A Dickens Whodunit:
The Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury has opened a new exhibition exploring the legacy of Dickens’s final and unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. With the sudden death of the author in 1870, the narrative was cut short and as a result, Dickens’s unsolved tale of mystery has captured the imagination of generations of literary enthusiasts ever since.
In the immediate wake of his death came a flurry of new stories claiming to be solutions to the unfinished ‘mystery’, ranging from the bizarre to the fantastical. One early solution by a psychic medium claimed to be written through the spirit of Charles Dickens himself!
Between the mid-1880s and the mid-twentieth century Drood scholarship established itself as a far more serious debate, with arguments raging between scholars in disagreement over whether title character Edwin Drood was dead or alive. There were even public trials held in Britain, America and Canada to determine the truth, with famous figures such as playwright George Bernard Shaw taking centre stage in the proceedings.
However, just as the debate was settling and a consensus was beginning to emerge, Rupert Holmes blew the whole ending wide open once again, with his Tony Award-winning 1985 musical Drood, in which the audience could vote for any ending they wished.
The Dickens Museum has, for the first time, gathered all of these many and varied solutions together in one place, from the earliest solutions to the novel written the year of Dickens’s death (including one penned by the author’s eldest son Charles Dickens Junior) to an adaptation in which Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery.
Visitors get the chance to investigate the central crime scenes, search for murder clues hidden within the interiors of his beautiful Georgian townhouse, and see the table on which the novel was penned, along with clips from theatrical adaptations and the wealth of theories on ‘whodunit’.
There is also an opportunity to engage in a very current Drood debate led by the exhibition’s guest curator, Dr Pete Orford of the University of Buckingham. His interactive website The Drood Inquiry has seen more than 15,000 members of the public offering their own views on the most likely solution and the final results are now on display at the Museum in a bespoke comic strip by illustrator Alys Jones.
Exhibition open until 22nd November
Monday to Sunday from 10am until 5pm.
Last admission is at 4pm
Charles Dickens Museum
48 Doughty Street,
London, WC1N 2LX