The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings

The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings

by Edgar Allan Poe

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

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Edgar Allan Poe remains the unsurpassed master of works of mystery and madness in this outstanding collection of Poe's prose and poetry are sixteen of his finest tales, including "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "William Wilson," "The Black Cat," "The Cask of Amontillado," and "Eleonora". Here too is a major selection of what Poe characterized as the passion of his life, his poems - "The Raven," "Annabel Lee," Ulalume," "Lenore," "The Bells," and more, plus his glorious prose poem "Silence - A Fable" and only full-length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553212280
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/1983
Series: Bantam Classics Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 415
Sales rank: 88,247
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 1350L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

In his short, troubled life Edgar Allan Poe originated the mystery story, brought new psychological depth to the tale of horror, and made inimitable contributions to Romantic poetry and literary criticism. Born in Boston in 1809 to itinerant actors, Poe was orphaned as an infant and sent to live with a Richmond merchant, John Allan. Allan sent him to the University of Virginia in 1826, but Poe withdrew because of gambling debts. In 1830, with his first book of poems already published, he entered West Point but was dishonorably discharged the next year. In 1835 Poe was chosen editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe was already established as an author when, in 1845, the publication of "The Raven" made him famous. He began to lecture, engaged in a celebrated feud with Longfellow, and became sole proprietor of his own magazine, Broadway Journal. But in 1846 the magazine went bankrupt, and in 1847, after years of suffering, Poe's wife died of consumption. His ill health and drinking worsened. In October 1849 he was found semiconscious outside a polling place in Baltimore; a few days later he died without regaining consciousness.

Ignored for the most part by his countrymen, he was idolized by the French Symbolists, who thought of him as the first modern poet and helped to win him the recognition that is now his.

Read an Excerpt

The Tell-Tale Heart

TRUE!—NERVOUS—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work!

I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha!—would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—and I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled.

Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out—"Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;—just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh no!—it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself—"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney—it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "it is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel—although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but

I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?—now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not even his—could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all—ha! ha!

When I made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart—for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night: suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled,—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct:—it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definitiveness—until at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale;—but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations, but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observation of the men—but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore. I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!—this I thought, and this I think. But any thing was better than this agony! Any thing was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!—and now—again!—hark! louder! louder! louder!—

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!"

The Black Cat

FOR THE most wild yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not—and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburden my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified—have tortured—have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but horror—to many they will seem less terrible than baroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the commonplace—some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.

From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and, in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure.

To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.

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The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great! It was so suspenceful! It had me sitting on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read scary books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it( from the stories i already read) i'm at "The Cask of Adimonlldo" ( i know i spelt that wrong) but you should like it too and if you don't im sorry for telling you to buy it YOU SHOULD BUY IT, TRUST ME!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EdgarAllanPoe is the master of darkness in novels and poetry with TheTell-Tale Heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is alot of suspence ' mad man' and an old man a death and the mind playing tricks a great horror story though you may want to read it again its a great work of art if you like this read more poems and stories by EDGAR ALLEN POE if you like love poems this is still him a poem written for his dear Cosin Virginia before she died of taberculous the poem is called 'Annabel Lee'
Guest More than 1 year ago
This title is truly suspenceful. The Pit and the Pendelum was freaky, the Facts of the Case of M. Valdemar was worse, and the Murders on the Rue Morgue was fascinating. This title is wonderful, but I would only reccommend it to those who enjoy that not-being-able-to-put-the-light-out-at-night feel. These stories are a fascinating read, and the formula for Mr.Poe's tale's is intriguing. I reccommend this book, but I really wouldn't advise the Facts of the Case of M. Valdemar amd the Man Who was Used Up. I almost could'nt stomach them. Other than that this was a great book.
tdmmm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is absolutely the best short horror story every written! Excellent for reading out loud. Poe excels in this story in setting the mood, building tension, and making the reader feel the beating of that tell tale heart.
LA12Hernandez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A small collection of stories and poems by Edgar Allen Poe.
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poe is a troublesome writer, usually overblown and sometimes downright silly, but I can't help feeling some affection for him even as I roll my eyes at some of his story-telling techniques. There is much to be admired in Poe's insistence on radically subjective perspectives, his commitment to delving into the extremes of human psychology. And there's something quite modern about the way he thrusts you right into the meat of a story, wasting no time on backstory or exposition.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my introduction to Edgar Allan Poe. I could not put it down when I was 10. "The Black Cat" and "The Pit and the Pendulum" messed me up for weeks. As I got older I started to enjoy his more complex mystery stories. "The Fall of the House of Usher" is unparalleled in its complexity. Poe really did perfect the art of the American short story. I know English teachers are paid to say things like that, but I'm not at work right now. This stuff is golden!
Voxc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Has an excellent twist, one of my favorite short stories.Still leaving me with questions, I continue to read it over and over.Poe is a great author, he psychologically scares you.
Heather19 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I don't usually like Poe's stories, I bought this book because of a few of his poems that I read and liked in school, and it ended up becoming a favorite of mine.
Alera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't like Poe. I never really have, not at length. That's not entirely true. I have an appreciation for his poetry. I love the way he uses words. It's just when he comes to telling a story...he both steals from himself, is overly wordy, and the endings are always a downer really. I must say...Poe is the first writer I've ever fallen asleep to. But allow me to again say...I appreciate Poe for what he represents. It's was a different style and not one I altogether's just very much not one for me. His novel however might have been an easier read for me had I not already known so much about whaling ships that I discovered a few things not quite right in his tale. Though...let us find the positive. I loved The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter...the first of which was actually the one I fell asleep during...marvel at that. I loved the characters being carried over into another story...and something about the all knowing character appealed to me. If I weren't so tired I would find the quote about being able to retrace the end of a conversation back to its origins but sadly I tired. do I recommend Poe? Yes and No, I feel one should have experienced Poe in both forms. If you have not read a poem and a short story by Poe you should slap yourself and go do so now. As I am about to go reread the Raven...because um...I have a secret love for the rhythm. Which is not so secret now.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tell Tale Heart was a great mixture of darkness and ad pretty much darkness! Great story to read. But if you have pretty bad nightmares and may be one of the younger kids who may read it. Keep in mind. I warned you.
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Lofanda More than 1 year ago
Book Review Outline Book title and author: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe Title of review: An Eerie Enjoyable Story Number of stars (1 to 5): 4 Introduction We don¿t entirely know why Poe wrote this story; perhaps to prove that he was not mad. All this story will prove is that the narrator is mad! The way they act, and what they do will shock you. You¿ll wonder how any human being could do such malicious and scary things, not to mention tedious and difficult. It was hard for me to even fathom these tasks, and I know I could never complete them myself. Description and summary of main points In this story, the narrator is frightened by the eye of the man they are taking care of. The description of the eye is pretty frightening. I know I wouldn¿t want to see something like that every day! The narrator decides to get rid of their problem. Every night they do the exact same thing. They check on the old man in a very mysterious way to see if the eye is open. If the eye is closed, the old man continues sleeping, if it¿s open, the problem will be eliminated. On the last night, the eye is open, so the narrator- in such a horrifying manner- gets rid of the old man and his grotesque eyeball. Evaluation I really enjoyed reading this story, it kept me on my toes. It had the perfect amount of suspense and terror; it kept me wanting to read more and more. At one point I found myself thinking, ¿What would I do?¿ Therefore, anyone who likes to feel a little frightened, or put themselves in someone else¿s shoes, this is a great story for you. Conclusion Although it was a little scary, I loved reading it. I was baffled by the narrator¿s behavior, but at the same time I felt sorry for them. If it really frightened them that much then they were just trying to protect themselves, and try to continue their lives like before. That just wasn¿t the way to do it. I was only mildly unsatisfied with the ending; I would¿ve liked to know what happened to the narrator after they were caught. Your final review The story was very well written. The dialog was different and intriguing; I actually had to think about what he was saying a few times. The way Poe writes it truly captures his inner insanity, making the story extremely entertaining. I¿m sure that most will love it just as much as I did, and hopefully will be fascinated by the way this man thinks. Poe was an amazing writer, and everyone should have the chance to be acquainted with his work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well, first of all the guy was crazy so obviously he's not normal and wouldn't do what you or I would've done. And second of all, he turned himself in because of his guilt. The thumping heart wasn't the old man's.. it was the murder's because he was so guilty about killing his roommate.
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