My Second Classics Club List

I’m back with a new list of over 50 books to read in 5 years!

I am trying something new this time around. Every book on this list is a book I own either on my shelves or on my Kindle (except for the Anthony Trollope 2021 Readalong). Like book lovers everywhere I love buying books and I am not saying I am taking 5 years off buying them, but these really need to get read. I have owned some of them for many years and I need to know if they are keepers or to donate to make room for more. Caveat: I reserve the right to dnf any title here and substitute something else 🙂

Some of my favorite books read during the last five years came from list one. What books on this list will become favorites, I wonder?

Fiction

Louisa May Alcott
An Old-Fashioned Girl (1869)

Enid Bagnold
The Loved and Envied (1951)

Carol Ryrie Brink
Mademoiselle Misfortune (1937)

Fanny Burney
Evelina (1778)

Willa Cather
My Antonia (1918)

Agatha Christie
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)

Charles Dickens
David Copperfield (1850)
Hard Times (1854)
A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov (1880)

Theodore Dreiser
Sister Carrie (1900)

George Eliot
Middlemarch (1871)
Daniel Deronda (1876)

Alice Tisdale Hobart
The Cleft Rock (1948)

Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary (1856)

Elizabeth Gaskell
Mary Barton (1848)
North and South (1854)
Cranford (1853)

George Gissing
The Odd Women (1893) K

Oliver Goldsmith
The Vicar of Wakefield (1766)

Thomas Hardy
A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873)
Far From the Madding Crowd
(1874)
The Hand of Ethelberta
(1876)

Nathaniel Hawthorne
Our Old Home: A Series of English Sketches (1863) K

Aldus Huxley
Brave New World (1932)

Henry James
The Golden Bowl (1904)
Three Novellas:
Pandora (1884)
The Patagonia (1888)
Four Meetings (1877)

C.S. Lewis
Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
Perelandra
(1943)
That Hideous Strength
(1945)

W. Somerset Maugham
The Magician (1908) K

George Meredith
The Egoist (1879)

L.M. Montgomery
Emily of New Moon (1923)

Thomas Love Peacock
Maid Marian (novella, (1822)
Crotchet Castle (1831)
Headlong Hall (novella, 1816)
Nightmare Abbey
(novella, 1818)

Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe (1819)

Gertrude Stein
Three Lives (1909)

G.B. Stern
The Matriarch (1924)

Robert Louis Stevenson
The Master of Ballantrae (1889)

William Thackeray
Vanity Fair (1847)

Anthony Trollope
(Barsetshire Chronicles Readalong)
The Warden (1855)
Barchester Towers (1857)
Doctor Thorne (1858)
Framley Parsonage (1860)
The Small House at Allington (1862)
The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867)

Jules Verne
Twenty-Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870) K

Edith Wharton
Old New York (1924)
Glimpses of the Moon (1922)

Virginia Woolf
The Voyage Out (1915) K
The the Lighthouse (1927)
The Years (1937)

Harold Bell Wright
The Winning of Barbara Worth (1911)

Emile Zola
Nana (1880)
Ladies Paradise
(1883)

Nonfiction

Johanna Brandt
The Grape Cure (1928)

Le Baron Russell Briggs
To College Girls (1911)

Vera Brittain
Testament of Youth (1933) K

Sarah Josepha Hale
The Good Housekeeper (1841)

Emily Post
The Personality of a House (1930)

Cornelia Otis Skinner & Emily Kimbrough
Our Hearts were Young and Gay (1942)

Edith Wharton
A Backward Glance (1934)

Glibert White
The Natural History of Selborne (1789)

Plays

Oscar Wilde
A Woman of No Importance (first performed, April 19, 1893) K
The Importance of Being Ernest (first performed, February 14, 1895)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

I have observed that when I wore the semblance of Edward Hyde none could come near me at first without a visible misgiving of the flesh. This, as I take it, was because all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde was pure evil.

 

drjekyllWhat a convoluted story! This door, that alleyway….Robert Louis Stevenson’s prose is almost as confusing as the story itself. And as a visual reader all the scenes look dark as if all of the action takes place at night, even the inside scenes.

While the first ¾ of this novella is hard to follow, the last quarter is quite profound and made me think of my own morality.

 

While I knew the basics of the story–a scientist creates a potion that turns him into an evil man–I was surprised that in the actual reading of the book that scientist was Dr. Jekyll. What I mean by that is having heard the story and seen the films, in reading the the actual book it was not immediately understood to me to be him. So, I liked that aspect of the mystery.

The story unfolds as a Mr. Utterson, a lawyer and close friend of Dr. Jekyll, first comes drjinto contract with Mr. Hyde while walking home one night. He witnesses a man and young girl collide in the street; he tramples her and continues on. Utterson goes after him, catches him and then forces him to make financial restitution to the girl and her family for her injuries. To make sure, he goes with the man to his home, waits there until he writes the check and waits at the back to make sure the check is good.  Mr. Hyde, who Utterson can see is deformed, stays curious about this mysterious man each time he passes his door.

Meanwhile Dr. Jekyll is becoming a recluse giving concern to Utterson who is used to seeing him often for dinner or drinks. As the keeper of Jekyll’s will he is worried at this odd behavior. His suspicions are heightened when, Poole, Jekyll’s long-time servant shows up at Uttersons’s home one night in great fear for his master. He says Dr. Jekyll is ill and spends all his time in the laboratory, but there is something else that has put all the servants in fear and would he please come immediately to the house? When he enters the home, the servants are convinced that although they only get a glimpse of Dr. Jekyll in his laboratory the man they see isn’t him. Although Utterson finds this unbelievable they are clearly in a panic and he is convinced to break down the door. Rushing in he sees a body on the floor. It is Mr. Hyde in his last gasp of life.

Dr. Jekyll Creates a Method of Dissociation

drj3As Utterson tries to process what he sees, he notices an envelope on the desk with this name on it. Inside are instructions from Dr. Jekyll dated that very day and state that Utterson must read the two letters enclosed before he does or thinks anything else. The first letter is from a mutual friend of Utterson’s and Jekyll, who writes about witnessing Dr. Jekyll’s change to Mr. Hyde. The second is Dr. Jekyll’s account of his life and his struggles at an early age with the duality of good and evil within himself and the experiments that culminated in the successful separation of the two and the creation of Mr. Hyde.

If each could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way…and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path…no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil….that in the agonized womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling.

By finding the right combination of powders Dr. Jekyll had begun experimenting on himself until late one night as the nausea and aching subsided he sensed something strange and new. He felt younger, happier, more vital. He was Mr. Hyde.

“I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked…and the thought delighted me.”

A reverse mixture brings him back to Dr. Jekyll, but as time passes, he finds it harder to come back to his original self. He is horrified to realize he is becoming Mr. Hyde without taking the potion as if his evil nature is overpowering the good. As the influence of Hyde grows, Dr. Jekyll’s physical body declines. When Hyde beats a man to death, it becomes clear to Jekyll that there is only one way to stop Hyde–and therefore himself. This is the act by which he is discovered by Utterson.

My Thoughts

When I was a child, like many children, I had a “fall guy” or in this case two fall girls who I blamed for the bad things I did. Peggy and Shelly existed as my imaginary friends and though I talked to them and went on elaborate escapades with them I knew our association and my experience with them was in my mind and not in the real world. And although it sounded good at the time, it never worked to blame them for what I did. I grew out of a need for them at some point.

Whatever Stevenson is describing here with Dr. Jekyll’s dual nature might be more pathological than just some mean thoughts about the perceived unfair people or circumstances in life or an inability to take responsibility for our actions. I never wrestled with the kind of evil Jekyll does, but I hear every so often of a woman paying someone off to kill her husband or a man hiring someone to ‘get back’ at a person who wronged him. Most of us don’t ever go that far and are able to deal more responsibility with the negative parts of our nature.

And so I wonder about this story of Stevenson’s and what he is describing or warning us about? Is his Mr. Hyde living out a universal deep, dark fantasy over situations we believe we have no control? Is he describing the mind of a serial murderer or the mad scientist whose experiment has gone far beyond what he thought he was creating?

But is this also a cautionary tale about how one man deals with his negative passions, the dark thoughts that consume him and instead of facing whatever they are he acts them out not in a healthy way, but literally? Or maybe Dr. Jekyll is just plain crazy and Stevenson has illustrated the workings an insane mind.

Even if this is only a good fireside scary story, it sure made me think!

_________________

Title: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Publisher: Bantam Classic
Device: Paperback
Year: 1886
Pages: 114

Challenges: #RIPXIV