Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes: A Tale of Two Testaments

32 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2019 Last revised: 5 Feb 2020

See all articles by Stephen R. Alton

Stephen R. Alton

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: March 24, 2019


This article takes the form of an epistolary exchange across the centuries, comparing and contrasting two noted wills in Victorian literature. The first of these testaments is the final will of Dr. Henry Jekyll, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; this will bequeaths the doctor’s estate to his friend and attorney, Gabriel John Utterson. The second testament is the putative will of Jonas Oldacre, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Norwood Builder; this will bequeaths Oldacre’s estate to the young solicitor who drafted the will, John Hector McFarlane. Taken together, these two testaments raise the issues of the testator’s capacity and intent to make the will, undue influence and bequests to attorneys (notably to the drafting attorney), due execution of the will, and the effect of the beneficiary’s possible murder of the testator. A comparison of these two fictional Victorian-era wills remains relevant today because the legal issues that these two testaments raised in 19th century England are still very much present in 21st century America.

Keywords: testamentary transfers, sherlock holmes, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde, gratuitous transfers, law and literature, slayer rule, execution of wills, bequests to attorneys, undue influence, testamentary intent, testamentary capacity, estates, wills

JEL Classification: K11, K19, K36, K39, Z11

Suggested Citation

Alton, Stephen R., Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes: A Tale of Two Testaments (March 24, 2019). South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 71, Iss. 1, pp. 45, 2019, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper 19-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3360516

Stephen R. Alton (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States
817-212-4115 (Phone)

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