From the Macabre to the Meowvelous: 13 Facts About Artist Edward Gorey

The Edward Gorey House shared some intriguing facts about the artist who penned some of our favorite creations from the macabre (his "Dracula" designs) to the meowvelous (his cat drawings) and beyond..
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A truly prodigious and original artist, Edward St. John Gorey (1925-2000), gave to the world over 100 works, including The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Doubtful Guest and The Wuggly Ump; prize-winning set and costume designs for innumerable theater productions from Cape Cod to Broadway; a remarkable number of illustrations in publications such as The New Yorker and The New York Times, and in books by a wide array of authors from Charles DickensEdward Lear, Samuel Beckett, John Updike, Virginia Woolf, H.G. Wells, Florence Heide and many others.

Edward Gorey Photo

Edward Gorey and his set for Dracula. (Photo: Courtesy of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

His well known animated credits for the PBS Mystery! series have introduced him to millions of television viewers. Gorey's masterful pen and ink illustrations and his ironic, offbeat humor have brought him critical acclaim and an avid following throughout the world, but here are some intriguing facts you may not know about the artist:

1. Despite the assumption that he was an English writer and illustrator, Edward Gorey was born in Chicago in 1925.

2. Gorey was drawing by the age of 18 months (see his early creation The Sausage Train) and he had taught himself to read by age three.

Edward Gorey Photo

At just 18 months, Gorey produced this toddler masterpiece, The Sausage Train. (Photo: Courtesy of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

3. He traveled outside of the United States only twice— as young boy to Cuba and in the 1970s to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

4. Although his parents divorced when he was a child, they remarried when Gorey was in his 20s. During that time his father (Edward) was married to Corinna Mura—famous for her small but unforgettable role strumming the guitar and singing to La Marseillaise in Rick's Cafe during a scene in the film Casablanca (1943). See of you can spot her in this clip:

5. In lieu of a senior photo of himself in the Francis W. Parker School yearbook of 1942, a blank space appeared which he drew in when asked to sign by friends.

6. Gorey was drafted into the army, serving during World War II as a clerk at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah.

7. Gorey and Charlton Heston graduated the Stolp School together in 1937, in Wilmette, Illinois. He graduated from Harvard University in the class of 1950 with Henry Kissinger.

8. The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Gorey’s most famous work, has appeared in 23 different American and English editions, and has never been out of print in the 51 years since it first appeared.

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The cover of Gorey's most famous work, The Gashlycrumb Tinies. (Photo: Courtesy of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

9. He was awarded a Tony in 1978 for Dracula—not for sets (which were stunning) but for Best Costumes. The sets later won a Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

10. Although known for many years as a wearer of furs, Gorey stopped wearing them as his concern for animal welfare grew—to the point of allowing a family of raccoons that had taken up residence in his Yarmouth Port attic to remain. (He put his raccoon coats into storage). His will provided that the royalties from his works be used to support animal welfare causes. (See a list of animal welfare organizations Gorey expressed fondness for during his lifetime.)

Edward Gorey Photo

Gorey's The Deranged Cousins is his only book to take place in Cape Cod where he spent most of his adult life. (Photo: Courtesy of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

Edward Gorey Photo

Gorey and one of his six (not seven) kitties. (Photo: courtesy of Eleanor Garve)

11. Gorey summered with his cousins in Barnstable most of his adult life and spent the last two decades in Yarmouth Port, yet only one of his books, The Deranged Cousins, actually takes place on Cape Cod.

12. He created more than 20 covers for the young adult mysteries of John Bellairs, more covers than he created for any other author.

13. His house in Yarmouth Port contained over 25,000 books, over 700 videos and generally six cats ("Seven cats", Edward said, "is too many cats."). His house at 8 Strawberry Lane, Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts is now a museum dedicated to his life and work.

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A Gorey illustration from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. (Photo: Courtesy of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

The Edward Gorey House celebrates and preserves the life and works of Edward Gorey, an American author, illustrator, playwright, set and costume designer.  In honor of his legacy, The House, owned and lived in by Gorey himself, displays his diverse and extraordinary talents and reflects his distinct personality. The House also honors Gorey's passion and concern for animals, raising awareness about local and national animal welfare issues. As a dedicated commemoration to Gorey, the House strives to educate and inspire its visitors, offering a unique introduction to Edward Gorey, the artist and person.