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Contents > Author > Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley > Frankenstein 19 1797- 1851
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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 19
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Chapter 19

London was our present point of rest; we determined to remain several
months in this wonderful and celebrated city. Clerval desired the
intercourse of the men of genius and talent who flourished at this
time, but this was with me a secondary object; I was principally
occupied with the means of obtaining the information necessary for the
completion of my promise and quickly availed myself of the letters of
introduction that I had brought with me, addressed to the most
distinguished natural philosophers.

If this journey had taken place during my days of study and happiness,
it would have afforded me inexpressible pleasure. But a blight had
come over my existence, and I only visited these people for the sake of
the information they might give me on the subject in which my interest
was so terribly profound. Company was irksome to me; when alone, I
could fill my mind with the sights of heaven and earth; the voice of
Henry soothed me, and I could thus cheat myself into a transitory
peace. But busy, uninteresting, joyous faces brought back despair to
my heart. I saw an insurmountable barrier placed between me and my
fellow men; this barrier was sealed with the blood of William and
Justine, and to reflect on the events connected with those names filled
my soul with anguish.

But in Clerval I saw the image of my former self; he was inquisitive
and anxious to gain experience and instruction. The difference of
manners which he observed was to him an inexhaustible source of
instruction and amusement. He was also pursuing an object he had long
had in view. His design was to visit India, in the belief that he had
in his knowledge of its various languages, and in the views he had
taken of its society, the means of materially assisting the progress of
European colonization and trade. In Britain only could he further the
execution of his plan. He was forever busy, and the only check to his
enjoyments was my sorrowful and dejected mind. I tried to conceal this
as much as possible, that I might not debar him from the pleasures
natural to one who was entering on a new scene of life, undisturbed by
any care or bitter recollection. I often refused to accompany him,
alleging another engagement, that I might remain alone. I now also
began to collect the materials necessary for my new creation, and this
was to me like the torture of single drops of water continually falling
on the head. Every thought that was devoted to it was an extreme
anguish, and every word that I spoke in allusion to it caused my lips
to quiver, and my heart to palpitate.

After passing some months in London, we received a letter from a person
in Scotland who had formerly been our visitor at Geneva. He mentioned
the beauties of his native country and asked us if those were not
sufficient allurements to induce us to prolong our journey as far north
as Perth, where he resided. Clerval eagerly desired to accept this
invitation, and I, although I abhorred society, wished to view again
mountains and streams and all the wondrous works with which Nature
adorns her chosen dwelling-places. We had arrived in England at the
beginning of October, and it was now February. We accordingly
determined to commence our journey towards the north at the expiration
of another month. In this expedition we did not intend to follow the
great road to Edinburgh, but to visit Windsor, Oxford, Matlock, and the
Cumberland lakes, resolving to arrive at the completion of this tour
about the end of July. I packed up my chemical instruments and the
materials I had collected, resolving to finish my labours in some
obscure nook in the northern highlands of Scotland.

We quitted London on the 27th of March and remained a few days at
Windsor, rambling in its beautiful forest. This was a new scene to us
mountaineers; the majestic oaks, the quantity of game, and the herds of
stately deer were all novelties to us.

From thence we proceeded to Oxford. As we entered this city our minds
were filled with the remembrance of the events that had been transacted
there more than a century and a half before. It was here that Charles
I. had collected his forces. This city had remained faithful to him,
after the whole nation had forsaken his cause to join the standard of
Parliament and liberty. The memory of that unfortunate king and his
companions, the amiable Falkland, the insolent Goring, his queen, and
son, gave a peculiar interest to every part of the city which they
might be supposed to have inhabited. The spirit of elder days found a
dwelling here, and we delighted to trace its footsteps. If these
feelings had not found an imaginary gratification, the appearance of
the city had yet in itself sufficient beauty to obtain our admiration.
The colleges are ancient and picturesque; the streets are almost
magnificent; and the lovely Isis, which flows beside it through meadows
of exquisite verdure, is spread forth into a placid expanse of waters,
which reflects its majestic assemblage of towers, and spires, and
domes, embosomed among aged trees.

I enjoyed this scene, and yet my enjoyment was embittered both by the
memory of the past and the anticipation of the future. I was formed
for peaceful happiness. During my youthful days discontent never
visited my mind, and if I was ever overcome by ennui, the sight of what
is beautiful in nature or the study of what is excellent and sublime in
the productions of man could always interest my heart and communicate
elasticity to my spirits. But I am a blasted tree; the bolt has
entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit what
I shall soon cease to be--a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity,
pitiable to others and intolerable to myself.

We passed a considerable period at Oxford, rambling among its environs
and endeavouring to identify every spot which might relate to the most
animating epoch of English history. Our little voyages of discovery
were often prolonged by the successive objects that presented
themselves. We visited the tomb of the illustrious Hampden and the
field on which that patriot fell. For a moment my soul was elevated
from its debasing and miserable fears to contemplate the divine ideas
of liberty and self sacrifice of which these sights were the monuments
and the remembrancers. For an instant I dared to shake off my chains
and look around me with a free and lofty spirit, but the iron had eaten
into my flesh, and I sank again, trembling and hopeless, into my
miserable self.

We left Oxford with regret and proceeded to Matlock, which was our next
place of rest. The country in the neighbourhood of this village
resembled, to a greater degree, the scenery of Switzerland; but
everything is on a lower scale, and the green hills want the crown of
distant white Alps which always attend on the piny mountains of my
native country. We visited the wondrous cave and the little cabinets
of natural history, where the curiosities are disposed in the same
manner as in the collections at Servox and Chamounix. The latter name
made me tremble when pronounced by Henry, and I hastened to quit
Matlock, with which that terrible scene was thus associated.

From Derby, still journeying northwards, we passed two months in
Cumberland and Westmorland. I could now almost fancy myself among the
Swiss mountains. The little patches of snow which yet lingered on the
northern sides of the mountains, the lakes, and the dashing of the
rocky streams were all familiar and dear sights to me. Here also we
made some acquaintances, who almost contrived to cheat me into
happiness. The delight of Clerval was proportionably greater than
mine; his mind expanded in the company of men of talent, and he found
in his own nature greater capacities and resources than he could have
imagined himself to have possessed while he associated with his
inferiors. "I could pass my life here," said he to me; "and among
these mountains I should scarcely regret Switzerland and the Rhine."

But he found that a traveller's life is one that includes much pain
amidst its enjoyments. His feelings are forever on the stretch; and
when he begins to sink into repose, he finds himself obliged to quit
that on which he rests in pleasure for something new, which again
engages his attention, and which also he forsakes for other novelties.

We had scarcely visited the various lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland
and conceived an affection for some of the inhabitants when the period
of our appointment with our Scotch friend approached, and we left them
to travel on. For my own part I was not sorry. I had now neglected my
promise for some time, and I feared the effects of the daemon's
disappointment. He might remain in Switzerland and wreak his vengeance
on my relatives. This idea pursued me and tormented me at every moment
from which I might otherwise have snatched repose and peace. I waited
for my letters with feverish impatience; if they were delayed I was
miserable and overcome by a thousand fears; and when they arrived and I
saw the superscription of Elizabeth or my father, I hardly dared to
read and ascertain my fate. Sometimes I thought that the fiend
followed me and might expedite my remissness by murdering my
companion. When these thoughts possessed me, I would not quit Henry
for a moment, but followed him as his shadow, to protect him from the
fancied rage of his destroyer. I felt as if I had committed some great
crime, the consciousness of which haunted me. I was guiltless, but I
had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that
of crime.

I visited Edinburgh with languid eyes and mind; and yet that city might
have interested the most unfortunate being. Clerval did not like it so
well as Oxford, for the antiquity of the latter city was more pleasing
to him. But the beauty and regularity of the new town of Edinburgh,
its romantic castle and its environs, the most delightful in the world,
Arthur's Seat, St. Bernard's Well, and the Pentland Hills compensated
him for the change and filled him with cheerfulness and admiration. But
I was impatient to arrive at the termination of my journey.

We left Edinburgh in a week, passing through Coupar, St. Andrew's, and
along the banks of the Tay, to Perth, where our friend expected us.
But I was in no mood to laugh and talk with strangers or enter into
their feelings or plans with the good humour expected from a guest; and
accordingly I told Clerval that I wished to make the tour of Scotland
alone. "Do you," said I, "enjoy yourself, and let this be our
rendezvous. I may be absent a month or two; but do not interfere with
my motions, I entreat you; leave me to peace and solitude for a short
time; and when I return, I hope it will be with a lighter heart, more
congenial to your own temper."

Henry wished to dissuade me, but seeing me bent on this plan, ceased to
remonstrate. He entreated me to write often. "I had rather be with
you," he said, "in your solitary rambles, than with these Scotch
people, whom I do not know; hasten, then, my dear friend, to return,
that I may again feel myself somewhat at home, which I cannot do in
your absence."

Having parted from my friend, I determined to visit some remote spot of
Scotland and finish my work in solitude. I did not doubt but that the
monster followed me and would discover himself to me when I should have
finished, that he might receive his companion. With this resolution I
traversed the northern highlands and fixed on one of the remotest of
the Orkneys as the scene of my labours. It was a place fitted for such
a work, being hardly more than a rock whose high sides were continually
beaten upon by the waves. The soil was barren, scarcely affording
pasture for a few miserable cows, and oatmeal for its inhabitants,
which consisted of five persons, whose gaunt and scraggy limbs gave
tokens of their miserable fare. Vegetables and bread, when they
indulged in such luxuries, and even fresh water, was to be procured
from the mainland, which was about five miles distant.

On the whole island there were but three miserable huts, and one of
these was vacant when I arrived. This I hired. It contained but two
rooms, and these exhibited all the squalidness of the most miserable
penury. The thatch had fallen in, the walls were unplastered, and the
door was off its hinges. I ordered it to be repaired, bought some
furniture, and took possession, an incident which would doubtless have
occasioned some surprise had not all the senses of the cottagers been
benumbed by want and squalid poverty. As it was, I lived ungazed at
and unmolested, hardly thanked for the pittance of food and clothes
which I gave, so much does suffering blunt even the coarsest sensations
of men.

In this retreat I devoted the morning to labour; but in the evening,
when the weather permitted, I walked on the stony beach of the sea to
listen to the waves as they roared and dashed at my feet. It was a
monotonous yet ever-changing scene. I thought of Switzerland; it was
far different from this desolate and appalling landscape. Its hills
are covered with vines, and its cottages are scattered thickly in the
plains. Its fair lakes reflect a blue and gentle sky, and when
troubled by the winds, their tumult is but as the play of a lively
infant when compared to the roarings of the giant ocean.

In this manner I distributed my occupations when I first arrived, but
as I proceeded in my labour, it became every day more horrible and
irksome to me. Sometimes I could not prevail on myself to enter my
laboratory for several days, and at other times I toiled day and night
in order to complete my work. It was, indeed, a filthy process in
which I was engaged. During my first experiment, a kind of
enthusiastic frenzy had blinded me to the horror of my employment; my
mind was intently fixed on the consummation of my labour, and my eyes
were shut to the horror of my proceedings. But now I went to it in
cold blood, and my heart often sickened at the work of my hands.

Thus situated, employed in the most detestable occupation, immersed in
a solitude where nothing could for an instant call my attention from
the actual scene in which I was engaged, my spirits became unequal; I
grew restless and nervous. Every moment I feared to meet my
persecutor. Sometimes I sat with my eyes fixed on the ground, fearing
to raise them lest they should encounter the object which I so much
dreaded to behold. I feared to wander from the sight of my fellow
creatures lest when alone he should come to claim his companion.

In the mean time I worked on, and my labour was already considerably
advanced. I looked towards its completion with a tremulous and eager
hope, which I dared not trust myself to question but which was
intermixed with obscure forebodings of evil that made my heart sicken
in my bosom.


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