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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:19:04 -0700
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Friends of the Dickens Forum,

     The history of Dickens's famous raven, Gip,  gets it most detailed 
account in Lucinda Hawksley's
article forwarded to us by Herb Moscovitz: (Yes, Poe's raven gets its 

> **
> **
> http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150820-the-mysterious-tale-of-charles-dickenss-raven
> Charles Dickens’s beloved pet raven not only inspired the author but 
> other great artists. Lucinda Hawksley tells the story of a charismatic 
> bird.
>   * By Lucinda Hawksley
> 20 August 2015In 2012, the Tower of London welcomed two new 
> inhabitants: a pair of ravens named Jubilee and Grip. Their arrival 
> celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the bicentenary of Charles 
> Dickens’s birth. This Grip was the third of the Tower ravens to be 
> named after the novelist’s own pet bird. One of his predecessors was 
> resident during World War Two; he and his mate Mabel were the only 
> ravens to survive a bombing attack on the Tower.Dickens’s Grip, who 
> had an impressive vocabulary, appears as a character in the author’s 
> fifth novel, Barnaby Rudge. On 28 January 1841, 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.”Unfortunately, just a few weeks 
> after Dickens wrote that letter, Grip died, probably as a result of 
> having stolen and eaten paint some months earlier. The bird had 
> developed a strange habit – tearing sections off painted surfaces 
> (including the family's carriage) and even drinking a quantity of 
> white paint out of a tin. Dickens mourned his loss and wrote a wryly 
> humorous letter to his friend, the illustrator Daniel Maclise, about 
> the raven’s death.
> *Dickens’s Grip appears as a character in the author’s fifth novel, 
> Barnaby Rudge (Credit: Chronicle/Alamy)*He related how, when Grip 
> began to show signs of ailing, the vet was called and “administered a 
> powerful dose of castor oil”. Initially this seemed to have a positive 
> effect and the author was thrilled to see Grip restored to his usual 
> personality when he bit the coachman (who was used to the raven and 
> took it in good humour). The following morning, Grip was able to eat 
> “some warm gruel”, but his recovery was short lived.As Dickens wrote 
> to Maclise, “On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly 
> agitated, but soon recovered, walking twice or thrice along the 
> coach-house, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed ‘Halloa old girl’ 
> (his favourite expression) and died. He behaved throughout with a 
> decent fortitude, equanimity, and self-possession, which cannot be too 
> much admired... The children seem rather glad of it. He bit their 
> ankles. But that was play.”Following Grip’s death, Dickens replaced 
> him with two new birds: a second raven, also called Grip, and an 
> eagle. The second Grip, was, Dickens’s eldest daughter Mamie wrote in 
> her memoirs, “mischievous and impudent”, and was succeeded by a third 
> Grip, who Henry Dickens (son of the novelist) recorded as being so 
> able to “dominate” the family’s large mastiff, Turk, so that the dog 
> would stand back from his bowl and allow the raven to steal all the 
> tastiest morsels of meat from his dinner.It was during Charles and 
> Catherine Dickens’s six-month trip to the United States in 1842 – on 
> which voyage Maclise’s portrait of the Dickens children and Grip also 
> travelled – that Charles Dickens met Edgar Allan Poe. In recent years, 
> Poe had published several favourable reviews of Dickens’s work, so 
> when Poe requested a meeting in Philadelphia, Dickens was happy to 
> agree. Few of their letters have survived, but it seems that Dickens 
> offered to help Poe find a British publisher (he was unsuccessful). 
> Poe had enjoyed Dickens’s descriptions of the raven in Barnaby Rudge 
> and was enchanted to discover he was based on Dickens’s own bird. Poe 
> had described Grip in his review of the novel as “intensely 
> amusing.”Although there is no concrete proof, most Poe scholars are in 
> agreement that the poet’s fascination with Grip was the inspiration 
> for his 1845 poem The Raven. Poe’s lines “In there stepped a stately 
> Raven of the saintly days of yore; / Not the least obeisance made he; 
> not a minute stopped or stayed he; / But, with mien of lord or lady, 
> perched above my chamber door” are suggestive of the description of 
> Barnaby’s raven in Chapter 6 of Barnaby Rudge who “After a short 
> survey of the ground, and a few sidelong looks at the ceiling and at 
> everybody present in turn… fluttered to the floor, and went to Barnaby 
> – not in a hop, or walk, or run, but in a pace like that of a very 
> particular gentleman with exceedingly tight boots on, trying to walk 
> fast over loose pebbles.”
> *Most Poe scholars agree that Grip was the inspiration for his 1845 
> poem The Raven (Credit: CreateSpace)*Poe’s The Raven was published 
> just four years before the poet’s mysterious death at the age of 40. 
> It was an instant success and has become one of his best-known works. 
> Even though his brief friendship with Dickens had soured, the two men 
> were to remain forever connected through their ravens. In 1848, the 
> poet James Russell Lowell wrote, “There comes Poe with his raven, like 
> Barnaby Rudge, / Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer 
> fudge.” Dickens honoured the memory of his troubled and unhappy friend 
> in 1868, when he visited America for a second time. He paid a call on 
> Poe’s poverty stricken mother-in-law and gave her what Poe scholar 
> Herb Moskowitz describes as “a substantial amount of money”.Poe’s poem 
> and Dickens’s pet raven would go on to inspire one of the most famous 
> paintings of the late 19th Century. In 1891, the disillusioned Paul 
> Gauguin was preparing to leave France – and his wife and children – 
> for the island of Tahiti. On the eve of his departure, his friends 
> gave him a farewell dinner at the Café Voltaire, at which Poe’s The 
> Raven was read aloud. Although Gauguin denied he had been inspired by 
> the poem, he called one of his 1897 paintings Nevermore – the word 
> repeated by the bird throughout the poem. The picture features a 
> perched bird that watches over the figures below and in the top 
> left-hand corner of the canvas, the word NEVERMORE is painted. In a 
> letter to his friend Daniel de Monfreid, written in 1897, Gauguin 
> commented, “The title is Nevermore; it is not Edgar Poe's raven 
> keeping watch, but the Devil's bird.” He also wrote that he saw the 
> painting as suggestive of “a certain savage luxuriousness of a bygone 
> age.” Gauguin’s comment on the raven had an undercurrent that he, as a 
> non-English speaker, would not have known: the word ‘dickens’ has been 
> in use as a synonym for ‘devil’ since at least the 16th Century; 
> Shakespeare used it in The Merry Wives of Windsor.*Although Gauguin 
> denied he had been inspired by The Raven, he called one of his 1897 
> paintings Nevermore – the word repeated by the bird throughout the 
> poem (Credit: Paul Gaughin)*Gauguin’s Nevermore can be seen at the 
> Courtauld Institute of Art in London, but sadly the whereabouts of the 
> original manuscript of The Raven is as much of a mystery as the 
> circumstances of Edgar Allan Poe’s death.Following the raven’s demise, 
> Charles Dickens hired a taxidermist to stuff Grip and mount him in an 
> impressive case of wood and glass. This he hung above his desk, so 
> Grip could look down on him as he wrote. After Dickens’s death in 
> 1870, a sale was held of his effects and Grip was bought by the 
> American Poe collector Colonel Richard Gimbel. The original Grip, who 
> has inspired a novelist, a poet, a painter and generations of Yeoman 
> Warders, can still be seen today at the Free Library in 
> Philadelphia.Today Grip, Jubilee and the other royal ravens wander 
> around the Tower of London all day, unfazed by the thousands of 
> tourists who flock to photograph them. At night, the ravens sleep in 
> cages, in their pairs, to protect them from the hopeful Tower foxes 
> (who have killed some of the ravens in the past, including one of 
> Grip's predecessors). Inside the cages are branches to perch on and 
> mirrors – because it is believed that ravens are one of the few 
> animals able to recognise themselves. The birds are the responsibility 
> of Yeoman Warder Chris Skaife, who enjoys the magnificent job title of 
> ‘the Ravenmaster’. The ravens can be seen plucking at his frock coat 
> with their beaks in play, eating food out of his hand and striding 
> alongside him as he walks around.
> *The current Grip is the third of the Tower ravens to be named after 
> the novelist’s own pet bird (Credit: Olivia Howitt)*There are two 
> popular myths associated with the Tower ravens: the first is of an 
> ancient prophecy decreeing that, if the ravens leave, the Tower will 
> fall; the second is that, as a result, the birds have their wings 
> clipped to stop them flying away. We know for sure that the second 
> myth is untrue: they don't have their wings clipped and are all able 
> to fly. On occasion, individual ravens have flown off on adventures 
> for several days, but have always come back. The ‘ancient’ myth is 
> reputed to date back centuries, but actually, can only be traced back 
> as far as World War Two – to the time when Grip and Mabel miraculously 
> survived the Luftwaffe, against the odds. /This story is a part of BBC 
> Britain – a new series focused on exploring this extraordinary island, 
> one story at a time. Readers outside of the UK can see every BBC 
> Britain story by heading to the/*/Britain homepage/* 
> <http://www.bbc.com/britain>/; you also can see our latest stories by 
> following us on/*/Facebook/* 
> <https://www.facebook.com/BBCBritain>/and/*/Twitter/* 
> <https://www.twitter.com/BBC_Britain>/./
> //
> *Grip in the Free Library of Philadelphia's Rare Book 
> Department*/==============================/