“Great God! Can it be” !!
Poster for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1880s), a novella by Victorian author, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).
It says something about this story that the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” is now part of the English language – meaning a person who can be greatly different in character over a short passage of time.
I was interested to read that Robert Louis Stevenson (re)wrote his world famous story whilst suffering from tuberculosis (TB) – and in just three days! (See below)
This from the Guardian:
One of the enduring mysteries of English literature was solved last night when it emerged that the first, impassioned draft of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was destroyed by the author’s wife.
Fanny Stevenson burned it after dismissing it to a friend as “a quire full of utter nonsense”. She said – of what became the world’s most admired and profound horror story – “He said it was his greatest work. I shall burn it after I show it to you”.
Stevenson, an invalid almost deranged by tuberculosis and the effects of medicinal cocaine, had to spend the next three days feverishly rewriting and redrafting the 30,000-word story by hand.
Within weeks, the new version of his pioneering novel about split personality was in print. Despite Fanny’s view, it was an instant bestseller. Sermons were preached on it in thousands of churches, including St Paul’s cathedral, London. It was pirated in the US and in translation.
It rescued the Stevensons from acute debt. For the first time, the couple had enough money to live comfortably.
Some 115 years later, Fanny’s deed has been disclosed in a two-page letter on pages torn from a notebook. It was written by her in 1885 to Stevenson’s close friend and fellow poet WE Henley.
Fascinating fact: The name “Jekyll” was borrowed from the author’s friend – the Reverend Walter Jekyll, younger brother of famous horticulturalist and landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll.