|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
The Raven Edition THE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE
Volume V Contents
Philosophy of Furniture
A Tale of Jerusalem
The Man of the Crowd
Never Bet the Devill Your Head
Thou Art the Man
Why the Little Frenchman Wears his Hand in a Sling
Some words with a Mummy
The Poetic Principle
Old English Poetry BACK TO MAIN INDEX
POEMS Poems of Later Life
To my Mother
To Frances S. Osgood
A Dream within a Dream
To Marie Louise (Shew)
To the Same
The City in the Sea
Notes BACK TO MAIN INDEX
POEMS Poems of Manhood
To One in Paradise
The Haunted Palace
The Conqueror Worm
Scenes from "Politian"
Note BACK TO MAIN INDEX
POEMS Poems of Youth
The Valley of Unrest
To -- ("The Bowers Whereat, in Dreams I See")
To -- ("I Heed not That my Earthly Lot")
To the River --
The Lake To--
"The Happiest Day"
Hymn. Translation from the Greek
"In Youth I Have Known One"
Notes BACK TO MAIN INDEX
The Village Street
The Forest Reverie
Notes BACK TO MAIN INDEX
SOME WORDS WITH A MUMMY.
THE _symposium_ of the preceding evening had been a little too much
for my nerves. I had a wretched headache, and was desperately drowsy.
Instead of going out therefore to spend the evening as I had proposed, it
occurred to me that I could not do a wiser thing than just eat a mouthful
of supper and go immediately to bed.
A light supper of course. I am exceedingly fond of Welsh rabbit. More than
a pound at once, however, may not at all times be advisable. Still, there
can be no material objection to two. And really between two and three,
there is merely a single unit of difference. I ventured, perhaps, upon
four. My wife will have it five; -- but, clearly, she has confounded two
very distinct affairs. The abstract number, five, I am willing to admit;
but, concretely, it has reference to bottles of Brown Stout, without
which, in the way of condiment, Welsh rabbit is to be eschewed.
Having thus concluded a frugal meal, and donned my night-cap, with the
serene hope of enjoying it till noon the next day, I placed my head upon
the pillow, and, through the aid of a capital conscience, fell into a
profound slumber forthwith.
But when were the hopes of humanity fulfilled? I could not have completed
my third snore when there came a furious ringing at the street-door bell,
and then an impatient thumping at the knocker, which awakened me at once.
In a minute afterward, and while I was still rubbing my eyes, my wife
thrust in my face a note, from my old friend, Doctor Ponnonner. It ran
"Come to me, by all means, my dear good friend, as soon as you
receive this. Come and help us to rejoice. At last, by long persevering
diplomacy, I have gained the assent of the Directors of the City Museum,
to my examination of the Mummy -- you know the one I mean. I have
permission to unswathe it and open it, if desirable. A few friends only
will be present -- you, of course. The Mummy is now at my house, and we
shall begin to unroll it at eleven to-night.
By the time I had reached the "Ponnonner," it struck me that I was as wide
awake as a man need be. I leaped out of bed in an ecstacy, overthrowing
all in my way; dressed myself with a rapidity truly marvellous; and set
off, at the top of my speed, for the doctor's.
There I found a very eager company assembled. They had been awaiting me
with much impatience; the Mummy was extended upon the dining-table; and
the moment I entered its examination was commenced.
It was one of a pair brought, several years previously, by Captain Arthur
Sabretash, a cousin of Ponnonner's from a tomb near Eleithias, in the
Lybian mountains, a considerable distance above Thebes on the Nile. The
grottoes at this point, although less magnificent than the Theban
sepulchres, are of higher interest, on account of affording more numerous
illustrations of the private life of the Egyptians. The chamber from which
our specimen was taken, was said to be very rich in such illustrations;
the walls being completely covered with fresco paintings and bas-reliefs,
while statues, vases, and Mosaic work of rich patterns, indicated the vast
wealth of the deceased.
The treasure had been deposited in the Museum precisely in the same
condition in which Captain Sabretash had found it; -- that is to say, the
coffin had not been disturbed. For eight years it had thus stood, subject
only externally to public inspection. We had now, therefore, the complete
Mummy at our disposal; and to those who are aware how very rarely the
unransacked antique reaches our shores, it will be evident, at once that
we had great reason to congratulate ourselves upon our good fortune.
Approaching the table, I saw on it a large box, or case, nearly seven feet
long, and perhaps three feet wide, by two feet and a half deep. It was
oblong -- not coffin-shaped. The material was at first supposed to be the
wood of the sycamore (_platanus_), but, upon cutting into it, we found it
to be pasteboard, or, more properly, _papier mache_, composed of papyrus.
It was thickly ornamented with paintings, representing funeral scenes, and
other mournful subjects -- interspersed among which, in every variety of
position, were certain series of hieroglyphical characters, intended, no
doubt, for the name of the departed. By good luck, Mr. Gliddon formed one
of our party; and he had no difficulty in translating the letters, which
were simply phonetic, and represented the word _Allamistakeo_.
We had some difficulty in getting this case open without injury; but
having at length accomplished the task, we came to a second,
coffin-shaped, and very considerably less in size than the exterior one,
but resembling it precisely in every other respect. The interval between
the two was filled with resin, which had, in some degree, defaced the
colors of the interior box.
Upon opening this latter (which we did quite easily), we arrived at a
third case, also coffin-shaped, and varying from the second one in no
particular, except in that of its material, which was cedar, and still
emitted the peculiar and highly aromatic odor of that wood. Between the
second and the third case there was no interval -- the one fitting
accurately within the other.
Removing the third case, we discovered and took out the body itself. We
had expected to find it, as usual, enveloped in frequent rolls, or
bandages, of linen; but, in place of these, we found a sort of sheath,
made of papyrus, and coated with a layer of plaster, thickly gilt and
painted. The paintings represented subjects connected with the various
supposed duties of the soul, and its presentation to different divinities,
with numerous identical human figures, intended, very probably, as
portraits of the persons embalmed. Extending from head to foot was a
columnar, or perpendicular, inscription, in phonetic hieroglyphics, giving
again his name and titles, and the names and titles of his relations.
Around the neck thus ensheathed, was a collar of cylindrical glass beads,
diverse in color, and so arranged as to form images of deities, of the
scarabaeus, etc, with the winged globe. Around the small of the waist was
a similar collar or belt.
Stripping off the papyrus, we found the flesh in excellent preservation,
with no perceptible odor. The color was reddish. The skin was hard,
smooth, and glossy. The teeth and hair were in good condition. The eyes
(it seemed) had been removed, and glass ones substituted, which were very
beautiful and wonderfully life-like, with the exception of somewhat too
determined a stare. The fingers and the nails were brilliantly gilded.
Mr. Gliddon was of opinion, from the redness of the epidermis, that the
embalmment had been effected altogether by asphaltum; but, on scraping the
surface with a steel instrument, and throwing into the fire some of the
powder thus obtained, the flavor of camphor and other sweet-scented gums
We searched the corpse very carefully for the usual openings through which
the entrails are extracted, but, to our surprise, we could discover none.
No member of the party was at that period aware that entire or unopened
mummies are not infrequently met. The brain it was customary to withdraw
through the nose; the intestines through an incision in the side; the body
was then shaved, washed, and salted; then laid aside for several weeks,
when the operation of embalming, properly so called, began.
As no trace of an opening could be found, Doctor Ponnonner was preparing
his instruments for dissection, when I observed that it was then past two
o'clock. Hereupon it was agreed to postpone the internal examination until
the next evening; and we were about to separate for the present, when some
one suggested an experiment or two with the Voltaic pile.
The application of electricity to a mummy three or four thousand years old
at the least, was an idea, if not very sage, still sufficiently original,
and we all caught it at once. About one-tenth in earnest and nine-tenths
in jest, we arranged a battery in the Doctor's study, and conveyed thither
It was only after much trouble that we succeeded in laying bare some
portions of the temporal muscle which appeared of less stony rigidity than
other parts of the frame, but which, as we had anticipated, of course,
gave no indication of galvanic susceptibility when brought in contact with
the wire. This, the first trial, indeed, seemed decisive, and, with a
hearty laugh at our own absurdity, we were bidding each other good night,
when my eyes, happening to fall upon those of the Mummy, were there
immediately riveted in amazement. My brief glance, in fact, had sufficed
to assure me that the orbs which we had all supposed to be glass, and
which were originally noticeable for a certain wild stare, were now so far
covered by the lids, that only a small portion of the _tunica albuginea_
With a shout I called attention to the fact, and it became immediately
obvious to all.
I cannot say that I was alarmed at the phenomenon, because "alarmed" is,
in my case, not exactly the word. It is possible, however, that, but for
the Brown Stout, I might have been a little nervous. As for the rest of
the company, they really made no attempt at concealing the downright
fright which possessed them. Doctor Ponnonner was a man to be pitied. Mr.
Gliddon, by some peculiar process, rendered himself invisible. Mr. Silk
Buckingham, I fancy, will scarcely be so bold as to deny that he made his
way, upon all fours, under the table.
After the first shock of astonishment, however, we resolved, as a matter
of course, upon further experiment forthwith. Our operations were now
directed against the great toe of the right foot. We made an incision over
the outside of the exterior _os sesamoideum pollicis pedis,_ and thus got
at the root of the abductor muscle. Readjusting the battery, we now
applied the fluid to the bisected nerves -- when, with a movement of
exceeding life-likeness, the Mummy first drew up its right knee so as to
bring it nearly in contact with the abdomen, and then, straightening the
limb with inconceivable force, bestowed a kick upon Doctor Ponnonner,
which had the effect of discharging that gentleman, like an arrow from a
catapult, through a window into the street below.
We rushed out _en masse_ to bring in the mangled remains of the victim,
but had the happiness to meet him upon the staircase, coming up in an
unaccountable hurry, brimful of the most ardent philosophy, and more than
ever impressed with the necessity of prosecuting our experiment with vigor
and with zeal.
It was by his advice, accordingly, that we made, upon the spot, a profound
incision into the tip of the subject's nose, while the Doctor himself,
laying violent hands upon it, pulled it into vehement contact with the
Morally and physically -- figuratively and literally -- was the effect
electric. In the first place, the corpse opened its eyes and winked very
rapidly for several minutes, as does Mr. Barnes in the pantomime, in the
second place, it sneezed; in the third, it sat upon end; in the fourth, it
shook its fist in Doctor Ponnonner's face; in the fifth, turning to
Messieurs Gliddon and Buckingham, it addressed them, in very capital
"I must say, gentlemen, that I am as much surprised as I am mortified at
your behavior. Of Doctor Ponnonner nothing better was to be expected. He
is a poor little fat fool who knows no better. I pity and forgive him. But
you, Mr. Gliddon- and you, Silk -- who have travelled and resided in Egypt
until one might imagine you to the manner born -- you, I say who have been
so much among us that you speak Egyptian fully as well, I think, as you
write your mother tongue -- you, whom I have always been led to regard as
the firm friend of the mummies -- I really did anticipate more gentlemanly
conduct from you. What am I to think of your standing quietly by and
seeing me thus unhandsomely used? What am I to suppose by your permitting
Tom, Dick, and Harry to strip me of my coffins, and my clothes, in this
wretchedly cold climate? In what light (to come to the point) am I to
regard your aiding and abetting that miserable little villain, Doctor
Ponnonner, in pulling me by the nose?"
It will be taken for granted, no doubt, that upon hearing this speech
under the circumstances, we all either made for the door, or fell into
violent hysterics, or went off in a general swoon. One of these three
things was, I say, to be expected. Indeed each and all of these lines of
conduct might have been very plausibly pursued. And, upon my word, I am at
a loss to know how or why it was that we pursued neither the one nor the
other. But, perhaps, the true reason is to be sought in the spirit of the
age, which proceeds by the rule of contraries altogether, and is now
usually admitted as the solution of every thing in the way of paradox and
impossibility. Or, perhaps, after all, it was only the Mummy's exceedingly
natural and matter-of-course air that divested his words of the terrible.
However this may be, the facts are clear, and no member of our party
betrayed any very particular trepidation, or seemed to consider that any
thing had gone very especially wrong.
For my part I was convinced it was all right, and merely stepped aside,
out of the range of the Egyptian's fist. Doctor Ponnonner thrust his hands
into his breeches' pockets, looked hard at the Mummy, and grew excessively
red in the face. Mr. Glidden stroked his whiskers and drew up the collar
of his shirt. Mr. Buckingham hung down his head, and put his right thumb
into the left corner of his mouth.
The Egyptian regarded him with a severe countenance for some minutes and
at length, with a sneer, said:
"Why don't you speak, Mr. Buckingham? Did you hear what I asked you, or
not? Do take your thumb out of your mouth!"
Mr. Buckingham, hereupon, gave a slight start, took his right thumb out of
the left corner of his mouth, and, by way of indemnification inserted his
left thumb in the right corner of the aperture above-mentioned.
Not being able to get an answer from Mr. B., the figure turned peevishly
to Mr. Gliddon, and, in a peremptory tone, demanded in general terms what
we all meant.
Mr. Gliddon replied at great length, in phonetics; and but for the
deficiency of American printing-offices in hieroglyphical type, it would
afford me much pleasure to record here, in the original, the whole of his
very excellent speech.
I may as well take this occasion to remark, that all the subsequent
conversation in which the Mummy took a part, was carried on in primitive
Egyptian, through the medium (so far as concerned myself and other
untravelled members of the company) -- through the medium, I say, of
Messieurs Gliddon and Buckingham, as interpreters. These gentlemen spoke
the mother tongue of the Mummy with inimitable fluency and grace; but I
could not help observing that (owing, no doubt, to the introduction of
images entirely modern, and, of course, entirely novel to the stranger)
the two travellers were reduced, occasionally, to the employment of
sensible forms for the purpose of conveying a particular meaning. Mr.
Gliddon, at one period, for example, could not make the Egyptian
comprehend the term "politics," until he sketched upon the wall, with a
bit of charcoal a little carbuncle-nosed gentleman, out at elbows,
standing upon a stump, with his left leg drawn back, right arm thrown
forward, with his fist shut, the eyes rolled up toward Heaven, and the
mouth open at an angle of ninety degrees. Just in the same way Mr.
Buckingham failed to convey the absolutely modern idea "wig," until (at
Doctor Ponnonner's suggestion) he grew very pale in the face, and
consented to take off his own.
It will be readily understood that Mr. Gliddon's discourse turned chiefly
upon the vast benefits accruing to science from the unrolling and
disembowelling of mummies; apologizing, upon this score, for any
disturbance that might have been occasioned him, in particular, the
individual Mummy called Allamistakeo; and concluding with a mere hint (for
it could scarcely be considered more) that, as these little matters were
now explained, it might be as well to proceed with the investigation
intended. Here Doctor Ponnonner made ready his instruments.
In regard to the latter suggestions of the orator, it appears that
Allamistakeo had certain scruples of conscience, the nature of which I did
not distinctly learn; but he expressed himself satisfied with the
apologies tendered, and, getting down from the table, shook hands with the
company all round.
When this ceremony was at an end, we immediately busied ourselves in
repairing the damages which our subject had sustained from the scalpel. We
sewed up the wound in his temple, bandaged his foot, and applied a square
inch of black plaster to the tip of his nose.
It was now observed that the Count (this was the title, it seems, of
Allamistakeo) had a slight fit of shivering -- no doubt from the cold. The
Doctor immediately repaired to his wardrobe, and soon returned with a
black dress coat, made in Jennings' best manner, a pair of sky-blue plaid
pantaloons with straps, a pink gingham chemise, a flapped vest of brocade,
a white sack overcoat, a walking cane with a hook, a hat with no brim,
patent-leather boots, straw-colored kid gloves, an eye-glass, a pair of
whiskers, and a waterfall cravat. Owing to the disparity of size between
the Count and the doctor (the proportion being as two to one), there was
some little difficulty in adjusting these habiliments upon the person of
the Egyptian; but when all was arranged, he might have been said to be
dressed. Mr. Gliddon, therefore, gave him his arm, and led him to a
comfortable chair by the fire, while the Doctor rang the bell upon the
spot and ordered a supply of cigars and wine.
The conversation soon grew animated. Much curiosity was, of course,
expressed in regard to the somewhat remarkable fact of Allamistakeo's
still remaining alive.
"I should have thought," observed Mr. Buckingham, "that it is high time
you were dead."
"Why," replied the Count, very much astonished, "I am little more than
seven hundred years old! My father lived a thousand, and was by no means
in his dotage when he died."
Here ensued a brisk series of questions and computations, by means of
which it became evident that the antiquity of the Mummy had been grossly
misjudged. It had been five thousand and fifty years and some months since
he had been consigned to the catacombs at Eleithias.
"But my remark," resumed Mr. Buckingham, "had no reference to your age at
the period of interment (I am willing to grant, in fact, that you are
still a young man), and my illusion was to the immensity of time during
which, by your own showing, you must have been done up in asphaltum."
"In what?" said the Count.
"In asphaltum," persisted Mr. B.
"Ah, yes; I have some faint notion of what you mean; it might be made to
answer, no doubt -- but in my time we employed scarcely any thing else
than the Bichloride of Mercury."
"But what we are especially at a loss to understand," said Doctor
Ponnonner, "is how it happens that, having been dead and buried in Egypt
five thousand years ago, you are here to-day all alive and looking so
"Had I been, as you say, dead," replied the Count, "it is more than
probable that dead, I should still be; for I perceive you are yet in the
infancy of Calvanism, and cannot accomplish with it what was a common
thing among us in the old days. But the fact is, I fell into catalepsy,
and it was considered by my best friends that I was either dead or should
be; they accordingly embalmed me at once -- I presume you are aware of the
chief principle of the embalming process?"
"Why not altogether."
"Why, I perceive -- a deplorable condition of ignorance! Well I cannot
enter into details just now: but it is necessary to explain that to embalm
(properly speaking), in Egypt, was to arrest indefinitely all the animal
functions subjected to the process. I use the word 'animal' in its widest
sense, as including the physical not more than the moral and vital being.
I repeat that the leading principle of embalmment consisted, with us, in
the immediately arresting, and holding in perpetual abeyance, all the
animal functions subjected to the process. To be brief, in whatever
condition the individual was, at the period of embalmment, in that
condition he remained. Now, as it is my good fortune to be of the blood of
the Scarabaeus, I was embalmed alive, as you see me at present."
"The blood of the Scarabaeus!" exclaimed Doctor Ponnonner.
"Yes. The Scarabaeus was the insignium or the 'arms,' of a very
distinguished and very rare patrician family. To be 'of the blood of the
Scarabaeus,' is merely to be one of that family of which the Scarabaeus is
the insignium. I speak figuratively."
"But what has this to do with you being alive?"
"Why, it is the general custom in Egypt to deprive a corpse, before
embalmment, of its bowels and brains; the race of the Scarabaei alone did
not coincide with the custom. Had I not been a Scarabeus, therefore, I
should have been without bowels and brains; and without either it is
inconvenient to live."
"I perceive that," said Mr. Buckingham, "and I presume that all the entire
mummies that come to hand are of the race of Scarabaei."
"I thought," said Mr. Gliddon, very meekly, "that the Scarabaeus was one
of the Egyptian gods."
"One of the Egyptian _what?"_ exclaimed the Mummy, starting to its feet.
"Gods!" repeated the traveller.
"Mr. Gliddon, I really am astonished to hear you talk in this style," said
the Count, resuming his chair. "No nation upon the face of the earth has
ever acknowledged more than one god. The Scarabaeus, the Ibis, etc., were
with us (as similar creatures have been with others) the symbols, or
media, through which we offered worship to the Creator too august to be
more directly approached."
There was here a pause. At length the colloquy was renewed by Doctor
"It is not improbable, then, from what you have explained," said he, "that
among the catacombs near the Nile there may exist other mummies of the
Scarabaeus tribe, in a condition of vitality?"
"There can be no question of it," replied the Count; "all the Scarabaei
embalmed accidentally while alive, are alive now. Even some of those
purposely so embalmed, may have been overlooked by their executors, and
still remain in the tomb."
"Will you be kind enough to explain," I said, "what you mean by 'purposely
"With great pleasure!" answered the Mummy, after surveying me leisurely
through his eye-glass -- for it was the first time I had ventured to
address him a direct question.
"With great pleasure," he said. "The usual duration of man's life, in my
time, was about eight hundred years. Few men died, unless by most
extraordinary accident, before the age of six hundred; few lived longer
than a decade of centuries; but eight were considered the natural term.
After the discovery of the embalming principle, as I have already
described it to you, it occurred to our philosophers that a laudable
curiosity might be gratified, and, at the same time, the interests of
science much advanced, by living this natural term in installments. In the
case of history, indeed, experience demonstrated that something of this
kind was indispensable. An historian, for example, having attained the age
of five hundred, would write a book with great labor and then get himself
carefully embalmed; leaving instructions to his executors pro tem., that
they should cause him to be revivified after the lapse of a certain period
-- say five or six hundred years. Resuming existence at the expiration of
this time, he would invariably find his great work converted into a
species of hap-hazard note-book -- that is to say, into a kind of literary
arena for the conflicting guesses, riddles, and personal squabbles of
whole herds of exasperated commentators. These guesses, etc., which passed
under the name of annotations, or emendations, were found so completely to
have enveloped, distorted, and overwhelmed the text, that the author had
to go about with a lantern to discover his own book. When discovered, it
was never worth the trouble of the search. After re-writing it throughout,
it was regarded as the bounden duty of the historian to set himself to
work immediately in correcting, from his own private knowledge and
experience, the traditions of the day concerning the epoch at which he had
originally lived. Now this process of re-scription and personal
rectification, pursued by various individual sages from time to time, had
the effect of preventing our history from degenerating into absolute
"I beg your pardon," said Doctor Ponnonner at this point, laying his hand
gently upon the arm of the Egyptian -- "I beg your pardon, sir, but may I
presume to interrupt you for one moment?"
"By all means, sir," replied the Count, drawing up.
"I merely wished to ask you a question," said the Doctor. "You mentioned
the historian's personal correction of traditions respecting his own
epoch. Pray, sir, upon an average what proportion of these Kabbala were
usually found to be right?"
"The Kabbala, as you properly term them, sir, were generally discovered to
be precisely on a par with the facts recorded in the un-re-written
histories themselves; -- that is to say, not one individual iota of either
was ever known, under any circumstances, to be not totally and radically
"But since it is quite clear," resumed the Doctor, "that at least five
thousand years have elapsed since your entombment, I take it for granted
that your histories at that period, if not your traditions were
sufficiently explicit on that one topic of universal interest, the
Creation, which took place, as I presume you are aware, only about ten
"Sir!" said the Count Allamistakeo.
The Doctor repeated his remarks, but it was only after much additional
explanation that the foreigner could be made to comprehend them. The
latter at length said, hesitatingly:
"The ideas you have suggested are to me, I confess, utterly novel. During
my time I never knew any one to entertain so singular a fancy as that the
universe (or this world if you will have it so) ever had a beginning at
all. I remember once, and once only, hearing something remotely hinted, by
a man of many speculations, concerning the origin _of the human race;_ and
by this individual, the very word _Adam_ (or Red Earth), which you make
use of, was employed. He employed it, however, in a generical sense, with
reference to the spontaneous germination from rank soil (just as a
thousand of the lower genera of creatures are germinated) -- the
spontaneous germination, I say, of five vast hordes of men, simultaneously
upspringing in five distinct and nearly equal divisions of the globe."
Here, in general, the company shrugged their shoulders, and one or two of
us touched our foreheads with a very significant air. Mr. Silk Buckingham,
first glancing slightly at the occiput and then at the sinciput of
Allamistakeo, spoke as follows:
"The long duration of human life in your time, together with the
occasional practice of passing it, as you have explained, in installments,
must have had, indeed, a strong tendency to the general development and
conglomeration of knowledge. I presume, therefore, that we are to
attribute the marked inferiority of the old Egyptians in all particulars
of science, when compared with the moderns, and more especially with the
Yankees, altogether to the superior solidity of the Egyptian skull."
"I confess again," replied the Count, with much suavity, "that I am
somewhat at a loss to comprehend you; pray, to what particulars of science
do you allude?"
Here our whole party, joining voices, detailed, at great length, the
assumptions of phrenology and the marvels of animal magnetism.
Having heard us to an end, the Count proceeded to relate a few anecdotes,
which rendered it evident that prototypes of Gall and Spurzheim had
flourished and faded in Egypt so long ago as to have been nearly
forgotten, and that the manoeuvres of Mesmer were really very contemptible
tricks when put in collation with the positive miracles of the Theban
savans, who created lice and a great many other similar things.
I here asked the Count if his people were able to calculate eclipses. He
smiled rather contemptuously, and said they were.
This put me a little out, but I began to make other inquiries in regard to
his astronomical knowledge, when a member of the company, who had never as
yet opened his mouth, whispered in my ear, that for information on this
head, I had better consult Ptolemy (whoever Ptolemy is), as well as one
Plutarch de facie lunae.
I then questioned the Mummy about burning-glasses and lenses, and, in
general, about the manufacture of glass; but I had not made an end of my
queries before the silent member again touched me quietly on the elbow,
and begged me for God's sake to take a peep at Diodorus Siculus. As for
the Count, he merely asked me, in the way of reply, if we moderns
possessed any such microscopes as would enable us to cut cameos in the
style of the Egyptians. While I was thinking how I should answer this
question, little Doctor Ponnonner committed himself in a very
"Look at our architecture!" he exclaimed, greatly to the indignation of
both the travellers, who pinched him black and blue to no purpose.
"Look," he cried with enthusiasm, "at the Bowling-Green Fountain in New
York! or if this be too vast a contemplation, regard for a moment the
Capitol at Washington, D. C.!" -- and the good little medical man went on
to detail very minutely, the proportions of the fabric to which he
referred. He explained that the portico alone was adorned with no less
than four and twenty columns, five feet in diameter, and ten feet apart.
The Count said that he regretted not being able to remember, just at that
moment, the precise dimensions of any one of the principal buildings of
the city of Aznac, whose foundations were laid in the night of Time, but
the ruins of which were still standing, at the epoch of his entombment, in
a vast plain of sand to the westward of Thebes. He recollected, however,
(talking of the porticoes,) that one affixed to an inferior palace in a
kind of suburb called Carnac, consisted of a hundred and forty-four
columns, thirty-seven feet in circumference, and twenty-five feet apart.
The approach to this portico, from the Nile, was through an avenue two
miles long, composed of sphynxes, statues, and obelisks, twenty, sixty,
and a hundred feet in height. The palace itself (as well as he could
remember) was, in one direction, two miles long, and might have been
altogether about seven in circuit. Its walls were richly painted all over,
within and without, with hieroglyphics. He would not pretend to assert
that even fifty or sixty of the Doctor's Capitols might have been built
within these walls, but he was by no means sure that two or three hundred
of them might not have been squeezed in with some trouble. That palace at
Carnac was an insignificant little building after all. He (the Count),
however, could not conscientiously refuse to admit the ingenuity,
magnificence, and superiority of the Fountain at the Bowling Green, as
described by the Doctor. Nothing like it, he was forced to allow, had ever
been seen in Egypt or elsewhere.
I here asked the Count what he had to say to our railroads.
"Nothing," he replied, "in particular." They were rather slight, rather
ill-conceived, and clumsily put together. They could not be compared, of
course, with the vast, level, direct, iron-grooved causeways upon which
the Egyptians conveyed entire temples and solid obelisks of a hundred and
fifty feet in altitude.
I spoke of our gigantic mechanical forces.
He agreed that we knew something in that way, but inquired how I should
have gone to work in getting up the imposts on the lintels of even the
little palace at Carnac.
This question I concluded not to hear, and demanded if he had any idea of
Artesian wells; but he simply raised his eyebrows; while Mr. Gliddon
winked at me very hard and said, in a low tone, that one had been recently
discovered by the engineers employed to bore for water in the Great Oasis.
I then mentioned our steel; but the foreigner elevated his nose, and asked
me if our steel could have executed the sharp carved work seen on the
obelisks, and which was wrought altogether by edge-tools of copper.
This disconcerted us so greatly that we thought it advisable to vary the
attack to Metaphysics. We sent for a copy of a book called the "Dial," and
read out of it a chapter or two about something that is not very clear,
but which the Bostonians call the Great Movement of Progress.
The Count merely said that Great Movements were awfully common things in
his day, and as for Progress, it was at one time quite a nuisance, but it
We then spoke of the great beauty and importance of Democracy, and were at
much trouble in impressing the Count with a due sense of the advantages we
enjoyed in living where there was suffrage ad libitum, and no king.
He listened with marked interest, and in fact seemed not a little amused.
When we had done, he said that, a great while ago, there had occurred
something of a very similar sort. Thirteen Egyptian provinces determined
all at once to be free, and to set a magnificent example to the rest of
mankind. They assembled their wise men, and concocted the most ingenious
constitution it is possible to conceive. For a while they managed
remarkably well; only their habit of bragging was prodigious. The thing
ended, however, in the consolidation of the thirteen states, with some
fifteen or twenty others, in the most odious and insupportable despotism
that was ever heard of upon the face of the Earth.
I asked what was the name of the usurping tyrant.
As well as the Count could recollect, it was Mob.
Not knowing what to say to this, I raised my voice, and deplored the
Egyptian ignorance of steam.
The Count looked at me with much astonishment, but made no answer. The
silent gentleman, however, gave me a violent nudge in the ribs with his
elbows -- told me I had sufficiently exposed myself for once -- and
demanded if I was really such a fool as not to know that the modern
steam-engine is derived from the invention of Hero, through Solomon de
We were now in imminent danger of being discomfited; but, as good luck
would have it, Doctor Ponnonner, having rallied, returned to our rescue,
and inquired if the people of Egypt would seriously pretend to rival the
moderns in the all- important particular of dress.
The Count, at this, glanced downward to the straps of his pantaloons, and
then taking hold of the end of one of his coat-tails, held it up close to
his eyes for some minutes. Letting it fall, at last, his mouth extended
itself very gradually from ear to ear; but I do not remember that he said
any thing in the way of reply.
Hereupon we recovered our spirits, and the Doctor, approaching the Mummy
with great dignity, desired it to say candidly, upon its honor as a
gentleman, if the Egyptians had comprehended, at any period, the
manufacture of either Ponnonner's lozenges or Brandreth's pills.
We looked, with profound anxiety, for an answer -- but in vain. It was not
forthcoming. The Egyptian blushed and hung down his head. Never was
triumph more consummate; never was defeat borne with so ill a grace.
Indeed, I could not endure the spectacle of the poor Mummy's
mortification. I reached my hat, bowed to him stiffly, and took leave.
Upon getting home I found it past four o'clock, and went immediately to
bed. It is now ten A.M. I have been up since seven, penning these
memoranda for the benefit of my family and of mankind. The former I shall
behold no more. My wife is a shrew. The truth is, I am heartily sick of
this life and of the nineteenth century in general. I am convinced that
every thing is going wrong. Besides, I am anxious to know who will be
President in 2045. As soon, therefore, as I shave and swallow a cup of
coffee, I shall just step over to Ponnonner's and get embalmed for a
couple of hundred years.
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