Jul 04

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde : The Strange Case of

Posted by Soliloquy in Books on CD

When a brute of a man tramples an innocent girl, apparently out of spite, two bystanders catch the fellow and force him to pay reparations to the girl’s family. The brute’s name is Edward Hyde. A respected lawyer, Utterson, hears this story and begins to unravel the seemingly manic behavior of his best friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and his connection with Hyde. Several months earlier, Utterson had drawn up an inexplicable will for the doctor naming Hyde as his heir in t… More >>

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde : The Strange Case of

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  • Since I am a contributor to this volume, I will not offer a “review” in a conventional sense, but I will offer a list of contents, which this website otherwise does not offer. As there are a number of competing paperback editions of Stevenson’s novella and the text of the story is essentially the same (allowing for minor editorial variants), readers should consider the issue of what else besides the main text they will be getting for their money, and this edition is unusually rich in supplementary features, so that the original story makes up only 55 of its 222 pages.

    In addition to the text of Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” with explanatory notes by the editor, this volume also contains:

    A preface by the editor, a “textual appendix” about textual variants in the manuscripts, a map of 19th century London marking places mentioned in the story, a timeline of the major events in the life of author Robert Louis Stevenson, and a bibliography. Plus…

    An excerpt from a biography about Stevenson by Graham Balfour about the circumstances of the story’s authorship…

    A brief excerpt from Stevenson’s “A Chapter on Dreams,” which discusses the influence of his dreams on the story…

    12 letters by Stevenson that discuss aspects of the “Dr. Jekyll” story…

    10 contemporary reviews and comments about “Dr. Jekyll” that show how the story was originally received…

    Another horror-oriented short story by Stevenson entitled “Markheim”…

    A brief non-fiction piece by Stevenson, “How I Came to be such a student of our Penny Press,” together with some examples of 19th century book advertising…

    Three essays about the literary context of “Dr. Jekyll”: Karl Miller, “The Modern Double”: Jenni Calder, “Stevenson’s Scottish Devil Tales”; and Judith Halberstam, “An Introduction to Gothic Monstrosity”…

    Four essays about the scientific context of Stevenson’s story: Stephen Jay Gould, “Post-Darwinist Theories of the Ape Within”; Frederic W. H. Myers, “Multiple Personality”; Norman Kerr, “Abject Slaves to the Narcotic”; John Addington Symonds, “This Aberrant Inclination in Myself”…

    Two essays about the socio-historical context of Stevenson’s story: Judith R. Walkowitz, “London in the 1880s”; and Walter Houghton, “Hypocrisy”…

    Three essays and a filmography about theatrical and film adaptations of “Dr. Jekyll”: C. Alex Pinkston, Jr., “The Stage Premiere of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”; Charles King, “Themes and Variations” (about film); Scott Allen Nollen, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Paramount, 1931)”; and Katherine Linehan, “A Checklist of Major Performance Adaptations”…

    And five additional critical essays: G. K. Chesterton, “The Real Stab of the Story”; Vladimir Nabokov, “The Phenomenon of Style”; Peter K. Garrett, “Instabilities of Meaning, Morality, and Narration”; Patrick Brantlinger, “An Unconscious Allegory about the Masses and Mass Literacy”; and Katherine Linehan, “Sex, Secrecy and Self-Alienation in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

    For sheer range of commentary, I do not think that you could point to a comparable volume.

  • +++++

    I have seen many movie versions of this classic. So, I made the assumption that I knew the true story. Then I read this book. Was my assumption ever wrong!!!

    This particular book (published by Signet Classics in Sept. 2003) of less than 150 pages has five parts:

    (1) Opening Pages. They include a brief biography of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 to 1894). (Takes up 4% of the book.)

    (2) Introductory Essay. This was written by the late, famous Russian author Vladimir Nabokov. (Takes up 20%.)

    (3) The Actual Story. Its original title is “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886). (Takes up 65%.)

    (4) Afterword to the Story. It is written by a modern writer. (Takes up 8%.)

    (5) Selected Bibliography. Outlines great works by and about R.L. Stevenson. (Takes up 3%.)

    The introductory essay was an actual lecture Nabokov gave when he was associate professor at Cornell University from 1948 to 1959. It gives a thorough, detailed analysis of this “seldom read” classic.

    The afterword consists of a shorter analysis of this classic by the modern writer Dan Chaon. I felt that this afterword provided valuable insight regarding the story of Jekyll and Hyde.

    Chaon sums up the entire story: “The structure of [‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’] follows a path as indirect and elusive as its multiple narrative voices. With its obliquely recorded incidents, its eyewitness accounts and sealed confessions, it resembles…a [police detective’s] casebook–a collection of gathered clues, fragments, through which the clever detective may be able to…project a complete narrative. Perhaps one of the most compelling aspects of this novel [of ten chapters] is that, in fact, there’s so much left here for [the reader] to fill in, so many scenes that [the reader] can only imagine. Such a structure creates fertile ground for allegory [a story with symbolic meaning] hunters, and there are indeed many convincing interpretations of this novel…The puzzle-like structure of the novel [which only has eight major male characters] creates a kind of Rorechach test, open to various interpretations.” (A Rorechach test is where a person interprets inkblot designs.)

    The inspiration of this short novel is said to have come from a dream (or, perhaps more accurately, a nightmare) Stevenson had. His actual writing is amazing and skillful in all chapters. The writing especially of the last two chapters, chapters nine and ten, stood out for me. Here, for example, is his actual description of what happened when somebody observed someone using Dr. Jekyll’s concoction: “He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; as I looked there came, I thought, a change–he seemed to swell–his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter–and the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arm raised to shield me…[and] my mind submerged in terror.”

    Finally, the cover of this particular book is interesting. It shows the shadow of a man in a top hat behind a window shade. This can be taken to represent Hyde who is a shadowy character.

    In conclusion, this particular book has it all: an introduction by a late, well-known author, an intriguing mystery/horror story by a late, famous nineteenth century author, and an afterword by a gifted, modern writer. Be sure to read this book to learn the true story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!!!


  • This is another first-rate critical edition from Norton. The text is cleanly printed with careful and accurate annotations. Both the critical and the backgrounds and contexts essays are well chosen. Sections on performance adaptations on stage and screen and on literary, scientific and sociohistorical contexts are particularly useful.One of the best critical essays is the editor’s own. A detailed Stevenson chronology and an accurate selected bibliography conclude the volume.

  • We all know the term “Jekyl & Hyde” but I suspect many, like me, have never actually read the story. It was a surprising pleasure and I was able to try out the dictionary function on my Kindle several times (words no longer used in modern day writing).

  • Published in 1886, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE was an instant sensation and had a tremendous impact on later generations; it would not be an exaggeration to say that there have been hundreds of stage and film productions drawn either directly or indirectly from the original Robert Louis Stevenson story. Readers who come to the story from these adaptations, however, will very likely be surprised: few of them do more than borrow Stevenson’s central concept.

    Unlike the numerous stage and film adaptations, Dr. Jekyll is not a young or remarkably handsome man, nor the book does not contain any of the romantic subplots to which its adaptations are prone. At approximately one hundred pages, the story is very direct and extremely well suited to Stevenson’s very precise style, which is very clean yet extremely evocative and very readable.

    That said, modern readers are unlikely to be shocked by the book. For one thing, the story is too well known; for another, it contains very little of the graphic horror typical of current horror stories. But more than anything else, DR. JEKYLL is very distinctly a novel that draws from the Victorian era, and much of its impact was due to that society’s remarkable hypocrisy; it was a world in which appearances were everything and a double life “acceptable” as long as you were not caught at it.

    The same concept arises in two other novels from the same era, Bram Stoker’s DRACULA and Oscar Wilde’s THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, albeit in distinctly different forms. But whereas the Stoker and Wilde novels transcend their era, Stevenson’s tale does not, and with the passing of Victorian attitudes the work has lost a great deal of its power to shock. Even so, Stevenson does touch a nerve with his chemically-induced transformation; then as now, drug abuse was a scourge, and in addition to this the work is somewhat similar to Mary Shelly’s FRANKENSTEIN in the sense that it anticipates a host of ethical concerns that have become more and more pressing with the passage of time.

    Although it has not held up as well as the other titles named, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is nonetheless unavoidable for any one who has an interest in gothic or horror literature because it had–and continues to have–such a tremendous influence on later works. Stevenson’s prose is elegant, it is “an easy read,” and I think most contemporary readers will enjoy it if they make the effort to see it within the context of its era.

    GFT, Amazon Reviewer

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