In “Essays upon Epitaphs,” William Wordsworth notes how “an Epitaph presupposes a Monument, upon which it is to be engraven,” even tracing the “invention of epitaphs” to John Weever in Discourse of Funeral Monuments, which, Wordsworth, “says rightly, ‘proceeded from the presage of fore-feeling of immortality, implanted in all men naturally.'”

This sense of immortality connects, if loosely, to a central recurring idea in Wordsworth’s work: the notion of “spots of time” and perhaps this fascination with epigraphs and this yearning for immortality in the form of gravestones and their epigraphs is a driving force behind the pervasiveness of graves in Wordsworth’s poetry and prose.

This exhibit provides readers context about Lakeland churchyards and their roles in the community, the textures and scripts that mark eighteenth-century gravestones, insights into St. Oswald’s Grasmere churchyard, and specific graves central to Wordsworth’s poetry. In this exhibit, The Gravestone Project hopes to help you explore practices of memorialization in 18th and 19th century England though images, stories, about gravestones related to William Wordsworth, his family, and his poetry.

Explore the Culture of Churchyards, Texture, and Graves that Wordsworth Knew and Wrote About:

Image of Ennerdale exterior featuring a stone building with a red archway door, two gravestones in the foreground, and tree branches shading a stone walkway.Image of church with a cloudy blue sky and green churchyard.Penrith Grave