Wieland, or the Transformation
I now come to the mention of a person with whose name the most turbulent sensations
are connected. It is with a shuddering reluctance that I enter on the province of describing
him. Now it is that I begin to perceive the difficulty of the task which I have undertaken;
but it would be weakness to shrink from it. My blood is congealed: and my fingers are
palsied when I call up his image. Shame upon my cowardly and infirm heart! Hitherto I
have proceeded with some degree of composure, but now I must pause. I mean not that
dire remembrance shall subdue my courage or baffle my design, but this weakness cannot
be immediately conquered. I must desist for a little while.
I have taken a few turns in my chamber, and have gathered strength enough to proceed.
Yet have I not projected a task beyond my power to execute? If thus, on the very
threshold of the scene, my knees faulter and I sink, how shall I support myself, when I
rush into the midst of horrors such as no heart has hitherto conceived, nor tongue related?
I sicken and recoil at the prospect, and yet my irresolution is momentary. I have not
formed this design upon slight grounds, and though I may at times pause and hesitate, I
will not be finally diverted from it.
And thou, O most fatal and potent of mankind, in what terms shall I describe thee? What
words are adequate to the just delineation of thy character? How shall I detail the means
which rendered the secrecy of thy purposes unfathomable? But I will not anticipate. Let
me recover if possible, a sober strain. Let me keep down the flood of passion that would
render me precipitate or powerless. Let me stifle the agonies that are awakened by thy
name. Let me, for a time, regard thee as a being of no terrible attributes. Let me tear
myself from contemplation of the evils of which it is but too certain that thou wast the
author, and limit my view to those harmless appearances which attended thy entrance on
One sunny afternoon, I was standing in the door of my house, when I marked a person
passing close to the edge of the bank that was in front. His pace was a careless and
lingering one, and had none of that gracefulness and ease which distinguish a person with
certain advantages of education from a clown. His gait was rustic and aukward. His form
was ungainly and disproportioned. Shoulders broad and square, breast sunken, his head
drooping, his body of uniform breadth, supported by long and lank legs, were the
ingredients of his frame. His garb was not ill adapted to such a figure. A slouched hat,
tarnished by the weather, a coat of thick grey cloth, cut and wrought, as it seemed, by a
country tailor, blue worsted stockings, and shoes fastened by thongs, and deeply
discoloured by dust, which brush had never disturbed, constituted his dress.
There was nothing remarkable in these appearances; they were frequently to be met with
on the road, and in the harvest field. I cannot tell why I gazed upon them, on this
occasion, with more than ordinary attention, unless it were that such figures were seldom