Chapter 6: Remarkable incident of Dr. Lanyon

Page Introduction

Here are some more extracts, usually in the order that they appear in the text; they are printed in black with quotes, for discussion and analysis, being underlined.  My text annotations, which comment explain, interpret and analyse, are in blue.   I deal with themes, characterisation, tone, authorial purpose and context, as well as how the text’s  form, structure and language create tension and meaning.  At the bottom of the page, you will find links to my other pages on the novella.  This page was published in error – it is as yet unfinished but since it is now online, I’ll leave it up.

REMARKABLE INCIDENT OF DR. LANYON

TIME ran on; thousands of pounds were offered in reward, for the death of Sir Danvers was resented as a public injury; but Mr. Hyde had disappeared out of the ken of the police as though he had never existed.

(Stevenson’s humorous irony: Hyde is at once always present in the psyche yet he is also only present when Jekyll conjures him up)

Much of his past was unearthed, indeed, and all disreputable: tales came out of the man’s cruelty, at once so callous and violent; of his vile life, of his strange associates, of  the hatred that seemed to have surrounded his career; but of his present whereabouts, not a whisper.

From the time he had left the house in Soho on the morning of the murder, he was simply blotted out; and gradually, as time drew on, Mr. Utterson began to recover from the hotness of his alarm, and to grow more at quiet with himself. The death of Sir Danvers was, to his way of thinking, more than paid for by the disappearance of Mr. Hyde. Now that that evil influence had been withdrawn, a new life began for Dr. Jekyll. He came out of his seclusion, renewed relations with his friends, became once more their familiar guest and entertainer; and whilst he had always been known for charities, he was now no less distinguished for religion. He was busy, he was much in the open air, he did good; his face seemed to open and brighten, as if with an inward consciousness of service; and for more than two months, the doctor was at peace.

In The Development of Muscular Christianity in Victorian Britain and Beyond the authors explain how physical fitness became associated with Christian morality,’manly character’:  During the late 1850s, the tenets of Muscular Christianity became an integral part of the public school educational system.  This ideological stance was ingrained in the psyche of privately educated Victorians and it is even now still regarded as a sign of ‘character’ among the elite in British society today: Muscular Christianity, especially in the form of playing rugby, was considered the very antidote to vice and idleness: it exhausted schoolboys and sapped their energy for sexual activity.   Lanyon, Jekyll and Utterson are recognisable products of the public school ethos and here the third person narrator presents Jekyll’s admirable return to core values:  Jekyll is now living a healthy life in the open air, dedicated to those less fortunate than himself and perhaps above all, demonstrating Christian observance.  

The fifth night he [Utterson] had in Guest to dine with him; and the sixth he betook himself to Dr. Lanyon’s.

There at least he was not denied admittance; but when he came in, he was shocked at the change which had taken place in the doctor’s appearance. He had his death-warrant written legibly upon his face. The rosy man had grown pale; his flesh had fallen away; he was visibly balder and older; and yet it was not so much, these tokens of a swift physical decay that arrested the lawyer’s notice, as a look in the eye and quality of manner that seemed to testify to some deep-seated terror of the mind.

The contrasts with the a hearty, healthy Lanyon of before and the physical decay are as nothing when the spirit and emotional helplessness of the man is described.  The unexpected mystery is explored through Utterson’s thoughts.  

It was unlikely that the doctor should fear death; and yet that was what Utterson was tempted to suspect.  “Yes,” he thought; “he is a doctor, he must know his own state and that his days are counted; and the knowledge is more than he can bear.” And yet when Utterson remarked on his ill-looks, it was with an air of greatness that Lanyon declared himself a doomed man.  

The word ‘doomed’ conveys the idea that this is his inescapable fate.  We have just read that on the 8th January, the mood had been as in the past when they were a trio of inseparable friends; we are now on the 17th : note how Lanyon’s dramatic change is highlighted by the use of dates: the purpose of these appeared to be to focus the reader on Jekyll’s reclusivity but they serve to demonstrate Lanyon’s sudden deterioration.

“I have had a shock,” he said, “and I shall never recover. It is a question of weeks. Well, life has been pleasant; I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it. I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away.” 

This idea precedes T.S. Eliot’s lines in ‘Burnt Norton’ (1935) which, although are more memorable: 

‘Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.’

Lanyon, admirably understates his fin de siècle debilitating horror with the grammatical exactitute of the ‘should’ form of the subjunctive mood, which seems to be uttered with the attitude and the stiff upper lip of the British Empire – whilst at the same time undermining its overt core public school ethos that it is not winning but the taking part that counts!

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At a time when it was thought that children were more animal than human, 13-year-old Robert Coombes murdered his mother.

It is also worth noting that, over two centuries earlier, the philosopher Hobbes   describes the natural state of nature as an anarchic war ‘of every man against every man’.  Man in his natural state outside any political community has a life which is ‘nasty, brutish, and short’.  Some hold that society is a social contract: we give up some freedoms in return for being protected against people like Hyde and their brutishness.   Social stability unites us against our fear of violent death.  Hyde is ‘the brute’, as are all psychopaths, because he has no inner or external moral compass and his nature cannot be constrained; he terrifies Lanyon (and us) because he rips apart the very fabric of Victorian England.   For more, see my profile of Hyde.

For more of my pages on ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, please hover your cursor over the Stevenson drop-down menu at the top of the page.

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