1995, Books, Fiction

The Essential Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1995) edited by Leonard Wolf

This is an immense edition of what is otherwise a pretty short novella. It is nice that a story like this would get this kind of treatment, but it’s kind of over the top.

For example, the novella itself is rather over-annotated. How is that possible, you ask? Well, even one of the footnotes has its own footnotes. (Yes, that’s right, a footnote has multiple footnotes to itself.) And while some of this information is interesting, much of it is inconsequential and repetitive.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide is one of the great works of horror or science fiction of the 19th century. I have seen many, many film and TV versions of the story and its amazing how different the source material truly is. (Wolf notes that most if not all film versions are based on a play adapted from Stevenson’s story, not Stevenson’s story.)

This is obviously a classic mystery but it’s a lot deeper than one would expect. It can be read many different ways – including as an allegory about homosexuality, though that’s probably not accurate – and, despite the rudimentary psychology of his day, Stevenson does a good job getting at some major issues of the human condition. The one problem is that the notes point out what Wolf calls “plotting errors” and I therefore was made aware of some mistakes I might not have caught.


The collection also includes some of Stevenson’s other stories.

“Thrawn Janet”

“Thrawn Janet” is a neat horror story that feels almost like an early version of The Exorcist. It’s pretty scary and it’s doubly interesting because it is mostly told in Scottish dialect, giving it a really strong sense of place and marking Stevenson as a predecessor to a many greater novelists.


“The Body Snatcher”

“The Body Snatcher” has a lot of good qualities, particularly its opening and then how it turns to a very different story. However, I feel like the opening and the ending don’t quite fit.



“Markheim” is almost a kind of Faust in reverse. It’s fascinating stuff, but I am never as gripped by these types of imaginings as by more conventional horror stories.


“The Merry Men”

“The Merry Men” is a significantly longer story than the above and, though it is significantly less “scary” than the other stories included, it is significantly more atmospheric. I think it is one of his strongest works.


“Le Chavalier Double”

This last story is not by  Stevenson, but is rather one of the inspirations. At least in Wolf’s translation it’s not very compelling – more like a condensed old myth that’s not told very well. It’s pretty obvious and just kind of not very well done.


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