Third Monthly Number: Case Notes

Well, the latest graphical summary of the plot has just been released (see ) and as ever it raises questions of the month’s big issues. The amount of text to accompany the illustrations has increased, which seems rather fitting for an instalment in which report and speculation emerges prominent over the absolute and material. The rumours and ruined reputation of Neville play in contrast to the Dean’s speculation over Jasper’s biography of him: the biography of course is a figment of the Dean’s imagination caused by an overconfidence in his own reputation. Or then there is the ever-looming, yet never-present, marriage between Edwin and Rosa that dominates the scene between Drood and Grewgious. And of course, the disembodied scream of last Christmas – it is a month in which we hear more than we see, with Dickens taking great delight in the ambiguity that affords, not least in Durdle’s intoxicated perception of Jasper in the tomb as his footsteps trail away from the dozing stonemason.

That said, the final chapter brings us to the archetypal image of familiar gothic sensation territory. A crypt? At night? Spooky stuff, and far removed from the distinctlt unsensational surroundings of Crisparkle and his mum at breakfast in Minor Cannon Corner. Joanne rightly said that the lack of an image for Jasper and Durdles in the crypt seems an odd ommission,  but perhaps there is something more unsettling in Dickens’s refusal to wholly give himself up to the location of sensation. By prioritising the comic scene in Fildes’ s illustration,  and contrasting the gloom of the crypt with the sparkle of the Crisparkle household, and indeed setting the book as a whole in this quaint, nostalgic little town, it strikes me that Dickens is deliberately putting sensation fiction out of place, away from the continent and deep into the heary of merry England, with the result being that the comfortable and familiar becomes distinctly uncomfortable, and unfamiliar.

Published by Pete Orford

I'm course director of the MA in Charles Dickens Studies at the University of Buckingham in conjunction with the Dickens Museum in London. I am currently editing Pictures from Italy for the Oxford Dickens collection, and I'm Chief Investigator for The Drood Inquiry ( My book "The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Charles Dickens’s unfinished novel and our endless attempts to end it" was published by Pen and Sword Books in 2018.

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