The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe

Here's a special treat for Valentine's Day:
The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe


THERE are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing,
but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate
fiction. These the mere romanticist must eschew, if he do not wish to
offend or to disgust. They are with propriety handled only when the
severity and majesty of Truth sanctify and sustain them. We thrill,
for example, with the most intense of "pleasurable pain" over the
accounts of the Passage of the Beresina, of the Earthquake at Lisbon,
of the Plague at London, of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, or of
the stifling of the hundred and twenty-three prisoners in the Black
Hole at Calcutta. But in these accounts it is the fact - -- it is the
reality - -- it is the history which excites. As inventions, we
should regard them with simple abhorrence.

I have mentioned some few of the more prominent and august calamities
on record; but in these it is the extent, not less than the character
of the calamity, which so vividly impresses the fancy. I need not
remind the reader that, from the long and weird catalogue of human
miseries, I might have selected many individual instances more
replete with essential suffering than any of these vast generalities
of disaster. The true wretchedness, indeed -- the ultimate woe - --
is particular, not diffuse. That the ghastly extremes of agony are
endured by man the unit, and never by man the mass - -- for this let
us thank a merciful God!

To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of
these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality.
That it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be
denied by those who think. The boundaries which divide Life from
Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one
ends, and where the other begins? We know that there are diseases in
which occur total cessations of all the apparent functions of
vitality, and yet in which these cessations are merely suspensions,
properly so called. They are only temporary pauses in the
incomprehensible mechanism. A certain period elapses, and some unseen
mysterious principle again sets in motion the magic pinions and the
wizard wheels. The silver cord was not for ever loosed, nor the
golden bowl irreparably broken. But where, meantime, was the soul?

Apart, however, from the inevitable conclusion, a priori that such
causes must produce such effects - -- that the well-known occurrence
of such cases of suspended animation must naturally give rise, now
and then, to premature interments -- apart from this consideration,
we have the direct testimony of medical and ordinary experience to
prove that a vast number of such interments have actually taken
place. I might refer at once, if necessary to a hundred well
authenticated instances. One of very remarkable character, and of
which the circumstances may be fresh in the memory of some of my
readers, occurred, not very long ago, in the neighboring city of
Baltimore, where it occasioned a painful, intense, and
widely-extended excitement. The wife of one of the most respectable
citizens-a lawyer of eminence and a member of Congress -- was seized
with a sudden and unaccountable illness, which completely baffled the
skill of her physicians. After much suffering she died, or was
supposed to die. No one suspected, indeed, or had reason to suspect,
that she was not actually dead. She presented all the ordinary
appearances of death. The face assumed the usual pinched and sunken
outline. The lips were of the usual marble pallor. The eyes were
lustreless. There was no warmth. Pulsation had ceased. For three days
the body was preserved unburied, during which it had acquired a stony
rigidity. The funeral, in short, was hastened, on account of the
rapid advance of what was supposed to be decomposition.

The lady was deposited in her family vault, which, for three
subsequent years, was undisturbed. At the expiration of this term it
was opened for the reception of a sarcophagus; - -- but, alas! how
fearful a shock awaited the husband, who, personally, threw open the
door! As its portals swung outwardly back, some white-apparelled
object fell rattling within his arms. It was the skeleton of his wife
in her yet unmoulded shroud.

A careful investigation rendered it evident that she had revived
within two days after her entombment; that her struggles within the
coffin had caused it to fall from a ledge, or shelf to the floor,
where it was so broken as to permit her escape. A lamp which had been
accidentally left, full of oil, within the tomb, was found empty; it
might have been exhausted, however, by evaporation. On the uttermost
of the steps which led down into the dread chamber was a large
fragment of the coffin, with which, it seemed, that she had
endeavored to arrest attention by striking the iron door. While thus
occupied, she probably swooned, or possibly died, through sheer
terror; and, in failing, her shroud became entangled in some iron --
work which projected interiorly. Thus she remained, and thus she
rotted, erect.

In the year 1810, a case of living inhumation happened in France,
attended with circumstances which go far to warrant the assertion
that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. The heroine of the
story was a Mademoiselle Victorine Lafourcade, a young girl of
illustrious family, of wealth, and of great personal beauty. Among
her numerous suitors was Julien Bossuet, a poor litterateur, or
journalist of Paris. His talents and general amiability had
recommended him to the notice of the heiress, by whom he seems to
have been truly beloved; but her pride of birth decided her, finally,
to reject him, and to wed a Monsieur Renelle, a banker and a
diplomatist of some eminence. After marriage, however, this gentleman
neglected, and, perhaps, even more positively ill-treated her. Having
passed with him some wretched years, she died, - -- at least her
condition so closely resembled death as to deceive every one who saw
her. She was buried - -- not in a vault, but in an ordinary grave in
the village of her nativity. Filled with despair, and still inflamed
by the memory of a profound attachment, the lover journeys from the
capital to the remote province in which the village lies, with the
romantic purpose of disinterring the corpse, and possessing himself
of its luxuriant tresses. He reaches the grave. At midnight he
unearths the coffin, opens it, and is in the act of detaching the
hair, when he is arrested by the unclosing of the beloved eyes. In
fact, the lady had been buried alive. Vitality had not altogether
departed, and she was aroused by the caresses of her lover from the
lethargy which had been mistaken for death. He bore her frantically
to his lodgings in the village. He employed certain powerful
restoratives suggested by no little medical learning. In fine, she
revived. She recognized her preserver. She remained with him until,
by slow degrees, she fully recovered her original health. Her woman's
heart was not adamant, and this last lesson of love sufficed to
soften it. She bestowed it upon Bossuet. She returned no more to her
husband, but, concealing from him her resurrection, fled with her
lover to America. Twenty years afterward, the two returned to France,
in the persuasion that time had so greatly altered the lady's
appearance that her friends would be unable to recognize her. They
were mistaken, however, for, at the first meeting, Monsieur Renelle
did actually recognize and make claim to his wife. This claim she
resisted, and a judicial tribunal sustained her in her resistance,
deciding that the peculiar circumstances, with the long lapse of
years, had extinguished, not only equitably, but legally, the
authority of the husband.

The "Chirurgical Journal" of Leipsic -- a periodical of high
authority and merit, which some American bookseller would do well to
translate and republish, records in a late number a very distressing
event of the character in question.

An officer of artillery, a man of gigantic stature and of robust
health, being thrown from an unmanageable horse, received a very
severe contusion upon the head, which rendered him insensible at
once; the skull was slightly fractured, but no immediate danger was
apprehended. Trepanning was accomplished successfully. He was bled,
and many other of the ordinary means of relief were adopted.
Gradually, however, he fell into a more and more hopeless state of
stupor, and, finally, it was thought that he died.

The weather was warm, and he was buried with indecent haste in one of
the public cemeteries. His funeral took place on Thursday. On the
Sunday following, the grounds of the cemetery were, as usual, much
thronged with visiters, and about noon an intense excitement was
created by the declaration of a peasant that, while sitting upon the
grave of the officer, he had distinctly felt a commotion of the
earth, as if occasioned by some one struggling beneath. At first
little attention was paid to the man's asseveration; but his evident
terror, and the dogged obstinacy with which he persisted in his
story, had at length their natural effect upon the crowd. Spades were
hurriedly procured, and the grave, which was shamefully shallow, was
in a few minutes so far thrown open that the head of its occupant
appeared. He was then seemingly dead; but he sat nearly erect within
his coffin, the lid of which, in his furious struggles, he had
partially uplifted.

He was forthwith conveyed to the nearest hospital, and there
pronounced to be still living, although in an asphytic condition.
After some hours he revived, recognized individuals of his
acquaintance, and, in broken sentences spoke of his agonies in the

From what he related, it was clear that he must have been conscious
of life for more than an hour, while inhumed, before lapsing into
insensibility. The grave was carelessly and loosely filled with an
exceedingly porous soil; and thus some air was necessarily admitted.
He heard the footsteps of the crowd overhead, and endeavored to make
himself heard in turn. It was the tumult within the grounds of the
cemetery, he said, which appeared to awaken him from a deep sleep,
but no sooner was he awake than he became fully aware of the awful
horrors of his position.

This patient, it is recorded, was doing well and seemed to be in a
fair way of ultimate recovery, but fell a victim to the quackeries of
medical experiment. The galvanic battery was applied, and he suddenly
expired in one of those ecstatic paroxysms which, occasionally, it

The mention of the galvanic battery, nevertheless, recalls to my
memory a well known and very extraordinary case in point, where its
action proved the means of restoring to animation a young attorney of
London, who had been interred for two days. This occurred in 1831,
and created, at the time, a very profound sensation wherever it was
made the subject of converse.

The patient, Mr. Edward Stapleton, had died, apparently of typhus
fever, accompanied with some anomalous symptoms which had excited the
curiosity of his medical attendants. Upon his seeming decease, his
friends were requested to sanction a post-mortem examination, but
declined to permit it. As often happens, when such refusals are made,
the practitioners resolved to disinter the body and dissect it at
leisure, in private. Arrangements were easily effected with some of
the numerous corps of body-snatchers, with which London abounds; and,
upon the third night after the funeral, the supposed corpse was
unearthed from a grave eight feet deep, and deposited in the opening
chamber of one of the private hospitals.

An incision of some extent had been actually made in the abdomen,
when the fresh and undecayed appearance of the subject suggested an
application of the battery. One experiment succeeded another, and the
customary effects supervened, with nothing to characterize them in
any respect, except, upon one or two occasions, a more than ordinary
degree of life-likeness in the convulsive action.

It grew late. The day was about to dawn; and it was thought
expedient, at length, to proceed at once to the dissection. A
student, however, was especially desirous of testing a theory of his
own, and insisted upon applying the battery to one of the pectoral
muscles. A rough gash was made, and a wire hastily brought in
contact, when the patient, with a hurried but quite unconvulsive
movement, arose from the table, stepped into the middle of the floor,
gazed about him uneasily for a few seconds, and then -- spoke. What
he said was unintelligible, but words were uttered; the
syllabification was distinct. Having spoken, he fell heavily to the

For some moments all were paralyzed with awe -- but the urgency of
the case soon restored them their presence of mind. It was seen that
Mr. Stapleton was alive, although in a swoon. Upon exhibition of
ether he revived and was rapidly restored to health, and to the
society of his friends -- from whom, however, all knowledge of his
resuscitation was withheld, until a relapse was no longer to be
apprehended. Their wonder -- their rapturous astonishment -- may be

The most thrilling peculiarity of this incident, nevertheless, is
involved in what Mr. S. himself asserts. He declares that at no
period was he altogether insensible -- that, dully and confusedly, he
was aware of everything which happened to him, from the moment in
which he was pronounced dead by his physicians, to that in which he
fell swooning to the floor of the hospital. "I am alive," were the
uncomprehended words which, upon recognizing the locality of the
dissecting-room, he had endeavored, in his extremity, to utter.

It were an easy matter to multiply such histories as these -- but I
forbear -- for, indeed, we have no need of such to establish the fact
that premature interments occur. When we reflect how very rarely,
from the nature of the case, we have it in our power to detect them,
we must admit that they may frequently occur without our cognizance.
Scarcely, in truth, is a graveyard ever encroached upon, for any
purpose, to any great extent, that skeletons are not found in
postures which suggest the most fearful of suspicions.

Fearful indeed the suspicion -- but more fearful the doom! It may be
asserted, without hesitation, that no event is so terribly well
adapted to inspire the supremeness of bodily and of mental distress,
as is burial before death. The unendurable oppression of the lungs --
the stifling fumes from the damp earth -- the clinging to the death
garments -- the rigid embrace of the narrow house -- the blackness of
the absolute Night -- the silence like a sea that overwhelms -- the
unseen but palpable presence of the Conqueror Worm -- these things,
with the thoughts of the air and grass above, with memory of dear
friends who would fly to save us if but informed of our fate, and
with consciousness that of this fate they can never be informed --
that our hopeless portion is that of the really dead -- these
considerations, I say, carry into the heart, which still palpitates,
a degree of appalling and intolerable horror from which the most
daring imagination must recoil. We know of nothing so agonizing upon
Earth -- we can dream of nothing half so hideous in the realms of the
nethermost Hell. And thus all narratives upon this topic have an
interest profound; an interest, nevertheless, which, through the
sacred awe of the topic itself, very properly and very peculiarly
depends upon our conviction of the truth of the matter narrated. What
I have now to tell is of my own actual knowledge -- of my own
positive and personal experience.

For several years I had been subject to attacks of the singular
disorder which physicians have agreed to term catalepsy, in default
of a more definitive title. Although both the immediate and the
predisposing causes, and even the actual diagnosis, of this disease
are still mysterious, its obvious and apparent character is
sufficiently well understood. Its variations seem to be chiefly of
degree. Sometimes the patient lies, for a day only, or even for a
shorter period, in a species of exaggerated lethargy. He is senseless
and externally motionless; but the pulsation of the heart is still
faintly perceptible; some traces of warmth remain; a slight color
lingers within the centre of the cheek; and, upon application of a
mirror to the lips, we can detect a torpid, unequal, and vacillating
action of the lungs. Then again the duration of the trance is for
weeks -- even for months; while the closest scrutiny, and the most
rigorous medical tests, fail to establish any material distinction
between the state of the sufferer and what we conceive of absolute
death. Very usually he is saved from premature interment solely by
the knowledge of his friends that he has been previously subject to
catalepsy, by the consequent suspicion excited, and, above all, by
the non-appearance of decay. The advances of the malady are, luckily,
gradual. The first manifestations, although marked, are unequivocal.
The fits grow successively more and more distinctive, and endure each
for a longer term than the preceding. In this lies the principal
security from inhumation. The unfortunate whose first attack should
be of the extreme character which is occasionally seen, would almost
inevitably be consigned alive to the tomb.

My own case differed in no important particular from those mentioned
in medical books. Sometimes, without any apparent cause, I sank,
little by little, into a condition of hemi-syncope, or half swoon;
and, in this condition, without pain, without ability to stir, or,
strictly speaking, to think, but with a dull lethargic consciousness
of life and of the presence of those who surrounded my bed, I
remained, until the crisis of the disease restored me, suddenly, to
perfect sensation. At other times I was quickly and impetuously
smitten. I grew sick, and numb, and chilly, and dizzy, and so fell
prostrate at once. Then, for weeks, all was void, and black, and
silent, and Nothing became the universe. Total annihilation could be
no more. From these latter attacks I awoke, however, with a gradation
slow in proportion to the suddenness of the seizure. Just as the day
dawns to the friendless and houseless beggar who roams the streets
throughout the long desolate winter night -- just so tardily -- just
so wearily -- just so cheerily came back the light of the Soul to me.

Apart from the tendency to trance, however, my general health
appeared to be good; nor could I perceive that it was at all affected
by the one prevalent malady -- unless, indeed, an idiosyncrasy in my
ordinary sleep may be looked upon as superinduced. Upon awaking from
slumber, I could never gain, at once, thorough possession of my
senses, and always remained, for many minutes, in much bewilderment
and perplexity; -- the mental faculties in general, but the memory in
especial, being in a condition of absolute abeyance.

In all that I endured there was no physical suffering but of moral
distress an infinitude. My fancy grew charnel, I talked "of worms, of
tombs, and epitaphs." I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea
of premature burial held continual possession of my brain. The
ghastly Danger to which I was subjected haunted me day and night. In
the former, the torture of meditation was excessive -- in the latter,
supreme. When the grim Darkness overspread the Earth, then, with
every horror of thought, I shook -- shook as the quivering plumes
upon the hearse. When Nature could endure wakefulness no longer, it
was with a struggle that I consented to sleep -- for I shuddered to
reflect that, upon awaking, I might find myself the tenant of a
grave. And when, finally, I sank into slumber, it was only to rush at
once into a world of phantasms, above which, with vast, sable,
overshadowing wing, hovered, predominant, the one sepulchral Idea.

From the innumerable images of gloom which thus oppressed me in
dreams, I select for record but a solitary vision. Methought I was
immersed in a cataleptic trance of more than usual duration and
profundity. Suddenly there came an icy hand upon my forehead, and an
impatient, gibbering voice whispered the word "Arise!" within my ear.

I sat erect. The darkness was total. I could not see the figure of
him who had aroused me. I could call to mind neither the period at
which I had fallen into the trance, nor the locality in which I then
lay. While I remained motionless, and busied in endeavors to collect
my thought, the cold hand grasped me fiercely by the wrist, shaking
it petulantly, while the gibbering voice said again:

"Arise! did I not bid thee arise?"

"And who," I demanded, "art thou?"

"I have no name in the regions which I inhabit," replied the voice,
mournfully; "I was mortal, but am fiend. I was merciless, but am
pitiful. Thou dost feel that I shudder. -- My teeth chatter as I
speak, yet it is not with the chilliness of the night -- of the night
without end. But this hideousness is insufferable. How canst thou
tranquilly sleep? I cannot rest for the cry of these great agonies.
These sights are more than I can bear. Get thee up! Come with me into
the outer Night, and let me unfold to thee the graves. Is not this a
spectacle of woe? -- Behold!"

I looked; and the unseen figure, which still grasped me by the wrist,
had caused to be thrown open the graves of all mankind, and from each
issued the faint phosphoric radiance of decay, so that I could see
into the innermost recesses, and there view the shrouded bodies in
their sad and solemn slumbers with the worm. But alas! the real
sleepers were fewer, by many millions, than those who slumbered not
at all; and there was a feeble struggling; and there was a general
sad unrest; and from out the depths of the countless pits there came
a melancholy rustling from the garments of the buried. And of those
who seemed tranquilly to repose, I saw that a vast number had
changed, in a greater or less degree, the rigid and uneasy position
in which they had originally been entombed. And the voice again said
to me as I gazed:

"Is it not -- oh! is it not a pitiful sight?" -- but, before I could
find words to reply, the figure had ceased to grasp my wrist, the
phosphoric lights expired, and the graves were closed with a sudden
violence, while from out them arose a tumult of despairing cries,
saying again: "Is it not -- O, God, is it not a very pitiful sight?"

Phantasies such as these, presenting themselves at night, extended
their terrific influence far into my waking hours. My nerves became
thoroughly unstrung, and I fell a prey to perpetual horror. I
hesitated to ride, or to walk, or to indulge in any exercise that
would carry me from home. In fact, I no longer dared trust myself out
of the immediate presence of those who were aware of my proneness to
catalepsy, lest, falling into one of my usual fits, I should be
buried before my real condition could be ascertained. I doubted the
care, the fidelity of my dearest friends. I dreaded that, in some
trance of more than customary duration, they might be prevailed upon
to regard me as irrecoverable. I even went so far as to fear that, as
I occasioned much trouble, they might be glad to consider any very
protracted attack as sufficient excuse for getting rid of me
altogether. It was in vain they endeavored to reassure me by the most
solemn promises. I exacted the most sacred oaths, that under no
circumstances they would bury me until decomposition had so
materially advanced as to render farther preservation impossible.
And, even then, my mortal terrors would listen to no reason -- would
accept no consolation. I entered into a series of elaborate
precautions. Among other things, I had the family vault so remodelled
as to admit of being readily opened from within. The slightest
pressure upon a long lever that extended far into the tomb would
cause the iron portal to fly back. There were arrangements also for
the free admission of air and light, and convenient receptacles for
food and water, within immediate reach of the coffin intended for my
reception. This coffin was warmly and softly padded, and was provided
with a lid, fashioned upon the principle of the vault-door, with the
addition of springs so contrived that the feeblest movement of the
body would be sufficient to set it at liberty. Besides all this,
there was suspended from the roof of the tomb, a large bell, the rope
of which, it was designed, should extend through a hole in the
coffin, and so be fastened to one of the hands of the corpse. But,
alas? what avails the vigilance against the Destiny of man? Not even
these well-contrived securities sufficed to save from the uttermost
agonies of living inhumation, a wretch to these agonies foredoomed!

There arrived an epoch -- as often before there had arrived -- in
which I found myself emerging from total unconsciousness into the
first feeble and indefinite sense of existence. Slowly -- with a
tortoise gradation -- approached the faint gray dawn of the psychal
day. A torpid uneasiness. An apathetic endurance of dull pain. No
care -- no hope -- no effort. Then, after a long interval, a ringing
in the ears; then, after a lapse still longer, a prickling or
tingling sensation in the extremities; then a seemingly eternal
period of pleasurable quiescence, during which the awakening feelings
are struggling into thought; then a brief re-sinking into non-entity;
then a sudden recovery. At length the slight quivering of an eyelid,
and immediately thereupon, an electric shock of a terror, deadly and
indefinite, which sends the blood in torrents from the temples to the
heart. And now the first positive effort to think. And now the first
endeavor to remember. And now a partial and evanescent success. And
now the memory has so far regained its dominion, that, in some
measure, I am cognizant of my state. I feel that I am not awaking
from ordinary sleep. I recollect that I have been subject to
catalepsy. And now, at last, as if by the rush of an ocean, my
shuddering spirit is overwhelmed by the one grim Danger -- by the one
spectral and ever-prevalent idea.

For some minutes after this fancy possessed me, I remained without
motion. And why? I could not summon courage to move. I dared not make
the effort which was to satisfy me of my fate -- and yet there was
something at my heart which whispered me it was sure. Despair -- such
as no other species of wretchedness ever calls into being -- despair
alone urged me, after long irresolution, to uplift the heavy lids of
my eyes. I uplifted them. It was dark -- all dark. I knew that the
fit was over. I knew that the crisis of my disorder had long passed.
I knew that I had now fully recovered the use of my visual faculties
-- and yet it was dark -- all dark -- the intense and utter
raylessness of the Night that endureth for evermore.

I endeavored to shriek-, and my lips and my parched tongue moved
convulsively together in the attempt -- but no voice issued from the
cavernous lungs, which oppressed as if by the weight of some
incumbent mountain, gasped and palpitated, with the heart, at every
elaborate and struggling inspiration.

The movement of the jaws, in this effort to cry aloud, showed me that
they were bound up, as is usual with the dead. I felt, too, that I
lay upon some hard substance, and by something similar my sides were,
also, closely compressed. So far, I had not ventured to stir any of
my limbs -- but now I violently threw up my arms, which had been
lying at length, with the wrists crossed. They struck a solid wooden
substance, which extended above my person at an elevation of not more
than six inches from my face. I could no longer doubt that I reposed
within a coffin at last.

And now, amid all my infinite miseries, came sweetly the cherub Hope
-- for I thought of my precautions. I writhed, and made spasmodic
exertions to force open the lid: it would not move. I felt my wrists
for the bell-rope: it was not to be found. And now the Comforter fled
for ever, and a still sterner Despair reigned triumphant; for I could
not help perceiving the absence of the paddings which I had so
carefully prepared -- and then, too, there came suddenly to my
nostrils the strong peculiar odor of moist earth. The conclusion was
irresistible. I was not within the vault. I had fallen into a trance
while absent from home-while among strangers -- when, or how, I could
not remember -- and it was they who had buried me as a dog -- nailed
up in some common coffin -- and thrust deep, deep, and for ever, into
some ordinary and nameless grave.

As this awful conviction forced itself, thus, into the innermost
chambers of my soul, I once again struggled to cry aloud. And in this
second endeavor I succeeded. A long, wild, and continuous shriek, or
yell of agony, resounded through the realms of the subterranean

"Hillo! hillo, there!" said a gruff voice, in reply.

"What the devil's the matter now!" said a second.

"Get out o' that!" said a third.

"What do you mean by yowling in that ere kind of style, like a
cattymount?" said a fourth; and hereupon I was seized and shaken
without ceremony, for several minutes, by a junto of very
rough-looking individuals. They did not arouse me from my slumber --
for I was wide awake when I screamed -- but they restored me to the
full possession of my memory.

This adventure occurred near Richmond, in Virginia. Accompanied by a
friend, I had proceeded, upon a gunning expedition, some miles down
the banks of the James River. Night approached, and we were overtaken
by a storm. The cabin of a small sloop lying at anchor in the stream,
and laden with garden mould, afforded us the only available shelter.
We made the best of it, and passed the night on board. I slept in one
of the only two berths in the vessel -- and the berths of a sloop of
sixty or twenty tons need scarcely be described. That which I
occupied had no bedding of any kind. Its extreme width was eighteen
inches. The distance of its bottom from the deck overhead was
precisely the same. I found it a matter of exceeding difficulty to
squeeze myself in. Nevertheless, I slept soundly, and the whole of my
vision -- for it was no dream, and no nightmare -- arose naturally
from the circumstances of my position -- from my ordinary bias of
thought -- and from the difficulty, to which I have alluded, of
collecting my senses, and especially of regaining my memory, for a
long time after awaking from slumber. The men who shook me were the
crew of the sloop, and some laborers engaged to unload it. From the
load itself came the earthly smell. The bandage about the jaws was a
silk handkerchief in which I had bound up my head, in default of my
customary nightcap.

The tortures endured, however, were indubitably quite equal for the
time, to those of actual sepulture. They were fearfully -- they were
inconceivably hideous; but out of Evil proceeded Good; for their very
excess wrought in my spirit an inevitable revulsion. My soul acquired
tone -- acquired temper. I went abroad. I took vigorous exercise. I
breathed the free air of Heaven. I thought upon other subjects than
Death. I discarded my medical books. "Buchan" I burned. I read no
"Night Thoughts" -- no fustian about churchyards -- no bugaboo tales
-- such as this. In short, I became a new man, and lived a man's
life. From that memorable night, I dismissed forever my charnel
apprehensions, and with them vanished the cataleptic disorder, of
which, perhaps, they had been less the consequence than the cause.

There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of
our sad Humanity may assume the semblance of a Hell -- but the
imagination of man is no Carathis, to explore with impunity its every
cavern. Alas! the grim legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be
regarded as altogether fanciful -- but, like the Demons in whose
company Afrasiab made his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep, or
they will devour us -- they must be suffered to slumber, or we