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Gorey’s Childhood and Early Life

Edward St. John Gorey was born February 22, 1925, the only child of Helen Dunham St. John Garvey and Edward Leo Gorey, a Chicago newspaperman.  The Garvey side came from Ireland in the 1850s.  His grandfather was an executive with Illinois Bell.  His maternal grandmother Helen St. John Garvey was a popular nineteenth century greeting card designer and artist for A.C. McClurg.  His paternal grandparents emigrated from Ireland in the late 1880s.

Gorey was precocious and created his first drawings at age three and a half. “My first drawing was of the trains that used to pass by my grandparents’ house, done at age three and a half.  The composition was of various sausage shapes. There was a sausage for the railway car, sausages for the wheels, and little sausages for the windows.  I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in the Army." Jane Merrill Filstrup, “An Interview with St. John Gorey at the Gotham Book Mart”, The Lion and the Unicorn, November 1, 1978.  Ascending Peculiariaty, p. 75

He taught himself to read at an early age. “I learned to read by myself when I was about three and a half or something.  I can remember reading Dracula when I was about seven, and it scared me to death, but I can’t imagine what I was getting out of it.  A lot of it must have been totally over my head.  I remember reading all the novels of Victor Hugo when I was about eight, which is more than I can do now.  I started trying to read one a couple of years ago.  Tedium, dear God.  I still remember Victor Hugo being forcefully removed from my tiny hands when I was about eight, so I could eat my supper.  They couldn’t get me to put him down.” Robert Dahlin, Conversations with Writers, Volume 1, 1977.  Ascending Peculiarity, p. 24-49

“We moved around a lot when I was a child; I never quite understood that, I mean, at one point I skipped two grades at Grammar School, but I went to five different Grammar Schools, so I was always changing schools, it seemed to me, when I was at Grammar School which I didn’t like.

    I hated moving and we were always doing it.  Sometimes we just moved a block away into another apartment; it was all very weird.  But then I look back and try to figure out what my family was like and I’m completely blank on the subject.  I mean, I could never write an autobiography because I would have the slightest idea of what to say about anything.”  Simon Henwood, Purr, Spring 1995. Ascending Peculiarity, p. 166.

Gorey’s Childhood and Early Life