4 thoughts on “Victorian Reviews of Jekyll and Hyde: Observations and Reflections

  1. Pingback: English B1918 S18: The Victorian Novel – Renata Kobetts Miller, Ph.D.

  2. Joseph Caceres

    Joseph Caceres

    In a Tuesday, January 19, 1886, review of Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, printed in the Birmingham Daily Post, an unnamed reviewer cast an unfavorable light on the novella. The reviewer considered Stevenson’s novella a joke. A joke that is contributed to the attempt of Stevenson to “unite strange men—the strangeness of a Frankenstein story or an old Greek myth—with the modern science” which “leaves no strange impression on the mind than a sense of ingenuity of the writer.” The reviewer goes on to state that, “One thrills before the ghost in “Hamlet” or the weird sisters in “Macbeth,” for one believes in them; we only smile in the presence of Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for we know they are a mere clever invention.” Moreover, the reviewer does not seem impressed by the overall theme of the novella, or the “supposition that there is a duality in man’s nature, a better and worse self that is separable,” and refers to the ways in which Stevenson explicates on this theme as repulsive. Yet the reviewer does not quiver in his belief in Stevenson’s artistic abilities; he simply feels as if the novella was a waste of his talents. “Mr. Stevenson is a man of such great ability and artistic faculty that even this repulsive theme is made fascinating in his hands; but surely it is unworthy of him—a mere bit of catchpenny sensationalism. It is as though a great sculptor should spend his time in making bogie turnip-lanterns to frighten children.”


    “NEW BOOKS.” Birmingham Daily Post, 19 Jan. 1886. British Library Newspapers, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/6PuVr0. Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.




    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is a gothic Victorian novel published in 1886. This review which was published in 1897, is from the Dundee Evening Telegraph. According to the review, the novel did not catch on with readers at first. It was a complete failure. It wasn’t until much later that it became successful and the manner in which that success came about, was in itself somewhat strange.
    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was offered to Andrew Lang who was the editor of Longmans Magazine — a magazine which was in publication from 1882 to 1905 and focused on works of fiction. It debuted renowned authors such as Rudy Kipling, Thomas Hardy and of course Robert Louis Stevenson. When the novel was offered to Lang, who was also a personal friend of Stevenson’s, Lang thought the story should be read as a whole and not by installments. Stevenson agreed to having it published as a whole, so The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was printed but as a shilling novel.
    The publication occurred towards the end of the year but with the railway bookstalls, which were popular at the time, refusing to take any copies of Jekyll and Hyde, the novel was unfortunately held over for the next year. It still met with little success. It wasn’t until the Times published a review that the public began to take notice. Even the Church took notice. Clergymen preached sermons against the type of evil demonstrated in the novel, citing the Apostle Paul’s teachings found in Romans 7:23. “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
    According to the review, after hearing the sermons, the public became quite interested in reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so they “came forth with their shillings” and that was responsible for the eventual 9strange) success of the novel.

    Works cited.

    Dundee Evening Telegraph – Saturday 26 June 1897


  4. Robert C. Derosa

    Robert C. Derosa
    Review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    “The Rev. Dr. Nicholson on ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’” Leamington Spa Courier 24 November 1888.

    This review, I thought, was different and made some poignant points because it began with an Epistle reference and then ended with a religious belief: “So, then, with the mind I myself serve the Lord God, but with the flesh the Lord Sin.” Of course, the reference is appropriate when we, as critical readers, examine the Jekyll-Hyde behavior throughout the story. Dr. Nicholson said that the story incorporated a variety of issues such as morals, metaphysics, physics, analogies, theology, and – most of all – imagination. He also said that the experiment itself was absurd and impossible; he questioned whether the story had a purpose. Whether willed or unwilled by Stevenson, Nicholson thought it did have a purpose: that of a moral sermon. He made a story comparison: a sensational story, which was one that appealed to feelings, emotions, and sensations; and a tragic story, which was one that influenced the feelings and emotions of the heart. The latter story seemed to appeal to him more because it was the purification of the passions and stirred up passions of the soul, so it had a holy, moral religious aim to it. He thought that Stevenson, whether intentionally or unintentionally, placed a religious stamp on it.
    Nicholson had an interesting take on the Jekyll-Hyde character. He said that he was not a hypocrite; that he was earnest in his virtues as in his vices; that he told them through the medium of Dr. Jekyll. According to Nicholson, Dr. Jekyll was two men in one who had a duality of nature and who wanted to separate those principles in practical action as they were in nature and theory. Simply put, Jekyll transformed his higher nature into his lower one and had no desire to part with either one. He was a man of many good characteristics, but he liked that animal nature in him too; he wanted to live the life of a philosopher and of the swine. His drug gave him the ability only to transform himself. The review made a good point: that the lower nature was to symbolize the moral deformity of the mind and soul within the mind; that a degraded nature was not always coupled with an external deformity.
    What was the moral of the book? Nicholson said it was a scientific philosopher making excursions into the realm of sin. He also said that Jekyll had lost the strength of his will and was unable to get back again. He could not trifle with sin anymore.


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