Frances Wilson at Literary Review:
While he was writing Edwin Drood, Dickens was imbibing large quantities of opium, a drug that allows us, Thomas De Quincey explained in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, access to a ‘second life’. Opium also allows the ‘guilty man’, De Quincey continued, to regain ‘for one night … the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure of blood’. But at the same time as releasing the guilty man from his chains, taking opium causes further feelings of guilt. ‘In the one crime of OPIUM’, wailed Coleridge, whose life was destroyed by it, ‘what crime have I not made myself guilty of!’
Dickens was the master of guilt: Little Dorrit’s Arthur Clenham is a study in the psychopathology of the guilty man, and so is John Jasper. But it was his own guilt that increasingly haunted Dickens, and the figure of Jasper was a disguised self-portrait.