Charles Irving Thornton
Charles Irving Thornton Tombstone
A closeup view of the tombstone, seen in April, 2017
|Location||West of Cumberland, off Oak Hill Forest Rd., Cumberland State Forest, near Cumberland, Cumberland County, Virginia|
|NRHP Reference #||80004186|
|Added to NRHP||November 25, 1980|
|Designated VLR||June 17, 1980|
Charles Irving Thornton (January 20, 1841 – March 12, 1842) was an American infant from the state of Virginia. His tombstone, located in Cumberland State Forest in Cumberland County, Virginia, is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as one of only two gravestones in the world, and the only one in the United States, known to exist with an epitaph by Charles Dickens.
Charles Irving Thornton was the son of Anthony and M. I. Thornton of Cumberland County. He died on March 12, 1842, at the age of 13 months and 19 days. A Dr. Deane was attending to the child, and upon his death was moved to write to Dickens to request an epitaph to be placed on the child's grave. Dickens had recently visited Virginia as part of his tour of the United States, but by mid-March had moved on to Ohio. The author's reasons for complying with the doctor's request remain unclear, especially given that he expressed extreme distaste that Virginia still relied on slavery for much of its economic base; to explain his possible motivations, some historians have attempted to establish a genealogical link between Dickens, the Thorntons, and Washington Irving.
Thornton's grave may still be visited today; it is in a difficult-to-find area of the state forest, but park rangers are willing to direct people to the site.
The epitaph was edited slightly from the one provided by Dickens. It reads:
|THIS IS THE GRAVE