The Project Gutenberg EBook of Frankenstein, by Mary W. ShelleyThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.orgTitle: Frankenstein or, The Modern PrometheusAuthor: Mary W. ShelleyRelease Date: March 13, 2013 [EBook #42324]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-8859-1*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK FRANKENSTEIN ***Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
BY MARY W. SHELLEY.
AUTHOR OF THE LAST MAN, PERKIN WARBECK, &c. &c.
[Transcriber's Note: This text was produced from a photo-reprint of the1831 edition.]
AND ILLUSTRATED WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION,
BY THE AUTHOR.
HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY,
NEW BURLINGTON STREET:
BELL AND BRADFUTE, EDINBURGH;
AND CUMMING, DUBLIN.
The Publishers of the Standard Novels, in selecting "Frankenstein" forone of their series, expressed a wish that I should furnish them withsome account of the origin of the story. I am the more willing tocomply, because I shall thus give a general answer to the question, sovery frequently asked me—"How I, when a young girl, came to think of,and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?" It is true that I am veryaverse to bringing myself forward in print; but as my account will onlyappear as an appendage to a former production, and as it will beconfined to such topics as have connection with my authorship alone, Ican scarcely accuse myself of a personal intrusion.
It is not singular that, as the daughter of two persons of distinguishedliterary celebrity, I should very early in life have thought of writing.As a child I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours givenme for recreation, was to "write stories." Still I had a dearer pleasurethan this, which was the formation of castles in the air—the indulgingin waking dreams—the following up trains of thought, which had fortheir subject the formation of a succession of imaginary incidents. Mydreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings. Inthe latter I was a close imitator—rather doing as others had done,than putting down the suggestions of my own mind. What I wrote wasintended at least for one other eye—my childhood's companion andfriend; but my dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody;they were my refuge when annoyed—my dearest pleasure when free.
I lived principally in the country as a girl, and passed a considerabletime in Scotland. I made occasional visits to the more picturesqueparts; but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northernshores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I callthem; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, andthe pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures ofmy fancy. I wrote then—but in a most common-place style. It was beneaththe trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sidesof the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airyflights of my imagination, were born and fostered. I did not make myselfthe heroine of my tales. Life appeared to me too common-place an affairas regarded myself. I could not figure to myself that romantic woes orwonderful events would ever be my lot; but I was not confined to my ownidentity, and I could people the hours with creations far moreinteresting to me at that age, than my own sensations.
After this my life became busier, and reality stood in place of fiction.My husband, however, was from the first, very anxious that I shouldprove myself worthy of my parentage, and enrol myself on the page offame. He was for ever inciting me to obtain literary reputation, whicheven on my own part I cared for then, though since I have becomeinfinitely indifferent to it. At this time he desired that I shouldwrite, not so much with the idea that I could produce any thing worthyof notice, but that he might himself judge how far I possessed thepromise of better things hereafter. Still I did nothing. Travelling, andthe cares of a family, occupied my time; and study, in the way ofreading, or improving my ideas in communication with his far morecultivated mind, was all of literary employment that engaged myattention.
In the summer of 1816, we visited Switzerland, and became the neighboursof Lord Byron. At first we spent our pleasant hours on the lake, orwandering on its shores; and Lord Byron, who was writing the third cantoof Childe Harold, was the only one among us who put his thoughts uponpaper. These, as he brought them successively to us, clothed in all thelight and harmony of poetry, seemed to stamp as divine the glories ofheaven and earth, whose influences we partook with him.
But it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confinedus for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories, translated fromthe German into French, fell into our hands. There was the History ofthe Inconstant Lover, who, when he thought to clasp the bride to whom hehad pledged his vows, found himself in the arms of the pale ghost of herwhom he had deserted. There was the tale of the sinful founder of hisrace, whose miserable doom it was to bestow the kiss of death on all theyounger sons of his fated house, just when they reached the age ofpromise. His gigantic, shadowy form, clothed like the ghost in Hamlet,in complete armour, but with the beaver up, was seen at midnight, bythe moon's fitful beams, to advance slowly along the gloomy avenue. Theshape was lost beneath the shadow of the castle walls; but soon a gateswung back, a step was heard, the door of the chamber opened, and headvanced to the couch of the blooming youths, cradled in healthy sleep.Eternal sorrow sat upon his face as he bent down and kissed the foreheadof the boys, who from that hour withered like flowers snapt upon thestalk. I have not seen these stories since then; but their incidents areas fresh in my mind as if I had read them yesterday.
"We will each write a ghost story," said Lord Byron; and his propositionwas acceded to. There were four of us. The noble author began a tale, afragment of which he printed at the end of his poem of Mazeppa. Shelley,more apt to embody ideas and sentiments in the radiance of brilliantimagery, and in the music of the most melodious verse that adorns ourlanguage, than to invent the machinery of a story, commenced one foundedon the experiences of his early life. Poor Polidori had some terribleidea about a skull-headed lady, who was so punished for peeping througha key-hole—what to see I forget—something very shocking and wrong ofcourse; but when she was reduced to a worse condition than the renownedTom of Coventry, he did not know what to do with her, and was obliged todespatch her to the tomb of the Capulets, the only place for which shewas fitted. The illustrious poets also, annoyed by the platitude ofprose, speedily relinquished their uncongenial task.
I busied myself to think of a story,—a story to rival those which hadexcited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fearsof our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dreadto look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of theheart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would beunworthy of its name. I thought and pondered—vainly. I felt that blankincapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship,when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. Have you thoughtof a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced toreply with a mortifying negative.
Every thing must have a beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase; and thatbeginning must be linked to something that went before. The Hindoos givethe world an elephant to support it, but they make the elephant standupon a tortoise. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consistin creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in thefirst place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapelesssubstances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself. In allmatters of discovery and invention, even of those that appertain to theimagination, we are continually reminded of the story of Columbus andhis egg. Invention consists in the capacity of seizing on thecapabilities of a subject, and in the power of moulding and fashioningideas suggested to it.
Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, towhich I was a devout but nearly silent listener. During one of these,various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others thenature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probabilityof its ever being discovered and communicated. They talked of theexperiments of Dr. Darwin, (I speak not of what the Doctor really did,or said that he did, but, as more to my purpose, of what was then spokenof as having been done by him,) who preserved a piece of vermicelli in aglass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move withvoluntary motion. Not thus, after all, would life be given. Perhaps acorpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things:perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, broughttogether, and endued with vital warmth.
Night waned upon this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by,before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow, I did notsleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessedand guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind witha vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw—with shuteyes, but acute mental vision,—I saw the pale student of unhallowedarts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideousphantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of somepowerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vitalmotion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be theeffect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of theCreator of the world. His success would terrify the artist; he wouldrush away from his odious handywork, horror-stricken. He would hopethat, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicatedwould fade; that this thing, which had received such imperfectanimation, would subside into dead matter; and he might sleep in thebelief that the silence of the grave would quench for ever the transientexistence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradleof life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold thehorrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking onhim with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.
I opened mine in terror. The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill offear ran through me, and I wished to exchange the ghastly image of myfancy for the realities around. I see them still; the very room, thedark parquet, the closed shutters, with the moonlight strugglingthrough, and the sense I had that the glassy lake and white high Alpswere beyond. I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom; stillit haunted me. I must try to think of something else. I recurred to myghost story,—my tiresome unlucky ghost story! O! if I could onlycontrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had beenfrightened that night!
Swift as light and as cheering was the idea that broke in upon me. "Ihave found it! What terrified me will terrify others; and I need onlydescribe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow." On themorrow I announced that I had thought of a story. I began that daywith the words, It was on a dreary night of November, making only atranscript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.
At first I thought but of a few pages—of a short tale; but Shelleyurged me to develope the idea at greater length. I certainly did not owethe suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, tomy husband, and yet but for his incitement, it would never have takenthe form in which it was presented to the world. From this declaration Imust except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirelywritten by him.
And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. Ihave an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, whendeath and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart.Its several pages speak of many a walk, many a drive, and many aconversation, when I was not alone; and my companion was one who, inthis world, I shall never see more. But this is for myself; my readershave nothing to do with these associations.
I will add but one word as to the alterations I have made. They areprincipally those of style. I have changed no portion of the story, norintroduced any new ideas or circumstances. I have mended the languagewhere it was so bald as to interfere with the interest of the narrative;and these changes occur almost exclusively in the beginning of the firstvolume. Throughout they are entirely confined to such parts as are mereadjuncts to the story, leaving the core and substance of it untouched.
M. W. S.
London, October 15, 1831.
The event on which this fiction is founded, has been supposed, by Dr.Darwin, and some of the physiological writers of Germany, as not ofimpossible occurrence. I shall not be supposed as according the remotestdegree of serious faith to such an imagination; yet, in assuming it asthe basis of a work of fancy, I have not considered myself as merelyweaving a series of supernatural terrors. The event on which theinterest of the story depends is exempt from the disadvantages of a meretale of spectres or enchantment. It was recommended by the novelty ofthe situations which it developes; and, however impossible as a physicalfact, affords a point of view to the imagination for the delineating ofhuman passions more comprehensive and commanding than any which theordinary relations of existing events can yield.
I have thus endeavoured to preserve the truth of the elementaryprinciples of human nature, while I have not scrupled to innovate upontheir combinations. The Iliad, the tragic poetry of Greece,—Shakspeare,in the Tempest, and Midsummer Night's Dream,—and most especiallyMilton, in Paradise Lost, conform to this rule; and the most humblenovelist, who seeks to confer or receive amusement from his labours,may, without presumption, apply to prose fiction a licence, or rather arule, from the adoption of which so many exquisite combinations of humanfeeling have resulted in the highest specimens of poetry.
The circumstance on which my story rests was suggested in casualconversation. It was commenced partly as a source of amusement, andpartly as an expedient for exercising any untried resources of mind.Other motives were mingled with these, as the work proceeded. I am byno means indifferent to the manner in which whatever moral tendenciesexist in the sentiments or characters it contains shall affect thereader; yet my chief concern in this respect has been limited to theavoiding the enervating effects of the novels of the present day, and tothe exhibition of the amiableness of domestic affection, and theexcellence of universal virtue. The opinions which naturally spring fromthe character and situation of the hero are by no means to be conceivedas existing always in my own conviction; nor is any inference justly tobe drawn from the following pages as prejudicing any philosophicaldoctrine of whatever kind.
It is a subject also of additional interest to the author, that thisstory was begun in the majestic region where the scene is principallylaid, and in society which cannot cease to be regretted. I passed thesummer of 1816 in the environs of Geneva. The season was cold and rainy,and in the evenings we crowded around a blazing wood fire, andoccasionally amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts, whichhappened to fall into our hands. These tales excited in us a playfuldesire of imitation. Two other friends (a tale from the pen of one ofwhom would be far more acceptable to the public than any thing I canever hope to produce) and myself agreed to write each a story, foundedon some supernatural occurrence.
The weather, however, suddenly became serene; and my two friends left meon a journey among the Alps, and lost, in the magnificent scenes whichthey present, all memory of their ghostly visions. The following tale isthe only one which has been completed.
Marlow, September, 1817.
THE MODERN PROMETHEUS.
To Mrs. Saville, England.
St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17—.
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied thecommencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evilforebodings. I arrived here yesterday; and my first task is to assure mydear sister of my welfare, and increasing confidence in the success ofmy undertaking.
I am already far north of London; and as I walk in the streets ofPetersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, whichbraces my nerves, and fills me with delight. Do you understand thisfeeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards whichI am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited bythis wind of promise, my day dreams become more fervent and vivid. I tryin vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost anddesolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region ofbeauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is for ever visible; itsbroad disk just skirting the horizon, and diffusing a perpetualsplendour. There—for with your leave, my sister, I will put some trustin preceding navigators—there snow and frost are banished; and, sailingover a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and inbeauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. Itsproductions and features may be without example, as the phenomena ofthe heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes.What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may therediscover the wondrous power which attracts the needle; and may regulatea thousand celestial observations, that require only this voyage torender their seeming eccentricities consistent for ever. I shall satiatemy ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never beforevisited, 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 ofdanger or death, and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage withthe joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holidaymates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But, supposingall these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimablebenefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generation, bydiscovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach whichat present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secretof the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by anundertaking such as mine.
These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began myletter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me toheaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquillise the mind as asteady purpose,—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years. I haveread with ardour the accounts of the various voyages which have beenmade in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean through theseas which surround the pole. You may remember, that a history of allthe voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the whole of ourgood uncle Thomas's library. My education was neglected, yet I waspassionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study day and night,and my familiarity with them increased that regret which I had felt, asa child, on learning that my father's dying injunction had forbidden myuncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life.
These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poetswhose effusions entranced my soul, and lifted it to heaven. I alsobecame 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 thenames of Homer and Shakspeare are consecrated. You are well acquaintedwith my failure, and how heavily I bore the disappointment. But just atthat time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts wereturned 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 greatenterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompaniedthe whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarilyendured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harderthan the common sailors during the day, and devoted my nights to thestudy of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those branches ofphysical science from which a naval adventurer might derive the greatestpractical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an under-mate in aGreenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I must own I felta little proud, when my captain offered me the second dignity in thevessel, and entreated me to remain with the greatest earnestness; sovaluable did he consider my services.
And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some greatpurpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury; but Ipreferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh,that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! My courageand my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits areoften depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage,the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required notonly 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 flyquickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, inmy opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stage-coach. Thecold is not excessive, if you are wrapped in furs,—a dress which Ihave already adopted; for there is a great difference between walkingthe deck and remaining seated motionless for hours, when no exerciseprevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins. I have noambition to lose my life on the post-road between St. Petersburgh andArchangel.
I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three weeks; and myintention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be done by payingthe insurance for the owner, and to engage as many sailors as I thinknecessary among those who are accustomed to the whale-fishing. I do notintend 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, manymonths, 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 onyou, and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude forall your love and kindness.
Your affectionate brother,
To Mrs. Saville, England.
Archangel, 28th March, 17—.
How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and snow!yet a second step is taken towards my enterprise. I have hired a vessel,and am occupied in collecting my sailors; those whom I have alreadyengaged, appear to be men on whom I can depend, and are certainlypossessed of dauntless courage.
But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy; and theabsence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil. I haveno friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success,there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed bydisappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. Ishall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor mediumfor the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man whocould sympathise with me; whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deemme romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. Ihave no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated aswell as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve oramend my plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poorbrother! I am too ardent in execution, and too impatient ofdifficulties. But it is a still greater evil to me that I amself-educated: for the first fourteen years of my life I ran wild on acommon, and read nothing but our uncle Thomas's books of voyages. Atthat age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets of our owncountry; but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power to deriveits most important benefits from such a conviction, that I perceived thenecessity of becoming acquainted with more languages than that of mynative country. Now I am twenty-eight, and am in reality more illiteratethan many schoolboys of fifteen. It is true that I have thought more,and that my day dreams are more extended and magnificent; but they want(as the painters call it) keeping; and I greatly need a friend whowould have sense enough not to despise me as romantic, and affectionenough for me to endeavour to regulate my mind.
Well, these are useless complaints; I shall certainly find no friend onthe wide ocean, nor even here in Archangel, among merchants and seamen.Yet some feelings, unallied to the dross of human nature, beat even inthese rugged bosoms. My lieutenant, for instance, is a man of wonderfulcourage and enterprise; he is madly desirous of glory: or rather, toword my phrase more characteristically, of advancement in hisprofession. He is an Englishman, and in the midst of national andprofessional prejudices, unsoftened by cultivation, retains some of thenoblest endowments of humanity. I first became acquainted with him onboard a whale vessel: finding that he was unemployed in this city, Ieasily engaged him to assist in my enterprise.
The master is a person of an excellent disposition, and is remarkable inthe ship for his gentleness and the mildness of his discipline. Thiscircumstance, added to his well known integrity and dauntless courage,made me very desirous to engage him. A youth passed in solitude, my bestyears spent under your gentle and feminine fosterage, has so refined thegroundwork of my character, that I cannot overcome an intense distasteto the usual brutality exercised on board ship: I have never believed itto be necessary; and when I heard of a mariner equally noted for hiskindliness of heart, and the respect and obedience paid to him by hiscrew, I felt myself peculiarly fortunate in being able to secure hisservices. I heard of him first in rather a romantic manner, from a ladywho 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; andhaving amassed a considerable sum in prize-money, the father of the girlconsented to the match. He saw his mistress once before the destinedceremony; but she was bathed in tears, and, throwing herself at hisfeet, entreated him to spare her, confessing at the same time that sheloved another, but that he was poor, and that her father would neverconsent to the union. My generous friend reassured the suppliant, and onbeing informed of the name of her lover, instantly abandoned hispursuit. He had already bought a farm with his money, on which he haddesigned to pass the remainder of his life; but he bestowed the whole onhis rival, together with the remains of his prize-money to purchasestock, and then himself solicited the young woman's father to consent toher marriage with her lover. But the old man decidedly refused, thinkinghimself bound in honour to my friend; who, when he found the fatherinexorable, quitted his country, nor returned until he heard that hisformer mistress was married according to her inclinations. "What a noblefellow!" 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 attendshim, which, while it renders his conduct the more astonishing, detractsfrom the interest and sympathy which otherwise he would command.
Yet do not suppose, because I complain a little, or because I canconceive a consolation for my toils which I may never know, that I amwavering in my resolutions. Those are as fixed as fate; and my voyage isonly now delayed until the weather shall permit my embarkation. Thewinter has been dreadfully severe; but the spring promises well, and itis considered as a remarkably early season; so that perhaps I may sailsooner than I expected. I shall do nothing rashly: you know mesufficiently to confide in my prudence and considerateness, whenever thesafety of others is committed to my care.
I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of myundertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of thetrembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I ampreparing to depart. I am going to unexplored regions, to "the land ofmist and snow"; but I shall kill no albatross, therefore do not bealarmed for my safety, or if I should come back to you as worn and wofulas the "Ancient Mariner"? You will smile at my allusion; but I willdisclose a secret. I have often attributed my attachment to, mypassionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean, to thatproduction of the most imaginative of modern poets. There is somethingat work in my soul, which I do not understand. I am practicallyindustrious—pains-taking;—a workman to execute with perseverance andlabour:—but besides this, there is a love for the marvellous, a beliefin the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me outof the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisitedregions I am about to explore.
But to return to dearer considerations. Shall I meet you again, afterhaving traversed immense seas, and returned by the most southern cape ofAfrica or America? I dare not expect such success, yet I cannot bear tolook on the reverse of the picture. Continue for the present to write tome by every opportunity: I may receive your letters on some occasionswhen I need them most to support my spirits. I love you very tenderly.Remember me with affection, should you never hear from me again.
Your affectionate brother,
To Mrs. Saville, England.
My dear Sister, July 7th, 17—.
I write a few lines in haste, to say that I am safe, and well advancedon my voyage. This letter will reach England by a merchantman now on itshomeward voyage from Archangel; more fortunate than I, who may not seemy native land, perhaps, for many years. I am, however, in good spirits:my men are bold, and apparently firm of purpose; nor do the floatingsheets of ice that continually pass us, indicating the dangers of theregion towards which we are advancing, appear to dismay them. We havealready reached a very high latitude; but it is the height of summer,and although not so warm as in England, the southern gales, which blowus speedily towards those shores which I so ardently desire to attain,breathe a degree of renovating warmth which I had not expected.
No incidents have hitherto befallen us that would make a figure in aletter. One or two stiff gales, and the springing of a leak, areaccidents which experienced navigators scarcely remember to record; andI 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 asyours, I will not rashly encounter danger. I will be cool, persevering,and prudent.
But success shall crown my endeavours. Wherefore not? Thus far I havegone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas: the very starsthemselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph. Why not stillproceed over the untamed yet obedient element? What can stop thedetermined heart and resolved will of man?
My swelling heart involuntarily pours itself out thus. But I mustfinish. Heaven bless my beloved sister!
To Mrs. Saville, England.
August 5th, 17—.
So strange an accident has happened to us, that I cannot forbearrecording it, although it is very probable that you will see me beforethese papers can come into your possession.
Last Monday (July 31st), we were nearly surrounded by ice, which closedin the ship on all sides, scarcely leaving her the sea-room in which shefloated. Our situation was somewhat dangerous, especially as we werecompassed round by a very thick fog. We accordingly lay to, hoping thatsome change would take place in the atmosphere and weather.
About two o'clock the mist cleared away, and we beheld, stretched out inevery direction, vast and irregular plains of ice, which seemed to haveno end. Some of my comrades groaned, and my own mind began to growwatchful with anxious thoughts, when a strange sight suddenly attractedour attention, and diverted our solicitude from our own situation. Weperceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass ontowards the north, at the distance of half a mile: a being which had theshape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature, sat in the sledge,and guided the dogs. We watched the rapid progress of the traveller withour telescopes, until he was lost among the distant inequalities of theice.
This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as we believed,many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed to denotethat 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 hadobserved with the greatest attention.
About two hours after this occurrence, we heard the ground sea; andbefore night the ice broke, and freed our ship. We, however, lay tountil the morning, fearing to encounter in the dark those large loosemasses which float about after the breaking up of the ice. I profitedof this time to rest for a few hours.
In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck, andfound all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently talkingto some one in the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seenbefore, which had drifted towards us in the night, on a large fragmentof ice. Only one dog remained alive; but there was a human being withinit, whom the sailors were persuading to enter the vessel. He was not, asthe other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of someundiscovered island, but an European. When I appeared on deck, themaster said, "Here is our captain, and he will not allow you to perishon the open sea."
On perceiving me, the stranger addressed me in English, although with aforeign accent. "Before I come on board your vessel," said he, "willyou have the kindness to inform me whither you are bound?"
You may conceive my astonishment on hearing such a question addressed tome from a man on the brink of destruction, and to whom I should havesupposed that my vessel would have been a resource which he would nothave exchanged for the most precious wealth the earth can afford. Ireplied, however, that we were on a voyage of discovery towards thenorthern 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 hissafety, your surprise would have been boundless. His limbs were nearlyfrozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. Inever saw a man in so wretched a condition. We attempted to carry himinto 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 toanimation by rubbing him with brandy, and forcing him to swallow a smallquantity. As soon as he showed signs of life we wrapped him up inblankets, and placed him near the chimney of the kitchen stove. By slowdegrees he recovered, and ate a little soup, which restored himwonderfully.
Two days passed in this manner before he was able to speak; and I oftenfeared that his sufferings had deprived him of understanding. When hehad in some measure recovered, I removed him to my own cabin, andattended on him as much as my duty would permit. I never saw a moreinteresting creature: his eyes have generally an expression of wildness,and even madness; but there are moments when, if any one performs an actof kindness towards him, or does him any the most trifling service, hiswhole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolenceand sweetness that I never saw equalled. But he is generally melancholyand despairing; and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if impatient ofthe weight of woes that oppresses him.
When my guest was a little recovered, I had great trouble to keep offthe men, who wished to ask him a thousand questions; but I would notallow him to be tormented by their idle curiosity, in a state of bodyand mind whose restoration evidently depended upon entire repose. Once,however, the lieutenant asked, Why he had come so far upon the ice in sostrange a vehicle?
His countenance instantly assumed an aspect of the deepest gloom; and hereplied, "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, wesaw some dogs drawing a sledge, with a man in it, across the ice."
This aroused the stranger's attention; and he asked a multitude ofquestions concerning the route which the dæmon, as he called him, hadpursued. 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 enquiries."
"Certainly; it would indeed be very impertinent and inhuman in me totrouble you with any inquisitiveness of mine."
"And yet you rescued me from a strange and perilous situation; you havebenevolently restored me to life."
Soon after this he enquired if I thought that the breaking up of the icehad destroyed the other sledge? I replied, that I could not answer withany degree of certainty; for the ice had not broken until near midnight,and the traveller might have arrived at a place of safety before thattime; but of this I could not judge.
From this time a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame of thestranger. He manifested the greatest eagerness to be upon deck, to watchfor the sledge which had before appeared; but I have persuaded him toremain in the cabin, for he is far too weak to sustain the rawness ofthe atmosphere. I have promised that some one should watch for him, andgive him instant notice if any new object should appear in sight.
Such is my journal of what relates to this strange occurrence up to thepresent day. The stranger has gradually improved in health, but is verysilent, and appears uneasy when any one except myself enters his cabin.Yet his manners are so conciliating and gentle, that the sailors are allinterested in him, although they have had very little communication withhim. For my own part, I begin to love him as a brother; and his constantand deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion. He must have beena noble creature in his better days, being even now in wreck soattractive and amiable.
I said in one of my letters, my dear Margaret, that I should find nofriend on the wide ocean; yet I have found a man who, before his spirithad been broken by misery, I should have been happy to have possessed asthe brother of my heart.
I shall continue my journal concerning the stranger at intervals, shouldI have any fresh incidents to record.
August 13th, 17—.
My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once myadmiration and my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see so noblea creature destroyed by misery, without feeling the most poignant grief?He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated; and when hespeaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet theyflow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence.
He is now much recovered from his illness, and is continually on thedeck, apparently watching for the sledge that preceded his own. Yet,although unhappy, he is not so utterly occupied by his own misery, butthat he interests himself deeply in the projects of others. He hasfrequently conversed with me on mine, which I have communicated to himwithout disguise. He entered attentively into all my arguments in favourof my eventual success, and into every minute detail of the measures Ihad taken to secure it. I was easily led by the sympathy which heevinced, to use the language of my heart; to give utterance to theburning ardour of my soul; and to say, with all the fervour that warmedme, how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my everyhope, to the furtherance of my enterprise. One man's life or death werebut a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which Isought; for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over theelemental foes of our race. As I spoke, a dark gloom spread over mylistener's countenance. At first I perceived that he tried to suppresshis emotion; he placed his hands before his eyes; and my voice quiveredand failed me, as I beheld tears trickle fast from between hisfingers,—a groan burst from his heaving breast. I paused;—at length hespoke, in broken accents:—"Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Haveyou drank also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me,—let me reveal mytale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!"
Such words, you may imagine, strongly excited my curiosity; but theparoxysm of grief that had seized the stranger overcame his weakenedpowers, and many hours of repose and tranquil conversation werenecessary to restore his composure.
Having conquered the violence of his feelings, he appeared to despisehimself for being the slave of passion; and quelling the dark tyranny ofdespair, he led me again to converse concerning myself personally. Heasked me the history of my earlier years. The tale was quickly told:but it awakened various trains of reflection. I spoke of my desire offinding a friend—of my thirst for a more intimate sympathy with afellow mind than had ever fallen to my lot; and expressed my convictionthat a man could boast of little happiness, who did not enjoy thisblessing.
"I agree with you," replied the stranger; "we are unfashioned creatures,but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves—such afriend ought to be—do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak andfaulty natures. I once had a friend, the most noble of human creatures,and am entitled, therefore, to judge respecting friendship. You havehope, and the world before you, and have no cause for despair. But I—Ihave lost every thing, and cannot begin life anew."
As he said this, his countenance became expressive of a calm settledgrief, that touched me to the heart. But he was silent, and presentlyretired to his cabin.
Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he doesthe beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sightafforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power ofelevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he maysuffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when he hasretired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit, that has ahalo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.
Will you smile at the enthusiasm I express concerning this divinewanderer? You would not, if you saw him. You have been tutored andrefined by books and retirement from the world, and you are, therefore,somewhat fastidious; but this only renders you the more fit toappreciate the extraordinary merits of this wonderful man. Sometimes Ihave endeavoured to discover what quality it is which he possesses, thatelevates him so immeasurably above any other person I ever knew. Ibelieve it to be an intuitive discernment; a quick but never-failingpower of judgment; a penetration into the causes of things, unequalledfor clearness and precision; add to this a facility of expression, and avoice whose varied intonations are soul-subduing music.
August 19. 17—.
Yesterday the stranger said to me, "You may easily perceive, CaptainWalton, that I have suffered great and unparalleled misfortunes. I haddetermined, at one time, that the memory of these evils should die withme; but you have won me to alter my determination. You seek forknowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that thegratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as minehas been. I do not know that the relation of my disasters will be usefulto 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 maydirect you if you succeed in your undertaking, and console you in caseof failure. Prepare to hear of occurrences which are usually deemedmarvellous. Were we among the tamer scenes of nature, I might fear toencounter your unbelief, perhaps your ridicule; but many things willappear possible in these wild and mysterious regions, which wouldprovoke the laughter of those unacquainted with the ever-varied powersof nature:—nor can I doubt but that my tale conveys in its seriesinternal evidence of the truth of the events of which it is composed."
You may easily imagine that I was much gratified by the offeredcommunication; yet I could not endure that he should renew his grief bya recital of his misfortunes. I felt the greatest eagerness to hear thepromised narrative, partly from curiosity, and partly from a strongdesire to ameliorate his fate, if it were in my power. I expressed thesefeelings in my answer.
"I thank you," he replied, "for your sympathy, but it is useless; myfate is nearly fulfilled. I wait but for one event, and then I shallrepose in peace. I understand your feeling," continued he, perceivingthat I wished to interrupt him; "but you are mistaken, my friend, ifthus you will allow me to name you; nothing can alter my destiny: listento my history, and you will perceive how irrevocably it is determined."
He then told me, that he would commence his narrative the next day whenI should be at leisure. This promise drew from me the warmest thanks. Ihave resolved every night, when I am not imperatively occupied by myduties, to record, as nearly as possible in his own words, what he hasrelated during the day. If I should be engaged, I will at least makenotes. This manuscript will doubtless afford you the greatest pleasure:but to me, who know him, and who hear it from his own lips, with whatinterest and sympathy shall I read it in some future day! Even now, as Icommence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrouseyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thinhand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face areirradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story;frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course, andwrecked it—thus!
I am by birth a Genevese; and my family is one of the most distinguishedof that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors andsyndics; and my father had filled several public situations with honourand reputation. He was respected by all who knew him, for his integrityand indefatigable attention to public business. He passed his youngerdays perpetually occupied by the affairs of his country; a variety ofcircumstances had prevented his marrying early, nor was it until thedecline of life that he became a husband and the father of a family.
As the circumstances of his marriage illustrate his character, I cannotrefrain from relating them. One of his most intimate friends was amerchant, who, from a flourishing state, fell, through numerousmischances, into poverty. This man, whose name was Beaufort, was of aproud and unbending disposition, and could not bear to live in povertyand oblivion in the same country where he had formerly beendistinguished for his rank and magnificence. Having paid his debts,therefore, in the most honourable manner, he retreated with his daughterto the town of Lucerne, where he lived unknown and in wretchedness. Myfather loved Beaufort with the truest friendship, and was deeply grievedby his retreat in these unfortunate circumstances. He bitterly deploredthe false pride which led his friend to a conduct so little worthy ofthe affection that united them. He lost no time in endeavouring to seekhim out, with the hope of persuading him to begin the world againthrough his credit and assistance.
Beaufort had taken effectual measures to conceal himself; and it was tenmonths before my father discovered his abode. Overjoyed at thisdiscovery, he hastened to the house, which was situated in a meanstreet, near the Reuss. But when he entered, misery and despair alonewelcomed him. Beaufort had saved but a very small sum of money from thewreck of his fortunes; but it was sufficient to provide him withsustenance for some months, and in the mean time he hoped to procuresome respectable employment in a merchant's house. The interval was,consequently, spent in inaction; his grief only became more deep andrankling, when he had leisure for reflection; and at length it took sofast hold of his mind, that at the end of three months he lay on a bedof sickness, incapable of any exertion.
His daughter attended him with the greatest tenderness; but she saw withdespair that their little fund was rapidly decreasing, and that therewas no other prospect of support. But Caroline Beaufort possessed a mindof an uncommon mould; and her courage rose to support her in heradversity. She procured plain work; she plaited straw; and by variousmeans contrived to earn a pittance scarcely sufficient to support life.
Several months passed in this manner. Her father grew worse; her timewas more entirely occupied in attending him; her means of subsistencedecreased; and in the tenth month her father died in her arms, leavingher an orphan and a beggar. This last blow overcame her; and she kneltby Beaufort's coffin, weeping bitterly, when my father entered thechamber. He came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, whocommitted herself to his care; and after the interment of his friend, heconducted her to Geneva, and placed her under the protection of arelation. Two years after this event Caroline became his wife.
There was a considerable difference between the ages of my parents, butthis circumstance seemed to unite them only closer in bonds of devotedaffection. There was a sense of justice in my father's upright mind,which rendered it necessary that he should approve highly to lovestrongly. Perhaps during former years he had suffered from thelate-discovered unworthiness of one beloved, and so was disposed to seta greater value on tried worth. There was a show of gratitude andworship in his attachment to my mother, differing wholly from thedoating fondness of age, for it was inspired by reverence for hervirtues, and a desire to be the means of, in some degree, recompensingher for the sorrows she had endured, but which gave inexpressible graceto his behaviour to her. Every thing was made to yield to her wishes andher convenience. He strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is shelteredby the gardener, from every rougher wind, and to surround her with allthat could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolentmind. Her health, and even the tranquillity of her hitherto constantspirit, had been shaken by what she had gone through. During the twoyears that had elapsed previous to their marriage my father hadgradually relinquished all his public functions; and immediately aftertheir union they sought the pleasant climate of Italy, and the change ofscene and interest attendant on a tour through that land of wonders, asa restorative for her weakened frame.
From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, wasborn at Naples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles. Iremained for several years their only child. Much as they were attachedto each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affectionfrom a very mine of love to bestow them upon me. My mother's tendercaresses, and my father's smile of benevolent pleasure while regardingme, are my first recollections. I was their plaything and their idol,and something better—their child, the innocent and helpless creaturebestowed on them by Heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose futurelot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according asthey fulfilled their duties towards me. With this deep consciousness ofwhat they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added tothe active spirit of tenderness that animated both, it may be imaginedthat while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson ofpatience, of charity, and of self-control, I was so guided by a silkencord, that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me.
For a long time I was their only care. My mother had much desired tohave a daughter, but I continued their single offspring. When I wasabout five years old, while making an excursion beyond the frontiers ofItaly, they passed a week on the shores of the Lake of Como. Theirbenevolent disposition often made them enter the cottages of the poor.This, to my mother, was more than a duty; it was a necessity, apassion,—remembering what she had suffered, and how she had beenrelieved,—for her to act in her turn the guardian angel to theafflicted. During one of their walks a poor cot in the foldings of avale attracted their notice, as being singularly disconsolate, while thenumber of half-clothed children gathered about it, spoke of penury inits worst shape. One day, when my father had gone by himself to Milan,my mother, accompanied by me, visited this abode. She found a peasantand his wife, hard working, bent down by care and labour, distributing ascanty meal to five hungry babes. Among these there was one whichattracted my mother far above all the rest. She appeared of a differentstock. The four others were dark-eyed, hardy little vagrants; this childwas thin, and very fair. Her hair was the brightest living gold, and,despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown ofdistinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyescloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive ofsensibility and sweetness, that none could behold her without looking onher as of a distinct species, a being heaven-sent, and bearing acelestial stamp in all her features.
The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder andadmiration on this lovely girl, eagerly communicated her history. Shewas not her child, but the daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her motherwas a German, and had died on giving her birth. The infant had beenplaced with these good people to nurse: they were better off then. Theyhad not been long married, and their eldest child was but just born. Thefather of their charge was one of those Italians nursed in the memory ofthe antique glory of Italy,—one among the schiavi ognor frementi, whoexerted himself to obtain the liberty of his country. He became thevictim of its weakness. Whether he had died, or still lingered in thedungeons of Austria, was not known. His property was confiscated, hischild became an orphan and a beggar. She continued with her fosterparents, and bloomed in their rude abode, fairer than a garden roseamong dark-leaved brambles.
When my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hallof our villa, a child fairer than pictured cherub—a creature who seemedto shed radiance from her looks, and whose form and motions were lighterthan the chamois of the hills. The apparition was soon explained. Withhis permission my mother prevailed on her rustic guardians to yieldtheir charge to her. They were fond of the sweet orphan. Her presencehad seemed a blessing to them; but it would be unfair to her to keep herin poverty and want, when Providence afforded her such powerfulprotection. They consulted their village priest, and the result was,that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents' house—my morethan sister—the beautiful and adored companion of all my occupationsand my pleasures.
Every one loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverentialattachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, mypride and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to myhome, my mother had said playfully,—"I have a pretty present for myVictor—to-morrow he shall have it." And when, on the morrow, shepresented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childishseriousness, interpreted her words literally, and looked upon Elizabethas mine—mine to protect, love, and cherish. All praises bestowed onher, I received as made to a possession of my own. We called each otherfamiliarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could bodyforth the kind of relation in which she stood to me—my more thansister, since till death she was to be mine only.
We were brought up together; there was not quite a year difference inour ages. I need not say that we were strangers to any species ofdisunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and thediversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearertogether. 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 busiedherself with following the aerial creations of the poets; and in themajestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home—thesublime shapes of the mountains; the changes of the seasons; tempest andcalm; the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpinesummers,—she found ample scope for admiration and delight. While mycompanion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit themagnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating theircauses. The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine.Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladnessakin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliestsensations I can remember.
On the birth of a second son, my junior by seven years, my parents gaveup entirely their wandering life, and fixed themselves in their nativecountry. We possessed a house in Geneva, and a campagne on Belrive,the eastern shore of the lake, at the distance of rather more than aleague from the city. We resided principally in the latter, and thelives of my parents were passed in considerable seclusion. It was mytemper to avoid a crowd, and to attach myself fervently to a few. I wasindifferent, therefore, to my schoolfellows in general; but I unitedmyself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them. HenryClerval was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy of singulartalent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, forits own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. Hecomposed heroic songs, and began to write many a tale of enchantment andknightly adventure. He tried to make us act plays, and to enter intomasquerades, in which the characters were drawn from the heroes ofRoncesvalles, of the Round Table of King Arthur, and the chivalroustrain who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from the handsof the infidels.
No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. Myparents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. Wefelt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to theircaprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which weenjoyed. When I mingled with other families, I distinctly discerned howpeculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted the developementof filial love.
My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by somelaw in my temperature they were turned, not towards childish pursuits,but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all thingsindiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of languages, northe code of governments, nor the politics of various states, possessedattractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that Idesired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, orthe inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupiedme, still my enquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in itshighest sense, the physical secrets of the world.
Meanwhile Clerval occupied himself, so to speak, with the moralrelations of things. The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes, andthe actions of men, were his theme; and his hope and his dream was tobecome one among those whose names are recorded in story, as thegallant and adventurous benefactors of our species. The saintly soul ofElizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home. Hersympathy was ours; her smile, her soft voice, the sweet glance of hercelestial eyes, were ever there to bless and animate us. She was theliving spirit of love to soften and attract: I might have become sullenin my study, rough through the ardour of my nature, but that she wasthere to subdue me to a semblance of her own gentleness. AndClerval—could aught ill entrench on the noble spirit of Clerval?—yethe might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful in hisgenerosity—so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion foradventurous exploit, had she not unfolded to him the real loveliness ofbeneficence, and made the doing good the end and aim of his soaringambition.
I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood,before misfortune had tainted my mind, and changed its bright visions ofextensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon self.Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record thoseevents which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of misery: forwhen I would account to myself for the birth of that passion, whichafterwards ruled my destiny, I find it arise, like a mountain river,from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as itproceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept awayall 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 mypredilection for that science. When I was thirteen years of age, we allwent on a party of pleasure to the baths near Thonon: the inclemency ofthe weather obliged us to remain a day confined to the inn. In thishouse I chanced to find a volume of the works of Cornelius Agrippa. Iopened it with apathy; the theory which he attempts to demonstrate, andthe wonderful facts which he relates, soon changed this feeling intoenthusiasm. A new light seemed to dawn upon my mind; and, bounding withjoy, I communicated my discovery to my father. My father lookedcarelessly at the titlepage of my book, and said, "Ah! CorneliusAgrippa! My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sadtrash."
If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain tome, that the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded, and thata modern system of science had been introduced, which possessed muchgreater powers than the ancient, because the powers of the latter werechimerical, while those of the former were real and practical; undersuch circumstances, I should certainly have thrown Agrippa aside, andhave contented my imagination, warmed as it was, by returning withgreater ardour to my former studies. It is even possible, that the trainof my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to myruin. But the cursory glance my father had taken of my volume by nomeans assured me that he was acquainted with its contents; and Icontinued to read with the greatest avidity.
When I returned home, my first care was to procure the whole works ofthis author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. I readand studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; theyappeared to me treasures known to few beside myself. I have describedmyself as always having been embued with a fervent longing to penetratethe secrets of nature. In spite of the intense labour and wonderfuldiscoveries of modern philosophers, I always came from my studiesdiscontented and unsatisfied. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowedthat he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great andunexplored ocean of truth. Those of his successors in each branch ofnatural philosophy with whom I was acquainted, appeared even to my boy'sapprehensions, as tyros engaged in the same pursuit.
The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him, and was acquaintedwith their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew littlemore. He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortallineaments were still a wonder and a mystery. He might dissect,anatomise, and give names; but, not to speak of a final cause, causes intheir secondary and tertiary grades were utterly unknown to him. I hadgazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep humanbeings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly Ihad repined.
But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper andknew more. I took their word for all that they averred, and I becametheir disciple. It may appear strange that such should arise in theeighteenth century; but while I followed the routine of education in theschools of Geneva, I was, to a great degree, self taught with regard tomy favourite studies. My father was not scientific, and I was left tostruggle with a child's blindness, added to a student's thirst forknowledge. Under the guidance of my new preceptors, I entered with thegreatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's stone and theelixir of life; but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention.Wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend thediscovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and renderman invulnerable to any but a violent death!
Nor were these my only visions. The raising of ghosts or devils was apromise liberally accorded by my favourite authors, the fulfilment ofwhich I most eagerly sought; and if my incantations were alwaysunsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own inexperience andmistake, than to a want of skill or fidelity in my instructors. And thusfor a time I was occupied by exploded systems, mingling, like anunadept, a thousand contradictory theories, and floundering desperatelyin a very slough of multifarious knowledge, guided by an ardentimagination and childish reasoning, till an accident again changed thecurrent of my ideas.
When I was about fifteen years old we had retired to our house nearBelrive, when we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunder-storm. Itadvanced from behind the mountains of Jura; and the thunder burst atonce with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens. Iremained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosityand delight. As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream offire issue from an old and beautiful oak, which stood about twenty yardsfrom our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak haddisappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visitedit the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner.It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribandsof wood. I never beheld any thing so utterly destroyed.
Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious laws ofelectricity. On this occasion a man of great research in naturalphilosophy was with us, and, excited by this catastrophe, he entered onthe explanation of a theory which he had formed on the subject ofelectricity 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 bysome fatality the overthrow of these men disinclined me to pursue myaccustomed studies. It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever beknown. All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grewdespicable. By one of those caprices of the mind, which we are perhapsmost 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 abortivecreation; and entertained the greatest disdain for a would-be science,which could never even step within the threshold of real knowledge. Inthis mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics, and the branchesof study appertaining to that science, as being built upon securefoundations, and so worthy of my consideration.
Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligamentsare we bound to prosperity or ruin. When I look back, it seems to me asif this almost miraculous change of inclination and will was theimmediate suggestion of the guardian angel of my life—the last effortmade by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even thenhanging in the stars, and ready to envelope me. Her victory wasannounced by an unusual tranquillity and gladness of soul, whichfollowed the relinquishing of my ancient and latterly tormentingstudies. It was thus that I was to be taught to associate evil withtheir 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 andterrible destruction.
When I had attained the age of seventeen, my parents resolved that Ishould become a student at the university of Ingolstadt. I had hithertoattended the schools of Geneva; but my father thought it necessary, forthe completion of my education, that I should be made acquainted withother customs than those of my native country. My departure wastherefore fixed at an early date; but, before the day resolved uponcould arrive, the first misfortune of my life occurred—an omen, as itwere, of my future misery.
Elizabeth had caught the scarlet fever; her illness was severe, and shewas in the greatest danger. During her illness, many arguments had beenurged 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 ofher favourite was menaced, she could no longer control her anxiety. Sheattended her sick bed,—her watchful attentions triumphed over themalignity of the distemper,—Elizabeth was saved, but the consequencesof this imprudence were fatal to her preserver. On the third day mymother sickened; her fever was accompanied by the most alarmingsymptoms, and the looks of her medical attendants prognosticated theworst event. On her death-bed the fortitude and benignity of this bestof women did not desert her. She joined the hands of Elizabeth andmyself:—"My children," she said, "my firmest hopes of future happinesswere placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now bethe consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply myplace 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 resignmyself cheerfully to death, and will indulge a hope of meeting you inanother 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 bythat most irreparable evil; the void that presents itself to the soul;and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance. It is so longbefore the mind can persuade itself that she, whom we saw every day, andwhose 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 behushed, never more to be heard. These are the reflections of the firstdays; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil, thenthe actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has not thatrude hand rent away some dear connection? and why should I describe asorrow which all have felt, and must feel? The time at length arrives,when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile thatplays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is notbanished. My mother was dead, but we had still duties which we ought toperform; we must continue our course with the rest, and learn to thinkourselves 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 ofsome 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 oflife. I was new to sorrow, but it did not the less alarm me. I wasunwilling to quit the sight of those that remained to me; and, aboveall, 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 andzeal. She devoted herself to those whom she had been taught to call heruncle and cousins. Never was she so enchanting as at this time, whenshe recalled the sunshine of her smiles and spent them upon us. Sheforgot even her own regret in her endeavours to make us forget.
The day of my departure at length arrived. Clerval spent the lastevening with us. He had endeavoured to persuade his father to permit himto accompany me, and to become my fellow student; but in vain. Hisfather was a narrow-minded trader, and saw idleness and ruin in theaspirations and ambition of his son. Henry deeply felt the misfortune ofbeing debarred from a liberal education. He said little; but when hespoke, I read in his kindling eye and in his animated glance arestrained but firm resolve, not to be chained to the miserable detailsof commerce.
The day of my departure at length arrived.
We sat late. We could not tear ourselves away from each other, norpersuade ourselves to say the word "Farewell!" It was said; and weretired under the pretence of seeking repose, each fancying that theother was deceived: but when at morning's dawn I descended to thecarriage which was to convey me away, they were all there—my fatheragain to bless me, Clerval to press my hand once more, my Elizabeth torenew her entreaties that I would write often, and to bestow the lastfeminine attentions on her playmate and friend.
I threw myself into the chaise that was to convey me away, and indulgedin the most melancholy reflections. I, who had ever been surrounded byamiable companions, continually engaged in endeavouring to bestow mutualpleasure, I was now alone. In the university, whither I was going, Imust form my own friends, and be my own protector. My life had hithertobeen remarkably secluded and domestic; and this had given me invinciblerepugnance to new countenances. I loved my brothers, Elizabeth, andClerval; these were "old familiar faces;" but I believed myself totallyunfitted for the company of strangers. Such were my reflections as Icommenced my journey; but as I proceeded, my spirits and hopes rose. Iardently desired the acquisition of knowledge. I had often, when athome, 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 otherhuman 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 myjourney to Ingolstadt, which was long and fatiguing. At length the highwhite steeple of the town met my eyes. I alighted, and was conducted tomy solitary apartment, to spend the evening as I pleased.
The next morning I delivered my letters of introduction, and paid avisit to some of the principal professors. Chance—or rather the evilinfluence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway overme from the moment I turned my reluctant steps from my father'sdoor—led me first to Mr. Krempe, professor of natural philosophy. Hewas an uncouth man, but deeply embued in the secrets of his science. Heasked me several questions concerning my progress in the differentbranches of science appertaining to natural philosophy. I repliedcarelessly; and, partly in contempt, mentioned the names of myalchymists as the principal authors I had studied. The professor stared:"Have you," he said, "really spent your time in studying such nonsense?"
I replied in the affirmative. "Every minute," continued M. Krempe withwarmth, "every instant that you have wasted on those books is utterlyand entirely lost. You have burdened your memory with exploded systemsand useless names. Good God! in what desert land have you lived, whereno one was kind enough to inform you that these fancies, which you haveso greedily imbibed, are a thousand years old, and as musty as they areancient? I little expected, in this enlightened and scientific age, tofind a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. My dear sir, you mustbegin your studies entirely anew."
So saying, he stept aside, and wrote down a list of several bookstreating of natural philosophy, which he desired me to procure; anddismissed me, after mentioning that in the beginning of the followingweek he intended to commence a course of lectures upon naturalphilosophy in its general relations, and that M. Waldman, afellow-professor, would lecture upon chemistry the alternate days thathe omitted.
I returned home, not disappointed, for I have said that I had longconsidered those authors useless whom the professor reprobated; but Ireturned, not at all the more inclined to recur to these studies in anyshape. M. Krempe was a little squat man, with a gruff voice and arepulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me infavour of his pursuits. In rather a too philosophical and connected astrain, perhaps, I have given an account of the conclusions I had cometo concerning them in my early years. As a child, I had not been contentwith 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 ofknowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries ofrecent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchymists. Besides, I hada contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was verydifferent, 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 enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilationof those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. Iwas required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities oflittle worth.
Such were my reflections during the first two or three days of myresidence at Ingolstadt, which were chiefly spent in becoming acquaintedwith the localities, and the principal residents in my new abode. But asthe ensuing week commenced, I thought of the information which M. Krempehad given me concerning the lectures. And although I could not consentto go and hear that little conceited fellow deliver sentences out of apulpit, I recollected what he had said of M. Waldman, whom I had neverseen, as he had hitherto been out of town.
Partly from curiosity, and partly from idleness, I went into thelecturing room, which M. Waldman entered shortly after. This professorwas very unlike his colleague. He appeared about fifty years of age, butwith an aspect expressive of the greatest benevolence; a few grey hairscovered his temples, but those at the back of his head were nearlyblack. His person was short, but remarkably erect; and his voice thesweetest I had ever heard. He began his lecture by a recapitulation ofthe history of chemistry, and the various improvements made by differentmen of learning, pronouncing with fervour the names of the mostdistinguished discoverers. He then took a cursory view of the presentstate of the science, and explained many of its elementary terms. Afterhaving made a few preparatory experiments, he concluded with a panegyricupon modern chemistry, the terms of which I shall never forget:—
"The ancient teachers of this science," said he, "promisedimpossibilities, and performed nothing. The modern masters promise verylittle; they know that metals cannot be transmuted, and that the elixirof life is a chimera. But these philosophers, whose hands seem only madeto dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope orcrucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into therecesses of nature, and show how she works in her hiding places. Theyascend into the heavens: they have discovered how the blood circulates,and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almostunlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic theearthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows."
Such were the professor's words—rather let me say such the words offate, enounced to destroy me. As he went on, I felt as if my soul weregrappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys weretouched which formed the mechanism of my being: chord after chord wassounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception,one purpose. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul ofFrankenstein,—more, far more, will I achieve: treading in the stepsalready marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, andunfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.
I closed not my eyes that night. My internal being was in a state ofinsurrection and turmoil; I felt that order would thence arise, but Ihad no power to produce it. By degrees, after the morning's dawn, sleepcame. I awoke, and my yesternight's thoughts were as a dream. Thereonly remained a resolution to return to my ancient studies, and todevote myself to a science for which I believed myself to possess anatural talent. On the same day, I paid M. Waldman a visit. His mannersin private were even more mild and attractive than in public; for therewas a certain dignity in his mien during his lecture, which in his ownhouse was replaced by the greatest affability and kindness. I gave himpretty nearly the same account of my former pursuits as I had given tohis fellow-professor. He heard with attention the little narrationconcerning my studies, and smiled at the names of Cornelius Agrippa andParacelsus, but without the contempt that M. Krempe had exhibited. Hesaid, that "these were men to whose indefatigable zeal modernphilosophers were indebted for most of the foundations of theirknowledge. They had left to us, as an easier task, to give new names,and arrange in connected classifications, the facts which they in agreat degree had been the instruments of bringing to light. The laboursof men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail inultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind." I listened to hisstatement, which was delivered without any presumption or affectation;and then added, that his lecture had removed my prejudices againstmodern chemists; I expressed myself in measured terms, with the modestyand deference due from a youth to his instructor, without letting escape(inexperience in life would have made me ashamed) any of the enthusiasmwhich stimulated my intended labours. I requested his advice concerningthe books I ought to procure.
"I am happy," said M. Waldman, "to have gained a disciple; and if yourapplication equals your ability, I have no doubt of your success.Chemistry is that branch of natural philosophy in which the greatestimprovements have been and may be made: it is on that account that Ihave made it my peculiar study; but at the same time I have notneglected the other branches of science. A man would make but a verysorry chemist if he attended to that department of human knowledgealone. If your wish is to become really a man of science, and not merelya petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branchof natural philosophy, including mathematics."
He then took me into his laboratory, and explained to me the uses of hisvarious machines; instructing me as to what I ought to procure, andpromising me the use of his own when I should have advanced far enoughin the science not to derange their mechanism. He also gave me the listof books which I had requested; and I took my leave.
Thus ended a day memorable to me: it decided my future destiny.
From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in themost comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation.I read with ardour those works, so full of genius and discrimination,which modern enquirers have written on these subjects. I attended thelectures, and cultivated the acquaintance, of the men of science of theuniversity; and I found even in M. Krempe a great deal of sound senseand real information, combined, it is true, with a repulsive physiognomyand manners, but not on that account the less valuable. In M. Waldman Ifound a true friend. His gentleness was never tinged by dogmatism; andhis instructions were given with an air of frankness and good nature,that banished every idea of pedantry. In a thousand ways he smoothed forme the path of knowledge, and made the most abstruse enquiries clear andfacile to my apprehension. My application was at first fluctuating anduncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded, and soon became so ardentand eager, that the stars often disappeared in the light of morningwhilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.
As I applied so closely, it may be easily conceived that my progress wasrapid. My ardour was indeed the astonishment of the students, and myproficiency that of the masters. Professor Krempe often asked me, witha sly smile, how Cornelius Agrippa went on? whilst M. Waldman expressedthe most heart-felt exultation in my progress. Two years passed in thismanner, during which I paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged, heartand soul, in the pursuit of some discoveries, which I hoped to make.None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticementsof science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone beforeyou, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuitthere is continual food for discovery and wonder. A mind of moderatecapacity, which closely pursues one study, must infallibly arrive atgreat proficiency in that study; and I, who continually sought theattainment of one object of pursuit, and was solely wrapt up in this,improved so rapidly, that, at the end of two years, I made somediscoveries in the improvement of some chemical instruments, whichprocured me great esteem and admiration at the university. When I hadarrived at this point, and had become as well acquainted with the theoryand practice of natural philosophy as depended on the lessons of any ofthe professors at Ingolstadt, my residence there being no longerconducive to my improvements, I thought of returning to my friends andmy native town, when an incident happened that protracted my stay.
One of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was thestructure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life.Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It wasa 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 enquiries. I revolvedthese circumstances in my mind, and determined thenceforth to applymyself more particularly to those branches of natural philosophy whichrelate to physiology. Unless I had been animated by an almostsupernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have beenirksome, and almost intolerable. To examine the causes of life, we mustfirst have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science ofanatomy: but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the naturaldecay and corruption of the human body. In my education my father hadtaken the greatest precautions that my mind should be impressed with nosupernatural horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a taleof superstition, or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darknesshad no effect upon my fancy; and a churchyard was to me merely thereceptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat ofbeauty and strength, had become food for the worm. Now I was led toexamine the cause and progress of this decay, and forced to spend daysand nights in vaults and charnel-houses. My attention was fixed uponevery object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the humanfeelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; Ibeheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; Isaw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused,examining and analysing all the minutiæ of causation, as exemplified inthe change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midstof this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliantand wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with theimmensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised, thatamong so many men of genius who had directed their enquiries towards thesame science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishinga secret.
Remember, I am not recording the vision of a madman. The sun does notmore certainly shine in the heavens, than that which I now affirm istrue. Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of thediscovery were distinct and probable. After days and nights ofincredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause ofgeneration and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowinganimation upon lifeless matter.
The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soongave place to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painfullabour, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires, was the mostgratifying consummation of my toils. But this discovery was so greatand overwhelming, that all the steps by which I had been progressivelyled to it were obliterated, and I beheld only the result. What had beenthe study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the worldwas now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene, it all openedupon me at once: the information I had obtained was of a nature ratherto direct my endeavours so soon as I should point them towards theobject of my search, than to exhibit that object already accomplished. Iwas like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead, and found apassage to life, aided only by one glimmering, and seeminglyineffectual, light.
I see by your eagerness, and the wonder and hope which your eyesexpress, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret withwhich I am acquainted; that cannot be: listen patiently until the end ofmy story, and you will easily perceive why I am reserved upon thatsubject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, toyour destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by myprecepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement ofknowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native townto be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his naturewill allow.
When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitateda long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. AlthoughI possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a framefor 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 likemyself, or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too muchexalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to givelife to an animal as complex and wonderful as man. The materials atpresent within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous anundertaking; but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed. Iprepared myself for a multitude of reverses; my operations might beincessantly baffled, and at last my work be imperfect: yet, when Iconsidered the improvement which every day takes place in science andmechanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at leastlay the foundations of future success. Nor could I consider themagnitude and complexity of my plan as any argument of itsimpracticability. It was with these feelings that I began the creationof a human being. As the minuteness of the parts formed a greathinderance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, tomake the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feetin height, and proportionably large. After having formed thisdetermination, and having spent some months in successfully collectingand arranging my materials, I began.
No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, likea hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appearedto me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour atorrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me asits creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe theirbeing to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child socompletely as I should deserve theirs. Pursuing these reflections, Ithought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I mightin process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life wheredeath had apparently devoted the body to corruption.
These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking withunremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my personhad become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink ofcertainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day orthe next hour might realise. One secret which I alone possessed was thehope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnightlabours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursuednature to her hiding-places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secrettoil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or torturedthe living animal to animate the lifeless clay? My limbs now tremble,and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless, andalmost frantic, impulse, urged me forward; I seemed to have lost allsoul or sensation but for this one pursuit. It was indeed but a passingtrance, that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as, theunnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits.I collected bones from charnel-houses; and disturbed, with profanefingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitarychamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from allthe other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop offilthy creation: my eye-balls were starting from their sockets inattending to the details of my employment. The dissecting room and theslaughter-house furnished many of my materials; and often did my humannature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on byan eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to aconclusion.
The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, inone pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestowa more plentiful harvest, or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage:but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the samefeelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also toforget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had notseen for so long a time. I knew my silence disquieted them; and I wellremembered the words of my father: "I know that while you are pleasedwith yourself, you will think of us with affection, and we shall hearregularly from you. You must pardon me if I regard any interruption inyour correspondence as a proof that your other duties are equallyneglected."
I knew well therefore what would be my father's feelings; but I couldnot tear my thoughts from my employment, loathsome in itself, but whichhad taken an irresistible hold of my imagination. I wished, as it were,to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection until thegreat object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature, should becompleted.
I then thought that my father would be unjust if he ascribed my neglectto vice, or faultiness on my part; but I am now convinced that he wasjustified in conceiving that I should not be altogether free fromblame. A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm andpeaceful mind, and never to allow passion or a transitory desire todisturb his tranquillity. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledgeis an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourselfhas a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste forthose simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then thatstudy is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the humanmind. If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursuitwhatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domesticaffections, Greece had not been enslaved; Cæsar would have spared hiscountry; America would have been discovered more gradually; and theempires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.
But I forget that I am moralising in the most interesting part of mytale; and your looks remind me to proceed.
My father made no reproach in his letters, and only took notice of mysilence by enquiring into my occupations more particularly than before.Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labours; but I did notwatch the blossom or the expanding leaves—sights which before alwaysyielded me supreme delight—so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation.The leaves of that year had withered before my work drew near to aclose; and now every day showed me more plainly how well I hadsucceeded. But my enthusiasm was checked by my anxiety, and I appearedrather like one doomed by slavery to toil in the mines, or any otherunwholesome trade, than an artist occupied by his favourite employment.Every night I was oppressed by a slow fever, and I became nervous to amost painful degree; the fall of a leaf startled me, and I shunned myfellow-creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime. Sometimes I grewalarmed at the wreck I perceived that I had become; the energy of mypurpose alone sustained me: my labours would soon end, and I believedthat exercise and amusement would then drive away incipient disease; andI promised myself both of these when my creation should be complete.
It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishmentof my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collectedthe instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of beinginto the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in themorning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle wasnearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, Isaw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and aconvulsive motion agitated its limbs.
"By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I sawthe dull, yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and aconvulsive motion agitated its limbs, ... I rushed out of theroom."
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate thewretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features asbeautiful. Beautiful!—Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered thework of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black,and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances onlyformed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almostof the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, hisshrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings ofhuman nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the solepurpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprivedmyself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that farexceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of thedream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out ofthe room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable tocompose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult Ihad 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 Isaw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets ofIngolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprintedthe first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; herfeatures appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of mydead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw thegrave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from mysleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered,and every limb became convulsed: when, by the dim and yellow light ofthe moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld thewretch—the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtainof 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 grinwrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one handwas stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rusheddown stairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house whichI inhabited; where I remained during the rest of the night, walking upand down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching andfearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of thedemoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.
Oh! no mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummyagain endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. Ihad gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when thosemuscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thingsuch as even Dante could not have conceived.
I passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly andhardly, that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others, I nearlysank to the ground through languor and extreme weakness. Mingled withthis horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that hadbeen my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become ahell to me; and the change was so rapid, the overthrow so complete!
Morning, dismal and wet, at length dawned, and discovered to mysleepless and aching eyes the church of Ingolstadt, its white steepleand clock, which indicated the sixth hour. The porter opened the gatesof the court, which had that night been my asylum, and I issued into thestreets, pacing them with quick steps, as if I sought to avoid thewretch whom I feared every turning of the street would present to myview. I did not dare return to the apartment which I inhabited, but feltimpelled to hurry on, although drenched by the rain which poured from ablack and comfortless sky.
I continued walking in this manner for some time, endeavouring, bybodily exercise, to ease the load that weighed upon my mind. I traversedthe streets, without any clear conception of where I was, or what I wasdoing. My heart palpitated in the sickness of fear; and I hurried onwith irregular steps, not daring to look about me:—
Continuing thus, I came at length opposite to the inn at which thevarious diligences and carriages usually stopped. Here I paused, I knewnot why; but I remained some minutes with my eyes fixed on a coach thatwas coming towards me from the other end of the street. As it drewnearer, I observed that it was the Swiss diligence: it stopped justwhere I was standing; and, on the door being opened, I perceived HenryClerval, who, on seeing me, instantly sprung out. "My dearFrankenstein," exclaimed he, "how glad I am to see you! how fortunatethat you should be here at the very moment of my alighting!"
Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clerval; his presence broughtback to my thoughts my father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes of homeso dear to my recollection. I grasped his hand, and in a moment forgotmy horror and misfortune; I felt suddenly, and for the first time duringmany months, calm and serene joy. I welcomed my friend, therefore, inthe most cordial manner, and we walked towards my college. Clervalcontinued talking for some time about our mutual friends, and his owngood fortune in being permitted to come to Ingolstadt. "You may easilybelieve," said he, "how great was the difficulty to persuade my fatherthat all necessary knowledge was not comprised in the noble art ofbook-keeping; and, indeed, I believe I left him incredulous to the last,for his constant answer to my unwearied entreaties was the same as thatof the Dutch schoolmaster in the Vicar of Wakefield:—'I have tenthousand florins a year without Greek, I eat heartily without Greek.'But his affection for me at length overcame his dislike of learning, andhe has permitted me to undertake a voyage of discovery to the land ofknowledge."
"It gives me the greatest delight to see you; but tell me how you leftmy father, brothers, and Elizabeth."
"Very well, and very happy, only a little uneasy that they hear from youso seldom. By the by, I mean to lecture you a little upon their accountmyself.—But, my dear Frankenstein," continued he, stopping short, andgazing full in my face, "I did not before remark how very ill youappear; so thin and pale; you look as if you had been watching forseveral nights."
"You have guessed right; I have lately been so deeply engaged in oneoccupation, that I have not allowed myself sufficient rest, as you see:but I hope, I sincerely hope, that all these employments are now at anend, and that I am at length free."
I trembled excessively; I could not endure to think of, and far less toallude to, the occurrences of the preceding night. I walked with a quickpace, and we soon arrived at my college. I then reflected, and thethought made me shiver, that the creature whom I had left in myapartment might still be there, alive, and walking about. I dreaded tobehold this monster; but I feared still more that Henry should see him.Entreating him, therefore, to remain a few minutes at the bottom of thestairs, I darted up towards my own room. My hand was already on the lockof the door before I recollected myself. I then paused; and a coldshivering came over me. I threw the door forcibly open, as children areaccustomed to do when they expect a spectre to stand in waiting for themon the other side; but nothing appeared. I stepped fearfully in: theapartment was empty; and my bed-room was also freed from its hideousguest. I could hardly believe that so great a good fortune could havebefallen me; but when I became assured that my enemy had indeed fled, Iclapped 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 possessedme; I felt my flesh tingle with excess of sensitiveness, and my pulsebeat rapidly. I was unable to remain for a single instant in the sameplace; 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 eyesfor which he could not account; and my loud, unrestrained, heartlesslaughter, frightened and astonished him.
"My dear Victor," cried he, "what, for God's sake, is the matter? Do notlaugh in that manner. How ill you are! What is the cause of all this?"
"Do not ask me," cried I, putting my hands before my eyes, for I thoughtI saw the dreaded spectre glide into the room; "he can tell.—Oh, saveme! save me!" I imagined that the monster seized me; I struggledfuriously, and fell down in a fit.
Poor Clerval! what must have been his feelings? A meeting, which heanticipated with such joy, so strangely turned to bitterness. But I wasnot the witness of his grief; for I was lifeless, and did not recover mysenses for a long, long time.
This was the commencement of a nervous fever, which confined me forseveral months. During all that time Henry was my only nurse. Iafterwards learned that, knowing my father's advanced age, and unfitnessfor so long a journey, and how wretched my sickness would makeElizabeth, he spared them this grief by concealing the extent of mydisorder. He knew that I could not have a more kind and attentive nursethan himself; and, firm in the hope he felt of my recovery, he did notdoubt that, instead of doing harm, he performed the kindest action thathe could towards them.
But I was in reality very ill; and surely nothing but the unbounded andunremitting attentions of my friend could have restored me to life. Theform of the monster on whom I had bestowed existence was for ever beforemy eyes, and I raved incessantly concerning him. Doubtless my wordssurprised Henry: he at first believed them to be the wanderings of mydisturbed imagination; but the pertinacity with which I continuallyrecurred to the same subject, persuaded him that my disorder indeed owedits origin to some uncommon and terrible event.
By very slow degrees, and with frequent relapses, that alarmed andgrieved my friend, I recovered. I remember the first time I becamecapable of observing outward objects with any kind of pleasure, Iperceived that the fallen leaves had disappeared, and that the youngbuds were shooting forth from the trees that shaded my window. It was adivine spring; and the season contributed greatly to my convalescence. Ifelt also sentiments of joy and affection revive in my bosom; my gloomdisappeared, and in a short time I became as cheerful as before I wasattacked 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 promisedyourself, 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 beenthe occasion; but you will forgive me."
"You will repay me entirely, if you do not discompose yourself, but getwell as fast as you can; and since you appear in such good spirits, Imay speak to you on one subject, may I not?"
I trembled. One subject! what could it be? Could he allude to an objecton whom I dared not even think?
"Compose yourself," said Clerval, who observed my change of colour, "Iwill not mention it, if it agitates you; but your father and cousinwould be very happy if they received a letter from you in your ownhandwriting. They hardly know how ill you have been, and are uneasy atyour long silence."
"Is that all, my dear Henry? How could you suppose that my firstthought would not fly towards those dear, dear friends whom I love, andwho are so deserving of my love."
"If this is your present temper, my friend, you will perhaps be glad tosee a letter that has been lying here some days for you: it is from yourcousin, I believe."
Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It was from my ownElizabeth:—
"My dearest Cousin,
"You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters of dear kindHenry are not sufficient to reassure me on your account. You areforbidden 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 thoughtthat each post would bring this line, and my persuasions have restrainedmy uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have prevented hisencountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers of so long ajourney; yet how often have I regretted not being able to perform itmyself! I figure to myself that the task of attending on your sick bedhas devolved on some mercenary old nurse, who could never guess yourwishes, nor minister to them with the care and affection of your poorcousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that indeed you are gettingbetter. I eagerly hope that you will confirm this intelligence soon inyour own handwriting.
"Get well—and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerful home, andfriends who love you dearly. Your father's health is vigorous, and heasks but to see you,—but to be assured that you are well; and not acare will ever cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you wouldbe to remark the improvement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen, and fullof activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss, and to enterinto foreign service; but we cannot part with him, at least until hiselder brother return to us. My uncle is not pleased with the idea of amilitary career in a distant country; but Ernest never had your powersof application. He looks upon study as an odious fetter;—his time isspent in the open air, climbing the hills or rowing on the lake. I fearthat he will become an idler, unless we yield the point, and permit himto enter on the profession which he has selected.
"Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, has takenplace since you left us. The blue lake, and snow-clad mountains, theynever change;—and I think our placid home, and our contented hearts areregulated by the same immutable laws. My trifling occupations take up mytime and amuse me, and I am rewarded for any exertions by seeing nonebut happy, kind faces around me. Since you left us, but one change hastaken place in our little household. Do you remember on what occasionJustine Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not; I will relateher history, therefore, in a few words. Madame Moritz, her mother, was awidow with four children, of whom Justine was the third. This girl hadalways been the favourite of her father; but, through a strangeperversity, her mother could not endure her, and, after the death of M.Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt observed this; and, when Justinewas twelve years of age, prevailed on her mother to allow her to live atour house. The republican institutions of our country have producedsimpler and happier manners than those which prevail in the greatmonarchies that surround it. Hence there is less distinction between theseveral classes of its inhabitants; and the lower orders, being neitherso poor nor so despised, their manners are more refined and moral. Aservant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in Franceand England. Justine, thus received in our family, learned the duties ofa servant; a condition which, in our fortunate country, does not includethe idea of ignorance, and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.
"Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours; and Irecollect you once remarked, that if you were in an ill-humour, oneglance from Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason thatAriosto gives concerning the beauty of Angelica—she looked sofrank-hearted and happy. My aunt conceived a great attachment for her,by which she was induced to give her an education superior to that whichshe had at first intended. This benefit was fully repaid; Justine wasthe most grateful little creature in the world: I do not mean that shemade any professions; I never heard one pass her lips; but you could seeby her eyes that she almost adored her protectress. Although herdisposition was gay, and in many respects inconsiderate, yet she paidthe greatest attention to every gesture of my aunt. She thought her themodel of all excellence, and endeavoured to imitate her phraseology andmanners, so that even now she often reminds me of her.
"When my dearest aunt died, every one was too much occupied in their owngrief to notice poor Justine, who had attended her during her illnesswith the most anxious affection. Poor Justine was very ill; but othertrials were reserved for her.
"One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother, with theexception of her neglected daughter, was left childless. The conscienceof the woman was troubled; she began to think that the deaths of herfavourites was a judgment from heaven to chastise her partiality. Shewas a Roman catholic; and I believe her confessor confirmed the ideawhich she had conceived. Accordingly, a few months after your departurefor Ingolstadt, Justine was called home by her repentant mother. Poorgirl! she wept when she quitted our house; she was much altered sincethe death of my aunt; grief had given softness and a winning mildness toher manners, which had before been remarkable for vivacity. Nor was herresidence at her mother's house of a nature to restore her gaiety. Thepoor woman was very vacillating in her repentance. She sometimes beggedJustine to forgive her unkindness, but much oftener accused her ofhaving caused the deaths of her brothers and sister. Perpetual frettingat length threw Madame Moritz into a decline, which at first increasedher irritability, but she is now at peace for ever. She died on thefirst approach of cold weather, at the beginning of this last winter.Justine has returned to us; and I assure you I love her tenderly. She isvery clever and gentle, and extremely pretty; as I mentioned before, hermien and her expressions continually remind me of my dear aunt.
"I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin, of little darlingWilliam. I wish you could see him; he is very tall of his age, withsweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When hesmiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are rosy withhealth. He has already had one or two little wives, but Louisa Bironis 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 gossipconcerning the good people of Geneva. The pretty Miss Mansfield hasalready received the congratulatory visits on her approaching marriagewith a young Englishman, John Melbourne, Esq. Her ugly sister, Manon,married M. Duvillard, the rich banker, last autumn. Your favouriteschoolfellow, Louis Manoir, has suffered several misfortunes since thedeparture of Clerval from Geneva. But he has already recovered hisspirits, and is reported to be on the point of marrying a very livelypretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier. She is a widow, and much olderthan Manoir; but she is very much admired, and a favourite witheverybody.
"I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin; but my anxietyreturns upon me as I conclude. Write, dearest Victor,—one line—oneword will be a blessing to us. Ten thousand thanks to Henry for hiskindness, his affection, and his many letters: we are sincerelygrateful. Adieu! my cousin; take care of yourself; and, I entreat you,write!
"Geneva, March 18th, 17—."
"Dear, dear Elizabeth!" I exclaimed, when I had read her letter, "I willwrite instantly, and relieve them from the anxiety they must feel." Iwrote, and this exertion greatly fatigued me; but my convalescence hadcommenced, and proceeded regularly. In another fortnight I was able toleave my chamber.
One of my first duties on my recovery was to introduce Clerval to theseveral professors of the university. In doing this, I underwent a kindof rough usage, ill befitting the wounds that my mind had sustained.Ever since the fatal night, the end of my labours, and the beginning ofmy misfortunes, I had conceived a violent antipathy even to the name ofnatural philosophy. When I was otherwise quite restored to health, thesight of a chemical instrument would renew all the agony of my nervoussymptoms. 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 adislike for the room which had previously been my laboratory. But thesecares of Clerval were made of no avail when I visited the professors. M.Waldman inflicted torture when he praised, with kindness and warmth, theastonishing progress I had made in the sciences. He soon perceived thatI disliked the subject; but not guessing the real cause, he attributedmy feelings to modesty, and changed the subject from my improvement, tothe science itself, with a desire, as I evidently saw, of drawing meout. What could I do? He meant to please, and he tormented me. I felt asif he had placed carefully, one by one, in my view those instrumentswhich were to be afterwards used in putting me to a slow and crueldeath. I writhed under his words, yet dared not exhibit the pain I felt.Clerval, whose eyes and feelings were always quick in discerning thesensations of others, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse, histotal ignorance; and the conversation took a more general turn. Ithanked my friend from my heart, but I did not speak. I saw plainly thathe was surprised, but he never attempted to draw my secret from me; andalthough I loved him with a mixture of affection and reverence that knewno bounds, yet I could never persuade myself to confide to him thatevent which was so often present to my recollection, but which I fearedthe detail to another would only impress more deeply.
M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at that time, ofalmost insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh blunt encomiums gave meeven more pain than the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman. "D—n thefellow!" cried he; "why, M. Clerval, I assure you he has outstript usall. Ay, stare if you please; but it is nevertheless true. A youngsterwho, but a few years ago, believed in Cornelius Agrippa as firmly as inthe gospel, has now set himself at the head of the university; and if heis 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 menshould be diffident of themselves, you know, M. Clerval: I was myselfwhen young; but that wears out in a very short time."
M. Krempe had now commenced an eulogy on himself, which happily turnedthe conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.
Clerval had never sympathised in my tastes for natural science; and hisliterary pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me. Hecame to the university with the design of making himself complete masterof the oriental languages, as thus he should open a field for the planof life he had marked out for himself. Resolved to pursue no ingloriouscareer, he turned his eyes toward the East, as affording scope for hisspirit of enterprise. The Persian, Arabic, and Sanscrit languagesengaged his attention, and I was easily induced to enter on the samestudies. Idleness had ever been irksome to me, and now that I wished tofly from reflection, and hated my former studies, I felt great relief inbeing the fellow-pupil with my friend, and found not only instructionbut consolation in the works of the orientalists. I did not, like him,attempt a critical knowledge of their dialects, for I did notcontemplate making any other use of them than temporary amusement. Iread merely to understand their meaning, and they well repaid mylabours. Their melancholy is soothing, and their joy elevating, to adegree I never experienced in studying the authors of any other country.When you read their writings, life appears to consist in a warm sun anda garden of roses,—in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and thefire that consumes your own heart. How different from the manly andheroical poetry of Greece and Rome!
Summer passed away in these occupations, and my return to Geneva wasfixed for the latter end of autumn; but being delayed by severalaccidents, winter and snow arrived, the roads were deemed impassable,and my journey was retarded until the ensuing spring. I felt this delayvery bitterly; for I longed to see my native town and my belovedfriends. My return had only been delayed so long, from an unwillingnessto leave Clerval in a strange place, before he had become acquaintedwith any of its inhabitants. The winter, however, was spent cheerfully;and although the spring was uncommonly late, when it came its beautycompensated for its dilatoriness.
The month of May had already commenced, and I expected the letter dailywhich was to fix the date of my departure, when Henry proposed apedestrian tour in the environs of Ingolstadt, that I might bid apersonal farewell to the country I had so long inhabited. I acceded withpleasure to this proposition: I was fond of exercise, and Clerval hadalways been my favourite companion in the rambles of this nature that Ihad taken among the scenes of my native country.
We passed a fortnight in these perambulations: my health and spirits hadlong been restored, and they gained additional strength from thesalubrious air I breathed, the natural incidents of our progress, andthe conversation of my friend. Study had before secluded me from theintercourse of my fellow-creatures, and rendered me unsocial; butClerval called forth the better feelings of my heart; he again taught meto love the aspect of nature, and the cheerful faces of children.Excellent friend! how sincerely did you love me, and endeavour toelevate my mind until it was on a level with your own! A selfish pursuithad cramped and narrowed me, until your gentleness and affection warmedand opened my senses; I became the same happy creature who, a few yearsago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care. When happy,inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightfulsensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy. Thepresent season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring bloomed in thehedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I was undisturbed bythoughts which during the preceding year had pressed upon me,notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincibleburden.
Henry rejoiced in my gaiety, and sincerely sympathised in my feelings:he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations thatfilled his soul. The resources of his mind on this occasion were trulyastonishing: his conversation was full of imagination; and very often,in imitation of the Persian and Arabic writers, he invented tales ofwonderful fancy and passion. At other times he repeated my favouritepoems, or drew me out into arguments, which he supported with greatingenuity.
We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon: the peasants weredancing, and every one we met appeared gay and happy. My own spiritswere high, and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled joy andhilarity.
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 ofyour 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 wouldbe 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 thecontrary, tears and wretchedness? And how, Victor, can I relate ourmisfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys andgriefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long absent son? I wish toprepare you for the woful news, but I know it is impossible; even nowyour eye skims over the page, to seek the words which are to convey toyou the horrible tidings.
"William is dead!—that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmedmy heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor, he is murdered!
"I will not attempt to console you; but will simply relate thecircumstances of the transaction.
"Last Thursday (May 7th), I, my niece, and your two brothers, went towalk in Plainpalais. The evening was warm and serene, and we prolongedour walk farther than usual. It was already dusk before we thought ofreturning; and then we discovered that William and Ernest, who had goneon before, were not to be found. We accordingly rested on a seat untilthey should return. Presently Ernest came, and enquired if we had seenhis brother: he said, that he had been playing with him, that Williamhad run away to hide himself, and that he vainly sought for him, andafterwards waited for him a long time, but that he did not return.
"This account rather alarmed us, and we continued to search for himuntil night fell, when Elizabeth conjectured that he might have returnedto the house. He was not there. We returned again, with torches; for Icould not rest, when I thought that my sweet boy had lost himself, andwas exposed to all the damps and dews of night; Elizabeth also sufferedextreme 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 murderer'sfinger was on his neck.
"He was conveyed home, and the anguish that was visible in mycountenance betrayed the secret to Elizabeth. She was very earnest tosee the corpse. At first I attempted to prevent her; but she persisted,and entering the room where it lay, hastily examined the neck of thevictim, and clasping her hands exclaimed, 'O God! I have murdered mydarling child!'
"She fainted, and was restored with extreme difficulty. When she againlived, it was only to weep and sigh. She told me, that that same eveningWilliam had teased her to let him wear a very valuable miniature thatshe possessed of your mother. This picture is gone, and was doubtlessthe temptation which urged the murderer to the deed. We have no traceof him at present, although our exertions to discover him areunremitted; but they will not restore my beloved William!
"Come, dearest Victor; you alone can console Elizabeth. She weepscontinually, and accuses herself unjustly as the cause of his death; herwords pierce my heart. We are all unhappy; but will not that be anadditional motive for you, my son, to return and be our comforter? Yourdear mother! Alas, Victor! I now say, Thank God she did not live towitness 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 offestering, the wounds of our minds. Enter the house of mourning, myfriend, but with kindness and affection for those who love you, and notwith hatred for your enemies.
"Your affectionate and afflicted father,
"Geneva, May 12th, 17—."
Clerval, who had watched my countenance as I read this letter, wassurprised to observe the despair that succeeded to the joy I at firstexpressed on receiving news from my friends. I threw the letter on thetable, and covered my face with my hands.
"My dear Frankenstein," exclaimed Henry, when he perceived me weep withbitterness, "are you always to be unhappy? My dear friend, what hashappened?"
I motioned to him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down theroom in the extremest agitation. Tears also gushed from the eyes ofClerval, as he read the account of my misfortune.
"I can offer you no consolation, my friend," said he; "your disaster isirreparable. 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 heart-felt sympathy. "Poor William!" said he,"dear lovely child, he now sleeps with his angel mother! Who that hadseen him bright and joyous in his young beauty, but must weep over hisuntimely loss! To die so miserably; to feel the murderer's grasp! Howmuch more a murderer, that could destroy such radiant innocence! Poorlittle 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 forever. A sod covers his gentle form, and he knows no pain. He can nolonger be a subject for pity; we must reserve that for his miserablesurvivors."
Clerval spoke thus as we hurried through the streets; the wordsimpressed themselves on my mind, and I remembered them afterwards insolitude. But now, as soon as the horses arrived, I hurried into acabriolet, and bade farewell to my friend.
My journey was very melancholy. At first I wished to hurry on, for Ilonged to console and sympathise with my loved and sorrowing friends;but when I drew near my native town, I slackened my progress. I couldhardly sustain the multitude of feelings that crowded into my mind. Ipassed through scenes familiar to my youth, but which I had not seen fornearly six years. How altered every thing might be during that time! Onesudden and desolating change had taken place; but a thousand littlecircumstances 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 not advance, dreading a thousand namelessevils that made me tremble, although I was unable to define them.
I remained two days at Lausanne, in this painful state of mind. Icontemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around was calm; andthe snowy mountains, "the palaces of nature," were not changed. Bydegrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued myjourney towards Geneva.
The road ran by the side of the lake, which became narrower as Iapproached my native town. I discovered more distinctly the black sidesof Jura, and the bright summit of Mont Blanc. I wept like a child."Dear mountains! my own beautiful lake! how do you welcome yourwanderer? 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 onthese preliminary circumstances; but they were days of comparativehappiness, and I think of them with pleasure. My country, my belovedcountry! who but a native can tell the delight I took in again beholdingthy streams, thy mountains, and, more than all, thy lovely lake!
Yet, as I drew nearer home, grief and fear again overcame me. Night alsoclosed around; and when I could hardly see the dark mountains, I feltstill more gloomily. The picture appeared a vast and dim scene of evil,and I foresaw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretchedof human beings. Alas! I prophesied truly, and failed only in one singlecircumstance, that in all the misery I imagined and dreaded, I did notconceive the hundredth part of the anguish I was destined to endure.
It was completely dark when I arrived in the environs of Geneva; thegates of the town were already shut; and I was obliged to pass the nightat 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 visitthe spot where my poor William had been murdered. As I could not passthrough the town, I was obliged to cross the lake in a boat to arrive atPlainpalais. During this short voyage I saw the lightnings playing onthe summit of Mont Blanc in the most beautiful figures. The stormappeared to approach rapidly; and, on landing, I ascended a low hill,that I might observe its progress. It advanced; the heavens wereclouded, and I soon felt the rain coming slowly in large drops, but itsviolence quickly increased.
I quitted my seat, and walked on, although the darkness and stormincreased every minute, and the thunder burst with a terrific crash overmy head. It was echoed from Salêve, 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 everything seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the eye recovered itself fromthe preceding flash. The storm, as is often the case in Switzerland,appeared at once in various parts of the heavens. The most violent stormhung exactly north of the town, over that part of the lake which liesbetween the promontory of Belrive and the village of Copêt. Anotherstorm enlightened Jura with faint flashes; and another darkened andsometimes disclosed the Môle, a peaked mountain to the east of the lake.
While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered onwith a hasty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; Iclasped my hands, and exclaimed aloud, "William, dear angel! this is thyfuneral, this thy dirge!" As I said these words, I perceived in thegloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me; I stoodfixed, gazing intently: I could not be mistaken. A flash of lightningilluminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; itsgigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous thanbelongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, thefilthy dæmon, to whom I had given life. What did he there? Could he be(I shuddered at the conception) the murderer of my brother? No soonerdid that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of itstruth; my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree forsupport. The figure passed me quickly, and I lost it in the gloom.Nothing in human shape could have destroyed that fair child. He wasthe murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was anirresistible proof of the fact. I thought of pursuing the devil; but itwould have been in vain, for another flash discovered him to me hangingamong the rocks of the nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont Salêve, ahill 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 inmy mind the events which I had until now sought to forget: the wholetrain of my progress towards the creation; the appearance of the work ofmy own hands alive at my bedside; its departure. Two years had nownearly elapsed since the night on which he first received life; and wasthis his first crime? Alas! I had turned loose into the world a depravedwretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery; had he not murdered mybrother?
No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder of thenight, which I spent, cold and wet, in the open air. But I did not feelthe inconvenience of the weather; my imagination was busy in scenes ofevil and despair. I considered the being whom I had cast among mankind,and endowed with the will and power to effect purposes of horror, suchas the deed which he had now done, nearly in the light of my ownvampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave, and forced to destroyall that was dear to me.
Day dawned; and I directed my steps towards the town. The gates wereopen, and I hastened to my father's house. My first thought was todiscover what I knew of the murderer, and cause instant pursuit to bemade. But I paused when I reflected on the story that I had to tell. Abeing whom I myself had formed, and endued with life, had met me atmidnight among the precipices of an inaccessible mountain. I rememberedalso the nervous fever with which I had been seized just at the timethat I dated my creation, and which would give an air of delirium to atale otherwise so utterly improbable. I well knew that if any other hadcommunicated such a relation to me, I should have looked upon it as theravings of insanity. Besides, the strange nature of the animal wouldelude all pursuit, even if I were so far credited as to persuade myrelatives to commence it. And then of what use would be pursuit? Whocould arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of MontSalêve? These reflections determined me, and I resolved to remainsilent.
It was about five in the morning when I entered my father's house. Itold the servants not to disturb the family, and went into the libraryto attend their usual hour of rising.
Six years had elapsed, passed as a dream but for one indelible trace,and I stood in the same place where I had last embraced my father beforemy departure for Ingolstadt. Beloved and venerable parent! He stillremained to me. I gazed on the picture of my mother, which stood overthe mantel-piece. It was an historical subject, painted at my father'sdesire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in an agony of despair,kneeling by the coffin of her dead father. Her garb was rustic, and hercheek pale; but there was an air of dignity and beauty, that hardlypermitted the sentiment of pity. Below this picture was a miniature ofWilliam; and my tears flowed when I looked upon it. While I was thusengaged, Ernest entered: he had heard me arrive, and hastened to welcomeme. He expressed a sorrowful delight to see me: "Welcome, my dearestVictor," said he. "Ah! I wish you had come three months ago, and thenyou would have found us all joyous and delighted. You come to us now toshare a misery which nothing can alleviate; yet your presence will, Ihope, revive our father, who seems sinking under his misfortune; andyour persuasions will induce poor Elizabeth to cease her vain andtormenting self-accusations.—Poor William! he was our darling and ourpride!"
Tears, unrestrained, fell from my brother's eyes; a sense of mortalagony crept over my frame. Before, I had only imagined the wretchednessof my desolated home; the reality came on me as a new, and a not lessterrible, disaster. I tried to calm Ernest; I enquired more minutelyconcerning my father, and her I named my cousin.
"She most of all," said Ernest, "requires consolation; she accusedherself of having caused the death of my brother, and that made her verywretched. But since the murderer has been discovered—"
"The murderer discovered! Good God! how can that be? who could attemptto pursue him? It is impossible; one might as well try to overtake thewinds, or confine a mountain-stream with a straw. I saw him too; he wasfree 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 wouldbelieve it at first; and even now Elizabeth will not be convinced,notwithstanding all the evidence. Indeed, who would credit that JustineMoritz, who was so amiable, and fond of all the family, could suddenlybecome capable of so frightful, so appalling a crime?"
"Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it iswrongfully; every one knows that; no one believes it, surely, Ernest?"
"No one did at first; but several circumstances came out, that havealmost forced conviction upon us; and her own behaviour has been soconfused, as to add to the evidence of facts a weight that, I fear,leaves no hope for doubt. But she will be tried to-day, and you willthen hear all."
He related that, the morning on which the murder of poor William hadbeen discovered, Justine had been taken ill, and confined to her bed forseveral days. During this interval, one of the servants, happening toexamine the apparel she had worn on the night of the murder, haddiscovered in her pocket the picture of my mother, which had been judgedto be the temptation of the murderer. The servant instantly showed it toone of the others, who, without saying a word to any of the family, wentto a magistrate; and, upon their deposition, Justine was apprehended. Onbeing charged with the fact, the poor girl confirmed the suspicion in agreat measure by her extreme confusion of manner.
This was a strange tale, but it did not shake my faith; and I repliedearnestly, "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 onhis countenance, but he endeavoured to welcome me cheerfully; and, afterwe had exchanged our mournful greeting, would have introduced some othertopic 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 ratherhave been for ever ignorant than have discovered so much depravity andingratitude 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 betried to-day, and I hope, I sincerely hope, that she will be acquitted."
This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind thatJustine, and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder. Ihad no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could bebrought forward strong enough to convict her. My tale was not one toannounce publicly; its astounding horror would be looked upon as madnessby the vulgar. Did any one indeed exist, except I, the creator, whowould believe, unless his senses convinced him, in the existence of theliving monument of presumption and rash ignorance which I had let looseupon the world?
We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had altered her since I lastbeheld her; it had endowed her with loveliness surpassing the beauty ofher childish years. There was the same candour, the same vivacity, butit was allied to an expression more full of sensibility and intellect.She welcomed me with the greatest affection. "Your arrival, my dearcousin," said she, "fills me with hope. You perhaps will find some meansto justify my poor guiltless Justine. Alas! who is safe, if she beconvicted of crime? I rely on her innocence as certainly as I do upon myown. Our misfortune is doubly hard to us; we have not only lost thatlovely darling boy, but this poor girl, whom I sincerely love, is to betorn away by even a worse fate. If she is condemned, I never shall knowjoy more. But she will not, I am sure she will not; and then I shall behappy again, even after the sad death of my little William."
"She is innocent, my Elizabeth," said I, "and that shall be proved; fearnothing, but let your spirits be cheered by the assurance of heracquittal."
"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 seeevery one else prejudiced in so deadly a manner rendered me hopeless anddespairing." She wept.
"Dearest niece," said my father, "dry your tears. If she is, as youbelieve, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws, and the activitywith which I shall prevent the slightest shadow of partiality."
We passed a few sad hours, until eleven o'clock, when the trial was tocommence. My father and the rest of the family being obliged to attendas witnesses, I accompanied them to the court. During the whole of thiswretched mockery of justice I suffered living torture. It was to bedecided, whether the result of my curiosity and lawless devices wouldcause the death of two of my fellow-beings: one a smiling babe, full ofinnocence and joy; the other far more dreadfully murdered, with everyaggravation of infamy that could make the murder memorable in horror.Justine also was a girl of merit, and possessed qualities which promisedto render her life happy: now all was to be obliterated in anignominious grave; and I the cause! A thousand times rather would I haveconfessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine; but I wasabsent when it was committed, and such a declaration would have beenconsidered as the ravings of a madman, and would not have exculpated herwho suffered through me.
The appearance of Justine was calm. She was dressed in mourning; and hercountenance, always engaging, was rendered, by the solemnity of herfeelings, exquisitely beautiful. Yet she appeared confident ininnocence, and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated bythousands; for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise haveexcited, was obliterated in the minds of the spectators by theimagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed. She wastranquil, yet her tranquillity was evidently constrained; and as herconfusion had before been adduced as a proof of her guilt, she worked upher mind to an appearance of courage. When she entered the court, shethrew her eyes round it, and quickly discovered where we were seated. Atear seemed to dim her eye when she saw us; but she quickly recoveredherself, and a look of sorrowful affection seemed to attest her utterguiltlessness.
The trial began; and, after the advocate against her had stated thecharge, several witnesses were called. Several strange facts combinedagainst her, which might have staggered any one who had not such proofof her innocence as I had. She had been out the whole of the night onwhich the murder had been committed, and towards morning had beenperceived by a market-woman not far from the spot where the body of themurdered child had been afterwards found. The woman asked her what shedid there; but she looked very strangely, and only returned a confusedand unintelligible answer. She returned to the house about eighto'clock; and, when one enquired where she had passed the night, shereplied that she had been looking for the child, and demanded earnestlyif any thing had been heard concerning him. When shown the body, shefell into violent hysterics, and kept her bed for several days. Thepicture was then produced, which the servant had found in her pocket;and when Elizabeth, in a faltering voice, proved that it was the samewhich, an hour before the child had been missed, she had placed roundhis neck, a murmur of horror and indignation filled the court.
Justine was called on for her defence. As the trial had proceeded, hercountenance had altered. Surprise, horror, and misery were stronglyexpressed. Sometimes she struggled with her tears; but, when she wasdesired 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 pretendthat my protestations should acquit me: I rest my innocence on a plainand 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 afavourable interpretation, where any circumstance appears doubtful orsuspicious."
She then related that, by the permission of Elizabeth, she had passedthe evening of the night on which the murder had been committed at thehouse of an aunt at Chêne, a village situated at about a league fromGeneva. On her return, at about nine o'clock, she met a man, who askedher if she had seen any thing of the child who was lost. She was alarmedby this account, and passed several hours in looking for him, when thegates of Geneva were shut, and she was forced to remain several hours ofthe night in a barn belonging to a cottage, being unwilling to call upthe inhabitants, to whom she was well known. Most of the night she spenthere watching; towards morning she believed that she slept for a fewminutes; some steps disturbed her, and she awoke. It was dawn, and shequitted 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 herknowledge. That she had been bewildered when questioned by themarket-woman was not surprising, since she had passed a sleepless night,and the fate of poor William was yet uncertain. Concerning the pictureshe could give no account.
"I know," continued the unhappy victim, "how heavily and fatally thisone circumstance weighs against me, but I have no power of explainingit; and when I have expressed my utter ignorance, I am only left toconjecture concerning the probabilities by which it might have beenplaced in my pocket. But here also I am checked. I believe that I haveno enemy on earth, and none surely would have been so wicked as todestroy me wantonly. Did the murderer place it there? I know of noopportunity afforded him for so doing; or, if I had, why should he havestolen the jewel, to part with it again so soon?
"I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see no room forhope. I beg permission to have a few witnesses examined concerning mycharacter; and if their testimony shall not overweigh my supposed guilt,I must be condemned, although I would pledge my salvation on myinnocence."
Several witnesses were called, who had known her for many years, andthey spoke well of her; but fear, and hatred of the crime of which theysupposed her guilty, rendered them timorous, and unwilling to comeforward. Elizabeth saw even this last resource, her excellentdispositions and irreproachable conduct, about to fail the accused,when, although violently agitated, she desired permission to address thecourt.
"I am," said she, "the cousin of the unhappy child who was murdered, orrather his sister, for I was educated by, and have lived with hisparents ever since and even long before, his birth. It may therefore bejudged indecent in me to come forward on this occasion; but when I see afellow-creature about to perish through the cowardice of her pretendedfriends, I wish to be allowed to speak, that I may say what I know ofher character. I am well acquainted with the accused. I have lived inthe same house with her, at one time for five, and at another for nearlytwo years. During all that period she appeared to me the most amiableand benevolent of human creatures. She nursed Madame Frankenstein, myaunt, in her last illness, with the greatest affection and care; andafterwards attended her own mother during a tedious illness, in a mannerthat excited the admiration of all who knew her; after which she againlived in my uncle's house, where she was beloved by all the family. Shewas warmly attached to the child who is now dead, and acted towards himlike a most affectionate mother. For my own part, I do not hesitate tosay, that, notwithstanding all the evidence produced against her, Ibelieve and rely on her perfect innocence. She had no temptation forsuch an action: as to the bauble on which the chief proof rests, if shehad earnestly desired it, I should have willingly given it to her; somuch 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 ofpoor Justine, on whom the public indignation was turned with renewedviolence, charging her with the blackest ingratitude. She herself weptas Elizabeth spoke, but she did not answer. My own agitation and anguishwas extreme during the whole trial. I believed in her innocence; I knewit. Could the dæmon, who had (I did not for a minute doubt) murdered mybrother, also in his hellish sport have betrayed the innocent to deathand ignominy? I could not sustain the horror of my situation; and when Iperceived that the popular voice, and the countenances of the judges,had already condemned my unhappy victim, I rushed out of the court inagony. The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was sustainedby innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom, and would notforego their hold.
I passed a night of unmingled wretchedness. In the morning I went to thecourt; my lips and throat were parched. I dared not ask the fatalquestion; but I was known, and the officer guessed the cause of myvisit. The ballots had been thrown; they were all black, and Justine wascondemned.
I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt. I had before experiencedsensations of horror; and I have endeavoured to bestow upon themadequate expressions, but words cannot convey an idea of theheart-sickening despair that I then endured. The person to whom Iaddressed 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 acriminal upon circumstantial evidence, be it ever so decisive."
This was strange and unexpected intelligence; what could it mean? Had myeyes deceived me? and was I really as mad as the whole world wouldbelieve me to be, if I disclosed the object of my suspicions? I hastenedto return home, and Elizabeth eagerly demanded the result.
"My cousin," replied I, "it is decided as you may have expected; alljudges had rather that ten innocent should suffer, than that one guiltyshould escape. But she has confessed."
This was a dire blow to poor Elizabeth, who had relied with firmnessupon Justine's innocence. "Alas!" said she, "how shall I ever againbelieve in human goodness? Justine, whom I loved and esteemed as mysister, 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 hascommitted a murder."
Soon after we heard that the poor victim had expressed a desire to seemy cousin. My father wished her not to go; but said, that he left it toher own judgment and feelings to decide. "Yes," said Elizabeth, "I willgo, although she is guilty; and you, Victor, shall accompany me: Icannot go alone." The idea of this visit was torture to me, yet I couldnot refuse.
We entered the gloomy prison-chamber, and beheld Justine sitting on somestraw at the farther end; her hands were manacled, and her head restedon her knees. She rose on seeing us enter; and when we were left alonewith 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? Irelied on your innocence; and although I was then very wretched, I wasnot so miserable as I am now."
"And do you also believe that I am so very, very wicked? Do you alsojoin with my enemies to crush me, to condemn me as a murderer?" Hervoice was suffocated with sobs.
"Rise, my poor girl," said Elizabeth, "why do you kneel, if you areinnocent? I am not one of your enemies; I believed you guiltless,notwithstanding every evidence, until I heard that you had yourselfdeclared 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 obtainabsolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all myother sins. The God of heaven forgive me! Ever since I was condemned, myconfessor has besieged me; he threatened and menaced, until I almostbegan to think that I was the monster that he said I was. He threatenedexcommunication and hell fire in my last moments, if I continuedobdurate. Dear lady, I had none to support me; all looked on me as awretch doomed to ignominy and perdition. What could I do? In an evilhour I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable."
She paused, weeping, and then continued—"I thought with horror, mysweet lady, that you should believe your Justine, whom your blessed aunthad so highly honoured, and whom you loved, was a creature capable of acrime which none but the devil himself could have perpetrated. DearWilliam! 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 tosuffer ignominy and death."
"Oh, Justine! forgive me for having for one moment distrusted you. Whydid you confess? But do not mourn, dear girl. Do not fear. I willproclaim, I will prove your innocence. I will melt the stony hearts ofyour enemies by my tears and prayers. You shall not die!—You, myplay-fellow, my companion, my sister, perish on the scaffold! No! no! Inever could survive so horrible a misfortune."
Justine shook her head mournfully. "I do now not fear to die," she said;"that pang is past. God raises my weakness, and gives me courage toendure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you rememberme, and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to thefate awaiting me. Learn from me, dear lady, to submit in patience to thewill 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! Whodared talk of that? The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass theawful boundary between life and death, felt not as I did, such deep andbitter agony. I gnashed my teeth, and ground them together, uttering agroan that came from my inmost soul. Justine started. When she saw whoit was, she approached me, and said, "Dear sir, you are very kind tovisit me; you, I hope, do not believe that I am guilty?"
I could not answer. "No, Justine," said Elizabeth; "he is more convincedof your innocence than I was; for even when he heard that you hadconfessed, he did not credit it."
"I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerest gratitudetowards those who think of me with kindness. How sweet is the affectionof others to such a wretch as I am! It removes more than half mymisfortune; and I feel as if I could die in peace, now that my innocenceis acknowledged by you, dear lady, and your cousin."
Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself. She indeedgained the resignation she desired. But I, the true murderer, felt thenever-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope orconsolation. Elizabeth also wept, and was unhappy; but her's also wasthe misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fairmoon, for a while hides but cannot tarnish its brightness. Anguish anddespair had penetrated into the core of my heart; I bore a hell withinme, which nothing could extinguish. We stayed several hours withJustine; and it was with great difficulty that Elizabeth could tearherself away. "I wish," cried she, "that I were to die with you; Icannot live in this world of misery."
Justine assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficultyrepressed her bitter tears. She embraced Elizabeth, and said, in a voiceof half-suppressed emotion, "Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, mybeloved and only friend; may Heaven, in its bounty, bless and preserveyou; 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 eloquencefailed to move the judges from their settled conviction in thecriminality of the saintly sufferer. My passionate and indignant appealswere lost upon them. And when I received their cold answers, and heardthe harsh unfeeling reasoning of these men, my purposed avowal died awayon my lips. Thus I might proclaim myself a madman, but not revoke thesentence passed upon my wretched victim. She perished on the scaffold asa murderess!
From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep andvoiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing! And my father'swoe, and the desolation of that late so smiling home—all was the workof my thrice-accursed hands! Ye weep, unhappy ones; but these are notyour last tears! Again shall you raise the funeral wail, and the soundof your lamentations shall again and again be heard! Frankenstein, yourson, your kinsman, your early, much-loved friend; he who would spendeach vital drop of blood for your sakes—who has no thought nor sense ofjoy, except as it is mirrored also in your dear countenances—who wouldfill the air with blessings, and spend his life in serving you—he bidsyou weep—to shed countless tears; happy beyond his hopes, if thusinexorable fate be satisfied, and if the destruction pause before thepeace 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 andJustine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts.
Nothing is more painful to the human mind, than, after the feelings havebeen worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness ofinaction and certainty which follows, and deprives the soul both of hopeand fear. Justine died; she rested; and I was alive. The blood flowedfreely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on myheart, which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wanderedlike an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyonddescription horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself), was yetbehind. Yet my heart overflowed with kindness, and the love of virtue. Ihad begun life with benevolent intentions, and thirsted for the momentwhen I should put them in practice, and make myself useful to myfellow-beings. Now all was blasted: instead of that serenity ofconscience, which allowed me to look back upon the past withself-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new hopes, I wasseized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to ahell of intense tortures, such as no language can describe.
This state of mind preyed upon my health, which had perhaps neverentirely recovered from the first shock it had sustained. I shunned theface of man; all sound of joy or complacency was torture to me; solitudewas my only consolation—deep, dark, deathlike solitude.
My father observed with pain the alteration perceptible in mydisposition and habits, and endeavoured by arguments deduced from thefeelings of his serene conscience and guiltless life, to inspire me withfortitude, and awaken in me the courage to dispel the dark cloud whichbrooded over me. "Do you think, Victor," said he, "that I do not sufferalso? No one could love a child more than I loved your brother;" (tearscame into his eyes as he spoke;) "but is it not a duty to the survivors,that we should refrain from augmenting their unhappiness by anappearance of immoderate grief? It is also a duty owed to yourself; forexcessive sorrow prevents improvement or enjoyment, or even thedischarge of daily usefulness, without which no man is fit for society."
This advice, although good, was totally inapplicable to my case; Ishould have been the first to hide my grief, and console my friends, ifremorse had not mingled its bitterness, and terror its alarm with myother sensations. Now I could only answer my father with a look ofdespair, and endeavour to hide myself from his view.
About this time we retired to our house at Belrive. This change wasparticularly agreeable to me. The shutting of the gates regularly at teno'clock, and the impossibility of remaining on the lake after that hour,had rendered our residence within the walls of Geneva very irksome tome. I was now free. Often, after the rest of the family had retired forthe 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 itsown course, and gave way to my own miserable reflections. I was oftentempted, when all was at peace around me, and I the only unquiet thingthat wandered restless in a scene so beautiful and heavenly—if I exceptsome bat, or the frogs, whose harsh and interrupted croaking was heardonly when I approached the shore—often, I say, I was tempted to plungeinto the silent lake, that the waters might close over me and mycalamities for ever. But I was restrained, when I thought of the heroicand suffering Elizabeth, whom I tenderly loved, and whose existence wasbound up in mine. I thought also of my father, and surviving brother:should I by my base desertion leave them exposed and unprotected to themalice of the fiend whom I had let loose among them?
At these moments I wept bitterly, and wished that peace would revisit mymind only that I might afford them consolation and happiness. But thatcould not be. Remorse extinguished every hope. I had been the author ofunalterable evils; and I lived in daily fear, lest the monster whom Ihad created should perpetrate some new wickedness. I had an obscurefeeling that all was not over, and that he would still commit somesignal crime, which by its enormity should almost efface therecollection of the past. There was always scope for fear, so long asany thing I loved remained behind. My abhorrence of this fiend cannot beconceived. When I thought of him, I gnashed my teeth, my eyes becameinflamed, and I ardently wished to extinguish that life which I had sothoughtlessly bestowed. When I reflected on his crimes and malice, myhatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation. I would have made apilgrimage to the highest peak of the Andes, could I, when there, haveprecipitated him to their base. I wished to see him again, that I mightwreak the utmost extent of abhorrence on his head, and avenge the deathsof William and Justine.
Our house was the house of mourning. My father's health was deeplyshaken by the horror of the recent events. Elizabeth was sad anddesponding; she no longer took delight in her ordinary occupations; allpleasure seemed to her sacrilege toward the dead; eternal woe and tearsshe then thought was the just tribute she should pay to innocence soblasted and destroyed. She was no longer that happy creature, who inearlier youth wandered with me on the banks of the lake, and talked withecstasy of our future prospects. The first of those sorrows which aresent to wean us from the earth, had visited her, and its dimminginfluence quenched her dearest smiles.
"When I reflect, my dear cousin," said she, "on the miserable death ofJustine Moritz, I no longer see the world and its works as they beforeappeared to me. Before, I looked upon the accounts of vice andinjustice, that I read in books or heard from others, as tales ofancient days, or imaginary evils; at least they were remote, and morefamiliar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery has comehome, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood.Yet I am certainly unjust. Every body believed that poor girl to beguilty; and if she could have committed the crime for which shesuffered, assuredly she would have been the most depraved of humancreatures. For the sake of a few jewels, to have murdered the son of herbenefactor and friend, a child whom she had nursed from its birth, andappeared to love as if it had been her own! I could not consent to thedeath of any human being; but certainly I should have thought such acreature unfit to remain in the society of men. But she was innocent. Iknow, I feel she was innocent; you are of the same opinion, and thatconfirms me. Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the truth,who can assure themselves of certain happiness? I feel as if I werewalking on the edge of a precipice, towards which thousands arecrowding, and endeavouring to plunge me into the abyss. William andJustine were assassinated, and the murderer escapes; he walks about theworld free, and perhaps respected. But even if I were condemned tosuffer on the scaffold for the same crimes, I would not change placeswith such a wretch."
I listened to this discourse with the extremest agony. I, not in deed,but in effect, was the true murderer. Elizabeth read my anguish in mycountenance, and kindly taking my hand, said, "My dearest friend, youmust 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 aroundyou, who centre all their hopes in you. Have we lost the power ofrendering 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 reapevery tranquil blessing,—what can disturb our peace?"
And could not such words from her whom I fondly prized before everyother gift of fortune, suffice to chase away the fiend that lurked in myheart? Even as she spoke I drew near to her, as if in terror; lest atthat very moment the destroyer had been near to rob me of her.
Thus not the tenderness of friendship, nor the beauty of earth, nor ofheaven, could redeem my soul from woe: the very accents of love wereineffectual. I was encompassed by a cloud which no beneficial influencecould penetrate. The wounded deer dragging its fainting limbs to someuntrodden brake, there to gaze upon the arrow which had pierced it, andto die—was but a type of me.
Sometimes I could cope with the sullen despair that overwhelmed me: butsometimes the whirlwind passions of my soul drove me to seek, by bodilyexercise and by change of place, some relief from my intolerablesensations. It was during an access of this kind that I suddenly left myhome, and bending my steps towards the near Alpine valleys, sought inthe magnificence, the eternity of such scenes, to forget myself and myephemeral, because human, sorrows. My wanderings were directed towardsthe valley of Chamounix. I had visited it frequently during my boyhood.Six years had passed since then: I was a wreck—but nought had changedin those savage and enduring scenes.
I performed the first part of my journey on horseback. I afterwardshired a mule, as the more sure-footed, and least liable to receiveinjury on these rugged roads. The weather was fine: it was about themiddle of the month of August, nearly two months after the death ofJustine; that miserable epoch from which I dated all my woe. The weightupon my spirit was sensibly lightened as I plunged yet deeper in theravine of Arve. The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me onevery side—the sound of the river raging among the rocks, and thedashing of the waterfalls around, spoke of a power mighty asOmnipotence—and I ceased to fear, or to bend before any being lessalmighty than that which had created and ruled the elements, heredisplayed in their most terrific guise. Still, as I ascended higher, thevalley assumed a more magnificent and astonishing character. Ruinedcastles hanging on the precipices of piny mountains; the impetuousArve, and cottages every here and there peeping forth from among thetrees, formed a scene of singular beauty. But it was augmented andrendered sublime by the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramidsand domes towered above all, as belonging to another earth, thehabitations of another race of beings.
I passed the bridge of Pélissier, where the ravine, which the riverforms, opened before me, and I began to ascend the mountain thatoverhangs it. Soon after I entered the valley of Chamounix. This valleyis more wonderful and sublime, but not so beautiful and picturesque, asthat of Servox, through which I had just passed. The high and snowymountains were its immediate boundaries; but I saw no more ruinedcastles and fertile fields. Immense glaciers approached the road; Iheard the rumbling thunder of the falling avalanche, and marked thesmoke of its passage. Mont Blanc, the supreme and magnificent MontBlanc, raised itself from the surrounding aiguilles, and itstremendous dôme overlooked the valley.
A tingling long-lost sense of pleasure often came across me during thisjourney. Some turn in the road, some new object suddenly perceived andrecognised, reminded me of days gone by, and were associated with thelight-hearted gaiety of boyhood. The very winds whispered in soothingaccents, and maternal nature bade me weep no more. Then again the kindlyinfluence ceased to act—I found myself fettered again to grief, andindulging 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 onthe grass, weighed down by horror and despair.
At length I arrived at the village of Chamounix. Exhaustion succeeded tothe extreme fatigue both of body and of mind which I had endured. For ashort space of time I remained at the window, watching the pallidlightnings that played above Mont Blanc, and listening to the rushing ofthe Arve, which pursued its noisy way beneath. The same lulling soundsacted as a lullaby to my too keen sensations: when I placed my head uponmy pillow, sleep crept over me; I felt it as it came, and blest thegiver of oblivion.
I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood beside thesources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that withslow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills, to barricadethe valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icywall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scatteredaround; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber ofimperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or the fall ofsome vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking,reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, throughthe 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 andmagnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I wascapable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling;and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued andtranquillised it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind from thethoughts over which it had brooded for the last month. I retired to restat night; my slumbers, as it were, waited on and ministered to by theassemblance of grand shapes which I had contemplated during the day.They congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountain-top, theglittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle,soaring amidst the clouds—they all gathered round me, and bade me be atpeace.
Where had they fled when the next morning I awoke? All ofsoul-inspiriting fled with sleep, and dark melancholy clouded everythought. The rain was pouring in torrents, and thick mists hid thesummits of the mountains, so that I even saw not the faces of thosemighty friends. Still I would penetrate their misty veil, and seek themin their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me? My mule wasbrought to the door, and I resolved to ascend to the summit ofMontanvert. I remembered the effect that the view of the tremendous andever-moving glacier had produced upon my mind when I first saw it. Ithad 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. Thesight of the awful and majestic in nature had indeed always the effectof solemnising my mind, and causing me to forget the passing cares oflife. I determined to go without a guide, for I was well acquainted withthe path, and the presence of another would destroy the solitarygrandeur of the scene.
The ascent is precipitous, but the path is cut into continual and shortwindings, which enable you to surmount the perpendicularity of themountain. It is a scene terrifically desolate. In a thousand spots thetraces of the winter avalanche may be perceived, where trees lie brokenand strewed on the ground; some entirely destroyed, others bent, leaningupon the jutting rocks of the mountain, or transversely upon othertrees. The path, as you ascend higher, is intersected by ravines ofsnow, down which stones continually roll from above; one of them isparticularly dangerous, as the slightest sound, such as even speaking ina loud voice, produces a concussion of air sufficient to drawdestruction upon the head of the speaker. The pines are not tall orluxuriant, 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 riverswhich ran through it, and curling in thick wreaths around the oppositemountains, whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while rainpoured from the dark sky, and added to the melancholy impression Ireceived from the objects around me. Alas! why does man boast ofsensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only rendersthem more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger,thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved byevery wind that blows, and a chance word or scene that that word mayconvey 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 sometime I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist coveredboth that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipatedthe cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very uneven,rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, andinterspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost aleague in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. Theopposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where Inow stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league;and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recessof the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, orrather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whoseaerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaksshone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was beforesorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed—"Wanderingspirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allowme this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from thejoys 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 crevicesin the ice, among which I had walked with caution; his stature, also, ashe approached, seemed to exceed that of man. I was troubled: a mist cameover my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me; but I was quicklyrestored by the cold gale of the mountains. I perceived, as the shapecame nearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!) that it was the wretchwhom I had created. I trembled with rage and horror, resolving to waithis approach, and then close with him in mortal combat. He approached;his countenance bespoke bitter anguish, combined with disdain andmalignity, while its unearthly ugliness rendered it almost too horriblefor human eyes. But I scarcely observed this; rage and hatred had atfirst deprived me of utterance, and I recovered only to overwhelm himwith words expressive of furious detestation and contempt.
"Devil," I exclaimed, "do you dare approach me? and do not you fear thefierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head? Begone, vileinsect! or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust! and, oh! that Icould, with the extinction of your miserable existence, restore thosevictims whom you have so diabolically murdered!"
"I expected this reception," said the dæmon. "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 artbound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. Youpurpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your dutytowards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. Ifyou 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 satiatedwith the blood of your remaining friends."
"Abhorred monster! fiend that thou art! the tortures of hell are toomild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! you reproach me withyour creation; come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I sonegligently bestowed."
My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all thefeelings 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 hatredon my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek toincrease my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation ofanguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast mademe more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine; my jointsmore supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition tothee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to mynatural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, the whichthou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, andtrample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency andaffection, is most due. Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to bethy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joyfor no misdeed. Every where I see bliss, from which I alone amirrevocably 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 andme; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, inwhich one must fall."
"How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourableeye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion? Believeme, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love andhumanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhorme; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe menothing? They spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and drearyglaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves ofice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only onewhich man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they are kinderto me than your fellow-beings. If the multitude of mankind knew of myexistence, they would do as you do, and arm themselves for mydestruction. Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep noterms with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share mywretchedness. Yet it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver themfrom an evil which it only remains for you to make so great, that notonly you and your family, but thousands of others, shall be swallowed upin the whirlwinds of its rage. Let your compassion be moved, and do notdisdain me. Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon orcommiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. Theguilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in theirown defence before they are condemned. Listen to me, Frankenstein. Youaccuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience,destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man! Yet Iask you not to spare me: listen to me; and then, if you can, and if youwill, destroy the work of your hands."
"Why do you call to my remembrance," I rejoined, "circumstances, ofwhich I shudder to reflect, that I have been the miserable origin andauthor? Cursed be the day, abhorred devil, in which you first saw light!Cursed (although I curse myself) be the hands that formed you! You havemade me wretched beyond expression. You have left me no power toconsider whether I am just to you, or not. Begone! relieve me from thesight of your detested form."
"Thus I relieve thee, my creator," he said, and placed his hated handsbefore my eyes, which I flung from me with violence; "thus I take fromthee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me, and grantme thy compassion. By the virtues that I once possessed, I demand thisfrom you. Hear my tale; it is long and strange, and the temperature ofthis place is not fitting to your fine sensations; come to the hut uponthe mountain. The sun is yet high in the heavens; before it descends tohide itself behind yon snowy precipices, and illuminate another world,you will have heard my story, and can decide. On you it rests, whether Iquit for ever the neighbourhood of man, and lead a harmless life, orbecome the scourge of your fellow-creatures, and the author of your ownspeedy ruin."
As he said this, he led the way across the ice: I followed. My heart wasfull, and I did not answer him; but, as I proceeded, I weighed thevarious arguments that he had used, and determined at least to listen tohis tale. I was partly urged by curiosity, and compassion confirmed myresolution. I had hitherto supposed him to be the murderer of mybrother, and I eagerly sought a confirmation or denial of this opinion.For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towardshis creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before Icomplained of his wickedness. These motives urged me to comply with hisdemand. We crossed the ice, therefore, and ascended the opposite rock.The air was cold, and the rain again began to descend: we entered thehut, the fiend with an air of exultation, I with a heavy heart, anddepressed spirits. But I consented to listen; and, seating myself by thefire which my odious companion had lighted, he thus began his tale.
"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era ofmy 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 Ilearned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses. Bydegrees, I remember, a stronger light pressed upon my nerves, so that Iwas obliged to shut my eyes. Darkness then came over me, and troubledme; but hardly had I felt this, when, by opening my eyes, as I nowsuppose, 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 touchor sight; but I now found that I could wander on at liberty, with noobstacles which I could not either surmount or avoid. The light becamemore and more oppressive to me; and, the heat wearying me as I walked, Isought a place where I could receive shade. This was the forest nearIngolstadt; and here I lay by the side of a brook resting from myfatigue, until I felt tormented by hunger and thirst. This roused mefrom my nearly dormant state, and I ate some berries which I foundhanging on the trees, or lying on the ground. I slaked my thirst at thebrook; and then lying down, was overcome by sleep.
"It was dark when I awoke; I felt cold also, and half-frightened, as itwere instinctively, finding myself so desolate. Before I had quittedyour apartment, on a sensation of cold, I had covered myself with someclothes; but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews ofnight. I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and coulddistinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I satdown and wept.
"Soon a gentle light stole over the heavens, and gave me a sensation ofpleasure. I started up, and beheld a radiant form rise from among thetrees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but itenlightened my path; and I again went out in search of berries. I wasstill cold, when under one of the trees I found a huge cloak, with whichI covered myself, and sat down upon the ground. No distinct ideasoccupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light, and hunger, andthirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rung in my ears, and on allsides various scents saluted me: the only object that I coulddistinguish was the bright moon, and I fixed my eyes on that withpleasure.
"Several changes of day and night passed, and the orb of night hadgreatly lessened, when I began to distinguish my sensations from eachother. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream that supplied me withdrink, and the trees that shaded me with their foliage. I was delightedwhen I first discovered that a pleasant sound, which often saluted myears, proceeded from the throats of the little winged animals who hadoften intercepted the light from my eyes. I began also to observe, withgreater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me, and to perceive theboundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me. Sometimes Itried to imitate the pleasant songs of the birds, but was unable.Sometimes I wished to express my sensations in my own mode, but theuncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me intosilence again.
"The moon had disappeared from the night, and again, with a lessenedform, showed itself, while I still remained in the forest. My sensationshad, by this time, become distinct, and my mind received every dayadditional ideas. My eyes became accustomed to the light, and toperceive objects in their right forms; I distinguished the insect fromthe herb, and, by degrees, one herb from another. I found that thesparrow uttered none but harsh notes, whilst those of the blackbird andthrush were sweet and enticing.
"One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had beenleft by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at thewarmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the liveembers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, Ithought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects! Iexamined the materials of the fire, and to my joy found it to becomposed of wood. I quickly collected some branches; but they were wet,and would not burn. I was pained at this, and sat still watching theoperation of the fire. The wet wood which I had placed near the heatdried, and itself became inflamed. I reflected on this; and, by touchingthe various branches, I discovered the cause, and busied myself incollecting a great quantity of wood, that I might dry it, and have aplentiful supply of fire. When night came on, and brought sleep with it,I was in the greatest fear lest my fire should be extinguished. Icovered it carefully with dry wood and leaves, and placed wet branchesupon it; and then, spreading my cloak, I lay on the ground, and sunkinto sleep.
"It was morning when I awoke, and my first care was to visit the fire. Iuncovered it, and a gentle breeze quickly fanned it into a flame. Iobserved this also, and contrived a fan of branches, which roused theembers when they were nearly extinguished. When night came again, Ifound, with pleasure, that the fire gave light as well as heat; and thatthe discovery of this element was useful to me in my food; for I foundsome of the offals that the travellers had left had been roasted, andtasted much more savoury than the berries I gathered from the trees. Itried, therefore, to dress my food in the same manner, placing it on thelive 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 searchingin vain for a few acorns to assuage the pangs of hunger. When I foundthis, I resolved to quit the place that I had hitherto inhabited, toseek for one where the few wants I experienced would be more easilysatisfied. In this emigration, I exceedingly lamented the loss of thefire which I had obtained through accident, and knew not how toreproduce it. I gave several hours to the serious consideration of thisdifficulty; but I was obliged to relinquish all attempt to supply it;and, wrapping myself up in my cloak, I struck across the wood towardsthe setting sun. I passed three days in these rambles, and at lengthdiscovered the open country. A great fall of snow had taken place thenight before, and the fields were of one uniform white; the appearancewas disconsolate, and I found my feet chilled by the cold damp substancethat covered the ground.
"It was about seven in the morning, and I longed to obtain food andshelter; at length I perceived a small hut, on a rising ground, whichhad doubtless been built for the convenience of some shepherd. This wasa 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 acrossthe fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly appearedcapable. His appearance, different from any I had ever before seen, andhis flight, somewhat surprised me. But I was enchanted by the appearanceof the hut: here the snow and rain could not penetrate; the ground wasdry; and it presented to me then as exquisite and divine a retreat asPandæmonium appeared to the dæmons of hell after their sufferings in thelake of fire. I greedily devoured the remnants of the shepherd'sbreakfast, which consisted of bread, cheese, milk, and wine; the latter,however, I did not like. Then, overcome by fatigue, I lay down amongsome straw, and fell asleep.
"It was noon when I awoke; and, allured by the warmth of the sun, whichshone brightly on the white ground, I determined to recommence mytravels; and, depositing the remains of the peasant's breakfast in awallet I found, I proceeded across the fields for several hours, untilat sunset I arrived at a village. How miraculous did this appear! thehuts, the neater cottages, and stately houses, engaged my admiration byturns. The vegetables in the gardens, the milk and cheese that I sawplaced at the windows of some of the cottages, allured my appetite. Oneof the best of these I entered; but I had hardly placed my foot withinthe 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, Iescaped to the open country, and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel,quite bare, and making a wretched appearance after the palaces I hadbeheld in the village. This hovel, however, joined a cottage of a neatand pleasant appearance; but, after my late dearly bought experience, Idared not enter it. My place of refuge was constructed of wood, but solow, 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; andalthough the wind entered it by innumerable chinks, I found it anagreeable 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 morefrom the barbarity of man.
"As soon as morning dawned, I crept from my kennel, that I might viewthe adjacent cottage, and discover if I could remain in the habitation Ihad found. It was situated against the back of the cottage, andsurrounded on the sides which were exposed by a pig-sty and a clear poolof water. One part was open, and by that I had crept in; but now Icovered every crevice by which I might be perceived with stones andwood, yet in such a manner that I might move them on occasion to passout: all the light I enjoyed came through the sty, and that wassufficient for me.
"Having thus arranged my dwelling, and carpeted it with clean straw, Iretired; for I saw the figure of a man at a distance, and I rememberedtoo well my treatment the night before, to trust myself in his power. Ihad first, however, provided for my sustenance for that day, by a loafof 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 bymy retreat. The floor was a little raised, so that it was kept perfectlydry, and by its vicinity to the chimney of the cottage it was tolerablywarm.
"Being thus provided, I resolved to reside in this hovel, untilsomething should occur which might alter my determination. It was indeeda paradise, compared to the bleak forest, my former residence, therain-dropping branches, and dank earth. I ate my breakfast withpleasure, and was about to remove a plank to procure myself a littlewater, when I heard a step, and looking through a small chink, I behelda young creature, with a pail on her head, passing before my hovel. Thegirl was young, and of gentle demeanour, unlike what I have since foundcottagers and farm-house servants to be. Yet she was meanly dressed, acoarse blue petticoat and a linen jacket being her only garb; her fairhair was plaited, but not adorned: she looked patient, yet sad. I lostsight of her; and in about a quarter of an hour she returned, bearingthe pail, which was now partly filled with milk. As she walked along,seemingly incommoded by the burden, a young man met her, whosecountenance expressed a deeper despondence. Uttering a few sounds withan air of melancholy, he took the pail from her head, and bore it to thecottage himself. She followed, and they disappeared. Presently I saw theyoung man again, with some tools in his hand, cross the field behind thecottage; and the girl was also busied, sometimes in the house, andsometimes in the yard.
"On examining my dwelling, I found that one of the windows of thecottage had formerly occupied a part of it, but the panes had beenfilled up with wood. In one of these was a small and almostimperceptible chink, through which the eye could just penetrate. Throughthis crevice a small room was visible, whitewashed and clean, but verybare of furniture. In one corner, near a small fire, sat an old man,leaning his head on his hands in a disconsolate attitude. The younggirl was occupied in arranging the cottage; but presently she tooksomething out of a drawer, which employed her hands, and she sat downbeside the old man, who, taking up an instrument, began to play, and toproduce sounds sweeter than the voice of the thrush or the nightingale.It was a lovely sight, even to me, poor wretch! who had never beheldaught beautiful before. The silver hair and benevolent countenance ofthe aged cottager won my reverence, while the gentle manners of the girlenticed my love. He played a sweet mournful air, which I perceived drewtears from the eyes of his amiable companion, of which the old man tookno notice, until she sobbed audibly; he then pronounced a few sounds,and the fair creature, leaving her work, knelt at his feet. He raisedher, and smiled with such kindness and affection, that I felt sensationsof a peculiar and overpowering nature: they were a mixture of pain andpleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger orcold, warmth or food; and I withdrew from the window, unable to bearthese emotions.
"Soon after this the young man returned, bearing on his shoulders a loadof wood. The girl met him at the door, helped to relieve him of hisburden, and, taking some of the fuel into the cottage, placed it on thefire; then she and the youth went apart into a nook of the cottage, andhe 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 inwater, and then upon the fire. She afterwards continued her work, whilstthe young man went into the garden, and appeared busily employed indigging and pulling up roots. After he had been employed thus about anhour, the young woman joined him, and they entered the cottage together.
"The old man had, in the mean time, been pensive; but, on the appearanceof his companions, he assumed a more cheerful air, and they sat down toeat. The meal was quickly despatched. The young woman was again occupiedin arranging the cottage; the old man walked before the cottage in thesun for a few minutes, leaning on the arm of the youth. Nothing couldexceed in beauty the contrast between these two excellent creatures.One was old, with silver hairs and a countenance beaming withbenevolence and love: the younger was slight and graceful in his figure,and his features were moulded with the finest symmetry; yet his eyes andattitude expressed the utmost sadness and despondency. The old manreturned to the cottage; and the youth, with tools different from thosehe had used in the morning, directed his steps across the fields.
"Night quickly shut in; but, to my extreme wonder, I found that thecottagers had a means of prolonging light by the use of tapers, and wasdelighted to find that the setting of the sun did not put an end to thepleasure I experienced in watching my human neighbours. In the evening,the young girl and her companion were employed in various occupationswhich I did not understand; and the old man again took up the instrumentwhich 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 uttersounds that were monotonous, and neither resembling the harmony of theold man's instrument nor the songs of the birds: I since found that heread aloud, but at that time I knew nothing of the science of words orletters.
"The family, after having been thus occupied for a short time,extinguished their lights, and retired, as I conjectured, to rest."
"I lay on my straw, but I could not sleep. I thought of the occurrencesof the day. What chiefly struck me was the gentle manners of thesepeople; and I longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too wellthe treatment I had suffered the night before from the barbarousvillagers, and resolved, whatever course of conduct I might hereafterthink it right to pursue, that for the present I would remain quietly inmy hovel, watching, and endeavouring to discover the motives whichinfluenced their actions.
"The cottagers arose the next morning before the sun. The young womanarranged the cottage, and prepared the food; and the youth departedafter the first meal.
"This day was passed in the same routine as that which preceded it. Theyoung man was constantly employed out of doors, and the girl in variouslaborious occupations within. The old man, whom I soon perceived to beblind, employed his leisure hours on his instrument or in contemplation.Nothing could exceed the love and respect which the younger cottagersexhibited towards their venerable companion. They performed towards himevery little office of affection and duty with gentleness; and herewarded them by his benevolent smiles.
"They were not entirely happy. The young man and his companion oftenwent apart, and appeared to weep. I saw no cause for their unhappiness;but I was deeply affected by it. If such lovely creatures weremiserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being,should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy? Theypossessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and everyluxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill, and delicious viandswhen hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more,they enjoyed one another's company and speech, interchanging each daylooks of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did theyreally express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions; butperpetual attention and time explained to me many appearances which wereat first enigmatic.
"A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes ofthe uneasiness of this amiable family: it was poverty; and they sufferedthat evil in a very distressing degree. Their nourishment consistedentirely of the vegetables of their garden, and the milk of one cow,which gave very little during the winter, when its masters couldscarcely procure food to support it. They often, I believe, suffered thepangs of hunger very poignantly, especially the two younger cottagers;for several times they placed food before the old man, when theyreserved none for themselves.
"This trait of kindness moved me sensibly. I had been accustomed, duringthe night, to steal a part of their store for my own consumption; butwhen I found that in doing this I inflicted pain on the cottagers, Iabstained, and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and roots, which Igathered from a neighbouring wood.
"I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assisttheir labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day incollecting wood for the family fire; and, during the night, I often tookhis tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought homefiring sufficient for the consumption of several days.
"I remember, the first time that I did this, the young woman, when sheopened the door in the morning, appeared greatly astonished on seeing agreat pile of wood on the outside. She uttered some words in a loudvoice, and the youth joined her, who also expressed surprise. Iobserved, with pleasure, that he did not go to the forest that day, butspent it in repairing the cottage, and cultivating the garden.
"By degrees I made a discovery of still greater moment. I found thatthese people possessed a method of communicating their experience andfeelings to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the wordsthey spoke sometimes, produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, inthe minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlikescience, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it. But I wasbaffled in every attempt I made for this purpose. Their pronunciationwas quick; and the words they uttered, not having any apparentconnection with visible objects, I was unable to discover any clue bywhich I could unravel the mystery of their reference. By greatapplication, however, and after having remained during the space ofseveral revolutions of the moon in my hovel, I discovered the names thatwere given to some of the most familiar objects of discourse; I learnedand applied the words, fire, milk, bread, and wood. I learnedalso the names of the cottagers themselves. The youth and his companionhad each of them several names, but the old man had only one, which wasfather. The girl was called sister, or Agatha; and the youthFelix, brother, or son. I cannot describe the delight I felt whenI learned the ideas appropriated to each of these sounds, and was ableto pronounce them. I distinguished several other words, without beingable 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 thecottagers greatly endeared them to me: when they were unhappy, I feltdepressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathised in their joys. I saw fewhuman beings beside them; and if any other happened to enter thecottage, their harsh manners and rude gait only enhanced to me thesuperior accomplishments of my friends. The old man, I could perceive,often endeavoured to encourage his children, as sometimes I found thathe called them, to cast off their melancholy. He would talk in acheerful accent, with an expression of goodness that bestowed pleasureeven upon me. Agatha listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filledwith tears, which she endeavoured to wipe away unperceived; but Igenerally found that her countenance and tone were more cheerful afterhaving listened to the exhortations of her father. It was not thus withFelix. He was always the saddest of the group; and, even to myunpractised senses, he appeared to have suffered more deeply than hisfriends. But if his countenance was more sorrowful, his voice was morecheerful than that of his sister, especially when he addressed the oldman.
"I could mention innumerable instances, which, although slight, markedthe dispositions of these amiable cottagers. In the midst of poverty andwant, Felix carried with pleasure to his sister the first little whiteflower that peeped out from beneath the snowy ground. Early in themorning, before she had risen, he cleared away the snow that obstructedher path to the milk-house, drew water from the well, and brought thewood from the out-house, where, to his perpetual astonishment, he foundhis store always replenished by an invisible hand. In the day, Ibelieve, he worked sometimes for a neighbouring farmer, because he oftenwent forth, and did not return until dinner, yet brought no wood withhim. At other times he worked in the garden; but, as there was little todo in the frosty season, he read to the old man and Agatha.
"This reading had puzzled me extremely at first; but, by degrees, Idiscovered that he uttered many of the same sounds when he read, as whenhe talked. I conjectured, therefore, that he found on the paper signsfor speech which he understood, and I ardently longed to comprehendthese also; but how was that possible, when I did not even understandthe sounds for which they stood as signs? I improved, however, sensiblyin this science, but not sufficiently to follow up any kind ofconversation, although I applied my whole mind to the endeavour: for Ieasily perceived that, although I eagerly longed to discover myself tothe cottagers, I ought not to make the attempt until I had first becomemaster of their language; which knowledge might enable me to make themoverlook the deformity of my figure; for with this also the contrastperpetually 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 myselfin a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe thatit was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fullyconvinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled withthe bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I didnot yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity.
"As the sun became warmer, and the light of day longer, the snowvanished, and I beheld the bare trees and the black earth. From thistime Felix was more employed; and the heart-moving indications ofimpending famine disappeared. Their food, as I afterwards found, wascoarse, but it was wholesome; and they procured a sufficiency of it.Several new kinds of plants sprung up in the garden, which they dressed;and these signs of comfort increased daily as the season advanced.
"The old man, leaning on his son, walked each day at noon, when it didnot rain, as I found it was called when the heavens poured forth itswaters. This frequently took place; but a high wind quickly dried theearth, and the season became far more pleasant than it had been.
"My mode of life in my hovel was uniform. During the morning, Iattended the motions of the cottagers; and when they were dispersed invarious occupations, I slept: the remainder of the day was spent inobserving my friends. When they had retired to rest, if there was anymoon, or the night was star-light, I went into the woods, and collectedmy own food and fuel for the cottage. When I returned, as often as itwas necessary, I cleared their path from the snow, and performed thoseoffices that I had seen done by Felix. I afterwards found that theselabours, performed by an invisible hand, greatly astonished them; andonce or twice I heard them, on these occasions, utter the words goodspirit, wonderful; but I did not then understand the significationof these terms.
"My thoughts now became more active, and I longed to discover themotives and feelings of these lovely creatures; I was inquisitive toknow why Felix appeared so miserable, and Agatha so sad. I thought(foolish wretch!) that it might be in my power to restore happiness tothese deserving people. When I slept, or was absent, the forms of thevenerable blind father, the gentle Agatha, and the excellent Felix,flitted before me. I looked upon them as superior beings, who would bethe arbiters of my future destiny. I formed in my imagination a thousandpictures of presenting myself to them, and their reception of me. Iimagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanour andconciliating words, I should first win their favour, and afterwardstheir love.
"These thoughts exhilarated me, and led me to apply with fresh ardour tothe acquiring the art of language. My organs were indeed harsh, butsupple; and although my voice was very unlike the soft music of theirtones, 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 whoseintentions were affectionate, although his manners were rude, deservedbetter treatment than blows and execration.
"The pleasant showers and genial warmth of spring greatly altered theaspect of the earth. Men, who before this change seemed to have been hidin caves, dispersed themselves, and were employed in various arts ofcultivation. The birds sang in more cheerful notes, and the leaves beganto bud forth on the trees. Happy, happy earth! fit habitation for gods,which, so short a time before, was bleak, damp, and unwholesome. Myspirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature; the pastwas blotted from my memory, the present was tranquil, and the futuregilded by bright rays of hope, and anticipations of joy."
"I now hasten to the more moving part of my story. I shall relateevents, 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 skiescloudless. It surprised me, that what before was desert and gloomyshould now bloom with the most beautiful flowers and verdure. My senseswere gratified and refreshed by a thousand scents of delight, and athousand sights of beauty.
"It was on one of these days, when my cottagers periodically rested fromlabour—the old man played on his guitar, and the children listened tohim—that I observed the countenance of Felix was melancholy beyondexpression; he sighed frequently; and once his father paused in hismusic, and I conjectured by his manner that he enquired the cause of hisson's sorrow. Felix replied in a cheerful accent, and the old man wasrecommencing his music, when some one tapped at the door.
"It was a lady on horseback, accompanied by a countryman as a guide. Thelady was dressed in a dark suit, and covered with a thick black veil.Agatha asked a question; to which the stranger only replied bypronouncing, in a sweet accent, the name of Felix. Her voice wasmusical, 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 herveil, and I beheld a countenance of angelic beauty and expression. Herhair of a shining raven black, and curiously braided; her eyes weredark, but gentle, although animated; her features of a regularproportion, and her complexion wondrously fair, each cheek tinged with alovely pink.
"Felix seemed ravished with delight when he saw her, every trait ofsorrow vanished from his face, and it instantly expressed a degree ofecstatic joy, of which I could hardly have believed it capable; his eyessparkled, as his cheek flushed with pleasure; and at that moment Ithought him as beautiful as the stranger. She appeared affected bydifferent feelings; wiping a few tears from her lovely eyes, she heldout her hand to Felix, who kissed it rapturously, and called her, aswell as I could distinguish, his sweet Arabian. She did not appear tounderstand him, but smiled. He assisted her to dismount, and dismissingher guide, conducted her into the cottage. Some conversation took placebetween him and his father; and the young stranger knelt at the oldman's feet, and would have kissed his hand, but he raised her, andembraced her affectionately.
"I soon perceived, that although the stranger uttered articulate sounds,and appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understoodby, nor herself understood, the cottagers. They made many signs which Idid not comprehend; but I saw that her presence diffused gladnessthrough the cottage, dispelling their sorrow as the sun dissipates themorning mists. Felix seemed peculiarly happy, and with smiles of delightwelcomed his Arabian. Agatha, the ever-gentle Agatha, kissed the handsof the lovely stranger; and, pointing to her brother, made signs whichappeared to me to mean that he had been sorrowful until she came. Somehours passed thus, while they, by their countenances, expressed joy, thecause of which I did not comprehend. Presently I found, by the frequentrecurrence of some sound which the stranger repeated after them, thatshe was endeavouring to learn their language; and the idea instantlyoccurred to me, that I should make use of the same instructions to thesame end. The stranger learned about twenty words at the first lesson,most of them, indeed, were those which I had before understood, but Iprofited by the others.
"As night came on, Agatha and the Arabian retired early. When theyseparated, Felix kissed the hand of the stranger, and said, 'Good night,sweet Safie.' He sat up much longer, conversing with his father; and, bythe frequent repetition of her name, I conjectured that their lovelyguest was the subject of their conversation. I ardently desired tounderstand them, and bent every faculty towards that purpose, but foundit utterly impossible.
"The next morning Felix went out to his work; and, after the usualoccupations of Agatha were finished, the Arabian sat at the feet of theold man, and, taking his guitar, played some airs so entrancinglybeautiful, that they at once drew tears of sorrow and delight from myeyes. She sang, and her voice flowed in a rich cadence, swelling ordying away, like a nightingale of the woods.
"When she had finished, she gave the guitar to Agatha, who at firstdeclined it. She played a simple air, and her voice accompanied it insweet accents, but unlike the wondrous strain of the stranger. The oldman appeared enraptured, and said some words, which Agatha endeavouredto explain to Safie, and by which he appeared to wish to express thatshe 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 theknowledge of language, so that in two months I began to comprehend mostof the words uttered by my protectors.
"In the meanwhile also the black ground was covered with herbage, andthe green banks interspersed with innumerable flowers, sweet to thescent and the eyes, stars of pale radiance among the moonlight woods;the sun became warmer, the nights clear and balmy; and my nocturnalrambles were an extreme pleasure to me, although they were considerablyshortened by the late setting and early rising of the sun; for I neverventured abroad during daylight, fearful of meeting with the sametreatment I had formerly endured in the first village which I entered.
"My days were spent in close attention, that I might more speedilymaster the language; and I may boast that I improved more rapidly thanthe Arabian, who understood very little, and conversed in brokenaccents, whilst I comprehended and could imitate almost every word thatwas spoken.
"While I improved in speech, I also learned the science of letters, asit was taught to the stranger; and this opened before me a wide fieldfor wonder and delight.
"The book from which Felix instructed Safie was Volney's 'Ruins ofEmpires.' I should not have understood the purport of this book, had notFelix, in reading it, given very minute explanations. He had chosen thiswork, he said, because the declamatory style was framed in imitation ofthe eastern authors. Through this work I obtained a cursory knowledge ofhistory, and a view of the several empires at present existing in theworld; it gave me an insight into the manners, governments, andreligions of the different nations of the earth. I heard of the slothfulAsiatics; of the stupendous genius and mental activity of the Grecians;of the wars and wonderful virtue of the early Romans—of theirsubsequent degenerating—of the decline of that mighty empire; ofchivalry, Christianity, and kings. I heard of the discovery of theAmerican hemisphere, and wept with Safie over the hapless fate of itsoriginal inhabitants.
"These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man,indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet sovicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evilprinciple, and at another, as all that can be conceived of noble andgodlike. To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour thatcan befall a sensitive being; to be base and vicious, as many on recordhave been, appeared the lowest degradation, a condition more abject thanthat of the blind mole or harmless worm. For a long time I could notconceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even whythere were laws and governments; but when I heard details of vice andbloodshed, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust andloathing.
"Every conversation of the cottagers now opened new wonders to me.While I listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon theArabian, the strange system of human society was explained to me. Iheard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalidpoverty; of rank, descent, and noble blood.
"The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that thepossessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were, high andunsullied descent united with riches. A man might be respected with onlyone of these advantages; but, without either, he was considered, exceptin very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste hispowers for the profits of the chosen few! And what was I? Of my creationand creator I was absolutely ignorant; but I knew that I possessed nomoney, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides, endued with afigure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the samenature as man. I was more agile than they, and could subsist uponcoarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury tomy frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around, I sawand 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 inflictedupon me: I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased withknowledge. Oh, that I had for ever remained in my native wood, nor knownnor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!
"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind, when ithas once seized on it, like a lichen on the rock. I wished sometimes toshake off all thought and feeling; but I learned that there was but onemeans to overcome the sensation of pain, and that was death—a statewhich I feared yet did not understand. I admired virtue and goodfeelings, and loved the gentle manners and amiable qualities of mycottagers; but I was shut out from intercourse with them, except throughmeans which I obtained by stealth, when I was unseen and unknown, andwhich rather increased than satisfied the desire I had of becoming oneamong my fellows. The gentle words of Agatha, and the animated smilesof the charming Arabian, were not for me. The mild exhortations of theold man, and the lively conversation of the loved Felix, were not forme. Miserable, unhappy wretch!
"Other lessons were impressed upon me even more deeply. I heard of thedifference of sexes; and the birth and growth of children; how thefather doated on the smiles of the infant, and the lively sallies of theolder child; how all the life and cares of the mother were wrapped up inthe precious charge; how the mind of youth expanded and gainedknowledge; of brother, sister, and all the various relationships whichbind one human being to another in mutual bonds.
"But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched myinfant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or ifthey had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which Idistinguished nothing. From my earliest remembrance I had been as I thenwas in height and proportion. I had never yet seen a being resemblingme, or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I? The questionagain recurred, to be answered only with groans.
"I will soon explain to what these feelings tended; but allow me now toreturn to the cottagers, whose story excited in me such various feelingsof indignation, delight, and wonder, but which all terminated inadditional love and reverence for my protectors (for so I loved, in aninnocent, half painful self-deceit, to call them)."
"Some time elapsed before I learned the history of my friends. It wasone which could not fail to impress itself deeply on my mind, unfoldingas it did a number of circumstances, each interesting and wonderful toone so utterly inexperienced as I was.
"The name of the old man was De Lacey. He was descended from a goodfamily in France, where he had lived for many years in affluence,respected by his superiors, and beloved by his equals. His son was bredin the service of his country; and Agatha had ranked with ladies of thehighest distinction. A few months before my arrival, they had lived in alarge and luxurious city, called Paris, surrounded by friends, andpossessed of every enjoyment which virtue, refinement of intellect, ortaste, accompanied by a moderate fortune, could afford.
"The father of Safie had been the cause of their ruin. He was a Turkishmerchant, and had inhabited Paris for many years, when, for some reasonwhich I could not learn, he became obnoxious to the government. He wasseized and cast into prison the very day that Safie arrived fromConstantinople to join him. He was tried, and condemned to death. Theinjustice of his sentence was very flagrant; all Paris was indignant;and it was judged that his religion and wealth, rather than the crimealleged against him, had been the cause of his condemnation.
"Felix had accidentally been present at the trial; his horror andindignation were uncontrollable, when he heard the decision of thecourt. He made, at that moment, a solemn vow to deliver him, and thenlooked around for the means. After many fruitless attempts to gainadmittance to the prison, he found a strongly grated window in anunguarded part of the building, which lighted the dungeon of theunfortunate Mahometan; who, loaded with chains, waited in despair theexecution 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 bypromises 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 youthcould not help owning to his own mind, that the captive possessed atreasure which would fully reward his toil and hazard.
"The Turk quickly perceived the impression that his daughter had made onthe heart of Felix, and endeavoured to secure him more entirely in hisinterests by the promise of her hand in marriage, so soon as he shouldbe conveyed to a place of safety. Felix was too delicate to accept thisoffer; yet he looked forward to the probability of the event as to theconsummation of his happiness.
"During the ensuing days, while the preparations were going forward forthe escape of the merchant, the zeal of Felix was warmed by severalletters that he received from this lovely girl, who found means toexpress her thoughts in the language of her lover by the aid of an oldman, a servant of her father, who understood French. She thanked him inthe most ardent terms for his intended services towards her parent; andat the same time she gently deplored her own fate.
"I have copies of these letters; for I found means, during my residencein the hovel, to procure the implements of writing; and the letters wereoften in the hands of Felix or Agatha. Before I depart, I will give themto you, they will prove the truth of my tale; but at present, as the sunis already far declined, I shall only have time to repeat the substanceof them to you.
"Safie related, that her mother was a Christian Arab, seized and made aslave by the Turks; recommended by her beauty, she had won the heart ofthe father of Safie, who married her. The young girl spoke in high andenthusiastic terms of her mother, who, born in freedom, spurned thebondage to which she was now reduced. She instructed her daughter in thetenets of her religion, and taught her to aspire to higher powers ofintellect, and an independence of spirit, forbidden to the femalefollowers of Mahomet. This lady died; but her lessons were indeliblyimpressed on the mind of Safie, who sickened at the prospect of againreturning to Asia, and being immured within the walls of a haram,allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill suited tothe temper of her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas and a nobleemulation for virtue. The prospect of marrying a Christian, andremaining in a country where women were allowed to take a rank insociety, was enchanting to her.
"The day for the execution of the Turk was fixed; but, on the nightprevious to it, he quitted his prison, and before morning was distantmany leagues from Paris. Felix had procured passports in the name of hisfather, sister, and himself. He had previously communicated his plan tothe former, who aided the deceit by quitting his house, under thepretence of a journey, and concealed himself, with his daughter, in anobscure part of Paris.
"Felix conducted the fugitives through France to Lyons, and across MontCenis to Leghorn, where the merchant had decided to wait a favourableopportunity of passing into some part of the Turkish dominions.
"Safie resolved to remain with her father until the moment of hisdeparture, before which time the Turk renewed his promise that sheshould be united to his deliverer; and Felix remained with them inexpectation of that event; and in the mean time he enjoyed the societyof the Arabian, who exhibited towards him the simplest and tenderestaffection. They conversed with one another through the means of aninterpreter, and sometimes with the interpretation of looks; and Safiesang to him the divine airs of her native country.
"The Turk allowed this intimacy to take place, and encouraged the hopesof the youthful lovers, while in his heart he had formed far otherplans. He loathed the idea that his daughter should be united to aChristian; but he feared the resentment of Felix, if he should appearlukewarm; 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 theyinhabited. He revolved a thousand plans by which he should be enabled toprolong the deceit until it might be no longer necessary, and secretlyto take his daughter with him when he departed. His plans werefacilitated by the news which arrived from Paris.
"The government of France were greatly enraged at the escape of theirvictim, and spared no pains to detect and punish his deliverer. The plotof Felix was quickly discovered, and De Lacey and Agatha were throwninto prison. The news reached Felix, and roused him from his dream ofpleasure. His blind and aged father, and his gentle sister, lay in anoisome dungeon, while he enjoyed the free air, and the society of herwhom he loved. This idea was torture to him. He quickly arranged withthe Turks, that if the latter should find a favourable opportunity forescape before Felix could return to Italy, Safie should remain as aboarder at a convent at Leghorn; and then, quitting the lovely Arabian,he hastened to Paris, and delivered himself up to the vengeance of thelaw, hoping to free De Lacey and Agatha by this proceeding.
"He did not succeed. They remained confined for five months before thetrial 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 Idiscovered them. Felix soon learned that the treacherous Turk, for whomhe and his family endured such unheard-of oppression, on discoveringthat his deliverer was thus reduced to poverty and ruin, became atraitor to good feeling and honour, and had quitted Italy with hisdaughter, insultingly sending Felix a pittance of money, to aid him, ashe said, in some plan of future maintenance.
"Such were the events that preyed on the heart of Felix, and renderedhim, when I first saw him, the most miserable of his family. He couldhave endured poverty; and while this distress had been the meed of hisvirtue, he gloried in it: but the ingratitude of the Turk, and the lossof his beloved Safie, were misfortunes more bitter and irreparable. Thearrival of the Arabian now infused new life into his soul.
"When the news reached Leghorn, that Felix was deprived of his wealthand rank, the merchant commanded his daughter to think no more of herlover, but to prepare to return to her native country. The generousnature of Safie was outraged by this command; she attempted toexpostulate with her father, but he left her angrily, reiterating histyrannical mandate.
"A few days after, the Turk entered his daughter's apartment, and toldher hastily, that he had reason to believe that his residence at Leghornhad been divulged, and that he should speedily be delivered up to theFrench government; he had, consequently hired a vessel to convey him toConstantinople, for which city he should sail in a few hours. Heintended to leave his daughter under the care of a confidential servant,to follow at her leisure with the greater part of his property, whichhad not yet arrived at Leghorn.
"When alone, Safie resolved in her own mind the plan of conduct that itwould become her to pursue in this emergency. A residence in Turkey wasabhorrent to her; her religion and her feelings were alike adverse toit. By some papers of her father, which fell into her hands, she heardof the exile of her lover, and learnt the name of the spot where he thenresided. She hesitated some time, but at length she formed herdetermination. Taking with her some jewels that belonged to her, and asum of money, she quitted Italy with an attendant, a native of Leghorn,but who understood the common language of Turkey, and departed forGermany.
"She arrived in safety at a town about twenty leagues from the cottageof De Lacey, when her attendant fell dangerously ill. Safie nursed herwith the most devoted affection; but the poor girl died, and the Arabianwas left alone, unacquainted with the language of the country, andutterly ignorant of the customs of the world. She fell, however, intogood hands. The Italian had mentioned the name of the spot for whichthey were bound; and, after her death, the woman of the house in whichthey had lived took care that Safie should arrive in safety at thecottage of her lover."
"Such was the history of my beloved cottagers. It impressed me deeply. Ilearned, from the views of social life which it developed, to admiretheir virtues, and to deprecate the vices of mankind.
"As yet I looked upon crime as a distant evil; benevolence andgenerosity were ever present before me, inciting within me a desire tobecome an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities werecalled forth and displayed. But, in giving an account of the progress ofmy intellect, I must not omit a circumstance which occurred in thebeginning of the month of August of the same year.
"One night, during my accustomed visit to the neighbouring wood, where Icollected my own food, and brought home firing for my protectors, Ifound on the ground a leathern portmanteau, containing several articlesof dress and some books. I eagerly seized the prize, and returned withit to my hovel. Fortunately the books were written in the language, theelements of which I had acquired at the cottage; they consisted of'Paradise Lost,' a volume of 'Plutarch's Lives,' and the 'Sorrows ofWerter.' The possession of these treasures gave me extreme delight; Inow 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 producedin me an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised meto ecstacy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection. Inthe 'Sorrows of Werter,' besides the interest of its simple andaffecting story, so many opinions are canvassed, and so many lightsthrown upon what had hitherto been to me obscure subjects, that I foundin it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentleand domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments andfeelings, which had for their object something out of self, accordedwell with my experience among my protectors, and with the wants whichwere for ever alive in my own bosom. But I thought Werter himself a moredivine being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character containedno pretension, but it sunk deep. The disquisitions upon death andsuicide were calculated to fill me with wonder. I did not pretend toenter into the merits of the case, yet I inclined towards the opinionsof the hero, whose extinction I wept, without precisely understandingit.
"As I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings andcondition. I found myself similar, yet at the same time strangely unliketo the beings concerning whom I read, and to whose conversation I was alistener. I sympathised with, and partly understood them, but I wasunformed in mind; I was dependent on none, and related to none. 'Thepath of my departure was free;' and there was none to lament myannihilation. My person was hideous, and my stature gigantic? What didthis mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was mydestination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable tosolve them.
"The volume of 'Plutarch's Lives,' which I possessed, contained thehistories of the first founders of the ancient republics. This book hada far different effect upon me from the 'Sorrows of Werter.' I learnedfrom Werter's imaginations despondency and gloom: but Plutarch taught mehigh thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my ownreflections, to admire and love the heroes of past ages. Many things Iread surpassed my understanding and experience. I had a very confusedknowledge of kingdoms, wide extents of country, mighty rivers, andboundless seas. But I was perfectly unacquainted with towns, and largeassemblages of men. The cottage of my protectors had been the onlyschool in which I had studied human nature; but this book developed newand mightier scenes of action. I read of men concerned in publicaffairs, governing or massacring their species. I felt the greatestardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as far as Iunderstood the signification of those terms, relative as they were, as Iapplied them, to pleasure and pain alone. Induced by these feelings, Iwas of course led to admire peaceable lawgivers, Numa, Solon, andLycurgus, in preference to Romulus and Theseus. The patriarchal lives ofmy protectors caused these impressions to take a firm hold on my mind;perhaps, if my first introduction to humanity had been made by a youngsoldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued withdifferent sensations.
"But 'Paradise Lost' excited different and far deeper emotions. I readit, as I had read the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, asa true history. It moved every feeling of wonder and awe, that thepicture of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures was capable ofexciting. I often referred the several situations, as their similaritystruck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link toany other being in existence; but his state was far different from minein every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God aperfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care ofhis Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledgefrom, beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, andalone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of mycondition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of myprotectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.
"Another circumstance strengthened and confirmed these feelings. Soonafter my arrival in the hovel, I discovered some papers in the pocket ofthe dress which I had taken from your laboratory. At first I hadneglected them; but now that I was able to decipher the characters inwhich they were written, I began to study them with diligence. It wasyour journal of the four months that preceded my creation. You minutelydescribed in these papers every step you took in the progress of yourwork; this history was mingled with accounts of domestic occurrences.You, doubtless, recollect these papers. Here they are. Every thing isrelated in them which bears reference to my accursed origin; the wholedetail of that series of disgusting circumstances which produced it, isset in view; the minutest description of my odious and loathsome personis given, in language which painted your own horrors, and rendered mineindelible. I sickened as I read. 'Hateful day when I received life!' Iexclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster sohideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, mademan beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthytype of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had hiscompanions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I amsolitary and abhorred.'
"These were the reflections of my hours of despondency and solitude; butwhen I contemplated the virtues of the cottagers, their amiable andbenevolent dispositions, I persuaded myself that when they should becomeacquainted with my admiration of their virtues, they would compassionateme, and overlook my personal deformity. Could they turn from their doorone, however monstrous, who solicited their compassion and friendship? Iresolved, at least, not to despair, but in every way to fit myself foran interview with them which would decide my fate. I postponed thisattempt for some months longer; for the importance attached to itssuccess inspired me with a dread lest I should fail. Besides, I foundthat my understanding improved so much with every day's experience, thatI was unwilling to commence this undertaking until a few more monthsshould have added to my sagacity.
"Several changes, in the mean time, took place in the cottage. Thepresence of Safie diffused happiness among its inhabitants; and I alsofound that a greater degree of plenty reigned there. Felix and Agathaspent more time in amusement and conversation, and were assisted intheir labours by servants. They did not appear rich, but they werecontented and happy; their feelings were serene and peaceful, while minebecame every day more tumultuous. Increase of knowledge only discoveredto me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was. I cherished hope, itis true; but it vanished, when I beheld my person reflected in water, ormy shadow in the moonshine, even as that frail image and that inconstantshade.
"I endeavoured to crush these fears, and to fortify myself for the trialwhich in a few months I resolved to undergo; and sometimes I allowed mythoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, anddared to fancy amiable and lovely creatures sympathising with myfeelings, and cheering my gloom; their angelic countenances breathedsmiles of consolation. But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed mysorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam'ssupplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned meand, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him.
"Autumn passed thus. I saw, with surprise and grief, the leaves decayand fall, and nature again assume the barren and bleak appearance it hadworn when I first beheld the woods and the lovely moon. Yet I did notheed the bleakness of the weather; I was better fitted by myconformation for the endurance of cold than heat. But my chief delightswere the sight of the flowers, the birds, and all the gay apparel ofsummer; when those deserted me, I turned with more attention towards thecottagers. Their happiness was not decreased by the absence of summer.They loved, and sympathised with one another; and their joys, dependingon each other, were not interrupted by the casualties that took placearound them. The more I saw of them, the greater became my desire toclaim their protection and kindness; my heart yearned to be known andloved by these amiable creatures: to see their sweet looks directedtowards me with affection, was the utmost limit of my ambition. I darednot think that they would turn them from me with disdain and horror. Thepoor that stopped at their door were never driven away. I asked, it istrue, for greater treasures than a little food or rest: I requiredkindness and sympathy; but I did not believe myself utterly unworthy ofit.
"The winter advanced, and an entire revolution of the seasons had takenplace since I awoke into life. My attention, at this time, was solelydirected towards my plan of introducing myself into the cottage of myprotectors. I revolved many projects; but that on which I finally fixedwas, to enter the dwelling when the blind old man should be alone. I hadsagacity enough to discover, that the unnatural hideousness of my personwas the chief object of horror with those who had formerly beheld me. Myvoice, although harsh, had nothing terrible in it; I thought, therefore,that if, in the absence of his children, I could gain the good-will andmediation of the old De Lacey, I might, by his means, be tolerated by myyounger protectors.
"One day, when the sun shone on the red leaves that strewed the ground,and diffused cheerfulness, although it denied warmth, Safie, Agatha, andFelix departed on a long country walk, and the old man, at his owndesire, was left alone in the cottage. When his children had departed,he took up his guitar, and played several mournful but sweet airs, moresweet and mournful than I had ever heard him play before. At first hiscountenance was illuminated with pleasure, but, as he continued,thoughtfulness and sadness succeeded; at length, laying aside theinstrument, he sat absorbed in reflection.
"My heart beat quick; this was the hour and moment of trial, which woulddecide my hopes, or realise my fears. The servants were gone to aneighbouring fair. All was silent in and around the cottage: it was anexcellent opportunity; yet, when I proceeded to execute my plan, mylimbs failed me, and I sank to the ground. Again I rose; and, exertingall the firmness of which I was master, removed the planks which I hadplaced before my hovel to conceal my retreat. The fresh air revived me,and, with renewed determination, I approached the door of their cottage.
"I knocked. 'Who is there?' said the old man—'Come in.'
"I entered; 'Pardon this intrusion,' said I: 'I am a traveller in wantof a little rest; you would greatly oblige me, if you would allow me toremain a few minutes before the fire.'
"'Enter,' said De Lacey; 'and I will try in what manner I can relieveyour wants; but, unfortunately, my children are from home, and, as I amblind, 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 andrest only that I need.'
"I sat down, and a silence ensued. I knew that every minute was preciousto me, yet I remained irresolute in what manner to commence theinterview; when the old man addressed me—
"'By your language, stranger, I suppose you are my countryman;—are youFrench?'
"'No; but I was educated by a French family, and understand thatlanguage 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 anunfortunate and deserted creature; I look around, and I have no relationor friend upon earth. These amiable people to whom I go have never seenme, and know little of me. I am full of fears; for if I fail there, I aman outcast in the world for ever.'
"'Do not despair. To be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate; but thehearts of men, when unprejudiced by any obvious self-interest, are fullof brotherly love and charity. Rely, therefore, on your hopes; and ifthese 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 gooddispositions; my life has been hitherto harmless, and in some degreebeneficial; but a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where theyought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestablemonster.'
"'That is indeed unfortunate; but if you are really blameless, cannotyou undeceive them?'
"'I am about to undertake that task; and it is on that account that Ifeel so many overwhelming terrors. I tenderly love these friends; Ihave, unknown to them, been for many months in the habits of dailykindness towards them; but they believe that I wish to injure them, andit 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 unreservedlyconfide to me the particulars of your tale, I perhaps may be of use inundeceiving them. I am blind, and cannot judge of your countenance, butthere is something in your words, which persuades me that you aresincere. I am poor, and an exile; but it will afford me true pleasure tobe in any way serviceable to a human creature.'
"'Excellent man! I thank you, and accept your generous offer. You raiseme from the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid, Ishall not be driven from the society and sympathy of yourfellow-creatures.'
"'Heaven forbid! even if you were really criminal; for that can onlydrive you to desperation, and not instigate you to virtue. I also amunfortunate; 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 firsthave I heard the voice of kindness directed towards me; I shall be forever grateful; and your present humanity assures me of success withthose 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 robme of, or bestow happiness on me for ever. I struggled vainly forfirmness sufficient to answer him, but the effort destroyed all myremaining strength; I sank on the chair, and sobbed aloud. At thatmoment I heard the steps of my younger protectors. I had not a moment tolose; but, seizing the hand of the old man, I cried, 'Now is thetime!—save and protect me! You and your family are the friends whom Iseek. 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, andAgatha entered. Who can describe their horror and consternation onbeholding me? Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend to her friend,rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernaturalforce tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung: in a transport offury, 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 sunk within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained. Isaw him on the point of repeating his blow, when, overcome by pain andanguish, I quitted the cottage, and in the general tumult escapedunperceived to my hovel."
"Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I notextinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? Iknow not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings werethose of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed thecottage and its inhabitants, and have glutted myself with their shrieksand misery.
"When night came, I quitted my retreat, and wandered in the wood; andnow, no longer restrained by the fear of discovery, I gave vent to myanguish in fearful howlings. I was like a wild beast that had broken thetoils; destroying the objects that obstructed me, and ranging throughthe wood with a stag-like swiftness. O! what a miserable night I passed!the cold stars shone in mockery, and the bare trees waved their branchesabove me: now and then the sweet voice of a bird burst forth amidst theuniversal stillness. All, save I, were at rest or in enjoyment: I, likethe arch-fiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathisedwith, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction aroundme, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.
"But this was a luxury of sensation that could not endure; I becamefatigued with excess of bodily exertion, and sank on the damp grass inthe sick impotence of despair. There was none among the myriads of menthat existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindnesstowards my enemies? No: from that moment I declared everlasting waragainst the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me,and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.
"The sun rose; I heard the voices of men, and knew that it wasimpossible to return to my retreat during that day. Accordingly I hidmyself in some thick underwood, determining to devote the ensuing hoursto reflection on my situation.
"The pleasant sunshine, and the pure air of day, restored me to somedegree of tranquillity; and when I considered what had passed at thecottage, I could not help believing that I had been too hasty in myconclusions. I had certainly acted imprudently. It was apparent that myconversation had interested the father in my behalf, and I was a fool inhaving exposed my person to the horror of his children. I ought to havefamiliarised the old De Lacey to me, and by degrees to have discoveredmyself to the rest of his family, when they should have been preparedfor my approach. But I did not believe my errors to be irretrievable;and, after much consideration, I resolved to return to the cottage, seekthe old man, and by my representations win him to my party.
"These thoughts calmed me, and in the afternoon I sank into a profoundsleep; but the fever of my blood did not allow me to be visited bypeaceful dreams. The horrible scene of the preceding day was for everacting before my eyes; the females were flying, and the enraged Felixtearing me from his father's feet. I awoke exhausted; and, finding thatit was already night, I crept forth from my hiding-place, and went insearch of food.
"When my hunger was appeased, I directed my steps towards the well-knownpath that conducted to the cottage. All there was at peace. I crept intomy hovel, and remained in silent expectation of the accustomed hour whenthe family arose. That hour passed, the sun mounted high in the heavens,but the cottagers did not appear. I trembled violently, apprehendingsome dreadful misfortune. The inside of the cottage was dark, and Iheard no motion; I cannot describe the agony of this suspense.
"Presently two countrymen passed by; but, pausing near the cottage, theyentered into conversation, using violent gesticulations; but I did notunderstand what they said, as they spoke the language of the country,which differed from that of my protectors. Soon after, however, Felixapproached with another man: I was surprised, as I knew that he had notquitted the cottage that morning, and waited anxiously to discover, fromhis discourse, the meaning of these unusual appearances.
"'Do you consider,' said his companion to him, 'that you will beobliged to pay three months' rent, and to lose the produce of yourgarden? I do not wish to take any unfair advantage, and I beg thereforethat you will take some days to consider of your determination.'
"'It is utterly useless,' replied Felix; 'we can never again inhabityour cottage. The life of my father is in the greatest danger, owing tothe dreadful circumstance that I have related. My wife and my sisterwill never recover their horror. I entreat you not to reason with me anymore. Take possession of your tenement, and let me fly from this place.'
"Felix trembled violently as he said this. He and his companion enteredthe cottage, in which they remained for a few minutes, and thendeparted. I never saw any of the family of De Lacey more.
"I continued for the remainder of the day in my hovel in a state ofutter and stupid despair. My protectors had departed, and had broken theonly link that held me to the world. For the first time the feelings ofrevenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to controlthem; but, allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent mymind towards injury and death. When I thought of my friends, of the mildvoice of De Lacey, the gentle eyes of Agatha, and the exquisite beautyof the Arabian, these thoughts vanished, and a gush of tears somewhatsoothed me. But again, when I reflected that they had spurned anddeserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger; and, unable to injure anything human, I turned my fury towards inanimate objects. As nightadvanced, I placed a variety of combustibles around the cottage; and,after having destroyed every vestige of cultivation in the garden, Iwaited with forced impatience until the moon had sunk to commence myoperations.
"As the night advanced, a fierce wind arose from the woods, and quicklydispersed the clouds that had loitered in the heavens: the blast torealong like a mighty avalanche, and produced a kind of insanity in myspirits, that burst all bounds of reason and reflection. I lighted thedry branch of a tree, and danced with fury around the devoted cottage,my eyes still fixed on the western horizon, the edge of which the moonnearly touched. A part of its orb was at length hid, and I waved mybrand; it sunk, and, with a loud scream, I fired the straw, and heath,and bushes, which I had collected. The wind fanned the fire, and thecottage was quickly enveloped by the flames, which clung to it, andlicked it with their forked and destroying tongues.
"As soon as I was convinced that no assistance could save any part ofthe habitation, I quitted the scene, and sought for refuge in the woods.
"And now, with the world before me, whither should I bend my steps? Iresolved to fly far from the scene of my misfortunes; but to me, hatedand despised, every country must be equally horrible. At length thethought of you crossed my mind. I learned from your papers that you weremy father, my creator; and to whom could I apply with more fitness thanto him who had given me life? Among the lessons that Felix had bestowedupon Safie, geography had not been omitted: I had learned from these therelative situations of the different countries of the earth. You hadmentioned Geneva as the name of your native town; and towards this placeI resolved to proceed.
"But how was I to direct myself? I knew that I must travel in asouth-westerly direction to reach my destination; but the sun was myonly guide. I did not know the names of the towns that I was to passthrough, nor could I ask information from a single human being; but Idid not despair. From you only could I hope for succour, althoughtowards you I felt no sentiment but that of hatred. Unfeeling, heartlesscreator! you had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then castme abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind. But on you onlyhad I any claim for pity and redress, and from you I determined to seekthat justice which I vainly attempted to gain from any other being thatwore the human form.
"My travels were long, and the sufferings I endured intense. It was latein autumn when I quitted the district where I had so long resided. Itravelled only at night, fearful of encountering the visage of a humanbeing. Nature decayed around me, and the sun became heatless; rain andsnow poured around me; mighty rivers were frozen; the surface of theearth was hard and chill, and bare, and I found no shelter. Oh, earth!how often did I imprecate curses on the cause of my being! The mildnessof my nature had fled, and all within me was turned to gall andbitterness. The nearer I approached to your habitation, the more deeplydid I feel the spirit of revenge enkindled in my heart. Snow fell, andthe waters were hardened; but I rested not. A few incidents now and thendirected me, and I possessed a map of the country; but I often wanderedwide from my path. The agony of my feelings allowed me no respite: noincident occurred from which my rage and misery could not extract itsfood; but a circumstance that happened when I arrived on the confines ofSwitzerland, when the sun had recovered its warmth, and the earth againbegan to look green, confirmed in an especial manner the bitterness andhorror of my feelings.
"I generally rested during the day, and travelled only when I wassecured by night from the view of man. One morning, however, findingthat my path lay through a deep wood, I ventured to continue my journeyafter the sun had risen; the day, which was one of the first of spring,cheered even me by the loveliness of its sunshine and the balminess ofthe air. I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure, that had longappeared dead, revive within me. Half surprised by the novelty of thesesensations, I allowed myself to be borne away by them; and, forgettingmy solitude and deformity, dared to be happy. Soft tears again bedewedmy cheeks, and I even raised my humid eyes with thankfulness towards theblessed sun which bestowed such joy upon me.
"I continued to wind among the paths of the wood, until I came to itsboundary, which was skirted by a deep and rapid river, into which manyof the trees bent their branches, now budding with the fresh spring.Here I paused, not exactly knowing what path to pursue, when I heard thesound of voices, that induced me to conceal myself under the shade of acypress. I was scarcely hid, when a young girl came running towards thespot where I was concealed, laughing, as if she ran from some one insport. She continued her course along the precipitous sides of theriver, when suddenly her foot slipt, and she fell into the rapidstream. I rushed from my hiding-place; and, with extreme labour from theforce of the current, saved her, and dragged her to shore. She wassenseless; and I endeavoured, by every means in my power, to restoreanimation, when I was suddenly interrupted by the approach of a rustic,who was probably the person from whom she had playfully fled. On seeingme, he darted towards me, and tearing the girl from my arms, hastenedtowards the deeper parts of the wood. I followed speedily, I hardly knewwhy; but when the man saw me draw near, he aimed a gun, which hecarried, at my body, and fired. I sunk to the ground, and my injurer,with increased swiftness, escaped into the wood.
"This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human beingfrom destruction, and, as a recompense, I now writhed under themiserable pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and bone. Thefeelings of kindness and gentleness, which I had entertained but a fewmoments before, gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth.Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.But the agony of my wound overcame me; my pulses paused, and I fainted.
"For some weeks I led a miserable life in the woods, endeavouring tocure the wound which I had received. The ball had entered my shoulder,and I knew not whether it had remained there or passed through; at anyrate I had no means of extracting it. My sufferings were augmented alsoby the oppressive sense of the injustice and ingratitude of theirinfliction. My daily vows rose for revenge—a deep and deadly revenge,such as would alone compensate for the outrages and anguish I hadendured.
"After some weeks my wound healed, and I continued my journey. Thelabours I endured were no longer to be alleviated by the bright sun orgentle breezes of spring; all joy was but a mockery, which insulted mydesolate state, and made me feel more painfully that I was not made forthe enjoyment of pleasure.
"But my toils now drew near a close; and, in two months from this time,I reached the environs of Geneva.
"It was evening when I arrived, and I retired to a hiding-place amongthe fields that surround it, to meditate in what manner I should applyto you. I was oppressed by fatigue and hunger, and far too unhappy toenjoy the gentle breezes of evening, or the prospect of the sun settingbehind the stupendous mountains of Jura.
"At this time a slight sleep relieved me from the pain of reflection,which was disturbed by the approach of a beautiful child, who camerunning into the recess I had chosen, with all the sportiveness ofinfancy. Suddenly, as I gazed on him, an idea seized me, that thislittle creature was unprejudiced, and had lived too short a time to haveimbibed a horror of deformity. If, therefore, I could seize him, andeducate him as my companion and friend, I should not be so desolate inthis peopled earth.
"Urged by this impulse, I seized on the boy as he passed, and drew himtowards me. As soon as he beheld my form, he placed his hands before hiseyes, and uttered a shrill scream: I drew his hand forcibly from hisface, and said, 'Child, what is the meaning of this? I do not intend tohurt you; listen to me.'
"He struggled violently. 'Let me go,' he cried; 'monster! ugly wretch!you wish to eat me, and tear me to pieces—You are an ogre—Let me go,or I will tell my papa.'
"'Boy, you will never see your father again; you must come with me.'
"'Hideous monster! let me go. My papa is a Syndic—he is M.Frankenstein—he will punish you. You dare not keep me.'
"'Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy—to him towards whom I havesworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim.'
"The child still struggled, and loaded me with epithets which carrieddespair to my heart; I grasped his throat to silence him, and in amoment he lay dead at my feet.
"I gazed on my victim, and my heart swelled with exultation and hellishtriumph: clapping my hands, I exclaimed, 'I, too, can create desolation;my enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, anda thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him.'
"As I fixed my eyes on the child, I saw something glittering on hisbreast. I took it; it was a portrait of a most lovely woman. In spiteof my malignity, it softened and attracted me. For a few moments I gazedwith delight on her dark eyes, fringed by deep lashes, and her lovelylips; but presently my rage returned: I remembered that I was for everdeprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could bestow; andthat she whose resemblance I contemplated would, in regarding me, havechanged that air of divine benignity to one expressive of disgust andaffright.
"Can you wonder that such thoughts transported me with rage? I onlywonder that at that moment, instead of venting my sensations inexclamations and agony, I did not rush among mankind, and perish in theattempt to destroy them.
"While I was overcome by these feelings, I left the spot where I hadcommitted the murder, and seeking a more secluded hiding-place, Ientered a barn which had appeared to me to be empty. A woman wassleeping on some straw; she was young: not indeed so beautiful as herwhose portrait I held; but of an agreeable aspect, and blooming in theloveliness of youth and health. Here, I thought, is one of those whosejoy-imparting smiles are bestowed on all but me. And then I bent overher, and whispered 'Awake, fairest, thy lover is near—he who would givehis life but to obtain one look of affection from thine eyes: mybeloved, awake!'
"The sleeper stirred; a thrill of terror ran through me. Should sheindeed awake, and see me, and curse me, and denounce the murderer? Thuswould she assuredly act, if her darkened eyes opened, and she beheld me.The thought was madness; it stirred the fiend within me—not I, but sheshall suffer: the murder I have committed because I am for ever robbedof all that she could give me, she shall atone. The crime had its sourcein her: be hers the punishment! Thanks to the lessons of Felix and thesanguinary laws of man, I had learned now to work mischief. I bent overher, and placed the portrait securely in one of the folds of her dress.She moved again, and I fled.
"For some days I haunted the spot where these scenes had taken place;sometimes wishing to see you, sometimes resolved to quit the world andits miseries for ever. At length I wandered towards these mountains,and have ranged through their immense recesses, consumed by a burningpassion which you alone can gratify. We may not part until you havepromised to comply with my requisition. I am alone, and miserable; manwill not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myselfwould not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species,and have the same defects. This being you must create."
The being finished speaking, and fixed his looks upon me in expectationof a reply. But I was bewildered, perplexed, and unable to arrange myideas sufficiently to understand the full extent of his proposition. Hecontinued—
"You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in theinterchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alonecan do; and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse toconcede."
The latter part of his tale had kindled anew in me the anger that haddied away while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers, and,as he said this, I could no longer suppress the rage that burned withinme.
"I do refuse it," I replied; "and no torture shall ever extort a consentfrom me. You may render me the most miserable of men, but you shallnever make me base in my own eyes. Shall I create another like yourself,whose joint wickedness might desolate the world. Begone! I have answeredyou; you may torture me, but I will never consent."
"You are in the wrong," replied the fiend; "and, instead of threatening,I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable.Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tearme to pieces, and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pityman more than he pities me? You would not call it murder, if you couldprecipitate me into one of those ice-rifts, and destroy my frame, thework of your own hands. Shall I respect man, when he contemns me? Lethim live with me in the interchange of kindness; and, instead of injury,I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude at hisacceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses are insurmountablebarriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission of abjectslavery. I will revenge my injuries: if I cannot inspire love, I willcause fear; and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator,do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care: I will work at yourdestruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shallcurse the hour of your birth."
A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled intocontortions too horrible for human eyes to behold; but presently hecalmed himself and proceeded—
"I intended to reason. This passion is detrimental to me; for you do notreflect that you are the cause of its excess. If any being feltemotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them an hundred andan hundred fold; for that one creature's sake, I would make peace withthe whole kind! But I now indulge in dreams of bliss that cannot berealised. What I ask of you is reasonable and moderate; I demand acreature of another sex, but as hideous as myself; the gratification issmall, but it is all that I can receive, and it shall content me. It istrue, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on thataccount we shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not behappy, but they will be harmless, and free from the misery I now feel.Oh! my creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for onebenefit! Let me see that I excite the sympathy of some existing thing;do not deny me my request!"
I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences ofmy consent; but I felt that there was some justice in his argument. Histale, and the feelings he now expressed, proved him to be a creature offine sensations; and did I not as his maker, owe him all the portion ofhappiness that it was in my power to bestow? He saw my change offeeling, and continued—
"If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see usagain: I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not thatof man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite;acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. My companion willbe of the same nature as myself, and will be content with the same fare.We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as onman, and will ripen our food. The picture I present to you is peacefuland human, and you must feel that you could deny it only in thewantonness of power and cruelty. Pitiless as you have been towards me, Inow see compassion in your eyes; let me seize the favourable moment, andpersuade you to promise what I so ardently desire."
"You propose," replied I, "to fly from the habitations of man, to dwellin those wilds where the beasts of the field will be your onlycompanions. How can you, who long for the love and sympathy of man,persevere in this exile? You will return, and again seek their kindness,and you will meet with their detestation; your evil passions will berenewed, and you will then have a companion to aid you in the task ofdestruction. This may not be: cease to argue the point, for I cannotconsent."
"How inconstant are your feelings! but a moment ago you were moved by myrepresentations, and why do you again harden yourself to my complaints?I swear to you, by the earth which I inhabit, and by you that made me,that, with the companion you bestow, I will quit the neighbourhood ofman, and dwell as it may chance, in the most savage of places. My evilpassions will have fled, for I shall meet with sympathy! my life willflow quietly away, and, in my dying moments, I shall not curse mymaker."
His words had a strange effect upon me. I compassionated him, andsometimes felt a wish to console him; but when I looked upon him, when Isaw the filthy mass that moved and talked, my heart sickened, and myfeelings were altered to those of horror and hatred. I tried to stiflethese sensations; I thought, that as I could not sympathise with him, Ihad no right to withhold from him the small portion of happiness whichwas yet in my power to bestow.
"You swear," I said, "to be harmless; but have you not already shown adegree of malice that should reasonably make me distrust you? May noteven this be a feint that will increase your triumph by affording awider scope for your revenge."
"How is this? I must not be trifled with: and I demand an answer. If Ihave no ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion; thelove of another will destroy the cause of my crimes, and I shall becomea thing, of whose existence every one will be ignorant. My vices are thechildren of a forced solitude that I abhor; and my virtues willnecessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal. I shall feelthe affections of a sensitive being, and become linked to the chain ofexistence and events, from which I am now excluded."
I paused some time to reflect on all he had related, and the variousarguments which he had employed. I thought of the promise of virtueswhich he had displayed on the opening of his existence, and thesubsequent blight of all kindly feeling by the loathing and scorn whichhis protectors had manifested towards him. His power and threats werenot omitted in my calculations: a creature who could exist in theice-caves of the glaciers, and hide himself from pursuit among theridges of inaccessible precipices, was a being possessing faculties itwould be vain to cope with. After a long pause of reflection, Iconcluded that the justice due both to him and my fellow-creaturesdemanded of me that I should comply with his request. Turning to him,therefore, I said—
"I consent to your demand, on your solemn oath to quit Europe for ever,and every other place in the neighbourhood of man, as soon as I shalldeliver into your hands a female who will accompany you in your exile."
"I swear," he cried, "by the sun, and by the blue sky of Heaven, and bythe fire of love that burns my heart, that if you grant my prayer, whilethey exist you shall never behold me again. Depart to your home, andcommence your labours: I shall watch their progress with unutterableanxiety; and fear not but that when you are ready I shall appear."
Saying this, he suddenly quitted me, fearful, perhaps, of any change inmy sentiments. I saw him descend the mountain with greater speed thanthe flight of an eagle, and quickly lost among the undulations of thesea of ice.
His tale had occupied the whole day; and the sun was upon the verge ofthe horizon when he departed. I knew that I ought to hasten my descenttowards the valley, as I should soon be encompassed in darkness; but myheart was heavy, and my steps slow. The labour of winding among thelittle paths of the mountains, and fixing my feet firmly as I advanced,perplexed me, occupied as I was by the emotions which the occurrences ofthe day had produced. Night was far advanced, when I came to thehalf-way resting-place, and seated myself beside the fountain. The starsshone at intervals, as the clouds passed from over them; the dark pinesrose before me, and every here and there a broken tree lay on theground: it was a scene of wonderful solemnity, and stirred strangethoughts within me. I wept bitterly; and clasping my hands in agony, Iexclaimed, "Oh! stars and clouds, and winds, ye are all about to mockme: if ye really pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become asnought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness."
These were wild and miserable thoughts; but I cannot describe to you howthe eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me, and how I listenedto every blast of wind, as if it were a dull ugly siroc on its way toconsume me.
Morning dawned before I arrived at the village of Chamounix; I took norest, but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I couldgive no expression to my sensations—they weighed on me with amountain's weight, and their excess destroyed my agony beneath them.Thus I returned home, and entering the house, presented myself to thefamily. My haggard and wild appearance awoke intense alarm; but Ianswered no question, scarcely did I speak. I felt as if I were placedunder a ban—as if I had no right to claim their sympathies—as if nevermore might I enjoy companionship with them. Yet even thus I loved themto adoration; and to save them, I resolved to dedicate myself to my mostabhorred task. The prospect of such an occupation made every othercircumstance of existence pass before me like a dream; and that thoughtonly had to me the reality of life.
Day after day, week after week, passed away on my return to Geneva; andI could not collect the courage to recommence my work. I feared thevengeance of the disappointed fiend, yet I was unable to overcome myrepugnance to the task which was enjoined me. I found that I could notcompose a female without again devoting several months to profound studyand laborious disquisition. I had heard of some discoveries having beenmade by an English philosopher, the knowledge of which was material tomy success, and I sometimes thought of obtaining my father's consent tovisit England for this purpose; but I clung to every pretence of delay,and shrunk from taking the first step in an undertaking whose immediatenecessity began to appear less absolute to me. A change indeed had takenplace in me: my health, which had hitherto declined, was now muchrestored; and my spirits, when unchecked by the memory of my unhappypromise, rose proportionably. My father saw this change with pleasure,and he turned his thoughts towards the best method of eradicating theremains of my melancholy, which every now and then would return by fits,and with a devouring blackness overcast the approaching sunshine. Atthese moments I took refuge in the most perfect solitude. I passed wholedays on the lake alone in a little boat, watching the clouds, andlistening to the rippling of the waves, silent and listless. But thefresh air and bright sun seldom failed to restore me to some degree ofcomposure; and, on my return, I met the salutations of my friends with areadier smile and a more cheerful heart.
It was after my return from one of these rambles, that my father,calling me aside, thus addressed me:—
"I am happy to remark, my dear son, that you have resumed your formerpleasures, and seem to be returning to yourself. And yet you are stillunhappy, and still avoid our society. For some time I was lost inconjecture as to the cause of this; but yesterday an idea struck me, andif it is well founded, I conjure you to avow it. Reserve on such a pointwould be not only useless, but draw down treble misery on us all."
I trembled violently at his exordium, and my father continued—
"I confess, my son, that I have always looked forward to your marriagewith our dear Elizabeth as the tie of our domestic comfort, and the stayof my declining years. You were attached to each other from yourearliest infancy; you studied together, and appeared, in dispositionsand tastes, entirely suited to one another. But so blind is theexperience of man, that what I conceived to be the best assistants to myplan, may have entirely destroyed it. You, perhaps, regard her as yoursister, without any wish that she might become your wife. Nay, you mayhave met with another whom you may love; and, considering yourself asbound in honour to Elizabeth, this struggle may occasion the poignantmisery which you appear to feel."
"My dear father, reassure yourself. I love my cousin tenderly andsincerely. I never saw any woman who excited, as Elizabeth does, mywarmest admiration and affection. My future hopes and prospects areentirely bound up in the expectation of our union."
"The expression of your sentiments of this subject, my dear Victor,gives me more pleasure than I have for some time experienced. If youfeel thus, we shall assuredly be happy, however present events may casta gloom over us. But it is this gloom which appears to have taken sostrong a hold of your mind, that I wish to dissipate. Tell me,therefore, whether you object to an immediate solemnisation of themarriage. We have been unfortunate, and recent events have drawn usfrom that every-day tranquillity befitting my years and infirmities. Youare younger; yet I do not suppose, possessed as you are of a competentfortune, that an early marriage would at all interfere with any futureplans of honour and utility that you may have formed. Do not suppose,however, that I wish to dictate happiness to you, or that a delay onyour part would cause me any serious uneasiness. Interpret my words withcandour, and answer me, I conjure you, with confidence and sincerity."
I listened to my father in silence, and remained for some time incapableof offering any reply. I revolved rapidly in my mind a multitude ofthoughts, and endeavoured to arrive at some conclusion. Alas! to me theidea of an immediate union with my Elizabeth was one of horror anddismay. I was bound by a solemn promise, which I had not yet fulfilled,and dared not break; or, if I did, what manifold miseries might notimpend over me and my devoted family! Could I enter into a festival withthis deadly weight yet hanging round my neck, and bowing me to theground. I must perform my engagement, and let the monster depart withhis mate, before I allowed myself to enjoy the delight of an union fromwhich I expected peace.
I remembered also the necessity imposed upon me of either journeying toEngland, or entering into a long correspondence with those philosophersof that country, whose knowledge and discoveries were of indispensableuse to me in my present undertaking. The latter method of obtaining thedesired intelligence was dilatory and unsatisfactory: besides, I had aninsurmountable aversion to the idea of engaging myself in my loathsometask in my father's house, while in habits of familiar intercourse withthose I loved. I knew that a thousand fearful accidents might occur, theslightest of which would disclose a tale to thrill all connected with mewith horror. I was aware also that I should often lose all self-command,all capacity of hiding the harrowing sensations that would possess meduring the progress of my unearthly occupation. I must absent myselffrom all I loved while thus employed. Once commenced, it would quicklybe achieved, and I might be restored to my family in peace andhappiness. My promise fulfilled, the monster would depart for ever. Or(so my fond fancy imaged) some accident might meanwhile occur to destroyhim, and put an end to my slavery for ever.
These feelings dictated my answer to my father. I expressed a wish tovisit England; but, concealing the true reasons of this request, Iclothed my desires under a guise which excited no suspicion, while Iurged my desire with an earnestness that easily induced my father tocomply. After so long a period of an absorbing melancholy, thatresembled madness in its intensity and effects, he was glad to find thatI was capable of taking pleasure in the idea of such a journey, and hehoped that change of scene and varied amusement would, before my return,have restored me entirely to myself.
The duration of my absence was left to my own choice; a few months, orat most a year, was the period contemplated. One paternal kindprecaution he had taken to ensure my having a companion. Withoutpreviously communicating with me, he had, in concert with Elizabeth,arranged that Clerval should join me at Strasburgh. This interfered withthe solitude I coveted for the prosecution of my task; yet at thecommencement of my journey the presence of my friend could in no way bean impediment, and truly I rejoiced that thus I should be saved manyhours of lonely, maddening reflection. Nay, Henry might stand between meand the intrusion of my foe. If I were alone, would he not at timesforce his abhorred presence on me, to remind me of my task, or tocontemplate its progress?
To England, therefore, I was bound, and it was understood that my unionwith Elizabeth should take place immediately on my return. My father'sage rendered him extremely averse to delay. For myself, there was onereward I promised myself from my detested toils—one consolation for myunparalleled sufferings; it was the prospect of that day when,enfranchised from my miserable slavery, I might claim Elizabeth, andforget the past in my union with her.
I now made arrangements for my journey; but one feeling haunted me,which filled me with fear and agitation. During my absence I shouldleave my friends unconscious of the existence of their enemy, andunprotected from his attacks, exasperated as he might be by mydeparture. But he had promised to follow me wherever I might go; andwould he not accompany me to England? This imagination was dreadful initself, but soothing, inasmuch as it supposed the safety of my friends.I was agonised with the idea of the possibility that the reverse of thismight happen. But through the whole period during which I was the slaveof my creature, I allowed myself to be governed by the impulses of themoment; and my present sensations strongly intimated that the fiendwould follow me, and exempt my family from the danger of hismachinations.
It was in the latter end of September that I again quitted my nativecountry. My journey had been my own suggestion, and Elizabeth,therefore, acquiesced: but she was filled with disquiet at the idea ofmy suffering, away from her, the inroads of misery and grief. It hadbeen her care which provided me a companion in Clerval—and yet a man isblind to a thousand minute circumstances, which call forth a woman'ssedulous attention. She longed to bid me hasten my return,—a thousandconflicting emotions rendered her mute, as she bade me a tearful silentfarewell.
I threw myself into the carriage that was to convey me away, hardlyknowing whither I was going, and careless of what was passing around. Iremembered only, and it was with a bitter anguish that I reflected onit, to order that my chemical instruments should be packed to go withme. Filled with dreary imaginations, I passed through many beautiful andmajestic scenes; but my eyes were fixed and unobserving. I could onlythink of the bourne of my travels, and the work which was to occupy mewhilst they endured.
After some days spent in listless indolence, during which I traversedmany leagues, I arrived at Strasburgh, where I waited two days forClerval. He came. Alas, how great was the contrast between us! He wasalive to every new scene; joyful when he saw the beauties of the settingsun, and more happy when he beheld it rise, and recommence a new day.He pointed out to me the shifting colours of the landscape, and theappearances of the sky. "This is what it is to live," he cried, "now Ienjoy existence! But you, my dear Frankenstein, wherefore are youdesponding and sorrowful!" In truth, I was occupied by gloomy thoughts,and neither saw the descent of the evening star, nor the golden sunrisereflected in the Rhine.—And you, my friend, would be far more amusedwith the journal of Clerval, who observed the scenery with an eye offeeling and delight, than in listening to my reflections. I, a miserablewretch, haunted by a curse that shut up every avenue to enjoyment.
We had agreed to descend the Rhine in a boat from Strasburgh toRotterdam, whence we might take shipping for London. During this voyage,we passed many willowy islands, and saw several beautiful towns. Westayed a day at Manheim, and, on the fifth from our departure fromStrasburgh, arrived at Mayence. The course of the Rhine below Mayencebecomes much more picturesque. The river descends rapidly, and windsbetween hills, not high, but steep, and of beautiful forms. We saw manyruined castles standing on the edges of precipices, surrounded by blackwoods, high and inaccessible. This part of the Rhine, indeed, presents asingularly variegated landscape. In one spot you view rugged hills,ruined castles overlooking tremendous precipices, with the dark Rhinerushing beneath; and, on the sudden turn of a promontory, flourishingvineyards, with green sloping banks, and a meandering river, andpopulous towns occupy the scene.
We travelled at the time of the vintage, and heard the song of thelabourers, as we glided down the stream. Even I, depressed in mind, andmy spirits continually agitated by gloomy feelings, even I was pleased.I lay at the bottom of the boat, and, as I gazed on the cloudless bluesky, I seemed to drink in a tranquillity to which I had long been astranger. And if these were my sensations, who can describe those ofHenry? He felt as if he had been transported to Fairy-land, and enjoyeda happiness seldom tasted by man. "I have seen," he said, "the mostbeautiful scenes of my own country; I have visited the lakes of Lucerneand Uri, where the snowy mountains descend almost perpendicularly to thewater, casting black and impenetrable shades, which would cause a gloomyand mournful appearance, were it not for the most verdant islands thatrelieve the eye by their gay appearance; I have seen this lake agitatedby a tempest, when the wind tore up whirlwinds of water, and gave you anidea of what the water-spout must be on the great ocean; and the wavesdash with fury the base of the mountain, where the priest and hismistress were overwhelmed by an avalanche, and where their dying voicesare still said to be heard amid the pauses of the nightly wind; I haveseen the mountains of La Valais, and the Pays de Vaud: but this country,Victor, pleases me more than all those wonders. The mountains ofSwitzerland are more majestic and strange; but there is a charm in thebanks of this divine river, that I never before saw equalled. Look atthat castle which overhangs yon precipice; and that also on the island,almost concealed amongst the foliage of those lovely trees; and now thatgroup of labourers coming from among their vines; and that village halfhid in the recess of the mountain. Oh, surely, the spirit that inhabitsand guards this place has a soul more in harmony with man, than thosewho pile the glacier, or retire to the inaccessible peaks of themountains of our own country."
Clerval! beloved friend! even now it delights me to record your words,and to dwell on the praise of which you are so eminently deserving. Hewas a being formed in the "very poetry of nature." His wild andenthusiastic imagination was chastened by the sensibility of his heart.His soul overflowed with ardent affections, and his friendship was ofthat devoted and wondrous nature that the worldly-minded teach us tolook for only in the imagination. But even human sympathies were notsufficient to satisfy his eager mind. The scenery of external nature,which others regard only with admiration, he loved with ardour:—
——"The sounding cataract
Haunted him like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to him
An appetite; a feeling, and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrow'd from the eye"
And where does he now exist? Is this gentle and lovely being lost forever? Has this mind, so replete with ideas, imaginations fanciful andmagnificent, which formed a world, whose existence depended on the lifeof its creator;—has this mind perished? Does it now only exist in mymemory? No, it is not thus; your form so divinely wrought, and beamingwith beauty, has decayed, but your spirit still visits and consoles yourunhappy friend.
Pardon this gush of sorrow; these ineffectual words are but a slighttribute to the unexampled worth of Henry, but they soothe my heart,overflowing with the anguish which his remembrance creates. I willproceed with my tale.
Beyond Cologne we descended to the plains of Holland; and we resolved topost the remainder of our way; for the wind was contrary, and the streamof the river was too gentle to aid us.
Our journey here lost the interest arising from beautiful scenery; butwe arrived in a few days at Rotterdam, whence we proceeded by sea toEngland. It was on a clear morning, in the latter days of December, thatI first saw the white cliffs of Britain. The banks of the Thamespresented a new scene; they were flat, but fertile, and almost everytown was marked by the remembrance of some story. We saw Tilbury Fort,and remembered the Spanish armada; Gravesend, Woolwich, and Greenwich,places which I had heard of even in my country.
At length we saw the numerous steeples of London, St. Paul's toweringabove all, and the Tower famed in English history.
London was our present point of rest; we determined to remain severalmonths in this wonderful and celebrated city. Clerval desired theintercourse of the men of genius and talent who flourished at this time;but this was with me a secondary object; I was principally occupied withthe means of obtaining the information necessary for the completion ofmy promise, and quickly availed myself of the letters of introductionthat I had brought with me, addressed to the most distinguished naturalphilosophers.
If this journey had taken place during my days of study and happiness,it would have afforded me inexpressible pleasure. But a blight had comeover my existence, and I only visited these people for the sake of theinformation they might give me on the subject in which my interest wasso terribly profound. Company was irksome to me; when alone, I couldfill my mind with the sights of heaven and earth; the voice of Henrysoothed me, and I could thus cheat myself into a transitory peace. Butbusy uninteresting joyous faces brought back despair to my heart. I sawan insurmountable barrier placed between me and my fellow-men; thisbarrier was sealed with the blood of William and Justine; and to reflecton the events connected with those names filled my soul with anguish.
But in Clerval I saw the image of my former self; he was inquisitive,and anxious to gain experience and instruction. The difference ofmanners which he observed was to him an inexhaustible source ofinstruction and amusement. He was also pursuing an object he had longhad in view. His design was to visit India, in the belief that he had inhis knowledge of its various languages, and in the views he had taken ofits society, the means of materially assisting the progress of Europeancolonisation and trade. In Britain only could he further the executionof his plan. He was for ever busy; and the only check to his enjoymentswas my sorrowful and dejected mind. I tried to conceal this as much aspossible, that I might not debar him from the pleasures natural to one,who was entering on a new scene of life, undisturbed by any care orbitter recollection. I often refused to accompany him, alleging anotherengagement, that I might remain alone. I now also began to collect thematerials necessary for my new creation, and this was to me like thetorture of single drops of water continually falling on the head. Everythought that was devoted to it was an extreme anguish, and every wordthat I spoke in allusion to it caused my lips to quiver, and my heart topalpitate.
After passing some months in London, we received a letter from a personin Scotland, who had formerly been our visiter at Geneva. He mentionedthe beauties of his native country, and asked us if those were notsufficient allurements to induce us to prolong our journey as far northas Perth, where he resided. Clerval eagerly desired to accept thisinvitation; and I, although I abhorred society, wished to view againmountains and streams, and all the wondrous works with which Natureadorns her chosen dwelling-places.
We had arrived in England at the beginning of October, and it was nowFebruary. We accordingly determined to commence our journey towards thenorth at the expiration of another month. In this expedition we did notintend to follow the great road to Edinburgh, but to visit Windsor,Oxford, Matlock, and the Cumberland lakes, resolving to arrive at thecompletion of this tour about the end of July. I packed up my chemicalinstruments, and the materials I had collected, resolving to finish mylabours in some obscure nook in the northern highlands of Scotland.
We quitted London on the 27th of March, and remained a few days atWindsor, rambling in its beautiful forest. This was a new scene to usmountaineers; the majestic oaks, the quantity of game, and the herds ofstately deer, were all novelties to us.
From thence we proceeded to Oxford. As we entered this city, our mindswere filled with the remembrance of the events that had been transactedthere more than a century and a half before. It was here that Charles I.had collected his forces. This city had remained faithful to him, afterthe whole nation had forsaken his cause to join the standard ofparliament and liberty. The memory of that unfortunate king, and hiscompanions, the amiable Falkland, the insolent Goring, his queen, andson, gave a peculiar interest to every part of the city, which theymight be supposed to have inhabited. The spirit of elder days found adwelling here, and we delighted to trace its footsteps. If thesefeelings had not found an imaginary gratification, the appearance of thecity had yet in itself sufficient beauty to obtain our admiration. Thecolleges are ancient and picturesque; the streets are almostmagnificent; and the lovely Isis, which flows beside it through meadowsof exquisite verdure, is spread forth into a placid expanse of waters,which reflects its majestic assemblage of towers, and spires, and domes,embosomed among aged trees.
I enjoyed this scene; and yet my enjoyment was embittered both by thememory of the past, and the anticipation of the future. I was formed forpeaceful happiness. During my youthful days discontent never visited mymind; and if I was ever overcome by ennui, the sight of what isbeautiful in nature, or the study of what is excellent and sublime inthe productions of man, could always interest my heart, and communicateelasticity to my spirits. But I am a blasted tree; the bolt has enteredmy soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit, what I shallsoon cease to be—a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable toothers, and intolerable to myself.
We passed a considerable period at Oxford, rambling among its environs,and endeavouring to identify every spot which might relate to the mostanimating epoch of English history. Our little voyages of discovery wereoften prolonged by the successive objects that presented themselves. Wevisited the tomb of the illustrious Hampden, and the field on which thatpatriot fell. For a moment my soul was elevated from its debasing andmiserable fears, to contemplate the divine ideas of liberty andself-sacrifice, of which these sights were the monuments and theremembrancers. For an instant I dared to shake off my chains, and lookaround me with a free and lofty spirit; but the iron had eaten into myflesh, and I sank again, trembling and hopeless, into my miserable self.
We left Oxford with regret, and proceeded to Matlock, which was our nextplace of rest. The country in the neighbourhood of this villageresembled, to a greater degree, the scenery of Switzerland; but everything is on a lower scale, and the green hills want the crown of distantwhite Alps, which always attend on the piny mountains of my nativecountry. We visited the wondrous cave, and the little cabinets ofnatural history, where the curiosities are disposed in the same manneras in the collections at Servox and Chamounix. The latter name made metremble, when pronounced by Henry; and I hastened to quit Matlock, withwhich that terrible scene was thus associated.
From Derby, still journeying northward, we passed two months inCumberland and Westmorland. I could now almost fancy myself among theSwiss mountains. The little patches of snow which yet lingered on thenorthern sides of the mountains, the lakes, and the dashing of the rockystreams, were all familiar and dear sights to me. Here also we made someacquaintances, who almost contrived to cheat me into happiness. Thedelight of Clerval was proportionably greater than mine; his mindexpanded in the company of men of talent, and he found in his own naturegreater capacities and resources than he could have imagined himself tohave possessed while he associated with his inferiors. "I could pass mylife here," said he to me; "and among these mountains I should scarcelyregret Switzerland and the Rhine."
But he found that a traveller's life is one that includes much painamidst its enjoyments. His feelings are for ever on the stretch; andwhen he begins to sink into repose, he finds himself obliged to quitthat on which he rests in pleasure for something new, which againengages his attention, and which also he forsakes for other novelties.
We had scarcely visited the various lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland,and conceived an affection for some of the inhabitants, when the periodof our appointment with our Scotch friend approached, and we left themto travel on. For my own part I was not sorry. I had now neglected mypromise for some time, and I feared the effects of the dæmon'sdisappointment. He might remain in Switzerland, and wreak his vengeanceon my relatives. This idea pursued me, and tormented me at every momentfrom which I might otherwise have snatched repose and peace. I waitedfor my letters with feverish impatience: if they were delayed, I wasmiserable, and overcome by a thousand fears; and when they arrived, andI saw the superscription of Elizabeth or my father, I hardly dared toread and ascertain my fate. Sometimes I thought that the fiend followedme, and might expedite my remissness by murdering my companion. Whenthese thoughts possessed me, I would not quit Henry for a moment, butfollowed him as his shadow, to protect him from the fancied rage of hisdestroyer. I felt as if I had committed some great crime, theconsciousness of which haunted me. I was guiltless, but I had indeeddrawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that of crime.
I visited Edinburgh with languid eyes and mind; and yet that city mighthave interested the most unfortunate being. Clerval did not like it sowell as Oxford: for the antiquity of the latter city was more pleasingto him. But the beauty and regularity of the new town of Edinburgh, itsromantic castle, and its environs, the most delightful in the world,Arthur's Seat, St. Bernard's Well, and the Pentland Hills, compensatedhim for the change, and filled him with cheerfulness and admiration. ButI was impatient to arrive at the termination of my journey.
We left Edinburgh in a week, passing through Coupar, St. Andrew's, andalong the banks of the Tay, to Perth, where our friend expected us. ButI was in no mood to laugh and talk with strangers, or enter into theirfeelings or plans with the good humour expected from a guest; andaccordingly I told Clerval that I wished to make the tour of Scotlandalone. "Do you," said I, "enjoy yourself, and let this be ourrendezvous. I may be absent a month or two; but do not interfere with mymotions, I entreat you: leave me to peace and solitude for a short time;and when I return, I hope it will be with a lighter heart, morecongenial to your own temper."
Henry wished to dissuade me; but, seeing me bent on this plan, ceased toremonstrate. He entreated me to write often. "I had rather be with you,"he said, "in your solitary rambles, than with these Scotch people, whomI do not know: hasten then, my dear friend, to return, that I may againfeel myself somewhat at home, which I cannot do in your absence."
Having parted from my friend, I determined to visit some remote spot ofScotland, and finish my work in solitude. I did not doubt but that themonster followed me, and would discover himself to me when I should havefinished, that he might receive his companion.
With this resolution I traversed the northern highlands, and fixed onone of the remotest of the Orkneys as the scene of my labours. It was aplace fitted for such a work, being hardly more than a rock, whose highsides were continually beaten upon by the waves. The soil was barren,scarcely affording pasture for a few miserable cows, and oatmeal for itsinhabitants, which consisted of five persons, whose gaunt and scraggylimbs gave tokens of their miserable fare. Vegetables and bread, whenthey indulged in such luxuries, and even fresh water, was to be procuredfrom the main land, which was about five miles distant.
On the whole island there were but three miserable huts, and one ofthese was vacant when I arrived. This I hired. It contained but tworooms, and these exhibited all the squalidness of the most miserablepenury. The thatch had fallen in, the walls were unplastered, and thedoor was off its hinges. I ordered it to be repaired, bought somefurniture, and took possession; an incident which would, doubtless, haveoccasioned some surprise, had not all the senses of the cottagers beenbenumbed by want and squalid poverty. As it was, I lived ungazed at andunmolested, hardly thanked for the pittance of food and clothes which Igave; so much does suffering blunt even the coarsest sensations of men.
In this retreat I devoted the morning to labour; but in the evening,when the weather permitted, I walked on the stony beach of the sea, tolisten to the waves as they roared and dashed at my feet. It was amonotonous yet ever-changing scene. I thought of Switzerland; it wasfar different from this desolate and appalling landscape. Its hills arecovered with vines, and its cottages are scattered thickly in theplains. Its fair lakes reflect a blue and gentle sky; and, when troubledby the winds, their tumult is but as the play of a lively infant, whencompared to the roarings of the giant ocean.
In this manner I distributed my occupations when I first arrived; but,as I proceeded in my labour, it became every day more horrible andirksome to me. Sometimes I could not prevail on myself to enter mylaboratory for several days; and at other times I toiled day and nightin order to complete my work. It was, indeed, a filthy process in whichI was engaged. During my first experiment, a kind of enthusiastic frenzyhad blinded me to the horror of my employment; my mind was intentlyfixed on the consummation of my labour, and my eyes were shut to thehorror of my proceedings. But now I went to it in cold blood, and myheart often sickened at the work of my hands.
Thus situated, employed in the most detestable occupation, immersed in asolitude where nothing could for an instant call my attention from theactual scene in which I was engaged, my spirits became unequal; I grewrestless and nervous. Every moment I feared to meet my persecutor.Sometimes I sat with my eyes fixed on the ground, fearing to raise them,lest they should encounter the object which I so much dreaded to behold.I feared to wander from the sight of my fellow-creatures, lest whenalone he should come to claim his companion.
In the mean time I worked on, and my labour was already considerablyadvanced. I looked towards its completion with a tremulous and eagerhope, which I dared not trust myself to question, but which wasintermixed with obscure forebodings of evil, that made my heart sickenin my bosom.
I sat one evening in my laboratory; the sun had set, and the moon wasjust rising from the sea; I had not sufficient light for my employment,and I remained idle, in a pause of consideration of whether I shouldleave my labour for the night, or hasten its conclusion by anunremitting attention to it. As I sat, a train of reflection occurred tome, which led me to consider the effects of what I was now doing. Threeyears before I was engaged in the same manner, and had created a fiendwhose unparalleled barbarity had desolated my heart, and filled it forever with the bitterest remorse. I was now about to form another being,of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become tenthousand times more malignant than her mate, and delight, for its ownsake, in murder and wretchedness. He had sworn to quit the neighbourhoodof man, and hide himself in deserts; but she had not; and she, who inall probability was to become a thinking and reasoning animal, mightrefuse to comply with a compact made before her creation. They mighteven hate each other; the creature who already lived loathed his owndeformity, and might he not conceive a greater abhorrence for it when itcame before his eyes in the female form? She also might turn withdisgust from him to the superior beauty of man; she might quit him, andhe be again alone, exasperated by the fresh provocation of beingdeserted by one of his own species.
Even if they were to leave Europe, and inhabit the deserts of the newworld, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which thedæmon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would bepropagated upon the earth, who might make the very existence of thespecies of man a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I right,for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; Ihad been struck senseless by his fiendish threats: but now, for thefirst time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered tothink that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishnesshad not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of theexistence of the whole human race.
I trembled, and my heart failed within me; when, on looking up, I saw,by the light of the moon, the dæmon at the casement. A ghastly grinwrinkled his lips as he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the taskwhich he had allotted to me. Yes, he had followed me in my travels; hehad loitered in forests, hid himself in caves, or taken refuge in wideand desert heaths; and he now came to mark my progress, and claim thefulfilment of my promise.
As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent ofmalice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on mypromise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion,tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. The wretch saw medestroy the creature on whose future existence he depended forhappiness, and, with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.
I left the room, and, locking the door, made a solemn vow in my ownheart never to resume my labours; and then, with trembling steps, Isought my own apartment. I was alone; none were near me to dissipate thegloom, and relieve me from the sickening oppression of the most terriblereveries.
Several hours passed, and I remained near my window gazing on the sea;it was almost motionless, for the winds were hushed, and all naturereposed under the eye of the quiet moon. A few fishing vessels alonespecked the water, and now and then the gentle breeze wafted the soundof voices, as the fishermen called to one another. I felt the silence,although I was hardly conscious of its extreme profundity, until my earwas suddenly arrested by the paddling of oars near the shore, and aperson landed close to my house.
In a few minutes after, I heard the creaking of my door, as if some oneendeavoured to open it softly. I trembled from head to foot; I felt apresentiment of who it was, and wished to rouse one of the peasants whodwelt in a cottage not far from mine; but I was overcome by thesensation of helplessness, so often felt in frightful dreams, when youin vain endeavour to fly from an impending danger, and was rooted to thespot.
Presently I heard the sound of footsteps along the passage; the dooropened, and the wretch whom I dreaded appeared. Shutting the door, heapproached me, and said, in a smothered voice—
"You have destroyed the work which you began; what is it that youintend? Do you dare to break your promise? I have endured toil andmisery: I left Switzerland with you; I crept along the shores of theRhine, among its willow islands, and over the summits of its hills. Ihave dwelt many months in the heaths of England, and among the desertsof Scotland. I have endured incalculable fatigue, and cold, and hunger;do you dare destroy my hopes?"
"Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another likeyourself, equal in deformity and wickedness."
"Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourselfunworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believeyourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of daywill be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am yourmaster;—obey!"
"The hour of my irresolution is past, and the period of your power isarrived. Your threats cannot move me to do an act of wickedness; butthey confirm me in a determination of not creating you a companion invice. Shall I, in cool blood, set loose upon the earth a dæmon, whosedelight is in death and wretchedness? Begone! I am firm, and your wordswill only exasperate my rage."
The monster saw my determination in my face, and gnashed his teeth inthe impotence of anger. "Shall each man," cried he, "find a wife for hisbosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings ofaffection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! you mayhate; but beware! your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon thebolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness for ever. Areyou to be happy, while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness?You can blast my other passions; but revenge remains—revenge,henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die; but first you, mytyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery.Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. I will watch with thewiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shallrepent of the injuries you inflict."
"Devil, cease; and do not poison the air with these sounds of malice. Ihave declared my resolution to you, and I am no coward to bend beneathwords. Leave me; I am inexorable."
"It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on yourwedding-night."
I started forward, and exclaimed, "Villain! before you sign mydeath-warrant, be sure that you are yourself safe."
I would have seized him; but he eluded me, and quitted the house withprecipitation. In a few moments I saw him in his boat, which shot acrossthe waters with an arrowy swiftness, and was soon lost amidst the waves.
All was again silent; but his words rung in my ears. I burned with rageto pursue the murderer of my peace, and precipitate him into the ocean.I walked up and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imaginationconjured up a thousand images to torment and sting me. Why had I notfollowed him, and closed with him in mortal strife? But I had sufferedhim to depart, and he had directed his course towards the main land. Ishuddered to think who might be the next victim sacrificed to hisinsatiate revenge. And then I thought again of his words—"I will bewith you on your wedding-night." That then was the period fixed for thefulfilment of my destiny. In that hour I should die, and at once satisfyand extinguish his malice. The prospect did not move me to fear; yetwhen I thought of my beloved Elizabeth,—of her tears and endlesssorrow, when she should find her lover so barbarously snatched fromher,—tears, the first I had shed for many months, streamed from myeyes, and I resolved not to fall before my enemy without a bitterstruggle.
The night passed away, and the sun rose from the ocean; my feelingsbecame calmer, if it may be called calmness when the violence of ragesinks into the depths of despair. I left the house, the horrid scene ofthe last night's contention, and walked on the beach of the sea, which Ialmost regarded as an insuperable barrier between me and myfellow-creatures; nay, a wish that such should prove the fact stoleacross me. I desired that I might pass my life on that barren rock,wearily, it is true, but uninterrupted by any sudden shock of misery. IfI returned, it was to be sacrificed, or to see those whom I most loveddie under the grasp of a dæmon whom I had myself created.
I walked about the isle like a restless spectre, separated from all itloved, and miserable in the separation. When it became noon, and the sunrose higher, I lay down on the grass, and was overpowered by a deepsleep. I had been awake the whole of the preceding night, my nerves wereagitated, and my eyes inflamed by watching and misery. The sleep intowhich I now sunk refreshed me; and when I awoke, I again felt as if Ibelonged to a race of human beings like myself, and I began to reflectupon what had passed with greater composure; yet still the words of thefiend rung in my ears like a death-knell, they appeared like a dream,yet distinct and oppressive as a reality.
The sun had far descended, and I still sat on the shore, satisfying myappetite, which had become ravenous, with an oaten cake, when I saw afishing-boat land close to me, and one of the men brought me a packet;it contained letters from Geneva, and one from Clerval, entreating me tojoin him. He said that he was wearing away his time fruitlessly where hewas; that letters from the friends he had formed in London desired hisreturn to complete the negotiation they had entered into for his Indianenterprise. He could not any longer delay his departure; but as hisjourney to London might be followed, even sooner than he nowconjectured, by his longer voyage, he entreated me to bestow as much ofmy society on him as I could spare. He besought me, therefore, to leavemy solitary isle, and to meet him at Perth, that we might proceedsouthwards together. This letter in a degree recalled me to life, and Idetermined to quit my island at the expiration of two days.
Yet, before I departed, there was a task to perform, on which Ishuddered to reflect: I must pack up my chemical instruments; and forthat purpose I must enter the room which had been the scene of my odiouswork, and I must handle those utensils, the sight of which was sickeningto me. The next morning, at daybreak, I summoned sufficient courage, andunlocked the door of my laboratory. The remains of the half-finishedcreature, whom I had destroyed, lay scattered on the floor, and I almostfelt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being. I paused tocollect myself, and then entered the chamber. With trembling hand Iconveyed the instruments out of the room; but I reflected that I oughtnot to leave the relics of my work to excite the horror and suspicion ofthe peasants; and I accordingly put them into a basket, with a greatquantity of stones, and, laying them up, determined to throw them intothe sea that very night; and in the mean time I sat upon the beach,employed in cleaning and arranging my chemical apparatus.
Nothing could be more complete than the alteration that had taken placein my feelings since the night of the appearance of the dæmon. I hadbefore regarded my promise with a gloomy despair, as a thing that, withwhatever consequences, must be fulfilled; but I now felt as if a filmhad been taken from before my eyes, and that I, for the first time, sawclearly. The idea of renewing my labours did not for one instant occurto me; the threat I had heard weighed on my thoughts, but I did notreflect that a voluntary act of mine could avert it. I had resolved inmy own mind, that to create another like the fiend I had first madewould be an act of the basest and most atrocious selfishness; and Ibanished from my mind every thought that could lead to a differentconclusion.
Between two and three in the morning the moon rose; and I then, puttingmy basket aboard a little skiff, sailed out about four miles from theshore. The scene was perfectly solitary: a few boats were returningtowards land, but I sailed away from them. I felt as if I was about thecommission of a dreadful crime, and avoided with shuddering anxiety anyencounter with my fellow-creatures. At one time the moon, which hadbefore been clear, was suddenly overspread by a thick cloud, and I tookadvantage of the moment of darkness, and cast my basket into the sea: Ilistened to the gurgling sound as it sunk, and then sailed away from thespot. The sky became clouded; but the air was pure, although chilled bythe north-east breeze that was then rising. But it refreshed me, andfilled me with such agreeable sensations, that I resolved to prolong mystay on the water; and, fixing the rudder in a direct position,stretched myself at the bottom of the boat. Clouds hid the moon, everything was obscure, and I heard only the sound of the boat, as its keelcut through the waves; the murmur lulled me, and in a short time I sleptsoundly.
I do not know how long I remained in this situation, but when I awoke Ifound that the sun had already mounted considerably. The wind was high,and the waves continually threatened the safety of my little skiff. Ifound that the wind was north-east, and must have driven me far from thecoast from which I had embarked. I endeavoured to change my course, butquickly found that, if I again made the attempt, the boat would beinstantly filled with water. Thus situated, my only resource was todrive before the wind. I confess that I felt a few sensations of terror.I had no compass with me, and was so slenderly acquainted with thegeography of this part of the world, that the sun was of little benefitto me. I might be driven into the wide Atlantic, and feel all thetortures of starvation, or be swallowed up in the immeasurable watersthat roared and buffeted around me. I had already been out many hours,and felt the torment of a burning thirst, a prelude to my othersufferings. I looked on the heavens, which were covered by clouds thatflew before the wind, only to be replaced by others: I looked upon thesea, it was to be my grave. "Fiend," I exclaimed, "your task is alreadyfulfilled!" I thought of Elizabeth, of my father, and of Clerval; allleft behind, on whom the monster might satisfy his sanguinary andmerciless passions. This idea plunged me into a reverie, so despairingand frightful, that even now, when the scene is on the point of closingbefore me for ever, I shudder to reflect on it.
Some hours passed thus; but by degrees, as the sun declined towards thehorizon, the wind died away into a gentle breeze, and the sea becamefree from breakers. But these gave place to a heavy swell: I felt sick,and hardly able to hold the rudder, when suddenly I saw a line of highland towards the south.
Almost spent, as I was, by fatigue, and the dreadful suspense I enduredfor several hours, this sudden certainty of life rushed like a flood ofwarm joy to my heart, and tears gushed from my eyes.
How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that clinging love wehave of life even in the excess of misery! I constructed another sailwith a part of my dress, and eagerly steered my course towards the land.It had a wild and rocky appearance; but, as I approached nearer, Ieasily perceived the traces of cultivation. I saw vessels near theshore, and found myself suddenly transported back to the neighbourhoodof civilised man. I carefully traced the windings of the land, andhailed a steeple which I at length saw issuing from behind a smallpromontory. As I was in a state of extreme debility, I resolved to saildirectly towards the town, as a place where I could most easily procurenourishment. Fortunately I had money with me. As I turned thepromontory, I perceived a small neat town and a good harbour, which Ientered, my heart bounding with joy at my unexpected escape.
As I was occupied in fixing the boat and arranging the sails, severalpeople crowded towards the spot. They seemed much surprised at myappearance; but, instead of offering me any assistance, whisperedtogether with gestures that at any other time might have produced in mea slight sensation of alarm. As it was, I merely remarked that theyspoke English; and I therefore addressed them in that language: "My goodfriends," said I, "will you be so kind as to tell me the name of thistown, and inform me where I am?"
"You will know that soon enough," replied a man with a hoarse voice."May be you are come to a place that will not prove much to your taste;but you will not be consulted as to your quarters, I promise you."
I was exceedingly surprised on receiving so rude an answer from astranger; and I was also disconcerted on perceiving the frowning andangry countenances of his companions. "Why do you answer me so roughly?"I replied; "surely it is not the custom of Englishmen to receivestrangers so inhospitably."
"I do not know," said the man, "what the custom of the English may be;but is the custom of the Irish to hate villains."
While this strange dialogue continued, I perceived the crowd rapidlyincrease. Their faces expressed a mixture of curiosity and anger, whichannoyed, and in some degree alarmed me. I enquired the way to the inn;but no one replied. I then moved forward, and a murmuring sound arosefrom the crowd as they followed and surrounded me; when an ill-lookingman approaching, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Come, Sir, youmust follow me to Mr. Kirwin's, to give an account of yourself."
"Who is Mr. Kirwin? Why am I to give an account of myself? Is not this afree country?"
"Ay, sir, free enough for honest folks. Mr. Kirwin is a magistrate; andyou are to give an account of the death of a gentleman who was foundmurdered here last night."
This answer startled me; but I presently recovered myself. I wasinnocent; that could easily be proved: accordingly I followed myconductor in silence, and was led to one of the best houses in the town.I was ready to sink from fatigue and hunger; but, being surrounded by acrowd, I thought it politic to rouse all my strength, that no physicaldebility might be construed into apprehension or conscious guilt. Littledid I then expect the calamity that was in a few moments to overwhelmme, and extinguish in horror and despair all fear of ignominy or death.
I must pause here; for it requires all my fortitude to recall the memoryof the frightful events which I am about to relate, in proper detail, tomy recollection.
I was soon introduced into the presence of the magistrate, an oldbenevolent man, with calm and mild manners. He looked upon me, however,with some degree of severity: and then, turning towards my conductors,he asked who appeared as witnesses on this occasion.
About half a dozen men came forward; and, one being selected by themagistrate, he deposed, that he had been out fishing the night beforewith his son and brother-in-law, Daniel Nugent, when, about ten o'clock,they observed a strong northerly blast rising, and they accordingly putin for port. It was a very dark night, as the moon had not yet risen;they did not land at the harbour, but, as they had been accustomed, at acreek about two miles below. He walked on first, carrying a part of thefishing tackle, and his companions followed him at some distance. As hewas proceeding along the sands, he struck his foot against something,and fell at his length on the ground. His companions came up to assisthim; and, by the light of their lantern, they found that he had fallenon the body of a man, who was to all appearance dead. Their firstsupposition was, that it was the corpse of some person who had beendrowned, and was thrown on shore by the waves; but, on examination, theyfound that the clothes were not wet, and even that the body was not thencold. They instantly carried it to the cottage of an old woman near thespot, and endeavoured, but in vain, to restore it to life. It appearedto be a handsome young man, about five and twenty years of age. He hadapparently been strangled; for there was no sign of any violence, exceptthe black mark of fingers on his neck.
The first part of this deposition did not in the least interest me; butwhen the mark of the fingers was mentioned, I remembered the murder ofmy brother, and felt myself extremely agitated; my limbs trembled, and amist came over my eyes, which obliged me to lean on a chair forsupport. The magistrate observed me with a keen eye, and of course drewan unfavourable augury from my manner.
The son confirmed his father's account: but when Daniel Nugent wascalled, he swore positively that, just before the fall of his companion,he saw a boat, with a single man in it, at a short distance from theshore; and, as far as he could judge by the light of a few stars, it wasthe same boat in which I had just landed.
A woman deposed, that she lived near the beach, and was standing at thedoor of her cottage, waiting for the return of the fishermen, about anhour before she heard of the discovery of the body, when she saw a boat,with only one man in it, push off from that part of the shore where thecorpse was afterwards found.
Another woman confirmed the account of the fishermen having brought thebody into her house; it was not cold. They put it into a bed, and rubbedit; and Daniel went to the town for an apothecary, but life was quitegone.
Several other men were examined concerning my landing; and they agreed,that, with the strong north wind that had arisen during the night, itwas very probable that I had beaten about for many hours, and had beenobliged to return nearly to the same spot from which I had departed.Besides, they observed that it appeared that I had brought the body fromanother place, and it was likely, that as I did not appear to know theshore, I might have put into the harbour ignorant of the distance of thetown of * * * from the place where I had deposited the corpse.
Mr. Kirwin, on hearing this evidence, desired that I should be takeninto the room where the body lay for interment, that it might beobserved what effect the sight of it would produce upon me. This ideawas probably suggested by the extreme agitation I had exhibited when themode of the murder had been described. I was accordingly conducted, bythe magistrate and several other persons, to the inn. I could not helpbeing struck by the strange coincidences that had taken place duringthis eventful night; but, knowing that I had been conversing withseveral persons in the island I had inhabited about the time that thebody had been found, I was perfectly tranquil as to the consequences ofthe affair.
I entered the room where the corpse lay, and was led up to the coffin.How can I describe my sensations on beholding it? I feel yet parchedwith horror, nor can I reflect on that terrible moment withoutshuddering and agony. The examination, the presence of the magistrateand witnesses, passed like a dream from my memory, when I saw thelifeless form of Henry Clerval stretched before me. I gasped for breath;and, throwing myself on the body, I exclaimed, "Have my murderousmachinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I havealready destroyed; other victims await their destiny: but you, Clerval,my friend, my benefactor——"
The human frame could no longer support the agonies that I endured, andI was carried out of the room in strong convulsions.
A fever succeeded to this. I lay for two months on the point of death:my ravings, as I afterwards heard, were frightful; I called myself themurderer of William, of Justine, and of Clerval. Sometimes I entreatedmy attendants to assist me in the destruction of the fiend by whom I wastormented; and at others, I felt the fingers of the monster alreadygrasping my neck, and screamed aloud with agony and terror. Fortunately,as I spoke my native language, Mr. Kirwin alone understood me; but mygestures and bitter cries were sufficient to affright the otherwitnesses.
Why did I not die? More miserable than man ever was before, why did Inot sink into forgetfulness and rest? Death snatches away many bloomingchildren, the only hopes of their doating parents: how many brides andyouthful lovers have been one day in the bloom of health and hope, andthe next a prey for worms and the decay of the tomb! Of what materialswas I made, that I could thus resist so many shocks, which, like theturning of the wheel, continually renewed the torture?
But I was doomed to live; and, in two months, found myself as awakingfrom a dream, in a prison, stretched on a wretched bed, surrounded bygaolers, turnkeys, bolts, and all the miserable apparatus of a dungeon.It was morning, I remember, when I thus awoke to understanding: I hadforgotten the particulars of what had happened, and only felt as if somegreat misfortune had suddenly overwhelmed me; but when I looked around,and saw the barred windows, and the squalidness of the room in which Iwas, all flashed across my memory, and I groaned bitterly.
This sound disturbed an old woman who was sleeping in a chair beside me.She was a hired nurse, the wife of one of the turnkeys, and hercountenance expressed all those bad qualities which often characterisethat class. The lines of her face were hard and rude, like that ofpersons accustomed to see without sympathising in sights of misery. Hertone expressed her entire indifference; she addressed me in English, andthe voice struck me as one that I had heard during my sufferings:—
"Are you better now, sir?" said she.
I replied in the same language, with a feeble voice, "I believe I am;but if it be all true, if indeed I did not dream, I am sorry that I amstill alive to feel this misery and horror."
"For that matter," replied the old woman, "if you mean about thegentleman you murdered, I believe that it were better for you if youwere dead, for I fancy it will go hard with you! However, that's none ofmy business; I am sent to nurse you, and get you well; I do my duty witha safe conscience; it were well if every body did the same."
I turned with loathing from the woman who could utter so unfeeling aspeech to a person just saved, on the very edge of death; but I feltlanguid, and unable to reflect on all that had passed. The whole seriesof my life appeared to me as a dream; I sometimes doubted if indeed itwere all true, for it never presented itself to my mind with the forceof reality.
As the images that floated before me became more distinct, I grewfeverish; a darkness pressed around me: no one was near me who soothedme with the gentle voice of love; no dear hand supported me. Thephysician came and prescribed medicines, and the old woman prepared themfor me; but utter carelessness was visible in the first, and theexpression of brutality was strongly marked in the visage of the second.Who could be interested in the fate of a murderer, but the hangman whowould gain his fee?
These were my first reflections; but I soon learned that Mr. Kirwin hadshown me extreme kindness. He had caused the best room in the prison tobe prepared for me (wretched indeed was the best); and it was he who hadprovided a physician and a nurse. It is true, he seldom came to see me;for, although he ardently desired to relieve the sufferings of everyhuman creature, he did not wish to be present at the agonies andmiserable ravings of a murderer. He came, therefore, sometimes, to seethat I was not neglected; but his visits were short, and with longintervals.
One day, while I was gradually recovering, I was seated in a chair, myeyes half open, and my cheeks livid like those in death. I was overcomeby gloom and misery, and often reflected I had better seek death thandesire to remain in a world which to me was replete with wretchedness.At one time I considered whether I should not declare myself guilty, andsuffer the penalty of the law, less innocent than poor Justine had been.Such were my thoughts, when the door of my apartment was opened, and Mr.Kirwin entered. His countenance expressed sympathy and compassion; hedrew a chair close to mine, and addressed me in French—
"I fear that this place is very shocking to you; can I do any thing tomake you more comfortable?"
"I thank you; but all that you mention is nothing to me: on the wholeearth there is no comfort which I am capable of receiving."
"I know that the sympathy of a stranger can be but of little relief toone borne down as you are by so strange a misfortune. But you will, Ihope, soon quit this melancholy abode; for, doubtless, evidence caneasily be brought to free you from the criminal charge."
"That is my least concern: I am, by a course of strange events, becomethe most miserable of mortals. Persecuted and tortured as I am and havebeen, can death be any evil to me?"
"Nothing indeed could be more unfortunate and agonising than the strangechances that have lately occurred. You were thrown, by some surprisingaccident, on this shore, renowned for its hospitality; seizedimmediately, and charged with murder. The first sight that was presentedto your eyes was the body of your friend, murdered in so unaccountable amanner, and placed, as it were, by some fiend across your path."
As Mr. Kirwin said this, notwithstanding the agitation I endured on thisretrospect of my sufferings, I also felt considerable surprise at theknowledge he seemed to possess concerning me. I suppose someastonishment was exhibited in my countenance; for Mr. Kirwin hastened tosay—
"Immediately upon your being taken ill, all the papers that were on yourperson were brought me, and I examined them that I might discover sometrace by which I could send to your relations an account of yourmisfortune and illness. I found several letters, and, among others, onewhich I discovered from its commencement to be from your father. Iinstantly wrote to Geneva: nearly two months have elapsed since thedeparture of my letter.—But you are ill; even now you tremble: you areunfit for agitation of any kind."
"This suspense is a thousand times worse than the most horrible event:tell me what new scene of death has been acted, and whose murder I amnow to lament?"
"Your family is perfectly well," said Mr. Kirwin, with gentleness; "andsome one, a friend, is come to visit you."
I know not by what chain of thought, the idea presented itself, but itinstantly darted into my mind that the murderer had come to mock at mymisery, and taunt me with the death of Clerval, as a new incitement forme to comply with his hellish desires. I put my hand before my eyes, andcried out in agony—
"Oh! take him away! I cannot see him; for God's sake, do not let himenter!"
Mr. Kirwin regarded me with a troubled countenance. He could not helpregarding my exclamation as a presumption of my guilt, and said, inrather a severe tone—
"I should have thought, young man, that the presence of your fatherwould have been welcome, instead of inspiring such violent repugnance."
"My father!" cried I, while every feature and every muscle was relaxedfrom anguish to pleasure: "is my father indeed come? How kind, how verykind! But where is he, why does he not hasten to me?"
My change of manner surprised and pleased the magistrate; perhaps hethought that my former exclamation was a momentary return of delirium,and now he instantly resumed his former benevolence. He rose, andquitted the room with my nurse, and in a moment my father entered it.
Nothing, at this moment, could have given me greater pleasure than thearrival of my father. I stretched out my hand to him, and cried—
"Are you then safe—and Elizabeth—and Ernest?"
My father calmed me with assurances of their welfare, and endeavoured,by dwelling on these subjects so interesting to my heart, to raise mydesponding spirits; but he soon felt that a prison cannot be the abodeof cheerfulness. "What a place is this that you inhabit, my son!" saidhe, looking mournfully at the barred windows, and wretched appearance ofthe room. "You travelled to seek happiness, but a fatality seems topursue you. And poor Clerval—"
The name of my unfortunate and murdered friend was an agitation toogreat to be endured in my weak state; I shed tears.
"Alas! yes, my father," replied I; "some destiny of the most horriblekind hangs over me, and I must live to fulfil it, or surely I shouldhave died on the coffin of Henry."
We were not allowed to converse for any length of time, for theprecarious state of my health rendered every precaution necessary thatcould ensure tranquillity. Mr. Kirwin came in, and insisted that mystrength should not be exhausted by too much exertion. But theappearance of my father was to me like that of my good angel, and Igradually recovered my health.
As my sickness quitted me, I was absorbed by a gloomy and blackmelancholy, that nothing could dissipate. The image of Clerval was forever before me, ghastly and murdered. More than once the agitation intowhich these reflections threw me made my friends dread a dangerousrelapse. Alas! why did they preserve so miserable and detested a life?It was surely that I might fulfil my destiny, which is now drawing to aclose. Soon, oh! very soon, will death extinguish these throbbings, andrelieve me from the mighty weight of anguish that bears me to the dust;and, in executing the award of justice, I shall also sink to rest. Thenthe appearance of death was distant, although the wish was ever presentto my thoughts; and I often sat for hours motionless and speechless,wishing for some mighty revolution that might bury me and my destroyerin its ruins.
The season of the assizes approached. I had already been three months inprison; and although I was still weak, and in continual danger of arelapse, I was obliged to travel nearly a hundred miles to thecounty-town, where the court was held. Mr. Kirwin charged himself withevery care of collecting witnesses, and arranging my defence. I wasspared the disgrace of appearing publicly as a criminal, as the case wasnot brought before the court that decides on life and death. The grandjury rejected the bill, on its being proved that I was on the OrkneyIslands at the hour the body of my friend was found; and a fortnightafter my removal I was liberated from prison.
My father was enraptured on finding me freed from the vexations of acriminal charge, that I was again allowed to breathe the freshatmosphere, and permitted to return to my native country. I did notparticipate in these feelings; for to me the walls of a dungeon or apalace were alike hateful. The cup of life was poisoned for ever; andalthough the sun shone upon me, as upon the happy and gay of heart, Isaw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness, penetrated byno light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me. Sometimes theywere the expressive eyes of Henry, languishing in death, the dark orbsnearly covered by the lids, and the long black lashes that fringed them;sometimes it was the watery, clouded eyes of the monster, as I first sawthem in my chamber at Ingolstadt.
My father tried to awaken in me the feelings of affection. He talked ofGeneva, which I should soon visit—of Elizabeth and Ernest; but thesewords only drew deep groans from me. Sometimes, indeed, I felt a wishfor happiness; and thought, with melancholy delight, of my belovedcousin; or longed, with a devouring maladie du pays, to see once morethe blue lake and rapid Rhone, that had been so dear to me in earlychildhood: but my general state of feeling was a torpor, in which aprison was as welcome a residence as the divinest scene in nature; andthese fits were seldom interrupted but by paroxysms of anguish anddespair. At these moments I often endeavoured to put an end to theexistence I loathed; and it required unceasing attendance and vigilanceto restrain me from committing some dreadful act of violence.
Yet one duty remained to me, the recollection of which finally triumphedover my selfish despair. It was necessary that I should return withoutdelay to Geneva, there to watch over the lives of those I so fondlyloved; and to lie in wait for the murderer, that if any chance led me tothe place of his concealment, or if he dared again to blast me by hispresence, I might, with unfailing aim, put an end to the existence ofthe monstrous Image which I had endued with the mockery of a soul stillmore monstrous. My father still desired to delay our departure, fearfulthat I could not sustain the fatigues of a journey: for I was ashattered wreck,—the shadow of a human being. My strength was gone. Iwas a mere skeleton; and fever night and day preyed upon my wastedframe.
Still, as I urged our leaving Ireland with such inquietude andimpatience, my father thought it best to yield. We took our passage onboard a vessel bound for Havre-de-Grace, and sailed with a fair windfrom the Irish shores. It was midnight. I lay on the deck, looking atthe stars, and listening to the dashing of the waves. I hailed thedarkness that shut Ireland from my sight; and my pulse beat with afeverish joy when I reflected that I should soon see Geneva. The pastappeared to me in the light of a frightful dream; yet the vessel inwhich I was, the wind that blew me from the detested shore of Ireland,and the sea which surrounded me, told me too forcibly that I wasdeceived by no vision, and that Clerval, my friend and dearestcompanion, had fallen a victim to me and the monster of my creation. Irepassed, in my memory, my whole life; my quiet happiness while residingwith my family in Geneva, the death of my mother, and my departure forIngolstadt. I remembered, shuddering, the mad enthusiasm that hurried meon to the creation of my hideous enemy, and I called to mind the nightin which he first lived. I was unable to pursue the train of thought; athousand feelings pressed upon me, and I wept bitterly.
Ever since my recovery from the fever, I had been in the custom oftaking every night a small quantity of laudanum; for it was by means ofthis drug only that I was enabled to gain the rest necessary for thepreservation of life. Oppressed by the recollection of my variousmisfortunes, I now swallowed double my usual quantity, and soon sleptprofoundly. But sleep did not afford me respite from thought and misery;my dreams presented a thousand objects that scared me. Towards morning Iwas possessed by a kind of night-mare; I felt the fiend's grasp in myneck, and could not free myself from it; groans and cries rung in myears. My father, who was watching over me, perceiving my restlessness,awoke me; the dashing waves were around: the cloudy sky above; the fiendwas not here: a sense of security, a feeling that a truce wasestablished between the present hour and the irresistible, disastrousfuture, imparted to me a kind of calm forgetfulness, of which the humanmind is by its structure peculiarly susceptible.
The voyage came to an end. We landed, and proceeded to Paris. I soonfound that I had overtaxed my strength, and that I must repose before Icould continue my journey. My father's care and attentions wereindefatigable; but he did not know the origin of my sufferings, andsought erroneous methods to remedy the incurable ill. He wished me toseek amusement in society. I abhorred the face of man. Oh, not abhorred!they were my brethren, my fellow beings, and I felt attracted even tothe most repulsive among them, as to creatures of an angelic nature andcelestial mechanism. But I felt that I had no right to share theirintercourse. I had unchained an enemy among them, whose joy it was toshed their blood, and to revel in their groans. How they would, each andall, abhor me, and hunt me from the world, did they know my unhallowedacts, and the crimes which had their source in me!
My father yielded at length to my desire to avoid society, and strove byvarious arguments to banish my despair. Sometimes he thought that I feltdeeply the degradation of being obliged to answer a charge of murder,and he endeavoured to prove to me the futility of pride.
"Alas! my father," said I, "how little do you know me. Human beings,their feelings and passions, would indeed be degraded if such a wretchas I felt pride. Justine, poor unhappy Justine, was as innocent as I,and she suffered the same charge; she died for it; and I am the cause ofthis—I murdered her. William, Justine, and Henry—they all died by myhands."
My father had often, during my imprisonment, heard me make the sameassertion; when I thus accused myself, he sometimes seemed to desire anexplanation, and at others he appeared to consider it as the offspringof delirium, and that, during my illness, some idea of this kind hadpresented itself to my imagination, the remembrance of which I preservedin my convalescence. I avoided explanation, and maintained a continualsilence concerning the wretch I had created. I had a persuasion that Ishould be supposed mad; and this in itself would for ever have chainedmy tongue. But, besides, I could not bring myself to disclose a secretwhich would fill my hearer with consternation, and make fear andunnatural horror the inmates of his breast. I checked, therefore, myimpatient thirst for sympathy, and was silent when I would have giventhe world to have confided the fatal secret. Yet still words like thoseI have recorded, would burst uncontrollably from me. I could offer noexplanation of them; but their truth in part relieved the burden of mymysterious woe.
Upon this occasion my father said, with an expression of unboundedwonder, "My dearest Victor, what infatuation is this? My dear son, Ientreat you never to make such an assertion again."
"I am not mad," I cried energetically; "the sun and the heavens, whohave viewed my operations, can bear witness of my truth. I am theassassin of those most innocent victims; they died by my machinations. Athousand times would I have shed my own blood, drop by drop, to havesaved their lives; but I could not, my father, indeed I could notsacrifice the whole human race."
The conclusion of this speech convinced my father that my ideas werederanged, and he instantly changed the subject of our conversation, andendeavoured to alter the course of my thoughts. He wished as much aspossible to obliterate the memory of the scenes that had taken place inIreland, and never alluded to them, or suffered me to speak of mymisfortunes.
As time passed away I became more calm: misery had her dwelling in myheart, but I no longer talked in the same incoherent manner of my owncrimes; sufficient for me was the consciousness of them. By the utmostself-violence, I curbed the imperious voice of wretchedness, whichsometimes desired to declare itself to the whole world; and my mannerswere calmer and more composed than they had ever been since my journeyto the sea of ice.
A few days before we left Paris on our way to Switzerland, I receivedthe following letter from Elizabeth:—
"My dear Friend,
"It gave me the greatest pleasure to receive a letter from my uncledated at Paris; you are no longer at a formidable distance, and I mayhope to see you in less than a fortnight. My poor cousin, how much youmust have suffered! I expect to see you looking even more ill than whenyou quitted Geneva. This winter has been passed most miserably, torturedas I have been by anxious suspense; yet I hope to see peace in yourcountenance, and to find that your heart is not totally void of comfortand tranquillity.
"Yet I fear that the same feelings now exist that made you so miserablea year ago, even perhaps augmented by time. I would not disturb you atthis period, when so many misfortunes weigh upon you; but a conversationthat I had with my uncle previous to his departure renders someexplanation necessary before we meet.
"Explanation! you may possibly say; what can Elizabeth have to explain?If you really say this, my questions are answered, and all my doubtssatisfied. But you are distant from me, and it is possible that you maydread, and yet be pleased with this explanation; and, in a probabilityof this being the case, I dare not any longer postpone writing what,during your absence, I have often wished to express to you, but havenever had the courage to begin.
"You well know, Victor, that our union had been the favourite plan ofyour parents ever since our infancy. We were told this when young, andtaught to look forward to it as an event that would certainly takeplace. We were affectionate playfellows during childhood, and, Ibelieve, dear and valued friends to one another as we grew older. But asbrother and sister often entertain a lively affection towards eachother, without desiring a more intimate union, may not such also be ourcase? Tell me, dearest Victor. Answer me, I conjure you, by our mutualhappiness, with simple truth—Do you not love another?
"You have travelled; you have spent several years of your life atIngolstadt; and I confess to you, my friend, that when I saw you lastautumn so unhappy, flying to solitude, from the society of everycreature, I could not help supposing that you might regret ourconnection, and believe yourself bound in honour to fulfil the wishes ofyour parents, although they opposed themselves to your inclinations. Butthis is false reasoning. I confess to you, my friend, that I love you,and that in my airy dreams of futurity you have been my constant friendand companion. But it is your happiness I desire as well as my own, whenI declare to you, that our marriage would render me eternally miserable,unless it were the dictate of your own free choice. Even now I weep tothink, that, borne down as you are by the cruellest misfortunes, you maystifle, by the word honour, all hope of that love and happiness whichwould alone restore you to yourself. I, who have so disinterested anaffection for you, may increase your miseries tenfold, by being anobstacle to your wishes. Ah! Victor, be assured that your cousin andplaymate has too sincere a love for you not to be made miserable by thissupposition. Be happy, my friend; and if you obey me in this onerequest, remain satisfied that nothing on earth will have the power tointerrupt my tranquillity.
"Do not let this letter disturb you; do not answer to-morrow, or thenext day, or even until you come, if it will give you pain. My unclewill send me news of your health; and if I see but one smile on yourlips when we meet, occasioned by this or any other exertion of mine, Ishall need no other happiness.
"Geneva, May 18th, 17—."
This letter revived in my memory what I had before forgotten, the threatof the fiend—"I will be with you on your wedding night!" Such was mysentence, and on that night would the dæmon employ every art to destroyme, and tear me from the glimpse of happiness which promised partly toconsole my sufferings. On that night he had determined to consummate hiscrimes by my death. Well, be it so; a deadly struggle would thenassuredly take place, in which if he were victorious I should be atpeace, and his power over me be at an end. If he were vanquished, Ishould be a free man. Alas! what freedom? such as the peasant enjoyswhen his family have been massacred before his eyes, his cottage burnt,his lands laid waste, and he is turned adrift, homeless, penniless, andalone, but free. Such would be my liberty, except that in my Elizabeth Ipossessed a treasure; alas! balanced by those horrors of remorse andguilt, which would pursue me until death.
Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and re-read her letter, and somesoftened feelings stole into my heart, and dared to whisper paradisiacaldreams of love and joy; but the apple was already eaten, and the angel'sarm bared to drive me from all hope. Yet I would die to make her happy.If the monster executed his threat, death was inevitable; yet, again, Iconsidered whether my marriage would hasten my fate. My destructionmight indeed arrive a few months sooner; but if my torturer shouldsuspect that I postponed it, influenced by his menaces, he would surelyfind other, and perhaps more dreadful means of revenge. He had vowed tobe with me on my wedding-night, yet he did not consider that threat asbinding him to peace in the mean time; for, as if to show me that he wasnot yet satiated with blood, he had murdered Clerval immediately afterthe enunciation of his threats. I resolved, therefore, that if myimmediate union with my cousin would conduce either to hers or myfather's happiness, my adversary's designs against my life should notretard it a single hour.
In this state of mind I wrote to Elizabeth. My letter was calm andaffectionate. "I fear, my beloved girl," I said, "little happinessremains for us on earth; yet all that I may one day enjoy is centred inyou. Chase away your idle fears; to you alone do I consecrate my life,and my endeavours for contentment. I have one secret, Elizabeth, adreadful one; when revealed to you, it will chill your frame withhorror, and then, far from being surprised at my misery, you will onlywonder that I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale ofmisery and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place;for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us. Butuntil then, I conjure you, do not mention or allude to it. This I mostearnestly entreat, and I know you will comply."
In about a week after the arrival of Elizabeth's letter, we returned toGeneva. The sweet girl welcomed me with warm affection; yet tears werein her eyes, as she beheld my emaciated frame and feverish cheeks. I sawa change in her also. She was thinner, and had lost much of thatheavenly vivacity that had before charmed me; but her gentleness, andsoft looks of compassion, made her a more fit companion for one blastedand miserable as I was.
The tranquillity which I now enjoyed did not endure. Memory broughtmadness with it; and when I thought of what had passed, a real insanitypossessed me; sometimes I was furious, and burnt with rage; sometimeslow and despondent. I neither spoke, nor looked at any one, but satmotionless, bewildered by the multitude of miseries that overcame me.
Elizabeth alone had the power to draw me from these fits; her gentlevoice would soothe me when transported by passion, and inspire me withhuman feelings when sunk in torpor. She wept with me, and for me. Whenreason returned, she would remonstrate, and endeavour to inspire me withresignation. Ah! it is well for the unfortunate to be resigned, but forthe guilty there is no peace. The agonies of remorse poison the luxurythere is otherwise sometimes found in indulging the excess of grief.
Soon after my arrival, my father spoke of my immediate marriage withElizabeth. I remained silent.
"Have you, then, some other attachment?"
"None on earth. I love Elizabeth, and look forward to our union withdelight. Let the day therefore be fixed; and on it I will consecratemyself, in life or death, to the happiness of my cousin."
"My dear Victor, do not speak thus. Heavy misfortunes have befallen us;but let us only cling closer to what remains, and transfer our love forthose whom we have lost, to those who yet live. Our circle will besmall, but bound close by the ties of affection and mutual misfortune.And when time shall have softened your despair, new and dear objects ofcare will be born to replace those of whom we have been so cruellydeprived."
Such were the lessons of my father. But to me the remembrance of thethreat returned: nor can you wonder, that, omnipotent as the fiend hadyet been in his deeds of blood, I should almost regard him asinvincible; and that when he had pronounced the words, "I shall be withyou on your wedding-night," I should regard the threatened fate asunavoidable. But death was no evil to me, if the loss of Elizabeth werebalanced with it; and I therefore, with a contented and even cheerfulcountenance, agreed with my father, that if my cousin would consent, theceremony should take place in ten days, and thus put, as I imagined, theseal to my fate.
Great God! if for one instant I had thought what might be the hellishintention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myselffor ever from my native country, and wandered a friendless outcast overthe earth, than have consented to this miserable marriage. But, as ifpossessed of magic powers, the monster had blinded me to his realintentions; and when I thought that I had prepared only my own death, Ihastened that of a far dearer victim.
As the period fixed for our marriage drew nearer, whether from cowardiceor a prophetic feeling, I felt my heart sink within me. But I concealedmy feelings by an appearance of hilarity, that brought smiles and joy tothe countenance of my father, but hardly deceived the ever-watchful andnicer eye of Elizabeth. She looked forward to our union with placidcontentment, not unmingled with a little fear, which past misfortuneshad impressed, that what now appeared certain and tangible happiness,might soon dissipate into an airy dream, and leave no trace but deep andeverlasting regret.
Preparations were made for the event; congratulatory visits werereceived; and all wore a smiling appearance. I shut up, as well as Icould, in my own heart the anxiety that preyed there, and entered withseeming earnestness into the plans of my father, although they mightonly serve as the decorations of my tragedy. Through my father'sexertions, a part of the inheritance of Elizabeth had been restored toher by the Austrian government. A small possession on the shores of Comobelonged to her. It was agreed that, immediately after our union, weshould proceed to Villa Lavenza, and spend our first days of happinessbeside the beautiful lake near which it stood.
In the mean time I took every precaution to defend my person, in casethe fiend should openly attack me. I carried pistols and a daggerconstantly about me, and was ever on the watch to prevent artifice; andby these means gained a greater degree of tranquillity. Indeed, as theperiod approached, the threat appeared more as a delusion, not to beregarded as worthy to disturb my peace, while the happiness I hoped forin my marriage wore a greater appearance of certainty, as the day fixedfor its solemnisation drew nearer, and I heard it continually spoken ofas an occurrence which no accident could possibly prevent.
Elizabeth seemed happy; my tranquil demeanour contributed greatly tocalm her mind. But on the day that was to fulfil my wishes and mydestiny, she was melancholy, and a presentiment of evil pervaded her;and perhaps also she thought of the dreadful secret which I had promisedto reveal to her on the following day. My father was in the mean timeoverjoyed, and, in the bustle of preparation, only recognised in themelancholy of his niece the diffidence of a bride.
After the ceremony was performed, a large party assembled at myfather's; but it was agreed that Elizabeth and I should commence ourjourney by water, sleeping that night at Evian, and continuing ourvoyage on the following day. The day was fair, the wind favourable, allsmiled on our nuptial embarkation.
Those were the last moments of my life during which I enjoyed thefeeling of happiness. We passed rapidly along: the sun was hot, but wewere sheltered from its rays by a kind of canopy, while we enjoyed thebeauty of the scene, sometimes on one side of the lake, where we sawMont Salêve, the pleasant banks of Montalègre, and at a distance,surmounting all, the beautiful Mont Blanc, and the assemblage of snowymountains that in vain endeavour to emulate her; sometimes coasting theopposite banks, we saw the mighty Jura opposing its dark side to theambition that would quit its native country, and an almostinsurmountable barrier to the invader who should wish to enslave it.
I took the hand of Elizabeth: "You are sorrowful, my love. Ah! if youknew what I have suffered, and what I may yet endure, you wouldendeavour to let me taste the quiet and freedom from despair, that thisone day at least permits me to enjoy."
"Be happy, my dear Victor," replied Elizabeth; "there is, I hope,nothing to distress you; and be assured that if a lively joy is notpainted in my face, my heart is contented. Something whispers to me notto depend too much on the prospect that is opened before us; but I willnot listen to such a sinister voice. Observe how fast we move along, andhow the clouds, which sometimes obscure and sometimes rise above thedome of Mont Blanc, render this scene of beauty still more interesting.Look also at the innumerable fish that are swimming in the clear waters,where we can distinguish every pebble that lies at the bottom. What adivine day! how happy and serene all nature appears!"
Thus Elizabeth endeavoured to divert her thoughts and mine from allreflection upon melancholy subjects. But her temper was fluctuating; joyfor a few instants shone in her eyes, but it continually gave place todistraction and reverie.
The sun sunk lower in the heavens; we passed the river Drance, andobserved its path through the chasms of the higher, and the glens of thelower hills. The Alps here come closer to the lake, and we approachedthe amphitheatre of mountains which forms its eastern boundary. Thespire of Evian shone under the woods that surrounded it, and the rangeof mountain above mountain by which it was overhung.
The wind, which had hitherto carried us along with amazing rapidity,sunk at sunset to a light breeze; the soft air just ruffled the water,and caused a pleasant motion among the trees as we approached the shore,from which it wafted the most delightful scent of flowers and hay. Thesun sunk beneath the horizon as we landed; and as I touched the shore, Ifelt those cares and fears revive, which soon were to clasp me, andcling to me for ever.
It was eight o'clock when we landed; we walked for a short time on theshore, enjoying the transitory light, and then retired to the inn, andcontemplated the lovely scene of waters, woods, and mountains, obscuredin darkness, yet still displaying their black outlines.
The wind, which had fallen in the south, now rose with great violence inthe west. The moon had reached her summit in the heavens, and wasbeginning to descend; the clouds swept across it swifter than the flightof the vulture, and dimmed her rays, while the lake reflected the sceneof the busy heavens, rendered still busier by the restless waves thatwere beginning to rise. Suddenly a heavy storm of rain descended.
I had been calm during the day; but so soon as night obscured the shapesof objects, a thousand fears arose in my mind. I was anxious andwatchful, while my right hand grasped a pistol which was hidden in mybosom; every sound terrified me; but I resolved that I would sell mylife dearly, and not shrink from the conflict until my own life, or thatof my adversary, was extinguished.
Elizabeth observed my agitation for some time in timid and fearfulsilence; but there was something in my glance which communicated terrorto her, and trembling she asked, "What is it that agitates you, my dearVictor? What is it you fear?"
"Oh! peace, peace, my love," replied I; "this night, and all will besafe: but this night is dreadful, very dreadful."
I passed an hour in this state of mind, when suddenly I reflected howfearful the combat which I momentarily expected would be to my wife, andI earnestly entreated her to retire, resolving not to join her until Ihad obtained some knowledge as to the situation of my enemy.
She left me, and I continued some time walking up and down the passagesof the house, and inspecting every corner that might afford a retreatto my adversary. But I discovered no trace of him, and was beginning toconjecture that some fortunate chance had intervened to prevent theexecution of his menaces; when suddenly I heard a shrill and dreadfulscream. It came from the room into which Elizabeth had retired. As Iheard it, the whole truth rushed into my mind, my arms dropped, themotion of every muscle and fibre was suspended; I could feel the bloodtrickling in my veins, and tingling in the extremities of my limbs. Thisstate lasted but for an instant; the scream was repeated, and I rushedinto the room.
Great God! why did I not then expire! Why am I here to relate thedestruction of the best hope, and the purest creature of earth? She wasthere, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hangingdown, and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair.Every where I turn I see the same figure—her bloodless arms and relaxedform flung by the murderer on its bridal bier. Could I behold this, andlive? Alas! life is obstinate, and clings closest where it is mosthated. For a moment only did I lose recollection; I fell senseless onthe ground.
When I recovered, I found myself surrounded by the people of the inn;their countenances expressed a breathless terror: but the horror ofothers appeared only as a mockery, a shadow of the feelings thatoppressed me. I escaped from them to the room where lay the body ofElizabeth, my love, my wife, so lately living, so dear, so worthy. Shehad been moved from the posture in which I had first beheld her; andnow, as she lay, her head upon her arm, and a handkerchief thrown acrossher face and neck, I might have supposed her asleep. I rushed towardsher, and embraced her with ardour; but the deadly languor and coldnessof the limbs told me, that what I now held in my arms had ceased to bethe Elizabeth whom I had loved and cherished. The murderous mark of thefiend's grasp was on her neck, and the breath had ceased to issue fromher lips.
While I still hung over her in the agony of despair, I happened to lookup. The windows of the room had before been darkened, and I felt a kindof panic on seeing the pale yellow light of the moon illuminate thechamber. The shutters had been thrown back; and, with a sensation ofhorror not to be described, I saw at the open window a figure the mosthideous and abhorred. A grin was on the face of the monster; he seemedto jeer, as with his fiendish finger he pointed towards the corpse of mywife. I rushed towards the window, and drawing a pistol from my bosom,fired; but he eluded me, leaped from his station, and, running with theswiftness of lightning, plunged into the lake.
The report of the pistol brought a crowd into the room. I pointed to thespot where he had disappeared, and we followed the track with boats;nets were cast, but in vain. After passing several hours, we returnedhopeless, most of my companions believing it to have been a formconjured up by my fancy. After having landed, they proceeded to searchthe country, parties going in different directions among the woods andvines.
I attempted to accompany them, and proceeded a short distance from thehouse; but my head whirled round, my steps were like those of a drunkenman, I fell at last in a state of utter exhaustion; a film covered myeyes, and my skin was parched with the heat of fever. In this state Iwas carried back, and placed on a bed, hardly conscious of what hadhappened; my eyes wandered round the room, as if to seek something thatI had lost.
After an interval, I arose, and, as if by instinct, crawled into theroom where the corpse of my beloved lay. There were women weepingaround—I hung over it, and joined my sad tears to theirs—all this timeno distinct idea presented itself to my mind; but my thoughts rambled tovarious subjects, reflecting confusedly on my misfortunes, and theircause. I was bewildered in a cloud of wonder and horror. The death ofWilliam, the execution of Justine, the murder of Clerval, and lastly ofmy wife; even at that moment I knew not that my only remaining friendswere safe from the malignity of the fiend; my father even now might bewrithing under his grasp, and Ernest might be dead at his feet. Thisidea made me shudder, and recalled me to action. I started up, andresolved to return to Geneva with all possible speed.
There were no horses to be procured, and I must return by the lake; butthe wind was unfavourable, and the rain fell in torrents. However, itwas hardly morning, and I might reasonably hope to arrive by night. Ihired men to row, and took an oar myself; for I had always experiencedrelief from mental torment in bodily exercise. But the overflowingmisery I now felt, and the excess of agitation that I endured, renderedme incapable of any exertion. I threw down the oar; and leaning my headupon my hands, gave way to every gloomy idea that arose. If I looked up,I saw the scenes which were familiar to me in my happier time, and whichI had contemplated but the day before in the company of her who was nowbut a shadow and a recollection. Tears streamed from my eyes. The rainhad ceased for a moment, and I saw the fish play in the waters as theyhad done a few hours before; they had then been observed by Elizabeth.Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.The sun might shine, or the clouds might lower: but nothing could appearto me as it had done the day before. A fiend had snatched from me everyhope of future happiness: no creature had ever been so miserable as Iwas; so frightful an event is single in the history of man.
But why should I dwell upon the incidents that followed this lastoverwhelming event? Mine has been a tale of horrors; I have reachedtheir acme, and what I must now relate can but be tedious to you. Knowthat, one by one, my friends were snatched away; I was left desolate. Myown strength is exhausted; and I must tell, in a few words, what remainsof my hideous narration.
I arrived at Geneva. My father and Ernest yet lived; but the former sunkunder the tidings that I bore. I see him now, excellent and venerableold man! his eyes wandered in vacancy, for they had lost their charm andtheir delight—his Elizabeth, his more than daughter, whom he doated onwith all that affection which a man feels, who in the decline of life,having few affections, clings more earnestly to those that remain.Cursed, cursed be the fiend that brought misery on his grey hairs, anddoomed him to waste in wretchedness! He could not live under the horrorsthat were accumulated around him; the springs of existence suddenly gaveway: he was unable to rise from his bed, and in a few days he died in myarms.
What then became of me? I know not; I lost sensation, and chains anddarkness were the only objects that pressed upon me. Sometimes, indeed,I dreamt that I wandered in flowery meadows and pleasant vales with thefriends of my youth; but I awoke, and found myself in a dungeon.Melancholy followed, but by degrees I gained a clear conception of mymiseries and situation, and was then released from my prison. For theyhad called me mad; and during many months, as I understood, a solitarycell had been my habitation.
Liberty, however, had been an useless gift to me, had I not, as Iawakened to reason, at the same time awakened to revenge. As the memoryof past misfortunes pressed upon me, I began to reflect on theircause—the monster whom I had created, the miserable dæmon whom I hadsent abroad into the world for my destruction. I was possessed by amaddening rage when I thought of him, and desired and ardently prayedthat I might have him within my grasp to wreak a great and signalrevenge on his cursed head.
Nor did my hate long confine itself to useless wishes; I began toreflect on the best means of securing him; and for this purpose, about amonth after my release, I repaired to a criminal judge in the town, andtold him that I had an accusation to make; that I knew the destroyer ofmy family; and that I required him to exert his whole authority for theapprehension of the murderer.
The magistrate listened to me with attention and kindness:—"Be assured,sir," said he, "no pains or exertions on my part shall be spared todiscover the villain."
"I thank you," replied I; "listen, therefore, to the deposition that Ihave to make. It is indeed a tale so strange, that I should fear youwould not credit it, were there not something in truth which, howeverwonderful, forces conviction. The story is too connected to be mistakenfor a dream, and I have no motive for falsehood." My manner, as I thusaddressed him, was impressive, but calm; I had formed in my own heart aresolution to pursue my destroyer to death; and this purpose quieted myagony, and for an interval reconciled me to life. I now related myhistory, briefly, but with firmness and precision, marking the dateswith accuracy, and never deviating into invective or exclamation.
The magistrate appeared at first perfectly incredulous, but as Icontinued he became more attentive and interested; I saw him sometimesshudder with horror, at others a lively surprise, unmingled withdisbelief, was painted on his countenance.
When I had concluded my narration, I said, "This is the being whom Iaccuse, and for whose seizure and punishment I call upon you to exertyour whole power. It is your duty as a magistrate, and I believe andhope that your feelings as a man will not revolt from the execution ofthose functions on this occasion."
This address caused a considerable change in the physiognomy of my ownauditor. He had heard my story with that half kind of belief that isgiven to a tale of spirits and supernatural events; but when he wascalled upon to act officially in consequence, the whole tide of hisincredulity returned. He, however, answered mildly, "I would willinglyafford you every aid in your pursuit; but the creature of whom you speakappears to have powers which would put all my exertions to defiance. Whocan follow an animal which can traverse the sea of ice, and inhabitcaves and dens where no man would venture to intrude? Besides, somemonths have elapsed since the commission of his crimes, and no one canconjecture to what place he has wandered, or what region he may nowinhabit."
"I do not doubt that he hovers near the spot which I inhabit; and if hehas indeed taken refuge in the Alps, he may be hunted like the chamois,and destroyed as a beast of prey. But I perceive your thoughts: you donot credit my narrative, and do not intend to pursue my enemy with thepunishment which is his desert."
As I spoke, rage sparkled in my eyes; the magistrate wasintimidated:—"You are mistaken," said he, "I will exert myself; and ifit is in my power to seize the monster, be assured that he shall sufferpunishment proportionate to his crimes. But I fear, from what you haveyourself described to be his properties, that this will proveimpracticable; and thus, while every proper measure is pursued, youshould make up your mind to disappointment."
"That cannot be; but all that I can say will be of little avail. Myrevenge is of no moment to you; yet, while I allow it to be a vice, Iconfess that it is the devouring and only passion of my soul. My rage isunspeakable, when I reflect that the murderer, whom I have turned looseupon society, still exists. You refuse my just demand: I have but oneresource; and I devote myself, either in my life or death, to hisdestruction."
I trembled with excess of agitation as I said this; there was a frenzyin my manner, and something, I doubt not, of that haughty fiercenesswhich the martyrs of old are said to have possessed. But to a Genevanmagistrate, whose mind was occupied by far other ideas than those ofdevotion and heroism, this elevation of mind had much the appearance ofmadness. He endeavoured to soothe me as a nurse does a child, andreverted to my tale as the effects of delirium.
"Man," I cried, "how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom! Cease;you know not what it is you say."
I broke from the house angry and disturbed, and retired to meditate onsome other mode of action.
My present situation was one in which all voluntary thought wasswallowed up and lost. I was hurried away by fury; revenge alone endowedme with strength and composure; it moulded my feelings, and allowed meto be calculating and calm, at periods when otherwise delirium or deathwould have been my portion.
My first resolution was to quit Geneva for ever; my country, which, whenI was happy and beloved, was dear to me, now, in my adversity, becamehateful. I provided myself with a sum of money, together with a fewjewels which had belonged to my mother, and departed.
And now my wanderings began, which are to cease but with life. I havetraversed a vast portion of the earth, and have endured all thehardships which travellers, in deserts and barbarous countries, are wontto meet. How I have lived I hardly know; many times have I stretched myfailing limbs upon the sandy plain, and prayed for death. But revengekept me alive; I dared not die, and leave my adversary in being.
When I quitted Geneva, my first labour was to gain some clue by which Imight trace the steps of my fiendish enemy. But my plan was unsettled;and I wandered many hours round the confines of the town, uncertain whatpath I should pursue. As night approached, I found myself at theentrance of the cemetery where William, Elizabeth, and my fatherreposed. I entered it, and approached the tomb which marked theirgraves. Every thing was silent, except the leaves of the trees, whichwere gently agitated by the wind; the night was nearly dark; and thescene would have been solemn and affecting even to an uninterestedobserver. The spirits of the departed seemed to flit around, and to casta shadow, which was felt but not seen, around the head of the mourner.
The deep grief which this scene had at first excited quickly gave way torage and despair. They were dead, and I lived; their murderer alsolived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence. I knelt onthe grass, and kissed the earth, and with quivering lips exclaimed, "Bythe sacred earth on which I kneel, by the shades that wander near me, bythe deep and eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O Night,and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the dæmon, who causedthis misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict. For thispurpose I will preserve my life: to execute this dear revenge, will Iagain behold the sun, and tread the green herbage of earth, whichotherwise should vanish from my eyes for ever. And I call on you,spirits of the dead; and on you, wandering ministers of vengeance, toaid and conduct me in my work. Let the cursed and hellish monster drinkdeep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me."
I had begun my adjuration with solemnity, and an awe which almostassured me that the shades of my murdered friends heard and approved mydevotion; but the furies possessed me as I concluded, and rage choked myutterance.
I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendishlaugh. It rung on my ears long and heavily; the mountains re-echoed it,and I felt as if all hell surrounded me with mockery and laughter.Surely in that moment I should have been possessed by frenzy, and havedestroyed my miserable existence, but that my vow was heard, and that Iwas reserved for vengeance. The laughter died away; when a well-knownand abhorred voice, apparently close to my ear, addressed me in anaudible whisper—"I am satisfied: miserable wretch! you have determinedto live, and I am satisfied."
I darted towards the spot from which the sound proceeded; but the devileluded my grasp. Suddenly the broad disk of the moon arose, and shonefull upon his ghastly and distorted shape, as he fled with more thanmortal speed.
I pursued him; and for many months this has been my task. Guided by aslight clue, I followed the windings of the Rhone, but vainly. The blueMediterranean appeared; and, by a strange chance, I saw the fiend enterby night, and hide himself in a vessel bound for the Black Sea. I tookmy passage in the same ship; but he escaped, I know not how.
Amidst the wilds of Tartary and Russia, although he still evaded me, Ihave ever followed in his track. Sometimes the peasants, scared by thishorrid apparition, informed me of his path; sometimes he himself, whofeared that if I lost all trace of him, I should despair and die, leftsome mark to guide me. The snows descended on my head, and I saw theprint of his huge step on the white plain. To you first entering onlife, to whom care is new, and agony unknown, how can you understandwhat I have felt, and still feel? Cold, want, and fatigue, were theleast pains which I was destined to endure; I was cursed by some devil,and carried about with me my eternal hell; yet still a spirit of goodfollowed and directed my steps; and, when I most murmured, wouldsuddenly extricate me from seemingly insurmountable difficulties.Sometimes, when nature, overcome by hunger, sunk under the exhaustion, arepast was prepared for me in the desert, that restored and inspiritedme. The fare was, indeed, coarse, such as the peasants of the countryate; but I will not doubt that it was set there by the spirits that Ihad invoked to aid me. Often, when all was dry, the heavens cloudless,and I was parched by thirst, a slight cloud would bedim the sky, shedthe few drops that revived me, and vanish.
I followed, when I could, the courses of the rivers; but the dæmongenerally avoided these, as it was here that the population of thecountry chiefly collected. In other places human beings were seldomseen; and I generally subsisted on the wild animals that crossed mypath. I had money with me, and gained the friendship of the villagers bydistributing it; or I brought with me some food that I had killed,which, after taking a small part, I always presented to those who hadprovided me with fire and utensils for cooking.
My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and it was duringsleep alone that I could taste joy. O blessed sleep! often, when mostmiserable, I sank to repose, and my dreams lulled me even to rapture.The spirits that guarded me had provided these moments, or rather hours,of happiness, that I might retain strength to fulfil my pilgrimage.Deprived of this respite, I should have sunk under my hardships. Duringthe day I was sustained and inspirited by the hope of night: for insleep I saw my friends, my wife, and my beloved country; again I saw thebenevolent countenance of my father, heard the silver tones of myElizabeth's voice, and beheld Clerval enjoying health and youth. Often,when wearied by a toilsome march, I persuaded myself that I was dreaminguntil night should come, and that I should then enjoy reality in thearms of my dearest friends. What agonising fondness did I feel for them!how did I cling to their dear forms, as sometimes they haunted even mywaking hours, and persuade myself that they still lived! At such momentsvengeance, that burned within me, died in my heart, and I pursued mypath towards the destruction of the dæmon, more as a task enjoined byheaven, as the mechanical impulse of some power of which I wasunconscious, than as the ardent desire of my soul.
What his feelings were whom I pursued I cannot know. Sometimes, indeed,he left marks in writing on the barks of the trees, or cut in stone,that guided me, and instigated my fury. "My reign is not yet over,"(these words were legible in one of these inscriptions;) "you live, andmy power is complete. Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of thenorth, where you will feel the misery of cold and frost, to which I amimpassive. You will find near this place, if you follow not too tardily,a dead hare; eat, and be refreshed. Come on, my enemy; we have yet towrestle for our lives; but many hard and miserable hours must you endureuntil that period shall arrive."
Scoffing devil! Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devote thee,miserable fiend, to torture and death. Never will I give up my search,until he or I perish; and then with what ecstasy shall I join myElizabeth, and my departed friends, who even now prepare for me thereward of my tedious toil and horrible pilgrimage!
As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snows thickened, andthe cold increased in a degree almost too severe to support. Thepeasants were shut up in their hovels, and only a few of the most hardyventured forth to seize the animals whom starvation had forced fromtheir hiding-places to seek for prey. The rivers were covered with ice,and no fish could be procured; and thus I was cut off from my chiefarticle of maintenance.
The triumph of my enemy increased with the difficulty of my labours. Oneinscription that he left was in these words:—"Prepare! your toils onlybegin: wrap yourself in furs, and provide food; for we shall soon enterupon a journey where your sufferings will satisfy my everlastinghatred."
My courage and perseverance were invigorated by these scoffing words; Iresolved not to fail in my purpose; and, calling on Heaven to supportme, I continued with unabated fervour to traverse immense deserts, untilthe ocean appeared at a distance, and formed the utmost boundary of thehorizon. Oh! how unlike it was to the blue seas of the south! Coveredwith ice, it was only to be distinguished from land by its superiorwildness and ruggedness. The Greeks wept for joy when they beheld theMediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed with rapture theboundary of their toils. I did not weep; but I knelt down, and, with afull heart, thanked my guiding spirit for conducting me in safety to theplace where I hoped, notwithstanding my adversary's gibe, to meet andgrapple with him.
Some weeks before this period I had procured a sledge and dogs, and thustraversed the snows with inconceivable speed. I know not whether thefiend possessed the same advantages; but I found that, as before I haddaily lost ground in the pursuit, I now gained on him: so much so, thatwhen I first saw the ocean, he was but one day's journey in advance, andI hoped to intercept him before he should reach the beach. With newcourage, therefore, I pressed on, and in two days arrived at a wretchedhamlet on the sea-shore. I enquired of the inhabitants concerning thefiend, and gained accurate information. A gigantic monster, they said,had arrived the night before, armed with a gun and many pistols; puttingto flight the inhabitants of a solitary cottage, through fear of histerrific appearance. He had carried off their store of winter food, and,placing it in a sledge, to draw which he had seized on a numerous droveof trained dogs, he had harnessed them, and the same night, to the joyof the horror-struck villagers, had pursued his journey across the seain a direction that led to no land; and they conjectured that he mustspeedily be destroyed by the breaking of the ice, or frozen by theeternal frosts.
On hearing this information, I suffered a temporary access of despair.He had escaped me; and I must commence a destructive and almost endlessjourney across the mountainous ices of the ocean,—amidst cold that fewof the inhabitants could long endure, and which I, the native of agenial and sunny climate, could not hope to survive. Yet at the ideathat the fiend should live and be triumphant, my rage and vengeancereturned, and, like a mighty tide, overwhelmed every other feeling.After a slight repose, during which the spirits of the dead hoveredround, and instigated me to toil and revenge, I prepared for my journey.
I exchanged my land-sledge for one fashioned for the inequalities of theFrozen Ocean; and purchasing a plentiful stock of provisions, I departedfrom land.
I cannot guess how many days have passed since then; but I have enduredmisery, which nothing but the eternal sentiment of a just retributionburning within my heart could have enabled me to support. Immense andrugged mountains of ice often barred up my passage, and I often heardthe thunder of the ground sea, which threatened my destruction. Butagain the frost came, and made the paths of the sea secure.
By the quantity of provision which I had consumed, I should guess that Ihad passed three weeks in this journey; and the continual protraction ofhope, returning back upon the heart, often wrung bitter drops ofdespondency and grief from my eyes. Despair had indeed almost securedher prey, and I should soon have sunk beneath this misery. Once, afterthe poor animals that conveyed me had with incredible toil gained thesummit of a sloping ice-mountain, and one, sinking under his fatigue,died, I viewed the expanse before me with anguish, when suddenly my eyecaught a dark speck upon the dusky plain. I strained my sight todiscover what it could be, and uttered a wild cry of ecstasy when Idistinguished a sledge, and the distorted proportions of a well-knownform within. Oh! with what a burning gush did hope revisit my heart!warm tears filled my eyes, which I hastily wiped away, that they mightnot intercept the view I had of the dæmon; but still my sight was dimmedby the burning drops, until, giving way to the emotions that oppressedme, I wept aloud.
But this was not the time for delay: I disencumbered the dogs of theirdead companion, gave them a plentiful portion of food; and, after anhour's rest, which was absolutely necessary, and yet which was bitterlyirksome to me, I continued my route. The sledge was still visible; nordid I again lose sight of it, except at the moments when for a shorttime some ice-rock concealed it with its intervening crags. I indeedperceptibly gained on it; and when, after nearly two days' journey, Ibeheld my enemy at no more than a mile distant, my heart bounded withinme.
But now, when I appeared almost within grasp of my foe, my hopes weresuddenly extinguished, and I lost all trace of him more utterly than Ihad ever done before. A ground sea was heard; the thunder of itsprogress, as the waters rolled and swelled beneath me, became everymoment more ominous and terrific. I pressed on, but in vain. The windarose; the sea roared; and, as with the mighty shock of an earthquake,it split, and cracked with a tremendous and overwhelming sound. The workwas soon finished: in a few minutes a tumultuous sea rolled between meand my enemy, and I was left drifting on a scattered piece of ice, thatwas continually lessening, and thus preparing for me a hideous death.
In this manner many appalling hours passed; several of my dogs died; andI myself was about to sink under the accumulation of distress, when Isaw your vessel riding at anchor, and holding forth to me hopes ofsuccour and life. I had no conception that vessels ever came so farnorth, and was astounded at the sight. I quickly destroyed part of mysledge to construct oars; and by these means was enabled, with infinitefatigue, to move my ice-raft in the direction of your ship. I haddetermined, if you were going southward, still to trust myself to themercy of the seas rather than abandon my purpose. I hoped to induce youto grant me a boat with which I could pursue my enemy. But yourdirection was northward. You took me on board when my vigour wasexhausted, and I should soon have sunk under my multiplied hardshipsinto a death which I still dread—for my task is unfulfilled.
Oh! when will my guiding spirit, in conducting me to the dæmon, allow methe rest I so much desire; or must I die, and he yet live? If I do,swear to me, Walton, that he shall not escape; that you will seek him,and satisfy my vengeance in his death. And do I dare to ask of you toundertake my pilgrimage, to endure the hardships that I have undergone?No; I am not so selfish. Yet, when I am dead, if he should appear; ifthe ministers of vengeance should conduct him to you, swear that heshall not live—swear that he shall not triumph over my accumulatedwoes, and survive to add to the list of his dark crimes. He is eloquentand persuasive; and once his words had even power over my heart: buttrust him not. His soul is as hellish as his form, full of treachery andfiendlike malice. Hear him not; call on the manes of William, Justine,Clerval, Elizabeth, my father, and of the wretched Victor, and thrustyour sword into his heart. I will hover near, and direct the steelaright.
Walton, in continuation.
August 26th, 17—.
You have read this strange and terrific story, Margaret; and do you notfeel your blood congeal with horror, like that which even now curdlesmine? Sometimes, seized with sudden agony, he could not continue histale; at others, his voice broken, yet piercing, uttered with difficultythe words so replete with anguish. His fine and lovely eyes were nowlighted up with indignation, now subdued to downcast sorrow, andquenched in infinite wretchedness. Sometimes he commanded hiscountenance and tones, and related the most horrible incidents with atranquil voice, suppressing every mark of agitation; then, like avolcano bursting forth, his face would suddenly change to an expressionof the wildest rage, as he shrieked out imprecations on his persecutor.
His tale is connected, and told with an appearance of the simplesttruth; yet I own to you that the letters of Felix and Safie, which heshowed me, and the apparition of the monster seen from our ship, broughtto me a greater conviction of the truth of his narrative than hisasseverations, however earnest and connected. Such a monster has thenreally existence! I cannot doubt it; yet I am lost in surprise andadmiration. Sometimes I endeavoured to gain from Frankenstein theparticulars of his creature's formation: but on this point he wasimpenetrable.
"Are you mad, my friend?" said he; "or whither does your senselesscuriosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and the world ademoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! learn my miseries, and do not seek toincrease your own."
Frankenstein discovered that I made notes concerning his history: heasked to see them, and then himself corrected and augmented them in manyplaces; but principally in giving the life and spirit to theconversations he held with his enemy. "Since you have preserved mynarration," said he, "I would not that a mutilated one should go down toposterity."
Thus has a week passed away, while I have listened to the strangest talethat ever imagination formed. My thoughts, and every feeling of my soul,have been drunk up by the interest for my guest, which this tale, andhis own elevated and gentle manners, have created. I wish to soothe him;yet can I counsel one so infinitely miserable, so destitute of everyhope of consolation, to live? Oh, no! the only joy that he can now knowwill be when he composes his shattered spirit to peace and death. Yet heenjoys one comfort, the offspring of solitude and delirium: he believes,that, when in dreams he holds converse with his friends, and derivesfrom that communion consolation for his miseries, or excitements to hisvengeance, that they are not the creations of his fancy, but the beingsthemselves who visit him from the regions of a remote world. This faithgives a solemnity to his reveries that render them to me almost asimposing and interesting as truth.
Our conversations are not always confined to his own history andmisfortunes. On every point of general literature he displays unboundedknowledge, and a quick and piercing apprehension. His eloquence isforcible and touching; nor can I hear him, when he relates a patheticincident, or endeavours to move the passions of pity or love, withouttears. What a glorious creature must he have been in the days of hisprosperity, when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin! He seems to feelhis own worth, and the greatness of his fall.
"When younger," said he, "I believed myself destined for some greatenterprise. My feelings are profound; but I possessed a coolness ofjudgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements. This sentiment ofthe worth of my nature supported me, when others would have beenoppressed; for I deemed it criminal to throw away in useless grief thosetalents that might be useful to my fellow-creatures. When I reflected onthe work I had completed, no less a one than the creation of a sensitiveand rational animal, I could not rank myself with the herd of commonprojectors. But this thought, which supported me in the commencement ofmy career, now serves only to plunge me lower in the dust. All myspeculations and hopes are as nothing; and, like the archangel whoaspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell. My imaginationwas vivid, yet my powers of analysis and application were intense; bythe union of these qualities I conceived the idea, and executed thecreation of a man. Even now I cannot recollect, without passion, myreveries while the work was incomplete. I trod heaven in my thoughts,now exulting in my powers, now burning with the idea of their effects.From my infancy I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty ambition; buthow am I sunk! Oh! my friend, if you had known me as I once was, youwould not recognise me in this state of degradation. Despondency rarelyvisited my heart; a high destiny seemed to bear me on, until I fell,never, never again to rise."
Must I then lose this admirable being? I have longed for a friend; Ihave sought one who would sympathise with and love me. Behold, on thesedesert seas I have found such a one; but, I fear, I have gained him onlyto know his value, and lose him. I would reconcile him to life, but herepulses the idea.
"I thank you, Walton," he said, "for your kind intentions towards somiserable a wretch; but when you speak of new ties, and freshaffections, think you that any can replace those who are gone? Can anyman be to me as Clerval was; or any woman another Elizabeth? Even wherethe affections are not strongly moved by any superior excellence, thecompanions of our childhood always possess a certain power over ourminds, which hardly any later friend can obtain. They know our infantinedispositions, which, however they may be afterwards modified, are nevereradicated; and they can judge of our actions with more certainconclusions as to the integrity of our motives. A sister or a brothercan never, unless indeed such symptoms have been shown early, suspectthe other of fraud or false dealing, when another friend, howeverstrongly he may be attached, may, in spite of himself, be contemplatedwith suspicion. But I enjoyed friends, dear not only through habit andassociation, but from their own merits; and wherever I am, the soothingvoice of my Elizabeth, and the conversation of Clerval, will be everwhispered in my ear. They are dead; and but one feeling in such asolitude can persuade me to preserve my life. If I were engaged in anyhigh undertaking or design, fraught with extensive utility to myfellow-creatures, then could I live to fulfil it. But such is not mydestiny; I must pursue and destroy the being to whom I gave existence;then my lot on earth will be fulfilled, and I may die."
My beloved Sister,
I write to you, encompassed by peril, and ignorant whether I am everdoomed to see again dear England, and the dearer friends that inhabitit. I am surrounded by mountains of ice, which admit of no escape, andthreaten every moment to crush my vessel. The brave fellows, whom I havepersuaded to be my companions, look towards me for aid; but I have noneto bestow. There is something terribly appalling in our situation, yetmy courage and hopes do not desert me. Yet it is terrible to reflectthat the lives of all these men are endangered through me. If we arelost, my mad schemes are the cause.
And what, Margaret, will be the state of your mind? You will not hear ofmy destruction, and you will anxiously await my return. Years will pass,and you will have visitings of despair, and yet be tortured by hope. Oh!my beloved sister, the sickening failing of your heart-felt expectationsis, in prospect, more terrible to me than my own death. But you have ahusband, and lovely children; you may be happy: Heaven bless you, andmake you so!
My unfortunate guest regards me with the tenderest compassion. Heendeavours to fill me with hope; and talks as if life were a possessionwhich he valued. He reminds me how often the same accidents havehappened to other navigators, who have attempted this sea, and, in spiteof myself, he fills me with cheerful auguries. Even the sailors feel thepower of his eloquence: when he speaks, they no longer despair; herouses their energies, and, while they hear his voice, they believethese vast mountains of ice are mole-hills, which will vanish before theresolutions of man. These feelings are transitory; each day ofexpectation delayed fills them with fear, and I almost dread a mutinycaused by this despair.
A scene has just passed of such uncommon interest, that although it ishighly probable that these papers may never reach you, yet I cannotforbear recording it.
We are still surrounded by mountains of ice, still in imminent danger ofbeing crushed in their conflict. The cold is excessive, and many of myunfortunate comrades have already found a grave amidst this scene ofdesolation. Frankenstein has daily declined in health: a feverish firestill glimmers in his eyes; but he is exhausted, and, when suddenlyroused to any exertion, he speedily sinks again into apparentlifelessness.
I mentioned in my last letter the fears I entertained of a mutiny. Thismorning, as I sat watching the wan countenance of my friend—his eyeshalf closed, and his limbs hanging listlessly,—I was roused by half adozen of the sailors, who demanded admission into the cabin. Theyentered, and their leader addressed me. He told me that he and hiscompanions had been chosen by the other sailors to come in deputation tome, to make me a requisition, which, in justice, I could not refuse. Wewere immured in ice, and should probably never escape; but they fearedthat if, as was possible, the ice should dissipate, and a free passagebe opened, I should be rash enough to continue my voyage, and lead theminto fresh dangers, after they might happily have surmounted this. Theyinsisted, therefore, that I should engage with a solemn promise, that ifthe vessel should be freed I would instantly direct my course southward.
This speech troubled me. I had not despaired; nor had I yet conceivedthe idea of returning, if set free. Yet could I, in justice, or even inpossibility, refuse this demand? I hesitated before I answered; whenFrankenstein, who had at first been silent, and, indeed, appeared hardlyto have force enough to attend, now roused himself; his eyes sparkled,and his cheeks flushed with momentary vigour. Turning towards the men,he said—
"What do you mean? What do you demand of your captain? Are you then soeasily turned from your design? Did you not call this a gloriousexpedition? And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way wassmooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangersand terror; because, at every new incident, your fortitude was to becalled forth, and your courage exhibited; because danger and deathsurrounded it, and these you were to brave and overcome. For this was ita glorious, for this was it an honourable undertaking. You werehereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species; your namesadored, as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour, andthe benefit of mankind. And now, behold, with the first imagination ofdanger, or, if you will, the first mighty and terrific trial of yourcourage, you shrink away, and are content to be handed down as men whohad not strength enough to endure cold and peril; and so, poor souls,they were chilly, and returned to their warm fire-sides. Why, thatrequires not this preparation; ye need not have come thus far, anddragged your captain to the shame of a defeat, merely to proveyourselves cowards. Oh! be men, or be more than men. Be steady to yourpurposes, and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as yourhearts may be; it is mutable, and cannot withstand you, if you say thatit shall not. Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgracemarked on your brows. Return, as heroes who have fought and conquered,and who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe."
He spoke this with a voice so modulated to the different feelingsexpressed in his speech, with an eye so full of lofty design andheroism, that can you wonder that these men were moved? They looked atone another, and were unable to reply. I spoke; I told them to retire,and consider of what had been said: that I would not lead them farthernorth, if they strenuously desired the contrary; but that I hoped that,with reflection, their courage would return.
They retired, and I turned towards my friend; but he was sunk inlanguor, and almost deprived of life.
How all this will terminate, I know not; but I had rather die thanreturn shamefully,—my purpose unfulfilled. Yet I fear such will be myfate; the men, unsupported by ideas of glory and honour, can neverwillingly continue to endure their present hardships.
The die is cast; I have consented to return, if we are not destroyed.Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come backignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess,to bear this injustice with patience.
It is past; I am returning to England. I have lost my hopes of utilityand glory;—I have lost my friend. But I will endeavour to detail thesebitter circumstances to you, my dear sister; and, while I am waftedtowards England, and towards you, I will not despond.
September 9th, the ice began to move, and roarings like thunder wereheard at a distance, as the islands split and cracked in everydirection. We were in the most imminent peril; but, as we could onlyremain passive, my chief attention was occupied by my unfortunateguest, whose illness increased in such a degree, that he was entirelyconfined to his bed. The ice cracked behind us, and was driven withforce towards the north; a breeze sprung from the west, and on the 11ththe passage towards the south became perfectly free. When the sailorssaw this, and that their return to their native country was apparentlyassured, a shout of tumultuous joy broke from them, loud andlong-continued. Frankenstein, who was dozing, awoke, and asked the causeof the tumult. "They shout," I said, "because they will soon return toEngland."
"Do you then really return?"
"Alas! yes; I cannot withstand their demands. I cannot lead themunwillingly to danger, and I must return."
"Do so, if you will; but I will not. You may give up your purpose, butmine is assigned to me by Heaven, and I dare not. I am weak; but surelythe spirits who assist my vengeance will endow me with sufficientstrength." Saying this, he endeavoured to spring from the bed, but theexertion was too great for him; he fell back, and fainted.
It was long before he was restored; and I often thought that life wasentirely extinct. At length he opened his eyes; he breathed withdifficulty, and was unable to speak. The surgeon gave him a composingdraught, and ordered us to leave him undisturbed. In the mean time hetold me, that my friend had certainly not many hours to live.
His sentence was pronounced; and I could only grieve, and be patient. Isat by his bed, watching him; his eyes were closed, and I thought heslept; but presently he called to me in a feeble voice, and, bidding mecome near, said—"Alas! the strength I relied on is gone; I feel that Ishall soon die, and he, my enemy and persecutor, may still be in being.Think not, Walton, that in the last moments of my existence I feel thatburning hatred, and ardent desire of revenge, I once expressed; but Ifeel myself justified in desiring the death of my adversary. Duringthese last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nordo I find it blamable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created arational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as wasin my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty; but therewas another still paramount to that. My duties towards the beings of myown species had greater claims to my attention, because they included agreater proportion of happiness or misery. Urged by this view, Irefused, and I did right in refusing, to create a companion for thefirst creature. He showed unparalleled malignity and selfishness, inevil: he destroyed my friends; he devoted to destruction beings whopossessed exquisite sensations, happiness, and wisdom; nor do I knowwhere this thirst for vengeance may end. Miserable himself, that he mayrender no other wretched, he ought to die. The task of his destructionwas mine, but I have failed. When actuated by selfish and viciousmotives, I asked you to undertake my unfinished work; and I renew thisrequest now, when I am only induced by reason and virtue.
"Yet I cannot ask you to renounce your country and friends, to fulfilthis task; and now, that you are returning to England, you will havelittle chance of meeting with him. But the consideration of thesepoints, and the well balancing of what you may esteem your duties, Ileave to you; my judgment and ideas are already disturbed by the nearapproach of death. I dare not ask you to do what I think right, for Imay still be misled by passion.
"That he should live to be an instrument of mischief disturbs me; inother respects, this hour, when I momentarily expect my release, is theonly happy one which I have enjoyed for several years. The forms of thebeloved dead flit before me, and I hasten to their arms. Farewell,Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity, and avoid ambition, even if itbe only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself inscience and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself beenblasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed."
His voice became fainter as he spoke; and at length, exhausted by hiseffort, he sunk into silence. About half an hour afterwards he attemptedagain to speak, but was unable; he pressed my hand feebly, and his eyesclosed for ever, while the irradiation of a gentle smile passed awayfrom his lips.
Margaret, what comment can I make on the untimely extinction of thisglorious spirit? What can I say, that will enable you to understand thedepth of my sorrow? All that I should express would be inadequate andfeeble. My tears flow; my mind is overshadowed by a cloud ofdisappointment. But I journey towards England, and I may there findconsolation.
I am interrupted. What do these sounds portend? It is midnight; thebreeze blows fairly, and the watch on deck scarcely stir. Again; thereis a sound as of a human voice, but hoarser; it comes from the cabinwhere the remains of Frankenstein still lie. I must arise, and examine.Good night, my sister.
Great God! what a scene has just taken place! I am yet dizzy with theremembrance of it. I hardly know whether I shall have the power todetail it; yet the tale which I have recorded would be incompletewithout this final and wonderful catastrophe.
I entered the cabin, where lay the remains of my ill-fated and admirablefriend. Over him hung a form which I cannot find words to describe;gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in its proportions. As hehung over the coffin, his face was concealed by long locks of raggedhair; but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texturelike that of a mummy. When he heard the sound of my approach, he ceasedto utter exclamations of grief and horror, and sprung towards thewindow. Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of suchloathsome, yet appalling hideousness. I shut my eyes involuntarily, andendeavoured to recollect what were my duties with regard to thisdestroyer. I called on him to stay.
He paused, looking on me with wonder; and, again turning towards thelifeless form of his creator, he seemed to forget my presence, and everyfeature and gesture seemed instigated by the wildest rage of someuncontrollable passion.
"That is also my victim!" he exclaimed: "in his murder my crimes areconsummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close! Oh,Frankenstein! generous and self-devoted being! what does it avail thatI now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee bydestroying all thou lovedst. Alas! he is cold, he cannot answer me."
His voice seemed suffocated; and my first impulses, which had suggestedto me the duty of obeying the dying request of my friend, in destroyinghis enemy, were now suspended by a mixture of curiosity and compassion.I approached this tremendous being; I dared not again raise my eyes tohis face, there was something so scaring and unearthly in his ugliness.I attempted to speak, but the words died away on my lips. The monstercontinued to utter wild and incoherent self-reproaches. At length Igathered resolution to address him in a pause of the tempest of hispassion: "Your repentance," I said, "is now superfluous. If you hadlistened to the voice of conscience, and heeded the stings of remorse,before you had urged your diabolical vengeance to this extremity,Frankenstein would yet have lived.
"And do you dream?" said the dæmon; "do you think that I was then deadto agony and remorse?—He," he continued, pointing to the corpse, "hesuffered not in the consummation of the deed—oh! not the ten-thousandthportion of the anguish that was mine during the lingering detail of itsexecution. A frightful selfishness hurried me on, while my heart waspoisoned with remorse. Think you that the groans of Clerval were musicto my ears? My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love andsympathy; and, when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did notendure the violence of the change, without torture such as you cannoteven imagine.
"After the murder of Clerval, I returned to Switzerland, heart-brokenand overcome. I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror: Iabhorred myself. But when I discovered that he, the author at once of myexistence and of its unspeakable torments, dared to hope for happiness;that while he accumulated wretchedness and despair upon me, he soughthis own enjoyment in feelings and passions from the indulgence of whichI was for ever barred, then impotent envy and bitter indignation filledme with an insatiable thirst for vengeance. I recollected my threat,and resolved that it should be accomplished. I knew that I was preparingfor myself a deadly torture; but I was the slave, not the master, of animpulse, which I detested, yet could not disobey. Yet when shedied!—nay, then I was not miserable. I had cast off all feeling,subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess of my despair. Evilthenceforth became my good. Urged thus far, I had no choice but to adaptmy nature to an element which I had willingly chosen. The completion ofmy demoniacal design became an insatiable passion. And now it is ended;there is my last victim!"
I was at first touched by the expressions of his misery; yet, when Icalled to mind what Frankenstein had said of his powers of eloquence andpersuasion, and when I again cast my eyes on the lifeless form of myfriend, indignation was rekindled within me. "Wretch!" I said, "it iswell that you come here to whine over the desolation that you have made.You throw a torch into a pile of buildings; and, when they are consumed,you sit among the ruins, and lament the fall. Hypocritical fiend! if hewhom you mourn still lived, still would he be the object, again would hebecome the prey, of your accursed vengeance. It is not pity that youfeel; you lament only because the victim of your malignity is withdrawnfrom your power."
"Oh, it is not thus—not thus," interrupted the being; "yet such must bethe impression conveyed to you by what appears to be the purport of myactions. Yet I seek not a fellow-feeling in my misery. No sympathy may Iever find. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue, thefeelings of happiness and affection with which my whole beingoverflowed, that I wished to be participated. But now, that virtue hasbecome to me a shadow, and that happiness and affection are turned intobitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek for sympathy? I amcontent to suffer alone, while my sufferings shall endure: when I die, Iam well satisfied that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my memory.Once my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and ofenjoyment. Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings, who, pardoning myoutward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I wascapable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour anddevotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. Noguilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable tomine. When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannotbelieve that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled withsublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty ofgoodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil.Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in hisdesolation; I am alone.
"You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have a knowledge of mycrimes and his misfortunes. But, in the detail which he gave you ofthem, he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which Iendured, wasting in impotent passions. For while I destroyed his hopes,I did not satisfy my own desires. They were for ever ardent and craving;still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was thereno injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when allhuman kind sinned against me? Why do you not hate Felix, who drove hisfriend from his door with contumely? Why do you not execrate the rusticwho sought to destroy the saviour of his child? Nay, these are virtuousand immaculate beings! I, the miserable and the abandoned, am anabortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. Even now myblood boils at the recollection of this injustice.
"But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and thehelpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped todeath his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I havedevoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of loveand admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to thatirremediable ruin. There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me;but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I lookon the hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which theimagination of it was conceived, and long for the moment when thesehands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts nomore.
"Fear not that I shall be the instrument of future mischief. My work isnearly complete. Neither yours nor any man's death is needed toconsummate the series of my being, and accomplish that which must bedone; but it requires my own. Do not think that I shall be slow toperform this sacrifice. I shall quit your vessel on the ice-raft whichbrought me thither, and shall seek the most northern extremity of theglobe; I shall collect my funeral pile, and consume to ashes thismiserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious andunhallowed wretch, who would create such another as I have been. I shalldie. I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me, or be theprey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched. He is dead who called meinto being; and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance of us bothwill speedily vanish. I shall no longer see the sun or stars, or feelthe winds play on my cheeks. Light, feeling, and sense will pass away;and in this condition must I find my happiness. Some years ago, when theimages which this world affords first opened upon me, when I felt thecheering warmth of summer, and heard the rustling of the leaves and thewarbling of the birds, and these were all to me, I should have wept todie; now it is my only consolation. Polluted by crimes, and torn by thebitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in death?
"Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of human kind whom theseeyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive,and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be bettersatiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thoudidst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater wretchedness;and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hadst not ceased to thinkand feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater thanthat which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior tothine; for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in mywounds until death shall close them for ever.
"But soon," he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, "I shall die, andwhat I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will beextinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in theagony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fadeaway; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit willsleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus.Farewell."
He sprung from the cabin-window, as he said this, upon the ice-raftwhich lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves, andlost in darkness and distance.
Printed by A. & R Spottiswoode,
[Transcriber's Note: Possible printer errors corrected:
"I do no not fear to die" to "I do now not fear to die"
"fulfil the wishes of you parents" to "your parents"]
Mary Shelley's 1818 masterpiece Frankenstein is famously subtitled The Modern Prometheus, after the Greek myth of the god Prometheus. This Greek god steals the sacred fire of Mount Olympus and gifts it to humanity. The supreme god Zeus condemns Prometheus to eternal punishment for his treachery against the gods.What does Shelley mean by the Modern Prometheus as her subtitle? ›
He is creating life in a way that has never been attempted before, essentially meaning that he is taking the power of life away from God and giving it to humans, just like Prometheus did with fire.What is the theme of Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus? ›
Frankenstein, by English author Mary Shelley, tells the story of a monster created by a scientist and explores themes of life, death, and man versus nature.Is Prometheus a male or female? ›
In that account, Prometheus was a son of the Titan Iapetus by Clymene or Asia, one of the Oceanids. He was brother to Menoetius, Atlas, and Epimetheus. Hesiod, in Theogony, introduces Prometheus as a lowly challenger to Zeus's omniscience and omnipotence.Is Prometheus a girl or a boy? ›
Prometheus is a masculine name of Greek origin. Perhaps ironically, this name means "forethought." The story of Prometheus in Greek mythology is one mortals have told for centuries. This Titan god of fire believed in allowing mere mortals to evolve, and he gave them fire against the gods' wishes.What is the most book accurate Frankenstein movie? ›
Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein adaptation is mostly loyal to the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley, and deserves more credit. 1994's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein can be seen as the definitive film version of the 1818 novel.Which version of Frankenstein should I read? ›
Most famously, the original version published anonymously in 1818 was significantly revised by Mary Shelley and republished in 1831, along with her reflections about the dare that inspired her to write such a monstrous story. It's the 1831 version that is most commonly read today and that we're using in our programs.What is the best movie version of Frankenstein? ›
- Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
- Frankenstein (2015)
- Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
- The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
- Frankenstein (1931)
- Young Frankenstein (1974)
- The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
- The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Prometheus stands for human progress against the forces of nature. We learn close to the beginning that he has given humanity the gifts of fire and hope. Hope helps human beings to struggle for a better future while fire, as the source of technology, makes success in that struggle possible.Why is Frankenstein also called the Modern Prometheus? ›
Shelley gave her novel the subheading “The modern Prometheus.” The Classical Titan, who stole fire from the gods and gifted it to man, was tortured eternally for his crimes. In a parallel fable, the prodigious Victor Frankenstein places the spark of life into a creature which he does not know how to control.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a divine sculptor who creates humans out of clay, molding their biological form with his skilled hands. The life-shaping hands of Prometheus are a metaphor for genetic engineering, which gives humans the power to sculpt, in fine detail, the genetic structure of life.What is the main message of Frankenstein? ›
The main message that Frankenstein conveys is the danger in the pursuit of knowledge and advancement in Science and Technology. In the novel we see Victor try to push forward the limits of science by creating a creature from old body parts. The creation of the creature backfired on Victor once the monster escaped.What is Mary Shelley trying to say in Frankenstein? ›
Shelley's most pressing and obvious message is that science and technology can go to far. The ending is plain and simple, every person that Victor Frankenstein had cared about met a tragic end, including himself. This shows that we as beings in society should believe in the sanctity of human life.What is the main point of Frankenstein? ›
The most important theme in Frankenstein is the idea of familial responsibility and what people owe to each other. Victor Frankenstein is essentially the creature's father; he created him and has a responsibility to take care of his creation and to teach him about the world.Who did Prometheus fall in love with? ›
Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) : "Now Prometheus had a son Deukalion (Deucalion) and was married to Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, the first woman created by the gods.Who killed Prometheus? ›
"Mercurius [Hermes], at Jove's [Zeus'] command, bound him [Prometheus] with iron spikes to a cliff on Mount Caucasus, and set an Eagle to eat out his heart; as much as it devoured in the day, so much grew again at night. After 30,000 years Hercules killed this eagle and freed Prometheus."How did the girl get pregnant in Prometheus? ›
That's the unfortunate fate that befalls Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus, Ridley Scott's Alien-inspired 2012 film. Shaw is supposedly sterile, but she becomes pregnant by her mutating archaeologist partner, Charlie Holloway.Is Prometheus a hero or villain? ›
He is a rare example of a Greek tragic hero whose faults, such as excessive pride and stubbornness, ennoble him. Prometheus opposes Zeus because of his anger over his punishment, bolstered by his anger over the mistreatment of his brothers and Io.Does Prometheus marry Pandora? ›
Aphrodite gave her sex appeal and Hermes the gift of trickery and deceit. They gave life to her and called her Pandora and married her to Prometheus's brother, Epimetheus.What is Prometheus afraid of? ›
Having the gift of prophecy, Prometheus most likely knows that Zeus will in the future send an eagle to gnaw on his liver. Knowing this, Prometheus has reason to be afraid of anything approaching on wings. The threat of someone approaching from the sky is repeated throughout the play.
Frankenstein remains, above all, our greatest horror tale, retaining its hold on our imaginations because it drives deep into, and draws deeply from, our most fundamental fears about the thin line between vitality and dead matter, and our inadequacy amid the most alluring temptations of our idealism.Why is the Frankenstein movie so different from the book? ›
Creators involved in Frankenstein the movie reflected their beliefs of character being an innate quality that people have from the beginning. The stories were written in different scopes and took two different forms to reflect what the authors found as the most important message to convey to the audience.Who is the true villain of the novel Frankenstein? ›
The Monster is Frankenstein's antagonist. He thwarts Frankenstein's goal both by what he does and what he is.Is Frankenstein a hard book to read? ›
Only a couple of hundred pages long, Frankenstein is an easy read - bar the archaic terminology at some points - that will leave you both haunted, inquisitive and wanting to read again.Can a beginner read Frankenstein? ›
An author too early for her times, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is quite an interesting read. It is also one of the best beginner-friendly novels since it delves into deeper matters of humanity without burdening the reader with heavy thoughts.Can a 10 year old read Frankenstein? ›
Mary Shelley's classic story has delighted readers and film fans for many years. This version of the story has been specially adapted for kids from nine to twelve years old. The language and vocabulary are simple, and emphasis is on action using past, present and future simple tenses.What is technically the best movie ever? ›
1. Citizen Kane (1941)Who is the most famous Frankenstein? ›
Frankenstein – Boris Karloff
Arguably the most iconic take on the character, Karloff's performance in Frankenstein launched him into stardom at the age of 43. Understandably so. Karloff only played the monster in three films, yet it's his portrayal that's often considered the definitive version.
Frankenstein General Hospital (1988): Most people probably can't get past the ridiculous VHS cover for this film, which film historian Leonard Maltin once called the worst Frankenstein movie ever made in English.Why is the story of Prometheus important? ›
The tale of Prometheus is well-known because it explains how mankind came into possession of fire, thus enabling man to form civilisations.
The name of the elder of these brothers was Prometheus, or Forethought; for he was always thinking of the future and making things ready for what might happen tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or it may be in a hundred years to come.What is the symbolic meaning of the myth of Prometheus? ›
Prometheus' name means forethought, so he symbolizes thinking ahead and planning before taking action. While he was not the only god associated with fire, he is often associated and depicted with it in ancient works of art. Prometheus also symbolizes the creation of humankind and their development of fire.Who is our modern Promethean figure in Frankenstein? ›
Victor, as the subtitle of the novel suggests, is a searcher after forbidden knowledge, one of those Promethean overreachers who refuse to accept limitations and are subsequently punished. He is, however, more specifically a 'modern' Prometheus.Why did Prometheus get punished? ›
Prometheus had broken no laws, but Zeus had been embarrassed and outsmarted. He took fire away from humans as a punishment, reasoning that the fine meat they had won would go to waste if they could not cook it.What does the vulture symbolize in Prometheus? ›
For Zeus' sacred eagle, an instrument of divine and righteous punishment, he substitutes a vulture, symbolic of death and decay.What is Prometheus in simple words? ›
Meaning of Prometheus in English
in Greek mythology (= ancient stories), a demigod (= someone who is part human and part god) who stole fire from Mount Olympus: Prometheus was a Titan, the class of immortals who were around long before Zeus.
Prometheus had one fatal flaw and, for this, he would be tormented: he loved humans, and to save them from the wrath of Zeus, he stole fire, incurring the vengeance of the Olympian god.What are some themes of Prometheus? ›
- Man and the Natural World.
- Fate and Free Will.
- Freedom and Confinement.
- Compassion and Forgiveness.
One message conveyed by Frankenstein is the danger that lies with considering the negative consequences of science and technology after-the-fact, instead of before. More generally speaking, when people neglect to consider the potential negative impacts of their actions, it is a form of willful ignorance.What is the most famous quote from Frankenstein? ›
It's by no fault of Mary Shelley's that the only quote we all seem to remember from her classic 1818 text Frankenstein is, "It's alive!" The timeless horror story she penned of a man-made monster racked with conflicting emotions of his own making has reached icon status over the past 200 years—and yet, so many of the ...
In Frankenstein, Victor's dual diagnosis of monomania and antisocial personality disorder bridges the historical gap between early eighteenth century and modern society's perception of insanity, while the attribution of these two diagnoses can enable the audience to sympathize with Victor.What does Mary Shelley argue? ›
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein provides an opportunity to examine these conflicting claims about human nature, as Dr. Frankenstein's creation was raised by society; and through this novel, Shelly argues that evil and the desire for revenge are learned, not innate traits.What are two major themes in Frankenstein? ›
Frankenstein, by English author Mary Shelley, tells the story of a monster created by a scientist and explores themes of life, death, and man versus nature.What is the irony of Frankenstein? ›
The best example of irony in the novel is that Victor, who aims to create life, brings death to his family. Further, Victor, the creature's maker, does not take care of it and leaves. Irony makes Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a valuable piece of literature with a hidden meaning.What does death symbolize in Frankenstein? ›
In Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, the death of William Frankenstein, although he is not a major character, plays an essential role in the novel. His death signifies the creature's transition from peace in finding a companion to destruction and hatred of mankind.What is the conclusion of the story Frankenstein? ›
At the end of Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein dies wishing that he could destroy the Monster he created. The Monster visits Frankenstein's body. He tells Walton that he regrets the murders he has committed and that he intends to commit suicide.Is Frankenstein's monster good or evil? ›
Frankenstein's Monster is arguably considered one of the most tragic villains in history, as he was shunned since the very first moment he came to life, ostracized and rejected despite his good intentions, was repeatedly deprived of love and affection, and he became murderous solely to avenge his misery, but he ...How is Frankenstein and Prometheus similar? ›
Prometheus and Frankenstein suffered for their deeds. They attempted to create a new life and faced the results of their actions. Both of the characters suffered from disregarding the laws of nature in favor of progress and creation.What is the difference between Prometheus and Frankenstein? ›
The two are similar in their compassion for mankind, disregard of human limits, and personal downfall, but Prometheus is successful in benefiting society, while Frankenstein ultimately creates a weapon of destruction.Is Frankenstein inspired by Prometheus? ›
In light of these facts, it becomes clear that Prometheus served as an inspiration to Mary Shelley when developing her main character Victor Frankenstein in her novel.
Shelley gave her novel the subheading “The modern Prometheus.” The Classical Titan, who stole fire from the gods and gifted it to man, was tortured eternally for his crimes. In a parallel fable, the prodigious Victor Frankenstein places the spark of life into a creature which he does not know how to control.What does Prometheus symbolize and why? ›
Prometheus' name means forethought, so he symbolizes thinking ahead and planning before taking action. While he was not the only god associated with fire, he is often associated and depicted with it in ancient works of art. Prometheus also symbolizes the creation of humankind and their development of fire.Why is Prometheus called the friend of man? ›
The story of Prometheus holds a special place in Geek mythology and in popular imagination. This son of a Titan is regarded as one of the great benefactors of humankind, the bringer of fire and the original teacher of technology and the useful arts to man.Why is Prometheus called Prometheus? ›
According to Edith Hamilton's book "Mythology," the name Prometheus means "forethought," and he was "very wise, wiser even than the gods." Prometheus was said to have been so enthralled by his human creation that he stole fire from the gods to help the humans along.What does the myth of Prometheus teach us? ›
Prometheus stands for human progress against the forces of nature. We learn close to the beginning that he has given humanity the gifts of fire and hope. Hope helps human beings to struggle for a better future while fire, as the source of technology, makes success in that struggle possible.Who is God in Frankenstein? ›
Victor Frankenstein is conventionally accused of playing God, that is of usurping the role properly reserved to a divine being of creating life and in doing so, of creating a life that wreaks murderous revenge on its creator.What does the modern Prometheus allude? ›
The subtitle for this Shelley's Frankenstein is the phrase “or the Modern Prometheus.” Frankenstein is the “modern Prometheus” who steals god's power to create life. For stealing this power, he is punished, much like Prometheus is punished for stealing fire from the gods.Is Frankenstein a man or woman? ›
One of the deepest horrors of this novel is his implicit goal of creating a society for men only: Victor's creature is male; he refuses to create a female; there is no reason why the race of immortal beings he hopes to propagate should not be exclusively male.