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It seems to me that imagination and reasoning have reached magnificent heights with some writers, especially poets. Among them, I strongly believe, the highest ever was Edgar Allan Poe. With Baudelaire I state that "le poete est souverainement intelligent, qu'il est l'intelligence par excellence, -et que l'imagination est la plus scientifique des facultes, parce que seule elle comprend l'analogie universelle...". One of those poets was Edgar Allan Poe. I reproduce here "The Works of Edgar Allan Poe" as a gesture against what Baudelaire called "la ferocite de l'hypocrisie bourgeoise", and what I personally call mediocrity, imbecility, and comprehensive intellectual dishonesty, all of which is presented as "realistic thinking". And, as we know, contemporary development studies are full of  "realistic thinking". So, let us learn something from Edgar Allan Poe!.  (Róbinson Rojas)
The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe V. 1
Volume 1 of the Raven Edition  #6 in our series by Edgar Allan Poe

VOLUME II  Contents
The Purloined Letter
The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherezade
A Descent into the Maelström
Von Kempelen and his Discovery
Mesmeric Revelation
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
The Black Cat
The Fall of the House of Usher
Silence -- a Fable
The Masque of the Red Death
The Cask of Amontillado
The Imp of the Perverse
The Island of the Fay
The Assignation
The Pit and the Pendulum
The Premature Burial
The Domain of Arnheim
Landor's Cottage
William Wilson
The Tell-Tale Heart
Eleonora                                       BACK TO MAIN INDEX
OF course I shall not pretend to consider it any matter for wonder,
that the extraordinary case of M. Valdemar has excited discussion. It
would have been a miracle had it not-especially under the
circumstances. Through the desire of all parties concerned, to keep
the affair from the public, at least for the present, or until we had
farther opportunities for investigation -- through our endeavors to
effect this -- a garbled or exaggerated account made its way into
society, and became the source of many unpleasant misrepresentations,
and, very naturally, of a great deal of disbelief.
It is now rendered necessary that I give the facts -- as far as I
comprehend them myself. They are, succinctly, these:
My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to
the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago it occurred to
me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto,
there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: --
no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained
to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the
patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; secondly,
whether, if any existed, it was impaired or increased by the
condition; thirdly, to what extent, or for how long a period, the
encroachments of Death might be arrested by the process. There were
other points to be ascertained, but these most excited my curiosity
-- the last in especial, from the immensely important character of
its consequences.
In looking around me for some subject by whose means I might test
these particulars, I was brought to think of my friend, M. Ernest
Valdemar, the well-known compiler of the "Bibliotheca Forensica," and
author (under the nom de plume of Issachar Marx) of the Polish
versions of "Wallenstein" and "Gargantua." M. Valdemar, who has
resided principally at Harlaem, N.Y., since the year 1839, is (or
was) particularly noticeable for the extreme spareness of his person
-- his lower limbs much resembling those of John Randolph; and, also,
for the whiteness of his whiskers, in violent contrast to the
blackness of his hair -- the latter, in consequence, being very
generally mistaken for a wig. His temperament was markedly nervous,
and rendered him a good subject for mesmeric experiment. On two or
three occasions I had put him to sleep with little difficulty, but
was disappointed in other results which his peculiar constitution had
naturally led me to anticipate. His will was at no period positively,
or thoroughly, under my control, and in regard to clairvoyance, I
could accomplish with him nothing to be relied upon. I always
attributed my failure at these points to the disordered state of his
health. For some months previous to my becoming acquainted with him,
his physicians had declared him in a confirmed phthisis. It was his
custom, indeed, to speak calmly of his approaching dissolution, as of
a matter neither to be avoided nor regretted.
When the ideas to which I have alluded first occurred to me, it was
of course very natural that I should think of M. Valdemar. I knew the
steady philosophy of the man too well to apprehend any scruples from
him; and he had no relatives in America who would be likely to
interfere. I spoke to him frankly upon the subject; and, to my
surprise, his interest seemed vividly excited. I say to my surprise,
for, although he had always yielded his person freely to my
experiments, he had never before given me any tokens of sympathy with
what I did. His disease was if that character which would admit of
exact calculation in respect to the epoch of its termination in
death; and it was finally arranged between us that he would send for
me about twenty-four hours before the period announced by his
physicians as that of his decease.
It is now rather more than seven months since I received, from M.
Valdemar himself, the subjoined note:
My DEAR P -- ,
You may as well come now. D -- and F -- are agreed that I cannot hold
out beyond to-morrow midnight; and I think they have hit the time
very nearly.
I received this note within half an hour after it was written, and in
fifteen minutes more I was in the dying man's chamber. I had not seen
him for ten days, and was appalled by the fearful alteration which
the brief interval had wrought in him. His face wore a leaden hue;
the eyes were utterly lustreless; and the emaciation was so extreme
that the skin had been broken through by the cheek-bones. His
expectoration was excessive. The pulse was barely perceptible. He
retained, nevertheless, in a very remarkable manner, both his mental
power and a certain degree of physical strength. He spoke with
distinctness -- took some palliative medicines without aid -- and,
when I entered the room, was occupied in penciling memoranda in a
pocket-book. He was propped up in the bed by pillows. Doctors D --
and F -- were in attendance.
After pressing Valdemar's hand, I took these gentlemen aside, and
obtained from them a minute account of the patient's condition. The
left lung had been for eighteen months in a semi-osseous or
cartilaginous state, and was, of course, entirely useless for all
purposes of vitality. The right, in its upper portion, was also
partially, if not thoroughly, ossified, while the lower region was
merely a mass of purulent tubercles, running one into another.
Several extensive perforations existed; and, at one point, permanent
adhesion to the ribs had taken place. These appearances in the right
lobe were of comparatively recent date. The ossification had
proceeded with very unusual rapidity; no sign of it had discovered a
month before, and the adhesion had only been observed during the
three previous days. Independently of the phthisis, the patient was
suspected of aneurism of the aorta; but on this point the osseous
symptoms rendered an exact diagnosis impossible. It was the opinion
of both physicians that M. Valdemar would die about midnight on the
morrow (Sunday). It was then seven o'clock on Saturday evening.
On quitting the invalid's bed-side to hold conversation with myself,
Doctors D -- and F -- had bidden him a final farewell. It had not
been their intention to return; but, at my request, they agreed to
look in upon the patient about ten the next night.
When they had gone, I spoke freely with M. Valdemar on the subject of
his approaching dissolution, as well as, more particularly, of the
experiment proposed. He still professed himself quite willing and
even anxious to have it made, and urged me to commence it at once. A
male and a female nurse were in attendance; but I did not feel myself
altogether at liberty to engage in a task of this character with no
more reliable witnesses than these people, in case of sudden
accident, might prove. I therefore postponed operations until about
eight the next night, when the arrival of a medical student with whom
I had some acquaintance, (Mr. Theodore L -- l,) relieved me from
farther embarrassment. It had been my design, originally, to wait for
the physicians; but I was induced to proceed, first, by the urgent
entreaties of M. Valdemar, and secondly, by my conviction that I had
not a moment to lose, as he was evidently sinking fast.
Mr. L -- l was so kind as to accede to my desire that he would take
notes of all that occurred, and it is from his memoranda that what I
now have to relate is, for the most part, either condensed or copied
It wanted about five minutes of eight when, taking the patient's
hand, I begged him to state, as distinctly as he could, to Mr. L --
l, whether he (M. Valdemar) was entirely willing that I should make
the experiment of mesmerizing him in his then condition.
He replied feebly, yet quite audibly, "Yes, I wish to be "I fear you
have mesmerized" -- adding immediately afterwards, deferred it too
While he spoke thus, I commenced the passes which I had already found
most effectual in subduing him. He was evidently influenced with the
first lateral stroke of my hand across his forehead; but although I
exerted all my powers, no farther perceptible effect was induced
until some minutes after ten o'clock, when Doctors D -- and F --
called, according to appointment. I explained to them, in a few
words, what I designed, and as they opposed no objection, saying that
the patient was already in the death agony, I proceeded without
hesitation -- exchanging, however, the lateral passes for downward
ones, and directing my gaze entirely into the right eye of the
By this time his pulse was imperceptible and his breathing was
stertorous, and at intervals of half a minute.
This condition was nearly unaltered for a quarter of an hour. At the
expiration of this period, however, a natural although a very deep
sigh escaped the bosom of the dying man, and the stertorous breathing
ceased -- that is to say, its stertorousness was no longer apparent;
the intervals were undiminished. The patient's extremities were of an
icy coldness.
At five minutes before eleven I perceived unequivocal signs of the
mesmeric influence. The glassy roll of the eye was changed for that
expression of uneasy inward examination which is never seen except in
cases of sleep-waking, and which it is quite impossible to mistake.
With a few rapid lateral passes I made the lids quiver, as in
incipient sleep, and with a few more I closed them altogether. I was
not satisfied, however, with this, but continued the manipulations
vigorously, and with the fullest exertion of the will, until I had
completely stiffened the limbs of the slumberer, after placing them
in a seemingly easy position. The legs were at full length; the arms
were nearly so, and reposed on the bed at a moderate distance from
the loin. The head was very slightly elevated.
When I had accomplished this, it was fully midnight, and I requested
the gentlemen present to examine M. Valdemar's condition. After a few
experiments, they admitted him to be an unusually perfect state of
mesmeric trance. The curiosity of both the physicians was greatly
excited. Dr. D -- resolved at once to remain with the patient all
night, while Dr. F -- took leave with a promise to return at
daybreak. Mr. L -- l and the nurses remained.
We left M. Valdemar entirely undisturbed until about three o'clock in
the morning, when I approached him and found him in precisely the
same condition as when Dr. F -- went away -- that is to say, he lay
in the same position; the pulse was imperceptible; the breathing was
gentle (scarcely noticeable, unless through the application of a
mirror to the lips); the eyes were closed naturally; and the limbs
were as rigid and as cold as marble. Still, the general appearance
was certainly not that of death.
As I approached M. Valdemar I made a kind of half effort to influence
his right arm into pursuit of my own, as I passed the latter gently
to and fro above his person. In such experiments with this patient
had never perfectly succeeded before, and assuredly I had little
thought of succeeding now; but to my astonishment, his arm very
readily, although feebly, followed every direction I assigned it with
mine. I determined to hazard a few words of conversation.
"M. Valdemar," I said, "are you asleep?" He made no answer, but I
perceived a tremor about the lips, and was thus induced to repeat the
question, again and again. At its third repetition, his whole frame
was agitated by a very slight shivering; the eyelids unclosed
themselves so far as to display a white line of the ball; the lips
moved sluggishly, and from between them, in a barely audible whisper,
issued the words:
"Yes; -- asleep now. Do not wake me! -- let me die so!"
I here felt the limbs and found them as rigid as ever. The right arm,
as before, obeyed the direction of my hand. I questioned the
sleep-waker again:
"Do you still feel pain in the breast, M. Valdemar?"
The answer now was immediate, but even less audible than before: "No
pain -- I am dying."
I did not think it advisable to disturb him farther just then, and
nothing more was said or done until the arrival of Dr. F -- , who
came a little before sunrise, and expressed unbounded astonishment at
finding the patient still alive. After feeling the pulse and applying
a mirror to the lips, he requested me to speak to the sleep-waker
again. I did so, saying:
"M. Valdemar, do you still sleep?"
As before, some minutes elapsed ere a reply was made; and during the
interval the dying man seemed to be collecting his energies to speak.
At my fourth repetition of the question, he said very faintly, almost
"Yes; still asleep -- dying."
It was now the opinion, or rather the wish, of the physicians, that
M. Valdemar should be suffered to remain undisturbed in his present
apparently tranquil condition, until death should supervene -- and
this, it was generally agreed, must now take place within a few
minutes. I concluded, however, to speak to him once more, and merely
repeated my previous question.
While I spoke, there came a marked change over the countenance of the
sleep-waker. The eyes rolled themselves slowly open, the pupils
disappearing upwardly; the skin generally assumed a cadaverous hue,
resembling not so much parchment as white paper; and the circular
hectic spots which, hitherto, had been strongly defined in the centre
of each cheek, went out at once. I use this expression, because the
suddenness of their departure put me in mind of nothing so much as
the extinguishment of a candle by a puff of the breath. The upper
lip, at the same time, writhed itself away from the teeth, which it
had previously covered completely; while the lower jaw fell with an
audible jerk, leaving the mouth widely extended, and disclosing in
full view the swollen and blackened tongue. I presume that no member
of the party then present had been unaccustomed to death-bed horrors;
but so hideous beyond conception was the appearance of M. Valdemar at
this moment, that there was a general shrinking back from the region
of the bed.
I now feel that I have reached a point of this narrative at which
every reader will be startled into positive disbelief. It is my
business, however, simply to proceed.
There was no longer the faintest sign of vitality in M. Valdemar; and
concluding him to be dead, we were consigning him to the charge of
the nurses, when a strong vibratory motion was observable in the
tongue. This continued for perhaps a minute. At the expiration of
this period, there issued from the distended and motionless jaws a
voice -- such as it would be madness in me to attempt describing.
There are, indeed, two or three epithets which might be considered as
applicable to it in part; I might say, for example, that the sound
was harsh, and broken and hollow; but the hideous whole is
indescribable, for the simple reason that no similar sounds have ever
jarred upon the ear of humanity. There were two particulars,
nevertheless, which I thought then, and still think, might fairly be
stated as characteristic of the intonation -- as well adapted to
convey some idea of its unearthly peculiarity. In the first place,
the voice seemed to reach our ears -- at least mine -- from a vast
distance, or from some deep cavern within the earth. In the second
place, it impressed me (I fear, indeed, that it will be impossible to
make myself comprehended) as gelatinous or glutinous matters impress
the sense of touch.
I have spoken both of "sound" and of "voice." I mean to say that the
sound was one of distinct -- of even wonderfully, thrillingly
distinct -- syllabification. M. Valdemar spoke -- obviously in reply
to the question I had propounded to him a few minutes before. I had
asked him, it will be remembered, if he still slept. He now said:
"Yes; -- no; -- I have been sleeping -- and now -- now -- I am dead.
No person present even affected to deny, or attempted to repress, the
unutterable, shuddering horror which these few words, thus uttered,
were so well calculated to convey. Mr. L -- l (the student) swooned.
The nurses immediately left the chamber, and could not be induced to
return. My own impressions I would not pretend to render intelligible
to the reader. For nearly an hour, we busied ourselves, silently --
without the utterance of a word -- in endeavors to revive Mr. L -- l.
When he came to himself, we addressed ourselves again to an
investigation of M. Valdemar's condition.
It remained in all respects as I have last described it, with the
exception that the mirror no longer afforded evidence of respiration.
An attempt to draw blood from the arm failed. I should mention, too,
that this limb was no farther subject to my will. I endeavored in
vain to make it follow the direction of my hand. The only real
indication, indeed, of the mesmeric influence, was now found in the
vibratory movement of the tongue, whenever I addressed M. Valdemar a
question. He seemed to be making an effort to reply, but had no
longer sufficient volition. To queries put to him by any other person
than myself he seemed utterly insensible -- although I endeavored to
place each member of the company in mesmeric rapport with him. I
believe that I have now related all that is necessary to an
understanding of the sleep-waker's state at this epoch. Other nurses
were procured; and at ten o'clock I left the house in company with
the two physicians and Mr. L -- l.
In the afternoon we all called again to see the patient. His
condition remained precisely the same. We had now some discussion as
to the propriety and feasibility of awakening him; but we had little
difficulty in agreeing that no good purpose would be served by so
doing. It was evident that, so far, death (or what is usually termed
death) had been arrested by the mesmeric process. It seemed clear to
us all that to awaken M. Valdemar would be merely to insure his
instant, or at least his speedy dissolution.
From this period until the close of last week -- an interval of
nearly seven months -- we continued to make daily calls at M.
Valdemar's house, accompanied, now and then, by medical and other
friends. All this time the sleeper-waker remained exactly as I have
last described him. The nurses' attentions were continual.
It was on Friday last that we finally resolved to make the experiment
of awakening or attempting to awaken him; and it is the (perhaps)
unfortunate result of this latter experiment which has given rise to
so much discussion in private circles -- to so much of what I cannot
help thinking unwarranted popular feeling.
For the purpose of relieving M. Valdemar from the mesmeric trance, I
made use of the customary passes. These, for a time, were
unsuccessful. The first indication of revival was afforded by a
partial descent of the iris. It was observed, as especially
remarkable, that this lowering of the pupil was accompanied by the
profuse out-flowing of a yellowish ichor (from beneath the lids) of a
pungent and highly offensive odor.
It was now suggested that I should attempt to influence the patient's
arm, as heretofore. I made the attempt and failed. Dr. F -- then
intimated a desire to have me put a question. I did so, as follows:
"M. Valdemar, can you explain to us what are your feelings or wishes
There was an instant return of the hectic circles on the cheeks; the
tongue quivered, or rather rolled violently in the mouth (although
the jaws and lips remained rigid as before;) and at length the same
hideous voice which I have already described, broke forth:
"For God's sake! -- quick! -- quick! -- put me to sleep -- or, quick!
-- waken me! -- quick! -- I say to you that I am dead!"
I was thoroughly unnerved, and for an instant remained undecided what
to do. At first I made an endeavor to re-compose the patient; but,
failing in this through total abeyance of the will, I retraced my
steps and as earnestly struggled to awaken him. In this attempt I
soon saw that I should be successful -- or at least I soon fancied
that my success would be complete -- and I am sure that all in the
room were prepared to see the patient awaken.
For what really occurred, however, it is quite impossible that any
human being could have been prepared.
As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejaculations of "dead!
dead!" absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of
the sufferer, his whole frame at once -- within the space of a single
minute, or even less, shrunk -- crumbled -- absolutely rotted away
beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay
a nearly liquid mass of loathsome -- of detestable putridity.
~~~ End of Text ~~~