The sun had long departed; the dark windows staring vacantly at me as I sat behind the desk at Juniper Books, smiling at a woman approaching with her find. Perhaps it was the purple jack-o-lantern glittering beside me, or the rise and fall of the clairvoyant’s voice from upstairs where he was giving readings that was responsible for the wonderfully spooky feeling that had overcome me, but the leering distorted face of Mr Hyde lopping across the cover of the book our guest handed me cinched it, and inspiration struck! I would feature, starting appropriately with Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a different strange or creepy book for the five days leading up to the spookiest of all days; Hallow’s eve, when we embrace our dark sides and step out into public as our ghoulish selves!
So to kick things off:
Book # 1: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
– Robert Louis Stevenson
This is a strange tale indeed. It is said that the inspiration for its writing came from a horrifying dream that Stevenson had. Upon being awoken from his cries of terror by his wife, he allegedly scolded “Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.”¹
A fever of sorts apparently overtook Stevenson while he did the writing. He would rush down to read the latest to his stepson Lloyd Osbourne, only to be overcome midway through by further inspiration, which sent him, gasping and stumbling, back up the stairs to continue writing.¹ The first draft of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde took all of three days to complete.¹
However, upon reading the criticisms offered in the margins by Mrs. Stevenson, as was her custom, Louis reduced that first manuscript to a pile of ashes, in order to ensure that he would be forced to rewrite the story as an allegory based on his wife’s suggestions.¹ The rewrite took only six days, with a further four to six week revision process.¹
The story begins by accompanying the dependable lawyer, Mr. Utterson and his friend Enfield on their weekly walk. As they pass a peculiar doorway, Enfield is reminded of a disturbing incident he witnessed wherein a short, undefinably ugly man trampled a young woman to death in the street before ducking into a doorway and re-emerging with a cheque signed by the respected physician and community member, Dr. Jekyll, to pay off the young girl’s family. Utterson’s interest in the strange occurrence was later strengthened upon reading a strange clause included in Dr. Jekyll’s will, which allotted all of his considerable wealth to the same repulsive fellow from the incident upon his death.
Dr. Jekyll’s connection to this man, as it turns out, is far stranger than might at first be assumed. As a prominent scientist, Dr Jekyll had stifled (for the sake of his career and reputation) the urge to commit the various indiscretions which he had enjoyed as a young man. Intrigued by this duality in himself, Dr. Jekyll was inspired to create a serum to separate the good and evil sides of human nature. Upon consuming the serum himself, Dr. Jekyll was purified of his unsavoury tendencies, but rather than departing entirely they became embodied by another, newly created personality; that of Edward Hyde. The trouble is, the two must share the same body, (although it changes and distorts grotesquely when Mr. Hyde is in possession of it) and while at first Jekyll thrills at the wild freedom of Hyde’s unrestrained, violent acts, he grows uneasy, and then downright terrified as his control over the transformations begins to slip and Hyde starts to take over more and more.
(for a full summary of the tale click here.)
The book was enormously successful, selling 40,000 copies within six months and has become so iconic that “Jekyll and Hyde” has become a common expression in the English language.
1.Wikipedia. *Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Wikipedia | Bibliography*. GradeSaver, 25 00:03:46 October 2012 Web. 25 October 2012.
Stay tuned for another creepy tale tomorrow!