« PreviousContinue »
jumps in at Mr. Walton's cabin window, and is surprized by that gentleman pronouncing a funeral oration over the departed Frankenstein ; after which, declaring that he will go back to the Pole, and there burn himself on a funeral pyre (of ice, we conjecture) of his own collecting, he jumps again out of the window into his raft, and is out of sight in a moment.
Our readers will guess from this summary, what a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity this work presents.- It is piously dedicated to Mr. Godwin, and is written in the spirit of his school. The dreams of insanity are embodied in the strong and striking language of the insane, and the author, notwithstanding the rationality of his preface, often leaves us in doubt whether he is not as mad as bis hero. Mr. Godwin is the patriarch of a literary family, whose chief skill is in delineating the wanderings of the intellect, and which strangely delights in the most afflicting and humiliating of hunan miseries. His disciples are a kind of out-pensioners of Bedlam, and, like · Mad Bess' or · Mad Tom,' are occasionally visited with paroxysms of genius and fits of expression, which make sober-minded people wonder and shudder.
We shall give our readers a very favourable specimen of the vigour of fancy and language with which this work is written, by extracting from it the three passages which struck us the most on our perusal of it. The first is the account of the animation of the image.
It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted tv agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
• How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delipeate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form ? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!-Great G-! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness ; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips.
• The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation ; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my
Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured; and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain : I slept indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprized, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death ; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shrowd enveloped ber form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window-shutters, I beheld the wretch-the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed ; and his eyes,
eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs. I took refuge in the court-yard belonging to the house which I inhabited; where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.' - vol. i. pp. 97-101.
The next is the description of the meeting in the valley of Chamouny.
It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whose aërial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed—“ Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from the joys of life.”
• As I said this, I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded
over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution ; his stature also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that of man. I was troubled : a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me; but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains. I perceived, as the shape came nearer, (sight tremendous and abhorred!) that it was the wretch whom I had created. I trembled with rage and horror, resolving to wait his approach, and then close with him in mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish, combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely observed this; anger and hatred had at first deprived me of utterance, and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words expressive of furious detestation and contempt.-vol. ii. pp. 21--23.
The last with which we shall agitate the nerves of our readers is Captain Walton's description of the monster he found in his cabin.
**0! what a scene has just taken place! I am yet dizzy with the remembrance of it. I hardly know whether I shall have the power to detail it; yet the tale which I have recorded would be incomplete without this final and wonderful catastrophe.
• I entered the cabin, where lay the remains of my ill-fated and admirable friend. Over him hung a form which I cannot find words to describe ; gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in its proportions. As he hung over the coffin, his face was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy. When he heard the sound of my approach, he ceased to utter exclainations of grief and horror, and sprung towards the window. Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome, yet appalling hideousness. I shut my eyes involuntarily, and endeavoured to recollect what were my duties with regard to this destroyer. I called on him to stay.
• He paused, looking on me with wonder; and, again turning towards the lifeless form of his creator, he seemed to forget my presence, and every feature and gesture seemed instigated by the wildest rage of some uncontrollable passion.
• “ That is also my victim !” he exclaimed ; “ in his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound 10 its close! Oh, Frankenstein! generous and self-devoted being! what does it avail that I now' ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst. Alas! he is cold; he may not answer me.”
. His voice seemed suffocated; and my first impulses, which had suggested to me the duty of obeying the dying request of my friend, in destroying his enemy, were now suspended by a mixture of curiosity and compassion. I approached this tremendous being; I dared not again raise my looks upon his face, there was something so scaring and unearthly in its ugliness. I attempted to speak, but the words died away on my lips. The monster continued to utter wild and incoherent self-reproaches.' - vol. iii. pp. 178-181.
It cannot be denied that this is nonsense—but it is nonsense decked out with circumstances and clothed in language highly terrific: it is, indeed,
Signifying nothingbut still there is something tremendous in the unmeaning hollowness of its sound, and the vague obscurity of its images.
But when we have thus admitted that Frankenstein has passages which appal the mind and make the flesh creep, we have given it all the praise (if praise it can be called) which we dare to bestow. Our taste and our judgment alike revolt at this kind of writing, and the greater the ability with which it may be executed the worse it is-it inculcates no lesson of conduct, manners, or morality; it cannot mend, and will not even amuse its readers, unless their taste have been deplorably vitiated-it fatigues the feelings without interesting the understanding; it gratuitously harasses the heart, and wantonly adds to the store, already too great, of painful sensations. The author has powers, both of conception and language, which employed in a happier direction might, perhaps, (we speak dubiously,) give him a name among those whose writings amuse or amend their fellow-creatures; but we take the liberty of assuring him, and hope that he may be in a temper to listen to us, that the style which he has adopted in the present publication merely tends to defeat his own purpose, if he really had any other object in view than that of leaving the wearied reader, after a struggle between laughter and loathing, in doubt whether the head or the heart of the author be the most diseased.
Art. VI. An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of
the Bengal Native Infantry, from its first formation in 1757 1o 1796, when the present Regulations took place : 'together with a Detail of the Services on which the several battalions have been employed during that period. By the late Captain Williams, of the Invalid Establishment of the Bengal Army. 8vo. London 1817. THE title of this book attracted our notice, and we were grati
fied by a perusal of it. The motives which induced its deceased author (an officer in the service of the East India Company) to prepare it for publication, are briefly stated in the introductory pages. The original work has been greatly enhanced in value, by the kindness of a brother officer, who has given a concise but able account of the changes which have taken place, and the events which
have occurred in the Bengal army, since A.D. 1796, the period at which the narrative of Captain Williams ceases.
The subject of this work is truly interesting, and we shall rejoice to see others of a similar description; for it is not specious theory, but an accumulation of facts, which we require to guide our judgment through the difficult, and, we may say, the awful task of governing the vast dominions which we have acquired in the East; and none are more important than those which throw light upon the character of that army, by whose valour and attachment the great conquest has been principally achieved, and without whose continued fidelity it cannot be preserved.
The decided preference which a great proportion of the inhabitants of India have shewn towards the rule of the British government, originated in several causes, but in none more than an observation of the courage and discipline of its troops, and the comparative superiority both in regard to the justice and permanence of its civil institutions. Nations wearied out with the dissensions and oppressions of barbarous and rival chiefs, found (to use the oriental phrase) repose under the shadow of its protection; and the great mass of the people have been benefited in their condition by the extension of its power--but their princes have almost all fallen.The territories of the monarchs who opposed, and who supported this
government, have shared the same fate—all have been absorbed in one vortex ;—the only difference has been, that the one has perished by a sudden and violent death, while the dissolution of the other has been comparatively easy and gradual. It is difficult to repress those feelings which the past view of this picture is calculated to excite; one of the most natural and legitimate sentiments of the human mind leads it to regard that power which has been long established in ancient and noble families with respect, if not veneration. It is the great link of order in every society, particularly in those where the rule is simple and despotic. We are compelled by the impulse of this feeling to regard every species of usurpation with disgust, but above all, that of strangers, who appear to the general observer to have subdued the natives of one of the finest portions of the earth, with no view but the sordid and inglorious one of rendering their land a source of profit, or at least using that power which its possession gave them, to protect a profitable commerce. British India cannot be considered as a colony. Its ránk is that of a dependent'empire;--and though the chain of connection by which it is preserved in subjection may want some of those links which have ever been deemed essential to the maintenance of power, there are in its constitution, advantages of no ordinary magnitude. One of the most striking is, that it contains fewer of those elements, which produce acts of violence and injus