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 for ever 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 for ever 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
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.