A favorite passage from R. L. Stevenson

Working on classic comic fantasies Topper and Harvey for the urban fantasy class, I’m struck how central the notion of naughtiness and sin are to both of them.  I often use the following quotation when I teach the wonderful Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, but I think Thorne Smith and Mary Chase would agree:

It is probable that nearly all who think of conduct at all, think of it too much; it is certain that we all think too much of sin … To make our ideal of morality center on forbidden acts is to defile the imagination and to introduce into our judgments of our fellow-men a secret element of gusto.  If a thing is wrong for us, we should not dwell upon the thought of it; or we shall soon dwell upon it with inverted pleasure.  If we cannot drive it from our minds—one thing of two:  either our creed is in the wrong and we must more indulgently remodel it; or else, if our morality be in the right, we are criminal lunatics and should put our persons in restraint.  Gentleness and cheerfulness, these come before all morality; they are the perfect duties.  And it is the trouble with moral men that they have neither the one nor the other.

… If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong.  I do not say “give them up,� for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.

—from Robert Louis Stevenson, Across the Plains

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *