Pantheons: Sculpture at St Paul's Cathedral (c.1796-1916)

50 Monuments in 50 Voices – Inscriptions: Samuel Johnson – Robyn Golden-Hann

Artist and Master Stonemason Robyn Golden-Hann’s Calligraphic Response to the Monument Inscriptions: The Monument to Samuel Johnson (1709–1784) by John Bacon the Elder, 1795

Calligraphy by Robyn Golden-Hann, 2021, representing a Samuel Johnson quotation
Photo of half-length smiling woman facing the camera, waaring astriped long-devedt-short and leaning on a high table, with a ceramic bowl
Robyn Golden-Hann (Photo: Gemma Brunton Photography)
White marble monument showing fukl-length figure of a man draped in toga-like robes and leaning on a pillar
Monument to Samuel Johnson (1709–1784) by John Bacon the Elder, 1795
'There are in every age...' by Robyn Golden-Hann (50 Monuments in 50 Voices)

Transcript

“There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed.”

(Dr Samuel Johnson, The Rambler No. 86, 1751)

Dr Johnson’s words are as true today as they were when first published in 1751. Over the past two years our collective vision has been sharpened and many errors and prejudices, previously hidden in plain sight, have begun to be exposed and brought into the scrutiny of public examination. Our public statues and monuments are being carefully considered in the light of modern sensibilities and social conscience as the skeletons of some of our nation’s ‘heroes’ face intense cross examination.

Mercifully, there are those that still appear to deserve the accolades that previous generations bestowed upon them, and if anything are as worthy of our admiration today as when they lived.

Dr Johnson’s sharp wit and social commentary along with his devotion to, and passion for, the English language would earn him such a place. All English speakers surely owe him a debt of gratitude for his work in compiling his ground-breaking dictionary.

However, there is a peculiar irony that a man who dedicated his working life to the English language, who had such a joyous command of our native tongue and who wielded it with such voracity, precision and ease, should be memorialised in Latin! How many of those who pass by his statue in St Paul’s today are able to comprehend the inscription, to make sense of the glowing epitaph to this exemplary ‘homini optimo’…the ‘best of men’? Therefore I wanted to create something that speaks of his relevance to us today.

The rapid strokes of my pen (the same medium Dr Johnson used) contain a passion and sense and urgency which the quote above encapsulates. And yet, with a continuing sense of irony, my script is also barely legible. The man’s greatness remains unsullied, even if the carved marble Latin words of his monument nor my intense calligraphy are capable of communicating that truth to the majority audience. There are errors and prejudices which we must address and rectify: now!

About Robyn Golden-Hann

Robyn Golden-Hann is an award-winning stone-mason specialising on bespoke monuments. From her studio in rural Hampshire she hand-carves stone and slate. Specialising in individually designed lettering and stone carving, commissions include memorials, headstones, gravestones, plaques, monuments & public inscriptions. Each inscription is drawn out in pencil and carefully hand-carved by mallet and chisel. No computers or machinery are used to design or create the inscriptions.

Visit Robyn Golden-Hann’s website and find her on Twitter and Facebook.