere, you know Dickens is also a huge fan of Shakespeare and uses King Lear a lot, but this is very much inspired by McBeth. The fact that the nights that Edwin goes missing is as dark and stormy night, you know it's. You know I mean it's poor, well-it's, but also it's very much you know it's McBeth. You know, and that's what makes Jasper so interesting that he's not a villain, he's an anti-hero, isn't he? He's somebody that you are following through, his main character, but you don't like it. You know you're worried about him as well. It's like Colombo.

Speaker 2:

The real sensation is not who done it, but waiting, waiting to see how the other characters find out, begging for the characters to find out when you're going to catch up I've spotted it, why can't you?

Speaker 2:

And waiting to see the villain reveal themselves and get caught. And to my mind, edwin drew it as that kind of story where it's very clear from the beginning John Jasper is a dangerous character. John Jasper is one to watch, and Dickens does this wonderfully arch, innocent web writing Jasper where he just happens to provide wine for Edwin and Neville and just happens to spend a long time preparing it and they just happen to get more aggressive after drinking the wine and it just happens to go and drug dirts later. And there's very innocent narration where, as a reader, you're going no, no, that's not innocent, you know, and you can see the influence there. That's very deliberate and so, to my mind, I have no doubt that you're meant to suspect Jasper the whole way through, and not that to be a twist, but to go. It is him, and I'm just waiting to see everyone else catch up with it as well.

Speaker 1:

Yes, I don't feel like it is a twist either, but I do wonder, as I was falling down the Macbeth rabbit hole, whether or not Dickens is deliberately trapping me, tricking me, because of course we don't actually know really if Edwin has been murdered, do we? There's nobody, at least you know. Watch, and a pin shows up, doesn't it in the? In the we're later on. That's correct.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but you mentioned Bill Sykes a moment ago and of course we always know he's dangerous. I mean, he's very nearly one dimensional, isn't he In that in that way? But Jasper's so fascinating, isn't he? Because he's a? He's a choir master, isn't he? And he's a music teacher and very respectable on the outside and most people think he is incredibly respectable. And then he has the most extraordinary flashes of violence and temper, doesn't he that? Funny enough. Even when you know that about him, there's still quite shocking when you read it. One moment that really gets me is that strange baby devil, as he calls it, in character deputy who just goes around throwing stones at people and animals all the time, and it's just such a weird thing, just that for a moment. But here the way he grabs him by the throat and starts choking him.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and again you said how it's very modern. What I find modern about this is the way that Jasper is somebody who's threatening, but not in a way that could be charged. You know he is, especially when he treats Rosa. You know he is exactly that kind of man that you know the Me Too movement is warning about. So there's nothing to say about Jasper that is oh, he did. This officer arrest him.

Speaker 2:

But Rosa immediately feels threatened by his presence, you know, and the way that he looks at her, the way that he holds his gaze upon her. He's constantly intruding and imposing upon her, but in this way that no one could possibly say he's done something wrong. And yet he's doing everything wrong. And so later on, when he then has his outburst with her by the sundial, it's confirming what we know about him really as well. That's a remarkably modern way of presenting the heroine's plight of this villain who's not twirling his mustache, you know, and laughing demonically, but it's actually just a very quiet, threatening presence in plain sight and everyone goes oh, he's a nice guy, oh, you're misunderstanding him, he's perfectly lovely. And she's like no, no, he's not, I can't explain it, but he's not. Yes. And again the reader sees it and we're with Rosa, but it's that horror of seeing everyone else not acknowledge it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. But did you when you read it for the first time? It must be quite hard, possibly, for you to remember your first occasion of reading it after all the times you've gone through it. Because earlier on I wondered whether Rosa was potentially in love with Jasper and that her awkward feeling and her embarrassment and a sense of shame came from, actually, the fact that, you know, he was accompanying her while she was singing and she couldn't look at him whether it was that, and because we'd already know, I already know by that point that she's not in love with Edwin. But then, of course, you really see that, of course, no, no, this is as you're saying. We're in Me Too territory here with what he's doing.

Speaker 2:

I mean, yeah, do I remember the first time I read this book?

Speaker 1:

It's been so long. Well, it was only two weeks ago, so I'm sort of this is fresh of mind.

Speaker 2:

I mean, obviously, eventually you get her meeting Tata and that's very clearly the romantic lead for her and that's much more clear and much more direct there. So with her on first reading of those early instalments, would you then think there's a potential there? It's intriguing idea. It's something that others have picked up on in subsequent completions where they think that maybe there is a dark attraction there as well.

Speaker 1:

I was thinking the mill on the floss. Actually, it reminded me of which is why I don't know what it was something about the choices there. You know that fatal attraction that you're talking about.

Speaker 2:

And even if in Dickens you've got Edith, granger and Kaka and Dombe and Son, now again that is where Edith ultimately does not like him, but she's warning Dombe the whole time. Can you not see this man is doing this? He's trying to, you know, seduce me. Do you understand what's occurring there? Or again, bradley Headstone, in our mutual friend. But whether you could see that as a dark attraction, it's intriguing, but I think ultimately, as it goes on, we find out, it's not that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I do dispense with that as I go through it. Definitely, but early on it was just in those first impressions. I wonder whether that was intentional, even that you were. Bless Rosa's heart. She makes efforts to protect Edwin from the truth about Jasper. She doesn't want to damage Jasper in Edwin's eyes but of course if he is murdered by Jasper that ironically that need to protect him could be the cause of his death in some ways.

Speaker 2:

It could be. Edwin's a strange character and again it's odd that he's the title character because he really is a side character in all this world and he is somebody who people are acting around him. He doesn't really do much himself. Rosa protects him. Jasper has these machinations against him as well. He's a rival to Neville later on. But Edwin is not really a proactive character in the story. He's somebody. The things happen to him.

Speaker 1:

And he's not a very likable character either in places at the start. The way he treats Neville is terrible. It feels like they're always being brought together to mend their argument by Chris Barker and you think. Well, it's very much a one-sided argument, especially to a modern reader, I think.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. And you said about Rosa protecting him. He is very much spoiled and babied by everyone, and Mrs Topes says this to Jasper that you're too kind to him, you're too good to him, you give him too much. And so there is that idea of, in a way, like a lot of murder mystery stories, you do kind of see why the victim becomes the victim. You can see why it occurs. Now Edwin is not a villain, but you can start to sympathize with Jasper's frustration of why does this guy get the girl and not me as well, this guy who gets everything. And it's also a testing point for Jasper, because this is the boy that he has spoiled himself. But here's this one thing goes no, I can't give you this, I don't want you to have this as well, which matters to me, because obviously Rosa gets no say at this.

Speaker 2:

She's a little bit of an object. But for Jasper that idea of I can't stand by and let you have this girl here is a remarkable test of his devotion to his own nephew as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but just when Neville is trying to make polite conversation very early on, just that lazy arrogance of everyone saying I'm off to wake up Egypt a little bit that kind of.

Speaker 2:

So privileged, so privileged yeah, and Neville's right.

Speaker 1:

Neville says that things are about it would have been better if you'd known some hardships in your life. You would be wise, you'd be kinder, you'd be all these things Absolutely. A word that kept jumping out as I was reading it in some form was stone or stony, or flagstone, half stone. You know stones being thrown at people, but people themselves having stony expressions. There's this moment where Dirdle is going up into the tower with Jasper and he strikes a light on the wall, and it's a line about that mysterious fire that lurks in everything, which I just thought was a very key quote for the whole book. And so often you have these characters especially Rosa, actually where you have these flashes, you have these looks that they give each other, that shoot out like sparks and then they look away again or they look down, or the wall comes down again, and I just thought there are so many moments where that happens.

Speaker 2:

To go back to the fire, a second. Obviously Helena's got this fire in her eyes. Well, there's this tigerish fire in her eyes. There's passion there too. I mean the stoneness.

Speaker 2:

I suppose it comes back to that idea of the unsafe hometown. In a way, there's this sense of lack of connect with your fellow human beings. If they do appear as stones like, do you know who they are? Is there any real warmth in Quistahum? The way the characters act towards you as well.

Speaker 2:

Again, if you're an outsider, you're very much faced with stony exteriors as well and not feeling quite so at home there. It's the age of the town too. It's the feeling of being an old town, a ruined town as well. You've got the ruined castle there as well. So part of the stone is about foundations age. But in terms of the characters it is that sense of not seeing the true feelings expressed on the poker face kind of idea as well. You get pockets of warmth. You get Chris Barkley's mother warmth there. You get Rosalind and Helena knowing each other and opening up. You get Neville opening up to Chris Barkley as well. You get that release of like. I can now be honest with you. So there is a sense of guarding your initial thoughts and protecting yourself, which I think is where the stone idea comes in of not revealing yourself, being emotionless almost as well.

Speaker 1:

And respectability as well, I guess, is there. But what I find so interesting is obviously Helena and Neville. Having come from Ceylon they're going through this whole. Being imposed on them is this idea of civilized society. You've come from a place where it's not civilized and this is true civilized society. And yet, of course, they're the most open, the most honest, they admit their wrongs, they apologize, they try and do right and they have real feeling. So many of the other characters would do better if they let go of some of the manners and politeness so that they could actually really understand themselves and the people around them. And I think of the first scene between Edwin and Rosa where they rehearsed this kind of scenario where they've both been engaged to somebody else and you get this whole, this brilliant, wild, coward kind of dialogue there that really torments them, compared to later on when they break off their engagement.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, both are their best and again, that is when they're actually finally honest with each other as well and looking ahead to later murder stories. Honesty is one of the key things here, isn't it? Honesty is what sets everyone free. So if only Rosa had been honest with Edwin about Jasper, would he still be alive? And this idea of not, if Jasper had been honest and talked to Edwin about it, edwin breaks off the engagement and Jasper doesn't know it's been broken off here. So all these things could have been avoided if people just talked to each other and opened up. So it is that warning against not being closed off, opening up and getting away from those some established ideas of politeness and society as well. But I'm glad you mentioned the Edwin Rosa bit, because this comes back to another bug bearer of mine and you mentioned it before about seeing this as Dickens dies.

Speaker 2:

I mean, obviously your listeners will know this as well, but it's worth stating again that all of Dickens' novels are published in installments, which is what makes this so interesting, because you know, whereas every author really is likely to be writing a story when they die, that's what writers do. Yeah, so it's not unusual for Dickens to have an un-vished novel. What's unusual is people are already reading it before he dies because it's in installments. Yeah, so he publishes it, first on April of 1870, followed by May and June, then he dies and then July, august, september the last three installments there. And what is fascinating is when you look at the reviews of the first installments, they are all saying about how funny it is, how comic it is, how it's classic Dickens again. It's just like Pickwick, it's a return to the good old days of the green covers and it's Pickwick again. And Peck Sniff in or not Peck Sniff, sorry, sapsey is another Peck Sniff and Sapsey is hilarious, the best character.

Speaker 2:

And the scene of Rosa and Edwin is humorous and lovely as well. After Dickens dies, almost immediately the reviews are saying, oh, it's very melancholy and did you see the graveyard scene? And it's like Dickens knew and that starts like that. But going back before that, the humor is there. It's recognized the beginning and then missed now. So things like Edwin and Rosa, that whole scene is a funny scene, it's a comic scene and it's Dickens doing what Dickens does well with these comedy scenes as well, and that's something that frequently gets overlooked. When we look at Druid, we look at it as this dark tale, this mystery, this last tale. But there are funny bits in there too the billikip, the whole bit of billikip, and later on as well. You know when Rose moves to London and there's this demented landlady. You know showing them around the house and how awful it is as well. You know this battleaxe of a character. There are some really funny moments in this book too. We don't talk about them enough.

Speaker 1:

No, it's so true, isn't it? Because I think it does. I had that same thing somewhere in the back of my mind, was the idea. Or maybe Dickens is slowing down in this book, maybe he's not at his peak of his powers or anything, but no, those funny moments are fantastic. I mean, I love all of Sapsy for all the wrong ways. He's so enjoyable, isn't he? And the purest jackass in Cloister Room is Mr Thomas Sapsy. It's fantastic, all of that stuff and his jingoism as well, that Dickens attacks that moment where he does this toast, something like when the French come over, let's meet the Madova, you know and all. And he has a wonderful evening, enjoyable evening at Jasper's house, where Jasper sings him lots of nationalistic kind of George III era songs.

Speaker 2:

And before he becomes mayor, he's an auctioneer, you know, and he's this lovely line where if I've not been to foreign parts, they've been to me. You know, it's like the world has come to me and so this is empire. You know this is. I've got all the world's riches coming to me as well, so I know them via the parts coming to me. He talks about the Eskimos, talks about China, while he's seen the things from them, he knows them enough. He's never been to those countries but he feels like I've seen enough.

Speaker 2:

And that again going back to that opening paragraph, that idea of the Orient being here, you know, how can the Tarabee here, how can it be? You know, we talked about the sword spewing and things like that. There's this whole Arabian night idea in a London scene. There's a lot here where Dickens collapses the world into the UK, into Cloisterham and London, and all comes back and saps. The epitomized idea of the world will come to him. And we're backing into privilege, we're backing into the idea of you know, you need to go see the world actually and get a better understanding of the world beyond your own borders. Here too. But yeah, it's comical, it's also Horror as well to see like he's complete lack of empathy for the world around him, or his own mistaken assumption that he understands everything you know in the best possible way. I've read about it, I know it, I understand. So do you. You know, between him and Honey Thunder you've got a real lack of self-awareness of where they think they're the greatest characters. They think they're the wisest and think you're an absolute jackass.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely yeah. So one of my favorite phrases for Sapsy is solemn idiot.

Speaker 2:

I just think it's so great.

Speaker 1:

But Honey Thunder as well, and the idea of I think there's a line about his philanthropy is so close to animosity that you can't really tell the difference. But I think that's brilliant and that whole sequence where Honey Thunder has the dinner yeah, do you remember that? I love that bit.

Speaker 2:

And he just talks the whole time and it's like, oh God, it's Honey Thunder again as well, you know.

Speaker 1:

But, but, but. It's pure Pickwick, isn't it? Where they where they get rid of him. They send him home early. He ends up sitting in a carriage for half an hour before it leaves.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's time for you to go off. You go Exactly, but in that moment.

Speaker 1:

You know, you know Dickens is such a great writer for so many reasons. But one of you know just a moment like this where he's able to articulate this, where he talks about, where Honey Thunder, in his oratorial style, picks a target around the table to vent at, and it's Chris Barkle. And he vents at Chris Barkle as if Chris Barkle was the subject, the real person that he's talking about, yeah, the real villain of his story. And I know you will know that feeling, with someone's telling you a story where they told somebody off and they start telling you what are you doing? What are you doing?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, exactly, and it's horrific, isn't it? And I mean between that and obviously. Then he's later appearance when Chris Barkle says well, look, there's these, these, these twins that you gave to me for my protection. No, I just want you to know that. So I disown them, I don't know them, I don't do them as well, and exposes the hypocrisy of the guy as well. And it comes back to the idea that of you know, dickens attacking establishment here as well.

Speaker 2:

You know, honey Thunder is the face of professional philanthropy, charity. He's a good Christian soul doing good things, people, and it's all just facade in his case. He doesn't mean it, he's just acting it. Chris Barkle is your true Christian hero in this story, but Honey Thunder, like Jasper as well, it's hollow, it's fake. And so, as always with Dickens, you've got the comedy there, which then builds up to create the drama. It doesn't act in opposition, it's you. You're laughing at Honey Thunder to begin with, and then suddenly you're not laughing anymore, like, actually, this guy, this is too far this now. This is a terrible character as well, and Dickens gets that. That, that clash, that conflict very well of using comedy to make the drama. It'll have it harder as well later on.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And, and I feel like I mean it does have that kind of Pickwickian feel, doesn't it? The treatment of Honey Thunder? But is it, is it fair to say that at this late stage in his writing he's able to pour more venom and scorn on these characters than he would have done back in 1836?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. And this is, you know, the age old argument of Dickens, that you know he writes comic novels to begin with and then goes onto his more serious social, political novels in the second half of his career, not that simple, but certainly something that a lot of his contemporaries picked up on. They said go back to the comic stuff. All these more recent works, they're a bit overreaching yourself and not as good, the irony being that you know, in later generations we've gone all the latest stuff. It's really good stuff because it's so serious and political.

Speaker 2:

But the reality is Dickens is Dickens the whole way through his career. So in the early novels you've got moments of serious social criticism and in later novels, like Drude, you've still got the comedy there as well. But you're right, there is that edge, there is that bite to it. So he'll mock Honey Thunder. Honey Thunder could be a character Pickwick meets on his travels quite easily. He could be at the you know Mrs Leo Hunter's party quite easily, then be right at home. And yet Dickens presents the character, laughs the character, but then goes. Do you see the damage the character is causing as well? So yes, we can laugh at him, but recognise also don't be Honey Thunder, you know, don't just, you know, fob this off as a caricature. Recognise there are real Honey Thunder's in the world as well and correct that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, can I ask you a really scholarly question? Oh, go on then. Do you have a favourite moment in this book?

Speaker 2:

So scholarly. You're glad you came on now. Oh, I am. I think it has to be that chapter. When shall these three meet again? I think that is Dickens writing really well. The structure of it, the three part structure of following, you know, jasper's Day, neville's Day, edwin's Day that's fantastic. The opening of Christmas, even close to him, is some of my favourite writing in the book. I think that's superb, the way he does that too. And, of course, building towards this great finale of the key moment of the story, the disappearance of it and Drude. I think it's really well written, that chapter. And yet the Macbeth, you know images coming through there too. I think it's really Dickens and his peak in the story in particular. I really enjoy that chapter.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, I do. And for some reason, when I was reading it, the Post and Stare just keeps appearing, doesn't it? Ascending the Post and Stare? And you think, is there something more about this Post and Stare that we'll never know later on? I mean, maybe this is for another episode, but I just want to know.

Speaker 2:

What does it mean? And again, this is where this is the danger of assuming the close to him is Rochester, without any change. Dickens changes things. He uses Rochester's inspiration. He changes things. If you go to the gatehouse, there aren't enough doors in the gatehouse compared to what Dickens says. There isn't a Post and Stare. There isn't enough of a Stare for another door, for Daturi's house as well. So Dickens uses the location, but ultimately he's writing his work and he'll change it to suit what he wants there as well. So what does the Post and Stare mean? Is it maybe a mystery? We'll never know there perhaps to. But yeah, no, I, yeah.

Speaker 2:

I mean you say about favorite parts of the story, definitely that chapter as well. But I do definitely like the Honey Thunder dinner scene as well. I like those comic scenes too. I think we need more of those moments. And I love the Billikid and I wish we could see more of her too. But equally the opium den scenes, those marvelously evocative, ambiguous scenes there as well. Just some fantastic things. And then Tata and his fantastic Beanstalk house.

Speaker 2:

You know, like Jack and the Beanstalk as well. Yeah, he's wonderful isn't he? It's some really lovely locations and settings there as well.

Speaker 1:

And I feel like Dickens very, very quickly tells us that Rosa will be with Tata in the end, that they will end up being together. I don't know how that's going to work out for Neville, though, because up to that point Neville seems perhaps destined and the right guy for her.

Speaker 2:

You would think so, but no, neville seems to be the doomed youth here as well, the melancholic youth who's not going to get the girl. Maybe it's the Sydney Carton of the story here too. But yeah, no, I think. Yeah I do. It's funny because I started work on the book because of the endings, but actually I really like the book, I really like the story as it is and trying to explain that to people, actually it's really good. And, yes, it's not ending, but what there is there is really enjoyable. And then some really great moments of writing on Dickens' part. Here too, I mean, collins called it the melancholic labour of a worn out brain. But it's no, it's not.

Speaker 1:

It's great that's coloured by what happens to Dickens, isn't it?

Speaker 2:

I'm sure that is, isn't it?

Speaker 1:

And how you feel emotionally towards it and you start to think oh, it's tombstones all the time, but characters and poor animals are being pelted with stones, aren't they? Then? These aren't stones that stay where they are? No, I don't see that now. Reading it, I expected to find that actually I would, but no, I'll say it again.

Speaker 2:

I mean right, the knowing that Dickens died puts us in his last novel and at the end of a second half of writing the comic novels and these later novels. I again want to contest that because when you look at this turning point Dickens creates when he goes to Italy in the 1840s, he comes back and writes Don Bien Son. That's his big turning point, great, okay, that's like a one year break away from writing he takes to have that turning point. After I'm With your Friend, it's five years before we write Edwin Drude. It's a five year break going on tour, doing readings, and then he comes back to write Edwin Drude and we go. That's his last story. But for his readers it was his latest story, it was the new Dickens.

Speaker 2:

So my counter argument is what if Dickens didn't die in 1870? Then this wouldn't be his last story. It'd be the first of a new, third wave of Dickens' fiction where he's doing something different, something new and it does feel new. There's a lot of Dickens traits there, a lot of classic Dickens, but also the tone, the style, the structure. He's going to be 12 monthly parts. He's never done 12 before, it's always been 20. Why now 12? What's going on with the structure as well. He's trying new things out with his last novel, and so I don't see it as being a tired laboured effort. Rather, it's being a new start, a new type of writing, and if only it had carried on we'd have seen what else had been like his new third phase of writing there as well.

Speaker 1:

Yes, I'll share this thought with Tata. You mentioned Tata, just his ability to scale roofs and jump out of windows and slide down ropes because of his naval career.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

It makes me think that surely in the climax of the story, he was going to at some point be sailing down the side of Cloystrom Cathedral or something, or there was going to be something, something there where he got to be a hero maybe, yeah, no, I'm thinking of all those wonderful nautical dramas of the age like Black Eyed Susan and things, no.

Speaker 2:

Or Colleen Bourne. We get these great acrobatics on stage of actors swinging across the stage and stuff and climbing over, and Tata's very much in that vein of the melodramatic hero who will swoop into the end and save the day. Yeah, he's a fantastic character there too and, you're right, you can start to see signs of well, maybe, how is he going to save the day? What's he going to do there too? Yeah, I'd like to see more of Tata. It's a shame the way the book ends we only have half of it. We prioritise those characters who feature more in the first half. There's this character up towards the end, like Tata, like the Billigan they were. What would they become? Would they be as great characters, given the chance to really develop, like the earlier characters have as well? We'll never know, yeah.

Speaker 1:

I was interested on what you thought of Rosa as a character, because she's really extraordinary, isn't she? I mean, she made me in the early stages think of Dolly Varden. But then you realise, you know, and as Edwin finds out, there is a lot more to her, she is. So she's such a wonderful, rounded person. She's intelligent, she has emotional depth and intelligence, and that is completely overlooked.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely so. The first time you see Rosa you don't actually see Rosa. You see her painting. Jasper and Edwin are there, yes, and it's unfinished. It's an unfinished picture and that perfectly described Rosa to me. You know, it's the idea that there she is on the wall, that Edwin's looking on her as something he owns or will own. Jasper is looking upon it as something that he will want to ideally own as well. You know who owns it the painter, the owner of it as well. That voyeurism there too.

Speaker 2:

She is somebody who is frequently painted the Bombayovas and portrayed in a way of what they think she is At the Nuns house as well. They all think they know who Rosa is. Rosa doesn't know who Rosa is. You know she's a mystery to herself as well and trying to work that out. So I think the temptation is to go oh, she's quite a slight character. She's just a bit of a typical Dickens hero, a bit flat as well. I don't see that. I see her as being a much more interesting character, somebody who liked Dolly Vard and starts that way a bit. She's pettish, she can be quarrelsome and a little bit spoiled as well, but you see her develop more than Edwin, even as she breaks off the engagement, as she moves to London, as she deals with those hardships that never wishes upon Edwin, we see her grow as a character and mature into a woman from her, from her kind of initially what seems like a city girl as well. So I think she's a really interesting character what we make of her and you know again we're jumping ahead here.

Speaker 2:

But when we talk about the end of this book, yes, does Edwin die?

Speaker 2:

Is he alive?

Speaker 2:

Is Jasper the killer?

Speaker 2:

Whatever? What about Rosa? Because we can almost be fairly sure she's going to marry, because that's what Dickens heroines do, right. But that's the real debate, where it's not clarified by Forster what happens, or people disagree with that, I beg your pardon. Forster says, sure, marry Tata, but people go. Would it be Tata? Would it be Neville? Will it be Jasper? Will it be Edwin? Alive and returned as well?

Speaker 2:

Who is going to be Rosa's true love at the end of this too and this will be a discussion for maybe our next podcast but the idea of you know what is Rosa's fate, who do we presume Rosa to be and how does that shape what we think her fate will be and who she should marry to. But I think I think the fate of Rosa bud is a far more interesting question than the fate of Edwin Drude. I think it says a lot more about us and how we see the character and what she is. Is she just like a city girl? Is she a modern day woman? How do we interpret her? Yeah, I think she's delightfully ambiguous. You know teasingly so perhaps as well what we tried to make her as a character.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah. But I mean that combination, that combination of sweet, pretty girlish at the start, with all that depth as well, it's if there are two Dickens, women from two opposite points in his writing career combined in this one, Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, and to what extent is the silliness just something that she puts on. What is at her mask, you know as well, and we do see this moment of seriousness beneath it as well and her trying to articulate that and figure out who she is. Beneath it too it is kind of deconstructing some of the classic Dickens heroines here, you know, making a more interesting character there too.

Speaker 1:

Something that I thought might interest you, because I was doing my my desperate word search, is. It may not be 100% accurate, I should just say that, but I think the word murder in some form appears 19 times in this.

Speaker 2:

Okay.

Speaker 1:

And I think the first occasion that it appears is is used by Jasper describing Neville's behavior to Chris Sparkle, neville's sorry, neville's behavior to Edwin as murderous, yeah. So again, I'm just wondering whether, oh, there's something in there. There's something in there Dickens is trying to tell us. But I'm interested also I don't know what you think about this in in, in what Jasper seems to do, the, the pieces that he seems to lay down on the track. Yeah, like keeping a diary that he shows Chris Sparkle about how he feels, about how his nephew's in danger, and these little things, and what an earth is he doing up in the tower with Dirtles? I love that chapter. Yeah, yeah, that night with Dirtles. It's so strange, isn't it?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it is. And again, this is where I go back to the, the Braddon comparison, because Dickens is doing that thing where he's writing such a way that you got you you're 99% certain what's happening. But you know, if you're 100% certain it wouldn't be interesting. 99% is just enough to be, to be you're confident but you're just not entirely so and it's frustrating. That makes want to read on and confirm what you think is going on there as well. So this way it's all about that. The Dirtles goes and he feels sleepy and he dreams that Jasper comes back and takes the keys and walks away again and they're going. He does, he does definitely, but you can't say for certain as well.

Speaker 2:

But you're right, there's a lot of and again, it's sinister is what it is the way that you see Jasper maneuvering around and just suggesting things to people. You know Neville has a murderous look, you know, and planting those seeds of doubt in characters as he goes through. You know, I worry about Neville and what he's going to do to my, my nephew as well, and accusing him. There's no evidence against Neville, but but Jasper's already set everyone against him before the crime even happens. So the horror there is that Jasper's a very intelligent character and it is seeing and again. This is where close to him becomes this terrifying town, because he's able to manipulate the small community and play upon their strengths and weaknesses, their idea of community, to go. There's the outsider. Don't trust him. You know what's he doing as well, and he really exposes the dark underbelly of society. And that's the real horror of Jasper not what's going on internally of him, but how he then uses that to expose the darker undercurrents of everyone else around him as well and gets them on side of him too.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and just out of interest, do you think, because you mentioned Jasper's wine it seems to be obviously made mixed quite potently for Edwin and Neville to be at each other's throats. And then this, he, he, how he brings the wine to the tower that night with dirtles, doesn't he? In the wicker bottle, and that sends that, causes dirtles to basically be falling asleep on his feet and waking up again. Yeah, so he's. Do we assume that he's drugged? We can only assume so.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, this is where you would have you know in an adaptation, the slow, lingering camera shot on the glass where you know don't drink the wine. Don't drink the wine. But Dickens does, and his narrative. He makes you suspect what's going on. Why is Dickens preparing this? And you're reading between the lines of what is happening here as well, and it's a very clever narrative where he never tells what Jasper is thinking, but rather shows you what he's doing and leaves you to infer. And often he will show you what he's doing and describe it through the eyes of another character who says it's a very innocent.

Speaker 2:

Yes, it's Jasper preparing a drink. And oh, good old Jasper has come around to warn Chris Blackwatt, neville as well, like no danger. Here as well, we don't trust them. And so, opening it with him in the opium den, showing from the offset this, this, two sides of Jasper, it's that warning that we have as the reader that no one else in the book has. We have privileged information about Jasper that the other characters don't have, which means we trust them less than they do too. So we are looking for these clues. They're missing.

Speaker 1:

A moment I love is when Grugius, rosa's guardian, goes to see Jasper and tells him that Edwin and Rosa have broken off their engagement. And what happens to Jasper's face and how he goes into this spiral, this crazed metadramatic spiral, and this, yes, his face is described, I think, as as leaden but bubbling, as if under heat or something, and that's an amazing loss of control there for Jasper, isn't it? That must surely come back to bite him, if we assume the story is finished and has been completed, it absolutely is.

Speaker 2:

And what I love about that is it says Grugius tells that actually the marriage is broken off. So at that point Jasper has all been for nothing and Grugius heard a terrible shriek, saw no ghastly figure sitting or standing, saw nothing but a heap of torn and mirey clothes upon the floor. So he collapses. And then Grugius is brutal, not changing his action. Even then he opened his palm, his hands, he warmed them and looked down at it. So Grugius goes oh there's Jasper, he's collapsing the heap. I'll just keep warming my hands by the fire here as well, like the worst CPR in the world I don't have Grugius there for first aid at any time.

Speaker 2:

He's like oh look, he's collapsed. Interesting. And what does that mean? The fact that Grugius tells him this, sees Jasper collapse and does nothing? I mean immediately he's already suspecting Jasper. And again, that's the way Dickens describes that. He simply describes what Grugius does. He sees the body carries on warming his hands by the fire. He doesn't say Grugius suspects Jasper. He doesn't say Grugius thinks that. He just says what Grugius does and we are left to infer what he's thinking. And that's what he does throughout the story. You're never really known what they're thinking. You're just left to kind of assume it and work it out for yourself.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, that's really, that's really well put, and I think what's so interesting is if we don't get to see all of Grugius's arc, do we? Because at the very start, when he first introduced to us, he's actually seen as a little bit of a comic character maybe possibly one that you can't take seriously, or one that doesn't know anything. And yet he becomes a hero to Rosa when she flees to London, doesn't he?

Speaker 2:

And yeah, absolutely. He's a safe haven. Again, london is a safe haven. So she goes to Grugius as in, that's where she can be safe. And then he's the one who kind of calls a council of Crisparcula and Tata to work out what best to do for Rosa as well. So that becomes then your new den of operations for the heroes to retaliate. And it's interesting isn't because the half we have is charting Jasper working up towards the murder. There is a shift towards the end there, as we see the response of everyone else. So now that the event has happened, we see the Grugius and Crisparcula factions working out how do we now respond to this? How do we save Neville? How do we entrap Jasper as well? We suspect him. How do we prove it's him as well? So it would have been interesting second half had it come to see, would Jasper still be in the second half as much? What would he be up to as well? We get more opportunity, I think, for the other characters to react to that and be more proactive too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, I've got a question about Dick Datchery for you. Go on, okay. Well, I sort of a question. I mean, could that be? I mean, because the name Dick, is it Dickens himself coming into his story a little bit with his buff waistcoat and his shock of white hair and his slight eccentricity and feigning kind of oh, I'm just a buffer, I'm idle, I don't really, I don't know, you are not the first to think that one of the completions does make the joke that actually Datchery is Dickens.

Speaker 2:

You know Dickens gone to report on the thing himself, you know. So it's an autobiographical portrayal of himself. There too, dick Datchery, yeah, great, great character and again, absolute enigma. And because we never really find out his identity, that's the tragedy, because I think he's a great, I want to know who he is. I want to know is he, you know, helena in disguise, or Edwin in disguise, or Bazar in disguise? Is he a new character as well? I'm really frustrated by that and not being able to flesh out Datchery's character properly and exactly who he's meant to be.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I did. I've tried to do anagrams of Dick Datchery, yeah, and I think something like nine out of the 12 letters of the name Dick Datchery fit with Charlie Dick. Okay, don't know that Don't ever can get anything out of that Conspiracy theories.

Speaker 2:

It always happens Everyone starts reading Edwin Drewdinger's. I won't fall for the same trap. I won't go down those rabbit holes and next thing you know you're there with the paper on the wall and the crayons Exactly.

Speaker 1:

Have you done that? Have you found that? That must have happened to you while writing your book. You must have had to be told. You have to be restrained from thinking about it too much.

Speaker 2:

Really, really did. Yeah, a couple of times I thought oh, that's interesting. No, no, no, don't do not st that wave man has sliced up away from that. Yeah, it's trying to solve Edwin Drewd. I tell you it's a dangerous and slippery path. It's a fun one, but you've got to know when to step back and walk away from it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Absolutely. I could tell you two words I've written down here. I didn't know what this brings anything from the story. I've got sex and race and I think, as in sexual desire, I feel like this one has quite a lot of you know, the people's blood when they get up. There's a lot of. I see a lot of that in this book in ways that I don't always see it in other Dickens.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I mean again, the immediate precedent for Jasper is Bradley Headstone in our mutual friend, very similar character in the way that he pews Lizzie Hexham. So you've got that archetype there of the dark pursuing figure. You mentioned Datuerie as Dickens. A lot of people have seen Jasper as Dickens, as a dark, autobiographical painting of himself. You know the obsessive, compulsive character with this younger woman he's pursuing as well, and this is quite fanciful to think that he might be doing this. If he is, is he doing it consciously, subconsciously? Like all authors, he's going to pull into himself to bring out characters. But it doesn't seem to see Jasper as potentially Dickens indulging his dark side and imagine that kind of fancied being, that pursuing figure there too.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, there's a lot of desire going on in this story, a lot of that sort of and repression too. That's the point I mean. Jasper can't just say to Rosa you know, may I court, you know he's dating his nephew who then becomes a potential murder victim as well. It's never appropriate from to do that, and the way that repression makes it worse for him makes the desire stronger that it is denied. Therefore he only yearns for her more as well, to the point that Wench then says to him I don't want to marry you, he wants even more as well. There's nothing is enough to say no to him. So uncontrollable desire, denied desire as well, certainly comes through there passionately. And, yeah, you've got that slight kind of fish on.

Speaker 2:

When you've got, you know, the landliss twins arrive and Edwin's like oh, helen is nice and you know, and that was like oh, rosa's nice, and they're all kind of very much quite flirty as well. And looking to have a lot across paths there as we go through the race card is really interesting. I think I've mentioned a few times the general background of the Orient and the exotic you know, edwin going to Egypt, the world coming to Sapsi via all the antiques, then the landliss twins, obviously the landliss twins coming up from abroad as well, and that idea of you know Britain meeting its own empire and it coming back to it and confronting it as well. So one of the questions is you know, are the landliss twins know what is their ethnicity? You know, are they white, are they not? You know, again, we assume it's Dickens. Of course all the characters are right, but we don't know that they're referred to as being dark in complexion.

Speaker 1:

Gypsy like yes, dark enough for Sapsi not to trust Neville at all.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, exactly. Yeah, you know, and there's a lot to talk about that tiger's blood they've inherited from being raised abroad as well, so it's quite ambiguous. The illustrations definitely have crosshatching on their skin to make them look darker as well. So when the BBC adapted it, they had Asian characters casting the role as well. So they did play them, you know, as non-caucasian, which is interesting Because then they're the first major non-caucasian characters in Dickens ultimately, which would be huge.

Speaker 2:

But yes, they epitomise the outsider and the plight of the outsider. You know, they come from abroad, they're immigrants, they come in, you know, and they treat it with suspicion. They treat it with, initially, charity, but the idea of be grateful for what we're doing for you, always be grateful, you know, don't you know how lucky we are? But suspicion, you know, and you're right, they are friendlier and more open than a lot of the characters who presume there's been better than the two. So there's a real interesting discussion going on in this story that Dickens is bringing in of how high and mighty we can be, perhaps you know, and questioning that you know, and looking at what does the other world have to offer?

Speaker 1:

to us here. Yes, and I love that. I love that strange paradox with the landless twins of them being both hunters and hunted. That's a phrase he uses twice, I think, that idea that they have this power and they I don't know whether we're going into territory with well, they're closer to nature, they don't have the luxuries of a Western society, so they're in their bodies more and they're used to engaging in that way. But I think that's really interesting too. But it's so complex in the book, it's not. You can't pin Dickens down 100% and if anything, he writes very feelingly about them, doesn't he? In a way that's sympathetic.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And again, if they are sympathetic, because ultimately we're sure the level's innocent and he is unfairly tried by public opinion, so in that sense they are sympathetic. Equally, there are some moments where you're like what? The phrase in that way, necessarily, you know, yeah, so talking about this, this tigerish blood Inside them and the dark looks that they have, you're like what, what do you mean by that exactly, charles? What does that occur? So there's a clumsiness there.

Speaker 2:

I would say perhaps of a 19th century author trying to write about race. But I think the intention is there to you know, to show them as ultimately good people.

Speaker 1:

Yep, I would agree with that, but it does feel like it's going, pushing forward in the right direction, doesn't it? Even if the starting point is in that the the the worst moment I thought, if we're going to look at that, Mm-hmm is the moment in the very first chapter where he describes Princess puffer. We don't know who she is yet, but yeah, talks about Something like. He notices that the woman has opium smoked herself into a strange Likeness of the Chinaman. His form of cheek iron temple and his color are repeated in her.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's you know that's the expression of a Chinese face looking stone, basically.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's, it is, it's um. It's not great, is it, you know?

Speaker 1:

Have you because we've got kind of you come across this with students or having to talk to teach this, or where do you go with that?

Speaker 2:

It's a really difficult Thing to do because, ultimately, when you look at any right for the past, there are going to be ideas there that are of the time, that are not of our time, and so you have to look at these things all. Wish he hadn't said that. I wish he hadn't said that too. It is like having you know your, your racist uncle at the table, like we don't we don't say that anymore.

Speaker 2:

We don't say any more, charles, don't, don't, don't say that. So partly your left of is. It is a gratuitous, is it? How? How much weight is there behind this as well.

Speaker 2:

So, famously, fagan, all the twists, no, there's this, this villainous juke, and Dickens himself changed it later on. He went, you know, he was appealed to because originally in the first edition Fagan is predominantly referred to simply as the Jew, and then Dickens changes to change to Fagan in later edition, so it wasn't so prominent about, about his religion there as well. And so moments like this, I mean the opium, den, generally talking about, you know, the Chinaman there and the laska, one of the issues there, the, these stereotypes. I say is with all due caution, but at the time Dickens is writing, you know, there were Quarters of town, you know like that's where the Chinese quarter that's, and there wasn't that mixing in the same way. So, yes, it was a multinational Society, but there were definite factions in there and ways of depicting the mass right, the Chinese, the ones bringing over the opium, that kind of. I think that too. But we go no, no, no, no, that's not true.

Speaker 2:

It's like well, actually it kind of is for the time he's writing as well, you know.

Speaker 2:

So there's dangerous territory of it. Yeah, it's. It's a difficult one to try to depict that of what is what? Is Dickens reporting on the racism of the time in a matter-of-fact way and he just simply repeating what others saying around him? And If so, is that okay? Is that race is not. Or what is Dickens pointedly making comments that are Over and above the views of his time, indrewed not so much Princess Puffer's Likings of China and Aside, there's not so much off that Some of the other works. We get moments. They're more troubling there too.

Speaker 1:

That's great. That's so great, pete. Thank you, right, because I just thought I saw it and I don't because it can only be brought up at another point If it's not talked about, if it's not looked at. You know, but something else in that first chapter, that just just very quickly on. Look, beth, again, did you notice the phantom dagger thinking air drawn daggers from? Macbeth Laska tries to pull a dagger. There's no dagger there because Princess puffers taking it off him.

Speaker 2:

Is it a dagger?

Speaker 1:

I see before me, it's not exactly yeah the air drawn dagger that led you to Duncan I just. I've gone, my mind has gone crazy over Macbeth in this so I've been so restrained, but I just wanted to throw that in. I thought I thought. Possibly to finish, there's this one delightful random passage that I thought you might remember and like, which is um Old miss missus chris barkles closet yes, this wonderful cabinet full of all these curiosities and different spices.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it's a fugue. He describes it as a fugue and has a portrait of handle above it. I mean, what an extraordinary, delightful thing that doesn't show a mind shutting down and losing its edge, does it?

Speaker 2:

not at all. No, it's, it's, it's, I say you, it's a wonderful kind of depiction of it's Dickens doing what Dickens is best, which he, you know he's right about a domestic space and really Pulling out the, the universe within the house. You know, like here is, like here's a closet, but look what's going here, what it tells about the character, about the person as well. In though it's, it's, you're right, it's, it's beautiful, detailed and it does send out something to watch and yet has no relevance to us, a story whatsoever, you know it's, it's all a clue. There's, there's, there's no poison in there or anything to us to go. Aha, that's what means, you know it. Rather, it's just Dickens taking the time to really lay out the scene and detail it and tell us by character, through the objects of their house and their surroundings as well. What you didn't mention, which I thought you're gonna mention on the bed thing, was the waiter with the leg, like with death.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, it's blatant, isn't it? When he's dragging it, he's dragging it behind him with guilt, yeah exactly.

Speaker 2:

So this is the waiter serving. I think it's Edwin and and and and grudges. He serves and there's the way to come to bring the food from, and as he leaves, the last thing you see is his leg leaving like a Macbeth on the stage. And it's great because, first of all, it's a comic reference with Beth, which we love. Comic references, we love, we love. You know it can't all be doom and gloom. But also, specifically, it's a reference not to Shakespeare's play but to the way it's done on stage at the time.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so one of the questions about Dickens and Shakespeare is is Dickens reading Shakespeare? Is Dickens watching Shakespeare? What's the difference? So there's moments of the language coming through. That's the real engage with the texts there. You know those quotes to come through there as well could be of a reading or on stage, but moments like this with the waiter, he's really talking about it as a theatrical experience here too. But those moments that and when should these two meet again? They are so explicit. You know, you're primed to go.

Speaker 2:

Macbeth is here, I mean, and later on he talks about Chris Barker, goes for swim in in the way where he finds the, the watch and the shirtpin, and talks about the water being like Lady Macbeth, you know, as she tries to part it. So again you got. You got three explicit references to Macbeth. There are enough for you to therefore see the other references as not Accidental either. You know, it's running through his mind here, keeps pulling back on it again and again. It is, it's a modern day Macbeth. He's writing here in the story yeah, and it's. It's a really interesting lens to see the story through, because of what it offers for Jasper's character as a Macbeth figure, but also for that kind of gothic tone it lends to the story as well this idea of this sort of supernatural state and bad things happening and so forth. To foul as fair and fair as foul. It really encapsulates that, that unsettling feeling close to him, this supposedly friendly town that ultimately is a scene for for murder, we assume you know.

Speaker 1:

If only we knew. But we assume. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I think my last Macbeth point was that I think Dirtles is the porter. Yes, absolutely, with the keys and everything.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the keys as well, you know. And upon the murder scene, absolutely yeah, and that's some kind of comic dark comic humor really. You know that. You know this is a guy who spends his whole time working with bodies and creating tombs and he's got that kind of graveyard humor about it. Yeah, yeah, definitely In the style of the porter coming along with the end of the murder.

Speaker 1:

That kind of character, yeah, Pete, this has been so enjoyable. Thank you so much, and I cannot wait for part two, when we can let rip about all the theories, your theories, everybody else's theory about what on earth happens after Dictatory has fallen to with his appetite or whatever. That last line is Absolutely, yeah, perfect. I look forward to it, thank you so much.

Speaker 2:

Okay, you're welcome. Thank you, bye.

Exploring the Setting of Cloisterham
Dickens' Edwin Drood and Mortality
Jasper's Torment and Macbeth References
Themes of Character and Openness
Dickens' Last Novel
Charles Dickens in Edwin Drood
Manipulation in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"
Themes of Desire and Racism
Analyzing Macbeth's Modern Adaptation