|“||I'm afraid I have some very bad news for you children. Your parents... have perished in a terrible fire. They perished... in a fire that destroyed the entire house. I'm very, very sorry to tell you this, my dears. Perish means killed, by the way.||”|
— Mr. Poe to the Baudelaire orphans at the beach, The Bad Beginning
Arthur Poe is a recurring character in A Series of Unfortunate Events.
He is a financial banker at Mulctuary Money Management who is later promoted to Vice President in Charge of Orphan Affairs during the series. He is in charge of managing the Baudelaire fortune, and later, the Quagmire Fortune.
|“||Mr. Poe meant well, but a jar of mustard probably also means well and would do a better job of keeping the Baudelaires out of danger. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny had long ago learned that the only thing they could count on from Mr. Poe was that he was always coughing.||”|
— Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy
Arthur Poe exemplified the Kafkaesque loop that continually kept the Baudelaires in Count Olaf's clutches. He was well-intentioned, but painfully myopic, ludicrously gullible, and naïvely convinced that at every turn the Baudelaries were finally safe. He is easily fooled by all of Count Olaf's disguises and reacted with dismissal and counter-arguments when the Baudelaires voiced their reasoning. Mr. Poe is so unhelpful that he accidentally called a Vietnamese restaurant instead of the police when the Quagmires were being kidnapped.
When sure that Count Olaf was near, he was quick-acting and even incisive, quickly dismantling Count Olaf's excuses. However, this only ever came too late, as Poe was mainly committed to his banking career and family.
In the TV series, Mr. Poe's annoying attributes are exemplified to the absurdity and cruelty. He is seen leaving the Baudelaires to burn to death because he doubts their innocence.
In all adaptations, he has a persistent cough, which often heralds his arrival into a particular scene. In Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, someone records a conversation between Mr. Poe and his sister at the Anxious Clown. During the conversation, it is revealed that Mr. Poe has had the cough since childhood.
In the books, his wife is Polly. His sister, Eleanora Poe, is believed to be a V.F.D. member as well as the Editor-in-Chief for the The Daily Punctilio; she assigned Lemony Snicket to be the dramatic critic for the very same newspaper.
In the TV series, Eleanora is no longer his sister and is instead his wife. Eleanora is still a reporter for The Daily Punctilio, although any involvement with V.F.D. is unclear.
It is also revealed by Count Olaf that Mr. Poe had a stage name in The End, although it still remains unknown what that name was.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Note: This section pertains to the books, although most aspects carry over to the film and TV series.
The Bad Beginning
Poe is the first to bring the news of Bertrand and Beatrice's death to the Baudelaire children at Briny Beach. 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. Before going to Olaf's, the Baudelaires briefly stay at his house.
When the Baudelaires contact Poe at his bank, Mulctuary Money Management, to report Olaf's abuse, the children call Olaf a madman, mention they are only provided one bed, forced to do many chores, say Olaf drinks too much wine, has many terrible friends, and is always asking about their money. The banker points out that Olaf is acting "in loco parentis ", and can raise them as he sees fit, even if they may not like some aspects, even not caring about the fact that Klaus was slapped across the face, angering Violet. Mr. Poe says, "Now, I hate to usher you out posthaste, but I have very much work to do. Posthaste means—" "—means you'll do nothing to help us," Violet finished for him, shaking with frustration. Frustrated, the Baudelaires decide to suck it up and leave.
The next morning, Olaf reveals Mr. Poe blabbed to him about their visit, when they expected it to be private.
When Olaf traps Sunny in a birdcage and attempts to force Violet to marry him during The Marvelous Marriage, Poe invokes citizen's arrest just prior to Count Olaf's escape.
After the ordeal, Poe refuses to allow the children to live with Justice Strauss because he thinks following the law and original wishes of the Baudelaire parents is more important than what the children actually want for themselves.
Following these events, Poe successively places the children under the care of Montgomery "Monty" Montgomery, Josephine Anwhistle, Sir, Vice Principal Nero, 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, especially after they send him this telegram:
- To: Mr. Poe at Mulctuary Money Management
- From: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire.
- Please do not believe the story about us printed in The Daily Punctilio. Count Olaf is not really dead, and we did not really murder him. Soon after our arrival in the town of V.F.D. we were informed that Count Olaf had been captured. Although the arrested man had an eye tattooed on his ankle and one eyebrow instead of two, he was not Count Olaf. His name was Jacques Snicket.
- The next day he was found murdered, and Count Olaf arrived in town along with his girlfriend, Esmé Squalor. As part of his plan to steal the fortune our parents left behind, Count Olaf disguised himself as a detective and convinced the town of V.F.D. that we were the murderers.
- Meanwhile we discovered where the Quagmire triplets were being hidden, and helped them escape. The Quagmires managed to give us a few scraps of their notebooks so we could try to learn the real meaning of V.F.D. We have managed to flee from the citizens of the town, who want to burn us at the stake for a murder that we did not commit.
- Please reply at once. We are in grave danger.
In The Carnivorous Carnival, Violet attempts to give Mr. Poe a phone call. Mr. Poe was not a wicked person, but he had mistakenly placed them in the company of so much wickedness that he had been almost as wicked as an actual wicked person, and the children were not particularly eager to contact him again, even if it was all they could think of. However, the operator hangs up on Violet.
In The Grim Grotto, 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), saying he should go to Briny Breach. His intent is to clear the Baudelaires' names and restore his role as executor. However, 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 in The Penultimate Peril. He shows up when Count Olaf, Esmé, Hugo, Colette, and Kevin confront the Baudelaire children and Dewey Denouement which leads to an incident where Dewey is accidentally killed by the harpoon gun that a panicking Count Olaf throws into the Baudelaire children's arms which is accidentally dropped. After the Baudelaires followed a dying Dewey to the pond and are briefly offered a ride by a taxi driver, Mr. Poe came out and confronted the children where they tell him that Dewey is dead and that they don't know what happened. As the entire hotel is awakened, the Baudelaires walk back into the hotel with Mr. Poe. Mr. Poe walked the children to Room 121. After Count Olaf is taken to Room 165, Mr. Poe can only do a cough after Justice Strauss and Jerome Squalor gave them a wave when the room closed. During the trial of the Baudelaire children and Count Olaf, Mr. Poe submitted some financial records as evidence when coughing. When Mrs. Bass claimed that the Baudelaire children rob banks, Mr. Poe quoted "Who said that?" At the start of the Hotel Denouement Fire, Mr. Poe is last seen on the third floor. After hearing Sunny's voice, Mr. Poe claims that he is still in charge of the Baudelaire family's affairs as the elevator closes before he can finish talking. Whether he survives or not is left unanswered.
Unlike the books, Poe repossesses the children from Count Olaf after he "let Sunny drive." This led Poe to take the Baudelaire children to relative after relative.
During The Marvelous Marriage, when Count Olaf's plot had been exposed, he and the crowd converged on him. After Count Olaf "vanished" after a jury of his peers overturned his sentence, Poe allowed the Baudelaire children to visit the ruins of their old home before being taken to their next guardian.
In the TV series, his role is mainly the same as the books, except for a few divergences. He also has a secretary named Jacquelyn Scieszka who has a recurring role in the series. He is oblivious to her involvement with V.F.D.
Mr. Poe is so inept at taking care of the Baudelaires that he loses them at the end of "The Wide Window: Part Two" (which does not happen in the books). In the beginning of "The Miserable Mill: Part One", he looks at the camera and breaks the fourth wall, saying, "It's a catastrophe! It's unprecedented! It's off-book! It's unfortunate! The Baudelaires are lost and unsupervised! Do you know what that means?" Mr. Poe says this to the fish head salesperson who is played by Daniel Handler, creating a meta joke.
In The Vile Village, he returns to the village after hearing the news that Count Olaf is dead. When the Baudelaires are planned to be burned at the stake after being accused of murder, he does not actually believe their innocence, unlike the books. When the Baudelaires ask him why he is actually here, Poe replies that he came to say goodbye before they die which he still seems a bit sad about. When Esmé accidentally injures a crow, Mr. Poe is the one who wants it taken to a vet. While one could interpret this as Poe caring for animals, it could be tongue-in-cheek humor that he's more like the insane crow-worshipping villagers than one would expect, as he previously mentioned that if burning children is part of the village rules, they must be followed.
In The Hostile Hospital, Poe goes to Heimlich Hospital because he is concerned he may have obtained swine flu from his stay at the village. He receives tickets to Violet's head-cutting surgery. When Klaus and Sunny are revealed not to be doctors, Poe is annoyed at them for performing surgery without having medical licenses. He flees and survives the hospital fire.
In The Carnivorous Carnival, he goes to the lion show at Caligari Carnival. At first, it seems he is there simply to see someone devoured, but it is later revealed he got an anonymous tip claiming he could find the Baudelaires there. He is last seen giving Mrs. Bass a ride who insists he give her a "private tour" of the bank which she secretly intends to rob.
Behind the scenes
In the film, he is portrayed by Timothy Spall.
In the video game, he is voiced by Daniel Hagen.
In the TV series, he is portrayed by K. Todd Freeman.
- "Seven. Seven. Seven. Seven. Six and a half. Seven. You're welcome." (during a phone call)
- "'In loco parentis' means 'acting in the role of parent'.It is a legal term and it applies to Count Olaf. Now that you are in his care, the Count may raise you using any methods he sees fit. I'm sorry if your parents did not make you do any household chores, or if you never saw them drink any wine, or if you like their friends better than Count Olaf's friends, but these are things that you must get used to, as Count Olaf is acting in loco parentis. Understand?"
- "Goodness! Golly! Good God! Blessed Allah! Zeus and Hera! Mary and Joseph! Nathaniel Hawthorne! Don't touch her! Grab her! Move closer! Run away! Don't move! Kill the snake! Leave it alone! Give it some food! Don't let it bite her! Lure the snake away! Here, snakey! Here, snakey snakey! It bit her! It bit her! It bited her! Calm down! Get moving! Call an ambulance! Call the police! Call a scientist! Call my wife! This is terrible! This is awful! This is ghastly! This is phantasmagorical!"
- Mr. Poe: "You must forgive the children. They tend to see Count Olaf everywhere."
Klaus: "That's because he IS everywhere."
- "Poe's the name. You must be Nero. We've talked on the phone. I received your telegram about the twenty-eight bags of candy and the ten pairs of earrings with precious stones. My associates at Mulctuary Money Management thought I'd better deliver them in person, so here I am."
- "Children, I'm very disturbed by your behavior. You look like you haven't washed in a week. You're spending your money on ridiculous items. You run around accusing everybody of being Count Olaf in disguise. And now you've made a big mess of doilies on the floor. Someone is likely to trip and fall on all these slippery napkins. I would have thought that the Squalors would be raising you better than this."
- "Count Olaf? Don't worry about him. He'll never find you here." (about the orphans being safe at the Village of Fowl Devotees)
- "How in the world did you get here? Where in the world have you been? I must admit, Baudelaires, I had given up all hope of ever finding you again! It was a shame to think that the Baudelaire fortune would just sit in the bank, gathering interest and dust! Well, never mind that now. You'd better come with me – my car's parked nearby. You have a great deal of explaining to do."
- "No? Of course you do! You've been missing for a very long time, children! It was very inconsiderate of you to run away without telling me where you were, particularly when you've been accused of murder, arson, kidnapping, and some assorted misdemeanors! We're going to get right in my car, and I'll drive you to the police station, and–"
- Mr. Poe: "Don't be absurd! I don't know where you've been, or how you got here, or why you're wearing a picture of Santa Claus on your shirts, but–"
Klaus: "It's Herman Melville. Goodbye, Mr. Poe."
- Violet: "The car is on the train tracks and the train is coming!"
Mr. Poe: "I'm sorry, Violet, I can't hear a thing. I'm driving next to a train!"
Violet: "WE'RE GOING TO BE HIT BY A TRAIN!"
Mr. Poe: "Right. Yes. I can't hear because of the train! I'll call you back when I get to the bank! Goodbye!"
- Mr. Poe: "I'm sorry, but allowing a child of Sunny's age to drive a car is simply not good parenting." (to Olaf)
Klaus: "He tried to kill us!"
Mr. Poe: "Let us not exaggerate. The vehicle was not even in gear."
- "Imagination's all well and good for children's books or digital entertainment, but this is real life." (to the Baudelaires)
- "Oh, don't be silly, children. It is quite shocking that Doctor Montgomery has died, but I am not going to simply hand you and your fortune over to his assistant. Not without some very thorough paperwork."
- "Here we are, Baudelaires. Deemo... Dimmo... Dudy Damo... Democlay... Dimoclath... Dimoclat... Demcaca... Dock." (trying to say "Damocles Dock")
- "You can't just start jumping to conclusions. You've jumped to the conclusion that this note is a forgery, and now you're jumping to the conclusion that a villainous man who swore he'd stop at nothing until he got a hold of your parents' enormous fortune is involved in some plot to get a hold of your parents' enormous fortune."
- "Here's a fun bit of trivia. The architect who built this school was severely depressed." (about Prufrock Preparatory School's design)
- "What sane man would disguise himself four times in a row?" (not believing the Baudelaires that Coach Genghis is Count Olaf)
- "I don't approve of children being burned at the stake, but it is the rules, and one must always follow the rules."
- Both his name, and those of his two sons', are derived from poet Edgar Allan Poe.
- Some fans theorize that his inability to recognize Count Olaf's face through his disguises means he may have a form of prosopagnosia. He is also apparently unable to confirm Olaf's identity through his voice, leading to speculation that Mr. Poe has phonagnosia.
- In the TV series, he owns a copy of The Pony Party! which he is a fan of.
- In the TV series, Mr. Poe has an Instagram where he needs everyone's help trying to find a suitable home for the Baudelaire orphans. It speaks to Poe's ineptitude and laziness that he would leave the fate of the orphans in the hands of random strangers on the Internet.
- Due to his extended role in the Netflix series, a theory of him being an antagonist has formed, postulating that he is trying to get the Baudelaire Fortune while having Count Olaf do the dirty work.
- The Bad Beginning
- The Reptile Room
- The Wide Window
- The Miserable Mill
- The Austere Academy
- The Ersatz Elevator
- The Vile Village
- The Hostile Hospital (Mentioned only)
- The Carnivorous Carnival (Mentioned only)
- The Slippery Slope (Mentioned only)
- The Grim Grotto
- The Penultimate Peril
- The End (Mentioned only)
- Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (film)
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (video game)
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV series)
- ↑ Lemony Snicket says "it wasn't Mr. Poe's destiny to be killed by a harpoon gun, at least not this evening in particular." This could mean that Mr. Poe will eventually be killed by a harpoon gun on a different occasion or simply, he just did not die on this particular evening.
- ↑ As implied in the rare edition edition of The Bad Beginning.