Jekyll and Hyde: Contexts in pictures

A little slidedeck of images of London from 1880 to act as stimulus for discussion of AO3.

It is all too easy for students to imagine Jekyll’s London much as today.

Things to consider as they look at these:

Massive Building work – the tube, gas pipes, slum clearance and redevelopment: all noise, dirt and smells.

For all the wealth and power of the Imperial capital, London and central London in pareticular was immensely poor. Slums were chronic and many families still lived in single rooms in dilapidated tenements in areas like St Giles -modern Soho.

This map shows how prosperous street abutted areas of ‘extreme want’ so that with little warning the unsuspecting traveller could walk from one area to another with ease. We see here they prosperous areas to the West of Oxford Circus merging easily with the blue areas in the lower Eastern segment -Soho. Stevenson places Hyde’s dwelling in Soho though says little about Jekyll’s other than that it is round the corner from the down at heel entrance to his laboratory in an ‘ancient, handsome houses, now for the most part decayed…’ If we assume that Jekyll would need Hyde quite close to him to ease any potential issues after transformation, then the proximity of Soho to the pink streets and squares to the East of Regent Street would make this a likely location for Jekyll’s home. Some how this is a liminal area of shifting wealth and prosperity, with drug dens and other temptations within easy reach. Lanyon’s home is specified as being in Cavendish Square. This is found in the yellow area immediately to the North West of Oxford Circus.

With such information, a clear idea of the relative wealth and hierarchy of the characters can be drawn. Jekyll may be brilliant and reputable, but his choice of dwelling suggests that he is not someone who would be viewed with equanimity by his peers.

We do not know where Carew is walking by the river’, but the area immediately south of this map, crossing The Mall and St James’ Park was a notorious male prostitution area and there is no reason to believe that the river would provide any instant purity.

Enjoy the pictures. I hope they generate discussion.

It is worth making clear that Jekyll’s London is really rather a grubby dirty place possibly reflecting his morality.