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Knickerbocker Magazine Volume 1, Issue 1 Letter From the Editor - Introduction

Misbecoming as it may be, courteous reader, to rush at once into thy presence and pour out our gratulations at meeting thee here, there is still something so cordial on the occasion, that for the life of us we connot begin by making thy acquaintance in cold and formal phrase. Dost thou observe how smilingly the sun comes in yonder window and plays upon the extended sheet, over which that ancient figure is stooping? Even so do the friendly looks which thou now bendest over out page, cheer out soul with their sunny influence. There is, too, a free and confiding expression in thy countenance, which at once banishes all distrust from our bosom; all those doubts and misgivings, which we could not but indulfe in seeking thy intimacy. We feel as if we had known thee for years, and the very chambers of our heart open of themselves as to an old acquaintance, who has the privelege of entrance without knocking. We cannot, we cannot, dear reader, while our heart is thus warming toward thee, enter upon formal explanations, or drawn up here a frigid business-like agreement, as to the footing we are hereafter to be upon together. Let our publishers and the public settle those musty matters between them, while we two, quietly after a simple fashion, talk over our affairs as if no one else were by.

And first, let us tell thee that as regards the little sketch overleaf, which the uninitiated will view with indifference, or perhaps overlook entirely, there is a mystery about it which concerns both of us mightily. Thou must know then that one day, not a great while since, as we were musing in our study upon the best method of first introducing ourselves to thy acquaintance, a circumstance, or rather a train of circumstances-a scene-occurred, so singular, if not supernatural, that we almost hesitate in this unbelieving age to recount it even to thee. As the cause of truth, however, could never be advanced did everyone shrink from relating the facts that occur under his individual observation, merely because they do not fall within the train of common events, we will detail here those strange things which have lately come within the experience of our own senses; leaving it for those idle carpers and arrant infidels, the critics and philosophers, to make what they can of this exposure of mysterious doings, shouldst thou, gentle reader, by any accident betray to such people the confidence that is here unreservedly reposed in thee.

It was in the afternoon, just before sunset, during one of those delicious ‘Indian Summer’ days, the peculiar boast of our climate, of which, the autumn passed, was more than usually bountiful, that while, as we have mentioned, meditating alone in our study upon the prospects of the new Magazine, these marvelous occurrences took place. The golden-hued smoke of out juelta was rising before our line of vision and mellowing each object, like the warm atmosphere that gives such rich repose to the pictures of Claude, when as we watched its light flakes as they floated through the open window, and mingled with the silver haze without, they seemed after a while, instead of dissipating themselves in their kindred atmosphere, to form gradually into a murky cloud, which at last filled the whole apartment. This was indeed singular; but so completely lost were we in idle reverie, that it did not strike us at the moment as strange, nor at all prepare us for the phenomena that followed its disappearance, and gradually made us conscious that a mysterious influence prevailed in the room where we were sitting. By degrees the gaudy paper hangings around us faded into dullness, and then, while their gay colors were darkening into one uniform shade of brown, slowly in their stead panels of burnished oak grew our upon the walls, and glistened in the setting sun. And now each veined spot upon the mantelpiece of variegated marble became gradually larger and more distinct in form and color, till everyone at last assuming a rectangular shape, settled into a swparate porcelain tile of smoky blue, like those one may still see ornamenting the fire-place in out old Dutch edifices. The disappearance of the grate we did not note; but it was gone, and there certainly was sufficient room where it had stood to swallow up a dozen between those yawning jams.

The most striking metamorphosis, however, was that which the furniture underwent. The slender maple chairs became gradually bloated and dropsical in their appearance, until they swelled at last into a most antiquated and preposterous size. Their backs became bread and crooked, and from their sides huge arms infolded, while hideous claws protruded from the small round knobs on which they formerly rested, and slowly sprawled upon the floor; and next, the perforated cane work which erst formed their bottoms, after swimming thick before our eyes for a moment, became gradually opaque, and then plumped up into fat and portly cushions. Nor was this all; the very table upon which our elbows rested while watching the mysterious change going forward around us, was not exempt from its influence: sensibly could we perceive-and yet not so abruptly as to startle us-sensibly could we feel its velvet cover chilling and hardening and smoothing beneath our pressure into a slab of polished marble, while the one stout central supporter severed into four slender legs, tattooed with quaint devices eavh of which quietly slipped into a socket prepared for it under the carved head of a lion that grinned at either corner. But the most remarkable of all amid these miraculous doings remains yet to be mentioned; our own figure reflected in the mirror opposite, seemed to share the general change, and after vainly trying to reorganize its lineaments in those that met our gaze, we at length observed, upon looking more narrowly, that the frame of the mirror had disappeared. The mirror itself was gone, and instead of being a reflection of ourselves, it was another figure, an actual being, though not of this world, that now sate opposite to us. Thou believest not perhaps in spirits, reader-thou believest not that the departed dead may escape from the cerements of the sepulcher, and in their bodily forms revisit the warm world again! And yet why not? The persuasion that such things be, seems almost instinctive in out nature; our earliest recollections are those of mystic fears, and the very reason upon which in after life we rely for their subjugation, cannot withstand the mass of evident to the act of apparitions having been witnessed in every age of the world. Are there not moments when the least imaginative mind, the most skeptical bosom, shudders with the apprehension of a forced communion with beings og the other world? And what, unless the prompting of some viewless spirit, that with chilling influence hovers near-what is this dim dread, this mystic fear, this vague belief that such things are, but the whispering of the soul to the senses of suggestions that come to it from heaven itself? Banish then, thinking reader, that sneer of doubt from thy features. We know that there is much to stagger thy faith in what we are now revealing; but may we entirely forfeit thy confidence in our truth, if what we have just related be not as veritable a part of our narrative as any that hath preceded it. We pray thee, reader, withdraw not yet thy confidence, but list while we proceed in this singular disclosure.

Well, there sat the phantom; and here sat we, with only the breadth of the table between us. Its position was much the same as ours, and when it first assumed a determined shape to our sight-that of a little old man clad in ancient apparel-it was gazing intently upon some loose sheets before it. It was then that a complete thought cursory examination of its features dispelled at once our rising horror at thus confronting an apparition. Benevolence was their predominant expression, and though a few satirical lines about the mouth a little disputed its ascendency, yet their effect was wholly lost upon us when the phantom, slowly raising its head, gave an opportunity for its mild blue eyes and placid brow to produce their full impression. There was, too, something so re-assuring, so almost parental, in the manner of this venerable being, when first addressing us, that colored at once, and we listened, nay, replied to the words of the specter with a composure, for which, now that the singular scene has passed, we are wholly unable to account. Perhaps we ought to add that the old gentleman, who was dressed in a coat of rusty black, a pair of olive velvet breeches, and a three cornered beaver, had a certain briskness in his appearance