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Femslashing Dickens: I refuse to acknowledge romantic friendship as a thing

Obviously I picked up The Mystery of Edwin Drood again. Obviously.

I'm not very far in (that'd be crazy) but since I know the whole story anyway, I skimmed ahead to see if Helena Landless, Indian (India-Indian) and twin sister of Neville Landless (who I think figures largely in Drood), is in fact a character in the book, or just made up for the musical by Mr. Rupert Holmes because he is awesome.

And she is totally in the book! And the FIRST thing I found for her was a scene at Rosa Bud's boarding school where I guess they're rooming together. Rosa Bud is engaged to Edwin Drood and has been since childhood. Because of the childhood thing, they're not so into each other, and eventually become more like BFFs. So there's that. Here Helena and Rosa are settling down for the evening and fricking Dickens writes this:
"I can answer for you," laughed Helena, searching the lovely little face with her dark fiery eyes, and tenderly caressing the small figure. "You will be a friend to me, won't you?"



It's immediately followed up by Rosa agreeing, but saying she is surprised Helena wants to be friends since the latter is "so womanly and handsome." Mhm.

This was written in 1870. The rather sapphic Woman in White by Dickens's best friend (and our fearless but dead leader) Wilkie Collins was written back in 1859. I'm admittedly going off Wikipedia, but on 'romantic friendships', it says "in the second half of the 19th century, expression of this nature became more rare as physical intimacy between non-sexual partners came to be regarded with anxiety."

So what is Dickens up to? Maybe he was stuck in the past. Maybe he thought Helena's nationality would somehow bar it from being seen as a Thing. Maybe he and Wilkie had some weird contest that involved writing about lesbians — I don't know what those guys got up to in their spare time. 


Oh, this thing, also found while skimming for Helena:

I don't even know where I am anymore

Drood isn't mentioned in Emma Donoghue's Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature (did you know that Emma Donoghue is a woman of many facets?), but Miss Wade in Little Dorrit is, and she seems to be more of a clear-cut case. Little Dorrit was published in its entirety in 1857, which tallies much more nicely with my Wilkie contest theory, but having written the latter 13 years prior, I see no reason why he'd take a step backwards with Drood.

Basically I'm writing this at midnight because I was feeling shippy about Rosa/Helena anyway due to Betsy Wolfe and Jessie Mueller who play them on Broadway, and then it turns out, oh, hey book. Look at you. With your words.

I blame you two dorks

Maybe actual context will change eeeverything. Oh, but wait, Rosa has a panic attack in the first 70 pages and this happens: 
With one swift turn of her lithe figure, Helena laid the little beauty on a sofa, as if she had never caught her up. Then, on one knee beside her, and with one hand upon her rosy mouth, while with the other she appealed to all the rest, Helena said to them: 'It's nothing; it's all over; don't speak to her for one minute and she is well!'
Damnit, Dickens. Why don't you just go write Goblin Market.

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