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  • The Transforming Draught: Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Victorian Alcohol Debate
  • Jane Lilienfeld (bio)
The Transforming Draught: Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Victorian Alcohol Debate, by Thomas L. Reed Jr.; pp. 268. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2006, $35.00 paper, £22.50 paper.

Thomas L. Reed's The Transforming Draught argues that the concepts and narratives of the Victorian temperance movement are embedded in the characters, dialogue, and [End Page 136] diverse settings of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Noting with approval, for example, William Veeder and Gordon Hirsch's excellent anthology, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde After One Hundred Years (1988), Reed acknowledges that other methodologies have been successfully applied to the novel. He avers, however, that the depiction of alcohol and its place in Victorian social and cultural experience have been ignored.

By now, British and American literary critics have established the field of addiction study as applied to literature. Roger Forseth's groundbreaking "'Alcoholite at the Altar': Sinclair Lewis, Drink, and the Literary Imagination" (Modern Fiction Studies 31.3 [1985]) and John Crowley's The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction (1994), for example, have proven the originality and fruitfulness of such an approach to major American writers. For British literature, Reed notes as his predecessors such texts as Kathleen McCormack's George Eliot and Intoxication: Dangerous Drugs for the Condition of England (2000), J. Gerald Dollar's "Addiction and 'the Other Self' in Three Late Victorian Novels" in Beyond the Pleasure Dome (edited by Sue Vice, Matthew Campbell, and Tim Armstrong [1994]), and my anthology, The Languages of Addiction (1999), coedited with Jeffrey Oxford. Yet some of Reed's assumptions about the field might be contested. Has Reed avoided anachronism? Do alcohologists and literary theorists agree that there exists "the stereotypical alcoholic"? (10)

Reed's analysis interweaves several influential interpretations of Edward Hyde with the Victorian alcohol debate. For example, drawing on Elaine Showalter's investigation of Hyde as a homosexual ("Dr. Jekyll's Closet" in The Haunted Mind, edited by Elton Smith and Robert Hass [1999]), Reed suggests that the name "Hyde" has various meanings. "Hyde," he points out, may be considered code for the fact that Hyde Park was not only a place for homosexual encounters but also a well-known area for drunkenness and the stage for a riot against Sunday pub closings. Reed also extends racialized readings of Hyde to uncover possible references to alcohol. He notes, for instance, that when Hyde runs into a little girl on the street and then mauls her, his action is judged by Mr Enfield, the observer, as that of a "Juggernaut." Reed connects the Orientalism of this insult to the continuous imagery of rampant alcohol use among the "undeserving poor," pointing out that temperance discourse named the liquor industry as "the juggernaut."

That drinking led to crime in the lower classes was a basic tenet of the respectable Victorian bourgeoisie: as Reed points out, men of the upper classes drank decorously at home or in social clubs, but the poor drank in neighborhoods that the respectable considered pockets of sin and vice. Reed argues that the image of the pub in neighborhoods stratified by social class and the housing patterns of the poor is central to Soho as the place of Hyde's abode. Reed notes the difference encoded, for example, in Jekyll's being a "judge of good wines" and Hyde's "avid drinking of spirits" (98). He even suggests that Mr Poole, Jekyll's butler, is a possible teetotaler. The duality of the sober man and his increasingly rapacious inner addict was a staple of temperance narratives. Reed thus embeds contemporary literary debates about Hyde in the context of the temperance movement and Victorian attitudes toward alcohol and those who drank it. Convincing and original, Reed's book thus challenges established interpretations.

Reed notes that "Hyde's potion needn't literally be alcohol for him to remain [End Page 137] a de facto example of the sad lot of the addicted Walter Ferriers of this world" (203). (Ferrier was an alcoholic friend whose death his mother blamed on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2052
Print ISSN
0042-5222
Pages
pp. 136-138
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-17
Open Access
No
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