A Journey to Marie Corelli's Gravesite
by Roger Collier, The Venial Critic
I must have passed the cemetery a hundred times without noticing it but I may be excused as driving a carriage drawn by two hundred horses leaves little time to admire the scenery.
Before Christmas I purchased a few Corelli novels at the Chaucer Head bookshop, just down the road from Mason Croft in Stratford, and the octogenarian bookseller was surprised to find an enthusiast. She was even more surprised to find that I had not visited, and didn't know the location of Marie's tomb in the town cemetery on the Evesham road.
I determined to rectify this omission as soon as possible so yesterday after a session on the river, I entered the town from the west, arriving at a minor gate and expecting a long search. However, on entering the holy ground I saw, not twenty yards away, a white angel beckoning me.
The grave consists of a six foot square marble kerb with short pillars suspending a chain link fence. On the front are inscribed the names of Bertha Vyver and Marie Corelli. Within is a two foot square plinth, "Marie Corelli, died April 24 1924" modestly on the front. On the right face are a few lines of her poetry, which I was unable to transcribe as I had carelessly omitted to bring a pen.
Above, looking down, stands a life sized angel, wings outstretched. She holds in her left hand a white flower, her right upraised in salute towards the entrance.
As I turned to leave my eye was caught by the adjacent grave, "Mason Cr..." dimly visible in the peeling lead lettering beneath leaves and soil.
After roughly clearing away the debris I saw that the second grave contained the mortal remains of Frank Orlando Vyver, died in Nicaragua, 1914, and Bertha Vyver, died 1941. So Bertha lies not, as the casual observer might assume, with her beloved Marie, but, more discretely, in the adjoining plot.
Whoever keeps Marie's tomb immaculate obviously does not extend his care to Bertha, as many of the leaden letters are missing.
After a few words to Marie and a promise to return when I complete my collection of her works, I left. At the gate I turned to see that white, angelic right hand giving a valedictory two fingered salute to her critics.
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