Text: Anonymous,”[Review of Tales of Mystery, Humour and Poems],” North Devon Journal-Herald (Barnstaple, Devon, England), vol. XXVIII, whole no. 11,503, May 12, 1852, p. 6, cols. 2


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 6, column 2:]

Literature.

———

NEW PUBLICATIONS.

Tales of Mystery, Imagination, and Humour; and Poems. By EDGAR ALLAN POE. Illustrated with twenty-six Engravings on Wood. London: Vizetelly, 1852.

This is the first of a series of cheap volumes, bearing the publisher's warranty of being ‘Readable Books.’ The tales are not only of deep interest, but written in good style. The poetry is also original and beautiful. A book with these qualities must be considered ‘readable,’ and the promise therefore kept. But still more than this may be said in its favour. The American author, whose writings have been laid under contri- bution, was passionately devoted to cryptology and cyphers, and most of the present tales illustrate in an extraordinary manner the useful application of these exercises of the ingenuity. ‘The Gold- Beetle’ is a well imagined example of the discovery of a treasure by the faculty of transcribing a mem- orandum in cypher. When the same faculty is applied to the arrangement and interpretation of all the realities and fruits of human action in the detection of crime and criminals, the author has shown that a higher order of analytical reasoning must be exercised than is usually employed by a detective police, and that this accounts for the ordinary acumen ot the latter being so frequently at fault. All who are professionally connected with subjects of this description should read the tales entitled the ‘Murders of the Morgue,’ the ‘Mystery of Marie Roget,’ and the ‘Purloined Letter,’ ‘A Descent into the Maelstrom,’ and the stories of ‘Premature Burial,’ are at least as good as any others of the kind that have been related. A rich piece of humour is given under the title of ‘Some Words with a Mummy.’ But what can be said for the ‘Startling Effects of Mesmerism on a dying Man?’ They are related with all the parade of anonymous testimony, which, to be sure, is none at all; yet the matter of fact style ot relation is quite capable of imposing on credulous persons like Dr. Gregory. It may not be sufficient to remind the reader that they occur in a book of ‘Mystery, Imagination, and Humour.’ Mesmerists have had “mystery, imagination, and humour” enough in many of their pretended facts. A circumstance that greatly diminishes the pleasure with which even the imaginative pieces of this writer can be read is the unhappy life he led. That he incorrigibly surrendered himself to intoxication, though bad, is not the worst feature in his brief biography. There are recorded traits, of which it is said too many of the same kind might be accumulated, which unequivocally show that he was a man without principle or honour. If, therefore, one may lose sight of these personal blemishes in admiring the truer works of h:s intelligence and imagination, it is no longer possible to do so when reading statements the interest of which depends altogether on the veracity and moral rectitude of the author. Now, here we have in his ‘Startling Effects of Mesmerism,’ in which he undertakes to detail “the extra-ordinary case of M. Valdemar,” and “to give the facts,” because. “through the desire of all parties concerned to keep the affair from the public, at least for the present, or until we I had further opportunities for investigation-through our en- deavours to effect this, a garbled or exaggerated account,” he says, “made its way into society, and became the source of many unpleasant misrepresentations, and very naturally of a great deal of mischief.” To counteract these bad effects, therefore, the present statement is alleged to be given. M. Valdemar was gradually sinking under a pulmonary decline; and with his consent, the author is to try the influence of mesmerism in articido mortis, and is sent for when the physicians are agreed I that the patient “cannot hold out beyond to morrow at midnight.” The experiment is further postponed till within a few hours of the expected decease, when “the pulse was imperceptible,” and the “breathing stertorious, and at intervals of half a minute.” The patient's extremities before and during the experiment continued of an icy coldness. Under the influence of mesmerism in articulo mortis, and is sent for when the physicians are agreed that the patient “cannot hold out beyond to-morrow at midnight.” The experiment is further postponed till within a few hours of the expected decease, when “the pulse was imperceptible,” and “the breathing stertorious, and at intervals of half a minute.” The patient's extremities before and during the experiment continued of an icy coldness. Under the influence of mesmerism the stertor was exchanged for a deep sigh; the intervals of breathing continued the same, but the breathing became silent. Later, being questioned, he replied — “Yes, — asleep now. Do not wake me — let me die so.” Repeatedly questioned, he answers — “No pain — I am dying.” Again, — “Yes, still asleep — dying.” Lastly, — “Yes-no; — I have been sleeping and now — now I am dead.’‘ And then the deceased is represented as answering questions, but with a more sepulchral voice, “bursting from the tongue, and not from the lips of the sufferer,” the jaw being fallen, the body presenting the appearance of a cadaver. To enable the reader to analyse the sounds alleged to have been uttered in this state seven months later, in the attempt to awaken the deceased, the expressions only are subjoined: — “For God's sake! — quick, quick — put me to sleep — or, quick! — waken me! — quick! — I say to you that I am dead!” Let the reader try if he can utter some of these words without the aid of the lips, and only by moving the tongue, as the deceased is alleged to have done. No sign of expiration is given upon a mirror after the patient declares himself to be dead;, that and the chap-fallen state of the head constitute the principal distinction from his dead and living state during the mesmeric sleep. In this state the body is represented as remaining about seven months, when it is determined to awaken the dead, and when the utterances last quoted are alleged to have been made, The operator proceeds to awaken the subject, and succeeds, Here are the effects — “As I rapidly made the passes amid ejaculations of ‘dead! dead!’ absolutely bursting from the tongue, aud 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 the whole company, there lay a mass of loathsome putrescence!’‘ Such are some of “the facts” alleged by the author. There are so many kinds of American fiction, that we may, perhaps, be excused for asking if this be one of them, or if it be intended to pass for sober truth?


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:0 - NDJH, 1852] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Review of Tales of Mystery, Humour and Poems (Anonymous, 1852)