|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (May 2008)|
|A Series of Unfortunate Events character|
|First appearance||The Bad Beginning|
|Last appearance||The Penultimate Peril|
|Created by||Lemony Snicket|
|Portrayed by||Timothy Spall|
|Family||Polly Poe (wife)
Edgar Poe (son)
Albert Poe (son)
Eleanora Poe (sister)
Arthur Poe (often referred to as Mr. Poe) is a fictional character in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series. Mr. Poe is a banker in charge of the Baudelaire and Quagmire fortunes and the Baudelaire orphans' guardianship. He is distinguished by a congenital cough, purblind demeanor, and general inefficacy in caring for both sets of children.
Poe is the first to bring the news of Bertrand and Beatrice's death to the Baudelaire children. As executor of the Baudelaire estate, he interprets the will's instructions that the children "be raised in the most convenient way possible" as meaning they should remain within the city limits, and arranges for their distant cousin Count Olaf to take custody. When the Baudelaires contact Poe at his bank, Mulctuary Money Management, to report Olaf's abuse, the banker points out that Olaf is acting in loco parentis, and can raise them as he sees fit. However, when Olaf traps Sunny in a birdcage and attempts to force Violet to marry him, Poe invokes citizen's arrest just prior to Count Olaf's escape.
Following these events, Poe successively places the children under the care of Monty Montgomery, Josephine Anwhistle, Sir, Jerome and Esmé Squalor, and finally the Village of Fowl Devotees, acting as their temporary guardian in the interim. When the Baudelaires escape the village amidst accusations of murder (and later arson and kidnapping), Poe is one of the few adults to maintain the Baudelaires' innocence and disbelieve the incriminating Daily Punctilio articles published by his sister Eleanora. When the Baudelaires return to the city to meet up with V.F.D., Poe intervenes on a tip from a "J.S." (initials variously used by Jerome Squalor, Justice Strauss, Count Olaf, Esmé Squalor, and possibly others) with the intent of clearing the Baudelaires' names and restoring his role as executor, but the children refuse to accompany him. After Mrs. Bass robs Mulctuary Money Management, Poe is placed in charge of the investigation, which leads him to the Hotel Denouement. When the hotel is set on fire, Poe is on the third floor. Whether he survives or not is left unanswered.
Although his primary responsibility in the books is to help the Baudelaires, the Baudelaires do not think he is helpful (Lemony Snicket describes him as being as helpful as a jar of mustard). His focus on his banking career seems to make him completely oblivious to the hardships and danger of the Baudelaires. Though the Baudelaires seem to be much more intelligent than Poe, he completely dismisses and ignores everything they say as "ramblings of little children". Some fans of the series believe that Poe is being deliberately unhelpful and ignorant - (that he is actually a villain or a member of V.F.D., although there is no evidence in the books to suggest this), this could also just be a result of his incompetence. In The Penultimate Peril, Justice Strauss at one point calls him "that idiotic banker." On many occasions he expresses a thought which is the exact opposite of what the Baudelaires are imagining, such as in The Vile Village when the Baudelaires comment that the death of Quigley does not change the birth identity of the Quagmires as triplets, while Mr. Poe says that the death of Quigley changes their birth identity, and in The Austere Academy when the Baudelaires interpret the term "cakesniffer" as an insult, while Poe interprets it as a "nice term that reminds him of pastry".
Poe's employer is Mulctuary Money Management. In several of the books, he seems to be very excited about receiving a promotion. His title at Mulctuary Money Management in The Bad Beginning is not stated, but at the start of The Miserable Mill, while on a train to Paltryville, he announces to the children that he is now Vice-President in Charge of Coins. Then in the sixth book in the series, The Ersatz Elevator, he becomes Vice-President in Charge of Orphan Affairs. Esmé Squalor deems him an "unstylish banker". After making a short appearance when he lets the Baudelaires choose a town at a new program where they let an entire village be a guardian of an orphan/orphans, he loses touch with the Baudelaires until a brief appearance of him in end of The Grim Grotto on Briny Beach, right before the Baudelaires meet Kit Snicket.
Count Olaf reveals that Poe had adoption papers hidden under his hat at some point after his promotion to Vice President in Charge of Orphan Affairs (which occurs before the start of The Ersatz Elevator); Mr. Poe is implied in the rare edition of The Bad Beginning to have something hidden under his hat. Olaf also mentions that "at the time" Mr. Poe was better known under his stage name, implying that Poe also works as an actor.
Mr. Poe was staying at the Hotel Denouement investigating the robbery of his bank by Mrs. Bass when the hotel was burned down during The Penultimate Peril, but it is unknown whether or not he escaped. It may also merely be Lemony Snicket's pessimistic writing style - the books offer no further information on Mr. Poe's fate. In The End, Mr. Poe does not appear, but an islander called Sadie seems to know Mr. Poe and his occupation. It is, however, possible that Mr. Poe survived the burning of the Hotel. In The Penultimate Peril Snicket says "it wasn't Mr. Poe's destiny to be killed by a harpoon gun, at least not this evening in particular." This means that Mr. Poe may be killed on another occasion, by a Harpoon Gun and may suggest that he survived the Hotel burning.
Mr. Poe has a wife (Polly) and two children, Edgar and Albert. They appear in The Bad Beginning. The names of his two children is a reference to Edgar Albert Guest, keeping with the trend throughout the books of literary allusions. He also has a sister named Eleonora Poe, a reporter for the Daily Punctilio, which references to the short story Eleonora written by Edgar Allan Poe himself.
In the 2004 film, he was portrayed by actor Timothy Spall. In the film, Poe remains overwhelmingly obtuse. He is patronizing to the children, and is generally unhelpful with finding them new guardians and fulfilling his duty to keep them safe. He is also shown to be gullible as he thought Stephano (Olaf in disguise) was a real man and fiend when Olaf made an attempt to regain custody of the orphans. Despite this, he has unique loyalty towards them and when he finds out Olaf's true intentions, he is the first to turn against the felon. He evidenced himself to have a heart of gold at the end of the film when he stopped by the Baudelaire's burned down mansion for the kids to get one final look at it before driving off to find another legal guardian.
- The Bad Beginning
- The Reptile Room
- The Wide Window
- The Miserable Mill
- The Austere Academy
- The Ersatz Elevator
- The Vile Village
- The Grim Grotto
- The Penultimate Peril
- p. 134, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 52, The Reptile Room
- p. 15, The Bad Beginning
- p. 65, The Bad Beginning
- p. 155, The Bad Beginning
- p. 317, The Grim Grotto
- p. 136, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 334, The Penultimate Peril
- In The Miserable Mill