The Tale of Terror eBook

Edith Birkhead
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 261 pages of information about The Tale of Terror.
“may be found many scenes truly terrific in their conception, yet so softened down, and the mind so much relieved, by the intermixture of beautiful description, or pathetic incident, that the impression of the whole never becomes too strong, never degenerates into horror, but pleasurable emotion is ever the predominating result.”

The famous scene in Ferdinand, Count Fathom, the description of Danger in Collins’ Ode to Fear, the Scottish ballad of Hardyknute are mentioned as admirable examples of the fear excited by natural causes.  In the fragment called Montmorenci, Drake aims at combining “picturesque description with some of those objects of terror which are independent of supernatural agency.”  As the curfew tolls sullenly, Henry de Montmorenci and his two attendants rush from a castle into the darkness of a stormy night.  They hurry through a savage glen, in which a swollen torrent falls over a precipice.  After hearing the crash of falling armour, they suddenly come upon a dying knight on whose pale features every mark of horror is depicted.  Led by frightful screams of distress, Montmorenci and his men find a maiden, who has been captured by banditti.  Montmorenci slays the leader, but is seized by the rest of the banditti and bound to a tree overlooking a stupendous chasm into which he is to be hurled.  By almost superhuman struggles he effects his escape, when suddenly—­there at this terror-fraught moment, the fragment wisely ends.

In The Abbey of Clunedale Drake experiments feebly and ineffectively with the “explained supernatural” in which Mrs. Radcliffe was an adept.  The ruined abbey, deemed to be haunted, is visited at night as an act of penance by a man named Clifford who, in a fit of unfounded jealousy, has slain his wife’s brother.  Clifford, accompanied by his sister, and bearing a light, kneels at his wife’s tomb, and is mistaken for a spectral being.

The Gothic tale entitled Sir Egbert is based on an ancient legend associated with one of the turrets of Rochester Castle.  Sir Egbert, searching for his friend, Conrad, who had disappeared in suspicious circumstances, hears from the Knights Templars, that the wicked Constable is believed to hold two lovers in a profound and deathlike sleep.  He resolves to make an attempt to draw from its sheath the sword which separates them and so restore them to life and liberty.  Undismayed by the fate of those who have fallen in the quest, Sir Egbert enters the castle, where he is entertained at a gorgeous feast.  When the festivities are at their height, and Sir Egbert has momentarily forgotten his enterprise, a terrible shriek is heard.  The revellers vanish, and Sir Egbert is left alone to face a spectral corpse, which beckons him onward to a vault, where in flaming characters are inscribed the words:  “Death to him who violates the mysteries of Gundulph’s Tower.”  Nothing daunted, Sir Egbert amid

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The Tale of Terror from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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