Cornhill Magazine,  5 (1862), 508–12.

Roundabout Papers.—No. XX. The Notch on the Axe.—A Story À La Mode. Part I  [1/3]

[William M Thackeray]


Regular Feature, Editorial—Short Fiction, Drollery, Serial


Spiritualism, Supernaturalism

    After announcing that 'the Unseen Ones are round about us' (508), the mysterious Count de Pinto relates how Sir Joshua Reynolds visited him 'this very morning' (509), and then tells his incredulous companion that there 'are several spirits in the room now, whom you cannot see' (510). At this, the narrator reflects, 'Perhaps I was in a dream. Is life a dream? Are dreams facts? Is sleeping being really awake? I don't know. I tell you I am puzzled. I have read The Woman in White, The Strange Story—not to mention that story stranger than fiction in the , Cornhill Magazine—that story for which three credible witnesses are ready to vouch. I have read that Article in The Times about Mr. Foster. I have had messages from the dead; and not only from the dead, but from people who never existed at all. I own I am in a state of simple bewilderment' (511). When the two visit a 'bric-à-brac shop' on High Holborn that contains a guillotine (511), they witness 'with an awful distinctness—a ghost—an eidolon—a form—a headless man seated, with his head on his lap', although the narrator concedes that at the time he 'may have been under the influence of that astounding medium into whose hands I had fallen'. Concludes with the promise that the reader 'will be astonished still more' by the next instalment. (512)


Thackeray 1863

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