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William Wilson (short story)

short story by Edgar Allan Poe
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William Wilson is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1839.

"William Wilson"
The gift 1840 cover.jpg
The Gift, Carey and Hart, Philadelphia, 1840
AuthorEdgar Allan Poe
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Horror
Published inBurton's Gentleman's Magazine
Media typePrint
Publication dateOctober 1839

The theme is doppelganger. Another boy at his school looks and acts like himself, and was even born on the same day, January 19th (Poe's actual birth day). The first Wilson goes to the bad in life, but is haunted by his good double. After being subject to admonished at Eaton and his honor destroyed at Oxford, William [no matter where he flies to--Vienna, Berlin, Moscow] is haunted by his double in subsequent years, who thwarts plans described by William as driven by ambition [in Rome], revenge [in Paris], passionate Love [in Naples], and avarice [In Egypt]. One thing William cannot understand is that while no one knows anything about his double, his double always seems to know everything about William. Eventually he kills the double.

The now dead double appears to Wilson in a mirror, taunting him.

Poe later admitted he had got the idea from a previous story by Washington Irving about a character who kills his double.


Wilson confronts his "double" Illustration by Arthur Rackham 1935