Sunday, 5 April 2015

Jekyll and Hyde- look at these descriptions

This book is terribly well-written.
Look at this:
"It was by this time about nine in the morning, and the first fog of the season. A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven, but the wind was continually charging and routing these embattled vapours; so that as the cab crawled from street to street, Mr. Utterson beheld a marvellous number of degrees and hues of twilight; for here it would be dark like the back-end of evening; and there would be a glow of a rich, lurid brown, like the light of some strange conflagration; and here, for a moment, the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths. The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses, with its muddy ways, and slatternly passengers, and its lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh to combat this mournful re-invasion of darkness, seemed, in the lawyer's eyes, like a district of some city in a nightmare."
This is the scene after the murder (which, by the way, happens under the full moon, the sky is cloudless, the window of the witness brilliantly lit by the moonlight), Utterson and inspector Newcomen go to Soho looking for Hyde. 
"As the cab drew up before the address indicated, the fog lifted a little and showed him a dingy street, a gin palace, a low French eating-house, a shop for the retail of penny numbers and twopenny salads, many ragged children huddled in the doorways, and many women of different nationalities passing out, key in hand, to have a morning glass; and the next moment the fog settled down again upon that part, as brown as umber, and cut him off from his blackguardly surroundings. This was the home of Henry Jekyll's favourite; of a man who was heir to a quarter of a million sterling." 
Now look at this scene, where Poole (Jekyll's butler) thinks there is some "foul play" and asks Utterson to go with him to Jekyll's house. 
"It was a wild, cold, seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and a flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture. The wind made talking difficult, and flecked the blood into the face. It seemed to have swept the streets unusually bare of passengers, besides; for Mr. Utterson thought he had never seen that part of London so deserted. He could have wished it otherwise; never in his life had he been conscious of so sharp a wish to see and touch his fellow-creatures; for struggle as he might, there was borne in upon his mind a crushing anticipation of calamity. The square, when they got there, was all full of wind and dust, and the thin trees in the garden were lashing themselves along the railing."
That's just so good. 
No comments now, no analysis. I just want to draw attention to these passages and those phrases. 

By the way, check out this article about Jekyll and Hyde
(Hyde doesn't exist, "Jekyll did not create a potion to remove the evil parts of his nature. He made a potion that allowed him express his urges without feeling guilty and without any consequences besmirching his good name", we never get Hyde's point of view, Jekyll always think of himself as Jekyll even when being Hyde and knows exactly what's going on, Jekyll wants to do all the things he does as Hyde and revels in this freedom, etc.) 
Not saying that I agree with everything, but it's interesting. 


  1. Stevenson could be a wonderful writer. He rarely came up with a conception as good as Jekyll and Hyde. Well, rarely came up with prose that good, either. I read a heap of his books several years ago - fiction, essays, travel - it was all rewarding.

    1. Good and rewarding, or second-rate but still rewarding?

    2. Both, definitely some of both, and hard to predict ahead of time.