Dame Sybil Thorndike
Dame Sybil Thorndike, actress, is buried in the south choir aisle of Westminster Abbey. Her ashes were buried on 2nd July 1976 and the gravestone was unveiled on 23rd October. The lines were composed by J.B. Priestley, the first to be specially composed for an Abbey memorial for over a century. He adapted them from his 90th birthday tribute to Dame Sybil. The black Belgian marble stone has white lettering. The inscription reads:
Dame Sybil Thorndike C.H. wife of Sir Lewis Casson.
Saint Joan or Hecuba, great actress of your age, all womanhood your part, the world your stage. To each good cause you lent your vigorous tongue, swept through the years the champion of the young. And now the scripts lie fading on the shelf, we celebrate your finest role --- yourself; The calls, the lights grow dim but not this part, the Christian spirit, the great generous heart
She was born on 24th October 1882 at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, a child of the Reverend Arthur Thorndike and his wife Agnes (Bowers). Her brothers Russell and Frank and sister Eileen all went into the theatre. Sybil made her debut at the age of four acting for family and friends at Rochester where her father was a minor canon. She was educated in Rochester and at the Guildhall School of Music. She toured in roles in America and married Lewis Casson in 1908. They had two daughters and two sons. She played at the Old Vic theatre in a range of roles and acted in Greek plays. St Joan was written for her by George Bernard Shaw. In 1931 she was made a Dame and became a Companion of Honour in 1970. She continued acting with her husband until 1966 and she died on 9th June 1976.
"Sybil Thorndike" by R. Thorndike, 1950
"Sybil Thorndike" by J.C. Trewin, 1955.
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
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