Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus
by Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley
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,
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 labourious 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 discovering 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
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.
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
and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude
for all your love and kindness.
Your affectionate brother,
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 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 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
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,
To Mrs. Saville, England
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 I must finish. Heaven bless my beloved sister!
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 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 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 wonderfully.
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
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 of
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."
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 ventures.
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 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
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
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; 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 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 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 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 pleasures.
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 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 its 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 afterward 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 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 certainly 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 scientific, 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 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.
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 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 commerce.
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--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
in studying such nonsense?"
I replied in the affirmative. "Every minute," continued M.
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
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
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 heavens; 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
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 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 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 secret.
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 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
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 hurricane, 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
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 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 destroyed.
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.
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, 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,
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
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."
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
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,
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 fit.
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.
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 event.
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
"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
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
to see a letter that has been lying here some days for you;
it is from your cousin, I believe."
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 return 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 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 judgment 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 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 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 mien
and her expressions 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 very 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 yourself, and, I entreat you, write!
Geneva, March 18th, 17--
"Dear, dear Elizabeth!" I exclaimed when I had read her letter.
"I will write instantly and relieve them from the anxiety they must
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.
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 view 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 to 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 outstripped 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 a 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
He came to the university with the design of making himself complete master
of the Oriental languages, as 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 towards the East
as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise. The Persian,
Arabic, and Sanskrit 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 rambles
of this nature that I had taken among the scenes of my native country.
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 did you 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 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 sympathized 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
and everyone 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 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 murdered 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 William!
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,
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
with bitterness, "are you always to be unhappy? My dear friend,
what has happened?"
I motioned him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down the
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!"
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 murderer
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?"
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 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,
I remained motionless. The thunder ceased; but the rain still continued,
and the scene was enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I resolved
in my minds 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 discoverer 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 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
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 your 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
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
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
"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,
"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 to the evidence of facts a weight that,
I fear, leaves no hope for doubt. But she will be tried to-day,
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 manner. 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,
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
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 to-day, 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. 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
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
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 wept.
"Dearest niece," said my father, "dry your tears. If
as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws,
and the activity with which I shall prevent the slightest shadow
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 me.
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 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
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
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 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
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
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 countenances 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
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
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
I relied on your innocence, and although I was then very wretched,
I was not so miserable as I am now."
"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 he 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,"
"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 guilty?"
I could not answer. "No, Justine," said Elizabeth; "he
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
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 thrice-accursed 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 hopes,
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.
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 describe.
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,
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."
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
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
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 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
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, reminded 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.
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 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 nigher, 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."
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
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 bestowed."
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
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 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 fall."
"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
hands before my eyes, which I flung from me with violence; "thus
I take from thee a sight 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.
"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original
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 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
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
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 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 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 and bore it to the cottage himself. She followed,
and they disappeared. Presently 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 together.
"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 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
"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 meal.
"This day was passed in the same routine as that which preceded
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 uneasiness 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.
"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
"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 reflected 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 deformity.
"As the sun became warmer and the light of day longer, the snow
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 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."
"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
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
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 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
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 that in two months I began to comprehend
most of the words uttered by my protectors.
"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
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
While I listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the Arabian,
the strange 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 blood.
"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 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
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 them)."
"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 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
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 fate.
"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.
"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
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 DeLacey 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 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
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
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 year.
"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 pretension,
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 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 me.
"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
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
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 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.'
"`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
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
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!'
"`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."
"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 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 appearances.
"`Do you consider,' said his companion to him, `that you will be
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 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 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. 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
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
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.'
"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 papa.'
"`Boy, you will never see your father again; you must come with
"`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
"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 them.
"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 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
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
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 create."
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
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
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."
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
"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
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 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
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 revenge?"
"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
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."
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."
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 refitting 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 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, 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
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
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 picturesque. 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
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 water-spout 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:--
-----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
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,
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 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
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.
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
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 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 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 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
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
equal in deformity and wickedness."
"Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself
unworthy of 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
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 again
of his words--"*I will be with you on your wedding-night*."
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 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 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
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 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
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
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
"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."
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
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 country?"
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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. 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
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
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?"
I replied in the same language, with a feeble voice, "I believe
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 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
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 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
tell me what new scene of death has been acted, and whose murder
I am now to lament?"
"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
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
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--"
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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
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. 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
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.
Geneva, May 18th, 17--
This letter revived in my memory what I had before forgotten,
the threat of the fiend--"*I will be with you on your
wedding-night!*" Such was my 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
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
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 hour.
In this state of mind I wrote to Elizabeth. My letter was calm
and affectionate. "I fear, my beloved girl," I said, "little
remains for us on earth; yet all that I may one day enjoy is centred in
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
a more fit companion for one blasted and miserable as I was.
The tranquillity which I now enjoyed did not endure. Memory brought
with it, and when I thought of what had passed, a real insanity possessed
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
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 wedding-night*," 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.
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 bride.
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
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
and the assemblage of snowy mountains that in vain endeavour to emulate
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
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 overhung.
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.
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 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
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 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 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
shall be spared to discover the villain."
"I thank you," replied I; "listen, therefore, to the
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 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
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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 cloudless, and I was parched by thirst,
a slight cloud would bedim the sky, shed the few drops that revived me,
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
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
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 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
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 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.
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 conviction 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
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 truth.
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 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
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 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.
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 it.
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 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
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.
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 patience.
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
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 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
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 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
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 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 catalogue
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 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
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.