There is a latent devil in the heart of the best of men; and when the restraints of religious feeling, of prudence and self-esteem, are weakened or removed by the operation of mental disease, the fiend breaks loose, and the whole character of the man seems to undergo a sudden and complete transformation. — Bucknill & Tuke 273*

Decorated initial B

y the beginning of the nineteenth century, London had become capital to the most geographically widespread Empire in world history, not only its economic and political centre but also – because of its predominant position in global trade – as home in its eastern districts to an expanding docklands area. London’s docks, built between the 1790s and 1830s, attracted traders, sailors and immigrants in great numbers, and the "East End" soon acquired a reputation for depravity and squalor alongside shipping and trade (see Kaufman). It was frequently contrasted with the "West End," though the boundaries between the two were not always distinct. The West End had always been associated with status and wealth, but from the 1850s it became known particularly for middle-class entertainment and pleasure with its concentration of restaurants, hotels, theatres and departmental stores. And while certain areas were indeed noted for prostitution and queer subcultures (see McWilliam 119-136, especially 130-5), this was confined, and a respectable middle-class man could normally wander the streets of the West End with impunity. By contrast, the East End was largely seen as a no-go area on account of its perceived criminality and violence. After all, a middle-class man had his reputation to protect: "The ideology of middle-class respectability had become dominant by the 1840s, and, although slackening from the 1870s, was still powerful by the century’s end" (Huggins 587).

Whitbread's 1853 plan of London, with the city outlined in red, and already expanding on either side. [Click on all the images to enlarge them and for more information about them.]

For middle-class writers, this "bifurcated cityscape" (Walkowitz 20) presented abundant opportunities to explore the dramatic implications of these contrasts, not least because the East End was also widely regarded as dangerously enticing. Its allure centred on the scope it gave respectable, middle-class men to indulge in all forms of impulsive and transgressive behaviour allowing, in the words of the opening quotation, their fiend to "break loose" in ways that would be strongly condemned within their own social circles. However, as social commentators – such as Henry Mayhew, Andrew Mearns and Charles Booth – came to research and publicise living and working conditions in the "real" East End (see Ledger and Luckhurst, Section 2: 25-51; also Francis and Valman), its mystique rather waned and it began to lose favour as a location for writers of transgressive literature (notably detective and Gothic fiction). And as the East End location of transgressive literature lost favour, so too the depiction of transgression appeared to change, eroding the polar contrasts between the middle classes as "law-abiding" on the one hand and East Enders as "disreputable" on the other. This change suggested that even respectable gentlemen were quite capable of transgressive behaviour.

To explore these shifts, this article focuses on depictions of the "shadow" in works by R.L. Stevenson, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Machen, and specifically cases in which the conduct of a "respectable" man or woman (the "original") is uncannily connected with an individual of similar or identical appearance (the "shadow") whose discreditable behaviour undermines the upright social standing of the "original." The article argues that, as the nineteenth century progresses, the transgressive "shadow" is increasingly perceived by writers as an integral aspect of human character, not just that of the criminal classes. This development is paralleled by changes in the locations in which transgressive behaviour takes place, shifting away from the East End – and other criminal neighbourhoods – towards an amorphous London-wide generality that also embraces well-to-do quarters. The psychological integration of transgressive behaviour into the "respectable" runs parallel with its depiction as geographically dispersed across all parts of the city, not just the East End, thereby confirming the claim, implicit in "transgressive" fiction, that the shadow is intrinsically part of the human character. Hence both the "bifurcated cityscape" and – to coin a phrase – the "bifurcated mindscape" lose their sharply defined distinction.

Anxieties about the effects that living in London have on well-being and mental health date back at least a couple of centuries (see Witchard 23-40). In 1821, for example, Thomas De Quincey describes his experience without friends in London as "harsh, cruel, and repulsive" (51), while a few years later, in his "Thoughts about People," Charles Dickens laments the lonely life of the class of "broken-spirited and humbled" (Sketches by Boz, 251). However, Dickens also drew distinctions between the lives of the impoverished on the one hand and the comfortably prosperous on the other. In Oliver Twist (1839), developing the theme of the "bifurcated cityscape," he contrasts the world in which Oliver finds himself after having fallen into the clutches of Fagin with that in which he recovers, following his rescue by Mr Brownlow, in terms of housing, food and – above all – social status (compare Fagin in chapter 8 and Brownlow in chapter 12). It is little surprise either that, in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), Daniel Quilp – probably one of Dickens’s most bestial villains – lives in Tower Hill (see p. 39), while Little Nell and her devoted grandfather live (it is believed) just off Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Criminal and law-abiding worlds are thereby kept strictly separate. However, in Dickens’s later novels, they become more permeable and intertwined. In Great Expectations (1861), for example, the escaped convict Magwitch turns out to be not only Pip’s mysterious benefactor, but also Estella’s father, and so would become Pip’s father-in-law if they married (as the revised "happy ending" version of the novel would imply — see Rosenberg 87-115). The upwardly mobile Pip’s future is therefore at least partly determined by the actions of a transportee. By the mid-Victorian period, then, as Martin Wiener argues, it was being increasingly suggested "that criminality and respectability, rather than being opposites, had hidden affinities" (244).

Left to right: (a) Little Nell from the West End, as depicted by M. F. or E. M. Taylor. (b) Quilp from the East End,as depicted by Harry Furniss. (c) Pip tries to reject the returned convict, his unexpected benefactor, Magwitch, in an illustration by Felix Darley.

Such affinities might be located within the family or among the middle and upper classes, but the objective of this article is to investigate them specifically in the person of the "respectable" individual. It therefore examines the gradual emergence of the "shadow" as a focus for literary analysis in the later nineteenth-century. In Great Expectations, for example, it is possible to argue that Orlick acts as a kind of shadow to Pip’s own character, in the sense that he is continually alongside silently tracking him (see Trotter x). This is an interesting point but this article delves much more deeply into the concept of the "shadow." It focuses not on a distinct individual who doggedly stalks another, but rather on those aspects of our own behaviour – desires, fantasies, impulses, thoughts, secrets – that we prefer to keep hidden from social view. It seeks to develop the insight that, from the eighteenth century onwards, writers have used "characters and situations to explore such factors as the significance of dreams, the complexity and tortuousness of hidden mental processes, and conflicts between the respectability demanded by society and the impulse for free emotional expression" (Edwards and Jacobs 20-21). This use of "shadow" as a concept here draws on the work of Carl Gustav Jung, not because the article makes any claims to any specifically psychoanalytical insights, but merely because the concept provides a helpful analytical device for investigating some of the themes emerging in certain genres of Victorian fiction towards the end of the nineteenth century (for a history of psychoanalysis itself, see Ellenberger). Jung himself states that "The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly – for instance, inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies" (417; see also Stevens 210-43, and Bolea 7-25).

For Jung, the "shadow" contrasts with the "persona," once the name for the mask worn by actors performing in the theatre, and hence the image we characteristically project when interacting with others: "The persona […] is the individual’s system of adaptation to, or the manner he assumed in dealing with, the world […] One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is" (415-16).

In other words, the "shadow" reflects qualities opposite from those revealed in the "persona." Jung argues that in a well-balanced personality each complements the other: the shadow counterbalances the pretensions portrayed by the persona, while the persona counterbalances the antisocial tendencies of the shadow. A personality dominated by the persona may result in empty conformism, while a personality dominated by the shadow may result in boorish or even criminal behaviour. Although these terms are associated today principally with Jung, it has also been argued that, in embryo, their presence – though not the same terminology – may be detected in works of nineteenth-century literature. Anthony Stevens, for example, claims that "[t]he coexistence of these two deeply contrasting personalities in the same subject is an endless source of fascination in life and has yielded some powerful literature – for example, Dostoevsky’s The Double, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Devil’s Elixirs, Edgar Allan Poe’s William Wilson, R.L. Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray" (42-46). Stefan Bolea later develops the idea, contending that "there is an unmediated connection between analytical psychology and romanticism and post-romanticism. […] Nineteenth century literature anticipates the theoretical findings of the analytical psychology of the 1920s and 1930s" (1). Focusing on the five works listed above, as well as on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Guy de Maupassant’s "The Horla," Bolea maintains that they "prefigure Freudian and Jungian innovations" and that, from a literary perspective, "the two versions of the shadow are the double and the demonic" (3).

This discussion of the shadow, the double and the demonic is fruitful as it draws our attention to the ways in which the "shadow" emerges as a theme in nineteenth-century literature. Given that the shadow can be identified only in contrast to the persona, its very nature involves a duality: the respectable, conformist persona may be depicted alongside a shadow that – once it steps outside the reassuring confines of its socially accepted persona – becomes a ghastly, demonic alter ego, that, once acknowledged, becomes deeply challenging and unsettling. In other words, while the "shadow" may refer to a psychoanalytical concept, in literature it may also be symbolised by another individual, the shadow, who in every physical respect may be mistaken for the original but personifies antisocial, maybe demonic, qualities that the original can barely admit or confront, or may even choose to deny.

The implications of analysing the shadow do not, however, apply purely to "respectable" men. In a short story not alluded to by either Stevens or Bolea, "The Poor Clare" (1856), Elizabeth Gaskell tells of Lucy, a young woman, who becomes victim of a chilling curse that draws out her: "In the great mirror opposite I saw myself, and right behind, another wicked, fearful self, so like me that my soul seemed to quiver within me, as though not knowing to which similitude of body it belonged" (77). As Laura Kranzler points out, the story centres on "that most fundamental split between the two sides of feminine identity so central to Victorian ideology: the split between the 'pure,' asexual ideal and monstrous, sexual voraciousness’ (xxv). For Gaskell, the contrast between acceptable and unacceptable sides of the personality is here reflected in her representation of women. We can speculate, therefore, that the Victorian writers discussed in this article saw the persona/shadow duality as a characteristic shared by all humanity irrespective of age, gender or any other marker of social identity – a view later systematised in the work of Jung, as noted above. For him, the shadow is certainly to be regarded as a universal feature of the human mindscape.

Indeed, by the final decades of the nineteenth century, changing perceptions of the London cityscape had contributed to changing perceptions of this mindscape. That is, greater familiarity with the East End (the cityscape) had gradually led to changing understandings of the geography of transgression and the realisation that deviant behaviour was not confined to squalid neighbourhoods but could take place anywhere. In other words, the respectable often masked the disreputable (the mindscape; see Karschay). It is significant that, as Clare Clarke notes, Sherlock Holmes – whose first adventure appeared in 1887 – goes to the East End only "once in fifty-six stories" (113). The rest are generally set in "respectable" parts of London, its suburbs and the home counties, all locations easily recognisable to middle-class readers, whose very familiarity, Clarke speculates, offers more disturbing and enigmatic settings for the detective’s struggles against crime and transgression than the more obvious deprivation and poverty of the East End. These evolving perceptions also helped to democratise the cityscape by debunking notions of middle-class exclusiveness and superiority and to humanise the East End, whose residents were no longer to be stereotyped as dissolute and criminal. To this end, the following analysis focuses on three works of fiction selected, first, because they all develop the notion of the double (broadly understood) as repository of persona and shadow and, second, because they are set wholly or largely in London, which allows analysis of the specific links between cityscape and mindscape. The works are R.L Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886); Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891); and Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (1894). Discussion of each work considers the nature of the transgressive behaviour involved and the location of such behaviour.

"The Transformation."

In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mr Hyde is not actually a physical double of Dr Jekyll. The respectable doctor concocts a potion which unleashes his "shadow" in the shape of Hyde, who does not however exist simultaneously with the doctor (as a double would) and is also markedly different in appearance, "pale and dwarfish," "hardly human" and "troglodytic" (16). The nature of the relationship between the two has been interpreted in many ways, such as in terms of plurality of self, moral insanity, criminal responsibility and sexual perversion (see Mighall, "Diagnosing Jekyll," 145-61). As Clarke points out, "many of the novel’s central questions remain unanswered or ambiguous at its close," including the types of "undignified" activities that Jekyll had always enjoyed, the reasons for which Hyde murders Sir Danvers Carew and even whether Jekyll commits suicide or is killed by Hyde (17). It is significant that Stevenson himself refused to answer these and similar questions when asked to do so by one of his earliest readers (see Mighall's introduction to the novel, xxxvii). He declined to make any amendments, clearly preferring to preserve the ambiguities, and as Mighall concludes in his introduction: "Stevenson’s story actively demonstrates that you can never trust appearances" (xxviii).

What can be analysed with greater certainty is the location of Hyde’s transgressive behaviours within an identifiable cityscape, providing clues towards the lessons that Stevenson might have wanted us to draw from his "strange case." Stevenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde in 1885, and it was published in January 1886. Both Clare Clarke and Judith Walkowitz stress that, to gain insight into its themes, it is important to understand the social context of the 1880s (Clarke 14-29; Walkowitz 26-39). Victorian perceptions of criminality were evolving in the light of a series of scandals involving middle-class offenders, including trials of a colonel who had assaulted a young woman in a railway carriage, a surgeon convicted as a serial killer and cabinet ministers who appeared in the divorce courts. Then, in 1885, W.T. Stead published "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon," a lurid account of child prostitution that implicated prodigious numbers of "respectable" men in sexual crimes across London. Stevenson had read this work (see Clarke 27). Walkowitz notes that: "After the ‘Maiden Tribute,’ the amount of reporting of sexual crimes in the Pall Mall Gazette increased dramatically, mirroring in part the actual increase in charges against men for sexual assault and in part Stead’s new concern over sexual crime (125). It was over this period too that "slumming" became popular, with certain members of the middle-classes feeling "compelled to visit, live, or work in the London slums at some point in their careers of public service" (Koven 1; see also Ross).

Against this background, two significant points may be made about location in the novel. First, the East End does not feature explicitly, though there are certain allusions (for example, about the location of Carew’s murder). Instead, Hyde is associated with Soho, an area long known for sleaziness and criminality. However, the door to his house turns out to be "the old dissecting room door" to none other than Jekyll’s residence, which is round the corner in "a square of ancient, handsome houses," and whose own door "wore a great air of wealth and comfort" (16). In other words, Jekyll’s house lies on the "respectable" borders of Soho, but its backdoor opens out into its back streets, apparently unconnected with its imposing front entrance. As Mighall observes: "in his introduction to the novel, Hyde’s special door is the architectural equivalent of Jekyll’s condition: he can preserve his house 'entire' on the square only because he has Hyde, his backdoor man, to do his dirty work for him" (xxxiii). Indeed, the geography of the cityscape here serves to illustrate the psychology of the mindscape: the West End, serving as a cover for Soho, a kind of enclave of disrepute located in its midst, parallels Jekyll’s respectability that provides a cover for Hyde’s "monstrous" activities, even as Jekyll "quietly at home […] could afford to laugh at suspicion" (60). However, it is important to note that geography and psychology are scrambled: just as Soho is part of the West End, so Hyde’s personality is inextricably intertwined with Jekyll’s.

The second point concerns the final transformation of Jekyll into Hyde. While the nature of their transgressions is not explained, Jekyll’s "undignified" pleasures clearly shade off qualitatively into Hyde’s "monstrous" activities. Jekyll acknowledges from the outset that "man is not truly one, but truly two": "Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow or suffering" (55). The location of Jekyll’s final transformation is therefore telling. It occurs not in his dingy laboratory in Soho but in full view of passers-by in Regent’s Park, on a fine day "sweet with Spring odours." From that moment on, his descent into the torment of being Hyde for ever is assured, though even as it unfolds, Jekyll remains astonished at Hyde’s wonderful "love of life" (68-69). Again, the geography of the cityscape serves to illustrate the psychology of the mindscape: the "Hyde" is always potentially present in all respectable citizens enjoying an early spring day in a fashionable part of London. Depravity, and even criminality, are not confined to Soho, and cannot be sorted away as if not an inalienable aspect of the human mindscape.

The first appearance of Wilde's only novel, in Lippincott's.

Five years later, when Oscar Wilde published The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1891, this blurring of city- and mindscape had progressed still further. Middle-class opinion largely supported the match-women, gas-workers and dockers involved in large-scale strikes in 1888 and 1889 for recognition and higher pay: the East End seemed more understood as a result (see Charlton). Charles Booth had published in 1889 the first of his "poverty maps" of London revealing for the first time that the "dividing lines between all these [social] classes are indistinct; each has, so to speak, a fringe of those who might be placed with the next division above or below; nor are the classes homogeneous by any means. Room may be found in each for many grades of social rank…" (Booth, qtd. in Ledger and Luckhurst 44-45). The case of Elizabeth Cass, a respectable milliner, falsely arrested for prostitution in June 1887 in Regent Street, further muddied geographical boundaries in London: "It epitomised the charged and ambiguous nature of gender encounters in London’s West End, an urban setting that was traditionally male territory, an eroticised zone of commercialised sex, yet also a fashionable shopping area for ladies" (Walkowitz 128-29). Meanwhile, Dr Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vienna, had published Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886, which proved to be an instant best seller "and in the history of medicine belongs to those books that had a pervasive influence on the public" (Oosterhuis 185; for the book's reception, see 185-94). It maintained that forms of deviant sexuality, traditionally viewed as sinful and morally wrong, should rather be "interpreted as the symptoms of a medical condition – a condition in dire need of professional treatment and research…" (Karschay 63). It also argued that forms of "morbid" sexual perversions were "progressively increasing" in contemporary societies, a contention that provoked "an enormous popular as well as professional response" (Walkowitz 207). His conclusions seemed borne out towards the end of 1888 when a series of brutal murders carried out largely in Whitechapel by "Jack the Ripper" led to speculation that the killer’s profile was affluent, reclusive and medical, in that he was knowledgeable about anatomy. Indeed, this speculation does seem borne out by further recent analysis of the case (see Hainsworth and Ward-Agius). At the time, Stead noted in "Murder and More to Follow" in the Pall Mall Gazette of 8 September 1888 that the murders were "a renewed reminder of the potentialities of revolting barbarity that lie latent in man" (qtd. in Walkowitz 206).

Wilde uses recognisable London locations in Dorian Gray more consistently than Stevenson does in Jekyll and Hyde. The three main characters all live in fashionable parts of the West End: Dorian has a house just off Grosvenor Square and Henry Wotton in Curzon Street, while Basil Hallward’s studio is "filled with the rich odour of roses" and boasts a luxuriant garden in which Wootton discloses "one of the great secrets of life" to the overwrought Dorian: "Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul" (23). Flashes of insight for Dorian are, in fact, associated with gardens and nature. His initial corruption begins in Basil’s garden and, having later rejected Sibyl Vane, he resolves to marry her following his trek home through Covent Garden, the flower and vegetable market, where he is offered cherries and is struck by "the perfume of flowers," whose "beauty seemed to bring him an anodyne for his pain" (86). Years later, at Selby Royal, deep in the English countryside, he attempts to spare the life of a hare during a shoot – though had he succeeded, the huntsman would not have also accidently killed James Vane (Sybil’s brother), and Dorian would have remained a potential victim of James’s avenging intentions. And it is in the country too that Dorian undertakes to change (again) and leave Hetty Merton, a village girl, "as flower-like as I had found her" (201). So Dorian’s respectable persona is set against the background of the stylish West End, while key moments of change in his life are set against the background of burgeoning vegetation that symbolises potential growth and good intentions: saving Sibyl, Hetty and the hare.

Yet there is also, of course, a far darker aspect to Dorian’s life that embraces the transgressive adventures on which he embarks when he makes the Faustian pact with his picture: that he should remain forever young while the picture grows old. "I would give my soul for that!" (28), he exclaims: "For there would be a real pleasure in watching it. He would be able to follow his mind into its secret places. This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul" (103).

The East End therefore also plays a role in the novel (unlike in Stevenson’s), but one that is nuanced. Henry has heard of Dorian through his aunt, a philanthropist, who says that Dorian has promised to help her with good works in Whitechapel (though he forgets his first appointment). This thwarted good intention contrasts with Dorian’s actual first foray "eastwards" when, one evening "in search of some adventure": "I felt that this grey, monstrous London of ours, with its myriads of people, its sordid sinners, and its splendid sins […] must have something in store for me. I fancied a thousand things. The mere danger gave me a sense of delight […] I don’t know what I expected, but I went out and wandered eastwards, soon losing myself in a labyrinth of grimy streets…" (48-49).

Dorian ends up in "an absurd little theatre" where he nevertheless (apparently) falls in love with the lead actor, Sibyl Vane, whom he returns repeatedly to see. She returns his love (genuinely, as it turns out), though she is no doubt motivated at least partly by his looks and connections. Her mother is suspicious but impressed by his wealth, while her brother, James, is hostile. Dorian and Sibyl become engaged, but their relationship unravels when Dorian brings Basil and Henry to see her perform, and she is an embarrassing failure, hissed by the audience. Her explanation is that Dorian had taught her "what reality really is" and that she’d come to see through the "hollowness, the sham, the silliness of the pageant" in which she had always played: "You had made me understand what love really is." Unfortunately, Dorian’s reaction is the opposite, and he rejects her as "shallow and stupid" (84-85). As Jeremy Holmes indicates, Dorian "has no real feelings for her, and is merely excited by the idea of possessing someone who is so admired by everyone else. […] But then, to his horror, he realises that others find her ordinary and lacking in talent. The mundane and socially inferior concerns of a real person begin to intrude, and he drops her" (145). Dorian’s foray "eastwards" therefore ends in disaster not least because, for the first time, the portrait registers the early stages of his cruelty. Having hidden the picture, Dorian turns to a life of debauchery, frequenting two locations: "his own delicately-scented chamber" in order to maintain his respectable veneer, but also "the sordid room of the little ill-famed tavern near the Docks, which, under an assumed name, and in disguise […] he would think of the ruin he had brought upon his soul…" (124). Wilde is more explicit than Stevenson about the nature of Dorian’s misdemeanours. He hints strongly that Dorian is homosexual, with Basil querying why Dorian’s relationship with young men generally leads to their ruin, listing a number who have committed suicide, fled abroad or wrecked their careers as a result of their association with him. And he haunts "dreadful places near Blue Gate Fields" (135), an area near Shadwell then notorious for vice and criminality, and indulges his craving for opium in a den to which he has to travel "towards the river" for an hour by hansom cab.

So far, so familiar: the dissolute aspects of Dorian’s life are clearly associated with the East End and the docklands. But while his behaviour is similar to that of Jekyll and Hyde, there is a significant twist: Dorian’s "Hyde" is reflected in his picture, while his "Jekyll" retains his handsome, youthful appearance throughout. It is indeed this very fact that saves his life when he is threatened by Sybil’s brother, James, with his revolver near the opium den. Dorian is able to commit his numerous misdemeanours without ageing and while looking exactly the same as his respectable persona. Hyde – as "shadow" – appears in public as the disreputable figure he really is, in contrast to the clean-living features of Jekyll, his persona, but it is Dorian’s portrait that bears evidence of his dissolution in secret. In other words, while Dorian carries out his life in the East End, he does so without any change in his outward appearance. He flits between the West End and the docklands with no discernible physical difference, which consequently blurs the geographical significance of the two: his shadow exists disreputably at home in both with no need to change (unlike Jekyll’s, which becomes Hyde). Meanwhile the outward marks of his infamy are borne exclusively by a picture that is secretly stored – not in the East End – but in the very heart of the West End. In this way, Wilde blurs the boundaries of the two areas, not physically, as Stevenson does, but symbolically. The outcome, though, is comparable: "Each of us has heaven and hell in him!" as Dorian exclaims to Basil, shortly before plunging a knife into the painter’s neck. Jekyll summarises his position in similar fashion: "man is not truly one but truly two" (Stevenson 55). Both authors focus on cityscape and mindscape, but Stevenson arguably stresses the physicality of persona and shadow while Wilde stresses the psychological identity of persona and shadow within the one person.

Aubrey Beardsley's title page for The Great God Pan.

Finally, the use of location by Arthur Machen in his Gothic thriller, The Great God Pan, bears out the argument that cityscape and mindscape had become increasingly indistinguishable by the late nineteenth century. The novel centres on the figure of an enigmatic woman who appears in various guises in different cities leaving a trail of havoc in her wake. Before her identity is discovered, she is linked to the horrible death of "a gentleman, a man of very good position" (200) off Tottenham Court Road, and later – when known as Helen Vaughan – to the death of her husband. Villiers, a friend of her husband, has found a sketch of her that Clarke, another friend, identifies as Mary, a young woman on whom a surgeon acquaintance of his, Dr Raymond, had carried out an (apparently failed) brain operation years previously. The operation had attempted to "lift the veil" on to the real world that hides behind the "dreams and shadows" for which humanity generally mistakes it: "… the ancients knew what lifting the veil means: They call it seeing the god Pan" (184). Clarke is horrified, certain that Helen and Mary are the same. It later transpires that Helen has emerged again, this time as Mrs Beaumont, a society hostess with connections in Buenos Aires where a painter of her acquaintance has recently met a grisly end. She now lives in a fashionable street near Piccadilly, and is soon linked to the suicides of no fewer than five gentlemen, all of whom had become inexplicably deranged after spending evenings with her. The deaths are linked to the real-life murders by Jack the Ripper, with the police left "dumfoundered, for not even the mere ferocity which did duty as an explanation of the cries of the East End, could be of service in the West" (215-16).

Villiers eventually realises that Helen and Mrs Beaumont are the same, and Clarke tells him of Raymond’s horrific operation. They contrive to kill Helen, and discover that she is actually the daughter of Pan and that Mary was her unfortunate mother. Helen had grown up in Caermaen, a Welsh town once a Roman centre of worship to the pagan god, Nodens, god of the Great Deep or Abyss. Roger Luckhurst captures what he terms the "geographical drift" in the tale: "Starting on the wild fringes or margins – in this case the ancient woodland of Gwent – the horror moves steadily towards the imperial metropolis and the centre of fashionable society. […] London becomes a psychic topography, the grid of streets the map of disordered fantasy and forbidden desire" (Luckhurst xxix).

In conclusion overall, each of the three stories requires a fundamental suspension of disbelief to establish its plot: Dr Jekyll drinks a potion, Dorian Gray relies on his mysterious painting and Helen Vaughan turns out to be the daughter of Pan. Nevertheless, each explores the relationship between persona and shadow through a double (of sorts) in ways that suggest that we all – whatever our social status – must confront our own demons, our dark, impulsive forces. None of the stories is explicit about what these demons might be, challenging each of us to provide our own understanding, which will of course vary greatly from reader to reader. As Wilde himself put it: "Each man sees his own sin in Dorian Gray" (qtd. in Mighall's introduction to the novel, xxxii).

The enduring strength of these novels surely lies in this very suggestion that, underpinning our bright, conscious world of appearance and persona, there lies a murky underlayer which we must confront – however reluctant or horrified we might be – if we are to be honest with ourselves. However, this article has gone further. It has also argued that the novels have helped to "democratise the cityscape," by revealing how transgressive acts are not confined to certain squalid parts of London, but may take place anywhere, including the fashionable West End. Furthermore, residents of the East End are humanised, by being shown capable of normal acts of kindness and emotion (for example, the neighbours who detain Mr Hyde for trampling the child, or the carter who offers Dorian Gray some cherries). It has argued too that these novels have all helped to "democratise the mindscape," by demonstrating that the shadow characterises not just criminals and delinquents but everyone, including the "upright" and the "virtuous." The shadow takes many forms, but it is our own responsibility to acknowledge and accommodate it. The novels also confirm – with the hindsight of the contemporary reader – that the understanding of a transgressive act may itself change with time and place. While acts like murder and child prostitution will always remain criminal, attitudes towards other private forms of conduct, such as homosexuality and the use of certain drugs, have since evolved in more liberal directions. However, the appeal of these novels – apart from the fascination of their sometimes rather sensational plotlines – lies in their ability to stir so many ambiguous and disturbing reactions in the reader, and to continue to provoke so many questions about what it is to be truly human, underpinned by the unsettling realisation that "the fiend" has the potential to "break loose" in any of us.

* A Manual of Psychiatric Medicine (Philadelphia: Blanchard & Lea, 1858), p. 273. Quoted by Martin J. Wiener, Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law and Policy in England, 1830-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 27. Wiener describes the Manual as "the leading mid-century manual of psychiatric medicine" (27).

Links to Related Material


Primary sources

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Created 24 April 2024