Robert Louis Stevenson’s (1850–1894) Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was first published in 1886. The story is about the respectable Dr Jekyll and his curious relationship with the violent and detestable Mr Hyde. Stevenson’s choice of title (‘The’ was added to many later editions) perhaps reflected the language of sensational newspaper reporting at the time.
How was the novel written?
The stories of how the novel came to be written are contested, but what’s known is that Stevenson was an invalid while he was writing it. He was cared for by his wife Fanny, who helped as a frequent reader and critic of his work. They also sometimes wrote together. Stevenson claimed that the original story, in which Jekyll is purely evil, came to him in a dream, which he wrote down after he woke up. Fanny believed there were opportunities in the plot to explore the idea that there is latent evil in everyone, and so Stevenson burned the original manuscript and feverishly rewrote it in three to six days, polishing it afterwards for publication. However, there is evidence Stevenson had been reading scientific reports of cases of dual and multiple mentality, which may also have influenced him.
‘Man is not truly one, but truly two’: duality in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
- Article by:
- Greg Buzwell
- The Gothic, London, Fin de siècle
Curator Greg Buzwell considers duality in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, exploring how the novel engages with contemporary debates about evolution, degeneration, consciousness, homosexuality and criminal psychology.
- Article by:
- Matthew Taunton
- Reading and print culture
In the 19th century, more people were reading more publications than ever before. Dr Matthew Taunton explains how technological, social and educational change made this possible.