Many readers familiar with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations are aware that he originally wrote an ending where Pip and Estella meet years after their painful parting only to solemnly shake hands and go their separate ways again:
It was four years more, before I saw herself. I had heard of her as leading a most unhappy life, and as being separated from her husband who had used her with great cruelty, and who had become quite renowned as a compound of pride, brutality, and meanness.
I had heard of the death of her husband (from an accident consequent on ill-treating a horse), and of her being married again to a Shropshire doctor, who, against his interest, had once very manfully interposed, on an occasion when he was in professional attendance on Mr. Drummle, and had witnessed some outrageous treatment of her. I had heard that the Shropshire doctor was not rich, and that they lived on her own personal fortune.
I was in England again — in London, and walking along Piccadilly with little Pip — when a servant came running after me to ask would I step back to a lady in a carriage who wished to speak to me. It was a little pony carriage, which the lady was driving; and the lady and I looked sadly enough on one another.
“I am greatly changed, I know; but I thought you would like to shake hands with Estella, too, Pip. Lift up that pretty child and let me kiss it!” (She supposed the child, I think, to be my child.)
I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham’s teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.
It was only after Dickens’ friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton complained that this ending was too sad that he attempted another:
“You have always held your place in my heart,” I answered.
And we were silent again until she spoke.
“I little thought,” said Estella, “that I should take leave of you in taking leave of this spot. I am very glad to do so.”
“Glad to part again, Estella? To me, parting is a painful thing. To me, the remembrance of our last parting has been ever mournful and painful.”
“But you said to me,” returned Estella, very earnestly, “‘God bless you, God forgive you!’ And if you could say that to me then, you will not hesitate to say that to me now,—now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but—I hope—into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends.”
“We are friends,” said I, rising and bending over her, as she rose from the bench.
“And will continue friends apart,” said Estella.
I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.
Few readers, even those familiar with Dickens’ many revisions, are aware of the other endings he wrote at further request from other Victorian writer friends of his. The Toast is pleased, for the first time since their writing, to publish these endings here.
The Wilkie Collins ending:
THE STORY CONCLUDED BY PHILIP PIRRIP
“There are three things,” Estella said, brushing a loose piece of piquet from her cuff, “that young men of this generation cannot do. They can’t hold their liquor, they can’t play whist, and they can’t pay a lady a compliment.” She then proceeded to do all three at once. Somehow I knew that our first child would be a son. In writing these words, I have written all.
The Thomas Hardy ending:
Estella and I sat in silence in the ruined garden for some forty years. We said nothing of our mutual feelings: pretty little phrases are unnecessary between two who have suffered together such as we. She had a child at some point around our eighth year of silence; I did not mark it. The baby did not live. The only thing worse than a weak woman is a strong woman who gives her strength to an unworthy man: Estella was the strongest woman I had ever known. Stars are like apples: full of worms and 2p a bushel. The only marriage I’ll ever contract is one where the woman and I promise never to see one another again. Then I’d crawl through ships and burn down Parliaments just to catch a secret glimpse at her. Never let a husband meet his wife, that’s the key to happiness. Enough. I have already written more words than this sore and sorry subject merits. Let this old heart burn out of passion, and let no one mark it.
The John Ruskin ending:
It wasn’t because of her pubes that things with Estella didn’t work out. It was her cold, cold heart.
I know what pubes are.
The George Bernard Shaw ending:
“Well,” Estella said after a minute, “if one cannot rid oneself of the family skeleton, one may as well make it dance.”
“I don’t believe in circumstances,” I said.
“The pig likes it, at least,” she said after a minute. This would not do.
“The truth is the funniest joke in the world,” I said.
“You have a smudge,” Estella said, leaning over me with a handkerchief, “right here, on your soul.” We both laughed merrily. It was dreadful. Somewhere, thousands of people were crunching celery at the same time.
The Elizabeth Gaskell ending:
Hell is snow-white, and a factory. How I despaired of ever knowing Estella, who was born forty-five yards north of me, as the crow flies, which is to say: she was born in another world. North and South would never be united in our clasped arms, and I would die in this factory. The future is stern, and made of iron, and neither of us could survive in it.
The H. Rider Haggard ending:
Though the face before me was that of a young woman of certainly not more than thirty years, in perfect health and the first flush of ripened beauty, yet it bore stamped upon it a seal of unutterable experience, and of deep acquaintance with grief and passion. Not even the slow smile that crept about the dimples of her mouth could hide the shadow of sin and sorrow. It shone even in the light of those glorious eyes, it was present in the air of majesty, and it seemed to say: ‘Behold me, lovely as no woman was or is, undying and half-divine; memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand–evil have I done, and with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, and from age to age evil shall I do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes. Estella spoke:
“We run to place and power over the dead bodies of those who fail and fall; ay, we win the food we eat from out the mouths of starving babes.”
“Oh,” I said. “Right-ho, then. Quite right.”
Man must die. At the worst he can but die a little sooner.
The Lewis Carroll ending:
When I came upon Estella in the garden, she was battling a series of canaries carrying foils in their beaks, and squeaking, “Pythagoras! Pythagoras!” with all the might of a Spartan battalion. “How is the Duke of Brittany?” she asked as the waves carried me past her. “Round about, roundabout,” I said, before crashing into a large grasshopper shaped like the Marquis of Queensbury. “Another vat of crumpets,” shouted Miss Havisham, who had only been dead for the two hours between tea-time and suppering.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.