Page 154. " or longed, with a devouring maladie du pays, to see once more the blue lake and rapid Rhone, that had been so dear to me in early childhood "

   'Maladie du pays' or 'mal du pays' are French terms for homesickness which recall its perception and treatment by many, from the late 17th century to the late 19th, as a potentially dangerous nervous disorder.  In 1678 physician Johannes Hofer coined the term 'nostalgia' for the condition, which became most widely diagnosed in soldiers fighting abroad, far from home and exposed to relentless psychic trauma.  The common presence of Swiss mercenaries across Europe at the time led some to term this disorder 'the Swiss illness', often seen as a precursor to more serious mental derangement and occasionally, as in Frankenstein's case, suicidal tendencies.

   The Rhone is one of Europe's major rivers, running from a glacier in the Swiss Alps through south-eastern France, and into the Mediterranean Sea.

Craig Lambert's historical overview 'Hypochondria of the Heart', Harvard Magazine, (2001)

Page 155. " I had been in the custom of taking every night a small quantity of laudanum; for it was by means of this drug only that I was enabled to gain the rest necessary for the preservation of life "
Opium poppies, (2005)
Creative Commons AttributionOpium poppies, (2005) - Credit: SuperFantastic

   Laudanum is a solution of opium and alcohol with pain-relieving properties, first invented in a rough form by 16th century alchemist Paracelsus.  Rediscovered in the late 17th century, by Shelley's time it was widely available and prescribed enthusiastically as a treatment for various physical and psychological ailments, including insomnia.  Opium's highly addictive properties were not yet fully recognised; its medicinal formulation as laudanum allowing respectable members of society to dabble in its recreational use.

   Some quietly nurtured lifelong habits, like Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (See note to page 10), whose work is consequently sometimes regarded as having emerged from a drug-fuelled haze.  The alluring myth of the artist using exotic substances as a swift pathway to inspiration has remained popular, although Frankenstein's "double dose" probably had darker associations in his creator's mind - her half-sister Fanny Imlay, following Mary's flight to Europe, had killed herself with a lethal overdose in October 1816.

Online edition of Thomas de Quincey's 'Confessions of an English Opium Eater', (1822)

Page 155. " My father, who was watching over me, perceiving my restlessness, awoke me; and pointed to the port of Holyhead, which we were now entering "

   Holyhead, on the Isle of Anglesea in northwest Wales, has long been the main departure point from southern Britain for Ireland.  The sea-route remains in active use by a popular ferry service.


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Page 163. " it was agreed that Elizabeth and I should pass the afternoon and night at Evian, and return to Cologny the next morning. As the day was fair, and the wind favourable, we resolved to go by water "

   Évian-les-Bains is a town on the southern French shore of Lake Geneva (or 'Lac Léman').  It's reputation as a source of health-giving mineral water began in 1789 after a local nobelman, the Marquis of Lessert, proclaimed his kidney trouble had been cured by drinking from a local spring.

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Page 168. " they had called me mad; and during many months, as I understood, a solitary cell had been my habitation "

   Victor is here declared insane, shifting from an inherited position of respectability to the isolated social region into which his inhuman creature was born. 

In the 18th century insanity was often seen as a sign of moral failure as much as medical affliction, memorably depicted as the end result of a sinful, selfish lifestyle in English satirist William Hogarth's popular morality play The Rake's Progress

   Of all the hints we receive throughout the novel that our narrator may not be entirely reliable, this brief mention is perhaps the most damning.  Victor downplays his reclassificiation, emphasising that he was "called" mad rather than admitting that he actually was.  However, it is hard not to feel ambiguous about such claims from a man surrounded by unsolved murders for which he blames an enormous, superhuman monster that, mysteriously, no-one else has yet reported seeing.

Arthur Belefant's Frankenstein: the Man, and the Monster (1999) radically reinterpreted the entire story as being narrated by a madman.

Page 169. " I now related my history briefly, but with firmness and precision, marking the dates with accuracy, and never deviating into invective or exclamation "

   If we assume that Frankenstein's narration to the magistrate is anything like his narration to Walton has been, this passage can only be taken as an ironic comment on the novel itself.  At this point in the story its numerous chronological inaccuracies (See note to page 54), and Victor's frequent flights into hysterical hyperbole, are becoming increasingly hard to miss.

Page 169. " if he has indeed taken refuge in the Alps, he may be hunted like the chamois, and destroyed as a beast of prey "
Chamois, Piz Beverin GR, Switzerland
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChamois, Piz Beverin GR, Switzerland - Credit: Paul Hermans


   The chamois is a species of goat-antelope native to the mountains of several European nations, including the Swiss Alps.  They are still popular game for hunters in countries where they are not protected, such as New Zealand.

Page 172. " To you first entering on life, to whom care is new, and agony unknown, how can you understand what I have felt, and still feel? "

   At the time of their meeting, both Frankenstein and Walton are in their mid-to-late-twenties.  This remark can be taken either as Frankenstein asserting that his nightmarish experiences have aged him beyond his years, or as further evidence of his boundless capacity for self-pitying egotism.

Page 174. " I continued with unabated fervour to traverse immense deserts, until the ocean appeared at a distance, and formed the utmost boundary of the horizon. Oh! how unlike it was to the blue seas of the south! "

   The vague proportions of Victor's travels in pursuit of the creature are given sudden clarity by his arrival at the Arctic Ocean, the great mass of shifting ice that surrounds the North Pole. The pair have travelled thousands of miles across the European and Asian continents, finally entering the uncharted region being explored by Walton and his crew (See note to page 6).  Early cartographers were divided over whether to depict the area as land or sea, an ambivalence captured as the shipless Frankenstein continues his pursuit out onto the ocean's surface. 

Continuously updated scenes of the Arctic are available from the North Pole Environmental Observatory's webcams

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Page 175. " The Greeks wept for joy when they beheld the Mediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed with rapture the boundary of their toils "
Black Sea near Balaklava, (2006)
Creative Commons AttributionBlack Sea near Balaklava, (2006) - Credit: Argenberg

   After an unsuccessful attempt to unseat King Artaxerxes II of Persia in 401 BC, an army of roughly ten thousand Greek mercenaries was forced to march across hundreds of miles of hostile terrain to get home.  The journey was later recorded by one of their leaders, a scholar named Xenophon, who famously recounts their sighting of the Black Sea from a mountaintop – named 'Theches' in the text, it has been identified as modern-day Turkey's 'Deveboynu Tepe'.

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Online edition of Xenophon's 'Anabasis' (4th-century BC)

Page 175. " Some weeks before this period I had procured a sledge and dogs, and thus traversed the snows with inconceivable speed "

   Dog sleds have been used for centuries by the native people of snow-bound nations, both to carry heavy loads great distances or as a means of personal transport.