Author Robert Louis Stevenson called dreams, “that small theater of the brain which we keep brightly lighted all night long.”
Stevenson often used dreams as a resource for his stories. The most famous example being his novella, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers,” Stevenson later recounted. The next morning, he told his wife, “I have got my schilling shocker- I have got my schilling shocker!”
Stevenson wrote the novella in white heat. Finishing the draft in 3-6 days and revising it within six weeks. The tale which described the duality of human nature first appeared as a paperback in 1886 selling for one dollar in the United States.
One Sunday, Mr. Utterson is taking the weekly walk he shares with his old aquaintance, Mr. Enfield. Upon passing a windowless building with a door without bell nor knocker, Mr. Enfield relates a sinister encounter with a man named Mr. Hyde who lives in that very abode.
In a sublime example of allowing readers to use their own imagination, Mr. Hyde is simply described by Mr. Enfield as, “There is something wrong with his appearance; something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarse know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. He’s an extraordinary looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way.”
Mr. Hyde had crashed into a little girl on the street. He’d trampled right over her body and moved on, ignoring her cries. When eyewitnesses demanded he pay the family damages, Mr. Hyde agreed and brought out a check signed by the well-respected Dr. Jekyll.
Upon hearing of this event, Mr. Utterson is convinced the good doctor is being blackmailed. What ensues is a well-wrought tale of London fogs, dark streets, murder, and the evils that exist in the human mind.
Written in a terse, yet evocative style- Stevenson’s, “schilling shocker” will never be forgotten.