October 21, 2009

Quoth the raven "Halloa Old Girl"

From the FAQs of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Number 7:

"What literary landmark can be found at the Parkway Central Library at 1901 Vine Street?"

Answer:

 "The Rare Book Department houses “Grip,” Charles Dickens' pet Raven -- now stuffed and mounted -- which inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write one of the most famous poems in American literary history, “The Raven.” Grip was donated to the Free Library by Col. Richard Gimbel in 1971."

The Curious Expeditions blog has a lengthy piece on Grip - one of their expeditions having been to see him at the Free Library. They supply a photograph of him in his shadow box, standing on a log in a ferny, Carboniferous sort of habitat – a surprise to my post-Poe sensibilities (I thought he would at least be perched, even if not on a bust of Pallas), but perhaps not to Dickens’s Victorian romanticism.



There's also a description of Grip's last moments from a letter Dickens wrote to his friend Daniel Maclise:

"You will be greatly shocked and grieved to hear that the Raven is no more. 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."

Just in case you thought his favourite expression was "Nevermore". How does the saying go? If the nose of Cleopatra had been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed. Poe claimed that "Nevermore" popped into his mind immediately, once he decided his poem would need a moody refrain with a long "o", that being the most "sonorous" vowel, and an "r", the letter most suited to being drawn out. He didn't even have the story, the famous "death of a young girl", at that point. It makes you wonder, hmm, no first thoughts of "Chankly Bore"? I think we have to say it was genius and leave it at that.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the great Edgar Allan Poe’s birth. Baltimore has been hosting a year-long bicentennial celebration replete with blog, where you can read about the monumental funeral ceremony which was held this month, on the anniversary of Poe's death, as redress for the miserable service his city gave him 160 years ago. That one lasted all of three minutes, after which seven people accompanied him to the family plot, where he was laid in an unmarked grave. Under pressure from Poe’s mother-in-law, his cousin did eventually have a headstone made, but it never made it onto the grave as a train ran off the rails which bordered the stonecutters’ yard and crashed right into it.

This time around, 700 people attended the ceremony. There was also a day-long open casket viewing at the Poe House, featuring a Poe replica made by a special effects artist named Eric Supensky (not, unfortunately, Suspensky). I can't believe they didn't get a real person to lie in the coffin and suddenly groan, or sit up. I don't think it was a question of being serious, considering they put on a "Cask of Amontillado" wine tasting event.

Speaking of premature burial, you can read Premature Burial on the website of the Poe Society of Baltimore. The Poe Society has been working for over ten years now on a project to provide Poe's complete works in e-texts, in authoritative transcriptions from the original sources. The website has barely any graphics, old-looking fonts and especially no ads for improving your abs. It's kind of nice to see the contents of the old newspapers available now for free, considering how their editors ripped Poe off during his lifetime, the publishers of Grahams paying him $800 for stories from which they earned $25,000.

You can view digital images of the originals on the Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection which the Harry Ransom Center launched to accompany their exhibition “From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe" which opened in September. Besides the newspapers, the Archive also contains letters, manuscripts and books by Poe, some of these annotated by him, like a copy of The Raven and other Poems which is really fun to look at, it has a "page turn” mode with a surprise.

You can also see memorabilia like Poe’s writing desk (Martin Gardner would have loved to include this coincidence in the Annotated Alice in Wonderland where he discusses the Mad Hatter's famous riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”) and cigarette cards featuring Poe, including one from a series called “Histories of Poor Boys Who have become Rich and Other Famous People series”, Poe presumably being one of the "other famous people". There's also a competition for the best parody of "The Raven".

To finish, two books:

Mystery Writers of America presents In the shadow of the master : classic tales by Edgar Allan Poe
"This compulsively readable collection, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth, unites some of Poe's best short works (including The Black Cat, The Raven, and The Fall of the House of Usher) with commentary by a slew of Edgar Award winners and nominees… Opining on The Tell-Tale Heart, Stephen King doesn't miss a beat. Poe foresaw the darkness of generations far beyond his own, he writes. Ours, for instance." (Allison Block, Booklist).

and

Japanese tales of mystery and imagination by the mysterious Edagawa Rampo

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 04:30
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