EdRLS

The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Brtain: Wastelands to Wonderlands

Dr Jekyll MS at the British Library

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‘Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands’, The British Library, 11 May – 25 Sept 2012.

A new exhibition at the British Library collects manuscripts and other artefacts to explore ‘how the landscapes and places of Britain permeate our great literary works’ and also to reveal ‘the secrets and stories surrounding the works’ creation’.

One of the manuscripts on display is the final manuscript of Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on loan from the Morgan Library, New York. As reported in the Observer and in the exhibition blog, the Stevenson manuscript will be open at f. 47 (the beginning of the last chaper “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”) to illustrate how RLS was making important changes even at a late stage of composition.

Image from the British Library exhibition blog, where the credit line is: Manuscript for Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde © The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. MA 1202. Photography, Graham S. Haber, 2012

As this news story may have created some interest, we here illustrate a few sentences, with their changes, and also compare them with the earlier draft (in the Beinecke Library, not in the exhibition), which RLS clearly had open before him on the table as he wrote this final MS. To make things easier to read, I’ve shown deletions in red and insertions in blue, but secondary changes within these have been shown thus: <deletions>, ^insertions^

1)

Draft: From a very early age, however, I became add in secret the slave of disgraceful pleasures;

MS: From an early age, however, I became in secret the slave of certain appetites [inserted in margin:] And indeed the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition, such as has made the happiness of many, but such as I found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, and wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public. Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures;

In the Draft S probably started to write “addicted” and then decided on the sensuous alliteration of “became in secret the slave of disgraceful pleasures”. In the MS, he starts by copying this phrase (which might be taken as allusions to masturbation or homosexuality), but then sacrifices it — crossing it out to add “And indeed the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition” etc. — much more elusive and giving an idea of Jekyll excusing himself.

2)

Draft: on the other, as soon as night had fallen and I could shake off my friends, the iron hand of indurated habit plunged me once again into the mire of vices. I will trouble you with these no further than to say that they were at once criminal in the sight of the law and abhorrent in themselves. They cut me off from the sympathy of those whom I otherwise respected; and with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed the those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature.

MS: [boxed deletion in the middle of the page] […] on the other, as soon as night released me from my engagements and <covered> ^hid^ me from the <espial> ^notice^ of my friends, <the iron hand> indurated habit plunged me again into the mire of my vices. I will trouble you with these no further than to say that they were, at that period, no worse than those of many who have lived and died with credit. It was rather the somewhat high aspirations of my life by daylight [substituted text inserted in the margin, see below] than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was; [picks up the draft again:] and with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature.

[inserted in margin:] Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views <of conduct> ^that I had^ set before me I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame, and it was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations

RLS, following the Draft, starts to copy out “the iron hand of indurated habit” (which hints at masturbation, seen at this period as leading to homosexuality), then crosses it out and decides to write the more ambiguous “indurated habit”. In the next sentence (“I will trouble you…”) he leaves the Draft again and instead of saying his vices were “at once criminal in the sight of the law and abhorrent in themselves” (which again hints at homosexuality, more easily punished since August 1885 by the Labouchère Amendment), he writes that they were “no worse than those of many who have lived and died with credit”).

RLS then continues with this new re-writing, picking up the Draft again at the end of the sentence.

Some time after writing this, on a re-reading he decides that the new hypocritical defence by Jekyll is the right choice but to do it right he needs to scrap the whole passage and start again (with “Many a man would have blazoned…”), moving the style away from a “sinner’s confession” towards an equivocal “full statement of the case” from Jekyll’s point-of-view.

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