The text that follows, written by Carmichael,  is the beautiful introduction to the book “The inscriptions in the Old British Cemetery of Leghorn” by Gery Milner-Gibson-Cullum and Francis Campbell Macauley (1906). I tried to reproduce it here with the notes and some hyper-text links.

To read his monuments, to weigh his dust,
Visit his vaults, and dwell among the tombs.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I widen my horizon, gain new powers,
See things invisible, feel things remote,
Am present with futurities; think nought
To man so foreign, as the joys possest,
Nought so much his as those beyond the grave.
YOUNG.

It was not without considerable diffidence that I assented to my friend, Mr. Milner-Gibson-Cullum’s request to write an introduction to his collection of the inscriptions in the Old British Cemetery of Leghorn. And that for the good and sufficient reason that little or nothing may be learned of the Cemetery here. It would be easier, I should suppose, to write about it in London than in Leghorn, for the Record Office contains from an early date Consuls’ despatches to the Foreign Office, and Consuls’ despatches to the Envoy at Florence, and in all these there must be many a reference to the Old British Cemetery. The Archives of the Leghorn Consulate, which is known to have been in existence since the end of the sixteenth century, do not go back beyond the year 1814. According to tradition they are supposed to have been sent to Malta for safety, perhaps when Tuscany was annexed to the French Empire in 1807 and an English Consulate had become an impossibility. But inquiry made through more than one source at Malta has not brought these priceless records to life, and it is to be feared that material which would have made a fascinating page of the history of English life and enterprise in the Mediterranean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is lost forever. We are, therefore, without any certain knowledge as to the origin of the Old Cemetery; no title deeds to it exist; no record of the year of its foundation; nor do we know whether it was acquired by deed of purchase, or, as is likely enough, by deed of gift of some munificent Medicean Grand Duke.

The old British Cemetery is situated in the Via degli Elisi, recently renamed the Via Giuseppe Verdi. Push the iron gate that fronts the street, and enter.

At the bottom of the avenue lies the picturesque parsonage; on your right the Anglican Church of Saint George the Martyr built in 1838-1840; opposite this the entrance to the Old Cemetery. It is a good sized piece of ground, some 226 feet long by 213 feet broad, bounded on three sides (the north, south and west) by a low wall and iron railing divided by pilasters, and on the cast side by a brick wall covered with yellow stucco. The only document which we possess in Leghorn regarding the Cemetery relates to this brick and iron inclosure. It is a marble tablet affixed in the wall on the right hand of the entrance, and the inscription on it runs as follows:

« This Burial Place of the Brittish Nation resideing | in Leghorn was surrounded with a low wall and | Rail’d in with Iron rails in the year of our Lord 1746 | and the 6th [sic] year of Francis the third G. Duke of Tuscany1 & | Now Emperour of Germany conformable to the last Will | of Mr. Robert Bateman late of said place who bequeathed a | competent sum for that effect.

Burrton Goldsworthy Esq.r Consul.

John Aikman

Francis Harriman }       Deputed by the Nation to oversee the Work2

Hen Chas Rageneau

I have said that the east side of the cemetery is bounded by a wall. This must have been erected at a later date, but when, or for what reasons, we have no records to tell us. The inscription on the tablet is precise : that the cemetery was «Rail’d in» (“ferro fuit cinctum”), and an engraving3 of the Cemetery of the first decade of the nineteenth century, reproduced in the frontispiece to this book, clearly shows that it was surrounded on all four sides by an iron railing. In the «Viola del Pensiero» an old fashioned Leghorn family magazine, there is a «View of the English burying ground at Leghorn. Engraved by C. Verne, 1834», and in this also the four sides are shown girt with an iron railing. Robert Bateman, the generous benefactor of this last resting place of so many exiled Englishmen, died on the 17th November 1743, and lies buried in the Old Cemetery under one of the handsomest of its monuments (see inscription on page 38). All honour to him! His portrait is here reproduced from an oil painting, still fortunately in the custody of the Leghorn Consular Office.

The Old Cemetery now finds itself in the midst of a thickly populated part of the town, and is entirely blocked from the sight of passers-by by residential quarters, though old people can remember when it was still surrounded by green fields. But in the past it was situated just outside old Leghorn: indeed I should suppose that it lay within but a very few yards of the glacis of the once famous Leghorn fortifications. Where now runs the canal that leads to Pisa lay the wide moat of the fortifications, and where now rise the handsome buildings of the Scali d’Azeglio and Scali Aurelio Saffi, stood the brick walls and bastions of the fortifications finely planted with avenues of shady trees. Round the town for a certain distance lay a zone of land (la spianata) marked out by obelisks (guglie) in which building of any sort or kind was most rigidly prohibited lest the enemy should find cover under which to approach the town.4 It is interesting to reflect that the British Cemetery was allowed to exist in the prohibited zone, and quite close to the glacis. It cannot but have constituted a certain, if slight, danger to the town under siege, and have made it more possible for an enemy to effect a lodgement on the counterscarp. I note that the seventeenth century tombs are all low, and nearly all lie at right angles to the fortifications. This latter circumstance especially, would certainly minimise considerably .the shelter they could afford to sharpshooters, and it is likely enough that the particular lay of the tombs was required by the military authority. Before the year 1746, strange as it may seem, the British cemetery must have been entirely uninclosed lying open to the vandalism of every evilly-disposed passer-by. A wall there most certainly was not; a custodian’s house, or a mortuary chapel, would have been contrary to the rigid law governing the fortifications.5 Even the railing and low wall erected in 1740 must have been regarded as a great concession. Unfortunately the copy-letter-books of the Governors of Leghorn before 1767 are in the Florence instead of the Leghorn Record Office, and I have not been able to refer to the them for the purposes of this brief introduction. But a letter of the Governor, dated 25th March 17686, shows that the English had frequently agitated to have a wall round their cemetery, and that the authorities regarded such a structure as, strategically, a danger to the town. The prohibition to build within the zone round the town in which no building was allowed; was first withdrawn in 1776 under the progressist, if strongly regalist, government of the Grand Duke Peter Leopold. Suburbs quickly sprang up round the densely over-crowded town, and I should suppose that the English must have speedily availed themselves of the liberty to build by erecting the mortuary chapel and custodian’s house which existed within the memory of man but are now demolished.

With the year 1814 the Old British Cemetery comes out into the light of history. A Consul was appointed in that year in the person of Mr. W. B. Felton;7 English merchants returned to Leghorn or emerged from the virtual catacombs into which they had been forced to retire by the French annexation. The first meeting of the British «Factory»8 was held on the 21st September 1814, and the English Church and Colony proceeded to set their house in order. But the old «Factory» Registers had got themselves lost, along with the Consular Archives, and doubts existing as to former rules and regulations, a Committee of three merchants was appointed on the 23rd January 1822 to inquire into «the ancient usages and privileges of the Factory for the purpose of forming a new body of regulations». In the report of that Committee dated April 1824, it is stated that there are «tombstones» in the Cemetery «as early as 1594 ». If this were so in 1824, such tombstones have since wholly disappeared, but I fear the Committee have read 1500 for 1600. I refer to the matter because sundry guides books give the date of the foundation of the Cemetery as 1594. The oldest tomb, however, now in existence bears date 1646.

The Old British Cemetery was closed in 1839. The Grand Duke Leopold II had ordered that the large and ever increasing suburbs which had sprung up  since the prohibition to build on the «spianata» of the fortifications had been withdrawn, should be included within the town by a new wall. And be it said in passing that this was an immense advantage to the inhabitants of the suburbs. Leghorn was at the time a free port, and no goods that entered the city paid a centime of duty until they left it. The privileges of the free port were thus extended to a vast district, embracing the two zones round the town marked by the obelisks. The Old Cemetery was by these walls brought almost into the centre of the town. But according to the Tuscan Sanitary law introduced by Peter Leopold no burials were allowed within the precincts of any city, and the English received notice to close their Cemetery by the 31st December 1839. they protested, and appealed for indemnification. The Tuscan Government in reply pointed out that they were not being deprived of the Cemetery, only of the use of it, and that they would be amply indemnified by taking up the bodies, removing them elsewhere, and selling the ground occupied by the Cemetery for building purposes. Happily the suggestion found no favour in the eyes of the English Colony, who by great exertions, and with some help from the British Government, purchased a piece of land outside the new walls, and started a new Cemetery. This is the Cemetery actually in use. It is one of the best kept, one of the most picturesque and pleasing burying-grounds in all the length and, breadth of Italy, and the antiquary who comes hither to spend long hours in the Old Cemetery should spare time for at least a peep at the New.

There is little to record of the Old Cemetery since it was closed in 1839. The Act of George II authorising the Consul and Merchants to collect dues on merchandise in British ships arriving at Leghorn was repealed by 6 Geo. IV, cap. 87 (1825), and the association popularly known as the «Factory» came to an end. This Act provides for the regulation of British Church Affairs at foreign ports and places, and the English Church and Cemetery at Leghorn fell under its provisions. The Church Establishment books kept by the Consul and Church Committee are in existence, but they tell us little of the Old Cemetery. At a meeting held on the 18th February 1837 it was proposed and agreed «That as in consequence of the great celebrity of the late Dr. Tobias Smollett, his Monument is exposed to constant depredations by chipping off portions of the Marble, and consequently a continual expense entailed for keeping it in repair, it be resolved that an Iron Railing be erected at the expense of the Fund for the purpose of protecting the Monument. Agreed to; but that such should not be considered a precedent for the future».9 At a meeting held on the 7th April 1857 attention was called to the neglected condition of the Old Burial Ground, and the subject came up again on the 25th February 1858, when a Committee was appointed to examine into the matter and report thereon. The report of the Committee was laid before a general meeting on the 27th August 1859, and although funds were wanting to carry out all the Committee’s suggestions, it was, I think, about this time that that the iron railing, much delapidated, was shortened and fixed afresh in the masonry, the pilasters repaired, and the marble balls on the top of them (shown in the engraving) entirely removed, many being already missing.

I have no space now to speak of the inscriptions themselves, of the great beauty of many of them, of the great interest of others, of the entirely unique character of some. Nowhere else in the world, I should suppose, is there a tomb of a Dutch lady married to a Danish noble with an inscription in Italian and a text taken from Petrarch’s «Trionfo della Morte».10 The Cemetery is called British, but there is nothing narrow, nothing insular, about it. Indeed the universal character of it at once impresses, and surely no other corner of British ground evidences such wide, nay such large-hearted sympathies. Inscriptions in seven languages bear witness to its liberal universality, while more than one quarter of the whole are writ in alien tongues. Of the four hundred and eighty six tombs here put upon record, ninety seven inscriptions are in Latin,11 twenty-six in French, twenty-two in Italian, four in Swedish, two in Greek, and one in German. Of a verity the controllers of the cemetery had wide and cosmopolitan minds.

There are only thirty tombs of the seventeenth century in the cemetery, and this would seem to point to the English Colony in that century being far less numerous than has commonly been supposed. The oldest tomb is that of Leonard Digges, son of Sir Dudley Digges, once a refractory Member of Parlament, afterwards Master of the Rolls (1583-1639). It bears date 1646, and must have stood in solitary loneliness, a conspicuous uninclosed mark on the green sward surrounding the fortifications, until 1649 when Edward Langham (p. 84) was buried in a grave some hundred and fifty feet distant. Indeed no sort of order or symmetry in the burials seems to have been adopted, and I am inclined to think that the curiously scattered positions of the seventeenth century tombs, point to a military regulation preventing an agglomeration which might have proved serviceable shelter to a besieging enemy. The seventeenth century tombs are nearly all gable-shaped; some few are of great artistic beauty; others a veritable object lesson in the lost art of cutting lasting letters in marble; all are in quiet good taste, both as regards their form and the inscriptions which distinguish them. Nothing for a moment disturbs or jars upon our senses or finer feelings, and one cannot but come away from the Old Cemetery with an increased admiration for our seventeenth century forbears. Twenty-four of these inscriptions are in Latin, (two partly in English; Richard Hockenhull p. 43, and Thomas Cox p. 71); five (oddly enough) in Italian; one only in English.

For the convenience of visitors I give a chronological list of the seventeenth century tombs; it is among these that antiquaries at least will principally love to linger.

pag. 37. 1646. Leonard Digges Latin

“     84. 1649. Edward Langham

“     57. 1649.12 Henry Hal

“     71. 1650. Margaret Sainthil

“     30. 1652. John Wood                   “

“     33. 1658. George Daniel            Italian

“     47. 1659. Bridgett Banks           Latin

“     57. 1660. Edward Beale Latin and Italian

“     24. 1661.13 George Clarke            Italian

“     24. 1661.** John Bradley                “

“     40. 1661. John Tompson           Italian

“     20. 1664. Henry Brown              Latin

“     20. 1665. Arthur Ashfield             “

“     74. 1671. William Hobson             “

“     58. 1672. Roger Howe

“     73. 1674. Samuel Randall             “

“     74. 1674. Charles Foote English

“     43. 1676. Richard Hockenhull     Latin (part English)

“     30· 1676. Humphrey Sidney Latin

“     21. 1676. Hester Gosfright

“     45. 1678. George Chetham

“     71. 1679. Thomas Cox              Latin (part English)

“     30. 1679. Morgan Kempthorne Latin

“     19. 1684    John Arther               Latin

“    102. 1691   Johann Georg Graf        “

“    109. 1691   Etienne Lafonte            “

“     34. 1693    Johannes Burr               “

“     37.und.14 James Yong                  “

“     59.und.*    Jane Bonell

There are one hundred and forty eight graves of the eighteenth century in the Cemetery; one would have expected more, seeing how numerous and influential was the British Colony in that century. The Chapel Register,15 however, shows that a number of people were buried there who either had no monument, or whose monument has since disappeared. Even in this century the Latin inscriptions nearly equal the English – seventy six English as against sixty-two Latin, the remainder being in Italian, French and Swedish. I note that all the seventeenth century merchants – save two – are shown by their tombs to have been armigerous. The large proportion of armigerous traders in the century following is also an interesting and instructive fact.

The Old Cemetery remained open exactly thirty nine years of the nineteenth century, and three hundred and nine tombs of that century with inscriptions survive. This large number is accounted for not only by the increase in the mercantile colony, but also by the spread in the fashion among English of residing or wintering in Italy, and by the high renown of Pisa as a health resort. Nearly seventy inscriptions record that death took place at Pisa, fully forty at Florence, and over twenty at other places in Italy such as Rome, Siena, Arezzo, Lucca and the Baths of Lucca. This accounts for close upon half of the nineteenth century tombs. It is curious, too, how many inscriptions record no place of death, and it by no means follows in every case that silence means Leghorn.

I have elsewhere described the condition of the Old Cemetery.16 It is picturesque in the extreme, and at the same time extremely deplorable. For the picturesque we have rows of tall cypresses, myrtles, pines, eucalyptus trees, oleanders, cactuses, huge bushes of monthly roses, a jungle of periwinkles, sarsaparilla, wild irises, violets, and other the loveliest of wild flowers. But it is deplorable that strong ivy and other hardy and villainous parasites should be creeping insidiously within the junctures of the marble tombs and gradually splitting them to pieces, that ignoble weeds should sprout happily on the very surface of the tombs: that Mother Earth should be allowed to rise up slowly and cover the very inscriptions. Many of the tombs are already sadly delapidated; detached urns and pillars lie pathetically by some of them, awaiting restoration; there are gaping letters and coats of arms from which some vandal thief has filched the beautiful metal. I trust that Mr. Cullum’s timely publication of the inscriptions may call public attention to this deplorable state of things: indeed it is this hope more than anything else, which has induced me to sink literary amour propre and essay an introduction to a subject without proper equipment. A Cemetery is maintained by its ground dues, and how can you have ground dues where there are no longer any buryings? Absolutely no foundation exist, for the maintenance of this fine old British burying-ground. These are not the days, ours at least, is not the country, in which free citizens run upon the slightest account for aid to the State. This is a matter for private generosity, for Britons at large, or for some open-handed Mecaenas among them, and I trust it may not be long ere funds be found to place this noble national monument – time-honoured witness to the greatness and enterprise of our forefathers abroad – upon a footing, which shall make it in every way the legitimate pride of all among us who honour our native land and cherish its past memories.

MONTGOMERY CARMICHAEL

Leghorn, October 4th 1906.

MATTEO GIUNTI

Livorno, April 9th 2010


[1] Francis, Duke of Lorraine, was the eighth Grand Duke of Tuscany and second to bear the name of Francis.

[2] The same inscription exists in Latin on a tablet in the wall on the left hand side of the entrance: “Coemeterium Nationis Britannicae apud Liburnum jandudum | commorantis coctilibus muris et ferro fuit cinotum anno | Domini 1746 Annoq. 6to Francisci Tertii Etruriae Magni | Ducis et Romanorum Insuper Imperatoris ejusdemq | Nominis Primi ad exequendam piam intentionem | Roberti Bateman nuper in hoc Emporio mercatoris | qui ad perficiendum hoc opus munificentissime | nummos erogavit.
Burringtone Goldsworthy Consule
Joanne Aikman
Francisco Harriman } A Preaetata Natione Ad opus inspiciendum Delegatis
Hen.co Carolo Rageneau

[3] “A View of the English Burial Ground at Leghorn humbly inscribed to Joseph Huddart Jun.r Esq.r by his most obedient servant John Baptist Guerrazzi. James Beys Pinx. Engraved by Charles Lasinio Professor and Member of the Royal Academy of Florence.” This latter is, of course, the well-known engraver, Count Carlo Lasinio (1757.1830).

[4] This zone, roughly speaking, is marked by the modern Corso Umberto, Corso Amedeo and Via Riseccoli. Modern Leghorn has stretched, even far beyond a second zone in which only buildings of one storey were allowed. A banker’s shop at the corner of the Corso Umberto and Borgo de’ Cappuccini alone recalls memories of fortified Leghorn: it is styled Il Forno dell’Antica Guglia.

[5] The question naturally arises: would the full Burial Service be held in this uninclosed ground? I am not able to answer even so elementary a question, but should suppose not, as it was against the law for Tuscans to be present at other services than those of their own Religion. It seems to me more likely that the ceremony would take place in the house of the deceased, or in the Chapel in the Consul’s house, and the actual interment take place with the briefest possible form, and perhaps at night time.

[6] Copia Lettere Civili, 1768. Filza 4, p.112.

[7] Succeeded in the following year by Consul John Falconar who died at his post in 1843.

[8] No evidence exists that there ever was at Leghorn a Factory duly incorporated by charter. But by 10 Geo. II cap. 14 the «merchants and factors» there residing were empowered to raise «one livre per ton on all tonnage goods» entering the port in British vessels, and «on all Bale goods one third of a livre per Bale or Parcel». The moneys thus collected were to be applied «to the Succour and Relief of Mariners, shipwrecked and taken in War, and other distressed persons His Majesty’s Subjects, and to such other charitable and public uses as shall from time to time be appointed by the Consul for the time being, with the majority of the British merchants and factors residing at the said port of Leghorn». The mere fact that this Act makes no reference to a Factory is sufficient evidence that no Factory existed at the time it was passed (1734). Be that as it may, certain English merchants of Leghorn, under the presidency of the Consul, until 1825, always styled themselves, and were known as, «the British Factory of Leghorn».

[9] Captain Buchan Telfer R.N. has advanced strong but, I venture to think, not altogether sufficient reasons, to show that Smollett is not buried in the Old Cemetery. For his arguments and my reply thereto see «Notes and Queries». Ninth Series, Vol. 1, pp. 201, 309, 510. It certainly is sufficiently staggering that the date «16th September 1773» given on the tomb is erroneous: Smollett, without a shadow of doubt, died on the 17th September 1771.

[10] See Baroness de Schubart’s inscription, p. 111, and the further particulars concerning her at p. 117. Baron de Schubart was Danish Minister at the Court of the Two Sicilies.

[11] Some few Latin inscriptions, where a similar inscription also existed in English have not been here transcribed, so that the number of Latin inscriptions is even greater than stated above. There is but one Latin inscription in the whole of the New Cemetery! Is this entirely due to change of fashion? Has not the decline of true learning, has not a certain shrinking of the human spirit due to the diffusion of superficial learning, something to do with it? For myself I cannot sufficiently admire our forefathers’ devotion to the universal tongue. With it all their English was better than ours is, and their cult of English every whit as ample and sincere.

[12] The year of death has been omitted by an oversight in copying the inscription.

[13] Both died at the same age (twenty-one), and on the same day (28th August). Moreover they are buried side by side, and in exactly similar tombs. There is surely romance and tragedy in all this, if only the past could yield up the secret.

[14] But both obviously of the seventeenth century

[15] The Chapel Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages from 1707 to 1824 in two volumes still fortunately exist. They remained in the custody of the Rev. Thomas Hall, Chaphain to the “Factory”, who stayed on in Leghorn throughout the Consular interregnum. See his inscription,p. 78. These Registers, with entries in four languages are of the deepest interest. I sincerely hope to edit them some day.

[16] “In Tuscany”, p.125

About these ads