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Chapter 2
We were brought up together; there was not quite a year difference in our ages. I need not
say that we were strangers to any species of disunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul of
our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us
nearer together. Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition; but, with
all my ardour, I was capable of a more intense application and was more deeply smitten
with the thirst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aerial creations of the
poets; and in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home --the
sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm, the
silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers--she found ample
scope for admiration and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious and
satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating their
causes. The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest
research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were
unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.
On the birth of a second son, my junior by seven years, my parents gave up entirely their
wandering life and fixed themselves in their native country. We possessed a house in
Geneva, and a campagne on Belrive, the eastern shore of the lake, at the distance of
rather more than a league from the city. We resided principally in the latter, and the lives
of my parents were passed in considerable seclusion. It was my temper to avoid a crowd
and to attach myself fervently to a few. I was indifferent, therefore, to my school-fellows
in general; but I united myself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them.
Henry Clerval was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy of singular talent and
fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger for its own sake. He was deeply
read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs and began to write
many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure. He tried to make us act plays and to
enter into masquerades, in which the characters were drawn from the heroes of
Roncesvalles, of the Round Table of King Arthur, and the chivalrous train who shed their
blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from the hands of the infidels.
No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were
possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. We felt that they were not the
tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the
many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled with other families I distinctly
discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted the development of
filial love.
My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my
temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn,
and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of
languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states possessed
attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and