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Robert Louis Stevenson - Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1886)

Stevenson's first great success was Treasure Island, and although his next book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was of a totally different character, it went over the world with amazing rapidity. The ethical problem involved in the abnormal and gruesome situation he invented may have had nothing to do with the popularity of the work, but it won for it the unusual distinction of being recommended from many pulpits. Shortly after its appearance it was dramatized by Mr. Thomas R. Sullivan, of Boston, for the late Richard Mansfield, with whom the dual rôle was a favorite impersonation as long as he lived. Another dramatic version was in the repertory of Daniel Bandmann, the German tragedian who toured this country in English plays during the latter years of the nineteenth century.

GABRIEL UTTERSON, the lawyer, and his friend, Mr. Enfield, were strolling along one of London's minor thoroughfares when Mr. Enfield called attention to a shabby building that stood at the corner of an alley leading to a court. Its one door gave upon the street, but there were no windows on that side, or on the ground floor anywhere, but three windows opened on the court. Mr. Enfield alluded to this building as "Blackmail House," explaining the designation by recounting an incident he had witnessed some months previously. Returning home at a very late hour, he had seen a child hurry from a side street and around a corner into the thoroughfare just in time to come into collision with a man who knocked her down and then trampled on her with the utmost ferocity. The child's parents and others were attracted to the spot by her screams, and the man might have been mauled to death if it had not been for the restraint exercised by Enfield and a surgeon who was summoned. Enfield was conscious on his own part of extreme loathing for the brutal man, and it was evident that he inspired the same feeling in all who looked upon him. He was undersized, well dressed, and apparently ill shapen, although it was impossible to recall a single specific deformity; and the expression of his face could be described only as fiendish.

The little girl was not much hurt, but Enfield led in putting pressure on the man to compel him to pay exemplary damages for his brutal conduct. He was threatened with exposure and scandal that would make his name notorious throughout London unless he forthwith handed one hundred pounds to the child's parents. Mr. Hyde, for such was the brute's name, had not so much money about him, but he grudgingly agreed to get it, and he led Enfield and several other men to the "Blackmail House," which he entered alone. When he came forth he had a matter of ten pounds or so in coin, and he tendered in payment of the balance a check signed by the name of a man of eminent respectability. Doubting the genuineness of the check; Enfield compelled Mr. Hyde to stay by him until the banks were open, when the check was presented and honored without question. It was a sorry inference, but, in Mr. Enfield's opinion, none other was thinkable, and he concluded, therefore, that the estimable gentleman who signed the check must be under some shameful obligation to the repulsive Hyde: Hence the name he had given to the building into which the creature went.

Lawyer Utterson heard this story with little comment, but he was deeply impressed by it and greatly worried. For he knew that the building which his friend called "Blackmail House" was formerly an anatomical theater and now the chemical laboratory of his very good friend and client, Dr. Henry Jekyll, whose residence, fronting on a neighboring square, was connected with it by a passage through the back yards. He did not ask the name of the gentleman who signed the check: There was no need, for Mr. Utterson had hi his keeping the will of Dr. Jekyll, by which the bulk of the doctor's property was bequeathed to Ed-ward Hyde. From the lawyer's point of view, this was a deplorable testament, for it had a proviso to the effect that if Dr. Jekyll should disappear for as long as three months, Mr. Hyde was to take possession of his estate without question. Now that Mr. Utterson knew something about this mysterious Mr. Hyde, he was in grave alarm for his old friend, Dr. Jekyll.

It was a matter that demanded investigation, and for many nights Mr. Utterson lingered in the vicinity of the laboratory until he had the doubtful satisfaction of meeting and speaking to Mr. Hyde. The lawyer experienced the feeling Enfield had described, unutterable disgust and hatred of the fellow. Their conversation amounted to little, for Hyde was surly and evasive, but he did give Mr. Utterson his address, a house in Soho, and one of his incidental remarks strengthened the lawyer's fear that, having knowledge of the strange will, Mr. Hyde would some day put Dr. Jekyll out of the way.

Soon after this episode the lawyer called on his friend to remonstrate once more against the terms of the will. Dr. Jekyll, a large, good-looking man, refused to be influenced to make any change. "I assure you," he said, "I have every reason to be kind to that young man. I am deeply interested in him. Our relations are not at all what you seem to suspect, but what they actually are I cannot reveal." And Dr. Jekyll positively refused to discuss the matter further.

Nothing else happened to draw Mr. Utterson's attention specifically to this matter for some months. Then the town was shocked by the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, and especially by the brutal circumstances attending the crime. Sir Danvers, walking at night in a quiet lane, had some unknown occasion to speak to a man whom he met. It was manifestly an entirely pacific request, or observation, but the man, without the slightest apparent provocation, assaulted the aged nobleman with a stick, felled him, and belabored the prostrate body so hard that the cudgel was broken in two. The one witness of this savage deed recognized the assailant as Mr. Hyde.

The victim's body was not identified by anybody in the neighborhood; but on it was found a sealed and stamped letter addressed to Mr. Utterson, who was promptly informed. The lawyer not only established the identity of the victim but took an eager hand in the search for the murderer. That it was the hateful Mr. Hyde whom he had once seen he was sure from the fact that the broken stick left on the scene of the crime was a heavy cane that he himself had once presented to Dr. Jekyll. Mr. Utterson led the police to Hyde's lodgings in Soho. The man was not there, and there was every evidence that he had taken hasty flight. His papers had been burned in the grate, but one fragment was left which dispelled any doubts that might have existed. This was a portion of the cover of a check-book. Inquiry at the bank proved that the book belonged to Edward Hyde, and that he had an account of several thousand pounds. It was supposed that he would be captured speedily, for he would have to come to the bank for money; but he did not come, and the most exacting search failed to give any clue.

Mr. Utterson hastened to Dr. Jekyll after the visit to Hyde's lodgings. The doctor had heard the tragic news and was in-finitely cast down by it. "It is enough," he told his lawyer mournfully. "I have done with that dreadful man forever. Do not ask me about him, for I cannot talk of him. Be assured I never will have anything more to do with him." This was so far satisfactory, and Dr. Jekyll's conduct for several succeeding months was more so. He had been reserved and given to solitude of late years, but now he resumed his old-time social activities and plunged with great zest into various forms of philanthropic enterprise. Then came a change. Mr. Utterson, who had been in the habit of visiting him frequently, was denied admission to the house. Dr. Jekyll was ill, and would see nobody. Such was the message given by his man servant day after day.

A week or more had passed, and again Utterson and Enfield chanced to stroll by the laboratory. Mr. Enfield remarked that he had learned that this building belonged to Dr. Henry Jekyll and was indeed a part of his premises. The lawyer explained how Dr. Jekyll, who had bought the place from a surgeon, had adapted the anatomical theater to the purposes of chemical experiments; and, to make his explanation clearer, he drew his friend into the court. There they saw Dr. Jekyll seated at one of the second-story windows, which was raised. His countenance was overcast with gloom, and he looked indeed like the sick man he had reported himself to be. But he welcomed the sight of his friends and conversed with them a moment, frankly saying, however, that circumstances forbade him from inviting them in. Of a sudden, in the midst of the talk, Dr. Jekyll's face contorted into an expression of indescribable horror. He shut the window hastily and withdrew. Mr. Utterson and Mr. En-field turned, the one to the other, aghast. They left the court and traversed several streets in silence. "God forgive us!" exclaimed Mr. Utterson at length; but Mr. Enfield had been so shaken by what he had seen that he could make no response.

One evening Dr. Jekyll's butler, Poole, called on Mr. Utter-son, begging him to go to the doctor's house at once, The situation there was terrifying and mysterious. Dr. Jekyll, some days previously, had shut himself in the laboratory and since then he had not been seen. But there was somebody in the lab-oratory! Somebody who took in the food that was left at the door, who left written orders on the stairs, who paced to and fro uneasily, with a step very unlike the doctor's, who moaned pitifully at all hours, whose voice, when he spoke from behind the laboratory door, was not like Dr. Jekyll's. Once, when Poole entered the anatomical theater unexpectedly he was sure he had seen that miserable wretch, Hyde, pottering among the chemicals stored there, and go scurrying up the stairs to the laboratory the instant he perceived that he was discovered. All the servants were in dreadful alarm, and Poole was almost beside himself with anxiety. Every day he had found written orders on the laboratory stairs, bidding him go to one wholesale chemist after another to get some drug the doctor apparently needed, but with the utmost urgency; it appeared that no chemist had it.

Mr. Utterson, having heard all Poole could tell him, and inclined to share the butler's suspicion that Hyde had returned and made away with Dr. Jekyll, sent two servants around to the door that gave from the theater on the street. They were to intercept and hold Hyde if by any chance the man should succeed in getting out. Then, armed with a heavy poker, Poole carrying an ax, the lawyer and the butler crossed the back yards, entered the theater and mounted the laboratory stairs. There Mr. Utterson announced himself, "I demand to see you, Henry," he said. "Admit us, or we shall force our way in." From behind the door came a trembling voice: "For God's sake, Utterson, have mercy!"

"That is not Jekyll's voice," the lawyer declared. "Poole, break down the door!"

At the first blow the well-made door shuddered, but held, and a dismal screech from within shocked the night air. It took five blows to shatter the lock, and then the door fell inward. Utterson entered with his weapon raised for attack, but there was no need. A shrunken figure, in clothes outlandishly too large for it, lay dead before the fireplace. It was Hyde.

The building was searched for Dr. Jekyll's body, but no trace of him was found until Poole pointed to some papers on the table. There was a letter addressed to Mr. Utterson in the doctor's hand. "Poole," said the lawyer, terribly disturbed, "he has been here but recently, for this letter is dated to-day!"

He glanced at the letter, which was enclosed with a document marked "Henry Jekyll's Confession." There was also a will, signed by the doctor, in the same terms as the will of which Mr. Utterson never had approved, but instead of Hyde's name as beneficiary appeared that of Gabriel Utterson. It seemed incredible, for here in the room where the new will was written lay the man who was deprived of benefiting under it, and this man had been alive until the lawyer came! Mr. Utterson with-drew to his home and there gave his attention to the confession.

It recalled the well-known fact of Dr. Jekyll's deep interest in chemical research, and then outlined the writer's theories concerning the nature of human individuality. He had long been impressed with the duality of man's existence. It was probable that some keener analyst might some day demonstrate that man was more than dual, a compound, rather, of many individualities; but, for his own part, he distinguished in each of us two distinct beings—in plain terms, a good man and a bad man. Studying his own nature, he perceived a constant conflict between these two. The good was dominant in himself only at the expense of consciously subordinating the bad, and to preserve the dominance of the good he was put to frequent sacrifice of bad inclinations. These bad inclinations he recognized as legitimately a part of himself, not as something foreign. They lured him to pleasures which the other—that is to say, the better—part of him abhorred; and yet there was a sacrifice involved in resisting the tendencies to evil.

It occurred to him that if there were a way to separate the two identities, in order that the identity disposed to evil would be free to enjoy all the pleasures from which the other identity debarred it, there would then be no restraint, and no iota of responsibility would attach to the well-disposed, compound man for what the evil-disposed, individualized identity might do.

With this idea in mind, Dr. Jekyll had bent his studies in chemistry to discover the formula for resolving man's dual nature into its component parts. For a long time he had been theoretically certain of his success before he ventured to put it to the test. He had prepared a drug which lacked but one ingredient to assure its effectiveness for the purpose, and he knew what that ingredient was. At last he obtained a quantity of it and completed his resolvent. Then, in the spirit of a true scientist, as well as in hope of releasing his own evil nature from bondage, he tried the drug upon himself.

The first sensation was one of acute pain. It seemed that he must be in the agony of death, but presently the spasm passed and he glowed with a new delight. He felt an incomparable sense of freedom. He found that he was younger than he had been, which he accounted for by the fact that the evil side of his nature, having been under considerable repression, had been stunted, so to speak, in its development. So, too, he found him-self physically smaller than before. More than this, and here the real triumph lay, his whole being was inclined to evil, and he could give way to the inclination without the slightest disturbance of conscience or subsequent remorse.

Dr. Jekyll did not stoop to relate the vile immoralities he had practised in his formerly subordinated but now released identity, but he told with all necessary detail the measures he had taken to protect himself : how he had taken the name of Hyde for his baser part, and provided himself with clothes to fit it; how he had rented separate lodgings in Soho, and drawn a will so that Hyde should benefit if at any time accident should prevent him from reassuming the form and individuality of Jekyll; how, after the episode narrated by Mr. Enfield, he had established a bank-account in the name of Hyde, with other details. The confession made frank allusion to the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, and the memory of this dwelt with overwhelming horror with Dr. Jekyll when he returned to his natural form. It convinced him that the idea of the complete separation of the identities was an error; that man should not so far yield to evil propensities, but should ever struggle to subordinate and utterly repress that dwarfed nature which, unrestrained, was capable of such excess of mischief.

Accordingly, as Mr. Utterson well remembered, there was a season when Dr. Jekyll was wholly like his familiar self. He had said he would have no more to do with Hyde, and he meant it. He had locked the street door of the theater and broken the key; he had destroyed Hyde's smaller garments. But one morning, when he awaked in his own bed, Dr. Jekyll was startled to observe that his hand looked unlike his own. He hastened to a mirror and confronted not the image of Jekyll but the vile Hyde. The transformation had wrought itself in his sleep!

Appalled, the doctor hastened to the laboratory and drank the concoction that theretofore had been essential to the change of identities. To his unspeakable relief, it was still efficient and he was again Jekyll. But now a constant terror dwelt with him lest the change should come at inopportune moments, and he dared not, therefore, leave his laboratory. His apprehensions proved only too well grounded. Hyde, battened by indulgence, had grown so strong that he asserted himself at more and more frequent intervals. Meantime the supply of that final all-important ingredient was diminishing, and the unhappy scientist foresaw the time when he would not have the power to banish Hyde for so much as a brief hour; for his servant returned from every errand to the wholesale chemists with powders that were ineffective, or with none at all. It required double, and eventually treble doses, to induce the return of Jekyll; the trans-formations were effected with less and less pain, and at every awakening there was a sense of hellish fury which it seemed must lead Hyde at any moment to break loose upon the world and wreak evil to the full, regardless of consequences. There was the one ameliorating circumstance that Hyde in his worst moments was endued with extraordinary cunning. His malevolence did not utterly blind his reason, and he perceived the dangers of unrestrained liberty, the vital necessity of maintaining at least a semblance of partnership, so to speak, with Jekyll; and Jekyll, writing the confession when in his proper person, was tormented with a fearful apprehension that when the inevitable moment of exposure was at hand, the vile Hyde would not have the wisdom and the courage to drink immediately the deadly instant poison that had been prepared, and that stood to hand for immediate use when the occasion should arise.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Authors Digest:
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson - Treasure Island (1883)

Robert Louis Stevenson - Prince Otto (1885)

Robert Louis Stevenson - Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1886)

Robert Louis Stevenson - Master Of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale (1889)

Robert Louis Stevenson - Kidnapped (1886)

Robert Louis Stevenson - The Black Arrow (1888)

Robert Louis Stevenson - David Balfour (1893)

Robert Louis Stevenson - Weir Of Hermiston (1894)

Robert Louis Stevenson - St. Ives (1894)

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