Edgar Allan Poe.

Works (Volume 9) online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeWorks (Volume 9) → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook












PREFACE . . iii


NOTE aj3



Upon my return to the United States a few
months ago, after the extraordinary series of adven
ture in the South Seas and elsewhere, of which
an account is given in the following pages, acci
dent threw me into the society of several gentle
men 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 whi( h 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
appearance of that truth it would really possess,
barring only the natural and unavoidable exaggera
tion 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 posi
tively marvellous, that, unsupported as my asser
tions 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 in
genious fiction. A distrust in my own abilities as
a writer was, nevertheless, one of the principal causes
which prevented me from complying with the sug
gestions of my advisers.

Among those gentlemen in Virginia who expressed
the greatest interest in my statement, more particu
larly 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 maga
zine, 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 after
ward 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, publish
ing 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 re
tained. Two numbers of the pretended fiction ap
peared, 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 compila-


tion 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 con
trary. I thence concluded that the facts of my nar
rative 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 expose 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.

NBW YORK, July, 1838.



MY name is Arthur Gordon Pym. My father
was a respectable trader in sea-stores at
Nantucket, where I was born. My mater
nal grandfather was an attorney in good practice.
He was fortunate in everything, 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 talk
ing 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

VOL. IX i i


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 sail-boat 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 crowd
ing. 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 thou
sand wonders that I am alive to-day.

I will relate one of these adventures by way of
introduction to a longer and more momentous nar
rative. One night there was a party at Mr. Barnard s,
and both Augustus and myself were not a little
intoxicated towards 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 south-west.
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, how
ever, saying he knew that I supposed him intoxi
cated, 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 Octo
ber. I sprang out of bed, nevertheless, in a kind
of ecstasy, and told him I was quite as brave as him
self, 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 Nantucket.

We lost no time in getting on our clothes and
hurring down to the boat. She was lying at the old
decayed wharf by the lumber-yard of Pankey & Co.,
and almost thumping her sides 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
south-west. The night was very clear and cold.
Augustus had taken the helm, and I stationed my
self 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 in
tended to steer, and what time he thought it prob
able 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, and 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 main
tained 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
such a reply, but there was something in the tone
of these words which filled me with an indescrib
able 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 high ] y-con-
centrated state of intoxication a state which,
like madness, frequently enables the victim to imi
tate the outward demeanor of one in perfect posses
sion 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 hasten
ing 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 com
pass 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 in
creasing 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 be
numbed, too, in every limb, as to be nearly uncon
scious 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 occasion
ally, 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 everything as well as I could in my
chilled and agitated condition, I recommended my
self to God, and made up my mind to bear whatever
might happen with all the fortitude in my power.

Hardly had I came to this resolution, when, sud
denly, 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 insensi
ble upon the body of my fallen companion.


I found myself, upon reviving, in the cabin of a
large whaling-ship (the Penguin) bound to Nan-
tucket. 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 alter
nate 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 per
ceptible 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 swal
lowed 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 non
sense; and if there was a man run down, it was no
body s fault but his own he might drown and be
d d, " 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 such 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
very pale and made no answer) on one side, and
seizing the helm, gave the word, in a firm voice,
Hard-a-leef 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 deliver
ance 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 noth
ing else repeating his cry impatiently, back water!
back water! The men put back as speedily as pos
sible; 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 the 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 cop
pered 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 behavior 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 afterwards 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 im
minent and deadly peril. Indeed, it is nearly im
possible to conceive how the small jolly they were
in could have escaped destruction for a single in
stant. 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 myself tied round 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 preserv
ing 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 rush
ing 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 death.


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
wound in three or four folds tightly about his neck.
In an instant afterwards 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 breath 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 any matters in con
nection with the source of his disaster. A vague
feeling of terror and despair had taken entire pos
session 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 resusci
tated 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 sug

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeWorks (Volume 9) → online text (page 1 of 17)