" I assure you I am not dead," said I, throwing
myself upon my knees before my cousin, who was
" I know that, my good fellow," was his answer,
" but poor Stadt, you see, is gone for ever.
" That is not Stadt — it is I — it is I — will you not
believe me ! I am Stadt — this is not me — I am not
myself. For heaven's sake suspend this funeral."
Such were my exclamations, but they produced no
other effect but that of pity among the bystanders.
" Poor unfortunate fellow, he is crazed. Get a
porter, and let him be taken home."
This order, which was given by my cousin him-
self, stung me to madness, and, changing my piteous
tones for those of fierce resistance, I swore that " I
46 TALES FROM " BLACKWOOD/'
would not turn out for any man living. I would
not be buried alive to please them." To this nobody
made any reply, but in the course of a minute four
stout porters made their appearance, and I was
forced from the house.
Returning to Wolstang's lodgings, the old man
was there in waiting, as he promised. " What,"
said I with trepidation, — " what is the scheme you
were to propose ? Tell me, and avert the horrible
doom which will await me, for they have refused to
suspend the funeral."
" My dear friend," said he in the most soothing
manner, " your case is far from being so bad as you
apprehend. You have just to write your name in
this book, and you will be yourself again in an
instant. Instead of coming alive in the grave, you
will be alive before the coffin-lid is put on. Only
think of the difference of the two situations."
" A confounded difference indeed," thought I,
taking hold of the pen. But at the very moment
when I was going to write, I observed above the
following words : —
" I hereby engage, after my natural decease, to
give over my soul to the owner of this book."
" What!" said I, "this is the old compact; the
one you wished me to sign before ? "
" The same, my dear friend."
" Then I'll be d d if I sign it."
" Only think of the consequences," said he.
THE METEMPSYCHOSIS. 47
" I will abide the consequences rather than sell
" Buried alive, my dear sir — only think."
" I will not sign the compact."
" Only think of being buried alive," continued
he, — " stifled to death — pent up on all sides — earth
above, earth below — no hope — no room to move in
— suffocated, stupified, horror-struck — utter despair.
Is not the idea dreadful ? Only think what your
feelings will be, when you come to life in that
narrow charnel-house, and know your situation."
I gave a shudder at this picture, which was drawn
with horrible truth ; but the energies of religion,
and the hopes of futurity, rushed upon my soul,
and sustained it in the dreadful trial. " Away,
away," said I, pushing him back. " I have made
up my mind to the sacrifice, since better may not
be. Whatever happens to my body, I am resolved
not to risk my eternal soul for its sake."
"Think again," said he, "and make up your
mind. If I leave you, your fate is irrevocable. Are
" Only reflect once more. Consider how, by
putting your name in this book, you will save your-
self from a miserable death. Are you decided ? "
" I am," repbed I firmly.
" Then, fool," said he, while a frown perfectly
unnatural to him corrugated his brow, and his eyes
48 TALES FROM "BLACKWOOD."
shot forth vivid glances of fire — " then, fool, I leave
you to your fate. You shall never see me again."
So saying, he walked out of the room, dispensing
with his usual bows and grimaces, and clashing the
door fiercely after him, while I threw myself upon
a couch in an agony of despair.
My doom was now sealed beyond all hope ; for,
going to the windows a few minutes thereafter, I
beheld my own funeral, with my cousin at the head
of the procession, acting as chief mourner. In a
short time I saw the company returning from the
interment. "All is over, then," said I, wringing
my hands at this deplorable sight. "I am the
victim of some infernal agency, and must prepare
for the dreadful sacrifice." That night I was
supremely wretched, tossing incessantly in bed,
while sleep was denied to my wearied eyelids.
Next morning my haggard look was remarked by
my servant, who proposed sending for a physician ;
but this I would not allow, knowing that woe like
mine was beyond the reach of medicine. The
greater part of that day was spent in religious
exercises, from which I felt considerable relief.
The day after was the last I was to behold upon
earth. It came, and I endeavoured by every means
to subdue the terror which it brought along with it.
On arising from bed, I sent for my servant, an
elderly woman whom I had got to supply the place
of Barnabas and Louise, and gave her one hundred
THE METEMPSYCHOSIS. 49
gilders, being all the money I could find in TVol-
stang's bureau. " Now, Philippa," said I, " as
soon as the clock of the study has struck three,
come in, and you will find me dead. Eetire, and
do not enter till then." She went away, promising
to do all that I had ordered her.
During the interval I sat opposite the clock,
marking the hours pass rapidly by. Every tick
was as a death-knell to my ear — every movement
of the hands, as the motion of a scimitar levelled
to cut me in pieces. I heard all, and I saw all
in horrid silence. Two o'clock at length struck.
"Now," said I, "there is but one hour for me on
earth — then the dreadful struggle begins — then I
must live again in the tomb only to perish miser-
ably."- Half an hour passed, then forty minutes,
then fifty, then fifty-five. I saw with utter despair
the minute-hand go by the latter, and approach the
meridian number of the diaL As it swept on, a
stupor fell over my spirit, a mist swam before my
eyes, and I almost lost the power of consciousness.
At last I heard one strike aloud — my flesh creeped
with dread ; then two — I gave an universal shudder;
then three, and I gasped convulsively, and saw and
heard nothing further.
50 TALES FROM "BLACKWOOD."
At this moment I was sensible of an insufferable
coldness. My heart fluttered, then it beat strong,
and the blood, passing as it were over my chilled
frame, gave it warmth and animation. I also began
by slow degrees to breathe. But though my bodily
feelings were thus torpid, my mental ones were
very different. They were on the rack ; for I knew
that I was now buried alive, and that the dreadful
struggle was about to commence. Instead of re-
joicing as I recovered the genial glow of life, I felt
appalled with blank despair. I was terrified to
move, because I knew I would feel the horrid walls
of my narrow prison-house. I was terrified to
breathe, because the pent air within it would
be exhausted, and the suffocation of struggling
humanity would seize upon me. I was even terri-
fied to open my eyes, and gaze upon the eternal
darkness by which I was surrounded. Could I
resist ? — the idea was madness. What would my
strength avail against the closed coffin, and the
pressure above, below, and on every side ? " No, I
must abide the struggle, which a few seconds more
will bring on : I must perish deplorably in it. Then
the Epicurean worm will feast upon my remains,
and I shall no longer hear any sound, or see any
sight, till the last trumpet shall awaken me from
THE METEMPSYCHOSIS. 51
slumber, and gather me together from the jaws of
Meanwhile I felt the necessity of breathing, and I
did breathe fully ; and the air was neither so close nor
scanty as might have been supposed. " This, how-
ever," thought I, " is but the first of my respirations :
a few more, and the vital air will be exhausted;
then will the agony of death truly commence." I
nevertheless breathed again, and again, and again ;
but nothing bike stifling seized upon me — nothing of
the kind, even when I had made fifty good respira-
tions. On the contrary, I respired with the most per-
fect freedom. This struck me as very singular ; and
being naturally of an inquisitive disposition, I felt
an irresistible wish, even in my dreadful situation,
to investigate if possible the cause of it. " The coffin
must be unconscionably large." This was my first
idea; and to ascertain it, I slightly raised my hands,
shuddering at the same time at the thought of their
coming in contact with the lid above me. How-
ever, they encountered no lid. Up, up, rip, I
elevated them, and met with nothing. I then
groped to the sides, but the coffin laterally seemed
equally capacious ; no sides were to be found.
" This is certainly a most extraordinary shell to
bury a man of my size in. I shall try if possible
to ascertain its limits before I die — suppose I en-
deavour to stand upright." The thought no sooner
came across my mind than I carried it into execu-
52 TALES FROM "BLACKWOOD."
tion. I got up, raising myself by slow degrees, in
case of knocking my head against the lid. No-
thing, however, impeded my extension, and I stood
straight. I even raised my hands on high, to feel
if it were possible to reach the top : no such thing j
the coffin was apparently without bounds. Alto-
gether, I felt more comfortable than a buried man
could expect to be. One thing struck me, and it
was this — I had no grave-clothes upon me. "But,"
thought I, " this is easily accounted for : my cousin
comes to my property, and the scoundrel has adopted
the most economical means of getting rid of me."
I had not as yet opened my eyes, being daunted at
the idea of encountering the dreary darkness of the
grave. But my courage being somewhat augmented
by the foregoing events, I endeavoured to open them.
This was impossible ; and on examination, I found
that they were bandaged, my head being encircled
with a fillet. On endeavouring to loosen it, I lost
my balance, and tumbled down with a hideous
noise. I did not merely fall upon the bottom of the
coffin, as might be expected ; on the contrary, I
seemed to roll off it, and fell lower, as it were, into
some vault underneath. In endeavouring to arrest
this strange descent, I caught hold of the coffin,
and pulled it on the top of me. Nor was this all ;
for, before I could account for such a train of ex-
traordinary accidents below ground, and while yet
stupified and bewildered, I heard a door open,
THE METEMPSYCHOSIS. 53
and in an instant after, human voices. " What, in
heaven's name, can be the meaning of this?"
ejaculated I involuntarily. "Is it a dream ? — am
I asleep, or am I awake? Am I dead or alive ? "
While meditating thus, and struggling to extricate
myself from the coffin, I heard some one say dis-
tinctly, " Good God, he is come alive ! " My brain
was distracted by a whirlwind of vain conjectures ;
but before it could arrange one idea, I felt myself
seized upon by both arms, and raised up with irre-
sistible force. At the same instant the fillet was
drawn from my eyes. I opened them with amaze-
ment : instead of the gloom of death, the glorious
light of heaven burst upon them ! I was con-
founded; and, to add to my surprise, I saw sup-
porting me two men, with whose faces I was
familiar. I gazed at the one, then at the other,
with looks of fixed astonishment. " What is this ? "
said I ; " where am I ? "
" You must remain quiet," said the eldest, with a
smile. " We must have you put to bed, and after-
" What is this ? " continued I : "ami not dead —
was I not buried ? "
" Hush, my dear friend — let me throw this great-
coat over you."
"But I must speak," said I, my senses still
wandering. " Where am I ? — who are you?"
" Do you not know me ? "
54 TALES FROM "BLACKWOOD."
"Yes," replied I, gazing at him intently — " my
friend Doctor Wunderdudt. Good God ! how do you
happen to be here ? Did I not come alive in the
grave ? "
" You may thank us that you did not," said he.
"Look around, and say if you know where you
I looked, as he directed, and found myself in a
large room fitted up with benches, and having half-
a-dozen skeletons dangling from the roof. While
doing this, he and his friend smiled at each other,
and seemed anxiously awaiting my reply, and en-
joying my wonder. At last I satisfied myself that
I was in the anatomical theatre of the University.
" But," said I, " there is something in all this I
cannot comprehend. What — where is the coffin ? "
" What coffin, my dear fellow ? " said Wunder-
" The coffin that I was in."
" The coffin," said he, smiling ; " I suppose it
remains where it was put the day before yester-
I rubbed my eyes with vexation, not knowing
what to make of these perplexing circumstances.
" I mean," said I, " the coffin— that is, the coffin I
drew over upon me when I fell."
"I do not know of any coffin," answered he,
laughing heartily ; " but I know very well that you
have pulled upon yourself my good mahogany
THE METEMPSYCHOSIS. 55
table ; there it lies." And on looking, I observed
the large table, which stood in the middle of the
hall, overturned upon the floor. Doctor Wunder-
dudt (he was professor of anatomy to the college)
now made me retire, and had me pnt in bed till
clothing could be procured. But I would not allow
him to depart till he had unravelled the strange
web of perplexity in which I still found myself
involved. Nothing would satisfy me but a philoso-
phical solution of the problem, " Why was I not
buried alive, as I had reason to expect ? " The
doctor expounded this intricate point in the fol-
lowing manner : —
" The day before yesterday," said he, " I in-
formed the resurrectionists in the service of the
University, that I was in want of a subject, desiring
them at the same time to set to work with all speed.
That very night they returned, assuring me that
they had fished up one which would answer to a
hair, being both young and vigorous. In order to
inform myself of the quality of what they brought
me, I examined the body, when, to my indignation
and grief, I found that they had disinterred my ex-
cellent friend, Mr Frederick Stadt, who had been
buried the same day."
" What ! " said I, starting up from the bed, " did
they disinter me ? — the scoundrels ! "
"You may well call them scoundrels," said the
professor, " for preventing a gentleman from enjoy-
56 TALES FROM " BLACKWOOD."
ing the pleasure of being buried alive. The deed
"was certainly most felonious ; and if you are at all
anxious, I shall have them reported to the Syndic,
and tried for their impertinent interference. But
to proceed. No sooner did I observe that they had
fallen upon you than I said, ' My good men, this
will never do. You have brought me here my
worthy friend Mr Stadt. I cannot feel in my
heart to anatomise him, so just carry him quietly
back to his old quarters, and I shall pay you his
price, and something over and above.'"
" What ! " said I, again interrupting the doctor,
" is it possible you could be so inhuman as to make
the scoundrels bury me again ? "
"Now, Stadt," rejoined he, with a smile, "you
are a strange fellow. You were angry at the men
for raising you, and now you are angry at me for
endeavouring to repair their error by reinterring
" But you forget that I was to come alive? "
"How the deuce was I to know that, my dear
boy ? "
" Very true. Go on, doctor, and excuse me for
interrupting you so often."
" Well," continued he, " the men earned you last
night to deposit you in your long home, when, as
fate would have it, they were prevented by a ridi-
culous fellow of a tailor, who, for a trifling wager,
had engaged to sit up alone, during the whole night,
THE METEMPSYCHOSIS. 57
in the churchyard, exactly at the spot where your
grave lay. So they brought you back to the
college, resolving to inter you to-night, if the
tailor, or the devil himself, should stand in their
way. Your timely resuscitation will save them
this trouble. At the same time, if you are still
offended at them, they will be very happy to take
you back, and you may yet enjoy the felicity of
being buried alive."
Such was a simple statement of the fact, de-
livered in the professor's good-humoured and satiri-
cal style ; and from it the reader may guess what
a narrow escape I had from the most dreadful of
deaths, and how much I am indebted, in the first
instance, to the stupid blundering of the resurrec-
tionists, and, in the second, to the tailor. I re-
turned to my own house as soon as possible, to the
no small mortification of my cousin, who was pro-
ceeding to invest himself with all that belonged
to me. I made him refund without ceremony, and
altered my will, which had been made in his favour ;
not forgetting, in so doing, his refusal to let my body
remain two days longer unburied. A day or two
afterwards I saw a funeral pass by, wlrich, on in-
quiry, I learned to be Wolstang's. He died sud-
denly, as I was informed, and some persons remarked
it as a curious event that his death happened at
precisely the same moment as my return to life.
This was merely mentioned as a passing observa-
58 TALES FROM "BLACKWOOD."
tion, but no inference was deduced from it. The
old domestic in Wolstang's Louse gave a wonderful
account of his death, mentioning the hour at which
he said he was to die, and how it was verified by
the event. She said nothing, however, about the
hundred gilders. Many considered her story as a
piece of mere trumpery. She had nevertheless a
number of believers.
With respect to myself, I excited a great talk,
receiving invitations to dine with almost all the
respectable families in G-ottingen. I had the hon-
our of being waited on by Doctor Dedimus Dunder-
head, who, after shaking me by the hand in the
kindest manner, made me give a long account of
my feelings at the instant of coming alive. Of
course, I concealed everything connected with the
Metempsychosis, and kept out many circumstances
which at the time I did not wish to be known. He
was nevertheless highly delighted, and gave it as
his opinion (which, being oracular, was instantly
acted upon), that a description of the whole should
be inserted in the Annals of the University. I had
the farther honour of being invited to dinner at his
house — an honour which I duly appreciated, know-
ing that it is almost never conferred except on the
syndics, burgomasters, and deacons of the town, and
a few of the professors.
These events, which are here related at full, I
can only attest by my own word, except indeed the
THE METEMPSYCHOSIS. 59
affair of the coming alive, which everybody in Got-
tingen knows of. If any doubt the more unlikely
parts of the detail, I cannot help it. I have not
written this with the view of empty fame, and still
less of profit. Philosophy has taught me to despise
the former, and my income renders the latter an
object of no importance. I merely do it to put my
fellow-citizens on their guard against the machina-
tions of the old fellow with the snuff-coloured sur-
tout, the scarlet waistcoat, and the wooden leg.
Above all, they should carefully abstain from sign-
ing any paper he may present to them, however
plausible his offers may be. By mere thoughtless-
ness in this respect, I brought myself into a multi-
tude of dangers and difficulties, from which every
one in the same predicament may not escape so
easily as I have done. I shall conclude with ac-
knowledging that a strong change has been wrought
in my opinions ; and that from ridiculing the doc-
trines of the sage of Samos, I am now one of their
firmest supporters. In a word, I am what I have
" A Modern Pythagorean."
[MAO A. December 1843.]
TT wanted but two or three weeks to the Christ-
■*■ mas vacation (alas! how many years ago!)
and we, the worshipful society of undergraduates
of College, Oxford, were beginning to get tired
of the eternal round of supper-parties which usually
marked the close of our winter's campaign, and
ready to hail with delight any proposition that had
the charm of novelty. A three weeks' frost had
effectually stopped the hunting; all the best tandem-
leaders were completely screwed; the freshmen had
been "larked" till they were grown as cunning as
magpies; and the Dean had set up a divinity lecture
at two o'clock, and published a stringent proclama-
tion against rows in the Quad. It was, in short,
during a particularly uninteresting state of things,
with the snow falling lazily upon the grey roofs
and silent quadrangle, that some half-dozen of us
had congregated in Bob Thornhill's rooms, to get
over the time between lunch and dinner with as
little trouble to our mental and corporeal faculties
as possible. Those among us who had been for the
COLLEGE THEATRICALS. 61
last three months promising to themselves to begin
to read "next week," had now put off that too easy
creditor, conscience, till "next term." One alone
had settled his engagements of that nature, or, in
the language of his " Testamur " — the prettiest bit
of Latin, he declared, that he ever saw — " satisfecit
examinatoribus." Unquestionably, in his case, the
examiners must have had the rare virtue of being
very easily satisfied. In fact, Mr Savile's discharge
of his educational engagements was rather a sort
of " whitewashing " than a payment in full. His
passing was what is technically called a " shave,"
a metaphor alluding to that intellectual density
which finds it difficult to squeeze through the
narrow portal which admits to the privileges of
a Bachelor of Arts. As Mr S. himself, being a
sporting man, described it, it was " a very close
run indeed ; " not that he considered that circum-
stance to derogate in any way from his victory ;
he was rather inclined to consider, that, having
shown the field of examiners capital sport, and
fairly got away from them in the end without the
loss of his brash, his examination had been one of
the very best runs of the season. In virtue whereof
he was now mounted on the arm of an easy-chair,
with a long chibouque, which became the gravity
of an incipient bachelor better than a cigar, and
took upon himself to give Thornhill (who was
really a clever fellow, and professing to be reading
62 TALES FROM "BLACKWOOD."
for a first) some advice as to his conducting himself
when his examination should arrive.
"I'll tell you what, Thornhill, old boy, I'U give
you a wrinkle ; it doesn't always answer to let out
all you know at an examination. That sly old
varmint, West of Magdalen, asked me who Hanni-
bal was. ' Aha ! ' said I to myself, ' that's your
line of country, is it? You want to walk me
straight into those botheration Punic Wars ; it's
no go, though ; I shan't break cover in that direc-
tion.' So I was mute. ' Can't you tell me some-
thing about Hannibal?' says old West again. 'I
can,' thinks I, ' but I won't.' He was regularly
flabergasted ; I spoilt his beat entirely, don't you
see ? So he looked as black as thunder, and tried
it on in a fresh place. If I had been fool enough
to let him dodge me in those Punic Wars, I should
have been run into in no time. Depend upon it,
there's nothing like a j udicious ignorance occasion-
" Why," said Thornhill, " ' when ignorance is
bliss' (that is, when it gets through the schools),
' 'tis folly to be wise.' "
"Ah! that's Shakespeare says that, isn't it? I
wish one could take up Shakespeare for a class !
I'm devilish fond of Shakespeare. We used to act
Shakespeare at a private school I was at."
" By Jove !" said somebody from behind a cloud
of smoke — whose the brilliant idea was, was after-
COLLEGE THEATRICALS. 63
wards matter of dispute — "why couldn't we get up
" Ah ! why not ? why not ? Capital ! "
" It's such a horrid bore learning one's part,"
lisped the elegant Horace Leicester, half awake on
u Oh, stuff!" said Savile, "it's the very thing
to keep us alive ! We could make a capital theatre
out of the hall; don't you think the little vice-
principal would give us leave?"
"You had better ask for the chapel at once.
Why, don't you know, my dear fellow, the college
hall, in the opinion of the dean and the vice, is
held rather more sacred of the two? Newcome,
poor devil, attempted to cut a joke at the high
table one of the times he dined there after he was
elected, and he told me that they all stared at him
as if he had insulted them ; and the vice (in confi-
dence) explained to him that such ' levity ' was
treason against the ' reverentia loci!"'
" Ay, I remember when that old villain Solomon,