To Mrs. Saville, England
August 5th, 17-
So strange an accident has happened to us that I cannot forbear
recording it, although it is very probable that you will see me
before these papers can come into your possession.
Last Monday (July 31st) we were nearly surrounded by ice, which closed
in the ship on all sides, scarcely leaving her the sea-room in which
she floated. Our situation was somewhat dangerous, especially as we
were compassed round by a very thick fog. We accordingly lay to,
hoping that some change would take place in the atmosphere and weather.
About two o'clock the mist cleared away, and we beheld, stretched
out in every direction, vast and irregular plains of ice, which
seemed to have no end. Some of my comrades groaned, and my
own mind began to grow watchful with anxious thoughts, when a
strange sight suddenly attracted our attention and diverted our
solicitude from our own situation. We perceived a low carriage,
fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on towards the north, at
the distance of half a mile; a being which had the shape of a man,
but apparently of gigantic stature, sat in the sledge and guided
the dogs. We watched the rapid progress of the traveller with our
telescopes until he was lost among the distant inequalities of the ice.
This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as we believed,
many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed to denote
that it was not, in reality, so distant as we had supposed. Shut in,
however, by ice, it was impossible to follow his track, which we had
observed with the greatest attention. About two hours after this
occurrence we heard the ground sea, and before night the ice broke
and freed our ship. We, however, lay to until the morning,
fearing to encounter in the dark those large loose masses which
float about after the breaking up of the ice. I profited of this
time to rest for a few hours.
In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck
and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently
talking to someone in the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that
we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night on a
large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained alive; but there was a
human being within it whom the sailors were persuading to enter the vessel.
He was not, as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant
of some undiscovered island, but a European. When I appeared on deck
the master said, "Here is our captain, and he will not allow you to
perish on the open sea."
On perceiving me, the stranger addressed me in English, although with
a foreign accent. "Before I come on board your vessel," said he,
"will you have the kindness to inform me whither you are bound?"
You may conceive my astonishment on hearing such a question
addressed to me from a man on the brink of destruction and to whom
I should have supposed that my vessel would have been a resource
which he would not have exchanged for the most precious wealth the
earth can afford. I replied, however, that we were on a voyage of
discovery towards the northern pole.
Upon hearing this he appeared satisfied and consented to come on board.
Good God! Margaret, if you had seen the man who thus capitulated for
his safety, your surprise would have been boundless. His limbs were
nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering.
I never saw a man in so wretched a condition. We attempted to carry him
into the cabin, but as soon as he had quitted the fresh air he fainted.
We accordingly brought him back to the deck and restored him to animation
by rubbing him with brandy and forcing him to swallow a small quantity.
As soon as he showed signs of life we wrapped him up in blankets and
placed him near the chimney of the kitchen stove. By slow degrees
he recovered and ate a little soup, which restored him wonderfully.
Two days passed in this manner before he was able to speak, and I
often feared that his sufferings had deprived him of understanding.
When he had in some measure recovered, I removed him to my own cabin
and attended on him as much as my duty would permit. I never saw a more
interesting creature: his eyes have generally an expression of wildness,
and even madness, but there are moments when, if anyone performs an act
of kindness towards him or does him the most trifling service,
his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of
benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled. But he is
generally melancholy and despairing, and sometimes he gnashes his teeth,
as if impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him.
When my guest was a little recovered I had great trouble to keep off the men,
who wished to ask him a thousand questions; but I would not allow him to be
tormented by their idle curiosity, in a state of body and mind whose
restoration evidently depended upon entire repose. Once, however,
the lieutenant asked why he had come so far upon the ice in so
strange a vehicle.
His countenance instantly assumed an aspect of the deepest gloom,
and he replied, "To seek one who fled from me."
"And did the man whom you pursued travel in the same fashion?"
"Then I fancy we have seen him, for the day before we picked you up
we saw some dogs drawing a sledge, with a man in it, across the ice."
This aroused the stranger's attention, and he asked a multitude of
questions concerning the route which the demon, as he called him,
had pursued. Soon after, when he was alone with me, he said,
"I have, doubtless, excited your curiosity, as well as that of
these good people; but you are too considerate to make inquiries."
"Certainly; it would indeed be very impertinent and inhuman in me
to trouble you with any inquisitiveness of mine."
"And yet you rescued me from a strange and perilous situation;
you have benevolently restored me to life."
Soon after this he inquired if I thought that the breaking up of
the ice had destroyed the other sledge. I replied that I could not
answer with any degree of certainty, for the ice had not broken
until near midnight, and the traveller might have arrived at a
place of safety before that time; but of this I could not judge.
From this time a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame of
the stranger. He manifested the greatest eagerness to be upon deck
to watch for the sledge which had before appeared; but I have
persuaded him to remain in the cabin, for he is far too weak to
sustain the rawness of the atmosphere. I have promised that
someone should watch for him and give him instant notice if
any new object should appear in sight.
Such is my journal of what relates to this strange occurrence up to
the present day. The stranger has gradually improved in health but
is very silent and appears uneasy when anyone except myself enters
his cabin. Yet his manners are so conciliating and gentle that the
sailors are all interested in him, although they have had very
little communication with him. For my own part, I begin to love
him as a brother, and his constant and deep grief fills me with
sympathy and compassion. He must have been a noble creature in his
better days, being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable.
I said in one of my letters, my dear Margaret, that I should find
no friend on the wide ocean; yet I have found a man who, before his
spirit had been broken by misery, I should have been happy to have
possessed as the brother of my heart.
I shall continue my journal concerning the stranger at intervals,
should I have any fresh incidents to record.
August 13th, 17-
My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once
my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see
so noble a creature destroyed by misery without feeling the most
poignant grief? He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated,
and when he speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art,
yet they How with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence. He is now much
recovered from his illness and is continually on the deck, apparently
watching for the sledge that preceded his own. Yet, although unhappy,
he is not so utterly occupied by his own misery but that he interests
himself deeply in the projects of others. 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 drunk 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, but 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. I once had a friend,
the most noble of human creatures, and am entitled, therefore,
to judge respecting friendship. You have hope, and the world
before you, and have no cause for despair. But I--I have lost
everything and cannot begin life anew."
As he said this his countenance became expressive of a calm,
settled grief that touched me to the heart. But he was silent
and presently retired to his cabin.
Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than
he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every
sight afforded by these wonderful regions seem still to have the
power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double
existence: he may suffer misery and be overwhelmed by disappointments,
yet when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit
that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.
Will you smile at the enthusiasm I express concerning this divine
wanderer? 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.
August 19, 17-
Yesterday the stranger said to me, "You may easily perceive, Captain
Walton, that I have suffered great and unparalleled misfortunes.
I had determined at one time that the memory of these evils
should die with me, but you have won me to alter my determination.
You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently
hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent
to sting you, as mine has been. I do not know that the relation
of my disasters will be useful to you; yet, when I reflect that
you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same
dangers which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may
deduce an apt moral from my tale, one that 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 but that my tale conveys
in its series internal evidence of the truth of the events of which
it is composed."
You may easily imagine that I was much gratified by the offered
communication, yet I could not endure that he should renew his grief
by a recital of his misfortunes. I felt the greatest eagerness
to hear the promised narrative, partly from curiosity and partly
from a strong desire to ameliorate his fate if it were in my power.
I expressed these feelings in my answer.
"I thank you," he replied, "for your sympathy, but it is useless;
my fate is nearly fulfilled. I wait but for one event, and then I
shall repose in peace. I understand your feeling," continued he,
perceiving that I wished to interrupt him; "but you are mistaken,
my friend, if thus you will allow me to name you; nothing can alter
my destiny; listen to my history, and you will perceive how
irrevocably it is determined."
He then told me that he would commence his narrative the next day when
I should be at leisure. This promise drew from me the warmest thanks.
I have resolved every night, when I am not imperatively occupied
by my duties, to record, as nearly as possible in his own words,
what he has related during the day. If I should be engaged,
I will at least make notes. This manuscript will doubtless afford
you the greatest pleasure; but to me, who know him, and who hear it
from his own lips--with what interest and sympathy shall I read
it in some future day! 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!
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus