Three years after Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson released what is now a classic and beloved tale, Treasure Island in 1883, he published a different, darker tale with some disturbing elements and hoped that the world would love it as much as he loved creating it. The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde captivated its readers and became a smash success, much to Mr. Stevenson’s pride. To date, there have been numerous retellings and re-imaginings of the story that follows a seemingly ordinary man with two very different personalities. Tons of TV shows, movies, songs, fan fiction and art galore have been inspired by this unique tale of madness and the ultimate struggle of good versus evil. The original story is so complex that it can’t be narrowed down to a single genre but instead, requires a list of genres to properly categorize it. Drama, horror fiction, mystery, thriller, gothic fiction and science fiction all play important parts in the story though some fans may argue that there are even more genres that fit into the famous tale.
Many people say that there is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in us all, sort of like the angel and devil on our shoulders. Do you feel your own Mr. Hyde lurking in the depths of your personality?
15. It All Started With A Cabinet-Maker?
Deacon Brodie was an 18th-century cabinet maker from Edinburgh who also served as a town counsellor. By all accounts, Brodie was well-liked and respected in his community. But he took advantage of that trust. Some of the wealthiest people in town allowed Brodie into their homes to take on big projects of creating cabinets to last for generations and naturally, he was given keys to their homes while the projects were ongoing. But Brodie went behind their backs to get secret copies of the keys made so that he could come back at night or when the owners of the homes were gone and rob his heart away. He was eventually found out and hanged for his crimes but his legacy lived on because around sixty years later, a young boy who was often sick in his bed grew up with a Brodie cabinet in his room. Many speculate that Brodie’s double life inspired the Jekyll and Hyde characters.
14. The Writer First Saw The Story In A Nightmare
The legend goes that in 1885, Stevenson’s wife, Fanny woke up in the middle of the night to hear her husband crying out in agony. She found him still sleeping, locked in what looked to be a nightmare. The only thing she could think to do was to wake him up but after she did, he was upset with her.
“Why did you wake me?” he demanded to know as soon as he woke. “I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.”
Stevenson later told her that right when she woke him, he was dreaming of the first transformation scene. He said that his dream was so vivid and detailed that he even dreamt of the powder/potion that causes the transformation to occur.
13. The First Draft Took Only Three Days!
Robert Louis Stevenson was a passionate man. This extended to his writing as well. After his outrageous dream, he got right down to work. His stepson, Llyod Osbourne said that one night Louis (as he was called by close friends and family) came down the stairs with papers in his hand, acting very excited and feverish. He read almost half of the manuscript out loud to his family while they sat listening before stopping to run back upstairs to continue writing his story, leaving his family gasping and reeling, trying to digest what they had just listened to. They couldn’t believe the story they had just heard. This non-stop excited writing frenzy continued for two more days until the first draft was complete. Talk about being productive!
12. The Author Was Obsessed With Split Personalities
It is said that Robert Louis Stevenson had always carried a fascination for people with split personalities so it was only natural that he knew about Louis Vivet, who is one of the first people to have a recorded case of dissociative personality disorder. Vivet was born in France in 1863 and suffered a life of neglect and traumatic incidents which caused his subconscious to create other personalities, ten in total according to the records of one of Vivet’s doctors. He was in and out of hospitals and mental asylums from a young age and even started a life of crime at age eight! While Stevenson had a few origins of inspiration for his story, there is little doubt that Vivet was a powerful source of inspiration in defining the transformation of the main character.
11. The Author Was Said To Have Been On A Binge While Writing The Story
There are historians who have said that the author was on a six-day cocaine binge when The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written. This theory is mostly based on an account of Stevenson’s wife, Fanny. Reportedly, Fanny said of her husband, “That an invalid in my husband’s condition of health should have been able to perform the manual labor alone of putting 60,000 words on paper in six days, seems almost incredible.” Apparently, some thought that Fanny was insinuating that her husband experienced not a miracle of passion for his writing but the assistance of a drug. People have sworn there is evidence to support the claim that Stevenson used cocaine and perhaps that helped with the creation of some of more extreme concepts of the story.
10. Who Burned Up The First Draft Of Jekyll And Hyde?
There are several versions of events when it comes to the supposed burning of the first complete draft of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One is that Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, who constantly critiqued his work for him, told him that she didn’t think he quite hit the mark on the story, specifically regarding the moral allegory he wanted to include. She left the room and later came back to find her husband in bed, pointing to a pile of papers burning in the fireplace. She is noted to have said, “I nearly fainted away with misery and horror when I saw all was gone.” Another version of the story goes that Fanny burned it herself out of anger when the couple got into a fight. Whatever way it happened, it took Stevenson six weeks to re-do it and submit it which is remarkable in itself, especially considering there were no word processors back then.
9. An Actor With The Lead Role Was Accused Of Murder
You could call his acting skills a blessing and a curse. In 1888, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was adapted into a play. A talented actor named Richard Mansfield scored the lead role and soon, people were paying high compliments to the way Mansfield successfully played the double role. In a strange coincidence and horrible timing, Jack the Ripper began his murderous rampage just two days after the play opened. People who had seen the play began to talk that Mansfield was too skilled of an actor and the way he played the role of Mr. Hyde must mean that he was truly deranged. Luckily, Mansfield was only accused of murder and nothing more came of the accusations but he probably was able to ask for a little raise seeing as how he was literally the talk of the town.
8. Churches Loved The Story
As soon as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was released, it was a smash success. Churches everywhere seized the opportunity to align the popularity of the book with the moral message and pastors and preachers started to incorporate the topic of good vs. evil into their sermons. They hoped to reach churchgoers using the modern and popular story. Other churches took note of this tactic and soon, it was a trend. There were even religious newspapers and pamphlets that took hold of the idea. Ironically enough, within a year of the release date, there were 250,000 pirated copies of the book in North America. It seems that, despite the best efforts of the churches, not everyone received the moral message of being good and virtuous.
7. Famous Inspiration Passed Down To Generations
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been so popular since its release that many TV shows and movies have referenced the famous story and paid homage in some way dating back to the beginning of television. Even though the tale deals with matter that most would deem inappropriate for young eyes, Hanna-Barbera created an episode of Tom and Jerry in 1947 called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse” that was very popular. In the episode, Jerry drinks poisoned milk and gains super strength with a bit of an extra temper. He is able to beat Tom up like never before but his new powers wear off until he is able to drink the poisoned liquid again. It was the thirtieth cartoon for the series and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons.
6. Humans Are Just Animals
There are many literary theorists who believe that Stevenson was trying to get the point across that at the basic heart of the matter, man is just an animal, one that has been taught over many years to live for society but still one that has primal animalistic urges. When those urges are constantly repressed, the result can be tragic and devastating just as it was for Mr. Hyde’s victims… or at least that is what Stevenson wanted us to think based on this popular theory. This claim is backed up with Hyde’s description as being short (much shorter than Dr. Jekyll) with a hairy body and gnarled hands. Next to the sharp contrast of the well-groomed and polished looking description of Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde sounds almost like a caveman. Do you believe this theory holds true for all of us?
5. The Writer Had An Interest In Dark Subjects
Stevenson was not raised in poverty but he missed out on a lot of things other children his age got to do. He was a sick child, plagued with one respiratory illness after another. Sadly, things did not improve much as an adult. Certain family members had weak chests so it seems that Stevenson inherited the prone to illness gene as well. Maybe all of his time spent in bed is what helped him to achieve the dark and creative energies that propelled into the characters of Jekyll and Hyde. Stevenson had harbored interests in topics such as murder, split personalities, serial killers and other darker topics that maybe are not such a big deal today to have an interest in (who doesn’t like watching true crime shows every now and then?) but back in the late 1800s would have certainly raised an eyebrow or two. But it was because of his obsession with the darker side of life that he allowed himself to create such a powerful piece of literature.
4. Jekyll Was Named After A Famous Horticulturist
Gertrude Jekyll was a famous British horticulturist who probably never could have imagined that her name would be attached to a very famous story. She created over four hundred gardens in the United Kingdom. Some of her landscape design and gardening skills were admired at famous locations – palaces, abbeys and some of Britain’s best parks. Stevenson admired something else of Gertrude’s, too… her name! He was friends with her brother and told him that he liked the family name so much, he wanted to use it for a character he was working on. Gertrude’s brother agreed and the rest is history. But it is interesting that a sweet woman who helped nurture so many gardens is immortalized with her name in one of the world’s most well-known good vs. evil tales. Perhaps her relatives can take comfort in knowing that their last name has a different pronunciation. The family name is Jee-kyll while the character’s name is pronounced Jek-ull.
3. Trump Has Been Referred To As Jekyll And Hyde Many Times
In a recent article, CNN referred to Donald Trump as “our Jekyll and Hyde President.” His views on foreign policy and in cases where he reversed a previously promised course of action concerning important issues have all been called “Jekyll and Hyde-like” behaviors by several media outlets as well as individuals. Of course, Trump is not the first person in the public spotlight to be compared to Jekyll and Hyde by the media but he may be the first president that we know of to be publicly compared to the famous fictional personalities as much as he has. Everyone knows this is an insult but when the media refers to the president as a man who has a split personality with an evil side, you know tensions are obviously running very high.
2. Sick In Bed, Might As Well Write
Robert Louis Stevenson did not enjoy a life full of good health during his time and in fact, the family had moved before he wrote the story to a seaside town specifically for the purpose of improving Stevenson’s health with the warmer weather and sea air. Unfortunately, he continued to battle several health issues and was sick and bed-ridden during the days of his drafting and editing of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. During this time and after his first draft, he and his wife, Fanny developed a critique system where he would read her his edited story from his bed and she would leave her notes for him. This system continued until the final story was completed. It’s interesting to know that such an important story that has lasted so many years was written by a person who was physically suffering. His family stated that the story might have been the one thing to help him improve, at least in spirit.
1. A Misunderstanding
Even though The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a huge success (it sold 40,000 copies in just six months) many people were critical of the sexual topics and overtones in the story. Some people who read the story felt that Mr. Hyde’s toxic behavior was due to the themes of sexual assault, promiscuity, and homosexuality that people were taking as interpretations. But Stevenson denied all of those claims and made a public statement to let his readers and critics know that the story wasn’t about intimate relations but good vs. evil. Seeing as how this was back in the late 1800s, it’s only natural to assume that this story did not satisfy everyone’s moral palate with even a hint at topics that were considered taboo. Just imagine what those critics would think if they knew that over a hundred years later Fifty Shades of Grey was going to be released.
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