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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

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The Raven Edition



VOLUME I Contents

Edgar Allan Poe, An Appreciation
Life of Poe, by James Russell Lowell
Death of Poe, by N. P. Willis
The Unparalled Adventures of One Hans Pfall
The Gold Bug
Four Beasts in One
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Mystery of Marie Rogt
The Balloon Hoax
MS. Found in a Bottle
The Oval Portrait



Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "never--never more!"

THIS stanza from "The Raven" was recommended by James Russell Lowell
as an inscription upon the Baltimore monument which marks the resting
place of Edgar Allan Poe, the most interesting and original figure in
American letters. And, to signify that peculiar musical quality of
Poe's genius which inthralls every reader, Mr. Lowell suggested this
additional verse, from the "Haunted Palace":

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling ever more,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

Born in poverty at Boston, January 19 1809, dying under painful
circumstances at Baltimore, October 7, 1849, his whole literary
career of scarcely fifteen years a pitiful struggle for mere
subsistence, his memory malignantly misrepresented by his earliest
biographer, Griswold, how completely has truth at last routed
falsehood and how magnificently has Poe come into his own, For "The
Raven," first published in 1845, and, within a few months, read,
recited and parodied wherever the English language was spoken, the
half-starved poet received $10! Less than a year later his brother
poet, N. P. Willis, issued this touching appeal to the admirers of
genius on behalf of the neglected author, his dying wife and her
devoted mother, then living under very straitened circumstances in a
little cottage at Fordham, N. Y.:

"Here is one of the finest scholars, one of the most original men of
genius, and one of the most industrious of the literary profession of
our country, whose temporary suspension of labor, from bodily
illness, drops him immediately to a level with the common objects of
public charity. There is no intermediate stopping-place, no
respectful shelter, where, with the delicacy due to genius and
culture, be might secure aid, till, with returning health, he would
resume his labors, and his unmortified sense of independence."

And this was the tribute paid by the American public to the master
who had given to it such tales of conjuring charm, of witchery and
mystery as "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "Ligea; such
fascinating hoaxes as "The Unparalleled Adventure of Hans Pfaall,"
"MSS. Found in a Bottle," "A Descent Into a Maelstrom" and "The
Balloon Hoax"; such tales of conscience as "William Wilson," "The
Black Cat" and "The Tell-tale Heart," wherein the retributions of
remorse are portrayed with an awful fidelity; such tales of natural
beauty as "The Island of the Fay" and "The Domain of Arnheim"; such
marvellous studies in ratiocination as the "Gold-bug," "The Murders
in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter" and "The Mystery of Marie
Roget," the latter, a recital of fact, demonstrating the author's
wonderful capability of correctly analyzing the mysteries of the
human mind; such tales of illusion and banter as "The Premature
Burial" and "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether"; such bits
of extravaganza as "The Devil in the Belfry" and "The Angel of the
Odd"; such tales of adventure as "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon
Pym"; such papers of keen criticism and review as won for Poe the
enthusiastic admiration of Charles Dickens, although they made him
many enemies among the over-puffed minor American writers so
mercilessly exposed by him; such poems of beauty and melody as "The
Bells," "The Haunted Palace," "Tamerlane," "The City in the Sea" and
"The Raven." What delight for the jaded senses of the reader is this
enchanted domain of wonder-pieces! What an atmosphere of beauty,
music, color! What resources of imagination, construction, analysis
and absolute art! One might almost sympathize with Sarah Helen
Whitman, who, confessing to a half faith in the old superstition of
the significance of anagrams, found, in the transposed letters of
Edgar Poe's name, the words "a God-peer." His mind, she says, was
indeed a "Haunted Palace," echoing to the footfalls of angels and

"No man," Poe himself wrote, "has recorded, no man has dared to
record, the wonders of his inner life."

In these twentieth century days -of lavish recognition-artistic,
popular and material-of genius, what rewards might not a Poe claim!

Edgar's father, a son of General David Poe, the American
revolutionary patriot and friend of Lafayette, had married Mrs.
Hopkins, an English actress, and, the match meeting with parental
disapproval, had himself taken to the stage as a profession.
Notwithstanding Mrs. Poe's beauty and talent the young couple had a
sorry struggle for existence. When Edgar, at the age of two years,
was orphaned, the family was in the utmost destitution. Apparently
the future poet was to be cast upon the world homeless and
friendless. But fate decreed that a few glimmers of sunshine were to
illumine his life, for the little fellow was adopted by John Allan, a
wealthy merchant of Richmond, Va. A brother and sister, the remaining
children, were cared for by others.

In his new home Edgar found all the luxury and advantages money could
provide. He was petted, spoiled and shown off to strangers. In Mrs.
Allan he found all the affection a childless wife could bestow. Mr.
Allan took much pride in the captivating, precocious lad. At the age
of five the boy recited, with fine effect, passages of English poetry
to the visitors at the Allan house.

From his eighth to his thirteenth year he attended the Manor House
school, at Stoke-Newington, a suburb of London. It was the Rev. Dr.
Bransby, head of the school, whom Poe so quaintly portrayed in
"William Wilson." Returning to Richmond in 1820 Edgar was sent to the
school of Professor Joseph H. Clarke. He proved an apt pupil. Years
afterward Professor Clarke thus wrote:

"While the other boys wrote mere mechanical verses, Poe wrote genuine
poetry; the boy was a born poet. As a scholar he was ambitious to
excel. He was remarkable for self-respect, without haughtiness. He
had a sensitive and tender heart and would do anything for a friend.
His nature was entirely free from selfishness."

At the age of seventeen Poe entered the University of Virginia at
Charlottesville. He left that institution after one session. Official
records prove that he was not expelled. On the contrary, he gained a
creditable record as a student, although it is admitted that he
contracted debts and had "an ungovernable passion for card-playing."
These debts may have led to his quarrel with Mr. Allan which
eventually compelled him to make his own way in the world.

Early in 1827 Poe made his first literary venture. He induced Calvin
Thomas, a poor and youthful printer, to publish a small volume of his
verses under the title "Tamerlane and Other Poems." In 1829 we find
Poe in Baltimore with another manuscript volume of verses, which was
soon published. Its title was "Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Other Poems."
Neither of these ventures seems to have attracted much attention.

Soon after Mrs. Allan's death, which occurred in 1829, Poe, through
the aid of Mr. Allan, secured admission to the United States Military
Academy at West Point. Any glamour which may have attached to cadet
life in Poe's eyes was speedily lost, for discipline at West Point
was never so severe nor were the accommodations ever so poor. Poe's
bent was more and more toward literature. Life at the academy daily
became increasingly distasteful. Soon he began to purposely neglect
his studies and to disregard his duties, his aim being to secure his
dismissal from the United States service. In this he succeeded. On
March 7, 1831, Poe found himself free. Mr. Allan's second marriage
had thrown the lad on his own resources. His literary career was to

Poe's first genuine victory was won in 1833, when .he was the
successful competitor for a prize of $100 offered by a Baltimore
periodical for the best prose story. "A MSS. Found in a Bottle" was
the winning tale. Poe had submitted six stories in a volume. "Our
only difficulty," says Mr. Latrobe, one of the judges, "was in
selecting from the rich contents of the volume."

During the fifteen years of his literary life Poe was connected with
various newspapers and magazines in Richmond, Philadelphia and New
York. He was faithful, punctual, industrious, thorough. N. P. Willis,
who for some time employed Poe as critic and sub-editor on the
"Evening Mirror," wrote thus:

"With the highest admiration for Poe's genius, and a willingness to
let it alone for more than ordinary irregularity, we were led by
common report to expect a very capricious attention to his duties,
and occasionally a scene of violence and difficulty. Time went on,
however, and he was invariably punctual and industrious. We saw but
one presentiment of the man-a quiet, patient, industrious and most
gentlemanly person.

"We heard, from one who knew him well (what should be stated in all
mention of his lamentable irregularities), that with a single glass
of wine his whole nature was reversed, the demon became 'uppermost,
and, though none of the usual signs of in

Poe's first genuine victory was won in 1833, when he was the
successful competitor for a prize of $100 offered by a Baltimore
periodical for the best prose story. "A MSS. Found in a Bottle" was
the winning tale. Poe had submitted six stories in a volume. "Our
only difficulty," says Mr. Latrobe, one of the judges, "was in
selecting from the rich contents of the volume."

During the fifteen years of his literary life Poe was connected with
various newspapers and magazines in Richmond, Philadelphia and New
York. He was faithful, punctual, industrious, thorough. N. P. Willis,
who for some time employed Poe as critic and sub-editor on the
"Evening Mirror," wrote thus:

"With the highest admiration for Poe's genius, and a willingness to
let it alone for more than ordinary irregularity, we were led by
common report to expect a very capricious attention to his duties,
and occasionally a scene of violence and difficulty. Time went on,
however, and he was invariably punctual and industrious. We saw but
one presentiment of the man-a quiet, patient, industrious and most
gentlemanly person;

"We heard, from one who knew him well (what should be stated in all
mention of his lamentable irregularities), that with a single glass
of wine his whole nature was reversed, the demon became uppermost,
and, though none of the usual signs of intoxication were visible, his
will was palpably insane. In this reversed character, we repeat, it
was never our chance to meet him."

On September 22, 1835, Poe married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, in
Baltimore. She had barely turned thirteen years, Poe himself was but
twentysix. He then was a resident of Richmond and a regular
contributor to the "Southern Literary Messenger." It was not until a
year later that the bride and her widowed mother followed him thither.

Poe's devotion to his cbild-wife was one of the most beautiful
features of his life. Many of his famous poetic productions were
inspired by her beauty and charm. Consumption had marked her for its
victim, and the constant efforts of husband and mother were to secure
for her all the comfort and happiness their slender means permitted.
Virginia died January 30, 1847, when but twenty-five years of age. A
friend of the family pictures the death-bed scene-mother and husband
trying to impart warmth to her by chafing her hands and her feet,
while her pet cat was suffered to nestle upon her bosom for the sake
of added warmth.

These verses from "Annabel Lee," written by Poe in 1849, the last
year of his life, tell of his sorrow at the loss of his child-wife:

I was a child and _she_ was a child,
In a kingdom by the sea;

But we loved with _a _love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;

With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago;
In this kingdom by the sea.
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her high-born kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea,

Poe was connected at various times and in various capacities with the
"Southern Literary Messenger" in Richmond, Va.; "Graham's Magazine"
and the "Gentleman's Magazine" in Philadelphia.; the "Evening
Mirror," the "Broadway journal," and "Godey's Lady's Book" in New
York. Everywhere Poe's life was one of unremitting toil. No tales and
poems were ever produced at a greater cost of brain and spirit.

Poe's initial salary with the "Southern Literary Messenger," to which
he contributed the first drafts of a number of his best-known tales,
was $10 a week! Two years later his salary was but $600 a year. Even
in 1844, when his literary reputation was established securely, he
wrote to a friend expressing his pleasure because a magazine to which
he was to contribute had agreed to pay him $20 monthly for two pages
of criticism.

Those were discouraging times in American literature, but Poe never
lost faith. He was finally to triumph wherever pre-eminent talents
win admirers. His genius has had no better description than in this
stanza from William Winter's poem, read at the dedication exercises
of the Actors' Monument to Poe, May 4, 1885, in New York:

He was the voice of beauty and of woe,
Passion and mystery and the dread unknown;
Pure as the mountains of perpetual snow,
Cold as the icy winds that round them moan,
Dark as the eaves wherein earth's thunders groan,
Wild as the tempests of the upper sky,
Sweet as the faint, far-off celestial tone of angel
whispers, fluttering from on high,
And tender as love's tear when youth and beauty die.

In the two and a half score years that have elapsed since Poe's death
he has come fully into his own. For a while Griswold's malignant
misrepresentations colored the public estimate of Poe as man and as
writer. But, thanks to J. H. Ingram, W. F. Gill, Eugene Didier, Sarah
Helen Whitman and others these scandals have been dispelled and Poe
is seen as he actually was-not as a man without failings, it is true,
but as the finest and most original genius in American letters. As
the years go on his fame increases. His works have been translated
into many foreign languages. His is a household name in France and
England-in fact, the latter nation has often uttered the reproach
that Poe's own country has been slow to appreciate him. But that
reproach, if it ever was warranted, certainly is untrue.

W. H. R.

~~~~~~ End of Text ~~~~~~




THE situation of American literature is anomalous. It has no centre,
or, if it have, it is like that of the sphere of Hermes. It is,
divided into many systems, each revolving round its several suns, and
often presenting to the rest only the faint glimmer of a
milk-and-water way. Our capital city, unlike London or Paris, is not
a great central heart from which life and vigor radiate to the
extremities, but resembles more an isolated umbilicus stuck down as
near a's may be to the centre of the land, and seeming rather to tell
a legend of former usefulness than to serve any present need. Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, each has its literature almost more distinct
than those of the different dialects of Germany; and the Young Queen
of the West has also one of her own, of which some articulate rumor
barely has reached us dwellers by the Atlantic.

Perhaps there is no task more difficult than the just criticism of
contemporary literature. It is even more grateful to give praise
where it is needed than where it is deserved, and friendship so often
seduces the iron stylus of justice into a vague flourish, that she
writes what seems rather like an epitaph than a criticism. Yet if
praise be given as an alms, we could not drop so poisonous a one into
any man's hat. The critic's ink may suffer equally from too large an
infusion of nutgalls or of sugar. But it is easier to be generous
than to be just, and we might readily put faith in that fabulous
direction to the hiding place of truth, did we judge from the amount
of water which we usually find mixed with it.

Remarkable experiences are usually confined to the inner life of
imaginative men, but Mr. Poe's biography displays a vicissitude and
peculiarity of interest such as is rarely met with. The offspring of
a romantic marriage, and left an orphan at an early age, he was
adopted by Mr. Allan, a wealthy Virginian, whose barren marriage-bed
seemed the warranty of a large estate to the young poet.

Having received a classical education in England, he returned home
and entered the University of Virginia, where, after an extravagant
course, followed by reformation at the last extremity, he was
graduated with the highest honors of his class. Then came a boyish
attempt to join the fortunes of the insurgent Greeks, which ended at
St. Petersburg, where he got into difficulties through want of a
passport, from which he was rescued by the American consul and sent
home. He now entered the military academy at West Point, from which
he obtained a dismissal on hearing of the birth of a son to his
adopted father, by a second marriage, an event which cut off his
expectations as an heir. The death of Mr. Allan, in whose will his
name was not mentioned, soon after relieved him of all doubt in this
regard, and he committed himself at once to authorship for a support.
Previously to this, however, he had published (in 1827) a small
volume of poems, which soon ran through three editions, and excited
high expectations of its author's future distinction in the minds of
many competent judges.

That no certain augury can be drawn from a poet's earliest lispings
there are instances enough to prove. Shakespeare's first poems,
though brimful of vigor and youth and picturesqueness, give but a
very faint promise of the directness, condensation and overflowing
moral of his maturer works. Perhaps, however, Shakespeare is hardly a
case in point, his "Venus and Adonis" having been published, we
believe, in his twenty-sixth year. Milton's Latin verses show
tenderness, a fine eye for nature, and a delicate appreciation of
classic models, .but give no hint of the author of a new style in
poetry. Pope's youthful pieces have all the sing-song, wholly
unrelieved by the glittering malignity and eloquent irreligion of his
later productions. Collins' callow namby-pamby died and gave no sign
of the vigorous and original genius which he afterward displayed. We
have never thought that the world lost more in the "marvellous boy,"
Chatterton, than a very ingenious imitator of obscure and antiquated
dulness. Where he becomes original (as it is called), the interest of
ingenuity ceases and he becomes stupid. Kirke White's promises were
indorsed by the respectable name of Mr. Southey, but surely with no
authority from Apollo. They have the merit of a traditional piety,
which to our mind, if uttered at all, had been less objectionable in
the retired closet of a diary, and in the sober raiment of prose.
They do not clutch hold of the memory with

the drowning pertinacity of Watts; neither have they the interest of
his occasional simple, lucky beauty. Burns having fortunately been
rescued by his humble station from the contaminating society of the
"Best models," wrote well and naturally from the first. Had he been
unfortunate enough to have had an educated taste, we should have had
a series of poems from which, as from his letters, we could sift here
and there a kernel from the mass of chaff. Coleridge's youthful
efforts give no promise whatever of that poetical genius which
produced at once the wildest, tenderest, most original and most
purely imaginative poems of modem times. Byron's "Hours of Idleness"
would never find a reader except from an intrepid and indefatigable
curiosity. In Wordsworth's first preludings there is but a dim
foreboding of the creator of an era. From Southey's early poems, a
safer augury might have been drawn. They show the patient
investigator, the close student of history, and the unwearied
explorer of the beauties of predecessors, but they give no assurances
of a man who should add aught to stock of household words, or to the
rarer and more sacred delights of the fireside or the arbor. The
earliest specimens of Shelley's poetic mind already, also, give
tokens of that ethereal sublimation in which the spirit seems to soar
above the regions of words, but leaves its body, the verse, to be
entombed, without hope of resurrection, in a mass of them. Cowley is
generally instanced as a wonder of precocity. But his early
insipidities show only a capacity for rhyming and for the metrical
arrangement of certain conventional combinations of words, a capacity
wholly dependent on a delicate physical organization, and an unhappy
memory. An early poem is only remarkable when it displays an effort
of _reason, _and the rudest verses in which we can trace some
conception of the ends of poetry, are worth all the miracles of
smooth juvenile versification. A school-boy, one would say, might
acquire the regular see-saw of Pope merely by an association with the
motion of the play-ground tilt.

Mr. Poe's early productions show that he could see through the verse
to the spirit beneath, and that he already had a feeling that all the
life and grace of the one must depend on and be modulated by the will
of the other. We call them the most remarkable boyish poems that we
have ever read. We know of none that can compare with them for
maturity of purpose, and a nice understanding of the effects of
language and metre. Such pieces are only valuable when they display
what we can only express by the contradictory phrase of _innate
experience. _We copy one of the shorter poems, written when the
author was only fourteen. There is a little dimness in the filling
up, but the grace and symmetry of the outline are such as few poets
ever attain. There is a smack of ambrosia about it.


Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand!
The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah ! Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land !

It is the tendency of_ _the young poet that impresses us. Here is no
"withering scorn," no heart "blighted" ere it has safely got into its
teens, none of the drawing-room sansculottism which Byron had brought
into vogue. All is limpid and serene, with a pleasant dash of the
Greek Helicon in it. The melody of the whole, too, is remarkable. It
is not of that kind which can be demonstrated arithmetically upon the
tips of the fingers. It is of that finer sort which the inner ear
alone _can _estimate. It seems simple, like a Greek column, because
of its perfection. In a poem named "Ligeia," under which title he
intended to personify the music of nature,, our boy-poet gives us the
following exquisite picture:

Ligeia ! Ligeia !
My beautiful one,
Whose harshest idea
Will to melody run,
Say, is it thy will,
On the breezes to toss,
Or, capriciously still,
Like the lone albatross,
Incumbent on night,
As she on the air,
To keep watch with delight
On the harmony there?

John Neal, himself a man of genius, and whose lyre has been too
long capriciously silent, appreciated the high merit of these and
similar passages, and drew a proud horoscope for their author.

Mr. Poe had that indescribable something which men have agreed to
call _genius. _No man could ever tell us precisely what it is, and
yet there is none who is not inevitably aware of its presence and its
power. Let talent writhe and contort itself as it may, it has no such
magnetism. Larger of bone and sinew it may be, but the wings are
wanting. Talent sticks fast to earth, and its most perfect works have
still one- foot of clay. Genius claims kindred with the very workings
of Nature herself, so that a sunset shall seem like a quotation from
Dante, and if Shakespeare be read in the very presence of the sea
itself, his verses shall but seem nobler for the sublime criticism of
ocean. Talent may make friends for itself, but only genius can give
to its creations the divine power of winning love and veneration.
Enthusiasm cannot cling to what itself is unenthusiastic, nor will he
ever have disciples who has not himself impulsive zeal enough to be a
disciple. Great wits are allied to madness only inasmuch as they are
possessed and carried away by their demon, While talent keeps him, as
Paracelsus did, securely prisoned in the pommel of his sword. To the
eye of genius, the veil of the spiritual world is ever rent asunder
that it may perceive the ministers of good and evil who throng
continually around it. No man of mere talent ever flung his inkstand
at the devil.

When we say that Mr. Poe had genius, we do not mean to say that he
has produced evidence of the highest. But to say that he possesses it
at all is to say that he needs only zeal, industry, and a reverence
for the trust reposed in him, to achieve the proudest triumphs and
the greenest laurels. If we may believe the Longinuses; and
Aristotles of our newspapers, we have quite too many geniuses of the
loftiest order to render a place among them at all desirable, whether
for its hardness of attainment or its seclusion. The highest peak of
our Parnassus is, according to these gentlemen, by far the most
thickly settled portion of the country, a circumstance which must
make it an uncomfortable residence for individuals of a poetical
temperament, if love of solitude be, as immemorial tradition asserts,
a necessary part of their idiosyncrasy.

Mr. Poe has two of the prime qualities of genius, a faculty of
vigorous yet minute analysis, and a wonderful fecundity of
imagination. The first of these faculties is as needful to the artist
in words, as a knowledge of anatomy is to the artist in colors or in
stone. This enables him to conceive truly, to maintain a proper
relation of parts, and to draw a correct outline, while the second
groups, fills up and colors. Both of these Mr. Poe has displayed with
singular distinctness in his prose works, the last predominating in
his earlier tales, and the first in his later ones. In judging of the
merit of an author, and assigning him his niche among our household
gods, we have a right to regard him from our own point of view, and
to measure him by our own standard. But, in estimating the amount of
power displayed in his works, we must be governed by his own design,
and placing them by the side of his own ideal, find how much is
wanting. We differ from Mr. Poe in his opinions of the objects of
art. He esteems that object to be the creation of Beauty, and perhaps
it is only in the definition of that word that we disagree with him.
But in what we shall say of his writings, we shall take his own
standard as our guide. The temple of the god of song is equally.
accessible from every side, and there is room enough in it for all
who bring offerings, or seek in oracle.

In his tales, Mr. Poe has chosen to exhibit his power chiefly in that
dim region which stretches from the very utmost limits of the
probable into the weird confines of superstition and unreality. He
combines in a very remarkable manner two faculties which are seldom
found united; a power of influencing the mind of the reader by the
impalpable shadows of mystery, and a minuteness of detail which does
not leave a pin or a button unnoticed. Both are, in truth, the
natural results of the predominating quality of his mind, to which we
have before alluded, analysis. It is this which distinguishes the
artist. His mind at once reaches forward to the effect to be
produced. Having resolved to bring about certain emotions in the
reader, he makes all subordinate parts tend strictly to the common
centre. Even his mystery is mathematical to his own mind. To him X is
a known quantity all along. In any picture that he paints he
understands the chemical properties of all his colors. However vague
some of his figures may seem, however formless the shadows, to him
the outline is as clear and distinct as that of a geometrical
diagram. For this reason Mr. Poe has no sympathy with Mysticism. The
Mystic dwells in the mystery, is enveloped with it; it colors all his
thoughts; it affects his optic nerve especially, and the commonest
things get a rainbow edging from it. Mr. Poe, on the other hand, is a
spectator _ab extra. _He analyzes, he dissects, he watches

"with an eye serene,

The very pulse of the machine,"

for such it practically is to him, with wheels and cogs and
piston-rods, all working to produce a certain end.

This analyzing tendency of his mind balances the poetical, and by
giving him the patience to be minute, enables him to throw a
wonderful reality into his most unreal fancies. A monomania he paints
with great power. He loves to dissect one of these cancers of the
mind, and to trace all the subtle ramifications of its roots. In
raising images of horror, also, he has strange success, conveying to
us sometimes by a dusky hint some terrible _doubt _which is the
secret of all horror. He leaves to imagination the task of finishing
the picture, a task to which only she is competent.

"For much imaginary work was there;
Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind,
That for Achilles' image stood his spear
Grasped in an armed hand; himself behind
Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind."

Besides the merit of conception, Mr. Poe's writings have also that of

His style is highly finished, graceful and truly classical. It would
be hard to find a living author who had displayed such varied powers.
As an example of his style we would refer to one of his tales, "The
House of Usher," in the first volume of his "Tales of the Grotesque
and Arabesque." It has a singular charm for us, and we think that no
one could read it without being strongly moved by its serene and
sombre beauty. Had its author written nothing else, it would alone
have been enough to stamp him as a man of genius, and the master of a
classic style. In this tale occurs, perhaps, the most beautiful of
his poems.

The great masters of imagination have seldom resorted to the vague
and the unreal as sources of effect. They have not used dread and
horror alone, but only in combination with other qualities, as means
of subjugating the fancies of their readers. The loftiest muse has
ever a household and fireside charm about her. Mr. Poe's secret lies
mainly in the skill with which he has employed the strange
fascination of mystery and terror. In this his success is so great
and striking as to deserve the name of art, not artifice. We cannot
call his materials the noblest or purest, but we must concede to him
the highest merit of construction.

As a critic, Mr. Poe was aesthetically deficient. Unerring in his
analysis of dictions, metres and plots, he seemed wanting in the
faculty of perceiving the profounder ethics of art. His criticisms
are, however, distinguished for scientific precision and coherence of
logic. They have the exactness, and at the same time, the coldness of
mathematical demonstrations. Yet they stand in strikingly refreshing
contrast with the vague generalisms and sharp personalities of the
day. If deficient in warmth, they are also without the heat of
partisanship. They are especially valuable as illustrating the great
truth, too generally overlooked, that analytic power is a subordinate
quality of the critic.

On the whole, it may be considered certain that Mr. Poe has attained
an individual eminence in our literature which he will keep. He has
given proof of power and originality. He has done that which could
only be done once with success or safety, and the imitation or
repetition of which would produce weariness.

~~~~~~ End of Text ~~~~~~




THE ancient fable of two antagonistic spirits imprisoned in one body,
equally powerful and having the complete mastery by turns-of one man,
that is to say, inhabited by both a devil and an angel seems to have
been realized, if all we hear is true, in the character of the
extraordinary man whose name we have written above. Our own
impression of the nature of Edgar A. Poe, differs in some important
degree, however, from that which has been generally conveyed in the
notices of his death. Let us, before telling what we personally know
of him, copy a graphic and highly finished portraiture, from the pen
of Dr. Rufus W. Griswold, which appeared in a recent number of the

"Edgar Allen Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore on Sunday, October
7th. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by
it. The poet was known, personally or by reputation, in all this
country; he had readers in England and in several of the states of
Continental Europe; but he had few or no friends; and the regrets for
his death will be suggested principally by the consideration that in
him literary art has lost one of its most brilliant but erratic stars.

"His conversation was at times almost supramortal in its eloquence.
His voice was modulated with astonishing skill, and his large and
variably expressive eyes looked repose or shot fiery tumult into
theirs who listened, while his own face glowed, or was changeless in
pallor, as his imagination quickened his blood or drew it back frozen
to his heart. His imagery was from the worlds which no mortals can
see but with the vision of genius. Suddenly starting from a
proposition, exactly and sharply defined, in terms of utmost
simplicity and clearness, he rejected the forms of customary logic,
and by a crystalline process of accretion, built up his ocular
demonstrations in forms of gloomiest and ghastliest grandeur, or in
those of the most airy and delicious beauty, so minutely and
distinctly, yet so rapidly, that the attention which was yielded to
him was chained till it stood among his wonderful creations, till he
himself dissolved the spell, and brought his hearers back to common
and base existence, by vulgar fancies or exhibitions of the ignoblest

"He was at all times a dreamer-dwelling in ideal realms-in heaven or
hell-peopled with the creatures and the accidents of his brain. He
walked-the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in
indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayer (never
for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already
damned, but) for their happiness who at the moment were objects of
his idolatry; or with his glances introverted to a heart gnawed with
anguish, and with a face shrouded in gloom, he would brave the
wildest storms, and all night, with drenched garments and arms
beating the winds and rains, would speak as if the spirits that at
such times only could be evoked by him from the Aidenn, close by
whose portals his disturbed soul sought to forget the ills to which
his constitution subjected him---close by the Aidenn where were those
he loved-the Aidenn which he might never see, but in fitful glimpses,
as its gates opened to receive the less fiery and more happy natures
whose destiny to sin did not involve the doom of death.

"He seemed, except when some fitful pursuit subjugated his will and
engrossed his faculties, always to bear the memory of some
controlling sorrow. The remarkable poem of 'The Raven' was probably
much more nearly than has been supposed, even by those who were very
intimate with him, a reflection and an echo of his own history. _He
_was that bird's

" ' unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never-never more.'

"Every genuine author in a greater or less degree leaves in his
works, whatever their design, traces of his personal character:
elements of his immortal being, in which the individual survives the
person. While we read the pages of the 'Fall of the House of Usher,'
or of 'Mesmeric Revelations,' we see in the solemn and stately gloom
which invests one, and in the subtle metaphysical analysis of both,
indications of the idiosyncrasies of what was most remarkable and
peculiar in the author's intellectual nature. But we see here only
the better phases of his nature, only the symbols of his juster
action, for his harsh experience had deprived him of all faith in man
or woman. He had made up his mind upon the numberless complexities of
the social world, and the whole system with him was an imposture.
This conviction gave a direction to his shrewd and naturally
unamiable character. Still, though he regarded society as composed
altogether of villains, the sharpness of his intellect was not of
that kind which enabled him to cope with villany, while it
continually caused him by overshots to fail of the success of
honesty. He was in many respects like Francis Vivian in Bulwer's
novel of 'The Caxtons.' Passion, in him, comprehended -many of the
worst emotions which militate against human happiness. You could not
contradict him, but you raised quick choler; you could not speak of
wealth, but his cheek paled with gnawing envy. The astonishing
natural advantages of this poor boy--his beauty, his readiness, the
daring spirit that breathed around him like a fiery atmosphere--had
raised his constitutional self-confidence into an arrogance that
turned his very claims to admiration into prejudices against him.
Irascible, envious--bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient
angles were all varnished over with a cold, repellant cynicism, his
passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral
susceptibility; and, what was more remarkable in a proud nature,
little or nothing of the true point of honor. He had, to a morbid
excess, that, desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but
no wish for the esteem or the love of his species; only the hard wish
to succeed-not shine, not serve -succeed, that he might have the
right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit.

"We have suggested the influence of his aims and vicissitudes upon
his literature. It was more conspicuous in his later than in his
earlier writings. Nearly all that he wrote in the last two or three
years-including much of his best poetry-was in some sense
biographical; in draperies of his imagination, those who had taken
the trouble to trace his steps, could perceive, but slightly
concealed, the figure of himself."

Apropos of the disparaging portion of the above well-written sketch,
let us truthfully say:

Some four or five years since, when editing a daily paper in this
city, Mr. Poe was employed by us, for several months, as critic and
sub-editor. This was our first personal acquaintance with him. He
resided with his wife and mother at Fordham, a few miles out of town,
but was at his desk in the office, from nine in the morning till the
evening paper went to press. With the highest admiration for his
genius, and a willingness to let it atone for more than ordinary
irregularity, we were led by common report to expect a very
capricious attention to his duties, and occasionally a scene of
violence and difficulty. Time went on, however, and he was invariably
punctual and industrious. With his pale, beautiful, and intellectual
face, as a reminder of what genius was in him, it was impossible, of
course, not to treat him always with deferential courtesy, and, to
our occasional request that he would not probe too deep in a
criticism, or that he would erase a passage colored too highly with
his resentments against society and mankind, he readily and
courteously assented-far more yielding than most men, we thought, on
points so excusably sensitive. With a prospect of taking the lead in
another periodical, he, at last, voluntarily gave up his employment
with us, and, through all this considerable period, we had seen but
one presentment of the man-a quiet, patient, industrious, and most
gentlemanly person, commanding the utmost respect and good feeling by
his unvarying deportment and ability.

Residing as he did in the country, we never met Mr. Poe in hours of
leisure; but he frequently called on us afterward at our place of
business, and we met him often in the street-invariably the same sad
mannered, winning and refined gentleman , such as we had always known
him. It was by rumor only, up to the day of his death, that we knew
of any other development of manner or character. We heard, from one
who knew him well (what should be stated in all mention of his
lamentable irregularities), that, with a single glass of wine, his
whole nature was reversed, the demon became uppermost, and, though
none of the usual signs of intoxication were visible, his will was
palpably insane. Possessing his reasoning faculties in excited
activity, at such times, and seeking his acquaintances with his
wonted look and memory, he easily seemed personating only another
phase of his natural character, and was accused, accordingly, of
insulting arrogance and bad-heartedness. In this reversed character,
we repeat, it was never our chance to see him. We know it from
hearsay, and we mention it in connection with this sad infirmity of
physical constitution; which puts it upon very nearly the ground of a
temporary and almost irresponsible insanity.

The arrogance, vanity, and depravity of heart, of which Mr. Poe was
generally accused, seem to us referable altogether to this reversed
phase of his character. Under that degree of intoxication which only
acted upon him by demonizing his sense of truth and right, he
doubtless said and did much that was wholly irreconcilable with his
better nature; but, when himself, and as we knew him only, his
modesty and unaffected humility, as to his own deservings, were a
constant charm to his character. His letters, of which the constant
application for autographs has taken from us, we are sorry to
confess, the greater portion, exhibited this quality very strongly.
In one of the carelessly written notes of which we chance still to
retain possession, for instance, he speaks of "The Raven"--that
extraordinary poem which electrified the world of imaginative
readers, and has become the type of a school of poetry of its
own-and, in evident earnest, attributes its success to the few words
of commendation with which we had prefaced it in this paper. -It will
throw light on his sane character to give a literal copy of the note:

"FORDHAM, April 20, 1849

"My DEAR WILLIS--The poem which I inclose, and which I am so vain as
to hope you will like, in some respects, has been just published in a
paper for which sheer necessity compels me to write, now and then. It
pays well as times go-but unquestionably it ought to pay ten prices;
for whatever I send it I feel I am consigning to the tomb of the
Capulets. The verses accompanying this, may I beg you to take out of
the tomb, and bring them to light in the 'Home journal?' If you can
oblige me so far as to copy them, I do not think it will be necessary
to say 'From the ----, that would be too bad; and, perhaps, 'From a
late ---- paper,' would do.

"I have not forgotten how a 'good word in season' from you made 'The
Raven,' and made 'Ulalume' (which by-the-way, people have done me the
honor of attributing to you), therefore, I would ask you (if I dared)
to say something of these lines if they please you.

"Truly yours ever,


In double proof of his earnest disposition to do the best for
himself, and of the trustful and grateful nature which has been
denied him, we give another of the only three of his notes which we
chance to retain :

"FORDHAM, January 22, 1848.

"My DEAR MR. WILLiS-I am about to make an effort at re-establishing
myself in the literary world, and _feel _that I may depend upon your

"My general aim is to start a Magazine, to be called 'The Stylus,'
but it would be useless to me, even when established, if not entirely
out of the control of a publisher. I mean, therefore, to get up a
journal which shall be _my own_ at all points. With this end in view,
I must get a list of at least five hundred subscribers to begin with;
nearly two hundred I have already. I propose, however, to go South
and West, among my personal and literary friends--old college and
West Point acquaintances -and see what I can do. In order to get the
means of taking the first step, I propose to lecture at the Society
Library, on Thursday, the 3d of February, and, that there may be no
cause of _squabbling_, my subject shall _not be literary _at all. I
have chosen a broad text: 'The Universe.'

"Having thus given you _the facts _of the case, I leave all the rest
to the suggestions of your own tact and generosity. Gratefully, _most

_"Your friend always,


Brief and chance-taken as these letters are, we think they
sufficiently prove the existence of the very qualities denied to Mr.
Poe-humility, willingness to persevere, belief in another's
friendship, and capability of cordial and grateful friendship! Such
he assuredly was when sane. Such only he has invariably seemed to us,
in all we have happened personally to know of him, through a
friendship of five or six years. And so much easier is it to believe
what we have seen and known, than what we hear of only, that we
remember him but with admiration and respect; these descriptions of
him, when morally insane, seeming to us like portraits, painted in
sickness, of a man we have only known in health.

But there is another, more touching, and far more forcible evidence
that there was _goodness _in Edgar A. Poe. To reveal it we are
obliged to venture upon the lifting of the veil which sacredly covers
grief and refinement in poverty; but we think it may be excused, if
so we can brighten the memory of the poet, even were there not a more
needed and immediate service which it may render to the nearest link
broken by his death.

Our first knowledge of Mr. Poe's removal to this city was by a call
which we received from a lady who introduced herself to us as the
mother of his wife. She was in search of employment for him, and she
excused her errand by mentioning that he was ill, that her daughter
was a confirmed invalid, and that their circumstances were such as
compelled her taking it upon herself. The countenance of this lady,
made beautiful and saintly with an evidently complete giving up of
her life to privation and sorrowful tenderness, her gentle and
mournful voice urging its plea, her long-forgotten but habitually and
unconsciously refined manners, and her appealing and yet appreciative
mention of the claims and abilities of her son, disclosed at once the
presence of one of those angels upon earth that women in adversity
can be. It was a hard fate that she was watching over. Mr. Poe wrote
with fastidious difficulty, and in a style too much above the popular
level to be well paid. He was always in pecuniary difficulty, and,
with his sick wife, frequently in want of the merest necessaries of
life. Winter after winter, for years, the most touching sight to us,
in this whole city, has been that tireless minister to genius, thinly
and insufficiently clad, going from office to office with a poem, or
an article on some literary subject, to sell, sometimes simply
pleading in a broken voice that he was ill, and begging for him,
mentioning nothing but that "he was ill," whatever might be the
reason for his writing nothing, and never, amid all her tears and
recitals of distress, suffering one syllable to escape her lips that
could convey a doubt of him, or a complaint, or a lessening of pride
in his genius and good intentions. Her daughter died a year and a
half since, but she did not desert him. She continued his ministering
angel--living with him, caring for him, guarding him against
exposure, and when he was carried away by temptation, amid grief and
the loneliness of feelings unreplied to, and awoke from his self
abandonment prostrated in destitution and suffering, _begging _for
him still. If woman's devotion, born with a first love, and fed with
human passion, hallow its object, as it is allowed to do, what does
not a devotion like this-pure, disinterested and holy as the watch of
an invisible spirit-say for him who inspired it?

We have a letter before us, written by this lady, Mrs. Clemm, on the
morning in which she heard of the death of this object of her
untiring care. It is merely a request that we would call upon her,
but we will copy a few of its words--sacred as its privacy is--to
warrant the truth of the picture we have drawn above, and add force
to the appeal we wish to make for her:

"I have this morning heard of the death of my darling Eddie. . . .
Can you give me any circumstances or particulars? . . . Oh! do not
desert your poor friend in his bitter affliction! . . . Ask -Mr. --
to come, as I must deliver a message to him from my poor Eddie. . . .
I need not ask you to notice his death and to speak well of him. I
know you will. But say what an affectionate son he was to me, his
poor desolate mother. . ."

To hedge round a grave with respect, what choice is there, between
the relinquished wealth and honors of the world, and the story of
such a woman's unrewarded devotion! Risking what we do, in delicacy,
by making it public, we feel--other reasons aside--that it betters
the world to make known that there are such ministrations to its
erring and gifted. What we have said will speak to some hearts. There
are those who will be glad to know how the lamp, whose light of
poetry has beamed on their far-away recognition, was watched over
with care and pain, that they may send to her, who is more darkened
than they by its extinction, some token of their sympathy. She is
destitute and alone. If any, far or near, will send to us what may
aid and cheer her through the remainder of her life, we will joyfully
place it in her bands.

~~~~~ End of Text ~~~~~~


The Unparalleled Adventures of

One Hans Pfaal {*1}

BY late accounts from Rotterdam, that city seems to be in a high
state of philosophical excitement. Indeed, phenomena have there
occurred of a nature so completely unexpected -- so entirely novel --
so utterly at variance with preconceived opinions -- as to leave no
doubt on my mind that long ere this all Europe is in an uproar, all
physics in a ferment, all reason and astronomy together by the ears.

It appears that on the -- -- day of -- -- (I am not positive about
the date), a vast crowd of people, for purposes not specifically
mentioned, were assembled in the great square of the Exchange in the
well-conditioned city of Rotterdam. The day was warm -- unusually so
for the season -- there was hardly a breath of air stirring; and the
multitude were in no bad humor at being now and then besprinkled with
friendly showers of momentary duration, that fell from large white
masses of cloud which chequered in a fitful manner the blue vault of
the firmament. Nevertheless, about noon, a slight but remarkable
agitation became apparent in the assembly: the clattering of ten
thousand tongues succeeded; and, in an instant afterward, ten
thousand faces were upturned toward the heavens, ten thousand pipes
descended simultaneously from the corners of ten thousand mouths, and
a shout, which could be compared to nothing but the roaring of
Niagara, resounded long, loudly, and furiously, through all the
environs of Rotterdam.

The origin of this hubbub soon became sufficiently evident. From
behind the huge bulk of one of those sharply-defined masses of cloud
already mentioned, was seen slowly to emerge into an open area of
blue space, a queer, heterogeneous, but apparently solid substance,
so oddly shaped, so whimsically put together, as not to be in any
manner comprehended, and never to be sufficiently admired, by the
host of sturdy burghers who stood open-mouthed below. What could it
be? In the name of all the vrows and devils in Rotterdam, what could
it possibly portend? No one knew, no one could imagine; no one -- not
even the burgomaster Mynheer Superbus Von Underduk -- had the
slightest clew by which to unravel the mystery; so, as nothing more
reasonable could be done, every one to a man replaced his pipe
carefully in the corner of his mouth, and cocking up his right eye
towards the phenomenon, puffed, paused, waddled about, and grunted
significantly -- then waddled back, grunted, paused, and finally --
puffed again.

In the meantime, however, lower and still lower toward the goodly
city, came the object of so much curiosity, and the cause of so much
smoke. In a very few minutes it arrived near enough to be accurately
discerned. It appeared to be -- yes! it was undoubtedly a species of
balloon; but surely no such balloon had ever been seen in Rotterdam
before. For who, let me ask, ever heard of a balloon manufactured
entirely of dirty newspapers? No man in Holland certainly; yet here,
under the very noses of the people, or rather at some distance above
their noses was the identical thing in question, and composed, I have
it on the best authority, of the precise material which no one had
ever before known to be used for a similar purpose. It was an
egregious insult to the good sense of the burghers of Rotterdam. As
to the shape of the phenomenon, it was even still more reprehensible.
Being little or nothing better than a huge foolscap turned upside
down. And this similitude was regarded as by no means lessened when,
upon nearer inspection, there was perceived a large tassel depending
from its apex, and, around the upper rim or base of the cone, a
circle of little instruments, resembling sheep-bells, which kept up a
continual tinkling to the tune of Betty Martin. But still worse.
Suspended by blue ribbons to the end of this fantastic machine, there
hung, by way of car, an enormous drab beaver bat, with a brim
superlatively broad, and a hemispherical crown with a black band and
a silver buckle. It is, however, somewhat remarkable that many
citizens of Rotterdam swore to having seen the same hat repeatedly
before; and indeed the whole assembly seemed to regard it with eyes
of familiarity; while the vrow Grettel Pfaall, upon sight of it,
uttered an exclamation of joyful surprise, and declared it to be the
identical hat of her good man himself. Now this was a circumstance
the more to be observed, as Pfaall, with three companions, had
actually disappeared from Rotterdam about five years before, in a
very sudden and unaccountable manner, and up to the date of this
narrative all attempts had failed of obtaining any intelligence
concerning them whatsoever. To be sure, some bones which were thought
to be human, mixed up with a quantity of odd-looking rubbish, had
been lately discovered in a retired situation to the east of
Rotterdam, and some people went so far as to imagine that in this
spot a foul murder had been committed, and that the sufferers were in
all probability Hans Pfaall and his associates. But to return.

The balloon (for such no doubt it was) had now descended to within a
hundred feet of the earth, allowing the crowd below a sufficiently
distinct view of the person of its occupant. This was in truth a very
droll little somebody. He could not have been more than two feet in
height; but this altitude, little as it was, would have been
sufficient to destroy his equilibrium, and tilt him over the edge of
his tiny car, but for the intervention of a circular rim reaching as
high as the breast, and rigged on to the cords of the balloon. The
body of the little man was more than proportionately broad, giving to
his entire figure a rotundity highly absurd. His feet, of course,
could not be seen at all, although a horny substance of suspicious
nature was occasionally protruded through a rent in the bottom of the
car, or to speak more properly, in the top of the hat. His hands were
enormously large. His hair was extremely gray, and collected in a cue
behind. His nose was prodigiously long, crooked, and inflammatory;
his eyes full, brilliant, and acute; his chin and cheeks, although
wrinkled with age, were broad, puffy, and double; but of ears of any
kind or character there was not a semblance to be discovered upon any
portion of his head. This odd little gentleman was dressed in a loose
surtout of sky-blue satin, with tight breeches to match, fastened
with silver buckles at the knees. His vest was of some bright yellow
material; a white taffety cap was set jauntily on one side of his
head; and, to complete his equipment, a blood-red silk handkerchief
enveloped his throat, and fell down, in a dainty manner, upon his
bosom, in a fantastic bow-knot of super-eminent dimensions.

Having descended, as I said before, to about one hundred feet from
the surface of the earth, the little old gentleman was suddenly
seized with a fit of trepidation, and appeared disinclined to make
any nearer approach to terra firma. Throwing out, therefore, a
quantity of sand from a canvas bag, which, he lifted with great
difficulty, he became stationary in an instant. He then proceeded, in
a hurried and agitated manner, to extract from a side-pocket in his
surtout a large morocco pocket-book. This he poised suspiciously in
his hand, then eyed it with an air of extreme surprise, and was
evidently astonished at its weight. He at length opened it, and
drawing there from a huge letter sealed with red sealing-wax and tied
carefully with red tape, let it fall precisely at the feet of the
burgomaster, Superbus Von Underduk. His Excellency stooped to take it
up. But the aeronaut, still greatly discomposed, and having
apparently no farther business to detain him in Rotterdam, began at
this moment to make busy preparations for departure; and it being
necessary to discharge a portion of ballast to enable him to
reascend, the half dozen bags which he threw out, one after another,
without taking the trouble to empty their contents, tumbled, every
one of them, most unfortunately upon the back of the burgomaster, and
rolled him over and over no less than one-and-twenty times, in the
face of every man in Rotterdam. It is not to be supposed, however,
that the great Underduk suffered this impertinence on the part of the
little old man to pass off with impunity. It is said, on the
contrary, that during each and every one of his one-and twenty
circumvolutions he emitted no less than one-and-twenty distinct and
furious whiffs from his pipe, to which he held fast the whole time
with all his might, and to which he intends holding fast until the
day of his death.

In the meantime the balloon arose like a lark, and, soaring far away
above the city, at length drifted quietly behind a cloud similar to
that from which it had so oddly emerged, and was thus lost forever to
the wondering eyes of the good citiezns of Rotterdam. All attention
was now directed to the letter, the descent of which, and the
consequences attending thereupon, had proved so fatally subversive of
both person and personal dignity to his Excellency, the illustrious
Burgomaster Mynheer Superbus Von Underduk. That functionary, however,
had not failed, during his circumgyratory movements, to bestow a
thought upon the important subject of securing the packet in
question, which was seen, upon inspection, to have fallen into the
most proper hands, being actually addressed to himself and Professor
Rub-a-dub, in their official capacities of President and
Vice-President of the Rotterdam College of Astronomy. It was
accordingly opened by those dignitaries upon the spot, and found to
contain the following extraordinary, and indeed very serious,

To their Excellencies Von Underduk and Rub-a-dub, President and
Vice-President of the States' College of Astronomers, in the city of

"Your Excellencies may perhaps be able to remember an humble artizan,
by name Hans Pfaall, and by occupation a mender of bellows, who, with
three others, disappeared from Rotterdam, about five years ago, in a
manner which must have been considered by all parties at once sudden,
and extremely unaccountable. If, however, it so please your
Excellencies, I, the writer of this communication, am the identical
Hans Pfaall himself. It is well known to most of my fellow citizens,
that for the period of forty years I continued to occupy the little
square brick building, at the head of the alley called Sauerkraut, in
which I resided at the time of my disappearance. My ancestors have
also resided therein time out of mind -- they, as well as myself,
steadily following the respectable and indeed lucrative profession of
mending of bellows. For, to speak the truth, until of late years,
that the heads of all the people have been set agog with politics, no
better business than my own could an honest citizen of Rotterdam
either desire or deserve. Credit was good, employment was never
wanting, and on all hands there was no lack of either money or
good-will. But, as I was saying, we soon began to feel the effects of
liberty and long speeches, and radicalism, and all that sort of
thing. People who were formerly, the very best customers in the
world, had now not a moment of time to think of us at all. They had,
so they said, as much as they could do to read about the revolutions,
and keep up with the march of intellect and the spirit of the age. If
a fire wanted fanning, it could readily be fanned with a newspaper,
and as the government grew weaker, I have no doubt that leather and
iron acquired durability in proportion, for, in a very short time,
there was not a pair of bellows in all Rotterdam that ever stood in
need of a stitch or required the assistance of a hammer. This was a
state of things not to be endured. I soon grew as poor as a rat, and,
having a wife and children to provide for, my burdens at length
became intolerable, and I spent hour after hour in reflecting upon
the most convenient method of putting an end to my life. Duns, in the
meantime, left me little leisure for contemplation. My house was
literally besieged from morning till night, so that I began to rave,
and foam, and fret like a caged tiger against the bars of his
enclosure. There were three fellows in particular who worried me
beyond endurance, keeping watch continually about my door, and
threatening me with the law. Upon these three I internally vowed the
bitterest revenge, if ever I should be so happy as to get them within
my clutches; and I believe nothing in the world but the pleasure of
this anticipation prevented me from putting my plan of suicide into
immediate execution, by blowing my brains out with a blunderbuss. I
thought it best, however, to dissemble my wrath, and to treat them
with promises and fair words, until, by some good turn of fate, an
opportunity of vengeance should be afforded me.

"One day, having given my creditors the slip, and feeling more than
usually dejected, I continued for a long time to wander about the
most obscure streets without object whatever, until at length I
chanced to stumble against the corner of a bookseller's stall. Seeing
a chair close at hand, for the use of customers, I threw myself
doggedly into it, and, hardly knowing why, opened the pages of the
first volume which came within my reach. It proved to be a small
pamphlet treatise on Speculative Astronomy, written either by
Professor Encke of Berlin or by a Frenchman of somewhat similar name.
I had some little tincture of information on matters of this nature,
and soon became more and more absorbed in the contents of the book,
reading it actually through twice before I awoke to a recollection of
what was passing around me. By this time it began to grow dark, and I
directed my steps toward home. But the treatise had made an indelible
impression on my mind, and, as I sauntered along the dusky streets, I
revolved carefully over in my memory the wild and sometimes
unintelligible reasonings of the writer. There are some particular
passages which affected my imagination in a powerful and
extraordinary manner. The longer I meditated upon these the more
intense grew the interest which had been excited within me. The
limited nature of my education in general, and more especially my
ignorance on subjects connected with natural philosophy, so far from
rendering me diffident of my own ability to comprehend what I had
read, or inducing me to mistrust the many vague notions which had
arisen in consequence, merely served as a farther stimulus to
imagination; and I was vain enough, or perhaps reasonable enough, to
doubt whether those crude ideas which, arising in ill-regulated
minds, have all the appearance, may not often in effect possess all
the force, the reality, and other inherent properties, of instinct or
intuition; whether, to proceed a step farther, profundity itself
might not, in matters of a purely speculative nature, be detected as
a legitimate source of falsity and error. In other words, I believed,
and still do believe, that truth, is frequently of its own essence,
superficial, and that, in many cases, the depth lies more in the
abysses where we seek her, than in the actual situations wherein she
may be found. Nature herself seemed to afford me corroboration of
these ideas. In the contemplation of the heavenly bodies it struck me
forcibly that I could not distinguish a star with nearly as much
precision, when I gazed on it with earnest, direct and undeviating
attention, as when I suffered my eye only to glance in its vicinity
alone. I was not, of course, at that time aware that this apparent
paradox was occasioned by the center of the visual area being less
susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the exterior portions
of the retina. This knowledge, and some of another kind, came
afterwards in the course of an eventful five years, during which I
have dropped the prejudices of my former humble situation in life,
and forgotten the bellows-mender in far different occupations. But at
the epoch of which I speak, the analogy which a casual observation of
a star offered to the conclusions I had already drawn, struck me with
the force of positive conformation, and I then finally made up my
mind to the course which I afterwards pursued.

"It was late when I reached home, and I went immediately to bed. My
mind, however, was too much occupied to sleep, and I lay the whole
night buried in meditation. Arising early in the morning, and
contriving again to escape the vigilance of my creditors, I repaired
eagerly to the bookseller's stall, and laid out what little ready
money I possessed, in the purchase of some volumes of Mechanics and
Practical Astronomy. Having arrived at home safely with these, I
devoted every spare moment to their perusal, and soon made such
proficiency in studies of this nature as I thought sufficient for the
execution of my plan. In the intervals of this period, I made every
endeavor to conciliate the three creditors who had given me so much
annoyance. In this I finally succeeded -- partly by selling enough of
my household furniture to satisfy a moiety of their claim, and partly
by a promise of paying the balance upon completion of a little
project which I told them I had in view, and for assistance in which
I solicited their services. By these means -- for they were ignorant
men -- I found little difficulty in gaining them over to my purpose.

"Matters being thus arranged, I contrived, by the aid of my wife and
with the greatest secrecy and caution, to dispose of what property I
had remaining, and to borrow, in small sums, under various pretences,
and without paying any attention to my future means of repayment, no
inconsiderable quantity of ready money. With the means thus accruing
I proceeded to procure at intervals, cambric muslin, very fine, in
pieces of twelve yards each; twine; a lot of the varnish of
caoutchouc; a large and deep basket of wicker-work, made to order;
and several other articles necessary in the construction and
equipment of a balloon of extraordinary dimensions. This I directed
my wife to make up as soon as possible, and gave her all requisite
information as to the particular method of proceeding. In the
meantime I worked up the twine into a net-work of sufficient
dimensions; rigged it with a hoop and the necessary cords; bought a
quadrant, a compass, a spy-glass, a common barometer with some
important modifications, and two astronomical instruments not so
generally known. I then took opportunities of conveying by night, to
a retired situation east of Rotterdam, five iron-bound casks, to
contain about fifty gallons each, and one of a larger size; six
tinned ware tubes, three inches in diameter, properly shaped, and ten
feet in length; a quantity of a particular metallic substance, or
semi-metal, which I shall not name, and a dozen demijohns of a very
common acid. The gas to be formed from these latter materials is a
gas never yet generated by any other person than myself -- or at
least never applied to any similar purpose. The secret I would make
no difficulty in disclosing, but that it of right belongs to a
citizen of Nantz, in France, by whom it was conditionally
communicated to myself. The same individual submitted to me, without
being at all aware of my intentions, a method of constructing
balloons from the membrane of a certain animal, through which
substance any escape of gas was nearly an impossibility. I found it,
however, altogether too expensive, and was not sure, upon the whole,
whether cambric muslin with a coating of gum caoutchouc, was not
equally as good. I mention this circumstance, because I think it
probable that hereafter the individual in question may attempt a
balloon ascension with the novel gas and material I have spoken of,
and I do not wish to deprive him of the honor of a very singular

"On the spot which I intended each of the smaller casks to occupy
respectively during the inflation of the balloon, I privately dug a
hole two feet deep; the holes forming in this manner a circle
twenty-five feet in diameter. In the centre of this circle, being the
station designed for the large cask, I also dug a hole three feet in
depth. In each of the five smaller holes, I deposited a canister
containing fifty pounds, and in the larger one a keg holding one
hundred and fifty pounds, of cannon powder. These -- the keg and
canisters -- I connected in a proper manner with covered trains; and
having let into one of the canisters the end of about four feet of
slow match, I covered up the hole, and placed the cask over it,
leaving the other end of the match protruding about an inch, and
barely visible beyond the cask. I then filled up the remaining holes,
and placed the barrels over them in their destined situation.

"Besides the articles above enumerated, I conveyed to the depot, and
there secreted, one of M. Grimm's improvements upon the apparatus for
condensation of the atmospheric air. I found this machine, however,
to require considerable alteration before it could be adapted to the
purposes to which I intended making it applicable. But, with severe
labor and unremitting perseverance, I at length met with entire
success in all my preparations. My balloon was soon completed. It
would contain more than forty thousand cubic feet of gas; would take
me up easily, I calculated, with all my implements, and, if I managed
rightly, with one hundred and seventy-five pounds of ballast into the
bargain. It had received three coats of varnish, and I found the
cambric muslin to answer all the purposes of silk itself, quite as
strong and a good deal less expensive.

"Everything being now ready, I exacted from my wife an oath of
secrecy in relation to all my actions from the day of my first visit
to the bookseller's stall; and promising, on my part, to return as
soon as circumstances would permit, I gave her what little money I
had left, and bade her farewell. Indeed I had no fear on her account.
She was what people call a notable woman, and could manage matters in
the world without my assistance. I believe, to tell the truth, she
always looked upon me as an idle boy, a mere make-weight, good for
nothing but building castles in the air, and was rather glad to get
rid of me. It was a dark night when I bade her good-bye, and taking
with me, as aides-de-camp, the three creditors who had given me so
much trouble, we carried the balloon, with the car and accoutrements,
by a roundabout way, to the station where the other articles were
deposited. We there found them all unmolested, and I proceeded
immediately to business.

"It was the first of April. The night, as I said before, was dark;
there was not a star to be seen; and a drizzling rain, falling at
intervals, rendered us very uncomfortable. But my chief anxiety was
concerning the balloon, which, in spite of the varnish with which it
was defended, began to grow rather heavy with the moisture; the
powder also was liable to damage. I therefore kept my three duns
working with great diligence, pounding down ice around the central
cask, and stirring the acid in the others. They did not cease,
however, importuning me with questions as to what I intended to do
with all this apparatus, and expressed much dissatisfaction at the
terrible labor I made them undergo. They could not perceive, so they
said, what good was likely to result from their getting wet to the
skin, merely to take a part in such horrible incantations. I began to
get uneasy, and worked away with all my might, for I verily believe
the idiots supposed that I had entered into a compact with the devil,
and that, in short, what I was now doing was nothing better than it
should be. I was, therefore, in great fear of their leaving me
altogether. I contrived, however, to pacify them by promises of
payment of all scores in full, as soon as I could bring the present
business to a termination. To these speeches they gave, of course,
their own interpretation; fancying, no doubt, that at all events I
should come into possession of vast quantities of ready money; and
provided I paid them all I owed, and a trifle more, in consideration
of their services, I dare say they cared very little what became of
either my soul or my carcass.

"In about four hours and a half I found the balloon sufficiently
inflated. I attached the car, therefore, and put all my implements in
it -- not forgetting the condensing apparatus, a copious supply of
water, and a large quantity of provisions, such as pemmican, in which
much nutriment is contained in comparatively little bulk. I also
secured in the car a pair of pigeons and a cat. It was now nearly
daybreak, and I thought it high time to take my departure. Dropping a
lighted cigar on the ground, as if by accident, I took the
opportunity, in stooping to pick it up, of igniting privately the
piece of slow match, whose end, as I said before, protruded a very
little beyond the lower rim of one of the smaller casks. This
manoeuvre was totally unperceived on the part of the three duns; and,
jumping into the car, I immediately cut the single cord which held me
to the earth, and was pleased to find that I shot upward, carrying
with all ease one hundred and seventy-five pounds of leaden ballast,
and able to have carried up as many more.

"Scarcely, however, had I attained the height of fifty yards, when,
roaring and rumbling up after me in the most horrible and tumultuous
manner, came so dense a hurricane of fire, and smoke, and sulphur,
and legs and arms, and gravel, and burning wood, and blazing metal,
that my very heart sunk within me, and I fell down in the bottom of
the car, trembling with unmitigated terror. Indeed, I now perceived
that I had entirely overdone the business, and that the main
consequences of the shock were yet to be experienced. Accordingly, in
less than a second, I felt all the blood in my body rushing to my
temples, and immediately thereupon, a concussion, which I shall never
forget, burst abruptly through the night and seemed to rip the very
firmament asunder. When I afterward had time for reflection, I did
not fail to attribute the extreme violence of the explosion, as
regarded myself, to its proper cause -- my situation directly above
it, and in the line of its greatest power. But at the time, I thought
only of preserving my life. The balloon at first collapsed, then
furiously expanded, then whirled round and round with horrible
velocity, and finally, reeling and staggering like a drunken man,
hurled me with great force over the rim of the car, and left me
dangling, at a terrific height, with my head downward, and my face
outwards, by a piece of slender cord about three feet in length,
which hung accidentally through a crevice near the bottom of the
wicker-work, and in which, as I fell, my left foot became most
providentially entangled. It is impossible -- utterly impossible --
to form any adequate idea of the horror of my situation. I gasped
convulsively for breath -- a shudder resembling a fit of the ague
agitated every nerve and muscle of my frame -- I felt my eyes
starting from their sockets -- a horrible nausea overwhelmed me --
and at length I fainted away.

"How long I remained in this state it is impossible to say. It must,
however, have been no inconsiderable time, for when I partially
recovered the sense of existence, I found the day breaking, the
balloon at a prodigious height over a wilderness of ocean, and not a
trace of land to be discovered far and wide within the limits of the
vast horizon. My sensations, however, upon thus recovering, were by
no means so rife with agony as might have been anticipated. Indeed,
there was much of incipient madness in the calm survey which I began
to take of my situation. I drew up to my eyes each of my hands, one
after the other, and wondered what occurrence could have given rise
to the swelling of the veins, and the horrible blackness of the
fingemails. I afterward carefully examined my head, shaking it
repeatedly, and feeling it with minute attention, until I succeeded
in satisfying myself that it was not, as I had more than half
suspected, larger than my balloon. Then, in a knowing manner, I felt
in both my breeches pockets, and, missing therefrom a set of tablets
and a toothpick case, endeavored to account for their disappearance,
and not being able to do so, felt inexpressibly chagrined. It now
occurred to me that I suffered great uneasiness in the joint of my
left ankle, and a dim consciousness of my situation began to glimmer
through my mind. But, strange to say! I was neither astonished nor
horror-stricken. If I felt any emotion at all, it was a kind of
chuckling satisfaction at the cleverness I was about to display in
extricating myself from this dilemma; and I never, for a moment,
looked upon my ultimate safety as a question susceptible of doubt.
For a few minutes I remained wrapped in the profoundest meditation. I
have a distinct recollection of frequently compressing my lips,
putting my forefinger to the side of my nose, and making use of other
gesticulations and grimaces common to men who, at ease in their
arm-chairs, meditate upon matters of intricacy or importance. Having,
as I thought, sufficiently collected my ideas, I now, with great
caution and deliberation, put my hands behind my back, and unfastened
the large iron buckle which belonged to the waistband of my
inexpressibles. This buckle had three teeth, which, being somewhat
rusty, turned with great difficulty on their axis. I brought them,
however, after some trouble, at right angles to the body of the
buckle, and was glad to find them remain firm in that position.
Holding the instrument thus obtained within my teeth, I now proceeded
to untie the knot of my cravat. I had to rest several times before I
could accomplish this manoeuvre, but it was at length accomplished.
To one end of the cravat I then made fast the buckle, and the other
end I tied, for greater security, tightly around my wrist. Drawing
now my body upwards, with a prodigious exertion of muscular force, I
succeeded, at the very first trial, in throwing the buckle over the
car, and entangling it, as I had anticipated, in the circular rim of
the wicker-work.

"My body was now inclined towards the side of the car, at an angle of
about forty-five degrees; but it must not be understood that I was
therefore only forty-five degrees below the perpendicular. So far
from it, I still lay nearly level with the plane of the horizon; for
the change of situation which I had acquired, had forced the bottom
of the car considerably outwards from my position, which was
accordingly one of the most imminent and deadly peril. It should be
remembered, however, that when I fell in the first instance, from the
car, if I had fallen with my face turned toward the balloon, instead
of turned outwardly from it, as it actually was; or if, in the second
place, the cord by which I was suspended had chanced to hang over the
upper edge, instead of through a crevice near the bottom of the car,
-- I say it may be readily conceived that, in either of these
supposed cases, I should have been unable to accomplish even as much
as I had now accomplished, and the wonderful adventures of Hans
Pfaall would have been utterly lost to posterity, I had therefore
every reason to be grateful; although, in point of fact, I was still
too stupid to be anything at all, and hung for, perhaps, a quarter of
an hour in that extraordinary manner, without making the slightest
farther exertion whatsoever, and in a singularly tranquil state of
idiotic enjoyment. But this feeling did not fail to die rapidly away,
and thereunto succeeded horror, and dismay, and a chilling sense of
utter helplessness and ruin. In fact, the blood so long accumulating
in the vessels of my head and throat, and which had hitherto buoyed
up my spirits with madness and delirium, had now begun to retire
within their proper channels, and the distinctness which was thus
added to my perception of the danger, merely served to deprive me of
the self-possession and courage to encounter it. But this weakness
was, luckily for me, of no very long duration. In good time came to
my rescue the spirit of despair, and, with frantic cries and
struggles, I jerked my way bodily upwards, till at length, clutching
with a vise-like grip the long-desired rim, I writhed my person over
it, and fell headlong and shuddering within the car.

"It was not until some time afterward that I recovered myself
sufficiently to attend to the ordinary cares of the balloon. I then,
however, examined it with attention, and found it, to my great
relief, uninjured. My implements were all safe, and, fortunately, I
had lost neither ballast nor provisions. Indeed, I had so well
secured them in their places, that such an accident was entirely out
of the question. Looking at my watch, I found it six o'clock. I was
still rapidly ascending, and my barometer gave a present altitude of
three and three-quarter miles. Immediately beneath me in the ocean,
lay a small black object, slightly oblong in shape, seemingly about
the size, and in every way bearing a great resemblance to one of
those childish toys called a domino. Bringing my telescope to bear
upon it, I plainly discerned it to be a British ninety four-gun ship,
close-hauled, and pitching heavily in the sea with her head to the
W.S.W. Besides this ship, I saw nothing but the ocean and the sky,
and the sun, which had long arisen.

"It is now high time that I should explain to your Excellencies the
object of my perilous voyage. Your Excellencies will bear in mind
that distressed circumstances in Rotterdam had at length driven me to
the resolution of committing suicide. It was not, however, that to
life itself I had any, positive disgust, but that I was harassed
beyond endurance by the adventitious miseries attending my situation.
In this state of mind, wishing to live, yet wearied with life, the
treatise at the stall of the bookseller opened a resource to my
imagination. I then finally made up my mind. I determined to depart,
yet live -- to leave the world, yet continue to exist -- in short, to
drop enigmas, I resolved, let what would ensue, to force a passage,
if I could, to the moon. Now, lest I should be supposed more of a
madman than I actually am, I will detail, as well as I am able, the
considerations which led me to believe that an achievement of this
nature, although without doubt difficult, and incontestably full of
danger, was not absolutely, to a bold spirit, beyond the confines of
the possible.

"The moon's actual distance from the earth was the first thing to be
attended to. Now, the mean or average interval between the centres of
the two planets is 59.9643 of the earth's equatorial radii, or only
about 237,000 miles. I say the mean or average interval. But it must
be borne in mind that the form of the moon's orbit being an ellipse
of eccentricity amounting to no less than 0.05484 of the major
semi-axis of the ellipse itself, and the earth's centre being
situated in its focus, if I could, in any manner, contrive to meet
the moon, as it were, in its perigee, the above mentioned distance
would be materially diminished. But, to say nothing at present of
this possibility, it was very certain that, at all events, from the
237,000 miles I would have to deduct the radius of the earth, say
4,000, and the radius of the moon, say 1080, in all 5,080, leaving an
actual interval to be traversed, under average circumstances, of
231,920 miles. Now this, I reflected, was no very extraordinary
distance. Travelling on land has been repeatedly accomplished at the
rate of thirty miles per hour, and indeed a much greater speed may be
anticipated. But even at this velocity, it would take me no more than
322 days to reach the surface of the moon. There were, however, many
particulars inducing me to believe that my average rate of travelling
might possibly very much exceed that of thirty miles per hour, and,
as these considerations did not fail to make a deep impression upon
my mind, I will mention them more fully hereafter.

"The next point to be regarded was a matter of far greater
importance. From indications afforded by the barometer, we find that,
in ascensions from the surface of the earth we have, at the height of
1,000 feet, left below us about one-thirtieth of the entire mass of
atmospheric air, that at 10,600 we have ascended through nearly
one-third; and that at 18,000, which is not far from the elevation of
Cotopaxi, we have surmounted one-half the material, or, at all
events, one-half the ponderable, body of air incumbent upon our
globe. It is also calculated that at an altitude not exceeding the
hundredth part of the earth's diameter -- that is, not exceeding
eighty miles -- the rarefaction would be so excessive that animal
life could in no manner be sustained, and, moreover, that the most
delicate means we possess of ascertaining the presence of the
atmosphere would be inadequate to assure us of its existence. But I
did not fail to perceive that these latter calculations are founded
altogether on our experimental knowledge of the properties of air,
and the mechanical laws regulating its dilation and compression, in
what may be called, comparatively speaking, the immediate vicinity of
the earth itself; and, at the same time, it is taken for granted that
animal life is and must be essentially incapable of modification at
any given unattainable distance from the surface. Now, all such
reasoning and from such data must, of course, be simply analogical.
The greatest height ever reached by man was that of 25,000 feet,
attained in the aeronautic expedition of Messieurs Gay-Lussac and
Biot. This is a moderate altitude, even when compared with the eighty
miles in question; and I could not help thinking that the subject
admitted room for doubt and great latitude for speculation.

"But, in point of fact, an ascension being made to any given
altitude, the ponderable quantity of air surmounted in any farther
ascension is by no means in proportion to the additional height
ascended (as may be plainly seen from what has been stated before),
but in a ratio constantly decreasing. It is therefore evident that,
ascend as high as we may, we cannot, literally speaking, arrive at a
limit beyond which no atmosphere is to be found. It must exist, I
argued; although it may exist in a state of infinite rarefaction.

"On the other hand, I was aware that arguments have not been wanting
to prove the existence of a real and definite limit to the
atmosphere, beyond which there is absolutely no air whatsoever. But a
circumstance which has been left out of view by those who contend for
such a limit seemed to me, although no positive refutation of their
creed, still a point worthy very serious investigation. On comparing
the intervals between the successive arrivals of Encke's comet at its
perihelion, after giving credit, in the most exact manner, for all
the disturbances due to the attractions of the planets, it appears
that the periods are gradually diminishing; that is to say, the major
axis of the comet's ellipse is growing shorter, in a slow but
perfectly regular decrease. Now, this is precisely what ought to be
the case, if we suppose a resistance experienced from the comet from
an extremely rare ethereal medium pervading the regions of its orbit.
For it is evident that such a medium must, in retarding the comet's
velocity, increase its centripetal, by weakening its centrifugal
force. In other words, the sun's attraction would be constantly
attaining greater power, and the comet would be drawn nearer at every
revolution. Indeed, there is no other way of accounting for the
variation in question. But again. The real diameter of the same
comet's nebulosity is observed to contract rapidly as it approaches
the sun, and dilate with equal rapidity in its departure towards its
aphelion. Was I not justifiable in supposing with M. Valz, that this
apparent condensation of volume has its origin in the compression of
the same ethereal medium I have spoken of before, and which is only
denser in proportion to its solar vicinity? The lenticular-shaped
phenomenon, also called the zodiacal light, was a matter worthy of
attention. This radiance, so apparent in the tropics, and which
cannot be mistaken for any meteoric lustre, extends from the horizon
obliquely upward, and follows generally the direction of the sun's
equator. It appeared to me evidently in the nature of a rare
atmosphere extending from the sun outward, beyond the orbit of Venus
at least, and I believed indefinitely farther.{*2} Indeed, this
medium I could not suppose confined to the path of the comet's
ellipse, or to the immediate neighborhood of the sun. It was easy, on
the contrary, to imagine it pervading the entire regions of our
planetary system, condensed into what we call atmosphere at the
planets themselves, and perhaps at some of them modified by
considerations, so to speak, purely geological.

Having adopted this view of the subject, I had little further
hesitation. Granting that on my passage I should meet with atmosphere
essentially the same as at the surface of the earth, I conceived
that, by means of the very ingenious apparatus of M. Grimm, I should
readily be enabled to condense it in sufficient quantity for the
purposes of respiration. This would remove the chief obstacle in a
journey to the moon. I had indeed spent some money and great labor in
adapting the apparatus to the object intended, and confidently looked
forward to its successful application, if I could manage to complete
the voyage within any reasonable period. This brings me back to the
rate at which it might be possible to travel.

"It is true that balloons, in the first stage of their ascensions
from the earth, are known to rise with a velocity comparatively
moderate. Now, the power of elevation lies altogether in the superior
lightness of the gas in the balloon compared with the atmospheric
air; and, at first sight, it does not appear probable that, as the
balloon acquires altitude, and consequently arrives successively in
atmospheric strata of densities rapidly diminishing -- I say, it does
not appear at all reasonable that, in this its progress upwards, the
original velocity should be accelerated. On the other hand, I was not
aware that, in any recorded ascension, a diminution was apparent in
the absolute rate of ascent; although such should have been the case,
if on account of nothing else, on account of the escape of gas
through balloons ill-constructed, and varnished with no better
material than the ordinary varnish. It seemed, therefore, that the
effect of such escape was only sufficient to counterbalance the
effect of some accelerating power. I now considered that, provided in
my passage I found the medium I had imagined, and provided that it
should prove to be actually and essentially what we denominate
atmospheric air, it could make comparatively little difference at
what extreme state of rarefaction I should discover it -- that is to
say, in regard to my power of ascending -- for the gas in the balloon
would not only be itself subject to rarefaction partially similar (in
proportion to the occurrence of which, I could suffer an escape of so
much as would be requisite to prevent explosion), but, being what it
was, would, at all events, continue specifically lighter than any
compound whatever of mere nitrogen and oxygen. In the meantime, the
force of gravitation would be constantly diminishing, in proportion
to the squares of the distances, and thus, with a velocity
prodigiously accelerating, I should at length arrive in those distant
regions where the force of the earth's attraction would be superseded
by that of the moon. In accordance with these ideas, I did not think
it worth while to encumber myself with more provisions than would be
sufficient for a period of forty days.

"There was still, however, another difficulty, which occasioned me
some little disquietude. It has been observed, that, in balloon
ascensions to any considerable height, besides the pain attending
respiration, great uneasiness is experienced about the head and body,
often accompanied with bleeding at the nose, and other symptoms of an
alarming kind, and growing more and more inconvenient in proportion
to the altitude attained.{*3} This was a reflection of a nature
somewhat startling. Was it not probable that these symptoms would
increase indefinitely, or at least until terminated by death itself?
I finally thought not. Their origin was to be looked for in the
progressive removal of the customary atmospheric pressure upon the
surface of the body, and consequent distention of the superficial
blood-vessels -- not in any positive disorganization of the animal
system, as in the case of difficulty in breathing, where the
atmospheric density is chemically insufficient for the due renovation
of blood in a ventricle of the heart. Unless for default of this
renovation, I could see no reason, therefore, why life could not be
sustained even in a vacuum; for the expansion and compression of
chest, commonly called breathing, is action purely muscular, and the
cause, not the effect, of respiration. In a word, I conceived that,
as the body should become habituated to the want of atmospheric
pressure, the sensations of pain would gradually diminish -- and to
endure them while they continued, I relied with confidence upon the
iron hardihood of my constitution.

"Thus, may it please your Excellencies, I have detailed some, though
by no means all, the considerations which led me to form the project
of a lunar voyage. I shall now proceed to lay before you the result
of an attempt so apparently audacious in conception, and, at all
events, so utterly unparalleled in the annals of mankind.

"Having attained the altitude before mentioned, that is to say three
miles and three-quarters, I threw out from the car a quantity of
feathers, and found that I still ascended with sufficient rapidity;
there was, therefore, no necessity for discharging any ballast. I was
glad of this, for I wished to retain with me as much weight as I
could carry, for reasons which will be explained in the sequel. I as
yet suffered no bodily inconvenience, breathing with great freedom,
and feeling no pain whatever in the head. The cat was lying very
demurely upon my coat, which I had taken off, and eyeing the pigeons
with an air of nonchalance. These latter being tied by the leg, to
prevent their escape, were busily employed in picking up some grains
of rice scattered for them in the bottom of the car.

"At twenty minutes past six o'clock, the barometer showed an
elevation of 26,400 feet, or five miles to a fraction. The prospect
seemed unbounded. Indeed, it is very easily calculated by means of
spherical geometry, what a great extent of the earth's area I beheld.
The convex surface of any segment of a sphere is, to the entire
surface of the sphere itself, as the versed sine of the segment to
the diameter of the sphere. Now, in my case, the versed sine -- that
is to say, the thickness of the segment beneath me -- was about equal
to my elevation, or the elevation of the point of sight above the
surface. "As five miles, then, to eight thousand," would express the
proportion of the earth's area seen by me. In other words, I beheld
as much as a sixteen-hundredth part of the whole surface of the
globe. The sea appeared unruffled as a mirror, although, by means of
the spy-glass, I could perceive it to be in a state of violent
agitation. The ship was no longer visible, having drifted away,
apparently to the eastward. I now began to experience, at intervals,
severe pain in the head, especially about the ears -- still, however,
breathing with tolerable freedom. The cat and pigeons seemed to
suffer no inconvenience whatsoever.

"At twenty minutes before seven, the balloon entered a long series of
dense cloud, which put me to great trouble, by damaging my condensing
apparatus and wetting me to the skin. This was, to be sure, a
singular recontre, for I had not believed it possible that a cloud of
this nature could be sustained at so great an elevation. I thought it
best, however, to throw out two five-pound pieces of ballast,
reserving still a weight of one hundred and sixty-five pounds. Upon
so doing, I soon rose above the difficulty, and perceived
immediately, that I had obtained a great increase in my rate of
ascent. In a few seconds after my leaving the cloud, a flash of vivid
lightning shot from one end of it to the other, and caused it to
kindle up, throughout its vast extent, like a mass of ignited and
glowing charcoal. This, it must be remembered, was in the broad light
of day. No fancy may picture the sublimity which might have been
exhibited by a similar phenomenon taking place amid the darkness of
the night. Hell itself might have been found a fitting image. Even as
it was, my hair stood on end, while I gazed afar down within the
yawning abysses, letting imagination descend, as it were, and stalk
about in the strange vaulted halls, and ruddy gulfs, and red ghastly
chasms of the hideous and unfathomable fire. I had indeed made a
narrow escape. Had the balloon remained a very short while longer
within the cloud -- that is to say -- had not the inconvenience of
getting wet, determined me to discharge the ballast, inevitable ruin
would have been the consequence. Such perils, although little
considered, are perhaps the greatest which must be encountered in
balloons. I had by this time, however, attained too great an
elevation to be any longer uneasy on this head.

"I was now rising rapidly, and by seven o'clock the barometer
indicated an altitude of no less than nine miles and a half. I began
to find great difficulty in drawing my breath. My head, too, was
excessively painful; and, having felt for some time a moisture about
my cheeks, I at length discovered it to be blood, which was oozing
quite fast from the drums of my ears. My eyes, also, gave me great
uneasiness. Upon passing the hand over them they seemed to have
protruded from their sockets in no inconsiderable degree; and all
objects in the car, and even the balloon itself, appeared distorted
to my vision. These symptoms were more than I had expected, and
occasioned me some alarm. At this juncture, very imprudently, and
without consideration, I threw out from the car three five-pound
pieces of ballast. The accelerated rate of ascent thus obtained,
carried me too rapidly, and without sufficient gradation, into a
highly rarefied stratum of the atmosphere, and the result had nearly
proved fatal to my expedition and to myself. I was suddenly seized
with a spasm which lasted for more than five minutes, and even when
this, in a measure, ceased, I could catch my breath only at long
intervals, and in a gasping manner -- bleeding all the while
copiously at the nose and ears, and even slightly at the eyes. The
pigeons appeared distressed in the extreme, and struggled to escape;
while the cat mewed piteously, and, with her tongue hanging out of
her mouth, staggered to and fro in the car as if under the influence
of poison. I now too late discovered the great rashness of which I
had been guilty in discharging the ballast, and my agitation was
excessive. I anticipated nothing less than death, and death in a few
minutes. The physical suffering I underwent contributed also to
render me nearly incapable of making any exertion for the
preservation of my life. I had, indeed, little power of reflection
left, and the violence of the pain in my head seemed to be greatly on
the increase. Thus I found that my senses would shortly give way
altogether, and I had already clutched one of the valve ropes with
the view of attempting a descent, when the recollection of the trick
I had played the three creditors, and the possible consequences to
myself, should I return, operated to deter me for the moment. I lay
down in the bottom of the car, and endeavored to collect my
faculties. In this I so far succeeded as to determine upon the
experiment of losing blood. Having no lancet, however, I was
constrained to perform the operation in the best manner I was able,
and finally succeeded in opening a vein in my right arm, with the
blade of my penknife. The blood had hardly commenced flowing when I
experienced a sensible relief, and by the time I had lost about half
a moderate basin full, most of the worst symptoms had abandoned me
entirely. I nevertheless did not think it expedient to attempt
getting on my feet immediately; but, having tied up my arm as well as
I could, I lay still for about a quarter of an hour. At the end of
this time I arose, and found myself freer from absolute pain of any
kind than I had been during the last hour and a quarter of my
ascension. The difficulty of breathing, however, was diminished in a
very slight degree, and I found that it would soon be positively
necessary to make use of my condenser. In the meantime, looking
toward the cat, who was again snugly stowed away upon my coat, I
discovered to my infinite surprise, that she had taken the
opportunity of my indisposition to bring into light a litter of three
little kittens. This was an addition to the number of passengers on
my part altogether unexpected; but I was pleased at the occurrence.
It would afford me a chance of bringing to a kind of test the truth
of a surmise, which, more than anything else, had influenced me in
attempting this ascension. I had imagined that the habitual endurance
of the atmospheric pressure at the surface of the earth was the
cause, or nearly so, of the pain attending animal existence at a
distance above the surface. Should the kittens be found to suffer
uneasiness in an equal degree with their mother, I must consider my
theory in fault, but a failure to do so I should look upon as a
strong confirmation of my idea.

"By eight o'clock I had actually attained an elevation of seventeen
miles above the surface of the earth. Thus it seemed to me evident
that my rate of ascent was not only on the increase, but that the
progression would have been apparent in a slight degree even had I
not discharged the ballast which I did. The pains in my head and ears
returned, at intervals, with violence, and I still continued to bleed
occasionally at the nose; but, upon the whole, I suffered much less
than might have been expected. I breathed, however, at every moment,
with more and more difficulty, and each inhalation was attended with
a troublesome spasmodic action of the chest. I now unpacked the
condensing apparatus, and got it ready for immediate use.

"The view of the earth, at this period of my ascension, was beautiful
indeed. To the westward, the northward, and the southward, as far as
I could see, lay a boundless sheet of apparently unruffled ocean,
which every moment gained a deeper and a deeper tint of blue and
began already to assume a slight appearance of convexity. At a vast
distance to the eastward, although perfectly discernible, extended
the islands of Great Britain, the entire Atlantic coasts of France
and Spain, with a small portion of the northern part of the continent
of Africa. Of individual edifices not a trace could be discovered,
and the proudest cities of mankind had utterly faded away from the
face of the earth. From the rock of Gibraltar, now dwindled into a
dim speck, the dark Mediterranean sea, dotted with shining islands as
the heaven is dotted with stars, spread itself out to the eastward as
far as my vision extended, until its entire mass of waters seemed at
length to tumble headlong over the abyss of the horizon, and I found
myself listening on tiptoe for the echoes of the mighty cataract.
Overhead, the sky was of a jetty black, and the stars were
brilliantly visible.

"The pigeons about this time seeming to undergo much suffering, I
determined upon giving them their liberty. I first untied one of
them, a beautiful gray-mottled pigeon, and placed him upon the rim of
the wicker-work. He appeared extremely uneasy, looking anxiously
around him, fluttering his wings, and making a loud cooing noise, but
could not be persuaded to trust himself from off the car. I took him
up at last, and threw him to about half a dozen yards from the
balloon. He made, however, no attempt to descend as I had expected,
but struggled with great vehemence to get back, uttering at the same
time very shrill and piercing cries. He at length succeeded in
regaining his former station on the rim, but had hardly done so when
his head dropped upon his breast, and be fell dead within the car.
The other one did not prove so unfortunate. To prevent his following
the example of his companion, and accomplishing a return, I threw him
downward with all my force, and was pleased to find him continue his
descent, with great velocity, making use of his wings with ease, and
in a perfectly natural manner. In a very short time he was out of
sight, and I have no doubt he reached home in safety. Puss, who
seemed in a great measure recovered from her illness, now made a
hearty meal of the dead bird and then went to sleep with much
apparent satisfaction. Her kittens were quite lively, and so far
evinced not the slightest sign of any uneasiness whatever.

"At a quarter-past eight, being no longer able to draw breath without
the most intolerable pain, I proceeded forthwith to adjust around the
car the apparatus belonging to the condenser. This apparatus will
require some little explanation, and your Excellencies will please to
bear in mind that my object, in the first place, was to surround
myself and cat entirely with a barricade against the highly rarefied
atmosphere in which I was existing, with the intention of introducing
within this barricade, by means of my condenser, a quantity of this
same atmosphere sufficiently condensed for the purposes of
respiration. With this object in view I had prepared a very strong
perfectly air-tight, but flexible gum-elastic bag. In this bag, which
was of sufficient dimensions, the entire car was in a manner placed.
That is to say, it (the bag) was drawn over the whole bottom of the
car, up its sides, and so on, along the outside of the ropes, to the
upper rim or hoop where the net-work is attached. Having pulled the
bag up in this way, and formed a complete enclosure on all sides, and
at botttom, it was now necessary to fasten up its top or mouth, by
passing its material over the hoop of the net-work -- in other words,
between the net-work and the hoop. But if the net-work were separated
from the hoop to admit this passage, what was to sustain the car in
the meantime? Now the net-work was not permanently fastened to the
hoop, but attached by a series of running loops or nooses. I
therefore undid only a few of these loops at one time, leaving the
car suspended by the remainder. Having thus inserted a portion of the
cloth forming the upper part of the bag, I refastened the loops --
not to the hoop, for that would have been impossible, since the cloth
now intervened -- but to a series of large buttons, affixed to the
cloth itself, about three feet below the mouth of the bag, the
intervals between the buttons having been made to correspond to the
intervals between the loops. This done, a few more of the loops were
unfastened from the rim, a farther portion of the cloth introduced,
and the disengaged loops then connected with their proper buttons. In
this way it was possible to insert the whole upper part of the bag
between the net-work and the hoop. It is evident that the hoop would
now drop down within the car, while the whole weight of the car
itself, with all its contents, would be held up merely by the
strength of the buttons. This, at first sight, would seem an
inadequate dependence; but it was by no means so, for the buttons
were not only very strong in themselves, but so close together that a
very slight portion of the whole weight was supported by any one of
them. Indeed, had the car and contents been three times heavier than
they were, I should not have been at all uneasy. I now raised up the
hoop again within the covering of gum-elastic, and propped it at
nearly its former height by means of three light poles prepared for
the occasion. This was done, of course, to keep the bag distended at
the top, and to preserve the lower part of the net-work in its proper
situation. All that now remained was to fasten up the mouth of the
enclosure; and this was readily accomplished by gathering the folds
of the material together, and twisting them up very tightly on the
inside by means of a kind of stationary tourniquet.

"In the sides of the covering thus adjusted round the car, had been
inserted three circular panes of thick but clear glass, through which
I could see without difficulty around me in every horizontal
direction. In that portion of the cloth forming the bottom, was
likewise, a fourth window, of the same kind, and corresponding with a
small aperture in the floor of the car itself. This enabled me to see
perpendicularly down, but having found it impossible to place any
similar contrivance overhead, on account of the peculiar manner of
closing up the opening there, and the consequent wrinkles in the
cloth, I could expect to see no objects situated directly in my
zenith. This, of course, was a matter of little consequence; for had
I even been able to place a window at top, the balloon itself would
have prevented my making any use of it.

"About a foot below one of the side windows was a circular opening,
eight inches in diameter, and fitted with a brass rim adapted in its
inner edge to the windings of a screw. In this rim was screwed the
large tube of the condenser, the body of the machine being, of
course, within the chamber of gum-elastic. Through this tube a
quantity of the rare atmosphere circumjacent being drawn by means of
a vacuum created in the body of the machine, was thence discharged,
in a state of condensation, to mingle with the thin air already in
the chamber. This operation being repeated several times, at length
filled the chamber with atmosphere proper for all the purposes of
respiration. But in so confined a space it would, in a short time,
necessarily become foul, and unfit for use from frequent contact with
the lungs. It was then ejected by a small valve at the bottom of the
car -- the dense air readily sinking into the thinner atmosphere
below. To avoid the inconvenience of making a total vacuum at any
moment within the chamber, this purification was never accomplished
all at once, but in a gradual manner -- the valve being opened only
for a few seconds, then closed again, until one or two strokes from
the pump of the condenser had supplied the place of the atmosphere
ejected. For the sake of experiment I had put the cat and kittens in
a small basket, and suspended it outside the car to a button at the
bottom, close by the valve, through which I could feed them at any
moment when necessary. I did this at some little risk, and before
closing the mouth of the chamber, by reaching under the car with one
of the poles before mentioned to which a hook had been attached.

"By the time I had fully completed these arrangements and filled the
chamber as explained, it wanted only ten minutes of nine o'clock.
During the whole period of my being thus employed, I endured the most

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