Charles Irving Thornton Tombstone Click Here for a Critical Evaluation of the Charles Irving Thornton Tombstone SITE NAME
Charles Irving Thornton Tombstone

Virginia Landmarks Register
June 17, 1980

National Register of Historic Places
November 25, 1980

Off of Oak Hill Forest Road
Cumberland State Forest
Cumberland County

Virginia lays claim to British master writer Charles Dickens via this tombstone in the Cumberland State Forest. Dickens visited the Commonwealth in 1842, and was later asked to write the inscription for the grave marker for Charles Irving Thornton, the 13-month-old son of Anthony and M.I. Thornton. The author complied, later sending text from Cincinnati, Ohio, which was edited down to read:

“THIS IS THE GRAVE of a Little Child whom God in his goodness Called to a Bright Eternity when he was very young. Hard as it is for Human Affection to reconcile itself to Death In any shape (and most of all, perhaps First In This) HIS PARENTS can even now believe That it will be a Consolation to them Throughout their lives and when they shall have grown old and grey always to think of him as a Child IN HEAVEN and Jesus Called a little Child unto him, and set him in the midst of them. He was the son of ANTHONY and M.I. THORNTON Called CHARLES IRVING. He was born on the 20 th day of January 1841, and he died on the 12 th day of March 1842. Having lived only 13 months and 19 days.”

Charles Irving Thornton's tombstone in the secluded Thornton family cemetery is the only tangible reminder of Charles Dickens's visit to the Commonwealth during his tour of the United States in 1842. Already a major literary figure, the author, as a favor for a Thornton family friend, composed the stone's lengthy and poignant inscription to commemorate the death of the Thornton infant in 1842. The inscription on the simple stone begins “THIS IS THE GRAVE of a little Child whom God in his goodness called to a Bright Eternity when he was very young.” Only one other Dickens epitaph is known, that of his sister-in-law, making the Thornton inscription an especially interesting work of this towering literary figure and unique among his American writings."

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