Contents Index

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley's Myth-Making

Pamela Clemit

In The Godwinian Novel: The Rational Fictions of Godwin, Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 139-74.

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?
Paradise Lost1

{139} The epigraph and subtitle to Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) signal Mary Shelley's challenging expansion of the Godwinian novel to incorporate major Western creation myths. To understand Mary Shelley's commanding position in the Godwin school, however, we must consider not only the early Frankenstein but also her ambitious formal experiments in her novels of the 1820s, Valperga (1823) and The Last Man (1826).2 Until recently, critics of Mary Shelley's novels have focused on Frankenstein alone, and many readings have been conditioned by the autobiographical Introduction published with the revised text of 1831.3 Although {140} there has been some attention to the original aims of the 1818 text,4 Mary Shelley's role in Godwin's 'new school' has not been explored.

Frankenstein was dedicated to Godwin, and, for several conservative reviewers, its anonymous publication in March 1818 provided an opportunity to attack the entire Godwin circle. 'It is piously dedicated to Mr. Godwin, and is written in the spirit of his school', wrote J. W. Croker in the Quarterly:

Mr. Godwin is the patriarch of a literary family, whose chief skill is in delineating the wanderings of the intellect, and which strangely delights in the most afflicting and humiliating of human miseries. His disciples are a kind of out-pensioners of Bedlam, and . . . are occasionally visited with paroxysms of genius and fits of expression, which make sober-minded people wonder and shudder.5
This defensive response highlights Mary Shelley's affinity with the Godwinian tradition of fiction, which had been brought to public attention again by the publication of Mandeville -- dismissed by Croker as 'intolerably tedious and disgusting' -- four months earlier.6 Other reviewers surmised that Frankenstein had been written by Godwin or Percy Shelley, and drew parallels with Godwin's earlier novels. The Edinburgh Magazine declared that the novel was 'formed on the Godwinian manner', with 'all the faults, but many likewise of the beauties of that model', and compared its 'monstrous conceptions' with the 'wild and irregular theories of the age' also present in St Leon.7 More receptive to the intellectual aims of the Godwinian novel, Scott compared Frankenstein and St Leon as novels which aimed 'less to produce an effect by the marvels of the narrations, than to open new trains and channels of thought'.8

While early reviewers recognized Mary Shelley's major intellectual allegiance, they also simplified it. The immediate association of Frankenstein with Godwin and Percy Shelley obscured the extent to which Mary Shelley offered an imaginative critique of Godwin's {141} concerns. In the 1820s Mary Shelley once again encountered the problem of gaining acceptance of her work in its own right. Although Valperga, an uncompromising study of fourteenth-century Italian tyranny, was admired by Godwin and Percy Shelley as an advance on Frankenstein, Blackwood's found in it 'no inspiration, but that of a certain school, which is certainly a very modern, as well as a very mischievous one'.9 For the more liberal Examiner the novel's Godwinian themes only added to its merits, but there was still no attempt to discriminate between the works of Godwin and Mary Shelley: 'Like Caleb Williams, written by the father -- Valperga, the work of the daughter, clings to the memory.'10 At least one reviewer of The Last Man found it true to the 'genius of her family' in its expression of 'visionary theories', but did not read closely enough to appreciate its relentless undercutting of such theories.11

Despite this early recognition of Mary Shelley's intellectual commitment, twentieth-century critics have interpreted her relations with the Godwin circle largely in private terms. Mary Shelley's complex position as daughter of Godwin and Wollstonecraft, then wife of Percy Shelley and friend of Byron, has lent itself to readings which posit a psychological frame of reference, excluding both the intellectual stimulus provided by the Godwin school and her independent revaluation of these concerns. More ambitious but equally selective are feminist accounts of Frankenstein as a displaced enactment of specifically female experience, which depict Mary Shelley as the beleaguered heroine of her 1831 Introduction, and the tales as a nightmare of male aggression in the sexual, aesthetic, or political sphere.12

{142} It should not be forgotten that this focus on authorial experience begins with Mary Shelley's retrospective comments on her novel of 1818. After 1822 her journal, formerly remarkable for its privacy and self-restraint, highlights her mental reconstruction of her life with Percy Shelley as 'a tale, romantic beyond romance' (MSJ ii. 447). This suggests the initial impetus of The Last Man as a memorial to her former relationships with Percy Shelley and Byron, and it gives some scope for a reading of the 1831 Introduction to Frankenstein as a formal composition in which Mary Shelley, like Lionel Verney, the narrator of The Last Man, presents a selective and aestheticized version of the past, 'bringing forward the leading incidents, and disposing light and shade so as to form a picture in whose very darkness there will be harmony' (LM 193). As in Godwin's retrospective account of the aims of Caleb Williams, Mary Shelley's later emphasis on the overtly literary genesis of Frankenstein forms an essential part of its remaking as a Romantic text. In stark opposition to Godwin's view of man's rational potential, she dramatizes herself as the passive, Radcliffean heroine of her own tale, which bodies forth the 'hideous progeny' of private and involuntary experience: 'My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me' (F 229, 227).

If we remove Frankenstein from the biographical constraints of the later Introduction and restore it to the context of its first publication in 1818, the intellectual stimulus provided by the Godwin school offers a more accurate guide to Mary Shelley's aims. The reading lists in her journal from 1814 to 1817 provide ample evidence of her engagement with the literature and polemics on the French Revolution. She was saturated in her parents' writings from an early age, and reread them throughout her life. Her systematic study of Political Justice, Caleb Williams, and St Leon in 1815 was matched only by her continuous reading of Wollstonecraft's Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796), and The Wrongs of Woman (1798).13 Her parents' ideas permeate her fiction. In her early years her intellect was trained and directed by Godwin, and despite the loss of personal contact after her elopement with Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley persisted in her father's regimen of daily study, blending literature with works of political, {143} historical, and scientific theory. Later, in the brief but immensely stimulating period with Percy Shelley and Byron, she developed the international perspective that is a consistent feature of her first three novels. After Percy Shelley's death it was Godwin again who offered criticism and encouragement, to the extent that he rewrote sections of Valperga before seeing it through the press.14 As with Percy's revisions to Frankenstein, this has been viewed as an act of appropriation as much as assistance,15 and it is certainly true that Mary Shelley later mapped her upbringing in terms of a shift from one challenging taskmaster to another: 'I was nursed and fed with a love of glory. To be something great and good was the precept given me by my father. Shelley reiterated it' (MSJ ii. 554). But there is little indication that she was intimidated by pressures to excel, as some critics have maintained.16 Claire Clairmont's pointed remark seems to support this notion of an overbearing emphasis on literary fame: 'In our family . . . if you cannot write an epic poem or novel, that by its originality knocks all other novels on the head, you are a despicable creature, not worth acknowledging.'17 Yet of all her family, Mary Shelley alone produced such a novel in the post-revolutionary period.

In the words of an early reviewer, the central event of Frankenstein forms 'one of those striking conceptions which take hold of the public mind at once and for ever'.18 More recently, Chris Baldick has shown how the novel's imaginative boldness has established it as a modern myth.19 But if the novel can be seen as the source for a range of later images and works, it also has a literary and intellectual history. The economical yet profoundly memorable plot derives its major preoccupations from the imaginative concerns of earlier Godwinian writers. The highly charged opposition of creator and creature re-enacts the complex bond of fear and fascination between Falkland and Caleb. In the earlier novel, Caleb is cast as a monster for daring to challenge Falkland's authority, but it is Falkland who becomes an inhuman tyrant. Mary{144} Shelley builds on Godwin's use of the pursuit to destabilize moral values: in the complex equivocations of Frankenstein, the abandoned creature returns to challenge his monstrous father, and the pair act out a drama of enticement and threat that leads to widespread social destruction.

But Mary Shelley's critique of solitary ambition owes more to the sceptical treatments of benevolent ideals in St Leon and Wieland than to Caleb Williams. In Frankenstein as in St Leon, occult practices lead to moral isolation and the destruction of the family: 'I possessed the secret of eternal life,' recalls St Leon, 'but I looked on myself as a monster that did not deserve to exist' (SL iv. 27). As in Brown's treatment of public issues through the 'picture of a single family' (W 51 ), Mary Shelley exploits the first- person narrative as a means of internalizing public issues, moving away from the direct public engagement of the 1790s to explore the psychology of political leaders. In the potent image of the monster strangling Elizabeth on her wedding night, Mary Shelley draws on Brown's pivotal scene of murder on the marital bed, while the formal sophistication of Frankenstein develops the narrative complexity of Wieland. If Brown conflates Calvinist 'enthusiasm' with the conservative myth of the Illuminati, both of these dangerously self-sufficient outlooks are implicitly present in Frankenstein's troubled history. The earlier novelist's interest in patterns of psychological domination and submission, figured through the scientific motif of ventriloquism, takes on a newly menacing quality in Mary Shelley's preoccupation with automatism and galvanism.20

However, Mary Shelley's debt to the Godwinian tradition is not simply a matter of basic similarities in plot and technique: the novel's bold imaginative simplicity also makes available its challenging political and philosophical concerns. The stimulus provided by Godwinian writings in the 1790s does not fully account for the intellectual strenuousness of Mary Shelley's enterprise. To appreciate the sheer range and complexity of Frankenstein, we also need to take into account the decline of revolutionary ideals in the literature {145} of the second decade of the nineteenth century. Mary Shelley's drive towards cultural revaluation reflects the central preoccupations of a disorientated age, and has more in common with the radical international perspectives of Byron and Percy Shelley than has been allowed.

The Decline of Revolutionary Ideals

To some extent Frankenstein presents a critique of the optimistic tendencies of Percy Shelley's thought, and Mary Shelley's entry in her journal for 25 February 1822 may be seen as an indication of her critical response to Romantic idealism: 'let me in my fellow creature love that which is & not <imagine> fix my <love> affections on a fair form endued with imaginary attributes' (MSJ i. 399),21 However, Mary Shelley's scepticism is not confined to aesthetic and private concerns: instead she pursues this questioning of subjectivity into all categories of knowledge. If she stressed the value of exploring the cavern of the mind, carrying the 'torch of self-knowledge into its <inmost> dimmest recesses' (MSJ i. 400), in her fiction this forms no more than a starting-point for her formidable insight into the range of social, cultural, and political constructs which shape and control individual perception.

This questioning of earlier cultural certainties reflects a wealth of contemporary doubts about progressive theories of man's origins and purpose. Mary Shelley's pessimistic outlook has commonly been attributed to her private experience of bereavement and loss.22 Even before the drowning of Percy Shelley in July 1822, her journal provides much evidence of depressive swings between periods of intense longing for literary fame and morbid preoccupation with 'lost hopes, and death such as you have seen it' (MSJ i. 395).23 Yet her very next diary entry suggests a wider context for this dwelling on 'the shadowy side', for it points up her uncertainty about meaningful explanations of humanity's purpose. After reading Canto III of Dante's Inferno, she declared:

{146} They say that Providence is shewn by the extraction that may ever be made of good from evil -- that we draw our virtues from our faults -- So I am to thank God for making me weak -- I might say thy will be done -- but I can never applaud the permitter of self degradation . . . (MSJ i. 396)
Although Mary Shelley's erosion of consoling systems of belief found its fullest expression in The Last Man, this profound scepticism is already evident in Frankenstein, where she reworks the orthodox Christian scheme of man's origins. In both novels Mary Shelley confronts the demise of hierarchical structures of thought. An age of revolutionary progress collapses into undifferentiated chaos: political and social constructs are blotted out by the arresting images of the vengeful monster pursuing his creator, and the invincible plague hunting down the human race.

Underlying this dissolution of meaning is Mary Shelley's pressing awareness of having lived through a period of unnerving revolution in politics and society. While writing Frankenstein between June 1816 and May 1817, she was reminded of events of the 1790s by the savage government response to renewed popular unrest, the Luddite disturbances of summer 1816, which ended in the hanging of six leaders, and the Spa Fields riot of December 1816.24 A year earlier the final dramatic events of Napoleon's career had been played out, culminating in his defeat and the restoration of despotical governments in Europe. It was with some justification that Percy Shelley wrote in the Preface to The Revolt of Islam: 'those who now live have survived an age of despair'.25 In their course of reading, the Shelleys sought an intelligible explanation of how the progressive ideals of the French Revolution had collapsed in despotism at home and abroad.26 Thus they studied rational explanations of revolutionary excesses in the works of Godwin and Wollstonecraft, alongside sinister conservative myths of intellectual conspiracy in Burke's Reflections and Barruel's Memoirs, Illustrating the History of Jacobinism.27 In addition, literary works of the {147} past were open to historical appropriation, as Godwin had already demonstrated in his treatment of Milton's account of rebellion and creation in Paradise Lost (PJ i. 323-4).

Something of the human cost of these 'great and extraordinary events' was brought home to Mary and Percy Shelley in their personal experience of devastated Europe,28 the final result of Napoleon's campaign as he retreated from Moscow in the wake of the Cossack advance. In 1814 their elopement trip took them through land ravaged by Russian troops only five months earlier. Mary Shelley wrote in the History of a Six Weeks Tour (1817), 'Nothing could be more entire than the ruin which these barbarians had spread as they advanced',29 and she later incorporated this description of a war-torn countryside into Frankenstein to point up the devastating impact of the monster's crimes (F 186). The Shelley's second Continental trip in 1816 took them to Geneva, the birthplace of Rousseau, which prompted Mary Shelley to reflect on the course of 'that revolution, which his writings mainly contributed to mature, and which, notwithstanding the temporary bloodshed and injustice with which it was polluted, has produced enduring benefits to mankind, which all the chicanery of statesmen, nor even the great conspiracy of kings, can entirely render vain'.30 It is no accident that Frankenstein is also 'by birth a Genevese' (F 27), although the novel suggests a more critical attitude to Rousseau than is conveyed here. The Shelleys travelled on to view the 'hollow shew of monarchy' (MSJ i. 134) at Versailles, the setting for early scenes in the revolutionary drama as described by Burke (R 164-70). This sense of momentous upheaval in all areas of life lay behind Percy Shelley's recommendation of the French Revolution to Byron as 'the master-theme of the epoch in which we live', and as a fit subject for epic treatment.31 As early as 1812 Percy Shelley himself planned a novel, Hubert Cauvin, to be 'illustrative of the causes of the failure of the French Revolution to benefit humankind'.32 In August 1814 he began writing The Assassins, a political {148} romance based on Barruel's account of the Illuminati, but this was never completed.33

In the event, Mary Shelley alone succeeded in writing a fictional commentary on 'these portentous and monster-breeding times'.34 Comparison with other literary responses to the decline of revolutionary hopes only serves to highlight the originality of Frankenstein. In political works and imaginative writings alike, visions of a secular revelation through the progress of science and reason gave way to premonitions of apocalypse.35 This trend is commonly associated with the 1820s, which certainly saw an upsurge in images of catastrophe, depopulation, and decay.36 But, in fact, themes of decline and fall took on a new resonance immediately after Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in June 1815.

Underpinning Mary Shelley's vision of universal fragmentation is the widespread decline of faith in revolutionary progress as 'nothing out of nature's certain course' in the first two decades of the nineteenth century.37 For her potent images of monstrous birth and incurable disease, she returns to the revolutionary polemics of the 1790s. Lee Sterrenburg has argued that the monster imagery of Frankenstein reflects the stereotypes of anti-Jacobin propaganda, notably the characterization of Godwin himself as a demonic philosopher, and that the novel as a whole shows Mary Shelley's unequivocal rejection of her radical heritage.38 However, while Mary Shelley's attitude to Godwin's thought was always deeply divided, her redeployment of revolutionary imagery shows a greater continuity with the Godwinian tradition than Sterrenburg {149} allows. Like Godwin, Mary Shelley reworks images of revolutionary transgression in conservative writings to highlight the social origins of monstrous deeds.

In Reflections, as well as exploiting the images of parricidal transgression noted earlier, Burke drew on images of monstrosity and disease to bring home the revolutionaries' perversion of the natural order. Especially influential was his use of the Comte de la Tour du Pin's account of the activities of the Parisian militia, which threatened to create a military democracy, that 'species of political monster, which has always ended by devouring those who have produced it' (R 333). At the start of Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796), Burke claimed that this prophecy of a cannibalistic 'republic of regicide' had been fulfilled:

Out of the tomb of the murdered monarchy in France has arisen a vast, tremendous, unformed spectre, in a far more terrific guise than any which ever yet have overpowered the imagination, and subdued the fortitude of man. . . . The poison of other states is the food of the new republic.39
Barruel further exploited this notion of devouring offspring when he declared that the French Revolution had proved itself 'a true child of its parent sect [the Illuminati]; its crimes have been its filial duty'.40

Godwin and Wollstonecraft, however, turned Burke's early imagery of physical deformity back on itself to subvert his entire notion of hierarchical society based on the 'method of nature' (R 120). For Godwin it was paternal tyranny rather than filial rebellion that dislocated man from his true potential and created the monstrous. In Political Justice he used images of monstrosity to convey the psychological distortions induced by 'things as they are'. Thus the man who resigns himself to a state of passive obedience is no more than an 'abortion', a 'brute', and the 'most mischievous and pernicious of animals' (PJ i. 457, 232).41 Refuting optimistic thinkers such as Leibniz, he drew attention to the physical deterioration of victims of ignorance and superstition: 'Observe the traces of stupidity, of low cunning . . . of withered hope, and narrow selfishness, where the characters of wisdom, independence and disinterestedness, might have been inscribed' (PJ i. 457). But it {150} was Wollstonecraft who provided her daughter with the most imaginatively succinct reinterpretation of conservative imagery when she openly declared that monstrous offspring are the products of an oppressive system: 'whilst despotism and superstition exist, the convulsions, which the regeneration of man occasions, will always bring forward the vices they have engendered, to devour their parents'.42

This emphasis on the potentially uncontrollable aspects of nature was taken up by later writers. Although Burke described revolutionary theories as a virulent 'plague' of 'epidemical fanaticism', he did not doubt that 'precautions of the most severe quarantine' would lessen the danger (R 262, 185).43 By contrast, writers in the Shelley group emphasized man's inability to control nature, a theme already implicit in St Leon, where the harvest in Soleure, the family's Swiss pastoral retreat, is ruined by a storm which also sweeps away Marguerite's belief in the 'immoveable basis' of man's harmonious bond with nature (SL i. 40). Moreover, this suspicion of a hostile nature seemed to be confirmed by historical events, as in Napoleon's catastrophic reversal of fortunes at Moscow, which he himself is said to have attributed to malevolent external forces:

the obstacles that made me fail did not come from men; they all came from the elements. In the south, the sea has been my undoing; in the north, the burning of Moscow and the cold of winter. Thus water, air, and fire, all of Nature, nothing but Nature -- these have been the enemies of a universal regeneration which Nature herself demanded! The problems of Providence are insoluble.44
This sense of nature's belittlement of man's political ambitions, pervasive in Mary Shelley's novels, gives a historically specific meaning to her use of earlier traditions of cultural fragmentation.

Like other works by Byron and Percy Shelley in this period, Frankenstein presents a secular version of eighteenth-century cultural surveys. Throughout the eighteenth century optimistic Enlightenment thought was undercut by a powerful undercurrent which denied all worldly values. In an orthodox Christian {151} perspective, the more the Enlightenment built for the future, the more it invited punishment by its emphasis on man's invincibility. As in Michael's prophecy of the Deluge in Paradise Lost (xi. 742-54), the world was to be punished by catastrophe so that it could be rebuilt in glory. In Edward Young's The Last Day (1713) and Night Thoughts (1742-6), seeing nature as a universe of death was a way of achieving spiritual pre-eminence over it.45 Thus Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville, a priest of the ancien régime and a critic of the philosophes, could develop the theme of world catastrophe for highly orthodox theological ends. In his novel, Le Dernier Homme (1805), translated anonymously as The Last Man; or, Omegarus and Syderia, Grainville prophesied a predominantly secular exhaustion of the planet, but also offered a vision of repopulation based on scriptural precedents.46

While indebted to these earlier images of catastrophe, the Shelleys' international and ultimately global outlook reflects the influence of more optimistic trends in Enlightenment thought. This bred a series of secular Utopias; Louis-Sebastian Mercier's L'An 2440 (1770), for instance, offered a sketchy precedent for Godwin's vision of a world regenerated by reason at the end of Political Justice.47 A far more influential analysis of cultural decay was provided by the French rationalist, the Comte de Volney, in The Ruins; or, A Survey of the Revolutions of Empires (1791). Structured as a secular apocalypse, the Ruins highlights man's capacity to transcend historical alienation through rational debate. As a militantly anti-Christian, optimistic account of revolutionary change, it gained great popularity among radicals in the 1790s.48 Its Utopian qualities had an even greater imaginative appeal for liberal thinkers of the next generation, faced with the problem of the historical defeat of revolutionary ideals.

Mary Shelley drew extensively on Volney's version of history in both Frankenstein and The Last Man. The later novel is full of Volney's haunting images of decayed civilizations and depopulated landscapes, while in Frankenstein, the Ruins is cited as a work of reference in the monster's story of his education. Mary Shelley {152} draws on two major aspects of Volney's thought. First, Volney's account of orthodox Christianity as a myth based on projected human wishes and fears, which can then be exploited to uphold paternal despotism, provides the key to her systematic reworking of Paradise Lost. In addition, she develops Volney's critique of man's encroachment on nature as the origin of political tyranny: in Frankenstein as in The Last Man, moral error is equated with the rational achievements of empirical science.49

To counterbalance this view of the development of society as a chain of tyrannies, Volney makes an appeal to divinely appointed legislators, whose belief in shared 'eternal and immutable laws' form the basis for his myth of an eternal state (RE 84). This essentially optimistic conclusion inspired Percy Shelley's review of post-revolutionary Europe in The Revolt of Islam, which posits an alternative to legitimate despotism and an antidote to revolutionary despair in the psychological 'Temple of the Spirit' (xii. 41).50 However, unlike Percy, Mary Shelley remains profoundly sceptical about Volney's faith in the ultimate triumph of reason.

Contemporary scientific speculations about the world's origins gave further support to Volney's critique of paternal despotism, for they too challenged the orthodox view of creation derived from Genesis. Mary and Percy Shelley's scepticism concerning man-made schemes of order was powerfully reinforced by their shared interest in evolutionary processes. The works of Erasmus Darwin in particular, The Botanic Garden (1791), Zoonomia, and The Temple of Nature (1803), opened up an alternative to Godwin's theory of man's progressive improvement through the unconstrained operation of reason.51 Though Darwin remained optimistic about man's prospects, he also argued that evolution would continue by its own inherent activity, once begun, and his notes on the struggle for existence and sexual competition prefigure the darker view of natural selection to be developed by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species (1859 ).

{153} The notion that mankind is merely one more transitory element in the world's evolution was more immediately present in the geological theories of Cuvier and Laplace, discussed at length in the Edinburgh Review in 1814.52 On the basis of their study of geological formations, including fossils which showed evidence of the extinction of species, they argued for the world's origin in successive catastrophes. In highlighting the irregular and arbitrary features of natural phenomena, they refuted the account of the Deluge in Genesis, and confounded Thomas Burnet's geological hypothesis of a controlling divine purpose in his The Sacred Theory of the Earth (1681-9).53 Even Godwin acknowledged the force of convulsion theories, which he invoked in Political Justice to refute optimistic accounts of God's controlling purpose. The possibility of the end of the world surfaces at intervals throughout a work often criticized as unrealistically Utopian: 'The human species seems to be but, as it were, of yesterday. Will it continue forever? The globe we inhabit bears strong marks of convulsion . . . vicissitude, therefore, rather than unbounded progress, appears to be the characteristic of nature' (PJ i. 453). The Shelleys were also familiar with the works of Saussure, the Genevan geologist, though it was Buffon's better-known Théorie de la terre that captured Percy Shelley's imagination after his trip to the source of the Arveiron in July 1816.54 In a letter to Peacock he commented on the inevitability of the earth's degeneration, as shown by the 'slow but irresistible' ravage of the glacier advancing into the valley: 'I will not pursue Buffons sublime but gloomy theory, that this earth which we inhabit will at some future period be changed into a mass of frost.'55 Buffon's vision of the gradual encroachment of a new ice age gives a specific urgency to Frankenstein's final pursuit of the {154} monster to the North Pole: time is running out from the start of Frankenstein's narrative, told to Walton aboard a ship locked in Arctic ice. 'We are still surrounded by mountains of ice, still in imminent danger of being crushed in their conflict', writes Walton after Frankenstein's tale has ended (F 211), and it is only when he resolves to abandon the expedition that the ship is released.

It was Byron rather than Percy Shelley, however, who shared Mary Shelley's apocalyptic tendencies, as he too made extensive use of current scientific theories to support a pessimistic imaginative vision. Byron was so impressed by Cuvier's notion of successive creations that he presented it as an alternative to the Christian scheme in the Preface to Cain (1821), and his allusions to Cuvier in Don Juan (1819-24) give an apocalyptic tinge to the narrator's sense of worldly transience.56 Moreover, Cuvier's 'Essay on the Theory of the Earth', translated and reviewed as early as 1814, also stimulated Byron's entirely secular vision of world catastrophe in 'Darkness', which was composed at the same time as the early chapters of Frankenstein at Diodati in 1816. A comfortless sketch of planetary decay, this poem gained high praise in early reviews: the Literary Gazette welcomed it as 'the finest specimen we have hitherto had of his Lordship's abilities', and made comparisons with Dante.57 What Byron emphasizes is the end of all possibility of human relationship: 'men forgot their passions in the dread / Of this their desolation . . . no love was left' (ll. 7-8, 41). As in Frankenstein's final pursuit of the monster to the barren polar regions, distinctions of human individuality fall away. Finally nothing remains but the overwhelming presence of the material world, devoid of animation: 'Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless / . . . a chaos of hard clay' (ll. 70-1).

Already in 1816, then, cultural pessimism is a key feature of the radical tradition, and Mary Shelley's development of this global theme suggests her continuity with rather than disruption of the central concerns of Byron and Percy Shelley. But Mary Shelley alone exploits the novel as a myth-making form which is capable of critical scrutiny of political ideals. In Frankenstein she expands Godwin's characteristic blend of philosophy and fiction to present {155} an uncompromising critique of optimistic myths of revolutionary change.

The Modern Prometheus

Percy Shelley's apparently innocuous statement in the 1818 Preface to Frankenstein highlights the aspects of the novel it seems designed to conceal: he identified the work's 'chief concern' as
the exhibition of the amiableness of domestic affection, and the excellence of universal virtue. The opinions which naturally spring from the character and situation of the hero are by no means to be conceived as existing always in my own conviction; nor is any inference justly to be drawn from the following pages as prejudicing any philosophical doctrine of whatever kind. (F 7)
Certainly Frankenstein's first reviewers were not convinced by this disclaimer. Seizing on the novel's dedication to the author of Political Justice and Caleb Williams, the revisionary subtitle, and the epigraph from Paradise Lost, they were quick to recognize the work's 'incongruity . . . with our established and most sacred notions'.58 For this juxtaposition of allusions alone signals Mary Shelley's provocative fictional aims: she recasts the Godwinian plot as a creation story, reworking both the Greek and Roman myth of Prometheus and the Judaeo- Christian myth as mediated by Paradise Lost, and adding a critical commentary on Godwin's rational account of social origins in Political Justice.

It is no accident that these accounts may be read in terms of rebellion as well as creation, conveying Mary Shelley's suspicion of Utopian enactments of revolutionary change. Through the use of mythic parallels in a context which undermines their original significance, Mary Shelley establishes a broader cultural and historical setting for her critical assessment of present-day revolutionary events. Indeed, the subtitle and setting of Frankenstein explicitly invoke the careers of the revolutionary leaders, Rousseau and Napoleon. Although it is the myth of the 'Modern Prometheus' as Romantic artist that has attracted critical attention in recent years, the novel's first readers would have recognized the topical {156} identification of Prometheus with both Rousseau and Napoleon.59 For the anonymous critic of the Edinburgh Magazine, the extravagance of Frankenstein reflected the 'stupendous drama' of the Napoleonic Wars, in which 'the events which have actually passed before our eyes have made the atmosphere of miracles that in which we most readily breathe'.60 Mary Shelley was undoubtedly familiar with Napoleon's reappropriation of classical myth, for she read the Manuscrit venu de St. Helene (1817), a literary hoax which purported to be Napoleon's own review of his victories and defeats.61 'A new Prometheus, I am nailed to a rock to be gnawed by a vulture. Yes, I have stolen the fire of Heaven and made a gift of it to France', Napoleon is said to have written while in exile.62

Mary Shelley's invocation of Rousseau and Napoleon as modern Prometheans invites further comparison with Byron's analysis of failed revolutionary leaders in Canto III of Childe Harold, completed and read to the others at Diodati in 1816. Here the narrator's tour of the battlefields of Europe leads him to view the chaotic aftermath of the French Revolution in terms of the equivocal features of its leaders, imaged through Prometheus's gift of fire to humankind. While he attributes Napoleon's dual role as 'Conquerer and captive of the earth' to a Promethean 'fire / And motion of the soul' which leads 'Beyond the fitting medium of desire' (iii. 37, 42), he describes Rousseau's extreme sensibility, which was commonly held responsible for the French Revolution, in terms of the uncontrollable natural phenomenon of lightning:

His love was passion's essence: -- as a tree
On fire by lightning, with ethereal flame
Kindled he was, and blasted. (iii. 78)
Initially fascinated by the power of lightning, Frankenstein similarly comes to experience its full destructive force: 'I am a blasted tree' (F 35, 158). With this fatal mixture of creativity and destruction, the {157} Promethean activity of Napoleon and Rousseau bears directly on the course of recent history:
     good with ill they also overthrew,
Leaving but ruins, wherewith to rebuild
Upon the same foundation, and renew
Dungeons and thrones, which the same hour refill'd
As heretofore, because ambition was self-will'd.

(iii. 82)

Mindful of these equivocal images of revolutionary activity, Mary Shelley exploits the dual resonance of the original Prometheus legend along with the Christian myth of rebellion and forbidden knowledge used in earlier Godwinian narratives. As both creator of man out of clay, and fire-stealer who defied the gods' tyranny over mankind and was then punished, Prometheus offered a fitting emblem for the losses and gains of revolutionary aspiration in early nineteenth-century writings.63 While drawn to the Prometheus myth as a subject for poetry, Byron and Percy Shelley rejected Prometheus's ambition and emphasized instead his resistance to oppression and exemplary fortitude. As Byron put it in 'Prometheus' (1815): 'Thy Godlike crime was to be kind, / To render with thy precepts less / The sum of human wretchedness, / And strengthen Mankind with his own mind' (ll. 35-8).64 But Mary Shelley's use of fiction gives greater scope for the conflation of mythic archetypes: the novel's competing narratives invite us to construe Frankenstein's activity as both rebellion and tyranny. In appropriating creative powers, Frankenstein re-enacts Prometheus's theft of fire and Satan's rebellion, but in the subsequent rejection of his creation he re-enacts the tyranny of Zeus and God.65 Like Frankenstein himself, the monster is cast as victim and oppressor, and his reading of Paradise Lost confuses rather than clarifies the issue:66
Like Adam, I was created apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but . . . he had come forth from the hands of God a {158} perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator . . . but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition . . . (F 125)
It is a short step from this blurring of the identities that Milton kept separate to a more opportunistic appropriation of roles in which each character keeps collapsing into its opposite. As the monster threatens Frankenstein: 'Slave . . . You are my creator, but I am your master' (F 165).

Mary Shelley's political allusions add a further layer to this dissolution of stable referents. The monster reads Paradise Lost as 'a true history . . . of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures' (F 125), drawing on Godwin's earlier rereading of Satan's rebellion to highlight paternal tyranny. But this reappropriation of Milton's scheme has a more specific point of reference in Volney's account of cultural decay as the product of paternal despotism, itself 'the offspring of inordinate desire' (RE 37). In particular, Frankenstein's obsession with solitary creation brings to mind Volney's account of the Christian scheme of redemption as based on the interaction of 'this God of compassion' and 'his wellbeloved son, engendered without a mother' (RE 107). For Frankenstein desires a race of offspring, not for their independent qualities, but because they will reflect back an exalted self-image: 'No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs' (F 49). Mary Shelley thus presents an imaginative enactment of Volney's critique of orthodox religion as subjective error writ large, a 'political expedient with which to rule the credulous vulgar', which is open to exploitation by 'bold and energetic spirits, who formed vast projects of ambition' (RE 162). This subversive account of Christianity lies behind the novel's reversal of Miltonic orthodoxies.

The novel's multiple first-person narrative carries through this dissolution of moral certainties. As Robert Hume has noted, the Gothic form typically inverts romance structures, as the quest for ideals is parodied in a circular journey to nowhere.67 Building on Godwin's reworking of allegorical quests for knowledge in St Leon, Mary Shelley exploits a form peculiarly suited to the sceptical treatment of ideals. However, the formal complexity of Frankenstein makes for a uniquely penetrating critique of ideals. Its threefold {159} structure enacts a series of heroic quests which invalidate the possibilities of heroism. Thus Walton's narrative of a literal voyage of discovery is replaced by Frankenstein's account of solitary scientific invention, which encloses the monster's story of his education, at the heart of which is the history of the De Lacey family. At the same time, these narratives are packed with tantalizing glimpses of other life histories: Walton gives a brief account of the career of the ship's master; Frankenstein narrates the story of his mother's early poverty and marriage; and, most important in terms of the novel's reversal of sympathies, Elizabeth gives a complete history of Justine, the Frankensteins' servant, who dies for one of the monster's crimes.

The status of these voyages of discovery is thrown into question by the unreliability of the three principal narrators. As in Caleb Williams, the drama of revolutionary struggle takes place in a subjective account which assigns the task of evaluation to the reader. But Mary Shelley foregrounds the issue of unreliability in a highly sceptical manner that has more in common with Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner than with Caleb Williams. Her juxtaposition of contradictory and cross-referring narratives highlights the confrontation of world-views which is central to her wider aims, and is most evident in the contrasting language in the debates between Frankenstein and his creature. Walton's narrative offers yet another perspective: structured as a series of letters to his sister, it offers the possibility of continuing domestic relationship, by contrast with the wholesale destruction of affective values in Frankenstein's tale.

In this way Mary Shelley exploits the text's different voices to present a survey of cultural values, setting the Frankensteins' family romance against a map of empires. Drawing on Godwin's history of the effects of different political societies on private life,68 she also commands the geographical range of the works of Byron and Percy Shelley. The centre of the novel's action is the republic of Geneva, the former seat of Calvinism and the birthplace of Rousseau, where the Frankensteins are firmly established as enlightened bourgeois in the era of the French Revolution. Indeed, Frankenstein takes pride in his family's tradition of public service in support of the republican ideals praised by Rousseau in his early works.69 It is at Ingolstadt, however, identified by Barruel as the origin of the 'monster Jacobin' engendered by the Illuminati,70 that Frankenstein completes his revolutionary education and creates the monster. In the ensuing pursuit, the novel's claustrophobic psychological intensity is offset by geographical expansion. Frankenstein's journey to Scotland to create the monster's mate involves a cultural education. Accompanied by his childhood friend, Clerval, he travels from the inhuman isolation of the Alps to the cultivated valleys of the Rhine. Once in England, he is briefly inspired by 'the divine ideas of liberty and self-sacrifice' (F 158) associated with the leaders of the Civil War, and he passes through the country of the Lake poets on his journey north. The monster's own travels bear out his claim that he has the power to desolate the world, for he murders Clerval off the coast of Ireland, and entices Frankenstein to the polar regions. In addition, his story offers insight into the workings of different political systems, ranging from the simplified patriarchal idyll in the De Laceys' cottage in Germany, a refuge from revolutionary Paris, to Turkish despotism, in Safie's tale of paternal oppression.

Other doubled characters besides Frankenstein and his creature highlight the wider cultural and political significance of these geographical shifts. At one level Mary Shelley's critique of solitary ambition offers a brief retrospect on the poetry of her Romantic contemporaries.71 Through Clerval, the image of Frankenstein's 'former self' (F 155), she voices dissatisfaction with the notion of speculative detachment from humanity associated with Wordsworth's The Excursion.72 Echoing the doubts of Percy Shelley in 'Mont Blanc' (1816), she undercuts the Lake poets' belief in the redemptive possibilities of a benign natural environment. Frankenstein is repeatedly drawn to the 'terrifically desolate' Alps, which he compares with the landscape of the English lakes (F 92, 159). His elevated intuition that the mountains are 'the habitations of another race of beings' (F 90) suggests his desire to find a benevolent controlling power in nature. But this aspiration is parodied and drained of meaning when his invocation of the 'Wandering spirits' of Mont Blanc heralds not the consoling presence he desires but the reappearance of 'the wretch whom I had created' (F 93). Clerval's preference for the peopled valleys of the Rhine offers a further commentary on Frankenstein's rejection of humanity, which directly echoes Childe Harold (iii. 46):

Look at . . . that group of labourers coming from among their vines; and now that village half-hid in the recess of the mountain. Oh, surely, the spirit that inhabits and guards this place has a soul more in harmony with man, than those who pile the glacier, or retire to the inaccessible peaks of the mountains of our own country. (F 153)
This opposition between solitary desire and human community culminates in the final reckless pursuit to the icy northern regions, the antithesis of the emotional warmth signalled by Elizabeth's Italian origins. Through this polarization of values, Mary Shelley presents a parodic, simplified version of Percy Shelley's earlier quest-narrative, Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude (1816), for she construes the poet-figure's excessively sensitive personal sensibility, what Percy terms his 'generous error', as straightforwardly solipsistic.73

Mary Shelley's allusions to Coleridge again point up the dangers of solipsism and suggest that, like Percy Shelley, she makes little distinction between the aesthetics of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Here the issue is complicated by her alterations to the 1831 text, which have encouraged the exclusive focus on Romantic introspection that forms a major strand in modern criticism of Frankenstein.74 In the 1818 text, Walton alludes in passing to the killing of the albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797, 1817), and his account of his early career as a poet is surely meant to point up the subjective origins of his illicit quest for knowledge: 'for one year [I] lived in a Paradise of my own creation' (F 15, 11). In this perspective Frankenstein's allusion to The Ancient Mariner appears more critical than apologetic, for it highlights his erroneous rejection of the monster, which breeds the guilt-ridden fantasy that "'a frightful fiend / Doth close behind him tread"' (F 54). But in {162} the later text Mary Shelley's adaptation of the references to Coleridge defuses this critical dimension and invites us to view Frankenstein as the victim of unfathomable psychological impulse. For Walton now glosses his allusion to Coleridge's poem: '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' (F 231). This statement prepares for the reception of Frankenstein as another Ancient Mariner whose 'varied intonations' and 'soul-subduing music' captivate his audience (F 232). Like the Wedding Guest, Walton is compelled to hear out the tale of this alienated being, and is finally left 'forlorn',75 inviting the reader to overlook the critical scrutiny of Frankenstein's story which the 1818 text demands.

As already seen, the full range of references in the 1818 Frankenstein tell a different story, indicating Mary Shelley's concern not with psychological idiosyncrasy for its own sake, but with the relationship between private states of mind and the construction of political society. But even this political frame of reference is by no means clear-cut. The text's layered perspectives invite competing interpretations: Frankenstein's narrative seems to offer a conservative warning of the dangers of revolutionary idealism; but, from the monster's point of view, the story is one of social oppression and abandonment by a tyrannical God. To explore this bipartisan quality further, we need first to look at Frankenstein's account of his creation of the monster.

Here Mary Shelley's use of the conservative myth of intellectual conspiracy might suggest an unequivocal Burkean reading of revolutionary transgression, since it is at the University of Ingolstadt, where Weishaupt had founded the Illuminati in 1775, that Frankenstein is inspired to create the monster. But the fact that Mary Shelley also draws on Volney's critique of the dominant values of paternalistic society suggests a more radical undercurrent to her analysis. In his early apprenticeship to the sixteenth-century occultists and alchemists Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus, Frankenstein's state of mind recalls Volney's account of paternal oppression, which fosters the subjective delusions of religious faith: {163} 'Smitten with his imaginary world, man despised the world of nature: for chimerical hopes he neglected the reality' (RE 162). At Ingolstadt, similarly, Frankenstein resents having 'to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth' (F 41) when Krempe, his early, unsympathetic tutor, criticizes his outmoded studies. By contrast, the teachings of Waldman inspire him to fulfil his earlier dreams of 'new and almost unlimited powers' (F 42). Crucially, Waldman praises the masters of empirical science in the precise terms that Volney condemns: 'They penetrate into the recesses of nature . . . they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake' (F 42). Here Mary Shelley directly invokes Volney's prophecy of man's downfall as a presumptuous 'mortal creator': 'Thou hast measured the extent of the heavens, and counted the stars, thou hast . . . conquered the fury of the sea and the tempest, and subjected all the elements to thy will! But oh! how many errors are linked with these sublime energies!' (RE 23) However, Waldman's dismissal of questions of the moral use of such powers also echoes conservative warnings about unregulated intellectual activity: 'The labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind' (F 43). Frankenstein's corresponding lack of ethical restraints underscores Mary Shelley's anxiety that, as Southey later observed, 'the moral culture of the species' may not have kept 'pace with the increase of its material powers'.76

Frankenstein himself broaches this concern when he warns Walton against man's egotistical desire to become 'greater than his nature will allow' (F 48). Extending Godwin's critique of Alexander's imperialistic ambitions, admired by Falkland as 'the generation of love and virtue' (CW ii. 16 [I]/III), Mary Shelley diagnoses this isolating obsession as the origin of political tyranny and conquest:77 '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' (F 51). It is this scheme of opposing political values that lies behind the diverse cultural preferences of Frankenstein and Clerval, as signalled by the juxtaposition of Clerval's reading of Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew {164} literature with Frankenstein's enthusiasm for 'the manly and heroical poetry of Greece and Rome' (F 64). Heroic aspiration is presented most ambiguously in Frankenstein's address to the sailors who wish to abandon Walton's expedition. Reversing his earlier advice to Walton -- 'Learn from . . . my example' (F 48) -- Frankenstein echoes the speech of Dante's Ulysses to his fellow-explorers, for which he is consigned to the fiery ditch reserved for evil counsellors.78 Frankenstein's adoption of heroic formulas at this point subtly emphasizes his loss of self-awareness: 'Did you not call this a glorious expedition? and wherefore was it glorious? . . . because danger and death surrounded, and these dangers you were to brave and overcome. For this was it a glorious, for this was it an honourable undertaking' (F 212). It is no accident that Dante also presents Ulysses' fatal voyage of discovery in opposition to familial relationships,79 thus endorsing the multiple levels of Mary Shelley's political analysis.

Within this framework of heroic allusion, Mary Shelley presents an internalized treatment of the errors of paternal despotism by pursuing the social and psychological consequences of Frankenstein's egotism. She portrays Frankenstein's desire to benefit the species through discovering the origins of life as a self-aggrandizing pursuit. In planning a 'new species' who 'would bless [him] as its creator and source' (F 49), Frankenstein evades domestic obligations to his family and the social restraint of a reciprocal relationship with his childhood love, Elizabeth. Totally obsessed, he fails to notice seasonal changes just as he neglects his family: 'I wished, as it were, to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection until the great object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature, should be completed' (F 50). In highlighting the dangers of 'enthusiasm' specifically in terms of its destructive effects on the natural order as represented by the family, Mary Shelley seems to be offering a Burkean critique of revolutionary aspiration, and a subversive rejoinder to Godwin's early rational views.80

However, the complexity of Mary Shelley's response to Godwin's thought should be emphasized. By 1798 Godwin had revised his {165} account of moral action to take account of the private affections, and he had already dramatized the tension between egotistical aspiration and domestic affections in St Leon, a concern clearly evident in Frankenstein. But while Mary Shelley endorsed Godwin's later position on the domestic affections, she also expressed dissatisfaction with his tentative speculations about a future rational Utopia at the end of Political Justice: 'The men . . . will probably cease to propagate. The whole will be a people of men, and not of children' (PJ ii. 528). In a grim foreshadowing of her vision of world depopulation in The Last Man, Mary Shelley travesties these Utopian expectations on a grand scale. Frankenstein aspires to create a 'new species', but ends up fearing a 'race of devils', and his fantasy of benefiting mankind is replaced by the apocalyptic dread of inflicting a 'curse upon everlasting generations' and wiping out 'the whole human race' (F 49, 163). Frankenstein's ultimate crime against the family is his act of creation without a woman. He fantasizes that his offspring will reflect back an exalted image of his own masculinity, but his dream after bringing the monster to life only confirms his transgression of the natural order:

I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms. (F 53)
Here Mary Shelley offers psychological rather than historical insights into Frankenstein's motives to action: the unexpected return of repressed subconscious impulses suggests a move away from Godwinian social analysis towards a more conventional psychological explanation.

While this imagery of familial transgression suggests Mary Shelley's Burkean sympathies, elsewhere in the narrative she remains deeply sceptical about the integrity of the patriarchal family, the basis of Burke's hierarchical order. All the families in the novel are internally divided long before the monster wreaks havoc.81 Walton's family consists of one married sister; the De Laceys have lost their mother and take in another motherless girl, {166} Safie; the Frankenstein family is made up of a series of adoptions and substitutions. Victor Frankenstein's mother, Caroline Beaufort, his betrothed, Elizabeth, and the servant Justine, are themselves the survivors of broken families. Artificially constructed, the Frankenstein family is bonded together on implicitly incestuous lines: Caroline is Baron Frankenstein's former ward and Elizabeth is brought up as Frankenstein's sister, a relationship emphasized in an 1831 addition, where Frankenstein's mother offers him the homeless Elizabeth as a 'gift' (F 235). In the 1831 text Mary Shelley also expanded her account of Frankenstein's idyllic upbringing, highlighting his parents' 'deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life' (F 234) by contrast with his own parental negligence. Yet this abundance of parental care equally nurtures Frankenstein's egotism. Even in the first edition, the family remains a closeted and inward-looking sphere, which gives Frankenstein an 'invincible repugnance to new countenances' (F 40). Once on the road to Ingolstadt, however, he is critical of a youth spent 'cooped up in one place' (F 40), and his creation of the monster dramatizes his rejection of affective bonds. It is the monster's own story, however, that presents the most thoroughgoing critique of a society based on paternalistic domestic ties.

The Monster's Story

Given its tortuous prehistory, the very form of the monster invites competing interpretations. Identified, on the one hand, with Burke's spectre of revolutionary excesses, the monster subverts the Burkean metaphor of organic growth and continuity: constructed out of arbitrary bits and pieces, fragmented relics of the past, it defeats the very idea of a coherent tradition. As an incomplete 'new man', it also suggests the disastrous consequences of a sudden break with past traditions.

Crucial to this problem of definition is the novel's shifting points of view. Mary Shelley's use of the first-person narrative throws earlier polemical oppositions into doubt, and becomes more radically subversive of all forms of order. By giving the monster a voice, she internalizes its significance, showing how a state of tyranny creates and perpetuates divided selves. But, at the same {167} time, the monster's power to erode stable values anticipates that of the plague in The Last Man, which challenges and finds wanting all political systems.

Mary Shelley's equivocation in defining the monstrous, and what it means to be fully human, approaches the heart of her intellectual purpose. Nowhere is this problem of definition more acute than in Frankenstein's curiously imprecise account of his first meeting with his creature:

He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs. (F 53)
The rest of the novel pivots on Frankenstein's failure to respond when the creature presents the outrageous demand of his own existence. Instead Frankenstein retreats into a fantasy world, and continually presents the monster in terms of dualistic reversal: 'my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me' (F 72). Rather than generously acknowledging his creature, he greets him with frenzied expressions of 'rage and horror . . . anger and hatred . . . furious detestation and contempt' (F 94). Denying the monster the humanizing experience of parental love, Frankenstein further refuses to create him a mate with whom he can live on equal terms. His failure to admit his creature's independence presents the antithesis of Godwin's eminently rational account of parental obligations: 'thou standest before me vested in the prerogatives of sentiment and reason; a living being, to be regarded with attention and deference. . . . I rejoice in the restraint to which your independent character subjects me, and it will be my pride to cultivate that independence in your mind' (SL ii. 28). Frankenstein's negligence leaves the creature no option but to repeat his own tyrannical actions. As Percy Shelley put it in his review of Frankenstein for the Examiner: 'Treat a person ill and he will become wicked . . . divide him, a social being, from society, and you impose upon him the irresistible obligations -- malevolence and selfishness.'82

The monster's physical deformity is powerfully suggestive of the {168} psychological distortions induced by the pressures of hierarchical society. In this respect Mary Shelley's treatment of parental tyranny prefigures Percy Shelley's exploration of incest as a metaphor for paternal religion in The Cenci (1819), the play that he wanted her to write.83 Mary Shelley admired this study of 'sad reality', as opposed to the 'beautiful idealisms of moral excellence' in Prometheus Unbound (1820), as the finest of her husband's works.84 Like Frankenstein, Count Cenci has 'cast nature off' (III. i. 286), and he regards his offspring, his daughter Beatrice, as an extension of himself -- 'This particle of my divided being' (IV. i. 117) -- rather than as a separate individual. This denial of Beatrice's independent existence leads to the wholesale erosion of social bonds in the play. Cenci's incestuous union with his daughter figures his reactionary wish to perpetuate a corrupt system, and he envisages the offspring of their union as a further monstrous birth:

A hideous likeness of herself, that as
From a distorting mirror, she may see
Her image mixed with what she most abhors. (IV. i. 146-8)
Similarly, the monster, bereft of parental care, comes to see himself as a 'filthy type' of his maker, 'more horrid from its very resemblance' (F 126).

Mary Shelley exploits images of incompletion to define a failure in relationship. Although Frankenstein literally endows the monster with life, the creature's half-finished appearance reflects his withholding of love. The creature's inability to find relationship leads him to define himself as 'a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled, and whom all men disowned' (F 116). Throughout the novel understated images of restoration to life highlight Frankenstein's travesty of biblical and Miltonic creation myths. In the opening sequence Walton's efforts to restore the half-frozen Frankenstein to 'animation' by rubbing him with brandy forms only one aspect of his care; it is his sympathy that makes Frankenstein exclaim: 'you have benevolently restored me to life' (F 20, 21). The blind De Lacey's exemplary response to the monster, {169} the antithesis of his creator's negligence, is at once an indication of his own humanity and a means of glimpsing the monster's true potential: 'Excellent man! . . . You raise me from the dust by this kindness' (F 130).85 But the monster's history finally repeats his creator's internal dislocation: 'My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and . . . wrenched by misery to vice and hatred' (F 217). Resigning himself to the state of barbarism that Godwin and Volney saw as the present character of political society, he dismisses himself, in Godwin's phrase, as 'an abortion' (F 219).

Mary Shelley explores the wider psychological and political implications of this monstrous imposition by allowing the monster to tell his own story, which makes a direct appeal to the reader's sympathies. By contrast with Frankenstein's melodramatic outbursts, the monster's eloquence reflects a blend of Miltonic authority and Godwinian persuasion, further validating his marginalized point of view. Like Caleb Williams, he seeks an alternative to the processes of 'human laws, bloody as they may be' by appealing to the reader as judge: 'Let your compassion be moved, and do not disdain me. Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve' (F 96). As he tells Frankenstein: 'On you it rests, whether I . . . lead a harmless life, or become the scourge of your fellow-creatures.' By the end of his tale, however, the reader is surely implicated in his sense of universal injustice: 'Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?' (F 219)

The monster's story offers an alternative to Frankenstein's bourgeois upbringing, and goes on to challenge the entire set of relations of which his creator is part. Even in his first responses to the external world, modelled on Rousseau's theory of natural man,86 he appears the antithesis of Frankenstein, who desires to penetrate the secrets of nature and establish his own pre-eminence. But the monster outgrows Rousseau's notion of happiness arising from the satisfaction of physical passions. Instead his developing moral and intellectual awareness reflects Godwin's theories of education determined by external circumstances, as set out in The Enquirer and developed further in Mandeville. More like the {170} orphaned Mandeville than Godwin's early rational enquirer, the monster has an overwhelming sense of his lack of natural ties: 'No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses' (F 117). In this perspective, it is deprivation of familial bonds rather than the family environment itself that creates the monstrous. If Mary Shelley offers a glimpse of what lies outside social models based on the 'method of nature' (R 120), ultimately this can only be rendered in negative terms, and this underscores her scepticism about all social constructs.

The monster's education drives home this negative vision. His lack of biological origins is offset by a complete cultural development, but this only reflects back on Frankenstein's quest: 'Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was' (F 127). The monster's programme of reading breeds a profound sense of alienation from the dominant forms of patriarchal society, presenting the vices of advanced society as if for the first time. Appropriately, his disenchantment begins with a reading of Volney's Ruins, which gives him an appalling degree of insight into the governments and religions of different nations:

Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base? . . . For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even why there were laws and governments . . . the strange system of human society was explained to me. I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty of rank, descent, and noble blood. (F 115)
His subsequent reading-matter encapsulates the major stages of Western civilization: Plutarch's Parallel Lives offers a view of classical republican heroism; Paradise Lost expounds orthodox Christianity; and Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther introduces eighteenth-century subjectivity. But the monster is unable to place himself in relation to any of these cultural movements. His indecision about whether he is Adam or Satan is clarified by his reading of Frankenstein's laboratory journal. Here the monster learns of his literally fragmented origins and Frankenstein's early hostility, now echoed in his curse of his creator as a tyrannical God (F 126).

Significantly, the monster's marginalized position is shared by other figures excluded from the sources of social power. Anticipating Mary Shelley's critique of imperialism in The Last Man, the monster identifies with colonized groups when he resigns his claim to a place in advanced society and plans to retreat to the wilds of South America with his mate (F 142-3). More central in Frankenstein is the victimization of women, a theme taken up in Valperga. Those women who are, like the monster, victims of Frankenstein's withholding of love, approach the monster's vision of universal persecution, anticipating their deaths at his hands.

Especially instructive is the fate of Justine, the Frankensteins' servant. Even before she is wrongfully convicted of murdering Frankenstein's younger brother William, her history of alienation enacts in miniature the division between Frankenstein and his creature. She recalls that when she returned to her own family after being brought up in the Frankenstein household, her mother 'accused her of having caused the deaths of her brothers and sister' (F 61). Another false accusation in the public sphere leads to her execution for the monster's crime. Pressurized by her Roman Catholic confessor, she collapses in moral confusion and admits to the murder, telling Elizabeth, 'I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was' (F 82).87 The verdict of the court makes a mockery of 'the justice of our judges' in which Baron Frankenstein has so much faith (F 76). In this way the monster drives home the arbitrary nature of the justice meted out to himself, for it is through his planting of William's locket on Justine while she is asleep that he marks her out for false accusation: 'thanks to the lessons of Felix, and the sanguinary laws of man, I have learned how to work mischief' (F 140).

Elizabeth too comes to share the special quality of the monster's insight, prefiguring her deathly confrontation with him on her wedding night. Like Justine, after William's death she blames herself for a crime she has not committed: 'I have murdered my darling infant!' (F 67) Yet her speech in Justine's defence at the trial implicates her in the shortcomings of Genevan justice: it heightens opinion in favour of her own goodness and against Justine's apparent crime (F 80). After Justine's execution, she resigns all faith in man-made schemes of justice:

Now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood . . . Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness? I feel as if I were {172} walking on the edge of a precipice, towards which thousands are crowding, and endeavouring to plunge me into the abyss. (F 88)
As in Caleb Williams, the occasion of the legal trial focuses larger epistemological issues. Elizabeth's recognition that truth and falsehood cannot be distinguished moves beyond a critique of institutional justice to suggest that the entire system of political society upheld by the Frankensteins may devolve into a chaos of arbitrary perceptions. An isolated outburst, this apocalyptic premonition underscores the radical scepticism at the heart of Mary Shelley's political analysis. In the final, mutually obsessed pursuit among the dwindling ice-floes of the polar regions, men and monsters are indistinguishable, anticipating the erosion of all forms of order in The Last Man.

Given this escalating disruption of meaning, it is tempting to argue that Mary Shelley offers a stable point of reference through Walton's intervention at the start of the novel. It is certainly true that the outer frame provided by Walton's voyage of discovery relegates Frankenstein's story to the status of historical accident, and, to some extent, Walton's ostensibly exemplary domestic sympathies provide a critical gloss on Frankenstein's monstrous egotism. Like Frankenstein, Walton dreams of 'the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generation' (F 10), but this does not prevent him from writing letters home. Whereas Frankenstein laments his morality, Walton recognizes the insufficiency of the individual, and laments his lack of a friend (F 13)

However, Walton's position is full of contradictions. He writes that he longs for a companion, yet he has put himself in the situation where he seems least likely to meet one. When he does meet with Frankenstein, he claims to 'love him as a brother' (F 22), but as the full extent of Frankenstein's delusion becomes evident, this response appears idealizing and uncritical. Their final exchange remains deeply ambivalent. Although Walton abandons his dreams of 'utility and glory' (F 213) in compliance with the will of the sailors, his return to society is presented in largely negative terms: 'Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision. I come back ignorant and disappointed' (F 213). Frankenstein is even more unwilling to relinquish his ambitions: though he admits the delusive quality of his 'fit of enthusiastic madness' in creating the monster, he finds little to blame in his past conduct (F 214). Instead he {173} remains fascinated by the pursuit of knowledge and seeks to encourage Walton's hopes, just as he imposes a legacy of vengeance on the monster. Thus his presentation of his experience as a cautionary tale collapses in contradictions: 'Seek happiness in tranquillity, and avoid ambition. . . . Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed' (F 215).

More unsettling still is the dramatic appearance of the monster in Frankenstein's cabin. In bringing the unmanageable product of solitary ambition to the surface of the narrative, Mary Shelley issues an unanswerable challenge to the shaky pattern of consolation offered by Frankenstein's self-centred review of his conduct and Walton's largely uncritical endorsement of his values. For this unaccommodated creature alone has the self-reflective capacity to make a gesture beyond the novel's collapse of relationship when he ceases to react to his creator as a dehumanized tyrant and recognizes his finer qualities: 'Oh Frankenstein! generous and self-devoted being!' (F 217) Such an unexpected glimpse of the monster's affective potential reminds us of his early benevolent actions, described by the De Laceys in the words 'good spirit, wonderful' (F 110). The monster's review of his past conduct presents a notional image of man's capacity for benevolence: 'Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings, who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of bringing forth' (F 219). In addition, this image is concretely shown through Walton's momentary willingness to 'pardon' the monster's 'outward form' and hear his tale. As in Caleb Williams, however, this exemplary awareness is unaffordable within the constraints of 'things as they are', and the monster's extravagant plans for self-immolation complete the novel's breakdown of meaning.

At one level, Walton's listening to the monster's speech, with its cluster of images of thwarted potential, points, albeit precariously, towards a change in the structure of human relationships, and invites comparison with the provisional ending to Caleb Williams. Indeed, the structural complexity of Frankenstein supports this view, for its multiple first-person narrative seeks to place the reader as true arbiter of political justice in Godwin's manner. But Mary Shelley lacks Godwin's optimistic faith in man's capacity for rational judgement. While she accounts for the monster's deformity {174} in terms of social oppression, her treatment of Frankenstein as an exemplar of egotistical ambition suggests a less historical approach, moving towards the conventional psychological focus of her later revisions. Yet this loss of Godwin's early confident ability to discriminate between humanity and the monstrous empowers the imaginative reach of Frankenstein, reaffirming and extending the mythic patterns of the Godwinian novel. Mary Shelley's compensating drive towards large-scale revaluation of systematic forms of belief becomes central in her next two novels.


1 PL. x. 743-5; Mary Shelley read Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in 1815 and 1816, MSJ i. 62, 89, 96.

2 Mary Shelley's three later novels, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck: A Romance (1830), Lodore (1835), and Falkner: A Novel (1837), show an increased conformity to social and financial pressures and are not studied here.

3 Mary Shelley, Introduction to Frankenstein, Standard Novels, No. 9 (London, 1831), reprinted in F 222-9. For a representative selection of modern critical views, see George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher (eds.), The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley's Novel (Berkeley, Calif., 1979). Psychoanalytical readings include Harold Bloom, 'Frankenstein, or The New Prometheus', Partisan Review, 32 (1965), 611-18, reprinted in The Ringers in the Tower (Chicago, 1971), 119-29; Lowry Nelson, Jr., 'Night Thoughts on the Gothic Novel', Yale Review, 52 (1963), 236-57; and see below, n. 12. More historical readings include Paulson, Representations of Revolution, 239-47; Mary Poovey, '"My Hideous Progeny": Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism', PMLA 95 (1980), 332-47 reprinted in The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Chicago, 1984), 114-42.

4 Poovey, Proper Lady, 112-33; Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein's Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing (Oxford, 1987), 30-62; Anne K. Mellor, Mary Shelley: Her Life, her Fiction, her Monsters (New York and London, 1988), 38-140.

5 [J. W. Croker], review of Frankenstein, Quarterly Review, 18 (Jan. 1818), 382.

6 [Croker], review of Mandeville, Quarterly Review, 18 (Oct. 1817), 176.

7 Review of Frankenstein, Edinburgh [Scots] Magazine, 2nd ser. 2 (Mar. 1818), 253.

8 Scott, 'Remarks on Frankenstein', Blackwood's, Z (1818), 613-20, reprinted in Scott on Novelists and Fiction, 261.

9 Review of Valperga, Blackwood's, 13 (Mar. 1823), 284.

10 [On Valperga], Examiner, 826 (30 Nov. 1823), 775.

11 Review of The Last Man, Monthly Magazine, 1 (Mar. 1826), 333.

12 Cf. Elizabeth Nitchie, Mary Shelley: Author of Frankenstein (New Brunswick, NJ, 1953), 140. Author-centred readings of Frankenstein include Moers, Literary Women, 90-110; Marc A. Rubenstein, '"My Accursed Origin": The Search for the Mother in Frankenstein',SIR 15 (1976), 136- 47; Susan Harris Smith, 'Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Psychic Divisiveness', Women and Literature, 5/2 (Fall 1977), 42-53; Barbara Johnson, 'My Monster/My Self', Diacritics, 12/2 (Summer 1982), 2-10. For more wide-ranging feminist readings, see Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven, Conn., 1979), 221-47; Mary Jacobus, 'Is there a Woman in this Text?', New Literary History, 14 (1982), 117-41; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 'Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism', Critical Inquiry, 12 (1985), 243-61.

13 Mary Shelley read these works in 1814 and 1815, and again in 1816 and 1817, MSJ i. 85-93, 94-102.

14 Godwin to Mary Shelley, 14-18 Feb. 1823, Kegan Paul, William Godwin, ii. 277.

15 Mellor, Mary Shelley, 68-9.

16 Gilbert and Gubar, Madwoman in the Attic, 221-47; Poovey, Proper Lady,119-31.

17 Claire Clairmont, quoted in Mrs Julian Marshall, The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 2 vols. (London, 1889), ii. 248.

18 Gilfillan,'Mrs Shelley', 292.

19 Baldick, In Frankenstein's Shadow, 1-9, 30-62.

20 On 18th-cent. mechanical men, see Radu Florescu, In Search of Frankenstein (London, 1977), 55, 220-3; the experiments of the Bolognese physiologist Luigi Galvani were described in John Aldini, An Account of the Late Improvements in Galvanism, with a series of Curious and Interesting Experiments performed before the Commissioners of the French National Institute, and repeated lately in the Anatomical Theatres of London (London, 1803).

21 Cf. P. D. Fleck, 'Mary Shelley's Notes to Shelley's Poems and Frankenstein', SIR 6 (1967), 226-54.

22 R. Glynn Grylls, Mary Shelley: A Biography (Oxford, 1938), 47, 98-100, 110-13.

23 Cf. Leigh Hunt to Mary Shelley, July 1819, Grylls, Mary Shelley, 110 n.

24 Thompson, Making of the English Working Class, 627-8, 691-700, cf. Mary Shelley to Leigh Hunt, 2 Mar. 1817, MSL i. 29.

25 Shelley, Poetical Works, 33.

26 Gerald McNiece, Shelley and the Revolutionary Idea (Cambridge, Mass. 1969), 10-41; cf. Burton R. Pollin, 'Philosophical and Literary Sources of Frankenstein', Comparative Literature, 17 (1965), 97-108.

27 See Ch. 3, n. 61; cf. Walter E. Peck, 'Shelley and the Abbe Barruel', PMLA 36 (1921), 347-53, and James Rieger, The Mutiny Within: The Heresies of Percy Bysshe Shelley (New York, 1967), 63-7.

28 [Mary Shelley], History of a Six Weeks Tour through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland, with Letters descriptive of a Sail round the Lake of Geneva, and of the Glaciers of Chamouni (London, 1817), 18.

29 Ibid. 19.

30 Mary Shelley to [?Fanny Imlay], 1 June 1816, MSL. i. 20.

31 Shelley to Byron, 8 Sept. 1816, PBSL i. 504.

32 Shelley to Elizabeth Hitchener, 7 Jan. 1812, PBSL i. 223.

33 MSJ i. 19; Percy Shelley used the myth of the Illuminati in his early novels Zastrozzi (1810) and St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian (1811).

34 Robert Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on Prospects of Society, 2 vols. (London, 1839), i. 18.

35 My account is indebted to Laurence Goldstein, Ruins and Empire: The Evolution of a Theme in Augustan and Romantic Literature (Pittsburgh, 1977); Thomas McFarland, Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Modalities of Fragmentation (Princeton, NJ, 1981), 2-55; A. J. Sambrook, 'A Romantic Theme: The Last Man', Forum for Modern Language Studies, 2 (1966), 25-33.

36 See below, pp. 191-3.

37 Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805), ix. 253, The Prelude, 1799, 1805, 1850, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill (New York and London, 1979).

38 Lee Sterrenburg, 'Mary Shelley's Monster: Politics and Psyche in Frankenstein' in Levine and Knoepflmacher (eds.), The Endurance of Frankenstein, 143-71.

39 Burke, Letters on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France [1796], Works, v. 256.

40 Barruel, Memoirs, i, p. xvi. 41 Cf. entry for 28 Aug. 1814, MSJ i. 21.

42 Mary Wollstonecraft, An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution, and the Effect it has Produced in Europe, 1 vol. only, facsimile reprint of 2nd edn. (1795), introd. Janet Todd (New York, 1975), 259.

43 Cf. Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York, 1978), 81.

44 Napoleon Buonaparte, in Conversations with Las Cases (1816), quoted in Melvin J. Lasky, Utopia and Revolution: On the Origins of Metaphor (Chicago, 1976), 481.

45 See Goldstein, Ruins and Empire, 73-81.

46 Jean-Baptiste François Xavier Cousin de Grainville, Le Dernier Homme, privately published (Paris, 1805), anonymously trans. as The Last Man; or, Omegarus and Syderia: A Romance in Futurity (London, 1806).

47 Sambrook, 'Romantic Theme', 25.

48 Thompson, Making of the English Working Class, 98-9.

49 See Patrick J. Callahan, 'Frankenstein, Bacon and the "Two Truths"' Extrapolation, 14/1 (Dec. 1972), 39-48; Percy Shelley read Bacon's Novum Organum in 1815, MSJ i. 92.

50 Cf. Kenneth Neill Cameron, 'A Major Source of The Revolt of Islam', PMLA 56 (1941), 175-206.

51 Percy Shelley ordered copies of Darwin's Zoonomia and The Temple of Nature in Dec. 1812, PBSL i. 342, 345; see Brian W. Aldiss, Billion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (London, 1973), 8-35.

52 Reviews of Georges Cuvier, 'Essay on the Theory of the Earth', trans. from the French by R. Kerr (Edinburgh, 1813), and Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace, 'Essay philosophique sur les probabilités' (Paris, 1814), Edinburgh Review, 22 (Jan. 1814), 454-75, and 23 (Sept. 1814), 320-40.

53 On Burnet's theory, see Stephen Jay Gould, Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (1987; Harmondsworth, 1988), 21-59.

54 Horace Bénédict de Saussure, Voyages dans les Alpes, 4 vols. (1779-96), mentioned by Shelley to Peacock, 22 July-2 Aug. 1816, PBSL i. 499; Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Theorie de la terre, in his Histoire naturelle generale et particuliere (1749-67), vol. i, read by Mary Shelley in June 1817, MSJ i. 174-6; cf. MSJ i. 112-21.

55 Shelley to Peacock, 22 July-2 Aug. 1816, PBSL i. 498-9.

56 Byron, Preface to Cain: A Mystery (1821), Poetical Works, 521; Don Juan (1819-24), ix. 36-7.

57 London Literary Gazette, quoted in Sambrook, 'Romantic Theme', 29.

58 Review of Frankenstein, Edinburgh [Scots] Magazine, 253.

59 On Prometheus and the Romantic artist, see Bloom, 'Frankenstein and Christopher Small, Ariel Like a Harpy: Shelley, Mary, and Frankenstein (London, 1972); cf. Edward Duffy, Rousseau in England: The Context for Shelley's Critique of the Enlightenment (Berkeley, Calif., 1979), 73-4, 112-13.

60 Edinburgh [Scots] Magazine 249. 61 MSJ i. 100 and n.; [J. Fréderic Lullin de Châteauvieux] Manuscrit venu de St Hélène d'une manière inconnue (1817), claimed to be the autobiography of Napoleon.

62 Buonaparte, quoted in Lasky, Utopia and Revolution, 481.

63 Judith Shklar, After Utopia: The Decline of Political Faith (Princeton, NJ, 1957), 530-7.

64 Cf. Percy Shelley's internalized treatment of classical myth in Prometheus Unbound (1820).

65 Paul A. Cantor, Creature and Creator: Myth-Making and English Romanticism (Cambridge, 1984), 103-9.

66 See also Lestie Tannenbaum, 'From Filthy Type to Truth: Miltonic Myth in Frankenstein', Keats-Shelley Journal, 26 (1977), 101-13.

67 Robert D. Hume, 'Gothic Versus Romantic. A Revaluation of the Gothic Novel', PMLA 84 (1969), 282-90.

68 PJ, 14, 24 (Bk. I, ch. 3, 'The Spirit of Political Institutions', ch. 4, 'The Characters of Men Originate in External Circumstances'); cf. the hero's travels in Fleetwood, mentioned in MSJ i. II, 19.

69 Cf. Rousseau's address to the citizens of Geneva: 'you have no masters other than wise laws instituted by yourselves and administered by upright magistrates of your own choosing', Discourse, 57, 61.

70 Barruel, Memoirs, iii. 444.

71 Butler, Romantics, Rebels, and Reactionaries, 140-2.

72 Cf. entry for T4 Sept. 1814, MSJ i. 25.

73 On the allegorical complexities of Alastor, see Timothy Clark, Embodying Revolution: The Figure of the Poet in Shelley (Oxford, 1989), 96-142; Shelley, Preface to Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude (1816), Poetical Works, 15.

74 See above, n. 59, L.J. Swingle, 'Frankenstein's Monster and its Romantic Relatives: Problems of Knowledge in English Romanticism', Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 15 (1973), 51-65.

75 Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797, 1817) l. 623, The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. E. H. Coleridge, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1912).

76 Southey, Sir Thomas More, i. 206; cf. PC 471.

77 Cf. VRW 155.

78 Cf. Dante 'Call to mind from whence ye sprang: / Ye were not formed to live the life of brutes, / But virtue to pursue and knowledge high'; The Divine Comedy, trans. Henry Francis Cary as The Vision, or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, 3 vols. (London, 1814; 2nd edn., corr. with additional notes, 1819), Hell, xxvi. 115-17.

79 Cf. ibid. 93-7.

80 Cf. Sterrenburg, 'Mary Shelley's Monster'; Mellor, Mary Shelley, 86-7.

81 Kate Ellis, 'Monsters in the Garden: Mary Shelley and the Bourgeois Family', in Levine and Knoepflmacher (eds,), The Endurance of Frankenstein, 123-42; William Patrick Day, In the Circles of Fear and Desire: A Study of Gothic Fantasy (Chicago, 1985), 139-43.

82 Shelley, 'On Frankenstein' [18l8, first published in the Athenaeum, 10 Nov. 1832], Works, vi. 264. 83 According to Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley was inspired by the story of the Cenci family while in Rome in 1819, and 'urged the subject to me as one fitted for a tragedy . . . but I entreated him to write it instead', Note on The Cenci (1839), Poetical Works, 335.

84 Shelley, Dedication to Leigh Hunt, The Cenci (1819); Preface to Prometheus Unbound (1820); Poetical Works, 275,207.

85 Cf. Adam to Eve: 'needs must the power | That made us . . . | Be infinite! good . . . | That raised us from the dust', PL iv. 412-16.

86 Rousseau, Discourse, 81-105.

87 Cf. Wollstonecraft on the error of 'blind obedience', VRW 107.