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Gorey Secrets - Artistic and Literary Inspirations behind Divers Books by Edward Gorey

Gorey Secrets

Artistic and Literary Inspirations behind Divers Books by Edward Gorey

By Malcolm Whyte
Foreword by Peter F. Neumeyer
Hardcover : 9781496831552, 176 pages, 92 color and b&w illustrations, November 2021

A brilliant tour of the bookshelf and galleries that inspired one of the most literate, sophisticated, and wildly funny graphic masters of our time


Edward Gorey (1925–2000) was a fascinating and prolific author and artist. Of the one hundred delightful and fascinating books that Gorey wrote and illustrated, he rarely revealed their specific inspirations or their meanings. Where did his intriguing ideas come from? In Gorey Secrets: Artistic and Literary Inspirations behind Divers Books by Edward Gorey, Malcolm Whyte utilizes years of thorough research to tell an engrossing, revealing story about Gorey’s unique works.

Exploring a sampling of Gorey’s eclectic writings, from The Beastly Baby and The Iron Tonic to The Curious Sofa and Dracula, Whyte uncovers influences of Herman Melville, Agatha Christie, Edward Lear, the I Ching, William Hogarth, Rene Magritte, Hokusai, French cinema, early toy books, eighteenth-century religious tracts for children, and much more.

With an enlightening preface by Gorey collaborator and scholar Peter F. Neumeyer, Gorey Secrets brings important, uncharted insight into the genius of Edward Gorey and is a welcome addition to collections of both the seasoned Gorey reader and those who are just discovering his captivating books.


"Like the fictional detective Hercule Poirot, Malcolm Whyte has sifted through all the evidence and gathered us in the library to reveal the hidden meanings and inspirations behind the works of Edward Gorey. Gorey Secrets is meticulously researched and cunningly presented. Newcomers and seasoned Goreyphiles alike will be delightfully enlightened by each revelation. "

- Irwin Terry, author of Goreyana (, an ongoing exploration of all things Gorey since 2008

"Here is a delightful kind of skeleton key to the faux-macabre world of Edward Gorey. The ferociously well-read Gorey is a most elusive quarry for annotators. Hats off to Malcolm Whyte for having tracked down and traced such a broad sampling of this beguiling omnivore's affinities and inspirations. "

- Leonard S. Marcus, children's book historian and author of Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature and Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration

"Malcolm Whyte has done us all a service by exploring and explaining the incredibly complex tangle of Edward Gorey’s sources, influences and inspirations. Everything is in the mix, from Melville and Lear to Agatha Christie and the Brothers Grimm, from Hogarth and Redon to Matisse and children’s illustrations, as well as the I Ching. Richly illustrated and beautifully designed, this lively monograph is a deeply rewarding celebration of Gorey’s creative genius. "

- Frank Robinson, director emeritus at Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

"Malcolm Whyte’s book Gorey Secrets is a very welcome addition into the understanding of Gorey’s published works. A must-read for Gorey fans. "

- Rick Jones, Gorey friend and retired director/curator of the Edward Gorey House

"A veritable treasure trove of behind-the-scenes information about the many inspirations and influences Edward Gorey drew upon to create his unique books"


"Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was an established, prolific author and artist. He wrote and illustrated some 100 books, and he illustrated several 100 more. Gorey considered himself an author first, then an artist. This book explores his inspirations and the meanings behind his work. Whyte, an established literary writer and a fan of Gorey, set three goals in crafting this book: to convey the fun and excitement in searching for Gorey's influences, to contribute fresh insights abut Gorey's works, and to give those new to Gorey the infinite pleasure of getting to know him. Whyte gathered all the evidence--from public and private resources, including his own substantial collection of Gorey's books, drawings paintings and books--in his quest to reveal the hidden meanings and inspiration behind Gorey's work. Meticulously researched and rich in detail, Gorey Secrets explores everything, from Hogarth and Redon to Matisse and children's illustrations, from Melville to Lear to Agatha Christie, the Brothers Grimm, and many more."

- A.J. Ezzo, Lake Erie College, CHOICE

"Whyte’s book urges Gorey’s admirers to engage in new readings of familiar titles while equipped with fresh insights, reminding us that much of Gorey’s power resides in that most “mildly unsettling” aspect of his work: the sense that there is always more to uncover in his books,"

- Nikola Novaković, Libri & Liberi