Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. III: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 935-953 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 935, continued:]


In “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” Poe took up again the theme of reincarnation, and for the first time the theme of mesmerism, which was currently the subject of much discussion. Woodberry (Life, 1909, II, 109) said little about the tale, which he called “a picturesque story of metempsychosis ascribed to the influence of Hoffmann.” A. H. Quinn, however (Poe, pp. 400-401), gave it most of a thoughtful paragraph, saying, “The realistic treatment of the supernatural was rarely better done by Poe.” He noted that Bedloe’s background of therapy “leaves a possible natural explanation for what follows,” praised Poe’s skill in dealing with Bedloe’s dream — “quite in keeping with the normal dream state,” and commended Poe’s success in “preserving an atmosphere of the supernatural.” But notions of the close mental relations between mesmerists and their subjects were common in Poe’s time, and in “Poe and Mesmerism” (PMLA, December [page 936:] 1947) Sidney Lind argued that “ ‘A Tale of the Ragged Mountains’ is a case study in mesmerism . . . There is no metempsychosic basis in this tale as there is, for example, in ‘Morella’ and ‘Ligeia.’ Rather, it is [neither the narrator nor the reader necessarily, but] Dr. Templeton who believes in metempsychosis.”

Whatever its basis, this tale is another demonstration of Poe’s extraordinary ability to put together images and ideas from a number of different recognizable sources to make a coherent fabric distinctively his own. He succeeded so well in verisimilar presentation that my predecessors have not noticed the element that was a pure invention of the author for his plot. Neither in fact, nor in fable (before Poe’s), can a poisonous sangsue (or leech) be found!

The title and the setting came from Poe’s own experience. The Ragged Mountains are a group of hills, none probably more than a thousand feet high, occupying about eighty square miles southwest of Charlottesville on the highway to Lynchburg. They are shown on some but not all maps of Virginia.

One influence on Poe story was pointed out by Boyd Carter in Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly, which had already contributed some details to “The Pit and the Pendulum.”* Poe uses so many “paralleling characters, motives, situations and incidents” that the resemblances between the two stories can hardly be merely coincidental. “There is even,” says Carter, “a reticent implication of metempsychosis and of thought transference in Edgar Huntly.” In Brown’s novel, Mrs. Lorimer believed (wrongly) that her own life was linked with that of her rascally twin brother, Wiatte, and that when he died she would die. Her protégé, Clithero, killed Wiatte in self-defense, and, in horror after recognizing the identity of his victim, wondered whether Mrs. Lorimer could possibly “arrive at a knowledge of his miserable end by other than verbal means? . . . Were they linked together by a sympathy whose influence was independent of sensible communication . . . instantaneous intercourse among [page 937:] beings locally distant.” The parallel of this idea of telepathy and communication in the hypnotic state in Poe’s story is patent.

The scenery of the two stories shows marked similarity, for Brown’s protagonist, describing “a desolate and solitary grandeur in the scene,” continues:

A sort of sanctity and awe environed it, owing to the consciousness of absolute and utter loneliness. It was probable that human feet had never before gained this recess, that human eye had never been fixed upon these gushing waters . . . Since the birth of this continent, I was probably the first who had deviated thus remotely from the customary paths of men.

Dr. Templeton and Dr. Sarsefield (of Huntly) both had visited Benares, and had narrow escapes there. Sarsefield had a gun of extraordinary workmanship, “the legacy of an English officer who died in Bengal.” Huntly armed himself with a gun he took from a fallen officer — as did Oldeb with the weapons of a fallen officer; and engaged in unequal combat with five Indians whom be slew — as did Oldeb with the Bengalese.

The second source of great importance is in T. B. Macaulay’s essay on Warren Hastings. The four passages chiefly used by Poe are given here from the first publication of Macaulay’s famous essay, in the Edinburgh Review, October 1841 (74:160-255), where it appeared as a review of G. R. Gleig’s Memoirs of the Life of the Right Hon. Warren Hastings (3v., London, 1841):

His [Hastings’] first design was on Benares, a city which in wealth, population, dignity, and sanctity, was among the foremost of Asia. It was commonly believed that half a million of human beings was crowded into that labyrinth of lofty alleys, rich with shrines, and minarets, and balconies, and carved oriels, to which the sacred apes clung by hundreds. The traveller could scarcely make his way through the press of holy mendicants, and not less holy bulls. The broad and stately flights of steps which descended from these swarming haunts to the bathing-places along the Ganges, were worn every day by the footsteps of an innumerable multitude of worshippers. The schools and temples drew crowds of pious Hindoos from every province . . . Hundreds of devotees came thither every month to die — for it was believed that a peculiarly happy fate awaited the man [page 938:] who could pass from the sacred city into the sacred river . . . Commerce had as many pilgrims as religion. All along the shores of the venerable stream, lay great fleets of vessels laden with rich merchandize . . . (p. 208).

The handful of sepoys who attended Hastings, would probably have been sufficient to overawe . . . the Black Town of Calcutta. But they were unequal to a conflict with the hardy rabble of Benares. The streets surrounding the palace were filled by an immense multitude; of whom a large proportion . . . wore arms. The tumult became a fight, and the fight a massacre. The English officers defended themselves with desperate courage against overwhelming numbers, and fell . . . sword in hand. The sepoys were butchered. The gates were forced. The captive prince, neglected by his jailers during the confusion, discovered an outlet which opened on the precipitous bank of the Ganges, let himself down to the water by a string made of the turbans of his attendants, found a boat, and escaped to the opposite shore . . . (p. 213).

An English officer of more spirit than judgment, eager to distinguish himself, made a premature attack on the insurgents beyond the river. His troops were entangled in narrow streets, and assailed by a furious population. He fell, with many of his men; and the survivors were forced to retire . . . (p. 214).

[On Burke, prime mover of Hastings’ impeachment]: India and its inhabitants were . . . to him . . . a real country and a real people. The burning sun; the strange vegetation of the palm and the cocoa-tree; the rice-field and the tank; the huge trees, older than the Mogul empire . . . the thatched roof of the peasant’s hut, and the rich tracery of the mosque . . . the drums, and banners, and gaudy idols . . . the graceful maiden, with the pitcher on her head, descending the steps to the river-side; the black faces, the long beards, the yellow streaks of sect; the turbans and the flowing robes; the spears and the silver maces; the elephants with their canopies of state; the gorgeous palankin of the prince, and the close litter of the noble lady . . . All India was present . . . from the halls where suitors laid gold and perfumes at the feet of sovereigns, to the wild moor where the gipsy-camp was pitched — from the bazars, humming like bee-hives with the crowd of buyers and sellers, to the jungle where the lonely courier shakes his bunch of iron rings to scare away the hyaenas (pp. 232-233).

It has been suggested that Poe’s story owes something also to Robert Montgomery Bird’s Sheppard Lee, which Poe reviewed elaborately in 1836.§

Poe probably wrote his story in 1843, since that year is mentioned in the first versions.


(A) Original manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library; (B) Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book for April 1844 (28:177-181); (C) Broadway Journal, November 29, 1845 (2:315-318); (D) Works (1850), II, 311-321.

The Broadway Journal (C) is our basic text, but the six “printer’s dashes” [page 939:] used by that journal to fill out lines have been eliminated. See Introduction to the Tales, under Variants. Griswold’s text shows no revisions, but introduces two misprints.

The manuscript (A) is that from which the story was first printed. It was obtained for the Pierpont Morgan Library in 1909, through the dealer George H. Richmond, from the family of the Philadelphia collector George C. Thomas, in whose privately printed catalogue (1907) it is first known to have been described. It is still in a roll, measuring approximately 3 3/4 inches wide. Most of the segments are 12 to 13 inches long, but several are shorter; they have been connected with red sealing wax. The paper is light tan, the ink medium to dark brown. The first segment has been silk-lined for strengthening. [We are indebted to J. Rigbie Turner, Assistant Curator of Autograph Manuscripts at the Pierpont Morgan Library, for a recent survey of this manuscript.]

Godey’s printers did not follow Poe’s punctuation in all instances. They disregarded the capitalization of Darkness, Nonentity, Consciousness, Death, Galvanic Battery, Past, Real, Soul, and Man in paragraphs 22 and 23, and eliminated semicolons, for which many times they substituted commas. One might argue that Poe’s manuscripts, coming from his own hand, revealed his pointing preferences, but I do not believe so. In the Broadway Journal, which reproduced rather faithfully Godey’s punctuation and added some commas (but no semicolons), Poe made a number of verbal changes. If he had wanted his manuscript pointings preserved, I think he would have reinstated them, since he was the editor. There are several instances in PHANTASY-PIECES where he did just this.


The Columbia Spy, Columbia, Pennsylvania, April 27, 1844, from Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book. [This copy of the Columbia Spy is not available for checking. See Doings of Gotham (Spannuth and Mabbott, 1929), p, 121, as the authority for this listing.]

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and King’s County Democrat, Brooklyn, New York, October 9 and 10, 1846, from the Lady’s Book or the Broadway Journal. Walt Whitman was editor of the Eagle from March 1846 through January 1848, as noted in The Gathering of the Forces . . . and Other Material Written by Walt Whitman, ed. by Cleveland Rogers and John Black, 2 v. (1920), p. xiv.


During the fall of the year 1827, while residing near Charlottesville, Virginia,{a} I casually made the acquaintance of{b} Mr. Augustus Bedloe.(1) This young gentleman was remarkable in every respect, and excited in me a profound interest and curiosity. I found it impossible to comprehend him either in his{c} moral or his [page 940:] physical relations. Of his family I could{d} obtain no{e} satisfactory account. Whence{f} he came,{g} I never ascertained. Even about his age — although I call him a young gentleman — there was something which perplexed me in no little degree. He certainly seemed young — and he made a{h} point of speaking about his youth — yet{i} there were moments when I should have had little trouble in imagining him a hundred years of age. But in no regard was he more peculiar than in his personal appearance. He was singularly tall and thin. He stooped much. His limbs were exceedingly long and emaciated. His forehead was broad and low.{j} His complexion was absolutely bloodless. His mouth was large and flexible, and his teeth were more wildly uneven, although sound, than I had ever before seen teeth in a human head. The expression of his smile, however, was by no means unpleasing, as might be supposed; but it{k} had no variation whatever. It was one of profound melancholy — of a phaseless and unceasing gloom. His eyes were abnormally large, and round like those of a cat. The pupils, too, upon any accession or diminution of light, underwent contraction or dilation,{l} just such as is observed in the feline tribe. In moments of excitement the orbs grew bright to a degree almost inconceivable; seeming to emit luminous rays, not of a reflected, but of an intrinsic lustre, as does a candle or the sun; yet their ordinary condition was so totally vapid, filmy and dull, as to convey the idea of the eyes{m} of a long-interred corpse.

These peculiarities of person appeared to cause him much annoyance, and he was continually alluding to them in a sort of half explanatory, half apologetic strain, which, when I first heard it, impressed me very painfully. I soon, however, grew accustomed to it, and{n} my uneasiness wore off. It seemed to be his design rather to insinuate than directly to assert that, physically, he had not always been what he was — that a long series of neuralgic attacks had reduced him from a condition of more than usual personal [page 941:] beauty, to that which I saw. For many years past he bad been attended by a physician, named Templeton — an old gentleman, perhaps seventy years of age — whom he had first encountered at Saratoga,(2) and from whose attention,{o} while there, he either received, or fancied that he received, great benefit. The result was that Bedloe, who was wealthy, had made an arrangement with Doctor Templeton, by which the latter, in consideration of a liberal annual allowance, had consented to devote his time and medical experience exclusively to the care of the invalid.

Doctor Templeton had been a traveller in his younger days, and, at Paris, had become a convert, in great measure, to the doctrines of Mesmer.(3) It was altogether by means of magnetic remedies that he had succeeded in alleviating the acute pains of his patient; and this success had very naturally inspired the latter with a certain degree of confidence in the opinions from which the remedies had been educed. The Doctor, however, like all enthusiasts, had struggled hard to make a thorough convert of his pupil, and finally so far gained his point as to induce the sufferer to submit to numerous experiments. By a{p} frequent repetition of these, a result had arisen, which of late days has become so common as to attract little or no attention, but which, at the period of which I write, had very rarely been known in America. I mean to say, that between Doctor Templeton and Bedloe there had grown up, little by little, a very distinct and strongly marked rapport, or magnetic relation. I am not prepared to assert, however, that this rapport extended beyond the limits of the simple sleep-producing power; but this power itself had attained great intensity. At the first attempt to induce the magnetic somnolency, the mesmerist entirely failed. In the fifth or sixth he succeeded very partially, and after long continued effort. Only at the twelfth was the triumph complete. After this the will of the patient succombed rapidly to that of the physician, so that, when I first became acquainted with the two, sleep was brought about almost instantaneously, by the mere volition of the operator, even when the invalid was unaware of his presence. It is only now, in the year [page 941:] 1845,{q} when similar miracles are witnessed daily by thousands, that I dare venture to record this apparent impossibility as a matter of serious fact.(4)

The temperament{r} of Bedloe was, in the highest degree, sensitive, excitable, enthusiastic. His imagination was singularly vigorous and creative; and no doubt it derived additional force from the habitual use of morphine, which he swallowed in great quantity, and without which he would have found it impossible to exist.(5) It was his practice to take a very large dose of it immediately after breakfast, each morning — or rather immediately after a cup of strong coffee, for he ate nothing in the forenoon — and then{s} set forth alone, or attended only by a dog, upon a long ramble among the chain of wild and dreary hills that lie westward and southward of Charlottesville, and are there dignified by the title of the Ragged Mountains.

Upon a dim, warm, misty day, towards the close of November, and during the strange interregnum of the seasons which in America is termed the Indian Summer, Mr. Bedloe departed, as usual, for the hills. The day passed, and still he did not return.

About eight o’clock at night, having become seriously alarmed at{t} his protracted absence, we were about setting out in search of him, when he unexpectedly made his appearance, in health no worse than usual, and in rather more than ordinary spirits. The account which he gave of his expedition, and of the events which had detained him, was a singular one indeed.

“You will remember,” said he, “that it was about nine in the morning when I left Charlottesville. I bent my steps immediately to the mountains, and, about ten, entered a gorge which was entirely new to me. I followed the windings of this pass with much interest. The scenery which presented itself on all sides, although scarcely entitled to be called grand, had about it an indescribable, and to me, a delicious aspect of dreary desolation. The solitude seemed absolutely virgin. I could not help believing that the green sods and the gray rocks upon which I trod, had been trodden [page 943:] never before by the foot of a human being. So entirely secluded, and in fact inaccessible, except through a series of accidents, is the entrance of the ravine, that it is by no means impossible that I was indeed the first adventurer — the very first and sole adventurer who had ever penetrated its{u} recesses.(6)

“The thick and peculiar mist, or smoke, which distinguishes the Indian Summer, and which now hung heavily over all objects, served, no doubt, to deepen the vague impressions which these objects created.(7) So dense was this pleasant fog, that I could at no time see more than a dozen yards of the path before me. This path was excessively sinuous, and as the sun could not be seen, I soon lost all idea of the direction in which I journeyed. In the meantime the morphine had its customary effect — that of enduing all the external world with an intensity of interest. In the quivering of a leaf — in the hue of a blade of grass — in the shape of a trefoil — in the humming of a bee — in the gleaming of a dew-drop — in the breathing of the wind — in the faint odors that came from the forest — there came a whole universe of suggestion — a gay and motley{u‘} train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought.

“Busied in this, I walked on for several hours, during which the mist deepened around me to so great an extent, that at length I was reduced to an absolute groping of the way. And now an indescribable uneasiness possessed me — a species of nervous hesitation and tremor. I feared to tread, lest I should be precipitated into some abyss. I remembered, too, strange stories told about these Ragged Hills, and of the uncouth and fierce races of men who tenanted their groves and caverns.(8) A thousand vague fancies oppressed and disconcerted me — fancies the more distressing because vague. Very suddenly my attention was arrested by the loud beating of a drum.

“My amazement was, of course, extreme. A drum in these hills was a thing unknown. I could not have been more surprised at the sound of the trump of the Archangel.(9) But a new and still more astounding source of interest and perplexity arose. There came a wild rattling or jingling sound, as if of a bunch of large keys — and upon the instant a dusky-visaged and half-naked man [page 944:] rushed past me with a shriek. He came so close to my person that I felt his hot breath upon my face. He bore in one hand an instrument composed of an assemblage of steel rings, and shook them vigorously as he ran. Scarcely had he disappeared in the mist, before, panting after him, with open mouth and glaring eyes, there darted a huge beast. I could not be mistaken in its character. It was a hyena.(10)

“The sight of this monster rather relieved than heightened my terrors — for I now made sure that I dreamed, and endeavored to arouse myself to waking consciousness. I stepped boldly and briskly forward. I rubbed my eyes. I called aloud. I pinched my limbs. A small spring of water presented itself to my view, and here, stooping, I bathed my hands and my head and neck.(11) This seemed to dissipate the equivocal sensations which had hitherto annoyed me. I {vv}arose, as I thought,{vv} a new man, and proceeded steadily and complacently on my unknown way.

“At length, quite overcome by{w} exertion, and by{x} a certain oppressive closeness of the atmosphere, I seated myself beneath a tree. Presently there came a feeble gleam of sunshine and the shadow of the leaves of the tree fell faintly but definitely{y} upon the grass. At this shadow I gazed wonderingly for many minutes. Its character stupified me with astonishment. {zz}I looked upward.{zz} The tree was a palm.

“I now arose hurriedly, and in a state of fearful agitation — for the fancy that I dreamed would serve me no longer. I saw — I felt that I had perfect command of my senses — and these senses now brought to my soul a world of novel and singular sensation. The heat became all at once intolerable. A strange odor loaded the breeze. A low continuous murmur, like that arising from a full, but gently-flowing river, came to my ears, intermingled with the peculiar hum of multitudinous human voices.

“While I listened in an extremity of astonishment which I need not attempt to describe, a strong and brief gust of wind bore off the incumbent fog as if by the wand of an enchanter.

“I found myself at the foot of a high mountain, and looking [page 945:] down into a vast plain, through which wound a majestic river. On the margin of this river stood an Eastern-looking city, such as we read of in the Arabian Tales, but of a character even more singular than any there described. From my position, which was far above the level of the town, I could perceive its every nook and corner, as if delineated on{a} a map. The streets seemed innumerable, and crossed each other irregularly in all directions, but were rather long winding alleys than streets, and absolutely swarmed with inhabitants. The houses were wildly picturesque. On every hand was a wilderness of balconies, of verandahs, of minarets, of shrines, and fantastically carved oriels. Bazaars abounded; and in these were displayed rich wares in infinite variety and profusion — silks, muslins, the most dazzling cutlery, the most magnificent jewels and gems. Besides these things, were seen, on all sides, banners and palanquins, litters with stately dames close veiled,{b} elephants gorgeously caparisoned, idols grotesquely hewn, drums, banners and gongs, spears, silver and gilded{c} maces. And amid the crowd, and the clamor, and the general intricacy and confusion — amid the million of black and yellow men, turbaned and robed, and of flowing beard, there roamed a countless multitude of holy filleted bulls, {d}while vast legions of the filthy but sacred ape clambered, chattering and shrieking, about the cornices of the mosques,(12) or clung to the minarets and oriels.{d} From the swarming streets to the banks of the river, there descended innumerable flights of steps leading to bathing places,{e} while the river itself seemed to force a passage with difficulty through the vast fleets of deeply-burthened ships that far and wide encumbered{f} its surface. Beyond the limits of the city arose, in frequent majestic groups, the palm and the cocoa, with other gigantic and weird{g} trees of vast age; and here and there might be seen a field of rice, the thatched hut of a peasant, a tank, a stray temple, a gypsy camp, or a solitary graceful maiden taking her way, with a pitcher upon her head, to the banks of the magnificent river. [page 946:]

“You will say {hh}now, of course, that{hh} I dreamed; but not so. What I saw — what I heard — what I felt — what I thought — had about it nothing of the unmistakeable idiosyncrasy of the dream. All was rigorously self-consistent. At first, doubting that I was really awake, I entered into a series of tests, which soon convinced me that I really was. Now, when one dreams, and, in the dream, suspects that he dreams, the suspicion never fails to confirm itself, and the sleeper is almost immediately aroused. Thus Novalis errs not in saying that ‘we are near waking when we dream that we dream.”(13) Had the vision occurred{i} to me as I describe it, without my suspecting it as a dream, then a dream it might absolutely have been, but, occurring as it did, and suspected and tested as it was, I am forced to class it among other phenomena.”

“In this I am not sure that you are wrong,” observed Dr. Templeton, “but proceed. You arose and descended into the city.”

“I arose,” continued Bedloe, regarding the Doctor with an air of profound astonishment, “I arose, as you say, and descended into the city. On my way, I fell in with an immense populace, crowding, through every avenue, all{j} in the same direction, and exhibiting in every action the wildest excitement.{k} Very suddenly, and by some inconceivable impulse, I became intensely imbued with personal interest in what was going on. I seemed to feel that I had an important part to play, without exactly understanding what it was. Against the crowd which environed me, however, I experienced a deep sentiment of animosity. I shrank{l} from amid them, and, swiftly, by a circuitous path, reached and entered the city. Here all was the wildest tumult and contention. A small party of men, clad in garments half Indian,{m} half European, and officered by gentlemen in a uniform partly British, were engaged, at great odds, with the swarming rabble of the alleys. I joined the weaker party, arming myself with the weapons of a fallen officer, and fighting I knew not whom with the nervous ferocity of despair. We were soon overpowered by numbers, and driven to seek refuge in a species of kiosk.(14) Here we barricaded ourselves, and, for the [page 947:] present, were secure. From a loop-hole near the summit of the kiosk, I perceived a vast, crowd, in furious agitation, surrounding and assaulting a gay palace that overhung the river. Presently, from an upper window of this palace, there descended an effeminate-looking person, by means of a string made of the turbans of his attendants. A boat was at hand, in which he escaped to the opposite bank of the river.

“And now a new object{n} took possession of my soul. I spoke a few hurried but energetic words to my companions, and, having succeeded in gaining over a few of them to my purpose, made a frantic sally from the kiosk. We rushed amid the crowd that surrounded it. They retreated, at first, before us. They rallied, fought madly, and retreated again. In the meantime we were borne far from the kiosk, and became bewildered and entangled among the narrow streets of tall overhanging houses, into the recesses of which the sun had never been able to shine. The rabble pressed impetuously upon us, harassing us with their spears, and overwhelming us with flights of arrows. These latter were very remarkable, and resembled in some respects the writhing creese of the Malay.(15) They were made to imitate the body of a creeping serpent, and were long and black, with a poisoned barb. One of them struck me upon the right temple. I reeled and fell. An instantaneous and deadly sickness seized me. I struggled — I gasped — I died.”

“You will hardly persist now,” said I, smiling, “that the whole of your adventure was not a dream. You are not prepared to maintain that you are dead?”

When I said these words, I of course expected some lively sally from Bedloe in reply; but, to my astonishment, he hesitated, trembled, became fearfully pallid, and remained silent. I looked towards Templeton. He sat erect and rigid in his chair — his teeth chattered, and his eyes were starting from their sockets. “Proceed!” he at length said hoarsely to Bedloe.

“For many minutes,” continued the latter, “my sole sentiment — my sole feeling — was that of darkness and nonentity, with the [page 948:] consciousness of death. At length, there seemed to pass a violent and sudden shock through my soul, as if of electricity. With it came the sense of elasticity and of light. This latter I felt — not saw. In an instant I seemed to rise from the ground. But I had no bodily, no visible, audible, or palpable presence. The crowd had departed. The tumult had ceased. The city was in comparative repose. Beneath me lay my corpse, with the arrow in my{o} temple, the whole head greatly swollen and disfigured. But all these things I felt — not saw. I took interest in nothing. Even the corpse seemed a matter in which I had no concern. Volition I had {pp}none, but{pp} appeared to be impelled into motion, and flitted buoyantly out of the city, retracing the circuitous path by which I had entered it.(16) When I had attained that point of the ravine in the mountains, at which I had encountered the hyena, I again experienced a shock as of a galvanic battery;(17) the sense of weight, of {qq}volition, of substance,{qq} returned. I became my original self, and bent my steps eagerly homewards — but the past had not lost the vividness of the real — and not now, even for an instant, can I compel my understanding to regard it as a dream.”

“Nor was it,” said Templeton, with an air of deep solemnity, “yet it would be difficult to say how otherwise it should be termed. Let us suppose only, that the soul of the man of to-day is upon the verge of some stupendous psychal discoveries.(18) Let us content ourselves with this supposition. For the rest I have some explanation to make. Here is a water-colour drawing, which I should have shown you before, but which an unaccountable sentiment of horror has hitherto prevented me from showing.”

We looked at the picture which he presented. I saw nothing in it of an extraordinary character; but its effect upon Bedloe was prodigious. He nearly fainted as he gazed. And yet it was but a miniature portrait — a miraculously accurate one, to be sure — of his own very remarkable features. At least this was my thought as I regarded it.

“You will perceive,” said Templeton, “the date of this picture — it is here, scarcely visible, in this corner — 1780. In this year was [page 949:] the portrait taken. It is the likeness of a dead friend — a Mr. Oldeb(19) — to whom I became much attached at Calcutta, during the administration of Warren Hastings. I was then only twenty years old. When I first saw you, Mr. Bedloe, at Saratoga, it was the miraculous similarity which existed between yourself and the painting, which induced me to accost you, to seek your friendship, and to bring about those arrangements which resulted in my becoming your constant companion. In accomplishing this point, I was urged partly, and perhaps principally, by a regretful memory of the deceased, but also, in part, by an uneasy, and not altogether horrorless curiosity respecting yourself.

“In your detail of the vision which presented itself to you amid the hills, you have described, with the minutest accuracy, the Indian city of Benares, upon the Holy River. The riots, the combats, the massacre, were the actual events of the insurrection of Cheyte Sing, which took place in 1780, when Hastings was put in imminent peril of his life.(20) The man escaping by the string of turbans, was Cheyte Sing himself. The party in the kiosk were sepoys and British officers, headed by Hastings. Of this party I was one, and did all I could to prevent the rash and fatal sally of the officer who fell, in the crowded alleys, by the poisoned arrow of a Bengalee.(21) That officer was my dearest friend. It was Oldeb. You will perceive by these manuscripts,” (here the speaker produced a note-book in which several pages appeared to have been freshly written) “that at the very period in which you fancied these things amid the hills, I was engaged in detailing them upon paper here at home.”(22)

In about a week after this conversation, the following paragraphs appeared in a Charlottesville paper.

“We have the painful duty of announcing the death of Mr. AUGUSTUS BEDLO, a gentleman whose amiable manners and{r} many virtues have long endeared him to the citizens of Charlottesville.

“Mr. B., for some years past, has been subject to neuralgia, which has often threatened to terminate fatally; but this can be regarded only as the mediate cause of his decease. The proximate cause was one of especial singularity. In an excursion to the [page 950:] Ragged Mountains, a few days since, a slight cold and fever were{s} contracted, attended with great determination of blood to the head. To relieve this, Dr. Templeton resorted to topical bleeding. Leeches were applied to the temples. In a fearfully brief period the patient died, when it appeared that, in the jar containing the leeches, had been introduced, by accident, one of the venomous vermicular sangsues which are now and then found in the neighboring ponds. This creature fastened itself upon a small artery in the right temple. Its close resemblance to the medicinal leech caused the mistake to be overlooked until too late.

“N. B. The poisonous sangsue of Charlottesville may always be distinguished from the medicinal leech by its blackness, and especially by its writhing or vermicular motions, which very nearly resemble those of a snake.”(23)

I was speaking with the editor of the paper in question, upon the topic of this remarkable accident, when it occurred to me to ask how it happened that the name of the deceased had been given as Bedlo.

“I presume,” said I, “you have authority for this spelling, but I have always supposed the name to be written with an e at the end.”

“Authority? — no,” he replied. “It is a mere typographical error. The name is Bedloe{t} with an e, all the world over, and I never knew it to be spelt otherwise in my life.”

“Then,” said I mutteringly, as I turned upon my heel, “then indeed has it come to pass that one truth is{u} stranger than any fiction(24) — for Bedlo, without the e, what is it but Oldeb conversed? And this man tells me it is a typographical error.”



[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 939:]

Title  By Edgar A. Poe. beneath the title in same script (A)

a  in Virginia, (A, B)

b  of a (A, B)

c  his mental, his (A, B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 940:]

d  could <never> (A)

e  <any> ↑ no ↓ (A)

f  Where (A, B)

g  came from (A, B)

h  a frequent (A, B)

i  but (A, B)

j  low. His hair resembled the web of the spider in its tenuity, and levity. (A, B) comma omitted in B

k  ↑ it ↓ (A)

l  dilatation, (A, B)

m  eyes of a vulture, or even (A, B)

n  when (A, B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 941:]

o  attentions, (A, B)

p  the (A, B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 942:]

q  1843. (A, B)

r  temperature (C, D) misprint, corrected from A, B

s  then to (A, B)

t  as (D) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 943:]

u  its weird (A); its weird (B)

u’ motly (C, D) corrected from A, B

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 944:]

vv . . . vv  arose (A, B)

w  with (A, B)

x  with (A, B)

y  definitively (A, B)

zz . . . zz  Omitted (A, B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 945:]

a  upon (A, B)

b  close-veiled, (A)

c  gilden (A, B)

dd . . . dd  and clambered, chattering and shrieking about the cornices of the mosques, and clinging to the oriels and minarets, vast legions of the filthy but sacred ape. (A, B)

e  bathing-places, (A, B)

f  encountered (D)

g  wierd (A, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 946:]

hh . . . hh  that now, of course, (A, B)

i  occured (C) misprint

j  Omitted (A, B)

k  excitements. (B) [Godey’s error]

l  shrunk (A, B)

m  half-Indian (C) hyphen deleted to follow all other texts. Comma added

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 947:]

n  and altogether objectless impulse (A, B); Quotation marks are added editorially at the beginning of the paragraph, omitted in A, B, C

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 948:]

o  the (A, B)

pp . . . pp  none. But I (A); none, but I (B)

qq . . . qq  substance and of volition (A, B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 949:]

r  Omitted (D) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 950:]

s  was (B)

t  Bedlo (C, D) emended from A, B

u  is far (A, B)


[page 950, continued:]


1.  Poe was actually at Charlottesville a year earlier than that mentioned, and of course walked among the nearby Ragged Mountains. The Bedloe family gave its name to Bedloe’s Island, upon which the Statue of Liberty now stands, in New York Harbor near Manhattan Island. Another Bedloe, William, the seventeenth century English informer against Papists, is mentioned in Macaulay’s essay on Warren Hastings. [page 951:]

2.  Saratoga Springs, New York, noted from colonial times for the therapeutic value of its mineral waters, had become a popular resort by 1820. Poe visited the place in the summer of 1843 and is traditionally believed there to have composed “The Raven.” See Mabbott, I, 358, and Marjorie Peabody Waite, Yaddo (Saratoga Springs, 1933), pp. 16-23.

3.  Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815), a Swiss-German physician, was the inventor of a therapy the effectiveness of which he ascribed to a force he called “animal magnetism.” His theories, enormously popular in Europe and America, were early discredited, but responsible investigation of the phenomena produced by his method led eventually to the development of modern hypnotism.

4.  When Poe wrote his story, serious research into the phenomena of mesmerism had not proceeded very far, but there was much discussion and popular awareness of some of the terms (rapport, for example) and some of the results. As Sidney Lind observed, mesmerism “was in the air, and it was logical that Poe, as a journalist sensitive to popular interest, should have exploited it.” He used its theories again in “Mesmeric Revelation” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.”

Poe here updates his story; the year was given as 1843 in the first versions.

5.  Morphine, mentioned frequently in Poe’s stories, helps provide a natural explanation of some of the happenings recounted.

6.  Compare the passage from Edgar Huntly (chapter X) quoted in the introduction above. On delight in virgin wilderness, compare “Julius Rodman,” chapter V: “. . . that deep and most intense excitement with which I surveyed the wonders and majestic beauties of the wilderness . . . As yet, however, I felt as if in too close proximity to the settlements for the full enjoyment of my burning love of Nature, and of the unknown.”

7.  Compare “Landor’s Cottage“: “A smoky mist, resembling that of Indian Summer, enveloped all things and, of course, added to my uncertainty.”

8.  Compare Edgar Huntly, chapter X: “The aboriginal inhabitants had no motives to lead them into caves like this and ponder on the verge of such a precipice. Their successors were still less likely to have wandered hither.”

9.  For the trump of the Archangel, see I Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord . . . shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump.”

10.  See the last passage from Macaulay’s essay quoted in my introduction above. Other bits from all the passages quoted are skillfully intermingled throughout the next six paragraphs.

11.  Compare Edgar Huntly, end of chapter XVI: “I approached the torrent, and not only drank copiously, but laved my head, neck, and arms, in this delicious element.”

12.  The great mosque at Benares was built by the Mogul Emperor Aurungzebe, to insult the Hindus in their most sacred city. The name of the Emperor (son of Shah Jehan, who built the Taj Mahal) means “ornament of the throne”; [page 952:] he was enthroned in 1678, and reigned until 1707, the most powerful of the Moguls.

13.  The quotation from Novalis (Friedrich Leopold von Hardenberg, 1772-1801) Poe found with an English translation in a book he reviewed in Graham’s for December 1841, Sarah T. Austin’s Fragments from German Prose Writers (New York, 1841), p. 21. See Novalis Schriften (Jena, 1907), II, p. 141, where it is number 121 of the “Fragmente, Paralipomena zum Bl├╝tenstaub, I” from the second part of Athenaeum. See the motto of “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” for another Novalis fragment from Mrs. Austin’s book.

14.  [For Poe’s accurate use of this word as an indication that he went beyond Macaulay and Gleig to Hastings’ own account and other sources, see Muktar Ali Isani in Poe Studies, December 1972.]

15.  The creese, or kris, is defined as a short sword or heavy dagger with a wavy blade. The serpentine arrowheads are probably Poe’s invention. See n. 23, below.

16.  With this may be compared a passage in R. M. Bird’s Sheppard Lee, as synopsized in Poe’s review in the Southern Literary Messenger, September 1836: “He feels exceedingly light and buoyant, with the power of moving without exertion. He sweeps along without putting his feet to the ground . . . Mr. Lee . . . flies, instinctively to the nearest hut for assistance.”

17.  Poe mentioned the galvanic battery in several tales. See “A Decided Loss,” n. 21, and canceled references noted in the variants in “MS. Found in a Bottle” and “The Oval Portrait.”

18.  Whereas the narrator’s earlier mention of “miracles” (at n. 4) referred to the accomplishments of mesmerism, Dr. Templeton here, as Sidney Lind pointed out, is referring to the mysteries of metempsychosis. [Poe uses the rare word “psychal” a number of times; see Pollin, Poe: Creator of Words (1974), p. 35.]

19.  Boyd Carter, cited in the introduction, thought it significant that “Old Deb” is the name of an American Indian woman who gave the solution of Walde-grave’s murder in Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly.[See also Pollin, Discoveries in Poe, p. 26, for Macaulay’s essay as a source for Oldeb’s name.]

20.  Cheyte Sing or Chait Singh was the Rajah of Benares, driven to revolt by Hastings’ larger and larger demands for money to support the English power in India. The events described took place in 1781, rather than 1780. See Warren Hastings, A Narrative of the Insurrection which happened in the Zemeedary of Banaris, in the Month of August 1781 (Calcutta, Printed by order of the Governor-General, 1782), widely reprinted.

21.  Compare the third quotation from Macaulay, in the introduction above.

22.  Here, Sidney Lind remarks, “Bedloe’s strange experience is revealed in its true light as a mesmeric trance, transmitted from Templeton’s mind, and not the workings of metempsychosis.”

23.  As stated in the introduction, poisonous “sangsues” (leeches) are unknown [page 953:] to natural historians. Poe may have picked up the French term from Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame [see Pollin, Discoveries in Poe, pp. 24-25], or he may have taken it directly from Cuvier’s Le Règne Animal (1817, II, 531-532) while he was working with Thomas Wyatt on the Synopsis of Natural History (see n. 35 to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”). Wyatt’s text on leeches is derived from Cuvier. The serpentine shape may have been suggested by the illustration of “AMPHITRITE, Cuv.” on Wyatt’s plate 31 (lithographed by P. S. Duval), which also depicts medicinal leeches. Poe had reason to associate a leech unpleasantly with Charlottesville, for Samuel Leitch, Jr. was a merchant of that place who dunned John Allan for a debt of $68.46, incurred by “Edgar A. Powe,” while at the University, according to Quinn, Poe (1941), p. 112. This was suggested to me by Mr. Glen M. Pound of Indianapolis, and I think Poe was quite capable of such a punning invention.

24.  “Truth is stranger than fiction” is from Byron’s Don Juan, XIV, ci, 1-2, a passage often quoted or alluded to by Poe. It is the cardinal idea of “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade.”



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 936:]

*  Prairie Schooner, Summer 1953. Poe thought highly of Brown and planned to write a study of Brown’s novels in 1839, although he probably did not complete the article. He announced the project at the end of his unsigned paper, “American Novel Writing,” in the Pittsburgh Literary Examiner, August 1839.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 937:]

  Some other parallels are mentioned in the endnotes.

  This source has been independently noticed on several occasions. See especially Henry Austin in Literature, August 4, 1899, and Jesse Turner in The Case of Macaulay v. Poe, a paper read at a meeting of the Arkansas State Bar Association at Little Rock, May 27-28, 1902, and subsequently issued by the association as a pamphlet. Poe reviewed in Graham’s for June 1841 the first two volumes of the (unauthorized) Philadelphia edition of Macaulay’s Critical and Miscellaneous Essays.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 938:]

§  See note 16 below.




The issue of the Columbia Spy that was not available in 1978 is now in the Koester Collection, HRCL, University of Texas at Austin — JAS.


[S:1 - TOM3T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (A Tale of the Ragged Mountains)