In March 1822, while visiting David Ricardo at his estate, Gatcomb Park, Maria Edgeworth saw Oliver Cromwell’s head; ‘not his picture’, she wrote to her Aunt Margaret Ruxton, ‘- not his bust — nothing of stone or marble or plaister of Paris, but his real head, which is now in the possession of Mr. Ricardo’s brother in law (Mr. Wilkinson)’. With macabre relish, Edgeworth related that it

is the only head upon record which has after death been subject to the extremes of honor and infamy — It having been first embalmed and laid in satin state — Then dragged out of the coffin at the restoration — chopped from the body and stuck upon a pole before Westminster hall, where it stood twenty five years till one stormy night the pole broke and down fell the head at the centinel[’]s [sic] feet who stumbled over it in the dark twice thinking it a stone, then cursed and picked it up and found it was a head. Its travels and adventures from the centinel through several hands would be too long to tell. It came in short into the Russell family and to one who was poor and in debt and who yet loved the head so dearly that he never would sell it to Coxe of the Museum till Coxe got him deep in his debt arrested and threw him into jail. Then and not till the last extremity he gave it up for liberty.1


Political Economy Eighteenth Century National Character Slave Trade East India Company 
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Copyright information

© Alexander Dick 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Dick
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of British ColumbiaCanada

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