The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the last of Dickens’ novels. In accordance with his practice, it first appeared in six monthly parts from April to September in 1870; and it was first published as a volume in the same year. The first three parts were issued by Dickens himself before his death, and thereafter the remaining parts were issued by his friend and biographer, John Forster. Although there have been occasional speculations about the possible length of the completed novel, the testimony of Forster and others indicates that Dickens planned to fmish it in twelve monthly numbers. It is true, of course, that the novelist had not always been averse to changing his plans right in the middle of a novel. For example, he interrupted the course of Martin Chuzzlewit by sending his hero to America, because the regular issues of the novel were not selling enough copies to satisfy Dickens, and he wished to capitalize on the popularity of his previous writings on the United States. He also modified the plan of Master Humphrey’s Clock in such a way as to produce The Old Curiosity Shop; and the reader can see that amazing and neglected novel taking shape before his very eyes. However, both Martin Chuzzlewit and The Old Curiosity Shop are comparatively early works, written during the years when Dickens’ methods of composition, for all their astonishing fertility, were still more or less improvisational.
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