A taxidermied raven in the Free Library of Philadelphia didn’t just inspire his owner Charles Dickens, he also served as the avian inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s ominous black bird.
Illustration for an 1884 edition of The Raven by Gustave Doré (via Wikimedia)
Grip the Raven was a beloved pet of Dickens, and he was so charmed by the mischievous, talkative bird that he made him a character in his serialized narrative Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty, where at one point, in a sure inspiration to Poe, someone asks, at hearing a noise: ”What was that — him tapping at the door?” Poe himself reviewed the book, and although he was favorable, he was most fond of the raven and thought it could have played a bigger part, perhaps with some more heavy foreboding. And so Poe took Grip as inspiration as the title omen of his poem The Raven, published in 1845, not too long after the review.
Grip in taxidermy (via Atlas Obscura)
When dear Grip passed away in 1841, Dickens paid for a professional taxidermy with arsenic. As the Free Library cites, Dickens wrote a letter to his friend Daniel Maclise after Grip’s death stating:
At half past, or thereabouts, he was heard talking to himself […] and to add some incoherent expressions which are supposed to have been either a foreboding of his approaching dissolution, or some wishes relative to the disposal of his little property — consisting chiefly of halfpence which he had buried in different parts of the garden. On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly agitated, but he soon recovered, walked twice or thrice along the coach-house, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed ‘Halloa old girl!’ (his favorite expression) and died.
He behaved throughout with a decent fortitude, equanimity, and self-possession, which cannot be too much admired”
Raven statue outside the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia
(photograph by kaige/Flickr user)
After Dickens’ own death, the raven was auctioned and eventually was bought up by a collector of Poe memorabilia, and in the 1970s it arrived in Philadelphia’s Free Library. Appropriately, Grip now proudly presides over the Rare Books department, which includes manuscripts from both literary legends he inspired.
GRIP THE RAVEN: FREE LIBRARY, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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