The Mystery of Edwin Drood. 16.3 cm wide by 10 cm high, vertically mounted.by Sir Luke Fildes. Facing page 124 for
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
It would have made a pretty picture, so many pretty girls kissing Rosa in the cold porch of the Nuns" House . . . . The hoarse High Street became musical with the cry, in various silvery voices, "Good-bye, Rosebud darling!" 
In early December 1869 Dickens wrote to Fildes requesting that the artist send him "some specimens of pretty ladies" (Letters 12, 449), and here they are in abundance. Dickens was apparently quite impressed with the "specimens" of feminine pulchritude that the artist provided, for in a letter of 16 December 1869 he termed the sketches "highly meritorious and interesting" (452).
In contrast to the all-male group meeting in the street in the last plate, here a predominantly female group takes leave of Miss Twinkleton (upper right) as Helena Landless and Rosa Bud embrace in parting (right of centre). The other ten young ladies and the other teacher, Miss Tisher (right, by Miss Twinkleton) are not named at this point in the text, but Dickens describes the situation and the place clearly: the departure of students for Christmas Break at the porch of the Nuns' House: "the bespoken coaches began to choke the street. Then leave-taking was not long about" (123).
The focal point of the scene is the meeting of the heads of blonde Rosa and brunette Helena, the latter taller but only partially shown in Fildes' original study (see Kitton, page 212), the figure and clothing of Rosa providing visual continuity in that they are markedly similar to Fildes' depiction of the heroine in the second plate in the series, "Under the Trees" (April 1870). Of the four illustrations involving Rosa, this is decidedly the most "disappointing" compositionally, for, as Jane Rabb Cohen has noted "Fildes, better at rendering a few characters at once, nicely spaced the girls bidding farewell to Rosa at Miss Twinkleton's but hardly differentiated them either from one another or from the heroine, who is identified mostly by her central position in the picture" (225). The illustrator has, however, communicated a nice sense of the movement and variety of responses attendant upon the close of the fall term, but, yes, the young ladies do seem clones of one another, even to their having identical taste in hats. The small background figure waving and the coachman (left, foreground), bending over to pick up a suitcase, create a strong sense of perspective, and is probably Fildes' only rendering of Joe, the driver of the Cloisterham omnibus and leader of the party of four that apprehends Neville Landless near The Titled Wagon in Chapter 15, "Impeached."
Cohen, Jane R. "Chapter 18: Luke Fildes." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980. Pp. 221-234.
Dickens, Charles. The Letters of Charles Dickens, ed. Graham Storey. Oxford: Clarendon, 2002. Vol. 12 (1868-70).
The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Other Stories. Charles Dickens. With Illustrations [by Sir Luke Fildes, R. A.] London: Chapman and Hall Limited, 193, Piccadilly. 1880.
Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators: Cruikshank, Seymour, Buss, "Phiz," Cattermole, Leech, Doyle, Stanfield, Maclise, Tenniel, Frank Stone, Landseer, Palmer, Topham, Marcus Stone, and Luke Fildes. Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1972. Re-print of the London 1899 edition.
Last modified 24 June 2005