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EDINBURGH MAGAZINE. .

No XII.

MARCH 1818.

VOL. II.

*

REMARKS ON FRANKENSTEIN, OR THE To describe its effect upon the mind MODERN PROMETHEUS; A NOVEL. of the human personages engaged in

its wonders, and dragged along by its Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay machinery, is comparatively an infeTo mould me man ? Did I solicit thee rior object. The hero and heroine, From darkness to promote me ?

partakers of the supernatural character Paradise Lost. which belongs to their adventures,

walk the maze of enchantment with This is a novel, or more properly a a firm and undaunted step, and apromantic fiction, of a nature so peculiar, pear as much at their ease, amid the that we ought to describe the species wonders around them, as the young before attempting any account of the fellow described by the Spectator, who individual production.

was discovered taking a snuff with The first general division of works great composure in the midst of a of fiction, into such as bound the stormy ocean, represented on the stage events they narrate by the actual laws of the Opera. of nature, and such as, passing these A more philosophical and refined limits, are managed by marvellous use of the supernatural in works of and supernatural machinery, is suf- fiction, is proper to that class in which ficiently obvious and decided. But the laws of nature are represented as the class of marvellous romances ad. altered, not for the purpose

of

pammits of several subdivisions. In the pering the imagination with wonders, earlier productions of imagination, the but in order to shew the probable poet or tale-teller does not, in his effect which the supposed miracles own opinion, transgress the laws of would produce on those who witeredibility, when he introduces into nessed them. In this case, the pleahis narration the witches, goblins, and sure ordinarily derived from the marmagicians, in the existence of which vellous incidents is secondary to that he himself, as well as his hearers, is which we extract from observing how a firm believer. This good faith, mortals like ourselves would be afhowever, passes away, and works fected, turning upon the marvellous are writ- By scenes like these wh daring to depart ten and read merely on account of the From sober truth, are still to nature true. exercise which they afford to the ima- Even in the description of his margination of those who, like the poet vels, however, the author, who maCollins, love to riot in the luxuriance nages this style of composition with of oriental fiction, to rove through the address, gives them an indirect immeanders of enchantment, to gaze on portance with the reader, when he is the magnificence of golden palaces, able to describe, with nature and with and to repose by the waterfalls of truth, the effects which they are calcuElysian gardens. In this species of lated to produce upon his dramatis composition, the marvellous is itself personæ. It will be remembered, that the principal and most important ob- the sapient Partridge was too wise to ject both to the author and reader. be terrified at the mere appearance of

the ghost of Hamlet, whom he knew • Frankenstein ; or, the Modern Prome

to be a man dressed up in pasteboard theus. 3 vols 12mo. 16s. 6d. Lackington armour for the nonce: it was when he and Co. London. 1818.

saw the “ little man,” as he called Garrick, so frightened, that a sympa- stances in which they are placed, acthetic horror took hold of him. Of cording to the rules of probability, and this we shall presently produce some the nature of the human heart. In examples from the narrative before us.

this view, the probable is far from But success in this point is still being laid out of sight even amid the subordinate to the author's principal wildest freaks of imagination ; on the object, which is less to produce an contrary, we grant the extraordinary effect by means of the marvels of the postulates which the author demands narrations, than to open new trains and as the foundation of his narrative, channels of thought, by placing men only on condition of his deducing the in supposed situations of an extraordi

consequer.ces with logical precision. nary and preternatural character, and We have only to add, that this then describing the mode of feeling class of fiction has been sometimes and conduct which they are most likely applied to the purposes of political to adopt.

satire, and sometimes to the general To make more clear the distinction illustration of the powers and workings we have endeavoured to draw between of the human mind. Swift, Bergerac, the marvellous and the effects of the and others, have employed it for the marvellous, considered as separate ob- former purpose, and a good illustrajects, we may briefly invite our readers tion of the latter is the well known to compare the common tale of Tom Saint Leon of William Godwin. In this Thumb with Gulliver's Voyage to latter work, assuming the possibility of Brobdingnag; one of the most childish the transmutation of metals and of the fictions, with one which is pregnant elixir vitæ, the author has deduced, in with wit and satire, yet both turning the course of his narrative, the proupon the same assumed possibility bable consequences of the possession of the existence of a pigmy among of such secrets upon the fortunes and a race of giants. In the former mind of him who might enjoy them. case, when the imagination of the Frankenstein is a novel upon the same story-teller has exhausted itself in plan with Saint Leon ; it is said to be every species of hyperbole, in order to written by Mr Percy Bysshe Shelley, describe the diminutive size of his who, if we are rightly informed, is hero, the interest of the tale is at an son-in-law to Mr Godwin ; and it is end; but in the romance of the Dean inscribed to that ingenious author. of St Patrick's, the exquisite humour In the preface, the author lays claim with which the natural consequences to rank his work among the class of so strange and unusual a situation which we have endeavoured to deis detailed, has a canvass on which to scribe. expand itself, as broad as the luxuri. ance even of the author's talents could “ The event on which this fiction is desire. Gulliver stuck into a marrow

founded has been supposed by Dr Darwin, bone, and Master Thomas Thumb's and some of the physiological writers of disastrous fall into the bowl of hasty- I shall not be supposed as according the re

Germany, as not of impossible occurrence. pudding, are, in the general outline, motest degree of serious faith to sach an kindred incidents; but the jest is ex- imagination ; yet, in assuming it as the hausted in the latter case, when the basis of a work of fancy, I have not conaccident is told; whereas in the former, sidered myself as merely weaving a series it lies not so much in the comparative- of supernatural terrors. The event, on ly pigmy size which subjected Gul- which the interest of the story depends, is liver to such a ludicrous misfortune, exempt from the disadvantages of a mere

It was reas in the tone of grave and dignified commended by the novelty of the situations

tale of spectres or enchantment. feeling with which

he resents the dis- which it developes; and, however imposgrace of the incident.

sible as a physical fact, affords a point of In the class of fictitious narrations view to the imagination for the delineating to which we allude, the author opens of human passions more comprehensive and a sort of account-current with the commanding than any which the ordinary reader ; drawing upon him, in the relations of existing events can yield. first place, for credit to that degree of

“ I have thus endeavoured to preserve the the marvellous which he proposes to

truth of the elementary principles of human employ; and becoming virtually bound, nature, while I have not scrupled to inno

vate upon their combinations. The Iliad, in consequence of this indulgence, that the tragic poetry of Greece.—Shakspeare, his personages shall conduct them- in the Tempest and Midsummer Night's selves, in the extraordinary circum- Dream,—and most especially Milton, in Paradise Lost, conform to this rule; and of modern chemistry, as well as of the most humble novellist, who seeks to natural philosophy, in all its branches. confer or receive amusement from his la- Prosecuting these sciences into their bours, may, without presumption, apply to innermost and most abstruse recesses, prose fiction a license, or rather a rule, with unusual talent and unexampled from the adoption of which so many exquisite combinations of human feeling have success, he at length makes that disresulted in the highest specimens of poetry.'

covery on which the marvellous part We shall, without farther preface, of the work is grounded. His attendetail the particulars of the singular tion had been especially bound to the story, which is thus introduced.

structure of the human frame and of A vessel, engaged in a voyage of dis- the principle of life. He engaged in covery to the North Pole, having be- physiological researches of the most come embayed among the ice at a very recondite and abstruse nature, searchhigh latitude, the crew, and particu- ing among charnel vaults and in dislarly the captain or owner of the ship, section-rooms, and the objects most inare surprised at perceiving a gigantic supportable to the delicacy of human form pass at some distance from them, feelings, in order to trace the minute on a car drawn by dogs, in a place chain of causation which takes place where they conceived no mortal could in the change from life to death, and exist. While they are speculating on

from death to life. In the midst of this this singular apparition, a thaw com

darkness a light broke in upon him. mences, and disengages them from “ Remember,” says his narrative, “I their precarious situation. On the am not recording the vision of a madman. next morning they pick up, upon a

The sun does not more certainly shine in

the heavens than that which I now affirm is floating fragment of the broken ice, a

true. Some miracle might have produced sledge like that they had before seen, it, yet the stages of the discovery were diswith a human being in the act of pe tinct and probable. After days and nights rishing. He is with difficulty recalled of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded to life, and proves to be a young man in discovering the cause of generation and of the most amiable manners and ex- life ; nay, niore, 1. became myself capable of tended acquirements, but, extenuated bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.” by fatigue, wrapped in dejection and This wonderful discovery impelled gloom of the darkest kind. The cap- Frankenstein to avail himself of his tain of the ship, a gentleman whose art, by the creation (if we dare to call ardent love of science had engaged it so) or formation of a living and him on an expedition so dangerous, sentient being. As the minuteness of becomes attached to the stranger, and the parts formed a great difficulty, he at length extorts from him the won- constructed the figure which he proderful tale of his misery, which he posed to animate of a gigantic size, thus attains the means of preserving that is, about eight feet high, and from oblivion,

strong and large in proportion. The Frankenstein describes himself as a feverish anxiety with

which the young native of Geneva, born and bred up philosopher toils through the horrors in the bosom of domestic love and af- of his secret task, now dabbling among fection. His father-his friend Henry the unhallowed reliques of the grave, Clerval-Elizabeth, an orphan of ex- and now torturing the living animal treme beauty and talent, bred up in to animate the lifeless clay, are dethe same house with him, are possessed scribed generally, but with great vigour of all the qualifications which could of language. Although supported by render him happy as a son, a friend, the hope of producing a new species and a lover. In the course of his that should bless him as his creator studies he becomes acquainted with and source, he nearly sinks under the the works of Cornelius Agrippa, and protracted labour, and loathsome deother authors treating of occult philo- tails, of the work he had undertaken ; sophy, un whose venerable tomes mo- and scarcely is his fatal enthusiasm dern neglect has scattered no slight sufficient to support his nerves, or aniportion of dust. Frankenstein remains mate his resolution. The result of ignorant of the contempt in which his this extraordinary discovery it would favourites are held, until he is se- be unjust to give in any words save parated from his family to pursue his those of the author. We shall give it studies at the university of Ingolstadt. at length, as an excellent specimen of Here he is introduced to the wonders the style and manner of the work. VOL. II.

4 L

“ It was on a dreary night of November not hear; one hand was stretched out, that I beheld the accomplishment of my seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and toils. With an anxiety that almost amount- rushed down stairs. I took refuge in the ed to agony, I collected the instruments of court-yard belonging to the house which I life around me, that I might infuse a spark inhabited; where I remained during the of being into the lifeless thing that lay at rest of the night, walking up and down in my feet. It was already one in the morn- the greatest agitation, listening attentively, ing; the rain pattered dismally against the catching and fearing each sound as if it panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, were to announce the approach of the dewhen, by the glimmer of the half-extin- moniacal corpse to which I had so miserably guished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of given life. the creature open ; it breathed hard, and a “Oh! no mortal could support the horror convulsive motion agitated its limbs. of that countenance. A mummy again en.

“ How can I describe my emotions at this dued with animation could not be so hideous catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch as that wretch. I had gazed on him while whom with such infinite pains and care I unfinished; he was ugly then ; but when had endeavoured to form ? His limbs were those muscles and joints were rendered capain proportion, and I had selected his fea- ble of motion, it became a thing such as tures as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! even Dante could not have conceived. His yellow skin scarcely covered the work “ I passed the night wretchedly. Someof muscles and arteries beneath ; his hair times my pulse beat so quickly and hardly, was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his that I felt the palpitation of every artery; teeth of a pearly whiteness ; but these luxu- at others, I nearly sank to the ground, riances only formed a more horrid contrast through languor and extreme weakness. with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitter. the same colour as the dun white sockets in

ness of disappointment: dreams, that had which they were set his shrivelled com- been my food and pleasant rest for so long plexion, and straight black lips.

a space, were now become a hell to me; “ The different accidents of life are not and the change was so rapid, the overthrow so changeable as the feelings of human na- so complete ! ture. I had worked hard for nearly two “ Morning, dismal and wet, at length years, for the sole purpose of infusing life dawned, and discovered, to my sleepless and into an inanimate body. For this I had de aching eyes, the church of Ingolstadt, its prived myself of rest and health. I had de- white steeple and clock, which indicated the sired it with an ardour that far exceeded sixth hour. The porter opened the gates moderation ; but now that I had finished, of the court, which had that night been the beauty of the dream vanished, and my asylum, and I issued into the streets, breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. pacing them with quick steps, as if I sought Unable to endure the aspect of the being I to avoid the wretch whom I feared every had created, I rushed out of the room, and turning of the street would present to my continued a long time traversing my bed view. I did not dare return to the apartchamber, unable to compose my mind to ment which I inhabited, but felt impelled sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the to hurry on, although wetted by the rain, tumult I had before endured ; and I threw which poured from a black and comfortless myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavour- sky. ing to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. “ I continued walking in this manner But it was in vain : I slept indeed, but I for some time, endeavouring, by bodily ex. was disturbed by the wildest dreams. Iercise, to ease the load that weighed upon thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of my mind. I traversed the streets without health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. any clear conception of where I was or what Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; I was doing. My heart palpitated in the but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, sickness of fear; and I hurried on with irthey became livid with the hue of death; regular steps, not daring to look about me: her features appeared to change, and I • Like one who, on a lonely road, thought that I held the corpse of my dead Doth walk in fear and dread, mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped And, having once turn'd round, walks on, her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawl. And turns no more his head; ing in the folds of the flannel. I started Because he knows a frightful fiend from my sleep with horror; a cold dew Doth close behind him tread*.” covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, He is relieved by the arrival of the and every limb became convulsed ; when, diligence from Geneva, out of which by the dim, and yellow light of the moon, jumps his friend Henry Clerval, who as it forced its way through the window- had come to spend a season at the colshutters, I beheld the wretch-the miserable munster whom I had created. He held his lodgings, which, he supposed, must

lege. Compelled to carry Clervat to up the curtain of the bed ; and his

eyes, eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. still contain the prodigious and hideous His jaws opened, and he muttered some in- specimen of his Promethean art, his articulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cliceks. He might have spoken, but I did * Coleridge's “ Ancient Mariner."

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