- Dec 2019
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), the evolutionist and poet who lived in Birmingham, England, is clearly on Percy Shelley's mind when he introduces Mary's text in the 1818 edition. Critics of the novel have not often followed this lead in thinking about it as an early work in the British evolutionary imagination. Erasmus Darwin had made "not of impossible occurrence" that one presently visible species could mutate into another. Victor contemplates this possibility—as an alarming one—when he speculates in Volume 3, Chapter 3, that the Creature's demand that he create a "mate" could result in a new evolutionary development, "a race of devils."
The country in the neighbourhood of this village resembled, to a greater degree, the scenery of Switzerland
Victor's decision to tour the English countryside, rather than take the fastest road to Edinburgh, affords his party the chance to compare English geography to Europe's and they do so it considerable detail, beginning with this comparison of the country around Matlock to Switzerland. Matlock was south of the industrial cities of Manchester and Leeds, but it is on the way to the Lake District in Victor's northern tour.
Oxford, England city in the county of Oxfordshire. It is home to the oldest English university, the University of Oxford.
university of Ingolstadt
Founded in 1472 in Bavaria, about 400 miles northeast of Geneva, this university became a leading center of scientific learning in the eighteenth century; the emergence of the Illuminati in 1776 also identified the university with the radical enlightenment.
the river Arve
The Arve flows through Chamounix, Sallanches, Oëx, Cluses, Bonneville, Annemasse and Geneva.
she desired permission to address the court
Women were not allowed to address the court or testify in criminal cases unless there were special circumstances, including in the United States. The legal silencing of women in law courts was discussed in Mary Wollstonecraft's The Wrongs of Woman (published posthumously by William Godwin in 1798).
This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as we believed, many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed to denote that it was not, in reality, so distant as we had supposed
The first appearance of the Creature, distant but distinct, surprises the ship's crew, who assume they are too far into the inhospitable Arctic for life to persist.
By citing Adam's question to God in John Milton's Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley makes Milton's epic the most important intertext of Frankenstein. In Book II, the Creature hears the poem read aloud, and begins to think of himself as either Adam or Satan.
voyages which have been made in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean
Both commercial and scientific voyages had been searching for a Northwest passage or open seaway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. For the Arctic context of the novel, see Adriana Craciun, "Writing the Disaster: Franklin and Frankenstein," Nineteenth-Century Literature 65.4 (2011): 433-80.
Clerval was no natural philosopher. His imagination was too vivid for the minutiae of science. Languages were his principal study;
Clerval's love of languages, as opposed to the "minutiae of science," will later resonate with the Creature's perception that "language is a Godlike science" in Volume 2, Chapter IV.
“the palaces of nature,”
Shelley is probably citing "palaces of nature" from Lord Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III, published in 1816: “Above me are the Alps, / The palaces of Nature, whose vast walls / Have pinnacled in clouds their snowy scalps, / And throned Eternity in icy halls / Of cold sublimity” (lxii.590–94).
sent me forth to this insupportable misery
The Creature compares himself to Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost, which he has previously heard when Felix read the poem aloud.
An essential instrument for scientific experiments on gases, the first entirely successful air-pump was created for Robert Boyle's experiments at the Royal Society in 1661. Victor's enthusiasm for a modern scientific instrument counterbalances his attraction to magic and pre-modern philosophy. For the broader significance of this invention, see Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump (Princeton University Press,1985).
Shakespeare, in the Tempest and Midv1_ixsummer Night’s Dream
Despite the comparison of these Shakespeare plays to Greek tragic poetry, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream are romances, not tragedies. Nonetheless, both romance and tragedy are genres to which this novel is deeply indebted.
the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature
Robert describes the first sighting of the Creature in the Arctic, which shortly precedes the appearance of Victor. His "gigantic stature" will later be revealed as a height of about eight feet tall. This seemingly minor dimension of the Creature's power can be appreciated when we think about how few giants or outsized human figures appear in modern realist fiction since the 18th century.
Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread
In this passage from Part VI of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the Mariner faces the apparition of the dead sailors--as if in a "charnel-dungeon"--standing to rebuke him for their deaths.
Amadis was the son of King Perion of Gaul. His story appears in five operas, including operas by George Friedrich Handel (1715) and Johann Christian Bach (1779).
The philosopher's stone, or "stone of the philosophers" (Latin: lapis philosophorum) was a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals such as mercury into gold (chrysopoeia, from the Greek χρυσός khrusos, "gold," and ποιεῖν poiēin, "to make") or silver.
a course of lectures upon natural philosophy
Far more than printed books, attendance at lectures on natural philosophy instructed thousands of eighteenth-century students of the sciences. Mary Shelley indirectly refers the reader to the vastly popular London lectures on the sciences to which audiences had been flocking since Humphry Davy's inaugural lecture in 1802. Anne Mellor has persuasively argued that Davy was a partial model for the character of Victor in this novel. [Anne Mellor, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters (Routledge, 1989) pp. 91-103)]
America would have been discovered more gradually
From 1492 to 1504, Christopher Columbus made four voyages to the Americas and Spanish colonizing of what is now South America extended from 1494 to the 1600s. By "gradually," however, Shelley mody likely means that the Americas could have been "discovered" without imperial violence if Europeans had observed and valued domestic affections over military adventure.
Both Clerval's mastery of foreign languages and his commercial activity in the "orient" (or the Middle East) become a foil for the "natural philosophy" associated with Germany and northern Europe in the novel.
Coupar is a town 13 miles to the north of Perth, Scotland.
Compare John 8:12: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (KJV).
The concept of "eternal light" also resonates with the myth of Prometheus and the principles of Enlightenment as the simultaneous literal and figurative 'enlightening' brought by education, adventure, and discovery.
I shall kill no albatross,
This expression is a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," in which the Mariner inexplicably slays an albatross. The allusion may imply that Walton will play the role of Coleridge's Wedding Guest instead: he will listen to Victor's long, obsessive story that will ultimately be a confession of guilt, like the Ancient Mariner' tale. Since the poem was not published until September 1798, this reference also places the "17--" date of these letters as the summer of 1799. On the poem's role in the novel, see Beth Lau, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Frankenstein," in Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Sciences of Life, ed. Nicholas Roe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001): 207-23.
She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair.
Shelley most likely drew this scene from Henry Fuseli's painting The Nightmare. See Anne Mellor, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters (New York: Routledge, 1988), p. 121.
A Spanish fleet of about 130 ships. It sailed in late May 1588, under the command of the Duke of Medina, with the mission of escorting an army from Flanders to invade England. The aim was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and Protestantism in England.
Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus
Paracelsus (1200-1280) was a medieval Swiss theologian and physician interested in alchemy and astrology, and a pioneer in the medical revolution of the German Renaissance. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) was a German Catholic Dominican friar and bishop. Known as Albert the Great or later Saint Albert, Magnus also wrote on alchemy and was the first to comment on the writings of Aristotle and the teachings of Muslim academics, notably Avicenna and Averroes.
the strange system of human society was explained to me
The passage echoes Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who believed that "human society" corrupts naturally good humans. Like Rousseau's character Emile, the Creature is only slowly introduced to society, beginning good but becoming increasingly menacing.
The name Safie appears drawn from the Greek "sophia" (meaning wise), or the Arabic "safa" (meaning pure), or both.
The ballots had been thrown; they were all black
That the ballots were "all black" means that no one on the jury or panel of judges voted to acquit Justine.
this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation
The special role of chemistry in Victor's apprenticeship to medicine links premodern sciences like alchemy to modern empirical science. Humphry Davy (1778-1829)was the contemporary British chemist who argued the chemistry was the key to all other sciences and useful arts of the time.
We had agreed to descend the Rhine 014in a boat from Strasburgh to Rotterdam
Strasburgh and Rotterdam are separated by about 600 miles of river. It would have taken the party about a week to traverse this distance on the Rhine by boat or barge in the nineteenth century.
August 26th, 17—.
It is now seven days since Walton's first letter to his sister (Vol. 1, Letter IV), although whether the year ought to be considered 1797 or 1799 is an ongoing debate. The date given in the Draft is August 13, before the date of Walton's last letter, so was revised here.
Victor refers to Italian Dante Alighieri's (1265-1321) Divine Comedy in which the poet journeys through the nine circles of Hell.
when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys
The eighteenth-century Scottish and British discourse of "sympathy" is especially vivid in the Creature's instinctive opening onto the emotions of others, echoing Adam Smith's arguments in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).
our family was not scientifical, and I had not attended any of the lectures given at the schools of Geneva. My dreams were therefore undisturbed by reality
Victor explains his lack of any early scientific education as the reason he found medieval scientific works credible and often intoxicating. But while they may not have been versed in the sciences, Victor's parents educated him in languages, mathematics, and other kinds of knowledge prized by the Enlightenment.
Nought may endure but mutability!
This stanza from Percy Shelley's poem "Mutability" (1816) may have helped convince readers of 1818 that the novel's author was indeed Percy rather than Mary since it is not attributed to its author. However, it also, of course, is far outside the novel's fictional eighteenth-century setting.
the gentle ass
In the fable by Aesop, a donkey becomes jealous of his farmer's lap-dog and tries to imitate it by jumping onto the farmer's lap, angering the farmer who punishes him. The moral is not to try to be something you are not. The Creature's situation inverts this lesson, however, since he is trying to be himself but is still rejected.
picturesque as that of Servox, through which we had just passed. The high and snowy mountains were its immediate boundaries
This valley lies in France at the northern approach to Mont Blanc in what is properly called Chamounix. Mary and Percy Shelley visited this valley from 21 to 27 July 1816, as was recorded by Percy. Mary's use of "picturesque," meaning "interesting qualities of form and color" should be contrasted with her use of "sublime" above, which is more intense and awe-inspiring.
Servox is a small village in the Chamonix valley. Located at the base of the Fiz mountains, it was visited by Mary and Percey and is discussed in Mary's Six Weeks Tour.
I have visited the lakes of Lucerne and Uri
Lake Lucerne is a lake in central Switzerland and the fourth largest in the country. Lake Uri, also in Switzerland, is known for its reflective blue waters.
a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth
Victor's frightening imagination of a "race of devils" that would be "propagated upon the earth" may owe something to fears of vast population increase in the wake of debates over Thomas Malthus's predictions in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), which were being fiercely debated (by Godwin and William Hazlitt among others) around the time of the novel's composition. See Clara Tuite, "Frankenstein's Monster and Malthus's 'Jaundiced Eye': Population, Body Politics, and the Monstrous Sublime," Eighteenth-Century Life 22.1 (1998).
I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed 098hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs
This description recalls an experiment by Giovanni Aldini, a Professor of Experimental Philosophy at the University of Bologna, Italy. He was also Luigi Galvani’s nephew and a strong proponent of the latter’s work. In early 1803, Aldini conducted an electrical experiment on the corpse of Thomas Foster at Newgate Prison in London. A voltaic pile sent electric currents through the dead man’s body, causing it to contract and contort and one eye to open. Such experiments were well known to the Shelleys, who attended physiological lectures in London between 1802 and 1816.
I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me;
Both Robert and Victor Frankenstein yearn for a male friend; only Robert expresses this desire as a wish for "sympathy," a capacity to feel as another person feels that descended to the Shelleys from moral philosophy like Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and from sentimental novels like Henry Mackenzie's The Man of Feeling (1771).
Cæsar would have spared his country
Shelley refers to Julius Caesar's empire-building through his military campaigns. According to Enlightenment historians, his conquests provoked a political crisis in Rome, and Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE marked the end of a more peaceful Roman Republic and the beginning of its Empire. Romantic liberals like the Shelleys, Leigh Hunt, and Lord Byron idealized the republic as a political form and set it against militaristic empire building. However, Mary Shelley is original in associating "domestic affections" with the idea of a republic based on reason.
A house was purchased for us near Cologny
Cologny, a small town in Switzerland, is approximately one hour's walk to the east of Geneva.
Victor's use of the term mummy is ironic here, since he is not trying to preserve the body parts comprising the Creature so much as trying to reanimate them. The word "mummy" is used once more, in Walton's letter of September 12, where the Captain happens upon the Creature staring at Victor's recently deceased corpse.
Evil thenceforth became my good.
The Creature refers to Satan's confession in Milton's Paradise Lost: "all Good to me is lost; / Evil be thou my Good" (4:109-110).
The first definite reference to "Robin Hood" appeared in the poem Piers Plowman or Visio Willelmi de Petro Ploughman (William's Vision of Piers Plowman) by William Langland, circa 1370. Robin Hood was a heroic outlaw and a highly skilled archer and swordsman depicted in English folklore. In some versions of the legend, he is depicted as being of noble birth. Having fought in the Crusades, he returns to England to find the Sheriff has taken his lands. In other versions, he is instead born into the yeoman class. In both versions, is said to have robbed from the rich to give to the poor.
Scarlet fever is a disease caused by a streptococcus infection, most common among children and young adults. Until the discovery of penicillin in the early 20th Century, it was frequently fatal. Also compare the 1831 edition, in which Elizabeth's condition is more "severe."
I also became a poet
Walton's wish to be a poet, like Henry Clerval's taste for tales of romance, attest to their imaginativeness and capacity for sympathy that seems greater than Victor's, who has no literary interests. Victor also suggests that had his fate not turned out differently, he might have been a Henry Clerval. See Volume 1, Chapter 7.
The season was cold and rainy
In 1816 the eruption of the volcano Mount Tambora (Indonesia) created extreme weather around the world in what came to be called "the year without a summer." See Gillen D'Arcy Wood, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2015). Food shortages and cold affected millions of Europeans.
Archangel is the anglicized name for the town of Arkhangelsk, a large seaport in northern Russia.
we passed the river Drance
The river Drance empties into Lake Geneva between Thonon-les-Bains and Évian-les-Bains.
Mont Cenis is a massif in France, which forms the limit between the Cottian and Graian Alps.
Founded by the Hellenic philosopher Zeno of Citium (c. 334-262), the Stoic school of philosophy was influential on Romans such as Seneca and his student Marcus Aurelius. Stoics valued living in accordance with virtue and performing good deeds, and thought it would lead one to peace of mind. Stoicism is responsible for contemporary usage of the word "stoic," usually meaning steely or visibly devoid of feeling.
The Greeks wept for joy when they beheld the Mediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed with rapture the boundary of their toils
Victor refers to the Greeks' long retreat from Armenia in Xenophon's Anabasis: "And when all had reached the summit [having made it], then indeed they fell to embracing one another, and generals and captains as well, with tears in their eyes" (4.7).
The Reuss is the fourth-largest river in Switzerland, after the Rhine, Aare and Rhôn.
the words of my father: “I know that while you are pleased with yourself, you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly from you.
Victor recalls his father's judgments as a moral compass. Being "pleased with yourself," in his father's view, shows an egotism that is at odds with the familial and social feelings of "affection," one of the novel's most important arguments.
wonderful and sublime
The sublime is a notion in aesthetic and literary theory of striking grandeur of thought and emotion. The most important English work on the sublime is Edmund Burke's Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful and Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgement, which influenced nineteenth-century English thought.
I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead
In "Sinbad's Fourth Voyage," from One Thousand and One Nights ((c. 1706 – c. 1721), Sinbad is buried alive with his wife's corpse, following local custom. He sees a light, follows it to a small passage, then escapes. Commentators have suggested that Victor's allusion to the story refers to his pending marriage with Elizabeth.
We learned Latin and English
In addition to French, it stands to reason that Victor and Elizabeth would have also known German, since it was still the predominant language in Switzerland at the time. English and Latin bear mentioning since they were less common in Switzerland, at least for daily use. Latin also draws a connection to Victor's studies, since much of his course instruction would have been in Latin.
we proceeded to Oxford
No university in Europe could have been more the opposite of the University of Ingolstadt (where Victor learned his science) than Oxford University, the seat of theological learning and a holdout against any form of Enlightenment sciences. Victor is also initially nostalgic for the days of Charles I when the absolute monarch was beleaguered in the early years of the English Revolution (1642-1659). He later praises the republican opponent of Charles I, John Hampden. What version of England's political past Mary Shelley means to commemorate in this chapter remains an interesting question.
“old familiar faces;”
This phrase is likely a reference to Charles Lamb's poem "The Old Familiar Faces" (1798): "I have had playmates, I have had companions/ In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days/ All, all are gone, the old familiar faces." If so, it is also a poignant memory of his own family as Victor narrates this tale in which so many family members will be destroyed as a consequence of his own actions.
Lycurgus (c. 820 BC) was the legendary reformer of Sparta. He established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society, and promoted the three Spartan virtues: equality (among citizens, at least), austerity, and military fitness.
The raising of ghosts or devils
One incantation in Agrippa's book, De occulta philosophia, was said to conjure demonic beings.
The spire of Evian
Evian-les-Bains is a resort and spa on Lake Geneva near Lausanne. Today it is famous for its commercially successful bottled mineral waters.
should probably have applied myself to the more rational theory of chemistry
Although the word comes from Arabic, "alchemy" has its roots in the ancient world, which seemed preoccupied with the transformation of materials, especially with turning base metals such as lead and tin into gold and silver. Both Victor's father and Professor Krempe sharply distinguish between the modern, rational science of chemistry and irrational, premodern alchemy.
A country suburb of Geneva, Belrive means "beautiful shore" and was the location of the Villa Diodati, the house the Shelleys rented a house in the summer of 1816. During that summer the couple spent with Lord Byron, Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori, Mary first drafted the present novel. See her vivid account of creating the novel in the "Introduction" to the 1831 edition on this site.
in Clerval I saw the image of my former self
This is what Wordsworth says of his sister Dorothy in the final section of "Tintern Abbey"--she is an image of his former self, the one enraptured by the cataracts of 1793, his first visit to the Wye Valley, not the matured mind speaking in the poem of 1798. However, now it is Victor who sees in Henry Clerval his own "former" and potential self--inquisitive and open to possibility, rather than the blasted tragic self Victor now sees himself as having become.
hide himself in a vessel bound for the Black Sea
Victor sails northeast toward the Black Sea, whose far shore is Russia.
Greece had not been enslaved
In ancient Greece it was common practice to enslave entire populations of a conquered nation. Greece was conquered by the Romans in 146 CE.
Victor refers to the Great Masson Caverns on the Heights of Abraham above Matlock Bath.
Holyhead is a town in Wales and serves as a major port in the Irish Sea.
Sir Thomas Gower, 2nd Baronet (c. 1605–1672) twice served as the High Sheriff of Yorkshire and supported the Royalist cause during the Civil War. In his 1823 edition of Shelley's novel, her father William Godwin changed "Gower" to "Goring," the name of another Royalist leader in the Civil War, and the 1823 change is retained in the 1831 revision of the novel.
- Northwest Passage
- Christopher Columbus
- Lord Byron
- William Godwin
- Ancient Greece
- Tintern Abbey
- Spanish Armada
- Lake Uri
- romance (genre)
- Edmund Burke
- Black Sea
- natural philosophy
- Robin Hood
- Lake Lucerne
- 1831 edition
- Jean-Jaques Rousseau
- "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
- Paradise Lost
- Percy Shelley
- Lake Geneva
- William Wordsworth
- Humphry Davy
- Mary Wollstonecraft
- Erasmus Darwin
- Charles Lamb
- One Thousand and One Nights
- Henry Fuseli
- Adam Smith
- The Tempest
- English Revolution
- scarlet fever
- John Milton
- Immanuel Kant
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- Divine Comedy
- Lyrical Ballads
- William Langland
- Albertus Magnus
“Immediately upon your being taken ill, all the papers that were on your person were brought me, and I examined them
In the all editions but 1831, the Magistrate personally examines Victor's clothes. In the 1831 edition, an unspecified person brings the letters found on Victor's person to the Magistrate.
a variety of circumstances had prevented his marrying early, nor was it until the decline of life that he became a husband and the father of a family.
These changes to the 1831 edition make clear that Victor's father's late marriage is a result of factors beyond his control rather than carelessness or indifference, and further accentuate his familial position as the figurehead of their "domestic circle."
I had an insurmountable aversion to the idea of engaging myself in my loathsome task in my father’s house, while in habits of familiar intercourse with those I loved. I knew that a thousand fearful accidents might occur, the slightest of which would disclose a tale to thrill all connected with me with horror. I was aware also that I should often lose all self-command, all capacity of hiding the harrowing sensations that would possess me during the progress of my unearthly occupation. I must absent myself from all I loved while thus employed. Once 134commenced, it would quickly be achieved, and I might be restored to my family in peace and happiness. My promise fulfilled, the monster would depart for ever. Or (so my fond fancy imaged) some accident might meanwhile
In this revision to the 1831 edition, Victor's motivation to leave his family is less about a "change of scene and variety of occupation," as it appears in the 1818 edition, than about a fear that his work will create in him a similar fragility of mind that overtook him when creating the Creature in volume 1, a fragility that will betray his objective to his family.
This was strange and unexpected intelligence; what could it mean? Had my eyes deceived me? and was I really as mad as the whole world would believe me to be, if I disclosed the object of my suspicions? I hastened to return home, and
In this change to the 1831, the certainty with which Justine is convicted causes Victor to question his own convictions about the creature's involvement.
a guise which excited no suspicion, while I urged my desire with an earnestness that easily induced my father to comply. After so long a period of an absorbing melancholy, that resembled madness in its intensity and effects, he was glad to find that I was capable of taking pleasure in the idea of such a journey, and he hoped that change of scene and varied amusement would, before my return, have restored me entirely to myself. The duration of my absence was left to my own choice; a few months, or at most a year, was the period contemplated. One paternal kind precaution he had taken to ensure my having a companion. Without previously communicating with me, he had, in concert with Elizabeth, arranged that Clerval should join me at Strasburgh. This interfered with the solitude I coveted for the prosecution of my task; yet at the commencement of my journey the presence of my friend could in no way be an impediment, and truly I rejoiced that thus I should be saved many hours of lonely, maddening reflection. Nay, Henry might stand between me and the intrusion of my foe. If I were alone, would he not at times force his abhorred presence on me, to remind me of my task, or to contemplate its progress? To England, therefore, I was bound, and it was understood that my union with Elizabeth should take place immediately on my return. My father’s age rendered him extremely averse to delay. For myself, there was one reward I promised myself from my detested toils—one consolation for my unparalleled sufferings; it was the prospect of that day when, enfranchised from my miserable slavery, I might claim Elizabeth, and forget the past in my union with her.
In this 1831 revision, Victor's father takes the "paternal caution" of sending Clerval to accompany Victor to England out of concern for Victor's mental state. While the 1818 edition has Victor merely reporting that Clerval "would join [him]" in England, the 1831 version shows Victor reflecting at greater length on how Clerval's presence might provide him solace and company as he undertakes the difficult task ahead.
The 1831 edition adds the words "perhaps never," suggesting Victor has never recovered from the shock of the Creature's animation in Volume 1, intensifying his reaction to the death of Justine.
the story of Columbus and his egg
Shelley refers to the idea that a brilliant or unexpected discovery appears simple after the fact. Challenged to stand an egg up on its end, Columbus flattened the tip of the egg; only then did the act look easy.
pursued its noisy way beneath. The same lulling sounds acted as a lullaby to my too keen sensations: when I placed my head upon my pillow, sleep crept over me; I felt it as it came, and blest the giver of oblivion.
The 1831 edition adds this passage to emphasize, with the word "lullaby," the childlike fears Victor is now constantly trying to calm.
Elizabeth was also the name of Percy Shelley's mother. Mary changed the character's name from Myrtella to Elizabeth in the manuscript, unless this change was one of Percy's suggested changes. In Greek and Roman mythology, the flower myrtle was sacred to the goddess Venus (Aphrodite) and symbolized love.
You come to us now to share a misery which nothing can alleviate; yet your presence will, I hope, revive our father, who seems sinking under his misfortune; and your persuasions will induce poor Elizabeth to cease her vain and tormenting self-accusations.—Poor William! he was our darling and our pride!” Tears, unrestrained, fell from my brother’s eyes; a sense of mortal agony crept over my frame. Before, I had only imagined the wretchedness of my desolated home; the reality came on me as a new, and a not less terrible, disaster. I tried to calm Ernest; I enquired more minutely concerning my father, and her I named my cousin. “She most of all,” said Ernest,
In 1818, Ernest refers specifically to their father's grief, but in 1831 this is replaced with a more general reference to the family and Elizabeth's self-recriminations color Victor and his brother Ernest's exchange.
Mary Godwin met Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1814, at the age of sixteen and they married at the end of 1816, after she had turned nineteen.
It appeared to me sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death, of the house of mourning, and to rush into the thick of life. I was new to sorrow, but it did not the less alarm me. I was unwilling to quit the sight of those that remained to me; and, above all, I desired to see my sweet Elizabeth in some degree consoled. She indeed veiled her grief, and strove to act the comforter to us all. She looked steadily on life, and assumed its duties with courage and zeal. She devoted herself to those whom she had been taught to call her uncle and 31cousins. Never was she so enchanting as at this time, when she recalled the sunshine of her smiles and spent them upon us. She forgot even her own regret in her endeavours to make us forget.
In this revision for 1831 Elizabeth's comportment following her mother's death is altered slightly from an "imperious duty" to give care to her family, to a willfully "veiled" grief in an effort to forget her sorrows.
attempted to accompany them, and proceeded a short distance from the house; but my head whirled round, my steps were like those of a drunken man, I fell at last in a state of utter exhaustion;
In this 1831 revision, Victor tries to accompany the party but collapses in a "state of utter exhaustion." In all earlier editions, Victor does not attempt to accompany the party at all.
“We will each write a ghost story,” said Lord Byron
Along with Percy Shelley and Mary, Lord Byron, his sister Claire Clairmont, and their friend John Polidori huddled in the Villa Diodati on the shore of Lake Geneva and vowed to write ghost stories modeled on the German horror tales of the volume Fantasmagoriana (1812). While Percy Shelley and Lord Byron did not fulfill their vow to write such tales, Polidori wrote the kernel of "The Vampyre" (published in 1819), while Mary wrote the first draft of Frankenstein.
Lake of Como
Como is a lake in the north of Italy's Lombardy region. Absent as a locale from the 1818 edition, the family's visit here in the 1831 provides the setting for Elizabeth's adoption as a peasant foundling.
I took no rest, but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I could give no expression to my sensations—they weighed on me with a mountain’s weight, and their excess destroyed my agony beneath them. Thus I returned home, and entering the house, presented myself to the family. My haggard and wild appearance awoke intense alarm; but I answered no ques131tion, scarcely did I speak. I felt as if I were placed under a ban—as if I had no right to claim their sympathies—as if never more might I enjoy companionship with them. Yet even thus I loved them to adoration; and to save them, I resolved to dedicate myself to my most abhorred task. The prospect of such an occupation made every other circumstance of existence pass before me like a dream; and that thought only had to me the reality of life.
In this revision to the 1818 text, the 1831 edition makes Victor's motivation for creating a companion for the Creature more explicit. Victor considers the "abhorrent task" of creating another Creature necessary to absolve him of the responsibility for the Creature's violent deeds. He invokes his family's safety as the motive for agreeing to make a companion for the Creature.
Round Table of King Arthur
Victor refers to the legendary Knights of the Roundtable at the Court of King Arthur of Camelot. King Arthur and his Knights are the subject of the canonical medieval text Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, published in 1485 by William Caxton.
In the 1831, this single reference to Mallory replaces a string of citations to chivalric romance in the 1818 edition: "Orlando, Robin Hood, Amadis, and St. George"--in both cases, these references serve to underline VIctor's fascination with the scientific imagination of the medieval period in the works of Agrippa, et al., through this earlier enchantment with the medieval literary imagination in his childhood.
is wholly uneducated: he is as silent as a Turk, and a kind of ignorant carelessness attends him, which, while it renders his conduct the more astonishing, detracts from the interest and sympathy which otherwise he would command.
In this addition to the 1831 edition, Walton’s earlier largely admiring portrait of the shipmaster was qualified by remembering that he did not have a wide moral frame of reference, having lived his life only on a ship, so his qualities fell somewhat short of being “noble.” But 1831 darkens the portrait by making him ignorant and careless while orientalizing him (“silent as a Turk”). This is one of many passages in 1831 that replace a liberal generosity toward her several of her characters with a more harshly conservative, intolerant stance.
The 1831 edition has two illustrations, the frontispiece and the picture on the first title page, crafted by T. Holst and W. Chevalier, engravers for Coburn's and Bentley's Standard Novels series.
in Sanchean phrase
Shelley cites a characteristic expression, such as the homily "every thing must have a beginning," that was first voiced by Sancho Panza in Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605).
schiavi ognor frementi
From the Italian, "slaves forever agitating". Shelley's reference here may be referring to the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Lombardy. The "enslavement" of the Italian province occurred as a consequence of decisions made at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815).
he springs of existence suddenly gave way: he was unable to rise from his bed,
In this change to the 1831 edition, Victor's father seems to die of an acute bout of melancholy. In earlier editions, Victor's father suffers an "apoplectic fit" (a neurological impairment brought on from cerebral hemorrhage). The changed, melancholic cause of his death seems altogether more melodramatic in the 1831 edition, not least of all because of its mysterious pathology.
And on the morrow Justine died. Elizabeth’s heart-rending eloquence failed to move the judges from their settled conviction in the criminality of the saintly sufferer. My passionate and indignant appeals were lost upon them. And when I received their cold answers, and heard the harsh unfeeling reasoning of these men, my purposed avowal died away on my lips. Thus I might proclaim myself a madman, but not revoke the sentence passed upon my wretched victim. She perished on the scaffold as a murderess! From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing! And my father’s woe, and the desolation of that late so smiling home—all was the work of my thrice-accursed hands! Ye weep, unhappy ones; but these are not your last tears! Again shall you raise 74the funeral wail, and the sound of your lamentations shall again and again be heard! Frankenstein, your son, your kinsman, your early, much-loved friend; he who would spend each vital drop of blood for your sakes—who has no thought nor sense of joy, except as it is mirrored also in your dear countenances—who would fill the air with blessings, and spend his life in serving you—he bids you weep—to shed countless tears; happy beyond his hopes, if thus inexorable fate be satisfied, and if the destruction pause before the peace of the grave have succeeded to your sad torments! Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as, torn by remorse, horror, and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts.
In this lengthy addition to the 1831 edition, Victor and Elizabeth attempt to save Justine from the scaffold by appealing to the judges but are unsuccessful in staying her execution.
This is followed by an extended description of the anguish and torment of Victor's "prophetic soul" that accentuates the extreme feelings of guilt and horror that he feels for the deaths of both William and Justine.
Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious laws of electricity. On this occasion a man of great research in natural philosophy was with us, and, excited by this catastrophe, he entered on the explanation of a theory which he had formed on the subject of electricity and galvanism, which was at once new and astonishing to me. All that he said threw greatly into the shade Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus, the lords of my imagination; but by some fatality the overthrow of these men disinclined me to pursue my accustomed studies. It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever be known. All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grew despicable. By one of those caprices of the mind, which we are perhaps most subject to in early youth, I at once gave up my former occupations; set down natural history and all its progeny as a deformed and abortive creation; and entertained the greatest disdain for a would-be science, which could never even step within the threshold of real knowledge. In this mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics, and the branches of study appertaining to that science, as being built upon secure foundations, and so worthy of my consideration. Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin. When I look back, it seems to me as if this almost miraculous change of inclination and will was the immediate suggestion of the guardian angel of my life— the last effort made by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even then hanging in the stars, and ready to envelope me. Her victory was announced by an unusual tranquillity and gladness of soul, which followed the relinquishing of my ancient and latterly tormenting studies. It was thus that I was to be taught to associate evil with their prosecution, happiness with their disregard. 29It was a strong effort of the spirit of good; but it was ineffectual. Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction.
In this section, in 1831 three paragraphs of text replace a five-paragraph section in 1818.
Awed by the destructive power of the lightning-blast and their companions discourse on galvanism, Victor throws aside the "tormenting studies" of both medieval alchemy and natural philosophy which had hitherto fueled his sense of wonder and formed the basis of his intellectual obsessions. Turning instead to mathematics, he enjoys a brief respite from his torments, but his former desires will overtake him again.
No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled with other families, I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted the developement of filial love.
This passage, which generalizes about the pleasure of Victor's childhood, replaces in 1831 a detailed account of how Victor's parents educated their children in languages, mathematics, and other knowledges in the 1818 edition. The loss of that passage from 1818 leaves it unclear how Victor's childhood may have prepared him for a dedication to science as an adult student. Shelley first ventures with this revision in a similarly brief revision in the Thomas copy, which portrays their childhood as full of religious devotion rather than Enlightenment education.
Lord Byron, who was writing the third canto of Childe Harold
Lord Byron (1788-1824) had published the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, a poetic sensation across Europe that give him instant celebrity, in 1812. Canto 3 would be published in 1816 and Canto 4 in 1818.
Justine shook her head mournfully. “I do not fear to die,” she said; “that pang is past. God raises my weakness, and gives me courage to endure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember me, and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me. Learn from me, dear lady, to submit in patience to the will of Heaven!”
In 1831, this brief passage where Justine comforts Elizabeth's misery by stating that she accepts her doom replaces a lengthier exchange, in the 1818 edition, in which a distraught Elizabeth attempts to comfort Justine despite her imminent death.
shrunk from taking the first step in an undertaking whose immediate necessity began to appear less absolute to me. A change indeed had taken place in me:
In this change to the 1831 edition, Shelley makes the reason for Victor's recuperation more explicit; the Creature's apparent absence creates in Victor a false sense of security. He is unaware that the Creature is ever-present, secretly watching to see if Victor makes good on his promise to create a companion for the Creature.
There was a considerable difference between the ages of my parents, but this circumstance seemed to unite them only closer in bonds of devoted affection. There was a sense of justice in my father’s upright mind, which rendered it necessary that he should approve highly to love strongly. Perhaps during former years he had suffered from the late-discovered unworthiness of one beloved, and so was disposed to set a greater value on tried worth. There was a show of gratitude and worship in his attachment to my mother, differing wholly from the doating fondness of age, for it was inspired by reverence for her virtues, and a desire to be the means of, in some degree, recompensing her for the sorrows she had endured, but which gave inexpressible grace to his behaviour to her. Every thing was made to yield to her wishes and her convenience. He strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher wind, and to surround her with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind. Her health, and even the tranquillity of her hitherto constant spirit, had been shaken by what she had gone through. During the two years that had elapsed previous to their marriage my father had gradually relinquished all his public functions; and immediately after their union they sought the pleasant climate of Italy, and the change of scene and interest attendant on a tour through that land of wonders, as a restorative for her weakened frame. From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born at Naples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles. I remained for several years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me. My mother’s tender caresses, and my father’s smile of benevolent pleasure while regarding me, are my first recollections. I was their plaything and their idol, and something better—21their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by Heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me. With this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added to the active spirit of tenderness that animated both, it may be imagined that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control, I was so guided by a silken cord, that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me. For a long time I was their only care. My mother had much desire to have a daughter, but I continued their single offspring. When I was about five years old, while making an excursion beyond the frontiers of Italy, they passed a week on the shores of the Lake of Como. Their benevolent disposition often made them enter the cottages of the poor. This, to my mother, was more than a duty; it was a necessity, a passion,—remembering what she had suffered, and how she had been relieved,—for her to act in her turn the guardian angel to the afflicted. During one of their walks a poor cot in the foldings of a vale attracted their notice, as being singularly disconsolate, while the number of half-clothed children gathered about it, spoke of penury in its worst shape. One day, when my father had gone by himself to Milan, my mother, accompanied by me, visited this abode. She found a peasant and his wife, hard working, bent down by care and labour, distributing a scanty meal to five hungry babes. Among these there was one which attracted my mother far above all the rest. She appeared of a different stock. The four others were dark-eyed, hardy little vagrants; this child was thin, and very fair. Her hair was the brightest living gold, and, despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown of distinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyes cloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive of sensibility and sweetness, that none could behold her without looking on her as of a distinct species, a being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features. 22The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder and admiration on this lovely girl, eagerly communicated her history. She was not her child, but the daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her mother was a German, and had died on giving her birth. The infant had been placed with these good people to nurse: they were better off then. They had not been long married, and their eldest child was but just born. The father of their charge was one of those Italians nursed in the memory of the antique glory of Italy,—one among the schiavi ognor frementi, who exerted himself to obtain the liberty of his country. He became the victim of its weakness. Whether he had died, or still lingered in the dungeons of Austria, was not known. His property was confiscated, his child became an orphan and a beggar. She continued with her foster parents, and bloomed in their rude abode, fairer than a garden rose among dark-leaved brambles. When my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hall of our villa, a child fairer than pictured cherub—a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks, and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills. The apparition was soon explained. With his permission my mother prevailed on her rustic guardians to yield their charge to her. They were fond of the sweet orphan. Her presence had seemed a blessing to them; but it would be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want, when Providence afforded her such powerful protection. They consulted their village priest, and the result was, that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents’ house—my more than sister—the beautiful and adored companion of all my occupations and my pleasures. Every one loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home, my mother had said playfully,—“I have a pretty present for my Victor—to-morrow he shall have it.” And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally, and looked upon Elizabeth as mine—mine to protect, love, and 23cherish. All praises bestowed on her, I received as made to a possession of my own. We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me—my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only. CHAPTER II. We were brought up together; there was not quite a year difference in our ages. I need not say that we were strangers to any species of disunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together. Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition; but, with all my ardour, I was capable of a more intense application, and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aerial creations of the poets; and in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home—the sublime shapes of the mountains; the changes of the seasons; tempest and calm; the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers,—she found ample scope for admiration and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember. On the birth of a second son, my junior by seven years, my parents gave up entirely their wandering life, and fixed themselves in their native country. We possessed a house in Geneva, and a campagne on Belrive, the eastern shore of the lake, at the distance of rather more than a league from the city. We resided principally in the latter, and 24the lives of my parents were passed in considerable seclusion. It was my temper to avoid a crowd, and to attach myself fervently to a few. I was indifferent, therefore, to my schoolfellows in general; but I united myself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them. Henry Clerval was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, for its own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs, and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure. He tried to make us act plays, and to enter into masquerades, in which the characters were drawn from the heroes of Roncesvalles, of the Round Table of King Arthur, and the chivalrous train who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from the hands of the infidels. No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled with other families, I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted the developement of filial love. My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned, not towards childish pursuits, but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states, possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my enquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world. Meanwhile Clerval occupied himself, so to speak, with the moral relations of things. The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes, and the actions of men, were his theme; and his hope and his dream was to become one among those 25whose names are recorded in story, as the gallant and adventurous benefactors of our species. The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home. Her sympathy was ours; her smile, her soft voice, the sweet glance of her celestial eyes, were ever there to bless and animate us. She was the living spirit of love to soften and attract: I might have become sullen in my study, rough through the ardour of my nature, but that she was there to subdue me to a semblance of her own gentleness. And Clerval—could aught ill entrench on the noble spirit of Clerval?—yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful in his generosity—so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion for adventurous exploit, had she not unfolded to him the real loveliness of beneficence, and made the doing good the end and aim of his soaring ambition.
The next 11 paragraphs have been heavily altered from the 1818 edition. See individual comments.
or if I should come back to you as worn and woful as the “Ancient Mariner?” You will smile at my allusion; but I will disclose a secret. I have often attributed my attachment to, my passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of the ocean, to that production of the most imaginative of modern poets. There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand. I am practically industrious—pains-taking;—a workman to execute with perseverance and labour:—but besides this, there is a love for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore. But to return to dearer considerations.
In this addition to the 1831 edition, Shelley explicitly refers to her poetic source, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Walton muses wistfully on the "dangerous mysteries" of the ocean, proposing their similarity to poetry like Coleridge's, and citing them as the root of his own profound yearnings for the dangerous and sublime discoveries of exploration.
I expressed myself in measured terms, with the modesty and deference due from a youth to his instructor, without letting escape (inexperience in life would have made me ashamed) any of the enthusiasm which stimulated my intended labours. I requested his advice concerning the books I ought to procure.
This revision to 1831 emphasizes the great pains Victor takes with his manners when seeking guidance from M. Waldman.
wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel.
In all editions prior to 1831, this phrase reads "thou desirest not my life for my own misery." Here, the Creature's intention is more explicit--Victor's extreme anguish could never, in the Creature's view, equal his own. Victor has loved and lost, while the Creature has never loved at all.
my hideous progeny
Critics have written provocatively about this phrase, arguing that it refers not only to her fictional creation of the Creature, but to the novel itself as her own literary "progeny," and it thus testifies to her deeply ambivalent feelings about the novel she authored. For a classic statement of this idea, see Mary Poovey, "My Hideous Progeny: The Lady and the Monster" in The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 114-42.
again quitted my native country. My journey had been my own suggestion, and Elizabeth, therefore, acquiesced: but she was filled with disquiet at the idea of my suffering, away from her, the inroads of misery and grief. It had been her care which provided me a companion in Clerval—and yet a man is blind to a thousand minute circumstances, which call forth a woman’s sedulous attention. She longed to bid me hasten my return,—a thousand conflicting emotions rendered her mute, as she bade me a tearful silent farewell.
In this 1831 revision, it is unclear what is meant by Elizabeth providing Victor "a companion in Clerval," since earlier Victor notes that his father had required Clerval accompany Victor to ensure Victor's well-being.
Clerval had never sympathised in my tastes for natural science; and his literary pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me. He came to the university with the design of making himself complete master of the oriental languages, as thus he should open a field for the plan of life he had marked out for himself. Resolved to pursue no inglorious career, he turned his eyes toward the East, as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise. The Persian, Arabic, and Sanscrit languages engaged his attention, and I was easily induced to enter on the same studies. Idleness had ever been irksome to me, and now that I wished to fly from reflection, and hated my former studies, I felt great relief in being the fellow-pupil with my friend, and found not only instruction but consolation in the works of the orientalists. I did not, like him, attempt a critical knowledge of their dialects, for I did not contemplate making any other use of them than temporary amusement
In these 1831 revisions, Clerval's interest in Eastern languages and literature is a more scholarly and focused pursuit than in 1818. For instance, where in 1818 he studies Hebrew, a familiar ancient European language, the 1831 text shows him reading "oriental" texts to study the more archaic and difficult Sanskrit.
say a few words of consolation; he could only express his heartfelt sympathy. “Poor William!” said he, “dear lovely child, 59he now sleeps with his angel mother! Who that had seen him bright and joyous in his young beauty, but must weep over his untimely loss! To die so miserably; to feel the murderer’s grasp! How much more a murderer, that could destroy such radiant innocence! Poor little fellow! one only consolation have we; his friends mourn and weep, but he is at rest. The pang is over, his sufferings are at an end for ever. A sod covers his gentle form, and he knows no pain. He can no longer be a subject for pity; we must reserve that for his miserable survivors.”
In 1831, Clerval's words emotionally underscore the abhorrent nature of the crime. This outcry replaces a more philosophical reference in 1818 to the "maxims of the Stoics."
I have described myself as always having been embued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature. In spite of the intense labour and wonderful discoveries of modern philosophers, I always came from my studies discontented and unsatisfied. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowed that he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth. Those of his successors in each branch of natural philosophy with whom I was acquainted, appeared even to my boy’s apprehensions, as tyros engaged in the same pursuit. The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him, and was acquainted with their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more. He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery. He might dissect, anatomise, and give names; but, not to speak of a final cause, causes in their secondary and tertiary grades were 27utterly unknown to him. I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined. But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more. I took their word for all that they averred, and I became their disciple. It may appear strange that such should arise in the eighteenth century; but while I followed the routine of education in the schools of Geneva, I was, to a great degree, self taught with regard to my favourite studies. My father was not scientific, and I was left to struggle with a child’s blindness, added to a student’s thirst for knowledge. Under the guidance of my new preceptors,
In this revision for the 1831 edition, Victor narrates a period of exploration and disillusionment with the emergent discourse of modern rational science, encapsulated here by the figure of Newton.
FRANKENSTEIN, by MARY W. SHELLEY.
The first title page in the 1831 edition lists only a short version of the original title--Frankenstein--and Mary Shelley's name as author. A second title page following this one gives the original full title and identifies Mary only as "The Author of The Last Man, Perkin Warbeck, &tc. &c." This format was typical of the book series in which the 1831 edition of the novel appeared: Henry Colburn's and Richard Bentley's "Standard Novels." All books in the series have well-illustrated frontispieces and first title pages, followed by a more detailed title page without illustrations. It was this publishing format that launched Frankenstein as a widely reprinted popular novel.
Campagne is French for "countryside"; that is, a country house.
all left behind, on whom the monster might satisfy his sanguinary and merciless passions. This idea plunged me
In this 1831 this revision of 1818's phrase "and sunk" (into a reverie) makes more specific why Victor fears for their welfare.
I may receive your letters on some occasions when I need them most to support my spirits
In the 1818 edition, Walton had doubted that he would be able to receive future letters from Margaret. The doubt now disappears from the 1831 edition.
And then I bent over her, and whispered “Awake, fairest, thy lover is near—he who would give his life but to obtain one look of affection from thine eyes: my beloved, awake!” “The sleeper stirred; a thrill of terror ran through me. Should she indeed awake, and see me, and curse me, and denounce the murderer? Thus would she assuredly act, if her darkened eyes opened, and she beheld me. The thought was madness; it stirred the fiend within me—not I, but she shall suffer: the murder I have committed because I am for ever robbed of all that she could give me, she shall atone. The crime had its source in her: be hers the punishment!
In this change to the 1831 edition, the Creature's motivation for framing Justine is made more explicit than in 1818. In earlier editions the motive for framing her is unaddressed. For a good commentary on this point, see Sylvia Bowerbank, "The Social Order vs. the Wretch: Mary Shelley's Contradictory-mindedness in Frankenstein." ELH 4.3 (1979): 418-431 at 428.
George Goring, 1st Earl of Norwich (1608-1657), was an English politician and soldier, supporting Charles I against Parliament and an aggressive military strategist. His reputation for insubordination and "insolence" led the great English historian Lord Clarendon to remark that he "would, without hesitation, have broken any trust, or done any act of treachery to have satisfied an ordinary passion or appetite" [in Lord Clarendon, History of the Rebellion (1702-4)]. In editing the 1818 version of the novel in 1823, William Godwin had changed "Gower" in Mary Shelley's original text to "Goring," doubtless following Clarendon's History. The 1818 text had referred to another Royalist supporter of Charles I, Sir Thomas Gower, 2nd Baronet (1594-1651).
Dear Victor, banish these dark passions. Remember the friends around you, 78who centre all their hopes in you. Have we lost the power of rendering you happy? Ah! while we love—while we are true to each other, here in this land of peace and beauty, your native country, we may reap every tranquil blessing,—what can disturb our peace?” And could not such words from her whom I fondly prized before every other gift of fortune, suffice to chase away the fiend that lurked in my heart? Even as she spoke I drew near to her, as if in terror; lest at that very moment the destroyer had been near to rob me of her. Thus not the tenderness of friendship, nor the beauty of earth, nor of heaven, could redeem my soul from woe: the very accents of love were ineffectual. I was encompassed by a cloud which no beneficial influence could penetrate. The wounded deer dragging its fainting limbs to some untrodden brake, there to gaze upon the arrow which had pierced it, and to die—was but a type of me. Sometimes I could cope with the sullen despair that overwhelmed me: but sometimes the whirlwind passions of my soul drove me to seek, by bodily exercise and by change of place, some relief from my intolerable sensations. It was during an access of this kind that I suddenly left my home, and bending my steps towards the near Alpine valleys, sought in the magnificence, the eternity of such scenes, to forget myself and my ephemeral, because human, sorrows. My wanderings were directed towards the valley of Chamounix. I had visited it frequently during my boyhood. Six years had passed since then: I was a wreck—but nought had changed in those savage and enduring scenes. I performed the first part of my journey on horseback. I afterwards hired a mule, as the more sure-footed, and least liable to receive injury on these rugged roads. The weather was fine: it was about the middle of the month of August, nearly two months after the death of Justine; that miserable epoch from which I dated all my woe. The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened as I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve. The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me on every side—the sound of the river raging among the rocks, and the dashing of the 79waterfalls around, spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence—and I ceased to fear, or to bend before any being less almighty than that which had created and ruled the elements, here displayed in their most terrific guise. Still, as I ascende
In this lengthy revision to the 1831 edition, Shelley emphasizes Victor's wariness in becoming close to Elizabeth, should she meet the same fate as Justine. Importantly, the journey along the Arve Valley is made by Victor alone, giving him cause to reflect on his journey with greater nostalgia. In the earlier editions, Victor travels with Elizabeth, his father, and his brother Ernest.
Do not fear. I will proclaim, I will prove your innocence. I will melt the stony hearts of your enemies by my tears and prayers. You shall not die!—You, my play-fellow, my companion, my sister, perish on the scaffold! No! no! I never could
In 1818, Elizabeth vows to proclaim Justine's innocence but seems resigned to her death. This 1831 revision gives Elizabeth a more resolute will to "prove your innocence."
- King Arthur
- Don Quixote
- Lord Byron
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- domestic affections
- English Revolution
FRANKENSTEIN: or, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. LONDON PRINTED BY THOMAS DAVISON, WHITEFRIARS.
As it does with the 1818 edition, this title appears on its own page. It is followed by a page listing the printer Thomas Davison, and then by the full title page.
and endeavoured to reason with me on the folly of giving way to immoderate grief.At first he suspected some latent cause for my affliction, but when I assured him that the late events were the causes of my dejection, he called to his aid philosophy and reason, while he endeavoured to restore me to a calmer state of mind.
Here as in earlier versions, the Thomas Copy stresses that the father uses his "reason" to comfort Victor and restore him to calm. But this element of the father's counsel would disappear in the 1831 edition, which no longer refers to him speaking philosophically.
prove to me the futility of pride.inspire me with more philosophic sentiments. But his arguments drawn from general observation failed in reaching the core of my incurable disease.
In the Thomas Copy, Victor's father hopes to inspire his son with "philosophic sentiments." Such "general observation[s]", which we might assume relate to the phenomenal world, fail to reach the "core of [Victor's] incurable disease."
in his native language which is French,
Since Swiss speakers may learn either German or French as their first language, this reminder in the Thomas Copy that Victor's native language is French is important. We have to assume that he speaks in French to his Creature too, and we know from Book II that the Creature learns French as his own first language by hearing the DeLacey family read aloud in the forest.
Oppressed by the recollection of my various misfortunes,
This phrase is underlined in the Thomas Copy. None of these underlined passages were to be revised in the 1831 edition.
Coleridge's Antient Mariner.
In the Thomas Copy, the allusion to Coleridge, "but I shall kill no albatross" is not attributed in text, but rather added by hand as a citation at the bottom of the page: "x Coleridge's Ancient Mariner x"
no extra textual information present on this page in Morgan Library scans of Thomas copy. -- Possible error?
This letter ought to be re-written
In the Thomas copy, a note at the bottom of the page stipulates: "This letter ought to be re-written". The first three paragraphs and the final paragraph were to be substantively rewritten in the 1831 edition.
They returned sooner than I expected and their inopportune appearance destroyed the fruits of so many months patience and expectation. My presence of mind deserted me at this crisis, I thought that
This slight addition in the Thomas Copy emphasizes the Creature's fragility as he ventures among the family members he has watched and learned from for much of his brief life.
While neither the feeling of remorse of self accusation mingled with my throes; although the contempt with I was treated also prevented any sublime defiance to have a place in my mind.
The Thomas Copy qualifies the Creature's comparison of himself to Milton's Satan. Both are outcasts treated with contempt, but unlike Satan, the Creature suffers this condition without conceiving himself as proudly rebellious against his oppressors.
and this makes us all very wretched, as much so nearly as after the death of your dear mother.and this suspicion fills us with anguish. I perceive that your father conceals attempts to conceal his fears from me; but cheerfulness has flown from our little circle, only to be restored by a certain assuranance that there is no foundation for our anxiety. At one time
This revision in the Thomas Copy removes a reference in Elizabeth's letter to the father's anguish over his wife's death, and instead it elaborates on his worry for Victor's emotional health. In a more fully rewritten version in the 1831 edition, Elizabeth no longer refers to Victor's mother or father.
If there were ever to be another edition of this book, I should re-write these two first chapters. The incidents are tame and ill-arranged—the language sometimes childish.—They are unworthy of the rest of the w booknarration.
In the Thomas Copy, Mary's marginal note outlines her dissatisfaction with the opening chapters of the 1818 edition. Indeed, these chapters would be heavily augmented and revised for the 1831, presumably in accordance with Shelley's observations here.
In the Thomas copy beneath the line "This manuscript will doubtless afford you the greatest <u>pleasure</u>," is written a the single word: "impossible." We cannot tell if this was Mary's comment or was put in by another reader.
The appearance of the sky is indiscribably beautiful; clear by day, and illuminated at night by the Aurora Borealis w which spreads a roseate tinge over the heavens, & over the sea which reflects it’s splendour.
Aurora Borealis or "northern lights" appear in the Arctic skies, a nighttime phenomenon caused by turbulence in the magnetosphere.
I will relate to you an anecdote of his life, recounted to me by the parties themselves, which exemplifies the generosity, I had almost said the heroism of his nature.
This small addition in the Thomas Copy softens Walton's initial impressions of his chief crewman. The 1831 edition makes a more substantive change by addressing Walton's sister more fully than in any of the 1818 edition's letters
Interestingly, as the master is an "Englishman" the ready associations between Englishness and "heroism" and "generosity" are attributed to the master's "nature" in more modest terms, lending Walton's letter a slightly less chauvinistic air.
Nay if by moonlight I saw a human form, with a beating heart I squatted down amid the bushes fearful of discovery. And think you that it was with no bitterness of heart that I did this? It was in intercourse with man alone that I could hope for any pleasurable sensations and I was obliged to avoid it—Oh truly, I am grateful to thee my Creator for the gift of life, which was but pain, and to thy tender mercy which deserted me on life’s threshold—to suffer—all that man can inflict
In the Thomas Copy, Shelley underlines the Creature's desperate loneliness by having him sarcastically thank Victor, his creator, with a "gift of life" and a "mercy" that have proven to be a curse and Victor's fearful abandonment of his creation.
When my father became a husband and a parent, he found his time so occupied by the duties of his new situation, that heAs my father’s age encreased he became more attached to the quiet of a domestic life, and he gradually
This revised description of Victor's father in the Thomas Copy softens his character, and grounds him within a space of domestic affection that would be further emphasized in revisions to the 1831 edition of the text.
and then he sits by himself, and tries to overcome all that is sullen or unsocial in his humour. These paroxysms pass from him like a cloud from before the sun, though his dejection never leaves him.Which veils his countenance like deep night—he neither speaks or notices anything around him, but sitting on a gun will gaze on the sea and I have sometimes observed his dark eyelash wet with a tear which falls silently silently in the deep. This unobtrusive sorrow excites in me the most painful interest, and he will at times reward my sympathy by throwing aside this veil of mortal woe, and then his ardent looks, his deep toned voice and powerful eloquence entrance me with delight.
This substantial revision in the Thomas Copy removes a description of Victor's bouts of depression onboard the ship as "sullen" "unsocial" and as "paroxysms" that come on and pass away quickly. In its place Shelley writes a sentimental passage depicting Victor's mood as "unobtrusive sorrow" and a "veil of mortal woe." Elements of this revision survived in the longer addition to the 1831 version, such as Victor's tears.
To V. Frankenstein.
The 1818 edition's address-line to Victor is removed in the Thomas Copy and does not appear in the 1831 edition.
had a refined mind; he had no desire to be idle, and was well pleased to become his father’s partner, but he believed that a man might be a very good trader, and yet possess a cultivated understanding.loved poetry and his mind was filled with the imagery and sublime sentiments of the masters of that art. A poet himself, he turned with y disgust from the details of ordinary life. His own soul mind was all the possession that he prized, beautiful & majestic thoughts the only wealth he coveted—daring as the eagle and as free, common laws could not be applied to him; and while you gazed on him you felt his soul’s spark was more divine—more truly stolen from Apollo’s sacred fire, than the glimmering ember that animates other men.
This lengthy revision in the Thomas Copy removes the original description of Clerval as a relatively ordinary tradesman with an interest in poetry and the arts, and transforms him instead into a figure of tremendous romantic flair and verve.
Where before he was described as "a good trader" with a "refined mind," Victor's recollection of him is now charged with profuse admiration, casting Clerval as "daring as the eagle and as free," "his soul's spark was more divine--more truly stolen from Apollo's sacred fire". He is a poet by nature, not a trader, and we now see him resisting his father's attempt to channel his abilities into narrow pursuits of profit. In the 1831 this revision is enlarged to put Clerval's passionate interests even more decisively in opposition to his father's wishes.
And, indeed, I earnestly desire that period to arrive, when we shall all be united, and neither hopes or fears arise to disturb our domestic calm.”
This sentence from the 1818 edition is underlined in the Thomas Copy, but Shelley's intentions remain unclear since she provides no new text. She may have intended to emphasize Victor's father's wish that his son and Elizabeth be wed as soon as possible after Victor's return from England, perhaps foreshadowing Victor's father's decline.
stiffhard gales, and the breakingcarrying away
Shelley's change from "breaking of a mast" in the 1818 edition to "carrying away of a mast" in the Thomas Copy was to be modified further in 1831: "the springing of a leak" replaces any reference to the mast.
you said your family was not sientific.
In the Thomas Copy, at the bottom of this page, an unknown hand states: "You said your family was not scientific." If this notation is in Mary's hand, she may be speaking to her character Victor, noting a discrepancy in his account of their familiarity with the sciences.
My father was pleased, and Elizabeth overjoyed. “My dear cousin,” said she, “you see what happiness you diffuse when you are happy; do not relapse again!”The affectionate smile with which Elizabeth welcomed my altered mood excited me to greater exertion; and I felt as I spoke long forgotten sensations of pleasure arise in my mind. I knew that this state of being would only be temporary, that gloom and misery was near at hand, but this knowledge only acted as a stimulant, and gave added a tingling sensation of fear, while the blood danced along my veins—my eyes sparkled and my limbs even trembled beneath the influence of unaccustomed emotion.
Shelley's revision in the Thomas Copy turns the emphasis of this passage toward Victor's emotions and no longer refers to his father's response to him. When this part of the novel is more extensively revised in 1831, Victor is traveling without family and makes this journey with only his guides as company.
and they suffered that evil in a very distressing degree.They had appeared to me rich, because their possessions incomparably transcended mine, but I soon learnt, that many of these advantages were only p apparent, since their delicate frame made them subject to a thousand wants of the existence of which I was entirely ignorant.
In the Thomas Copy, Shelley replaces the Creature's perception that the De Lacey family is extremely poor with a more subtle observation. He had not perceived their suffering earlier because they had seemed "rich" by contrast to his own poverty, suggesting that knowledge of others is always dependent on our own viewing position.
I cannot help remarking here the many opportunities instructors possess of directing the attention of their pupils to useful knowledge, which they utterly neglect. My father looked
This cancelled interpolation in the Thomas copy is oddly placed since it appears to refer to instructors other than Victor's father, the focus of this passage. FIX, unclear.
Thomas copy: pencil mark joins paragraphs.
In the Thomas copy a pencil mark here joins these paragraphs. They remain separate in the 1831edition.
Are we then near land, and is this unknown wast inhabited by giants, of which the being we saw is a specimen? Such an idea is contrary to all experience, but if what we saw was an optical delusion, it was the most perfect and wonderful recorded in the history of nature.
This added text in the Thomas Copy is the only reference to the Creature as a "giant" in any version of Frankenstein. By the early nineteenth century giants were a distant figure of folklore rather than everyday experience, as Walton notes by thinking of the giant as an "optical delusion." The Creature in the novel measures at about eight feet tall.
Thomas copy: pencil mark joins paragraphs.
In the Thomas copy a pencil mark here joins these paragraphs that were separate in 1818. They remain separate in the 1831 edition.
I continued however to watch the countenances of the Cottagers and the changes I perceived were at once the excitements and the aliments of a boundless curiosity.
In the Thomas Copy, Shelley adds to the Creature's observation of the Cottagers; the word aliments suggests he is nourishing himself by watching and learning from them.
No youth could have passed more happily than mine. My parents were indulgent, and my companions amiable. Our studies were never forced; and by some means we always had an end placed in view, which excited us to ardour in the prosecution of them. It was by this method, and not by emulation, that we were urged to application. Elizabeth was not incited to apply herself to drawing, that her companions might not outstrip her; but through the desire of pleasing her aunt, by the representation of some favourite scene done by her own hand. We learned Latin and English, that we might read the writings in those languages; and so far from study being made odious to us through punishment, we loved application, and our amusements would have been the labours of other children. Perhaps we did not read so many books, or learn languages so quickly, as those who are disciplined according to the ordinary methods; but what we learned was impressed the more deeply on our memories.badWith what delight do I even now remember the details of our domestic circle, and the happy years of my childhood. Joy attended on my steps—and the ardent affection that attached me to my excellent parents, my beloved Elizabeth, and Henry, the brother of my soul, has given almost a religious and sacred feeling to the recollections of a period passed beneath their eyes, and in their society.
This revision is one of the most important in the Thomas Copy, indicating how Mary had begun rethinking the novel in substance as early as 1823. From the 1818 edition she eliminates a detailed, careful account of how Victor and Elizabeth were educated by their Enlightenment parents. The first version had made a special point of indicating how this family education was not inculcated by punishments, but presented to the children as an adventure in knowledge, as well as preparing Victor for the kind of rigorous study he would later undertake in the modern sciences. Instead of this pedagogical detail, Mary generalizes about Victor's happy childhood and replaces the details of education with the idea of a "religious and sacred feeling" that is inimical to the secular education described in 1818. While the cancelled text remains absent his section is expanded further in the 1831 edition.
Shelley misspells Montanvert, one of the three largest glaciers on Mont Blanc.
But, tell me, how does my father support his misfortunes? and how isYou must assist me in acquiring sufficient calmness to console my father and support
WE SHOULD ANNOTATION HERE--FIX
Night came on as I wandered with wild agitation among the hedges and fields that surrounded me; I felt chill, and darkness, which ever filled me with dread, seemed to press with double weight upon my blinded organs. I looked round for shelter
Shelley adds in the Thomas Copy to our sense of the Creature's oppressive fear.
Thomas copy: pencil mark joins paragraphs
Despite the indication that two paragraphs should be joined in the Thomas copy, they remained separate in the 1831 revision.
Our father looks so sorrowful: this dreadful event seems to have revived in his mind his grief on the death of Mamma. Poor Elizabeth also is quite inconsolable.”the sense of our misfortune is yet unalleviated; the silence of our father is uninterrupted, and there is something more distressing than tears in his unaltered sadness—while poor Elizabeth, seeking solitude and for ever weeping, already begins to feel the effects of incessant grief—for her colour is gone, and her eyes are hollow & lustreless
This revision in the Thomas Copy removes another reference to the death of Victor's mother. Here it is replaced with a more evocative description of Elizabeth's grief. As it does elsewhere, the Thomas Copy identifies a place needing revision, but the 1823 changes are usually not carried over into the 1831.In this case, the father's grief is emphasized both here and in 1831 despite different language used in each text.
And the clouds were gathering on the ris horison, mass rising above mass, while the lightning they emitted shewed their shapes and size.
This addition in the Thomas Copy intensifies the description of the storm as Victor arrives back in Geneva after learning of William's death.
- for review
- John Milton
- 1831 edition
- domestic affections
- add citation
- Paradise Lost