The truth is, I have no idea if Petrarch stuffed his own cat (or rather, I hope paid a profesisonal to do so), or if some zealous fan fed and cared for the cat after the poet’s death and then stuffed him for the sake of future fans.
Twice this week I have encountered Charles Dickens in places where I didn’t expect to find him, once at the Eastern State Penitentiary. Dickens wrote a chapter in his American Notes about Philadelphia and the prison he toured when it was new, which was featured in the outstanding audio tour they have there. And I ran across him again today at the Philadelphia Free Public Library when I was looking for their collection of Edgar Allan Poe materials. I expected the giant stuffed raven at the end of one hallway to be Poe’s, but it wasn’t.
Dickens supposedly, while writing Barnaby Rudge, which featured a raven as a minor character, sought out a raven to do the character justice and ended up adopting one he named Grip after the character. Scholars have argued that Dickens’ portrayal of Grip was what inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write “The Raven.”
The rare book department of Philadelphia Free Public Library [PFPL], Central Branch not only has an astounding collection of Poe materials (given to them through the bequest of Richard Gimbel—a famous Poe collector), but a substantial Charles Dickens collection as well. Highlights of the Dickens collection include one of his desks (not the one that recently sold for more than $850,000) and a chair, as well as his dear stuffed pet.
Apparently, visitors to the rare book room of the PFPL there to see Poe materials are rare; the archivist I talked to today said they only see about one each month.
But with 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth, perhaps more fans will stumble upon the raven that may have inspired “The Raven.”
"Sorrow floats", as John Irving might say about one of his own stuffed characters. Sometimes you just can't get away from them.