Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, October 11, 2022


 "The Bracelet" by Samuel Warren (published without author credit in Weird Tales:  German, 1888, Volume 9 of William Peterson's "Nuggets for Travelers" series [also published as Weird Tit-Bits:  German, 1888]; first appeared in Blackwood's Magazine, January 1832, as "The Bracelets")

The similarities between Warren's story and Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" have been noted by E. Kate Stewart in an article published in Poe and His Times:  The Artist and His Mileau (The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1990).  Although Poe's poem was published a decade late, Poe had admitted that he worked on the poem over a period of ten years.  Poe was intimately familiar with Blackwood's Magazine, referencing it several times in other writings.  The Blackwood-type story of the period was almost a literary genre of its own -- dark, moody, strange.

As in "The Raven," "The Bracelet" opens with a young man sitting morosely in his study, alone inn his thoughts.  It is just before midnight and a there is a kocking at his door.  Rap-rap-rap.  The young man is Carl Koecker, a student at Goettingen.  It is the dreaded tine of the Inquisition and it is believed that a certain "professor of the Art Diabolical had visited the principal places of Germany, and was supposed to have made several converts among the learned, as well as to have founded secret schools for taching the priciples of his science."  According to common belief, the Inquisition found him out and he disappeared and was never heard from again.  The Inquisition then sought to discover the schools this dark mage had founded, as well as the disciples attending them.  The rumor mill had it that they focused on a number of the leading students at Goettingen, and Carl was one of those suspected.  Could whoever was at the door at this late hour be an agent of the Inquisition?  No friend would come this late, no debtor.

The knocking became more insistent.  Carl called through the door, asking who it was.  His questin was answered by more violent knocking and a demand that Carl Koecker open the door.  Frightened, Carl opened the door, not exactly knowing why he did it.  A strange man rushed in and sat on a chair.  Carl demanded to know who he was and what he wanted.  Again, the man would not give his name, sayking only that he wanted to do business.  "Der teufel," Carl said.  The man denied that he was the devil or one of his emissaries, also saying he was not an agent of the Inquisition.  He asked Carl if he wanted the "bracelets."  Carl, who wanted the bracelets to give to his lady friend, replied that he could not afford them.  (Note:  at this time we have no idea what bracelets were being discussed.)

The man brings out an expensive diamond bracelet, snaps it on Carl's wrist, and says that it is Carl's if he only finds the bracelet's mate within two days and brings it to him...then he will give both bracelets to Carl.  Without further explanation and before Carl can stop him, the strange man quickly leaves carl's chambers.  Carl discovers that the bracelet has molded itself to his wrist and he cannot get it off.

Then begins a surrealistic nightmarish experience.  Carl tries to follow the man into the cold winter night.  He soon discovers that he -- Carl -- is wanted for murder. A strnge woman approaches him, speking to him by name,and urges him to go with her if he values his life for the Inquisition is after him.  He enters a cab with her.  The woman disappears.  Carl cannot open the the door to escape the cab, which takes him to a castle (?), a palace (?), a prison (?), a nunnery (?), a monestary (?) -- CCarl does not know.  There is led by name to a room to see "Her Highness," the mosst beautiful woman he has ever seen.  She, too calls him by name and declares her love for him.  She need him to find the mate to a bracelet she owns that has been lost.  It is the mate to the one welded into Carl's wrist.  She sees the bracelet on Carl's wrist and plunges out the window over a parapet.  Carl hears a voice behind him.  It is the strange man who gave him the bracelet...

I can why this story would have an influence on Poe.

Samuel Warren (1807-1877) was a British barrister, author, and Member of Parliament.  As a teenager he may have apprenticed to a linen draper but one biographer thought he may "have worked in amedical capacity, perhaps as an apprentice to an apothecary."  Nevertheless, Warren studied medicine at the University of Edinborough from 1826 to 1828, winning prizes for his poetry. Warren did not complete his medical training; instead he turned to the study of law.  After a number of years as a special,pleader he was called to the bar in 1837.  He was made recorder of Hull in 1852.  He served in the House of Commons from 1856 to 1859 and was a Master in Lunacy from 1859 to 1877.  His Wikipedia page states he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy in 1835, but I suspect the date given was a misprint.

Warren's early interests were literary, not legal.  Although he pubished one story in Blackwood's when he was seventeen, his work met with little favor until 1830/, when the first of his twenty-eight "Passages from the Diary of a Doctor" was published anonymously in Blackwood's, beginining in August 1830 and continuing until August 1837.  Early pieces from this series were published in okk form in 1832, and the complete series in 1838.  The "Passages" were overly elodramitic and often relied on the appearance of the weird or supernatural.  The series and the book (including a number of pirated editions) proved very popular, and brought criticism from some in the medical world for revealing medical secrets.

While Passages from the Diary of a Doctor is perhaps Warren's best-known book today, his 1841 novel Ten Thousand a Year (the first chapter appeared in Blackwood's) was an out-and-out best-seller and had a number of foreigh translations.  With it farcical portrayal of the legal profession, the book was one of the best selling novels of the Nineteenth century.  Warren' other published book of fiction was a novella written in less than three weeks, Now and Then; it rapidly went through three editions.  Warren also published a number of highly regarded (and surprisingly readable) works on the law.  Aguably, Warren's most accomplished short story was "The Resurrectionist," first published in 1833.

Weird Tales:  German is available to be read online.

As a final note, this is one of only two stories in this volume that is note by a German, nor was oringinally published in German.  (The other author was Sir Walter Scott; the remaining five tales were by Hauff, Hoffmann, Schiller, Tieck, and Goethe).  Why include two British authors in a collection of German stories?  Who knows?


  1. Sir Walter Scott was popular in Germany so that might explain his inclusion. Thanks for a review of another obscure but interesting story!

  2. I don't read much from the pre-1920s era. Not sure why.