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.
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus