Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1831), p. 19

But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy; and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil. I have no friend, Margaret; when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man who would sympathise with me; whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans. But it is a still greater evil to me that I am self-educated: for the first fourteen years of my life I ran wild on a common, and read nothing but our uncle Thomas's books on voyages. At that age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets of our own country; but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power to derive its most important benefits from such a conviction, that I perceived the necessity of becoming acquainted with more languages than that of my native country. Now I am twenty-eight, and I am in reality more illiterate than many schoolboys of fifteen. It is true that I have thought more, and that my day dreams are more extended and magnificent; but they want (as painters call it) keeping; and I greatly need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise me as romantic, and affection enough for me to endeavour to regulate my mind.

In this letter to his sister, Walton bemoans the absence of any friend from his life. Authenticity is proximity to an other, a beloved, someone with whom to communicate, not with words written on a page, but with sounds and looks-- with eyes which speak words. Barthes calls this an "amorous absence," which "functions in a single direction, expressed by the one who stays, never by the one who leaves: an always present I is constituted only by confrontation with an always absent you" (Barthes, 13). Usually it is the woman-- sedentary, at hand, faithful-- who sings this lament of absence; in this case, Walton is neither woman, nor motionless, nor in suspense-- he is far away, he is in motion, and no one is awaiting his return. Who is this friend he is looking for-- one who will give him a proper education, who will give him the right books to read, who will teach him a new language, who will properly harmonize his thoughts and dreams, who will look him in the eye? Or is this a love letter to his sister?

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