The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 187

which first
startled, and then deeply interested me, by bringing to mind dim visions
of my earliest infancy--wild, confused and thronging memories of a
time when memory herself was yet unborn. I cannot better describe the
sensation which oppressed me than by saying that I could with difficulty
shake off the belief of my having been acquainted with the being who
stood before me, at some epoch very long ago--some point of the past
even infinitely remote. The delusion, however, faded rapidly as it came;
and I mention it at all but to define the day of the last conversation I
there held with my singular namesake.

The huge old house, with its countless subdivisions, had several large
chambers communicating with each other, where slept the greater number
of the students. There were, however, (as must necessarily happen in a
building so awkwardly planned,) many little nooks or recesses, the
odds and ends of the structure; and these the economic ingenuity of Dr.
Bransby had also fitted up as dormitories; although, being the merest
closets, they were capable of accommodating but a single individual. One
of these small apartments was occupied by Wilson.

One night, about the close of my fifth year at the school, and
immediately after the altercation just mentioned, finding every one
wrapped in sleep, I arose from bed, and, lamp in hand, stole through a
wilderness of narrow passages from my own bedroom to that of my rival. I
had long been plotting one of those ill-natured pieces of practical wit
at his expense in which I had hitherto been so uniformly unsuccessful.
It was my intention, now, to put my scheme in operation, and I resolved
to make him feel the whole extent of the malice with which I was imbued.
Having reached his closet, I noiselessly entered, leaving the lamp, with
a shade over it, on the outside. I advanced a step, and listened to
the sound of his tranquil breathing. Assured of his being asleep, I
returned, took the light, and with it again approached the bed. Close
curtains were around it, which, in the prosecution of my plan, I
slowly and quietly withdrew, when the bright rays fell vividly upon
the sleeper, and my eyes, at the same moment, upon his countenance. I
looked;--and a numbness, an iciness of feeling instantly pervaded my
frame. My breast heaved, my knees tottered, my whole spirit became
possessed with an objectless yet intolerable horror. Gasping for
breath, I lowered the lamp in still nearer proximity to the face. Were
these--these the lineaments of William Wilson? I saw, indeed, that they
were his, but

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Text Comparison with The Fall of the House of Usher

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There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart--an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.
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Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one of my boon companions in boyhood; but many years had elapsed since our last meeting.
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Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity.
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An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.
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And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke.
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And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom.
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The belief, however, was connected (as I.
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The result was discoverable, he added, in that silent, yet importunate and terrible influence which for centuries had moulded the destinies of his family, and which made him what I now saw him--what he was.
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Here is one of your favourite romances.
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" At the termination of this sentence I started, and for a moment, paused; for it appeared to me (although I at once concluded that my excited fancy had deceived me)--it appeared to me that, from some very remote portion of the mansion, there came, indistinctly, to my ears, what might have been, in its exact similarity of character, the echo (but a stifled and dull one certainly) of the very cracking and ripping sound which Sir Launcelot had so particularly described.
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" Here again I paused abruptly, and now with a feeling of wild amazement--for there could be no doubt whatever that, in this instance, I did actually hear (although from what direction it proceeded I found it impossible to say) a low and apparently distant, but harsh, protracted, and most unusual screaming or grating sound--the exact counterpart of what my fancy had already conjured up for the dragon's unnatural shriek as described by the romancer.
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Bending closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his words.
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