WIL­LIAM ‘DEA­CON’ BRODIE 1741-1788

All About History - - GEORGIAN & VICTORIAN VILLAINS -

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

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