Literature Graveyard: Which Cemetery is the Most Literary?

Gabe Habash -- August 30th, 2011

Last month, we posted an article detailing some very strange ways that authors have met their end. The morbid side of literature got us thinking about the final resting places of authors, so we did some research and uncovered the cemeteries that can boast the most about the literary quality of their residents. Read on for more gloom.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is likely America’s greatest literary cemetery. It’s located in Concord, Massachusetts has an area known as “Author’s Ridge.” The cemetery was dedicated in 1855, when Ralph Waldo Emerson gave its dedication speech.

Notable writer burials: Louisa May Alcott, William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Richard Marius, Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, Henry David Thoreau.

Other notable burial: Daniel Chester French, sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial.

Novodevichy Cemetery outside Moscow has over 27,000 buried. Under Soviet reign, it was the second most prestigious cemetery behind the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. Today, only the most symbolic burials still occur there.

Notable writer burials: Mikhail Bulgakov, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Other notable burial: Boris Yeltsin.

Montparnasse Cemetery has been around since 1824 and is a big tourist attraction in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. Since it opened, more than 300,000 people have been buried there, and 1,000 burials happen there every year.

Notable writer burials: Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Guy de Maupassant, Jean-Paul Sartre, Susan Sontag, César Vallejo.

Other notable burial: Émile Durkheim.

Père Lachaise Cemetery is home to 70,000 today and is said to be the world’s most-visited cemetery. It’s also home to things like lipstick marks on Oscar Wilde’s grave and the “lewd rubbing” of statues.

Notable writer burials: Miguel Ángel Asturias, Honoré de Balzac, Jean de Brunhoff, Colette, Nancy Cunard, Molière, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Tolkas, Oscar Wilde, Richard Wright.

Other notable burial: Auguste Comte.

The Panthéon in Paris was originally conceived by King Louis XV as a structure worthy of St. Genevieve, Paris’s patron saint. The gorgeous building features Corinthian columns and a triple dome. Since it’s completion in 1780, it has been the site of numerous important events, including Foucault’s demonstration of the Earth’s rotation. Its necropolis is equally impressive and extremely restrictive.

Notable writer burials: Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Voltaire, Émile Zola.

Other notable burial: Louis Braille.

If you’re a writer and eventually find yourself spending eternity in any of these cemeteries, you can rest assured you’ve done some good work in your time. But none of these places can compare to Poet’s Corner in Westminister Abbey.

The first person buried in Poet’s Corner, which is in a section of the South Transept of the Abbey, was Geoffrey Chaucer in 1400. But it wasn’t until his massive tomb was completed in 1556, as well as the burial of poet Edmund Spenser in 1599, that the literary tradition began. The most recent burial was Laurence Olivier in 1989.

Notable writer burials: Robert Browning, Thomas Campbell, Geoffrey Chaucer, Abraham Cowley, Charles Dickens, John Dryden, William Gifford, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, Edmund Spenser, Alfred Tennyson.

Other notable burial: George Frideric Handel.


20 thoughts on “Literature Graveyard: Which Cemetery is the Most Literary?

  1. Pingback: Literary Graveyard: Which Cemetery is the Most Literary? « The Get Out Girl

  2. Pamela poole

    Marguerite Duras at Montparnasse… The most important of the New Novelists. When she died François Mitterand said she was to 20th-century French lit what Hugo was to 19th. When she died, she was the most widely taught (in universities) author on the planet.

  3. Cheryl Dickemper

    Simone de Beauvoir is buried at Montparnasse with Sartre. Just had to mention that–wouldn’t want the second sex not getting a proper shout-out.

  4. Reacher

    also Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass.

    Hannah Adams, (1755–1831), author
    Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907), author
    John Ciardi (1916–1986), poet
    Robert Creeley (1926–2005), poet
    Fanny Fern (1811–1872), feminist author
    James Thomas Fields (1817-1881) writer and publisher
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), poet
    Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894), author and poet
    Harriet Jacobs (1813 – 1897), author and abolitionist
    Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910) activist, poet
    Annie Adams Fields (1834-1915) author and hostess; wife of James
    Amy Lowell (1874–1925), poet
    James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), poet
    Bernard Malamud (1914 – 1986), author
    Charles Eliot Norton (1827–1908), scholar and author
    Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867), publisher

  5. Charles Carr

    What about Woodlawn? Clarence Day and Irving Berlin etc. I love Sleepy Hollow and Greenwood. Washington Irving is in Sleepy Hollow in NY and there is a complex of cemeteries outside NY which must have some writers.

  6. alyslinn

    As a note of interest, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre are buried in the same grave at Montparnasse.

    Other notables at Pere Lachaise (not all writers): Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, George Sand (IIRC.)

  7. Cynthia Stein

    Westminster Abbey Poets’ Corner. Murray mentioned TS Elliot, who was not buried there, but there were many great poets and authors who are buried there. It truly has a breathtaking list of graves and memorials to British writers.

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