Contents Index

A German Ancestor for Mary Shelley's Monster: Kahlert, Schiller, and the Buried Treasure of Northanger Abbey

Syndy McMillen Conger

Philological Quarterly, 59:2 (Spring 1980)

{216} Students of what Devendra Varma has called the efflorescent period of Gothic fiction (late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) inevitably encounter the question of its possible Germanic roots.1 Regrettably, the answer they are all too often given is the misleading one which originated with Coleridge. The typical German literary export to England, he claimed, was merely an Eintopf made from English ingredients and hence not to be seriously considered either German or influential:
Now we have only to combine the bloated style and peculiar rhythm of Hervey . . . with the strained thoughts, the figurative metaphysics and solemn epigrams of Young on the one hand; and with the loaded sensibility, the minute detail, the morbid consciousness of every thought and feeling in the whole flux and reflux of the mind, in short, the self-involution and dream-like continuity of Richardson on the other hand; and then to add the ruined castles, the dungeons, the trap-doors, the skeletons, the flesh and blood ghosts and the perpetual moonshine of a modern author (themselves the literary brood of the Castle of Otranto . . .), -- and as the compound of these ingredients duly mixed, you will recognize the so-called German drama. . . .2
Coleridge's assessment of English literary influences on eighteenth-century German drama is perspicacious, if somewhat negative; but his comments fail to grant German originality and German counterinfluence their due.3 Correcting this picture has been a piecemeal process, for information about translations available during the period is still sketchy -- even about major German authors like Friedrich Schiller, whose possible contribution to the formation of the Gothic villain-hero has been a subject of some speculation.4 Now knowledge of three early translations of a Schiller story may well help to change that speculation to certainty.

When Geoffrey Buyers wrote "The Influence of Schiller's Drama and Fiction upon English Literature in the Period 1780-1830" in 1915, he pointed out significant resemblances between Mary Shelley's monster and {217} Schiller's Christian turned criminal-hero in Der Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre (1786); but the validity of his comparison remained questionable because he had no solid evidence that Schiller's tale had been available to Shelley in English as she worked on Frankenstein (1818), and she apparently read little or no German. The date of what was assumed to be the only extant translation was 1826; and though Buyers passed on his information that the story was "known to have existed in English long previous to 1826,"5 no one ventured to pursue his idea. Since Buyers' article appeared in 1915, however, three early translations of Der Verbrecher have come to light, and a reassessment of this hypothesis is long overdue. B. Q. Morgan first unearthed a translation for his 1938 Critical Bibliography of German Literature in English Translation, 1787-1927: a translation entitled simply "The Criminal" and done for Volume II (1800) of the short-lived periodical, The German Museum (1800-1801). The supplement to Morgan's bibliography published in 1965 lists yet another: "The Criminal from Lost Honour" translated in 1809-10 for Universal Magazine.

A third even earlier translation which made Schiller's tale available in English in 1794 has been at our fingertips for some time, but, like Poe's purloined letter, has escaped notice, no doubt because it was buried in another text and not identified by author or title. It forms the final episodes of The Necromancer of the Black Forest (Minerva Press, 1794), one Peter Teuthold's English translation of a contemporary German Schauerroman by Karl F. Kahlert called Der Geisterbanner. Because Jane Austen called attention to The Necromancer in Northanger Abbey as one of the "horrid" bestsellers read by her heroine, Catherine Morland, it was thought worth reprinting in 1927 (London: Robert Holden) and again in 1968 (London: Folio); and it has been identified recently as one of Matthew G. Lewis's German sources for The Monk (1796).6 Schiller's tale was woven by Teuthold into the end of the second volume of The Necromancer, perhaps as filler; and even though its beginning and ending were altered to accommodate it to the main story, it remains a recognizably discrete entity. Such literary piracy hardly makes the comparatist's task simpler, but in this case it offers more than the delight of unearthing buried treasure. The date of the Teuthold translation precedes the only translation date that Buyers could verify by over thirty years, offering one more bit of evidence to suggest that Schiller's influence on English Gothic fiction may be far from chimerical.

Many of the German readers of Kahlert (alias Ludwig Flammenberg) have known of the Teuthold piracy, for Kahlert called attention to it himself at the end of his second German edition in 1799. At the same time {218} he even retranslated the Englished version of Schiller's story into German, inviting readers to compare it with Schiller's original and to discover for themselves "how different German taste is from English."7 Kahlert's invitation was neglected, however, and he and his discovery were forgotten, so much so that when Montague Summers began his study of early Gothic fiction, he at first thought The Necromancer had no German original, a surmise he only later reversed.8 What follows is in part a belated response to Kahlert's invitation: first, a close comparison of Schiller's original tale with its first English translation; then, a brief comparison of that first translation with the later translations; and finally, in the new certainty that Mary Shelley could have encountered Schiller's Der Verbrecher in any one of three places, a preliminary comparison of the tale with Frankenstein designed to reopen the question of Schiller's influence on its author.

A comparison of Schiller's story and the 1794 translation does indeed reveal a significant difference: what in Schiller's hands is a thoughtful analysis of the social genesis of a criminal mind is reduced in the English translation to a story with sensational, near-Jacobin overtones. As nothing is known about the translator Peter Teuthold, however, the reason for the change is not easily inferred. Did Teuthold (possibly a German ëmigré) have Jacobin sympathies? Or did he make changes, as Kahlert seemed to think, to create a story more compatible with English taste, or with the English preconception of German literature in the mid-90s? This latter explanation seems more probable. To a great extent, critics ignored the flood of popular German literature arriving on English soil in the 90s; but those who did comment often saw German authors as subversive scribblers with a disregard for literary rules which was symptomatic of their larger revolutionary contempt for social institutions? It may well have been such a notion Teuthold had in mind as he sat down to rework Der Verbrecher. Perhaps, though this is admittedly speculation, "Teuthold" was even a conservative Englishman with anti-Jacobin sympathies who deliberately designed his translation to discredit German literature.

The plot of Schiller's story undeniably betrays some distrust of the social institutions of the day which could easily be misconstrued as Jacobin sentiment by an overzealous reader. In tracing the brutalization of a good but poor and physically unattractive young man, Christian Wolf, it puts much of the blame on governmental institutions. A rival's treachery results in Christian's first arrest for the minor crime of poaching, but the courts and the prison system transform him into a hardened and accomplished criminal. Counterbalancing this bias in the plot, however, is the deliberately non-inflammatory statement of purpose in Schiller's introduction. {219} Nowhere does he even suggest that he wishes to incite his readers to revolt against society's laws. Rather, he aims to instill in those readers a sympathetic understanding of the criminal which can mitigate the force of the law and might well save social outcasts from complete destruction.10 He wishes to humanize the image of the criminal, to discourage his readers from settling into the too comfortable attitude that criminals are a "strange breed apart from themselves" ("ein Geschöpf fremder Gattung . . . dessen Blut anders umlauft . . . dessen Wille andern Regeln gehorcht," p. 8). The only revolution Schiller seems to wish for is a revolution in attitudes; and his plea for tolerance is important enough to warrant restating here. He hopes his story will "destroy proud certainty" and "disperse the gentle spirit of tolerance" ("den grausamen Hohn und die stolze Sicherheit ausrottet . . . [und] den sanften Geist der Duldung verbreitet," p. 9). The best way to achieve his end, Schiller decides, is deliberately to avoid sensational appeals. To coerce his readers into a sympathetic response to his protagonist would be a "usurpation" of their judgment. Instead, he chooses the cool, objective, factual presentation of the "historian" (p. 8). He promises to spend more time on the thoughts of the criminal than on his deeds, and to spend even more time seeking the circumstantial "wellsprings" of such thoughts. Schiller clearly sees his tale as an educational rather than an incendiary tool.

This introduction is excised in the English translation of Teuthold, thus at once depriving the tale of Schiller's detached philosophical attitude. It begins instead with a portrait of the protagonist as he stands accused in the courtroom about to tell his life story, and that portrait has nearly nothing in common with the picture of Wolf that Schiller gives, except that both young men have black, bushy hair (cf. Schiller's "krauses Haar von einer unangenehmen Schwärze," p. 10). For the rest of his description the English translator apparently has a model other than Schiller's in mind. Schiller's hero is described as "repulsive" (the word "Widrigkeit" is used, p. 10) while the Teuthold hero is depicted as having a "savage look and lofty mien which seem to betoken a haughty spirit."11 Schiller's hero has plain, homely features (a "plattgedruckte Nase" and "geschwollene Oberlippe"); but the translator's protagonist has the features of a swashbuckler: scars on his cheek and only one eye. Finally, Schiller's figure is one of "small, insignificant stature" ("kleine unscheinbare Figur") while the translator's Wolf is nearly seven feet tall. By giving Wolf near superhuman and exotic attributes, the English translator has dehumanized the criminal Schiller wished to humanize.

The first words of Wolf in the translation violate the spirit as well as the letter of Schiller's original. Wolf tries to elicit sympathy through {220} emotional rhetoric and sensational detail -- precisely what Schiller vowed not to do. Even more important, Wolf casts the blame for his criminal career wholly on laws and judges: "I never should have become a robber, had not the too great severity of laws made me an enemy to the human race, and hurried me to the brink of black despair" (p. 197). By the end of this paragraph, the translator has already altered both the aim and the sense of Schiller's tale: he does not attempt to increase understanding and tolerance for the criminal but to evoke anger against the legal establishment. His is not an impartial inquiry into the causes of criminality but an accusation, which begs the question, against justice.

From this point on the translator reproduces more faithfully the syntax and the sense of the original. Still, on a less extensive scale, he continues to alter the German in the three ways already noted: by adding sensational detail; by omitting analytical commentary; and by fabricating a revolutionary message. Only in the English version of Teuthold are tears or the heart mentioned frequently (pp. 197, 202, 204-05) or does Wolf feel the "lash of the gaoler's whip" (p. 199); and only in this translation does Wolf's murder victim Robert -- his former rival in love -- lie "weltering in his blood" (p. 205). Schiller's version furnishes no such bloodthirsty details: "The hunter lay dead on the ground" ("Der Jäger lag todt am Boden," p. 16).

The addition of words and deeds which were almost certainly assumed to be Jacobin is the most striking change, however. Schiller's "band of thieves" ("Diebesbande," p. 23) becomes a "commonwealth" and a "society" (pp. 210, 212) in the English. The life Wolf led as a robber -- which Schiller intentionally leaves out of his narrative as "abhorrent" ("abscheulich") and "unedifying" ("nicht unterrichtend," p. 23) -- is detailed by the English translator and includes an episode of revolutionary revenge: "I proposed to declare open war against the game, which had brought on my disgrace and ruin, and to rob the houses of the judges. . . . The houses . . . were pillaged in a tempestuous night" (p. 214). Finally, the politically-tinged moral energetically espoused at the outset of the English version of Teuthold is repeated at the close in an angry, accusatory tone which has no equivalent in Schiller's version:

If my judges had not been too severe, if they had listened to the voice of equity and humanity, I should perhaps not have been reduced to the necessity of craving the mercy of your highness -- their want of feeling has plunged me in the fatal gulf of guilt. (p. 217)
Such alterations certainly give a palpable demonstration of the pressure which prejudicial attitudes (whether those of audience or author) can exert on literature, or translation, in the making. Beyond that, they help to make more understandable the distrust English critics of the day had of German {221} authors, a distrust not fully dispelled until after 1813, the date of Madame de Staël's de l'Allemagne12. Anyone without a reading knowledge of German was at the mercy of translators who felt little compunction about sensationalizing foreign texts to make them more marketable.

Fortunately for Schiller, the curious mistranslations in Teuthold's work are not repeated in the translations done for The German Museum and The Universal Magazine. Both anonymous translators, "F." and "R. H.," are scrupulously true to Schiller's original:13 the introduction to the story is reinstated, the description of Wolf is a word for word translation of Schiller's, and the touches of sensational violence and Jacobin sentiment added by Teuthold are gone entirely. Like Schiller, the later translators prefer simple, matter of fact descriptions of Robert's corpse: "the huntsman lay stretched a corpse on the earth" (p. 436) or "the forrester was stretched lifeless on the ground" (p. 272). Also like Schiller, they are not eager to detail the life of Wolf as robber, which they pass over in silence (p. 442). Moreover, the skill and accuracy of his version suggest that "R. H.," if not "F.," was a native English speaker and probably unfamiliar with Teuthold's version of the story. If Teuthold was not German, then the English person using that pseudonym certainly tried to lend his translation a Germanic quality by lapsing into German syntax and using occasional hybrid words, neither of which one finds in the texts of "F." or "R. H." Teuthold's "I wish to live, in order to repair my crimes past, and to make my peace with human society, which I have offended" (p. 216) is clear but has a slightly pathetic quality with its non-parallel constructions and its dangling verb; and it is improved in the version of "F," who adds an element of parallelism and nudges the sentence from awkwardness to English eloquence: "I would wish to live, in order to compensate for a part of the past; I would wish to live, in order to conciliate myself with the state, which I have injured" (p. 529). A robber's "zinnerne Flasche" becomes for Teuthold a quaint "tin bottle" (p. 208) but for "F." a more natural "tin flask" (p. 438). Finally, "F." and "R. H." make none of the mistakes in translation that Teuthold does. Teuthold mistranslates "trotz" twice (once as "scorn," p. 206, and once as "determination," p. 208); "F" translates it more accurately as "spite" (p. 436) and "obstinacy" (p. 437). Teuthold substitutes the word "murderer" for the German "Kindermörderin" (p. 205) and "F" the correct term, "child murderess" (p. 436). Examples of this sort could be multiplied, but that hardly seems necessary for the purposes of this essay. Suffice it to say that the later translators restore Schiller's tale to its original form and recover Schiller's original stated intent.

More compelling than the question of the relative merits of three early {222} translations is, of course, that of the possible influence of Schiller's tale -- through whatever mediator -- on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.14 If Geoffrey Buyers' conjecture is correct, then German literary impact on the English Gothic novel is much more extensive than has hitherto been suspected, including such works as The Monk and Charles Robert Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), read primarily by Gothic specialists, but also including an acknowledged masterpiece with a long history of popularity and influence of its own. Buyers' argument rests on five passages selected from Frankenstein which he believes have "resemblances" to passages from Schiller's tale "worth pointing out":15

Wolf. Jedermann, der mir aufstiess, trat scheu zurück. [Everyone who encountered me, retreated in fright.]

Monster. I had hardly placed my foot within the door, before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted.


Wolf. Ich hatte von jeher die kleinen Kinder sehr lieb gehabt. [l had always been very fond of little children.]

Monster. I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity.


Wolf. Der Knabe weiss nicht, wer ich bin, noch woher ich komme, und doch meidet er mich wie ein schändliches Tier . . . Die Verachtung dieses Knaben schmerzte mich bitterer als dreijähriger Galiotendienst. [The boy doesn't know who I am or where I come from, and still he shuns me like a vile beast. . . . The scorn of this boy pained me more bitterly than would three year's service in a ship's galley.]

Monster. When I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification.


Wolf. Von jetzt an lechzte ich nach dem Tag meiner Freiheit, wie ich nach Rache lechzte. [From now on I have thirsted for the day of my liberation in the way I thirsted for revenge.]

Monster. For the first time, the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom.


{223} Wolf. Damals gelobte ich unversöhnlichen glühenden Hass allem, was dem Menschen gleicht. [At that time I vowed implacable, burning hatred for all things human.]

Monster. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.

These passages raise a number of questions, only some of which Buyers offers to answer. First, their arrangement in pairs suggests that Mary Shelley's lines contain significant verbal and syntactical echoes of Schiller's, but under scrutiny few such echoes emerge. The translations in brackets reveal only two close parallels in words (cf. "bitterer" and "bitter"; "Hass" and "hatred") and one in a phrase ("gelobte unversöhnlichen glühenden Hass" and "vowed eternal revenge"); moreover, in that phrase the words "unversöhnlichen" ("implacable" or "irreconcilable") and "glühenden" ("glowing" or "burning") are only vaguely approximated by the English translation "eternal." Mary Shelley did occasionally incorporate words or phrases into her novel from other texts (works most frequently noted are her father William Godwin's Things as They Are; or The Adventures of Caleb Williams and Milton's Paradise Lost16); but her language in the passages above is hardly similar enough to SchiIler's to prove indisputable influence. Since the sentiments are comparable in Buyers' pairs but the words and phrases less so, is this resemblance the result of a mutual source rather than direct influence? Buyers suggests as much by mentioning as a possible common source Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the first to write a "story of a being whose impulses, naturally good, are warped and trampled upon by contact with society and the tyranny of the law."17 Rousseau's vision of society does indeed inform the youthful writings of Schiller and linger in Shelley's Frankenstein, but this alone cannot rule out the possibility that Mary Shelley had also read and drawn upon Schiller's tale.

More questions emerge from Buyers' ordering of the selected parallel passages. The first three passages quoted from Schiller's Verbrecher come from one episode -- a confrontation between the criminal, Wolf, and a young boy -- and the last two from another -- Wolf's imprisonment. Buyers reverses the actual order of the two episodes, however, as they appear in Schiller's text. These are paired with passages from Frankenstein from five quite distinct episodes (though, with the exception of the second passage, they are at least quoted in chronological order): the monster's first attempt to enter a village (p. 101), his initial appeal to Victor when they meet on Montanvert (p. 95), his revulsion by his own reflected image in the pool (p. 109), his rejection by the cottagers (p. 134), and his reaction {224} to the pistol wounding he receives while trying to save a child from drowning (p. 138). Such random parallels suggest dim or confused memory traces on Mary Shelley's part. Are the parallels between the two texts so difficult to find? Must the order of events in Schiller's tale really be reversed to bear some resemblance to Mary Shelley's? If so, isn't the parallel too strained to be significant?

In this case, Buyers' method encourages unnecessary scepticism and demonstrates quite well the inadequacy of trying to measure influence by parallel passage. Schiller's tale resembles Shelley's to some extent on a verbal level, to be sure, but to an even greater extent on an abstract level not so easily measured: that of structure. Before turning to this more pervasive level of influence, however, we should explore briefly the question of Mary Shelley's possible familiarity with Schiller's work. Buyers anticipates this question in a final perceptive comment, but one which conceals as much as it reveals: "It is not impossible . . . that recollections of Schiller's narrative maybe formed a slender strand in the texture of the novel. The Shelleys certainly read a good deal of miscellaneous German fiction."18 But what German fiction? Whence the recollections?

If questions of influence are often vexed, then this case of the pirated translation is no exception: neither Mary Shelley nor her biographers mention her reading Schiller's tale. Nevertheless, she could have read or heard about it at so many points in her life that her knowledge of it seems very reasonable to assume. First and least likely, she might have heard Matthew G. Lewis talk about The Necromancer during his visit to them at Lake Leman in August of 1816. Even though he arrived at Villa Diodati too late that summer to inspire the famous ghost story contest, he did stimulate discussion of German literature, telling ghost stories Shelley found "all grim" and translating Goethe's Faust. Germanophile Lewis was very familiar with Kahlert's thriller, as he had adapted episodes from it for The Monk.19 Mary Shelley apparently found this visit memorable; she wrote about it years later, even recounting one of the tales he told.20 Second, she might have read The Necromancer during the early period of her friendship with Percy Bysshe Shelley, for Shelley may have had a copy of it when she met him. As a boy, he had discovered a shop in Brentford where he could buy cheap Minerva Press editions;21 and his St. Irvyne (1811) shows signs of his having read Kahlert's tale along with a host of other Gothic thrillers. If Mary read it at Shelley's suggestion, it must have been before she began keeping her journal in 1814, for it is not mentioned there. Schiller's Geisterseher (1787-89, trans. 1795 and called by her The Armenian) is, however, as are a number of other German works from the same late eighteenth-century resurgence of interest in the occult which {225} produced The Necromancer; for example, G. A. Burger's "Leonora" (1773), Veit Weber's Sorcerer (1795), Lewis's Monk, and C. A. Vulpius's Rinaldo Rinaldini (1797). Also on the journal reading list are de Staël's de l'Allemagne (1813) and Benjamin Thompson's German Theatre (1800-) and other German authors of the day: Goethe, Kotzebue, Kramer (pseudonym for Nanbert), Moritz, and Tieck.22 To this already extensive list must also be added the collection of German stories in French translation, Fantasmagoriana (1812), which reportedly inspired the Shelley and Byron parties to have their ghost-story contest. Surely this more than casual interest in German literature makes it plausible to assume that Mary Shelley had already absorbed Der Verbrecher as a young woman or, if not then, as a "bookish child."23 This last possibility may finally be the most reasonable one. Mary's father is known to have consulted Kahlert's thriller twice during the summer of 1795 while he was working on St. Leon,24 and his use of German literature in the '90s may also have led him to read what he could find in The German Museum or The Universal Magazine, increasing the likelihood that Mary had had some version available to her as a young girl. Since the parallels between Frankenstein and Der Verbrecher are not primarily on the verbal level, the question of which version she read may not be ascertainable, nor is it finally as important as the question of whether she knew the story.

To the extent that biographical detail cannot convince the comparatist that Mary Shelley was conversant with Schiller's tale, the text of Frankenstein can. The monster's tale within Frankenstein's, so central to the novel's development of character and theme, shares features with Christian Wolf's story in Der Verbrecher. The number of key similarities lessen the possibility of coincidence, nor could Mary Shelley have derived the knowledge she needed indirectly from Lewis's Monk, Godwin's St. Leon, and Shelley's St. Irvyne. Genre and purpose, central situation and precipitating event, plot sequence and theme are all surprisingly comparable.

Wolf tells his own story and that story takes the form of a defendant's confession to the court. It is at once an apology and an appeal for understanding:

The history of my life will . . . teach the guardians of the people to be careful how they inflict punishments. . . . I know my doom is fixed; however, if your heart is no stranger to pity you will at least not refuse a tear of humanity. . . . (Teuthold, p. 197)
When the monster relates his story to Victor on Montanvert, he also does it to win compassion and understanding; and although he stands in no courtroom, the terms he uses and courtroom analogy he draws call to mind Wolf's appeal in Schiller's tale:
{226} How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion. . . . 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. But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they may be, to speak in their own defense before they are condemned. (pp. 95-96)
These narratives are both criminal autobiographies and, in a similar sense, trial speeches aimed at attaining forgiveness of those sitting in judgment.

As the autobiographies unfold, so do several other striking likenesses. The central situations from which the stories develop are nearly identical: for each young protagonist, face determines fortune. While still a youth, Wolf is kicked by a horse, and his "disfigured . . . face" henceforth causes girls to shun him. He imagines he can compensate for his deformity by tempting the girl he loves with gifts, but since he is poor, such gifts are most quickly acquired dishonestly. His face thus leads him indirectly to a life of robbery, and then murder and woe. The monster's fortunes in Frankenstein are even more directly attributable to his appearance. His ugliness prompts the most inhumane treatment possible -- stoning, mockery, beating, shooting -- and this treatment prompts him first to despair and then to murderous misanthropy:

There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery. (pp. 132-33)
These words Buyers could easily have added to his list, for they echo those of Wolf "longing for revenge" from his prison cell and despising "all things human."

To this general resemblance in situations can be added a remarkably specific one between two pivotal episodes. Each protagonist is confirmed in his hatred of the human race only after he has been summarily rejected by a child; and in each story, this rejection is the event which precipitates the final chain of crimes. Moreover, all three translations of this episode are quite accurate and would have given Mary Shelley the accurate account of this distinctive turning point she seems to have had:

Schiller's original: Ich hatte von jeher die kleinen Kinder sehr lieb gehabt, und auch jetzt übemnannte mich's unwillkürlich, dass ich einem Knaben, der neben mir vorbei hüpfte, einen Groschen hot. Der Knabe sah mich einen Augenblick starr an und warf mir den Groschen ins Gesicht. Wäre mein Blut nur etwas ruhiger gewesen, so hätte ich mich erinnert, dass der Bart, den ich noch von der Festung mitbrachte, meine Gesichtszüge bis zum Grässlichen entstellte -- aber mein böses Herz hatte meine Vernunft angesteckt. Thränen, wie ich sie nie geweint hatte, liefen über meine Backen. [I had always been very fond of little children, and now it so overwhelmed me involuntarily that I offered a Groschen to a little boy who skipped past me. The boy stared at me for a moment and then threw the money in my face. If my blood had been quieter, I might have remembered that my beard, which I brought from the prison, distorted my facial features to a degree of ghastliness -- but my wicked heart had already infected my reason. Tears, as I had never wept them before, streamed down my cheeks.] (p. 13)

{227} Teuthold's translation: Having always been very fond of children, I could not resist the involuntary impulse of giving a penny to a boy who was skipping by; he stared at me for a moment and then threw the money in my face. If my blood had not been heated so much, I should have recollected that my long and bushy beard had frightened the poor boy; however, my polluted heart had infected my reason, and tears, which I never had shed in my life, were trickling down my cheeks. (pp. 201-02)

"F.'s" translation: I had always been particularly fond of little children, and even now this attachment involuntarily got the better of me, and I offered a little boy, that hopped by me, a penny. The boy looked at me a few moments with a fixed stare, and then threw the money in my face. Had my blood been a little more cool, I would have remembered, that the long beard which I wore, since my release from the fortress, had disfigured the traits of my face, and had rendered them horrid -- but my bad heart had infected my reason. Tears such as I had never shed rolled over my cheeks. (p. 349)

"R. H.'s" translation: I was always partial to little children; and by an almost involuntary motion I gave a penny to a boy who came skipping by me. The boy looked at me for a moment full in the face, and threw my money at me. Had my blood been a little more composed, I should have recollected that my beard, which I retained since my liberation from prison, gave to my features an hideous appearance. Tears, such as I had never shed before, flowed down my cheeks. (p. 271)

Wolf offers a child money upon returning to his native village, as seen above, after his second imprisonment. He is already ravaged by thoughts of revenge, hating "the whole human race," fancying himself to be a "martyr" and a "victim of glaring injustice." The young boy nevertheless moves him to compassion and to the "involuntary impulse" to be kind, perhaps to offer the child the charity he never had. The boy's contempt, which he admits "grieved me more than my long imprisonment," also stifles the last of his human kindness: ". . . I had nothing farther to lose, and nobody to care for; I had no farther occasion for the least good quality, because nobody believed I had one left." Shortly thereafter, Wolf kills his former rival, a murder which leads to flight, more crimes, and eventual capture.

The monster's motive for approaching the child William in Frankenstein is slightly more selfish. He wishes to kidnap him and cultivate him as a friend. Yet the same volatile mixture of emotions underlies his actions: a nearly overwhelming urge to succumb to "vengeance" against "all mankind" (p. 138) combined with a momentary but intense desire for human companionship: "Suddenly, as I gazed on him, an idea seized me, that this tittle creature was unprejudiced. . ." (p. 138). When William's screams and curses kill the monster's last hope for love, he reacts by making the boy his first murder victim. The dynamics of interaction in this scene should be compared to those in Wolf's scene with the boy in the Schiller story:

{228} "Urged by this impulse, I seized on the boy as he passed, and drew him towards me. As soon as he beheld my form, he placed his hands before his eyes, and uttered a shrill scream: I drew his hands forcibly from his face, and said, 'Child, what is the meaning of this? I do not intend to hurt you; listen to me.'

"He struggled violently; 'Let me go,' he cried; 'monster! ugly wretch! . . .'

"The child still struggled, and loaded me with epithets which carried despair to my heart: I grasped his throat to silence him, and in a moment he lay dead at my feet." (p. 139)

Not only are the actions an exaggerated but comparable version of the actions in Schiller's story, but the final lines of this passage are nearly a perfect echo of Schiller's description of Wolf's first murder: "Der Jäger lag todt am Boden." Thus begins the monster's career as a murderer, a career to end, as does Wolf's, in the destruction of his persecutors but also of all that is fine in himself.

A final similarity in structure, though not so unique or striking as the one above, is nevertheless worthy of mention. In both Schiller's and Shelley's stories, the criminals make one last appeal for mercy, for the chance to begin their lives again; but in both cases, their appeals are denied. Wolf asks to have his death sentence revoked so that he may devote the remainder of his life to military defense of prince and state, but the prince does not respond to his letter. The monster pleads with Victor to create him a mate; but although he promises to do so, Victor cannot bring himself to complete the task and so incurs the monster's implacable hatred.

Even with structures so similar, the remarkable likeness between Schiller's and Shelley's thematic concerns comes as a surprise. Each tale dramatizes a monstrous metamorphosis: creatures with the potential for nobility are transformed by fellow humans into fiends. Man may be corruptible, but society -- with its fears, its prejudices, and its cruelty -- does the corrupting. If such a vision frees the individual from complete responsibility for his own actions on the one hand, it increases his responsibilities on the other. Society must be changed, and until it is, each member of society must remember his own susceptibility to the sirens of intolerance and pride. Like Schiller's tale, Mary Shelley's novel aims to create a revolution in attitudes, to encourage compassion and humility: compassion for our less fortunate fellows and humility concerning our own rather overrated superiority to them. Mary Shelley's monster, like Schiller's Christian Wolf, is not a "strange breed apart," as Victor Frankenstein would like to think, but by his own testimony to Victor, like his maker: ". . . thy creature. . ." (p. 95). Victor doubts this until his death and fails to demonstrate sufficient compassion and humility, but by the end of the novel, he has nevertheless proved the monster's assertion. He has become as much an admixture of {229} the fine, the proud, and the monstrously criminal as his creation: both creator and created must be feared and pitied. The English Gothic villain has disappeared and in his place is a hero with awesome weaknesses, one who, in effect, haunts or plagues or tyrannizes himself. There is no absolute accounting for this kind of spiritual affinity between two authors separated as Schiller and Mary Shelley were by the barriers of time, sea, and language, though it makes her familiarity with the more accurate later translations slightly more likely. One thing is certain: the case for substantial German influence on English Gothic fiction is getting stronger and as it does, Coleridge's disclaimer loses validity.

Now Schiller's sympathetic criminal hero can be added with some confidence to the growing list of characters from eighteenth-century German literature to be discovered in English Gothic fiction: to name a few, Bürger's Lenore; Goethe's Faust, Mephistopheles, and Gretchen; Hölty's and Musäus's spectral nuns; Kahlert's necromancer; Schiller's Armenian; and Schubart's Wandering Jew. These figures bring with them thematic (and in some cases, mythical) potentialities, enriching and sometimes altering the direction of the English tradition. In this process Schiller's role was far from inconsequential. His impenetrable Armenian priest (from Der Geisterseher) captured the imaginations of writers as diverse in temperament as Lewis, Radcliffe, Byron, and Maturin, adding new shades of mystery and complexity to their sinister characters; and Schiller's Christian Wolf also clearly helped to inspire the subtle inversion-fusion of villain and hero which is Mary Shelley's great achievement in Frankenstein. Moreover, Coleridge's claim to the contrary, neither the Armenian nor Christian Wolf were inspired by English literary models but rather grew from the Social and political context of Schiller's world.25 The point of this essay has not been to suggest that the influence of the Germans on English Gothic fiction is the only one ever exerted on the genre, but it has been to dispel any notion that such influence is simply a myth.26 German literary figures cast long shadows in the English Gothic imagination.


1. The Gothic Flame (1957; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell, 1966), p. 2.

2. Vol. II of Biographia Literaria, ed. J. Shawcross (London: Oxford U. Press, 1907), 183-84.

3. A few of the more recent studies which have revealed how complex the crosscurrents at the time were are Charles Dédéyan, Le Thème de Faust dans la littérature Européene (Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1955); Karl S. Guthke, Englische Vorromantik und der deutsche Sturm und Drang -- M. G. Lewis' Stellung in der Geschichte der deutsch-englischen Literaturbeziehungen (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1958); Roxana M. Klapper, The German Literary Influence on Byron, Salzburg: Institut fur englische Sprache und Literatur, 1974); P. M. Ochojski, "Walter Scott's Continuous Interest in Germany," Studies in Scottish Literature 3 64-73; Walter Roloff, Morton E. Mix, and Martha Nicolai, German Literature in British Magazines, 7750-7860 (Wisconsin U.. Press, 1949); and John Boening, ed., 7he Reception of Classwal German Literature tn England, 7760-7860. A Documentary History from Contemporary Penodicals (New York: Garland, 1977).

4. For knowledge compiled about the availability of Schiller in England, see Geoffrey Buyers' article in Englische Studien, 48, No. 3 (1915), 349-93; Frederic Ewen, The Prestige of Schiller in England, 1788-1859 (Columbia U. Press, 1932); R[obert] Pick, Schiller in England 1787-1960, Vol. 30 of Publications of the English Goethe Society (London: Institute of Germanic Languages and Literatures of the U. of London, 1961); Violet A. A. Stockley, German Literature as Known on England (London: G. Routledge & Sons, 1929); F. W. Stokoe, German Influence in the English Romantic Period, 1788-1878, with special reference to Scott, Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron (Cambridge U. Press, 1926). Buyers speculates about the influence of Schiller's robber-heroes in England as does Clara F. McIntyre, "The Later Career ot the Elizabethan Villain-Hero," PMLA, 40 (1925), 874-80.

5. Buyers, p. 368. There are three other known early translations which were all done too late to have aided Shelley: "The Criminal from Lost Honour," which appeared in The British Ladies Magazine in 1818, and R. Holcroft's The Dishonoured Irreclaimable and T. Roscoe's The Criminal; or Martyr to Lost Honour. A True Story which were both published in 1826.

6. "The Criminal," in Vol. II of The German Museum (1800), 344-49, 434-43, 529-33; and "The Criminal from Lost Honour," Universal Magazine, N.S. 12 (1809), 186 ff. and N.S. 13 (1810), 10 ff. Page numbers hereafter cited in the text. See Ch. 6 of Northanger Abbey. There were two early editions of Kahlert's novel, each with a slightly different subtitle. The first, and the one tyanslated, is Der Geisterbanner: Eine Wundergeschichte aus mündlichen und schriftlichen Traditionen gesammelt (1792). Kahlert's second edition had the subtitle Geschichte aus den Papieren eines Dänen gesammelt von Lorenz Hammenberg (Breslau: W. G. Korn, 1799-1800). For information about Lewis and The Necromancer, see Guthke's study and my Matthew G. Lewis, Charles Robert Maturin and the Germans: An Interpretative Study of the Influence of German Literature on Two Gothzc Novels (Salzburg: Institut für englische Sprache und Literatur, 1977; rpt. New York: Arno, 1980).

7. Lorenz Flammenberg, Der Geisterbanner, 2nd ed., Vol. III, 272.

8. Montague Summers, The Gothic Quest: A History of the Gothic Novel (New York: Russell & Russell, 1938), p. 123. In the introduction to his 1927 edition of the Necromancer (London Robert Holden) he conjectures simply that "various local legends of the Black Forest have been woven together to form a single narrative," p. xiv. Michael Sadleir, The Northanger Novels: A Footnote to Jane Austen, English Association Pamphlet No. 68 (London: Oxford U. Press, 1927) had the same misconception, calling the book "so formless as to make a single Teutonic original almost unimaginable. More probably it represents an adaption, according to English taste, of an anthology of Black Forest legends," p. 17.

9. Early volumes of The Anti-Jacobin Review and its predecessor The Anti-Jacobin, or Weekly Examiner helped to disseminate this image of German authors. See especially Vol. II, No. 30 ( lune 4, 1798), 415-30, of The Anti-Jacobin, or Weekl Examiner for the famous attack on and parody of contemporary German drama. A lesser known, but like-minded, attack on the Germans is William Preston's "Reflections on the Peculiarities of Style and Manner in the late German Writers, whose Works appeared in England; and on the Tendency of their Productions," The Edinburgh Magazine, or Literary Miscellany, n.s. 20 (1802), 353-61 and 406-08. Summers guesses that Teuthold was probably one of the "devoted and enthusiastic Germans living in exile in England" (Introduction to The Necromancer, p. xiv).

10. It originally appeared in Thalia. The edition used for this paper is Erzählungen, Vol. 16 of Schillers Werke: Nationalausgabe, ed. Hans Heinrich Borcherdt (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1954), pp. 7-29. Page numbers hereafter cited in the text.

11. The Necromancer; or The Tale of the Black Forest Founded on Facts, Translated from the German of Lawrence Flammenberg by Peter Teuthold (1794), reprinted under the editorship of Montague Summers (London: Robert Holden, 1927), p. 196. Page numbers hereafter cited in the text.

12. The story of the early mistranslation and misunderstanding is retold by every comparatist who has treated the reception of Schiller or Goethe in England. In addition to sources cited in notes 3 and 4, see ean-Marie Carte, Goethe en Angleterre (Paris: Non-Plourrit, 1920) and W. F. Hauhart, The Reception of Goethe's "Faust" in England in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Columbia U Press 1909). For the story of de Staël's importance in transforming English attitudes toward German literature, see Emma Gertrude Jaeck's Madame de Staël and the Spread of German Literature (London: Oxford U. Press, 1915).

13. "R. H." was most probably Reginald Heber, a contributor to both Christian Observor and Quarterly Review (see, for example, Boening, Vol. 2, 41-68) who had returned to London in 1807 from travels in Russia, Crimea, and Germany. We may never know for sure who "F" was. The translators for The German Museum were not named, though many translations are signed "P. W.," probably one of the editors Peter Will. "The Criminal" could be the work of his coeditor, A[nthony] F[lorian] M[adinger] Willich, an M.D. who translated several philosophical and medical treatises from the German between 1798 and 1801 in addition to writing some of his own. There was also a "Mr. Fardeley" (first name varies) translating at around the same time, according to Morgan, and LCC lists an "F. A.," a "student of the Inner Temple" who was the author of The Criminal Recorder; or, Biographical Sketches of Notorious Public Characters (London: J. Cundee, 1804-09). Of the two translators "R. H." is more likely to have been the native English speaker. Phrases which "F" translates "swollen upper lip," "deer stealer," "unripped," and "the forest was still as a churchyard" (pp. 346, 347, 349, 436) are translated by "R. H." into the less awkward "prominent upper lip," "poacher," "burst open," and "the wood was as silent as tomb" (pp. 187, 188, 271, 273). SimiIarities between "F's" and "R. H.'s" word choices and syntax suggest to me that "R. H." consulted "F.'s" translation as he did his own.

14. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, ed. with variant readings, introduction and notes by James Rieger (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974). Page numbers hereafter cited in the text.

15. Buyers, pp. 383-84. All translations in the essay are mine unless otherwise identified in the text.

16. For recent lucid discussions of some of Mary Shelley's literary sources, see Burton R. Pollin, "Philosophical and Literary Sources of Frankenstein," Comparative Literature, 17, No. 2 (1965), 97-108; Gay Clifford, "Caleb Williams and Frankenstein: First-Person Narratives, and 'Things as They Are,'" Genre, 10, No. 4 (1977), 601-17; Mary Graham Lund, "Mary Godwin Shelley and the Monster," The Unwersity of Kansas City Review (1962), 253-58; Milton A. Mays, "Frankenstein, Mary Shelley's Black Theodicy," Southern Humanties Review, 3 (1969), 146-53; and Safaa El-Shater, The Novels of Mary Shelley (Salzburg: Institut für englische Sprache und Literatur, 1977).

17. Buyers, p. 383.

18. Buyers, p. 384.

19. See Conger, pp. 76-82, and Guthke, p. 35.

20. Louis Peck, A Life of Matthew G. Lewis (Harvard U. Press, 1961), p. 159 and n. 33, p. 319. See also "On Ghosts," London Magazine (1824), pp. 253-56, an unsigned article by Mary Shelley.

21. Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975), pp. 8, 13-14, 30-35 is especially helpful for information about Shelley's fascination with Gothic literature.

22. Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. Frederick L. Jones (U. of Oklahoma Press, 1947).

23. Rieger, p. xiii. "Mary Godwin's childhood was detached, dreamy, and bookish."

24. See Gary Kelly's excellent discussion of Godwin's reading during the composition of St. Leon in The English Jacobin Novel, 1780-1805 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), pp. 212-13, 232-35.

25. The contemporary events underlying Schiller's stories are carefully discussed by the editors of the Nationalausgabe.

26. Michael Hadley, "A Critical Puzzle: A Search for the German Gothic Novel," Transactions of the Samuel Johnson Society of the Northwest, 7 (1974), 58-72, is the latest variation on the Coleridge argument.