"Some time elapsed before I learned the history of my friends. It was
one which could not fail to impress itself deeply on my mind, unfolding
as it did a number of circumstances, each interesting and wonderful to
one so utterly inexperienced as I was.
"The name of the old man was De Lacey. He was descended from a good
family in France, where he had lived for many years in affluence,
respected by his superiors and beloved by his equals. His son was bred
in the service of his country, and Agatha had ranked with ladies of the
highest distinction. A few months before my arrival they had lived in
a large and luxurious city called Paris, surrounded by friends and
possessed of every enjoyment which virtue, refinement of intellect, or
taste, accompanied by a moderate fortune, could afford.
"The father of Safie had been the cause of their ruin. He was a
Turkish merchant and had inhabited Paris for many years, when, for some
reason which I could not learn, he became obnoxious to the government.
He was seized and cast into prison the very day that Safie arrived from
Constantinople to join him. He was tried and condemned to death. The
injustice of his sentence was very flagrant; all Paris was indignant;
and it was judged that his religion and wealth rather than the crime
alleged against him had been the cause of his condemnation.
"Felix had accidentally been present at the trial; his horror and
indignation were uncontrollable when he heard the decision of the
court. He made, at that moment, a solemn vow to deliver him and then
looked around for the means. After many fruitless attempts to gain
admittance to the prison, he found a strongly grated window in an
unguarded part of the building, which lighted the dungeon of the
unfortunate Muhammadan, who, loaded with chains, waited in despair the
execution of the barbarous sentence. Felix visited the grate at night
and made known to the prisoner his intentions in his favour. The Turk,
amazed and delighted, endeavoured to kindle the zeal of his deliverer
by promises of reward and wealth. Felix rejected his offers with
contempt, yet when he saw the lovely Safie, who was allowed to visit
her father and who by her gestures expressed her lively gratitude, the
youth could not help owning to his own mind that the captive possessed
a treasure which would fully reward his toil and hazard.
"The Turk quickly perceived the impression that his daughter had made
on the heart of Felix and endeavoured to secure him more entirely in
his interests by the promise of her hand in marriage so soon as he
should be conveyed to a place of safety. Felix was too delicate to
accept this offer, yet he looked forward to the probability of the
event as to the consummation of his happiness.
"During the ensuing days, while the preparations were going forward for
the escape of the merchant, the zeal of Felix was warmed by several
letters that he received from this lovely girl, who found means to
express her thoughts in the language of her lover by the aid of an old
man, a servant of her father who understood French. She thanked him in
the most ardent terms for his intended services towards her parent, and
at the same time she gently deplored her own fate.
"I have copies of these letters, for I found means, during my residence
in the hovel, to procure the implements of writing; and the letters
were often in the hands of Felix or Agatha. Before I depart I will
give them to you; they will prove the truth of my tale; but at present,
as the sun is already far declined, I shall only have time to repeat
the substance of them to you.
"Safie related that her mother was a Christian Arab, seized and made a
slave by the Turks; recommended by her beauty, she had won the heart of
the father of Safie, who married her. The young girl spoke in high and
enthusiastic terms of her mother, who, born in freedom, spurned the
bondage to which she was now reduced. She instructed her daughter in
the tenets of her religion and taught her to aspire to higher powers of
intellect and an independence of spirit forbidden to the female
followers of Muhammad. This lady died, but her lessons were indelibly
impressed on the mind of Safie, who sickened at the prospect of again
returning to Asia and being immured within the walls of a harem,
allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill-suited to
the temper of her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas and a noble
emulation for virtue. The prospect of marrying a Christian and
remaining in a country where women were allowed to take a rank in
society was enchanting to her.
"The day for the execution of the Turk was fixed, but on the night
previous to it he quitted his prison and before morning was distant
many leagues from Paris. Felix had procured passports in the name of
his father, sister, and himself. He had previously communicated his
plan to the former, who aided the deceit by quitting his house, under
the pretence of a journey and concealed himself, with his daughter, in
an obscure part of Paris.
"Felix conducted the fugitives through France to Lyons and across Mont
Cenis to Leghorn, where the merchant had decided to wait a favourable
opportunity of passing into some part of the Turkish dominions.
"Safie resolved to remain with her father until the moment of his
departure, before which time the Turk renewed his promise that she
should be united to his deliverer; and Felix remained with them in
expectation of that event; and in the meantime he enjoyed the society
of the Arabian, who exhibited towards him the simplest and tenderest
affection. They conversed with one another through the means of an
interpreter, and sometimes with the interpretation of looks; and Safie
sang to him the divine airs of her native country.
"The Turk allowed this intimacy to take place and encouraged the hopes
of the youthful lovers, while in his heart he had formed far other
plans. He loathed the idea that his daughter should be united to a
Christian, but he feared the resentment of Felix if he should appear
lukewarm, for he knew that he was still in the power of his deliverer
if he should choose to betray him to the Italian state which they
inhabited. He revolved a thousand plans by which he should be enabled
to prolong the deceit until it might be no longer necessary, and
secretly to take his daughter with him when he departed. His plans
were facilitated by the news which arrived from Paris.
"The government of France were greatly enraged at the escape of their
victim and spared no pains to detect and punish his deliverer. The
plot of Felix was quickly discovered, and De Lacey and Agatha were
thrown into prison. The news reached Felix and roused him from his
dream of pleasure. His blind and aged father and his gentle sister lay
in a noisome dungeon while he enjoyed the free air and the society of
her whom he loved. This idea was torture to him. He quickly arranged
with the Turk that if the latter should find a favourable opportunity
for escape before Felix could return to Italy, Safie should remain as a
boarder at a convent at Leghorn; and then, quitting the lovely Arabian,
he hastened to Paris and delivered himself up to the vengeance of the
law, hoping to free De Lacey and Agatha by this proceeding.
"He did not succeed. They remained confined for five months before the
trial took place, the result of which deprived them of their fortune
and condemned them to a perpetual exile from their native country.
"They found a miserable asylum in the cottage in Germany, where I
discovered them. Felix soon learned that the treacherous Turk, for
whom he and his family endured such unheard-of oppression, on
discovering that his deliverer was thus reduced to poverty and ruin,
became a traitor to good feeling and honour and had quitted Italy with
his daughter, insultingly sending Felix a pittance of money to aid him,
as he said, in some plan of future maintenance.
"Such were the events that preyed on the heart of Felix and rendered
him, when I first saw him, the most miserable of his family. He could
have endured poverty, and while this distress had been the meed of his
virtue, he gloried in it; but the ingratitude of the Turk and the loss
of his beloved Safie were misfortunes more bitter and irreparable. The
arrival of the Arabian now infused new life into his soul.
"When the news reached Leghorn that Felix was deprived of his wealth
and rank, the merchant commanded his daughter to think no more of her
lover, but to prepare to return to her native country. The generous
nature of Safie was outraged by this command; she attempted to
expostulate with her father, but he left her angrily, reiterating his
"A few days after, the Turk entered his daughter's apartment and told
her hastily that he had reason to believe that his residence at Leghorn
had been divulged and that he should speedily be delivered up to the
French government; he had consequently hired a vessel to convey him to
Constantinople, for which city he should sail in a few hours. He
intended to leave his daughter under the care of a confidential
servant, to follow at her leisure with the greater part of his
property, which had not yet arrived at Leghorn.
"When alone, Safie resolved in her own mind the plan of conduct that it
would become her to pursue in this emergency. A residence in Turkey
was abhorrent to her; her religion and her feelings were alike averse
to it. By some papers of her father which fell into her hands she
heard of the exile of her lover and learnt the name of the spot where
he then resided. She hesitated some time, but at length she formed her
determination. Taking with her some jewels that belonged to her and a
sum of money, she quitted Italy with an attendant, a native of Leghorn,
but who understood the common language of Turkey, and departed for
"She arrived in safety at a town about twenty leagues from the cottage
of De Lacey, when her attendant fell dangerously ill. Safie nursed her
with the most devoted affection, but the poor girl died, and the
Arabian was left alone, unacquainted with the language of the country
and utterly ignorant of the customs of the world. She fell, however,
into good hands. The Italian had mentioned the name of the spot for
which they were bound, and after her death the woman of the house in
which they had lived took care that Safie should arrive in safety at
the cottage of her lover."
"Such was the history of my beloved cottagers. It impressed me deeply.
I learned, from the views of social life which it developed, to admire
their virtues and to deprecate the vices of mankind.
"As yet I looked upon crime as a distant evil, benevolence and
generosity were ever present before me, inciting within me a desire to
become an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities
were called forth and displayed. But in giving an account of the
progress of my intellect, I must not omit a circumstance which occurred
in the beginning of the month of August of the same year.
"One night during my accustomed visit to the neighbouring wood where I
collected my own food and brought home firing for my protectors, I
found on the ground a leathern portmanteau containing several articles
of dress and some books. I eagerly seized the prize and returned with
it to my hovel. Fortunately the books were written in the language,
the elements of which I had acquired at the cottage; they consisted of
Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch's Lives, and the Sorrows of Werter.
The possession of these treasures gave me extreme delight; I now
continually studied and exercised my mind upon these histories, whilst
my friends were employed in their ordinary occupations.
"I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced
in me an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised me
to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection. In
the Sorrows of Werter, besides the interest of its simple and affecting
story, so many opinions are canvassed and so many lights thrown upon
what had hitherto been to me obscure subjects that I found in it a
never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentle and
domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments and
feelings, which had for their object something out of self, accorded
well with my experience among my protectors and with the wants which
were forever alive in my own bosom. But I thought Werter himself a
more divine being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character
contained no pretension, but it sank deep. The disquisitions upon
death and suicide were calculated to fill me with wonder. I did not
pretend to enter into the merits of the case, yet I inclined towards
the opinions of the hero, whose extinction I wept, without precisely
"As I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and
condition. I found myself similar yet at the same time strangely
unlike to the beings concerning whom I read and to whose conversation I
was a listener. I sympathized with and partly understood them, but I
was unformed in mind; I was dependent on none and related to none.
'The path of my departure was free,' and there was none to lament my
annihilation. My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did
this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my
destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to
"The volume of Plutarch's Lives which I possessed contained the
histories of the first founders of the ancient republics. This book
had a far different effect upon me from the Sorrows of Werter. I
learned from Werter's imaginations despondency and gloom, but Plutarch
taught me high thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my
own reflections, to admire and love the heroes of past ages. Many
things I read surpassed my understanding and experience. I had a very
confused knowledge of kingdoms, wide extents of country, mighty rivers,
and boundless seas. But I was perfectly unacquainted with towns and
large assemblages of men. The cottage of my protectors had been the
only school in which I had studied human nature, but this book
developed new and mightier scenes of action. I read of men concerned
in public affairs, governing or massacring their species. I felt the
greatest ardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as
far as I understood the signification of those terms, relative as they
were, as I applied them, to pleasure and pain alone. Induced by these
feelings, I was of course led to admire peaceable lawgivers, Numa,
Solon, and Lycurgus, in preference to Romulus and Theseus. The
patriarchal lives of my protectors caused these impressions to take a
firm hold on my mind; perhaps, if my first introduction to humanity had
been made by a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should
have been imbued with different sensations.
"But Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions. I read
it, as I had read the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, as
a true history. It moved every feeling of wonder and awe that the
picture of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures was capable of
exciting. I often referred the several situations, as their similarity
struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to
any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine
in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a
perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of
his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from
beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone.
Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition, for
often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter
gall of envy rose within me.
"Another circumstance strengthened and confirmed these feelings. Soon
after my arrival in the hovel I discovered some papers in the pocket of
the dress which I had taken from your laboratory. At first I had
neglected them, but now that I was able to decipher the characters in
which they were written, I began to study them with diligence. It was
your journal of the four months that preceded my creation. You
minutely described in these papers every step you took in the progress
of your work; this history was mingled with accounts of domestic
occurrences. You doubtless recollect these papers. Here they are.
Everything is related in them which bears reference to my accursed
origin; the whole detail of that series of disgusting circumstances
which produced it is set in view; the minutest description of my odious
and loathsome person is given, in language which painted your own
horrors and rendered mine indelible. I sickened as I read. 'Hateful
day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator!
Why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in
disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own
image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the
very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire
and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.'
"These were the reflections of my hours of despondency and solitude;
but when I contemplated the virtues of the cottagers, their amiable and
benevolent dispositions, I persuaded myself that when they should
become acquainted with my admiration of their virtues they would
compassionate me and overlook my personal deformity. Could they turn
from their door one, however monstrous, who solicited their compassion
and friendship? I resolved, at least, not to despair, but in every way
to fit myself for an interview with them which would decide my fate. I
postponed this attempt for some months longer, for the importance
attached to its success inspired me with a dread lest I should fail.
Besides, I found that my understanding improved so much with every
day's experience that I was unwilling to commence this undertaking
until a few more months should have added to my sagacity.
"Several changes, in the meantime, took place in the cottage. The
presence of Safie diffused happiness among its inhabitants, and I also
found that a greater degree of plenty reigned there. Felix and Agatha
spent more time in amusement and conversation, and were assisted in
their labours by servants. They did not appear rich, but they were
contented and happy; their feelings were serene and peaceful, while
mine became every day more tumultuous. Increase of knowledge only
discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was. I
cherished hope, it is true, but it vanished when I beheld my person
reflected in water or my shadow in the moonshine, even as that frail
image and that inconstant shade.
"I endeavoured to crush these fears and to fortify myself for the trial
which in a few months I resolved to undergo; and sometimes I allowed my
thoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and
dared to fancy amiable and lovely creatures sympathizing with my
feelings and cheering my gloom; their angelic countenances breathed
smiles of consolation. But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my
sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam's
supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me,
and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him.
"Autumn passed thus. I saw, with surprise and grief, the leaves decay
and fall, and nature again assume the barren and bleak appearance it
had worn when I first beheld the woods and the lovely moon. Yet I did
not heed the bleakness of the weather; I was better fitted by my
conformation for the endurance of cold than heat. But my chief
delights were the sight of the flowers, the birds, and all the gay
apparel of summer; when those deserted me, I turned with more attention
towards the cottagers. Their happiness was not decreased by the
absence of summer. They loved and sympathized with one another; and
their joys, depending on each other, were not interrupted by the
casualties that took place around them. The more I saw of them, the
greater became my desire to claim their protection and kindness; my
heart yearned to be known and loved by these amiable creatures; to see
their sweet looks directed towards me with affection was the utmost
limit of my ambition. I dared not think that they would turn them from
me with disdain and horror. The poor that stopped at their door were
never driven away. I asked, it is true, for greater treasures than a
little food or rest: I required kindness and sympathy; but I did not
believe myself utterly unworthy of it.
"The winter advanced, and an entire revolution of the seasons had taken
place since I awoke into life. My attention at this time was solely
directed towards my plan of introducing myself into the cottage of my
protectors. I revolved many projects, but that on which I finally
fixed was to enter the dwelling when the blind old man should be alone.
I had sagacity enough to discover that the unnatural hideousness of my
person was the chief object of horror with those who had formerly
beheld me. My voice, although harsh, had nothing terrible in it; I
thought, therefore, that if in the absence of his children I could gain
the good will and mediation of the old De Lacey, I might by his means
be tolerated by my younger protectors.
"One day, when the sun shone on the red leaves that strewed the ground
and diffused cheerfulness, although it denied warmth, Safie, Agatha,
and Felix departed on a long country walk, and the old man, at his own
desire, was left alone in the cottage. When his children had departed,
he took up his guitar and played several mournful but sweet airs, more
sweet and mournful than I had ever heard him play before. At first his
countenance was illuminated with pleasure, but as he continued,
thoughtfulness and sadness succeeded; at length, laying aside the
instrument, he sat absorbed in reflection.
"My heart beat quick; this was the hour and moment of trial, which
would decide my hopes or realize my fears. The servants were gone to a
neighbouring fair. All was silent in and around the cottage; it was an
excellent opportunity; yet, when I proceeded to execute my plan, my
limbs failed me and I sank to the ground. Again I rose, and exerting
all the firmness of which I was master, removed the planks which I had
placed before my hovel to conceal my retreat. The fresh air revived
me, and with renewed determination I approached the door of their
"I knocked. 'Who is there?' said the old man. 'Come in.'
"I entered. 'Pardon this intrusion,' said I; 'I am a traveller in want
of a little rest; you would greatly oblige me if you would allow me to
remain a few minutes before the fire.'
"'Enter,' said De Lacey, 'and I will try in what manner I can to
relieve your wants; but, unfortunately, my children are from home, and
as I am blind, I am afraid I shall find it difficult to procure food
"'Do not trouble yourself, my kind host; I have food; it is warmth and
rest only that I need.'
"I sat down, and a silence ensued. I knew that every minute was
precious to me, yet I remained irresolute in what manner to commence
the interview, when the old man addressed me. 'By your language,
stranger, I suppose you are my countryman; are you French?'
"'No; but I was educated by a French family and understand that
language only. I am now going to claim the protection of some friends,
whom I sincerely love, and of whose favour I have some hopes.'
"'Are they Germans?'
"'No, they are French. But let us change the subject. I am an
unfortunate and deserted creature, I look around and I have no relation
or friend upon earth. These amiable people to whom I go have never
seen me and know little of me. I am full of fears, for if I fail
there, I am an outcast in the world forever.'
"'Do not despair. To be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate, but
the hearts of men, when unprejudiced by any obvious self-interest, are
full of brotherly love and charity. Rely, therefore, on your hopes;
and if these friends are good and amiable, do not despair.'
"'They are kind—they are the most excellent creatures in the world;
but, unfortunately, they are prejudiced against me. I have good
dispositions; my life has been hitherto harmless and in some degree
beneficial; but a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they
ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable
"'That is indeed unfortunate; but if you are really blameless, cannot
you undeceive them?'
"'I am about to undertake that task; and it is on that account that I
feel so many overwhelming terrors. I tenderly love these friends; I
have, unknown to them, been for many months in the habits of daily
kindness towards them; but they believe that I wish to injure them, and
it is that prejudice which I wish to overcome.'
"'Where do these friends reside?'
"'Near this spot.'
"The old man paused and then continued, 'If you will unreservedly
confide to me the particulars of your tale, I perhaps may be of use in
undeceiving them. I am blind and cannot judge of your countenance, but
there is something in your words which persuades me that you are
sincere. I am poor and an exile, but it will afford me true pleasure
to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.'
"'Excellent man! I thank you and accept your generous offer. You
raise me from the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid,
I shall not be driven from the society and sympathy of your fellow
"'Heaven forbid! Even if you were really criminal, for that can only
drive you to desperation, and not instigate you to virtue. I also am
unfortunate; I and my family have been condemned, although innocent;
judge, therefore, if I do not feel for your misfortunes.'
"'How can I thank you, my best and only benefactor? From your lips
first have I heard the voice of kindness directed towards me; I shall
be forever grateful; and your present humanity assures me of success
with those friends whom I am on the point of meeting.'
"'May I know the names and residence of those friends?'
"I paused. This, I thought, was the moment of decision, which was to
rob me of or bestow happiness on me forever. I struggled vainly for
firmness sufficient to answer him, but the effort destroyed all my
remaining strength; I sank on the chair and sobbed aloud. At that
moment I heard the steps of my younger protectors. I had not a moment
to lose, but seizing the hand of the old man, I cried, 'Now is the
time! Save and protect me! You and your family are the friends whom I
seek. Do not you desert me in the hour of trial!'
"'Great God!' exclaimed the old man. 'Who are you?'
"At that instant the cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and
Agatha entered. Who can describe their horror and consternation on
beholding me? Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her
friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with
supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung, in
a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently
with a stick. I could have torn him limb from limb, as the lion rends
the antelope. But my heart sank within me as with bitter sickness, and
I refrained. I saw him on the point of repeating his blow, when,
overcome by pain and anguish, I quitted the cottage, and in the general
tumult escaped unperceived to my hovel."