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. He left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished, and no outline to indicate where the story was going. Edwin (the character) has disappeared, that’s all we know, and like Dickens he’s been missing ever since.
However much this drove the reading public crazy (and it did, and continues to in its quiet way), it caused particular pain to Samuel Luke Fildes, the book’s illustrator, who suddenly lost a really good gig. But then he saw an opportunity:
He called it Empty Chair and it sold like hotcakes.
Artist Robert William Buss took one look and also saw an opportunity. The print inspired him to create a great big painting he called Dickens’s Dream:
…The dozing author, as you see, visited by a host of his characters.
Buss died abruptly before he could complete the work, leaving another work of art unfinished. But better this way, don’t you think? Really beautiful and ethereal. In any case, it makes for a super-challenging 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
The pieces are spread on a table in my living room as we speak. So far the puzzle remains unsolved.