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Philadelphia Oddities

Grip

Grip
Grip the raven

Philadelphia has landmarks galore. The most unusual is this stuffed bird recently declared a "Literary Landmark" by a national library association. Certainly no bird in history contributed more to literature then this chatty raven who inspired the prose of both Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe.

Grip was a beloved pet of Dickens. The author inserted the blabbing raven as a character in his 1841 serialized mystery novel, Barnaby Rudge. We know that Poe reviewed Barnaby Rudge and commented on the use of the talking raven, feeling the bird should have loomed larger in the plot. Literary experts surmise that the talking raven of Barnaby Rudge inspired Poe's most famous poem, The Raven, published in 1845.

When Grip died in 1841, Dickens had the bird mounted. After Dickens death, Grip was sold at auction. The mounted raven was eventually purchased by Philadelphia's Col. Richard Gimbel, a collector of all things Poe. In 1971, Gimbel's Poe collection was donated to the Free Library on Logan Circle where Grip holds a place of honor in the third-floor Rare Book Department. The Gimbel collection also includes the only known copy of The Raven in Poe's hand, manuscripts of Annabel Lee and Murders in the Rue Morgue and first editions of all Poe's works.

Dickens wrote an amusing tongue-in-cheek account of Grip's death in a letter to a friend. Grip's last words, according to the author, included instructions for disposal of his property. "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."

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