Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Highgate Cemetery is an historic, Victorian cemetery in London. Many famous people, mostly from the nineteenth century, are interred there. With so many guests from the gothic novel era it’s not unexpected that some kind of ghost story could be developing in its premises…
The illustrious British-Italian Rossetti family (*) is represented by at least three members: Christina, the poetess, Frances, Gabriele's wife, and William, Dante’s brother. They led relatively quiet Victorian lives, but who can be certain if their family quarrels aren’t continued in the foggy, cold, London nights?
In one corner Michael Faraday, one of the discoverers of the power of electricity (he possibly inspired Mary Shelley), is probably continuing his Gendankenexperiments. In many ways he was a modern-age warlock.
The most famous guest is, surely, the last biblical prophet, Karl Marx from Treviri. His fourth Abrahamic, albeit godless, religion marked the century that followed his death. According to somebody he may have more than a hundred million human souls on his conscience. Down from his impressive, austere, grave mausoleum one can only start to fathom the pains the poor tortured wandering German-Jewish soul must endure.
Modern SF funnyman Douglas Adams is probably the only one able to cherish the guest with the most romantic and tragic biography: Elisabeth Siddal. Born into a lower class family, she became, despite a very imperfect education, the muse and the model for many Victorian artists, and a poetess herself. In particular, she was the inspiration for literally dozens of Dante Gabriel’s works. The painter ultimately became her husband, but Elisabeth, probably suffering from drug addiction and illness, died soon after. Mad with grievance, Rossetti buried her along with the only copy of his poems. Afterwards, he decided to reopen her coffin to retrieve his poetry. Dante died a few years later, mad and after a long addiction to chloral. He’s buried in Kent, by the sea. His wife remains in Highgate, and if it weren’t for the many illustrious other people interred there, I don’t know how she could possibly endure the company of the other Rossettis, who always opposed her relationship to Dante…

(*) One of my aunts used to say that we are very distant relatives – but family legends have a way of becoming exaggerated; nevertheless, a juvenile self-portrait of Dante Gabriel is eerily reminiscent of my brother at the same age...

UPDATE: ladies and gents, follow the debate on this important post here (in Italian)

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