Contents Index

Wading Through Slaughter: John Hampden, Thomas Gray, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Iain Crawford

Studies in the Novel, 20:3 (Fall 1988), 249-61

{249} The recent and extraordinary burgeoning of scholarly interest in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has combined an increasing appreciation of the novel's psychological, mythic, and literary subtexts with a growing respect for the intellectual force and resilience of its youthful author.1 While following this general trend, my specific concern here is three-fold and touches upon several underlying areas of the text, examining aspects of its intertextuality which have not previously come to critical attention and relating these both to the narratorial postures of the principal male protagonist and to Mary Shelley herself in her relations with her father and her husband. Thus I hope, first, to explore a passing, yet revealing allusion the novel makes to John Hampden, a leader of the Parliamentary cause before and during the English Civil War. Secondly, I shall suggest that, through Hampden, Frankenstein is also indebted to Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Although this latter debt is one which has passed unnoticed in the attention given to more readily visible intertexts such as Paradise Lost, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, I hope to show that Frankenstein does indeed allude to Gray's poem and to argue that, as well as further enriching a novel already permeated with the texture of English literary discourse, these allusions help to develop the presentation of Victor's inner life and to place it in the larger mythic context of rebellion against divine authority. Finally, and as a matter of some interest in the case of a novel whose very genesis has always been problematic, I shall consider how the allusions to Hampden and Gray not only form an ironic commentary upon Victor's anti-patriarchal revolt but also intimate a covert response by Mary to an enthusiastic idealism in Percy and Godwin that she appears to have found at least partially suspect.

{250} John Hampden, who lived from 1594 to 1643, was "the richest commoner in England"2 and a figure of considerable importance both during the period leading up to the Civil War and, until his death, in the actual conflict itself. As the principal opponent of the royalist tax known as Ship-Money and as orchestrator of the Grand Remonstrance, a populist petition against the monarch, he was instrumental in focusing discontent with Charles I and thus in preparing the ground for the outbreak of the Civil War. Once the war began, he turned his abilities to military leadership, acting as one of Cromwell's principal generals until being mortally wounded in a minor skirmish near Chillingworth in 1643. Posthumously, Hampden gained the reputation of having been a martyr to the cause of national liberty and, in the words of his most recent biographer, his name thus "entered the language as a symbol for patriotism."3

Not perhaps surprisingly, it was in this light that he was viewed by the more liberal writers of the early nineteenth century. Percy Shelley makes numerous enthusiastic allusions to Hampden, commenting, for example, on the less than entirely Glorious Revolution, "my blood boils to think that Sidney's and Hampden's blood was wasted thus." A response containing similar approbation if slightly less hyperbolic language is also to be found in Godwin's 1824 volume, History of the Commonwealth of England, where Hampden is described as "one of the most extraordinary men in the records of mankind." Less extravagantly and in a manner characteristic of his influence upon early Victorian thought, Carlyle set the tone for a revival of interest in Hampden with an 1822 notebook entry:

Hampden and Washington are the two people best loved of any in history. Yet they had few illustrious qualities about them; only a high degree of shrewd business-like activity, and above all that honest-hearted unaffected probity, which we patriotically name English, in a higher degree than almost any public men commemorated in history.
The Whig historian, Lord Nugent, followed in much the same vein with his 1831 biography of Hampden, a book that occasioned a lively debate over Hampden's historical status and which in particular prompted a celebrated response from Macaulay. Further evidence of a continuing interest in Hampden is offered by the attention John Forster gives him in an 1837 volume in the Cabinet Cyclopedia series, and it was only when Carlyle redefined discussion of the Civil War with his 1845 edition of Cromwell's Letters and Speeches that Hampden was superseded in early Victorian thought by his more celebrated cousin.4

In Frankenstein, Hampden makes what at first seems a somewhat gratuitous appearance during chapter 19 when Victor and Henry Clerval prolong their journey towards Scotland by remaining some time in Oxford and indulging themselves with frequent excursions into the surrounding area:

{251} 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.5
Hampden's presence at this point in the novel may be owing to any or all of three possible factors: the enthusiasm for him which Percy and Godwin frequently expressed; a perhaps not entirely unrelated visit to his monument which Godwin and his daughter made in October 1817, during the period of preparing Frankenstein for the press, and which Mary records in her Journal;6 and, finally, his wider reputation in English writing -- in particular, a reference to him in Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. While the exact reasons for his entering Shelley's novel remain elusive, his significance in the text is, if by no means simple, then perhaps more readily decipherable.

Though Hampden was seen by progressive writers as an opponent of political repression and a martyr who died in the cause of liberty, his life and career were also open to interpretation as an exemplar of the ambivalencies of revolutionary action. In particular, as a leader of the Parliamentary cause and thus an opponent of Charles I, God's representative upon British soil, he could easily be regarded as a precursor of that tendency to resist patriarchal authority which had, since 1789, become such a fundamental and unsettling motif of European culture. The ambivalence of such revolts is, of course, central to Frankenstein and, indeed, immediately before he recounts the visit to Hampden's tomb, Victor himself describes Oxford and nostalgically remembers how "the memory of that unfortunate king . . . gave a peculiar interest to every part of the city" (p. 159). As is so characteristic of his narrative, he thus incorporates into the text implications of which he is unaware and which, in fact, ironically undermine his own positions. For, while associating himself with Hampden and his usurpation of the monarch's divinely-bestowed power, Victor also appears to be sentimentally bonded to remembrances of the unfortunate king; he thereby articulates an uncertainty that both lies at the very heart of his anti-patriarchal revolt and which also constantly threatens to undermine the stability of his narrative as a whole.

As has been widely noted, Victor's entire project is fundamentally motivated by the terms of his relationship with his own father, since it is in essence his response to that expulsion from domestic bliss into the larger world which initiates the novel's main action. Even here, however, his motivations are characteristically ambivalent and go beyond any simple attempt to revenge himself upon the ostensibly tyrannical parent who orders his initial separation from the secure world of childhood. For he is not unaware that, in being forced out of the nest, he is also embarking upon a voyage of {252} discovery; as M. Krempe reminds him soon after his arrival in Ingolstadt, he has been living in a "desert land" (p. 46) and will only fulfil his potential by embracing the opportunities available in the larger world. Nevertheless, the purity of Victor's scientific pursuits is clearly qualified by a complex of motivations that involves his feelings towards his father, dead mother, and Elizabeth, and, while the exact balance of his inner life may remain open to debate, there can be no doubting the part in it of an intensely rebellious anti-patriarchal impulse. Paradoxically, however, his revolt includes the desire to attain the very degree of control against which he himself rebels:

Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. (p. 54)
In actuality, of course, Victor is to prove a less than happy originator of the species and will be incessantly wracked by the oscillations in his feelings towards the creature he has made.

As his narrative develops, moreover, such confusions in his roles as both son and parent become ever more manifest. On the one hand, he will align himself with the Monster by revealing a submerged self-perception in the terms of Satan's rebellion against his tyrannical father (p. 182). On the other, he greets M. Frankenstein's arrival at the Irish jail rapturously: "the appearance of my father was to me like that of my good angel, and I gradually recovered my health" (p. 181). In an apparent endeavor to resolve this contradiction, he resorts to the stratagem of finding justification for his revenge by presenting it as a mission of justice "enjoined by heaven" (p. 204), which, he feels, guides him across the wastes of Europe in search of his enemy. Notwithstanding this evidently specious device, he and his creation, in fact, move towards and then past one another until, by the final phase of the novel and during the pursuit across the Arctic, hunter and hunted seem almost indistinguishable: for Victor sinks into the obsessive, hateful spirit of revenge that had earlier motivated the Monster, while his quarry takes on that mantle of eloquent sensitivity which had first attracted Walton to the dying scientist. Ultimately, however, each recognizes the sterility of his life and, though Victor never does quite renounce his rebellious ambitions completely, both he and the Monster end the novel in the utter defeat of having destroyed all those to whom they have ties and, in particular, the patriarchs from whom they derive their existences and much of their signification.

While it would certainly be extravagant to suggest that Shelley reinterprets John Hampden as radically as she and other Romantic writers metamorphosed the Satan of Paradise Lost, her allusion may nevertheless be seen as offering {253} a somewhat less straightforward interpretation than that widely current in the early nineteenth century. Indeed, such ambivalence is entirely characteristic of a novel whose principal quality is its sense of the final undecidability of human motivation and behavior, a sense evident in the presentations of both Hampden and Victor Frankenstein. If in Victor's eyes Hampden is a glorious rebel and martyr, a prototype of his own struggle against patriarchal authority, both historical precedent and the text itself remind us of the penalty often exacted for such rebellions. For Hampden, the price to be paid was death in an obscure skirmish and the loss of opportunity to see the outcome of his efforts for the revolution; Victor, too, dies, but with a more confirmed sense of failure and defeat. And yet, just as Victor refuses entirely to abandon his dreams at the last, so too Hampden's cause would triumph, even though it may be wondered how he would have reacted to the eventual course Cromwell's revolutionary rule took. Both history and the literary text thus seem to pass mixed verdicts upon their subjects, then: while they condemn Hampden and Victor to their respective defeats, they also still manage to suggest simultaneously both the magnitude of individual aspiration and achievement and yet also a tantalizing sense of the constraints which mortality places upon human ambition, knowledge, and endeavor.

With Victor himself, it is precisely the habit of mind which conditions his comments upon Hampden that leads to failure. For his attitude to the Parliamentary leader suggests an inability to escape from paradigmatic perceptions in his viewing of the world around him. Like the Monster, Victor is incapable of seeing life other than through inherited patterns of literary discourse, and, while the Monster has good reason for basing his perceptions upon the texts which are almost his only source of knowledge, Victor himself cannot be so readily excused. William Veeder has recently argued that Victor has the mind of a Gothic protagonist and that he sees the entire world in the terms of Gothic fiction.7 Similarly, I would suggest, he also regards himself as a latter-day Hampden, a Romantic version of the figure Clarendon described as almost the savior of his age: "And I am persuaded his power and interest at that time was greater to do good or hurt than any man's in the kingdom, or than any man in his rank hath had in any time."8 Victor likewise considers himself to possess the ability to bestow unique blessings upon mankind, a notion which proves extremely corrosive since it enables him to cloak the chaos of his inner life in a veil of benevolence and thus to proceed along his grisly trail unhindered, indeed perversely encouraged, by the proddings of his conscience. And yet, so great is the need to construct layers of protective auto-valorization about himself that even this level of self-defence does not prove sufficient, and he appears ever more concerned to present himself as speaking his own elegy and to justify, if hardly the ways of God to man, then surely his own motivations and actions.

{254} For, if his allusion to Hampden derives in part from a broad cultural interest in the man, it may also simultaneously owe something to a parallel literary source -- that of Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, where reference is made to the fallen martyr:

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little Tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.9
Circumstantially, there are several reasons to assume that the Elegy was, indeed, an influence upon Frankenstein: the emphasis here is evidently in the mainstream of historical interpretation of Hampden's role; the poem itself was a central intertext in the Romantics' definition of the nature and function of poetry; and its elegiac stance towards a melancholy subject is a posture which offers considerable attractions to Victor's sense of his own narrative.

Gray's poem achieved enormous popularity upon its publication in 1751 and rapidly became a touchstone of the English literary imagination. Johnson's celebrated description of its abounding with "images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo," and his judgement that "Had Gray written often thus, it had been vain to blame, and useless to praise him" readily suggest the power the Elegy soon came to have. The duality lurking in this latter comment, however, is developed further in Romantic responses both to the poem itself and to its author's wider achievement. Thus while Wordsworth in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads was to pillorize Gray as epitomizing the limitations of eighteenth-century poetic style, the Elegy itself seems to have remained immune to attack and become a text held in near universal affection and respect. In Biographia Literaria, for example, Coleridge, too, is willing to express considerable criticism of Gray's work at large, but steadfastly defends the Elegy itself as a poem he cannot read "without delight, and a portion of enthusiasm." In the writings of Shelley's circle, we also find evidence of this divided response: Percy Shelley alludes favorably to there being "a line to be drawn between affectation of unpossessed talents, and the deceit of self distrust by which much power has been lost to the world for 'full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air.' -- This line may be called the 'modesty of nature.'" On the other hand, in her unfinished short story, "The Cave of Fancy," Mary Wollstonecraft quotes the same lines, only to then deny that a true poet remains "mute" and "inglorious"; rather, "those only grovel who have not power to fly".10 While specific evidence of Mary Shelley's acquaintance with the poem does not appear to exist, there seems every reason to believe that such a precociously well-read author as she was in 1816 would have known what was already a standard text. Moreover, {255} in both the direct allusion to Hampden and then in the more general nature of his motivation, Victor Frankenstein suggests that the Elegy is indeed of considerable importance to his own narrative. For, to borrow Michael Rifaterre's term, what Victor apparently does is "scramble" his intertext in order to generate a meaning for his own narrative that is both wedded to and yet subtly distinct from its model.11

Linking Frankenstein's three narratives is a single underlying conflict that is at the heart of the Elegy and which George Levine has seen to be central to nineteenth-century realistic fiction: that between "a simultaneous awe and reverence toward greatness of ambition, and fear and distrust of those who act on it."12 It is this tension that both drives Victor, Walton, and the Monster in their journeys of discovery and self-discovery, yet which also leaves them naggingly dissatisfied with their lives. While in each case this opposition clearly overlays a more complex psychology, the actual tension between the desire for ambitious exploration of the universe at large and a yearning towards the passive satisfactions of domesticity is evidently central to the text as a whole and forms a vital part in the motivations of each of the three male narrators. It is perhaps Victor who most clearly articulates the dilemma they all feel in the contrast that emerges between two of the intertexts upon which he draws in the framing of his narrative.

For, on the one hand, he is eager to liken his scientific explorations to the voyage of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner; on the other, he structures his text in cautionary terms close to those of Gray's Elegy. The debt to Coleridge has been widely noted and, in fact, not only Victor but also Walton, and Mary Shelley herself in the Introduction to the novel's 1831 edition make reference to the Ancient Mariner as a means of describing their explorations beyond the pale of normal human endeavor (pp. 9, 21, 151-52). Although the novel thus might at one level partake of the poem's ostensible moral edict to love both creatures great and small, the relationship between the two texts is perhaps more profoundly seen in their common focus upon the forces of creative obsession, the demonic capacities of the human mind, and the destructive energies released when these two clash.

In this context, Victor's submerged allusions to the Elegy appear to stand as a corrective admonition intended to deter Walton (and, by implication, the reader) from following in his footsteps: "Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow" (p. 53). Though this quietist sentiment and the "apt moral" (p. 30) it implies for the text at large are almost a commonplace of eighteenth-century writing, the particular phrasing here is close to that of Gray's narrator in the Elegy. For the speaker and protagonist of the poem also repeatedly evokes the stable tranquillity of rural life as an antidote to the dangerous temptations of ambition:

{258} Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor. (29-32)
Both he and Victor find much to praise in those who resist the pull towards the larger world and who, "Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife . . . Along the cool sequester'd vale of life" (73, 75), retain a more measured view of mortal existence. Victor, indeed, sees humanity's recurring failure to achieve such stability as having immense historical significance: "If no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved; Caesar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed" (p. 56). For Victor himself, however, this ideal proves unattainable and must be transposed into Elizabeth and, to a lesser degree, Henry Clerval, both of whom embody the rewards of a life responsive to the language of Nature and the attainment of tranquillity in rural retirement (pp. 36, 64, 156). For the narrator of the poem, the conditioning factor is an inescapable sense of the ultimate frustrations of mortality:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. (33-36)
Clearly, if had Victor taken his own advice -- and that of the Elegy -- Elizabeth, Henry, and his other victims would have been spared the consequences of both his virtues and, more importantly, his vices, since rural immolation could have saved them just as it spared Gray's humble villagers, as it:
         nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind. (65-68)
And yet, though Victor is unable to accept the finality of death and while his victims could certainly have benefited from an infusion of the temperance he and the narrator of the Elegy urge, both texts ultimately remain ambivalent about the ideal they overtly present and suggest a more complex response than that encoded in the moral of simple retirement.

The opposing forces that lie below the surface of the Elegy have recently been considered by Howard Weinbrot in a discussion which may also shed light upon Mary Shelley's novel.13 Weinbrot suggests that, at the outset of {257} the poem, the narrator finds himself in a state of alienation from nature, the village, and his own obscure lot; as the poem develops, it reveals the "flux and counter-flux of an emotionally charged argument"14 while the speaker endeavors to come to terms with the life of obscure retirement in which he finds himself; and finally, though he never does become a joyful member of the village community, he at least "learns to resign himself to ordinary human affection; he associates himself with his neighboring, humble people and landscape and, in the process, leaves the definition of his hidden, true character to God."15

Victor's approximation to yet distinct difference from such a position is evident. Like the speaker of Gray's poem, he is dissatisfied with the whole notion of living a modestly obscure life, and he thus becomes wretchedly self-exiled from the world in which he finds himself. Rejecting the pastoral retreat to which both his father retires and in which Gray's narrator eventually finds peace, he endeavors to aggrandize to himself the entire universe through his creation of life itself. Even in this, however, he lacks a stabilizing "steady purpose" (p. 16), since he also retains his more socialized values and, being made a coward by his own conscience, proves unable to embrace his ambitions wholeheartedly. For, again like Gray's character, if for very different reasons, he too is incapable of blushing unseen in the desert air and is thus tormented by the combination of restlessness in domestic tranquillity and a mixture of attraction to and repulsion from the project through which he endeavors to achieve greatness. Where Victor most essentially differs from his predecessor is in his inability to perceive or accept an overriding value in patriarchal or divine guidance, since he not only rejects his own father but also, until late in his narrative, shows no interest whatsoever in the codes of religious belief. As a result of this solipsism, he becomes isolated. Failing to overcome his isolation, he slides into an ever more dominant obsession with the Monster, its creation and then its -- and thus his own -- destruction. Gray's protagonist, by contrast, for all his prevarications, never loses a sense of the virtues of the common people amongst whom he finds himself, and so, even though his death is not unlike Victor's in being caused by an overburden of sorrow, he at least has come to some accommodation with his fate:

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
   Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
   He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend. (121-24)
With this distinction in the relations between the protagonist and the external world the two texts are once again both bonded and yet ultimately separate. For it is clearly a similar yearning for companionship which motivates not only Victor but also Walton and the Monster -- a hunger which is doomed {258} to go unassuaged. As Stephen Cox has argued, in the case of the Elegy the yearning for social sympathy expresses a need for a sense of the significance of individual life and constitutes an alternative to a religious belief which the narrator finds himself unable to sustain. Cox suggests that the conclusion of the poem shows Gray's narrator as having achieved both the ability to trust to the "pure emotion" of a stable sensibility and the capacity to accept human limitations as "a background against which the self can display its dignity of feeling."16 The triumph may, indeed, be still greater, since the protagonist has also managed to find that larger "trembling hope" in "The bosom of his Father and his God" (127-28). It is, of course, in precisely these respects that Victor and his counterparts are most deficient: in Shelley's text a term such as "pure emotion" is a dangerous oxymoron and Victor is never able to achieve emotional resolutions to match those of Gray's character. Moreover, his narrative, despite all its insistence upon the inescapability of his destiny (pp. 30, 42, 181), not only ignores God but also persistently refuses to distance itself from the individualistic code of Promethean achievement which it ostensibly condemns. For Victor's last words turn out to be anything but the elegiac renunciation of past errors his earlier admonition to Walton might have led one to expect:
"Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity, and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed." (pp. 217-18)
Though Victor dies, the Monster vanishes, and Walton is forced to return to England, the narrative thus refuses to endorse any simple moral as to the value of ambition and the challenging of established authority and thus calls into question its own status as the cautionary tale it has claimed to be.

Finally, the allusions to Hampden and Gray may also have a degree of significance for Mary Shelley and the men who dominated her own life, since they perhaps discretely suggest Mary's commentary upon the intense idealism which marks both her father's and husband's thought and writings. Professor Veeder's useful suggestion that Mary's "critical examination of all paradigms . . . is what drives her and her readers beyond Victor's self-justifying explanations to the darker teleology of him and Percy"17 is relevant here. There is no doubting that both Godwin and Percy knew Gray's poem and were enthusiastic about Hampden; Percy's idolizing, in particular, is entirely characteristic of both his fundamental political views and his general tendency towards hero-worship. That Mary was not quite so taken with this radical version of the blessed martyr may be suggested by the levity of her tone in a letter to Hunt during the composition of Frankenstein. Alluding to Hampden's resistance to the Ship-Money levy, she wrote:

{259} Shelley & Peacock have started a question which I do not esteem myself wise enough to decide upon -- and yet as they seem determined to act on it I wish them to have the best advise. As a prelude to this you must be reminded that Hamden was of Bucks and our two worthies want to be his successors for which reason they intend to refuse to pay the taxes as illegally imposed -- What effect will this have & ought they do it is the question? Pray let me know your opinion.18
Similarly, Victor's language -- "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" (p. 160) -- in recounting the visit to Hampden's tomb is markedly, if not indeed parodically Shelleyan in both its terminology and tone. What the allusions to Gray and Hampden show in the overall text of Frankenstein, moreover, is that such idealization tends to be simplistic, to overlie and disguise more complex psychological processes, and, when transformed out of theory and into concrete effect, to become almost wholly pernicious in its operations. Thus, the fates of both Hampden and Victor, together with the wider intertextual questioning of Victor's ambitions which the novel offers, all suggest not only his failings but also, perhaps, limitations in the ideals and psychology of Godwin and, especially, Percy himself. Accordingly, they may well represent another facet of that discrete rebellion against the patriarchal authority of her father and her husband that a number of critics have discerned in Mary's writings, and, if such indeed be the case, Frankenstein can in this respect also be seen as a critique of the larger character of Romantic idealism.19 That Mary should have voiced her qualifications in this covert manner need hardly be surprising, since there is little cause to assume that she articulated them fully even to herself and every reason for understanding why they should have remained disguised in print.

Victor's narrative, then, through its reference to Hampden and allusion to Gray articulates an ambivalence at the very heart of his revolt and perhaps also implies a larger critique of the radical ideology to which Mary herself was exposed by the circumstances of her life. He and, to a lesser degree, Walton and the Monster attempt to exert control over others and the world at large through the power that comes from unrivalled possession of unique forms of knowledge. In each case, however, the endeavor is shown to mask an underlying psychic instability which eventually, inevitably leads to failure. For the purposes of this discussion, I have focused upon the anti-patriarchal character of the struggle, concentrating largely on Victor; a broader consideration of the novel might valuably also examine Walton and the Monster in the same light and relate all three male narrators to the misogynic elements in the text. Nevertheless, even while some part of my argument must, in the absence of indisputably specific evidence for Mary's debt to Gray, finally remain speculative, Hampden's place in the text is clear. Though his and the {260} novel's connection with Gray's Elegy can be claimed only to the extent that I have attempted here, such a link may well indicate yet one more way in which this endlessly suggestive text weds its own delving into the human psyche with an extraordinary sensitivity to the major intertexts of English literature and, out of this union, produces a novel unmatched in its expression of the final undecidability of human emotions and conduct.


1. The growth of scholarly interest in Frankenstein is best evidenced by the listing contained in Frederick S. Frank's compendious survey, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: A Register of Research," Bulletin of Bibliography 40 (1983): 163-88.

2. Christopher Hill, Puritanism and Revolution: Studies in Interpretation of the English Revolution of the 17th Century (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), p. 11.

3. John Adair, A Life of John Hampden: The Patriot (London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1976), p. 249.

4. The references in this paragraph are, in the order they appear, to: The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Frederick L. Jones, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 1:264; Godwin, History of the Commonwealth of England, from its Commencement to the Restoration of Charles the Second, 4 vols. (London: n.p. 1824-1828), 1:11; Carlyle's notebook is cited in Charles Richard Sanders, Carlyle's Friendships and Other Studies (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1977), p. 28; Lord Nugent's 1831 biography, Memorials of John Hampden, encountered Macaulay's response in the Edinburgh Review for December of that year.

5. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, ed. M. K. Joseph (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), p. 160. All references are to this edition and will be inserted parenthetically.

6. Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. Frederick L. Jones (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1947), October 20, 1817, p. 85. Mary also records here that she was transcribing Frankenstein during the previous week.

7. William Veeder, "The Negative Oedipus: Father, Frankenstein, and the Shelleys," Critical Inquiry 12 (1986): 378.

8. Cited in Adair, A Life of John Hampden, p. 2.

9. The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray, H. W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson, eds. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1966), 11.57-60. Further quotations will be taken from this edition and inserted parenthetically.

10. The references in this paragraph are, in the order, they appear, to: "Johnson's Life of Gray," in Samuel Johnson: Selected Writings, R. T. Davies, ed. (Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1965), p. 376; Wordsworth, "Preface and Appendix to Lyrical Ballads," in Wordsworth's Literary Criticism, ed. W. J. B. Owen (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), pp. 75-76; Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1983), 1:41; Shelley, Letters, 1:231; and Mary Wollstonecraft, cited in Ralph M. Wardie, Mary Wollstonecraft: A Critical Biography (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1951), pp. 81-82.

{261}11. Michael Rifaterre, Semiotics of Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1978), pp. 138-50.

12. George Levine, The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 27.

13. Howard S. Weinbrot, "Gray's Elegy: A Poem of Moral Choice and Resolution," Studies in English Literature.' 1500-1900 18 (1978): 537-51.

14. Weinbrot, p. 538.

15. Weinbrot, p. 551.

16. Stephen Cox, "The Stranger Within Thee": Concepts of the Self in Late Eighteenth-Century Literature (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), pp. 92, 94.

17. Veeder, p. 379.

18. The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Betty T. Bennett, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1980-83), 1:29.

19. The breadth of Mary's concern with contemporary political issues and her belief in "evolutionary radicalism" rather than violent revolt is apparent from a series of letters recently discovered in Australia which will appear in the forthcoming third volume of Betty T. Bennett's definitive edition of the correspondence. These letters, as described by Herbert Mitgang, "A Hunch on Mary Shelley Pays Off," The New York Times, 2 Dec. 1987, national ed., p. 29, suggest that, while deeply committed to libertarian ideals, Mary was more pragmatic than either Godwin or Percy in her sense of how they might be achieved.