EDGAR ALLAN POE
Short Story: “The Black Cat”
Author: Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–49
First published: 1843
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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
THE BLACK CAT
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.
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal,
entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In
speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a
little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to
the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as
witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this
point—and I mention the matter at all for no better reason
than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto—this was the cat’s name—was my favorite pet
and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever
I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I
could prevent him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years,
during which my general temperament and character—
through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance—had
(I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the
worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more
regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use
intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered
her personal violence. My pets, of