- Books, Literature, and Writing
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.
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!
A fairly complete list of books by Edward Gorey
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
The Glorious Nosebleed: Fifth Alphabet 1975
L'Heure Bleue 1975
The Grand Passion: A Novel 1976
Les Passementeries Horribles 1976
The Broken Spoke 1976
ScÃ©nes 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
The Gashlycrumb Tinies 1981
Le MÃ©lange 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
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.
Mrs. Regera Dowdy
E. G. Deadworry
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!
- Edward Gorey House Museum
Official website for the Edward Gorey House Museum, housed in the Elephant House.
- Edward Gorey books etc.
Discussion of author and illustrator Edward Gorey along with galleries of collectible books, posters, artwork, ephemera, etc.
- Goreyography - An Eclectic Galleria
Goreyography presents biographical and bibliographical information about American artist Edward Gorey (1925-2000)
- Edward Gorey - Wikipedia
The Wikipedia entry for Edward St. John Gorey (February 22, 1925 - April 15, 2000)
Love Edward Gorey? Have a favorite book or poster? Just adore The Gashlycrumb Tinies? Tell us!