Dying To Be In London
I just picked up Jim Dyson’s excellent book on the gravesites of London’s most notable permanent residents. Paris may have Oscar Wilde and Los Angeles has Marilyn Monroe but we have…the musical dancing grave of Joseph Grimaldi (see columns passim).
But we do have a few more famous notables in central London around in the immediate surrounding areas; Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Sir Walter Raleigh, Nelson, Hogarth, Samuel Pepys, Emmeline Pankhurst, Amy Winehouse, Bram Stoker, Sigmund Freud, Stanley, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, Karl Marx, Boris Karloff, William Blake, John Bunyan and Isambard Kingdom Brunel are a few of the most visited.
The outdoor graves are usually tasteful and picturesque, not terribly well tended – I imagine Amy Winehouse gets a lot more visitors than Charles Babbage – but I prefer the graves of the infamous. A short walk away from me is Cora Crippen, AKA Belle Elmore, the chubby chanteuse who was murdered by her American husband Hawley Harvey Crippen.
There was a recent move to pardon Crippen posthumously when new DNA evidence suggested that the body found under Crippen’s floor was that of a man, but it was inconclusive; just one more chapter in the remarkable story of this killing, which made history as the first crime ended by the sending of a telegram. I always felt rather sorry for Ethel Neave, dressed as a boy, fleeing on the boat with the stressed and tragic little doctor who thanked his arresting officer for ending the tension. Belle was by most accounts a ghastly harridan, Crippen was henpecked and fell in love, and while it cannot excuse murder it suggests a greater tragedy.
I nicked the name of Arthur Bryant’s cat from Crippen, but Crippen wasn’t the first cat. He and Solomon the dog appeared in Dominic Poelsma & Angus McGill’s cartoon strip in the Evening Standard called first ‘Clive’, then ‘Augusta’. I can’t find any copies of the books anywhere, so if anyone has one and wants to sell it, let me know!