The Original Miss Havisham

Via Gwenda Bond, who prefers to be shaken and stirred

In my novel, Magic or Madness, two of the characters visit my favourite Sydney cemetery, St Stephen’s in Newtown (though I grew up calling it Camperdown cemetery), and look at the grave of the reputed original for Miss Havisham from Dickens’ Great Expectations. Emily Eliza Donnithorne was jilted on her wedding day and left the wedding splendour, including the cake, to moulder for more than thirty years. Yesterday vandals broke Emily Eliza’s gravestone in half.

Photo by Brendan Esposito

Here’s how Reason (the protagonist of Magic or Madness) reacts to being taken to the cemetery for the first time:

The delight on Reason’s face pleased Tom so much that despite his resolve to kill his inner dag (must not be too enthusiastic), he clapped. Reason clapped too.

"Bloody hell," she said. "You’d hardly know you were in the city. It looks like a country graveyard. Only, I don’t know, spookier."

"Isn’t it great? You step from the street and the cars to this, and whoosh, everything’s changed. This place is so old they don’t even bury people here anymore."

The cemetery is full of huge old fig trees, surrounded by a high stone wall that blocks out many of the sights and sounds of busy Newtown. It’s a glorious haven from the city. I’ve been going there since I was a kid to walk, think, and hang out. I can’t understand why anyone would want to destroy it.

New York City, 11 November 2004

UPDATE: the gravestone is fixed.