Back Edgar Allan Poe, “William Wilson”

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)
From Selected Tales, with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

“A masquerade in the palazzo of the Neapolitan Duke di Broglio.” Detail from the frontispiece illustration by British artist Byam Shaw (1872–1919) for Selected Tales of Mystery by Edgar Allan Poe (London, 1909). (Internet Archive)

Sunday, January 19, marks the 211th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth.

For Poe Day, as has become our annual custom, we present one of his tales as our Story of the Week selection. After we posted this year’s story, “William Wilson,” we discovered that it was the direct inspiration for HBO’s new series The Outsider, which is based on a Stephen King novel. Two years ago, King told CBS News how his book was inspired by Poe’s psychological drama about doppelgängers: “The guy [Wilson] is at school, another guy comes to school who looks just like him, dresses like him, and has the same name,” King said. “And the thing that came to my mind is, what would a story be like if the evidence that somebody committed a horrible crime was ironclad. But if the evidence that the person had a perfect alibi—what if that was ironclad? You know, kind of an immovable object, an irresistible force.”

The adaptation of King’s novel is just the latest in a long series of books and movies inspired by “William Wilson”—from Dostoevsky’s novella “The Double” to Jordan Peele’s recent horror movie Us. Yet, although Poe made the story famous, its central elements can be found in literary works and legends dating back to the seventeenth century, including similar stories by Hawthorne and Irving. In the introduction to Poe’s tale on our Story of the Week site, we explain how Poe was influenced by other writers, how “William Wilson” is his most autobiographical story, and how he lied for most of his adult life about when he was born.

Read “William Wilson” by Edgar Allan Poe

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