Thursday, July 24, 2008
This morning, after the fog lifted, I headed to the extremely famous and lavishly decorated Westminster Abbey, where the monarch of England has been crowned for generations, to see the spot where Dickens was buried. Along the way I got a close-up view of Big Ben and the London Eye. His remains were placed in the floor of the abbey in poet's corner, along with other English greats like Tennyson and Robert Browning and Rudyard Kipling. I have heard that he did not want to be buried there, but am not quite sure why. For someone who courted fame as much as he did, it seems odd that he would not want to be memorialized in such an honored place. I'll have to do some digging to find out more about that. Next to his burial spot are memorials to tons of other famous English writers and artists including: C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, William Blake, John Keats and more.
Post-script: After reading further in the highly acclaimed biography Dickens by Peter Ackroyd, I found the following quote from Dickens regarding his burial:
"I emphatically direct that I be buried in an inexpensive, unostentatious and strictly private manner...that those who attend my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hat-band, or other such revolting absurdity...I conjure my friends on no account to make me the subject of any monument, memorial or testimonial whatever. I rest my claims to the remembrance of my country upon my published works..."
Also, Dickens had also once said, "the more truly great the man, the more truly little the ceremony."
However, his adoring fans, which included most of the country and people from every class, wanted more of a ceremony, so a compromise was reached: he was buried in Westminster Abbey, but with a plain marker and a completely private ceremony. According to Ackroyd, "his grave at Westminster Abbey was left open for two days. At the end of the first day, there were still one thousand people outside waiting to pay their respects."