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Edward Gorey

Updated on October 16, 2013

Illustrious Illustrator of the Macabre

Edward St. John Gorey (February 22, 1925 - April 15, 2000) authored over 100 books, drew illustrations for more than 50 other authors, and left his own unique stamp on the world of gothic horror. Learn more about this eccentric author and illustrator as well as how he influenced pop culture.

Who was Edward Gorey?

A brief biography.

Born in Chicago to Edward and Helen Gorey, Edward Gorey had a relatively normal upbringing. His parents divorced when he was 11. He attended the Francis W. Parker School before a brief stint in the Army during 1944-46, then attended Harvard University to study French. His roommate was poet Frank O'Hara.

He also studied art at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1943, which set him on the path of being a professional illustrator. He also claimed to have inherited his artistic talents from his maternal great-grandmother Helen St. John Garvey. She was a popular greeting card artist in the 19th century.

Moving to New York City, where he lived from 1953-60, he worked from the art department of the Doubleday Anchor. The titles he illustrated and created book covers for included Dracula, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, and The War of the Worlds.

It was around this time that his first independent book, The Unstrung Harp, was published. Gorey was 28 and a certified author. He continued to write and publish, attracting attention on an international level through Andreas Brown's Gotham Book Mart.

The style of his books featured Victorian and Edwardian settings, with large urns, damsels in distress, murder and period clothing. The gothic horror element made him a favorite of the Goth subculture. People assumed Gorey was British but he never visited the the UK and very rarely traveled. People also assumed his books were targeted towards children, when in fact very few were. Gorey had little association with children and admitted having little fondness for them.

Gorey settled in Yarmouth Port, MA, on Cape Cod, living there year-round in a home fondly nicknamed "Elephant House". Although he never married, Gorey had many friends and kept several cats at any given time. He was an unabashed television junkie, watching everything from soap operas to dramas, with an especially big love of Batman: The Animated Series. Gorey was a devoted follow of ballet, religiously attending all performances of the New York City Ballet before moving to Yarmouth Port. He also enjoyed fur coats and tennis shoes, which featured in drawn self-portraits.

His designs for a 1977 Broadway production of Dracula won him a Tony Award for "Best Costume Design" as well as a nomination for "Best Scenic Design". Gorey became even more apart of pop culture when he designed the titles for the PBS series Mystery! in 1980. Several artists and musicians have drawn on Gorey's works for inspiration, notably The Gorey End an album recorded in 2003 by the Tiger Lilies and the Kronos Quartet based on a box of unpublished work that Gorey sent the band as well as the video for the Nine Inch Nails song The Perfect Drug, which featured Gorey's trademark imagery and topiary.

After Gorey passed away in 2000 at the age of 75, the Elephant House was turned into the Edward Gorey House Museum. His legacy continues on today, with surges in popularity every few years when a new generation discovers his books.

Gorey Biographies

Looking for more information on the oft-reclusive but genius that was Edward Gorey? Check out these books, packed full of interviews as well as drawings!

Bibliography

A fairly complete list of books by Edward Gorey

Books

The Unstrung Harp 1953

The Listing Attic 1954

The Doubtful Guest 1957

The Object Lesson 1958

The Bug Book 1959

The Fatal Lozenge 1960

The Hapless Child 1961

The Curious Sofa 1961

The Willowdale Handcar 1962

The Beastly Baby 1962

The Wuggly Ump 1963

The Vinegar Works: Three Volumes of Moral Instruction: The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Insect God, The West Wing 1963

The Nursery Frieze 1964

The Sinking Spell 1965

The Remembered Visit: A Story Taken From Life 1965

Three Books from Fantod Press I: The Pious Infant, The Evil Garden, The Inanimate Tragedy 1966

The Gilded Bat 1966

The Utter Zoo 1967

Fletcher and Zenobia 1967

The Other Statue 1968

The Blue Aspic 1968

The Iron Tonic: Or, A Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley 1969

The Epiplectic Bicycle 1969

Three Books from Fantod Press II: The Chinese Obelisks, The Osbick Bird, Donald Has a Difficulty (in fuchsia envelope) 1970

Why We Have Day and Night 1970

The Sopping Thursday 1970

Three Books from Fantod Press III: The Deranged Cousins, The Eleventh Episode, [The Untitled Book]1971

Fletcher and Zenobia Save the Circus 1971

Story for Sara 1971

Leaves from a Mislaid Album 1972

The Awdrey-Gore Legacy 1972

The Abandoned Sock 1972

The Lavender Leotard 1973

The Black Doll 1973

Fantod IV: 3 Books from Fantod Press: The Abandoned Sock, The Disrespectful Summons, The Lost Lions 1973

A Limerick 1973

Category 1974

The Glorious Nosebleed: Fifth Alphabet 1975

L'Heure Bleue 1975

The Grand Passion: A Novel 1976

Les Passementeries Horribles 1976

The Broken Spoke 1976

Scénes de Ballet (postcards) 1976

The Loathsome Couple 1977

Alms for Oblivion (postcards) 1978

The Green Beads 1978

Gorey Posters 1979

Dracula: A Toy Theatre 1979

Interpretive I Series (postcards) 1980

Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses 1980

Neglected Murderesses (postcards) 1980

Les Urnes Utiles 1980

F.M.R.A. 1980

The Gashlycrumb Tinies 1981

Le Mélange Funeste 1981

The Dwindling Party 1982

The Water Flowers 1982

The Prune People 1983

Gorey Stories 1983

The Eclectic Abecedarium 1983

E.D. Ward 1983

The Tunnel Calamity 1984

Les Echanges Malandreux 1985

The Prune People II 1985

The Improvable Landscape 1986

The Raging Tide: Or, The Black Doll's Imbroglio 1987

Menaced Objects (postcards) 1989

Tragedies Topiaries (postcards) 1989

The Helpless Doorknob (cards in a box) 1989

Q.R.V. (retitled The Universal Solvent) 1989

The Dripping Faucet 1989

Whatever Next? (postcards) 1990

The Tuning Fork 1990

The Stupid Joke 1990

The Fraught Settee 1990

La Balade Troublante 1991

The Doleful Domesticity; Another Novel 1992

The Betrayed Confidence 1992

The Pointless Book 1993

The Floating Elephant/The Dancing Rock 1993

Figbash Acrobate 1994

The Retrieved Locket 1994

The Unknown Vegetable 1995

The Fantod Pack (cards in a box) 1995

Q.R.V. Unwmkd Imperf (postcards) 1996

Q.R.V. Hikuptah (postcards) 1996

Thoughtful Alphabet No. 2: Answer bells (broadside) 1996

Thoughtful Alphabet No. 3: Arise betimes (broadside)1996

Thoughtful Alphabet No. 4: Always burn correspondence (broadside) 1996

Thoughtful Alphabet No. 10: Allegations (broadside) 1996

Thoughtful Alphabet No. 14: Aurora borealis (broadside) 1996

Thoughtful Alphabet No. 15: Appalling banalities (broadside) 1996

The Just Dessert 1997

The Deadly Blotter 1997

The Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas 1998

The Headless Bust: A Melancholy Meditation on the False Millennium 1999

Ascending Peculiarity 2001

The Morning after Christmas, 4 am (broadside) 2001

Collected Works

Amphigorey 1972

Amphigorey Too 1975

Amphigorey Also 1983

Amphigorey Again 2006

More Gorey Videos

Below you will find a selection of various videos about or featuring work by Edward Gorey. Enjoy!

Anagram Pseudo Names

You might notice that a book listed as written by Edward Gorey but actually displays a different name as the author. Gorey loved anagrams and pseudo names, most playing with ones of his own name. The most famous one being Ogdred Weary. Here's a list of other anagram pseudo names he used for his books.

Ogdred Weary

Mrs. Regera Dowdy

Eduard Blutig

Raddory Gewe

Dogear Wryde

E. G. Deadworry

D. Awdrey-Gore

Edward Pig

Wardore Edgy

Madame Groeda Weyrd

Edward Gorey Interviews

Below are raw-footage interviews as well as a clip from a still-yet-coming documentary about Gorey.

Which is your favorite Gorey book?

With over 100 titles to his name, there's so many to choose from. But everyone has their favorite, from The Doubtful Guest to The Haunted Tea Cozy.

The Perfect Drug

The video for the Nine Inch Nails song, The Perfect Drug, was directed by Mark Romanek. He used imagery for the video that took directly from several of Gorey's books. Most notably the urns, the maids, and the giant hand.

More Gorey Links

Below you will find various websites packed with information on and about Edward Gorey. Just don't get lost in the West Wing!

Love Edward Gorey? Have a favorite book or poster? Just adore The Gashlycrumb Tinies? Tell us!

It was the day after Tuesday and the day before Wednesday... - If you enjoyed this lens, please retweet it!

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    • pigwear profile image

      pigwear 4 years ago

      This is a very interesting and well put together lens. Great job! I am a history buff and it is apparent Mr. Gorey has influenced several people in his lifetime. Thank you for adding to my knowledge base.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Back in the '70's when I worked at a film library (pre-VCR days) we had a few short animated films based on Gorey-like drawings that I've been unable to find any trace of since. Anyone else remember them and/or have any idea if they've ever been posted anywhere on the internet?

    • PopArtGirl profile image

      PopArtGirl 5 years ago

      LOVE Gorey - great lens you have here!

    • cuteordeath profile image

      cuteordeath 6 years ago

      I've loved Edward Gorey since I was a child! :D

    • dogodor profile image

      dogodor 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Congrats on Top 40! I was just their myself.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Of course I love The Gashlycrumb Tinies, my favorite is The Doubtful Guest, I have a cat who is just like it. First time I ever knew about him was as a child watching PBS and seeing his wicked cool Mystery intros. (Yes, I was a strange kid!) Thanks for this very Gorey Lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great idea for a lens, and well done I must say. Thank you.

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

      I love Gorey. The Doubtful Guest sits in my guest bathroom as appropriate reading material.

    • profile image

      lostinfiction 7 years ago

      I love this man's work! Very distinctive. Btw, if you're into gothic horror fiction, you definitely need to watch the new movie based on "The Picture of Dorian Gray". There's a good review at http://infloox.wordpress.com/ and you can watch the trailer further down on that page too.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      Love his anagram pseudo names.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 8 years ago from New Zealand

      Wonderfully interesting lens about an author I have never read. Thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      You are certainly expanding my education Miss Bat. An excellent lens and SquidAngel Blessings for you!

    • profile image

      Joan4 8 years ago

      This is new to me, but I rarely read horror books. A very well done lens, and educational for me!

    • puzzlerpaige profile image

      puzzlerpaige 8 years ago

      I've never known his name, but recognize his artwork. Very informative.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 8 years ago

      I love Edward Gorey's books and illustrations. A macabre Squid Angel Blessing is definitely in order.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Very interesting book lens.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      He sure has written a lot of books and I haven't read a one of them but I did enjoy reading about him. Very interesting.