A Curious Invitation present London Month of the Dead
From Beyond the Grave
The Strange History of the English Will with Peter Dodge

Sunday 17th October 2021 at 1:30 pm

Shakespeare bequeathed his “second best bed” to his wife Anne Hathaway. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s will instructed that his body be dressed in a suit and displayed in a glass cabinet. His preserved corpse now presides over the entrance hall of University College London. Charles Dickens requested to be “buried in an inexpensive, unostentatious and strictly private manner”. This was ignored and he was interred in Westminster Abbey and his funeral was followed by a day of national mourning.

Dusty Springfield’s last will and testament specified the treatment required for her pet cat Nicholas, which included feeding him on imported baby food from the United States and providing an indoor tree house in which the unfortunate feline would be obliged to listen to recordings of his late mistress singing.

The modern law of wills and probate dates from the mid-nineteenth century. Before that, there was a complex and bewildering system of rules and jurisdictions. In his talk, Peter Dodge will take us to Doctors’ Commons, the Prerogative Court and the Will Office. We will hear from Dickens and Wilkie Collins as Peter seeks to blow the dust from a strange and long-forgotten legal world.

Tickets £12 including a 20% donation toward a host of restoration projects at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Peter Dodge
Peter Dodge is a Chancery barrister practising from chambers in Lincoln’s Inn. Whilst much of his day-to-day work relates to banking and financial services (including mis-selling), property and professional negligence (including negligence in will writing), he also has a long-standing interest in legal history and biography. He has written about the original author of the oldest English legal textbook still in publication and spoken at Salon for the City on Lincoln’s Inn as it existed at the time of “Bleak House”.

Image credit - Auxerre, France: tomb of Paul Bert, covered with wreaths of flowers. Public domain courtesy of Wellcome Collection.

Kensal Green Cemetery