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Title: Mathilda
Author: Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mathilda" ***

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Mathilda _is being published
in paper as Extra Series #3
of_ Studies in Philology.


This volume prints for the first time the full text of Mary Shelley's
novelette _Mathilda_ together with the opening pages of its rough
draft, _The Fields of Fancy_. They are transcribed from the microfilm
of the notebooks belonging to Lord Abinger which is in the library of
Duke University.

The text follows Mary Shelley's manuscript exactly except for the
omission of mere corrections by the author, most of which are
negligible; those that are significant are included and explained in
the notes. Footnotes indicated by an asterisk are Mrs. Shelley's own
notes. She was in general a fairly good speller, but certain words,
especially those in which there was a question of doubling or not
doubling a letter, gave her trouble: untill (though occasionally she
deleted the final _l_ or wrote the word correctly), agreable, occured,
confering, buble, meaness, receeded, as well as hopless, lonly,
seperate, extactic, sacrifise, desart, and words ending in -ance or
-ence. These and other mispellings (even those of proper names) are
reproduced without change or comment. The use of _sic_ and of square
brackets is reserved to indicate evident slips of the pen, obviously
incorrect, unclear, or incomplete phrasing and punctuation, and my
conjectures in emending them.

I am very grateful to the library of Duke University and to its
librarian, Dr. Benjamin E. Powell, not only for permission to
transcribe and publish this work by Mary Shelley but also for the many
courtesies shown to me when they welcomed me as a visiting scholar in
1956. To Lord Abinger also my thanks are due for adding his approval
of my undertaking, and to the Curators of the Bodleian Library for
permiting me to use and to quote from the papers in the reserved
Shelley Collection. Other libraries and individuals helped me while I
was editing _Mathilda_: the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore,
whose Literature and Reference Departments went to endless trouble for
me; the Julia Rogers Library of Goucher College and its staff; the
library of the University of Pennsylvania; Miss R. Glynn Grylls (Lady
Mander); Professor Lewis Patton of Duke University; Professor
Frederick L. Jones of the University of Pennsylvania; and many other
persons who did me favors that seemed to them small but that to me
were very great.

I owe much also to previous books by and about the Shelleys. Those to
which I have referred more than once in the introduction and notes are
here given with the abbreviated form which I have used:

Frederick L. Jones, ed. _The Letters of Mary W. Shelley_, 2 vols.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944 (_Letters_)

---- _Mary Shelley's Journal_. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1947 (_Journal_)

Roger Ingpen and W.E. Peck, eds. _The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe
Shelley_, Julian Edition, 10 vols. London, 1926-1930 (Julian _Works_)

Newman Ivey White. _Shelley_, 2 vols. New York: Knopf, 1940 (White,

Elizabeth Nitchie. _Mary Shelley, Author of "Frankenstein."_ New
Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1953 (Nitchie, _Mary Shelley_)


May, 1959



PREFACE      iii







Of all the novels and stories which Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley left
in manuscript,[i] only one novelette, _Mathilda_, is complete. It
exists in both rough draft and final copy. In this story, as in all
Mary Shelley's writing, there is much that is autobiographical: it
would be hard to find a more self-revealing work. For an understanding
of Mary's character, especially as she saw herself, and of her
attitude toward Shelley and toward Godwin in 1819, this tale is an
important document. Although the main narrative, that of the father's
incestuous love for his daughter, his suicide, and Mathilda's
consequent withdrawal from society to a lonely heath, is not in any
real sense autobiographical, many elements in it are drawn from
reality. The three main characters are clearly Mary herself, Godwin,
and Shelley, and their relations can easily be reassorted to
correspond with actuality.

Highly personal as the story was, Mary Shelley hoped that it would be
published, evidently believing that the characters and the situations
were sufficiently disguised. In May of 1820 she sent it to England by
her friends, the Gisbornes, with a request that her father would
arrange for its publication. But _Mathilda_, together with its rough
draft entitled _The Fields of Fancy_, remained unpublished among the
Shelley papers. Although Mary's references to it in her letters and
journal aroused some curiosity among scholars, it also remained
unexamined until comparatively recently.

This seeming neglect was due partly to the circumstances attending the
distribution of the family papers after the deaths of Sir Percy and
Lady Shelley. One part of them went to the Bodleian Library to become
a reserved collection which, by the terms of Lady Shelley's will, was
opened to scholars only under definite restrictions. Another part went
to Lady Shelley's niece and, in turn, to her heirs, who for a time did
not make the manuscripts available for study. A third part went to Sir
John Shelley-Rolls, the poet's grand-nephew, who released much
important Shelley material, but not all the scattered manuscripts. In
this division, the two notebooks containing the finished draft of
_Mathilda_ and a portion of _The Fields of Fancy_ went to Lord
Abinger, the notebook containing the remainder of the rough draft to
the Bodleian Library, and some loose sheets containing additions and
revisions to Sir John Shelley-Rolls. Happily all the manuscripts are
now accessible to scholars, and it is possible to publish the full
text of _Mathilda_ with such additions from _The Fields of Fancy_ as
are significant.[ii]

The three notebooks are alike in format.[iii] One of Lord Abinger's
notebooks contains the first part of _The Fields of Fancy_, Chapter 1
through the beginning of Chapter 10, 116 pages. The concluding portion
occupies the first fifty-four pages of the Bodleian notebook. There is
then a blank page, followed by three and a half pages, scored out, of
what seems to be a variant of the end of Chapter 1 and the beginning
of Chapter 2. A revised and expanded version of the first part of
Mathilda's narrative follows (Chapter 2 and the beginning of Chapter
3), with a break between the account of her girlhood in Scotland and
the brief description of her father after his return. Finally there
are four pages of a new opening, which was used in _Mathilda_. This is
an extremely rough draft: punctuation is largely confined to the dash,
and there are many corrections and alterations. The Shelley-Rolls
fragments, twenty-five sheets or slips of paper, usually represent
additions to or revisions of _The Fields of Fancy_: many of them are
numbered, and some are keyed into the manuscript in Lord Abinger's
notebook. Most of the changes were incorporated in _Mathilda_.

The second Abinger notebook contains the complete and final draft of
_Mathilda_, 226 pages. It is for the most part a fair copy. The text
is punctuated and there are relatively few corrections, most of them,
apparently the result of a final rereading, made to avoid the
repetition of words. A few additions are written in the margins. On
several pages slips of paper containing evident revisions (quite
possibly originally among the Shelley-Rolls fragments) have been
pasted over the corresponding lines of the text. An occasional passage
is scored out and some words and phrases are crossed out to make way
for a revision. Following page 216, four sheets containing the
conclusion of the story are cut out of the notebook. They appear, the
pages numbered 217 to 223, among the Shelley-Rolls fragments. A
revised version, pages 217 to 226, follows the cut.[iv]

The mode of telling the story in the final draft differs radically
from that in the rough draft. In _The Fields of Fancy_ Mathilda's
history is set in a fanciful framework. The author is transported by
the fairy Fantasia to the Elysian Fields, where she listens to the
discourse of Diotima and meets Mathilda. Mathilda tells her story,
which closes with her death. In the final draft this unrealistic and
largely irrelevant framework is discarded: Mathilda, whose death is
approaching, writes out for her friend Woodville the full details of
her tragic history which she had never had the courage to tell him in

The title of the rough draft, _The Fields of Fancy_, and the setting
and framework undoubtedly stem from Mary Wollstonecraft's unfinished
tale, _The Cave of Fancy_, in which one of the souls confined in the
center of the earth to purify themselves from the dross of their
earthly existence tells to Sagesta (who may be compared with Diotima)
the story of her ill-fated love for a man whom she hopes to rejoin
after her purgation is completed.[v] Mary was completely familiar with
her mother's works. This title was, of course, abandoned when the
framework was abandoned, and the name of the heroine was substituted.
Though it is worth noticing that Mary chose a name with the same
initial letter as her own, it was probably taken from Dante. There are
several references in the story to the cantos of the _Purgatorio_ in
which Mathilda appears. Mathilda's father is never named, nor is
Mathilda's surname given. The name of the poet went through several
changes: Welford, Lovel, Herbert, and finally Woodville.

The evidence for dating _Mathilda_ in the late summer and autumn of
1819 comes partly from the manuscript, partly from Mary's journal. On
the pages succeeding the portions of _The Fields of Fancy_ in the
Bodleian notebook are some of Shelley's drafts of verse and prose,
including parts of _Prometheus Unbound_ and of _Epipsychidion_, both
in Italian, and of the preface to the latter in English, some prose
fragments, and extended portions of the _Defence of Poetry_. Written
from the other end of the book are the _Ode to Naples_ and _The Witch
of Atlas_. Since these all belong to the years 1819, 1820, and 1821,
it is probable that Mary finished her rough draft some time in 1819,
and that when she had copied her story, Shelley took over the
notebook. Chapter 1 of _Mathilda_ in Lord Abinger's notebook is
headed, "Florence Nov. 9th. 1819." Since the whole of Mathilda's story
takes place in England and Scotland, the date must be that of the
manuscript. Mary was in Florence at that time.

These dates are supported by entries in Mary's journal which indicate
that she began writing _Mathilda_, early in August, while the Shelleys
were living in the Villa Valosano, near Leghorn. On August 4, 1819,
after a gap of two months from the time of her little son's death, she
resumed her diary. Almost every day thereafter for a month she
recorded, "Write," and by September 4, she was saying, "Copy." On
September 12 she wrote, "Finish copying my Tale." The next entry to
indicate literary activity is the one word, "write," on November 8. On
the 12th Percy Florence was born, and Mary did no more writing until
March, when she was working on _Valperga_. It is probable, therefore,
that Mary wrote and copied _Mathilda_ between August 5 and September
12, 1819, that she did some revision on November 8 and finally dated
the manuscript November 9.

The subsequent history of the manuscript is recorded in letters and
journals. When the Gisbornes went to England on May 2, 1820, they took
_Mathilda_ with them; they read it on the journey and recorded their
admiration of it in their journal.[vi] They were to show it to Godwin
and get his advice about publishing it. Although Medwin heard about
the story when he was with the Shelleys in 1820[vii] and Mary read
it--perhaps from the rough draft--to Edward and Jane Williams in the
summer of 1821,[viii] this manuscript apparently stayed in Godwin's
hands. He evidently did not share the Gisbornes' enthusiasm: his
approval was qualified. He thought highly of certain parts of it, less
highly of others; and he regarded the subject as "disgusting and
detestable," saying that the story would need a preface to prevent
readers "from being tormented by the apprehension ... of the fall of
the heroine,"--that is, if it was ever published.[ix] There is,
however, no record of his having made any attempt to get it into
print. From January 18 through June 2, 1822, Mary repeatedly asked
Mrs. Gisborne to retrieve the manuscript and have it copied for her,
and Mrs. Gisborne invariably reported her failure to do so. The last
references to the story are after Shelley's death in an unpublished
journal entry and two of Mary's letters. In her journal for October
27, 1822, she told of the solace for her misery she had once found in
writing _Mathilda_. In one letter to Mrs. Gisborne she compared the
journey of herself and Jane to Pisa and Leghorn to get news of Shelley
and Williams to that of Mathilda in search of her father,
"driving--(like Matilda), towards the _sea_ to learn if we were to be
for ever doomed to misery."[x] And on May 6, 1823, she wrote, "Matilda
foretells even many small circumstances most truly--and the whole of
it is a monument of what now is."[xi]

These facts not only date the manuscript but also show Mary's feeling
of personal involvement in the story. In the events of 1818-1819 it is
possible to find the basis for this morbid tale and consequently to
assess its biographical significance.

On September 24, 1818, the Shelleys' daughter, Clara Everina, barely a
year old, died at Venice. Mary and her children had gone from Bagni di
Lucca to Este to join Shelley at Byron's villa. Clara was not well
when they started, and she grew worse on the journey. From Este
Shelley and Mary took her to Venice to consult a physician, a trip
which was beset with delays and difficulties. She died almost as soon
as they arrived. According to Newman Ivey White,[xii] Mary, in the
unreasoning agony of her grief, blamed Shelley for the child's death
and for a time felt toward him an extreme physical antagonism which
subsided into apathy and spiritual alienation. Mary's black moods made
her difficult to live with, and Shelley himself fell into deep
dejection. He expressed his sense of their estrangement in some of the
lyrics of 1818--"all my saddest poems." In one fragment of verse, for
example, he lamented that Mary had left him "in this dreary world

    Thy form is here indeed--a lovely one--
    But thou art fled, gone down the dreary road,
    That leads to Sorrow's most obscure abode.
    Thou sittest on the hearth of pale despair,
    For thine own sake I cannot follow thee.

Professor White believed that Shelley recorded this estrangement only
"in veiled terms" in _Julian and Maddalo_ or in poems that he did not
show to Mary, and that Mary acknowledged it only after Shelley's
death, in her poem "The Choice" and in her editorial notes on his
poems of that year. But this unpublished story, written after the
death of their other child William, certainly contains, though also in
veiled terms, Mary's immediate recognition and remorse. Mary well
knew, I believe, what she was doing to Shelley. In an effort to purge
her own emotions and to acknowledge her fault, she poured out on the
pages of _Mathilda_ the suffering and the loneliness, the bitterness
and the self-recrimination of the past months.

The biographical elements are clear: Mathilda is certainly Mary
herself; Mathilda's father is Godwin; Woodville is an idealized

Like Mathilda Mary was a woman of strong passions and affections which
she often hid from the world under a placid appearance. Like
Mathilda's, Mary's mother had died a few days after giving her birth.
Like Mathilda she spent part of her girlhood in Scotland. Like
Mathilda she met and loved a poet of "exceeding beauty," and--also
like Mathilda--in that sad year she had treated him ill, having become
"captious and unreasonable" in her sorrow. Mathilda's loneliness,
grief, and remorse can be paralleled in Mary's later journal and in
"The Choice." This story was the outlet for her emotions in 1819.

Woodville, the poet, is virtually perfect, "glorious from his youth,"
like "an angel with winged feet"--all beauty, all goodness, all
gentleness. He is also successful as a poet, his poem written at the
age of twenty-three having been universally acclaimed. Making
allowance for Mary's exaggeration and wishful thinking, we easily
recognize Shelley: Woodville has his poetic ideals, the charm of his
conversation, his high moral qualities, his sense of dedication and
responsibility to those he loved and to all humanity. He is Mary's
earliest portrait of her husband, drawn in a year when she was slowly
returning to him from "the hearth of pale despair."

The early circumstances and education of Godwin and of Mathilda's
father were different. But they produced similar men, each
extravagant, generous, vain, dogmatic. There is more of Godwin in this
tale than the account of a great man ruined by character and
circumstance. The relationship between father and daughter, before it
was destroyed by the father's unnatural passion, is like that between
Godwin and Mary. She herself called her love for him "excessive and
romantic."[xiii] She may well have been recording, in Mathilda's
sorrow over her alienation from her father and her loss of him by
death, her own grief at a spiritual separation from Godwin through
what could only seem to her his cruel lack of sympathy. He had accused
her of being cowardly and insincere in her grief over Clara's
death[xiv] and later he belittled her loss of William.[xv] He had also
called Shelley "a disgraceful and flagrant person" because of
Shelley's refusal to send him more money.[xvi] No wonder if Mary felt
that, like Mathilda, she had lost a beloved but cruel father.

Thus Mary took all the blame for the rift with Shelley upon herself
and transferred the physical alienation to the break in sympathy with
Godwin. That she turned these facts into a story of incest is
undoubtedly due to the interest which she and Shelley felt in the
subject at this time. They regarded it as a dramatic and effective
theme. In August of 1819 Shelley completed _The Cenci_. During its
progress he had talked over with Mary the arrangement of scenes; he
had even suggested at the outset that she write the tragedy herself.
And about a year earlier he had been urging upon her a translation of
Alfieri's _Myrrha_. Thomas Medwin, indeed, thought that the story
which she was writing in 1819 was specifically based on _Myrrha_. That
she was thinking of that tragedy while writing _Mathilda_ is evident
from her effective use of it at one of the crises in the tale. And
perhaps she was remembering her own handling of the theme when she
wrote the biographical sketch of Alfieri for Lardner's _Cabinet
Cyclopaedia_ nearly twenty years later. She then spoke of the
difficulties inherent in such a subject, "inequality of age adding to
the unnatural incest. To shed any interest over such an attachment,
the dramatist ought to adorn the father with such youthful attributes
as would be by no means contrary to probability."[xvii] This she
endeavored to do in _Mathilda_ (aided indeed by the fact that the
situation was the reverse of that in _Myrrha_). Mathilda's father was
young: he married before he was twenty. When he returned to Mathilda,
he still showed "the ardour and freshness of feeling incident to
youth." He lived in the past and saw his dead wife reincarnated in his
daughter. Thus Mary attempts to validate the situation and make it "by
no means contrary to probability."

_Mathilda_ offers a good example of Mary Shelley's methods of
revision. A study of the manuscript shows that she was a careful
workman, and that in polishing this bizarre story she strove
consistently for greater credibility and realism, more dramatic (if
sometimes melodramatic) presentation of events, better motivation,
conciseness, and exclusion of purple passages. In the revision and
rewriting, many additions were made, so that _Mathilda_ is appreciably
longer than _The Fields of Fancy_. But the additions are usually
improvements: a much fuller account of Mathilda's father and mother
and of their marriage, which makes of them something more than lay
figures and to a great extent explains the tragedy; development of the
character of the Steward, at first merely the servant who accompanies
Mathilda in her search for her father, into the sympathetic confidant
whose responses help to dramatise the situation; an added word or
short phrase that marks Mary Shelley's penetration into the motives
and actions of both Mathilda and her father. Therefore _Mathilda_ does
not impress the reader as being longer than _The Fields of Fancy_
because it better sustains his interest. And with all the additions
there are also effective omissions of the obvious, of the
tautological, of the artificially elaborate.[xviii]

The finished draft, _Mathilda_, still shows Mary Shelley's faults as a
writer: verbosity, loose plotting, somewhat stereotyped and
extravagant characterization. The reader must be tolerant of its
heroine's overwhelming lamentations. But she is, after all, in the
great tradition of romantic heroines: she compares her own weeping to
that of Boccaccio's Ghismonda over the heart of Guiscardo. If the
reader can accept Mathilda on her own terms, he will find not only
biographical interest in her story but also intrinsic merits: a
feeling for character and situation and phrasing that is often
vigorous and precise.


[i] They are listed in Nitchie, _Mary Shelley_, Appendix II, pp.
205-208. To them should be added an unfinished and unpublished novel,
_Cecil_, in Lord Abinger's collection.

[ii] On the basis of the Bodleian notebook and some information about
the complete story kindly furnished me by Miss R. Glynn Grylls, I
wrote an article, "Mary Shelley's _Mathilda_, an Unpublished Story and
Its Biographical Significance," which appeared in _Studies in
Philology_, XL (1943), 447-462. When the other manuscripts became
available, I was able to use them for my book, _Mary Shelley_, and to
draw conclusions more certain and well-founded than the conjectures I
had made ten years earlier.

[iii] A note, probably in Richard Garnett's hand, enclosed in a MS box
with the two notebooks in Lord Abinger's collection describes them as
of Italian make with "slanting head bands, inserted through the
covers." Professor Lewis Patton's list of the contents of the
microfilms in the Duke University Library (_Library Notes_, No. 27,
April, 1953) describes them as vellum bound, the back cover of the
_Mathilda_ notebook being missing. Lord Abinger's notebooks are on
Reel 11. The Bodleian notebook is catalogued as MSS. Shelley d. 1, the
Shelley-Rolls fragments as MSS. Shelley adds c. 5.

[iv] See note 83 to _Mathilda_, page 89.

[v] See _Posthumous Works of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights
of Woman_ (4 vols., London, 1798), IV, 97-155.

[vi] See _Maria Gisborne & Edward E. Williams ... Their Journals and
Letters_, ed. by Frederick L. Jones (Norman: University of Oklahoma
Press, [1951]), p. 27.

[vii] See Thomas Medwin, _The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley_, revised,
with introduction and notes by H. Buxton Forman (London, 1913), p.

[viii] _Journal_, pp. 159, 160.

[ix] _Maria Gisborne, etc._, pp. 43-44.

[x] _Letters_, I, 182.

[xi] _Ibid._, I, 224.

[xii] See White, _Shelley_, II, 40-56.

[xiii] See _Letters_, II, 88, and note 23 to _Mathilda_.

[xiv] See _Shelley and Mary_ (4 vols. Privately printed [for Sir Percy
and Lady Shelley], 1882), II, 338A.

[xv] See Mrs. Julian Marshall, _The Life and Letters of Mary W.
Shelley_ (2 vols. London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1889), I, 255.

[xvi] Julian _Works_, X, 69.

[xvii] _Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of
Italy, Spain, and Portugal_ (3 vols., Nos. 63, 71, and 96 of the Rev.
Dionysius Lardner's _Cabinet Cyclopaedia_, London, 1835-1837), II,

[xviii] The most significant revisions are considered in detail in the
notes. The text of the opening of _The Fields of Fancy_, containing
the fanciful framework of the story, later discarded, is printed after
the text of _Mathilda_.



Florence. Nov. 9th 1819

It is only four o'clock; but it is winter and the sun has already set:
there are no clouds in the clear, frosty sky to reflect its slant
beams, but the air itself is tinged with a slight roseate colour which
is again reflected on the snow that covers the ground. I live in a
lone cottage on a solitary, wide heath: no voice of life reaches me. I
see the desolate plain covered with white, save a few black patches
that the noonday sun has made at the top of those sharp pointed
hillocks from which the snow, sliding as it fell, lay thinner than on
the plain ground: a few birds are pecking at the hard ice that covers
the pools--for the frost has been of long continuance.[2]

I am in a strange state of mind.[3] I am alone--quite alone--in the
world--the blight of misfortune has passed over me and withered me; I
know that I am about to die and I feel happy--joyous.--I feel my
pulse; it beats fast: I place my thin hand on my cheek; it burns:
there is a slight, quick spirit within me which is now emitting its
last sparks. I shall never see the snows of another winter--I do
believe that I shall never again feel the vivifying warmth of another
summer sun; and it is in this persuasion that I begin to write my
tragic history. Perhaps a history such as mine had better die with me,
but a feeling that I cannot define leads me on and I am too weak both
in body and mind to resist the slightest impulse. While life was
strong within me I thought indeed that there was a sacred horror in my
tale that rendered it unfit for utterance, and now about to die I
pollute its mystic terrors. It is as the wood of the Eumenides none
but the dying may enter; and Oedipus is about to die.[4]

What am I writing?--I must collect my thoughts. I do not know that any
will peruse these pages except you, my friend, who will receive them
at my death. I do not address them to you alone because it will give
me pleasure to dwell upon our friendship in a way that would be
needless if you alone read what I shall write. I shall relate my tale
therefore as if I wrote for strangers. You have often asked me the
cause of my solitary life; my tears; and above all of my impenetrable
and unkind silence. In life I dared not; in death I unveil the
mystery. Others will toss these pages lightly over: to you, Woodville,
kind, affectionate friend, they will be dear--the precious memorials
of a heart-broken girl who, dying, is still warmed by gratitude
towards you:[5] your tears will fall on the words that record my
misfortunes; I know they will--and while I have life I thank you for
your sympathy.

But enough of this. I will begin my tale: it is my last task, and I
hope I have strength sufficient to fulfill it. I record no crimes; my
faults may easily be pardoned; for they proceeded not from evil motive
but from want of judgement; and I believe few would say that they
could, by a different conduct and superior wisdom, have avoided the
misfortunes to which I am the victim. My fate has been governed by
necessity, a hideous necessity. It required hands stronger than mine;
stronger I do believe than any human force to break the thick,
adamantine chain that has bound me, once breathing nothing but joy,
ever possessed by a warm love & delight in goodness,--to misery only
to be ended, and now about to be ended, in death. But I forget myself,
my tale is yet untold. I will pause a few moments, wipe my dim eyes,
and endeavour to lose the present obscure but heavy feeling of
unhappiness in the more acute emotions of the past.[6]

I was born in England. My father was a man of rank:[7] he had lost his
father early, and was educated by a weak mother with all the
indulgence she thought due to a nobleman of wealth. He was sent to
Eton and afterwards to college; & allowed from childhood the free use
of large sums of money; thus enjoying from his earliest youth the
independance which a boy with these advantages, always acquires at a
public school.

Under the influence of these circumstances his passions found a deep
soil wherein they might strike their roots and flourish either as
flowers or weeds as was their nature. By being always allowed to act
for himself his character became strongly and early marked and
exhibited a various surface on which a quick sighted observer might
see the seeds of virtues and of misfortunes. His careless
extravagance, which made him squander immense sums of money to satisfy
passing whims, which from their apparent energy he dignified with the
name of passions, often displayed itself in unbounded generosity. Yet
while he earnestly occupied himself about the wants of others his own
desires were gratified to their fullest extent. He gave his money, but
none of his own wishes were sacrifised to his gifts; he gave his time,
which he did not value, and his affections which he was happy in any
manner to have called into action.

I do not say that if his own desires had been put in competition with
those of others that he would have displayed undue selfishness, but
this trial was never made. He was nurtured in prosperity and attended
by all its advantages; every one loved him and wished to gratify him.
He was ever employed in promoting the pleasures of his companions--but
their pleasures were his; and if he bestowed more attention upon the
feelings of others than is usual with schoolboys it was because his
social temper could never enjoy itself if every brow was not as free
from care as his own.

While at school, emulation and his own natural abilities made him hold
a conspicuous rank in the forms among his equals; at college he
discarded books; he believed that he had other lessons to learn than
those which they could teach him. He was now to enter into life and he
was still young enough to consider study as a school-boy shackle,
employed merely to keep the unruly out of mischief but as having no
real connexion with life--whose wisdom of riding--gaming &c. he
considered with far deeper interest--So he quickly entered into all
college follies although his heart was too well moulded to be
contaminated by them--it might be light but it was never cold. He was
a sincere and sympathizing friend--but he had met with none who
superior or equal to himself could aid him in unfolding his mind, or
make him seek for fresh stores of thought by exhausting the old ones.
He felt himself superior in quickness of judgement to those around
him: his talents, his rank and wealth made him the chief of his party,
and in that station he rested not only contented but glorying,
conceiving it to be the only ambition worthy for him to aim at in the

By a strange narrowness of ideas he viewed all the world in connexion
only as it was or was not related to his little society. He considered
queer and out of fashion all opinions that were exploded by his circle
of intimates, and he became at the same time dogmatic and yet fearful
of not coinciding with the only sentiments he could consider orthodox.
To the generality of spectators he appeared careless of censure, and
with high disdain to throw aside all dependance on public prejudices;
but at the same time that he strode with a triumphant stride over the
rest of the world, he cowered, with self disguised lowliness, to his
own party, and although its [chi]ef never dared express an opinion or
a feeling until he was assured that it would meet with the approbation
of his companions.

Yet he had one secret hidden from these dear friends; a secret he had
nurtured from his earliest years, and although he loved his fellow
collegiates he would not trust it to the delicacy or sympathy of any
one among them. He loved. He feared that the intensity of his passion
might become the subject of their ridicule; and he could not bear that
they should blaspheme it by considering that trivial and transitory
which he felt was the life of his life.

There was a gentleman of small fortune who lived near his family
mansion who had three lovely daughters. The eldest was far the most
beautiful, but her beauty was only an addition to her other
qualities--her understanding was clear & strong and her disposition
angelically gentle. She and my father had been playmates from infancy:
Diana, even in her childhood had been a favourite with his mother;
this partiality encreased with the years of this beautiful and lively
girl and thus during his school & college vacations[8] they were
perpetually together. Novels and all the various methods by which
youth in civilized life are led to a knowledge of the existence of
passions before they really feel them, had produced a strong effect on
him who was so peculiarly susceptible of every impression. At eleven
years of age Diana was his favourite playmate but he already talked
the language of love. Although she was elder than he by nearly two
years the nature of her education made her more childish at least in
the knowledge and expression of feeling; she received his warm
protestations with innocence, and returned them unknowing of what they
meant. She had read no novels and associated only with her younger
sisters, what could she know of the difference between love and
friendship? And when the development of her understanding disclosed
the true nature of this intercourse to her, her affections were
already engaged to her friend, and all she feared was lest other
attractions and fickleness might make him break his infant vows.

But they became every day more ardent and tender. It was a passion
that had grown with his growth; it had become entwined with every
faculty and every sentiment and only to be lost with life. None knew
of their love except their own two hearts; yet although in all things
else, and even in this he dreaded the censure of his companions, for
thus truly loving one inferior to him in fortune, nothing was ever
able for a moment to shake his purpose of uniting himself to her as
soon as he could muster courage sufficient to meet those difficulties
he was determined to surmount.

Diana was fully worthy of his deepest affection. There were few who
could boast of so pure a heart, and so much real humbleness of soul
joined to a firm reliance on her own integrity and a belief in that of
others. She had from her birth lived a retired life. She had lost her
mother when very young, but her father had devoted himself to the care
of her education--He had many peculiar ideas which influenced the
system he had adopted with regard to her--She was well acquainted with
the heroes of Greece and Rome or with those of England who had lived
some hundred years ago, while she was nearly ignorant of the passing
events of the day: she had read few authors who had written during at
least the last fifty years but her reading with this exception was
very extensive. Thus although she appeared to be less initiated in the
mysteries of life and society than he her knowledge was of a deeper
kind and laid on firmer foundations; and if even her beauty and
sweetness had not fascinated him her understanding would ever have
held his in thrall. He looked up to her as his guide, and such was his
adoration that he delighted to augment to his own mind the sense of
inferiority with which she sometimes impressed him.[9]

When he was nineteen his mother died. He left college on this event
and shaking off for a while his old friends he retired to the
neighbourhood of his Diana and received all his consolation from her
sweet voice and dearer caresses. This short seperation from his
companions gave him courage to assert his independance. He had a
feeling that however they might express ridicule of his intended
marriage they would not dare display it when it had taken place;
therefore seeking the consent of his guardian which with some
difficulty he obtained, and of the father of his mistress which was
more easily given, without acquainting any one else of his intention,
by the time he had attained his twentieth birthday he had become the
husband of Diana.

He loved her with passion and her tenderness had a charm for him that
would not permit him to think of aught but her. He invited some of his
college friends to see him but their frivolity disgusted him. Diana
had torn the veil which had before kept him in his boyhood: he was
become a man and he was surprised how he could ever have joined in the
cant words and ideas of his fellow collegiates or how for a moment he
had feared the censure of such as these. He discarded his old
friendships not from fickleness but because they were indeed unworthy
of him. Diana filled up all his heart: he felt as if by his union with
her he had received a new and better soul. She was his monitress as he
learned what were the true ends of life. It was through her beloved
lessons that he cast off his old pursuits and gradually formed himself
to become one among his fellow men; a distinguished member of society,
a Patriot; and an enlightened lover of truth and virtue.--He loved her
for her beauty and for her amiable disposition but he seemed to love
her more for what he considered her superior wisdom. They studied,
they rode together; they were never seperate and seldom admitted a
third to their society.

Thus my father, born in affluence, and always prosperous, clombe
without the difficulty and various disappointments that all human
beings seem destined to encounter, to the very topmost pinacle of
happiness: Around him was sunshine, and clouds whose shapes of beauty
made the prospect divine concealed from him the barren reality which
lay hidden below them. From this dizzy point he was dashed at once as
he unawares congratulated himself on his felicity. Fifteen months
after their marriage I was born, and my mother died a few days after
my birth.

A sister of my father was with him at this period. She was nearly
fifteen years older than he, and was the offspring of a former
marriage of his father. When the latter died this sister was taken by
her maternal relations: they had seldom seen one another, and were
quite unlike in disposition. This aunt, to whose care I was afterwards
consigned, has often related to me the effect that this catastrophe
had on my father's strong and susceptible character. From the moment
of my mother's death untill his departure she never heard him utter a
single word: buried in the deepest melancholy he took no notice of any
one; often for hours his eyes streamed tears or a more fearful gloom
overpowered him. All outward things seemed to have lost their
existence relatively to him and only one circumstance could in any
degree recall him from his motionless and mute despair: he would never
see me. He seemed insensible to the presence of any one else, but if,
as a trial to awaken his sensibility, my aunt brought me into the room
he would instantly rush out with every symptom of fury and
distraction. At the end of a month he suddenly quitted his house and,
unatteneded [_sic_] by any servant, departed from that part of the
country without by word or writing informing any one of his
intentions. My aunt was only relieved of her anxiety concerning his
fate by a letter from him dated Hamburgh.

How often have I wept over that letter which untill I was sixteen was
the only relick I had to remind me of my parents. "Pardon me," it
said, "for the uneasiness I have unavoidably given you: but while in
that unhappy island, where every thing breathes _her_ spirit whom I
have lost for ever, a spell held me. It is broken: I have quitted
England for many years, perhaps for ever. But to convince you that
selfish feeling does not entirely engross me I shall remain in this
town untill you have made by letter every arrangement that you judge
necessary. When I leave this place do not expect to hear from me: I
must break all ties that at present exist. I shall become a wanderer,
a miserable outcast--alone! alone!"--In another part of the letter he
mentioned me--"As for that unhappy little being whom I could not see,
and hardly dare mention, I leave her under your protection. Take care
of her and cherish her: one day I may claim her at your hands; but
futurity is dark, make the present happy to her."

My father remained three months at Hamburgh; when he quitted it he
changed his name, my aunt could never discover that which he adopted
and only by faint hints, could conjecture that he had taken the road
of Germany and Hungary to Turkey.[10]

Thus this towering spirit who had excited interest and high
expectation in all who knew and could value him became at once, as it
were, extinct. He existed from this moment for himself only. His
friends remembered him as a brilliant vision which would never again
return to them. The memory of what he had been faded away as years
passed; and he who before had been as a part of themselves and of
their hopes was now no longer counted among the living.


I now come to my own story. During the early part of my life there is
little to relate, and I will be brief; but I must be allowed to dwell
a little on the years of my childhood that it may be apparent how when
one hope failed all life was to be a blank; and how when the only
affection I was permitted to cherish was blasted my existence was
extinguished with it.

I have said that my aunt was very unlike my father. I believe that
without the slightest tinge of a bad heart she had the coldest that
ever filled a human breast: it was totally incapable of any affection.
She took me under her protection because she considered it her duty;
but she had too long lived alone and undisturbed by the noise and
prattle of children to allow that I should disturb her quiet. She had
never been married; and for the last five years had lived perfectly
alone on an estate, that had descended to her through her mother, on
the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland. My father had expressed a wish
in his letters that she should reside with me at his family mansion
which was situated in a beautiful country near Richmond in Yorkshire.
She would not consent to this proposition, but as soon as she had
arranged the affairs which her brother's departure had caused to fall
to her care, she quitted England and took me with her to her scotch

The care of me while a baby, and afterwards untill I had reached my
eighth year devolved on a servant of my mother's, who had accompanied
us in our retirement for that purpose. I was placed in a remote part
of the house, and only saw my aunt at stated hours. These occurred
twice a day; once about noon she came to my nursery, and once after
her dinner I was taken to her. She never caressed me, and seemed all
the time I staid in the room to fear that I should annoy her by some
childish freak. My good nurse always schooled me with the greatest
care before she ventured into the parlour--and the awe my aunt's cold
looks and few constrained words inspired was so great that I seldom
disgraced her lessons or was betrayed from the exemplary stillness
which I was taught to observe during these short visits.[11]

Under my good nurse's care I ran wild about our park and the
neighbouring fields. The offspring of the deepest love I displayed
from my earliest years the greatest sensibility of disposition. I
cannot say with what passion I loved every thing even the inanimate
objects that surrounded me. I believe that I bore an individual
attachment to every tree in our park; every animal that inhabited it
knew me and I loved them. Their occasional deaths filled my infant
heart with anguish. I cannot number the birds that I have saved during
the long and severe winters of that climate; or the hares and rabbits
that I have defended from the attacks of our dogs, or have nursed when
accidentally wounded.

When I was seven years of age my nurse left me. I now forget the cause
of her departure if indeed I ever knew it. She returned to England,
and the bitter tears she shed at parting were the last I saw flow for
love of me for many years. My grief was terrible: I had no friend but
her in the whole world. By degrees I became reconciled to solitude but
no one supplied her place in my affections. I lived in a desolate
country where

    ------ there were none to praise
    And very few to love.[A]

It is true that I now saw a little more of my aunt, but she was in
every way an unsocial being; and to a timid child she was as a plant
beneath a thick covering of ice; I should cut my hands in endeavouring
to get at it. So I was entirely thrown upon my own resourses. The
neighbouring minister was engaged to give me lessons in reading,
writing and french, but he was without family and his manners even to
me were always perfectly characteristic of the profession in the
exercise of whose functions he chiefly shone, that of a schoolmaster.
I sometimes strove to form friendships with the most attractive of the
girls who inhabited the neighbouring village; but I believe I should
never have succeeded [even] had not my aunt interposed her authority
to prevent all intercourse between me and the peasantry; for she was
fearful lest I should acquire the scotch accent and dialect; a little
of it I had, although great pains was taken that my tongue should not
disgrace my English origin.

As I grew older my liberty encreased with my desires, and my
wanderings extended from our park to the neighbouring country. Our
house was situated on the shores of the lake and the lawn came down to
the water's edge. I rambled amidst the wild scenery of this lovely
country and became a complete mountaineer: I passed hours on the steep
brow of a mountain that overhung a waterfall or rowed myself in a
little skiff to some one of the islands. I wandered for ever about
these lovely solitudes, gathering flower after flower

    Ond' era pinta tutta la mia via[B]

singing as I might the wild melodies of the country, or occupied by
pleasant day dreams. My greatest pleasure was the enjoyment of a
serene sky amidst these verdant woods: yet I loved all the changes of
Nature; and rain, and storm, and the beautiful clouds of heaven
brought their delights with them. When rocked by the waves of the lake
my spirits rose in triumph as a horseman feels with pride the motions
of his high fed steed.

But my pleasures arose from the contemplation of nature alone, I had
no companion: my warm affections finding no return from any other
human heart were forced to run waste on inanimate objects.[12]
Sometimes indeed I wept when my aunt received my caresses with
repulsive coldness, and when I looked round and found none to love;
but I quickly dried my tears. As I grew older books in some degree
supplied the place of human intercourse: the library of my aunt was
very small; Shakespear, Milton, Pope and Cowper were the strangley
[_sic_] assorted poets of her collection; and among the prose authors
a translation of Livy and Rollin's ancient history were my chief
favourites although as I emerged from childhood I found others highly
interesting which I had before neglected as dull.

When I was twelve years old it occurred to my aunt that I ought to
learn music; she herself played upon the harp. It was with great
hesitation that she persuaded herself to undertake my instruction; yet
believing this accomplishment a necessary part of my education, and
balancing the evils of this measure or of having some one in the house
to instruct me she submitted to the inconvenience. A harp was sent for
that my playing might not interfere with hers, and I began: she found
me a docile and when I had conquered the first rudiments a very apt
scholar. I had acquired in my harp a companion in rainy days; a sweet
soother of my feelings when any untoward accident ruffled them: I
often addressed it as my only friend; I could pour forth to it my
hopes and loves, and I fancied that its sweet accents answered me. I
have now mentioned all my studies.

I was a solitary being, and from my infant years, ever since my dear
nurse left me, I had been a dreamer. I brought Rosalind and Miranda
and the lady of Comus to life to be my companions, or on my isle acted
over their parts imagining myself to be in their situations. Then I
wandered from the fancies of others and formed affections and
intimacies with the aerial creations of my own brain--but still
clinging to reality I gave a name to these conceptions and nursed them
in the hope of realization. I clung to the memory of my parents; my
mother I should never see, she was dead: but the idea of [my] unhappy,
wandering father was the idol of my imagination. I bestowed on him all
my affections; there was a miniature of him that I gazed on
continually; I copied his last letter and read it again and again.
Sometimes it made me weep; and at other [times] I repeated with
transport those words,--"One day I may claim her at your hands." I was
to be his consoler, his companion in after years. My favourite vision
was that when I grew up I would leave my aunt, whose coldness lulled
my conscience, and disguised like a boy I would seek my father through
the world. My imagination hung upon the scene of recognition; his
miniature, which I should continually wear exposed on my breast, would
be the means and I imaged the moment to my mind a thousand and a
thousand times, perpetually varying the circumstances. Sometimes it
would be in a desart; in a populous city; at a ball; we should perhaps
meet in a vessel; and his first words constantly were, "My daughter, I
love thee"! What extactic moments have I passed in these dreams! How
many tears I have shed; how often have I laughed aloud.[13]

This was my life for sixteen years. At fourteen and fifteen I often
thought that the time was come when I should commence my pilgrimage,
which I had cheated my own mind into believing was my imperious duty:
but a reluctance to quit my Aunt; a remorse for the grief which, I
could not conceal from myself, I should occasion her for ever
withheld me. Sometimes when I had planned the next morning for my
escape a word of more than usual affection from her lips made me
postpone my resolution. I reproached myself bitterly for what I called
a culpable weakness; but this weakness returned upon me whenever the
critical moment approached, and I never found courage to depart.[14]

[A] Wordsworth

[B] Dante


It was on my sixteenth birthday that my aunt received a letter from my
father. I cannot describe the tumult of emotions that arose within me
as I read it. It was dated from London; he had returned![15] I could
only relieve my transports by tears, tears of unmingled joy. He had
returned, and he wrote to know whether my aunt would come to London or
whether he should visit her in Scotland. How delicious to me were the
words of his letter that concerned me: "I cannot tell you," it said,
"how ardently I desire to see my Mathilda. I look on her as the
creature who will form the happiness of my future life: she is all
that exists on earth that interests me. I can hardly prevent myself
from hastening immediately to you but I am necessarily detained a week
and I write because if you come here I may see you somewhat sooner." I
read these words with devouring eyes; I kissed them, wept over them
and exclaimed, "He will love me!"--

My aunt would not undertake so long a journey, and in a fortnight we
had another letter from my father, it was dated Edinburgh: he wrote
that he should be with us in three days. "As he approached his desire
of seeing me," he said, "became more and more ardent, and he felt that
the moment when he should first clasp me in his arms would be the
happiest of his life."

How irksome were these three days to me! All sleep and appetite fled
from me; I could only read and re-read his letter, and in the solitude
of the woods imagine the moment of our meeting. On the eve of the
third day I retired early to my room; I could not sleep but paced all
night about my chamber and, as you may in Scotland at midsummer,
watched the crimson track of the sun as it almost skirted the northern
horizon. At day break I hastened to the woods; the hours past on while
I indulged in wild dreams that gave wings to the slothful steps of
time, and beguiled my eager impatience. My father was expected at noon
but when I wished to return to me[e]t him I found that I had lost my
way: it seemed that in every attempt to find it I only became more
involved in the intracacies of the woods, and the trees hid all trace
by which I might be guided.[16] I grew impatient, I wept; [_sic_] and
wrung my hands but still I could not discover my path.

It was past two o'clock when by a sudden turn I found myself close to
the lake near a cove where a little skiff was moored--It was not far
from our house and I saw my father and aunt walking on the lawn. I
jumped into the boat, and well accustomed to such feats, I pushed it
from shore, and exerted all my strength to row swiftly across. As I
came, dressed in white, covered only by my tartan _rachan_, my hair
streaming on my shoulders, and shooting across with greater speed that
it could be supposed I could give to my boat, my father has often told
me that I looked more like a spirit than a human maid. I approached
the shore, my father held the boat, I leapt lightly out, and in a
moment was in his arms.

And now I began to live. All around me was changed from a dull
uniformity to the brightest scene of joy and delight. The happiness I
enjoyed in the company of my father far exceeded my sanguine
expectations. We were for ever together; and the subjects of our
conversations were inexhaustible. He had passed the sixteen years of
absence among nations nearly unknown to Europe; he had wandered
through Persia, Arabia and the north of India and had penetrated among
the habitations of the natives with a freedom permitted to few
Europeans. His relations of their manners, his anecdotes and
descriptions of scenery whiled away delicious hours, when we were
tired of talking of our own plans of future life.

The voice of affection was so new to me that I hung with delight upon
his words when he told me what he had felt concerning me during these
long years of apparent forgetfulness. "At first"--said he, "I could
not bear to think of my poor little girl; but afterwards as grief wore
off and hope again revisited me I could only turn to her, and amidst
cities and desarts her little fairy form, such as I imagined it, for
ever flitted before me. The northern breeze as it refreshed me was
sweeter and more balmy for it seemed to carry some of your spirit
along with it. I often thought that I would instantly return and take
you along with me to some fertile island where we should live at peace
for ever. As I returned my fervent hopes were dashed by so many fears;
my impatience became in the highest degree painful. I dared not think
that the sun should shine and the moon rise not on your living form
but on your grave. But, no, it is not so; I have my Mathilda, my
consolation, and my hope."--

My father was very little changed from what he described himself to be
before his misfortunes. It is intercourse with civilized society; it
is the disappointment of cherished hopes, the falsehood of friends, or
the perpetual clash of mean passions that changes the heart and damps
the ardour of youthful feelings; lonly wanderings in a wild country
among people of simple or savage manners may inure the body but will
not tame the soul, or extinguish the ardour and freshness of feeling
incident to youth. The burning sun of India, and the freedom from all
restraint had rather encreased the energy of his character: before he
bowed under, now he was impatient of any censure except that of his
own mind. He had seen so many customs and witnessed so great a variety
of moral creeds that he had been obliged to form an independant one
for himself which had no relation to the peculiar notions of any one
country: his early prejudices of course influenced his judgement in
the formation of his principles, and some raw colledge ideas were
strangely mingled with the deepest deductions of his penetrating mind.

The vacuity his heart endured of any deep interest in life during his
long absence from his native country had had a singular effect upon
his ideas. There was a curious feeling of unreality attached by him to
his foreign life in comparison with the years of his youth. All the
time he had passed out of England was as a dream, and all the interest
of his soul[,] all his affections belonged to events which had
happened and persons who had existed sixteen years before. It was
strange when you heard him talk to see how he passed over this lapse
of time as a night of visions; while the remembrances of his youth
standing seperate as they did from his after life had lost none of
their vigour. He talked of my Mother as if she had lived but a few
weeks before; not that he expressed poignant grief, but his
discription of her person, and his relation of all anecdotes connected
with her was thus fervent and vivid.

In all this there was a strangeness that attracted and enchanted me.
He was, as it were, now awakened from his long, visionary sleep, and
he felt some what like one of the seven sleepers, or like
Nourjahad,[17] in that sweet imitation of an eastern tale: Diana was
gone; his friends were changed or dead, and now on his awakening I was
all that he had to love on earth.

How dear to me were the waters, and mountains, and woods of Loch
Lomond now that I had so beloved a companion for my rambles. I visited
with my father every delightful spot, either on the islands, or by the
side of the tree-sheltered waterfalls; every shady path, or dingle
entangled with underwood and fern. My ideas were enlarged by his
conversation. I felt as if I were recreated and had about me all the
freshness and life of a new being: I was, as it were, transported
since his arrival from a narrow spot of earth into a universe
boundless to the imagination and the understanding. My life had been
before as a pleasing country rill, never destined to leave its native
fields, but when its task was fulfilled quietly to be absorbed, and
leave no trace. Now it seemed to me to be as a various river flowing
through a fertile and lovely lanscape, ever changing and ever
beautiful. Alas! I knew not the desart it was about to reach; the
rocks that would tear its waters, and the hideous scene that would be
reflected in a more distorted manner in its waves. Life was then
brilliant; I began to learn to hope and what brings a more bitter
despair to the heart than hope destroyed?

Is it not strange[18] that grief should quickly follow so divine a
happiness? I drank of an enchanted cup but gall was at the bottom of
its long drawn sweetness. My heart was full of deep affection, but it
was calm from its very depth and fulness. I had no idea that misery
could arise from love, and this lesson that all at last must learn was
taught me in a manner few are obliged to receive it. I lament now, I
must ever lament, those few short months of Paradisaical bliss; I
disobeyed no command, I ate no apple, and yet I was ruthlessly driven
from it. Alas! my companion did, and I was precipitated in his
fall.[19] But I wander from my relation--let woe come at its appointed
time; I may at this stage of my story still talk of happiness.

Three months passed away in this delightful intercourse, when my aunt
fell ill. I passed a whole month in her chamber nursing her, but her
disease was mortal and she died, leaving me for some time
inconsolable, Death is so dreadful to the living;[20] the chains of
habit are so strong even when affection does not link them that the
heart must be agonized when they break. But my father was beside me to
console me and to drive away bitter memories by bright hopes:
methought that it was sweet to grieve that he might dry my tears.

Then again he distracted my thoughts from my sorrow by comparing it
with his despair when he lost my mother. Even at that time I shuddered
at the picture he drew of his passions: he had the imagination of a
poet, and when he described the whirlwind that then tore his feelings
he gave his words the impress of life so vividly that I believed while
I trembled. I wondered how he could ever again have entered into the
offices of life after his wild thoughts seemed to have given him
affinity with the unearthly; while he spoke so tremendous were the
ideas which he conveyed that it appeared as if the human heart were
far too bounded for their conception. His feelings seemed better
fitted for a spirit whose habitation is the earthquake and the volcano
than for one confined to a mortal body and human lineaments. But these
were merely memories; he was changed since then. He was now all love,
all softness; and when I raised my eyes in wonder at him as he spoke
the smile on his lips told me that his heart was possessed by the
gentlest passions.

Two months after my aunt's death we removed to London where I was led
by my father to attend to deeper studies than had before occupied me.
My improvement was his delight; he was with me during all my studies
and assisted or joined with me in every lesson. We saw a great deal of
society, and no day passed that my father did not endeavour to
embellish by some new enjoyment. The tender attachment that he bore
me, and the love and veneration with which I returned it cast a charm
over every moment. The hours were slow for each minute was employed;
we lived more in one week than many do in the course of several months
and the variety and novelty of our pleasures gave zest to each.

We perpetually made excursions together. And whether it were to visit
beautiful scenery, or to see fine pictures, or sometimes for no object
but to seek amusement as it might chance to arise, I was always happy
when near my father. It was a subject of regret to me whenever we were
joined by a third person, yet if I turned with a disturbed look
towards my father, his eyes fixed on me and beaming with tenderness
instantly restored joy to my heart. O, hours of intense delight! Short
as ye were ye are made as long to me as a whole life when looked back
upon through the mist of grief that rose immediately after as if to
shut ye from my view. Alas! ye were the last of happiness that I ever
enjoyed; a few, a very few weeks and all was destroyed. Like
Psyche[21] I lived for awhile in an enchanted palace, amidst odours,
and music, and every luxurious delight; when suddenly I was left on a
barren rock; a wide ocean of despair rolled around me: above all was
black, and my eyes closed while I still inhabited a universal death.
Still I would not hurry on; I would pause for ever on the
recollections of these happy weeks; I would repeat every word, and how
many do I remember, record every enchantment of the faery habitation.
But, no, my tale must not pause; it must be as rapid as was my
fate,--I can only describe in short although strong expressions my
precipitate and irremediable change from happiness to despair.[22]


Among our most assiduous visitors was a young man of rank, well
informed, and agreable in his person. After we had spent a few weeks
in London his attentions towards me became marked and his visits more
frequent. I was too much taken up by my own occupations and feelings
to attend much to this, and then indeed I hardly noticed more than the
bare surface of events as they passed around me; but I now remember
that my father was restless and uneasy whenever this person visited
us, and when we talked together watched us with the greatest apparent
anxiety although he himself maintained a profound silence. At length
these obnoxious visits suddenly ceased altogether, but from that
moment I must date the change of my father: a change that to remember
makes me shudder and then filled me with the deepest grief. There were
no degrees which could break my fall from happiness to misery; it was
as the stroke of lightning--sudden and entire.[23] Alas! I now met
frowns where before I had been welcomed only with smiles: he, my
beloved father, shunned me, and either treated me with harshness or a
more heart-breaking coldness. We took no more sweet counsel together;
and when I tried to win him again to me, his anger, and the terrible
emotions that he exhibited drove me to silence and tears.

And this was sudden. The day before we had passed alone together in
the country; I remember we had talked of future travels that we should
undertake together--. There was an eager delight in our tones and
gestures that could only spring from deep & mutual love joined to the
most unrestrained confidence[;] and now the next day, the next hour, I
saw his brows contracted, his eyes fixed in sullen fierceness on the
ground, and his voice so gentle and so dear made me shiver when he
addressed me. Often, when my wandering fancy brought by its various
images now consolation and now aggravation of grief to my heart,[24] I
have compared myself to Proserpine who was gaily and heedlessly
gathering flowers on the sweet plain of Enna, when the King of Hell
snatched her away to the abodes of death and misery. Alas! I who so
lately knew of nought but the joy of life; who had slept only to
dream sweet dreams and awoke to incomparable happiness, I now passed
my days and nights in tears. I who sought and had found joy in the
love-breathing countenance of my father now when I dared fix on him a
supplicating look it was ever answered by an angry frown. I dared not
speak to him; and when sometimes I had worked up courage to meet him
and to ask an explanation one glance at his face where a chaos of
mighty passion seemed for ever struggling made me tremble and shrink
to silence. I was dashed down from heaven to earth as a silly sparrow
when pounced on by a hawk; my eyes swam and my head was bewildered by
the sudden apparition of grief. Day after day[25] passed marked only
by my complaints and my tears; often I lifted my soul in vain prayer
for a softer descent from joy to woe, or if that were denied me that I
might be allowed to die, and fade for ever under the cruel blast that
swept over me,

    ------ for what should I do here,
    Like a decaying flower, still withering
    Under his bitter words, whose kindly heat
    Should give my poor heart life?[C]

Sometimes I said to myself, this is an enchantment, and I must strive
against it. My father is blinded by some malignant vision which I must
remove. And then, like David, I would try music to win the evil spirit
from him; and once while singing I lifted my eyes towards him and saw
his fixed on me and filled with tears; all his muscles seemed relaxed
to softness. I sprung towards him with a cry of joy and would have
thrown myself into his arms, but he pushed me roughly from him and
left me. And even from this slight incident he contracted fresh gloom
and an additional severity of manner.

There are many incidents that I might relate which shewed the diseased
yet incomprehensible state of his mind; but I will mention one that
occurred while we were in company with several other persons. On this
occasion I chanced to say that I thought Myrrha the best of Alfieri's
tragedies; as I said this I chanced to cast my eyes on my father and
met his: for the first time the expression of those beloved eyes
displeased me, and I saw with affright that his whole frame shook with
some concealed emotion that in spite of his efforts half conquered
him: as this tempest faded from his soul he became melancholy and
silent. Every day some new scene occured and displayed in him a mind
working as [it] were with an unknown horror that now he could master
but which at times threatened to overturn his reason, and to throw the
bright seat of his intelligence into a perpetual chaos.

I will not dwell longer than I need on these disastrous
circumstances.[26] I might waste days in describing how anxiously I
watched every change of fleeting circumstance that promised better
days, and with what despair I found that each effort of mine
aggravated his seeming madness. To tell all my grief I might as well
attempt to count the tears that have fallen from these eyes, or every
sign that has torn my heart. I will be brief for there is in all this
a horror that will not bear many words, and I sink almost a second
time to death while I recall these sad scenes to my memory. Oh, my
beloved father! Indeed you made me miserable beyond all words, but how
truly did I even then forgive you, and how entirely did you possess my
whole heart while I endeavoured, as a rainbow gleams upon a
cataract,[D][27] to soften thy tremendous sorrows.

Thus did this change come about. I seem perhaps to have dashed too
suddenly into the description, but thus suddenly did it happen. In one
sentence I have passed from the idea of unspeakable happiness to that
of unspeakable grief but they were thus closely linked together. We
had remained five months in London three of joy and two of sorrow. My
father and I were now seldom alone or if we were he generally kept
silence with his eyes fixed on the ground--the dark full orbs in which
before I delighted to read all sweet and gentle feeling shadowed from
my sight by their lids and the long lashes that fringed them. When we
were in company he affected gaiety but I wept to hear his hollow
laugh--begun by an empty smile and often ending in a bitter sneer such
as never before this fatal period had wrinkled his lips. When others
were there he often spoke to me and his eyes perpetually followed my
slightest motion. His accents whenever he addressed me were cold and
constrained although his voice would tremble when he perceived that my
full heart choked the answer to words proffered with a mien yet new to

But days of peaceful melancholy were of rare occurence[:] they were
often broken in upon by gusts of passion that drove me as a weak boat
on a stormy sea to seek a cove for shelter; but the winds blew from my
native harbour and I was cast far, far out untill shattered I perished
when the tempest had passed and the sea was apparently calm. I do not
know that I can describe his emotions: sometimes he only betrayed them
by a word or gesture, and then retired to his chamber and I crept as
near it as I dared and listened with fear to every sound, yet still
more dreading a sudden silence--dreading I knew not what, but ever
full of fear.

It was after one tremendous day when his eyes had glared on me like
lightning--and his voice sharp and broken seemed unable to express the
extent of his emotion that in the evening when I was alone he joined
me with a calm countenance, and not noticing my tears which I quickly
dried when he approached, told me that in three days that [_sic_] he
intended to remove with me to his estate in Yorkshire, and bidding me
prepare left me hastily as if afraid of being questioned.

This determination on his part indeed surprised me. This estate was
that which he had inhabited in childhood and near which my mother
resided while a girl; this was the scene of their youthful loves and
where they had lived after their marriage; in happier days my father
had often told me that however he might appear weaned from his widow
sorrow, and free from bitter recollections elsewhere, yet he would
never dare visit the spot where he had enjoyed her society or trust
himself to see the rooms that so many years ago they had inhabited
together; her favourite walks and the gardens the flowers of which she
had delighted to cultivate. And now while he suffered intense misery
he determined to plunge into still more intense, and strove for
greater emotion than that which already tore him. I was perplexed, and
most anxious to know what this portended; ah, what could it po[r]tend
but ruin!

I saw little of my father during this interval, but he appeared calmer
although not less unhappy than before. On the morning of the third day
he informed me that he had determined to go to Yorkshire first alone,
and that I should follow him in a fortnight unless I heard any thing
from him in the mean time that should contradict this command. He
departed the same day, and four days afterwards I received a letter
from his steward telling me in his name to join him with as little
delay as possible. After travelling day and night I arrived with an
anxious, yet a hoping heart, for why should he send for me if it were
only to avoid me and to treat me with the apparent aversion that he
had in London. I met him at the distance of thirty miles from our
mansion. His demeanour was sad; for a moment he appeared glad to see
me and then he checked himself as if unwilling to betray his feelings.
He was silent during our ride, yet his manner was kinder than before
and I thought I beheld a softness in his eyes that gave me hope.

When we arrived, after a little rest, he led me over the house and
pointed out to me the rooms which my mother had inhabited. Although
more than sixteen years had passed since her death nothing had been
changed; her work box, her writing desk were still there and in her
room a book lay open on the table as she had left it. My father
pointed out these circumstances with a serious and unaltered mien,
only now and then fixing his deep and liquid eyes upon me; there was
something strange and awful in his look that overcame me, and in spite
of myself I wept, nor did he attempt to console me, but I saw his lips
quiver and the muscles of his countenance seemed convulsed.

We walked together in the gardens and in the evening when I would have
retired he asked me to stay and read to him; and first said, "When I
was last here your mother read Dante to me; you shall go on where she
left off." And then in a moment he said, "No, that must not be; you
must not read Dante. Do you choose a book." I took up Spencer and read
the descent of Sir Guyon to the halls of Avarice;[28] while he
listened his eyes fixed on me in sad profound silence.

I heard the next morning from the steward that upon his arrival he had
been in a most terrible state of mind: he had passed the first night
in the garden lying on the damp grass; he did not sleep but groaned
perpetually. "Alas!" said the old man[,] who gave me this account with
tears in his eyes, "it wrings my heart to see my lord in this state:
when I heard that he was coming down here with you, my young lady, I
thought we should have the happy days over again that we enjoyed
during the short life of my lady your mother--But that would be too
much happiness for us poor creatures born to tears--and that was why
she was taken from us so soon; [s]he was too beautiful and good for
us[.] It was a happy day as we all thought it when my lord married
her: I knew her when she was a child and many a good turn has she done
for me in my old lady's time--You are like her although there is more
of my lord in you--But has he been thus ever since his return? All my
joy turned to sorrow when I first beheld him with that melancholy
countenance enter these doors as it were the day after my lady's
funeral--He seemed to recover himself a little after he had bidden me
write to you--but still it is a woful thing to see him so
unhappy."[29] These were the feelings of an old, faithful servant:
what must be those of an affectionate daughter. Alas! Even then my
heart was almost broken.

We spent two months together in this house. My father spent the
greater part of his time with me; he accompanied me in my walks,
listened to my music, and leant over me as I read or painted. When he
conversed with me his manner was cold and constrained; his eyes only
seemed to speak, and as he turned their black, full lustre towards me
they expressed a living sadness. There was somthing in those dark deep
orbs so liquid, and intense that even in happiness I could never meet
their full gaze that mine did not overflow. Yet it was with sweet
tears; now there was a depth of affliction in their gentle appeal that
rent my heart with sympathy; they seemed to desire peace for me; for
himself a heart patient to suffer; a craving for sympathy, yet a
perpetual self denial. It was only when he was absent from me that his
passion subdued him,--that he clinched his hands--knit his brows--and
with haggard looks called for death to his despair, raving wildly,
untill exhausted he sank down nor was revived untill I joined him.

While we were in London there was a harshness and sulleness in his
sorrow which had now entirely disappeared. There I shrunk and fled
from him, now I only wished to be with him that I might soothe him to
peace. When he was silent I tried to divert him, and when sometimes I
stole to him during the energy of his passion I wept but did not
desire to leave him. Yet he suffered fearful agony; during the day he
was more calm, but at night when I could not be with him he seemed to
give the reins to his grief: he often passed his nights either on the
floor in my mother's room, or in the garden; and when in the morning
he saw me view with poignant grief his exhausted frame, and his person
languid almost to death with watching he wept; but during all this
time he spoke no word by which I might guess the cause of his
unhappiness[.] If I ventured to enquire he would either leave me or
press his finger on his lips, and with a deprecating look that I could
not resist, turn away. If I wept he would gaze on me in silence but he
was no longer harsh and although he repulsed every caress yet it was
with gentleness.

He seemed to cherish a mild grief and softer emotions although sad as
a relief from despair--He contrived in many ways to nurse his
melancholy as an antidote to wilder passion[.] He perpetually
frequented the walks that had been favourites with him when he and my
mother wandered together talking of love and happiness; he collected
every relick that remained of her and always sat opposite her picture
which hung in the room fixing on it a look of sad despair--and all
this was done in a mystic and awful silence. If his passion subdued
him he locked himself in his room; and at night when he wandered
restlessly about the house, it was when every other creature slept.

It may easily be imagined that I wearied myself with conjecture to
guess the cause of his sorrow. The solution that seemed to me the most
probable was that during his residence in London he had fallen in love
with some unworthy person, and that his passion mastered him although
he would not gratify it: he loved me too well to sacrifise me to this
inclination, and that he had now visited this house that by reviving
the memory of my mother whom he so passionately adored he might weaken
the present impression. This was possible; but it was a mere
conjecture unfounded on any fact. Could there be guilt in it? He was
too upright and noble to _do_ aught that his conscience would not
approve; I did not yet know of the crime there may be in involuntary
feeling and therefore ascribed his tumultuous starts and gloomy looks
wholly to the struggles of his mind and not any as they were partly
due to the worst fiend of all--Remorse.[30]

But still do I flatter myself that this would have passed away. His
paroxisms of passion were terrific but his soul bore him through them
triumphant, though almost destroyed by victory; but the day would
finally have been won had not I, foolish and presumtuous wretch!
hurried him on untill there was no recall, no hope. My rashness gave
the victory in this dreadful fight to the enemy who triumphed over him
as he lay fallen and vanquished. I! I alone was the cause of his
defeat and justly did I pay the fearful penalty. I said to myself, let
him receive sympathy and these struggles will cease. Let him confide
his misery to another heart and half the weight of it will be
lightened. I will win him to me; he shall not deny his grief to me and
when I know his secret then will I pour a balm into his soul and again
I shall enjoy the ravishing delight of beholding his smile, and of
again seeing his eyes beam if not with pleasure at least with gentle
love and thankfulness. This will I do, I said. Half I accomplished; I
gained his secret and we were both lost for ever.

[C] Fletcher's comedy of the Captain.

[D] Lord Byron


Nearly a year had past since my father's return, and the seasons had
almost finished their round--It was now the end of May; the woods were
clothed in their freshest verdure, and the sweet smell of the new mown
grass was in the fields. I thought that the balmy air and the lovely
face of Nature might aid me in inspiring him with mild sensations, and
give him gentle feelings of peace and love preparatory to the
confidence I determined to win from him.

I chose therefore the evening of one of these days for my attempt. I
invited him to walk with me, and led him to a neighbouring wood of
beech trees whose light shade shielded us from the slant and dazzling
beams of the descending sun--After walking for some time in silence I
seated my self with him on a mossy hillock--It is strange but even now
I seem to see the spot--the slim and smooth trunks were many of them
wound round by ivy whose shining leaves of the darkest green
contrasted with the white bark and the light leaves of the young
sprouts of beech that grew from their parent trunks--the short grass
was mingled with moss and was partly covered by the dead leaves of the
last autumn that driven by the winds had here and there collected in
little hillocks--there were a few moss grown stumps about--The leaves
were gently moved by the breeze and through their green canopy you
could see the bright blue sky--As evening came on the distant trunks
were reddened by the sun and the wind died entirely away while a few
birds flew past us to their evening rest.

Well it was here we sat together, and when you hear all that past--all
that of terrible tore our souls even in this placid spot, which but
for strange passions might have been a paradise to us, you will not
wonder that I remember it as I looked on it that its calm might give
me calm, and inspire me not only with courage but with persuasive
words. I saw all these things and in a vacant manner noted them in my
mind[31] while I endeavoured to arrange my thoughts in fitting order
for my attempt. My heart beat fast as I worked myself up to speak to
him, for I was determined not to be repulsed but I trembled to imagine
what effect my words might have on him; at length, with much
hesitation I began:[32]

"Your kindness to me, my dearest father, and the affection--the
excessive affection--that you had for me when you first returned will
I hope excuse me in your eyes that I dare speak to you, although with
the tender affection of a daughter, yet also with the freedom of a
friend and equal. But pardon me, I entreat you and listen to me: do
not turn away from me; do not be impatient; you may easily intimidate
me into silence, but my heart is bursting, nor can I willingly consent
to endure for one moment longer the agony of uncertitude which for the
last four months has been my portion.

"Listen to me, dearest friend, and permit me to gain your confidence.
Are the happy days of mutual love which have passed to be to me as a
dream never to return? Alas! You have a secret grief that destroys us
both: but you must permit me to win this secret from you. Tell me, can
I do nothing? You well know that on the whole earth there is no
sacrifise that I would not make, no labour that I would not undergo
with the mere hope that I might bring you ease. But if no endeavour on
my part can contribute to your happiness, let me at least know your
sorrow, and surely my earnest love and deep sympathy must soothe your

"I fear that I speak in a constrained manner: my heart is overflowing
with the ardent desire I have of bringing calm once more to your
thoughts and looks; but I fear to aggravate your grief, or to raise
that in you which is death to me, anger and distaste. Do not then
continue to fix your eyes on the earth; raise them on me for I can
read your soul in them: speak to me to me [_sic_], and pardon my
presumption. Alas! I am a most unhappy creature!"

I was breathless with emotion, and I paused fixing my earnest eyes on
my father, after I had dashed away the intrusive tears that dimmed
them. He did not raise his, but after a short silence he replied to me
in a low voice: "You are indeed presumptuous, Mathilda, presumptuous
and very rash. In the heart of one like me there are secret thoughts
working, and secret tortures which you ought not to seek to discover.
I cannot tell you how it adds to my grief to know that I am the cause
of uneasiness to you; but this will pass away, and I hope that soon we
shall be as we were a few months ago. Restrain your impatience or you
may mar what you attempt to alleviate. Do not again speak to me in
this strain; but wait in submissive patience the event of what is
passing around you."

"Oh, yes!" I passionately replied, "I will be very patient; I will
not be rash or presumptuous: I will see the agonies, and tears, and
despair of my father, my only friend, my hope, my shelter, I will see
it all with folded arms and downcast eyes. You do not treat me with
candour; it is not true what you say; this will not soon pass away, it
will last forever if you deign not to speak to me; to admit my

"Dearest, dearest father, pity me and pardon me: I entreat you do not
drive me to despair; indeed I must not be repulsed; there is one thing
that which [_sic_] although it may torture me to know, yet that you
must tell me. I demand, and most solemnly I demand if in any way I am
the cause of your unhappiness. Do you not see my tears which I in vain
strive against--You hear unmoved my voice broken by sobs--Feel how my
hand trembles: my whole heart is in the words I speak and you must not
endeavour to silence me by mere words barren of meaning: the agony of
my doubt hurries me on, and you must reply. I beseech you; by your
former love for me now lost, I adjure you to answer that one question.
Am I the cause of your grief?"

He raised his eyes from the ground, but still turning them away from
me, said: "Besought by that plea I will answer your rash question.
Yes, you are the sole, the agonizing cause of all I suffer, of all I
must suffer untill I die. Now, beware! Be silent! Do not urge me to
your destruction. I am struck by the storm, rooted up, laid waste: but
you can stand against it; you are young and your passions are at
peace. One word I might speak and then you would be implicated in my
destruction; yet that word is hovering on my lips. Oh! There is a
fearful chasm; but I adjure you to beware!"

"Ah, dearest friend!" I cried, "do not fear! Speak that word; it will
bring peace, not death. If there is a chasm our mutual love will give
us wings to pass it, and we shall find flowers, and verdure, and
delight on the other side." I threw myself at his feet, and took his
hand, "Yes, speak, and we shall be happy; there will no longer be
doubt, no dreadful uncertainty; trust me, my affection will soothe
your sorrow; speak that word and all danger will be past, and we shall
love each other as before, and for ever."

He snatched his hand from me, and rose in violent disorder: "What do
you mean? You know not what you mean. Why do you bring me out, and
torture me, and tempt me, and kill me--Much happier would [it] be for
you and for me if in your frantic curiosity you tore my heart from my
breast and tried to read its secrets in it as its life's blood was
dropping from it. Thus you may console me by reducing me to
nothing--but your words I cannot bear; soon they will make me mad,
quite mad, and then I shall utter strange words, and you will believe
them, and we shall be both lost for ever. I tell you I am on the very
verge of insanity; why, cruel girl, do you drive me on: you will
repent and I shall die."

When I repeat his words I wonder at my pertinacious folly; I hardly
know what feelings resis[t]lessly impelled me. I believe it was that
coming out with a determination not to be repulsed I went right
forward to my object without well weighing his replies: I was led by
passion and drew him with frantic heedlessness into the abyss that he
so fearfully avoided--I replied to his terrific words: "You fill me
with affright it is true, dearest father, but you only confirm my
resolution to put an end to this state of doubt. I will not be put off
thus: do you think that I can live thus fearfully from day to day--the
sword in my bosom yet kept from its mortal wound by a hair--a word!--I
demand that dreadful word; though it be as a flash of lightning to
destroy me, speak it.

"Alas! Alas! What am I become? But a few months have elapsed since I
believed that I was all the world to you; and that there was no
happiness or grief for you on earth unshared by your Mathilda--your
child: that happy time is no longer, and what I most dreaded in this
world is come upon me. In the despair of my heart I see what you
cannot conceal: you no longer love me. I adjure you, my father, has
not an unnatural passion seized upon your heart? Am I not the most
miserable worm that crawls? Do I not embrace your knees, and you most
cruelly repulse me? I know it--I see it--you hate me!"

I was transported by violent emotion, and rising from his feet, at
which I had thrown myself, I leant against a tree, wildly raising my
eyes to heaven. He began to answer with violence: "Yes, yes, I hate
you! You are my bane, my poison, my disgust! Oh! No[!]" And then his
manner changed, and fixing his eyes on me with an expression that
convulsed every nerve and member of my frame--"you are none of all
these; you are my light, my only one, my life.--My daughter, I love
you!" The last words died away in a hoarse whisper, but I heard them
and sunk on the ground, covering my face and almost dead with excess
of sickness and fear: a cold perspiration covered my forehead and I
shivered in every limb--But he continued, clasping his hands with a
frantic gesture:

"Now I have dashed from the top of the rock to the bottom! Now I have
precipitated myself down the fearful chasm! The danger is over; she is
alive! Oh, Mathilda, lift up those dear eyes in the light of which I
live. Let me hear the sweet tones of your beloved voice in peace and
calm. Monster as I am, you are still, as you ever were, lovely,
beautiful beyond expression. What I have become since this last moment
I know not; perhaps I am changed in mien as the fallen archangel. I do
believe I am for I have surely a new soul within me, and my blood
riots through my veins: I am burnt up with fever. But these are
precious moments; devil as I am become, yet that is my Mathilda before
me whom I love as one was never before loved: and she knows it now;
she listens to these words which I thought, fool as I was, would blast
her to death. Come, come, the worst is past: no more grief, tears or
despair; were not those the words you uttered?--We have leapt the
chasm I told you of, and now, mark me, Mathilda, we are to find
flowers, and verdure and delight, or is it hell, and fire, and
tortures? Oh! Beloved One, I am borne away; I can no longer sustain
myself; surely this is death that is coming. Let me lay my head near
your heart; let me die in your arms!"--He sunk to the earth fainting,
while I, nearly as lifeless, gazed on him in despair.

Yes it was despair I felt; for the first time that phantom seized me;
the first and only time for it has never since left me--After the
first moments of speechless agony I felt her fangs on my heart: I tore
my hair; I raved aloud; at one moment in pity for his sufferings I
would have clasped my father in my arms; and then starting back with
horror I spurned him with my foot; I felt as if stung by a serpent,
as if scourged by a whip of scorpions which drove me--Ah!

Well, this could not last. One idea rushed on my mind; never, never
may I speak to him again. As this terrible conviction came upon _him_
[_me_?] it melted my soul to tenderness and love--I gazed on him as to
take my last farewell--he lay insensible--his eyes closed as [_and_?]
his cheeks deathly pale. Above, the leaves of the beech wood cast a
flickering shadow on his face, and waved in mournful melody over
him--I saw all these things and said, "Aye, this is his grave!" And
then I wept aloud, and raised my eyes to heaven to entreat for a
respite to my despair and an alleviation for his unnatural
suffering--the tears that gushed in a warm & healing stream from my
eyes relieved the burthen that oppressed my heart almost to madness. I
wept for a long time untill I saw him about to revive, when horror and
misery again recurred, and the tide of my sensations rolled back to
their former channel: with a terror I could not restrain--I sprung up
and fled, with winged speed, along the paths of the wood and across
the fields untill nearly dead I reached our house and just ordering
the servants to seek my father at the spot I indicated, I shut myself
up in my own room[.][33]


My chamber was in a retired part of the house, and looked upon the
garden so that no sound of the other inhabitants could reach it; and
here in perfect solitude I wept for several hours. When a servant came
to ask me if I would take food I learnt from him that my father had
returned, and was apparently well and this relieved me from a load of
anxiety, yet I did not cease to weep bitterly. As [_At_] first, as the
memory of former happiness contrasted to my present despair came
across me, I gave relief to the oppression of heart that I felt by
words, and groans, and heart rending sighs: but nature became wearied,
and this more violent grief gave place to a passionate but mute flood
of tears: my whole soul seemed to dissolve [in] them. I did not wring
my hands, or tear my hair, or utter wild exclamations, but as Boccacio
describes the intense and quiet grief [of] Sigismunda over the heart
of Guiscardo,[34] I sat with my hands folded, silently letting fall a
perpetual stream from my eyes. Such was the depth of my emotion that I
had no feeling of what caused my distress, my thoughts even wandered
to many indifferent objects; but still neither moving limb or feature
my tears fell untill, as if the fountains were exhausted, they
gradually subsided, and I awoke to life as from a dream.

When I had ceased to weep reason and memory returned upon me, and I
began to reflect with greater calmness on what had happened, and how
it became me to act--A few hours only had passed but a mighty
revolution had taken place with regard to me--the natural work of
years had been transacted since the morning: my father was as dead to
me, and I felt for a moment as if he with white hairs were laid in his
coffin and I--youth vanished in approaching age, were weeping at his
timely dissolution. But it was not so, I was yet young, Oh! far too
young, nor was he dead to others; but I, most miserable, must never
see or speak to him again. I must fly from him with more earnestness
than from my greatest enemy: in solitude or in cities I must never
more behold him. That consideration made me breathless with anguish,
and impressing itself on my imagination I was unable for a time to
follow up any train of ideas. Ever after this, I thought, I would
live in the most dreary seclusion. I would retire to the Continent and
become a nun; not for religion's sake, for I was not a Catholic, but
that I might be for ever shut out from the world. I should there find
solitude where I might weep, and the voices of life might never reach

But my father; my beloved and most wretched father? Would he die?
Would he never overcome the fierce passion that now held pityless
dominion over him? Might he not many, many years hence, when age had
quenched the burning sensations that he now experienced, might he not
then be again a father to me? This reflection unwrinkled my brow, and
I could feel (and I wept to feel it) a half melancholy smile draw from
my lips their expression of suffering: I dared indulge better hopes
for my future life; years must pass but they would speed lightly away
winged by hope, or if they passed heavily, still they would pass and I
had not lost my father for ever. Let him spend another sixteen years
of desolate wandering: let him once more utter his wild complaints to
the vast woods and the tremendous cataracts of another clime: let him
again undergo fearful danger and soul-quelling hardships: let the hot
sun of the south again burn his passion worn cheeks and the cold night
rains fall on him and chill his blood.

To this life, miserable father, I devote thee!--Go!--Be thy days
passed with savages, and thy nights under the cope of heaven! Be thy
limbs worn and thy heart chilled, and all youth be dead within thee!
Let thy hairs be as snow; thy walk trembling and thy voice have lost
its mellow tones! Let the liquid lustre of thine eyes be quenched; and
then return to me, return to thy Mathilda, thy child, who may then be
clasped in thy loved arms, while thy heart beats with sinless emotion.
Go, Devoted One, and return thus!--This is my curse, a daughter's
curse: go, and return pure to thy child, who will never love aught but

These were my thoughts; and with trembling hands I prepared to begin a
letter to my unhappy parent. I had now spent many hours in tears and
mournful meditation; it was past twelve o'clock; all was at peace in
the house, and the gentle air that stole in at my window did not
rustle the leaves of the twining plants that shadowed it. I felt the
entire tranquillity of the hour when my own breath and involuntary
sobs were all the sounds that struck upon the air. On a sudden I heard
a gentle step ascending the stairs; I paused breathless, and as it
approached glided into an obscure corner of the room; the steps paused
at my door, but after a few moments they again receeded[,] descended
the stairs and I heard no more.

This slight incident gave rise in me to the most painful reflections;
nor do I now dare express the emotions I felt. That he should be
restless I understood; that he should wander as an unlaid ghost and
find no quiet from the burning hell that consumed his heart. But why
approach my chamber? Was not that sacred? I felt almost ready to faint
while he had stood there, but I had not betrayed my wakefulness by the
slightest motion, although I had heard my own heart beat with violent
fear. He had withdrawn. Oh, never, never, may I see him again!
Tomorrow night the same roof may not cover us; he or I must depart.
The mutual link of our destinies is broken; we must be divided by
seas--by land. The stars and the sun must not rise at the same period
to us: he must not say, looking at the setting crescent of the moon,
"Mathilda now watches its fall."--No, all must be changed. Be it light
with him when it is darkness with me! Let him feel the sun of summer
while I am chilled by the snows of winter! Let there be the distance
of the antipodes between us!

At length the east began to brighten, and the comfortable light of
morning streamed into my room. I was weary with watching and for some
time I had combated with the heavy sleep that weighed down my eyelids:
but now, no longer fearful, I threw myself on my bed. I sought for
repose although I did not hope for forgetfulness; I knew I should be
pursued by dreams, but did not dread the frightful one that I really
had. I thought that I had risen and went to seek my father to inform
him of my determination to seperate myself from him. I sought him in
the house, in the park, and then in the fields and the woods, but I
could not find him. At length I saw him at some distance, seated under
a tree, and when he perceived me he waved his hand several times,
beckoning me to approach; there was something unearthly in his mien
that awed and chilled me, but I drew near. When at [a] short distance
from him I saw that he was deadlily [_sic_] pale, and clothed in
flowing garments of white. Suddenly he started up and fled from me; I
pursued him: we sped over the fields, and by the skirts of woods, and
on the banks of rivers; he flew fast and I followed. We came at last,
methought, to the brow of a huge cliff that over hung the sea which,
troubled by the winds, dashed against its base at a distance. I heard
the roar of the waters: he held his course right on towards the brink
and I became breathless with fear lest he should plunge down the
dreadful precipice; I tried to augment my speed, but my knees failed
beneath me, yet I had just reached him; just caught a part of his
flowing robe, when he leapt down and I awoke with a violent scream. I
was trembling and my pillow was wet with my tears; for a few moments
my heart beat hard, but the bright beams of the sun and the chirping
of the birds quickly restored me to myself, and I rose with a languid
spirit, yet wondering what events the day would bring forth. Some time
passed before I summoned courage to ring the bell for my servant, and
when she came I still dared not utter my father's name. I ordered her
to bring my breakfast to my room, and was again left alone--yet still
I could make no resolve, but only thought that I might write a note to
my father to beg his permission to pay a visit to a relation who lived
about thirty miles off, and who had before invited me to her house,
but I had refused for then I could not quit my suffering father. When
the servant came back she gave me a letter.

"From whom is this letter[?]" I asked trembling.

"Your father left it, madam, with his servant, to be given to you when
you should rise."

"My father left it! Where is he? Is he not here?"

"No; he quitted the house before four this morning."

"Good God! He is gone! But tell how this was; speak quick!"

Her relation was short. He had gone in the carriage to the nearest
town where he took a post chaise and horses with orders for the London
road. He dismissed his servants there, only telling them that he had a
sudden call of business and that they were to obey me as their
mistress untill his return.


With a beating heart and fearful, I knew not why, I dismissed the
servant and locking my door, sat down to read my father's letter.
These are the words that it contained.

"My dear Child

"I have betrayed your confidence; I have endeavoured to pollute your
mind, and have made your innocent heart acquainted with the looks and
language of unlawful and monstrous passion. I must expiate these
crimes, and must endeavour in some degree to proportionate my
punishment to my guilt. You are I doubt not prepared for what I am
about to announce; we must seperate and be divided for ever.

"I deprive you of your parent and only friend. You are cast out
shelterless on the world: your hopes are blasted; the peace and
security of your pure mind destroyed; memory will bring to you
frightful images of guilt, and the anguish of innocent love betrayed.
Yet I who draw down all this misery upon you; I who cast you forth and
remorselessly have set the seal of distrust and agony on the heart and
brow of my own child, who with devilish levity have endeavoured to
steal away her loveliness to place in its stead the foul deformity of
sin; I, in the overflowing anguish of my heart, supplicate you to
forgive me.

"I do not ask your pity; you must and do abhor me: but pardon me,
Mathilda, and let not your thoughts follow me in my banishment with
unrelenting anger. I must never more behold you; never more hear your
voice; but the soft whisperings of your forgiveness will reach me and
cool the burning of my disordered brain and heart; I am sure I should
feel it even in my grave. And I dare enforce this request by relating
how miserably I was betrayed into this net of fiery anguish and all my
struggles to release myself: indeed if your soul were less pure and
bright I would not attempt to exculpate myself to you; I should fear
that if I led you to regard me with less abhorrence you might hate
vice less: but in addressing you I feel as if I appealed to an angelic
judge. I cannot depart without your forgiveness and I must endeavour
to gain it, or I must despair.[35] I conjure you therefore to listen
to my words, and if with the good guilt may be in any degree
extenuated by sharp agony, and remorse that rends the brain as madness
perhaps you may think, though I dare not, that I have some claim to
your compassion.

"I entreat you to call to your remembrance our first happy life on the
shores of Loch Lomond. I had arrived from a weary wandering of sixteen
years, during which, although I had gone through many dangers and
misfortunes, my affections had been an entire blank. If I grieved it
was for your mother, if I loved it was your image; these sole emotions
filled my heart in quietness. The human creatures around me excited in
me no sympathy and I thought that the mighty change that the death of
your mother had wrought within me had rendered me callous to any
future impression. I saw the lovely and I did not love, I imagined
therefore that all warmth was extinguished in my heart except that
which led me ever to dwell on your then infantine image.

"It is a strange link in my fate that without having seen you I should
passionately love you. During my wanderings I never slept without
first calling down gentle dreams on your head. If I saw a lovely
woman, I thought, does my Mathilda resemble her? All delightful
things, sublime scenery, soft breezes, exquisite music seemed to me
associated with you and only through you to be pleasant to me. At
length I saw you. You appeared as the deity of a lovely region, the
ministering Angel of a Paradise to which of all human kind you
admitted only me. I dared hardly consider you as my daughter; your
beauty, artlessness and untaught wisdom seemed to belong to a higher
order of beings; your voice breathed forth only words of love: if
there was aught of earthly in you it was only what you derived from
the beauty of the world; you seemed to have gained a grace from the
mountain breezes--the waterfalls and the lake; and this was all of
earthly except your affections that you had; there was no dross, no
bad feeling in the composition. You yet even have not seen enough[36]
of the world to know the stupendous difference that exists between the
women we meet in dayly life and a nymph of the woods such as you were,
in whose eyes alone mankind may study for centuries & grow wiser &
purer. Those divine lights which shone on me as did those of Beatrice
upon Dante, and well might I say with him yet with what different

    E quasi mi perdei gli occhi chini.

Can you wonder, Mathilda, that I dwelt on your looks, your words, your
motions, & drank in unmixed delight?

["]But I am afraid that I wander from my purpose. I must be more brief
for night draws on apace and all my hours in this house are counted.
Well, we removed to London, and still I felt only the peace of sinless
passion. You were ever with me, and I desired no more than to gaze on
your countenance, and to know that I was all the world to you; I was
lapped in a fool's paradise of enjoyment and security. Was my love
blamable? If it was I was ignorant of it; I desired only that which I
possessed, and if I enjoyed from your looks, and words, and most
innocent caresses a rapture usually excluded from the feelings of a
parent towards his child, yet no uneasiness, no wish, no casual idea
awoke me to a sense of guilt. I loved you as a human father might be
supposed to love a daughter borne to him by a heavenly mother; as
Anchises might have regarded the child of Venus if the sex had been
changed; love mingled with respect and adoration. Perhaps also my
passion was lulled to content by the deep and exclusive affection you
felt for me.

"But when I saw you become the object of another's love; when I
imagined that you might be loved otherwise than as a sacred type and
image of loveliness and excellence; or that you might love another
with a more ardent affection than that which you bore to me, then the
fiend awoke within me; I dismissed your lover; and from that moment I
have known no peace. I have sought in vain for sleep and rest; my lids
refused to close, and my blood was for ever in a tumult. I awoke to a
new life as one who dies in hope might wake in Hell. I will not sully
your imagination by recounting my combats, my self-anger and my
despair. Let a veil be drawn over the unimaginable sensations of a
guilty father; the secrets of so agonized a heart may not be made
vulgar. All was uproar, crime, remorse and hate, yet still the
tenderest love; and what first awoke me to the firm resolve of
conquering my passion and of restoring her father to my child was the
sight of your bitter and sympathizing sorrows. It was this that led me
here: I thought that if I could again awaken in my heart the grief I
had felt at the loss of your mother, and the many associations with
her memory which had been laid to sleep for seventeen years, that all
love for her child would become extinct. In a fit of heroism I
determined to go alone; to quit you, the life of my life, and not to
see you again untill I might guiltlessly. But it would not do: I rated
my fortitude too high, or my love too low. I should certainly have
died if you had not hastened to me. Would that I had been indeed

"And now, Mathilda I must make you my last confession. I have been
miserably mistaken in imagining that I could conquer my love for you;
I never can. The sight of this house, these fields and woods which my
first love inhabited seems to have encreased it: in my madness I dared
say to myself--Diana died to give her birth; her mother's spirit was
transferred into her frame, and she ought to be as Diana to me.[37]
With every effort to cast it off, this love clings closer, this guilty
love more unnatural than hate, that withers your hopes and destroys me
for ever.

    Better have loved despair, & safer kissed her.

No time or space can tear from my soul that which makes a part of it.
Since my arrival here I have not for a moment ceased to feel the hell
of passion which has been implanted in me to burn untill all be cold,
and stiff, and dead. Yet I will not die; alas! how dare I go where I
may meet Diana, when I have disobeyed her last request; her last words
said in a faint voice when all feeling but love, which survives all
things else was already dead, she then bade me make her child happy:
that thought alone gives a double sting to death. I will wander away
from you, away from all life--in the solitude I shall seek I alone
shall breathe of human kind. I must endure life; and as it is my duty
so I shall untill the grave dreaded yet desired, receive me free from
pain: for while I feel it will be pain that must make up the whole sum
of my sensations. Is not this a fearful curse that I labour under? Do
I not look forward to a miserable future? My child, if after this life
I am permitted to see you again, if pain can purify the heart, mine
will be pure: if remorse may expiate guilt, I shall be guiltless.

       *       *       *       *       *

["]I have been at the door of your chamber: every thing is silent. You
sleep. Do you indeed sleep, Mathilda? Spirits of Good, behold the
tears of my earnest prayer! Bless my child! Protect her from the
selfish among her fellow creatures: protect her from the agonies of
passion, and the despair of disappointment! Peace, Hope and Love be
thy guardians, oh, thou soul of my soul: thou in whom I breathe!

       *       *       *       *       *

["]I dare not read my letter over for I have no time to write another,
and yet I fear that some expressions in it might displease me. Since I
last saw you I have been constantly employed in writing letters, and
have several more to write; for I do not intend that any one shall
hear of me after I depart. I need not conjure you to look upon me as
one of whom all links that once existed between us are broken. Your
own delicacy will not allow you, I am convinced, to attempt to trace
me. It is far better for your peace that you should be ignorant of my
destination. You will not follow me, for when I bannish myself would
you nourish guilt by obtruding yourself upon me? You will not do this,
I know you will not. You must forget me and all the evil that I have
taught you. Cast off the only gift that I have bestowed upon you, your
grief, and rise from under my blighting influence as no flower so
sweet ever did rise from beneath so much evil.

"You will never hear from me again: receive these then as the last
words of mine that will ever reach you; and although I have forfeited
your filial love, yet regard them I conjure you as a father's command.
Resolutely shake of[f] the wretchedness that this first misfortune in
early life must occasion you. Bear boldly up against the storm:
continue wise and mild, but believe it, and indeed it is, your duty to
be happy. You are very young; let not this check for more than a
moment retard your glorious course; hold on, beloved one. The sun of
youth is not set for you; it will restore vigour and life to you; do
not resist with obstinate grief its beneficent influence, oh, my
child! bless me with the hope that I have not utterly destroyed you.

"Farewell, Mathilda. I go with the belief that I have your pardon.
Your gentle nature would not permit you to hate your greatest enemy
and though I be he, although I have rent happiness from your
grasp;[38] though I have passed over your young love and hopes as the
angel of destruction, finding beauty and joy, and leaving blight and
despair, yet you will forgive me, and with eyes overflowing with
tears I thank you; my beloved one, I accept your pardon with a
gratitude that will never die, and that will, indeed it will, outlive
guilt and remorse.

"Farewell for ever!"

The moment I finished this letter I ordered the carriage and prepared
to follow my father. The words of his letter by which he had dissuaded
me from this step were those that determined me. Why did he write
them? He must know that if I believed that his intention was merely to
absent himself from me that instead of opposing him it would be that
which I should myself require--or if he thought that any lurking
feeling, yet he could not think that, should lead me to him would he
endeavour to overthrow the only hope he could have of ever seeing me
again; a lover, there was madness in the thought, yet he was my lover,
would not act thus. No, he had determined to die, and he wished to
spare me the misery of knowing it. The few ineffectual words he had
said concerning his duty were to me a further proof--and the more I
studied the letter the more did I perceive a thousand slight
expressions that could only indicate a knowledge that life was now
over for him. He was about to die! My blood froze at the thought: a
sickening feeling of horror came over me that allowed not of tears. As
I waited for the carriage I walked up and down with a quick pace; then
kneeling and passionately clasping my hands I tried to pray but my
voice was choked by convulsive sobs--Oh the sun shone[,] the air was
balmy--he must yet live for if he were dead all would surely be black
as night to me![39]

The motion of the carriage knowing that it carried me towards him and
that I might perhaps find him alive somewhat revived my courage: yet I
had a dreadful ride. Hope only supported me, the hope that I should
not be too late[.] I did not weep, but I wiped the perspiration from
my brow, and tried to still my brain and heart beating almost to
madness. Oh! I must not be mad when I see him; or perhaps it were as
well that I should be, my distraction might calm his, and recall him
to the endurance of life. Yet untill I find him I must force reason to
keep her seat, and I pressed my forehead hard with my hands--Oh do not
leave me; or I shall forget what I am about--instead of driving on as
we ought with the speed of lightning they will attend to me, and we
shall be too late. Oh! God help me! Let him be alive! It is all dark;
in my abject misery I demand no more: no hope, no good: only passion,
and guilt, and horror; but alive! Alive! My sensations choked me--No
tears fell yet I sobbed, and breathed short and hard; one only thought
possessed me, and I could only utter one word, that half screaming was
perpetually on my lips; Alive! Alive!--

I had taken the steward[40] with me for he, much better than I[,]
could make the requisite enquiries--the poor old man could not
restrain his tears as he saw my deep distress and knew the cause--he
sometimes uttered a few broken words of consolation: in moments like
these the mistress and servant become in a manner equals and when I
saw his old dim eyes wet with sympathizing tears; his gray hair thinly
scattered on an age-wrinkled brow I thought oh if my father were as he
is--decrepid & hoary--then I should be spared this pain--

When I had arrived at the nearest town I took post horses and followed
the road my father had taken. At every inn where we changed horses we
heard of him, and I was possessed by alternate hope and fear. A length
I found that he had altered his route; at first he had followed the
London road; but now he changed it, and upon enquiry I found that the
one which he now pursued led _towards the sea_. My dream recurred to
my thoughts; I was not usually superstitious but in wretchedness every
one is so. The sea was fifty miles off, yet it was towards it that he
fled. The idea was terrible to my half crazed imagination, and almost
over-turned the little self possession that still remained to me. I
journied all day; every moment my misery encreased and the fever of my
blood became intolerable. The summer sun shone in an unclouded sky;
the air was close but all was cool to me except my own scorching skin.
Towards evening dark thunder clouds arose above the horrizon and I
heard its distant roll--after sunset they darkened the whole sky and
it began to rain[,] the lightning lighted up the whole country and the
thunder drowned the noise of our carriage. At the next inn my father
had not taken horses; he had left a box there saying he would return,
and had walked over the fields to the town of ---- a seacost town
eight miles off.

For a moment I was almost paralized by fear; but my energy returned
and I demanded a guide to accompany me in following his steps. The
night was tempestuous but my bribe was high and I easily procured a
countryman. We passed through many lanes and over fields and wild
downs; the rain poured down in torrents; and the loud thunder broke in
terrible crashes over our heads. Oh! What a night it was! And I passed
on with quick steps among the high, dank grass amid the rain and
tempest. My dream was for ever in my thoughts, and with a kind of half
insanity that often possesses the mind in despair, I said aloud;
"Courage! We are not near the sea; we are yet several miles from the
ocean"--Yet it was towards the sea that our direction lay and that
heightened the confusion of my ideas. Once, overcome by fatigue, I
sunk on the wet earth; about two hundred yards distant, alone in a
large meadow stood a magnificent oak; the lightnings shewed its myriad
boughs torn by the storm. A strange idea seized me; a person must have
felt all the agonies of doubt concerning the life and death of one who
is the whole world to them before they can enter into my feelings--for
in that state, the mind working unrestrained by the will makes strange
and fanciful combinations with outward circumstances and weaves the
chances and changes of nature into an immediate connexion with the
event they dread. It was with this feeling that I turned to the old
Steward who stood pale and trembling beside me; "Mark, Gaspar, if the
next flash of lightning rend not that oak my father will be alive."

I had scarcely uttered these words than a flash instantly followed by
a tremendous peal of thunder descended on it; and when my eyes
recovered their sight after the dazzling light, the oak no longer
stood in the meadow--The old man uttered a wild exclamation of horror
when he saw so sudden an interpretation given to my prophesy. I
started up, my strength returned; [_sic_] with my terror; I cried,
"Oh, God! Is this thy decree? Yet perhaps I shall not be too late."

Although still several miles distant we continued to approach the sea.
We came at last to the road that led to the town of----and at an inn
there we heard that my father had passed by somewhat before sunset; he
had observed the approaching storm and had hired a horse for the next
town which was situated a mile from the sea that he might arrive there
before it should commence: this town was five miles off. We hired a
chaise here, and with four horses drove with speed through the storm.
My garments were wet and clung around me, and my hair hung in straight
locks on my neck when not blown aside by the wind. I shivered, yet my
pulse was high with fever. Great God! What agony I endured. I shed no
tears but my eyes wild and inflamed were starting from my head; I
could hardly support the weight that pressed upon my brain. We arrived
at the town of ---- in a little more than half an hour. When my father
had arrived the storm had already begun, but he had refused to stop
and leaving his horse there he walked on--_towards the sea_. Alas! it
was double cruelty in him to have chosen the sea for his fatal
resolve; it was adding madness to my despair.[41]

The poor old servant who was with me endeavoured to persuade me to
remain here and to let him go alone--I shook my head silently and
sadly; sick almost to death I leant upon his arm, and as there was no
road for a chaise dragged my weary steps across the desolate downs to
meet my fate, now too certain for the agony of doubt. Almost fainting
I slowly approached the fatal waters; when we had quitted the town we
heard their roaring[.] I whispered to myself in a muttering
voice--"The sound is the same as that which I heard in my dream. It is
the knell of my father which I hear."[42]

The rain had ceased; there was no more thunder and lightning; the wind
had paused. My heart no longer beat wildly; I did not feel any fever:
but I was chilled; my knees sunk under me--I almost slept as I walked
with excess of weariness; every limb trembled. I was silent: all was
silent except the roaring of the sea which became louder and more
dreadful. Yet we advanced slowly: sometimes I thought that we should
never arrive; that the sound of waves would still allure us, and that
we should walk on for ever and ever: field succeeding field, never
would our weary journey cease, nor night nor day; but still we should
hear the dashing of the sea, and to all this there would be no end.
Wild beyond the imagination of the happy are the thoughts bred by
misery and despair.

At length we reached the overhanging beach; a cottage stood beside the
path; we knocked at the door and it was opened: the bed within
instantly caught my eye; something stiff and straight lay on it,
covered by a sheet; the cottagers looked aghast. The first words that
they uttered confirmed what I before knew. I did not feel shocked or
overcome: I believe that I asked one or two questions and listened to
the answers. I har[d]ly know, but in a few moments I sank lifeless to
the ground; and so would that then all had been at an end!


I was carried to the next town: fever succeeded to convulsions and
faintings, & for some weeks my unhappy spirit hovered on the very
verge of death. But life was yet strong within me; I recovered: nor
did it a little aid my returning health that my recollections were at
first vague, and that I was too weak to feel any violent emotion. I
often said to myself, my father is dead. He loved me with a guilty
passion, and stung by remorse and despair he killed himself. Why is it
that I feel no horror? Are these circumstances not dreadful? Is it not
enough that I shall never more meet the eyes of my beloved father;
never more hear his voice; no caress, no look? All cold, and stiff,
and dead! Alas! I am quite callous: the night I was out in was fearful
and the cold rain that fell about my heart has acted like the waters
of the cavern of Antiparos[43] and has changed it to stone. I do not
weep or sigh; but I must reason with myself, and force myself to feel
sorrow and despair. This is not resignation that I feel, for I am dead
to all regret.

I communed in this manner with myself, but I was silent to all around
me. I hardly replied to the slightest question, and was uneasy when I
saw a human creature near me. I was surrounded by my female relations,
but they were all of them nearly strangers to me: I did not listen to
their consolations; and so little did they work their designed effect
that they seemed to me to be spoken in an unknown tongue. I found if
sorrow was dead within me, so was love and desire of sympathy. Yet
sorrow only slept to revive more fierce, but love never woke
again--its ghost, ever hovering over my father's grave, alone
survived--since his death all the world was to me a blank except where
woe had stampt its burning words telling me to smile no more--the
living were not fit companions for me, and I was ever meditating by
what means I might shake them all off, and never be heard of again.

My convalescence rapidly advanced, yet this was the thought that
haunted me, and I was for ever forming plans how I might hereafter
contrive to escape the tortures that were prepared for me when I
should mix in society, and to find that solitude which alone could
suit one whom an untold grief seperated from her fellow creatures.
Who can be more solitary even in a crowd than one whose history and
the never ending feelings and remembrances arising from it is [_sic_]
known to no living soul. There was too deep a horror in my tale for
confidence; I was on earth the sole depository of my own secret. I
might tell it to the winds and to the desart heaths but I must never
among my fellow creatures, either by word or look give allowance to
the smallest conjecture of the dread reality: I must shrink before the
eye of man lest he should read my father's guilt in my glazed eyes: I
must be silent lest my faltering voice should betray unimagined
horrors. Over the deep grave of my secret I must heap an impenetrable
heap of false smiles and words: cunning frauds, treacherous laughter
and a mixture of all light deceits would form a mist to blind others
and be as the poisonous simoon to me.[44] I, the offspring of love,
the child of the woods, the nursling of Nature's bright self was to
submit to this? I dared not.

How must I escape? I was rich and young, and had a guardian appointed
for me; and all about me would act as if I were one of their great
society, while I must keep the secret that I really was cut off from
them for ever. If I fled I should be pursued; in life there was no
escape for me: why then I must die. I shuddered; I dared not die even
though the cold grave held all I loved; although I might say with Job

    Where is now my hope? For my hope who shall see it?

    They shall go down together to the bars of the pit, when our
    rest together is in the dust--[45]

Yes my hope was corruption and dust and all to which death brings
us.--Or after life--No, no, I will not persuade myself to die, I may
not, dare not. And then I wept; yes, warm tears once more struggled
into my eyes soothing yet bitter; and after I had wept much and called
with unavailing anguish, with outstretched arms, for my cruel father;
after my weak frame was exhausted by all variety of plaint I sank once
more into reverie, and once more reflected on how I might find that
which I most desired; dear to me if aught were dear, a death-like

I dared not die, but I might feign death, and thus escape from my
comforters: they will believe me united to my father, and so indeed I
shall be. For alone, when no voice can disturb my dream, and no cold
eye meet mine to check its fire, then I may commune with his spirit;
on a lone heath, at noon or at midnight, still I should be near him.
His last injunction to me was that I should be happy; perhaps he did
not mean the shadowy happiness that I promised myself, yet it was that
alone which I could taste. He did not conceive that ever [qu.
_never_?] again I could make one of the smiling hunters that go
coursing after bubles that break to nothing when caught, and then
after a new one with brighter colours; my hope also had proved a
buble, but it had been so lovely, so adorned that I saw none that
could attract me after it; besides I was wearied with the pursuit,
nearly dead with weariness.

I would feign to die; my contented heirs would seize upon my wealth,
and I should purchase freedom. But then my plan must be laid with art;
I would not be left destitute, I must secure some money. Alas! to what
loathsome shifts must I be driven? Yet a whole life of falsehood was
otherwise my portion: and when remorse at being the contriver of any
cheat made me shrink from my design I was irresistably led back and
confirmed in it by the visit of some aunt or cousin, who would tell me
that death was the end of all men. And then say that my father had
surely lost his wits ever since my mother's death; that he was mad and
that I was fortunate, for in one of his fits he might have killed me
instead of destroying his own crazed being. And all this, to be sure,
was delicately put; not in broad words for my feelings might be hurt

    Whispered so and so
    In dark hint soft and low[E][46]

with downcast eyes, and sympathizing smiles or whimpers; and I
listened with quiet countenance while every nerve trembled; I that
dared not utter aye or no to all this blasphemy. Oh, this was a
delicious life quite void of guile! I with my dove's look and fox's
heart: for indeed I felt only the degradation of falsehood, and not
any sacred sentiment of conscious innocence that might redeem it. I
who had before clothed myself in the bright garb of sincerity must now
borrow one of divers colours: it might sit awkwardly at first, but use
would enable me to place it in elegant folds, to lie with grace. Aye,
I might die my soul with falsehood untill I had quite hid its native
colour. Oh, beloved father! Accept the pure heart of your unhappy
daughter; permit me to join you unspotted as I was or you will not
recognize my altered semblance. As grief might change Constance[47] so
would deceit change me untill in heaven you would say, "This is not my
child"--My father, to be happy both now and when again we meet I must
fly from all this life which is mockery to one like me. In solitude
only shall I be myself; in solitude I shall be thine.

Alas! I even now look back with disgust at my artifices and
contrivances by which, after many painful struggles, I effected my
retreat. I might enter into a long detail of the means I used, first
to secure myself a slight maintenance for the remainder of my life,
and afterwards to ensure the conviction of my death: I might, but I
will not. I even now blush at the falsehoods I uttered; my heart
sickens: I will leave this complication of what I hope I may in a
manner call innocent deceit to be imagined by the reader. The
remembrance haunts me like a crime--I know that if I were to endeavour
to relate it my tale would at length remain unfinished.[48] I was led
to London, and had to endure for some weeks cold looks, cold words and
colder consolations: but I escaped; they tried to bind me with fetters
that they thought silken, yet which weighed on me like iron, although
I broke them more easily than a girth formed of a single straw and
fled to freedom.

The few weeks that I spent in London were the most miserable of my
life: a great city is a frightful habitation to one sorrowing. The
sunset and the gentle moon, the blessed motion of the leaves and the
murmuring of waters are all sweet physicians to a distempered mind.
The soul is expanded and drinks in quiet, a lulling medecine--to me it
was as the sight of the lovely water snakes to the bewitched
mariner--in loving and blessing Nature I unawares, called down a
blessing on my own soul. But in a city all is closed shut like a
prison, a wiry prison from which you can peep at the sky only. I can
not describe to you what were [_sic_] the frantic nature of my
sensations while I resided there; I was often on the verge of madness.
Nay, when I look back on many of my wild thoughts, thoughts with which
actions sometimes endeavoured to keep pace; when I tossed my hands
high calling down the cope of heaven to fall on me and bury me; when I
tore my hair and throwing it to the winds cried, "Ye are free, go seek
my father!" And then, like the unfortunate Constance, catching at
them again and tying them up, that nought might find him if I might
not. How, on my knees I have fancied myself close to my father's grave
and struck the ground in anger that it should cover him from me. Oft
when I have listened with gasping attention for the sound of the ocean
mingled with my father's groans; and then wept untill my strength was
gone and I was calm and faint, when I have recollected all this I have
asked myself if this were not madness. While in London these and many
other dreadful thoughts too harrowing for words were my portion: I
lost all this suffering when I was free; when I saw the wild heath
around me, and the evening star in the west, then I could weep, gently
weep, and be at peace.

Do not mistake me; I never was really mad. I was always conscious of
my state when my wild thoughts seemed to drive me to insanity, and
never betrayed them to aught but silence and solitude. The people
around me saw nothing of all this. They only saw a poor girl broken in
spirit, who spoke in a low and gentle voice, and from underneath whose
downcast lids tears would sometimes steal which she strove to hide.
One who loved to be alone, and shrunk from observation; who never
smiled; oh, no! I never smiled--and that was all.

Well, I escaped. I left my guardian's house and I was never heard of
again; it was believed from the letters that I left and other
circumstances that I planned that I had destroyed myself. I was sought
after therefore with less care than would otherwise have been the
case; and soon all trace and memory of me was lost. I left London in a
small vessel bound for a port in the north of England. And now having
succeeded in my attempt, and being quite alone peace returned to me.
The sea was calm and the vessel moved gently onwards, I sat upon deck
under the open canopy of heaven and methought I was an altered
creature. Not the wild, raving & most miserable Mathilda but a
youthful Hermitess dedicated to seclusion and whose bosom she must
strive to keep free from all tumult and unholy despair--The fanciful
nunlike dress that I had adopted;[49] the knowledge that my very
existence was a secret known only to myself; the solitude to which I
was for ever hereafter destined nursed gentle thoughts in my wounded
heart. The breeze that played in my hair revived me, and I watched
with quiet eyes the sunbeams that glittered on the waves, and the
birds that coursed each other over the waters just brushing them with
their plumes. I slept too undisturbed by dreams; and awoke refreshed
to again enjoy my tranquil freedom.

In four days we arrived at the harbour to which we were bound. I would
not remain on the sea coast, but proceeded immediately inland. I had
already planned the situation where I would live. It should be a
solitary house on a wide plain near no other habitation: where I could
behold the whole horizon, and wander far without molestation from the
sight of my fellow creatures. I was not mysanthropic, but I felt that
the gentle current of my feelings depended upon my being alone. I
fixed myself on a wide solitude. On a dreary heath bestrewen with
stones, among which short grass grew; and here and there a few rushes
beside a little pool. Not far from my cottage was a small cluster of
pines the only trees to be seen for many miles: I had a path cut
through the furze from my door to this little wood, from whose topmost
branches the birds saluted the rising sun and awoke me to my daily
meditation. My view was bounded only by the horizon except on one side
where a distant wood made a black spot on the heath, that every where
else stretched out its faint hues as far as the eye could reach, wide
and very desolate. Here I could mark the net work of the clouds as
they wove themselves into thick masses: I could watch the slow rise of
the heavy thunder clouds and could see the rack as it was driven
across the heavens, or under the pine trees I could enjoy the
stillness of the azure sky.

My life was very peaceful. I had one female servant who spent the
greater part of the day at a village two miles off. My amusements were
simple and very innocent; I fed the birds who built on the pines or
among the ivy that covered the wall of my little garden, and they soon
knew me: the bolder ones pecked the crumbs from my hands and perched
on my fingers to sing their thankfulness. When I had lived here some
time other animals visited me and a fox came every day for a portion
of food appropriated for him & would suffer me to pat his head. I had
besides many books and a harp with which when despairing I could
soothe my spirits, and raise myself to sympathy and love.

Love! What had I to love? Oh many things: there was the moonshine, and
the bright stars; the breezes and the refreshing rains; there was the
whole earth and the sky that covers it: all lovely forms that visited
my imagination[,] all memories of heroism and virtue. Yet this was
very unlike my early life although as then I was confined to Nature
and books. Then I bounded across the fields; my spirit often seemed to
ride upon the winds, and to mingle in joyful sympathy with the ambient
air. Then if I wandered slowly I cheered myself with a sweet song or
sweeter day dreams. I felt a holy rapture spring from all I saw. I
drank in joy with life; my steps were light; my eyes, clear from the
love that animated them, sought the heavens, and with my long hair
loosened to the winds I gave my body and my mind to sympathy and
delight. But now my walk was slow--My eyes were seldom raised and
often filled with tears; no song; no smiles; no careless motion that
might bespeak a mind intent on what surrounded it--I was gathered up
into myself--a selfish solitary creature ever pondering on my regrets
and faded hopes.

Mine was an idle, useless life; it was so; but say not to the lily
laid prostrate by the storm arise, and bloom as before. My heart was
bleeding from its death's wound; I could live no otherwise--Often amid
apparent calm I was visited by despair and melancholy; gloom that
nought could dissipate or overcome; a hatred of life; a carelessness
of beauty; all these would by fits hold me nearly annihilated by their
powers. Never for one moment when most placid did I cease to pray for
death. I could be found in no state of mind which I would not
willingly have exchanged for nothingness. And morning and evening my
tearful eyes raised to heaven, my hands clasped tight in the energy of
prayer, I have repeated with the poet--

    Before I see another day
    Oh, let this body die away!

Let me not be reproached then with inutility; I believed that by
suicide I should violate a divine law of nature, and I thought that I
sufficiently fulfilled my part in submitting to the hard task of
enduring the crawling hours & minutes[50]--in bearing the load of time
that weighed miserably upon me and that in abstaining from what I in
my calm moments considered a crime, I deserved the reward of virtue.
There were periods, dreadful ones, during which I despaired--& doubted
the existence of all duty & the reality of crime--but I shudder, and
turn from the rememberance.

[E] Coleridge's Fire, Famine and Slaughter.


Thus I passed two years. Day after day so many hundreds wore on; they
brought no outward changes with them, but some few slowly operated on
my mind as I glided on towards death. I began to study more; to
sympathize more in the thoughts of others as expressed in books; to
read history, and to lose my individuallity among the crowd that had
existed before me. Thus perhaps as the sensation of immediate
suffering wore off, I became more human. Solitude also lost to me some
of its charms: I began again to wish for sympathy; not that I was ever
tempted to seek the crowd, but I wished for one friend to love me. You
will say perhaps that I gradually became fitted to return to society.
I do not think so. For the sympathy that I desired must be so pure, so
divested of influence from outward circumstances that in the world I
could not fail of being balked by the gross materials that perpetually
mingle even with its best feelings. Believe me, I was then less fitted
for any communion with my fellow creatures than before. When I left
them they had tormented me but it was in the same way as pain and
sickness may torment; somthing extraneous to the mind that galled it,
and that I wished to cast aside. But now I should have desired
sympathy; I should wish to knit my soul to some one of theirs, and
should have prepared for myself plentiful draughts of disappointment
and suffering; for I was tender as the sensitive plant, all nerve. I
did not desire sympathy and aid in ambition or wisdom, but sweet and
mutual affection; smiles to cheer me and gentle words of comfort. I
wished for one heart in which I could pour unrestrained my plaints,
and by the heavenly nature of the soil blessed fruit might spring from
such bad seed. Yet how could I find this? The love that is the soul of
friendship is a soft spirit seldom found except when two amiable
creatures are knit from early youth, or when bound by mutual suffering
and pursuits; it comes to some of the elect unsought and unaware; it
descends as gentle dew on chosen spots which however barren they were
before become under its benign influence fertile in all sweet plants;
but when desired it flies; it scoffs at the prayers of its votaries;
it will bestow, but not be sought.

I knew all this and did not go to seek sympathy; but there on my
solitary heath, under my lowly roof where all around was desart, it
came to me as a sun beam in winter to adorn while it helps to dissolve
the drifted snow.--Alas the sun shone on blighted fruit; I did not
revive under its radiance for I was too utterly undone to feel its
kindly power. My father had been and his memory was the life of my
life. I might feel gratitude to another but I never more could love or
hope as I had done; it was all suffering; even my pleasures were
endured, not enjoyed. I was as a solitary spot among mountains shut in
on all sides by steep black precipices; where no ray of heat could
penetrate; and from which there was no outlet to sunnier fields. And
thus it was that although the spirit of friendship soothed me for a
while it could not restore me. It came as some gentle visitation; it
went and I hardly felt the loss. The spirit of existence was dead
within me; be not surprised therefore that when it came I welcomed not
more gladly, or when it departed I lamented not more bitterly the best
gift of heaven--a friend.

The name of my friend was Woodville.[51] I will briefly relate his
history that you may judge how cold my heart must have been not to be
warmed by his eloquent words and tender sympathy; and how he also
being most unhappy we were well fitted to be a mutual consolation to
each other, if I had not been hardened to stone by the Medusa head of
Misery. The misfortunes of Woodville were not of the hearts core like
mine; his was a natural grief, not to destroy but to purify the heart
and from which he might, when its shadow had passed from over him,
shine forth brighter and happier than before.

Woodville was the son of a poor clergyman and had received a classical
education. He was one of those very few whom fortune favours from
their birth; on whom she bestows all gifts of intellect and person
with a profusion that knew no bounds, and whom under her peculiar
protection, no imperfection however slight, or disappointment however
transitory has leave to touch. She seemed to have formed his mind of
that excellence which no dross can tarnish, and his understanding was
such that no error could pervert. His genius was transcendant, and
when it rose as a bright star in the east all eyes were turned towards
it in admiration. He was a Poet. That name has so often been degraded
that it will not convey the idea of all that he was. He was like a
poet of old whom the muses had crowned in his cradle, and on whose
lips bees had fed. As he walked among other men he seemed encompassed
with a heavenly halo that divided him from and lifted him above them.
It was his surpassing beauty, the dazzling fire of his eyes, and his
words whose rich accents wrapt the listener in mute and extactic
wonder, that made him transcend all others so that before him they
appeared only formed to minister to his superior excellence.

He was glorious from his youth. Every one loved him; no shadow of envy
or hate cast even from the meanest mind ever fell upon him. He was, as
one the peculiar delight of the Gods, railed and fenced in by his own
divinity, so that nought but love and admiration could approach him.
His heart was simple like a child, unstained by arrogance or vanity.
He mingled in society unknowing of his superiority over his
companions, not because he undervalued himself but because he did not
perceive the inferiority of others. He seemed incapable of conceiving
of the full extent of the power that selfishness & vice possesses in
the world: when I knew him, although he had suffered disappointment in
his dearest hopes, he had not experienced any that arose from the
meaness and self love of men: his station was too high to allow of his
suffering through their hardheartedness; and too low for him to have
experienced ingratitude and encroaching selfishness: it is one of the
blessings of a moderate fortune, that by preventing the possessor from
confering pecuniary favours it prevents him also from diving into the
arcana of human weakness or malice--To bestow on your fellow men is a
Godlike attribute--So indeed it is and as such not one fit for
mortality;--the giver like Adam and Prometheus, must pay the penalty
of rising above his nature by being the martyr to his own excellence.
Woodville was free from all these evils; and if slight examples did
come across him[52] he did not notice them but passed on in his course
as an angel with winged feet might glide along the earth unimpeded by
all those little obstacles over which we of earthly origin stumble. He
was a believer in the divinity of genius and always opposed a stern
disbelief to the objections of those petty cavillers and minor critics
who wish to reduce all men to their own miserable level--"I will make
a scientific simile" he would say, "[i]n the manner, if you will, of
Dr. Darwin--I consider the alledged errors of a man of genius as the
aberrations of the fixed stars. It is our distance from them and our
imperfect means of communication that makes them appear to move; in
truth they always remain stationary, a glorious centre, giving us a
fine lesson of modesty if we would thus receive it."[53]

I have said that he was a poet: when he was three and twenty years of
age he first published a poem, and it was hailed by the whole nation
with enthusiasm and delight. His good star perpetually shone upon him;
a reputation had never before been made so rapidly: it was universal.
The multitude extolled the same poems that formed the wonder of the
sage in his closet: there was not one dissentient voice.[54]

It was at this time, in the height of his glory, that he became
acquainted with Elinor. She was a young heiress of exquisite beauty
who lived under the care of her guardian: from the moment they were
seen together they appeared formed for each other. Elinor had not the
genius of Woodville but she was generous and noble, and exalted by her
youth and the love that she every where excited above the knowledge of
aught but virtue and excellence. She was lovely; her manners were
frank and simple; her deep blue eyes swam in a lustre which could only
be given by sensibility joined to wisdom.

They were formed for one another and they soon loved. Woodville for
the first time felt the delight of love; and Elinor was enraptured in
possessing the heart of one so beautiful and glorious among his fellow
men. Could any thing but unmixed joy flow from such a union?

Woodville was a Poet--he was sought for by every society and all eyes
were turned on him alone when he appeared; but he was the son of a
poor clergyman and Elinor was a rich heiress. Her guardian was not
displeased with their mutual affection: the merit of Woodville was too
eminent to admit of cavil on account of his inferior wealth; but the
dying will of her father did not allow her to marry before she was of
age and her fortune depended upon her obeying this injunction. She had
just entered her twentieth year, and she and her lover were obliged to
submit to this delay. But they were ever together and their happiness
seemed that of Paradise: they studied together: formed plans of future
occupations, and drinking in love and joy from each other's eyes and
words they hardly repined at the delay to their entire union.
Woodville for ever rose in glory; and Elinor become more lovely and
wise under the lessons of her accomplished lover.

In two months Elinor would be twenty one: every thing was prepared for
their union. How shall I relate the catastrophe to so much joy; but
the earth would not be the earth it is covered with blight and sorrow
if one such pair as these angelic creatures had been suffered to exist
for one another: search through the world and you will not find the
perfect happiness which their marriage would have caused them to
enjoy; there must have been a revolution in the order of things as
established among us miserable earth-dwellers to have admitted of such
consummate joy. The chain of necessity ever bringing misery must have
been broken and the malignant fate that presides over it would not
permit this breach of her eternal laws. But why should I repine at
this? Misery was my element, and nothing but what was miserable could
approach me; if Woodville had been happy I should never have known
him. And can I who for many years was fed by tears, and nourished
under the dew of grief, can I pause to relate a tale of woe and

Woodville was obliged to make a journey into the country and was
detained from day to day in irksome absence from his lovely bride. He
received a letter from her to say that she was slightly ill, but
telling him to hasten to her, that from his eyes she would receive
health and that his company would be her surest medecine. He was
detained three days longer and then he hastened to her. His heart, he
knew not why prognosticated misfortune; he had not heard from her
again; he feared she might be worse and this fear made him impatient
and restless for the moment of beholding her once more stand before
him arrayed in health and beauty; for a sinister voice seemed always
to whisper to him, "You will never more behold her as she was."

When he arrived at her habitation all was silent in it: he made his
way through several rooms; in one he saw a servant weeping bitterly:
he was faint with fear and could hardly ask, "Is she dead?" and just
listened to the dreadful answer, "Not yet." These astounding words
came on him as of less fearful import than those which he had
expected; and to learn that she was still in being, and that he might
still hope was an alleviation to him. He remembered the words of her
letter and he indulged the wild idea that his kisses breathing warm
love and life would infuse new spirit into her, and that with him near
her she could not die; that his presence was the talisman of her life.

He hastened to her sick room; she lay, her cheeks burning with fever,
yet her eyes were closed and she was seemingly senseless. He wrapt her
in his arms; he imprinted breathless kisses on her burning lips; he
called to her in a voice of subdued anguish by the tenderest names;
"Return Elinor; I am with you; your life, your love. Return; dearest
one, you promised me this boon, that I should bring you health. Let
your sweet spirit revive; you cannot die near me: What is death? To
see you no more? To part with what is a part of myself; without whom I
have no memory and no futurity? Elinor die! This is frenzy and the
most miserable despair: you cannot die while I am near."

And again he kissed her eyes and lips, and hung over her inanimate
form in agony, gazing on her countenance still lovely although
changed, watching every slight convulsion, and varying colour which
denoted life still lingering although about to depart. Once for a
moment she revived and recognized his voice; a smile, a last lovely
smile, played upon her lips. He watched beside her for twelve hours
and then she died.[56]


It was six months after this miserable conclusion to his long nursed
hopes that I first saw him. He had retired to a part of the country
where he was not known that he might peacefully indulge his grief. All
the world, by the death of his beloved Elinor, was changed to him, and
he could no longer remain in any spot where he had seen her or where
her image mingled with the most rapturous hopes had brightened all
around with a light of joy which would now be transformed to a
darkness blacker than midnight since she, the sun of his life, was set
for ever.

He lived for some time never looking on the light of heaven but
shrouding his eyes in a perpetual darkness far from all that could
remind him of what he had been; but as time softened his grief[57]
like a true child of Nature he sought in the enjoyment of her beauties
for a consolation in his unhappiness. He came to a part of the country
where he was entirely unknown and where in the deepest solitude he
could converse only with his own heart. He found a relief to his
impatient grief in the breezes of heaven and in the sound of waters
and woods. He became fond of riding; this exercise distracted his mind
and elevated his spirits; on a swift horse he could for a moment gain
respite from the image that else for ever followed him; Elinor on her
death bed, her sweet features changed, and the soft spirit that
animated her gradually waning into extinction. For many months
Woodville had in vain endeavoured to cast off this terrible
remembrance; it still hung on him untill memory was too great a
burthen for his loaded soul, but when on horseback the spell that
seemingly held him to this idea was snapt; then if he thought of his
lost bride he pictured her radiant in beauty; he could hear her voice,
and fancy her "a sylvan Huntress by his side," while his eyes
brightened as he thought he gazed on her cherished form. I had several
times seen him ride across the heath and felt angry that my solitude
should be disturbed. It was so long [since] I had spoken to any but
peasants that I felt a disagreable sensation at being gazed on by one
of superior rank. I feared also that it might be some one who had seen
me before: I might be recognized, my impostures discovered and I
dragged back to a life of worse torture than that I had before
endured. These were dreadful fears and they even haunted my

I was one day seated on the verge of the clump of pines when Woodville
rode past. As soon as I perceived him I suddenly rose to escape from
his observation by entering among the trees. My rising startled his
horse; he reared and plunged and the Rider was at length thrown. The
horse then galopped swiftly across the heath and the stranger remained
on the ground stunned by his fall. He was not materially hurt, a
little fresh water soon recovered him. I was struck by his exceeding
beauty, and as he spoke to thank me the sweet but melancholy cadence
of his voice brought tears into my eyes.

A short conversation passed between us, but the next day he again
stopped at my cottage and by degrees an intimacy grew between us. It
was strange to him to see a female in extreme youth, I was not yet
twenty, evidently belonging to the first classes of society &
possessing every accomplishment an excellent education could bestow,
living alone on a desolate health [_sic_]--One on whose forehead the
impress of grief was strongly marked, and whose words and motions
betrayed that her thoughts did not follow them but were intent on far
other ideas; bitter and overwhelming miseries. I was dressed also in a
whimsical nunlike habit which denoted that I did not retire to
solitude from necessity, but that I might indulge in a luxury of
grief, and fanciful seclusion.

He soon took great interest in me, and sometimes forgot his own grief
to sit beside me and endeavour to cheer me. He could not fail to
interest even one who had shut herself from the whole world, whose
hope was death, and who lived only with the departed. His personal
beauty; his conversation which glowed with imagination and
sensibility; the poetry that seemed to hang upon his lips and to make
the very air mute to listen to him were charms that no one could
resist. He was younger, less worn, more passionless than my father and
in no degree reminded me of him: he suffered under immediate grief yet
its gentle influence instead of calling feelings otherwise dormant
into action, seemed only to veil that which otherwise would have been
too dazzling for me. When we were together I spoke little yet my
selfish mind was sometimes borne away by the rapid course of his
ideas; I would lift my eyes with momentary brilliancy until memories
that never died and seldom slept would recur, and a tear would dim

Woodville for ever tried to lead me to the contemplation of what is
beautiful and happy in the world.[59] His own mind was constitunially
[_sic_] bent to a former belief in good [rather] than in evil and this
feeling which must even exhilirate the hopeless ever shone forth in
his words. He would talk of the wonderful powers of man, of their
present state and of their hopes: of what they had been and what they
were, and when reason could no longer guide him, his imagination as if
inspired shed light on the obscurity that veils the past and the
future. He loved to dwell on what might have been the state of the
earth before man lived on it, and how he first arose and gradually
became the strange, complicated, but as he said, the glorious creature
he now is. Covering the earth with their creations and forming by the
power of their minds another world more lovely than the visible frame
of things, even all the world that we find in their writings. A
beautiful creation, he would say, which may claim this superiority to
its model, that good and evil is more easily seperated[:] the good
rewarded in the way they themselves desire; the evil punished as all
things evil ought to be punished, not by pain which is revolting to
all philanthropy to consider but by quiet obscurity, which simply
deprives them of their harmful qualities; why kill the serpent when
you have extracted his fangs?

The poetry of his language and ideas which my words ill convey held me
enchained to his discourses. It was a melancholy pleasure to me to
listen to his inspired words; to catch for a moment the light of his
eyes[;] to feel a transient sympathy and then to awaken from the
delusion, again to know that all this was nothing,--a dream--a shadow
for that there was no reallity for me; my father had for ever deserted
me, leaving me only memories which set an eternal barrier between me
and my fellow creatures. I was indeed fellow to none. He--Woodville,
mourned the loss of his bride: others wept the various forms of misery
as they visited them: but infamy and guilt was mingled with my
portion; unlawful and detestable passion had poured its poison into my
ears and changed all my blood, so that it was no longer the kindly
stream that supports life but a cold fountain of bitterness corrupted
in its very source.[60] It must be the excess of madness that could
make me imagine that I could ever be aught but one alone; struck off
from humanity; bearing no affinity to man or woman; a wretch on whom
Nature had set her ban.

Sometimes Woodville talked to me of himself. He related his history
brief in happiness and woe and dwelt with passion on his and Elinor's
mutual love. "She was["], he said, "the brightest vision that ever
came upon the earth: there was somthing in her frank countenance, in
her voice, and in every motion of her graceful form that overpowered
me, as if it were a celestial creature that deigned to mingle with me
in intercourse more sweet than man had ever before enjoyed. Sorrow
fled before her; and her smile seemed to possess an influence like
light to irradiate all mental darkness. It was not like a human
loveliness that these gentle smiles went and came; but as a sunbeam on
a lake, now light and now obscure, flitting before as you strove to
catch them, and fold them for ever to your heart. I saw this smile
fade for ever. Alas! I could never have believed that it was indeed
Elinor that died if once when I spoke she had not lifted her almost
benighted eyes, and for one moment like nought beside on earth, more
lovely than a sunbeam, slighter, quicker than the waving plumage of a
bird, dazzling as lightning and like it giving day to night, yet mild
and faint, that smile came; it went, and then there was an end of all
joy to me."

Thus his own sorrows, or the shapes copied from nature that dwelt in
his mind with beauty greater than their own, occupied our talk while I
railed in my own griefs with cautious secresy. If for a moment he
shewed curiosity, my eyes fell, my voice died away and my evident
suffering made him quickly endeavour to banish the ideas he had
awakened; yet he for ever mingled consolation in his talk, and tried
to soften my despair by demonstrations of deep sympathy and
compassion. "We are both unhappy--" he would say to me; "I have told
you my melancholy tale and we have wept together the loss of that
lovely spirit that has so cruelly deserted me; but you hide your
griefs: I do not ask you to disclose them, but tell me if I may not
console you. It seems to me a wild adventure to find in this desart
one like you quite solitary: you are young and lovely; your manners
are refined and attractive; yet there is in your settled melancholy,
and something, I know not what, in your expressive eyes that seems to
seperate you from your kind: you shudder; pardon me, I entreat you
but I cannot help expressing this once at least the lively interest I
feel in your destiny.

"You never smile: your voice is low, and you utter your words as if
you were afraid of the slight sound they would produce: the expression
of awful and intense sorrow never for a moment fades from your
countenance. I have lost for ever the loveliest companion that any man
could ever have possessed, one who rather appears to have been a
superior spirit who by some strange accident wandered among us earthly
creatures, than as belonging to our kind. Yet I smile, and sometimes I
speak almost forgetful of the change I have endured. But your sad mien
never alters; your pulses beat and you breathe, yet you seem already
to belong to another world; and sometimes, pray pardon my wild
thoughts, when you touch my hand I am surprised to find your hand warm
when all the fire of life seems extinct within you.

"When I look upon you, the tears you shed, the soft deprecating look
with which you withstand enquiry; the deep sympathy your voice
expresses when I speak of my lesser sorrows add to my interest for
you. You stand here shelterless[.] You have cast yourself from among
us and you wither on this wild plain fo[r]lorn and helpless: some
dreadful calamity must have befallen you. Do not turn from me; I do
not ask you to reveal it: I only entreat you to listen to me and to
become familiar with the voice of consolation and kindness. If pity,
and admiration, and gentle affection can wean you from despair let me
attempt the task. I cannot see your look of deep grief without
endeavouring to restore you to happier feelings. Unbend your brow;
relax the stern melancholy of your regard; permit a friend, a sincere,
affectionate friend, I will be one, to convey some relief, some
momentary pause to your sufferings.

"Do not think that I would intrude upon your confidence: I only ask
your patience. Do not for ever look sorrow and never speak it; utter
one word of bitter complaint and I will reprove it with gentle
exhortation and pour on you the balm of compassion. You must not shut
me from all communion with you: do not tell me why you grieve but only
say the words, "I am unhappy," and you will feel relieved as if for
some time excluded from all intercourse by some magic spell you should
suddenly enter again the pale of human sympathy. I entreat you to
believe in my most sincere professions and to treat me as an old and
tried friend: promise me never to forget me, never causelessly to
banish me; but try to love me as one who would devote all his energies
to make you happy. Give me the name of friend; I will fulfill its
duties; and if for a moment complaint and sorrow would shape
themselves into words let me be near to speak peace to your vext

I repeat his persuasions in faint terms and cannot give you at the
same time the tone and gesture that animated them. Like a refreshing
shower on an arid soil they revived me, and although I still kept
their cause secret he led me to pour forth my bitter complaints and to
clothe my woe in words of gall and fire. With all the energy of
desperate grief I told him how I had fallen at once from bliss to
misery; how that for me there was no joy, no hope; that death however
bitter would be the welcome seal to all my pangs; death the skeleton
was to be beautiful as love. I know not why but I found it sweet to
utter these words to human ears; and though I derided all consolation
yet I was pleased to see it offered me with gentleness and kindness. I
listened quietly, and when he paused would again pour out my misery in
expressions that shewed how far too deep my wounds were for any cure.

But now also I began to reap the fruits of my perfect solitude. I had
become unfit for any intercourse, even with Woodville the most gentle
and sympathizing creature that existed. I had become captious and
unreasonable: my temper was utterly spoilt. I called him my friend but
I viewed all he did with jealous eyes. If he did not visit me at the
appointed hour I was angry, very angry, and told him that if indeed he
did feel interest in me it was cold, and could not be fitted for me, a
poor worn creature, whose deep unhappiness demanded much more than his
worldly heart could give. When for a moment I imagined that his manner
was cold I would fretfully say to him--"I was at peace before you
came; why have you disturbed me? You have given me new wants and now
your trifle with me as if my heart were as whole as yours, as if I
were not in truth a shorn lamb thrust out on the bleak hill side,
tortured by every blast. I wished for no friend, no sympathy[.] I
avoided you, you know I did, but you forced yourself upon me and gave
me those wants which you see with triump[h] give you power over me. Oh
the brave power of the bitter north wind which freezes the tears it
has caused to shed! But I will not bear this; go: the sun will rise
and set as before you came, and I shall sit among the pines or wander
on the heath weeping and complaining without wishing for you to
listen. You are cruel, very cruel, to treat me who bleed at every pore
in this rough manner."[61]

And then, when in answer to my peevish words, I saw his countenance
bent with living pity on me[,] when I saw him

    Gli occhi drizzo ver me con quel sembiante
    Che madre fa sopra figlioul deliro    P[a]radiso. C 1.[62]

I wept and said, "Oh, pardon me! You are good and kind but I am not
fit for life. Why am I obliged to live? To drag hour after hour, to
see the trees wave their branches restlessly, to feel the air, & to
suffer in all I feel keenest agony. My frame is strong, but my soul
sinks beneath this endurance of living anguish. Death is the goal that
I would attain, but, alas! I do not even see the end of the course. Do
you, my compassionate friend,[63] tell me how to die peacefully and
innocently and I will bless you: all that I, poor wretch, can desire
is a painless death."

But Woodville's words had magic in them, when beginning with the
sweetest pity, he would raise me by degrees out of myself and my
sorrows until I wondered at my own selfishness: but he left me and
despair returned; the work of consolation was ever to begin anew. I
often desired his entire absence; for I found that I was grown out of
the ways of life and that by long seclusion, although I could support
my accustomed grief, and drink the bitter daily draught with some
degree of patience, yet I had become unfit for the slightest novelty
of feeling. Expectation, and hopes, and affection were all too much
for me. I knew this, but at other times I was unreasonable and laid
the blame upon him, who was most blameless, and pevishly thought that
if his gentle soul were more gentle, if his intense sympathy were more
intense, he could drive the fiend from my soul and make me more human.
I am, I thought, a tragedy; a character that he comes to see act: now
and then he gives me my cue[64] that I may make a speech more to his
purpose: perhaps he is already planning a poem in which I am to
figure. I am a farce and play to him, but to me this is all dreary
reality: he takes all the profit and I bear all the burthen.


It is a strange circumstance but it often occurs that blessings by
their use turn to curses; and that I who in solitude had desired
sympathy as the only relief I could enjoy should now find it an
additional torture to me. During my father's life time I had always
been of an affectionate and forbearing disposition, but since those
days of joy alas! I was much changed. I had become arrogant, peevish,
and above all suspicious. Although the real interest of my narration
is now ended and I ought quickly to wind up its melancholy
catastrophe, yet I will relate one instance of my sad suspicion and
despair and how Woodville with the goodness and almost the power of an
angel, softened my rugged feelings and led me back to gentleness.[65]

He had promised to spend some hours with me one afternoon but a
violent and continual rain[66] prevented him. I was alone the whole
evening. I had passed two whole years alone unrepining, but now I was
miserable. He could not really care for me, I thought, for if he did
the storm would rather have made him come even if I had not expected
him, than, as it did, prevent a promised visit. He would well know
that this drear sky and gloomy rain would load my spirit almost to
madness: if the weather had been fine I should not have regretted his
absence as heavily as I necessarily must shut up in this miserable
cottage with no companions but my own wretched thoughts. If he were
truly my friend he would have calculated all this; and let me now
calculate this boasted friendship, and discover its real worth. He got
over his grief for Elinor, and the country became dull to him, so he
was glad to find even me for amusement; and when he does not know what
else to do he passes his lazy hours here, and calls this
friendship--It is true that his presence is a consolation to me, and
that his words are sweet, and, when he will he can pour forth thoughts
that win me from despair. His words are sweet,--and so, truly, is the
honey of the bee, but the bee has a sting, and unkindness is a worse
smart that that received from an insect's venom. I will[67] put him to
the proof. He says all hope is dead to him, and I know that it is dead
to me, so we are both equally fitted for death. Let me try if he will
die with me; and as I fear to die alone, if he will accompany [me] to
cheer me, and thus he can shew himself my friend in the only manner my
misery will permit.[68]

It was madness I believe, but I so worked myself up to this idea that
I could think of nothing else. If he dies with me it is well, and
there will be an end of two miserable beings; and if he will not, then
will I scoff at his friendship and drink the poison before him to
shame his cowardice. I planned the whole scene with an earnest heart
and franticly set my soul on this project. I procured Laudanum and
placing it in two glasses on the table, filled my room with flowers
and decorated the last scene of my tragedy with the nicest care. As
the hour for his coming approached my heart softened and I wept; not
that I gave up my plan, but even when resolved the mind must undergo
several revolutions of feeling before it can drink its death.

Now all was ready and Woodville came. I received him at the door of my
cottage and leading him solemnly into the room, I said: "My friend, I
wish to die. I am quite weary of enduring the misery which hourly I do
endure, and I will throw it off. What slave will not, if he may,
escape from his chains? Look, I weep: for more than two years I have
never enjoyed one moment free from anguish. I have often desired to
die; but I am a very coward. It is hard for one so young who was once
so happy as I was; [_sic_] voluntarily to divest themselves of all
sensation and to go alone to the dreary grave; I dare not. I must die,
yet my fear chills me; I pause and shudder and then for months I
endure my excess of wretchedness. But now the time is come when I may
quit life, I have a friend who will not refuse to accompany me in this
dark journey; such is my request:[69] earnestly do I entreat and
implore you to die with me. Then we shall find Elinor and what I have
lost. Look, I am prepared; there is the death draught, let us drink it
together and willingly & joyfully quit this hated round of daily

"You turn from me; yet before you deny me reflect, Woodville, how
sweet it were to cast off the load of tears and misery under which we
now labour: and surely we shall find light after we have passed the
dark valley. That drink will plunge us in a sweet slumber, and when we
awaken what joy will be ours to find all our sorrows and fears past.
_A little patience, and all will be over_; aye, a very little
patience; for, look, there is the key of our prison; we hold it in our
own hands, and are we more debased than slaves to cast it away and
give ourselves up to voluntary bondage? Even now if we had courage we
might be free. Behold, my cheek is flushed with pleasure at the
imagination of death; all that we love are dead. Come, give me your
hand, one look of joyous sympathy and we will go together and seek
them; a lulling journey; where our arrival will bring bliss and our
waking be that of angels. Do you delay? Are you a coward, Woodville?
Oh fie! Cast off this blank look of human melancholy. Oh! that I had
words to express the luxury of death that I might win you. I tell you
we are no longer miserable mortals; we are about to become Gods;
spirits free and happy as gods. What fool on a bleak shore, seeing a
flowery isle on the other side with his lost love beckoning to him
from it would pause because the wave is dark and turbid?

    "What if some little payne the passage have
    That makes frayle flesh to fear the bitter wave?
    Is not short payne well borne that brings long ease,
    And lays the soul to sleep in quiet grave?[F]

"Do you mark my words; I have learned the language of despair: I have
it all by heart, for I am Despair; and a strange being am I, joyous,
triumphant Despair. But those words are false, for the wave may be
dark but it is not bitter. We lie down, and close our eyes with a
gentle good night, and when we wake, we are free. Come then, no more
delay, thou tardy one! Behold the pleasant potion! Look, I am a spirit
of good, and not a human maid that invites thee, and with winning
accents, (oh, that they would win thee!) says, Come and drink."[70]

As I spoke I fixed my eyes upon his countenance, and his exquisite
beauty, the heavenly compassion that beamed from his eyes, his gentle
yet earnest look of deprecation and wonder even before he spoke
wrought a change in my high strained feelings taking from me all the
sterness of despair and filling me only with the softest grief. I saw
his eyes humid also as he took both my hands in his; and sitting down
near me, he said:[71]

"This is a sad deed to which you would lead me, dearest friend, and
your woe must indeed be deep that could fill you with these unhappy
thoughts. You long for death and yet you fear it and wish me to be
your companion. But I have less courage than you and even thus
accompanied I dare not die. Listen to me, and then reflect if you
ought to win me to your project, even if with the over-bearing
eloquence of despair you could make black death so inviting that the
fair heaven should appear darkness. Listen I entreat you to the words
of one who has himself nurtured desperate thoughts, and longed with
impatient desire for death, but who has at length trampled the phantom
under foot, and crushed his sting. Come, as you have played Despair
with me I will play the part of Una with you and bring you hurtless
from his dark cavern. Listen to me, and let yourself be softened by
words in which no selfish passion lingers.

"We know not what all this wide world means; its strange mixture of
good and evil. But we have been placed here and bid live and hope. I
know not what we are to hope; but there is some good beyond us that we
must seek; and that is our earthly task. If misfortune come against us
we must fight with her; we must cast her aside, and still go on to
find out that which it is our nature to desire. Whether this prospect
of future good be the preparation for another existence I know not; or
whether that it is merely that we, as workmen in God's vineyard, must
lend a hand to smooth the way for our posterity. If it indeed be that;
if the efforts of the virtuous now, are to make the future inhabitants
of this fair world more happy; if the labours of those who cast aside
selfishness, and try to know the truth of things, are to free the men
of ages, now far distant but which will one day come, from the burthen
under which those who now live groan, and like you weep bitterly; if
they free them but from one of what are now the necessary evils of
life, truly I will not fail but will with my whole soul aid the work.
From my youth I have said, I will be virtuous; I will dedicate my life
for the good of others; I will do my best to extirpate evil and if the
spirit who protects ill should so influence circumstances that I
should suffer through my endeavour, yet while there is hope and hope
there ever must be, of success, cheerfully do I gird myself to my

"I have powers; my countrymen think well of them. Do you think I sow
my seed in the barren air, & have no end in what I do? Believe me, I
will never desert life untill this last hope is torn from my bosom,
that in some way my labours may form a link in the chain of gold with
which we ought all to strive to drag Happiness from where she sits
enthroned above the clouds, now far beyond our reach, to inhabit the
earth with us. Let us suppose that Socrates, or Shakespear, or
Rousseau had been seized with despair and died in youth when they were
as young as I am; do you think that we and all the world should not
have lost incalculable improvement in our good feelings and our
happiness thro' their destruction. I am not like one of these; they
influenced millions: but if I can influence but a hundred, but ten,
but one solitary individual, so as in any way to lead him from ill to
good, that will be a joy to repay me for all my sufferings, though
they were a million times multiplied; and that hope will support me to
bear them[.]

"And those who do not work for posterity; or working, as may be my
case, will not be known by it; yet they, believe me, have also their
duties. You grieve because you are unhappy[;] it is happiness you seek
but you despair of obtaining it. But if you can bestow happiness on
another; if you can give one other person only one hour of joy ought
you not to live to do it? And every one has it in their power to do
that. The inhabitants of this world suffer so much pain. In crowded
cities, among cultivated plains, or on the desart mountains, pain is
thickly sown, and if we can tear up but one of these noxious weeds, or
more, if in its stead we can sow one seed of corn, or plant one fair
flower, let that be motive sufficient against suicide. Let us not
desert our task while there is the slightest hope that we may in a
future day do this.

"Indeed I dare not die. I have a mother whose support and hope I am. I
have a friend who loves me as his life, and in whose breast I should
infix a mortal sting if I ungratefully left him. So I will not die.
Nor shall you, my friend; cheer up; cease to weep, I entreat you. Are
you not young, and fair, and good? Why should you despair? Or if you
must for yourself, why for others? If you can never be happy, can you
never bestow happiness[?] Oh! believe me, if you beheld on lips pale
with grief one smile of joy and gratitude, and knew that you were
parent of that smile, and that without you it had never been, you
would feel so pure and warm a happiness that you would wish to live
for ever again and again to enjoy the same pleasure[.]

"Come, I see that you have already cast aside the sad thoughts you
before franticly indulged. Look in that mirror; when I came your brow
was contracted, your eyes deep sunk in your head, your lips quivering;
your hands trembled violently when I took them; but now all is
tranquil and soft. You are grieved and there is grief in the
expression of your countenance but it is gentle and sweet. You allow
me to throw away this cursed drink; you smile; oh, Congratulate me,
hope is triumphant, and I have done some good."

These words are shadowy as I repeat them but they were indeed words of
fire and produced a warm hope in me (I, miserable wretch, to hope!)
that tingled like pleasure in my veins. He did not leave me for many
hours; not until he had improved the spark that he had kindled, and
with an angelic hand fostered the return of somthing that seemed like
joy. He left me but I still was calm, and after I had saluted the
starry sky and dewy earth with eyes of love and a contented good
night, I slept sweetly, visited by dreams, the first of pleasure I had
had for many long months.

But this was only a momentary relief and my old habits of feeling
returned; for I was doomed while in life to grieve, and to the natural
sorrow of my father's death and its most terrific cause, immagination
added a tenfold weight of woe. I believed myself to be polluted by the
unnatural love I had inspired, and that I was a creature cursed and
set apart by nature. I thought that like another Cain, I had a mark
set on my forehead to shew mankind that there was a barrier between me
and they [_sic_].[72] Woodville had told me that there was in my
countenance an expression as if I belonged to another world; so he had
seen that sign: and there it lay a gloomy mark to tell the world that
there was that within my soul that no silence could render
sufficiently obscure. Why when fate drove me to become this outcast
from human feeling; this monster with whom none might mingle in
converse and love; why had she not from that fatal and most accursed
moment, shrouded me in thick mists and placed real darkness between me
and my fellows so that I might never more be seen?, [_sic_] and as I
passed, like a murky cloud loaded with blight, they might only
perceive me by the cold chill I should cast upon them; telling them,
how truly, that something unholy was near? Then I should have lived
upon this dreary heath unvisited, and blasting none by my unhallowed
gaze. Alas! I verily believe that if the near prospect of death did
not dull and soften my bitter [fe]elings, if for a few months longer I
had continued to live as I then lived, strong in body, but my soul
corrupted to its core by a deadly cancer[,] if day after day I had
dwelt on these dreadful sentiments I should have become mad, and
should have fancied myself a living pestilence: so horrible to my own
solitary thoughts did this form, this voice, and all this wretched
self appear; for had it not been the source of guilt that wants a

This was superstition. I did not feel thus franticly when first I knew
that the holy name of father was become a curse to me: but my lonely
life inspired me with wild thoughts; and then when I saw Woodville &
day after day he tried to win my confidence and I never dared give
words to my dark tale, I was impressed more strongly with the
withering fear that I was in truth a marked creature, a pariah, only
fit for death.

[F] Spencer's Faery Queen Book 1--Canto [9]


As I was perpetually haunted by these ideas, you may imagine that the
influence of Woodville's words was very temporary; and that although I
did not again accuse him of unkindness, yet I soon became as unhappy
as before. Soon after this incident we parted. He heard that his
mother was ill, and he hastened to her. He came to take leave of me,
and we walked together on the heath for the last time. He promised
that he would come and see me again; and bade me take cheer, and to
encourage what happy thoughts I could, untill time and fortitude
should overcome my misery, and I could again mingle in society.

"Above all other admonition on my part," he said, "cherish and follow
this one: do not despair. That is the most dangerous gulph on which
you perpetually totter; but you must reassure your steps, and take
hope to guide you.[74] Hope, and your wounds will be already half
healed: but if you obstinately despair, there never more will be
comfort for you. Believe me, my dearest friend, that there is a joy
that the sun and earth and all its beauties can bestow that you will
one day feel. The refreshing bliss of Love will again visit your
heart, and undo the spell that binds you to woe, untill you wonder how
your eyes could be closed in the long night that burthens you. I dare
not hope that I have inspired you with sufficient interest that the
thought of me, and the affection that I shall ever bear you, will
soften your melancholy and decrease the bitterness of your tears. But
if my friendship can make you look on life with less disgust, beware
how you injure it with suspicion. Love is a delicate sprite[75] and
easily hurt by rough jealousy. Guard, I entreat you, a firm persuasion
of my sincerity in the inmost recesses of your heart out of the reach
of the casual winds that may disturb its surface. Your temper is made
unequal by suffering, and the tenor of your mind is, I fear, sometimes
shaken by unworthy causes; but let your confidence in my sympathy and
love be deeper far, and incapable of being reached by these agitations
that come and go, and if they touch not your affections leave you

These were some of Woodville's last lessons. I wept as I listened to
him; and after we had taken an affectionate farewell, I followed him
far with my eyes until they saw the last of my earthly comforter. I
had insisted on accompanying him across the heath towards the town
where he dwelt: the sun was yet high when he left me, and I turned my
steps towards my cottage. It was at the latter end of the month of
September when the nights have become chill. But the weather was
serene, and as I walked on I fell into no unpleasing reveries. I
thought of Woodville with gratitude and kindness and did not, I know
not why, regret his departure with any bitterness. It seemed that
after one great shock all other change was trivial to me; and I walked
on wondering when the time would come when we should all four, my
dearest father restored to me, meet in some sweet Paradise[.] I
pictured to myself a lovely river such as that on whose banks Dante
describes Mathilda gathering flowers, which ever flows

             ---- bruna, bruna,
    Sotto l'ombra perpetua, che mai
    Raggiar non lascia sole ivi, nè Luna.[76]

And then I repeated to myself all that lovely passage that relates the
entrance of Dante into the terrestrial Paradise; and thought it would
be sweet when I wandered on those lovely banks to see the car of light
descend with my long lost parent to be restored to me. As I waited
there in expectation of that moment, I thought how, of the lovely
flowers that grew there, I would wind myself a chaplet and crown
myself for joy: I would sing _sul margine d'un rio_,[77] my father's
favourite song, and that my voice gliding through the windless air
would announce to him in whatever bower he sat expecting the moment of
our union, that his daughter was come. Then the mark of misery would
have faded from my brow, and I should raise my eyes fearlessly to meet
his, which ever beamed with the soft lustre of innocent love. When I
reflected on the magic look of those deep eyes I wept, but gently,
lest my sobs should disturb the fairy scene.

I was so entirely wrapt in this reverie that I wandered on, taking no
heed of my steps until I actually stooped down to gather a flower for
my wreath on that bleak plain where no flower grew, when I awoke from
my day dream and found myself I knew not where.

The sun had set and the roseate hue which the clouds had caught from
him in his descent had nearly died away. A wind swept across the
plain, I looked around me and saw no object that told me where I was;
I had lost myself, and in vain attempted to find my path. I wandered
on, and the coming darkness made every trace indistinct by which I
might be guided. At length all was veiled in the deep obscurity of
blackest night; I became weary and knowing that my servant was to
sleep that night at the neighbouring village, so that my absence would
alarm no one; and that I was safe in this wild spot from every
intruder, I resolved to spend the night where I was. Indeed I was too
weary to walk further: the air was chill but I was careless of bodily
inconvenience, and I thought that I was well inured to the weather
during my two years of solitude, when no change of seasons prevented
my perpetual wanderings.

I lay upon the grass surrounded by a darkness which not the slightest
beam of light penetrated--There was no sound for the deep night had
laid to sleep the insects, the only creatures that lived on the lone
spot where no tree or shrub could afford shelter to aught else--There
was a wondrous silence in the air that calmed my senses yet which
enlivened my soul, my mind hurried from image to image and seemed to
grasp an eternity. All in my heart was shadowy yet calm, untill my
ideas became confused and at length died away in sleep.[78]

When I awoke it rained:[79] I was already quite wet, and my limbs were
stiff and my head giddy with the chill of night. It was a drizzling,
penetrating shower; as my dank hair clung to my neck and partly
covered my face, I had hardly strength to part with my fingers, the
long strait locks that fell before my eyes. The darkness was much
dissipated and in the east where the clouds were least dense the moon
was visible behind the thin grey cloud--

    The moon is behind, and at the full
    And yet she looks both small and dull.[80]

Its presence gave me a hope that by its means I might find my home.
But I was languid and many hours passed before I could reach the
cottage, dragging as I did my slow steps, and often resting on the wet
earth unable to proceed.

I particularly mark this night, for it was that which has hurried on
the last scene of my tragedy, which else might have dwindled on
through long years of listless sorrow. I was very ill when I arrived
and quite incapable of taking off my wet clothes that clung about me.
In the morning, on her return, my servant found me almost lifeless,
while possessed by a high fever I was lying on the floor of my room.

I was very ill for a long time, and when I recovered from the
immediate danger of fever, every symptom of a rapid consumption
declared itself. I was for some time ignorant of this and thought that
my excessive weakness was the consequence of the fever; [_sic_] But my
strength became less and less; as winter came on I had a cough; and my
sunken cheek, before pale, burned with a hectic fever. One by one
these symptoms struck me; & I became convinced that the moment I had
so much desired was about to arrive and that I was dying. I was
sitting by my fire, the physician who had attended me ever since my
fever had just left me, and I looked over his prescription in which
digitalis was the prominent medecine. "Yes," I said, "I see how this
is, and it is strange that I should have deceived myself so long; I am
about to die an innocent death, and it will be sweeter even than that
which the opium promised."

I rose and walked slowly to the window; the wide heath was covered by
snow which sparkled under the beams of the sun that shone brightly
thro' the pure, frosty air: a few birds were pecking some crumbs under
my window.[81] I smiled with quiet joy; and in my thoughts, which
through long habit would for ever connect themselves into one train,
as if I shaped them into words, I thus addressed the scene before me:

"I salute thee, beautiful Sun, and thou, white Earth, fair and cold!
Perhaps I shall never see thee again covered with green, and the sweet
flowers of the coming spring will blossom on my grave. I am about to
leave thee; soon this living spirit which is ever busy among strange
shapes and ideas, which belong not to thee, soon it will have flown to
other regions and this emaciated body will rest insensate on thy bosom

    "Rolled round in earth's diurnal course
    With rocks, and stones, and trees.

"For it will be the same with thee, who art called our Universal
Mother,[82] when I am gone. I have loved thee; and in my days both of
happiness and sorrow I have peopled your solitudes with wild fancies
of my own creation. The woods, and lakes, and mountains which I have
loved, have for me a thousand associations; and thou, oh, Sun! hast
smiled upon, and borne your part in many imaginations that sprung to
life in my soul alone, and which will die with me. Your solitudes,
sweet land, your trees and waters will still exist, moved by your
winds, or still beneath the eye of noon, though[83] [w]hat I have felt
about ye, and all my dreams which have often strangely deformed thee,
will die with me. You will exist to reflect other images in other
minds, and ever will remain the same, although your reflected
semblance vary in a thousand ways, changeable as the hearts of those
who view thee. One of these fragile mirrors, that ever doted on thine
image, is about to be broken, crumbled to dust. But everteeming Nature
will create another and another, and thou wilt loose nought by my

"Thou wilt ever be the same. Recieve then the grateful farewell of a
fleeting shadow who is about to disappear, who joyfully leaves thee,
yet with a last look of affectionate thankfulness. Farewell! Sky, and
fields and woods; the lovely flowers that grow on thee; thy mountains
& thy rivers; to the balmy air and the strong wind of the north, to
all, a last farewell. I shall shed no more tears for my task is almost
fulfilled, and I am about to be rewarded for long and most burthensome
suffering. Bless thy child even even [_sic_] in death, as I bless
thee; and let me sleep at peace in my quiet grave."

I feel death to be near at hand and I am calm. I no longer despair,
but look on all around me with placid affection. I find it sweet to
watch the progressive decay of my strength, and to repeat to myself,
another day and yet another, but again I shall not see the red leaves
of autumn; before that time I shall be with my father. I am glad
Woodville is not with me for perhaps he would grieve, and I desire to
see smiles alone during the last scene of my life; when I last wrote
to him I told him of my ill health but not of its mortal tendency,
lest he should conceive it to be his duty to come to me for I fear
lest the tears of friendship should destroy the blessed calm of my
mind. I take pleasure in arranging all the little details which will
occur when I shall no longer be. In truth I am in love with death; no
maiden ever took more pleasure in the contemplation of her bridal
attire than I in fancying my limbs already enwrapt in their shroud:
is it not my marriage dress? Alone it will unite me to my father when
in an eternal mental union we shall never part.

I will not dwell on the last changes that I feel in the final decay of
nature. It is rapid but without pain: I feel a strange pleasure in it.
For long years these are the first days of peace that have visited me.
I no longer exhaust my miserable heart by bitter tears and frantic
complaints; I no longer the [_sic_] reproach the sun, the earth, the
air, for pain and wretchedness. I wait in quiet expectation for the
closing hours of a life which has been to me most sweet & bitter. I do
not die not having enjoyed life; for sixteen years I was happy: during
the first months of my father's return I had enjoyed ages of pleasure:
now indeed I am grown old in grief; my steps are feeble like those of
age; I have become peevish and unfit for life; so having passed little
more than twenty years upon the earth I am more fit for my narrow
grave than many are when they reach the natural term of their lives.

Again and again I have passed over in my remembrance the different
scenes of my short life: if the world is a stage and I merely an actor
on it my part has been strange, and, alas! tragical. Almost from
infancy I was deprived of all the testimonies of affection which
children generally receive; I was thrown entirely upon my own
resources, and I enjoyed what I may almost call unnatural pleasures,
for they were dreams and not realities. The earth was to me a magic
lantern and I [a] gazer, and a listener but no actor; but then came
the transporting and soul-reviving era of my existence: my father
returned and I could pour my warm affections on a human heart; there
was a new sun and a new earth created to me; the waters of existence
sparkled: joy! joy! but, alas! what grief! My bliss was more rapid
than the progress of a sunbeam on a mountain, which discloses its
glades & woods, and then leaves it dark & blank; to my happiness
followed madness and agony, closed by despair.

This was the drama of my life which I have now depicted upon paper.
During three months I have been employed in this task. The memory of
sorrow has brought tears; the memory of happiness a warm glow the
lively shadow of that joy. Now my tears are dried; the glow has faded
from my cheeks, and with a few words of farewell to you, Woodville, I
close my work: the last that I shall perform.

Farewell, my only living friend; you are the sole tie that binds me to
existence, and now I break it[.] It gives me no pain to leave you; nor
can our seperation give you much. You never regarded me as one of this
world, but rather as a being, who for some penance was sent from the
Kingdom of Shadows; and she passed a few days weeping on the earth and
longing to return to her native soil. You will weep but they will be
tears of gentleness. I would, if I thought that it would lessen your
regret, tell you to smile and congratulate me on my departure from the
misery you beheld me endure. I would say; Woodville, rejoice with your
friend, I triumph now and am most happy. But I check these
expressions; these may not be the consolations of the living; they
weep for their own misery, and not for that of the being they have
lost. No; shed a few natural tears due to my memory: and if you ever
visit my grave, pluck from thence a flower, and lay it to your heart;
for your heart is the only tomb in which my memory will be enterred.

My death is rapidly approaching and you are not near to watch the
flitting and vanishing of my spirit. Do no[t] regret this; for death
is a too terrible an [_sic_] object for the living. It is one of those
adversities which hurt instead of purifying the heart; for it is so
intense a misery that it hardens & dulls the feelings. Dreadful as the
time was when I pursued my father towards the ocean, & found their
[_sic_] only his lifeless corpse; yet for my own sake I should prefer
that to the watching one by one his senses fade; his pulse weaken--and
sleeplessly as it were devour his life in gazing. To see life in his
limbs & to know that soon life would no longer be there; to see the
warm breath issue from his lips and to know they would soon be
chill--I will not continue to trace this frightful picture; you
suffered this torture once; I never did.[85] And the remembrance fills
your heart sometimes with bitter despair when otherwise your feelings
would have melted into soft sorrow.

So day by day I become weaker, and life flickers in my wasting form,
as a lamp about to loose it vivifying oil. I now behold the glad sun
of May. It was May, four years ago, that I first saw my beloved
father; it was in May, three years ago that my folly destroyed the
only being I was doomed to love. May is returned, and I die. Three
days ago, the anniversary of our meeting; and, alas! of our eternal
seperation, after a day of killing emotion, I caused myself to be led
once more to behold the face of nature. I caused myself to be carried
to some meadows some miles distant from my cottage; the grass was
being mowed, and there was the scent of hay in the fields; all the
earth look[ed] fresh and its inhabitants happy. Evening approached and
I beheld the sun set. Three years ago and on that day and hour it
shone through the branches and leaves of the beech wood and its beams
flickered upon the countenance of him whom I then beheld for the last
time.[86] I now saw that divine orb, gilding all the clouds with
unwonted splendour, sink behind the horizon; it disappeared from a
world where he whom I would seek exists not; it approached a world
where he exists not[.] Why do I weep so bitterly? Why my [_sic_] does
my heart heave with vain endeavour to cast aside the bitter anguish
that covers it "as the waters cover the sea." I go from this world
where he is no longer and soon I shall meet him in another.

Farewell, Woodville, the turf will soon be green on my grave; and the
violets will bloom on it. _There_ is my hope and my expectation;
your's are in this world; may they be fulfilled.[87]



_F of F--A_ _The Fields of Fancy_, in Lord Abinger's notebook
_F of F--B_ _The Fields of Fancy_, in the notebook in the Bodleian Library
_S-R fr_     fragments of _The Fields of Fancy_ among the papers of the
               late Sir John Shelley-Rolls, now in the Bodleian Library

[1] The name is spelled thus in the MSS of _Mathilda_ and _The Fields
of Fancy_, though in the printed _Journal_ (taken from _Shelley and
Mary_) and in the _Letters_ it is spelled _Matilda_. In the MS of the
journal, however, it is spelled first _Matilda_, later _Mathilda_.

[2] Mary has here added detail and contrast to the description in _F
of F--A_, in which the passage "save a few black patches ... on the
plain ground" does not appear.

[3] The addition of "I am alone ... withered me" motivates Mathilda's
state of mind and her resolve to write her history.

[4] Mathilda too is the unwitting victim in a story of incest. Like
Oedipus, she has lost her parent-lover by suicide; like him she leaves
the scene of the revelation overwhelmed by a sense of her own guilt,
"a sacred horror"; like him, she finds a measure of peace as she is
about to die.

[5] The addition of "the precious memorials ... gratitude towards
you," by its suggestion of the relationship between Mathilda and
Woodville, serves to justify the detailed narration.

[6] At this point two sheets have been removed from the notebook.
There is no break in continuity, however.

[7] The descriptions of Mathilda's father and mother and the account
of their marriage in the next few pages are greatly expanded from _F
of F--A_, where there is only one brief paragraph. The process of
expansion can be followed in _S-R fr_ and in _F of F--B_. The
development of the character of Diana (who represents Mary's own
mother, Mary Wollstonecraft) gave Mary the most trouble. For the
identifications with Mary's father and mother, see Nitchie, _Mary
Shelley_, pp. 11, 90-93, 96-97.

[8] The passage "There was a gentleman ... school & college vacations"
is on a slip of paper pasted on page 11 of the MS. In the margin are
two fragments, crossed out, evidently parts of what is supplanted by
the substituted passage: "an angelic disposition and a quick,
penetrating understanding" and "her visits ... to ... his house were
long & frequent & there." In _F of F--B_ Mary wrote of Diana's
understanding "that often receives the name of masculine from its
firmness and strength." This adjective had often been applied to Mary
Wollstonecraft's mind. Mary Shelley's own understanding had been
called masculine by Leigh Hunt in 1817 in the _Examiner_. The word was
used also by a reviewer of her last published work, _Rambles in
Germany and Italy, 1844_. (See Nitchie, _Mary Shelley_, p. 178.)

[9] The account of Diana in _Mathilda_ is much better ordered and more
coherent than that in _F of F--B_.

[10] The description of the effect of Diana's death on her husband is
largely new in _Mathilda_. _F of F--B_ is frankly incomplete; _F of
F--A_ contains some of this material; _Mathilda_ puts it in order and
fills in the gaps.

[11] This paragraph is an elaboration of the description of her aunt's
coldness as found in _F of F--B_. There is only one sentence in _F of

[12] The description of Mathilda's love of nature and of animals is
elaborated from both rough drafts. The effect, like that of the
preceding addition (see note 11), is to emphasize Mathilda's
loneliness. For the theme of loneliness in Mary Shelley's work, see
Nitchie, _Mary Shelley_, pp. 13-17.

[13] This paragraph is a revision of _F of F--B_, which is
fragmentary. There is nothing in _F of F--A_ and only one scored-out
sentence in _S-R fr_. None of the rough drafts tells of her plans to
join her father.

[14] The final paragraph in Chapter II is entirely new.

[15] The account of the return of Mathilda's father is very slightly
revised from that in _F of F--A_. _F of F--B_ has only a few
fragmentary sentences, scored out. It resumes with the paragraph
beginning, "My father was very little changed."

[16] Symbolic of Mathilda's subsequent life.

[17] _Illusion, or the Trances of Nourjahad_, a melodrama, was
performed at Drury Lane, November 25, 1813. It was anonymous, but it
was attributed by some reviewers to Byron, a charge which he
indignantly denied. See Byron, _Letters and Journals_, ed. by Rowland
E. Prothero (6 vols. London: Murray, 1902-1904), II, 288.

[18] This paragraph is in _F of F--B_ but not in _F of F--A_. In the
margin of the latter, however, is written: "It was not of the tree of
knowledge that I ate for no evil followed--it must be of the tree of
life that grows close beside it or--". Perhaps this was intended to go
in the preceding paragraph after "My ideas were enlarged by his
conversation." Then, when this paragraph was added, the figure,
noticeably changed, was included here.

[19] Here the MS of _F of F--B_ breaks off to resume only with the
meeting of Mathilda and Woodville.

[20] At the end of the story (p. 79) Mathilda says, "Death is too
terrible an object for the living." Mary was thinking of the deaths of
her two children.

[21] Mary had read the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius in 1817
and she had made an Italian translation, the MS of which is now in the
Library of Congress. See _Journal_, pp. 79, 85-86.

[22] The end of this paragraph gave Mary much trouble. In _F of F--A_
after the words, "my tale must," she develops an elaborate figure: "go
with the stream that hurries on--& now was this stream precipitated by
an overwhelming fall from the pleasant vallies through which it
wandered--down hideous precipieces to a desart black & hopeless--".
This, the original ending of the chapter, was scored out, and a new,
simplified version which, with some deletions and changes, became that
used in _Mathilda_ was written in the margins of two pages (ff. 57,
58). This revision is a good example of Mary's frequent improvement of
her style by the omission of purple patches.

[23] In _F of F--A_ there follows a passage which has been scored out
and which does not appear in _Mathilda_: "I have tried in somewhat
feeble language to describe the excess of what I may almost call my
adoration for my father--you may then in some faint manner imagine my
despair when I found that he shunned [me] & that all the little arts I
used to re-awaken his lost love made him"--. This is a good example of
Mary's frequent revision for the better by the omission of the obvious
and expository. But the passage also has intrinsic interest.
Mathilda's "adoration" for her father may be compared to Mary's
feeling for Godwin. In an unpublished letter (1822) to Jane Williams
she wrote, "Until I met Shelley I [could?] justly say that he was my
God--and I remember many childish instances of the [ex]cess of
attachment I bore for him." See Nitchie, _Mary Shelley_, p. 89, and
note 9.

[24] Cf. the account of the services of Fantasia in the opening
chapter of _F of F--A_ (see pp. 90-102) together with note 3 to _The
Fields of Fancy_.

[25] This passage beginning "Day after day" and closing with the
quotation is not in _F of F--A_, but it is in _S-R fr_. The quotation
is from _The Captain_ by John Fletcher and a collaborator, possibly
Massinger. These lines from Act I, Sc. 3 are part of a speech by Lelia
addressed to her lover. Later in the play Lelia attempts to seduce her
father--possibly a reason for Mary's selection of the lines.

[26] At this point (f. 56 of the notebook) begins a long passage,
continuing through Chapter V, in which Mary's emotional disturbance in
writing about the change in Mathilda's father (representing both
Shelley and Godwin?) shows itself on the pages of the MS. They look
more like the rough draft than the fair copy. There are numerous slips
of the pen, corrections in phrasing and sentence structure, dashes
instead of other marks of punctuation, a large blot of ink on f. 57,
one major deletion (see note 32).

[27] In the margin of _F of F--A_ Mary wrote, "Lord B's Ch'de Harold."
The reference is to stanzas 71 and 72 of Canto IV. Byron compares the
rainbow on the cataract first to "Hope upon a death-bed" and finally

Resembling, 'mid the torture of the scene, Love watching Madness with
unalterable mien.

[28] In _F of F--A_ Mathilda "took up Ariosto & read the story of
Isabella." Mary's reason for the change is not clear. Perhaps she
thought that the fate of Isabella, a tale of love and lust and death
(though not of incest), was too close to what was to be Mathilda's
fate. She may have felt--and rightly--that the allusions to Lelia and
to Myrrha were ample foreshadowings. The reasons for the choice of the
seventh canto of Book II of the _Faerie Queene_ may lie in the
allegorical meaning of Guyon, or Temperance, and the "dread and
horror" of his experience.

[29] With this speech, which is not in _F of F--A_, Mary begins to
develop the character of the Steward, who later accompanies Mathilda
on her search for her father. Although he is to a very great extent
the stereptyped faithful servant, he does serve to dramatize the
situation both here and in the later scene.

[30] This clause is substituted for a more conventional and less
dramatic passage in _F of F--A_: "& besides there appeared more of
struggle than remorse in his manner although sometimes I thought I saw
glim[p]ses of the latter feeling in his tumultuous starts & gloomy

[31] These paragraphs beginning Chapter V are much expanded from _F of
F--A_. Some of the details are in the _S-R fr_. This scene is recalled
at the end of the story. (See page 80) Cf. what Mary says about places
that are associated with former emotions in her _Rambles in Germany
and Italy_ (2 vols., London: Moxon, 1844), II, 78-79. She is writing
of her approach to Venice, where, twenty-five years before, little
Clara had died. "It is a strange, but to any person who has suffered,
a familiar circumstance, that those who are enduring mental or
corporeal agony are strangely alive to immediate external objects, and
their imagination even exercises its wild power over them.... Thus the
banks of the Brenta presented to me a moving scene; not a palace, not
a tree of which I did not recognize, as marked and recorded, at a
moment when life and death hung upon our speedy arrival at Venice."

[32] The remainder of this chapter, which describes the crucial scene
between Mathilda and her father, is the result of much revision from
_F of F--A_. Some of the revisions are in _S-R fr_. In general the
text of _Mathilda_ is improved in style. Mary adds concrete, specific
words and phrases; e.g., at the end of the first paragraph of
Mathilda's speech, the words "of incertitude" appear in _Mathilda_ for
the first time. She cancels, even in this final draft, an
over-elaborate figure of speech after the words in the father's reply,
"implicated in my destruction"; the cancelled passage is too flowery
to be appropriate here: "as if when a vulture is carrying off some
hare it is struck by an arrow his helpless victim entangled in the
same fate is killed by the defeat of its enemy. One word would do all
this." Furthermore the revised text shows greater understanding and
penetration of the feelings of both speakers: the addition of "Am I
the cause of your grief?" which brings out more dramatically what
Mathilda has said in the first part of this paragraph; the analysis of
the reasons for her presistent questioning; the addition of the final
paragraph of her plea, "Alas! Alas!... you hate me!" which prepares
for the father's reply.

[33] Almost all the final paragraph of the chapter is added to _F of
F--A_. Three brief _S-R fr_ are much revised and simplified.

[34] _Decameron_, 4th day, 1st story. Mary had read the _Decameron_ in
May, 1819. See _Journal_, p. 121.

[35] The passage "I should fear ... I must despair" is in _S-R fr_ but
not in _F of F--A_. There, in the margin, is the following: "Is it not
the prerogative of superior virtue to pardon the erring and to weigh
with mercy their offenses?" This sentence does not appear in
_Mathilda_. Also in the margin of _F of F--A_ is the number (9), the
number of the _S-R fr_.

[36] The passage "enough of the world ... in unmixed delight" is on a
slip pasted over the middle of the page. Some of the obscured text is
visible in the margin, heavily scored out. Also in the margin is
"Canto IV Vers Ult," referring to the quotation from Dante's
_Paradiso_. This quotation, with the preceding passage beginning "in
whose eyes," appears in _Mathilda_ only.

[37] The reference to Diana, with the father's rationalization of his
love for Mathilda, is in _S-R fr_ but not in _F of F--A_.

[38] In _F of F--A_ this is followed by a series of other gloomy
concessive clauses which have been scored out to the advantage of the

[39] This paragraph has been greatly improved by the omission of
elaborate over-statement; e.g., "to pray for mercy & respite from my
fear" (_F of F--A_) becomes merely "to pray."

[40] This paragraph about the Steward is added in _Mathilda_. In _F of
F--A_ he is called a servant and his name is Harry. See note 29.

[41] This sentence, not in _F of F--A_, recalls Mathilda's dream.

[42] This passage is somewhat more dramatic than that in _F of F--A_,
putting what is there merely a descriptive statement into quotation

[43] A stalactite grotto on the island of Antiparos in the Aegean Sea.

[44] A good description of Mary's own behavior in England after
Shelley's death, of the surface placidity which concealed stormy
emotion. See Nitchie, _Mary Shelley_, pp. 8-10.

[45] _Job_, 17: 15-16, slightly misquoted.

[46] Not in _F of F--A_. The quotation should read:

Fam. Whisper it, sister! so and so! In a dark hint, soft and slow.

[47] The mother of Prince Arthur in Shakespeare's _King John_. In the
MS the words "the little Arthur" are written in pencil above the name
of Constance.

[48] In _F of F--A_ this account of her plans is addressed to Diotima,
and Mathilda's excuse for not detailing them is that they are too
trivial to interest spirits no longer on earth; this is the only
intrusion of the framework into Mathilda's narrative in _The Fields of
Fancy_. Mathilda's refusal to recount her stratagems, though the
omission is a welcome one to the reader, may represent the flagging of
Mary's invention. Similarly in _Frankenstein_ she offers excuses for
not explaining how the Monster was brought to life. The entire
passage, "Alas! I even now ... remain unfinished. I was," is on a slip
of paper pasted on the page.

[49] The comparison to a Hermitess and the wearing of the "fanciful
nunlike dress" are appropriate though melodramatic. They appear only
in _Mathilda_. Mathilda refers to her "whimsical nunlike habit" again
after she meets Woodville (see page 60) and tells us in a deleted
passage that it was "a close nunlike gown of black silk."

[50] Cf. Shelley, _Prometheus Unbound_, I, 48: "the wingless, crawling
hours." This phrase ("my part in submitting ... minutes") and the
remainder of the paragraph are an elaboration of the simple phrase in
_F of F--A_, "my part in enduring it--," with its ambiguous pronoun.
The last page of Chapter VIII shows many corrections, even in the MS
of _Mathilda_. It is another passage that Mary seems to have written
in some agitation of spirit. Cf. note 26.

[51] In _F of F--A_ there are several false starts before this
sentence. The name there is Welford; on the next page it becomes
Lovel, which is thereafter used throughout _The Fields of Fancy_ and
appears twice, probably inadvertently, in _Mathilda_, where it is
crossed out. In a few of the _S-R fr_ it is Herbert. In _Mathilda_ it
is at first Herbert, which is used until after the rewritten
conclusion (see note 83) but is corrected throughout to Woodville. On
the final pages Woodville alone is used. (It is interesting, though
not particularly significant, that one of the minor characters in
Lamb's _John Woodvil_ is named Lovel. Such mellifluous names rolled
easily from the pens of all the romantic writers.) This, her first
portrait of Shelley in fiction, gave Mary considerable trouble:
revisions from the rough drafts are numerous. The passage on
Woodville's endowment by fortune, for example, is much more concise
and effective than that in _S-R fr_. Also Mary curbed somewhat the
extravagance of her praise of Woodville, omitting such hyperboles as
"When he appeared a new sun seemed to rise on the day & he had all the
benignity of the dispensor of light," and "he seemed to come as the
God of the world."

[52] This passage beginning "his station was too high" is not in _F of

[53] This passage beginning "He was a believer in the divinity of
genius" is not in _F of F--A_. Cf. the discussion of genius in
"Giovanni Villani" (Mary Shelley's essay in _The Liberal_, No. IV,
1823), including the sentence: "The fixed stars appear to abberate
[_sic_]; but it is we that move, not they." It is tempting to conclude
that this is a quotation or echo of something which Shelley said,
perhaps in conversation with Byron. I have not found it in any of his
published writings.

[54] Is this wishful thinking about Shelley's poetry? It is well known
that a year later Mary remonstrated with Shelley about _The Witch of
Atlas_, desiring, as she said in her 1839 note, "that Shelley should
increase his popularity.... It was not only that I wished him to
acquire popularity as redounding to his fame; but I believed that he
would obtain a greater mastery over his own powers, and greater
happiness in his mind, if public applause crowned his endeavours....
Even now I believe that I was in the right." Shelley's response is in
the six introductory stanzas of the poem.

[55] The preceding paragraphs about Elinor and Woodville are the
result of considerable revision for the better of _F of F--A_ and _S-R
fr_. Mary scored out a paragraph describing Elinor, thus getting rid
of several clichés ("fortune had smiled on her," "a favourite of
fortune," "turning tears of misery to those of joy"); she omitted a
clause which offered a weak motivation of Elinor's father's will (the
possibility of her marrying, while hardly more than a child, one of
her guardian's sons); she curtailed the extravagance of a rhapsody on
the perfect happiness which Woodville and Elinor would have enjoyed.

[56] The death scene is elaborated from _F of F--A_ and made more
melodramatic by the addition of Woodville's plea and of his vigil by
the death-bed.

[57] _F of F--A_ ends here and _F of F--B_ resumes.

[58] A similar passage about Mathilda's fears is cancelled in _F of
F--B_ but it appears in revised form in _S-R fr_. There is also among
these fragments a long passage, not used in _Mathilda_, identifying
Woodville as someone she had met in London. Mary was wise to discard
it for the sake of her story. But the first part of it is interesting
for its correspondence with fact: "I knew him when I first went to
London with my father he was in the height of his glory &
happiness--Elinor was living & in her life he lived--I did not know
her but he had been introduced to my father & had once or twice
visited us--I had then gazed with wonder on his beauty & listened to
him with delight--" Shelley had visited Godwin more than "once or
twice" while Harriet was still living, and Mary had seen him. Of
course she had seen Harriet too, in 1812, when she came with Shelley
to call on Godwin. Elinor and Harriet, however, are completely unlike.

[59] Here and on many succeeding pages, where Mathilda records the
words and opinions of Woodville, it is possible to hear the voice of
Shelley. This paragraph, which is much expanded from _F of F--B_, may
be compared with the discussion of good and evil in _Julian and
Maddalo_ and with _Prometheus Unbound_ and _A Defence of Poetry_.

[60] In the revision of this passage Mathilda's sense of her pollution
is intensified; for example, by addition of "infamy and guilt was
mingled with my portion."

[61] Some phrases of self-criticism are added in this paragraph.

[62] In _F of F--B_ this quotation is used in the laudanum scene, just
before Level's (Woodville's) long speech of dissuasion.

[63] The passage "air, & to suffer ... my compassionate friend" is on
a slip of paper pasted across the page.

[64] This phrase sustains the metaphor better than that in _F of
F--B_: "puts in a word."

[65] This entire paragraph is added to _F of F--B_; it is in rough
draft in _S-R fr_.

[66] This is changed in the MS of _Mathilda_ from "a violent
thunderstorm." Evidently Mary decided to avoid using another
thunderstorm at a crisis in the story.

[67] The passage "It is true ... I will" is on a slip of paper pasted
across the page.

[68] In the revision from _F of F--B_ the style of this whole episode
becomes more concise and specific.

[69] An improvement over the awkward phrasing in _F of F--B_: "a
friend who will not repulse my request that he would accompany me."

[70] These two paragraphs are not in _F of F--B_; portions of them are
in _S-R fr_.

[71] This speech is greatly improved in style over that in _F of
F--B_, more concise in expression (though somewhat expanded), more
specific. There are no corresponding _S-R fr_ to show the process of
revision. With the ideas expressed here cf. Shelley, _Julian and
Maddalo_, ll. 182-187, 494-499, and his letter to Claire in November,
1820 (Julian _Works_, X, 226). See also White, _Shelley_, II, 378.

[72] This solecism, copied from _F of F--B_, is not characteristic of
Mary Shelley.

[73] This paragraph prepares for the eventual softening of Mathilda's
feeling. The idea is somewhat elaborated from _F of F--B_. Other
changes are necessitated by the change in the mode of presenting the
story. In _The Fields of Fancy_ Mathilda speaks as one who has already

[74] Cf. Shelley's emphasis on hope and its association with love in
all his work. When Mary wrote _Mathilda_ she knew _Queen Mab_ (see
Part VIII, ll. 50-57, and Part IX, ll. 207-208), the _Hymn to
Intellectual Beauty_, and the first three acts of _Prometheus
Unbound_. The fourth act was written in the winter of 1819, but
Demogorgon's words may already have been at least adumbrated before
the beginning of November:

To love and bear, to hope till hope creates From its own wreck the
thing it contemplates.

[75] Shelley had written, "Desolation is a delicate thing"
(_Prometheus Unbound_, Act I, l. 772) and called the Spirit of the
Earth "a delicate spirit" (_Ibid._, Act III, Sc. iv, l. 6).

[76] _Purgatorio_, Canto 28, ll. 31-33. Perhaps by this time Shelley
had translated ll. 1-51 of this canto. He had read the _Purgatorio_ in
April, 1818, and again with Mary in August, 1819, just as she was
beginning to write _Mathilda_. Shelley showed his translation to
Medwin in 1820, but there seems to be no record of the date of

[77] An air with this title was published about 1800 in London by
Robert Birchall. See _Catalogue of Printed Music Published between
1487 and 1800 and now in the British Museum_, by W. Barclay Squire,
1912. Neither author nor composer is listed in the _Catalogue_.

[78] This paragraph is materially changed from _F of F--B_. Clouds and
darkness are substituted for starlight, silence for the sound of the
wind. The weather here matches Mathilda's mood. Four and a half lines
of verse (which I have not been able to identify, though they sound
Shelleyan--are they Mary's own?) are omitted: of the stars she says,

                  the wind is in the tree
  But they are silent;--still they roll along
  Immeasurably distant; & the vault
  Built round by those white clouds, enormous clouds
  Still deepens its unfathomable depth.

[79] If Mary quotes Coleridge's _Ancient Mariner_ intentionally here,
she is ironic, for this is no merciful rain, except for the fact that
it brings on the illness which leads to Mathilda's death, for which
she longs.

[80] This quotation from _Christabel_ (which suggests that the
preceding echo is intentional) is not in _F of F--B_.

[81] Cf. the description which opens _Mathilda_.

[82] Among Lord Abinger's papers, in Mary's hand, are some comparable
(but very bad) fragmentary verses addressed to Mother Earth.

[83] At this point four sheets are cut out of the notebook. They are
evidently those with pages numbered 217 to 223 which are among the
_S-R fr_. They contain the conclusion of the story, ending, as does _F
of F--B_ with Mathilda's words spoken to Diotima in the Elysian
Fields: "I am here, not with my father, but listening to lessons of
wisdom, which will one day bring me to him when we shall never part.
THE END." Some passages are scored out, but not this final sentence.
Tenses are changed from past to future. The name _Herbert_ is changed
to _Woodville_. The explanation must be that Mary was hurrying to
finish the revision (quite drastic on these final pages) and the
transcription of her story before her confinement, and that in her
haste she copied the pages from _F of F--B_ as they stood. Then,
realizing that they did not fit _Mathilda_, she began to revise them;
but to keep her MS neat, she cut out these pages and wrote the fair
copy. There is no break in _Mathilda_ in story or in pagination. This
fair copy also shows signs of haste: slips of the pen, repetition of
words, a number of unimportant revisions.

[84] Here in _F of F--B_ there is an index number which evidently
points to a note at the bottom of the next page. The note is omitted
in _Mathilda_. It reads:

"Dante in his Purgatorio describes a grifon as remaining unchanged but
his reflection in the eyes of Beatrice as perpetually varying (Purg.
Cant. 31) So nature is ever the same but seen differently by almost
every spectator and even by the same at various times. All minds, as
mirrors, receive her forms--yet in each mirror the shapes apparently
reflected vary & are perpetually changing--"

[85] See note 20. Mary Shelley had suffered this torture when Clara
and William died.

[86] See the end of Chapter V.

[87] This sentence is not in _F of F--B_ or in _S-R fr_.


It was in Rome--the Queen of the World that I suffered a misfortune
that reduced me to misery & despair[89]--The bright sun & deep azure
sky were oppressive but nought was so hateful as the voice of Man--I
loved to walk by the shores of the Tiber which were solitary & if the
sirocco blew to see the swift clouds pass over St. Peters and the many
domes of Rome or if the sun shone I turned my eyes from the sky whose
light was too dazzling & gay to be reflected in my tearful eyes I
turned them to the river whose swift course was as the speedy
departure of happiness and whose turbid colour was gloomy as grief--

Whether I slept I know not or whether it was in one of those many
hours which I spent seated on the ground my mind a chaos of despair &
my eyes for ever wet by tears but I was here visited by a lovely
spirit whom I have ever worshiped & who tried to repay my adoration by
diverting my mind from the hideous memories that racked it. At first
indeed this wanton spirit played a false part & appearing with sable
wings & gloomy countenance seemed to take a pleasure in exagerating
all my miseries--and as small hopes arose to snatch them from me &
give me in their place gigantic fears which under her fairy hand
appeared close, impending & unavoidable--sometimes she would cruelly
leave me while I was thus on the verge of madness and without
consoling me leave me nought but heavy leaden sleep--but at other
times she would wilily link less unpleasing thoughts to these most
dreadful ones & before I was aware place hopes before me--futile but

One day this lovely spirit--whose name as she told me was Fantasia
came to me in one of her consolotary moods--her wings which seemed
coloured by her tone of mind were not gay but beautiful like that of
the partridge & her lovely eyes although they ever burned with an
unquenshable fire were shaded & softened by her heavy lids & the black
long fringe of her eye lashes--She thus addressed me--You mourn for
the loss of those you love. They are gone for ever & great as my power
is I cannot recall them to you--if indeed I wave my wand over you you
will fancy that you feel their gentle spirits in the soft air that
steals over your cheeks & the distant sound of winds & waters may
image to you their voices which will bid you rejoice for that they
live--This will not take away your grief but you will shed sweeter
tears than those which full of anguish & hopelessness now start from
your eyes--This I can do & also can I take you to see many of my
provinces my fairy lands which you have not yet visited and whose
beauty will while away the heavy time--I have many lovely spots under
my command which poets of old have visited and have seen those sights
the relation of which has been as a revelation to the world--many
spots I have still in keeping of lovely fields or horrid rocks peopled
by the beautiful or the tremendous which I keep in reserve for my
future worshippers--to one of those whose grim terrors frightened
sleep from the eye I formerly led you[91] but you now need more
pleasing images & although I will not promise you to shew you any new
scenes yet if I lead you to one often visited by my followers you will
at least see new combinations that will sooth if they do not delight
you--Follow me--

Alas! I replied--when have you found me slow to obey your voice--some
times indeed I have called you & you have not come--but when before
have I not followed your slightest sign and have left what was either
of joy or sorrow in our world to dwell with you in yours till you have
dismissed me ever unwilling to depart--But now the weight of grief
that oppresses me takes from me that lightness which is necessary to
follow your quick & winged motions alas in the midst of my course one
thought would make me droop to the ground while you would outspeed me
to your Kingdom of Glory & leave me here darkling

Ungrateful! replied the Spirit Do I not tell you that I will sustain &
console you My wings shall aid your heavy steps & I will command my
winds to disperse the mist that over casts you--I will lead you to a
place where you will not hear laughter that disturbs you or see the
sun that dazzles you--We will choose some of the most sombre walks of
the Elysian fields--

The Elysian fields--I exclaimed with a quick scream--shall I then see?
I gasped & could not ask that which I longed to know--the friendly
spirit replied more gravely--I have told you that you will not see
those whom you mourn--But I must away--follow me or I must leave you
weeping deserted by the spirit that now checks your tears--

Go--I replied I cannot follow--I can only sit here & grieve--& long to
see those who are gone for ever for to nought but what has relation to
them can I listen--

The spirit left me to groan & weep to wish the sun quenched in eternal
darkness--to accuse the air the waters all--all the universe of my
utter & irremediable misery--Fantasia came again and ever when she
came tempted me to follow her but as to follow her was to leave for a
while the thought of those loved ones whose memories were my all
although they were my torment I dared not go--Stay with me I cried &
help me to clothe my bitter thoughts in lovelier colours give me hope
although fallacious & images of what has been although it never will
be again--diversion I cannot take cruel fairy do you leave me alas all
my joy fades at thy departure but I may not follow thee--

One day after one of these combats when the spirit had left me I
wandered on along the banks of the river to try to disperse the
excessive misery that I felt untill overcome by fatigue--my eyes
weighed down by tears--I lay down under the shade of trees & fell
asleep--I slept long and when I awoke I knew not where I was--I did
not see the river or the distant city--but I lay beside a lovely
fountain shadowed over by willows & surrounded by blooming myrtles--at
a short distance the air seemed pierced by the spiry pines & cypresses
and the ground was covered by short moss & sweet smelling heath--the
sky was blue but not dazzling like that of Rome and on every side I
saw long allies--clusters of trees with intervening lawns & gently
stealing rivers--Where am I? [I] exclaimed--& looking around me I
beheld Fantasia--She smiled & as she smiled all the enchanting scene
appeared lovelier--rainbows played in the fountain & the heath flowers
at our feet appeared as if just refreshed by dew--I have seized you,
said she--as you slept and will for some little time retain you as my
prisoner--I will introduce you to some of the inhabitants of these
peaceful Gardens--It shall not be to any whose exuberant happiness
will form an u[n]pleasing contrast with your heavy grief but it shall
be to those whose chief care here is to acquired knowledged [_sic_] &
virtue--or to those who having just escaped from care & pain have not
yet recovered full sense of enjoyment--This part of these Elysian
Gardens is devoted to those who as before in your world wished to
become wise & virtuous by study & action here endeavour after the
same ends by contemplation--They are still unknowing of their final
destination but they have a clear knowledge of what on earth is only
supposed by some which is that their happiness now & hereafter depends
upon their intellectual improvement--Nor do they only study the forms
of this universe but search deeply in their own minds and love to meet
& converse on all those high subjects of which the philosophers of
Athens loved to treat--With deep feelings but with no outward
circumstances to excite their passions you will perhaps imagine that
their life is uniform & dull--but these sages are of that disposition
fitted to find wisdom in every thing & in every lovely colour or form
ideas that excite their love--Besides many years are consumed before
they arrive here--When a soul longing for knowledge & pining at its
narrow conceptions escapes from your earth many spirits wait to
receive it and to open its eyes to the mysteries of the universe--many
centuries are often consumed in these travels and they at last retire
here to digest their knowledge & to become still wiser by thought and
imagination working upon memory [92]--When the fitting period is
accomplished they leave this garden to inhabit another world fitted
for the reception of beings almost infinitely wise--but what this
world is neither can you conceive or I teach you--some of the spirits
whom you will see here are yet unknowing in the secrets of
nature--They are those whom care & sorrow have consumed on earth &
whose hearts although active in virtue have been shut through
suffering from knowledge--These spend sometime here to recover their
equanimity & to get a thirst of knowledge from converse with their
wiser companions--They now securely hope to see again those whom they
love & know that it is ignorance alone that detains them from them. As
for those who in your world knew not the loveliness of benevolence &
justice they are placed apart some claimed by the evil spirit & in
vain sought for by the good but She whose delight is to reform the
wicked takes all she can & delivers them to her ministers not to be
punished but to be exercised & instructed untill acquiring a love of
virtue they are fitted for these gardens where they will acquire a
love of knowledge

As Fantasia talked I saw various groupes of figures as they walked
among the allies of the gardens or were seated on the grassy plots
either in contemplation or conversation several advanced together
towards the fountain where I sat--As they approached I observed the
principal figure to be that of a woman about 40 years of age her eyes
burned with a deep fire and every line of her face expressed
enthusiasm & wisdom--Poetry seemed seated on her lips which were
beautifully formed & every motion of her limbs although not youthful
was inexpressibly graceful--her black hair was bound in tresses round
her head and her brows were encompassed by a fillet--her dress was
that of a simple tunic bound at the waist by a broad girdle and a
mantle which fell over her left arm she was encompassed by several
youths of both sexes who appeared to hang on her words & to catch the
inspiration as it flowed from her with looks either of eager wonder or
stedfast attention with eyes all bent towards her eloquent countenance
which beamed with the mind within--I am going said Fantasia but I
leave my spirit with you without which this scene wd fade away--I
leave you in good company--that female whose eyes like the loveliest
planet in the heavens draw all to gaze on her is the Prophetess
Diotima the instructress of Socrates[93]--The company about her are
those just escaped from the world there they were unthinking or
misconducted in the pursuit of knowledge. She leads them to truth &
wisdom untill the time comes when they shall be fitted for the journey
through the universe which all must one day undertake--farewell--

And now, gentlest reader--I must beg your indulgence--I am a being too
weak to record the words of Diotima her matchless wisdom & heavenly
eloquence[.] What I shall repeat will be as the faint shadow of a tree
by moonlight--some what of the form will be preserved but there will
be no life in it--Plato alone of Mortals could record the thoughts of
Diotima hopeless therefore I shall not dwell so much on her words as
on those of her pupils which being more earthly can better than hers
be related by living lips[.]

Diotima approached the fountain & seated herself on a mossy mound near
it and her disciples placed themselves on the grass near her--Without
noticing me who sat close under her she continued her discourse
addressing as it happened one or other of her listeners--but before I
attempt to repeat her words I will describe the chief of these whom
she appeared to wish principally to impress--One was a woman of about
23 years of age in the full enjoyment of the most exquisite beauty her
golden hair floated in ringlets on her shoulders--her hazle eyes were
shaded by heavy lids and her mouth the lips apart seemed to breathe
sensibility[94]--But she appeared thoughtful & unhappy--her cheek was
pale she seemed as if accustomed to suffer and as if the lessons she
now heard were the only words of wisdom to which she had ever
listened--The youth beside her had a far different aspect--his form
was emaciated nearly to a shadow--his features were handsome but thin
& worn--& his eyes glistened as if animating the visage of decay--his
forehead was expansive but there was a doubt & perplexity in his looks
that seemed to say that although he had sought wisdom he had got
entangled in some mysterious mazes from which he in vain endeavoured
to extricate himself--As Diotima spoke his colour went & came with
quick changes & the flexible muscles of his countenance shewed every
impression that his mind received--he seemed one who in life had
studied hard but whose feeble frame sunk beneath the weight of the
mere exertion of life--the spark of intelligence burned with uncommon
strength within him but that of life seemed ever on the eve of
fading[95]--At present I shall not describe any other of this groupe
but with deep attention try to recall in my memory some of the words
of Diotima--they were words of fire but their path is faintly marked
on my recollection--[96]

It requires a just hand, said she continuing her discourse, to weigh &
divide the good from evil--On the earth they are inextricably
entangled and if you would cast away what there appears an evil a
multitude of beneficial causes or effects cling to it & mock your
labour--When I was on earth and have walked in a solitary country
during the silence of night & have beheld the multitude of stars, the
soft radiance of the moon reflected on the sea, which was studded by
lovely islands--When I have felt the soft breeze steal across my cheek
& as the words of love it has soothed & cherished me--then my mind
seemed almost to quit the body that confined it to the earth & with a
quick mental sense to mingle with the scene that I hardly saw--I
felt--Then I have exclaimed, oh world how beautiful thou art!--Oh
brightest universe behold thy worshiper!--spirit of beauty & of
sympathy which pervades all things, & now lifts my soul as with wings,
how have you animated the light & the breezes!--Deep & inexplicable
spirit give me words to express my adoration; my mind is hurried away
but with language I cannot tell how I feel thy loveliness! Silence or
the song of the nightingale the momentary apparition of some bird that
flies quietly past--all seems animated with thee & more than all the
deep sky studded with worlds!"--If the winds roared & tore the sea and
the dreadful lightnings seemed falling around me--still love was
mingled with the sacred terror I felt; the majesty of loveliness was
deeply impressed on me--So also I have felt when I have seen a lovely
countenance--or heard solemn music or the eloquence of divine wisdom
flowing from the lips of one of its worshippers--a lovely animal or
even the graceful undulations of trees & inanimate objects have
excited in me the same deep feeling of love & beauty; a feeling which
while it made me alive & eager to seek the cause & animator of the
scene, yet satisfied me by its very depth as if I had already found
the solution to my enquires [_sic_] & as if in feeling myself a part
of the great whole I had found the truth & secret of the universe--But
when retired in my cell I have studied & contemplated the various
motions and actions in the world the weight of evil has confounded
me--If I thought of the creation I saw an eternal chain of evil linked
one to the other--from the great whale who in the sea swallows &
destroys multitudes & the smaller fish that live on him also & torment
him to madness--to the cat whose pleasure it is to torment her prey I
saw the whole creation filled with pain--each creature seems to exist
through the misery of another & death & havoc is the watchword of the
animated world--And Man also--even in Athens the most civilized spot
on the earth what a multitude of mean passions--envy, malice--a
restless desire to depreciate all that was great and good did I
see--And in the dominions of the great being I saw man [reduced?][97]
far below the animals of the field preying on one anothers [_sic_]
hearts; happy in the downfall of others--themselves holding on with
bent necks and cruel eyes to a wretch more a slave if possible than
they to his miserable passions--And if I said these are the
consequences of civilization & turned to the savage world I saw only
ignorance unrepaid by any noble feeling--a mere animal, love of life
joined to a low love of power & a fiendish love of destruction--I saw
a creature drawn on by his senses & his selfish passions but untouched
by aught noble or even Human--

And then when I sought for consolation in the various faculties man is
possessed of & which I felt burning within me--I found that spirit of
union with love & beauty which formed my happiness & pride degraded
into superstition & turned from its natural growth which could bring
forth only good fruit:--cruelty--& intolerance & hard tyranny was
grafted on its trunk & from it sprung fruit suitable to such
grafts--If I mingled with my fellow creatures was the voice I heard
that of love & virtue or that of selfishness & vice, still misery was
ever joined to it & the tears of mankind formed a vast sea ever blown
on by its sighs & seldom illuminated by its smiles--Such taking only
one side of the picture & shutting wisdom from the view is a just
portraiture of the creation as seen on earth

But when I compared the good & evil of the world & wished to divide
them into two seperate principles I found them inextricably intwined
together & I was again cast into perplexity & doubt--I might have
considered the earth as an imperfect formation where having bad
materials to work on the Creator could only palliate the evil effects
of his combinations but I saw a wanton malignity in many parts &
particularly in the mind of man that baffled me a delight in mischief
a love of evil for evils sake--a siding of the multitude--a dastardly
applause which in their hearts the crowd gave to triumphant
wick[ed]ness over lowly virtue that filled me with painful sensations.
Meditation, painful & continual thought only encreased my doubts--I
dared not commit the blasphemy of ascribing the slightest evil to a
beneficent God--To whom then should I ascribe the creation? To two
principles? Which was the upermost? They were certainly independant
for neither could the good spirit allow the existence of evil or the
evil one the existence of good--Tired of these doubts to which I could
form no probable solution--Sick of forming theories which I destroyed
as quickly as I built them I was one evening on the top of Hymettus
beholding the lovely prospect as the sun set in the glowing sea--I
looked towards Athens & in my heart I exclaimed--oh busy hive of men!
What heroism & what meaness exists within thy walls! And alas! both to
the good & to the wicked what incalculable misery--Freemen ye call
yourselves yet every free man has ten slaves to build up his
freedom--and these slaves are men as they are yet d[e]graded by their
station to all that is mean & loathsome--Yet in how many hearts now
beating in that city do high thoughts live & magnanimity that should
methinks redeem the whole human race--What though the good man is
unhappy has he not that in his heart to satisfy him? And will a
contented conscience compensate for fallen hopes--a slandered name
torn affections & all the miseries of civilized life?--

Oh Sun how beautiful thou art! And how glorious is the golden ocean
that receives thee! My heart is at peace--I feel no sorrow--a holy
love stills my senses--I feel as if my mind also partook of the
inexpressible loveliness of surrounding nature--What shall I do? Shall
I disturb this calm by mingling in the world?--shall I with an aching
heart seek the spectacle of misery to discover its cause or shall I
hopless leave the search of knowledge & devote myself to the pleasures
they say this world affords?--Oh! no--I will become wise! I will study
my own heart--and there discovering as I may the spring of the virtues
I possess I will teach others how to look for them in their own
souls--I will find whence arrises this unquenshable love of beauty I
possess that seems the ruling star of my life--I will learn how I may
direct it aright and by what loving I may become more like that beauty
which I adore And when I have traced the steps of the godlike feeling
which ennobles me & makes me that which I esteem myself to be then I
will teach others & if I gain but one proselyte--if I can teach but
one other mind what is the beauty which they ought to love--and what
is the sympathy to which they ought to aspire what is the true end of
their being--which must be the true end of that of all men then shall
I be satisfied & think I have done enough--

Farewell doubts--painful meditation of evil--& the great, ever
inexplicable cause of all that we see--I am content to be ignorant of
all this happy that not resting my mind on any unstable theories I
have come to the conclusion that of the great secret of the universe I
_can know nothing_--There is a veil before it--my eyes are not
piercing enough to see through it my arms not long enough to reach it
to withdraw it--I will study the end of my being--oh thou universal
love inspire me--oh thou beauty which I see glowing around me lift me
to a fit understanding of thee! Such was the conclusion of my long
wanderings I sought the end of my being & I found it to be knowledge
of itself--Nor think this a confined study--Not only did it lead me to
search the mazes of the human soul--but I found that there existed
nought on earth which contained not a part of that universal beauty
with which it [was] my aim & object to become acquainted--the motions
of the stars of heaven the study of all that philosophers have
unfolded of wondrous in nature became as it where [_sic_] the steps by
which my soul rose to the full contemplation & enjoyment of the
beautiful--Oh ye who have just escaped from the world ye know not
what fountains of love will be opened in your hearts or what exquisite
delight your minds will receive when the secrets of the world will be
unfolded to you and ye shall become acquainted with the beauty of the
universe--Your souls now growing eager for the acquirement of
knowledge will then rest in its possession disengaged from every
particle of evil and knowing all things ye will as it were be mingled
in the universe & ye will become a part of that celestial beauty that
you admire--[98]

Diotima ceased and a profound silence ensued--the youth with his
cheeks flushed and his eyes burning with the fire communicated from
hers still fixed them on her face which was lifted to heaven as in
inspiration--The lovely female bent hers to the ground & after a deep
sigh was the first to break the silence--

Oh divinest prophetess, said she--how new & to me how strange are your
lessons--If such be the end of our being how wayward a course did I
pursue on earth--Diotima you know not how torn affections & misery
incalculable misery--withers up the soul. How petty do the actions of
our earthly life appear when the whole universe is opened to our
gaze--yet there our passions are deep & irrisisbable [_sic_] and as we
are floating hopless yet clinging to hope down the impetuous stream
can we perceive the beauty of its banks which alas my soul was too
turbid to reflect--If knowledge is the end of our being why are
passions & feelings implanted in us that hurries [_sic_] us from
wisdom to selfconcentrated misery & narrow selfish feeling? Is it as a
trial? On earth I thought that I had well fulfilled my trial & my last
moments became peaceful with the reflection that I deserved no
blame--but you take from me that feeling--My passions were there my
all to me and the hopeless misery that possessed me shut all love &
all images of beauty from my soul--Nature was to me as the blackest
night & if rays of loveliness ever strayed into my darkness it was
only to draw bitter tears of hopeless anguish from my eyes--Oh on
earth what consolation is there to misery?

Your heart I fear, replied Diotima, was broken by your sufferings--but
if you had struggled--if when you found all hope of earthly happiness
wither within you while desire of it scorched your soul--if you had
near you a friend to have raised you to the contemplation of beauty &
the search of knowledge you would have found perhaps not new hopes
spring within you but a new life distinct from that of passion by
which you had before existed[99]--relate to me what this misery was
that thus engroses you--tell me what were the vicissitudes of feeling
that you endured on earth--after death our actions & worldly interest
fade as nothing before us but the traces of our feelings exist & the
memories of those are what furnish us here with eternal subject of

A blush spread over the cheek of the lovely girl--Alas, replied she
what a tale must I relate what dark & phre[n]zied passions must I
unfold--When you Diotima lived on earth your soul seemed to mingle in
love only with its own essence & to be unknowing of the various
tortures which that heart endures who if it has not sympathized with
has been witness of the dreadful struggles of a soul enchained by dark
deep passions which were its hell & yet from which it could not
escape--Are there in the peaceful language used by the inhabitants of
these regions--words burning enough to paint the tortures of the human
heart--Can you understand them? or can you in any way sympathize with
them--alas though dead I do and my tears flow as when I lived when my
memory recalls the dreadful images of the past--

--As the lovely girl spoke my own eyes filled with bitter drops--the
spirit of Fantasia seemed to fade from within me and when after
placing my hand before my swimming eyes I withdrew it again I found
myself under the trees on the banks of the Tiber--The sun was just
setting & tinging with crimson the clouds that floated over St.
Peters--all was still no human voice was heard--the very air was quiet
I rose--& bewildered with the grief that I felt within me the
recollection of what I had heard--I hastened to the city that I might
see human beings not that I might forget my wandering recollections
but that I might impress on my mind what was reality & what was either
dream--or at least not of this earth--The Corso of Rome was filled
with carriages and as I walked up the Trinita dei' Montes I became
disgusted with the crowd that I saw about me & the vacancy & want of
beauty not to say deformity of the many beings who meaninglessly
buzzed about me--I hastened to my room which overlooked the whole city
which as night came on became tranquil--Silent lovely Rome I now gaze
on thee--thy domes are illuminated by the moon--and the ghosts of
lovely memories float with the night breeze among thy ruins--
contemplating thy loveliness which half soothes my miserable heart I
record what I have seen--Tomorrow I will again woo Fantasia to lead me
to the same walks & invite her to visit me with her visions which I
before neglected--Oh let me learn this lesson while yet it may be
useful to me that to a mind hopeless & unhappy as mine--a moment of
forgetfullness a moment [in] which it can pass out of itself is worth
a life of painful recollection.


The next morning while sitting on the steps of the temple of
Aesculapius in the Borghese gardens Fantasia again visited me &
smilingly beckoned to me to follow her--My flight was at first heavy
but the breezes commanded by the spirit to convoy me grew stronger as
I advanced--a pleasing languour seized my senses & when I recovered I
found my self by the Elysian fountain near Diotima--The beautiful
female who[m] I had left on the point of narrating her earthly history
seemed to have waited for my return and as soon as I appeared she
spoke thus--[100]


[88] Here is printed the opening of _F of F--A_, which contains the
fanciful framework abandoned in _Mathilda_. It has some intrinsic
interest, as it shows that Mary as well as Shelley had been reading
Plato, and especially as it reveals the close connection of the
writing of _Mathilda_ with Mary's own grief and depression. The first
chapter is a fairly good rough draft. Punctuation, to be sure,
consists largely of dashes or is non-existent, and there are some
corrections. But there are not as many changes as there are in the
remainder of this MS or in _F of F--B_.

[89] It was in Rome that Mary's oldest child, William, died on June 7,

[90] Cf. two entries in Mary Shelley's journal. An unpublished entry
for October 27, 1822, reads: "Before when I wrote Mathilda, miserable
as I was, the inspiration was sufficient to quell my wretchedness
temporarily." Another entry, that for December 2, 1834, is quoted in
abbreviated and somewhat garbled form by R. Glynn Grylls in _Mary
Shelley_ (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), p. 194, and
reprinted by Professor Jones (_Journal_, p. 203). The full passage
follows: "Little harm has my imagination done to me & how much
good!--My poor heart pierced through & through has found balm from
it--it has been the aegis to my sensibility--Sometimes there have been
periods when Misery has pushed it aside--& those indeed were periods I
shudder to remember--but the fairy only stept aside, she watched her
time--& at the first opportunity her ... beaming face peeped in, & the
weight of deadly woe was lightened."

[91] An obvious reference to _Frankenstein_.

[92] With the words of Fantasia (and those of Diotima), cf. the
association of wisdom and virtue in Plato's _Phaedo_, the myth of Er
in the _Republic_, and the doctrine of love and beauty in the

[93] See Plato's _Symposium_. According to Mary's note in her edition
of Shelley's _Essays, Letters from Abroad, etc_. (1840), Shelley
planned to use the name for the instructress of the Stranger in his
unfinished prose tale, _The Coliseum_, which was written before
_Mathilda_, in the winter of 1818-1819. Probably at this same time
Mary was writing an unfinished (and unpublished) tale about Valerius,
an ancient Roman brought back to life in modern Rome. Valerius, like
Shelley's Stranger, was instructed by a woman whom he met in the
Coliseum. Mary's story is indebted to Shelley's in other ways as well.

[94] Mathilda.

[95] I cannot find a prototype for this young man, though in some ways
he resembles Shelley.

[96] Following this paragraph is an incomplete one which is scored out
in the MS. The comment on the intricacy of modern life is interesting.
Mary wrote: "The world you have just quitted she said is one of doubt
& perplexity often of pain & misery--The modes of suffering seem to
me to be much multiplied there since I made one of the throng &
modern feelings seem to have acquired an intracacy then unknown but
now the veil is torn aside--the events that you felt deeply on earth
have passed away & you see them in their nakedness all but your
knowledge & affections have passed away as a dream you now wonder at
the effect trifles had on you and that the events of so passing a
scene should have interested you so deeply--You complain, my friends
of the"

[97] The word is blotted and virtually illegible.

[98] With Diotima's conclusion here cf. her words in the _Symposium_:
"When any one ascending from a correct system of Love, begins to
contemplate this supreme beauty, he already touches the consummation
of his labour. For such as discipline themselves upon this system, or
are conducted by another beginning to ascend through these transitory
objects which are beautiful, towards that which is beauty itself,
proceeding as on steps from the love of one form to that of two, and
from that of two, to that of all forms which are beautiful; and from
beautiful forms to beautiful habits and institutions, and from
institutions to beautiful doctrines; until, from the meditation of
many doctrines, they arrive at that which is nothing else than the
doctrine of the supreme beauty itself, in the knowledge and
contemplation of which at length they repose." (Shelley's translation)
Love, beauty, and self-knowledge are keywords not only in Plato but in
Shelley's thought and poetry, and he was much concerned with the
problem of the presence of good and evil. Some of these themes are
discussed by Woodville in _Mathilda_. The repetition may have been one
reason why Mary discarded the framework.

[99] Mathilda did have such a friend, but, as she admits, she profited
little from his teachings.

[100] In _F of F--B_ there is another, longer version (three and a
half pages) of this incident, scored out, recounting the author's
return to the Elysian gardens, Diotima's consolation of Mathilda, and
her request for Mathilda's story. After wandering through the alleys
and woods adjacent to the gardens, the author came upon Diotima seated
beside Mathilda. "It is true indeed she said our affections outlive
our earthly forms and I can well sympathize in your disappointment
that you do not find what you loved in the life now ended to welcome
you here[.] But one day you will all meet how soon entirely depends
upon yourself--It is by the acquirement of wisdom and the loss of the
selfishness that is now attached to the sole feeling that possesses
you that you will at last mingle in that universal world of which we
all now make a divided part." Diotima urges Mathilda to tell her
story, and she, hoping that by doing so she will break the bonds that
weigh heavily upon her, proceeds to "tell this history of strange

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