- Dec 2019
Yet one duty remained to me, the recollection of which finally triumphed over my selfish despair. It was necessary that I should return without delay to Geneva, there to watch over the lives of those I so fondly loved; and to lie in wait for the murderer, that if any chance led me to the place of his concealment, or if he dared again to blast me by his presence, I might, with unfailing aim, put an end to the existence of the monstrous Image which I had endued with the mockery of a soul still more monstrous. My father still desired to delay our departure, fearful that I could not sustain the fatigues of a journey: for I was a shattered wreck,—the shadow of a human being. My strength was gone. I was a mere skeleton; and fever night and day preyed upon my wasted frame. Still, as I urged our leaving Ireland with such inquietude and impatience, my father thought it best to yield. We took our passage on board a vessel bound for Havre-de-Grace, and sailed with a fair wind from the Irish shores
In the 1818 edition, Victor is chastized by a prison guard for having a guilty conscience, despite his exoneration for Clerval's murder. In the 1831 version, this exchange is replaced by Victor's weakening physical and mental state as he travels home to Geneva with his father.
This circumstance, added to his well known integrity and dauntless courage, made me very desirous to engage him. A youth passed in solitude, my best years spent under your gentle and feminine fosterage, has so refined the groundwork of my character, that I cannot overcome an intense distaste to the usual brutality exercised on board ship: I have never believed it to be necessary; and when I heard of a mariner equally noted for his kindliness of heart, and the respect and obedience paid to him by his crew, I felt myself peculiarly fortunate in being able to secure his services. I heard of him first in rather a romantic manner, from a lady who owes to him the happiness of her life. This, briefly, is his story.
In this addition to the 1831 edition, Walton turns the focus of this passage about the ship’s master onto himself and how his older sister fostered him somewhat like a mother and helped build his character. Where 1818 says little about Mrs. Saville’s character, Walton now likens her to Elizabeth, who will also act as a mother figure to Victor Frankenstein after his own mother’s death. The 1831 edition more strongly accentuates the domestic world throughout the new version.
Roncesvalles, a small village in Northern Spain, was the site of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass (1798), in which the rear guard of Charlemagne's army was defeated by Basque Tribes.
amusement. He was also pursuing an object he had long had in view. His design was to visit India, in the belief that he had in his knowledge of its various languages, and in the views he had taken of its society, the means of materially assisting the progress of European colonisation and trade. In Britain only could he further the execution of his plan.
There is no reference to India in the 1818 edition. But in this 1831addition, Victor refers to Clerval's ambitions to travel to India in "progress of European colonisation and trade." Though the British had pursued various ventures in the subcontinent since the seventeenth century, the East India Company Act of 1813 expanded British Rule in India, culminating in the enactment of the Government of India Act 1833, which disbanded the monopoly of the East India Company. Clerval's ambitions suggest the weakening of the monopoly and the emergence of new commercial opportunities for those wishing to make their fortunes in India.
As Mary comments in her 1831 account of the novel's composition, Percy Shelley wrote (anonymously) this 1818 preface to the novel's first edition.
A tingling long-lost sense of pleasure often came across me during this journey. Some turn in the road, some new object suddenly perceived and recognised, reminded me of days gone by, and were associated with the light-hearted gaiety of boyhood. The very winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal nature bade me weep no more. Then again the kindly influence ceased to act—I found myself fettered again to grief, and indulging in all the misery of reflection. Then I spurred on my animal, striving so to forget the world, my fears, and, more than all, myself—or, in a more desperate fashion, I alighted, and threw myself on the grass, weighed down by horror and despair. At length I arrived at the village of Chamounix. Exhaustion succeeded to the extreme fatigue both of body and 80of mind which I had endured. For a short space of time
In the 1831 edition, since Victor now travels alone rather than with his family, his perceptions seem to be more emotionally turbulent than when he shares the trip with Elizabeth and his father in the 1818 version.
I must not be trifled with: and I demand an answer.
In the 1818 edition the Creature says he had tried and failed to elicit Victor's compassion. In this 1831 revision, he is more direct and demanding.
It was in the latter end of September
In earlier editions, Victor leaves Switzerland in late August. The 1831 edition changes the timeline to late September.
altered her since I last beheld her; it had endowed her with loveliness surpassing the beauty of her childish years. There was the same candour, the same vivacity, but it was allied to an expression more full of sensibility and intellect.
This revision to 1831 emphasizes Elizabeth's "sensibility" and "intellect" as a full grown woman and her "slight and graceful" figure.
when I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my tale; one that may direct you if you succeed in your undertaking, and console you in case of failure. Prepare to hear of occurrences which are usually deemed marvellous. Were we among the tamer scenes of nature, I might fear to encounter your unbelief, perhaps your ridicule; but many things will appear possible in these wild and mysterious regions, which would provoke the laughter of those unacquainted with the ever-varied powers of nature:—nor can I doubt bu
In this revision, the 1831 edition makes Victor far more explicit about the parallels between his own quest for knowledge as power and Walton's expedition. Victor also attributes this insight to the sublime context of their Arctic location. The 1818 edition only suggests Walton will learn from Victor's story.
I saw him too; he was free last night!”
In this revision to the 1831 edition, VIctor's confusion at this report of the murderer almost exposes his knowledge of the true perpetrator.
so that I even saw not the faces of those mighty friends. Still I would penetrate their misty veil, and seek them in their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me? My mule was brought to the door, and I resolved to ascend
In the 1831 edition, nature is personified in greater detail. Victor continues up the Arveiron with his mule and the mountains, the "mighty friends," his only companions.
Among these there was one which attracted my mother far above all the rest. She appeared of a different stock.
In 1831 Shelley makes one of the most controversial revisions of the 1818 edition. In the 1818, Elizabeth is a blood relation--Victor's first cousin--since she is the daughter of his father's brother. In the 1831 edition, Elizabeth is instead "discovered" by Caroline. Caroline notices a comely blonde girl "of a different stock" among the dark-eyed, Italian "vagrants." When Caroline learns that Elizabeth is the daughter of a Milanese nobleman and a German woman she decides that Elizabeth and Victor should someday marry. Thus the potential implication of incest in 1818, when Victor eventually weds his cousin, is erased in 1831.
See, for instance:
Ketterer, David "Thematic Anatomy: Intrinsic Structures" in Frankenstein: Bloom's Major Literary Characters, ed. Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004), 33-54; Richardson, Alan "Rethinking Romantic Incest: Human Universals, Literary Representation, and the Biology of Mind." New Literary History 31, no.3 (2000): 553-572; Twitchell, James B. Forbidden Partners: The Incest Taboo in Modern Culture (New York: Columbia UP, 1987).
By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs, * * * I rushed out of the room. Page 43
This epigram to the frontispiece of the 1831 edition quotes from Book I, chapter 4, p. 43 of the original print edition, the scene in which the Creature comes alive in Victor's laboratory. The frontispiece depicts the Creature's birth and was engraved for the 1831 edition by William Chevalier, adapting a painted illustration by Theodor von Holst. This picture appears on our interface.
The first of those sorrows which are 77sent to wean us from the earth, had visited her, and its dimming influence quenched her dearest smiles
In this 1831 revision, Shelley emphasizes the physiognomy of Elizabeth's melancholy, witness by Victor in her somber countenance, absent in previous editions.
Yet it is terrible to reflect 192that the lives of all these men are endangered through me. If we are lost, my mad schemes are the cause. And
In this 1831 revision, Walton no longer refers to the Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca, telling his sister he will "die with a good heart." Instead he regrets that this own "mad schemes" have resulted in a threat to the lives of many others.
Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner.”
This appears as footnote, w/ asterisk at the bottom of page in 1818--so, presumably this formatting is carried over in 1831 here?
IS THIS IN THE ORIGINAL TEXT? WHY DOES IT APPEAR THIS WAY? OR DID IT APPEAR AS A FOOTNOTE TO THE 1831 PAGE, WHICH MAKES SENSE. BUT WE NEED TO CHECK ORIGINAL PRINT TEXT, OR ASK ELISA
he was wearing away his time fruitlessly where he was; that letters from the friends he had formed in London desired his return to complete the negotiation they had entered into for his Indian enterprise. He could not any longer delay his departure; but as his journey to London might be followed, even sooner than he now conjectured, by his longer voyage, he entreated me to bestow as much of my society on him as I could spare. He besought me, therefore, to leave my solitary isle, and to meet him at Perth, that we might proceed southwards together.
In this revision to 1831 edition, Shelley elaborates on Clerval's "Indian enterprise," mentioned earlier in the previous chapter. Clerval wishes Victor to return to Perth to spend time together before the former's voyage to India. In the 1818 edition, Clerval notes they had been traveling in Britain for a year, and should take the next year of their voyage to return to Switzerland, via France.
a wet, ungenial summer
Mary Shelley understates the weather emergency in 1816, which was often called "the year without a summer." Following the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia, Europe's weather turned cold and wet enough to destroy crops and induce famine among populations across the continent. For a vivid account, see Gillen D'Arcy Wood, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World (Princeton University Press, 2014).
a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame of the stranger. He manifested the greatest eagerness
The change from Victor’s countenance as seeming “very eager” (1818) to “a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame...” (1831) prefigures the same "animation" of the Creature later in Volume 1. FIX TYPO in TEXT--DELETE "THE" "time the a new"
the author of THE LAST MAN, PERKIN WARBECK &c. &c.
While the 1818 version was published anonymously, its author unknown to the public, the 1831 title page identifies Mary Shelley as now a famed novelist, citing the science-fiction novel The Last Man (1826) and the historical novel The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830).
He has frequently conversed with me on mine, which I have communicated to him without disguise. He entered attentively into all my arguments in favour of my eventual success, and into every minute detail of the measures I had taken to secure it. I was easily led by the sympathy which he evinced, to use the language of my heart; to give utterance to the burning ardour of my soul; and to say, with all the fervour that warmed me, how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to the furtherance of my enterprise. One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought; for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race. As I spoke, a dark gloom spread over my listener’s countenance. At first I perceived that he tried to suppress his emotion; he placed his hands before his eyes; and my voice quivered and failed me, as I beheld tears trickle fast from between his fingers,—a groan burst from his heaving breast. I paused; —at length he spoke, in broken accents:—“Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drank also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me,—let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!” Such words, you may imagine, strongly excited my curiosity; but the paroxysm of grief that had seized the stranger overcame his weakened powers, and many hours of repose and tranquil conversation were necessary to restore his composure. Having conquered the violence of his feelings, he appeared to despise himself for being the slave of passion; and quelling the dark tyranny of despair, he led me again to converse concerning myself personally. He asked me the history of my earlier years. The tale was quickly told: 16but it awakened various trains of reflection. I spoke of my desire of finding a friend—of my thirst for a more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind than had ever fallen to my lot; and expressed my conviction that a man could boast of little happiness, who did not enjoy this blessing. “I agree with you,” replied the stranger; “we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves—such a friend ought to be—do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak and faulty natures.
In this lengthy addition to the 1831 edition, Walton's brazen willingness to sacrifice the life of a human being to realize his own ambition for knowledge more strongly motivates Victor to "reveal my tale" as a powerful lesson to teach Walton's naive hopes for glory. The passage underscores the symbiotic "madness" that the mariner and the scientist share.
In the 1831 version Victor still refers to Elizabeth as his cousin, but in an affectionate, rather than familial, sense.
Most of the night she spent here watching; towards morning she believed that she slept for a few minutes; some steps disturbed her, and she awoke. It was dawn,
In this 1831 addition, Justine's testimony mentions the sound of "some steps" disturbing her as she waited out the night in the barn. This may be another reference to the creature, as with Victor's near slip with Ernest.
Shelley refers to Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), the polymath poet, inventor, and scientist who controversially speculated on the materialist idea of life's origins in matter.
but there was something in my glance which communicated terror to her, and trembling she asked,
In this 1831 revision, Shelley suggest that Victor's facial expression and agitation betrays his fear to Elizabeth.
In this change to the 1831 edition, "Elizabeth" appears instead of "niece." Elizabeth had been the father's brother's daughter (or Victor's actual cousin) in the 1818 edition, but this is no longer true in 1831.
My dearest Victor, what infatuation is this?
In all editions before 1831, Victor's father asks his son whether he is "mad." Shelley's change of this word is peculiar, since Victor's response--"I am not mad"--seems more natural to the father's original question than it does to the 1831 question about his "infatuation."
My tale was not one to announce publicly; its astounding horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar. Did any one indeed exist, except I, the creator, who would believe, unless his senses convinced him, in the existence of the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance which I had let loose upon the world?
In this 1831 addition, Victor rationalizes his decision to withhold his knowledge of the creature in relation to Justine's trial by reflecting that no one would believe him, or more likely, would think him mad.
But success shall crown my endeavours. Wherefore not? Thus far I have gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas: the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph. Why not still proceed over the untamed yet obedient element? What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man? My swelling heart involuntarily pours itself out thus. But I must finish. Heaven bless my beloved sister!
This 1831 addition further emphasizes Walton’s bravado, pride, and ethos as an Arctic explorer. The dichotomy of rational man and untamed nature extends throughout the text. The change makes Walton further resemble Victor, who also acts on a “determined heart and resolved will” despite the consequences.
And thus for a time I was occupied by exploded systems, mingling, like an unadept, a thousand contradictory theories, and floundering desperately in a very slough of multifarious knowledge, guided by an ardent imagination and childish reasoning, till an accident again changed the current of my ideas.
The 1831 edition adds references to "exploded systems" and "contradictory theories" that underscore Victor's engagement with kinds of science animated by imagination and wonder rather than critical restraint or careful study.
In the tale of the blasted stump that follows this passage, as with his discovery of the copy of Agrippa, once again Victor's fate is presented as the result of a confluence of his childlike enthusiasm and cosmic accident.
He bitterly deplored the false pride which led his friend to a conduct so little worthy of the affection that united them. He lost no time in endeavouring to seek him out, with the hope of persuading him to begin the world again through his credit and assistance.
This substantial revision in 1831 seems to place greater blame on Beaufort for his condition as a matter of "false pride", implying that Beaufort's sins have betrayed the affection that once united thim with Victor's father. In the 1818 version, his father's primary concern is for the loss of Beaufort's company and his contributions to Genevese society.
northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee
Scotland's longest river, the River Tay extended from western Scotland to the town of Dundee on the east coast.
“very poetry of nature.”
In the 1818 edition Shelley attributed this passage in a footnote to Leigh Hunt's poem "Rimini" (1816), but she no longer cites the poem's title or author in 1831.
In a thousand ways he smoothed for me the path of knowledge, and made the most abstruse enquiries clear and facile to my apprehension. My application was at first fluctuating and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded, and soon
In this 1831 revision, M. Waldman's influence depends less on his personality or charisma and more on his capabilities as a teacher.
the alterations I have made. They are principally those of style. I have changed no portion of the story, nor introduced any new ideas or circumstances.
Mary Shelley believed she did not substantially alter the story but only improved its concision and style. Modern critics, as our later annotations to 1831 will show, have strongly differed with her on this point, arguing that her revisions substantively changed the political tenor of the story, its gender and familial relationships, and its moral implications. For one influential example of this argument, see Marilyn Butler's introduction to the 2009 Oxford World's Classics edition of the 1818 text,
the chivalrous train who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from the hands of the infidels
The 1818 edition cites popular romance heroes admired by the young Henry Clerval, but the 1831 text replaces these with a religious reference to the holy wars of the Crusades, which took place in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The "chivalrous train" refers to the Christian knights of Europe who sought to regain control over the Holy Lands of the Levant. This passage is one of many places where Mary's 1831 revision becomes more explicitly religious than was the novel's original text.
The term tempest in 1831 replaces storm in 1818.
survive to add to the list of his dark crimes.
In the first edition, Victor fears the Creature will survive to "make another such a wretch as [he] is," tormenting him out of loneliness and hopelessness. In the 1831 edition, however, Victor asks Walton to end the Creature's life, so that the Creature might not "survive to add to the list of his dark crimes."
Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story; frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course, and wrecked it—thus!
In this revision for the 1831 edition, Shelley emphasizes the effect Victor has on Walton and stresses Victor's weakened state.
professors. Chance—or rather the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway over me from the moment I turned my reluctant steps from my father’s door—led me first to M. Krempe, professor of natural philosophy. He was an uncouth man, but deeply embued in the secrets of his science. He asked me several questions concerning my progress in the different branches of science appertaining to natural philosophy. I replied carelessly; and, partly in contempt, mentioned the names of my alchymists as the principal authors I had studied.
In the 1831 edition, the portrayal of Professor M.Krempe becomes even more unflattering than it was in the 1818 version, showing him to be "uncouth" and Victor's evil "Angel of Destruction."
The voyage came to an end. We landed, and proceeded to Paris. I soon found that I had overtaxed my strength, and that I must repose before I could continue my journey. My father’s care and attentions were indefatigable; but he did not know the origin of my sufferings, and sought erroneous methods to remedy the incurable ill. He wished me to seek amusement in society. I abhorred the face of man. Oh, not abhorred! they were my brethren, my fellow beings, and I felt attracted even to the most repulsive among them, as to creatures of an angelic nature and celestial mechanism. But I felt that I had no right to share their intercourse. I had unchained an enemy among them, whose joy it was to shed their blood, and to revel in their groans. How they would, each and all, abhor me, and hunt me from the world, did they know my unhallowed acts, and the crimes which had their source in me! My father yielded at length to my desire to avoid society, and strove by various arguments to banish my
In all editions but the 1831, Victor says he wished to avoid London because he "dreaded to see again those places in which [he] had enjoyed a few moments of tranquility with [his] beloved Clerval." The 1831 edition makes no mention of Clerval; now Victor's father entreats his son to seek solace in the company of society, which Victor refuses, out of guilt and his guilt at unleashing "an enemy among them." Also eliminated in 1813 are references to stopping at the ports of Holyhead and Portsmouth on their way to Paris.
Such were the professor’s words—rather let me say such the words of fate, enounced to destroy me. As he went on, I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being: chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein,—more, far more, will I achieve: treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation. I closed not my eyes that night. My internal being was in a state of insurrection and turmoil; I felt that order would thence arise, but I had no power to produce it. By degrees, after the morning’s dawn, sleep came. I awoke, and my yesternight’s thoughts were as a dream. There only 35remained a resolution to return to my ancient studies, and to devote myself to a science for which I believed myself to possess a natural talent. On the same day, I paid M. Waldman a visit.
In this lengthy addition to 1831, Victor experiences an early flash of ruinous ambition during the chemistry lecture by M. Waldman. The new picture of Waldman as an evil force belongs to a pattern of provoking suspicion about scientific education in the 1831 edition that did not appear in the 1818.
LONDON: HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY
Unlike the three-volume 1818 edition, the 1831 revision was published in a single volume (with chapter renumbering and extensive revision) in Colburn and Bentley's "Standard Novels" series. Outside London, the novel was published as a standalone volume--not a part of the London-based "Standard Novels" series--in Edinburgh and Dublin.
Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a natural philosopher and is widely considered one of the most prominent figures of the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution.
Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) was an Italian scientist who is generally credited with making pioneering discoveries in the study of bio-electricity, most famously passing electric current through a pair of frog’s legs to stimulate a muscular response.
By the early 19th century Galvani’s ideas had gained currency in England. In one infamous 1818 experiment, the corpse of a deceased criminal named Matthew Clydesdale was revivified briefly with the use of electric current. High profile scientific events such as this might explain the insertion of the otherwise anachronistic reference to “galvanism” in 1831.
It was from my own Elizabeth:— “My dearest Cousin, “You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters of dear kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me on your account. You are forbidden to write—to hold a pen; yet one word from you, dear Victor, is necessary to calm our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought that each post would bring this line, and my persuasions have restrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have prevented his encountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers of so long a journey; yet how often have I regretted not being able to perform it myself! I figure to myself that the task of attending on your sick bed has devolved on some mercenary old nurse, who could never guess your wishes, nor minister to them with the care and affection of your poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that indeed you are getting better. I eagerly hope that you will confirm this intelligence soon in your own handwriting. “Get well—and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerful home, and friends who love you dearly. Your father’s health is vigorous, and he asks but to see you,—but to be assured that you are well; and not a care will ever cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you would be to remark the improvement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen, and full of activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss, and to enter into foreign service;50 but we cannot part with him, at least until his elder brother return to us. My uncle is not pleased with the idea of a military career in a distant country; but Ernest never had your powers of application. He looks upon study as an odious fetter;—his time is spent in the open air, climbing the hills or rowing on the lake. I fear that he will become an idler, unless we yield the point, and permit him to enter on the profession which he has selected. “Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, has taken place since you left us. The blue lake, and snow-clad mountains, they never change;—and I think our placid home, and our contented hearts are regulated by the same immutable laws. My trifling occupations take up my time and amuse me, and I am rewarded for any exertions by seeing none but happy, kind faces around me. Since you left us, but one change has taken place in our little household. Do you remember on what occasion Justine Moritz entered our family?
In 1831, the opening to Elizabeth's letter is significantly re-written. Here she seems more desperate to see Victor and vouchsafe for his health. Her discussion of Ernest also changes: Shelley leaves out her lengthy excursus on the virtues of farming, as opposed to practicing law. Instead, Ernest is described as patriotic and considering a military career.
I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills, to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking, reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling; and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillised it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month. I retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were, waited on and ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes which I had contemplated during the day. They congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds—they all gathered round me, and bade me be at peace.
In 1818 a more perfunctory passage appears at the beginning of this chapter stating simply that the party "...visited the source of the Arveiron, and rode about the valley until evening."
In 1831, Shelley replaces this brief remark with a much more vividly detailed description elaborating upon the topography of Victor's journey through the Arveiron and the "sublime and magnificent scenes" in which he finds consolation.
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
When Victor calls Elizabeth "cousin" in the 1831 edition, the word is a term of endearment but not a term to take literally, since they have no blood relation. The term likely carries over, but with an entirely changed meaning, from the 1818 edition where Elizabeth actually is Victor's cousin (the daughter of his father's brother).
It is true, however, that incest was of significant fascination to Shelley. Her novella Mathilda, published posthumously in 1954, concerns the relationship of a woman with her father. After sending the manuscript of Mathilda to William Godwin, he told Shelley he found the depiction of incest "disgusting and detestable," and refused to return the manuscript to his daughter.
See Janet Todd's edition of Mary's novel:Shelley, Mary. Matilda; with Mary and Maria, by Mary Wollstonecraft. Ed. Janet Todd. London: Penguin, 1992, p. xvii.
pursuits. In rather a too philosophical and connected a strain, perhaps, I have given an account of the conclusions I had come to concerning them in my early years. As a child, I had not been content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science. With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my extreme youth, and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries of recent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchymists.
Shelley adds this 1831 passage in which she traces Victor's fascination with alchemy and outmoded scientific ideas to an impetuous childhood, while the 1818 edition shows Victor reading the ancient sciences as an adult.
From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born at Naples
In the 1818 edition Victor says that he was "by birth a Genevese," his only reference to his own birth. The implication there is that he was born in Geneva, but the 1831 edition instead places his birth in Naples. Soon afterward we learn that when his family discovered Elizabeth, her mother is Italian.
The day of my departure at length arrived Page 31.
This epigram appears underneath an illustration on the novel's first 1831 title page, facing the frontispiece; it was also engraved by William Chevalier after a painting by Theodor von Holst, Colburn and Bentley's illustrators for the Standard Novel Series. The epigram refers readers to chapter 3, page 31, in which Victor first departs the family home to attend the University of Ingolstadt--and to study there the sciences that will motivate him to create the Creature. The illustration shows Elizabeth Lavenza standing in the doorway of their home, smiling, as Victor steps into the street.
Byron's narrative poem Mazeppa would be published in 1819.
or rather, to word my phrase more characteristically, of advancement in his profession
Shelley added this clarifying passage to the 1831 edition. By rephrasing “glory” as “advancement in his profession,” Shelley adopts a new expression, not usually found before 1810, indicating a more precise path to famed achievement. It was often used to mean advancement in Her Majesty’s Navy, thus it is especially apt for the lieutenant of Walton’s ship.
Through my father’s exertions, a part of the inheritance of Elizabeth had been restored to her by the Austrian government. A small possession on the shores of Como belonged to her. It was agreed that, immediately after our union, we should proceed 172to Villa Lavenza, and spend our first days of happiness beside the beautiful lake near which it stood.
In earlier editions, a house is purchased for Victor and Elizabeth, presumably by Victor's father. However, in the 1831 edition, Victor's father petitions the Austrian Government for return of Elizabeth's inheritance. The change appears to be in error, since Shelley explains that Villa Lavenza sits on the shores of Lake Como, though the borders of Austrian Empire (1804-1867) did not extend as far as Lake Como.
the springing of a leak
"The springing of a leak" in the 1831 version replaces "the breaking of the mast" in the 1818 edition. Shelley had begun revising this phrase in the Thomas copy by pencilling in "carrying away of the mast," but she discards any reference to the mast in 1831.
, and by the fire of love that burns my heart,
In this addition to the 1831 edition, Shelley emphasizes the Creature's loneliness and the desire that drives him.
in itself would for ever have chained my tongue. But, besides, I could not bring myself to disclose a secret which would fill my hearer with consternation, and make fear and unnatural horror the inmates of his breast. I checked, therefore, my impatient thirst for sympathy, and was silent
In this addition to the 1831 edition, Victor resists the judgment that he is "mad" by explaining his hesitance to reveal the truth about the Creature to anyone else.
the dashing waves were around: the cloudy sky above; the fiend was not here: a sense of security, a feeling that a truce was established between the present hour and the irresistible, disastrous future, imparted to me a kind of calm forgetfulness, of which the human mind is by its structure peculiarly susceptible.
In earlier editions, Victor's father calms him by pointing to the approach of their next port at Holyhead, a Welsh port in the Irish Sea. This reference, along with a reference to stopping in Portsmouth, England, disappears in this 1831 revision, replaced by Victor's shuddering at the "disastrous future" looming before him. The journey toward Paris now appears to have no stopping points in the United Kingdom.
but my anxiety returns upon me as I conclude. Write, dearest Victor,—one line—one word will be a blessing to us. Ten thousand thanks to Henry for his kindness, his affection, and his many letters: we are sincerely grateful. Adieu! my cousin; take care of yourself; and, I entreat you, write!
In this 1831 revision, Elizabeth's letter is slightly more urgent for some communication from Victor.
and terror its alarm
This addition to the 1831 emphasizes Victor's sense of his culpability for the Creature's actions.
of my residence at Ingolstadt, which were chiefly spent in becoming acquainted with the localities, and the principal residents in my new abode.
In this addition to 1831, Shelley emphasizes the importance of Ingolstadt as Victor's university-town environment during his medical training.
her illness was severe, and she was in the greatest danger.
In this 1831 revision, Shelley reverses Elizabeth's bout of scarlet fever from "not severe" to "severe" so that it represents the "greatest danger" to her health.
In the 1818 edition, Elizabeth is the indirect cause of both her biological mother and stepmother's death. Her mother dies in childbirth, while Victor's mother falls fatally ill after caring for Elizabeth during her bout of scarlet fever.
the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him.
The 1818 edition of Frankenstein was published anonymously, and early readers and reviewers often attributed it to Percy Shelley, not Mary. According to Mary in 1831 (and subsequent scholarship), Percy did largely write the 1818 "Preface," and it is now estimated by Charles Robinson that Percy contributed between 4000 and 5000 words to Mary's 72,000 word manuscript. See Robinson, ed., The Original Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley (with Percy Shelley) [New York: VIntage Classics, 2009].
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
In 1831, the foundling Elizabeth's nobility appears to be recognizable in her physiognomy. Her features are described in terms that might be read as typical markers of whiteness: “thin of frame, fair of skin, and possessed of golden hair and blue eyes.”
During the early 19th century the field of “race science” was already established and growing. For instance, Linnaeus’ Systema naturae (1758) infamously contains a hierarchy of homo sapiens based on skin color.
In discussions of these contextual sources in the “race science,” scholars have often focused on the Creature as a symbol of the racialized other. This alteration to Elizabeth’s description in 1831 lends further credence to these readings by positioning Elizabeth, the spiritually and racially pure female, as has his ultimate victim.
See, for instance: Mellor, Anne K. “Frankenstein, Racial Science, and the Yellow Peril” in Frankenstein Norton Critical Edition, 2nd Edition, ed. J. Paul Hunter (New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), 481-489.
by arguments deduced from the feelings of his serene conscience and guiltless life, to inspire me with fortitude, and awaken in me the courage to dispel the dark cloud which brooded over me
Mary Shelley made a number of changes to this passage across editions. In the manuscript, 1818, and 1823 editions, Victor's father tries "to reason" with and console his son. In the 1831 edition the appeal to reason has disappeared. Instead Victor's father makes a Romantic injunction, proceeding from a "serene conscience and guiltless life," which he hopes will "inspire [Victor] with fortitude" and awaken in him "the courage to dispel the dark clouds" brooding over him. Since Shelley also toyed with this passage in the Thomas Copy, it was clearly an unsettled moment in the novel in her mind.
The 1831 edition records the place as "Havre-de-Grace," which appears simply as "Havre" in earlier editions. Havre is in the Normandy region of northwestern France. It is situated on the right bank of the river Seine, on the Channel southwest of the Pays de Caux. It was known for its maritime traditions.
commence our journey by water, sleeping that night at Evian, and continuing our voyage on the following day. The day was fair, the wind favourable, all smiled on our nuptial embarkation.
In earlier versions, Victor and Elizabeth travel to Evian, a resort on Lake Geneva near Lausanne, for the evening before returning to Cologny the next morning. In the 1831 edition, the couple spend the night in Evian before traveling to Villa Lavenza on Lake Como the following day, but there is no mention of their return to Cologny.
the fall of a leaf startled me, and I shunned my fellow-creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime. Sometimes I grew alarmed at the wreck I perceived that I had become; the energy of my purpose alone sustained me: my labours would soon end, and I believed that exercise and amusement would then drive away incipient disease;
in this revision to 1831 Victor's physical deterioration, as a result of his obsessive work and research, is more clearly linked to a deteriorating mental state as well.
After an interval, I arose, and, as if by instinct, crawled into the room where the corpse of my beloved lay. There were women weeping around—I hung over it, and joined my sad tears to theirs—all this time no distinct idea presented itself to my mind;
In all earlier editions, Victor's begins to cry on thinking that he must to return to his father alone, without Elizabeth. In the 1831 edition, Victor joins a group of women and "join[s] his sad tears to theirs."
have contented my imagination, warmed as it was, by returning with greater ardour to my former studies
In this 1831 revision, Victor's expression "former studies" is generalized from the specific "more rational theory of chemistry" that appears in the 1818 edition. However, it is unclear what "former studies" Shelley is intimating here, as the scene with the copy of Agrippa is presented as the fateful moment of genesis for Victor's interest in science.
Thus, in the 1818 edition his father's gruff dismissal is presented as the foreclosure of a hypothetical redirection of Victor's curiosity towards "modern discoveries" of chemistry as an uncharted course of future study, rather than as a rebuke which threw him off the established track of his "former studies."
the river Drance
The Drance river near Evian extends about 30 miles through Switzerland and converges with the Rhone River.
You would not, if you saw him. You have been tutored and refined by books and retirement from the world, and you are, therefore, somewhat fastidious; but this only renders you the more fit to appreciate the extraordinary merits of this wonderful man. Sometimes I have endeavoured to discover what quality it is which he possesses, that elevates him so immeasurably above any other person I ever knew. I believe it to be an intuitive discernment; a quick but never-failing power of judgment; a penetration into the causes of things, unequalled for clearness and precision; add to this a facility of expression, and a voice whose varied intonations are soul-subduing music.
In this 1831 revision, Walton more explicitly attributes exceptional emotional and intellectual powers to Victor than his letters in the 1818 edition make apparent.
Clerval spent the last evening with us. He had endeavoured to persuade his father to permit him to accompany me, and to become my fellow student; but in vain. His father was a narrow-minded trader, and saw idleness and ruin in the aspirations and ambition of his son. Henry deeply felt the misfortune of being debarred from a liberal education. He said little; but when he spoke, I read in his kindling eye and in his animated glance a restrained but firm resolve, not to be chained to the miserable details of commerce. We sat late. We could not tear ourselves away from each other, nor persuade ourselves to say the word “Farewell!” It was said; and we retired under the pretence of seeking repose, each fancying that the other was deceived: but when at morning’s dawn I descended to the carriage which was to convey me away, they were all there—my father again to bless me, Clerval to press my hand once more, my Elizabeth to renew her entreaties that I would write often, and to bestow the last feminine attentions on her playmate and friend.
In the 1831 revision, Henry Clerval is a more pitiable figure., acutely feeling the loss of his chance to pursue his passions in university studies.
Yet still words like those I have recorded, would burst uncontrollably from me. I could offer no explanation of them; but their truth in part relieved the burden of my mysterious woe
As in the preceding sentence, Shelley elaborates on Victor's fragile mental state. The involuntary voicings of guilt evoke Iago's betrayal of Cassio to Othello: "There are a kind of men / So loose of soul that in their sleeps will / mutter." (Othello, 3.3.425-27).
the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity
Mary Shelley's parents were the political philosopher William Godwin (1756-1836) and the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), who also wrote important novels (Godwin's Things as They Are: The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794) and Wollstonecraft's Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (1798).
- natural philosophy
- domestic affections
- Cousin change
The capital of Scotland and home to Edinburgh Castle. The Great North Road was the main mail and passenger routes. from London to York to Edinburgh.
my imagination was too much exalted
Victor's imagination is treated as an element of his personality motivated by its own success.
Audiences and reviewers first took the novel to be written by Percy Shelley. According to Mary Shelley in her 1831 edition of the novel, Percy wrote the entirety of this 1818 Preface, which would reappear in all future editions. We now know that he also revised passages from Mary's manuscript before printing in 1818. For details of his revisions, see Charles Robinson, ed., The Original Frankenstein (New York: Vintage Classics, 2009): 44-252.
tragic poetry of Greece
Shelley probably means the great fifth-century Greek tragedies, such as Sophocles' Antigone, Oedipus the King and others.
In this description of our domestic circle I include Henry Clerval
Like Elizabeth, Henry is made part of the family and shares what Mary Shelley often call its "domestic affections" that Victor's later actions imperil.
It was, perhaps, the amiable character of this man that inclined me more to that branch of natural philosophy which he professed,
The relationships between Victor and his teachers appear to drive the interdisciplinary curiosity that leads to his later discoveries. For example, M. Waldman, who loves chemistry, notes that "I have not neglected the other branches of science," and neither does Victor.
The Cumberland lakes are part of the Lake District, a mountainous region on the border of Scotland and England.
Even by 1818, the novel was still a genre not recognized as worthy of being called a"literature." This may be partly why Shelley suggests novel should bear comparison with, and aspire to the stature of, poetry and drama: Miltonic, Shakespearean, and Greek.
"Manes," in this context, are ghosts or spirits of the deceased.
His favourite study consisted in books of chivalry and romance
Like Robert Walton's love for poetry, Henry Clerval's love for books of chivalry and romance makes him sociable and open to domestic affections, unlike Victor. Victor will later regret that he did not have Henry's or Victor's orientation to languages and poetry at the most critical moments of his life.
One of the northernmost cities in Russia, St. Petersburgh, along with the city Archangel mentioned below, has a name that suggests a journey with theological overtones as Robert Walton moves ever closer on his expedition to his aim of discovering the principle of life, magnetism, and thus symbolically the seat of God.
Like the air-pump, recent experiments with electricity also fascinate Victor even while he reaches for a non-modern "system" that would be antithetical to empirical scientific reason. See Iwan Morus, Frankenstein's Children: Electricity, Exhibition, and Experiment in Early Nineteenth Century London (Princeton UP, 1998).
the inv1_045fant Elizabeth, the only child of his deceased siste
As Victor's cousin, Elizabeth will also play other family roles as "sister," substitute "mother," and finally "wife." In 1831 Mary Shelley changed Elizabeth's role into that of a foundling, unrelated to Victor by blood. Some modern critics believe this 1831 change avoids the possibility of incest in the 1818 novel and makes the later novel more conservative in implication. For the first arguments of this kind, see Ellen Moers, "Female Gothic: The Monster's Mother," The New York Review of Books, 21, no. 4 (March 21, 1974) and "Female Gothic: Monsters, Goblins, and Freaks," The New York Review of Books, 21, no. 5 (April 4, 1974).
sometimes rise above the dome of Mont Blânc
Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps, the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks, at about 15,000 feet. It is situated between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France. It gave Percy Shelley the title of one of his most powerful poems.
We arrived at Havre on the 8th of May
Havre is in the Normandy region of northwestern France. It is situated on the right bank of the river Seine, on the Channel southwest of the Pays de Caux. It was known for its maritime traditions.
To Mrs. Saville, England.
Robert Walton's letters to his sister, Mrs. Saville, suggest he, like Victor later in the novel, has ambitious aims that will conflict with his family members' sense of well being. She never appears as a character in the novel, however.
The repeated references to "countenance" reminds us of the practice of the pseudo-scientific physiognomy prevailing in Victor's time. The writings of Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801), for instance, argued that thought that a person's character could be discerned from his physical appearance.
I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is for ever visible; its broad disk just skirting the horizon, and diffusing a perpetual splendour.
Robert imagines the cold North Pole as a sunny garden, suggesting a kind of Paradise as the destination toward which his scientific quest is moving. This is one of many affinities to Victor, whose fall into the profane knowledge of modern science also links him to Adam's expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Two years after this event Caroline became his wife
In the 1831 edition, the next eight paragraphs were to be heavily revised and important family relationships altered.
Volney’s Ruins of Empires
Of the books the Creature learns in the forest, Volney's The Ruins of Empires was most closely associated with Europe's radical Enlightenment. While the Creature learns a powerful critique of power, imperialism, and exploitation from hearing Volney read aloud, he also absorbs some of the Enlightenment's prejudices and ethnic stereotypes ("slothful Asiatics"). However, the effect on the Creature is to give him a sense of the structural and not merely a personal framework for understanding virtue and suffering. See Ian Balfour, "Allegories of Origins: Frankenstein after the Enlightenment," SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 56.4 (2016): 777-98.
the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil
Victors isolation from social ties or any scientific community makes it possible for him to conduct his grisly experiments in the first place. At the same time, Victor's choice points toward the later fate of the creature as a vagrant, not capable of socializing because he has been born outside of society. Ultimately, both Victor and the creature are left with no pathways back to social life and its affections.
I would have made a pilgrimage to the highest peak of the Andes
The Andes are the highest peaks in the western hemisphere.
he father of Safie had been the cause of their ruin. He was a Turkish merchant
Mary Shelley seems to confuse "Turk" with "Arab" here, and more generally her picture of Safie's father as both suffering Christian religious prejudices (against Muslims) and acting as a wily, untrustworthy figure.
Pentland is a range of hills to the south-west of Edinburgh.
The Shelleys visited Mont Blanc, located in the Swiss Alps, the site of Percy Shelley's great poem "Mont Blanc; Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni" (1816). Compare the following lines from the poem: "Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:—the power is there, The still and solemn power of many sights, And many sounds, and much of life and death. In the calm darkness of the moonless nights, In the lone glare of day, the snows descend Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there, Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun, Or the star-beams dart through them."
Theseus was the mythical king and founder-hero of Athens. Plutarch's Life of Theseus makes use of varying accounts of the death of the Minotaur, Theseus' escape, and the love of Ariadne for Theseus.
I had heard of some discoveries having been made by an English philosopher
It is unclear who this English philosopher might have been, though it might be a reference to Erasmus Darwin, who Percy Shelley cites in the novel's introduction.
Victor refers to the Creature as his vampire--a reanimated corpse. The vampire was a notorious figure in British lore in the period, which later be immortalized in John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819) a friend of the Shelleys and their guest at Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816, when Mary first drafted the novel.
In the late eighteenth century, a "wallet" was a bag used by beggars.
Arveiron is a glacial tributary of Mont Blanc. It is referred to twice by Mary in Six Weeks' Tour. For example, this entry on July 24: "Yesterday morning we went the source of the Arveiron. It is about a league from this village ; the river rolls forth impetuously from an arch of ice, and spreads itself in many streams over a vast space of the valley, ravaged and laid bare by its inundations. The glacier by which its waters are nourished, overhangs this cavern and the plain, and the forests of pine which surround it, with terrible precipices of solid ice.". See Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour Through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland: With Letters Descriptive of a Sail Round the Lake of Geneva, and of the Glaciers of Chamouni. T. Hookham, jun. Old Bond Street; and C. and J. Ollier, Welbeck street, 1817, p. 156.
William Godwin was Mary Godwin's father, the leading radical political philosopher of the Romantic period. A prolific writer, Godwin was known primarily for his political works, most notably Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness (1793), but also for the novel Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794) and the biography of his late wife Mary Wollstonecraft, Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798), an early example of biography.
Of what a strange nature is knowledge
The Creature's story emphasizes the complex question of knowledge--how "strange" and contradictory it is to have, how "sorrow only increased with knowledge"--in ways that suggest it is drastically reductive to see in this novel only a warning against science.
This word is an archaic term for Muslim, derived from Mahomet, a version of "Muhummad."
Solon (c. 638 – c. 558 BC) was an Athenian poet, statesman, and lawmaker. In Plutarch's telling, he is particularly notable for his efforts to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in pre-Socratic Athens.
Amidst the wilds of Tartary and Russia, although he still evaded me, I have ever followed in his track
Tartary was a vast, cold country in the northern parts of Asia, bounded by Siberia on the north and west. A vast tract of land in northern and central Asia, it stretched from the Caspian Sea and the Ural Mountains to the west, all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the east. It was inhabited mostly by Mongol peoples.
They call this retribution. Hateful name!
Retributive justice holds that the correct punishment for a crime balances the wrong, and that punishing wrongdoers deters others from committing similar crimes in the future. Note, however, that Justine is wrongfully executed for the death of William. Shelley thus seems to imply that hasty prosecution, especially for the sake of revenge, might hurt the innocent, thereby creating new injustices.
At the time of its writing, there was already a concerted reformist effort to do away with the death penalty. For example, as early as 1762, Jean-Jaques Rousseau wrote in The Social Contract that "There is no man so bad that he cannot be made good for something. No man should be put to death, even as an example if he can be left to live without danger to society."
Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate
Not called "science" until the mid-nineteenth century, "natural philosophy" was science in the tradition of England's Royal Society (begun 1660), with its emphasis on Baconian induction, careful experiment, and refusal of any older science that could not be proven and demonstrated in a laboratory.
Perth is an ancient town on the River Tay in Scotland, about 44 miles north of Edinburgh.
The region south of Mayence might be more picturesque because of the Kühkopf-Knoblochsaue, now a well-known nature preserve.
The early modern English physician William Harvey (1578-1627) made several valuable contributions to the medical sciences, including the circulation of blood in the human body. In De Motu Cordis (1628), Harvey sets down his landmark experiments; in these, Harvey used ligatures to stem blood flow to better understand how the heart works to pump blood throughout the human body. This knowledge will be critical for Victor's creation of the Creature.
Two other friends
At the Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816, Lord Byron (1788-1824) and John Polidori (1795-1821) joined Mary and Percy Shelley in their competition to write ghost stories on the model of German Gothic narratives.
I have no friend, Margaret
The capacity for friendship is closely linked in the novel to the virtues of sympathy and high regard for domestic affections; Walton and Victor both yearn for a friend.
r by ascertaining the secret of the magnet
We now know that the magnetic charge of the North Pole causes the needle of a compass to point north. However, until William Gilbert (1540-1603) discovered the magnetism of the earth's poles, it was a common conception that the needle on the compass moved by force of magic. In Shelley's time, the source of the earth's magnetism was a mystery and adventurers like Robert Walton set out to the North and South Poles seeking scientific answers and public glory.
maladie du pays
In French the phrase maladie du pays literally means "disease of the country," the common expression for "homesickness".
loathsome in itself, but which had taken an irresistible hold of my imagination
Victor recognizes that grave robbing and animal torture are "loathsome activities," but imagining the "great object" of their results overpowers his conscious. Here, Shelley seems to explore the relation between imagination, morality, and convention, and to what extent feelings express what ought to be done morally.
St. Bernard’s Well
St. Bernard's Well, a circular Roman-style structure, was built in 1789 to a design by celebrated Edinburgh landscape painter Alexander Nasymth drawing inspiration from the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli in Italy. It is on the Water of Leith in Dean Private Gardens.
Pandaemonium ("All demons" in Latin), was the capital of Hell in Milton's Paradise Lost (II.119-69).
Elizabeth, my love, you must supply my place to your younger cousins
With Victor's mother's death, her wish for Elizabeth to assume her motherly role begins a series of symbolic family roles that Elizabeth will occupy: mother to the children, "my more than sister" to Victor, and eventually wife to Victor.
cape of Africa or America?
Robert will return to England by way of the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) or the Cape Horn (South America).
THE MODERN PROMETHEUS
The novel’s subtitle invokes the trickster hero of Greek mythology, Prometheus, who defies the Gods by stealing fire (a symbol of knowledge) and giving it to humanity. Akin to Victor Frankenstein, Prometheus is also credited with the creation of man, which he fashions out of clay. As punishment for the disobedience, Zeus condemns Prometheus to eternal torment: he is chained to a rock for eternity while an eagle feeds on his liver. Shelley’s husband Percy would later take up the Prometheus myth in the closet drama Prometheus Unbound, published in 1819. Reading the novel against the myth, we can understand Prometheus’s punishment for the Gods akin to Victor’s psychological torment for defying nature.
Sorrows of Werter
The Creature identifies himself with the hero of Johann Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Werther (1774), but unlike his reputation among European readers, Werther is not a glamorous figure for Shelley but an emblem of the Creature's isolation and despair. On the relation of these novels, see Roswitha Burwick, "Goethe's Werther and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Wordsworth Circle 24.1 (1993): 47-52.
Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) was also the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He is often praised for his rejection of dogmatic philosophy and his stress on experimentation. Many books, including the Little Book on Alchemy, were falsely attributed to Magnus but likely written by Paracelsus.
The Iliad is an epic poem attributed to Homer; its action is set earlier than the plot of Homer's The Odyssey and takes place in the last year of the Trojan War.
Situated near the peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges, Chamounix faces the north side of the summit of Mont Blanc. Picturesque, Chamounix was the host of the first Winter
A diligence is a type of public carriage.
Here is our captain, and he will not allow you to perish on the open sea
Along with reference to Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Manner," Victor's hopeless plight reminds us somewhat of William Cowper's (1731-1800) "The Castaway" (1799). Victor, however, does not perish "each alone," but instead in the company of his new friend Walton. The Creature, by contrast, will choose to perish alone.
I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible
Victor expresses guilt over his failure to make the existence of the creature known to the public, especially at the trial of Justine. In Volume 3, Chapter 5, Victor claims that it is well for "the unfortunate to be resigned," since "for the guilty there is no peace."
There were a number of different denominations of Orthodox Christianity prevailing in Turkey at the time, which was predominantly Muslim under the Ottoman Empire.
A syndic was the mayor or head of administration of a commune or canton. In Geneva, they were part of a council appointed by the legislature to govern the republic.
I arrived at Strasburgh,
Strasburgh, or more commonly Strasbourg, is the capital of the Grand Est region of France, the official seat of the European Parliament. It is located close to the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace. In Shelley's day, Strasburgh was a well-known center of humanism, at the crossroads of French and German intellectual traditions.
we saw Mont Salêve, the pleasant banks of Montalêgre, and at a distance, surmounting all, the beautiful Mont Blânc
The Salève is a mountain of the French Prealps. It is also called the "Balcony of Geneva."
The maintenance of "domestic affection" is one of the most important virtues for Mary Shelley, one that is repeatedly violated by Victor Frankenstein's disregard of family responsibility, including the care of his own creation, the Creature.
Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount of Falkland (c. 1610-1643), fought on the Royalist side during the Civil War and was killed in action at the First Battle of Newbury.
Numa Pompilius (753–673 BC; reigned 715–673 BC) was the legendary second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus.
seized and made a slave by the Turks
When Mary wrote Frankenstein slavery was still pervasive in Europe and the Americas, and slavery persisted in England until the 1834 Slavery Abolition Act. Mary's father, William Godwin, wrote against slavery in An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793).
A tincture of opium, laudanum was popular among some English writers of the Romantic period including, most notably, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey, whose Confessions of an English Opium Eater specifically related his experiences with and addiction to the drug.
I was surprised that among so many men of genius, who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.
Victor seems to regard himself as godlike in his research. Subsequently, he advances a personal ethics of creation about the specific "raw material" he uses for his experiments, and to the source of the raw material.
“‘Enter,’ said De Lacey;
In his review, "On Frankenstein," published in The Athenaeum in 1831, Percy states that "The scene between the Being and the blind De Lacey in the cottage is one of the most profound and extraordinary instances of pathos that we ever recollect. It is impossible to read this dialogue--and indeed many other situations of a somewhat similar character--without feeling the heart suspend its pulsations with wonder, and 'the tears stream down the cheeks!'" (Shelley, Percy Bysshe. "On Frankenstein." The Athenaeum: Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, Saturday, November 10, 1832, p. 730).
elixir of life
The philosophers stone was also called the elixir of life, or thought to create it, and to be useful for rejuvenation and for achieving immortality; for many centuries, the stone and the elixir were the most sought goal in alchemy.
it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses
The Creature's awakening to consciousness alludes to accounts of consciousness and maturation by John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Locke gives an account of how the mind of a child slowly learns to distinguish the various senses before it can apprehend the world in totu, in Ch. 7 of his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Rousseau's Emile, which Mary recorded having read in 1815, also offers an account contrasting the senses of an adult to the senses of a child.
No youth could have passed more 049happily 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
Mary may be borrowing from her father's work in her account of Victor's childhood. Regarding children, William Godwin's Political Justice recommends that we: "Refer them to reading, to conversation ... but teach them neither creeds nor catechisms, either moral or political ... Speak the language of truth and reason to your child, and be under no apprehension for the result. Show him that what you recommend is valuable and desirable, and fear not but he will desire it. Convince his understanding, and you enlist all his powers animal and intellectual in your service" [Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (London, 1798) I: 43].
The Jura Mountains are a sub-alpine mountain range to the north of the Western Alps, along the border of Switzerland and France.
Victor implies that life can be renewed from death, a theme present in biblical scripture. See Gen. 3:19, 18:27; Job 30:19; Eccl. 3:20) and in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (Burial Rite 1:485, 2:501).
the pallid lightning that played above Mont Blanc, and listening to the rushing of the Arve
Rising in the northern side of the Mont Blanc in the Alps, the river Arve receives water from the many glaciers of the Chamounix valley. The river is known for its frigid waters.
And now my wanderings began
"Guided by a slight clue," Victor tracks the monster from Geneva along the windings of the Rhone southward to the Mediterranean. He spots the monster hiding in a ship and follows him to the Black Sea, through the wilds of Tartary and Russia. Ultimately, he travels northward into the ice.
the bridge of Pelissier
the Pelissier structure is a scenic bridge over the Arve river, featuring stunning view of Mont Blanc to the north.
and the field on which that patriot fell.
Victor is referring to Chalgrove Field in Oxfordshire, where the revolutionary leader John Hampden was fatally wounded in a battle with Royalist leader Prince Rupert.
I am by birth a Genevese
Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Victor is a potential hero insofar as he embodies the "republican" virtues of Europe's only country, much admired by the Shelleys, which did not have a hereditary monarchy. By making Geneva so central to the novel's cultural geography, Mary Shelley also designates the relation between Victor's ambition and Jean Jacques Rousseau's world-making ambition in Discourse on Inequality (1754) among other works.
Romulus (c. 750 BC) was believed to have founded the city of Rome, its institutions, government, military and religious traditions. He reigned for many years as its first king. He is thought to have killed his twin brother, Remus.
I have seen the mountains of La Valais, and the Pays de Vaud
La Valais is an extremely mountainous region that includes the highest mountains in Switzerland. The highest mountain ranges are the Pennine Alps, the Bernese Alps, and the Mont Blanc. The Pays de Vaud, on the other hand, is partly mountainous, though visually arresting, having summits of about 3,000 meters.
having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials
Cadavers for anatomical training in this period were scarce, and thus a medical education meant to study and extend life also fostered serial killers who committed murders for the sake of selling fresh corpses. Such killing sprees were ended by the Anatomical Act of 1832 in England, which made corpses legally available for medical research.
a Paradise of my own creation
Walton's imagined "paradise" of his own making suggests the power of imagination, yet also the possibility of creating a Hell of one's own. It is also one of the novel's many allusions to John Milton's Paradise Lost.
Matlock is a county town in Derbyshire, just to the north of Matlock Bath, a former spa town.
Cato the Younger (95-46 BCE) was a Roman statesman and Stoic.
Derby, England is a city lying on the banks of the River Derwent, Derbyshire.
Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – AD 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, moralist, and dramatist. He was forced to commit suicide by Nero after allegedly plotting the Emperor's death.
I followed the windings of the Rhone
Victor followed the Rhone as it winded its way south, toward the Mediterranean.
Arthur's Seat is a main peak of a group of hills in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Aiguilles is French for "pinnacle of rock."
the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed
The Aztec empire, located in Mexico, was conquered by the Spanish in 1521, and the Peruvian Inca empire was conquered in 1532. Both were "destroyed" by the disease, famine, and violence the Europeans brought with them.
In July 1794, Plainpalais, a neighborhood in Geneva, was the site where a group of Swiss revolted against the Genovese government with the help of the French revolutionary Robespierre, establishing a tribunal and putting on trial several high-ranking Genovese officials. Critics suggest Shelley's use of Plainpalais is an attempt to explicitly link the revolutionary events of Plainpalais with the Creature's monstrosity. See Fred V. Randel, "The Political Geography of Horror in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," ELH Vol. 70, No. 2 (Summer, 2003): 465-491.
St. Andrews is a town on the east coast of Fife in Scotland, 30 miles northeast of Edinburgh. It is home to the University of St Andrews, the third oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Mainz (French: Mayence) is the capital and largest city of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The city is located on the Rhine river at its confluence with the Main river, opposite Wiesbaden on the border with Hesse.
Elizabeth was also the name of Percy Shelley's mother.
Known for its number and length of bridges, Lucerne had a population of about 100,000 in the 1797 census. Almost exclusively Catholic, it was situated in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. It remains highly scenic, framed by mountains and lakes.
You are my creator, but I am your master;—obey!
The Creature inverts the master-slave relationship, which may explain why apartheid South Africa banned the novel. Throughout the passage, the Creature seems to adopt the voice of Satan's language in Paradise Lost.
The Orkney Islands lie along the north-east coast of Scotland.
By 1818 physiology had become a controversial branch of medicine at the center of the dispute between vitalism, the idea that a divine spark energized animal life, and materialism, the argument that chemical processes alone give rise to life. Mary Shelley was well aware of the dispute since the Shelleys' family doctor, William Lawrence, was vigorously taking up the materialist argument in works like An Introduction to Comparative Anatomy and Physiology (1816). For a full view of this controversy as it relates to the novel, see Marilyn Butler, "Frankenstein and Radical Science"  reprinted in J. Paul Hunter, Frankenstein, Norton Critical Edition, second ed. (New York: Norton, 2012): 404-416.
That is, they spoke German, rather than the French of De Lacey and his family.
Charnel houses were vaults where human skeletal remains were stored. Often they were built near churches for depositing bones unearthed while digging fresh graves. They were a major resource for Victor's experiments.
do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose
Walton's exploratory ambitions parallel Victor's scientific ambitions, one of many affinities they recognize in each other.
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans is also called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives. A series of biographies of famous leaders from ancient Greece and Rome, they are arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings across the two civilizations and were likely written at the beginning of the second century AD. The Lives seem to give the Creature a stirring ideal of the human life that is unlike his own experience of existence.
its romantic castle,
Victor means Edinburgh Castle, a historic fortress presiding over the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, and built as early as the 12th Century.
the beauty of Angelica
Angelica is the heroine of Orlando Furioso by Lodovico Ariosto (1532).
‘I have ten thousand florins a year without Greek, I eat heartily without Greek.’
This passage comes from Oliver Goldsmith's (1730-1774) novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), and seems to ask whether education ought to be directed squarely towards vocational training (as clear from Clerval's father's opinion), or whether learning the classical languages or literature (or "the Greeks") is valuable in itself.
It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being
"Creation" points toward popular literary themes, and to the Bible. It also calls into question property rights. John Locke (1632-1704) argued in Two Treatises of Government that applying one's labor to nature made that creation one's property. Shelley seems to call into question the relation of scientific research to the idea of ownership.
Montanvert, also known as Mer de Glace (French for 'sea of ice"), is one of the three major glaciers on Mont Blanc.
Isis is the former name for the section of the Thames that flows from Gloustershire to Dorchester-on-Thames.
with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour
Victor's understanding of biological systems as machines was typical of nineteenth-century biology and physiology, and the debates between mechanists and vitalists, which still partially embraced the mechanistic perspective of human life advanced by Rene Descartes (1596-1650), and others.
the principles of Agrippa
In his book De Occulta Philosophia Agrippa suggested that God placed magic in the world to make man capable of transcending the natural sphere and able to influence the superior realms.
If she is, as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our judges
Appearing at the very end of the chapter, Alphonse Frankenstein's words do little to reassure his son (or the reader), of the administration of justice at court. See: Patrick Vincent, "'This Wretched Mockery of Justice': Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Geneva," European Romantic Review, 18.5 (2007): 645-661.
plains of Holland
The landscape in southern Holland is mainly flat and strewn with lakes and canals. Since most of the Netherlands is low-lying, with nearly half of the land at or below sea level, it was commonly referred to at the time as "the plains of Holland."
In 1642, the absolutist monarch Charles I of England (1600-1649) gathered forces loyal to him, and used Oxford as a home base to combat the rebelling Parliamentarian Forces led by the Earl of Essex, Thomas Fairfax, and Oliver Cromwell. The conflict culminated in the execution of the monarch for treason in 1649. See Ann Hughes, The Causes of the English Civil War 2nd ed (New York: Palgrave Macmillon, 1998).
Victor's admiration for John Hampden (1595-1643)--a leading English dissident opposing Charles I in the early years of the English Revolution--sits uneasily with his earlier nostalgia for the days of Charles I. Where the Creature had shown a consistent and clear sympathy with the radical Enlightenment, Victor seems as confused about the reactionary and progressive elements of the English past as he had about the modern and premodern versions of "natural philosophy" in the history of science. See also Iain Crawford, "Wading Through Slaughter: John Hampden, Thomas Gray, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Studies in the Novel, 20.3 (1988): 249-61.
my mother sickened
The death of Victor's mother, caused by her catching Elizabeth's scarlet fever, would lead in Victor's mind to a morbid association between the two women. It appears more vividly in Victor's nightmare in Volume 1, Chapter 4, associated there with his first horror at beholding his creature.
From Milton's poem the Creature imagines himself as an Adam created by an all-powerful god (Victor). Later in the paragraph, the Creature considers if a more apt comparison for his condition might be to Satan, cast out from his companions and protector.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- domestic affections
- political philosophy
- The Bible
- Paradise Lost
- William Cowper
- English Revolution
- John Locke
- north pole
- Caspian Sea
- Percy Shelley
- St. Petersburgh
- natural philosophy
- percy bysshe shelley
- Swiss Alps
- John Polidori
- Ancient Greece
- Lodovico Ariosto
- Lord Byron
- Book of Common Prayer
- Jean-Jaques Rousseau
- John Milton
- domestic affection
- Albertus Magnus
- Thomas de Quincey
- radical Enlightenment
- Erasmus Darwin
- William Godwin
- Black Sea
- Mont Blanc
- 1831 edition
Why Then gazing on the beloved face of Elizabeth on her graceful form and languid eyes, of with instead of feeling the exultation of a—lover—a husband—in a sudden gush of tears blinded my sight, & as I turned away to hide the involuntary emotion fast drops fell in the wave below. Reason again awoke, and shaking off all unmanly—or more properly all natural thoughts of mischance, I smiled as
In this Thomas Copy interpolation, Shelley gives Victor a torrent of mixed feelings, from love to grief, before he speaks to Elizabeth
we walked for a short time on the shore, enjoying the transitory light, and then retired to the inn,leaving the shore we sought the retreat of our house and garden. but aAgain as I entered the iron gates of the demesne, an unres unexplainable feeling bade me hold—yet Elizabeth unwarned, and fearless passed on, and I, again half ashamed—& for the first time dreading lest any unholy sight should meet her sense, any shadow of the fiend, should cross her, I hastily walked on, and passing my arm round her prayed with a feeling of bitter tenderness, that she might never suffer ill. Thus we entered the ar mansion—and still not speaking, for both our hearts were too full, we went to a balcony that overhung the lake
In this Thomas Copy addition, Victor guides Elizabeth to safety amid imagined threats from the Creature that exist, of course, only in his own haunted mind.
And the contortions that ever and anon conpulsvulsed & deformed his un-human features.
This addition to the Thomas copy associates the creature with the "un-human," an early indication of revisions in 1831 that will make the Creature more monstrous and less compellingly human than he had been in the 1818 original.
What could induce me to talk thus incoherently of the dreadful subject that I dared not explain?—In truth, it was insanity, not of the understanding but of the heart, which produced a state of recklesscaused me always to think of one thing, of one sentiment, and that thus there would at times escape to my lips, as a half stifled groansigh may; though else unseen & unheard, just moves the flame that surrounds the marty at the stake. But though he sigh, he will not recant, & though I, more weak, gave vent to my pent up thoughts in words such as these, yet I shrunk unalterably from any thing that should reveal the existence of my enemy.
This addition in the Thomas Copy is one of several indications that Mary is rethinking Victor's extreme emotional states as a form of madness, despite his denial to his father that "I am not mad." By distinguishing a madness "of the heart" rather than the mind, Victor confides in the reader a belief that he is verging on madness that will be more elaborate in the 1831 revision and does not appear so pronounced in the 1818 version. This addition in the Thomas Copy does not specifically carry over to 1831 but it does seem to suggest she was already thinking of him in terms of madness by 1823.
a disease that I regretted the more because I had hitherto enjoyed most excellent health, and had always boasted of the firmness of my nerves.my voice became broken, my trembling hands almost refused to accomplish their task; I became as timid as a love-sick girl, and alternate tremor and passionate ardour took the place of wholesome sensation and regulated ambition.
This revision in the Thomas Copy adds a vivid account of Victor's symptoms as they seem to drain him of masculinity and make him quiver "as a love-sick girl." In 1831 Shelley rewrote this passage again without the gendered simile.
The event of these enquiries interested my understanding, I may say my imagination, until I was exalted to a kind of transport. And indeed
This brief addition in the Thomas Copy emphasizes the extent to which Victor's interest in human physiology carries away his imagination until he is "exalted to a kind of transport."
ruled by different laws and in which numerous circumstances enforce a belief that the aspect of nature differs essentially from anything of which we have any experience.
FRANKENSTEIN: or, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. by MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I. A NEW EDITION. LONDON: PRINTED FOR G. AND W. B. WHITTAKER, AVE-MARIA-LANE. 1823.
The 1823 edition's title page differs almost entirely from the 1818 original title page. The title is the same, but for the first time the 1823 edition lists Mary Shelley as the novel's author. (Though it does not list Wiliam Godwin, her father, as the editor responsible for the minor revisions in this edition.) The page also shows that the 1823 edition appears in two volumes, not three as in 1818. The new publisher for the novel is G. and W.B. Whittaker.