Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) had published his novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886. He is a curious example of a writer whose literary credibility waned during the twentieth century only to be restored in the last decade or so. On any page the deliberateness of his thought is evident, he is concise and poetic when the moment carries him as when he describes the wet and foggy empty city at night. For the Strange Case he concocted a precarious or let's say an intricate structure which engulfs the reader in mystery before leading him through a lumpen narrative exposing the truth in stages. For two thirds of the tale Jekyll is a character only glimpsed, literally once through a window. He is not present. The final third comprises two written statements ascending to a spiritual revelation scented with hocus pocus in a scientific habit.
My guess is that most people are familiar with the story from the rather brilliant 1931 film Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde directed by Mamoulian starring Fredric March. While this film is technically daring and innovative as a motion picture the narrative unfolds straightforwardly and the focus is entirely on J&H. For this reason it would be prudent for those new to this canonical work to read it first.
Stevenson is diligent in exploring his conceit which is not as simple as a careless reading would leave one with. Jekyll admits to being uncommonly sensitive to opposing moral impulses before conducting his experiments, in fact this insight persuades him to experimentation. Stevenson continues by hinting that further research by Jekyll's successors might uncover different or a proliferation of personas. The psychic division is not black and white. Hyde is purely evil and free but Jekyll is a composite of good and evil, unhappy with this tension in his nature. Mamoulian's film suggests Jekyll's motivation is scientific understanding or ambition which is a typical interpretation but as I see it his motive was personal and selfish; he wanted to experience guiltless licentiousness. Anyway it's a great work, read it.
If anyone wants me to present a canonical work in these seven days let me know by naming a work you pretend to be interested in..
And don't forget to hit the like button if you want me to fuck your wife or girlfriend.
[This Limited Editions Club edition from 1952 is 12" tall]