History

Edward Bulwer Lytton

History

Edward Bulwer Lytton was buried in St Edmund's chapel in Westminster Abbey. He was born in London, a son of Colonel William Earle Bulwer and Elizabeth Lytton. Both families could trace their ancestry back to the time of the Norman conquest. When his mother died in 1843 he changed his surname to Bulwer Lytton. After attending Cambridge University he became a Member of Parliament and his first literary success was Pelham or the adventures of a gentleman. His many popular novels include The Caxtons and The Last Days of Pompeii and he became a friend of Disraeli and Dickens. He was created Baron Lytton of Knebworth and died at Torquay in 1873. In 1827 he had married Rosina Wheeler but they later separated. Their daughter Emily died of typhus and their only son Edward Robert became Viceroy of India and 1st Earl Lytton.

Burial

The Dean of Westminster was at first reluctant to give consent to Lytton’s burial in the Abbey but John Forster, a friend of Dickens, urged Dean Stanley to allow it saying that if a man like Lord Lytton was not buried in the Abbey, he could not see on what ground anyone else should be included. After a letter appeared in The Times also supporting the burial the Dean consented but decided that he should be buried not in Poets’ Corner but in St Edmund’s chapel to be near Sir Humphrey Bourgchier, a knight who was killed at the battle of Barnet and who appeared in one of Lytton’s romances. Stanley recalled that “this was the funeral which was at the extremest verge of what ought to be allowed. His great European reputation, his combination of public office and literature and the variety of his attainments, appeared to me to justify what any point taken singly could not have procured”. The inscription on the gravestone reads:

“Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton. Born 25 May 1803 – Died 18 January 1873. 1831-1841 Member of Parliament for St Ives and for Lincoln. 1838 Baronet of the United Kingdom. 1852-1866 Knight of the Shire for the county of Hertford. 1858 one of Her Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State. Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George. 1866 Baron Lytton of Knebworth. Laborious and distinguished in all fields of intellectual activity indefatigable and ardent in the cultivation and love of letters his genius as an author was displayed in the most varied forms which have connected indissolubly with every department of the literature of his time the name of Edward Bulwer Lytton”.

A photograph of the stone can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading for Edward, Rosina and Edward Robert:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.