Dickens, Poe, and the Raven

Poe had a strong admiration for Dickens, recommending his works to American readers in a review from the Southern Literary messenger back in June 1836.

“Charles Dickens is no ordinary man, and his writings must unquestionably live”

That’s how Poe describes Dickens in an article from Burton’s Magazine, dated 1839.

In 1842, the English author went to America on tour with his wife. He wrote a letter to Poe, accepting his invitation to meet while in Philadelphia.

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, 
Charles Dickens.

During their meeting, Dickens showed a picture of his beloved pet raven, Grip. The raven had died the previous year and Dickens had him stuffed and mounted by a taxidermist. You can find him at the Free Library of Philadelphia being the popular attraction of the Rare Book Department.


Dickens wrote in a letter to a friend what were the last words of Grip, the Raven. ”On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly agitated, but he soon recovered, walked twice or thrice along the coachhouse, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed `Halloa old girl!’ (his favorite expression) and died.”

Grip has become the most famous bird in the history of literature, not only he inspired the raven companion of the main character in “Barnaby Rudge” but he was also an inspiration to Edgar Allan Poe when he wrote “The Raven”. To note that when Poe wrote a review of “Barnaby Rudge”, (he wrote two reviews), he said that the raven should have been less playful and have had a more symbolic prophetic purpose. In my opinion, Poe achieved that purpose when he wrote his work.

On the same day of the interview in Philadelphia, Poe asked Dickens a favor. He wanted him to find for him publishers in England, as this was the only way for an America writer to be recognized as a successful  literary man in his own country. When Dickens returned back to England he tried to help his friend but all was in vain.

London, 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent’s Park, 
November 27, 1842.
Dear Sir, 
by some strange accident (I presume it must have been through some mistake on the part of Mr. Putnam in the great quantity of business he had to 
arrange for me), I have never been able to find among my papers, since I 
came to England, the letter you wrote to me at New York. But I read it 
there, and think I am correct in believing that it charged me with no other mission than that which you had already entrusted to me by word of mouth. 
Believe me that it never, for a moment, escaped my recollection; and that  I have done all in my power to bring it to a successful issue — I regret to say, in vain.
I should have forwarded you the accompanying letter from Mr. Moxon before 
now, but that I have delayed doing so in the hope that some other channel 
for the publication of our book on this side of the water would present 
itself to me. I am, however, unable to report any success. I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, 
declined the venture. And the only consolation I can give you is that I do not believe any collection of detached pieces by an unknown writer, even 
though he were an Englishman, would be at all likely to find a publisher in this metropolis just now.
Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a 
pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward 
your views in this country, if I can.
Faithfully yours, 
Charles Dickens.

Their relationship did not last long. In 1846, Dickens wrote a letter explaining to Poe that he was not the author of an article written in Foreign Quarterly Review where Poe was accused of  “metrical imitation of Tennyson”. Poe was infuriated and sure that the review was coming from Dickens’ mind. He then wrote to him expressing his disappointment. And Dickens politely denied in what appears to be the last letter he wrote to Poe.

1 Devonshire Terrace, London. Nineteenth March 1846.
Dear Sir,
Although I have not received your volume, I avail myself of a leisure 
moment to thank you for the gift of it.
In reference to your proposal as regards the Daily News, I beg to assure 
you that I am not in any way connected with the Editorship or current 
Management of that Paper. I have an interest in it, and write such papers 
for it as I attach my name to. This is the whole amount of my connection 
with the Journal.Any such proposition as yours, therefore, must be 
addressed to the Editor. I do not know, for certain, how that gentleman 
might regard it; but I should say that he probably has as many 
correspondents in America and elsewhere, as the Paper can afford space to.
I am Dear Sir
                            Faithfully Yours 
                            Charles Dickens  
Edgar A. Poe Esquire

In conclusion, we will never know how things went between the two. The letters that Poe wrote don’t exist anymore. However, we can safely say first, that Poe admired Dickens till the end of his days, second, a couple of Poe’s works were inspired by Dickens’ writings.

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