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Chapter 4

  • From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the mos_omprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation. I read wit_rdour those works, so full of genius and discrimination, which moder_nquirers have written on these subjects. I attended the lectures an_ultivated the acquaintance of the men of science of the university, and _ound even in M. Krempe a great deal of sound sense and real information,
  • combined, it is true, with a repulsive physiognomy and manners, but not o_hat account the less valuable. In M. Waldman I found a true friend. Hi_entleness was never tinged by dogmatism, and his instructions were given wit_n air of frankness and good nature that banished every idea of pedantry. In _housand ways he smoothed for me the path of knowledge and made the mos_bstruse inquiries clear and facile to my apprehension. My application was a_irst fluctuating and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded and soo_ecame so ardent and eager that the stars often disappeared in the light o_orning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.
  • As I applied so closely, it may be easily conceived that my progress wa_apid. My ardour was indeed the astonishment of the students, and m_roficiency that of the masters. Professor Krempe often asked me, with a sl_mile, how Cornelius Agrippa went on, whilst M. Waldman expressed the mos_eartfelt exultation in my progress. Two years passed in this manner, durin_hich I paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged, heart and soul, in th_ursuit of some discoveries which I hoped to make. None but those who hav_xperienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studie_ou go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more t_now; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery an_onder. A mind of moderate capacity which closely pursues one study mus_nfallibly arrive at great proficiency in that study; and I, who continuall_ought the attainment of one object of pursuit and was solely wrapped up i_his, improved so rapidly that at the end of two years I made some discoverie_n the improvement of some chemical instruments, which procured me grea_steem and admiration at the university. When I had arrived at this point an_ad become as well acquainted with the theory and practice of natura_hilosophy as depended on the lessons of any of the professors at Ingolstadt,
  • my residence there being no longer conducive to my improvements, I thought o_eturning to my friends and my native town, when an incident happened tha_rotracted my stay.
  • One of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was th_tructure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life.
  • Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bol_uestion, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with ho_any things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice o_arelessness did not restrain our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances i_y mind and determined thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to thos_ranches of natural philosophy which relate to physiology. Unless I had bee_nimated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this stud_ould have been irksome and almost intolerable. To examine the causes of life,
  • we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science o_natomy, but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural deca_nd corruption of the human body. In my education my father had taken th_reatest precautions that my mind should be impressed with no supernatura_orrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition o_o have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon m_ancy, and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived o_ife, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food fo_he worm. Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay an_orced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses. My attention wa_ixed upon every object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the huma_eelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld th_orruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the wor_nherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysin_ll the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life t_eath, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden ligh_roke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that whil_ became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I wa_urprised that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquirie_owards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover s_stonishing a secret.
  • Remember, I am not recording the vision of a madman. The sun does not mor_ertainly shine in the heavens than that which I now affirm is true. Som_iracle might have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery were distinc_nd probable. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, _ucceeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I becam_yself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.
  • The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gav_lace to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painful labour, t_rrive at once at the summit of my desires was the most gratifyin_onsummation of my toils. But this discovery was so great and overwhelmin_hat all the steps by which I had been progressively led to it wer_bliterated, and I beheld only the result. What had been the study and desir_f the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp. No_hat, like a magic scene, it all opened upon me at once: the information I ha_btained was of a nature rather to direct my endeavours so soon as I shoul_oint them towards the object of my search than to exhibit that object alread_ccomplished. I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead an_ound a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering and seemingl_neffectual light.
  • I see by your eagerness and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, m_riend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I a_cquainted; that cannot be; listen patiently until the end of my story, an_ou will easily perceive why I am reserved upon that subject. I will not lea_ou on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallibl_isery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, ho_angerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is wh_elieves his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to becom_reater than his nature will allow.
  • When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a lon_ime concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I possesse_he capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the receptio_f it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remaine_ work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether _hould attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of simple_rganization; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success t_ermit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complete an_onderful as man. The materials at present within my command hardly appeare_dequate to so arduous an undertaking, but I doubted not that I shoul_ltimately succeed. I prepared myself for a multitude of reverses; m_perations might be incessantly baffled, and at last my work be imperfect, ye_hen I considered the improvement which every day takes place in science an_echanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay th_oundations of future success. Nor could I consider the magnitude an_omplexity of my plan as any argument of its impracticability. It was wit_hese feelings that I began the creation of a human being. As the minutenes_f the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to m_irst intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say,
  • about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed thi_etermination and having spent some months in successfully collecting an_rranging my materials, I began.
  • No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like _urricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to m_deal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of ligh_nto our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source;
  • many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father coul_laim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.
  • Pursuing these reflections, I thought that if I could bestow animation upo_ifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found i_mpossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body t_orruption.
  • These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking wit_nremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person ha_ecome emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty,
  • I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hou_ight realize. One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I ha_edicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, wit_nrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places. Wh_hall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowe_amps of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?
  • My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then _esistless and almost frantic impulse urged me forward; I seemed to have los_ll soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. It was indeed but a passin_rance, that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as, th_nnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits. _ollected bones from charnel-houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, th_remendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell,
  • at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by _allery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs wer_tarting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. Th_issecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials; an_ften did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, stil_rged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work nea_o a conclusion.
  • The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in on_ursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a mor_lentiful harvest or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage, but my eye_ere insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings which made m_eglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who wer_o many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time. I knew m_ilence disquieted them, and I well remembered the words of my father: "I kno_hat while you are pleased with yourself you will think of us with affection,
  • and we shall hear regularly from you. You must pardon me if I regard an_nterruption in your correspondence as a proof that your other duties ar_qually neglected."
  • I knew well therefore what would be my father's feelings, but I could not tea_y thoughts from my employment, loathsome in itself, but which had taken a_rresistible hold of my imagination. I wished, as it were, to procrastinat_ll that related to my feelings of affection until the great object, whic_wallowed up every habit of my nature, should be completed.
  • I then thought that my father would be unjust if he ascribed my neglect t_ice or faultiness on my part, but I am now convinced that he was justified i_onceiving that I should not be altogether free from blame. A human being i_erfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never t_llow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity. I do no_hink that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the stud_o which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and t_estroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibl_ix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting th_uman mind. If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursui_hatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections,
  • Greece had not been enslaved, Caesar would have spared his country, Americ_ould have been discovered more gradually, and the empires of Mexico and Per_ad not been destroyed.
  • But I forget that I am moralizing in the most interesting part of my tale, an_our looks remind me to proceed.
  • My father made no reproach in his letters and only took notice of my scienc_y inquiring into my occupations more particularly than before. Winter,
  • spring, and summer passed away during my labours; but I did not watch th_lossom or the expanding leaves—sights which before always yielded me suprem_elight—so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation. The leaves of that yea_ad withered before my work drew near to a close, and now every day showed m_ore plainly how well I had succeeded. But my enthusiasm was checked by m_nxiety, and I appeared rather like one doomed by slavery to toil in th_ines, or any other unwholesome trade than an artist occupied by his favourit_mployment. Every night I was oppressed by a slow fever, and I became nervou_o a most painful degree; the fall of a leaf startled me, and I shunned m_ellow creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime. Sometimes I grew alarme_t the wreck I perceived that I had become; the energy of my purpose alon_ustained me: my labours would soon end, and I believed that exercise an_musement would then drive away incipient disease; and I promised myself bot_f these when my creation should be complete.