The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey
Introduced by Marina Rendle from The End, Hay-on-Wye
‘I just LOVE Edward Gorey. I sell several of his books in my shop, The End. I love his pen and ink drawings, the way he makes fun of the Edwardian upper classes, his interest in the absurd… It makes me laugh when people say Tim Burton was influenced by Edward Gorey – it was the other way round, Tim Burton was influenced by Edward Gorey! The Doubtful Guest is about an uninvited house guest, and the awkwardness of the guest is so familiar and amusing.’
The Doubtful Guest is a short, illustrated book by Edward Gorey, first published by Doubleday in 1957. It is the third of Gorey’s books and shares with his others a sense of the absurd, meticulous cross-hatching, and a seemingly-Edwardian setting. The book begins with the sudden appearance of a strange creature in a turn-of-the-century manor house. An aristocratic family struggles to coexist with the creature, who is by turns despondent and mischievous. By the final page, the guest has stayed for seventeen years, and shows ‘no intention of going away’.
Like Gorey’s other works, The Doubtful Guest follows the traditions of surrealism and nonsense verse. It contains fourteen pages, each with an image and a rhyming couplet. Gorey began sketches and notes for The Doubtful Guest around 1955, referring to the story as “A Peculiar Visitor”. The title eventually became “The Visit”, and finally “The Doubtful Guest”. Gorey claimed the book was intended for children, although Doubleday declined to release it as a children’s book.