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Project Gutenberg's Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley
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Title: Frankenstein
or The Modern Prometheus
Author: Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley
Release Date: June 17, 2008 [EBook #84]
Language: English
Produced by Judith Boss, Christy Phillips, Lynn Hanninen,
and David Meltzer. HTML version by Al Haines.
or the Modern Prometheus
Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley
Letter 1
St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17--
TO Mrs. Saville, England
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the
commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil
forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure
my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success
of my undertaking.
I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets of
Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which
braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this
feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards
which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes.
Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent
and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of
frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the
region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is forever
visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a
perpetual splendour. There--for with your leave, my sister, I will put
some trust in preceding navigators--there snow and frost are banished;
and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in
wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable
globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as the
phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered
solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I
may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may
regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only this
voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever. I
shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world
never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by
the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to
conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this
laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little
boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his
native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you
cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all
mankind, to the last generation, by 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
letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me
to heaven, for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as
a steady purpose--a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual
eye. This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years. I
have read with ardour the accounts of the various voyages which have
been made in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean
through the seas which surround the pole. You may remember that a
history of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the
whole of our good Uncle Thomas' library. My education was neglected,
yet I was passionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study
day and night, and my familiarity with them increased that regret which
I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father's dying injunction
had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life.
These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets
whose effusions entranced my soul and lifted it to heaven. I also
became a poet and for one year lived in a paradise of my own creation;
I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple where the
names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated. You are well
acquainted with my failure and how heavily I bore the disappointment.
But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my
thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent.
Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I
can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this
great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I
accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea;
I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often
worked harder than the common sailors during the day and devoted my
nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those
branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer might derive
the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an
under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I
must own I felt a little proud when my captain offered me the second
dignity in the vessel and entreated me to remain with the greatest
earnestness, so valuable did he consider my services. And now, dear
Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life
might have been passed in ease and luxury, but I preferred glory to
every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh, that some
encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! My courage and my
resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often
depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage, the
emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not
only to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own,
when theirs are failing.
This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia. They fly
quickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, in
my opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stagecoach. The
cold is not excessive, if you are wrapped in furs--a dress which I have
already adopted, for there is a great difference between walking the
deck and remaining seated motionless for hours, when no exercise
prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins. I have no
ambition to lose my life on the post-road between St. Petersburgh and
Archangel. I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three
weeks; and my intention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be
done by paying the insurance for the owner, and to engage as many
sailors as I think necessary among those who are accustomed to the
whale-fishing. I do not intend to sail until the month of June; and
when shall I return? Ah, dear sister, how can I answer this question?
If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years, will pass before you
and I may meet. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never.
Farewell, my dear, excellent Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on
you, and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude for
all your love and kindness.
Your affectionate brother,
R. Walton
Letter 2
Archangel, 28th March, 17--
To Mrs. Saville, England
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 my allusion, but I
will disclose a secret. I have often attributed my attachment to, my
passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean to that
production of the most imaginative of modern poets. There is something
at work in my soul which I do not understand. I am practically
industrious--painstaking, a workman to execute with perseverance and
labour--but besides this there is a love for the marvellous, a belief
in the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out
of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited
regions I am about to explore. But to return to dearer considerations.
Shall I meet you again, after having traversed immense seas, and
returned by the most southern cape of Africa or America? I dare not
expect such success, yet I cannot bear to look on the reverse of the
picture. Continue for the present to write to me by every opportunity:
I may receive your letters on some occasions when I need them most to
support my spirits. I love you very tenderly. Remember me with
affection, should you never hear from me again.
Your affectionate brother,
Robert Walton
Letter 3
July 7th, 17--
To Mrs. Saville, England
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
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!
Letter 4
August 5th, 17--
To Mrs. Saville, England
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 any the most
trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with
a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled. But he
is generally melancholy and despairing, and sometimes he gnashes his
teeth, as if impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him.
When my guest was a little recovered I had great trouble to keep off
the men, who wished to ask him a thousand questions; but I would not
allow him to be tormented by their idle curiosity, in a state of body
and mind whose restoration evidently depended upon entire repose.
Once, however, the lieutenant asked why he had come so far upon the ice
in so strange a vehicle.
His countenance instantly assumed an aspect of the deepest gloom, and
he replied, "To seek one who fled from me."
"And did the man whom you pursued travel in the same fashion?"
"Then I fancy we have seen him, for the day before we picked you up we
saw some dogs drawing a sledge, with a man in it, across the ice."
This aroused the stranger's attention, and he asked a multitude of
questions concerning the route which the demon, as he called him, had
pursued. Soon after, when he was alone with me, he said, "I have,
doubtless, excited your curiosity, as well as that of these good
people; but you are too considerate to make inquiries."
"Certainly; it would indeed be very impertinent and inhuman in me to
trouble you with any inquisitiveness of mine."
"And yet you rescued me from a strange and perilous situation; you have
benevolently restored me to life."
Soon after this he inquired if I thought that the breaking up of the
ice had destroyed the other sledge. I replied that I could not answer
with any degree of certainty, for the ice had not broken until near
midnight, and the traveller might have arrived at a place of safety
before that time; but of this I could not judge. From this time a new
spirit of life animated the decaying frame of the stranger. He
manifested the greatest eagerness to be upon deck to watch for the
sledge which had before appeared; but I have persuaded him to remain in
the cabin, for he is far too weak to sustain the rawness of the
atmosphere. I have promised that someone should watch for him and give
him instant notice if any new object should appear in sight.
Such is my journal of what relates to this strange occurrence up to the
present day. The stranger has gradually improved in health but is very
silent and appears uneasy when anyone except myself enters his cabin.
Yet his manners are so conciliating and gentle that the sailors are all
interested in him, although they have had very little communication
with him. For my own part, I begin to love him as a brother, and his
constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion. He must
have been a noble creature in his better days, being even now in wreck
so attractive and amiable. I said in one of my letters, my dear
Margaret, that I should find no friend on the wide ocean; yet I have
found a man who, before his spirit had been broken by misery, I should
have been happy to have possessed as the brother of my heart.
I shall continue my journal concerning the stranger at intervals,
should I have any fresh incidents to record.
August 13th, 17--
My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once my
admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see so
noble a creature destroyed by misery without feeling the most poignant
grief? He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated, and
when he speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art,
yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence. He is now much
recovered from his illness and is continually on the deck, apparently
watching for the sledge that preceded his own. Yet, although unhappy,
he is not so utterly occupied by his own misery but that he interests
himself deeply in the projects of others. He has frequently conversed
with me on mine, which I have communicated to him without disguise. He
entered attentively into all my arguments in favour of my eventual
success and into every minute detail of the measures I had taken to
secure it. I was easily led by the sympathy which he evinced to use
the language of my heart, to give utterance to the burning ardour of my
soul and to say, with all the fervour that warmed me, how gladly I
would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to the
furtherance of my enterprise. One man's life or death were but a small
price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for
the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of
our race. As I spoke, a dark gloom spread over my listener's
countenance. At first I perceived that he tried to suppress his
emotion; he placed his hands before his eyes, and my voice quivered and
failed me as I beheld tears trickle fast from between his fingers; a
groan burst from his heaving breast. I paused; at length he spoke, in
broken accents: "Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you
drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my
tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!"
Such words, you may imagine, strongly excited my curiosity; but the
paroxysm of grief that had seized the stranger overcame his weakened
powers, and many hours of repose and tranquil conversation were
necessary to restore his composure. Having conquered the violence of
his feelings, he appeared to despise himself for being the slave of
passion; and quelling the dark tyranny of despair, he led me again to
converse concerning myself personally. He asked me the history of my
earlier years. The tale was quickly told, but it awakened various
trains of reflection. I spoke of my desire of finding a friend, of my
thirst for a more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind than had ever
fallen to my lot, and expressed my conviction that a man could boast of
little happiness who did not enjoy this blessing. "I agree with you,"
replied the stranger; "we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up,
if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves--such a friend ought to
be--do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak and faulty natures. I
once had a friend, the most noble of human creatures, and am entitled,
therefore, to judge respecting friendship. You have hope, and the
world before you, and have no cause for despair. But I--I have lost
everything and cannot begin life anew."
As he said this his countenance became expressive of a calm, settled
grief that touched me to the heart. But he was silent and presently
retired to his cabin.
Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he
does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight
afforded by these wonderful regions seem still to have the power of
elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he
may suffer misery and be overwhelmed by disappointments, yet when he
has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a
halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly 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 is useless; my
fate is nearly fulfilled. I wait but for one event, and then I shall
repose in peace. I understand your feeling," continued he, perceiving
that I wished to interrupt him; "but you are mistaken, my friend, if
thus you will allow me to name you; nothing can alter my destiny;
listen to my history, and you will perceive how irrevocably it is
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!
Chapter 1
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
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.
Chapter 2
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, rought 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
I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of
childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind and changed its bright
visions of extensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon
self. Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record
those events which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of
misery, for when I would account to myself for the birth of that
passion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a
mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but,
swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course,
has swept away all my hopes and joys. Natural philosophy is the genius
that has regulated my fate; I desire, therefore, in this narration, to
state those facts which led to my predilection for that science. When
I was thirteen years of age we all went on a party 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 fulfilment 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.
Chapter 3
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 your time in studying such
I replied in the affirmative. "Every minute," continued M. Krempe with
warmth, "every instant that you have wasted on those books is utterly
and entirely lost. You have burdened your memory with exploded systems
and useless names. Good God! In what desert land have you lived,
where no one was kind enough to inform you that these fancies which you
have so greedily imbibed are a thousand years old and as musty as they
are ancient? I little expected, in this enlightened and scientific
age, to find a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. My dear
sir, you must begin your studies entirely anew."
So saying, he stepped aside and wrote down a list of several books
treating of natural philosophy which he desired me to procure, and
dismissed me after mentioning that in the beginning of the following
week he intended to commence a course of lectures upon natural
philosophy in its general relations, and that M. Waldman, a fellow
professor, would lecture upon chemistry the alternate days that he
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 impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters
promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and
that the elixir of life is a chimera but these philosophers, whose
hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the
microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate
into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her
hiding-places. They ascend into the 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 of creation.
I closed not my eyes that night. My internal being was in a state of
insurrection and turmoil; I felt that order would thence arise, but I
had no power to produce it. By degrees, after the morning's dawn,
sleep came. I awoke, and my yesternight's thoughts were as a dream.
There only remained a resolution to return to my ancient studies and to
devote myself to a science for which I believed myself to possess a
natural talent. On the same day I paid M. Waldman a visit. His
manners in private were even more mild and attractive than in public,
for there was a certain dignity in his mien during his lecture which in
his own house was replaced by the greatest affability and kindness. I
gave him pretty nearly the same account of my former pursuits as I had
given to his fellow professor. He heard with attention the little
narration concerning my studies and smiled at the names of Cornelius
Agrippa and Paracelsus, but without the contempt that M. Krempe had
exhibited. He said that "These were men to whose indefatigable zeal
modern philosophers were indebted for most of the foundations of their
knowledge. They had left to us, as an easier task, to give new names
and arrange in connected classifications the facts which they in a
great degree had been the instruments of bringing to light. The
labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever
fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind." I
listened to his statement, which was delivered without any presumption
or affectation, and then added that his lecture had removed my
prejudices against modern chemists; I expressed myself in measured
terms, with the modesty and deference due from a youth to his
instructor, without letting escape (inexperience in life would have
made me ashamed) any of the enthusiasm which stimulated my intended
labours. I requested his advice concerning the books I ought to
"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.
Chapter 4
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
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 them
towards the object of my search than to exhibit that object already
accomplished. I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead
and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering and seemingly
ineffectual light.
I see by your eagerness and the wonder and hope which your eyes
express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with
which I am acquainted; that cannot be; listen patiently until the end
of my story, and you will easily perceive why I am reserved upon that
subject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was,
to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my
precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of
knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town
to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature
will allow.
When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated
a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it.
Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to
prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of
fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable
difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the
creation of a being like myself, or one of simpler organization; but my
imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit me to
doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex 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 to corruption.
These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking
with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my
person had become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very
brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the
next day or the next hour might realize. One secret which I alone
possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon
gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless
eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places. Who shall conceive
the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps
of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless
clay? My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but
then a resistless and almost frantic impulse urged me forward; I seemed
to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. It was
indeed but a passing trance, that only made me feel with renewed
acuteness so soon as, the unnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had
returned to my old habits. I collected bones from charnel-houses and
disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human
frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house,
and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase,
I kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs were starting from
their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. The
dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials;
and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation,
whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I
brought my work near to a conclusion.
The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in
one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields
bestow a more plentiful harvest or the vines yield a more luxuriant
vintage, but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the
same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also
to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had
not seen for so long a time. I knew my silence disquieted them, and I
well remembered the words of my father: "I know that while you are
pleased with yourself you will think of us with affection, and we shall
hear regularly from you. You must pardon me if I regard any
interruption in your correspondence as a proof that your other duties
are equally neglected."
I knew well therefore what would be my father's feelings, but I could
not tear 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 silence 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.
Chapter 5
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 you! How fortunate
that you should be here at the very moment of my alighting!"
Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clerval; his presence brought
back to my thoughts my father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes of home
so dear to my recollection. I grasped his hand, and in a moment forgot
my horror and misfortune; I felt suddenly, and for the first time
during many months, calm and serene joy. I welcomed my friend,
therefore, in the most cordial manner, and we walked towards my
college. Clerval continued talking for some time about our mutual
friends and his own good fortune in being permitted to come to
Ingolstadt. "You may easily believe," said he, "how great was the
difficulty to persuade my father that all necessary knowledge was not
comprised in the noble art of book-keeping; 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 the matter? Do
not laugh in that manner. How ill you are! What is the cause of all
"Do not ask me," cried I, putting my hands before my eyes, for I
thought I saw the dreaded spectre glide into the room; "HE can tell.
Oh, save me! Save me!" I imagined that the monster seized me; I
struggled furiously and fell down in a 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 colour, "I will not mention it if it
agitates you; but your father and cousin would be very happy if they
received a letter from you in your own handwriting. They hardly know
how ill you have been and are uneasy at your long silence."
"Is that all, my dear Henry? How could you suppose that my first
thought would not fly towards those dear, dear friends whom I love and
who are so deserving of my love?"
"If this is your present temper, my friend, you will perhaps be glad to
see a letter that has been lying here some days for you; it is from
your cousin, I believe."
Chapter 6
Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It was from my
own Elizabeth:
"My dearest Cousin,
"You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters of dear
kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me on your account. You are
forbidden to write--to hold a pen; yet one word from you, dear Victor,
is necessary to calm our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought
that each post would bring this line, and my persuasions have
restrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have
prevented his encountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers of so
long a journey, yet how often have I regretted not being able to
perform it myself! I figure to myself that the task of attending on
your sickbed has devolved on some mercenary old nurse, who could never
guess your wishes nor minister to them with the care and affection of
your poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that indeed
you are getting better. I eagerly hope that you will confirm this
intelligence soon in your own handwriting.
"Get well--and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerful home and
friends who love you dearly. Your father's health is vigorous, and he
asks but to see you, but to be assured that you are well; and not a
care will ever cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you would
be to remark the improvement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen and full
of activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss and to enter
into foreign service, but we cannot part with him, at least until his
elder brother returns to us. My uncle is not pleased with the idea of
a military career in a distant country, but Ernest never had your
powers of application. He looks upon study as an odious fetter; his
time is spent in the open air, climbing the hills or rowing on the
lake. I fear that he will become an idler unless we yield the point
and permit him to enter on the profession which he has selected.
"Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, has taken
place since you left us. The blue lake and snow-clad mountains--they
never change; and I think our placid home and our contented hearts are
regulated by the same immutable laws. My trifling occupations take up
my time and amuse me, and I am rewarded for any exertions by seeing
none but happy, kind faces around me. Since you left us, but one
change has taken place in our little household. Do you remember on
what occasion Justine Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not;
I will relate her history, therefore in a few words. Madame Moritz,
her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine was the
third. This girl had always been the favourite of her father, but
through a strange perversity, her mother could not endure her, and
after the death of M. Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt observed
this, and when Justine was twelve years of age, prevailed on her mother
to allow her to live at our house. The republican institutions of our
country have produced simpler and happier manners than those which
prevail in the great monarchies that surround it. Hence there is less
distinction between the several classes of its inhabitants; and the
lower orders, being neither so poor nor so despised, their manners are
more refined and moral. A servant in Geneva does not mean the same
thing as a servant in France and England. Justine, thus received in
our family, learned the duties of a servant, a condition which, in our
fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance and a
sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.
"Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours; and I
recollect you once remarked that if you were in an ill humour, one
glance from Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason that
Ariosto gives concerning the beauty of Angelica--she looked so
frank-hearted and happy. My aunt conceived a great attachment for her,
by which she was induced to give her an education superior to that
which she had at first intended. This benefit was fully repaid;
Justine was the most grateful little creature in the world: I do not
mean that she made any professions I never heard one pass her lips, but
you could see by her eyes that she almost adored her protectress.
Although her disposition was gay and in many respects inconsiderate,
yet she paid the greatest attention to every gesture of my aunt. She
thought her the model of all excellence and endeavoured to imitate her
phraseology and manners, so that even now she often reminds me of her.
"When my dearest aunt died every one was too much occupied in their own
grief to notice poor Justine, who had attended her during her illness
with the most anxious affection. Poor Justine was very ill; but other
trials were reserved for her.
"One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother, with the
exception of her neglected daughter, was left childless. The
conscience of the woman was troubled; she began to think that the
deaths of her favourites was a judgement from heaven to chastise her
partiality. She was a Roman Catholic; and I believe her confessor
confirmed the idea which she had conceived. Accordingly, a few months
after your departure for Ingolstadt, Justine was called home by her
repentant mother. Poor girl! She wept when she quitted our house; she
was much altered since the death of my aunt; grief had given softness
and a winning mildness to her manners, which had before been remarkable
for vivacity. Nor was her residence at her mother's house of a nature
to restore her gaiety. The poor woman was very vacillating in her
repentance. She sometimes begged Justine to forgive her unkindness,
but much oftener accused her of having caused the deaths of her
brothers and sister. Perpetual fretting at length threw Madame Moritz
into a decline, which at first increased her irritability, but she is
now at peace for ever. She died on the first approach of cold weather,
at the beginning of this last winter. Justine has just returned to us;
and I assure you I love her tenderly. She is very clever and gentle,
and extremely pretty; as I mentioned before, her mien and her
expression continually remind me of my dear aunt.
"I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin, of little darling
William. I wish you could see him; he is very tall of his age, with
sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When he
smiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are rosy with
health. He has already had one or two little WIVES, but Louisa Biron
is his favourite, a pretty little girl of five years of age.
"Now, dear Victor, I dare say you wish to be indulged in a little
gossip concerning the good people of Geneva. The pretty Miss Mansfield
has already received the congratulatory visits on her approaching
marriage with a young Englishman, John Melbourne, Esq. Her ugly
sister, Manon, married M. Duvillard, the rich banker, last autumn. Your
favourite schoolfellow, Louis Manoir, has suffered several misfortunes
since the departure of Clerval from Geneva. But he has already
recovered his spirits, and is reported to be on the point of marrying a
lively pretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier. She is a widow, and much
older than Manoir; but she is very much admired, and a favourite with
"I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin; but my anxiety
returns upon me as I conclude. Write, dearest Victor,--one line--one
word will be a blessing to us. Ten thousand thanks to Henry for his
kindness, his affection, and his many letters; we are sincerely
grateful. Adieu! my cousin; take care of your self; and, I entreat
you, write!
"Elizabeth Lavenza.
"Geneva, March 18, 17--."
"Dear, dear Elizabeth!" I exclaimed, when I had read her letter: "I
will write instantly and relieve them from the anxiety they must feel."
I wrote, and this exertion greatly fatigued me; but my convalescence
had commenced, and proceeded regularly. In another fortnight I was
able to leave my chamber.
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 in
him that event which was so often present to my recollection, but which
I feared the detail to another would only impress more deeply.
M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at that time, of
almost insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh blunt encomiums gave me
even more pain than the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman. "D--n
the fellow!" cried he; "why, M. Clerval, I assure you he has outstript
us all. Ay, stare if you please; but it is nevertheless true. A
youngster who, but a few years ago, believed in Cornelius Agrippa as
firmly as in the gospel, has now set himself at the head of the
university; and if he is not soon pulled down, we shall all be out of
countenance.--Ay, ay," continued he, observing my face expressive of
suffering, "M. Frankenstein is modest; an excellent quality in a young
man. Young men should be diffident of themselves, you know, M.
Clerval: I was myself when young; but that wears out in a very short
M. Krempe had now commenced an eulogy on himself, which happily turned
the conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.
Clerval had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science; and his
literary pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me. He
came to the university with the design of making himself complete
master of the oriental languages, and thus he should open a field for
the plan of life he had marked out for himself. Resolved to pursue no
inglorious career, he turned his eyes toward the East, as affording
scope for his spirit of enterprise. The Persian, Arabic, and 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 ramble 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 you did love me, and endeavour to
elevate my mind until it was on a level with your own. A selfish
pursuit had cramped and narrowed me, until your gentleness and
affection warmed and opened my senses; I became the same happy creature
who, a few years ago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care.
When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most
delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with
ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring
bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I
was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had pressed
upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an
invincible burden.
Henry rejoiced in my gaiety, and sincerely sympathised in my feelings:
he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations that
filled his soul. The resources of his mind on this occasion were truly
astonishing: his conversation was full of imagination; and very often,
in imitation of the Persian and Arabic writers, he invented tales of
wonderful fancy and passion. At other times he repeated my favourite
poems, or drew me out into arguments, which he supported with great
ingenuity. We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon: the
peasants were dancing, and every one we met appeared gay and happy. My
own spirits were high, and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled
joy and hilarity.
Chapter 7
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 murderer to the deed. We
have no trace of him at present, although our exertions to discover him
are unremitted; but they will not restore my beloved 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,
"Alphonse Frankenstein.
"Geneva, May 12th, 17--."
Clerval, who had watched my countenance as I read this letter, was
surprised to observe the despair that succeeded the joy I at first
expressed on receiving new from my friends. I threw the letter on the
table, and covered my face with my hands.
"My dear Frankenstein," exclaimed Henry, when he perceived me weep with
bitterness, "are you always to be unhappy? My dear friend, what has
I motioned him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down the
room in the extremest agitation. Tears also gushed from the eyes of
Clerval, as he read the account of my misfortune.
"I can offer you no consolation, my friend," said he; "your disaster is
irreparable. What do you intend to do?"
"To go instantly to Geneva: come with me, Henry, to order the horses."
During our walk, Clerval endeavoured to say a few words of consolation;
he could only express his heartfelt sympathy. "Poor William!" said he,
"dear lovely child, he now sleeps with his angel mother! Who that had
seen him bright and joyous in his young beauty, but must weep over his
untimely loss! To die so miserably; to feel the murderer's grasp! How
much more a murdered that could destroy radiant innocence! Poor little
fellow! one only consolation have we; his friends mourn and weep, but
he is at rest. The pang is over, his sufferings are at an end for ever.
A sod covers his gentle form, and he knows no pain. He can no longer
be a subject for pity; we must reserve that for his miserable
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
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, and disappeared.
I remained motionless. The thunder ceased; but the rain still
continued, and the scene was enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I
revolved in my mind the events which I had until now sought to forget:
the whole train of my progress toward the creation; the appearance of
the works of my own hands at my bedside; its departure. Two years had
now nearly elapsed since the night on which he first received life; and
was this his first crime? Alas! I had turned loose into the world a
depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery; had he not
murdered my brother?
No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder of the
night, which I spent, cold and wet, in the open air. But I did not
feel the inconvenience of the weather; my imagination was busy in
scenes of evil and despair. I considered the being whom I had cast
among mankind, and endowed with the will and power to effect purposes
of horror, such as the deed which he had now done, nearly in the light
of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave, and forced
to destroy all that was dear to me.
Day dawned; and I directed my steps towards the town. The gates were
open, and I hastened to my father's house. My first thought was to
discover what I knew of the murderer, and cause instant pursuit to be
made. But I paused when I reflected on the story that I had to tell. A
being whom I myself had formed, and endued with life, had met me at
midnight among the precipices of an inaccessible mountain. I
remembered also the nervous fever with which I had been seized just at
the time that I dated my creation, and which would give an air of
delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable. I well knew that
if any other had communicated such a relation to me, I should have
looked upon it as the ravings of insanity. Besides, the strange nature
of the animal would elude all pursuit, even if I were so far credited
as to persuade my relatives to commence it. And then of what use would
be pursuit? Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the
overhanging sides of Mont Saleve? These reflections determined me, and
I resolved to remain silent.
It was about five in the morning when I entered my father's house. I
told the servants not to disturb the family, and went into the library
to attend their usual hour of rising.
Six years had elapsed, passed in a dream but for one indelible trace,
and I stood in the same place where I had last embraced my father
before my departure for Ingolstadt. Beloved and venerable parent! He
still remained to me. I gazed on the picture of my mother, which stood
over the mantel-piece. It was an historical subject, painted at my
father's desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in an agony of
despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father. Her garb was
rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air of dignity and beauty,
that hardly permitted the sentiment of pity. Below this picture was a
miniature of William; and my tears flowed when I looked upon it. While
I was thus engaged, Ernest entered: he had heard me arrive, and
hastened to welcome me: "Welcome, my dearest Victor," said he. "Ah! I
wish you had come three months ago, and then you would have found us
all joyous and delighted. You come to us now to share a misery which
nothing can alleviate; yet 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
agony crept over my frame. Before, I had only imagined the
wretchedness of my desolated home; the reality came on me as a new, and
a not less terrible, disaster. I tried to calm Ernest; I enquired more
minutely concerning my father, and here I named my cousin.
"She most of all," said Ernest, "requires consolation; she accused
herself of having caused the death of my brother, and that made her
very wretched. But since the murderer has been discovered--"
"The murderer discovered! Good God! how can that be? who could attempt
to pursue him? It is impossible; one might as well try to overtake the
winds, or confine a mountain-stream with a straw. I saw him too; he
was free last night!"
"I do not know what you mean," replied my brother, in accents of
wonder, "but to us the discovery we have made completes our misery. No
one would believe it at first; and even now Elizabeth will not be
convinced, notwithstanding all the evidence. Indeed, who would credit
that Justine Moritz, who was so amiable, and fond of all the family,
could suddenly become so capable of so frightful, so appalling a crime?"
"Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it is
wrongfully; every one knows that; no one believes it, surely, Ernest?"
"No one did at first; but several circumstances came out, that have
almost forced conviction upon us; and her own behaviour has been so
confused, as to add to the evidence of facts a weight that, I fear,
leaves no hope for doubt. But she will be tried today, and you will
then hear all."
He then related that, the morning on which the murder of poor William
had been discovered, Justine had been taken ill, and confined to her
bed for several days. During this interval, one of the servants,
happening to examine the apparel she had worn on the night of the
murder, had discovered in her pocket the picture of my mother, which
had been judged to be the temptation of the murderer. The servant
instantly showed it to one of the others, who, without saying a word to
any of the family, went to a magistrate; and, upon their deposition,
Justine was apprehended. On being charged with the fact, the poor girl
confirmed the suspicion in a great measure by her extreme confusion of
This was a strange tale, but it did not shake my faith; and I replied
earnestly, "You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor,
good Justine, is innocent."
At that instant my father entered. I saw unhappiness deeply impressed
on his countenance, but he endeavoured to welcome me cheerfully; and,
after we had exchanged our mournful greeting, would have introduced
some other topic than that of our disaster, had not Ernest exclaimed,
"Good God, papa! Victor says that he knows who was the murderer of
poor William."
"We do also, unfortunately," replied my father, "for indeed I had
rather have been for ever ignorant than have discovered so much
depravity and ungratitude in one I valued so highly."
"My dear father, you are mistaken; Justine is innocent."
"If she is, God forbid that she should suffer as guilty. She is to be
tried today, and I hope, I sincerely hope, that she will be acquitted."
This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind that
Justine, and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder. I
had no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could be
brought forward strong enough to convict her. My tale was not one to
announce publicly; its astounding horror would be looked upon as
madness by the vulgar. Did any one indeed exist, except I, the
creator, who would believe, unless his senses convinced him, in the
existence of the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance
which I had let loose upon the world?
We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had altered her since I last
beheld her; it had endowed her with loveliness surpassing the beauty of
her childish years. There was the same candour, the same vivacity, but
it was allied to an expression more full of sensibility and intellect.
She welcomed me with the greatest affection. "Your arrival, my dear
cousin," said she, "fills me with hope. 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
"She is innocent, my Elizabeth," said I, "and that shall be proved;
fear nothing, but let your spirits be cheered by the assurance of her
"How kind and generous you are! every one else believes in her guilt,
and that made me wretched, for I knew that it was impossible: and to
see every one else prejudiced in so deadly a manner rendered me
hopeless and despairing." She wept.
"Dearest niece," said my father, "dry your tears. If she is, as you
believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws, and the activity
with which I shall prevent the slightest shadow of partiality."
Chapter 8
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 or suspicious."
She then related that, by the permission of Elizabeth, she had passed
the evening of the night on which the murder had been committed at the
house of an aunt at Chene, a village situated at about a league from
Geneva. On her return, at about nine o'clock, she met a man who asked
her if she had seen anything of the child who was lost. She was
alarmed by this account and passed several hours in looking for him,
when the gates of Geneva were shut, and she was forced to remain
several hours of the night in a barn belonging to a cottage, being
unwilling to call up the inhabitants, to whom she was well known. Most
of the night she spent here watching; towards morning she believed that
she slept for a few minutes; some steps disturbed her, and she awoke.
It was dawn, and she quitted her asylum, that she might again endeavour
to find my brother. If she had gone near the spot where his body lay,
it was without her knowledge. That she had been bewildered when
questioned by the market-woman was not surprising, since she had passed
a sleepless night and the fate of poor William was yet uncertain.
Concerning the picture she could give no account.
"I know," continued the unhappy victim, "how heavily and fatally this
one circumstance weighs against me, but I have no power of explaining
it; and when I have expressed my utter ignorance, I am only left to
conjecture concerning the probabilities by which it might have been
placed in my pocket. But here also I am checked. I believe that I
have no enemy on earth, and none surely would have been so wicked as to
destroy me wantonly. Did the murderer place it there? I know of no
opportunity afforded him for so doing; or, if I had, why should he have
stolen the jewel, to part with it again so soon?
"I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see no room for
hope. I beg permission to have a few witnesses examined concerning my
character, and if their testimony shall not overweigh my supposed
guilt, I must be condemned, although I would pledge my salvation on my
Several witnesses were called who had known her for many years, and
they spoke well of her; but fear and hatred of the crime of which they
supposed her guilty rendered them timorous and unwilling to come
forward. Elizabeth saw even this last resource, her excellent
dispositions and irreproachable conduct, about to fail the accused,
when, although violently agitated, she desired permission to address
the court.
"I am," said she, "the cousin of the unhappy child who was murdered, or
rather his sister, for I was educated by and have lived with his
parents ever since and even long before his birth. It may therefore be
judged indecent in me to come forward on this occasion, but when I see
a fellow creature about to perish through the cowardice of her
pretended friends, I wish to be allowed to speak, that I may say what I
know of her character. I am well acquainted with the accused. I have
lived in the same house with her, at one time for five and at another
for nearly two years. During all that period she appeared to me the
most amiable and benevolent of human creatures. She nursed Madame
Frankenstein, my aunt, in her last illness, with the greatest affection
and care and afterwards attended her own mother during a tedious
illness, in a manner that excited the admiration of all who knew her,
after which she again lived in my uncle's house, where she was beloved
by all the family. She was warmly attached to the child who is now
dead and acted towards him like a most affectionate mother. For my own
part, I do not hesitate to say that, notwithstanding all the evidence
produced against her, I believe and rely on her perfect innocence. She
had no temptation for such an action; as to the bauble on which the
chief proof rests, if she had earnestly desired it, I should have
willingly given it to her, so much do I esteem and value her."
A murmur of approbation followed Elizabeth's simple and powerful
appeal, but it was excited by her generous interference, and not in
favour of poor Justine, on whom the public indignation was turned with
renewed violence, charging her with the blackest ingratitude. She
herself wept as Elizabeth spoke, but she did not answer. My own
agitation and anguish was extreme during the whole trial. I believed
in her innocence; I knew it. Could the demon who had (I did not for a
minute doubt) murdered my brother also in his hellish sport have
betrayed the innocent to death and ignominy? I could not sustain the
horror of my situation, and when I perceived that the popular voice and
the 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
This was strange and unexpected intelligence; what could it mean? Had
my eyes deceived me? And was I really as mad as the whole world would
believe me to be if I disclosed the object of my suspicions? I
hastened to return home, and Elizabeth eagerly demanded the result.
"My cousin," replied I, "it is decided as you may have expected; all
judges had rather that ten innocent should suffer than that one guilty
should escape. But she has confessed."
This was a dire blow to poor Elizabeth, who had relied with firmness
upon Justine's innocence. "Alas!" said she. "How shall I ever again
believe in human goodness? Justine, whom I loved and esteemed as my
sister, how could she put on those smiles of innocence only to betray?
Her mild eyes seemed incapable of any severity or guile, and yet she
has committed a murder."
Soon after we heard that the poor victim had expressed a desire to see
my cousin. My father wished her not to go but said that he left it to
her own judgment and feelings to decide. "Yes," said Elizabeth, "I
will go, although she is guilty; and you, Victor, shall accompany me; I
cannot go alone." The idea of this visit was torture to me, yet I
could not refuse. We entered the gloomy prison chamber and beheld
Justine sitting on some straw at the farther end; her hands were
manacled, and her head rested on her knees. She rose on seeing us
enter, and when we were left alone with her, she threw herself at the
feet of Elizabeth, weeping bitterly. My cousin wept also.
"Oh, Justine!" said she. "Why did you rob me of my last consolation?
I relied on your innocence, and although I was then very wretched, I
was not so miserable as I am now."
"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
She paused, weeping, and then continued, "I thought with horror, my
sweet lady, that you should believe your Justine, whom your blessed
aunt had so highly honoured, and whom you loved, was a creature capable
of a crime which none but the devil himself could have perpetrated.
Dear William! dearest blessed child! I soon shall see you again in
heaven, where we shall all be happy; and that consoles me, going as I
am to suffer ignominy and death."
"Oh, Justine! Forgive me for having for one moment distrusted you.
Why did you confess? But do not mourn, dear girl. Do not fear. I
will proclaim, I will prove your innocence. I will melt the stony
hearts of your enemies by my tears and prayers. You shall not die!
You, my playfellow, my companion, my sister, perish on the scaffold!
No! No! I never could survive so horrible a misfortune."
Justine shook her head mournfully. "I do not fear to die," she said;
"that pang is past. God raises my weakness and gives me courage to
endure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember
me and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the
fate awaiting me. Learn from me, dear lady, to submit in patience to
the will of heaven!"
During this conversation I had retired to a corner of the prison room,
where I could conceal the horrid anguish that possessed me. Despair!
Who dared talk of that? The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass
the awful boundary between life and death, felt not, as I did, such
deep and bitter agony. I gnashed my teeth and ground them together,
uttering a groan that came from my inmost soul. Justine started. When
she saw who it was, she approached me and said, "Dear sir, you are very
kind to visit me; you, I hope, do not believe that I am guilty?"
I could not answer. "No, Justine," said Elizabeth; "he is more
convinced of your innocence than I was, for even when he heard that you
had confessed, he did not credit it."
"I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerest
gratitude towards those who think of me with kindness. How sweet is
the affection of others to such a wretch as I am! It removes more than
half my misfortune, and I feel as if I could die in peace now that my
innocence is acknowledged by you, dear lady, and your cousin."
Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself. She indeed
gained the resignation she desired. But I, the true murderer, felt the
never-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or
consolation. Elizabeth also wept and was unhappy, but hers also was
the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fair
moon, for a while hides but cannot tarnish its brightness. Anguish and
despair had penetrated into the core of my heart; I bore a hell within
me which nothing could extinguish. We stayed several hours with
Justine, and it was with great difficulty that Elizabeth could tear
herself away. "I wish," cried she, "that I were to die with you; I
cannot live in this world of misery."
Justine assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty
repressed her bitter tears. She embraced Elizabeth and said in a voice
of half-suppressed emotion, "Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth,
my beloved and only friend; may heaven, in its bounty, bless and
preserve you; may this be the last misfortune that you will ever
suffer! Live, and be happy, and make others so."
And on the morrow Justine died. Elizabeth's heart-rending eloquence
failed to move the judges from their settled conviction in the
criminality of the saintly sufferer. My passionate and indignant
appeals were lost upon them. And when I received their cold answers
and heard the harsh, unfeeling reasoning of these men, my purposed
avowal died away on my lips. Thus I might proclaim myself a madman,
but not revoke the sentence passed upon my wretched victim. She
perished on the scaffold as a murderess!
From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep and
voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing! And my
father's woe, and the desolation of that late so smiling home all was
the work of my 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.
Chapter 9
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, deathlike solitude.
My father observed with pain the alteration perceptible in my
disposition and habits and endeavoured by arguments deduced from the
feelings of his serene conscience and guiltless life to inspire me with
fortitude and awaken in me the courage to dispel the dark cloud which
brooded over me. "Do you think, Victor," said he, "that I do not
suffer also? No one could love a child more than I loved your
brother"--tears came into his eyes as he spoke--"but is it not a duty
to the survivors that we should refrain from augmenting their
unhappiness by an appearance of immoderate grief? It is also a duty
owed to yourself, for excessive sorrow prevents improvement or
enjoyment, or even the discharge of daily usefulness, without which no
man is fit for society."
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 death of
Justine Moritz, I no longer see the world and its works as they before
appeared to me. Before, I looked upon the accounts of vice and
injustice that I read in books or heard from others as tales of ancient
days or imaginary evils; at least they were remote and more familiar to
reason than to the imagination; but now misery has come home, and men
appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood. Yet I am
certainly unjust. Everybody believed that poor girl to be guilty; and
if she could have committed the crime for which she suffered, assuredly
she would have been the most depraved of human creatures. For the sake
of a few jewels, to have murdered the son of her benefactor and friend,
a child whom she had nursed from its birth, and appeared to love as if
it had been her own! I could not consent to the death of any human
being, but certainly I should have thought such a creature unfit to
remain in the society of men. But she was innocent. I know, I feel
she was innocent; you are of the same opinion, and that confirms me.
Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the truth, who can
assure themselves of certain happiness? I feel as if I were walking on
the edge of a precipice, towards which thousands are crowding and
endeavouring to plunge me into the abyss. William and Justine were
assassinated, and the murderer escapes; he walks about the world free,
and perhaps respected. But even if I were condemned to suffer on the
scaffold for the same crimes, I would not change places with such a
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
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
forms, opened before me, and I began to ascend the mountain that
overhangs it. Soon after, I entered the valley of Chamounix. This
valley is more wonderful and sublime, but not so beautiful and
picturesque as that of Servox, through which I had just passed. The
high and snowy mountains were its immediate boundaries, but I saw no
more ruined castles and fertile fields. Immense glaciers approached
the road; I heard the rumbling thunder of the falling avalanche and
marked the smoke of its passage. Mont Blanc, the supreme and
magnificent Mont Blanc, raised itself from the surrounding aiguilles,
and its tremendous dome overlooked the valley.
A tingling long-lost sense of pleasure often came across me during this
journey. Some turn in the road, some new object suddenly perceived and
recognized, 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.
Chapter 10
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 mountain-top, 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 higher, is intersected by ravines
of snow, down which stones continually roll from above; one of them is
particularly dangerous, as the slightest sound, such as even speaking
in a loud voice, produces a concussion of air sufficient to draw
destruction upon the head of the speaker. The pines are not tall or
luxuriant, but they are sombre and add an air of severity to the scene.
I looked on the valley beneath; vast mists were rising from the rivers
which ran through it and curling in thick wreaths around the opposite
mountains, whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while rain
poured from the dark sky and added to the melancholy impression I
received from the objects around me. Alas! Why does man boast of
sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders
them more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger,
thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved by
every wind that blows and a chance word or scene that that word may
convey to us.
We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep.
We rise; one wand'ring thought pollutes the day.
We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep,
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away;
It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free.
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but mutability!
It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some
time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered
both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated
the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very
uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, and
interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost a
league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The
opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I
now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league;
and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess
of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea,
or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains,
whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering
peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was
before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed,
"Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow
beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion,
away from the joys of life."
As I said this I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance,
advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the
crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution; his
stature, also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that of man. I was
troubled; a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me,
but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains. I
perceived, as the shape came nearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!)
that it was the wretch whom I had created. I trembled with rage and
horror, resolving to wait his approach and then close with him in
mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish,
combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness
rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely
observed this; rage and hatred had at first deprived me of utterance,
and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words expressive of furious
detestation and contempt.
"Devil," I exclaimed, "do you dare approach me? And do not you fear
the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head? Begone,
vile insect! Or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust! And,
oh! That I could, with the extinction of your miserable existence,
restore those victims whom you have so diabolically murdered!"
"I expected this reception," said the daemon. "All men hate the
wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all
living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature,
to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of
one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life?
Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of
mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and
you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it
be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends."
"Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too
mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with
your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I
so negligently 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 hatred
on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to
increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of
anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made
me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my
joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in
opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and
docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform 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 hated 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.
Chapter 11
"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of
my being; all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct.
A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard,
and smelt at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I
learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses. By
degrees, I remember, a stronger light pressed upon my nerves, so that I
was obliged to shut my eyes. Darkness then came over me and troubled
me, but hardly had I felt this when, by opening my eyes, as I now
suppose, the light poured in upon me again. I walked and, I believe,
descended, but I presently found a great alteration in my sensations.
Before, dark and opaque bodies had surrounded me, impervious to my
touch or sight; but I now found that I could wander on at liberty, with
no obstacles which I could not either surmount or avoid. The light
became more and more oppressive to me, and the heat wearying me as I
walked, I sought a place where I could receive shade. This was the
forest near Ingolstadt; and here I lay by the side of a brook resting
from my fatigue, until I felt tormented by hunger and thirst. This
roused me from my nearly dormant state, and I ate some berries which I
found hanging on the trees or lying on the ground. I slaked my thirst
at the brook, and then lying down, was overcome by sleep.
"It was dark when I awoke; I felt cold also, and half frightened, as it
were, instinctively, finding myself so desolate. Before I had quitted
your apartment, on a sensation of cold, I had covered myself with some
clothes, but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews of
night. I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could
distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat
down and wept.
"Soon a gentle light stole over the heavens and gave me a sensation of
pleasure. I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the
trees. [The moon] I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly,
but it enlightened my path, and I again went out in search of berries.
I was still cold when under one of the trees I found a huge cloak, with
which I covered myself, and sat down upon the ground. No distinct
ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light, and 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
"Several changes of day and night passed, and the orb of night had
greatly lessened, when I began to distinguish my sensations from each
other. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream that supplied me with
drink and the trees that shaded me with their foliage. I was delighted
when I first discovered that a pleasant sound, which often saluted my
ears, proceeded from the throats of the little winged animals who had
often intercepted the light from my eyes. I began also to observe,
with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me and to perceive the
boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me. Sometimes I
tried to imitate the pleasant songs of the birds but was unable.
Sometimes I wished to express my sensations in my own mode, but the
uncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me into
silence again.
"The moon had disappeared from the night, and again, with a lessened
form, showed itself, while I still remained in the forest. My
sensations had by this time become distinct, and my mind received every
day additional ideas. My eyes became accustomed to the light and to
perceive objects in their right forms; I distinguished the insect from
the herb, and by degrees, one herb from another. I found that the
sparrow uttered none but harsh notes, whilst those of the blackbird and
thrush were sweet and enticing.
"One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been
left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the
warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live
embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange,
I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects! I
examined the materials of the fire, and to my joy found it to be
composed of wood. I quickly collected some branches, but they were wet
and would not burn. I was pained at this and sat still watching the
operation of the fire. The wet wood which I had placed near the heat
dried and itself became inflamed. I reflected on this, and by touching
the various branches, I discovered the cause and busied myself in
collecting a great quantity of wood, that I might dry it and have a
plentiful supply of fire. When night came on and brought sleep with
it, I was in the greatest fear lest my fire should be extinguished. I
covered it carefully with dry wood and leaves and placed wet branches
upon it; and then, spreading my cloak, I lay on the ground and sank
into sleep.
"It was morning when I awoke, and my first care was to visit the fire.
I uncovered it, and a gentle breeze quickly fanned it into a flame. I
observed this also and contrived a fan of branches, which roused the
embers when they were nearly extinguished. When night came again I
found, with pleasure, that the fire gave light as well as heat and that
the discovery of this element was useful 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
"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."
Chapter 12
"I lay on my straw, but I could not sleep. I thought of the
occurrences of the day. What chiefly struck me was the gentle manners
of these people, and I longed to join them, but dared not. I
remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before from
the barbarous villagers, and resolved, whatever course of conduct I
might hereafter think it right to pursue, that for the present I would
remain quietly in my hovel, watching and endeavouring to discover the
motives which influenced their actions.
"The cottagers arose the next morning before the sun. The young woman
arranged the cottage and prepared the food, and the youth departed
after the first meal.
"This day was passed in the same routine as that which preceded it.
The young man was constantly employed out of doors, and the girl in
various laborious occupations within. The old man, whom I soon
perceived to be blind, employed his leisure hours on his instrument or
in contemplation. Nothing could exceed the love and respect which the
younger cottagers exhibited towards their venerable companion. They
performed towards him every little office of affection and duty with
gentleness, and he rewarded them by his benevolent smiles.
"They were not entirely happy. The young man and his companion often
went apart and appeared to weep. I saw no cause for their unhappiness,
but I was deeply affected by it. If such lovely creatures were
miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being,
should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy? They
possessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every
luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill and delicious viands
when hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more,
they enjoyed one another's company and speech, interchanging each day
looks of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did they
really express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions,
but perpetual attention and time explained to me many appearances which
were at first enigmatic.
"A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of
the 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
"I could mention innumerable instances which, although slight, marked
the dispositions of these amiable cottagers. In the midst of poverty
and want, Felix carried with pleasure to his sister the first little
white flower that peeped out from beneath the snowy ground. Early in
the morning, before she had risen, he cleared away the snow that
obstructed her path to the milk-house, drew water from the well, and
brought the wood from the outhouse, where, to his perpetual
astonishment, he found his store always replenished by an invisible
hand. In the day, I believe, he worked sometimes for a neighbouring
farmer, because he often went forth and did not return until dinner,
yet brought no wood with him. At other times he worked in the garden,
but as there was little to do in the frosty season, he read to the old
man and Agatha.
"This reading had puzzled me extremely at first, but by degrees I
discovered that he uttered many of the same sounds when he read as when
he talked. I conjectured, therefore, that he found on the paper signs
for speech which he understood, and I ardently longed to comprehend
these also; but how was that possible when I did not even understand
the sounds for which they stood as signs? I improved, however,
sensibly in this science, but not sufficiently to follow up any kind of
conversation, although I applied my whole mind to the endeavour, for I
easily perceived that, although I eagerly longed to discover myself to
the cottagers, I ought not to make the attempt until I had first become
master of their language, which knowledge might enable me to make them
overlook the deformity of my figure, for with this also the contrast
perpetually presented to my eyes had made me acquainted.
"I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers--their grace, beauty,
and delicate complexions; but how was I terrified when I viewed myself
in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that
it was indeed I who was 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
"As the sun became warmer and the light of day longer, the snow
vanished, and I beheld the bare trees and the black earth. From this
time Felix was more employed, and the heart-moving indications of
impending famine disappeared. Their food, as I afterwards found, was
coarse, but it was wholesome; and they procured a sufficiency of it.
Several new kinds of plants sprang up in the garden, which they
dressed; and these signs of comfort increased daily as the season
"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."
Chapter 13
"I now hasten to the more moving part of my story. I shall relate
events that impressed me with feelings which, from what I had been,
have made me what I am.
"Spring advanced rapidly; the weather became fine and the skies
cloudless. It surprised me that what before was desert and gloomy
should now bloom with the most beautiful flowers and verdure. My
senses were gratified and refreshed by a thousand scents of delight and
a thousand sights of beauty.
"It was on one of these days, when my cottagers periodically rested
from labour--the old man played on his guitar, and the children
listened to him--that I observed the countenance of Felix was
melancholy beyond expression; he sighed frequently, and once his father
paused in his music, and I conjectured by his manner that he inquired
the cause of his son's sorrow. Felix replied in a cheerful accent, and
the old man was recommencing his music when someone tapped at the door.
"It was a lady on horseback, accompanied by a country-man as a guide.
The lady was dressed in a dark suit and covered with a thick black
veil. Agatha asked a question, to which the stranger only replied by
pronouncing, in a sweet accent, the name of Felix. Her voice was
musical but unlike that of either of my friends. On hearing this word,
Felix came up hastily to the lady, who, when she saw him, threw up her
veil, and I beheld a countenance of angelic beauty and expression. Her
hair of a shining raven black, and curiously braided; her eyes were
dark, but gentle, although animated; her features of a regular
proportion, and her complexion wondrously fair, each cheek tinged with
a lovely pink.
"Felix seemed ravished with delight when he saw her, every trait of
sorrow vanished from his face, and it instantly expressed a degree of
ecstatic joy, of which I could hardly have believed it capable; his
eyes sparkled, as his cheek flushed with pleasure; and at that moment I
thought him as beautiful as the stranger. She appeared affected by
different feelings; wiping a few tears from her lovely eyes, she held
out her hand to Felix, who kissed it rapturously and called her, as
well as I could distinguish, his sweet Arabian. She did not appear to
understand him, but smiled. He assisted her to dismount, and
dismissing her guide, conducted her into the cottage. Some
conversation took place between him and his father, and the young
stranger knelt at the old man's feet and would have kissed his hand,
but he raised her and embraced her affectionately.
"I soon perceived that although the stranger uttered articulate sounds
and appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understood
by nor herself understood the cottagers. They made many signs which I
did not comprehend, but I saw that her presence diffused gladness
through the cottage, dispelling their sorrow as the sun dissipates the
morning mists. Felix seemed peculiarly happy and with smiles of
delight welcomed his Arabian. Agatha, the ever-gentle Agatha, kissed
the hands of the lovely stranger, and pointing to her brother, made
signs which appeared to me to mean that he had been sorrowful until she
came. Some hours passed thus, while they, by their countenances,
expressed joy, the cause of which I did not comprehend. Presently I
found, by the frequent recurrence of some sound which the stranger
repeated after them, that she was endeavouring to learn their language;
and the idea instantly occurred to me that I should make use of the
same instructions to the same end. The stranger learned about twenty
words at the first lesson; most of them, indeed, were those which I had
before understood, but I profited by the others.
"As night came on, Agatha and the Arabian retired early. When they
separated Felix kissed the hand of the stranger and said, 'Good night
sweet Safie.' He sat up much longer, conversing with his father, and
by the frequent repetition of her name I conjectured that their lovely
guest was the subject of their conversation. I ardently desired to
understand them, and bent every faculty towards that purpose, but found
it utterly impossible.
"The next morning Felix went out to his work, and after the usual
occupations of Agatha were finished, the Arabian sat at the feet of the
old man, and taking his guitar, played some airs so entrancingly
beautiful that they at once drew tears of sorrow and delight from my
eyes. She sang, and her voice flowed in a rich cadence, swelling or
dying away like a nightingale of the woods.
"When she had finished, she gave the guitar to Agatha, who at first
declined it. She played a simple air, and her voice accompanied it in
sweet accents, but unlike the wondrous strain of the stranger. The old
man appeared enraptured and said some words which Agatha endeavoured to
explain to Safie, and by which he appeared to wish to express that she
bestowed on him the greatest delight by her music.
"The days now passed as peaceably as before, with the sole alteration
that joy had taken place of sadness in the countenances of my friends.
Safie was always gay and happy; she and I improved rapidly in the
knowledge of language, so 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 of
Empires. I should not have understood the purport of this book had not
Felix, in reading it, given very minute explanations. He had chosen
this work, he said, because the declamatory style was framed in
imitation of the Eastern authors. Through this work I obtained a
cursory knowledge of history and a view of the several empires at
present existing in the world; it gave me an insight into the manners,
governments, and religions of the different nations of the earth. I
heard of the slothful Asiatics, of the stupendous genius and mental
activity of the Grecians, of the wars and wonderful virtue of the early
Romans--of their subsequent degenerating--of the decline of that mighty
empire, of chivalry, Christianity, and kings. I heard of the discovery
of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie over the hapless fate of
its original inhabitants.
"These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was
man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so
vicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil
principle and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and
godlike. To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour
that can befall a sensitive being; to be base and vicious, as many on
record have been, appeared the lowest degradation, a condition more
abject than that of the blind mole or harmless worm. For a long time I
could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or
even why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of
vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and
"Every conversation of the cottagers now opened new wonders to me.
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 now to
return to the cottagers, whose story excited in me such various
feelings of indignation, delight, and wonder, but which all terminated
in additional love and reverence for my protectors (for so I loved, in
an innocent, half-painful self-deceit, to call them)."
Chapter 14
"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 made
on the heart of Felix and endeavoured to secure him more entirely in
his interests by the promise of her hand in marriage so soon as he
should be conveyed to a place of safety. Felix was too delicate to
accept this offer, yet he looked forward to the probability of the
event as to the consummation of his happiness.
"During the ensuing days, while the preparations were going forward for
the escape of the merchant, the zeal of Felix was warmed by several
letters that he received from this lovely girl, who found means to
express her thoughts in the language of her lover by the aid of an old
man, a servant of her father who understood French. She thanked him in
the most ardent terms for his intended services towards her parent, and
at the same time she gently deplored her own 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 hopes
of the youthful lovers, while in his heart he had formed far other
plans. He loathed the idea that his daughter should be united to a
Christian, but he feared the resentment of Felix if he should appear
lukewarm, for he knew that he was still in the power of his deliverer
if he should choose to betray him to the Italian state which they
inhabited. He revolved a thousand plans by which he should be enabled
to prolong the deceit until it might be no longer necessary, and
secretly to take his daughter with him when he departed. His plans
were facilitated by the news which arrived from Paris.
"The government of France were greatly enraged at the escape of their
victim and spared no pains to detect and punish his deliverer. The
plot of Felix was quickly discovered, and De Lacey and Agatha were
thrown into prison. The news reached Felix and roused him from his
dream of pleasure. His blind and aged father and his gentle sister lay
in a noisome dungeon while he enjoyed the free air and the society of
her whom he loved. This idea was torture to him. He quickly arranged
with the Turk that if the latter should find a favourable opportunity
for escape before Felix could return to Italy, Safie should remain as a
boarder at a convent at Leghorn; and then, quitting the lovely Arabian,
he hastened to Paris and delivered himself up to the vengeance of the
law, hoping to free De Lacey and Agatha by this proceeding.
"He did not succeed. They remained confined for five months before the
trial took place, the result of which deprived them of their fortune
and condemned them to a perpetual exile from their native country.
"They found a miserable asylum in the cottage in Germany, where I
discovered them. Felix soon learned that the treacherous Turk, for
whom he and his family endured such unheard-of oppression, on
discovering that his deliverer was thus reduced to poverty and ruin,
became a traitor to good feeling and honour and had quitted Italy with
his daughter, insultingly sending Felix a pittance of money to aid him,
as he said, in some plan of future maintenance.
"Such were the events that preyed on the heart of Felix and rendered
him, when 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
"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."
Chapter 15
"Such was the history of my beloved cottagers. It impressed me deeply.
I learned, from the views of social life which it developed, to admire
their virtues and to deprecate the vices of mankind.
"As yet I looked upon crime as a distant evil, benevolence and
generosity were ever present before me, inciting within me a desire to
become an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities
were called forth and displayed. But in giving an account of the
progress of my intellect, I must not omit a circumstance which occurred
in the beginning of the month of August of the same 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 trial
which in a few months I resolved to undergo; and sometimes I allowed my
thoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and
dared to fancy amiable and lovely creatures sympathizing with my
feelings and cheering my gloom; their angelic countenances breathed
smiles of consolation. But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my
sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam's
supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me,
and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him.
"Autumn passed thus. I saw, with surprise and grief, the leaves decay
and fall, and nature again assume the barren and bleak appearance it
had worn when I first beheld the woods and the lovely moon. Yet I did
not heed the bleakness of the weather; I was better fitted by my
conformation for the endurance of cold than heat. But my chief
delights were the sight of the flowers, the birds, and all the gay
apparel of summer; when those deserted me, I turned with more attention
towards the cottagers. Their happiness was not decreased by the
absence of summer. They loved and sympathized with one another; and
their joys, depending on each other, were not interrupted by the
casualties that took place around them. The more I saw of them, the
greater became my desire to claim their protection and kindness; my
heart yearned to be known and loved by these amiable creatures; to see
their sweet looks directed towards me with affection was the utmost
limit of my ambition. I dared not think that they would turn them from
me with disdain and horror. The poor that stopped at their door were
never driven away. I asked, it is true, for greater treasures than a
little food or rest: I required kindness and sympathy; but I did not
believe myself utterly unworthy of it.
"The winter advanced, and an entire revolution of the seasons had taken
place since I awoke into life. My attention at this time was solely
directed towards my plan of introducing myself into the cottage of my
protectors. I revolved many projects, but that on which I finally
fixed was to enter the dwelling when the blind old man should be alone.
I had sagacity enough to discover that the unnatural hideousness of my
person was the chief object of horror with those who had formerly
beheld me. My voice, although harsh, had nothing terrible in it; I
thought, therefore, that if in the absence of his children I could gain
the good will and mediation of the old De Lacey, I might by his means
be tolerated by my younger protectors.
"One day, when the sun shone on the red leaves that strewed the ground
and diffused cheerfulness, although it denied warmth, Safie, Agatha,
and Felix departed on a long country walk, and the old man, at his own
desire, was left alone in the cottage. When his children had departed,
he took up his guitar and 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
"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
"'That is indeed unfortunate; but if you are really blameless, cannot
you undeceive them?'
"'I am about to undertake that task; and it is on that account that I
feel so many overwhelming terrors. I tenderly love these friends; I
have, unknown to them, been for many months in the habits of daily
kindness towards them; but they believe that I wish to injure them, and
it is that prejudice which I wish to overcome.'
"'Where do these friends reside?'
"'Near this spot.'
"The old man paused and then continued, 'If you will unreservedly
confide to me the particulars of your tale, I perhaps may be of use in
undeceiving them. I am blind and cannot judge of your countenance, but
there is something in your words which persuades me that you are
sincere. I am poor and an exile, but it will afford me true pleasure
to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.'
"'Excellent man! I thank you and accept your generous offer. You
raise me from the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid,
I shall not be driven from the society and sympathy of your fellow
"'Heaven forbid! Even if you were really criminal, for that can only
drive you to desperation, and not instigate you to virtue. I also am
unfortunate; I and my family have been condemned, although innocent;
judge, therefore, if I do not feel for your misfortunes.'
"'How can I thank you, my best and only benefactor? From your lips
first have I heard the voice of kindness directed towards me; I shall
be forever grateful; and your present humanity assures me of success
with those friends whom I am on the point of meeting.'
"'May I know the names and residence of those friends?'
"I paused. This, I thought, was the moment of decision, which was to
rob me of or bestow happiness on me forever. I struggled vainly for
firmness sufficient to answer him, but the effort destroyed all my
remaining strength; I sank on the chair and sobbed aloud. At that
moment I heard the steps of my younger protectors. I had not a moment
to lose, but seizing the hand of the old man, I cried, 'Now is the
time! Save and protect me! You and your family are the friends whom I
seek. Do not you desert me in the hour of trial!'
"'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."
Chapter 16
"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 stag-like 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.