Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Robert Louis Stevenson's magical mystery tour

Okay, this is sort of about comics ...

Researchers have found that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde while he was under the influence of a derivative of ergot, a potentially deadly fungus hallucinogenic fungus.

London's Sunday Times reports that new research shows Stevenson, who suffered from tuberculosis, was given injections of ergotine to stop bleeding in his lungs.
The information was found in a recently uncovered letter, dated “end of August, early September 1885," from Stevenson's wife to the author's friend and literary agent, William Henley.

“Louis’s mad behaviour . . . I think it must be the ergotine that affects his brain at such time," she wrote. “He is quite rational now, I am thankful to say, but he has just giving up insisting that he should be lifted into bed in a kneeling position, his face to the pillow.”

Two weeks later, Stevenson began writing the famous novel.

Prof. Robert Winston, chair of the House of Lords select committee on science and technology, and Dr. George Addis, a former consultant in medicine and therapeutics at Glasgow University, believe the injections triggered a "Mr. Hyde-like" transformation in the author.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is about drug taking and the power of drugs which overtake his body completely and drive Dr Jekyll in a way that really is completely alien to him,” Winston said in a BBC1 documentary that aired Sunday. “Maybe that’s what Stevenson is feeling with the use of the drugs that he’s taking, particularly ergotine. Perhaps he becomes a Mr. Hyde himself.”