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The Life, Death, and Afterlife of Charles Dickens’s Raven

A raven by the name of Grip is a central character in the 1841 Charles Dickens novel Barnaby Rudge. What you might not know is that there was a real Grip. In fact, Grip led Dickens to develop an affection for ravens that lasted the remainder of his life.  

In his preface to Barnaby Rudge Dickens reveals that the fictional Grip was based on two real ravens.  The first was the model for Phiz’s illustrations in the first Cheap Edition of the novel, and Dickens, who at the time was living at no.1 Devonshire Terrace, near Regent’s Park, loved it dearly.  But in the spring of 1841 it suffered an untimely death, a loss that Dickens would have us believe left him inconsolable.  He broke the news to his friend, the painter Daniel Maclise, in a letter sent in an envelope with an enormous black seal.  The raven had in fact been ill for some time, and in spite of (or because of) the attentions of a local veterinarian by the name of William Herring, who fed it quantities of castor oil, it went into a steady decline.  Talkative to the end, its final croak was “Halloa old girl!”, which, as Dickens explained to Maclise, had been its favourite expression.

Dickens mourned the passing of Grip, but that was far from the end of the old raven's story. His carcass was stuffed, and went on a whole new set of adventures. There were also a couple of new ravens that came to take his place in Dickens' life, with their own personalities. Read about the ravens who inspired Charles Dickens at London Overlooked. -via Strange Company


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