Welcome to Part Two of The Mark Steyn Club's latest Tale for Our Time - an acknowledged classic by Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886 and adapted multiple times in every medium in the years since: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As it happens, almost every adaptation has made the same very basic title change. So I thought I'd do something different and read it the way the author wrote it - if only in respect to Dr Jekyll's name. First Week Founding Member John Frey writes:
Thank you for providing the background for the correct pronounciation of 'Jekyll.' I have heard it so much with my American English ear as 'Jek' that I would not have guessed it should be 'Jeek.'
The way to remember, John, is to imagine yourself breaking into Dr Jekyll's laboratory, catching him mixing up the potions and demanding to know:
Where'd you get those beakers?
Tonight's episode picks up where yesterday's left off. Mr Utterson, the lawyer, is disturbed by the sole beneficiary of Dr Jekyll's will:
The will was holograph, for Mr. Utterson, though he took charge of it now that it was made, had refused to lend the least assistance in the making of it; it provided not only that, in case of the decease of Henry Jekyll, M.D., D.C.L., L.L.D., F.R.S., etc., all his possessions were to pass into the hands of his 'friend and benefactor Edward Hyde,' but that in case of Dr. Jekyll's 'disappearance or unexplained absence for any period exceeding three calendar months,' the said Edward Hyde should step into the said Henry Jekyll's shoes without further delay and free from any burthen or obligation, beyond the payment of a few small sums to the members of the doctor's household. This document had long been the lawyer's eyesore. It offended him both as a lawyer and as a lover of the sane and customary sides of life, to whom the fanciful was the immodest. And hitherto it was his ignorance of Mr. Hyde that had swelled his indignation; now, by a sudden turn, it was his knowledge. It was already bad enough when the name was but a name of which he could learn no more. It was worse when it began to be clothed upon with detestable attributes; and out of the shifting, insubstantial mists that had so long baffled his eye, there leaped up the sudden, definite presentment of a fiend.
'I thought it was madness,' he said, as he replaced the obnoxious paper in the safe, 'and now I begin to fear it is disgrace.'
Utterson's conclusion is one of the passages cited in support of the notion that Stevenson's story has a homosexual subtext. In the year he wrote Jekyll and Hyde, 1885, Parliament had passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act prohibiting "gross indecency" between two men and thus greatly increasing the risk to those respectable chaps by day who prowled the city at night in pursuit of rent boys. Because of the movie adaptations, we tend to assume that Hyde is larger than Jekyll. In fact, in the book, he is smaller and younger - and so Utterson's words suggest that he's worried that his friend has perhaps met a boyish Uranian poet who's blackmailed or otherwise ensnared the good doctor.
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