Edward Gorey Biography

Edward Gorey – American author and illustrator 1925-2000

edward gorey 2
Edward Gorey

American author and illustrator, b. 1925. As an illustrator of books for adults, Edward Gorey has a distinctive, instantly recognizable style: intricately de­tailed pen-and-ink drawings capture characters, fur- coated, turtle-necked, or dressed in 1920s or Edwardian garb, frozen in moments of stoicism. Somewhat Gothic and ostensibly grim, these images are usually accompa­nied by macabre stories of death, dread, and gore or by humorous verses detailing situations of horror. Gorey’s unique character is most pervasive in the works of which he is both author and illustrator. Though largely out of print, many of his books have been made avail­able in the collections Amphigorey (1972), Amphigorey Too (1975), and Amphigorey Also (1983).

Born in Chicago, Gorey attended the Art Institute of Chicago, served a short time in the U.S. Army, and received a B.A. in French from Harvard. After working in Boston at various jobs, including bookstore clerk and book jacket designer, he moved to New York in 1953 to become a staff artist at Doubleday. That same year, his first book, The Unstrung Harp, was published. It was followed by a succession of books, many of which were published under a variety of humorously anagrammatic pseudonyms such as Mrs. Regera Dowdy, Ogdred Wea­ry, D. Awdrey-Gore, and Dreary Wodge.

Though critics and fans are apt to analyze the dark humor in his work, Gorey maintains that his stories are simply entertainments in the nonsense tradition of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. His attraction to this genre is perhaps more evident in his work for children. In addition to illustrating a few of Edward Lear’s poems, including The Dong with the Luminous Nose (1969), Gorey wrote and illustrated The Wuggly Ump (1963), a story in verse about a group of carefree children who end up in the belly of an obscure dragon­like creature.

edward gorey on the dark side of perpetually dark
Edward Gorey On The Dark Side Of Perpetually Dark

Gorey’s ability to bring visual humor to a text has made him the appropriate illustrator of several collections of poetry, such as The Monster Den (1966) and You Read to Me, Til Read to You (1962), by John Ciard. His intuitive illustrations and graphic design added a narrative dimension to the witty text of Flo­rence Parry Heide to create the award-winning The Shrinking of Treehorn (1971).

With expressive visual detail, Gorey’s line drawings add further dimension to parallel the story of an endearing, if slightly odd, only child who independently and rather ably copes with his mysterious condition of shrinking while his emotionally aloof parents carry on their trivial tasks with devout attention, ignorant of his diminishing stature. In a more traditional vein, Gorey produced illustrations for two versions of classic fairy tales: Red Riding Hood (1972), retold in verse by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, and Rumpelstiltskin (1974), retold by Edith Tarcov.

Reaching a wide audience through passions from picture books and book jackets to the theater—one of the passions that he cites as among his main influences—Edward Gorey’s work appeals to a main­stream audience as well as to devotees by bringing a lighthearted quality to dark humor.


Edward Gorey Selected Bibliography - Book List
1953The Unstrung HarpBrown & Co.
1954The Listing AtticBrown & Co.
1957The Doubtful GuestDoubleday & Co.
1958The Object-LessonDoubleday & Co.
1959The Bug BookLooking Glass Library
1960The Fatal Lozenge: An AlphabetObolensky
1961The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Tale by Ogdred WearyAstor-Honor
1961The Hapless ChildObolensky
1962The Willowdale Handcar: Or, the Return of the Black DollBobbs-Merrill Company
1962The Beastly BabyFantod Press
1963The Vinegar Works: Three Volumes of Moral InstructionSimon & SchusterThree volumes box set: The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Insect God, The West Wing
1963The Wuggly UmpLippincott
1964The Nursery FriezeFantod Press
1964The Sinking SpellObolensky
1965The Remembered Visit: A Story Taken From LifeSimon & Schuster
1966Three Books From Fantod PressFantod PressThree volumes box set: The Evil Garden, The Inanimate Tragedy, The Pious Infant
1967The Gilded BatJonathan Cape
1967The Utter ZooMeredith Press
1968The Other StatueSimon & Schuster
1968The Blue AspicMeredith Press
1969The Epiplectic BicycleDodd and Dodd, Mead & Co.
1969The Iron Tonic: Or, A Winter Afternoon in Lonely ValleyAlbondocani Press
1970Three Books From The Fantod PressFantod PressThree volumes box set: The Chinese Obelisks: Fourth Alphabet, Donald Has A Difficulty, The Osbick Bird
1970The Sopping ThursdayGotham Book Mart
1971Three Books From The Fantod PressFantod PressThree volumes box set: The Deranged Cousins, The Eleventh Episode, The Untitled Book
1972The Awdrey-Gore LegacyDodd, Mead & Co.
1972Leaves From A Mislaid AlbumGotham Book Mart
1972The Abandoned SockFantod Press
1973A LimerickSalt-Works Press
1973The Lost LionsFantod Press
1978The Green BeadsAlbondocani Press
1975The Glorious Nosebleed: Fifth AlphabetDodd, Mead & Co.
1976The Grand Passion: A NovelFantod Press
1976The Broken SpokeDodd, Mead & Co.
1977The Loathsome CoupleDodd, Mead & Co.
1979Gorey GamesTroubadour PressGames designed by Larry Evans
1980Dancing Cats And Neglected MurderessesWorkman
1982The Water FlowersCongdon & Weed
1982The Dwindling PartyRandom House
1982Gorey CatsTroubadour Presswith Malcolm Whyte and Nancie West Swanber
1983The Prune PeopleAlbondocani Press
1983Gorey StoriesSamuel French, Inc.
1984The Tunnel CalamityPutnam's Sons
1985The Eclectic AbecedariumAdama Books
1985The Prune People IIAlbondocani Press
1986The Improvable LandscapeAlbondocani Press
1987The Raging Tide: Or, The Black Doll's ImbroglioBeaufort Books
1989Q. R. V. (later retitled The Universal Solvent)Anne & David Bromer
1990The Stupid JokeFantod Press
1990The Fraught SetteeFantod Press
1991The Doleful Domesticity; Another NovelFantod Press
1994The Retrieved LocketFantod Press
1995The Unknown VegetableFantod Press
1997The Just Dessert: Thoughtful Alphabet XIFantod Press
1997Deadly Blotter: Thoughtful Alphabet XVIIFantod Press
1998The Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for ChristmasHarcourt, Brace, Jovanovich
1999The Headless Bust: A Melancholy Meditation on the False MillenniumHarcourt, Brace, Jovanovich

Source: Children’s Books and their Creators, Anita Silvey.

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