Mental Floss

The Quick 10: Quoth mental_floss "Nevermore."

Stacy Conradt
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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" is 165 years old this week. That's not bad for a bird with a life expectancy of 40 years (that's in captivity, if you're interested "“ 15 years is the longest a tagged raven has ever lived in the wild). We'll say Happy Birthday to the morbid black bird by dedicating today's Q10 to it.

tenniel_raven
tenniel_raven /

2. The amount that he won from the Evening Mirror is about 2500% more than what he earned for "The Raven" in the first place "“ upon its original publication, Poe received just $9.

3. Not everyone was as kind as Nathaniel Parker Willis. In fact, some of Poe's contemporaries kind of hated it. William Butler Yeats thought it was "insincere and vulgar" and Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I see nothing in it." Aldous Huxley thought it was too poetic, saying that it "falls into vulgarity" by being overly so.

4. Poe took his inspiration from a couple of sources: the talking raven idea was likely borrowed from Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of "˜Eighty and the rhythm and meter definitely comes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Lady Geraldine's Courtship."

5. In 1858, John Tenniel illustrated "The Raven" "“ that's one of his pieces above. Tenniel is the same guy who did the original drawings for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Tenniel had a knack for the quietly creepy, I'd say.

6. This poem isn't the first time Poe mentioned a lady named Lenore. She first showed up in "Lenore" (go figure) which was published two years before "The Raven." Actually, "Lenore" was a revision of an earlier Poe poem called "A Paean"; the name was added and the title was changed for the 1843 version.

ravens
ravens /

8. "The Raven" was an immediate hit, which meant immediate parodies. Pretty soon, not-so-spooky versions called "The Whipporwill," "The Polecat" and "The Gazelle" began making their way through pop culture. "The Polecat" found its way to Abraham Lincoln, in fact, and he found it so funny that he decided to check out the original, which he hadn't read until that point, and memorized it.

manet raven
manet raven /

Do you agree with Huxley, Yeats and Emerson? Or do you appreciate the macabre ravings of a mad going mad? Me"¦ I'm a fan. But you probably could have guessed that.

If I've put you in the mood to read it, you can find the poem in its entirety here.

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