‘On the Ledger of Frederic Leighton (1830-1896)’: Poet and Art Historian Jason Edwards’ Response to the Ledger, by Richard Norman Shaw, 1896
On the Ledger of Frederic Leighton (1830-1896)
(for Maddie Boden)
by Jason Edwards
I stumbled upon the grave of Leighton
In the dim crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral,
Closeted straight, in frame on frame on frame,
Stitched up, or tailored within, bead and reel;
Pavonia’s now dropped peacock feather;
Guarding armour, visor, mashrabiya;
His life academy officialdom.
The family motto evocative
“Dread Shame”: “Dread”, as a verb and as a noun.
But also present an invitation
To open the brass door into the floor
To find Fred, not dead, awaiting you there,
Resplendent as a dragon taking off:
Beneath burnished surface, the wish to live.
About Jason Edwards
Jason Edwards has published two books of poetry, Complexity, Death, and Nothing (2016) and Industrial Archaeology (2021). In 2018, he was commissioned to write five sonnets inspired by the Refuse/Refuge exhibition at York Art Gallery, curated by Martha Cattell and Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani, in response to the contemporary refuge and migrant emergencies. Jason is also the editor of Bathroom Songs: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick as a Poet, which contains Sedgwick’s previously uncollected poems.
About the Monument
Eminent Victorian painter and sculptor, lifelong bachelor, and President of the Royal Academy, Frederic ‘Fay’ Leighton was buried at St Paul’s Cathedral on February 3 1896, in the Artist’s Corner of the Crypt, under a memorial brass by architect Richard Norman Shaw. He was also later commemorated on the Cathedral floor in a 1902 memorial tomb by fellow New Sculptor Thomas Brock, featuring the genii of painting and sculptor, and a diminutive statuette of Leighton’s 1886 sculpture The Sluggard.