Poets' Corner



  • The southern end of the south transept of London's WestminsterAbbey, where many leading British writers are buried. Chaucer wasburied there in 1400 and many later poets desired to be laid to restnear his bones, including Edmund Spenser, whose funeral took placein 1599. The playwright Francis Beaumont was interred herein 1616; he had once written of the Abbey:
    Think how many royal bones
    Sleep within this heap of stones:
    Here they lie had realms and lands,
    Who now want strength to stir their hands.
    Shakespeare (buried in Stratford-upon-Avon) is commemoratedby a monument bearing lines from The Tempest. Legend has itthat Ben Jonson, whose grave is nearby, was buried upright,having bargained for a space only two feet wide and two feet long(see rare Ben).

    Other playwrights buried in Poet's Corner include Aphra Behn,William Congreve, Nicholas Rowe, Joseph Addison, John Gay, SamuelFoote, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. There are also memorials tomore recent writers for the stage, including Noël Coward.

    Curiously, Poet's Corner also includes the graves of 'oldParr', whose claim to fame was his survival to the age of 152 (havingdone penance for fornication at the age of 105), and 'Spot' Ward,who won a vote of thanks from the house of Commons for curing GeorgeII of an injury to his thumb. The name Poet's Corner was first appliedby Oliver Goldsmith. Addison had previously referred to itas the 'poetical quarter' in 1711, observing: "I found therewere Poets who had no Monuments, and Monuments which had no Poets."

    Perhaps the most poignant epitaph of all is that of the poetSamuel Butler, who died in poverty:

    The Poets Fate is here in emblem shown:
    He asked for Bread and he received a Stone.