Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: Ch. 9

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Thus not the tenderness of friendship, nor the beauty of earth, nor of heaven, could redeem my soul from woe; the very accents of love were ineffectual. I was encompassed by a cloud which no beneficial influence could penetrate. The wounded deer dragging its fainting limbs to some untrodden brakew, there to gaze upon the arrow which had pierced it, and to die, was but a type of me.

Sometimes I could cope with the sullen despair that overwhelmed me, but sometimes the whirlwind passions of my soul drove me to seek, by bodily exercise and by change of place, some relief from my intolerable sensations. It was during an accessw of this kind that I suddenly left my home, and bending my steps towards the near Alpine valleys, sought in the magnificence, the eternity of such scenes, to forget myself and my ephemeralw, because human, sorrows. My wanderings were directed towards the valley of Chamounix. I had visited it frequently during my boyhood. Six years had passed since then: _I_ was a wreck, but nought had changed in those savage and enduring scenes.

I performed the first part of my journey on horseback. I afterwards hired a mule, as the more sure-footed and least liable to receive injury on these rugged roads. The weather was fine; it was about the middle of the month of August, nearly two months after the death of Justine, that miserable epoch from which I dated all my woed. The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened as I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve.d The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me on every side, the sound of the river raging among the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence—and I ceased to fear or to bend before any being less almighty than that which had created and ruled the elements, here displayed in their most terrific guise. Still, as I ascended higher, the valley assumed a more magnificent and astonishing character. Ruined castles hanging on the precipices of piny mountains, the impetuous Arve, and cottages every here and there(d) peeping forth from among the trees formed a scene of singular beauty. But it was augmented and rendered sublime by the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all, as belonging to another earth, the habitations of another race of beings.

I passed the bridge of Pelissier, where the ravine, which the river forms, opened before me, and I began to ascend the mountain that overhangs it. Soon after, I entered the valley of Chamounix. This valley is more wonderful and sublime, but not so beautiful and picturesqued as that of Servox, through which I had just passed. The high and snowy mountains were its immediate boundaries, but I saw no more ruined castles and fertile fields. Immense glaciers approached the road; I heard the rumbling thunder of the falling avalanche and marked the smoke of its passage. Mont Blanc, the supreme and magnificent Mont Blanc, raised itself from the surrounding aiguillesw, and its tremendous dome overlooked the valley.

A tingling long-lost sense of pleasure often came across me during this journey. Some turn in the road, some new object suddenly perceived and recognized, reminded me of days gone by, and were associated with the lighthearted gaiety of boyhood. The very winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal Nature bade me weep no more. Then again the kindly influence ceased to act—I found myself fettered again to grief and indulging in all the misery of reflection. Then I spurred on my animal, striving so to forget the world, my fears, and more than all, myself—or, in a more desperate fashion, I alighted and threw myself on the grass, weighed down by horror and despair.

At length I arrived at the village of Chamounix. Exhaustion succeeded to the extreme fatigue both of body and of mind which I had endured. For a short space of time I remained at the window watching the pallid lightnings that played above Mont Blanc and listening to the rushing of the Arve, which pursued its noisy way beneath. The same lulling sounds acted as a lullaby to my too keen sensations; when I placed my head upon my pillow, sleep crept over me; I felt it as it came and blessed the giver of oblivion.

X [w] brake

From bracken, which is fern. Brake can mean a thicket but an "untrodden" thicket is doubtful.

X [w] access


X [w] ephemeral

Fleeting, passing. He's just mentioned the "eternity of such scenes," which serves as the basis. 

X [d] that miserable epoch from which I dated all m…


This is so grossly inaccurate as to make us doubt his capacity to reason objectively. His woe dates to his obsession with creating the monster or at the latest from the moment he sees him open his eye.

X [d] the ravine of Arve.

Writing & Reading

The choice of subject and the description are indebted to Percy Shelley's poem "Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni," written in July, 1816, which is itself partly indebted to Coleridge's "Hymn before Sun-Rise in the Vale of Chamouni," published in 1802. …

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X [(d)] Ruined castles hanging on the precipices of p…


X [d] wonderful and sublime, but not so beautiful a…


Shelley has collected in a single sentence the age's cardinal aesthetic terms and categories in reference to nature.

Wonder's meaning is obvious, but it is the state of mind that produces wonder that is important. The mind is entirely open, receptive, and may be susceptible to what Coleridge describes as "the willing suspension of disbelief."  (For the sublime and beautiful search …

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X [w] aiguilles

Peaks, pinnacles, of a particularly spiky sort.