Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Every now and again I get an urge to read something of a particular 'type'. Sometimes, for example, I'm overcome with the need to read some SF, sometimes I suddenly realise I haven't actually read any of Rolfe's own writings for a while, sometimes maybe I want to read a depressing 1930s 'gay novel' where the protagonist agonises for three hundred pages before finally doing the decent thing and comitting suicide. I get these urges. Recently though I've been hankering after reading something 'classic' - something that my English Literature teacher at school would have considered literature! I was thinking maybe Thomas Hardy or Joseph Conrad.

As it happens, I have a pile of 'pocket editions' on a rather neglected and dusty shelf and when the urge to read a classic coincided with a few spare moments to sit down and actually do it, I grabbed the first thing off the top. Not quite Thomas Hardy! The first thing which came to hand was Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There's not a great deal to it - I'm half way though after one sitting but it is a very enjoyable 'ripping yarn' and I was surprised by the graphic description of violence where it occurs. Still, the greatest thing about this Collins pocket edition is the illustrations by Frank Gillet. The one above is fairly typical, depicting Mr Hyde like a troglodyte pixie on speed and the girl as if in the throws of a 'female hysteria' - the illustrations are not numerous but they are so bad they are amusing and add a little wry light-relief to reading the story.


John C said...

I love RLS and I've read J&H several times. Not necessarily his best but there's some fine descriptive stuff. Last time I was deliberately bearing in mind Elaine Showalter's thesis in Sexual Anarchy that it can be seen as a fable of gay life in the 1880s. It actually works better on that level than Dorian Gray; there's no equivalent of Sybil Vane in J&H even though in the film versions they always show Hyde as a womaniser.

lib said...

How interesting. I have an identical edition, which I've owned for about 30 years (read once, as a teenager; frightened the heck out of me).
What would this edition be worth, I wonder? Any ideas?

Callum said...

Hi Lib,

I spend my life disappointing people about their books I'm afraid. If this was on the shelves of a bookshop I wouldn't expect it to cost more than £10, indeed that would be quite expensive. Definitely an edition to keep, read and enjoy...


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