One can usually identify Edward Gorey to those not familiar with his name by reminding them of the opening credits for pbs’s Mystery!. But this represents a single item in an oeuvre that includes over one hundred books of his own authorship, illustrations for fifty more written by others, designs for the stage, and stuffed animals that he sewed himself. Nearly 200 works are featured in an exhibition entitled “Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey,” which originated at the Brandywine Museum and now appears at the Boston Athenæum, accompanied by a catalogue written beautifully by The New Criterion’s own Karen Wilkin. The show attests to the pictorial genius of a man with outsize erudition, a maudlin yet gleeful sense of humor, and an infectious love of language.

Gorey may not have been the first to mark off the territory between death and light entertainment—credit for that probably goe ...