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HORRORS FOR NOVEMBER.
“ On horror's head borrors accumulate."-SHAKSPEARE. To an active and inquisitive mind, easily satiated with what is old and known, and ever craving for the excitement of something new and wonderful, particularly if it have the additional recommendations of being terrible or supernatural, there is, perhaps, no sensation so horrible as that of remaining for any length of time unprovided with a good horror. It is so soothing to be agitated, so delightful to be shocked, 80 animating to be frightened to death, and moreover so sweet to have a perpetual excuse for gossiping and shuddering, with an occasional one for fainting away or going into fits, that it seems as if few communities could long support the tedium and stagnation of existence, unless they took care to provide themselves with the means of being periodically horrified. The moderns are unfortunately reduced to the greatest difficulty in keeping up a regular supply of this indispensable ingredient in our happiness, and after all we are sometimes obliged to put up with a very spurious commodity. In the good old classical times there could be no lack of marvellous terrors, for not only were the woods, waves, and plains, tenanted with supernatural beings, frequently in a state of hostility with man, but even the accidental sight of them was supposed to induce a particular species of madness, known by the name of Nympholepsy, a disease which was not unfrequently generated by the mere power of imagination. Spinsters, in those spirit-stirring and miraculous days, were obliged to keep a sharp look-out when they went a Maying, lest the Fauns and Satyrs, or Pan himself, should take a fancy to become better acquainted with them. While gathering a nosegay of daisies and daffidowndillies, the king of the infernal regions would sometimes burrow upwards from his tunnel, and canter away with them in his Stygian curricle ; or if they only took an innocent ride upon a bull's back, ten to one but before the end of his journey he offered them his paw in the way of marriage, and turned out to be Jupiter making love in his own behoof. Animate and inanimate objects, men and superhumans, birds and beasts, all contended for their favours by all sorts of fearful metamorphoses, and as we have every reason to believe that the young and old ladies of Arcadia and Baotia were at least as garrulous as the Syracusan gossips of Theocritus, we may be well assured that there was never any deficiency either of scandalous anecdotes or tales of terror.
Oh! if they had but left us a single one of the numerous monsters of which there was such a glorious glut in those enviable times !
We have no interesting Gorgons like the three authentic sisters of Libya, with snaky ringlets, brazen bands, golden-coloured wings, bodies covered with impenetrable scales, and teeth longer than the tusks of a wild boar, who had moreover the power of turning into stone all those on whom they fixed their eyes. We have no three-headed dog chained at the gate of Tartarus to startle the visitants by his tri-linguar latrations; no chimæra vomiting forth flames; no monster-minotaur demanding a yearly tribute of men and maidens for his voracious maw; no anthropophagous Cyclops. Nor have we any of the miraculous implements with which their assailants were furnished, such as the scythe of Per
seus and his enchanted mirror ; the winged cap and shoes of Mercury; the helmet of Pluto, which rendered the wearer invisible; the Stygian river, which provided those who were immersed in it with an invulnerable coat of mail; or the thousand other charms and magical wonders of that happy epoch.
For all these grim and potent stimulants we possessed indeed no mean substitute at a later period in the fortunate prevalence of witchcraft. What could startle us with a more harrowing thrill than the belief that every old woman we encountered, especially if she happened to possess a black cat, had unhallowed dealings with the prince of darkness, with whom in her midnight conjurations she concocted every species of unutterable abomination ; that she had imps whom she secretly suckled, was incapable of repeating the Lord's Prayer (except backwards), and unable to weep more than three tears, and those only out of the left eye e? How profound an interest attached to the different and most judicious modes of trial, either by weighing her against the church Bible, by swimming her cross-bound in a deep pond, or by direct torture ; and how fine must have been the crowning horror of the scene, when the miserable victim was slowly and publicly burnt to death! In spite of King James, and all the judges of the land, this laudable practice has been discontinued, and we are now endeavouring to excite a poor and posthumous sympathy by recalling the ingenious devices of the old Witch-finders, and publishing novels upon the subject. Horace, however, informed us long ago that we are much less powerfully affected by hearsay than by ocular demonstration; and, las! there is little chance that any of us shall again behold the faggots raised, and an old lady involuntarily enacting the part of Dido, because she could not shed more than three tears out of her left eye!
In the modern mania for enlightening mankind and subjecting every thing to the test of reason and philosophy, we have also lost all the manifold advantages to be derived from the practice of sorcery. Every body knows that, so late as the seventeenth century, one Evans, having raised a spirit at the request of Sir Kenelm Digby and Lord Bothwell, and omitting the necessary process of fumigation, was seized by the spectre he had conjured up, torn from the magic circle, and carried from his house in the Minories into a field near Battersea Causeway. We have no such doings in our days; we are no conjurers. Pretenders, indeed, lay claim to that august appellation ; but their spirits are of the still ; they deal with cards instead of the devil; their incantations are of no deeper mystery than the old hocus-pocus, with which every schoolboy is familiar; and in the absence of more legitimate information, we are obliged to content ourselves with reviving the old diablerie of Dr. Faustus and the Freyschutz of the Germans.
Where will all this imagined advancement of reason end, and how far will our philosophical scepticism carry us in the renunciation of all our pleasing horrors? We have no longer any interesting goblins or spectres, spirits or apparitions, to harrow up our feelings; our ghosts have " turned their backs upon themselves” and given up the ghost. That of Cock-lane and its kinsman of Sampford, (so strenuously patronised by the author of Lacon,) have each been duly exorcised and transported to the Red Sea; Lord Lyttelton's has been quoted and remembered till it is forgotten; and the times regretted by Macbeth,
that “when the brains were out the man would die,” have at length returned to us. Nothing provokes the buried portion of this sluggish generation to “burst their cearments," neither the discovery of the murder which sent them prematurely from the world, nor the desire of removing their bones to consecrated ground, nor the revealment of hidden treasures, nor the procurement of justice to the defrauded widow or orphan. We encounter nothing now, particularly of the female sort, that cannot speak till it be spoken to; our candles no longer burn blue; it is Christmas eve with us all the year through; and we have no other consolation than to sit round the fire of a winter's night relating true and circumstantial stories of these supernatural visitants as they appeared in the olden time, or singing to one another the authentic ballads of William and Margaret, and Giles Scroggins's ghost.
Nor are we better provided with animal monstrosities. Where shall we search for an incubus to give birth to another enchanter Merlin, who, as Spenser expressly informs us,
66 Was not the sonne
On a faire lady Nonne.” How can we expect magicians in the land, when we have neither incubi nor nuns to breed them? Arthur Pendragon and Cunobeline the Briton made sad havock with the Hydras and Pythons which still infested our island in those days. Moore of Moore Hall, by the assistance of his very judicious armour, provided
“With spikes all about
Not within but without,” extirpated the famous dragon of Wantley, the last of his species. “The laidly worm," described with such appalling minuteness in old ballads, was finally destroyed by a Cornish Apollo; Guy, Earl of Warwick, and Tom Thumb, have each been the death of a stupendous and preternatural cow, since when the race has not been revived ; and Jack the giant-killer, dissipated the last of the ogres who was any way formidable ; for it is well known that the modern Irish giants are a very harmless breed, who may at any time be tamed by a shilling given to their keeper. We have the night-mare, indeed, left to us, but it is a grim, shadowy abstraction, only visible in Fuseli's picture ; and we occasionally exhume the bones of the mammoth and megatherion ; but we are miserably in want of a good, living, tangible, and horrible monster. The American sea-serpent will not be coaxed into eyesight of any thing more trust-worthy than a Yankee captain, and though it must be confessed that we were latterly gratified with the exhibition of a mermaid, she was soon detected to be an impostor, and it is much to be apprehended that the merman, now submitted to the public, will not prove of more legitimate birth.
Nothing has occurred of late years more interestingly revolting than the story of the pig-faced lady, which in these dull days of common place, should not really be allowed to slip into oblivion. Her relations were publicly mentioned, the house in which she resided at Chelsea, with the blinds perpetually drawn down, was pointed out to every pas
senger; the high salary paid to her lady companion was upon record; the tradesman who made the silver trough, out of which she took her victuals, was universally known; several of the neighbours had repeatedly heard her squeaking and grunting, and one having unwarrantably placed some choice hogwash under her window, declared that its odours had no sooner reached her snout, than there was such a riotous scampering, snorting, and snuffing upstairs as if a whole herd of swine had scented out their approaching dinner. And shall such “special wonders overcome us like a summer's cloud and pass away?" Forbid it, ye lovers of the marvellous ; forbid it, ye journalists and catérers to the public taste of every thing that is hideous and appalling.
During the dog-days of last summer, the town was happily enabled to “sup full of horrors,” of the most harrowing and transcendant nature, by the prevailing dread of the hydrophobia, and the terrific narratives which bristled in our newspapers. Goldsmith, in his Citizen of the World, says,
" that the English are subject to epidemic terrors which periodically take possession of all ranks ;" and this alarm affords a striking illustration of his assertion. One of our journals gravely assured us that an individual under the influence of this disease, not only barked and bowled like a dog, but joined a pack of hounds in full cry, outstripped them all, and caught the hare they were hunting with his teeth; adding that even his clothes were so caninely affected by the malady, that upon some one throwing him a bone the tail of his coat wagged backward and forward, just like that of a dog. This, however, is no subject for waggery. To this pantophobia all the dogs found in our streets have been sacrificed, and the panic so bewildered the imagination of several of our fellow creatures, that they have been seized with an ideal hydrophobia, and actually fallen victims to their dread of a dread of water.
The gloomy month of November has now arrived, when the minds of our blue-devilish and hypochondriacal countrymen are peculiarly predisposed to the reception of whatever is hideous and melancholy, and as we are all in a profound peace, the country flourishing, the ministry popular, and the metropolis singularly unprovided with monstro sities of any sort, I call upon your readers, Mr. Editor, to exert themselves in the getting up of some good stimulating horror, one that may interestingly fill the long columns of our newspapers during the vacation of Parliament, and afford us a good shudder at our firesides during the long evenings of the approaching winter.
LETTERS FROM THE EAST.NO. IX.
Mount Sinai. We left Cairo on the 29th of October, in the afternoon, and after proceeding a few miles from the city, our conductors stopped an hour or two near a small caravan that had halted close to some barren hills. Three of our camels were loaded with skins of water, sacks of charcoal, and an excellent tent. The sensation is singular at first finding yourself on the back of the camel; the situation is sufficiently elevated, and not the most soft or comfortable, and the trot of the animal shakes you almost to a mummy, till you get somewhat accustomed to it. The general rate of travelling is a long walk of three miles an hour, which is the caravan pace.
At sunset we went on for about four hours, and then stopped for the night in the midst of the desert.
A fire was lighted and supper.cooked, but, on putting up the tent, the pole broke, and this obliged us to sleep in the open air. The tent was repaired at Suez, but we never used it during the whole journey, being generally so fatigued on halting for the night, and exposed to start again at such uncertain hours, that we did not care to be at the trouble of fixing and taking it down. The next day passed without any thing deserving notice, save that our route, as far as the eye could reach, was utterly barren—a vast plain of sand with little undulation of surface. The third day we were to set out very early. I chanced to awake before it was light, and perceiving the Arabs seated round a good fire, could not help joining them. This was one of the scenes that one often loves to picture. Jouma, the chief, had just kneaded and placed a flat cake among the embers, and the Arabs were seated in a group around, smoking and sipping coffee, and enjoying themselves highly, for the deserts were to them as a home. There is surely a charm in this wild and wandering life, for one soon grows attached to it. These Arabs were very lively and civil, but a wild race, living among the rocks near Mount Sinai in tents. They always carry their coffee, and a pot to boil it in, with them; having first roasted it in a small pan, they pound it with a stick, and a bag of flour to make cakes is their sole provision for a journey besides, for they seldom eat any flesh; they each carried a musquet with a matchlock. There was not the least verdure to be seen till we arrived near Adjerud, a wretched village about four miles from Suez. Here a few scattered trees were visible, but the village was concealed behind a range of rocky hills, at the foot of which we took up our abode for the night. This part of the country was the haunt of robbers, and our guides were very unwilling to halt here, and, fearful lest we might be attacked in the night, they kept watch throughout the whole of it, but all passed off quietly. Mr. W. however, who was conveying a large chest of Bibles to Mount Sinai, was extremely agitated, lest the robbers, on attacking us, should carry away his chest, as in that case all the hopes of his journey would perish, but the Bedouins would probably quite as soon have left it bebind. The next day we arrived at Suez in the forenoon, and having a letter for the Consul for our nation there, who was a Greek, we were received by his son, who spoke some English. The father, a very fine old man, with a white beard, soon made his appearance. Some cakes and wine, the latter from Jerusalem, were brought, and dinner ordered to be ready in