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On the Burial Vault of J.S. Le Fanu

by Brian J. Showers, © November 2006

This article was first published in Le Fanu Studies Volume 1, Issue #2


ONE DAY, SHORTLY after moving to Dublin, I found myself sitting by the front window reading a book. The day happened to be warm; a clear day in late spring--that is to say it wasn't raining. This is a rare aul' occurrence in Ireland. But despite the good weather, I was unable to come up with a suitable reason for leaving the house.

Even on sunny days I've always been more concerned with stuffier pursuits. I had a cuppa, a seat near a wide-open window, and a book--everything I needed. The book I was reading, by the way, was W.J. McCormack's biography of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, the most extensive examination of Le Fanu's life to date.

After a few longing gazes out the window, I spread the book wide (to block as much of my field of vision as possible) and continued to read. Outside was sunny and vibrant, but on the page was a dull grey February, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu had just passed away:
The funeral took place to [sic] Mount Jerome Cemetery on Tuesday 11 February [1873], and Sheridan Le Fanu was placed in the Bennett tomb beside his wife and five other members of the Bennett Family. The sandstone Victorian Gothic Monument which now marks the grave is so defaced by time that no trace remains of Le Fanu's name (McCormack 270).
Somewhere in my mind the cogs began to turn. I flipped through the pages to the glossy black and white photo plates in the middle of the book. The first photo was of Le Fanu's older brother, William Richard Le Fanu, a handsome man with a kind and self-assured gaze. The next photo was a reproduction of a manuscript page from Torlogh O'Brien, the handwriting illegible to all but Le Fanu himself. The photo on the page after that was of Susanna (née Bennett) Le Fanu captured in time forever looking slightly awkward and uncomfortable. Finally I turned to the last photo plate: a crumbling "Victorian Gothic Monument" of "sandstone" in the final stages of shrugging off the influence of man. The caption below the photo read: "The Bennett/Le Fanu tomb, Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin" (McCormack, Photo No. 8).

Having been a resident of Dublin for nearly a year, Mount Jerome sounded vaguely familiar. I certainly knew of Glasnevin Cemetery on the north side, Dublin's answer to Highgate Cemetery in London, but I was hazy as to the whereabouts of Mount Jerome Cemetery. I pulled out my trusty street index, a book that had never left my pocket in those early months, and was delighted to find that Mount Jerome was located in the tiny neighbourhood of Harold's Cross, a short walking distance from where I sat reading, and, in fact, where I now sit typing this article.

The cemetery dominates the neighbourhood of Harold's Cross, and is marked in the same shade of green that the map uses to indicate city parks. But the cemeteries, fortunately for picnickers, are differentiated on the map by a pattern of tiny white crosses. Given the sheer size of Mount Jerome, one might be tempted to wonder what is the total population of Harold's Cross--if one counts both the living and the dead. Surely the later outnumbers the former!

As I sat there wondering, the cogs turned a bit more. Suddenly I realised what could trump my stuffy pursuits: morbid pursuits! More specifically, necro-tourism. Anything to get out of the house, right? And with Mount Jerome Cemetery at least the same shade green as a city park, it was a most suitable destination for someone like myself on a sunny day.

Twenty minutes later, having hiked down the endless stretch of Leinster Road and crossed the thin, wedge-shaped Harold's Cross Park, I found myself standing at the gates of Mount Jerome Cemetery. Since my first visit to Mount Jerome, I've had the benefit of a trip to the Rathmines Library. Much of the following history of Mount Jerome is gleaned from Vivien Igoe's Dublin Burial Grounds & Graveyards, and Joe Langtry and Nikki Carter's Mount Jerome: A Victorian Cemetery.

In the early 17th century Harold's Cross was part of St. Kevin's Parish. What is now Mount Jerome Cemetery was at that time the land occupied by the vicar of St. Kevin's Parish, Reverend Stephen Jerome. Sometime in the latter half of the 17th century, the land passed into the ownership of the Earl of Meath, who in turn leased plots to various prominent Dublin families.

A large manor was constructed on the Mount Jerome land during the early 18th century, though exactly when and by whom is unknown. The house, when it was built, was described as being, "a substantial mansion house, being four stories high at the end of the tree lined avenue surrounded by a high wall" (Langtry, 1). What remains, today known as Mount Jerome House, is a more modest two-storey, which houses a café and the cemetery offices.

In 1834, after an aborted attempt to set up a cemetery in Dublin's Phoenix Park, the General Cemetery Company of Dublin bought the Mount Jerome property, "for establishing a general cemetery in the neighbourhood of the city of Dublin" (Igoe, 172). The land was described as, "being on a gently elevated ground embellished with lawns and shrubberies, and wholly surrounded with lofty trees of venerable growth, giving it an air of seclusion and a solemnity of aspect peculiarly appropriate" (Igoe, 172). Although open to all religious denominations, Mount Jerome became the main Protestant cemetery in Dublin. Glasnevin Cemetery, which opened in 1832, was reserved for Catholic burials.

Mount Jerome Cemetery opened for business in 1836. "Sixteen acres of land were originally devoted to perpetuity ground, which allowed an entire grave, plot or vault to be purchased to admit one interment. It could be re-opened by members of the respective family or their representative until it was filled. It cost £4 2s 6d and the average plot could hold five corpses. When larger space was required a further £5 per square foot was charged" (Langtry, 6). The cemetery has since become the final resting place of many Irish notables, including William Carleton, Sir William Wilde, George 'AE' Russell, Jack B. Yeats, Walter Osbourne, John Millington Synge, members of the Guinness Family, and of course, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. The Massey Family undertakers bought the cemetery in 1984 and continue to run it today.

On that sunny day, I passed through the cemetery gates only to find a landscape far different from the greener pastures described by the General Cemetery Company surveyor. Mount Jerome is a labyrinthine, forty-seven acre Victorian cemetery, a most appropriate resting place for a writer of ghost stories and period novels. Imagine grandiose Victorian tombs subjected to one hundred and seventy years of decay and you have just conjured up an image of Mount Jerome Cemetery. Weathered monuments clutter every square inch of the grounds. Even the most astute perambulator will not find a single blade of green grass amongst the rubble of toppled monuments and collapsed capstones. Rough paths weave around the stones like sepulchral worms. This is the Père-Lachaise of Dublin, complete with its own member of the Wilde family.

Mount Jerome Cemetery is a private cemetery, which means that each plot is owned by the family or direct assignee of the original purchaser. Because each plot is essentially a private piece of land, and because the cemetery is not owned by the city, general maintenance and upkeep is the responsibility of the families. Many of the plots and stones are so old that there are no remaining relatives; consequently a large portion of the cemetery has fallen into ruin.

Other than the photo provided in the biography by Dr. McCormack, I had no other clues as to where the Bennett/Le Fanu vault was in this massive graveyard.

Mount Jerome can be divided into two sections: the old section, about twenty-six acres; and the new, roughly twenty-one acres. The cogs didn't have to turn much for me to realise that I would most likely find my quarry in the old section. The other clue I had was in the photo itself-there were trees in the near background. Most of Mount Jerome is a stony desert with trees growing mainly along the borders and central avenues. It also helped that the monument had a distinct spire-like shape, one that would easily stand out from the other monuments.

I began my search by following The Laurel Walk along the cemetery's southern perimeter. A wall approximately three and a half metres high encircles the entire cemetery. Graves line the base of the wall the entire distance around, and even though I was in the old section, there was still the occasional modern headstone. Unlike the stoic and unique Victorian monuments, modern headstones are largely uniform; usually white, grey, or black stone buffed to a high shine and engraved with black or gold lettering. It is not uncommon to find dirty, plastic flowers and cheap religious bric-a-brac perched on and often littered in between the newer graves.

By the time I reached The Cypress Walk, I was beginning to wonder whether I was on a fool's errand. Mount Jerome is a big place-did I really have a chance of spotting the Bennett/Le Fanu monument based on a photograph? At the intersection of The Cypress Walk and the less-charmingly named A3 Walk, I was able to see the last treeless section of the old section before it gave way to a salt and pepper field of modern headstones.

From here I decided to head east, down The Cypress Walk. Shortly I came to the heart of the old section, a circular junction where the seven main avenues converge. According to Dublin Burial Grounds & Graveyards, there used to be a large fountain here. The fountain was replaced by, "a circular flower bed, which lends some colour to the area. A memorial at this junction has the following thought provoking inscription: Life how short / Eternity how long" (Igoe, 173). When I arrived at the flowerbed, there were no colourful flowers at all, but a barren circle of earth with patches of weeds growing in it. Thought provoking indeed! With this on my mind, I continued along the path that divides the old section from the new until I came to the even more thought provokingly named, Long Walk. It was on this avenue, about three-quarters down, that I found what I was looking for: the melted-sugar spire of the Bennett/Le Fanu monument.

The Bennett/Le Fanu monument is made of a cream coloured stone that is strikingly different than the surrounding monuments, which range from light to deep grey. The spire on top of the underground vault is so badly weathered that it barely retains its original shape. Large chunks have fallen off, indeed, no trace of Le Fanu's name remains. The only discernable words on a crumbling side of the monument are, 'in memory of,' and below that, "affection." A rather sad memorial, I think; one with the names of those memorialised lost to the elements. Whoever decided to make the monument of sandstone had made a horrible choice. Many neighbouring monuments, ones that are older and not made of from sandstone, are in much better condition. So much for eternity.

A word on the underground vaults of Mount Jerome. Many of the granite vaults in the cemetery are buried so that only the tops are visible. Monuments or headstones are then erected on the tops of the vaults, eye-level to the perambulator. The vault identified by Dr. McCormack is an example of this, and more examples can be seen behind and beside it in the above photo. When the deceased is interred, the earth in front of the vault is dug away so that the door can be accessed. I don't know why the vaults were built this way. Surely not as security from career body snatchers, as that profession died out with the introduction of the Anatomy Act of 1832, which allowed the use of cadavers for medical research. The first burial in Mount Jerome was four years later, in 1836.


So under a crumbling, unmarked vault lie the remains of one of the most influential practitioners of the ghost story.

At least, that's what I thought until I started researching for an article I later wrote at the suggestion of Barbara Roden. The article, "The Haunts of the Haunter," more accurately be described as a biographical tour of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Dublin [Footnote 1], took me from Chapelizod, to Trinity College, Merrion Square, Aungier Street, and eventually back to Mount Jerome. This time I visited the main office, where I consulted Le Fanu's burial records.

The tiny office in the basement of Mount Jerome House is cold and austere, much like the secretary who stood behind the dark wood counter. I told her my business. "Name and date of death, please," she said. With the information scrawled a piece of paper, she trudged, grim-faced, into the back office and emerged a minute later with a massive tome, The Registry of Grants in Perpetuity of Burial in Mount Jerome Cemetery. She opened the book to grant 399.

The entries were written with blackish-brown ink and in a charmingly ornate handwriting; the type of handwriting that people just don't have anymore. Grant 399 was originally purchased by Le Fanu's father-in-law George Bennett, hence, the "Bennett/Le Fanu vault." The record lists when the grant was purchased, the terms of the agreement, and the fee. According to the Registry, George Bennett purchased the "Perpetual right of Burial" for the sum of £12. This is roughly £713 ($1295 USD) at today's rates (Lawrence; Oct 30, 2004). Also listed are those interred in the vault and their year of death. They are as follows:
Jonathan [Lovett] Bennett--1840
     Susanna's younger brother
Cecilia Georgina Bennett--1849
     Infant daughter of Susanna Le Fanu's
     younger brother Edmund

George Bennett--1856
     Susanna Le Fanu's father
Susan[na née Bennett] Le Fanu--1858
     Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's wife
George Bennett--1853
     Susanna Le Fanu's elder brother
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu--1873
[Thomas] Phillip Le Fanu--1879
     Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's eldest son
The Bennett/Le Fanu record, like all records in the Registry, contains a simple description of the monument: "A Tomb on Granite Platform and 4 Balls." This description is consistent with the vault identified by Dr. McCormack. Unfortunately, this does not tell us what the vault once looked like or what was inscribed on it. As I read over the burial records, the secretary brought out another book for me to look at, Mount Jerome: A Victorian Cemetery.

Mount Jerome: A Victorian Cemetery is a thin book comprised of the history of the cemetery and short biographies of notable people buried within. A fold out map at the back of the book shows where the notables are buried. Naturally I looked up Le Fanu, but I did not expect what I found. Aside from a truly hideous portrait of Le Fanu, the ghost story scribe's vault is not listed as being on the north side of The Long Walk, but rather to the northeast, on the Nun's Walk. [Footnote 2] The Nun's Walk is a short distance from the sandstone monument identified by Dr. McCormack .

Confused by the contradiction, I set off across the cemetery for the Nun's Walk. The Nun's Walk, incidentally, is named for the former convent, now a hospice, on the other side of the adjacent cemetery wall. When I found subdivision 122, as marked out on the map given to me in the office, I started reading the gravestones. After a few minutes of searching, my trusty cogs began turning again. I soon realised that the Bennett/Le Fanu tomb was not a grave, but a vault. All of the tombs in subdivision 122 are graves save for one, a vault topped with a darkly coloured capstone, located at the interior of the bend where the road juts away from the outer wall. So was this the resting place of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu? If it was, this rather unexceptional vault certainly did not match the description written in the Registry.

I climbed atop the flat slab for closer inspection. The words were so badly eroded that they had nearly disappeared altogether; nevertheless, they were still there. I pulled out my list of those interred in the Bennett/Le Fanu vault. Gradually one by one, I matched them with the faded engravings on the darkly coloured slab. About halfway down the capstone I found a weatherworn name that most definitely read:


So this non-descript vault on the Nun's Walk was, beyond a reasonable doubt, the final resting place of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. I had seen his faded name written in stone with my own eyes. Perhaps I was even standing on the very spot where the grief-stricken "Invisible Prince" himself once mourned his wife Susanna, whose untimely death marked the author's withdrawal from society:
Friday 30 April [1858] was bitterly cold in Dublin. Snow lay on the ground as the funeral moved out of the city towards the southern suburbs. At eight o'clock Susanna, who was not quite thirty-five years old, was laid beside her father and her two brothers. William [Joseph's elder brother] remained with his brother for the remainder of the day. In the afternoon they travelled out to the Phoenix Park to take a walk under the tree. The weather continued foully for days, with thunder, lightening, and hailstones…. (McCormack, 129).
As long as a mistake is not hurting anyone, it's much easier to ignore it than to correct it. At least that's what I read in the expression on Alan Massey's face as he reluctantly followed me to The Long Walk. Mr. Massey oversees the daily operations of the cemetery, which, much to his annoyance sometimes includes examining nineteenth century monuments with someone who asks too many questions. At The Long Walk, I pulled out Sheridan Le Fanu and re-read Dr. McCormack's description of Le Fanu's funeral and the vault. "Sandstone," I said aloud. "That's an odd choice for a monument." I was a junior rock hound in my youth, but I suspect that everyone knows that sandstone isn't the most durable of stones. "Its not sandstone," said Mr. Massey. "Its Portland stone." For those who weren't junior rock hounds, Portland stone is a Jurassic-age limestone found on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England. Ok, so I admit I looked that up.

We then walked over to the Bennett/Le Fanu vault. Mr. Massey said that the dark coloured capstone was made from Keane limestone. I pointed out the names that corresponded with the Registry. I also noticed that the number "399" was engraved at the bottom of the capstone. The "399" was much more distinct than the names; it had held up better against weathering. The grant purchased by George Bennett is listed as 399 in the Registry.

Convinced, though still indifferent, Mr. Massey updated the description of the vault in the Registry. He used a blue ballpoint pen and wrote in a scrawl that clashed with the ornate Victorian handwriting of the rest of the book: "-being to the left + Alongside [grave] 43148-Keane Marble [headstone], limestone base + kerbs. Tomb is on Main Road, North side of Nun's Walk."


I eventually finished writing "The Haunts of the Haunter," complete with correct burial information. I thought the matter of the location of Le Fanu's tomb had been laid to rest, but a single cog still whirred at the back of my mind. Why had the mistake been made in the first place? Obviously Dr. McCormack identified the vault based on the description given in the Registry, but why was the Registry incorrect? The seeds had been laid for the article that you now read.

Nearly two years after I had finished "The Haunts of the Haunter," I accompanied a Le Fanu researcher who wanted to consult the records to Mount Jerome. I idly looked over the relevant pages as he transcribed them. As I did this, the larger cogs started turning, and a number of peculiarities began to appear. How I overlooked these peculiarities the first time that I was there, I have no excuse. I will try to present the puzzle pieces for you as clearly as possible.

The first peculiarity is the date of purchase:
This certifies that the Perpetual right of Burial in a plot of Ground measuring 8 feet x 6 feet in Subdivision 122 has been granted to George Bennett Q.C. of Merrion Square Dublin for the Sum of £ 12 s. 0 d. 0 this day of May 1878.
Subdivision 122 indeed corresponds with the Bennett/Le Fanu vault on the Nun's Walk, but the year of purchase, "May 1878," cannot be correct as George Bennett Q.C. (Queen's Counsel) died in 1856. So when did George Bennett purchase the grant? At the top of the page is the year (not page number) 1841. Entered just below grant 399 (Bennett/Le Fanu's record), on the same page, is grant 400. Grant 400 was purchased by John W.S. Cole in "May 1841." Entries on the previous and following pages continue in chronological order. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that George Bennett purchased grant 399 in May 1841, not 1878.

The second peculiarity is the list of name of the persons interred, more specifically, the years interred:
Jonathan Bennett--1840
Cecilia Georgina Bennett--1849
George Bennett--1853
Susan[na] Le Fanu--1858
George Bennett--1856
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu--1873
Philip [sic] Le Fanu--1879
[Footnote 3]
George Bennett (1856), Susanna Le Fanu's father, is out of chronological sequence with the rest of the list. Logically, one would think that the names and years of the persons interred were entered into the Registry in the order in which they died. But this is not so. Why then is George Bennett out of order?

The third peculiarity is the description:
399 Is the Registered Number of this Vault, which is distinguished by A Tomb on Granite Platform and 4 Balls.
As we already know, the Bennett/Le Fanu vault is characterised by a plain capstone made of Keane limestone, engraved with both Le Fanu's name and "399". This does not match the description in the Registry. The description does, however, seem to describe the vault on The Long Walk that was identified by Dr. McCormack. So why was the incorrect description entered for grant 399?

No sooner than I isolated these three peculiarities did a theory begin to take shape. The purchase information, names of persons interred, year, registry number, and description are all in the same handwriting. The script, the brown-black ink, and the line thickness are consistent for entries from the 1830s through entries in the mid-1870s. This suggests that a single person transcribed the information from another source in the mid-1870s. And anyone transcribing a multi-volume registry is bound to make a few errors. The theory was simple and explained all three peculiarities with ease. I had my hypothesis. Now to prove it.

I asked Mr. Massey if he was aware of any past transcriptions, but he barely looked up at me: "Dunno." A moment later he added, almost thoughtfully, "Those are the only records I've seen since I started work here." This, at least, vaguely supported my theory. The transcription was done sometime before Mr. Massey's tenure at the cemetery. I continued my quest, and Mr. Massey solemnly continued working.

Perhaps the Registry would yield more clues. I opened the book to the front pages. While there was no formal front matter, the flyleaf did have a set of ten printed guidelines, good practices, for entering records into the Registry. The guidelines were set forth by "G.F. Gamble, Secretary," and dated "26th Nov., 1874."

Now that I had an approximate year in which the book might have been transcribed, I randomly looked through the Registry for names of persons interred after 1874. All of them, including the entry for 'Philip [sic] Le Fanu', whose name was entered into the great book in 1879, were written in a noticeably different handwriting and ink. If the transcription were carried out in 1874, presumably by Mr. Gamble, then any additions made after that date would naturally be either by someone else, or by Mr. Gamble using a different pen and ink, and at a later date. So far so good; a mid-1870s transcription seemed very likely. With this reasonable theory in mind, I began to postulate how the description mix-up might have occurred.

One can imagine Mr. Gamble labouring long into the night for weeks, if not months, growing increasingly drowsy with the lateness of the hour, and without the sense to brew a good, strong cup of green tea. By the light of a guttering candle, it is quite possible that Mr. Gamble accidentally jotted down the wrong description for the wrong grant. Could it be possible, then, that the description might have been shifted a record or two? I read the descriptions of grants for a number of pages, both before and after 399, to see if any adequately described the Bennett/Le Fanu vault.

Alas, none of the surrounding grants had descriptions that even remotely matched, but I did find one interesting entry. The description for grant 400, on the same page as grant 399, did sound like a fair description of the vault misidentified by Dr. McCormack:
400 Is the Registered Number of this Grave, which is distinguished by A Portland Stone Pillar with Granite Grave Covering S. Side of Long Walk in Second Range.
Grant 400 was purchased by John W.S. Cole in May 1841, mere weeks after George Bennett purchased grant 399. I arrived at a second postulation: What if the description of grant 400 were split in two during transcription; half ended up as the description for grant 399, and half for grant 400. Didn't Mr. Massey say that the misidentified vault was Portland stone? And I could not recall any other vaults in the immediate vicinity that could be described as having a pillar.

The problem with this theory is the description of grant 400 states that the Cole vault is on the south side of The Long Walk. The only way to test my theory was to take a hike to The Long Walk to see if I could find a vault marked with "Cole" and "400." It was the only lead I had.

If I were going to find something, it would probably be on the south side of The Long Walk, so that's where I began my search. I started by walking the length of the avenue, inspecting each vault and headstone until I was satisfied that it did not belong the Cole family. No joy. On my second pass, I examined the graves set back one row from the Walk, the "second range." I was happy to find, quite by accident, the grave of the royal Irish astronomer, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, though crestfallen when I read the inscription on the grave just behind it. My theory collapsed. Perhaps I'm more Watson than Holmes after all:

In subdivision 117, as stated in grant 400, on the south side of The Long Walk in the second range, was a plain white pillar nearly toppled by the searching roots of a nearby tree. At the base of the pillar was the name "Cole." Engraved on the opposite side of the base was "400." The entry in the Registry for grant 400 matches the grave it describes. I had, beyond a doubt, found the Cole grave.

So far as I was concerned, there were no more clues in the Registry and no help to be found in the main office. But even though the trail had gone cold, the story doesn't quite end here. I had one other person I wished to consult about the mix-up: Mr. Bernard Doyle.

Mr. Doyle works for the Mount Jerome Monumental Works, whose facilities are inside the front gates of the cemetery, just behind the Russian Orthodox Church. This church, incidentally, is not a part of Mount Jerome. Like the cemetery, the monumental works is a family run business. Also like the cemetery, the yard is filled with headstones, though they are only wares on display, not yet markers. A sign near the office door reads: Monumental Enquiries. I entered the office with my conundrum.

Everything in the office was covered with dust. Mr. Doyle, also covered in dust, sat behind a large desk as I explained the mix-up and all of my theories to him. To my surprise he told me he had heard that the original records were water damaged, though he did not know when this would have happened. So while my secondary postulations may be incorrect, I still believe that the records were transcribed around 1874.

Mr. Doyle was both amiable and sympathetic. He gladly accompanied me into the cemetery to have a look at the tombs in question and to offer his expert advice. The first tomb we visited was the Cole grave. Mr. Doyle confirmed that the white pillar was Portland stone, as described in the Registry. We then crossed over The Long Walk and to the monument identified by Dr. McCormack. Mr. Doyle told me that the monument was not Portland stone as I had thought, but Bath stone. Bath stone is extracted from quarries near the city of Bath, England, and, like Portland stone, is a Jurassic-age limestone. I had to look that up too.

Finally we picked our way across a field of graves to the Bennett/Le Fanu vault, the final resting place of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. "Definitely Keane limestone," confirmed Mr. Doyle, "An odd choice of stone. The design of the vault is strange too." I was lost. "Why," I asked him? "Two reasons," he said. "First, the vault is made of granite. So why isn't the capstone granite as well? Vaults made of granite by and large have granite capstones. A limestone capstone on a granite vault is atypical."

Mr Doyle then pointed out the second reason. "The Bennett/Le Fanu vault is a top-loading vault, not side-loading with the door buried below ground. The standard design for a top-loading vault is to have a capstone that is either smaller or larger than the base. The two long sides of this capstone are flush with the granite base beneath it. It's a strange design." I thought about this, but didn't have much to add. These peculiarities are nothing that a layman would notice, but for someone like Mr. Doyle, who has seen his fair share of vaults, it is a notably strange. Alas, while interesting, I do not think it explains the Registry mix-up.

"Do you think there was a monument on top of the capstone at one point?" Mr. Doyle looked at the vault and shook his head. "Not likely. There are no markings that would suggest a monument ever stood there. And what reason would someone have for erecting a monument that obscures the engraved names? Besides, the names are severely weatherworn. There was never anything over this capstone." He had a point.

"Could the Bennetts and Le Fanus have been re-interred here from somewhere else?" Mr. Doyle only paused for a moment before coming up with a sensible reply: "Why? Why would they have been re-interred? What reason could there possibly have been? If they had been, don't you think there would be some sort of record of it?"

I was out of questions and out of theories. The vault on the Nun's Walk was suddenly a dead end. The cogs ground to a halt. At least for now.


So where does that leave us? We definitely know that Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was laid to rest in a vault in subdivision 122 on the Nun's Walk. We also know that the description of grant 399 in the Registry seemingly describes the unmarked monument identified by Dr. McCormack on The Long Walk. No other monuments fit this description in the vicinity. We also know that someone likely transcribed the Registry around 1874. Everything else is a mystery. I have tried to state everything I know about the mix-up as clearly as possible. Maybe someone with more cogs will one day figure out what happened--and perhaps who is interred in the unmarked vault on The Long Walk.

I would like to leave the final words to G.F. Gamble, who most likely transcribed the Registry in 1874, and is perhaps the only one who could have solved the mix-up. As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Gamble listed ten guidelines in the front of the Registry regarding grants and perpetuities. The last guideline reads as follows:
10.- No Entry is to be made in this Book from memory. It is like the Registry, a record of facts, and, as such, should be kept up daily, and written with care and caution, ever remembering how hopelessly, confusing and irremediable may be the result of one imperfect notation. The omission of one simple figure in a Grant or Subdivision might cause, as I have known it to do, weeks of labor, loss of much valuable time, annoyance to all concerned, and bring censure upon those who may be wholly innocent of the cause.

G.F. Gamble,

26th Nov., 1874.


1. An expanded version of this article is included in Literary Walking
    Tours of Gothic Dublin
, Nonsuch Ireland, October 2006.
2. To be fair, Vivien Igoe's Dublin Burial Grounds & Graveyards also
    lists Le Fanu's grave as being on The Nun's Walk. Of the
    three books (Igoe, Langtry, and McCormack) that point out
    Le Fanu's grave, McCormack's Sheridan Le Fanu is the one out of
    step with the other two.
3. Phillip Le Fanu's name is commonly spelled with two Ls. His name
    seems to have been mistranscribed as 'Philip' in Mount Jerome's
    Burial Registry.


Igoe, Vivien. Dublin Burial Grounds & Graveyards. Wolfhound Press,
Langtry, Joe and Nikki Carter, eds. Mount Jerome: A Victorian
. Staybro Printing Ltd., 1997.
Lawrence H. Officer, "What Is Its Relative Value in UK Pounds?"
    Economic History Services, October 30, 2004, URL:
McCormack, W.J., Sheridan Le Fanu. Second Paperback Edition.
    The Lilliput Press, 1997.
The Registry of Grants in Perpetuity of Burial in Mount Jerome
    Cemetery, Mount Jerome House, Mount Jerome Cemetery,
    Harold's Cross, Dublin 6W.
Map of Mount Jerome Cemetery courtesy of Mount Jerome Cemetery

* * *

Brian Showers is a native of Madison, Wisconsin. He graduated from that state's fine university in 1999 with a degree in English Literature and Communication Arts. In a desperate bid to escape debtor's prison, Brian moved to Dublin, Ireland in 2000. When he is not drinking green tea or at the cinema, he writes short stories, comics, and articles like the one you just read. Now that Brian knows who's buried in Le Fanu's tomb, he's beginning to wonder who are buried in all the other ones. Brian would like to thank Lucy Walshe, Jim Rockhill, Bernard Doyle, and Anna-Lena Yngve, all of whom, in some way, helped keep the cogs turning.

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