“William Wilson” was published in 1839. It is not one of Edgar Allan Poe’s more popular tales. It is not as fun as “Hop-Frog” or as dread inducing as “The Tell-Tale Heart.” But it is my favorite of his stories, because it taps into a narcissistic fear, that of the doppelgänger or “double-goer.” The story is about two men named William Wilson. The nominally linked males talk alike, walk alike, and dress alike. The two Williams grow up in close proximity to each other on the misty outskirts of London, much to William the narrator’s dismay, who hates the sound of his own name (it’s too common, too pedestrian) and resents this upstart William for forcing him to hear those four syllables twice as often.
It is dizzying to find someone with your name. I know; I search for them regularly. I befriend fellow Kathryn Kellehers on Facebook, sending out little electronic pings of acknowledgement. For the most part, they refuse my requests and resist my efforts to spy on their social-media accounts. But there is a Katy Kelleher in Wisconsin who allows me to see her images. On late nights, when I feel particularly alienated from myself, I peer into her life, imagining that we share some destiny, linked by consonants and vowels and perhaps a drop or two of Irish-American blood.
William Hooker did not have to look far to find another man with his name. It was a common enough appellation. But the tale of two Hookers is a strange one, for both men were not only contemporaries, they were also both wedded to gardens and bewitched by greenery. They lived in tandem, and they are often confused and conflated. But there were two William Hookers, and only one of them was responsible for the most enviable of inventions: Hooker’s green. Read More