Contents Index

Mary Shelley's Christian Monster

Robert M. Ryan

The Wordsworth Circle, 19:3 (Summer 1988), 150-55

{150} Frankenstein has always been suspected of being subversive in its religious tendency, even when the precise objectives of its hidden agenda were not clearly discerned. Partly because of the dedication to Godwin, the novel's earliest readers thought they detected immorality and impiety lurking somewhere beneath the book's surface, and the notion has persisted that there is something ambiguous or oblique, even insidious, in the book's metaphysical disposition. The most common suspicion has been that the novel was meant as a parody of Genesis, mocking traditional belief in a benevolent Creator (e.g., Walling, p. 42). A quite different suggestion came from Leslie Tannenbaum in 1977 when he argued that the novel's allusions to Paradise Lost work ironically to point up Victor Frankenstein's failures as a creator in contrast with Milton's more loving and responsible Divinity. Tannenbaum's interpretation was part of a general reassessment of the novel's meaning carried out during the 1970s, principally by feminist and psychoanalytic critics, who found in the novel a subtle but insistent protest against some ideas and attitudes of the author's father, William Godwin, and of her husband, Godwin's disciple, Percy Bysshe Shelley. This revisionist reading sees Victor Frankenstein as a composite of Godwin and Shelley (and perhaps Byron as well), and the monster -- the novel's most sympathetic character -- as a representation of the author herself, the victim, to an extent the product, of Godwinian theory and experimentation. And the novel is therefore interpreted as asking how it is possible that a man like Frankenstein (or like Shelley or Godwin), considered by himself and others to be the benevolent benefactor of his species, can somehow, with the best intentions and the highest principles, bring misery and ruin upon those around him as the result of his experiments with human life.1

Since Miltonic religion and Godwinian "philosophy" offer radically antithetical views of human nature and destiny, one is left wondering at which ideology the novel's satiric or parodic intent is primarily directed. That Milton's system is employed to show the inadequacies of Godwin's indicates one answer; that the Miltonic faith is espoused by a homicidal freak suggests another. The religious equivocality is, of course, only one aspect of a larger pattern of ambivalence that has been detected in the novel. The dedication to Godwin of a book now generally perceived as embodying a protest against Godwin's kind of radicalism suggests, as U. C. Knoepflmacher has observed, the "conflicting emotions of allegiance and resentment" (p. 92) that always characterized Mary Shelley's {151} relationship with her father. This conflict is one way of accounting for the opposing tendencies detectable in the novel's metaphysics. By making a monster the exponent of the religious system that stood in radical ideological opposition to her father's views, she set up a curious dialectic by which she was able to call the Godwinian order into question without distinctly affirming the Christian alternative, which functions so ambiguously as to leave its validity in question. What I argue here is that the ineffectual, baffled Christian faith of the Monster -- the main victim and critic of benevolent philosophy in Frankenstein -- is used by Mary Shelley to call into question both Christianity itself and the ideology that Godwin and Shelley were offering as an alternative to it.2

When one sets out to read Frankenstein in search of its religious meaning, what is immediately striking is the total absence of the supernatural as a functioning element in the plot. Judith Wilt has called attention to the rich freight of religious imagery and allusion the novel inherited from the "God-haunted Gothic tradition" (p. 32), but on inspection these religious elements show themselves to be purely decorative. One need only compare the book with that other great horror myth conceived in Geneva in 1816, which, as developed in Bram Stoker's Dracula, depends so heavily on powerful sacramentals and effective necromancy, to be reminded how bare of supernatural machinery Frankenstein is. Indeed, the very lack of religious resonance is one of the things that gives Mary Shelley's story its peculiar horror. Neither God nor demon has any role to play in this tale of human curiosity, pride, and error, in which man has only himself to blame and fear. The absence of the supernatural is not surprising in a novel emanating from the Shelley circle. What is peculiar is that on those occasions when traditional religion is introduced, it is not subjected to the kind of criticism or ridicule one might anticipate. On the contrary, Christian belief is almost always depicted in a positive light. Practical concerns about the novel's marketability would have encouraged discretion in religious editorializing, but it would not account for, say, the sympathetic treatment of Justine Moritz's Catholic faith, since in English Gothic fiction Popery was always fair game. Justine's religious beliefs and piety, reported uncritically by Victor Frankenstein, are attractive enough to neutralize the negative impression given by the priest who threatens her with "excommunication and hellfire" for continuing to maintain her innocence. Her faith brings consolation and serenity to "the saintly sufferer" (Victor's phrase) as she awaits execution, a serenity that is in striking contrast with Victor's own paralyzing anxiety.

Although Victor Frankenstein's own religious views are never clearly articulated, it is evident that he is not a Christian. M. Krempe's joking remark that Victor "believed in Cornelius Agrippa as firmly as in the gospel" (p. 68) serves only to remind us of the absence of any other suggestion that he believed in the gospel at all. In fact, although he refers to himself and Elizabeth as children sent from heaven and periodically exclaims "Great God!" -- and although he ransacks the Christian maledictory tradition to find terms of abuse with which to berate his creature, it becomes clear early on that Victor is not even a theist in any traditional sense. The 1831 revision allows him to indulge in some brief metaphysical meditations in the ravine of Arve (Rieger, p. 248), where, like Shelley, he detects intimations of Omnipotence, but in the 1818 edition, and as a general rule in 1831, he demonstrates a scientist's interest in proximate causes rather than a philosopher's concern for ultimate ones. At the same time, he is shown to have more than his quota of superstition, such as his belief that various good and evil agencies were struggling for control of his destiny (p. 45). This lack of a coherent metaphysics may be blamed in part for his irresponsible creation of a living being with so little forethought given to the meaning or consequences of his act.

By contrast, his creature, from the beginning of his existence, shows a strong metaphysical curiosity. He subjects himself early on to a rigorous catechetical inquisition: "Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred," he says, "but I was unable to solve them" (p. 128). The answers come to him unexpectedly when he stumbles, by chance, upon a copy of Paradise Lost. He receives the poem literally as a revelation, "a true history" as he calls it (p. 129), not only of the events recorded in Genesis but of the subsequent unfolding of the divine redemptive plan and even of the development of Christian doctrine as presented in Michael's prophecy to Adam in Book XII. Milton's epic provides the Monster with an organized, identifiable set of religious beliefs, a quite adequately orthodox creed.3 He becomes not only a theist but what one has to call a Christian, since he accepts as true the central tenets of the Christian faith. And it is worth noting that his acceptance of Milton's religion is not a case of vulgar superstition or credulous ignorance seduced by the art of a persuasive poet. The Monster had already heard the standard Enlightenment critique of Christianity earlier on in the book, when he eavesdropped as Felix DeLacey read aloud and offered "very minute explanations" of Volney's Ruins, which runs through, in some detail, the long catalogue of Christian crime and imposture (pp. 178-81). When, therefore, the Monster accepts the religion of Paradise Lost he does so having heard the worst of what was being said against it in his time. He deliberately embraces the Miltonic world-view in preference to the critical rationalism of modern "philosophy," with which Mary Shelley has thus taken pains to acquaint him.

The Monster's Christian concepts, attitudes, and language affect significantly our assessment of him and also of the society that rejects him. The director James Whale saw this tendency in the novel and emphasized it when in The Bride of Frankenstein he depicted the Monster as a kind of Christ-figure. While that was surely not Mary Shelley's intent, the Christian frame of reference in which she placed the Monster accounts for much of our sympathetic response to him. His Christian beliefs and language do not estrange or {152} gothicize him; on the contrary, they situate him in a familiar universe in which the reader, even today, feels intellectually more at home than in the uncharted ontological borderland that Victor Frankenstein inhabits. In addition to providing him with a history and a map of the cosmos (to guide his and our perception of his place in the order of things), Milton equips the Monster with an identifiable set of values, of ethical norms, a standard of right and wrong to which he appeals with fine rhetorical effect when hurling reproaches at his negligent creator, reminding him over and over of the Christian duties of charity and pity for the unfortunate, demanding as his due not only justice (Godwin would give him that), but also clemency and even affection, and promising in return mildness and docility. Victor's own rhetorical borrowings from the Christian tradition, by contrast, seem histrionic and factitious: "Fiend that thou art!" he screams in a typical diatribe, "The tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil!" (p. 99).

It would not be a mere flippancy to say that the Monster is a better Christian than Victor Frankenstein. Some approximation of that perception contributes in an important way to our assessment of him as a moral being. The ideal of "benevolence" that Victor claims as his motivating principle and which is so problematic in its fruits compares unfavorably with the practical charity (to use a less enlightened, traditionally Christian term) demonstrated in the Monster's humble, anonymous services to the DeLacey family. The word "humble" suggests another Christian virtue that one may justifiably claim for the Monster. The new student of Paradise Lost seems to have learned a lesson about man's place in the order of things that makes him less likely than Victor to succumb to the sin of hubris, or -- once again to use a more characteristically Christian term -- the sin of pride. The Monster's humility is revealed most clearly in an attitude that in 1816 was especially characteristic of a Christian consciousness -- a sense of sin. While his Christian beliefs do not prevent the Monster from becoming a criminal, they do lead him to acknowledge his sins (as he calls them) and the apparently sinful nature that has led to their commission. The Monster's acceptance of moral culpability is a refreshing contrast with Victor's nearly invincible innocence. Frankenstein's unwillingness to admit to any serious moral fault is one of the things that make him seem less human than his creature. When the Monster is driven to crime by frustration and rage, he does not justify himself morally. He acknowledges his feelings of revenge and hatred to be wrong and "hellish." Robert Walton calls him "Hypocritical fiend!" but the Monster is not in the least a hypocrite. He freely confesses what he calls "the frightful catalogue of my sins" (pp. 220-21).

And yet, despite his willingness to confess and repent, there is no religious consolation, and there can be no salvation for this believer. The strangest aspect of the Monster's Christianity is his realization that, although he accepts the truth of the Christian faith, the faith is uniquely irrelevant to him. Nowhere in Paradise Lost can he find any parallel for his condition:

I often referred the several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the special care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone (p. 129).
And when he learns from Victor's notebooks the circumstances of his own special creation, the contrast becomes even more painful. He says to Victor:

God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred (p. 130).
Only in fantasy can he live in Milton's cosmos and share its joys and rewards.

I allowed my thoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and dared to fancy amiable and loving creatures sympathizing with my feelings and cheering my gloom; their angelic countenances breathed smiles of consolation. But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him (p. 131).
"Adam's supplication to his Creator" in Paradise Lost includes the lines used as an epigraph to Frankenstein:
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?

(PL X.743-45)
The Maker's response to this protest is a decision to redeem man by sacrificing himself. In striking contrast is Victor's response to his own creature's complaint: "You reproach me with your creation; come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed" (p. 95). We are told in scripture that God does not desire the death of the sinner, but Victor from the beginning desires only the Monster's death. Repentance, a change of heart, is never allowed as an option. While one is conscious throughout the novel that the local genius of Rousseau presided over its conception in Switzerland, nothing is ever said of that other Genevan ghost, John Calvin. Yet as often as the Monster's development brings Rousseau to mind, his creator's response to him recalls the stern theology of the reformer. The Monster is treated as a being who is totally depraved: "His soul is as hellish as his form," says Victor, "full of treachery and fiendlike malice" (pp. 198-99). Victor plays the role of punishing divinity despite {153} the Monster's quiet reminder that Victor too is a creature who had a creator. "You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow creatures, who owe me nothing?"

Thus cast out from human society, the Monster is more alone than any being in the Miltonic order that he accepts as real. Having been repudiated by his own creator, he has no relationship to any other. He is metaphysically as well as physically a monster, a surd in the theological system to which he subscribes. While spiritual isolation is not uncommon in English Romantic literature, Frankenstein's monster is unique in his peculiar ontological loneliness. He resembles to some degree those other trapped individuals driven to violence by a kind of religious desperation, Byron's Cain and Shelley's Beatrice Cenci. Cain likewise can find no mental refuge in a Biblical milieu from which there is no escape, and Beatrice is lost within a religious power structure she has to accept as inevitable. Each illustrates from his or her own experience the intolerability rather than the invalidity of an orthodox religious system. Their protest involves not heterodoxy so much as what one might be etymologically tempted to call paradoxy -- a feeling that one is somehow outside, set apart from, a religious system whose truth one cannot deny. But the Monster's ontological plight is even worse than that of Cain or Beatrice. Cain is repudiated by a God who is acknowledged, even by Cain himself, to be a Supreme Being and he is encouraged in his disaffection by yet another powerful supernatural personage who assures him that if he is to be damned he will have company in his eternal misery. Beatrice can demand, if only rhetorically, vindication in the next world from the same God that her executioners profess to worship. But Frankenstein's creature has no reason to expect divine protection or even attention; there is for him no mercy, no redemption, no heavenly destiny. The most he expects after death is that "My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus" (p. 223). Victor Frankenstein is all the god he has, and the Monster with a logical and desperate kind of piety prays to him continually -- wrestling with him like Jacob or Job with their own visions of God, but receiving neither blessing nor insight.

At times Frankenstein seems as much a parody of Job as of Genesis, and a comparison with the Old Testament drama serves to illustrate further the Monster's anomalous religious status. When he pleads with Victor, "Listen to me, and then if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands" (p. 96), one hears a distinct echo of Chapter ten of Job, in which creature says to creator:

Is it good unto thee that thou shouldst oppress, that thou shouldst despise the work of thine hands. . .?
Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about; yet thou dost destroy me.
Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?
Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews. . . .
The Monster resembles Job in other ways too, such as his inability to understand the reason for the suffering he has endured even when still innocent of any offense. Like Job he attempts to justify himself by defining a rational relationship with his creator: "I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me" (p. 100). He is also like Job in his inability to connect gratuitous suffering with the supposedly benevolent God revealed to him in Paradise lost, preserving his faith intact despite his inability to understand. But the Monster's intellectual dilemma is curiously more complicated than Job's because he has to reckon with two different creators. In the lower ontological context of the Monster's creation by Victor Frankenstein, the creature's sufferings have not even an educational value; they are no test of fortitude or faith; they manifest neither his own virtues nor God's inscrutable righteousness. While Job's Creator rejects all claims upon Him by reason of His utter transcendence and mystery, the Monster's human creator repudiates the claimant out of something more like human self-righteousness and vanity. By contrast with Job's confrontation with the whirlwind, the Monster's encounter with his human creator only accentuates Victor's diminutive stature, both physical and moral. Having tried humbling himself before his creator and having experienced only rejection, the creature inverts the Jobean archetype by threatening devastation upon his vulnerable maker and all his household. The Monster finally becomes a kind of existentialist criminal, driven to violence by realization of the absurdity of his situation. It is as though Job, taking his wife's advice, had agreed at last to curse his Creator and die. The Monster's resemblance to Job finally serves only to accentuate the difference between the two figures, demonstrating again the creature's peculiar isolation from the sublimities as well as the consolations of the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition he accepts as true and from which he has so strangely been precluded.

Why did Mary Shelley create this religious monster, this disconnected Christian whose faith can bring no hope? The question requires particular interest in light of the growing critical consensus that the reader's sympathetic response to the Monster is an effect of the author's own identification with him. "Beneath the contorted visage of Frankenstein's creature," wrote U. C. Knoepflmacher, "lurks a timorous yet determined female face" (p. 112). In the Monster's spiritual isolation we see a projection of Mary Shelley's own situation in the Godwinian milieu, living in an ideological order whose validity she accepted but whose value, at least for herself, she could not always clearly see. In relation to this system she was in the paradoxical situation of her monster with regard to Christianity -- subscribing intellectually to its beliefs but feeling in a peculiar way excluded from its proclaimed blessings and consolations.

More than one critic has seen in Frankenstein what Lee Sterrenburg called a "subversion of all ideology" (p. 144) -- the result of a profound if not completely articulate disenchantment {154} with the actualization of her father's and her husband's moral ideals. There was at this time large room for disenchantment with "philosophy," "benevolence," and "virtue" as defined and practiced in the Shelley family circle. Mary was hard at work on Frankenstein in October of 1816 when Fanny Imlay (Mary's half-sister) committed suicide, and Godwin, dreading unfavorable publicity, refused to claim the body or acknowledge kinship and allowed the girl to be buried anonymously in a pauper's grave. Two months later came the suicide of Harriet Shelley, pregnant with an illegitimate child, and Shelley's apparent inability to accept responsibility or even express remorse for the fate of his abandoned wife. One month afterward there was the birth of Claire Clairmont's child by Byron, a child dismissed with apparent indifference by a father who refused any further communication with the mother. Much of this strange behavior Mary would have heard rationalized according to Godwinian notions of moral pragmatism, the supremacy of the individual conscience and the triumph of reason over emotion. After Fanny's death, for example, when she wrote to console her father, his cool pedagogical reply was: "I cannot but thank you for your strong expressions of sympathy. I do not see however that sympathy can be of any service to me" (qtd. in Locke, p. 273).

How, among these prophets of universal justice and benevolence, could there be so much misery, and so much obduracy in response to misery? If common sense suggested that something had gone wrong with the Godwinian system, Mary would have found it difficult to formulate or express an effective critical response, living as she did in an intellectual milieu where Godwinian theory was in control of the premises, where the ideas and actions of her father and his disciples were, almost by definition, morally unassailable. To question the system she would have had to assume a position outside it, and in doing so she would have found herself sharing strategic ideological ground with other philosophical critics of Godwin. Most obviously outside the Godwinian system, and most potently in ideological opposition to it, was Christianity, which had recently been offering metaphysical sanctuary to disaffected radicals of the caliber of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey. If her book was meant as a subversion of Godwinian-Shelleyan ideology, it would have been nicely subversive to make the victim of philosophic experimentation a partisan of that Biblical faith to which her father and husband were sworn ideological enemies. To have enlisted the intellectual and cultural force of a Christian ideology in which she did not believe as a weapon against another which she was beginning to question was a brilliant dialectical strategy, allowing her to challenge one system without distinctly affirming the other -- since the other appears, after all, only as the content of an epic poem naively accepted as true by a creature who is not precisely human.

The positive treatment of Christianity in Frankenstein, then, seems to have been more a matter of literary and political strategy than of religious advocacy. All evidence indicates that, while Mary Shelley was more inclined toward theism than Godwin or Shelley, she would at this time have readily subscribed to the critique of Christianity expressed, for example, in the text and notes of Queen Mab -- agreeing with Shelley that the Christian religion was dying and that, as he put it, "Milton's poem alone will give permanency to the remembrance of its absurdities" (Poetical Works, p. 821). But when she herself selects Milton's poem as the vehicle of relevation to the character with whom she most sympathizes, and when the novel consistently points not to the absurdities and iniquities of Christianity but to its more positive aspects, something un-Shelleyan and un-Godwinian is going on. It appears that Mary's own attitude to the Christian tradition was more sophisticated, or at least more detached, in its ability to acknowledge Christianity's cultural value without endorsing its theology. Her Creature's Miltonic faith accounts for much that is appealing, even beautiful, in his character; it clothes him with a cultural identity and at times a moral dignity that makes him more than a match for Victor Frankenstein in their competition for the reader's sympathy. But as religion, the Monster's Christianity is comfortless, ineffectual, and finally pointless. It does not prevent his crimes; it cannot forgive his sins; it cannot make him happy. If Mary Shelley was searching for an alternative to Godwinism, her book suggests that the most obvious alternative, Christianity, was not for her a viable one. There is an element of pathos in her handling of this which may suggest regret, or perhaps only nostalgia, for an older kind of spiritual security that was no longer available. In her Monster's strange metaphysical distress we can see a representation of Mary Shelley's own uncertainty, anxiety, and sense of isolation as she searched, independently, for a system of belief and consolation adequate to her own needs and those of the society at large.

The following works have been cited in the text:

Bloom, H. "Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus." Partisan Review 32 (1965), 611-18.

Cameron, K. N. Shelley: The Golden Years (1974).

Fleck, P. D. "Mary Shelley's Notes to Shelley's Poems and Frankenstein." Studies in Romanticism 6 (1967), 226-54.

Knoepflmacher, U. C. "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters." In The Endurance of Frankenstein, ed. G. Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher (1979), pp. 88-119.

Locke, D. A Fantasy of Reason: The Life and Thought of William Godwin (1980).

Mineka, F. E. "The Religious Press Vs. John Milton, Heretic." The Dissidence of Dissent: The Monthly Repository, 1806-1838 (1944 and 1972), pp. 84-97.

Paul, C. William Godwin, His Friends and Contemporaries, 2 vols. (1876).

Shelley, M. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, ed. J. Rieger (1974).

Shelley, M. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, ed. M. K. Joseph (1969).

Shelley, M. The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. B. T. Bennett, 2 vols. (1980-84).

Shelley, M. Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. F. L. Jones (1947).

Shelley, P. B. The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. T. Hutchinson (1960).

Spark, M. "Mary Shelley: A Prophetic Novelist." The Listener (22 Feb. 1951), 305-06.

Sterrenburg, L. "Mary Shelley's Monster: Politics and Psyche in Frankenstein." In Endurance of Frankenstein, pp. 143-171.

Tannenbaum, L. "From Filthy Type to Truth: Miltonic Myth in Frankenstein." Keats-Shelley Journal 26 (1977), 101-13.

Volney, C. F. C. de. The Ruins, or, A Survey of the Revolutions of Empires (1792).

Walling, W. A. Mary Shelley (1972).

Weissman, J. "A Reading of Frankenstein as the Complaint of a Political Wife." Colby Library Quarterly 12 (1976), 171-80.

Wilt, J. "Frankenstein as Mystery Play." In The Endurance of Frankenstein, pp. 31-48.


This paper was originally delivered at the 1987 Wordsworth Summer Conference in Grasmere.

1. Scholars seem to credit Muriel Spark with initiating this revisionary reading of the novel when she suggested in a 1951 article in The Listener that Frankenstein is a critique of Godwin's kind of rational humanism. Harold Bloom and P. D. Fleck in the mid-sixties developed Spark's insight into analyses of the novel as embodying a negative attitude toward Shelleyan idealism and Romantic Prometheanism in general, and in 1972 Christopher Small contributed a book-length analysis of how Mary Shelley's troubled relationships with her father and her husband found expression in the novel. The direction pursued by feminist critics in the seventies is suggested by the title of Judith Weissman's article, "A Reading of Frankenstein as the Complaint of a Political Wife." How quickly this revisionist interpretation became critical commonplace is illustrated in George Levine's collection The Endurance of Frankenstein (1979), in which essay after essay takes for granted the polemic against Mary Shelley's father and husband, disagreeing only as to how deliberate or specific the criticism is.

2. For the purpose of my argument I will use "Godwinian" and "Christian" to denote broadly conflicting ideological systems. By "Christianity" I mean what Percy Shelley meant by it in 1816, a term unspecific enough to comprehend Romanism on the right and Socinianism on the left and to describe the religion of Pardise Lost. I also use "Godwinism" in a Shelleyan sense. In 1816 he could have been described as more Godwinian than Godwin, since he used the first edition of Political Justice as his vade mecum although Godwin had moderated some of his more radical views in later editions of the book.

3. I set aside as irrelevant here the question of Milton's orthodoxy. The main source for our knowledge of his Arianism and Materialism, the De Doctrina Christiana, was not published until 1825, at which time orthodox readers were astonished and dismayed to discover the heretical tendencies they had not noticed in Paradise Lost. As wary a reader as Dr. Johnson had declared the poem "untainted with any heretical peculiarity of opinion" (Mineka, pp. 85-86). Apparently Shelley also believed the poem to be an adequate compendium of what Christians believed. See his note to Queen Mab (Poetical Works, p. 821).