William Wilson

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Edgar Allan Poe (1809—1849) American short-story writer, poet, and critic


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William Wilson Wurster (1895—1973)


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Story by Poe, published in 1839 and collected in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). The description of school life in England is partly autobiographical.

The central figure is a willful, passionate youth, who at Dr. Bransby's boarding school leads all his companions except one, a boy of his own age and appearance who bears the same name of William Wilson. This double maintains an easy superiority, which frightens Wilson, and haunts him by constant patronage and protection, noticed only by Wilson himself, whose sense of persecution increases until he flees from the school. He goes to Eton and Oxford, and then travels about Europe, following a career of extravagant indulgence, and becoming degenerate and vicious. At critical times his double invariably appears to warn him or destroy his power over others. Finally at Rome, when the double appears to prevent his planned seduction of the Duchess Di Broglio, Wilson is infuriated, engages the other in a sword fight, and murders him. As the double lies dying, he tells Wilson: “You have conquered … Yet henceforward art thou also dead…. In me didst thou exist—and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself.”

Subjects: Literature.

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