Tuesday, 21 January 2014

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR.HYDE.

That "masterpiece" which Mr. R L. Stevenson has been promising his readers is not yet come, but the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Longmans and Co.) will be held by many to be the most successful of this fascinating writer's efforts in that line where he is best, namely, romantic story-telling. It is better than anything in the New Arabian Nights, vastly better thou the body-snatching and dynamite stories, more easy and natural than Prince Otto, which was a tour de force and not a masterpiece. Mr. Stevenson's strongest points are invention and a certain brilliant precision of style ; his weaknesses are a tendency to morbid imaginations, an over fastidiousness in the choice of words, which leads him to a kind of euphuism, and a certain flaccidity of intellect tempting him to mock when he might create. In the little shilling story before us, constructed with extraordinary skill, and in a far better, because more natural, style than that which was used in Prince Otto, Mr. Stevenson gives full play to his genius for the realistic-grotesque. The conception of a man who is able to divide himself into two separate bodies, one of which represents his evil nature and the other his good, is not wholly original, but it is worked out with singular skill and ingenuity. The opening chapters in this weird story are in Mr. Stevenson's happiest vein. This is romance of the truest sort, told with that air of reality and tone of matter-of-fact which are the basis of all good story-telling. The dénouement is particularly horrible, yet with a horror which arises naturally out of the elements of the story. The treasure Island, excepted, this is the best piece of work which Mr. Stevenson has given us.
Argus 27 February 1886

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR.HYDE. Geo. Robertson and Co., Sydney.—This is another of the wild species of stories designed, evidently, to catch the taste for the mysterious, in the development of which the author of " Called Back "was so successful. None of the others have reached his level, however, and this is no exception, although the author, Mr. Stevenson, tries hard to make the story as weird and uncanny in its denoument as Bulwer's " Strange Story." At the same time most of the details are extremely matter of fact. The theme of the story is the dual life led by a London physician of good family. He gives way to passion for sensual indulgence, and by the aid of drugs is enabled to change his form at will. When he sallies out for pleasure he is "Mr. Hyde," the incarnation of all the evil in his nature; when he returns he resumes the form of the eminently respectable physician. This style of thing is not likely to become popular in Australia, where the ghastly of all kinds are at a discount.
Australian Town and Country Journal 20 March 1886

The " Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," by Robert Louis Stevenson (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1886), is a short narrative which can be safely recommended to lovers of the marvellous. It is the story of one who, by means of potent drugs, can change his mental and bodily identity, and from a generous, impulsive scientist become by one draught of dangerous nepenthe a smaller, younger, and every way more unattractive second self. The untoward fate of the doctor should induce practitioners of good repute to stick to business of a legitimate kind, and leave to the large quack family the task of exploring the territory of occult psychology.
The Sydney Morning Herald 5 May 1886

I have just read "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde " by R. L. Stevenson. This story, which is really a psychological study of a curious and original kind, has made a greater sensation, I think, than any other similar work, except perhaps "Called Back." I do not know that it is more original than "Called Back," but the latter was written by an amateur, while in " Dr. Jekyll," one sees the trained hand. I do not know if I bore you by talking of this book, which has not perhaps yet reached Perth. I cannot help it. The story haunts me. It must out; it would not be described, even by a gushing young librarian I once met who had one expression for what he considered ladies' books, as "a sweet story." There is no woman, not even an old and ugly one, in it. There are only three men in the tale and not one of them is young or handsome. And yet the book is extremely, not to say horribly, interesting, nay fascinating. It is a perfectly impossible tale, with a weird strain in it that reminds one of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Dr. Jekyll is an able physician who is supposed to find a drug by means of which he can transform himself into another man, not to be recognised by his best friends. This other man, who is called Mr. Hyde, represents all the bad part of his nature, Dr. Jekyll, all the good. As Dr. Jekyll, he is kind, respected, beloved. As Mr. Hyde, he is diabolically wicked, a murderer, hated of all men. This impossibility is so wonderfully well told that it is the horror, not the improbability of it, that strikes one. It is a book I would not advise imaginative young ladies to read, just before retiring to bed. It sets one thinking. What if the bad part of everyone's nature thus found "a local habitation and name." Ah me ! What spectres would follow some of us.
Western Mail 3 July 1886

No comments: