the doubtful seal?

August 31st, 2012 | Uncategorized

Hol and I are on Cape Cod. On our way we stopped in at the Edward Gorey Museum.


Here I am with the sculpture of The Doubtful Guest.


A few days after this we trekked with friends out to see the seals who congregate on a quiet sandbar. There were hundreds of them lolling about in the sun.


A naturalist there explained that most of them were gray seals, and a few were harbor seals. The harbor seals are smaller and cuter, with “cocker spaniel faces,” while the gray seals can be distinguished by their Roman nose, or “horse face.” (photo below is not mine, I grabbed it from google image search.)

gray seal


Holly was struck by the resemblance to The Doubtful Guest. And now we wonder if the seals were perhaps Gorey’s inspiration for that compelling character. He wrote TDG in 1957. I don’t know when he started coming to the Cape, or if he ever ventured out to look at seals. But it’s an interesting hypothesis.

9 Responses to “the doubtful seal?”

  1. Kate L says:

    Enjoy your holiday! I have a friend from Indiana who lived in London for a while, and who will always say, “Going on holiday” rather than use the American idiom, “Going on a holiday”. Is the latter expression just a regional, Midwestern thing, or is it more universal across the U.S.A. and/or North America?

    Is that last photo the official Cape Cod Seal of Approval?

  2. Andrew B says:

    The Guest certainly does look aquatic, especially the forelimbs. But on the other hand, they look more like penguin wings to me. But on the other other hand, Holly has been out to Cape Cod to observe the Guest herself, and I have not.

  3. Calico says:

    Aw, Gorey! Sounds like lots of fun.
    And, this sounds interesting – I hope it works out well for everyone! Discuss.

  4. Acilius says:

    Edward Gorey Museum- that’s it, we’re going to Cape Cod.

    Kate, I’ve spent time in Indiana and surrounding states and have never heard anyone say “going on a holiday.” I’ve heard Brits and Anglophiles in those areas talk about “going on holiday,” but among the natives it’s “going on vacation,” “taking a trip,” “traveling,” etc.

  5. NLC says:

    I agree. Speaking as a native hoosier, I had never heard “holiday” used to mean “a vacation” or “time off” (or for that matter to mean anything other than, well, a holiday) until I was in college.

    (Of course, there’s the separate interesting –well to me– issue of the British usage of the article in cases like this. I.e. “going on holiday” vs “going on a holiday”; ditto “at university” or “in hospital” which sounds so weird to American ears.)

  6. Edward Gorey Museum?! I agree — it’s time to visit the Cape again. I found a battered poster of his alphabet of Gashlycrumb Tinies. Maybe I could cut and paste it into macabre greeting cards.

    Also have to say I’m envious of that green, green lawn. Rainless weeks here in Colorado are taking their toll.

    Meanwhile, I’m off to the Pawnee Grasslands in northeast Colorado to look at birds and stars.

    Have a good Labor Day weekend to all those who celebrate.

  7. Dr. Empirical says:

    I’d always assumed that the Doubtful Guest was a penguin, but that was obviously just an assumption.

    It also occurred to me that the previous post, about re-runs, has an additional level to it, what with Milkweed watching a re-run.

  8. Lena says:

    Gorey – just found a “Gorey Creatures” postcard book while moving this weekend. Coincidence.

    Another thing: sharks to watch out for on Cape Cod…

  9. Aslo White says:

    An Edward Gorey Museum? Why haven’t I heard of this?! Awesome pics, and hypothesis.