Last weekend, I went in search of a Blakean’s grave.
When Blake died in 1827, he requested to be buried at Bunhill Fields, the Dissenters’ burial ground. Today, the site of Blake’s grave is unmarked; instead, there is a headstone which reads ‘Nearby lie the remains of William Blake and his wife Catherine Sophia.’ The exact spot of Blake’s burial has been discovered, and there is a proposal to mark the site but this has yet to come to fruition.
The grave I visited this weekend was that of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the Pre-Raphaelites, who was a great admirer of Blake. DGR is buried at the parish church in Birchington in Kent. I used to pass this graveyard regularly when I took the bus to work in Margate but never got around to visiting the grave. Paying a visit to my old workplace (more on that in another post) was a good opportunity to finally make the pilgrimage.
There is a short account of DGR’s interest in Blake in the online exhibition I wrote for the John Rylands Library, Burning Bright.
The monument was designed by Ford Madox Brown (another Blakean, and a sometime Mancunian – more on that another time perhaps), Rossetti’s friend and tutor.
St Luke, patron saint of painters is depicted on the monument.
Above is the winged ox, the beast of St Luke.
At the top are three figures: on the right is DGR’s namesake, Dante, but I haven’t found information about the other figures – the one in centre looks like an angel, so may be Gabriel; as for the figure on the left, perhaps it is a Charles, DGR’s other name, but it looks decidedly feminine. Notes on a postcard please.
The inscription on the front of the monument:
Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti
Honoured under the name
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Among painters a painter
And among poets a poet
Born in London
Of parentage mainly Italian, 12th May 1828
Died at Birchington, 9 April, 1882
On the back of the monument another inscription refers to the monument itself:
This cruciform monument
Bespoken by Dante Rossetti’s mother
Was designed by his lifelong friend
Ford Madox Brown
Executed by J. and H. Patteson
And erected by his brother William
And his sister Christina Rossetti