Welcome to the thirteenth in our series Tales for Our Time, and, as I say in my introduction, this one's a classic from a master storyteller.
As I've emphasized since we launched The Mark Steyn Club last year, our regular content - all my daily commentary, cultural and geopolitical essays, our weekend movie and music features, SteynPosts and On the Town and all the rest - will always be free to everyone around the planet. In fact, in the course of a week we now offer more free content than at any point in our fifteen-year history. But we are letting Club members in on a few experimental features which, in the event they turn out sufficiently non-incompetent, we might eventually make more widely available. Tales for Our Time is one such experiment - a series of monthly audio adventures that has so far presented my radio serializations of classic fiction by Dickens, Kipling, Conrad, Gogol, H G Wells, Conan Doyle, Anthony Hope, Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald, John Buchan - plus a piece of non-classic fiction by yours truly. You can find them all here.
Our latest tale is a famous story by a famous author - Robert Louis Stevenson, of Treasure Island and Kidnapped fame. They're both rip-roaring yarns, but this one belongs in another category. Written quickly in desperate need of a hit and then re-written in a more coolly allegorical vein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published in 1886, was an instant smash, and has never stopped being a smash in the century and a third since. Yet, as I discuss in my introduction, it seems even more relevant in an age of identity politics and the self-created self: in Stevenson's day, what Dr Jekyll did was audacious and terrifying; today, in an age of "gender fluidity" and "transitioning", the experts have decreed that all men are free to do as Jekyll did, and determine which aspects of their identity they wish to emphasize, wish to diminish, and wish to re-sculpt. Written at the dawn of the age of psychological analysis, it is just as timely in an age of physiological reconstruction and biological self-definition.
So let us walk a certain street, its emporia bright and gay and well-maintained, except for a certain edifice, windowless and glowering:
Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east, the line was broken by the entry of a court; and just at that point, a certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street. It was two stories high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower story and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels; children kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy had tried his knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages.
You really don't want to encounter the brute who lives there, as did an unfortunate "girl of maybe eight or ten who was running as hard as she was able down a cross street" one dark London night:
Well, sir, the two ran into one another naturally enough at the corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled calmly over the child's body and left her screaming on the ground. It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn't like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut...
We are about to meet that damned juggernaut. To hear Part One of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, prefaced by my own introduction to the tale, please click here and log-in.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club last spring, and as we approach our first anniversary I'm very touched by all those SteynOnline supporters across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone. None of it's going behind a paywall, because I want it out there in the world, being read and being heard and being viewed, and maybe changing an occasional mind somewhere along the way.
However, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including a couple we'll be unveiling as part of our first-anniversary observances. For now, though, I'm thrilled to see that one of the most popular extras has been this series of nightly radio serials. I did do a little professional story-reading a zillion years ago, so, if these fancies tickle you, we may release them as audio books on CD or Audible a ways down the road. But for the moment it's an exclusive bonus for members. If you've enjoyed our monthly Steyn Club radio adventures and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our limited-time-only Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly (such as this coming Tuesday's);
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, SteynPosts, and our other video content;
~Our club newsletter The Clubbable Steyn;
~My video series of classic poetry;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but to all our other audio adventures below.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, whether you like this thirteenth Tale for Our Time, or you think I'm on a Hyde-ing to nothing, then feel free to comment away below. And do join us tomorrow for Part Two of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
For previous Tales for Our Time, click below:
#1: The Tragedy of the Korosko
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#2: The Time Machine
by H G Wells
#3: The Secret Agent
by Joseph Conrad
#4: The Prisoner of Zenda
by Anthony Hope
#5: The Cat That Walked By Himself
by Rudyard Kipling
#6: The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
by F Scott Fitzgerald
#7: The Rubber Check
by F Scott Fitzgerald
#8: A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
#9: Plum Duff
by Mark Steyn
#10: To Build a Fire
by Jack London
#11: The Overcoat
by Nikolai Gogol
#12: The Thirty-Nine Steps
by John Buchan