Stevenson's famous novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is set in London, but some critics have claimed that it would seem to fit better in Stevenson's native Edinburgh, almost as if he wrote a story set in Edinburgh and then just changed the names to London ones. For example, as quoted in this answer:

I have often wondered why the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was set in London instead of Edinburgh. Utterson is a very Scottish sort of lawyer; Lanyon is a very Scottish sort of doctor; and the metaphysical speculation that allures Dr. Jekyll to his doom is decidedly more Scottish than English. Furthermore, the tale might most appropriately be conceived as happening among the gloomy doorways and mysterious wynds that undermine the tall, decaying lands which darkly overhang the High Street of Edinburgh. Possibly Louis may have felt that Mr. Hyde could lose himself more easily among the shifting crowds of a vaster and less centred city. It is more difficult to hunt a villain down in London than in Edinburgh.

-- Clayton Hamilton, On the Trail of Stevenson (1915), New York: Doubleday, Page & Co.; p. 61

This quote, for example, says that the story seems like one set in Scotland, but doesn't really provide any edivence for its claims. (How are Utterson and Lanyon "very Scottish", or the metaphysical speculation? Why is it more "appropriate" to imagine it in Edinburgh than London?)

What evidence in the story supports an Edinburgh setting as more apt than a London one?

  • Basic internet searches suggest the name "Utterson" might originate in the Scottish borders and "Lanyon" in Cornwall. Obviously, both are quite rare names.
    – mikado
    May 12, 2019 at 19:16
  • I don't know that Jekyll and Hyde is long enough to qualify as a novel ... it's more a novella, perhaps?
    – verbose
    Apr 19, 2020 at 7:52

1 Answer 1


Dr Eugene Chantrelle

Dr Eugene Chantrelle was a close friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, and also Edinburgh-based. Robert had this to write about his friend:


Stevenson wrote: “I should say, looking back from the unfair superior ground of subsequent knowledge, that Chantrelle bore upon his brow the most open marks of criminality… if I had not met another man who was his exact counterpart in looks, and who was yet, by all that I could learn of him, a model of kindness and good conduct.”

Serial killer

The reason that Robert Louis Stevenson declared his friend a criminal, was because his friend turned out to be a serial killer, even killing his wife for the insurance money.


Chantrelle was found to have taken out a large insurance policy on his wife’s life and then poisoned her – claiming that she had died in a gas poisoning accident.

He was believed to have committed other murders in France and England, and lawyers said that since his arrival in Edinburgh, “more than four or five had fallen a victim to his little supper parties and his favourite dish of toasted cheese and opium”.

Two people

As the article reveals, Robert Louis Stevenson was there at his friend's trial throughout, and when Robert wrote in his book "that man is not truly one, but truly two”, it would be difficult to believe that he was not really referring to Dr Eugene Chantrelle, with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde simply being fictitious London based characters based upon the real Edinburgh-based Dr Eugene Chantrelle.

Edinburgh Oldtown and Newtown

Also Edinburgh is a tale of two cities, where you have the Oldtown completely contrasted by the Newtown, which some might describe as a Jekyll and Hyde city.

The Guardian

Edinburgh is a city starkly divided into two: the foggy old town up on the hill, once the site of colourful crimes such as bodysnatching and of public hangings in the Grassmarket; and the splendid New Town to the north, on the other side of the then newly laid railway tracks. In Glasgow, where I grew up, the common perception of Edinburgh was of a cloudy inner life (old town) shielded by a genteel exterior (New Town). It was - how could you avoid saying so? - a Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of place.

What's the evidence for "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" being secretly set in Edinburgh?

There is evidence to suggest that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were fictional characters inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's real-life friend Dr Eugene Chantrelle. This might not be the case however, perhaps Robert having a friend that he thought was good and kind but turned out to be a serial killer and whose trial he attended throughout had no bearing on his writing a book about a kind and good Dr Jekyll and evil Mr Hyde, but there is certainly reason to suspect.

  • This is excellent information and good evidence for an Edinburgh connection for the story, although from a different viewpoint than the more thematic analysis which I quoted in the question.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 9, 2021 at 19:59
  • I think it’s much easier to conclude that Jekyll/Hyde was inspired by Chantrelle rather than ‘based’ on him.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 10, 2021 at 11:48
  • 1
    Another possible inspiration for the book was William Brodie, a seemingly respectable cabinet maker who led a double life as as burglar. RLS's father owned furniture made by Brodie. He also was Edinburgh based.
    – Pete
    Oct 13, 2021 at 22:09

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