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The Coats of Edward Gorey

January 4, 2011 | by

Over the years, Edward Gorey collected twenty-one fur coats, which he was notorious for wearing with Converse sneakers, often to the New York City Ballet. Sometime in the eighties, however (he died in 2000), Gorey seems to have had a change of heart. He opened portions of his home to a family of raccoons that finally settled in the attic. According to a tour guide at the Edward Gorey House, this was an act of penance; Gorey felt guilty for wearing their fur. At some point he locked up his coats in a storage facility. In his will, he left his entire estate to the care and welfare of animals.

Among the many beneficiaries of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust: the Xerces Society, dedicated to biological diversity through invertebrate conservation; the Bat Conservation International Foundation; and the Animals League of Boston (Cape Cod branch). But because of this commitment to our furry friends, the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust faced a difficult decision when it came to his coats. One of them—the one Gorey sketched most frequently—hangs on display in the museum. But the cost of properly storing the others was exorbitant. The trustees began to sell one coat a year. After some deliberation, the trustees decided last year to auction off the remainder in one go. For a Gorey fan, it was an unimaginable opportunity.

The sale was held at Bloomsbury Auctions on West 48th Street in New York. Despite some advance press, it was a sparsely attended affair; most of the seats were empty. Of the dozen or so people scattered among the seats, most showed the true and devoted look of a Gorey fan. The coats hung on a rack in the back of the room, and people took turns trying them on. One raven-haired woman posed for a picture, wrapping the fur around her. As we took our seats, an older gentleman sat down behind us, wearing a three-piece suit with a watch chain—the kind of ensemble Gorey could have sketched in his sleep.

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