'Mont Blanc' by P B Shelley


Percy Bysshe Shelley composed ‘Mont Blanc’ in August 1816, after holidaying by Lake Geneva with Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont. ‘Mont Blanc’ was first published in History of a Six Weeks’ Tour, Mary Shelley’s narrative of their tour through France, Switzerland and Germany.

What is the argument expressed in the poem?

In the poem Shelley wrestles with two ideas in this work. The first, which he calls necessity, is a conviction that things in the universe are totally dependent on each other. The other idea (which contradicts the first) is that Shelley’s own mind is independent. Shelley attempts to resolve this in a proposal that the idea of the ‘universe of things’ exists only as it is recognised by his mind, a passive mass of perceptions.

Most of the poem recognises the power of necessity, but right at the end Shelley asserts the ultimate freedom of the human mind.

How does the poem relate to Frankenstein?

In Frankenstein, the creation of the monster’s mind is problematic. On one hand the monster is Frankenstein’s creation. Yet, swayed by experience, the monster turns against not just his creator but all that Frankenstein represents. Like the poet’s mind in ‘Mont Blanc’, the monster’s mind is both free and bound within a chain of experience.

Full title:
History of a six weeks' tour through a part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland [by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, with a preface by Percy Bysshe Shelley]: with letters [by Percy Bysshe Shelley] descriptive of a sail round the Lake of Geneva, and of the Glaciers of Chamouni. (Mont Blanc. Lines written in the Vale of Chamouni [by Percy Bysshe Shelley].).
1817, London
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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