The following is a fictional story taken from 'Porcupine', Which was a journal of current events, political, social and satirical. Dated 14th June 1873, it is a wonderful description of the cemetery. Author unknown.
HOUR BY HOUR:
A SERIES OF SKETCHES BY DAY AND NIGHT.
2 AM - A GHOSTLY WALK
We were turned out of the Wellington Rooms a few minutes after half-past One, that being the decent hour at which dancing is ordered to cease. We go through the usual ordeal of scrambling for ones overcoat and, lighting a cigar, turn down the hill to seek a spare cab. Let us take this one, a rickety vehicle that dare only emerge from its shed when the cab-inspectors are sung in bed, and with an animal between the shafts which it seems a mockery to call a horse, so limp kneed and heavy-headed is it. In we get, and on we go, at the pace so peculiar to mourning coaches and the Kirkdale busses.
The horse's hoofs sound hollowly on the hard road, as it plods on with us along Rodney Street and St.James's Road and the regular measure almost sends us to sleep with the cigar between our teeth. Ah, here we are passing St. James's Mount and the Cemetery. The Cemetery! What d'ye say, friend, * to a walk through the cemetery at this hour? It would be a new thing wouldn't it? Are you "game"? It would prove a corrective after the dissipation of the ballroom. You're surely not frightened, are you? No? That's right, then here, we'll stop the cab, dismiss the cabby, and, as there's no policeman about, we'll climb the railings, as the gate is sure to be locked, and get in that way. You're afraid we'll be taken up for burglary? Who ever heard of modern burglary in a churchyard? Resurrectionism isn't practiced now. You can get bodies without the trouble for the dissecting-table. Burkes and Hares find their occupation gone. The hospitals and workhouses furnish unclaimed subjects in plenty for the knife. Come on, than; the lonely policeman slumbers on his nightly beat, or sips his early coffee on some sheltered steps. Grasp the rail firmly; over we go, mind we're not impaled on the spikes! There, now for a jump, and we are over!
The first thing we note is a military memorial. Yonder is the sloping entrance to the cemetery, through a dismal tunnel in the sandstone rook. But before we enter to awaken with our footfalls the slumbering echoes in the vaulted roof, let us look about for the unquiet shade of the suicide that leapt from yonder steep rock, and now, so popular belief has it, will not let his coffin repose beneath the ground, and at the proper ghostly hour taken a turn among the graves about here. Yonder dark corner is a fit spot for such a deed, and appropriate haunt for the self-murderer. shall we encounter his walking spirit in the gloomy tunnel, where the death. Damp trickles from the roof on to one's face no. Pleasantly? No, we are an hour too late. If the churchyard has been yawning, it has closed its mouth again, and the graves have reswallowed their tenants, after these have visited the glimpses of the moon. The spirits have scented the morning air by this time; and, though there is no glow-worm hereabout to show the matin to be near and to pale his ineffectual fire, the ghosts have been warned by the ticking of their death-clocks that, if their favorite maxim “early to bed and early to rise” is to be carried out, they had better back to their cold homes.
Let us through the tunnel, so dark that we must almost grope our way, the gusts of wind rushing through with moans and wails as though spirits were sweeping past us, and hastening to their silent habitations. We shrink with horror, as our elbow catches the side of the vault, and fancy we have had ghostly hands laid upon us. Courageous as we believed we were, we hurry out of the darksome tunnel and into the moonlight beyond. If we turn to look to our left we behold the Doric oratory, in which the funeral services are said, and the great and small of Liverpool rest for the last time before their final consignment to the earth. As it stands near the edge of the sheer perpendicular rock, with the moonlight full upon it, it looks like a temple in one of Pousain's or Claude's somber backgrounds.
Yonder in front of us are the sloping walks up to the catacombs. Turn we along to the right, with a sloping shrubbery on one hand shrouding the path in gloom, and on the other the staring monuments of Liverpool's middle-class celebrities, with headstones in every style of art “from three pound ten upwards, with the lettering thrown in."
Shall we stop to read the inscriptions? Here is one which records the death of Mary Brown, the dearly beloved wife of Samuel Brown, who erected this name monument of fleeting stone to her fond memory, recording in four lines of doggerel that she was a 'good wife to him and a good mother to his children.' Yet Samuel married Mary's housekeeper before the funeral-baked meats were cold, and had to be sued in the County Court for the balance of the sepulchral monument account. Such is life, and such is death. Here we have more verses to a beloved mother by her affectionate son, who lived at Prince's Park, and let her die in the workhouse.
(By the way, will any post, for the sake of sepulchral sculptors generally and gushing relatives in particular, find out a few now and correct rhymes to " heaven." " Given " has to do duty in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred, and heaven must be lugged in somehow, in which the dear departed are eternally supposed to end.)
Here is the grave of Mrs. Henrichson and her young children and the servant maid, all murdered at one fell swoop in the house near the top of Leveson Street (now changed to a tavern) by the most celebrated and cold-blooded of all Liverpool miscreants. It is now over twenty-four years since that terrible tragedy occurred, yet here, as we stand-by the graves of the poor victims, with the weeping willows near nodding like hearse plumes, the whole circumstances of the terrible tragedy recur with force that mends us shuddering from the spot. What, if the spectre of the murderer nightly visits this scene to gloat over his victims ere he returns to his dishonored grave within the Kirkdale felon cemetery! *
We hurry on to the mausoleum of Huskisson, where we can linger for five minutes to gaze at Gibson's solid marble handiwork, whose begrimed bronze counterpart at the bottom of Castle Street excites the wonder of strangers at the scarceness of soap and water in Liverpool. The fine work is enclosed in a dome, so that some whiteness may be preserved in the marble block, but this arrangement, of course, precludes any but the but front of the figure being seen. How many the strangers aforesaid ever get a glimpse this worthy status of Liverpool's great state man, by Liverpool's great sculptor, or are thereby reminded of his useful life and melancholy and Of late, the German emigrants at the South end throng St. James's Mount, or “Mount Zion," as it was formerly termed, and find their way into then gloomy walks dedicated to death and decay, but Liverpool's "Pẻre La Chaise” is mainly given up to servant girls and romping children and women with sore eyes coming to bathe them with the water of the little Pool of Siloam yonder, whose chalybeate proportion are popularly believed to have the healing of everything from a bad corn up to delirium tremors. The perpetual plash of the water from the little pipe in the rock rather belies the line in the inscription which intimates that the water is neither heard nor seen to flow; but, as we had the wherewith to got a glassful, and a dash of some thing to take the chill off withal, we should certainly quaff of this " emblem of true charity (as the legend hath it) in spite of the violence to our feelings by the recurrence of the inevitable rhyme of " heaven " to “ given " with which the verse closes. But we turn away along the path to the south and of the cemetery, where the willows grow thicker and gloomier, and the shadows on the tombstones prevent us noting the names or perusing the hackneyed eulogies, if we had the mind or time to do so. What a ghastly creaking sound the leaves of these umbrageous sentinels of the grave make against the urns and pillars and down turned torches over the headstones, like the fumbling of unearthly fingers in the effort to scratch the monumental falsehoods out!
Here, on all sides, as we mount the slope towards the exit gate, the graves thicken and are huddled together indiscriminately, childhood having to lay its innocent head, running over with golden curls beside the hoary-headed sinner, whose epitaph would make a dead saint of him. Your Death in a reckless husbandman, and gathers alike the ripe and unripe fruit. He is the merciless mower that never sleeps,
" But with stealthy tread through the world doth pass Aye cutting men down, for all flesh is grass,
Ne’er staying his ruthless hand to spareThe flowret frail be it never so fair.
The young and the aged, the high and the low.Alike at one sweep his scythe doth mow,
And all, by the bright sun of justice tried,Are gathered in that the Judge may decide
Which shall be stored for an endless day,And which, as rank weeds, shall be cast away."
As we slowly stroll through these moldering memorials, these sad tell-tales of man's fleeting existence, how our thoughts insensibly wander back through the vista of wasted years, how we recognize the folly of our youth, the vanities and frivolities, and greedy ambition for fame or gold of our manhood; how we frame sturdy resolutions of repentance and better-doing for the future; how, when we look within our own seared hearts with the eyes of conscience, we behold----- Heavens! What is that! There! There! Glaring at us with orb less eyes and girning jaws round the corner of yon funereal urn, Yonder, as surely and distinctly as we hold the pen in the hand that writes this, we behold a figure emerging from behind the moonlit headstone within ten paces of where we now stand, transfixed with horror at the unearthly sight. We would turn and fly from the spot, but the ghastly gaze from those sunken sockets rivets us to the earth like a frozen statue. Our tongue cleaves to its roof, the heart seems to stand still, the blood clogs, and clammy death-drops stand upon the brow. Believe us or not as you choose, you who have never, as it were, thus dared the dead in their abiding place but there before us we see as clearly as anything we have ever set our gaze on, the figure of a man, or the embodiment of what was once humanity, advancing towards us glidingly. An age seems compressed into a single second; the incidents of a whole life are thronged into one terrible moment. With a few more steps the spirit, or whatever it be, has laid its burning, not chilling, grasp upon our hand. Its other arm is raised in warning attitude, with 8 fleshless finger pointing up to heaven; it stoops till our faces have nearly met, its girning jaws are parted and creak upon their ungristly hinges, and we shrink and shudder at the shock, as it utters in our startled ear the ghostly warning. " Confound it, sir, blest if you don't want to set the 'ole blessed cab a-fire! “
We start, stammer, and waken at another rude shake, not of a spirit, but of the irascible cabman. The cab had suddenly stopped at our destination, shaking the slumbering cigar from between our clenched teeth. It dropped with the lighted end, of course right on our hand, and falling on to the floor burns a small hole in the faded carpet, for which we have to add a shilling to the fare. We had fallen asleep while passing the cemetery, and had not been through it at two a.m. after all! Vexing, wasn't it
* The writer has a habit of imagining that he has an alter ego with him.