Edgar Allan Poe.

The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Comprising the details of a mutiny and atrocious butchery on board the American brig Grampus, on her way to the South seas ... With an account of the recapture of the vessel by the survivors; their shipwreck and subsequent horrible sufferings from fam online

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Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Comprising the details of a mutiny and atrocious butchery on board the American brig Grampus, on her way to the South seas ... With an account of the recapture of the vessel by the survivors; their shipwreck and subsequent horrible sufferings from fam → online text (page 1 of 17)
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Produced by Ron Swanson



JUNE, 1827.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1838, by


in the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New-York.


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

A. G. PYM.

New-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 maternal 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 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
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 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 to-day.

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
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 favourite 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 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 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 everything 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 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 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 very
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

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! back 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 adventure.

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 which 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 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 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 be
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 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 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 endeavoured 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 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

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Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Comprising the details of a mutiny and atrocious butchery on board the American brig Grampus, on her way to the South seas ... With an account of the recapture of the vessel by the survivors; their shipwreck and subsequent horrible sufferings from fam → online text (page 1 of 17)