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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Part 4 out of 5

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toil. After this I call to mind flatness and dampness; and then all
is madness -- the madness of a memory which busies itself among
forbidden things.

Very suddenly there came back to my soul motion and sound -- the
tumultuous motion of the heart, and, in my ears, the sound of its
beating. Then a pause in which all is blank. Then again sound, and
motion, and touch -- a tingling sensation pervading my frame. Then
the mere consciousness of existence, without thought -- a condition
which lasted long. Then, very suddenly, thought, and shuddering
terror, and earnest endeavor to comprehend my true state. Then a
strong desire to lapse into insensibility. Then a rushing revival of
soul and a successful effort to move. And now a full memory of the
trial, of the judges, of the sable draperies, of the sentence, of the
sickness, of the swoon. Then entire forgetfulness of all that
followed; of all that a later day and much earnestness of endeavor
have enabled me vaguely to recall.

So far, I had not opened my eyes. I felt that I lay upon my back,
unbound. I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily upon something
damp and hard. There I suffered it to remain for many minutes, while
I strove to imagine where and what I could be. I longed, yet dared
not to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around
me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I
grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see. At length, with a
wild desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My worst
thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness of eternal night
encompassed me. I struggled for breath. The intensity of the darkness
seemed to oppress and stifle me. The atmosphere was intolerably
close. I still lay quietly, and made effort to exercise my reason. I
brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and attempted from
that point to deduce my real condition. The sentence had passed; and
it appeared to me that a very long interval of time had since
elapsed. Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead.
Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, is
altogether inconsistent with real existence; -- but where and in what
state was I? The condemned to death, I knew, perished usually at the
autos-da-fe, and one of these had been held on the very night of the
day of my trial. Had I been remanded to my dungeon, to await the next
sacrifice, which would not take place for many months? This I at once
saw could not be. Victims had been in immediate demand. Moreover, my
dungeon, as well as all the condemned cells at Toledo, had stone
floors, and light was not altogether excluded.

A fearful idea now suddenly drove the blood in torrents upon my
heart, and for a brief period, I once more relapsed into
insensibility. Upon recovering, I at once started to my feet,
trembling convulsively in every fibre. I thrust my arms wildly above
and around me in all directions. I felt nothing; yet dreaded to move
a step, lest I should be impeded by the walls of a tomb. Perspiration
burst from every pore, and stood in cold big beads upon my forehead.
The agony of suspense grew at length intolerable, and I cautiously
moved forward, with my arms extended, and my eyes straining from
their sockets, in the hope of catching some faint ray of light. I
proceeded for many paces; but still all was blackness and vacancy. I
breathed more freely. It seemed evident that mine was not, at least,
the most hideous of fates.

And now, as I still continued to step cautiously onward, there came
thronging upon my recollection a thousand vague rumors of the horrors
of Toledo. Of the dungeons there had been strange things narrated --
fables I had always deemed them -- but yet strange, and too ghastly
to repeat, save in a whisper. Was I left to perish of starvation in
this subterranean world of darkness; or what fate, perhaps even more
fearful, awaited me? That the result would be death, and a death of
more than customary bitterness, I knew too well the character of my
judges to doubt. The mode and the hour were all that occupied or
distracted me.

My outstretched hands at length encountered some solid obstruction.
It was a wall, seemingly of stone masonry -- very smooth, slimy, and
cold. I followed it up; stepping with all the careful distrust with
which certain antique narratives had inspired me. This process,
however, afforded me no means of ascertaining the dimensions of my
dungeon; as I might make its circuit, and return to the point whence
I set out, without being aware of the fact; so perfectly uniform
seemed the wall. I therefore sought the knife which had been in my
pocket, when led into the inquisitorial chamber; but it was gone; my
clothes had been exchanged for a wrapper of coarse serge. I had
thought of forcing the blade in some minute crevice of the masonry,
so as to identify my point of departure. The difficulty,
nevertheless, was but trivial; although, in the disorder of my fancy,
it seemed at first insuperable. I tore a part of the hem from the
robe and placed the fragment at full length, and at right angles to
the wall. In groping my way around the prison, I could not fail to
encounter this rag upon completing the circuit. So, at least I
thought: but I had not counted upon the extent of the dungeon, or
upon my own weakness. The ground was moist and slippery. I staggered
onward for some time, when I stumbled and fell. My excessive fatigue
induced me to remain prostrate; and sleep soon overtook me as I lay.

Upon awaking, and stretching forth an arm, I found beside me a loaf
and a pitcher with water. I was too much exhausted to reflect upon
this circumstance, but ate and drank with avidity. Shortly afterward,
I resumed my tour around the prison, and with much toil came at last
upon the fragment of the serge. Up to the period when I fell I had
counted fifty-two paces, and upon resuming my walk, I had counted
forty-eight more; -- when I arrived at the rag. There were in all,
then, a hundred paces; and, admitting two paces to the yard, I
presumed the dungeon to be fifty yards in circuit. I had met,
however, with many angles in the wall, and thus I could form no guess
at the shape of the vault; for vault I could not help supposing it to

I had little object -- certainly no hope these researches; but a
vague curiosity prompted me to continue them. Quitting the wall, I
resolved to cross the area of the enclosure. At first I proceeded
with extreme caution, for the floor, although seemingly of solid
material, was treacherous with slime. At length, however, I took
courage, and did not hesitate to step firmly; endeavoring to cross in
as direct a line as possible. I had advanced some ten or twelve paces
in this manner, when the remnant of the torn hem of my robe became
entangled between my legs. I stepped on it, and fell violently on my

In the confusion attending my fall, I did not immediately apprehend a
somewhat startling circumstance, which yet, in a few seconds
afterward, and while I still lay prostrate, arrested my attention. It
was this -- my chin rested upon the floor of the prison, but my lips
and the upper portion of my head, although seemingly at a less
elevation than the chin, touched nothing. At the same time my
forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapor, and the peculiar smell of
decayed fungus arose to my nostrils. I put forward my arm, and
shuddered to find that I had fallen at the very brink of a circular
pit, whose extent, of course, I had no means of ascertaining at the
moment. Groping about the masonry just below the margin, I succeeded
in dislodging a small fragment, and let it fall into the abyss. For
many seconds I hearkened to its reverberations as it dashed against
the sides of the chasm in its descent; at length there was a sullen
plunge into water, succeeded by loud echoes. At the same moment there
came a sound resembling the quick opening, and as rapid closing of a
door overhead, while a faint gleam of light flashed suddenly through
the gloom, and as suddenly faded away.

I saw clearly the doom which had been prepared for me, and
congratulated myself upon the timely accident by which I had escaped.
Another step before my fall, and the world had seen me no more. And
the death just avoided, was of that very character which I had
regarded as fabulous and frivolous in the tales respecting the
Inquisition. To the victims of its tyranny, there was the choice of
death with its direst physical agonies, or death with its most
hideous moral horrors. I had been reserved for the latter. By long
suffering my nerves had been unstrung, until I trembled at the sound
of my own voice, and had become in every respect a fitting subject
for the species of torture which awaited me.

Shaking in every limb, I groped my way back to the wall; resolving
there to perish rather than risk the terrors of the wells, of which
my imagination now pictured many in various positions about the
dungeon. In other conditions of mind I might have had courage to end
my misery at once by a plunge into one of these abysses; but now I
was the veriest of cowards. Neither could I forget what I had read of
these pits -- that the sudden extinction of life formed no part of
their most horrible plan.

Agitation of spirit kept me awake for many long hours; but at length
I again slumbered. Upon arousing, I found by my side, as before, a
loaf and a pitcher of water. A burning thirst consumed me, and I
emptied the vessel at a draught. It must have been drugged; for
scarcely had I drunk, before I became irresistibly drowsy. A deep
sleep fell upon me -- a sleep like that of death. How long it lasted
of course, I know not; but when, once again, I unclosed my eyes, the
objects around me were visible. By a wild sulphurous lustre, the
origin of which I could not at first determine, I was enabled to see
the extent and aspect of the prison.

In its size I had been greatly mistaken. The whole circuit of its
walls did not exceed twenty-five yards. For some minutes this fact
occasioned me a world of vain trouble; vain indeed! for what could be
of less importance, under the terrible circumstances which environed
me, then the mere dimensions of my dungeon? But my soul took a wild
interest in trifles, and I busied myself in endeavors to account for
the error I had committed in my measurement. The truth at length
flashed upon me. In my first attempt at exploration I had counted
fifty-two paces, up to the period when I fell; I must then have been
within a pace or two of the fragment of serge; in fact, I had nearly
performed the circuit of the vault. I then slept, and upon awaking, I
must have returned upon my steps -- thus supposing the circuit nearly
double what it actually was. My confusion of mind prevented me from
observing that I began my tour with the wall to the left, and ended
it with the wall to the right.

I had been deceived, too, in respect to the shape of the enclosure.
In feeling my way I had found many angles, and thus deduced an idea
of great irregularity; so potent is the effect of total darkness upon
one arousing from lethargy or sleep! The angles were simply those of
a few slight depressions, or niches, at odd intervals. The general
shape of the prison was square. What I had taken for masonry seemed
now to be iron, or some other metal, in huge plates, whose sutures or
joints occasioned the depression. The entire surface of this metallic
enclosure was rudely daubed in all the hideous and repulsive devices
to which the charnel superstition of the monks has given rise. The
figures of fiends in aspects of menace, with skeleton forms, and
other more really fearful images, overspread and disfigured the
walls. I observed that the outlines of these monstrosities were
sufficiently distinct, but that the colors seemed faded and blurred,
as if from the effects of a damp atmosphere. I now noticed the floor,
too, which was of stone. In the centre yawned the circular pit from
whose jaws I had escaped; but it was the only one in the dungeon.

All this I saw indistinctly and by much effort: for my personal
condition had been greatly changed during slumber. I now lay upon my
back, and at full length, on a species of low framework of wood. To
this I was securely bound by a long strap resembling a surcingle. It
passed in many convolutions about my limbs and body, leaving at
liberty only my head, and my left arm to such extent that I could, by
dint of much exertion, supply myself with food from an earthen dish
which lay by my side on the floor. I saw, to my horror, that the
pitcher had been removed. I say to my horror; for I was consumed with
intolerable thirst. This thirst it appeared to be the design of my
persecutors to stimulate: for the food in the dish was meat pungently

Looking upward, I surveyed the ceiling of my prison. It was some
thirty or forty feet overhead, and constructed much as the side
walls. In one of its panels a very singular figure riveted my whole
attention. It was the painted figure of Time as he is commonly
represented, save that, in lieu of a scythe, he held what, at a
casual glance, I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum
such as we see on antique clocks. There was something, however, in
the appearance of this machine which caused me to regard it more
attentively. While I gazed directly upward at it (for its position
was immediately over my own) I fancied that I saw it in motion. In an
instant afterward the fancy was confirmed. Its sweep was brief, and
of course slow. I watched it for some minutes, somewhat in fear, but
more in wonder. Wearied at length with observing its dull movement, I
turned my eyes upon the other objects in the cell.

A slight noise attracted my notice, and, looking to the floor, I saw
several enormous rats traversing it. They had issued from the well,
which lay just within view to my right. Even then, while I gazed,
they came up in troops, hurriedly, with ravenous eyes, allured by the
scent of the meat. From this it required much effort and attention to
scare them away.

It might have been half an hour, perhaps even an hour, (for in cast
my I could take but imperfect note of time) before I again cast my
eyes upward. What I then saw confounded and amazed me. The sweep of
the pendulum had increased in extent by nearly a yard. As a natural
consequence, its velocity was also much greater. But what mainly
disturbed me was the idea that had perceptibly descended. I now
observed -- with what horror it is needless to say -- that its nether
extremity was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a foot
in length from horn to horn; the horns upward, and the under edge
evidently as keen as that of a razor. Like a razor also, it seemed
massy and heavy, tapering from the edge into a solid and broad
structure above. It was appended to a weighty rod of brass, and the
whole hissed as it swung through the air.

I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me by monkish ingenuity
in torture. My cognizance of the pit had become known to the
inquisitorial agents -- the pit whose horrors had been destined for
so bold a recusant as myself -- the pit, typical of hell, and
regarded by rumor as the Ultima Thule of all their punishments. The
plunge into this pit I had avoided by the merest of accidents, I knew
that surprise, or entrapment into torment, formed an important
portion of all the grotesquerie of these dungeon deaths. Having
failed to fall, it was no part of the demon plan to hurl me into the
abyss; and thus (there being no alternative) a different and a milder
destruction awaited me. Milder! I half smiled in my agony as I
thought of such application of such a term.

What boots it to tell of the long, long hours of horror more than
mortal, during which I counted the rushing vibrations of the steel!
Inch by inch -- line by line -- with a descent only appreciable at
intervals that seemed ages -- down and still down it came! Days
passed -- it might have been that many days passed -- ere it swept so
closely over me as to fan me with its acrid breath. The odor of the
sharp steel forced itself into my nostrils. I prayed -- I wearied
heaven with my prayer for its more speedy descent. I grew frantically
mad, and struggled to force myself upward against the sweep of the
fearful scimitar. And then I fell suddenly calm, and lay smiling at
the glittering death, as a child at some rare bauble.

There was another interval of utter insensibility; it was brief; for,
upon again lapsing into life there had been no perceptible descent in
the pendulum. But it might have been long; for I knew there were
demons who took note of my swoon, and who could have arrested the
vibration at pleasure. Upon my recovery, too, I felt very -- oh,
inexpressibly sick and weak, as if through long inanition. Even amid
the agonies of that period, the human nature craved food. With
painful effort I outstretched my left arm as far as my bonds
permitted, and took possession of the small remnant which had been
spared me by the rats. As I put a portion of it within my lips, there
rushed to my mind a half formed thought of joy -- of hope. Yet what
business had I with hope? It was, as I say, a half formed thought --
man has many such which are never completed. I felt that it was of
joy -- of hope; but felt also that it had perished in its formation.
In vain I struggled to perfect -- to regain it. Long suffering had
nearly annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind. I was an imbecile
-- an idiot.

The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles to my length. I saw
that the crescent was designed to cross the region of the heart. It
would fray the serge of my robe -- it would return and repeat its
operations -- again -- and again. Notwithstanding terrifically wide
sweep (some thirty feet or more) and the its hissing vigor of its
descent, sufficient to sunder these very walls of iron, still the
fraying of my robe would be all that, for several minutes, it would
accomplish. And at this thought I paused. I dared not go farther than
this reflection. I dwelt upon it with a pertinacity of attention --
as if, in so dwelling, I could arrest here the descent of the steel.
I forced myself to ponder upon the sound of the crescent as it should
pass across the garment -- upon the peculiar thrilling sensation
which the friction of cloth produces on the nerves. I pondered upon
all this frivolity until my teeth were on edge.

Down -- steadily down it crept. I took a frenzied pleasure in
contrasting its downward with its lateral velocity. To the right --
to the left -- far and wide -- with the shriek of a damned spirit; to
my heart with the stealthy pace of the tiger! I alternately laughed
and howled as the one or the other idea grew predominant.

Down -- certainly, relentlessly down! It vibrated within three inches
of my bosom! I struggled violently, furiously, to free my left arm.
This was free only from the elbow to the hand. I could reach the
latter, from the platter beside me, to my mouth, with great effort,
but no farther. Could I have broken the fastenings above the elbow, I
would have seized and attempted to arrest the pendulum. I might as
well have attempted to arrest an avalanche!

Down -- still unceasingly -- still inevitably down! I gasped and
struggled at each vibration. I shrunk convulsively at its every
sweep. My eyes followed its outward or upward whirls with the
eagerness of the most unmeaning despair; they closed themselves
spasmodically at the descent, although death would have been a
relief, oh! how unspeakable! Still I quivered in every nerve to think
how slight a sinking of the machinery would precipitate that keen,
glistening axe upon my bosom. It was hope that prompted the nerve to
quiver -- the frame to shrink. It was hope -- the hope that triumphs
on the rack -- that whispers to the death-condemned even in the
dungeons of the Inquisition.

I saw that some ten or twelve vibrations would bring the steel in
actual contact with my robe, and with this observation there suddenly
came over my spirit all the keen, collected calmness of despair. For
the first time during many hours -- or perhaps days -- I thought. It
now occurred to me that the bandage, or surcingle, which enveloped
me, was unique. I was tied by no separate cord. The first stroke of
the razorlike crescent athwart any portion of the band, would so
detach it that it might be unwound from my person by means of my left
hand. But how fearful, in that case, the proximity of the steel! The
result of the slightest struggle how deadly! Was it likely, moreover,
that the minions of the torturer had not foreseen and provided for
this possibility! Was it probable that the bandage crossed my bosom
in the track of the pendulum? Dreading to find my faint, and, as it
seemed, in last hope frustrated, I so far elevated my head as to
obtain a distinct view of my breast. The surcingle enveloped my limbs
and body close in all directions -- save in the path of the
destroying crescent.

Scarcely had I dropped my head back into its original position, when
there flashed upon my mind what I cannot better describe than as the
unformed half of that idea of deliverance to which I have previously
alluded, and of which a moiety only floated indeterminately through
my brain when I raised food to my burning lips. The whole thought was
now present -- feeble, scarcely sane, scarcely definite, -- but still
entire. I proceeded at once, with the nervous energy of despair, to
attempt its execution.

For many hours the immediate vicinity of the low framework upon which
I lay, had been literally swarming with rats. They were wild, bold,
ravenous; their red eyes glaring upon me as if they waited but for
motionlessness on my part to make me their prey. "To what food," I
thought, "have they been accustomed in the well?"

They had devoured, in spite of all my efforts to prevent them, all
but a small remnant of the contents of the dish. I had fallen into an
habitual see-saw, or wave of the hand about the platter: and, at
length, the unconscious uniformity of the movement deprived it of
effect. In their voracity the vermin frequently fastened their sharp
fangs in my fingers. With the particles of the oily and spicy viand
which now remained, I thoroughly rubbed the bandage wherever I could
reach it; then, raising my hand from the floor, I lay breathlessly

At first the ravenous animals were startled and terrified at the
change -- at the cessation of movement. They shrank alarmedly back;
many sought the well. But this was only for a moment. I had not
counted in vain upon their voracity. Observing that I remained
without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon the frame-work,
and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed the signal for a general
rush. Forth from the well they hurried in fresh troops. They clung to
the wood -- they overran it, and leaped in hundreds upon my person.
The measured movement of the pendulum disturbed them not at all.
Avoiding its strokes they busied themselves with the anointed
bandage. They pressed -- they swarmed upon me in ever accumulating
heaps. They writhed upon my throat; their cold lips sought my own; I
was half stifled by their thronging pressure; disgust, for which the
world has no name, swelled my bosom, and chilled, with a heavy
clamminess, my heart. Yet one minute, and I felt that the struggle
would be over. Plainly I perceived the loosening of the bandage. I
knew that in more than one place it must be already severed. With a
more than human resolution I lay still.

Nor had I erred in my calculations -- nor had I endured in vain. I at
length felt that I was free. The surcingle hung in ribands from my
body. But the stroke of the pendulum already pressed upon my bosom.
It had divided the serge of the robe. It had cut through the linen
beneath. Twice again it swung, and a sharp sense of pain shot through
every nerve. But the moment of escape had arrived. At a wave of my
hand my deliverers hurried tumultuously away. With a steady movement
-- cautious, sidelong, shrinking, and slow -- I slid from the embrace
of the bandage and beyond the reach of the scimitar. For the moment,
at least, I was free.

Free! -- and in the grasp of the Inquisition! I had scarcely stepped
from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when
the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up, by
some invisible force, through the ceiling. This was a lesson which I
took desperately to heart. My every motion was undoubtedly watched.
Free! -- I had but escaped death in one form of agony, to be
delivered unto worse than death in some other. With that thought I
rolled my eves nervously around on the barriers of iron that hemmed
me in. Something unusual -- some change which, at first, I could not
appreciate distinctly -- it was obvious, had taken place in the
apartment. For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling abstraction, I
busied myself in vain, unconnected conjecture. During this period, I
became aware, for the first time, of the origin of the sulphurous
light which illumined the cell. It proceeded from a fissure, about
half an inch in width, extending entirely around the prison at the
base of the walls, which thus appeared, and were, completely
separated from the floor. I endeavored, but of course in vain, to
look through the aperture.

As I arose from the attempt, the mystery of the alteration in the
chamber broke at once upon my understanding. I have observed that,
although the outlines of the figures upon the walls were sufficiently
distinct, yet the colors seemed blurred and indefinite. These colors
had now assumed, and were momentarily assuming, a startling and most
intense brilliancy, that gave to the spectral and fiendish
portraitures an aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves
than my own. Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glared upon
me in a thousand directions, where none had been visible before, and
gleamed with the lurid lustre of a fire that I could not force my
imagination to regard as unreal.

Unreal! -- Even while I breathed there came to my nostrils the breath
of the vapour of heated iron! A suffocating odour pervaded the
prison! A deeper glow settled each moment in the eyes that glared at
my agonies! A richer tint of crimson diffused itself over the
pictured horrors of blood. I panted! I gasped for breath! There could
be no doubt of the design of my tormentors -- oh! most unrelenting!
oh! most demoniac of men! I shrank from the glowing metal to the
centre of the cell. Amid the thought of the fiery destruction that
impended, the idea of the coolness of the well came over my soul like
balm. I rushed to its deadly brink. I threw my straining vision
below. The glare from the enkindled roof illumined its inmost
recesses. Yet, for a wild moment, did my spirit refuse to comprehend
the meaning of what I saw. At length it forced -- it wrestled its way
into my soul -- it burned itself in upon my shuddering reason. -- Oh!
for a voice to speak! -- oh! horror! -- oh! any horror but this! With
a shriek, I rushed from the margin, and buried my face in my hands --
weeping bitterly.

The heat rapidly increased, and once again I looked up, shuddering as
with a fit of the ague. There had been a second change in the cell --
and now the change was obviously in the form. As before, it was in
vain that I, at first, endeavoured to appreciate or understand what
was taking place. But not long was I left in doubt. The Inquisitorial
vengeance had been hurried by my two-fold escape, and there was to be
no more dallying with the King of Terrors. The room had been square.
I saw that two of its iron angles were now acute -- two,
consequently, obtuse. The fearful difference quickly increased with a
low rumbling or moaning sound. In an instant the apartment had
shifted its form into that of a lozenge. But the alteration stopped
not here-I neither hoped nor desired it to stop. I could have clasped
the red walls to my bosom as a garment of eternal peace. "Death," I
said, "any death but that of the pit!" Fool! might I have not known
that into the pit it was the object of the burning iron to urge me?
Could I resist its glow? or, if even that, could I withstand its
pressure And now, flatter and flatter grew the lozenge, with a
rapidity that left me no time for contemplation. Its centre, and of
course, its greatest width, came just over the yawning gulf. I shrank
back -- but the closing walls pressed me resistlessly onward. At
length for my seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of
foothold on the firm floor of the prison. I struggled no more, but
the agony of my soul found vent in one loud, long, and final scream
of despair. I felt that I tottered upon the brink -- I averted my
eyes --

There was a discordant hum of human voices! There was a loud blast as
of many trumpets! There was a harsh grating as of a thousand
thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my
own as I fell, fainting, into the abyss. It was that of General
Lasalle. The French army had entered Toledo. The Inquisition was in
the hands of its enemies.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



THERE are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing,
but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate
fiction. These the mere romanticist must eschew, if he do not wish to
offend or to disgust. They are with propriety handled only when the
severity and majesty of Truth sanctify and sustain them. We thrill,
for example, with the most intense of "pleasurable pain" over the
accounts of the Passage of the Beresina, of the Earthquake at Lisbon,
of the Plague at London, of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, or of
the stifling of the hundred and twenty-three prisoners in the Black
Hole at Calcutta. But in these accounts it is the fact - -- it is the
reality - -- it is the history which excites. As inventions, we
should regard them with simple abhorrence.

I have mentioned some few of the more prominent and august calamities
on record; but in these it is the extent, not less than the character
of the calamity, which so vividly impresses the fancy. I need not
remind the reader that, from the long and weird catalogue of human
miseries, I might have selected many individual instances more
replete with essential suffering than any of these vast generalities
of disaster. The true wretchedness, indeed -- the ultimate woe - --
is particular, not diffuse. That the ghastly extremes of agony are
endured by man the unit, and never by man the mass - -- for this let
us thank a merciful God!

To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of
these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality.
That it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be
denied by those who think. The boundaries which divide Life from
Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one
ends, and where the other begins? We know that there are diseases in
which occur total cessations of all the apparent functions of
vitality, and yet in which these cessations are merely suspensions,
properly so called. They are only temporary pauses in the
incomprehensible mechanism. A certain period elapses, and some unseen
mysterious principle again sets in motion the magic pinions and the
wizard wheels. The silver cord was not for ever loosed, nor the
golden bowl irreparably broken. But where, meantime, was the soul?

Apart, however, from the inevitable conclusion, a priori that such
causes must produce such effects - -- that the well-known occurrence
of such cases of suspended animation must naturally give rise, now
and then, to premature interments -- apart from this consideration,
we have the direct testimony of medical and ordinary experience to
prove that a vast number of such interments have actually taken
place. I might refer at once, if necessary to a hundred well
authenticated instances. One of very remarkable character, and of
which the circumstances may be fresh in the memory of some of my
readers, occurred, not very long ago, in the neighboring city of
Baltimore, where it occasioned a painful, intense, and
widely-extended excitement. The wife of one of the most respectable
citizens-a lawyer of eminence and a member of Congress -- was seized
with a sudden and unaccountable illness, which completely baffled the
skill of her physicians. After much suffering she died, or was
supposed to die. No one suspected, indeed, or had reason to suspect,
that she was not actually dead. She presented all the ordinary
appearances of death. The face assumed the usual pinched and sunken
outline. The lips were of the usual marble pallor. The eyes were
lustreless. There was no warmth. Pulsation had ceased. For three days
the body was preserved unburied, during which it had acquired a stony
rigidity. The funeral, in short, was hastened, on account of the
rapid advance of what was supposed to be decomposition.

The lady was deposited in her family vault, which, for three
subsequent years, was undisturbed. At the expiration of this term it
was opened for the reception of a sarcophagus; - -- but, alas! how
fearful a shock awaited the husband, who, personally, threw open the
door! As its portals swung outwardly back, some white-apparelled
object fell rattling within his arms. It was the skeleton of his wife
in her yet unmoulded shroud.

A careful investigation rendered it evident that she had revived
within two days after her entombment; that her struggles within the
coffin had caused it to fall from a ledge, or shelf to the floor,
where it was so broken as to permit her escape. A lamp which had been
accidentally left, full of oil, within the tomb, was found empty; it
might have been exhausted, however, by evaporation. On the uttermost
of the steps which led down into the dread chamber was a large
fragment of the coffin, with which, it seemed, that she had
endeavored to arrest attention by striking the iron door. While thus
occupied, she probably swooned, or possibly died, through sheer
terror; and, in failing, her shroud became entangled in some iron --
work which projected interiorly. Thus she remained, and thus she
rotted, erect.

In the year 1810, a case of living inhumation happened in France,
attended with circumstances which go far to warrant the assertion
that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. The heroine of the
story was a Mademoiselle Victorine Lafourcade, a young girl of
illustrious family, of wealth, and of great personal beauty. Among
her numerous suitors was Julien Bossuet, a poor litterateur, or
journalist of Paris. His talents and general amiability had
recommended him to the notice of the heiress, by whom he seems to
have been truly beloved; but her pride of birth decided her, finally,
to reject him, and to wed a Monsieur Renelle, a banker and a
diplomatist of some eminence. After marriage, however, this gentleman
neglected, and, perhaps, even more positively ill-treated her. Having
passed with him some wretched years, she died, - -- at least her
condition so closely resembled death as to deceive every one who saw
her. She was buried - -- not in a vault, but in an ordinary grave in
the village of her nativity. Filled with despair, and still inflamed
by the memory of a profound attachment, the lover journeys from the
capital to the remote province in which the village lies, with the
romantic purpose of disinterring the corpse, and possessing himself
of its luxuriant tresses. He reaches the grave. At midnight he
unearths the coffin, opens it, and is in the act of detaching the
hair, when he is arrested by the unclosing of the beloved eyes. In
fact, the lady had been buried alive. Vitality had not altogether
departed, and she was aroused by the caresses of her lover from the
lethargy which had been mistaken for death. He bore her frantically
to his lodgings in the village. He employed certain powerful
restoratives suggested by no little medical learning. In fine, she
revived. She recognized her preserver. She remained with him until,
by slow degrees, she fully recovered her original health. Her woman's
heart was not adamant, and this last lesson of love sufficed to
soften it. She bestowed it upon Bossuet. She returned no more to her
husband, but, concealing from him her resurrection, fled with her
lover to America. Twenty years afterward, the two returned to France,
in the persuasion that time had so greatly altered the lady's
appearance that her friends would be unable to recognize her. They
were mistaken, however, for, at the first meeting, Monsieur Renelle
did actually recognize and make claim to his wife. This claim she
resisted, and a judicial tribunal sustained her in her resistance,
deciding that the peculiar circumstances, with the long lapse of
years, had extinguished, not only equitably, but legally, the
authority of the husband.

The "Chirurgical Journal" of Leipsic -- a periodical of high
authority and merit, which some American bookseller would do well to
translate and republish, records in a late number a very distressing
event of the character in question.

An officer of artillery, a man of gigantic stature and of robust
health, being thrown from an unmanageable horse, received a very
severe contusion upon the head, which rendered him insensible at
once; the skull was slightly fractured, but no immediate danger was
apprehended. Trepanning was accomplished successfully. He was bled,
and many other of the ordinary means of relief were adopted.
Gradually, however, he fell into a more and more hopeless state of
stupor, and, finally, it was thought that he died.

The weather was warm, and he was buried with indecent haste in one of
the public cemeteries. His funeral took place on Thursday. On the
Sunday following, the grounds of the cemetery were, as usual, much
thronged with visiters, and about noon an intense excitement was
created by the declaration of a peasant that, while sitting upon the
grave of the officer, he had distinctly felt a commotion of the
earth, as if occasioned by some one struggling beneath. At first
little attention was paid to the man's asseveration; but his evident
terror, and the dogged obstinacy with which he persisted in his
story, had at length their natural effect upon the crowd. Spades were
hurriedly procured, and the grave, which was shamefully shallow, was
in a few minutes so far thrown open that the head of its occupant
appeared. He was then seemingly dead; but he sat nearly erect within
his coffin, the lid of which, in his furious struggles, he had
partially uplifted.

He was forthwith conveyed to the nearest hospital, and there
pronounced to be still living, although in an asphytic condition.
After some hours he revived, recognized individuals of his
acquaintance, and, in broken sentences spoke of his agonies in the

From what he related, it was clear that he must have been conscious
of life for more than an hour, while inhumed, before lapsing into
insensibility. The grave was carelessly and loosely filled with an
exceedingly porous soil; and thus some air was necessarily admitted.
He heard the footsteps of the crowd overhead, and endeavored to make
himself heard in turn. It was the tumult within the grounds of the
cemetery, he said, which appeared to awaken him from a deep sleep,
but no sooner was he awake than he became fully aware of the awful
horrors of his position.

This patient, it is recorded, was doing well and seemed to be in a
fair way of ultimate recovery, but fell a victim to the quackeries of
medical experiment. The galvanic battery was applied, and he suddenly
expired in one of those ecstatic paroxysms which, occasionally, it

The mention of the galvanic battery, nevertheless, recalls to my
memory a well known and very extraordinary case in point, where its
action proved the means of restoring to animation a young attorney of
London, who had been interred for two days. This occurred in 1831,
and created, at the time, a very profound sensation wherever it was
made the subject of converse.

The patient, Mr. Edward Stapleton, had died, apparently of typhus
fever, accompanied with some anomalous symptoms which had excited the
curiosity of his medical attendants. Upon his seeming decease, his
friends were requested to sanction a post-mortem examination, but
declined to permit it. As often happens, when such refusals are made,
the practitioners resolved to disinter the body and dissect it at
leisure, in private. Arrangements were easily effected with some of
the numerous corps of body-snatchers, with which London abounds; and,
upon the third night after the funeral, the supposed corpse was
unearthed from a grave eight feet deep, and deposited in the opening
chamber of one of the private hospitals.

An incision of some extent had been actually made in the abdomen,
when the fresh and undecayed appearance of the subject suggested an
application of the battery. One experiment succeeded another, and the
customary effects supervened, with nothing to characterize them in
any respect, except, upon one or two occasions, a more than ordinary
degree of life-likeness in the convulsive action.

It grew late. The day was about to dawn; and it was thought
expedient, at length, to proceed at once to the dissection. A
student, however, was especially desirous of testing a theory of his
own, and insisted upon applying the battery to one of the pectoral
muscles. A rough gash was made, and a wire hastily brought in
contact, when the patient, with a hurried but quite unconvulsive
movement, arose from the table, stepped into the middle of the floor,
gazed about him uneasily for a few seconds, and then -- spoke. What
he said was unintelligible, but words were uttered; the
syllabification was distinct. Having spoken, he fell heavily to the

For some moments all were paralyzed with awe -- but the urgency of
the case soon restored them their presence of mind. It was seen that
Mr. Stapleton was alive, although in a swoon. Upon exhibition of
ether he revived and was rapidly restored to health, and to the
society of his friends -- from whom, however, all knowledge of his
resuscitation was withheld, until a relapse was no longer to be
apprehended. Their wonder -- their rapturous astonishment -- may be

The most thrilling peculiarity of this incident, nevertheless, is
involved in what Mr. S. himself asserts. He declares that at no
period was he altogether insensible -- that, dully and confusedly, he
was aware of everything which happened to him, from the moment in
which he was pronounced dead by his physicians, to that in which he
fell swooning to the floor of the hospital. "I am alive," were the
uncomprehended words which, upon recognizing the locality of the
dissecting-room, he had endeavored, in his extremity, to utter.

It were an easy matter to multiply such histories as these -- but I
forbear -- for, indeed, we have no need of such to establish the fact
that premature interments occur. When we reflect how very rarely,
from the nature of the case, we have it in our power to detect them,
we must admit that they may frequently occur without our cognizance.
Scarcely, in truth, is a graveyard ever encroached upon, for any
purpose, to any great extent, that skeletons are not found in
postures which suggest the most fearful of suspicions.

Fearful indeed the suspicion -- but more fearful the doom! It may be
asserted, without hesitation, that no event is so terribly well
adapted to inspire the supremeness of bodily and of mental distress,
as is burial before death. The unendurable oppression of the lungs --
the stifling fumes from the damp earth -- the clinging to the death
garments -- the rigid embrace of the narrow house -- the blackness of
the absolute Night -- the silence like a sea that overwhelms -- the
unseen but palpable presence of the Conqueror Worm -- these things,
with the thoughts of the air and grass above, with memory of dear
friends who would fly to save us if but informed of our fate, and
with consciousness that of this fate they can never be informed --
that our hopeless portion is that of the really dead -- these
considerations, I say, carry into the heart, which still palpitates,
a degree of appalling and intolerable horror from which the most
daring imagination must recoil. We know of nothing so agonizing upon
Earth -- we can dream of nothing half so hideous in the realms of the
nethermost Hell. And thus all narratives upon this topic have an
interest profound; an interest, nevertheless, which, through the
sacred awe of the topic itself, very properly and very peculiarly
depends upon our conviction of the truth of the matter narrated. What
I have now to tell is of my own actual knowledge -- of my own
positive and personal experience.

For several years I had been subject to attacks of the singular
disorder which physicians have agreed to term catalepsy, in default
of a more definitive title. Although both the immediate and the
predisposing causes, and even the actual diagnosis, of this disease
are still mysterious, its obvious and apparent character is
sufficiently well understood. Its variations seem to be chiefly of
degree. Sometimes the patient lies, for a day only, or even for a
shorter period, in a species of exaggerated lethargy. He is senseless
and externally motionless; but the pulsation of the heart is still
faintly perceptible; some traces of warmth remain; a slight color
lingers within the centre of the cheek; and, upon application of a
mirror to the lips, we can detect a torpid, unequal, and vacillating
action of the lungs. Then again the duration of the trance is for
weeks -- even for months; while the closest scrutiny, and the most
rigorous medical tests, fail to establish any material distinction
between the state of the sufferer and what we conceive of absolute
death. Very usually he is saved from premature interment solely by
the knowledge of his friends that he has been previously subject to
catalepsy, by the consequent suspicion excited, and, above all, by
the non-appearance of decay. The advances of the malady are, luckily,
gradual. The first manifestations, although marked, are unequivocal.
The fits grow successively more and more distinctive, and endure each
for a longer term than the preceding. In this lies the principal
security from inhumation. The unfortunate whose first attack should
be of the extreme character which is occasionally seen, would almost
inevitably be consigned alive to the tomb.

My own case differed in no important particular from those mentioned
in medical books. Sometimes, without any apparent cause, I sank,
little by little, into a condition of hemi-syncope, or half swoon;
and, in this condition, without pain, without ability to stir, or,
strictly speaking, to think, but with a dull lethargic consciousness
of life and of the presence of those who surrounded my bed, I
remained, until the crisis of the disease restored me, suddenly, to
perfect sensation. At other times I was quickly and impetuously
smitten. I grew sick, and numb, and chilly, and dizzy, and so fell
prostrate at once. Then, for weeks, all was void, and black, and
silent, and Nothing became the universe. Total annihilation could be
no more. From these latter attacks I awoke, however, with a gradation
slow in proportion to the suddenness of the seizure. Just as the day
dawns to the friendless and houseless beggar who roams the streets
throughout the long desolate winter night -- just so tardily -- just
so wearily -- just so cheerily came back the light of the Soul to me.

Apart from the tendency to trance, however, my general health
appeared to be good; nor could I perceive that it was at all affected
by the one prevalent malady -- unless, indeed, an idiosyncrasy in my
ordinary sleep may be looked upon as superinduced. Upon awaking from
slumber, I could never gain, at once, thorough possession of my
senses, and always remained, for many minutes, in much bewilderment
and perplexity; -- the mental faculties in general, but the memory in
especial, being in a condition of absolute abeyance.

In all that I endured there was no physical suffering but of moral
distress an infinitude. My fancy grew charnel, I talked "of worms, of
tombs, and epitaphs." I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea
of premature burial held continual possession of my brain. The
ghastly Danger to which I was subjected haunted me day and night. In
the former, the torture of meditation was excessive -- in the latter,
supreme. When the grim Darkness overspread the Earth, then, with
every horror of thought, I shook -- shook as the quivering plumes
upon the hearse. When Nature could endure wakefulness no longer, it
was with a struggle that I consented to sleep -- for I shuddered to
reflect that, upon awaking, I might find myself the tenant of a
grave. And when, finally, I sank into slumber, it was only to rush at
once into a world of phantasms, above which, with vast, sable,
overshadowing wing, hovered, predominant, the one sepulchral Idea.

From the innumerable images of gloom which thus oppressed me in
dreams, I select for record but a solitary vision. Methought I was
immersed in a cataleptic trance of more than usual duration and
profundity. Suddenly there came an icy hand upon my forehead, and an
impatient, gibbering voice whispered the word "Arise!" within my ear.

I sat erect. The darkness was total. I could not see the figure of
him who had aroused me. I could call to mind neither the period at
which I had fallen into the trance, nor the locality in which I then
lay. While I remained motionless, and busied in endeavors to collect
my thought, the cold hand grasped me fiercely by the wrist, shaking
it petulantly, while the gibbering voice said again:

"Arise! did I not bid thee arise?"

"And who," I demanded, "art thou?"

"I have no name in the regions which I inhabit," replied the voice,
mournfully; "I was mortal, but am fiend. I was merciless, but am
pitiful. Thou dost feel that I shudder. -- My teeth chatter as I
speak, yet it is not with the chilliness of the night -- of the night
without end. But this hideousness is insufferable. How canst thou
tranquilly sleep? I cannot rest for the cry of these great agonies.
These sights are more than I can bear. Get thee up! Come with me into
the outer Night, and let me unfold to thee the graves. Is not this a
spectacle of woe? -- Behold!"

I looked; and the unseen figure, which still grasped me by the wrist,
had caused to be thrown open the graves of all mankind, and from each
issued the faint phosphoric radiance of decay, so that I could see
into the innermost recesses, and there view the shrouded bodies in
their sad and solemn slumbers with the worm. But alas! the real
sleepers were fewer, by many millions, than those who slumbered not
at all; and there was a feeble struggling; and there was a general
sad unrest; and from out the depths of the countless pits there came
a melancholy rustling from the garments of the buried. And of those
who seemed tranquilly to repose, I saw that a vast number had
changed, in a greater or less degree, the rigid and uneasy position
in which they had originally been entombed. And the voice again said
to me as I gazed:

"Is it not -- oh! is it not a pitiful sight?" -- but, before I could
find words to reply, the figure had ceased to grasp my wrist, the
phosphoric lights expired, and the graves were closed with a sudden
violence, while from out them arose a tumult of despairing cries,
saying again: "Is it not -- O, God, is it not a very pitiful sight?"

Phantasies such as these, presenting themselves at night, extended
their terrific influence far into my waking hours. My nerves became
thoroughly unstrung, and I fell a prey to perpetual horror. I
hesitated to ride, or to walk, or to indulge in any exercise that
would carry me from home. In fact, I no longer dared trust myself out
of the immediate presence of those who were aware of my proneness to
catalepsy, lest, falling into one of my usual fits, I should be
buried before my real condition could be ascertained. I doubted the
care, the fidelity of my dearest friends. I dreaded that, in some
trance of more than customary duration, they might be prevailed upon
to regard me as irrecoverable. I even went so far as to fear that, as
I occasioned much trouble, they might be glad to consider any very
protracted attack as sufficient excuse for getting rid of me
altogether. It was in vain they endeavored to reassure me by the most
solemn promises. I exacted the most sacred oaths, that under no
circumstances they would bury me until decomposition had so
materially advanced as to render farther preservation impossible.
And, even then, my mortal terrors would listen to no reason -- would
accept no consolation. I entered into a series of elaborate
precautions. Among other things, I had the family vault so remodelled
as to admit of being readily opened from within. The slightest
pressure upon a long lever that extended far into the tomb would
cause the iron portal to fly back. There were arrangements also for
the free admission of air and light, and convenient receptacles for
food and water, within immediate reach of the coffin intended for my
reception. This coffin was warmly and softly padded, and was provided
with a lid, fashioned upon the principle of the vault-door, with the
addition of springs so contrived that the feeblest movement of the
body would be sufficient to set it at liberty. Besides all this,
there was suspended from the roof of the tomb, a large bell, the rope
of which, it was designed, should extend through a hole in the
coffin, and so be fastened to one of the hands of the corpse. But,
alas? what avails the vigilance against the Destiny of man? Not even
these well-contrived securities sufficed to save from the uttermost
agonies of living inhumation, a wretch to these agonies foredoomed!

There arrived an epoch -- as often before there had arrived -- in
which I found myself emerging from total unconsciousness into the
first feeble and indefinite sense of existence. Slowly -- with a
tortoise gradation -- approached the faint gray dawn of the psychal
day. A torpid uneasiness. An apathetic endurance of dull pain. No
care -- no hope -- no effort. Then, after a long interval, a ringing
in the ears; then, after a lapse still longer, a prickling or
tingling sensation in the extremities; then a seemingly eternal
period of pleasurable quiescence, during which the awakening feelings
are struggling into thought; then a brief re-sinking into non-entity;
then a sudden recovery. At length the slight quivering of an eyelid,
and immediately thereupon, an electric shock of a terror, deadly and
indefinite, which sends the blood in torrents from the temples to the
heart. And now the first positive effort to think. And now the first
endeavor to remember. And now a partial and evanescent success. And
now the memory has so far regained its dominion, that, in some
measure, I am cognizant of my state. I feel that I am not awaking
from ordinary sleep. I recollect that I have been subject to
catalepsy. And now, at last, as if by the rush of an ocean, my
shuddering spirit is overwhelmed by the one grim Danger -- by the one
spectral and ever-prevalent idea.

For some minutes after this fancy possessed me, I remained without
motion. And why? I could not summon courage to move. I dared not make
the effort which was to satisfy me of my fate -- and yet there was
something at my heart which whispered me it was sure. Despair -- such
as no other species of wretchedness ever calls into being -- despair
alone urged me, after long irresolution, to uplift the heavy lids of
my eyes. I uplifted them. It was dark -- all dark. I knew that the
fit was over. I knew that the crisis of my disorder had long passed.
I knew that I had now fully recovered the use of my visual faculties
-- and yet it was dark -- all dark -- the intense and utter
raylessness of the Night that endureth for evermore.

I endeavored to shriek-, and my lips and my parched tongue moved
convulsively together in the attempt -- but no voice issued from the
cavernous lungs, which oppressed as if by the weight of some
incumbent mountain, gasped and palpitated, with the heart, at every
elaborate and struggling inspiration.

The movement of the jaws, in this effort to cry aloud, showed me that
they were bound up, as is usual with the dead. I felt, too, that I
lay upon some hard substance, and by something similar my sides were,
also, closely compressed. So far, I had not ventured to stir any of
my limbs -- but now I violently threw up my arms, which had been
lying at length, with the wrists crossed. They struck a solid wooden
substance, which extended above my person at an elevation of not more
than six inches from my face. I could no longer doubt that I reposed
within a coffin at last.

And now, amid all my infinite miseries, came sweetly the cherub Hope
-- for I thought of my precautions. I writhed, and made spasmodic
exertions to force open the lid: it would not move. I felt my wrists
for the bell-rope: it was not to be found. And now the Comforter fled
for ever, and a still sterner Despair reigned triumphant; for I could
not help perceiving the absence of the paddings which I had so
carefully prepared -- and then, too, there came suddenly to my
nostrils the strong peculiar odor of moist earth. The conclusion was
irresistible. I was not within the vault. I had fallen into a trance
while absent from home-while among strangers -- when, or how, I could
not remember -- and it was they who had buried me as a dog -- nailed
up in some common coffin -- and thrust deep, deep, and for ever, into
some ordinary and nameless grave.

As this awful conviction forced itself, thus, into the innermost
chambers of my soul, I once again struggled to cry aloud. And in this
second endeavor I succeeded. A long, wild, and continuous shriek, or
yell of agony, resounded through the realms of the subterranean

"Hillo! hillo, there!" said a gruff voice, in reply.

"What the devil's the matter now!" said a second.

"Get out o' that!" said a third.

"What do you mean by yowling in that ere kind of style, like a
cattymount?" said a fourth; and hereupon I was seized and shaken
without ceremony, for several minutes, by a junto of very
rough-looking individuals. They did not arouse me from my slumber --
for I was wide awake when I screamed -- but they restored me to the
full possession of my memory.

This adventure occurred near Richmond, in Virginia. Accompanied by a
friend, I had proceeded, upon a gunning expedition, some miles down
the banks of the James River. Night approached, and we were overtaken
by a storm. The cabin of a small sloop lying at anchor in the stream,
and laden with garden mould, afforded us the only available shelter.
We made the best of it, and passed the night on board. I slept in one
of the only two berths in the vessel -- and the berths of a sloop of
sixty or twenty tons need scarcely be described. That which I
occupied had no bedding of any kind. Its extreme width was eighteen
inches. The distance of its bottom from the deck overhead was
precisely the same. I found it a matter of exceeding difficulty to
squeeze myself in. Nevertheless, I slept soundly, and the whole of my
vision -- for it was no dream, and no nightmare -- arose naturally
from the circumstances of my position -- from my ordinary bias of
thought -- and from the difficulty, to which I have alluded, of
collecting my senses, and especially of regaining my memory, for a
long time after awaking from slumber. The men who shook me were the
crew of the sloop, and some laborers engaged to unload it. From the
load itself came the earthly smell. The bandage about the jaws was a
silk handkerchief in which I had bound up my head, in default of my
customary nightcap.

The tortures endured, however, were indubitably quite equal for the
time, to those of actual sepulture. They were fearfully -- they were
inconceivably hideous; but out of Evil proceeded Good; for their very
excess wrought in my spirit an inevitable revulsion. My soul acquired
tone -- acquired temper. I went abroad. I took vigorous exercise. I
breathed the free air of Heaven. I thought upon other subjects than
Death. I discarded my medical books. "Buchan" I burned. I read no
"Night Thoughts" -- no fustian about churchyards -- no bugaboo tales
-- such as this. In short, I became a new man, and lived a man's
life. From that memorable night, I dismissed forever my charnel
apprehensions, and with them vanished the cataleptic disorder, of
which, perhaps, they had been less the consequence than the cause.

There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of
our sad Humanity may assume the semblance of a Hell -- but the
imagination of man is no Carathis, to explore with impunity its every
cavern. Alas! the grim legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be
regarded as altogether fanciful -- but, like the Demons in whose
company Afrasiab made his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep, or
they will devour us -- they must be suffered to slumber, or we

~~~ End of Text ~~~



The garden like a lady fair was cut,
That lay as if she slumbered in delight,
And to the open skies her eyes did shut.
The azure fields of Heaven were 'sembled right
In a large round, set with the flowers of light.
The flowers de luce, and the round sparks of dew.
That hung upon their azure leaves did shew
Like twinkling stars that sparkle in the evening blue.
Giles Fletcher.

FROM his cradle to his grave a gale of prosperity bore my friend
Ellison along. Nor do I use the word prosperity in its mere worldly
sense. I mean it as synonymous with happiness. The person of whom I
speak seemed born for the purpose of foreshadowing the doctrines of
Turgot, Price, Priestley, and Condorcet -- of exemplifying by
individual instance what has been deemed the chimera of the
perfectionists. In the brief existence of Ellison I fancy that I have
seen refuted the dogma, that in man's very nature lies some hidden
principle, the antagonist of bliss. An anxious examination of his
career has given me to understand that in general, from the violation
of a few simple laws of humanity arises the wretchedness of mankind
-- that as a species we have in our possession the as yet unwrought
elements of content -- and that, even now, in the present darkness
and madness of all thought on the great question of the social
condition, it is not impossible that man, the individual, under
certain unusual and highly fortuitous conditions, may be happy.

With opinions such as these my young friend, too, was fully imbued,
and thus it is worthy of observation that the uninterrupted enjoyment
which distinguished his life was, in great measure, the result of
preconcert. It is indeed evident that with less of the instinctive
philosophy which, now and then, stands so well in the stead of
experience, Mr. Ellison would have found himself precipitated, by the
very extraordinary success of his life, into the common vortex of
unhappiness which yawns for those of pre-eminent endowments. But it
is by no means my object to pen an essay on happiness. The ideas of
my friend may be summed up in a few words. He admitted but four
elementary principles, or more strictly, conditions of bliss. That
which he considered chief was (strange to say!) the simple and purely
physical one of free exercise in the open air. "The health," he said,
"attainable by other means is scarcely worth the name." He instanced
the ecstasies of the fox-hunter, and pointed to the tillers of the
earth, the only people who, as a class, can be fairly considered
happier than others. His second condition was the love of woman. His
third, and most difficult of realization, was the contempt of
ambition. His fourth was an object of unceasing pursuit; and he held
that, other things being equal, the extent of attainable happiness
was in proportion to the spirituality of this object.

Ellison was remarkable in the continuous profusion of good gifts
lavished upon him by fortune. In personal grace and beauty he
exceeded all men. His intellect was of that order to which the
acquisition of knowledge is less a labor than an intuition and a
necessity. His family was one of the most illustrious of the empire.
His bride was the loveliest and most devoted of women. His
possessions had been always ample; but on the attainment of his
majority, it was discovered that one of those extraordinary freaks of
fate had been played in his behalf which startle the whole social
world amid which they occur, and seldom fail radically to alter the
moral constitution of those who are their objects.

It appears that about a hundred years before Mr. Ellison's coming of
age, there had died, in a remote province, one Mr. Seabright Ellison.
This gentleman had amassed a princely fortune, and, having no
immediate connections, conceived the whim of suffering his wealth to
accumulate for a century after his decease. Minutely and sagaciously
directing the various modes of investment, he bequeathed the
aggregate amount to the nearest of blood, bearing the name of
Ellison, who should be alive at the end of the hundred years. Many
attempts had been made to set aside this singular bequest; their ex
post facto character rendered them abortive; but the attention of a
jealous government was aroused, and a legislative act finally
obtained, forbidding all similar accumulations. This act, however,
did not prevent young Ellison from entering into possession, on his
twenty-first birthday, as the heir of his ancestor Seabright, of a
fortune of four hundred and fifty millions of dollars. {*1}

When it had become known that such was the enormous wealth inherited,
there were, of course, many speculations as to the mode of its
disposal. The magnitude and the immediate availability of the sum
bewildered all who thought on the topic. The possessor of any
appreciable amount of money might have been imagined to perform any
one of a thousand things. With riches merely surpassing those of any
citizen, it would have been easy to suppose him engaging to supreme
excess in the fashionable extravagances of his time -- or busying
himself with political intrigue -- or aiming at ministerial power --
or purchasing increase of nobility -- or collecting large museums of
virtu -- or playing the munificent patron of letters, of science, of
art -- or endowing, and bestowing his name upon extensive
institutions of charity. But for the inconceivable wealth in the
actual possession of the heir, these objects and all ordinary objects
were felt to afford too limited a field. Recourse was had to figures,
and these but sufficed to confound. It was seen that, even at three
per cent., the annual income of the inheritance amounted to no less
than thirteen millions and five hundred thousand dollars; which was
one million and one hundred and twenty-five thousand per month; or
thirty-six thousand nine hundred and eighty-six per day; or one
thousand five hundred and forty-one per hour; or six and twenty
dollars for every minute that flew. Thus the usual track of
supposition was thoroughly broken up. Men knew not what to imagine.
There were some who even conceived that Mr. Ellison would divest
himself of at least one-half of his fortune, as of utterly
superfluous opulence -- enriching whole troops of his relatives by
division of his superabundance. To the nearest of these he did, in
fact, abandon the very unusual wealth which was his own before the

I was not surprised, however, to perceive that he had long made up
his mind on a point which had occasioned so much discussion to his
friends. Nor was I greatly astonished at the nature of his decision.
In regard to individual charities he had satisfied his conscience. In
the possibility of any improvement, properly so called, being
effected by man himself in the general condition of man, he had (I am
sorry to confess it) little faith. Upon the whole, whether happily or
unhappily, he was thrown back, in very great measure, upon self.

In the widest and noblest sense he was a poet. He comprehended,
moreover, the true character, the august aims, the supreme majesty
and dignity of the poetic sentiment. The fullest, if not the sole
proper satisfaction of this sentiment he instinctively felt to lie in
the creation of novel forms of beauty. Some peculiarities, either in
his early education, or in the nature of his intellect, had tinged
with what is termed materialism all his ethical speculations; and it
was this bias, perhaps, which led him to believe that the most
advantageous at least, if not the sole legitimate field for the
poetic exercise, lies in the creation of novel moods of purely
physical loveliness. Thus it happened he became neither musician nor
poet -- if we use this latter term in its every-day acceptation. Or
it might have been that he neglected to become either, merely in
pursuance of his idea that in contempt of ambition is to be found one
of the essential principles of happiness on earth. Is it not indeed,
possible that, while a high order of genius is necessarily ambitious,
the highest is above that which is termed ambition? And may it not
thus happen that many far greater than Milton have contentedly
remained "mute and inglorious?" I believe that the world has never
seen -- and that, unless through some series of accidents goading the
noblest order of mind into distasteful exertion, the world will never
see -- that full extent of triumphant execution, in the richer
domains of art, of which the human nature is absolutely capable.

Ellison became neither musician nor poet; although no man lived more
profoundly enamored of music and poetry. Under other circumstances
than those which invested him, it is not impossible that he would
have become a painter. Sculpture, although in its nature rigorously
poetical was too limited in its extent and consequences, to have
occupied, at any time, much of his attention. And I have now
mentioned all the provinces in which the common understanding of the
poetic sentiment has declared it capable of expatiating. But Ellison
maintained that the richest, the truest, and most natural, if not
altogether the most extensive province, had been unaccountably
neglected. No definition had spoken of the landscape-gardener as of
the poet; yet it seemed to my friend that the creation of the
landscape-garden offered to the proper Muse the most magnificent of
opportunities. Here, indeed, was the fairest field for the display of
imagination in the endless combining of forms of novel beauty; the
elements to enter into combination being, by a vast superiority, the
most glorious which the earth could afford. In the multiform and
multicolor of the flowers and the trees, he recognised the most
direct and energetic efforts of Nature at physical loveliness. And in
the direction or concentration of this effort -- or, more properly,
in its adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth -- he
perceived that he should be employing the best means -- laboring to
the greatest advantage -- in the fulfilment, not only of his own
destiny as poet, but of the august purposes for which the Deity had
implanted the poetic sentiment in man.

"Its adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth." In his
explanation of this phraseology, Mr. Ellison did much toward solving
what has always seemed to me an enigma: -- I mean the fact (which
none but the ignorant dispute) that no such combination of scenery
exists in nature as the painter of genius may produce. No such
paradises are to be found in reality as have glowed on the canvas of
Claude. In the most enchanting of natural landscapes, there will
always be found a defect or an excess -- many excesses and defects.
While the component parts may defy, individually, the highest skill
of the artist, the arrangement of these parts will always be
susceptible of improvement. In short, no position can be attained on
the wide surface of the natural earth, from which an artistical eye,
looking steadily, will not find matter of offence in what is termed
the "composition" of the landscape. And yet how unintelligible is
this! In all other matters we are justly instructed to regard nature
as supreme. With her details we shrink from competition. Who shall
presume to imitate the colors of the tulip, or to improve the
proportions of the lily of the valley? The criticism which says, of
sculpture or portraiture, that here nature is to be exalted or
idealized rather than imitated, is in error. No pictorial or
sculptural combinations of points of human liveliness do more than
approach the living and breathing beauty. In landscape alone is the
principle of the critic true; and, having felt its truth here, it is
but the headlong spirit of generalization which has led him to
pronounce it true throughout all the domains of art. Having, I say,
felt its truth here; for the feeling is no affectation or chimera.
The mathematics afford no more absolute demonstrations than the
sentiments of his art yields the artist. He not only believes, but
positively knows, that such and such apparently arbitrary
arrangements of matter constitute and alone constitute the true
beauty. His reasons, however, have not yet been matured into
expression. It remains for a more profound analysis than the world
has yet seen, fully to investigate and express them. Nevertheless he
is confirmed in his instinctive opinions by the voice of all his
brethren. Let a "composition" be defective; let an emendation be
wrought in its mere arrangement of form; let this emendation be
submitted to every artist in the world; by each will its necessity be
admitted. And even far more than this: -- in remedy of the defective
composition, each insulated member of the fraternity would have
suggested the identical emendation.

I repeat that in landscape arrangements alone is the physical nature
susceptible of exaltation, and that, therefore, her susceptibility of
improvement at this one point, was a mystery I had been unable to
solve. My own thoughts on the subject had rested in the idea that the
primitive intention of nature would have so arranged the earth's
surface as to have fulfilled at all points man's sense of perfection
in the beautiful, the sublime, or the picturesque; but that this
primitive intention had been frustrated by the known geological
disturbances -- disturbances of form and color -- grouping, in the
correction or allaying of which lies the soul of art. The force of
this idea was much weakened, however, by the necessity which it
involved of considering the disturbances abnormal and unadapted to
any purpose. It was Ellison who suggested that they were prognostic
of death. He thus explained: -- Admit the earthly immortality of man
to have been the first intention. We have then the primitive
arrangement of the earth's surface adapted to his blissful estate, as
not existent but designed. The disturbances were the preparations for
his subsequently conceived deathful condition.

"Now," said my friend, "what we regard as exaltation of the landscape
may be really such, as respects only the moral or human point of
view. Each alteration of the natural scenery may possibly effect a
blemish in the picture, if we can suppose this picture viewed at
large -- in mass -- from some point distant from the earth's surface,
although not beyond the limits of its atmosphere. It is easily
understood that what might improve a closely scrutinized detail, may
at the same time injure a general or more distantly observed effect.
There may be a class of beings, human once, but now invisible to
humanity, to whom, from afar, our disorder may seem order -- our
unpicturesqueness picturesque, in a word, the earth-angels, for whose
scrutiny more especially than our own, and for whose death -- refined
appreciation of the beautiful, may have been set in array by God the
wide landscape-gardens of the hemispheres."

In the course of discussion, my friend quoted some passages from a
writer on landscape-gardening who has been supposed to have well
treated his theme:

"There are properly but two styles of landscape-gardening, the
natural and the artificial. One seeks to recall the original beauty
of the country, by adapting its means to the surrounding scenery,
cultivating trees in harmony with the hills or plain of the
neighboring land; detecting and bringing into practice those nice
relations of size, proportion, and color which, hid from the common
observer, are revealed everywhere to the experienced student of
nature. The result of the natural style of gardening, is seen rather
in the absence of all defects and incongruities -- in the prevalence
of a healthy harmony and order -- than in the creation of any special
wonders or miracles. The artificial style has as many varieties as
there are different tastes to gratify. It has a certain general
relation to the various styles of building. There are the stately
avenues and retirements of Versailles; Italian terraces; and a
various mixed old English style, which bears some relation to the
domestic Gothic or English Elizabethan architecture. Whatever may be
said against the abuses of the artificial landscape -- gardening, a
mixture of pure art in a garden scene adds to it a great beauty. This
is partly pleasing to the eye, by the show of order and design, and
partly moral. A terrace, with an old moss -- covered balustrade,
calls up at once to the eye the fair forms that have passed there in
other days. The slightest exhibition of art is an evidence of care
and human interest."

"From what I have already observed," said Ellison, "you will
understand that I reject the idea, here expressed, of recalling the
original beauty of the country. The original beauty is never so great
as that which may be introduced. Of course, every thing depends on
the selection of a spot with capabilities. What is said about
detecting and bringing into practice nice relations of size,
proportion, and color, is one of those mere vaguenesses of speech
which serve to veil inaccuracy of thought. The phrase quoted may mean
any thing, or nothing, and guides in no degree. That the true result
of the natural style of gardening is seen rather in the absence of
all defects and incongruities than in the creation of any special
wonders or miracles, is a proposition better suited to the grovelling
apprehension of the herd than to the fervid dreams of the man of
genius. The negative merit suggested appertains to that hobbling
criticism which, in letters, would elevate Addison into apotheosis.
In truth, while that virtue which consists in the mere avoidance of
vice appeals directly to the understanding, and can thus be
circumscribed in rule, the loftier virtue, which flames in creation,
can be apprehended in its results alone. Rule applies but to the
merits of denial -- to the excellencies which refrain. Beyond these,
the critical art can but suggest. We may be instructed to build a
"Cato," but we are in vain told how to conceive a Parthenon or an
"Inferno." The thing done, however; the wonder accomplished; and the
capacity for apprehension becomes universal. The sophists of the
negative school who, through inability to create, have scoffed at
creation, are now found the loudest in applause. What, in its
chrysalis condition of principle, affronted their demure reason,
never fails, in its maturity of accomplishment, to extort admiration
from their instinct of beauty.

"The author's observations on the artificial style," continued
Ellison, "are less objectionable. A mixture of pure art in a garden
scene adds to it a great beauty. This is just; as also is the
reference to the sense of human interest. The principle expressed is
incontrovertible -- but there may be something beyond it. There may
be an object in keeping with the principle -- an object unattainable
by the means ordinarily possessed by individuals, yet which, if
attained, would lend a charm to the landscape-garden far surpassing
that which a sense of merely human interest could bestow. A poet,
having very unusual pecuniary resources, might, while retaining the
necessary idea of art or culture, or, as our author expresses it, of
interest, so imbue his designs at once with extent and novelty of
beauty, as to convey the sentiment of spiritual interference. It will
be seen that, in bringing about such result, he secures all the
advantages of interest or design, while relieving his work of the
harshness or technicality of the worldly art. In the most rugged of
wildernesses -- in the most savage of the scenes of pure nature --
there is apparent the art of a creator; yet this art is apparent to
reflection only; in no respect has it the obvious force of a feeling.
Now let us suppose this sense of the Almighty design to be one step
depressed -- to be brought into something like harmony or consistency
with the sense of human art -- to form an intermedium between the
two: -- let us imagine, for example, a landscape whose combined
vastness and definitiveness -- whose united beauty, magnificence, and
strangeness, shall convey the idea of care, or culture, or
superintendence, on the part of beings superior, yet akin to humanity
-- then the sentiment of interest is preserved, while the art
intervolved is made to assume the air of an intermediate or secondary
nature -- a nature which is not God, nor an emanation from God, but
which still is nature in the sense of the handiwork of the angels
that hover between man and God."

It was in devoting his enormous wealth to the embodiment of a vision
such as this -- in the free exercise in the open air ensured by the
personal superintendence of his plans -- in the unceasing object
which these plans afforded -- in the high spirituality of the object
-- in the contempt of ambition which it enabled him truly to feel --
in the perennial springs with which it gratified, without possibility
of satiating, that one master passion of his soul, the thirst for
beauty, above all, it was in the sympathy of a woman, not unwomanly,
whose loveliness and love enveloped his existence in the purple
atmosphere of Paradise, that Ellison thought to find, and found,
exemption from the ordinary cares of humanity, with a far greater
amount of positive happiness than ever glowed in the rapt day-dreams
of De Stael.

I despair of conveying to the reader any distinct conception of the
marvels which my friend did actually accomplish. I wish to describe,
but am disheartened by the difficulty of description, and hesitate
between detail and generality. Perhaps the better course will be to
unite the two in their extremes.

Mr. Ellison's first step regarded, of course, the choice of a
locality, and scarcely had he commenced thinking on this point, when
the luxuriant nature of the Pacific Islands arrested his attention.
In fact, he had made up his mind for a voyage to the South Seas, when
a night's reflection induced him to abandon the idea. "Were I
misanthropic," he said, "such a locale would suit me. The
thoroughness of its insulation and seclusion, and the difficulty of
ingress and egress, would in such case be the charm of charms; but as
yet I am not Timon. I wish the composure but not the depression of
solitude. There must remain with me a certain control over the extent
and duration of my repose. There will be frequent hours in which I
shall need, too, the sympathy of the poetic in what I have done. Let
me seek, then, a spot not far from a populous city -- whose vicinity,
also, will best enable me to execute my plans."

In search of a suitable place so situated, Ellison travelled for
several years, and I was permitted to accompany him. A thousand spots
with which I was enraptured he rejected without hesitation, for
reasons which satisfied me, in the end, that he was right. We came at
length to an elevated table-land of wonderful fertility and beauty,
affording a panoramic prospect very little less in extent than that
of Aetna, and, in Ellison's opinion as well as my own, surpassing the
far-famed view from that mountain in all the true elements of the

"I am aware," said the traveller, as he drew a sigh of deep delight
after gazing on this scene, entranced, for nearly an hour, "I know
that here, in my circumstances, nine-tenths of the most fastidious of
men would rest content. This panorama is indeed glorious, and I
should rejoice in it but for the excess of its glory. The taste of
all the architects I have ever known leads them, for the sake of
'prospect,' to put up buildings on hill-tops. The error is obvious.
Grandeur in any of its moods, but especially in that of extent,
startles, excites -- and then fatigues, depresses. For the occasional
scene nothing can be better -- for the constant view nothing worse.
And, in the constant view, the most objectionable phase of grandeur
is that of extent; the worst phase of extent, that of distance. It is
at war with the sentiment and with the sense of seclusion -- the
sentiment and sense which we seek to humor in 'retiring to the
country.' In looking from the summit of a mountain we cannot help
feeling abroad in the world. The heart-sick avoid distant prospects
as a pestilence."

It was not until toward the close of the fourth year of our search
that we found a locality with which Ellison professed himself
satisfied. It is, of course, needless to say where was the locality.
The late death of my friend, in causing his domain to be thrown open
to certain classes of visiters, has given to Arnheim a species of
secret and subdued if not solemn celebrity, similar in kind, although
infinitely superior in degree, to that which so long distinguished

The usual approach to Arnheim was by the river. The visiter left the
city in the early morning. During the forenoon he passed between
shores of a tranquil and domestic beauty, on which grazed innumerable
sheep, their white fleeces spotting the vivid green of rolling
meadows. By degrees the idea of cultivation subsided into that of
merely pastoral care. This slowly became merged in a sense of
retirement -- this again in a consciousness of solitude. As the
evening approached, the channel grew more narrow, the banks more and
more precipitous; and these latter were clothed in rich, more
profuse, and more sombre foliage. The water increased in
transparency. The stream took a thousand turns, so that at no moment
could its gleaming surface be seen for a greater distance than a
furlong. At every instant the vessel seemed imprisoned within an
enchanted circle, having insuperable and impenetrable walls of
foliage, a roof of ultramarine satin, and no floor -- the keel
balancing itself with admirable nicety on that of a phantom bark
which, by some accident having been turned upside down, floated in
constant company with the substantial one, for the purpose of
sustaining it. The channel now became a gorge -- although the term is
somewhat inapplicable, and I employ it merely because the language
has no word which better represents the most striking -- not the most
distinctive-feature of the scene. The character of gorge was
maintained only in the height and parallelism of the shores; it was
lost altogether in their other traits. The walls of the ravine
(through which the clear water still tranquilly flowed) arose to an
elevation of a hundred and occasionally of a hundred and fifty feet,
and inclined so much toward each other as, in a great measure, to
shut out the light of day; while the long plume-like moss which
depended densely from the intertwining shrubberies overhead, gave the
whole chasm an air of funereal gloom. The windings became more
frequent and intricate, and seemed often as if returning in upon
themselves, so that the voyager had long lost all idea of direction.
He was, moreover, enwrapt in an exquisite sense of the strange. The
thought of nature still remained, but her character seemed to have
undergone modification, there was a weird symmetry, a thrilling
uniformity, a wizard propriety in these her works. Not a dead branch
-- not a withered leaf -- not a stray pebble -- not a patch of the
brown earth was anywhere visible. The crystal water welled up against
the clean granite, or the unblemished moss, with a sharpness of
outline that delighted while it bewildered the eye.

Having threaded the mazes of this channel for some hours, the gloom
deepening every moment, a sharp and unexpected turn of the vessel
brought it suddenly, as if dropped from heaven, into a circular basin
of very considerable extent when compared with the width of the
gorge. It was about two hundred yards in diameter, and girt in at all
points but one -- that immediately fronting the vessel as it entered
-- by hills equal in general height to the walls of the chasm,
although of a thoroughly different character. Their sides sloped from
the water's edge at an angle of some forty-five degrees, and they
were clothed from base to summit -- not a perceptible point escaping
-- in a drapery of the most gorgeous flower-blossoms; scarcely a
green leaf being visible among the sea of odorous and fluctuating
color. This basin was of great depth, but so transparent was the
water that the bottom, which seemed to consist of a thick mass of
small round alabaster pebbles, was distinctly visible by glimpses --
that is to say, whenever the eye could permit itself not to see, far
down in the inverted heaven, the duplicate blooming of the hills. On
these latter there were no trees, nor even shrubs of any size. The
impressions wrought on the observer were those of richness, warmth,
color, quietude, uniformity, softness, delicacy, daintiness,
voluptuousness, and a miraculous extremeness of culture that
suggested dreams of a new race of fairies, laborious, tasteful,
magnificent, and fastidious; but as the eye traced upward the
myriad-tinted slope, from its sharp junction with the water to its
vague termination amid the folds of overhanging cloud, it became,
indeed, difficult not to fancy a panoramic cataract of rubies,
sapphires, opals, and golden onyxes, rolling silently out of the sky.

The visiter, shooting suddenly into this bay from out the gloom of
the ravine, is delighted but astounded by the full orb of the
declining sun, which he had supposed to be already far below the
horizon, but which now confronts him, and forms the sole termination
of an otherwise limitless vista seen through another chasm -- like
rift in the hills.

But here the voyager quits the vessel which has borne him so far, and
descends into a light canoe of ivory, stained with arabesque devices
in vivid scarlet, both within and without. The poop and beak of this
boat arise high above the water, with sharp points, so that the
general form is that of an irregular crescent. It lies on the surface
of the bay with the proud grace of a swan. On its ermined floor
reposes a single feathery paddle of satin-wood; but no oarsmen or
attendant is to be seen. The guest is bidden to be of good cheer --
that the fates will take care of him. The larger vessel disappears,
and he is left alone in the canoe, which lies apparently motionless
in the middle of the lake. While he considers what course to pursue,
however, he becomes aware of a gentle movement in the fairy bark. It
slowly swings itself around until its prow points toward the sun. It
advances with a gentle but gradually accelerated velocity, while the
slight ripples it creates seem to break about the ivory side in
divinest melody-seem to offer the only possible explanation of the
soothing yet melancholy music for whose unseen origin the bewildered
voyager looks around him in vain.

The canoe steadily proceeds, and the rocky gate of the vista is
approached, so that its depths can be more distinctly seen. To the
right arise a chain of lofty hills rudely and luxuriantly wooded. It
is observed, however, that the trait of exquisite cleanness where the
bank dips into the water, still prevails. There is not one token of
the usual river debris. To the left the character of the scene is
softer and more obviously artificial. Here the bank slopes upward
from the stream in a very gentle ascent, forming a broad sward of
grass of a texture resembling nothing so much as velvet, and of a
brilliancy of green which would bear comparison with the tint of the
purest emerald. This plateau varies in width from ten to three
hundred yards; reaching from the river-bank to a wall, fifty feet
high, which extends, in an infinity of curves, but following the
general direction of the river, until lost in the distance to the
westward. This wall is of one continuous rock, and has been formed by
cutting perpendicularly the once rugged precipice of the stream's
southern bank, but no trace of the labor has been suffered to remain.
The chiselled stone has the hue of ages, and is profusely overhung
and overspread with the ivy, the coral honeysuckle, the eglantine,
and the clematis. The uniformity of the top and bottom lines of the
wall is fully relieved by occasional trees of gigantic height,
growing singly or in small groups, both along the plateau and in the
domain behind the wall, but in close proximity to it; so that
frequent limbs (of the black walnut especially) reach over and dip
their pendent extremities into the water. Farther back within the
domain, the vision is impeded by an impenetrable screen of foliage.

These things are observed during the canoe's gradual approach to what
I have called the gate of the vista. On drawing nearer to this,
however, its chasm-like appearance vanishes; a new outlet from the
bay is discovered to the left -- in which direction the wall is also
seen to sweep, still following the general course of the stream. Down
this new opening the eye cannot penetrate very far; for the stream,
accompanied by the wall, still bends to the left, until both are
swallowed up by the leaves.

The boat, nevertheless, glides magically into the winding channel;
and here the shore opposite the wall is found to resemble that
opposite the wall in the straight vista. Lofty hills, rising
occasionally into mountains, and covered with vegetation in wild
luxuriance, still shut in the scene.

Floating gently onward, but with a velocity slightly augmented, the
voyager, after many short turns, finds his progress apparently barred
by a gigantic gate or rather door of burnished gold, elaborately
carved and fretted, and reflecting the direct rays of the now
fast-sinking sun with an effulgence that seems to wreath the whole
surrounding forest in flames. This gate is inserted in the lofty
wall; which here appears to cross the river at right angles. In a few
moments, however, it is seen that the main body of the water still
sweeps in a gentle and extensive curve to the left, the wall
following it as before, while a stream of considerable volume,
diverging from the principal one, makes its way, with a slight
ripple, under the door, and is thus hidden from sight. The canoe
falls into the lesser channel and approaches the gate. Its ponderous
wings are slowly and musically expanded. The boat glides between
them, and commences a rapid descent into a vast amphitheatre entirely
begirt with purple mountains, whose bases are laved by a gleaming
river throughout the full extent of their circuit. Meantime the whole
Paradise of Arnheim bursts upon the view. There is a gush of
entrancing melody; there is an oppressive sense of strange sweet
odor, -- there is a dream -- like intermingling to the eye of tall
slender Eastern trees -- bosky shrubberies -- flocks of golden and
crimson birds -- lily-fringed lakes -- meadows of violets, tulips,
poppies, hyacinths, and tuberoses -- long intertangled lines of
silver streamlets -- and, upspringing confusedly from amid all, a
mass of semi-Gothic, semi-Saracenic architecture sustaining itself by
miracle in mid-air, glittering in the red sunlight with a hundred
oriels, minarets, and pinnacles; and seeming the phantom handiwork,
conjointly, of the Sylphs, of the Fairies, of the Genii and of the

~~~ End of Text ~~~



A Pendant to "The Domain of Arnheim"

DURING A pedestrian trip last summer, through one or two of the river
counties of New York, I found myself, as the day declined, somewhat
embarrassed about the road I was pursuing. The land undulated very
remarkably; and my path, for the last hour, had wound about and about
so confusedly, in its effort to keep in the valleys, that I no longer
knew in what direction lay the sweet village of B-, where I had
determined to stop for the night. The sun had scarcely shone --
strictly speaking -- during the day, which nevertheless, had been
unpleasantly warm. A smoky mist, resembling that of the Indian
summer, enveloped all things, and of course, added to my uncertainty.
Not that I cared much about the matter. If I did not hit upon the
village before sunset, or even before dark, it was more than possible
that a little Dutch farmhouse, or something of that kind, would soon
make its appearance -- although, in fact, the neighborhood (perhaps
on account of being more picturesque than fertile) was very sparsely
inhabited. At all events, with my knapsack for a pillow, and my hound
as a sentry, a bivouac in the open air was just the thing which would
have amused me. I sauntered on, therefore, quite at ease -- Ponto
taking charge of my gun -- until at length, just as I had begun to
consider whether the numerous little glades that led hither and
thither, were intended to be paths at all, I was conducted by one of
them into an unquestionable carriage track. There could be no
mistaking it. The traces of light wheels were evident; and although
the tall shrubberies and overgrown undergrowth met overhead, there
was no obstruction whatever below, even to the passage of a Virginian
mountain wagon -- the most aspiring vehicle, I take it, of its kind.
The road, however, except in being open through the wood -- if wood
be not too weighty a name for such an assemblage of light trees --
and except in the particulars of evident wheel-tracks -- bore no
resemblance to any road I had before seen. The tracks of which I
speak were but faintly perceptible -- having been impressed upon the
firm, yet pleasantly moist surface of -- what looked more like green
Genoese velvet than any thing else. It was grass, clearly -- but
grass such as we seldom see out of England -- so short, so thick, so
even, and so vivid in color. Not a single impediment lay in the
wheel-route -- not even a chip or dead twig. The stones that once
obstructed the way had been carefully placed -- not thrown-along the
sides of the lane, so as to define its boundaries at bottom with a
kind of half-precise, half-negligent, and wholly picturesque
definition. Clumps of wild flowers grew everywhere, luxuriantly, in
the interspaces.

What to make of all this, of course I knew not. Here was art
undoubtedly -- that did not surprise me -- all roads, in the ordinary
sense, are works of art; nor can I say that there was much to wonder
at in the mere excess of art manifested; all that seemed to have been
done, might have been done here -- with such natural "capabilities"
(as they have it in the books on Landscape Gardening) -- with very
little labor and expense. No; it was not the amount but the character
of the art which caused me to take a seat on one of the blossomy
stones and gaze up and down this fairy -- like avenue for half an
hour or more in bewildered admiration. One thing became more and more
evident the longer I gazed: an artist, and one with a most scrupulous
eye for form, had superintended all these arrangements. The greatest
care had been taken to preserve a due medium between the neat and
graceful on the one hand, and the pittoresque, in the true sense of
the Italian term, on the other. There were few straight, and no long
uninterrupted lines. The same effect of curvature or of color
appeared twice, usually, but not oftener, at any one point of view.
Everywhere was variety in uniformity. It was a piece of
"composition," in which the most fastidiously critical taste could
scarcely have suggested an emendation.

I had turned to the right as I entered this road, and now, arising, I
continued in the same direction. The path was so serpentine, that at
no moment could I trace its course for more than two or three paces
in advance. Its character did not undergo any material change.

Presently the murmur of water fell gently upon my ear -- and in a few
moments afterward, as I turned with the road somewhat more abruptly
than hitherto, I became aware that a building of some kind lay at the
foot of a gentle declivity just before me. I could see nothing
distinctly on account of the mist which occupied all the little
valley below. A gentle breeze, however, now arose, as the sun was
about descending; and while I remained standing on the brow of the
slope, the fog gradually became dissipated into wreaths, and so
floated over the scene.

As it came fully into view -- thus gradually as I describe it --
piece by piece, here a tree, there a glimpse of water, and here again
the summit of a chimney, I could scarcely help fancying that the
whole was one of the ingenious illusions sometimes exhibited under
the name of "vanishing pictures."

By the time, however, that the fog had thoroughly disappeared, the
sun had made its way down behind the gentle hills, and thence, as it
with a slight chassez to the south, had come again fully into sight,
glaring with a purplish lustre through a chasm that entered the
valley from the west. Suddenly, therefore -- and as if by the hand of
magic -- this whole valley and every thing in it became brilliantly

The first coup d'oeil, as the sun slid into the position described,
impressed me very much as I have been impressed, when a boy, by the
concluding scene of some well-arranged theatrical spectacle or
melodrama. Not even the monstrosity of color was wanting; for the
sunlight came out through the chasm, tinted all orange and purple;
while the vivid green of the grass in the valley was reflected more
or less upon all objects from the curtain of vapor that still hung
overhead, as if loth to take its total departure from a scene so
enchantingly beautiful.

The little vale into which I thus peered down from under the fog
canopy could not have been more than four hundred yards long; while
in breadth it varied from fifty to one hundred and fifty or perhaps
two hundred. It was most narrow at its northern extremity, opening
out as it tended southwardly, but with no very precise regularity.
The widest portion was within eighty yards of the southern extreme.
The slopes which encompassed the vale could not fairly be called
hills, unless at their northern face. Here a precipitous ledge of
granite arose to a height of some ninety feet; and, as I have
mentioned, the valley at this point was not more than fifty feet
wide; but as the visiter proceeded southwardly from the cliff, he
found on his right hand and on his left, declivities at once less
high, less precipitous, and less rocky. All, in a word, sloped and
softened to the south; and yet the whole vale was engirdled by
eminences, more or less high, except at two points. One of these I
have already spoken of. It lay considerably to the north of west, and
was where the setting sun made its way, as I have before described,
into the amphitheatre, through a cleanly cut natural cleft in the
granite embankment; this fissure might have been ten yards wide at
its widest point, so far as the eye could trace it. It seemed to lead
up, up like a natural causeway, into the recesses of unexplored
mountains and forests. The other opening was directly at the southern
end of the vale. Here, generally, the slopes were nothing more than
gentle inclinations, extending from east to west about one hundred
and fifty yards. In the middle of this extent was a depression, level
with the ordinary floor of the valley. As regards vegetation, as well
as in respect to every thing else, the scene softened and sloped to
the south. To the north -- on the craggy precipice -- a few paces
from the verge -- up sprang the magnificent trunks of numerous
hickories, black walnuts, and chestnuts, interspersed with occasional
oak, and the strong lateral branches thrown out by the walnuts
especially, spread far over the edge of the cliff. Proceeding
southwardly, the explorer saw, at first, the same class of trees, but
less and less lofty and Salvatorish in character; then he saw the
gentler elm, succeeded by the sassafras and locust -- these again by
the softer linden, red-bud, catalpa, and maple -- these yet again by
still more graceful and more modest varieties. The whole face of the
southern declivity was covered with wild shrubbery alone -- an
occasional silver willow or white poplar excepted. In the bottom of
the valley itself -- (for it must be borne in mind that the
vegetation hitherto mentioned grew only on the cliffs or hillsides)
-- were to be seen three insulated trees. One was an elm of fine size
and exquisite form: it stood guard over the southern gate of the
vale. Another was a hickory, much larger than the elm, and altogether
a much finer tree, although both were exceedingly beautiful: it
seemed to have taken charge of the northwestern entrance, springing
from a group of rocks in the very jaws of the ravine, and throwing
its graceful body, at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees, far out
into the sunshine of the amphitheatre. About thirty yards east of
this tree stood, however, the pride of the valley, and beyond all
question the most magnificent tree I have ever seen, unless, perhaps,
among the cypresses of the Itchiatuckanee. It was a triple -- stemmed
tulip-tree -- the Liriodendron Tulipiferum -- one of the natural
order of magnolias. Its three trunks separated from the parent at
about three feet from the soil, and diverging very slightly and
gradually, were not more than four feet apart at the point where the
largest stem shot out into foliage: this was at an elevation of about
eighty feet. The whole height of the principal division was one
hundred and twenty feet. Nothing can surpass in beauty the form, or
the glossy, vivid green of the leaves of the tulip-tree. In the
present instance they were fully eight inches wide; but their glory
was altogether eclipsed by the gorgeous splendor of the profuse
blossoms. Conceive, closely congregated, a million of the largest and
most resplendent tulips! Only thus can the reader get any idea of the
picture I would convey. And then the stately grace of the clean,
delicately -- granulated columnar stems, the largest four feet in
diameter, at twenty from the ground. The innumerable blossoms,
mingling with those of other trees scarcely less beautiful, although
infinitely less majestic, filled the valley with more than Arabian

The general floor of the amphitheatre was grass of the same character
as that I had found in the road; if anything, more deliciously soft,
thick, velvety, and miraculously green. It was hard to conceive how
all this beauty had been attained.

I have spoken of two openings into the vale. From the one to the
northwest issued a rivulet, which came, gently murmuring and slightly
foaming, down the ravine, until it dashed against the group of rocks
out of which sprang the insulated hickory. Here, after encircling the
tree, it passed on a little to the north of east, leaving the tulip
tree some twenty feet to the south, and making no decided alteration
in its course until it came near the midway between the eastern and
western boundaries of the valley. At this point, after a series of
sweeps, it turned off at right angles and pursued a generally
southern direction meandering as it went -- until it became lost in a
small lake of irregular figure (although roughly oval), that lay
gleaming near the lower extremity of the vale. This lakelet was,
perhaps, a hundred yards in diameter at its widest part. No crystal
could be clearer than its waters. Its bottom, which could be
distinctly seen, consisted altogether, of pebbles brilliantly white.
Its banks, of the emerald grass already described, rounded, rather
than sloped, off into the clear heaven below; and so clear was this
heaven, so perfectly, at times, did it reflect all objects above it,
that where the true bank ended and where the mimic one commenced, it
was a point of no little difficulty to determine. The trout, and some
other varieties of fish, with which this pond seemed to be almost
inconveniently crowded, had all the appearance of veritable
flying-fish. It was almost impossible to believe that they were not
absolutely suspended in the air. A light birch canoe that lay
placidly on the water, was reflected in its minutest fibres with a
fidelity unsurpassed by the most exquisitely polished mirror. A small
island, fairly laughing with flowers in full bloom, and affording
little more space than just enough for a picturesque little building,
seemingly a fowl-house -- arose from the lake not far from its
northern shore -- to which it was connected by means of an
inconceivably light -- looking and yet very primitive bridge. It was
formed of a single, broad and thick plank of the tulip wood. This was
forty feet long, and spanned the interval between shore and shore
with a slight but very perceptible arch, preventing all oscillation.
From the southern extreme of the lake issued a continuation of the
rivulet, which, after meandering for, perhaps, thirty yards, finally
passed through the "depression" (already described) in the middle of
the southern declivity, and tumbling down a sheer precipice of a
hundred feet, made its devious and unnoticed way to the Hudson.

The lake was deep -- at some points thirty feet -- but the rivulet
seldom exceeded three, while its greatest width was about eight. Its
bottom and banks were as those of the pond -- if a defect could have
been attributed, in point of picturesqueness, it was that of
excessive neatness.

The expanse of the green turf was relieved, here and there, by an
occasional showy shrub, such as the hydrangea, or the common
snowball, or the aromatic seringa; or, more frequently, by a clump of
geraniums blossoming gorgeously in great varieties. These latter grew
in pots which were carefully buried in the soil, so as to give the
plants the appearance of being indigenous. Besides all this, the
lawn's velvet was exquisitely spotted with sheep -- a considerable
flock of which roamed about the vale, in company with three tamed
deer, and a vast number of brilliantly -- plumed ducks. A very large
mastiff seemed to be in vigilant attendance upon these animals, each
and all.

Along the eastern and western cliffs -- where, toward the upper
portion of the amphitheatre, the boundaries were more or less
precipitous -- grew ivy in great profusion -- so that only here and
there could even a glimpse of the naked rock be obtained. The
northern precipice, in like manner, was almost entirely clothed by
grape-vines of rare luxuriance; some springing from the soil at the
base of the cliff, and others from ledges on its face.

The slight elevation which formed the lower boundary of this little
domain, was crowned by a neat stone wall, of sufficient height to
prevent the escape of the deer. Nothing of the fence kind was
observable elsewhere; for nowhere else was an artificial enclosure
needed: -- any stray sheep, for example, which should attempt to make
its way out of the vale by means of the ravine, would find its
progress arrested, after a few yards' advance, by the precipitous
ledge of rock over which tumbled the cascade that had arrested my
attention as I first drew near the domain. In short, the only ingress
or egress was through a gate occupying a rocky pass in the road, a
few paces below the point at which I stopped to reconnoitre the

I have described the brook as meandering very irregularly through the
whole of its course. Its two general directions, as I have said, were
first from west to east, and then from north to south. At the turn,
the stream, sweeping backward, made an almost circular loop, so as to
form a peninsula which was very nearly an island, and which included
about the sixteenth of an acre. On this peninsula stood a
dwelling-house -- and when I say that this house, like the infernal
terrace seen by Vathek, "etait d'une architecture inconnue dans les
annales de la terre," I mean, merely, that its tout ensemble struck
me with the keenest sense of combined novelty and propriety -- in a
word, of poetry -- (for, than in the words just employed, I could
scarcely give, of poetry in the abstract, a more rigorous definition)
-- and I do not mean that merely outre was perceptible in any

In fact nothing could well be more simple -- more utterly
unpretending than this cottage. Its marvellous effect lay altogether
in its artistic arrangement as a picture. I could have fancied, while
I looked at it, that some eminent landscape-painter had built it with
his brush.

The point of view from which I first saw the valley, was not
altogether, although it was nearly, the best point from which to
survey the house. I will therefore describe it as I afterwards saw it
-- from a position on the stone wall at the southern extreme of the

The main building was about twenty-four feet long and sixteen broad
-- certainly not more. Its total height, from the ground to the apex
of the roof, could not have exceeded eighteen feet. To the west end
of this structure was attached one about a third smaller in all its
proportions: -- the line of its front standing back about two yards
from that of the larger house, and the line of its roof, of course,
being considerably depressed below that of the roof adjoining. At
right angles to these buildings, and from the rear of the main one --
not exactly in the middle -- extended a third compartment, very small
-- being, in general, one-third less than the western wing. The roofs
of the two larger were very steep -- sweeping down from the
ridge-beam with a long concave curve, and extending at least four
feet beyond the walls in front, so as to form the roofs of two
piazzas. These latter roofs, of course, needed no support; but as
they had the air of needing it, slight and perfectly plain pillars
were inserted at the corners alone. The roof of the northern wing was
merely an extension of a portion of the main roof. Between the chief
building and western wing arose a very tall and rather slender square
chimney of hard Dutch bricks, alternately black and red: -- a slight
cornice of projecting bricks at the top. Over the gables the roofs
also projected very much: -- in the main building about four feet to
the east and two to the west. The principal door was not exactly in
the main division, being a little to the east -- while the two
windows were to the west. These latter did not extend to the floor,
but were much longer and narrower than usual -- they had single
shutters like doors -- the panes were of lozenge form, but quite
large. The door itself had its upper half of glass, also in lozenge
panes -- a movable shutter secured it at night. The door to the west
wing was in its gable, and quite simple -- a single window looked out
to the south. There was no external door to the north wing, and it
also had only one window to the east.

The blank wall of the eastern gable was relieved by stairs (with a
balustrade) running diagonally across it -- the ascent being from the
south. Under cover of the widely projecting eave these steps gave
access to a door leading to the garret, or rather loft -- for it was
lighted only by a single window to the north, and seemed to have been
intended as a store-room.

The piazzas of the main building and western wing had no floors, as
is usual; but at the doors and at each window, large, flat irregular
slabs of granite lay imbedded in the delicious turf, affording
comfortable footing in all weather. Excellent paths of the same
material -- not nicely adapted, but with the velvety sod filling
frequent intervals between the stones, led hither and thither from
the house, to a crystal spring about five paces off, to the road, or
to one or two out -- houses that lay to the north, beyond the brook,
and were thoroughly concealed by a few locusts and catalpas.

Not more than six steps from the main door of the cottage stood the
dead trunk of a fantastic pear-tree, so clothed from head to foot in
the gorgeous bignonia blossoms that one required no little scrutiny
to determine what manner of sweet thing it could be. From various
arms of this tree hung cages of different kinds. In one, a large
wicker cylinder with a ring at top, revelled a mocking bird; in
another an oriole; in a third the impudent bobolink -- while three or
four more delicate prisons were loudly vocal with canaries.

The pillars of the piazza were enwreathed in jasmine and sweet
honeysuckle; while from the angle formed by the main structure and
its west wing, in front, sprang a grape-vine of unexampled
luxuriance. Scorning all restraint, it had clambered first to the
lower roof -- then to the higher; and along the ridge of this latter
it continued to writhe on, throwing out tendrils to the right and
left, until at length it fairly attained the east gable, and fell
trailing over the stairs.

The whole house, with its wings, was constructed of the old-fashioned
Dutch shingles -- broad, and with unrounded corners. It is a
peculiarity of this material to give houses built of it the
appearance of being wider at bottom than at top -- after the manner
of Egyptian architecture; and in the present instance, this
exceedingly picturesque effect was aided by numerous pots of gorgeous
flowers that almost encompassed the base of the buildings.

The shingles were painted a dull gray; and the happiness with which
this neutral tint melted into the vivid green of the tulip tree
leaves that partially overshadowed the cottage, can readily be
conceived by an artist.

From the position near the stone wall, as described, the buildings
were seen at great advantage -- for the southeastern angle was thrown
forward -- so that the eye took in at once the whole of the two
fronts, with the picturesque eastern gable, and at the same time
obtained just a sufficient glimpse of the northern wing, with parts
of a pretty roof to the spring-house, and nearly half of a light
bridge that spanned the brook in the near vicinity of the main

I did not remain very long on the brow of the hill, although long
enough to make a thorough survey of the scene at my feet. It was
clear that I had wandered from the road to the village, and I had
thus good traveller's excuse to open the gate before me, and inquire
my way, at all events; so, without more ado, I proceeded.

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