Biography of Deacon William Brodie the Original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Part 2
About the Scottish figure Deacon William Brodie who was the inspiration for Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, his biography and behavior
DEACON WILLIAM BRODIE (1741-1788). Prototype for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The complete picture of respectability in the daytime, Deacon Brodie became transformed by night. In Stevenson's story, Dr. Jekyll, born to money and commanding respect, a man of learning and taste, found he had a 2nd nature, "a certain impatient gaiety of disposition" and in trying to satisfy that nature he was "often plunged into a kind of wonder at my vicarious depravity." But where Dr. Jekyll tried to separate the 2 sides to his nature with a potion of powder and red liquid, Deacon Brodie needed no more than a few beers to give way to his 2nd self. With nightfall, Brodie shunned his society friends and neighbors, and kept company with thieves in low dives. He gambled with loaded dice, outwitted cardsharps at their own games, hid vicious gamecocks in his backyard, and, besides his own family, secretly maintained 2 mistresses and their families. His gambling losses, and the expenses involved in running 3 households, forced Brodie to search for another means of obtaining spare cash.
It was the custom of the period for shopkeepers to hang keys to their establishments inside their front doors. Brodie, using a wad of putty he had concealed in his hand, would take quick impressions of these keys while his friends were occupied elsewhere. Soon, a series of daring burglaries had the city in an uproar. At 1st, Brodie worked alone. Twice he was almost trapped. Once, Stevenson recalls, "A friend of Brodie's had told him of a projected visit to the country, and afterwards, detained by some affairs, put it off and stayed the night in town. The good man had lain some time awake; it was far on in the small hours; when suddenly there came a creak, a jar, a faint light. Softly he clambered out of bed and up to a false window which looked upon another room, and there, by the glimmer of a thieves' lantern, was his good friend the Deacon in a mask." The friend was too confused ever to repeat what he had seen. On another occasion, a wealthy widow fell suddenly ill and, for the 1st time, decided not to attend church services. From her bed she saw a masked bandit enter her house, use her keys to open her desk, and then sneak off. As he left, his face disguised by his crepe mask, she thought, "That is Deacon Brodie." But the idea was too absurd, and so she kept it to herself.
In July, 1786, tired of small pickings, Brodie decided to go after bigger hauls. He organized a gang of 3, all ex-convicts. Swiftly they cleaned out a goldsmith's shop and a tobacconist's. Brodie had been remodeling a jewelry shop by day; he suggested it be robbed by night. The night of the theft he was winning a fortune at cards, and failed to keep his date. The gang, leaderless, raided the jewelry store and came away with pound 350 in stolen goods. Brodie promptly inveigled his followers into a card game, and won all their loot away from them.
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