Historical Context in The Raven
When Poe wrote “The Raven,” he was attempting to carve out a living for himself solely as a poet and fiction writer, which was unheard-of at the time. The poem, published in 1845 and circulated by a number of New York-based newspapers, launched Poe into literary fame but failed to bring him financial security. The intense, immediate popularity of “The Raven” brought about a crop of colorful parodies, as well as polarized reviews. Many readers were enraptured by the poem’s musicality and atmosphere; others, including William Butler Yeats and Ralph Waldo Emerson, found the poem vapid.
Poe admired the work of Charles Dickens, a contemporary and acquaintance, and wrote reviews of Dickens’s early writings. Dickens’s 1841 novel Barnaby Rudge includes a comical raven named Grip, who raps on the window and repeatedly croaks the word “Nobody.” One of Poe’s critiques of the novel was that the raven’s “croaking might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama.” Poe went on to realize his darker vision for the bird in “The Raven.”