May 28th, 1909.
THE Dean of Westminster’s refusal to find a place for George Meredith’s ashes in the Abbey Church [see last week] has brought down upon him a storm of indignation. The matter has even been brought before Parliament by two members, in whose opinion the time has come for transferring the right of deciding who may be buried in the Abbey Church from the Dean and Chapter to the State. One of the members in question gave it as a reason for the change that the Abbey has developed into the “national Valhalla”. We confess that our feeling in the matter is of a mixed character. Undoubtedly, the sentiment of the place is infinitely deepened by the association with it of names that are famous in our national annals. On the other hand, the senseless lumbering of one of the noblest buildings in Christendom with pretentious monuments, by which process it has developed, as we are told, into the national Valhalla, is a thing that cannot be too greatly deplored, and we should rejoice if the present stir over the Meredith case were to revive the efforts made a few years ago to provide a new shelter for the statuary and funeral masonry that disfigure and block that glorious building. We would further suggest that the question whether a man is worthy of a resting-place in the Abbey should not be decided immediately he is dead. The question is as broad as it is long. An error of judgment is possible in either direction, that of refusal or that of consent. Would it not be well in future to wait for the verdict of a few years later? Some measure of the delay involved in the process of canonisation should be required in the bestowal of the last honour that England has to give to those who have deserved well of her by their service.