Charles Dickens

The book finally appears in November 1873 with this title:  End of the Mystery of Edwin Drood, followed by this extraordinary subtitle:  Dictated from the After-Life to Thomas James by Charles Dickens.

Naturally, the critics pounce on the book and snicker, ready to tear it to pieces.  Having read it, their amazement is without bounds.  They all have to admit that in this work can be found the style, the verve, the humour and all the mischievousness of the great English fiction writer, and one of them even writes:

“If it were not known that this book has been written by a young man from Brettleboro, it could be believed that it is by Charles Dickens himself…”

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"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" appeared in monthly installments which were interrupted in June 1870 by Dickens' death.

Young Thomas James wrote absolutely nothing else.  He had left school at thirteen to become an apprentice printer and only just knew how to read and write.  Further, when he read anything, it was one of those magazines for adolescents filled with stories of Indians…  He had never opened one of Dickens’ books…

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After the publication of End of the Mystery of Edwin Drood and in light of the critics’ enthusiasm, the editor, who didn’t believe a word of the story recounted by Mrs Blanck, and thought that he had found a young fiction writer full of talent and capable of following on from Dickens, ordered a second book from him…  Poor Thomas James refused, saying that he would never be able to imagine a story.  So the editor pulled a contract out of his pocket, promised him a lot of money and ordered him to get to work.  Tempted by the amount of money promised to him, Thomas finally agreed to try…  It was lamentable.  He was unable to write three lines correctly, and his personal career stopped there…

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It could be thought that the book had been written by a professional writer, perhaps hiding amongst Mrs Blanck’s other lodgers.  However, if this author had existed and was capable of writing such a talented pastiche of Dickens’ style, he would not have remained hidden for long.  It’s not the sort of thing that a writer would do.

Some time ago, a book entitled La Chasse spirituelle was presented as an unedited work by Rimbaud.  It was an extraordinary, anonymous pastiche.  But the whole of the literary world soon found out who had written it.  It was Pascal Pia.

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The Thomas James case was studied.  The man the most interested in it was the English fiction writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (father of Sherlock Holmes) who, in the last years of his life, was passionate about spiritism and the occult sciences.  Conan Doyle had Thomas James’ book studied by literary critics.  Their conclusion was that the author had acquired the style, the vocabulary and even the manner of thinking of Dickens.  Which appeared inexplicable to them, coming from a young, uncultured American boy…

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It is not known what happened to Thomas James.  After the publication of his book, he returned to total obscurity.

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Perhaps, in certain cases, we are “helped”…  And what if this “help” is what we call inspiration?

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