(The Strange Case of) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Work of proto-science fiction by one of the most popular genre writers of all time.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a classic late-Victorian gothic tale that reflected the new vogue of scientific romance. The story concerns the nightly transformations of the otherwise civilised Dr Jekyll into the brutal, carnal figure of Mr Hyde. But where once Jekyll's metamorphosis would have been the product of the paranormal or alchemy, here his tinkering with bubbling potions is guided by the new ideology of science, placing the work in the vanguard of science fiction.
Stevenson's descriptions of Hyde as a simian, bestial figure reflect late-Victorian obsessions with physical degeneration. Likewise, his depiction of a dark, labyrinthine London is born of concerns over the state of the teeming, smog-shrouded fin-de-siècle city. Countless novels, TV plots and movies have used the Jekyll and Hyde formula, notably I, Monster (1971) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), in addition to the numerous direct adaptations (perhaps the best of these is Rouben Mamoulian's 1931 version).
As Stevenson had already achieved literary success, his choice of the scientific romance genre was baffling to his high-culture admirers. Nevertheless, along with the likes of Frankenstein and Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde rapidly entered the popular vocabulary, becoming shorthand for someone exhibiting contradictory behaviour.