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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 03
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Chapter 3

When I had attained the age of seventeen my parents resolved that I
should become a student at the university of Ingolstadt. I had
hitherto attended the schools of Geneva, but my father thought it
necessary for the completion of my education that I should be made
acquainted with other customs than those of my native country. My
departure was therefore fixed at an early date, but before the day
resolved upon could arrive, the first misfortune of my life
occurred--an omen, as it were, of my future misery. Elizabeth had
caught the scarlet fever; her illness was severe, and she was in the
greatest danger. During her illness many arguments had been urged to
persuade my mother to refrain from attending upon her. She had at
first yielded to our entreaties, but when she heard that the life of
her favourite was menaced, she could no longer control her anxiety. She
attended her sickbed; her watchful attentions triumphed over the
malignity of the distemper--Elizabeth was saved, but the consequences
of this imprudence were fatal to her preserver. On the third day my
mother sickened; her fever was accompanied by the most alarming
symptoms, and the looks of her medical attendants prognosticated the
worst event. On her deathbed the fortitude and benignity of this best
of women did not desert her. She joined the hands of Elizabeth and
myself. "My children," she said, "my firmest hopes of future happiness
were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now
be the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply
my place to my younger children. Alas! I regret that I am taken from
you; and, happy and beloved as I have been, is it not hard to quit you
all? But these are not thoughts befitting me; I will endeavour to
resign myself cheerfully to death and will indulge a hope of meeting
you in another world."

She died calmly, and her countenance expressed affection even in death.
I need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent
by that most irreparable evil, the void that presents itself to the
soul, and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance. It is so
long before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day
and whose very existence appeared a part of our own can have departed
forever--that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been
extinguished and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear
can be hushed, never more to be heard. These are the reflections of
the first days; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the
evil, then the actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has
not that rude hand rent away some dear connection? And why should I
describe a sorrow which all have felt, and must feel? The time at
length arrives when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and
the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a
sacrilege, is not banished. My mother was dead, but we had still
duties which we ought to perform; we must continue our course with the
rest and learn to think ourselves fortunate whilst one remains whom the
spoiler has not seized.

My departure for Ingolstadt, which had been deferred by these events,
was now again determined upon. I obtained from my father a respite of
some weeks. It appeared to me sacrilege so soon to leave the repose,
akin to death, of the house of mourning and to rush into the thick of
life. I was new to sorrow, but it did not the less alarm me. I was
unwilling to quit the sight of those that remained to me, and above
all, I desired to see my sweet Elizabeth in some degree consoled.

She indeed veiled her grief and strove to act the comforter to us all.
She looked steadily on life and assumed its duties with courage and
zeal. She devoted herself to those whom she had been taught to call
her uncle and cousins. Never was she so enchanting as at this time,
when she recalled the sunshine of her smiles and spent them upon us.
She forgot even her own regret in her endeavours to make us forget.

The day of my departure at length arrived. Clerval spent the last
evening with us. He had endeavoured to persuade his father to permit
him to accompany me and to become my fellow student, but in vain. His
father was a narrow-minded trader and saw idleness and ruin in the
aspirations and ambition of his son. Henry deeply felt the misfortune
of being debarred from a liberal education. He said little, but when
he spoke I read in his kindling eye and in his animated glance a
restrained but firm resolve not to be chained to the miserable details
of commerce.

We sat late. We could not tear ourselves away from each other nor
persuade ourselves to say the word "Farewell!" It was said, and we
retired under the pretence of seeking repose, each fancying that the
other was deceived; but when at morning's dawn I descended to the
carriage which was to convey me away, they were all there--my father
again to bless me, Clerval to press my hand once more, my Elizabeth to
renew her entreaties that I would write often and to bestow the last
feminine attentions on her playmate and friend.

I threw myself into the chaise that was to convey me away and indulged
in the most melancholy reflections. I, who had ever been surrounded by
amiable companions, continually engaged in endeavouring to bestow
mutual pleasure--I was now alone. In the university whither I was
going I must form my own friends and be my own protector. My life had
hitherto been remarkably secluded and domestic, and this had given me
invincible repugnance to new countenances. I loved my brothers,
Elizabeth, and Clerval; these were "old familiar faces," but I believed
myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers. Such were my
reflections as I commenced my journey; but as I proceeded, my spirits
and hopes rose. I ardently desired the acquisition of knowledge. I
had often, when at home, thought it hard to remain during my youth
cooped up in one place and had longed to enter the world and take my
station among other human beings. Now my desires were complied with,
and it would, indeed, have been folly to repent.

I had sufficient leisure for these and many other reflections during my
journey to Ingolstadt, which was long and fatiguing. At length the
high white steeple of the town met my eyes. I alighted and was
conducted to my solitary apartment to spend the evening as I pleased.

The next morning I delivered my letters of introduction and paid a
visit to some of the principal professors. Chance--or rather the evil
influence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway
over me from the moment I turned my reluctant steps from my father's
door--led me first to M. Krempe, professor of natural philosophy. He
was an uncouth man, but deeply imbued in the secrets of his science. He
asked me several questions concerning my progress in the different
branches of science appertaining to natural philosophy. I replied
carelessly, and partly in contempt, mentioned the names of my
alchemists as the principal authors I had studied. The professor
stared. "Have you," he said, "really spent your time in studying such
nonsense?"

I replied in the affirmative. "Every minute," continued M. Krempe with
warmth, "every instant that you have wasted on those books is utterly
and entirely lost. You have burdened your memory with exploded systems
and useless names. Good God! In what desert land have you lived,
where no one was kind enough to inform you that these fancies which you
have so greedily imbibed are a thousand years old and as musty as they
are ancient? I little expected, in this enlightened and scientific
age, to find a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. My dear
sir, you must begin your studies entirely anew."

So saying, he stepped aside and wrote down a list of several books
treating of natural philosophy which he desired me to procure, and
dismissed me after mentioning that in the beginning of the following
week he intended to commence a course of lectures upon natural
philosophy in its general relations, and that M. Waldman, a fellow
professor, would lecture upon chemistry the alternate days that he
omitted.

I returned home not disappointed, for I have said that I had long
considered those authors useless whom the professor reprobated; but I
returned not at all the more inclined to recur to these studies in any
shape. M. Krempe was a little squat man with a gruff voice and a
repulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in
favour of his pursuits. In rather a too philosophical and connected a
strain, perhaps, I have given an account of the conclusions I had come
to concerning them in my early years. As a child I had not been
content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural
science. With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my
extreme youth and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the
steps of knowledge along the paths of time and exchanged the
discoveries of recent inquirers for the dreams of forgotten
alchemists. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural
philosophy. It was very different when the masters of the science
sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand;
but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the inquirer seemed to
limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest
in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of
boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.

Such were my reflections during the first two or three days of my
residence at Ingolstadt, which were chiefly spent in becoming
acquainted with the localities and the principal residents in my new
abode. But as the ensuing week commenced, I thought of the information
which M. Krempe had given me concerning the lectures. And although I
could not consent to go and hear that little conceited fellow deliver
sentences out of a pulpit, I recollected what he had said of M.
Waldman, whom I had never seen, as he had hitherto been out of town.

Partly from curiosity and partly from idleness, I went into the
lecturing room, which M. Waldman entered shortly after. This professor
was very unlike his colleague. He appeared about fifty years of age,
but with an aspect expressive of the greatest benevolence; a few grey
hairs covered his temples, but those at the back of his head were
nearly black. His person was short but remarkably erect and his voice
the sweetest I had ever heard. He began his lecture by a
recapitulation of the history of chemistry and the various improvements
made by different men of learning, pronouncing with fervour the names
of the most distinguished discoverers. He then took a cursory view of
the present state of the science and explained many of its elementary
terms. After having made a few preparatory experiments, he concluded
with a panegyric upon modern chemistry, the terms of which I shall
never forget: "The ancient teachers of this science," said he,
"promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters
promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and
that the elixir of life is a chimera but these philosophers, whose
hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the
microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate
into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her
hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how
the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have
acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders
of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with
its own shadows."

Such were the professor's words--rather let me say such the words of
the fate--enounced to destroy me. As he went on I felt as if my soul
were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys were
touched which formed the mechanism of my being; chord after chord was
sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception,
one purpose. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of
Frankenstein--more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps
already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and
unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.

I closed not my eyes that night. My internal being was in a state of
insurrection and turmoil; I felt that order would thence arise, but I
had no power to produce it. By degrees, after the morning's dawn,
sleep came. I awoke, and my yesternight's thoughts were as a dream.
There only remained a resolution to return to my ancient studies and to
devote myself to a science for which I believed myself to possess a
natural talent. On the same day I paid M. Waldman a visit. His
manners in private were even more mild and attractive than in public,
for there was a certain dignity in his mien during his lecture which in
his own house was replaced by the greatest affability and kindness. I
gave him pretty nearly the same account of my former pursuits as I had
given to his fellow professor. He heard with attention the little
narration concerning my studies and smiled at the names of Cornelius
Agrippa and Paracelsus, but without the contempt that M. Krempe had
exhibited. He said that "These were men to whose indefatigable zeal
modern philosophers were indebted for most of the foundations of their
knowledge. They had left to us, as an easier task, to give new names
and arrange in connected classifications the facts which they in a
great degree had been the instruments of bringing to light. The
labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever
fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind." I
listened to his statement, which was delivered without any presumption
or affectation, and then added that his lecture had removed my
prejudices against modern chemists; I expressed myself in measured
terms, with the modesty and deference due from a youth to his
instructor, without letting escape (inexperience in life would have
made me ashamed) any of the enthusiasm which stimulated my intended
labours. I requested his advice concerning the books I ought to
procure.

"I am happy," said M. Waldman, "to have gained a disciple; and if your
application equals your ability, I have no doubt of your success.
Chemistry is that branch of natural philosophy in which the greatest
improvements have been and may be made; it is on that account that I
have made it my peculiar study; but at the same time, I have not
neglected the other branches of science. A man would make but a very
sorry chemist if he attended to that department of human knowledge
alone. If your wish is to become really a man of science and not
merely a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every
branch of natural philosophy, including mathematics." He then took me
into his laboratory and explained to me the uses of his various
machines, instructing me as to what I ought to procure and promising me
the use of his own when I should have advanced far enough in the
science not to derange their mechanism. He also gave me the list of
books which I had requested, and I took my leave.

Thus ended a day memorable to me; it decided my future destiny.


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