Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer

During their collaboration on three books in the late sixties, artist and author Edward Gorey exchanged a wealth of missives with writer Peter F. Neumeyer. The letters and accompanying ephemera showcased in the book Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer, edited by Neumeyer and published by Pomegranate in September, reveal the power of creative connections and the boundless artfulness of correspondence.

Even the envelopes Gorey sent to Neumeyer were often illustrated and addressed with calligraphic flair.

Edward Gorey (left) and Peter Neumeyer pose on the buoy in Barnstable Harbor, Gorey's first home on Cape Cod, where the two first met.

Early correspondence between Gorey and Neumeyer centered on the children's book Donald and the..., which Neumeyer had originally written and illustrated in watercolor for his children. On the upper left corner of the letter accompanying this housefly illustration, Gorey taped the head of the "model." ("I add that it was a corpse before I began using it," Gorey wrote.)

Gorey is known for his creature creations, wrought with slyly dark humor. In his own life, he had great respect for the tiny lives that inspired his drawings—in fact, he dedicated his estate to the benefit of animals, "not only cats, dogs, whales, and birds, but also bats, insects, and invertebrates."

Edward Gorey and Peter Neumeyer, both voracious readers, often exchanged insights discovered in books. Here, Gorey quotes Lady Murasaki, author of The Tale of the Genji; ancient philospher Gorgias; Jorge Luis Borges; and Ouida, pen name of novelist Maria Louise Ramé. (To read the quotations, click here.)

"O the horror of it all," Gorey writes in a February 1969 letter to Neumeyer. "I'm so distracted from?/by? drawing that I just can't cope with anything else for the present, however long that is."

"Yet another infant carried off—how sad," Gorey wrote of the scene on this envelope. "The altitude is in process of turning it blue with cold. It has reached the lavender stage apparently."

“I wrote to Edward Gorey that Helen had found his envelope illustration of the blue infant sad," Neumeyer says of his wife's reaction to the previous image. "We soon received another, wherein the baby triumphs.”

The title page for the final Gorey-Neumeyer collaboration, Why We Have Day and Night.