Book Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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.

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Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 8:45 am  Comments (30)  
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  1. I love that story, and I even like the old B&W films made of it. There was a Universal Horror movie documentary about it, and they were showing scenes of John Barrymore doing the transformation in, IIRC, one continuous take. It was awesome.

    I’ve been on a Sherlock Holmes kick myself lately, and am currently in the middle of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Good stuff!

    BTW, your snowflakes made me freak out. I thought there was something wrong with my eyes at first, since it’s almost two in the morning here, lol.

  2. I have never read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and it seems as though I am missing a great book. Thanks for posting this review. I will have to seek it out at the library.

  3. Oh how I love me some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I love the old Ingrid Bergman version of the film.

    Snow! Love the snow!

  4. Hey there Jen,

    I’ve seen the Spencer/Bergman adaption. I wonder if youtube has the documentary and/or the John Barrymore film version. That would be cool.

    Funny, with all my love of both Victorian lit in general, and gaslit mysteries, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Sherlock stories. I always thought he was sort of creepy- one step away from being a sociopath. I mean, seriously, the guy had no frigging emotions. But I *love* the Jeremy Brent tv version. He was just amazing in the part.

    That’s so funny about the snow. Reminds me of one late night/early morning I jumped on AW after a NaNo session. I read someone’s post and thought, “what the frell is that person talking about? Their post makes no sense.” Then I blinked and realized my tired eyes had read the whole thing wrong. That was my cue for bed. lol

  5. Hey C.J.,

    I hope you enjoy it. It’s a great novella for a winter’s night. 🙂

    Mine is in a Signet Classics along with Frankenstein and Dracula. Three greats for the price of one. Happy me!

  6. Hey Mary,

    I just checked youtube. Looks like every film version is there from the 1912 silent to the Bergman version. 🙂

    I’m loving the snow, too. I hope they get more cool graphics like this.

  7. Oooh, happy watching! I’m going to look and see if they’ve got a copy of Lon Chaney doing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, too. 🙂

    Sherlock is the uber-intellectual, for sure. I actually don’t mind him being that way, since I don’t have to bump into him in real life. Not unlike loving Dr. House on TV, but having someone like that for a real doctor? Uh, no thanks, I’ll pass.

  8. I love the story, and I particularly like the musical Jekyll and Hyde.

  9. Hey Colby,

    Where have I been? I didn’t even know there was a musical version. Cool!

  10. I love novels in London fog. : )

    Sounds like RLS was getting his NaNoWriMo on, but the speed version (as if it isn’t already, lol!)

    Em : )

  11. Oh the musical version is amazing. My sister and I saw the touring company with Linda Eder. She was fantastic.

  12. Best songs: Dangerous Game, Sympathy, Someone Like You, A New Life

    Here’s Linda Eder singing A New Life (it’s chilling in the show because it is just before Hyde shows up and murders her.)

    Okay. I’ll stop. 😀

  13. Mary,

    I just watched Eder singing A New Life. So beautiful! Thanks so much for giving me all the links. I’m going to watch the other scenes tonight. 🙂

  14. Hey Em!

    Heh. I just had a vision of Stevenson counting his words and going, “Damn! I haven’t met my daily quota yet.” 🙂

  15. LOL! Too funny. : )

    Em

  16. SUCH a good book. I can’t believe he wrote it in 6 days. I feel so inadequate.

    this snow is awesome. Now I have to go find some for my blog……

  17. Hey Amy,

    I know. I know. Six days. Gawd. There are accounts he used something besides coffee to stay awake…

  18. NaNo nuthin’ – sounds like he was trying for the 3-day novel contest (3daynovel.com) and ran over.

  19. Hey Unfocused Me,

    There’s a 3 day novel contest? Oh, gawd. You never should have told me that. I might be insane enough to try it some time.

  20. A 3-day novel contest? OMG, I can’t imagine it — not if the dogs and horses want to eat!

    : P

    Em

  21. You’re so tempted aren’t you, Emily? lol

  22. And I worried that my first novel was too short. Go figure.

  23. LOL! What, and have ANOTHER query letter to write? No way! (winks).

    Em

  24. Hey Ralfast,

    Me too. When this WIP is done, I doubt it will be any longer than 60K.

    I hear so many conflicting opinions on this. Some agents speak how it’s harder to sell a shorter novel these days. Other agents say a book should only be as long as it should be. I agree with the latter. I refuse to fill my work with filler.

  25. I’d try the three-day novel contest myself, but by the end of it, I would be permanently stuck as Mr. Hyde.

  26. Hey Unfocused Me,

    Look on the bright side. Think of all the nasty, twisted tales you could spin while in his mindset.

  27. Isaac Asimov also wrote a short story based on a dream he had. I wish I could do the same, but my dreams never make enough sense. Or stick in my head long enough to translate into fiction anyone else will want to read.

    As for finishing the draft in 6 days, that’s even less likely for me. 🙂

  28. Hey Marian,

    I have very vivid dreams. I write them down every morning in my journal and use some scenes and images in my work.

    I know- six days! Luckily, it did take him another six weeks or so to edit it. Maybe the first draft resembled a NaNo. I like to think so. 🙂

  29. I love Dr Jekyll Mr Hyde its a well written novella, but my favourite Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story Markheim

  30. I haven’t read that story. Will have to check it out. 🙂


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