‘In the midst of Cloisterham stands the Nuns’ House: a venerable brick edifice, whose present appellation is doubtless derived from the legend of its conventual uses. On the trim gate enclosing its old courtyard is a resplendent brass plate flashing forth the legend: “Seminary for Young Ladies. Miss Twinkleton.” The house-front is so old and worn, and the brass plate is so shining and staring, that the general result has reminded imaginative strangers of a battered old beau with a large modern eye-glass stuck in his blind eye.’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood(1870).
Eastgate House in Rochester is an obvious setting for Miss Twinkleton’s exemplary establishment in the unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood) Set discreetly back from the road, it has its own walled garden in the middle of the town.
But like other buildings in the town (most obviously Restoration House in Great Expectations) it fails to protect a vulnerable young person within its walls. Looking out of its windows Rosa Budd would be able to see the High Street where a young Pip suffers public humiliation at the hands of Trabb’s boy while showing off his new clothes. At the other end of the street is the Bull Inn, otherwise the Blue Boar where Pip is outraged to learn that the odious Pumblechook is credited with having been his first friend and mentor.
Rosa is associated with feminine rooms and gardens rather than public spaces. But this level of decorum is threatened when she is persecuted by the sinister Jasper in the ‘school’ itself. Ostensibly teaching her music, Jasper appears to hypnotise Rosa, who is both terrified and fascinated by his obsessive devotion. Dickens was working on the novel, which was never completed, in his Swiss Chalet when he died on 9 June 1870. The chalet itself now stands in the garden of Eastgate House. Speculation continues as to the fate of the missing Edwin at the Drood Inquiry.
Dickens, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.
Orford, Pete. ‘Christmas in Cloisterham’