“On a very gloomy dismal day, just such a one as it ought to be, I went
to see Westminster Abbey.
I entered at a small door, which brought me immediately to the poets’ corner,
where the monuments and busts of the principal poets, artists, generals, and
great men, are placed.
Not far from the door, immediately on my entrance, I perceived the statue of
Shakespeare, as large as life; with a band, &c., in the dress usual in his
A passage out of one of Shakespeare’s own plays (the Tempest), in which
he describes in the most solemn and affecting manner, the end, or the
dissolution of all things, is here, with great propriety, put up as his
epitaph; as though none but Shakespeare could do justice to Shakespeare.
Not far from this immortal bard is Rowe’s monument, which, as it is intimated
in the few lines that are inscribed as his epitaph, he himself had desired to
be placed there.
At no great distance I saw the bust of that amiable writer, Goldsmith: to whom,
as well as to Butler, whose monument is in a distant part of the abbey, though
they had scarcely necessary bread to eat during their life time, handsome monuments
are now raised. Here, too you see, almost in a row, the monuments of
Milton, Dryden, Gay, and Thomson. The inscription on Gay’s tombstone is,
if not actually immoral, yet futile and weak; though he is said to have written
“Life is a jest, and all things shew it,
‘I thought so once but now I know it.”
Our Handel has also a monument here, where he is represented as large as life.
An actress, Pritchard, and Booth, an actor, have also very distinguished
monuments erected here to their memories.
For Newton, as was proper, there is a very costly one. It is above, at
the entrance of the choir, and exactly opposite to this, at the end of the
church, another is erected, which refers you to the former.
As I passed along the side walls of Westminster Abbey, I hardly saw any thing
but marble monuments of great admirals, but which were all too much loaded with
finery and ornaments, to make on me at least, the intended impression.
I always returned with most pleasure to the poets’ corner, where the most
sensible, most able, and most learned men, of the different ages, were
re-assembled; and particularly where the elegant simplicity of the monuments
made an elevated and affecting impression on the mind, while a perfect
recollection of some favourite passage, of a Shakespeare, or Milton, recurred
to my idea, and seemed for a moment to re-animate and bring back the spirits of
those truly great men.
Of Addison and Pope I have found no monuments here. The vaults where the
kings are buried, and some other things worth notice in the abbey, I have not
yet seen; but perhaps I may at my return to London from the country.”