On Tobias Smollett’s grave(s)… Reality or poetic licence? Thursday, Mar 29 2012 

Tobias Smollett’s grave in the Old English Cemetery of Livorno has always sparked people’s interest: numerous visitors were attracted to the English Cemetery just to see the tomb of the great Scottish writer and historian. Some of them even took pieces of marble off as souvenirs, or left messages inscribed on the monument. Many travellers left short accounts on their visit to the cemetery and to Smollett’s tomb. Later on, the apparent mystery of its wrong inscription led to a written confrontation between Consul Montgomery Carmichael and Col. Buchan Telfer on the pages of The Times. More recently, after WWII, some concerned readers wrote to the Editor of The Times to denounce the state of neglect of the cemetery and of Smollett’s grave. The newspaper even published two pictures of the burial ground, of which one portrayed the writer’s monument at that time (1953).

The following picture shows (more…)

The Old English Cemetery in Quotes: a new page. Friday, Feb 24 2012 

For a long time I have been collecting brief excerpts or longer citations regarding the Old English Cemetery of Livorno. Many of these have the power of giving us a glance of what it was like in the past by describing in colourful detail its vegetation, or the railings and low wall enclosing it, or the magic and melancholy atmosphere that could be felt while wandering there, or some of the white marble monuments of all shapes, with their inscriptions in many different languages…  These passages were written by people visiting it during a day off at Livorno’s harbour waiting to sail to some other places. Others came just to see the famous tombs of Smollett and Horner, or to look for the grave of an acquaintance or of some other person they particularly respected… Some of them fell in love with it and would even dream of dying in the surroundings so they could be buried in such a wonderful garden, while some others compared it to other cemeteries, or noted its uniqueness in Italy or its age. Certain writers depicted Livorno as the Italian ‘Babel’; it was populated with merchants of all tongues, mariners and pirates, noblemen and their courts passing through on their way back to Florence, and consumptive gentlemen hoping the sea breeze would make their health better.

Here’s one of these excerpts:

Piero Sraffa, M. H. Dobb, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, 10, 1955, 321-322.

Letter, Thursday 24 Oct.r Pisa [1822]

(…) We also saw the English Burying Ground in which we were very much (more…)

History of the Old English Cemetery: a new page of the blog. Wednesday, Feb 22 2012 


The survey of the Old English Cemetery of Livorno which I began in 2009 and my subsequent analysis of the data has revealed an elevated amount of discrepancies. Some examples are: the position of the existing tombstones not matching the complete survey made in 1906 (see below), the great number of missing slabs and tombstones, the astonishing collages of inscription fragments mounted together with no apparent logic, some artistically/historically incoherent monuments, the total loss of the iron railings that were enclosing a number of graves, the mysteriously empty areas, the enormous quantities of debris, dumping material and objects found everywhere, etc…

The very limited local bibliography on the subject lacks any detail on the history of the cemetery, and gives only opinions and hypotheses. It relays unreliable information from previous books and articles and transmits oral statements of unknown origins. Everything about this place has always been uncertain, from the year of its foundation (historians have dated it anywhere from 1594 to 1737), to the events of World War II. On the other hand, Prof. Stefano Villani has provided some very interesting evidence about the enclosure of the cemetery and other documents related to the first hundred years of the burial ground’s existence. I recently discovered the testament of a Leghorn merchant which finally establishes, for the first time, the year of the foundation of this cemetery (see related article on this blog).

Read the new page: History of the Old English Cemetery of Livorno: an outline.

Montgomery Carmichael on the Old British Cemetery of Leghorn Friday, Apr 9 2010 

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.

It was not without considerable diffidence that (more…)

A dispute on Tobias Smollett’s burial in Livorno dated 1898. Wednesday, Apr 7 2010 


In the Notes and Queries periodical, year 1898, 9th series, vol.1, p.201, 309 and 510 appeared an interesting exchange between R.N. Captain James Buchan Telfer and the British Vice-Consul at Leghorn Montgomery Carmichael. I thought it would be interesting to offer a copy of the originals (more…)

Burials at the Old English Cemetery of Livorno (Via Verdi) Wednesday, Jan 20 2010 

This list is based on the book « The Inscriptions of the Old British Cemetery of Leghorn » by Gery Milner-Gibson-Cullum and Francis Campbell Macauley, Giusti, Livorno, 1906. The order of the burials follows the original order of the book. The first part of the list (black) contains Englishmen and Americans, the last part of the list ( blue) are people from other nationalities. Married women have both their surnames; I used the form: ‘married name’ née ‘former name’ if this can be clearly deducted from the inscription. The date of death is the one that appears on the funeral inscription as reported by the 1906 book. An asterisk beside the date indicates that the person has then been removed from Livorno. An exclamation mark indicates a correction apported by further knowledge (i.e. internet users, researches, etc…), followed by the correction. (more…)

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