Famous Last Words:
“Mrs. Tope’s care has spread a very neat, clean breakfast ready for her lodger. Before sitting down to it, he opens his corner-cupboard door; takes his bit of chalk from its shelf; adds one thick line to the score, extending from the top of the cupboard door to the bottom; then falls to with an appetite.”
A few hours later, as Victorian novel freaks well know, Charles Dickens stroked out at age 58 leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished. By that point in the story Drood had disappeared, fate unknown, and like Dickens he’s been gone ever since.
However much this unsolved mystery roiled the public, it caused particular pain to Samuel Luke Fildes, the book’s illustrator, who was suddenly deprived of a really good gig. But then he saw an opportunity:
He called it Empty Chair and sold thousands of prints.
Artist Robert William Buss took a look at Empty Chair and yes, saw an opportunity. The print inspired him to create a great big painting he called Dickens’s Dream:
…The dozing author, as you see, conjuring a great cloud of his characters.
Unfortunately Buss died suddenly before he could finish the painting. Leaving another work of art unfinished.
And yet to me the picture in its present state is perfect. I think it’s more beautiful than it would have been completed. It’s certainly more ethereal. It also makes for a diabolical 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
The pieces are spread on a table in my living room right now. At this writing the puzzle remains unsolved.