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Contents > Author > Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley > Frankenstein (Letter 2) 1797- 1851
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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein (Letter 2)
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Letter 2


To Mrs. Saville, England

Archangel, 28th March, 17--

How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and
snow! Yet a second step is taken towards my enterprise. I have hired
a vessel and am occupied in collecting my sailors; those whom I have
already engaged appear to be men on whom I can depend and are
certainly possessed of dauntless courage.

But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and
the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil, I
have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of
success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by
disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. I
shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor
medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man
who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine. You may
deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a
friend. I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a
cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my
own, to approve or amend my plans. How would such a friend repair the
faults of your poor brother! I am too ardent in execution and too
impatient of difficulties. But it is a still greater evil to me that I
am self-educated: for the first fourteen years of my life I ran wild
on a common and read nothing but our Uncle Thomas' books of voyages.
At that age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets of our own
country; but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power to derive
its most important benefits from such a conviction that I perceived the
necessity of becoming acquainted with more languages than that of my
native country. Now I am twenty-eight and am in reality more
illiterate than many schoolboys of fifteen. It is true that I have
thought more and that my daydreams are more extended and magnificent,
but they want (as the painters call it) KEEPING; and I greatly need a
friend who would have sense enough not to despise me as romantic, and
affection enough for me to endeavour to regulate my mind. Well, these
are useless complaints; I shall certainly find no friend on the wide
ocean, nor even here in Archangel, among merchants and seamen. Yet
some feelings, unallied to the dross of human nature, beat even in
these rugged bosoms. My lieutenant, for instance, is a man of
wonderful courage and enterprise; he is madly desirous of glory, or
rather, to word my phrase more characteristically, of advancement in
his profession. He is an Englishman, and in the midst of national and
professional prejudices, unsoftened by cultivation, retains some of the
noblest endowments of humanity. I first became acquainted with him on
board a whale vessel; finding that he was unemployed in this city, I
easily engaged him to assist in my enterprise. The master is a person
of an excellent disposition and is remarkable in the ship for his
gentleness and the mildness of his discipline. This circumstance,
added to his well-known integrity and dauntless courage, made me very
desirous to engage him. A youth passed in solitude, my best years
spent under your gentle and feminine fosterage, has so refined the
groundwork of my character that I cannot overcome an intense distaste
to the usual brutality exercised on board ship: I have never believed
it to be necessary, and when I heard of a mariner equally noted for his
kindliness of heart and the respect and obedience paid to him by his
crew, I felt myself peculiarly fortunate in being able to secure his
services. I heard of him first in rather a romantic manner, from a
lady who owes to him the happiness of her life. This, briefly, is his
story. Some years ago he loved a young Russian lady of moderate
fortune, and having amassed a considerable sum in prize-money, the
father of the girl consented to the match. He saw his mistress once
before the destined ceremony; but she was bathed in tears, and throwing
herself at his feet, entreated him to spare her, confessing at the same
time that she loved another, but that he was poor, and that her father
would never consent to the union. My generous friend reassured the
suppliant, and on being informed of the name of her lover, instantly
abandoned his pursuit. He had already bought a farm with his money, on
which he had designed to pass the remainder of his life; but he
bestowed the whole on his rival, together with the remains of his
prize-money to purchase stock, and then himself solicited the young
woman's father to consent to her marriage with her lover. But the old
man decidedly refused, thinking himself bound in honour to my friend,
who, when he found the father inexorable, quitted his country, nor
returned until he heard that his former mistress was married according
to her inclinations. "What a noble fellow!" you will exclaim. He is
so; but then he is wholly uneducated: he is as silent as a Turk, and a
kind of ignorant carelessness attends him, which, while it renders his
conduct the more astonishing, detracts from the interest and sympathy
which otherwise he would command.

Yet do not suppose, because I complain a little or because I can
conceive a consolation for my toils which I may never know, that I am
wavering in my resolutions. Those are as fixed as fate, and my voyage
is only now delayed until the weather shall permit my embarkation. The
winter has been dreadfully severe, but the spring promises well, and it
is considered as a remarkably early season, so that perhaps I may sail
sooner than I expected. I shall do nothing rashly: you know me
sufficiently to confide in my prudence and considerateness whenever the
safety of others is committed to my care.

I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my
undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of
the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which
I am preparing to depart. I am going to unexplored regions, to "the
land of mist and snow," but I shall kill no albatross; therefore do not
be alarmed for my safety or if I should come back to you as worn and
woeful as the "Ancient Mariner." You will smile at my allusion, but I
will disclose a secret. I have often attributed my attachment to, my
passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean to that
production of the most imaginative of modern poets. There is something
at work in my soul which I do not understand. I am practically
industrious--painstaking, a workman to execute with perseverance and
labour--but besides this there is a love for the marvellous, a belief
in the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out
of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited
regions I am about to explore. But to return to dearer considerations.
Shall I meet you again, after having traversed immense seas, and
returned by the most southern cape of Africa or America? I dare not
expect such success, yet I cannot bear to look on the reverse of the
picture. Continue for the present to write to me by every
opportunity: I may receive your letters on some occasions when I need
them most to support my spirits. I love you very tenderly. Remember
me with affection, should you never hear from me again.

Your affectionate brother,
Robert Walton
 

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