“Jekyll was conceived, written, re-written, re-rewritten, and printed inside ten weeks”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1567.]

To F.W.H. Myers [Colvin 1912, pp. 212-213]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, March 1st, 1886

My dear Sir,

I know not how to thank you: this is as handsome as it is clever. 

Frederic William Henry Myers (1843-1901) poet, essayist and classical scolar, was one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. He had written an enthusiastic letter in praise of ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, and listed a number of points at which RLS might ‘expand or alter with advantage’ [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

With almost every word I agree – much of it I even knew before – much of it, I must confess, would never have been, if I had been able to do what I like, and lay the thing by for the matter of a year.

First edition of ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, 1886.


But the wheels of Byles the Butcher drive exceeding swiftly, and Jekyll was conceived, written, re-written, re-rewritten, and printed inside ten weeks.

In George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’, Mrs Dollop, landlady of the pub, gossiping about Lydgate’s possible involvement in the sudden death of Raffles, comments that the previously very poor doctor is ‘so flushed o’ money as he can pay off Mr Byles the butcher as his bill has been running on for the best o’ joints since last Michaelmas was a twelvemonth.’


Nothing but this white-hot haste would explain the gross error of Hyde’s speech at Lanyon’s.

RLS is commenting the first of four points made by Myers: Hyde’s speech to Dr Lanyon, in a style ‘too elevated for Hyde’.


Your point about the specialised fiend is more subtle, but not less just: I had not seen it.

Referring to the Carew murder, Myers thought that Hyde was ‘not a generalized but a specialized fiend’.


– About the picture, I rather meant that Hyde had brought it himself; and Utterson’s hypothesis of the gift (p. 42) an error.

Referring to Hyde’s house and to RLS’s reference to ‘a good picture’ which Utterson supposed was a gift from Jekyll, Myers wrote: ‘Would Jekyll have sent a picture there? Would he not have concealed the house from his servants?’


– The tidiness of the room, I thought, but I dare say my psychology is here too ingenious to be sound, was due to the dread weariness and horror of the imprisonment. Something has to be done: he would tidy the room. But I dare say it is false.

Myers thought that the tidiness of the room in which Jekyll and Hyde had spent their last hours was ‘not a true point’.


I shall keep your paper; and if ever my works come to be collected, I will put my back into these suggestions. In the meanwhile, I do truly lack words in which to express my sense of gratitude for the trouble you have taken. The receipt of such a paper is more than a reward for my labours. I have read it with pleasure, and as I say, I hope to use it with profit. – Believe me, your most obliged,

Robert Louis Stevenson





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One Response to “Jekyll was conceived, written, re-written, re-rewritten, and printed inside ten weeks”

  1. rdury says:

    It’s clear that Stevenson is being polite but has no intention of re-writing his story!

    Liked by 1 person

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