Robert Louis Stevenson was a well-known writer in his day. Many Americans owned complete sets of his writings, which included fiction, essays, travel books, and poetry. Today he is best remembered for "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" because this story, which came to him as an inspiration, is based on a truth about human nature which every reader can recognize in himself or herself. Humans are a mixture of good and evil, but most try to present a "persona" to the world of an honest, civilized, generous man or woman.
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe were among the first authors to deal with the dark side of humanity. Robert Louis Stevenson came considerably later and was influenced by both of these American writers. Like Hawthorne and Poe, Stevenson saw the dramatic possibilities in this duality of human nature, including the fact that people will try to hide, repress, or deny the darker side. Dr. Jekyll had the mistaken notion that he could use science to eliminate the evil side of his nature. He was also mistaken in believing that this dark component was much smaller than it actually turned out to be.