“The most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death. Then these agonies began swiftly to subside, and I came to myself as if out of a great sickness. There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine.”
It is a famous story that the idea of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde came to Robert Louis Stevenson in a dream and that he immediately began to write the mirage down before it popped right back out of his head. His stepson said that the first draft took no more than about three days- some said he was ill and bed-ridden; some said he snorted cocaine throughout the writing. Whatever the truth was, in that time Stevenson had unwittingly created an iconic novel that would be harked back to hundreds of years after it was published and would re-define the genre in which he wrote. In that fateful dream he’d conceived the notion of having a man be two different men, a split personality as it would later be called. But these two different men, he’d decided, would be very different- one of whom would be a respectable member of society and the other a felon, a despicable creature who commits crimes for the sake of it. Such is the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Eloquent, gripping, iconic, influential… and I didn’t like it.
I really didn’t like it. I apologise for I don’t really enjoy criticising classic books, though I’m sure it’ll be something I’ll become used to as I make my way through the list. I feel very out of place pointing out the shortcomings of renowned novels, given that I probably couldn’t do any better, but I think I ought to disclose the truth to you, O dear readers. All two of you, I say optimistically. I was bored. Seriously bored. I know that the Victorian language didn’t help and it really was a very good idea but the execution is a bit dreary though a lot happens. Having not read any other books by the same author before, I feel myself getting increasingly worried about the other titles of his that are on my list. It could be that I’m alone on this, that everyone else is part of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde Fan Club’ and my invitation was seemingly lost in the post. But, hate me, I don’t mind- I did not enjoy Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. You can’t accuse me of not being a fan of the genre, because I’m open to all but this was dreary.
But do read it. I know I’ve been insulting it for the last paragraph, though I think you should read it, regardless of what I thought. It is nonetheless an important work of literature, but you wouldn’t be blamed to put it down as I was nearly tempted to. We are all entitled to our own opinions, every one of us, so don’t feel like taking my word for it. It’s definitely not my favourite of the books on my list so far, nowhere near. It’s not the most gripping or intriguing, however it’s interesting and I think it should be read. I know I’m being contrary, very much so, so I’ll leave you with this thought. Read ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and if you enjoy it, then good on you. But if you don’t, then don’t worry- you’re not alone.
‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ is available on Amazon in paperback (£1.99) and on Kindle (Free)