Edgar Allan Poe.

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Produced by David Widger




The Raven Edition





UPON my return to the United States a few months ago, after the
extraordinary series of adventure in the South Seas and elsewhere, of
which an account is given in the following pages, accident threw me
into the society of several gentlemen in Richmond, Va., who felt deep
interest in all matters relating to the regions I had visited, and who
were constantly urging it upon me, as a duty, to give my narrative to
the public. I had several reasons, however, for declining to do so, some
of which were of a nature altogether private, and concern no person but
myself; others not so much so. One consideration which deterred me was
that, having kept no journal during a greater portion of the time in
which I was absent, I feared I should not be able to write, from mere
memory, a statement so minute and connected as to have the _appearance
_of that truth it would really possess, barring only the natural and
unavoidable exaggeration to which all of us are prone when detailing
events which have had powerful influence in exciting the imaginative
faculties. Another reason was, that the incidents to be narrated were
of a nature so positively marvellous that, unsupported as my assertions
must necessarily be (except by the evidence of a single individual, and
he a half-breed Indian), I could only hope for belief among my family,
and those of my friends who have had reason, through life, to put faith
in my veracity-the probability being that the public at large would
regard what I should put forth as merely an impudent and ingenious
fiction. A distrust in my own abilities as a writer was, nevertheless,
one of the principal causes which prevented me from complying with the
suggestions of my advisers.

Among those gentlemen in Virginia who expressed the greatest interest
in my statement, more particularly in regard to that portion of it
which related to the Antarctic Ocean, was Mr. Poe, lately editor of
the "Southern Literary Messenger," a monthly magazine, published by Mr.
Thomas W. White, in the city of Richmond. He strongly advised me,
among others, to prepare at once a full account of what I had seen
and undergone, and trust to the shrewdness and common-sense of the
public-insisting, with great plausibility, that however roughly, as
regards mere authorship, my book should be got up, its very uncouthness,
if there were any, would give it all the better chance of being received
as truth.

Notwithstanding this representation, I did not make up my mind to do as
he suggested. He afterward proposed (finding that I would not stir in
the matter) that I should allow him to draw up, in his own words, a
narrative of the earlier portion of my adventures, from facts afforded
by myself, publishing it in the "Southern Messenger" _under the garb
of fiction. _To this, perceiving no objection, I consented, stipulating
only that my real name should be retained. Two numbers of the pretended
fiction appeared, consequently, in the "Messenger" for January and
February (1837), and, in order that it might certainly be regarded as
fiction, the name of Mr. Poe was affixed to the articles in the table of
contents of the magazine.

The manner in which this ruse was received has induced me at length to
undertake a regular compilation and publication of the adventures in
question; for I found that, in spite of the air of fable which had been
so ingeniously thrown around that portion of my statement which appeared
in the "Messenger" (without altering or distorting a single fact),
the public were still not at all disposed to receive it as fable, and
several letters were sent to Mr. P.'s address, distinctly expressing
a conviction to the contrary. I thence concluded that the facts of my
narrative would prove of such a nature as to carry with them sufficient
evidence of their own authenticity, and that I had consequently little
to fear on the score of popular incredulity.

This_ exposé _being made, it will be seen at once how much of what
follows I claim to be my own writing; and it will also be understood
that no fact is misrepresented in the first few pages which were written
by Mr. Poe. Even to those readers who have not seen the "Messenger,"
it will be unnecessary to point out where his portion ends and my own
commences; the difference in point of style will be readily perceived.

A. G. PYM.


MY name is Arthur Gordon Pym. My father was a respectable trader in
sea-stores at Nantucket, where I was born. My maternal grandfather was
an attorney in good practice. He was fortunate in every thing, and had
speculated very successfully in stocks of the Edgarton New Bank, as it
was formerly called. By these and other means he had managed to lay by a
tolerable sum of money. He was more attached to myself, I believe, than
to any other person in the world, and I expected to inherit the most
of his property at his death. He sent me, at six years of age, to
the school of old Mr. Ricketts, a gentleman with only one arm and of
eccentric manners - he is well known to almost every person who has
visited New Bedford. I stayed at his school until I was sixteen, when I
left him for Mr. E. Ronald's academy on the hill. Here I became intimate
with the son of Mr. Barnard, a sea-captain, who generally sailed in the
employ of Lloyd and Vredenburgh - Mr. Barnard is also very well known in
New Bedford, and has many relations, I am certain, in Edgarton. His son
was named Augustus, and he was nearly two years older than myself. He
had been on a whaling voyage with his father in the John Donaldson, and
was always talking to me of his adventures in the South Pacific Ocean.
I used frequently to go home with him, and remain all day, and sometimes
all night. We occupied the same bed, and he would be sure to keep me
awake until almost light, telling me stories of the natives of the
Island of Tinian, and other places he had visited in his travels. At
last I could not help being interested in what he said, and by degrees
I felt the greatest desire to go to sea. I owned a sailboat called the
Ariel, and worth about seventy-five dollars. She had a half-deck or
cuddy, and was rigged sloop-fashion - I forget her tonnage, but she would
hold ten persons without much crowding. In this boat we were in the
habit of going on some of the maddest freaks in the world; and, when I
now think of them, it appears to me a thousand wonders that I am alive

I will relate one of these adventures by way of introduction to a
longer and more momentous narrative. One night there was a party at Mr.
Barnard's, and both Augustus and myself were not a little intoxicated
toward the close of it. As usual, in such cases, I took part of his
bed in preference to going home. He went to sleep, as I thought, very
quietly (it being near one when the party broke up), and without saying
a word on his favorite topic. It might have been half an hour from the
time of our getting in bed, and I was just about falling into a doze,
when he suddenly started up, and swore with a terrible oath that he
would not go to sleep for any Arthur Pym in Christendom, when there was
so glorious a breeze from the southwest. I never was so astonished in
my life, not knowing what he intended, and thinking that the wines and
liquors he had drunk had set him entirely beside himself. He proceeded
to talk very coolly, however, saying he knew that I supposed him
intoxicated, but that he was never more sober in his life. He was only
tired, he added, of lying in bed on such a fine night like a dog, and
was determined to get up and dress, and go out on a frolic with the
boat. I can hardly tell what possessed me, but the words were no sooner
out of his mouth than I felt a thrill of the greatest excitement and
pleasure, and thought his mad idea one of the most delightful and most
reasonable things in the world. It was blowing almost a gale, and the
weather was very cold - it being late in October. I sprang out of bed,
nevertheless, in a kind of ecstasy, and told him I was quite as brave
as himself, and quite as tired as he was of lying in bed like a dog,
and quite as ready for any fun or frolic as any Augustus Barnard in

We lost no time in getting on our clothes and hurrying down to the boat.
She was lying at the old decayed wharf by the lumber-yard of Pankey &
Co., and almost thumping her side out against the rough logs. Augustus
got into her and bailed her, for she was nearly half full of water. This
being done, we hoisted jib and mainsail, kept full, and started boldly
out to sea.

The wind, as I before said, blew freshly from the southwest. The night
was very clear and cold. Augustus had taken the helm, and I stationed
myself by the mast, on the deck of the cuddy. We flew along at a great
rate - neither of us having said a word since casting loose from the
wharf. I now asked my companion what course he intended to steer, and
what time he thought it probable we should get back. He whistled for a
few minutes, and then said crustily: "_I_ am going to sea - _you_ may go
home if you think proper." Turning my eyes upon him, I perceived at once
that, in spite of his assumed _nonchalance_, he was greatly agitated.
I could see him distinctly by the light of the moon - his face was
paler than any marble, and his hand shook so excessively that he could
scarcely retain hold of the tiller. I found that something had gone
wrong, and became seriously alarmed. At this period I knew little
about the management of a boat, and was now depending entirely upon the
nautical skill of my friend. The wind, too, had suddenly increased, as
we were fast getting out of the lee of the land - still I was ashamed
to betray any trepidation, and for almost half an hour maintained a
resolute silence. I could stand it no longer, however, and spoke to
Augustus about the propriety of turning back. As before, it was nearly
a minute before he made answer, or took any notice of my suggestion.
"By-and-by," said he at length - "time enough - home by-and-by." I had
expected a similar reply, but there was something in the tone of these
words which filled me with an indescribable feeling of dread. I again
looked at the speaker attentively. His lips were perfectly livid, and
his knees shook so violently together that he seemed scarcely able to
stand. "For God's sake, Augustus," I screamed, now heartily frightened,
"what ails you? - what is the matter? - what _are_ you going to do?"
"Matter!" he stammered, in the greatest apparent surprise, letting go
the tiller at the same moment, and falling forward into the bottom of
the boat - "matter - why, nothing is the - matter - going home - d - d - don't
you see?" The whole truth now flashed upon me. I flew to him and raised
him up. He was drunk - beastly drunk - he could no longer either stand,
speak, or see. His eyes were perfectly glazed; and as I let him go
in the extremity of my despair, he rolled like a mere log into the
bilge-water, from which I had lifted him. It was evident that, during
the evening, he had drunk far more than I suspected, and that his
conduct in bed had been the result of a highly-concentrated state of
intoxication - a state which, like madness, frequently enables the victim
to imitate the outward demeanour of one in perfect possession of his
senses. The coolness of the night air, however, had had its usual
effect - the mental energy began to yield before its influence - and the
confused perception which he no doubt then had of his perilous situation
had assisted in hastening the catastrophe. He was now thoroughly
insensible, and there was no probability that he would be otherwise for
many hours.

It is hardly possible to conceive the extremity of my terror. The fumes
of the wine lately taken had evaporated, leaving me doubly timid and
irresolute. I knew that I was altogether incapable of managing the
boat, and that a fierce wind and strong ebb tide were hurrying us to
destruction. A storm was evidently gathering behind us; we had neither
compass nor provisions; and it was clear that, if we held our present
course, we should be out of sight of land before daybreak. These
thoughts, with a crowd of others equally fearful, flashed through my
mind with a bewildering rapidity, and for some moments paralyzed me
beyond the possibility of making any exertion. The boat was going
through the water at a terrible rate - full before the wind - no reef in
either jib or mainsail - running her bows completely under the foam. It
was a thousand wonders she did not broach to - Augustus having let go
the tiller, as I said before, and I being too much agitated to think of
taking it myself. By good luck, however, she kept steady, and gradually
I recovered some degree of presence of mind. Still the wind was
increasing fearfully, and whenever we rose from a plunge forward, the
sea behind fell combing over our counter, and deluged us with water. I
was so utterly benumbed, too, in every limb, as to be nearly unconscious
of sensation. At length I summoned up the resolution of despair,
and rushing to the mainsail let it go by the run. As might have been
expected, it flew over the bows, and, getting drenched with water,
carried away the mast short off by the board. This latter accident alone
saved me from instant destruction. Under the jib only, I now boomed
along before the wind, shipping heavy seas occasionally over the
counter, but relieved from the terror of immediate death. I took the
helm, and breathed with greater freedom as I found that there yet
remained to us a chance of ultimate escape. Augustus still lay senseless
in the bottom of the boat; and as there was imminent danger of his
drowning (the water being nearly a foot deep just where he fell), I
contrived to raise him partially up, and keep him in a sitting position,
by passing a rope round his waist, and lashing it to a ringbolt in the
deck of the cuddy. Having thus arranged every thing as well as I could
in my chilled and agitated condition, I recommended myself to God, and
made up my mind to bear whatever might happen with all the fortitude in
my power.

Hardly had I come to this resolution, when, suddenly, a loud and long
scream or yell, as if from the throats of a thousand demons, seemed to
pervade the whole atmosphere around and above the boat. Never while I
live shall I forget the intense agony of terror I experienced at that
moment. My hair stood erect on my head - I felt the blood congealing
in my veins - my heart ceased utterly to beat, and without having once
raised my eyes to learn the source of my alarm, I tumbled headlong and
insensible upon the body of my fallen companion.

I found myself, upon reviving, in the cabin of a large whaling-ship (the
Penguin) bound to Nantucket. Several persons were standing over me, and
Augustus, paler than death, was busily occupied in chafing my hands.
Upon seeing me open my eyes, his exclamations of gratitude and joy
excited alternate laughter and tears from the rough-looking personages
who were present. The mystery of our being in existence was now
soon explained. We had been run down by the whaling-ship, which was
close-hauled, beating up to Nantucket with every sail she could venture
to set, and consequently running almost at right angles to our own
course. Several men were on the look-out forward, but did not perceive
our boat until it was an impossibility to avoid coming in contact - their
shouts of warning upon seeing us were what so terribly alarmed me. The
huge ship, I was told, rode immediately over us with as much ease as
our own little vessel would have passed over a feather, and without the
least perceptible impediment to her progress. Not a scream arose from
the deck of the victim - there was a slight grating sound to be heard
mingling with the roar of wind and water, as the frail bark which was
swallowed up rubbed for a moment along the keel of her destroyer - but
this was all. Thinking our boat (which it will be remembered was
dismasted) some mere shell cut adrift as useless, the captain (Captain
E. T. V. Block, of New London) was for proceeding on his course without
troubling himself further about the matter. Luckily, there were two
of the look-out who swore positively to having seen some person at our
helm, and represented the possibility of yet saving him. A discussion
ensued, when Block grew angry, and, after a while, said that "it was no
business of his to be eternally watching for egg-shells; that the ship
should not put about for any such nonsense; and if there was a man run
down, it was nobody's fault but his own, he might drown and be dammed"
or some language to that effect. Henderson, the first mate, now took the
matter up, being justly indignant, as well as the whole ship's crew,
at a speech evincing so base a degree of heartless atrocity. He
spoke plainly, seeing himself upheld by the men, told the captain he
considered him a fit subject for the gallows, and that he would disobey
his orders if he were hanged for it the moment he set his foot on shore.
He strode aft, jostling Block (who turned pale and made no answer)
on one side, and seizing the helm, gave the word, in a firm voice,
Hard-a-lee! The men flew to their posts, and the ship went cleverly
about. All this had occupied nearly five minutes, and it was supposed to
be hardly within the bounds of possibility that any individual could be
saved - allowing any to have been on board the boat. Yet, as the reader
has seen, both Augustus and myself were rescued; and our deliverance
seemed to have been brought about by two of those almost inconceivable
pieces of good fortune which are attributed by the wise and pious to the
special interference of Providence.

While the ship was yet in stays, the mate lowered the jolly-boat and
jumped into her with the very two men, I believe, who spoke up as having
seen me at the helm. They had just left the lee of the vessel (the moon
still shining brightly) when she made a long and heavy roll to windward,
and Henderson, at the same moment, starting up in his seat bawled out
to his crew to back water. He would say nothing else - repeating his cry
impatiently, back water! black water! The men put back as speedily as
possible, but by this time the ship had gone round, and gotten fully
under headway, although all hands on board were making great exertions
to take in sail. In despite of the danger of the attempt, the mate clung
to the main-chains as soon as they came within his reach. Another huge
lurch now brought the starboard side of the vessel out of water nearly
as far as her keel, when the cause of his anxiety was rendered obvious
enough. The body of a man was seen to be affixed in the most singular
manner to the smooth and shining bottom (the Penguin was coppered and
copper-fastened), and beating violently against it with every movement
of the hull. After several ineffectual efforts, made during the lurches
of the ship, and at the imminent risk of swamping the boat I was finally
disengaged from my perilous situation and taken on board - for the body
proved to be my own. It appeared that one of the timber-bolts having
started and broken a passage through the copper, it had arrested my
progress as I passed under the ship, and fastened me in so extraordinary
a manner to her bottom. The head of the bolt had made its way through
the collar of the green baize jacket I had on, and through the back part
of my neck, forcing itself out between two sinews and just below the
right ear. I was immediately put to bed - although life seemed to be
totally extinct. There was no surgeon on board. The captain, however,
treated me with every attention - to make amends, I presume, in the eyes
of his crew, for his atrocious behaviour in the previous portion of the

In the meantime, Henderson had again put off from the ship, although
the wind was now blowing almost a hurricane. He had not been gone many
minutes when he fell in with some fragments of our boat, and shortly
afterward one of the men with him asserted that he could distinguish a
cry for help at intervals amid the roaring of the tempest. This induced
the hardy seamen to persevere in their search for more than half an
hour, although repeated signals to return were made them by Captain
Block, and although every moment on the water in so frail a boat was
fraught to them with the most imminent and deadly peril. Indeed, it is
nearly impossible to conceive how the small jolly they were in could
have escaped destruction for a single instant. She was built, however,
for the whaling service, and was fitted, as I have since had reason to
believe, with air-boxes, in the manner of some life-boats used on the
coast of Wales.

After searching in vain for about the period of time just mentioned,
it was determined to get back to the ship. They had scarcely made this
resolve when a feeble cry arose from a dark object that floated rapidly
by. They pursued and soon overtook it. It proved to be the entire deck
of the Ariel's cuddy. Augustus was struggling near it, apparently in the
last agonies. Upon getting hold of him it was found that he was attached
by a rope to the floating timber. This rope, it will be remembered, I
had myself tied around his waist, and made fast to a ringbolt, for
the purpose of keeping him in an upright position, and my so doing,
it appeared, had been ultimately the means of preserving his life. The
Ariel was slightly put together, and in going down her frame naturally
went to pieces; the deck of the cuddy, as might have been expected, was
lifted, by the force of the water rushing in, entirely from the
main timbers, and floated (with other fragments, no doubt) to the
surface - Augustus was buoyed up with it, and thus escaped a terrible

It was more than an hour after being taken on board the Penguin before
he could give any account of himself, or be made to comprehend the
nature of the accident which had befallen our boat. At length he became
thoroughly aroused, and spoke much of his sensations while in the water.
Upon his first attaining any degree of consciousness, he found himself
beneath the surface, whirling round and round with inconceivable
rapidity, and with a rope wrapped in three or four folds tightly about
his neck. In an instant afterward he felt himself going rapidly upward,
when, his head striking violently against a hard substance, he again
relapsed into insensibility. Upon once more reviving he was in fuller
possession of his reason - this was still, however, in the greatest
degree clouded and confused. He now knew that some accident had
occurred, and that he was in the water, although his mouth was above
the surface, and he could breathe with some freedom. Possibly, at this
period the deck was drifting rapidly before the wind, and drawing him
after it, as he floated upon his back. Of course, as long as he could
have retained this position, it would have been nearly impossible that
he should be drowned. Presently a surge threw him directly athwart the
deck, and this post he endeavored to maintain, screaming at intervals
for help. Just before he was discovered by Mr. Henderson, he had been
obliged to relax his hold through exhaustion, and, falling into the sea,
had given himself up for lost. During the whole period of his struggles
he had not the faintest recollection of the Ariel, nor of the matters in
connexion with the source of his disaster. A vague feeling of terror
and despair had taken entire possession of his faculties. When he was
finally picked up, every power of his mind had failed him; and, as
before said, it was nearly an hour after getting on board the Penguin
before he became fully aware of his condition. In regard to myself - I
was resuscitated from a state bordering very nearly upon death (and
after every other means had been tried in vain for three hours and a
half) by vigorous friction with flannels bathed in hot oil - a proceeding
suggested by Augustus. The wound in my neck, although of an ugly
appearance, proved of little real consequence, and I soon recovered from
its effects.

The Penguin got into port about nine o'clock in the morning, after
encountering one of the severest gales ever experienced off Nantucket.
Both Augustus and myself managed to appear at Mr. Barnard's in time for
breakfast - which, luckily, was somewhat late, owing to the party over

Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3 → online text (page 1 of 24)