Contents Index

the linkage between the scientific concerns of Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton

Walton's polar exploration, with its concern for the secret of magnetism (Letter 2.2), and Victor's experiments with electricity (1.1.9) as vital fluid intersect with one of the most exciting scientific breakthroughs of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Although Erasmus Darwin's scientific take on the linkage -- that it is somehow to be explained by basic chemistry rather than the mechanics of physics -- is wrong, what impels it is not. Indeed, though it is pedestrian in manner, the lengthy twelfth note to The Temple of Nature is nothing short of visionary. There Darwin first extensively expounds the dynamics of electricity, then turns to the similar processes of magnetism, bifurcated figuratively between arctic and antarctic poles, and in the end links the two with a rudimentary conception of atomic physics (only to be expounded by John Dalton in the decade after Darwin's death), and with the third component of the Grand Unified Field Theory, gravitation. That Mary Shelley is aware of this conjunction can be deduced from Walton's hope that his discoveries will help astronomers "regulate a thousand celestial observations".