'Where is my nephew?, asked Mr Jasper, wildly. 'Where is your nephew?' repeated Neveille. 'Why do you ask me?' 'I ask you,' retorted Jasper, 'because you were the last person in his company, and he is not to be found.' The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens's last novel, lay unfinished at his death. Speculation remains rife as to its probably conclusion; evidence suggests that, fascinated as Dickens was by details of the plotting, his basic concern was for character and appropriate setting, in particular the character of the hero-villain, Jasper. The ancient city of Cloisterham, its cathedral a reminder of mortality, human frailty, and the lawful life, is an effective background for what Dickens daughter called a tale of 'the tragic secrets of the human heart'. Humour is provided by a host of characters ranging fro Mr Grewgious, the admirable though eccentric lawyer, and Miss Twinkleton, guardian of the Young Ladies' Seminary, to Durdles, the hard-drinking stonemason, and Deputy, the irreverent lodging-house boy. This edition contains Dickens's working plans for the novel, and the text is that of the authoritative Clarendon edition.
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