TEXTS: 1818 EDITION : VOL. I
ON my return, I found the following letter from my father:—
"To V. FRANKENSTEIN.
"MY DEAR VICTOR,
"You have probably waited impatiently for a letter to fix the date of your return to us; and I was at first tempted
to write only a few lines, merely mentioning the day on which I should expect you. But that would be a cruel
kindness, and I dare not do it. What would be your surprise, my son, when you expected a happy and gay welcome, to
behold, on the contrary, tears and wretchedness? And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have
rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on an absent child? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but
I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page, to seek the words which are to convey to you the
dead!—that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay!
Victor, he is murdered!
"I will not attempt to console you; but will simply relate the circumstances of the
"Last Thursday (May 7th) I,
my niece, and your two brothers, went to walk in Plainpalais. The evening was warm and serene, and we prolonged our walk farther than usual. It was
already dusk before we thought of returning; and then we discovered that William and Ernest, who had gone on
before, were not to be found. We accordingly rested on a seat until they should return. Presently Ernest came, and inquired if we had seen his
brother: he said, that they had been playing together, that William had run away to hide himself, and that he
vainly sought for him, and afterwards waited for him a long time, but that he did not return.
"This account rather alarmed us, and we continued to search for him until night fell, when
Elizabeth conjectured that he might have returned to the house. He was not there. We returned again, with torches;
for I could not rest, when I thought that my sweet boy had lost himself, and was exposed to all the damps and dews
of night; Elizabeth also suffered extreme anguish. About five in the morning I discovered my lovely boy, whom the
night before I had seen blooming and active in health, stretched on the grass livid and motionless: the print of
the murderer's finger was on his neck.
"He was conveyed home, and the anguish that was visible in my countenance betrayed the
secret to Elizabeth. She was very earnest to see the corpse. At first I attempted to prevent her; but she
persisted, and entering the room where it lay, hastily examined the neck of the victim, and clasping her hands,
exclaimed, 'O God! I have murdered my darling infant!'
"She fainted, and was restored with extreme difficulty. When she again lived, it was only
to weep and sigh. She told me that that same evening William had teazed her to let him wear a very valuable
miniature that she possessed of your mother. This picture is gone, and was doubtless the temptation which urged
the murderer to the deed. We have no trace of him at present, although our exertions to discover him are
unremitted; but they will not restore my beloved William.
"Come, dearest Victor; you alone can console Elizabeth. She weeps continually, and accuses
herself unjustly as the cause of his death; her words pierce my heart. We are all unhappy; but will not that be an
additional motive for you, my son, to return and be our comforter? Your dear mother! Alas, Victor! I now say,
Thank God she did not live to witness the cruel, miserable death of her youngest darling!
"Come, Victor; not brooding thoughts of vengeance against the assassin, but with feelings
of peace and gentleness, that will heal, instead of festering the wounds of our minds. Enter the house of
mourning, my friend, but with kindness and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred for your enemies.
"Your affectionate and afflicted father,
"Geneva, May 12th, 17--."
Clerval, who had watched my countenance as I read this letter, was surprised to observe the
despair that succeeded to the joy I at first expressed on receiving news from my friends. I threw the letter on
the table, and covered my face with my hands.
"My dear Frankenstein," exclaimed Henry, when he perceived me weep with bitterness, "are
you always to be unhappy? My dear friend, what has happened?"
I motioned to him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down the room in the
extremest agitation. Tears also gushed from the eyes of Clerval, as he read the account of my misfortune.
"I can offer you no consolation, my friend," said he; "your disaster is irreparable. What
do you intend to do?"
"To go instantly to Geneva: come with me, Henry, to order the horses."
During our walk, Clerval endeavoured to raise my spirits. He did not do this by common
topics of consolation, but by exhibiting the truest sympathy. "Poor William!" said he, "that dear child; he now sleeps with his angel mother. His friends mourn and
weep, but he is at rest: he does not now feel the murderer's grasp; a sod covers his gentle form, and he knows no
pain. He can no longer be a fit subject for pity; the survivors are the greatest sufferers, and for them time is
the only consolation. Those maxims of the Stoics, that
death was no evil, and that the mind of man ought to be superior to despair on the eternal absence of a beloved
object, ought not to be urged. Even Cato wept over
the dead body of his brother."
Clerval spoke thus as we hurried through the streets; the words impressed themselves on my
mind, and I remembered them afterwards in solitude. But now, as soon as the horses arrived, I hurried into a cabriole, and bade farewell to my friend.
My journey was very melancholy. At first I wished to hurry on, for I longed to console and
sympathize with my loved and sorrowing friends; but when I drew near my native town, I slackened my progress. I
could hardly sustain the multitude of feelings that crowded into my mind. I passed through scenes familiar to my
youth, but which I had not seen for nearly six years. How altered every thing might be during that time? One
sudden and desolating change had taken place; but a thousand little circumstances might have by degrees worked
other alterations, which, although they were done more tranquilly, might not be the less decisive. Fear overcame
me; I dared not advance, dreading a thousand nameless
evils that made me tremble, although I was unable to define them.
I remained two days at Lausanne, in this painful state of mind. I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around was
calm, and the snowy mountains, "the palaces of
nature," were not changed. By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journey
The road ran by the side of the lake, which became narrower as I approached my native town.
I discovered more distinctly the black sides of
Jura, and the bright summit of Mont Blanc; I wept like a child: "Dear mountains! my own beautiful
lake! how do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear; the sky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to
prognosticate peace, or to mock at my unhappiness?"
I fear, my friend, that I shall
render myself tedious by dwelling on these preliminary
circumstances; but they were days of comparative happiness, and I think of them with pleasure. My country, my beloved country! who but a native
can tell the delight I took in again beholding thy streams, thy mountains, and, more than all, thy lovely
Yet, as I drew nearer home, grief and fear again overcame me. Night also closed around; and
when I could hardly see the dark mountains, I felt still more gloomily. The picture appeared a vast and dim scene
of evil, and I foresaw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretched of human beings. Alas! I
prophesied truly, and failed only in one single circumstance, that in all the misery I imagined and dreaded, I did
not conceive the hundredth part of the anguish I was
destined to endure.
It was completely dark when I arrived in the environs of Geneva; the gates of the town were already shut; and I was
obliged to pass the night at Secheron, a village
half a league to the east of the city. The sky was serene; and, as I was unable to rest, I resolved to visit the
spot where my poor William had been murdered. As I could not pass through the town, I was obliged to cross the
lake in a boat to arrive at Plainpalais. During this short voyage I saw the lightnings playing on the summit of Mont Blanc in the most beautiful figures. The storm
appeared to approach rapidly; and, on landing, I ascended a low hill, that I might observe its progress. It
advanced; the heavens were clouded, and I soon felt the rain coming slowly in large drops, but its violence
I quitted my seat, and walked on, although the darkness and storm increased every minute, and the thunder burst
with a terrific crash over my head. It was echoed from Salêve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy; vivid
flashes of lightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake, making it appear like a vast sheet of fire; then for
an instant everything seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the eye recovered itself from the preceding flash. The
storm, as is often the case in Switzerland, appeared at once in various parts of the heavens. The most violent
storm hung exactly north of the town, over that part of the lake which lies between the promontory of Belrive and the village of Copêt. Another storm enlightened Jura with
faint flashes; and another darkened and sometimes disclosed the Môle, a peaked mountain to the east of
While I watched the storm, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with a hasty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I
clasped my hands, and exclaimed aloud, "William, dear angel! this is thy funeral, this thy dirge!" As I said these
words, I perceived in the gloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me; I stood fixed, gazing
intently: I could not be mistaken. A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly
to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly
informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy
dæmon, to whom I had given life. What did he there? Could he be (I shuddered at the conception)
the murderer of my brother? No sooner did that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth; my
teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support. The figure passed me quickly, and I lost it
in the gloom. Nothing in human shape could have destroyed that fair child. He was the murderer! I could not
doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact. I thought of pursuing the devil; but it would have been in vain, for
another flash discovered him to me hanging among the rocks of the nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont Salêve, a hill that bounds Plainpalais
on the south. He soon reached the summit, and disappeared.
I remained motionless. The thunder ceased; but the rain still continued, and the scene was
enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I revolved in my mind the events which I had until now sought to forget:
the whole train of my progress towards the creation; the appearance of the work of my own hands alive at my
bed-side; its departure. Two years had now nearly elapsed since the night on which he first received life; and was this his first crime?
Alas! I had turned loose into the world a depraved
wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery; had he not murdered my brother?
No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder of the night, which I
spent, cold and wet, in the open air. But I did not feel the inconvenience of the weather; my imagination was busy in scenes of evil and despair. I
considered the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the will and power to effect purposes of
horror, such as the deed which he had now done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me.
Day dawned; and I directed my steps towards the town. The gates were open; and I hastened
to my father's house. My first thought was to discover what I knew of the murderer, and cause instant pursuit to
be made. But I paused when I reflected on the story that I had to tell. A being whom I myself had formed, and
endued with life, had met me at midnight among the precipices of an inaccessible mountain. I remembered also the
nervous fever with which I had been seized just
at the time that I dated my creation, and which would give an air of delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly
improbable. I well knew that if any other had communicated such a relation to me, I should have looked upon it as
the ravings of insanity. Besides, the strange
nature of the animal would elude all pursuit, even if I were so far credited as to persuade my relatives to
commence it. Besides, of what use would be pursuit? Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging
sides of Mont Salêve? These reflections determined me, and I resolved to remain silent.
It was about five in the morning when I entered my father's house. I told the servants not
to disturb the family, and went into the library to
attend their usual hour of rising.
Six years had elapsed, passed as a dream but for one indelible trace, and I stood in the
same place where I had last embraced my father before my departure for Ingolstadt. Beloved and respectable parent! He still remained to me. I
gazed on the picture of my mother, which stood over the mantlepiece. It was an historical subject, painted at my
father's desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father. Her garb
was rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air of dignity and beauty, that hardly permitted the sentiment of
pity. Below this picture was a miniature of William; and my tears flowed when I looked upon it. While I was thus
engaged, Ernest entered: he had heard me arrive, and hastened to welcome me. He expressed a sorrowful delight to
see me: "Welcome, my dearest Victor," said he. "Ah! I wish you had come three months ago, and then you would have
found us all joyous and delighted. But we are now unhappy; and, I am afraid, tears instead of smiles will be your
welcome. Our father looks so sorrowful: this dreadful event seems to have revived in his mind his grief on the
death of Mamma. Poor Elizabeth also is quite inconsolable." Ernest began to weep as he said these words.
"Do not," said I, "welcome me thus; try to be more calm, that I may not be absolutely
miserable the moment I enter my father's house after so long an absence. But, tell me, how does my father support
his misfortunes? and how is my poor Elizabeth?"
"She indeed requires consolation; she accused herself of having caused the death of my
brother, and that made her very wretched. But since the murderer has been discovered—"
"The murderer discovered!
Good God! how can that be? who could attempt to pursue him? it is impossible; one might as well try to overtake
the winds, or confine a mountain-stream with a straw."
"I do not know what you mean; but we were all very unhappy when she was discovered. No one
would believe it at first; and even now Elizabeth will not be convinced, notwithstanding all the evidence. Indeed,
who would credit that Justine Moritz, who was so amiable, and fond of all the family, could all at once become so
"Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it is wrongfully; every one knows
that; no one believes it, surely, Ernest?"
"No one did at first; but several circumstances came out, that have almost forced
conviction upon us: and her own behaviour has been so confused, as to add to the evidence of facts a weight that,
I fear, leaves no hope for doubt. But she will be tried to-day, and you will then hear all."
He related that, the morning on which the murder of poor William had been discovered,
Justine had been taken ill, and confined to her bed; and, after several days, one of the servants, happening to
examine the apparel she had worn on the night of the murder, had discovered in her pocket the picture of my
mother, which had been judged to be the temptation of the murderer. The servant instantly shewed it to one of the
others, who, without saying a word to any of the family, went to a magistrate; and, upon their deposition, Justine
was apprehended. On being charged with the fact, the poor girl confirmed the suspicion in a great measure by her
extreme confusion of manner.
This was a strange tale, but
it did not shake my faith; and I replied earnestly,
"You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor, good Justine, is innocent."
At that instant my father entered. I saw unhappiness deeply impressed on his countenance,
but he endeavoured to welcome me cheerfully; and, after we had exchanged our mournful greeting, would have
introduced some other topic than that of our disaster, had not Ernest exclaimed, "Good God, Papa! Victor says that
he knows who was the murderer of poor William."
"We do also, unfortunately," replied my father; "for indeed I had rather have been for ever
ignorant than have discovered so much depravity and
ingratitude in one I valued so highly."
"My dear father, you are mistaken; Justine is innocent."
"If she is, God forbid that
she should suffer as guilty. She is to be tried to-day, and I hope, I sincerely hope, that she will be
This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine, and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder. I
had no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could be brought forward strong enough to convict her;
and, in this assurance, I calmed myself, expecting the trial with eagerness, but without prognosticating an evil
We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had made great alterations in her form since I had
last beheld her. Six years before she had been a pretty, good-humoured girl, whom every one loved and caressed.
She was now a woman in stature and expression of countenance, which was uncommonly lovely. An open and capacious forehead gave indications of
a good understanding, joined to great frankness of
disposition. Her eyes were hazel, and expressive of mildness, now through recent affliction allied to
sadness. Her hair was of a rich dark auburn, her complexion fair, and her figure slight and graceful. She welcomed
me with the greatest affection. "Your arrival, my dear cousin," said she, "fills me with hope. You perhaps will
find some means to justify my poor guiltless Justine. Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime? I rely on
her innocence as certainly as I do upon my own. Our misfortune is doubly hard to us; we have not only lost that
lovely darling boy, but this poor girl, whom I sincerely love, is to be torn away by even a worse fate. If she is
condemned, I never shall know joy more. But she will not, I am sure she will not; and then I shall be happy again,
even after the sad death of my little William."
"She is innocent, my Elizabeth," said I, "and that shall be proved; fear nothing, but let
your spirits be cheered by the assurance of her acquittal."
"How kind you are! every one else
believes in her guilt, and that made me wretched; for I knew that it was impossible: and to see every one
else prejudiced in so deadly a manner, rendered me hopeless and despairing." She wept.
"Sweet niece," said my father, "dry your tears. If she is, as you believe, innocent, rely
on the justice of our judges, and the activity with
which I shall prevent the slightest shadow of partiality."
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table of contents / novel texts / 1818 edition / volume I / chapter 6