Link to novelist Charles Dickens lies in Kolkata’s cemetery
If you have been to Kolkata’s South Park Street cemetery, you probably missed the tomb of Walter Landor Dickens, the second son of novelist Charles Dickens. The tomb lies in obscurity, covered with dust and mud, with absolutely no one to clean it or lay flowers. Even the name on the marble plaque is almost illegible. Walter was a lieutenant in the British Indian army and died at the age of only 22 in 1863. He was originally buried at the Bhowanipore cemetery.
However, the grave had disappeared from public memory, until in 1911 a New York Times article titled ‘Dickens’ Soldier Son’ threw some light on the monument. Bhowanipore cemetery in those days was known as Military Cemetery. This burial ground shut doors in 1790. In 1987, some students of Jadavpur University raised funds to move the tombstone of their favourite author’s son – literally the only link of Dickens with Kolkata --- to a new location. And thus, the tombstone found place at the South Park Street Cemetery.
Named after his godfather, English poet Walter Savage Landor, Walter Dickens was asked by his father Charles to join the East India Company army in the year of the Sepoy Mutiny. That’s when Walter reached India and was later stationed in Kolkata, as this city was the headquarters of British Indian Army. However, his health failed as he could not adjust the climate of Kolkata and underwent hematemesis or vomiting of blood. In a letter on his son’s travel to India, Charles Dickens had written: ‘Having a direct appointment, he will probably be sent out soon after he has passed and so will fall into that strange life up the country, before he well knows that he is alive, or what life is – which indeed seems to be rather an advanced state of knowledge.’