It’s amazing to think that some of history’s greatest ever scribes didn’t always finish a novel. What’s more fascinating is when those books were amongst some of those writer’s most acclaimed pieces of work. It’s incredible what you can get away with when you’re a genius. Here’s a look at the greatest books ever written that each of which, for various reasons, were never actually finished.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
It is believed that author Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his stories between 1387 and 1400. The General Prologue states that each pilgrim featured in the works should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. However, his project was never finished, probably due to the enormity of the project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. When Chaucer died he left hand written manuscripts, all which had to be reworked and put into some kind of order, although no one is really sure what order the tales should be in. The original copies of Canterbury Tales were printed in 1477 by William Caxton, the first printer to introduce the printing press in England. Only one of these first copies is still in private hands and was sold in an auction in 1998 for £4,621,500.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
This literary masterpiece is the last thing Charles Dickens wrote before he died, apparently exhausted by the amount of public appearances and work he had put upon himself. The book, which was two thirds finished when he died, centres not around character Edwin Drood but that of his Uncle Jasper who was a rather nasty piece of work. Scholars have several possible endings to the story as Dickens wrote to his biographer John Forster telling him he had dismissed his planned ending for another one but wouldn’t disclose anything further. The BBC made plans at the beginning of this year to produce an adaptation of the unfinished novel and actually write an ending to it so watch this space.
Don Juan by Lord Byron
This is considered Byron’s masterpiece even though he died while in the middle of writing it. Don Juan is a comical poem, rather than a novel and a lengthy one at that which takes legend Juan through affairs and slave ships. Interestingly Byron appears to have put a slant on the original character traits of Juan and portrays him not as a womaniser but as someone easily seduced by women. However, we will never know what Byron had in store for him at the end as he died from a fever in Greece before finishing it. The impression we have of Byron is that although dedicated, he wrote Don Juan when not tied up with other commitments in his busy life, such as romancing his mistress Lady Caroline Lamb or travelling.
Sanditon by Jane Austen
Sanditon is very amusing, witty and modern for its day and written while Austen was suffering a serious illness which ultimately within six months, led to her death. The novel is based around the construction of a seaside town and the lives of the people who have invested and are planning to live there. It is believed the new town is based on Worthing or Eastbourne from Austen’s personal experiences with the areas. After her death, the book was finished by several authors, all who gave different titles to the book.
The Castle by Franz Kafka
The Castle is a dark novel centring around the narrator, only known as K., who tries to gain access to a castle which governs the village for unknown reasons. Author Kafta died of Tuberculosis in 1924 before he could finish it and ordered his friend Max Brod to destroy his transcripts on his death. This was ignored, however, and Brod went on to edit and publish his friend’s writings. No-one knows what the ending would have been as Kafta never gave any clue while alive and it is questioned whether he would have actually finished the work had he survived his illness or not. Most of his works were published posthumously and, unlike many authors, he had no recognition of his writing while he was alive.
This article was scribed by a member of Print Express; a UK printing service that specialize in business cards, brochures, leaflets, booklet printing and a range of other services.