My dear Reader,
Is my being dead going to be a burden to you?
My deepest apologies, friend, but this is no way to begin a tale, is it? Forgive me for being brusque, and before proper introductions, but I must know forthright. And so I ask again: Is the state of my being a stumbling block? A show-stopper? A tear in the fabric of your reality?
If so, I give you leave to close the book. If you are still in the bookshop, then all the better. Set it back on the shelf and do not think about wasting any of your hard-earned coin on this manuscript. (Believe me, I know about the cost of living. Consider the money better spent elsewhere.)
The last thing I want is my condition coming between us. Perhaps I am—openly, selflessly—giving you a significant detail regarding my untimely demise. Alas, I foresee in your biased reading something important slipping past because you cannot let go of this perceived character flaw.
And then, “This from a ghost!” you declare. “How very unreliable.”
Go away then, I say. Close the book. Leave it on the bench. Return it to the shelf. It is not for you, friend. For once in my pitiable existence, I do not want you to read my story and would rather you forget about me.
No, no, no. I do not mean that. Do not forget me, but rather revert your impressions to the myth you made up about me. That will do just fine.
As for the rest of you, hear me out.
I know the popular narratives and gossips have painted me an unreliable, unstable character—weak, disgraceful, immoral, mad. Drunken blackguard at best and demon-possessed fiend at worst.
I, however, would have you believe me vulnerable, ill-starred. A flawed human being. A victim of circumstances. No better, no worse than any man. Mad, you say? Show me a sane man who lived through all that I did and did not do himself in or find himself committed to the lunatic asylum.
For this brief history, I ask your cooperation. Read carefully every word, for the signs are hidden within, and if you commit yourself diligently, you will decipher the mystery herein. I will tell all in pure truthfulness. I do not lie. None of this is self-serving. How can it be? How can I be affected now?
No. It is all for you, dear Reader.
Once in my life, I said that to transform all human thought, it would be necessary to write and publish a little book titled My Heart Laid Bare. I said also that it must be true to its title to attain its end.
Unable to do so while I still lived and breathed in this world, I present it to you now, without repression. Here it is: My Heart Laid Bare—for you.
Will there be horror? A bit, unfortunately. Certainly there will be fear, to which man is contrarily attracted and sickened. As inevitable to sublunary life, none of these can be edited out. My state makes me invulnerable to these attractions and aversions, but it is not without compassion that I record such realities. I give you this account with all the sensitivity of a doctor telling his patient he has developed some incurable disease and has only weeks to live.
“But you yourself are dead!”
What? Oh, that claptrap again. Have you never read anything written by a ghost? Now think before you answer that question. We dead men of letters seem incapable to rest our pens, as well as our souls. It is time to move on from that bit of old news and make your choice.
As I’ve already said, this testimony is not for the weak-minded, feeble-hearted, living, breathing man or woman.
It is for the curious. For the insightful. The outsider. For he who might look beyond himself and the material world and wonder, Why? For God’s sake, why is life so bitterly cruel and unfair?
I am as inclined as ever to tell this tale if you will listen. Forget that I am dead. Forget that I am famous. Remember this only:
I am an orphan.
Respectfully & truly,
Edgar A. Poe
b. January 19, 1809–d. October 7, 1849