Contents Index

"Nothing More Unnatural": Mary Shelley's Revision of Rousseau

James O'Rourke

English Literary History [ELH], 56:3 (Fall 1989), 543-69

{543} It has often been assumed that Mary Shelley's adoption of Rousseauean ideas in Frankenstein is fairly derivative and can be easily described. Thus Paul Cantor writes that "One could undertake a fairly simple interpretation of the monster's story in Rousseauean terms. The monster as originally created corresponds to natural man. . . . The story would then show how civilization corrupts an essentially benevolent being into a demon."1 Although Cantor suggests that this occurs because "Society is shown as being based on the will to power," he does not address the fundamental Rousseauean paradox of how "essentially benevolent" beings, when grouped together, become malevolent. Previous interpreters of Frankenstein who have noted the influence of Rousseau, encouraged by Mary Shelley's age at the time of her writing of the novel, her sex, and her marriage to a famous poet, have attributed the enigma of the transformation of the "noble savage" into a child-murderer to Mary Shelley's clumsiness as an author. Milton Millhauser describes the treatment of the theme of innate goodness in Frankenstein as an "irrelevant and apparently automatic repetition" of Godwinian philosophy that Mary Shelley was unable to integrate into the fabric of the novel, while Mary Graham Lund believes that it is entirely due to "the purpose of the plot" that the monster must be "change[d] into a Mephistophelean fiend who drove Frankenstein to his doom."2

Some recent criticism of Mary Shelley has suggested a more complex treatment of Rousseauean ideas in Frankenstein. David Marshall writes of the monster as "a noble (and sometimes not so noble) savage," while Judith Weissman even more explicitly gives Mary Shelley credit for being a better reader of Rousseau, one who realized that "natural man is neither good nor bad."3 Weissman's discussion of the treatment of Rousseau in Frankenstein focuses on Rousseau as a political figure, "the spiritual ancestor of Godwin and Shelley" and a primary instigator of the French Revolution. While I am much in sympathy with Weissman's conclusion that "there is hell to pay, in Frankenstein, for the man who does not put his {544} family first" (180), Weissman's further judgment, echoed by many commentators on the novel, that Mary Shelley's judgment of Romanticism entailed a criticism of Shelley and Rousseau as the sort who, by "neglect[ing] their families for their big plans . . . really mess things up politically" [180] greatly underestimates Mary Shelley's ability to, as she put it, "feel the counter-arguments too strongly."4 Her equivocality on the matter of political activism can be seen in a journal entry written in 1838:

I am not a person of Opinions. . . . some have a passion for reforming the world: others do not cling to particular opinions. That my Parents & Shelley were of the former class, makes me respect it. (MS J, 2:553)
It should also be noted that the consequences of Frankenstein's actions do not reverberate on a grand political scale but in a small domestic circle. Although Weissman argues that "The view of the French Revolution implied in Frankenstein . . . is not so favorable" (178) as Mary Shelley's comment about Rousseau and the Revolution in a letter written contemporaneously with Frankenstein, Mary Shelley in fact maintained a lifelong allegiance to leftist political ideals. In the letter written in 1816, she praised Rousseau and the "revolution, which his writings contributed mainly to mature," saying that "notwithstanding the temporary bloodshed and injustice with which it was polluted, it has produced enduring benefits to mankind, which not all the chicanery of statesmen, nor even the greatest conspiracy of kings, can entirely render vain," while in the 1838 journal entry cited above she insisted that "I have never written a word in disfavour of liberalism" (554).5 Despite the political ambiguity of the imagery of Frankenstein, the novel's critique of Rousseau, Godwin, and Percy Shelley is far more personal than political.

It is widely understood that Frankenstein is to some degree a critique of William Godwin and Percy Shelley. This is grounded in such particulars as the ironic conjunction of the book's impersonal dedication to Godwin and its epigraph from Milton, which, as U. C. Knoepflmacher points out, suggests a deep ambivalence on Mary Shelley's part towards Godwin, and the use of Percy Shelley's teenage readings in Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus, and his juvenile pseudonym Victor (which he adopted for a volume of juvenile poetry written in collaboration with his sister Elizabeth) in the creation of Victor Frankenstein.6 There is, however, a relative scarcity {545} of biographical material that would allow Godwin and Shelley to serve as the prototypes for a father-figure who abandons his creation. Mary Shelley had been sent to live with the Baxters, but this turned out to be a fairly pleasant experience, and there is no record of recrimination over this. Her famous comment that "my father from age & domestic circumstances & other things could not me faire valoir" (MS J, 2:555) seems to refer to the time after Shelley's death, and it is, in any event, a very short and qualified criticism. The complicated circumstances that may have led her to blame Shelley, at least in part, for Clara Shelley's death occurred well after the writing of Frankenstein. But there was enough in her experience to allow her to have the monster generalize, in relatively muted tones, on the difference between maternal and paternal behavior:

I heard of the difference of sexes; of the birth and growth of children; how the father doated on the smiles of the infant, and the lively sallies of the older child; how all the life and cares of the mother were wrapt up in the precious charge. 7
The same words, from a more orthodox writer, could be taken simply as a description of a natural difference between the sexes. If it were not for the context of Frankenstein, in which a male unilaterally creates and then abandons his creation, this might not even seem a criticism.

For the more extreme instance of paternal neglect, we need to turn from Godwin and Shelley to Rousseau. Rousseau, to Mary Shelley's knowledge, abandoned his five children by Thérèse le Vasseur to the Parisian Foundling Hospital. She wrote about this, with some heat, in an essay on Rousseau for an encyclopedia of French authors. Since this essay is not widely known, and is not easily available outside of a few research libraries, I shall quote liberally from it.

Even in his Confessions, where Rousseau discloses his secret errors, he by no means appreciates the real extent of his misconduct on this occasion. . . . Theresa was about to become a mother. . . . Rousseau did not like to multiply ties between himself and his mistress and her family: he was needy: he had heard young men of rank and fortune allude vauntingly to the recourse they had had on such occasions to the Foundling Hospital. He followed their criminal example. . . . Five of his children were thus sent to a receptacle where few survive; and those who do go through life are brutified by their situation, or depressed by the {546} burden, ever weighing at the heart, that they have not inherited the commonest right of humanity, a parent's care.8
The monster's complaints to Frankenstein, that Adam "had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator," but that in his own case, "I was wretched, helpless, and alone," (F, 125) and
I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator; but where was mine? he had abandoned me, and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him. (F, 127)
clearly express the consequences of just such an abandonment. It is worth noting that Mary Shelley read the Confessions a year before she began writing Frankenstein, and that her journal shows that she reread at least some of the book during the transcribing of the novel.

The seemingly benign description in Frankenstein of the difference in maternal and paternal investment in children is greatly intensified in the essay on Rousseau. The above quotation continues:

It is insulting the reader to dwell on the flagrancy of this act. But it is a lesson that ought to teach us humility. That a man as full of genius and aspiration after virtue as Rousseau, should have failed in the plainest dictates of nature and conscience, through the force of example and circumstances, shows us how little we can rely on our own judgment. It shows too, that a father is not to be trusted for natural instincts towards his offspring; for the mother wept, and it needed the control of her own mother, and strong necessity, to induce the weak-minded and misguided girl to consent to part with her offspring. ("Rousseau," 131)
In the next several pages of her essay, Mary Shelley shows an inability to move away from this subject. Her next paragraph begins, "We say little of Rousseau's vain excuses as to the probable destiny of his children"; she then lists those excuses. She comments that "This futile reasoning does not need elaborate refutation," and then she refutes it. She speculates on what Rousseau's children might have become if they had been kept, "a help and support in his age," and even imagines that they might have had the standing to forestall the excesses of the Revolution their father had inspired. She finally seems to wonder at the direction of her own essay (which is, after all, being written for an encyclopedia), saying, "Such ideas are vain, but will present themselves." The sentences {547} which follow are well worth quoting in full, both for their resonance for Frankenstein and to illustrate the intensity of Mary Shelley's feelings about Rousseau:
Our first duty is to render those to whom we give birth, wise, virtuous, and happy, as far as in us lies. Rousseau failed in this, -- can we wonder that his after course was replete with sorrow? The distortion of intellect that blinded him to the first duties of life, we are inclined to believe to be allied to that vein of insanity, that made him an example among men for self-inflicted sufferings. We now dismiss this subject. It was necessary to bring it so far forward as to show the evil effects of so bad a cause; it is too painful to dwell further upon. ("Rousseau," 132)
But Mary Shelley does not dismiss the subject. She begins to recount how Rousseau's relationship with Thérèse le Vasseur evolved into a common-law marriage, and her commentary begins with an illustration of her own indifference to the legal status of marriage, but it ends on quite a different subject:
This had been praiseworthy as a proceeding founded on tolerant and charitable principles; but when we find that this kindly-seeming society was a Moloch, whom to pacify, little children were ruthlessly sacrificed, the whole system takes a revolting and criminal aspect from which we turn with loathing. ("Rousseau," 132-33)
That is the end of her paragraph; the next paragraph begins, "However, to go back to narrative," and it does so.

The essay shifts to an account of Rousseau's first success as an author, with the First Discourse. Mary Shelley delivers a mixed verdict on Rousseau's speculative anthropology:

The eloquence with which he represented the evils of civilisation, and the blessings of a state of nature, as he called it, fascinated every reader. The freshness and energy of his style charmed; the heart he put into his arguments served instead of reason, and convinced. . . . Yet, in point of fact, nothing can be more unnatural than his natural man. The most characteristic part of man's nature is his affections. The protection he affords to woman -- the cares required by children; yet Rousseau describes his natural man as satisfying his desires by chance, -- leaving the woman on the instant; while she, on her side, goes through childbearing, child-birth, and child-nurture alone. Much may be granted to the strength that human beings enjoy in savage life . . . but, in all, man has ever been found (except in one or two cases, where the human animal descends below brutes), the protector of women, and the source of his children's subsistence; and {548} among all societies, however barbarously constituted, the gentler and nobler individuals among them have loved their wives and their offspring with constant and self-sacrificing passion. ("Rousseau," 134-35)
The reader who is familiar with Rousseau's writings will have noticed that Mary Shelley shifts from the First to the Second Discourse in the material cited from Rousseau. This seems to be a mistake on her part, since she comments briefly on the Second Discourse several pages later, calling it simply an extension of the First. On the matter of Rousseau's "natural man," she is willing to go so far as to characterize the entirety of Rousseau's theory as a rationalization of his own misdeeds:
Poor Rousseau, who had thrust his offspring from parental care to the niggard benevolence of a public charity, found some balm to the remorse that now and then stung him, by rejecting the affections out of his scheme of the state of natural man. ("Rousseau," 135)
Mary Shelley's challenge to Rousseau's primitivism echoes some of her mother's differences with Rousseau. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft also credited Rousseau's eloquence and disdained his theories when she remarked on "the brutal state of nature which even his magic pen cannot paint as a state in which a single virtue took root" [Vindication, Chap. 1]. Wollstonecraft, like Mary Shelley, found the duties owed to children as a proof against Rousseau, arguing that "he disputes whether man be a gregarious animal, though the long and helpless state of infancy seems to point him out as particularly impelled to pair, the first step towards herding."9 But there are some fundamental differences between Mary Shelley's beliefs and Wollstonecraft's -- Wollstonecraft would not have written that "The most characteristic part of man's nature is his affections" -- and these differences make it far more difficult for Mary Shelley to disentangle herself from Rousseau than it had been for Wollstonecraft.

Wollstonecraft grounds her challenge to Rousseau in classic Enlightenment premises, arguing that reason is the distinguishing characteristic of human nature, and that reason is God-given. There is thus a categorical distinction between material being and human capacity in Wollstonecraft's beliefs. But when Mary Shelley suggests that the "affections" are actually "the most characteristic part" of human nature, she establishes a continuity between the state of {549} nature and the state of civilization that is characteristic of Rousseauean Romanticism. Mary Shelley's argument with Rousseau is more narrowly an ethical dispute than was Mary Wollstonecraft's. Wollstonecraft maintained a faith in God and reason that provided a metaphysical foundation for believing Rousseau to be ontologically wrong in his description of human nature. Mary Shelley had much less faith in such metaphysical sureties, and in the absence of a controlling deity in Frankenstein, the ontogeny of Victor Frankenstein's creation recapitulates a Rousseauean phylogeny.

The two traits that Rousseau attributes to the human animal in a precivilized state are self-preservation and compassion. As he says in the Second Discourse, he finds "two principles prior to reason, one of them interesting us in our own welfare and preservation, and the other exciting a natural repugnance at seeing any other sensible being, and particularly any of our own species, suffer pain or death."10 These traits can easily be discovered in Mary Shelley's monster. The monster does not come into existence tabula rasa, but begins to show a Rousseauean inner being in his first reaction to light and darkness:

a stronger light pressed upon my nerves, so that I was obliged to shut my eyes. Darkness then came over me, and troubled me; but hardly had I felt this, when, by opening my eyes, as I now suppose, the light poured in upon me again. (F, 97)
The first response, to light, is entirely physiological, but this is not so in the reaction to darkness. There is no physical pain associated with darkness; the monster is simply "troubled." As this passage echoes Adam's first awakening to consciousness, the monster's distress is Mary Shelley's twist on the belief of Milton's Adam that when "gentle sleep / First found me," this might mean that "I then was passing to my former state / Insensible, and forthwith to dissolve."11 The difference between Adam and the monster is precisely that the latter is "troubled" by this possibility; in this he evinces the Rousseauean instinct for self-preservation that is as automatic as a physiological response. Rousseau argues in the Second Discourse that the attainment of a more reflective sense of mortality is a crucial stage in human evolution, "for no animal can know what it is to die; the knowledge of death and its terrors being one of the first acquisitions made by man in departing from an animal state" (55). Mary Shelley's monster signals his transition from a state of nature to a more fully human condition in one of his {550} most Rousseauean outbursts that incorporates this growing awareness of mortality:
Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known or felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst and heat!

Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it, like a lichen on the rock. I wished sometimes to shake off all thought and feeling; but I learned that there was but one means to overcome the sensation of pain, and that was death -- a state which I feared yet did not understand. (F, 116)

The monster first shows his capacity for compassion when he refuses to take food from the de Laceys' supplies once he realizes that by doing so he causes them hardship. This is the best argument for the original goodness of the monster, for in this case the two primal Rousseauean instincts collide, and the monster chooses to exercise compassion even as it conflicts with his own self-preservation.

The central enigma of Frankenstein is the evolution of this benign creature into a child-murderer, and in sketching this development Mary Shelley uses Rousseauean principles, but she shows an even more fluid transition between the attributes of the natural man and the social being than Rousseau did in his Discourses. It could well be the case that rhetorical purpose has to some degree dictated content in both Rousseau's Discourses and Frankenstein; Rousseau was addressing questions posed by the French Academy that called for a conceptual opposition between nature and civilization, while Mary Shelley was showing the development of a single individual. In any event, it seems clear in Frankenstein that the natural instinct to compassion leads directly to the desire for social relations in the monster's dealings with the de Laceys; any such connection is far more difficult to establish in Rousseau.12 The psychological ground of Frankenstein becomes even more complicated when Mary Shelley effaces the distinction made by Rousseau between amour de soi-meme and amour-propre.

In a footnote to the Second Discourse, Rousseau identifies amour de soi-meme as a natural instinct and amour-propre as an artificial sense of honor born of socialization. Amour de soi-meme he calls "a natural feeling which leads every animal to look to its own preservation," whereas amour-propre is "a purely relative and factitious feeling, which arises in the state of society, leads each individual to make more of himself than of any other, [and] causes all the mutual damage men inflict one on another." It follows, in Rous- {551} seau's reasoning, that "in the true state of nature," there could be "no feeling arising from comparisons" and the natural being "could know neither hatred nor the desire of revenge," since such a being would have no sense of honor to be injured (D, 66). The congruence between Milton's and Rousseau's accounts of the fall from innocence were clear to Mary Shelley. What Milton called pride, Rousseau called amour-propre. Where Milton's Satan could not bear to be placed below the Son of God, Rousseau would identify this indignation with the ability to objectify oneself and make comparisons on points of relative worth. Satan's appeal to Eve was that she might be like a god. This sense of honor rooted in comparison and competition recurs in Mary Shelley's characters. In Frankenstein's initial dreams of glory, he refers to himself in the third person and imagines himself surpassing all of his predecessors: "So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein, -- more, far more, will I achieve" (F 1831, 241). The monster is quite proud of his linguistic prowess, telling Frankenstein, "I may boast that I improved more rapidly than the Arabian, who understood very little, and conversed in broken accents, whilst I comprehended and could imitate almost every word that was spoken" (F, 114). It should be remembered that the monster is not an otherwise normal being with an unfortunately deformed appearance, and his comparisons of himself to Satan are not entirely laments. When he says that "Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him" (F, 126), it is noteworthy that he identifies himself with the chief, and "admired," rebel and not with any of his "fellow devils."

The intensity of the monster's response to his rejection by the de Laceys is rooted precisely in the injury done to his sense of amour-propre. He believes that "to see their sweet looks turned towards me with affection, was the utmost limit of my ambition" (F, 127-8), but his ensuing account of why he believes he will be successful in his quest shows that he has developed the sense of amour-propre that marks the transition, in Rousseauean terms, from the natural to the social state:

The poor that stopped at their door were never driven away. I asked, it is true, for greater treasures than a little food or rest; I required kindness and sympathy; but I did not believe myself utterly unworthy of it. (F, 128)
Upon the monster's first rejections by human beings, he simply moves away to find new sources of food and shelter. This is the way {552} of Rousseau's "savage man"; he "compare[s] the difficulty of conquering his antagonist with the trouble of finding subsistence elsewhere: and as pride does not come in, it all ends in a few blows; the victor eats, and the vanquished seeks provision elsewhere, and all is at peace" (D, 108). That the monster's response to his rejection by the de Laceys should be a desire for revenge, rather than simple disappointment, is due to his having developed a sense of his own self-worth. This being who cannot trace his existence to a protecting God finds his prospects for happiness controlled by such arbitrary and intractable determinants as his outward appearance, and his sense of justice is outraged. When the monster addresses Frankenstein as " Cursed, cursed creator" and tells him that "I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me" (F, 132-33), he views his entire existence through the prism of his socially acquired sense of justice; he finds his existential condition intolerable, and he focuses his desire for revenge on his creator.

Although Rousseau characterizes amour-propre as an entirely factitious feeling, the boundary between narcissism and self-respect posed a vexing question for Mary Shelley. She would certainly have viewed Rousseau's professed disdain for amour-propre as hypocritical, but even though she clearly sees Rousseau as a figure amply possessed of amour-propre, she refrains from passing judgment on him for this. She begins her essay on Rousseau with an elegantly phrased comment on Voltaire (the subject of her previous chapter) and Rousseau that strikes a delicate balance in the relation of genius and ethics:

it is impossible to imagine a character in stronger contrast with Voltaire, than that of Rousseau. They possessed but one quality in common. It is difficult to know what to call it. In ordinary men it would be named egotism, or vanity. ("Rousseau," 111)
The exemption of Voltaire and Rousseau from the condemnation that might attach to "ordinary men" full of egotism or vanity is extended in the following description of this trait:
It is that lively and intimate apprehension of their own individuality, sensations, and being, which appears to be one of the elements of that order of minds which feel impelled to express their thoughts and disseminate their views and opinions through the medium of writing; -- men of imagination, and eloquence, and mental energy. ("Rousseau," 111)
{553} Critics of Frankenstein who have seen in the novel an ethical core of condemnation of Victor Frankenstein for his overreaching and his obsessive self-glorification have underestimated the equivocality of Mary Shelley on this subject. It should be kept in mind that the most powerful influence for a strong sense of self-respect in Mary Shelley's life was the life and writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, who argued strongly that the acquisition of a sense of self-respect was the only means by which women and children could escape being degraded by the institution of the patriarchal family. Those who wish to see Victor Frankenstein unequivocally condemned sometimes make Walton a foil to his obsession. This point is made by U. C. Knoepflmacher:
The only surviving male speaker of the novel, Walton, possesses what the Monster lacks and Frankenstein denies, an internalized female complementary principle. Walton begins his account through self-justificatory letters to a female ego-ideal, his sister Margaret Saville. . . . The memory of this civilizing and restraining woman . . . helps him resist Frankenstein's destructive (and self-destructive) course. Frankenstein and the Monster are joint murderers of little William, Justine, Clerval, Alphonse Frankenstein, and Elizabeth; Walton, however, refuses to bring death to his crew.13
I do not see, however, that Walton ever makes the decision to return to England. When the crew is deliberating on whether to continue north, Walton says, "How all this will terminate, I know not; but I had rather die, than return shamefully, -- my purpose unfulfilled" [Walton 8]. When the crew decides otherwise, Walton writes to Mrs. Saville, "The die is cast; I have consented to return, if we are not destroyed. Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess, to bear this injustice with patience" (F, 213). Walton, it seems, remains in sympathy with Frankenstein.

Frankenstein himself is quite equivocal as he reflects on his own demise. He first advises Walton to "Seek happiness in tranquillity, and avoid ambition," and then immediately reverses himself by saying, "Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed" (F, 215). His disparagement of ambition recalls his earlier advice to Walton: "how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow" (F, 48). This advice is cited by George Levine as "the moral of his story," {554} but it is a moral that Levine sees "is argued very ambivalently" by the novel.14 This ambivalence about the relative value of dreams of glory and domestic happiness can be seen as Mary Shelley's reading of Rousseau, whose native town, as was Victor Frankenstein's, was Geneva. The conclusion of the first chapter of the Confessions recounts how Rousseau was shut out for the third time, for arriving too late, at the gates of Geneva, and Rousseau goes on to claim that this event decided the fate of his entire life, denying him the opportunity to become an ordinary citizen, worker, and father, and instead forcing him to become a wanderer and a writer. He imagines he has been denied a life of almost perfect bliss:

I should have been happy in my condition, and should perhaps have been respected. Then, after a life -- simple and obscure, but also mild and uneventful -- I should have died peacefully in the bosom of my family. Soon, no doubt, I should have been forgotten, but at least I should have been mourned for as long as I was remembered.15
Although the explicit tenor of the passage is the lament for the loss of the ordinary life spent in one's native town, Rousseau also suggests what he would have lost in such a life: he would have been forgotten. He would not, for example, have had essays written about him in encyclopedias of eminent French literary men. Mary Shelley, writing Frankenstein in the environs of Geneva, and living with the exiled geniuses Percy Shelley and Byron, was acutely aware of the seemingly inevitable consequences of the possession of genius that did not bend to social norms, but the fact that her novel records the tragic consequences of this phenomenon does not mean that she was taking an ethical stand against the cultivation of genius.

Lee Sterrenburg has shown how Mary Shelley transcended the "polarized thinking" of the radical and conservative political traditions of Godwin and Burke in their oversimplified accounts of where evil originates; I would argue that as Mary Shelley internalized the ideas of Wollstonecraft and Rousseau, she also refused to allow the distinctions those authors used to separate what they considered good and bad qualities.16 I have already pointed out that Wollstonecraft's Enlightenment premises allowed her to contend that reason was the faculty by which humans could transcend their more brutish material nature. Wollstonecraft argued, for example, that "the affections seem to have an animal capriciousness {555} when they merely reside in the heart."17 Rousseau, on the other hand, privileged the heart over the head, but he distinguished between "natural," good instincts and artificial desires that arose from social influences. When Mary Shelley derived from Rousseau the belief that "the most characteristic part" of human nature is "his affections," and showed the operation of those affections in Frankenstein, she created characters whose psychologies were inextricable mixtures of altruism and narcissism. Walton identifies the reasons for his journey both as a desire for "glory" (F, 12) and for "the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind" (F, 10). The monster's first reaction to hearing himself described by the de Laceys as a "good spirit" is to "bec[o]me more active" in seeking to discover "why Felix appeared so miserable, and Agatha so sad" so that "it might be in my power to restore happiness to these deserving people" (F, 110), but when they injure his own sense of deserving, his entire being comes to be devoted to revenge. Victor Frankenstein, of course, is the most complexly drawn figure in this matter. This is his account of his motivation in the creation of the monster:

No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve their's. Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption. (F, 49)
While criticism of Victor Frankenstein has routinely focused on his desire for the "gratitude" of this new species, it should not be forgotten, as Ellen Moers has noted, that this passage is also the most direct representation in the novel of the entry in Mary Shelley's journal that describes her dream of reviving her dead child: "Dream that my little baby came to life again -- that it had only been cold & that we rubbed it by the fire & it lived."18 The notion that Frankenstein can be given an ethical core through the vehicle of a polarized ideology that criticizes Milton, Godwin, Shelley, Rousseau, or others cannot easily accommodate the identification of the {556} overreaching scientist with the most altruistic part of Mary Shelley. The outcome of Mary Shelley's dream -- "I awake & find no baby. I think about the little thing all day -- not in good spirits" -- subverts the idealisms of both the orthodox and radical traditions. In a Miltonic theology, earthly life serves as a testing ground for a more important hereafter. Wollstonecraft's concerns are less otherworldly than Milton's, but she maintains Milton's metaphysical belief in the essentially spiritual nature of the human being, while Godwin is drawn in his utopian projections to envision, in an appendix to An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, the potential immortality of the human species.19 Mary Shelley's experiences of having lost her first child and of having been the cause of her own mother's death in childbirth showed her the fallacy of believing death to be a merely "ideal bound" that could be overcome by force of intellect, but the dream of the recovered baby also showed her the force of the desire behind that illusion.

Mary Shelley never found it easy to engage in the sort of polarized categories that allow for summary ethical judgment. Her unwillingness in the Rousseau essay to approve or disapprove of the trait in Voltaire and Rousseau that "in ordinary men . . . would be named egotism, or vanity" shows the respect that she accords to the question of where the amour-propre due to genius becomes excessive. Her conclusion to the Rousseau essay is a marvelously elegant piece of ambiguity. She reiterates, near the beginning of her peroration to the essay, that Rousseau "neglected the first duty of man by abandoning his children," and she does not refrain from ethical commentary on the consequences of this neglect:

He often dilates on simple pleasures -- the charms of unsophisticated affections, and the ecstasy to be derived from virtuous sympathy -- he, who never felt the noblest and most devoted passion of the human soul -- the love of a parent for his child! We cannot help thinking that even while Rousseau defends himself by many baseless sophisms, that this crime, rankling at his heart, engendered much of the misery that he charged upon his fellow-creatures. ("Rousseau," 172-73)
After a brief summary, of little more than a page, of Emile and Julie, Mary Shelley then delivers the conclusion to the essay in quite a different key:
No author knows better than Rousseau how to spread a charm over the internal movements of the mind, over the struggles of passion, over romantic reveries that absorb the soul, abstracting {557} it from real life and our fellow-creatures, and causing it to find its joys in itself. No author is more eloquent in paradox, and no man more sublime in inculcating virtue. While Voltaire taints and degrades all that is sacred and lovely by the grossness of his imagination, Rousseau embellishes even the impure, by painting it in colours that hide its real nature; and imparts to the emotions of sense all the elevation and intensity of delicate and exalted passion. ("Rousseau," 174)
So soon after a condemnation for having "neglected the first duty of man by abandoning his children," is Rousseau really being praised for his skill at "romantic reveries that absorb the soul, abstracting it from real life and our fellow creatures"? Can it be said of the same man that he "neglected the first duty of man" and that "no man [is] more sublime in inculcating virtue"? Does Mary Shelley approve of Rousseau's talent in "embellish[ing] the impure"? When this is described as "painting it in colors that hide its real nature" it would seem to be pure deception, but there is no mistaking the tone of the final clause, and the valorization of "the elevation and intensity of delicate passion."

The problems of Mary Shelley's judgment of Rousseau can only be intensified when this passage, written in 1838, the same year in which she began to edit and write the notes for Shelley's Collected Works, is compared to her note to "The Witch of Atlas": "This poem is peculiarly characteristic of his tastes -- wildly fanciful, full of brilliant imagery, and discarding human interest and passion, to revel in the fantastic ideas that his imagination suggested."20 Mary Shelley's statement of her purpose in editing and writing the notes to Shelley's poems was "a burning desire to impart to the world, in worthy language, the sense I have of the virtues and genius of the beloved and the lost."21 A reading of the notes to that edition should serve as a check on speculation about any ambivalence on her part, in 1839, towards Shelley.

Faced with the "hurricane," to borrow Victor Frankenstein's image, of conflicting affections, what is one's ethical duty? The long journal entry in which Mary Shelley defends herself against criticism for lack of zeal in what she calls "the 'good cause' " comes after fourteen years of relative dormancy of the journal, and is also written in 1838. She does not criticize political activism per se in this entry, saying rather that she has found the "Radicals" who have pressed her in later life to be more vocal are themselves "selfish in the extreme . . . rude, envious & insolent" (MS J, 2:555), and, in comparison with Shelley, Wollstonecraft and Godwin, "mere {558} drivellers" (MS J, 2:553). She goes on to explain what she has and has not done, and why she has not done otherwise:

If I have never written to vindicate the Rights of women, I have ever befriended women when oppressed -- at every risk I have defended & supported victims to the social system -- But I do not make a boast . . . for in truth it is simple justice I perform. (MS J, 2:557)

If I write the above it is that those who love me may hereafter know that I am not all to blame -- nor merit the heavy accusations cast on me for not putting myself forward -- I cannot do that -- it is against my nature -- as well cast me from a precipice & rail at me for not flying. (MS J, 2:559)

Besides asserting the inevitability of following one's own nature, this journal entry explicitly addresses the obligation of scrupulous self-examination. In this effort, Mary Shelley takes to heart the precept she derived from her study of Rousseau, "that a man as full of genius and aspiration after virtue as Rousseau, should have failed in the plainest dictates of nature and conscience . . . shows us how little we can rely on our own judgment" ("Rousseau," 131). Rousseau insisted, in closing the Confessions, that
I have told the truth. If anyone knows anything contrary to what I have here recorded, though he prove it a thousand times, his knowledge is a lie and an imposture. . . . I publicly and fearlessly declare that anyone . . . who will examine my nature, my character, my morals, my likings, my pleasures, and my habits with his own eyes and can still believe me a dishonorable man, is a man who deserves to be stifled. (Confessions, 605-6)
Mary Shelley shows that she has learned from the study of Rousseau to be less certain, and more scrupulous. She says of herself that "I may distrust my own judgment too much" (MS J, 2:555) and, in a Rousseauean summary gesture, she declares
Thus have I put down my thoughts -- I may have deceived myself -- I may be vain -- I may be in the wrong. I try to examine myself -- & such as I have written appears to me the exact truth. (MS J, 2:557)
This statement of obligation to determine the "exact truth" about one's life shows the respect Mary Shelley accorded to the Rousseauean project of the Confessions, which she described as "an invaluable book, [that] disclose[s] the secret of many hearts to those who have the courage to penetrate into the recesses of their own" {559} ("Rousseau," 126). As she showed in her essay, however, she did not think that Rousseau exercised sufficient judgment either in his life or in his self-examination. The impulse to justify is not easy to avoid; Frankenstein tells Walton on his deathbed, "During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blameable" (F, 214). As Frankenstein fills the roles both of Milton's God, the unilateral male creator, and Rousseau, the father who abandoned his children, he is put into the position of trying, and failing, to justify the ways of God or man.

The clearest instance in Frankenstein of Mary Shelley's critique of the sincerity of the Rousseauean rhetoric of self-justification occurs in the treatment of the murder of young William and the trial of Justine. Both the monster and Frankenstein echo in many ways Rousseau's account of the theft of the ribbon in the Marion episode of the Confessions. The monster and Rousseau both cast the blame for their crimes on innocent, and desired, women. This gesture of blaming the woman is a familiar one from the Miltonic tradition; when Adam is asked by God why he has transgressed against the one commandment he was given, he replies "This Woman whom thou mad'st to be my help, / And gav'st me as thy perfet gift . . . Shee gave me of the Tree, and I did eat" (PL, 10.137-43). Rousseau has two excuses for his actions: he says first that the blaming of Marion was a sort of accident: "She was present in my thoughts, and I threw the blame on the first person who occurred to me" (Confessions, 88). Furthermore, says Rousseau, "I said that she had given the ribbon to me because I meant to give it to her" (88). Rousseau thus makes it clear that he is in love with Marion, and that the ribbon is a sort of bribe; where he says that his allegation caused it to be believed that the theft "had been committed in order to lead a boy astray" (87), we know that it had actually been committed in order to lead Marion astray.

The monster's descriptions of his killing of William and blaming of Justine echo both of Rousseau's exculpatory gestures. The elliptical description of the actual killing -- "I grasped his throat to silence him, and in a moment he lay dead at my feet" (F, 139), which suggests a lack of actual malice, echoes a characteristically evasive move in Rousseau's rhetoric. The Marion passage opens with a barrage of misdirection that begins with its first sentence: "II est bien difficile que la dissolution d'un ménage n'entraine un peu de confusion dans la maison, et qu'il ne s'égare bien des choses." [it is quite difficult for the dissolution of a household not to bring {560} with it a little confusion in the house, and for various things to be mislaid].22 [Confessions, 2] This phrasing suggests that the loss of the ribbon came about because of some unavoidable confusion, rather than as the result of a deliberate theft, when in fact the only "confusion" that occurs derives from Rousseau's lie. The passage allows for many more corrections along these lines, and Rousseau's attempt to paint the entire event as at least partly accidental culminates in the suggestion that Marion's name somehow arbitrarily popped into his head at the wrong moment.

But it is the second excuse, that he was acting out of love -- through which Rousseau supports the fundamental premise of the Confessions that even though his outward actions may have been bad his inner being remained fundamentally good -- that Mary Shelley most directly and brilliantly subverts. Where Paul de Man explicates a complex relay of substitutions in the Confessions passage based on Rousseau's statement that "I said that she had given the ribbon to me because I meant to give it to her," Mary Shelley's monster gets very directly to the point:

not I, but she shall suffer; the murder I have committed because I am forever robbed of all that she could give me, she shall atone. The crime had its source in her: be hers the punishment! (F, 1831, 251)23
Mary Shelley saw Rousseau as thwarted in love; like the monster, he was "deprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could bestow" (F, 139). The ribbon was to be the vehicle of an attempt to entice Marion's love, and if Rousseau found himself in jeopardy for having stolen it, and if the premise that he was fundamentally good was to be maintained, then who was to blame? If Marion had reciprocated Rousseau's "love" without need of a bribe, he would not be in this position. So -- "the crime had its source in her; be hers the punishment!" If this truly identifies Rousseau's motive in the Marion episode, it undercuts the two most basic premises of his defense throughout the Confessions: that his actions were taken without malice, and that he is entirely candid in his writings. Despite the directness of this challenge to Rousseau's claim of candor, Rousseau's behavior is not treated by Mary Shelley as a single, isolated failure. As the responsibility for William Frankenstein's death, and all that that event signifies, resonates within and beyond the confines of Frankenstein, this passage becomes the focal point for Mary Shelley's doubting even the possibility of consistently {561} morally defensible behavior by fallible beings in an unplanned world.

The lacuna in causality in the monster's description of the killing of young William is doubly determined; while it is on the one hand an evasion of responsibility on the monster's part, the rhetorical elision of the monster's responsibility suggests Victor Frankenstein's culpability in the death of his brother. Frankenstein's behavior throughout the trial of Justine is highly reminiscent of Rousseau's relation, in an economy of substitution, with Marion. Where Marion says to Rousseau, "I should not like to be in your place," and the Comte de la Roque predicts that "the guilty one's conscience would amply avenge the innocent," Rousseau confirms that "His prediction was not wide of the mark. Not a day passes on which it is not fulfilled" (87). The fate of Marion becomes the source of perpetual torment to Rousseau, as he tells us in one of the most famous passages in the Confessions:

If my remorse at having perhaps made her unhappy is unbearable, what can be said of my grief at perhaps having made her worse than myself?

This cruel memory troubles me at times and so disturbs me that in my sleepless hours I see this poor girl coming to reproach me for my crime, as if I had committed it only yesterday. So long as I have lived in peace it has tortured me less, but in the midst of a stormy life it deprives me of that sweet consolation which the innocent feel under persecution. It brings home to me indeed what I think I have written in one of my books, that remorse sleeps while fate is kind but grows sharp in adversity. (88)

Frankenstein contends that "A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine," but he insists that this gesture would have been futile; it "would not have exculpated her who suffered through me" (F, 77). Just as the innocent Marion saw her guilty and unpunished accuser as worse off than herself, when Elizabeth contemplates the relative fates of Justine and the unknown other for whom she suffers, she judges that "even if I were condemned to suffer on the scaffold for the same crimes, I would not change places with such a wretch" (F, 88). This judgment is confirmed by Frankenstein when he laments the greater torment of the Rousseauean position: "The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom, and would not forego their hold" (F, 80).

{562} In the end, the result is the same: neither Frankenstein nor Rousseau confesses in time to save Justine or Marion. Each argues that this is not entirely his own fault; Frankenstein considers making a confession during Justine's trial, but he fails to do so because, he says, of the judges' "settled conviction in the criminality of the saintly sufferer":

My passionate and indignant appeals were lost upon them. And when I received their cold answers, and heard the harsh unfeeling reasoning of these men, my purposed avowal died away on my lips. (F, 1831, 246)
In this he very directly echoes Rousseau, who suggests that "If M. de la Roque had taken me aside and said: 'Do not ruin that poor girl. If you are guilty, tell me so,' I should immediately have thrown myself at his feet, I am perfectly sure. But all they did was to frighten me, when what I needed was encouragement" (Confessions, 89).

It must be acknowledged, however, that Frankenstein's existence in a nonrealistic novel does not really allow him the possibility of confessing and saving Justine. Frankenstein reflects late in the novel that "The whole series of my life appeared to me as a dream; I sometimes doubted if indeed it were all true, for it never presented itself to my mind with the force of reality" (F, 175). When Mary Shelley described her own life as "romantic beyond romance" she captured some of the same feeling of living outside the bounds of realism. The rippling economy of substitution of Frankenstein disrupts any individual's ability to control the progression from intention to consequence, and casts a wide net of guilt over the most innocent of characters. Elizabeth feels that she is the one truly guilty of William's murder, for having given him the locket whose theft seems to have been the motive for the crime, but when she exclaims "I have murdered my darling infant" (F, 67), this seems doubly inappropriate. Not only is she not the actual murderer, but William is not her child. She was, however, asked to "supply [the] place" (F, 38) of William's mother, whose death she inadvertently, but directly, caused when Caroline attended her in her illness. Elizabeth thus finds herself in the position of Rousseau and of Mary Shelley, both of whose mothers died giving birth to them, and both of whom tried to "supply the place" of the deceased mother.24 It is in the evocations of such uncanny doublings of people in real life, where life itself seems to exceed the terms of {563} realism, that we begin to close in on the real terror behind Frankenstein.

One of Doctor Frankenstein's brothers is killed by his monster; the other, Ernest, is described as not possessing Victor's "powers of application," and Elizabeth worries that he will "become an idler" unless the family allows him to "enter into foreign service" and engage in "a military career in a distant country" (F, 1831, 243).25 Rousseau had a brother, of whom he says:

The extraordinary affection lavished upon me led to his being somewhat neglected. . . . His education had suffered by this neglect, and he was acquiring low habits even before he arrived at an age at which he could indulge them. . . . In the end my brother became so bad that he ran away and completely disappeared. We heard some time later that he was in Germany. But he did not write at all, and we had no more news of him after that.

But if that poor lad's upbringing was neglected, it was a different matter with his brother. No royal child could be more scrupulously cared for than I was in my early years. (Confessions, 21)

Frankenstein describes his own childhood in a rhapsodically Rousseauean fashion, and these passages are much enhanced in the 1831 version of the novel. He tells of parents who "seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me," and says "I was their plaything and their idol." He goes on to say, in terms that foreshadow Mary Shelley's later commentary on Rousseau, that his "future lot . . . was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me" (F, 1831, 234). That Rousseau had been so favored as a child could only intensify the criminal irony of his having abandoned his own children.

Mary Shelley had two stepsisters. One, Claire, seems to have competed unsuccessfully with Mary for the attentions of Percy Shelley for most of the Shelley's married life. The other, Fanny Imlay, was compared to Mary, to Fanny's disadvantage, in a letter written by Godwin in 1812:

Of the two . . . my own daughter is considerably superior in capacity to the one her mother had before. Fanny, the eldest, is of a quiet, modest, unshowy disposition . . . Mary, my daughter, is the reverse of her in many particulars. She is singularly bold, somewhat imperious and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible. My own daughter is, I believe, very {564} pretty; Fanny is by no means handsome, but, in general, prepossessing.26
During the composition of Frankenstein, Fanny Imlay and Harriet Shelley committed suicide, and Mary Shelley's feelings about Harriet came to echo Rousseau's words about Marion. Rousseau avowed that "Poor Marion finds so many avengers in this world" in "the misfortunes that have crowded the end of my life" (Confessions, 89), and Mary Shelley's first treatment of this passage occurs in an 1831 emendation to Frankenstein when Victor Frankenstein speaks of "the death of Justine" as "that miserable epoch from which I dated all my woe" (F, 1831, 248). Mary Shelley writes of the episode of Marion and the ribbon in her essay on Rousseau, calling it "that fault, remorse for which pursued him till his death," and she echoes Rousseau in her summary of the event:
The thought of his victim driven to want and infamy by his lie made him often look on his after sufferings as but the just retribution of his crime. This is one of the laws of life. The shadows of our past actions stalk beside us during our existence, and never cease to torment or to soothe, according as they are ill or good, that mysterious portion of mind termed conscience. ("Rousseau," 119)
Within a year, she writes of "Poor Harriet to whose sad fate I attribute so many of my own heavy sorrows as the atonement claimed by fate for her death" (MS J, 2:560).

Mary Shelley was able to write in the same journal entry that "I never did an ungenerous act in my life" (561). The motives that allowed her to elope with a man who was leaving a pregnant wife and a child are very similar to the terms in which Victor Frankenstein and his monster view themselves. They were some mixture of the affections Rousseau describes as characteristic of the fully human, socialized being: love and amour-propre. Mary Shelley felt deeply for Percy, she was aware of her own worth, and she clearly felt that she was a better match for the genius of Shelley than Harriet could be. Just as in Frankenstein's case, there was no alternative that would have led to everyone's living happily ever after. Shelley had lost interest in Harriet, and there is no reason to think that Mary Shelley could have saved their marriage, and Harriet's life, if she had tried to. But the outcome of the story, at the time of the writing of Frankenstein, left Mary Shelley living in Rousseau's native country with Percy Shelley while Harriet com- {565} mitted suicide. The emblem of the human condition in Frankenstein is the creature who lacks the protection of a creator, and the lesson of his experience is that in a world without the Christian God, whom Wollstonecraft identified as "the only solid foundation for morality" (Vindication, 46) but who is represented through the character of Victor Frankenstein as a (primarily male) power fantasy, power just is, and the only roles to be played are victim and victimizer. No matter the purity of your intentions or how well you can justify your own actions to yourself, you can be the agent of others' misfortunes. Your very excellence may, as in the case of Rousseau and his brother, or of Mary Shelley and her sisters in the competition for the attentions of Godwin and Shelley, leave nothing for others. Your very coming into existence, as in Rousseau's and Mary Shelley's births (for which Elizabeth's illness in Frankenstein is a displacement), can kill your mother. And you can kill others as the result of your own actions, even if those actions are founded on "love."

Mary Shelley's journal reference to Harriet occurs several months after the long entry of self-defense, and is prompted by criticism from Trelawney and Hogg over the omission, in Mary Shelley's edition of Shelley's poems, of the dedication to Harriet in "Queen Mab." After insisting that the omission had all to do with Shelley and nothing to do with her, she wrote of Trelawney's sending the volume back to Moxon "in a rage":

How very much he must enjoy the opportunity thus afforded him of doing a rude & insolent act. It was almost worthwhile to make the omissions if only to give him this pleasure. (MS J, 2:560).
To Hogg, she wrote:
I thank you for your kindly expressed insinuations. I began to be fed on poison at Kentish Town -- it almost killed me at first -- now I am Used to it -- & should have been heartily surprised not to have been supplied with a large dose on the present occasion you have mixed the biggest you possibly could & I am proportionately obliged to you. (MWS L, 2:309)
Her sarcasm consigns Trelawney and Hogg to the status of the "mere drivellers" whose criticism she disdained. Hogg's and Trelawney's conduct would have seemed grimly familiar to Mary Shelley. As she had learned from Rousseau, human instincts have evolved without regard to moral categories, as a series of responses to the demands of self-preservation, yet the socially acquired in- {566} stincts of amour-propre and justice give the human creature a powerful need for self-justification. She illustrated this in her characters in Frankenstein, and after she had rejected Hogg and Trelawney as potential suitors they could not have surprised her by finding numerous reasons for criticizing her in later life.

She showed in her journal, though, that to her own conscience, and, as she put it, to "those who love me" (MS J, 2:559), she took the consequences of her actions on the life of Harriet Shelley more seriously.27 When she destroyed some portions of the journal and left the bulk of it available for public reading, she clearly envisioned readers who would read her with the same passion, and with the same standards, with which she had read Rousseau. I have tried in this essay to make a contribution to the growing body of literature that is demonstrating the mastery with which Mary Shelley negotiated the dominant intellectual currents of her time. The scope and subtlety of her critique in Frankenstein of the ideas of figures so diverse and important as Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, and Milton is the furthest thing from a disorganized or "automatic repetition" of ideas that she could not truly assimilate, and it shows a genius well beyond that demonstrated at a similar age by any of the canonical figures of the Western literary tradition. While her later novels do not seem to deliver on the promise of Frankenstein, her private and commercial writings, throughout her life, are streaked with flashes of brilliance whenever a subject truly engages her. But while she saw that the eminent men who came to have encyclopedia chapters written about them possessed a trait that made them "feel impelled to express their thoughts and disseminate their views and opinions" ("Rousseau," 111), she said of herself, "I am not a person of Opinions," one reason being a sort of paralysis because "I feel the counter arguments too strongly" (MS J, 2:554). She was willing to allow to such men of genius this trait that "in ordinary men . . . would be named egotism, or vanity," but in the same year she wrote that of Voltaire and Rousseau, she said of herself, "Vanity is not my fault, I think" (MS J, 2:553). The following year, after the editing of Shelley's poems, she said, "Would I had more literary vanity -- or vanity of any kind -- I were happier" (MS J, 2:559). If she lacked nothing of genius, she saw herself possessing less of the vanity necessary for "putting myself forward" (MS J, 2:559). This point, amply demonstrated in the introduction to the 1831 edition of the novel, has become crucial to a feminist understanding of Mary Shelley. Her statement in the 1831 intro- {567} duction of perhaps the central theme of the novel, that "supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world" (F, 1831, 228), is her gloss on one of Shelley's favorite quotations from Tasso: "Non merita nome di creatore, se non Iddio ed il poeta [None merits the name of creator, but God and the poet]."28 On the question of whether this difference in perspective is to be seen as a gender difference, Mary Shelley is characteristically equivocal; the lessons of Rousseau's vanity are both that "a father is not to be trusted" and "how little we can rely on our own judgment" ("Rousseau," 131).

That she was acutely aware of the doubleness of the word "vanity" is demonstrated in the Rousseau essay when she writes that, without devoting oneself to one's children, "genius were a vainer gift even than it is" ("Rousseau," 132). Of Rousseau she concluded, "No author is more eloquent in paradox" ("Rousseau," 174). In Frankenstein, in her journal, and in her encyclopedia essay on Rousseau, Mary Shelley shows herself to be one of the subtlest and most energetic explicators of the paradoxes he has bequeathed to us under the name of Romanticism.


1. Paul A. Cantor, Creature and Creator: Myth-Making and English Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984), 120.

2. Milton Millhauser, "The Noble Savage in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Notes and Queries 190 (June 15,1946): 249; Mary Graham Lund, "Mary Godwin Shelley and the Monster," University of Kansas City Review 28 (1962): 254-55.

3. David Marshall, The Surprising Effects of Sympathy: Marivaux, Diderot, Rousseau, and Mary Shelley (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988), 183. Marshall's book appeared after this essay was written. While Marshall suggests the importance of many of the same parallels between passages in Mary Shelley's essay on Rousseau and passages in Frankenstein that I have noted here, he does so to a different purpose. Marshall is primarily interested in Rousseau as the "theoretician of sympathy" (198) and he argues for a reading of Frankenstein as "a parable about the future of sympathy" (195). I see a greater significance in Mary Shelley's interest in Rousseau as the initiator of the Romantic literature of interiority.

Judith Weissman, "A Reading of Frankenstein as the Complaint of a Political Wife," Colby Library Quarterly 12 (1976): 177; further references will appear parenthetically in the text.

4. The Journals of Mary Shelley 1814-1844, ed. Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 2:554. All references to the journals will be to this edition and will be cited in the text as MS J.

5. To [?Fanny Imlay], June 1, 1816, The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Betty T. Bennett (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1980), 1:20. All references to the letters will be cited in the text as MWS L.

6. See U. C. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, ed. Knoepflmacher and George Levine (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1979), 88-119.

7. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. The 1818 Text, ed. James Rieger (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1974), 116. All citations from Frankenstein will be from this edition, but I will have frequent recourse to Rieger's Appendix B, in which he collates the texts of 1818 and 1831. Mary Shelley expanded several passages that deal most directly with Rousseau in the 1831 edition of the novel, and it has seemed to me best to use Rieger's edition to indicate the provenance of the material cited from the novel. Despite Rieger's own subtitle (The 1818 Text), I have worked from the premise that his appendices A and B (containing the 1831 Introduction and the collation of the texts of 1818 and 1831) should be considered part of the "text" of Frankenstein. Passages that appear only in the 1831 edition will be cited in the text as F 1831, and the page citations will be to Appendix B in Rieger. Citations common to both editions will be cited simply as F.

8. Mary Shelley, "Rousseau," in Lives of the Most Eminent Literary And Scientific Men Of France (London: Longnian, Orme, Brown, Green & Longmans, Paternoster Row, and John Taylor, Upper Cowper Street, 1839), 2:130-31. The volume is part of Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopedia, and the Rousseau essay occupies pages 111-174 of this volume. Further references to this essay will be cited as "Rousseau."

9. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. Carol H. Poston (New York: Norton, 1975), 14; further references are cited in the text as Vindication.

10. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality" in The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. G. D. H. Cole; revised and augmented by J. H. Brumfitt and John C. Hall (New York: Dutton, 1973), 41; further references cited in the text as D.

11. John Milton, Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (Indianapolis: Odyssey Press, 1957); Paradise Lost 8.287-91.

12. It is beyond the scope of this essay to offer an extensive interpretation of the Second Discourse. Rousseau's account in the Second Discourse of the origin of a social instinct can be found in the Pleiade edition (Paris: Gallimard, 1964), 169, or in Cole's translation, 81.

13. Knoepflmacher (note 6), 107.

14.George Levine, "Frankenstein and Realism," in The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press), 26.

15. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, trans. J. M. Cohen (Middlesex: Penguin, 1953), 50. Page citations from the Confessions within the text are to this translation.

16. Lee Sterrenburg, "Mary Shelley's Monster: Politics and Psyche in Frankenstein," in The Endurance of Frankenstein (note 6), 143-71.

17. Wollstonecraft (note 9), 156.

18. Journals (note 4), 1:70, March 19, 1815. Ellen Moers discusses this entry in "Female Gothic," from her Literary Women (New York: Doubleday, 1974). Moers' essay is reprinted in The Endurance of Frankenstein, 77-87.

19. William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, ed. F. E. L. Priestley (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1946), 2:526.

20. Mary Shelley, Notes to Shelley: Poetical Works, ed. Thomas Hutchinson (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1935), 382. While many commentators, most notably P. D. Fleck in "Mary Shelley's Notes to Shelley's Poems and Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism 6 (1967): 226-54, have noted an implicit criticism of the inaccessibility of Shelley's poems in Mary Shelley's notes, it is generally acknowledged, explicitly so by Fleck, that Mary Shelley's criticism does not extend to "the character of the poet" (Fleck, 231).

21. Shelley: Poetical Works, "Note on Poems of 1822," 669.

22. Rousseau, Les Confessions et Autre Textes Autobiographiques (Paris: Gallimard, 1959), 84. Since Rousseau's style and word choice are at issue here, I have provided a literal translation.

23. See Paul de Man, "Excuses (Confessions)," in Allegories of Reading (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1979), 278-301.

24. See Mary Shelley's comment about "my excessive and romantic attachment to my father" (MWS L, 2:215), and Rousseau's Confessions, trans. Cohen (note 15), 19.

25. This alteration is an interesting transformation of Ernest Frankenstein. In the 1818 text, the family debates whether to train Ernest as a lawyer, and Elizabeth argues that the law is a somewhat unsavory profession. Rousseau served a brief apprenticeship with a lawyer, and came to the same conclusion (Confessions, trans. Cohen, 38). In the 1831 text, Ernest is no longer analogous to Rousseau but to Rousseau's brother.

26. The date of this letter is 1812. It is quoted in C. Kegan Paul, William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries (London: Henry S. King & Co., 1876), 2:214, and was written, Paul says, to an "unknown correspondent."

27. It does not seem to me that the implied audience of a journal entry such as that of October 21, 1838, which treats matters of public reputation and public obligations so fervently, is merely the immediate family and friends.

28. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "A Defence of Poetry," in Shelley's Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers (New York: Norton, 1977), 506.