The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe may be one of the most famous poems in history. Its repetition of “Nevermore” is haunting, which is a theme that flows throughout much of Poe’s writings. The poem has been recited religiously, studied, and loved by many. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m a bit of a Poe fanatic, so when information surfaces about his life that I didn’t know before, I go a little crazy. Forgive me for the fangirling.
It turns out, The Raven, published in 1845, was inspired by the pet raven that Charles Dickens owned. Grip, the raven, was stuffed and mounted when he died, and now resides in Philadelphia at the Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department.
According to BBC, “Dickens wrote to his friend George Cattermole: ‘my notion is to have [Barnaby] always in company with a pet raven, who is immeasurably more knowing than himself. To this end I have been studying my bird, and think I could make a very queer character of him.'”
Image courtesy of History Buff
Dickens wrote about Grip in his 1841 novel, Barnaby Rudge, and Poe reviewed the book for Graham’s Magazine. While Dickens was on his book tour in the United States, Poe wrote to him requesting a meeting. Here is the response from Dickens courtesy of the Poe Museum:
“United States Hotel, March 6, 1842.
My Dear Sir, — I shall be very glad to see you whenever you will do me the favor to call. I think I am more likely to be in the way between half-past eleven and twelve, than at any other time. I have glanced over the books you have been so kind as to send me, and more particularly at the papers to which you called my attention. I have the greater pleasure in expressing my desire to see you on this account. Apropos of the “construction” of “Caleb Williams,” do you know that Godwin wrote it backwards, — the last volume first, — and that when he had produced the hunting down of Caleb, and the catastrophe, he waited for months, casting about for a means of accounting for what he had done?
Faithfully yours always,
Poe and Dickens met in 1842 in Philadelphia and Dickens brought Grip with him, so that is where it is believed that Poe got the idea for The Raven.
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