Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: Ch. 6

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Chapter 6

Clerval then put the following letter into my hands.d It was from my own Elizabeth:

"My dearest Cousin,

"You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters of dear kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me on your account. You are forbidden to write—to hold a pen; yet one word from you, dear Victor, is necessary to calm our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought that each post would bring this line, and my persuasions have restrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have prevented his encountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers of so long a journey, yet how often have I regretted not being able to perform it myself! I figure to myself that the task of attending on your sickbed has devolved on some mercenary old nurse, who could never guess your wishes nor minister to them with the care and affection of your poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that indeed you are getting better. I eagerly hope that you will confirm this intelligence soon in your own handwriting.

"Get well—and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerful home and friends who love you dearly. Your father's health is vigorous, and he asks but to see you, but to be assured that you are well; and not a care will ever cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you would be to remark the improvement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen and full of activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss and to enter into foreign serviceh, but we cannot part with him, at least until his elder brother returns to us. My uncle is not pleased with the idea of a military career in a distant country, but Ernest never had your powers of application. He looks upon study as an odiousw fetter; his time is spent in the open air, climbing the hills or rowing on the lake. I fear that he will become an idler unless we yield the point and permit him to enter on the profession which he has selected.

"Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, has taken place since you left us. The blue lake and snow-clad mountains—they never change; and I think our placid home and our contented hearts are regulated by the same immutable laws. My trifling occupations take up my time and amuse me, and I am rewarded for any exertions by seeing none but happy, kind faces around me. Since you left us, but one change has taken place in our little household. Do you remember on what occasion Justine Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not; I will relate her history, therefore in a few words. Madame Moritz, her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine was the third. This girl had always been the favourite of her father, but through a strange perversity, her mother could not endure her,d and after the death of M. Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt observed this, and when Justine was twelve years of age, prevailed on her mother to allow her to live at our house. The republican institutions of our country have produced simpler and happier mannersd than those which prevail in the great monarchies that surround it. Hence there is less distinction between the several classes of its inhabitants; and the lower orders, being neither so poor nor so despised, their manners are more refined and moral. A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France and England. Justine, thus received in our family, learned the duties of a servant, a condition which, in our fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.

X [d] Clerval then put the following letter into my…

By now the reader may have forgotten the frame story (Victor speaking to Walton; Walton to his journal), but we're to presume that Victor has handed Walton the letter.


X [h] to enter into foreign service


As in the Gardes Suisse or Swiss Guards.

At a critical moment in Paris in August, 1792, some 950 Swiss Guards whom Louis XVI had hired to protect the royal family were attacked. Ordered by Louis to cease defending the Tuileries against a mob, the Guards disengaged and were retreating to their barracks when they were trapped and some 600 slaughtered. Another 200, wounded and in prison, died or were killed during the September Massacres. 

X [w] odious

Hateful, repellent.

X [d] This girl had always been the favourite of he…

The situation resembles that between Mary Shelley and her father and stepmother, Mrs. Clairmont, who Mary believes detested her. Mrs. Jane Godwin certainly did come to detest her after she eloped with Shelley, taking Jane Clairmont with them, but before that it seems as if Mrs. Godwin was at least sympathetic if divided in her loyalties between her own children and Mary and Fanny. If her stepmother did detest her, Mary reciprocated the feeling. 

X [d] The republican institutions of our country ha…

Manners & Morals

A passing reminder of Switzerland's luminous role for English and European democrats and radicals such as Wordsworth, the Shelleys, Byron, and many in their circle and before them for Voltaire and Rousseau.

The steep, rough terrain, it was argued, favored Switzerland's development as a republic composed of small cantons, they themselves a loose assembly of individual, semi-autonomo…

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