I remember being surprised to read in my teens that Edward Gorey was a “cult figure.” That was probably around the time WGBH commissioned him to create the animated opening credits for Mystery.
That news came years after I’d read Amphigorey or some of Gorey’s smaller books from (as I recall) the library of the college where my father taught. They appeared to be in comics form, so they had to be okay for little kids, right? I also spotted Gorey’s distinctive art on the covers of John Bellairs’s novels.
Sure, I’d realized early on that Gorey’s sense of humor wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, and his sense of taste not to everyone’s humor. But the notion that he had inspired a cult—i.e., a small set of people who feel superior for admiring Edward Gorey—struck me as odd. Wasn’t he just another illustrator who’d always been around?
I puzzled over that moment when I heard from associates of Bloomsbury Auctions that it will sell some items from Gorey’s estate. The auction house’s press release says:
Edward Gorey was one of the most conspicuous eccentrics in New York City of the latter 2oth Century. His strange, meticulous and often hilariously macabre drawings drew a cult [there’s that word] following around the world until the 1977 Tony Award-winning revival of Dracula (that he designed) put Gorey himself in the spotlight. For nearly two decades he could be spotted almost every night at Lincoln Center while New York City Ballet was in town by his opulent beard, tennis shoes and an enormous fur coat. . . .Bloomsbury Auctions will offer fourteen of Gorey’s coats and other personal effects and collected items on Thursday, 9 December. Some of the proceeds will go to the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust to benefit animal welfare. Here’s the online catalogue, or visit Monica Edinger’s posting.
In the 1980s, Gorey had a change of heart. He became an advocate for animal rights and put his fur coats in storage. He never wore them again.