Something to Hyde: The “Strange Preference” of Henry Jekyll 1
The nineteenth century saw the continuation of a policing of sex and sexuality, which had originated in the seventeenth century and which coincided with the rise of the new middle class. Britain’s transition to an industrial capitalist economy forced sexuality to retreat from the public to the private domestic sphere. This chapter demonstrates that many of the descriptions of Jekyll’s change into Hyde mirror the depictions of the process and results of onanism. Henry Jekyll’s intemperances are largely left to the reader’s imagination, and this very vagueness draws attention to the solitary nature of his crimes. Whilst Jenni Calder has suggested that “Jekyll’s indiscretions would have involved drinking and women”, there is no textual evidence to support this supposition. As a wealthy and successful man who had evidently opted for a single life, Jekyll can certainly be charged with an assault on bourgeois propriety.