Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Quote of the Day (Robert Louis Stevenson, on a First Encounter With Edward Hyde)

“Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing, and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him. ‘There must be something else,’ said the perplexed gentleman. ‘There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say? or can it be the old story of Dr. Fell? or Is it the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent? The last, I think; for, O my poor old Harry Jekyll, if ever I read Satan’s signature upon a face, it Is on that of your new friend.’”— Scottish fiction writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886)

The creation of Edward Hyde, the embodiment of pure evil in the physical ugliness so vividly portrayed above, is what has led so many to view this “Strange Tale” as a horror story.

But there is another horror that, to Dr. Henry Jekyll, might be just as dismaying: Hyde’s creator and opposite is not a saint, but the same old Jekyll: a proper, basically decent Victorian gentleman who cannot banish his primal urges—“that incongruous compound of whose reformation and improvement I had already learned to despair.”

According to a fascinating Huffington Post piece by Melanie Kendry, “When Does a Man Become a Monster?”, the original draft by Robert Louis Stevenson indicated that the crime of the “ordinary secret sinner” Jekyll was not murder (or even the consorting with prostitutes shown in so many cinematic versions) but homosexuality. 

It was an anticipation of a later, wittier, but equally horrifying story of a double man in Victorian society, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Such were the taboos of the time in England, however, that even in the latter, more daring case, Gray’s secret sexuality could only be implied.

(The image accompanying this post shows John Barrymore, in the classic 1920 silent film version of Stevenson’s novella. Remarkably, Barrymore depicted the violent and disturbing physical transformation into Hyde without benefit of special effects. As fine as the 1933 Fredric March performance was—worthy enough of an Oscar---I still prefer Barrymore’s. I may be the only person I know who still recalls Kirk Douglas’ performance in a 1973 TV musical adaptation of the tale by composer Lionel Bart. That production was a horror story all its own!)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Tweet of the Day (‘Two Sapphires Blu,’ on ‘That Magical Time of Year’)

“Ah yes! It's that magical time of year when the cobwebs in my house suddenly become decorative.”—Blue (@TwoSapphiresBlu), tweet of Oct. 3, 2016

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Quote of the Day (John Henry Cardinal Newman, on the ‘Desire to be Great’)

“Do you desire to be great? make yourselves little. There is a mysterious connexion between real advancement and self-abasement. If you minister to the humble and despised, if you feed the hungry, tend the sick, succour the distressed; if you bear with the froward, submit to insult, endure ingratitude, render good for evil, you are, as by a divine charm, getting power over the world and rising among the creatures. God has established this law. Thus He does His wonderful works. His instruments are poor and despised; the world hardly knows their names, or not at all. They are busied about what the world thinks petty actions, and no one minds them. They are apparently set on no great works; nothing is seen to come of what they do: they seem to fail. Nay, even as regards religious objects which they themselves profess to desire, there is no natural and visible connexion between their doings and sufferings and these desirable ends; but there is an unseen connexion in the kingdom of God. They rise by falling. Plainly so, for no condescension can be so great as that of our Lord Himself. Now the more they abase themselves the more like they are to Him; and the more like they are to Him, the greater must be their power with Him.” —John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Sermon 22: The Weapons of Saints,” in The Newman Reader: Parochial and Plain Sermons, Volume 6

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Quote of the Day (Percy Bysshe Shelley, on Power, ‘A Desolating Pestilence’)

“Power, like a desolating pestilence,
 Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience,
 Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
 Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame
 A mechanized automaton.” —English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), Queen Mab (1813), Part III

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quote of the Day (Larry McMurtry, on Herding Words and Books)

“I grew up in a herding tradition and that's determined everything I've done. I was never good at herding cattle, but writing is a way of herding words and rare books a way of herding books, and I suspect by my constant driving around the country I'm practicing a form of trail-driving, driving whatever happens to be ahead of me, the cars and the trucks, rather than cattle.”—Texas novelist (Lonesome Dove) and rare-book seller Larry McMurtry, quoted in Joseph Berger, “Herding Words,” The New York Times, June 9, 1985