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The third in the Modern Library's series of original compilations, The Raven and the Monkey's Paw is a collection of classic tales and poems to engage our fear-seeking senses. The beauty of these stories and poems lies in their readability: ideal for sharing aloud around the campfire or for a quick, thrilling dip . . . under the covers with a flashlight. The writing itself sends as many awe-inspired shivers down the spine as do the ghosts and goblins on these pages.
Edgar Allan Poe, the master of the horror story and the chiming lyric poem, opens the volume with his best-loved stories: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Black Cat," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Premature Burial," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Berenice," and "Ligeia." Every bit as chilling now as on the day they were written, these tales retain their power to stir the reader again and again. Poe, who was as well known for his poems as for his stories, is also represented by such verse standards as "The Raven," "Lenore," "To Helen," "Ulalume," and "Annabel Lee," among others.
Numerous other practitioners of the supernatural story are included: Edith Wharton, with her gripping "Afterward"; Charles Dickens and his famed ghost story "The Signalman"; W. W. Jacobs, with this compilation's inspiration, "The Monkey's Paw." Also here are Saki's engrossing "Sredni Vashtar"; O. Henry's story of love lost and hopes dashed, "The Furnished Room"; Wilkie Collins's lively "A Terribly Strange Bed"; and "The Boarded Window," Ambrose Bierce's tale of the bizarre.
A year-round collection for reading aloud—and frightening your friends—The Raven and the Monkey's Paw will gratify all manner of thrill-seekers.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from The Raven and the Monkey's Paw
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE
What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, although puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE
The mental features discoursed of as the analytical, are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles. He derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his talent into play. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension præternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.
The faculty of re-solution is possibly much invigorated by mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it which, unjustly, and merely on account of its retrograde operations, has been called, as if par excellence, analysis. Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyze. A chess-player, for example, does the one, without effort at the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex, is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is com mitted, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold, but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten, it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, on the contrary, where the moves are unique and have but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, and the mere attention being left comparatively unemployed, what advantages are obtained by either party are obtained by superior acumen. To be less abstract, let us suppose a game of draughts where the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, of course, no oversight is to be expected. It is obvious that here the victory can be decided (the players being at all equal) only by some recherché movement, the result of some strong exertion of the intellect. Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple ones) by which he may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation.
Whist has long been known for its influence upon what is termed the calculating power; and men of the highest order of intellect have been known to take an apparently unaccountable delight in it, while eschewing chess as frivolous. Beyond doubt there is nothing of a similar nature so greatly tasking the faculty of analysis. The best chess-player in Christendom may be little more than the best player of chess; but proficiency in whist implies capacity for success in all these more important undertakings where mind struggles with mind. When I say proficiency, I mean that perfection in the game which includes a comprehension of all the sources whence legitimate advantage may be derived. These are not only manifold, but multiform, and lie frequently among recesses of thought altogether inaccessible to the ordinary understanding. To observe attentively is to remember distinctly; and, so far, the concentrative chess-player will do very well at whist; while the rules of Hoyle (themselves based upon the mere mechanism of the game) are sufficiently and generally comprehensible. Thus to have a retentive memory, and proceed by “the book” are points commonly regarded as the sum total of good playing. But it is in matters beyond the limits of mere rule that the skill of the analyst is evinced. He makes, in silence, a host of observations and inferences. So, perhaps, do his companions; and the difference in the extent of the information obtained, lies not so much in the validity of the inference as in the quality of the observation. The necessary knowledge is that of what to observe. Our player confines himself not at all; nor, because the game is the object, does he reject deductions from things external to the game. He examines the countenance of his partner, comparing it carefully with that of each of his opponents. He considers the mode of assorting the cards in each hand; often counting trump by trump, and honor by honor, through the glances bestowed by their holders upon each. He notes every variation of face as the play progresses, gathering a fund of thought from the differences in the expression of certainty, of surprise, of triumph, or chagrin. From the manner of gathering up a trick he judges whether the person taking it, can make another in the suit. He recognizes what is played through feint, by the manner with which it is thrown upon the table. A casual or inadvertent word; the accidental dropping or turning of a card, with the accompanying anxiety or carelessness in regard to its concealment; the counting of the tricks, with the order of their arrangement; embarrassment, hesitation, eagerness, or trepidation—all afford, to his apparently intuitive perception, indications of the true state of affairs. The first two or three rounds having been played, he is in full possession of the contents of each hand, and thenceforward puts down his cards with as absolute a precision of purpose as if the rest of the party had turned outward the faces of their own.
The analytical power should not be confounded with simple ingenuity; for while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, the ingenious man is often remarkably incapable of analysis. The constructive or combining power, by which ingenuity is usually manifested, and to which the phrenologists (I believe erroneously) have assigned a separate organ, supposing it a primitive faculty, has been so frequently seen in those whose intellect bordered otherwise upon idiocy, as to have attracted general observation among writers on morals. Between ingenuity and the analytic ability there exists a difference far greater, indeed, than that between the fancy and the imagination, but of a character very strictly analogous. It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic.
The narrative which follows will appear to the reader somewhat in the light of a commentary upon the propositions just advanced.
Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of 18—, I there became acquainted with a Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. This young gentleman was of an excellent, indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy of his creditors, there still remained in his possession a small remnant of his patrimony; and, upon the income arising from this, he managed, by means of a rigorous economy, to procure the necessities of life, without troubling himself about its superfluities. Books, indeed, were his sole luxuries, and in Paris these are easily obtained.
Our first meeting was at an obscure library in the Rue Montmartre, where the accident of our both being in search of the same very rare and very remarkable volume, brought us into closer communion. We saw each other again and again. I was deeply interested in the little family history which he detailed to me with all that candor which a Frenchman indulges whenever mere self is the theme. I was astonished, too, at the vast extent of his reading; and, above all, I felt my soul enkindled within me by the wild fervor, and the vivid freshness of his imagination. Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price; and this feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that we should live together during my stay in the city; and as my worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through superstitions into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain.
Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the world, we should have been regarded as madmen—although, perhaps, as madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted no visitors. Indeed the locality of our retirement had been carefully kept a secret from my own former associates; and it had been many years since Dupin had ceased to know or be known in Paris. We existed within ourselves alone.
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, USA, in 1809. Poe, short story writer, editor and critic, he is best known for his macabre tales and as the progenitor of the detective story. He died in 1849, in mysterious circumstances, at the age of forty.
J. Gerald Kennedy is Boyd Professor of English Emeritus at Louisiana State University and a past president of the Poe Studies Association. His books on Poe include Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing (1987), “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” and the Abyss of Interpretation (1995), and several edited volumes including A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe (2001), Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race (2001; with Liliane Weissberg), and Poe and the Remapping of Antebellum Print Culture (2012; with Jerome McGann). His major contribution to American literary studies is Strange Nation: Literary Nationalism and Cultural Conflict in the Age of Poe (2016), written with the support of fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has also published Imagining Paris: Exile, Writing, and American Identity (1993), and he edited the Penguin Classics edition of The Life of Black Hawk (2008). He has appeared in many Poe documentary films, including The Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe(1994) for the A&E Biography series and Eric Stange’s film for the PBS American Masterpiece series, Edgar A. Poe: Buried Alive (2017).
The upper stratum of New York society into which Edith Wharton was born in 1862 provided her with an abundance of material as a novelist but did not encourage her growth as an artist. Educated by tutors and governesses, she was raised for only one career: marriage. But her marriage, in 1885, to Edward Wharton was an emotional disappointment, if not a disaster. She suffered the first of a series of nervous breakdowns in 1894. In spite of the strain of her marriage, or perhaps because of it, she began to write fiction and published her first story in 1889.
Her first published book was a guide to interior decorating, but this was followed by several novels and story collections. They were written while the Whartons lived in Newport and New York, traveled in Europe, and built their grand home, the Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts. In Europe, she met Henry James, who became her good friend, traveling companion, and the sternest but most careful critic of her fiction. The House of Mirth(1905) was both a resounding critical success and a bestseller, as was Ethan Frome(1911). In 1913 the Whartons were divorced, and Edith took up permanent residence in France.
Her subject, however, remained America, especially the moneyed New York of her youth. Her great satiric novel, The Custom of the Countrywas published in 1913 and The Age of Innocence won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1921.
In her later years, she enjoyed the admiration of a new generation of writers, including Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In all, she wrote some 30 books, including an autobiography, A Backward Glance (1934). She died at her villa near Paris in 1937.
Saki is the pen name of H. H. Munro, born in 1870 in Burma and educated in England. He began his writing career as a journalist and foreign correspondent but later turned to writing fiction—predominantly short stories for which he is best remembered—as well as one history book. He was 43 when World War I started. Although he was beyond the age of conscription, and despite being offered an officer's commission, Saki joined the army as an ordinary trooper. He was killed in 1916 in France by a German sniper.
Charles Dickens was born in a little house in Landport, Portsea, England, on February 7, 1812. The second of eight children, he grew up in a family frequently beset by financial insecurity. When the family fortunes improved, Charles went back to school, after which he became an office boy, a freelance reporter, and finally an author. With Pickwick Papers(1836–37) he achieved immediate fame. In a few years he was easily the most popular and respected writer of his time. It has been estimated that one out of every ten persons in Victorian England was a Dickens reader. Oliver Twist(1837), Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) were huge successes. Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–44) was less so, but Dickens followed it with his unforgettable, A Christmas Carol (1843), Bleak House (1852–53), Hard Times(1854), and Little Dorrit (1855–57), whichreveal his deepening concern for the injustices of British society. A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860–61), and Our Mutual Friend (1864–65) complete his major works.
O. Henry is the pseudonym of William Sydney Porter (1862–1910) and the name under which he published all of his work, which includes a novel and some 300 short stories. His talent for vivid caricature, local tone, narrative agility, and compassion tempered by irony made him a vastly popular writer in the last decade of his life. He was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, to ordinary middle-class parents and worked in an uncle’s drugstore as a youth, becoming a certified pharmacist.
Like many southerners after the Civil War, Porter sought his fortune in the West, holding various jobs such as that of a clerk in a land office and a teller at an Austin bank. Charged with embezzlement in 1894, he fled to Honduras, returning in 1897 to be with his ill and dying wife. His conviction was caused more by his eluding trial than by the conflicting evidence of theft. In the Ohio State Penitentiary, Porter began to write the stories that made him famous. After his release, he moved to New York, remarried, and kept his identity a secret from all but a few friends. Porter is buried in Asheville, North Carolina. He is universally honored for his mastery of the short story and for his humane spirit.