I was born in Geneva. My father was a magistrate. I had a little brother
called William and an adopted sister called Elizabeth. My parents found
Elizabeth living with a poor family in Italy. She was gentle and very
beautiful, with golden hair and blue eyes. Her real parents, an Italian
nobleman and a German lady, were both dead. My mother and father
adopted Elizabeth and brought her to our home.
Elizabeth and I grew up together, and we were very happy. I spent my
days with Elizabeth, William, and my dear friend Henry Clerval. Henry
wanted to be a poet. He loved nature and beauty, but I was interested in
science. I wished to make some great scientific discovery. I wanted wisdom
and knowledge, and I wanted to succeed where other men had failed.
When I was seventeen, my parents decided to send me to the university at
Ingolstadt, but my departure was delayed by the first misfortune of my life.
Elizabeth became ill with scarlet fever, and my mother nursed her.
Slowly Elizabeth recovered, but my mother caught the illness from her.
When my poor mother was dying, she called us to her bedside and said,
'Dear Victor and Elizabeth, your father and I hope that one day you two will
marry. Be happy, my children, and take care of little William.'
She died calmly. How can I describe our sadness? There is no need.
Everyone knows that sadness, or will know it one day. A few weeks later I
went to the university in Ingolstadt. I walked around the town during the
first three days. I met some of my professors and fellow students, but I felt
lonely and disappointed. I had no desire to study. Then I went to hear a
lecture by Mr Waldman, the professor of chemistry. At the end of the lecture,
he spoke of modern chemistry in words I will never forget.
'Modern chemists can perform miracles,' he said. 'They have followed
Nature to her hiding places. They have penetrated her secrets. They have
discovered how the blood circulates. They understand the nature of thunder
storms and earthquakes. They are like gods.
Those were the professor's words --- or I he words of Fate --- spoken to
destroy me. I left the lecture full of a new ambition. 'I will discover new
things in science,' I thought. 'I will explain the mysteries of creation.'
'The next day I went to Mr Waldman. 'I wish to be your student,' I said. He
showed me his laboratory and told me what books to read. My future was