Two volumes of the strange and ghostly by one of the earliest great American authors
Those who know anything of American literature know that Washington Irving was one of its earliest and most influential giants. Born less than a decade after the birth of the nation, it is clear through many of his writings that he embodied the very spirit of his nationality, age and place. He was a prolific author, a craftsman of fiction and non-fiction alike and his works of history are enduring classics. Whilst Irving is a true American writer his subject matter is by no means provincial. He travelled widely and his works inspired by his time in Spain have left for posterity a fine legacy—most especially in the collection that is 'Tales from the Alhambra.' Irving actually lived within the walls of the spectacular Moorish fortress of Granada and the experience inspired wonderful fiction and travelogue of the highest order. Irving was firmly established as an author of influence by the first quarter of the nineteenth century and he encouraged other American writers of his time, such as Hawthorne, Longfellow, Poe and Melville, towards their own success. Regardless of his huge written canon, Irving was fated, in keeping with many authors, to be best remembered for some of his shortest work, for it is in the typically early American tales—'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' and 'Rip van Winkle'—that his fame principally abides. Also, in keeping with many authors who wrote over a range of subjects, Irving had a taste for the bizarre and supernatural, as evidenced of course by his terrifying headless Hessian horseman! This two volume Leonaur collection of Irving's forays into the bizarre and other-worldly provides the reader with a cornucopia of strange stories set in a variety of times and settings, all guaranteed to provoke a chill or smile and sometimes both at once. The books are available in soft cover or hard back with dust jacket for collectors. In volume two readers will discover no less than thirty five shorter works representing Irving's fascination with 'the other side of the veil.' Among them is, of course, the novelette 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' and two companion novelettes 'Dolph Heylinger' and 'The Adventure of the Back Fisherman.' Also included are thirty two short stories including 'Rip Van Winkle,’ 'The Spectre Bridegroom,' 'The Haunted House,' 'The Phantom Island,' 'Hell Gate' and many others.
“The warder retired, and I commenced my devotions. I continued at them earnestly; pausing from time to time to put wood upon the fire. I did not dare to look much around me, for I felt myself becoming a prey to fearful fancies. The pictures appeared to become animated. If I regarded one attentively, for any length of time, it seemed to move the eyes and lips. Above all, the portraits of the Grand Seneschal and his lady, which hung on each side of the great chimney, the progenitors of the Foulquerres of Têtefoulques, regarded me, I thought, with angry and baleful eyes: I even fancied they exchanged significant glances with each other. Just then a terrible blast of wind shook all the casements, and, rushing through the hall, made a fearful rattling and clashing among the armour. To my startled fancy, it seemed something supernatural.<br>
“At length I heard the bell of the hermit, and hastened to quit the hall. Taking a solitary light, which stood on the supper-table, I descended the winding staircase; but before I had reached the vaulted passage leading to the statue of the blessed Jeanne of France, a blast of wind extinguished my taper. I hastily remounted the stairs, to light it again at the chimney; but judge of my feelings, when, on arriving at the entrance to the armoury, I beheld the Seneschal and his lady, who had descended from their frames, and seated themselves on each side of the fireplace!<br>
“‘Madam, my love,’ said the Seneschal, with great formality, and in antiquated phrase, ‘what think you of the presumption of this Castilian, who comes to harbour himself and make wassail in this our castle, after having slain our descendant, the commander, and that without granting him time for confession?’<br>
“‘Truly, my lord,’ answered the female spectre, with no less stateliness of manner, and with great asperity of tone—‘truly, my lord, I opine that this Castilian did a grievous wrong in this encounter; and he should never be suffered to depart hence, without your throwing him the gauntlet.’ I paused to hear no more, but rushed again downstairs, to seek the chamber of the warder. It was impossible to find it in the darkness, and in the perturbation of my mind. After an hour and a half of fruitless search, and mortal horror and anxieties, I endeavoured to persuade myself that the day was about to break, and listened impatiently for the crowing of the cock; for I thought if I could hear his cheerful note, I should be reassured; catching, in the disordered state of my nerves, at the popular notion that ghosts never appear after the first crowing of the cock.<br>
“At length I rallied myself, and endeavoured to shake off the vague terrors which haunted me. I tried to persuade myself that the two figures which I had seemed to see and hear, had existed only in my troubled imagination. I still had the end of the candle in my hand, and determined to make another effort to relight it, and find my way to bed; for I was ready to sink with fatigue. I accordingly sprang up the staircase, three steps at a time, stopped at the door of the armoury, and peeped cautiously in. The two Gothic figures were no longer in the chimney corners, but I neglected to notice whether they had reascended to their frames.<br>
“I entered, and made desperately for the fireplace, but scarce had I advanced three strides, when Messire Foolques Taillefer stood before me, in the centre of the hall, armed cap-à-pie, and standing in guard, with the point of his sword silently presented to me. I would have retreated to the staircase, but the door of it was occupied by the phantom figure of an esquire, who rudely flung a gauntlet in my face. Driven to fury, I snatched down a sword from the wall: by chance, it was that of the commander which I had placed there. I rushed upon my fantastic adversary, and seemed to pierce him through and through; but at the same time I felt as if something pierced my heart, burning like a red-hot iron. My blood inundated the hall, and I fell senseless.<br>