I thought the following obituaries of famous persons from the Regency and later Victorian era would be historically interesting as a demonstration of just how cruel Victorian society could be.
Of Mary Wollstonecraft, (1759-1797) author of AVindication of the Rights of Woman, and A Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, who died a few days after giving birth, the anti-Jacoban Review mocked, “She died a death that strongly marked the distinction of the sexes, by pointing out the destiny of women.”
On William Godwin (Wollstonecraft’s husband, most famous for his book, Political Justice which called for the end of marriage in its then current form which he denounced as slavery for women as they lost all bodily and monetary rights to their spouse; as well as calling for an end to government, and instead envisioned an ideal society where reasonable people would act for the good of all:
“In weighing well his merits with his moral imperfections, it is melancholy to discover how far the latter preponderated, and we are led to the very painful though certain conclusion, that it might have been better for mankind had he never existed.”- The Gentleman’s Magazine
John Bull magazine wrote upon the news of poet Percy Shelley’s death, “The author of that abominable and blasphemous book called Queen Mab was lately drowned.”
And here are snippets from The Death of Edgar Allen Poe from the New York Tribune in 1849: “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it…..
Passion, in him, comprehended many of the worst emotions, which militate against human happiness. You could not contradict him, but you raised quick choler. You could not speak of wealth, but his cheek paled with gnawing envy. The astonishing natural advantage of this poor boy, his beauty, his readiness, the daring spirit that breathed around him like a fiery atmosphere, had raised his constitutional self-confidence into an arrogance that turned his very claims to admiration into prejudice against him. Irascible, envious, bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient angles were all varnished over with a cold repellant cynicism while his passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral susceptibility. And what was more remarkable in a proud nature, little or nothing of the true point of honor. He had, to a morbid excess, that desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but no wish for the esteem or the love of his species, only the hard wish to succeed, not shine, not serve, but succeed, that he might have the right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit.”
The New York Tribune did, however at least go on to praise his work and declare of the Raven, “”it is the most effective single example of fugitive poetry ever published in this country, and is unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conceptions, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift.”