The ‘blurb’ (inside the front cover)
Believing William Legrand to have gone insane following an insect bite, his friend initially decries his quest for gold as the ramblings of a madman. Yet when Legrand’s conviction refuses to waiver, they set off on a bizarre journey, accompanied by Jupiter, Legrand’s loyal and equally sceptical servant. What follows is a strange tale of coded messages, hidden treasure and uncanny prophecy that will both baffle and enthral even the most perceptive of readers.
Part horror story, part detective fiction, ‘The Gold Bug’ is an ingenious and imaginatively told tale bearing all the hallmarks of Poe’s remarkable narrative skill. It is presented here alongside two other stories of obsession, ‘The Sphinx’ and ‘William Wilson’
This is my first taste of Poe and this collection actually contains three short stories, although the only mention of this fact is inside the front cover!
The main story is narrated by an unnamed friend of Legrand who observes how his friend becomes obsessed with finding treasure after being bitten by a golden coloured scarab-like beetle. After finding said treasure, Legrand then explains how he went about solving a cipher which would eventually lead him to the hiding place.
Legrand’s servant Jupiter is a black man, whose dialogue is written phonetically and sometimes I found it difficult to follow so had to read it quite slowly! The way Jupiter is portrayed has been criticised as being stereotypical and that his accent is inauthentic, but I think one has to remember that when the story was written (1843) this portrayal would have been entirely acceptable.
Although I enjoyed it I didn’t think of it as being a ‘horror’ story at all like the ‘blurb’ suggests.
The second story in the collection, The Sphinx, is only 6 pages long (and can be read online here ). I won’t say too much about it as I don’t want to give anything away, but I thought it was great – very clever!
The final story, William Wilson, is a story of doppelgangers – William Wilson attends school where another boy with the same name of him joins the school on the same day as him and shares the same birthday! He also looks quite a lot like William.
Wilson leaves the school and after spending time at home, he enters Eton and then Oxford where his lifestyle becomes more and more debauched. His obsession with his double, who seems to turn up at every opportunity, consumes him and eventually leads him to attack his double. This was definitely the darkest of the three stories and also my favourite and I shall definitely be looking out for more by this author.