The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Part 2 out of 5

possible, in either instance, that they might thus be whirled up
again to the level of the ocean, without undergoing the fate of those
which had been drawn in more early, or absorbed more rapidly. I made,
also, three important observations. The first was, that, as a general
rule, the larger the bodies were, the more rapid their descent - the
second, that, between two masses of equal extent, the one spherical,
and the other _of any other shape_, the superiority in speed of
descent was with the sphere - the third, that, between two masses of
equal size, the one cylindrical, and the other of any other shape,
the cylinder was absorbed the more slowly. Since my escape, I have
had several conversations on this subject with an old school-master
of the district ; and it was from him that I learned the use of the
words 'cylinder' and 'sphere.' He explained to me - although I have
forgotten the explanation - how what I observed was, in fact, the
natural consequence of the forms of the floating fragments - and
showed me how it happened that a cylinder, swimming in a vortex,
offered more resistance to its suction, and was drawn in with greater
difficulty than an equally bulky body, of any form whatever. {*1}

"There was one startling circumstance which went a great way in
enforcing these observations, and rendering me anxious to turn them
to account, and this was that, at every revolution, we passed
something like a barrel, or else the yard or the mast of a vessel,
while many of these things, which had been on our level when I first
opened my eyes upon the wonders of the whirlpool, were now high up
above us, and seemed to have moved but little from their original

"I no longer hesitated what to do. I resolved to lash myself
securely to the water cask upon which I now held, to cut it loose
from the counter, and to throw myself with it into the water. I
attracted my brother's attention by signs, pointed to the floating
barrels that came near us, and did everything in my power to make him
understand what I was about to do. I thought at length that he
comprehended my design - but, whether this was the case or not, he
shook his head despairingly, and refused to move from his station by
the ring-bolt. It was impossible to reach him; the emergency admitted
of no delay ; and so, with a bitter struggle, I resigned him to his
fate, fastened myself to the cask by means of the lashings which
secured it to the counter, and precipitated myself with it into the
sea, without another moment's hesitation.

"The result was precisely what I had hoped it might be. As it is
myself who now tell you this tale - as you see that I _did_ escape -
and as you are already in possession of the mode in which this escape
was effected, and must therefore anticipate all that I have farther
to say - I will bring my story quickly to conclusion. It might have
been an hour, or thereabout, after my quitting the smack, when,
having descended to a vast distance beneath me, it made three or four
wild gyrations in rapid succession, and, bearing my loved brother
with it, plunged headlong, at once and forever, into the chaos of
foam below. The barrel to which I was attached sunk very little
farther than half the distance between the bottom of the gulf and the
spot at which I leaped overboard, before a great change took place in
the character of the whirlpool. The slope of the sides of the vast
funnel became momently less and less steep. The gyrations of the
whirl grew, gradually, less and less violent. By degrees, the froth
and the rainbow disappeared, and the bottom of the gulf seemed slowly
to uprise. The sky was clear, the winds had gone down, and the full
moon was setting radiantly in the west, when I found myself on the
surface of the ocean, in full view of the shores of Lofoden, and
above the spot where the pool of the Moskoe-ström _had been_. It was
the hour of the slack - but the sea still heaved in mountainous waves
from the effects of the hurricane. I was borne violently into the
channel of the Ström, and in a few minutes was hurried down the coast
into the 'grounds' of the fishermen. A boat picked me up - exhausted
from fatigue - and (now that the danger was removed) speechless from
the memory of its horror. Those who drew me on board were my old
mates and daily companions - but they knew me no more than they would
have known a traveller from the spirit-land. My hair which had been
raven-black the day before, was as white as you see it now. They say
too that the whole expression of my countenance had changed. I told
them my story - they did not believe it. I now tell it to _you_ - and
I can scarcely expect you to put more faith in it than did the merry
fishermen of Lofoden."

~~~ End of Text ~~~



AFTER THE very minute and elaborate paper by Arago, to say nothing of
the summary in 'Silliman's Journal,' with the detailed statement just
published by Lieutenant Maury, it will not be supposed, of course,
that in offering a few hurried remarks in reference to Von Kempelen's
discovery, I have any design to look at the subject in a scientific
point of view. My object is simply, in the first place, to say a few
words of Von Kempelen himself (with whom, some years ago, I had the
honor of a slight personal acquaintance), since every thing which
concerns him must necessarily, at this moment, be of interest; and,
in the second place, to look in a general way, and speculatively, at
the results of the discovery.

It may be as well, however, to premise the cursory observations which
I have to offer, by denying, very decidedly, what seems to be a
general impression (gleaned, as usual in a case of this kind, from
the newspapers), viz.: that this discovery, astounding as it
unquestionably is, is unanticipated.

By reference to the 'Diary of Sir Humphrey Davy' (Cottle and Munroe,
London, pp. 150), it will be seen at pp. 53 and 82, that this
illustrious chemist had not only conceived the idea now in question,
but had actually made no inconsiderable progress, experimentally, in
the very identical analysis now so triumphantly brought to an issue
by Von Kempelen, who although he makes not the slightest allusion to
it, is, without doubt (I say it unhesitatingly, and can prove it, if
required), indebted to the 'Diary' for at least the first hint of his
own undertaking.

The paragraph from the 'Courier and Enquirer,' which is now going the
rounds of the press, and which purports to claim the invention for a
Mr. Kissam, of Brunswick, Maine, appears to me, I confess, a little
apocryphal, for several reasons; although there is nothing either
impossible or very improbable in the statement made. I need not go
into details. My opinion of the paragraph is founded principally upon
its manner. It does not look true. Persons who are narrating facts,
are seldom so particular as Mr. Kissam seems to be, about day and
date and precise location. Besides, if Mr. Kissam actually did come
upon the discovery he says he did, at the period designated -- nearly
eight years ago -- how happens it that he took no steps, on the
instant, to reap the immense benefits which the merest bumpkin must
have known would have resulted to him individually, if not to the
world at large, from the discovery? It seems to me quite incredible
that any man of common understanding could have discovered what Mr.
Kissam says he did, and yet have subsequently acted so like a baby --
so like an owl -- as Mr. Kissam admits that he did. By-the-way, who
is Mr. Kissam? and is not the whole paragraph in the 'Courier and
Enquirer' a fabrication got up to 'make a talk'? It must be confessed
that it has an amazingly moon-hoaxy-air. Very little dependence is to
be placed upon it, in my humble opinion; and if I were not well
aware, from experience, how very easily men of science are mystified,
on points out of their usual range of inquiry, I should be profoundly
astonished at finding so eminent a chemist as Professor Draper,
discussing Mr. Kissam's (or is it Mr. Quizzem's?) pretensions to the
discovery, in so serious a tone.

But to return to the 'Diary' of Sir Humphrey Davy. This pamphlet was
not designed for the public eye, even upon the decease of the writer,
as any person at all conversant with authorship may satisfy himself
at once by the slightest inspection of the style. At page 13, for
example, near the middle, we read, in reference to his researches
about the protoxide of azote: 'In less than half a minute the
respiration being continued, diminished gradually and were succeeded
by analogous to gentle pressure on all the muscles.' That the
respiration was not 'diminished,' is not only clear by the subsequent
context, but by the use of the plural, 'were.' The sentence, no
doubt, was thus intended: 'In less than half a minute, the
respiration [being continued, these feelings] diminished gradually,
and were succeeded by [a sensation] analogous to gentle pressure on
all the muscles.' A hundred similar instances go to show that the MS.
so inconsiderately published, was merely a rough note-book, meant
only for the writer's own eye, but an inspection of the pamphlet will
convince almost any thinking person of the truth of my suggestion.
The fact is, Sir Humphrey Davy was about the last man in the world to
commit himself on scientific topics. Not only had he a more than
ordinary dislike to quackery, but he was morbidly afraid of appearing
empirical; so that, however fully he might have been convinced that
he was on the right track in the matter now in question, he would
never have spoken out, until he had every thing ready for the most
practical demonstration. I verily believe that his last moments would
have been rendered wretched, could he have suspected that his wishes
in regard to burning this 'Diary' (full of crude speculations) would
have been unattended to; as, it seems, they were. I say 'his wishes,'
for that he meant to include this note-book among the miscellaneous
papers directed 'to be burnt,' I think there can be no manner of
doubt. Whether it escaped the flames by good fortune or by bad, yet
remains to be seen. That the passages quoted above, with the other
similar ones referred to, gave Von Kempelen the hint, I do not in the
slightest degree question; but I repeat, it yet remains to be seen
whether this momentous discovery itself (momentous under any
circumstances) will be of service or disservice to mankind at large.
That Von Kempelen and his immediate friends will reap a rich harvest,
it would be folly to doubt for a moment. They will scarcely be so
weak as not to 'realize,' in time, by large purchases of houses and
land, with other property of intrinsic value.

In the brief account of Von Kempelen which appeared in the 'Home
Journal,' and has since been extensively copied, several
misapprehensions of the German original seem to have been made by the
translator, who professes to have taken the passage from a late
number of the Presburg 'Schnellpost.' 'Viele' has evidently been
misconceived (as it often is), and what the translator renders by
'sorrows,' is probably 'lieden,' which, in its true version,
'sufferings,' would give a totally different complexion to the whole
account; but, of course, much of this is merely guess, on my part.

Von Kempelen, however, is by no means 'a misanthrope,' in appearance,
at least, whatever he may be in fact. My acquaintance with him was
casual altogether; and I am scarcely warranted in saying that I know
him at all; but to have seen and conversed with a man of so
prodigious a notoriety as he has attained, or will attain in a few
days, is not a small matter, as times go.

'The Literary World' speaks of him, confidently, as a native of
Presburg (misled, perhaps, by the account in 'The Home Journal') but
I am pleased in being able to state positively, since I have it from
his own lips, that he was born in Utica, in the State of New York,
although both his parents, I believe, are of Presburg descent. The
family is connected, in some way, with Maelzel, of
Automaton-chess-player memory. In person, he is short and stout, with
large, fat, blue eyes, sandy hair and whiskers, a wide but pleasing
mouth, fine teeth, and I think a Roman nose. There is some defect in
one of his feet. His address is frank, and his whole manner
noticeable for bonhomie. Altogether, he looks, speaks, and acts as
little like 'a misanthrope' as any man I ever saw. We were
fellow-sojouners for a week about six years ago, at Earl's Hotel, in
Providence, Rhode Island; and I presume that I conversed with him, at
various times, for some three or four hours altogether. His principal
topics were those of the day, and nothing that fell from him led me
to suspect his scientific attainments. He left the hotel before me,
intending to go to New York, and thence to Bremen; it was in the
latter city that his great discovery was first made public; or,
rather, it was there that he was first suspected of having made it.
This is about all that I personally know of the now immortal Von
Kempelen; but I have thought that even these few details would have
interest for the public.

There can be little question that most of the marvellous rumors
afloat about this affair are pure inventions, entitled to about as
much credit as the story of Aladdin's lamp; and yet, in a case of
this kind, as in the case of the discoveries in California, it is
clear that the truth may be stranger than fiction. The following
anecdote, at least, is so well authenticated, that we may receive it

Von Kempelen had never been even tolerably well off during his
residence at Bremen; and often, it was well known, he had been put to
extreme shifts in order to raise trifling sums. When the great
excitement occurred about the forgery on the house of Gutsmuth & Co.,
suspicion was directed toward Von Kempelen, on account of his having
purchased a considerable property in Gasperitch Lane, and his
refusing, when questioned, to explain how he became possessed of the
purchase money. He was at length arrested, but nothing decisive
appearing against him, was in the end set at liberty. The police,
however, kept a strict watch upon his movements, and thus discovered
that he left home frequently, taking always the same road, and
invariably giving his watchers the slip in the neighborhood of that
labyrinth of narrow and crooked passages known by the flash name of
the 'Dondergat.' Finally, by dint of great perseverance, they traced
him to a garret in an old house of seven stories, in an alley called
Flatzplatz, -- and, coming upon him suddenly, found him, as they
imagined, in the midst of his counterfeiting operations. His
agitation is represented as so excessive that the officers had not
the slightest doubt of his guilt. After hand-cuffing him, they
searched his room, or rather rooms, for it appears he occupied all
the mansarde.

Opening into the garret where they caught him, was a closet, ten feet
by eight, fitted up with some chemical apparatus, of which the object
has not yet been ascertained. In one corner of the closet was a very
small furnace, with a glowing fire in it, and on the fire a kind of
duplicate crucible -- two crucibles connected by a tube. One of these
crucibles was nearly full of lead in a state of fusion, but not
reaching up to the aperture of the tube, which was close to the brim.
The other crucible had some liquid in it, which, as the officers
entered, seemed to be furiously dissipating in vapor. They relate
that, on finding himself taken, Kempelen seized the crucibles with
both hands (which were encased in gloves that afterwards turned out
to be asbestic), and threw the contents on the tiled floor. It was
now that they hand-cuffed him; and before proceeding to ransack the
premises they searched his person, but nothing unusual was found
about him, excepting a paper parcel, in his coat-pocket, containing
what was afterward ascertained to be a mixture of antimony and some
unknown substance, in nearly, but not quite, equal proportions. All
attempts at analyzing the unknown substance have, so far, failed, but
that it will ultimately be analyzed, is not to be doubted.

Passing out of the closet with their prisoner, the officers went
through a sort of ante-chamber, in which nothing material was found,
to the chemist's sleeping-room. They here rummaged some drawers and
boxes, but discovered only a few papers, of no importance, and some
good coin, silver and gold. At length, looking under the bed, they
saw a large, common hair trunk, without hinges, hasp, or lock, and
with the top lying carelessly across the bottom portion. Upon
attempting to draw this trunk out from under the bed, they found
that, with their united strength (there were three of them, all
powerful men), they 'could not stir it one inch.' Much astonished at
this, one of them crawled under the bed, and looking into the trunk,

'No wonder we couldn't move it -- why it's full to the brim of old
bits of brass!'

Putting his feet, now, against the wall so as to get a good purchase,
and pushing with all his force, while his companions pulled with an
theirs, the trunk, with much difficulty, was slid out from under the
bed, and its contents examined. The supposed brass with which it was
filled was all in small, smooth pieces, varying from the size of a
pea to that of a dollar; but the pieces were irregular in shape,
although more or less flat-looking, upon the whole, 'very much as
lead looks when thrown upon the ground in a molten state, and there
suffered to grow cool.' Now, not one of these officers for a moment
suspected this metal to be any thing but brass. The idea of its being
gold never entered their brains, of course; how could such a wild
fancy have entered it? And their astonishment may be well conceived,
when the next day it became known, all over Bremen, that the 'lot of
brass' which they had carted so contemptuously to the police office,
without putting themselves to the trouble of pocketing the smallest
scrap, was not only gold -- real gold -- but gold far finer than any
employed in coinage-gold, in fact, absolutely pure, virgin, without
the slightest appreciable alloy.

I need not go over the details of Von Kempelen's confession (as far
as it went) and release, for these are familiar to the public. That
he has actually realized, in spirit and in effect, if not to the
letter, the old chimaera of the philosopher's stone, no sane person
is at liberty to doubt. The opinions of Arago are, of course,
entitled to the greatest consideration; but he is by no means
infallible; and what he says of bismuth, in his report to the
Academy, must be taken cum grano salis. The simple truth is, that up
to this period all analysis has failed; and until Von Kempelen
chooses to let us have the key to his own published enigma, it is
more than probable that the matter will remain, for years, in statu
quo. All that as yet can fairly be said to be known is, that 'Pure
gold can be made at will, and very readily from lead in connection
with certain other substances, in kind and in proportions, unknown.'

Speculation, of course, is busy as to the immediate and ultimate
results of this discovery -- a discovery which few thinking persons
will hesitate in referring to an increased interest in the matter of
gold generally, by the late developments in California; and this
reflection brings us inevitably to another -- the exceeding
inopportuneness of Von Kempelen's analysis. If many were prevented
from adventuring to California, by the mere apprehension that gold
would so materially diminish in value, on account of its
plentifulness in the mines there, as to render the speculation of
going so far in search of it a doubtful one -- what impression will
be wrought now, upon the minds of those about to emigrate, and
especially upon the minds of those actually in the mineral region, by
the announcement of this astounding discovery of Von Kempelen? a
discovery which declares, in so many words, that beyond its intrinsic
worth for manufacturing purposes (whatever that worth may be), gold
now is, or at least soon will be (for it cannot be supposed that Von
Kempelen can long retain his secret), of no greater value than lead,
and of far inferior value to silver. It is, indeed, exceedingly
difficult to speculate prospectively upon the consequences of the
discovery, but one thing may be positively maintained -- that the
announcement of the discovery six months ago would have had material
influence in regard to the settlement of California.

In Europe, as yet, the most noticeable results have been a rise of
two hundred per cent. in the price of lead, and nearly twenty-five
per cent. that of silver.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



WHATEVER doubt may still envelop the _rationale_ of mesmerism,
its startling _facts_ are now almost universally admitted. Of these
latter, those who doubt, are your mere doubters by profession - an
unprofitable and disreputable tribe. There can be no more absolute
waste of time than the attempt to _prove_, at the present day, that
man, by mere exercise of will, can so impress his fellow, as to cast
him into an abnormal condition, of which the phenomena resemble very
closely those of _death_, or at least resemble them more nearly than
they do the phenomena of any other normal condition within our
cognizance ; that, while in this state, the person so impressed
employs only with effort, and then feebly, the external organs of
sense, yet perceives, with keenly refined perception, and through
channels supposed unknown, matters beyond the scope of the physical
organs ; that, moreover, his intellectual faculties are wonderfully
exalted and invigorated ; that his sympathies with the person so
impressing him are profound ; and, finally, that his susceptibility
to the impression increases with its frequency, while, in the same
proportion, the peculiar phenomena elicited are more extended and
more _pronounced_.

I say that these - which are the laws of mesmerism in its
general features - it would be supererogation to demonstrate ; nor
shall I inflict upon my readers so needless a demonstration ;
to-day. My purpose at present is a very different one indeed. I am
impelled, even in the teeth of a world of prejudice, to detail
without comment the very remarkable substance of a colloquy,
occurring between a sleep-waker and myself.

I had been long in the habit of mesmerizing the person in
question, (Mr. Vankirk,) and the usual acute susceptibility and
exaltation of the mesmeric perception had supervened. For many months
he had been laboring under confirmed phthisis, the more distressing
effects of which had been relieved by my manipulations ; and on the
night of Wednesday, the fifteenth instant, I was summoned to his

The invalid was suffering with acute pain in the region of the
heart, and breathed with great difficulty, having all the ordinary
symptoms of asthma. In spasms such as these he had usually found
relief from the application of mustard to the nervous centres, but
to-night this had been attempted in vain.

As I entered his room he greeted me with a cheerful smile, and
although evidently in much bodily pain, appeared to be, mentally,
quite at ease.

"I sent for you to-night," he said, "not so much to administer
to my bodily ailment, as to satisfy me concerning certain psychal
impressions which, of late, have occasioned me much anxiety and
surprise. I need not tell you how sceptical I have hitherto been on
the topic of the soul's immortality. I cannot deny that there has
always existed, as if in that very soul which I have been denying, a
vague half-sentiment of its own existence. But this half-sentiment
at no time amounted to conviction. With it my reason had nothing to
do. All attempts at logical inquiry resulted, indeed, in leaving me
more sceptical than before. I had been advised to study Cousin. I
studied him in his own works as well as in those of his European and
American echoes. The 'Charles Elwood' of Mr. Brownson, for example,
was placed in my hands. I read it with profound attention.
Throughout I found it logical, but the portions which were not
_merely_ logical were unhappily the initial arguments of the
disbelieving hero of the book. In his summing up it seemed evident
to me that the reasoner had not even succeeded in convincing himself.
His end had plainly forgotten his beginning, like the government of
Trinculo. In short, I was not long in perceiving that if man is to
be intellectually convinced of his own immortality, he will never be
so convinced by the mere abstractions which have been so long the
fashion of the moralists of England, of France, and of Germany.
Abstractions may amuse and exercise, but take no hold on the mind.
Here upon earth, at least, philosophy, I am persuaded, will always in
vain call upon us to look upon qualities as things. The will may
assent - the soul - the intellect, never.

"I repeat, then, that I only half felt, and never intellectually
believed. But latterly there has been a certain deepening of the
feeling, until it has come so nearly to resemble the acquiescence of
reason, that I find it difficult to distinguish between the two. I
am enabled, too, plainly to trace this effect to the mesmeric
influence. I cannot better explain my meaning than by the hypothesis
that the mesmeric exaltation enables me to perceive a train of
ratiocination which, in my abnormal existence, convinces, but which,
in full accordance with the mesmeric phenomena, does not extend,
except through its _effect_, into my normal condition. In
sleep-waking, the reasoning and its conclusion - the cause and its
effect - are present together. In my natural state, the cause
vanishing, the effect only, and perhaps only partially, remains.

"These considerations have led me to think that some good
results might ensue from a series of well-directed questions
propounded to me while mesmerized. You have often observed the
profound self-cognizance evinced by the sleep-waker - the extensive
knowledge he displays upon all points relating to the mesmeric
condition itself ; and from this self-cognizance may be deduced
hints for the proper conduct of a catechism."

I consented of course to make this experiment. A few passes
threw Mr. Vankirk into the mesmeric sleep. His breathing became
immediately more easy, and he seemed to suffer no physical
uneasiness. The following conversation then ensued: - V. in the
dialogue representing the patient, and P. myself.

_ P._ Are you asleep ?

_ V._ Yes - no I would rather sleep more soundly.

_P._ [_After a few more passes._] Do you sleep now ?

_V._ Yes.

_P._ How do you think your present illness will result ?

_V._ [_After a long hesitation and speaking as if with effort_.]
I must die.

_P._ Does the idea of death afflict you ?

_V._ [_Very quickly_.] No - no !

_P._ Are you pleased with the prospect ?

_V._ If I were awake I should like to die, but now it is no
matter. The mesmeric condition is so near death as to content me.

_P._ I wish you would explain yourself, Mr. Vankirk.

_V._ I am willing to do so, but it requires more effort than I
feel able to make. You do not question me properly.

_P._ What then shall I ask ?

_V._ You must begin at the beginning.

_P._ The beginning ! but where is the beginning ?

_V._ You know that the beginning is GOD. [_This was said in a
low, fluctuating tone, and with every sign of the most profound

_P._ What then is God ?

_V._ [_Hesitating for many minutes._] I cannot tell.

_P._ Is not God spirit ?

_V._ While I was awake I knew what you meant by "spirit," but
now it seems only a word - such for instance as truth, beauty - a
quality, I mean.

_P._ Is not God immaterial ?

_V._ There is no immateriality - it is a mere word. That which
is not matter, is not at all - unless qualities are things.

_P._ Is God, then, material ?

_V._ No. [_This reply startled me very much._]

_P._ What then is he ?

_V._ [_After a long pause, and mutteringly._] I see - but it is
a thing difficult to tell. [_Another long pause._] He is not spirit,
for he exists. Nor is he matter, as _you understand it_. But there
are _gradations_ of matter of which man knows nothing ; the grosser
impelling the finer, the finer pervading the grosser. The
atmosphere, for example, impels the electric principle, while the
electric principle permeates the atmosphere. These gradations of
matter increase in rarity or fineness, until we arrive at a matter
_unparticled_ - without particles - indivisible - _one_ and here the
law of impulsion and permeation is modified. The ultimate, or
unparticled matter, not only permeates all things but impels all
things - and thus _is_ all things within itself. This matter is God.
What men attempt to embody in the word "thought," is this matter in

_P._ The metaphysicians maintain that all action is reducible to
motion and thinking, and that the latter is the origin of the former.

_V._ Yes ; and I now see the confusion of idea. Motion is the
action of _mind_ - not of _thinking_. The unparticled matter, or
God, in quiescence, is (as nearly as we can conceive it) what men
call mind. And the power of self-movement (equivalent in effect to
human volition) is, in the unparticled matter, the result of its
unity and omniprevalence ; _how_ I know not, and now clearly see
that I shall never know. But the unparticled matter, set in motion
by a law, or quality, existing within itself, is thinking.

_P._ Can you give me no more precise idea of what you term the
unparticled matter ?

_V._ The matters of which man is cognizant, escape the senses in
gradation. We have, for example, a metal, a piece of wood, a drop of
water, the atmosphere, a gas, caloric, electricity, the luminiferous
ether. Now we call all these things matter, and embrace all matter
in one general definition ; but in spite of this, there can be no
two ideas more essentially distinct than that which we attach to a
metal, and that which we attach to the luminiferous ether. When we
reach the latter, we feel an almost irresistible inclination to class
it with spirit, or with nihility. The only consideration which
restrains us is our conception of its atomic constitution ; and
here, even, we have to seek aid from our notion of an atom, as
something possessing in infinite minuteness, solidity, palpability,
weight. Destroy the idea of the atomic constitution and we should no
longer be able to regard the ether as an entity, or at least as
matter. For want of a better word we might term it spirit. Take,
now, a step beyond the luminiferous ether - conceive a matter as much
more rare than the ether, as this ether is more rare than the metal,
and we arrive at once (in spite of all the school dogmas) at a unique
mass - an unparticled matter. For although we may admit infinite
littleness in the atoms themselves, the infinitude of littleness in
the spaces between them is an absurdity. There will be a point -
there will be a degree of rarity, at which, if the atoms are
sufficiently numerous, the interspaces must vanish, and the mass
absolutely coalesce. But the consideration of the atomic
constitution being now taken away, the nature of the mass inevitably
glides into what we conceive of spirit. It is clear, however, that it
is as fully matter as before. The truth is, it is impossible to
conceive spirit, since it is impossible to imagine what is not. When
we flatter ourselves that we have formed its conception, we have
merely deceived our understanding by the consideration of infinitely
rarified matter.

_P._ There seems to me an insurmountable objection to the idea
of absolute coalescence ; - and that is the very slight resistance
experienced by the heavenly bodies in their revolutions through space
- a resistance now ascertained, it is true, to exist in _some_
degree, but which is, nevertheless, so slight as to have been quite
overlooked by the sagacity even of Newton. We know that the
resistance of bodies is, chiefly, in proportion to their density.
Absolute coalescence is absolute density. Where there are no
interspaces, there can be no yielding. An ether, absolutely dense,
would put an infinitely more effectual stop to the progress of a star
than would an ether of adamant or of iron.

_V._ Your objection is answered with an ease which is nearly in
the ratio of its apparent unanswerability. - As regards the progress
of the star, it can make no difference whether the star passes
through the ether _or the ether through it_. There is no
astronomical error more unaccountable than that which reconciles the
known retardation of the comets with the idea of their passage
through an ether: for, however rare this ether be supposed, it would
put a stop to all sidereal revolution in a very far briefer period
than has been admitted by those astronomers who have endeavored to
slur over a point which they found it impossible to comprehend. The
retardation actually experienced is, on the other hand, about that
which might be expected from the _friction_ of the ether in the
instantaneous passage through the orb. In the one case, the
retarding force is momentary and complete within itself - in the
other it is endlessly accumulative.

_P._ But in all this - in this identification of mere matter
with God - is there nothing of irreverence ? [_I was forced to
repeat this question before the sleep-waker fully comprehended my

_V._ Can you say _why_ matter should be less reverenced than
mind ? But you forget that the matter of which I speak is, in all
respects, the very "mind" or "spirit" of the schools, so far as
regards its high capacities, and is, moreover, the "matter" of these
schools at the same time. God, with all the powers attributed to
spirit, is but the perfection of matter.

_P._ You assert, then, that the unparticled matter, in motion,
is thought ?

_V._ In general, this motion is the universal thought of the
universal mind. This thought creates. All created things are but
the thoughts of God.

_P._ You say, "in general."

_V._ Yes. The universal mind is God. For new individualities,
_matter_ is necessary.

_P._ But you now speak of "mind" and "matter" as do the

_V._ Yes - to avoid confusion. When I say "mind," I mean the
unparticled or ultimate matter ; by "matter," I intend all else.

_P._ You were saying that "for new individualities matter is

_V._ Yes ; for mind, existing unincorporate, is merely God. To
create individual, thinking beings, it was necessary to incarnate
portions of the divine mind. Thus man is individualized. Divested of
corporate investiture, he were God. Now, the particular motion of
the incarnated portions of the unparticled matter is the thought of
man ; as the motion of the whole is that of God.

_P._ You say that divested of the body man will be God ?

_V._ [_After much hesitation._] I could not have said this ; it
is an absurdity.

_P._ [_Referring to my notes._] You _did_ say that "divested of
corporate investiture man were God."

_V._ And this is true. Man thus divested _would be_ God - would
be unindividualized. But he can never be thus divested - at least
never _will be_ - else we must imagine an action of God returning
upon itself - a purposeless and futile action. Man is a creature.
Creatures are thoughts of God. It is the nature of thought to be

_P._ I do not comprehend. You say that man will never put off
the body ?

_V._ I say that he will never be bodiless.

_P._ Explain.

_V._ There are two bodies - the rudimental and the complete ;
corresponding with the two conditions of the worm and the butterfly.
What we call "death," is but the painful metamorphosis. Our present
incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is
perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is the full design.

_P._ But of the worm's metamorphosis we are palpably cognizant.

_V._ _We_, certainly - but not the worm. The matter of which
our rudimental body is composed, is within the ken of the organs of
that body ; or, more distinctly, our rudimental organs are adapted
to the matter of which is formed the rudimental body ; but not to
that of which the ultimate is composed. The ultimate body thus
escapes our rudimental senses, and we perceive only the shell which
falls, in decaying, from the inner form ; not that inner form itself
; but this inner form, as well as the shell, is appreciable by those
who have already acquired the ultimate life.

_P._ You have often said that the mesmeric state very nearly
resembles death. How is this ?

_V._ When I say that it resembles death, I mean that it
resembles the ultimate life ; for when I am entranced the senses of
my rudimental life are in abeyance, and I perceive external things
directly, without organs, through a medium which I shall employ in
the ultimate, unorganized life.

_P._ Unorganized ?

_V._ Yes ; organs are contrivances by which the individual is
brought into sensible relation with particular classes and forms of
matter, to the exclusion of other classes and forms. The organs of
man are adapted to his rudimental condition, and to that only ; his
ultimate condition, being unorganized, is of unlimited comprehension
in all points but one - the nature of the volition of God - that is
to say, the motion of the unparticled matter. You will have a
distinct idea of the ultimate body by conceiving it to be entire
brain. This it is _not_ ; but a conception of this nature will
bring you near a comprehension of what it _is_. A luminous body
imparts vibration to the luminiferous ether. The vibrations generate
similar ones within the retina ; these again communicate similar
ones to the optic nerve. The nerve conveys similar ones to the brain
; the brain, also, similar ones to the unparticled matter which
permeates it. The motion of this latter is thought, of which
perception is the first undulation. This is the mode by which the
mind of the rudimental life communicates with the external world ;
and this external world is, to the rudimental life, limited, through
the idiosyncrasy of its organs. But in the ultimate, unorganized
life, the external world reaches the whole body, (which is of a
substance having affinity to brain, as I have said,) with no other
intervention than that of an infinitely rarer ether than even the
luminiferous ; and to this ether - in unison with it - the whole
body vibrates, setting in motion the unparticled matter which
permeates it. It is to the absence of idiosyncratic organs,
therefore, that we must attribute the nearly unlimited perception of
the ultimate life. To rudimental beings, organs are the cages
necessary to confine them until fledged.

_P._ You speak of rudimental "beings." Are there other
rudimental thinking beings than man ?

_V._ The multitudinous conglomeration of rare matter into
nebulæ, planets, suns, and other bodies which are neither nebulæ,
suns, nor planets, is for the sole purpose of supplying _pabulum_ for
the idiosyncrasy of the organs of an infinity of rudimental beings.
But for the necessity of the rudimental, prior to the ultimate life,
there would have been no bodies such as these. Each of these is
tenanted by a distinct variety of organic, rudimental, thinking
creatures. In all, the organs vary with the features of the place
tenanted. At death, or metamorphosis, these creatures, enjoying the
ultimate life - immortality - and cognizant of all secrets but _the
one_, act all things and pass everywhere by mere volition: -
indwelling, not the stars, which to us seem the sole palpabilities,
and for the accommodation of which we blindly deem space created -
but that SPACE itself - that infinity of which the truly substantive
vastness swallows up the star-shadows -- blotting them out as
non-entities from the perception of the angels.

_P._ You say that "but for the _necessity_ of the rudimental
life" there would have been no stars. But why this necessity ?

_V._ In the inorganic life, as well as in the inorganic matter
generally, there is nothing to impede the action of one simple
_unique_ law - the Divine Volition. With the view of producing
impediment, the organic life and matter, (complex, substantial, and
law-encumbered,) were contrived.

_P._ But again - why need this impediment have been produced ?

_V._ The result of law inviolate is perfection - right -
negative happiness. The result of law violate is imperfection, wrong,
positive pain. Through the impediments afforded by the number,
complexity, and substantiality of the laws of organic life and
matter, the violation of law is rendered, to a certain extent,
practicable. Thus pain, which in the inorganic life is impossible,
is possible in the organic.

_P._ But to what good end is pain thus rendered possible ?

_V._ All things are either good or bad by comparison. A
sufficient analysis will show that pleasure, in all cases, is but the
contrast of pain. _Positive_ pleasure is a mere idea. To be happy
at any one point we must have suffered at the same. Never to suffer
would have been never to have been blessed. But it has been shown
that, in the inorganic life, pain cannot be thus the necessity for
the organic. The pain of the primitive life of Earth, is the sole
basis of the bliss of the ultimate life in Heaven.

_P._ Still, there is one of your expressions which I find it
impossible to comprehend - "the truly _substantive_ vastness of

_V._ This, probably, is because you have no sufficiently generic
conception of the term "_substance_" itself. We must not regard it
as a quality, but as a sentiment: - it is the perception, in thinking
beings, of the adaptation of matter to their organization. There are
many things on the Earth, which would be nihility to the inhabitants
of Venus - many things visible and tangible in Venus, which we could
not be brought to appreciate as existing at all. But to the
inorganic beings - to the angels - the whole of the unparticled
matter is substance - that is to say, the whole of what we term "space"
is to them the truest substantiality ; - the stars, meantime,
through what we consider their materiality, escaping the angelic
sense, just in proportion as the unparticled matter, through what we
consider its immateriality, eludes the organic.

As the sleep-waker pronounced these latter words, in a feeble tone,
I observed on his countenance a singular expression, which somewhat
alarmed me, and induced me to awake him at once. No sooner had I
done this, than, with a bright smile irradiating all his features, he
fell back upon his pillow and expired. I noticed that in less than a
minute afterward his corpse had all the stern rigidity of stone. His
brow was of the coldness of ice. Thus, ordinarily, should it have
appeared, only after long pressure from Azrael's hand. Had the
sleep-waker, indeed, during the latter portion of his discourse, been
addressing me from out the region of the shadows ?

~~~ End of Text ~~~



OF course I shall not pretend to consider it any matter for wonder,
that the extraordinary case of M. Valdemar has excited discussion. It
would have been a miracle had it not-especially under the
circumstances. Through the desire of all parties concerned, to keep
the affair from the public, at least for the present, or until we had
farther opportunities for investigation -- through our endeavors to
effect this -- a garbled or exaggerated account made its way into
society, and became the source of many unpleasant misrepresentations,
and, very naturally, of a great deal of disbelief.

It is now rendered necessary that I give the facts -- as far as I
comprehend them myself. They are, succinctly, these:

My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to
the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago it occurred to
me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto,
there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: --
no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained
to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the
patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; secondly,
whether, if any existed, it was impaired or increased by the
condition; thirdly, to what extent, or for how long a period, the
encroachments of Death might be arrested by the process. There were
other points to be ascertained, but these most excited my curiosity
-- the last in especial, from the immensely important character of
its consequences.

In looking around me for some subject by whose means I might test
these particulars, I was brought to think of my friend, M. Ernest
Valdemar, the well-known compiler of the "Bibliotheca Forensica," and
author (under the nom de plume of Issachar Marx) of the Polish
versions of "Wallenstein" and "Gargantua." M. Valdemar, who has
resided principally at Harlaem, N.Y., since the year 1839, is (or
was) particularly noticeable for the extreme spareness of his person
-- his lower limbs much resembling those of John Randolph; and, also,
for the whiteness of his whiskers, in violent contrast to the
blackness of his hair -- the latter, in consequence, being very
generally mistaken for a wig. His temperament was markedly nervous,
and rendered him a good subject for mesmeric experiment. On two or
three occasions I had put him to sleep with little difficulty, but
was disappointed in other results which his peculiar constitution had
naturally led me to anticipate. His will was at no period positively,
or thoroughly, under my control, and in regard to clairvoyance, I
could accomplish with him nothing to be relied upon. I always
attributed my failure at these points to the disordered state of his
health. For some months previous to my becoming acquainted with him,
his physicians had declared him in a confirmed phthisis. It was his
custom, indeed, to speak calmly of his approaching dissolution, as of
a matter neither to be avoided nor regretted.

When the ideas to which I have alluded first occurred to me, it was
of course very natural that I should think of M. Valdemar. I knew the
steady philosophy of the man too well to apprehend any scruples from
him; and he had no relatives in America who would be likely to
interfere. I spoke to him frankly upon the subject; and, to my
surprise, his interest seemed vividly excited. I say to my surprise,
for, although he had always yielded his person freely to my
experiments, he had never before given me any tokens of sympathy with
what I did. His disease was if that character which would admit of
exact calculation in respect to the epoch of its termination in
death; and it was finally arranged between us that he would send for
me about twenty-four hours before the period announced by his
physicians as that of his decease.

It is now rather more than seven months since I received, from M.
Valdemar himself, the subjoined note:

My DEAR P -- ,

You may as well come now. D -- and F -- are agreed that I cannot hold
out beyond to-morrow midnight; and I think they have hit the time
very nearly.


I received this note within half an hour after it was written, and in
fifteen minutes more I was in the dying man's chamber. I had not seen
him for ten days, and was appalled by the fearful alteration which
the brief interval had wrought in him. His face wore a leaden hue;
the eyes were utterly lustreless; and the emaciation was so extreme
that the skin had been broken through by the cheek-bones. His
expectoration was excessive. The pulse was barely perceptible. He
retained, nevertheless, in a very remarkable manner, both his mental
power and a certain degree of physical strength. He spoke with
distinctness -- took some palliative medicines without aid -- and,
when I entered the room, was occupied in penciling memoranda in a
pocket-book. He was propped up in the bed by pillows. Doctors D --
and F -- were in attendance.

After pressing Valdemar's hand, I took these gentlemen aside, and
obtained from them a minute account of the patient's condition. The
left lung had been for eighteen months in a semi-osseous or
cartilaginous state, and was, of course, entirely useless for all
purposes of vitality. The right, in its upper portion, was also
partially, if not thoroughly, ossified, while the lower region was
merely a mass of purulent tubercles, running one into another.
Several extensive perforations existed; and, at one point, permanent
adhesion to the ribs had taken place. These appearances in the right
lobe were of comparatively recent date. The ossification had
proceeded with very unusual rapidity; no sign of it had discovered a
month before, and the adhesion had only been observed during the
three previous days. Independently of the phthisis, the patient was
suspected of aneurism of the aorta; but on this point the osseous
symptoms rendered an exact diagnosis impossible. It was the opinion
of both physicians that M. Valdemar would die about midnight on the
morrow (Sunday). It was then seven o'clock on Saturday evening.

On quitting the invalid's bed-side to hold conversation with myself,
Doctors D -- and F -- had bidden him a final farewell. It had not
been their intention to return; but, at my request, they agreed to
look in upon the patient about ten the next night.

When they had gone, I spoke freely with M. Valdemar on the subject of
his approaching dissolution, as well as, more particularly, of the
experiment proposed. He still professed himself quite willing and
even anxious to have it made, and urged me to commence it at once. A
male and a female nurse were in attendance; but I did not feel myself
altogether at liberty to engage in a task of this character with no
more reliable witnesses than these people, in case of sudden
accident, might prove. I therefore postponed operations until about
eight the next night, when the arrival of a medical student with whom
I had some acquaintance, (Mr. Theodore L -- l,) relieved me from
farther embarrassment. It had been my design, originally, to wait for
the physicians; but I was induced to proceed, first, by the urgent
entreaties of M. Valdemar, and secondly, by my conviction that I had
not a moment to lose, as he was evidently sinking fast.

Mr. L -- l was so kind as to accede to my desire that he would take
notes of all that occurred, and it is from his memoranda that what I
now have to relate is, for the most part, either condensed or copied

It wanted about five minutes of eight when, taking the patient's
hand, I begged him to state, as distinctly as he could, to Mr. L --
l, whether he (M. Valdemar) was entirely willing that I should make
the experiment of mesmerizing him in his then condition.

He replied feebly, yet quite audibly, "Yes, I wish to be "I fear you
have mesmerized" -- adding immediately afterwards, deferred it too

While he spoke thus, I commenced the passes which I had already found
most effectual in subduing him. He was evidently influenced with the
first lateral stroke of my hand across his forehead; but although I
exerted all my powers, no farther perceptible effect was induced
until some minutes after ten o'clock, when Doctors D -- and F --
called, according to appointment. I explained to them, in a few
words, what I designed, and as they opposed no objection, saying that
the patient was already in the death agony, I proceeded without
hesitation -- exchanging, however, the lateral passes for downward
ones, and directing my gaze entirely into the right eye of the

By this time his pulse was imperceptible and his breathing was
stertorous, and at intervals of half a minute.

This condition was nearly unaltered for a quarter of an hour. At the
expiration of this period, however, a natural although a very deep
sigh escaped the bosom of the dying man, and the stertorous breathing
ceased -- that is to say, its stertorousness was no longer apparent;
the intervals were undiminished. The patient's extremities were of an
icy coldness.

At five minutes before eleven I perceived unequivocal signs of the
mesmeric influence. The glassy roll of the eye was changed for that
expression of uneasy inward examination which is never seen except in
cases of sleep-waking, and which it is quite impossible to mistake.
With a few rapid lateral passes I made the lids quiver, as in
incipient sleep, and with a few more I closed them altogether. I was
not satisfied, however, with this, but continued the manipulations
vigorously, and with the fullest exertion of the will, until I had
completely stiffened the limbs of the slumberer, after placing them
in a seemingly easy position. The legs were at full length; the arms
were nearly so, and reposed on the bed at a moderate distance from
the loin. The head was very slightly elevated.

When I had accomplished this, it was fully midnight, and I requested
the gentlemen present to examine M. Valdemar's condition. After a few
experiments, they admitted him to be an unusually perfect state of
mesmeric trance. The curiosity of both the physicians was greatly
excited. Dr. D -- resolved at once to remain with the patient all
night, while Dr. F -- took leave with a promise to return at
daybreak. Mr. L -- l and the nurses remained.

We left M. Valdemar entirely undisturbed until about three o'clock in
the morning, when I approached him and found him in precisely the
same condition as when Dr. F -- went away -- that is to say, he lay
in the same position; the pulse was imperceptible; the breathing was
gentle (scarcely noticeable, unless through the application of a
mirror to the lips); the eyes were closed naturally; and the limbs
were as rigid and as cold as marble. Still, the general appearance
was certainly not that of death.

As I approached M. Valdemar I made a kind of half effort to influence
his right arm into pursuit of my own, as I passed the latter gently
to and fro above his person. In such experiments with this patient
had never perfectly succeeded before, and assuredly I had little
thought of succeeding now; but to my astonishment, his arm very
readily, although feebly, followed every direction I assigned it with
mine. I determined to hazard a few words of conversation.

"M. Valdemar," I said, "are you asleep?" He made no answer, but I
perceived a tremor about the lips, and was thus induced to repeat the
question, again and again. At its third repetition, his whole frame
was agitated by a very slight shivering; the eyelids unclosed
themselves so far as to display a white line of the ball; the lips
moved sluggishly, and from between them, in a barely audible whisper,
issued the words:

"Yes; -- asleep now. Do not wake me! -- let me die so!"

I here felt the limbs and found them as rigid as ever. The right arm,
as before, obeyed the direction of my hand. I questioned the
sleep-waker again:

"Do you still feel pain in the breast, M. Valdemar?"

The answer now was immediate, but even less audible than before: "No
pain -- I am dying."

I did not think it advisable to disturb him farther just then, and
nothing more was said or done until the arrival of Dr. F -- , who
came a little before sunrise, and expressed unbounded astonishment at
finding the patient still alive. After feeling the pulse and applying
a mirror to the lips, he requested me to speak to the sleep-waker
again. I did so, saying:

"M. Valdemar, do you still sleep?"

As before, some minutes elapsed ere a reply was made; and during the
interval the dying man seemed to be collecting his energies to speak.
At my fourth repetition of the question, he said very faintly, almost

"Yes; still asleep -- dying."

It was now the opinion, or rather the wish, of the physicians, that
M. Valdemar should be suffered to remain undisturbed in his present
apparently tranquil condition, until death should supervene -- and
this, it was generally agreed, must now take place within a few
minutes. I concluded, however, to speak to him once more, and merely
repeated my previous question.

While I spoke, there came a marked change over the countenance of the
sleep-waker. The eyes rolled themselves slowly open, the pupils
disappearing upwardly; the skin generally assumed a cadaverous hue,
resembling not so much parchment as white paper; and the circular
hectic spots which, hitherto, had been strongly defined in the centre
of each cheek, went out at once. I use this expression, because the
suddenness of their departure put me in mind of nothing so much as
the extinguishment of a candle by a puff of the breath. The upper
lip, at the same time, writhed itself away from the teeth, which it
had previously covered completely; while the lower jaw fell with an
audible jerk, leaving the mouth widely extended, and disclosing in
full view the swollen and blackened tongue. I presume that no member
of the party then present had been unaccustomed to death-bed horrors;
but so hideous beyond conception was the appearance of M. Valdemar at
this moment, that there was a general shrinking back from the region
of the bed.

I now feel that I have reached a point of this narrative at which
every reader will be startled into positive disbelief. It is my
business, however, simply to proceed.

There was no longer the faintest sign of vitality in M. Valdemar; and
concluding him to be dead, we were consigning him to the charge of
the nurses, when a strong vibratory motion was observable in the
tongue. This continued for perhaps a minute. At the expiration of
this period, there issued from the distended and motionless jaws a
voice -- such as it would be madness in me to attempt describing.
There are, indeed, two or three epithets which might be considered as
applicable to it in part; I might say, for example, that the sound
was harsh, and broken and hollow; but the hideous whole is
indescribable, for the simple reason that no similar sounds have ever
jarred upon the ear of humanity. There were two particulars,
nevertheless, which I thought then, and still think, might fairly be
stated as characteristic of the intonation -- as well adapted to
convey some idea of its unearthly peculiarity. In the first place,
the voice seemed to reach our ears -- at least mine -- from a vast
distance, or from some deep cavern within the earth. In the second
place, it impressed me (I fear, indeed, that it will be impossible to
make myself comprehended) as gelatinous or glutinous matters impress
the sense of touch.

I have spoken both of "sound" and of "voice." I mean to say that the
sound was one of distinct -- of even wonderfully, thrillingly
distinct -- syllabification. M. Valdemar spoke -- obviously in reply
to the question I had propounded to him a few minutes before. I had
asked him, it will be remembered, if he still slept. He now said:

"Yes; -- no; -- I have been sleeping -- and now -- now -- I am dead.

No person present even affected to deny, or attempted to repress, the
unutterable, shuddering horror which these few words, thus uttered,
were so well calculated to convey. Mr. L -- l (the student) swooned.
The nurses immediately left the chamber, and could not be induced to
return. My own impressions I would not pretend to render intelligible
to the reader. For nearly an hour, we busied ourselves, silently --
without the utterance of a word -- in endeavors to revive Mr. L -- l.
When he came to himself, we addressed ourselves again to an
investigation of M. Valdemar's condition.

It remained in all respects as I have last described it, with the
exception that the mirror no longer afforded evidence of respiration.
An attempt to draw blood from the arm failed. I should mention, too,
that this limb was no farther subject to my will. I endeavored in
vain to make it follow the direction of my hand. The only real
indication, indeed, of the mesmeric influence, was now found in the
vibratory movement of the tongue, whenever I addressed M. Valdemar a
question. He seemed to be making an effort to reply, but had no
longer sufficient volition. To queries put to him by any other person
than myself he seemed utterly insensible -- although I endeavored to
place each member of the company in mesmeric rapport with him. I
believe that I have now related all that is necessary to an
understanding of the sleep-waker's state at this epoch. Other nurses
were procured; and at ten o'clock I left the house in company with
the two physicians and Mr. L -- l.

In the afternoon we all called again to see the patient. His
condition remained precisely the same. We had now some discussion as
to the propriety and feasibility of awakening him; but we had little
difficulty in agreeing that no good purpose would be served by so
doing. It was evident that, so far, death (or what is usually termed
death) had been arrested by the mesmeric process. It seemed clear to
us all that to awaken M. Valdemar would be merely to insure his
instant, or at least his speedy dissolution.

From this period until the close of last week -- an interval of
nearly seven months -- we continued to make daily calls at M.
Valdemar's house, accompanied, now and then, by medical and other
friends. All this time the sleeper-waker remained exactly as I have
last described him. The nurses' attentions were continual.

It was on Friday last that we finally resolved to make the experiment
of awakening or attempting to awaken him; and it is the (perhaps)
unfortunate result of this latter experiment which has given rise to
so much discussion in private circles -- to so much of what I cannot
help thinking unwarranted popular feeling.

For the purpose of relieving M. Valdemar from the mesmeric trance, I
made use of the customary passes. These, for a time, were
unsuccessful. The first indication of revival was afforded by a
partial descent of the iris. It was observed, as especially
remarkable, that this lowering of the pupil was accompanied by the
profuse out-flowing of a yellowish ichor (from beneath the lids) of a
pungent and highly offensive odor.

It was now suggested that I should attempt to influence the patient's
arm, as heretofore. I made the attempt and failed. Dr. F -- then
intimated a desire to have me put a question. I did so, as follows:

"M. Valdemar, can you explain to us what are your feelings or wishes

There was an instant return of the hectic circles on the cheeks; the
tongue quivered, or rather rolled violently in the mouth (although
the jaws and lips remained rigid as before;) and at length the same
hideous voice which I have already described, broke forth:

"For God's sake! -- quick! -- quick! -- put me to sleep -- or, quick!
-- waken me! -- quick! -- I say to you that I am dead!"

I was thoroughly unnerved, and for an instant remained undecided what
to do. At first I made an endeavor to re-compose the patient; but,
failing in this through total abeyance of the will, I retraced my
steps and as earnestly struggled to awaken him. In this attempt I
soon saw that I should be successful -- or at least I soon fancied
that my success would be complete -- and I am sure that all in the
room were prepared to see the patient awaken.

For what really occurred, however, it is quite impossible that any
human being could have been prepared.

As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejaculations of "dead!
dead!" absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of
the sufferer, his whole frame at once -- within the space of a single
minute, or even less, shrunk -- crumbled -- absolutely rotted away
beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay
a nearly liquid mass of loathsome -- of detestable putridity.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to
pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to
expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence.
Yet, mad am I not - and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I
die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to
place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a
series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events
have terrified - have tortured - have destroyed me. Yet I will not
attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror
- to many they will seem less terrible than _barroques_. Hereafter,
perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to
the common-place - some intellect more calm, more logical, and far
less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances
I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very
natural causes and effects.

From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my
disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to
make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals,
and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With
these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding
and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my
growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal
sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a
faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of
explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus
derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing
love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had
frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity
of mere _Man_.

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition
not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic
pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most
agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small
monkey, and _a cat_.

This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely
black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his
intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with
superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion,
which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she
was ever _serious_ upon this point - and I mention the matter at all
for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be

Pluto - this was the cat's name - was my favorite pet and
playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about
the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from
following me through the streets.

Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during
which my general temperament and character - through the
instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance - had (I blush to confess
it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by
day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of
others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife. At
length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course,
were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected,
but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient
regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of
maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by
accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease
grew upon me - for what disease is like Alcohol! - and at length even
Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish -
even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.

One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my
haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I
seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight
wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly
possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at
once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish
malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took
from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor
beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the
socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable

When reason returned with the morning - when I had slept off the
fumes of the night's debauch - I experienced a sentiment half of
horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty;
but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul
remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in
wine all memory of the deed.

In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost
eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer
appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but,
as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so
much of my old heart left, as to be at first grieved by this evident
dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But
this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to
my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of
this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that
my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive
impulses of the human heart - one of the indivisible primary
faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of
Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or
a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should
not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best
judgment, to violate that which is _Law_, merely because we
understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to
my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul _to
vex itself_ - to offer violence to its own nature - to do wrong for
the wrong's sake only - that urged me to continue and finally to
consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One
morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it
to the limb of a tree; - hung it with the tears streaming from my
eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; - hung it _because_
I knew that it had loved me, and _because_ I felt it had given me no
reason of offence; - hung it _because_ I knew that in so doing I was
committing a sin - a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal
soul as to place it - if such a thing wore possible - even beyond the
reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible

On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was
aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in
flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty
that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the
conflagration. The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth
was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.

I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of
cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am
detailing a chain of facts - and wish not to leave even a possible
link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins.
The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was
found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the
middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed.
The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the
fire - a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread.
About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed
to be examining a particular portion of it with very minute and eager
attention. The words "strange!" "singular!" and other similar
expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven
in _bas relief_ upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic
_cat_. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous.
There was a rope about the animal's neck.

When I first beheld this apparition - for I could scarcely regard
it as less - my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length
reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a
garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had
been immediately filled by the crowd - by some one of whom the animal
must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window,
into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of
arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the
victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread
plaster; the lime of which, with the flames, and the _ammonia_ from
the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.

Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether
to my conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did not
the less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I
could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this
period, there came back into my spirit a half-sentiment that seemed,
but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the
animal, and to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now
habitually frequented, for another pet of the same species, and of
somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place.

One night as I sat, half stupified, in a den of more than infamy,
my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon
the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which
constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking
steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now
caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the
object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It
was a black cat - a very large one - fully as large as Pluto, and
closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a
white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large,
although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole
region of the breast. Upon my touching him, he immediately arose,
purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my
notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I
at once offered to purchase it of the landlord; but this person made
no claim to it - knew nothing of it - had never seen it before.

I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the
animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do
so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it
reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became
immediately a great favorite with my wife.

For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me.
This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but - I know not
how or why it was - its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted
and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance
rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain
sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty,
preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks,
strike, or otherwise violently ill use it; but gradually - very
gradually - I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to
flee silently from its odious presence, as from the breath of a

What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery,
on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had
been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only
endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a
high degree, that humanity of feeling which had once been my
distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and
purest pleasures.

With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself
seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity which
it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat,
it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering
me with its loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get
between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long
and sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast.
At such times, although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet
withheld from so doing, partly by a memory of my former crime, but
chiefly - let me confess it at once - by absolute dread of the beast.

This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil - and yet I
should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed
to own - yes, even in this felon's cell, I am almost ashamed to own -
that the terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had
been heightened by one of the merest chimaeras it would be possible
to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the
character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and
which constituted the sole visible difference between the strange
beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this
mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by
slow degrees - degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long
time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful - it had, at length,
assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the
representation of an object that I shudder to name - and for this,
above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the
monster _had I dared_ - it was now, I say, the image of a hideous -
of a ghastly thing - of the GALLOWS ! - oh, mournful and terrible
engine of Horror and of Crime - of Agony and of Death !

And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere
Humanity. And _a brute beast _- whose fellow I had contemptuously
destroyed - _a brute beast_ to work out for _me_ - for me a man,
fashioned in the image of the High God - so much of insufferable wo!
Alas! neither by day nor by night knew I the blessing of Rest any
more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in
the latter, I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to
find the hot breath of _the thing_ upon my face, and its vast weight
- an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off -
incumbent eternally upon my _heart !_

Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble
remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole
intimates - the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of
my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind;
while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a
fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife,
alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers.

One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the
cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit.
The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me
headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and
forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed
my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have
proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow
was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the interference,
into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp
and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without
a groan.

This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and
with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew
that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night,
without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects
entered my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into
minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved
to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I
deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard - about packing
it in a box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so
getting a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I
considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined
to wall it up in the cellar - as the monks of the middle ages are
recorded to have walled up their victims.

For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls
were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout
with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had
prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a
projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been
filled up, and made to resemble the red of the cellar. I made no
doubt that I could readily displace the bricks at this point, insert
the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could
detect any thing suspicious. And in this calculation I was not
deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and,
having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped
it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole
structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and
hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which
could not be distinguished from the old, and with this I very
carefully went over the new brickwork. When I had finished, I felt
satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest
appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was
picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and
said to myself - "Here at least, then, my labor has not been in

My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause
of so much wretchedness; for I had, at length, firmly resolved to put
it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there
could have been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty
animal had been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and
forebore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to
describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which
the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did
not make its appearance during the night - and thus for one night at
least, since its introduction into the house, I soundly and
tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my

The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came
not. Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster, in terror, had
fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness
was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some
few inquiries had been made, but these had been readily answered.
Even a search had been instituted - but of course nothing was to be
discovered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured.

Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police
came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to make
rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the
inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment
whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They
left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth
time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My
heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked
the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and
roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and
prepared to depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be
restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and
to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.

"Gentlemen," I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, "I
delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a
little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this - this is a very
well constructed house." [In the rabid desire to say something
easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.] - "I may say an
_excellently_ well constructed house. These walls are you going,
gentlemen? - these walls are solidly put together;" and here, through
the mere phrenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily, with a cane which I
held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind
which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom.

But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the
Arch-Fiend ! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into
silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! - by a
cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and
then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream,
utterly anomalous and inhuman - a howl - a wailing shriek, half of
horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of
hell, conjointly from the throats of the dammed in their agony and of
the demons that exult in the damnation.

Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to
the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained
motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a
dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The
corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect
before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended
mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had
seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to
the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!

~~~ End of Text ~~~





Son cœur est un luth suspendu ;
Sitôt qu'on le touche il rèsonne..

_ De Béranger_ .

DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn
of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I
had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary
tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the
evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I
know not how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a
sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable ;
for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable,
because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even
the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked
upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple
landscape features of the domain - upon the bleak walls - upon the
vacant eye-like windows - upon a few rank sedges - and upon a few
white trunks of decayed trees - with an utter depression of soul
which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the
after-dream of the reveller upon opium - the bitter lapse into
everyday life - the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an
iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart - an unredeemed
dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could
torture into aught of the sublime. What was it - I paused to think -
what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of
Usher ? It was a mystery all insoluble ; nor could I grapple with
the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced
to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond
doubt, there _are_ combinations of very simple natural objects which
have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power
lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I
reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of
the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to
modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful
impression ; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the
precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled
lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down - but with a shudder even more
thrilling than before - upon the remodelled and inverted images of
the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and
eye-like windows.

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to myself a
sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one
of my boon companions in boyhood ; but many years had elapsed since
our last meeting. A letter, however, had lately reached me in a
distant part of the country - a letter from him - which, in its
wildly importunate nature, had admitted of no other than a personal
reply. The MS. gave evidence of nervous agitation. The writer
spoke of acute bodily illness - of a mental disorder which oppressed
him - and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best, and indeed his
only personal friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness
of my society, some alleviation of his malady. It was the manner in
which all this, and much more, was said - it was the apparent _heart_
that went with his request - which allowed me no room for hesitation;
and I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very
singular summons.

Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I
really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always
excessive and habitual. I was aware, however, that his very ancient
family had been noted, time out of mind, for a peculiar sensibility
of temperament, displaying itself, through long ages, in many works
of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in repeated deeds of
munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as in a passionate
devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more than to the orthodox
and easily recognisable beauties, of musical science. I had learned,
too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all
time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring
branch ; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct
line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very
temporary variation, so lain. It was this deficiency, I considered,
while running over in thought the perfect keeping of the character of
the premises with the accredited character of the people, and while
speculating upon the possible influence which the one, in the long
lapse of centuries, might have exercised upon the other - it was this
deficiency, perhaps, of collateral issue, and the consequent
undeviating transmission, from sire to son, of the patrimony with the
name, which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the
original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation
of the "House of Usher" - an appellation which seemed to include, in
the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the
family mansion.

I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish
experiment - that of looking down within the tarn - had been to
deepen the first singular impression. There can be no doubt that the
consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstition - for why
should I not so term it ? - served mainly to accelerate the increase
itself. Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical law of all
sentiments having terror as a basis. And it might have been for this
reason only, that, when I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself,
from its image in the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy - a
fancy so ridiculous, indeed, that I but mention it to show the vivid
force of the sensations which oppressed me. I had so worked upon my
imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and
domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their
immediate vicinity - an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air
of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the
gray wall, and the silent tarn - a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull,
sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.

Shaking off from my spirit what _must_ have been a dream, I
scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal
feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The
discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the
whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves.
Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No
portion of the masonry had fallen ; and there appeared to be a wild
inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the
crumbling condition of the individual stones. In this there was much
that reminded me of the specious totality of old wood-work which has
rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance
from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of
extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of
instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have
discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the
roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag
direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.

Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the house.
A servant in waiting took my horse, and I entered the Gothic archway
of the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence conducted me, in
silence, through many dark and intricate passages in my progress to
the _studio_ of his master. Much that I encountered on the way
contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of
which I have already spoken. While the objects around me - while the
carvings of the ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the
ebon blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial
trophies which rattled as I strode, were but matters to which, or to
such as which, I had been accustomed from my infancy - while I
hesitated not to acknowledge how familiar was all this - I still
wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary
images were stirring up. On one of the staircases, I met the
physician of the family. His countenance, I thought, wore a mingled
expression of low cunning and perplexity. He accosted me with
trepidation and passed on. The valet now threw open a door and
ushered me into the presence of his master.

The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. The
windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance
from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from
within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the
trellissed panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more
prominent objects around ; the eye, however, struggled in vain to
reach the remoter angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the
vaulted and fretted ceiling. Dark draperies hung upon the walls.
The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and
tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about,
but failed to give any vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed
an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable
gloom hung over and pervaded all.

Upon my entrance, Usher arose from a sofa on which he had been
lying at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which
had much in it, I at first thought, of an overdone cordiality - of
the constrained effort of the _ennuyé_ ; man of the world. A glance,
however, at his countenance, convinced me of his perfect sincerity.
We sat down ; and for some moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon
him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never
before so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick
Usher ! It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit
the identity of the wan being before me with the companion of my
early boyhood. Yet the character of his face had been at all times
remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion ; an eye large, liquid,
and luminous beyond comparison ; lips somewhat thin and very pallid,
but of a surpassingly beautiful curve ; a nose of a delicate Hebrew
model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations ;
a finely moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want
of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity ;
these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the
temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten.
And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these
features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much
of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of
the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things
startled and even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered
to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it
floated rather than fell about the face, I could not, even with
effort, connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple

In the manner of my friend I was at once struck with an
incoherence - an inconsistency ; and I soon found this to arise from
a series of feeble and futile struggles to overcome an habitual
trepidancy - an excessive nervous agitation. For something of this
nature I had indeed been prepared, no less by his letter, than by
reminiscences of certain boyish traits, and by conclusions deduced
from his peculiar physical conformation and temperament. His action
was alternately vivacious and sullen. His voice varied rapidly from
a tremulous indecision (when the animal spirits seemed utterly in
abeyance) to that species of energetic concision - that abrupt,
weighty, unhurried, and hollow-sounding enunciation - that leaden,
self-balanced and perfectly modulated guttural utterance, which may
be observed in the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of
opium, during the periods of his most intense excitement.

It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his
earnest desire to see me, and of the solace he expected me to afford
him. He entered, at some length, into what he conceived to be the
nature of his malady. It was, he said, a constitutional and a family
evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy - a mere
nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon
pass off. It displayed itself in a host of unnatural sensations.
Some of these, as he detailed them, interested and bewildered me ;
although, perhaps, the terms, and the general manner of the narration
had their weight. He suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the
senses ; the most insipid food was alone endurable; he could wear
only garments of certain texture ; the odors of all flowers were
oppressive ; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light ; and
there were but peculiar sounds, and these from stringed instruments,
which did not inspire him with horror.

To an anomalous species of terror I found him a bounden slave.
"I shall perish," said he, "I must perish in this deplorable folly.
Thus, thus, and not otherwise, shall I be lost. I dread the events
of the future, not in themselves, but in their results. I shudder at
the thought of any, even the most trivial, incident, which may
operate upon this intolerable agitation of soul. I have, indeed, no
abhorrence of danger, except in its absolute effect - in terror. In
this unnerved - in this pitiable condition - I feel that the period
will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason
together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR."

I learned, moreover, at intervals, and through broken and
equivocal hints, another singular feature of his mental condition. He
was enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the
dwelling which he tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never
ventured forth - in regard to an influence whose supposititious force
was conveyed in terms too shadowy here to be re-stated - an influence
which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family
mansion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his
spirit - an effect which the _physique_ of the gray walls and
turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at
length, brought about upon the _morale_ of his existence.

He admitted, however, although with hesitation, that much of the
peculiar gloom which thus afflicted him could be traced to a more
natural and far more palpable origin - to the severe and
long-continued illness - indeed to the evidently approaching
dissolution - of a tenderly beloved sister - his sole companion for
long years - his last and only relative on earth. "Her decease," he
said, with a bitterness which I can never forget, "would leave him
(him the hopeless and the frail) the last of the ancient race of the
Ushers." While he spoke, the lady Madeline (for so was she called)
passed slowly through a remote portion of the apartment, and, without
having noticed my presence, disappeared. I regarded her with an
utter astonishment not unmingled with dread - and yet I found it
impossible to account for such feelings. A sensation of stupor
oppressed me, as my eyes followed her retreating steps. When a door,
at length, closed upon her, my glance sought instinctively and
eagerly the countenance of the brother - but he had buried his face
in his hands, and I could only perceive that a far more than ordinary
wanness had overspread the emaciated fingers through which trickled
many passionate tears.

The disease of the lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of
her physicians. A settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the
person, and frequent although transient affections of a partially
cataleptical character, were the unusual diagnosis. Hitherto she had
steadily borne up against the pressure of her malady, and had not
betaken herself finally to bed ; but, on the closing in of the
evening of my arrival at the house, she succumbed (as her brother
told me at night with inexpressible agitation) to the prostrating
power of the destroyer ; and I learned that the glimpse I had
obtained of her person would thus probably be the last I should
obtain - that the lady, at least while living, would be seen by me no

For several days ensuing, her name was unmentioned by either
Usher or myself: and during this period I was busied in earnest
endeavors to alleviate the melancholy of my friend. We painted and
read together ; or I listened, as if in a dream, to the wild
improvisations of his speaking guitar. And thus, as a closer and
still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses
of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all
attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent
positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and
physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom.

I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many solemn hours I
thus spent alone with the master of the House of Usher. Yet I should
fail in any attempt to convey an idea of the exact character of the
studies, or of the occupations, in which he involved me, or led me
the way. An excited and highly distempered ideality threw a
sulphureous lustre over all. His long improvised dirges will ring
forever in my ears. Among other things, I hold painfully in mind a
certain singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the
last waltz of Von Weber. From the paintings over which his elaborate
fancy brooded, and which grew, touch by touch, into vaguenesses at
which I shuddered the more thrillingly, because I shuddered knowing
not why ; - from these paintings (vivid as their images now are
before me) I would in vain endeavor to educe more than a small
portion which should lie within the compass of merely written words.
By the utter simplicity, by the nakedness of his designs, he arrested
and overawed attention. If ever mortal painted an idea, that mortal
was Roderick Usher. For me at least - in the circumstances then
surrounding me - there arose out of the pure abstractions which the
hypochondriac contrived to throw upon his canvass, an intensity of
intolerable awe, no shadow of which felt I ever yet in the
contemplation of the certainly glowing yet too concrete reveries of

One of the phantasmagoric conceptions of my friend, partaking not
so rigidly of the spirit of abstraction, may be shadowed forth,
although feebly, in words. A small picture presented the interior of
an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel, with low walls,
smooth, white, and without interruption or device. Certain accessory
points of the design served well to convey the idea that this
excavation lay at an exceeding depth below the surface of the earth.
No outlet was observed in any portion of its vast extent, and no
torch, or other artificial source of light was discernible ; yet a
flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a
ghastly and inappropriate splendor.

I have just spoken of that morbid condition of the auditory nerve
which rendered all music intolerable to the sufferer, with the
exception of certain effects of stringed instruments. It was,
perhaps, the narrow limits to which he thus confined himself upon the
guitar, which gave birth, in great measure, to the fantastic
character of his performances. But the fervid _facility_ of his
_impromptus_ could not be so accounted for. They must have been, and
were, in the notes, as well as in the words of his wild fantasias
(for he not unfrequently accompanied himself with rhymed verbal
improvisations), the result of that intense mental collectedness and
concentration to which I have previously alluded as observable only
in particular moments of the highest artificial excitement. The words
of one of these rhapsodies I have easily remembered. I was, perhaps,
the more forcibly impressed with it, as he gave it, because, in the
under or mystic current of its meaning, I fancied that I perceived,
and for the first time, a full consciousness on the part of Usher, of
the tottering of his lofty reason upon her throne. The verses, which
were entitled "The Haunted Palace," ran very nearly, if not
accurately, thus:

In the greenest of our valleys,
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace -
Radiant palace - reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion -
It stood there !
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow;
(This - all this - was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute's well-tunéd law,
Round about a throne, where sitting
(Porphyrogene !)
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate ;
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate !)
And, round about his home, the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.
And travellers now within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows, see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody ;
While, like a rapid ghastly river,
Through the pale door,
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh - but smile no more.

I well remember that suggestions arising from this ballad, led us
into a train of thought wherein there became manifest an opinion of
Usher's which I mention not so much on account of its novelty, (for
other men * have thought thus,) as on account of the pertinacity with
which he maintained it. This opinion, in its general form, was that
of the sentience of all vegetable things. But, in his disordered
fancy, the idea had assumed a more daring character, and trespassed,
under certain conditions, upon the kingdom of inorganization. I lack
words to express the full extent, or the earnest _abandon_ of his
persuasion. The belief, however, was connected (as I have previously
hinted) with the gray stones of the home of his forefathers. The
conditions of the sentience had been here, he imagined, fulfilled in
the method of collocation of these stones - in the order of their
arrangement, as well as in that of the many _fungi_ which overspread
them, and of the decayed trees which stood around - above all, in the
long undisturbed endurance of this arrangement, and in its
reduplication in the still waters of the tarn. Its evidence - the
evidence of the sentience - was to be seen, he said, (and I here
started as he spoke,) in the gradual yet certain condensation of an
atmosphere of their own about the waters and the walls. The result
was discoverable, he added, in that silent, yet importunate and
terrible influence which for centuries had moulded the destinies of
his family, and which made _him_ what I now saw him - what he was.
Such opinions need no comment, and I will make none.

* Watson, Dr. Percival, Spallanzani, and especially the Bishop
of Landaff. - See "Chemical Essays," vol v.

Our books - the books which, for years, had formed no small
portion of the mental existence of the invalid - were, as might be
supposed, in strict keeping with this character of phantasm. We
pored together over such works as the Ververt et Chartreuse of
Gresset ; the Belphegor of Machiavelli ; the Heaven and Hell of
Swedenborg ; the Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas Klimm by Holberg ;
the Chiromancy of Robert Flud, of Jean D'Indaginé, and of De la
Chambre ; the Journey into the Blue Distance of Tieck ; and the
City of the Sun of Campanella. One favorite volume was a small
octavo edition of the _Directorium Inquisitorium_, by the Dominican


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