Contents Index

Godwin and Godwinism

Cristopher Small

Chapter 4 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Tracing the Myth (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1973), 68-99

{68} Frankenstein is dedicated to "William Godwin, author of Political Justice, Caleb Williams, etc" [Dedication]. The book thus declares itself (as the Quarterly remarked, disparagingly) to be "of his school", and was assumed to be by the most fervent of his disciples, Shelley. His daughter was not his disciple in the same sense, but she was certainly not less influenced by him, in her opinions and also in the many less obvious ways in which a father can, heredity aside, touch and enter into the character and outlook of a devoted daughter. Mary was deeply devoted to her father, although he, a remote parent -- partly on principle, partly from pure selfishness, the two going conveniently together -- had little to do with her upbringing. Immediately after her birth and her mother's death he was writing, concerning Mary and her three-year-old half-sister Fanny, ". . . the poor children! I am myself totally unfitted to educate them. The scepticism which perhaps sometimes leads me right in matters of speculation, is torment to me when I would attempt to direct the infant mind. I am the most unfit person for this office; she [Mary Wollstonecraft] was the best qualified in the world. . . ."1 Godwin's genuine grief at the death of his wife might have accounted for this feeling of helplessness, but it was, or became, a settled habit. After a short time during which Mary and Fanny were looked after by a succession of friends, Godwin married again (in 1801) and their care passed to their stepmother, who, if not entirely the stepmother of tradition, never had either Mary's love or respect. Her childhood was by no means altogether unhappy, but must have been full of much strain and conflict. Godwin seems to have done little to interfere, except in making arrangements for Mary to live away from home, for {69} the sake of her health, for which he was solicitous, and also perhaps because he felt unable to age with her. By the time she was nearly fifteen he was sending her off to live with Scottish friends, the Baxters, in Dundee, a curious letter to William Baxter serving as introduction and explanation:
There never can be perfect equality between father and child, and if he has other objects and avocations to fill up the greater part of his time, the ordinary resource is for him to proclaim his wishes and commands in a way somewhat sententious and authoritative, and occasionally to utter his censures with seriousness and emphasis.

It can, therefore, seldom happen that he is the confidant of his child, or that the child does not feel some degree of awe or restraint in intercourse with him. I am not, therefore, a perfect judge of Mary's character. I believe she has nothing of what is commonly called vice, and that she has considerable talent . . . I am anxious that she should be brought up in this respect like a philosopher, even like a cynic. It will add greatly to the strength and worth of her character. . . I wish, too, that she should be excited to industry. She has occasionally great perseverance, but occasionally, too, she shows great need to be roused. . . .2

This letter provides the best account we have of Mary as a child, more reliable at least than the prognostications of the physiognomist already quoted. It is interesting to see that whatever the fanciful Mr Nicholson may have expected of the baby Mary's "persistence in research", by the time she was in her teens she was already showing the perseverance that, both as a writer and in life, she could call on thereafter. In a shorter letter to an unknown correspondent, written a little later, Godwin called her perseverance "invincible": a quality he liked to attribute to the human mind at its most heroic. It is also interesting to see that she needed "rousing", and credit must be given to her father at least for noticing it and worrying about it. It is possible of course that he was really talking about himself: he said almost exactly the same thing about his own mentality in referring to 'the influence upon him of {70} Thomas Holcroft: "My mind, though fraught with sensibility and occasionally ardent and enthusiastic, is perhaps in its genuine habits too tranquil and unimpassioned for successful composition, and stands greatly in need of stimulus and excitement."3 It was perhaps a hereditary trait, which in Mary, reinforced by the unhappiness and loneliness of much of her childhood, emerged in a tendency to depression.

The most striking thing about Godwin's letter to Baxter, however, is its acceptance -- though owning to "a thousand anxieties in parting" -- of the distance between parent and child; which was, indeed, a matter of principle. It was perfectly consistent with his views, expressed in Political Justice and elsewhere, that the upbringing of children was not necessarily the job of parents. Like most rationalists of his time he regarded infants as mere parcels, to be handed from one person to another without adverse effect: "The mature man seldom retains the faintest recollection of the incidents of the two first years of his life. Is it to be supposed that that which has left no trace upon the memory can be in any eminent degree powerful in its associated effects?"4

In an ideal state infants would "probably", but not necessarily be cared for by their mothers, and their support would be communal -- "supplies will spontaneously flow, from the quarter in which they abound, to the quarter that is deficient" [PJ 8.6]. Education in any formal sense, or by particular persons, will cease: "No creature in human form will be expected to learn anything, but because he desires it, and has some conception of its value; and every man, in proportion to his capacity, will be ready to furnish such general hints and comprehensive views, as will suffice for the guidance and encouragement of him who studies from the impulse of desire" [PJ 8.6]. These principles seem not a bad foundation for a free and enlightened upbringing, and it may be said that Mary, left largely to pursue the knowledge she desired and thought valuable, made good enough use of her capacities. But they do also reflect the peculiar detachment from personal responsibility of Godwin and Godwinism, in which "Justice" was elevated to a kind of self-acting regulator of behaviour, scarcely {71} demanding the active participation of anyone. General hints and comprehensive views, though doubtless useful, are a poor substitute for the close attention which is a sign of love.

Godwin's extraordinary detachment from other people (which did not, of course preclude his acceptance of their aid, as, notoriously, in the case of Shelley) undoubtedly helped him to the lofty impartiality and originality in considering moral questions which gives Political Justice its uncommon force. It must have made him a most inadequate father, but it did not lessen Mary's strong and, it may be said, passionate feeling for him -- a feeling to be expected, in any case, in a motherless girl. That Mary suffered to some extent what would now be called a father-fixation is not surprising: it is more surprising, perhaps, that it did not affect her more, or more cripplingly interfere in her relations with other men. In later years she could herself be somewhat detached about her father, though affectionate ("poor old fellow", she calls him) and protective -- Shelley while he lived and she afterwards were the old man's principal support. She was deeply affected by his death: but had been able shortly beforehand to speak of her feelings towards him with insight -- "my excessive and romantic attachment to my Father".5

To his cool regard she brought her enterprises, hoping for his approval, and, even after long experience, her personal griefs: the relations between them, at any rate after her marriage to Shelley and settlement in Italy -- where Godwin's communications reached them chiefly in the form of requests for money -- are well illustrated by a letter from him in 1818, on learning of the death of her baby daughter Clara:

I sincerely sympathise with you in the reflections which form the subject of your letter, and which I may consider as the first severe trial of your constancy and the firmness of your temper that has occurred to you in the course of your life; you should, however, recollect that it is only persons of a very ordinary sort, and of a pusillanimous disposition, that sink long under a calamity of this nature. We seldom indulge long in depression and mourning except when we think secretly that {72} there is something very refined in it, and that it does us honour.6
That Mary was indeed severely depressed at this time can be seen in her own letters and Journal. She continued, even after the response just quoted, to write to her father and to receive letters from him; though a little later, seeing how much she was affected by them, full of his own distresses, Shelley asked Godwin to write no more.

In writing Frankenstein Mary was opening her mental life for the first time to general view. As a child (she says, in her Introduction to the 1831 edition) she wrote stories and even more indulged in "waking dreams", the natural habit of an imaginative and lonely child "following up trains of thought, which had for their subject the formation of a succession of imaginary incidents. My dreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings." Her writings, she goes on to say, were "intended at least for one other eye -- my childhood's companion and friend; but my dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed -- my dearest pleasure when free." It is a reasonable assumption that she did not tell her day-dreams to her father, or even show him what she wrote down. Frankenstein must have had something of the quality of a declaration, to the world in general, and to some persons in particular: in it, her first serious literary undertaking, Mary was possibly as eager for her father's approval as Shelley's -- the hope of both combining with her own exacting internal standards to drive her on. ("To be something great and good was the precept given me by my Father," she wrote many years later in her Journal; "Shelley reiterated it" -- and Frankenstein was the first public attempt to live up to it.7)

That it should be a Godwinian book she must have wished, worthy of him and also of the idealised mother she never knew. Some of the reflections of Godwin's ideas in the character of the Monster have already been noted, and some other echoes of Political Justice in particular may be added. Godwin's educational notions, and his general view, at that time (he was {73} later to modify it) that education determines character can be seen in the unhappy effects of the Monster's "upbringing", as again quite simply his succinct statement that "hate engenders hatred". Godwinian precepts in education turn up elsewhere, in the oddly assorted family in which Frankenstein grows up, and especially in the adoption and upbringing of his "cousin" and future bride, the foster-child Elizabeth.

It is of course a common romantic device, an acceptably disguised form of brother-sister incest which can be found in many other places (notably in Shelley's own works); in the original edition of the novel Elizabeth is actually Frankenstein's cousin, but this was altered in the 1831 edition in which she becomes a foster-sister, though still addressed as "cousin". Her adoption can also be seen as a strong, though it may be thought rather forced effort to put into practice the Godwinian dictum, "It is of no consequence that I am the parent of a child, when it has been ascertained that the child will live with greater benefit under the superintendence of a stranger".8 Elizabeth is not unlike Mary herself, fair of face, the daughter of "a Milanese nobleman" imprisoned for revolutionary activities and of a mother who dies at birth. She is in the care of a Swiss peasant family, but is adopted by Frankenstein's mother, her "rustic guardians" reflecting that though she is "a blessing" to them, "it would be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want, when Providence afforded her such powerful protection".

Her upbringing by the Frankenstein family is described with a somewhat strained emphasis on its felicity (the young Frankenstein is told that the new child in the house is a "present", as has many a child in an attempt to forestall jealousy; he takes it literally, from then on looking on Elizabeth as "mine -- mine to protect, love, and cherish" [1.1.4]). They grow up together in perfect harmony -- "I need not say that we were strangers to any species of disunion or dispute" [1.1.5]. It is curious to think of this transaction against the background of Mary's own childhood among half- and step-sister and brothers, or in a quite unrelated family; also to think of Shelley's wild schemes for adopting children at Oxford, and {74} of the harshly ironic way the children of his first marriage were taken from him, for their own good. Neither Shelley nor so far as one knows anyone else quoted Godwin during the Chancery case which placed them to "live with greater benefit under the superintendence of a stranger".

The effects on Frankenstein of a complete Godwinian education, and on the Monster of the lack of it are equally disastrous; it may be that the Monster's fate illustrates the maxim in Political Justice that "a slave and a serf are condemned to stupidity and vice, as well as to calamity", but the converse, that a firm mind having the benefit of good example and fortified by virtue and truth, can endure adversity and "look down with pity on my tyrant" [PJ 5.11], is certainly not borne out by Frankenstein's behaviour. But this sort of sentiment, which shows Godwin at his most platitudinous, is not in truth what Mary chiefly took from his writing and his thought. For he was a subtle and resourceful thinker, who was by no means incapable of modifying his views or even of reversing them, even within the compass of the same work; and who was always aware, not only of the power of thought but of its deviousness.

It was perhaps from this, even in his theoretical writings -- the sense at once of the overriding importance of human motives in shaping the world, and of their ambiguity -- that Mary absorbed most. Godwin observed that "pure" motives, good or ill, do not occur ready-made, so to speak, but are arrived at developmentally and by degrees, reaching sometimes the most widely separated forms from the same beginning. He laid down his own version of the Pleasure Principle to account for all human behaviour, but showed how differently it might operate: "Pure malevolence is the counterpart of disinterested virtue. . . . Both the one and the other are originally chosen with a view to agreeable sensation; but in both cases the original view is soon forgotten." Such an insight, as remarkable as Godwin's rational obtuseness in other ways, is implicit throughout Frankenstein. There is another maxim in Political Justice which appears at first to contradict it, but on examination does not: Godwin is speaking of the {75} difficulty, or, more strongly, the fallaciousness of judging actions by intentions:

We shall overturn every principle of just reasoning, if we bestow our applause upon the most mischievous of mankind, merely because the mischief they produce arises from mistake: or if we regard them in any other light, than we would an engine of destruction and misery, that is constructed of very costly materials.
In other words, loftiness of motive is not an absolute standard for assessing human good and -- the wording rather seems to suggest -- may even be an aggravation of evil: for the "costly materials" might have been put to better use. The whole sentence, with the metaphor it embodies, might be taken as a motto for Frankenstein.

The same man, indeed, who made the enormous blanket assumptions in Political Justice about the future possibilities of human nature was capable of the most original and dexterous psychological analysis in the present. But on the whole he reserved these latter gifts, his penetration of "things as they are", for his fiction. Things As They Are was the alternative title of his most famous novel, written immediately after Political Justice, and mentioned with it in Mary's dedication to her father: Caleb Williams. Its influence upon her was clearly very great, and not only, of course, upon her; as a political statement it had an effect only second, perhaps, to Political Justice, but even more, probably, has it held readers, in Godwin's own day and since, as a drama of psychological conflict, the conflicts which arise in the very pursuit of Godwin's sovereign objects, of justice and truth. To appreciate his achievement, and to see how it affected Mary, it will be necessary to look at the book in some detail. Other of Godwin's works of fiction, notably St Leon and Mandeville, illustrate the theme; but it is Caleb Williams that most powerfully shows some of the images and thoughts at work in Frankenstein.

Caleb Williams was published in 1794, a year after the {76} appearance of Political Justice, and sharing its notoriety, with a preface to the first edition so boldly challenging the establishment that it was prudently suppressed for a year. Godwin, a slow writer, produced the whole novel -- three volumes -- in less than a year, working by his own account in an almost continuous burst of mental activity and under inspiration: "I wrote only", he said, "when the afflatus was upon me."9 The "excitement" that he felt he needed was present, and his imagination was powerfully at work.

Mary read Political Justice in 1814, no doubt encouraged by Shelley. But her book-list records that she read Caleb Williams twice, in 1814 and again in 1816, the year of Frankenstein, and there can be little doubt through which book more of her father's thought entered into her. The two belong together, as Godwin said: "Caleb Williams was the offspring of that temper of mind in which the composition of Political Justice left me." It was an unruly offspring; in important respects it seems to have been in revolt against its parent.

It is a story of crime, pursuit, terror and injustice in which the promised demonstration that under the present state of affairs "man is the destroyer of man" ("of all other beings", as Political Justice puts it, "the most formidable enemy of man") is amply fulfilled; one may suspect a fascination of the author by the things he deplores. Caleb Williams is a young man of humble origins taken into the employment of a gentleman, Falkland, and much favoured by him. Falkland is a man of refinement, high principle, and honour: it is his fervid attachment to personal honour that is his undoing. Some time before Caleb Williams joins his household he has been in dispute with another local landowner, Tyrrel, a brutal overbearing squirearch who insults him, acts despicably in driving a tenant from his farm, and a girl, his ward, to her death. This last incident produces hysterical hatred in Falkland, described in detail: "he raved, he swore, he beat his head, he rent up his hair." Tyrrel goes from bad to worse in misbehaviour until one night, having again publicly insulted Falkland, he is set upon and murdered. Suspicion falls on the ejected tenant, who is tried and executed together with his son; but some is also {77} cast upon Falkland himself, resulting in a public inquiry at which he asserts his innocence and, being a gentleman, is believed. Thereafter, however, he shuns society and becomes morose and secretive: thus rousing in Caleb Williams the curiosity which is his reigning passion. He discovers incriminating evidence, and finally draws from Falkland a confession that he indeed was the murderer; but at the same time becomes Falkland's prisoner, since Falkland is determined that no one else shall know, for the sake of his "honour", and will stop at nothing to preserve his reputation -- "'I love it more than the whole word and its inhabitants taken together.'"

The novel now becomes a story of escape and pursuit. Caleb Williams, though not intending to betray Falkland, tries to escape his surveillance, is overtaken, brought to trial on a trumped-up charge, and expects to be condemned to death, but escapes again, temporarily joins a band of robbers, and moves on, employing various disguises, but with Falkland's emissaries, now joined by the most sinister of the robbers, Gines, constantly at his heels. Overtaken and again arrested, he decides to break his resolution of not giving Falkland away, and denounces him to a magistrate, but is disbelieved: this time he is released at the instigation of Falkland himself, who wants to make him swear away his own accusation; he refuses. The pursuit continues, assuming more and more the aspect of nightmare, until Williams again approaches a magistrate and obtains a hearing: confronted with Falkland, he puts his case and Falkland, dying, repents, and falls into his arms.

Such an outline of this melodramatic and indeed preposterous plot cannot of course give any idea of the power of the story, or elucidate its connection with Frankenstein. That will become more apparent if we look more closely at the relationship between Williams and Falkland, and consider some of the very curious transformations of character brought about in the course of the entire novel. That it exposes "things as they are" in the public realm, in the tyranny of the rich and the oppression of the poor, the venality of the law and its inadequacy to achieve justice even on its own terms -- let alone those ideal ones proposed in Political Justice -- is undoubtedly {78} true. The sense of helplessness of a poor man up against wealth and "position", and the way the rich support each other against a troublesome claim -- the whole operation of what was later to be called the solidarity of the ruling class -- are made exceedingly vivid. The prison scenes are especially powerful, and there is no question that Godwin, who was not himself ever imprisoned (though some of his friends were) felt the horrors of an eighteenth century jail deeply, quite apart from his theoretical standpoint that deprivation of liberty was the worst evil, short of death, that one man could impose on another. All this is cogently, forcefully, and (allowing for the extreme improbability of some of the events in themselves) naturally conveyed in the course of the story, and it is easy to understand why, in the still early years of the French Revolution, it should have been thought by many seditious.

But it was seditious in another way more readily apparent, perhaps, to us today, though even then no doubt it was this other sort of subversion -- its disturbing penetration into the structure and dynamics of human nature -- that made it so exceedingly gripping to read ("No one", said Hazlitt, "ever began Caleb Williams that did not read it through"). The effect is made principally, as has been suggested, in the relationship of the two principals, Caleb Williams and Falkland. These two represent two sides of a single personality, or rather two forces which, at work within a personality, act and react upon each other. The changes of their struggle, and its reproduction and extension in subsidiary characters, give the whole great dramatic force; but it is the peripeteia of an internal drama. It is indeed the drama of a dream, in which the same transformations and multiplications commonly occur -- one element turning up in different shapes and changing shape "before our eyes". Indeed it is characteristic of this type of fiction that the principal actors repeat themselves or have understudies, so to speak, in subsidiary roles: it can be seen in Frankenstein, it appears continually in the poetry of Shelley; it may be detected, in the elaboration and grand multiplication of the infernal host, within the formal framework of Paradise Lost.

Caleb Williams, the narrator, and therefore the conscious {79} mind of the whole, represents above all the rational faculties, reason and calculation, foresight, self-consciousness or conscience itself. It is significant that the chief motive of Caleb's actions, of at any rate the one that sets the whole story in motion, is "curiosity": the desire to know, to pry into secrets or, to describe the same thing in loftier terms, to conduct rational inquiry. It is a passion, insofar as Caleb can be said to have one:

The spring of action which perhaps more than any other characterised the whole train of my life, was curiosity. It was this that gave me my mechanical turn; I was desirous of tracing the variety of effects which might be produced by given causes. It was this that made me a sort of natural philosopher; I could not rest till I had acquainted myself with the solutions that had been invented for the phenomena of the universe. . . .
His curiosity is diverted from these general objects to the mystery surrounding Falkland, his employer: was he or was he not guilty of "enormous crime", was he a murderer? Caleb pursues his detection passionately, with a zeal that "drank up all the currents of my soul", but it must be observed that he does so without either personal animus towards Falkland or with regard for justice in any ordinary sense. "No spark of malignity had harboured in my soul. . . . My offence had merely been a mistaken thirst for knowledge." Or, as it might be said, in the pure impartial spirit of scientific inquiry; nevertheless one which can actually be described by Caleb as a "demon".

On the other hand Falkland, whose "ruling passion" is "honour", the overweeningly high standards of conduct that he has attached to himself -- he is not so much guided by them as in possession of them -- repudiates Caleb's persistent questioning with extraordinary vehemence and ferocity; he too becomes positively demonic in denial. He seeks solitude and avoids Caleb, upon whom he turns, when followed, with extravagant fury: "there was something inconceivably, savagely terrible in his anger." Falkland in fact, clambering among the "rocks and precipices" to avoid Caleb, enacts the dangerous state of {80} an impossibly refined or idealized notion of oneself under threat of exposure by reality and defended with a violence familiar in modern psychological terms as over-compensation. Naturally the two are mutually exasperating -- "we were each of us a plague to the other" -- locked in the impasse of neurotic conflict; but in the same way quite inseparable.

There is such an affinity between them that much of their dealings with one another can take place without speech: there is a "magnetical sympathy" between them so that the dire effect on Falkland of Caleb's hints and allusions simultaneously produce their effect on himself, as though indeed they were working on his own mind. He knows so well what Falkland is thinking that, as he explains, he need not differentiate in his narrative between "the silent" and "the articulate part of the discourse between us". Falkland for his part is aware of Caleb's suspicions, "frequently before I was myself aware, sometimes almost before they existed". This does not in the least tend to reconciling the two, indeed it exacerbates their antagonism, which is brought to a crisis -- Caleb's decisive conviction of Falkland's guilt -- in the midst of a fire, a symbolic mis-en-scène that, again, is familiar to psychoanalysis. The proof is, Caleb supposes, hidden in a certain trunk always kept locked: the house goes on fire and, on a sudden impulse, Caleb seizes the opportunity to force the trunk open. "I have always been at a loss to account for my having plunged thus headlong into an act so monstrous," he says, going on to connect it directly with the fire itself:

One sentiment flows by necessity of nature into another sentiment of the same general character. This was the first instance in which I had witnessed a danger by fire. All was confusion around me, and all changed to hurricane within. . . . I by contagion became alike desperate.
The fire produces "a kind of instant insanity". It precipitates crisis, but produces no solution. Caleb, interrupted, never actually sees the contents of the trunk (too frightening to be looked at?), but Falkland, assuming that he has done so, con- {81} fesses the murder to him. To him alone: Falkland is determined to preserve his "honour" still: in a curious formula, necessitated by the transference of an internal dialogue to external persons, but thereby making it extraordinarily vivid, he declares:
Though I be the blackest of villains, I will leave behind me a spotless and illustrious name. There is no crime so malignant, no scene of blood so horrible, in which that object cannot engage me.
He forces Caleb to swear secrecy and makes him virtually a prisoner: guilt and conscience are compelled to live together.

Such a situation, of course, soon becomes intolerable, and Caleb escapes, to begin the long succession of chase and pursuit, capture and escape which makes up the rest of the action. Falkland's men catch him and he is cast into prison, the equivalent of an attempt at complete mental suppression. But he breaks out -- in physical terms, most improbably, in psychological, one may say, inevitably. The stone walls and iron bars of the will can't be relied on to confine even the most unwelcome thought in consciousness. On a later occasion Falkland actually helps Caleb to get out of jail: the enmity of the two, the "implacable hatred" with which Falkland persecutes Caleb, is of that mutually supportive and cherishing kind typical of neurotic illness.

The indissoluble bond between them does however undergo a change, of an interesting kind. There are no more confrontations until the end; instead, Falkland pursues Caleb, and keeps watch on him by means of his servants, and in particular of the villain named Gines (or, originally, Jones). Gines has been a member of the robber-band with whom Caleb at one time consorts -- a sort of Robin Hood fraternity engaged in a justified "war with their oppressors", like twentieth century guerrillas -- but is far too wicked for them, and comes into the employment of Falkland as a willing tool. He is an out-and-out monster of evil and malice, strongly resembling the first villain in the book, the tyrannical squire Tyrrel. Tyrrel is a powerful {82} man, of the flesh fleshly, compared with "that hero of antiquity whose prowess consisted in felling an ox with his fist and devouring him at a meal. Conscious of his advantage in this respect he was insupportably arrogant, tyrannical to his inferiors, and insolent to his equals." Gines, cruel and brutal, a robber turned thief-taker, in whose face "habit had written the characters of malignant cunning and dauntless effrontery in every line", is the lower-class equivalent.

Each, beside Caleb and Falkland, seems a comparatively realistic portrait; but Gines at any rate acquires attributes of a nightmarish or even numinous kind, which he shares with Falkland. He, in the background, begins to appear endowed with supernatural powers: Caleb tells himself that his persecutor "acts by human and not by supernatural means", but nevertheless admits that "I could with difficulty think anything impossible to him". His powers remind Caleb, in one of the odd reversals characteristic of this relationship, of "what has been described of the eye of Omniscience pursuing the guilty sinner"; and a little later Caleb ascribes to Falkland the all-presence of God in the 139th Psalm, and in almost the same words, as one of whom it may be said that if his "victim fled to the rising of the sun . . . the power of the tyrant was still behind him. If he withdrew to the west, to Hesperian darkness and the shores of barbarian Thule, still he was not safe. . . ." If Falkland thus becomes like the Psalmist's Lord, Gines, his emissary, is like Satan sent to harry Job.

Both Tyrrel and Gines supply something missing, or denied by Falkland and Caleb: a crass animal element, markedly anti-intellectual. Tyrrel, who despises poetry and learning of all kinds (Falkland writes an Ode of which Tyrrel contemptuously asks, "do you think he would write poetry if he could do anything better?") feels himself slighted as the "rude and genuine off-spring of nature". Falkland, his physical and moral opposite, of "small stature", "delicate, gallant, and humane", actually corroborates this when, learning of the latest of Tyrrel's ill deeds, he can "not prevent himself from reproaching the system of nature for having given birth to such a monster as {83} Tyrrel". Nature in a word, has offended him in his "notions of virtue and honour":

He was ashamed of himself for wearing the same form. He could not think of the human species with patience. He foamed with indignation against the laws of the universe, that did not permit him to crush such reptiles at a blow, as he would crush so many noxious insects.
So, unable to tolerate the "laws of the universe", he commits murder.

Caleb also rejects the "brute part" of creation, chiefly in the abhorred and disgusting person of Gines; though it is remarkable that in his extreme fair-mindedness, something in which he certainly represents Godwin himself, he allows Gines to be "enterprising, persevering, and faithful". Caleb, or Godwin, is able in spite of himself to see that there is some connection between the animality of a Gines, or the other robbers, and, "energy", "perhaps of all qualities the most valuable" Since it is Godwin speaking and not Blake the conclusion drawn is political-economic rather than poetic-religious: "a just political system would possess the means of extracting from it [energy] its beneficial qualities, instead of consigning it as now to indiscriminate destruction."

But here there is no redemption, harnessing, or "extraction" of energy (Godwin's psychological analysis always tended to chemical or mechanical analogies). Nor, one may say, is one possible. Consciousness of evil and frantic denial of it, high-mindedness and protestations of innocence together with conviction of guilt are chained together in an unceasing round, seeming to allow no conceivable resolution. In fact Godwin had great difficulty in bringing the novel to an end. Writing out of "a high state of excitement," as he said, and at what was for him breakneck speed, he approached his finish and then stuck; by his own account he wrote nothing for more than three months. Even when he had devised an ending he was dissatisfied with it and in revisions substituted another, entirely different. The manuscript of the first version has {84} recently come to light, and is printed in an appendix to the latest edition of the novel; it is very interesting to compare the two.

In his first essay Godwin made in fact no attempt at a solution. There is a final confrontation between Caleb and Falkland, producing no change in their position: Falkland, now a dying man, continues to deny all Caleb's allegations (made this time before a magistrate) and Caleb is not believed. He goes mad, and is shut up with Gines, or Jones, as keeper, the latter now assuming a positively fiendish aspect -- "I am persuaded that no distracted slave of superstition ever annexed such painful ideas to his dreaded Beelzebub, as I annexed to the figure and appearance of this man." He has a lucid interval during which he makes this communication, and then lapses (with some suggestion that he is being drugged) into final helpless insanity. Such, one may say, is indeed a logical and probable end to the unresolved conflict. Falkland before his death is already virtually insane; the suppressed knowledge and the grossly overstrained resistance to it push the entire composite mentality into the last refuge of entire alienation.

But it can hardly be called a satisfactory end, artistically or otherwise, and Godwin's recasting of his catastrophe, by a bold and imaginative stroke, undoubtedly achieved something more. This time he started with the same hearing before a magistrate. Caleb, in the presence of Falkland, now desperately ill, repeats his accusation and the whole history of his persecution, but this time, moved to pity by Falkland's wretched state, also expresses remorse at having forced this exposure. He actually praises Falkland for his high principles and reproaches himself: "I came to accuse, but am compelled to applaud. I proclaim to all the world that Mr Falkland is a man worthy of affection and kindness, and I am myself the basest and most odious of mankind!" Falkland, touched by this evidence of sincerity and charity, relents, confesses to the murder, and throws himself into Caleb's arms. This reconciliation is, one may say, a genuine solution to the problem, or conflict: in psychoanalytic terms the suppressed knowledge is at last recognised and allowed to surface, or perhaps more accurately one {85} part of the composite personality Caleb-Falkland acknowledges the existence of the other. The highly emotional atmosphere of this mutual recognition is quite consistent with what, in such terms, would be called abreaction.

But though, considered in this way, Godwin's second thoughts provided an apt, consistent, and artistically coherent conclusion, it can hardly be called satisfactory in a human sense. In fact, it is a tragedy: Falkland dies, and Caleb now considers himself a murderer, pledging himself to spend the rest of his life in remorse and mourning; so indeed may neurotic conflict, even though brought into the light and forcibly resolved, leave nothing behind but depression and despair.

In truth the sympathy between Falkland and Caleb is too close, and their opposition is almost a fake. Both, as has been remarked, represent the intellectual man, the man of rationality and "fine feelings". Both actually share the same obsession with innocence. Falkland's whole life and energies are taken up in maintaining his "reputation", or guiltlessness; Caleb Williams begins the entire story with a protestation of the same kind:

My life has for several years been a theatre of calamity. I have been a mark for the vigilance of tyranny, and I could not escape. My fairest prospects have been blasted. My enemy has shown himself inaccessible to intreaties and untired in persecution. My fame, as well as my happiness, has become his victim. Every one, as far as my story has been known, has refused to assist me and has execrated my name. I have not deserved this treatment. My own conscience witnesses in behalf of that innocence my pretensions to which are regarded in the world as incredible.
He continues this vehement protestation right up to the point of the final reversal -- ". . . if these be the last words I shall ever write, I die protesting my innocence!"

Technically, of course, he actually is innocent, Falkland is the only guilty one: but if it is allowed that both are inhabitants of the same mind, the distinction does not lose all importance, but shifts its ground. Each is pushing off his guilt onto the other: both therefore regard themselves as persecuted, and {86} their persecution manias -- it is not too strong a term -- are so to speak interchangeable. The idea of persecution pervades the whole story, and no doubt by intention, since it illustrates the theme of man as wolf to man; herein lies Godwin's didactic purpose in exposing the horrors of "things as they are" under the "system of selfishness" in which "every man is fated to be more or less the tyrant or the slave". But the form it takes, and the inference of a malicious plot in every case -- a whole overlapping series of plots, practically everyone being either the victim or perpetrator of some malign machination, and in some cases being both -- have the force of obsession. (It is common, of course, to this type of novel, and may be to some extent discounted as conventional; though the ubiquitousness in turn suggests the question why it should be so common, and what in the climate of the time made both the purveyors and admirers of Gothic melodrama so prone, like Catherine Morland, to fantasies of persecution.)

In Godwin anyway it goes far beyond literary fashion, to become systematised as a permanent substratum of his own highly original thinking. In Caleb Williams all the characters held up for admiration are in some way or other the innocent victims of an evil plot; even Falkland, the murderer and persecutor, who is declared to have been brought to final disgrace and death by error (his idea of "honour", or chivalry) and the evil state of society, a "corrupt wilderness". Tyrrel himself, the villain disposed of before the real story begins, reacts to censure of his behaviour with a fantasy of his detractors being "under the influence of a fatal enchantment" so to turn against him; though he to be sure is usually too busy plotting against someone else to notice plots against him. Before long he is murdered, the only character in the book, apart from the father and son whom Falkland allows to be wrongfully executed for the crime, actually to suffer the extreme of persecution and oppression, a violent death. His murder is the mainspring of the story but he himself, except insofar as he is reproduced in Gines, is abolished as a factor in its moral mechanism. He is in a strong sense wiped out; his murder is referred to but he himself is completely forgotten; at the end, {87} amid the extravagant self-reproaches of both Falkland and Caleb for persecuting each other, neither has a word of remorse or regret for his murder, which has become for Falkland no more than "one act of momentary vice".

Such is the power of Godwin's narrative, the force of his, or his spokesman's obsession, that one scarcely notices at first this astonishing moral hiatus. Tyrrel has too long and too thoroughly been removed from the scene. But because he is not present -- that is to say neither in himself nor in any memory or acknowledgment of his being or having been -- the dénouement lacks a vital element. The repentance of Falkland, ignoring the object which most calls for it, is the more violent for being in essence false; the result is not regeneration but destruction. Falkland and Caleb are reconciled but, as has been said, their reconciliation only brings together things scarcely different from each other, two versions of the same attitude.

The real problem, that "innocence and guilt are too much confounded in human life", remains unsolved, not dealt with at all; and Falkland's original reaction to this "confusion", that life is therefore intolerable -- "'Detested be the universe, and the laws that govern it! Honour, justice, virtue are all the juggle of knaves! If it were in my power, I would instantly crush the whole system to nothing!'" -- is unchanged, or rather is now more extreme than ever. There is nothing left for him but to die, and for Caleb to spend the remainder of his life in impotent regret, in permanent depressive self-denial. "I began these memoirs" he says, "with the idea of vindicating my character. I have now no character that I wish to vindicate." He is, in a word, nothing.

The bearing of this extraordinary first novel of her father's upon Mary Shelley's own work will be at least in part apparent already, and will emerge more fully shortly. (It can be called Godwin's "first novel", although he had previously produced several others, because he himself so described it, dismissing his earlier published stories as trivia, of "obscure note". Like Frankenstein, Caleb Williams was the first, overwhelming overflow into fiction of an accumulated store of imagination.) {88} Before leaving Caleb Williams, however, one or two discrete points may be noted or re-emphasised.

One is the way that Caleb, though the embodiment of rational faculties, is in the grip of them to an extent which is, one may say, highly irrational. His "curiosity" is a compulsion, a passion, at its height taking complete command of him: the fatal attempt to look into the trunk is described as an act not simply of rashness but of "infatuation", or madness, "an instantaneous impulse, a short-lived and passing alienation of mind". The pursuit of his investigation is in itself intoxicating: a little earlier, on arriving at his first conviction (though still unproved) of Falkland's guilt, he is thrown into extraordinary excitement:

My blood boiled within me. I was conscious to a kind of rapture for which I could not account. I was solemn, yet full of rapid emotion, burning with indignation and energy. In the very tempest and hurricane I seemed to enjoy the most soul-ravishing calm. I cannot express the then state of my mind than by saying, I was never so perfectly alive as at that moment.
Caleb's state of mind hardly seems appropriate -- especially since he claims to be devoid of malice -- in one merely engaged in detection, tracking down someone else's "guilty secret". The point is rather than it is a secret, hidden and forbidden knowledge, the discovery of which affords power but is in itself a satisfaction of Caleb's most urgent passion, of "curiosity". Had the truth of Falkland's guilt been what is still popularly called a "scientific secret" (who or what has hidden them?) his violent joy in discovering it, combined with the "soul-ravishing calm" of intellectual control, would seem natural enough. The whole description reminds us strongly of Frankenstein's exaltation of spirit when he makes his really momentous discovery, of "the principle of life".

The same elevation by the powers of his own mind and will is felt by Caleb later when he escapes from Falkland's house and again when he is in prison expecting to be sentenced to death:

{89} I feel that I am free. . . . What power is able to hold in chains a mind ardent and determined? What power can cause that man to die, whose whole soul commands him to continue to live.
In gaol, looking only for an "ignominious death", he resolves to escape by a pure act of will:
Adamant and steel have ductility like water to a mind sufficiently bold and contemplative. The mind is master of itself. . . .
Mind, he reflects, was "never intended by nature to be the slave of force. . . . These limbs and this trunk are a cumbrous and unfortunate load for the power of thinking to drag along with it; but why should not the power of thinking be able to lighten the load till it shall be no longer felt?" "No", Caleb exclaims to himself, "I will not die!" (One can't help thinking here of the ludicrous account of Thomas Holcroft, Godwin's friend and fellow-Perfectionist, insisting that death, even by having one's head chopped off, is simply an "error": "chopping off heads is error, and error cannot exist."10 But in Caleb Williams this megalomaniac conviction of the power of mind over matter is, one may say, no joke.) It remains to be observed again that such overweening faith in the powers of his own mind do not preclude Caleb's being quite unable at crucial moments to control his impulses. At each turn of the plot, which is therefore in a special sense his plot, he acts "willfully" but also involuntarily.

The second point to which attention may be drawn is the extent to which Falkland, of such elevated sentiments and fine sensibilities, a compendium of "beauty, grace, and moral excellence", who "began life with the best intentions and the most fervid philosophy", turns into a devil, assuming more and more of a fiendish aspect in Caleb's eyes. When first induced by Caleb to speak of the crime (which he denies) "there was something frightful, almost diabolical in his countenance". As his persecution continues, Caleb comes to regard him as wholly {90} evil: "I saw something so fiendlike in this hunting me round the world . . . that henceforth I trampled reverence and the recollection of former esteem under my feet." In the penultimate meeting between the two, Falkland appears to Caleb "like nothing that had ever been visible in human shape", "haggard, emaciated, and fleshless", his complexion, "of a dull and tarnished red", suggesting "the idea of its being burnt and parched by the eternal fires that burned within him". In other words, the Devil incarnate; and a little later his state is in so many words compared with "the imaginary hell, which the great enemy of mankind is represented as carrying everywhere about with him". We return, in fact, to Satan in Paradise Lost.

Finally, the two -- the absolute supremacy of "mind", the same "torrent of mind" united in "enquiry after the beautiful and true" that Holcroft speaks of through Anna St Ives in his novel of that name, and the fiendish destructiveness -- are united in Falkland when he contemplates history and the progress of mankind. Before trouble arises between them, he and Caleb are speaking of Alexander the Great, one of Falkland's heroes, and Caleb ventures to point out the slaughter and devastation wrought by his conquests. Falkland replies:

The way of thinking you express, Williams, is natural enough, and I cannot blame you for it. But let me hope you will become more liberal. The death of a hundred thousand men is at first sight very shocking; but what in reality are a hundred thousand men more than a hundred thousand sheep? It is mind, Williams, the generation of knowledge and virtue, that we ought to love. (My italics.)
Caleb (and doubtless Godwin behind him) is sceptical of this way of "making men wise", and goes on to ask whether "this great hero was [not] a sort of madman?" What sort of madman has already partially appeared, and may presently be studied further in direct relationship to Frankenstein. First, however, something must be said about another extension of these ideas, also owing much to Godwin and standing to some extent mediator between him and Mary Shelley, in the works of one {91} of her favourite authors, the American novelist already mentioned, Charles Brockden Brown.

Brown (1771-1810) is a figure of importance in early American literature, hardly known now except to literary historians, but of some popularity on both sides of the Atlantic in the early nineteenth century, particularly in radical circles; those who liked Godwin would like Brown. He was himself a disciple, or at least an imitator of Godwin; to "equal Caleb Williams" was his highest ambition. The degree to which he actually espoused Godwinian ideas, rather than merely making use of them for the moral-intellectual machinery of his novels, is an interesting question, but with only slight bearing on the matter in hand. What does touch it is to see his own additions to the drama of intra-psychic conflict in Godwin's stories; though nothing like so accomplished a writer as Godwin -- careless, at times barely coherent, and capable of shattering bathos -- he did contribute to the personae of this drama images of striking force and originality. Even more than Godwin was he an "inspired" writer, writing when the "afflatus" was upon him; his best work -- four novels in two years, besides many fragments -- was produced, like Godwin's, in a concentrated outpouring of creative activity.

His romances, as has already been remarked, follow the rule also observed in Frankenstein, of avoiding "supernatural" agency for the extraordinary happenings recounted and of elucidating them, if at all, in terms of "the mysteries of our nature, the effects of which we have all witnessed, or may witness, and to which we are all subject" (to quote an early comment on his work).11 Men of strange but "natural" gifts or afflictions bring about improbable and surprising events: in Ormond (1799) the mysterious hero-villain is a consummate master of impersonation, which enables him to "gain access, as if by supernatural means, to the privacy of others"; in Wieland (1798) the apparent villain -- nearly all Brown's villains are ambiguously so, just as his heroes are villainous -- has a similar talent of ventriloquism, or "biloquy"; in Edgar Huntly (1799) the narrator-hero is a somnambulist in pursuit of another somnambulist whom he suspects of murder. It may {92} well be said, indeed, that all Brown's characters are sleepwalkers, since their actions, transformations, and frequently baffling duplications -- even cropping up with the same name in different stories -- are only understandable as dreams, often reading like direct and undigested transcription of dream-experience. Within the dream-like or phantasmagorical (but not preternatural) framework of his highly confused plots the joined and opposed ideas of Reason, an omnipotent questing rationality or "curiosity", and of forces quite outside reason's control, are constantly in play, embodied sometimes in different characters, sometimes within a single person.

Ormond is perhaps the most unmixed example of rational man, a walking compendium of Political Justice, believing that "In order to the success of truth [sic] . . . nothing was needful but opportunities for a complete exhibition of it", and devoted to improving the world; but with a sinister or even Satanic aspect arising if not logically, naturally from his rationality. (Brown observes that "in no case, perhaps, is the decision of a human being impartial, or totally uninfluenced by sinister and selfish motives"; it is characteristic of his scepticism concerning human nature, which he takes further than Godwin's grasp of its complexities.) Though inspired by a love of mankind, Ormond has no faith whatever in philanthropy: "Efforts designed to ameliorate the condition of an individual were sure of answering the contrary purpose. The principles of the social machine must be rectified before man can be beneficially active."

But even believing thus that "the system" must first be changed, he holds (in this again a good materialist and "necessarian", caught in the same trap that Marxist logic finds it hard honestly to escape) that man is himself "part of a machine, and as such had not the power to withold his agency". His way out of the dilemma is himself to be in some way outside the "machine" and in control of it; as such, by implication, superhuman. His aim is to manipulate the social machine by means of "opinion", but scarcely as Godwin hoped to influence it, by open argument; like almost all Brown's active characters, he goes to work in secret. He will "exercise absolute power over {93} the conduct of others, not by constraining their limbs or by exacting obedience to his authority, but in a way of which his subjects should be scarcely conscious". He is indeed the "hidden persuader": in the name of rational consciousness he works through unconsciousness, his means being his mastery of disguise; this, of course, despite the supreme value he places, as a good Godwinian, upon "sincerity". We see in fact little of these sophisticated aspirations in action; his aims rapidly boil down to pursuit of the heroine, Constantia (herself a rationalist, impregnably virtuous, a kind of irreligious Pamela) who finally only wards off rape with a penknife.

Edgar Huntly, or The Sleep-Walker is appropriately the most dream-like of all these stories; its seemingly arbitrary sequence of events only makes any kind of sense as a product of unconscious association. The action, as in many dreams in which the dreamer first watches a happening in which he has no part, and then moves into it himself, begins with the history of a man, Clithero, whom the narrator, Huntly, suspects of murder; after a distinct but quite unexplained break Huntly begins a series of adventures on his own. Both characters are somnambulist, and both very clearly in the grip of forces they cannot control.

The first part introduces a remarkable set of incest-fantasies, merging with one another. The speaker, Clithero, has been the faithful -- virtually filial -- servant of a gentlewoman of spotless virtue, widowed and with a grown daughter, but indissolubly tied to her twin brother, who thus takes the place of her husband. He is an exception to the general rule noted above that Brown mixed good and ill in his characters; he is as wholly bad as his twin-sister is good, being indeed devilish -- he "exceeded in depravity all that is imputed to the arch-foe of mankind" and "seemed to relish no food but pure, unadulterated evil". Clithero kills him, in circumstances almost exactly corresponding with the killing of Laius by Oedipus, on the highway and mistaking him for a robber; to make the identification unmistakable (though there is no reason to believe Brown was conscious of it) Clithero says, "I had meditated nothing; I was impelled by an unconscious necessity; had the assailant been {94} my father the consequences would have been the same". Having slain the brother-father he feels impelled to kill the sister-mother, his beloved patroness (he even describes himself as her son) in order to spare her the pain of learning the fatal news; he visits her bedroom in a scene strongly reminiscent of Hamlet, and is only just prevented from stabbing the woman in the bed. In fact she is not his "patroness" but her daughter, his own betrothed; thus as it were compressing Hamlet's impulses towards Ophelia and Gertrude economically into one. Clithero's resemblance to Hamlet, stricken by the revelation of evil, is so close -- he is "fettered, confounded, smitten with excess of thought, and laid prostrate with wonder" -- that one is tempted to assume a memory of the play; but if so it seems likely to have been unconscious. What is most interesting in the present context is Clithero's feeling that his thoughts themselves bring about the things he foresees and fears:

I seemed to have passed forward to a distant era of my life; the effects which were to come were already realised -- the foresight of misery created it, and set me in the midst of that hell which I feared.
In his own person Edgar Huntly falls into a more primitive level of fantasy -- quite literally, tumbling into a pit and exploring a cavern which brings him out into the primeval American wilderness, to fight with wild beasts and wild men. The novel has earned commentary as the prototype of the Red Indian adventure tale, in this case a formidable running fight in which the indestructible hero kills off dozens of redskins; but it is more remarkable perhaps as the dream-exploits of a pacific and pious young man who might have been brought up, as was Brown himself, as a Quaker. The whole affair is a delirium of violence which suddenly ceases when the novel emerges abruptly and inconsequently into daylight and its various elements are dispersed: Clithero to final madness and suicide, Huntly taking his place, betrothed to the daughter of his "patroness", the original murder mystery swept back under the carpet of the unconscious as the work of savage Indians. The {95} self-revelation promised by Huntly at the start -- "What light has burst upon my ignorance of myself and of mankind! How sudden and how enormous the transitions from uncertainty to knowledge!" is not brought about except as a function of the dream-experience itself: there is no "interpretation". At the end Huntly is only able to reflect on the universality of ignorance and self-delusion: "Disastrous and humiliating is the state of man! By his own hands is constructed the mass [sic: maze?] of misery and error in which his footsteps are for ever involved." The expression is incoherent, but the idea of man as a being who does not lead his life but is led by it comes out strongly enough and gives meaning to the extravagant jumble of unexplained accident and coincidence.

The most successful and fully worked out of these stories, however, is the first of them, Wieland, or The Transformation. Transformation is of course the principal business of all Brown's novels, in which disguise and deception (whether or not explicitly self-deception) is more or less satisfactorily shown growing to discovery; in this case with very powerful effect. It is an account of religious mania, operating through two generations. The elder Wieland, a German emigrant to America (supposed to be related to the poet Christoph Wieland) is an extreme Calvinist, or "Albigensian", haunted by scruples and obsessionally engaged in "ceaseless watchfulness and prayer" and finally literally burned up by his religious fervour: he dies of "spontaneous combustion".

Wieland the younger inherits his father's enthusiasm with interest, and falls an easy prey to the deceptions of Carwin, the ventriloquial joker whose "biloquism" represents the promptings of unconscious wishes, or more simply the split in Wieland's own nature. There are other sides to the character of Carwin, but here it is only needful to note that though introduced as an unutterable villain, credited with devilish malignity -- one who "wages a perpetual war against the happiness of mankind, and sets his engines of destruction against any object that presents itself" -- he is more mischievous than malicious. Nevertheless he leads Wieland to suppose that he is the object of direct communication (by disembodied voices) from God; the {96} delusion takes immediate hold and continues an autonomous existence without further assistance from Carwin. Wieland, convinced that, like Abraham, he is called on to prove his faith by sacrifice of his own flesh and blood, murders his wife and children, and is only just prevented from murdering his sister (whose letters recount the whole story).

Seized and imprisoned, he confesses, but with pride rather than repentance, his manner showing "less of humanity than godhead", and his prayers being strongly reminiscent of the antinomian ecstasy of such as James Hogg's Justified Sinner -- "'Thou, Omnipotent and Holy! Thou knowest that my actions are conformable to thy will. I know not what is crime; what actions are evil in their ultimate and comprehensive tendency or what are good. Thy knowledge, as thy power, is unlimited. I have taken thee for my guide, and cannot err.'" Exalted, he addresses God, "the object of my supreme passion", as an equal: having fulfilled his part of the test-bargain -- "'What have I witheld which it was thy pleasure to exact?'" -- he calls on God, thus magically controlled, to perform his: "'Now may I, with dauntless and erect eye, claim my reward, since I have given thee the treasure of my soul.'" The latter phrase is, of course, the usual formula for one who has sold his soul to the Devil.

Quite insane, Wieland is closely confined, but cannot be kept in prison; combining in himself the demoniacal fury of a Falkland and the omnipotent determination of Caleb Williams, he breaks out and immediately seeks out his sister to complete his "submission" to God by killing her. The murderous wish cannot be suppressed, and Wieland is entirely absorbed or transformed into it: he "is no more. A fury that is rapacious of blood, that bends all his energies to the destruction of what was once dear to him, possesses him wholly." His sister, who has in the meantime learnt of Carwin's machinations, tries to save herself by telling him that what he took for God's command was no more than a "biloquial" trick. He refuses at first to listen to "reason", the possibility that his "voices" were deceivers; even if he was deluded, he says, with perfect, though insane logic, he was bound to obey, since "If a devil has {97} deceived me, he came in the habit of an angel". He himself, believing that "God was my mover", is blameless, "pure from all stain".

He is about to strangle his sister when Carwin himself intervenes; he speaks to Wieland not with the voice of reason but directly to the unconscious, using his "biloquial" powers to recall him to himself: "'Shake off this phrenzy, and ascend into the rational and human. Be lunatic no longer.'" Wieland is cured, his final transformation being thus effected in a highly dramatic but coherent and emotionally consistent way; he understands what he has been and what he has done and is devastated by self-knowledge. His repentance is described in explicitly Christian terms, an interesting point in a work generally reckoned and, one may assume, intended to be a demonstration of the dangerous delusions of faith. He is urged to "ascend into the rational and human", yet this ascent necessarily involves a descent from the megalomaniac heights of his delusion. In his exaltation he has identified himself with Christ or, more precisely, has set up as Christ's rival: "'Thou'" Carwin addresses him, "'who hast vied with the great preacher of thy faith in sanctity of motives and in elevation above the sensual and selfish.'" His fall reduces him to the opposite but still Christ-like state, in which he is described, in his repentance, as "a man of sorrows".

The first of Brown's novels to appear on Mary Shelley's reading list is Edgar Huntly, recorded as having been read by both Shelley and herself in 1814. She read Ormond12 and Wieland in 1815. It may be assumed that it was Shelley who introduced Brown to her in the first place, as a writer he rated on the same level as Schiller and Goethe. He was so struck by the character of Constantia in Ormond that he wrote two poems inscribed to her: one of these, To Constantia, Singing (1817) shows a remarkable cluster of Shelleyan identifications and aspirations roused, given wings, and projected into "voluptuous flight" by the image of that (to our eyes) insufferably priggish heroine.

On Mary the influence of Brown is apparent both in the general form of Frankenstein (as well as, to a lesser extent, her {98} later novels) and in particular incidents and phrases. We may find significant, for instance, the complaint of Clithero, in Edgar Huntly, when, haunted by the consequences of his "innocent" crime, he says that "'the demon that controlled me at first is still in the fruition of power; I am entangled in his fold and every effort that I make to escape only involves me in deeper ruin'": the "brawny and terrific figures" of the Indians in the later parts of the story and Huntly's "shuddering loathing" of them may perhaps have contributed another element in the make-up of the Monster and Frankenstein's reaction to him. Some of the suggestions in Ormond have already been noted; the self-consciousness of Ormond himself, almost the only one of Brown's agents who knows quite well what he is doing, allows him to combine both within himself: when he is telling Constantia, with sadistic deliberation, of his designs on her virtue, he asks almost gloatingly, "'Catch you not a view of the monsters that are starting into birth here?'"

Many more direct hints can be found in Wieland. Carwin seems initially an entirely sinister being, and notably monstrous, "ungainly and disproportioned", his feet "unshapely and huge", his features very like those of the Monster in Frankenstein's first description: "His cheeks were pallid and lank, his eyes sunken, his forehead overshadowed by coarse, straggling hairs, his teeth large and irregular, though brilliantly white, and his chin discolored by a tetter. His skin was of coarse grain and sallow hue. Every feature was wide of beauty." Nor is it incompatible with the Monster that he also possesses "a mind of the highest order". The heroine's revulsion from Carwin and fear of him, as "setting his engines of destruction" to work with indiscriminate malice, proves partly to have misjudged him; but Carwin himself (again combining Monster and Frankenstein in his own person) is frightened by what he has started by his "curiosity" and mischief: "'had I not rashly set in motion a machine, over whose progress I had no control, and which experience had shown me was infinite in power?'"

Some have seen in this rhetorical question "the germ of Frankenstein". It may be thought that other parts of these {99} novels are not less suggestive. The real point is less a question of identifying precise derivations -- in a work bringing together so many diverse threads, at second and first hand, it is hardly possible to name any one as pre-eminent or original -- than of observing parallels and resemblances which must have been apparent to Mary herself. It would probably be truer to find in both Mary's and Brown's creations, a common debt to Godwin and beyond Godwin, to an "intellectual climate" impossible to particularise.

Mary's imaginative response was in many respects similar to Brown's, but what she got from him was not so much perhaps any specific elements of her story as a readiness to accept what her imagination offered. Indeed, she went much further than he did. In Brown the unconscious material so profusely thrown up remains disorganised, much of the time incoherent, and this was paradoxically an effect of his failure to allow it full force, to trust the products of his imagination. A pervasive scepticism or, at bottom, a moral timidity caused him to shy away from their full development and consequently to land as often as not in the most ludicrous banality. Mary, of far greater resolution and single-mindedness -- without the provincial vanities and self-regard of the "first professional American author", or the curious collector's attitude to ideas which, it may be said, has affected professional American authors ever since -- was able to bind many strands into a single whole, and to give her creation a life outside and beyond herself in a way Brown never achieved or even approached. His inventions were par excellence the products (like Godwin's) of introspection. Mary's, if one may so put it, were not extracted from herself but encountered there; they came from elsewhere, and she had the courage and determination, like Fair Janet in the ballad of Tam Lin, to wait and meet them.


1. William Godwin, letter to Mrs Cotton, 24 October, 1797; quoted by C. Kegan Paul in William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, London 1876.

2. William Godwin, letter to William Baxter, 8 June, 1812; quoted by R. Glynn Grylls, Mary Shlley: A Biography, London, 1938.

3. William Godwin, quoted by C. Kegan Paul, op. cit.

4. William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, appendix to Book VIII, Chap. VIII, "of cooperation, cohabitation, and marriage". From facsimile of the third edition (1798), ed. F. E. L. Priestley, Toronto 1946. All subsequent quotations from Political Justice are from this text.

5. Mary Shelley, letter to Maria Gisborne, 30 October, 1834.

6. William Godwin, letter to Mary, 27 October, 1818: quoted by R. Glynn Grylls, op. cit.

7. Mary Shelley, Journal, 8 March, 1831.

8. Political Justice [PJ 3.4].

9. William Godwin, Preface to 1832 edition of his novel Fleetwood, given as appendix to Oxford edition of Caleb Williams, London 1970.

10. Thomas Ogle, letter to Ralph Griffiths, 1792, quoted by Peter Faulkner in introduction to Oxford edition of Anna St Ives, London 1970.

11. Introduction to Edgar Huntly, Bentley's Standard Novels, London 1842.

12. In the Journal reading list for 1815 Mary simply enters the title, Ormond; F. L. Jones, editor of the Journal, supplies the conjectural author as "Maria Edgeworth", but this is obviously a mistake, since her novel of that name was not published until 1817.