Grip the Raven — the Dickens-Poe Connection Revealed; Corrections Approved for Christmas Bubba

What shall we call it?  Another pre-Christmas literary treat, this one especially for pet lovers perhaps?  Be that as it may, “Did You Know Charles Dickens’ Pet Raven Inspired Edgar Allan Poe?” by Julia Mason on HISTORYBUFF.COM, brought to us via Joel Eisenberg and Lisa Morton on the HWA’s Facebook page, lays out the skinny:  “We recently discovered that Charles Dickens had a pet raven named Grip. The illustrious avian appeared as a minor character in the author’s 1841 serialized mystery novel, BARNABY RUDGE.  This is, in and of itself, the best news ever.  Then we found out that Dickens’ pet inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write ‘The Raven.’  Which basically makes Grip a literary god.”

Grip, it seems, was bought by Dickens as, essentially, research material for BARNABY RUDGE.  Thus, Mason tells us, “[o]n 28 January 1841, Dickens wrote to his friend George Cattermole: ‘My notion is to have [Barnaby] always in company with a pet raven, Dickens-Raven-Barnaby-Rudgewho 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.’”  While of Poe, while Grip may not deserve all the credit, “most scholars agree that the feisty bird helped inspire his 1845 poem ‘The Raven.’  Poe wrote a review of BARNABY RUDGE for GRAHAM’s MAGAZINE in Philadelphia in 1842.  Although Poe praised the book, he thought Dickens should have given Grip a starring role:  ‘The raven, too, intensely amusing as it is, might have been . . . prophetically heard in the course of the drama.’”

And so it goes.  The “feisty bird” — and Grip apparently was, having eventually been exiled from Dickens’s home to the carriage house — alas died young, most likely of lead poisoning.  The author’s children, it is reported, were glad to see him go.  However, by a concatenation of fate, his stuffed form may still be found today in Philadelphia USA in the Free Library’s Rare Book Department.

For more details, to return to Mason, “Here’s a primer on the coolest pet in avian history” — and for which, press here.

Then for a short note, Saturday’s email also brought PDFs of the corrected pages for “Bubba Claus Conquers the Martians” from Joanne Merriam of Upper Rubber Boot Books, to be published in THE MUSEUM OF ALL THINGS AWESOME AND THAT GO BOOM in, if all goes well, earlyish 2016 (cf. December 1, September 3, et al.).  Thus, even though not a Christmas anthology itself, it will have a Christmas story by me, and be out as well not all that far from Christmas.

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  1. I didn’t know about Dickens’ pet raven, so now I am joyfully edified! Thanks, Jim!

  2. Yes, isn’t this the neatest bit of trivia for Christmas! (I have visions of Grip diving to peck the children’s ankles, much like Wednesday’s “Sabertooth Cave Cat” game where she hides beneath the dining room table waiting for the catsitter to walk past on her way to the kitchen*)

    *Or, “biting the foot that feeds you?”




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