The second book in a two volume collection by a giant of the gothic and macabre
Everyone with an interest in the literature of the gothic, mysterious and macabre will be aware of the fiction, poetry and literary criticism of American author Edgar Allan Poe. He was an enigmatic figure whose life has become as intriguing as his fictional creations, and such is the quality of his work that he justifiably has a place among America’s greatest literary figures. Poe published his first book of poetry in 1827 at the age of 22, while serving in the United States Army. He went on to become the first American to attempt to live solely from his income as a writer, and his life was financially difficult as a result. He remains an enduring master of the horror story, a major influence on the development of science fiction and is widely accepted as the originator of detective fiction—the Mystery Writers of America presents the Edgar, a prestigious annual award for excellence, named after him. The publication of his famous poem ‘The Raven,’ in 1845 gave him some success. Today the titles of many of his stories are recognisable to almost everyone. Even in death Poe retained an element of mystery; he died at the age of 40 in 1849. The cause of death was unconfirmed, but popular candidates were alcohol, drugs, suicide, cholera and rabies.
This special, two volume Leonaur edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings of the macabre contains a novel, 51 stories and 11 poems; volume two contains “The Gold-Bug” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” plus twenty-eight short stories and eleven poems.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
At times again I was obliged to resolve all into the mere inexplicable vagaries of madness, for I beheld him gazing upon vacancy for long hours in an attitude of the profoundest attention, as if listening to some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that his condition terrified—that it infected me. I felt creeping upon me, by slow yet certain degrees, the wild influences of his own fantastic yet impressive superstitions.<br>
It was especially upon retiring to bed late in the night of the seventh or eighth day after the placing of the lady Madeline within the donjon that I experienced the full power of such feelings. Sleep came not near my couch—while the hours waned and waned away. I struggled to reason off the nervousness which had dominion over me. I endeavoured to believe that much if not all of what I felt was due to the bewildering influence of the gloomy furniture of the room—of the dark and tattered draperies which, tortured into motion by the breath of a rising tempest, swayed fitfully to and fro upon the walls, and rustled uneasily about the decorations of the bed. But my efforts were fruitless. An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame, and at length there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm.<br>
Shaking this off with a gasp and a struggle I uplifted myself upon the pillows, and peering earnestly within the intense darkness of the chamber, hearkened—I know not why, except that an instinctive spirit prompted me—to certain low and indefinite sounds which came, through the pauses of the storm, at long intervals, I knew not whence. Overpowered by an intense sentiment of horror, unaccountable yet unendurable, I threw on my clothes with haste (for I felt that I should sleep no more during the night), and endeavoured to arouse myself from the pitiable condition into which I had fallen, by pacing rapidly to and fro through the apartment.<br>
I had taken but few turns in this manner, when a light step on an adjoining staircase arrested my attention. I presently recognised it as that of Usher. In an instant afterward he rapped with a gentle touch at my door, and entered, bearing a lamp. His countenance was as usual cadaverously wan—but, moreover, there was a species of mad hilarity in his eyes—an evidently restrained hysteria in his whole demeanour. His air appalled me—but anything was preferable to the solitude which I had so long endured, and I even welcomed his presence as a relief.<br>
“And you have not seen it?” he said abruptly, after having stared about him for some moments in silence—“you have not then seen it?—but, stay! you shall.” Thus speaking, and having carefully shaded his lamp, he hurried to one of the casements, and threw it freely open to the storm.<br>
The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted us from our feet. It was indeed a tempestuous yet sternly beautiful night, and one wildly singular in its terror and its beauty. A whirlwind had apparently collected its force in our vicinity, for there were frequent and violent alterations in the direction of the wind, and the exceeding density of the clouds (which hung so low as to press upon the turrets of the house) did not prevent our perceiving the life-like velocity with which they flew careering from all points against each other without passing away into the distance.<br>
I say that even their exceeding density did not prevent our perceiving this—yet we had no glimpse of the moon or stars—nor was there any flashing forth of the lightning. But the under surfaces of the huge masses of agitated vapour, as well as all terrestrial objects immediately around us, were glowing in the unnatural light of a faintly luminous and distinctly visible gaseous exhalation which hung about and enshrouded the mansion.<br>
“You must not—you shall not behold this!” said I, shudderingly, to Usher, as I led him with a gentle violence from the window to a seat. “These appearances which bewilder you are merely electrical phenomena not uncommon, or it may be that they have their ghastly origin in the rank miasma of the tarn. Let us close this casement; the air is chilling and dangerous to your frame. Here is one of your favourite romances. I will read, and you shall listen; and so we will pass away this terrible night together.”