Like most people, I’m familiar with the expression “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, but I’d never read the story by Robert Louis Stevenson. However, on the recent acquisitions table at the library was a new edition of an edited version of the story (edited by Martin A. Danahay). Little did I realise how much I had bitten off: the book includes lots of reference material, including a commentary and contextual pieces, such as letters from Robert Louis Stevenson, some of his other writings, a number of pieces describing London in the 1880s, various pieces regarding “The Victorian Gentleman: Body and Clothing”, by both Robert Louis Stevenson and and other writers and much more. There are some contemporary reviews and historical documents on “criminality and degeneracy”.
In short, the book comprehensively places Robert Louis Stevenson’s story into its context: the “dark side” of London in the 1880s, both physically and psychologically. The fact that the “Jack the Ripper” murders took place (in 1888) just a couple of years after the story was published (1886) adds a further dimension to the mix.
The book is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of the story, and no doubt is on the reading list of courses involving the study of London in those times as well as those that cover literature of the period.
Thus, there’s a great deal packed into this book! It was interesting to read the story itself, but a lot of the contextual material is solid going, and I skipped through some of it. Perhaps I’ll re-borrow the book when I’m in the mood for some in-depth study of what is a fascinating era.