ãÔÇåÏÉ ÇáäÓÎÉ ßÇãáÉ : Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus

10-17-2019, 04:59 AM
Frankenstein, or the Modern
By Mary Wollstonecraft
(Godwin) Shelley
18 de maio de 20022 IDPHSumário
One 17
Two 21
Three 27
Four 33
Five 39
Six 45
Seven 51
Eight 59
Nine 67
Ten 73
Eleven 79
Twelve 85
Thirteen 91
Fourteen 97
Fifteen 101
Sixteen 109
Seventeen 117
Eighteen 121
Nineteen 127
Twenty 133
Twenty One 141
Twenty Two 149
Twenty Three 157
Twenty Four 163
http://www.idph.netLetter 1
TO Mrs. Saville, England
St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17-
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement
of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived
here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and
increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.
I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I
feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and
fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has
travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste
of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become
more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat
of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region
of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is forever visible, its broad disk
just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There–for with
your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators–there snow
and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a
land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on
the habitable globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as
the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered
solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a
thousand celestial observations that require only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with
the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never
before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are
sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence
this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat,
with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But
supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable
benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discove-
ring a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so
many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which,
if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.
These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter,
and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven,
for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose–a
point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye. This expedition has been the
favourite dream of my early years. I have read with ardour the accounts of the
various voyages which have been made in the prospect of arriving at the North
Pacific Ocean through the seas which surround the pole. You may remember
that a history of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the
whole of our good Uncle Thomas’ library. My education was neglected, yet I
was passionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study day and night,
and my familiarity with them increased that regret which I had felt, as a child,
on learning that my father’s dying injunction had forbidden my uncle to allow
me to embark in a seafaring life.
These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets whose effusions entranced my soul and lifted it to heaven. I also became a poet and for
one year lived in a paradise of my own creation; I imagined that I also might
obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are
consecrated. You are well acquainted with my failure and how heavily I bore
the disappointment. But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin,
and my thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent.
Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I can, even
now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this great enterprise.
I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompanied the whale-fishers
on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarily endured cold, famine,
thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of
medicine, and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself
as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I
must own I felt a little proud when my captain offered me the second dignity
in the vessel and entreated me to remain with the greatest earnestness, so valuable did he consider my services. And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to
accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and
luxury, but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path.
Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often
depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage, the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only to raise the
spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own, when theirs are failing.
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This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia. They fly quickly
over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, in my opinion, far
more agreeable than that of an English stagecoach. The cold is not excessive,
if you are wrapped in furs–a dress which I have already adopted, for there is a
great difference between walking the deck and remaining seated motionless for
hours, when no exercise prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins.
I have no ambition to lose my life on the post-road between St. Petersburgh and
Archangel. I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three weeks; and
my intention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be done by paying the
insurance for the owner, and to engage as many sailors as I think necessary
among those who are accustomed to the whale-fishing. I do not intend to sail
until the month of June; and when shall I return? Ah, dear sister, how can I
answer this question? If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years, will
pass before you and I may meet. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never.
Farewell, my dear, excellent Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on you,
and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude for all your love
and kindness.
Your affectionate brother,
R. Walton
Letter 2
To Mrs. Saville, England
Archangel, 28th March, 17-
How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and snow! Yet a
second step is taken towards my enterprise. I have hired a vessel and am occupied in collecting my sailors; those whom I have already engaged appear to be
men on whom I can depend and are certainly possessed of dauntless courage.
But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and the absence
of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil, I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to
participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour
to sustain me in dejection. I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but
that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company
of a man who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine. You
may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend.
I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well
as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my
plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother! I am
too ardent in execution and too impatient of difficulties. But it is a still greater
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evil to me that I am self-educated: for the first fourteen years of my life I ran
wild on a common and read nothing but our Uncle Thomas’ books of voyages.
At that age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets of our own country;
but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power to derive its most important benefits from such a conviction that I perceived the necessity of becoming
acquainted with more languages than that of my native country. Now I am
twenty-eight and am in reality more illiterate than many schoolboys of fifteen.
It is true that I have thought more and that my daydreams are more extended
and magnificent, but they want (as the painters call it) KEEPING; and I greatly
need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise me as romantic,
and affection enough for me to endeavour to regulate my mind. Well, these are
useless complaints; I shall certainly find no friend on the wide ocean, nor even
here in Archangel, among merchants and seamen. Yet some feelings, unallied
to the dross of human nature, beat even in these rugged bosoms. My lieutenant, for instance, is a man of wonderful courage and enterprise; he is madly
desirous of glory, or rather, to word my phrase more characteristically, of advancement in his profession. He is an Englishman, and in the midst of national
and professional prejudices, unsoftened by cultivation, retains some of the noblest endowments of humanity. I first became acquainted with him on board
a whale vessel; finding that he was unemployed in this city, I easily engaged
him to assist in my enterprise. The master is a person of an excellent disposition and is remarkable in the ship for his gentleness and the mildness of his
discipline. This circumstance, added to his well-known integrity and dauntless
courage, made me very desirous to engage him. A youth passed in solitude,
my best years spent under your gentle and feminine fosterage, has so refined
the groundwork of my character that I cannot overcome an intense distaste to
the usual brutality exercised on board ship: I have never believed it to be necessary, and when I heard of a mariner equally noted for his kindliness of heart
and the respect and obedience paid to him by his crew, I felt myself peculiarly
fortunate in being able to secure his services. I heard of him first in rather a
romantic manner, from a lady who owes to him the happiness of her life. This,
briefly, is his story. Some years ago he loved a young Russian lady of moderate
fortune, and having amassed a considerable sum in prize-money, the father of
the girl consented to the match. He saw his mistress once before the destined
ceremony; but she was bathed in tears, and throwing herself at his feet, entreated him to spare her, confessing at the same time that she loved another, but
that he was poor, and that her father would never consent to the union. My
generous friend reassured the suppliant, and on being informed of the name of
her lover, instantly abandoned his pursuit. He had already bought a farm with
his money, on which he had designed to pass the remainder of his life; but he
bestowed the whole on his rival, together with the remains of his prize-money
to purchase stock, and then himself solicited the young woman’s father to consent to her marriage with her lover. But the old man decidedly refused, thinking
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himself bound in honour to my friend, who, when he found the father inexorable, quitted his country, nor returned until he heard that his former mistress
was married according to her inclinations. “What a noble fellow!” you will exclaim. He is so; but then he is wholly uneducated: he is as silent as a Turk, and
a kind of ignorant carelessness attends him, which, while it renders his conduct
the more astonishing, detracts from the interest and sympathy which otherwise
he would command.
Yet do not suppose, because I complain a little or because I can conceive a consolation for my toils which I may never know, that I am wavering in my resolutions. Those are as fixed as fate, and my voyage is only now delayed until the
weather shall permit my embarkation. The winter has been dreadfully severe,
but the spring promises well, and it is considered as a remarkably early season,
so that perhaps I may sail sooner than I expected. I shall do nothing rashly: you
know me sufficiently to confide in my prudence and considerateness whenever
the safety of others is committed to my care.
I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking.
It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation,
half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart. I am
going to unexplored regions, to “the land of mist and snow,” but I shall kill no
albatross; therefore do not be alarmed for my safety or if I should come back to
you as worn and woeful as the “Ancient Mariner.” You will smile at my allusion, but I will disclose a secret. I have often attributed my attachment to, my
passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean to that production
of the most imaginative of modern poets. There is something at work in my
soul which I do not understand. I am practically industrious–painstaking, a
workman to execute with perseverance and labour–but besides this there is a
love for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out of the common pathways of men, even to the wild
sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore. But to return to dearer considerations. Shall I meet you again, after having traversed immense seas, and
returned by the most southern cape of Africa or America? I dare not expect such success, yet I cannot bear to look on the reverse of the picture. Continue for
the present to write to me by every opportunity: I may receive your letters on
some occasions when I need them most to support my spirits. I love you very
tenderly. Remember me with affection, should you never hear from me again.
Your affectionate brother, Robert Walton
Letter 3
To Mrs. Saville, England
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July 7th, 17-
My dear Sister,
I write a few lines in haste to say that I am safe–and well advanced on my
voyage. This letter will reach England by a merchantman now on its homeward
voyage from Archangel; more fortunate than I, who may not see my native land,
perhaps, for many years. I am, however, in good spirits: my men are bold and
apparently firm of purpose, nor do the floating sheets of ice that continually
pass us, indicating the dangers of the region towards which we are advancing,
appear to dismay them. We have already reached a very high latitude; but it is
the height of summer, and although not so warm as in England, the southern
gales, which blow us speedily towards those shores which I so ardently desire
to attain, breathe a degree of renovating warmth which I had not expected.
No incidents have hitherto befallen us that would make a figure in a letter. One
or two stiff gales and the springing of a leak are accidents which experienced
navigators scarcely remember to record, and I shall be well content if nothing
worse happen to us during our voyage.
Adieu, my dear Margaret. Be assured that for my own sake, as well as yours, I
will not rashly encounter danger. I will be cool, persevering, and prudent.
But success SHALL crown my endeavours. Wherefore not? Thus far I have
gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas, the very stars themselves
being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph. Why not still proceed over
the untamed yet obedient element? What can stop the determined heart and
resolved will of man?
My swelling heart involuntarily pours itself out thus. But must finish. Heaven
bless my beloved sister!
Letter 4
To Mrs. Saville, England
August 5th, 17-
So strange an accident has happened to us that I cannot forbear recording it,
although it is very probable that you will see me before these papers can come
into your possession.
Last Monday (July 31st) we were nearly surrounded by ice, which closed in the
ship on all sides, scarcely leaving her the sea-room in which she floated. Our
situation was somewhat dangerous, especially as we were compassed round by
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a very thick fog. We accordingly lay to, hoping that some change would take
place in the atmosphere and weather.
About two o’clock the mist cleared away, and we beheld, stretched out in every
direction, vast and irregular plains of ice, which seemed to have no end. Some of my comrades groaned, and my own mind began to grow watchful with
anxious thoughts, when a strange sight suddenly attracted our attention and
diverted our solicitude from our own situation. We perceived a low carriage,
fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on towards the north, at the distance
of half a mile; a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic
stature, sat in the sledge and guided the dogs. We watched the rapid progress
of the traveller with our telescopes until he was lost among the distant inequalities of the ice. This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as
we believed, many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed
to denote that it was not, in reality, so distant as we had supposed. Shut in,
however, by ice, it was impossible to follow his track, which we had observed
with the greatest attention. About two hours after this occurrence we heard the
ground sea, and before night the ice broke and freed our ship. We, however, lay
to until the morning, fearing to encounter in the dark those large loose masses
which float about after the breaking up of the ice. I profited of this time to rest
for a few hours.
In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck and found
all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently talking to someone in
the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted
towards us in the night on a large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained
alive; but there was a human being within it whom the sailors were persuading
to enter the vessel. He was not, as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage
inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but a European. When I appeared on
deck the master said, “Here is our captain, and he will not allow you to perish
on the open sea.”
On perceiving me, the stranger addressed me in English, although with a foreign accent. “Before I come on board your vessel,” said he, “will you have the
kindness to inform me whither you are bound?”
You may conceive my astonishment on hearing such a question addressed to me
from a man on the brink of destruction and to whom I should have supposed
that my vessel would have been a resource which he would not have exchanged
for the most precious wealth the earth can afford. I replied, however, that we
were on a voyage of discovery towards the northern pole.
Upon hearing this he appeared satisfied and consented to come on board. Good
God! Margaret, if you had seen the man who thus capitulated for his safety,
your surprise would have been boundless. His limbs were nearly frozen, and
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his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in
so wretched a condition. We attempted to carry him into the cabin, but as soon
as he had quitted the fresh air he fainted. We accordingly brought him back
to the deck and restored him to animation by rubbing him with brandy and
forcing him to swallow a small quantity. As soon as he showed signs of life we
wrapped him up in blankets and placed him near the chimney of the kitchen
stove. By slow degrees he recovered and ate a little soup, which restored him
Two days passed in this manner before he was able to speak, and I often feared
that his sufferings had deprived him of understanding. When he had in some
measure recovered, I removed him to my own cabin and attended on him as
much as my duty would permit. I never saw a more interesting creature: his
eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even madness, but there
are moments when, if anyone performs an act of kindness towards him or does
him the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were,
with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled. But he is
generally melancholy and despairing, and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if
impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him.
When my guest was a little recovered I had great trouble to keep off the men,
who wished to ask him a thousand questions; but I would not allow him to be
tormented by their idle curiosity, in a state of body and mind whose restoration
evidently depended upon entire repose. Once, however, the lieutenant asked
why he had come so far upon the ice in so strange a vehicle.
His countenance instantly assumed an aspect of the deepest gloom, and he replied, “To seek one who fled from me.”
“And did the man whom you pursued travel in the same fashion?”
“Then I fancy we have seen him, for the day before we picked you up we saw
some dogs drawing a sledge, with a man in it, across the ice.”
This aroused the stranger’s attention, and he asked a multitude of questions
concerning the route which the demon, as he called him, had pursued. Soon
after, when he was alone with me, he said, “I have, doubtless, excited your
curiosity, as well as that of these good people; but you are too considerate to
make inquiries.”
“Certainly; it would indeed be very impertinent and inhuman in me to trouble
you with any inquisitiveness of mine.”
“And yet you rescued me from a strange and perilous situation; you have benevolently restored me to life.”
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Soon after this he inquired if I thought that the breaking up of the ice had destroyed the other sledge. I replied that I could not answer with any degree of
certainty, for the ice had not broken until near midnight, and the traveller might
have arrived at a place of safety before that time; but of this I could not judge.
From this time a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame of the stranger.
He manifested the greatest eagerness to be upon deck to watch for the sledge
which had before appeared; but I have persuaded him to remain in the cabin,
for he is far too weak to sustain the rawness of the atmosphere. I have promised that someone should watch for him and give him instant notice if any new
object should appear in sight.
Such is my journal of what relates to this strange occurrence up to the present
day. The stranger has gradually improved in health but is very silent and appears uneasy when anyone except myself enters his cabin. Yet his manners are so
conciliating and gentle that the sailors are all interested in him, although they
have had very little communication with him. For my own part, I begin to love him as a brother, and his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy
and compassion. He must have been a noble creature in his better days, being
even now in wreck so attractive and amiable. I said in one of my letters, my
dear Margaret, that I should find no friend on the wide ocean; yet I have found
a man who, before his spirit had been broken by misery, I should have been
happy to have possessed as the brother of my heart.
I shall continue my journal concerning the stranger at intervals, should I have
any fresh incidents to record.
August 13th, 17-
My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see so noble a creature
destroyed by misery without feeling the most poignant grief? He is so gentle,
yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated, and when he speaks, although his words
are culled with the choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled
eloquence. He is now much recovered from his illness and is continually on the
deck, apparently watching for the sledge that preceded his own. Yet, although
unhappy, he is not so utterly occupied by his own misery but that he interests
himself deeply in the projects of others. He has frequently conversed with me
on mine, which I have communicated to him without disguise. He entered attentively into all my arguments in favour of my eventual success and into every
minute detail of the measures I had taken to secure it. I was easily led by the
sympathy which he evinced to use the language of my heart, to give utterance
to the burning ardour of my soul and to say, with all the fervour that warmed
me, how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to
the furtherance of my enterprise. One man’s life or death were but a small price
to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion
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I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race. As I spoke, a
dark gloom spread over my listener’s countenance. At first I perceived that he
tried to suppress his emotion; he placed his hands before his eyes, and my voice
quivered and failed me as I beheld tears trickle fast from between his fingers;
a groan burst from his heaving breast. I paused; at length he spoke, in broken
accents: “Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of
the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the
cup from your lips!”
Such words, you may imagine, strongly excited my curiosity; but the paroxysm
of grief that had seized the stranger overcame his weakened powers, and many
hours of repose and tranquil conversation were necessary to restore his composure. Having conquered the violence of his feelings, he appeared to despise
himself for being the slave of passion; and quelling the dark tyranny of despair,
he led me again to converse concerning myself personally. He asked me the
history of my earlier years. The tale was quickly told, but it awakened various
trains of reflection. I spoke of my desire of finding a friend, of my thirst for a
more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind than had ever fallen to my lot, and
expressed my conviction that a man could boast of little happiness who did not
enjoy this blessing. “I agree with you,” replied the stranger; “we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves–such
a friend ought to be–do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak and faulty
natures. I once had a friend, the most noble of human creatures, and am entitled, therefore, to judge respecting friendship. You have hope, and the world
before you, and have no cause for despair. But I–I have lost everything and
cannot begin life anew.”
As he said this his countenance became expressive of a calm, settled grief that
touched me to the heart. But he was silent and presently retired to his cabin.
Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the
beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these
wonderful regions seem still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth.
Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery and be overwhelmed
by disappointments, yet when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly
Will you smile at the enthusiasm I express concerning this divine wanderer?
You would not if you saw him. You have been tutored and refined by books
and retirement from the world, and you are therefore somewhat fastidious; but
this only renders you the more fit to appreciate the extraordinary merits of this
wonderful man. Sometimes I have endeavoured to discover what quality it is
which he possesses that elevates him so immeasurably above any other person
I ever knew. I believe it to be an intuitive discernment, a quick but never-failing
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power of judgment, a penetration into the causes of things, unequalled for clearness and precision; add to this a facility of expression and a voice whose varied
intonations are soul-subduing music.
August 19, 17-
Yesterday the stranger said to me, “You may easily perceive, Captain Walton,
that I have suffered great and unparalleled misfortunes. I had determined at
one time that the memory of these evils should die with me, but you have won
me to alter my determination. You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once
did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a
serpent to sting you, as mine has been. I do not know that the relation of my
disasters will be useful to you; yet, when I reflect that you are pursuing the same
course, exposing yourself to the same dangers which have rendered me what
I am, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my tale, one that may
direct you if you succeed in your undertaking and console you in case of failure.
Prepare to hear of occurrences which are usually deemed marvellous. Were
we among the tamer scenes of nature I might fear to encounter your unbelief,
perhaps your ridicule; but many things will appear possible in these wild and
mysterious regions which would provoke the laughter of those unacquainted
with the ever- varied powers of nature; nor can I doubt but that my tale conveys
in its series internal evidence of the truth of the events of which it is composed.”
You may easily imagine that I was much gratified by the offered communication, yet I could not endure that he should renew his grief by a recital of his
misfortunes. I felt the greatest eagerness to hear the promised narrative, partly
from curiosity and partly from a strong desire to ameliorate his fate if it were in
my power. I expressed these feelings in my answer.
“I thank you,” he replied, “for your sympathy, but it is useless; my fate is nearly
fulfilled. I wait but for one event, and then I shall repose in peace. I understand
your feeling,” continued he, perceiving that I wished to interrupt him; “but you
are mistaken, my friend, if thus you will allow me to name you; nothing can
alter my destiny; listen to my history, and you will perceive how irrevocably it
is determined.”
He then told me that he would commence his narrative the next day when I
should be at leisure. This promise drew from me the warmest thanks. I have
resolved every night, when I am not imperatively occupied by my duties, to
record, as nearly as possible in his own words, what he has related during the
day. If I should be engaged, I will at least make notes. This manuscript will
doubtless afford you the greatest pleasure; but to me, who know him, and who
hear it from his own lips–with what interest and sympathy shall I read it in
some future day! Even now, as I commence my task, his full- toned voice swells
in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness;
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I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are
irradiated by the soul within.
Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced
the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it–thus!
I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that
republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics, and
my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation. He
was respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention
to public business. He passed his younger days perpetually occupied by the
affairs of his country; a variety of circumstances had prevented his marrying
early, nor was it until the decline of life that he became a husband and the father
of a family.
As the circumstances of his marriage illustrate his character, I cannot refrain
from relating them. One of his most intimate friends was a merchant who,
from a flourishing state, fell, through numerous mischances, into poverty. This
man, whose name was Beaufort, was of a proud and unbending disposition and
could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion in the same country where he had
formerly been distinguished for his rank and magnificence. Having paid his
debts, therefore, in the most honourable manner, he retreated with his daughter to the town of Lucerne, where he lived unknown and in wretchedness. My
father loved Beaufort with the truest friendship and was deeply grieved by his
retreat in these unfortunate circumstances. He bitterly deplored the false pride
which led his friend to a conduct so little worthy of the affection that united
them. He lost no time in endeavouring to seek him out, with the hope of persuading him to begin the world again through his credit and assistance. Beaufort
had taken effectual measures to conceal himself, and it was ten months before
my father discovered his abode. Overjoyed at this discovery, he hastened to
the house, which was situated in a mean street near the Reuss. But when he
entered, misery and despair alone welcomed him. Beaufort had saved but a
very small sum of money from the wreck of his fortunes, but it was sufficient to
provide him with sustenance for some months, and in the meantime he hoped
to procure some respectable employment in a merchant’s house. The interval
was, consequently, spent in inaction; his grief only became more deep and rankling when he had leisure for reflection, and at length it took so fast hold of his
mind that at the end of three months he lay on a bed of sickness, incapable of
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any exertion.
His daughter attended him with the greatest tenderness, but she saw with despair that their little fund was rapidly decreasing and that there was no other
prospect of support. But Caroline Beaufort possessed a mind of an uncommon
mould, and her courage rose to support her in her adversity. She procured plain
work; she plaited straw and by various means contrived to earn a pittance scarcely sufficient to support life.
Several months passed in this manner. Her father grew worse; her time was
more entirely occupied in attending him; her means of subsistence decreased;
and in the tenth month her father died in her arms, leaving her an orphan and a
beggar. This last blow overcame her, and she knelt by Beaufort’s coffin weeping
bitterly, when my father entered the chamber. He came like a protecting spirit
to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care; and after the interment of
his friend he conducted her to Geneva and placed her under the protection of a
relation. Two years after this event Caroline became his wife.
There was a considerable difference between the ages of my parents, but this
circumstance seemed to unite them only closer in bonds of devoted affection.
There was a sense of justice in my father’s upright mind which rendered it necessary that he should approve highly to love strongly. Perhaps during former
years he had suffered from the late-discovered unworthiness of one beloved
and so was disposed to set a greater value on tried worth. There was a show of
gratitude and worship in his attachment to my mother, differing wholly from
the doting fondness of age, for it was inspired by reverence for her virtues and
a desire to be the means of, in some degree, recompensing her for the sorrows
she had endured, but which gave inexpressible grace to his behaviour to her.
Everything was made to yield to her wishes and her convenience. He strove
to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher
wind and to surround her with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind. Her health, and even the tranquillity of
her hitherto constant spirit, had been shaken by what she had gone through.
During the two years that had elapsed previous to their marriage my father
had gradually relinquished all his public functions; and immediately after their
union they sought the pleasant climate of Italy, and the change of scene and
interest attendant on a tour through that land of wonders, as a restorative for
her weakened frame.
From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born at
Naples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles. I remained for
several years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, they
seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to
bestow them upon me. My mother’s tender caresses and my father’s smile of
benevolent pleasure while regarding me are my first recollections. I was their
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plaything and their idol, and something better–their child, the innocent and
helpless creature bestowed on them by heaven, whom to bring up to good, and
whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me. With this deep consciousness of
what they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added to the
active spirit of tenderness that animated both, it may be imagined that while
during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity,
and of self-control, I was so guided by a silken cord that all seemed but one
train of enjoyment to me. For a long time I was their only care. My mother had
much desired to have a daughter, but I continued their single offspring. When
I was about five years old, while making an excursion beyond the frontiers of
Italy, they passed a week on the shores of the Lake of Como. Their benevolent
disposition often made them enter the cottages of the poor. This, to my mother,
was more than a duty; it was a necessity, a passion–remembering what she had
suffered, and how she had been relieved–for her to act in her turn the guardian
angel to the afflicted. During one of their walks a poor cot in the foldings of a
vale attracted their notice as being singularly disconsolate, while the number of
half-clothed children gathered about it spoke of penury in its worst shape. One
day, when my father had gone by himself to Milan, my mother, accompanied
by me, visited this abode. She found a peasant and his wife, hard working,
bent down by care and labour, distributing a scanty meal to five hungry babes.
Among these there was one which attracted my mother far above all the rest.
She appeared of a different stock. The four others were dark-eyed, hardy little
vagrants; this child was thin and very fair. Her hair was the brightest living
gold, and despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown of distinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyes cloudless, and
her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive of sensibility and sweetness
that none could behold her without looking on her as of a distinct species, a
being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features. The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder and admiration
on this lovely girl, eagerly communicated her history. She was not her child, but
the daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her mother was a German and had died
on giving her birth. The infant had been placed with these good people to nurse: they were better off then. They had not been long married, and their eldest
child was but just born. The father of their charge was one of those Italians nursed in the memory of the antique glory of Italy–one among the schiavi ognor
frementi, who exerted himself to obtain the liberty of his country. He became
the victim of its weakness. Whether he had died or still lingered in the dungeons of Austria was not known. His property was confiscated; his child became
an orphan and a beggar. She continued with her foster parents and bloomed in
their rude abode, fairer than a garden rose among dark-leaved brambles. When
my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hall of our villa a child fairer than pictured cherub–a creature who seemed to shed radiance
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from her looks and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of
the hills. The apparition was soon explained. With his permission my mother
prevailed on her rustic guardians to yield their charge to her. They were fond
of the sweet orphan. Her presence had seemed a blessing to them, but it would
be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want when Providence afforded her
such powerful protection. They consulted their village priest, and the result
was that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents’ house–my more
than sister–the beautiful and adored companion of all my occupations and my
Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment
with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home, my mother
had said playfully, “I have a pretty present for my Victor–tomorrow he shall
have it.” And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine–mine to protect, love, and cherish. All praises
bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own. We called each
other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could body
forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me–my more than sister, since
till death she was to be mine only.
We were brought up together; there was not quite a year difference in our ages.
I need not say that we were strangers to any species of disunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that
subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together. Elizabeth was of a calmer
and more concentrated disposition; but, with all my ardour, I was capable of a
more intense application and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aerial creations of the poets; and
in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home –the
sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm,
the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers–she
found ample scope for admiration and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things,
I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a secret which I
desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature,
gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest
sensations I can remember.
On the birth of a second son, my junior by seven years, my parents gave up
entirely their wandering life and fixed themselves in their native country. We
possessed a house in Geneva, and a campagne on Belrive, the eastern shore of
the lake, at the distance of rather more than a league from the city. We resided
principally in the latter, and the lives of my parents were passed in considerable
seclusion. It was my temper to avoid a crowd and to attach myself fervently to
a few. I was indifferent, therefore, to my school-fellows in general; but I united
myself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them. Henry Clerval
was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy of singular talent and
fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger for its own sake. He was
deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs and
began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure. He tried to
make us act plays and to enter into masquerades, in which the characters were
drawn from the heroes of Roncesvalles, of the Round Table of King Arthur, and
the chivalrous train who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from
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the hands of the infidels.
No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. We felt
that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the
agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled
with other families I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was,
and gratitude assisted the development of filial love.
My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some
law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an
eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that
neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics
of various states possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and
earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things
or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me,
still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in it highest sense, the
physical secrets of the world.
Meanwhile Clerval occupied himself, so to speak, with the moral relations of
things. The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes, and the actions of men were
his theme; and his hope and his dream was to become one among those whose
names are recorded in story as the gallant and adventurous benefactors of our
species. The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our
peaceful home. Her sympathy was ours; her smile, her soft voice, the sweet
glance of her celestial eyes, were ever there to bless and animate us. She was
the living spirit of love to soften and attract; I might have become sullen in my
study, through the ardour of my nature, but that she was there to subdue me
to a semblance of her own gentleness. And Clerval–could aught ill entrench on
the noble spirit of Clerval? Yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so
thoughtful in his generosity, so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion for adventurous exploit, had she not unfolded to him the real loveliness of
beneficence and made the doing good the end and aim of his soaring ambition.
I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before
misfortune had tainted my mind and changed its bright visions of extensive
usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon self. Besides, in drawing
the picture of my early days, I also record those events which led, by insensible
steps, to my after tale of misery, for when I would account to myself for the
birth of that passion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a
mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it
proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my
hopes and joys. Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate; I
desire, therefore, in this narration, to state those facts which led to my predilection for that science. When I was thirteen years of age we all went on a party
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of pleasure to the baths near Thonon; the inclemency of the weather obliged us
to remain a day confined to the inn. In this house I chanced to find a volume
of the works of Cornelius Agrippa. I opened it with apathy; the theory which he attempts to demonstrate and the wonderful facts which he relates soon
changed this feeling into enthusiasm. A new light seemed to dawn upon my
mind, and bounding with joy, I communicated my discovery to my father. My
father looked carelessly at the title page of my book and said, “Ah! Cornelius
Agrippa! My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash.”
If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain to me that
the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded and that a modern system
of science had been introduced which possessed much greater powers than the
ancient, because the powers of the latter were chimerical, while those of the former were real and practical, under such circumstances I should certainty have
thrown Agrippa aside and have contented my imagination, warmed as it was,
by returning with greater ardour to my former studies. It is even possible that
the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my
ruin. But the cursory glance my father had taken of my volume by no means
assured me that he was acquainted with its contents, and I continued to read
with the greatest avidity. When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus
Magnus. I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; they
appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself. I have described myself
as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets
of nature. In spite of the intense labour and wonderful discoveries of modern
philosophers, I always came from my studies discontented and unsatisfied. Sir
Isaac Newton is said to have avowed that he felt like a child picking up shells
beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth. Those of his successors in each
branch of natural philosophy with whom I was acquainted appeared even to
my boy’s apprehensions as tyros engaged in the same pursuit.
The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him and was acquainted
with their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more. He
had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were
still a wonder and a mystery. He might dissect, anatomize, and give names; but,
not to speak of a final cause, causes in their secondary and tertiary grades were
utterly unknown to him. I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments
that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and
rashly and ignorantly I had repined.
But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew
more. I took their word for all that they averred, and I became their disciple. It
may appear strange that such should arise in the eighteenth century; but while
I followed the routine of education in the schools of Geneva, I was, to a great
degree, self-taught with regard to my favourite studies. My father was not scihttp://www.idph.net24 IDPH
entific, and I was left to struggle with a child’s blindness, added to a student’s
thirst for knowledge. Under the guidance of my new preceptors I entered with
the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir
of life; but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth was an
inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent
death! Nor were these my only visions. The raising of ghosts or devils was a
promise liberally accorded by my favourite authors, the fulfillment of which I
most eagerly sought; and if my incantations were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own inexperience and mistake than to a want of
skill or fidelity in my instructors. And thus for a time I was occupied by exploded systems, mingling, like an unadept, a thousand contradictory theories and
floundering desperately in a very slough of multifarious knowledge, guided by
an ardent imagination and childish reasoning, till an accident again changed the
current of my ideas. When I was about fifteen years old we had retired to our
house near Belrive, when we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunderstorm. It advanced from behind the mountains of Jura, and the thunder burst at
once with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens. I remained,
while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight. As I
stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and
beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as
the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained
but a blasted stump. When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree
shattered in a singular manner. It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely
reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed.
Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious laws of electricity.
On this occasion a man of great research in natural philosophy was with us,
and excited by this catastrophe, he entered on the explanation of a theory which he had formed on the subject of electricity and galvanism, which was at
once new and astonishing to me. All that he said threw greatly into the shade
Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus, the lords of my imagination; but by some fatality the overthrow of these men disinclined me to pursue
my accustomed studies. It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever be
known. All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grew despicable.
By one of those caprices of the mind which we are perhaps most subject to in
early youth, I at once gave up my former occupations, set down natural history and all its progeny as a deformed and abortive creation, and entertained
the greatest disdain for a would-be science which could never even step within
the threshold of real knowledge. In this mood of mind I betook myself to the
mathematics and the branches of study appertaining to that science as being
built upon secure foundations, and so worthy of my consideration.
Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we
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bound to prosperity or ruin. When I look back, it seems to me as if this almost
miraculous change of inclination and will was the immediate suggestion of the
guardian angel of my life–the last effort made by the spirit of preservation to
avert the storm that was even then hanging in the stars and ready to envelop
me. Her victory was announced by an unusual tranquillity and gladness of soul
which followed the relinquishing of my ancient and latterly tormenting studies. It was thus that I was to be taught to associate evil with their prosecution,
happiness with their disregard.
It was a strong effort of the spirit of good, but it was ineffectual. Destiny was too
potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction.
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When I had attained the age of seventeen my parents resolved that I should
become a student at the university of Ingolstadt. I had hitherto attended the
schools of Geneva, but my father thought it necessary for the completion of my
education that I should be made acquainted with other customs than those of
my native country. My departure was therefore fixed at an early date, but before
the day resolved upon could arrive, the first misfortune of my life occurred–an
omen, as it were, of my future misery. Elizabeth had caught the scarlet fever; her
illness was severe, and she was in the greatest danger. During her illness many
arguments had been urged to persuade my mother to refrain from attending
upon her. She had at first yielded to our entreaties, but when she heard that the
life of her favourite was menaced, she could no longer control her anxiety. She
attended her sickbed; her watchful attentions triumphed over the malignity of
the distemper–Elizabeth was saved, but the consequences of this imprudence
were fatal to her preserver. On the third day my mother sickened; her fever was
accompanied by the most alarming symptoms, and the looks of her medical
attendants prognosticated the worst event. On her deathbed the fortitude and
benignity of this best of women did not desert her. She joined the hands of
Elizabeth and myself. “My children,” she said, “my firmest hopes of future
happiness were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will
now be the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply my
place to my younger children. Alas! I regret that I am taken from you; and,
happy and beloved as I have been, is it not hard to quit you all? But these are
not thoughts befitting me; I will endeavour to resign myself cheerfully to death
and will indulge a hope of meeting you in another world.”
She died calmly, and her countenance expressed affection even in death. I need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most
irreparable evil, the void that presents itself to the soul, and the despair that
is exhibited on the countenance. It is so long before the mind can persuade
itself that she whom we saw every day and whose very existence appeared a
part of our own can have departed forever–that the brightness of a beloved eye
can have been extinguished and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to
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the ear can be hushed, never more to be heard. These are the reflections of the
first days; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil, then the
actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has not that rude hand
rent away some dear connection? And why should I describe a sorrow which
all have felt, and must feel? The time at length arrives when grief is rather an
indulgence than a necessity; and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it
may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished. My mother was dead, but we had
still duties which we ought to perform; we must continue our course with the
rest and learn to think ourselves fortunate whilst one remains whom the spoiler
has not seized.
My departure for Ingolstadt, which had been deferred by these events, was now
again determined upon. I obtained from my father a respite of some weeks. It
appeared to me sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death, of the house
of mourning and to rush into the thick of life. I was new to sorrow, but it did
not the less alarm me. I was unwilling to quit the sight of those that remained to
me, and above all, I desired to see my sweet Elizabeth in some degree consoled.
She indeed veiled her grief and strove to act the comforter to us all. She looked steadily on life and assumed its duties with courage and zeal. She devoted
herself to those whom she had been taught to call her uncle and cousins. Never
was she so enchanting as at this time, when she recalled the sunshine of her smiles and spent them upon us. She forgot even her own regret in her endeavours
to make us forget.
The day of my departure at length arrived. Clerval spent the last evening with
us. He had endeavoured to persuade his father to permit him to accompany me
and to become my fellow student, but in vain. His father was a narrow-minded
trader and saw idleness and ruin in the aspirations and ambition of his son.
Henry deeply felt the misfortune of being debarred from a liberal education.
He said little, but when he spoke I read in his kindling eye and in his animated
glance a restrained but firm resolve not to be chained to the miserable details of
We sat late. We could not tear ourselves away from each other nor persuade
ourselves to say the word “Farewell!” It was said, and we retired under the
pretence of seeking repose, each fancying that the other was deceived; but when
at morning’s dawn I descended to the carriage which was to convey me away,
they were all there–my father again to bless me, Clerval to press my hand once
more, my Elizabeth to renew her entreaties that I would write often and to
bestow the last feminine attentions on her playmate and friend.
I threw myself into the chaise that was to convey me away and indulged in
the most melancholy reflections. I, who had ever been surrounded by amiable
companions, continually engaged in endeavouring to bestow mutual pleasure–
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I was now alone. In the university whither I was going I must form my own
friends and be my own protector. My life had hitherto been remarkably secluded and domestic, and this had given me invincible repugnance to new countenances. I loved my brothers, Elizabeth, and Clerval; these were “old familiar
faces,” but I believed myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers. Such
were my reflections as I commenced my journey; but as I proceeded, my spirits
and hopes rose. I ardently desired the acquisition of knowledge. I had often,
when at home, thought it hard to remain during my youth cooped up in one
place and had longed to enter the world and take my station among other human beings. Now my desires were complied with, and it would, indeed, have
been folly to repent.
I had sufficient leisure for these and many other reflections during my journey
to Ingolstadt, which was long and fatiguing. At length the high white steeple of
the town met my eyes. I alighted and was conducted to my solitary apartment
to spend the evening as I pleased.
The next morning I delivered my letters of introduction and paid a visit to some of the principal professors. Chance–or rather the evil influence, the Angel
of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway over me from the moment I
turned my reluctant steps from my father’s door–led me first to M. Krempe,
professor of natural philosophy. He was an uncouth man, but deeply imbued
in the secrets of his science. He asked me several questions concerning my progress in the different branches of science appertaining to natural philosophy. I
replied carelessly, and partly in contempt, mentioned the names of my alchemists as the principal authors I had studied. The professor stared. “Have you,”
he said, “really spent your time in studying such nonsense?”
I replied in the affirmative. “Every minute,” continued M. Krempe with
warmth, “every instant that you have wasted on those books is utterly and entirely lost. You have burdened your memory with exploded systems and useless
names. Good God! In what desert land have you lived, where no one was kind
enough to inform you that these fancies which you have so greedily imbibed
are a thousand years old and as musty as they are ancient? I little expected, in
this enlightened and scientific age, to find a disciple of Albertus Magnus and
Paracelsus. My dear sir, you must begin your studies entirely anew.”
So saying, he stepped aside and wrote down a list of several books treating of
natural philosophy which he desired me to procure, and dismissed me after
mentioning that in the beginning of the following week he intended to commence a course of lectures upon natural philosophy in its general relations, and
that M. Waldman, a fellow professor, would lecture upon chemistry the alternate days that he omitted.
I returned home not disappointed, for I have said that I had long considered
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those authors useless whom the professor reprobated; but I returned not at all
the more inclined to recur to these studies in any shape. M. Krempe was a little
squat man with a gruff voice and a repulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour of his pursuits. In rather a too philosophical
and connected a strain, perhaps, I have given an account of the conclusions
I had come to concerning them in my early years. As a child I had not been
content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science.
With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my extreme youth and my
want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the
paths of time and exchanged the discoveries of recent inquirers for the dreams
of forgotten alchemists. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different when the masters of the science sought
immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand; but now the
scene was changed. The ambition of the inquirer seemed to limit itself to the
annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of
little worth.
Such were my reflections during the first two or three days of my residence at
Ingolstadt, which were chiefly spent in becoming acquainted with the localities
and the principal residents in my new abode. But as the ensuing week commenced, I thought of the information which M. Krempe had given me concerning
the lectures. And although I could not consent to go and hear that little conceited fellow deliver sentences out of a pulpit, I recollected what he had said of M.
Waldman, whom I had never seen, as he had hitherto been out of town.
Partly from curiosity and partly from idleness, I went into the lecturing room,
which M. Waldman entered shortly after. This professor was very unlike his
colleague. He appeared about fifty years of age, but with an aspect expressive
of the greatest benevolence; a few grey hairs covered his temples, but those at
the back of his head were nearly black. His person was short but remarkably
erect and his voice the sweetest I had ever heard. He began his lecture by a
recapitulation of the history of chemistry and the various improvements made
by different men of learning, pronouncing with fervour the names of the most
distinguished discoverers. He then took a cursory view of the present state of
the science and explained many of its elementary terms. After having made
a few preparatory experiments, he concluded with a panegyric upon modern
chemistry, the terms of which I shall never forget: “The ancient teachers of this
science,” said he, “promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted
and that the elixir of life is a chimera but these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or
crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of
nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the hehttp://www.idph.netIDPH 31
avens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air
we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can
command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the
invisible world with its own shadows.”
Such were the professor’s words–rather let me say such the words of the fate–
enounced to destroy me. As he went on I felt as if my soul were grappling with
a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys were touched which formed the
mechanism of my being; chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind
was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose. So much has been
done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein–more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown
powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.
I closed not my eyes that night. My internal being was in a state of insurrection and turmoil; I felt that order would thence arise, but I had no power to
produce it. By degrees, after the morning’s dawn, sleep came. I awoke, and
my yesternight’s thoughts were as a dream. There only remained a resolution
to return to my ancient studies and to devote myself to a science for which I
believed myself to possess a natural talent. On the same day I paid M. Waldman a visit. His manners in private were even more mild and attractive than
in public, for there was a certain dignity in his mien during his lecture which
in his own house was replaced by the greatest affability and kindness. I gave him pretty nearly the same account of my former pursuits as I had given
to his fellow professor. He heard with attention the little narration concerning
my studies and smiled at the names of Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus, but
without the contempt that M. Krempe had exhibited. He said that “These were
men to whose indefatigable zeal modern philosophers were indebted for most
of the foundations of their knowledge. They had left to us, as an easier task, to
give new names and arrange in connected classifications the facts which they
in a great degree had been the instruments of bringing to light. The labours of
men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately
turning to the solid advantage of mankind.” I listened to his statement, which was delivered without any presumption or affectation, and then added that
his lecture had removed my prejudices against modern chemists; I expressed
myself in measured terms, with the modesty and deference due from a youth
to his instructor, without letting escape (inexperience in life would have made
me ashamed) any of the enthusiasm which stimulated my intended labours. I
requested his advice concerning the books I ought to procure.
“I am happy,” said M. Waldman, “to have gained a disciple; and if your application equals your ability, I have no doubt of your success. Chemistry is that
branch of natural philosophy in which the greatest improvements have been
and may be made; it is on that account that I have made it my peculiar study;
but at the same time, I have not neglected the other branches of science. A man
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would make but a very sorry chemist if he attended to that department of human knowledge alone. If your wish is to become really a man of science and not
merely a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branch of
natural philosophy, including mathematics.” He then took me into his laboratory and explained to me the uses of his various machines, instructing me as to
what I ought to procure and promising me the use of his own when I should
have advanced far enough in the science not to derange their mechanism. He
also gave me the list of books which I had requested, and I took my leave.
Thus ended a day memorable to me; it decided my future destiny.
From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation. I read with
ardour those works, so full of genius and discrimination, which modern inquirers have written on these subjects. I attended the lectures and cultivated the
acquaintance of the men of science of the university, and I found even in M.
Krempe a great deal of sound sense and real information, combined, it is true,
with a repulsive physiognomy and manners, but not on that account the less
valuable. In M. Waldman I found a true friend. His gentleness was never tinged by dogmatism, and his instructions were given with an air of frankness
and good nature that banished every idea of pedantry. In a thousand ways he
smoothed for me the path of knowledge and made the most abstruse inquiries clear and facile to my apprehension. My application was at first fluctuating
and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded and soon became so ardent and
eager that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet
engaged in my laboratory.
As I applied so closely, it may be easily conceived that my progress was rapid.
My ardour was indeed the astonishment of the students, and my proficiency
that of the masters. Professor Krempe often asked me, with a sly smile, how
Cornelius Agrippa went on, whilst M. Waldman expressed the most heartfelt
exultation in my progress. Two years passed in this manner, during which I
paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged, heart and soul, in the pursuit of some
discoveries which I hoped to make. None but those who have experienced
them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as
far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in
a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder. A mind
of moderate capacity which closely pursues one study must infallibly arrive at
great proficiency in that study; and I, who continually sought the attainment of
one object of pursuit and was solely wrapped up in this, improved so rapidly
that at the end of two years I made some discoveries in the improvement of
some chemical instruments, which procured me great esteem and admiration
at the university. When I had arrived at this point and had become as well
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acquainted with the theory and practice of natural philosophy as depended on
the lessons of any of the professors at Ingolstadt, my residence there being no
longer conducive to my improvements, I thought of returning to my friends
and my native town, when an incident happened that protracted my stay.
One of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was the
structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many
things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances in my
mind and determined thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to those
branches of natural philosophy which relate to physiology. Unless I had been
animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study
would have been irksome and almost intolerable. To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science
of anatomy, but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay
and corruption of the human body. In my education my father had taken the
greatest precautions that my mind should be impressed with no supernatural
horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to
have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy,
and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life,
which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the
worm. Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses. My attention was
fixed upon every object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the human feelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the
corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm
inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysing
all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death,
and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in
upon me–a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became
dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised
that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquiries towards
the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a
Remember, I am not recording the vision of a madman. The sun does not more
certainly shine in the heavens than that which I now affirm is true. Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery were distinct and
probable. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in
discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable
of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.
The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave
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place to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painful labour, to
arrive at once at the summit of my desires was the most gratifying consummation of my toils. But this discovery was so great and overwhelming that all the
steps by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated, and I beheld
only the result. What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the
creation of the world was now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene,
it all opened upon me at once: the information I had obtained was of a nature
rather to direct my endeavours so soon as I should point them towards the object of my search than to exhibit that object already accomplished. I was like the
Arabian who had been buried with the dead and found a passage to life, aided
only by one glimmering and seemingly ineffectual light.
I see by your eagerness and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my
friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted;
that cannot be; listen patiently until the end of my story, and you will easily
perceive why I am reserved upon that subject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn
from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the
acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes
his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his
nature will allow.
When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a
long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I
possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the
reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I
should attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit
me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complete and wonderful
as man. The materials at present within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking, but I doubted not that I should ultimately
succeed. I prepared myself for a multitude of reverses; my operations might
be incessantly baffled, and at last my work be imperfect, yet when I considered
the improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was
encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of
future success. Nor could I consider the magnitude and complexity of my plan
as any argument of its impracticability. It was with these feelings that I began
the creation of a human being. As the minuteness of the parts formed a great
hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the
being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination and having spent some
months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began.
No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurhttp://www.idph.net36 IDPH
ricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal
bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our
dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many
happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could
claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. Pursuing these reflections, I thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless
matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew
life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.
These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with
unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had
become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty,
I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might
realize. One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places. Who
shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowed
damps of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?
My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a
resistless and almost frantic impulse urged me forward; I seemed to have lost
all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. It was indeed but a passing trance, that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as, the unnatural
stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits. I collected bones
from charnel- houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the
house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I
kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. The dissecting room and
the slaughter- house furnished many of my materials; and often did my human
nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to a conclusion.
The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one
pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more
plentiful harvest or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage, but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings which made me
neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were
so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time. I knew
my silence disquieted them, and I well remembered the words of my father: “I
know that while you are pleased with yourself you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly from you. You must pardon me if I regard
any interruption in your correspondence as a proof that your other duties are
equally neglected.”
I knew well therefore what would be my father’s feelings, but I could not tear
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my thoughts from my employment, loathsome in itself, but which had taken
an irresistible hold of my imagination. I wished, as it were, to procrastinate all
that related to my feelings of affection until the great object, which swallowed
up every habit of my nature, should be completed.
I then thought that my father would be unjust if he ascribed my neglect to vice or faultiness on my part, but I am now convinced that he was justified in
conceiving that I should not be altogether free from blame. A human being in
perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to
allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity. I do not think
that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which
you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy
your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then
that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind.
If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever
to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved, Caesar would have spared his country, America would have been
discovered more gradually, and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been
But I forget that I am moralizing in the most interesting part of my tale, and your
looks remind me to proceed. My father made no reproach in his letters and only
took notice of my science by inquiring into my occupations more particularly
than before. Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labours; but I
did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves–sights which before always
yielded me supreme delight–so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation. The
leaves of that year had withered before my work drew near to a close, and now
every day showed me more plainly how well I had succeeded. But my enthusiasm was checked by my anxiety, and I appeared rather like one doomed by
slavery to toil in the mines, or any other unwholesome trade than an artist occupied by his favourite employment. Every night I was oppressed by a slow
fever, and I became nervous to a most painful degree; the fall of a leaf startled
me, and I shunned my fellow creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime. Sometimes I grew alarmed at the wreck I perceived that I had become; the energy
of my purpose alone sustained me: my labours would soon end, and I believed
that exercise and amusement would then drive away incipient disease; and I
promised myself both of these when my creation should be complete.
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It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my
toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless
thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered
dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the
glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature
open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His
limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and
arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with
his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets
in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human
nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing
life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I
had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had
finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust
filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed
out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable
to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had
before endured, and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring
to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain; I slept, indeed,
but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the
bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised,
I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid
with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I
held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form,
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and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from
my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered,
and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the
moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch–
the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed;
and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened,
and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He
might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to
detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard
belonging to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest of
the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively,
catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the
demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.
Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again
endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed
on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints
were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could
not have conceived.
I passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly and hardly
that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others, I nearly sank to the ground
through languor and extreme weakness. Mingled with this horror, I felt the
bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest
for so long a space were now become a hell to me; and the change was so rapid,
the overthrow so complete!
Morning, dismal and wet, at length dawned and discovered to my sleepless
and aching eyes the church of Ingolstadt, its white steeple and clock, which
indicated the sixth hour. The porter opened the gates of the court, which had
that night been my asylum, and I issued into the streets, pacing them with quick
steps, as if I sought to avoid the wretch whom I feared every turning of the
street would present to my view. I did not dare return to the apartment which
I inhabited, but felt impelled to hurry on, although drenched by the rain which
poured from a black and comfortless sky.
I continued walking in this manner for some time, endeavouring by bodily exercise to ease the load that weighed upon my mind. I traversed the streets without
any clear conception of where I was or what I was doing. My heart palpitated
in the sickness of fear, and I hurried on with irregular steps, not daring to look
about me:
Like one who, on a lonely road,
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And, having once turned round, walks on,
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And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner.”
Continuing thus, I came at length opposite to the inn at which the various diligences and carriages usually stopped. Here I paused, I knew not why; but I
remained some minutes with my eyes fixed on a coach that was coming towards
me from the other end of the street. As it drew nearer I observed that it was the
Swiss diligence; it stopped just where I was standing, and on the door being
opened, I perceived Henry Clerval, who, on seeing me, instantly sprung out.
“My dear Frankenstein,” exclaimed he, “how glad I am to see you! How fortunate that you should be here at the very moment of my alighting!”
Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clerval; his presence brought back
to my thoughts my father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes of home so dear to
my recollection. I grasped his hand, and in a moment forgot my horror and
misfortune; I felt suddenly, and for the first time during many months, calm
and serene joy. I welcomed my friend, therefore, in the most cordial manner,
and we walked towards my college. Clerval continued talking for some time
about our mutual friends and his own good fortune in being permitted to come
to Ingolstadt. “You may easily believe,” said he, “how great was the difficulty
to persuade my father that all necessary knowledge was not comprised in the
noble art of bookkeeping; and, indeed, I believe I left him incredulous to the
last, for his constant answer to my unwearied entreaties was the same as that of
the Dutch schoolmaster in The Vicar of Wakefield: ‘I have ten thousand florins
a year without Greek, I eat heartily without Greek.’ But his affection for me at
length overcame his dislike of learning, and he has permitted me to undertake
a voyage of discovery to the land of knowledge.”
“It gives me the greatest delight to see you; but tell me how you left my father,
brothers, and Elizabeth.”
“Very well, and very happy, only a little uneasy that they hear from you so
seldom. By the by, I mean to lecture you a little upon their account myself. But,
my dear Frankenstein,” continued he, stopping short and gazing full in my face,
“I did not before remark how very ill you appear; so thin and pale; you look as
if you had been watching for several nights.”
“You have guessed right; I have lately been so deeply engaged in one occupation that I have not allowed myself sufficient rest, as you see; but I hope, I
sincerely hope, that all these employments are now at an end and that I am at
length free.”
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I trembled excessively; I could not endure to think of, and far less to allude to,
the occurrences of the preceding night. I walked with a quick pace, and we
soon arrived at my college. I then reflected, and the thought made me shiver,
that the creature whom I had left in my apartment might still be there, alive
and walking about. I dreaded to behold this monster, but I feared still more
that Henry should see him. Entreating him, therefore, to remain a few minutes
at the bottom of the stairs, I darted up towards my own room. My hand was
already on the lock of the door before I recollected myself. I then paused, and
a cold shivering came over me. I threw the door forcibly open, as children are
accustomed to do when they expect a spectre to stand in waiting for them on
the other side; but nothing appeared. I stepped fearfully in: the apartment was
empty, and my bedroom was also freed from its hideous guest. I could hardly
believe that so great a good fortune could have befallen me, but when I became
assured that my enemy had indeed fled, I clapped my hands for joy and ran
down to Clerval.
We ascended into my room, and the servant presently brought breakfast; but
I was unable to contain myself. It was not joy only that possessed me; I felt
my flesh tingle with excess of sensitiveness, and my pulse beat rapidly. I was
unable to remain for a single instant in the same place; I jumped over the chairs,
clapped my hands, and laughed aloud. Clerval at first attributed my unusual
spirits to joy on his arrival, but when he observed me more attentively, he saw a
wildness in my eyes for which he could not account, and my loud, unrestrained,
heartless laughter frightened and astonished him.
“My dear Victor,” cried he, “what, for God’s sake, is the matter? Do not laugh
in that manner. How ill you are! What is the cause of all this?”
“Do not ask me,” cried I, putting my hands before my eyes, for I thought I saw
the dreaded spectre glide into the room; “HE can tell. Oh, save me! Save me!”
I imagined that the monster seized me; I struggled furiously and fell down in a
Poor Clerval! What must have been his feelings? A meeting, which he anticipated with such joy, so strangely turned to bitterness. But I was not the witness of
his grief, for I was lifeless and did not recover my senses for a long, long time.
This was the commencement of a nervous fever which confined me for several
months. During all that time Henry was my only nurse. I afterwards learned
that, knowing my father’s advanced age and unfitness for so long a journey,
and how wretched my sickness would make Elizabeth, he spared them this
grief by concealing the extent of my disorder. He knew that I could not have
a more kind and attentive nurse than himself; and, firm in the hope he felt of
my recovery, he did not doubt that, instead of doing harm, he performed the
kindest action that he could towards them.
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But I was in reality very ill, and surely nothing but the unbounded and unremitting attentions of my friend could have restored me to life. The form of the
monster on whom I had bestowed existence was forever before my eyes, and
I raved incessantly concerning him. Doubtless my words surprised Henry; he
at first believed them to be the wanderings of my disturbed imagination, but
the pertinacity with which I continually recurred to the same subject persuaded
him that my disorder indeed owed its origin to some uncommon and terrible
By very slow degrees, and with frequent relapses that alarmed and grieved my
friend, I recovered. I remember the first time I became capable of observing
outward objects with any kind of pleasure, I perceived that the fallen leaves
had disappeared and that the young buds were shooting forth from the trees
that shaded my window. It was a divine spring, and the season contributed
greatly to my convalescence. I felt also sentiments of joy and affection revive in
my bosom; my gloom disappeared, and in a short time I became as cheerful as
before I was attacked by the fatal passion.
“Dearest Clerval,” exclaimed I, “how kind, how very good you are to me. This
whole winter, instead of being spent in study, as you promised yourself, has
been consumed in my sick room. How shall I ever repay you? I feel the greatest
remorse for the disappointment of which I have been the occasion, but you will
forgive me.”
“You will repay me entirely if you do not discompose yourself, but get well as
fast as you can; and since you appear in such good spirits, I may speak to you
on one subject, may I not?”
I trembled. One subject! What could it be? Could he allude to an object on
whom I dared not even think? “Compose yourself,” said Clerval, who observed
my change of colour, “I will not mention it if it agitates you; but your father and
cousin would be very happy if they received a letter from you in your own
handwriting. They hardly know how ill you have been and are uneasy at your
long silence.”
“Is that all, my dear Henry? How could you suppose that my first thought
would not fly towards those dear, dear friends whom I love and who are so
deserving of my love?”
“If this is your present temper, my friend, you will perhaps be glad to see a letter
that has been lying here some days for you; it is from your cousin, I believe.”
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Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It was from my own Elizabeth:
“My dearest Cousin,
“You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters of dear kind Henry
are not sufficient to reassure me on your account. You are forbidden to write–to
hold a pen; yet one word from you, dear Victor, is necessary to calm our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought that each post would bring this
line, and my persuasions have restrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have prevented his encountering the inconveniences and
perhaps dangers of so long a journey, yet how often have I regretted not being
able to perform it myself! I figure to myself that the task of attending on your
sickbed has devolved on some mercenary old nurse, who could never guess
your wishes nor minister to them with the care and affection of your poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that indeed you are getting better. I
eagerly hope that you will confirm this intelligence soon in your own handwriting.
“Get well–and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerful home and friends
who love you dearly. Your father’s health is vigorous, and he asks but to see
you, but to be assured that you are well; and not a care will ever cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you would be to remark the improvement
of our Ernest! He is now sixteen and full of activity and spirit. He is desirous to
be a true Swiss and to enter into foreign service, but we cannot part with him,
at least until his elder brother returns to us. My uncle is not pleased with the
idea of a military career in a distant country, but Ernest never had your powers
of application. He looks upon study as an odious fetter; his time is spent in the
open air, climbing the hills or rowing on the lake. I fear that he will become an
idler unless we yield the point and permit him to enter on the profession which
he has selected.
“Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, has taken place since
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you left us. The blue lake and snow-clad mountains–they never change; and
I think our placid home and our contented hearts are regulated by the same
immutable laws. My trifling occupations take up my time and amuse me, and
I am rewarded for any exertions by seeing none but happy, kind faces around
me. Since you left us, but one change has taken place in our little household. Do
you remember on what occasion Justine Moritz entered our family? Probably
you do not; I will relate her history, therefore in a few words. Madame Moritz,
her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine was the third.
This girl had always been the favourite of her father, but through a strange
perversity, her mother could not endure her, and after the death of M. Moritz,
treated her very ill. My aunt observed this, and when Justine was twelve years
of age, prevailed on her mother to allow her to live at our house. The republican
institutions of our country have produced simpler and happier manners than
those which prevail in the great monarchies that surround it. Hence there is
less distinction between the several classes of its inhabitants; and the lower
orders, being neither so poor nor so despised, their manners are more refined
and moral. A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in
France and England. Justine, thus received in our family, learned the duties of a
servant, a condition which, in our fortunate country, does not include the idea
of ignorance and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.
“Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours; and I recollect you
once remarked that if you were in an ill humour, one glance from Justine could
dissipate it, for the same reason that Ariosto gives concerning the beauty of
Angelica–she looked so frank-hearted and happy. My aunt conceived a great
attachment for her, by which she was induced to give her an education superior
to that which she had at first intended. This benefit was fully repaid; Justine was
the most grateful little creature in the world: I do not mean that she made any
professions I never heard one pass her lips, but you could see by her eyes that
she almost adored her protectress. Although her disposition was gay and in
many respects inconsiderate, yet she paid the greatest attention to every gesture
of my aunt. She thought her the model of all excellence and endeavoured to
imitate her phraseology and manners, so that even now she often reminds me
of her.
“When my dearest aunt died every one was too much occupied in their own
grief to notice poor Justine, who had attended her during her illness with the
most anxious affection. Poor Justine was very ill; but other trials were reserved
for her.
“One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother, with the exception
of her neglected daughter, was left childless. The conscience of the woman was
troubled; she began to think that the deaths of her favourites was a judgement
from heaven to chastise her partiality. She was a Roman Catholic; and I believe
her confessor confirmed the idea which she had conceived. Accordingly, a few
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months after your departure for Ingolstadt, Justine was called home by her repentant mother. Poor girl! She wept when she quitted our house; she was much
altered since the death of my aunt; grief had given softness and a winning mildness to her manners, which had before been remarkable for vivacity. Nor was
her residence at her mother’s house of a nature to restore her gaiety. The poor
woman was very vacillating in her repentance. She sometimes begged Justine
to forgive her unkindness, but much oftener accused her of having caused the
deaths of her brothers and sister. Perpetual fretting at length threw Madame
Moritz into a decline, which at first increased her irritability, but she is now at
peace for ever. She died on the first approach of cold weather, at the beginning
of this last winter. Justine has just returned to us; and I assure you I love her
tenderly. She is very clever and gentle, and extremely pretty; as I mentioned
before, her mein and her expression continually remind me of my dear aunt.
“I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin, of little darling William. I
wish you could see him; he is very tall of his age, with sweet laughing blue eyes,
dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When he smiles, two little dimples appear on
each cheek, which are rosy with health. He has already had one or two little
WIVES, but Louisa Biron is his favourite, a pretty little girl of five years of age.
“Now, dear Victor, I dare say you wish to be indulged in a little gossip concerning the good people of Geneva. The pretty Miss Mansfield has already
received the congratulatory visits on her approaching marriage with a young
Englishman, John Melbourne, Esq. Her ugly sister, Manon, married M. Duvillard, the rich banker, last autumn. Your favourite schoolfellow, Louis Manoir,
has suffered several misfortunes since the departure of Clerval from Geneva.
But he has already recovered his spirits, and is reported to be on the point of
marrying a lively pretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier. She is a widow,
and much older than Manoir; but she is very much admired, and a favourite
with everybody.
“I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin; but my anxiety returns
upon me as I conclude. Write, dearest Victor,–one line–one word will be a blessing to us. Ten thousand thanks to Henry for his kindness, his affection, and
his many letters; we are sincerely grateful. Adieu! my cousin; take care of your
self; and, I entreat you, write!
Elizabeth Lavenza.
Geneva, March 18, 17–,
“Dear, dear Elizabeth!” I exclaimed, when I had read her letter: “I will write instantly and relieve them from the anxiety they must feel.” I wrote, and
this exertion greatly fatigued me; but my convalescence had commenced, and
proceeded regularly. In another fortnight I was able to leave my chamber.
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One of my first duties on my recovery was to introduce Clerval to the several
professors of the university. In doing this, I underwent a kind of rough usage,
ill befitting the wounds that my mind had sustained. Ever since the fatal night,
the end of my labours, and the beginning of my misfortunes, I had conceived a
violent antipathy even to the name of natural philosophy. When I was otherwise quite restored to health, the sight of a chemical instrument would renew all
the agony of my nervous symptoms. Henry saw this, and had removed all my
apparatus from my view. He had also changed my apartment; for he perceived that I had acquired a dislike for the room which had previously been my
laboratory. But these cares of Clerval were made of no avail when I visited the
professors. M. Waldman inflicted torture when he praised, with kindness and
warmth, the astonishing progress I had made in the sciences. He soon perceived
that I disliked the subject; but not guessing the real cause, he attributed my feelings to modesty, and changed the subject from my improvement, to the science
itself, with a desire, as I evidently saw, of drawing me out. What could I do?
He meant to please, and he tormented me. I felt as if he had placed carefully,
one by one, in my five * those instruments which were to be afterwards used
in putting me to a slow and cruel death. I writhed under his words, yet dared
not exhibit the pain I felt. Clerval, whose eyes and feelings were always quick
in discerning the sensations of others, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse,
his total ignorance; and the conversation took a more general turn. I thanked
my friend from my heart, but I did not speak. I saw plainly that he was surprised, but he never attempted to draw my secret from me; and although I loved
him with a mixture of affection and reverence that knew no bounds, yet I could
never persuade myself to confide in him that event which was so often present
to my recollection, but which I feared the detail to another would only impress
more deeply.
M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at that time, of almost
insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh blunt encomiums gave me even more
pain than the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman. “D–n the fellow!” cried
he; “why, M. Clerval, I assure you he has outstript us all. Ay, stare if you please; but it is nevertheless true. A youngster who, but a few years ago, believed
in Cornelius Agrippa as firmly as in the gospel, has now set himself at the head of the university; and if he is not soon pulled down, we shall all be out of
countenance.–Ay, ay,” continued he, observing my face expressive of suffering,
“M. Frankenstein is modest; an excellent quality in a young man. Young men
should be diffident of themselves, you know, M. Clerval: I was myself when
young; but that wears out in a very short time.”
M. Krempe had now commenced an eulogy on himself, which happily turned
the conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.
Clerval had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science; and his literary
pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me. He came to the
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university with the design of making himself complete master of the oriental
languages, and thus he should open a field for the plan of life he had marked
out for himself. Resolved to pursue no inglorious career, he turned his eyes
toward the East, as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise. The Persian,
Arabic, and Sanscrit languages engaged his attention, and I was easily induced
to enter on the same studies. Idleness had ever been irksome to me, and now
that I wished to fly from reflection, and hated my former studies, I felt great
relief in being the fellow-pupil with my friend, and found not only instruction
but consolation in the works of the orientalists. I did not, like him, attempt
a critical knowledge of their dialects, for I did not contemplate making any
other use of them than temporary amusement. I read merely to understand
their meaning, and they well repaid my labours. Their melancholy is soothing,
and their joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced in studying the authors
of any other country. When you read their writings, life appears to consist in
a warm sun and a garden of roses,–in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy,
and the fire that consumes your own heart. How different from the manly and
heroical poetry of Greece and Rome!
Summer passed away in these occupations, and my return to Geneva was fixed
for the latter end of autumn; but being delayed by several accidents, winter
and snow arrived, the roads were deemed impassable, and my journey was
retarded until the ensuing spring. I felt this delay very bitterly; for I longed to
see my native town and my beloved friends. My return had only been delayed
so long, from an unwillingness to leave Clerval in a strange place, before he
had become acquainted with any of its inhabitants. The winter, however, was
spent cheerfully; and although the spring was uncommonly late, when it came
its beauty compensated for its dilatoriness.
The month of May had already commenced, and I expected the letter daily
which was to fix the date of my departure, when Henry proposed a pedestrian
tour in the environs of Ingolstadt, that I might bid a personal farewell to the
country I had so long inhabited. I acceded with pleasure to this proposition:
I was fond of exercise, and Clerval had always been my favourite companion
in the ramble of this nature that I had taken among the scenes of my native
We passed a fortnight in these perambulations: my health and spirits had long
been restored, and they gained additional strength from the salubrious air I breathed, the natural incidents of our progress, and the conversation of my friend.
Study had before secluded me from the intercourse of my fellow- creatures, and
rendered me unsocial; but Clerval called forth the better feelings of my heart; he
again taught me to love the aspect of nature, and the cheerful faces of children.
Excellent friend! how sincerely you did love me, and endeavour to elevate my
mind until it was on a level with your own. A selfish pursuit had cramped
and narrowed me, until your gentleness and affection warmed and opened my
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senses; I became the same happy creature who, a few years ago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care. When happy, inanimate nature had the
power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and
verdant fields filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the
flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already
in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had
pressed upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an
invincible burden.
Henry rejoiced in my gaiety, and sincerely sympathised in my feelings: he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations that filled his soul.
The resources of his mind on this occasion were truly astonishing: his conversation was full of imagination; and very often, in imitation of the Persian and
Arabic writers, he invented tales of wonderful fancy and passion. At other times he repeated my favourite poems, or drew me out into arguments, which
he supported with great ingenuity. We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon: the peasants were dancing, and every one we met appeared gay and
happy. My own spirits were high, and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled joy and hilarity.
On my return, I found the following letter from my father:–
“My dear Victor,
“You have probably waited impatiently for a letter to fix the date of your return
to us; and I was at first tempted to write only a few lines, merely mentioning
the day on which I should expect you. But that would be a cruel kindness, and
I dare not do it. What would be your surprise, my son, when you expected a
happy and glad welcome, to behold, on the contrary, tears and wretchedness?
And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered
you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long absent
son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even
now your eye skims over the page to seek the words which are to convey to you
the horrible tidings.
“William is dead!–that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my
heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor, he is murdered!
“I will not attempt to console you; but will simply relate the circumstances of
the transaction.
“Last Thursday (May 7th), I, my niece, and your two brothers, went to walk in
Plainpalais. The evening was warm and serene, and we prolonged our walk
farther than usual. It was already dusk before we thought of returning; and
then we discovered that William and Ernest, who had gone on before, were not
to be found. We accordingly rested on a seat until they should return. Presently
Ernest came, and enquired if we had seen his brother; he said, that he had
been playing with him, that William had run away to hide himself, and that he
vainly sought for him, and afterwards waited for a long time, but that he did
not return.
“This account rather alarmed us, and we continued to search for him until night
fell, when Elizabeth conjectured that he might have returned to the house. He
was not there. We returned again, with torches; for I could not rest, when I
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thought that my sweet boy had lost himself, and was exposed to all the damps
and dews of night; Elizabeth also suffered extreme anguish. About five in the
morning I discovered my lovely boy, whom the night before I had seen blooming and active in health, stretched on the grass livid and motionless; the print
of the murder’s finger was on his neck.
“He was conveyed home, and the anguish that was visible in my countenance
betrayed the secret to Elizabeth. She was very earnest to see the corpse. At first
I attempted to prevent her but she persisted, and entering the room where it
lay, hastily examined the neck of the victim, and clasping her hands exclaimed,
‘O God! I have murdered my darling child!’
“She fainted, and was restored with extreme difficulty. When she again lived,
it was only to weep and sigh. She told me, that that same evening William had
teased her to let him wear a very valuable miniature that she possessed of your
mother. This picture is gone, and was doubtless the temptation which urged
the murderer to the deed. We have no trace of him at present, although our
exertions to discover him are unremitted; but they will not restore my beloved
“Come, dearest Victor; you alone can console Elizabeth. She weeps continually,
and accuses herself unjustly as the cause of his death; her words pierce my
heart. We are all unhappy; but will not that be an additional motive for you,
my son, to return and be our comforter? Your dear mother! Alas, Victor! I now
say, Thank God she did not live to witness the cruel, miserable death of her
youngest darling!
“Come, Victor; not brooding thoughts of vengeance against the assassin, but
with feelings of peace and gentleness, that will heal, instead of festering, the
wounds of our minds. Enter the house of mourning, my friend, but with kindness and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred for your enemies.
“Your affectionate and afflicted father,
“Alphonse Frankenstein.
“Geneva, May 12th, 17–.”
Clerval, who had watched my countenance as I read this letter, was surprised
to observe the despair that succeeded the joy I at first expressed on receiving
new from my friends. I threw the letter on the table, and covered my face with
my hands.
“My dear Frankenstein,” exclaimed Henry, when he perceived me weep with
bitterness, “are you always to be unhappy? My dear friend, what has happened?”
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I motioned him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down the room in
the extremest agitation. Tears also gushed from the eyes of Clerval, as he read
the account of my misfortune.
“I can offer you no consolation, my friend,” said he; “your disaster is irreparable. What do you intend to do?”
“To go instantly to Geneva: come with me, Henry, to order the horses.”
During our walk, Clerval endeavoured to say a few words of consolation; he
could only express his heartfelt sympathy. “Poor William!” said he, dear lovely
child, he now sleeps with his angel mother! Who that had seen him bright and
joyous in his young beauty, but must weep over his untimely loss! To die so
miserably; to feel the murderer’s grasp! How much more a murdered that could
destroy radiant innocence! Poor little fellow! one only consolation have we; his
friends mourn and weep, but he is at rest. The pang is over, his sufferings are at
an end for ever. A sod covers his gentle form, and he knows no pain. He can no
longer be a subject for pity; we must reserve that for his miserable survivors.”
Clerval spoke thus as we hurried through the streets; the words impressed
themselves on my mind and I remembered them afterwards in solitude. But
now, as soon as the horses arrived, I hurried into a cabriolet, and bade farewell
to my friend.
My journey was very melancholy. At first I wished to hurry on, for I longed
to console and sympathise with my loved and sorrowing friends; but when I
drew near my native town, I slackened my progress. I could hardly sustain the
multitude of feelings that crowded into my mind. I passed through scenes familiar to my youth, but which I had not seen for nearly six years. How altered
every thing might be during that time! One sudden and desolating change had
taken place; but a thousand little circumstances might have by degrees worked
other alterations, which, although they were done more tranquilly, might not
be the less decisive. Fear overcame me; I dared no advance, dreading a thousand nameless evils that made me tremble, although I was unable to define
them. I remained two days at Lausanne, in this painful state of mind. I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around was calm; and the snowy
mountains, ‘the palaces of nature,’ were not changed. By degrees the calm and
heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journey towards Geneva.
The road ran by the side of the lake, which became narrower as I approached
my native town. I discovered more distinctly the black sides of Jura, and the
bright summit of Mont Blanc. I wept like a child. “Dear mountains! my own
beautiful lake! how do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear;
the sky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to prognosticate peace, or to mock
at my unhappiness?”
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I fear, my friend, that I shall render myself tedious by dwelling on these preliminary circumstances; but they were days of comparative happiness, and I think
of them with pleasure. My country, my beloved country! who but a native can
tell the delight I took in again beholding thy streams, thy mountains, and, more
than all, thy lovely lake!
Yet, as I drew nearer home, grief and fear again overcame me. Night also closed around; and when I could hardly see the dark mountains, I felt still more
gloomily. The picture appeared a vast and dim scene of evil, and I foresaw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretched of human beings. Alas!
I prophesied truly, and failed only in one single circumstance, that in all the
misery I imagined and dreaded, I did not conceive the hundredth part of the
anguish I was destined to endure. It was completely dark when I arrived in the
environs of Geneva; the gates of the town were already shut; and I was obliged
to pass the night at Secheron, a village at the distance of half a league from the
city. The sky was serene; and, as I was unable to rest, I resolved to visit the spot
where my poor William had been murdered. As I could not pass through the
town, I was obliged to cross the lake in a boat to arrive at Plainpalais. During
this short voyage I saw the lightning playing on the summit of Mont Blanc in
the most beautiful figures. The storm appeared to approach rapidly, and, on
landing, I ascended a low hill, that I might observe its progress. It advanced;
the heavens were clouded, and I soon felt the rain coming slowly in large drops,
but its violence quickly increased.
I quitted my seat, and walked on, although the darkness and storm increased
every minute, and the thunder burst with a terrific crash over my head. It was
echoed from Saleve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy; vivid flashes of lightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake, making it appear like a vast sheet
of fire; then for an instant every thing seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the
eye recovered itself from the preceding flash. The storm, as is often the case in
Switzerland, appeared at once in various parts of the heavens. The most violent storm hung exactly north of the town, over the part of the lake which lies
between the promontory of Belrive and the village of Copet. Another storm
enlightened Jura with faint flashes; and another darkened and sometimes disclosed the Mole, a peaked mountain to the east of the lake.
While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with a
hasty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands,
and exclaimed aloud, “William, dear angel! this is thy funeral, this thy dirge!”
As I said these words, I perceived in the gloom a figure which stole from behind
a clump of trees near me; I stood fixed, gazing intently: I could not be mistaken.
A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly
to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect more hideous than
belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy
daemon, to whom I had given life. What did he there? Could he be (I shuddered
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at the conception) the murderer of my brother? No sooner did that idea cross
my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth; my teeth chattered, and I
was forced to lean against a tree for support. The figure passed me quickly, and
I lost it in the gloom.
Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child. HE was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible
proof of the fact. I thought of pursuing the devil; but it would have been in
vain, for another flash discovered him to me hanging among the rocks of the
nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont Saleve, a hill that bounds Plainpalais on
the south. He soon reached the summit, and disappeared.
I remained motionless. The thunder ceased; but the rain still continued, and the
scene was enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I revolved in my mind the
events which I had until now sought to forget: the whole train of my progress
toward the creation; the appearance of the works of my own hands at my bedside; its departure. Two years had now nearly elapsed since the night on which
he first received life; and was this his first crime? Alas! I had turned loose into
the world a depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery; had he
not murdered my brother?
No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder of the night,
which I spent, cold and wet, in the open air. But I did not feel the inconvenience of the weather; my imagination was busy in scenes of evil and despair. I
considered the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the
will and power to effect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now
done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the
grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me.
Day dawned; and I directed my steps towards the town. The gates were open,
and I hastened to my father’s house. My first thought was to discover what I
knew of the murderer, and cause instant pursuit to be made. But I paused when
I reflected on the story that I had to tell. A being whom I myself had formed,
and endued with life, had met me at midnight among the precipices of an inaccessible mountain. I remembered also the nervous fever with which I had been
seized just at the time that I dated my creation, and which would give an air of
delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable. I well knew that if any other
had communicated such a relation to me, I should have looked upon it as the
ravings of insanity. Besides, the strange nature of the animal would elude all
pursuit, even if I were so far credited as to persuade my relatives to commence
it. And then of what use would be pursuit? Who could arrest a creature capable
of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve? These reflections determined
me, and I resolved to remain silent.
It was about five in the morning when I entered my father’s house. I told the
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servants not to disturb the family, and went into the library to attend their usual
hour of rising.
Six years had elapsed, passed in a dream but for one indelible trace, and I stood
in the same place where I had last embraced my father before my departure for
Ingolstadt. Beloved and venerable parent! He still remained to me. I gazed on
the picture of my mother, which stood over the mantel-piece. It was an historical subject, painted at my father’s desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in
an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father. Her garb was rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air of dignity and beauty, that hardly
permitted the sentiment of pity. Below this picture was a miniature of William;
and my tears flowed when I looked upon it. While I was thus engaged, Ernest
entered: he had heard me arrive, and hastened to welcome me: “Welcome, my
dearest Victor,” said he. “Ah! I wish you had come three months ago, and then
you would have found us all joyous and delighted. You come to us now to share a misery which nothing can alleviate; yet you presence will, I hope, revive
our father, who seems sinking under his misfortune; and your persuasions will
induce poor Elizabeth to cease her vain and tormenting self- accusations.–Poor
William! he was our darling and our pride!”
Tears, unrestrained, fell from my brother’s eyes; a sense of mortal agony crept
over my frame. Before, I had only imagined the wretchedness of my desolated
home; the reality came on me as a new, and a not less terrible, disaster. I tried to
calm Ernest; I enquired more minutely concerning my father, and her I named
my cousin.
“She most of all,” said Ernest, “requires consolation; she accused herself of having caused the death of my brother, and that made her very wretched. But
since the murderer has been discovered–”
“The murderer discovered! Good God! how can that be? who could attempt to
pursue him? It is impossible; one might as well try to overtake the winds, or
confine a mountain-stream with a straw. I saw him too; he was free last night!”
“I do not know what you mean,” replied my brother, in accents of wonder, “but
to us the discovery we have made completes our misery. No one would believe
it at first; and even now Elizabeth will not be convinced, notwithstanding all the
evidence. Indeed, who would credit that Justine Moritz, who was so amiable,
and fond of all the family, could suddenly become so capable of so frightful, so
appalling a crime?”
“Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it is wrongfully; every
one knows that; no one believes it, surely, Ernest?”
“No one did at first; but several circumstances came out, that have almost forced conviction upon us; and her own behaviour has been so confused, as to add
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to the evidence of facts a weight that, I fear, leaves no hope for doubt. But she
will be tried today, and you will then hear all.”
He then related that, the morning on which the murder of poor William had
been discovered, Justine had been taken ill, and confined to her bed for several
days. During this interval, one of the servants, happening to examine the apparel she had worn on the night of the murder, had discovered in her pocket
the picture of my mother, which had been judged to be the temptation of the
murderer. The servant instantly showed it to one of the others, who, without
saying a word to any of the family, went to a magistrate; and, upon their deposition, Justine was apprehended. On being charged with the fact, the poor
girl confirmed the suspicion in a great measure by her extreme confusion of
This was a strange tale, but it did not shake my faith; and I replied earnestly,
“You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor, good Justine, is innocent.”
At that instant my father entered. I saw unhappiness deeply impressed on his
countenance, but he endeavoured to welcome me cheerfully; and, after we had
exchanged our mournful greeting, would have introduced some other topic
than that of our disaster, had not Ernest exclaimed, “Good God, papa! Victor
says that he knows who was the murderer of poor William.”
“We do also, unfortunately,” replied my father, “for indeed I had rather have
been for ever ignorant than have discovered so much depravity and ungratitude in one I valued so highly.”
“My dear father, you are mistaken; Justine is innocent.”
“If she is, God forbid that she should suffer as guilty. She is to be tried today,
and I hope, I sincerely hope, that she will be acquitted.”
This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine,
and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder. I had no fear,
therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could be brought forward strong
enough to convict her. My tale was not one to announce publicly; its astounding
horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar. Did any one indeed
exist, except I, the creator, who would believe, unless his senses convinced him,
in the existence of the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance
which I had let loose upon the world?
We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had altered her since I last beheld
her; it had endowed her with loveliness surpassing the beauty of her childish
years. There was the same candour, the same vivacity, but it was allied to an
expression more full of sensibility and intellect. She welcomed me with the
greatest affection. “Your arrival, my dear cousin,” said she, “fills me with hope.
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You perhaps will find some means to justify my poor guiltless Justine. Alas!
who is safe, if she be convicted of crime? I rely on her innocence as certainly as
I do upon my own. Our misfortune is doubly hard to us; we have not only lost
that lovely darling boy, but this poor girl, whom I sincerely love, is to be torn
away by even a worse fate. If she is condemned, I never shall know joy more.
But she will not, I am sure she will not; and then I shall be happy again, even
after the sad death of my little William.”
“She is innocent, my Elizabeth,” said I, “and that shall be proved; fear nothing,
but let your spirits be cheered by the assurance of her acquittal.”
“How kind and generous you are! every one else believes in her guilt, and that
made me wretched, for I knew that it was impossible: and to see every one else
prejudiced in so deadly a manner rendered me hopeless and despairing.” She
“Dearest niece,” said my father, “dry your tears. If she is, as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws, and the activity with which I shall prevent
the slightest shadow of partiality.”
We passed a few sad hours until eleven o’clock, when the trial was to commence. My father and the rest of the family being obliged to attend as witnesses,
I accompanied them to the court. During the whole of this wretched mockery
of justice I suffered living torture. It was to be decided whether the result of
my curiosity and lawless devices would cause the death of two of my fellow
beings: one a smiling babe full of innocence and joy, the other far more dreadfully murdered, with every aggravation of infamy that could make the murder
memorable in horror. Justine also was a girl of merit and possessed qualities
which promised to render her life happy; now all was to be obliterated in an
ignominious grave, and I the cause! A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine, but I was absent when it
was committed, and such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings of a madman and would not have exculpated her who suffered through
The appearance of Justine was calm. She was dressed in mourning, and her
countenance, always engaging, was rendered, by the solemnity of her feelings,
exquisitely beautiful. Yet she appeared confident in innocence and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated by thousands, for all the kindness which
her beauty might otherwise have excited was obliterated in the minds of the
spectators by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed. She was tranquil, yet her tranquillity was evidently constrained; and as
her confusion had before been adduced as a proof of her guilt, she worked up
her mind to an appearance of courage. When she entered the court she threw
her eyes round it and quickly discovered where we were seated. A tear seemed
to dim her eye when she saw us, but she quickly recovered herself, and a look
of sorrowful affection seemed to attest her utter guiltlessness.
The trial began, and after the advocate against her had stated the charge, several
witnesses were called. Several strange facts combined against her, which might
have staggered anyone who had not such proof of her innocence as I had. She
had been out the whole of the night on which the murder had been committed
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and towards morning had been perceived by a market-woman not far from the
spot where the body of the murdered child had been afterwards found. The
woman asked her what she did there, but she looked very strangely and only
returned a confused and unintelligible answer. She returned to the house about
eight o’clock, and when one inquired where she had passed the night, she replied that she had been looking for the child and demanded earnestly if anything
had been heard concerning him. When shown the body, she fell into violent
hysterics and kept her bed for several days. The picture was then produced
which the servant had found in her pocket; and when Elizabeth, in a faltering
voice, proved that it was the same which, an hour before the child had been
missed, she had placed round his neck, a murmur of horror and indignation
filled the court.
Justine was called on for her defence. As the trial had proceeded, her countenance had altered. Surprise, horror, and misery were strongly expressed. Sometimes she struggled with her tears, but when she was desired to plead, she
collected her powers and spoke in an audible although variable voice.
“God knows,” she said, “how entirely I am innocent. But I do not pretend
that my protestations should acquit me; I rest my innocence on a plain and
simple explanation of the facts which have been adduced against me, and I
hope the character I have always borne will incline my judges to a favourable
interpretation where any circumstance appears doubtful or suspicious.”
She then related that, by the permission of Elizabeth, she had passed the evening of the night on which the murder had been committed at the house of an
aunt at Chene, a village situated at about a league from Geneva. On her return,
at about nine o’clock, she met a man who asked her if she had seen anything
of the child who was lost. She was alarmed by this account and passed several
hours in looking for him, when the gates of Geneva were shut, and she was forced to remain several hours of the night in a barn belonging to a cottage, being
unwilling to call up the inhabitants, to whom she was well known. Most of
the night she spent here watching; towards morning she believed that she slept
for a few minutes; some steps disturbed her, and she awoke. It was dawn, and
she quitted her asylum, that she might again endeavour to find my brother. If
she had gone near the spot where his body lay, it was without her knowledge.
That she had been bewildered when questioned by the market-woman was not
surprising, since she had passed a sleepless night and the fate of poor William
was yet uncertain. Concerning the picture she could give no account.
“I know,” continued the unhappy victim, “how heavily and fatally this one
circumstance weighs against me, but I have no power of explaining it; and when
I have expressed my utter ignorance, I am only left to conjecture concerning the
probabilities by which it might have been placed in my pocket. But here also I
am checked. I believe that I have no enemy on earth, and none surely would
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have been so wicked as to destroy me wantonly. Did the murderer place it
there? I know of no opportunity afforded him for so doing; or, if I had, why
should he have stolen the jewel, to part with it again so soon?
“I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see no room for hope. I beg
permission to have a few witnesses examined concerning my character, and if
their testimony shall not overweigh my supposed guilt, I must be condemned,
although I would pledge my salvation on my innocence.”
Several witnesses were called who had known her for many years, and they
spoke well of her; but fear and hatred of the crime of which they supposed
her guilty rendered them timorous and unwilling to come forward. Elizabeth
saw even this last resource, her excellent dispositions and irreproachable conduct, about to fail the accused, when, although violently agitated, she desired
permission to address the court.
“I am,” said she, “the cousin of the unhappy child who was murdered, or rather
his sister, for I was educated by and have lived with his parents ever since and
even long before his birth. It may therefore be judged indecent in me to come forward on this occasion, but when I see a fellow creature about to perish
through the cowardice of her pretended friends, I wish to be allowed to speak,
that I may say what I know of her character. I am well acquainted with the accused. I have lived in the same house with her, at one time for five and at another
for nearly two years. During all that period she appeared to me the most amiable and benevolent of human creatures. She nursed Madame Frankenstein,
my aunt, in her last illness, with the greatest affection and care and afterwards
attended her own mother during a tedious illness, in a manner that excited the
admiration of all who knew her, after which she again lived in my uncle’s house, where she was beloved by all the family. She was warmly attached to the
child who is now dead and acted towards him like a most affectionate mother.
For my own part, I do not hesitate to say that, notwithstanding all the evidence
produced against her, I believe and rely on her perfect innocence. She had no
temptation for such an action; as to the bauble on which the chief proof rests, if
she had earnestly desired it, I should have willingly given it to her, so much do
I esteem and value her.”
A murmur of approbation followed Elizabeth’s simple and powerful appeal,
but it was excited by her generous interference, and not in favour of poor Justine, on whom the public indignation was turned with renewed violence, charging her with the blackest ingratitude. She herself wept as Elizabeth spoke, but
she did not answer. My own agitation and anguish was extreme during the
whole trial. I believed in her innocence; I knew it. Could the demon who had (I
did not for a minute doubt) murdered my brother also in his hellish sport have
betrayed the innocent to death and ignominy? I could not sustain the horror
of my situation, and when I perceived that the popular voice and the countehttp://www.idph.net62 IDPH
nances of the judges had already condemned my unhappy victim, I rushed out
of the court in agony. The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was
sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom and would not
forgo their hold.
I passed a night of unmingled wretchedness. In the morning I went to the court;
my lips and throat were parched. I dared not ask the fatal question, but I was
known, and the officer guessed the cause of my visit. The ballots had been
thrown; they were all black, and Justine was condemned.
I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt. I had before experienced sensations of horror, and I have endeavoured to bestow upon them adequate expressions, but words cannot convey an idea of the heart-sickening despair that I then
endured. The person to whom I addressed myself added that Justine had already confessed her guilt. “That evidence,” he observed, “was hardly required
in so glaring a case, but I am glad of it, and, indeed, none of our judges like to
condemn a criminal upon circumstantial evidence, be it ever so decisive.”
This was strange and unexpected intelligence; what could it mean? Had my
eyes deceived me? And was I really as mad as the whole world would believe
me to be if I disclosed the object of my suspicions? I hastened to return home,
and Elizabeth eagerly demanded the result.
“My cousin,” replied I, “it is decided as you may have expected; all judges had
rather that ten innocent should suffer than that one guilty should escape. But
she has confessed.”
This was a dire blow to poor Elizabeth, who had relied with firmness upon
Justine’s innocence. “Alas!” said she. “How shall I ever again believe in human
goodness? Justine, whom I loved and esteemed as my sister, how could she put
on those smiles of innocence only to betray? Her mild eyes seemed incapable
of any severity or guile, and yet she has committed a murder.”
Soon after we heard that the poor victim had expressed a desire to see my cousin. My father wished her not to go but said that he left it to her own judgment
and feelings to decide. “Yes,” said Elizabeth, “I will go, although she is guilty;
and you, Victor, shall accompany me; I cannot go alone.” The idea of this visit
was torture to me, yet I could not refuse. We entered the gloomy prison chamber and beheld Justine sitting on some straw at the farther end; her hands were
manacled, and her head rested on her knees. She rose on seeing us enter, and
when we were left alone with her, she threw herself at the feet of Elizabeth,
weeping bitterly. My cousin wept also.
“Oh, Justine!” said she. “Why did you rob me of my last consolation? I relied on
your innocence, and although I was then very wretched, I was not so miserable
as I am now.”
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“And do you also believe that I am so very, very wicked? Do you also join
with my enemies to crush me, to condemn me as a murderer?” Her voice was
suffocated with sobs.
“Rise, my poor girl,” said Elizabeth; “why do you kneel, if you are innocent?
I am not one of your enemies, I believed you guiltless, notwithstanding every
evidence, until I heard that you had yourself declared your guilt. That report,
you say, is false; and be assured, dear Justine, that nothing can shake my confidence in you for a moment, but your own confession.”
“I did confess, but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain absolution;
but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my other sins. The God
of heaven forgive me! Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged
me; he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the
monster that he said I was. He threatened excommunication and hell fire in my
last moments if I continued obdurate. Dear lady, I had none to support me; all
looked on me as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition. What could I do?
In an evil hour I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable.”
She paused, weeping, and then continued, “I thought with horror, my sweet lady, that you should believe your Justine, whom your blessed aunt had so
highly honoured, and whom you loved, was a creature capable of a crime which
none but the devil himself could have perpetrated. Dear William! dearest blessed child! I soon shall see you again in heaven, where we shall all be happy;
and that consoles me, going as I am to suffer ignominy and death.”
“Oh, Justine! Forgive me for having for one moment distrusted you. Why did
you confess? But do not mourn, dear girl. Do not fear. I will proclaim, I will
prove your innocence. I will melt the stony hearts of your enemies by my tears
and prayers. You shall not die! You, my playfellow, my companion, my sister,
perish on the scaffold! No! No! I never could survive so horrible a misfortune.”
Justine shook her head mournfully. “I do not fear to die,” she said; “that pang
is past. God raises my weakness and gives me courage to endure the worst. I
leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember me and think of me as of one
unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me. Learn from me,
dear lady, to submit in patience to the will of heaven!”
During this conversation I had retired to a corner of the prison room, where I
could conceal the horrid anguish that possessed me. Despair! Who dared talk
of that? The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary
between life and death, felt not, as I did, such deep and bitter agony. I gnashed
my teeth and ground them together, uttering a groan that came from my inmost
soul. Justine started. When she saw who it was, she approached me and said,
“Dear sir, you are very kind to visit me; you, I hope, do not believe that I am
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I could not answer. “No, Justine,” said Elizabeth; “he is more convinced of your
innocence than I was, for even when he heard that you had confessed, he did
not credit it.”
“I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerest gratitude towards
those who think of me with kindness. How sweet is the affection of others to
such a wretch as I am! It removes more than half my misfortune, and I feel as if
I could die in peace now that my innocence is acknowledged by you, dear lady,
and your cousin.”
Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself. She indeed gained
the resignation she desired. But I, the true murderer, felt the never-dying worm
alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation. Elizabeth also
wept and was unhappy, but hers also was the misery of innocence, which, like
a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a while hides but cannot tarnish its
brightness. Anguish and despair had penetrated into the core of my heart; I
bore a hell within me which nothing could extinguish. We stayed several hours
with Justine, and it was with great difficulty that Elizabeth could tear herself
away. “I wish,” cried she, “that I were to die with you; I cannot live in this
world of misery.”
Justine assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty repressed her
bitter tears. She embraced Elizabeth and said in a voice of half-suppressed emotion, “Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; may
heaven, in its bounty, bless and preserve you; may this be the last misfortune
that you will ever suffer! Live, and be happy, and make others so.”
And on the morrow Justine died. Elizabeth’s heart-rending eloquence failed
to move the judges from their settled conviction in the criminality of the saintly
sufferer. My passionate and indignant appeals were lost upon them. And when
I received their cold answers and heard the harsh, unfeeling reasoning of these
men, my purposed avowal died away on my lips. Thus I might proclaim myself
a madman, but not revoke the sentence passed upon my wretched victim. She
perished on the scaffold as a murderess!
From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing! And my father’s woe,
and the desolation of that late so smiling home all was the work of my thriceaccursed hands! Ye weep, unhappy ones, but these are not your last tears!
Again shall you raise the funeral wail, and the sound of your lamentations shall
again and again be heard! Frankenstein, your son, your kinsman, your early,
much-loved friend; he who would spend each vital drop of blood for your sakes, who has no thought nor sense of joy except as it is mirrored also in your
dear countenances, who would fill the air with blessings and spend his life in
serving you–he bids you weep, to shed countless tears; happy beyond his hohttp://www.idph.netIDPH 65
pes, if thus inexorable fate be satisfied, and if the destruction pause before the
peace of the grave have succeeded to your sad torments!
Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as, torn by remorse, horror, and despair, I beheld
those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first
hapless victims to my unhallowed arts.
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Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been
worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and
certainty which follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear. Justine
died, she rested, and I was alive. The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a
weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed
deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself) was yet behind. Yet my heart overflowed with kindness and the
love of virtue. I had begun life with benevolent intentions and thirsted for the
moment when I should put them in practice and make myself useful to my fellow beings. Now all was blasted; instead of that serenity of conscience which
allowed me to look back upon the past with self-satisfaction, and from thence
to gather promise of new hopes, I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt,
which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures such as no language can
This state of mind preyed upon my health, which had perhaps never entirely recovered from the first shock it had sustained. I shunned the face of
man; all sound of joy or complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only
consolation–deep, dark, deathlike solitude.
My father observed with pain the alteration perceptible in my disposition and
habits and endeavoured by arguments deduced from the feelings of his serene
conscience and guiltless life to inspire me with fortitude and awaken in me the
courage to dispel the dark cloud which brooded over me. “Do you think, Victor,” said he, “that I do not suffer also? No one could love a child more than I
loved your brother“–tears came into his eyes as he spoke–”but is it not a duty
to the survivors that we should refrain from augmenting their unhappiness by
an appearance of immoderate grief? It is also a duty owed to yourself, for excessive sorrow prevents improvement or enjoyment, or even the discharge of
daily usefulness, without which no man is fit for society.”
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This advice, although good, was totally inapplicable to my case; I should have
been the first to hide my grief and console my friends if remorse had not mingled its bitterness, and terror its alarm, with my other sensations. Now I could
only answer my father with a look of despair and endeavour to hide myself
from his view.
About this time we retired to our house at Belrive. This change was particularly agreeable to me. The shutting of the gates regularly at ten o’clock and the
impossibility of remaining on the lake after that hour had rendered our residence within the walls of Geneva very irksome to me. I was now free. Often,
after the rest of the family had retired for the night, I took the boat and passed
many hours upon the water. Sometimes, with my sails set, I was carried by the
wind; and sometimes, after rowing into the middle of the lake, I left the boat
to pursue its own course and gave way to my own miserable reflections. I was
often tempted, when all was at peace around me, and I the only unquiet thing
that wandered restless in a scene so beautiful and heavenly–if I except some
bat, or the frogs, whose harsh and interrupted croaking was heard only when I
approached the shore–often, I say, I was tempted to plunge into the silent lake,
that the waters might close over me and my calamities forever. But I was restrained, when I thought of the heroic and suffering Elizabeth, whom I tenderly
loved, and whose existence was bound up in mine. I thought also of my father
and surviving brother; should I by my base desertion leave them exposed and
unprotected to the malice of the fiend whom I had let loose among them?
At these moments I wept bitterly and wished that peace would revisit my mind
only that I might afford them consolation and happiness. But that could not be.
Remorse extinguished every hope. I had been the author of unalterable evils,
and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness. I had an obscure feeling that all was not over and
that he would still commit some signal crime, which by its enormity should almost efface the recollection of the past. There was always scope for fear so long
as anything I loved remained behind. My abhorrence of this fiend cannot be
conceived. When I thought of him I gnashed my teeth, my eyes became inflamed, and I ardently wished to extinguish that life which I had so thoughtlessly
bestowed. When I reflected on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge
burst all bounds of moderation. I would have made a pilgrimage to the highest
peak of the Andes, could I when there have precipitated him to their base. I
wished to see him again, that I might wreak the utmost extent of abhorrence
on his head and avenge the deaths of William and Justine. Our house was the
house of mourning. My father’s health was deeply shaken by the horror of the
recent events. Elizabeth was sad and desponding; she no longer took delight in
her ordinary occupations; all pleasure seemed to her sacrilege toward the dead; eternal woe and tears she then thought was the just tribute she should pay
to innocence so blasted and destroyed. She was no longer that happy creature
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who in earlier youth wandered with me on the banks of the lake and talked
with ecstasy of our future prospects. The first of those sorrows which are sent
to wean us from the earth had visited her, and its dimming influence quenched
her dearest smiles.
“When I reflect, my dear cousin,” said she, “on the miserable death of Justine
Moritz, I no longer see the world and its works as they before appeared to me.
Before, I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice that I read in books or
heard from others as tales of ancient days or imaginary evils; at least they were
remote and more familiar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery
has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other’s
blood. Yet I am certainly unjust. Everybody believed that poor girl to be guilty;
and if she could have committed the crime for which she suffered, assuredly she
would have been the most depraved of human creatures. For the sake of a few
jewels, to have murdered the son of her benefactor and friend, a child whom
she had nursed from its birth, and appeared to love as if it had been her own!
I could not consent to the death of any human being, but certainly I should
have thought such a creature unfit to remain in the society of men. But she was
innocent. I know, I feel she was innocent; you are of the same opinion, and
that confirms me. Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the truth, who
can assure themselves of certain happiness? I feel as if I were walking on the
edge of a precipice, towards which thousands are crowding and endeavouring
to plunge me into the abyss. William and Justine were assassinated, and the
murderer escapes; he walks about the world free, and perhaps respected. But
even if I were condemned to suffer on the scaffold for the same crimes, I would
not change places with such a wretch.”
I listened to this discourse with the extremest agony. I, not in deed, but in effect,
was the true murderer. Elizabeth read my anguish in my countenance, and kindly taking my hand, said, “My dearest friend, you must calm yourself. These
events have affected me, God knows how deeply; but I am not so wretched as
you are. There is an expression of despair, and sometimes of revenge, in your
countenance that makes me tremble. Dear Victor, banish these dark passions.
Remember the friends around you, who centre all their hopes in you. Have we
lost the power of rendering you happy? Ah! While we love, while we are true
to each other, here in this land of peace and beauty, your native country, we
may reap every tranquil blessing–what can disturb our peace?”
And could not such words from her whom I fondly prized before every other
gift of fortune suffice to chase away the fiend that lurked in my heart? Even
as she spoke I drew near to her, as if in terror, lest at that very moment the
destroyer had been near to rob me of her.
Thus not the tenderness of friendship, nor the beauty of earth, nor of heaven,
could redeem my soul from woe; the very accents of love were ineffectual. I
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was encompassed by a cloud which no beneficial influence could penetrate.
The wounded deer dragging its fainting limbs to some untrodden brake, there
to gaze upon the arrow which had pierced it, and to die, was but a type of me.
Sometimes I could cope with the sullen despair that overwhelmed me, but sometimes the whirlwind passions of my soul drove me to seek, by bodily exercise and by change of place, some relief from my intolerable sensations. It was
during an access of this kind that I suddenly left my home, and bending my
steps towards the near Alpine valleys, sought in the magnificence, the eternity
of such scenes, to forget myself and my ephemeral, because human, sorrows.
My wanderings were directed towards the valley of Chamounix. I had visited it
frequently during my boyhood. Six years had passed since then: I was a wreck,
but nought had changed in those savage and enduring scenes.
I performed the first part of my journey on horseback. I afterwards hired a mule, as the more sure-footed and least liable to receive injury on these rugged
roads. The weather was fine; it was about the middle of the month of August,
nearly two months after the death of Justine, that miserable epoch from which I dated all my woe. The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened as
I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve. The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me on every side, the sound of the river raging among
the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around spoke of a power mighty
as Omnipotence–and I ceased to fear or to bend before any being less almighty
than that which had created and ruled the elements, here displayed in their
most terrific guise. Still, as I ascended higher, the valley assumed a more magnificent and astonishing character. Ruined castles hanging on the precipices of
piny mountains, the impetuous Arve, and cottages every here and there peeping forth from among the trees formed a scene of singular beauty. But it was
augmented and rendered sublime by the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all, as belonging to another earth, the
habitations of another race of beings.
I passed the bridge of Pelissier, where the ravine, which the river forms, opened
before me, and I began to ascend the mountain that overhangs it. Soon after, I
entered the valley of Chamounix. This valley is more wonderful and sublime,
but not so beautiful and picturesque as that of Servox, through which I had just
passed. The high and snowy mountains were its immediate boundaries, but
I saw no more ruined castles and fertile fields. Immense glaciers approached
the road; I heard the rumbling thunder of the falling avalanche and marked the
smoke of its passage. Mont Blanc, the supreme and magnificent Mont Blanc,
raised itself from the surrounding aiguilles, and its tremendous dome overlooked the valley.
A tingling long-lost sense of pleasure often came across me during this journey.
Some turn in the road, some new object suddenly perceived and recognized, rehttp://www.idph.netIDPH 71
minded me of days gone by, and were associated with the lighthearted gaiety of
boyhood. The very winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal Nature
bade me weep no more. Then again the kindly influence ceased to act–I found
myself fettered again to grief and indulging in all the misery of reflection. Then
I spurred on my animal, striving so to forget the world, my fears, and more
than all, myself–or, in a more desperate fashion, I alighted and threw myself on
the grass, weighed down by horror and despair.
At length I arrived at the village of Chamounix. Exhaustion succeeded to the
extreme fatigue both of body and of mind which I had endured. For a short space of time I remained at the window watching the pallid lightnings that played
above Mont Blanc and listening to the rushing of the Arve, which pursued its
noisy way beneath. The same lulling sounds acted as a lullaby to my too keen
sensations; when I placed my head upon my pillow, sleep crept over me; I felt
it as it came and blessed the giver of oblivion.
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I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood beside the sources
of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides
of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few
shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious
presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken only by the brawling waves or
the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche or the cracking, reverberated along the mountains, of the accumulated ice, which, through
the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if
it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They
elevated me from all littleness of feeling, and although they did not remove my
grief, they subdued and tranquillized it. In some degree, also, they diverted
my mind from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month. I
retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were, waited on and ministered to
by the assemblance of grand shapes which I had contemplated during the day.
They congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountaintop, the glittering
pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine, the eagle, soaring amidst the
clouds–they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace.
Where had they fled when the next morning I awoke? All of soul- inspiriting
fled with sleep, and dark melancholy clouded every thought. The rain was
pouring in torrents, and thick mists hid the summits of the mountains, so that
I even saw not the faces of those mighty friends. Still I would penetrate their
misty veil and seek them in their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to
me? My mule was brought to the door, and I resolved to ascend to the summit
of Montanvert. I remembered the effect that the view of the tremendous and
ever-moving glacier had produced upon my mind when I first saw it. It had
then filled me with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul and allowed
it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy. The sight of the awful and
majestic in nature had indeed always the effect of solemnizing my mind and
causing me to forget the passing cares of life. I determined to go without a
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guide, for I was well acquainted with the path, and the presence of another
would destroy the solitary grandeur of the scene.
The ascent is precipitous, but the path is cut into continual and short windings,
which enable you to surmount the perpendicularity of the mountain. It is a scene terrifically desolate. In a thousand spots the traces of the winter avalanche
may be perceived, where trees lie broken and strewed on the ground, some entirely destroyed, others bent, leaning upon the jutting rocks of the mountain or
transversely upon other trees. The path, as you ascend higher, is intersected by
ravines of snow, down which stones continually roll from above; one of them is
particularly dangerous, as the slightest sound, such as even speaking in a loud
voice, produces a concussion of air sufficient to draw destruction upon the head
of the speaker. The pines are not tall or luxuriant, but they are sombre and add
an air of severity to the scene. I looked on the valley beneath; vast mists were
rising from the rivers which ran through it and curling in thick wreaths around
the opposite mountains, whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while
rain poured from the dark sky and added to the melancholy impression I received from the objects around me. Alas! Why does man boast of sensibilities
superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them more necessary
beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, and desire, we might
be nearly free; but now we are moved by every wind that blows and a chance
word or scene that that word may convey to us.
We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep. We rise; one wand’ring thought
pollutes the day. We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep, Embrace fond
woe, or cast our cares away; It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow, The path of
its departure still is free. Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow; Nought
may endure but mutability!
It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some time I sat
upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered both that and the
surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a
troubled sea, descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field
of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it.
The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I now
stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above
it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing
on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather the vast river of ice,
wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial summits hung over its
recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds.
My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy;
I exclaimed, “Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your
narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion,
away from the joys of life.”
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As I said this I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the crevices in the
ice, among which I had walked with caution; his stature, also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that of man. I was troubled; a mist came over my eyes,
and I felt a faintness seize me, but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of
the mountains. I perceived, as the shape came nearer (sight tremendous and
abhorred!) that it was the wretch whom I had created. I trembled with rage and
horror, resolving to wait his approach and then close with him in mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish, combined with
disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely observed this; rage and hatred had at first
deprived me of utterance, and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words
expressive of furious detestation and contempt.
“Devil,” I exclaimed, “do you dare approach me? And do not you fear the fierce
vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head? Begone, vile insect! Or
rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust! And, oh! That I could, with the
extinction of your miserable existence, restore those victims whom you have so
diabolically murdered!”
“I expected this reception,” said the daemon. “All men hate the wretched; how,
then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my
creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only
dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare
you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards
you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave
them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it
be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.”
“Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too mild a
vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently
My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings
which can arm one being against the existence of another.
He easily eluded me and said,
“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on
my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my
misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to
me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than
thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not
be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will
be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform
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thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every
other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency
and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be
thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no
misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded.
I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I
shall again be virtuous.”
“Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me;
we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, in which one must
“How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eye
upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion? Believe me,
Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but
am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I
gather from your fellow creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate
me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered
here many days; the caves of ice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to
me, and the only one which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for
they are kinder to me than your fellow beings. If the multitude of mankind
knew of my existence, they would do as you do, and arm themselves for my
destruction. Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep no terms
with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share my wretchedness. Yet
it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it
only remains for you to make so great, that not only you and your family, but
thousands of others, shall be swallowed up in the whirlwinds of its rage. Let
your compassion be moved, and do not disdain me. Listen to my tale; when
you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I
deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they
are, to speak in their own defence before they are condemned. Listen to me,
Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied
conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!
Yet I ask you not to spare me; listen to me, and then, if you can, and if you will,
destroy the work of your hands.”
“Why do you call to my remembrance,” I rejoined, “circumstances of which I
shudder to reflect, that I have been the miserable origin and author? Cursed be
the day, abhorred devil, in which you first saw light! Cursed (although I curse
myself) be the hands that formed you! You have made me wretched beyond
expression. You have left me no power to consider whether I am just to you or
not. Begone! Relieve me from the sight of your detested form.”
“Thus I relieve thee, my creator,” he said, and placed his hated hands before
my eyes, which I flung from me with violence; “thus I take from thee a sight
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which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me and grant me thy compassion.
By the virtues that I once possessed, I demand this from you. Hear my tale;
it is long and strange, and the temperature of this place is not fitting to your
fine sensations; come to the hut upon the mountain. The sun is yet high in
the heavens; before it descends to hide itself behind your snowy precipices and
illuminate another world, you will have heard my story and can decide. On you
it rests, whether I quit forever the neighbourhood of man and lead a harmless
life, or become the scourge of your fellow creatures and the author of your own
speedy ruin.”
As he said this he led the way across the ice; I followed. My heart was full, and
I did not answer him, but as I proceeded, I weighed the various arguments that
he had used and determined at least to listen to his tale. I was partly urged by
curiosity, and compassion confirmed my resolution. I had hitherto supposed
him to be the murderer of my brother, and I eagerly sought a confirmation or
denial of this opinion. For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before
I complained of his wickedness. These motives urged me to comply with his
demand. We crossed the ice, therefore, and ascended the opposite rock. The
air was cold, and the rain again began to descend; we entered the hut, the fiend with an air of exultation, I with a heavy heart and depressed spirits. But I
consented to listen, and seating myself by the fire which my odious companion
had lighted, he thus began his tale.
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“It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being;
all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct. A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same
time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish between
the operations of my various senses. By degrees, I remember, a stronger light
pressed upon my nerves, so that I was obliged to shut my eyes. Darkness then
came over me and troubled me, but hardly had I felt this when, by opening
my eyes, as I now suppose, the light poured in upon me again. I walked and,
I believe, descended, but I presently found a great alteration in my sensations.
Before, dark and opaque bodies had surrounded me, impervious to my touch
or sight; but I now found that I could wander on at liberty, with no obstacles
which I could not either surmount or avoid. The light became more and more
oppressive to me, and the heat wearying me as I walked, I sought a place where
I could receive shade. This was the forest near Ingolstadt; and here I lay by the
side of a brook resting from my fatigue, until I felt tormented by hunger and
thirst. This roused me from my nearly dormant state, and I ate some berries
which I found hanging on the trees or lying on the ground. I slaked my thirst
at the brook, and then lying down, was overcome by sleep.
“It was dark when I awoke; I felt cold also, and half frightened, as it were, instinctively, finding myself so desolate. Before I had quitted your apartment, on
a sensation of cold, I had covered myself with some clothes, but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews of night. I was a poor, helpless, miserable
wretch; I knew, and could distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on
all sides, I sat down and wept.
“Soon a gentle light stole over the heavens and gave me a sensation of pleasure.
I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. [The moon]
I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path,
and I again went out in search of berries. I was still cold when under one of the
trees I found a huge cloak, with which I covered myself, and sat down upon the
ground. No distinct ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light, and
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hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rang in my ears, and on
all sides various scents saluted me; the only object that I could distinguish was
the bright moon, and I fixed my eyes on that with pleasure.
“Several changes of day and night passed, and the orb of night had greatly
lessened, when I began to distinguish my sensations from each other. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream that supplied me with drink and the trees
that shaded me with their foliage. I was delighted when I first discovered that
a pleasant sound, which often saluted my ears, proceeded from the throats of
the little winged animals who had often intercepted the light from my eyes.
I began also to observe, with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me
and to perceive the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me.
Sometimes I tried to imitate the pleasant songs of the birds but was unable. Sometimes I wished to express my sensations in my own mode, but the uncouth
and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me into silence again.
“The moon had disappeared from the night, and again, with a lessened form,
showed itself, while I still remained in the forest. My sensations had by this
time become distinct, and my mind received every day additional ideas. My
eyes became accustomed to the light and to perceive objects in their right forms;
I distinguished the insect from the herb, and by degrees, one herb from another.
I found that the sparrow uttered none but harsh notes, whilst those of the blackbird and thrush were sweet and enticing.
“One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left
by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I
experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly
drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same
cause should produce such opposite effects! I examined the materials of the
fire, and to my joy found it to be composed of wood. I quickly collected some
branches, but they were wet and would not burn. I was pained at this and sat
still watching the operation of the fire. The wet wood which I had placed near
the heat dried and itself became inflamed. I reflected on this, and by touching
the various branches, I discovered the cause and busied myself in collecting a
great quantity of wood, that I might dry it and have a plentiful supply of fire.
When night came on and brought sleep with it, I was in the greatest fear lest my
fire should be extinguished. I covered it carefully with dry wood and leaves and
placed wet branches upon it; and then, spreading my cloak, I lay on the ground
and sank into sleep.
“It was morning when I awoke, and my first care was to visit the fire. I uncovered it, and a gentle breeze quickly fanned it into a flame. I observed this
also and contrived a fan of branches, which roused the embers when they were
nearly extinguished. When night came again I found, with pleasure, that the
fire gave light as well as heat and that the discovery of this element was useful
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to me in my food, for I found some of the offals that the travellers had left had
been roasted, and tasted much more savoury than the berries I gathered from
the trees. I tried, therefore, to dress my food in the same manner, placing it on
the live embers. I found that the berries were spoiled by this operation, and the
nuts and roots much improved.
“Food, however, became scarce, and I often spent the whole day searching in
vain for a few acorns to assuage the pangs of hunger. When I found this, I resolved to quit the place that I had hitherto inhabited, to seek for one where the
few wants I experienced would be more easily satisfied. In this emigration I
exceedingly lamented the loss of the fire which I had obtained through accident
and knew not how to reproduce it. I gave several hours to the serious consideration of this difficulty, but I was obliged to relinquish all attempt to supply
it, and wrapping myself up in my cloak, I struck across the wood towards the
setting sun. I passed three days in these rambles and at length discovered the
open country. A great fall of snow had taken place the night before, and the
fields were of one uniform white; the appearance was disconsolate, and I found
my feet chilled by the cold damp substance that covered the ground.
“It was about seven in the morning, and I longed to obtain food and shelter; at
length I perceived a small hut, on a rising ground, which had doubtless been
built for the convenience of some shepherd. This was a new sight to me, and I
examined the structure with great curiosity. Finding the door open, I entered.
An old man sat in it, near a fire, over which he was preparing his breakfast.
He turned on hearing a noise, and perceiving me, shrieked loudly, and quitting
the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly
appeared capable. His appearance, different from any I had ever before seen,
and his flight somewhat surprised me. But I was enchanted by the appearance
of the hut; here the snow and rain could not penetrate; the ground was dry;
and it presented to me then as exquisite and divine a retreat as Pandemonium
appeared to the demons of hell after their sufferings in the lake of fire. I greedily
devoured the remnants of the shepherd’s breakfast, which consisted of bread,
cheese, milk, and wine; the latter, however, I did not like. Then, overcome by
fatigue, I lay down among some straw and fell asleep.
“It was noon when I awoke, and allured by the warmth of the sun, which shone
brightly on the white ground, I determined to recommence my travels; and, depositing the remains of the peasant’s breakfast in a wallet I found, I proceeded
across the fields for several hours, until at sunset I arrived at a village. How
miraculous did this appear! The huts, the neater cottages, and stately houses
engaged my admiration by turns. The vegetables in the gardens, the milk and
cheese that I saw placed at the windows of some of the cottages, allured my
appetite. One of the best of these I entered, but I had hardly placed my foot
within the door before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted.
The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously
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bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped to the
open country and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel, quite bare, and making
a wretched appearance after the palaces I had beheld in the village. This hovel
however, joined a cottage of a neat and pleasant appearance, but after my late
dearly bought experience, I dared not enter it. My place of refuge was constructed of wood, but so low that I could with difficulty sit upright in it. No wood,
however, was placed on the earth, which formed the floor, but it was dry; and
although the wind entered it by innumerable chinks, I found it an agreeable
asylum from the snow and rain.
“Here, then, I retreated and lay down happy to have found a shelter, however
miserable, from the inclemency of the season, and still more from the barbarity
of man. As soon as morning dawned I crept from my kennel, that I might
view the adjacent cottage and discover if I could remain in the habitation I had
found. It was situated against the back of the cottage and surrounded on the
sides which were exposed by a pig sty and a clear pool of water. One part was
open, and by that I had crept in; but now I covered every crevice by which I
might be perceived with stones and wood, yet in such a manner that I might
move them on occasion to pass out; all the light I enjoyed came through the sty,
and that was sufficient for me.
“Having thus arranged my dwelling and carpeted it with clean straw, I retired, for I saw the figure of a man at a distance, and I remembered too well my
treatment the night before to trust myself in his power. I had first, however,
provided for my sustenance for that day by a loaf of coarse bread, which I purloined, and a cup with which I could drink more conveniently than from my
hand of the pure water which flowed by my retreat. The floor was a little raised, so that it was kept perfectly dry, and by its vicinity to the chimney of the
cottage it was tolerably warm.
“Being thus provided, I resolved to reside in this hovel until something should
occur which might alter my determination. It was indeed a paradise compared
to the bleak forest, my former residence, the rain-dropping branches, and dank
earth. I ate my breakfast with pleasure and was about to remove a plank to
procure myself a little water when I heard a step, and looking through a small
chink, I beheld a young creature, with a pail on her head, passing before my
hovel. The girl was young and of gentle demeanour, unlike what I have since
found cottagers and farmhouse servants to be. Yet she was meanly dressed, a
coarse blue petticoat and a linen jacket being her only garb; her fair hair was
plaited but not adorned: she looked patient yet sad. I lost sight of her, and in
about a quarter of an hour she returned bearing the pail, which was now partly
filled with milk. As she walked along, seemingly incommoded by the burden, a
young man met her, whose countenance expressed a deeper despondence. Uttering a few sounds with an air of melancholy, he took the pail from her head
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sently I saw the young man again, with some tools in his hand, cross the field
behind the cottage; and the girl was also busied, sometimes in the house and
sometimes in the yard. “On examining my dwelling, I found that one of the
windows of the cottage had formerly occupied a part of it, but the panes had
been filled up with wood. In one of these was a small and almost imperceptible chink through which the eye could just penetrate. Through this crevice a
small room was visible, whitewashed and clean but very bare of furniture. In
one corner, near a small fire, sat an old man, leaning his head on his hands in
a disconsolate attitude. The young girl was occupied in arranging the cottage;
but presently she took something out of a drawer, which employed her hands,
and she sat down beside the old man, who, taking up an instrument, began to
play and to produce sounds sweeter than the voice of the thrush or the nightingale. It was a lovely sight, even to me, poor wretch who had never beheld
aught beautiful before. The silver hair and benevolent countenance of the aged
cottager won my reverence, while the gentle manners of the girl enticed my love. He played a sweet mournful air which I perceived drew tears from the eyes
of his amiable companion, of which the old man took no notice, until she sobbed audibly; he then pronounced a few sounds, and the fair creature, leaving
her work, knelt at his feet. He raised her and smiled with such kindness and
affection that I felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature; they were
a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either
from hunger or cold, warmth or food; and I withdrew from the window, unable
to bear these emotions.
“Soon after this the young man returned, bearing on his shoulders a load of
wood. The girl met him at the door, helped to relieve him of his burden, and
taking some of the fuel into the cottage, placed it on the fire; then she and the
youth went apart into a nook of the cottage, and he showed her a large loaf and
a piece of cheese. She seemed pleased and went into the garden for some roots
and plants, which she placed in water, and then upon the fire. She afterwards
continued her work, whilst the young man went into the garden and appeared
busily employed in digging and pulling up roots. After he had been employed
thus about an hour, the young woman joined him and they entered the cottage
“The old man had, in the meantime, been pensive, but on the appearance of his
companions he assumed a more cheerful air, and they sat down to eat. The meal
was quickly dispatched. The young woman was again occupied in arranging
the cottage, the old man walked before the cottage in the sun for a few minutes,
leaning on the arm of the youth. Nothing could exceed in beauty the contrast
between these two excellent creatures. One was old, with silver hairs and a
countenance beaming with benevolence and love; the younger was slight and
graceful in his figure, and his features were moulded with the finest symmetry,
yet his eyes and attitude expressed the utmost sadness and despondency. The
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old man returned to the cottage, and the youth, with tools different from those
he had used in the morning, directed his steps across the fields.
“Night quickly shut in, but to my extreme wonder, I found that the cottagers
had a means of prolonging light by the use of tapers, and was delighted to find
that the setting of the sun did not put an end to the pleasure I experienced in
watching my human neighbours. In the evening the young girl and her companion were employed in various occupations which I did not understand; and
the old man again took up the instrument which produced the divine sounds
that had enchanted me in the morning. So soon as he had finished, the youth
began, not to play, but to utter sounds that were monotonous, and neither resembling the harmony of the old man’s instrument nor the songs of the birds; I
since found that he read aloud, but at that time I knew nothing of the science of
words or letters.
“The family, after having been thus occupied for a short time, extinguished their
lights and retired, as I conjectured, to rest.”
“I lay on my straw, but I could not sleep. I thought of the occurrences of the
day. What chiefly struck me was the gentle manners of these people, and I
longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had
suffered the night before from the barbarous villagers, and resolved, whatever
course of conduct I might hereafter think it right to pursue, that for the present
I would remain quietly in my hovel, watching and endeavouring to discover
the motives which influenced their actions.
“The cottagers arose the next morning before the sun. The young woman arranged the cottage and prepared the food, and the youth departed after the first
“This day was passed in the same routine as that which preceded it. The young
man was constantly employed out of doors, and the girl in various laborious occupations within. The old man, whom I soon perceived to be blind, employed
his leisure hours on his instrument or in contemplation. Nothing could exceed
the love and respect which the younger cottagers exhibited towards their venerable companion. They performed towards him every little office of affection
and duty with gentleness, and he rewarded them by his benevolent smiles.
“They were not entirely happy. The young man and his companion often went
apart and appeared to weep. I saw no cause for their unhappiness, but I was
deeply affected by it. If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange
that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. Yet why were these
gentle beings unhappy? They possessed a delightful house (for such it was in
my eyes) and every luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill and delicious viands when hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more,
they enjoyed one another’s company and speech, interchanging each day looks
of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did they really express
pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions, but perpetual attention and
time explained to me many appearances which were at first enigmatic.
“A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of the une-
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asiness of this amiable family: it was poverty, and they suffered that evil in a
very distressing degree. Their nourishment consisted entirely of the vegetables
of their garden and the milk of one cow, which gave very little during the winter, when its masters could scarcely procure food to support it. They often, I
believe, suffered the pangs of hunger very poignantly, especially the two younger cottagers, for several times they placed food before the old man when they
reserved none for themselves.
“This trait of kindness moved me sensibly. I had been accustomed, during the
night, to steal a part of their store for my own consumption, but when I found
that in doing this I inflicted pain on the cottagers, I abstained and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and roots which I gathered from a neighbouring wood.
“I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their
labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day in collecting wood
for the family fire, and during the night I often took his tools, the use of which I
quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of
several days.
“I remember, the first time that I did this, the young woman, when she opened
the door in the morning, appeared greatly astonished on seeing a great pile of
wood on the outside. She uttered some words in a loud voice, and the youth
joined her, who also expressed surprise. I observed, with pleasure, that he did
not go to the forest that day, but spent it in repairing the cottage and cultivating
the garden.
“By degrees I made a discovery of still greater moment. I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings to one
another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes
produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances
of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to
become acquainted with it. But I was baffled in every attempt I made for this
purpose. Their pronunciation was quick, and the words they uttered, not having any apparent connection with visible objects, I was unable to discover any
clue by which I could unravel the mystery of their reference. By great application, however, and after having remained during the space of several revolutions
of the moon in my hovel, I discovered the names that were given to some of
the most familiar objects of discourse; I learned and applied the words, ‘fire,’
‘milk,’ ‘bread,’ and ‘wood.’ I learned also the names of the cottagers themselves. The youth and his companion had each of them several names, but the old
man had only one, which was ‘father.’ The girl was called ‘sister’ or ‘Agatha,’
and the youth ‘Felix,’ ‘brother,’ or ‘son.’ I cannot describe the delight I felt when
I learned the ideas appropriated to each of these sounds and was able to pronounce them. I distinguished several other words without being able as yet to
understand or apply them, such as ‘good,’ ‘dearest,’ ‘unhappy.’
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“I spent the winter in this manner. The gentle manners and beauty of the cottagers greatly endeared them to me; when they were unhappy, I felt depressed;
when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys. I saw few human beings besides them, and if any other happened to enter the cottage, their harsh manners
and rude gait only enhanced to me the superior accomplishments of my friends.
The old man, I could perceive, often endeavoured to encourage his children, as
sometimes I found that he called them, to cast off their melancholy. He would
talk in a cheerful accent, with an expression of goodness that bestowed pleasure even upon me. Agatha listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filled with
tears, which she endeavoured to wipe away unperceived; but I generally found
that her countenance and tone were more cheerful after having listened to the
exhortations of her father. It was not thus with Felix. He was always the saddest
of the group, and even to my unpractised senses, he appeared to have suffered
more deeply than his friends. But if his countenance was more sorrowful, his
voice was more cheerful than that of his sister, especially when he addressed
the old man.
“I could mention innumerable instances which, although slight, marked the
dispositions of these amiable cottagers. In the midst of poverty and want, Felix
carried with pleasure to his sister the first little white flower that peeped out
from beneath the snowy ground. Early in the morning, before she had risen, he
cleared away the snow that obstructed her path to the milk-house, drew water
from the well, and brought the wood from the outhouse, where, to his perpetual
astonishment, he found his store always replenished by an invisible hand. In
the day, I believe, he worked sometimes for a neighbouring farmer, because he
often went forth and did not return until dinner, yet brought no wood with him.
At other times he worked in the garden, but as there was little to do in the frosty
season, he read to the old man and Agatha.
“This reading had puzzled me extremely at first, but by degrees I discovered
that he uttered many of the same sounds when he read as when he talked. I
conjectured, therefore, that he found on the paper signs for speech which he
understood, and I ardently longed to comprehend these also; but how was that
possible when I did not even understand the sounds for which they stood as
signs? I improved, however, sensibly in this science, but not sufficiently to
follow up any kind of conversation, although I applied my whole mind to the
endeavour, for I easily perceived that, although I eagerly longed to discover
myself to the cottagers, I ought not to make the attempt until I had first become
master of their language, which knowledge might enable me to make them
overlook the deformity of my figure, for with this also the contrast perpetually
presented to my eyes had made me acquainted.
“I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers–their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions; but how was I terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent
pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was rehttp://www.idph.net88 IDPH
flected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the
monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and
mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable
“As the sun became warmer and the light of day longer, the snow vanished,
and I beheld the bare trees and the black earth. From this time Felix was more
employed, and the heart-moving indications of impending famine disappeared. Their food, as I afterwards found, was coarse, but it was wholesome; and
they procured a sufficiency of it. Several new kinds of plants sprang up in the
garden, which they dressed; and these signs of comfort increased daily as the
season advanced.
“The old man, leaning on his son, walked each day at noon, when it did not
rain, as I found it was called when the heavens poured forth its waters. This
frequently took place, but a high wind quickly dried the earth, and the season
became far more pleasant than it had been.
“My mode of life in my hovel was uniform. During the morning I attended the
motions of the cottagers, and when they were dispersed in various occupations,
I slept; the remainder of the day was spent in observing my friends. When they
had retired to rest, if there was any moon or the night was star-light, I went
into the woods and collected my own food and fuel for the cottage. When I
returned, as often as it was necessary, I cleared their path from the snow and
performed those offices that I had seen done by Felix. I afterwards found that
these labours, performed by an invisible hand, greatly astonished them; and
once or twice I heard them, on these occasions, utter the words ‘good spirit,’
‘wonderful’; but I did not then understand the signification of these terms.
“My thoughts now became more active, and I longed to discover the motives
and feelings of these lovely creatures; I was inquisitive to know why Felix appeared so miserable and Agatha so sad. I thought (foolish wretch!) that it might
be in my power to restore happiness to these deserving people. When I slept
or was absent, the forms of the venerable blind father, the gentle Agatha, and
the excellent Felix flitted before me. I looked upon them as superior beings
who would be the arbiters of my future destiny. I formed in my imagination
a thousand pictures of presenting myself to them, and their reception of me.
I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanour and
conciliating words, I should first win their favour and afterwards their love.
“These thoughts exhilarated me and led me to apply with fresh ardour to the
acquiring the art of language. My organs were indeed harsh, but supple; and
although my voice was very unlike the soft music of their tones, yet I pronounced such words as I understood with tolerable ease. It was as the ass and the
lap-dog; yet surely the gentle ass whose intentions were affectionate, although
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his manners were rude, deserved better treatment than blows and execration.
“The pleasant showers and genial warmth of spring greatly altered the aspect
of the earth. Men who before this change seemed to have been hid in caves
dispersed themselves and were employed in various arts of cultivation. The
birds sang in more cheerful notes, and the leaves began to bud forth on the trees.
Happy, happy earth! Fit habitation for gods, which, so short a time before, was
bleak, damp, and unwholesome. My spirits were elevated by the enchanting
appearance of nature; the past was blotted from my memory, the present was
tranquil, and the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipations of joy.”
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“I now hasten to the more moving part of my story. I shall relate events that
impressed me with feelings which, from what I had been, have made me what
I am.
“Spring advanced rapidly; the weather became fine and the skies cloudless. It
surprised me that what before was desert and gloomy should now bloom with
the most beautiful flowers and verdure. My senses were gratified and refreshed
by a thousand scents of delight and a thousand sights of beauty.
“It was on one of these days, when my cottagers periodically rested from
labour–the old man played on his guitar, and the children listened to him–
that I observed the countenance of Felix was melancholy beyond expression;
he sighed frequently, and once his father paused in his music, and I conjectured
by his manner that he inquired the cause of his son’s sorrow. Felix replied in a
cheerful accent, and the old man was recommencing his music when someone
tapped at the door.
“It was a lady on horseback, accompanied by a country-man as a guide. The
lady was dressed in a dark suit and covered with a thick black veil. Agatha
asked a question, to which the stranger only replied by pronouncing, in a sweet
accent, the name of Felix. Her voice was musical but unlike that of either of my
friends. On hearing this word, Felix came up hastily to the lady, who, when she
saw him, threw up her veil, and I beheld a countenance of angelic beauty and
expression. Her hair of a shining raven black, and curiously braided; her eyes
were dark, but gentle, although animated; her features of a regular proportion,
and her complexion wondrously fair, each cheek tinged with a lovely pink.
“Felix seemed ravished with delight when he saw her, every trait of sorrow
vanished from his face, and it instantly expressed a degree of ecstatic joy, of
which I could hardly have believed it capable; his eyes sparkled, as his cheek
flushed with pleasure; and at that moment I thought him as beautiful as the
stranger. She appeared affected by different feelings; wiping a few tears from
her lovely eyes, she held out her hand to Felix, who kissed it rapturously and
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called her, as well as I could distinguish, his sweet Arabian. She did not appear
to understand him, but smiled. He assisted her to dismount, and dismissing her
guide, conducted her into the cottage. Some conversation took place between
him and his father, and the young stranger knelt at the old man’s feet and would
have kissed his hand, but he raised her and embraced her affectionately.
“I soon perceived that although the stranger uttered articulate sounds and appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understood by nor herself understood the cottagers. They made many signs which I did not comprehend, but I saw that her presence diffused gladness through the cottage,
dispelling their sorrow as the sun dissipates the morning mists. Felix seemed
peculiarly happy and with smiles of delight welcomed his Arabian. Agatha, the
ever-gentle Agatha, kissed the hands of the lovely stranger, and pointing to her
brother, made signs which appeared to me to mean that he had been sorrowful
until she came. Some hours passed thus, while they, by their countenances, expressed joy, the cause of which I did not comprehend. Presently I found, by the
frequent recurrence of some sound which the stranger repeated after them, that
she was endeavouring to learn their language; and the idea instantly occurred
to me that I should make use of the same instructions to the same end. The
stranger learned about twenty words at the first lesson; most of them, indeed,
were those which I had before understood, but I profited by the others.
“As night came on, Agatha and the Arabian retired early. When they separated
Felix kissed the hand of the stranger and said, ‘Good night sweet Safie.’ He sat
up much longer, conversing with his father, and by the frequent repetition of
her name I conjectured that their lovely guest was the subject of their conversation. I ardently desired to understand them, and bent every faculty towards
that purpose, but found it utterly impossible.
“The next morning Felix went out to his work, and after the usual occupations
of Agatha were finished, the Arabian sat at the feet of the old man, and taking
his guitar, played some airs so entrancingly beautiful that they at once drew
tears of sorrow and delight from my eyes. She sang, and her voice flowed in a
rich cadence, swelling or dying away like a nightingale of the woods.
“When she had finished, she gave the guitar to Agatha, who at first declined
it. She played a simple air, and her voice accompanied it in sweet accents, but
unlike the wondrous strain of the stranger. The old man appeared enraptured
and said some words which Agatha endeavoured to explain to Safie, and by
which he appeared to wish to express that she bestowed on him the greatest
delight by her music.
“The days now passed as peaceably as before, with the sole alteration that joy
had taken place of sadness in the countenances of my friends. Safie was always
gay and happy; she and I improved rapidly in the knowledge of language, so
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that in two months I began to comprehend most of the words uttered by my
“In the meanwhile also the black ground was covered with herbage, and the
green banks interspersed with innumerable flowers, sweet to the scent and the
eyes, stars of pale radiance among the moonlight woods; the sun became warmer, the nights clear and balmy; and my nocturnal rambles were an extreme
pleasure to me, although they were considerably shortened by the late setting
and early rising of the sun, for I never ventured abroad during daylight, fearful
of meeting with the same treatment I had formerly endured in the first village
which I entered.
“My days were spent in close attention, that I might more speedily master the
language; and I may boast that I improved more rapidly than the Arabian, who
understood very little and conversed in broken accents, whilst I comprehended
and could imitate almost every word that was spoken.
“While I improved in speech, I also learned the science of letters as it was taught
to the stranger, and this opened before me a wide field for wonder and delight.
“The book from which Felix instructed Safie was Volney’s Ruins of Empires. I
should not have understood the purport of this book had not Felix, in reading
it, given very minute explanations. He had chosen this work, he said, because
the declamatory style was framed in imitation of the Eastern authors. Through
this work I obtained a cursory knowledge of history and a view of the several
empires at present existing in the world; it gave me an insight into the manners, governments, and religions of the different nations of the earth. I heard of
the slothful Asiatics, of the stupendous genius and mental activity of the Grecians, of the wars and wonderful virtue of the early Romans–of their subsequent
degenerating–of the decline of that mighty empire, of chivalry, Christianity, and
kings. I heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie
over the hapless fate of its original inhabitants.
“These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?
He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil principle and at another as
all that can be conceived of noble and godlike. To be a great and virtuous man
appeared the highest honour that can befall a sensitive being; to be base and
vicious, as many on record have been, appeared the lowest degradation, a condition more abject than that of the blind mole or harmless worm. For a long time
I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even
why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of vice and
bloodshed, my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and loathing.
“Every conversation of the cottagers now opened new wonders to me. While I
listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the Arabian, the stranhttp://www.idph.net94 IDPH
ge system of human society was explained to me. I heard of the division of
property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty, of rank, descent, and noble
“The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that the possessions
most esteemed by your fellow creatures were high and unsullied descent united
with riches. A man might be respected with only one of these advantages, but
without either he was considered, except in very rare instances, as a vagabond
and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few! And
what was I? Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew
that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides,
endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of
the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could subsist upon
coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame;
my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around I saw and heard of none
like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled
and whom all men disowned?
“I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me; I
tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had
forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations
of hunger, thirst, and heat!
“Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock. I wished sometimes to shake off all
thought and feeling, but I learned that there was but one means to overcome
the sensation of pain, and that was death–a state which I feared yet did not
understand. I admired virtue and good feelings and loved the gentle manners
and amiable qualities of my cottagers, but I was shut out from intercourse with
them, except through means which I obtained by stealth, when I was unseen
and unknown, and which rather increased than satisfied the desire I had of becoming one among my fellows. The gentle words of Agatha and the animated
smiles of the charming Arabian were not for me. The mild exhortations of the
old man and the lively conversation of the loved Felix were not for me. Miserable, unhappy wretch!
“Other lessons were impressed upon me even more deeply. I heard of the difference of sexes, and the birth and growth of children, how the father doted on
the smiles of the infant, and the lively sallies of the older child, how all the life
and cares of the mother were wrapped up in the precious charge, how the mind
of youth expanded and gained knowledge, of brother, sister, and all the various
relationships which bind one human being to another in mutual bonds.
“But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant
days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if they had, all my
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past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I distinguished nothing. From
my earliest remembrance I had been as I then was in height and proportion. I
had never yet seen a being resembling me or who claimed any intercourse with
me. What was I? The question again recurred, to be answered only with groans.
“I will soon explain to what these feelings tended, but allow me now to return
to the cottagers, whose story excited in me such various feelings of indignation,
delight, and wonder, but which all terminated in additional love and reverence
for my protectors (for so I loved, in an innocent, half-painful self-deceit, to call
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“Some time elapsed before I learned the history of my friends. It was one which
could not fail to impress itself deeply on my mind, unfolding as it did a number
of circumstances, each interesting and wonderful to one so utterly inexperienced as I was.
“The name of the old man was De Lacey. He was descended from a good family in France, where he had lived for many years in affluence, respected by
his superiors and beloved by his equals. His son was bred in the service of his
country, and Agatha had ranked with ladies of the highest distinction. A few
months before my arrival they had lived in a large and luxurious city called
Paris, surrounded by friends and possessed of every enjoyment which virtue,
refinement of intellect, or taste, accompanied by a moderate fortune, could afford.
“The father of Safie had been the cause of their ruin. He was a Turkish merchant
and had inhabited Paris for many years, when, for some reason which I could
not learn, he became obnoxious to the government. He was seized and cast into
prison the very day that Safie arrived from Constantinople to join him. He was
tried and condemned to death. The injustice of his sentence was very flagrant;
all Paris was indignant; and it was judged that his religion and wealth rather
than the crime alleged against him had been the cause of his condemnation.
“Felix had accidentally been present at the trial; his horror and indignation were uncontrollable when he heard the decision of the court. He made, at that
moment, a solemn vow to deliver him and then looked around for the means. After many fruitless attempts to gain admittance to the prison, he found
a strongly grated window in an unguarded part of the building, which lighted
the dungeon of the unfortunate Muhammadan, who, loaded with chains, waited in despair the execution of the barbarous sentence. Felix visited the grate at
night and made known to the prisoner his intentions in his favour. The Turk,
amazed and delighted, endeavoured to kindle the zeal of his deliverer by promises of reward and wealth. Felix rejected his offers with contempt, yet when
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he saw the lovely Safie, who was allowed to visit her father and who by her
gestures expressed her lively gratitude, the youth could not help owning to his
own mind that the captive possessed a treasure which would fully reward his
toil and hazard.
“The Turk quickly perceived the impression that his daughter had made on the
heart of Felix and endeavoured to secure him more entirely in his interests by
the promise of her hand in marriage so soon as he should be conveyed to a place
of safety. Felix was too delicate to accept this offer, yet he looked forward to the
probability of the event as to the consummation of his happiness.
“During the ensuing days, while the preparations were going forward for the
escape of the merchant, the zeal of Felix was warmed by several letters that he
received from this lovely girl, who found means to express her thoughts in the
language of her lover by the aid of an old man, a servant of her father who
understood French. She thanked him in the most ardent terms for his intended
services towards her parent, and at the same time she gently deplored her own
“I have copies of these letters, for I found means, during my residence in the
hovel, to procure the implements of writing; and the letters were often in the
hands of Felix or Agatha. Before I depart I will give them to you; they will
prove the truth of my tale; but at present, as the sun is already far declined, I
shall only have time to repeat the substance of them to you.
“Safie related that her mother was a Christian Arab, seized and made a slave by
the Turks; recommended by her beauty, she had won the heart of the father of
Safie, who married her. The young girl spoke in high and enthusiastic terms of
her mother, who, born in freedom, spurned the bondage to which she was now
reduced. She instructed her daughter in the tenets of her religion and taught her
to aspire to higher powers of intellect and an independence of spirit forbidden
to the female followers of Muhammad. This lady died, but her lessons were
indelibly impressed on the mind of Safie, who sickened at the prospect of again
returning to Asia and being immured within the walls of a harem, allowed only
to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill-suited to the temper of her soul,
now accustomed to grand ideas and a noble emulation for virtue. The prospect
of marrying a Christian and remaining in a country where women were allowed
to take a rank in society was enchanting to her.
“The day for the execution of the Turk was fixed, but on the night previous to it
he quitted his prison and before morning was distant many leagues from Paris.
Felix had procured passports in the name of his father, sister, and himself. He
had previously communicated his plan to the former, who aided the deceit by
quitting his house, under the pretence of a journey and concealed himself, with
his daughter, in an obscure part of Paris.
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“Felix conducted the fugitives through France to Lyons and across Mont Cenis
to Leghorn, where the merchant had decided to wait a favourable opportunity
of passing into some part of the Turkish dominions.
“Safie resolved to remain with her father until the moment of his departure,
before which time the Turk renewed his promise that she should be united to
his deliverer; and Felix remained with them in expectation of that event; and in
the meantime he enjoyed the society of the Arabian, who exhibited towards him
the simplest and tenderest affection. They conversed with one another through
the means of an interpreter, and sometimes with the interpretation of looks; and
Safie sang to him the divine airs of her native country.
“The Turk allowed this intimacy to take place and encouraged the hopes of the
youthful lovers, while in his heart he had formed far other plans. He loathed
the idea that his daughter should be united to a Christian, but he feared the
resentment of Felix if he should appear lukewarm, for he knew that he was still
in the power of his deliverer if he should choose to betray him to the Italian state
which they inhabited. He revolved a thousand plans by which he should be
enabled to prolong the deceit until it might be no longer necessary, and secretly
to take his daughter with him when he departed. His plans were facilitated by
the news which arrived from Paris.
“The government of France were greatly enraged at the escape of their victim
and spared no pains to detect and punish his deliverer. The plot of Felix was
quickly discovered, and De Lacey and Agatha were thrown into prison. The
news reached Felix and roused him from his dream of pleasure. His blind and
aged father and his gentle sister lay in a noisome dungeon while he enjoyed the
free air and the society of her whom he loved. This idea was torture to him.
He quickly arranged with the Turk that if the latter should find a favourable
opportunity for escape before Felix could return to Italy, Safie should remain
as a boarder at a convent at Leghorn; and then, quitting the lovely Arabian, he
hastened to Paris and delivered himself up to the vengeance of the law, hoping
to free De Lacey and Agatha by this proceeding. “He did not succeed. They
remained confined for five months before the trial took place, the result of which
deprived them of their fortune and condemned them to a perpetual exile from
their native country.
“They found a miserable asylum in the cottage in Germany, where I discovered them. Felix soon learned that the treacherous Turk, for whom he and his
family endured such unheard-of oppression, on discovering that his deliverer
was thus reduced to poverty and ruin, became a traitor to good feeling and
honour and had quitted Italy with his daughter, insultingly sending Felix a pittance of money to aid him, as he said, in some plan of future maintenance.
“Such were the events that preyed on the heart of Felix and rendered him, when
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I first saw him, the most miserable of his family. He could have endured poverty, and while this distress had been the meed of his virtue, he gloried in it;
but the ingratitude of the Turk and the loss of his beloved Safie were misfortunes more bitter and irreparable. The arrival of the Arabian now infused new
life into his soul.
“When the news reached Leghorn that Felix was deprived of his wealth and
rank, the merchant commanded his daughter to think no more of her lover, but
to prepare to return to her native country. The generous nature of Safie was
outraged by this command; she attempted to expostulate with her father, but
he left her angrily, reiterating his tyrannical mandate.
“A few days after, the Turk entered his daughter’s apartment and told her hastily that he had reason to believe that his residence at Leghorn had been divulged and that he should speedily be delivered up to the French government; he
had consequently hired a vessel to convey him to Constantinople, for which
city he should sail in a few hours. He intended to leave his daughter under the
care of a confidential servant, to follow at her leisure with the greater part of his
property, which had not yet arrived at Leghorn.
“When alone, Safie resolved in her own mind the plan of conduct that it would
become her to pursue in this emergency. A residence in Turkey was abhorrent
to her; her religion and her feelings were alike averse to it. By some papers
of her father which fell into her hands she heard of the exile of her lover and
learnt the name of the spot where he then resided. She hesitated some time,
but at length she formed her determination. Taking with her some jewels that
belonged to her and a sum of money, she quitted Italy with an attendant, a
native of Leghorn, but who understood the common language of Turkey, and
departed for Germany.
“She arrived in safety at a town about twenty leagues from the cottage of De
Lacey, when her attendant fell dangerously ill. Safie nursed her with the most
devoted affection, but the poor girl died, and the Arabian was left alone, unacquainted with the language of the country and utterly ignorant of the customs
of the world. She fell, however, into good hands. The Italian had mentioned the
name of the spot for which they were bound, and after her death the woman of
the house in which they had lived took care that Safie should arrive in safety at
the cottage of her lover.”
“Such was the history of my beloved cottagers. It impressed me deeply. I learned, from the views of social life which it developed, to admire their virtues
and to deprecate the vices of mankind.
“As yet I looked upon crime as a distant evil, benevolence and generosity were
ever present before me, inciting within me a desire to become an actor in the
busy scene where so many admirable qualities were called forth and displayed.
But in giving an account of the progress of my intellect, I must not omit a circumstance which occurred in the beginning of the month of August of the same
“One night during my accustomed visit to the neighbouring wood where I collected my own food and brought home firing for my protectors, I found on the
ground a leathern portmanteau containing several articles of dress and some
books. I eagerly seized the prize and returned with it to my hovel. Fortunately
the books were written in the language, the elements of which I had acquired
at the cottage; they consisted of Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives,
and the Sorrows of Werter. The possession of these treasures gave me extreme
delight; I now continually studied and exercised my mind upon these histories,
whilst my friends were employed in their ordinary occupations.
“I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced in me
an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but
more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection. In the Sorrows of Werter,
besides the interest of its simple and affecting story, so many opinions are canvassed and so many lights thrown upon what had hitherto been to me obscure
subjects that I found in it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentle and domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self, accorded
well with my experience among my protectors and with the wants which were
forever alive in my own bosom. But I thought Werter himself a more divine
being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character contained no pretensi-
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on, but it sank deep. The disquisitions upon death and suicide were calculated
to fill me with wonder. I did not pretend to enter into the merits of the case, yet
I inclined towards the opinions of the hero, whose extinction I wept, without
precisely understanding it.
“As I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar yet at the same time strangely unlike to the beings
concerning whom I read and to whose conversation I was a listener. I sympathized with and partly understood them, but I was unformed in mind; I was
dependent on none and related to none. “The path of my departure was free,”
and there was none to lament my annihilation. My person was hideous and my
stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I
come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I
was unable to solve them.
“The volume of Plutarch’s Lives which I possessed contained the histories of
the first founders of the ancient republics. This book had a far different effect
upon me from the Sorrows of Werter. I learned from Werter’s imaginations
despondency and gloom, but Plutarch taught me high thoughts; he elevated
me above the wretched sphere of my own reflections, to admire and love the
heroes of past ages. Many things I read surpassed my understanding and experience. I had a very confused knowledge of kingdoms, wide extents of country, mighty rivers, and boundless seas. But I was perfectly unacquainted with
towns and large assemblages of men. The cottage of my protectors had been
the only school in which I had studied human nature, but this book developed
new and mightier scenes of action. I read of men concerned in public affairs,
governing or massacring their species. I felt the greatest ardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as far as I understood the signification
of those terms, relative as they were, as I applied them, to pleasure and pain
alone. Induced by these feelings, I was of course led to admire peaceable lawgivers, Numa, Solon, and Lycurgus, in preference to Romulus and Theseus. The
patriarchal lives of my protectors caused these impressions to take a firm hold
on my mind; perhaps, if my first introduction to humanity had been made by
a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued
with different sensations.
“But Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions. I read it, as I
had read the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, as a true history.
It moved every feeling of wonder and awe that the picture of an omnipotent
God warring with his creatures was capable of exciting. I often referred the
several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was
apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far
different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands
of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care
of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from
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beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many
times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition, for often, like
him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within
“Another circumstance strengthened and confirmed these feelings. Soon after
my arrival in the hovel I discovered some papers in the pocket of the dress
which I had taken from your laboratory. At first I had neglected them, but
now that I was able to decipher the characters in which they were written, I
began to study them with diligence. It was your journal of the four months
that preceded my creation. You minutely described in these papers every step
you took in the progress of your work; this history was mingled with accounts
of domestic occurrences. You doubtless recollect these papers. Here they are.
Everything is related in them which bears reference to my accursed origin; the
whole detail of that series of disgusting circumstances which produced it is set
in view; the minutest description of my odious and loathsome person is given,
in language which painted your own horrors and rendered mine indelible. I
sickened as I read. ‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony.
‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU
turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring,
after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even
from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire
and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.’
“These were the reflections of my hours of despondency and solitude; but when
I contemplated the virtues of the cottagers, their amiable and benevolent dispositions, I persuaded myself that when they should become acquainted with my
admiration of their virtues they would compassionate me and overlook my personal deformity. Could they turn from their door one, however monstrous, who
solicited their compassion and friendship? I resolved, at least, not to despair,
but in every way to fit myself for an interview with them which would decide
my fate. I postponed this attempt for some months longer, for the importance
attached to its success inspired me with a dread lest I should fail. Besides, I
found that my understanding improved so much with every day’s experience
that I was unwilling to commence this undertaking until a few more months
should have added to my sagacity.
“Several changes, in the meantime, took place in the cottage. The presence of
Safie diffused happiness among its inhabitants, and I also found that a greater
degree of plenty reigned there. Felix and Agatha spent more time in amusement and conversation, and were assisted in their labours by servants. They
did not appear rich, but they were contented and happy; their feelings were
serene and peaceful, while mine became every day more tumultuous. Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast
I was. I cherished hope, it is true, but it vanished when I beheld my person
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reflected in water or my shadow in the moonshine, even as that frail image and
that inconstant shade.
“I endeavoured to crush these fears and to fortify myself for the trial which in
a few months I resolved to undergo; and sometimes I allowed my thoughts,
unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and dared to fancy
amiable and lovely creatures sympathizing with my feelings and cheering my
gloom; their angelic countenances breathed smiles of consolation. But it was all
a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I
remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had
abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him.
“Autumn passed thus. I saw, with surprise and grief, the leaves decay and fall,
and nature again assume the barren and bleak appearance it had worn when I
first beheld the woods and the lovely moon. Yet I did not heed the bleakness
of the weather; I was better fitted by my conformation for the endurance of
cold than heat. But my chief delights were the sight of the flowers, the birds,
and all the gay apparel of summer; when those deserted me, I turned with
more attention towards the cottagers. Their happiness was not decreased by
the absence of summer. They loved and sympathized with one another; and
their joys, depending on each other, were not interrupted by the casualties that
took place around them. The more I saw of them, the greater became my desire
to claim their protection and kindness; my heart yearned to be known and loved
by these amiable creatures; to see their sweet looks directed towards me with
affection was the utmost limit of my ambition. I dared not think that they would
turn them from me with disdain and horror. The poor that stopped at their door
were never driven away. I asked, it is true, for greater treasures than a little food
or rest: I required kindness and sympathy; but I did not believe myself utterly
unworthy of it.
“The winter advanced, and an entire revolution of the seasons had taken place
since I awoke into life. My attention at this time was solely directed towards
my plan of introducing myself into the cottage of my protectors. I revolved
many projects, but that on which I finally fixed was to enter the dwelling when
the blind old man should be alone. I had sagacity enough to discover that the
unnatural hideousness of my person was the chief object of horror with those
who had formerly beheld me. My voice, although harsh, had nothing terrible
in it; I thought, therefore, that if in the absence of his children I could gain the
good will and mediation of the old De Lacey, I might by his means be tolerated
by my younger protectors.
“One day, when the sun shone on the red leaves that strewed the ground and
diffused cheerfulness, although it denied warmth, Safie, Agatha, and Felix departed on a long country walk, and the old man, at his own desire, was left
alone in the cottage. When his children had departed, he took up his guitar and
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played several mournful but sweet airs, more sweet and mournful than I had
ever heard him play before. At first his countenance was illuminated with pleasure, but as he continued, thoughtfulness and sadness succeeded; at length,
laying aside the instrument, he sat absorbed in reflection.
“My heart beat quick; this was the hour and moment of trial, which would
decide my hopes or realize my fears. The servants were gone to a neighbouring
fair. All was silent in and around the cottage; it was an excellent opportunity;
yet, when I proceeded to execute my plan, my limbs failed me and I sank to
the ground. Again I rose, and exerting all the firmness of which I was master,
removed the planks which I had placed before my hovel to conceal my retreat.
The fresh air revived me, and with renewed determination I approached the
door of their cottage.
“I knocked. ‘Who is there?’ said the old man. ‘Come in.’
“I entered. ‘Pardon this intrusion,’ said I; ‘I am a traveller in want of a little rest;
you would greatly oblige me if you would allow me to remain a few minutes
before the fire.’
“‘Enter,’ said De Lacey, ‘and I will try in what manner I can to relieve your
wants; but, unfortunately, my children are from home, and as I am blind, I am
afraid I shall find it difficult to procure food for you.’
“‘Do not trouble yourself, my kind host; I have food; it is warmth and rest only
that I need.’
“I sat down, and a silence ensued. I knew that every minute was precious to
me, yet I remained irresolute in what manner to commence the interview, when
the old man addressed me. ‘By your language, stranger, I suppose you are my
countryman; are you French?’
“‘No; but I was educated by a French family and understand that language
only. I am now going to claim the protection of some friends, whom I sincerely
love, and of whose favour I have some hopes.’
“‘Are they Germans?’
“‘No, they are French. But let us change the subject. I am an unfortunate and
deserted creature, I look around and I have no relation or friend upon earth.
These amiable people to whom I go have never seen me and know little of me.
I am full of fears, for if I fail there, I am an outcast in the world forever.’
“‘Do not despair. To be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate, but the hearts of
men, when unprejudiced by any obvious self-interest, are full of brotherly love
and charity. Rely, therefore, on your hopes; and if these friends are good and
amiable, do not despair.’
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“‘They are kind–they are the most excellent creatures in the world; but, unfortunately, they are prejudiced against me. I have good dispositions; my life
has been hitherto harmless and in some degree beneficial; but a fatal prejudice
clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they
behold only a detestable monster.’
“‘That is indeed unfortunate; but if you are really blameless, cannot you undeceive them?’
“‘I am about to undertake that task; and it is on that account that I feel so many
overwhelming terrors. I tenderly love these friends; I have, unknown to them,
been for many months in the habits of daily kindness towards them; but they
believe that I wish to injure them, and it is that prejudice which I wish to overcome.’
“‘Where do these friends reside?’
“‘Near this spot.’
“The old man paused and then continued, ‘If you will unreservedly confide to
me the particulars of your tale, I perhaps may be of use in undeceiving them. I
am blind and cannot judge of your countenance, but there is something in your
words which persuades me that you are sincere. I am poor and an exile, but it
will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.’
“‘Excellent man! I thank you and accept your generous offer. You raise me from
the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid, I shall not be driven from
the society and sympathy of your fellow creatures.’
“‘Heaven forbid! Even if you were really criminal, for that can only drive you
to desperation, and not instigate you to virtue. I also am unfortunate; I and my
family have been condemned, although innocent; judge, therefore, if I do not
feel for your misfortunes.’
“‘How can I thank you, my best and only benefactor? From your lips first have
I heard the voice of kindness directed towards me; I shall be forever grateful;
and your present humanity assures me of success with those friends whom I
am on the point of meeting.’
“‘May I know the names and residence of those friends?’ “I paused. This, I
thought, was the moment of decision, which was to rob me of or bestow happiness on me forever. I struggled vainly for firmness sufficient to answer him, but
the effort destroyed all my remaining strength; I sank on the chair and sobbed
aloud. At that moment I heard the steps of my younger protectors. I had not a
moment to lose, but seizing the hand of the old man, I cried, ‘Now is the time!
Save and protect me! You and your family are the friends whom I seek. Do not
you desert me in the hour of trial!’
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“‘Great God!’ exclaimed the old man. ‘Who are you?’
“At that instant the cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered. Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha
fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix
darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose
knees I clung, in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me
violently with a stick. I could have torn him limb from limb, as the lion rends
the antelope. But my heart sank within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained. I saw him on the point of repeating his blow, when, overcome by pain and
anguish, I quitted the cottage, and in the general tumult escaped unperceived
to my hovel.”
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“Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not;
despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and
revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants
and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery.
“When night came I quitted my retreat and wandered in the wood; and now,
no longer restrained by the fear of discovery, I gave vent to my anguish in fearful howlings. I was like a wild beast that had broken the toils, destroying the
objects that obstructed me and ranging through the wood with a staglike swiftness. Oh! What a miserable night I passed! The cold stars shone in mockery,
and the bare trees waved their branches above me; now and then the sweet voice of a bird burst forth amidst the universal stillness. All, save I, were at rest or
in enjoyment; I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me, and finding myself
unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction
around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.
“But this was a luxury of sensation that could not endure; I became fatigued
with excess of bodily exertion and sank on the damp grass in the sick impotence
of despair. There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would
pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No; from
that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and more than all,
against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.
“The sun rose; I heard the voices of men and knew that it was impossible to
return to my retreat during that day. Accordingly I hid myself in some thick
underwood, determining to devote the ensuing hours to reflection on my situation.
“The pleasant sunshine and the pure air of day restored me to some degree of
tranquillity; and when I considered what had passed at the cottage, I could not
help believing that I had been too hasty in my conclusions. I had certainly acted
imprudently. It was apparent that my conversation had interested the father in
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my behalf, and I was a fool in having exposed my person to the horror of his
children. I ought to have familiarized the old De Lacey to me, and by degrees
to have discovered myself to the rest of his family, when they should have been
prepared for my approach. But I did not believe my errors to be irretrievable,
and after much consideration I resolved to return to the cottage, seek the old
man, and by my representations win him to my party.
“These thoughts calmed me, and in the afternoon I sank into a profound sleep;
but the fever of my blood did not allow me to be visited by peaceful dreams.
The horrible scene of the preceding day was forever acting before my eyes; the
females were flying and the enraged Felix tearing me from his father’s feet. I
awoke exhausted, and finding that it was already night, I crept forth from my
hiding-place, and went in search of food.
“When my hunger was appeased, I directed my steps towards the well- known
path that conducted to the cottage. All there was at peace. I crept into my hovel
and remained in silent expectation of the accustomed hour when the family
arose. That hour passed, the sun mounted high in the heavens, but the cottagers
did not appear. I trembled violently, apprehending some dreadful misfortune.
The inside of the cottage was dark, and I heard no motion; I cannot describe the
agony of this suspense.
“Presently two countrymen passed by, but pausing near the cottage, they entered into conversation, using violent gesticulations; but I did not understand
what they said, as they spoke the language of the country, which differed from
that of my protectors. Soon after, however, Felix approached with another man;
I was surprised, as I knew that he had not quitted the cottage that morning, and
waited anxiously to discover from his discourse the meaning of these unusual
“‘Do you consider,’ said his companion to him, ‘that you will be obliged to pay
three months’ rent and to lose the produce of your garden? I do not wish to
take any unfair advantage, and I beg therefore that you will take some days to
consider of your determination.’
“‘It is utterly useless,’ replied Felix; ‘we can never again inhabit your cottage.
The life of my father is in the greatest danger, owing to the dreadful circumstance that I have related. My wife and my sister will never recover from their
horror. I entreat you not to reason with me any more. Take possession of your
tenement and let me fly from this place.’
“Felix trembled violently as he said this. He and his companion entered the
cottage, in which they remained for a few minutes, and then departed. I never
saw any of the family of De Lacey more.
“I continued for the remainder of the day in my hovel in a state of utter and
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stupid despair. My protectors had departed and had broken the only link that
held me to the world. For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled
my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne
away by the stream, I bent my mind towards injury and death. When I thought
of my friends, of the mild voice of De Lacey, the gentle eyes of Agatha, and the
exquisite beauty of the Arabian, these thoughts vanished and a gush of tears
somewhat soothed me. But again when I reflected that they had spurned and
deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger, and unable to injure anything human, I turned my fury towards inanimate objects. As night advanced I placed
a variety of combustibles around the cottage, and after having destroyed every
vestige of cultivation in the garden, I waited with forced impatience until the
moon had sunk to commence my operations.
“As the night advanced, a fierce wind arose from the woods and quickly dispersed the clouds that had loitered in the heavens; the blast tore along like a
mighty avalanche and produced a kind of insanity in my spirits that burst all
bounds of reason and reflection. I lighted the dry branch of a tree and danced
with fury around the devoted cottage, my eyes still fixed on the western horizon, the edge of which the moon nearly touched. A part of its orb was at length
hid, and I waved my brand; it sank, and with a loud scream I fired the straw,
and heath, and bushes, which I had collected. The wind fanned the fire, and
the cottage was quickly enveloped by the flames, which clung to it and licked
it with their forked and destroying tongues.
“As soon as I was convinced that no assistance could save any part of the habitation, I quitted the scene and sought for refuge in the woods.
“And now, with the world before me, whither should I bend my steps? I resolved to fly far from the scene of my misfortunes; but to me, hated and despised,
every country must be equally horrible. At length the thought of you crossed
my mind. I learned from your papers that you were my father, my creator; and
to whom could I apply with more fitness than to him who had given me life? Among the lessons that Felix had bestowed upon Safie, geography had not
been omitted; I had learned from these the relative situations of the different
countries of the earth. You had mentioned Geneva as the name of your native
town, and towards this place I resolved to proceed.
“But how was I to direct myself? I knew that I must travel in a southwesterly
direction to reach my destination, but the sun was my only guide. I did not
know the names of the towns that I was to pass through, nor could I ask information from a single human being; but I did not despair. From you only could
I hope for succour, although towards you I felt no sentiment but that of hatred.
Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had endowed me with perceptions and passions and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind. But
on you only had I any claim for pity and redress, and from you I determined
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to seek that justice which I vainly attempted to gain from any other being that
wore the human form.
“My travels were long and the sufferings I endured intense. It was late in autumn when I quitted the district where I had so long resided. I travelled only
at night, fearful of encountering the visage of a human being. Nature decayed
around me, and the sun became heatless; rain and snow poured around me;
mighty rivers were frozen; the surface of the earth was hard and chill, and bare,
and I found no shelter. Oh, earth! How often did I imprecate curses on the cause
of my being! The mildness of my nature had fled, and all within me was turned
to gall and bitterness. The nearer I approached to your habitation, the more
deeply did I feel the spirit of revenge enkindled in my heart. Snow fell, and the
waters were hardened, but I rested not. A few incidents now and then directed
me, and I possessed a map of the country; but I often wandered wide from my
path. The agony of my feelings allowed me no respite; no incident occurred
from which my rage and misery could not extract its food; but a circumstance
that happened when I arrived on the confines of Switzerland, when the sun had
recovered its warmth and the earth again began to look green, confirmed in an
especial manner the bitterness and horror of my feelings.
“I generally rested during the day and travelled only when I was secured by
night from the view of man. One morning, however, finding that my path lay
through a deep wood, I ventured to continue my journey after the sun had risen;
the day, which was one of the first of spring, cheered even me by the loveliness
of its sunshine and the balminess of the air. I felt emotions of gentleness and
pleasure, that had long appeared dead, revive within me. Half surprised by the
novelty of these sensations, I allowed myself to be borne away by them, and
forgetting my solitude and deformity, dared to be happy. Soft tears again bedewed my cheeks, and I even raised my humid eyes with thankfulness towards
the blessed sun, which bestowed such joy upon me.
“I continued to wind among the paths of the wood, until I came to its boundary,
which was skirted by a deep and rapid river, into which many of the trees bent
their branches, now budding with the fresh spring. Here I paused, not exactly
knowing what path to pursue, when I heard the sound of voices, that induced
me to conceal myself under the shade of a cypress. I was scarcely hid when
a young girl came running towards the spot where I was concealed, laughing,
as if she ran from someone in sport. She continued her course along the precipitous sides of the river, when suddenly her foot slipped, and she fell into the
rapid stream. I rushed from my hiding-place and with extreme labour, from the
force of the current, saved her and dragged her to shore. She was senseless, and
I endeavoured by every means in my power to restore animation, when I was
suddenly interrupted by the approach of a rustic, who was probably the person
from whom she had playfully fled. On seeing me, he darted towards me, and
tearing the girl from my arms, hastened towards the deeper parts of the wood.
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I followed speedily, I hardly knew why; but when the man saw me draw near,
he aimed a gun, which he carried, at my body and fired. I sank to the ground,
and my injurer, with increased swiftness, escaped into the wood.
“This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being
from destruction, and as a recompense I now writhed under the miserable pain
of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of kindness and
gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to
hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred
and vengeance to all mankind. But the agony of my wound overcame me; my
pulses paused, and I fainted.
“For some weeks I led a miserable life in the woods, endeavouring to cure the
wound which I had received. The ball had entered my shoulder, and I knew not
whether it had remained there or passed through; at any rate I had no means
of extracting it. My sufferings were augmented also by the oppressive sense of
the injustice and ingratitude of their infliction. My daily vows rose for revenge–
a deep and deadly revenge, such as would alone compensate for the outrages
and anguish I had endured.
“After some weeks my wound healed, and I continued my journey. The labours
I endured were no longer to be alleviated by the bright sun or gentle breezes of
spring; all joy was but a mockery which insulted my desolate state and made
me feel more painfully that I was not made for the enjoyment of pleasure.
“But my toils now drew near a close, and in two months from this time I reached
the environs of Geneva.
“It was evening when I arrived, and I retired to a hiding-place among the fields
that surround it to meditate in what manner I should apply to you. I was oppressed by fatigue and hunger and far too unhappy to enjoy the gentle breezes
of evening or the prospect of the sun setting behind the stupendous mountains
of Jura.
“At this time a slight sleep relieved me from the pain of reflection, which was
disturbed by the approach of a beautiful child, who came running into the recess I had chosen, with all the sportiveness of infancy. Suddenly, as I gazed on
him, an idea seized me that this little creature was unprejudiced and had lived
too short a time to have imbibed a horror of deformity. If, therefore, I could
seize him and educate him as my companion and friend, I should not be so
desolate in this peopled earth.
“Urged by this impulse, I seized on the boy as he passed and drew him towards
me. As soon as he beheld my form, he placed his hands before his eyes and
uttered a shrill scream; I drew his hand forcibly from his face and said, ‘Child,
what is the meaning of this? I do not intend to hurt you; listen to me.’
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“He struggled violently. ‘Let me go,’ he cried; ‘monster! Ugly wretch! You wish
to eat me and tear me to pieces. You are an ogre. Let me go, or I will tell my
“‘Boy, you will never see your father again; you must come with me.’
“‘Hideous monster! Let me go. My papa is a syndic–he is M. Frankenstein–he
will punish you. You dare not keep me.’
“‘Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy–to him towards whom I have
sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim.’
“The child still struggled and loaded me with epithets which carried despair to
my heart; I grasped his throat to silence him, and in a moment he lay dead at
my feet.
“I gazed on my victim, and my heart swelled with exultation and hellish
triumph; clapping my hands, I exclaimed, ‘I too can create desolation; my
enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, and a thousand
other miseries shall torment and destroy him.’
“As I fixed my eyes on the child, I saw something glittering on his breast. I took
it; it was a portrait of a most lovely woman. In spite of my malignity, it softened
and attracted me. For a few moments I gazed with delight on her dark eyes,
fringed by deep lashes, and her lovely lips; but presently my rage returned;
I remembered that I was forever deprived of the delights that such beautiful
creatures could bestow and that she whose resemblance I contemplated would,
in regarding me, have changed that air of divine benignity to one expressive of
disgust and affright.
“Can you wonder that such thoughts transported me with rage? I only wonder that at that moment, instead of venting my sensations in exclamations and
agony, I did not rush among mankind and perish in the attempt to destroy
“While l was overcome by these feelings, I left the spot where I had committed
the murder, and seeking a more secluded hiding-place, I entered a barn which had appeared to me to be empty. A woman was sleeping on some straw;
she was young, not indeed so beautiful as her whose portrait I held, but of an
agreeable aspect and blooming in the loveliness of youth and health. Here, I
thought, is one of those whose joy-imparting smiles are bestowed on all but
me. And then I bent over her and whispered, ‘Awake, fairest, thy lover is near–
he who would give his life but to obtain one look of affection from thine eyes;
my beloved, awake!’
“The sleeper stirred; a thrill of terror ran through me. Should she indeed awake, and see me, and curse me, and denounce the murderer? Thus would she
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assuredly act if her darkened eyes opened and she beheld me. The thought was
madness; it stirred the fiend within me–not I, but she, shall suffer; the murder I
have committed because I am forever robbed of all that she could give me, she
shall atone. The crime had its source in her; be hers the punishment! Thanks to
the lessons of Felix and the sanguinary laws of man, I had learned now to work
mischief. I bent over her and placed the portrait securely in one of the folds of
her dress. She moved again, and I fled.
“For some days I haunted the spot where these scenes had taken place, sometimes wishing to see you, sometimes resolved to quit the world and its miseries
forever. At length I wandered towards these mountains, and have ranged through their immense recesses, consumed by a burning passion which you alone
can gratify. We may not part until you have promised to comply with my requisition. I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as
deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion
must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must
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The being finished speaking and fixed his looks upon me in the expectation
of a reply. But I was bewildered, perplexed, and unable to arrange my ideas
sufficiently to understand the full extent of his proposition. He continued,
“You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of
those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand
it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede.”
The latter part of his tale had kindled anew in me the anger that had died away
while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers, and as he said this I
could no longer suppress the rage that burned within me.
“I do refuse it,” I replied; “and no torture shall ever extort a consent from me.
You may render me the most miserable of men, but you shall never make me
base in my own eyes. Shall I create another like yourself, whose joint wickedness might desolate the world. Begone! I have answered you; you may torture
me, but I will never consent.”
“You are in the wrong,” replied the fiend; “and instead of threatening, I am
content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not
shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces
and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he
pities me? You would not call it murder if you could precipitate me into one
of those ice-rifts and destroy my frame, the work of your own hands. Shall I
respect man when he condemns me? Let him live with me in the interchange
of kindness, and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with
tears of gratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses are
insurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission of
abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause
fear, and chiefly towards you my archenemy, because my creator, do I swear
inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish
until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.”
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A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold; but presently he calmed himself
and proceeded–
“I intended to reason. This passion is detrimental to me, for you do not reflect
that YOU are the cause of its excess. If any being felt emotions of benevolence
towards me, I should return them a hundred and a hundredfold; for that one
creature’s sake I would make peace with the whole kind! But I now indulge
in dreams of bliss that cannot be realized. What I ask of you is reasonable and
moderate; I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself; the
gratification is small, but it is all that I can receive, and it shall content me. It
is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we
shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not be happy, but they
will be harmless and free from the misery I now feel. Oh! My creator, make
me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for one benefit! Let me see that I
excite the sympathy of some existing thing; do not deny me my request!”
I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences of my
consent, but I felt that there was some justice in his argument. His tale and the
feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations, and
did I not as his maker owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my
power to bestow? He saw my change of feeling and continued,
“If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see us again;
I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not that of man; I do
not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford
me sufficient nourishment. My companion will be of the same nature as myself
and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves;
the sun will shine on us as on man and will ripen our food. The picture I present
to you is peaceful and human, and you must feel that you could deny it only
in the wantonness of power and cruelty. Pitiless as you have been towards me,
I now see compassion in your eyes; let me seize the favourable moment and
persuade you to promise what I so ardently desire.”
“You propose,” replied I, “to fly from the habitations of man, to dwell in those
wilds where the beasts of the field will be your only companions. How can you,
who long for the love and sympathy of man, persevere in this exile? You will
return and again seek their kindness, and you will meet with their detestation;
your evil passions will be renewed, and you will then have a companion to aid
you in the task of destruction. This may not be; cease to argue the point, for I
cannot consent.”
“How inconstant are your feelings! But a moment ago you were moved by my
representations, and why do you again harden yourself to my complaints? I
swear to you, by the earth which I inhabit, and by you that made me, that with
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the companion you bestow I will quit the neighbourhood of man and dwell, as
it may chance, in the most savage of places. My evil passions will have fled, for
I shall meet with sympathy! My life will flow quietly away, and in my dying
moments I shall not curse my maker.”
His words had a strange effect upon me. I compassionated him and sometimes
felt a wish to console him, but when I looked upon him, when I saw the filthy
mass that moved and talked, my heart sickened and my feelings were altered
to those of horror and hatred. I tried to stifle these sensations; I thought that as
I could not sympathize with him, I had no right to withhold from him the small
portion of happiness which was yet in my power to bestow.
“You swear,” I said, “to be harmless; but have you not already shown a degree
of malice that should reasonably make me distrust you? May not even this
be a feint that will increase your triumph by affording a wider scope for your
“How is this? I must not be trifled with, and I demand an answer. If I have no
ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion; the love of another
will destroy the cause of my crimes, and I shall become a thing of whose existence everyone will be ignorant. My vices are the children of a forced solitude
that I abhor, and my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in communion
with an equal. I shall feel the affections of a sensitive being and became linked
to the chain of existence and events from which I am now excluded.”
I paused some time to reflect on all he had related and the various arguments
which he had employed. I thought of the promise of virtues which he had
displayed on the opening of his existence and the subsequent blight of all kindly
feeling by the loathing and scorn which his protectors had manifested towards
him. His power and threats were not omitted in my calculations; a creature who
could exist in the ice caves of the glaciers and hide himself from pursuit among
the ridges of inaccessible precipices was a being possessing faculties it would
be vain to cope with. After a long pause of reflection I concluded that the justice
due both to him and my fellow creatures demanded of me that I should comply
with his request. Turning to him, therefore, I said,
“I consent to your demand, on your solemn oath to quit Europe forever, and
every other place in the neighbourhood of man, as soon as I shall deliver into
your hands a female who will accompany you in your exile.”
“I swear,” he cried, “by the sun, and by the blue sky of heaven, and by the fire of
love that burns my heart, that if you grant my prayer, while they exist you shall
never behold me again. Depart to your home and commence your labours; I
shall watch their progress with unutterable anxiety; and fear not but that when
you are ready I shall appear.”
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Saying this, he suddenly quitted me, fearful, perhaps, of any change in my
sentiments. I saw him descend the mountain with greater speed than the flight
of an eagle, and quickly lost among the undulations of the sea of ice.
His tale had occupied the whole day, and the sun was upon the verge of the horizon when he departed. I knew that I ought to hasten my descent towards the
valley, as I should soon be encompassed in darkness; but my heart was heavy,
and my steps slow. The labour of winding among the little paths of the mountain and fixing my feet firmly as I advanced perplexed me, occupied as I was
by the emotions which the occurrences of the day had produced. Night was far
advanced when I came to the halfway resting-place and seated myself beside
the fountain. The stars shone at intervals as the clouds passed from over them;
the dark pines rose before me, and every here and there a broken tree lay on
the ground; it was a scene of wonderful solemnity and stirred strange thoughts
within me. I wept bitterly, and clasping my hands in agony, I exclaimed, “Oh!
Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me; if ye really pity me,
crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness.”
These were wild and miserable thoughts, but I cannot describe to you how the
eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me and how I listened to every
blast of wind as if it were a dull ugly siroc on its way to consume me.
Morning dawned before I arrived at the village of Chamounix; I took no rest,
but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I could give no
expression to my sensations–they weighed on me with a mountain’s weight
and their excess destroyed my agony beneath them. Thus I returned home,
and entering the house, presented myself to the family. My haggard and wild
appearance awoke intense alarm, but I answered no question, scarcely did I
speak. I felt as if I were placed under a ban–as if I had no right to claim their
sympathies–as if never more might I enjoy companionship with them. Yet even
thus I loved them to adoration; and to save them, I resolved to dedicate myself
to my most abhorred task. The prospect of such an occupation made every
other circumstance of existence pass before me like a dream, and that thought
only had to me the reality of life.
Day after day, week after week, passed away on my return to Geneva; and I
could not collect the courage to recommence my work. I feared the vengeance
of the disappointed fiend, yet I was unable to overcome my repugnance to the
task which was enjoined me. I found that I could not compose a female without
again devoting several months to profound study and laborious disquisition.
I had heard of some discoveries having been made by an English philosopher,
the knowledge of which was material to my success, and I sometimes thought
of obtaining my father’s consent to visit England for this purpose; but I clung to
every pretence of delay and shrank from taking the first step in an undertaking
whose immediate necessity began to appear less absolute to me. A change indeed had taken place in me; my health, which had hitherto declined, was now
much restored; and my spirits, when unchecked by the memory of my unhappy
promise, rose proportionably. My father saw this change with pleasure, and he
turned his thoughts towards the best method of eradicating the remains of my
melancholy, which every now and then would return by fits, and with a devouring blackness overcast the approaching sunshine. At these moments I took
refuge in the most perfect solitude. I passed whole days on the lake alone in a
little boat, watching the clouds and listening to the rippling of the waves, silent
and listless. But the fresh air and bright sun seldom failed to restore me to some
degree of composure, and on my return I met the salutations of my friends with
a readier smile and a more cheerful heart.
It was after my return from one of these rambles that my father, calling me
aside, thus addressed me,
“I am happy to remark, my dear son, that you have resumed your former pleasures and seem to be returning to yourself. And yet you are still unhappy and
still avoid our society. For some time I was lost in conjecture as to the cause of
this, but yesterday an idea struck me, and if it is well founded, I conjure you
to avow it. Reserve on such a point would be not only useless, but draw down
treble misery on us all.”
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I trembled violently at his exordium, and my father continued–”I confess, my
son, that I have always looked forward to your marriage with our dear Elizabeth as the tie of our domestic comfort and the stay of my declining years. You
were attached to each other from your earliest infancy; you studied together,
and appeared, in dispositions and tastes, entirely suited to one another. But so
blind is the experience of man that what I conceived to be the best assistants
to my plan may have entirely destroyed it. You, perhaps, regard her as your
sister, without any wish that she might become your wife. Nay, you may have
met with another whom you may love; and considering yourself as bound in
honour to Elizabeth, this struggle may occasion the poignant misery which you
appear to feel.”
“My dear father, reassure yourself. I love my cousin tenderly and sincerely. I
never saw any woman who excited, as Elizabeth does, my warmest admiration and affection. My future hopes and prospects are entirely bound up in the
expectation of our union.”
“The expression of your sentiments of this subject, my dear Victor, gives me
more pleasure than I have for some time experienced. If you feel thus, we shall
assuredly be happy, however present events may cast a gloom over us. But it
is this gloom which appears to have taken so strong a hold of your mind that
I wish to dissipate. Tell me, therefore, whether you object to an immediate solemnization of the marriage. We have been unfortunate, and recent events have
drawn us from that everyday tranquillity befitting my years and infirmities.
You are younger; yet l do not suppose, possessed as you are of a competent
fortune, that an early marriage would at all interfere with any future plans of
honour and utility that you may have formed. Do not suppose, however, that I
wish to dictate happiness to you or that a delay on your part would cause me
any serious uneasiness. Interpret my words with candour and answer me, I
conjure you, with confidence and sincerity.”
I listened to my father in silence and remained for some time incapable of offering any reply. I revolved rapidly in my mind a multitude of thoughts and
endeavoured to arrive at some conclusion. Alas! To me the idea of an immediate union with my Elizabeth was one of horror and dismay. I was bound
by a solemn promise which I had not yet fulfilled and dared not break, or if
I did, what manifold miseries might not impend over me and my devoted family! Could I enter into a festival with this deadly weight yet hanging round
my neck and bowing me to the ground? I must perform my engagement and let
the monster depart with his mate before I allowed myself to enjoy the delight
of a union from which I expected peace.
I remembered also the necessity imposed upon me of either journeying to England or entering into a long correspondence with those philosophers of that
country whose knowledge and discoveries were of indispensable use to me in
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my present undertaking. The latter method of obtaining the desired intelligence was dilatory and unsatisfactory; besides, I had an insurmountable aversion
to the idea of engaging myself in my loathsome task in my father’s house while
in habits of familiar intercourse with those I loved. I knew that a thousand fearful accidents might occur, the slightest of which would disclose a tale to thrill
all connected with me with horror. I was aware also that I should often lose all
self-command, all capacity of hiding the harrowing sensations that would possess me during the progress of my unearthly occupation. I must absent myself
from all I loved while thus employed. Once commenced, it would quickly be
achieved, and I might be restored to my family in peace and happiness. My
promise fulfilled, the monster would depart forever. Or (so my fond fancy imaged) some accident might meanwhile occur to destroy him and put an end to
my slavery forever.
These feelings dictated my answer to my father. I expressed a wish to visit
England, but concealing the true reasons of this request, I clothed my desires
under a guise which excited no suspicion, while I urged my desire with an
earnestness that easily induced my father to comply. After so long a period of
an absorbing melancholy that resembled madness in its intensity and effects,
he was glad to find that I was capable of taking pleasure in the idea of such
a journey, and he hoped that change of scene and varied amusement would,
before my return, have restored me entirely to myself.
The duration of my absence was left to my own choice; a few months, or at
most a year, was the period contemplated. One paternal kind precaution he had
taken to ensure my having a companion. Without previously communicating
with me, he had, in concert with Elizabeth, arranged that Clerval should join
me at Strasbourg. This interfered with the solitude I coveted for the prosecution
of my task; yet at the commencement of my journey the presence of my friend
could in no way be an impediment, and truly I rejoiced that thus I should be
saved many hours of lonely, maddening reflection. Nay, Henry might stand
between me and the intrusion of my foe. If I were alone, would he not at times
force his abhorred presence on me to remind me of my task or to contemplate
its progress?
To England, therefore, I was bound, and it was understood that my union with
Elizabeth should take place immediately on my return. My father’s age rendered him extremely averse to delay. For myself, there was one reward I promised
myself from my detested toils–one consolation for my unparalleled sufferings;
it was the prospect of that day when, enfranchised from my miserable slavery,
I might claim Elizabeth and forget the past in my union with her.
I now made arrangements for my journey, but one feeling haunted me which
filled me with fear and agitation. During my absence I should leave my friends
unconscious of the existence of their enemy and unprotected from his attacks,
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exasperated as he might be by my departure. But he had promised to follow
me wherever I might go, and would he not accompany me to England? This
imagination was dreadful in itself, but soothing inasmuch as it supposed the
safety of my friends. I was agonized with the idea of the possibility that the
reverse of this might happen. But through the whole period during which I
was the slave of my creature I allowed myself to be governed by the impulses
of the moment; and my present sensations strongly intimated that the fiend
would follow me and exempt my family from the danger of his machinations.
It was in the latter end of September that I again quitted my native country.
My journey had been my own suggestion, and Elizabeth therefore acquiesced,
but she was filled with disquiet at the idea of my suffering, away from her, the
inroads of misery and grief. It had been her care which provided me a companion in Clerval–and yet a man is blind to a thousand minute circumstances
which call forth a woman’s sedulous attention. She longed to bid me hasten
my return; a thousand conflicting emotions rendered her mute as she bade me
a tearful, silent farewell.
I threw myself into the carriage that was to convey me away, hardly knowing
whither I was going, and careless of what was passing around. I remembered
only, and it was with a bitter anguish that I reflected on it, to order that my
chemical instruments should be packed to go with me. Filled with dreary imaginations, I passed through many beautiful and majestic scenes, but my eyes
were fixed and unobserving. I could only think of the bourne of my travels and
the work which was to occupy me whilst they endured.
After some days spent in listless indolence, during which I traversed many leagues, I arrived at Strasbourg, where I waited two days for Clerval. He came.
Alas, how great was the contrast between us! He was alive to every new scene,
joyful when he saw the beauties of the setting sun, and more happy when he
beheld it rise and recommence a new day. He pointed out to me the shifting
colours of the landscape and the appearances of the sky. “This is what it is to
live,” he cried; “how I enjoy existence! But you, my dear Frankenstein, wherefore are you desponding and sorrowful!” In truth, I was occupied by gloomy
thoughts and neither saw the descent of the evening star nor the golden sunrise
reflected in the Rhine. And you, my friend, would be far more amused with the
journal of Clerval, who observed the scenery with an eye of feeling and delight,
than in listening to my reflections. I, a miserable wretch, haunted by a curse
that shut up every avenue to enjoyment.
We had agreed to descend the Rhine in a boat from Strasbourg to Rotterdam,
whence we might take shipping for London. During this voyage we passed
many willowy islands and saw several beautiful towns. We stayed a day at
Mannheim, and on the fifth from our departure from Strasbourg, arrived at
Mainz. The course of the Rhine below Mainz becomes much more pictureshttp://www.idph.netIDPH 125
que. The river descends rapidly and winds between hills, not high, but steep,
and of beautiful forms. We saw many ruined castles standing on the edges of
precipices, surrounded by black woods, high and inaccessible. This part of the
Rhine, indeed, presents a singularly variegated landscape. In one spot you view
rugged hills, ruined castles overlooking tremendous precipices, with the dark
Rhine rushing beneath; and on the sudden turn of a promontory, flourishing vineyards with green sloping banks and a meandering river and populous towns
occupy the scene.
We travelled at the time of the vintage and heard the song of the labourers as we
glided down the stream. Even I, depressed in mind, and my spirits continually
agitated by gloomy feelings, even I was pleased. I lay at the bottom of the boat,
and as I gazed on the cloudless blue sky, I seemed to drink in a tranquillity to
which I had long been a stranger. And if these were my sensations, who can
describe those of Henry? He felt as if he had been transported to fairy-land and
enjoyed a happiness seldom tasted by man. “I have seen,” he said, “the most
beautiful scenes of my own country; I have visited the lakes of Lucerne and
Uri, where the snowy mountains descend almost perpendicularly to the water, casting black and impenetrable shades, which would cause a gloomy and
mournful appearance were it not for the most verdant islands that believe the
eye by their gay appearance; I have seen this lake agitated by a tempest, when
the wind tore up whirlwinds of water and gave you an idea of what the waterspout must be on the great ocean; and the waves dash with fury the base of the
mountain, where the priest and his mistress were overwhelmed by an avalanche and where their dying voices are still said to be heard amid the pauses of the
nightly wind; I have seen the mountains of La Valais, and the Pays de Vaud; but
this country, Victor, pleases me more than all those wonders. The mountains of
Switzerland are more majestic and strange, but there is a charm in the banks
of this divine river that I never before saw equalled. Look at that castle which
overhangs yon precipice; and that also on the island, almost concealed amongst
the foliage of those lovely trees; and now that group of labourers coming from
among their vines; and that village half hid in the recess of the mountain. Oh,
surely the spirit that inhabits and guards this place has a soul more in harmony
with man than those who pile the glacier or retire to the inaccessible peaks of
the mountains of our own country.” Clerval! Beloved friend! Even now it delights me to record your words and to dwell on the praise of which you are so
eminently deserving. He was a being formed in the “very poetry of nature.”
His wild and enthusiastic imagination was chastened by the sensibility of his
heart. His soul overflowed with ardent affections, and his friendship was of
that devoted and wondrous nature that the world-minded teach us to look for
only in the imagination. But even human sympathies were not sufficient to satisfy his eager mind. The scenery of external nature, which others regard only
with admiration, he loved with ardour:–
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—–The sounding cataract Haunted him like a passion: the tall rock, The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, Their colours and their forms, were then
to him An appetite; a feeling, and a love, That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest Unborrow’d from the eye.
[Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”.]
And where does he now exist? Is this gentle and lovely being lost forever? Has
this mind, so replete with ideas, imaginations fanciful and magnificent, which
formed a world, whose existence depended on the life of its creator;–has this
mind perished? Does it now only exist in my memory? No, it is not thus; your
form so divinely wrought, and beaming with beauty, has decayed, but your
spirit still visits and consoles your unhappy friend.
Pardon this gush of sorrow; these ineffectual words are but a slight tribute to
the unexampled worth of Henry, but they soothe my heart, overflowing with
the anguish which his remembrance creates. I will proceed with my tale.
Beyond Cologne we descended to the plains of Holland; and we resolved to
post the remainder of our way, for the wind was contrary and the stream of
the river was too gentle to aid us. Our journey here lost the interest arising
from beautiful scenery, but we arrived in a few days at Rotterdam, whence we
proceeded by sea to England. It was on a clear morning, in the latter days of
December, that I first saw the white cliffs of Britain. The banks of the Thames
presented a new scene; they were flat but fertile, and almost every town was
marked by the remembrance of some story. We saw Tilbury Fort and remembered the Spanish Armada, Gravesend, Woolwich, and Greenwich–places which
I had heard of even in my country.
At length we saw the numerous steeples of London, St. Paul’s towering above
all, and the Tower famed in English history.
London was our present point of rest; we determined to remain several months
in this wonderful and celebrated city. Clerval desired the intercourse of the
men of genius and talent who flourished at this time, but this was with me a
secondary object; I was principally occupied with the means of obtaining the
information necessary for the completion of my promise and quickly availed
myself of the letters of introduction that I had brought with me, addressed to
the most distinguished natural philosophers.
If this journey had taken place during my days of study and happiness, it would
have afforded me inexpressible pleasure. But a blight had come over my existence, and I only visited these people for the sake of the information they might
give me on the subject in which my interest was so terribly profound. Company
was irksome to me; when alone, I could fill my mind with the sights of heaven
and earth; the voice of Henry soothed me, and I could thus cheat myself into
a transitory peace. But busy, uninteresting, joyous faces brought back despair
to my heart. I saw an insurmountable barrier placed between me and my fellow men; this barrier was sealed with the blood of William and Justine, and to
reflect on the events connected with those names filled my soul with anguish.
But in Clerval I saw the image of my former self; he was inquisitive and anxious
to gain experience and instruction. The difference of manners which he observed was to him an inexhaustible source of instruction and amusement. He was
also pursuing an object he had long had in view. His design was to visit India,
in the belief that he had in his knowledge of its various languages, and in the
views he had taken of its society, the means of materially assisting the progress
of European colonization and trade. In Britain only could he further the execution of his plan. He was forever busy, and the only check to his enjoyments was
my sorrowful and dejected mind. I tried to conceal this as much as possible,
that I might not debar him from the pleasures natural to one who was entering
on a new scene of life, undisturbed by any care or bitter recollection. I often
refused to accompany him, alleging another engagement, that I might remain
alone. I now also began to collect the materials necessary for my new creation,
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and this was to me like the torture of single drops of water continually falling
on the head. Every thought that was devoted to it was an extreme anguish, and
every word that I spoke in allusion to it caused my lips to quiver, and my heart
to palpitate.
After passing some months in London, we received a letter from a person in
Scotland who had formerly been our visitor at Geneva. He mentioned the beauties of his native country and asked us if those were not sufficient allurements to
induce us to prolong our journey as far north as Perth, where he resided. Clerval eagerly desired to accept this invitation, and I, although I abhorred society,
wished to view again mountains and streams and all the wondrous works with
which Nature adorns her chosen dwelling-places. We had arrived in England at
the beginning of October, and it was now February. We accordingly determined
to commence our journey towards the north at the expiration of another month.
In this expedition we did not intend to follow the great road to Edinburgh, but
to visit Windsor, Oxford, Matlock, and the Cumberland lakes, resolving to arrive at the completion of this tour about the end of July. I packed up my chemical
instruments and the materials I had collected, resolving to finish my labours in
some obscure nook in the northern highlands of Scotland.
We quitted London on the 27th of March and remained a few days at Windsor, rambling in its beautiful forest. This was a new scene to us mountaineers;
the majestic oaks, the quantity of game, and the herds of stately deer were all
novelties to us.
From thence we proceeded to Oxford. As we entered this city our minds were
filled with the remembrance of the events that had been transacted there more than a century and a half before. It was here that Charles I had collected
his forces. This city had remained faithful to him, after the whole nation had
forsaken his cause to join the standard of Parliament and liberty. The memory
of that unfortunate king and his companions, the amiable Falkland, the insolent Goring, his queen, and son, gave a peculiar interest to every part of the
city which they might be supposed to have inhabited. The spirit of elder days
found a dwelling here, and we delighted to trace its footsteps. If these feelings
had not found an imaginary gratification, the appearance of the city had yet in
itself sufficient beauty to obtain our admiration. The colleges are ancient and
picturesque; the streets are almost magnificent; and the lovely Isis, which flows
beside it through meadows of exquisite verdure, is spread forth into a placid
expanse of waters, which reflects its majestic assemblage of towers, and spires,
and domes, embosomed among aged trees.
I enjoyed this scene, and yet my enjoyment was embittered both by the memory
of the past and the anticipation of the future. I was formed for peaceful happiness. During my youthful days discontent never visited my mind, and if I was
ever overcome by ennui, the sight of what is beautiful in nature or the study of
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what is excellent and sublime in the productions of man could always interest
my heart and communicate elasticity to my spirits. But I am a blasted tree; the
bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit what
I shall soon cease to be–a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to
others and intolerable to myself.
We passed a considerable period at Oxford, rambling among its environs and
endeavouring to identify every spot which might relate to the most animating
epoch of English history. Our little voyages of discovery were often prolonged
by the successive objects that presented themselves. We visited the tomb of the
illustrious Hampden and the field on which that patriot fell. For a moment my
soul was elevated from its debasing and miserable fears to contemplate the divine ideas of liberty and self sacrifice of which these sights were the monuments
and the remembrancers. For an instant I dared to shake off my chains and look
around me with a free and lofty spirit, but the iron had eaten into my flesh, and
I sank again, trembling and hopeless, into my miserable self.
We left Oxford with regret and proceeded to Matlock, which was our next place
of rest. The country in the neighbourhood of this village resembled, to a greater
degree, the scenery of Switzerland; but everything is on a lower scale, and the
green hills want the crown of distant white Alps which always attend on the
piny mountains of my native country. We visited the wondrous cave and the
little cabinets of natural history, where the curiosities are disposed in the same
manner as in the collections at Servox and Chamounix. The latter name made
me tremble when pronounced by Henry, and I hastened to quit Matlock, with
which that terrible scene was thus associated.
From Derby, still journeying northwards, we passed two months in Cumberland and Westmorland. I could now almost fancy myself among the Swiss
mountains. The little patches of snow which yet lingered on the northern sides of the mountains, the lakes, and the dashing of the rocky streams were all
familiar and dear sights to me. Here also we made some acquaintances, who
almost contrived to cheat me into happiness. The delight of Clerval was proportionably greater than mine; his mind expanded in the company of men of
talent, and he found in his own nature greater capacities and resources than he
could have imagined himself to have possessed while he associated with his inferiors. “I could pass my life here,” said he to me; “and among these mountains
I should scarcely regret Switzerland and the Rhine.”
But he found that a traveller’s life is one that includes much pain amidst its
enjoyments. His feelings are forever on the stretch; and when he begins to sink
into repose, he finds himself obliged to quit that on which he rests in pleasure for something new, which again engages his attention, and which also he
forsakes for other novelties.
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We had scarcely visited the various lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland and
conceived an affection for some of the inhabitants when the period of our appointment with our Scotch friend approached, and we left them to travel on.
For my own part I was not sorry. I had now neglected my promise for some time, and I feared the effects of the daemon’s disappointment. He might remain
in Switzerland and wreak his vengeance on my relatives. This idea pursued me
and tormented me at every moment from which I might otherwise have snatched repose and peace. I waited for my letters with feverish impatience; if they
were delayed I was miserable and overcome by a thousand fears; and when
they arrived and I saw the superscription of Elizabeth or my father, I hardly dared to read and ascertain my fate. Sometimes I thought that the fiend followed
me and might expedite my remissness by murdering my companion. When
these thoughts possessed me, I would not quit Henry for a moment, but followed him as his shadow, to protect him from the fancied rage of his destroyer.
I felt as if I had committed some great crime, the consciousness of which haunted me. I was guiltless, but I had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my
head, as mortal as that of crime.
I visited Edinburgh with languid eyes and mind; and yet that city might have
interested the most unfortunate being. Clerval did not like it so well as Oxford,
for the antiquity of the latter city was more pleasing to him. But the beauty and
regularity of the new town of Edinburgh, its romantic castle and its environs,
the most delightful in the world, Arthur’s Seat, St. Bernard’s Well, and the Pentland Hills compensated him for the change and filled him with cheerfulness
and admiration. But I was impatient to arrive at the termination of my journey.
We left Edinburgh in a week, passing through Coupar, St. Andrew’s, and along
the banks of the Tay, to Perth, where our friend expected us. But I was in no
mood to laugh and talk with strangers or enter into their feelings or plans with
the good humour expected from a guest; and accordingly I told Clerval that I
wished to make the tour of Scotland alone. “Do you,” said I, “enjoy yourself,
and let this be our rendezvous. I may be absent a month or two; but do not
interfere with my motions, I entreat you; leave me to peace and solitude for
a short time; and when I return, I hope it will be with a lighter heart, more
congenial to your own temper.”
Henry wished to dissuade me, but seeing me bent on this plan, ceased to remonstrate. He entreated me to write often. “I had rather be with you,” he said,
“in your solitary rambles, than with these Scotch people, whom I do not know;
hasten, then, my dear friend, to return, that I may again feel myself somewhat
at home, which I cannot do in your absence.”
Having parted from my friend, I determined to visit some remote spot of Scotland and finish my work in solitude. I did not doubt but that the monster followed me and would discover himself to me when I should have finished, that
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he might receive his companion. With this resolution I traversed the northern
highlands and fixed on one of the remotest of the Orkneys as the scene of my
labours. It was a place fitted for such a work, being hardly more than a rock
whose high sides were continually beaten upon by the waves. The soil was
barren, scarcely affording pasture for a few miserable cows, and oatmeal for its
inhabitants, which consisted of five persons, whose gaunt and scraggy limbs
gave tokens of their miserable fare. Vegetables and bread, when they indulged
in such luxuries, and even fresh water, was to be procured from the mainland,
which was about five miles distant.
On the whole island there were but three miserable huts, and one of these was
vacant when I arrived. This I hired. It contained but two rooms, and these exhibited all the squalidness of the most miserable penury. The thatch had fallen in,
the walls were unplastered, and the door was off its hinges. I ordered it to be
repaired, bought some furniture, and took possession, an incident which would
doubtless have occasioned some surprise had not all the senses of the cottagers
been benumbed by want and squalid poverty. As it was, I lived ungazed at and
unmolested, hardly thanked for the pittance of food and clothes which I gave,
so much does suffering blunt even the coarsest sensations of men.
In this retreat I devoted the morning to labour; but in the evening, when the
weather permitted, I walked on the stony beach of the sea to listen to the waves
as they roared and dashed at my feet. It was a monotonous yet ever-changing
scene. I thought of Switzerland; it was far different from this desolate and appalling landscape. Its hills are covered with vines, and its cottages are scattered thickly in the plains. Its fair lakes reflect a blue and gentle sky, and when
troubled by the winds, their tumult is but as the play of a lively infant when
compared to the roarings of the giant ocean.
In this manner I distributed my occupations when I first arrived, but as I proceeded in my labour, it became every day more horrible and irksome to me. Sometimes I could not prevail on myself to enter my laboratory for several days,
and at other times I toiled day and night in order to complete my work. It was,
indeed, a filthy process in which I was engaged. During my first experiment,
a kind of enthusiastic frenzy had blinded me to the horror of my employment;
my mind was intently fixed on the consummation of my labour, and my eyes
were shut to the horror of my proceedings. But now I went to it in cold blood,
and my heart often sickened at the work of my hands.
Thus situated, employed in the most detestable occupation, immersed in a solitude where nothing could for an instant call my attention from the actual scene
in which I was engaged, my spirits became unequal; I grew restless and nervous. Every moment I feared to meet my persecutor. Sometimes I sat with my
eyes fixed on the ground, fearing to raise them lest they should encounter the
object which I so much dreaded to behold. I feared to wander from the sight of
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my fellow creatures lest when alone he should come to claim his companion.
In the mean time I worked on, and my labour was already considerably advanced. I looked towards its completion with a tremulous and eager hope, which
I dared not trust myself to question but which was intermixed with obscure
forebodings of evil that made my heart sicken in my bosom.
I sat one evening in my laboratory; the sun had set, and the moon was just rising from the sea; I had not sufficient light for my employment, and I remained
idle, in a pause of consideration of whether I should leave my labour for the
night or hasten its conclusion by an unremitting attention to it. As I sat, a train
of reflection occurred to me which led me to consider the effects of what I was
now doing. Three years before, I was engaged in the same manner and had
created a fiend whose unparalleled barbarity had desolated my heart and filled
it forever with the bitterest remorse. I was now about to form another being
of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and
wretchedness. He had sworn to quit the neighbourhood of man and hide himself in deserts, but she had not; and she, who in all probability was to become
a thinking and reasoning animal, might refuse to comply with a compact made
before her creation. They might even hate each other; the creature who already
lived loathed his own deformity, and might he not conceive a greater abhorrence for it when it came before his eyes in the female form? She also might turn
with disgust from him to the superior beauty of man; she might quit him, and
he be again alone, exasperated by the fresh provocation of being deserted by
one of his own species. Even if they were to leave Europe and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which
the daemon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man
a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I right, for my own benefit, to
inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the
sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish
threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon
me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose
selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the
existence of the whole human race.
I trembled and my heart failed within me, when, on looking up, I saw by the
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light of the moon the daemon at the casement. A ghastly grin wrinkled his lips
as he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had allotted to me.
Yes, he had followed me in my travels; he had loitered in forests, hid himself in
caves, or taken refuge in wide and desert heaths; and he now came to mark my
progress and claim the fulfillment of my promise.
As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and
treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating
another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on
which I was engaged. The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future
existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and
revenge, withdrew.
I left the room, and locking the door, made a solemn vow in my own heart
never to resume my labours; and then, with trembling steps, I sought my own
apartment. I was alone; none were near me to dissipate the gloom and relieve
me from the sickening oppression of the most terrible reveries.
Several hours passed, and I remained near my window gazing on the sea; it was
almost motionless, for the winds were hushed, and all nature reposed under the
eye of the quiet moon. A few fishing vessels alone specked the water, and now
and then the gentle breeze wafted the sound of voices as the fishermen called
to one another. I felt the silence, although I was hardly conscious of its extreme
profundity, until my ear was suddenly arrested by the paddling of oars near the
shore, and a person landed close to my house.
In a few minutes after, I heard the creaking of my door, as if some one endeavoured to open it softly. I trembled from head to foot; I felt a presentiment of
who it was and wished to rouse one of the peasants who dwelt in a cottage not
far from mine; but I was overcome by the sensation of helplessness, so often
felt in frightful dreams, when you in vain endeavour to fly from an impending
danger, and was rooted to the spot. Presently I heard the sound of footsteps
along the passage; the door opened, and the wretch whom I dreaded appeared.
Shutting the door, he approached me and said in a smothered voice, “You have
destroyed the work which you began; what is it that you intend? Do you dare
to break your promise? I have endured toil and misery; I left Switzerland with
you; I crept along the shores of the Rhine, among its willow islands and over
the summits of its hills. I have dwelt many months in the heaths of England
and among the deserts of Scotland. I have endured incalculable fatigue, and
cold, and hunger; do you dare destroy my hopes?”
“Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal
in deformity and wickedness.”
“Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of
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my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you.
You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”
“The hour of my irresolution is past, and the period of your power is arrived.
Your threats cannot move me to do an act of wickedness; but they confirm me in
a determination of not creating you a companion in vice. Shall I, in cool blood,
set loose upon the earth a daemon whose delight is in death and wretchedness?
Begone! I am firm, and your words will only exasperate my rage.”
The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in the
impotence of anger. “Shall each man,” cried he, “find a wife for his bosom,
and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and
they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware!
Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which
must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while I
grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions,
but revenge remains–revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die,
but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your
misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the
wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of
the injuries you inflict.”
“Devil, cease; and do not poison the air with these sounds of malice. I have
declared my resolution to you, and I am no coward to bend beneath words.
Leave me; I am inexorable.”
“It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.”
I started forward and exclaimed, “Villain! Before you sign my death-warrant,
be sure that you are yourself safe.”
I would have seized him, but he eluded me and quitted the house with precipitation. In a few moments I saw him in his boat, which shot across the waters
with an arrowy swiftness and was soon lost amidst the waves.
All was again silent, but his words rang in my ears. I burned with rage to
pursue the murderer of my peace and precipitate him into the ocean. I walked
up and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imagination conjured
up a thousand images to torment and sting me. Why had I not followed him
and closed with him in mortal strife? But I had suffered him to depart, and
he had directed his course towards the mainland. I shuddered to think who
might be the next victim sacrificed to his insatiate revenge. And then I thought
That, then, was the period fixed for the fulfillment of my destiny. In that hour I
should die and at once satisfy and extinguish his malice. The prospect did not
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move me to fear; yet when I thought of my beloved Elizabeth, of her tears and
endless sorrow, when she should find her lover so barbarously snatched from
her, tears, the first I had shed for many months, streamed from my eyes, and I
resolved not to fall before my enemy without a bitter struggle.
The night passed away, and the sun rose from the ocean; my feelings became
calmer, if it may be called calmness when the violence of rage sinks into the
depths of despair. I left the house, the horrid scene of the last night’s contention,
and walked on the beach of the sea, which I almost regarded as an insuperable
barrier between me and my fellow creatures; nay, a wish that such should prove
the fact stole across me.
I desired that I might pass my life on that barren rock, wearily, it is true, but
uninterrupted by any sudden shock of misery. If I returned, it was to be sacrificed or to see those whom I most loved die under the grasp of a daemon whom
I had myself created.
I walked about the isle like a restless spectre, separated from all it loved and
miserable in the separation. When it became noon, and the sun rose higher,
I lay down on the grass and was overpowered by a deep sleep. I had been
awake the whole of the preceding night, my nerves were agitated, and my eyes
inflamed by watching and misery. The sleep into which I now sank refreshed
me; and when I awoke, I again felt as if I belonged to a race of human beings like
myself, and I began to reflect upon what had passed with greater composure;
yet still the words of the fiend rang in my ears like a death-knell; they appeared
like a dream, yet distinct and oppressive as a reality.
The sun had far descended, and I still sat on the shore, satisfying my appetite,
which had become ravenous, with an oaten cake, when I saw a fishing-boat land
close to me, and one of the men brought me a packet; it contained letters from
Geneva, and one from Clerval entreating me to join him. He said that he was
wearing away his time fruitlessly where he was, that letters from the friends he
had formed in London desired his return to complete the negotiation they had
entered into for his Indian enterprise. He could not any longer delay his departure; but as his journey to London might be followed, even sooner than he now
conjectured, by his longer voyage, he entreated me to bestow as much of my
society on him as I could spare. He besought me, therefore, to leave my solitary isle and to meet him at Perth, that we might proceed southwards together.
This letter in a degree recalled me to life, and I determined to quit my island at
the expiration of two days. Yet, before I departed, there was a task to perform,
on which I shuddered to reflect; I must pack up my chemical instruments, and
for that purpose I must enter the room which had been the scene of my odious
work, and I must handle those utensils the sight of which was sickening to me.
The next morning, at daybreak, I summoned sufficient courage and unlocked
the door of my laboratory. The remains of the half-finished creature, whom I
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had destroyed, lay scattered on the floor, and I almost felt as if I had mangled
the living flesh of a human being. I paused to collect myself and then entered
the chamber. With trembling hand I conveyed the instruments out of the room,
but I reflected that I ought not to leave the relics of my work to excite the horror
and suspicion of the peasants; and I accordingly put them into a basket, with
a great quantity of stones, and laying them up, determined to throw them into
the sea that very night; and in the meantime I sat upon the beach, employed in
cleaning and arranging my chemical apparatus.
Nothing could be more complete than the alteration that had taken place in my
feelings since the night of the appearance of the daemon. I had before regarded
my promise with a gloomy despair as a thing that, with whatever consequences,
must be fulfilled; but I now felt as if a film had been taken from before my eyes
and that I for the first time saw clearly. The idea of renewing my labours did
not for one instant occur to me; the threat I had heard weighed on my thoughts,
but I did not reflect that a voluntary act of mine could avert it. I had resolved in
my own mind that to create another like the fiend I had first made would be an
act of the basest and most atrocious selfishness, and I banished from my mind
every thought that could lead to a different conclusion.
Between two and three in the morning the moon rose; and I then, putting my
basket aboard a little skiff, sailed out about four miles from the shore. The scene
was perfectly solitary; a few boats were returning towards land, but I sailed
away from them. I felt as if I was about the commission of a dreadful crime
and avoided with shuddering anxiety any encounter with my fellow creatures.
At one time the moon, which had before been clear, was suddenly overspread
by a thick cloud, and I took advantage of the moment of darkness and cast my
basket into the sea; I listened to the gurgling sound as it sank and then sailed
away from the spot. The sky became clouded, but the air was pure, although
chilled by the northeast breeze that was then rising. But it refreshed me and
filled me with such agreeable sensations that I resolved to prolong my stay on
the water, and fixing the rudder in a direct position, stretched myself at the
bottom of the boat. Clouds hid the moon, everything was obscure, and I heard
only the sound of the boat as its keel cut through the waves; the murmur lulled
me, and in a short time I slept soundly. I do not know how long I remained
in this situation, but when I awoke I found that the sun had already mounted
considerably. The wind was high, and the waves continually threatened the
safety of my little skiff. I found that the wind was northeast and must have
driven me far from the coast from which I had embarked. I endeavoured to
change my course but quickly found that if I again made the attempt the boat
would be instantly filled with water. Thus situated, my only resource was to
drive before the wind. I confess that I felt a few sensations of terror. I had no
compass with me and was so slenderly acquainted with the geography of this
part of the world that the sun was of little benefit to me. I might be driven into
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the wide Atlantic and feel all the tortures of starvation or be swallowed up in
the immeasurable waters that roared and buffeted around me. I had already
been out many hours and felt the torment of a burning thirst, a prelude to my
other sufferings. I looked on the heavens, which were covered by clouds that
flew before the wind, only to be replaced by others; I looked upon the sea; it was
to be my grave. “Fiend,” I exclaimed, “your task is already fulfilled!” I thought
of Elizabeth, of my father, and of Clerval–all left behind, on whom the monster
might satisfy his sanguinary and merciless passions. This idea plunged me into
a reverie so despairing and frightful that even now, when the scene is on the
point of closing before me forever, I shudder to reflect on it.
Some hours passed thus; but by degrees, as the sun declined towards the horizon, the wind died away into a gentle breeze and the sea became free from
breakers. But these gave place to a heavy swell; I felt sick and hardly able to
hold the rudder, when suddenly I saw a line of high land towards the south.
Almost spent, as I was, by fatigue and the dreadful suspense I endured for
several hours, this sudden certainty of life rushed like a flood of warm joy to
my heart, and tears gushed from my eyes.
How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that clinging love we have
of life even in the excess of misery! I constructed another sail with a part of my
dress and eagerly steered my course towards the land. It had a wild and rocky
appearance, but as I approached nearer I easily perceived the traces of cultivation. I saw vessels near the shore and found myself suddenly transported back
to the neighbourhood of civilized man. I carefully traced the windings of the
land and hailed a steeple which I at length saw issuing from behind a small
promontory. As I was in a state of extreme debility, I resolved to sail directly
towards the town, as a place where I could most easily procure nourishment.
Fortunately I had money with me.
As I turned the promontory I perceived a small neat town and a good harbour,
which I entered, my heart bounding with joy at my unexpected escape.
As I was occupied in fixing the boat and arranging the sails, several people
crowded towards the spot. They seemed much surprised at my appearance,
but instead of offering me any assistance, whispered together with gestures
that at any other time might have produced in me a slight sensation of alarm.
As it was, I merely remarked that they spoke English, and I therefore addressed
them in that language. “My good friends,” said I, “will you be so kind as to tell
me the name of this town and inform me where I am?”
“You will know that soon enough,” replied a man with a hoarse voice. “Maybe
you are come to a place that will not prove much to your taste, but you will not
be consulted as to your quarters, I promise you.”
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I was exceedingly surprised on receiving so rude an answer from a stranger, and
I was also disconcerted on perceiving the frowning and angry countenances of
his companions. “Why do you answer me so roughly?” I replied. “Surely it is
not the custom of Englishmen to receive strangers so inhospitably.”
“I do not know,” said the man, “what the custom of the English may be, but it
is the custom of the Irish to hate villains.” While this strange dialogue continued, I perceived the crowd rapidly increase. Their faces expressed a mixture of
curiosity and anger, which annoyed and in some degree alarmed me.
I inquired the way to the inn, but no one replied. I then moved forward, and
a murmuring sound arose from the crowd as they followed and surrounded
me, when an ill-looking man approaching tapped me on the shoulder and said,
“Come, sir, you must follow me to Mr. Kirwin’s to give an account of yourself.”
“Who is Mr. Kirwin? Why am I to give an account of myself? Is not this a free
“Ay, sir, free enough for honest folks. Mr. Kirwin is a magistrate, and you are
to give an account of the death of a gentleman who was found murdered here
last night.”
This answer startled me, but I presently recovered myself. I was innocent; that
could easily be proved; accordingly I followed my conductor in silence and
was led to one of the best houses in the town. I was ready to sink from fatigue
and hunger, but being surrounded by a crowd, I thought it politic to rouse all
my strength, that no physical debility might be construed into apprehension or
conscious guilt. Little did I then expect the calamity that was in a few moments
to overwhelm me and extinguish in horror and despair all fear of ignominy or
death. I must pause here, for it requires all my fortitude to recall the memory of
the frightful events which I am about to relate, in proper detail, to my recollection.
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http://www.idph.netTwenty One
I was soon introduced into the presence of the magistrate, an old benevolent
man with calm and mild manners. He looked upon me, however, with some
degree of severity, and then, turning towards my conductors, he asked who
appeared as witnesses on this occasion.
About half a dozen men came forward; and, one being selected by the magistrate, he deposed that he had been out fishing the night before with his son and
brother-in-law, Daniel Nugent, when, about ten o’clock, they observed a strong
northerly blast rising, and they accordingly put in for port. It was a very dark
night, as the moon had not yet risen; they did not land at the harbour, but, as
they had been accustomed, at a creek about two miles below. He walked on
first, carrying a part of the fishing tackle, and his companions followed him at
some distance.
As he was proceeding along the sands, he struck his foot against something and
fell at his length on the ground. His companions came up to assist him, and by
the light of their lantern they found that he had fallen on the body of a man,
who was to all appearance dead. Their first supposition was that it was the
corpse of some person who had been drowned and was thrown on shore by the
waves, but on examination they found that the clothes were not wet and even
that the body was not then cold. They instantly carried it to the cottage of an
old woman near the spot and endeavoured, but in vain, to restore it to life. It
appeared to be a handsome young man, about five and twenty years of age. He
had apparently been strangled, for there was no sign of any violence except the
black mark of fingers on his neck.
The first part of this deposition did not in the least interest me, but when the
mark of the fingers was mentioned I remembered the murder of my brother
and felt myself extremely agitated; my limbs trembled, and a mist came over
my eyes, which obliged me to lean on a chair for support. The magistrate observed me with a keen eye and of course drew an unfavourable augury from
my manner.
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The son confirmed his father’s account, but when Daniel Nugent was called he
swore positively that just before the fall of his companion, he saw a boat, with a
single man in it, at a short distance from the shore; and as far as he could judge
by the light of a few stars, it was the same boat in which I had just landed. A
woman deposed that she lived near the beach and was standing at the door of
her cottage, waiting for the return of the fishermen, about an hour before she
heard of the discovery of the body, when she saw a boat with only one man in
it push off from that part of the shore where the corpse was afterwards found.
Another woman confirmed the account of the fishermen having brought the
body into her house; it was not cold. They put it into a bed and rubbed it, and
Daniel went to the town for an apothecary, but life was quite gone.
Several other men were examined concerning my landing, and they agreed that,
with the strong north wind that had arisen during the night, it was very probable that I had beaten about for many hours and had been obliged to return
nearly to the same spot from which I had departed. Besides, they observed that
it appeared that I had brought the body from another place, and it was likely
that as I did not appear to know the shore, I might have put into the harbour
ignorant of the distance of the town of —- from the place where I had deposited
the corpse.
Mr. Kirwin, on hearing this evidence, desired that I should be taken into the
room where the body lay for interment, that it might be observed what effect
the sight of it would produce upon me. This idea was probably suggested by
the extreme agitation I had exhibited when the mode of the murder had been
described. I was accordingly conducted, by the magistrate and several other
persons, to the inn. I could not help being struck by the strange coincidences
that had taken place during this eventful night; but, knowing that I had been
conversing with several persons in the island I had inhabited about the time
that the body had been found, I was perfectly tranquil as to the consequences
of the affair. I entered the room where the corpse lay and was led up to the
coffin. How can I describe my sensations on beholding it? I feel yet parched
with horror, nor can I reflect on that terrible moment without shuddering and
agony. The examination, the presence of the magistrate and witnesses, passed
like a dream from my memory when I saw the lifeless form of Henry Clerval
stretched before me. I gasped for breath, and throwing myself on the body, I
exclaimed, “Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest
Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny;
but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor–”
The human frame could no longer support the agonies that I endured, and I was
carried out of the room in strong convulsions. A fever succeeded to this. I lay
for two months on the point of death; my ravings, as I afterwards heard, were
frightful; I called myself the murderer of William, of Justine, and of Clerval.
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Sometimes I entreated my attendants to assist me in the destruction of the fiend
by whom I was tormented; and at others I felt the fingers of the monster already
grasping my neck, and screamed aloud with agony and terror. Fortunately, as I
spoke my native language, Mr. Kirwin alone understood me; but my gestures
and bitter cries were sufficient to affright the other witnesses. Why did I not die?
More miserable than man ever was before, why did I not sink into forgetfulness
and rest? Death snatches away many blooming children, the only hopes of their
doting parents; how many brides and youthful lovers have been one day in the
bloom of health and hope, and the next a prey for worms and the decay of the
tomb! Of what materials was I made that I could thus resist so many shocks,
which, like the turning of the wheel, continually renewed the torture?
But I was doomed to live and in two months found myself as awaking from a
dream, in a prison, stretched on a wretched bed, surrounded by jailers, turnkeys, bolts, and all the miserable apparatus of a dungeon. It was morning, I
remember, when I thus awoke to understanding; I had forgotten the particulars
of what had happened and only felt as if some great misfortune had suddenly
overwhelmed me; but when I looked around and saw the barred windows and
the squalidness of the room in which I was, all flashed across my memory and
I groaned bitterly.
This sound disturbed an old woman who was sleeping in a chair beside me.
She was a hired nurse, the wife of one of the turnkeys, and her countenance
expressed all those bad qualities which often characterize that class. The lines
of her face were hard and rude, like that of persons accustomed to see without
sympathizing in sights of misery. Her tone expressed her entire indifference;
she addressed me in English, and the voice struck me as one that I had heard
during my sufferings. “Are you better now, sir?” said she.
I replied in the same language, with a feeble voice, “I believe I am; but if it be all
true, if indeed I did not dream, I am sorry that I am still alive to feel this misery
and horror.”
“For that matter,” replied the old woman, “if you mean about the gentleman
you murdered, I believe that it were better for you if you were dead, for I fancy
it will go hard with you! However, that’s none of my business; I am sent to
nurse you and get you well; I do my duty with a safe conscience; it were well if
everybody did the same.”
I turned with loathing from the woman who could utter so unfeeling a speech
to a person just saved, on the very edge of death; but I felt languid and unable
to reflect on all that had passed. The whole series of my life appeared to me as
a dream; I sometimes doubted if indeed it were all true, for it never presented
itself to my mind with the force of reality.
As the images that floated before me became more distinct, I grew feverish; a
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darkness pressed around me; no one was near me who soothed me with the
gentle voice of love; no dear hand supported me. The physician came and
prescribed medicines, and the old woman prepared them for me; but utter carelessness was visible in the first, and the expression of brutality was strongly
marked in the visage of the second. Who could be interested in the fate of a
murderer but the hangman who would gain his fee?
These were my first reflections, but I soon learned that Mr. Kirwin had shown
me extreme kindness. He had caused the best room in the prison to be prepared for me (wretched indeed was the best); and it was he who had provided
a physician and a nurse. It is true, he seldom came to see me, for although
he ardently desired to relieve the sufferings of every human creature, he did
not wish to be present at the agonies and miserable ravings of a murderer. He
came, therefore, sometimes to see that I was not neglected, but his visits were
short and with long intervals. One day, while I was gradually recovering, I was
seated in a chair, my eyes half open and my cheeks livid like those in death. I
was overcome by gloom and misery and often reflected I had better seek death
than desire to remain in a world which to me was replete with wretchedness.
At one time I considered whether I should not declare myself guilty and suffer
the penalty of the law, less innocent than poor Justine had been. Such were my
thoughts when the door of my apartment was opened and Mr. Kirwin entered.
His countenance expressed sympathy and compassion; he drew a chair close
to mine and addressed me in French, “I fear that this place is very shocking to
you; can I do anything to make you more comfortable?”
“I thank you, but all that you mention is nothing to me; on the whole earth there
is no comfort which I am capable of receiving.”
“I know that the sympathy of a stranger can be but of little relief to one borne
down as you are by so strange a misfortune. But you will, I hope, soon quit
this melancholy abode, for doubtless evidence can easily be brought to free you
from the criminal charge.”
“That is my least concern; I am, by a course of strange events, become the most
miserable of mortals. Persecuted and tortured as I am and have been, can death
be any evil to me?”
“Nothing indeed could be more unfortunate and agonizing than the strange
chances that have lately occurred. You were thrown, by some surprising accident, on this shore, renowned for its hospitality, seized immediately, and charged with murder. The first sight that was presented to your eyes was the body
of your friend, murdered in so unaccountable a manner and placed, as it were,
by some fiend across your path.”
As Mr. Kirwin said this, notwithstanding the agitation I endured on this retrospect of my sufferings, I also felt considerable surprise at the knowledge he
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seemed to possess concerning me. I suppose some astonishment was exhibited
in my countenance, for Mr. Kirwin hastened to say, “Immediately upon your
being taken ill, all the papers that were on your person were brought me, and I
examined them that I might discover some trace by which I could send to your
relations an account of your misfortune and illness. I found several letters, and,
among others, one which I discovered from its commencement to be from your
father. I instantly wrote to Geneva; nearly two months have elapsed since the
departure of my letter. But you are ill; even now you tremble; you are unfit for
agitation of any kind.”
“This suspense is a thousand times worse than the most horrible event; tell
me what new scene of death has been acted, and whose murder I am now to
“Your family is perfectly well,” said Mr. Kirwin with gentleness; “and someone,
a friend, is come to visit you.”
I know not by what chain of thought the idea presented itself, but it instantly
darted into my mind that the murderer had come to mock at my misery and
taunt me with the death of Clerval, as a new incitement for me to comply with
his hellish desires. I put my hand before my eyes, and cried out in agony, “Oh!
Take him away! I cannot see him; for God’s sake, do not let him enter!”
Mr. Kirwin regarded me with a troubled countenance. He could not help regarding my exclamation as a presumption of my guilt and said in rather a severe tone, “I should have thought, young man, that the presence of your father
would have been welcome instead of inspiring such violent repugnance.”
“My father!” cried I, while every feature and every muscle was relaxed from
anguish to pleasure. “Is my father indeed come? How kind, how very kind!
But where is he, why does he not hasten to me?”
My change of manner surprised and pleased the magistrate; perhaps he
thought that my former exclamation was a momentary return of delirium, and
now he instantly resumed his former benevolence. He rose and quitted the
room with my nurse, and in a moment my father entered it.
Nothing, at this moment, could have given me greater pleasure than the arrival
of my father. I stretched out my hand to him and cried, “Are you, then, safe–and
Elizabeth–and Ernest?” My father calmed me with assurances of their welfare
and endeavoured, by dwelling on these subjects so interesting to my heart, to
raise my desponding spirits; but he soon felt that a prison cannot be the abode
of cheerfulness.
“What a place is this that you inhabit, my son!” said he, looking mournfully at
the barred windows and wretched appearance of the room. “You travelled to
seek happiness, but a fatality seems to pursue you. And poor Clerval–”
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The name of my unfortunate and murdered friend was an agitation too great
to be endured in my weak state; I shed tears. “Alas! Yes, my father,” replied I;
“some destiny of the most horrible kind hangs over me, and I must live to fulfil
it, or surely I should have died on the coffin of Henry.”
We were not allowed to converse for any length of time, for the precarious state
of my health rendered every precaution necessary that could ensure tranquillity. Mr. Kirwin came in and insisted that my strength should not be exhausted
by too much exertion. But the appearance of my father was to me like that of
my good angel, and I gradually recovered my health.
As my sickness quitted me, I was absorbed by a gloomy and black melancholy
that nothing could dissipate. The image of Clerval was forever before me, ghastly and murdered. More than once the agitation into which these reflections
threw me made my friends dread a dangerous relapse. Alas! Why did they
preserve so miserable and detested a life? It was surely that I might fulfil my
destiny, which is now drawing to a close. Soon, oh, very soon, will death extinguish these throbbings and relieve me from the mighty weight of anguish that
bears me to the dust; and, in executing the award of justice, I shall also sink
to rest. Then the appearance of death was distant, although the wish was ever
present to my thoughts; and I often sat for hours motionless and speechless,
wishing for some mighty revolution that might bury me and my destroyer in
its ruins.
The season of the assizes approached. I had already been three months in prison, and although I was still weak and in continual danger of a relapse, I was
obliged to travel nearly a hundred miles to the country town where the court
was held. Mr. Kirwin charged himself with every care of collecting witnesses
and arranging my defence. I was spared the disgrace of appearing publicly as
a criminal, as the case was not brought before the court that decides on life and
death. The grand jury rejected the bill, on its being proved that I was on the
Orkney Islands at the hour the body of my friend was found; and a fortnight
after my removal I was liberated from prison.
My father was enraptured on finding me freed from the vexations of a criminal
charge, that I was again allowed to breathe the fresh atmosphere and permitted to return to my native country. I did not participate in these feelings, for
to me the walls of a dungeon or a palace were alike hateful. The cup of life
was poisoned forever, and although the sun shone upon me, as upon the happy
and gay of heart, I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness,
penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me. Sometimes they were the expressive eyes of Henry, languishing in death, the dark
orbs nearly covered by the lids and the long black lashes that fringed them; sometimes it was the watery, clouded eyes of the monster, as I first saw them in
my chamber at Ingolstadt.
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My father tried to awaken in me the feelings of affection. He talked of Geneva, which I should soon visit, of Elizabeth and Ernest; but these words only
drew deep groans from me. Sometimes, indeed, I felt a wish for happiness and
thought with melancholy delight of my beloved cousin or longed, with a devouring maladie du pays, to see once more the blue lake and rapid Rhone, that
had been so dear to me in early childhood; but my general state of feeling was
a torpor in which a prison was as welcome a residence as the divinest scene
in nature; and these fits were seldom interrupted but by paroxysms of anguish
and despair. At these moments I often endeavoured to put an end to the existence I loathed, and it required unceasing attendance and vigilance to restrain
me from committing some dreadful act of violence.
Yet one duty remained to me, the recollection of which finally triumphed over
my selfish despair. It was necessary that I should return without delay to Geneva, there to watch over the lives of those I so fondly loved and to lie in wait for
the murderer, that if any chance led me to the place of his concealment, or if he
dared again to blast me by his presence, I might, with unfailing aim, put an end
to the existence of the monstrous image which I had endued with the mockery
of a soul still more monstrous. My father still desired to delay our departure,
fearful that I could not sustain the fatigues of a journey, for I was a shattered
wreck–the shadow of a human being. My strength was gone. I was a mere skeleton, and fever night and day preyed upon my wasted frame. Still, as I urged
our leaving Ireland with such inquietude and impatience, my father thought it
best to yield. We took our passage on board a vessel bound for Havre-de-Grace
and sailed with a fair wind from the Irish shores. It was midnight. I lay on the
deck looking at the stars and listening to the dashing of the waves. I hailed the
darkness that shut Ireland from my sight, and my pulse beat with a feverish joy
when I reflected that I should soon see Geneva. The past appeared to me in the
light of a frightful dream; yet the vessel in which I was, the wind that blew me
from the detested shore of Ireland, and the sea which surrounded me told me
too forcibly that I was deceived by no vision and that Clerval, my friend and
dearest companion, had fallen a victim to me and the monster of my creation.
I repassed, in my memory, my whole life–my quiet happiness while residing
with my family in Geneva, the death of my mother, and my departure for Ingolstadt. I remembered, shuddering, the mad enthusiasm that hurried me on
to the creation of my hideous enemy, and I called to mind the night in which
he first lived. I was unable to pursue the train of thought; a thousand feelings
pressed upon me, and I wept bitterly. Ever since my recovery from the fever I
had been in the custom of taking every night a small quantity of laudanum, for
it was by means of this drug only that I was enabled to gain the rest necessary
for the preservation of life. Oppressed by the recollection of my various misfortunes, I now swallowed double my usual quantity and soon slept profoundly.
But sleep did not afford me respite from thought and misery; my dreams presented a thousand objects that scared me. Towards morning I was possessed by
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a kind of nightmare; I felt the fiend’s grasp in my neck and could not free myself
from it; groans and cries rang in my ears. My father, who was watching over
me, perceiving my restlessness, awoke me; the dashing waves were around,
the cloudy sky above, the fiend was not here: a sense of security, a feeling that a
truce was established between the present hour and the irresistible, disastrous
future imparted to me a kind of calm forgetfulness, of which the human mind
is by its structure peculiarly susceptible.
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The voyage came to an end. We landed, and proceeded to Paris. I soon found
that I had overtaxed my strength and that I must repose before I could continue
my journey. My father’s care and attentions were indefatigable, but he did not
know the origin of my sufferings and sought erroneous methods to remedy the
incurable ill. He wished me to seek amusement in society. I abhorred the face
of man. Oh, not abhorred! They were my brethren, my fellow beings, and I felt
attracted even to the most repulsive among them, as to creatures of an angelic
nature and celestial mechanism. But I felt that I had no right to share their
intercourse. I had unchained an enemy among them whose joy it was to shed
their blood and to revel in their groans. How they would, each and all, abhor
me and hunt me from the world did they know my unhallowed acts and the
crimes which had their source in me!
My father yielded at length to my desire to avoid society and strove by various
arguments to banish my despair. Sometimes he thought that I felt deeply the
degradation of being obliged to answer a charge of murder, and he endeavoured to prove to me the futility of pride.
“Alas! My father,” said I, “how little do you know me. Human beings, their
feelings and passions, would indeed be degraded if such a wretch as I felt pride.
Justine, poor unhappy Justine, was as innocent as I, and she suffered the same
charge; she died for it; and I am the cause of this–I murdered her. William,
Justine, and Henry–they all died by my hands.”
My father had often, during my imprisonment, heard me make the same assertion; when I thus accused myself, he sometimes seemed to desire an explanation, and at others he appeared to consider it as the offspring of delirium,
and that, during my illness, some idea of this kind had presented itself to my
imagination, the remembrance of which I preserved in my convalescence.
I avoided explanation and maintained a continual silence concerning the wretch I had created. I had a persuasion that I should be supposed mad, and this
in itself would forever have chained my tongue. But, besides, I could not bring
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myself to disclose a secret which would fill my hearer with consternation and
make fear and unnatural horror the inmates of his breast. I checked, therefore,
my impatient thirst for sympathy and was silent when I would have given the
world to have confided the fatal secret. Yet, still, words like those I have recorded would burst uncontrollably from me. I could offer no explanation of them,
but their truth in part relieved the burden of my mysterious woe. Upon this occasion my father said, with an expression of unbounded wonder, “My dearest
Victor, what infatuation is this? My dear son, I entreat you never to make such
an assertion again.”
“I am not mad,” I cried energetically; “the sun and the heavens, who have viewed my operations, can bear witness of my truth. I am the assassin of those
most innocent victims; they died by my machinations. A thousand times would
I have shed my own blood, drop by drop, to have saved their lives; but I could
not, my father, indeed I could not sacrifice the whole human race.”
The conclusion of this speech convinced my father that my ideas were deranged, and he instantly changed the subject of our conversation and endeavoured
to alter the course of my thoughts. He wished as much as possible to obliterate
the memory of the scenes that had taken place in Ireland and never alluded to
them or suffered me to speak of my misfortunes.
As time passed away I became more calm; misery had her dwelling in my heart,
but I no longer talked in the same incoherent manner of my own crimes; sufficient for me was the consciousness of them. By the utmost self-violence I curbed
the imperious voice of wretchedness, which sometimes desired to declare itself
to the whole world, and my manners were calmer and more composed than
they had ever been since my journey to the sea of ice. A few days before we left
Paris on our way to Switzerland, I received the following letter from Elizabeth:
My dear Friend,
It gave me the greatest pleasure to receive a letter from my uncle dated at Paris;
you are no longer at a formidable distance, and I may hope to see you in less
than a fortnight. My poor cousin, how much you must have suffered! I expect
to see you looking even more ill than when you quitted Geneva. This winter
has been passed most miserably, tortured as I have been by anxious suspense;
yet I hope to see peace in your countenance and to find that your heart is not
totally void of comfort and tranquillity.
Yet I fear that the same feelings now exist that made you so miserable a year ago,
even perhaps augmented by time. I would not disturb you at this period, when
so many misfortunes weigh upon you, but a conversation that I had with my
uncle previous to his departure renders some explanation necessary before we
meet. Explanation! You may possibly say, What can Elizabeth have to explain?
If you really say this, my questions are answered and all my doubts satisfied.
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But you are distant from me, and it is possible that you may dread and yet
be pleased with this explanation; and in a probability of this being the case, I
dare not any longer postpone writing what, during your absence, I have often
wished to express to you but have never had the courage to begin.
You well know, Victor, that our union had been the favourite plan of your parents ever since our infancy. We were told this when young, and taught to look
forward to it as an event that would certainly take place. We were affectionate
playfellows during childhood, and, I believe, dear and valued friends to one
another as we grew older. But as brother and sister often entertain a lively affection towards each other without desiring a more intimate union, may not
such also be our case? Tell me, dearest Victor. Answer me, I conjure you by our
mutual happiness, with simple truth–Do you not love another?
You have travelled; you have spent several years of your life at Ingolstadt; and I
confess to you, my friend, that when I saw you last autumn so unhappy, flying
to solitude from the society of every creature, I could not help supposing that
you might regret our connection and believe yourself bound in honour to fulfil
the wishes of your parents, although they opposed themselves to your inclinations. But this is false reasoning. I confess to you, my friend, that I love you
and that in my airy dreams of futurity you have been my constant friend and
companion. But it is your happiness I desire as well as my own when I declare
to you that our marriage would render me eternally miserable unless it were
the dictate of your own free choice. Even now I weep to think that, borne down
as you are by the cruellest misfortunes, you may stifle, by the word “honour,”
all hope of that love and happiness which would alone restore you to yourself.
I, who have so disinterested an affection for you, may increase your miseries
tenfold by being an obstacle to your wishes. Ah! Victor, be assured that your
cousin and playmate has too sincere a love for you not to be made miserable
by this supposition. Be happy, my friend; and if you obey me in this one request, remain satisfied that nothing on earth will have the power to interrupt
my tranquillity.
Do not let this letter disturb you; do not answer tomorrow, or the next day, or
even until you come, if it will give you pain. My uncle will send me news of
your health, and if I see but one smile on your lips when we meet, occasioned
by this or any other exertion of mine, I shall need no other happiness.
Elizabeth Lavenza
Geneva, May 18th, 17-
This letter revived in my memory what I had before forgotten, the threat of the
sentence, and on that night would the daemon employ every art to destroy me
and tear me from the glimpse of happiness which promised partly to console
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my sufferings. On that night he had determined to consummate his crimes by
my death. Well, be it so; a deadly struggle would then assuredly take place, in
which if he were victorious I should be at peace and his power over me be at
an end. If he were vanquished, I should be a free man. Alas! What freedom?
Such as the peasant enjoys when his family have been massacred before his
eyes, his cottage burnt, his lands laid waste, and he is turned adrift, homeless,
penniless, and alone, but free. Such would be my liberty except that in my
Elizabeth I possessed a treasure, alas, balanced by those horrors of remorse and
guilt which would pursue me until death.
Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and reread her letter, and some softened
feelings stole into my heart and dared to whisper paradisiacal dreams of love
and joy; but the apple was already eaten, and the angel’s arm bared to drive
me from all hope. Yet I would die to make her happy. If the monster executed
his threat, death was inevitable; yet, again, I considered whether my marriage
would hasten my fate. My destruction might indeed arrive a few months sooner, but if my torturer should suspect that I postponed it, influenced by his
menaces, he would surely find other and perhaps more dreadful means of revenge.
He had vowed TO BE WITH ME ON MY WEDDING-NIGHT, yet he did not
consider that threat as binding him to peace in the meantime, for as if to show
me that he was not yet satiated with blood, he had murdered Clerval immediately after the enunciation of his threats. I resolved, therefore, that if my immediate union with my cousin would conduce either to hers or my father’s
happiness, my adversary’s designs against my life should not retard it a single
In this state of mind I wrote to Elizabeth. My letter was calm and affectionate.
“I fear, my beloved girl,” I said, “little happiness remains for us on earth; yet all
that I may one day enjoy is centred in you. Chase away your idle fears; to you
alone do I consecrate my life and my endeavours for contentment. I have one
secret, Elizabeth, a dreadful one; when revealed to you, it will chill your frame
with horror, and then, far from being surprised at my misery, you will only
wonder that I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale of misery
and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place, for, my sweet
cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us. But until then, I conjure
you, do not mention or allude to it. This I most earnestly entreat, and I know
you will comply.”
In about a week after the arrival of Elizabeth’s letter we returned to Geneva.
The sweet girl welcomed me with warm affection, yet tears were in her eyes
as she beheld my emaciated frame and feverish cheeks. I saw a change in her
also. She was thinner and had lost much of that heavenly vivacity that had
before charmed me; but her gentleness and soft looks of compassion made her
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a more fit companion for one blasted and miserable as I was. The tranquillity
which I now enjoyed did not endure. Memory brought madness with it, and
when I thought of what had passed, a real insanity possessed me; sometimes
I was furious and burnt with rage, sometimes low and despondent. I neither
spoke nor looked at anyone, but sat motionless, bewildered by the multitude of
miseries that overcame me.
Elizabeth alone had the power to draw me from these fits; her gentle voice
would soothe me when transported by passion and inspire me with human
feelings when sunk in torpor. She wept with me and for me. When reason
returned, she would remonstrate and endeavour to inspire me with resignation.
Ah! It is well for the unfortunate to be resigned, but for the guilty there is no
peace. The agonies of remorse poison the luxury there is otherwise sometimes
found in indulging the excess of grief. Soon after my arrival my father spoke of
my immediate marriage with Elizabeth. I remained silent.
“Have you, then, some other attachment?”
“None on earth. I love Elizabeth and look forward to our union with delight.
Let the day therefore be fixed; and on it I will consecrate myself, in life or death,
to the happiness of my cousin.”
“My dear Victor, do not speak thus. Heavy misfortunes have befallen us, but
let us only cling closer to what remains and transfer our love for those whom
we have lost to those who yet live. Our circle will be small but bound close by
the ties of affection and mutual misfortune. And when time shall have softened
your despair, new and dear objects of care will be born to replace those of whom
we have been so cruelly deprived.”
Such were the lessons of my father. But to me the remembrance of the threat
returned; nor can you wonder that, omnipotent as the fiend had yet been in
his deeds of blood, I should almost regard him as invincible, and that when he
had pronounced the words “I SHALL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDINGNIGHT,” I should regard the threatened fate as unavoidable. But death was no
evil to me if the loss of Elizabeth were balanced with it, and I therefore, with
a contented and even cheerful countenance, agreed with my father that if my
cousin would consent, the ceremony should take place in ten days, and thus
put, as I imagined, the seal to my fate.
Great God! If for one instant I had thought what might be the hellish intention
of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myself forever from
my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over the earth than have
consented to this miserable marriage. But, as if possessed of magic powers, the
monster had blinded me to his real intentions; and when I thought that I had
prepared only my own death, I hastened that of a far dearer victim.
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As the period fixed for our marriage drew nearer, whether from cowardice or
a prophetic feeling, I felt my heart sink within me. But I concealed my feelings
by an appearance of hilarity that brought smiles and joy to the countenance
of my father, but hardly deceived the everwatchful and nicer eye of Elizabeth.
She looked forward to our union with placid contentment, not unmingled with
a little fear, which past misfortunes had impressed, that what now appeared
certain and tangible happiness might soon dissipate into an airy dream and
leave no trace but deep and everlasting regret. Preparations were made for the
event, congratulatory visits were received, and all wore a smiling appearance.
I shut up, as well as I could, in my own heart the anxiety that preyed there
and entered with seeming earnestness into the plans of my father, although
they might only serve as the decorations of my tragedy. Through my father’s
exertions a part of the inheritance of Elizabeth had been restored to her by the
Austrian government. A small possession on the shores of Como belonged to
her. It was agreed that, immediately after our union, we should proceed to
Villa Lavenza and spend our first days of happiness beside the beautiful lake
near which it stood.
In the meantime I took every precaution to defend my person in case the fiend
should openly attack me. I carried pistols and a dagger constantly about me and
was ever on the watch to prevent artifice, and by these means gained a greater
degree of tranquillity. Indeed, as the period approached, the threat appeared
more as a delusion, not to be regarded as worthy to disturb my peace, while the
happiness I hoped for in my marriage wore a greater appearance of certainty
as the day fixed for its solemnization drew nearer and I heard it continually
spoken of as an occurrence which no accident could possibly prevent.
Elizabeth seemed happy; my tranquil demeanour contributed greatly to calm
her mind. But on the day that was to fulfil my wishes and my destiny, she
was melancholy, and a presentiment of evil pervaded her; and perhaps also
she thought of the dreadful secret which I had promised to reveal to her on the
following day. My father was in the meantime overjoyed and in the bustle of
preparation only recognized in the melancholy of his niece the diffidence of a
After the ceremony was performed a large party assembled at my father’s, but
it was agreed that Elizabeth and I should commence our journey by water, sleeping that night at Evian and continuing our voyage on the following day. The
day was fair, the wind favourable; all smiled on our nuptial embarkation.
Those were the last moments of my life during which I enjoyed the feeling of
happiness. We passed rapidly along; the sun was hot, but we were sheltered
from its rays by a kind of canopy while we enjoyed the beauty of the scene, sometimes on one side of the lake, where we saw Mont Saleve, the pleasant banks
of Montalegre, and at a distance, surmounting all, the beautiful Mont Blanc
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and the assemblage of snowy mountains that in vain endeavour to emulate
her; sometimes coasting the opposite banks, we saw the mighty Jura opposing
its dark side to the ambition that would quit its native country, and an almost
insurmountable barrier to the invader who should wish to enslave it.
I took the hand of Elizabeth. “You are sorrowful, my love. Ah! If you knew
what I have suffered and what I may yet endure, you would endeavour to let
me taste the quiet and freedom from despair that this one day at least permits
me to enjoy.”
“Be happy, my dear Victor,” replied Elizabeth; “there is, I hope, nothing to distress you; and be assured that if a lively joy is not painted in my face, my heart is
contented. Something whispers to me not to depend too much on the prospect
that is opened before us, but I will not listen to such a sinister voice. Observe
how fast we move along and how the clouds, which sometimes obscure and
sometimes rise above the dome of Mont Blanc, render this scene of beauty still
more interesting. Look also at the innumerable fish that are swimming in the
clear waters, where we can distinguish every pebble that lies at the bottom.
What a divine day! How happy and serene all nature appears!”
Thus Elizabeth endeavoured to divert her thoughts and mine from all reflection upon melancholy subjects. But her temper was fluctuating; joy for a few
instants shone in her eyes, but it continually gave place to distraction and reverie.
The sun sank lower in the heavens; we passed the river Drance and observed its
path through the chasms of the higher and the glens of the lower hills. The Alps
here come closer to the lake, and we approached the amphitheatre of mountains
which forms its eastern boundary. The spire of Evian shone under the woods
that surrounded it and the range of mountain above mountain by which it was
The wind, which had hitherto carried us along with amazing rapidity, sank at
sunset to a light breeze; the soft air just ruffled the water and caused a pleasant
motion among the trees as we approached the shore, from which it wafted the
most delightful scent of flowers and hay. The sun sank beneath the horizon as
we landed, and as I touched the shore I felt those cares and fears revive which
soon were to clasp me and cling to me forever.
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http://www.idph.netTwenty Three
It was eight o’clock when we landed; we walked for a short time on the shore,
enjoying the transitory light, and then retired to the inn and contemplated the
lovely scene of waters, woods, and mountains, obscured in darkness, yet still
displaying their black outlines.
The wind, which had fallen in the south, now rose with great violence in the
west. The moon had reached her summit in the heavens and was beginning
to descend; the clouds swept across it swifter than the flight of the vulture and
dimmed her rays, while the lake reflected the scene of the busy heavens, rendered still busier by the restless waves that were beginning to rise. Suddenly a
heavy storm of rain descended.
I had been calm during the day, but so soon as night obscured the shapes of
objects, a thousand fears arose in my mind. I was anxious and watchful, while
my right hand grasped a pistol which was hidden in my bosom; every sound
terrified me, but I resolved that I would sell my life dearly and not shrink from
the conflict until my own life or that of my adversary was extinguished. Elizabeth observed my agitation for some time in timid and fearful silence, but there
was something in my glance which communicated terror to her, and trembling,
she asked, “What is it that agitates you, my dear Victor? What is it you fear?”
“Oh! Peace, peace, my love,” replied I; “this night, and all will be safe; but this
night is dreadful, very dreadful.”
I passed an hour in this state of mind, when suddenly I reflected how fearful
the combat which I momentarily expected would be to my wife, and I earnestly entreated her to retire, resolving not to join her until I had obtained some
knowledge as to the situation of my enemy.
She left me, and I continued some time walking up and down the passages of
the house and inspecting every corner that might afford a retreat to my adversary. But I discovered no trace of him and was beginning to conjecture that
some fortunate chance had intervened to prevent the execution of his menaces
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when suddenly I heard a shrill and dreadful scream. It came from the room
into which Elizabeth had retired. As I heard it, the whole truth rushed into my
mind, my arms dropped, the motion of every muscle and fibre was suspended;
I could feel the blood trickling in my veins and tingling in the extremities of my
limbs. This state lasted but for an instant; the scream was repeated, and I rushed
into the room. Great God! Why did I not then expire! Why am I here to relate
the destruction of the best hope and the purest creature on earth? She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down and
her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair. Everywhere I turn I see
the same figure–her bloodless arms and relaxed form flung by the murderer on
its bridal bier. Could I behold this and live? Alas! Life is obstinate and clings
closest where it is most hated. For a moment only did I lose recollection; I fell
senseless on the ground.
When I recovered I found myself surrounded by the people of the inn; their
countenances expressed a breathless terror, but the horror of others appeared
only as a mockery, a shadow of the feelings that oppressed me. I escaped from
them to the room where lay the body of Elizabeth, my love, my wife, so lately
living, so dear, so worthy. She had been moved from the posture in which I had
first beheld her, and now, as she lay, her head upon her arm and a handkerchief
thrown across her face and neck, I might have supposed her asleep. I rushed
towards her and embraced her with ardour, but the deadly languor and coldness of the limbs told me that what I now held in my arms had ceased to be the
Elizabeth whom I had loved and cherished. The murderous mark of the fiend’s
grasp was on her neck, and the breath had ceased to issue from her lips. While I
still hung over her in the agony of despair, I happened to look up. The windows
of the room had before been darkened, and I felt a kind of panic on seeing the
pale yellow light of the moon illuminate the chamber. The shutters had been
thrown back, and with a sensation of horror not to be described, I saw at the
open window a figure the most hideous and abhorred. A grin was on the face
of the monster; he seemed to jeer, as with his fiendish finger he pointed towards
the corpse of my wife. I rushed towards the window, and drawing a pistol from
my bosom, fired; but he eluded me, leaped from his station, and running with
the swiftness of lightning, plunged into the lake.
The report of the pistol brought a crowd into the room. I pointed to the spot
where he had disappeared, and we followed the track with boats; nets were
cast, but in vain. After passing several hours, we returned hopeless, most of
my companions believing it to have been a form conjured up by my fancy. After
having landed, they proceeded to search the country, parties going in different
directions among the woods and vines.
I attempted to accompany them and proceeded a short distance from the house,
but my head whirled round, my steps were like those of a drunken man, I fell
at last in a state of utter exhaustion; a film covered my eyes, and my skin was
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parched with the heat of fever. In this state I was carried back and placed on
a bed, hardly conscious of what had happened; my eyes wandered round the
room as if to seek something that I had lost.
After an interval I arose, and as if by instinct, crawled into the room where the
corpse of my beloved lay. There were women weeping around; I hung over it
and joined my sad tears to theirs; all this time no distinct idea presented itself to
my mind, but my thoughts rambled to various subjects, reflecting confusedly
on my misfortunes and their cause. I was bewildered, in a cloud of wonder and
horror. The death of William, the execution of Justine, the murder of Clerval,
and lastly of my wife; even at that moment I knew not that my only remaining
friends were safe from the malignity of the fiend; my father even now might be
writhing under his grasp, and Ernest might be dead at his feet. This idea made
me shudder and recalled me to action. I started up and resolved to return to
Geneva with all possible speed.
There were no horses to be procured, and I must return by the lake; but the
wind was unfavourable, and the rain fell in torrents. However, it was hardly
morning, and I might reasonably hope to arrive by night. I hired men to row
and took an oar myself, for I had always experienced relief from mental torment
in bodily exercise. But the overflowing misery I now felt, and the excess of agitation that I endured rendered me incapable of any exertion. I threw down the
oar, and leaning my head upon my hands, gave way to every gloomy idea that
arose. If I looked up, I saw scenes which were familiar to me in my happier time
and which I had contemplated but the day before in the company of her who
was now but a shadow and a recollection. Tears streamed from my eyes. The
rain had ceased for a moment, and I saw the fish play in the waters as they had
done a few hours before; they had then been observed by Elizabeth. Nothing is
so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. The sun might shine or the clouds might lower, but nothing could appear to me as it had done the
day before. A fiend had snatched from me every hope of future happiness; no
creature had ever been so miserable as I was; so frightful an event is single in the
history of man. But why should I dwell upon the incidents that followed this
last overwhelming event? Mine has been a tale of horrors; I have reached their
acme, and what I must now relate can but be tedious to you. Know that, one
by one, my friends were snatched away; I was left desolate. My own strength
is exhausted, and I must tell, in a few words, what remains of my hideous narration. I arrived at Geneva. My father and Ernest yet lived, but the former sunk
under the tidings that I bore. I see him now, excellent and venerable old man!
His eyes wandered in vacancy, for they had lost their charm and their delight–
his Elizabeth, his more than daughter, whom he doted on with all that affection
which a man feels, who in the decline of life, having few affections, clings more
earnestly to those that remain. Cursed, cursed be the fiend that brought misery
on his grey hairs and doomed him to waste in wretchedness! He could not live
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under the horrors that were accumulated around him; the springs of existence
suddenly gave way; he was unable to rise from his bed, and in a few days he
died in my arms.
What then became of me? I know not; I lost sensation, and chains and darkness were the only objects that pressed upon me. Sometimes, indeed, I dreamt
that I wandered in flowery meadows and pleasant vales with the friends of my
youth, but I awoke and found myself in a dungeon. Melancholy followed, but
by degrees I gained a clear conception of my miseries and situation and was
then released from my prison. For they had called me mad, and during many
months, as I understood, a solitary cell had been my habitation.
Liberty, however, had been a useless gift to me, had I not, as I awakened to reason, at the same time awakened to revenge. As the memory of past misfortunes
pressed upon me, I began to reflect on their cause–the monster whom I had
created, the miserable daemon whom I had sent abroad into the world for my
destruction. I was possessed by a maddening rage when I thought of him, and
desired and ardently prayed that I might have him within my grasp to wreak a
great and signal revenge on his cursed head.
Nor did my hate long confine itself to useless wishes; I began to reflect on the
best means of securing him; and for this purpose, about a month after my release, I repaired to a criminal judge in the town and told him that I had an
accusation to make, that I knew the destroyer of my family, and that I required him to exert his whole authority for the apprehension of the murderer. The
magistrate listened to me with attention and kindness.
“Be assured, sir,” said he, “no pains or exertions on my part shall be spared to
discover the villain.”
“I thank you,” replied I; “listen, therefore, to the deposition that I have to make.
It is indeed a tale so strange that I should fear you would not credit it were
there not something in truth which, however wonderful, forces conviction. The
story is too connected to be mistaken for a dream, and I have no motive for
falsehood.” My manner as I thus addressed him was impressive but calm; I
had formed in my own heart a resolution to pursue my destroyer to death, and
this purpose quieted my agony and for an interval reconciled me to life. I now
related my history briefly but with firmness and precision, marking the dates
with accuracy and never deviating into invective or exclamation.
The magistrate appeared at first perfectly incredulous, but as I continued he became more attentive and interested; I saw him sometimes shudder with horror;
at others a lively surprise, unmingled with disbelief, was painted on his countenance. When I had concluded my narration I said, “This is the being whom
I accuse and for whose seizure and punishment I call upon you to exert your
whole power. It is your duty as a magistrate, and I believe and hope that your
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feelings as a man will not revolt from the execution of those functions on this
occasion.” This address caused a considerable change in the physiognomy of
my own auditor. He had heard my story with that half kind of belief that is
given to a tale of spirits and supernatural events; but when he was called upon
to act officially in consequence, the whole tide of his incredulity returned. He,
however, answered mildly, “I would willingly afford you every aid in your pursuit, but the creature of whom you speak appears to have powers which would
put all my exertions to defiance. Who can follow an animal which can traverse
the sea of ice and inhabit caves and dens where no man would venture to intrude? Besides, some months have elapsed since the commission of his crimes,
and no one can conjecture to what place he has wandered or what region he
may now inhabit.”
“I do not doubt that he hovers near the spot which I inhabit, and if he has indeed
taken refuge in the Alps, he may be hunted like the chamois and destroyed as a
beast of prey. But I perceive your thoughts; you do not credit my narrative and
do not intend to pursue my enemy with the punishment which is his desert.”
As I spoke, rage sparkled in my eyes; the magistrate was intimidated. “You
are mistaken,” said he. “I will exert myself, and if it is in my power to seize the
monster, be assured that he shall suffer punishment proportionate to his crimes.
But I fear, from what you have yourself described to be his properties, that this
will prove impracticable; and thus, while every proper measure is pursued, you
should make up your mind to disappointment.”
“That cannot be; but all that I can say will be of little avail. My revenge is of no
moment to you; yet, while I allow it to be a vice, I confess that it is the devouring
and only passion of my soul. My rage is unspeakable when I reflect that the
murderer, whom I have turned loose upon society, still exists. You refuse my
just demand; I have but one resource, and I devote myself, either in my life or
death, to his destruction.”
I trembled with excess of agitation as I said this; there was a frenzy in my manner, and something, I doubt not, of that haughty fierceness which the martyrs of
old are said to have possessed. But to a Genevan magistrate, whose mind was
occupied by far other ideas than those of devotion and heroism, this elevation
of mind had much the appearance of madness. He endeavoured to soothe me
as a nurse does a child and reverted to my tale as the effects of delirium.
“Man,” I cried, “how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom! Cease; you
know not what it is you say.”
I broke from the house angry and disturbed and retired to meditate on some
other mode of action.
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http://www.idph.netTwenty Four
My present situation was one in which all voluntary thought was swallowed up
and lost. I was hurried away by fury; revenge alone endowed me with strength
and composure; it moulded my feelings and allowed me to be calculating and
calm at periods when otherwise delirium or death would have been my portion.
My first resolution was to quit Geneva forever; my country, which, when I was
happy and beloved, was dear to me, now, in my adversity, became hateful. I
provided myself with a sum of money, together with a few jewels which had
belonged to my mother, and departed. And now my wanderings began which
are to cease but with life. I have traversed a vast portion of the earth and have
endured all the hardships which travellers in deserts and barbarous countries
are wont to meet. How I have lived I hardly know; many times have I stretched
my failing limbs upon the sandy plain and prayed for death. But revenge kept
me alive; I dared not die and leave my adversary in being.
When I quitted Geneva my first labour was to gain some clue by which I might
trace the steps of my fiendish enemy. But my plan was unsettled, and I wandered many hours round the confines of the town, uncertain what path I should
pursue. As night approached I found myself at the entrance of the cemetery
where William, Elizabeth, and my father reposed. I entered it and approached
the tomb which marked their graves. Everything was silent except the leaves
of the trees, which were gently agitated by the wind; the night was nearly dark,
and the scene would have been solemn and affecting even to an uninterested
observer. The spirits of the departed seemed to flit around and to cast a shadow,
which was felt but not seen, around the head of the mourner.
The deep grief which this scene had at first excited quickly gave way to rage and
despair. They were dead, and I lived; their murderer also lived, and to destroy
him I must drag out my weary existence. I knelt on the grass and kissed the
earth and with quivering lips exclaimed, “By the sacred earth on which I kneel,
by the shades that wander near me, by the deep and eternal grief that I feel, I
swear; and by thee, O Night, and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue
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the daemon who caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict.
For this purpose I will preserve my life; to execute this dear revenge will I again
behold the sun and tread the green herbage of earth, which otherwise should
vanish from my eyes forever. And I call on you, spirits of the dead, and on
you, wandering ministers of vengeance, to aid and conduct me in my work.
Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair
that now torments me.” I had begun my adjuration with solemnity and an awe
which almost assured me that the shades of my murdered friends heard and
approved my devotion, but the furies possessed me as I concluded, and rage
choked my utterance.
I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendish laugh. It
rang on my ears long and heavily; the mountains re-echoed it, and I felt as if all
hell surrounded me with mockery and laughter. Surely in that moment I should
have been possessed by frenzy and have destroyed my miserable existence but
that my vow was heard and that I was reserved for vengeance. The laughter
died away, when a well-known and abhorred voice, apparently close to my ear,
addressed me in an audible whisper, “I am satisfied, miserable wretch! You
have determined to live, and I am satisfied.”
I darted towards the spot from which the sound proceeded, but the devil eluded
my grasp. Suddenly the broad disk of the moon arose and shone full upon his
ghastly and distorted shape as he fled with more than mortal speed.
I pursued him, and for many months this has been my task. Guided by a slight
clue, I followed the windings of the Rhone, but vainly. The blue Mediterranean
appeared, and by a strange chance, I saw the fiend enter by night and hide
himself in a vessel bound for the Black Sea. I took my passage in the same ship,
but he escaped, I know not how.
Amidst the wilds of Tartary and Russia, although he still evaded me, I have
ever followed in his track. Sometimes the peasants, scared by this horrid apparition, informed me of his path; sometimes he himself, who feared that if I
lost all trace of him I should despair and die, left some mark to guide me. The
snows descended on my head, and I saw the print of his huge step on the white
plain. To you first entering on life, to whom care is new and agony unknown,
how can you understand what I have felt and still feel? Cold, want, and fatigue
were the least pains which I was destined to endure; I was cursed by some devil and carried about with me my eternal hell; yet still a spirit of good followed
and directed my steps and when I most murmured would suddenly extricate
me from seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Sometimes, when nature, overcome by hunger, sank under the exhaustion, a repast was prepared for me in
the desert that restored and inspirited me. The fare was, indeed, coarse, such
as the peasants of the country ate, but I will not doubt that it was set there by
the spirits that I had invoked to aid me. Often, when all was dry, the heavens
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cloudless, and I was parched by thirst, a slight cloud would bedim the sky, shed
the few drops that revived me, and vanish.
I followed, when I could, the courses of the rivers; but the daemon generally
avoided these, as it was here that the population of the country chiefly collected.
In other places human beings were seldom seen, and I generally subsisted on
the wild animals that crossed my path. I had money with me and gained the
friendship of the villagers by distributing it; or I brought with me some food
that I had killed, which, after taking a small part, I always presented to those
who had provided me with fire and utensils for cooking.
My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and it was during sleep
alone that I could taste joy. O blessed sleep! Often, when most miserable, I sank
to repose, and my dreams lulled me even to rapture. The spirits that guarded
me had provided these moments, or rather hours, of happiness that I might
retain strength to fulfil my pilgrimage. Deprived of this respite, I should have
sunk under my hardships. During the day I was sustained and inspirited by the
hope of night, for in sleep I saw my friends, my wife, and my beloved country;
again I saw the benevolent countenance of my father, heard the silver tones of
my Elizabeth’s voice, and beheld Clerval enjoying health and youth. Often,
when wearied by a toilsome march, I persuaded myself that I was dreaming
until night should come and that I should then enjoy reality in the arms of my
dearest friends. What agonizing fondness did I feel for them! How did I cling
to their dear forms, as sometimes they haunted even my waking hours, and
persuade myself that they still lived! At such moments vengeance, that burned
within me, died in my heart, and I pursued my path towards the destruction of
the daemon more as a task enjoined by heaven, as the mechanical impulse of
some power of which I was unconscious, than as the ardent desire of my soul.
What his feelings were whom I pursued I cannot know. Sometimes, indeed, he
left marks in writing on the barks of the trees or cut in stone that guided me
and instigated my fury. “My reign is not yet over“–these words were legible in
one of these inscriptions–”you live, and my power is complete. Follow me; I
seek the everlasting ices of the north, where you will feel the misery of cold and
frost, to which I am impassive. You will find near this place, if you follow not
too tardily, a dead hare; eat and be refreshed. Come on, my enemy; we have yet
to wrestle for our lives, but many hard and miserable hours must you endure
until that period shall arrive.”
Scoffing devil! Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devote thee, miserable
fiend, to torture and death. Never will I give up my search until he or I perish;
and then with what ecstasy shall I join my Elizabeth and my departed friends,
who even now prepare for me the reward of my tedious toil and horrible pilgrimage!
As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snows thickened and the
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cold increased in a degree almost too severe to support. The peasants were shut
up in their hovels, and only a few of the most hardy ventured forth to seize the
animals whom starvation had forced from their hiding-places to seek for prey.
The rivers were covered with ice, and no fish could be procured; and thus I
was cut off from my chief article of maintenance. The triumph of my enemy
increased with the difficulty of my labours. One inscription that he left was in
these words: “Prepare! Your toils only begin; wrap yourself in furs and provide
food, for we shall soon enter upon a journey where your sufferings will satisfy
my everlasting hatred.”
My courage and perseverance were invigorated by these scoffing words; I resolved not to fail in my purpose, and calling on heaven to support me, I continued
with unabated fervour to traverse immense deserts, until the ocean appeared at
a distance and formed the utmost boundary of the horizon. Oh! How unlike it
was to the blue seasons of the south! Covered with ice, it was only to be distinguished from land by its superior wildness and ruggedness. The Greeks wept
for joy when they beheld the Mediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed
with rapture the boundary of their toils. I did not weep, but I knelt down and
with a full heart thanked my guiding spirit for conducting me in safety to the
place where I hoped, notwithstanding my adversary’s gibe, to meet and grapple with him.
Some weeks before this period I had procured a sledge and dogs and thus traversed the snows with inconceivable speed. I know not whether the fiend possessed the same advantages, but I found that, as before I had daily lost ground
in the pursuit, I now gained on him, so much so that when I first saw the ocean
he was but one day’s journey in advance, and I hoped to intercept him before he should reach the beach. With new courage, therefore, I pressed on, and
in two days arrived at a wretched hamlet on the seashore. I inquired of the
inhabitants concerning the fiend and gained accurate information. A gigantic
monster, they said, had arrived the night before, armed with a gun and many
pistols, putting to flight the inhabitants of a solitary cottage through fear of his
terrific appearance. He had carried off their store of winter food, and placing it
in a sledge, to draw which he had seized on a numerous drove of trained dogs,
he had harnessed them, and the same night, to the joy of the horror-struck villagers, had pursued his journey across the sea in a direction that led to no land;
and they conjectured that he must speedily be destroyed by the breaking of the
ice or frozen by the eternal frosts.
On hearing this information I suffered a temporary access of despair. He had
escaped me, and I must commence a destructive and almost endless journey
across the mountainous ices of the ocean, amidst cold that few of the inhabitants
could long endure and which I, the native of a genial and sunny climate, could
not hope to survive. Yet at the idea that the fiend should live and be triumphant,
my rage and vengeance returned, and like a mighty tide, overwhelmed every
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other feeling. After a slight repose, during which the spirits of the dead hovered round and instigated me to toil and revenge, I prepared for my journey. I
exchanged my land-sledge for one fashioned for the inequalities of the frozen
ocean, and purchasing a plentiful stock of provisions, I departed from land.
I cannot guess how many days have passed since then, but I have endured
misery which nothing but the eternal sentiment of a just retribution burning
within my heart could have enabled me to support. Immense and rugged
mountains of ice often barred up my passage, and I often heard the thunder
of the ground sea, which threatened my destruction. But again the frost came
and made the paths of the sea secure.
By the quantity of provision which I had consumed, I should guess that I had
passed three weeks in this journey; and the continual protraction of hope, returning back upon the heart, often wrung bitter drops of despondency and grief
from my eyes. Despair had indeed almost secured her prey, and I should soon
have sunk beneath this misery. Once, after the poor animals that conveyed me
had with incredible toil gained the summit of a sloping ice mountain, and one,
sinking under his fatigue, died, I viewed the expanse before me with anguish,
when suddenly my eye caught a dark speck upon the dusky plain. I strained
my sight to discover what it could be and uttered a wild cry of ecstasy when
I distinguished a sledge and the distorted proportions of a well-known form
within. Oh! With what a burning gush did hope revisit my heart! Warm tears
filled my eyes, which I hastily wiped away, that they might not intercept the
view I had of the daemon; but still my sight was dimmed by the burning drops,
until, giving way to the emotions that oppressed me, I wept aloud.
But this was not the time for delay; I disencumbered the dogs of their dead companion, gave them a plentiful portion of food, and after an hour’s rest, which
was absolutely necessary, and yet which was bitterly irksome to me, I continued my route. The sledge was still visible, nor did I again lose sight of it except at
the moments when for a short time some ice-rock concealed it with its intervening crags. I indeed perceptibly gained on it, and when, after nearly two days’
journey, I beheld my enemy at no more than a mile distant, my heart bounded
within me.
But now, when I appeared almost within grasp of my foe, my hopes were suddenly extinguished, and I lost all trace of him more utterly than I had ever done
before. A ground sea was heard; the thunder of its progress, as the waters rolled
and swelled beneath me, became every moment more ominous and terrific. I
pressed on, but in vain. The wind arose; the sea roared; and, as with the mighty
shock of an earthquake, it split and cracked with a tremendous and overwhelming sound. The work was soon finished; in a few minutes a tumultuous sea
rolled between me and my enemy, and I was left drifting on a scattered piece of
ice that was continually lessening and thus preparing for me a hideous death.
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In this manner many appalling hours passed; several of my dogs died, and I
myself was about to sink under the accumulation of distress when I saw your
vessel riding at anchor and holding forth to me hopes of succour and life. I
had no conception that vessels ever came so far north and was astounded at
the sight. I quickly destroyed part of my sledge to construct oars, and by these
means was enabled, with infinite fatigue, to move my ice raft in the direction of
your ship. I had determined, if you were going southwards, still to trust myself
to the mercy of the seas rather than abandon my purpose. I hoped to induce
you to grant me a boat with which I could pursue my enemy. But your direction was northwards. You took me on board when my vigour was exhausted,
and I should soon have sunk under my multiplied hardships into a death which
I still dread, for my task is unfulfilled.
Oh! When will my guiding spirit, in conducting me to the daemon, allow me
the rest I so much desire; or must I die, and he yet live? If I do, swear to me,
Walton, that he shall not escape, that you will seek him and satisfy my vengeance in his death. And do I dare to ask of you to undertake my pilgrimage,
to endure the hardships that I have undergone? No; I am not so selfish. Yet,
when I am dead, if he should appear, if the ministers of vengeance should conduct him to you, swear that he shall not live–swear that he shall not triumph
over my accumulated woes and survive to add to the list of his dark crimes.
He is eloquent and persuasive, and once his words had even power over my
heart; but trust him not. His soul is as hellish as his form, full of treachery and
fiendlike malice. Hear him not; call on the names of William, Justine, Clerval,
Elizabeth, my father, and of the wretched Victor, and thrust your sword into his
heart. I will hover near and direct the steel aright.
Walton, in continuation.
August 26th, 17-
You have read this strange and terrific story, Margaret; and do you not feel your
blood congeal with horror, like that which even now curdles mine? Sometimes,
seized with sudden agony, he could not continue his tale; at others, his voice
broken, yet piercing, uttered with difficulty the words so replete with anguish.
His fine and lovely eyes were now lighted up with indignation, now subdued to downcast sorrow and quenched in infinite wretchedness. Sometimes he
commanded his countenance and tones and related the most horrible incidents
with a tranquil voice, suppressing every mark of agitation; then, like a volcano
bursting forth, his face would suddenly change to an expression of the wildest
rage as he shrieked out imprecations on his persecutor.
His tale is connected and told with an appearance of the simplest truth, yet I
own to you that the letters of Felix and Safie, which he showed me, and the
apparition of the monster seen from our ship, brought to me a greater convichttp://www.idph.netIDPH 169
tion of the truth of his narrative than his asseverations, however earnest and
connected. Such a monster has, then, really existence! I cannot doubt it, yet
I am lost in surprise and admiration. Sometimes I endeavoured to gain from
Frankenstein the particulars of his creature’s formation, but on this point he
was impenetrable. “Are you mad, my friend?” said he. “Or whither does your
senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and the world
a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! Learn my miseries and do not seek to increase your own.” Frankenstein discovered that I made notes concerning his
history; he asked to see them and then himself corrected and augmented them
in many places, but principally in giving the life and spirit to the conversations
he held with his enemy. “Since you have preserved my narration,” said he, “I
would not that a mutilated one should go down to posterity.”
Thus has a week passed away, while I have listened to the strangest tale that
ever imagination formed. My thoughts and every feeling of my soul have been
drunk up by the interest for my guest which this tale and his own elevated and
gentle manners have created. I wish to soothe him, yet can I counsel one so infinitely miserable, so destitute of every hope of consolation, to live? Oh, no! The
only joy that he can now know will be when he composes his shattered spirit to
peace and death. Yet he enjoys one comfort, the offspring of solitude and delirium; he believes that when in dreams he holds converse with his friends and
derives from that communion consolation for his miseries or excitements to his
vengeance, that they are not the creations of his fancy, but the beings themselves
who visit him from the regions of a remote world. This faith gives a solemnity
to his reveries that render them to me almost as imposing and interesting as
Our conversations are not always confined to his own history and misfortunes.
On every point of general literature he displays unbounded knowledge and a
quick and piercing apprehension. His eloquence is forcible and touching; nor
can I hear him, when he relates a pathetic incident or endeavours to move the
passions of pity or love, without tears. What a glorious creature must he have
been in the days of his prosperity, when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin!
He seems to feel his own worth and the greatness of his fall.
“When younger,” said he, “I believed myself destined for some great enterprise. My feelings are profound, but I possessed a coolness of judgment that fitted
me for illustrious achievements. This sentiment of the worth of my nature supported me when others would have been oppressed, for I deemed it criminal
to throw away in useless grief those talents that might be useful to my fellow
creatures. When I reflected on the work I had completed, no less a one than
the creation of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself with the
herd of common projectors. But this thought, which supported me in the commencement of my career, now serves only to plunge me lower in the dust. All
my speculations and hopes are as nothing, and like the archangel who aspired
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to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell. My imagination was vivid,
yet my powers of analysis and application were intense; by the union of these
qualities I conceived the idea and executed the creation of a man. Even now I
cannot recollect without passion my reveries while the work was incomplete. I
trod heaven in my thoughts, now exulting in my powers, now burning with the
idea of their effects. From my infancy I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty
ambition; but how am I sunk! Oh! My friend, if you had known me as I once
was, you would not recognize me in this state of degradation. Despondency
rarely visited my heart; a high destiny seemed to bear me on, until I fell, never,
never again to rise.” Must I then lose this admirable being? I have longed for
a friend; I have sought one who would sympathize with and love me. Behold,
on these desert seas I have found such a one, but I fear I have gained him only
to know his value and lose him. I would reconcile him to life, but he repulses
the idea.
“I thank you, Walton,” he said, “for your kind intentions towards so miserable
a wretch; but when you speak of new ties and fresh affections, think you that
any can replace those who are gone? Can any man be to me as Clerval was, or
any woman another Elizabeth? Even where the affections are not strongly moved by any superior excellence, the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain.
They know our infantine dispositions, which, however they may be afterwards
modified, are never eradicated; and they can judge of our actions with more
certain conclusions as to the integrity of our motives. A sister or a brother can
never, unless indeed such symptoms have been shown early, suspect the other
of fraud or false dealing, when another friend, however strongly he may be attached, may, in spite of himself, be contemplated with suspicion. But I enjoyed
friends, dear not only through habit and association, but from their own merits;
and wherever I am, the soothing voice of my Elizabeth and the conversation of
Clerval will be ever whispered in my ear. They are dead, and but one feeling
in such a solitude can persuade me to preserve my life. If I were engaged in
any high undertaking or design, fraught with extensive utility to my fellow creatures, then could I live to fulfil it. But such is not my destiny; I must pursue
and destroy the being to whom I gave existence; then my lot on earth will be
fulfilled and I may die.”
My beloved Sister, September 2nd
I write to you, encompassed by peril and ignorant whether I am ever doomed
to see again dear England and the dearer friends that inhabit it. I am surrounded by mountains of ice which admit of no escape and threaten every moment
to crush my vessel. The brave fellows whom I have persuaded to be my companions look towards me for aid, but I have none to bestow. There is something
terribly appalling in our situation, yet my courage and hopes do not desert me.
Yet it is terrible to reflect that the lives of all these men are endangered through
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me. If we are lost, my mad schemes are the cause.
And what, Margaret, will be the state of your mind? You will not hear of my
destruction, and you will anxiously await my return. Years will pass, and you
will have visitings of despair and yet be tortured by hope. Oh! My beloved
sister, the sickening failing of your heart-felt expectations is, in prospect, more
terrible to me than my own death.
But you have a husband and lovely children; you may be happy. Heaven bless
you and make you so!
My unfortunate guest regards me with the tenderest compassion. He endeavours to fill me with hope and talks as if life were a possession which he valued. He reminds me how often the same accidents have happened to other
navigators who have attempted this sea, and in spite of myself, he fills me with
cheerful auguries. Even the sailors feel the power of his eloquence; when he
speaks, they no longer despair; he rouses their energies, and while they hear
his voice they believe these vast mountains of ice are mole- hills which will vanish before the resolutions of man. These feelings are transitory; each day of
expectation delayed fills them with fear, and I almost dread a mutiny caused by
this despair.
September 5th
A scene has just passed of such uncommon interest that, although it is highly
probable that these papers may never reach you, yet I cannot forbear recording
We are still surrounded by mountains of ice, still in imminent danger of being
crushed in their conflict. The cold is excessive, and many of my unfortunate
comrades have already found a grave amidst this scene of desolation. Frankenstein has daily declined in health; a feverish fire still glimmers in his eyes,
but he is exhausted, and when suddenly roused to any exertion, he speedily
sinks again into apparent lifelessness.
I mentioned in my last letter the fears I entertained of a mutiny. This morning,
as I sat watching the wan countenance of my friend–his eyes half closed and
his limbs hanging listlessly–I was roused by half a dozen of the sailors, who
demanded admission into the cabin. They entered, and their leader addressed
me. He told me that he and his companions had been chosen by the other sailors
to come in deputation to me to make me a requisition which, in justice, I could
not refuse. We were immured in ice and should probably never escape, but
they feared that if, as was possible, the ice should dissipate and a free passage
be opened, I should be rash enough to continue my voyage and lead them into
fresh dangers, after they might happily have surmounted this. They insisted,
therefore, that I should engage with a solemn promise that if the vessel should
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be freed I would instantly direct my course southwards.
This speech troubled me. I had not despaired, nor had I yet conceived the idea
of returning if set free. Yet could I, in justice, or even in possibility, refuse this
demand? I hesitated before I answered, when Frankenstein, who had at first
been silent, and indeed appeared hardly to have force enough to attend, now
roused himself; his eyes sparkled, and his cheeks flushed with momentary vigour. Turning towards the men, he said, “What do you mean? What do you
demand of your captain? Are you, then, so easily turned from your design?
Did you not call this a glorious expedition?
“And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid
as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror, because at every
new incident your fortitude was to be called forth and your courage exhibited, because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave and
overcome. For this was it a glorious, for this was it an honourable undertaking.
You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species, your names
adored as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour and the
benefit of mankind. And now, behold, with the first imagination of danger, or, if
you will, the first mighty and terrific trial of your courage, you shrink away and
are content to be handed down as men who had not strength enough to endure
cold and peril; and so, poor souls, they were chilly and returned to their warm
- firesides. Why, that requires not this preparation; ye need not have come thus
far and dragged your captain to the shame of a defeat merely to prove yourselves cowards. Oh! Be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes
and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it
is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not. Do not return
to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows. Return as
heroes who have fought and conquered and who know not what it is to turn
their backs on the foe.” He spoke this with a voice so modulated to the different
feelings expressed in his speech, with an eye so full of lofty design and heroism,
that can you wonder that these men were moved? They looked at one another
and were unable to reply. I spoke; I told them to retire and consider of what had
been said, that I would not lead them farther north if they strenuously desired
the contrary, but that I hoped that, with reflection, their courage would return.
They retired and I turned towards my friend, but he was sunk in languor and
almost deprived of life.
How all this will terminate, I know not, but I had rather die than return shamefully, my purpose unfulfilled. Yet I fear such will be my fate; the men, unsupported by ideas of glory and honour, can never willingly continue to endure
their present hardships.
September 7th
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The die is cast; I have consented to return if we are not destroyed. Thus are my
hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess to bear this injustice with
September 12th
It is past; I am returning to England. I have lost my hopes of utility and glory; I
have lost my friend. But I will endeavour to detail these bitter circumstances to
you, my dear sister; and while I am wafted towards England and towards you,
I will not despond.
September 9th, the ice began to move, and roarings like thunder were heard at a
distance as the islands split and cracked in every direction. We were in the most
imminent peril, but as we could only remain passive, my chief attention was
occupied by my unfortunate guest whose illness increased in such a degree that
he was entirely confined to his bed. The ice cracked behind us and was driven
with force towards the north; a breeze sprang from the west, and on the 11th
the passage towards the south became perfectly free. When the sailors saw this
and that their return to their native country was apparently assured, a shout of
tumultuous joy broke from them, loud and long-continued. Frankenstein, who
was dozing, awoke and asked the cause of the tumult. “They shout,” I said,
“because they will soon return to England.”
“Do you, then, really return?”
“Alas! Yes; I cannot withstand their demands. I cannot lead them unwillingly
to danger, and I must return.”
“Do so, if you will; but I will not. You may give up your purpose, but mine is
assigned to me by heaven, and I dare not. I am weak, but surely the spirits who
assist my vengeance will endow me with sufficient strength.” Saying this, he
endeavoured to spring from the bed, but the exertion was too great for him; he
fell back and fainted.
It was long before he was restored, and I often thought that life was entirely extinct. At length he opened his eyes; he breathed with difficulty and was unable
to speak. The surgeon gave him a composing draught and ordered us to leave
him undisturbed. In the meantime he told me that my friend had certainly not
many hours to live.
His sentence was pronounced, and I could only grieve and be patient. I sat
by his bed, watching him; his eyes were closed, and I thought he slept; but
presently he called to me in a feeble voice, and bidding me come near, said,
“Alas! The strength I relied on is gone; I feel that I shall soon die, and he, my
enemy and persecutor, may still be in being. Think not, Walton, that in the
last moments of my existence I feel that burning hatred and ardent desire of
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revenge I once expressed; but I feel myself justified in desiring the death of my
adversary. During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past
conduct; nor do I find it blamable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a
rational creature and was bound towards him to assure, as far as was in my
power, his happiness and well-being.
“This was my duty, but there was another still paramount to that. My duties
towards the beings of my own species had greater claims to my attention because they included a greater proportion of happiness or misery. Urged by this
view, I refused, and I did right in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature. He showed unparalleled malignity and selfishness in evil; he destroyed
my friends; he devoted to destruction beings who possessed exquisite sensations, happiness, and wisdom; nor do I know where this thirst for vengeance
may end. Miserable himself that he may render no other wretched, he ought to
die. The task of his destruction was mine, but I have failed. When actuated by
selfish and vicious motives, I asked you to undertake my unfinished work, and
I renew this request now, when I am only induced by reason and virtue.
“Yet I cannot ask you to renounce your country and friends to fulfil this task;
and now that you are returning to England, you will have little chance of meeting with him. But the consideration of these points, and the well balancing of
what you may esteem your duties, I leave to you; my judgment and ideas are
already disturbed by the near approach of death. I dare not ask you to do what
I think right, for I may still be misled by passion.
“That he should live to be an instrument of mischief disturbs me; in other respects, this hour, when I momentarily expect my release, is the only happy one
which I have enjoyed for several years. The forms of the beloved dead flit before
me, and I hasten to their arms. Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity
and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have
myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed.”
His voice became fainter as he spoke, and at length, exhausted by his effort, he
sank into silence. About half an hour afterwards he attempted again to speak
but was unable; he pressed my hand feebly, and his eyes closed forever, while
the irradiation of a gentle smile passed away from his lips.
Margaret, what comment can I make on the untimely extinction of this glorious
spirit? What can I say that will enable you to understand the depth of my
sorrow? All that I should express would be inadequate and feeble. My tears
flow; my mind is overshadowed by a cloud of disappointment. But I journey
towards England, and I may there find consolation.
I am interrupted. What do these sounds portend? It is midnight; the breeze
blows fairly, and the watch on deck scarcely stir. Again there is a sound as
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of a human voice, but hoarser; it comes from the cabin where the remains of
Frankenstein still lie. I must arise and examine. Good night, my sister.
Great God! what a scene has just taken place! I am yet dizzy with the remembrance of it. I hardly know whether I shall have the power to detail it; yet the
tale which I have recorded would be incomplete without this final and wonderful catastrophe. I entered the cabin where lay the remains of my ill-fated
and admirable friend. Over him hung a form which I cannot find words to
describe–gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in its proportions. As
he hung over the coffin, his face was concealed by long locks of ragged hair;
but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a
mummy. When he heard the sound of my approach, he ceased to utter exclamations of grief and horror and sprung towards the window. Never did I behold
a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness. I
shut my eyes involuntarily and endeavoured to recollect what were my duties
with regard to this destroyer. I called on him to stay.
He paused, looking on me with wonder, and again turning towards the lifeless
form of his creator, he seemed to forget my presence, and every feature and
gesture seemed instigated by the wildest rage of some uncontrollable passion.
“That is also my victim!” he exclaimed. “In his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close! Oh, Frankenstein!
Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst.
Alas! He is cold, he cannot answer me.” His voice seemed suffocated, and my
first impulses, which had suggested to me the duty of obeying the dying request of my friend in destroying his enemy, were now suspended by a mixture
of curiosity and compassion. I approached this tremendous being; I dared not
again raise my eyes to his face, there was something so scaring and unearthly
in his ugliness. I attempted to speak, but the words died away on my lips. The
monster continued to utter wild and incoherent self-reproaches. At length I
gathered resolution to address him in a pause of the tempest of his passion.
“Your repentance,” I said, “is now superfluous. If you had listened to the voice of conscience and heeded the stings of remorse before you had urged your
diabolical vengeance to this extremity, Frankenstein would yet have lived.”
“And do you dream?” said the daemon. “Do you think that I was then dead to
agony and remorse? He,” he continued, pointing to the corpse, “he suffered not
in the consummation of the deed. Oh! Not the ten-thousandth portion of the
anguish that was mine during the lingering detail of its execution. A frightful
selfishness hurried me on, while my heart was poisoned with remorse. Think
you that the groans of Clerval were music to my ears? My heart was fashioned
to be susceptible of love and sympathy, and when wrenched by misery to vice
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and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as
you cannot even imagine.
“After the murder of Clerval I returned to Switzerland, heart-broken and overcome. I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror; I abhorred myself.
But when I discovered that he, the author at once of my existence and of its
unspeakable torments, dared to hope for happiness, that while he accumulated
wretchedness and despair upon me he sought his own enjoyment in feelings
and passions from the indulgence of which I was forever barred, then impotent
envy and bitter indignation filled me with an insatiable thirst for vengeance. I
recollected my threat and resolved that it should be accomplished. I knew that
I was preparing for myself a deadly torture, but I was the slave, not the master,
of an impulse which I detested yet could not disobey. Yet when she died! Nay,
then I was not miserable. I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish, to riot
in the excess of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far, I
had no choice but to adapt my nature to an element which I had willingly chosen. The completion of my demoniacal design became an insatiable passion.
And now it is ended; there is my last victim!”
I was at first touched by the expressions of his misery; yet, when I called to
mind what Frankenstein had said of his powers of eloquence and persuasion,
and when I again cast my eyes on the lifeless form of my friend, indignation
was rekindled within me. “Wretch!” I said. “It is well that you come here to
whine over the desolation that you have made. You throw a torch into a pile of
buildings, and when they are consumed, you sit among the ruins and lament
the fall. Hypocritical fiend! If he whom you mourn still lived, still would he be
the object, again would he become the prey, of your accursed vengeance. It is
not pity that you feel; you lament only because the victim of your malignity is
withdrawn from your power.”
“Oh, it is not thus–not thus,” interrupted the being. “Yet such must be the impression conveyed to you by what appears to be the purport of my actions. Yet
I seek not a fellow feeling in my misery. No sympathy may I ever find. When I
first sought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection
with which my whole being overflowed, that I wished to be participated. But
now that virtue has become to me a shadow, and that happiness and affection
are turned into bitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek for sympathy?
I am content to suffer alone while my sufferings shall endure; when I die, I am
well satisfied that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my memory. Once my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment.
Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form,
would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I
was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now crime has
degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity,
no misery, can be found comparable to mine. When I run over the frightful cahttp://www.idph.netIDPH 177
talogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts
were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the
majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant
devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his
desolation; I am alone. “You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have a knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But in the detail which he
gave you of them he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I endured wasting in impotent passions. For while I destroyed his hopes, I
did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and craving; still I
desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice in
this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humankind sinned against
me? Why do you not hate Felix, who drove his friend from his door with contumely? Why do you not execrate the rustic who sought to destroy the saviour of
his child? Nay, these are virtuous and immaculate beings! I, the miserable and
the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.
Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.
“But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless;
I have strangled the innocent as they slept and grasped to death his throat who
never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select
specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I
have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin.
“There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me, but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the hands which executed
the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived and
long for the moment when these hands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts no more.
“Fear not that I shall be the instrument of future mischief. My work is nearly
complete. Neither yours nor any man’s death is needed to consummate the
series of my being and accomplish that which must be done, but it requires my
own. Do not think that I shall be slow to perform this sacrifice. I shall quit
your vessel on the ice raft which brought me thither and shall seek the most
northern extremity of the globe; I shall collect my funeral pile and consume to
ashes this miserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious
and unhallowed wretch who would create such another as I have been. I shall
die. I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me or be the prey of
feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched. He is dead who called me into being; and
when I shall be no more, the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish.
I shall no longer see the sun or stars or feel the winds play on my cheeks.
“Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in this condition must I find my
happiness. Some years ago, when the images which this world affords first
opened upon me, when I felt the cheering warmth of summer and heard the
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rustling of the leaves and the warbling of the birds, and these were all to me, I
should have wept to die; now it is my only consolation. Polluted by crimes and
torn by the bitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in death? “Farewell! I
leave you, and in you the last of humankind whom these eyes will ever behold.
Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction.
But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater
wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hadst not ceased
to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than
that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for
the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death
shall close them forever.
“But soon,” he cried with sad and solemn enthusiasm, “I shall die, and what I
now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall
ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing
flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept
into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not
surely think thus. Farewell.”
He sprang from the cabin window as he said this, upon the ice raft which lay
close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness
and distance.