Saturday, April 27, 2019
Saturday, April 20, 2019
The Premature Burial Introduction
In this part non-fiction/fiction scary story, Edgar Allan Poe tells of the wife of a Baltimore attorney who was placed in a burial crypt while still alive, resembling in many forms the story in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe once again preyed on the public’s fears of the medical community. People often had elaborate bell devices installed at their graves to alert those in the cemetery if they should be buried alive. To do so, they would pull on a chord leading into the casket. The chord was tied to a bell at the other end. Poe goes on to mention the “Conqueror Worm” of the grave in reference to his poem of the same name.
The Premature Burial
July 31, 1844
The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper
Edgar Allan Poe
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, à 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;TP7PT- 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 littérateur, 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.TP8PT 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. Infine, 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 grave.
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 superinduces.
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 floor.
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 conceived.
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, anidiosyncrasy 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.
#prematureburial #poeshortstories #PoeBurialStory #AndrewBarger
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Edgar Alan Poe
On January 29, 1845, "The Raven" was published to a wildly receptive New York audience by Edgar Allan Poe. Within months it was being recited around the country. Overnight "The Raven" became Poe’s most famous poem and it immortalized the sable bird forever. It is not, however, a scary short story but finds a place here nonetheless.
So where did he get his idea for the raven in the story? Many believe the spark for the bird was taken from Charles Dickens’s “Barnaby Rudge” that used a speaking raven in a bit part, which Poe envisioned being much larger. As in “Lenore,” the man in “The Raven” is once again haunted by the memory of his lost love, the dead lady Lenore. Once again Lenore cannot be Virginia Clemm or Elmira Royster as they were both living at the time. Publication of “The Raven” gained Poe stardom almost overnight as its seductive power spread throughout the cafés and reading circles of the mid-nineteenth century. Women were said to faint at its very words and Poe began getting love letters and swatches of women’s undergarments. Startled at first, Poe’s young wife, Virginia Clemm, became amused and proud of her gifted husband’s break-through poem that would be chiseled in history as America’s first great poem. It was written primarily for suspense, mood, setting, and gothic effect on the reader.
The raven in the story is purposely one dimensional in color and speech, “nevermore” being its only “stock and store.” It sits on the bust of Pallas, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and contrasting black to the sculpture’s white. The purple chamber curtains represent sorrow. It is a tale Poe worked backwards for solitary effect. Beauty of whatever kind in its supreme development invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones. The darkling bird is the literary nexus used to remind the protagonist in his dark chamber that the beauty of Lenore will never again be experienced and the conquering worm of his mind—the never changing monotony of his life, this monotone imp of the perverse—will always be there with him to the end. In writing “The Raven” Poe sought to pen a commercial poem that had wings in the mind of the public and he succeeded. The poem continues to be required reading in institutions of higher learning over a hundred and fifty years later. Sadly, Poe was only paid $10 for the poem and it was initially refused publication in Graham’s Magazine. The American Review finally recognized its greatness, but the Evening Mirror published it first with a rousing introduction by popular author, Nathaniel Parker Willis.
We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication) from the 2d No. of the American Review, the following remarkable poem by EDGAR POE. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of “fugitive poetry” ever published in this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift and “pokerishness.” It is one of these “dainties bred in a book” which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it.
Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
#TheRaven #PoeRaven #EdgarAllanPoeBestPoem #RavenbyPoe
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ALw3gf
In the scary story buffet laid out during the latter half of the nineteenth century, women started taking their rightful place at table. These were fantastic authors like Elizabeth Gaskell, Louisa May Alcott, Lady Emilia Frances Dilke, Edith Nesbit, and Ellen Wood. For the first time Victorian reserve and sensibilities began to be slowly pushed aside to clear the way for women who penned stories in the horror and ghost story genres. Many of them started using their real names instead of writing under pseudonyms or using just letters before their surnames so the sex of the author was unclear.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was neither afraid of using her real name nor publishing in the supernatural genre that had primarily been the haunt of men. Gilman was one of the best in crafting storylines and getting inside the heads of fictional characters. Despite her overwhelming talents as a fiction author and the increasing number of women authors entering the supernatural scene, Gilman was acutely aware she was an outsider in the Victorian Age.
She was an early American feminist who wrote excellent poems and short stories, including “The Rocking Chair” (1893) and “The Unwatched Door” (1894). Her ghost story “The Giant Wistaria,” one of three she penned, was published in 1890 in the New England Magazine. That same magazine would publish her most famous story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” two years later.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” draws from a dark time in her life when she suffered postpartum depression and became bedridden. It was published three years after she divorced her husband and nearly eight years after she gave birth to her daughter Katharine. The horror thriller draws certain parallels to Anton Chekov’s tightly-wound tale “Sleepyhead”(1888). Yet “Sleepyhead,” though more sinister, fails in both character generation and writing style.
The nervous protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” further draws parallels to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), published some 50 years earlier. The nervousness, however, builds more slowly in Gilman’s story, and to great effect. The first line in Poe’s story reads:
True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?
Unlike “The Tell-TaleHeart,” the first line of “The Yellow Wallpaper” foretells nothing of what is to come in the story. Still, Gilman builds her story into one of the creepiest endings in horror literature.
The Yellow Wallpaper
IT IS VERY seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity,—but that would be asking too much of fate!
Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it. Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?
John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage. John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
John is a physician, and perhaps—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.
You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do?
If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression,—a slight hysterical tendency,—what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing. So I take phosphates or phosphites, [Salt having minerals and used as an oral tonic to rejuvenate health]—whichever it is,—and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.
Personally I disagree with their ideas.
Personally I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus—but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.
So I will let it alone and talk about the house.
The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.
There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden—large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them. There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now. There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and co-heirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.
That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid; but I don’t care—there is something strange about the house—I can feel it.
I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition. But John says if I feel so I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself,—before him, at least,—and that makes me very tired.
I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty, old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.
He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another. He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.
I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.
He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. “Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear,” said he, “and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time.” So we took the nursery, at the top of the house.
It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playground and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.
The paint and paper look as if a boys’ school had used it. It is stripped off—the paper—in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.
One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate, and provoke study, and when you follow the lame, uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions.
The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smoldering, unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.
No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.
There comes John, and I must put this away,—he hates to have me write a word.
We have been here two weeks, and I haven’t felt like writing before, since that first day.
I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength.
John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.
I am glad my case is not serious!
But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.
John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.
Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!
I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already! Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able—to dress and entertain, and order things.
It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!
And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous.
I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wallpaper!
At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.
He said that after the wallpaper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on.
“You know the place is doing you good,” he said, “and really, dear, I don’t care to renovate the house just for a three months’ rental.”
“Then do let us go downstairs,” I said, “there are such pretty rooms there.”
Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down cellar if I wished, and have it whitewashed into the bargain.
But he is right enough about the beds and windows and things. It is as airy and comfortable a room as any one need wish, and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim.
I’m really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper.
Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deep-shaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees.
Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors, but John has cautioned me not to give way to fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of storymaking a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try.
I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.
But I find I get pretty tired when I try.
It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work. When I get really well John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillowcase as to let me have those stimulating people about now.
I wish I could get well faster.
But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!
There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.
I got positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. There is one place where two breadths didn’t match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little higher than the other.
I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy store.
I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend. I used to feel that if any of the other things looked too fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe.
The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious, however, for we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used as a playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never saw such ravages as the children have made here.
The wallpaper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother—they must have had perseverance as well as hatred.
Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed, which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.
But I don’t mind it a bit—only the paper.
There comes John’s sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.
She is a perfect, an enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!
But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these windows.
There is one that commands the road, a lovely, shaded, winding road, and one that just looks off over the country. A lovely country, too, full of great elms and velvet meadows.
This wallpaper has a kind of subpattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.
But in the places where it isn’t faded, and where the sun is just so, I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to sulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.
There’s sister on the stairs!
Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are all gone and I am tired out. John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we just had mother and Nellie and the children down for a week.
Of course I didn’t do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now.
But it tired me all the same.
John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall. But I don’t want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!
Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far.
I don’t feel as if it was worthwhile to turn my hand over for anything, and I’m getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.
I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
Of course I don’t when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.
And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her to.
So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.
I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper.
It dwells in my mind so!
I lie here on this great immovable bed—it is nailed down, I believe—and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we’ll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.
I know a little of the principles of design, and I know this thing was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of.
It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise.
Looked at in one way, each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes—a kind of “debased Romanesque” [Type of architectural punctuated by semi-circular arches] with delirium tremens [Quick onset of frustration or confusion, usually caused by alcohol or stimulant withdrawal]—go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity.
But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase.
The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction. They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, [Artsy horizontal paper strip] and that adds wonderfully to the confusion.
There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when the cross-lights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can almost fancy radiation, after all,—the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common center and rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction.
It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap, I guess.
I don’t know why I should write this.
I don’t want to.
I don’t feel able.
And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!
But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.
Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so much.
John says I mustn’t lose my strength, and has me take cod-liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat.
Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wished he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.
But he said I wasn’t able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished.
It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness, I suppose.
And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till he tired my head.
He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well. He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let my silly fancies run away with me.
There’s one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wallpaper.
If we had not used it that blessed child would have! What a fortunate escape! Why, I wouldn’t have a child of mine, an impressionable little thing, live in such a room for worlds.
I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here, after all. I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see. Of course I never mention it to them anymore,—I am too wise,—but I keep watch of it all the same.
There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.
It is always the same shape, only very numerous.
And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I wish John would take me away from here!
It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so.
But I tried it last night.
It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around, just as the sun does.
I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always comes in by one window or another.
John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wallpaper till I felt creepy.
The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.
I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake.
“What is it, little girl?” he said. “Don’t go walking about like that—you’ll get cold.”
I thought it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I really was not gaining here, and that I wished he would take me away.
“Why, darling!” said he, “our lease will be up in three weeks, and I can’t see how to leave before.
“The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger I could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better. I feel really much easier about you.”
“I don’t weigh a bit more,” said I, ”nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening, when you are here, but it is worse in the morning, when you are away.”
“Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug; “she shall be as sick as she pleases. But now let’s improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning.”
“And you won’t go away?” I asked gloomily.
“Why, how can I, dear? It is only three weeks more and then we will take a nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is getting the house ready. Really, dear, you are better!”
“Better in body, perhaps”—I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word.
“My darling,” said he, “I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?”
So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn’t,—I lay there for hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.
On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind.
The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.
You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well under way in following, it turns a back somersault, and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.
The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, [Floral surface decoration set in linear patterns] reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions,—why, that is something like it.
That is, sometimes!
There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.
When the sun shoots in through the east window—I always watch for that first long, straight ray—it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it.
That is why I watch it always.
By moonlight—the moon shines in all night when there is a moon—I wouldn’t know it was the same paper. At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.
I didn’t realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind,—that dim sub-pattern,—but now I am quite sure it is a woman.
By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.
I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can. Indeed, he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal.
It is a very bad habit, I am convinced, for, you see, I don’t sleep.
And that cultivates deceit, for I don’t tell them I’m awake,— oh, no!
The fact is, I am getting a little afraid of John.
He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look. It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis, that perhaps it is the paper!
I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper and Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.
She didn’t know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing with the paper she turned around as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry—asked me why I should frighten her so!
Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John’s, and she wished we would be more careful!
Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!
Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.
John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wallpaper.
I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wallpaper—he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away.
I don’t want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more, and I think that will be enough.
I’m feeling ever so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime.
In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing. There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried conscientiously.
It is the strangest yellow, that wallpaper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.
But there is something else about that paper—the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not the smell is here.
It creeps all over the house.
I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.
It gets into my hair.
Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it—there is that smell! Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to find what it smelled like.
It is not bad—at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met. In this damp weather it is awful. I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me. It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house—to reach the smell.
But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper—a yellow smell!
There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A streak that runs around the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even smooch, as if it had been rubbed over and over.
I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round—round and round and round—it makes me dizzy!
I really have discovered something at last.
Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out.
The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!
Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.
Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.
And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.
They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside-down, and makes their eyes white!
If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.
I think that woman gets out in the daytime!
And I’ll tell you why—privately—I’ve seen her!
I can see her out of every one of my windows! It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.
I see her in that long shaded lane, creeping up and down. I see her in those dark grape arbors, creeping all around the garden. I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines. I don’t blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight! I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.
And John is so queer, now, that I don’t want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don’t want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself.
I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once. But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time. And though I always see her she may be able to creep faster than I can turn!
I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.
If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little.
I have found out another funny thing, but I shan’t tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much.
There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don’t like the look in his eyes.
And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give.
She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.
John knows I don’t sleep very well
at night, for all I’m so quiet!
He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind.
As if I couldn’t see through him!
Still, I don’t wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three months.
It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by it.
Hurrah! This is the last day, but it is enough. John is to stay in town overnight, and won’t be out until this evening.
Jennie wanted to sleep with me—the sly thing! but I told her I should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone. That was clever, for really I wasn’t alone a bit! As soon as it was moonlight, and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her.
I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.
A strip about as high as my head and half around the room.
And then when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me I declared I would finish it today!
We go away tomorrow, and they are moving all my furniture down again to leave things as they were before.
Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing. She laughed and said she wouldn’t mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired.
How she betrayed herself that time!
But I am here, and no person touches this paper but me—not alive!
She tried to get me out of the room—it was too patent! But I said it was so quiet and empty and clean now that I believed I would lie down again and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner—I would call when I woke.
So now she is gone, and the servants are gone, and the things are gone, and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the canvas mattress we found on it.
We shall sleep downstairs tonight, and take the boat home tomorrow.
I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.
How those children did tear about here!
This bedstead is fairly gnawed! But I must get to work. I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.
I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want to have anybody come in, till John comes.
I want to astonish him.
I’ve got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her! But I forgot I could not reach far without anything to stand on!
This bed will not move!
I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner—but it hurt my teeth.
Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!
I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try.
Besides, I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued.
I don’t like to look out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.
I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper, as I did?
But I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope—you don’t get me out in the road there!
I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!
It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!
I don’t want to go outside. I won’t, even if Jennie asks me to.
For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow.
But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.
Why, there’s John at the door!
It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!
How he does call and pound!
Now he’s crying for an axe.
It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!
“John, dear!” said I in the gentlest voice, “the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf!”
That silenced him for a few moments.
Then he said—very quietly indeed, “Open the door, my darling!”
“I can’t,” said I. “The key is down by the front door, under a plantain leaf!”
And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it, of course, and came in. He stopped short by the door.
“What is the matter?” he cried. “For God’s sake, what are you doing!”
I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.
“I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”
Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!
#YellowWallpaper #InsanityStories #HorrorStories #AndrewBarger