Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It was from
my own Elizabeth:
"My dearest Cousin,
"You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters of
dear kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me on your account.
You are forbidden to write--to hold a pen; yet one word from you,
dear Victor, is necessary to calm our apprehensions. For a long time
I have thought that each post would bring this line, and my persuasions
have restrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt.
I have prevented his encountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers
of so long a journey, yet how often have I regretted not being able to
perform it myself! I figure to myself that the task of attending on
your sickbed has devolved on some mercenary old nurse, who could never
guess your wishes nor minister to them with the care and affection
of your poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that
indeed you are getting better. I eagerly hope that you will
confirm this intelligence soon in your own handwriting.
"Get well--and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerful home
and friends who love you dearly. Your father's health is vigorous,
and he asks but to see you, but to be assured that you are well;
and not a care will ever cloud his benevolent countenance.
How pleased you would be to remark the improvement of our Ernest!
He is now sixteen and full of activity and spirit. He is desirous
to be a true Swiss and to enter into foreign service, but we cannot
part with him, at least until his elder brother returns to us.
My uncle is not pleased with the idea of a military career in a
distant country, but Ernest never had your powers of application.
He looks upon study as an odious fetter; his time is spent in the
open air, climbing the hills or rowing on the lake. I fear that he
will become an idler unless we yield the point and permit him to
enter on the profession which he has selected.
"Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children,
has taken place since you left us. The blue lake and snow-clad
mountains--they never change; and I think our placid home and
our contented hearts are regulated by the same immutable laws.
My trifling occupations take up my time and amuse me, and I am
rewarded for any exertions by seeing none but happy, kind faces
around me. Since you left us, but one change has taken place in
our little household. Do you remember on what occasion Justine
Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not; I will relate her
history, therefore in a few words. Madame Moritz, her mother,
was a widow with four children, of whom Justine was the third.
This girl had always been the favourite of her father, but through a
strange perversity, her mother could not endure her, and after the
death of M. Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt observed this,
and when Justine was twelve years of age, prevailed on her mother
to allow her to live at our house. The republican institutions
of our country have produced simpler and happier manners than
those which prevail in the great monarchies that surround it.
Hence there is less distinction between the several classes
of its inhabitants; and the lower orders, being neither so poor
nor so despised, their manners are more refined and moral.
A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant
in France and England. Justine, thus received in our family,
learned the duties of a servant, a condition which, in our
fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance
and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.
"Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours; and I
recollect you once remarked that if you were in an ill humour, one
glance from Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason that
Ariosto gives concerning the beauty of Angelica--she looked so
frank-hearted and happy. My aunt conceived a great attachment
for her, by which she was induced to give her an education superior
to that which she had at first intended. This benefit was fully
repaid; Justine was the most grateful little creature in the world:
I do not mean that she made any professions I never heard one pass
her lips, but you could see by her eyes that she almost adored her
protectress. Although her disposition was gay and in many respects
inconsiderate, yet she paid the greatest attention to every gesture
of my aunt. She thought her the model of all excellence and endeavoured
to imitate her phraseology and manners, so that even now she often
reminds me of her.
"When my dearest aunt died every one was too much occupied in their
own grief to notice poor Justine, who had attended her during her
illness with the most anxious affection. Poor Justine was very ill;
but other trials were reserved for her.
"One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother,
with the exception of her neglected daughter, was left childless.
The conscience of the woman was troubled; she began to think
that the deaths of her favourites was a judgement from heaven
to chastise her partiality. She was a Roman Catholic; and I
believe her confessor confirmed the idea which she had conceived.
Accordingly, a few months after your departure for Ingolstadt,
Justine was called home by her repentant mother. Poor girl!
She wept when she quitted our house; she was much altered since
the death of my aunt; grief had given softness and a winning
mildness to her manners, which had before been remarkable for vivacity.
Nor was her residence at her mother's house of a nature to restore
her gaiety. The poor woman was very vacillating in her repentance.
She sometimes begged Justine to forgive her unkindness, but much
oftener accused her of having caused the deaths of her brothers
and sister. Perpetual fretting at length threw Madame Moritz into
a decline, which at first increased her irritability, but she is now
at peace for ever. She died on the first approach of cold weather,
at the beginning of this last winter. Justine has just returned to us;
and I assure you I love her tenderly. She is very clever and gentle,
and extremely pretty; as I mentioned before, her mein and her
expression continually remind me of my dear aunt.
"I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin, of little
darling William. I wish you could see him; he is very tall of his age,
with sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, and curling hair.
When he smiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are
rosy with health. He has already had one or two little WIVES,
but Louisa Biron is his favourite, a pretty little girl of five
years of age.
"Now, dear Victor, I dare say you wish to be indulged in a little
gossip concerning the good people of Geneva. The pretty Miss
Mansfield has already received the congratulatory visits on her
approaching marriage with a young Englishman, John Melbourne, Esq.
Her ugly sister, Manon, married M. Duvillard, the rich banker,
last autumn. Your favourite schoolfellow, Louis Manoir, has suffered
several misfortunes since the departure of Clerval from Geneva.
But he has already recovered his spirits, and is reported to be on
the point of marrying a lively pretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier.
She is a widow, and much older than Manoir; but she is very much admired,
and a favourite with everybody.
"I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin; but my
anxiety returns upon me as I conclude. Write, dearest Victor, --
one line--one word will be a blessing to us. Ten thousand thanks
to Henry for his kindness, his affection, and his many letters; we
are sincerely grateful. Adieu! my cousin; take care of your self;
and, I entreat you, write!
Geneva, March 18, 17--,
"Dear, dear Elizabeth!" I exclaimed, when I had read her letter:
"I will write instantly and relieve them from the anxiety they must feel."
I wrote, and this exertion greatly fatigued me; but my convalescence
had commenced, and proceeded regularly. In another fortnight I was able
to leave my chamber.
One of my first duties on my recovery was to introduce Clerval to
the several professors of the university. In doing this, I underwent
a kind of rough usage, ill befitting the wounds that my mind had sustained.
Ever since the fatal night, the end of my labours, and the beginning of
my misfortunes, I had conceived a violent antipathy even to the name
of natural philosophy. When I was otherwise quite restored to health,
the sight of a chemical instrument would renew all the agony of
my nervous symptoms. Henry saw this, and had removed all my apparatus
from my view. He had also changed my apartment; for he perceived that I
had acquired a dislike for the room which had previously been my laboratory.
But these cares of Clerval were made of no avail when I visited the professors.
M. Waldman inflicted torture when he praised, with kindness and warmth,
the astonishing progress I had made in the sciences. He soon perceived
that I disliked the subject; but not guessing the real cause,
he attributed my feelings to modesty, and changed the subject from
my improvement, to the science itself, with a desire, as I evidently saw,
of drawing me out. What could I do? He meant to please, and he tormented me.
I felt as if he had placed carefully, one by one, in my five those instruments
which were to be afterwards used in putting me to a slow and cruel death.
I writhed under his words, yet dared not exhibit the pain I felt.
Clerval, whose eyes and feelings were always quick in discerning
the sensations of others, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse,
his total ignorance; and the conversation took a more general turn.
I thanked my friend from my heart, but I did not speak. I saw plainly
that he was surprised, but he never attempted to draw my secret from me;
and although I loved him with a mixture of affection and reverence
that knew no bounds, yet I could never persuade myself to confide
in him that event which was so often present to my recollection,
but which I feared the detail to another would only impress more deeply.
M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at that time,
of almost insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh blunt encomiums
gave me even more pain than the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman.
"D--n the fellow!" cried he; "why, M. Clerval, I assure you he has
outstript us all. Ay, stare if you please; but it is nevertheless true.
A youngster who, but a few years ago, believed in Cornelius Agrippa
as firmly as in the gospel, has now set himself at the head of
the university; and if he is not soon pulled down, we shall all
be out of countenance. --Ay, ay," continued he, observing my face
expressive of suffering, "M. Frankenstein is modest; an excellent
quality in a young man. Young men should be diffident of themselves,
you know, M. Clerval: I was myself when young; but that wears out
in a very short time."
M. Krempe had now commenced an eulogy on himself, which happily
turned the conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.
Clerval had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science; and his
literary pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me.
He came to the university with the design of making himself
complete master of the oriental languages, and thus he should open
a field for the plan of life he had marked out for himself.
Resolved to pursue no inglorious career, he turned his eyes
toward the East, as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise.
The Persian, Arabic, and Sanscrit languages engaged his attention,
and I was easily induced to enter on the same studies. Idleness had
ever been irksome to me, and now that I wished to fly from reflection,
and hated my former studies, I felt great relief in being the
fellow-pupil with my friend, and found not only instruction
but consolation in the works of the orientalists. I did not,
like him, attempt a critical knowledge of their dialects,
for I did not contemplate making any other use of them than
temporary amusement. I read merely to understand their meaning,
and they well repaid my labours. Their melancholy is soothing,
and their joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced in studying
the authors of any other country. When you read their writings,
life appears to consist in a warm sun and a garden of roses,
--in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and the fire that consumes
your own heart. How different from the manly and heroical poetry of
Greece and Rome!
Summer passed away in these occupations, and my return to Geneva
was fixed for the latter end of autumn; but being delayed by
several accidents, winter and snow arrived, the roads were deemed
impassable, and my journey was retarded until the ensuing spring.
I felt this delay very bitterly; for I longed to see my native town
and my beloved friends. My return had only been delayed so long,
from an unwillingness to leave Clerval in a strange place, before
he had become acquainted with any of its inhabitants. The winter,
however, was spent cheerfully; and although the spring was
uncommonly late, when it came its beauty compensated for its
The month of May had already commenced, and I expected the letter
daily which was to fix the date of my departure, when Henry proposed
a pedestrian tour in the environs of Ingolstadt, that I might bid
a personal farewell to the country I had so long inhabited.
I acceded with pleasure to this proposition: I was fond of exercise,
and Clerval had always been my favourite companion in the ramble
of this nature that I had taken among the scenes of my native country.
We passed a fortnight in these perambulations: my health and
spirits had long been restored, and they gained additional
strength from the salubrious air I breathed, the natural
incidents of our progress, and the conversation of my friend.
Study had before secluded me from the intercourse of my fellow-
creatures, and rendered me unsocial; but Clerval called forth the
better feelings of my heart; he again taught me to love the aspect
of nature, and the cheerful faces of children. Excellent friend!
how sincerely you did love me, and endeavour to elevate my mind
until it was on a level with your own. A selfish pursuit had
cramped and narrowed me, until your gentleness and affection
warmed and opened my senses; I became the same happy creature who,
a few years ago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care.
When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the
most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled
me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of
spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud.
I was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had
pressed upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off,
with an invincible burden.
Henry rejoiced in my gaiety, and sincerely sympathised in my feelings:
he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations that
filled his soul. The resources of his mind on this occasion were
truly astonishing: his conversation was full of imagination;
and very often, in imitation of the Persian and Arabic writers,
he invented tales of wonderful fancy and passion. At other times
he repeated my favourite poems, or drew me out into arguments,
which he supported with great ingenuity. We returned to our college
on a Sunday afternoon: the peasants were dancing, and every one we met
appeared gay and happy. My own spirits were high, and I bounded along
with feelings of unbridled joy and hilarity.
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus