London Surrounding Walks. George Cruikshank. Oliver Twist. The Times.
CONTINUE YOUR LONDON SIGHTSEEING TOUR OF KENSA GREEN CEMETERY.
With your back to Rennie’s memorial, cross over to pass to the right of the Derville mausoleum, and keep going ahead towards the large mausoleum with a light brick door, which can be seen in the distance. When you reach it go left along Central Avenue pausing onn the right to admire the four-poster bed canopy of:-
William Mulready (1786-1863).
Mulready was the son of an Irish leather breeches maker who rose to become a prominent and respected artist and prolific illustrator. His children’s works included The Butterfly’s Ball and The Lobster’s Voyage to the Brazils. He also designed the first pre-paid one penny envelope. His elegant tomb shows him lying on a stone mat of woven straw, beneath which are carvings that depict scenes from his life. The face of his effigy was carved from his death mask, and gives the impression that he has merely fallen asleep.
Continue ahead along Central Avenue to pause at the next left turn by the strikingly ornate, though slightly timeworn tomb of Andrew Ducrow (1793-1842), which is guarded by two somewhat weathered sphinxes.
This incredible Egyptian style mausoleum cost £3,000 (around £150,000 by today’s standards) to build and decorate. It commemorates and equestrian showman of astounding ability whose skill and daring captivated his audiences. ‘The creatures were but the air on which he flew’, wrote one critic. Ducrow had the tomb designed for his wife when she died in 1835. Her burial didn’t exactly go smoothly and scenes of confrontation marred her laying to rest. Ducrow was angered to find the ground full of water and showed his distaste by calling the priest a ‘swindling old humbug,’ before marching off with the cemetery keys. Ducrow himself died in 1842, a few days after his favourite horse, John Lump. Stone depictions of his hat and gloves lie at the entrance to his mausoleum, whilst his modest epitaph reads, ‘This tomb erected by genius for the reception of its own remains’.
Continue ahead and pause by the sixth grave on the right by the tomb of :-
Dr Frederick Salmon (1785-1868), who was the founder of St Mark’s Hospital, which was originally called ‘The Infirmary for the Poor Afflicted with Fistula and other Diseases of the Rectum’. Salmon operated on Charles Dickens for a fistula, which given the operation was carried out without anaesthetic , must have been a harrowing experience indeed. When Dickens described the ordeal to his friend William Macready, Macready confessed to suffering ‘ agonies as he related all to me, and [I] did violence keeping myself to my seat. I could scarcely bear it’.
Further along on the right is a memorial to:-
George Cruikshank (1792-1878), cartoonist and illustrator of Oliver Twist. Although originally buried here at Kensal Green, Cruikshank was later exhumed and re-interred at St Paul’s Cathedral.
He was a leading caricaturist of his day and his long career spanned both the Regency and Victorian periods. His work depicted the social and political changes of the era. He first met Charles Dickens on 17th November 1835 and the two men became close friends. As illustrator for Sketches By Boz and Oliver Twist, Cruikshank’s depictions of ‘Oliver asking for more’, and of ‘Fagin in the condemned cell,’ are probably two of the most memorable illustrations from all Dickens’s books. However, in later life, Dickens took exception to Cruikshank’s zealous support for the temperance movement, and their friendship was permanently severed. When Dickens died in 1870, Cruikshank reportedly observed that, ‘One of our greatest enemies is gone’, and in a later letter to The Times he claimed that it was he, and not Dickens, who had come up with the idea, plot and characters of Oliver Twist.
Continue along Central Avenue and take the next path left, pausing at the next junction on the right where, almost hidden by a tall tree, is the urn-topped obelisk of:-
Dr John Elliotson (1791-1868).
Charles Dickens became acquainted with Elliotson in 1838, at a time when the good doctor was losing the confidence of his medical colleagues owing to his intense interest in hypnotism. Dickens, however, was fascinated by the subject, and under Elliotson’s tuition, he too became proficient in the art of mesmerism. Elliotson later became the Dickens family doctor and was described by the novelist as being ‘one of my most intimate and valued friends’.