Ever since its first appearance in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has proved itself to be a tale of undiminished power for readers all over the world. It remains one of the great masterpieces of psychological fiction and yet it is not alone in Stevenson's work, for he had explored similar themes in several other stories too, all inextricably linked with his native country. This collection makes a strong case for the essentially Scottish origins of Stevenson's best short fiction, derived as it is from Calvinism's feeling for the immanence of evil, and driven by a sense of man's darker, divided self which goes back to Hogg's Justified Sinner. Thus it is that the story of the respectable Dr Jekyll, even in a London setting, has links that stretch back to the narrow wynds of Edinburgh and the bleak moors and shores of the North.
In this company stories of possession, doubleness and terror such as 'The Merry Men', 'The Body Snatcher', 'Markheim', 'Thrawn Janet' and others, reveal more clearly than ever their Scottish roots, and that fascination with the uncanny which brought the creator of Mr Hyde screamingly awake one winter's night over a hundred years ago.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) was born and educated in Edinburgh. He was a sickly child, and most of his adult years were to be spent travelling in search of a climate which would do least damage to his lungs. Following the family tradition in civil engineering, he went to Edinburgh University in 1867. More interested in literature and the bohemian life, he changed to law and qualified as an advocate in 1875. Thereafter he gave himself to his creative ambitions, with frequent visits to London and to France, where he met Fanny Osbourne, a married American woman who was to become his future wife. Stevenson began with essays, short stories and travel writing, most notably Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879). He went to California to marry Fanny in 1880. The journey nearly killed him, but he wrote of his experiences in Across the Plains (1892), The Amateur Emigrant (1895) and The Silverado Squatters (1883). He is, perhaps, best remembered for his first novel Treasure Island (1883), and his early reputation was made with this and other examples of adventure fiction, not least The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which appeared as a paperback thriller in 1886. The great Scottish novels followed, with Kidnapped (1886), The Master of Ballantrae (1889), and Weir of Hermiston (1893), which was left unfinished at his death. Catriona (1893), was always planned as the immediate sequel to Kidnapped, but had been delayed in the writing. Stevenson spent seven years in the South Seas, settling for the last five on the island of Upolu in Samoa, where he died suddenly from a cerebral stroke at the age of forty-four.
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