WILLIAM ‘DEACON’ BRODIE 1741-1788
This so-called man of God lives a shocking double life In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of a respectable man who lived a secret life of vice and criminality, unbeknown to the rest of the world who saw him only as a pillar of the establishment. Such a man lived in Edinburgh and his name was Deacon William Brodie.
Stevenson was fascinated by Brodie and had even written a play about him, and it’s not difficult to see why. Edinburgh city councillor Deacon Brodie was the picture of respectability by day. By night, however, he was one of the city’s most feared housebreakers, a profession he had taken up not only fund his gambling hobby, but simply for the thrill of the robbery.
Brodie’s secret life was revealed when his name was mentioned in connection to a raid on an Edinburgh excise office. Though he escaped, his associates turned on him and he was sentenced to death by hanging. Yet the image of the man with two faces endured and he became a popular figure in tales of Edinburgh. Fittingly, Robert Louis Stevenson’s own father owned furniture crafted by Brodie, the original template for the strange tale of Jekyll and Hyde.
Deacon Brodie depicted in prison, the items on the table allude to his hidden double life