Fourth monthly number: Case Notes

Not a month goes in which I do not point out the difficulty in our self-imposed limit of one page in which to summarise the monthly installment for our graphic novel, but this month more than ever the pressure is keenly felt. “When shall these three meet again” in itself could occupy several pages. As ever then, the challenge for our illustrator was to find the balance between identifying those key moments upon which the story relies, and those moments best suited for graphic depiction.

*See number four here: *

In visualising Drood it allows us to appreciate the silent crowds of the story. When Jasper emerges on Christmas morning in search of his nephew, the whole town are witness to the scene, yet the presence of so many characters can be lost when we have only the text to guide us, whilst a picture allows us greater appreciation of the crowd behind the desperate choirmaster. Moments of action, such as Crisparkle diving into the weir, gain greater prominence than moments of discussion, such as Grewgious’s long discussion with Jasper (it does broach two chapters, after all).

It is a good moment to reflect on those points in the text which Dickens himself chose to illustrate – the parting of Rosa and her schoolmates, and Grewgious standing over the fallen Jasper. the latter seems perfectly in tone with our ideas of sensation fiction (see Anne-Marie’s wonderful post for more on this genre:, but the former has no such place. It is however, very Dickensian; a community taking leave of its favourite, with whom we as readers are to invest our hopes and interest – consider Nicholas Nickleby taking his leave of the Crummles, or Paul Dombey leaving Doctor Blimber’s school – and so in the choice of illustrations for the installment we see a recognition both of the old Dickensian style and his foray into a new genre: sentimental and sensational at once.

Yet when, as in our monthly summary, you illustrate more than two moments, then a greater consistency of tone is established. As Edwin disappears, Jasper gains prominence once more over Crisparkle as the main player in the story, but being only a third of the way through the story (were it complete), who know what other characters of importance may yet be introduced…?

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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