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Title: Shorter Novels, Eighteenth Century - The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia; The Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story; Vathek, an Arabian Tale
Author: Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784, Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797, Beckford, William, 1759-1844
Language: English
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  Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide,
  In thy most need to go by thy side.


  Founded 1906 by J. M. Dent (d. 1926)
  Edited by Ernest Rhys (d. 1946)

  No. 856







  All rights reserved
  Type-set and bound in Great Britain
  at The Temple Press Letchworth
  and printed in Belgium
  by Drukkerij Omega Antwerp
  J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.
  Aldine House Bedford St. London
  First published in this edition 1903
  Last reprinted 1948


The three novels collected here all belong to the later years of the
eighteenth century. The first represents what may be called the last
stand of Augustanism before that riot of fancy and imagination, as
exemplified by the other two tales, that ushered in the Romantic
Revival. Thus in _Rasselas_ we have Johnson, with the fortitude of
Atlas, supporting the miseries of the world on his broad shoulders;
Horace Walpole shutting us up in his _Castle of Otranto_, away from
reality and all reasonableness; and Beckford, in _Vathek_, transporting
us on his magic carpet to the court of the grandson of Haroun al
Raschid, and thence to a region of perdition and eternal fire, where all
memory of Augustanism is irretrievably lost.

They are strange company these three books, but they are nevertheless
infallible indexes to the taste of their time. The fact that _Rasselas_
in 1759 met with such enormous success and that _The Castle of Otranto_
four years later met with perhaps an equal success, indicates as plainly
as anything could that although people had not lost their admiration for
Johnson, they were already tiring of “good sense” and quite willing to
give free play to those wilder impulses in their natures that
Augustanism had sought to discipline. But this time the tide turned with
a vengeance! The grave Wordsworth, a romantic himself, is found
deploring the “frantic novels” of this time, although Shelley’s young
and fiery imagination seized upon them with avidity, and, in
_Zastrozzi_, he wrote an even more frantic one himself. But it was _The
Castle of Otranto_, written in conscious reaction against the
domesticities and sentiment of Richardson, with its plea that the
material of the novel could be taken from anything _but_ the events of
ordinary life, that opened the gates onto the land of Romance. And in
its train came all the rest of the “Gothic” and “terror”
novelists--Clara Reeve, Mrs. Radcliffe, “Monk” Lewis, Charles
Maturin--to mention only those who are now chiefly remembered. _Vathek_,
however, stands alone, without predecessors or immediate followers,
belonging to a quite un-English tradition, although the Oriental tale in
one shape or another had quite a vogue in the eighteenth century--if we
may include such things as Collins’s _Persian Eclogues_ and Goldsmith’s
Chinaman, or even _Rasselas_ itself, which, at least, has a nominal
setting in the East.

_Rasselas_ was written, as every one knows, during the evenings of a
week, when Johnson “had occasion for thirty pounds on Monday night,” as
he wrote to the printer on 20 January, 1759. His mother had just died
and he sat down in his Gough Square garret to earn the necessary money
for her funeral and for paying off the few debts she had left. Her
death, we are told, was a great loss to Johnson, and it is wonderful
that what he wrote under pressure at that time should be free not only
from bitterness but from a complaint of any kind. Melancholy it
certainly is, but melancholy with a rare elevation of mind and no more
weighed down with thought--a rather foolish charge that is sometimes
levelled against it--than is any work that deals profoundly with the
major problems of life. It has also been said of _Rasselas_, with more
reason, that it is a test of the reader’s capacity to appreciate the
peculiar qualities of Johnson’s thought. These qualities, as any one who
takes the trouble to analyse them can see for himself, are a square face
to face attitude to life that takes things as they come, realizing the
futility of attempting “a choice of life,” and if without overmuch hope
for the future, at least free from the disintegration of high hopes
disappointed. There is nothing pedantic or high-flown in this attitude
which, with a noble solemnity, enabled Johnson to bear up against all
odds and to steer right on. Undeniably there is sustenance to be got
from _Rasselas_. And if its author has certain qualities in common with
his own “solemn elephant reposing in the shade,” they are, one feels,
the product of a character that, like Donne’s elephant, could hardly be
dislodged without the noise and cataclysm of a whole town
undermined--whereas much of the style of to-day, which despises what it
calls “Johnsonese,” could be blown away with a puff of wind. What
obtuseness there is in Johnson’s attitude of mind is due to the
qualities that he shared with “the giant of beasts,” a slow-movingness
and an apparent lack of the more intricate nerves of feeling. Compare
his prose with its antithesis, that of Donne, who, for all his medieval
theology, was more modern in the working of his mind than Johnson; for
whereas the author of _Rasselas_ will bring you surely and by slow
degrees to a conclusion, the mind of the author of _Death’s Duel_ and
the sermons seems to anticipate all conclusions at once with the
rapidity and circuitousness of a thousand ants. Johnson will attack a
problem broadside on, and it is to him we come for substantial
resistance against life, but to Donne we go for an inward and
self-conscious activity that undermines it. Yet one would read
_Rasselas_ ten times for every single reading of Donne’s sermons, which
are as the fire of the spirit consuming.

Taken altogether, then, _Rasselas_ is a prose _Vanity of Human Wishes_,
a disquisition on the limitations of life rather than a novel holding
our attention by a sequence of events. How characteristic is the passage
on the pyramids! Only Johnson, who kept his head among the Highland
mountains, could have written as he does here, summing up, in these two
sentences, his whole attitude towards happiness and material

   I consider this mighty structure as a monument of the
   insufficiency of human enjoyments. A king whose power is
   unlimited, and whose treasures surmount all real and imaginary
   wants, is compelled to solace, by the erection of a Pyramid,
   the satiety of dominion and tastelessness of pleasures, and to
   amuse the tediousness of declining life by seeing thousands
   labouring without end, and one stone, for no purpose, laid
   upon another.

Surely that is magnificent prose, and no one else could have written
with just that fine balance and that same elevation of mind--unless it
was Browne, also pitying the builder of the pyramids in _Hydriotaphia_.

To pass on to _The Castle of Otranto_ from _Rasselas_ is like going from
the reality and reasonable order of Kew Gardens, with its noble lawns
and splendidly cultivated trees, into some side-show of artificial
medievalism, complete with ghosts in rattling armour, skeletons and
knights, at the White City or the old Earl’s Court Exhibition. At a step
we leave behind us the familiar light of day for a castle of uneasy
spirits with the wind whining through its battlements. Otranto is such a
castle, indeed, as never existed and its people were never anywhere but
inside its walls. It is a Gothic “shocker” which is neither truly Gothic
nor shocking; for its terror-apparatus has ceased to make us tremble and
its chivalrous cant and heroical sentiments no longer quicken our heart.
And yet there is something about this absurd tale that still holds our
attention--a spark of genius perhaps that occasionally flashes out
through the cracks in the rusty armour and the turret windows; and it is
this that hurries it impetuously to its climax of furious bathos not
altogether without the sweep of tragedy. Yet did one not know beforehand
that the book was written in good faith, there would be every excuse for
mistaking it for an uproarious parody of the old type of medieval

To Sir Walter Scott, however, Horace Walpole’s castle was anything but
an occasion for mirth. Evidently writing against the general opinion of
the book at that time, he says, in his chapter on Walpole in _The Lives
of the Novelists_, that it is doing the author an injustice to suppose
that his sole purpose was to terrorize his readers. Walpole’s intention
was, he assures us, to depict the social life of the Middle Ages about
the time of the first Crusade, although he admits that “by the too
frequent recurrence of his prodigies, Mr. Walpole ran, perhaps, his
greatest risk of awakening _la raison froide_, that cold common sense,
which he justly deemed the greatest enemy of the effect which he hoped
to produce.” But it does not require very much cold common sense to
discern that, for all this supernatural paraphernalia, _The Castle of
Otranto_, unlike Mrs. Radcliffe’s books, lacks atmosphere--the first
essential in preparing the mind for legendary happenings. It is simply
foolish to bring what purport to be supernatural phenomena into broad
daylight and then to expect us to believe in their reality. But when
Scott writes of “the gigantic and preposterous figures dimly visible in
the defaced tapestry--the remote clang of the distant doors which divide
him from living society--the deep darkness which involves the high and
fretted roof of the apartment--the dimly-seen pictures of ancient
knights, renowned for their valour, and perhaps for their crimes--the
varied and indistinct sounds which disturb the silent desolation of a
half-deserted mansion,” he at once awakes the imagination and creates an
atmosphere pregnant with the foreboding of invisible presences that
prepares the reader to believe almost anything. Scott can raise our hair
in a sentence, but all Walpole’s bleeding statues and sighing pictures
can only move us to a certain mild amusement. It is obvious, too, that
in his generous tribute to Walpole, Scott was carried away by a
conception of his own of what his predecessor _might_ have done.
Moreover, he was anxious to own his debt to Walpole for introducing an
element into the novel that he himself was to develop in a way that is
still unsurpassed. For nowadays, although Walpole, and his immediate
follower Clara Reeve, with her _Old English Baron_ (1777), actually
introduced it, it is not of Walpole or Reeve that we think when the
historical novel is mentioned, but of Scott. But being the first attempt
of its kind on any serious scale, it is natural that Scott should have
respected _The Castle of Otranto_, although we of to-day, having the
whole varied wealth of Scott’s imagination behind us, as well as the
work of his many followers, find it harder to give Walpole the just
measure of praise that, in spite of attendant absurdities, is his due.

The mysterious inconsistencies of _Vathek_ (1786) have been sufficiently
remarked. But every fresh reader cannot help being struck by the strange
contrast between the cynical flippancies of the earlier portions and the
sombre grandeur and moral conviction inspiring the scenes in the Hall of
Eblis. Should we take _Vathek_ merely as an extravaganza with a moral
turn--which only serves to make it the more macabre--in which the
characters, not being responsible for their actions, are scarcely
culpable; or should we take it as an allegory of the vanity of
unrestrained desires and inordinate ambition promoting “that blind
curiosity which would transgress the bounds of wisdom the Creator has
prescribed to human knowledge”? Perhaps Beckford did not intend his tale
to be interpreted too solemnly. Some indication of his attitude is given
in a letter to Henley dated 23 April, 1785, in which, speaking of the
most innocent of his characters, he says: “I have always thought
Nouronihar too severely punished, and if I knew how conveniently, would
add a crime or two to her share. What say you?” But it would be a
mistake to imagine that Beckford was in any way ashamed of his
production--far from it!--and it may be that, like Voltaire, he was in
the habit of saying the most serious things flippantly. As it is, Vathek
himself with his basilisk glance and outrageous appetite is partly a
figure of fun, and, by his black magic and pact with the powers of
darkness, partly an Oriental Faust, helped on to damnation by his
mother, the Princess Carathis, who with her insane thirst for
supernatural dominion is a more ghastly Lady Macbeth. But however we
regard the enigma of _Vathek_, Beckford’s real claim to remembrance
rests on the half-dozen pages at the end of the book, where his
description of the Hall of Eblis has been compared to Milton’s
Pandemonium, Eblis himself being considered as a kind of inferior Satan.
And perhaps there is a touch of _Salammbô_ as well, as Vathek and
Nouronihar stand before the ruins of Istakar, with their intolerable
mystery and deathly stillness under the moon.

Thus, if _The Castle of Otranto_ has suffered rather badly in its
passage through time, although it will always remain one of the chief
curiosities of our literature, and if we cannot altogether make up our
minds about _Vathek_, there can be no doubt whatever of the permanent
value of _Rasselas_. It is a greater and more subtle book than it is
commonly thought to be. Too many people know only Boswell’s
Johnson--here we have Johnson himself, discussing marriage, the art of
flying, and the soul. And what strikes us most in re-reading him now,
quite apart from the style which is essentially of its period, is the
modernity of his thought. Even more than most profound thinkers who are
modern for all time by having reached a certain depth of consciousness
that never changes, Johnson in certain passages of his book astonishes
by the way in which he has anticipated the conclusions of contemporary
thinkers. His conception of the mind is essentially modern, showing it
as at once the creator and destroyer of all values and systems, and yet
“the continuance of reason” being uncertain--although madness is
determined only by the degree to which one idea or one set of ideas
predominates to the exclusion of others--he says, in effect, with
Pirandello--“That’s the truth if you think it is!” But realizing the
final inefficacy of any one system of belief, and being deficient in
real faith, he was content, like his own Imlac, “to be driven along the
stream of life, without directing his course to any particular port.”
And so _Rasselas_ ends, as all good discussions on life must, with a
conclusion “in which nothing is concluded.”


_For biographical notes on the authors and short bibliographies see the
beginning of each story._



  INTRODUCTION                                         vii

      Samuel Johnson                                     1

      Walpole                                           97

  VATHEK, AN ARABIAN TALE. By William Beckford         193

  NOTES TO VATHEK                                      279






The house in which Samuel Johnson was born on 18 September, 1709, still
stands at the corner of the market-place in Lichfield. His father was a
small bookseller in that town, so that from the first Johnson grew up in
the company of books. So widely had he read by the time he went to
Oxford at the age of eighteen that his tutor told him “he was the best
qualified for the University that he had ever known come there.”
Although “miserably poor” and subject to fits of melancholy that were at
times divided only by a thin partition from madness, and cursed by a
kind of St. Vitus’s dance and by scrofula which had disfigured his face
and deprived him of the use of one eye, Johnson determined to “fight his
way by his literature and his wit.” After leaving Oxford, he made
various unsuccessful attempts to get regular employment. At the age of
twenty-six he married a widow twenty years his senior, who, according to
Garrick, was “a fat woman with red painted cheeks, fantastic dress, and
affected manners.” But the marriage was a love match on both sides, and
in spite of ridicule Johnson’s affection remained constant and
unshakable. His wife brought him a meagre fortune, and with this he
opened a school for “young gentlemen” near Lichfield. But the number of
his pupils never exceeded seven, of whom the Garrick brothers were two.
So early in 1737 he set out for London with three acts of a tragedy,
_Irene_, which he offered to Drury Lane without success. In the
following year he began writing his parliamentary debates for _The
Gentleman’s Magazine_. In 1744 he wrote his powerful _Life of
Savage_--forty-eight octavo pages at a sitting. In 1747 he issued the
plan of his dictionary inscribed to Lord Chesterfield and began work on
it at Gough Square. Two years later Garrick produced _Irene_ at Drury
Lane, and although it brought Johnson quite a nice little sum of money,
it was judged on the whole to be a failure. In 1750, “while he was
bearing his burden with dull patience and beating the track of the
alphabet with sluggish resolution,” he began writing _The Rambler_,
which appeared twice a week and lasted for two years. Mrs. Johnson died
in March 1751 and Johnson wrote a sermon for her funeral that was never
preached. By 1755 the dictionary was ready for publication, and
Chesterfield, who had ignored the prospectus, delivered himself of a few
flippant remarks at Johnson’s expense in _The World_. It was on account
of this that he brought down on his head the formidable letter of
February the seventh. The dictionary appeared in two volumes on 15
April. In 1759 Johnson’s mother died, and he wrote _Rasselas_ to pay the
expenses of the funeral. Three years later, with the accession of George
the Third, he received a pension of £300 a year, and from that time he
was free of pecuniary troubles and able to spend the rest of his life
talking in the midst of a brilliant company. Among his friends were
Gibbon, Reynolds, Burke, Goldsmith, Charles James Fox, Adam Smith, R. B.
Sheridan, and Sir William Jones, the Orientalist. At this time he lived
with Miss Williams, the blind orphan daughter of a man of learning, and
a Mr. Levett, “an obscure practiser in physic.”

It is unnecessary to detail the events of the remaining twenty-two
years, as they were passed in comparative indolence. His friendship with
Henry Thrale began about 1759, and the Thrales’ fine house at Streatham
Park became, until 1782, Johnson’s chief asylum. The Thrales, he said,
“soothed twenty years of a life radically wretched.” On 16 May, 1768, he
met Boswell. The famous journey to the Highlands was made in 1773, and
in 1774 he visited Wales, and the next year Paris. After 1782 his health
rapidly declined, and he died after an attack of dropsy on 13 December,
1784, in Bolt Court, Fleet Street.

His chief works are as follows: A translation of Lobo’s _Voyage to
Abyssinia_, 1735. _London_, 1738. _Life of Savage_, 1744. _Observations
on the Tragedy of Macbeth_, 1745. _The Vanity of Human Wishes_, 1749.
_Irene_, 1749. _A Dictionary of the English Language_, 1755. _The
History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia_, 1759. _A Journey to the
Western Isles of Scotland_, 1775. _Lives of the English Poets_, 1779.
See Boswell, Johnson’s Letters, ed. by Birkbeck Hill, Essay on Life and
Genius by Arthur Murphy, Anecdotes by Madame Piozzi, Diary and Letters
of Madame d’Arblay, Life and Correspondence of Hannah More, also
_Johnson and his Critics_ by Birkbeck Hill.



Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with
eagerness the phantoms of hope, who expect that age will perform the
promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be
supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of

Rasselas was the fourth son of the mighty emperor, in whose dominions
the Father of Waters begins his course; whose bounty pours down the
streams of plenty, and scatters over half the world the harvests of

According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the
monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace,
with the other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty, till the order
of succession should call him to the throne.

The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the
residence of the Abyssinian princes, was a spacious valley in the
kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the
summits overhang the middle part. The only passage by which it could be
entered, was a cavern that passed under a rock, of which it has long
been disputed whether it was the work of nature or of human industry.
The outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth
which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by
the artificers of ancient days, so massy that no man could without the
help of engines open or shut them.

From the mountains on every side, rivulets descended, that filled all
the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle,
inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom
nature has taught to dip the wing in water. This lake discharged its
superfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on
the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to
precipice till it was heard no more.

The sides of the mountains were covered with trees; the banks of the
brooks were diversified with flowers; every blast shook spices from the
rocks, and every month dropped fruits upon the ground. All animals that
bite the grass, or browse the shrub, whether wild or tame, wandered in
this extensive circuit, secured from beasts of prey by the mountains
which confined them. On one part were flocks and herds feeding in the
pastures, on another all the beasts of chase frisking in the lawns; the
sprightly kid was bounding on the rocks, the subtle monkey frolicking in
the trees, and the solemn elephant reposing in the shade. All the
diversities of the world were brought together; the blessings of nature
were collected, and its evils extracted and excluded.

The valley, wide and fruitful, supplied its inhabitants with the
necessaries of life, and all delights and superfluities were added at
the annual visit which the emperor paid his children, when the iron gate
was opened to the sound of music, and, during eight days, every one that
resided in the valley was required to propose whatever might contribute
to make seclusion pleasant, to fill up the vacancies of attention, and
lessen the tediousness of time. Every desire was immediately granted.
All the artificers of pleasure were called to gladden the festivity; the
musicians exerted the power of harmony, and the dancers showed their
activity before the princes, in hope that they should pass their lives
in this blissful captivity, to which those only were admitted whose
performance was thought able to add novelty to luxury. Such was the
appearance of security and delight which this retirement afforded, that
they to whom it was new always desired that it might be perpetual; and
as those on whom the iron gate had once closed were never suffered to
return, the effect of longer experience could not be known. Thus every
year produced new schemes of delight, and new competitors for

The palace stood on an eminence, raised about thirty paces above the
surface of the lake. It was divided into many squares or courts, built
with greater or less magnificence, according to the rank of those for
whom they were designed. The roofs were turned into arches of massy
stone, joined by a cement that grew harder by time; and the building
stood from century to century, deriding the solstitial rains and
equinoctial hurricanes, without need of reparation.

This house, which was so large as to be fully known to none but some
ancient officers who successively inherited the secrets of the place,
was built as if suspicion herself had dictated the plan. To every room
there was an open and secret passage; every square had a communication
with the rest, either from the upper stories by private galleries, or by
subterranean passages from the lower apartments. Many of the columns had
unsuspected cavities, in which a long race of monarchs had reposited
their treasures. They then closed up the opening with marble, which was
never to be removed but in the utmost exigencies of the kingdom; and
recorded their accumulations in a book, which was itself concealed in a
tower, not entered but by the emperor, attended by the prince who stood
next in succession.



Here the sons and daughters of Abyssinia lived only to know the soft
vicissitudes of pleasure and repose, attended by all that were skilful
to delight, and gratified with whatever the senses can enjoy. They
wandered in gardens of fragrance, and slept in the fortresses of
security. Every art was practised to make them pleased with their own
condition. The sages who instructed them told them of nothing but the
miseries of public life, and described all beyond the mountains as
regions of calamity, where discord was always raging, and where man
preyed upon man.

To heighten their opinion of their own felicity, they were daily
entertained with songs, the subject of which was the Happy Valley. Their
appetites were excited by frequent enumerations of different enjoyments;
and revelry and merriment was the business of every hour, from the dawn
of morning to the close of even.

These methods were generally successful: few of the princes had ever
wished to enlarge their bounds, but passed their lives in full
conviction that they had all within their reach that art or nature could
bestow, and pitied those whom fate had excluded from this seat of
tranquillity, as the sport of chance and the slaves of misery.

Thus they rose in the morning and lay down at night, pleased with each
other and with themselves, all but Rasselas, who, in the twenty-sixth
year of his age, began to withdraw himself from their pastimes and
assemblies, and to delight in solitary walks and silent meditation. He
often sat before tables covered with luxury, and forgot to taste the
dainties that were placed before him; he rose abruptly in the midst of
the song, and hastily retired beyond the sound of music. His attendants
observed the change, and endeavoured to renew his love of pleasure; he
neglected their officiousness, repulsed their invitations, and spent day
after day on the banks of rivulets sheltered with trees, where he
sometimes listened to the birds in the branches, sometimes observed the
fish playing in the stream, and anon cast his eyes upon the pastures and
mountains filled with animals, of which some were biting the herbage,
and some sleeping among the bushes.

This singularity of his humour made him much observed. One of the sages,
in whose conversation he had formerly delighted, followed him secretly,
in hope of discovering the cause of his disquiet. Rasselas, who knew not
that any one was near him, having for some time fixed his eyes upon the
goats that were browsing among the rocks, began to compare their
condition with his own.

“What,” said he, “makes the difference between man and all the rest of
the animal creation? Every beast that strays beside me has the same
corporal necessities with myself: he is hungry and crops the grass, he
is thirsty and drinks the stream; his thirst and hunger are appeased, he
is satisfied and sleeps; he rises again and is hungry; he is again fed
and is at rest. I am hungry and thirsty like him, but when thirst and
hunger cease I am not at rest; I am like him pained with want, but am
not like him satisfied with fullness. The intermediate hours are tedious
and gloomy; I long again to be hungry, that I may again quicken my
attention. The birds peck the berries or the corn, and fly away to the
groves, where they sit in seeming happiness on the branches, and waste
their lives in tuning one unvaried series of sounds. I likewise can call
the lutanist and the singer; but the sounds that pleased me yesterday
weary me to-day, and will grow yet more wearisome to-morrow. I can
discover within me no power of perception which is not glutted with its
proper pleasure; yet I do not feel myself delighted. Man surely has some
latent sense for which this place affords no gratification; or he has
some desires distinct from sense, which must be satisfied before he can
be happy.”

After this he lifted up his head, and seeing the moon rising, walked
towards the palace. As he passed through the fields, and saw the
animals around him, “Ye,” said he, “are happy, and need not envy me that
walk thus among you, burdened with myself; nor do I, ye gentle beings,
envy your felicity, for it is not the felicity of man. I have many
distresses from which ye are free; I fear pain when I do not feel it; I
sometimes shrink at evils recollected, and sometimes start at evils
anticipated: surely the equity of providence has balanced peculiar
sufferings with peculiar enjoyments.”

With observations like these the prince amused himself as he returned,
uttering them with a plaintive voice, yet with a look that discovered
him to feel some complacence in his own perspicacity, and to receive
some solace of the miseries of life, from consciousness of the delicacy
with which he felt, and the eloquence with which he bewailed them. He
mingled cheerfully in the diversions of the evening, and all rejoiced to
find that his heart was lightened.



On the next day, his old instructor, imagining that he had now made
himself acquainted with his disease of mind, was in hope of curing it by
counsel, and officiously sought an opportunity of conference, which the
prince, having long considered him as one whose intellects were
exhausted, was not very willing to afford. “Why,” said he, “does this
man thus intrude upon me? shall I be never suffered to forget those
lectures which pleased only while they were new, and to become new again
must be forgotten?” He then walked into the wood, and composed himself
to his usual meditations; when, before his thoughts had taken any
settled form, he perceived his pursuer at his side, and was at first
prompted by his impatience to go hastily away; but, being unwilling to
offend a man whom he had once reverenced and still loved, he invited him
to sit down with him on the bank.

The old man, thus encouraged, began to lament the change which had been
lately observed in the prince, and to inquire why he so often retired
from the pleasures of the palace to loneliness and silence. “I fly from
pleasure,” said the prince, “because pleasure has ceased to please; I
am lonely, because I am miserable, and am unwilling to cloud with my
presence the happiness of others.” “You, sir,” said the sage, “are the
first who has complained of misery in the Happy Valley. I hope to
convince you that your complaints have no real cause. You are here in
full possession of all that the Emperor of Abyssinia can bestow; here is
neither labour to be endured nor danger to be dreaded, yet here is all
that labour or danger can procure or purchase. Look round and tell me
which of your wants is without supply: if you want nothing, how are you

“That I want nothing,” said the prince, “or that I know not what I want,
is the cause of my complaint; if I had any known want, I should have a
certain wish; that wish would excite endeavour, and I should not then
repine to see the sun move so slowly towards the western mountain, or
lament when the day breaks and sleep will no longer hide me from myself.
When I see the kids and the lambs chasing one another, I fancy that I
should be happy if I had something to pursue. But possessing all that I
can want, I find one day and one hour exactly like another, except that
the latter is still more tedious than the former. Let your experience
inform me how the day may now seem as short as in my childhood, while
nature was yet fresh, and every moment showed me what I never had
observed before. I have already enjoyed too much; give me something to

The old man was surprised at this new species of affliction, and knew
not what to reply, yet was unwilling to be silent. “Sir,” said he, “if
you had seen the miseries of the world, you would know how to value your
present state.” “Now,” said the prince, “you have given me something to
desire; I shall long to see the miseries of the world, since the sight
of them is necessary to happiness.”



At this time the sound of music proclaimed the hour of repast, and the
conversation was concluded. The old man went away sufficiently
discontented to find that his reasonings had produced the only
conclusion which they were intended to prevent. But in the decline of
life shame and grief are of short duration: whether it be that we bear
easily what we have borne long; or that, finding ourselves in age less
regarded, we less regard others; or, that we look with slight regard
upon afflictions to which we know that the hand of death is about to put
an end.

The prince, whose views were extended to a wider space, could not
speedily quiet his emotions. He had been before terrified at the length
of life which nature promised him, because he considered that in a long
time much must be endured; he now rejoiced in his youth, because in many
years much might be done.

This first beam of hope that had been ever darted into his mind,
rekindled youth in his cheeks, and doubled the lustre of his eyes. He
was fired with the desire of doing something, though he knew not yet
with distinctness either end or means.

He was now no longer gloomy and unsocial; but, considering himself as
master of a secret stock of happiness, which he could enjoy only by
concealing it, he affected to be busy in all schemes of diversion, and
endeavoured to make others pleased with the state of which he himself
was weary. But pleasures never can be so multiplied or continued, as not
to leave much of life unemployed; there were many hours, both of the
night and day, which he could spend without suspicion in solitary
thought. The load of life was much lightened: he went eagerly into the
assemblies, because he supposed the frequency of his presence necessary
to the success of his purposes; he retired gladly to privacy, because he
had now a subject of thought.

His chief amusement was to picture to himself that world which he had
never seen; to place himself in various conditions, to be entangled in
imaginary difficulties, and to be engaged in wild adventures; but his
benevolence always terminated his projects in the relief of distress,
the detection of fraud, the defeat of oppression, and the diffusion of

Thus passed twenty months of the life of Rasselas. He busied himself so
intensely in visionary bustle, that he forgot his real solitude, and,
amidst hourly preparations for the various incidents of human affairs,
neglected to consider by what means he should mingle with mankind.

One day, as he was sitting on a bank, he feigned to himself an orphan
virgin robbed of her little portion by a treacherous lover, and crying
after him for restitution and redress. So strongly was the image
impressed upon his mind, that he started up in the maid’s defence, and
run forward to seize the plunderer, with all the eagerness of real
pursuit. Fear naturally quickens the flight of guilt. Rasselas could not
catch the fugitive with his utmost efforts; but resolving to weary by
perseverance him whom he could not surpass in speed, he pressed on till
the foot of the mountain stopped his course.

Here he recollected himself, and smiled at his own useless impetuosity.
Then raising his eyes to the mountain, “This,” said he, “is the fatal
obstacle that hinders at once the enjoyment of pleasure, and the
exercise of virtue. How long is it that my hopes and wishes have flown
beyond this boundary of my life, which yet I never have attempted to

Struck with this reflection, he sat down to muse; and remembered, that
since he first resolved to escape from his confinement, the sun had
passed twice over him in his annual course. He now felt a degree of
regret with which he had never been before acquainted. He considered how
much might have been done in the time which had passed and left nothing
real behind it. He compared twenty months with the life of man. “In
life,” said he, “is not to be counted the ignorance of infancy, or
imbecility of age. We are long before we are able to think, and we soon
cease from the power of acting. The true period of human existence may
be reasonably estimated at forty years, of which I have mused away the
four-and-twentieth part. What I have lost was certain, for I have
certainly possessed it; but of twenty months to come who can assure me?”

The consciousness of his own folly pierced him deeply, and he was long
before he could be reconciled to himself. “The rest of my time,” said
he, “has been lost by the crime or folly of my ancestors, and the absurd
institutions of my country; I remember it with disgust, yet without
remorse: but the months that have passed since new light darted into my
soul, since I formed a scheme of reasonable felicity, have been
squandered by my own fault. I have lost that which can never be
restored; I have seen the sun rise and set for twenty months, an idle
gazer on the light of heaven: in this time the birds have left the nest
of their mother, and committed themselves to the woods and to the skies;
the kid has forsaken the teat, and learned by degrees to climb the rocks
in quest of independent sustenance. I only have made no advances, but am
still helpless and ignorant. The moon, by more than twenty changes,
admonished me of the flux of life; the stream that rolled before my feet
upbraided my inactivity. I sat feasting on intellectual luxury,
regardless alike of the examples of the earth, and the instructions of
the planets. Twenty months are passed; who shall restore them?”

These sorrowful meditations fastened upon his mind; he passed four
months in resolving to lose no more time in idle resolves, and was
awakened to more vigorous exertion, by hearing a maid, who had broken a
porcelain cup, remark, that what cannot be repaired is not to be

This was obvious; and Rasselas reproached himself that he had not
discovered it; having not known, or not considered, how many useful
hints are obtained by chance, and how often the mind, hurried by her own
ardour to distant views, neglects the truths that lie open before her.
He for a few hours regretted his regret, and from that time bent his
whole mind upon the means of escaping from the Valley of Happiness.



He now found that it would be very difficult to effect that which it was
very easy to suppose effected. When he looked round about him, he saw
himself confined by the bars of nature, which had never yet been broken,
and by the gate, through which none that once had passed it were ever
able to return. He was now impatient as an eagle in a grate. He passed
week after week in clambering the mountains, to see if there was any
aperture which the bushes might conceal, but found all the summits
inaccessible by their prominence. The iron gate he despaired to open;
for it was not only secured with all the power of art, but was always
watched by successive sentinels, and was by its position exposed to the
perpetual observation of all the inhabitants.

He then examined the cavern through which the waters of the lake were
discharged; and, looking down at a time when the sun shone strongly upon
its mouth, he discovered it to be full of broken rocks, which, though
they permitted the stream to flow through many narrow passages, would
stop any body of solid bulk. He returned discouraged and dejected; but
having now known the blessing of hope, resolved never to despair.

In these fruitless searches he spent ten months. The time, however,
passed cheerfully away: in the morning he rose with new hope, in the
evening applauded his own diligence, and in the night slept sound after
his fatigue. He met a thousand amusements which beguiled his labour and
diversified his thoughts. He discerned the various instincts of animals
and properties of plants, and found the place replete with wonders, of
which he purposed to solace himself with the contemplation, if he should
never be able to accomplish his flight; rejoicing that his endeavours,
though yet unsuccessful, had supplied him with a source of inexhaustible

But his original curiosity was not yet abated; he resolved to obtain
some knowledge of the ways of men. His wish still continued, but his
hope grew less. He ceased to survey any longer the walls of his prison,
and spared to search by new toils for interstices which he knew could
not be found, yet determined to keep his design always in view, and lay
hold on any expedient that time should offer.



Among the artists that had been allured into the Happy Valley, to labour
for the accommodation and pleasure of its inhabitants, was a man eminent
for his knowledge of the mechanic powers, who had contrived many engines
both of use and recreation. By a wheel which the stream turned, he
forced the water into a tower, whence it was distributed to all the
apartments of the palace. He erected a pavilion in the garden, around
which he kept the air always cool by artificial showers. One of the
groves, appropriated to the ladies, was ventilated by fans, to which the
rivulet that run through it gave a constant motion; and instruments of
soft music were placed at proper distances, of which some played by the
impulse of the wind, and some by the power of the stream.

This artist was sometimes visited by Rasselas, who was pleased with
every kind of knowledge, imagining that the time would come when all his
acquisitions should be of use to him in the open world. He came one day
to amuse himself in his usual manner, and found the master busy in
building a sailing chariot; he saw that the design was practicable upon
a level surface, and with expressions of great esteem solicited its
completion. The workman was pleased to find himself so much regarded by
the prince, and resolved to gain yet higher honours. “Sir,” said he,
“you have seen but a small part of what the mechanic sciences can
perform. I have been long of opinion, that instead of the tardy
conveyance of ships and chariots, man might use the swifter migration of
wings; that the fields of air are open to knowledge, and that only
ignorance and idleness need crawl upon the ground.”

This hint rekindled the prince’s desire of passing the mountains; having
seen what the mechanist had already performed, he was willing to fancy
that he could do more; yet resolved to inquire further, before he
suffered hope to afflict him by disappointment. “I am afraid,” said he
to the artist, “that your imagination prevails over your skill, and that
you now tell me rather what you wish, than what you know. Every animal
has his element assigned him; the birds have the air, and man and beasts
the earth.” “So,” replied the mechanist, “fishes have the water, in
which yet beasts can swim by nature, and men by art. He that can swim
needs not despair to fly; to swim is to fly in a grosser fluid, and to
fly is to swim in a subtler. We are only to proportion our power of
resistance to the different density of matter through which we are to
pass. You will be necessarily upborn by the air, if you can renew any
impulse upon it faster than the air can recede from the pressure.”

“But the exercise of swimming,” said the prince, “is very laborious; the
strongest limbs are soon wearied: I am afraid the act of flying will be
yet more violent; and wings will be of no great use, unless we can fly
further than we can swim.”

“The labour of rising from the ground,” said the artist, “will be
great, as we see it in the heavier domestic fowls; but as we mount
higher, the earth’s attraction, and the body’s gravity, will be
gradually diminished, till we shall arrive at a region where the man
will float in the air without any tendency to fall: no care will then be
necessary but to move forwards, which the gentlest impulse will effect.
You, sir, whose curiosity is so extensive, will easily conceive with
what pleasure a philosopher, furnished with wings, and hovering in the
sky, would see the earth, and all its inhabitants, rolling beneath him,
and presenting to him successively, by its diurnal motion, all the
countries within the same parallel. How must it amuse the pendent
spectator to see the moving scene of land and ocean, cities and deserts!
To survey with equal security the marts of trade, and the fields of
battle; mountains infested by barbarians, and fruitful regions gladdened
by plenty and lulled by peace! How easily shall we then trace the Nile
through all his passage; pass over to distant regions, and examine the
face of nature from one extremity of the earth to the other!”

“All this,” said the prince, “is much to be desired; but I am afraid
that no man will be able to breathe in these regions of speculation and
tranquillity. I have been told that respiration is difficult upon lofty
mountains; yet from these precipices, though so high as to produce great
tenuity of air, it is very easy to fall; therefore I suspect that, from
any height where life can be supported, there may be danger of too quick

“Nothing,” replied the artist, “will ever be attempted, if all possible
objections must be first overcome. If you will favour my project, I will
try the first flight at my own hazard. I have considered the structure
of all volant animals, and find the folding continuity of the bat’s
wings most easily accommodated to the human form. Upon this model I
shall begin my task to-morrow, and in a year expect to tower into the
air beyond the malice and pursuit of man. But I will work only on this
condition, that the art shall not be divulged, and that you shall not
require me to make wings for any but ourselves.”

“Why,” said Rasselas, “should you envy others so great an advantage? All
skill ought to be exerted for universal good; every man has owed much to
others, and ought to repay the kindness that he has received.”

“If men were all virtuous,” returned the artist, “I should with great
alacrity teach them all to fly. But what would be the security of the
good, if the bad could at pleasure invade them from the sky? Against an
army sailing through the clouds, neither walls, nor mountains, nor seas,
could afford any security. A flight of northern savages might hover in
the wind, and light at once with irresistible violence upon the capital
of a fruitful region that was rolling under them. Even this valley, the
retreat of princes, the abode of happiness, might be violated by the
sudden descent of some of the naked nations that swarm on the coast of
the southern sea.”

The prince promised secrecy, and waited for the performance, not wholly
hopeless of success. He visited the work from time to time, observed its
progress, and remarked many ingenious contrivances to facilitate motion,
and unite levity with strength. The artist was every day more certain
that he should leave vultures and eagles behind him, and the contagion
of his confidence seized upon the prince.

In a year the wings were finished; and, on a morning appointed, the
maker appeared furnished for flight on a little promontory: he waved
his pinions awhile to gather air, then leaped from his stand, and in an
instant dropped into the lake. His wings, which were of no use in the
air, sustained him in the water, and the prince drew him to land, half
dead with terror and vexation.



The prince was not much afflicted by this disaster, having suffered
himself to hope for a happier event, only because he had no other means
of escape in view. He still persisted in his design to leave the Happy
Valley by the first opportunity.

His imagination was now at a stand; he had no prospect of entering into
the world; and, notwithstanding all his endeavours to support himself,
discontent by degrees preyed upon him, and he began again to lose his
thoughts in sadness when the rainy season, which in these countries is
periodical, made it inconvenient to wander in the woods.

The rain continued longer and with more violence than had been ever
known; the clouds broke on the surrounding mountains, and the torrents
streamed into the plain on every side, till the cavern was too narrow to
discharge the water. The lake overflowed its banks, and all the level of
the valley was covered with the inundation. The eminence on which the
palace was built, and some other spots of rising ground, were all that
the eye could now discover. The herds and flocks left the pastures, and
both the wild beasts and the tame retreated to the mountains.

This inundation confined all the princes to domestic amusements; and the
attention of Rasselas was particularly seized by a poem, which Imlac
rehearsed, upon the various conditions of humanity. He commanded the
poet to attend him in his apartment, and recite his verses a second
time; then entering into familiar talk, he thought himself happy in
having found a man who knew the world so well, and could so skilfully
paint the scenes of life. He asked a thousand questions about things, to
which, though common to all other mortals, his confinement from
childhood had kept him a stranger. The poet pitied his ignorance, and
loved his curiosity, and entertained him from day to day with novelty
and instruction, so that the prince regretted the necessity of sleep,
and longed till the morning should renew his pleasure.

As they were sitting together, the prince commanded Imlac to relate his
history, and to tell by what accident he was forced, or by what motive
induced, to close his life in the Happy Valley. As he was going to begin
his narrative, Rasselas was called to a concert, and obliged to restrain
his curiosity till the evening.



The close of the day is, in the regions of the torrid zone, the only
season of diversion and entertainment, and it was therefore midnight
before the music ceased, and the princesses retired. Rasselas then
called for his companion, and required him to begin the story of his

“Sir,” said Imlac, “my history will not be long: the life that is
devoted to knowledge passes silently away, and is very little
diversified by events. To talk in public, to think in solitude, to read
and to hear, to inquire and answer inquiries, is the business of a
scholar. He wanders about the world without pomp or terror, and is
neither known nor valued but by men like himself.

“I was born in the kingdom of Goiama, at no great distance from the
fountain of the Nile. My father was a wealthy merchant, who traded
between the inland countries of Afric and the ports of the Red Sea. He
was honest, frugal, and diligent, but of mean sentiments and narrow
comprehension: he desired only to be rich, and to conceal his riches,
lest he should be spoiled by the governor of the province.”

“Surely,” said the prince, “my father must be negligent of his charge,
if any man in his dominions dares take that which belongs to another.
Does he not know that kings are accountable for injustice as well as
done? If I were emperour, not the meanest of my subjects should be
oppressed with impunity. My blood boils when I am told that a merchant
durst not enjoy his honest gains, for fear of losing them by the
rapacity of power. Name the governor who robbed the people, that I may
declare his crimes to the emperor.”

“Sir,” said Imlac, “your ardour is the natural effect of virtue
animated by youth: the time will come when you will acquit your father,
and perhaps hear with less impatience of the governor. Oppression is, in
the Abyssinian dominions, neither frequent nor tolerated; but no form of
government has been yet discovered, by which cruelty can be wholly
prevented. Subordination supposes power in one part, and subjection on
the other; and if power be in the hands of men, it will sometimes be
abused. The vigilance of the supreme magistrate may do much, but much
will still remain undone. He can never know all the crimes that are
committed, and can seldom punish all that he knows.”

“This,” said the prince, “I do not understand; but I had rather hear
thee than dispute. Continue thy narration.”

“My father,” proceeded Imlac, “originally intended that I should have no
other education than such as might qualify me for commerce; and
discovering in me great strength of memory and quickness of
apprehension, often declared his hope that I should be some time the
richest man in Abyssinia.”

“Why,” said the prince, “did thy father desire the increase of his
wealth, when it was already greater than he durst discover or enjoy? I
am unwilling to doubt thy veracity, yet inconsistencies cannot both be

“Inconsistencies,” answered Imlac, “cannot both be right, but, imputed
to man, they may both be true. Yet diversity is not inconsistency. My
father might expect a time of greater security. However, some desire is
necessary to keep life in motion; and he whose real wants are supplied
must admit those of fancy.”

“This,” said the prince, “I can in some measure conceive. I repent that
I interrupted thee.”

“With this hope,” proceeded Imlac, “he sent me to school; but when I had
once found the delight of knowledge, and felt the pleasure of
intelligence and the pride of invention, I began silently to despise
riches, and determined to disappoint the purpose of my father, whose
grossness of conception raised my pity. I was twenty years old before
his tenderness would expose me to the fatigue of travel, in which time I
had been instructed, by successive masters, in all the literature of my
native country. As every hour taught me something new, I lived in a
continual course of gratifications; but, as I advanced towards manhood,
I lost much of the reverence with which I had been used to look on my
instructors; because, when the lesson was ended, I did not find them
wiser or better than common men.

“At length my father resolved to initiate me in commerce, and opening
one of his subterranean treasuries, counted out ten thousand pieces of
gold. ‘This, young man,’ said he, ‘is the stock with which you must
negotiate. I began with less than the fifth part, and you see how
diligence and parsimony have increased it. This is your own to waste or
to improve. If you squander it by negligence or caprice, you must wait
for my death before you will be rich; if in four years you double your
stock, we will thenceforward let subordination cease, and live together
as friends and partners; for he shall always be equal with me, who is
equally skilled in the art of growing rich.’

“We laid our money upon camels, concealed in bales of cheap goods, and
travelled to the shore of the Red Sea. When I cast my eye on the expanse
of waters, my heart bounded like that of a prisoner escaped. I felt an
unextinguishable curiosity kindle in my mind, and resolved to snatch
this opportunity of seeing the manners of other nations, and of learning
sciences unknown in Abyssinia.

“I remembered that my father had obliged me to the improvement of my
stock, not by a promise which I ought not to violate, but by a penalty
which I was at liberty to incur; and therefore determined to gratify my
predominant desire, and, by drinking at the fountains of knowledge, to
quench the thirst of curiosity.

“As I was supposed to trade without connexion with my father, it was
easy for me to become acquainted with the master of a ship, and procure
a passage to some other country. I had no motives of choice to regulate
my voyage; it was sufficient for me that, wherever I wandered, I should
see a country which I had not seen before. I therefore entered a ship
bound for Surat, having left a letter for my father declaring my



“When I first entered upon the world of waters, and lost sight of land,
I looked round about me with pleasing terror, and thinking my soul
enlarged by the boundless prospect, imagined that I could gaze round for
ever without satiety; but in a short time I grew weary of looking on
barren uniformity, where I could only see again what I had already seen.
I then descended into the ship, and doubted for a while whether all my
future pleasures would not end like this, in disgust and disappointment.
Yet, surely, said I, the ocean and the land are very different; the only
variety of water is rest and motion, but the earth has mountains and
valleys, deserts and cities; it is inhabited by men of different customs
and contrary opinions; and I may hope to find variety in life, though I
should miss it in nature.

“With this thought I quieted my mind; and amused myself during the
voyage, sometimes by learning from the sailors the art of navigation,
which I have never practised, and sometimes by forming schemes for my
conduct in different situations, in not one of which I have been ever

“I was almost weary of my naval amusements when we landed safely at
Surat. I secured my money, and purchasing some commodities for show,
joined myself to a caravan that was passing into the inland country. My
companions, for some reason or other conjecturing that I was rich, and,
by my inquiries and admiration, finding that I was ignorant, considered
me as a novice whom they had a right to cheat, and who was to learn at
the usual expense the art of fraud. They exposed me to the theft of
servants and the exaction of officers, and saw me plundered upon false
pretences, without any advantage to themselves, but that of rejoicing in
the superiority of their own knowledge.”

“Stop a moment,” said the prince. “Is there such depravity in man, as
that he should injure another without benefit to himself? I can easily
conceive that all are pleased with superiority; but your ignorance was
merely accidental, which, being neither your crime nor your folly, could
afford them no reason to applaud themselves; and the knowledge which
they had, and which you wanted, they might as effectually have shown by
warning as betraying you.”

“Pride,” said Imlac, “is seldom delicate, it will please itself with
very mean advantages; and envy feels not its own happiness, but when it
may be compared with the misery of others. They were my enemies, because
they grieved to think me rich; and my oppressors, because they delighted
to find me weak.”

“Proceed,” said the prince: “I doubt not of the facts which you relate,
but imagine that you impute them to mistaken motives.”

“In this company,” said Imlac, “I arrived at Agra, the capital of
Indostan, the city in which the Great Mogul commonly resides. I applied
myself to the language of the country, and in a few months was able to
converse with the learned men; some of whom I found morose and reserved,
and others easy and communicative; some were unwilling to teach another
what they had with difficulty learned themselves; and some showed that
the end of their studies was to gain the dignity of instructing.

“To the tutor of the young princes I recommended myself so much, that I
was presented to the emperor as a man of uncommon knowledge. The emperor
asked me many questions concerning my country and my travels; and though
I cannot now recollect anything that he uttered above the power of a
common man, he dismissed me astonished at his wisdom, and enamoured of
his goodness.

“My credit was now so high, that the merchants with whom I had travelled
applied to me for recommendations to the ladies of the court. I was
surprised at their confidence of solicitation, and gently reproached
them with their practices on the road. They heard me with cold
indifference, and showed no tokens of shame or sorrow.

“They then urged their request with the offer of a bribe; but what I
would not do for kindness, I would not do for money, and refused them,
not because they had injured me, but because I would not enable them to
injure others; for I knew they would have made use of my credit to cheat
those who should buy their wares.

“Having resided at Agra till there was no more to be learned, I
travelled into Persia, where I saw many remains of ancient magnificence,
and observed many new accommodations of life. The Persians are a nation
eminently social, and their assemblies afforded me daily opportunities
of remarking characters and manners, and of tracing human nature through
all its variations.

“From Persia I passed into Arabia, where I saw a nation at once pastoral
and warlike; who live without any settled habitation; whose only wealth
is their flocks and herds; and who have yet carried on through all ages
an hereditary war with all mankind, though they neither covet nor envy
their possessions.”



“Wherever I went, I found that poetry was considered as the highest
learning, and regarded with a veneration somewhat approaching to that
which man would pay to the Angelic Nature. And yet it fills me with
wonder, that, in almost all countries, the most ancient poets are
considered as the best: whether it be that every other kind of knowledge
is an acquisition gradually attained, and poetry is a gift conferred at
once; or that the first poetry of every nation surprised them as a
novelty, and retained the credit by consent, which it received by
accident at first; or whether, as the province of poetry is to describe
Nature and Passion, which are always the same, the first writers took
possession of the most striking objects for description, and the most
probable occurrences for fiction, and left nothing to those that
followed them, but transcription of the same events, and new
combinations of the same images. Whatever be the reason, it is commonly
observed that the early writers are in possession of nature, and their
followers of art; that the first excel in strength and invention, and
the latter in elegance and refinement.

“I was desirous to add my name to this illustrious fraternity. I read
all the poets of Persia and Arabia, and was able to repeat by memory the
volumes that are suspended in the mosque of Mecca. But I soon found that
no man was ever great by imitation. My desire of excellence impelled me
to transfer my attention to nature and to life. Nature was to be my
subject, and men to be my auditors: I could never describe what I had
not seen; I could not hope to move those with delight or terror, whose
interests and opinions I did not understand.

“Being now resolved to be a poet, I saw everything with a new purpose;
my sphere of attention was suddenly magnified; no kind of knowledge was
to be overlooked. I ranged mountains and deserts for images and
resemblances, and pictured upon my mind every tree of the forest and
flower of the valley. I observed with equal care the crags of the rock
and the pinnacles of the palace. Sometimes I wandered along the mazes of
the rivulet, and sometimes watched the changes of the summer clouds. To
a poet nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is
dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination: he must be conversant
with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little. The plants of the
garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, and meteors
of the sky, must all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible
variety: for every idea is useful for the enforcement or decoration of
moral or religious truth; and he who knows most will have most power of
diversifying his scenes, and of gratifying his reader with remote
allusions and unexpected instruction.

“All the appearances of nature I was therefore careful to study; and
every country which I have surveyed has contributed something to my
poetical powers.”

“In so wide a survey,” said the prince, “you must surely have left much
unobserved. I have lived, till now, within the circuit of these
mountains, and yet cannot walk abroad without the sight of something
which I had never beheld before, or never heeded.”

“The business of a poet,” said Imlac, “is to examine, not the
individual, but the species; to remark general properties and large
appearances. He does not number the streaks of the tulip, or describe
the different shades in the verdure of the forest: he is to exhibit in
his portraits of nature such prominent and striking features, as recall
the original to every mind; and must neglect the minuter
discriminations, which one may have remarked, and another have
neglected, for those characteristics which are alike obvious to
vigilance and carelessness.

“But the knowledge of nature is only half the task of a poet: he must be
acquainted likewise with all the modes of life. His character requires
that he estimate the happiness and misery of every condition, observe
the power of all the passions in all their combinations, and trace the
changes of the human mind as they are modified by various institutions
and accidental influences of climate or custom, from the sprightliness
of infancy to the despondence of decrepitude. He must divest himself of
the prejudices of his age and country; he must consider right and wrong
in their abstracted and invariable state; he must disregard present laws
and opinions, and rise to general and transcendental truths, which will
always be the same. He must therefore content himself with the slow
progress of his name, contemn the applause of his own time, and commit
his claims to the justice of posterity. He must write as the interpreter
of nature, and the legislator of mankind, and consider himself as
presiding over the thoughts and manners of future generations; as a
being superior to time and place.

“His labour is not yet at an end; he must know many languages and many
sciences; and, that his style may be worthy of his thoughts, must, by
incessant practice, familiarize to himself every delicacy of speech and
grace of harmony.”



Imlac now felt the enthusiastic fit, and was proceeding to aggrandize
his own profession, when the prince cried out, “Enough! thou hast
convinced me that no human being can ever be a poet. Proceed with thy

“To be a poet,” said Imlac, “is indeed very difficult.”

“So difficult,” returned the prince, “that I will at present hear no
more of his labours. Tell me whither you went when you had seen Persia.”

“From Persia,” said the poet, “I travelled through Syria, and for three
years resided in Palestine, where I conversed with great numbers of the
northern and western nations of Europe; the nations which are now in
possession of all power and all knowledge; whose armies are
irresistible, and whose fleets command the remotest parts of the globe.
When I compared these men with the natives of our own kingdom, and those
that surround us, they appeared almost another order of beings. In their
countries it is difficult to wish for anything that may not be obtained:
a thousand arts, of which we never heard, are continually labouring for
their convenience and pleasure; and whatever their own climate has
denied them is supplied by their commerce.”

“By what means,” said the prince, “are the Europeans thus powerful? or
why, since they can so easily visit Asia and Africa for trade or
conquest, cannot the Asiatics and Africans invade their coasts, plant
colonies in their ports, and give laws to their natural princes? The
same wind that carries them back would bring us thither.”

“They are more powerful, sir, than we,” answered Imlac, “because they
are wiser; knowledge will always predominate over ignorance, as man
governs the other animals. But why their knowledge is more than ours, I
know not what reason can be given, but the unsearchable will of the
Supreme Being.”

“When,” said the prince with a sigh, “shall I be able to visit
Palestine, and mingle with this mighty confluence of nations? Till that
happy moment shall arrive, let me fill up the time with such
representations as thou canst give me. I am not ignorant of the motive
that assembles such numbers in that place, and cannot but consider it as
the centre of wisdom and piety, to which the best and wisest men of
every land must be continually resorting.”

“There are some nations,” said Imlac, “that send few visitants to
Palestine; for many numerous and learned sects in Europe concur to
censure pilgrimage as superstitious, or deride it as ridiculous.”

“You know,” said the prince, “how little my life has made me acquainted
with diversity of opinions; it will be too long to hear the arguments on
both sides; you, that have considered them, tell me the result.”

“Pilgrimage,” said Imlac, “like many other acts of piety, may be
reasonable or superstitious, according to the principles upon which it
is performed. Long journeys in search of truth are not commanded. Truth,
such as is necessary to the regulation of life, is always found where it
is honestly sought. Change of place is no natural cause of the increase
of piety, for it inevitably produces dissipation of mind. Yet, since men
go every day to view the fields where great actions have been performed,
and return with stronger impressions of the event, curiosity of the same
kind may naturally dispose us to view that country whence our religion
had its beginning; and I believe no man surveys those awful scenes
without some confirmation of holy resolutions. That the Supreme Being
may be more easily propitiated in one place than in another, is the
dream of idle superstition; but that some places may operate upon our
own minds in an uncommon manner, is an opinion which hourly experience
will justify. He who supposes that his vices may be more successfully
combated in Palestine, will, perhaps, find himself mistaken; yet he may
go thither without folly: he who thinks they will be more freely
pardoned, dishonours at once his reason and religion.”

“These,” said the prince, “are European distinctions. I will consider
them another time. What have you found to be the effect of knowledge?
Are those nations happier than we?”

“There is so much infelicity,” said the poet, “in the world, that scarce
any man has leisure from his own distresses to estimate the comparative
happiness of others. Knowledge is certainly one of the means of
pleasure, as is confessed by the natural desire which every mind feels
of increasing its ideas. Ignorance is mere privation, by which nothing
can be produced: it is a vacuity in which the soul sits motionless and
torpid for want of attraction; and without knowing why, we always
rejoice when we learn, and grieve when we forget. I am therefore
inclined to conclude, that if nothing counteracts the natural
consequence of learning, we grow more happy as our minds take a wider

“In enumerating the particular comforts of life, we shall find many
advantages on the side of the Europeans. They cure wounds and diseases
with which we languish and perish. We suffer inclemencies of weather
which they can obviate. They have engines for the dispatch of many
laborious works, which we must perform by manual industry. There is such
communication between distant places, that one friend can hardly be said
to be absent from another. Their policy removes all public
inconveniences; they have roads cut through their mountains, and bridges
laid upon their rivers. And, if we descend to the privacies of life,
their habitations are more commodious, and their possessions are more

“They are surely happy,” said the prince, “who have all these
conveniences, of which I envy none so much as the facility with which
separated friends interchange their thoughts.”

“The Europeans,” answered Imlac, “are less unhappy than we; but they are
not happy. Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be
endured, and little to be enjoyed.”



“I am not yet willing,” said the prince, “to suppose that happiness is
so parsimoniously distributed to mortals; nor can believe but that, if I
had the choice of life, I should be able to fill every day with
pleasure. I would injure no man, and should provoke no resentment; I
would relieve every distress, and should enjoy the benedictions of
gratitude. I would choose my friends among the wise, and my wife among
the virtuous; and therefore should be in no danger from treachery or
unkindness. My children should, by my care, be learned and pious, and
would repay to my age what their childhood had received. What would dare
to molest him who might call on every side to thousands enriched by his
bounty, or assisted by his power? And why should not life glide quietly
away in the soft reciprocation of protection and reverence? All this may
be done without the help of European refinements, which appear by their
effects to be rather specious than useful. Let us leave them, and pursue
our journey.”

“From Palestine,” said Imlac, “I passed through many regions of Asia; in
the more civilized kingdoms as a trader, and among the barbarians of the
mountains as a pilgrim. At last I began to long for my native country,
that I might repose, after my travels and fatigues, in the places where
I had spent my earliest years, and gladden my old companions with the
recital of my adventures. Often did I figure to myself those with whom I
had sported away the gay hours of dawning life, sitting round me in its
evening, wondering at my tales, and listening to my counsels.

“When this thought had taken possession of my mind, I considered every
moment as wasted which did not bring me nearer to Abyssinia. I hastened
into Egypt, and, notwithstanding my impatience, was detained ten months
in the contemplation of its ancient magnificence, and in inquiries after
the remains of its ancient learning. I found in Cairo a mixture of all
nations; some brought thither by the love of knowledge, some by the hope
of gain, and many by the desire of living after their own manner without
observation, and of lying hid in the obscurity of multitudes: for in a
city, populous as Cairo, it is possible to obtain at the same time the
gratifications of society, and the secrecy of solitude.

“From Cairo I travelled to Suez, and embarked on the Red Sea, passing
along the coast till I arrived at the port from which I had departed
twenty years before. Here I joined myself to a caravan, and re-entered
my native country.

“I now expected the caresses of my kinsmen, and the congratulations of
my friends, and was not without hope that my father, whatever value he
had set upon riches, would own with gladness and pride a son who was
able to add to the felicity and honour of the nation. But I was soon
convinced that my thoughts were vain. My father had been dead fourteen
years, having divided his wealth among my brothers, who were removed to
some other provinces. Of my companions, the greater part was in the
grave; of the rest, some could with difficulty remember me, and some
considered me as one corrupted by foreign manners.

“A man used to vicissitudes is not easily dejected. I forgot, after a
time, my disappointment, and endeavoured to recommend myself to the
nobles of the kingdom; they admitted me to their tables, heard my story,
and dismissed me. I opened a school, and was prohibited to teach. I then
resolved to sit down in the quiet of domestic life, and addressed a lady
that was fond of my conversation, but rejected my suit because my father
was a merchant.

“Wearied at last with solicitation and repulses, I resolved to hide
myself for ever from the world, and depend no longer on the opinion or
caprice of others. I waited for the time when the gate of the Happy
Valley should open, that I might bid farewell to hope and fear: the day
came; my performance was distinguished with favour; and I resigned
myself with joy to perpetual confinement.”

“Hast thou here found happiness at last?” said Rasselas. “Tell me
without reserve; art thou content with thy condition? or, dost thou wish
to be again wandering and inquiring? All the inhabitants of this valley
celebrate their lot, and, at the annual visit of the emperor, invite
others to partake of their felicity.”

“Great prince,” said Imlac, “I shall speak the truth; I know not one of
all your attendants who does not lament the hour when he entered this
retreat. I am less unhappy than the rest, because I have a mind replete
with images, which I can vary and combine at pleasure. I can amuse my
solitude by the renovation of the knowledge which begins to fade from my
memory, and by recollection of the accidents of my past life. Yet all
this ends in the sorrowful consideration, that my acquirements are now
useless, and that none of my pleasures can be again enjoyed. The rest,
whose minds have no impression but of the present moment, are either
corroded by malignant passions, or sit stupid in the gloom of perpetual

“What passions can infest those,” said the prince, “who have no rivals?
We are in a place where impotence precludes malice, and where all envy
is repressed by community of enjoyments.”

“There may be community,” said Imlac, “of material possessions, but
there can never be community of love or of esteem. It must happen that
one will please more than another; he that knows himself despised will
always be envious; and still more envious and malevolent, if he is
condemned to live in the presence of those who despise him. The
invitations by which they allure others to a state which they feel to be
wretched, proceed from the natural malignity of hopeless misery. They
are weary of themselves and of each other, and expect to find relief in
new companions. They envy the liberty which their folly has forfeited,
and would gladly see all mankind imprisoned like themselves.

“From this crime, however, I am wholly free. No man can say that he is
wretched by my persuasion. I look with pity on the crowds who are
annually soliciting admission to captivity, and wish that it were lawful
for me to warn them of their danger.”

“My dear Imlac,” said the prince, “I will open to thee my whole heart. I
have long meditated an escape from the Happy Valley. I have examined the
mountains on every side, but find myself insuperably barred: teach me
the way to break my prison; thou shalt be the companion of my flight,
the guide of my rambles, the partner of my fortune, and my sole director
in the _choice of life_.”

“Sir,” answered the poet, “your escape will be difficult, and, perhaps,
you may soon repent your curiosity. The world, which you figure smooth
and quiet as the lake in the valley, you will find a sea foaming with
tempests and boiling with whirlpools: you will be sometimes overwhelmed
by the waves of violence, and sometimes dashed against the rocks of
treachery. Amidst wrongs and frauds, competitions and anxieties, you
will wish a thousand times for these seats of quiet, and willingly quit
hope to be free from fear.”

“Do not seek to deter me from my purpose,” said the prince; “I am
impatient to see what thou hast seen; and, since thou art thyself weary
of the valley, it is evident that thy former state was better than this.
Whatever be the consequence of my experiment, I am resolved to judge
with mine own eyes of the various conditions of men, and then to make
deliberately my _choice of life_.”

“I am afraid,” said Imlac, “you are hindered by stronger restraints than
my persuasions; yet, if your determination is fixed, I do not counsel
you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill.”



The prince now dismissed his favourite to rest; but the narrative of
wonders and novelties filled his mind with perturbation. He revolved all
that he had heard, and prepared innumerable questions for the morning.

Much of his uneasiness was now removed. He had a friend to whom he could
impart his thoughts, and whose experience could assist him in his
designs. His heart was no longer condemned to swell with silent
vexation. He thought that even the Happy Valley might be endured with
such a companion, and that if they could range the world together, he
should have nothing further to desire.

In a few days the water was discharged, and the ground dried. The prince
and Imlac then walked out together, to converse without the notice of
the rest. The prince, whose thoughts were always on the wing, as he
passed by the gate, said, with a countenance of sorrow, “Why art thou so
strong, and why is man so weak?”

“Man is not weak,” answered his companion; “knowledge is more than
equivalent to force. The master of mechanics laughs at strength. I can
burst the gate, but cannot do it secretly. Some other expedient must be

As they were walking on the side of the mountain, they observed that the
conies, which the rain had driven from their burrows, had taken shelter
among the bushes, and formed holes behind them, tending upwards in an
oblique line. “It has been the opinion of antiquity,” said Imlac, “that
human reason borrowed many arts from the instinct of animals; let us,
therefore, not think ourselves degraded by learning from the coney. We
may escape by piercing the mountain in the same direction. We will begin
where the summit hangs over the middle part, and labour upward till we
shall issue up beyond the prominence.”

The eyes of the prince, when he heard this proposal, sparkled with joy.
The execution was easy, and the success certain.

No time was now lost. They hastened early in the morning to choose a
place proper for their mine. They clambered with great fatigue among
crags and brambles, and returned without having discovered any part that
favoured their design. The second and the third day were spent in the
same manner, and with the same frustration. But, on the fourth, they
found a small cavern, concealed by a thicket, where they resolved to
make their experiment.

Imlac procured instruments proper to hew stone and remove earth, and
they fell to their work on the next day with more eagerness than vigour.
They were presently exhausted by their efforts, and sat down to pant
upon the grass. The prince, for a moment, appeared to be discouraged.
“Sir,” said his companion, “practice will enable us to continue our
labour for a longer time; mark, however, how far we have advanced, and
you will find that our toil will some time have an end. Great works are
performed, not by strength but perseverance: yonder palace was raised by
single stones, yet you see its height and spaciousness. He that shall
walk with vigour three hours a day, will pass in seven years a space
equal to the circumference of the globe.”

They returned to their work day after day, and, in a short time, found a
fissure in the rock, which enabled them to pass far with very little
obstruction. This Rasselas considered as a good omen. “Do not disturb
your mind,” said Imlac, “with other hopes or fears than reason may
suggest: if you are pleased with prognostics of good, you will be
terrified likewise with tokens of evil, and your whole life will be a
prey to superstition. Whatever facilitates our work is more than an
omen, it is a cause of success. This is one of those pleasing surprises
which often happen to active resolution. Many things difficult to design
prove easy to performance.”



They had now wrought their way to the middle, and solaced their toil
with the approach of liberty, when the prince, coming down to refresh
himself with air, found his sister Nekayah standing before the mouth of
the cavity. He started and stood confused, afraid to tell his design,
and yet hopeless to conceal it. A few moments determined him to repose
on her fidelity, and secure her secrecy by a declaration without

“Do not imagine,” said the princess, “that I came hither as a spy: I
had long observed from my window that you and Imlac directed your walk
every day towards the same point; but I did not suppose you had any
better reason for the preference than a cooler shade, or more fragrant
bank; nor followed you with any other design than to partake of your
conversation. Since, then, not suspicion but fondness has detected you,
let me not lose the advantage of my discovery. I am equally weary of
confinement with yourself, and not less desirous of knowing what is done
or suffered in the world. Permit me to fly with you from this tasteless
tranquillity, which will yet grow more loathsome when you have left me.
You may deny me to accompany you, but cannot hinder me from following.”

The prince, who loved Nekayah above his other sisters, had no
inclination to refuse her request, and grieved that he had lost an
opportunity of showing his confidence by a voluntary communication. It
was therefore agreed that she should leave the valley with them; and
that, in the meantime, she should watch lest any other straggler should,
by chance or curiosity, follow them to the mountain.

At length their labour was at an end; they saw light beyond the
prominence, and, issuing to the top of the mountain, beheld the Nile,
yet a narrow current, wandering beneath them.

The prince looked round with rapture, anticipated all the pleasures of
travel, and in thought was already transported beyond his father’s
dominions. Imlac, though very joyful at his escape, had less expectation
of pleasure in the world, which he had before tried, and of which he had
been weary.

Rasselas was so much delighted with a wider horizon, that he could not
soon be persuaded to return into the valley. He informed his sister that
the way was open, and that nothing now remained but to prepare for their



The prince and princess had jewels sufficient to make them rich whenever
they came into a place of commerce, which, by Imlac’s direction, they
hid in their clothes; and, on the night of the next full moon, all left
the valley. The princess was followed only by a single favourite, who
did not know whither she was going.

They clambered through the cavity, and began to go down on the other
side. The princess and her maid turned their eyes towards every part,
and, seeing nothing to bound their prospect, considered themselves as in
danger of being lost in a dreary vacuity. They stopped and trembled. “I
am almost afraid,” said the princess, “to begin a journey of which I
cannot perceive an end, and to venture into this immense plain, where I
may be approached on every side by men whom I never saw.” The prince
felt nearly the same emotions, though he thought it more manly to
conceal them.

Imlac smiled at their terrors, and encouraged them to proceed; but the
princess continued irresolute till she had been imperceptibly drawn
forward too far to return.

In the morning they found some shepherds in the field, who set milk and
fruits before them. The princess wondered that she did not see a palace
ready for her reception, and a table spread with delicacies; but being
faint and hungry, she drank the milk and ate the fruits, and thought
them of a higher flavour than the products of the valley.

They travelled forward by easy journeys, being all unaccustomed to toil
or difficulty, and knowing that, though they might be missed, they could
not be pursued. In a few days they came into a more populous region,
where Imlac was diverted with the admiration which his companions
expressed at the diversity of manners, stations, and employments.

Their dress was such as might not bring upon them the suspicion of
having anything to conceal; yet the prince, wherever he came, expected
to be obeyed, and the princess was frighted because those that came into
her presence did not prostrate themselves before her. Imlac was forced
to observe them with great vigilance, lest they should betray their rank
by their unusual behaviour, and detained them several weeks in the first
village, to accustom them to the sight of common mortals.

By degrees the royal wanderers were taught to understand that they had
for a time laid aside their dignity, and were to expect only such regard
as liberality and courtesy could procure. And Imlac having, by many
admonitions, prepared them to endure the tumults of a port, and the
ruggedness of the commercial race, brought them down to the sea-coast.

The prince and his sister, to whom everything was new, were gratified
equally at all places, and therefore remained for some months at the
port, without any inclination to pass further. Imlac was content with
their stay, because he did not think it safe to expose them,
unpractised in the world, to the hazards of a foreign country.

At last he began to fear lest they should be discovered, and proposed to
fix a day for their departure. They had no pretensions to judge for
themselves, and referred the whole scheme to his direction. He therefore
took passage in a ship to Suez; and, when the time came, with great
difficulty prevailed on the princess to enter the vessel. They had a
quick and prosperous voyage, and from Suez travelled by land to Cairo.



As they approached the city, which filled the strangers with
astonishment, “This,” said Imlac to the prince, “is the place where
travellers and merchants assemble from all the corners of the earth. You
will here find men of every character and every occupation. Commerce is
here honourable: I will act as a merchant, and you shall live as
strangers who have no other end of travel than curiosity; it will soon
be observed that we are rich; our reputation will procure us access to
all whom we shall desire to know; you will see all the conditions of
humanity, and enable yourself at leisure to make your _choice of life_.”

They now entered the town, stunned by the noise and offended by the
crowds. Instruction had not yet so prevailed over habit, but that they
wondered to see themselves pass undistinguished along the street, and
met by the lowest of the people without reverence or notice. The
princess could not at first bear the thought of being levelled with the
vulgar, and for some days continued in her chamber, where she was served
by her favourite Pekuah as in the palace of the valley.

Imlac, who understood traffic, sold part of the jewels the next day, and
hired a house, which he adorned with such magnificence that he was
immediately considered as a merchant of great wealth. His politeness
attracted many acquaintance, and his generosity made him courted by many
dependants. His table was crowded by men of every nation, who all
admired his knowledge and solicited his favour. His companions, not
being able to mix in the conversation, could make no discovery of their
ignorance or surprise, and were gradually initiated in the world as they
gained knowledge of the language.

The prince had, by frequent lectures, been taught the use and nature of
money; but the ladies could not, for a long time, comprehend what the
merchants did with small pieces of gold and silver, or why things of so
little use should be received as equivalent to the necessaries of life.

They studied the language two years, while Imlac was preparing to set
before them the various ranks and conditions of mankind. He grew
acquainted with all who had anything uncommon in their fortune or
conduct. He frequented the voluptuous and the frugal, the idle and the
busy, the merchants and the men of learning.

The prince being now able to converse with fluency, and having learned
the caution necessary to be observed in his intercourse with strangers,
began to accompany Imlac to places of resort, and to enter into all
assemblies, that he might make his _choice of life_.

For some time he thought choice needless, because all appeared to him
equally happy. Wherever he went he met gaiety and kindness, and heard
the song of joy or the laugh of carelessness. He began to believe that
the world overflowed with universal plenty, and that nothing was
withheld either from want or merit; that every hand showered liberality,
and every heart melted with benevolence; “and who then,” says he, “will
be suffered to be wretched?”

Imlac permitted the pleasing delusion, and was unwilling to crush the
hope of inexperience, till one day, having sat awhile silent, “I know
not,” said the prince, “what can be the reason that I am more unhappy
than any of our friends. I see them perpetually and unalterably
cheerful, but feel my own mind restless and uneasy. I am unsatisfied
with those pleasures which I seem most to court. I live in the crowds of
jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself, and am only
loud and merry to conceal my sadness.”

“Every man,” said Imlac, “may, by examining his own mind, guess what
passes in the minds of others; when you feel that your own gaiety is
counterfeit, it may justly lead you to suspect that of your companions
not to be sincere. Envy is commonly reciprocal. We are long before we
are convinced that happiness is never to be found; and each believes it
possessed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himself.
In the assembly where you passed the last night, there appeared such
sprightliness of air and volatility of fancy, as might have suited
beings of a higher order, formed to inhabit serener regions inaccessible
to care or sorrow; yet, believe me, prince, there was not one who did
not dread the moment when solitude should deliver him to the tyranny of

“This,” said the prince, “may be true of others, since it is true of me;
yet, whatever be the general infelicity of man, one condition is more
happy than another, and wisdom surely directs us to take the least evil
in the _choice of life_.”

“The causes of good and evil,” answered Imlac, “are so various and
uncertain, so often entangled with each other, so diversified by various
relations, and so much subject to accidents which cannot be foreseen,
that he who would fix his condition upon incontestable reasons of
preference must live and die inquiring and deliberating.”

“But surely,” said Rasselas, “the wise men, to whom we listen with
reverence and wonder, chose that mode of life for themselves which they
thought most likely to make them happy.”

“Very few,” said the poet, “live by choice. Every man is placed in his
present condition by causes which acted without his foresight, and with
which he did not always willingly co-operate; and therefore you will
rarely meet one who does not think the lot of his neighbour better than
his own.”

“I am pleased to think,” said the prince, “that my birth has given me at
least one advantage over others, by enabling me to determine for myself.
I have here the world before me; I will review it at leisure: surely
happiness is somewhere to be found.”



Rasselas rose next day, and resolved to begin his experiments upon life.
“Youth,” cried he, “is the time of gladness: I will join myself to the
young men whose only business is to gratify their desires, and whose
time is all spent in a succession of enjoyments.”

To such societies he was readily admitted; but a few days brought him
back weary and disgusted. Their mirth was without images; their laughter
without motive; their pleasures were gross and sensual, in which the
mind had no part; their conduct was at once wild and mean: they laughed
at order and at law; but the frown of power dejected, and the eye of
wisdom abashed them.

The prince soon concluded that he should never be happy in a course of
life of which he was ashamed. He thought it unsuitable to a reasonable
being to act without a plan, and to be sad or cheerful only by chance.
“Happiness,” said he, “must be something solid and permanent, without
fear and without uncertainty.”

But his young companions had gained so much of his regard by their
frankness and courtesy, that he could not leave them without warning and
remonstrance. “My friends,” said he, “I have seriously considered our
manners and our prospects, and find that we have mistaken our own
interest. The first years of man must make provision for the last. He
that never thinks never can be wise. Perpetual levity must end in
ignorance; and intemperance, though it may fire the spirits for an hour,
will make life short or miserable. Let us consider that youth is of no
long duration, and that in maturer age, when the enchantments of fancy
shall cease, and phantoms of delight dance no more about us, we shall
have no comforts but the esteem of wise men, and the means of doing
good. Let us, therefore, stop, while to stop is in our power: let us
live as men who are some time to grow old, and to whom it will be the
most dreadful of all evils not to count their past years but by follies,
and to be reminded of their former luxuriance of health only by the
maladies which riot has produced.”

They stared awhile in silence one upon another, and at last drove him
away by a general chorus of continued laughter.

The consciousness that his sentiments were just, and his intentions
kind, was scarcely sufficient to support him against the horror of
derision. But he recovered his tranquillity, and pursued his search.



As he was one day walking in the street, he saw a spacious building,
which all were, by the open doors, invited to enter. He followed the
stream of people, and found it a hall or school of declamation, in which
professors read lectures to their auditory. He fixed his eye upon a sage
raised above the rest, who discoursed with great energy on the
government of the passions. His look was venerable, his action graceful,
his pronunciation clear, and his diction elegant. He showed, with great
strength of sentiment and variety of illustration, that human nature is
degraded and debased when the lower faculties predominate over the
higher; that when fancy, the parent of passion, usurps the dominion of
the mind, nothing ensues but the natural effect of unlawful government,
perturbation and confusion; that she betrays the fortresses of the
intellect to rebels, and excites her children to sedition against
reason, their lawful sovereign. He compared reason to the sun, of which
the light is constant, uniform, and lasting; and fancy to a meteor, of
bright but transitory lustre, irregular in its motion, and delusive in
its direction.

He then communicated the various precepts given from time to time for
the conquest of passion, and displayed the happiness of those who had
obtained the important victory, after which man is no longer the slave
of fear, nor the fool of hope; is no more emaciated by envy, inflamed by
anger, emasculated by tenderness, or depressed by grief; but walks on
calmly through the tumults or privacies of life, as the sun pursues
alike his course through the calm or the stormy sky.

He enumerated many examples of heroes immovable by pain or pleasure, who
looked with indifference on those modes or accidents to which the vulgar
give the names of good and evil. He exhorted his hearers to lay aside
their prejudices, and arm themselves against the shafts of malice or
misfortune by invulnerable patience; concluding, that this state only
was happiness, and that this happiness was in every one’s power.

Rasselas listened to him with the veneration due to the instructions of
a superior being, and waiting for him at the door, humbly implored the
liberty of visiting so great a master of true wisdom. The lecturer
hesitated a moment, when Rasselas put a purse of gold into his hand,
which he received with a mixture of joy and wonder.

“I have found,” said the prince at his return to Imlac, “a man who can
teach all that is necessary to be known, who, from the unshaken throne
of rational fortitude, looks down on the scenes of life changing beneath
him. He speaks, and attention watches his lips; he reasons, and
conviction closes his periods. This man shall be my future guide: I will
learn his doctrines, and imitate his life.”

“Be not too hasty,” said Imlac, “to trust or to admire the teachers of
morality: they discourse like angels, but they live like men.”

Rasselas, who could not conceive how any man could reason so forcibly
without feeling the cogency of his own arguments, paid his visit in a
few days, and was denied admission. He had now learned the power of
money, and made his way by a piece of gold to the inner apartment, where
he found the philosopher, in a room half darkened, with his eyes misty,
and his face pale. “Sir,” said he, “you are come at a time when all
human friendship is useless: what I suffer cannot be remedied; what I
have lost cannot be supplied. My daughter, my only daughter, from whose
tenderness I expected all the comforts of my age, died last night of a
fever. My views, my purposes, my hopes are at an end: I am now a lonely
being disunited from society.”

“Sir,” said the prince, “mortality is an event by which a wise man can
never be surprised: we know that death is always near, and it should
therefore always be expected.”

“Young man,” answered the philosopher, “you speak like one that has
never felt the pangs of separation.” “Have you then forgot the
precepts,” said Rasselas, “which you so powerfully enforced? Has wisdom
no strength to arm the heart against calamity? Consider that external
things are naturally variable, but truth and reason are always the
same.” “What comfort,” said the mourner, “can truth and reason afford
me? Of what effect are they now, but to tell me that my daughter will
not be restored?”

The prince, whose humanity would not suffer him to insult misery with
reproof, went away convinced of the emptiness of rhetorical sound, and
the inefficacy of polished periods and studied sentences.



He was still eager upon the same inquiry; and having heard of a hermit,
that lived near the lowest cataract of the Nile, and filled the whole
country with the fame of his sanctity, resolved to visit his retreat,
and inquire whether that felicity which public life could not afford was
to be found in solitude; and whether a man whose age and virtue made him
venerable could teach any peculiar art of shunning evils or enduring

Imlac and the princess agreed to accompany him; and, after the
necessary preparations, they began their journey. Their way lay through
the fields, where shepherds tended their flocks, and the lambs were
playing upon the pasture. “This,” said the poet, “is the life which has
been often celebrated for its innocence and quiet; let us pass the heat
of the day among the shepherds’ tents, and know whether all our searches
are not to terminate in pastoral simplicity.”

The proposal pleased him, and they induced the shepherds, by small
presents and familiar questions, to tell their opinion of their own
state. They were so rude and ignorant, so little able to compare the
good with the evil of the occupation, and so indistinct in their
narratives and descriptions, that very little could be learned from
them; but it was evident that their hearts were cankered with
discontent, that they considered themselves as condemned to labour for
the luxury of the rich, and looked up with stupid malevolence toward
those that were placed above them.

The princess pronounced with vehemence, that she would never suffer
these envious savages to be her companions, and that she should not soon
be desirous of seeing any more specimens of rustic happiness; but could
not believe that all the accounts of primeval pleasures were fabulous,
and was yet in doubt, whether life had anything that could be justly
preferred to the placid gratifications of fields and woods. She hoped
that the time would come, when, with a few virtuous and elegant
companions, she should gather flowers planted by her own hand, fondle
the lambs of her own ewe, and listen without care, among brooks and
breezes, to one of her maidens reading in the shade.



On the next day they continued their journey, till the heat compelled
them to look round for shelter. At a small distance they saw a thick
wood, which they no sooner entered than they perceived that they were
approaching the habitations of men. The shrubs were diligently cut away,
to open walks where the shades were darkest; the boughs of opposite
trees were artificially interwoven; seats of flowery turf were raised in
vacant spaces; and a rivulet, that wantoned along the side of a winding
path, had its banks sometimes opened into small basins, and its stream
sometimes obstructed by little mounds of stone, heaped together to
increase its murmurs.

They passed slowly through the wood, delighted with such unexpected
accommodations, and entertained each other with conjecturing what or who
he could be, that, in those rude and unfrequented regions, had leisure
and art for such harmless luxury.

As they advanced, they heard the sound of music, and saw youths and
virgins dancing in the grove; and going still further, beheld a stately
palace built upon a hill, surrounded with woods. The laws of eastern
hospitality allowed them to enter, and the master welcomed them like a
man liberal and wealthy.

He was skilful enough in appearances soon to discern that they were no
common guests, and spread his table with magnificence. The eloquence of
Imlac caught his attention, and the lofty courtesy of the princess
excited his respect. When they offered to depart, he entreated their
stay, and was the next day still more unwilling to dismiss them than
before. They were easily persuaded to stop, and civility grew up in time
to freedom and confidence.

The prince now saw all the domestics cheerful, and all the face of
nature smiling round the place, and could not forbear to hope that he
should find here what he was seeking; but when he was congratulating the
master upon his possessions, he answered with a sigh, “My condition has
indeed the appearance of happiness, but appearances are delusive. My
prosperity puts my life in danger; the Bassa of Egypt is my enemy,
incensed only by my wealth and popularity. I have been hitherto
protected against him by the princes of the country; but as the favour
of the great is uncertain, I know not how soon my defenders may be
persuaded to share the plunder with the Bassa. I have sent my treasures
into a distant country, and, upon the first alarm, am prepared to follow
them. Then will my enemies riot in my mansion, and enjoy the gardens
which I have planted.”

They all joined in lamenting his danger and deprecating his exile; and
the princess was so much disturbed with the tumult of grief and
indignation, that she retired to her apartment.

They continued with their kind inviter a few days longer, and then went
forward to find the hermit.



They came on the third day, by the direction of the peasants, to the
hermit’s cell: it was a cavern in the side of a mountain, overshadowed
with palm trees; at such a distance from the cataract, that nothing more
was heard than a gentle uniform murmur, such as composed the mind to
pensive meditation, especially when it was assisted by the wind
whistling among the branches. The first rude essay of nature had been so
much improved by human labour, that the cave contained several
apartments appropriated to different uses, and often afforded lodging to
travellers, whom darkness or tempests happened to overtake.

The hermit sat on a bench at the door, to enjoy the coolness of the
evening. On one side lay a book with pens and papers, on the other
mechanical instruments of various kinds. As they approached him
unregarded, the princess observed that he had not the countenance of a
man that had found, or could teach, the way to happiness.

They saluted him with great respect, which he repaid like a man not
unaccustomed to the forms of courts. “My children,” said he, “if you
have lost your way, you shall be willingly supplied with such
conveniences for the night as this cavern will afford. I have all that
nature requires, and you will not expect delicacies in a hermit’s cell.”

They thanked him, and, entering, were pleased with the neatness and
regularity of the place. The hermit set flesh and wine before them,
though he fed only upon fruits and water. His discourse was cheerful
without levity, and pious without enthusiasm. He soon gained the esteem
of his guests, and the princess repented of her hasty censure.

At last Imlac began thus: “I do not now wonder that your reputation is
so far extended. We have heard at Cairo of your wisdom, and came hither
to implore your direction for this young man and maiden in the _choice
of life_.”

“To him that lives well,” answered the hermit, “every form of life is
good; nor can I give any other rule for choice, than to remove from all
apparent evil.”

“He will remove most certainly from evil,” said the prince, “who shall
devote himself to that solitude which you have recommended by your

“I have indeed lived fifteen years in solitude,” said the hermit, “but
have no desire that my example should gain any imitators. In my youth I
professed arms, and was raised by degrees to the highest military rank.
I have traversed wide countries at the head of my troops, and seen many
battles and sieges. At last, being disgusted by the preferments of a
younger officer, and feeling that my vigour was beginning to decay, I
was resolved to close my life in peace, having found the world full of
snares, discord, and misery. I had once escaped from the pursuit of the
enemy by the shelter of this cavern, and therefore chose it for my final
residence. I employed artificers to form it into chambers, and stored it
with all that I was likely to want.

“For some time after my retreat, I rejoiced like a tempest-beaten sailor
at his entrance into the harbour, being delighted with the sudden change
of the noise and hurry of war to stillness and repose. When the pleasure
of novelty went away, I employed my hours in examining the plants which
grow in the valley, and the minerals which I collected from the rocks.
But that inquiry is now grown tasteless and irksome. I have been for
some time unsettled and distracted: my mind is disturbed with a thousand
perplexities of doubt and vanities of imagination, which hourly prevail
upon me, because I have no opportunities of relaxation or diversion. I
am sometimes ashamed to think that I could not secure myself from vice,
but by retiring from the exercise of virtue, and begin to suspect that I
was rather impelled by resentment, than led by devotion, into solitude.
My fancy riots in scenes of folly, and I lament that I have lost so much
and have gained so little. In solitude, if I escape the example of bad
men, I want likewise the counsel and conversation of the good. I have
been long comparing the evils with the advantages of society, and
resolve to return into the world to-morrow. The life of a solitary man
will be certainly miserable, but not certainly devout.”

They heard his resolution with surprise, but after a short pause offered
to conduct him to Cairo. He dug up a considerable treasure which he had
hid among the rocks, and accompanied them to the city, on which, as he
approached it, he gazed with rapture.



Rasselas went often to an assembly of learned men, who met at stated
times to unbend their minds and compare their opinions. Their manners
were somewhat coarse, but their conversation was instructive, and their
disputations acute, though sometimes too violent, and often continued
till neither controvertist remembered upon what question they began.
Some faults were almost general among them: every one was desirous to
dictate to the rest, and every one was pleased to hear the genius or
knowledge of another depreciated.

In this assembly Rasselas was relating his interview with the hermit,
and the wonder with which he heard him censure a course of life which he
had so deliberately chosen, and so laudably followed. The sentiments of
the hearers were various. Some were of opinion that the folly of his
choice had been justly punished by condemnation to perpetual
perseverance. One of the youngest among them, with great vehemence,
pronounced him an hypocrite. Some talked of the right of society to the
labour of individuals, and considered retirement as a desertion of duty.
Others readily allowed that there was a time when the claims of the
public were satisfied, and when a man might properly sequester himself,
to review his life and purify his heart.

One, who appeared more affected with the narrative than the rest,
thought it likely that the hermit would, in a few years, go back to his
retreat, and perhaps, if shame did not restrain or death intercept him,
return once more from his retreat into the world: “For the hope of
happiness,” said he, “is so strongly impressed, that the longest
experience is not able to efface it. Of the present state, whatever it
be, we feel, and are forced to confess, the misery; yet, when the same
state is again at a distance, imagination paints it as desirable. But
the time will surely come, when desire will be no longer our torment,
and no man shall be wretched but by his own fault.”

“This,” said a philosopher, who had heard him with tokens of great
impatience, “is the present condition of a wise man. The time is
already come, when none are wretched but by their own fault. Nothing is
more idle than to inquire after happiness, which nature has kindly
placed within our reach. The way to be happy is to live according to
nature, in obedience to that universal and unalterable law with which
every heart is originally impressed; which is not written on it by
precept, but engraven by destiny, not instilled by education, but
infused at our nativity. He that lives according to nature will suffer
nothing from the delusions of hope, or importunities of desire; he will
receive and reject with equability of temper, and act or suffer as the
reason of things shall alternately prescribe. Other men may amuse
themselves with subtle definitions, or intricate ratiocinations. Let
them learn to be wise by easier means: let them observe the hind of the
forest, and the linnet of the grove; let them consider the life of
animals, whose motions are regulated by instinct: they obey their guide,
and are happy. Let us therefore, at length, cease to dispute, and learn
to live; throw away the encumbrance of precepts, which they who utter
them with so much pride and pomp do not understand, and carry with us
this simple and intelligible maxim: that deviation from nature is
deviation from happiness.”

When he had spoken, he looked round him with a placid air, and enjoyed
the consciousness of his own beneficence. “Sir,” said the prince with
great modesty, “as I, like all the rest of mankind, am desirous of
felicity, my closest attention has been fixed upon your discourse; I
doubt not the truth of a position which a man so learned has so
confidently advanced. Let me only know what it is to live according to

“When I find young men so humble and so docile,” said the philosopher,
“I can deny them no information which my studies have enabled me to
afford. To live according to nature, is to act always with due regard to
the fitness arising from the relations and qualities of causes and
effects; to concur with the great and unchangeable scheme of universal
felicity; to co-operate with the general disposition and tendency of the
present system of things.”

The prince soon found that this was one of the sages whom he should
understand less as he heard him longer. He therefore bowed and was
silent; and the philosopher, supposing him satisfied, and the rest
vanquished, rose up, and departed with the air of a man that had
co-operated with the present system.



Rasselas returned home full of reflections, doubtful how to direct his
future steps. Of the way to happiness he found the learned and simple
equally ignorant: but, as he was yet young, he flattered himself that he
had time remaining for more experiments and further inquiries. He
communicated to Imlac his observations and his doubts, but was answered
by him with new doubts, and remarks that gave him no comfort. He
therefore discoursed more frequently and freely with his sister, who had
yet the same hope with himself, and always assisted him to give some
reason why, though he had been hitherto frustrated, he might succeed at

“We have hitherto,” said she, “known but little of the world: we have
never yet been either great or mean. In our own country, though we had
royalty, we had no power; and in this, we have not yet seen the private
recesses of domestic peace. Imlac favours not our search, lest we should
in time find him mistaken. We will divide the task between us: you shall
try what is to be found in the splendour of courts, and I will range the
shades of humbler life. Perhaps command and authority may be the supreme
blessings, as they afford most opportunities of doing good; or, perhaps,
what this world can give may be found in the modest habitations of
middle fortune, too low for great designs, and too high for penury and



Rasselas applauded the design, and appeared next day with a splendid
retinue at the court of the Bassa. He was soon distinguished for his
magnificence, and admitted, as a prince whose curiosity had brought him
from distant countries, to an intimacy with the great officers, and
frequent conversation with the Bassa himself.

He was at first inclined to believe, that the man must be pleased with
his own condition whom all approached with reverence and heard with
obedience, and who had the power to extend his edicts to a whole
kingdom. “There can be no pleasure,” said he, “equal to that of feeling
at once the joy of thousands all made happy by wise administration. Yet
since by the law of subordination this sublime delight can be in one
nation but the lot of one, it is surely reasonable to think that there
is some satisfaction more popular and accessible, and that millions can
hardly be subjected to the will of a single man, only to fill his
particular breast with incommunicable content.”

These thoughts were often in his mind, and he found no solution of the
difficulty. But as presents and civilities gained him more familiarity,
he found that almost every man who stood high in employment hated all
the rest, and was hated by them, and that their lives were a continual
succession of plots and detections, stratagems and escapes, faction and
treachery. Many of those who surrounded the Bassa were sent only to
watch and report his conduct; every tongue was muttering censure, and
every eye was searching for a fault.

At last the letters of revocation arrived, the Bassa was carried in
chains to Constantinople, and his name was mentioned no more.

“What are we now to think of the prerogatives of power?” said Rasselas
to his sister; “is it without any efficacy to good? or, is the
subordinate degree only dangerous, and the supreme safe and glorious? Is
the Sultan the only happy man in his dominions? or, is the Sultan
himself subject to the torments of suspicion and the dread of enemies?”

In a short time the second Bassa was deposed; the Sultan that had
advanced him was murdered by the Janizaries, and his successor had other
views and different favourites.



The princess, in the meantime, insinuated herself into many families;
for there are few doors through which liberality, joined with good
humour, cannot find its way. The daughters of many houses were airy and
cheerful; but Nekayah had been too long accustomed to the conversation
of Imlac and her brother to be much pleased with childish levity, and
prattle which had no meaning. She found their thoughts narrow, their
wishes low, and their merriment often artificial. Their pleasures, poor
as they were, could not be preserved pure, but were embittered by petty
competitions and worthless emulation. They were always jealous of the
beauty of each other; of a quality to which solicitude can add nothing,
and from which detraction can take nothing away. Many were in love with
triflers like themselves, and many fancied that they were in love when
in truth they were only idle. Their affection was seldom fixed on sense
or virtue, and therefore seldom ended but in vexation. Their grief,
however, like their joy, was transient; everything floated in their mind
unconnected with the past or future, so that one desire easily gave way
to another, as a second stone cast into the water effaces and confounds
the circles of the first.

With these girls she played as with inoffensive animals, and found them
proud of her countenance, and weary of her company.

But her purpose was to examine more deeply, and her affability easily
persuaded the hearts that were swelling with sorrow to discharge their
secrets in her ear; and those whom hope flattered, or prosperity
delighted, often courted her to partake their pleasures.

The princess and her brother commonly met in the evening, in a private
summer-house on the bank of the Nile, and related to each other the
occurrences of the day. As they were sitting together, the princess cast
her eyes upon the river that flowed before her. “Answer,” said she,
“great father of waters, thou that rollest thy floods through eighty
nations, to the invocations of the daughter of the native king. Tell me
if thou waterest, through all thy course, a single habitation from which
thou dost not hear the murmurs of complaint?”

“You are, then,” said Rasselas, “not more successful in private houses
than I have been in courts.” “I have, since the last partition of our
provinces,” said the princess, “enabled myself to enter familiarly into
many families, where there was the fairest show of prosperity and peace,
and know not one house that is not haunted by some fury that destroys
their quiet.

“I did not seek ease among the poor, because I concluded that there it
could not be found. But I saw many poor, whom I had supposed to live in
affluence. Poverty has, in large cities, very different appearances: it
is often concealed in splendour, and often in extravagance. It is the
care of a very great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from
the rest; they support themselves by temporary expedients, and every day
is lost in contriving for the morrow.

“This, however, was an evil, which, though frequent, I saw with less
pain, because I could relieve it. Yet some have refused my bounties;
more offended with my quickness to detect their wants, than pleased with
my readiness to succour them; and others, whose exigencies compelled
them to admit my kindness, have never been able to forgive their
benefactress. Many, however, have been sincerely grateful, without the
ostentation of gratitude, or the hope of other favours.”



Nekayah, perceiving her brother’s attention fixed, proceeded in her

“In families, where there is or is not poverty, there is commonly
discord: if a kingdom be, as Imlac tells us, a great family, a family
likewise is a little kingdom, torn with factions and exposed to
revolutions. An unpractised observer expects the love of parents and
children to be constant and equal; but this kindness seldom continues
beyond the years of infancy: in a short time the children become rivals
to their parents; benefits are allayed by reproaches, and gratitude
debased by envy.

“Parents and children seldom act in concert: each child endeavours to
appropriate the esteem or fondness of the parents, and the parents, with
yet less temptation, betray each other to their children; thus, some
place their confidence in the father, and some in the mother, and by
degrees the house is filled with artifices and feuds.

“The opinions of children and parents, of the young and the old, are
naturally opposite, by the contrary effects of hope and despondence, of
expectation and experience, without crime or folly on either side. The
colours of life in youth and age appear different, as the face of nature
in spring and winter. And how can children credit the assertions of
parents, which their own eyes show them to be false?

“Few parents act in such a manner as much to enforce their maxims by the
credit of their lives. The old man trusts wholly to slow contrivance and
gradual progression; the youth expects to force his way by genius,
vigour, and precipitance. The old man pays regard to riches, and the
youth reverences virtue. The old man deifies prudence; the youth commits
himself to magnanimity and chance. The young man, who intends no ill,
believes that none is intended, and therefore acts with openness and
candour; but his father, having suffered the injuries of fraud, is
impelled to suspect, and too often allured to practise it. Age looks
with anger on the temerity of youth, and youth with contempt on the
scrupulosity of age. Thus parents and children, for the greatest part,
live on to love less and less; and, if those whom nature has thus
closely united are the torments of each other, where shall we look for
tenderness and consolation?”

“Surely,” said the prince, “you must have been unfortunate in your
choice of acquaintance: I am unwilling to believe, that the most tender
of all relations is thus impeded in its effects by natural necessity.”

“Domestic discord,” answered she, “is not inevitably and fatally
necessary; but yet it is not easily avoided. We seldom see that a whole
family is virtuous; the good and evil cannot well agree; and the evil
can yet less agree with one another; even the virtuous fall sometimes to
variance, when their virtues are of different kinds, and tending to
extremes. In general, those parents have most reverence who most deserve
it; for he that lives well cannot be despised.

“Many other evils infest private life. Some are the slaves of servants
whom they have trusted with their affairs. Some are kept in continual
anxiety by the caprice of rich relations, whom they cannot please and
dare not offend. Some husbands are imperious, and some wives perverse:
and, as it is always more easy to do evil than good, though the wisdom
or virtue of one can very rarely make many happy, the folly or vice of
one may often make many miserable.”

“If such be the general effect of marriage,” said the prince, “I shall,
for the future, think it dangerous to connect my interest with that of
another, lest I should be unhappy by my partner’s fault.”

“I have met,” said the princess, “with many who live single for that
reason; but I never found that their prudence ought to raise envy. They
dream away their time without friendship, without fondness, and are
driven to rid themselves of the day, for which they have no use, by
childish amusements or vicious delights. They act as beings under the
constant sense of some known inferiority, that fills their minds with
rancour, and their tongues with censure. They are peevish at home, and
malevolent abroad; and, as the outlaws of human nature, make it their
business and their pleasure to disturb that society which debars them
from its privileges. To live without feeling or exciting sympathy, to be
fortunate without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without
tasting the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude: it is
not retreat, but exclusion from mankind. Marriage has many pains, but
celibacy has no pleasures.”

“What then is to be done?” said Rasselas; “the more we inquire, the less
we can resolve. Surely he is most likely to please himself that has no
other inclination or regard.”



The conversation had a short pause. The prince, having considered his
sister’s observations, told her, that she had surveyed life with
prejudice, and supposed misery where she did not find it. “Your
narrative,” says he, “throws yet a darker gloom upon the prospects of
futurity; the predictions of Imlac were but faint sketches of the evils
painted by Nekayah. I have been lately convinced that quiet is not the
daughter of grandeur or of power: that her presence is not to be bought
by wealth, nor enforced by conquest. It is evident, that as any man acts
in a wider compass, he must be more exposed to opposition from enmity,
or miscarriage from chance; whoever has many to please or to govern,
must use the ministry of many agents, some of whom will be wicked, and
some ignorant; by some he will be misled, and by others betrayed. If he
gratifies one he will offend another; those that are not favoured will
think themselves injured; and, since favours can be conferred but upon
few, the greater number will be always discontented.”

“The discontent,” said the princess, “which is thus unreasonable, I hope
that I shall always have spirit to despise, and you power to repress.”

“Discontent,” answered Rasselas, “will not always be without reason,
under the most just and vigilant administration of public affairs.
None, however attentive, can always discover that merit which indigence
or faction may happen to obscure; and none, however powerful, can always
reward it. Yet he that sees inferior desert advanced above him will
naturally impute that preference to partiality or caprice; and, indeed,
it can scarcely be hoped that any man, however magnanimous by nature, or
exalted by condition, will be able to persist for ever in the fixed and
inexorable justice of distribution: he will sometimes indulge his own
affections, and sometimes those of his favourites; he will permit some
to please him who can never serve him; he will discover in those whom he
loves, qualities which in reality they do not possess; and to those from
whom he receives pleasure, he will in his turn endeavour to give it.
Thus will recommendations sometimes prevail which were purchased by
money, or by the more destructive bribery of flattery and servility.

“He that has much to do will do something wrong, and of that wrong must
suffer the consequences; and, if it were possible that he should always
act rightly, yet when such numbers are to judge of his conduct, the bad
will censure and obstruct him by malevolence, and the good sometimes by

“The highest stations cannot therefore hope to be the abodes of
happiness, which I would willingly believe to have fled from thrones and
palaces to seats of humble privacy and placid obscurity. For what can
hinder the satisfaction, or intercept the expectations, of him whose
abilities are adequate to his employments, who sees with his own eyes
the whole circuit of his influence, who chooses by his own knowledge all
whom he trusts, and whom none are tempted to deceive by hope or fear?
Surely he has nothing to do but to love and to be loved, to be virtuous
and to be happy.”

“Whether perfect happiness would be procured by perfect goodness,” said
Nekayah, “this world will never afford an opportunity of deciding. But
this, at least, may be maintained, that we do not always find visible
happiness in proportion to visible virtue. All natural and almost all
political evils are incident alike to the bad and good: they are
confounded in the misery of a famine, and not much distinguished in the
fury of a faction; they sink together in a tempest, and are driven
together from their country by invaders. All that virtue can afford is
quietness of conscience and a steady prospect of a happier state; this
may enable us to endure calamity with patience; but remember that
patience must suppose pain.”



“Dear princess,” said Rasselas, “you fall into the common errors of
exaggeratory declamation, by producing, in a familiar disquisition,
examples of national calamities, and scenes of extensive misery, which
are found in books rather than in the world, and which, as they are
horrid, are ordained to be rare. Let us not imagine evils which we do
not feel, nor injure life by misrepresentations. I cannot bear that
querulous eloquence which threatens every city with a siege like that of
Jerusalem, that makes famine attend on every flight of locusts, and
suspends pestilence on the wing of every blast that issues from the

“On necessary and inevitable evils which overwhelm kingdoms at once, all
disputation is vain: when they happen they must be endured. But it is
evident, that these bursts of universal distress are more dreaded than
felt; thousands and ten thousands flourish in youth and wither in age,
without the knowledge of any other than domestic evils, and share the
same pleasures and vexations, whether their kings are mild or cruel,
whether the armies of their country pursue their enemies or retreat
before them. While courts are disturbed with intestine competitions, and
ambassadors are negotiating in foreign countries, the smith still plies
his anvil, and the husbandman drives his plough forward; the necessaries
of life are required and obtained; and the successive business of the
seasons continues to make its wonted revolutions.

“Let us cease to consider what, perhaps, may never happen, and what,
when it shall happen, will laugh at human speculation. We will not
endeavour to modify the motions of the elements, or to fix the destiny
of kingdoms. It is our business to consider what beings like us may
perform; each labouring for his own happiness, by promoting within his
circle, however narrow, the happiness of others.

“Marriage is evidently the dictate of nature; men and women are made to
be companions of each other; and therefore I cannot be persuaded but
that marriage is one of the means of happiness.”

“I know not,” said the princess, “whether marriage be more than one of
the innumerable modes of human misery. When I see and reckon the various
forms of connubial infelicity, the unexpected causes of lasting discord,
the diversities of temper, the oppositions of opinion, the rude
collisions of contrary desire where both are urged by violent impulses,
the obstinate contests of disagreeing virtues where both are supported
by consciousness of good intention, I am sometimes disposed to think
with the severer casuists of most nations, that marriage is rather
permitted than approved, and that none, but by the instigation of a
passion too much indulged, entangle themselves with indissoluble

“You seem to forget,” replied Rasselas, “that you have, even now,
represented celibacy as less happy than marriage. Both conditions may be
bad, but they cannot both be worst. Thus it happens when wrong opinions
are entertained, that they mutually destroy each other, and leave the
mind open to truth.”

“I did not expect,” answered the princess, “to hear that imputed to
falsehood which is the consequence only of frailty. To the mind, as to
the eye, it is difficult to compare with exactness objects vast in their
extent, and various in their parts. Where we see or conceive the whole
at once, we readily note the discriminations, and decide the preference;
but of two systems, of which neither can be surveyed by any human being
in its full compass of magnitude and multiplicity of complication, where
is the wonder that, judging of the whole by parts, I am alternately
affected by one and the other, as either presses on my memory or fancy?
We differ from ourselves, just as we differ from each other, when we see
only part of the question, as in the multifarious relations of politics
and morality; but when we perceive the whole at once, as in numerical
computations, all agree in one judgment, and none ever varies his

“Let us not add,” said the prince, “to the other evils of life the
bitterness of controversy, nor endeavour to vie with each other in
subtleties of argument. We are employed in a search, of which both are
equally to enjoy the success, or suffer by the miscarriage. It is
therefore fit that we assist each other. You surely conclude too hastily
from the infelicity of marriage against its institution: will not the
misery of life prove equally that life cannot be the gift of heaven? The
world must be peopled by marriage, or peopled without it.”

“How the world is to be peopled,” returned Nekayah, “is not my care, and
needs not be yours. I see no danger that the present generation should
omit to leave successors behind them: we are not now inquiring for the
world, but for ourselves.”



“The good of the whole,” said Rasselas, “is the same with the good of
all its parts. If marriage be best for mankind, it must be evidently
best for individuals; or a permanent and necessary duty must be the
cause of evil, and some must be inevitably sacrificed to the convenience
of others. In the estimate which you have made of the two states, it
appears that the incommodities of a single life are, in a great measure,
necessary and certain, but those of the conjugal state accidental and

“I cannot forbear to flatter myself, that prudence and benevolence will
make marriage happy. The general folly of mankind is the cause of
general complaint. What can be expected but disappointment and
repentance from a choice made in the immaturity of youth, in the ardour
of desire, without judgment, without foresight, without inquiry after
conformity of opinions, similarity of manners, rectitude of judgment, or
purity of sentiment?

“Such is the common process of marriage. A youth and maiden, meeting by
chance or brought together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate
civilities, go home, and dream of one another. Having little to divert
attention, or diversify thought, they find themselves uneasy when they
are apart, and therefore conclude that they shall be happy together.
They marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness before had
concealed: they wear out life in altercations, and charge nature with

“From those early marriages proceeds likewise the rivalry of parents and
children. The son is eager to enjoy the world before the father is
willing to forsake it, and there is hardly room at once for two
generations. The daughter begins to bloom before the mother can be
content to fade, and neither can forbear to wish for the absence of the

“Surely all these evils may be avoided by that deliberation and delay
which prudence prescribes to irrevocable choice. In the variety and
jollity of youthful pleasures, life may be well enough supported without
the help of a partner. Longer time will increase experience, and wider
views will allow better opportunities of inquiry and selection: one
advantage, at least, will be certain; the parents will be visibly older
than their children.”

“What reason cannot collect,” said Nekayah, “and what experiment has not
yet taught, can be known only from the report of others. I have been
told that late marriages are not eminently happy. This is a question too
important to be neglected, and I have often proposed it to those whose
accuracy of remark, and comprehensiveness of knowledge, made their
suffrages worthy of regard. They have generally determined that it is
dangerous for a man and woman to suspend their fate upon each other, at
a time when opinions are fixed, and habits are established; when
friendships have been contracted on both sides; when life has been
planned into method, and the mind has long enjoyed the contemplation of
its own prospects.

“It is scarcely possible that two, travelling through the world under
the conduct of chance, should have been both directed to the same path,
and it will not often happen that either will quit the track which
custom has made pleasing. When the desultory levity of youth has settled
into regularity, it is soon succeeded by pride ashamed to yield, or
obstinacy delighting to contend. And even though mutual esteem produces
mutual desire to please, time itself, as it modifies unchangeably the
external mien, determines likewise the direction of the passions, and
gives an inflexible rigidity to the manners. Long customs are not easily
broken: he that attempts to change the course of his own life very often
labours in vain: and how shall we do that for others, which we are
seldom able to do for ourselves?”

“But surely,” interposed the prince, “you suppose the chief motive of
choice forgotten or neglected. Whenever I shall seek a wife, it shall be
my first question, whether she be willing to be led by reason.”

“Thus it is,” said Nekayah, “that philosophers are deceived. There are a
thousand familiar disputes which reason never can decide; questions that
elude investigation, and make logic ridiculous; cases where something
must be done, and where little can be said. Consider the state of
mankind, and inquire how few can be supposed to act upon any occasions,
whether small or great, with all the reasons of action present to their
minds. Wretched would be the pair above all names of wretchedness, who
should be doomed to adjust by reason, every morning, all the minute
detail of a domestic day.

“Those who marry at an advanced age will probably escape the
encroachments of their children; but, in diminution of this advantage,
they will be likely to leave them, ignorant and helpless, to a
guardian’s mercy; or, if that should not happen, they must at least go
out of the world before they see those whom they love best either wise
or great.

“From their children, if they have less to fear, they have less also to
hope, and they lose, without equivalent, the joys of early love, and the
convenience of uniting with manners pliant, and minds susceptible of new
impressions, which might wear away their dissimilitudes by long
cohabitation, as soft bodies, by continual attrition, conform their
surfaces to each other.

“I believe it will be found that those who marry late are best pleased
with their children, and those who marry early, with their partners.”

“The union of these two affections,” said Rasselas, “would produce all
that could be wished. Perhaps there is a time when marriage might unite
them, a time neither too early for the father, nor too late for the

“Every hour,” answered the princess, “confirms my prejudice in favour of
the position so often uttered by the mouth of Imlac, ‘That nature sets
her gifts on the right hand and on the left.’ Those conditions which
flatter hope and attract desire are so constituted that, as we approach
one, we recede from another. There are goods so opposed that we cannot
seize both, but, by too much prudence, may pass between them at too
great a distance to reach either. This is often the fate of long
consideration: he does nothing who endeavours to do more than is allowed
to humanity. Flatter not yourself with contrarieties of pleasure. Of the
blessings set before you, make your choice, and be content. No man can
taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the
flowers of the spring: no man can, at the same time, fill his cup from
the source and from the mouth of the Nile.”



Here Imlac entered, and interrupted them. “Imlac,” said Rasselas, “I
have been taking from the princess the dismal history of private life,
and am almost discouraged from further search.”

“It seems to me,” said Imlac, “that while you are making the choice of
life, you neglect to live. You wander about a single city, which,
however large and diversified, can now afford few novelties, and forget
that you are in a country, famous among the earliest monarchies for the
power and wisdom of its inhabitants; a country where the sciences first
dawned that illuminate the world, and beyond which the arts cannot be
traced of civil society or domestic life.

“The old Egyptians have left behind them monuments of industry and
power, before which all European magnificence is confessed to fade away.
The ruins of their architecture are the schools of modern builders, and
from the wonders which time has spared, we may conjecture, though
uncertainly, what it has destroyed.”

“My curiosity,” said Rasselas, “does not very strongly lead me to survey
piles of stone, or mounds of earth; my business is with man. I came
hither not to measure fragments of temples, or trace choked aqueducts,
but to look upon the various scenes of the present world.”

“The things that are now before us,” said the princess, “require
attention, and deserve it. What have I to do with the heroes or the
monuments of ancient times? with times which never can return, and
heroes whose form of life was different from all that the present
condition of mankind requires or allows?”

“To know anything,” returned the poet, “we must know its effects; to see
men we must see their works, that we may learn what reason has dictated,
or passion has incited, and find what are the most powerful motives of
action. To judge rightly on the present, we must oppose it to the past;
for all judgment is comparative, and of the future nothing can be known.
The truth is, that no mind is much employed upon the present;
recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments. Our
passions are joy and grief, love and hatred, hope and fear. Of joy and
grief the past is the object, and the future of hope and fear: even love
and hatred respect the past, for the cause must have been before the

“The present state of things is the consequence of the former, and it is
natural to inquire what were the sources of the good that we enjoy, or
the evil that we suffer. If we act only for ourselves, to neglect the
study of history is not prudent; if we are entrusted with the care of
others, it is not just. Ignorance, when it is voluntary, is criminal;
and he may properly be charged with evil, who refused to learn how he
might prevent it.

“There is no part of history so generally useful as that which relates
the progress of the human mind, the gradual improvement of reason, the
successive advances of science, the vicissitudes of learning and
ignorance, which are the light and darkness of thinking beings, the
extinction and resuscitation of arts, and the revolutions of the
intellectual world. If accounts of battles and invasions are peculiarly
the business of princes, the useful or elegant arts are not to be
neglected; those who have kingdoms to govern have understandings to

“Example is always more efficacious than precept. A soldier is formed in
war, and a painter must copy pictures. In this, contemplative life has
the advantage: great actions are seldom seen, but the labours of art are
always at hand for those who desire to know what art has been able to

“When the eye or the imagination is struck with any uncommon work, the
next transition of an active mind is to the means by which it was
performed. Here begins the true use of such contemplation; we enlarge
our comprehension by new ideas, and perhaps recover some art lost to
mankind, or learn what is less perfectly known in our own country. At
least we compare our own with former times, and either rejoice at our
improvements, or, what is the first motion towards good, discover our

“I am willing,” said the prince, “to see all that can deserve my
search.” “And I,” said the princess, “shall rejoice to learn something
of the manners of antiquity.”

“The most pompous monument of Egyptian greatness, and one of the most
bulky works of manual industry,” said Imlac, “are the Pyramids; fabrics
raised before the time of history, and of which the earliest narratives
afford us only uncertain traditions. Of these the greatest is still
standing, very little injured by time.”

“Let us visit them to-morrow,” said Nekayah. “I have often heard of the
Pyramids, and shall not rest till I have seen them within and without
with my own eyes.”



The resolution being thus taken, they set out the next day. They laid
tents upon their camels, being resolved to stay among the Pyramids till
their curiosity was fully satisfied. They travelled gently, turned aside
to everything remarkable, stopped from time to time and conversed with
the inhabitants, and observed the various appearances of towns ruined
and inhabited, of wild and cultivated nature.

When they came to the Great Pyramid, they were astonished at the extent
of the base and the height of the top. Imlac explained to them the
principles upon which the pyramidal form was chosen for a fabrick
intended to co-extend its duration with that of the world: he showed
that its gradual diminution gave it such stability as defeated all the
common attacks of the elements, and could scarcely be overthrown by
earthquakes themselves, the least resistible of natural violence. A
concussion that should shatter the Pyramid would threaten the
dissolution of the continent.

They measured all its dimensions, and pitched their tents at its foot.
Next day they prepared to enter its exterior apartments, and having
hired the common guides, climbed up to the first passage, when the
favourite of the princess, looking into the cavity, stepped back and
trembled. “Pekuah,” said the princess, “of what art thou afraid?” “Of
the narrow entrance,” answered the lady, “and of the dreadful gloom. I
dare not enter a place which must surely be inhabited by unquiet souls.
The original possessors of these dreadful vaults will start up before
us, and perhaps shut us in for ever.” She spoke, and threw her arms
round the neck of her mistress.

“If all your fear be of apparitions,” said the prince, “I will promise
you safety: there is no danger from the dead: he that is once buried
will be seen no more.”

“That the dead are seen no more,” said Imlac, “I will not undertake to
maintain, against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages, and
of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom
apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion,
which perhaps prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become
universal only by its truth: those that never heard of one another would
not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make
credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little weaken
the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues confess it
by their fears.

“Yet I do not mean to add new terrors to those which have already seized
upon Pekuah. There can be no reason why spectres should haunt the
Pyramid more than other places, or why they should have power or will to
hurt innocence and purity. Our entrance is no violation of their
privileges; we can take nothing from them, how then can we offend them?”

“My dear Pekuah,” said the princess, “I will always go before you, and
Imlac shall follow you. Remember that you are the companion of the
Princess of Abyssinia.”

“If the princess is pleased that her servant should die,” returned the
lady, “let her command some death less dreadful than enclosure in this
horrid cavern. You know I dare not disobey you: I must go if you command
me; but, if I once enter, I never shall come back.”

The princess saw that her fear was too strong for expostulation or
reproof, and embracing her, told her that she should stay in the tent
till their return. Pekuah was yet not satisfied, but entreated the
princess not to pursue so dreadful a purpose as that of entering the
recesses of the Pyramid. “Though I cannot teach courage,” said Nekayah,
“I must not learn cowardice; nor leave at last undone what I came hither
only to do.”



Pekuah descended to the tents, and the rest entered the Pyramid: they
passed through the galleries, surveyed the vaults of marble, and
examined the chest in which the body of the founder is supposed to have
been reposited. They then sat down in one of the most spacious chambers
to rest awhile before they attempted to return.

“We have now,” said Imlac, “gratified our minds with an exact view of
the greatest work of man, except the wall of China.

“Of the wall it is very easy to assign the motive. It secured a wealthy
and timorous nation from the incursions of barbarians, whose
unskilfulness in arts made it easier for them to supply their wants by
rapine than by industry, and who from time to time poured in upon the
habitations of peaceful commerce, as vultures descend upon domestic
fowl. Their celerity and fierceness made the wall necessary, and their
ignorance made it efficacious.

“But for the Pyramids no reason has ever been given adequate to the cost
and labour of the work. The narrowness of the chambers proves that it
could afford no retreat from enemies, and treasures might have been
reposited at far less expense with equal security. It seems to have been
erected only in compliance with that hunger of imagination which preys
incessantly upon life, and must be always appeased by some employment.
Those who have already all that they can enjoy must enlarge their
desires. He that has built for use, till use is supplied, must begin to
build for vanity, and extend his plan to the utmost power of human
performance, that he may not be soon reduced to form another wish.

“I consider this mighty structure as a monument of the insufficiency of
human enjoyments. A king whose power is unlimited, and whose treasures
surmount all real and imaginary wants, is compelled to solace, by the
erection of a Pyramid, the satiety of dominion and tastelessness of
pleasures, and to amuse the tediousness of declining life, by seeing
thousands labouring without end, and one stone, for no purpose, laid
upon another. Whoever thou art that, not content with a moderate
condition, imaginest happiness in royal magnificence, and dreamest that
command or riches can feed the appetite of novelty with perpetual
gratifications, survey the Pyramids, and confess thy folly!”



They rose up, and returned through the cavity at which they had entered,
and the princess prepared for her favourite a long narrative of dark
labyrinths and costly rooms, and of the different impressions which the
varieties of the way had made upon her. But when they came to their
train, they found every one silent and dejected; the men discovered
shame and fear in their countenances, and the women were weeping in the

What had happened they did not try to conjecture, but immediately
inquired. “You had scarcely entered into the Pyramid,” said one of the
attendants, “when a troop of Arabs rushed upon us; we were too few to
resist them, and too slow to escape. They were about to search the
tents, set us on our camels, and drive us along before them, when the
approach of some Turkish horsemen put them to flight; but they seized
the Lady Pekuah with her two maids, and carried them away. The Turks are
now pursuing them by our instigation, but I fear they will not be able
to overtake them.”

The princess was overpowered with surprise and grief. Rasselas, in the
first heat of his resentment, ordered his servants to follow him, and
prepared to pursue the robbers with his sabre in his hand. “Sir,” said
Imlac, “what can you hope from violence or valour? the Arabs are mounted
on horses trained to battle and retreat; we have only beasts of burden.
By leaving our present station we may lose the princess, but cannot hope
to regain Pekuah.”

In a short time the Turks returned, having not been able to reach the
enemy. The princess burst out into new lamentations, and Rasselas could
scarcely forbear to reproach them with cowardice; but Imlac was of
opinion that the escape of the Arabs was no addition to their
misfortune, for perhaps they would have killed their captives rather
than have resigned them.



There was nothing to be hoped from longer stay. They returned to Cairo,
repenting of their curiosity, censuring the negligence of the
government, lamenting their own rashness which had neglected to procure
a guard, imagining many expedients by which the loss of Pekuah might
have been prevented, and resolving to do something for her recovery,
though none could find anything proper to be done.

Nekayah retired to her chamber, where her women attempted to comfort her
by telling her that all had their troubles, and that Lady Pekuah had
enjoyed much happiness in the world for a long time, and might
reasonably expect a change of fortune. They hoped that some good would
befall her wheresoever she was, and that their mistress would find
another friend who might supply her place.

The princess made them no answer, and they continued the form of
condolence, not much grieved in their hearts that the favourite was

Next day the prince presented to the Bassa a memorial of the wrong which
he had suffered, and a petition for redress. The Bassa threatened to
punish the robbers, but did not attempt to catch them; nor indeed could
any account or description be given by which he might direct the

It soon appeared that nothing would be done by authority. Governors,
being accustomed to hear of more crimes than they can punish, and more
wrongs than they can redress, set themselves at ease by indiscriminate
negligence, and presently forget the request when they lose sight of the

Imlac then endeavoured to gain some intelligence by private agents. He
found many who pretended to an exact knowledge of all the haunts of the
Arabs, and to regular correspondence with their chiefs, and who readily
undertook the recovery of Pekuah. Of these, some were furnished with
money for their journey, and came back no more; some were liberally paid
for accounts which a few days discovered to be false. But the princess
would not suffer any means, however improbable, to be left untried.
While she was doing something, she kept her hope alive. As one expedient
failed, another was suggested; when one messenger returned unsuccessful,
another was dispatched to a different quarter.

Two months had now passed, and of Pekuah nothing had been heard; the
hopes which they had endeavoured to raise in each other grew more
languid, and the princess, when she saw nothing more to be tried, sunk
down inconsolable in hopeless dejection. A thousand times she reproached
herself with the easy compliance by which she permitted her favourite to
stay behind her. “Had not my fondness,” said she, “lessened my
authority, Pekuah had not dared to talk of her terrors. She ought to
have feared me more than spectres. A severe look would have overpowered
her; a peremptory command would have compelled obedience. Why did
foolish indulgence prevail upon me? Why did I not speak, and refuse to

“Great princess,” said Imlac, “do not reproach yourself for your virtue,
or consider that as blameable by which evil has accidentally been
caused. Your tenderness for the timidity of Pekuah was generous and
kind. When we act according to our duty, we commit the event to Him by
whose laws our actions are governed, and who will suffer none to be
finally punished for obedience. When, in prospect of some good, whether
natural or moral, we break the rules prescribed us, we withdraw from the
direction of superior wisdom, and take all consequences upon ourselves.
Man cannot so far know the connexion of causes and events, as that he
may venture to do wrong in order to do right. When we pursue our end by
lawful means, we may always console our miscarriage by the hope of
future recompense. When we consult only our own policy, and attempt to
find a nearer way to good, by overleaping the settled boundaries of
right and wrong, we cannot be happy even by success, because we cannot
escape the consciousness of our fault: but if we miscarry, the
disappointment is irremediably embittered. How comfortless is the sorrow
of him who feels at once the pangs of guilt, and the vexation of
calamity which guilt has brought upon him!

“Consider, princess, what would have been your condition, if the Lady
Pekuah had entreated to accompany you, and being compelled to stay in
the tents, had been carried away; or how would you have borne the
thought, if you had forced her into the Pyramid, and she had died before
you in agonies of terror.”

“Had either happened,” said Nekayah, “I could not have endured life till
now: I should have been tortured to madness by the remembrance of such
cruelty, or must have pined away in abhorrence of myself.”

“This at least,” said Imlac, “is the present reward of virtuous conduct,
that no unlucky consequence can oblige us to repent it.”



Nekayah, being thus reconciled to herself, found that no evil is
insupportable, but that which is accompanied with consciousness of
wrong. She was from that time delivered from the violence of tempestuous
sorrow, and sunk into silent pensiveness and gloomy tranquillity. She
sat from morning to evening recollecting all that had been done or said
by her Pekuah, treasured up with care every trifle on which Pekuah had
set an accidental value, and which might recall to mind any little
incident or careless conversation. The sentiments of her whom she now
expected to see no more, were treasured in her memory as rules of life,
and she deliberated to no other end than to conjecture, on any occasion,
what would have been the opinion and counsel of Pekuah.

The women by whom she was attended knew nothing of her real condition,
and therefore she could not talk to them but with caution and reserve.
She began to remit her curiosity, having no great care to collect
notions which she had no convenience of uttering. Rasselas endeavoured
first to comfort, and afterwards to divert her; he hired musicians, to
whom she seemed to listen, but did not hear them, and procured masters
to instruct her in various arts, whose lectures, when they visited her
again, were again to be repeated. She had lost her taste of pleasure,
and her ambition of excellence. And her mind, though forced into short
excursions, always recurred to the image of her friend.

Imlac was every morning earnestly enjoined to renew his inquiries, and
was asked every night whether he had yet heard of Pekuah, till not being
able to return the princess the answer that she desired, he was less and
less willing to come into her presence. She observed his backwardness,
and commanded him to attend her. “You are not,” said she, “to confound
impatience with resentment, or to suppose that I charge you with
negligence, because I repine at your unsuccessfulness. I do not much
wonder at your absence; I know that the unhappy are never pleasing, and
that all naturally avoid the contagion of misery. To hear complaints is
wearisome alike to the wretched and the happy; for who would cloud, by
adventitious grief, the short gleams of gaiety which life allows us? or
who, that is struggling under his own evils, will add to them the
miseries of another?

“The time is at hand, when none shall be disturbed any longer by the
sighs of Nekayah; my search after happiness is now at an end. I am
resolved to retire from the world with all its flatteries and deceits,
and will hide myself in solitude, without any other care than to compose
my thoughts, and regulate my hours by a constant succession of innocent
occupations, till with a mind purified from all earthly desires, I shall
enter into that state to which all are hastening, and in which I hope
again to enjoy the friendship of Pekuah.”

“Do not entangle your mind,” said Imlac, “by irrevocable
determinations, nor increase the burden of life by a voluntary
accumulation of misery: the weariness of retirement will continue or
increase when the loss of Pekuah is forgotten. That you have been
deprived of one pleasure is no very good reason for rejection of the

“Since Pekuah was taken from me,” said the princess, “I have no pleasure
to reject or to retain. She that has no one to love or trust has little
to hope. She wants the radical principle of happiness. We may, perhaps,
allow that what satisfaction this world can afford must arise from the
conjunction of wealth, knowledge, and goodness: wealth is nothing but as
it is bestowed, and knowledge nothing but as it is communicated; they
must therefore be imparted to others, and to whom could I now delight to
impart them? Goodness affords the only comfort which can be enjoyed
without a partner, and goodness may be practised in retirement.”

“How far solitude may admit goodness or advance it, I shall not,”
replied Imlac, “dispute at present. Remember the confession of the pious
hermit. You will wish to return into the world, when the image of your
companion has left your thoughts.” “That time,” said Nekayah, “will
never come. The generous frankness, the modest obsequiousness, and the
faithful secrecy of my dear Pekuah, will always be more missed, as I
shall live longer to see vice and folly.”

“The state of a mind oppressed with a sudden calamity,” said Imlac, “is
like that of the fabulous inhabitants of the new-created earth, who,
when the first night came upon them, supposed that day would never
return. When the clouds of sorrow gather over us, we see nothing beyond
them, nor can imagine how they will be dispelled; yet a new day
succeeded to the night, and sorrow is never long without a dawn of ease.
But they who restrain themselves from receiving comfort do as the
savages would have done, had they put out their eyes when it was dark.
Our minds, like our bodies, are in continual flux; something is hourly
lost, and something acquired. To lose much at once is inconvenient to
either, but while the vital powers remain uninjured, nature will find
the means of reparation. Distance has the same effect on the mind as on
the eye, and while we glide along the stream of time, whatever we leave
behind us is always lessening, and that which we approach increasing, in
magnitude. Do not suffer life to stagnate; it will grow muddy for want
of motion; commit yourself again to the current of the world; Pekuah
will vanish by degrees: you will meet in your way some other favourite,
or learn to diffuse yourself in general conversation.”

“At least,” said the prince, “do not despair before all remedies have
been tried; the inquiry after the unfortunate lady is still continued,
and shall be carried on with yet greater diligence, on condition that
you will promise to wait a year for the event, without any unalterable

Nekayah thought this a reasonable demand, and made the promise to her
brother, who had been advised by Imlac to require it. Imlac had, indeed,
no great hope of regaining Pekuah; but he supposed, that if he could
secure the interval of a year, the princess would be then in no danger
of a cloister.



Nekayah, seeing that nothing was omitted for the recovery of her
favourite, and having, by her promise, set her intention of retirement
at a distance, began imperceptibly to return to common cares and common
pleasures. She rejoiced without her own consent at the suspension of her
sorrows, and sometimes caught herself with indignation in the act of
turning away her mind from the remembrance of her, whom yet she resolved
never to forget.

She then appointed a certain hour of the day for meditation on the
merits and fondness of Pekuah, and for some weeks retired constantly at
the time fixed, and returned with her eyes swollen and her countenance
clouded. By degrees she grew less scrupulous, and suffered any important
and pressing avocation to delay the tribute of daily tears. She then
yielded to less occasions; sometimes forgot what she was indeed afraid
to remember, and at last wholly released herself from the duty of
periodical affliction.

Her real love of Pekuah was yet not diminished. A thousand occurrences
brought her back to memory, and a thousand wants, which nothing but the
confidence of friendship can supply, made her frequently regretted. She
therefore solicited Imlac never to desist from inquiry, and to leave no
art of intelligence untried, that at least she might have the comfort of
knowing that she did not suffer by negligence or sluggishness. “Yet
what,” said she, “is to be expected from our pursuit of happiness, when
we find the state of life to be such, that happiness itself is the cause
of misery? Why should we endeavour to attain that of which the
possession cannot be secured? I shall henceforward fear to yield my
heart to excellence however bright, or to fondness however tender, lest
I should lose again what I have lost in Pekuah.”



In seven months, one of the messengers, who had been sent away upon the
day when the promise was drawn from the princess, returned, after many
unsuccessful rambles, from the borders of Nubia, with an account that
Pekuah was in the hands of an Arab chief, who possessed a castle or
fortress on the extremity of Egypt. The Arab, whose revenue was plunder,
was willing to restore her, with her two attendants, for two hundred
ounces of gold.

The price was no subject of debate. The princess was in ecstasies, when
she heard that her favourite was alive, and might so cheaply be
ransomed. She could not think of delaying for a moment Pekuah’s
happiness or her own, but entreated her brother to send back the
messenger with the sum required. Imlac, being consulted, was not very
confident of the veracity of the relater, and was still more doubtful of
the Arab’s faith, who might, if he were too liberally trusted, detain at
once the money and the captives. He thought it dangerous to put
themselves in the power of the Arab, by going into his district, and
could not expect that the rover would so much expose himself as to come
into the lower country, where he might be seized by the forces of the

It is difficult to negotiate where neither will trust. But Imlac, after
some deliberation, directed the messenger to propose that Pekuah should
be conducted by ten horsemen to the monastery of St. Antony, which is
situated in the deserts of Upper Egypt, where she should be met by the
same number, and her ransom should be paid.

That no time might be lost, as they expected that the proposal would not
be refused, they immediately began their journey to the monastery; and
when they arrived, Imlac went forward with the former messenger to the
Arab’s fortress. Rasselas was desirous to go with them, but neither his
sister nor Imlac would consent. The Arab, according to the custom of his
nation, observed the laws of hospitality with great exactness to those
who put themselves into his power, and, in a few days, brought Pekuah
with her maids, by easy journeys, to their place appointed, where,
receiving the stipulated price, he restored her with great respect to
liberty and her friends, and undertook to conduct them back towards
Cairo, beyond all danger of robbery or violence.

The princess and her favourite embraced each other with transport too
violent to be expressed, and went out together to pour the tears of
tenderness in secret, and exchange professions of kindness and
gratitude. After a few hours they returned into the refectory of the
convent, where, in the presence of the prior and his brethren, the
prince required of Pekuah the history of her adventures.



“At what time and in what manner I was forced away,” said Pekuah, “your
servants have told you. The suddenness of the event struck me with
surprise, and I was at first rather stupefied than agitated with any
passion of either fear or sorrow. My confusion was increased by the
speed and tumult of our flight, while we were followed by the Turks,
who, as it seemed, soon despaired to overtake us, or were afraid of
those whom they made a show of menacing.

“When the Arabs saw themselves out of danger, they slackened their
course; and as I was less harassed by external violence, I began to feel
more uneasiness in my mind. After some time, we stopped near a spring
shaded with trees in a pleasant meadow, where we were set upon the
ground, and offered such refreshments as our masters were partaking. I
was suffered to sit with my maids apart from the rest, and none
attempted to comfort or insult us. Here I first began to feel the full
weight of my misery. The girls sat weeping in silence, and from time to
time looked on me for succour. I knew not to what condition we were
doomed, nor could conjecture where would be the place of our captivity,
or whence to draw any hope of deliverance. I was in the hands of
robbers and savages, and had no reason to suppose that their pity was
more than their justice, or that they would forbear the gratification of
any ardour of desire, or caprice of cruelty. I, however, kissed my
maids, and endeavoured to pacify them by remarking that we were yet
treated with decency, and that, since we were now carried beyond
pursuit, there was no danger of violence to our lives.

“When we were to be set again on horseback, my maids clung round me, and
refused to be parted; but I commanded them not to irritate those who had
us in their power. We travelled the remaining part of the day through an
unfrequented and pathless country, and came by moonlight to the side of
a hill, where the rest of the troop were stationed. Their tents were
pitched and their fires kindled, and our chief was welcomed as a man
much beloved by his dependants.

“We were received into a large tent, where we found women who had
attended their husbands in the expedition. They set before us the supper
which they had provided, and I ate rather to encourage my maids, than to
comply with any appetite of my own. When the meat was taken away, they
spread the carpets for repose. I was weary, and hoped to find in sleep
that remission of distress which nature seldom denies. Ordering myself
therefore to be undressed, I observed that the women looked very
earnestly upon me, not expecting, I suppose, to see me so submissively
attended. When my upper vest was taken off, they were apparently struck
with the splendour of my clothes, and one of them timorously laid her
hand upon the embroidery. She then went out, and in a short time came
back with another woman, who seemed to be of higher rank and greater
authority. She did, at her entrance, the usual act of reverence, and
taking me by the hand, placed me in a smaller tent, spread with finer
carpets, where I spent the night quietly with my maids.

“In the morning, as I was sitting on the grass, the chief of the troop
came towards me. I rose up to receive him, and he bowed with great
respect. ‘Illustrious lady,’ said he, ‘my fortune is better than I had
presumed to hope: I am told by my women that I have a princess in my
camp.’ ‘Sir,’ answered I, ‘your women have deceived themselves and you;
I am not a princess, but an unhappy stranger, who intended soon to have
left this country, in which I am now to be imprisoned for ever.’
‘Whoever or whencesoever you are,’ returned the Arab, ‘your dress, and
that of your servants, show your rank to be high and your wealth to be
great. Why should you, who can so easily procure your ransom, think
yourself in danger of perpetual captivity? The purpose of my incursions
is to increase my riches, or, more properly, to gather tribute. The sons
of Ishmael are the natural and hereditary lords of this part of the
continent, which is usurped by late invaders and low-born tyrants, from
whom we are compelled to take by the sword what is denied to justice.
The violence of war admits no distinction; the lance that is lifted at
guilt and power will sometimes fall on innocence and gentleness.’

“‘How little,’ said I, ‘did I expect that yesterday it should have
fallen upon me!’

“‘Misfortunes,’ answered the Arab, ‘should always be expected. If the
eye of hostility could learn reverence or pity, excellence like yours
had been exempt from injury. But the angels of affliction spread their
toils alike for the virtuous and the wicked, for the mighty and the
mean. Do not be disconsolate: I am not one of the lawless and cruel
rovers of the desert; I know the rules of civil life; I will fix your
ransom, give a passport to your messenger, and perform my stipulation
with nice punctuality.’

“You will easily believe that I was pleased with his courtesy: and
finding that his predominant passion was desire of money, I began now to
think my danger less, for I knew that no sum would be thought too great
for the release of Pekuah. I told him that he should have no reason to
charge me with ingratitude, if I was used with kindness, and that any
ransom which could be expected for a maid of common rank would be paid;
but that he must not persist to rate me as a princess. He said he would
consider what he should demand, and then smiling, bowed and retired.

“Soon after, the women came about me, each contending to be more
officious than the other, and my maids themselves were served with
reverence. We travelled onward by short journeys. On the fourth day, the
chief told me that my ransom must be two hundred ounces of gold; which I
not only promised him, but told him that I would add fifty more, if I
and my maids were honourably treated.

“I never knew the power of gold before. From that time I was the leader
of the troop. The march of every day was longer or shorter as I
commanded, and the tents were pitched where I chose to rest. We now had
camels and other conveniences for travel; my own women were always at
my side; and I amused myself with observing the manners of the vagrant
nations, and with viewing remains of ancient edifices, with which these
deserted countries appear to have been, in some distant age, lavishly

“The chief of the band was a man far from illiterate: he was able to
travel by the stars or the compass, and had marked, in his erratic
expeditions, such places as are most worthy the notice of a passenger.
He observed to me, that buildings are always best preserved in places
little frequented and difficult of access: for, when once a country
declines from its primitive splendour, the more inhabitants are left,
the quicker ruin will be made. Walls supply stones more easily than
quarries, and palaces and temples will be demolished, to make stables of
granite and cottages of porphyry.”



“We wandered about in this manner for some weeks, whether, as our chief
pretended, for my gratification, or, as I rather suspected, for some
convenience of his own. I endeavoured to appear contented, where
sullenness and resentment would have been of no use, and that endeavour
conduced much to the calmness of my mind; but my heart was always with
Nekayah, and the troubles of the night much overbalanced the amusements
of the day. My women, who threw all their cares upon their mistress, set
their minds at ease from the time when they saw me treated with respect,
and gave themselves up to the incidental alleviations of our fatigue
without solicitude or sorrow. I was pleased with their pleasure, and
animated with their confidence. My condition had lost much of its
terror, since I found that the Arab ranged the country merely to get
riches. Avarice is an uniform and tractable vice: other intellectual
distempers are different in different constitutions of mind; that which
soothes the pride of one will offend the pride of another; but to the
favour of the covetous there is a ready way; bring money, and nothing is

“At last we came to the dwelling of our chief, a strong and spacious
house built with stone in an island of the Nile, which lies, as I was
told, under the tropic. ‘Lady,’ said the Arab, ‘you shall rest after
your journey a few weeks in this place, where you are to consider
yourself as sovereign. My occupation is war: I have therefore chosen
this obscure residence, from which I can issue unexpected, and to which
I can retire unpursued. You may now repose in security; here are few
pleasures, but here is no danger.’ He then led me into the inner
apartments, and seating me on the richest couch, bowed to the ground.
His women, who considered me as a rival, looked on me with malignity;
but being soon informed that I was a great lady detained only for my
ransom, they began to vie with each other in obsequiousness and

“Being again comforted with new assurances of speedy liberty, I was for
some days diverted from impatience by the novelty of the place. The
turrets overlooked the country to a great distance, and afforded a view
of many windings of the stream. In the day I wandered from one place to
another as the course of the sun varied the splendour of the prospect,
and saw many things which I had never seen before. The crocodiles and
river-horses are common in this unpeopled region, and I often looked
upon them with terror, though I knew that they could not hurt me. For
some time I expected to see mermaids and tritons, which, as Imlac has
told me, the European travellers have stationed in the Nile; but no such
beings ever appeared, and the Arab, when I inquired after them, laughed
at my credulity.

“At night the Arab always attended me to a tower set apart for celestial
observations, where he endeavoured to teach me the names and courses of
the stars. I had no great inclination to this study, but an appearance
of attention was necessary to please my instructor, who valued himself
for his skill; and, in a little while, I found some employment requisite
to beguile the tediousness of time, which was to be passed always amidst
the same objects. I was weary of looking in the morning on things from
which I had turned away weary in the evening; I therefore was at last
willing to observe the stars rather than do nothing, but could not
always compose my thoughts, and was very often thinking on Nekayah, when
others imagined me contemplating the sky. Soon after, the Arab went upon
another expedition, and then my only pleasure was to talk with my maids
about the accident by which we were carried away, and the happiness that
we should all enjoy at the end of our captivity.”

“There were women in your Arab’s fortress,” said the princess: “why did
you not make them your companions, enjoy their conversation, and partake
their diversions? In a place where they found business or amusement, why
should you alone sit corroded with idle melancholy? or why could not you
bear for a few months that condition to which they were condemned for

“The diversions of the women,” answered Pekuah, “were only childish
play, by which the mind accustomed to stronger operations could not be
kept busy. I could do all which they delighted in doing, by powers
merely sensitive, while my intellectual faculties were flown to Cairo.
They ran from room to room, as a bird hops from wire to wire in his
cage. They danced for the sake of motion, as lambs frisk in a meadow.
One sometimes pretended to be hurt, that the rest might be alarmed; or
hid herself, that another might seek her. Part of their time passed in
watching the progress of light bodies that floated on the river, and
part in marking the various forms into which clouds broke in the sky.

“Their business was only needlework, in which I and my maids sometimes
helped them; but you know that the mind will easily straggle from the
fingers, nor will you suspect that captivity and absence from Nekayah
could receive solace from silken flowers.

“Nor was much satisfaction to be hoped from their conversation: for of
what could they be expected to talk? They had seen nothing, for they had
lived from early youth in that narrow spot; of what they had not seen
they could have no knowledge, for they could not read. They had no ideas
but of the few things that were within their view, and had hardly names
for anything but their clothes and their food. As I bore a superior
character, I was often called to terminate their quarrels, which I
decided as equitably as I could. If it could have amused me to hear the
complaints of each against the rest, I might have been often detained by
long stories; but the motives of their animosity were so small, that I
could not listen without intercepting the tale.”

“How,” said Rasselas, “can the Arab, whom you represented as a man of
more than common accomplishments, take any pleasure in his seraglio,
when it is filled only with women like these? Are they exquisitely

“They do not,” said Pekuah, “want that unaffecting and ignoble beauty
which may subsist without sprightliness or sublimity, without energy of
thought or dignity of virtue. But to a man like the Arab such beauty was
only a flower casually plucked and carelessly thrown away. Whatever
pleasures he might find among them, they were not those of friendship or
society. When they were playing about him, he looked on them with
inattentive superiority; when they vied for his regard, he sometimes
turned away disgusted. As they had no knowledge, their talk could take
nothing from the tediousness of life; as they had no choice, their
fondness, or appearance of fondness, excited in him neither pride nor
gratitude; he was not exalted in his own esteem by the smiles of a woman
who saw no other man, nor was much obliged by that regard, of which he
could never know the sincerity, and which he might often perceive to be
exerted, not so much to delight him as to pain a rival. That which he
gave and they received as love, was only a careless distribution of
superfluous time, such love as man can bestow upon that which he
despises, such as has neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow.”

“You have reason, lady, to think yourself happy,” said Imlac, “that you
have been thus easily dismissed. How could a mind, hungry for knowledge,
be willing, in an intellectual famine, to lose such a banquet as
Pekuah’s conversation?”

“I am inclined to believe,” answered Pekuah, “that he was for some time
in suspense; for, notwithstanding his promise, whenever I proposed to
dispatch a messenger to Cairo, he found some excuse for delay. While I
was detained in his house, he made many incursions into the neighbouring
countries; and perhaps he would have refused to discharge me, had his
plunder been equal to his wishes. He returned always courteous, related
his adventures, delighted to hear my observations, and endeavoured to
advance my acquaintance with the stars. When I importuned him to send
away my letters, he soothed me with professions of honour and sincerity;
and, when I could be no longer decently denied, put his troop again in
motion, and left me to govern in his absence. I was much afflicted by
this studied procrastination, and was sometimes afraid that I should be
forgotten; that you would leave Cairo, and I must end my days in an
island of the Nile.

“I grew at last hopeless and dejected, and cared so little to entertain
him, that he for a while more frequently talked with my maids. That he
should fall in love with them or with me might have been equally fatal,
and I was not much pleased with the growing friendship. My anxiety was
not long; for, as I recovered some degree of cheerfulness, he returned
to me, and I could not forbear to despise my former uneasiness.

“He still delayed to send for my ransom, and would, perhaps, never have
determined, had not your agent found his way to him. The gold, which he
would not fetch, he could not reject when it was offered. He hastened to
prepare for our journey hither, like a man delivered from the pain of an
intestine conflict. I took leave of my companions in the house, who
dismissed me with cold indifference.”

Nekayah, having heard her favourite’s relation, rose and embraced her,
and Rasselas gave her an hundred ounces of gold, which she presented to
the Arab for the fifty that were promised.



They returned to Cairo, and were so well pleased at finding themselves
together, that none of them went much abroad. The prince began to love
learning, and one day declared to Imlac, that he intended to devote
himself to science, and pass the rest of his days in literary solitude.

“Before you make your final choice,” answered Imlac, “you ought to
examine its hazards, and converse with some of those who are grown old
in the company of themselves. I have just left the observatory of one of
the most learned astronomers in the world, who has spent forty years in
unwearied attention to the motions and appearances of the celestial
bodies, and has drawn out his soul in endless calculations. He admits a
few friends once a month, to hear his deductions and enjoy his
discoveries. I was introduced as a man of knowledge worthy of his
notice. Men of various ideas and fluent conversation are commonly
welcome to those whose thoughts have been long fixed upon a single
point, and who find the images of other things stealing away. I
delighted him with my remarks; he smiled at the narrative of my travels,
and was glad to forget the constellations, and descend for a moment into
the lower world.

“On the next day of vacation I renewed my visit, and was so fortunate as
to please him again. He relaxed from that time the severity of his rule,
and permitted me to enter at my own choice. I found him always busy, and
always glad to be relieved. As each knew much which the other was
desirous of learning, we exchanged our notions with great delight. I
perceived that I had every day more of his confidence, and always found
new cause of admiration in the profundity of his mind. His comprehension
is vast, his memory capacious and retentive, his discourse is
methodical, and his expression clear.

“His integrity and benevolence are equal to his learning. His deepest
researches and most favourite studies are willingly interrupted for any
opportunity of doing good by his counsel or his riches. To his closest
retreat, at his most busy moments, all are admitted that want his
assistance: ‘For though I exclude idleness and pleasure, I will never,’
says he, ‘bar my doors against charity. To man is permitted the
contemplation of the skies, but the practice of virtue is commanded.’”

“Surely,” said the princess, “this man is happy.”

“I visited him,” said Imlac, “with more and more frequency, and was
every time more enamoured of his conversation; he was sublime without
haughtiness, courteous without formality, and communicative without
ostentation. I was at first, great princess, of your opinion, thought
him the happiest of mankind, and often congratulated him on the blessing
that he enjoyed. He seemed to hear nothing with indifference but the
praises of his condition, to which he always returned a general answer,
and diverted the conversation to some other topic.

“Amidst this willingness to be pleased and labour to please, I had
quickly reason to imagine that some painful sentiment pressed upon his
mind. He often looked up earnestly towards the sun, and let his voice
fall in the midst of his discourse. He would sometimes, when we were
alone, gaze upon me in silence, with the air of a man who longed to
speak what he was yet resolved to suppress. He would often send for me
with vehement injunctions of haste, though, when I came to him, he had
nothing extraordinary to say; and sometimes, when I was leaving him,
would call me back, pause a few moments, and then dismiss me.”



“At last the time came when the secret burst his reserve. We were
sitting together last night in the turret of his house, watching the
emersion of a satellite of Jupiter. A sudden tempest clouded the sky,
and disappointed our observation. We sat awhile silent in the dark, and
then he addressed himself to me in these words: ‘Imlac, I have long
considered thy friendship as the greatest blessing of my life. Integrity
without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity
is dangerous and dreadful. I have found in thee all the qualities
requisite for trust, benevolence, experience, and fortitude. I have long
discharged an office which I must soon quit at the call of nature, and
shall rejoice in the hour of imbecility and pain to devolve it upon

“I thought myself honoured by this testimony, and protested, that
whatever could conduce to his happiness would add likewise to mine.

“‘Hear, Imlac, what thou wilt not without difficulty credit. I have
possessed for five years the regulation of weather, and the distribution
of the seasons; the sun has listened to my dictates, and passed from
tropic to tropic by my direction; the clouds, at my call, have poured
their waters, and the Nile has overflowed at my command; I have
restrained the rage of the dog-star, and mitigated the fervours of the
Crab. The winds alone, of all the elemental powers, have hitherto
refused my authority, and multitudes have perished by equinoctial
tempests, which I found myself unable to prohibit or restrain. I have
administered this great office with exact justice, and made to the
different nations of the earth an impartial dividend of rain and
sunshine. What must have been the misery of half the globe, if I had
limited the clouds to particular regions, or confined the sun to either
side of the equator?’”



“I suppose he discovered in me, through the obscurity of the room, some
tokens of amazement and doubt, for, after a short pause, he proceeded

“‘Not to be easily credited will neither surprise nor offend me; for I
am, probably, the first of human beings to whom this trust has been
imparted. Nor do I know whether to deem this distinction a reward or
punishment; since I have possessed it, I have been far less happy than
before, and nothing but the consciousness of good intention could have
enabled me to support the weariness of unremitted vigilance.’

“‘How long, sir,’ said I, ‘has this great office been in your hands?’

“‘About ten years ago,’ said he, ‘my daily observations of the changes
of the sky led me to consider, whether, if I had the power of the
seasons, I could confer greater plenty upon the inhabitants of the
earth. This contemplation fastened on my mind, and I sat days and nights
in imaginary dominion, pouring upon this country and that the showers of
fertility, and seconding every fall of rain with a due proportion of
sunshine. I had yet only the will to do good, and did not imagine that I
should ever have the power.

“‘One day, as I was looking on the fields withering with heat, I felt in
my mind a sudden wish that I could send rain on the southern mountains,
and raise the Nile to an inundation. In the hurry of my imagination I
commanded rain to fall; and by comparing the time of my command with
that of the inundation, I found that the clouds had listened to my

“‘Might not some other cause,’ said I, ‘produce this concurrence? the
Nile does not always rise on the same day.’

“‘Do not believe,’ said he with impatience, ‘that such objections could
escape me: I reasoned long against my own conviction, and laboured
against truth with the utmost obstinacy. I sometimes suspected myself of
madness, and should not have dared to impart this secret but to a man
like you, capable of distinguishing the wonderful from the impossible,
and the incredible from the false.’

“‘Why, sir,’ said I, ‘do you call that incredible, which you know, or
think you know, to be true?’

“‘Because,’ said he, ‘I cannot prove it by any external evidence; and I
know too well the laws of demonstration to think that my conviction
ought to influence another, who cannot like me be conscious of its
force. I therefore shall not attempt to gain credit by disputation. It
is sufficient that I feel this power, that I have long possessed, and
every day exerted it. But the life of man is short, the infirmities of
age increase upon me, and the time will soon come, when the regulator of
the year must mingle with the dust. The care of appointing a successor
has long disturbed me; the night and the day have been spent in
comparisons of all the characters which have come to my knowledge, and I
have yet found none so worthy as thyself.’”



“‘Hear, therefore, what I shall impart, with attention such as the
welfare of a world requires. If the task of a king be considered as
difficult, who has the care only of a few millions, to whom he cannot do
much good or harm, what must be the anxiety of him on whom depends the
action of the elements, and the great gifts of light and heat! Hear me
therefore with attention.

“‘I have diligently considered the position of the earth and sun, and
formed innumerable schemes in which I changed their situation. I have
sometimes turned aside the axis of the earth, and sometimes varied the
ecliptic of the sun; but I have found it impossible to make a
disposition by which the world may be advantaged; what one region gains,
another loses, by any imaginable alteration, even without considering
the distant parts of the solar system with which we are unacquainted. Do
not, therefore, in thy administration of the year, indulge thy pride by
innovation; do not please thyself with thinking that thou canst make
thyself renowned to all future ages by disordering the seasons. The
memory of mischief is no desirable fame. Much less will it become thee
to let kindness or interest prevail. Never rob other countries of rain
to pour it on thine own. For us the Nile is sufficient.’

“I promised, that when I possessed the power, I would use it with
inflexible integrity; and he dismissed me, pressing my hand. ‘My heart,’
said he, ‘will be now at rest, and my benevolence will no more destroy
my quiet; I have found a man of wisdom and virtue, to whom I can
cheerfully bequeath the inheritance of the sun.’”

The prince heard this narration with very serious regard; but the
princess smiled, and Pekuah convulsed herself with laughter. “Ladies,”
said Imlac, “to mock the heaviest of human afflictions is neither
charitable nor wise. Few can attain this man’s knowledge, and few
practise his virtues; but all may suffer his calamity. Of the
uncertainties of our present state, the most dreadful and alarming is
the uncertain continuance of reason.”

The princess was recollected, and the favourite was abashed. Rasselas,
more deeply affected, inquired of Imlac, whether he thought such
maladies of the mind frequent, and how they were contracted.



“Disorders of intellect,” answered Imlac, “happen much more often than
superficial observers will easily believe. Perhaps, if we speak with
rigorous exactness, no human mind is in its right state. There is no man
whose imagination does not sometimes predominate over his reason, who
can regulate his attention wholly by his will, and whose ideas will come
and go at his command. No man will be found in whose mind airy notions
do not sometimes tyrannize, and force him to hope or fear beyond the
limits of sober probability. All power of fancy over reason is a degree
of insanity; but while this power is such as we can control and repress,
it is not visible to others, nor considered as any depravation of the
mental faculties: it is not pronounced madness but when it becomes
ungovernable and apparently influences speech or action.

“To indulge the power of fiction, and send imagination out upon the
wing, is often the sport of those who delight too much in silent
speculation. When we are alone we are not always busy; the labour of
excogitation is too violent to last long; the ardour of inquiry will
sometimes give way to idleness or satiety. He who has nothing external
that can divert him, must find pleasure in his own thoughts, and must
conceive himself what he is not; for who is pleased with what he is? He
then expatiates in boundless futurity, and culls from all imaginable
conditions that which for the present moment he should most desire,
amuses his desires with impossible enjoyments, and confers upon his
pride unattainable dominion. The mind dances from scene to scene, unites
all pleasures in all combinations, and riots in delights, which nature
and fortune, with all their bounty, cannot bestow.

“In time some particular train of ideas fixes the attention; all other
intellectual gratifications are rejected; the mind, in weariness or
leisure, recurs constantly to the favourite conception, and feasts on
the luscious falsehood whenever she is offended with the bitterness of
truth. By degrees the reign of fancy is confirmed; she grows first
imperious, and in time despotic. Then fictions begin to operate as
realities, false opinions fasten upon the mind, and life passes in
dreams of rapture or of anguish.

“This, sir, is one of the dangers of solitude, which the hermit has
confessed not always to promote goodness, and the astronomer’s misery
has proved to be not always propitious to wisdom.”

“I will no more,” said the favourite, “imagine myself the queen of
Abyssinia. I have often spent the hours which the princess gave to my
own disposal, in adjusting ceremonies and regulating the court; I have
repressed the pride of the powerful and granted the petitions of the
poor; I have built new palaces in more happy situations, planted groves
upon the tops of mountains, and have exulted in the beneficence of
royalty, till, when the princess entered, I had almost forgotten to bow
down before her.”

“And I,” said the princess, “will not allow myself any more to play the
shepherdess in my waking dreams. I have often soothed my thoughts with
the quiet and innocence of pastoral employments, till I have in my
chamber heard the winds whistle, and the sheep bleat; sometimes freed
the lamb entangled in the thicket, and sometimes with my crook
encountered the wolf. I have a dress like that of the village maids,
which I put on to help my imagination, and a pipe on which I play
softly, and suppose myself followed by my flocks.”

“I will confess,” said the prince, “an indulgence of fantastic delight
more dangerous than yours. I have frequently endeavoured to image the
possibility of a perfect government, by which all wrong should be
restrained, all vice reformed, and all the subjects preserved in
tranquillity and innocence. This thought produced innumerable schemes of
reformation, and dictated many useful regulations and salutary edicts.
This has been the sport, and sometimes the labour, of my solitude; and I
start when I think with how little anguish I once supposed the death of
my father and my brothers.”

“Such,” says Imlac, “are the effects of visionary schemes. When we first
form them, we know them to be absurd, but familiarize them by degrees,
and in time lose sight of their folly.”



The evening was now far past, and they rose to return home. As they
walked along the bank of the Nile, delighted with the beams of the moon
quivering on the water, they saw at a small distance an old man, whom
the prince had often heard in the assembly of the sages. “Yonder,” said
he, “is one whose years have calmed his passions, but not clouded his
reason; let us close the disquisitions of the night, by inquiring what
are his sentiments of his own state, that we may know whether youth
alone is to struggle with vexation, and whether any better hope remains
for the latter part of life.”

Here the sage approached and saluted them. They invited him to join
their walk, and prattled awhile, as acquaintance that had unexpectedly
met one another. The old man was cheerful and talkative, and the way
seemed short in his company. He was pleased to find himself not
disregarded, accompanied them to their house, and, at the prince’s
request, entered with them. They placed him in the seat of honour, and
set wine and conserves before him.

“Sir,” said the princess, “an evening walk must give to a man of
learning, like you, pleasures which ignorance and youth can hardly
conceive. You know the qualities and the causes of all that you behold,
the laws by which the river flows, the periods in which the planets
perform their revolutions. Everything must supply you with
contemplation, and renew the consciousness of your own dignity.”

“Lady,” answered he, “let the gay and the vigorous expect pleasure in
their excursions; it is enough that age can obtain ease. To me the world
has lost its novelty: I look round, and see what I remember to have seen
in happier days. I rest against a tree, and consider, that in the same
shade I once disputed upon the annual overflow of the Nile with a friend
who is now silent in the grave. I cast my eyes upwards, fix them on the
changing moon, and think with pain on the vicissitudes of life. I have
ceased to take much delight in physical truth; for what have I to do
with those things which I am soon to leave?”

“You may at least recreate yourself,” said Imlac, “with the recollection
of an honourable and useful life, and enjoy the praise which all agree
to give you.”

“Praise,” said the sage with a sigh, “is to an old man an empty sound. I
have neither mother to be delighted with the reputation of her son, nor
wife to partake the honours of her husband. I have outlived my friends
and my rivals. Nothing is now of much importance; for I cannot extend my
interest beyond myself. Youth is delighted with applause, because it is
considered as the earnest of some future good, and because the prospect
of life is far extended; but to me, who am now declining to decrepitude,
there is little to be feared from the malevolence of men, and yet less
to be hoped from their affection or esteem. Something they may yet take
away, but they can give me nothing. Riches would now be useless, and
high employment would be pain. My retrospect of life recalls to my view
many opportunities of good neglected, much time squandered upon trifles,
and more lost in idleness and vacancy. I leave many great designs
unattempted, and many great attempts unfinished. My mind is burdened
with no heavy crime, and therefore I compose myself to tranquillity;
endeavour to abstract my thoughts from hopes and cares, which, though
reason knows them to be vain, still try to keep their old possession of
the heart; expect, with serene humility, that hour which nature cannot
long delay; and hope to possess, in a better state, that happiness which
here I could not find, and that virtue which here I have not attained.”

He rose and went away, leaving his audience not much elated with the
hope of long life. The prince consoled himself with remarking, that it
was not reasonable to be disappointed by this account, for age had never
been considered as the season of felicity, and if it was possible to be
easy in decline and weakness, it was likely that the days of vigour and
alacrity might be happy; that the noon of life might be bright, if the
evening could be calm.

The princess suspected that age was querulous and malignant, and
delighted to repress the expectations of those who had newly entered the
world. She had seen the possessors of estates look with envy on their
heirs, and known many who enjoyed pleasure no longer than they can
confine it to themselves.

Pekuah conjectured that the man was older than he appeared, and was
willing to impute his complaints to delirious dejection; or else
supposed that he had been unfortunate, and was therefore discontented:
“For nothing,” said she, “is more common, than to call our own condition
the condition of life.”

Imlac, who had no desire to see them depressed, smiled at the comforts
which they could so readily procure to themselves, and remembered, that
at the same age he was equally confident of unmingled prosperity, and
equally fertile of consolatory expedients. He forbore to force upon them
unwelcome knowledge, which time itself would too soon impress. The
princess and her lady retired; the madness of the astronomer hung upon
their minds, and they desired Imlac to enter upon his office, and delay
next morning the rising of the sun.



The princess and Pekuah having talked in private of Imlac’s astronomer,
thought his character at once so amiable and so strange, that they could
not be satisfied without a nearer knowledge; and Imlac was requested to
find the means of bringing them together.

This was somewhat difficult: the philosopher had never received any
visits from women, though he lived in a city that had in it many
Europeans, who followed the manners of their own countries, and many
from other parts of the world, that lived there with European liberty.
The ladies would not be refused, and several schemes were proposed for
the accomplishment of their design. It was proposed to introduce them as
strangers in distress, to whom the sage was always accessible; but,
after some deliberation, it appeared that by this artifice no
acquaintance could be formed, for their conversation would be short, and
they could not decently importune him often. “This,” said Rasselas, “is
true; but I have yet a stronger objection against the misrepresentation
of your state. I have always considered it as treason against the great
republic of human nature, to make any man’s virtues the means of
deceiving him, whether on great or little occasions. All imposture
weakens confidence, and chills benevolence. When the sage finds that you
are not what you seemed, he will feel the resentment natural to a man
who, conscious of great abilities, discovers that he has been tricked by
understandings meaner than his own, and, perhaps, the distrust which he
can never afterwards wholly lay aside, may stop the voice of counsel and
close the hand of charity; and where will you find the power of
restoring his benefactions to mankind, or his peace to himself?”

To this no reply was attempted, and Imlac began to hope that their
curiosity would subside; but, next day, Pekuah told him, she had now
found an honest pretence for a visit to the astronomer, for she would
solicit permission to continue under him the studies in which she had
been initiated by the Arab, and the princess might go with her either as
a fellow-student, or because a woman could not decently come alone. “I
am afraid,” said Imlac, “that he will be soon weary of your company; men
advanced far in knowledge do not love to repeat the elements of their
art, and I am not certain that even of the elements, as he will deliver
them, connected with inferences and mingled with reflections, you are a
very capable auditress.” “That,” said Pekuah, “must be my care; I ask of
you only to take me thither. My knowledge is, perhaps, more than you
imagine it; and, by concurring always with his opinions, I shall make
him think it greater than it is.”

The astronomer, in pursuance of this resolution, was told that a foreign
lady, travelling in search of knowledge, had heard of his reputation,
and was desirous to become his scholar. The uncommonness of the proposal
raised at once his surprise and curiosity; and when, after a short
deliberation, he consented to admit her, he could not stay without
impatience till the next day.

The ladies dressed themselves magnificently, and were attended by Imlac
to the astronomer, who was pleased to see himself approached with
respect by persons of so splendid an appearance. In the exchange of the
first civilities he was timorous and bashful; but when the talk became
regular, he recollected his powers, and justified the character which
Imlac had given. Inquiring of Pekuah what could have turned her
inclination towards astronomy, he received from her a history of her
adventure at the Pyramid, and of the time passed in the Arab’s island.
She told her tale with ease and elegance, and her conversation took
possession of his heart. The discourse was then turned to astronomy:
Pekuah displayed what she knew: he looked upon her as a prodigy of
genius, and entreated her not to desist from a study which she had so
happily begun.

They came again and again, and were every time more welcome than before.
The sage endeavoured to amuse them, that they might prolong their
visits, for he found his thoughts grow brighter in their company; the
clouds of solicitude vanished by degrees, as he forced himself to
entertain them, and he grieved when he was left at their departure to
his old employment of regulating the seasons.

The princess and her favourite had now watched his lips for several
months, and could not catch a single word from which they could judge
whether he continued, or not, in the opinion of his preternatural
commission. They often contrived to bring him to an open declaration;
but he easily eluded all their attacks, and, on which side soever they
pressed him, escaped from them to some other topic.

As their familiarity increased, they invited him often to the house of
Imlac, where they distinguished him by extraordinary respect. He began
gradually to delight in sublunary pleasures. He came early, and departed
late; laboured to recommend himself by assiduity and compliance; excited
their curiosity after new arts, that they might still want his
assistance; and when they made any excursion of pleasure or inquiry,
entreated to attend them.

By long experience of his integrity and wisdom, the prince and his
sister were convinced that he might be trusted without danger; and lest
he should draw any false hopes from the civilities which he received,
discovered to him their condition, with the motives of their journey,
and required his opinion on the choice of life.

“Of the various conditions which the world spreads before you, which you
shall prefer,” said the sage, “I am not able to instruct you. I can only
tell that I have chosen wrong. I have passed my time in study without
experience; in the attainment of sciences which can, for the most part,
be but remotely useful to mankind. I have purchased knowledge at the
expense of all the common comforts of life; I have missed the endearing
elegance of female friendship, and the happy commerce of domestic
tenderness. If I have obtained any prerogatives above other students,
they have been accompanied with fear, disquiet, and scrupulosity; but
even of these prerogatives, whatever they were, I have, since my
thoughts have been diversified by more intercourse with the world, begun
to question the reality. When I have been for a few days lost in
pleasing dissipation, I am always tempted to think that my inquiries
have ended in error, and that I have suffered much and suffered it in

Imlac was delighted to find that the sage’s understanding was breaking
through its mists, and resolved to detain him from the planets till he
should forget his task of ruling them, and reason should recover its
original influence.

From this time the astronomer was received into familiar friendship, and
partook of all their projects and pleasures; his respect kept him
attentive, and the activity of Rasselas did not leave much time
unengaged. Something was always to be done: the day was spent in making
observations which furnished talk for the evening, and the evening was
closed with a scheme for the morrow.

The sage confessed to Imlac, that since he had mingled in the gay
tumults of life, and divided his hours by a succession of amusements, he
found the conviction of his authority over the skies fade gradually from
his mind, and began to trust less to an opinion which he never could
prove to others, and which he now found subject to variation, from
causes in which reason had no part. “If I am accidentally left alone for
a few hours,” said he, “my inveterate persuasion rushes upon my soul,
and my thoughts are chained down by some irresistible violence; but they
are soon disentangled by the prince’s conversation, and instantaneously
released at the entrance of Pekuah. I am like a man habitually afraid of
spectres, who is set at ease by a lamp, and wonders at the dread which
harassed him in the dark; yet, if his lamp be extinguished, feels again
the terrors which he knows that when it is light he shall feel no more.
But I am sometimes afraid lest I indulge my quiet by criminal
negligence, and voluntarily forget the great charge with which I am
entrusted. If I favour myself in a known error, or am determined by my
own ease in a doubtful question of this importance, how dreadful is my

“No disease of the imagination,” answered Imlac, “is so difficult of
cure as that which is complicated with the dread of guilt; fancy and
conscience then act interchangeably upon us, and so often shift their
places, that the illusions of one are not distinguished from the
dictates of the other. If fancy presents images not moral or religious,
the mind drives them away when they give it pain; but when melancholic
notions take the form of duty, they lay hold on the faculties without
opposition, because we are afraid to exclude or banish them. For this
reason the superstitious are often melancholy, and the melancholy almost
always superstitious.

“But do not let the suggestions of timidity overpower your better
reason: the danger of neglect can be but as the probability of the
obligation, which, when you consider it with freedom, you find very
little, and that little growing every day less. Open your heart to the
influence of the light which from time to time breaks in upon you; when
scruples importune you, which you in your lucid moments know to be vain,
do not stand to parley, but fly to business, or to Pekuah, and keep this
thought always prevalent, that you are only one atom of the mass of
humanity, and have neither such virtue nor vice, as that you should be
singled out for supernatural favours or afflictions.”



“All this,” said the astronomer, “I have often thought, but my reason
has been so long subjugated by an uncontrollable and overwhelming idea,
that it durst not confide in its own decisions. I now see how fatally I
betrayed my quiet, by suffering chimeras to prey upon me in secret; but
melancholy shrinks from communication, and I never found a man before to
whom I could impart my troubles, though I had been certain of relief. I
rejoice to find my own sentiments confirmed by yours, who are not easily
deceived, and can have no motive or purpose to deceive. I hope that time
and variety will dissipate the gloom that has so long surrounded me, and
the latter part of my days will be spent in peace.”

“Your learning and virtue,” said Imlac, “may justly give you hopes.”

Rasselas then entered with the princess and Pekuah, and inquired,
whether they had contrived any new diversion for the next day. “Such,”
said Nekayah, “is the state of life, that none are happy but by the
anticipation of change: the change itself is nothing; when we have made
it, the next wish is to change again. The world is not yet exhausted;
let me see something to-morrow which I never saw before.”

“Variety,” said Rasselas, “is so necessary to content, that even the
Happy Valley disgusted me by the recurrence of its luxuries; yet I could
not forbear to reproach myself with impatience, when I saw the monks of
St. Anthony support, without complaint, a life, not of uniform delight,
but uniform hardship.”

“Those men,” answered Imlac, “are less wretched in their silent convent
than the Abyssinian princes in their prison of pleasure. Whatever is
done by the monks is incited by an adequate and reasonable motive. Their
labour supplies them with necessaries; it therefore cannot be omitted,
and is certainly rewarded. Their devotion prepares them for another
state, and reminds them of its approach while it fits them for it. Their
time is regularly distributed: one duty succeeds another, so that they
are not left open to the distraction of unguided choice, nor lost in the
shades of listless inactivity. There is a certain task to be performed
at an appropriated hour; and their toils are cheerful, because they
consider them as acts of piety by which they are always advancing
towards endless felicity.”

“Do you think,” said Nekayah, “that the monastic rule is a more holy and
less imperfect state than any other? May not he equally hope for future
happiness who converses openly with mankind, who succours the distressed
by his charity, instructs the ignorant by his learning, and contributes
by his industry to the general system of life; even though he should
omit some of the mortifications which are practised in the cloister, and
allow himself such harmless delights as his condition may place within
his reach?”

“This,” said Imlac, “is a question which has long divided the wise, and
perplexed the good. I am afraid to decide on either part. He that lives
well in the world is better than he that lives well in a monastery. But,
perhaps, every one is not able to stem the temptations of public life;
and if he cannot conquer, he may properly retreat. Some have little
power to do good, and have likewise little strength to resist evil. Many
are weary of their conflicts with adversity, and are willing to eject
those passions which have long busied them in vain. And many are
dismissed by age and diseases from the more laborious duties of society.
In monasteries, the weak and timorous may be happily sheltered, the
weary may repose, and the penitent may meditate. Those retreats of
prayer and contemplation have something so congenial to the mind of man,
that, perhaps, there is scarcely one that does not purpose to close his
life in pious abstraction, with a few associates serious as himself.”

“Such,” said Pekuah, “has often been my wish, and I have heard the
princess declare, that she could not willingly die in a crowd.”

“The liberty of using harmless pleasures,” proceeded Imlac, “will not
be disputed; but it is still to be examined what pleasures are harmless.
The evil of any pleasure that Nekayah can image, is not in the act
itself, but in its consequences. Pleasure, in itself harmless, may
become mischievous, by endearing to us a state which we know to be
transient and probatory, and withdrawing our thoughts from that of which
every hour brings us nearer to the beginning, and of which no length of
time will bring us to the end. Mortification is not virtuous in itself,
nor has any other use, but that it disengages us from the allurements of
sense. In the state of future perfection, to which we all aspire, there
will be pleasure without danger, and security without restraint.”

The princess was silent; and Rasselas, turning to the astronomer, asked
him, whether he could not delay her retreat, by showing her something
which she had not seen before.

“Your curiosity,” said the sage, “has been so general, and your pursuit
of knowledge so vigorous, that novelties are not now very easily to be
found; but what you can no longer procure from the living may be given
by the dead. Among the wonders of this country are the Catacombs, or the
ancient repositories in which the bodies of the earliest generations
were lodged, and where, by the virtue of the gums which embalmed them,
they yet remain without corruption.”

“I know not,” said Rasselas, “what pleasure the sight of the Catacombs
can afford; but, since nothing else offered, I am resolved to view them,
and shall place this with many other things, which I have done because I
would do something.”

They hired a guard of horsemen, and the next day visited the Catacombs.
When they were about to descend into the sepulchral caves, “Pekuah,”
said the princess, “we are now again invading the habitations of the
dead; I know that you will stay behind; let me find you safe when I
return.” “No; I will not be left,” answered Pekuah, “I will go down
between you and the prince.”

They then all descended, and roved with wonder through the labyrinth of
subterraneous passages, where the bodies were laid in rows on either



“What reason,” said the prince, “can be given, why the Egyptians should
thus expensively preserve those carcasses, which some nations consume
with fire, others lay to mingle with the earth, and all agree to remove
from their sight as soon as decent rites can be performed?”

“The original of ancient customs,” said Imlac, “is commonly unknown, for
the practice often continues when the cause has ceased; and concerning
superstitious ceremonies it is vain to conjecture, for what reason did
not dictate reason cannot explain. I have long believed that the
practice of embalming arose only from tenderness to the remains of
relations or friends, and to this opinion I am more inclined, because it
seems impossible that this care should have been general: had all the
dead been embalmed, their repositories must in time have been more
spacious than the dwellings of the living. I suppose only the rich or
honourable were secured from corruption, and the rest left to the course
of nature.

“But it is commonly supposed, that the Egyptians believed the soul to
live as long as the body continued undissolved, and therefore tried this
method of eluding death.”

“Could the wise Egyptians,” said Nekayah, “think so grossly of the soul?
If the soul could once survive its separation, what could it afterwards
receive or suffer from the body?”

“The Egyptians would doubtless think erroneously,” said the astronomer,
“in the darkness of heathenism, and the first dawn of philosophy. The
nature of the soul is still disputed, amidst all our opportunities of
clearer knowledge: some yet say that it may be material, who,
nevertheless, believe it to be immortal.”

“Some,” answered Imlac, “have indeed said that the soul is material, but
I can scarcely believe that any man has thought it, who knew how to
think; for all the conclusions of reason enforce the immateriality of
mind, and all the notices of sense and investigations of science concur
to prove the unconsciousness of matter.

“It was never supposed that cogitation is inherent in matter, or that
every particle is a thinking being. Yet, if any part of matter be devoid
of thought, what part can we suppose to think? Matter can differ from
matter only in form, density, bulk, motion, and direction of motion: to
which of these, however varied or combined, can consciousness be
annexed? To be round or square, to be solid or fluid, to be great or
little, to be moved slowly or swiftly one way or another, are modes of
material existence, all equally alien from the nature of cogitation. If
matter be once without thought, it can only be made to think by some new
modification; but all the modifications which it can admit are equally
unconnected with cogitative powers.”

“But the materialists,” said the astronomer, “urge that matter may have
qualities with which we are unacquainted.”

“He who will determine,” returned Imlac, “against that which he knows,
because there may be something which he knows not,--he that can set
hypothetical possibility against acknowledged certainty,--is not to be
admitted among reasonable beings. All that we know of matter is, that
matter is inert, senseless, and lifeless; and if this conviction cannot
be opposed but by referring us to something that we know not, we have
all the evidence that human intellect can admit. If that which is known
may be overruled by that which is unknown, no being, not omniscient, can
arrive at certainty.”

“Yet let us not,” said the astronomer, “too arrogantly limit the
Creator’s power.”

“It is no limitation of omnipotence,” replied the poet, “to suppose that
one thing is not consistent with another, that the same proposition
cannot be at once true and false, that the same number cannot be even
and odd, that cogitation cannot be conferred on that which is created
incapable of cogitation.”

“I know not,” said Nekayah, “any great use of this question. Does that
immateriality, which in my opinion you have sufficiently proved,
necessarily include eternal duration?”

“Of immateriality,” said Imlac, “our ideas are negative, and therefore
obscure. Immateriality seems to imply a natural power of perpetual
duration as a consequence of exemption from all causes of decay;
whatever perishes is destroyed by the solution of its contexture, and
separation of its parts; nor can we conceive how that which has no
parts, and therefore admits no solution, can be naturally corrupted or

“I know not,” said Rasselas, “how to conceive anything without
extension; what is extended must have parts, and you allow that whatever
has parts may be destroyed.”

“Consider your own conceptions,” replied Imlac, “and the difficulty
will be less. You will find substance without extension. An ideal form
is no less real than material bulk; yet an ideal form has no extension.
It is no less certain, when you think on a pyramid, that your mind
possesses the idea of a pyramid, than that the pyramid itself is
standing. What space does the idea of a pyramid occupy more than the
idea of a grain of corn? or how can either idea suffer laceration? As is
the effect, such is the cause: as thought, such is the power that
thinks; a power impassive and indiscerptible.”

“But the Being,” said Nekayah, “whom I fear to name, the Being which
made the soul, can destroy it.”

“He surely can destroy it,” answered Imlac, “since, however
unperishable, it receives from a superior nature its power of duration.
That it will not perish by any inherent cause of decay, or principle of
corruption, may be shown by philosophy; but philosophy can tell no more.
That it will not be annihilated by Him that made it, we must humbly
learn from higher authority.” The whole assembly stood a while silent
and collected. “Let us return,” said Rasselas, “from this scene of
mortality. How gloomy would be these mansions of the dead to him who did
not know that he should never die, that what now acts shall continue its
agency, and what now thinks shall think on for ever. Those that lie here
stretched before us, the wise and the powerful of ancient times, warn us
to remember the shortness of our present state: they were, perhaps,
snatched away while they were busy like us in the choice of life.”

“To me,” said the princess, “the choice of life is become less
important; I hope hereafter to think only on the choice of eternity.”

They then hastened out of the caverns, and under the protection of their
guard returned to Cairo.



It was now the time of the inundation of the Nile: a few days after
their visit to the Catacombs, the river began to rise.

They were confined to their house. The whole region being under water
gave them no invitation to any excursions, and being well supplied with
material for talk, they diverted themselves with comparisons of the
different forms of life which they had observed, and with various
schemes of happiness which each of them had formed.

Pekuah was never so much charmed with any place as the convent of St.
Anthony, where the Arab restored her to the princess, and wished only to
fill it with pious maidens, and to be made prioress of the order; she
was weary of expectation and disgust, and would gladly be fixed in some
unvariable state.

The princess thought, that of all sublunary things knowledge was the
best: she desired first to learn all sciences, and then proposed to
found a college of learned women, in which she would preside, that, by
conversing with the old, and educating the young, she might divide her
time between the acquisition and communication of wisdom, and raise up
for the next age models of prudence, and patterns of piety.

The prince desired a little kingdom, in which he might administer
justice in his own person, and see all the parts of government with his
own eyes; but he could never fix the limits of his dominion, and was
always adding to the number of his subjects.

Imlac and the astronomer were contented to be driven along the stream of
life, without directing their course to any particular port.

Of these wishes that they had formed they well knew that none could be
obtained. They deliberated awhile what was to be done, and resolved,
when the inundation should cease, to return to Abyssinia.






Horace Walpole, the fourth son of Sir Robert Walpole, was born at 17
Arlington Street on 24 September, 1717. He spent the greater part of his
boyhood at his father’s house in Chelsea, a building that is now part of
the Hospital. At Eton, Walpole did not distinguish himself in any way.
After leaving Cambridge in 1737, his father appointed him Inspector of
Imports and Exports in the Customs House, and, in the following year,
Usher to the Exchequer. In 1739 he began the usual “grand tour” on the
Continent, where he developed a passion for antiquities. He returned to
England at the end of 1741. His father died in March 1745, and in 1747
Walpole settled in the neighbourhood of Twickenham at Strawberry Hill.
The transforming of this house into “a little Gothic castle” and museum
was the chief occupation of the greater part of his life. Here he
erected a private printing press on which he printed many of his own
works as well as some poems of Gray. Although never really interested in
politics, in 1754 Walpole entered Parliament as member for Castle Rising
in Norfolk, vacating this seat three years later for that of Lynn. About
this time, too, he made an unsuccessful attempt to save the unfortunate
Admiral Byng. He went to Paris in 1765, where he formed a friendship
with Madame du Deffand which lasted until her death in 1780. But from
1769 until his death, his life, apart from intermittent literary work
and adding to his museum, was comparatively uneventful. In 1773,
however, his comedy _Nature Will Prevail_ was acted at the Haymarket
with considerable success. In 1791, on the death of his brother, he
acceded to the Earldom of Orford. He died at what was then 40 Berkeley
Square on 2 March, 1797.

Among his books printed at Strawberry Hill are: _A Letter from Xo Ho, a
Chinese Philosopher at London, to his friend Lien Chi, at Peking_, 1757.
_A Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England_, 2 vols., 1758.
_Fugitive Pieces in Verse and Prose_, 1758. _Anecdotes of Painting in
England_, 4 vols., 1762. _The Castle of Otranto_, 1764. _The Mysterious
Mother, a Tragedy_, 1768. _A Description and Inventory of the Villa of
Horace Walpole_, 1774. _Hieroglyphic Tales_, 1784. _Essay on Modern
Gardening_, 1785. _Memoirs of the Last Ten Years of George II._ _Memoirs
of the Reign of George III._ See also his _Letters_.


The following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic
family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the black
letter, in the year 1529. How much sooner it was written does not
appear. The principal incidents are such as were believed in the darkest
ages of Christianity; but the language and conduct have nothing that
savours of barbarism. The style is of the purest Italian. If the story
was written near the time when it is supposed to have happened, it must
have been between 1095, the era of the first crusade, and 1243, the date
of the last, or not long afterwards. There is no other circumstance in
the work that can lead us to guess at the period in which the scene is
laid; the names of the actors are evidently fictitious, and probably
disguised on purpose; yet the Spanish names of the domestics seem to
indicate, that this work was not composed until the establishment of the
Arragonian kings in Naples had made Spanish appellations familiar in
that country. The beauty of the diction, and the zeal of the author
(moderated, however, by singular judgment), concur to make me think that
the date of the composition was little antecedent to that of the
impression. Letters were then in the most flourishing state in Italy,
and contributed to dispel the empire of superstition, at that time so
forcibly attacked by the reformers. It is not unlikely that an artful
priest might endeavour to turn their own arms on the innovators; and
might avail himself of his abilities as an author to confirm the
populace in their ancient errors and superstitions. If this was his
view, he has certainly acted with signal address. Such a work as the
following would enslave a hundred vulgar minds beyond half the books of
controversy that have been written from the days of Luther to the
present hour.

This solution of the author’s motives is, however, offered as a mere
conjecture. Whatever his views were, or whatever effects the execution
of them might have, his work can only be laid before the public at
present as a matter of entertainment. Even as such some apology for it
is necessary. Miracles, visions, necromancies, dreams, and other
preternatural events, are exploded now even from romances. That was not
the case when our author wrote; much less when the story itself is
supposed to have happened. Belief in every kind of prodigy was so
established in those dark ages, that an author would not be faithful to
the manners of the times who should omit all mention of them. He is not
bound to believe them himself, but he must represent his actors as
believing them.

If this air of the miraculous is excused, the reader will find nothing
else unworthy of his perusal. Allow the possibility of the facts, and
all the actors comport themselves as persons would do in their
situation. There is no bombast, no similes, flowers, digressions, or
unnecessary descriptions. Everything tends directly to the catastrophe.
Never is the reader’s attention relaxed. The rules of the drama are
almost observed throughout the conduct of the piece. The characters are
well drawn, and still better maintained. Terror, the author’s principal
engine, prevents the story from ever languishing; and it is so often
contrasted by pity, that the mind is kept up in a constant vicissitude
of interesting passions.

Some persons may, perhaps, think the characters of the domestics too
little serious for the general cast of the story; but, besides their
opposition to the principal personages, the art of the author is very
observable in his conduct of the subalterns. They discover many passages
essential to the story, which could not be well brought to light but by
their _naïveté_ and simplicity: in particular, the womanish terror and
foibles of Bianca, in the last chapter, conduce essentially towards
advancing the catastrophe.

It is natural for a translator to be prejudiced in favour of his adopted
work. More impartial readers may not be so much struck with the beauties
of this piece as I was. Yet I am not blind to my author’s defects. I
could wish he had grounded his plan on a more useful moral than this;
that _the sins of the fathers are visited on their children to the third
and fourth generation_. I doubt whether, in his time, any more than at
present, ambition curbed its appetite of dominion from the dread of so
remote a punishment. And yet this moral is weakened by that less direct
insinuation, that even such anathema may be diverted by devotion to St.
Nicholas. Here the interest of the monk plainly gets the better of the
judgment of the author. However, with all its faults, I have no doubt
but the English reader will be pleased with a sight of this performance.
The piety that reigns throughout, the lessons of virtue that are
inculcated, and the rigid purity of the sentiments, exempt this work
from the censure to which romances are but too liable. Should it meet
with the success I hope for, I may be encouraged to reprint the original
Italian, though it will tend to depreciate my own labour. Our language
falls far short of the charms of the Italian, both for variety and
harmony. The latter is peculiarly excellent for simple narrative. It is
difficult in English _to relate_ without falling too low or rising too
high; a fault obviously occasioned by the little care taken to speak
pure language in common conversation. Every Italian or Frenchman, of any
rank, piques himself on speaking his own tongue correctly and with
choice. I cannot flatter myself with having done justice to my author in
this respect: his style is as elegant as his conduct of the passions is
masterly. It is pity that he did not apply his talents to what they were
evidently proper for--the theatre.

I will detain the reader no longer, but to make one short remark. Though
the machinery is invention, and the names of the actors imaginary, I
cannot but believe that the groundwork of the story is founded on truth.
The scene is undoubtedly laid in some real castle. The author seems
frequently, without design, to describe particular parts. _The chamber_,
says he, _on the right hand; the door on the left hand; the distance
from the chapel to Conrad’s apartment_: these, and other passages, are
strong presumptions that the author had some certain building in his
eye. Curious persons, who have leisure to employ in such researches, may
possibly discover in the Italian writers the foundation on which our
author has built. If a catastrophe, at all resembling that which he
describes, is believed to have given rise to this work, it will
contribute to interest the reader, and will make THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO a
still more moving story.


The favourable manner in which this little piece has been received by
the public calls upon the author to explain the grounds on which he
composed it. But before he opens those motives, it is fit that he should
ask pardon of his readers for having offered his work to them under the
borrowed personage of a translator. As diffidence of his own abilities,
and the novelty of the attempt, were the sole inducements to assume that
disguise, he flatters himself he shall appear excusable. He resigned his
performance to the impartial judgment of the public; determined to let
it perish in obscurity, if disapproved; nor meaning to avow such a
trifle, unless better judges should pronounce that he might own it
without a blush.

It was an attempt to blend the two kinds of romance: the ancient and the
modern. In the former, all was imagination and improbability; in the
latter, nature is always intended to be, and sometimes has been, copied
with success. Invention has not been wanting; but the great resources of
fancy have been dammed up, by a strict adherence to common life. But if
in the latter species nature has cramped imagination, she did but take
her revenge, having been totally excluded from old romances. The
actions, sentiments, conversations, of the heroes and heroines of
ancient days, were as unnatural as the machines employed to put them in

The author of the following pages thought it possible to reconcile the
two kinds. Desirous of leaving the powers of fancy at liberty to
expatiate through the boundless realms of invention, and thence of
creating more interesting situations, he wished to conduct the mortal
agents in his drama according to the rules of probability; in short, to
make them think, speak, and act, as it might be supposed mere men and
women would do in extraordinary positions. He had observed, that in all
inspired writings, the personages under the dispensation of miracles,
and witnesses to the most stupendous phenomena, never lose sight of
their human character; whereas, in the productions of romantic story, an
improbable event never fails to be attended by an absurd dialogue. The
actors seem to lose their senses, the moment the laws of nature have
lost their tone. As the public have applauded the attempt, the author
must not say he was entirely unequal to the task he had undertaken; yet
if the new route he has struck out shall have paved a road for men of
brighter talents, he shall own with pleasure and modesty, that he was
sensible the plan was capable of receiving greater embellishments than
his imagination or conduct of the passions could bestow on it.

With regard to the deportment of the domestics, on which I have touched
in the former preface, I will beg leave to add a few words. The
simplicity of their behaviour, almost tending to excite smiles, which at
first seems not consonant to the serious cast of the work, appeared to
me not only not improper, but was marked designedly in that manner. My
rule was nature. However grave, important, or even melancholy, the
sensations of princes and heroes may be, they do not stamp the same
affections on their domestics; at least the latter do not, or should not
be made to express their passions in the same dignified tone. In my
humble opinion, the contrast between the sublime of the one and the
_naïveté_ of the other, sets the pathetic of the former in a stronger
light. The very impatience which a reader feels while delayed by the
coarse pleasantries of vulgar actors from arriving at the knowledge of
the important catastrophe he expects, perhaps heightens, certainly
proves, that he has been artfully interested in the depending event. But
I had higher authority than my own opinion for this conduct. That great
master of nature, Shakespeare, was the model I copied. Let me ask if his
tragedies of _Hamlet_ and _Julius Cæsar_ would not lose a considerable
share of their spirit and wonderful beauties, if the humour of the
grave-diggers, the fooleries of Polonius, and the clumsy jests of the
Roman citizens, were omitted, or vested in heroics? Is not the eloquence
of Antony, the nobler and affectingly unaffected oration of Brutus,
artificially exalted by the rude outbursts of nature from the mouths of
their auditors? These touches remind one of the Grecian sculptor, who,
to convey the idea of a Colossus within the dimensions of a seal,
inserted a little boy measuring his thumb.

No, says Voltaire, in his edition of Corneille, this mixture of
buffoonery and solemnity is intolerable.--Voltaire is a genius--but not
of Shakespeare’s magnitude. Without recurring to disputable authority, I
appeal from Voltaire to himself. I shall not avail myself of his former
encomiums on our mighty poet, though the French critic has twice
translated the same speech in _Hamlet_, some years ago in admiration,
latterly in derision; and I am sorry to find that his judgment grows
weaker when it ought to be farther matured. But I shall make use of his
own words, delivered on the general topic of the theatre, when he was
neither thinking to recommend or decry Shakespeare’s practice;
consequently at a moment when Voltaire was impartial. In the preface to
his _Enfant Prodigue_, that exquisite piece, of which I declare my
admiration, and which, should I live twenty years longer, I trust I
shall never attempt to ridicule, he has these words, speaking of comedy
(but equally applicable to tragedy, if tragedy is, as surely it ought to
be, a picture of human life; nor can I conceive why occasional
pleasantry ought more to be banished from the tragic scene, than
pathetic seriousness from the comic): “_On y voit un melange de serieux
et de plaisanterie, de comique et de touchant; |souvent meme une seule
avanture| produit tous ces contrastes. Rien n’est si commun qu’une
maison dans laquelle |un pere gronde|, |une fille occupée de sa passion
pleure|; le fils se moque des deux, et quelques parens prennent
part differemment à la scene, etc. Nous n’inferons pas de là que toute
comedie doive avoir des scenes de bouffonerie et des scenes
attendrissantes: il y a beaucoup de tres bonnes pièces où il ne regne
que de la gayeté; d’autres toutes serieuses; d’autres melangées:
d’autres où l’attendrissement va jusqu’aux larmes: |il ne faut donner
l’exclusion à aucun genre|: et si l’on me demandoit quel genre est le
meilleur, je repondrois, celui qui est le mieux traité._” Surely if a
comedy may be _toute serieuse_, tragedy may now and then, soberly, be
indulged in a smile. Who shall proscribe it? shall the critic, who, in
self-defence, declares that _no kind_ ought to be excluded from comedy,
give laws to Shakespeare?

I am aware that the preface from whence I have quoted these passages
does not stand in Monsieur de Voltaire’s name, but in that of his
editor; yet who doubts that the editor and author were the same person?
or where is the editor who has so happily possessed himself of his
author’s style and brilliant ease of argument? These passages were
indubitably the genuine sentiments of that great writer. In his epistle
to Maffei, prefixed to his _Merope_, he delivers almost the same
opinion, though I doubt with a little irony. I will repeat his words,
and then give my reason for quoting them. After translating a passage in
Maffei’s _Merope_, Monsieur de Voltaire adds, “_Tous ces traits sont
naïfs: tout y est convenable à ceux que vous introduisez sur la scene,
|et aux mœurs que vous leur donnez|. Ces familiarités naturelles eussent
été, à ce que je crois, bien reçues dans Athenes; mais Paris et notre
parterre veulent une autre espece de simplicité._” I doubt, I say,
whether there is not a grain of sneer in this and other passages of that
epistle; yet the force of truth is not damaged by being tinged with
ridicule. Maffei was to represent a Grecian story: surely the Athenians
were as competent judges of Grecian manners and of the propriety of
introducing them, as the parterre of Paris. On the contrary, says
Voltaire (and I cannot but admire his reasoning), there were but ten
thousand citizens at Athens, and Paris has near eight hundred thousand
inhabitants, among whom one may reckon thirty thousand judges of
dramatic works.--Indeed! but, allowing so numerous a tribunal, I believe
this is the only instance in which it was ever pretended, that thirty
thousand persons, living near two thousand years after the era in
question, were, upon the mere face of the poll, declared better judges
than the Grecians themselves of what ought to be the manners of a
tragedy written on a Grecian story.

I will not enter into a discussion of the _espece de simplicité_, which
the parterre of Paris demands, nor of the shackles with which _the
thirty thousand judges_ have cramped their poetry, the chief merit of
which, as I gather from repeated passages in _The New Commentary on
Corneille_, consists in vaulting in spite of those fetters; a merit
which, if true, would reduce poetry, from the lofty effort of
imagination, to a puerile and most contemptible labour--_difficiles
nugæ_ with a witness! I cannot, however, help mentioning a couplet,
which, to my English ears, always sounded as the flattest and most
trifling instance of circumstantial propriety: but which Voltaire, who
has dealt so severely with nine parts in ten of Corneille’s works, has
singled out to defend in Racine:

    De son appartement cette porte est prochaine,
    Et cette autre conduit dans celui de la reine.

                  In English:

    To Cæsar’s closet through this door you come,
    And t’other leads to the queen’s drawing-room.

Unhappy Shakespeare! hadst thou made Rosencrantz inform his compeer,
Guildenstern, of the ichnography of the palace of Copenhagen, instead of
presenting us with a moral dialogue between the Prince of Denmark and
the grave-digger, the illuminated pit of Paris would have been
instructed _a second time_ to adore thy talents.

The result of all I have said is, to shelter my own daring under the
canon of the brightest genius this country, at least, has produced. I
might have pleaded, that having created a new species of romance, I was
at liberty to lay down what rules I thought fit for the conduct of it:
but I should be more proud of having imitated, however faintly, weakly,
and at a distance, so masterly a pattern, than to enjoy the entire merit
of invention, unless I could have marked my work with genius as well as
with originality. Such as it is, the public have honoured it
sufficiently, whatever rank their suffrages allot to it.




    The gentle maid, whose hapless tale
      These melancholy pages speak
    Say, gracious lady, shall she fail
      To draw the tear adown thy cheek?

    No; never was thy pitying breast
      Insensible to human woes;
    Tender, though firm, it melts distrest
      For weaknesses it never knows.

    Oh! guard the marvels I relate
    Of fell ambition scourg’d by fate,
      From reason’s peevish blame.
    Blest with thy smile, my dauntless sail
    I dare expand to fancy’s gale.
      For sure thy smiles are fame.

                                      H. W.


Manfred, Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the latter, a
most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda. Conrad, the
son, was three years younger, a homely youth, sickly, and of no
promising disposition; yet he was the darling of his father, who never
showed any symptoms of affection to Matilda. Manfred had contracted a
marriage for his son with the Marquis of Vicenza’s daughter, Isabella;
and she had already been delivered by her guardians into the hands of
Manfred, that he might celebrate the wedding as soon as Conrad’s infirm
state of health would permit. Manfred’s impatience for this ceremonial
was remarked by his family and neighbours. The former, indeed,
apprehending the severity of their prince’s disposition, did not dare to
utter their surmises on this precipitation. Hippolita, his wife, an
amiable lady, did sometimes venture to represent the danger of marrying
their only son so early, considering his great youth, and greater
infirmities; but she never received any other answer than reflections on
her own sterility, who had given him but one heir. His tenants and
subjects were less cautious in their discourses: they attributed this
hasty wedding to the prince’s dread of seeing accomplished an ancient
prophecy, which was said to have pronounced, that _the castle and
lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the
real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it_. It was difficult to
make any sense of this prophecy; and still less easy to conceive what it
had to do with the marriage in question. Yet these mysteries, or
contradictions, did not make the populace adhere the less to their

Young Conrad’s birthday was fixed for his espousals. The company was
assembled in the chapel of the castle, and everything ready for
beginning the divine office, when Conrad himself was missing. Manfred,
impatient of the least delay, and who had not observed his son retire,
dispatched one of his attendants to summon the young prince. The
servant, who had not stayed long enough to have crossed the court to
Conrad’s apartment, came running back breathless, in a frantic manner,
his eyes staring, and foaming at the mouth. He said nothing, but pointed
to the court. The company were struck with terror and amazement. The
Princess Hippolita, without knowing what was the matter, but anxious for
her son, swooned away. Manfred, less apprehensive than enraged at the
procrastination of the nuptials, and at the folly of his domestic, asked
imperiously what was the matter? The fellow made no answer, but
continued pointing towards the court-yard; and, at last, after repeated
questions put to him, cried out:

“Oh! the helmet! the helmet!”

In the mean time, some of the company had run into the court, from
whence was heard a confused noise of shrieks, horror, and surprise.
Manfred, who began to be alarmed at not seeing his son, went himself to
get information of what occasioned this strange confusion. Matilda
remained endeavouring to assist her mother, and Isabella stayed for the
same purpose, and to avoid showing any impatience for the bridegroom,
for whom, in truth, she had conceived little affection.

The first thing that struck Manfred’s eyes was a group of his servants
endeavouring to raise something that appeared to him a mountain of sable
plumes. He gazed without believing his sight. “What are ye doing?” cried
Manfred, wrathfully. “Where is my son?”

A volley of voices replied, “Oh! my lord! the prince! the prince! the
helmet! the helmet!”

Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what, he
advanced hastily--but, what a sight for a father’s eyes!--he beheld his
child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, a
hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being, and
shaded with a proportionable quantity of black feathers.

The horror of the spectacle, the ignorance of all around how this
misfortune had happened, and, above all, the tremendous phenomenon
before him, took away the prince’s speech. Yet his silence lasted longer
than even grief could occasion. He fixed his eyes on what he wished in
vain to believe a vision; and seemed less attentive to his loss, than
buried in meditation on the stupendous object that had occasioned it. He
touched, he examined, the fatal casque; nor could even the bleeding,
mangled remains of the young prince divert the eyes of Manfred from the
portent before him. All who had known his partial fondness for young
Conrad were as much surprised at their prince’s insensibility, as
thunderstruck themselves at the miracle of the helmet. They conveyed
the disfigured corpse into the hall, without receiving the least
direction from Manfred. As little was he attentive to the ladies who
remained in the chapel; on the contrary, without mentioning the unhappy
princesses, his wife and daughter, the first sounds that dropped from
Manfred’s lips were, “Take care of the Lady Isabella.”

The domestics, without observing the singularity of this direction, were
guided by their affection to their mistress to consider it as peculiarly
addressed to her situation, and flew to her assistance. They conveyed
her to her chamber more dead than alive, and indifferent to all the
strange circumstances she heard, except the death of her son. Matilda,
who doted on her mother, smothered her own grief and amazement, and
thought of nothing but assisting and comforting her afflicted parent.
Isabella, who had been treated by Hippolita like a daughter, and who
returned that tenderness with equal duty and affection, was scarce less
assiduous about the princess; at the same time endeavouring to partake
and lessen the weight of sorrow which she saw Matilda strove to
suppress, for whom she had conceived the warmest sympathy of friendship.
Yet her own situation could not help finding its place in her thoughts.
She felt no concern for the death of young Conrad, except commiseration;
and she was not sorry to be delivered from a marriage which had promised
her little felicity, either from her destined bridegroom, or from the
severe temper of Manfred, who, though he had distinguished her by great
indulgence, had impressed her mind with terror, from his causeless
rigour to such amiable princesses as Hippolita and Matilda.

While the ladies were conveying the wretched mother to her bed, Manfred
remained in the court, gazing on the ominous casque, and regardless of
the crowd which the strangeness of the event had now assembled around
him. The few words he articulated tended solely to inquiries, whether
any man knew from whence it could have come? Nobody could give him the
least information. However, as it seemed to be the sole object of his
curiosity, it soon became so to the rest of the spectators, whose
conjectures were as absurd and improbable, as the catastrophe itself was
unprecedented. In the midst of their senseless guesses, a young peasant,
whom rumour had drawn thither from a neighbouring village, observed,
that the miraculous helmet was exactly like that on the figure in black
marble of Alfonso the Good, one of their former princes, in the church
of St. Nicholas.

“Villain! what sayest thou?” cried Manfred, starting from his trance in
a tempest of rage, and seizing the young man by the collar; “how darest
thou utter such treason? thy life shall pay for it.”

The spectators, who as little comprehended the cause of the prince’s
fury as all the rest they had seen, were at a loss to unravel this new
circumstance. The young peasant himself was still more astonished, not
conceiving how he had offended the prince; yet, recollecting himself,
with a mixture of grace and humility, he disengaged himself from
Manfred’s gripe, and then, with an obeisance which discovered more
jealousy of innocence than dismay, he asked, with respect, of what he
was guilty? Manfred, more enraged at the vigour, however decently
exerted, with which the young man had shaken off his hold, than appeased
by his submission, ordered his attendants to seize him, and, if he had
not been withheld by his friends, whom he had invited to the nuptials,
would have poniarded the peasant in their arms.

During this altercation, some of the vulgar spectators had run to the
great church, which stood near the castle, and came back open-mouthed,
declaring that the helmet was missing from Alfonso’s statue. Manfred, at
this news, grew perfectly frantic; and, as if he sought a subject on
which to vent the tempest within him, he rushed again on the young
peasant, crying, “Villain! monster! sorcerer! ’tis thou hast done this!
’tis thou hast slain my son!”

The mob, who wanted some object within the scope of their capacities, on
whom they might discharge their bewildered reasonings, caught the words
from the mouth of their lord, and re-echoed, “Ay, ay; ’tis he, ’tis he!
he has stolen the helmet from good Alfonso’s tomb, and dashed out the
brains of our young prince with it,” never reflecting how enormous the
disproportion was between the marble helmet that had been in the church,
and that of steel before their eyes; nor how impossible it was for a
youth, seemingly not twenty, to wield a piece of armour of so prodigious
a weight.

The folly of these ejaculations brought Manfred to himself: yet, whether
provoked at the peasant having observed the resemblance between the two
helmets, and thereby led to the farther discovery of the absence of that
in the church, or wishing to bury any fresh rumour under so impertinent
a supposition, he gravely pronounced that the young man was certainly a
necromancer; and that till the Church could take cognizance of the
affair, he would have the magician, whom they had thus detected, kept
prisoner under the helmet itself, which he ordered his attendants to
raise, and place the young man under it; declaring he should be kept
there without food, with which his own infernal art might furnish him.

It was in vain for the youth to represent against this preposterous
sentence: in vain did Manfred’s friends endeavour to divert him from
this savage and ill-grounded resolution. The generality were charmed
with their lord’s decision, which to their apprehensions carried great
appearance of justice, as the magician was to be punished by the very
instrument with which he had offended; nor were they struck with the
least compunction at the probability of the youth being starved, for
they firmly believed that, by his diabolical skill, he could easily
supply himself with nutriment.

Manfred thus saw his commands even cheerfully obeyed; and appointing a
guard, with strict orders to prevent any food being conveyed to the
prisoner, he dismissed his friends and attendants, and retired to his
own chamber, after locking the gates of the castle, in which he suffered
none but his domestics to remain.

In the meantime, the care and zeal of the young ladies had brought the
Princess Hippolita to herself, who, amidst the transports of her own
sorrow, frequently demanded news of her lord, would have dismissed her
attendants to watch over him, and at last enjoined Matilda to leave her,
and visit and comfort her father. Matilda, who wanted not affectionate
duty to Manfred, though she trembled at his austerity, obeyed the orders
of Hippolita, whom she tenderly recommended to Isabella; and inquiring
of the domestics of her father, was informed that he was retired to his
chamber, and had commanded that nobody should have admittance to him.
Concluding that he was immersed in sorrow for the death of her brother,
and fearing to renew his tears by the sight of his sole remaining child,
she hesitated whether she should break in upon his affliction: yet
solicitude for him, backed by the commands of her mother, encouraged her
to venture disobeying the orders he had given; a fault she had never
been guilty of before. The gentle timidity of her nature made her pause
for some minutes at his door. She heard him traverse his chamber
backwards and forwards with disordered steps; a mood which increased her
apprehensions. She was however just going to beg admittance, when
Manfred suddenly opened the door; and as it was now twilight,
concurring with the disorder of his mind, he did not distinguish the
person, but asked angrily, who it was? Matilda replied, trembling, “My
dearest father, it is I, your daughter.”

Manfred, stepping back hastily, cried, “Begone, I do not want a
daughter”; and, flinging back abruptly, clapped the door against the
terrified Matilda.

She was too well acquainted with her father’s impetuosity to venture a
second intrusion. When she had a little recovered the shock of so bitter
a reception, she wiped away her tears, to prevent the additional stab
that the knowledge of it would give to Hippolita, who questioned her in
the most anxious terms on the health of Manfred, and how he bore his
loss. Matilda assured her he was well, and supported his misfortune with
manly fortitude.

“But will he not let me see him?” said Hippolita, mournfully; “will he
not permit me to blend my tears with his, and shed a mother’s sorrows in
the bosom of her lord? Or do you deceive me, Matilda? I know how Manfred
doted on his son: is not the stroke too heavy for him? has he not sunk
under it? You do not answer me:--alas! I dread the worst!--raise me, my
maidens; I will, I will see my lord. Bear me to him instantly. He is
dearer to me even than my children.”

Matilda made signs to Isabella to prevent Hippolita’s rising; and both
those lovely young women were using their gentle violence to stop and
calm the princess, when a servant, on the part of Manfred, arrived, and
told Isabella that his lord demanded to speak with her.

“With me!” cried Isabella.

“Go,” said Hippolita, relieved by a message from her lord: “Manfred
cannot support the sight of his own family. He thinks you less
disordered than we are, and dreads the shock of my grief. Console him,
dear Isabella, and tell him I will smother my own anguish rather than
add to his.”

As it was now evening, the servant who conducted Isabella bore a torch
before her. When they came to Manfred, who was walking impatiently about
the gallery, he started, and said hastily:

“Take away that light, and begone.” Then shutting the door impetuously,
he flung himself upon a bench against the wall, and bade Isabella sit by
him. She obeyed trembling.

“I sent for you, lady,” said he, and then stopped, under great
appearance of confusion.

“My lord!”

“Yes, I sent for you on a matter of great moment,” resumed he: “dry your
tears, young lady:--you have lost your bridegroom. Yes, cruel fate! and
I have lost the hopes of my race! but Conrad was not worthy of your

“How! my lord,” said Isabella; “sure you do not suspect me of not
feeling the concern I ought! my duty and affection would have

“Think no more of him,” interrupted Manfred: “he was a sickly, puny
child; and Heaven has perhaps taken him away, that I might not trust the
honours of my house on so frail a foundation. The line of Manfred calls
for numerous supports. My foolish fondness for that boy blinded the eyes
of my prudence--but it is better as it is. I hope, in a few years, to
have reason to rejoice at the death of Conrad.”

Words cannot paint the astonishment of Isabella. At first she
apprehended that grief had disordered Manfred’s understanding. Her next
thought suggested that this strange discourse was designed to ensnare
her: she feared that Manfred had perceived her indifference for his son;
and in consequence of that idea she replied:

“Good my lord, do not doubt my tenderness: my heart would have
accompanied my hand. Conrad would have engrossed all my care; and
wherever fate shall dispose of me, I shall always cherish his memory,
and regard your highness and the virtuous Hippolita as my parents.”

“Curse on Hippolita!” cried Manfred: “forget her from this moment, as I
do. In short, lady, you have missed a husband undeserving of your
charms: they shall now be better disposed of. Instead of a sickly boy,
you shall have a husband in the prime of his age, who will know how to
value your beauties, and who may expect a numerous offspring.”

“Alas! my lord,” said Isabella, “my mind is too sadly engrossed by the
recent catastrophe in your family to think of another marriage. If ever
my father returns, and it shall be his pleasure, I shall obey, as I did
when I consented to give my hand to your son; but, until his return,
permit me to remain under your hospitable roof, and employ the
melancholy hours in assuaging yours, Hippolita’s, and the fair Matilda’s

“I desired you once before,” said Manfred, angrily, “not to name that
woman: from this hour she must be a stranger to you, as she must be to
me:--in short, Isabella, since I cannot give you my son, I offer you

“Heavens!” cried Isabella, waking from her delusion, “what do I hear?
You, my lord! You! my father-in-law, the father of Conrad! the husband
of the virtuous and tender Hippolita!”

“I tell you,” said Manfred imperiously, “Hippolita is no longer my wife;
I divorce her from this hour. Too long has she cursed me by her
unfruitfulness. My fate depends on having sons, and this night I trust
will give a new date to my hopes.”

At those words he seized the cold hand of Isabella, who was half dead
with fright and horror. She shrieked and started from him. Manfred rose
to pursue her, when the moon, which was now up and gleamed in at the
opposite casement, presented to his sight the plumes of the fatal
helmet, which rose to the height of the windows, waving backwards and
forwards in a tempestuous manner, and accompanied with a hollow and
rustling sound. Isabella, who gathered courage from her situation, and
who dreaded nothing so much as Manfred’s pursuit of his declaration,

“Look, my lord! see, Heaven itself declares against your impious

“Heaven nor hell shall impede my designs,” said Manfred, advancing again
to seize the princess. At that instant the portrait of his grandfather,
which hung over the bench where they had been sitting, uttered a deep
sigh, and heaved its breast. Isabella, whose back was turned to the
picture, saw not the motion, nor whence the sound came but started, and

“Hark, my lord! what sound was that?” and at the same time made towards
the door. Manfred, distracted between the flight of Isabella, who had
now reached the stairs, and yet unable to keep his eyes from the
picture, which began to move, had, however, advanced some steps after
her, still looking backwards on the portrait, when he saw it quit its
panel, and descend on the floor with a grave and melancholy air.

“Do I dream?” cried Manfred, returning; “or are the devils themselves in
league against me? Speak, infernal spectre! or, if thou art my
grandsire, why dost thou, too, conspire against thy wretched descendant,
who too dearly pays for----” Ere he could finish the sentence, the
vision sighed again, and made a sign to Manfred to follow him.

“Lead on!” cried Manfred: “I will follow thee to the gulf of perdition.”
The spectre marched sedately, but dejected, to the end of the gallery,
and turned into a chamber on the right hand. Manfred accompanied him at
a little distance, full of anxiety and horror, but resolved. As he
would have entered the chamber, the door was clapped to with violence by
an invisible hand. The prince, collecting courage from this delay, would
have forcibly burst open the door with his foot, but found that it
resisted his utmost efforts.

“Since hell will not satisfy my curiosity,” said Manfred, “I will use
the human means in my power for preserving my race; Isabella shall not
escape me.”

That lady, whose resolution had given way to terror the moment she had
quitted Manfred, continued her flight to the bottom of the principal
staircase. There she stopped, not knowing whither to direct her steps,
nor how to escape from the impetuosity of the prince. The gates of the
castle she knew were locked, and guards placed in the court. Should she,
as her heart prompted her, go and prepare Hippolita for the cruel
destiny that awaited her, she did not doubt but Manfred would seek her
there, and that his violence would incite him to double the injury he
meditated, without leaving room for them to avoid the impetuosity of his
passions. Delay might give him time to reflect on the horrid measures he
had conceived, or produce some circumstance in her favour, if she could,
for that night at least, avoid his odious purpose. Yet where conceal
herself? how avoid the pursuit he would infallibly make throughout the
castle? As these thoughts passed rapidly through her mind, she
recollected a subterraneous passage which led from the vaults of the
castle to the church of St. Nicholas. Could she reach the altar before
she was overtaken, she knew even Manfred’s violence would not dare to
profane the sacredness of the place; and she determined, if no other
means of deliverance offered, to shut herself up for ever among the holy
virgins, whose convent was contiguous to the cathedral. In this
resolution, she seized a lamp that burned at the foot of the staircase,
and hurried towards the secret passage.

The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate
cloisters; and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find the
door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence reigned throughout
those subterraneous regions, except now and then some blasts of wind
that shook the doors she had passed, and which, grating on the rusty
hinges, were re-echoed through that long labyrinth of darkness. Every
murmur struck her with new terror;--yet more she dreaded to hear the
wrathful voice of Manfred urging his domestics to pursue her. She trod
as softly as impatience would give her leave,--yet frequently stopped,
and listened to hear if she was followed. In one of those moments she
thought she heard a sigh. She shuddered, and recoiled a few paces. In a
moment she thought she heard the step of some person. Her blood curdled:
she concluded it was Manfred. Every suggestion that horror could inspire
rushed into her mind. She condemned her rash flight, which had thus
exposed her to his rage in a place where her cries were not likely to
draw anybody to her assistance. Yet the sound seemed not to come from
behind: if Manfred knew where she was, he must have followed her: she
was still in one of the cloisters, and the steps she had heard were too
distinct to proceed from the way she had come. Cheered with this
reflection, and hoping to find a friend in whoever was not the prince,
she was going to advance, when a door that stood ajar, at some distance
to the left, was opened gently; but ere her lamp, which she held up,
could discover who opened it, the person retreated precipitately on
seeing the light.

Isabella, whom every incident was sufficient to dismay, hesitated
whether she should proceed. Her dread of Manfred soon outweighed every
other terror. The very circumstance of the person avoiding her, gave her
a sort of courage. It could only be, she thought, some domestic
belonging to the castle. Her gentleness had never raised her an enemy,
and conscious innocence made her hope that, unless sent by the prince’s
order to seek her, his servants would rather assist than prevent her
flight. Fortifying herself with these reflections, and believing, by
what she could observe, that she was near the mouth of the subterraneous
cavern, she approached the door that had been opened; but a sudden gust
of wind, that met her at the door, extinguished her lamp, and left her
in total darkness.

Words cannot paint the horror of the princess’s situation. Alone, in so
dismal a place, her mind impressed with all the terrible events of the
day, hopeless of escaping, expecting every moment the arrival of
Manfred, and far from tranquil on knowing she was within reach of
somebody, she knew not whom, who for some cause seemed concealed
thereabouts; all these thoughts crowded on her distracted mind, and she
was ready to sink under her apprehensions. She addressed herself to
every saint in heaven, and inwardly implored their assistance. For a
considerable time she remained in an agony of despair. At last, as
softly as was possible, she felt for the door, and having found it,
entered trembling into the vault from whence she had heard the sigh and
steps. It gave her a kind of momentary joy to perceive an imperfect ray
of clouded moonshine gleam from the roof of the vault, which seemed to
be fallen in, and from whence hung a fragment of earth or building, she
could not distinguish which, that appeared to have been crushed inwards.
She advanced eagerly towards this chasm, when she discerned a human form
standing close against the wall.

She shrieked, believing it the ghost of her betrothed Conrad. The
figure, advancing, said in a submissive voice, “Be not alarmed, lady, I
will not injure you.”

Isabella, a little encouraged by the words and tone of voice of the
stranger, and recollecting that this must be the person who had opened
the door, recovered her spirits enough to reply, “Sir, whoever you are,
take pity on a wretched princess, standing on the brink of destruction:
assist me to escape from this fatal castle, or, in a few moments, I may
be made miserable for ever.”

“Alas!” said the stranger, “what can I do to assist you? I will die in
your defence; but I am unacquainted with the castle, and want----”

“Oh!” said Isabella, hastily interrupting him, “help me but to find a
trap-door that must be hereabout, and it is the greatest service you can
do me, for I have not a minute to lose.” Saying these words, she felt
about on the pavement, and directed the stranger to search likewise, for
a smooth piece of brass enclosed in one of the stones. “That,” said she,
“is the lock which opens with a spring, of which I know the secret. If
we can find that, I may escape; if not, alas! courteous stranger, I fear
I shall have involved you in my misfortunes. Manfred will suspect you
for the accomplice of my flight, and you will fall a victim to his

“I value not my life,” said the stranger; “and it will be some comfort
to lose it, in trying to deliver you from his tyranny.”

“Generous youth!” said Isabella, “how shall I ever requite----”

As she uttered these words, a ray of moonshine, streaming through a
cranny of the ruin above, shone directly on the lock they sought.--“Oh!
transport!” said Isabella, “here is the trap-door”; and, taking out the
key, she touched the spring, which, starting aside, discovered an iron
ring. “Lift up the door,” said the princess. The stranger obeyed; and
beneath appeared some stone steps descending into a vault totally dark.
“We must go down here,” said Isabella: “follow me; dark and dismal as
it is, we cannot miss our way; it leads directly to the church of St.
Nicholas--but, perhaps,” added the princess, modestly, “you have no
reason to leave the castle, nor have I farther occasion for your
service; in a few minutes I shall be safe from Manfred’s rage--only let
me know to whom I am so much obliged.”

“I will never quit you,” said the stranger eagerly, “until I have placed
you in safety--nor think me, princess, more generous than I am; though
you are my principal care----”

The stranger was interrupted by a sudden noise of voices that seemed
approaching, and they soon distinguished these words: “Talk not to me of
necromancers; I tell you she must be in the castle; I will find her in
spite of enchantment.”

“Oh, heavens!” cried Isabella, “it is the voice of Manfred; make haste,
or we are ruined! and shut the trap-door after you.” Saying this, she
descended the steps precipitately; and as the stranger hastened to
follow her, he let the door slip out of his hands: it fell, and the
spring closed over it. He tried in vain to open it, not having observed
Isabella’s method of touching the spring; nor had he many moments to
make an essay. The noise of the falling door had been heard by Manfred,
who, directed by the sound, hastened thither, attended by his servants
with torches.

“It must be Isabella,” cried Manfred, before he entered the vault: “she
is escaping by the subterraneous passage, but she cannot have got far.”
What was the astonishment of the prince, when, instead of Isabella, the
light of the torches discovered to him the young peasant, whom he
thought confined under the fatal helmet. “Traitor!” said Manfred, “how
camest thou here? I thought thee in durance above in the court.”

“I am no traitor,” replied the young man boldly, “nor am I answerable
for your thoughts.”

“Presumptuous villain!” cried Manfred, “dost thou provoke my wrath? Tell
me; how hast thou escaped from above? Thou hast corrupted thy guards,
and their lives shall answer it.”

“My poverty,” said the peasant calmly, “will disculpate them: though the
ministers of a tyrant’s wrath, to thee they are faithful, and but too
willing to execute the orders which you unjustly imposed upon them.”

“Art thou so hardy as to dare my vengeance?” said the prince; “but
tortures shall force the truth from thee. Tell me; I will know thy

“There was my accomplice!” said the youth, smiling and pointing to the

Manfred ordered the torches to be held up, and perceived that one of
the cheeks of the enchanted casque had forced its way through the
pavement of the court, as his servants had let it fall over the peasant,
and had broken through into the vault, leaving a gap through which the
peasant had pressed himself some minutes before he was found by
Isabella. “Was that the way by which thou didst descend?” said Manfred.

“It was,” said the youth.

“But what noise was that,” said Manfred, “which I heard, as I entered
the cloister?”

“A door clapped,” said the peasant; “I heard it as well as you.”

“What door?” said Manfred hastily.

“I am not acquainted with your castle,” said the peasant: “this is the
first time I ever entered it; and this vault the only part of it within
which I ever was.”

“But I tell thee,” said Manfred, wishing to find out if the youth had
discovered the trap-door, “it was this way I heard the noise; my
servants heard it too.”

“My lord,” interrupted one of them officiously, “to be sure it was the
trap-door, and he was going to make his escape.”

“Peace! blockhead,” said the prince angrily; “if he was going to escape,
how should he come on this side? I will know from his own mouth what
noise it was I heard. Tell me truly, thy life depends on thy veracity.”

“My veracity is dearer to me than my life,” said the peasant; “nor would
I purchase the one by forfeiting the other.”

“Indeed, young philosopher!” said Manfred, contemptuously; “tell me,
then, what was that noise I heard?”

“Ask me, what I can answer,” said he, “and put me to death instantly, if
I tell you a lie.”

Manfred, growing impatient at the steady valour and indifference of the
youth, cried, “Well, then, thou man of truth! answer; was it the fall of
the trap-door that I heard?”

“It was,” said the youth.

“It was!” said the prince; “and how didst thou come to know there was a
trap-door here?”

“I saw the plate of brass by a gleam of moonshine,” replied he.

“But what told thee it was a lock?” said Manfred; “how didst thou
discover the secret of opening it?”

“Providence, that delivered me from the helmet, was able to direct me to
the spring of a lock,” said he.

“Providence should have gone a little farther, and have placed thee out
of the reach of my resentment,” said Manfred: “when Providence had
taught thee to open the lock, it abandoned thee for a fool, who did not
know how to make use of its favours. Why didst thou not pursue the path
pointed out for thy escape? Why didst thou shut the trap-door before
thou hadst descended the steps?”

“I might ask you, my lord,” said the peasant, “how I, totally
unacquainted with your castle, was to know that those steps led to any
outlet? but I scorn to evade your questions. Wherever those steps led
to, perhaps, I should have explored the way. I could not be in a worse
situation than I was. But the truth is, I let the trap-door fall: your
immediate arrival followed. I had given the alarm--what imported it to
me whether I was seized a minute sooner or a minute later?”

“Thou art a resolute villain for thy years,” said Manfred; “yet, on
reflection, I suspect thou dost but trifle with me: thou hast not yet
told me how thou didst open the lock.”

“That I will show you, my lord,” said the peasant; and, taking up a
fragment of stone that had fallen from above, he laid himself on the
trap-door, and began to beat on the piece of brass that covered it;
meaning to gain time for the escape of the princess. This presence of
mind, joined to the frankness of the youth, staggered Manfred. He even
felt a disposition towards pardoning one who had been guilty of no
crime. Manfred was not one of those savage tyrants who wanton in cruelty
unprovoked. The circumstances of his fortune had given an asperity to
his temper, which was naturally humane; and his virtues were always
ready to operate, when his passions did not obscure his reason.

While the prince was in this suspense, a confused noise of voices echoed
through the distant vaults. As the sound approached, he distinguished
the clamours of some of his domestics, whom he had dispersed through the
castle in search of Isabella, calling out, “Where is my lord? where is
the prince?”

“Here I am,” said Manfred, as they came nearer; “have you found the

The first that arrived replied, “Oh, my lord, I am glad we have found

“Found me!” said Manfred; “have you found the princess?”

“We thought we had, my lord,” said the fellow, looking terrified;

“But what?” cried the prince; “has she escaped?”

“Jaquez and I, my lord----”

“Yes, I and Diego,” interrupted the second, who came up in still greater

“Speak one of you at a time,” said Manfred; “I ask you, where is the

“We do not know,” said they both together; “but we are frightened out of
our wits.”

“So I think, blockheads,” said Manfred; “what is it has scared you

“Oh, my lord,” said Jaquez, “Diego has seen such a sight! your highness
would not believe your eyes.”

“What new absurdity is this?” cried Manfred; “give me a direct answer,
or by Heaven----”

“Why, my lord, if it please your highness to hear me,” said the poor
fellow, “Diego and I----”

“Yes, I and Jaquez,” cried his comrade.

“Did not I forbid you to speak both at a time?” said the prince: “you,
Jaquez, answer; for the other fool seems more distracted than thou art:
what is the matter?”

“My gracious lord,” said Jaquez, “if it please your highness to hear me,
Diego and I, according to your highness’s orders, went to search for the
young lady; but being apprehensive that we might meet the ghost of my
young lord, your highness’s son, God rest his soul! as he has not
received Christian burial----”

“Sot!” cried Manfred, in a rage, “is it only a ghost, then, that thou
hast seen?”

“Oh, worse! worse! my lord,” cried Diego: “I had rather have seen ten
whole ghosts.”

“Grant me patience!” said Manfred; “those blockheads distract me. Out of
my sight, Diego; and thou, Jaquez, tell me, in one word, art thou sober?
art thou raving? thou wast wont to have some sense; has the other sot
frightened himself and thee too? speak; what is it he fancies he has

“Why, my lord,” replied Jaquez, trembling. “I was going to tell your
highness, that since the calamitous misfortune of my young lord, God
rest his precious soul! not one of us, your highness’s faithful
servants, indeed we are, my lord, though poor men; I say, not one of us
has dared to set a foot about the castle, but two together: so Diego and
I, thinking that my young lady might be in the great gallery, went up
there to look for her, and tell her your highness wanted something to
impart to her.”

“O blundering fools!” cried Manfred; “and in the meantime she has made
her escape, because you were afraid of goblins! Why, thou knave! she
left me in the gallery; I came from thence myself.”

“For all that, she may be there still for aught I know,” said Jaquez;
“but the devil shall have me before I seek her there again: poor Diego!
I do not believe he will ever recover it.”

“Recover what?” said Manfred; “am I never to learn what it is has
terrified these rascals? But I lose my time; follow me, slave; I will
see if she is in the gallery.”

“For Heaven’s sake, my dear good lord,” cried Jaquez, “do not go to the
gallery! Satan himself, I believe, is in the chamber next to the

Manfred, who hitherto had treated the terror of his servants as an idle
panic, was struck at this new circumstance. He recollected the
apparition of the portrait, and the sudden closing of the door at the
end of the gallery--his voice faltered, and he asked with disorder,
“What is in the great chamber?”

“My lord,” said Jaquez, “when Diego and I came into the gallery, he went
first, for he said he had more courage than I;--so, when we came into
the gallery, we found nobody. We looked under every bench and stool; and
still we found nobody.”

“Were all the pictures in their places?” said Manfred.

“Yes, my lord,” answered Jaquez; “but we did not think of looking behind

“Well, well,” said Manfred, “proceed.”

“When we came to the door of the great chamber,” continued Jaquez, “we
found it shut.”

“And could not you open it?” said Manfred.

“Oh yes, my lord; would to Heaven we had not!” replied he: “nay, it was
not I neither, it was Diego: he was grown foolhardy, and would go on,
though I advised him not: if ever I open a door that is shut again!”

“Trifle not,” said Manfred, shuddering, “but tell me what you saw in the
great chamber, on opening the door.”

“I! my lord!” said Jaquez, “I saw nothing: I was behind Diego; but I
heard the noise.”

“Jaquez,” said Manfred, in a solemn tone of voice; “tell me, I adjure
thee by the souls of my ancestors, what was it thou sawest? what was it
thou heardest?”

“It was Diego saw it, my lord, it was not I,” replied Jaquez; “I only
heard the noise. Diego had no sooner opened the door, than he cried out,
and ran back--I ran back too, and said, ‘Is it the ghost?’--‘The ghost!
no, no,’ said Diego, and his hair stood an end--‘it is a giant, I
believe: he is all clad in armour, for I saw his foot and part of his
leg, and they are as large as the helmet below in the court.’ As he said
these words, my lord, we heard a violent motion, and the rattling of
armour, as if the giant was rising, for Diego has told me since that he
believes the giant was lying down, for the foot and leg were stretched
at length on the floor. Before we could get to the end of the gallery,
we heard the door of the great chamber clap behind us, but we did not
dare turn back to see if the giant was following us--yet, now I think on
it, we must have heard him if he pursued us; but for Heaven’s sake, good
my lord, send for the chaplain, and have the castle exorcized, for, for
certain, it is enchanted.”

“Ay, pray do, my lord,” cried all the servants at once, “or we must
leave your highness’s service.”

“Peace, dotards!” said Manfred, “and follow me; I will know what all
this means.”

“We! my lord?” cried they, with one voice; “we would not go up to the
gallery for your highness’s revenue.”

The young peasant, who had stood silent, now spoke. “Will your
highness,” said he, “permit me to try this adventure? my life is of
consequence to nobody; I fear no bad angel, and have offended no good

“Your behaviour is above your seeming,” said Manfred, viewing him with
surprise and admiration: “hereafter I will reward your bravery; but
now,” continued he with a sigh, “I am so circumstanced, that I dare
trust no eyes but my own. However, I give you leave to accompany me.”

Manfred, when he first followed Isabella from the gallery, had gone
directly to the apartment of his wife, concluding the princess had
retired thither. Hippolita, who knew his step, rose with anxious
fondness to meet her lord, whom she had not seen since the death of her
son. She would have flown in a transport, mixed of joy and grief, to his
bosom, but he pushed her rudely off, and said, “Where is Isabella?”

“Isabella, my lord!” said the astonished Hippolita.

“Yes, Isabella,” cried Manfred imperiously; “I want Isabella.”

“My lord,” replied Matilda, who perceived how much his behaviour had
shocked her mother, “she has not been with us since your highness
summoned her to your apartment.”

“Tell me where she is,” said the prince; “I do not want to know where
she has been.”

“My good lord,” says Hippolita, “your daughter tells you the truth:
Isabella left us by your command, and has not returned since; but, my
good lord, compose yourself: retire to your rest; this dismal day has
disordered you. Isabella shall wait your orders in the morning.”

“What, then, you know where she is?” cried Manfred. “Tell me directly,
for I will not lose an instant; and you, woman,” speaking to his wife,
“order your chaplain to attend me forthwith.”

“Isabella,” said Hippolita, calmly, “is retired, I suppose to her
chamber: she is not accustomed to watch at this late hour. Gracious my
lord,” continued she, “let me know what has disturbed you. Has Isabella
offended you?”

“Trouble me not with questions,” said Manfred, “but tell me where she

“Matilda shall call her,” said the princess. “Sit down, my lord, and
resume your wonted fortitude.”

“What! art thou jealous of Isabella?” replied he, “that you wish to be
present at our interview?”

“Good heavens! my lord,” said Hippolita; “what is it your highness

“Thou wilt know ere many minutes are passed,” said the cruel prince.
“Send your chaplain to me, and wait my pleasure here.” At these words he
flung out of the room in search of Isabella, leaving the amazed ladies
thunderstruck with his words and frantic deportment, and lost in vain
conjectures on what he was meditating.

Manfred was now returning from the vault, attended by the peasant and a
few of his servants, whom he had obliged to accompany him. He ascended
the staircase without stopping, till he arrived at the gallery, at the
door of which he met Hippolita and her chaplain. When Diego had been
dismissed by Manfred, he had gone directly to the princess’s apartment
with the alarm of what he had seen. That excellent lady, who no more
than Manfred doubted of the reality of the vision, yet affected to treat
it as a delirium of the servants. Willing, however, to save her lord
from any additional shock, and prepared by a series of grief not to
tremble at any accession to it, she determined to make herself the first
sacrifice, if fate had marked the present hour for their destruction.
Dismissing the reluctant Matilda to her rest, who in vain sued for leave
to accompany her mother, and attended only by her chaplain, Hippolita
had visited the gallery and great chamber; and now, with more serenity
of soul than she had felt for many hours, she met her lord, and assured
him that the vision of the gigantic leg and foot was all a fable; and no
doubt an impression made by fear, and the dark and dismal hour of the
night, on the minds of his servants. She and the chaplain had examined
the chamber, and found everything in the usual order.

Manfred, though persuaded, like his wife, that the vision had been no
work of fancy, recovered a little from the tempest of mind into which so
many strange events had thrown him. Ashamed, too, of his inhuman
treatment of a princess, who returned every injury with new marks of
tenderness and duty, he felt returning love forcing itself into his
eyes; but not less ashamed of feeling remorse towards one against whom
he was inwardly meditating a yet more bitter outrage, he curbed the
yearnings of his heart, and did not dare to lean even towards pity. The
next transition of his soul was to exquisite villainy. Presuming on the
unshaken submission of Hippolita, he flattered himself that she would
not only acquiesce with patience to a divorce, but would obey, if it was
his pleasure, in endeavouring to persuade Isabella to give him her
hand--but ere he could indulge this horrid hope, he reflected that
Isabella was not to be found. Coming to himself, he gave orders that
every avenue to the castle should be strictly guarded, and charged his
domestics, on pain of their lives, to suffer nobody to pass out. The
young peasant to whom he spoke favourably, he ordered to remain in a
small chamber on the stairs, in which there was a pallet-bed, and the
key of which he took away himself, telling the youth he would talk with
him in the morning. Then dismissing his attendants, and bestowing a
sullen kind of half-nod on Hippolita, he retired to his own chamber.


Matilda, who, by Hippolita’s order, had retired to her apartment, was
ill-disposed to take any rest. The shocking fate of her brother had
deeply affected her. She was surprised at not seeing Isabella; but the
strange words which had fallen from her father, and his obscure menace
to the princess, his wife, accompanied by the most furious behaviour,
had filled her gentle mind with terror and alarm. She waited anxiously
for the return of Bianca, a young damsel that attended her, whom she had
sent to learn what was become of Isabella. Bianca soon appeared, and
informed her mistress of what she had gathered from the servants, that
Isabella was nowhere to be found. She related the adventure of the young
peasant who had been discovered in the vault, though with many simple
additions from the incoherent accounts of the domestics; and she dwelt
principally on the gigantic leg and foot which had been seen in the
gallery-chamber. This last circumstance had terrified Bianca so much,
that she was rejoiced when Matilda told her that she would not go to
rest, but would watch till the princess should rise.

The young princess wearied herself in conjectures on the flight of
Isabella, and on the threats of Manfred to her mother. “But what
business could he have so urgent with the chaplain?” said Matilda. “Does
he intend to have my brother’s body interred privately in the chapel?”

“Oh, madam,” said Bianca, “now I guess. As you are become his heiress,
he is impatient to have you married. He has always been raving for more
sons; I warrant he is now impatient for grandsons. As sure as I live,
madam, I shall see you a bride at last. Good madam, you won’t cast off
your faithful Bianca: you won’t put Donna Rossara over me, now you are a
great princess!”

“My poor Bianca,” said Matilda, “how fast your thoughts ramble! I a
great princess! What hast thou seen in Manfred’s behaviour since my
brother’s death that bespeaks any increase of tenderness to me? No,
Bianca; his heart was ever a stranger to me--but he is my father, and I
must not complain. Nay, if Heaven shuts my father’s heart against me, it
overpays my little merit in the tenderness of my mother.--O that dear
mother! Yes, Bianca, ’tis there I feel the rugged temper of Manfred. I
can support his harshness to me with patience; but it wounds my soul
when I am witness to his causeless severity towards her.”

“Oh, madam,” said Bianca, “all men use their wives so, when they are
weary of them.”

“And yet you congratulated me but now,” said Matilda, “when you fancied
my father intended to dispose of me!”

“I would have you a great lady,” replied Bianca, “come what will. I do
not wish to see you moped in a convent, as you would be if you had your
will, and if my lady, your mother, who knows that a bad husband is
better than no husband at all, did not hinder you.--Bless me! what noise
is that? St. Nicholas forgive me! I was but in jest.”

“It is the wind,” said Matilda, “whistling through the battlements in
the tower above. You have heard it a thousand times.”

“Nay,” said Bianca, “there was no harm neither in what I said: it is no
sin to talk of matrimony--and so, madam, as I was saying, if my Lord
Manfred should offer you a handsome young prince for a bridegroom, you
would drop him a curtsy, and tell him you would rather take the veil?”

“Thank Heaven! I am in no such danger,” said Matilda: “you know how many
proposals for me he has rejected.”

“And you thank him like a dutiful daughter, do you, madam?--but come,
madam; suppose to-morrow morning he was to send for you to the great
council-chamber, and there you should find at his elbow a lovely young
prince, with large black eyes, a smooth white forehead, and manly
curling locks like jet; in short, madam, a young hero resembling the
picture of the good Alfonso in the gallery, which you sit and gaze at
for hours together.”

“Do not speak lightly of that picture,” interrupted Matilda, sighing: “I
know the adoration with which I look at that picture is uncommon--but I
am not in love with a coloured panel. The character of that virtuous
prince, the veneration with which my mother has inspired me for his
memory, the orisons which, I know not why, she has enjoined me to pour
forth at his tomb, all have concurred to persuade me that, somehow or
other, my destiny is linked with something relating to him.”

“Lord, madam! how should that be?” said Bianca: “I have always heard
that your family was no way related to his; and I am sure I cannot
conceive why my lady, the princess, sends you in a cold morning or a
damp evening to pray at his tomb: he is no saint by the almanac. If you
must pray, why does she not bid you address yourself to our great St.
Nicholas? I am sure he is the saint I pray to for a husband.”

“Perhaps my mind would be less affected,” said Matilda, “if my mother
would explain her reasons to me; but it is the mystery she observes,
that inspires me with this--I know not what to call it. As she never
acts from caprice, I am sure there is some fatal secret at bottom--nay,
I know there is. In her agony of grief for my brother’s death she
dropped some words that intimated as much.”

“Oh, dear madam,” cried Bianca, “what were they?”

“No,” said Matilda, “if a parent lets fall a word, and wishes it
recalled, it is not for a child to utter it.”

“What! was she sorry for what she had said?” asked Bianca. “I am sure,
madam, you may trust me.”

“With my own little secrets, when I have any, I may,” said Matilda; “but
never with my mother’s. A child ought to have no ears or eyes, but as a
parent directs.”

“Well, to be sure, madam, you were born to be a saint,” said Bianca,
“and there is no resisting one’s vocation: you will end in a convent at
last. But there is my Lady Isabella would not be so reserved to me: she
will let me talk to her of young men; and when a handsome cavalier has
come to the castle, she has owned to me that she wished your brother
Conrad resembled him.”

“Bianca,” said the princess, “I do not allow you to mention my friend
disrespectfully. Isabella is of a cheerful disposition, but her soul is
as pure as virtue itself. She knows your idling, babbling humour, and
perhaps has now and then encouraged it, to divert melancholy, and
enliven the solitude in which my father keeps us.”

“Blessed Mary!” said Bianca, starting, “there it is again! Dear madam,
do you hear nothing? The castle is certainly haunted!”

“Peace!” said Matilda, “and listen! I did think I heard a voice--but it
must be fancy; your terrors, I suppose, have infected me.”

“Indeed! indeed! madam,” said Bianca, half weeping with agony, “I am
sure I heard a voice.”

“Does anybody lie in the chamber beneath?” said the princess.

“Nobody has dared to lie there,” answered Bianca, “since the great
astrologer, that was your brother’s tutor, drowned himself. For certain,
madam, his ghost and the young prince’s are now met in the chamber
below; for Heaven’s sake let us fly to your mother’s apartment!”

“I charge you not to stir,” said Matilda. “If they are spirits in pain,
we may ease their sufferings by questioning them. They can mean no hurt
to us, for we have not injured them; and if they should, shall we be
more safe in one chamber than in another? Reach me my beads; we will say
a prayer, and then speak to them.”

“Oh, dear lady, I would not speak to a ghost for the world,” cried
Bianca. As she said these words, they heard the casement of the little
chamber below Matilda’s open. They listened attentively, and in a few
minutes thought they heard a person sing, but could not distinguish the

“This can be no evil spirit,” said the princess, in a low voice: “it is
undoubtedly one of the family--open the window, and we shall know the

“I dare not, indeed, madam,” said Bianca.

“Thou art a very fool,” said Matilda, opening the window gently herself.
The noise that the princess made was, however, heard by the person
beneath, who stopped, and they concluded had heard the casement open.

“Is anybody below?” said the princess: “if there is, speak.”

“Yes,” said an unknown voice.

“Who is it?” said Matilda.

“A stranger,” replied the voice.

“What stranger?” said she, “and how didst thou come here at this unusual
hour, when all the gates of the castle are locked?”

“I am not here willingly,” answered the voice; “but pardon me, lady, if
I have disturbed your rest: I knew not that I was overheard. Sleep has
forsaken me: I left a restless couch, and came to waste the irksome
hours with gazing on the fair approach of morning, impatient to be
dismissed from this castle.”

“Thy words and accents,” said Matilda, “are of a melancholy cast: if
thou art unhappy, I pity thee. If poverty afflicts thee, let me know it:
I will mention thee to the princess, whose beneficent soul ever melts
for the distressed; and she will relieve thee.”

“I am, indeed, unhappy,” said the stranger, “and I know not what wealth
is; but I do not complain of the lot which Heaven has cast for me. I am
young and healthy and am not ashamed of owing my support to myself; yet
think me not proud, or that I disdain your generous offers. I will
remember you in my orisons, and I will pray for blessings on your
gracious self and your noble mistress--if I sigh, lady, it is for
others, not for myself.”

“Now I have it, madam,” said Bianca, whispering the princess. “This is
certainly the young peasant; and, by my conscience, he is in
love:--well, this is a charming adventure! Do, madam, let us sift him.
He does not know you, but takes you for one of my Lady Hippolita’s

“Art thou not ashamed, Bianca?” said the princess. “What right have we
to pry into the secrets of this young man’s heart? He seems virtuous and
frank, and tells us he is unhappy. Are those circumstances that
authorize us to make a property of him? How are we entitled to his

“Lord! madam, how little you know of love!” replied Bianca: “why, lovers
have no pleasure equal to talking of their mistress.”

“And would you have me become a peasant’s confidant?” said the princess.

“Well, then, let me talk to him,” said Bianca: “though I have the honour
of being your highness’s maid of honour, I was not always so great.
Besides, if love levels ranks, it raises them too: I have a respect for
a young man in love.”

“Peace, simpleton,” said the princess. “Though he said he was unhappy,
it does not follow that he must be in love. Think of all that has
happened to-day, and tell me, if there are no misfortunes but what love
causes.--Stranger,” resumed the princess, “if thy misfortunes have not
been occasioned by thy own fault, and are within the compass of the
Princess Hippolita’s power to redress, I will take upon me to answer
that she will be thy protectress. When thou art dismissed from this
castle, repair to holy Father Jerome, at the convent adjoining to the
church of St. Nicholas, and make thy story known to him, as far as thou
thinkest meet. He will not fail to inform the princess, who is the
mother of all that want her assistance. Farewell! It is not seemly for
me to hold further converse with a man at this unwonted hour.”

“May the saints guard thee, gracious lady!” replied the peasant; “but,
oh! if a poor and worthless stranger might presume to beg a minute’s
audience further--am I so happy?--the casement is not shut--might I
venture to ask----”

“Speak quickly,” said Matilda; “the morning dawns apace; should the
labourers come into the fields and perceive us--what wouldst thou ask?”

“I know not how--I know not if I dare,” said the young stranger,
faltering; “yet the humanity with which you have spoken to me
emboldens--lady, dare I trust you?”

“Heavens,” said Matilda, “what dost thou mean? with what wouldst thou
trust me?--speak boldly, if thy secret is fit to be entrusted to a
virtuous breast.”

“I would ask,” said the peasant, recollecting himself, “whether what I
have heard from the domestics is true, that the princess is missing from
the castle.”

“What imports it to thee to know?” replied Matilda: “thy first words
bespoke a prudent and becoming gravity. Dost thou come hither to pry
into the secrets of Manfred? Adieu. I have been mistaken in thee.”
Saying these words, she shut the casement hastily, without giving the
young man time to reply.

“I had acted more wisely,” said the princess to Bianca, with some
sharpness, “if I had let thee converse with this peasant: his
inquisitiveness seems of a piece with thy own.”

“It is not fit for me to argue with your highness,” replied Bianca; “but
perhaps the questions I should have put to him would have been more to
the purpose than those you have been pleased to ask him.”

“Oh, no doubt,” said Matilda; “you are a very discreet personage! may I
know what you would have asked him?”

“A bystander often sees more of the game than those that play,” answered
Bianca. “Does your highness think, madam, that his question about my
Lady Isabella was the result of mere curiosity? No, no, madam; there is
more in it than you great folks are aware of. Lopez told me, that all
the servants believe this young fellow contrived my Lady Isabella’s
escape--now, pray, madam, observe--you and I both know that my Lady
Isabella never much fancied the prince your brother--well, he is killed
just in the critical minute--I accuse nobody. A helmet falls from the
moon--so my lord, your father, says; but Lopez and all the servants say,
that this young spark is a magician, and stole it from Alfonso’s tomb.”

“Have done with this rhapsody of impertinence,” said Matilda.

“Nay, madam, as you please,” cried Bianca; “yet it is very particular,
though, that my Lady Isabella should be missing the very same day, and
that this young sorcerer should be found at the mouth of the
trap-door--I accuse nobody--but if my young lord came honestly by his

“Dare not, on thy duty,” said Matilda, “to breathe a suspicion on the
purity of my dear Isabella’s fame.”

“Purity or not purity,” said Bianca, “gone she is--a stranger is found
that nobody knows. You question him yourself. He tells you he is in
love, or unhappy, it is the same thing--nay, he owned he was unhappy
about others; and is anybody unhappy about another unless they are in
love with them? and at the very next word he asks innocently, poor soul,
if my Lady Isabella is missing.”

“To be sure,” said Matilda, “thy observations are not totally without
foundation; Isabella’s flight amazes me. The curiosity of the stranger
is very particular; yet Isabella never concealed a thought from me.”

“So she told you,” said Bianca, “to fish out your secrets; but who
knows, madam, but this stranger may be some prince in disguise? Do,
madam, let me open the window, and ask him a few questions.”

“No,” replied Matilda, “I will ask him myself: if he knows aught of
Isabella, he is not worthy that I should converse farther with him.” She
was going to open the casement, when they heard the bell ring at the
postern gate of the castle, which is on the right hand of the tower
where Matilda lay. This prevented the princess from renewing the
conversation with the stranger.

After continuing silent for some time, “I am persuaded,” said she to
Bianca, “that whatever be the cause of Isabella’s flight, it had no
unworthy motive. If this stranger was accessory to it, she must be
satisfied of his fidelity and worth. I observed, did not you, Bianca?
that his words were tinctured with an uncommon infusion of piety. It was
no ruffian’s speech: his phrases were becoming a man of gentle birth.”

“I told you, madam,” said Bianca, “that I was sure he was some prince in

“Yet,” said Matilda, “if he was privy to her escape how will you account
for his not accompanying her in her flight? Why expose himself
unnecessarily and rashly to my father’s resentment?”

“As for that, madam,” replied she, “if he could get from under the
helmet, he will find ways of eluding your father’s anger. I do not doubt
but he has some talisman or other about him.”

“You resolve everything into magic,” said Matilda; “but a man who has
any intercourse with infernal spirits does not dare to make use of those
tremendous and holy words which he uttered. Didst thou not observe with
what fervour he vowed to remember me to Heaven in his prayers? yes;
Isabella was undoubtedly convinced of his piety.”

“Commend me to the piety of a young fellow and a damsel that consult to
elope!” said Bianca. “No, no, madam; my Lady Isabella is of another
guess-mould than you take her for. She used, indeed, to sigh and lift up
her eyes in your company, because she knows you are a saint; but when
your back was turned----”

“You wrong her,” said Matilda. “Isabella is no hypocrite: she has a due
sense of devotion, but never affected a call she has not. On the
contrary, she always combated my inclination for the cloister; and
though I own the mystery she has made to me of her flight confounds
me--though it seems inconsistent with the friendship between us--I
cannot forget the disinterested warmth with which she always opposed my
taking the veil: she wished to see me married, though my dower would
have been a loss to her and my brother’s children. For her sake, I will
believe well of this young peasant.”

“Then you do think there is some liking between them?” said Bianca.
While she was speaking, a servant came hastily into the chamber, and
told the princess that the Lady Isabella was found.

“Where?” said Matilda.

“She has taken sanctuary in St. Nicholas’s church,” replied the servant:
“Father Jerome has brought the news himself; he is below with his

“Where is my mother?” said Matilda.

“She is in her own chamber, madam, and has asked for you.”

Manfred had risen at the first dawn of light, and gone to Hippolita’s
apartment, to inquire if she knew aught of Isabella. While he was
questioning her, word was brought that Jerome demanded to speak with
him. Manfred, little suspecting the cause of the friar’s arrival, and
knowing he was employed by Hippolita in her charities, ordered him to be
admitted, intending to leave them together, while he pursued his search
after Isabella.

“Is your business with me or the princess?” said Manfred.

“With both,” replied the holy man. “The Lady Isabella----”

“What of her?” interrupted Manfred, eagerly.

“Is at St. Nicholas’s altar,” replied Jerome.

“That is no business of Hippolita’s,” said Manfred with confusion: “let
us retire to my chamber, father, and inform me how she came thither.”

“No, my lord,” replied the good man with an air of firmness and
authority, that daunted even the resolute Manfred, who could not help
revering the saint-like virtues of Jerome, “my commission is to both;
and, with your highness’s good liking, in the presence of both, I shall
deliver it: but first, my lord, I must interrogate the princess, whether
she is acquainted with the cause of the Lady Isabella’s retirement from
your castle.”

“No, on my soul,” said Hippolita: “does Isabella charge me with being
privy to it?”

“Father,” interrupted Manfred, “I pay due reverence to your holy
profession; but I am sovereign here, and will allow no meddling priest
to interfere in the affairs of my domestic. If you have aught to say,
attend me to my chamber. I do not use to let my wife be acquainted with
the secret affairs of my state: they are not within a woman’s province.”

“My lord,” said the holy man, “I am no intruder into the secrets of
families. My office is to promote peace, to heal divisions, to preach
repentance, and teach mankind to curb their headstrong passions. I
forgive your highness’s uncharitable apostrophe: I know my duty, and am
the minister of a mightier prince than Manfred. Hearken to him who
speaks through my organs.”

Manfred trembled with rage and shame. Hippolita’s countenance declared
her astonishment and impatience to know where this would end: her
silence more strongly spoke her observance of Manfred.

“The Lady Isabella,” resumed Jerome, “commends herself to both your
highnesses: she thanks both for the kindness with which she has been
treated in your castle: she deplores the loss of your son, and her own
misfortune in not becoming the daughter of such wise and noble princes,
whom she shall always respect as parents: she prays for uninterrupted
union and felicity between you (Manfred’s colour changed); but, as it is
no longer possible for her to be allied to you, she entreats your
consent to remain in sanctuary till she can learn news of her father,
or, by the certainty of his death, be at liberty, by the approbation of
her guardians, to dispose of herself in suitable marriage.”

“I shall give no such consent,” said the prince; “but insist on her
return to the castle without delay: I am answerable for her person to
her guardians, and will not brook her being in any hands but my own.”

“Your highness will recollect whether that can any longer be proper,”
replied the friar.

“I want no monitor,” said Manfred, colouring: “Isabella’s conduct leaves
room for strange suspicions; and that young villain, who was at least
the accomplice of her flight, if not the cause of it----”

“The cause!” interrupted Jerome; “was a _young_ man the cause?”

“This is not to be borne!” cried Manfred. “Am I to be bearded in my own
palace by an insolent monk? thou art privy, I guess, to their amours.”

“I would pray to Heaven to clear up your uncharitable surmises,” said
Jerome, “if your highness were not satisfied in your conscience how
unjustly you accuse me. I do pray to Heaven to pardon that
uncharitableness; and I implore your highness to leave the princess at
peace in that holy place, where she is not liable to be disturbed by
such vain and worldly fantasies as discourses of love from any man.”

“Cant not to me,” said Manfred, “but return and bring the princess to
her duty.”

“It is my duty to prevent her return hither,” said Jerome. “She is where
orphans and virgins are safest from the snares and wiles of this world;
and nothing but a parent’s authority shall take her thence.”

“I am her parent,” cried Manfred, “and demand her.”

“She wished to have you for her parent,” said the friar: “but Heaven,
that forbade that connection, has for ever dissolved all ties betwixt
you: and I announce to your highness----”

“Stop! audacious man,” said Manfred, “and dread my displeasure.”

“Holy father,” said Hippolita, “it is your office to be no respecter of
persons: you must speak as your duty prescribes; but it is my duty to
hear nothing that it pleases not my lord I should hear. Attend the
prince to his chamber. I will retire to my oratory, and pray to the
blessed Virgin to inspire you with her holy counsels, and to restore the
heart of my gracious lord to its wonted peace and gentleness.”

“Excellent woman!” said the friar.--“My lord, I attend your pleasure.”

Manfred, accompanied by the friar, passed to his own apartment, where,
shutting the door, “I perceive, father,” said he, “that Isabella has
acquainted you with my purpose. Now hear my resolve, and obey. Reasons
of state, most urgent reasons, my own and the safety of my people,
demand that I should have a son. It is in vain to expect an heir from
Hippolita; I have made choice of Isabella. You must bring her back, and
you must do more. I know the influence you have with Hippolita: her
conscience is in your hands. She is, I allow, a faultless woman: her
soul is set on heaven, and scorns the little grandeur of this world: you
can withdraw her from it entirely. Persuade her to consent to the
dissolution of our marriage, and to retire into a monastery: she shall
endow one if she will; and shall have the means of being as liberal to
your order as she or you can wish. Thus you will divert the calamities
that are hanging over our heads, and have the merit of saving the
principality of Otranto from destruction. You are a prudent man, and,
though the warmth of my temper betrayed me into some unbecoming
expressions, I honour your virtue, and wish to be indebted to you for
the repose of my life and the preservation of my family.”

“The will of Heaven be done,” said the friar. “I am but its worthless
instrument. It makes use of my tongue to tell thee, prince, of thy
unwarrantable designs. The injuries of the virtuous Hippolita have
mounted to the throne of pity. By me thou art reprimanded for thy
adulterous intention of repudiating her: by me thou art warned not to
pursue the incestuous design on thy contracted daughter. Heaven, that
delivered her from thy fury, when the judgments so recently fallen on
thy house ought to have inspired thee with other thoughts, will continue
to watch over her. Even I, a poor and despised friar, am able to protect
her from thy violence. I, sinner as I am, and uncharitably reviled by
your highness as an accomplice of I know not what amours, scorn the
allurements with which it has pleased thee to tempt mine honesty. I love
my order; I honour devout souls; I respect the piety of thy princess;
but I will not betray the confidence she reposes in me, nor serve even
the cause of religion by foul and sinful compliances: but, forsooth, the
welfare of the state depends on your highness having a son! Heaven mocks
the short-sighted views of man. But yester-morn, whose house was so
great, so flourishing as Manfred’s? Where is young Conrad now? My lord,
I respect your tears, but I mean not to check them: let them flow,
prince! they will weigh more with Heaven towards the welfare of thy
subjects, than a marriage which, founded on lust or policy, could never
prosper. The sceptre which passed from the race of Alfonso to thine
cannot be preserved by a match which the Church will never allow. If it
is the will of the Most High that Manfred’s name must perish, resign
yourself, my lord, to its decrees; and thus deserve a crown that can
never pass away. Come, my lord, I like this sorrow; let us return to the
princess; she is not apprised of your cruel intentions; nor did I mean
more than to alarm you. You saw with what gentle patience, with what
efforts of love, she heard, she rejected hearing, the extent of your
guilt. I know she longs to fold you in her arms, and assure you of her
unalterable affection.”

“Father,” said the prince, “you mistake my compunction. True, I honour
Hippolita’s virtues; I think her a saint; and wish it were for my soul’s
health to tie faster the knot that has united us; but, alas, father, you
know not the bitterest of my pangs; it is some time that I have had
scruples on the legality of our union: Hippolita is related to me in the
fourth degree--it is true, we had a dispensation: but I have been
informed, that she had also been contracted to another. This it is that
sits heavy at my heart; to this state of unlawful wedlock I impute the
visitation that has fallen on me in the death of Conrad. Ease my
conscience of this burden, dissolve our marriage, and accomplish the
work of godliness which your divine exhortations have commenced in my

How cutting was the anguish which the good man felt, when he perceived
this turn in the wily prince! He trembled for Hippolita, whose ruin he
saw was determined; and he feared if Manfred had no hope of recovering
Isabella, that his impatience for a son would direct him to some other
object who might not be equally proof against the temptation of
Manfred’s rank. For some time the holy man remained absorbed in thought.
At length, conceiving some hopes from delay, he thought the wisest
conduct would be to prevent the prince from despairing of recovering
Isabella. Her the friar knew he could dispose, from her affection to
Hippolita, and from the aversion she had expressed to him for Manfred’s
addresses, to second his views till the censures of the Church could be
fulminated against a divorce. With this intention, as if struck with the
prince’s scruples, he at length said:

“My lord, I have been pondering on what your highness has said; and if
in truth it is delicacy of conscience that is the real motive of your
repugnance to your virtuous lady, far be it from me to endeavour to
harden your heart. The Church is an indulgent mother; unfold your griefs
to her; she alone can administer comfort to your soul, either by
satisfying your conscience, or, upon examination of your scruples, by
setting you at liberty, and indulging you in the lawful means of
continuing your lineage. In the latter case, if the Lady Isabella can be
brought to consent----”

Manfred, who concluded that he had either over-reached the good man, or
that his first warmth had been but a tribute paid to appearance, was
overjoyed at this sudden turn, and repeated the most magnificent
promises, if he should succeed by the friar’s mediation. The
well-meaning priest suffered him to deceive himself, fully determined to
traverse his views, instead of seconding them.

“Since we now understand one another,” resumed the prince, “I expect,
father, that you satisfy me in one point. Who is the youth that I found
in the vault? He must have been privy to Isabella’s flight. Tell me
truly, is he her lover? or is he an agent for another’s passion? I have
often suspected Isabella’s indifference to my son; a thousand
circumstances crowd on my mind that confirm that suspicion. She herself
was so conscious of it, that while I discoursed her in the gallery she
outran my suspicions, and endeavoured to justify herself from coolness
to Conrad.”

The friar, who knew nothing of the youth but what he had learnt
occasionally from the princess, ignorant what was become of him, and not
sufficiently reflecting on the impetuosity of Manfred’s temper,
conceived that it might not be amiss to sow the seeds of jealousy in his
mind: they might be turned to some use hereafter, either by prejudicing
the prince against Isabella, if he persisted in that union; or, by
diverting his attention to a wrong scent, and employing his thoughts on
a visionary intrigue, prevent his engaging in any new pursuit. With this
unhappy policy, he answered in a manner to confirm Manfred in the belief
of some connection between Isabella and the youth. The prince, whose
passions wanted little fuel to throw them into a blaze, fell into a rage
at the idea of what the friar had suggested.

“I will fathom to the bottom of this intrigue,” cried he; and quitting
Jerome abruptly, with a command to remain there till his return, he
hastened to the great hall of the castle, and ordered the peasant to be
brought before him.

“Thou hardened young impostor,” said the prince, as soon as he saw the
youth; “what becomes of thy boasted veracity now? It was Providence, was
it, and the light of the moon, that discovered the lock of the trap-door
to thee? Tell me, audacious boy, who thou art, and how long thou hast
been acquainted with the princess; and take care to answer with less
equivocation than thou didst last night, or tortures shall wring the
truth from thee.”

The young man, perceiving that his share in the flight of the princess
was discovered, and concluding that anything he should say could no
longer be of service or detriment to her, replied, “I am no impostor, my
lord, nor have I deserved opprobrious language. I answered to every
question your highness put to me last night with the same veracity that
I shall speak now; and that will not be from fear of your tortures, but
because my soul abhors a falsehood. Please to repeat your questions, my
lord; I am ready to give you all the satisfaction in my power.”

“You know my questions,” replied the prince, “and only want time to
prepare an evasion. Speak directly; who art thou, and how long hast thou
been known to the princess?”

“I am a labourer at the next village,” said the peasant; “my name is
Theodore. The princess found me in the vault last night; before that
hour I never was in her presence.”

“I may believe as much or as little as I please of this,” said Manfred;
“but I will hear thy own story, before I examine into the truth of it.
Tell me, what reason did the princess give thee for making her escape?
Thy life depends on thy answer.”

“She told me,” replied Theodore, “that she was on the brink of
destruction, and that if she could not escape from the castle, she was
in danger in a few moments of being made miserable for ever.”

“And on this slight foundation, on a silly girl’s report,” said Manfred,
“thou didst hazard my displeasure!”

“I fear no man’s displeasure,” said Theodore, “when a woman in distress
puts herself under my protection.”

During this examination Matilda was going to the apartment of Hippolita.
At the upper end of the hall, where Manfred sat, was a boarded gallery,
with latticed windows, through which Matilda and Bianca were to pass.
Hearing her father’s voice, and seeing the servants assembled round him,
she stopped to learn the occasion. The prisoner soon drew her attention:
the steady and composed manner in which he answered, and the gallantry
of his last reply, which were the first words she heard distinctly,
interested her in his favour. His person was noble, handsome, and
commanding, even in that situation, but his countenance soon engrossed
her whole care.

“Heavens! Bianca,” said the princess softly, “do I dream, or is not that
youth the exact resemblance of Alfonso’s picture in the gallery?” She
could say no more, for her father’s voice grew louder at every word.

“This bravado,” said he, “surpasses all thy former insolence. Thou shalt
experience the wrath with which thou darest to trifle. Seize him,”
continued Manfred, “and bind him--the first news the princess hears of
her champion shall be, that he has lost his head for her sake.”

“The injustice of which thou art guilty towards me,” said Theodore,
“convinces me that I have done a good deed in delivering the princess
from thy tyranny. May she be happy, whatever becomes of me!”

“This is a lover,” cried Manfred, in a rage; “a peasant within sight of
death is not animated by such sentiments. Tell me, tell me, rash boy,
who thou art, or the rack shall force thy secret from thee.”

“Thou hast threatened me with death already,” said the youth, “for the
truth I have told thee; if that is all the encouragement I am to expect
for sincerity, I am not tempted to indulge thy vain curiosity further.”

“Then thou wilt not speak?” said Manfred.

“I will not,” replied he.

“Bear him away into the court-yard,” said Manfred; “I will see his head
this instant severed from his body.”

Matilda fainted at hearing those words. Bianca shrieked and cried,
“Help, help! the princess is dead!” Manfred started at this ejaculation,
and demanded what was the matter. The young peasant, who heard it too,
was struck with horror, and asked eagerly the same question; but Manfred
ordered him to be hurried into the court, and kept there for execution,
till he had informed himself of the cause of Bianca’s shrieks. When he
learned the meaning, he treated it as a womanish panic, and ordering
Matilda to be carried to her apartment, he rushed into the court, and
calling for one of his guards, bade Theodore kneel down and prepare to
receive the fatal blow.

The undaunted youth received the bitter sentence with a resignation that
touched every heart but Manfred’s. He wished earnestly to know the
meaning of the words he had heard relating to the princess; but fearing
to exasperate the tyrant more against her, he desisted. The only boon he
deigned to ask was, that he might be permitted to have a confessor, and
make his peace with Heaven. Manfred, who hoped by the confessor’s means
to come at the youth’s history, readily granted his request; and being
convinced that Father Jerome was now in his interest, he ordered him to
be called and shrive the prisoner. The holy man, who had little foreseen
the catastrophe that his imprudence occasioned, fell on his knees to the
prince, and adjured him in the most solemn manner not to shed innocent
blood. He accused himself in the bitterest terms for his indiscretion,
endeavoured to exculpate the youth, and left no method untried to soften
the tyrant’s rage. Manfred, more incensed than appeased by Jerome’s
intercession, whose retraction now made him suspect he had been imposed
upon by both, commanded the friar to do his duty, telling him he would
not allow the prisoner many minutes for confession.

“Nor do I ask many, my lord,” said the unhappy young man. “My sins,
thank Heaven, have not been numerous; nor exceed what might be expected
at my years. Dry your tears, good father, and let us dispatch: this is a
bad world; nor have I had cause to leave it with regret.”

“Oh, wretched youth!” said Jerome, “how canst thou bear the sight of me
with patience? I am thy murderer! it is I have brought this dismal hour
upon thee!”

“I forgive thee from my soul,” said the youth, “as I hope Heaven will
pardon me. Hear my confession, father, and give me thy blessing.”

“How can I prepare thee for thy passage as I ought?” said Jerome. “Thou
canst not be saved without pardoning thy foes, and canst thou forgive
that impious man there?”

“I can,” said Theodore; “and do.”

“And does not this touch thee, cruel prince?” said the friar.

“I sent for thee to confess him,” said Manfred, sternly; “not to plead
for him. Thou didst first incense me against him; his blood be upon thy

“It will, it will!” said the good man, in an agony of sorrow. “Thou and
I must never hope to go where this blessed youth is going.”

“Dispatch,” said Manfred; “I am no more to be moved by the whining of
priests than by the shrieks of women.”

“What!” said the youth; “is it possible that my fate could have
occasioned what I heard? Is the princess, then, again in thy power?”

“Thou dost but remember me of my wrath,” said Manfred; “prepare thee,
for this moment is thy last.”

The youth, who felt his indignation rise, and who was touched with the
sorrow which he saw he had infused into all the spectators, as well as
into the friar, suppressed his emotions, and putting off his doublet,
and unbuttoning his collar, knelt down to his prayers. As he stooped,
his shirt slipped down below his shoulder, and discovered the mark of a
bloody arrow.

“Gracious Heaven!” cried the holy man, starting, “what do I see? It is
my child, my Theodore!”

The passions that ensued must be conceived; they cannot be painted. The
tears of the assistants were suspended by wonder, rather than stopped by
joy. They seemed to inquire into the eyes of their lord what they ought
to feel. Surprise, doubt, tenderness, respect, succeeded each other in
the countenance of the youth. He received with modest submission the
effusion of the old man’s tears and embraces; yet, afraid of giving a
loose to hope, and suspecting, from what had passed, the inflexibility
of Manfred’s temper, he cast a glance towards the prince, as if to say,
Canst thou be unmoved at such a scene as this?

Manfred’s heart was capable of being touched. He forgot his anger in his
astonishment; yet his pride forbade his owning himself affected. He even
doubted whether this discovery was not a contrivance of the friar to
save the youth. “What may this mean?” said he; “how can he be thy son?
Is it consistent with thy profession or reputed sanctity to avow a
peasant’s offspring for the fruit of thy irregular amours?”

“Oh God!” said the holy man, “dost thou question his being mine? Could I
feel the anguish I do, if I were not his father? Spare him, good prince!
spare him! and revile me as thou pleasest.”

“Spare him! spare him!” cried the attendants, “for this good man’s

“Peace!” said Manfred, sternly; “I must know, ere I am disposed to
pardon. A saint’s bastard may be no saint himself.”

“Injurious lord!” said Theodore; “add not insult to cruelty. If I am
this venerable man’s son, though no prince, as thou art, know, the blood
that flows in my veins----”

“Yes,” said the friar, interrupting him, “his blood is noble; nor is he
that abject thing, my lord, you speak him. He is my lawful son; and
Sicily can boast of few houses more ancient than that of Falconara--but,
alas! my lord, what is blood? what is nobility? We are all reptiles,
miserable, sinful creatures. It is piety alone that can distinguish us
from the dust whence we sprung, and whither we must return.”

“Truce to your sermon,” said Manfred; “you forget you are no longer
Friar Jerome, but the Count of Falconara. Let me know your history: you
will have time enough to moralize hereafter, if you should not happen to
obtain the grace of that sturdy criminal there.”

“Mother of God!” said the friar, “is it possible my lord can refuse a
father the life of his only, his long-lost child? Trample me, my lord,
scorn, afflict me, accept my life for his, but spare my son!”

“Thou canst feel, then,” said Manfred, “what it is to lose an only son!
A little hour ago thou didst preach up resignation to me: _my_ house, if
fate so pleased, must perish--but the Count of Falconara----”

“Alas! my lord,” said Jerome, “I confess I have offended; but aggravate
not an old man’s sufferings. I boast not of my family, nor think of such
vanities; it is nature that pleads for this boy; it is the memory of the
dear woman that bore him--is she, Theodore, is she dead?”

“Her soul has long been with the blessed,” said Theodore.

“Oh! how?” cried Jerome; “tell me--no--she is happy! Thou art all my
care now. Most dread lord! will you--will you grant me my poor boy’s

“Return to thy convent,” answered Manfred; “conduct the princess hither;
obey me in what else thou knowest, and I promise thee the life of thy

“Oh, my lord!” said Jerome, “is my honesty the price I must pay for this
dear youth’s safety?”

“For me!” cried Theodore; “let me die a thousand deaths, rather than
stain thy conscience. What is it the tyrant would exact of thee? Is the
princess still safe from his power? Protect her, thou venerable old man,
and let all the weight of his wrath fall on me.”

Jerome endeavoured to check the impetuosity of the youth; and ere
Manfred could reply, the trampling of horses was heard, and a brazen
trumpet, which hung without the gate of the castle, was suddenly
sounded. At the same instant the sable plumes on the enchanted helmet,
which still remained at the other end of the court, were tempestuously
agitated, and nodded thrice, as if bowed by some invisible wearer.


Manfred’s heart misgave him when he beheld the plumage on the miraculous
casque shaken in concert with the sounding of the brazen trumpet.
“Father,” said he to Jerome, whom he now ceased to treat as Count of
Falconara, “what mean these portents? If I have offended”--the plumes
were shaken with greater violence than before. “Unhappy prince that I
am!” cried Manfred. “Holy father, will you not assist me with your

“My lord,” replied Jerome, “Heaven is no doubt displeased with your
mockery of its servants. Submit yourself to the Church, and cease to
persecute her ministers. Dismiss this innocent youth, and learn to
respect the holy character I wear: Heaven will not be trifled with. You
see”--the trumpet sounded again.

“I acknowledge I have been too hasty,” said Manfred. “Father, do you go
to the wicket, and demand who is at the gate.”

“Do you grant me the life of Theodore?” replied the friar.

“I do,” said Manfred; “but inquire who is without.”

Jerome, falling on the neck of his son, discharged a flood of tears,
that spoke the fullness of his soul.

“You promised to go to the gate,” said Manfred.

“I thought,” replied the friar, “your highness would excuse my thanking
you first in this tribute of my heart.”

“Go, dearest sir,” said Theodore, “obey the prince; I do not deserve
that you should delay his satisfaction for me.”

Jerome, inquiring who was without, was answered, “A herald.”

“From whom?” said he.

“From the Knight of the Gigantic Sabre,” said the herald; “and I must
speak with the usurper of Otranto.”

Jerome returned to the prince, and did not fail to repeat the message in
the very words it had been uttered. The first sounds struck Manfred with
terror; but when he heard himself styled usurper, his rage rekindled,
and all his courage revived.

“Usurper!--insolent villain!” cried he; “who dares to question my title?
Retire, father; this is no business for monks: I will meet this
presumptuous man myself. Go to your convent, and prepare the princess’s
return; your son shall be a hostage for your fidelity: his life depends
on your obedience.”

“Good Heaven! my lord,” cried Jerome, “your highness did but this
instant freely pardon my child. Have you so soon forgot the
interposition of Heaven?”

“Heaven,” replied Manfred, “does not send heralds to question the title
of a lawful prince. I doubt whether it even notifies its will through
friars; but that is your affair, not mine. At present you know my
pleasure; and it is not a saucy herald that shall save your son, if you
do not return with the princess.”

It was in vain for the holy man to reply. Manfred commanded him to be
conducted to the postern gate, and shut out from the castle; and he
ordered some of his attendants to carry Theodore to the top of the Black
Tower, and guard him strictly, scarce permitting the father and son to
exchange a hasty embrace at parting. He then withdrew to the hall, and
seating himself in princely state, ordered the herald to be admitted to
his presence.

“Well, thou insolent!” said the prince, “what wouldst thou with me?”

“I come,” replied he, “to thee, Manfred, usurper of the principality of
Otranto, from the renowned and invincible knight, the Knight of the
Gigantic Sabre: in the name of his lord, Frederic Marquis of Vicenza, he
demands the Lady Isabella, daughter of that prince, whom thou hast
basely and traitorously got into thy power, by bribing her false
guardians during his absence; and he requires thee to resign the
principality of Otranto, which thou hast usurped from the said Lord
Frederic, the nearest of blood to the last rightful lord, Alfonso the
Good. If thou dost not instantly comply with these just demands, he
defies thee to single combat to the last extremity.” And so saying the
herald cast down his warder.

“And where is this braggart who sends thee?” said Manfred.

“At the distance of a league,” said the herald: “he comes to make good
his lord’s claim against thee, as he is a true knight, and thou an
usurper and ravisher.”

Injurious as this challenge was, Manfred reflected that it was not his
interest to provoke the marquis. He knew how well founded the claim of
Frederic was, nor was this the first time he had heard of it. Frederic’s
ancestors had assumed the style of Princes of Otranto, from the death of
Alfonso the Good without issue; but Manfred, his father, and
grandfather, had been too powerful for the house of Vicenza to
dispossess them. Frederic, a martial, amorous young prince, had married
a beautiful young lady, of whom he was enamoured, and who had died in
childbed of Isabella. Her death affected him so much, that he had taken
the cross and gone to the Holy Land, where he was wounded in an
engagement against the infidels, made prisoner, and reported to be dead.
When the news reached Manfred’s ears, he bribed the guardians of the
Lady Isabella to deliver her up to him as a bride for his son Conrad, by
which alliance he had proposed to unite the claims of the two houses.
This motive, on Conrad’s death, had co-operated to make him so suddenly
resolve on espousing her himself; and the same reflection determined him
now to endeavour at obtaining the consent of Frederic to this marriage.
A like policy inspired him with the thought of inviting Frederic’s
champion into his castle, lest he should be informed of Isabella’s
flight, which he strictly enjoined his domestics not to disclose to any
of the knight’s retinue.

“Herald,” said Manfred, as soon as he had digested these reflections,
“return to thy master, and tell him, ere we liquidate our differences by
the sword, Manfred would hold some converse with him. Bid him welcome to
my castle, where, by my faith, as I am a true knight, he shall have
courteous reception, and full security for himself and followers. If we
cannot adjust our quarrel by amicable means, I swear he shall depart in
safety, and shall have full satisfaction according to the laws of arms.
So help me God and his Holy Trinity!” The herald made three obeisances,
and retired.

During this interview, Jerome’s mind was agitated by a thousand contrary
passions. He trembled for the life of his son, and his first thought was
to persuade Isabella to return to the castle. Yet he was scarce less
alarmed at the thought of her union with Manfred. He dreaded Hippolita’s
unbounded submission to the will of her lord; and though he did not
doubt but he could alarm her piety not to consent to a divorce, if he
could get access to her, yet, should Manfred discover that the
obstruction came from him, it might be equally fatal to Theodore. He was
impatient to know whence came the herald, who, with so little
management, had questioned the title of Manfred; yet he did not dare
absent himself from the convent, lest Isabella should leave it, and her
flight be imputed to him. He returned disconsolately to the monastery,
uncertain on what conduct to resolve. A monk, who met him in the porch,
and observed his melancholy air, said, “Alas! brother, is it then true
that we have lost our excellent Princess Hippolita?”

The holy man started, and cried, “What meanest thou, brother? I came
this instant from the castle, and left her in perfect health.”

“Martelli,” replied the other friar, “passed by the convent but a
quarter of an hour ago, on his way from the castle, and reported that
her highness was dead. All our brethren are gone to the chapel to pray
for her happy transit to a better life, and willed me to wait thy
arrival. They know thy holy attachment to that good lady, and are
anxious for the affliction it will cause thee--indeed we have all reason
to weep; she was a mother to our house. But this life is but a
pilgrimage; we must not murmur--we shall all follow her: may our end be
like hers!”

“Good brother, thou dreamest,” said Jerome; “I tell thee I come from
the castle, and left the princess well:--where is the Lady Isabella?”

“Poor gentlewoman,” replied the friar, “I told her the sad news, and
offered her spiritual comfort; I reminded her of the transitory
condition of mortality, and advised her to take the veil: I quoted the
example of the holy Princess Sanchia of Arragon.”

“Thy zeal was laudable,” said Jerome, impatiently; “but at present it
was unnecessary. Hippolita is well--at least I trust in the Lord she is;
I heard nothing to the contrary--yet methinks, the prince’s
earnestness--well, brother, but where is the Lady Isabella?”

“I know not,” said the friar: “she wept much, and said she would retire
to her chamber.”

Jerome left his comrade abruptly, and hastened to the princess, but she
was not in her chamber. He inquired of the domestics of the convent, but
could learn no news of her. He searched in vain throughout the monastery
and the church, and dispatched messengers round the neighbourhood, to
get intelligence if she had been seen, but to no purpose. Nothing could
equal the good man’s perplexity. He judged that Isabella, suspecting
Manfred of having precipitated his wife’s death, had taken the alarm,
and withdrawn herself to some more secret place of concealment. This new
flight would probably carry the prince’s fury to the height. The report
of Hippolita’s death, though it seemed almost incredible, increased his
consternation; and though Isabella’s escape bespoke her aversion of
Manfred for a husband, Jerome could feel no comfort from it while it
endangered the life of his son. He determined to return to the castle,
and made several of his brethren accompany him, to attest his innocence
to Manfred, and, if necessary, join their intercessions with his for

The prince, in the meantime, had passed into the court, and ordered the
gates of the castle to be flung open for the reception of the stranger
knight and his train. In a few minutes the cavalcade arrived. First came
two harbingers with wands; next a herald, followed by two pages and two
trumpeters; then a hundred foot-guards. These were attended by as many
horse. After them fifty footmen, clothed in scarlet and black, the
colours of the knight; then a led horse. Two heralds on each side of a
gentleman on horseback, bearing a banner, with the arms of Vicenza and
Otranto quarterly--a circumstance that much offended Manfred, but he
stifled his resentment. Two more pages; the knight’s confessor telling
his beads; fifty more footmen clad as before; two knights habited in
complete armour, their beavers down, comrades to the principal knight;
the squires of the two knights, carrying their shields and devices; the
knight’s own squire; a hundred gentlemen bearing an enormous sword, and
seeming to faint under the weight of it. The knight himself, on a
chestnut steed, in complete armour, his lance in the rest, his face
entirely concealed by his visor, which was surmounted by a large plume
of scarlet and black feathers. Fifty foot-guards, with drums and
trumpets, closed the procession, which wheeled off to the right and
left, to make room for the principal knight.

As soon as he approached the gate, he stopped; and the herald,
advancing, read again the words of the challenge. Manfred’s eyes were
fixed on the gigantic sword, and he scarce seemed to attend to the
cartel; but his attention was soon diverted by a tempest of wind that
rose behind him: he turned, and beheld the plumes of the enchanted
helmet agitated in the same extraordinary manner as before. It required
intrepidity like Manfred’s not to sink under a concurrence of
circumstances that seemed to announce his fate. Yet, scorning in the
presence of strangers to betray the courage he had always manifested, he
said boldly:

“Sir Knight, whoever thou art, I bid thee welcome. If thou art of mortal
mould, thy valour shall meet its equal; and if thou art a true knight,
thou wilt scorn to employ sorcery to carry thy point. Be these omens
from heaven or hell, Manfred trusts to the righteousness of his cause,
and to the aid of St. Nicholas, who has ever protected his house.
Alight, Sir Knight, and repose thyself; to-morrow thou shalt have a fair
field; and Heaven befriend the juster side!”

The knight made no reply, but, dismounting, was conducted by Manfred to
the great hall of the castle. As they traversed the court, the knight
stopped to gaze on the miraculous casque; and, kneeling down, seemed to
pray inwardly for some minutes. Rising, he made a sign to the prince to
lead on. As soon as they entered the hall, Manfred proposed to the
stranger to disarm, but the knight shook his head in token of refusal.
“Sir Knight,” said Manfred, “this is not courteous: but by my good faith
I will not cross thee; nor shalt thou have cause to complain of the
Prince of Otranto. No treachery is designed on my part; I hope none is
intended on thine; here, take my gage,” giving him his ring, “your
friends and you shall enjoy the laws of hospitality. Rest here until
refreshments are brought; I will but give orders for the accommodation
of your train, and return to you.”

The three knights bowed, as accepting his courtesy. Manfred directed the
stranger’s retinue to be conducted to an adjacent hospital, founded by
the Princess Hippolita for the reception of pilgrims. As they made the
circuit of the court to return towards the gate, the gigantic sword
burst from the supporters, and falling to the ground opposite to the
helmet, remained immovable. Manfred, almost hardened to preternatural
appearances, surmounted the shock of this new prodigy; and returning to
the hall, where by this time the feast was ready, he invited his silent
guests to take their places. Manfred, however ill his heart was at ease,
endeavoured to inspire the company with mirth. He put several questions
to them, but was answered only by signs. They raised their visors but
sufficiently to feed themselves, and that but sparingly.

“Sirs,” said the prince, “ye are the first guests I ever treated within
these walls, who scorned to hold any intercourse with me; nor has it oft
been customary, I ween, for princes to hazard their state and dignity
against strangers and mutes. You say you come in the name of Frederic of
Vicenza; I have ever heard that he was a gallant and courteous knight;
nor would he, I am bold to say, think it beneath him to mix in social
converse with a prince who is his equal, and not unknown by deeds in
arms.--Still ye are silent--well, be it as it may, by the laws of
hospitality and chivalry, ye are masters under this roof: ye shall do
your pleasure--but come, give me a goblet of wine; ye will not refuse to
pledge me to the healths of your fair mistresses.” The principal knight
sighed and crossed himself, and was rising from the board. “Sir Knight,”
said Manfred, “what I said was but in sport; I shall constrain you in
nothing. Use your good liking; since mirth is not your mood, let us be
sad. Business may hit your fancies better; let us withdraw, and hear if
what I have to unfold may be better relished than the vain efforts I
have made for your pastime.”

Manfred then conducting the three knights into an inner chamber, shut
the door, and inviting them to be seated, began thus, addressing himself
to the chief personage:

“You come, Sir Knight, as I understand, in the name of the Marquis of
Vicenza, to re-demand the Lady Isabella, his daughter, who has been
contracted, in the face of Holy Church, to my son, by the consent of her
legal guardians; and to require me to resign my dominions to your lord,
who gives himself for the nearest of blood to Prince Alfonso, whose soul
God rest! I shall speak to the latter article of your demands first. You
must know, your lord knows, that I enjoy the principality of Otranto
from my father Don Manuel, as he received it from his father Don
Ricardo. Alfonso, their predecessor, dying childless in the Holy Land,
bequeathed his estates to my grandfather, Don Ricardo, in consideration
of his faithful services.”--The stranger shook his head.--“Sir Knight,”
said Manfred, warmly, “Ricardo was a valiant and upright man; he was a
pious man; witness his munificent foundation of the adjoining church and
two convents. He was peculiarly patronized by St. Nicholas--my
grandfather was incapable--I say, sir, Don Ricardo was incapable--excuse
me, your interruption has disordered me.--I venerate the memory of my
grandfather.--Well! sirs, he held this estate; he held it by his good
sword and by the favour of St. Nicholas--so did my father; and so, sirs,
will I, come what come will.--But Frederic, your lord, is nearest in
blood.--I have consented to put my title to the issue of the sword--does
that imply a vicious title?--I might have asked, where is Frederic, your
lord? Report speaks him dead in captivity. You say, your actions say, he
lives--I question it not--I might, sirs, I might, but I do not. Other
princes would bid Frederic take his inheritance by force, if he can:
they would not stake their dignity on a single combat: they would not
submit it to the decision of unknown mutes!--Pardon me, gentlemen, I am
too warm; but suppose yourselves in my situation: as ye are stout
knights, would it not move your choler to have your own and the honour
of your ancestors called in question?--But to the point: ye require me
to deliver up the Lady Isabella.--Sirs, I must ask if ye are authorized
to receive her?”--The knight nodded.--“Receive her!” continued Manfred;
“well, you are authorized to receive her--but, gentle knight, may I ask
if you have full powers?”--The knight nodded.--“’Tis well,” said
Manfred. “Then hear what I have to offer.--Ye see, gentlemen, before you
the most unhappy of men (he began to weep); afford me your compassion; I
am entitled to it; indeed I am. Know, I have lost my only hope, my joy,
the support of my house--Conrad died yester-morning.”--The knights
discovered signs of surprise.--“Yes, sirs, fate has disposed of my son.
Isabella is at liberty.”

“Do you then restore her?” cried the chief knight, breaking silence.

“Afford me your patience,” said Manfred. “I rejoice to find, by this
testimony of your good will, that this matter may be adjusted without
bloodshed. It is no interest of mine dictates what little I have farther
to say. Ye behold in me a man disgusted with the world; the loss of my
son has weaned me from earthly cares. Power and greatness have no longer
any charms in my eyes. I wished to transmit the sceptre I had received
from my ancestors with honour to my son--but that is over! Life itself
is so indifferent to me, that I accepted your defiance with joy: a good
knight cannot go to the grave with more satisfaction than when falling
in his vocation. Whatever is the will of Heaven I submit; for, alas!
sirs, I am a man of many sorrows. Manfred is no object of envy--but no
doubt you are acquainted with my story.”--The knight made signs of
ignorance, and seemed curious to have Manfred proceed.--“Is it possible,
sirs,” continued the prince, “that my story should be a secret to you?
Have you heard nothing relating to me and the Princess Hippolita?”--They
shook their heads.--“No! thus, then sirs, it is. You think me ambitious:
ambition alas! is composed of more rugged materials. If I were
ambitious, I should not for so many years have been a prey to all the
hell of conscientious scruples--but I weary your patience: I will be
brief. Know, then, that I have long been troubled in mind on my union
with the Princess Hippolita.--Oh, sirs, if ye were acquainted with that
excellent woman! if ye knew that I adore her like a mistress, and
cherish her as a friend--but man was not born of perfect happiness! She
shares my scruples, and with her consent I have brought this matter
before the Church, for we are related within the forbidden degrees. I
expect every hour the definitive sentence that must separate us for
ever--I am sure you feel for me--I see you do--pardon these tears!”--The
knights gazed on each other, wondering where this would end. Manfred
continued:--“The death of my son betiding while my soul was under this
anxiety, I thought of nothing but resigning my dominions, and retiring
for ever from the sight of mankind. My only difficulty was to fix on a
successor, who would be tender of my people, and to dispose of the Lady
Isabella, who is dear to me as my own blood. I was willing to restore
the line of Alfonso, even in his most distant kindred; and though,
pardon me, I am satisfied it was his will that Ricardo’s lineage should
take place of his own relations, yet where was I to search for those
relations? I knew of none but Frederic, your lord: he was a captive to
the infidels, or dead; and were he living, and at home, would he quit
the flourishing state of Vicenza for the inconsiderable principality of
Otranto? If he would not, could I bear the thought of seeing a hard
unfeeling viceroy set over my poor faithful people?--for, sirs, I love
my people, and, thank Heaven, am beloved by them. But ye will ask,
whither tends this long discourse? briefly, then, thus, sirs. Heaven in
your arrival seems to point out a remedy for these difficulties and my
misfortunes. The Lady Isabella is at liberty; I shall soon be so--I
would submit to anything for the good of my people--were it not the
best, the only way to extinguish the feuds between our families if I was
to take the Lady Isabella to wife--you start--but though Hippolita’s
virtues will ever be dear to me, a prince must not consider himself; he
is born for his people.”--A servant at that instant entering the
chamber, apprised Manfred that Jerome and several of his brethren
demanded immediate access to him.

The prince, provoked at this interruption, and fearing that the friar
would discover to the strangers that Isabella had taken sanctuary, was
going to forbid Jerome’s entrance. But recollecting that he was
certainly arrived to notify the princess’s return, Manfred began to
excuse himself to the knights for leaving them for a few moments, but
was prevented by the arrival of the friars. Manfred angrily reprimanded
them for their intrusion, and would have forced them back from the
chamber; but Jerome was too much agitated to be repulsed. He declared
aloud the flight of Isabella, with protestations of his own innocence.
Manfred, distracted at the news, and not less at its coming to the
knowledge of the strangers, uttered nothing but incoherent sentences,
now upbraiding the friar, now apologizing to the knights; earnest to
know what was become of Isabella, yet equally afraid of their knowing;
impatient to pursue her, yet dreading to have them join in the pursuit.
He offered to dispatch messengers in quest of her--but the chief knight,
no longer keeping silence, reproached Manfred in bitter terms for his
dark and ambiguous dealing, and demanded the cause of Isabella’s first
absence from the castle. Manfred, casting a stern look at Jerome,
implying a command of silence, pretended that on Conrad’s death he had
placed her in sanctuary until he could determine how to dispose of her.
Jerome, who trembled for his son’s life, did not dare contradict this
falsehood, but one of his brethren, not under the same anxiety, declared
frankly that she had fled to their church in the preceding night. The
prince in vain endeavoured to stop this discovery, which overwhelmed
him with shame and confusion. The principal stranger, amazed at the
contradictions he heard, and more than half persuaded that Manfred had
secreted the princess, notwithstanding the concern he expressed at her
flight, rushing to the door, said,--“Thou traitor-prince! Isabella shall
be found.” Manfred endeavoured to hold him, but the other knights
assisting their comrade, he broke from the prince, and hastened into the
court, demanding his attendants. Manfred, finding it vain to divert him
from the pursuit, offered to accompany him; and summoning his
attendants, and taking Jerome and some of the friars to guide them, they
issued from the castle; Manfred privately giving orders to have the
knight’s company secured, while to the knight he affected to dispatch a
messenger to require their assistance.

The company had no sooner quitted the castle, than Matilda, who felt
herself deeply interested for the young peasant, since she had seen him
condemned to death in the hall, and whose thoughts had been taken up
with concerting measures to save him, was informed by some of the female
attendants that Manfred had dispatched all his men various ways in
pursuit of Isabella. He had in his hurry given this order in general
terms, not meaning to extend it to the guard he had set upon Theodore,
but forgetting it. The domestics, officious to obey so peremptory a
prince, and urged by their own curiosity and love of novelty to join in
any precipitate chase, had to a man left the castle. Matilda disengaged
herself from her women, stole up to the Black Tower, and unbolting the
door, presented herself to the astonished Theodore. “Young man,” said
she, “though filial duty and womanly modesty condemn the step I am
taking, yet holy charity, surmounting all other ties, justifies this
act. Fly; the doors of thy prison are open; my father and his domestics
are absent; but they may soon return; begone in safety; and may the
angels of heaven direct thy course!”

“Thou art surely one of those angels!” said the enraptured Theodore:
“none but a blessed saint could speak, could act, could look like thee!
May I not know the name of my divine protectress? Methought thou namedst
thy father: is it possible? can Manfred’s blood feel holy pity? Lovely
lady, thou answerest not--but how art thou here thyself? why dost thou
neglect thy own safety, and waste a thought on a wretch like Theodore?
Let us fly together. The life thou bestowest shall be dedicated to thy

“Alas! thou mistakest,” said Matilda, sighing: “I am Manfred’s daughter,
but no dangers await me.”

“Amazement!” said Theodore; “but last night I blessed myself for
yielding thee the service thy gracious compassion so charitably returns
me now.”

“Still thou art in error,” said the princess; “but this is no time for
explanation. Fly, virtuous youth, while it is in my power to save thee.
Should my father return, thou and I both should indeed have cause to

“How?” said Theodore, “thinkest thou, charming maid, that I will accept
of life at the hazard of aught calamitous to thee? better I endure a
thousand deaths.”

“I run no risk,” said Matilda, “but by thy delay. Depart; it cannot be
known that I assisted thy flight.”

“Swear by the saints above,” said Theodore, “that thou canst not be
suspected; else here I vow to wait whatever can befall me.”

“Oh, thou art too generous,” said Matilda; “but rest assured that no
suspicion can alight on me.”

“Give me thy beauteous hand in token that thou dost not deceive me,”
said Theodore; “and let me bathe it with the warm tears of gratitude.”

“Forbear,” said the princess; “this must not be.”

“Alas!” said Theodore, “I have never known but calamity until this
hour--perhaps shall never know other fortune again: suffer the chaste
raptures of holy gratitude: ’tis my soul would print its effusions on
thy hand.”

“Forbear, and be gone,” said Matilda; “how would Isabella approve of
seeing thee at my feet?”

“Who is Isabella?” said the young man with surprise.

“Ah me! I fear,” said the princess, “I am serving a deceitful one;--hast
thou forgot thy curiosity this morning?”

“Thy looks, thy actions, all thy beauteous self, seem an emanation of
divinity,” said Theodore; “but thy words are dark and
mysterious:--speak, lady; speak to thy servant’s comprehension.”

“Thou understandest but too well!” said Matilda. “But once more, I
command thee to be gone: thy blood, which I may preserve, will be on my
head, if I waste the time in vain discourse.”

“I go, lady,” said Theodore, “because it is thy will, and because I
would not bring the grey hairs of my father with sorrow to the grave.
Say but, adored lady, that I have thy gentle pity.”

“Stay,” said Matilda; “I will conduct thee to the subterraneous vault by
which Isabella escaped; it will lead thee to the church of St. Nicholas,
where thou mayest take sanctuary.”

“What!” said Theodore, “was it another, and not thy lovely self, that I
assisted to find the subterraneous passage?”

“It was,” said Matilda; “but ask no more; I tremble to see thee still
abide here: fly to the sanctuary.”

“To sanctuary!” said Theodore; “no, princess, sanctuaries are for
helpless damsels, or for criminals. Theodore’s soul is free from guilt,
nor will wear the appearance of it. Give me a sword, lady, and thy
father shall learn that Theodore scorns an ignominious flight.”

“Rash youth!” said Matilda, “thou wouldst not dare to lift thy
presumptuous arm against the Prince of Otranto?”

“Not against thy father; indeed, I dare not,” said Theodore: “excuse me,
lady; I had forgotten--but could I gaze on thee, and remember thou art
sprung from the tyrant Manfred?--but he is thy father, and from this
moment my injuries are buried in oblivion.” A deep and hollow groan,
which seemed to come from above, startled the princess and Theodore.
“Good Heavens! we are overheard!” said the princess. They listened, but
perceived no farther noise: they both concluded it the effect of pent-up
vapours. And the princess, preceding Theodore softly, carried him to her
father’s armoury, where equipping him with a complete suit, he was
conducted by Matilda to the postern-gate.

“Avoid the town,” said the princess, “and all the western side of the
castle: ’tis there the search must be making by Manfred and the
strangers; but hie thee to the opposite quarter. Yonder, behind that
forest to the east, is a chain of rocks, hollowed into a labyrinth of
caverns that reach to the sea-coast. There thou mayest lie concealed
till thou canst make signs to some vessel to put on shore and take thee
off. Go; Heaven be thy guide!--and sometimes in thy prayers
remember--Matilda!” Theodore flung himself at her feet; and seizing her
lily hand, which with struggles she suffered him to kiss, he vowed on
the earliest opportunity to get himself knighted, and fervently
entreated her permission to swear himself eternally her knight. Ere the
princess could reply, a clap of thunder was suddenly heard that shook
the battlements. Theodore, regardless of the tempest, would have urged
his suit, but the princess, dismayed, retreated hastily into the castle,
and commanded the youth to be gone with an air that would not be
disobeyed. He sighed and retired, but with eyes fixed on the gate until
Matilda, closing it, put an end to an interview in which the hearts of
both had drunk so deeply of a passion, which both now tasted for the
first time.

Theodore went pensively to the convent, to acquaint his father with his
deliverance. There he learned the absence of Jerome, and the pursuit
that was making after the Lady Isabella, with some particulars of whose
story he now first became acquainted. The generous gallantry of his
nature prompted him to wish to assist her; but the monks could lend him
no lights to guess at the route she had taken. He was not tempted to
wander far in search of her, for the idea of Matilda had imprinted
itself so strongly on his heart, that he could not bear to absent
himself at much distance from her abode. The tenderness Jerome had
expressed for him concurred to confirm this reluctance; and he even
persuaded himself that filial affection was the chief cause of his
hovering between the castle and monastery, until Jerome should return at
night. Theodore at length determined to repair to the forest that
Matilda had pointed out to him. Arriving there, he sought the gloomiest
shades, as best suited to the pleasing melancholy that reigned in his
mind. In this mood he roved insensibly to the caves which had formerly
served as a retreat to hermits, and were now reported round the country
to be haunted by evil spirits. He recollected to have heard this
tradition; and being of a brave and adventurous disposition, he
willingly indulged his curiosity in exploring the secret recesses of
this labyrinth. He had not penetrated far before he thought he heard the
steps of some person who seemed to retreat before him. Theodore, though
firmly grounded in all our holy faith enjoins to be believed, had no
apprehension that good men were abandoned without cause to the malice of
the powers of darkness. He thought the place more likely to be infested
by robbers than by those infernal agents who are reported to molest and
bewilder travellers. He had long burned with impatience to approve his
valour: drawing his sabre, he marched sedately onwards, still directing
his steps, as the imperfect rustling round before him led the way. The
armour he wore was a like indication to the person who avoided him.
Theodore, now convinced that he was not mistaken, redoubled his pace,
and evidently gained on the person that fled, whose haste increasing,
Theodore came up just as a woman fell breathless before him. He hasted
to raise her; but her terror was so great that he apprehended she would
faint in his arms. He used every gentle word to dispel her alarms, and
assured her that, far from injuring, he would defend her at the peril of
his life. The lady recovering her spirits from his courteous demeanour,
and gazing on her protector, said, “Sure, I have heard that voice

“Not to my knowledge,” replied Theodore, “unless, as I conjecture, thou
art the Lady Isabella.”

“Merciful Heaven!” cried she, “thou art not sent in quest of me, art
thou?” And saying these words she threw herself at his feet, and
besought him not to deliver her up to Manfred.

“To Manfred!” cried Theodore; “no, lady, I have once already delivered
thee from his tyranny, and it shall fare hard with me now, but I will
place thee out of the reach of his daring.”

“Is it possible,” said she, “that thou shouldst be the generous unknown
whom I met last night in the vault of the castle? Sure thou art not a
mortal, but my guardian angel. On my knees let me thank----”

“Hold, gentle princess,” said Theodore, “nor demean thyself before a
poor and friendless young man. If Heaven has selected me for thy
deliverer, it will accomplish its work, and strengthen my arm in thy
cause: but come, lady, we are too near the mouth of the cavern; let us
seek its inmost recesses; I can have no tranquillity till I have placed
thee beyond the reach of danger.”

“Alas, what mean you, sir?” said she. “Though all your actions are
noble, though your sentiments speak the purity of your soul, is it
fitting that I should accompany you alone in these perplexed retreats?
should we be found together, what would a censorious world think of my

“I respect your virtuous delicacy,” said Theodore; “nor do you harbour a
suspicion that wounds my honour. I meant to conduct you into the most
private cavity of these rocks, and then, at the hazard of my life, to
guard their entrance against every living thing. Besides, lady,”
continued he, drawing a deep sigh, “beauteous and all perfect as your
form is, and though my wishes are not guiltless of aspiring, know, my
soul is dedicated to another; and although----” A sudden noise prevented
Theodore from proceeding. They soon distinguished these sounds,
“Isabella! what ho! Isabella!”

The trembling princess relapsed into her former agony of fear. Theodore
endeavoured to encourage her, but in vain. He assured her he would
rather die than suffer her to return under Manfred’s power, and begging
her to remain concealed, he went forth to prevent the person in search
of her from approaching.

At the mouth of the cavern he found an armed knight discoursing with a
peasant, who assured him he had seen a lady enter the passes of the
rock. The knight was preparing to seek her, when Theodore, placing
himself in his way, with his sword drawn, sternly forbade him at his
peril to advance.

“And who art thou who darest to cross my way?” said the knight

“One who does not dare more than he will perform,” said Theodore.

“I seek the Lady Isabella,” said the knight, “and understand she has
taken refuge among these rocks. Impede me not, or thou wilt repent
having provoked my resentment.”

“Thy purpose is as odious as thy resentment is contemptible,” said
Theodore: “return whence thou camest, or we shall soon know whose
resentment is most terrible.”

The stranger, who was the principal knight that had arrived from the
Marquis of Vicenza, had galloped from Manfred as he was busied in
getting information of the princess, and giving various orders to
prevent her falling into the power of the three knights. Their chief had
suspected Manfred of being privy to the princess’s absconding; and this
insult from a man who, he concluded, was stationed by that prince to
secrete her, confirming his suspicions, he made no reply, but
discharging a blow with his sabre at Theodore, would soon have removed
all obstruction, if Theodore, who took him for one of Manfred’s
captains, and who had no sooner given the provocation than he prepared
to support it, had not received the stroke on his shield. The valour
that had so long been smothered in his breast broke forth at once; he
rushed impetuously on the knight, whose pride and wrath were not less
powerful incentives to hardy deeds. The combat was furious, but not
long: Theodore wounded the knight in three several places, and at last
disarmed him, as he fainted by the loss of blood. The peasant, who had
fled on the first onset, had given the alarm to some of Manfred’s
domestics, who, by his orders, were dispersed through the forest in
pursuit of Isabella. They came up as the knight fell, whom they soon
discovered to be the noble stranger. Theodore, notwithstanding his
hatred to Manfred, could not behold the victory he had gained without
emotions of pity and generosity. But he was more touched when he learned
the quality of his adversary, and was informed that he was no retainer,
but an enemy of Manfred. He assisted the servants of the latter in
disarming the knight, and in endeavouring to stanch the blood that
flowed from his wounds. The knight recovering his speech, said, in a
faint and faltering voice, “Generous foe, we have both been in an error:
I took thee for an instrument of the tyrant: I perceive thou hast made
the like mistake: it is too late for excuses--I faint--if Isabella is at
hand, call her; I have important secrets to----”

“He is dying,” said one of the attendants; “has nobody a crucifix about
them? Andrea, do thou pray over him.”

“Fetch some water,” said Theodore, “and pour it down his throat, while I
hasten to the princess.” Saying this, he flew to Isabella, and in few
words told her modestly, that he had been so unfortunate by mistake as
to wound a gentleman from her father’s court, who wished, ere he died,
to impart something of consequence to her. The princess, who had been
transported at hearing the voice of Theodore, as he called to her to
come forth, was astonished at what she heard. Suffering herself to be
conducted by Theodore, the new proof of whose valour recalled her
dispersed spirits, she came where the bleeding knight lay speechless on
the ground--but her fears returned when she beheld the domestics of
Manfred. She would again have fled, if Theodore had not made her observe
that they were unarmed, and had not threatened them with instant death
if they should dare to seize the princess. The stranger, opening his
eyes, and beholding a woman, said, “Art thou--pray tell me truly--art
thou Isabella of Vicenza?”

“I am,” said she. “Good Heaven restore thee!”

“Then thou----then thou----” said the knight, struggling for utterance,
“seest--thy father. Give me one----”

“Oh, amazement! horror! what do I hear? what do I see?” cried Isabella.
“My father! you my father! how came you here, sir? for Heaven’s sake
speak!--Oh, run for help, or he will expire!”

“’Tis most true,” said the wounded knight, exerting all his force; “I am
Frederic thy father--yes, I came to deliver thee--it will not be--give
me a parting kiss, and take----”

“Sir,” said Theodore, “do not exhaust yourself: suffer us to convey you
to the castle.”

“To the castle!” said Isabella; “is there no help nearer than the
castle? would you expose my father to the tyrant? if he goes thither, I
cannot accompany him--and yet, can I leave him?”

“My child,” said Frederic, “it matters not to me whither I am carried:
a few minutes will place me beyond danger--but while I have eyes to dote
on thee, forsake me not, dear Isabella! This brave knight, I know not
who he is, will protect thy innocence.--Sir, you will not abandon my
child, will you?”

Theodore, shedding tears over his victim, and vowing to guard the
princess at the expense of his life, persuaded Frederic to suffer
himself to be conducted to the castle. They placed him on a horse
belonging to one of the domestics, after binding up his wounds as well
as they were able. Theodore marched by his side, and the afflicted
Isabella, who could not bear to quit him, followed mournfully behind.


The sorrowful troop no sooner arrived at the castle than they were met
by Hippolita and Matilda, whom Isabella had sent one of the domestics
before to advertise of their approach. The ladies, causing Frederic to
be conveyed into the nearest chamber, retired, while the surgeons
examined his wounds. Matilda blushed at seeing Theodore and Isabella
together; but endeavoured to conceal it by embracing the latter, and
condoling with her on her father’s mischance. The surgeons soon came to
acquaint Hippolita that none of the marquis’s wounds were dangerous, and
that he was desirous of seeing his daughter and the princesses.
Theodore, under pretence of expressing his joy at being freed from his
apprehensions of the combat being fatal to Frederic, could not resist
the impulse of following Matilda. Her eyes were so often cast down on
meeting his, that Isabella, who regarded Theodore as attentively as he
gazed on Matilda, soon divined who the object was that he had told her
in the cave engaged his affections. While this mute scene passed,
Hippolita demanded of Frederic the cause of his having taken that
mysterious course for reclaiming his daughter; and threw in various
apologies to excuse her lord for the match contracted between their
children. Frederic, however incensed against Manfred, was not insensible
to the courtesy and benevolence of Hippolita; but he was still more
struck with the lovely form of Matilda. Wishing to detain them by his
bedside, he informed Hippolita of his story. He told her, that, while
prisoner to the infidel, he had dreamed that his daughter, of whom he
had learned no news since his captivity, was detained in a castle,
where she was in danger of the most dreadful misfortunes; and that if he
obtained his liberty, and repaired to a wood near Joppa, he would learn
more. Alarmed at this dream, and incapable of obeying the direction
given by it, his chains became more grievous than ever. But while his
thoughts were occupied on the means of obtaining his liberty, he
received the agreeable news that the confederate princes, who were
warring in Palestine, had paid his ransom. He instantly set out for the
wood that had been marked in his dream. For three days he and his
attendants had wandered in the forest without seeing a human form; but
on the evening of the third they came to a cell, in which they found a
venerable hermit in the agonies of death. Applying rich cordials, they
brought the saint-like man to his speech. “My sons,” said he, “I am
bounden to your charity--but it is in vain--I am going to my eternal
rest--yet I die with the satisfaction of performing the will of Heaven.
When first I repaired to this solitude, after seeing my country become a
prey to unbelievers--it is, alas! above fifty years since I was witness
to that dreadful scene--St. Nicholas appeared to me, and revealed a
secret, which he bade me never disclose to mortal man, but on my
death-bed. This is that tremendous hour, and ye are no doubt the chosen
warriors to whom I was ordered to reveal my trust. As soon as ye have
done the last offices to this wretched corse, dig under the seventh tree
on the left hand of this poor cave, and your pains will---- Oh, good
Heaven, receive my soul!” With those words the devout man breathed his

“By break of day,” continued Frederic, “when we had committed the holy
relics to earth, we dug according to direction; but what was our
astonishment, when, about the depth of six feet, we discovered an
enormous sabre--the very weapon yonder in the court. On the blade, which
was then partly out of the scabbard, though since closed by our efforts
in removing it, were written the following lines--no; excuse me, madam,”
added the marquis, turning to Hippolita, “if I forbear to repeat them: I
respect your sex and rank, and would not be guilty of offending your ear
with sounds injurious to aught that is dear to you.”

He paused--Hippolita trembled. She did not doubt but Frederic was
destined by Heaven to accomplish the fate that seemed to threaten her
house. Looking with anxious fondness at Matilda, a silent tear stole
down her cheek; but recollecting herself, she said, “Proceed, my lord,
Heaven does nothing in vain; mortals must receive its divine behests
with lowliness and submission. It is our part to deprecate its wrath, or
bow to its decrees. Repeat the sentence, my lord; we listen resigned.”

Frederic was grieved that he had proceeded so far. The dignity and
patient firmness of Hippolita penetrated him with respect; and the
tender, silent affection with which the princess and her daughter
regarded each other melted him almost to tears. Yet apprehensive that
his forbearance to obey would be more alarming, he repeated, in a
faltering and low voice, the following lines:

    Where’er a casque that suits this sword is found,
    With perils is thy daughter compass’d round;
    Alfonso’s blood alone can save the maid,
    And quiet a long-restless prince’s shade.

“What is there in these lines,” said Theodore, impatiently, “that
affects these princesses? Why were they to be shocked by a mysterious
delicacy, that has so little foundation?”

“Your words are rude, young man,” said the marquis; “and though fortune
has favoured you once----”

“My honoured lord,” said Isabella, who resented Theodore’s warmth, which
she perceived was dictated by his sentiments for Matilda, “discompose
not yourself for the glozing of a peasant’s son: he forgets the
reverence he owes you; but he is not accustomed----”

Hippolita, concerned at the heat that had arisen, checked Theodore for
his boldness, but with an air acknowledging his zeal; and changing the
conversation, demanded of Frederic where he had left her lord?

As the marquis was going to reply, they heard a noise without, and
rising to inquire the cause, Manfred, Jerome, and part of the troop, who
had met an imperfect rumour of what had happened, entered the chamber.
Manfred advanced hastily towards Frederic’s bed to condole with him on
his misfortune, and to learn the circumstances of the combat, when,
starting in an agony of terror and amazement, he cried:

“Ah! what art thou? Thou dreadful spectre! Is my hour come?”

“My dearest, gracious lord,” cried Hippolita, clasping him in her arms,
“what is it you see? Why do you fix your eyeballs thus?”

“What,” cried Manfred, breathless, “dost thou see nothing, Hippolita?
Is this ghastly phantom sent to me alone--to me, who did not----”

“For mercy’s sweetest self, my lord,” said Hippolita, “resume your soul,
command your reason; there are none here, but us, your friends.”

“What, is not that Alfonso?” cried Manfred; “dost thou not see him? Can
it be my brain’s delirium?”

“This! my lord,” said Hippolita: “this is Theodore, the youth who has
been so unfortunate.”

“Theodore,” said Manfred mournfully, and striking his
forehead--“Theodore, or a phantom, he has unhinged the soul of Manfred.
But how comes he here? and how comes he in armour?”

“I believe he went in search of Isabella,” said Hippolita.

“Of Isabella,” said Manfred, relapsing into rage. “Yes, yes, that is not
doubtful--but how did he escape from durance, in which I left him? Was
it Isabella, or this hypocritical old friar, that procured his

“And would a parent be criminal, my lord,” said Theodore, “if he
meditated the deliverance of his child?”

Jerome, amazed to hear himself in a manner accused by his son, and
without foundation, knew not what to think. He could not comprehend how
Theodore had escaped--how he came to be armed, and to encounter
Frederic. Still he would not venture to ask any questions that might
tend to inflame Manfred’s wrath against his son. Jerome’s silence
convinced Manfred that he had contrived Theodore’s release.

“And is it thus, thou ungrateful old man,” said the prince, addressing
himself to the friar, “that thou repayest mine and Hippolita’s bounties?
And not content with traversing my heart’s nearest wishes, thou armest
thy bastard, and bringest him into my own castle to insult me!”

“My lord,” said Theodore, “you wrong my father: nor he nor I are capable
of harbouring a thought against your peace. Is it insolence thus to
surrender myself to your highness’s pleasure?” added he, laying his
sword respectfully at Manfred’s feet. “Behold my bosom; strike, my lord,
if you suspect that a disloyal thought is lodged there. There is not a
sentiment engraven on my heart that does not venerate you and yours.”

The grace and fervour with which Theodore uttered these words interested
every person present in his favour. Even Manfred was touched; yet still
possessed with his resemblance to Alfonso, his admiration was dashed
with secret horror.

“Rise,” said he; “thy life is not my present purpose. But tell me thy
history, and how thou camest connected with this old traitor here.”

“My lord----” said Jerome, eagerly.

“Peace! impostor,” said Manfred; “I will not have him prompted.”

“My lord,” said Theodore, “I want no assistance: my story is very brief.
I was carried at five years of age to Algiers with my mother, who had
been taken by corsairs from the coast of Sicily. She died of grief in
less than a twelvemonth.” The tears gushed from Jerome’s eyes, on whose
countenance a thousand anxious passions stood expressed. “Before she
died,” continued Theodore, “she bound a writing about my arm under my
garments, which told me I was the son of the Count Falconara.”

“It is most true,” said Jerome; “I am that wretched father.”

“Again I enjoin thee silence,” said Manfred. “Proceed.”

“I remained in slavery,” said Theodore, “until within these two years;
when, attending on my master in his cruises, I was delivered by a
Christian vessel which overpowered the pirate; and discovering myself to
the captain, he generously put me on shore in Sicily:--but, alas!
instead of finding a father, I learned that his estate, which was
situated on the coast, had, during his absence, been laid waste by the
rover, who had carried my mother and me into captivity; that his castle
had been burnt to the ground, and that my father, on his return, had
sold what remained, and was retired into religion in the kingdom of
Naples, but where, no man could inform me. Destitute and friendless,
hopeless almost of attaining the transport of a parent’s embrace, I took
the first opportunity of setting sail for Naples; from whence, within
these six days, I wandered into this province, still supporting myself
by the labour of my hands: nor until yester-morn did I believe that
Heaven had reserved any lot for me but peace of mind and contented
poverty. This, my lord, is Theodore’s story. I am blessed beyond my hope
in finding a father; I am unfortunate beyond my desert in having
incurred your highness’s displeasure.”

He ceased. A murmur of approbation gently arose from the audience.

“This is not all,” said Frederic: “I am bound in honour to add what he
suppresses. Though he is modest, I must be generous--he is one of the
bravest youths on Christian ground. He is warm too; and from the short
knowledge I have of him, I will pledge myself for his veracity; if what
he reports of himself were not true, he would not utter it.--And for me,
youth, I honour a frankness which becomes thy birth. But now, and thou
didst offend me; yet the noble blood which flows in thy veins may well
be allowed to boil out, when it has so recently traced itself to its
source.--Come, my lord,” turning to Manfred, “if I can pardon him,
surely you may: it is not the youth’s fault, if you took him for a

This bitter taunt galled the soul of Manfred. “If beings from another
world,” replied he haughtily, “have power to impress my mind with awe,
it is more than living man can do: nor could a stripling’s arm----”

“My lord,” interrupted Hippolita, “your guest has occasion for repose:
shall we not leave him to his rest?” Saying this, and taking Manfred by
the hand, she took leave of Frederic, and led the company forth. The
prince, not sorry to quit a conversation which recalled to mind the
discovery he had made of his most secret sensations, suffered himself to
be conducted to his own apartment, after permitting Theodore, though
under engagement to return to the castle on the morrow (a condition the
young man gladly accepted), to retire with his father to the convent.
Matilda and Isabella were too much occupied with their own reflections,
and too little content with each other, to wish for farther converse
that night. They separated, each to her chamber, with more expressions
of ceremony and fewer of affection than had passed between them since
their childhood.

If they parted with small cordiality, they did but meet with greater
impatience, as soon as the sun was risen. Their minds were in a
situation that excluded sleep, and each recollected a thousand questions
which she wished she had put to the other overnight. Matilda reflected
that Isabella had been twice delivered by Theodore in very critical
situations, which she could not believe accidental. His eyes, it was
true, had been fixed on her in Frederic’s chamber; but that might have
been to disguise his passion for Isabella from the fathers of both. It
were better to clear this up. She wished to know the truth, lest she
should wrong her friend by entertaining a passion for Isabella’s lover.
Thus jealousy prompted, and at the same time borrowed, an excuse from
friendship to justify its curiosity.

Isabella, not less restless, had better foundation for her suspicions.
Both Theodore’s tongue and eyes had told her his heart was engaged--it
was true--yet perhaps Matilda might not correspond to his passion; she
had ever appeared insensible to love: all her thoughts were set on
heaven. “Why did I dissuade her?” said Isabella to herself: “I am
punished for my generosity; but when did they meet? where? It cannot be.
I have deceived myself; perhaps last night was the first time they
beheld each other; it must be some other object that has prepossessed
his affections. If it is, I am not so unhappy as I thought; if it is not
my friend Matilda--how! can I stoop to wish for the affection of a man
who rudely and unnecessarily acquainted me with his indifference? and
that at the very moment in which common courtesy demanded at least
expressions of civility? I will go to my dear Matilda, who will confirm
me in this becoming pride--man is false--I will advise with her on
taking the veil: she will rejoice to find me in this disposition; and I
will acquaint her that I no longer oppose her inclination for the
cloister.” In this frame of mind, and determined to open her heart
entirely to Matilda, she went to that princess’s chamber, whom she found
already dressed, and leaning pensively on her arm. This attitude, so
correspondent to what she felt herself, revived Isabella’s suspicions,
and destroyed the confidence she had purposed to place in her friend.
They blushed at meeting, and were too much novices to disguise their
sensations with address. After some unmeaning questions and replies,
Matilda demanded of Isabella the cause of her flight. The latter, who
had almost forgotten Manfred’s passion, so entirely was she occupied by
her own, concluding that Matilda referred to her last escape from the
convent, which had occasioned the events of the preceding evening,
replied, “Martelli brought word to the convent that your mother was

“Oh!” said Matilda, interrupting her, “Bianca has explained that mistake
to me: on seeing me faint, she cried, ‘The princess is dead’; and
Martelli, who had come for the usual dole to the castle----”

“And what made you faint?” said Isabella, indifferent to the rest.

Matilda blushed, and stammered, “My father--he was sitting in judgment
on a criminal.”

“What criminal?” said Isabella, eagerly.

“A young man,” said Matilda:--“I believe--I think it was that young man

“What, Theodore?” said Isabella.

“Yes,” answered she; “I never saw him before; I do not know how he had
offended my father--but as he has been of service to you, I am glad my
lord has pardoned him.”

“Served me!” replied Isabella; “do you term it serving me, to wound my
father, and almost occasion his death? Though it is but since yesterday
that I am blessed with knowing a parent, I hope Matilda does not think I
am such a stranger to filial tenderness as not to resent the boldness of
that audacious youth, and that it is impossible for me ever to feel any
affection for one who dared to lift his arm against the author of my
being. No, Matilda, my heart abhors him; and if you still retain the
friendship for me that you have vowed from your infancy, you will detest
the man who has been on the point of making me miserable for ever.”

Matilda held down her head, and replied, “I hope my dearest Isabella
does not doubt her Matilda’s friendship: I never beheld that youth until
yesterday; he is almost a stranger to me: but as the surgeons have
pronounced your father out of danger, you ought not to harbour
uncharitable resentment against one, who, I am persuaded, did not know
the marquis was related to you.”

“You plead his cause very pathetically,” said Isabella, “considering he
is so much a stranger to you! I am mistaken, or he returns your

“What mean you?” said Matilda.

“Nothing,” said Isabella, repenting that she had given Matilda a hint of
Theodore’s inclination for her. Then, changing the discourse, she asked
Matilda what occasioned Manfred to take Theodore for a spectre?

“Bless me,” said Matilda, “did you not observe his extreme resemblance
to the portrait of Alfonso in the gallery? I took notice of it to Bianca
even before I saw him in armour; but with the helmet on he is the very
image of that picture.”

“I do not much observe pictures,” said Isabella: “much less have I
examined this young man so attentively as you seem to have done. Ah,
Matilda, your heart is in danger; but let me warn you as a friend--he
has owned to me that he is in love; it cannot be with you, for yesterday
was the first time you ever met--was it not?”

“Certainly,” replied Matilda; “but why does my dearest Isabella conclude
from anything I have said, that”--she paused--then continuing: “he saw
you first, and I am far from having the vanity to think that my little
portion of charms could engage a heart devoted to you--may you be happy,
Isabella, whatever is the fate of Matilda!”

“My lovely friend,” said Isabella, whose heart was too honest to resist
a kind expression, “it is you that Theodore admires; I saw it; I am
persuaded of it; nor shall a thought of my own happiness suffer me to
interfere with yours.” This frankness drew tears from the gentle
Matilda; and jealousy, that for a moment had raised a coolness between
these amiable maidens, soon gave way to the natural sincerity and
candour of their souls. Each confessed to the other the impression that
Theodore had made on her; and this confidence was followed by a struggle
of generosity, each insisting on yielding her claim to her friend. At
length the dignity of Isabella’s virtue reminding her of the preference
which Theodore had almost declared for her rival, made her determine to
conquer her passion, and cede the beloved object to her friend.

During this contest of amity, Hippolita entered her daughter’s chamber.

“Madam,” said she to Isabella, “you have so much tenderness for Matilda,
and interest yourself so kindly in whatever affects our wretched house,
that I can have no secrets with my child which are not proper for you to
hear.” The princesses were all attention and anxiety.

“Know then, madam,” continued Hippolita, “and you, my dearest Matilda,
that being convinced by all the events of these two last ominous days
that Heaven purposes the sceptre of Otranto should pass from Manfred’s
hands into those of the Marquis Frederic; I have been perhaps inspired
with the thought of averting our total destruction by the union of our
rival houses. With this view I have been proposing to Manfred, my lord,
to tender this dear, dear child to Frederic your father.”

“Me to Lord Frederic!” cried Matilda. “Good heavens! my gracious mother,
and have you named it to my father?”

“I have,” said Hippolita: “he listened benignly to my proposal, and is
gone to break it to the marquis.”

“Ah! wretched princess,” cried Isabella, “what hast thou done? what ruin
has thy inadvertent goodness been preparing for thyself, for me, and for

“Ruin from me, to you, and to my child!” said Hippolita; “what can this

“Alas!” said Isabella, “the purity of your own heart prevents your
seeing the depravity of others. Manfred, your lord, that impious

“Hold!” said Hippolita, “you must not, in my presence, young lady,
mention Manfred with disrespect; he is my lord and husband, and----”

“Will not long be so,” said Isabella, “if his wicked purposes can be
carried into execution.”

“This language amazes me,” said Hippolita. “Your feeling, Isabella, is
warm: but until this hour I never knew it betray you into intemperance.
What deed of Manfred authorizes you to treat him as a murderer, an

“Thou virtuous, and too credulous princess!” replied Isabella; “it is
not thy life he aims at--it is to separate himself from thee! to divorce
thee! to----”

“To divorce me!”--“To divorce my mother!” cried Hippolita and Matilda at

“Yes,” said Isabella; “and, to complete his crime, he meditates--I
cannot speak it!”

“What can surpass what thou hast already uttered?” said Matilda.

Hippolita was silent. Grief choked her speech; and the recollection of
Manfred’s late ambiguous discourses confirmed what she heard.

“Excellent, dear lady!--madam! mother!” cried Isabella, flinging herself
at Hippolita’s feet in a transport of passion; “trust me, believe me, I
will die a thousand deaths sooner than consent to injure you, than yield
to so odious----”

“Oh, this is too much!” cried Hippolita. “What crimes does one crime
suggest! Rise, dear Isabella; I do not doubt your virtue. Oh, Matilda,
this stroke is too heavy for thee! weep not, my child; and not a murmur,
I charge thee. Remember, he is _thy_ father still!”

“But you are my mother, too,” said Matilda, fervently; “and _you_ are
virtuous, _you_ are guiltless! Oh, must not I, must not I complain?”

“You must not,” said Hippolita; “come, all will be well. Manfred, in the
agony for the loss of thy brother, knew not what he said; perhaps
Isabella misunderstood him: his heart is good--and, my child, thou
knowest not all. There is a destiny hangs over us: the hand of
Providence is stretched out. Oh, could I but save thee from the
wreck.--Yes,” continued she, in a firmer tone, “perhaps the sacrifice
of myself may atone for all; I will go and offer myself to this
divorce--it boots not what becomes of me. I will withdraw into the
neighbouring monastery, and waste the remainder of life in prayers and
tears for my child and--the prince.”

“Thou art as much too good for this world,” said Isabella, “as Manfred
is execrable--but think not, lady, that thy weakness shall determine for
me. I swear, hear me all ye angels----”

“Stop, I adjure thee,” cried Hippolita: “remember thou dost not depend
on thyself; thou hast a father----”

“My father is too pious, too noble,” interrupted Isabella, “to command
an impious deed. But should he command it; can a father enjoin a cursed
act? I was contracted to the son, can I wed the father?--No, madam, no;
force should not drag me to Manfred’s hated bed. I loathe him, I abhor
him: divine and human laws forbid; and, my friend, my dearest Matilda,
would I wound her tender soul by injuring her adored mother? my own
mother--I never have known another.”

“Oh, she is the mother of both,” cried Matilda: “can we, can we,
Isabella, adore her too much?”

“My lovely children,” said the touched Hippolita, “your tenderness
overpowers me; but I must not give way to it. It is not ours to make
election for ourselves; Heaven, our fathers, and our husbands, must
decide for us. Have patience until you hear what Manfred and Frederic
have determined. If the marquis accepts Matilda’s hand, I know she will
readily obey. Heaven may interpose and prevent the rest. What means my
child?” continued she, seeing Matilda fall at her feet with a flood of
speechless tears.--“But no; answer me not, my daughter; I must not hear
a word against the pleasure of thy father.”

“Oh, doubt not my obedience, my dreadful obedience to him and to you!”
said Matilda. “But can I, most respected of women, can I experience all
this tenderness, this world of goodness, and conceal a thought from the
best of mothers?”

“What art thou going to utter?” said Isabella, trembling. “Recollect
thyself, Matilda.”

“No, Isabella,” said the princess, “I should not deserve this
incomparable parent, if the inmost recesses of my soul harboured a
thought without her permission--nay, I have offended her; I have
suffered a passion to enter my heart without her avowal; but here I
disclaim it; here I vow to Heaven and her----”

“My child! my child!” said Hippolita, “what words are these? what new
calamities has fate in store for us? Thou, a passion! Thou, in this hour
of destruction!”

“Oh, I see all my guilt,” said Matilda. “I abhor myself, if I cost my
mother a pang: she is the dearest thing I have on earth. Oh, I will
never, never behold him more!”

“Isabella,” said Hippolita, “thou art conscious to this unhappy secret,
whatever it is. Speak!”

“What!” cried Matilda, “have I so forfeited my mother’s love, that she
will not permit me even to speak my own guilt? Oh, wretched, wretched

“Thou art too cruel,” said Isabella to Hippolita; “canst thou behold
this anguish of a virtuous mind, and not commiserate it?”

“Not pity my child!” said Hippolita, catching Matilda in her arms. “Oh,
I know she is good; she is all virtue, all tenderness and duty. I do
forgive thee, my excellent, my only hope!”

The princesses then revealed to Hippolita their mutual inclination for
Theodore, and the purpose of Isabella to resign him to Matilda.
Hippolita blamed their imprudence, and showed them the improbability
that either father would consent to bestow his heiress on so poor a man,
though nobly born. Some comfort it gave her to find their passion of so
recent a date, and that Theodore had had but little cause to suspect it
in either. She strictly enjoined them to avoid all correspondence with
him. This Matilda fervently promised; but Isabella, who flattered
herself that she meant no more than to promote his union with her
friend, could not determine to avoid him, and made no reply.

“I will go to the convent,” said Hippolita, “and order new masses to be
said for a deliverance from these calamities.”

“Oh, my mother,” said Matilda, “you mean to quit us: you mean to take
sanctuary, and to give my father an opportunity of pursuing his fatal
intentions. Alas! on my knees I supplicate you to forbear: will you
leave me a prey to Frederic? I will follow you to the convent.”

“Be at peace, my child,” said Hippolita; “I will return instantly. I
will never abandon thee, until I know it is the will of Heaven, and for
thy benefit.”

“Do not deceive me,” said Matilda. “I will not marry Frederic until thou
commandest it. Alas! what will become of me?”

“Why that exclamation?” said Hippolita. “I have promised thee to

“Ah, my mother,” replied Matilda; “stay and save me from myself. A
frown from thee can do more than all my father’s severity. I have given
away my heart, and you alone can make me recall it.”

“No more,” said Hippolita: “thou must not relapse, Matilda.”

“I can quit Theodore,” said she, “but must I wed another? Let me attend
thee to the altar, and shut myself from the world for ever.”

“Thy fate depends on thy father,” said Hippolita: “I have ill bestowed
my tenderness, if it has taught thee to revere aught beyond him. Adieu!
my child, I go to pray for thee.”

Hippolita’s real purpose was to demand of Jerome, whether in conscience
she might not consent to the divorce. She had oft urged Manfred to
resign the principality, which the delicacy of her conscience rendered
an hourly burden to her. These scruples concurred to make the separation
from her husband appear less dreadful to her, than it would have seemed
in any other situation.

Jerome, at quitting the castle overnight, had questioned Theodore
severely why he had accused him to Manfred of being privy to his escape.
Theodore owned it had been with design to prevent Manfred’s suspicion
from alighting on Matilda; and added, the holiness of Jerome’s life and
character secured him from the tyrant’s wrath. Jerome was heartily
grieved to discover his son’s inclination for that princess; and leaving
him to his rest, promised in the morning to acquaint him with important
reasons for conquering his passion. Theodore, like Isabella, was too
recently acquainted with parental authority to submit to its decisions
against the impulse of his heart. He had little curiosity to learn the
friar’s reasons, and less disposition to obey them. The lovely Matilda
had made stronger impressions on him than filial affection. All night he
pleased himself with visions of love; and it was not till late after the
morning office that he recollected the friar’s commands to attend him at
Alfonso’s tomb.

“Young man,” said Jerome, when he saw him, “this tardiness does not
please me. Have a father’s commands already so little weight?”

Theodore made awkward excuses, and attributed his delay to having
overslept himself.

“And on whom were thy dreams employed?” said the friar sternly. His son
blushed. “Come, come,” resumed the friar, “inconsiderate youth, this
must not be; eradicate this guilty passion from thy breast.”

“Guilty passion!” cried Theodore: “can guilt dwell with innocent beauty
and virtuous modesty?”

“It is sinful,” replied the friar, “to cherish those whom Heaven has
doomed to destruction. A tyrant’s race must be swept from the earth to
the third and fourth generation.”

“Will Heaven visit the innocent for the crimes of the guilty?” said
Theodore. “The fair Matilda has virtues enough----”

“To undo thee,” interrupted Jerome. “Hast thou so soon forgotten that
twice the savage Manfred has pronounced thy sentence?”

“Nor have I forgotten, sir,” said Theodore, “that the charity of his
daughter delivered me from his power. I can forget injuries, but never

“The injuries thou hast received from Manfred’s race,” said the friar,
“are beyond what thou canst conceive. Reply not, but view this holy
image! Beneath this marble monument rest the ashes of the good Alfonso;
a prince adorned with every virtue; the father of his people; the
delight of mankind! Kneel, headstrong boy, and list, while a father
unfolds a tale of horror, that will expel every sentiment from thy soul,
but sensations of sacred vengeance. Alfonso! much injured prince! let
thy unsatisfied shade sit awful on the troubled air, while these
trembling lips----Ha! who comes there?”

“The most wretched of women,” said Hippolita, entering the choir. “Good
father, art thou at leisure? but why this kneeling youth? What means the
horror imprinted on each countenance? Why at this venerable tomb?--alas!
hast thou seen aught?”

“We were pouring forth our orisons to Heaven,” replied the friar, with
some confusion, “to put an end to the woes of this deplorable province.
Join with us, lady: thy spotless soul may obtain an exemption from the
judgments which the portents of these days but too speakingly denounce
against thy house.”

“I pray fervently to Heaven to divert them,” said the pious princess.
“Thou knowest it has been the occupation of my life to wrest a blessing
for my lord and my harmless children. One, alas! is taken from me; would
Heaven but hear me for my poor Matilda! Father, intercede for her.”

“Every heart will bless her!” cried Theodore with rapture.

“Be dumb, rash youth,” said Jerome. “And thou, fond princess, contend
not with the powers above. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away:
bless His holy name, and submit to His decrees.”

“I do most devoutly,” said Hippolita; “but will He not spare my only
comfort? Must Matilda perish too?--Ah, father, I came--but dismiss thy
son. No ear but thine must hear what I have to utter.”

“May Heaven grant thy every wish, most excellent princess!” said
Theodore, retiring. Jerome frowned.

Hippolita then acquainted the friar with a proposal she had suggested to
Manfred, his approbation of it, and the tender of Matilda that he was
gone to make to Frederic. Jerome could not conceal his dislike of the
motion, which he covered under pretence of the improbability that
Frederic, the nearest of blood to Alfonso, and who was come to claim his
succession, would yield to an alliance with the usurper of his right.
But nothing could equal the perplexity of the friar, when Hippolita
confessed her readiness not to oppose the separation, and demanded his
opinion on the legality of her acquiescence. The friar catched eagerly
at her request of his advice; and without explaining his aversion to the
proposed marriage of Manfred and Isabella, he painted to Hippolita, in
the most alarming colours, the sinfulness of her consent, denounced
judgments against her if she complied, and enjoined her, in the severest
terms, to treat any such proposition with every mark of indignation and

Manfred, in the meantime, had broken his purpose to Frederic, and
proposed the double marriage. That weak prince, who had been struck with
the charms of Matilda, listened but too eagerly to the offer. He forgot
his enmity to Manfred, whom he saw but little hope of dispossessing by
force; and flattering himself that no issue might succeed from the union
of his daughter with the tyrant, he looked upon his own succession to
the principality as facilitated by wedding Matilda. He made faint
opposition to the proposal; affecting, for form only, not to acquiesce
unless Hippolita should consent to the divorce. Manfred took that upon
himself. Transported with his success, and impatient to see himself in a
situation to expect sons, he hastened to his wife’s apartment,
determined to extort her compliance. He learned with indignation that
she was absent at the convent. His guilt suggested to him that she had
probably been informed by Isabella of his purpose. He doubted whether
her retirement to the convent did not import an intention of remaining
there, until she could raise obstacles to their divorce; and the
suspicions he had already entertained of Jerome made him apprehend that
the friar would not only traverse his views, but might have inspired
Hippolita with the resolution of taking sanctuary. Impatient to unravel
this clue, and to defeat its success, Manfred hastened to the convent,
and arrived there, as the friar was earnestly exhorting the princess
never to yield to the divorce.

“Madam,” said Manfred, “what business drew you hither? why did you not
await my return from the marquis?”

“I came to implore a blessing on your councils,” replied Hippolita.

“My councils do not need a friar’s intervention,” said Manfred; “and of
all men living is that hoary traitor the only one whom you delight to
confer with?”

“Profane prince!” said Jerome; “is it at the altar thou choosest to
insult the servants of the altar?--but, Manfred, thy impious schemes are
known. Heaven and this virtuous lady know them:--nay, frown not, prince.
The Church despises thy menaces. Her thunders will be heard above thy
wrath. Dare to proceed in thy cursed purpose of a divorce, until her
sentence be known, and here I launch her anathema at thy head.”

“Audacious rebel!” said Manfred, endeavouring to conceal the awe with
which the friar’s words inspired him; “dost thou presume to threaten thy
lawful prince?”

“Thou art no lawful prince,” said Jerome; “thou art no prince:--go,
discuss thy claim with Frederic; and when that is done----”

“It is done,” replied Manfred: “Frederic accepts Matilda’s hand, and is
content to waive his claim, unless I have no male issue.”--As he spoke
those words, three drops of blood fell from the nose of Alfonso’s
statue. Manfred turned pale, and the princess sunk on her knees.

“Behold!” said the friar; “mark this miraculous indication that the
blood of Alfonso will never mix with that of Manfred!”

“My gracious lord,” said Hippolita, “let us submit ourselves to Heaven.
Think not thy ever obedient wife rebels against thy authority. I have no
will but that of my lord and the Church. To that revered tribunal let us
appeal. It does not depend on us to burst the bonds that unite us. If
the Church shall approve the dissolution of our marriage, be it so--I
have but few years, and those of sorrow, to pass. Where can they be worn
away so well as at the foot of this altar, in prayers for thine and
Matilda’s safety?”

“But thou shalt not remain here until then,” said Manfred. “Repair with
me to the castle, and there I will advise on the proper measures for a
divorce. But this meddling friar comes not thither: my hospitable roof
shall nevermore harbour a traitor--and for thy reverence’s offspring,”
continued he, “I banish him from my dominions. He, I ween, is no sacred
personage, nor under the protection of the Church. Whoever weds
Isabella, it shall not be Father Falconara’s started-up son.”

“They start up,” said the friar, “who are suddenly beheld in the seat of
lawful princes; but they wither away like the grass, and their place
knows them no more.”

Manfred, casting a look of scorn at the friar, led Hippolita forth; but
at the door of the church whispered one of his attendants to remain
concealed about the convent, and bring him instant notice if any one
from the castle should repair thither.


Every reflection which Manfred made on the friar’s behaviour conspired
to persuade him that Jerome was privy to an amour between Isabella and
Theodore. But Jerome’s new presumption, so dissonant from his former
meekness, suggested still deeper apprehensions. The prince even
suspected that the friar depended on some secret support from Frederic,
whose arrival coinciding with the novel appearance of Theodore seemed to
bespeak a correspondence. Still more was he troubled with the
resemblance of Theodore to Alfonso’s portrait. The latter he knew had
unquestionably died without issue. Frederic had consented to bestow
Isabella on him. These contradictions agitated his mind with numberless
pangs. He saw but two methods of extricating himself from his
difficulties. The one was to resign his dominions to the
marquis.--Pride, ambition, and his reliance on ancient prophecies, which
had pointed out a possibility of his preserving them to his posterity,
combated that thought. The other was to press his marriage with
Isabella. After long ruminating on these anxious thoughts, as he marched
silently with Hippolita to the castle, he at last discoursed with that
princess on the subject of his disquiet, and used every insinuating and
plausible argument to extract her consent to, even her promise of
promoting, the divorce. Hippolita needed little persuasions to bend her
to his pleasure. She endeavoured to win him over to the measure of
resigning his dominions; but finding her exhortations fruitless she
assured him, that, as far as her conscience would allow, she would raise
no opposition to a separation, though without better founded scruples
than what he yet alleged she would not engage to be active in demanding

This compliance, though inadequate, was sufficient to raise Manfred’s
hopes. He trusted that his power and wealth would easily advance his
suit at the court of Rome, whither he resolved to engage Frederic to
take a journey on purpose. That prince had discovered so much passion
for Matilda, that Manfred hoped to obtain all he wished by holding out
or withdrawing his daughter’s charms, according as the marquis should
appear more or less disposed to co-operate in his views. Even the
absence of Frederic would be a material point gained, until he could
take further measures for his security.

Dismissing Hippolita to her apartment, he repaired to that of the
marquis; but crossing the great hall, through which he was to pass, he
met Bianca. The damsel he knew was in the confidence of both the young
ladies. It immediately occurred to him to sift her on the subject of
Isabella and Theodore. Calling her aside into the recess of the oriel
window of the hall, and soothing her with many fair words and promises,
he demanded of her whether she knew aught of the state of Isabella’s

“I! my lord! no, my lord--yes, my lord--poor lady! she is wonderfully
alarmed about her father’s wounds! but I tell her he will do well; don’t
your highness think so?”

“I do not ask you,” replied Manfred, “what she thinks about her father;
but you are in her secrets. Come, be a good girl, and tell me; is there
any young man--ha!--you understand me.”

“Lord bless me! understand your highness, no, not I: I told her a few
vulnerary herbs and repose----”

“I am not talking,” replied the prince, impatiently, “about her father;
I know he will do well.”

“Bless me, I rejoice to hear your highness say so; for though I thought
it not right to let my young lady despond, methought his greatness had a
wan look, and a something--I remember when young Ferdinand was wounded
by the Venetian----”

“Thou answerest from the point,” interrupted Manfred; “but here, take
this jewel, perhaps that may fix thy attention; nay, no reverences: my
favour shall not stop here:--come, tell me truly, how stands Isabella’s

“Well, your highness has such a way!” said Bianca, “to be sure; but can
your highness keep a secret? if it should ever come out of your

“It shall not, it shall not,” cried Manfred.

“Nay, but swear, your highness. By my halidame, if it should ever be
known that I said it--why, truth is truth, I do not think my Lady
Isabella ever much affectioned my young lord, your son--yet he was a
sweet youth, as one should see. I am sure, if I had been a princess--but
bless me! I must attend my Lady Matilda; she will marvel what is become
of me.”

“Stay!” cried Manfred, “thou hast not satisfied my question. Hast thou
ever carried any message, any letter?”

“I! good gracious!” cried Bianca; “I carry a letter? I would not to be a
queen. I hope your highness thinks, though I am poor, I am honest--did
your highness never hear what Count Marsigli offered me when he came
a-wooing to my Lady Matilda?”

“I have not leisure,” said Manfred, “to listen to thy tales. I do not
question thy honesty; but it is thy duty to conceal nothing from me. How
long has Isabella been acquainted with Theodore?”

“Nay, there is nothing can escape your highness,” said Bianca: “not that
I know anything of the matter. Theodore, to be sure, is a proper young
man, and, as my Lady Matilda says, the very image of good Alfonso: has
not your highness remarked it?”

“Yes, yes,--no,--thou torturest me,” said Manfred: “where did they meet?

“Who? my Lady Matilda?” said Bianca.

“No, no, not Matilda; Isabella. When did Isabella first become
acquainted with this Theodore?”

“Virgin Mary!” said Bianca, “how should I know?”

“Thou dost know,” said Manfred, “and I must know; I will.”

“Lord! your highness is not jealous of young Theodore!” said Bianca.

“Jealous! no, no: why should I be jealous? perhaps I mean to unite them,
if I were sure Isabella would have no repugnance.”

“Repugnance! no, I’ll warrant her,” said Bianca: “he is as comely a
youth as ever trod on Christian ground. We are all in love with him;
there is not a soul in the castle but would be rejoiced to have him for
our prince--I mean, when it shall please Heaven to call your highness to

“Indeed,” said Manfred, “has it gone so far? oh, this cursed friar! but
I must not lose time:--go, Bianca, attend Isabella; but I charge thee,
not a word of what has passed. Find out how she is affected towards
Theodore: bring me good news, and that ring has a companion. Wait at the
foot of the winding staircase: I am going to visit the marquis, and will
talk further with thee at my return.”

Manfred, after some general conversation, desired Frederic to dismiss
the two knights his companions, having to talk with him on urgent
affairs. As soon as they were alone, he began, in artful guise, to sound
the marquis on the subject of Matilda; and finding him disposed to his
wish, he let drop hints on the difficulties that would attend the
celebration of their marriage, unless--At that instant Bianca burst into
the room with a wildness in her look and gestures that spoke the utmost

“Oh, my lord, my lord!” cried she; “we are all undone! it is come again!
it is come again!”

“What is come again?” cried Manfred, amazed.

“Oh, the hand! the giant! the hand!--support me! I am terrified out of
my senses,” cried Bianca; “I will not sleep in the castle to-night.
Where shall I go? my things may come after me to-morrow--would I had
been content to wed Francesco!--this comes of ambition.”

“What has terrified thee thus, young woman?” said the marquis. “Thou art
safe here; be not alarmed.”

“Oh, your greatness is wonderfully good,” said Bianca, “but I dare
not--no, pray let me go. I had rather leave everything behind me, than
stay another hour under this roof.”

“Go to, thou hast lost thy senses,” said Manfred. “Interrupt us not; we
were communing on important matters. My lord, this wench is subject to
fits. Come with me, Bianca.”

“Oh, the saints, no,” said Bianca; “for certain it comes to warn your
highness: why should it appear to me else? I say my prayers morning and
evening. Oh, if your highness had believed Diego! ’Tis the same hand
that he saw the foot to in the gallery chamber. Father Jerome has often
told us the prophecy would be out one of these days. ‘Bianca,’ said he,
‘mark my words----’”

“Thou ravest,” said Manfred in a rage! “begone, and keep these fooleries
to frighten thy companions.”

“What, my lord!” cried Bianca, “do you think I have seen nothing? Go to
the foot of the great stairs yourself--as I live I saw it.”

“Saw what? Tell us, fair maid, what thou hast seen,” said Frederic.

“Can your highness listen,” said Manfred, “to the delirium of a silly
wench, who has heard stories of apparitions until she believes them?”

“This is more than fancy,” said the marquis; “her terror is too natural
and too strongly impressed to be the work of imagination. Tell us, fair
maiden, what it is has moved thee thus.”

“Yes, my lord, thank your greatness,” said Bianca. “I believe I look
very pale; I shall be better when I have recovered myself. I was going
to my Lady Isabella’s chamber by his highness’s order----”

“We do not want the circumstances,” interrupted Manfred. “Since his
highness will have it so, proceed; but be brief.”

“Lord! your highness thwarts one so!” replied Bianca. “I fear my hair--I
am sure I never in my life--well, as I was telling your greatness, I was
going, by his highness’s order, to my Lady Isabella’s chamber. She lies
in the watchet-coloured chamber, on the right hand, one pair of stairs.
So when I came to the great stairs, I was looking on his highness’s
present here----”

“Grant me patience!” said Manfred; “will this wench never come to the
point? What imports it to the marquis, that I gave thee a bauble for thy
faithful attendance on my daughter; we want to know what thou sawest.”

“I was going to tell your highness,” said Bianca, “if you would permit
me. So as I was rubbing the ring--I am sure I had not gone up three
steps, but I heard the rattling of armour; for all the world such a
clatter, as Diego says he heard when the giant turned him about in the

“What does she mean, my lord?” said the marquis: “is your castle haunted
by giants and goblins?”

“Lord, what, has not your greatness heard the story of the giant in the
gallery-chamber?” cried Bianca. “I marvel his highness has not told
you--mayhap you do not know there is a prophecy----”

“This trifling is intolerable,” interrupted Manfred. “Let us dismiss
this silly wench, my lord; we have more important affairs to discuss.”

“By your favour,” said Frederic, “these are no trifles. The enormous
sabre I was directed to in the wood, yon casque, its fellow--are these
visions of this poor maiden’s brain?”

“So Jaquez thinks, may it please your greatness,” said Bianca. “He says
this moon will not be out without our seeing some strange revolution.
For my part, I should not be surprised if it was to happen to-morrow;
for, as I was saying, when I heard the clattering of armour, I was all
in a cold sweat: I looked up, and, if your greatness will believe me, I
saw upon the uppermost banister of the great stairs a hand in armour, as
big, as big--I thought I should have swooned--I never stopped until I
came hither. Would I were well out of this castle! My Lady Matilda told
me but yester-morning that her highness Hippolita knows something.”

“Thou art an insolent!” cried Manfred. “Lord Marquis, it much misgives
me that this scene is concerted to affront me. Are my own domestics
suborned to spread tales injurious to my honour? Pursue your claim by
manly daring; or let us bury our feuds, as was proposed, by the
intermarriage of our children. But trust me, it ill becomes a prince of
your bearing to practise on mercenary wenches.”

“I scorn your imputation,” said Frederic: “until this hour I never set
eyes on this damsel. I have given her no jewel! My lord, my lord, your
conscience, your guilt accuses you, and would throw the suspicion on me;
but keep your daughter, and think no more of Isabella. The judgments
already fallen on your house forbid me matching into it.”

Manfred, alarmed at the resolute tone in which Frederic delivered these
words, endeavoured to pacify him. Dismissing Bianca, he made such
submissions to the marquis, and threw in such artful encomiums on
Matilda, that Frederic was once more staggered. However, as his passion
was of so recent a date, it could not at once surmount the scruples he
had conceived. He had gathered enough from Bianca’s discourse to
persuade him that Heaven declared itself against Manfred. The proposed
marriages, too, removed his claim to a distance; and the principality of
Otranto was a stronger temptation than the contingent reversion of it
with Matilda. Still he would not absolutely recede from his engagements;
but purposing to gain time, he demanded of Manfred if it was true in
fact that Hippolita consented to the divorce. The prince, transported to
find no other obstacle, and depending on his influence over his wife,
assured the marquis it was so, and that he might satisfy himself of the
truth from her own mouth.

As they were thus discoursing, word was brought that the banquet was
prepared. Manfred conducted Frederic to the great hall, where they were
received by Hippolita and the young princesses. Manfred placed the
marquis next to Matilda, and seated himself between his wife and
Isabella. Hippolita comported herself with an easy gravity; but the
young ladies were silent and melancholy. Manfred, who was determined to
pursue his point with the marquis in the remainder of the evening,
pushed on the feast until it waxed late; affecting unrestrained gaiety,
and plying Frederic with repeated goblets of wine. The latter, more upon
his guard than Manfred wished, declined his frequent challenges, on
pretence of his late loss of blood; while the prince, to raise his own
disordered spirits, and to counterfeit unconcern, indulged himself in
plentiful draughts, though not to the intoxication of his senses.

The evening being far advanced, the banquet concluded. Manfred would
have withdrawn with Frederic; but the latter, pleading weakness and want
of repose, retired to his chamber, gallantly telling the prince, that
his daughter should amuse his highness until himself could attend him.
Manfred accepted the party, and, to the no small grief of Isabella,
accompanied her to her apartment. Matilda waited on her mother, to enjoy
the freshness of the evening on the ramparts of the castle.

Soon as the company were dispersed their several ways, Frederic,
quitting his chamber, inquired if Hippolita was alone, and was told by
one of her attendants, who had not noticed her going forth, that at that
hour she generally withdrew to her oratory, where he probably would find
her. The marquis, during the repast, had beheld Matilda with increase of
passion. He now wished to find Hippolita in the disposition her lord had
promised. The portents that had alarmed him were forgotten in his
desires. Stealing softly and unobserved to the apartment of Hippolita,
he entered it with a resolution to encourage her acquiescence to the
divorce, having perceived that Manfred was resolved to make the
possession of Isabella an unalterable condition, before he would grant
Matilda to his wishes.

The marquis was not surprised at the silence that reigned in the
princess’s apartment. Concluding her, as he had been advertised, in her
oratory, he passed on. The door was ajar; the evening gloomy and
overcast. Pushing open the door gently, he saw a person kneeling before
the altar. As he approached nearer, it seemed not a woman, but one in a
long woollen weed, whose back was towards him. The person seemed
absorbed in prayer. The marquis was about to return, when the figure,
rising, stood some moments fixed in meditation, without regarding him.
The marquis, expecting the holy person to come forth, and meaning to
excuse his uncivil interruption, said:

“Reverend father, I sought the Lady Hippolita.”

“Hippolita!” replied a hollow voice; “camest thou to this castle to seek
Hippolita?” And then the figure, turning slowly round, discovered to
Frederic the fleshless jaws and empty sockets of a skeleton, wrapt in a
hermit’s cowl.

“Angels of peace protect me!” cried Frederic, recoiling.

“Deserve their protection,” said the spectre.

Frederic, falling on his knees, adjured the phantom to take pity on him.

“Dost thou not remember me?” said the apparition. “Remember the wood of

“Art thou that holy hermit?” cried Frederic, trembling; “can I do aught
for thy eternal peace?”

“Wast thou delivered from bondage,” said the spectre, “to pursue carnal
delights? Hast thou forgotten the buried sabre, and the behest of Heaven
engraven on it?”

“I have not, I have not,” said Frederic; “but say, blest spirit, what is
thy errand to me? what remains to be done?”

“To forget Matilda,” said the apparition, and vanished.

Frederick’s blood froze in his veins. For some minutes he remained
motionless. Then falling prostrate on his face before the altar, he
besought the intercession of every saint for pardon. A flood of tears
succeeded to this transport; and the image of the beauteous Matilda
rushing, in spite of him, on his thoughts, he lay on the ground in a
conflict of penitence and passion. Ere he could recover from this agony
of his spirits, the Princess Hippolita, with a taper in her hand,
entered the oratory alone. Seeing a man without motion on the floor, she
gave a shriek, concluding him dead. Her fright brought Frederic to
himself. Rising suddenly, his face bedewed with tears, he would have
rushed from her presence; but Hippolita, stopping him, conjured him, in
the most plaintive accents, to explain the cause of his disorder, and by
what strange chance she had found him there in that posture.

“Ah, virtuous princess!” said the marquis, penetrated with grief, and

“For the love of Heaven, my lord,” said Hippolita, “disclose the cause
of this transport! What mean these doleful sounds, this alarming
exclamation on my name? What woes has Heaven still in store for the
wretched Hippolita?--yet silent! By every pitying angel I adjure thee,
noble prince,” continued she, falling at his feet, “to disclose the
purport of what lies at thy heart. I see thou feelest for me; thou
feelest the sharp pangs that thou inflictest. Speak, for pity! Does
aught thou knowest concern my child!”

“I cannot speak,” cried Frederic, bursting from her. “Oh, Matilda!”

Quitting the princess thus abruptly, he hastened to his own apartment.
At the door of it he was accosted by Manfred, who, flushed by wine and
love, had come to seek him, and to propose to waste some hours of the
night in music and revelling. Frederic, offended at an invitation so
dissonant from the mood of his soul, pushed him rudely aside, and,
entering his chamber, flung the door intemperately against Manfred, and
bolted it inwards. The haughty prince, enraged at this unaccountable
behaviour, withdrew in a frame of mind capable of the most fatal
excesses. As he crossed the court, he was met by the domestic whom he
planted at the convent as a spy on Jerome and Theodore. This man, almost
breathless with the haste he had made, informed his lord, that Theodore
and some lady from the castle were at that instant in private conference
at the tomb of Alfonso, in St. Nicholas’s church. He had dogged Theodore
thither; but the gloominess of the night had prevented his discovering
who the woman was.

Manfred, whose spirits were inflamed, and whom Isabella had driven from
her on his urging his passion with too little reserve, did not doubt but
the inquietude she had expressed had been occasioned by her impatience
to meet Theodore. Provoked by this conjecture, and enraged at her
father, he hastened secretly to the great church. Gliding softly between
the aisles, and guided by an imperfect gleam of moonshine that shone
faintly through the illuminated windows, he stole towards the tomb of
Alfonso, to which he was directed by indistinct whispers of the person
she sought. The first sounds he could distinguish were:

“Does it, alas! depend on me? Manfred will never permit our union.”

“No, this shall prevent it!” cried the tyrant, drawing his dagger, and
plunging it over her shoulder into the bosom of the person that spoke.

“Ah me, I am slain!” cried Matilda, sinking: “good Heaven, receive my

“Savage, inhuman monster, what hast thou done?” cried Theodore, rushing
on him and wrenching his dagger from him.

“Stop, stop thy impious hand!” cried Matilda: “it is my father!”

Manfred, waking as from a trance, beat his breast, twisted his hands in
his locks, and endeavoured to recover his dagger from Theodore to
dispatch himself. Theodore, scarce less distracted, and only mastering
the transports of his grief to assist Matilda, had now by his cries
drawn some of the monks to his aid. While part of them endeavoured, in
concert with the afflicted Theodore, to stop the blood of the dying
princess, the rest prevented Manfred from laying violent hands on

Matilda, resigning herself patiently to her fate, acknowledged, with
looks of grateful love, the zeal of Theodore. Yet oft, as her faintness
would permit her speech its way, she begged the assistants to comfort
her father.

Jerome, by this time, had learnt the fatal news, and reached the church.
His looks seemed to reproach Theodore; but turning to Manfred, he said,
“Now, tyrant, behold the completion of woe fulfilled on thy impious and
devoted head! The blood of Alfonso cried to Heaven for vengeance; and
Heaven has permitted its altar to be polluted by assassination, that
thou mightest shed thy own blood at the foot of that prince’s

“Cruel man,” cried Matilda, “to aggravate the woes of a parent! may
Heaven bless my father, and forgive him as I do! My lord, my gracious
sire, dost thou forgive thy child? Indeed I came not hither to meet
Theodore. I found him praying at this tomb, whither my mother sent me to
intercede for thee, for her--dearest father, bless your child, and say
you forgive her.”

“Forgive thee, murderous monster,” cried Manfred, “can assassins
forgive? I took thee for Isabella; but Heaven directed my bloody hand to
the heart of my child--oh, Matilda, I cannot utter it: canst thou
forgive the blindness of my rage?”

“I can, I do, and may Heaven confirm it,” said Matilda; “but while I
have life to ask it--oh, my mother, what will she feel! will you comfort
her, my lord, will you not put her away? indeed she loves you--oh, I am
faint; bear me to the castle--can I live to have her close my eyes?”

Theodore and the monks besought her earnestly to suffer herself to be
borne into the convent; but her instances were so pressing to be carried
to the castle, that, placing her on a litter, they conveyed her thither
as she requested. Theodore, supporting her head with his arm, and
hanging over her in an agony of despairing love, still endeavoured to
inspire her with hopes of life. Jerome on the other side comforted her
with discourses of heaven; and holding a crucifix before her, which she
bathed with innocent tears, prepared her for her passage to immortality.
Manfred, plunged in the deepest affliction, followed the litter in

Ere they reached the castle, Hippolita, informed of the dreadful
catastrophe, had flown to meet her murdered child; but when she saw the
afflicted procession, the mightiness of her grief deprived her of her
senses, and she fell lifeless to the earth in a swoon. Isabella and
Frederic, who attended her, were overwhelmed in almost equal sorrow.
Matilda alone seemed insensible to her own situation: every thought was
lost in tenderness for her mother. Ordering the litter to stop, as soon
as Hippolita was brought to herself, she asked for her father. He
approached, unable to speak. Matilda, seizing his hand and her mother’s,
locked them in her own, and then clasped them to her heart. Manfred
could not support this act of pathetic piety. He dashed himself on the
ground, and cursed the day he was born. Isabella, apprehensive that
these struggles of passion were more than Matilda could support, took
upon herself to order Manfred to be borne to his apartment, while she
caused Matilda to be conveyed to the nearest chamber. Hippolita, scarce
more alive than her daughter, was regardless of everything but her; but
when the tender Isabella’s care would have likewise removed her, while
the surgeons examined Matilda’s wound, she cried:

“Remove me! never! never! never! I lived but in her, and will expire
with her.” Matilda raised her eyes at her mother’s voice, but closed
them again without speaking. Her sinking pulse and the damp coldness of
her hand soon dispelled all hopes of recovery. Theodore followed the
surgeons into the outer chamber, and heard them pronounce the fatal
sentence with a transport equal to frenzy.

“Since she cannot live mine,” cried he, “at least she shall be mine in
death! Father! Jerome! will you not join our hands?” cried he to the
friar, who with the marquis had accompanied the surgeons.

“What means thy distracted rashness?” said Jerome; “is this an hour for

“It is, it is,” cried Theodore: “alas! there is no other!”

“Young man, thou art too unadvised,” said Frederic: “dost thou think we
are to listen to thy fond transports in this hour of fate? what
pretensions hast thou to the princess?”

“Those of a prince,” said Theodore, “of the sovereign of Otranto. This
reverend man, my father, has informed me who I am.”

“Thou ravest,” said the marquis: “there is no prince of Otranto but
myself, now Manfred, by murder, by sacrilegious murder, has forfeited
all pretensions.”

“My lord,” said Jerome, assuming an air of command, “he tells you true.
It was not my purpose the secret should have been divulged so soon; but
fate presses onward to its work. What his hot-headed passion has
revealed, my tongue confirms. Know, prince, that when Alfonso set sail
for the Holy Land----”

“Is this a season for explanations?” cried Theodore. “Father, come and
unite me to the princess; she shall be mine--in every other thing I will
dutifully obey you. My life; my adored Matilda!” continued Theodore,
rushing back into the inner chamber, “will you not be mine? will you not
bless your----” Isabella made signs to him to be silent, apprehending
the princess was near her end. “What, is she dead?” cried Theodore; “is
it possible?” The violence of his exclamations brought Matilda to
herself. Lifting up her eyes, she looked around for her mother.

“Life of my soul! I am here,” cried Hippolita; “think not I will quit

“Oh, you are too good,” said Matilda; “but weep not for me, my mother! I
am going where sorrow never dwells;--Isabella, thou hast loved me: wo’t
thou not supply my fondness to this dear, dear woman?--Indeed I am

“Oh, my child, my child!” said Hippolita, in a flood of tears, “can I
not withhold thee a moment?”

“It will not be,” said Matilda: “commend me to Heaven--where is my
father? Forgive him, dearest mother--forgive him my death; it was an
error. Oh, I had forgotten, dearest mother, I vowed never to see
Theodore more--perhaps that has drawn down this calamity, but it was not
intentional--can you pardon me?”

“Oh, wound not my agonizing soul,” said Hippolita; “thou never couldst
offend me. Alas! she faints! help! help!”

“I would say something more,” said Matilda, struggling, “but it wonnot
be--Isabella--Theodore--for my sake--oh!” She expired. Isabella and her
women tore Hippolita from the corse; but Theodore threatened destruction
to all who attempted to remove him from it. He printed a thousand
kisses on her clay-cold hands, and uttered every expression that
despairing love could dictate.

Isabella, in the meantime, was accompanying the afflicted Hippolita to
her apartment; but in the middle of the court they were met by Manfred,
who, distracted with his own thoughts, and anxious once more to behold
his daughter, was advancing towards the chamber where she lay. As the
moon was now at its height, he read in the countenances of this unhappy
company the event he dreaded.

“What! is she dead?” cried he in wild confusion: a clap of thunder at
that instant shook the castle to its foundations; the earth rocked, and
the clank of more than mortal armour was heard behind. Frederic and
Jerome thought the last day was at hand. The latter, forcing Theodore
along with them, rushed into the court. The moment Theodore appeared,
the walls of the castle behind Manfred were thrown down with a mighty
force, and the form of Alfonso, dilated to an immense magnitude,
appeared in the centre of the ruins.

“Behold in Theodore the true heir of Alfonso!” said the vision; and
having pronounced those words, accompanied by a clap of thunder, it
ascended solemnly towards heaven, where the clouds parting asunder, the
form of St. Nicholas was seen, and receiving Alfonso’s shade, they were
soon wrapt from mortal eyes in a blaze of glory.

The beholders fell prostrate on their faces, acknowledging the divine
will. The first that broke silence was Hippolita.

“My lord,” said she to the desponding Manfred, “behold the vanity of
human greatness! Conrad is gone! Matilda is no more! in Theodore we view
the true Prince of Otranto. By what miracle he is so, I know
not--suffice it to us, our doom is pronounced! Shall we not--can we
but--dedicate the few deplorable hours we have to live, in deprecating
the further wrath of Heaven? Heaven ejects us: whither can we fly, but
to yon holy cells that yet offer us a retreat?”

“Thou guiltless but unhappy woman! unhappy by my crimes!” replied
Manfred, “my heart at last is open to thy devout admonitions. Oh,
could--but it cannot be--ye are lost in wonder,--let me at last do
justice on myself! To heap shame on my own head is all the satisfaction
I have left to offer to offended Heaven. My story has drawn down these
judgments: let my confession atone--but ah! what can atone for
usurpation and a murdered child; a child murdered in a consecrated
place? List, sirs, and may this bloody record be a warning to future

“Alfonso, ye all know, died in the Holy Land--ye would interrupt me--ye
would say he came not fairly to his end--it is most true--why else this
bitter cup which Manfred must drink to the dregs? Ricardo, my
grandfather, was his chamberlain--I would draw a veil over my ancestor’s
crimes, but it is in vain! Alfonso died by poison. A fictitious will
declared Ricardo his heir. His crimes pursued him. Yet he lost no
Conrad, no Matilda! I pay the price of usurpation for all. A storm
overtook him. Haunted by his guilt, he vowed to St. Nicholas to found a
church and two convents, if he lived to reach Otranto. The sacrifice was
accepted: the saint appeared to him in a dream, and promised that
Ricardo’s posterity should reign in Otranto, until the rightful owner
should be grown too large to inhabit the castle, and as long as
issue-male from Ricardo’s loins should remain to enjoy it. Alas! alas!
nor male nor female, except myself, remains of all his wretched race!--I
have done--the woes of these three days speak the rest. How this young
man can be Alfonso’s heir, I know not--yet I do not doubt it. His are
these dominions: I resign them--yet I knew not Alfonso had an heir--I
question not the will of Heaven--poverty and prayer must fill up the
woeful space, until Manfred shall be summoned to Ricardo.”

“What remains is my part to declare,” said Jerome. “When Alfonso set
sail for the Holy Land, he was driven by a storm to the coast of Sicily.
The other vessel, which bore Ricardo and his train, as your _lordship_
must have heard, was separated from him.”

“It is most true,” said Manfred; “and the title you give me is more than
an outcast can claim--well! be it so--proceed.”

Jerome blushed, and continued.

“For three months Lord Alfonso was wind-bound in Sicily. There he became
enamoured of a fair virgin, named Victoria. He was too pious to tempt
her to forbidden pleasures. They were married. Yet deeming this amour
incongruous with the holy vow of arms by which he was bound, he
determined to conceal their nuptials, until his return from the crusado,
when he purposed to seek and acknowledge her for his lawful wife. He
left her pregnant. During his absence she was delivered of a daughter;
but scarce had she felt a mother’s pangs, ere she heard the fatal rumour
of her lord’s death, and the succession of Ricardo. What could a
friendless, helpless woman do? would her testimony avail?--yet, my lord,
I have an authentic writing----”

“It needs not,” said Manfred; “the horrors of these days, the vision we
have but now seen, all corroborate thy evidence beyond a thousand
parchments. Matilda’s death and my expulsion----”

“Be composed, my lord,” said Hippolita; “this holy man did not mean to
recall your griefs.”

Jerome proceeded.

“I shall not dwell on what is needless. The daughter of which Victoria
was delivered was, at her maturity, bestowed in marriage on me. Victoria
died; and the secret remained locked in my breast. Theodore’s narrative
has told the rest.”

The friar ceased. The disconsolate company retired to the remaining part
of the castle. In the morning, Manfred signed his abdication of the
principality, with the approbation of Hippolita, and each took on them
the habit of religion in the neighbouring convents. Frederic offered his
daughter to the new prince, which Hippolita’s tenderness for Isabella
concurred to promote. But Theodore’s grief was too fresh to admit the
thought of another love; and it was not until after frequent discourses
with Isabella of his dear Matilda, that he was persuaded he could know
no happiness, but in the society of one with whom he could for ever
indulge the melancholy that had taken possession of his soul.






William Beckford was born at Fonthill on 29 September, 1759. He was
educated by a private tutor and grew up with many of the qualities of
his own caliph Vathek. He received musical instruction under Mozart.
Chatham pronounced him “all fire and air,” and warned him against
reading _The Arabian Nights_. At seventeen he wrote an elaborate
mystification, _Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters_, a satire on the
biographies in the _Vies des Peintres Flamands_. His mother disliking
English universities, he went to complete his education at Geneva, where
he remained for a year and a half. From 1780-2 he travelled in the Low
Countries and Italy. An account of these travels was published
anonymously in 1783 as _Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents, in a
series of letters from various parts of Europe_. The work was almost
immediately destroyed with the exception of six copies. At one time a
legend existed that he wrote _Vathek_ in three days and two nights at a
single sitting! This feat has since been disproved by the publication of
the author’s own correspondence. At any rate, the book was written
between 1781-2 in French, and the English version, made by the Rev.
Henley, was published surreptitiously by that gentleman as a translation
from the Arabic in 1784. In protest, Beckford published the original,
long before he had intended, at Paris and Lausanne, in 1787. In 1783 he
had married Lady Margaret Gordon, the daughter of the Earl of Aboyne,
and lived with her in Switzerland until her death three years later. He
had two daughters by her. In 1787 he visited Portugal, and his
Portuguese letters are the most valuable he ever wrote. At Lausanne he
bought Gibbon’s library and shut himself up to read it. He was elected
M.P. for Wells (1784-90) and Hindon (1790-4), to which seat he was
re-elected in 1806. But during this time he had become more and more
absorbed in collecting. He wrote two burlesques on the sentimental
novels of his time, _The Elegant Enthusiast_ (1796) and _Azemia_ (1797).
But he had already settled down at Fonthill and was giving himself up to
all kinds of artistic and architectural extravagances. With his enormous
wealth he was able to rebuild the old family mansion on a grand scale,
pull it down and rebuild it again yet more sumptuously on a different
site. But unfortunately a tower, three hundred feet high, he had erected
fell from the very haste of its construction. It was succeeded by
another which, later, also fell down. Beckford now shut himself up in
his palace with a physician, a majordomo, and a French abbé, and in this
seclusion he spent twenty years, still collecting books and works of
art. His expenditure for sixteen years is stated by himself to be
upwards of a quarter of a million. In 1822 he was forced to dispose of
Fonthill and the greater part of the contents, the sale of which lasted
thirty-seven days. When the public were admitted, Hazlitt described
Fonthill as “a desert of magnificence, a glittering waste of laborious
idleness, a cathedral turned into a toyshop....” After the sale Beckford
removed to Bath where he created a miniature Fonthill. He died there on
2 May, 1844, his face showing scarcely a trace of age.

Bibliography: _Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters_, 1780. _Dreams, Waking
Thoughts, and Incidents, in a series of letters from various parts of
Europe_, 1783. _Vathek_ (Henley’s translation), 1784. _Vathek_ (in
Beckford’s French), 1787. _Letters from Italy, with Sketches of Spain
and Portugal_, 1835. See also memoirs by Cyrus Redding and Lockhart’s
review of Beckford’s letters in Vol. II of the _Quarterly Review_.


Vathek, ninth caliph of the race of the Abassides, was the son of
Motassem, and the grandson of Haroun al Raschid. From an early accession
to the throne, and the talents he possessed to adorn it, his subjects
were induced to expect that his reign would be long and happy. His
figure was pleasing and majestic: but when he was angry, one of his eyes
became so terrible, that no person could bear to behold it; and the
wretch upon whom it was fixed instantly fell backward, and sometimes
expired. For fear, however, of depopulating his dominions and making his
palace desolate, he but rarely gave way to his anger.

Being much addicted to women and the pleasures of the table, he sought
by his affability to procure agreeable companions; and he succeeded the
better as his generosity was unbounded and his indulgences unrestrained:
for he did not think, with the Caliph Omar Ben Abdalaziz, that it was
necessary to make a hell of this world to enjoy paradise in the next.

He surpassed in magnificence all his predecessors. The palace of
Alkoremi, which his father, Motassem, had erected on the hill of Pied
Horses, and which commanded the whole city of Samarah, was, in his idea,
far too scanty: he added, therefore, five wings, or rather other
palaces, which he destined for the particular gratification of each of
the senses.

In the first of these were tables continually covered with the most
exquisite dainties; which were supplied both by night and by day,
according to their constant consumption; whilst the most delicious wines
and the choicest cordials flowed forth from a hundred fountains that
were never exhausted. This palace was called _The Eternal or Unsatiating

The second was styled _The Temple of Melody, or the Nectar of the Soul_.
It was inhabited by the most skilful musicians and admired poets of the
time; who not only displayed their talents within, but dispersing in
bands without, caused every surrounding scene to reverberate their
songs, which were continually varied in the most delightful succession.

The palace named _The Delight of the Eyes, or the Support of Memory_,
was one entire enchantment. Rarities, collected from every corner of the
earth, were there found in such profusion as to dazzle and confound, but
for the order in which they were arranged. One gallery exhibited the
pictures of the celebrated Mani, and statues that seemed to be alive.
Here a well-managed perspective attracted the sight; there the magic of
optics agreeably deceived it: whilst the naturalist, on his part,
exhibited in their several classes the various gifts that Heaven had
bestowed on our globe. In a word, Vathek omitted nothing in this palace
that might gratify the curiosity of those who resorted to it, although
he was not able to satisfy his own; for, of all men, he was the most

_The Palace of Perfumes_, which was termed likewise _The Incentive to
Pleasure_, consisted of various halls, where the different perfumes
which the earth produces were kept perpetually burning in censers of
gold. Flambeaux and aromatic lamps were here lighted in open day. But
the too powerful effects of this agreeable delirium might be alleviated
by descending into an immense garden, where an assemblage of every
fragrant flower diffused through the air the purest odours.

The fifth palace, denominated _The Retreat of Mirth, or the Dangerous_,
was frequented by troops of young females, beautiful as the Houris, and
not less seducing; who never failed to receive, with caresses, all whom
the caliph allowed to approach them and enjoy a few hours of their

Notwithstanding the sensuality in which Vathek indulged, he experienced
no abatement in the love of his people, who thought that a sovereign
giving himself up to pleasure was as able to govern as one who declared
himself an enemy to it. But the unquiet and impetuous disposition of the
caliph would not allow him to rest there. He had studied so much for his
amusement in the lifetime of his father, as to acquire a great deal of
knowledge, though not a sufficiency to satisfy himself; for he wished to
know everything; even sciences that did not exist. He was fond of
engaging in disputes with the learned, but did not allow them to push
their opposition with warmth. He stopped with presents the mouths of
those whose mouths could be stopped; whilst others, whom his liberality
was unable to subdue, he sent to prison to cool their blood, a remedy
that often succeeded.

Vathek discovered also a predilection for theological controversy; but
it was not with the orthodox that he usually held. By this means he
induced the zealots to oppose him, and then persecuted them in return;
for he resolved, at any rate, to have reason on his side.

The great prophet, Mahomet, whose vicars the caliphs are, beheld with
indignation from his abode in the seventh heaven the irreligious conduct
of such a vicegerent. “Let us leave him to himself,” said he to the
Genii, who are always ready to receive his commands: “let us see to what
lengths his folly and impiety will carry him: if he run into excess, we
shall know how to chastise him. Assist him, therefore, to complete the
tower which, in imitation of Nimrod, he hath begun; not, like that great
warrior, to escape being drowned, but from the insolent curiosity of
penetrating the secrets of heaven:--he will not divine the fate that
awaits him.”

The Genii obeyed; and, when the workmen had raised their structure a
cubit in the daytime, two cubits more were added in the night. The
expedition with which the fabric arose was not a little flattering to
the vanity of Vathek: he fancied that even insensible matter showed a
forwardness to subserve his designs; not considering that the successes
of the foolish and wicked form the first rod of their chastisement.

His pride arrived at its height when, having ascended, for the first
time, the fifteen hundred stairs of his tower, he cast his eyes below,
and beheld men not larger than pismires; mountains, than shells; and
cities, than bee-hives. The idea which such an elevation inspired of his
own grandeur completely bewildered him: he was almost ready to adore
himself; till, lifting his eyes upward, he saw the stars as high above
him as they appeared when he stood on the surface of the earth.

He consoled himself, however, for this intruding and unwelcome
perception of his littleness, with the thought of being great in the
eyes of others; and flattered himself that the light of his mind would
extend beyond the reach of his sight, and extort from the stars the
decrees of his destiny.

With this view, the inquisitive prince passed most of his nights on the
summit of his tower, till becoming an adept in the mysteries of
astrology, he imagined that the planets had disclosed to him the most
marvellous adventures, which were to be accomplished by an extraordinary
personage, from a country altogether unknown. Prompted by motives of
curiosity, he had always been courteous to strangers; but, from this
instant, he redoubled his attention, and ordered it to be announced, by
sound of trumpet, through all the streets of Samarah, that no one of
his subjects, on peril of his displeasure, should either lodge or detain
a traveller, but forthwith bring him to the palace.

Not long after this proclamation, arrived in his metropolis a man so
abominably hideous, that the very guards who arrested him were forced to
shut their eyes as they led him along: the caliph himself appeared
startled at so horrible a visage; but joy succeeded to this emotion of
terror, when the stranger displayed to his view such rarities as he had
never before seen, and of which he had no conception.

In reality, nothing was ever so extraordinary as the merchandise this
stranger produced; most of his curiosities, which were not less
admirable for their workmanship than splendour, had, besides, their
several virtues described on a parchment fastened to each. There were
slippers, which, by spontaneous springs, enabled the feet to walk;
knives, that cut without motion of the hand; sabres, that dealt the blow
at the person they were wished to strike; and the whole enriched with
gems that were hitherto unknown.

The sabres especially, the blades of which emitted a dazzling radiance,
fixed, more than all the rest, the caliph’s attention; who promised
himself to decipher, at his leisure, the uncouth characters engraven on
their sides. Without, therefore, demanding their price, he ordered all
the coined gold to be brought from his treasury, and commanded the
merchant to take what he pleased. The stranger obeyed, took little, and
remained silent.

Vathek, imagining that the merchant’s taciturnity was occasioned by the
awe which his presence inspired, encouraged him to advance, and asked
him, with an air of condescension, who he was? whence he came? and where
he obtained such beautiful commodities? The man, or rather monster,
instead of making a reply, thrice rubbed his forehead, which, as well as
his body, was blacker than ebony; four times clapped his paunch, the
projection of which was enormous; opened wide his huge eyes, which
glowed like firebrands; began to laugh with a hideous noise, and
discovered his long amber-coloured teeth, bestreaked with green.

The caliph, though a little startled, renewed his inquiries, but without
being able to procure a reply. At which, beginning to be ruffled, he
exclaimed, “Knowest thou, wretch, who I am, and at whom thou art aiming
thy gibes?”--Then, addressing his guards, “Have ye heard him speak?--is
he dumb?”--“He hath spoken,” they replied, “but to no purpose.”--“Let
him speak then again,” said Vathek, “and tell me who he is, from whence
he came, and where he procured these singular curiosities; or I swear,
by the ass of Balaam, that I will make him rue his pertinacity.”

This menace was accompanied by one of the caliph’s angry and perilous
glances, which the stranger sustained without the slightest emotion;
although his eyes were fixed on the terrible eye of the prince.

No words can describe the amazement of the courtiers, when they beheld
this rude merchant withstand the encounter unshocked. They all fell
prostrate with their faces on the ground, to avoid the risk of their
lives; and would have continued in the same abject posture, had not the
caliph exclaimed, in a furious tone, “Up, cowards! seize the miscreant!
see that he be committed to prison, and guarded by the best of my
soldiers! Let him, however, retain the money I gave him; it is not my
intent to take from him his property; I only want him to speak.”

No sooner had he uttered these words, than the stranger was surrounded,
pinioned, and bound with strong fetters, and hurried away to the prison
of the great tower, which was encompassed by seven empalements of iron
bars, and armed with spikes in every direction, longer and sharper than
spits. The caliph, nevertheless, remained in the most violent agitation.
He sat down indeed to eat; but, of the three hundred dishes that were
daily placed before him, he could taste of no more than thirty-two.

A diet to which he had been so little accustomed was sufficient of
itself to prevent him from sleeping; what then must be its effect when
joined to the anxiety that preyed upon his spirits? At the first glimpse
of dawn he hastened to the prison, again to importune this intractable
stranger; but the rage of Vathek exceeded all bounds on finding the
prison empty, the grates burst asunder, and his guards lying lifeless
around him. In the paroxysm of his passion he fell furiously on the poor
carcasses, and kicked them till evening without intermission. His
courtiers and viziers exerted their efforts to soothe his extravagance;
but, finding every expedient ineffectual, they all united in one
vociferation, “The caliph is gone mad! the caliph is out of his senses!”

This outcry, which soon resounded through the streets of Samarah, at
length reached the ears of Carathis, his mother, who flew in the utmost
consternation to try her ascendency on the mind of her son. Her tears
and caresses called off his attention; and he was prevailed upon, by her
entreaties, to be brought back to the palace.

Carathis, apprehensive of leaving Vathek to himself, had him put to bed;
and, seating herself by him, endeavoured by her conversation to appease
and compose him. Nor could any one have attempted it with better
success; for the caliph not only loved her as a mother, but respected
her as a person of superior genius. It was she who had induced him,
being a Greek herself, to adopt the sciences and systems of her country,
which all good Mussulmans hold in such thorough abhorrence.

Judicial astrology was one of those sciences in which Carathis was a
perfect adept. She began, therefore, with reminding her son of the
promise which the stars had made him; and intimated an intention of
consulting them again. “Alas!” said the caliph as soon as he could
speak, “what a fool I have been! not for having bestowed forty thousand
kicks on my guards, who so tamely submitted to death; but for never
considering that this extraordinary man was the same that the planets
had foretold; whom, instead of ill-treating, I should have conciliated
by all the arts of persuasion.”

“The past,” said Carathis, “cannot be recalled; but it behoves us to
think of the future: perhaps you may again see the object you so much
regret: it is possible the inscriptions on the sabres will afford
information. Eat, therefore, and take thy repose, my dear son. We will
consider, to-morrow, in what manner to act.”

Vathek yielded to her counsel as well as he could, and arose in the
morning with a mind more at ease. The sabres he commanded to be
instantly brought; and, poring upon them, through a coloured glass, that
their glittering might not dazzle, he set himself in earnest to decipher
the inscriptions; but his reiterated attempts were all of them nugatory:
in vain did he beat his head, and bite his nails; not a letter of the
whole was he able to ascertain. So unlucky a disappointment would have
undone him again, had not Carathis, by good fortune, entered the

“Have patience, my son!” said she: “you certainly are possessed of
every important science; but the knowledge of languages is a trifle at
best, and the accomplishment of none but a pedant. Issue a proclamation,
that you will confer such rewards as become your greatness upon any one
that shall interpret what you do not understand, and what is beneath you
to learn; you will soon find your curiosity gratified.”

“That may be,” said the caliph; “but, in the meantime, I shall be
horribly disgusted by a crowd of smatterers, who will come to the trial
as much for the pleasure of retailing their jargon as from the hope of
gaining the reward. To avoid this evil, it will be proper to add, that I
will put every candidate to death, who shall fail to give satisfaction;
for, thank Heaven! I have skill enough to distinguish, whether one
translates or invents.”

“Of that I have no doubt,” replied Carathis; “but to put the ignorant to
death is somewhat severe, and may be productive of dangerous effects.
Content yourself with commanding their beards to be burnt: beards in a
state are not quite so essential as men.”

The caliph submitted to the reasons of his mother; and, sending for
Morakanabad, his prime vizier, said, “Let the common criers proclaim,
not only in Samarah, but throughout every city in my empire, that
whosoever will repair hither and decipher certain characters which
appear to be inexplicable, shall experience that liberality for which I
am renowned; but that all who fail upon trial shall have their beards
burnt off to the last hair. Let them add, also, that I will bestow fifty
beautiful slaves, and as many jars of apricots from the Isle of Kirmith,
upon any man that shall bring me intelligence of the stranger.”

The subjects of the caliph, like their sovereign, being great admirers
of women and apricots from Kirmith, felt their mouths water at these
promises, but were totally unable to gratify their hankering; for no one
knew what had become of the stranger.

As to the caliph’s other requisition, the result was different. The
learned, the half-learned, and those who were neither, but fancied
themselves equal to both, came boldly to hazard their beards, and all
shamefully lost them. The exaction of these forfeitures, which found
sufficient employment for the eunuchs, gave them such a smell of singed
hair as greatly to disgust the ladies of the seraglio, and to make it
necessary that this new occupation of their guardians should be
transferred to other hands.

At length, however, an old man presented himself, whose beard was a
cubit and a half longer than any that had appeared before him. The
officers of the palace whispered to each other, as they ushered him in,
“What a pity, oh! what a great pity that such a beard should be burnt!”
Even the caliph, when he saw it, concurred with them in opinion; but his
concern was entirely needless. This venerable personage read the
characters with facility, and explained them verbatim as follows: “We
were made where everything is well made: we are the least of the wonders
of a place where all is wonderful, and deserving the sight of the first
potentate on earth.”

“You translate admirably!” cried Vathek; “I know to what these
marvellous characters allude. Let him receive as many robes of honour
and thousands of sequins of gold as he hath spoken words. I am in some
measure relieved from the perplexity that embarrassed me!” Vathek
invited the old man to dine, and even to remain some days in the palace.

Unluckily for him, he accepted the offer; for the caliph, having ordered
him next morning to be called, said: “Read again to me what you have
read already; I cannot hear too often the promise that is made me--the
completion of which I languish to obtain.” The old man forthwith put on
his green spectacles, but they instantly dropped from his nose, on
perceiving that the characters he had read the day preceding had given
place to others of different import. “What ails you?” asked the caliph;
“and why these symptoms of wonder?”--“Sovereign of the world!” replied
the old man, “these sabres hold another language to-day from that they
yesterday held.”--“How say you?” returned Vathek:--“but it matters not;
tell me, if you can, what they mean.”--“It is this, my lord,” rejoined
the old man: “‘Woe to the rash mortal who seeks to know that of which he
should remain ignorant; and to undertake that which surpasseth his
power!’”--“And woe to thee!” cried the caliph, in a burst of
indignation: “to-day thou art void of understanding: begone from my
presence, they shall burn but the half of thy beard, because thou wert
yesterday fortunate in guessing:--my gifts I never resume.” The old man,
wise enough to perceive he had luckily escaped, considering the folly of
disclosing so disgusting a truth, immediately withdrew and appeared not

But it was not long before Vathek discovered abundant reason to regret
his precipitation; for, though he could not decipher the characters
himself, yet, by constantly poring upon them, he plainly perceived that
they every day changed; and, unfortunately, no other candidate offered
to explain them. This perplexing occupation inflamed his blood, dazzled
his sight, and brought on such a giddiness and debility that he could
hardly support himself. He failed not, however, though in so reduced a
condition, to be often carried to his tower, as he flattered himself
that he might there read in the stars, which he went to consult,
something more congruous to his wishes: but in this his hopes were
deluded; for his eyes, dimmed by the vapours of his head, began to
subserve his curiosity so ill, that he beheld nothing but a thick, dun
cloud, which he took for the most direful of omens.

Agitated with so much anxiety, Vathek entirely lost all firmness; a
fever seized him, and his appetite failed. Instead of being one of the
greatest eaters, he became as distinguished for drinking. So insatiable
was the thirst which tormented him, that his mouth, like a funnel, was
always open to receive the various liquors that might be poured into it,
and especially cold water, which calmed him more than any other.

This unhappy prince, being thus incapacitated for the enjoyment of any
pleasure, commanded the palaces of the five senses to be shut up;
forbore to appear in public, either to display his magnificence or
administer justice, and retired to the inmost apartment of his harem. As
he had ever been an excellent husband, his wives, overwhelmed with grief
at his deplorable situation, incessantly supplied him with prayers for
his health, and water for his thirst.

In the mean time the Princess Carathis, whose affliction no words can
describe, instead of confining herself to sobbing and tears, was
closeted daily with the vizier Morakanabad, to find out some cure, or
mitigation, of the caliph’s disease. Under the persuasion that it was
caused by enchantment, they turned over together, leaf by leaf, all the
books of magic that might point out a remedy; and caused the horrible
stranger, whom they accused as the enchanter, to be everywhere sought
for with the strictest diligence.

At the distance of a few miles from Samarah stood a high mountain, whose
sides were swarded with wild thyme and basil, and its summit overspread
with so delightful a plain, that it might have been taken for the
paradise destined for the faithful. Upon it grew a hundred thickets of
eglantine and other fragrant shrubs; a hundred arbours of roses,
entwined with jessamine and honeysuckle; as many clumps of orange trees,
cedar, and citron; whose branches, interwoven with the palm, the
pomegranate, and the vine, presented every luxury that could regale the
eye or the taste. The ground was strewed with violets, harebells, and
pansies; in the midst of which numerous tufts of jonquils, hyacinths,
and carnations perfumed the air. Four fountains, not less clear than
deep, and so abundant as to slake the thirst of ten armies, seemed
purposely placed here to make the scene more resemble the garden of Eden
watered by four sacred rivers. Here, the nightingale sang the birth of
the rose, her well-beloved, and, at the same time, lamented its
short-lived beauty: whilst the dove deplored the loss of more
substantial pleasures; and the wakeful lark hailed the rising light that
reanimates the whole creation. Here, more than anywhere, the mingled
melodies of birds expressed the various passions which inspired them;
and the exquisite fruits which they pecked at pleasure seemed to have
given them a double energy.

To this mountain Vathek was sometimes brought, for the sake of breathing
a purer air; and, especially, to drink at will of the four fountains.
His attendants were his mother, his wives, and some eunuchs, who
assiduously employed themselves in filling capacious bowls of rock
crystal, and emulously presenting them to him. But it frequently
happened that his avidity exceeded their zeal, insomuch that he would
prostrate himself upon the ground to lap the water, of which he could
never have enough.

One day, when this unhappy prince had been long lying in so debasing a
posture, a voice, hoarse but strong, thus addressed him: “Why dost thou
assimilate thyself to a dog, O caliph, proud as thou art of thy dignity
and power?” At this apostrophe, he raised up his head, and beheld the
stranger that had caused him so much affliction. Inflamed with anger at
the sight, he exclaimed, “Accursed Giaour! what comest thou hither to
do?--is it not enough to have transformed a prince remarkable for his
agility into a water budget? Perceivest thou not, that I may perish by
drinking to excess, as well as by thirst?”

“Drink, then, this draught,” said the stranger, as he presented to him a
phial of a red and yellow mixture: “and, to satiate the thirst of thy
soul as well as of thy body, know that I am an Indian, but from a region
of India which is wholly unknown.”

The caliph, delighted to see his desires accomplished in part, and
flattering himself with the hope of obtaining their entire fulfilment,
without a moment’s hesitation swallowed the potion, and instantaneously
found his health restored, his thirst appeased, and his limbs as agile
as ever. In the transports of his joy, Vathek leaped upon the neck of
the frightful Indian, and kissed his horrid mouth and hollow cheeks, as
though they had been the coral lips and the lilies and roses of his most
beautiful wives.

Nor would these transports have ceased had not the eloquence of Carathis
repressed them. Having prevailed upon him to return to Samarah, she
caused a herald to proclaim as loudly as possible: “The wonderful
stranger hath appeared again; he hath healed the caliph; he hath spoken!
he hath spoken!”

Forthwith, all the inhabitants of this vast city quitted their
habitations, and ran together in crowds to see the procession of Vathek
and the Indian, whom they now blessed as much as they had before
execrated, incessantly shouting, “He hath healed our sovereign; he hath
spoken! he hath spoken!” Nor were these words forgotten in the public
festivals which were celebrated the same evening, to testify the general
joy; for the poets applied them as a chorus to all the songs they
composed on this interesting subject.

The caliph, in the meanwhile, caused the palaces of the senses to be
again set open; and, as he found himself naturally prompted to visit
that of taste in preference to the rest, immediately ordered a splendid
entertainment, to which his great officers and favourite courtiers were
all invited. The Indian, who was placed near the prince, seemed to think
that, as a proper acknowledgment of so distinguished a privilege, he
could neither eat, drink, nor talk too much. The various dainties were
no sooner served up than they vanished, to the great mortification of
Vathek, who piqued himself on being the greatest eater alive, and at
this time in particular was blessed with an excellent appetite.

The rest of the company looked round at each other in amazement; but the
Indian, without appearing to observe it, quaffed large bumpers to the
health of each of them; sung in a style altogether extravagant; related
stories, at which he laughed immoderately, and poured forth
extemporaneous verses, which would not have been thought bad, but for
the strange grimaces with which they were uttered. In a word, his
loquacity was equal to that of a hundred astrologers; he ate as much as
a hundred porters, and caroused in proportion.

The caliph, notwithstanding the table had been thirty-two times covered,
found himself incommoded by the voraciousness of his guest, who was now
considerably declined in the prince’s esteem. Vathek, however, being
unwilling to betray the chagrin he could hardly disguise, said in a
whisper to Bababalouk, the chief of his eunuchs: “You see how enormous
his performances are in every way; what would be the consequence should
he get at my wives!--Go! redouble your vigilance, and be sure look well
to my Circassians, who would be more to his taste than all of the rest.”

The bird of the morning had thrice renewed his song, when the hour of
the divan was announced. Vathek, in gratitude to his subjects having
promised to attend, immediately arose from table and repaired thither,
leaning upon his vizier, who could scarce support him; so disordered was
the poor prince by the wine he had drunk, and still more by the
extravagant vagaries of his boisterous guest.

The viziers, the officers of the crown and of the law, arranged
themselves in a semicircle about their sovereign, and preserved a
respectful silence; whilst the Indian, who looked as cool as if he had
been fasting, sat down without ceremony on one of the steps of the
throne, laughing in his sleeve at the indignation with which his
temerity had filled the spectators.

The caliph, however, whose ideas were confused, and whose head was
embarrassed, went on administering justice at haphazard; till at length
the prime vizier, perceiving his situation, hit upon a sudden expedient
to interrupt the audience and rescue the honour of his master, to whom
he said in a whisper, “My lord, the Princess Carathis, who hath passed
the night in consulting the planets, informs you that they portend you
evil, and the danger is urgent. Beware lest this stranger, whom you have
so lavishly recompensed for his magical gewgaws, should make some
attempt on your life: his liquor, which at first had the appearance of
effecting your cure, may be no more than a poison, the operation of
which will be sudden. Slight not this surmise; ask him, at least, of
what it was compounded, whence he procured it; and mention the sabres
which you seem to have forgotten.”

Vathek, to whom the insolent airs of the stranger became every moment
less supportable, intimated to his vizier, by a wink of acquiescence,
that he would adopt his advice; and, at once turning towards the Indian,
said, “Get up, and declare in full divan of what drugs was compounded
the liquor you enjoined me to take, for it is suspected to be poison:
give also that explanation I have so earnestly desired concerning the
sabres you sold me, and thus show your gratitude for the favours heaped
on you.”

Having pronounced these words in as moderate a tone as he well could,
he waited in silent expectation for an answer. But the Indian, still
keeping his seat, began to renew his loud shouts of laughter, and
exhibit the same horrid grimaces he had shown them before, without
vouchsafing a word in reply. Vathek, no longer able to brook such
insolence, immediately kicked him from the steps; instantly descending,
repeated his blow; and persisted, with such assiduity, as incited all
who were present to follow his example. Every foot was up and aimed at
the Indian, and no sooner had any one given him a kick, than he felt
himself constrained to reiterate the stroke.

The stranger afforded them no small entertainment; for, being both short
and plump, he collected himself into a ball, and rolled on all sides at
the blows of his assailants, who pressed after him, wherever he turned,
with an eagerness beyond conception, whilst their numbers were every
moment increasing. The ball, indeed, in passing from one apartment to
another, drew every person after it that came in its way; insomuch that
the whole palace was thrown into confusion, and resounded with a
tremendous clamour. The women of the harem, amazed at the uproar, flew
to their blinds to discover the cause; but no sooner did they catch a
glimpse of the ball than, feeling themselves unable to refrain, they
broke from the clutches of their eunuchs, who, to stop their flight,
pinched them till they bled; but in vain: whilst themselves, though
trembling with terror at the escape of their charge, were as incapable
of resisting the attraction.

After having traversed the halls, galleries, chambers, kitchens,
gardens, and stables of the palace, the Indian at last took his course
through the courts; whilst the caliph, pursuing him closer than the
rest, bestowed as many kicks as he possibly could; yet not without
receiving now and then a few which his competitors, in their eagerness,
designed for the ball.

Carathis, Morakanabad, and two or three old viziers, whose wisdom had
hitherto withstood the attraction, wishing to prevent Vathek from
exposing himself in the presence of his subjects, fell down in his way
to impede the pursuit: but he, regardless of their obstruction, leaped
over their heads, and went on as before. They then ordered the muezzins
to call the people to prayers; both for the sake of getting them out of
the way, and of endeavouring, by their petitions, to avert the calamity:
but neither of these expedients was a whit more successful. The sight of
this fatal ball was alone sufficient to draw after it every beholder.
The muezzins themselves, though they saw it but at a distance, hastened
down from their minarets, and mixed with the crowd; which continued to
increase in so surprising a manner that scarce an inhabitant was left in
Samarah except the aged; the sick, confined to their beds; and infants
at the breast, whose nurses could run more nimbly without them. Even
Carathis, Morakanabad, and the rest, were all become of the party. The
shrill screams of the females, who had broken from their apartments and
were unable to extricate themselves from the pressure of the crowd,
together with those of the eunuchs jostling after them, and terrified
lest their charge should escape from their sight; the execrations of
husbands, urging forward and menacing each other; kicks given and
received; stumblings and overthrows at every step; in a word, the
confusion that universally prevailed, rendered Samarah like a city taken
by storm, and devoted to absolute plunder. At last, the cursed Indian,
who still preserved his rotundity of figure, after passing through all
the streets and public places, and leaving them empty, rolled onwards to
the plain of Catoul, and entered the valley at the foot of the mountain
of the four fountains.

As a continual fall of water had excavated an immense gulf in the
valley, whose opposite side was closed in by a steep acclivity, the
caliph and his attendants were apprehensive lest the ball should bound
into the chasm, and, to prevent it, redoubled their efforts, but in
vain. The Indian persevered in his onward direction; and, as had been
apprehended, glancing from the precipice with the rapidity of lightning,
was lost in the gulf below.

Vathek would have followed the perfidious Giaour, had not an invisible
agency arrested his progress. The multitude that pressed after him were
at once checked in the same manner, and a calm instantaneously ensued.
They all gazed at each other with an air of astonishment; and
notwithstanding that the loss of veils and turbans, together with torn
habits, and dust blended with sweat, presented a most laughable
spectacle, yet there was not one smile to be seen. On the contrary, all
with looks of confusion and sadness returned in silence to Samarah, and
retired to their inmost apartments, without ever reflecting, that they
had been impelled by an invisible power into the extravagance for which
they reproached themselves; for it is but just that men, who so often
arrogate to their own merit the good of which they are but instruments,
should also attribute to themselves absurdities which they could not

The caliph was the only person who refused to leave the valley. He
commanded his tents to be pitched there, and stationed himself on the
very edge of the precipice, in spite of the representations of Carathis
and Morakanabad, who pointed out the hazard of its brink giving way, and
the vicinity to the magician that had so cruelly tormented him. Vathek
derided all their remonstrances; and having ordered a thousand flambeaux
to be lighted, and directed his attendants to proceed in lighting more,
lay down on the slippery margin, and attempted, by the help of this
artificial splendour, to look through that gloom, which all the fires of
the empyrean had been insufficient to pervade. One while he fancied to
himself voices arising from the depth of the gulf; at another, he seemed
to distinguish the accents of the Indian; but all was no more than the
hollow murmur of waters, and the din of the cataracts that rushed from
steep to steep down the sides of the mountain.

Having passed the night in this cruel perturbation, the caliph at
daybreak retired to his tent; where, without taking the least
sustenance, he continued to doze till the dusk of evening began again to
come on. He then resumed his vigils as before, and persevered in
observing them for many nights together. At length, fatigued with so
fruitless an employment, he sought relief from change. To this end, he
sometimes paced with hasty strides across the plain; and as he wildly
gazed at the stars, reproached them with having deceived him; but, lo!
on a sudden, the clear blue sky appeared streaked over with streams of
blood, which reached from the valley even to the city of Samarah. As
this awful phenomenon seemed to touch his tower, Vathek at first thought
of repairing thither to view it more distinctly; but, feeling himself
unable to advance, and being overcome with apprehension, he muffled up
his face in the folds of his robe.

Terrifying as these prodigies were, this impression upon him was no more
than momentary, and served only to stimulate his love of the marvellous.
Instead, therefore, of returning to his palace, he persisted in the
resolution of abiding where the Indian had vanished from his view. One
night, however, while he was walking as usual on the plain, the moon and
stars were eclipsed at once, and a total darkness ensued. The earth
trembled beneath him, and a voice came forth, the voice of the Giaour,
who, in accents more sonorous than thunder, thus addressed him:
“Wouldest thou devote thyself to me? adore the terrestrial influences,
and abjure Mahomet? On these conditions I will bring thee to the Palace
of Subterranean Fire. There shalt thou behold, in immense depositories,
the treasures which the stars have promised thee; and which will be
conferred by those Intelligences whom thou shalt thus render propitious.
It was from thence I brought my sabres, and it is there that Soliman Ben
Daoud reposes, surrounded by the talismans that control the world.”

The astonished caliph trembled as he answered, yet he answered in a
style that showed him to be no novice in preternatural adventures:
“Where art thou? be present to my eyes; dissipate the gloom that
perplexes me, and of which I deem thee the cause. After the many
flambeaux I have burnt to discover thee, thou mayest at least grant a
glimpse of thy horrible visage.”--“Abjure then Mahomet!” replied the
Indian, “and promise me full proofs of thy sincerity: otherwise, thou
shalt never behold me again.”

The unhappy caliph, instigated by insatiable curiosity, lavished his
promises in the utmost profusion. The sky immediately brightened; and,
by the light of the planets which seemed almost to blaze, Vathek beheld
the earth open; and, at the extremity of a vast black chasm, a portal of
ebony, before which stood the Indian, holding in his hand a golden key
which he sounded against the lock.

“How,” cried Vathek, “can I descend to thee? Come, take me, and
instantly open the portal.”--“Not so fast,” replied the Indian,
“impatient caliph! Know that I am parched with thirst, and cannot open
this door, till my thirst be thoroughly appeased; I require the blood of
fifty children. Take them from among the most beautiful sons of thy
viziers and great men; or neither can my thirst nor thy curiosity be
satisfied. Return to Samarah; procure for me this necessary libation;
come back hither; throw it thyself into this chasm, and then shalt thou

Having thus spoken, the Indian turned his back on the caliph, who,
incited by the suggestions of demons, resolved on the direful sacrifice.
He now pretended to have regained his tranquillity, and set out for
Samarah amidst the acclamations of a people who still loved him, and
forbore not to rejoice when they believed him to have recovered his
reason. So successfully did he conceal the emotion of his heart, that
even Carathis and Morakanabad were equally deceived with the rest.
Nothing was heard of but festivals and rejoicings. The fatal ball, which
no tongue had hitherto ventured to mention, was brought on the tapis. A
general laugh went round, though many, still smarting under the hands of
the surgeon from the hurts received in that memorable adventure, had no
great reason for mirth.

The prevalence of this gay humour was not a little grateful to Vathek,
who perceived how much it conduced to his project. He put on the
appearance of affability to every one; but especially to his viziers and
the grandees of his court, whom he failed not to regale with a sumptuous
banquet; during which he insensibly directed the conversation to the
children of his guests. Having asked, with a good-natured air, which of
them were blessed with the handsomest boys, every father at once
asserted the pretensions of his own; and the contest imperceptibly grew
so warm, that nothing could have withholden them from coming to blows
but their profound reverence for the person of the caliph. Under the
pretence, therefore, of reconciling the disputants, Vathek took upon him
to decide; and, with this view, commanded the boys to be brought.

It was not long before a troop of these poor children made their
appearance, all equipped by their fond mothers with such ornaments as
might give the greatest relief to their beauty, or most advantageously
display the graces of their age. But, whilst this brilliant assemblage
attracted the eyes and hearts of every one besides, the caliph
scrutinized each, in his turn, with a malignant avidity that passed for
attention, and selected from their number the fifty whom he judged the
Giaour would prefer.

With an equal show of kindness as before, he proposed to celebrate a
festival on the plain, for the entertainment of his young favourites,
who, he said, ought to rejoice still more than all at the restoration of
his health, on account of the favours he intended for them.

The caliph’s proposal was received with the greatest delight, and soon
published through Samarah. Litters, camels, and horses were prepared.
Women and children, old men and young, every one placed himself as he
chose. The cavalcade set forward, attended by all the confectioners in
the city and its precincts; the populace, following on foot, composed an
amazing crowd, and occasioned no little noise. All was joy; nor did any
one call to mind what most of them had suffered when they lately
travelled the road they were now passing so gaily.

The evening was serene, the air refreshing, the sky clear, and the
flowers exhaled their fragrance. The beams of the declining sun, whose
mild splendour reposed on the summit of the mountain, shed a glow of
ruddy light over its green declivity, and the white flocks sporting upon
it. No sounds were heard, save the murmurs of the four fountains, and
the reeds and voices of shepherds, calling to each other from different

The lovely innocents, destined for the sacrifice, added not a little to
the hilarity of the scene. They approached the plain full of
sportiveness, some coursing butterflies, others culling flowers, or
picking up the shining little pebbles that attracted their notice. At
intervals they nimbly started from each other for the sake of being
caught again and mutually imparting a thousand caresses.

The dreadful chasm, at whose bottom the portal of ebony was placed,
began to appear at a distance. It looked like a black streak that
divided the plain. Morakanabad and his companions took it for some work
which the caliph had ordered. Unhappy men! little did they surmise for
what it was destined. Vathek, unwilling that they should examine it too
nearly, stopped the procession, and ordered a spacious circle to be
formed on this side, at some distance from the accursed chasm. The
body-guard of eunuchs was detached, to measure out the lists intended
for the games, and prepare the rings for the arrows of the young
archers. The fifty competitors were soon stripped, and presented to the
admiration of the spectators the suppleness and grace of their delicate
limbs. Their eyes sparkled with a joy, which those of their fond parents
reflected. Every one offered wishes for the little candidate nearest his
heart, and doubted not of his being victorious. A breathless suspense
awaited the contests of these amiable and innocent victims.

The caliph, availing himself of the first moment to retire from the
crowd, advanced towards the chasm; and there heard, yet not without
shuddering, the voice of the Indian; who, gnashing his teeth, eagerly
demanded, “Where are they?--where are they?--perceivest thou not how my
mouth waters?”--“Relentless Giaour!” answerd Vathek, with emotion; “can
nothing content thee but the massacre of these lovely victims? Ah! wert
thou to behold their beauty, it must certainly move thy
compassion.”--“Perdition on thy compassion, babbler!” cried the Indian:
“give them me; instantly give them, or my portal shall be closed against
thee for ever!”--“Not so loudly,” replied the caliph, blushing.--“I
understand thee,” returned the Giaour with the grin of an ogre; “thou
wantest no presence of mind: I will for a moment forbear.”

During this exquisite dialogue, the games went forward with all
alacrity, and at length concluded, just as the twilight began to
overcast the mountains. Vathek, who was still standing on the edge of
the chasm, called out, with all his might, “Let my fifty little
favourites approach me, separately; and let them come in the order of
their success. To the first, I will give my diamond bracelet; to the
second, my collar of emeralds; to the third, my aigret of rubies; to the
fourth, my girdle of topazes; and to the rest, each a part of my dress,
even down to my slippers.”

This declaration was received with reiterated acclamations; and all
extolled the liberality of a prince who would thus strip himself for the
amusement of his subjects and the encouragement of the rising
generation. The caliph in the meanwhile, undressed himself by degrees,
and, raising his arm as high as he was able, made each of the prizes
glitter in the air; but whilst he delivered it with one hand to the
child who sprung forward to receive it, he with the other pushed the
poor innocent into the gulf, where the Giaour, with a sullen muttering,
incessantly repeated, “More! more!”

This dreadful device was executed with so much dexterity, that the boy
who was approaching him remained unconscious of the fate of his
forerunner; and, as to the spectators, the shades of evening, together
with their distance, precluded them from perceiving any object
distinctly. Vathek, having in this manner thrown in the last of the
fifty, and, expecting that the Giaour, on receiving him, would have
presented the key, already fancied himself as great as Soliman, and
consequently above being amenable for what he had done; when, to his
utter amazement, the chasm closed, and the ground became as entire as
the rest of the plain.

No language could express his rage and despair. He execrated the perfidy
of the Indian; loaded him with the most infamous invectives; and stamped
with his foot, as resolving to be heard. He persisted in this till his
strength failed him, and then fell on the earth like one void of sense.
His viziers and grandees, who were nearer than the rest, supposed him at
first to be sitting on the grass, at play with their amiable children;
but at length, prompted by doubt, they advanced towards the spot, and
found the caliph alone, who wildly demanded what they wanted? “Our
children! our children!” cried they. “It is assuredly pleasant,” said
he, “to make me accountable for accidents. Your children, while at
play, fell from the precipice, and I should have experienced their fate,
had I not suddenly started back.”

At these words, the fathers of the fifty boys cried out aloud; the
mothers repeated their exclamations an octave higher; whilst the rest,
without knowing the cause, soon drowned the voices of both with still
louder lamentations of their own. “Our caliph,” said they, and the
report soon circulated, “our caliph has played us this trick, to gratify
his accursed Giaour. Let us punish him for perfidy! let us avenge
ourselves! let us avenge the blood of the innocent! let us throw this
cruel prince into the gulf that is near, and let his name be mentioned
no more!”

At this rumour and these menaces, Carathis, full of consternation,
hastened to Morakanabad, and said: “Vizier, you have lost two beautiful
boys, and must necessarily be the most afflicted of fathers; but you are
virtuous, save your master.”--“I will brave every hazard,” replied the
vizier, “to rescue him from his present danger, but afterwards will
abandon him to his fate. Bababalouk,” continued he, “put yourself at the
head of your eunuchs: disperse the mob, and, if possible, bring back
this unhappy prince to his palace.” Bababalouk and his fraternity,
felicitating each other in a low voice on their having been spared the
cares as well as the honour of paternity, obeyed the mandate of the
vizier; who, seconding their exertions to the utmost of his power, at
length accomplished his generous enterprise; and retired, as he
resolved, to lament at his leisure.

No sooner had the caliph re-entered his palace than Carathis commanded
the doors to be fastened; but perceiving the tumult to be still violent,
and hearing the imprecations which resounded from all quarters, she said
to her son, “Whether the populace be right or wrong, it behoves you to
provide for your safety; let us retire to your own apartment, and from
thence through the subterranean passage, known only to ourselves, into
your tower: there, with the assistance of the mutes who never leave it,
we may be able to make a powerful resistance. Bababalouk, supposing us
to be still in the palace, will guard its avenues for his own sake; and
we shall soon find, without the counsels of that blubberer Morakanabad,
what expedient may be the best to adopt.”

Vathek, without making the least reply, acquiesced in his mother’s
proposal, and repeated as he went, “Nefarious Giaour! where art thou?
hast thou not yet devoured those poor children? where are thy sabres?
thy golden key? thy talismans?” Carathis, who guessed from these
interrogations a part of the truth, had no difficulty to apprehend in
getting at the whole as soon as he should be a little composed in his
tower. This princess was so far from being influenced by scruples, that
she was as wicked as woman could be, which is not saying a little; for
the sex pique themselves on their superiority in every competition. The
recital of the caliph, therefore, occasioned neither terror nor surprise
to his mother: she felt no emotion but from the promises of the Giaour,
and said to her son, “This Giaour, it must be confessed, is somewhat
sanguinary in his taste; but the terrestrial powers are always terrible;
nevertheless, what the one hath promised, and the others can confer,
will prove a sufficient indemnification. No crimes should be thought too
dear for such a reward: forbear, then, to revile the Indian; you have
not fulfilled the conditions to which his services are annexed: for
instance, is not a sacrifice to the subterranean Genii required? and
should we not be prepared to offer it as soon as the tumult is subsided?
This charge I will take on myself, and have no doubt of succeeding, by
means of your treasures, which, as there are now so many others in
store, may without fear be exhausted.” Accordingly, the princess, who
possessed the most consummate skill in the art of persuasion, went
immediately back through the subterranean passage; and, presenting
herself to the populace from a window of the palace, began to harangue
them with all the address of which she was mistress; whilst Bababalouk
showered money from both hands amongst the crowd, who by these united
means were soon appeased. Every person retired to his home, and Carathis
returned to the tower.

Prayer at break of day was announced, when Carathis and Vathek ascended
the steps which led to the summit of the tower, where they remained for
some time, though the weather was lowering and wet. This impending gloom
corresponded with their malignant dispositions; but when the sun began
to break through the clouds, they ordered a pavilion to be raised, as a
screen against the intrusion of his beams. The caliph, overcome with
fatigue, sought refreshment from repose, at the same time hoping that
significant dreams might attend on his slumbers; whilst the
indefatigable Carathis, followed by a party of her mutes, descended to
prepare whatever she judged proper for the oblation of the approaching

By secret stairs, contrived within the thickness of the wall, and known
only to herself and her son, she first repaired to the mysterious
recesses in which were deposited the mummies that had been wrested from
the catacombs of the ancient Pharaohs. Of these she ordered several to
be taken. From thence she resorted to a gallery where, under the guard
of fifty female negroes, mute, and blind of the right eye, were
preserved the oil of the most venomous serpents, rhinoceros’ horns, and
woods of a subtile and penetrating odour procured from the interior of
the Indies, together with a thousand other horrible rarities. This
collection had been formed for a purpose like the present, by Carathis
herself, from a presentiment that she might one day enjoy some
intercourse with the infernal powers, to whom she had ever been
passionately attached, and to whose taste she was no stranger.

To familiarize herself the better with the horrors in view, the princess
remained in the company of her negresses, who squinted in the most
amiable manner from the only eye they had, and leered, with exquisite
delight, at the skulls and skeletons which Carathis had drawn forth from
her cabinets; all of them making the most frightful contortions, and
uttering such shrill chatterings, that the princess, stunned by them and
suffocated by the potency of the exhalations, was forced to quit the
gallery, after stripping it of a part of its abominable treasures.

Whilst she was thus occupied, the caliph, who, instead of the visions he
expected, had acquired in these unsubstantial regions a voracious
appetite, was greatly provoked at the mutes. For having totally
forgotten their deafness, he had impatiently asked them for food; and
seeing them regardless of his demand, he began to cuff, pinch, and bite
them, till Carathis arrived to terminate a scene so indecent, to the
great content of these miserable creatures. “Son! what means all this?”
said she, panting for breath. “I thought I heard as I came up the
shrieks of a thousand bats, torn from their crannies in the recesses of
a cavern; and it was the outcry only of these poor mutes, whom you were
so unmercifully abusing. In truth, you but ill deserve the admirable
provision I have brought you.”--“Give it me instantly,” exclaimed the
caliph; “I am perishing for hunger!”--“As to that,” answered she, “you
must have an excellent stomach if it can digest what I have
brought.”--“Be quick,” replied the caliph;--“but, oh heavens! what
horrors! what do you intend?”--“Come, come,” returned Carathis, “be not
so squeamish; but help me to arrange everything properly; and you shall
see that what you reject with such symptoms of disgust will soon
complete your felicity. Let us get ready the pile for the sacrifice of
to-night; and think not of eating till that is performed: know you not,
that all solemn rites ought to be preceded by a rigorous abstinence?”

The caliph, not daring to object, abandoned himself to grief and the
wind that ravaged his entrails, whilst his mother went forward with the
requisite operations. Phials of serpents’ oil, mummies, and bones, were
soon set in order on the balustrade of the tower. The pile began to
rise, and in three hours was twenty cubits high. At length darkness
approached, and Carathis, having stripped herself to her inmost garment,
clapped her hands in an impulse of ecstasy; the mutes followed her
example; but Vathek, extenuated with hunger and impatience, was unable
to support himself, and fell down in a swoon. The sparks had already
kindled the dry wood; the venomous oil burst into a thousand blue
flames; the mummies, dissolving, emitted a thick dun vapour; and the
rhinoceros’ horns, beginning to consume, all together diffused such a
stench, that the caliph, recovering, started from his trance, and gazed
wildly on the scene in full blaze around him. The oil gushed forth in a
plenitude of streams; and the negresses, who supplied it without
intermission, united their cries to those of the princess. At last the
fire became so violent, and the flames reflected from the polished
marble so dazzling, that the caliph, unable to withstand the heat and
the blaze, effected his escape, and took shelter under the imperial

In the meantime, the inhabitants of Samarah, scared at the light which
shone over the city, arose in haste, ascended their roofs, beheld the
tower on fire, and hurried, half naked, to the square. Their love for
their sovereign immediately awoke; and, apprehending him in danger of
perishing in his tower, their whole thoughts were occupied with the
means of his safety. Morakanabad flew from his retirement, wiped away
his tears, and cried out for water like the rest. Bababalouk, whose
olfactory nerves were more familiarized to magical odours, readily
conjecturing that Carathis was engaged in her favourite amusements,
strenuously exhorted them not to be alarmed. Him, however, they treated
as an old poltroon, and styled him a rascally traitor. The camels and
dromedaries were advancing with water; but no one knew by which way to
enter the tower. Whilst the populace was obstinate in forcing the doors,
a violent north-east wind drove an immense volume of flame against them.
At first they recoiled, but soon came back with redoubled zeal. At the
same time, the stench of the horns and mummies increasing, most of the
crowd fell backwards in a state of suffocation. Those that kept their
feet mutually wondered at the cause of the smell, and admonished each
other to retire. Morakanabad, more sick than the rest, remained in a
piteous condition. Holding his nose with one hand, every one persisted
in his efforts with the other to burst open the doors and obtain
admission. A hundred and forty of the strongest and most resolute at
length accomplished their purpose. Having gained the staircase, by their
violent exertions, they attained a great height in a quarter of an hour.

Carathis, alarmed at the signs of her mutes, advanced to the staircase,
went down a few steps, and heard several voices calling out from below,
“You shall in a moment have water!” Being rather alert, considering her
age, she presently regained the top of the tower, and bade her son
suspend the sacrifice for some minutes; adding, “We shall soon be
enabled to render it more grateful. Certain dolts of your subjects,
imagining, no doubt, that we were on fire, have been rash enough to
break through those doors which had hitherto remained inviolate, for the
sake of bringing up water. They are very kind, you must allow, so soon
to forget the wrongs you have done them; but that is of little moment.
Let us offer them to the Giaour; let them come up; our mutes, who
neither want strength nor experience, will soon dispatch them, exhausted
as they are with fatigue.”--“Be it so,” answered the caliph, “provided
we finish, and I dine.” In fact, these good people, out of breath from
ascending fifteen hundred stairs in such haste, and chagrined at having
spilt by the way the water they had taken, were no sooner arrived at the
top, than the blaze of the flames and the fumes of the mummies at once
overpowered their senses. It was a pity! for they beheld not the
agreeable smile with which the mutes and negresses adjusted the cord to
their necks: these amiable personages rejoiced, however, no less at the
scene. Never before had the ceremony of strangling been performed with
so much facility. They all fell, without the least resistance or
struggle: so that Vathek, in the space of a few moments, found himself
surrounded by the dead bodies of the most faithful of his subjects; all
which were thrown on the top of the pile. Carathis, whose presence of
mind never forsook her, perceiving that she had carcasses sufficient to
complete her oblation, commanded the chains to be stretched across the
staircase, and the iron doors barricadoed, that no more might come up.

No sooner were these orders obeyed, than the tower shook; the dead
bodies vanished in the flames, which at once changed from a swarthy
crimson to a bright rose colour; an ambient vapour emitted the most
exquisite fragrance; the marble columns rang with harmonious sounds, and
the liquefied horns diffused a delicious perfume. Carathis, in
transports, anticipated the success of her enterprise; whilst her mutes
and negresses, to whom these sweets had given the colic, retired
grumbling to their cells.

Scarcely were they gone, when, instead of the pile, horns, mummies, and
ashes, the caliph both saw and felt, with a degree of pleasure which he
could not express, a table covered with the most magnificent repast:
flagons of wine and vases of exquisite sherbet reposing on snow. He
availed himself, without scruple, of such an entertainment; and had
already laid hands on a lamb stuffed with pistachios, whilst Carathis
was privately drawing from a filigree urn a parchment that seemed to be
endless, and which had escaped the notice of her son. Totally occupied
in gratifying an importunate appetite, he left her to peruse it without
interruption; which having finished, she said to him, in an
authoritative tone, “Put an end to your gluttony, and hear the splendid
promises with which you are favoured!” She then read as follows:
“Vathek, my well-beloved, thou hast surpassed my hopes: my nostrils have
been regaled by the savour of thy mummies, thy horns, and, still more,
by the lives devoted on the pile. At the full of the moon, cause the
bands of thy musicians, and thy timbals, to be heard; depart from thy
palace, surrounded by all the pageants of majesty--thy most faithful
slaves, thy best beloved wives, thy most magnificent litters, thy
richest loaden camels--and set forward on thy way to Istakhar. There I
await thy coming: that is the region of wonders: there shalt thou
receive the diadem of Gian Ben Gian, the talismans of Soliman, and the
treasures of the pre-Adamite sultans: there shalt thou be solaced with
all kinds of delight.--But beware how thou enterest any dwelling on thy
route; or thou shalt feel the effects of my anger.”

The caliph, notwithstanding his habitual luxury, had never before dined
with so much satisfaction. He gave full scope to the joy of these golden
tidings, and betook himself to drinking anew. Carathis, whose antipathy
to wine was by no means insuperable, failed not to pledge him at every
bumper he ironically quaffed to the health of Mahomet. This infernal
liquor completed their impious temerity, and prompted them to utter a
profusion of blasphemies. They gave a loose to their wit, at the expense
of the ass of Balaam, the dog of the seven sleepers, and the other
animals admitted into the paradise of Mahomet. In this sprightly humour,
they descended the fifteen hundred stairs, diverting themselves, as they
went, at the anxious faces they saw on the square, through the barbacans
and loopholes of the tower; and at length arrived at the royal
apartments, by the subterranean passage. Bababalouk was parading to and
fro, and issuing his mandates with great pomp to the eunuchs, who were
snuffing the lights and painting the eyes of the Circassians. No sooner
did he catch sight of the caliph and his mother, than he exclaimed,
“Hah! you have then, I perceive, escaped from the flames; I was not,
however, altogether out of doubt.”--“Of what moment is it to us what you
thought or think?” cried Carathis: “go, speed, tell Morakanabad that we
immediately want him; and take care not to stop by the way to make your
insipid reflections.”

Morakanabad delayed not to obey the summons, and was received by Vathek
and his mother with great solemnity. They told him, with an air of
composure and commiseration, that the fire at the top of the tower was
extinguished; but that it had cost the lives of the brave people who
sought to assist them.

“Still more misfortunes!” cried Morakanabad, with a sigh. “Ah, commander
of the faithful, our holy Prophet is certainly irritated against us! it
behoves you to appease him.” “We will appease him hereafter,” replied
the caliph, with a smile that augured nothing of good. “You will have
leisure sufficient for your supplications during my absence, for this
country is the bane of my health. I am disgusted with the mountain of
the four fountains, and am resolved to go and drink of the stream of
Rocnabad. I long to refresh myself in the delightful valleys which it
waters. Do you, with the advice of my mother, govern my dominions, and
take care to supply whatever her experiments may demand; for you well
know that our tower abounds in materials for the advancement of

The tower but ill suited Morakanabad’s taste. Immense treasures had been
lavished upon it; and nothing had he ever seen carried thither but
female negroes, mutes, and abominable drugs. Nor did he know well what
to think of Carathis, who, like a chameleon, could assume all possible
colours. Her cursed eloquence had often driven the poor Mussulman to
his last shifts. He considered, however, that if she possessed but few
good qualities, her son had still fewer; and that the alternative, on
the whole, would be in her favour. Consoled, therefore, with this
reflection, he went, in good spirits, to soothe the populace, and make
the proper arrangements for his master’s journey.

Vathek, to conciliate the spirits of the subterranean palace, resolved
that his expedition should be uncommonly splendid. With this view he
confiscated, on all sides, the property of his subjects; whilst his
worthy mother stripped the seraglios she visited of the gems they
contained. She collected all the sempstresses and embroiderers of
Samarah and other cities, to the distance of sixty leagues, to prepare
pavilions, palanquins, sofas, canopies, and litters for the train of the
monarch. There was not left, in Masulipatan, a single piece of chintz;
and so much muslin had been brought up to dress out Bababalouk and the
other black eunuchs, that there remained not an ell of it in the whole
Irak of Babylon.

During these preparations, Carathis, who never lost sight of her great
object, which was to obtain favour with the powers of darkness, made
select parties of the fairest and most delicate ladies of the city; but
in the midst of their gaiety, she contrived to introduce vipers amongst
them, and to break pots of scorpions under the table. They all bit to a
wonder; and Carathis would have left her friends to die, were it not
that, to fill up the time, she now and then amused herself in curing
their wounds, with an excellent anodyne of her own invention; for this
good princess abhorred being indolent.

Vathek, who was not altogether so active as his mother, devoted his time
to the sole gratification of his senses, in the palaces which were
severally dedicated to them. He disgusted himself no more with the
divan, or the mosque. One half of Samarah followed his example, whilst
the other lamented the progress of corruption.

In the midst of these transactions, the embassy returned, which had been
sent, in pious times, to Mecca. It consisted of the most reverend
mullahs, who had fulfilled their commission and brought back one of
those precious besoms which are used to sweep the sacred Caaba; a
present truly worthy of the greatest potentate on earth!

The caliph happened at this instant to be engaged in an apartment by no
means adapted to the reception of embassies. He heard the voice of
Bababalouk, calling out from between the door and the tapestry that
hung before it, “Here are the excellent Edris al Shafei, and the
seraphic Al Mouhateddin, who have brought the besom from Mecca, and,
with tears of joy, entreat they may present it to your majesty in
person.”--“Let them bring the besom hither; it may be of use,” said
Vathek.--“How!” answered Bababalouk, half aloud and amazed.--“Obey,”
replied the caliph, “for it is my sovereign will; go instantly, vanish!
for here will I receive the good folk who have thus filled thee with

The eunuch departed muttering, and bade the venerable train attend him.
A sacred rapture was diffused amongst these reverend old men. Though
fatigued with the length of their expedition, they followed Bababalouk
with an alertness almost miraculous, and felt themselves highly
flattered, as they swept along the stately porticoes, that the caliph
would not receive them like ambassadors in ordinary in his hall of
audience. Soon reaching the interior of the harem (where, through blinds
of Persian, they perceived large soft eyes, dark and blue, that came and
went like lightning), penetrated with respect and wonder, and full of
their celestial mission, they advanced in procession towards the small
corridors that appeared to terminate in nothing, but, nevertheless, led
to the cell where the caliph expected their coming.

“What! is the commander of the faithful sick?” said Edris al Shafei in a
low voice to his companion.--“I rather think he is in his oratory,”
answered Al Mouhateddin. Vathek, who heard the dialogue, cried out,
“What imports it you, how I am employed? approach without delay.” They
advanced, whilst the caliph, without showing himself, put forth his hand
from behind the tapestry that hung before the door, and demanded of them
the besom. Having prostrated themselves as well as the corridor would
permit, and even in a tolerable semicircle, the venerable Al Shafei,
drawing forth the besom from the embroidered and perfumed scarves in
which it had been enveloped and secured from the profane gaze of vulgar
eyes, arose from his associates, and advanced, with an air of the most
awful solemnity, towards the supposed oratory; but with what
astonishment! with what horror was he seized! Vathek, bursting out into
a villainous laugh, snatched the besom from his trembling hand, and,
fixing upon some cobwebs, that hung from the ceiling, gravely brushed
them away till not a single one remained. The old men, overpowered with
amazement, were unable to lift their beards from the ground; for, as
Vathek had carelessly left the tapestry between them half drawn, they
were witnesses of the whole transaction. Their tears bedewed the marble.
Al Mouhateddin swooned through mortification and fatigue, whilst the
caliph, throwing himself backward on his seat, shouted and clapped his
hands without mercy. At last, addressing himself to Bababalouk, “My dear
black,” said he, “go, regale these pious poor souls with my good wine
from Schiraz, since they can boast of having seen more of my palace than
any one besides.” Having said this, he threw the besom in their face,
and went to enjoy the laugh with Carathis. Bababalouk did all in his
power to console the ambassadors; but the two most infirm expired on the
spot: the rest were carried to their beds, from whence, being
heart-broken with sorrow and shame, they never arose.

The succeeding night, Vathek, attended by his mother, ascended the tower
to see if everything were ready for his journey; for he had great faith
in the influence of the stars. The planets appeared in their most
favourable aspects. The caliph, to enjoy so flattering a sight, supped
gaily on the roof; and fancied that he heard, during his repast, loud
shouts of laughter resound through the sky, in a manner that inspired
the fullest assurance.

All was in motion at the palace; lights were kept burning through the
whole of the night: the sound of implements, and of artisans finishing
their work; the voices of women, and their guardians, who sung at their
embroidery; all conspired to interrupt the stillness of nature, and
infinitely delighted the heart of Vathek, who imagined himself going in
triumph to sit upon the throne of Soliman. The people were not less
satisfied than himself: all assisted to accelerate the moment which
should rescue them from the wayward caprices of so extravagant a master.

The day preceding the departure of this infatuated prince was employed
by Carathis in repeating to him the decrees of the mysterious parchment,
which she had thoroughly gotten by heart; and in recommending him not to
enter the habitation of any one by the way:--“For well thou knowest,”
added she, “how liquorish thy taste is after good dishes and young
damsels: let me, therefore, enjoin thee to be content with thy old
cooks, who are the best in the world; and not to forget that, in thy
ambulatory seraglio, there are at least three dozen of pretty faces
which Bababalouk has not yet unveiled. I myself have a great desire to
watch over thy conduct, and visit the subterranean palace, which, no
doubt, contains whatever can interest persons like us. There is nothing
so pleasing as retiring to caverns: my taste for dead bodies, and
everything like mummy, is decided; and, I am confident, thou wilt see
the most exquisite of their kind. Forget me not then, but the moment
thou art in possession of the talismans which are to open the way to the
mineral kingdoms and the centre of the earth itself, fail not to
dispatch some trusty genius to take me and my cabinet; for the oil of
the serpents I have pinched to death will be a pretty present to the
Giaour, who cannot but be charmed with such dainties.”

Scarcely had Carathis ended this edifying discourse, when the sun,
setting behind the mountain of the four fountains, gave place to the
rising moon. This planet, being that evening at full, appeared of
unusual beauty and magnitude in the eyes of the women, the eunuchs, and
the pages, who were all impatient to set forward. The city re-echoed
with shouts of joy and flourishing of trumpets. Nothing was visible but
plumes nodding on pavilions, and aigrets shining in the mild lustre of
the moon. The spacious square resembled an immense parterre variegated
with the most stately tulips of the East.

Arrayed in the robes which were only worn at the most distinguished
ceremonials, and supported by his vizier and Bababalouk, the caliph
descended the great staircase of the tower in the sight of all his
people. He could not forbear pausing, at intervals, to admire the superb
appearance which everywhere courted his view; whilst the whole
multitude, even to the camels with their sumptuous burdens, knelt down
before him. For some time a general stillness prevailed, which nothing
happened to disturb but the shrill screams of some eunuchs in the rear.
These vigilant guards, having remarked certain cages of the ladies
swagging somewhat awry, and discovered that a few adventurous gallants
had contrived to get in, soon dislodged the enraptured culprits, and
consigned them, with good commendations, to the surgeons of the serail.
The majesty of so magnificent a spectacle was not, however, violated by
incidents like these. Vathek, meanwhile, saluted the moon with an
idolatrous air, that neither pleased Morakanabad, nor the doctors of the
law, any more than the viziers and grandees of his court, who were all
assembled to enjoy the last view of their sovereign.

At length, the clarions and trumpets from the top of the tower announced
the prelude of departure. Though the instruments were in unison with
each other, yet a singular dissonance was blended with their sounds.
This proceeded from Carathis, who was singing her direful orisons to the
Giaour, whilst the negresses and mutes supplied thorough-bass, without
articulating a word. The good Mussulmans fancied that they heard the
sullen hum of those nocturnal insects which presage evil, and importuned
Vathek to beware how he ventured his sacred person.

On a given signal, the great standard of the Califat was displayed:
twenty thousand lances shone around it; and the caliph, treading royally
on the cloth of gold which had been spread for his feet, ascended his
litter amidst the general acclamations of his subjects.

The expedition commenced with the utmost order, and so entire a silence,
that even the locusts were heard from the thickets on the plain of
Catoul. Gaiety and good humour prevailing, they made full six leagues
before the dawn; and the morning star was still glittering in the
firmament, when the whole of this numerous train had halted on the banks
of the Tigris, where they encamped to repose for the rest of the day.

The three days that followed were spent in the same manner; but on the
fourth the heavens looked angry: lightnings broke forth in frequent
flashes; re-echoing peals of thunder succeeded; and the trembling
Circassians clung with all their might to their ugly guardians. The
caliph himself was greatly inclined to take shelter in the large town of
Ghulchissar, the governor of which came forth to meet him, and tendered
every kind of refreshment the place could supply. But, having examined
his tablets, he suffered the rain to soak him almost to the bone,
notwithstanding the importunity of his first favourites. Though he began
to regret the palace of the senses, yet he lost not sight of his
enterprise, and his sanguine expectation confirmed his resolution. His
geographers were ordered to attend him; but the weather proved so
terrible that these poor people exhibited a lamentable appearance: and
their maps of the different countries, spoiled by the rain, were in a
still worse plight than themselves. As no long journey had been
undertaken since the time of Haroun al Raschid, every one was ignorant
which way to turn; and Vathek, though well versed in the course of the
heavens, no longer knew his situation on earth. He thundered even louder
than the elements; and muttered forth certain hints of the bow-string,
which were not very soothing to literary ears. Disgusted at the
toilsome weariness of the way, he determined to cross over the craggy
heights and follow the guidance of a peasant, who undertook to bring him
in four days to Rocnabad. Remonstrances were all to no purpose: his
resolution was fixed.

The females and eunuchs uttered shrill wailings at the sight of the
precipices below them, and the dreary prospects that opened in the vast
gorges of the mountains. Before they could reach the ascent of the
steepest rock, night overtook them, and a boisterous tempest arose,
which, having rent the awnings of the palanquins and cages, exposed to
the raw gusts the poor ladies within, who had never before felt so
piercing a cold. The dark clouds that overcast the face of the sky
deepened the horrors of this disastrous night, insomuch that nothing
could be heard distinctly but the mewling of pages and lamentations of

To increase the general misfortune, the frightful uproar of wild beasts
resounded at a distance; and there were soon perceived in the forest
they were skirting the glaring of eyes, which could belong only to
devils or tigers. The pioneers, who, as well as they could, had marked
out a track, and a part of the advanced guard, were devoured before they
had been in the least apprised of their danger. The confusion that
prevailed was extreme. Wolves, tigers, and other carnivorous animals,
invited by the howling of their companions, flocked together from every
quarter. The crashing of bones was heard on all sides, and a fearful
rush of wings overhead; for now vultures also began to be of the party.

The terror at length reached the main body of the troops which
surrounded the monarch and his harem at the distance of two leagues from
the scene. Vathek (voluptuously reposed in his capacious litter upon
cushions of silk, with two little pages beside him of complexions more
fair than the enamel of Franguestan, who were occupied in keeping off
flies) was soundly asleep, and contemplating in his dreams the treasures
of Soliman. The shrieks, however, of his wives awoke him with a start;
and, instead of the Giaour with his key of gold, he beheld Bababalouk
full of consternation. “Sire,” exclaimed this good servant of the most
potent of monarchs, “misfortune is arrived at its height; wild beasts,
who entertain no more reverence for your sacred person than for a dead
ass, have beset your camels and their drivers; thirty of the most richly
laden are already become their prey, as well as your confectioners, your
cooks, and purveyors; and unless our holy Prophet should protect us, we
shall have all eaten our last meal.” At the mention of eating, the
caliph lost all patience. He began to bellow, and even beat himself (for
there was no seeing in the dark). The rumour every instant increased;
and Bababalouk, finding no good could be done with his master, stopped
both his ears against the hurlyburly of the harem, and called out aloud,
“Come, ladies and brothers! all hands to work: strike light in a moment!
never shall it be said, that the commander of the faithful served to
regale these infidel brutes.” Though there wanted not, in this bevy of
beauties, a sufficient number of capricious and wayward, yet, on the
present occasion, they were all compliance. Fires were visible, in a
twinkling, in all their cages. Ten thousand torches were lighted at
once. The caliph himself seized a large one of wax; every person
followed his example; and by kindling ropes’ ends, dipped in oil and
fastened on poles, an amazing blaze was spread. The rocks were covered
with the splendour of sunshine. The trails of sparks, wafted by the
wind, communicated to the dry fern, of which there was plenty. Serpents
were observed to crawl forth from their retreats, with amazement and
hissings; whilst the horses snorted, stamped the ground, tossed their
noses in the air, and plunged about without mercy.

One of the forests of cedar that bordered their way took fire; and the
branches that overhung the path, extending their flames to the muslins
and chintzes which covered the cages of the ladies, obliged them to jump
out, at the peril of their necks. Vathek, who vented on the occasion a
thousand blasphemies, was himself compelled to touch, with his sacred
feet, the naked earth.

Never had such an incident happened before. Full of mortification,
shame, and despondence, and not knowing how to walk, the ladies fell
into the dirt. “Must I go on foot?” said one. “Must I wet my feet?”
cried another. “Must I soil my dress?” asked a third. “Execrable
Bababalouk!” exclaimed all. “Outcast of hell! what hast thou to do with
torches? Better were it to be eaten by tigers, than to fall into our
present condition! we are for ever undone! Not a porter is there in the
army, nor a currier of camels, but hath seen some part of our bodies;
and, what is worse, our very faces!” On saying this the most bashful
amongst them hid their foreheads on the ground, whilst such as had more
boldness flew at Bababalouk; but he, well apprised of their humour, and
not wanting in shrewdness, betook himself to his heels along with his
comrades, all dropping their torches and striking their timbals.

It was not less light than in the brightest of the dog-days, and the
weather was hot in proportion; but how degrading was the spectacle, to
behold the caliph bespattered, like an ordinary mortal! As the exercise
of his faculties seemed to be suspended, one of his Ethiopian wives (for
he delighted in variety) clasped him in her arms, threw him upon her
shoulder like a sack of dates, and, finding that the fire was hemming
them in, set off with no small expedition, considering the weight of her
burden. The other ladies, who had just learned the use of their feet,
followed her; their guards galloped after; and the camel-drivers brought
up the rear, as fast as their charge would permit.

They soon reached the spot where the wild beasts had commenced the
carnage, but which they had too much good sense not to leave at the
approaching of the tumult, having made besides a most luxurious supper.
Bababalouk, nevertheless, seized on a few of the plumpest, which were
unable to budge from the place, and began to flay them with admirable
adroitness. The cavalcade having proceeded so far from the conflagration
that the heat felt rather grateful than violent, it was immediately
resolved on to halt. The tattered chintzes were picked up; the scraps,
left by the wolves and tigers, interred; and vengeance was taken on some
dozens of vultures, that were too much glutted to rise on the wing. The
camels, which had been left unmolested to make sal ammoniac, being
numbered, and the ladies once more enclosed in their cages, the imperial
tent was pitched on the levellest ground they could find.

Vathek, reposing upon a mattress of down, and tolerably recovered from
the jolting of the Ethiopian, who, to his feelings, seemed the roughest
trotting jade he had hitherto mounted, called out for something to eat.
But, alas! those delicate cakes which had been baked in silver ovens for
his royal mouth, those rich manchets, amber comfits, flagons of Schiraz
wine, porcelain vases of snow, and grapes from the banks of the Tigris,
were all irremediably lost! And nothing had Bababalouk to present in
their stead but a roasted wolf, vultures _à la daube_, aromatic herbs of
the most acrid poignancy, rotten truffles, boiled thistles, and such
other wild plants as much ulcerate the throat and parch up the tongue.
Nor was he better provided in the article of drink; for he could procure
nothing to accompany these irritating viands but a few phials of
abominable brandy which had been secreted by the scullions in their
slippers. Vathek made wry faces at so savage a repast, and Bababalouk
answered them with shrugs and contortions. The caliph, however, ate with
tolerable appetite, and fell into a nap that lasted six hours.

The splendour of the sun, reflected from the white cliffs of the
mountains, in spite of the curtains that enclosed Vathek, at length
disturbed his repose. He awoke terrified, and stung to the quick by
wormwood-colour flies, which emitted from their wings a suffocating
stench. The miserable monarch was perplexed how to act, though his wits
were not idle in seeking expedients; whilst Bababalouk lay snoring
amidst a swarm of those insects that busily thronged to pay court to his
nose. The little pages, famished with hunger, had dropped their fans on
the ground, and exerted their dying voices in bitter reproaches on the
caliph, who now, for the first time, heard the language of truth.

Thus stimulated, he renewed his imprecations against the Giaour, and
bestowed upon Mahomet some soothing expressions. “Where am I?” cried he:
“what are these dreadful rocks--these valleys of darkness? Are we
arrived at the horrible Kaf? Is the Simurgh coming to pluck out my eyes,
as a punishment for undertaking this impious enterprise?” Having said
this he turned himself towards an outlet in the side of his pavilion;
but, alas! what objects occurred to his view? on one side a plain of
black sand that appeared to be unbounded; and, on the other,
perpendicular crags, bristled over with those abominable thistles which
had so severely lacerated his tongue. He fancied, however, that he
perceived amongst the brambles and briars some gigantic flowers, but was
mistaken; for these were only the dangling palampores and variegated
tatters of his gay retinue. As there were several clefts in the rock
from whence water seemed to have flowed, Vathek applied his ear with the
hope of catching the sound of some latent torrent; but could only
distinguish the low murmurs of his people, who were repining at their
journey, and complaining for the want of water. “To what purpose,” asked
they, “have we been brought hither? hath our caliph another tower to
build? or have the relentless afrits, whom Carathis so much loves, fixed
their abode in this place?”

At the name of Carathis, Vathek recollected the tablets he had received
from his mother, who assured him they were fraught with preternatural
qualities, and advised him to consult them as emergencies might require.
Whilst he was engaged in turning them over, he heard a shout of joy and
a loud clapping of hands. The curtains of his pavilion were soon drawn
back, and he beheld Bababalouk, followed by a troop of his favourites,
conducting two dwarfs, each a cubit high; who had brought between them a
large basket of melons, oranges, and pomegranates. They were singing in
the sweetest tones the words that follow: “We dwell on the top of these
rocks, in a cabin of rushes and canes; the eagles envy us our nest: a
small spring supplies us with water for the Abdest, and we daily repeat
prayers, which the Prophet approves. We love you, O commander of the
faithful! our master, the good Emir Fakreddin, loves you also: he
reveres, in your person, the vicegerent of Mahomet. Little as we are, in
us he confides: he knows our hearts to be as good as our bodies are
contemptible; and hath placed us here to aid those who are bewildered on
these dreary mountains. Last night, whilst we were occupied within our
cell in reading the holy Koran, a sudden hurricane blew out our lights,
and rocked our habitation. For two whole hours, palpable darkness
prevailed; but we heard sounds at a distance, which we conjectured to
proceed from the bells of a cafila, passing over the rocks. Our ears
were soon filled with deplorable shrieks, frightful roarings, and the
sound of timbals. Chilled with terror, we concluded that the Deggial,
with his exterminating angels, had sent forth his plagues on the earth.
In the midst of these melancholy reflections, we perceived flames of the
deepest red glow in the horizon; and found ourselves, in a few moments,
covered with flakes of fire. Amazed at so strange an appearance, we took
up the volume dictated by the blessed Intelligence, and, kneeling, by
the light of the fire that surrounded us, we recited the verse which
says, ‘Put no trust in any thing but the mercy of Heaven: there is no
help, save in the holy Prophet: the mountain of Kaf itself may tremble;
it is the power of Allah only that cannot be moved.’ After having
pronounced these words, we felt consolation, and our minds were hushed
into a sacred repose. Silence ensued, and our ears clearly distinguished
a voice in the air, saying: ‘Servants of my faithful servant! go down to
the happy valley of Fakreddin: tell him that an illustrious opportunity
now offers to satiate the thirst of his hospitable heart. The commander
of true believers is, this day, bewildered amongst these mountains, and
stands in need of thy aid.’--We obeyed with joy the angelic mission; and
our master, filled with pious zeal, hath culled with his own hands these
melons, oranges, and pomegranates. He is following us, with a hundred
dromedaries, laden with the purest waters of his fountains; and is
coming to kiss the fringe of your consecrated robe, and implore you to
enter his humble habitation, which, placed amidst these barren wilds,
resembles an emerald set in lead.” The dwarfs, having ended their
address, remained still standing, and, with hands crossed upon their
bosoms, preserved a respectful silence.

Vathek, in the midst of this curious harangue, seized the basket; and,
long before it was finished, the fruits had dissolved in his mouth. As
he continued to eat, his piety increased; and, in the same breath, he
recited his prayers and called for the Koran and sugar.

Such was the state of his mind when the tablets, which were thrown by at
the approach of the dwarfs, again attracted his eye. He took them up;
but was ready to drop on the ground when he beheld, in large red
characters, inscribed by Carathis, these words--which were, indeed,
enough to make him tremble: “Beware of old doctors and their puny
messengers of but one cubit high: distrust their pious frauds; and,
instead of eating their melons, impale on a spit the bearers of them.
Shouldest thou be such a fool as to visit them, the portal of the
subterranean palace will shut in thy face, with such force as shall
shake thee asunder: thy body shall be spit upon, and bats will nestle in
thy belly.”

“To what tends this ominous rhapsody?” cries the caliph; “and must I,
then, perish in these deserts with thirst, whilst I may refresh myself
in the delicious valley of melons and cucumbers? Accursed be the Giaour
with his portal of ebony! he hath made me dance attendance too long
already. Besides, who shall prescribe laws to me? I, forsooth, must not
enter any one’s habitation! Be it so; but what one can I enter that is
not my own?” Bababalouk, who lost not a syllable of this soliloquy,
applauded it with all his heart; and the ladies, for the first time,
agreed with him in opinion.

The dwarfs were entertained, caressed, and seated, with great ceremony,
on little cushions of satin. The symmetry of their persons was a subject
of admiration; not an inch of them was suffered to pass unexamined.
Knick-knacks and dainties were offered in profusion; but all were
declined with respectful gravity. They climbed up the sides of the
caliph’s seat, and, placing themselves each on one of his shoulders,
began to whisper prayers in his ears. Their tongues quivered like aspen
leaves; and the patience of Vathek was almost exhausted, when the
acclamations of the troops announced the approach of Fakreddin, who was
come with a hundred old grey-beards, and as many Korans and dromedaries.
They instantly set about their ablutions, and began to repeat the
Bismillah. Vathek, to get rid of these officious monitors, followed
their example, for his hands were burning.

The good emir, who was punctiliously religious, and likewise a great
dealer in compliments, made an harangue five times more prolix and
insipid than his little harbingers had already delivered. The caliph,
unable any longer to refrain, exclaimed, “For the love of Mahomet, my
dear Fakreddin, have done! let us proceed to your valley, and enjoy the
fruits that Heaven hath vouchsafed you.” The hint of proceeding put all
into motion. The venerable attendants of the emir set forward somewhat
slowly, but Vathek having ordered his little pages, in private, to goad
on the dromedaries, loud fits of laughter broke forth from the cages;
for the unwieldy curvetting of these poor beasts, and the ridiculous
distress of their superannuated riders, afforded the ladies no small

They descended, however, unhurt into the valley, by the easy slopes
which the emir had ordered to be cut in the rock; and already the
murmuring of streams and the rustling of leaves began to catch their
attention. The cavalcade soon entered a path, which was skirted by
flowering shrubs, and extended to a vast wood of palm trees, whose
branches overspread a vast building of freestone. This edifice was
crowned with nine domes, and adorned with as many portals of bronze, on
which was engraven the following inscription: “This is the asylum of
pilgrims, the refuge of travellers, and the depository of secrets from
all parts of the world.”

Nine pages, beautiful as the day, and decently clothed in robes of
Egyptian linen, were standing at each door. They received the whole
retinue with an easy and inviting air. Four of the most amiable placed
the caliph on a magnificent tecthtrevan; four others, somewhat less
graceful, took charge of Bababalouk, who capered for joy at the snug
little cabin that fell to his share: the pages that remained waited on
the rest of the train.

Every man being gone out of sight, the gate of a large enclosure on the
right turned on its harmonious hinges; and a young female, of a slender
form, came forth. Her light brown hair floated in the hazy breeze of the
twilight. A troop of young maidens, like the Pleiades, attended her on
tiptoe. They hastened to the pavilions that contained the sultanas; and
the young lady, gracefully bending, said to them, “Charming princesses!
everything is ready; we have prepared beds for your repose, and strewed
your apartments with jasmine. No insects will keep off slumber from
visiting your eyelids; we will dispel them with a thousand plumes. Come,
then, amiable ladies! refresh your delicate feet and your ivory limbs in
baths of rose water; and, by the light of perfumed lamps, your servants
will amuse you with tales.” The sultanas accepted with pleasure these
obliging offers, and followed the young lady to the emir’s harem; where
we must, for a moment, leave them and return to the caliph.

Vathek found himself beneath a vast dome, illuminated by a thousand
lamps of rock crystal: as many vases of the same material, filled with
excellent sherbet, sparkled on a large table, where a profusion of
viands were spread. Amongst others, were rice boiled in milk of almonds,
saffron soups, and lamb _à la crême_; of all which the caliph was
amazingly fond. He took of each as much as he was able; testified his
sense of the emir’s friendship by the gaiety of his heart; and made the
dwarfs dance against their will, for these little devotees durst not
refuse the commander of the faithful. At last, he spread himself on the
sofa, and slept sounder than he ever had before.

Beneath this dome a general silence prevailed; for there was nothing to
disturb it but the jaws of Bababalouk, who had untrussed himself to eat
with greater advantage, being anxious to make amends for his fast in the
mountains. As his spirits were too high to admit of his sleeping, and
hating to be idle, he proposed with himself to visit the harem, and
repair to his charge of the ladies: to examine if they had been properly
lubricated with the balm of Mecca; if their eyebrows and tresses were in
order; and, in a word, to perform all the little offices they might
need. He sought for a long time together, but without being able to find
out the door. He durst not speak aloud, for fear of disturbing the
caliph; and not a soul was stirring in the precincts of the palace. He
almost despaired of effecting his purpose, when a low whispering just
reached his ear. It came from the dwarfs, who were returned to their old
occupation, and, for the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time in their
lives, were reading over the Koran. They very politely invited
Bababalouk to be of their party; but his head was full of other
concerns. The dwarfs, though not a little scandalized at his dissolute
morals, directed him to the apartments he wanted to find. His way
thither lay through a hundred dark corridors, along which he groped as
he went, and at last began to catch, from the extremity of a passage,
the charming gossiping of the women, which not a little delighted his
heart. “Ah, ha! what, not yet asleep?” cried he; and, taking long
strides as he spoke, “did you not suspect me of abjuring my charge?” Two
of the black eunuchs, on hearing a voice so loud, left their party in
haste, sabre in hand, to discover the cause; but presently was repeated
on all sides, “’Tis only Bababalouk! no one but Bababalouk!” This
circumspect guardian, having gone up to a thin veil of carnation-colour
silk that hung before the doorway, distinguished, by means of the
softened splendour that shone through it, an oval bath of dark porphyry,
surrounded by curtains, festooned in large folds. Through the apertures
between them, as they were not drawn close, groups of young slaves were
visible; amongst whom Bababalouk perceived his pupils, indulgingly
expanding their arms, as if to embrace the perfumed water and refresh
themselves after their fatigues. The looks of tender languor; their
confidential whispers, and the enchanting smiles with which they were
imparted; the exquisite fragrance of the roses: all combined to inspire
a voluptuousness, which even Bababalouk himself was scarce able to

He summoned up, however, his usual solemnity; and, in the peremptory
tone of authority, commanded the ladies instantly to leave the bath.
Whilst he was issuing these mandates, the young Nouronihar, daughter of
the emir, who was as sprightly as an antelope, and full of wanton
gaiety, beckoned one of her slaves to let down the great swing which was
suspended to the ceiling by cords of silk; and whilst this was doing,
winked to her companions in the bath, who, chagrined to be forced from
so soothing a state of indolence, began to twist and entangle their hair
to plague and detain Bababalouk, and teased him, besides, with a
thousand vagaries.

Nouronihar, perceiving that he was nearly out of patience, accosted him,
with an arch air of respectful concern, and said, “My lord! it is not by
any means decent that the chief eunuch of the caliph, our sovereign,
should thus continue standing; deign but to recline your graceful person
upon this sofa, which will burst with vexation if it have not the honour
to receive you.” Caught by these flattering accents, Bababalouk
gallantly replied, “Delight of the apple of my eye! I accept the
invitation of your honeyed lips; and, to say truth, my senses are
dazzled with the radiance that beams from your charms.”--“Repose, then,
at your ease,” replied the beauty, as she placed him on the pretended
sofa, which, quicker than lightning, flew up all at once. The rest of
the women, having aptly conceived her design, sprang naked from the
bath, and plied the swing with such unmerciful jerks that it swept
through the whole compass of a very lofty dome, and took from the poor
victim all power of respiration. Sometimes his feet razed the surface of
the water; and, at others, the skylight almost flattened his nose. In
vain did he fill the air with the cries of a voice that resembled the
ringing of a cracked jar; the peals of laughter were still predominant.

Nouronihar, in the inebriety of youthful spirits, being used only to
eunuchs of ordinary harems, and having never seen anything so eminently
disgusting, was far more diverted than all the rest. She began to parody
some Persian verses, and sang, with an accent most demurely piquant,
“Oh, gentle white dove! as thou soar’st through the air, vouchsafe one
kind glance on the mate of thy love: melodious Philomel, I am thy rose;
warble some couplet to ravish my heart!”

The sultanas and their slaves, stimulated by these pleasantries,
persevered at the swing with such unremitted assiduity, that at length
the cord which had secured it snapped suddenly asunder; and Bababalouk
fell, floundering like a turtle, to the bottom of the bath. This
accident occasioned an universal shout. Twelve little doors, till now
unobserved, flew open at once; and the ladies, in an instant, made their
escape; but not before having heaped all the towels on his head, and put
out the lights that remained.

The deplorable animal, in water to the chin, overwhelmed with darkness,
and unable to extricate himself from the wrappers that embarrassed him,
was still doomed to hear, for his further consolation, the fresh bursts
of merriment his disaster occasioned. He bustled, but in vain, to get
from the bath; for the margin was become so slippery with the oil spilt
in breaking the lamps, that, at every effort, he slid back with a plunge
which resounded aloud through the hollow of the dome. These cursed peals
of laughter were redoubled at every relapse, and he, who thought the
place infested rather by devils than women, resolved to cease groping,
and abide in the bath; where he amused himself with soliloquies,
interspersed with imprecations, of which his malicious neighbours,
reclining on down, suffered not an accent to escape. In this delectable
plight the morning surprised him. The caliph, wondering at his absence,
had caused him to be sought for everywhere. At last he was drawn forth
almost smothered from under the wisp of linen, and wet even to the
marrow. Limping, and his teeth chattering with cold, he approached his
master, who inquired what was the matter, and how he came soused in so
strange a pickle.--“And why did you enter this cursed lodge?” answered
Bababalouk gruffly. “Ought a monarch like you to visit with his harem
the abode of a grey-bearded emir, who knows nothing of life?--And with
what gracious damsels doth the place too abound! Fancy to yourself how
they have soaked me like a burnt crust; and made me dance like a
jack-pudding, the livelong night through, on their damnable swing. What
an excellent lesson for your sultanas, into whom I had instilled such
reserve and decorum!” Vathek, comprehending not a syllable of all this
invective, obliged him to relate minutely the transaction: but, instead
of sympathizing with the miserable sufferer, he laughed immoderately at
the device of the swing and the figure of Bababalouk mounted upon it.
The stung eunuch could scarcely preserve the semblance of respect. “Ay,
laugh, my lord! laugh,” said he; “but I wish this Nouronihar would play
some trick on you; she is too wicked to spare even majesty itself.”
These words made, for the present, but a slight impression on the
caliph; but they not long after recurred to his mind.

This conversation was cut short by Fakreddin, who came to request that
Vathek would join in the prayers and ablutions, to be solemnized on a
spacious meadow watered by innumerable streams. The caliph found the
waters refreshing, but the prayers abominably irksome. He diverted
himself, however, with the multitude of calenders, santons, and
dervishes, who were continually coming and going; but especially with
the Brahmins, fakirs, and other enthusiasts, who had travelled from the
heart of India, and halted on their way with the emir. These latter had
each of them some mummery peculiar to himself. One dragged a huge chain
wherever he went; another an orang-outang; whilst a third was furnished
with scourges; and all performed to a charm. Some would climb up trees,
holding one foot in the air; others poise themselves over a fire, and
without mercy fillip their noses. There were some amongst them that
cherished vermin, which were not ungrateful in requiting their caresses.
These rambling fanatics revolted the hearts of the dervishes, the
calenders, and santons; however, the vehemence of their aversion soon
subsided, under the hope that the presence of the caliph would cure
their folly, and convert them to the Mussulman faith. But, alas! how
great was their disappointment! for Vathek, instead of preaching to
them, treated them as buffoons, bade them present his compliments to
Visnow and Ixhora, and discovered a predilection for a squat old man
from the Isle of Serendib, who was more ridiculous than any of the rest.
“Come!” said he, “for the love of your gods, bestow a few slaps on your
chops to amuse me.” The old fellow, offended at such an address, began
loudly to weep; but, as he betrayed a villainous drivelling in shedding
tears, the caliph turned his back and listened to Bababalouk, who
whispered, whilst he held the umbrella over him, “Your majesty should be
cautious of this odd assembly, which hath been collected I know not for
what. Is it necessary to exhibit such spectacles to a mighty potentate,
with interludes of talapoins more mangy than dogs? Were I you, I would
command a fire to be kindled, and at once rid the estates of the emir,
of his harem, and all his menagerie.”--“Tush, dolt,” answered Vathek,
“and know that all this infinitely charms me. Nor shall I leave the
meadow till I have visited every hive of these pious mendicants.”

Wherever the caliph directed his course, objects of pity were sure to
swarm round him; the blind, the purblind, smarts without noses, damsels
without ears, each to extol the munificence of Fakreddin, who, as well
as his attendant grey-beards, dealt about, gratis, plasters and
cataplasms to all that applied. At noon, a superb corps of cripples made
its appearance; and soon after advanced, by platoons, on the plain, the
completest association of invalids that had ever been embodied till
then. The blind went groping with the blind, the lame limped on
together, and the maimed made gestures to each other with the only arm
that remained. The sides of a considerable waterfall were crowded by the
deaf; amongst whom were some from Pegû, with ears uncommonly handsome
and large, but who were still less able to hear than the rest. Nor were
there wanting others in abundance with hump-backs, wenny necks, and even
horns of an exquisite polish.

The emir, to aggrandize the solemnity of the festival, in honour of his
illustrious visitant, ordered the turf to be spread on all sides with
skins and table-cloths; upon which were served up for the good
Mussulmans pilaus of every hue, with other orthodox dishes; and, by the
express order of Vathek, who was shamefully tolerant, small plates of
abominations were prepared, to the great scandal of the faithful. The
holy assembly began to fall to. The caliph, in spite of every
remonstrance from the chief of his eunuchs, resolved to have a dinner
dressed on the spot. The complaisant emir immediately gave orders for a
table to be placed in the shade of the willows. The first service
consisted of fish, which they drew from a river flowing over sands of
gold at the foot of a lofty hill. These were broiled as fast as taken,
and served up with a sauce of vinegar and small herbs that grew on Mount
Sinai; for everything with the emir was excellent and pious.

The dessert was not quite set on, when the sound of lutes from the hill
was repeated by the echoes of the neighbouring mountains. The caliph,
with an emotion of pleasure and surprise, had no sooner raised up his
head, than a handful of jasmine dropped on his face. An abundance of
tittering succeeded the frolic, and instantly appeared, through the
bushes, the elegant forms of several young females, skipping and
bounding like roes. The fragrance diffused from their hair struck the
sense of Vathek, who, in an ecstasy, suspending his repast, said to
Bababalouk, “Are the peris come down from their spheres? Note her, in
particular, whose form is so perfect; venturously running on the brink
of the precipice, and turning back her head, as regardless of nothing
but the graceful flow of her robe. With what captivating impatience doth
she contend with the bushes for her veil? could it be she who threw the
jasmine at me?”--“Ay! she it was; and you too would she throw, from the
top of the rock,” answered Bababalouk, “for that is my good friend
Nouronihar, who so kindly lent me her swing. My dear lord and master,”
added he, wresting a twig from a willow, “let me correct her for her
want of respect: the emir will have no reason to complain; since (bating
what I owe to his piety) he is much to be blamed for keeping a troop of
girls on the mountains, where the sharpness of the air gives their blood
too brisk a circulation.”

“Peace! blasphemer,” said the caliph; “speak not thus of her, who, over
these mountains, leads my heart a willing captive. Contrive, rather,
that my eyes may be fixed upon hers; that I may respire her sweet breath
as she bounds panting along these delightful wilds!” On saying these
words, Vathek extended his arms towards the hill; and directing his eyes
with an anxiety unknown to him before, endeavoured to keep within view
the object that enthralled his soul; but her course was as difficult to
follow as the flight of one of those beautiful blue butterflies of
Cashmere which are at once, so volatile and rare.

The caliph, not satisfied with seeing, wished also to hear Nouronihar,
and eagerly turned to catch the sound of her voice. At last, he
distinguished her whispering to one of her companions behind the thicket
from whence she had thrown the jasmine: “A caliph, it must be owned, is
a fine thing to see: but my little Gulchenrouz is much more amiable: one
lock of his hair is of more value to me than the richest embroidery of
the Indies. I had rather that his teeth should mischievously press my
finger, than the richest ring of the imperial treasure. Where have you
left him, Sutlememe? and why is he not here?”

The agitated caliph still wished to hear more; but she immediately
retired with all her attendants. The fond monarch pursued her with his
eyes till she was gone out of sight; and then continued like a
bewildered and benighted traveller, from whom the clouds had obscured
the constellation that guided his way. The curtain of night seemed
dropped before him: everything appeared discoloured. The falling waters
filled his soul with dejection, and his tears trickled down the jasmines
he had caught from Nouronihar, and placed in his inflamed bosom. He
snatched up a few shining pebbles, to remind him of the scene where he
felt the first tumults of love. Two hours were elapsed, and evening drew
on, before he could resolve to depart from the place. He often, but in
vain, attempted to go: a soft languor enervated the powers of his mind.
Extending himself on the brink of the stream, he turned his eyes towards
the blue summits of the mountain, and exclaimed, “What concealest thou
behind thee, pitiless rock? what is passing in thy solitudes? Whither is
she gone? O heaven! perhaps she is now wandering in thy grottoes with
her happy Gulchenrouz!”

In the meantime, the damps began to descend; and the emir, solicitous
for the health of the caliph, ordered the imperial litter to be brought.
Vathek, absorbed in his reveries, was imperceptibly removed and conveyed
back to the saloon that received him the evening before. But let us
leave the caliph immersed in his new passion, and attend Nouronihar
beyond the rocks, where she had again joined her beloved Gulchenrouz.

This Gulchenrouz was the son of Ali Hassan, brother to the emir; and the
most delicate and lovely creature in the world. Ali Hassan, who had been
absent ten years on a voyage to the unknown seas, committed, at his
departure, this child, the only survivor of many, to the care and
protection of his brother. Gulchenrouz could write in various
characters with precision, and paint upon vellum the most elegant
arabesques that fancy could devise. His sweet voice accompanied the lute
in the most enchanting manner; and when he sang the loves of Megnoun and
Leilah, or some unfortunate lovers of ancient days, tears insensibly
overflowed the cheeks of his auditors. The verses he composed (for, like
Megnoun, he, too, was a poet) inspired that unresisting languor, so
frequently fatal to the female heart. The women all doted upon him; and,
though he had passed his thirteenth year, they still detained him in the
harem. His dancing was light as the gossamer waved by the zephyrs of
spring; but his arms, which twined so gracefully with those of the young
girls in the dance, could neither dart the lance in the chase, nor curb
the steeds that pastured in his uncle’s domains. The bow, however, he
drew with a certain aim, and would have excelled his competitors in the
race, could he have broken the ties that bound him to Nouronihar.

The two brothers had mutually engaged their children to each other; and
Nouronihar loved her cousin more than her own beautiful eyes. Both had
the same tastes and amusements; the same long, languishing looks; the
same tresses; the same fair complexions; and, when Gulchenrouz appeared
in the dress of his cousin, he seemed to be more feminine than even
herself. If, at any time, he left the harem to visit Fakreddin, it was
with all the bashfulness of a fawn, that consciously ventures from the
lair of its dam: he was, however, wanton enough to mock the solemn old
grey-beards, though sure to be rated without mercy in return. Whenever
this happened, he would hastily plunge into the recesses of the harem;
and, sobbing, take refuge in the fond arms of Nouronihar, who loved even
his faults beyond the virtues of others.

It fell out this evening, that, after leaving the caliph in the meadow,
she ran with Gulchenrouz over the green sward of the mountain that
sheltered the vale where Fakreddin had chosen to reside. The sun was
dilated on the edge of the horizon; and the young people, whose fancies
were lively and inventive, imagined they beheld, in the gorgeous clouds
of the west, the domes of Shaddukian and Ambreabad, where the Peries
have fixed their abode. Nouronihar, sitting on the slope of the hill,
supported on her knees the perfumed head of Gulchenrouz. The unexpected
arrival of the caliph, and the splendour that marked his appearance, had
already filled with emotion the ardent soul of Nouronihar. Her vanity
irresistibly prompted her to pique the prince’s attention; and this she
before took good care to effect, whilst he picked up the jasmine she had
thrown upon him. But when Gulchenrouz asked after the flowers he had
culled for her bosom, Nouronihar was all in confusion. She hastily
kissed his forehead, arose in a flutter, and walked with unequal steps
on the border of the precipice. Night advanced, and the pure gold of the
setting sun had yielded to a sanguine red, the glow of which, like the
reflection of a burning furnace, flushed Nouronihar’s animated
countenance. Gulchenrouz, alarmed at the agitation of his cousin, said
to her, with a supplicating accent, “Let us be gone; the sky looks
portentous, the tamarisks tremble more than common, and the raw wind
chills my very heart. Come! let us be gone; ’tis a melancholy night!”
Then taking hold of her hand, he drew it towards the path he besought
her to go. Nouronihar unconsciously followed the attraction; for a
thousand strange imaginations occupied her spirits. She passed the large
round of honeysuckles, her favourite resort, without ever vouchsafing it
a glance; yet Gulchenrouz could not help snatching off a few shoots in
his way, though he ran as if a wild beast were behind.

The young females seeing them approach in such haste, and, according to
custom, expecting a dance, instantly assembled in a circle and took each
other by the hand; but Gulchenrouz, coming up out of breath, fell down
at once on the grass. This accident struck with consternation the whole
of this frolicsome party; whilst Nouronihar, half distracted and
overcome, both by the violence of her exercise and the tumult of her
thoughts, sunk feebly down at his side, cherished his cold hands in her
bosom, and chafed his temples with a fragrant perfume. At length he came
to himself, and wrapping up his head in the robe of his cousin,
entreated that she would not return to the harem. He was afraid of being
snapped at by Shaban his tutor, a wrinkled old eunuch of a surly
disposition; for, having interrupted the wonted walk of Nouronihar, he
dreaded lest the churl should take it amiss. The whole of this sprightly
group, sitting round upon a mossy knoll, began to entertain themselves
with various pastimes, whilst their superintendents, the eunuchs, were
gravely conversing at a distance. The nurse of the emir’s daughter,
observing her pupil sit ruminating with her eyes on the ground,
endeavoured to amuse her with diverting tales; to which Gulchenrouz, who
had already forgotten his inquietudes, listened with a breathless
attention. He laughed, he clapped his hands, and passed a hundred
little tricks on the whole of the company, without omitting the eunuchs,
whom he provoked to run after him, in spite of their age and

During these occurrences, the moon arose, the wind subsided, and the
evening became so serene and inviting, that a resolution was taken to
sup on the spot. One of the eunuchs ran to fetch melons, whilst others
were employed in showering down almonds from the branches that overhung
this amiable party. Sutlememe, who excelled in dressing a salad, having
filled large bowls of porcelain with eggs of small birds, curds turned
with citron juice, slices of cucumber, and the inmost leaves of delicate
herbs, handed it round from one to another, and gave each their shares
with a large spoon of cocknos. Gulchenrouz, nestling, as usual, in the
bosom of Nouronihar, pouted out his vermilion little lips against the
offer of Sutlememe; and would take it only from the hand of his cousin,
on whose mouth he hung, like a bee inebriated with the nectar of

In the midst of this festive scene, there appeared a light on the top of
the highest mountain, which attracted the notice of every eye. This
light was not less bright than the moon when at full, and might have
been taken for her, had not the moon already risen. The phenomenon
occasioned a general surprise, and no one could conjecture the cause. It
could not be a fire, for the light was clear and bluish; nor had meteors
ever been seen of that magnitude or splendour. This strange light faded
for a moment, and immediately renewed its brightness. It first appeared
motionless, at the foot of the rock; whence it darted in an instant, to
sparkle in a thicket of palm-trees: from thence it glided along the
torrent; and at last fixed in a glen that was narrow and dark. The
moment it had taken its direction, Gulchenrouz, whose heart always
trembled at anything sudden or rare, drew Nouronihar by the robe, and
anxiously requested her to return to the harem. The women were
importunate in seconding the entreaty; but the curiosity of the emir’s
daughter prevailed. She not only refused to go back, but resolved, at
all hazards, to pursue the appearance.

Whilst they were debating what was best to be done, the light shot forth
so dazzling a blaze that they all fled away shrieking. Nouronihar
followed them a few steps; but, coming to the turn of a little by-path,
stopped, and went back alone. As she ran with an alertness peculiar to
herself, it was not long before she came to the place where they had
just been supping. The globe of fire now appeared stationary in the
glen, and burned in majestic stillness. Nouronihar, pressing her hands
upon her bosom, hesitated, for some moments, to advance. The solitude of
her situation was new, the silence of the night awful, and every object
inspired sensations which, till then, she never had felt. The affright
of Gulchenrouz recurred to her mind, and she a thousand times turned to
go back; but this luminous appearance was always before her. Urged on by
an irresistible impulse, she continued to approach it, in defiance of
every obstacle that opposed her progress.

At length she arrived at the opening of the glen; but, instead of coming
up to the light, she found herself surrounded by darkness; excepting
that, at a considerable distance, a faint spark glimmered by fits. She
stopped a second time: the sound of waterfalls mingling their murmurs,
the hollow rustlings among the palm-branches, and the funereal screams
of the birds from their rifted trunks, all conspired to fill her soul
with terror. She imagined, every moment, that she trod on some venomous
reptile. All the stories of malignant dives and dismal ghouls thronged
into her memory; but her curiosity was, notwithstanding, more
predominant than her fears. She therefore firmly entered a winding track
that led towards the spark; but, being a stranger to the path, she had
not gone far, till she began to repent of her rashness. “Alas!” said
she, “that I were but in those secure and illuminated apartments, where
my evenings glided on with Gulchenrouz! Dear child! how would thy heart
flutter with terror, wert thou wandering in these wild solitudes, like
me!” Thus speaking, she advanced, and coming up to steps hewn in the
rock, ascended them undismayed. The light, which was now gradually
enlarging, appeared above her on the summit of the mountain, and as if
proceeding from a cavern. At length, she distinguished a plaintive and
melodious union of voices, that resembled the dirges which are sung over
tombs. A sound like that which arises from the filling of baths struck
her ear at the same time. She continued ascending, and discovered large
wax torches in full blaze, planted here and there in the fissures of the
rock. This appearance filled her with fear, whilst the subtle and potent
odour which the torches exhaled caused her to sink, almost lifeless, at
the entrance of the grot.

Casting her eyes within in this kind of trance, she beheld a large
cistern of gold, filled with a water, the vapour of which distilled on
her face a dew of the essence of roses. A soft symphony resounded
through the grot. On the sides of the cistern she noticed appendages of
royalty, diadems and feathers of the heron, all sparkling with
carbuncles. Whilst her attention was fixed on this display of
magnificence, the music ceased, and a voice instantly demanded, “For
what monarch are these torches kindled, this bath prepared, and these
habiliments which belong not only to the sovereigns of the earth, but
even to the talismanic powers?” To which a second voice answered, “They
are for the charming daughter of the Emir Fakreddin.”--“What,” replied
the first, “for that trifler, who consumes her time with a giddy child,
immersed in softness, and who, at best, can make but a pitiful
husband?”--“And can she,” rejoined the other voice, “be amused with such
empty toys, whilst the caliph, the sovereign of the world, he who is
destined to enjoy the treasures of the pre-Adamite sultans, a prince six
feet high, and whose eyes pervade the inmost soul of a female, is
inflamed with love for her? No! she will be wise enough to answer that
passion alone that can aggrandize her glory. No doubt she will, and
despise the puppet of her fancy. Then all the riches this place
contains, as well as the carbuncle of Giamschid, shall be hers.”--“You
judge right,” returned the first voice; “and I haste to Istakar to
prepare the palace of subterranean fire for the reception of the bridal

The voices ceased; the torches were extinguished; the most entire
darkness succeeded; and Nouronihar, recovering with a start, found
herself reclined on a sofa in the harem of her father. She clapped her
hands, and immediately came together Gulchenrouz and her women, who, in
despair at having lost her, had dispatched eunuchs to seek her in every
direction. Shaban appeared with the rest, and began to reprimand her,
with an air of consequence: “Little impertinent,” said he, “have you
false keys, or are you beloved of some genius that hath given you a
picklock? I will try the extent of your power: come to the dark chamber,
and expect not the company of Gulchenrouz: be expeditious! I will shut
you up, and turn the key twice upon you!” At these menaces, Nouronihar
indignantly raised her head, opened on Shaban her black eyes, which,
since the important dialogue of the enchanted grot, were considerably
enlarged, and said, “Go, speak thus to slaves; but learn to reverence
her who is born to give laws, and subject all to her power.”

Proceeding in the same style, she was interrupted by a sudden
exclamation of “The caliph! the caliph!” All the curtains were thrown
open, the slaves prostrated themselves in double rows, and poor little
Gulchenrouz went to hide beneath the couch of a sofa. At first appeared
a file of black eunuchs trailing after them long trains of muslin
embroidered with gold, and holding in their hands censers, which
dispensed, as they passed, the grateful perfume of the wood of aloes.
Next marched Bababalouk with a solemn strut, and tossing his head, as
not overpleased at the visit. Vathek came close after, superbly robed:
his gait was unembarrassed and noble; and his presence would have
engaged admiration, though he had not been the sovereign of the world.
He approached Nouronihar with a throbbing heart, and seemed enraptured
at the full effulgence of her radiant eyes, of which he had before
caught but a few glimpses; but she instantly depressed them, and her
confusion augmented her beauty.

Bababalouk, who was a thorough adept in coincidences of this nature, and
knew that the worst game should be played with the best face,
immediately made a signal for all to retire; and no sooner did he
perceive beneath the sofa the little one’s feet, than he drew him forth
without ceremony, set him upon his shoulders, and lavished him, as he
went off, a thousand unwelcome caresses. Gulchenrouz cried out, and
resisted till his cheeks became the colour of the blossom of
pomegranates, and his tearful eyes sparkled with indignation. He cast a
significant glance at Nouronihar, which the caliph noticing, asked, “Is
that, then, your Gulchenrouz?”--“Sovereign of the world!” answered she,
“spare my cousin, whose innocence and gentleness deserve not your
anger!”--“Take comfort,” said Vathek, with a smile: “he is in good
hands. Bababalouk is fond of children, and never goes without sweetmeats
and comfits.” The daughter of Fakreddin was abashed, and suffered
Gulchenrouz to be borne away without adding a word. The tumult of her
bosom betrayed her confusion, and Vathek, becoming still more
impassioned, gave a loose to his frenzy; which had only not subdued the
last faint strugglings of reluctance, when the emir, suddenly bursting
in, threw his face upon the ground at the feet of the caliph, and said,
“Commander of the faithful! abase not yourself to the meanness of your
slave.”--“No, emir,” replied Vathek, “I raise her to an equality with
myself: I declare her my wife; and the glory of your race shall extend
from one generation to another.”--“Alas! my lord,” said Fakreddin, as he
plucked off a few grey hairs of his beard, “cut short the days of your
faithful servant, rather than force him to depart from his word.
Nouronihar is solemnly promised to Gulchenrouz, the son of my brother
Ali Hassan: they are united, also, in heart; their faith is mutually
plighted; and affiances, so sacred, cannot be broken.”--“What then!”
replied the caliph bluntly; “would you surrender this divine beauty to a
husband more womanish than herself? and can you imagine that I will
suffer her charms to decay in hands so inefficient and nerveless? No!
she is destined to live out her life within my embraces: such is my
will; retire, and disturb not the night I devote to the worship of her

The irritated emir drew forth his sabre, presented it to Vathek, and
stretching out his neck, said, in a firm tone of voice, “Strike your
unhappy host, my lord: he has lived long enough, since he hath seen the
Prophet’s vicegerent violate the rights of hospitality.” At his uttering
these words, Nouronihar, unable to support any longer the conflict of
her passions, sunk down into a swoon. Vathek, both terrified for her
life and furious at an opposition to his will, bade Fakreddin assist his
daughter, and withdrew; darting his terrible look at the unfortunate
emir, who suddenly fell backward, bathed in a sweat as cold as the damp
of death.

Gulchenrouz, who had escaped from the hands of Bababalouk, and was at
that instant returned, called out for help as loudly as he could, not
having strength to afford it himself. Pale and panting, the poor child
attempted to revive Nouronihar by caresses; and it happened, that the
thrilling warmth of his lips restored her to life. Fakreddin, beginning
also to recover from the look of the caliph, with difficulty tottered to
a seat; and, after warily casting round his eye, to see if this
dangerous prince were gone, sent for Shaban and Sutlememe; and said to
them apart, “My friends! violent evils require violent remedies; the
caliph has brought desolation and horror into my family; and how shall
we resist his power? Another of his looks will send me to the grave.
Fetch, then, that narcotic powder which a dervish brought me from
Aracan. A dose of it, the effect of which will continue three days, must
be administered to each of these children. The caliph will believe them
to be dead; for they will have all the appearance of death. We shall go
as if to inter them in the cave of Meimouné, at the entrance of the
great desert of sand, and near the bower of my dwarfs. When all the
spectators shall be withdrawn, you, Shaban, and four select eunuchs,
shall convey them to the lake; where provision shall be ready to support
them a month: for one day allotted to the surprise this event will
occasion, five to the tears, a fortnight to reflection, and the rest to
prepare for renewing his progress, will, according to my calculation,
fill up the whole time that Vathek will tarry; and I shall then be freed
from his intrusion.”

“Your plan is good,” said Sutlememe, “if it can but be effected. I have
remarked, that Nouronihar is well able to support the glances of the
caliph, and that he is far from being sparing of them to her; be
assured, therefore, that, notwithstanding her fondness for Gulchenrouz,
she will never remain quiet, while she knows him to be here. Let us
persuade her that both herself and Gulchenrouz are really dead, and that
they were conveyed to those rocks, for a limited season, to expiate the
little faults of which their love was the cause. We will add, that we
killed ourselves in despair; and that your dwarfs, whom they never yet
saw, will preach to them delectable sermons. I will engage that
everything shall succeed to the bent of your wishes.”--“Be it so!” said
Fakreddin: “I approve your proposal: let us lose not a moment to give it

They hastened to seek for the powder, which, being mixed in a sherbet
was immediately administered to Gulchenrouz and Nouronihar. Within the
space of an hour, both were seized with violent palpitations, and a
general numbness gradually ensued. They arose from the floor where they
had remained ever since the caliph’s departure, and, ascending to the
sofa, reclined themselves upon it, clasped in each other’s embraces.
“Cherish me, my dear Nouronihar!” said Gulchenrouz: “put thy hand upon
my heart; it feels as if it were frozen. Alas! thou art as cold as
myself! hath the caliph murdered us both, with his terrible look?”--“I
am dying!” cried she, in a faltering voice: “press me closer; I am ready
to expire!”--“Let us die, then, together,” answered the little
Gulchenrouz, whilst his breast laboured with a convulsive sigh; “let me,
at least, breathe forth my soul on thy lips!” They spoke no more, and
became as dead.

Immediately the most piercing cries were heard through the harem; whilst
Shaban and Sutlememe personated, with great adroitness, the parts of
persons in despair. The emir, who was sufficiently mortified to be
forced into such untoward expedients, and had now, for the first time,
made a trial of his powder, was under no necessity of counterfeiting
grief. The slaves, who had flocked together from all quarters, stood
motionless at the spectacle before them. All lights were extinguished,
save two lamps, which shed a wan glimmering over the faces of these
lovely flowers, that seemed to be faded in the spring-time of life.
Funeral vestments were prepared; their bodies were washed with
rose-water; their beautiful tresses were braided and incensed; and they
were wrapped in cymars whiter than alabaster.

At the moment that their attendants were placing two wreaths of their
favourite jasmines on their brows, the caliph, who had just heard the
tragical catastrophe, arrived. He looked not less pale and haggard than
the ghouls that wander at night among the graves. Forgetful of himself
and every one else, he broke through the midst of the slaves; fell
prostrate at the foot of the sofa; beat his bosom; called himself
“atrocious murderer!” and invoked upon his head a thousand imprecations.
With a trembling hand he raised the veil that covered the countenance of
Nouronihar, and uttering a loud shriek, fell lifeless on the floor. The
chief of the eunuchs dragged him off, with horrible grimaces, and
repeated as he went, “Ay, I foresaw she would play you some ungracious

No sooner was the caliph gone, than the emir commanded biers to be
brought, and forbade that any one should enter the harem. Every window
was fastened; all instruments of music were broken; and the imans began
to recite their prayers. Towards the close of this melancholy day,
Vathek sobbed in silence; for they had been forced to compose with
anodynes his convulsions of rage and desperation.

At the dawn of the succeeding morning, the wide folding doors of the
palace were set open, and the funeral procession moved forward for the
mountain. The wailful cries of “La Ilah illa Alla!” reached the caliph,
who was eager to cicatrize himself and attend the ceremonial; nor could
he have been dissuaded, had not his excessive weakness disabled him from
walking. At the few first steps he fell on the ground, and his people
were obliged to lay him on a bed, where he remained many days in such a
state of insensibility as excited compassion in the emir himself.

When the procession was arrived at the grot of Meimouné, Shaban and
Sutlememe dismissed the whole of the train, excepting the four
confidential eunuchs who were appointed to remain. After resting some
moments near the biers, which had been left in the open air, they caused
them to be carried to the brink of a small lake, whose banks were
overgrown with a hoary moss. This was the great resort of herons and
storks, which preyed continually on little blue fishes. The dwarfs,
instructed by the emir, soon repaired thither, and, with the help of the
eunuchs, began to construct cabins of rushes and reeds, a work in which
they had admirable skill. A magazine also was contrived for provisions,
with a small oratory for themselves, and a pyramid of wood, neatly
piled, to furnish the necessary fuel, for the air was bleak in the
hollows of the mountains.

At evening two fires were kindled on the brink of the lake, and the two
lovely bodies, taken from their biers, were carefully deposited upon a
bed of dried leaves within the same cabin. The dwarfs began to recite
the Koran, with their clear shrill voices; and Shaban and Sutlememe
stood at some distance, anxiously waiting the effects of the powder. At
length Nouronihar and Gulchenrouz faintly stretched out their arms; and,
gradually opening their eyes, began to survey, with looks of increasing
amazement, every object around them. They even attempted to rise; but,
for want of strength, fell back again. Sutlememe, on this, administered
a cordial, which the emir had taken care to provide.

Gulchenrouz, thoroughly aroused, sneezed out aloud; and, raising himself
with an effort that expressed his surprise, left the cabin and inhaled
the fresh air with the greatest avidity. “Yes,” said he, “I breathe
again! again do I exist! I hear sounds! I behold a firmament, spangled
over with stars!” Nouronihar, catching these beloved accents, extricated
herself from the leaves and ran to clasp Gulchenrouz to her bosom. The
first objects she remarked were their long cymars, their garlands of
flowers, and their naked feet: she hid her face in her hands to reflect.
The vision of the enchanted bath, the despair of her father, and, more
vividly than both, the majestic figure of Vathek, recurred to her
memory. She recollected, also, that herself and Gulchenrouz had been
sick and dying; but all these images bewildered her mind. Not knowing
where she was, she turned her eyes on all sides, as if to recognize the
surrounding scene. This singular lake, those flames reflected from its
glassy surface, the pale hues of its banks, the romantic cabins, the
bulrushes that sadly waved their drooping heads, the storks whose
melancholy cries blended with the shrill voices of the
dwarfs--everything conspired to persuade her that the angel of death had
opened the portal of some other world.

Gulchenrouz on his part, lost in wonder, clung to the neck of his
cousin. He believed himself in the region of phantoms, and was terrified
at the silence she preserved. At length addressing her: “Speak,” said
he; “where are we? Do you not see those spectres that are stirring the
burning coals? Are they Monker and Nekir who are come to throw us into
them? Does the fatal bridge cross this lake, whose solemn stillness
perhaps conceals from us an abyss, in which for whole ages we shall be
doomed incessantly to sink?”

“No, my children,” said Sutlememe, going towards them; “take comfort!
the exterminating angel, who conducted our souls hither after yours,
hath assured us, that the chastisement of your indolent and voluptuous
life shall be restricted to a certain series of years, which you must
pass in this dreary abode; where the sun is scarcely visible, and where
the soil yields neither fruits nor flowers. These,” continued she,
pointing to the dwarfs, “will provide for our wants; for souls so
mundane as ours retain too strong a tincture of their earthly
extraction. Instead of meats, your food will be nothing but rice; and
your bread shall be moistened in the fogs that brood over the surface of
the lake.”

At this desolating prospect, the poor children burst into tears, and
prostrated themselves before the dwarfs; who perfectly supported their
characters, and delivered an excellent discourse, of a customary length,
upon the sacred camel which, after a thousand years, was to convey them
to the paradise of the faithful.

The sermon being ended, and ablutions performed, they praised Alla and
the Prophet, supped very indifferently, and retired to their withered
leaves. Nouronihar and her little cousin consoled themselves on finding
that the dead might lie in one cabin. Having slept well before, the
remainder of the night was spent in conversation on what had befallen
them; and both, from a dread of apparitions, betook themselves for
protection to one another’s arms.

In the morning, which was lowering and rainy, the dwarfs mounted high
poles, like minarets, and called them to prayers. The whole
congregation, which consisted of Sutlememe, Shaban, the four eunuchs,
and a few storks that were tired of fishing, was already assembled. The
two children came forth from their cabin with a slow and dejected pace.
As their minds were in a tender and melancholy mood, their devotions
were performed with fervour. No sooner were they finished than
Gulchenrouz demanded of Sutlememe and the rest, “how they happened to
die so opportunely for his cousin and himself?”--“We killed ourselves,”
returned Sutlememe, “in despair at your death.” On this, Nouronihar,
who, notwithstanding what had passed, had not yet forgotten her vision,
said, “And the caliph! is he also dead of his grief? and will he
likewise come hither?” The dwarfs, who were prepared with an answer,
most demurely replied, “Vathek is damned beyond all redemption!”--“I
readily believe so,” said Gulchenrouz; “and am glad, from my heart, to
hear it; for I am convinced it was his horrible look that sent us
hither, to listen to sermons, and mess upon rice.” One week passed away
on the side of the lake unmarked by any variety; Nouronihar ruminating
on the grandeur of which death had deprived her, and Gulchenrouz
applying to prayers and basket-making with the dwarfs, who infinitely
pleased him.

Whilst this scene of innocence was exhibiting in the mountains, the
caliph presented himself to the emir in a new light. The instant he
recovered the use of his senses, with a voice that made Bababalouk
quake, he thundered out, “Perfidious Giaour! I renounce thee for ever!
it is thou who hast slain my beloved Nouronihar! and I supplicate the
pardon of Mahomet, who would have preserved her to me had I been more
wise. Let water be brought to perform my ablutions, and let the pious
Fakreddin be called to offer up his prayers with mine, and reconcile me
to him. Afterwards, we will go together and visit the sepulchre of the
unfortunate Nouronihar. I am resolved to become a hermit, and consume
the residue of my days on this mountain, in hope of expiating my
crimes.”--“And what do you intend to live upon there?” inquired
Bababalouk.--“I hardly know,” replied Vathek; “but I will tell you when
I feel hungry--which, I believe, will not soon be the case.”

The arrival of Fakreddin put a stop to this conversation. As soon as
Vathek saw him, he threw his arms around his neck, bedewed his face with
a torrent of tears, and uttered things so affecting, so pious, that the
emir, crying for joy, congratulated himself in his heart upon having
performed so admirable and unexpected a conversion. As for the
pilgrimage to the mountain, Fakreddin had his reasons not to oppose it;
therefore, each ascending his own litter, they started.

Notwithstanding the vigilance with which his attendants watched the
caliph, they could not prevent his harrowing his cheeks with a few
scratches, when on the place where he was told Nouronihar had been
buried; they were even obliged to drag him away, by force of hands, from
the melancholy spot. However, he swore, with a solemn oath, that he
would return thither every day. This resolution did not exactly please
the emir--yet he flattered himself that the caliph might not proceed
farther, and would merely perform his devotions in the cavern of
Meimouné. Besides, the lake was so completely concealed within the
solitary bosom of those tremendous rocks, that he thought it utterly
impossible any one could ever find it. This security of Fakreddin was
also considerably strengthened by the conduct of Vathek, who performed
his vow most scrupulously, and returned daily from the hill so devout,
and so contrite, that all the grey-beards were in a state of ecstasy on
account of it.

Nouronihar was not altogether so content; for though she felt a fondness
for Gulchenrouz, who, to augment the attachment, had been left at full
liberty with her, yet she still regarded him as but a bauble that bore
no competition with the carbuncle of Giamschid. At times, she indulged
doubts on the mode of her being; and scarcely could believe that the
dead had all the wants and the whims of the living. To gain
satisfaction, however, on so perplexing a topic, one morning, whilst all
were asleep, she arose with a breathless caution from the side of
Gulchenrouz; and, after having given him a soft kiss, began to follow
the windings of the lake, till it terminated with a rock, the top of
which was accessible, though lofty. This she climbed with considerable
toil; and having reached the summit, set forward in a run, like a doe
before the hunter. Though she skipped with the alertness of an antelope,
yet, at intervals, she was forced to desist, and rest beneath the
tamarisks to recover her breath. Whilst she, thus reclined, was occupied
with her little reflections on the apprehension that she had some
knowledge of the place, Vathek, who, finding himself that morning but
ill at ease, had gone forth before the dawn, presented himself on a
sudden to her view. Motionless with surprise, he durst not approach the
figure before him trembling and pale, but yet lovely to behold. At
length Nouronihar, with a mixture of pleasure and affliction, raising
her fine eyes to him, said, “My lord! are you then come hither to eat
rice and hear sermons with me?”--“Beloved phantom!” cried Vathek, “thou
dost speak; thou hast the same graceful form; the same radiant features;
art thou palpable likewise?” and, eagerly embracing her, added, “Here
are limbs and a bosom animated with a gentle warmth!--What can such a
prodigy mean?”

Nouronihar, with indifference, answered,--“You know, my lord, that I
died on the very night you honoured me with your visit. My cousin
maintains it was from one of your glances; but I cannot believe him; for
to me they seem not so dreadful. Gulchenrouz died with me, and we were
both brought into a region of desolation, where we are fed with a
wretched diet. If you be dead also, and are come hither to join us, I
pity your lot; for you will be stunned with the clang of the dwarfs and
the storks. Besides, it is mortifying in the extreme, that you, as well
as myself, should have lost the treasures of the subterranean palace.”

At the mention of the subterranean palace, the caliph suspended his
caresses (which, indeed, had proceeded pretty far), to seek from
Nouronihar an explanation of her meaning. She then recapitulated her
vision, what immediately followed, and the history of her pretended
death; adding, also, a description of the place of expiation from whence
she had fled; and all in a manner that would have extorted his laughter,
had not the thoughts of Vathek been too deeply engaged. No sooner,
however, had she ended, than he again clasped her to his bosom and said,
“Light of my eyes, the mystery is unravelled; we both are alive! Your
father is a cheat, who, for the sake of dividing us, hath deluded us
both; and the Giaour, whose design, as far as I can discover, is that we
shall proceed together, seems scarce a whit better. It shall be some
time at least before he finds us in his palace of fire. Your lovely
little person in my estimation is far more precious than all the
treasures of the pre-Adamite sultans; and I wish to possess it at
pleasure, and in open day, for many a moon, before I go to burrow
underground, like a mole. Forget this little trifler, Gulchenrouz;
and----”--“Ah, my lord!” interposed Nouronihar, “let me entreat that you
do him no evil.”--“No, no!” replied Vathek; “I have already bid you
forbear to alarm yourself for him. He has been brought up too much on
milk and sugar to stimulate my jealousy. We will leave him with the
dwarfs; who, by the by, are my old acquaintances: their company will
suit him far better than yours. As to other matters, I will return no
more to your father’s. I want not to have my ears dinned by him and his
dotards with the violation of the rights of hospitality, as if it were
less an honour for you to espouse the sovereign of the world than a girl
dressed up like a boy.”

Nouronihar could find nothing to oppose in a discourse so eloquent. She
only wished the amorous monarch had discovered more ardour for the
carbuncle of Giamschid; but flattered herself it would gradually
increase, and therefore yielded to his will with the most bewitching

When the caliph judged it proper, he called for Bababalouk, who was
asleep in the cave of Meimouné, and dreaming that the phantom of
Nouronihar, having mounted him once more on her swing, had just given
him such a jerk, that he one moment soared above the mountains, and the
next sunk into the abyss. Starting from his sleep at the sound of his
master, he ran, gasping for breath, and had nearly fallen backward at
the sight, as he believed, of the spectre by whom he had so lately been
haunted in his dream. “Ah, my lord!” cried he, recoiling ten steps, and
covering his eyes with both hands, “do you then perform the office of a
ghoul? have you dug up the dead? Yet hope not to make her your prey;
for, after all she hath caused me to suffer, she is wicked enough to
prey even upon you.”

“Cease to play the fool,” said Vathek, “and thou shalt soon be convinced
that it is Nouronihar herself, alive and well, whom I clasp to my
breast. Go and pitch my tents in the neighbouring valley. There will I
fix my abode, with this beautiful tulip, whose colours I soon shall
restore. There exert thy best endeavours to procure whatever can augment
the enjoyments of life, till I shall disclose to thee more of my will.”

The news of so unlucky an event soon reached the ears of the emir, who
abandoned himself to grief and despair, and began, as did his old
grey-beards, to begrime his visage with ashes. A total supineness
ensued; travellers were no longer entertained; no more plasters were
spread; and, instead of the charitable activity that had distinguished
this asylum, the whole of its inhabitants exhibited only faces of half a
cubit long, and uttered groans that accorded with their forlorn

Though Fakreddin bewailed his daughter as lost to him for ever, yet
Gulchenrouz was not forgotten. He dispatched immediate instructions to
Sutlememe, Shaban, and the dwarfs, enjoining them not to undeceive the
child in respect to his state, but, under some pretence, to convey him
far from the lofty rock at the extremity of the lake, to a place which
he should appoint, as safer from danger, for he suspected that Vathek
intended him evil.

Gulchenrouz, in the meanwhile, was filled with amazement at not finding
his cousin; nor were the dwarfs less surprised: but Sutlememe, who had
more penetration, immediately guessed what had happened. Gulchenrouz was
amused with the delusive hope of once more embracing Nouronihar in the
interior recesses of the mountains, where the ground, strewed over with
orange blossoms and jasmines, offered beds much more inviting than the
withered leaves in their cabin; where they might accompany with their
voices the sounds of their lutes, and chase butterflies. Sutlememe was
far gone in this sort of description, when one of the four eunuchs
beckoned her aside, to apprise her of the arrival of a messenger from
their fraternity, who had explained the secret of the flight of
Nouronihar, and brought the commands of the emir. A council with Shaban
and the dwarfs was immediately held. Their baggage being stowed in
consequence of it, they embarked in a shallop, and quietly sailed with
the little one, who acquiesced in all their proposals. Their voyage
proceeded in the same manner, till they came to the place where the lake
sinks beneath the hollow of a rock: but as soon as the bark had entered
it, and Gulchenrouz found himself surrounded with darkness, he was
seized with a dreadful consternation, and incessantly uttered the most
piercing outcries; for he now was persuaded he should actually be damned
for having taken too many little freedoms in his lifetime with his

But let us return to the caliph, and her who ruled over his heart.
Bababalouk had pitched the tents, and closed up the extremities of the
valley with magnificent screens of India cloth, which were guarded by
Ethiopian slaves with their drawn sabres. To preserve the verdure of
this beautiful enclosure in its natural freshness, white eunuchs went
continually round it with gilt water vessels. The waving of fans was
heard near the imperial pavilion; where, by the voluptuous light that
glowed through the muslins, the caliph enjoyed, at full view, all the
attractions of Nouronihar. Inebriated with delight, he was all ear to
her charming voice, which accompanied the lute; while she was not less
captivated with his descriptions of Samarah, and the tower full of
wonders, but especially with his relation of the adventure of the ball,
and the chasm of the Giaour, with its ebony portal.

In this manner they conversed the whole day, and at night they bathed
together in a basin of black marble, which admirably set off the
fairness of Nouronihar. Bababalouk, whose good graces this beauty had
regained, spared no attention, that their repasts might be served up
with the minutest exactness: some exquisite rarity was ever placed
before them; and he sent even to Schiraz, for that fragrant and
delicious wine which had been hoarded up in bottles, prior to the birth
of Mahomet. He had excavated little ovens in the rock, to bake the nice
manchets which were prepared by the hands of Nouronihar, from whence
they had derived a flavour so grateful to Vathek, that he regarded the
ragouts of his other wives as entirely mawkish: whilst they would have
died of chagrin at the emir’s, at finding themselves so neglected, if
Fakreddin, notwithstanding his resentment, had not taken pity upon them.

The Sultana Dilara, who, till then, had been the favourite, took this
dereliction of the caliph to heart, with a vehemence natural to her
character; for, during her continuance in favour, she had imbibed from
Vathek many of his extravagant fancies, and was fired with impatience to
behold the superb tombs of Istakar, and the palace of forty columns;
besides, having been brought up amongst the magi, she had fondly
cherished the idea of the caliph’s devoting himself to the worship of
fire: thus his voluptuous and desultory life with her rival was to her a
double source of affliction. The transient piety of Vathek had
occasioned her some serious alarms; but the present was an evil of far
greater magnitude. She resolved, therefore, without hesitation, to write
to Carathis, and acquaint her that all things went ill; that they had
eaten, slept, and revelled at an old emir’s, whose sanctity was very
formidable; and that, after all, the prospect of possessing the
treasures of the pre-Adamite sultans was no less remote than before.
This letter was entrusted to the care of two woodmen, who were at work
in one of the great forests of the mountains, and who, being acquainted
with the shortest cuts, arrived in ten days at Samarah.

The Princess Carathis was engaged at chess with Morakanabad, when the
arrival of these woodfellers was announced. She, after some weeks of
Vathek’s absence, had forsaken the upper regions of her tower, because
everything appeared in confusion among the stars, which she consulted
relative to the fate of her son. In vain did she renew her fumigations,
and extend herself on the roof, to obtain mystic visions; nothing more
could she see in her dreams, than pieces of brocade, nosegays of
flowers, and other unmeaning gewgaws. These disappointments had thrown
her into a state of dejection, which no drug in her power was sufficient
to remove. Her only resource was in Morakanabad, who was a good man, and
endowed with a decent share of confidence; yet whilst in her company he
never thought himself on roses.

No person knew aught of Vathek, and, of course, a thousand ridiculous
stories were propagated at his expense. The eagerness of Carathis may be
easily guessed at receiving the letter, as well as her rage at reading
the dissolute conduct of her son. “Is it so?” said she; “either I will
perish, or Vathek shall enter the palace of fire. Let me expire in
flames, provided he may reign on the throne of Soliman!” Having said
this, and whirled herself round in a magical manner, which struck
Morakanabad with such terror as caused him to recoil, she ordered her
great camel Alboufaki to be brought, and the hideous Nerkes, with the
unrelenting Cafour, to attend. “I require no other retinue,” said she to
Morakanabad; “I am going on affairs of emergency; a truce, therefore, to
parade! Take you care of the people: fleece them well in my absence; for
we shall expend large sums, and one knows not what may betide.”

The night was uncommonly dark, and a pestilential blast blew from the
plain of Catoul, that would have deterred any other traveller, however
urgent the call: but Carathis enjoyed most whatever filled others with
dread. Nerkes concurred in opinion with her; and Cafour had a particular
predilection for a pestilence. In the morning this accomplished caravan,
with the woodfellers, who directed their route, halted on the edge of an
extensive marsh, from whence so noxious a vapour arose as would have
destroyed any animal but Alboufaki, who naturally inhaled these
malignant fogs with delight. The peasants entreated their convoy not to
sleep in this place. “To sleep,” cried Carathis, “what an excellent
thought! I never sleep, but for visions; and, as to my attendants, their
occupations are too many to close the only eye they have.” The poor
peasants, who were not overpleased with their party, remained
open-mouthed with surprise.

Carathis alighted, as well as her negresses; and, severally stripping
off their outer garments, they all ran to cull from those spots where
the sun shone fiercest the venomous plants that grew on the marsh. This
provision was made for the family of the emir, and whoever might retard
the expedition to Istakar. The woodmen were overcome with fear, when
they beheld these three horrible phantoms run; and, not much relishing
the company of Alboufaki, stood aghast at the command of Carathis to set
forward, notwithstanding it was noon, and the heat fierce enough to
calcine even rocks. In spite, however, of every remonstrance, they were
forced implicitly to submit.

Alboufaki, who delighted in solitude, constantly snorted whenever he
perceived himself near a habitation; and Carathis, who was apt to spoil
him with indulgence, as constantly turned him aside: so that the
peasants were precluded from procuring subsistence; for the milch goats
and ewes, which Providence had sent towards the district they traversed
to refresh travellers with their milk, all fled at the sight of the
hideous animal and his strange riders. As to Carathis, she needed no
common aliment; for her invention had previously furnished her with an
opiate to stay her stomach, some of which she imparted to her mutes.

At dusk Alboufaki, making a sudden stop, stamped with his foot; which,
to Carathis, who knew his ways, was a certain indication that she was
near the confines of some cemetery. The moon shed a bright light on the
spot, which served to discover a long wall with a large door in it,
standing ajar, and so high that Alboufaki might easily enter. The
miserable guides, who perceived their end approaching, humbly implored
Carathis, as she had now so good an opportunity, to inter them, and
immediately gave up the ghost. Nerkes and Cafour, whose wit was of a
style peculiar to themselves, were by no means parsimonious of it on the
folly of these poor people; nor could anything have been found more
suited to their taste than the site of the burying-ground, and the
sepulchres which its precincts contained. There were at least two
thousand of them on the declivity of a hill. Carathis was too eager to
execute her plan to stop at the view, charming as it appeared in her
eyes. Pondering the advantages that might accrue from her present
situation, she said to herself, “So beautiful a cemetery must be haunted
by ghouls! they never want for intelligence: having heedlessly suffered
my stupid guides to expire, I will apply for directions to them; and, as
an inducement, will invite them to regale on these fresh corpses.” After
this wise soliloquy, she beckoned to Nerkes and Cafour, and made signs
with her fingers, as much as to say, “Go; knock against the sides of the
tombs, and strike up your delightful warblings.”

The negresses, full of joy at the behests of their mistress, and
promising themselves much pleasure from the society of the ghouls, went
with an air of conquest, and began their knockings at the tombs. As
their strokes were repeated, a hollow noise was made in the earth; the
surface hove up into heaps; and the ghouls, on all sides, protruded
their noses to inhale the effluvia which the carcasses of the woodmen
began to emit. They assembled before a sarcophagus of white marble,
where Carathis was seated between the bodies of her miserable guides.
The princess received her visitants with distinguished politeness; and,
supper being ended, they talked of business. Carathis soon learned from
them everything she wanted to discover; and, without loss of time,
prepared to set forward on her journey. Her negresses, who were forming
tender connections with the ghouls, importuned her, with all their
fingers, to wait at least till the dawn. But Carathis, being chastity in
the abstract, and an implacable enemy to love intrigues and sloth, at
once rejected their prayer, mounted Alboufaki, and commanded them to
take their seats instantly. Four days and four nights she continued her
route without interruption. On the fifth, she traversed craggy mountains
and half-burnt forests; and arrived on the sixth before the beautiful
screens which concealed from all eyes the voluptuous wanderings of her

It was daybreak, and the guards were snoring on their posts in careless
security, when the rough trot of Alboufaki awoke them in consternation.
Imagining that a group of spectres, ascended from the abyss, was
approaching, they all, without ceremony, took to their heels. Vathek was
at that instant with Nouronihar in the bath, hearing tales, and laughing
at Bababalouk who related them; but, no sooner did the outcry of his
guards reach him, than he flounced from the water like a carp, and as
soon threw himself back at the sight of Carathis; who, advancing with
her negresses upon Alboufaki, broke through the muslin awnings and veils
of the pavilion. At this sudden apparition, Nouronihar (for she was not
at all times free from remorse) fancied that the moment of celestial
vengeance was come, and clung about the caliph in amorous despondence.

Carathis, still seated on her camel, foamed with indignation at the
spectacle which obtruded itself on her chaste view. She thundered forth
without check or mercy, “Thou double-headed and four-legged monster!
what means all this winding and writhing? Art thou not ashamed to be
seen grasping this limber sapling, in preference to the sceptre of the
pre-Adamite sultans? Is it then for this paltry doxy that thou hast
violated the conditions in the parchment of our Giaour? Is it on her
thou hast lavished thy precious moments? Is this the fruit of the
knowledge I have taught thee? Is this the end of thy journey? Tear
thyself from the arms of this little simpleton; drown her in the water
before me, and instantly follow my guidance.”

In the first ebullition of his fury, Vathek had resolved to rip open the
body of Alboufaki, and to stuff it with those of the negresses and of
Carathis herself; but the remembrance of the Giaour, the palace of
Istakar, the sabres, and the talismans, flashing before his imagination
with the simultaneousness of lightning, he became more moderate, and
said to his mother in a civil, but decisive tone, “Dread lady, you shall
be obeyed; but I will not drown Nouronihar. She is sweeter to me than a
Myrabolan comfit; and is enamoured of carbuncles, especially that of
Giamschid, which hath also been promised to be conferred upon her: she,
therefore, shall go along with us; for I intend to repose with her upon
the sofas of Soliman: I can sleep no more without her.”--“Be it so,”
replied Carathis, alighting, and at the same time committing Alboufaki
to the charge of her black women.

Nouronihar, who had not yet quitted her hold, began to take courage; and
said, with an accent of fondness to the caliph, “Dear sovereign of my
soul! I will follow thee, if it be thy will, beyond the Kaf, in the land
of the afrits. I will not hesitate to climb, for thee, the nest of the
Simurgh; who, this lady excepted, is the most awful of created
beings.”--“We have here, then,” subjoined Carathis, “a girl both of
courage and science!” Nouronihar had certainly both; but,
notwithstanding all her firmness, she could not help casting back a
thought of regret upon the graces of her little Gulchenrouz, and the
days of tender endearments she had participated with him. She even
dropped a few tears, which the caliph observed; and inadvertently
breathed out with a sigh, “Alas! my gentle cousin, what will become of
thee?” Vathek, at this apostrophe, knitted up his brows, and Carathis
inquired what it could mean. “She is preposterously sighing after a
stripling with languishing eyes and soft hair, who loves her,” said the
caliph.--“Where is he?” asked Carathis. “I must be acquainted with this
pretty child; for,” added she, lowering her voice, “I design, before I
depart, to regain the favour of the Giaour. There is nothing so
delicious, in his estimation, as the heart of a delicate boy palpitating
with the first tumults of love.”

Vathek, as he came from the bath, commanded Bababalouk to collect the
women and other movables of his harem, embody his troops, and hold
himself in readiness to march within three days; whilst Carathis retired
alone to a tent, where the Giaour solaced her with encouraging visions:
but at length waking, she found at her feet Nerkes and Cafour, who
informed her, by their signs, that having led Alboufaki to the borders
of a lake, to browse on some grey moss that looked tolerably venomous,
they had discovered certain blue fishes, of the same kind with those in
the reservoir on the top of the tower. “Ah! ha!” said she, “I will go
thither to them. These fish are, past doubt, of a species that, by a
small operation, I can render oracular. They may tell me where this
little Gulchenrouz is, whom I am bent upon sacrificing.” Having thus
spoken, she immediately set out with her swarthy retinue.

It being but seldom that time is lost in the accomplishment of a wicked
enterprise, Carathis and her negresses soon arrived at the lake; where,
after burning the magical drugs with which they were always provided,
they stripped themselves naked, and waded to their chins; Nerkes and
Cafour waving torches around them, and Carathis pronouncing her
barbarous incantations. The fishes, with one accord, thrust forth their
heads from the water, which was violently rippled by the flutter of
their fins; and at length finding themselves constrained by the potency
of the charm, they opened their piteous mouths, and said, “From gills to
tail, we are yours; what seek ye to know?”--“Fishes,” answered she, “I
conjure you, by your glittering scales, tell me where now is
Gulchenrouz?”--“Beyond the rock,” replied the shoal, in full chorus;
“will this content you? for we do not delight in expanding our
mouths.”--“It will,” returned the princess; “I am not to learn that you
are not used to long conversations; I will leave you therefore to
repose, though I had other questions to propound.” The instant she had
spoken, the water became smooth, and the fishes at once disappeared.

Carathis, inflated with the venom of her projects, strode hastily over
the rock, and found the amiable Gulchenrouz asleep in an arbour, whilst
the two dwarfs were watching at his side, and ruminating their
accustomed prayers. These diminutive personages possessed the gift of
divining whenever an enemy to good Mussulmans approached; thus they
anticipated the arrival of Carathis, who, stopping short, said to
herself, “How placidly doth he recline his lovely little head! how pale
and languishing are his looks! it is just the very child of my wishes!”
The dwarfs interrupted this delectable soliloquy by leaping instantly
upon her, and scratching her face with their utmost zeal. But Nerkes and
Cafour, betaking themselves to the succour of their mistress, pinched
the dwarfs so severely in return, that they both gave up the ghost,
imploring Mahomet to inflict his sorest vengeance upon this wicked woman
and all her household.

At the noise which this strange conflict occasioned in the valley,
Gulchenrouz awoke, and, bewildered with terror, sprung impetuously and
climbed an old fig-tree that rose against the acclivity of the rocks;
from thence he gained their summits, and ran for two hours without once
looking back. At last, exhausted with fatigue, he fell senseless into
the arms of a good old genius, whose fondness for the company of
children had made it his sole occupation to protect them. Whilst
performing his wonted rounds through the air, he had pounced on the
cruel Giaour, at the instant of his growling in the horrible chasm, and
had rescued the fifty little victims which the impiety of Vathek had
devoted to his voracity. These the genius brought up in nests still
higher than the clouds, and himself fixed his abode in a nest more
capacious than the rest, from which he had expelled the rocs that had
built it.

These inviolable asylums were defended against the dives and the afrits
by waving streamers; on which were inscribed in characters of gold, that
flashed like lightning, the names of Alla and the Prophet. It was there
that Gulchenrouz, who as yet remained undeceived with respect to his
pretended death, thought himself in the mansions of eternal peace. He
admitted without fear the congratulations of his little friends, who
were all assembled in the nest of the venerable genius, and vied with
each other in kissing his serene forehead and beautiful eyelids. Remote
from the inquietudes of the world, the impertinence of harems, the
brutality of eunuchs, and the inconstancy of women, there he found a
place truly congenial to the delights of his soul. In this peaceable
society his days, months, and years glided on; nor was he less happy
than the rest of his companions: for the genius, instead of burdening
his pupils with perishable riches and vain sciences, conferred upon them
the boon of perpetual childhood.

Carathis, unaccustomed to the loss of her prey, vented a thousand
execrations on her negresses, for not seizing the child, instead of
amusing themselves with pinching to death two insignificant dwarfs from
which they could gain no advantage. She returned into the valley
murmuring; and, finding that her son was not risen from the arms of
Nouronihar, discharged her ill-humour upon both. The idea, however, of
departing next day for Istakar, and of cultivating, through the good
offices of the Giaour, an intimacy with Eblis himself, at length
consoled her chagrin. But fate had ordained it otherwise.

In the evening, as Carathis was conversing with Dilara, who through her
contrivance had become of the party, and whose taste resembled her own,
Bababalouk came to acquaint her that the sky towards Samarah looked of a
fiery red, and seemed to portend some alarming disaster. Immediately
recurring to her astrolabes and instruments of magic, she took the
altitude of the planets, and discovered, by her calculations, to her
great mortification, that a formidable revolt had taken place at
Samarah, that Motavakel, availing himself of the disgust which was
inveterate against his brother, had incited commotions amongst the
populace, made himself master of the palace, and actually invested the
great tower, to which Morakanabad had retired, with a handful of the few
that still remained faithful to Vathek.

“What!” exclaimed she; “must I lose, then, my tower! my mutes! my
negresses! my mummies! and, worse than all, the laboratory, the
favourite resort of my nightly lucubrations, without knowing, at least,
if my hare-brained son will complete his adventure? No! I will not be
the dupe! immediately will I speed to support Morakanabad. By my
formidable art, the clouds shall pour grape-shot in the faces of the
assailants, and shafts of red-hot iron on their heads. I will let loose
my stores of hungry serpents and torpedoes from beneath them; and we
shall soon see the stand they will make against such an explosion!”

Having thus spoken, Carathis hasted to her son, who was tranquilly
banqueting with Nouronihar in his superb carnation-coloured tent.
“Glutton that thou art!” cried she; “were it not for me, thou wouldst
soon find thyself the mere commander of savoury pies. Thy faithful
subjects have abjured the faith they swore to thee. Motavakel, thy
brother, now reigns on the hill of Pied Horses, and, had I not some
slight resources in the tower, would not be easily persuaded to
abdicate. But, that time may not be lost, I shall only add a few words:
Strike tent to-night; set forward; and beware how thou loiterest again
by the way. Though thou hast forfeited the conditions of the parchment,
I am not yet without hope; for it cannot be denied that thou hast
violated, to admiration, the laws of hospitality by seducing the
daughter of the emir, after having partaken of his bread and his salt.
Such a conduct cannot but be delightful to the Giaour; and if, on thy
march, thou canst signalize thyself by an additional crime, all will
still go well, and thou shalt enter the palace of Soliman in triumph.
Adieu! Alboufaki and my negresses are waiting at the door.”

The caliph had nothing to offer in reply: he wished his mother a
prosperous journey, and ate on till he had finished his supper. At
midnight the camp broke up, amidst the flourishing of trumpets and other
martial instruments; but loud indeed must have been the sound of the
timbals, to overpower the blubbering of the emir and his grey-beards;
who, by an excessive profusion of tears, had so far exhausted the
radical moisture, that their eyes shrivelled up in their sockets, and
their hairs dropped off by the roots. Nouronihar, to whom such a
symphony was painful, did not grieve to get out of hearing. She
accompanied the caliph in the imperial litter, where they amused
themselves with imagining the splendour which was soon to surround them.
The other women, overcome with dejection, were dolefully rocked in their
cages; whilst Dilara consoled herself with anticipating the joy of
celebrating the rites of fire on the stately terraces of Istakar.

In four days they reached the spacious valley of Rocnabad. The season of
spring was in all its vigour; and the grotesque branches of the almond
trees in full blossom, fantastically chequered with hyacinths and
jonquils, breathed forth a delightful fragrance. Myriads of bees, and
scarce fewer of santons, had there taken up their abode. On the banks of
the stream, hives and oratories were alternately ranged; and their
neatness and whiteness were set off by the deep green of the cypresses
that spired up amongst them. These pious personages amused themselves
with cultivating little gardens, that abounded with flowers and fruits;
especially musk-melons of the best flavour that Persia could boast.
Sometimes dispersed over the meadow, they entertained themselves with
feeding peacocks whiter than snow, and turtles more blue than the
sapphire. In this manner were they occupied when the harbingers of the
imperial procession began to proclaim, “Inhabitants of Rocnabad!
prostrate yourselves on the brink of your pure waters; and tender your
thanksgivings to Heaven, that vouchsafeth to show you a ray of its
glory: for, lo! the commander of the faithful draws near.”

The poor santons, filled with holy energy, having bustled to light up
wax torches in their oratories, and expand the Koran on their ebony
desks, went forth to meet the caliph with baskets of honeycomb, dates,
and melons. But, whilst they were advancing in solemn procession and
with measured steps, the horses, camels, and guards wantoned over their
tulips and other flowers, and made a terrible havoc amongst them. The
santons could not help casting from one eye a look of pity on the
ravages committing around them; whilst the other was fixed upon the
caliph and heaven. Nouronihar, enraptured with the scenery of a place
which brought back to her remembrance the pleasing solitudes where her
infancy had passed, entreated Vathek to stop: but he, suspecting that
these oratories might be deemed by the Giaour an habitation, commanded
his pioneers to level them all. The santons stood motionless with horror
at the barbarous mandate, and at last broke out into lamentations; but
these were uttered with so ill a grace, that Vathek bade his eunuchs to
kick them from his presence. He then descended from the litter with
Nouronihar. They sauntered together in the meadow; and amused themselves
with culling flowers, and passing a thousand pleasantries on each other.
But the bees, who were staunch Mussulmans, thinking it their duty to
revenge the insult offered to their dear masters the santons, assembled
so zealously to do it with good effect, that the caliph and Nouronihar
were glad to find their tents prepared to receive them.

Bababalouk, who, in capacity of purveyor, had acquitted himself with
applause as to peacocks and turtles, lost no time in consigning some
dozens to the spit, and as many more to be fricasseed. Whilst they were
feasting, laughing, carousing, and blaspheming at pleasure on the
banquet so liberally furnished, the moullahs, the sheiks, the cadis, and
imans of Schiraz (who seemed not to have met the santons) arrived;
leading by bridles of riband, inscribed from the Koran, a train of asses
which were loaded with the choicest fruits the country could boast.
Having presented their offerings to the caliph, they petitioned him to
honour their city and mosques with his presence. “Fancy not,” said
Vathek, “that you can detain me. Your presence I condescend to accept,
but beg you will let me be quiet, for I am not over-fond of resisting
temptation. Retire, then; yet, as it is not decent for personages so
reverend to return on foot, and as you have not the appearance of expert
riders, my eunuchs shall tie you on your asses, with the precaution that
your backs be not turned towards me; for they understand etiquette.”--In
this deputation were some high-stomached sheiks, who, taking Vathek for
a fool, scrupled not to speak their opinion. These Bababalouk girded
with double cords; and having well disciplined their asses with nettles
behind, they all started, with a preternatural alertness, plunging,
kicking, and running foul of one another, in the most ludicrous manner

Nouronihar and the caliph mutually contended who should most enjoy so
degrading a sight. They burst out in peals of laughter to see the old
men and their asses fall into the stream. The leg of one was fractured;
the shoulder of another dislocated; the teeth of a third dashed out; and
the rest suffered still worse.

Two days more, undisturbed by fresh embassies, having been devoted to
the pleasures of Rocnabad, the expedition proceeded; leaving Schiraz on
the right, and verging towards a large plain; from whence were
discernible, on the edge of the horizon, the dark summits of the
mountains of Istakar.

At this prospect the caliph and Nouronihar were unable to repress their
transports. They bounded from their litter to the ground, and broke
forth into such wild exclamations, as amazed all within hearing.
Interrogating each other, they shouted, “Are we not approaching the
radiant palace of light? or gardens, more delightful than those of
Sheddad?”--Infatuated mortals! they thus indulged delusive conjecture,
unable to fathom the decrees of the Most High!

The good genii, who had not totally relinquished the superintendence of
Vathek, repairing to Mahomet in the seventh heaven, said, “Merciful
Prophet! stretch forth thy propitious arms towards thy vicegerent; who
is ready to fall, irretrievably, into the snare which his enemies, the
dives, have prepared to destroy him. The Giaour is awaiting his arrival,
in the abominable palace of fire; where, if he once set his foot, his
perdition will be inevitable.” Mahomet answered, with an air of
indignation, “He hath too well deserved to be resigned to himself; but I
permit you to try if one effort more will be effectual to divert him
from pursuing his ruin.”

One of these beneficent genii, assuming, without delay, the exterior of
a shepherd, more renowned for his piety than all the dervishes and
santons of the region, took his station near a flock of white sheep, on
the slope of a hill; and began to pour forth from his flute such airs of
pathetic melody, as subdued the very soul, and, wakening remorse, drove
far from it every frivolous fancy. At these energetic sounds, the sun
hid himself beneath a gloomy cloud; and the waters of two little lakes,
that were naturally clearer than crystal, became of a colour like blood.
The whole of this superb assembly was involuntarily drawn towards the
declivity of the hill. With downcast eyes, they all stood abashed; each
upbraiding himself with the evil he had done. The heart of Dilara
palpitated; and the chief of the eunuchs, with a sigh of contrition,
implored pardon of the women, whom, for his own satisfaction, he had so
often tormented.

Vathek and Nouronihar turned pale in their litter; and, regarding each
other with haggard looks, reproached themselves--the one with a thousand
of the blackest crimes, a thousand projects of impious ambition; the
other with the desolation of her family, and the perdition of the
amiable Gulchenrouz. Nouronihar persuaded herself that she heard, in the
fatal music, the groans of her dying father; and Vathek, the sobs of the
fifty children he had sacrificed to the Giaour. Amidst these complicated
pangs of anguish, they perceived themselves impelled towards the
shepherd, whose countenance was so commanding that Vathek, for the first
time, felt overawed; whilst Nouronihar concealed her face with her
hands. The music paused; and the genius, addressing the caliph, said,
“Deluded prince! to whom Providence hath confided the care of
innumerable subjects, is it thus that thou fulfillest thy mission? Thy
crimes are already completed; and art thou now listening towards thy
punishment? Thou knowest that, beyond these mountains, Eblis and his
accursed dives hold their infernal empire; and, seduced by a malignant
phantom, thou art proceeding to surrender thyself to them! This moment
is the last of grace allowed thee: abandon thy atrocious purpose:
return: give back Nouronihar to her father, who still retains a few
sparks of life: destroy thy tower with all its abominations: drive
Carathis from thy councils: be just to thy subjects: respect the
ministers of the Prophet: compensate for thy impieties by an exemplary
life; and, instead of squandering thy days in voluptuous indulgence,
lament thy crimes on the sepulchres of thy ancestors. Thou beholdest the
clouds that obscure the sun: at the instant he recovers his splendour,
if thy heart be not changed, the time of mercy assigned thee will be
past for ever.”

Vathek, depressed with fear, was on the point of prostrating himself at
the feet of the shepherd, whom he perceived to be of a nature superior
to man: but, his pride prevailing, he audaciously lifted his head, and,
glancing at him one of his terrible looks, said, “Whoever thou art,
withhold thy useless admonitions: thou wouldst either delude me, or art
thyself deceived. If what I have done be so criminal as thou pretendest,
there remains not for me a moment of grace. I have traversed a sea of
blood to acquire a power which will make thy equals tremble; deem not
that I shall retire when in view of the port, or that I will relinquish
her who is dearer to me than either my life or thy mercy. Let the sun
appear! let him illume my career! it matters not where it may end.” On
uttering these words, which made even the genius shudder, Vathek threw
himself into the arms of Nouronihar, and commanded that his horses
should be forced back to the road.

There was no difficulty in obeying these orders, for the attraction had
ceased: the sun shone forth in all his glory, and the shepherd vanished
with a lamentable scream.

The fatal impression of the music of the genius remained,
notwithstanding, in the heart of Vathek’s attendants. They viewed each
other with looks of consternation. At the approach of night almost all
of them escaped; and of this numerous assemblage there only remained the
chief of the eunuchs, some idolatrous slaves, Dilara, and a few other
women who, like herself, were votaries of the religion of the Magi.

The caliph, fired with the ambition of prescribing laws to the powers of
darkness, was but little embarrassed at this dereliction. The
impetuosity of his blood prevented him from sleeping; nor did he encamp
any more as before. Nouronihar, whose impatience, if possible, exceeded
his own, importuned him to hasten his march, and lavished on him a
thousand caresses, to beguile all reflection. She fancied herself
already more potent than Balkis, and pictured to her imagination the
genii falling prostrate at the foot of her throne. In this manner they
advanced by moonlight till they came within view of the two towering
rocks that form a kind of portal to the valley, at the extremity of
which rose the vast ruins of Istakar. Aloft on the mountain glimmered
the fronts of various royal mausoleums, the horror of which was deepened
by the shadows of night. They passed through two villages almost
deserted, the only inhabitants remaining being a few feeble old men,
who, at the sight of horses and litters, fell upon their knees, and
cried out, “O Heaven! is it then by these phantoms that we have been for
six months tormented? Alas! it was from the terror of these spectres,
and the noise beneath the mountains, that our people have fled, and left
us at the mercy of the maleficent spirits!” The caliph, to whom these
complaints were but unpromising auguries, drove over the bodies of these
wretched old men, and at length arrived at the foot of the terrace of
black marble. There he descended from his litter, handing down
Nouronihar. Both with beating hearts stared wildly around them, and
expected, with an apprehensive shudder, the approach of the Giaour; but
nothing as yet announced his appearance.

A deathlike stillness reigned over the mountain and through the air; the
moon dilated on a vast platform the shades of the lofty columns, which
reached from the terrace almost to the clouds; the gloomy watch-towers,
whose number could not be counted, were covered by no roof; and their
capitals, of an architecture unknown in the records of the earth, served
as an asylum for the birds of night, which, alarmed at the approach of
such visitants, fled away croaking.

The chief of the eunuchs, trembling with fear, besought Vathek that a
fire might be kindled. “No,” replied he, “there is no time left to think
of such trifles. Abide where thou art, and expect my commands.” Having
thus spoken, he presented his hand to Nouronihar; and ascending the
steps of a vast staircase, reached the terrace, which was flagged with
squares of marble, and resembled a smooth expanse of water, upon whose
surface not a blade of grass ever dared to vegetate. On the right rose
the watch-towers, ranged before the ruins of an immense palace, whose
walls were embossed with various figures. In front stood forth the
colossal forms of four creatures, composed of the leopard and the
griffin, and though but of stone, inspired emotions of terror. Near
these were distinguished, by the splendour of the moon, which streamed
full on the place, characters like those on the sabres of the Giaour,
and which possessed the same virtue of changing every moment. These,
after vacillating for some time, fixed at last in Arabic letters, and
prescribed to the caliph the following words: “Vathek, thou hast
violated the conditions of my parchment, and deservest to be sent back;
but in favour to thy companion, and as the meed for what thou hast done
to obtain it, Eblis permitteth that the portal of his palace shall be
opened, and the subterranean fire will receive thee into the number of
its adorers.”

He scarcely had read these words before the mountain, against which the
terrace was reared, trembled, and the watch-towers were ready to topple
headlong upon them; the rock yawned, and disclosed within it a staircase
of polished marble, that seemed to approach the abyss. Upon each stair
were planted two large torches, like those Nouronihar had seen in her
vision, the camphorated vapour of which ascended and gathered itself
into a cloud under the hollow of the vault.

This appearance, instead of terrifying, gave new courage to the daughter
of Fakreddin. Scarcely deigning to bid adieu to the moon and the
firmament, she abandoned without hesitation the pure atmosphere, to
plunge into these infernal exhalations. The gait of those impious
personages was haughty and determined. As they descended, by the
effulgence of the torches, they gazed on each other with mutual
admiration, and both appeared so resplendent that they already esteemed
themselves spiritual intelligences. The only circumstance that perplexed
them was their not arriving at the bottom of the stairs: on hastening
their descent with an ardent impetuosity, they felt their steps
accelerated to such a degree, that they seemed not walking but falling
from a precipice. Their progress, however, was at length impeded by a
vast portal of ebony, which the caliph without difficulty recognized.
Here the Giaour awaited them with the key in his hand. “Ye are welcome!”
said he to them, with a ghastly smile, “in spite of Mahomet and all his
dependents. I will now usher you into that palace where you have so
highly merited a place.” Whilst he was uttering these words he touched
the enamelled lock with his key, and the doors at once flew open with a
noise still louder than the thunder of the dog-days, and as suddenly
recoiled the moment they had entered.

The caliph and Nouronihar beheld each other with amazement at finding
themselves in a place which, though roofed with a vaulted ceiling, was
so spacious and lofty, that at first they took it for an immeasurable
plain. But their eyes at length growing familiar to the grandeur of the
surrounding objects, they extended their view to those at a distance,
and discovered rows of columns and arcades, which gradually diminished,
till they terminated in a point radiant as the sun when he darts his
last beams athwart the ocean. The pavement, strewed over with gold dust
and saffron, exhaled so subtle an odour as almost overpowered them.
They, however, went on, and observed an infinity of censers, in which
ambergris and the wood of aloes were continually burning. Between the
several columns were placed tables, each spread with a profusion of
viands, and wines of every species sparkling in vases of crystal. A
throng of genii and other fantastic spirits of either sex danced
lasciviously at the sound of music which issued from beneath.

In the midst of this immense hall, a vast multitude was incessantly
passing, who severally kept their right hands on their hearts, without
once regarding anything around them: they had all the livid paleness of
death. Their eyes, deep sunk in their sockets, resembled those
phosphoric meteors that glimmer by night in places of interment. Some
stalked slowly on, absorbed in profound reverie; some, shrieking with
agony, ran furiously about like tigers wounded with poisoned arrows;
whilst others, grinding their teeth in rage, foamed along more frantic
than the wildest maniac. They all avoided each other; and, though
surrounded by a multitude that no one could number, each wandered at
random unheedful of the rest, as if alone on a desert where no foot had

Vathek and Nouronihar, frozen with terror at a sight so baleful,
demanded of the Giaour what these appearances might mean, and why these
ambulating spectres never withdrew their hands from their hearts?
“Perplex not yourselves with so much at once,” replied he bluntly; “you
will soon be acquainted with all: let us haste and present you to
Eblis.” They continued their way through the multitude: but,
notwithstanding their confidence at first, they were not sufficiently
composed to examine with attention the various perspectives of halls and
of galleries that opened on the right hand and left; which were all
illuminated by torches and braziers, whose flames rose in pyramids to
the centre of the vault. At length they came to a place where long
curtains, brocaded with crimson and gold, fell from all parts in solemn
confusion. Here the choirs and dances were heard no longer. The light
which glimmered came from afar.

After some time, Vathek and Nouronihar perceived a gleam brightening
through the drapery, and entered a vast tabernacle hung round with the
skins of leopards. An infinity of elders with streaming beards, and
afrits in complete armour, had prostrated themselves before the ascent
of a lofty eminence; on the top of which, upon a globe of fire, sat the
formidable Eblis. His person was that of a young man, whose noble and
regular features seemed to have been tarnished by malignant vapours. In
his large eyes appeared both pride and despair: his flowing hair
retained some resemblance to that of an angel of light. In his hand,
which thunder had blasted, he swayed the iron sceptre that causes the
monster Ouranbad, the afrits, and all the powers of the abyss to
tremble. At his presence, the heart of the caliph sunk within him; and
he fell prostrate on his face. Nouronihar, however, though greatly
dismayed, could not help admiring the person of Eblis; for she expected
to have seen some stupendous giant. Eblis, with a voice more mild than
might be imagined, but such as penetrated the soul and filled it with
the deepest melancholy, said, “Creatures of clay, I receive you into
mine empire: ye are numbered amongst my adorers: enjoy whatever this
palace affords: the treasures of the pre-Adamite sultans, their
fulminating sabres, and those talismans that compel the dives to open
the subterranean expanses of the mountain of Kaf, which communicate with
these. There, insatiable as your curiosity may be, shall you find
sufficient objects to gratify it. You shall possess the exclusive
privilege of entering the fortresses of Aherman, and the halls of
Argenk, where are portrayed all creatures endowed with intelligence; and
the various animals that inhabited the earth prior to the creation of
that contemptible being whom ye denominate the father of mankind.”

Vathek and Nouronihar, feeling themselves revived and encouraged by this
harangue, eagerly said to the Giaour, “Bring us instantly to the place
which contains these precious talismans.”--“Come,” answered this wicked
dive, with his malignant grin--“come and possess all that my sovereign
hath promised, and more.” He then conducted them into a long aisle
adjoining the tabernacle; preceding them with hasty steps, and followed
by his disciples with the utmost alacrity. They reached, at length, a
hall of great extent, and covered with a lofty dome; around which
appeared fifty portals of bronze, secured with as many fastenings of
iron. A funereal gloom prevailed over the whole scene. Here, upon two
beds of incorruptible cedar, lay recumbent the fleshless forms of the
pre-Adamite kings, who had been monarchs of the whole earth. They still
possessed enough of life to be conscious of their deplorable condition.
Their eyes retained a melancholy motion; they regarded one another with
looks of the deepest dejection, each holding his right hand, motionless,
on his heart. At their feet were inscribed the events of their several
reigns, their power, their pride, and their crimes; Soliman Raad,
Soliman Daki, and Soliman, called Gian Ben Gian, who, after having
chained up the dives in the dark caverns of Kaf, became so presumptuous
as to doubt of the Supreme Power. All these maintained great state,
though not to be compared with the eminence of Soliman Ben Daoud.

This king, so renowned for his wisdom, was on the loftiest elevation,
and placed immediately under the dome. He appeared to possess more
animation than the rest. Though, from time to time, he laboured with
profound sighs; and, like his companions, kept his right hand on his
heart, yet his countenance was more composed, and he seemed to be
listening to the sullen roar of a cataract visible in part through one
of the grated portals. This was the only sound that intruded on the
silence of these doleful mansions. A range of brazen cases surrounded
the elevation. “Remove the covers from these cabalistic depositories,”
said the Giaour to Vathek, “and avail thyself of the talismans which
will break asunder all these gates of bronze, and not only render thee
master of the treasures contained within them, but also of the spirits
by which they are guarded.”

The caliph, whom this ominous preliminary had entirely disconcerted,
approached the vase with faltering footsteps; and was ready to sink with
terror when he heard the groans of Soliman. As he proceeded, a voice
from the livid lips of the prophet articulated these words: “In my
lifetime I filled a magnificent throne; having, on my right hand, twelve
thousand seats of gold, where the patriarchs and the prophets heard my
doctrines: on my left, the sages and doctors, upon as many thrones of
silver, were present at all my decisions. Whilst I thus administered
justice to innumerable multitudes, the birds of the air, hovering over
me, served as a canopy against the rays of the sun. My people
flourished; and my palace rose to the clouds. I erected a temple to the
Most High, which was the wonder of the universe; but I basely suffered
myself to be seduced by the love of women, and a curiosity that could
not be restrained by sublunary things. I listened to the counsels of
Aherman and the daughter of Pharaoh; and adored fire and the hosts of
heaven. I forsook the holy city, and commanded the genii to rear the
stupendous palace of Istakar, and the terrace of the watch-towers; each
of which was consecrated to a star. There, for a while, I enjoyed myself
in the zenith of glory and pleasure. Not only men but supernatural
beings were subject also to my will. I began to think, as these unhappy
monarchs around had already thought, that the vengeance of Heaven was
asleep; when, at once, the thunder burst my structures asunder, and
precipitated me hither: where, however, I do not remain, like the other
inhabitants, totally destitute of hope; for an angel of light hath
revealed that in consideration of the piety of my early youth my woes
shall come to an end, when this cataract shall for ever cease to flow.
Till then I am in torments, ineffable torments! an unrelenting fire
preys on my heart.”

Having uttered this exclamation, Soliman raised his hands towards
heaven, in token of supplication; and the caliph discerned through his
bosom, which was transparent as crystal, his heart enveloped in flames.
At a sight so full of horror, Nouronihar fell back, like one petrified,
into the arms of Vathek, who cried out with a convulsive sob, “O Giaour!
whither hast thou brought us! Allow us to depart, and I will relinquish
all thou hast promised. O Mahomet! remains there no more mercy?”--“None!
none!” replied the malicious dive. “Know, miserable prince! thou art now
in the abode of vengeance and despair. Thy heart, also, will be kindled
like those of the other votaries of Eblis. A few days are allotted thee
previous to this fatal period: employ them as thou wilt; recline on
these heaps of gold; command the infernal potentates; range, at thy
pleasure, through these immense subterranean domains: no barrier shall
be shut against thee. As for me, I have fulfilled my mission: I now
leave thee to thyself.” At these words he vanished.

The caliph and Nouronihar remained in the most abject affliction. Their
tears were unable to flow, and scarcely could they support themselves.
At length, taking each other despondingly by the hand, they went
faltering from this fatal hall, indifferent which way they turned their
steps. Every portal opened at their approach. The dives fell prostrate
before them. Every reservoir of riches was disclosed to their view; but
they no longer felt the incentives of curiosity, of pride, or avarice.
With like apathy they heard the chorus of genii, and saw the stately
banquets prepared to regale them. They went wandering on, from chamber
to chamber, hall to hall, and gallery to gallery; all without bounds or
limit; all distinguishable by the same lowering gloom; all adorned with
the same awful grandeur; all traversed by persons in search of repose
and consolation, but who sought them in vain; for every one carried
within him a heart tormented in flames. Shunned by these various
sufferers, who seemed by their looks to be upbraiding the partners of
their guilt, they withdrew from them to wait, in direful suspense, the
moment which should render them to each other the like objects of

“What!” exclaimed Nouronihar; “will the time come when I shall snatch my
hand from thine?”--“Ah!” said Vathek, “and shall my eyes ever cease to
drink from thine long draughts of enjoyment? Shall the moments of our
reciprocal ecstasies be reflected on with horror? It was not thou that
broughtest me hither; the principles by which Carathis perverted my
youth have been the sole cause of my perdition! it is but right she
should have her share of it.” Having given vent to these painful
expressions, he called to an afrit, who was stirring up one of the
braziers, and bade him fetch the Princess Carathis from the palace of

After issuing these orders, the caliph and Nouronihar continued walking
amidst the silent crowd, till they heard voices at the end of the
gallery. Presuming them to proceed from some unhappy beings, who, like
themselves, were awaiting their final doom, they followed the sound, and
found it to come from a small square chamber, where they discovered,
sitting on sofas, four young men of goodly figure, and a lovely female,
who were holding a melancholy conversation by the glimmering of a lonely
lamp. Each had a gloomy and forlorn air; and two of them were embracing
each other with great tenderness. On seeing the caliph and the daughter
of Fakreddin enter, they arose, saluted, and made room for them. Then he
who appeared the most considerable of the group, addressed himself thus
to Vathek: “Strangers! who doubtless are in the same state of suspense
with ourselves, as you do not yet bear your hand on your heart, if you
come hither to pass the interval allotted, previous to the infliction of
our common punishment, condescend to relate the adventures that have
brought you to this fatal place; and we, in return, will acquaint you
with ours, which deserve but too well to be heard. To trace back our
crimes to their source, though we are not permitted to repent, is the
only employment suited to wretches like us!”

The caliph and Nouronihar assented to the proposal; and Vathek began,
not without tears and lamentations, a sincere recital of every
circumstance that had passed. When the afflicting narrative was closed,
the young man entered on his own. Each person proceeded in order; and,
when the third prince had reached the midst of his adventures, a sudden
noise interrupted him, which caused the vault to tremble and to open.

Immediately a cloud descended, which, gradually dissipating, discovered
Carathis on the back of an afrit, who grievously complained of his
burden. She, instantly springing to the ground, advanced towards her
son, and said, “What dost thou here, in this little square chamber? As
the dives are become subject to thy beck, I expected to have found thee
on the throne of the pre-Adamite kings.”

“Execrable woman!” answered the caliph; “cursed be the day thou gavest
me birth! Go, follow this afrit; let him conduct thee to the hall of the
prophet Soliman: there thou wilt learn to what these palaces are
destined, and how much I ought to abhor the impious knowledge thou hast
taught me.”

“Has the height of power, to which thou art arrived, turned thy brain?”
answered Carathis; “but I ask no more than permission to show my respect
for Soliman the prophet. It is, however, proper thou shouldst know that
(as the afrit has informed me neither of us shall return to Samarah) I
requested his permission to arrange my affairs, and he politely
consented. Availing myself, therefore, of the few moments allowed me, I
set fire to the tower, and consumed in it the mutes, negresses, and
serpents, which have rendered me so much good service; nor should I have
been less kind to Morakanabad, had he not prevented me, by deserting at
last to thy brother. As for Bababalouk, who had the folly to return to
Samarah, to provide husbands for thy wives, I undoubtedly would have put
him to the torture; but being in a hurry, I only hung him, after having
decoyed him in a snare, with thy wives, whom I buried alive by the help
of my negresses, who thus spent their last moments greatly to their
satisfaction. With respect to Dilara, who ever stood high in my favour,
she hath evinced the greatness of her mind, by fixing herself near, in
the service of one of the magi; and, I think, will soon be one of our

Vathek, too much cast down to express the indignation excited by such a
discourse, ordered the afrit to remove Carathis from his presence, and
continued immersed in thoughts which his companions durst not disturb.

Carathis, however, eagerly entered the dome of Soliman, and without
regarding in the least the groans of the prophet, undauntedly removed
the covers of the vases and violently seized on the talismans. Then,
with a voice more loud than had hitherto been heard within these
mansions, she compelled the dives to disclose to her the most secret
treasures, the most profound stores, which the afrit himself had not
seen. She passed, by rapid descents, known only to Eblis and his most
favoured potentates; and thus penetrated the very entrails of the earth,
where breathes the sansar, or the icy wind of death. Nothing appalled
her dauntless soul. She perceived, however, in all the inmates who bore
their hands on their heart, a little singularity not much to her taste.

As she was emerging from one of the abysses, Eblis stood forth to her
view; but notwithstanding he displayed the full effulgence of his
infernal majesty, she preserved her countenance unaltered, and even paid
her compliments with considerable firmness.

This superb monarch thus answered: “Princess, whose knowledge and whose
crimes have merited a conspicuous rank in my empire, thou dost well to
avail thyself of the leisure that remains; for the flames and torments,
which are ready to seize on thy heart, will not fail to provide thee
soon with full employment.” He said, and was lost in the curtains of his

Carathis paused for a moment with surprise; but, resolved to follow the
advice of Eblis, she assembled all the choirs of genii, and all the
dives, to pay her homage. Thus marched she, in triumph, through a vapour
of perfumes, amidst the acclamations of all the malignant spirits, with
most of whom she had formed a previous acquaintance. She even attempted
to dethrone one of the Solimans, for the purpose of usurping his place;
when a voice, proceeding from the abyss of death, proclaimed, “All is
accomplished!” Instantaneously the haughty forehead of the intrepid
princess became corrugated with agony; she uttered a tremendous yell,
and fixed, no more to be withdrawn, her right hand upon her heart, which
was become a receptacle of eternal fire.

In this delirium, forgetting all ambitious projects, and her thirst for
that knowledge which should ever be hidden from mortals, she overturned
the offerings of the genii; and, having execrated the hour she was
begotten and the womb that had borne her, glanced off in a rapid whirl
that rendered her invisible, and continued to revolve without

Almost at the same instant, the same voice announced to the caliph,
Nouronihar, the four princes, and the princess, the awful and
irrevocable decree. Their hearts immediately took fire, and they, at
once, lost the most precious gift of heaven--HOPE. These unhappy beings
recoiled, with looks of the most furious distraction. Vathek beheld in
the eyes of Nouronihar nothing but rage and vengeance; nor could she
discern aught in his but aversion and despair. The two princes who were
friends, and, till that moment, had preserved their attachment, shrunk
back, gnashing their teeth with mutual and unchangeable hatred. Kahlah
and his sister made reciprocal gestures of imprecation; all testified
their horror for each other by the most ghastly convulsions, and screams
that could not be smothered. All severally plunged themselves
into the accursed multitude, there to wander in an eternity of
unabating anguish.

Such was, and such should be, the punishment of unrestrained passions
and atrocious deeds! Such shall be the chastisement of that blind
curiosity, which would transgress those bounds the wisdom of the Creator
has prescribed to human knowledge; and such the dreadful disappointment
of that restless ambition, which, aiming at discoveries reserved for
beings of a supernatural order, perceives not, through its infatuated
pride, that the condition of man upon earth is to be--humble and

Thus the caliph Vathek, who, for the sake of empty pomp and forbidden
power, had sullied himself with a thousand crimes, became a prey to
grief without end, and remorse without mitigation; whilst the humble,
the despised Gulchenrouz passed whole ages in undisturbed tranquillity,
and in the pure happiness of childhood.


PAGE 195. _Caliph_

This title, amongst the Mahometans, comprehends the concrete character
of Prophet, Priest, and King, and is used to signify _the Vicar of God
on Earth_. It is, at this day, one of the titles of the Grand Signior,
as successor of Mahomet; and of the Sophi of Persia, as successor of
Ali.--HABESCI’S _State of the Ottoman Empire_, p. 9. D’HERBELOT, p. 985.

PAGE 195. _Omar Ben Abdalaziz_

This caliph was eminent above all others for temperance and self-denial,
insomuch that he is believed to have been raised to Mahomet’s bosom, as
a reward for his abstinence in an age of corruption.--D’HERBELOT, p.

PAGE 195. _Samarah_

A city of the Babylonian Irak; supposed to have stood on the site where
Nimrod erected his tower. Khondemir relates, in his life of Motassem,
that this prince, to terminate the disputes which were perpetually
happening between the inhabitants of Bagdat and his Turkish slaves,
withdrew from thence, and having fixed on a situation in the plain of
Catoul, there founded Samarah. He is said to have had, in the stables of
this city, a hundred and thirty thousand _pied horses_, each of which
carried, by his order, a sack of earth to a place he had chosen. By this
accumulation an elevation was formed that commanded a view of all
Samarah, and served for the foundation of his magnificent
palace.--D’HERBELOT, pp. 752, 808, 985. _Anecdotes Arabes_, p. 413.

PAGE 195. _... in the most delightful succession_

The great men of the East have been always fond of music. Though
forbidden by the Mahometan religion, it commonly makes a part of every
entertainment. _Nitimur in vetitum semper._ Female slaves are generally
kept to amuse them and the ladies of their harems. The Persian
Khanyagere seems nearly to have resembled our old English minstrel; as
he usually accompanied his barbut, or lute, with heroic
songs.--RICHARDSON’S _Dissertation on the Languages, etc., of Eastern
Nations_, p. 211.

PAGE 196. _Mani_

This artist, whom Inatulla of Delhi styles _the far-famed_, lived in the
reign of Schabur, or Sapor, the son of Ardschir Babegan, was founder of
the sect of Manichæans, and was, by profession, a painter and sculptor.
His pretensions, supported by an uncommon skill in mechanical
contrivances, induced the ignorant to believe that his powers were more
than human. After having secluded himself from his followers, under the
pretence of passing a year in heaven, he produced a wonderful volume,
which he affirmed to have brought from thence; containing images and
figures of a marvellous nature.--D’HERBELOT, p. 458. It appears, from
the _Arabian Nights_, that Haroun al Raschid, Vathek’s grandfather, had
adorned his palace and furnished his magnificent pavilion with the most
capital performances of the Persian artists.

PAGE 196. _Houris_

The virgins of Paradise, called, from their large black eyes, _Hur al
oyun_. An intercourse with these, according to the institution of
Mahomet, is to constitute the principal felicity of the faithful. Not
formed of clay, like mortal women, they are deemed in the highest degree
beautiful, and exempt from every inconvenience incident to the sex.--_Al
Koran_; _passim_.

PAGE 196. _... it was not with the orthodox that he usually held_

Vathek persecuted, with extreme rigour, all who defended the eternity of
the Koran; which the Sonnites, or orthodox, maintained to be uncreated,
and the Motazalites and Schiites as strenuously denied.--D’HERBELOT, p.
85, etc.

PAGE 197. _Mahomet in the seventh heaven_

In this heaven, the paradise of Mahomet is supposed to be placed,
contiguous to the throne of Alla. Hagi Khalfah relates, that Ben
Iatmaiah, a celebrated doctor of Damascus, had the temerity to assert
that, when the Most High erected his throne, he reserved a vacant place
for Mahomet upon it.

PAGE 197. _Genii_

_Genn_, or _Ginn_, in the Arabic, signifies a Genius or Demon, a being
of a higher order, and formed of more subtile matter than man. According
to Oriental mythology, the Genii governed the world long before the
creation of Adam. The Mahometans regarded them as an intermediate race
between angels and men, and capable of salvation; whence Mahomet
pretended a commission to convert them. Consonant to this, we read that,
_when the |Servant of God| stood up to invoke him, it wanted little but
that the |Genii| had pressed on him in crowds, to hear him rehearse the
Koran_.--D’HERBELOT, p. 375. _Al Koran_, ch. 72. It is asserted, and not
without plausible reasons, that the words _Genn_, _Ginn_--_Genius_,
_Genie_, _Gian_, _Gigas_, _Giant_, _Géant_--proceed from the same
themes, viz. Γὴ, _the earth_, and γάω, _to produce_; as if these
supernatural agents had been an early production of the earth, long
before Adam was modelled out from a lump of it. The Ωντες and Εωντες of
Plato bear a close analogy to these supposed intermediate creatures
between God and man. From these premises arose the consequence that,
boasting a higher order, formed of more subtle matter, and possessed of
much greater knowledge, than man, they lorded over this planet, and
invisibly governed it with superior intellect. From this last
circumstance they obtained in Greece the title of Δαίμονες, Demons, from
δαήμων, _sciens_, knowing. The Hebrew word, נפלים, Nephilim (Gen. vi,
4), translated by _Gigantes_, giants, claiming the same etymon with
νεφέλη, a cloud, seems also to indicate that these intellectual beings
inhabited the void expanse of the terrestrial atmosphere. Hence the very
ancient fable of men of enormous strength and size revolting against the
gods, and all the mythological lore relating to that mighty conflict;
unless we trace the origin of this important event to the ambition of
Satan, his revolt against the Almighty, and his fall with the angels.

PAGE 197. _Assist him to complete the tower_

The Genii, who were styled by the Persians _Peris_ and _Dives_, were
famous for their architectural skill. The pyramids of Egypt have been
ascribed to them.

The Koran relates, that the Genii were employed by Solomon in the
erection of his magnificent temple.--BAILLY, _Sur l’Atlantide_, p. 146.
D’HERBELOT, p. 8. _Al Koran_, ch. 34.

PAGE 198. _... the stranger displayed such rarities as he had never
before seen_

In the _Tales of Inatulla_, we meet with a traveller who, like this, was
furnished with trinkets and curiosities of an extraordinary kind. That
such were much sought after in the days of Vathek, may be concluded from
the encouragement which Haroun al Raschid gave to the mechanic arts, and
the present he sent by his ambassadors to Charlemagne. This consisted of
a clock, which, when put into motion, by means of a clepsydra, not only
pointed out the hours in their round, but also, by dropping small balls
on a bell, struck them, and, at the same instant, threw open as many
little doors, to let out an equal number of horsemen. Besides these, the
clock displayed various other contrivances.--_Ann. Reg. Franc. Pip.
Caroli, etc._, _ad ann._ 807. WEIDLER, p. 205.

PAGE 198. _... characters on the sabres_

Such inscriptions often occur in Eastern romances. We find, in the
_Arabian Nights_, a cornelian, on which _unknown characters_ were
engraven; and, also, a sabre, like those here described. In the French
king’s library is a curious treatise, entitled _Sefat Alaclam_;
containing a variety of alphabets, arranged under different heads; such
as the _prophetic_, the _mystical_, the _philosophic_, the _magical_,
the _talismanic_, etc., which seems to have escaped the research of the
indefatigable Mr. Astle.--_Arabian Nights_, vol. ii, p. 246; vol. i, p.
143. D’HERBELOT, p. 797.

PAGE 201. _... beards burnt off_

The loss of the beard, from the earliest ages, was accounted highly
disgraceful. An instance occurs, in the _Tales of Inatulla_, of one
being _singed off_, as a mulct on the owner, for having failed to
explain a question propounded; and, in the _Arabian Nights_, a
proclamation may be seen similar to this of Vathek.--Vol. i, p. 268;
vol. ii, p. 228.

PAGE 202. _The old man put on his green spectacles_

This is an apparent anachronism; but such frequently occur in reading
the Arabian writers. It should be remembered, the difficulty of
ascertaining facts and fixing the dates of inventions must be
considerable in a vast extent of country, where books are comparatively
few, and the art of printing unpractised. Though the origin of
_spectacles_ can be traced back, with certainty, no higher than the
thirteenth century, yet the observation of Seneca--that letters appeared
of an increased magnitude when viewed through the medium of convex
glass--might have been noted also by others, and _a sort of spectacles_
contrived, in consequence of it. But, however this might have been, the
art of staining glass is sufficiently ancient, to have suggested in the
days of Vathek the use of _green_, as a protection to the eye from a
glare of light.

PAGE 204. _Accursed Giaour!_

_Dives_ of this kind are frequently mentioned by Eastern writers.
Consult their tales in general; and especially those of the Fishermen,
Aladdin, and the Princess of China.

PAGE 206. _Bababalouk, the chief of his eunuchs_

As it was the employment of the _black eunuchs_ to wait upon and guard
the sultanas; so the general superintendence of the harem was
particularly committed to their chief.--HABESCI’S _State of the Ottoman
Empire_, pp. 155, 156.

PAGE 206. _... the divan_

This was both the supreme council and court of justice, at which the
caliphs of the race of the Abassides assisted in person, to redress the
injuries of every appellant.--D’HERBELOT, p. 298.

PAGE 206. _The officers arranged themselves in a semicircle_

Such was the etiquette, constantly observed, on entering the
divan.--_Arabian Nights_, vol. iv, p. 36. D’HERBELOT, p. 912.

PAGE 206. _... the prime vizier_

Vazir, vezir, or, as we express it, vizier, literally signifies a
_porter_; and, by metaphor, the minister who bears the principal burden
of the state, generally called the Sublime Porte.

PAGE 207. _The muezzins and their minarets_

Valid, the son of Abdalmalek, was the first who erected a _minaret_, or
turret; and this he placed on the grand mosque at Damascus, for the
_muezzin_, or crier, to announce from it the hour of prayer. This
practice has constantly been kept to this day.--D’HERBELOT, p. 576.

PAGE 210. _Soliman Ben Daoud_

The name of _David_ in Hebrew is composed of the letter ו _Vau_ between
two ד _Daleths_ דוד; and, according to the Masoretic points, ought to be
pronounced _David_. Having no U consonant in their tongue, the
Septuagint substituted the letter B for V, and wrote Δαβιδ, _Dabid_. The
Syriac reads _Dad_ or _Dod_; and the Arabs articulate _Daoud_.

PAGE 210. _I require the blood of fifty of the most beautiful sons of
the viziers_

Amongst the infatuated votaries of the powers of darkness, the most
acceptable offering was _the blood of their children_. If the parents
were not at hand to make an immediate offer, _the magistrates did not
fail to select those who were most fair and promising_, that the demon
might not be defrauded of his dues. On one occasion, _two hundred of the
prime nobility were sacrificed together_.--BRYANT’S _Observations_, p.
279, etc.

PAGE 213. _... bracelet_

The bracelet, in the East, was an emblem of royalty.--D’HERBELOT, p.
541. For want of a more proper term to denominate the ornament
_serkhooj_, the word _aigret_ is here used.

PAGE 214. _... mutes_

It has been usual, in Eastern courts, from time immemorial, to retain a
number of mutes. These are not only employed to amuse the monarch, but
also to instruct his pages in an art to us little known, of
communicating everything by signs, lest the sounds of their voices
should disturb the sovereign.--HABESCI’S _State of the Ottoman Empire_,
p. 164. The mutes are also the secret instruments of his private
vengeance, in carrying the fatal string.

PAGE 215. _Prayer announced at break of day_

The stated seasons of public prayer, in the twenty-four hours, were
five: daybreak, noon, midtime between noon and sunset, immediately as
the sun leaves the horizon, and an hour and a half after it is down.

PAGE 216. _Skulls and skeletons_

Both were usually added to the ingredients already mentioned. These
magic rites sufficiently resemble the witch scenes of Middleton,
Shakespeare, etc., to show their Oriental origin. Nor is it to be
wondered if, amongst the many systems adopted from the East, this should
have been in the number. It may be seen, from the Arabian Tales, that
magic was an art publicly taught; and Father Angelo relates of a rich
enchanter, whom he knew at Bassora, that his pupils were so numerous as
to occupy an entire quarter of the city.

PAGE 219. _Flagons of wine and vases of sherbet reposing on snow_

Sir John Chardin speaks of a wine much admired in the East, and
particularly in Persia, called _roubnar_; which is made from the juice
of the pomegranate, and sent abroad in large quantities. The Oriental
sherbets, styled by St. Jerome, _sorbitiunculæ delicatæ_, consisted of
various syrups (such as lemon, liquorice, capillaire, etc.) mixed with
water. To these, Hasselquist adds several others, and observes, that the
sweet-scented violet is a flower greatly esteemed, not only for its
smell and colour, but, especially, for its use in _sherbet_; which, when
the Easterns intend to entertain their guests in an elegant manner, is
made of a solution of violet-sugar. Snow, in the _rinfrescos_ of a hot
climate, is almost a constant ingredient. Thus, in the _Arabian Nights_,
Bedreddin Hassan, having filled a large porcelain bowl with sherbet of
roses, put snow into it.

PAGE 219. _... a parchment_

Parchments of the like mysterious import are frequent in the writings of
the Easterns. One in particular, amongst the Arabians, is held in high
veneration. It was written by Ali, and Giafar Sadek, in mystic
characters, and is said to contain the destiny of the Mahometan
religion, and the great events which are to happen previous to the end
of the world. This parchment is of _camel’s skin_; but it was usual with
Catherine of Medicis to carry about her person, a legend, in cabalistic
characters, inscribed on the skin of a dead-born infant.--D’HERBELOT, p.
366. WRAXALL’S _House of Valois_.

PAGE 219. _Istakar_

This city was the ancient Persepolis, and capital of Persia, under the
kings of the three first races. The author of _Lebtarikh_ writes, that
Kischtab there established his abode, erected several temples to the
element of fire, and hewed out for himself and his successors sepulchres
in the rocks of the mountain contiguous to the city. The ruins of
columns and broken figures which still remain, defaced as they were by
Alexander and mutilated by time, plainly evince that those ancient
potentates had chosen it for the place of their interment. Their
monuments, however, must not be confounded with the superb palace reared
by Queen Homai, in the midst of Istakhar; which the Persians distinguish
by the name of _Tchilminar_, or the forty watch-towers. The origin of
this city is ascribed by some to Giamschid, and others carry it higher;
but the Persian tradition is, that it was built by the _Peris_, or
Fairies, when the world was governed by Gian Ben Gian.--D’HERBELOT, p.

PAGE 219. _Gian Ben Gian_

By this appellation was distinguished the monarch of that species of
beings, whom the Arabians denominate _Gian_ or _Ginn_; that is, _Genii_;
and the Tarikh Thabari, _Peris_, _Feez_, or _Fairies_. He was renowned
for his warlike expeditions and stupendous structures. According to
Oriental writers, the pyramids of Egypt were amongst the monuments of
his power. The buckler of this mighty sovereign, no less famous than
that of Achilles, was employed by three successive Solimans, to achieve
their marvellous exploits. From them, it descended to Tahamurath,
surnamed _Divbend_, or _Conqueror of the_ GIANTS. This buckler was
endowed with most wonderful qualities, having been fabricated by
talismanic art; and was alone sufficient to destroy all the charms and
enchantments of demons or giants; which, on the contrary, were wrought
by magic. Hence we are no longer at a loss for the origin of the
wonderful shield of Atlante.

The reign of Gian Ben Gian over the Peris is said to have continued for
two thousand years; after which, EBLIS was sent by the Deity to exile
them, on account of their disorders, and confine them in the remotest
region of the earth.--D’HERBELOT, p. 396. BAILLY, _Sur l’Atlantide_, p.

PAGE 219. _... the talismans of Soliman_

The most famous _talisman_ of the East, and which could control even the
arms and magic of the dives or giants, was _Mohur Solimani_, the seal or
ring of Soliman Jared, fifth monarch of the world after Adam. By means
of it the possessor had the entire command, not only of the elements,
but also of demons and every created being.--RICHARDSON’S _Dissertation
on the Languages, etc., of Eastern Nations_, p. 272. D’HERBELOT, p. 820.

PAGE 219. _... pre-Adamite sultans_

These monarchs, which were seventy-two in number, are said to have
governed each a distinct species of rational beings, prior to the
existence of Adam. Amongst the most renowned of them were SOLIMAN RAAD,

PAGE 219. _... beware how thou enterest any dwelling_

Strange as this injunction may seem, it is by no means incongruous to
the customs of the country. Dr. Pocock mentions his travelling with the
train of the governor of Faiume, who, instead of lodging in a village
that was near, passed the night in a grove of palm-trees.--_Travels_,
vol. i, p. 56.

PAGE 220. _... the ass of Balaam, the dog of the seven sleepers, and the
other animals admitted into the paradise of Mahomet_

It was a tenet of the Mussulman creed, that all animals would be raised
again, and many of them honoured with admission to paradise. The story
of the seven sleepers, borrowed from Christian legends, was this: In the
days of the Emperor Decius, there were certain Ephesian youths of a good
family, who, to avoid the flames of persecution, fled to a secret
cavern, and there slept for a number of years. In their flight towards
the cave, they were followed by a dog, which, when they attempted to
drive back, said, “_I love those who are dear unto God; go sleep,
therefore, and I will guard you._” For this dog the Mahometans retain so
profound a reverence, that their harshest sarcasm against a covetous
person is, “He would not throw a bone to the dog of the seven sleepers.”
It is even said that their superstition induces them to write his name
upon the letters they send to a distance, as a kind of talisman, to
secure them a safe conveyance.--_Religious Ceremonies_, vol. vii, p. 74
n. SALE’S _Koran_, chap. xviii and notes.

PAGE 220. _Rocnabad_

The stream thus denominated flows near the city of Schiraz. Its waters
are uncommonly pure and limpid, and their banks swarded with the finest

PAGE 220. _Do you, with the advice of my mother, govern_

Females in the East were not anciently excluded from power. In the Story
of Zeyn Alasnam and the King of the Genii, the mother of Zeyn
undertakes, with the aid of his viziers, to govern Bassora during his
absence on a similar expedition.

PAGE 221. _Chintz and muslin_

For many curious particulars relative to these articles, consult Mr.
Delaval’s _Inquiry concerning the Changes of Colours, etc._; to which
may be added, LUCRETIUS, lib. iv, 5. PETRONIUS, c. 37. MARTIAL, viii,
Ep. 28, 17; xiv, Ep. 150. PLUTARCH, in _Vita Catonis_. PLINY, viii, 48.

PAGE 221. _Moullahs_

Those amongst the Mahometans who were bred to the law had this title;
and from their order the judges of cities and provinces were taken.

PAGE 221. _... the sacred Caaba_

That part of the temple at Mecca which is chiefly revered, and, indeed,
gives a sanctity to the rest, is a square stone building called the
Caaba, probably from its quadrangular form. The length of this edifice,
from north to south, is twenty-four cubits, and its breadth, from east
to west, twenty-three. The door is on the east side, and stands about
four cubits from the ground, the floor being level with the threshold.
The Caaba has a double roof, supported internally by three octangular
pillars of aloes wood, between which, on a bar of iron, hangs a row of
silver lamps. The outside is covered with rich black damask, adorned
with an embroidered band of gold. This hanging, which is changed every
year, was formerly sent by the caliphs.--SALE’S _Preliminary Discourse_,
p. 152.

PAGE 222. _... the supposed oratory_

The dishonouring such places as had an appearance of being devoted to
religious purposes, by converting them to the most abject offices of
nature, was an Oriental method of expressing contempt, and hath
continued from remote antiquity.--HARMER’S _Observations_, vol. ii, p.

PAGE 223. _... regale these pious poor souls with my good wine from

The prohibition of wine in the Koran is so rigidly observed by the
conscientious, especially if they have performed the pilgrimage to
Mecca, that they deem it sinful to press grapes for the purpose of
making it, and even to use the money arising from its sale.--CHARDIN,
_Voy. de Perse_, tom. ii, p. 212. _Schiraz_ was famous in the East for
its wines of different sorts, but particularly for its _red_, which was
esteemed more highly than even the white wine of _Kismische_.

PAGE 224. _... the most stately tulips of the East_

The tulip is a flower of Eastern growth, and there held in great
estimation. Thus, in an ode of Mesihi: “The edge of the bower is filled
with the light of Ahmed; among the plants the fortunate _tulips_
represent his companions.”

PAGE 224. _... certain cages of ladies_

There are many passages of the _Moallakat_ in which these _cages_ are
fully described. Thus, in the poem of Lebeid:

“How were thy tender affections raised, when the damsels of the tribe
departed; when they hid themselves in carriages of cotton, like
antelopes in their lair, and the tents as they were struck gave a
piercing sound!

“They were concealed in vehicles, whose sides were well covered with
awnings and carpets, with fine-spun curtains and pictured
veils.”--_Moallakat_, by SIR W. JONES, pp. 46, 35. See also LADY M. W.
MONTAGU, Let. xxvi.

PAGE 224. _... dislodged_

Our language wants a verb, equivalent to the French _dénicher_, to
convey, in this instance, the precise sense of the author.

PAGE 225. _... those nocturnal insects which presage evil_

It is observable that, in the fifth verse of the Ninety-first Psalm,
“the terror by night,” is rendered, in the old English version, “the
bugge by night.”[1] In the first settled parts of North America, every
nocturnal fly of a noxious quality is still generically named a bug;
whence the term bugbear signifies one that carries terror wherever he
goes. Beelzebub, or the Lord of Flies, was an Eastern appellative given
to the Devil; and the nocturnal sound called by the Arabians _azif_ was
believed to be the howling of demons.

[1] Instances are not wanted, both in the English and Greek versions,
where the translators have modified the sense of the original by their
own preconceived opinions. To this source may be ascribed the BUGGE of
our old Bible.

PAGE 225. _... the locusts were heard from the thickets on the plain of

The insects here mentioned are of the same species with the τεττιξ of
the Greeks, and the _cicada_ of the Latins. The locusts are mentioned in
Pliny, b. xi, 29. They were so called, from _loco usto_, because the
havoc they made wherever they passed left behind the appearance of a
place desolated by fire. How could then the commentators of Vathek say
that they are called _locusts_, from their having been so denominated by
the first English settlers in America?

PAGE 226. _Vathek ... with two little pages_

“All the pages of the seraglio are sons of Christians made slaves in
time of war, in their most tender age. The incursions of robbers in the
confines of Circassia afford the means of supplying the seraglio, even
in times of peace.”--HABESCI’S _State of the Ottoman Empire_, p. 157.
That the pages here mentioned were _Circassians_, appears from the
description of their complexion--_more fair than the enamel of

PAGE 226. _... confectioners and cooks_

What their precise number might have been in Vathek’s establishment it
is not now easy to determine; but in the household of the present Grand
Signior there are not fewer than a hundred and ninety.--HABESCI’S _State
of the Ottoman Empire_, p. 145.

PAGE 227. _... hath seen some part of our bodies; and, what is worse,
our very faces_

“I was informed,” writes Dr. Cooke, “that the Persian women, in general,
would sooner expose to public view any part of their bodies than their
faces.”--_Voyages and Travels_, vol. ii, p. 443.

PAGE 228. _... vases of snow, and grapes from the banks of the Tigris_

It was customary in Eastern climates, and especially in the sultry
season, to carry, when journeying, supplies of snow. These _æstivæ
nives_ (as Mamertinus styles them) being put into separate vases, were,
by that means, better kept from the air, as no more was opened at once
than might suffice for immediate use. To preserve the whole from
solution, the vessels that contained it were secured in packages of
straw.--_Gesta Dei_, p. 1098. Vathek’s ancestor, the CALIPH MAHADI, in
the pilgrimage to Mecca, which he undertook from ostentation rather than
devotion, loaded upon camels so prodigious a quantity, as was not only
sufficient for himself and his attendants amidst the burning sands of
Arabia, but also to preserve, in their natural freshness, the various
fruits he took with him, and to ice all their drink whilst he stayed at
Mecca, the greater part of whose inhabitants had never seen snow till
then.--_Anecdotes Arabes_, p. 326.

PAGE 229. _... horrible Kaf_

This mountain, which, in reality, is no other than Caucasus, was
supposed to surround the earth, like a ring encompassing a finger. The
sun was believed to rise from one of its eminences (as over Œta, by the
Latin poets), and to set on the opposite; whence, _from Kaf to Kaf_,
signified, from one extremity of the earth to the other. The fabulous
historians of the East affirm, that this mountain was founded upon a
stone, called _sakhrat_, one grain of which, according to Lokman, would
enable the possessor to work wonders. This stone is further described as
the pivot of the earth, and said to be one vast emerald, from the
refraction of whose beams the heavens derive their azure. It is added,
that whenever God would excite an earthquake, he commands the stone to
move one of its fibres (which supply in it the office of nerves), and,
that being moved, the part of the earth connected with it quakes, is
convulsed, and sometimes expands. Such is the philosophy of the Koran!

The _Tarikh Tabari_, written in Persian, analogous to the same
tradition, relates, that, were it not for this emerald, the earth would
be liable to perpetual commotions, and unfit for the abode of mankind.

To arrive at the Kaf, a vast region,

    “Far from the sun and summer gale,”

must be traversed. Over this dark and cheerless desert, the way is
inextricable without the direction of supernatural guidance. Here the
dives or giants were confined, after their defeat by the first heroes of
the human race; and here, also, the peris, or fairies, are supposed in
ordinary to reside. Sukrage, the giant, was king of Kaf, and had Rucail,
one of the children of Adam, for his prime minister. The giant Argenk,
likewise, from the time that Tahamurath made war upon him, reigned here,
and reared a superb palace in the city of Aherman, with galleries, on
whose walls were painted the creatures that inhabited the world prior to
the formation of Adam.--D’HERBELOT, p. 230, etc.

PAGE 229. _... the Simurgh_

This is that wonderful bird of the East, concerning which so many
marvels are told: it was not only endowed with reason, but possessed
also the knowledge of every language. Hence it may be concluded to have
been a dive in a borrowed form. This creature relates of itself that it
had seen the great revolution of seven thousand years twelve times
commence and close; and that, in its duration, the world had been seven
times void of inhabitants, and as often replenished. The Simurgh is
represented as a great friend to the race of Adam, and not less inimical
to the dives. Tahamurath and Aherman were apprised by its predictions of
all that was destined to befall them, and from it they obtained the
promise of assistance in every undertaking. Armed with the buckler of
Gian Ben Gian, Tahamurath was borne by it through the air, over the dark
desert, to Kaf. From its bosom his helmet was crested with plumes, which
the most renowned warriors have ever since worn. In every conflict the
Simurgh was invulnerable, and the heroes it favoured never failed of
success. Though possessed of power sufficient to exterminate its foes,
yet the exertion of that power was supposed to be forbidden. Sadi, a
serious author, gives it as an instance of the universality of
Providence, that the Simurgh, notwithstanding its immense bulk, is at no
loss for sustenance on the mountain of Kaf. Inatulla hath described
Getiafrose, queen of the Genii, as seated on a golden chariot, drawn by
ten simurghs; whose wings extended wide as the earth-shading bir, and
whose talons resembled the proboscis of mighty elephants: but it does
not appear from any other writer, that there ever was more than _one_,
which is frequently called the _marvellous gryphon_, and said to be
like that imaginary monster.--D’HERBELOT, p. 1017, 810, etc. _Tales of
Inatulla_, vol. ii, pp. 71, 72.

As the _magic shield of Atlante_ resembles the _buckler of Gian Ben
Gian_, so _his Ippogrif_ apparently came from the _Simurgh_,
notwithstanding the reference of Ariosto to the veridical Archbishop:

    “Non ho veduto mai, nè letto altrove,
     Fuor che in Turpin, d’un si fatto animale.”

PAGE 229. _... palampores, etc._

These elegant productions, which abound in all parts of the East, were
of very remote antiquity. Not only are σινδονας ΕΥΑΝΘΕΙΣ, _finely
flowered linens_, noticed by Strabo; but Herodotus relates, that the
nations of Caucasus _adorned_ their _garments_ with _figures of various
creatures_, by means of the sap of certain vegetables; which, when
macerated and diluted with water, communicate colours that cannot be
washed out, and are no less permanent than the texture itself.--STRABO,
l. xv, p. 709. HERODOTUS, l. i, p. 96. The Arabian Tales repeatedly
describe these “_fine linens of India, painted in the most lively
colours_, and representing _beasts_, _trees_, _flowers_, etc.”--_Arabian
Nights_, vol. iv, p. 217, etc.

PAGE 229. _... afrits_

These were a kind of Medusæ, or Lamiæ, supposed to be the most terrible
and cruel of all the orders of the dives.--D’HERBELOT, p. 66.

PAGE 229. _... tablets fraught with preternatural qualities_

Mr. Richardson observes, “that in the East men of rank in general
carried with them pocket astronomical tables, which they consulted on
every affair of moment.” These tablets, however, were of the _magical_
kind, and such as often occur in works of romance. Thus, in Boiardo,
Orlando receives, from the father of the youth he had rescued, “a book
that would solve all doubts”; and, in Ariosto, Logistilla bestows upon
Astolpho a similar directory. The books which Carathis turned over with
Morakanabad were imagined to have possessed the like virtues.

PAGE 230. _... dwarfs_

Such unfortunate beings as are thus “curtailed of fair proportion,” have
been, for ages, an appendage of Eastern grandeur. One part of their
office consists in the instruction of the pages; but their principal
duty is the amusement of their master. If a dwarf happen to be a mute,
he is much esteemed; but if he be also an eunuch, he is regarded as a
prodigy, and no pains or expense are spared to obtain him.--HABESCI’S
_State of the Ottoman Empire_, p. 164, etc.

PAGE 230. _... a small spring supplies us with water for the Abdest, and
we daily repeat prayers, etc._

Amongst the indispensable rules of the Mahometan faith, ablution is one
of the chief. This rite is divided into three kinds. The first,
performed before prayers, is called _Abdest_. It begins with washing
both hands, and repeating these words: “Praised be Alla, who created
clean water, and gave it the virtue to purify: he also hath rendered our
faith conspicuous.” This done, water is taken in the right hand thrice,
and the mouth being washed, the worshipper subjoins: “I pray thee, O
Lord, to let me taste of that water which thou hast given to thy prophet
Mahomet in paradise, more fragrant than musk, whiter than milk, sweeter
than honey; and which has the power to quench for ever the thirst of him
that drinks it.” This petition is accompanied with sniffing a little
water into the nose. The face is then three times washed, and behind the
ears; after which water is taken with both hands, beginning with the
right, and thrown to the elbow. The washing of the crown next follows,
and the apertures of the ear with the thumbs; afterward the neck with
all the fingers, and, finally, the feet. In this last operation, it is
held sufficient to wet the sandal only. At each ceremonial a suitable
petition is offered, and the whole concludes with this: “Hold me up
firmly, O Lord! and suffer not my foot to slip, that I may not fall from
the bridge into hell.” Nothing can be more exemplary than the attention
with which these rites are performed. If an involuntary cough or sneeze
interrupt them, the whole service is begun anew, and that as often as it
happens.--HABESCI, p. 91, etc.

PAGE 230. _... reading the holy Koran_

The Mahometans have a book of stops or pauses in reading the Koran,
which divides it into _seventeen_ sections, and allows of no
more.--D’HERBELOT, p. 915.

PAGE 230. _... the bells of a cafila_

A cafila, or caravan, according to Pitts, is divided into distinct
companies, at the head of which an officer, or person of distinction, is
carried in a kind of horse-litter, and followed by a sumpter camel,
loaded with his treasure. This camel hath a bell fastened to either
side, the sound of which may be heard at a considerable distance. Others
have bells on their necks and their legs, to solace them when drooping
with heat and fatigue. Inatulla also, in his tales, hath a similar
reference: “The bells of the cafila may be rung in the thirsty desert.”
Vol. ii, p. 15. These small bells were known at Rome from the earliest
times, and called from their sounds _tintinnabulum_. Phædrus gives us a
lively description of the mule carrying the fiscal moneys: _clarumque
collo jactans tintinnabulum_.--Bk. ii, fabl. vii.

PAGE 230. _Deggial_

This word signifies properly a liar and impostor, but is applied by
Mahometan writers to their _Antichrist_. He is described as having but
one eye and eyebrow, and on his forehead the radicals of _cafer_ or
_infidel_ are said to be impressed. According to the traditions of the
faithful, his first appearance will be between Irak and Syria, mounted
on an ass. Seventy thousand Jews from Ispahan are expected to follow
him. His continuance on earth is to be forty days. All places are to be
destroyed by him and his emissaries, except _Mecca_ or _Medina_, which
will be protected by angels from the general overthrow. At last,
however, he will be slain by Jesus, who is to encounter him at the gate
of Lud.--D’HERBELOT, p. 282. SALE’S _Preliminary Discourse_, p. 106.

PAGE 230. _... dictated by the blessed Intelligence_

That is, the angel _Gabriel_. The Mahometans deny that the Koran was
composed by their prophet; it being their general and orthodox belief,
that it is of divine original; nay, even eternal and uncreated,
remaining in the very essence of God; that the first transcript has been
from everlasting by his throne, written on a table of immense size,
called the _preserved table_; on which are also recorded the divine
decrees, past and future: that a copy was by the ministry of the angel
_Gabriel_ sent down to the lowest heaven, in the month of _Ramadan_, on
the night of _power_: from whence _Gabriel_ revealed it to Mahomet by
parcels, some at Mecca, and some at Medina.--_Al Koran_, ch. ii, etc.
SALE’S _Preliminary Discourse_, p. 85.

PAGE 231. _... to kiss the fringe of your consecrated robe_

This observance was an act of the most profound reverence.--_Arabian
Nights_, vol. iv, p. 236, etc.

PAGE 231. _... and implore you to enter his humble habitation_

It has long been customary for the Arabs to change their habitations
with the seasons. Thus Antara:

“Thou hast possessed thyself of my heart; thou hast fixed thy abode, and
art settled there, as a beloved and cherished inhabitant.

“Yet how can I visit my fair one, whilst her family have their _vernal
mansion_ in Oneizatain, and mine are stationed in Ghailem?”

Xenophon relates, in his Anabasis, that it was customary for the kings
of Persia θεριζειν και εριζειν, to pass the _summer_ and _spring_ in
Susa and Ecbatana; and Plutarch observes further, that their winters
were spent in Babylon, their summers in Media (that is, _Ecbatana_), and
the pleasantest part of _spring_ in Susa: Καιτοι τουσγε Περσων βασιλεας
εμακαριζον εν βαβυλωνι τον χειμωνα διαγονιας· εν δε Μηδιᾳ το θερος· εν
δε Σουσοις, το ἡδιστον του ΕΑΡΟΣ.--_De Exil._, p. 604.

PAGE 231. _... red characters_

The laws of Draco are recorded by Plutarch, in his _Life of Solon_, to
have been written in blood. If more were meant by this expression, than
that those laws were of a sanguinary nature, they will furnish the
earliest instance of the use of _red characters_, which were afterwards
considered as appropriate to supreme authority, and employed to denounce
some requisition or threatening design to strike terror. According to
Suidas, this manner of writing was, likewise, practised in _magic
rites_. Hence their application to the instance here mentioned. TROTZ,
_In Herm. Hugonem_, pp. 106, 307. SUIDAS _sub voc._ Θετταλη γυνη.

PAGE 231. _... thy body shall be spit upon_

There was no mark of contempt amongst the Easterns so ignominious as
this.--_Arabian Nights_, vol. i, p. 115.; vol. iv, p. 275. It was the
same in the days of Job. Herodotus relates of the Medes, ΠΤΥΕΙΝ αντιον
ΑΙΣΧΡΟΝ εστι, and Xenophon relates, ΑΙΣΧΡΟΝ εστι Περσαις το ΑΠΟΠΤΥΕΙΝ.
Hence the reason is evident for spitting on our Saviour.

PAGE 231. _... bats will nestle in thy belly_

Bats in these countries were very abundant, and, both from their numbers
and nature, held in abhorrence. See what is related of them by THEVENOT,
part i, pp. 132, 133, EGMONT and HAYMAN, vol. ii, p. 87, and other
travellers in the East.

PAGE 232. _... the Bismillah_

This word (which is prefixed to every chapter of the Koran except the
ninth) signifies, “in the name of the most merciful God.” It became not
the initiatory formula of prayer till the time of Moez the Fatimite.
D’HERBELOT, p. 326.

PAGE 232. _... inscription_

Inscriptions of this sort are still retained. Thus Ludeke: “Interni non
solum Divani pluriumque conclavium parietes, sed etiam frontispicia
super portas inscriptiones habent.”--_Expositio_, p. 54. In the History
of Amine, we find an inscription over a gate, in letters of gold,
analogous to this of Fakreddin: “Here is the abode of everlasting
pleasures and content.”--_Arabian Nights_, vol. i, p. 193.

PAGE 232. _... a magnificent tecthtrevan_

This kind of _moving throne_, though more common at present than in the
days of Vathek, is still confined to persons of the highest rank.

PAGE 233. _... your ivory limbs_

The Arabians compare the skin of a beautiful woman to the egg of the
ostrich, when preserved unsullied. Thus Amriolkais:

“Delicate was her shape; fair her skin; and her body well proportioned:
her bosom was as smooth as a mirror,--

“Or like the pure egg of an ostrich, of a yellowish tint blended with

Also the Koran: “Near them shall lie the virgins of Paradise, refraining
their looks from beholding any besides their spouses, having large black
eyes, and resembling the eggs of an ostrich, covered with feathers from
dust.”--_Moallakat_, p. 8. _Al Koran_, ch. 27.

But though the Arabian epithet be taken from thence, yet the word ivory
is substituted, as more analogous to European ideas, and not foreign
from the Eastern. Thus Amru:

“And two sweet breasts, smooth and white as vessels of ivory, modestly
defended from the hand of those who presume to touch
them.”--_Moallakat_, p. 77.

PAGE 233. _... baths of rose-water_

The use of perfumed waters for the purpose of bathing is of an early
origin in the East, where every odoriferous plant sheds a richer
fragrance than is known to our more humid climates. The rose which
yields this lotion is, according to Hasselquist, of a beautiful pale
blush colour, double, large as a man’s fist, and more exquisite in scent
than any other species. The quantities of this water distilled annually
at Fajhum, and carried to distant countries, is immense. The mode of
conveying it is in vessels of copper coated with wax.--_Voyag._, p. 248.
Ben Jonson makes Volpone say to Celia:

    “Their bath shall be the juyce of gillyflowres,
     Spirit of roses, and of violets.”

PAGE 233. _... lamb à la crême_

No dish among the Easterns was more generally admired. The caliph
Abdolmelek, at a splendid entertainment, to which whoever came was
welcome, asked Amrou, the son of Hareth, what kind of meat he preferred
to all others. The old man answered, “An ass’s neck, well seasoned and
roasted.”--“But what say you,” replied the caliph, “to the leg or
shoulder of a LAMB _à la crême_?” and added:

    “How sweetly we live if a shadow would last!”

--_MS. Laud._ No. 161. S. OCKLEY’S _History of the Saracens_, vol. ii,
p. 277.

PAGE 233. _... made the dwarfs dance against their will_

Ali Chelebi al Moufti, in a treatise on the subject, held that dancing
after the example of the dervishes, who made it a part of their
devotion, was allowable. But in this opinion he was deemed to be
heterodox; for Mahometans, in general, place dancing amongst the things
that are forbidden.--D’HERBELOT, p. 98.

PAGE 233. _... durst not refuse the commander of the faithful_

The mandates of Oriental potentates have ever been accounted
irresistible. Hence the submission of these devotees to the will of the
caliph.--Esther, i, 19. Daniel, vi, 8. LUDEKE, _Expos. brevis_, p. 60.

PAGE 233. _... the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time_

The Mahometans boast of a doctor who is reported to have read over the
Koran not fewer than twenty thousand times.--D’HERBELOT, p. 75.

PAGE 234. _... black eunuchs, sabre in hand_

In this manner the apartments of the ladies were constantly guarded.
Thus, in the Story of the Enchanted Horse, Firouz Schah, traversing a
strange palace by night, entered a room, “and by the light of a lantern
saw that the persons he had heard snoring were black eunuchs with naked
sabres by them, which was enough to inform him that this was the
guard-chamber of some queen or princess.”--_Arabian Nights_, vol. iv, p.

PAGE 234. _... to let down the great swing_

The swing was an exercise much used in the apartments of the Eastern
ladies, and not only contributed to their health, but also to their
amusement.--_Tales of Inatulla_, vol. i, p. 259.

PAGE 235. _... melodious Philomel, I am thy rose_

The passion of the nightingale for the rose is celebrated over all the
East. Thus Mesihi, as translated by Sir W. Jones:

    “Come, charming maid, and hear thy poet sing,
     Thyself the rose, and he the bird of spring:
     Love bids him sing, and love will be obey’d,
     Be gay; too soon the flowers of spring will fade.”

PAGE 236. _... calenders_

These were a sort of men amongst the Mahometans who abandoned father and
mother, wife and children, relations and possessions, to wander through
the world, under a pretence of religion, entirely subsisting on the
fortuitous bounty of those they had the address to dupe.--D’HERBELOT,
_Suppl._, p. 204.

PAGE 236. _... santons_

A body of religionists, who were also called abdals, and pretended to be
inspired with the most enthusiastic raptures of divine love. They were
regarded by the vulgar as _saints_.--OLEARIUS, tom. i, p. 971.

PAGE 236. _... dervishes_

The term _dervish_ signifies a _poor man_, and is the general
appellation by which a religious amongst the Mahometans is named. There
are, however, discriminations that distinguish this class from the
others already mentioned. They are bound by no vow of poverty, they
abstain not from marriage, and, whenever disposed, they may relinquish
both their blue shirt and profession.--D’HERBELOT, _Suppl._, 214. It is
observable, that these different orders, though not established till the
reign of Nasser al Samani, are notwithstanding mentioned by our author
as coeval with Vathek, and by the author of the _Arabian Nights_ as
existing in the days of Haroun al Raschid; so that the Arabian fabulists
appear as inattentive to chronological exactness in points of this sort
as our immortal dramatist himself.

PAGE 236. _... Brahmins_

These constituted the principal caste of the Indians, according to whose
doctrine _Brahma_, from whom they are called, is the first of the three
created beings by whom the world was made. This Brahma is said to have
communicated to the Indians four books, in which all the sciences and
ceremonies of their religion are comprised. The word Brahma, in the
Indian language, signifies _pervading all things_. The Brahmins lead a
life of most rigid abstinence refraining not only from the use, but even
the touch, of animal food; and are equally exemplary for their contempt
of pleasures and devotion to philosophy and religion.--D’HERBELOT, p.
212. BRUCKERI _Hist. Philosoph._, tom. i, p. 194.

PAGE 236. _... fakirs_

This sect were a kind of religious anchorets, who spent their whole
lives in the severest austerities and mortification. It is almost
impossible for the imagination to form an extravagance that has not been
practised by some of them, to torment themselves. As their reputation
for sanctity rises in proportion to their sufferings, those amongst them
are reverenced the most, who are most ingenious in the invention of
tortures, and persevering in enduring them. Hence some have persisted in
sitting or standing for years together in one unvaried posture,
supporting an almost intolerable burden, dragging the most cumbrous
chains, exposing their naked bodies to the scorching sun, and hanging
with the head downward before the fiercest fires.--_Relig. Ceremon._,
vol. iii, p. 264, etc. WHITE’S _Sermons_, p. 504.

PAGE 237. _... Visnow and Ixhora_

Two deities of the East Indians, concerning whose history and adventures
more nonsense is related than can be found in the whole compass of
mythology besides. The traditions of their votaries are, no doubt,
allegorical; but without a key to disclose their mystic import, they are
little better than senseless jargon.

PAGE 237. _... talapoins_

This order, which abounds in Siam, Laos, Pegu, and other countries,
consists of different classes, and both sexes, but chiefly of
men.--_Relig. Ceremon._, vol. iv, p. 62, etc.

PAGE 237. _... small plates of abominations_

The Koran hath established several distinctions relative to different
kinds of food, in imitation of the Jewish prescriptions; and many
Mahometans are so scrupulous as not to touch the flesh of any animal
over which, _in articulo mortis_, the butcher had omitted to pronounce
the _Bismillah_.--_Relig. Ceremon._, vol. vii, p. 110.

PAGE 238. _... fish which they drew from a river_

According to Le Bruyn, the Oriental method of fishing with a line, is by
winding it round the finger, and when the fisherman feels that the bait
is taken, he draws in the string with alternate hands: in this way, he
adds, a good dish of fish is soon caught. Tom. i, p. 564. It appears,
from a circumstance related by Galand, that Vathek was fond of this
amusement.--D’HERBELOT, _Suppl._, p. 210.

PAGE 238. _Sinai_

This mountain is deemed by Mahometans the noblest of all others, and
even regarded with the highest veneration, because the divine law was
promulgated from it.--D’HERBELOT, p. 812.

PAGE 238. _Peris_

The word _Peri_, in the Persian language, signifies that beautiful race
of creatures which constitutes the link between angels and men. The
Arabians call them _Ginn_, or genii, and we (from the Persian, perhaps)
_Fairies_: at least, the peris of the Persian romance correspond to that
imaginary class of beings in our poetical system. The Italians
denominate them _Fata_, in allusion to their power of charming and
enchanting; thus the _Manto fatidica_ of Virgil is rendered in _Orlando_,
_La Fata Manto_. The term ginn being common to both peris and dives, some
have erroneously fancied that the peris were female dives. This
appellation, however, served only to discriminate their common nature
from the angelic and human, without respect to their qualities, moral or
personal. Thus, the dives are hideous and wicked, whilst the peris are
beautiful and good. Amongst the Persian poets, the beauty of the peris
is proverbial: insomuch that a woman superlatively handsome, is styled
by them, _the offspring of a Peri_.

PAGE 239. _... butterflies of Cashmere_

The same insects are celebrated in an unpublished poem of Mesihi. Sir
Anthony Shirley relates, that it was customary in Persia, “to hawke
after butterflies with sparrows, made to that use, and stares.” It is,
perhaps, to this amusement that our author alludes in the context.

PAGE 240. _Megnoun and Leilah_

These personages are esteemed amongst the Arabians as the most
beautiful, chaste, and impassioned of lovers; and their amours have been
celebrated with all the charms of verse, in every Oriental language. The
Mahometans regard them, and the poetical records of their love, in the
same light as the Bridegroom and Spouse, and the Song of Songs, are
regarded by the Jews.--D’HERBELOT, p. 573.

PAGE 240. _... they still detained him in the harem_

Noureddin, who was as old as Gulchenrouz, had a similar indulgence of
resorting to the harem, and no less availed himself of it.--_Arabian
Nights_, vol. iii, pp. 9, 10.

PAGE 240. _... dart the lance in the chase_

Throwing the lance was a favourite pastime with the young Arabians; and
so expert were they in this practice (which prepared them for the
mightier conflicts, both of the chase and of war), that they could bear
off a ring on the points of their javelins.--RICHARDSON’S _Dissertation
on the Languages, etc., of Eastern Nations_, pp. 198, 281.

PAGE 240. _Shaddukian and Ambreabad_

These were two cities of the peris, in the imaginary region of
_Ginnistan_: the former signifies _pleasure_ and _desire_, the latter,
_the city of Ambergris_.--See RICHARDSON’S _Dissertation on the
Languages, etc., of Eastern Nations_, p. 169.

PAGE 242. _... a spoon of cocknos_

The cocknos is a bird whose beak is much esteemed for its beautiful
polish, and sometimes used as a spoon. Thus, in the _History of
Atalmulck and Zelica Begum_, it was employed for a similar purpose:
“Zelica having called for refreshment, six old slaves instantly brought
in and distributed _Mahramas_, and then served about in a great basin of
Martabam, a salad _made of herbs of various kinds, citron juice, and the
pith of cucumbers_. They served it first to the Princess in a _cocknos
beak_: she took a beak of the salad, ate it, and gave another to the
next slave that sat by her on her right hand; which slave did as her
mistress had done.”

PAGE 243. _Ghouls_

Ghoul, or _ghul_, in Arabic, signifies any terrifying object, which
deprives people of the use of their senses. Hence it became the
appellative of that species of monster which was supposed to haunt
forests, cemeteries, and other lonely places; and believed not only to
tear in pieces the living, but to dig up and devour the
dead.--RICHARDSON’S _Dissertation on the Languages, etc., of Eastern
Nations_, pp. 174, 274.

That kind of insanity called by the Arabians _Kutrub_ (a word signifying
not only a _wolf_, but likewise a _male Ghoul_), which incites such as
are afflicted with it to roam howling amidst those melancholy haunts,
may cast some light on the nature of the possession recorded by St.
Mark, ch. v, I, etc.

PAGE 244. _... feathers of the heron, all sparkling with carbuncles_

Panaches of this kind are amongst the attributes of Eastern
royalty.--_Tales of Inatulla_, vol. ii, p. 205.

PAGE 244. _... whose eyes pervade the inmost soul of a female_

The original in this instance, as in the others already noticed, is more
analogous to the French than the English idiom: “_Dont l’œil pénètre
jusqu’à la moelle des jeunes filles._”

PAGE 244. _... the carbuncle of Giamschid_

This mighty potentate was the fourth sovereign of the dynasty of the
Pischadians, and brother or nephew to Tahamurath. His proper name was
_Giam_ or _Gem_, and _Schid_, which in the language of the ancient
Persians denominated the sun: an addition ascribed by some to the
majesty of his person, and by others to the splendour of his actions.
One of the most magnificent monuments of his reign was the city of
Istakhar, of which Tahamurath had laid the foundations. This city, at
present called _Gihil-_, or _Tchil-minar_, from the forty columns reared
in it by Homai, or (according to our author and others) by Soliman Ben
Daoud, was known to the Greeks by the name of Persepolis; and there is
still extant in the East a tradition, that, when Alexander burnt the
edifices of the Persian kings, seven stupendous structures of Giamschid
were consumed with his palace. This prince, after having subjected to
his empire seven vast provinces of Upper Asia, and enjoyed in peace a
long reign (which some authors have protracted to 700 years), became
intoxicated with his greatness; and, foolishly fancying it would have no
end, arrogated to himself divine honours. But the Almighty raised up,
even in his own house, a terrible instrument to abase his pride, by whom
he was easily overcome, and driven into exile.

The author of _Giame al tavatikh_ mentions the cup, or concave mirror of
Giamschid, formed of a gem, and called the cup of the sun. To this
vessel the Persian poets often refer, and allegorize it in different
ways. They attribute to it the property of exhibiting everything in the
compass of nature, and even some things that are preternatural. The gem
it consisted of appears to be the carbuncle or oriental ruby; which,
from its resemblance to a burning coal, and the splendour it was
supposed to emit in the dark, was called Schebgerag, or, the torch of
the night. According to Strabo, it obtained its high estimation amongst
the Persians, who were worshippers of fire, from its igneous qualities;
and perhaps those virtues for which it hath been styled “the first of

Milton had a learned retrospect to its fabulous powers, in describing
the Old Serpent:

                      ... his head
    Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes--

D’HERBELOT, pp. 392, 395, 780, etc. BRIGHTE, _On Melancholie_, p. 321.
_Paradise Lost_, IX, 499.

PAGE 244. _... have you false keys? Come to the dark chamber_

It was the office of Shaban, as chief eunuch, to keep the key of the
ladies’ apartment. In the Story of Ganem, Haroun al Raschid commands
Mesrour, the chief of the eunuchs, “to take the perfidious Fetnah, and
shut her up in the dark tower.” That tower was within the inclosure of
the palace, and commonly served as a prison for the favourites who might
chance to disgust the caliph.

PAGE 246. _... their faith is mutually plighted_

When females in the East are betrothed, their palms and fingers are
tinged of a crimson colour, with the herb hinnah. This is called “the
crimson of consent.”--_Tales of Inatulla_, vol. ii, p. 15.

PAGE 246. _... violate the rights of hospitality_

So high an idea of these rights prevails amongst the Arabians, that “a
bread and salt traitor,” is the most opprobrious invective with which
one person can reproach another.--RICHARDSON’S _Dissertation on the
Languages, etc., of Eastern Nations_, p. 219. See also the Story of Ali
Baba and The Forty Thieves, in the _Arabian Nights_, vol. iv, p. 166.

PAGE 246. _... narcotic powder_

A drug of the same quality, mixed in lemonade, is given to Zobeide, in
the Story of Ganem.

PAGE 248. _Funeral vestments were prepared; their bodies washed, etc._

The rites here practised had obtained from the earliest ages. Most of
them may be found in Homer and the other poets of Greece. Lucian
describes the dead in his time as washed, perfumed, vested, and crowned,
ὡραιος ανθεσιν, with the flowers most in season; or, according to other
writers, those in particular which the deceased were wont to prefer. The
elegant editor of the _Ruins of Palmyra_ mentions the fragments of a
mummy found there, the hair of which was plaited exactly in the manner
as worn at present by the women of Arabia.

The burial dress from the days of Homer hath been commonly white, and
amongst Mahometans is made without a seam, that it may not impede the
ceremonial of kneeling in the grave, when the dead person undergoes
examination.--HOMER, EURIPIDES, etc., _passim_. LUCIAN, tom. ii, p. 927.
PASCHAL, _De Coron._, p. 225. _Ruins of Palmyra_, pp. 22, 23. _Iliad_,
xviii, 352. _Relig. Cerem._, vol. vii, p. 117.

PAGE 248. _... all instruments of music were broken_

Thus, in the _Arabian Nights_: “Haroun al Raschid wept over
Schemselnihar, and, before he left the room, ordered all the musical
instruments to be broken.”--Vol. ii, p. 196.

PAGE 248. _... imans began to recite their prayers_

An iman is the principal priest of a mosque. It was the office of the
imans to precede the bier, praying as the procession moved on.--_Relig.
Cerem._, vol. vii, p. 117.

PAGE 248. _The wailful cries of La Ilah illa Alla!_

This exclamation, which contains the leading principle of Mahometan
belief, and signifies _there is no God but God_, was commonly uttered
under some violent emotion of mind. The Spaniards adopted it from their
Moorish neighbours, and Cervantes hath used it in _Don Quixote_: “En
esto llegáron corriendo con grita, LILILIES (literally _professions of
faith in Alla_), y algazara los de las libreas adonde Don Quixote
suspenso y atónito estava.”--_Parte segunda_, cap. lxi, tom. iv, p. 241.

The same expression is sometimes written by the Spaniards, _Lilaila_,
and _Hila hilahaila_.

PAGE 249. _... the angel of death had opened the portal of some other

The name of this exterminating angel is _Azrael_, and his office is to
conduct the dead to the abode assigned them; which is said by some to be
near the place of their interment. Such was the office of Mercury in the
Grecian mythology.--SALE’S _Preliminary Discourse_, p. 101. HYDE, _in
notis ad Bobov._, p. 19. R. ELIAS, in _Tishbi_. BUXTORF, _Synag. Jud. et
Lexic. Talmud_. HOMER, _Odyssey_.

PAGE 250. _Monker and Nekir_

These are two black angels of a tremendous appearance, who examine the
departed on the subject of his faith: by whom, if he give not a
satisfactory account, he is sure to be cudgelled with maces of red-hot
iron, and tormented more variously than words can describe.--_Religious
Ceremonies_, vol. vii, pp. 59, 68-118; vol. v, p. 290. SALE’S
_Preliminary Discourse_, p. 101.

PAGE 250. _... the fatal bridge_

This bridge, called in Arabic _al Sirat_, and said to extend over the
infernal gulf, is represented as narrower than a spider’s web, and
sharper than the edge of a sword. Though the attempt to cross it be--

    “More full of peril, and advent’rous spirit,
     Than to o’erwalk a current, roaring loud,
     On the unsteadfast footing of a spear;”

yet the paradise of Mahomet can be entered by no other avenue. Those,
indeed, who have behaved well need not be alarmed; mixed characters will
find it difficult; but the wicked soon miss their standing, and plunge
headlong into the abyss.--POCOCKE in _Port. Mos._, p. 282, etc. Milton
apparently copied from this well-known fiction, and not, as Dr. Warton
conjectured, from the poet Sadi, his way--

    “Over the dark abyss, whose boiling gulf
     Tamely endured a bridge of wond’rous length,
     From hell continued, reaching the utmost orb
     Of this frail world.”

PAGE 250. _... a certain series of years_

According to the tradition from the prophet, not less than nine hundred,
nor more than seven thousand.

PAGE 250. _... the sacred camel_

It was an article of the Mahometan creed, that all animals would be
raised again, and some of them admitted into paradise. The animal here
mentioned appears to have been one of those _white-winged_ CAMELS
_caparisoned with gold_, which Ali affirmed had been provided to convey
the faithful.--_Religious Ceremonies_, vol. vii, p. 70. SALE’S
_Preliminary Discourse_, p. 112. AL JAUHERI. EBNO’L ATHIR, etc.

PAGE 251. _... basket-making_

This sort of basket work hath been long used in the East, and consists
of the leaves of the date-bearing palm. Panniers of this texture are of
great utility in conveying fruits, bread, etc., whilst heavier articles,
or such as require a more compact covering, are carried in bags of
leather, or skin.--HASSELQUIST’S _Voyage_, p. 26.

PAGE 251. _... the caliph presented himself to the emir in a new light_

The propensity of a vicious person, in affliction, to seek consolation
from the ceremonies of religion, is an exquisite trait in the character
of Vathek.

PAGE 255. _... the waving of fans_

These fans consisted of the trains of peacocks or ostriches, whose
quills were set in a long stem, so as to imbricate the plumes in the
gradations of their natural growth. Fans of this fashion were formerly
used in England.

PAGE 256. _... wine hoarded up in bottles, prior to the birth of

The prohibition of wine by the Prophet materially diminished its
consumption within the limits of his own dominions. Hence a reserve of
it might be expected of the age here specified. The custom of hoarding
wine was not unknown to the Persians, though not so often practised by
them as by the Greeks and the Romans.

“I purchase” (says Lebeid) “the old liquor, at a dear rate, in dark
leathern bottles, long reposited; or in casks black with pitch, whose
seals I break, and then fill the cheerful goblet.”--_Moallakat_, p. 53.

PAGE 256. _... excavated ovens in the rock_

As substitutes for the portable ovens, which were lost.

PAGE 257. _... her great camel Alboufaki_

There is a singular and laboured description of a camel in the poem of
_Tarafa_; but Alboufaki possessed qualities appropriate to himself, and
which rendered him but little less conspicuous than the deformed dun
camel of Aad.

PAGE 257. _... to set forward, notwithstanding it was noon_

The employment of woodfellers was accounted of all others the most
toilsome, as those occupied in it were compelled to forgo that mid-day
cessation with which other labourers were indulged. Inatulla speaks
proverbially of “woodmen in the meridian hour, scarce able to raise the
arms of languor.” The guides of Carathis being of this occupation, she
adroitly availed herself of it to urge them forward, without allowing
them that repose during the mid-day fervour which travellers in these
climates always enjoyed, and which was deemed so essential to the
preservation of their health.

PAGE 258. _... the confines of some cemetery_

Places of interment in the East were commonly situated in scenes of
solitude. We read of one in the History of the First Calender, abounding
with so many monuments, that four days were successively spent in it
without the inquirer being able to find the tomb he looked for; and,
from the story of Ganem, it appears that the doors of these cemeteries
were often left open.--_Arabian Nights_, vol. ii, p. 112; vol. iii, p.

PAGE 260. _... a Myrabolan comfit_

The invention of this confection is attributed by M. Cardonne to
Avicenna, but there is abundant reason, exclusive of our author’s
authority, to suppose it of a much earlier origin. Both the Latins and
Greeks were acquainted with the balsam, and the tree that produced it
was indigenous in various parts of Arabia.

PAGE 261. _... blue fishes_

Fishes of the same colour are mentioned in the _Arabian Nights_; and,
like these, were endowed with the gift of speech.

PAGE 262. _... waving streamers on which were inscribed the names of
Allah and the Prophet_

The position that “there is no God but God, and Mahomet is his Prophet,”
pervades every part of the Mahometan religion. Banners, like those here
described, are preserved in the several mosques; and, on the death of
extraordinary persons, are borne before the bier in solemn
state.--_Religious Ceremonies_, vol. vii, pp. 119, 120.

PAGE 263. _... astrolabes_

The mention of the astrolabe may be deemed incompatible, at first view,
with chronological exactness, as there is no instance of any being
constructed by a Mussulman, till after the time of Vathek. It may,
however, be remarked, to go no higher, that Sinesius, bishop of
Ptolemais, invented one in the fifth century; and that Carathis was not
only herself a Greek, but also cultivated those sciences which the good
Mussulmans of her time all held in abhorrence.--BAILLY, _Hist. de
l’Astronom. Moderne_, tom, i, pp. 563, 573.

PAGE 264. _On the banks of the stream, hives and oratories_

The bee is an insect held in high veneration amongst the Mahometans, it
being pointed out in the Koran, “for a sign unto the people that
understand.” It has been said, in the same sense, “Go to the ant, thou
sluggard.”--Proverbs, vi, 6. The santons, therefore, who inhabit the
fertile banks of Rocnabad, are not less famous for their hives than
their oratories.--D’HERBELOT, p. 717.

PAGE 265. _... sheiks ... cadis_

Sheiks are the chiefs of the societies of dervishes; cadis are the
magistrates of a town or city.

PAGE 265. _Asses in bridles of riband inscribed from the Koran_

As the judges of Israel in ancient days rode on white asses, so, amongst
the Mahometans, those that affect an extraordinary sanctity use the same
animal in preference to the horse. Sir John Chardin observed, in various
parts of the East, that their reins, as here represented, were of silk,
with the name of God, or other inscriptions, upon them.--LUDEKE, _Expos.
brevis_, p. 49. CHARDIN’S MS. cited by Harmer.

PAGE 266. _One of these beneficent genii, assuming the exterior of a
shepherd, etc., began to pour from his flute, etc._

The flute was considered as a sacred instrument, which Jacob and other
holy shepherds had sanctified by using.--_Religious Ceremonies_, vol.
vii, p. 110.

PAGE 266. _... involuntarily drawn towards the declivity of the hill_

A similar instance of attraction may be seen in the Story of Prince
Ahmed and the Peri Parabanou.--_Arabian Nights_, vol. iv, p. 243.

PAGE 267. _Eblis_

D’Herbelot supposes this title to have been a corruption of the Greek
Διαβολος, _diabolos_. It was the appellation conferred by the Arabians
upon the prince of the apostate angels, whom they represent as exiled to
the infernal regions, for refusing to worship Adam at the command of the
Supreme, and appears more likely to originate from the Hebrew הבל
_hebel_, vanity, pride.--See below, the note, p. 305, “_Creatures of

PAGE 267. _... compensate for thy impieties by an exemplary life_

It is an established article of the Mussulman creed, that the actions of
mankind are all weighed in a vast unerring balance, and the future
condition of the agents determined according to the preponderance of
evil or good. This fiction, which seems to have been borrowed from the
Jews, had probably its origin in the figurative language of Scripture.
Thus, Psalm lxii, 9: “Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of
high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether
lighter than vanity”; and in Daniel, the sentence against the King of
Babylon, inscribed on the wall, “Thou art weighed in the balance, and
found wanting.”

PAGE 268. _Balkis_

This was the Arabian name of the Queen of Sheba, who went from the south
to hear the wisdom and admire the glory of Solomon. The Koran represents
her as a worshipper of fire. Solomon is said not only to have
entertained her with the greatest magnificence, but also to have raised
her to his bed and his throne.--_Al Koran_, ch. xxvii, and SALE’S notes.
D’HERBELOT, p. 182.

PAGE 270. _The pavement, strewed over with saffron_

There are several circumstances in the Story of the Third Calender, that
resemble those here mentioned; particularly a pavement strewed with
saffron, and the burning of ambergris and aloes-wood.

PAGE 271. _Ouranbad_

This monster is represented as a fierce-flying hydra, and belongs to the
same class with the _rakshe_, whose ordinary food was serpents and
dragons; the _soham_, which had the head of a horse, with four eyes, and
the body of a flame-coloured dragon; the _syl_, a basilisk with a face
resembling the human, but so tremendous that no mortal could bear to
behold it; the _ejder_, and others. See these respective titles in
RICHARDSON’S _Persian, Arabic, and English Dictionary_.

PAGE 272. _Creatures of clay_

Nothing could have been more appositely imagined than this compellation.
Eblis, according to Arabian mythology, had suffered a degradation from
his primeval rank, and was consigned to these regions, for having
refused to worship Adam in obedience to the supreme command; alleging,
in justification of his refusal, that himself had been formed of
ethereal fire, whilst Adam was only a creature of clay.--_Al Koran_, c.
lv, etc.

PAGE 272. _... the fortress of Aherman_

In the mythology of the Easterns, Aherman was accounted _the Demon of
Discord_. The ancient Persian romances abound in descriptions of this
fortress, in which the inferior demons assemble, to receive the behests
of their prince; and from whom they proceed to exercise their malice in
every part of the world.--D’HERBELOT, p. 71.

PAGE 272. _... the halls of Argenk_

The halls of this mighty dive, who reigned in the mountains of Kaf,
contained the statues of the seventy-two Solimans, and the portraits of
the various creatures subject to them; not one of which bore the
slightest similitude to man. Some had many heads, others many arms, and
some consisted of many bodies. Their heads were all very extraordinary,
some resembling the elephant’s, the buffalo’s, and the boar’s; whilst
others were still more monstrous.--D’HERBELOT, p. 820. Some of the idols
worshipped to this day in Hindostan answer to this description.

PAGE 272. _... holding his right hand, motionless, on his heart_

Sandys observes that the application of the right hand to the heart is
the customary mode of Eastern salutation; but the perseverance of the
votaries of Eblis in this attitude was intended to express their
devotion to him both heart and hand.

PAGE 273. _In my lifetime I filled, etc._

This recital agrees perfectly with those in the Koran, and other Arabian

PAGE 274. _... an unrelenting fire preys on my heart_

Hariri, to convey the most forcible idea of extreme anxiety, represents
the heart as tormented by fierce burning coals. This form of speech, it
is observed, is _proverbial_; but do we not see whence the proverb
arose?--CHAPPELOW’S _Six Assemblies_, p. 106.

PAGE 275. _Carathis on the back of an afrit_

The expedition of the afrit in fetching Carathis is characteristic of
this order of dives. We read in the Koran that another of the fraternity
offered to bring the Queen of Sheba’s throne to Solomon before he could
rise from his place.--Ch. xxvii.

PAGE 277. _... glanced off in a rapid whirl that rendered her invisible_

It was not ill conceived to punish Carathis by a rite, and one of the
principal characteristics of that science in which she so much
delighted, and which was the primary cause of Vathek’s perdition and of
her own. The circle, the emblem of eternity, and the symbol of the sun,
was held sacred in the most ancient ceremonies of incantations; and the
whirling round deemed as a necessary operation in magical mysteries. Was
not the name of the greatest enchantress in fabulous antiquity, Circe,
derived from κιρκος, a circle, on account of her magical revolutions,
and of the circular appearance and motion of the sun, her father? The
fairies and elves used to arrange themselves in a ring on the grass; and
even the augur, in the liturgy of the Romans, whirled round to encompass
the four cardinal points of the world. It is remarkable, that a
derivative of the verb, rendered, _to whirl in a magical manner_ (see
page 257), which corresponds to the Hebrew סחר, and is interpreted
_scindere, secare se in orbem, inde notio circinandi, mox gyrandi, et
hinc à motu versatili, fascinavit, incantavit_, signifies in the Koran
_the glimmering of twilight_: a sense deducible from the shapeless
glimpses of objects when hurried round with the velocity here described,
and very applicable to the sudden disappearance of Carathis, who, like
the stone in a sling, by the progressive and rapid increase of the
circular motion, soon ceased to be perceptible. Nothing can impress a
greater awe upon the mind than does this passage in the original.


Transcriber’s Note, continued:

Inconsistent or obsolete spelling has not been corrected.

The following changes were made to the text:

Title Page: missing round bracket added (after “d. 1946”)

p. 15: happy valley to Happy Valley (his design to leave the Happy

p. 51: f to if (and, if it were possible)

p. 75: double quote to single quote (to devolve it upon thee.’)

p. 80: thyself.” to thyself.’” (so worthy as thyself.’”)

p. 88: bu to but (but they are soon disentangled)

p. 116: melanchoy to melancholy (a grave and melancholy air.)

p. 136: marrriage to marriage (in suitable marriage.)

p. 157: by to be (Heaven be thy guide!)

p. 161: af to of (but an enemy of Manfred.)

p. 176: H to He (He learned with indignation)

p. 194: were to was (An account of these travels was published)

p. 194: _Amezia_ to _Azemia_

p. 256: duing to during (during her continuance in favour,)

p. 263: missing close quote added (such an explosion!”)

p. 266: then to than (clearer than crystal)

p. 273: ominious to ominous (this ominous preliminary)

p. 281: δάημων to δαήμων

p. 286: east to west (from east to west)

p. 286: Delavel’s to Delaval’s (Delaval’s _Inquiry concerning the
Changes of Colours, etc._)

p. 292: extra period deleted (το ἡδιστον του ΕΑΡΟΣ.)

p. 300: missing close quote added (y atónito estava.”)

p. 301: Nakir to Nekir (to match text referenced in note)

p. 302: wood-fellers to woodfellers (The employment of woodfellers)

p. 303: missing space added (PAGE 264.)

p. 304: הבר to הבל

p. 306: κιρχος to κιρκος


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