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acquirement of the knowledge which I sought

By the time Mary Shelley made these revisions, Goethe's Faust, Part I, had become a European classic. She knew the work well, not only because Percy Bysshe Shelley had translated parts of it during his last months, but because she had twice prepared the text of these -- a partial version the first time, in The Liberal, the shortlived periodical the Shelleys, Byron, and Leigh Hunt had projected -- and then in full in her 1824 publication of Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley. The Faustian desire for knowledge, of course, was also deeply implicated in the 1818 edition. Mary Shelley was introduced to it shortly after she began work on her novel when Matthew ("Monk") Lewis, visiting Byron during the 1816 summer at Geneva, translated parts of it to the assembled company. Faust also had a profound effect on Byron's dramatic poem Manfred, begun shortly thereafter.

The extent to which Walton here throws all caution to the winds will be balanced late in the novel by Victor Frankenstein's adoption of the same kind of rhetoric in appealing to the sailors on Walton's vessel to risk everything for the mission's success (Walton 7). It is at that point that Walton's prudence and essential humanity return, perhaps as a secondary effect of his having, in the meantime, by this outburst elicited Victor's sobering account of the cost to him and to those he loved of his passion for knowledge.