Edward Gorey

From Academic Kids

The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963)
The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963)

Edward St. John Gorey (February 25, 1925 - April 15, 2000) was an artist noted for his wry, macabre pen and ink drawings. Born in Chicago, he attended a variety of local grade schools and then the Francis W. Parker School, spent 1944-1946 in the Army at Dugway Proving Ground, and then attended Harvard from 1946-1950 where he studied French and roomed with future poet Frank O'Hara. Although he would frequently state that his formal art training was "negligible", Gorey studied art for one semester at the Chicago Art Institute in 1943 eventually becoming a professional illustrator. From 1953-1960 he lived in New York City and worked for the Art Department of Doubleday Anchor illustrating book covers. His first work - The Unstrung Harp - was published in 1953. He also published under pen names such as Ogdred Weary, an anagram of his first and last names.

His books of illustrated stories and drawings, with their constantly ominous air in Victorian and Edwardian settings, had a cult following, but Gorey became well known through his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! in 1980, and his scenic design for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula. In later years, he lived year-round in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, where he wrote and directed numerous evening-length entertainments, often featuring his own papier-mâché handpuppets, in an ensemble known as La Theatricule Stoique. His major theatrical work was the libretto for an "Opera Seria for Handpuppets", The White Canoe, to a score by the composer Daniel James Wolf. The premiere of the opera, based on the Lady of the Lake legend, was tragically posthumous. On August 13, 1987, his play "Lost Shoelaces" premiered in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

He was noted for his fondness for ballet (for many years, he religiously attended all performances of the New York City Ballet) and cats, of which he had many. Both figure prominently in his work. His knowledge of literature and films was unusually extensive, and in his interviews, he names as some of his favorite artists Jane Austen, Francis Bacon, George Balanchine, Balthus, Louis Feuillade, Ronald Firbank, Lady Murasaki Shikibu, Robert Musil, Yasujiro Ozu, Anthony Trollope, and Vermeer.

From 1996 to his death in April of 2000 the normally reclusive illustrator was the subject of a cinema-verite documentary with director Christopher Seufert. This has yet to be released. His Cape Cod house is called Elephant House and now serves as a gallery and museum of sorts.

He wrote more than 100 books including:

  • The Unstrung Harp, 1953
  • The Doubtful Guest, 1957
  • The Object-Lesson, 1958
  • The Curious Sofa: a Pornographic Tale by Ogdred Weary, 1961
  • The Hapless Child, 1961
  • The Willowdale Handcar: or, the Return of the Black Doll, 1962
  • The Gashlycrumb Tinies, 1963
  • The Insect God, 1963
  • The West Wing, 1963
  • The Gilded Bat, 1967
  • The Epiplectic Bicycle, 1969
  • The Iron Tonic: or, a Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley 1969
  • The Awdrey-Gore Legacy, 1972
  • The Glorious Nosebleed, 1975
  • Gorey Stories
  • The Other Statue
  • The Haunted Tea Cosy
  • The Headless Bust: a Melancholy Meditation for the False Millennium

Many of Gorey's works were published obscurely and are hard to find or expensive. However, the following three omnibus editions collect together much of his material. Because his original books are rather short, these may contain as many as 15 or more in each volume.

  • Amphigorey, 1972 (ISBN 0399504338), containing The Unstrung Harp, The Listing Attic, The Doubtful Guest, The Object-Lesson, The Bug Book, The Fatal Lozenge, The Hapless Child, The Curious Sofa, The Willowdale Handcar, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Insect God, The West Wing, The Wuggly Ump, The Sinking Spell, and The Remembered Visit.
  • Amphigorey Too, 1975 (ISBN 0399504206)
  • Amphigorey Also, 1983 (ISBN 0156056720)
  • Amphigorey Again, (to be published)

He also illustrated 60 other works by other authors, such as Edward Lear, John Bellairs and John Ciardi.


  • Ascending Peculiarity, ed. Karen Wilkin, Harcourt, Inc., 2001, (ISBN 0151005044). Selected interviews from 1973 to 1999, plus miscellaneous quotes and illustrations.

External links

Elephant House: The Edward Gorey House (http://www.edwardgoreyhouse.org/)

Mystery! website with illustrations by E. Gorey (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/mystery/)

Mystery! website interview with Gorey and photo (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/mystery/gorey.html)

The Edward Gorey Documentary (http://www.EdwardGoreyFilm.com) by Mooncusser Filmsde:Edward Gorey fr:Edward Gorey


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