Letter III


To Mrs. Saville, England

July 7th, 17—.

MY DEAR SISTER,—I write a few lines in haste to say that I am safe and well advanced on my voyage. This letter will reach England by a merchantman now on its homeward voyage from Archangel; more fortunate than I, who may not see my native land, perhaps, for many years. I am, however, in good spirits: my men are bold, and apparently firm of purpose; nor do the floating sheets of ice that continually pass us, indicating the dangers of the region towards which we are advancing, appear to dismay them. We have already reached a very high latitude; but it is the height of summer, and although not so warm as in England, the southern gales, which blow us speedily towards those shores which I so ardently desire to attain, breathe a degree of renovating warmth which I had not expected.

No incidents have hitherto befallen us that would make a figure in a letter. One or two stiff gales, and the springing of a leak are accidents which experienced navigators scarcely remember to record, and I shall be well content if nothing worse happen to us during our voyage.

Adieu, my dear Margaret. Be assured that for my own sake, as well as yours, I will not rashly encounter danger. I will be cool, persevering, and prudent.

But success shall crown my endeavours. Wherefore not? Thus far I have gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas: the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph. Why not still proceed over the untamed yet obedient element? What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?

My swelling heart involuntarily pours itself out thus. But I must finish. Heaven bless my beloved sister!

R.W.


Footnotes

  1. Walton is confident and faithful that he and his crew shall triumph. This question is rhetorical—he does not expect an answer from his sister. However, Shelley does provide an answer, which is implicitly suggested through his description of the weather and the threatening ice: Nature has the power to stop the “determined heart and resolved will.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Can a broken heart stop the will of a man?

    — Jose
  3. In general, the verb “to befall” has negative connotations for events that will happen to someone or something. So, the word “befallen” here suggests that the upcoming events will most likely be unfortunate or bad.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Walton’s passion to conquer nature through making discoveries is strong. Instead of addressing his crew that is traveling with him, he personifies the stars, calling them “witnesses” and “testimonies” of his achievement; it is as if those stars, elements of nature, have already been “conquered” by Walton, having to serve as his “witnesses” and to support his expedition. In this way, Walton is underestimating the power of nature. As the story progresses, the prideful desire to conquer nature will be revealed in other characters and develop into a major theme.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The word choice “shall” reflects Walton’s strong intention and confidence in his expedition. The italicization emphasizes his determination. To Walton, his success will act as a “crown” that represents triumph, honor, and praise; Walton’s word choice “crown” reveals his pride.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Despite Walton's success, he doesn't have anything exciting to report to his sister (except for the fact that he has good feelings and good weather and his own life).  A bit of foreshadowing here should tell the reader that the experiences, for Walton, lie ahead and might have something to do with the mysterious creature that becomes the focus of Shelley's novel.

    — Noelle Thompson
  7. The weather in the Arctic is exceedingly warm for this time of year.  This gives the character welcome respite and an even grander feeling of success in his journey.

    — Noelle Thompson
  8. Note the very Romantic concept of reporting ones feelings here:  both the character's feelings and the feelings of others.

    — Noelle Thompson
  9. Now for some words of interpretation. Walton remains determined to complete his journey. That is for sure. Note the very romantic concepts of reporting his feelings (this time to his sister) and describing the beauty of nature in this climate vastly different than his sister’s English home. Even the confidence that Walton expresses here can be considered distinct to the romantic frame of mind.

    — Noelle Thompson
  10. First, let us expound upon the plot of this particular chapter. Finally, Walton is on the leg of his voyage that he has been anticipating. It is the middle of the summer and he has secured passage into the highest reaches of the earth's northern hemisphere.  He is experiencing weather that is warmer than usual in the Arctic Circle and is increasingly happy about his success in both securing and continuing the voyage to the North Pole. Walton admits that there isn’t much exciting to report at t his point in the journey. Walton expresses to Margaret (his sister) that he will complete the journey and expand his horizons. For further explanation, please see my note at the end of this book beginning with the following phrase: "Now for some words of interpretation." 

    — Noelle Thompson