Highgate Cemetery (or ‘When I left my favourite pen on George Eliot’s grave)

Highgate Cemetery

It was a relatively sunny morning, considering the place and time of the year, when we decided to pay a visit to Highgate Cemetery.

‘We’ stands for for myself, my lovely flatmate Bea, and a couple of friends who wanted to visit Karl Marx’s memorial – one of the main attractions. For as little as £4, including a complimentary chocolate treat, we were able to visit the East Cemetery*. We also receive the most accurate map I have ever seen as a tourist, which allowed us to explore every muddy corner, to decipher the oldest tombstone. Highgate Cemetery is not one of those majestic monumental cemeteries and, to be honest, some parts can use a little extra care. And yet, this is the kind of cemetery I like, where you can watch history unfolding in its messy layout – tiny, scratched 19th-century graves next to modern marble plates.

I went there with no clue of what to expect, and it is absolutely fine if you want to do the same. For those who can’t wait here are three major spoilers on Highgate Cemetery, strictly in random order.

  1. That Marx guy was so cool he actually has two tombs. The massive monument in the main path, hard to miss, was built afterward to allow people to pay their respects in a more accessible space. The original tombstone is not only very small and almost impossible to read, but you also have to jump over another grave.

  2. A small Penguin Book-shaped tombstone says, almost literally, that the person buried there was actually not related to the Publisher, but he was an avid reader. I never felt so close to an unknown British dead guy before.

  3. Flowers are so not cool when you are in front of your favourite writers – like Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Take out your favourite pen (or pencil or sharpie or whatever you use to write) and let them join their fellow writing tools in a fancy ‘stationery bouquet’. I think it’s just beautiful – plain, simple beautiful – to remember someone’s by their greatest passion.

However, on a final note, I would also recommend not to stick your only working blue biro on George Eliot’s grave, otherwise you might end up writing the draft of a post about Highgate Cemetery with a black biro.

I really hate black biros.

[Written by: Alessandra Cenni ; Edited by: Alice di Mattia]


* The West Cemetery, on the other side of the street, can only be visited upon reservation by booking one of their online tours at highgatecemetery.org

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