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Samuel Johnson's Funeral
George Steevens' Account of Samuel Johnson's Funeral
From "Johnsoniana Supplement," 1836, pages 179 - 181
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:—
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.
Introduction | 1781 | 1782 | 1783 | 1784
Johnson's Will | Hawkins' Postscript
This edition copyright 2003 by Frank Lynch.
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