The Transforming Draught

Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Victorian Alcohol Debate


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About the Book

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is viewed as the classic allegory of man’s duality—the good and evil embodied in every person. But could Jekyll’s “transforming draught” have been alcohol? In the Victorian era, alcohol was the topic of national debate for decades and people endlessly deliberated its proper place in society. Shadowed all his life by the cloud of alcoholism, Stevenson well knew the good and evil of strong drink.
This book investigates Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as an allegory of alcoholism—an interpretation that cultural change and the story’s renown have perhaps obscured. The author examines patterns of language, plot, characterization and imagery to reveal how mind-altering drink figures as the story’s subtext. Early chapters establish the story’s literal references to strong drink and its metaphors regarding alcohol. The focus then shifts to drinking in Stevenson’s life, the sociology of drink in Victorian Britain, and the portrayal of alcohol in literature, including Stevenson’s other works. Possible real-life models for the Jekyll-Hyde character are explored. Subsequent chapters examine the history of Britain’s temperance movement, scenes that arose from Stevenson’s dreams, how the temperance movement and industrial development may have influenced the story, and the story’s interpretation in Stevenson’s time. An appendix further investigates the elements of Stevenson’s language.

About the Author(s)

English professor Thomas L. Reed, Jr., lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Bibliographic Details

Thomas L. Reed, Jr.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: 9 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2648-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

List of Illustrations      x

Introduction      1

1. Jekyll the Addict      9

2. Alcohol in the Text: The Letter      19

3. Alcohol in the Text: The Spirit      32

4. RLS and the Drinking World      47

5. The Literary Contexts of Stevenson’s Tale of Alcohol      63

6. “Self ” and “The Other Fellow”      79

7. The Temperance Agenda      96

8. Dream Scenes: Neighborhoods of Nightmare      114

9. “Street Crime”      131

10. Jekyll and Hyde: Beginnings and Endings      161

11. Stevenson’s “Allegory” and Its Reception      186

12. Conclusion: Finding the Balance      198

Appendix: The Language of the Times      215

Chapter Notes      231

Bibliography      243

Index      251

Book Reviews & Awards

“truly amazing…recommended”—Choice; “very thorough…one is convinced…extremely interesting…many fascinating details…well-chosen illustrations”—English Literature in Transition; “valuable”—Critical Mass.