Monday, May 28, 2007

The Philosophical Background of Frankenstein


Rousseau's ideology of education and nature laid the basic ground work for many of the Gothic novels that saturated the English society from the 1764 to 1830. From The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe to the book which was able to forge a bridge of thought that was able to span the chasm formed by the age of reason between the supernatural and reason, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. As a predecessor of the romantic movement, the Gothic novel was a direct reaction against the age of reason. The predominate idea of the age being that the world which is governed by nature is rationally ordered and given man's ability to reason, analyze and understand nature, man possesses the innate ability to use nature to create a rational society based on nature's dominate principles. The Gothic novel allowed the reader to pass from reason and order of the day to a region born of the supernatural which inspired dread and abounds in death and decay as nature's only true end.

In Frankenstein, Shelley is able to create the antithesis of nature from various aspects of nature itself, creating a monster that is born of death and of decay yet enveloped in Rousseau's ideology. "It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishments of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, . . . I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breath hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs" (page 56). What was created that night was a creature of vast intellect, raised and educated in the harshest of conditions: Nature. Out of the decay that is nature's ambivalent end emerged a creature that was the antithesis of all that is natural. Mary Shelley had carefully chosen her genre, the Gothic novel was the only ground to act out the play between reason and the dark regions of horror. The stage was set for the creature to assume Rousseau's entire educational philosophy that stated: "We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of nature. This education comes to us from nature, from men, or from things . . . God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil"(page 143). This allows society to view the creature with supernatural awe, repulsed at nature's most dreadful characters, decay and death, even when they form life.

The development of the creature was molded by nature, as a harsh school master, she exercised the creature's expanding mind while punishing the newly formed body. "It was dark when I awoke; I felt cold also, and half frightened, as it were, instinctively, . . . I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept"(99). Rousseau said, "Man is born to suffer, pain is the means of his preservation"(145). And thus it is with the creature, nature schooled him with cruel elements and treatments, yet slowly the creature developed several instinctual behaviors and began to delight in the nature that surrounded him. "I began also to observe, with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me, and to perceive the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me"(100). His actions were simple, in harmony with nature, it was not until his encounter with a society which held nature in reverence and saw the grotesque as unnatural. "I arrived at a village . . . But I had hardly placed my foot within the door before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted . . . The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped to the open country"(102). Rousseau stated: "Give your pupil no verbal lessons; he should be taught by experience alone"(153). Shelley developed the creature in nature, tutored only by experience and although his actions mimicked the society that encompassed him, they dismissed as wretched. He developed as Rousseau hoped, gaining wisdom and knowledge, through experience and contemplation. He possessed a quick mind and discerning temperament, yet the society which he longed to participate in, only exhibited irrational behavior towards him. Thus he was termed evil in that he was the antithesis of what is beautiful in nature. Society's own actions toward the creature, taught him how to brutalize society.

Rousseau's ideology of education and reverence toward nature lies at the basic ground level in the predominate Gothic motif. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley chooses the Gothic motif to create a monster in the semblance of the dominate form of thought that resounded in the age of reason. This monster, which is derived from nature, and subject to laws of this world, although schooled and tutored by nature becomes the antithesis of what the true aims of reason. Observation, experiment and rational thought resulted in distrust in society, mayhem, murder, and even the removal of God as man became brutally aware of his own godlike ability to reason. As in many Gothic novels, reason has limited ability to understand nature and in the end, the death and decay which we fear serves as ultimate reason.

written by Franz J. Potter

source: the gothic literature page

Monday, May 21, 2007

Astral projection: Visiting the higher planes

Astral Projection: Doorway to a New Dimension

Are you ready to explore other dimensions of human existence? Jerry Gross explains where astral projection - or out-of-body experience - can take us, and the amazing world that awaits us there.

The concept of astral projection has been around for a long time, but until today, it has been hidden from most of humanity. Now, with the aid of astral projection, new levels of knowledge and power enable us to discover the answer to Man's eternal question about life in the physical body. Death takes on a new meaning as we begin to realize that it is only a transition to another dimension, or place of existence. By learning to astral project, we can learn many things about ourselves, and unlearn many things that were previously thought to be true. This leads us to the realization that our physical bodies are only a part of our entire selves, and there is more to our existence than meets the eye!

In our limited awareness, the reality we live and breathe on earth, with its beautiful landscapes, mountains, rivers, streams, animals and insects, can be compared with the petals on a flower. What we see is not the whole flower, but only a part. This is because man has lost touch with the use of his own mind. He concludes, erroneously, that the physical world is the only reality there is. He believes that his life as an individual has only to do with the flesh body of himself, and concludes that the physical world is solid and real because his senses tell him it "feels" solid and real. The mind has abilities that go beyond the five senses of the physical world. The petal of the flower that we now experience is the material world or physical plane of existence. It has a specific vibration, just as all creatures on this level vibrate at the same rate. Because of this, regardless of where we go on this level, all things take on the appearance of being solid, material objects. Just as the colors of the rainbow show the effects of the different vibrations of light, and the melodies on the piano show the effect of the different notes, so, too, does the entire universe contain various octaves, or rates of vibration. These universal harmonics comprise the different levels of existence.

So the earth plane we live on is only one of many dimensions. There are other spheres that we describe as being above or below us. Actually, they are not really above or below us, but rather at all times around us, permeating all things. Astral projection allows us to discover that the people and objects existing on these other realms can be just as solid and real as any object on the earth terrain. And if we happened to be in another level, looking back "down" into this region, we would view an earth that was not solid. Right now, at every instant, we are living, coexisting with, and walking through people and objects of another dimension! When a person astral projects, he or she can see these other frontiers.

Our Astral Bodies

When we were born into this physical world, we were provided with a physical body to carry out our duties. Astral projection allows us to project "out of the body" and into the next plane of existence, which is the astral plane. When we do this, we are in another body, which is called the "astral body." We already possess this astral body, just as all other people, animals, creatures and everything on earth possess an astral body.

The astral body has some amazing properties. Unlike the physical body, which is held down by gravity, the astral body can overcome this limitation by the effort of thought alone. While out of the body, we can not only walk around as if in the physical, but also soar above the trees, or go out into space. Another property of the astral body is that it cannot be injured. One of the greatest fears while on earth is pain or injury. While out of the body, this normal human reaction can be unlearned, because there is absolutely nothing that will cause damage to the astral body! In the next dimension, fire, knives, guns, falling from great heights, electrical shocks, disease, wild animals or being run over by a steam roller can do no harm. Many people receive lessons about this in their dreams. Watch for them, because you'll discover that you always survive - don't you?

In this next level of existence, which all of us can visit, there are many familiar things, such as cars, trains, planes, and highways. Everything that is on this earth right now comes from the astral plane. Many people get this backwards. They think the astral dimension was molded from earth. The truth is, the earth was fashioned from the ideas and discoveries which originated on the astral.

When we are out of the body, communication is accomplished by thought. Another word for this is telepathy. In other words, it is not necessary to move our lips in order to be heard, although we can do this if we wish. Sometimes, when we hear what we think is just a thought, this could actually be someone communicating to us from the astral.

This next plane of existence has been sought after, researched, and argued about by philosophers and religious people from time immemorial. Until now, it has remained elusive and has evaded discovery to all but the most diligent. The individual who looks within instead of without, who looks to correct his own imperfections, and who treats others as he wishes to be treated will have the door of discovery swing wide open for him.

Conquering Our Fears

When we begin to explore this, we must first overcome the obstacle of fear, which will present itself in many forms. The fear of death, pain, injury, the unknown, evil, devils, hell and Satan may loom up before us. We must conquer our own fears head on, and they will rapidly disappear.

We are mental creators, and out of the ether of the next dimension, we can create that which we wish around us. If we are convinced a devil is out there to trick or deceive us, and if we have already pictured in our minds what this devil looks like and what he plans on doing, we should really not be surprised when our worst fears are confirmed. The devils we create become real and solid in the next dimension because we created them.
We are mental creators, and out of the ether of the next dimension, we can create that which we wish around us.

In the astral plane, we can meet those we love, or that which we fear. If we have no fear, we won't meet fear. It's as simple as that. So we can save ourselves trouble by putting nonsense like that out of our mind. Remember there is nothing that can harm us while we are out of our bodies. This teaching of fear has held people in mental bondage long enough! Its exposure is sure to cause a fury in those who have become trapped in the habit of their own thinking. We must release ourselves from the death grip of fear and set ourselves free.

In the astral plane, we can also visit our loved ones who have passed on before us. We can then ask them face-to-face how they like their new surroundings. We can see schools and universities, and may even find ourselves in a classroom, listening to a lecture.

This is also where we can discover the history of the world, and the history of our lives. The "Hall of Records" contains our present lives as well as our past. In it, are recorded our accomplishments and our failures. We can meet our spiritual teachers - which the churches have termed our "guardian angels" - and we can ask them for advice and guidance on our problems.

The astral plane is a vast dimension of existence, and contains life in abundance. It does not operate by the very same laws of the earth plane, and so many things that are quite impossible on earth, are quite commonplace in the astral. Mind over matter is common. Colors are more beautiful, and we may experience endless fascination with new and exciting things that there are to see and discover.
The astral plane is a vast dimension of existence, and contains life in abundance. It does not operate by the very same laws of the earth plane, and so many things that are quite impossible on earth, are quite commonplace in the astral.

For many centuries, the teachings of certain churches have been that some things are mysteries and are not to be questioned. Eve eating from the tree of knowledge and the subsequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden was sighted as proof. This erroneous interpretation was made by those who were ignorant, or by those who wanted to keep the masses of people in subjugation. Man's redemption in the final analysis will come from his knowledge of himself and his love of his neighbor, not from his ignorance.

Tapping the Subconscious

The astral plane contains many things that are not on earth at this time. Some of them may appear in the future on earth, and some are from the earth's past. Many different types of animals that have become extinct on earth exist in the astral. Remember, there is no death.

Astral projection enables us to use the part of our mind that has been dormant or sleeping. We can wake up this part and put it to work. It is called the subconscious, and it can be used to give us the knowledge we need to find out more about ourselves, our purpose on earth, and our relationship with God. Most people think of their mind as only that portion they recognize as their conscious mind, or waking mind. It has been said that the mind is 10 percent conscious, and 90 percent subconscious. We can learn to expand this 10 percent.

Everyone goes to the astral plane at night while they are asleep. Think of this! Astral projection takes place without a person even being aware of it! As strange and hard to believe as this sounds, it is true. To begin exploring astral projection, pay attention to your dreams each night. Eventually, you will come to the realization that you were in the astral plane, but did not realize it.

When we take the first step, of allowing for the possibility of multiple dimensions and astral projection as realities, we can then focus on ways to understand, explore, and actually experience these things. In doing so, we can open the door to an amazing and expansive existence that was heretofore beyond our wildest imagination!

written by Jerry Gross

The Land of Dreams - W. Blake

Awake, awake my little Boy!
Thou wast thy Mother's only joy:
Why dost thou weep in thy gentle sleep?
Awake! thy Father does thee keep.

"O, what land is the Land of Dreams?
What are its mountains, and what are its streams?
O Father, I saw my Mother there,
Among the lillies by waters fair.

Among the lambs clothed in white
She walked with her Thomas in sweet delight.
I wept for joy, like a dove I mourn -
O when shall I return again?"

Dear child, I also by pleasant streams
Have wandered all night in the Land of Dreams;
But though calm and warm the waters wide,
I could not get to the other side.

"Father, O Father, what do we here,
In this land of unbelief and fear?
The Land of Dreams is better far
Above the light of the Morning Star."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

H.P. Lovecraft and Paranormal

H. P.Image via WikipediaDreamer of the Dark

Was the most influential horror writer of the 20th century a believer in the paranormal? DANIEL HARMS examines the evidence.

Mention of the name Howard Phillips Lovecraft might elicit nothing more than a noncommittal shrug from most people, but for fans of the macabre he is still a revered figure, held in awe for his unique literary visions of cosmic horror.

Lovecraft spent most of his life (1890-1937) in Providence, Rhode Island. The last son of a once-wealthy family, he devoted his life to literature, soon finding that his strengths lay in tales of the uncanny. These stories attracted a small following among the readers of Weird Tales and other pulp magazines, and his correspondents included a formidable roster of early horror writers. Since his early death, the popularity of his work has grown – in ways he could never have imagined – inspiring countless stories and novels, films, cartoons, games and even cuddly toys.

His tales have continued to compel readers because of their convincing melding of fact and fantasy and their evocation of a world both phantasmagoric and believable at the same time. The stories serve as a loosely constructed chronicle of the "Old Ones," alien creatures from other worlds and other dimensions. The Old Ones include the mindless chaos Azathoth; the Black Goat of the Woods, Shub-Niggurath; and Cthulhu, a winged squid-like god who lives in a sunken city in the Pacific. Once, in the planet’s distant past, the Old Ones lived on Earth, but eventually they fell into an æons-long sleep. Their worshippers, including the fish-men known as the "deep ones," and the crustacean-like fungi from the planet Yuggoth (Pluto) are still awake and sometimes menace humanity. Books such as the infamous Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred hold the Old Ones’ lore, and cults around the world work their rituals in the hope that their masters will return to rule again.

Given the power of his vision, many have speculated on just how much Lovecraft knew about the occult. Some occultists hail him as the prophet of a new Dark Age, claiming that his fiction bears genuine traces of ancient knowledge and re-emerging archetypes from the depths of our collective unconscious. Yet, all too often, their conclusions are based on guesswork, rather than the evidence of his own writing. Fortunately for us, he had perhaps one of the best-documented lives in literary history, writing approximately 100,000 letters over his 46 years. Through these letters, and other newly discovered sources, a glimpse into the reality of Lovecraft’s occult lore is finally possible.

Lovecraft as Debunker

To begin with, it’s clear that Lovecraft himself had no belief whatsoever in the occult. As a youth, he had come to doubt the Christian faith of his family, and explored the beliefs of the Greeks, Muslims, Egyptians, and Hindus. None of these satisfied him, and he turned to atheism and scepticism as the only possible alternatives. In 1925, he wrote to his friend Clark Ashton Smith, saying: "I am, indeed, an absolute materialist so far as actual belief goes; with not a shred of credence in any form of supernaturalism – religion, spiritualism, transcendentalism, metempsychosis, or immortality". Anyone who wrote to him asking if the gods and occult tomes mentioned in his stories were real would receive a polite letter stating his disbelief in such notions.

He was not merely a passive believer in a philosophy of scepticism, but a passionate missionary for his creed. He wrote letters to local newspapers attacking claims of the Hollow Earth and astrology. These letters may contain more vitriol than reasoned critique, but they nonetheless make their points effectively and entertainingly. Such debates also raged in his letters, for he kept a wide circle of friends with widely differing perspectives from his own. If he were alive today, Lovecraft would probably be a strong supporter of CSICOP.

Lovecraft’s scepticism was so vehement that, at one point, it almost brought him a book deal. The celebrated stage magician Harry Houdini was known as a debunker of spiritualists and quacks. Lovecraft revised a fictionalised account of one of Houdini’s adventures, in which the conjuror escapes bandits and far worse things in the tunnels beneath the Great Pyramids ("Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"). Houdini was happy with the rewrite, and the two exchanged letters discussing future collaborations. Along with Providence author C M Eddy, they decided to write a book called The Cancer of Superstition, which they thought would strike a final blow against credulity. Houdini’s death in 1926 put an end to the project; if what survives is anything to go by, it was no great loss, the authors’ names being the book’s most interesting feature.

Nevertheless, Lovecraft was at least somewhat familiar with the literature of occultism, especially in his later years. At the time of his death, his library contained such works as Lewis Spence’s Encyclopædia of Occultism, Sir Walter Scott’s Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, Camille Flammarion’s Haunted Houses, and a variety of works on ghosts, folklore, and mythology. This was not the end of the matter, as Lovecraft also borrowed a number of occult works – as well as Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned and New Lands – from libraries and his friends, most notably Herman C Koenig of New York City. (Interestingly, Lovecraft actually mentions Fort by name in a couple of stories.). Lovecraft, then, was hardly an authority on matters esoteric and uncanny, but he had some basic knowledge that he incorporated into his tales.

New England folklore

To understand Lovecraft’s writing, we must first understand New England. The work is permeated with a love of the old lanes, ancient houses, winding alleys, and sunset skylines of this region. He travelled across the eastern United States and lived (unhappily) for a time in New York City, yet he always returned to Providence and New England. He conducted a good deal of research into the area’s folktales, coming across a number of legends that worked their way into his fiction.

The prize of his library was an old edition of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana. Mather (1663-1728) was a noted New England minister, whose writings encouraged the belief in witchcraft and indirectly led to the Salem witch-trials. Mather devotes one section of the book to the witch-trials, and another to miraculous and supernatural events – witch-findings, ghosts, supernatural warnings, and examples of poltergeist phenomena.

One of Mather’s sermons, reprinted in Magnalia, tells of the punishments God inflicted upon sinners. One prominent figure in the sermon is a young man with a distinctive blemish in his eye, who commits bestiality. His sin is exposed when a farm animal gives birth to an abomination bearing the same mark. The man confesses what he has done, and the local authorities have him executed.

When Lovecraft visited Salem in 1923, its old houses and quaint squares gave him a wonderful thrill. There, in the Charter Street Burying Ground, he found a willow growing around a shattered gravestone, with a crumbling old house beyond it. This house, which still stands, was once the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fiancée, and served as the inspiration for that author’s "Dr. Grimshawe’s Secret". The house made a deep impression on Lovecraft, who was also aware of the strand of folklore concerning New England families who kept ill or deformed relatives hidden in the attic. Weaving these elements together with Mather’s account, he created "The Unnamable".

In the story, two men sit in a cemetery and discuss whether anything can be "unnameable." Joel Manton asserts that nothing can bear such a label, save in a cheap horror story, but the narrator insists that such a thing can indeed exist, and alludes to Mather’s story. In this version, the half-human monstrosity grows into a beast that terrorises the countryside, attacking people on the roads and slaying the parson and his family. The townsfolk lock the monster in the attic of its father’s house, where it dies. The narrator ends his demonstration by stating that he found the creature’s bones and buried them – in the grave on which the two men are sitting. As this revelation is made, the monster reappears and attacks the unfortunate pair.

The Salem witch-trials of 1692 form a common motif in Lovecraft’s fiction. While he didn’t believe in witches, he was fascinated with what he saw as the morbidity of the Puritan lifestyle and the executions that had happened only a short train-ride away from 20th century Providence. While he never wrote a story centring on the witch trials, Lovecraft mingled them with other occult beliefs to create his own literary version of such events.

"Pickman’s Model" is the story of Richard Upton Pickman, a gifted painter from an old Salem family, one of whose ancestors was hanged during the witch-trials. Pickman’s paintings are of undeniable genius, but are so morbid that all the local artists ostracise him. Stinging with this rejection, Pickman brings his friend Thurber to a secret apartment in Boston’s North End, where he shows him a hideous series of paintings suggesting that the witches dealt with corpse-eating monsters that burrow beneath cemeteries and cities. In the end, it is revealed that they have more than a little to do with Pickman’s own dark heritage…

In "The Dreams in the Witch-House", a witch named Keziah Mason is imprisoned in the Salem jail, but escapes the authorities by drawing a curious design in blood on the wall of her cell. Such a magical diagram is a common motif in supernatural fiction, but Mason’s mastery of space and time is not due to any knowledge of ‘magic’ in the traditional sense. Rather, she enters other dimensions through her use of advanced mathematics and geometry, and creeps back to our world centuries later to find converts and sacrifices. She decides that a young mathematics student would be the perfect acolyte, and uses her powers and those of her familiar – the rat-like Brown Jenkin – to draw him into her sorcery. As fantasy author Fritz Leiber pointed out, this was one of the first uses of the mathematical concept of hyperspace in fiction.

The Vampires of Providence

Lovecraft’s "The Shunned House" may not be his most famous tale, but it contains one of the most striking uses of folklore in a horror story. He did not take any aspect of the story from just one source, but mixed and matched various elements to fit his own ends.

"The Shunned House" tells of a building on Benefit Street in Providence noted for the ill health of its tenants. When the narrator’s investigation begins, the house is abandoned. As a child, he visits the house, noting its air of desolation and a curious, anthropomorphic patch of phosphorescent mould in the basement. Going back through its history, he discovers tales of illness and creeping insanity engulfing its inhabitants, dating back to the time of the first builders. Invalids die shrieking about monsters, while some mutter in French, a language of which they have no knowledge. Later, it is revealed that the house was built on the site of the Roulet family graveyard – which nobody troubled to move when Benefit Street was straightened. The narrator informs his uncle, a historian, of these strange findings, and the two visit the house with scientific instruments – not to mention flame-throwers! – to put the horror to rest. Yet, the spirit that resides in the house is not easily defeated.

If the ‘Shunned House’ really existed, one might expect it to be a dark and forbidding dwelling, whispered about in local folklore. Yet the house which is most likely to have inspired the tale is nothing of the sort; now painted yellow, its cellar doors still open directly onto the sidewalk, and part of the overgrown yard is now a community garden. Lovecraft mentions in his letters that the house had a foreboding air, and that his aunt once lived there for a short time in the early 1920s.

Some scholars have sought the tale’s inspiration in local legends of the vampire. While the word conjures up images of castles perched high in the mountains of Transylvania, similar sources lay closer to home. As recently as a century ago, some Rhode Islanders believed in these monsters. In 1892, a wasting disease, now thought to be tuberculosis, struck the Brown family of Exeter. The locals became convinced that the dead family members fed off the living in spirit form, dragging their brothers and sisters with them to the grave. Digging up one of the daughters, Mercy Brown, they found her body fresh and seeping blood. The family burned the young woman’s heart to ashes and fed them to her brother, in an unsuccessful attempt to cure him. Christopher Rondina’s book The Vampire-Hunter’s Guide to New England details a number of such legends circulating in the rural areas of Rhode Island.

Oddly enough, however, these legends played virtually no role in the construction of Lovecraft’s tale – in fact, he dismisses them in a single sentence, one paraphrasing a book of folklore in his own collection, Charles M. Skinner’s Myths and Legends of Our Own Land (1896). A further perusal of this work uncovers a more likely source for Lovecraft’s story. Skinner writes of a house on Green Street in Schenectady, New York, said to have a patch of mould on the floor shaped like a body. Other parts of the story – the illness of the tenants, the unearthed and forgotten body beneath – may also be found in this story. It is unlikely that Lovecraft tried to find this house during his brief trips to upstate New York, but that did not stop the legend from influencing his work.

What, then, accounts for the sinister nature of the occupant of the forgotten tomb? Lovecraft incorporated a legend from John Fiske’s Myths and Myth-Makers (1872), regarding an event near the French town of Caude in 1598, when a group of men saw two wolves devouring the body of a boy. Chasing them, they found a man coated in blood and gore hiding in the woods. He was revealed to be one Jacques Roulet, who claimed to use a salve to change his shape to that of a wolf. He was convicted of murder but, before he could be executed, the government intervened and locked him in an asylum. In his story, Lovecraft suggests that the same Roulets had come to the New World and taken up residence in Providence, with sinister results.

Lovecraft’s genius, then, was to find inspiration and material aplenty in occult, folkloric and historical sources and to use them – with, as we have seen, no belief in the possibility of their reality – as the raw material for tales of an entirely different nature. When we finally meet the terror at the house on Benefit Street, it is much worse than any werewolf or vampire could be.

Lovecraft and the Western Esoteric Tradition

Black magic and forbidden books have been staples of European folklore for centuries, and Lovecraft makes extensive use of them in his works: immortal wizards plot revenge against their foes, magical keys open gates to other dimensions, and a book called the Necronomicon foretells the doom of humanity at the hands (or tentacles) of the Old Ones. These elements of Lovecraft’s fiction have led to plenty of speculation that he was a practising wizard, or at least had a deep knowledge of the magical lore of past ages. In fact, his knowledge of Western esotericism was pretty spotty for most of his career.

His story "The Horror at Red Hook" was his first attempt to use genuine magical lore as the basis for a story. "Red Hook" tells of a policeman’s fight against a sinister cult based in Brooklyn’s seedy Red Hook district. The cult – which mixes such diverse belief systems as Kurdish Yezidism, Tibetan shamanism, and Nestorian Christianity – meets in an old church used as a dance hall and worships demons such as Astaroth and Lilith. The tale is a jumble of occult lore, with good reason – he took most of his information, including a chant to the Greek goddess Hecate, from the Encyclopedia Britannica’s articles on magic and demonology, hardly a very esoteric source!

If nothing else, "Red Hook" made Lovecraft realise how little he knew about magic. He asked his correspondents for suggestions for his reading list. "Are there any good translations of any mediæval necromancers for raising spirits, invoking Lucifer, & all that sort of thing?" he asks in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith. By the end of his life, Lovecraft had read several works on magic, though most of them were sensationalistic works of a second-hand nature. These included Arthur Edward Waite’s Book of Black Magic and of Pacts, Lewis Spence’s Encyclopædia of Occultism, Sax Rohmer’s Romance of Sorcery, and The Mysteries of Magic by Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Constant).

The latter served Lovecraft well when he came to write The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Ward is a young scholar and historian who discovers that an ancestor, Joseph Curwen, while apparently a prominent and respectable merchant, was also a wizard with a library full of works on alchemy and mysticism. In 1771, a group made up of Providence’s most distinguished citizens attacked Curwen’s farmhouse and did away with him. During the raid, Curwen chanted two spells lifted straight from Levi’s The Mysteries of Magic. Nonetheless, when it came to the final incantation that resurrects the dead, Lovecraft could not find one suitable, so he wrote one in his own "R’lyehian" language.

As time went on, Lovecraft largely abandoned the trappings of magic and adopted a language more congenial to his temperament – that of science. In a letter written near the end of his life, he revealed that he found the language of esotericism "flat, childish, pompous, and unconvincing", and expressed his belief that a writer could make up occult books just as terrifying as any that actually existed. History has proven him right; his arch piece of literary invention, the Necronomicon, has inspired a tremendous number of ‘hoax’ versions, none of which match the power of Lovecraft’s vision.

Mysterious Contacts

Even as Lovecraft sought his terrors in the realm of science, his fame was already spreading among occultists. While he did not share their views, he was nonetheless a polite correspondent who answered their questions and presented his opinions without judgement. So, who were these occult figures? Or, given the rumours that still circulate, who weren’t they?

A great deal of nonsense has appeared about Lovecraft’s connection to the notorious magician Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), coiner of the term "magick" – pronounced may-jick – to distinguish his own "sex-magic" from conjuring parlour-tricks. Some authors say that the two men met, while others claim that Lovecraft’s wife Sonia Greene dated Crowley before marrying Lovecraft. None of this is true. Lovecraft had heard of Crowley, but had little information outside the newspapers of the day and such fictional caricatures as appeared in H Russell Wakefield’s "He Cometh and He Passeth By". He never corresponded with Crowley or read any of his work, and found him to be, if anything, "rather over-advertised". Lovecraft’s "The Thing on the Doorstep" refers to an English cult leader – but this seems to be the extent of Crowley’s influence on the Providence author.

Others have insisted that Lovecraft knew members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult fraternity founded in 1877 and whose membership included Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, two authors whom Lovecraft admired greatly. He never wrote to either of these men, though – he resisted "fawning on the great". Further, no Golden Dawn-specific terminology turns up anywhere in his writings.

One person Lovecraft may have met was the science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard. The two men did write for the pulps at the same time, and both even attended a Fiction Guild dinner in June 1936. In a letter to Robert Bloch (author of Psycho), Lovecraft mentions Hubbard’s name, but finds himself unable to remember meeting the gentleman. Of course, Hubbard did not found his Dianetics movement until well after Lovecraft was dead, and no researchers have found any Hubbard-Lovecraft letters.

This doesn’t mean that Lovecraft didn’t correspond with occultists. One of his pen pals was descended from a Salem witch, and sent him gruesome pieces of folklore that she hoped he would use in his stories (he never did). Another, a gentleman from Iowa named Olson, claimed he held the secret to immortality. His beliefs, as quoted in a letter from Lovecraft’s friend and fellow author Robert E Howard (of Conan the Barbarian fame), included a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy with physics and other curious tenets, such as the belief that Jesus was a vampire. Howard thought this was odd, if acceptable, but became most incensed when Olson asked him to send on a chain letter.

Nor should we forget E Hoffman Price, a prolific pulp author from New Orleans. Price was not only a soldier and renowned traveller, but described himself as a Theosophist and Buddhist and sometimes cast horoscopes for money. When Lovecraft travelled to Louisiana, Howard informed Price, and the two men spent the next 36 hours together. Later, Lovecraft collaborated with Hoffman on "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", in which Randolph Carter, Lovecraft’s hero and literary alter ego, goes through a mystical initiation in his search for ultimate meaning.

Perhaps the most famous of Lovecraft’s occult correspondents was William Lumley (1880-1960), a night watchman from Buffalo, New York. Before settling down, Lumley had been a sailor who heard strange tales in Port Said and other distant lands. Lumley told Lovecraft of his meetings with Eastern masters – including one who apparently visited him for a short time in Buffalo – and spectral figures in the haunted valleys and houses of western New York. Despite his scepticism, Lovecraft humoured his friend, and the two struck up a lively correspondence which lasted until Lovecraft’s death. When Lumley wrote a story called "The Diary of Alonzo Typer", about a haunted house near Attica, Lovecraft revised it for him. Lumley’s first draft has since been published and closely resembles a real-life journal of a paranormal investigation. Could Lumley have been describing an actual experience? Most of his papers have vanished, so there is no way of knowing.

Lovecraft and Theosophy

In the late 19th century, a Russian émigrée named Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky electrified the West. Blavatsky founded Theosophy, meaning roughly "divine knowledge", in 1875. Blavatsky’s "Masters" showed her the Book of Dzyan, a volume existing on the astral plane and written on palm leaves. With the help of the wisdom of Dzyan, the Theosophical Society set out to uncover the truths behind science, religion, and psychic phenomena. Previous civilisations on the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis had destroyed themselves due to lack of spiritual purity, but the Theosophists hoped through their researches to move humanity into the next stage of its spiritual evolution, and thereby bring the world to an age of brotherhood. Despite its high-minded claims, scandal rocked the group, and by the 1920s it was a pale shadow of its former self.

Lovecraft skirted the edges of Theosophical literature for over 10 years. In 1926, he read W Scott-Elliot’s Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria. This work is a description of the geography and culture of the lost continents, with notes on their former inhabitants. Shortly after reading this work, Lovecraft penned one of his most celebrated tales, "The Call of Cthulhu". The story tells of a worldwide psychic disturbance in which authors and poets have strange dreams of an underwater city in the Pacific. While some groups – including the Theosophists – consider this to be a good omen, one student of ethnology pieces together the truth: the dreams do not come from a kindly-disposed spiritual lord, but from an alien monstrosity whose return will destroy all of humanity.

Lovecraft’s friend E Hoffman Price notes in his memoirs how unimpressed he was with Lovecraft’s understanding of Theosophy. Perhaps if Lovecraft had read more of the stuff, many of the key concepts within Theosophical texts would have resonated with his own fictional creations. After all, the Theosophists discussed Lemuria, Atlantis, and the Imperishable Sacred Land to the far north (all of which were now lost), and a similar lore concerning lost continents was not unique to "The Call of Cthulhu", but turns up throughout Lovecraft’s œuvre, for instance in "The Temple" and "Out of the Aeons" (written with Hazel Heald). Another important Eastern concept dear to the Theospophists – reincarnation – serves as the theme for a number of Lovecraft stories, including The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, as mentioned opposite (p38). Finally, we should not neglect the fact that Blavatsky and Lovecraft had, in effect, the same goal – the reconciliation of myth and ancient knowledge with modern science. The difference, of course, is that Lovecraft attempted a fictional synthesis, while Blavatsky created a new philosophy centred on this notion.

Some commentators, among them Colin Wilson, have asked whether Blavatsky’s Book of Dzyan could be the inspiration for the Necronomicon. Lovecraft’s letters, though, tell a different story. He didn’t hear of the Book of Dzyan until E Hoffman Price told him about it in 1933. Price’s account of the phantasmal book intrigued him, and it actually appears alongside the Necronomicon in his later works, including "The Diary of Alonzo Typer" and "The Haunter of the Dark".

So did Lovecraft ever read Blavatsky’s work? As it turns out, he might have done. In November 1936, Californian science fantasy author Henry Kuttner sent one of Blavatsky’s works – either Isis Unveiled or The Secret Doctrine – to Providence. Lovecraft thanked his friend, mentioning that he’d always meant to read Blavatsky, but had never got around to it. He died four months later; if he had finally grappled with Blavatsky’s literary efforts, his thoughts on them were lost forever.

The Master’s Legacy

Lovecraft’s death brought his writer friends out en masse to offer their condolences. It was this outpouring of grief that kick-started Lovecraft fandom. Weird Tales, which had never given Lovecraft a cover illustration during his life, frantically reprinted his old stories and searched for new ones. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, two of Lovecraft’s friends, founded Arkham House to publish his works in book form. The first Arkham House edition, The Outsider and Others, commands prices of up to $3,000 today. A rather unexpected side effect of all this attention was the adoption of Lovecraftian concepts into occult practice.

Modern occultists may be surprised to know that Lovecraft’s influence first made itself felt among the believers in the Hollow Earth and underground cities. Morris Doreal, head of the Brotherhood of the White Temple, referred to a "Yog Sog-Thoth, the gateway to the cycle below" in his Interpretations on the Emerald Tablets, published in 1948. Others discovered Lovecraft indirectly, through the stories of August Derleth, who in his own additions to the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’, as it came to be known, turned Lovecraft’s essentially amoral creations into the evil "Great Old Ones", who are opposed by the protective "Elder Gods." The book Agartha, written by Buddhist monk Robert Ernst Dickhoff in 1951, mentions both groups of beings, plus Lovecraft’s mountain of "Kadath". Richard Shaver, a Pennsylvania welder and long-time Weird Tales reader, used very similar imagery in his writing about the underground "deros" who inflict suffering upon mankind and the "teros" who oppose them.

Lovecraft’s ideas slowly made their way into other sections of the occult community. John Keel’s concept of "windows" – areas in which extra-dimensional beings might appear – is similar to Lovecraft’s notion that a place or object might serve as a focus for influences from Outside. Robert M Price and Charles Garofalo point out how Lovecraft anticipated von Däniken’s theory of "ancient astronauts" by several decades. I’m not suggesting Lovecraft directly inspired Keel or von Däniken, yet their ‘real’ ideas follow an intriguingly parallel course to the ‘fictional’ ones of the man from Providence.

Rumours of strange sects practising Lovecraftian magic have been with us for years, but two works published in 1972 brought them to a broader audience. Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Rituals included ceremonies by Michael Aquino to call Lovecraft’s gods Shub-Niggurath and Cthulhu into consciousness. LaVey and Aquino maintained that these rituals were merely psychodrama, a fact seemingly lost on many of those who practise them. A hemisphere away, Kenneth Grant published The Magical Revival, which hailed Lovecraft as a contemporary of Crowley who echoed his prophecies of a new æon. While occultists have never been averse to creating their own traditions, the embrace of an admittedly fictional pantheon started a firestorm of controversy that has never died down.

Despite this uncertainty, Lovecraftian magic is here to stay. Erik Davis’s article in the now-defunct magazine Gnosis provided much insight into its practitioners, but failed to capture its broad appeal. For example, I have talked with members of the Miskatonic Alchemical Expedition, a group of spiritual seekers who once met at a farmhouse near West Danby in upstate New York. There, they took hallucinogens and sought visions bringing contact with a wide variety of god-forms – including Lovecraft’s Old Ones. Black Moon Publishing, associated with Cincinnati’s Bate Cabal, provides photocopies of a staggering collection of Lovecraftian conjurations, rituals, Tarot decks, and theoretical speculation. As Lovecraft makes his resurgence in popular culture, it is likely that more people will practice magic based on his fiction.

Perhaps the most widespread and broadly appealing strand in this factitious magical tradition – and perhaps its creator’s most enduring legacy – is that madness-inducing book of eldritch lore, the Necronomicon. Since 1940, numerous attempts were made to write the book Lovecraft had invented. The most commercially successful of these were the Simon Necronomicon (1977), which emerged from the New York occult community, and George Hay’s Necronomicon: The Book of Dead Names (1978), published by Neville Spearman and later by Skoob Books. Having examined their beliefs for many years, I have to say that those who believe in the reality of such books are sincere – not to mention more numerous than most commentators have realised.

So the cult of Cthulhu lives. It may be that some day, Howard Phillips Lovecraft himself will be forgotten, while the devotees of his Old Ones "bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places," as he puts it in "The Call of Cthulhu".

I hope this will not be the case, and that Lovecraft’s unique literary gifts will be remembered alongside his creations.

source: Fortean Times

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Edgar Allan Poe (The Man Behind the Tales)

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American poet, short story writer, playwright, editor, critic, essayist and one of the leaders of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of the macabre and mystery, Poe was one of the early American practitioners of the short story and a progenitor of detective fiction and crime fiction. He is also credited with contributing to the emergent science fiction genre. Poe died at the age of 40. The cause of his death is undetermined and has been attributed to alcohol, drugs, cholera, rabies, suicide (although likely to be mistaken with his suicide attempt in the previous year), tuberculosis, heart disease, brain congestion and other agents.

Life and career

Early life

Poe was born Edgar Poe to a Scots-Irish family in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, the son of actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe, Jr. The second of three children, his elder brother was William Henry Leonard Poe, and younger sister, Rosalie Poe. His father abandoned their family in 1810. His mother died a year later from "consumption". Poe was then taken into the home of John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant in Richmond, Virginia who dealt in a variety of goods including tobacco, cloths, wheat, tombstones, and slaves. Although his middle name is often misspelled as "Allen" (even in encyclopedias), it is actually "Allan," which he had chosen as a sign of respect towards this family, though he was never formally adopted.

The Allan family baptised young Edgar as Episcopalian in 1812 and John Allan alternatively spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son. The family, which included Allan's wife Frances Valentine Allan, traveled to England in 1815, and Edgar sailed with them. He attended the Grammar School in Irvine, Scotland (where John Allan was born) for a short period in 1815, before rejoining the family in London in 1816. He studied at a boarding school in Chelsea until the summer of 1817. He was then entered at Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House School at Stoke Newington, then a suburb four miles north of London. Bransby is mentioned by name as a character in "William Wilson."

Poe moved back with the Allans to Richmond, Virginia in 1820. In 1825, John Allan's friend and business benefactor William Galt, said to be the wealthiest man in Richmond, died and left Allan several acres of real estate. The inheritance was estimated at three quarters of a million dollars. By the summer of 1825, Allan celebrated his expansive wealth by purchasing a two-story brick home named "Moldavia." Poe may have become engaged to Sarah Elmira Royster before he registered at the one-year old University of Virginia in February 1826 with the intent to study languages. The University, in its infancy, was established on the ideals of its founder Thomas Jefferson. It had strict rules against gambling, horses, guns, tobacco and alcohol; these rules were generally ignored. Jefferson had enacted a system of student self-government, allowing students to choose their own studies, make their own arrangements for boarding, and to report all wrongdoing to the faculty. The unique system was still in chaos and there was a high drop-out rate. During his time there, Poe lost touch with Royster and also became estranged from his foster father over gambling debts. Poe claimed that Allan had not given him sufficient money to register for classes, purchase texts, and procure and furnish a dormitory. Allan did send additional money and clothes, but Poe's debts increased. Poe gave up on the University after a year and, not feeling welcome in Richmond, especially when he learned of his sweetheart Royster having married Alexander Shelton, he traveled to Boston in April 1827, sustaining himself with odd jobs as a clerk and newspaper writer. At some point, he was using the name Henry Le Rennett as a pseudonym.

Military career

Reduced to destitution, Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a private, using the name "Edgar A. Perry" and claiming he was 22 years old (he was 18) on May 26, 1827. He first served at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor for five dollars a month. That same year, he released his first book, a 40-page collection of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems attributed only as "by a Bostonian." Only 50 copies were printed, and the book received virtually no attention. Poe's regiment was posted to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina and traveled by ship on the brig Waltham on November 8, 1827. Poe was promoted to "artificer," an officer who prepared shells for artillery, and had his monthly pay doubled. After serving for two years and attaining the rank of sergeant major for artillery (the highest rank a noncommissioned officer can achieve), Poe sought to end his five-year enlistment early. He revealed his real name and his circumstances to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Howard, who would only allow discharged if Poe reconciled with John Allan. Howard wrote a letter to Allan, but he was unsympathetic. Several months passed and pleas to Allan were ignored; Allan may not have written to Poe even to make him aware of his foster mother's illness. Frances Allan died on February 28, 1829 and Poe visited the day after her burial. Perhaps softened by his wife's death, John Allan agreed to support Poe's attempt to be discharged in order to receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Poe finally was discharged on April 15, 1829 after securing a replacement to finish his enlisted term for him. Before entering West Point, Poe moved to Baltimore, Maryland to stay with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm, her daughter, Poe's first cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm, and his brother Henry. Meanwhile, Poe published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems in Baltimore in 1829.

Poe traveled to West Point, and took his oath on July 1, 1830. John Allan married a second time. The marriage, and bitter quarrels with Poe over the children born to Allan out of affairs, led to the foster father finally disowning Poe. Poe decided to leave West Point by purposely getting court-martialed. On February 8, 1831, he was tried for gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders for refusing to attend formations, classes, or church. Poe tactically plead not guilty to induce dismissal, knowing he would be found guilty. He left for New York in February 1831, and released a third volume of poems, simply titled Poems. The book was financed with help from his fellow cadets at West Point, many of whom donated 75 cents to the cause, raising a total of $170. They may have been expecting verses similar to the satirical ones Poe had been writing about commanding officers. Printed by Elam Bliss of New York, it was labeled as "Second Edition" and included a page saying, "To the U.S. Corps of Cadets this volume is respectfully dedicated." The book once again reprinted the long poems "Tamerlane" and "Al Aaraaf" but also six previously unpublished poems including early versions of "To Helen," "Israfel" and "The City in the Sea."

Publishing career

He returned to Baltimore, to his aunt, brother and cousin, in March 1831. Henry died from tuberculosis in August 1831. Poe turned his attention to prose, and placed a few stories with a Philadelphia publication. He also began work on his only drama, Politian. The Saturday Visitor, a Baltimore paper, awarded a prize in October 1833 to his The Manuscript Found in a Bottle. The story brought him to the attention of John P. Kennedy, a Baltimorian of considerable means. He helped Poe place some of his stories, and also introduced him to Thomas W. White, editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. Poe became assistant editor of the periodical in July 1835. Within a few weeks, he was discharged after being found drunk repeatedly. Returning to Baltimore, he secretly married Virginia, his cousin, on September 22, 1835. She was 13 at the time.

Reinstated by White after promising good behavior, Poe went back to Richmond with Virginia and her mother, and remained at the paper until January 1837. During this period, its circulation increased from 700 to 3500. He published several poems, book reviews, criticism, and stories in the paper. On May 16, 1836, he entered into marriage in Richmond with Virginia Clemm, this time in public.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym was published and widely reviewed in 1838. In the summer of 1839, Poe became assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He published a large number of articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing the reputation as a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary Messenger. Also in 1839, the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in two volumes. Though not a financial success, it was a milestone in the history of American literature, collecting such classic Poe tales as "The Fall of the House of Usher", "MS. Found in a Bottle", "Berenice", "Ligeia" and "William Wilson". Poe left Burton's after about a year and found a position as assistant at Graham's Magazine.

The evening of January 20, 1842, Virginia broke a blood vessel while singing and playing the piano. Blood began to rush forth from her mouth. It was the first sign of consumption, now more commonly known as tuberculosis. She only partially recovered. Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia's illness. He left Graham's and attempted to find a new position, for a time angling for a government post. He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror before becoming editor of the Broadway Journal. There he became involved in a noisy public feud with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On January 29, 1845, his poem "The Raven" appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation.

The Broadway Journal failed in 1846. Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordham section of The Bronx, New York. He loved the Jesuits at Fordham University and frequently strolled about its campus conversing with both students and faculty. Fordham University's bell tower even inspired him to write "The Bells." The Poe Cottage is on the southeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road, and is open to the public. Virginia died there on January 30, 1847.

Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's drinking and erratic behavior; however there is also strong evidence that Miss Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship. He then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.


On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious and "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance," according to the friend who found him, Dr. E. Snodgrass. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died early on the morning of October 7. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul". Poe suffered from bouts of depression and madness, and he may have attempted suicide in 1848.

Poe finally died on Sunday, October 7, 1849 at 5:00 in the morning. The precise cause of Poe's death is disputed and has aroused great controversy.

source: wikipedia

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ann Radcliffe

Ann Radcliffe was the most popular writer of her day and almost universally admired. Contemporary critics called her the mighty enchantress and the Shakespeare of romance-writers. Her popularity continued through the nineteenth century; for Keats, she was Mother Radcliffe, and for Scott, the first poetess of romantic fiction

Little was or is known about Radcliffe's life, so not surprisingly apocryphal stories sprang up about her: it was reported that she had gone mad as a result of her dreadful imagination and been confined to an asylum, that she had been captured as a spy in Paris, or that she ate rare pork chops before retiring to stimulate nightmares for her novels; several times she was falsely rumored to be dead. She seems to have been happily married and to have been fortunate in having a husband who encouraged her to write. There is no explanation for why, at the age of thirty-two, the most popular writer of her times stopped publishing; there is of course much speculation by her biographers and by literary critics. In 1833, years after her death, her husband published some of her poems and a historical romance, Gaston de Blondville; it is not clear that she intended to publish these works. Gaston de Blondville is of interest because it is her only novel that does not explain away the supernatural happenings and because it contains, apparently as a preface, her thoughts on the sublime and Gothic fiction, "On the Supernatural in Poetry".

Radcliffe and sensibility

Radcliffe created the novel of suspense by combining the Gothic romance of Walpole with the novel of sensibility, which focused on the proper, tender heroine and emphasized the love interest. In all her novels, "a beautiful and solitary girl is persecuted in picturesque surroundings, and, after many fluctuations of fortune, during which she seems again and again on the point of reaching safety, only to be thrust back into the midst of perils, is restored to her friends and marries the man of her choice" (J.M.S. Tompkins). Her novels are as much about interrupted courtship as terror. In fact, for a writer classified as a "terror novelist," there is relatively little terror in her novels in proportion to her descriptions of nature and her focus on the sensibilities of her virtuous characters.

More recent critics of of Radcliffe have demurred from the earlier perception of her as the high priestess of sensibility and of her novels as an affirmation of the value of sensibility; what Radcliffe is really doing, they suggest, is pointing out the dangers of excessive sensibility. Many of the heroine's problems and distresses arise from her acute sensibility, particularly when it yields to imagination; she must learn to use reason to guide her sensibility. In The Mysteries of Udolpho, the heroine's dying father warns her of the dangers of excessively exercising her sensibility:
Above all, my dear Emily... do not indulge in the pride of fine feeling, the romantic error of amiable minds. Those who really possess sensibility ought early to be taught that it is a dangerous quality, which is continually extracting the excess of misery or delight from every surrounding circumstance. And since, in our passage through this world, painful circumstances occur more frequently than pleasing ones, and since our sense of evil is, I fear, more acute than our sense of good, we become the victims of our feelings, unless we can in some degree command them.
The heroine must learn to respond to the seemingly inexplicable with reason, not yield to the emotionalism of sensibility: "mystery ... by exciting awe and curiousity, reduced the mind to a state of sensibility, which rendered it more liable to the influence of superstition in general" (The Mysteries of Udolpho).


Her villains, like Montoni in The Mysteries of Udolpho and Schedoni in The Italian, contributed to the development of the Byronic characters and are her most striking characters. Otherwise, her characters lack individuality, for the most part; the reader cares about them because they are embroiled in thrilling situations, not because they are interesting or compelling in themselves. Because of the lack of individuality, some critics have suggested that her novels do not bear rereading.

Ellen Moers sees in Radcliffe's heroines an expression of literary feminism which she calls heroinism. (Literary feminism and feminism are not the same, and she is certainly not calling Radcliffe a feminist.) Heroinism takes many forms, such as the intellectual or thinking heroine, the passionate or woman-in-love heroine, and the traveling heroine. Radcliffe's heroines fall into the category of the traveling heroine, "who moves, who acts, who copes with vicissitude and adventure." Threatened and beset, the heroine is forced to flee her home or her refuge; her flight allows her to experience exciting adventures. Her traveling also occurs within doors, where she explores corridors, vaults, abandoned wings, locked rooms in the castle or abbey or the caves under them. Moers notes, "It was only indoors, in Mrs. Radcliffe's day, that the heroine of a novel could travel brave and free, and stay respectable." And Julia, in A Sicilian Romance, is concerned about the proprieties, as are Radcliffe's other heroines. Moers suggests, furthermore, that Radcliffe's propensity for sending her heroines traveling, whether indoors or outdoors, makes the Gothic novel a female equivalent of the male picaresque novel.

It is not just her heroines who travel; the heroine's pursuers, the heroes, and other main characters (like Madame de Menon) also travel. All this movement gives Radcliffe repeated opportunities to describe scenery, which is generally sublime or romantic, and its influence on the character.

Scenery, the sublime, and obscurity

For most contemporary readers, the charm and much of the originality of Radcliffe's novel lay in her descriptions of landscape, which were influenced by her favorite painters–Salvator Rosa, Claude, and Gaspar Poussin. However, from the time of their original publication, other readers have complained about the number and extent of her nature descriptions; contemporary critics have suggested that the scenic descriptions are one of Radcliffe's main interests, if not the main interest. Radcliffe's scenery is often obscure or perceived through a dim light: "To the warm imagination, the forms which float half-veiled in darkness afford a higher delight than the most distinct scenery the sun can show" (The Mysteries of Udolpho). In preferring obscurity to clarity, she conforms to Edmund Burke's theory of the sublime in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Idea of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). Burke's treatise, the definitive essay on this subject in the eighteenth century, provides a theoretical basic for the contradictory emotions of pleasure and fear that the Gothic novel arouses in readers The sublime, he asserts, has only one cause, terror: " Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror."

He assigns obscurity a key role in creating the experience of the sublime:
To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary. When we know the full extent of any danger, when we can accustom our eyes to it, a great deal of the apprehension vanishes. Every one will be sensible of this, who considers how greatly night adds to our dread, in all cases of danger, and how much the notions of ghosts and goblins, of which none can form clear ideas, affect minds which give credit to the popular tales concerning such sorts of beings.
S.L. Varnado sees hints of the numinous reality behind the everyday world in Radcliffe's use of the sublime and in her subtle rendering of the apparently preternatural. (The numinous is the divine and the spiritual, or it may be the revelation or suggestion that a god is present; always, it inspires awe and reverence.) The foremost theorist of the numinous is Rudolph Otto, who identifies it as the non-rational, awe-inspiring, and fascinating mystery on which all religion is based. In The Idea of the Holy, he explains the attraction and fear inspired by the Gothic as a reaction to the numinous. The most obvious expression of the numinous in her novels is the characters' perception of a higher force or presence in nature. As Madame de Menon wanders through a sublime landscape, "The scene inspired madame with reverential awe, and her thoughts involuntarily rose, 'from Nature up to Nature's God'" (p. 104).


Her novels emphasize action, not, as the picaresque novel often does, for its own sake but as a way to engender suspense, create mystery, and rouse amazement. The mysteriousness of the characters' world derives not only from inexplicable happenings but also from their unfamiliarity with the castles or abbeys they are residing in. Although Julia and Emilia have lived their entire lives in the Castle Mazzini, neither of them set foot in the abandoned south wing until impelled by anxiety for Ferdinand's safety.

Also contributing to the sense of mystery is the obscurity of the sublime. Obscure sounds, inexplicable happenings, and dimly-perceived figures justify the distresses and anxieties of the characters– until the mysteries are explained, of course.


Radcliffe's emphasis on morality has caused her to be accused of didacticism. In the introduction to The Romance of the Forest, she prides herself on "the attention given in the following pages to the cause of morality." It is precisely this emphasis which contributed to her popularity, in E.B. Murray's view:
For her Gothic terrors had in some way to be moral dilemmas for her heroines–they are quite as titillating to her and should be to her readers as the decorously modified terrors she took over from Walpole, or the sublime landscapes she took over from the paintings of Salvator Rosa and made part of her Gothic art.
Thus, Radcliffe combined thrilling content with irreproachable morality. Moreover, she combines them with aesthetic considerations in her emphasis on taste, which the OED defines as "The sense of what is appropriate, harmonious, or beautiful; esp. discernment and appreciation of the beautiful in nature or art." For Radcliffe, virtue was related to taste–"Virtue and taste are nearly the same, for virtue is little more than active taste" (The Mysteries of Udolpho)–as well as to sensibility.

The unconscious

Was part at least of her success due to (inadvertently) tapping into the unconscious? As the unconscious is not limited in time or space, so Radcliffe's novels are often vague about location (the south of Italy) or time (the sixteenth century). And the content of her novels consists of the kind of fears and experiences which we push into the unconscious.

The standard situations in her stories are those which recur in everyone's nightmares – wandering along in an unrecognizable, eerie place, or tying to flee from unidentified but frightful pursuers in an endless tunnel or staircase, or being imprisoned in a tiny cell that seems to be closing in. No matter how crudely Mrs. Radcliffe described these things, she had the knack of stimulating the readers own dream-making function, which took over and supplied the private horrors of each individual imagination. Probably, too, her central theme–a pure, pale maiden persecuted by a vicious but dominating sadist–became a powerful sex symbol for both male and female readers (Lionel Stevenson).

Cynthia Griffin Wolff offers a different interpretation of the disguised sexuality in Radcliffe's novels: Radcliffe, whose heroines are torn between an evil, sadistic villain and a virtuous, benevolent hero, is expressing the "Devil/Priest" syndrome. This syndrome is the female version of the male stereotyped view of women as being either virgins or whores, the "Virgin/Whore" syndrome. In Wolff's view, Radcliffe unconsciously acknowledges women's active sexual feelings by projecting them onto men. The Freudian equation of "inner space" with female sexuality–the caves, secret rooms, dark passageways, tunnels, bedrooms in which heroines may be locked–supports sexual readings of Radcliffe's novels. Wolff sees the Gothic building as a "way of identifying a woman's body (in imagination, of course, the reader's own body) when she is undergoing the siege of conflict over sexual stimulation or arousal."

Politics and society

The English upper classes generally perceived the French Revolution as threatening the basis and stability of society and endangering their social position and personal safety. Radcliffe's novels, it has been suggested, allowed them a safe expression of anxieties about disruption and chaos while finally affirming conservative social values, traditional morality, and the (political) status quo. For instance, did Radcliffe deny her submissive heroines full powers of choice, independent judgment, and achievement in order to uphold patriarchal ideals, as Nina de Vinci Nichols theorizes?

Dissent took other forms than revolutionary bloodshed. In the late eighteenth century, protest against the limitations on women led to a debate about the nature of women and their role in society. Mary Wollstonecraft, a radical feminist, argued for women's natural equality and right to social and political freedom and urged women to assert themselves. Such protest threatened the status quo and male dominance, and Radcliffe's novels reflect this controversy, though she affirms, finally, the status quo:
... in her romances Radcliffe investigates specifically the paradoxical role sensibility plays in simultaneously restricting women and providing them power and an arena for action. Moreover, in the process of her investigation, Radcliffe uncovers the root cause of the late eighteenth-century turmoil, the economic aggressiveness currently victimizing defenseless women of sensibility. But despite her penetrating insight, Radcliffe does not abandon sentimental values; instead, she retreats from the terrifying implications of her discovery and simply dismisses the threat sentimentalism cannot combat. Rather than proposing an alternative to paternalistic society and its values, she merely reasserts an idealized–and insulated–paternalism and relegates the issues she cannot resolve to the background of her narrative (Mary Poovey).
The fact that her heroines disappear into marriage and idyllic tranquillity at the end reassured readers and set to rest the anxieties aroused by the novel.

Radcliffe's influence

Radcliffe was an innovator in her use of the supernatural and landscape; she also showed how suspense could be used to structure a novel. To the Gothic machinery which Walpole introduced, she added the abbey and the monastery. And she inaugurated a new type of Gothic novel–the supernatural explained; the mysterious, supernatural or horrific events which terrify readers are eventually shown to have natural explanations. That she influenced the flood of Gothic writers who followed her is undeniable; a few contemporary writers adopted titles and pseudonyms meant to mislead readers into thinking their works had been written by Radcliffe. E.B. Murray sardonically comments, "It may be no small praise to have been one of the most influential mediocre writers that English literature has produced, and, there is no one with a better claim to that distinction than Ann Radcliffe." It is much harder to prove direct influence in fiction generally, though Sir Walter Scott, who wrote appreciatively of Radcliffe, seems to have followed her lead in some of his novels.

Her influence spread to the Continent, where she was admired by Balzac and influenced Victor Hugo, Dumas, and Baudelaire. Her magic continued to work its spell on the modern horror story; H.P. Lovecraft praised her for adding to the genre "a genuine sense of the unearthly in scene and incident which closely approached genius; eery touch of setting and action contributing artistically to the impression of illimitable frightfulness which she wished to convey."

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Black Cat - Edgar Allan Poe

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

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

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat. This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point --and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.

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

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

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

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

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

On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair. I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts --and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire --a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with every minute and eager attention. The words "strange!" "singular!" and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvelous. There was a rope about the animal's neck.

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

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

One night as I sat, half stupefied, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat --a very large one --fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast.

Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it of the landlord; but this person made no claim to it --knew nothing of it --had never seen it before. I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the rest of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect anything suspicious.

And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster could not every poss be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brick-work. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself --"Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain."

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

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

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

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

But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! --by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman --a howl --a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation. Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen stout arms were tolling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!