|“||I have some very bad news for you children. Your parents have perished in a terrible fire. They perished in a fire that destroyed your entire home. I'm very, very sorry to have to tell you this... my dears. "Perished" means "killed."||”|
— Mr. Poe informing the Baudelaires about the Baudelaire Fire.
Arthur Poe is a prominent recurring character in A Series of Unfortunate Events. He was a financial banker at Mulctuary Money Management who was later promoted to Vice President in charge of coins, and later Vice President in Charge of Orphan Affairs over the course of the series, leaving him mostly physically and mentally out of reach to the Baudelaire orphans whenever they needed him the most. He was placed in charge of managing the Baudelaire fortune, and later on, 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, dangerously incompetent, and naively convinced that at every turn, the Baudelaires were finally safe from harm's way, even though it was obvious that they were close to it. He was easily fooled by all of Count Olaf's disguises so he constantly reacted with dismissal and counter-arguments whenever the Baudelaires voiced their reasoning, possibly because he is an ageist and believes children are almost always unreliable. Mr. Poe was so clumsy that he accidentally called a Vietnamese restaurant instead of the police when the Quagmires were being kidnapped. He also sometimes speaks with an air of condescension and patronization to the Baudelaires as if they were immature. In this sense, readers could perceive him as a caricature of how most adults and figures of authority treat children in general. Even Justice Strauss and Esmé Squalor remembers him as "that idiotic" and "unstylish" banker, respectively.
In the Netflix series, Mr. Poe's annoying attributes are amplified to absurdity and cruelty. He was seen willingly leaving the Baudelaire orphans to burn to death in the Village of Fowl Devotees because he doubts their innocence, although he was teary-eyed when he says his goodbyes and prepared himself to grieve. Count Olaf especially called out Mr. Poe for caring more about getting a promotion at work than the safety of children. Mr. Poe also mentioned he's afraid of foreigners so he wouldn't get anything at an Indian restaurant. This is a clear indicator that he is xenophobic.
Mr. Poe also seems to be a complete slave to law and authority since he is convinced that just because something happened to be currently legal or illegal, it makes it either right, wrong or condonable. For example, in the Netflix series, this side of him was demonstrated when he stated that while he does not approve of burning children at the stake himself, he goes along with it anyway because it is the punishment for violating the rules of the Village of Fowl Devotees, and "one must always follow the rules."
Despite his grating personality and herd mentality, he is somewhat redeemable. For example, when he was certain that Count Olaf was near, he was quick-acting and even incisive, quickly dismantling Count Olaf's plans and excuses. Unfortunately, he often did so too late because he was mainly committed to his banking career and family. In The Wide Window, he had comforted the crying Baudelaires in his arms when they thought their recent guardian killed herself. In the books' canon, Mr. Poe was one of the few people who actually believed that the Baudelaire orphans were innocent when they were framed for murder. He also went on a helicopter ride to search for the missing Quagmires despite the fact that the effort was futile. In the Netflix series, he was even willing to adopt the Baudelaires and become their guardian. While this shows that he was completely ignorant towards his ineptitude at keeping the children safe, it also shows that he was willing to open his home to them despite all the stress their case had caused him.
In all adaptations, he has a persistent cough, which often heralds his arrival into a particular scene. In Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, someone recorded a conversation between Mr. Poe and his sister at the Anxious Clown. During the conversation, it is revealed that Mr. Poe has had that cough since childhood.
Arthur Poe has two children prior to the events of The Bad Beginning: Edgar and Albert. He also has a wife named Polly. They live at a house in the City. He also has a sisterby the name of Eleanora Poe who is a member as well as the Editor-in-Chief for 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 (with Polly being replaced by her). Eleanora is still a reporter for The Daily Punctilio, although any involvement with V.F.D. is unclear (she also takes the place of Geraldine Julienne).
Some may believe that Mr. Poe may also have been a member(Or have some secrets)of V.F.D. In The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition, it is said that Mr. Poe was hiding adoption papers for an unknown orphan in his hat. In The End, it is confirms by Count Olaf, that Mr. Poe hid secret documents in his hat, 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 or why he even had one.
- Note: This section pertains to the books, although most aspects carry over to the film and TV series.
Mr. 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 so called "distant cousin" named Count Olaf to take custody.
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. Frustrated, the Baudelaires decide to suck it up and leave. The next morning, Olaf reveals Mr. Poe blabbed to him about their visit, which annoyed the Baudelaires because 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, Mr. Poe invokes citizen's arrest just prior to Count Olaf's escape. After the ordeal, Mr. 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), Mr. 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(However, in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography it is revealed that he never got this telegram, after reading an article published by his sister about the dangers of telegrams. As a result, he ignores all telegrams sent to him, including the Baudelaires telegram, and a telegram from his sister saying she was locked in the basement of The Daily Punctilio):
- 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, mainly because by that point in time, Mr. Poe has placed the Baudelaires in so many unfortunate tragedies, that they are not willing to use him as their executor, and because they meet a taxi driver named Kit Snicket, who might have a clue to V.F.D.
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. While some claim that Mr. Poe might have died in the fire, they might forget that Lemony Snicket hints in book twelve that Arthur Poe eventually dies from a harpoon gun incident. He also, supposedly, hid secret documents in his hat at some point.
2004 Film Divergent Canon
Unlike the books, Mr. Poe repossesses the children from Count Olaf after he "let Sunny drive." This led Poe to take the Baudelaire children to relative after relative as the end of the first book is done after The Wide Window.
Following the incident in Lake Lachrymose, Poe and the Constable saw that Count Olaf had "redeemed himself" by rescuing the Baudelaire children from the Lachrymose Leeches. 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.
Netflix Series Divergent Canon
In the TV series, his role is mainly the same as the books, except for a few divergences, the most notable being that he appears more often in scenes in which he is absent in the books. 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., similar to how he is oblivious to many things.
It is revealed that Count Olaf disguised himself as Yessica Haircut and tricked Mr. Poe into sending the Baudelaires to him.
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. At the beginning of "The Miserable Mill: Part One", he looks at the camera and leans on 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 Miserable Mill: Part Two", Mr. Poe takes the Baudelaires to Prufrock Prep Boarding School and happily sings "That's Not How the Story Goes" as though if it plays on his car radio, whereas everyone else sings with sad looks.
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 and, due to his gullibility, is convinced it will be a safe procedure. 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 gives her a "private tour" of the bank which she secretly intends to rob.
In The Slippery Slope, Mr. Poe shows Mrs. Bass the bank. She attacks him and opens the vault. However, she decides to play a game of Go Fish with a tied-up Poe instead of trying to flee. The police come and take Mrs. Bass away. Later, Poe goes to the Mortmain Mountains and crosses paths with Kit Snicket, saying he lost his map and is lost. He mentions he experienced a bank robbery and was blamed by Mr. Tamerlane for it, so he decided to flee town and search for some orphans he misplaced. He offers Kit to work as his secretary and misunderstands her as accepting the position. Mr. Poe and Kit are attacked by Snow Gnats. Kit eventually drives Mr. Poe back to the city where they discover it's on fire.
In The Grim Grotto, Quigley Quagmire visits Mr. Poe at the bank, seeking for help to find the Baudelaires, but Mr. Poe refuses because of how problematic the Baudelaires are.
In The Penultimate Peril, he is seen with Vice Principal Nero trying to escape the hotel blindfolded. It is the last time Mr. Poe and Nero are seen in the TV series and, like the book, his survival is unclear, and it's quite possible he perished.
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 a 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?"
- "Well, I’m not satisfied at all. This is absolutely horrendous. This is completely monstrous. This is financially dreadful. I won’t allow it. I absolutely will not allow it." (about Violet marrying Olaf)
- "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."
- "Now, Klaus. You have to learn to be accepting of other cultures. I'm sorry, Coach Genghis. The children aren't usually prejudiced." (when Klaus asks Genghis to remove his turban which violates his claimed religious beliefs)
- "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."
- "Stop saying that! It's not a sad occasion! I'm having lunch with my sister." (to Larry in The Unauthorized Autobiography)
- 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."
- "I have some very bad news for you children. Your parents have perished in a terrible fire. They perished in a fire that destroyed your entire home. I'm very, very sorry to have to tell you this... my dears. "Perished" means "killed."
- "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."
- "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 ghastly! This is phantasmagorical!"
- "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."
- "And he said to me, proud as can be, you look terrible!" (telling a story, as the Baudelaires get allergic reactions)
- "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 famous poet Edgar Allan Poe.
- It is also possible that his sons' names are derived from poet Edgar Albert Guest, a man who Snicket takes numerous jabs at.
- 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 Bad Beginning: Rare Edition, Poe is mentioned to have been hiding something important in his hat. The item was confirmed to have been the adoption papers of an orphan.  
- In The Wide Window, he orders non-dairy creamer, perhaps implying he is lactose intolerant or does not support the dairy industry which is known for abusing animals.
- In The Perilous Parlor Game, Poe has a card where all he does is cough and not move a turn, because of how useless he is.
- 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.
- His constant cough is an analogy to how unfit he is to manage the orphans, because he cannot take care of his own body, much less 3 orphans.
|Eleanora Poe||Arthur Poe||Polly Poe|
|Edgar Poe||Albert Poe|
|Arthur Poe||Eleanora Poe|
|Edgar Poe||Albert Poe|
- PROSE: The Penultimate Peril
- 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.
- PROSE: The End
- PROSE: The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition