Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, was a writer of the Romanticism Period, and her work reflects the many characteristics of her era. The Romanticism Period that dated from 1800 to 1850, was in part brought to its peak by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Their dual publication of Lyrical Ballads, a collection of their poetry, marked the beginning of the period. As the period emerged, the pattern of intense love of nature, focus on the supernatural, feelings dictating logic, and interest in the mysterious became common place. Mary Shelley’s work, Frankenstein, which was published during the Romanticism Period’s peak, was no exception. Though the work can be characterized under the sub-genre of Gothic Literature as well, her story fits right in with her era. Her protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, frequently compares his ambitious work of science to the supernatural, specifically alluding to the Bible, Paradise Lost, and God.
On page 155 of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley directly quotes lines 77 to 81 of Tintern Abbey,
“The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite: a feeling and a love,”
This particular excerpt of poetry from William Wordsworth’s “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13th 1798” is quoted in Frankenstein after Clerval (Victor’s closest friend) is killed by Victor’s own monster, and Victor reflects on his life, on the beautiful scenery around him, and on Clerval’s memory. Mary Shelley uses this particular work of poetry to enhance the essence of Clerval, who was tranquil, light hearted, kind, and poetic. Victor Frankenstein describes Henry Clerval this way:
“He was a being formed in the ‘very poetry of nature.’ His wild and enthusiastic imagination was chastened by the sensibility of his heart. His soul overflowed with ardent affections, and his friendship was of that devoted and wondrous nature that the worldy-minded teach us to look for only in the imagination. But even human sympathies were not sufficient to satisfy his eager mind. The scenery of external nature, which others regard only with admiration, he loved with ardour”
Henry Clerval was a true romantic and Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” is able to represent this character well. The speaker of the poem is much like Clerval; he becomes one with nature over the course of the poem and talks about his memory living on within himself even as he leaves the beautiful scenery of Tintern Abbey. At the same time, this poem also captures Victor’s feelings towards Henry Clerval. What he felt towards his friend was “a feeling and a love”. Victor, being isolated throughout much of the novel, does not interact with too many people. He cares about very little besides his scientific work,
and Henry Clerval. This makes losing his best friend very hard. Mary Shelley
often shows nature and Victor’s ambition in a flattering, idealistic, romantic
light, and often compares the two. It makes sense that she compares Clerval,
who can be considered “a part of Victor Frankenstein” to the nature around him
which is brought up so often throughout the novel.