The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page

Samuel Johnson's Funeral
George Steevens' Account of Samuel Johnson's Funeral
From "Johnsoniana Supplement," 1836, pages 179 - 181

See also: Sir John Hawkins' account of Johnson's Last Years
- Introduction
- 1781
- 1782
- 1783
- 1784
- Johnson's Will
- Hawkins' Postscript

    Johnson asked one of his executors, a few days before his death, "Where do you intend to bury me?" He answered, "In Westminster Abbey." "Then," continued he, "if my friends think it worthwhile to give me a stone, let it be placed over me so as to protect my body."

    On the Monday after his decease he was interred in Westminster Abbey. The corpse was brought from his house in Bolt Court, to the hearse, preceded by the Rev. Mr. Butt and the Rev. Mr. Strahan, about twelve o'clock. The following was the order of the procession:—

Hearse and six.

    The executors, viz. Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir John Hawkins, and William Scott, LL.D. [Lord Stowell] in a coach and four.

    Eight coaches and four, containing the Literary Club, and others of the Doctor's friends, invited by the executors; viz. Dr. Burney, Mr. Malone, Mr. Steevens, the Rev. Mr. Strahan, Mr. Ryland, Mr. Hoole, Dr. Brocklesby, Mr. Cruikshanks, Mr. Nichols, Mr. Low, Mr. Paradise, General Paoli, Count Zenobia, Dr. Butter, Mr. Holder, Mr. Seward, Mr. Metcalf, Mr. Sastres, Mr. Des Moulins, the Rev. Mr. Butt, Dr. Horsley, Dr. Farmer, Dr. Wright; to whom may be added, Mr. Cooke (who was introduced by Dr. Brocklesby), and the Doctor's faithful servant, Francis Barber.

    Two coaches and four, containing the pall-bearers, viz. Mr. Burke, Mr. Windham, Sir Charles Bunbury, Sir Joseph Banks, Mr. Colman, and Mr. Langton.

    After these followed two mourning coaches and four, filled with gentlemen who, as volunteers, honoured themselves by attending this funeral. These were the Rev. Mr. Hoole, the Rev. Mr. East, Mr. Henderson, Mr. Mickle, Mr. Sharp, Mr. C. Burney, and Mr. G. Nicol.

    Thirteen gentlemen's carriages closed the procession, which reached the Abbey a little before one.

    The corpse was met at the west door by the prebendaries in residence, to the number of six, in their surplices and doctor's hoods; and the officers of the church, and attendants on the funeral, were then marshalled in the following order:—

Two vergers.
The Rev. Mr. Strahan.
The Rev. Mr. Butt.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, as chief mourner and executor.
Sir John Hawkins and Dr. Scott, as executors.
The rest two and two.

    The body then proceeded to the south cross, and, in view of the three executors, was deposited by the side of Mr. Garrick, with the feet opposite to the monument of Shakespeare.

    The Rev. Dr. Taylor performed the burial service, attended by some gentlemen of the Abbey; but it must be regretted by all who continue to reverence the hierarchy, that the cathedral service was withheld from its invariable friend; and the omission was truly offensive to the audience at large.

    How this omission happened, we are unable to account. Perhaps the executors should have asked for it; but at all events it should have been performed. That the fees for opening the ground were paid, was a matter of indispensable necessity; and there can be no doubt, from the liberality of the present dean and chapter, but they will be returned, as was offered in the case of Dryden, and was done in that of St. Evremond, who "died," says Atterbury, "renouncing the Christian religion; yet the church of Westminster thought fit, in honour to his memory, to give his body room in the Abbey, and allow him to be buried there gratis, so far as the chapter were concerned, though he left 800l. sterling behind him, which is thought every way an unaccountable piece of management." How striking the contrast between St. Evremond and Johnson!

Footnote provided at the end, by "C" (Croker?):

"It must be told, that a dissatisfaction was expressed in the public papers that he was not buried with all possible funeral rites and honours. In all processions something will be forgotten or omitted. Here no disrespect was intended. The executors did not think themselves justified in doing more than they did; for only a little cathedral service, accompanied with lights and music, would have raised the price of the internment. In this matter fees ran high; they could not be excused; and the expenses were to be paid from the property of the deceased. His funeral expenses amounted to more than two hundred pounds. Future monumental charges may be defrayed by the generosity of subscription."— Gentleman's Magazine, 1785, p. 911., probably by Mr. Tyers. It is supposed that the fees were not returned, and it is to be added, that all Dr. Johnson's friends, but especially Mr. Malone and Mr. Steevens, were indignant at the mean and selfish spirit which the dean and chapter exhibited on this occasion; but they were especially so against Dr. Taylor, not only for not having prevailed on his colleagues to show more respect to his old friend, but for the unfeeling manner in which he himself performed the burial service.—C.

See also: Sir John Hawkins' account of Samuel Johnson's Last Years:
Introduction | 1781 | 1782 | 1783 | 1784
Johnson's Will | Hawkins' Postscript

This edition copyright 2003 by Frank Lynch.

The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page
Back To Top