Read an extract from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Translated into Clear Modern English

Modern translation

I was born in the year 18— into a wealthy family. I had excellent talents and personal qualities and was, by nature, a hard worker. I was fond of being respected by wise and good people. Therefore, as you might imagine, everything was in place for my having an honourable and distinguished future. 

Indeed, my worst fault was a sort of impatient high spirits. This has made many people happy, but I found it very difficult to square that fault with my pompous wish to carry my head high, and to wear an unusually serious face when I was with other people. So it was that I concealed my pleasures. When I became old enough to think sensibly, to look around me and to see how far I had come in the world, I found that I was committed to a completely two-faced way of life.

Many men would have blatantly revealed that they were guilty of such poor behaviour as mine; but, because of the bright future that was ahead of me, I thought guiltily of my sins and hid them with an almost morbid[1] sense of shame. So, it was mainly the demanding nature of my ambitions that made me the man I am, rather than anything especially disgusting about my faults. Good and evil – which make up the dual nature of human beings – were divided in me by an even deeper division than there is in most men. For me, the division was between my ambition and my sins.

And so, I was driven to reflect deeply and constantly on the hard law of life: the root of religion – a major source of people’s distress. Although I was committed to having two natures, I was not a hypocrite: both sides of me were serious. I was myself when I put restraint to one side and plunged into shameful acts, and I was myself when I laboured by day to improve my knowledge or to help to lessen sorrow and suffering.

And it happened that the direction of my research – which had always been towards the mystical and the transcendental[1] – made me more aware of this war between the two parts of my nature. With every day – and from both the moral and intellectual sides of my intelligence – I drew steadily nearer to that truth which finally shipwrecked me: that a human being is not truly one, but truly two.           

[1] morbid – death-like

[2] transcendental – going beyond the laws of nature and physics

Stevenson’s original

I WAS born in the year 18— to a large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts, inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among my fellow-men, and thus, as might have been supposed, with every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future. And indeed the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition, such as has made the happiness of many, but such as I found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, and wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public. Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life. Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame. It was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was and, with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature. In this case, I was driven to reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life, which lies at the root of religion and is one of the most plentiful springs of distress. 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 and suffering. And it chanced that the direction of my scientific studies, which led wholly towards the mystic and the transcendental, reacted and shed a strong light on this consciousness of the perennial war among my members. With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.