I'm always caught between my superstition that there's a curse in moving bones and my feeling that bodies should rest where the soul has felt most itself, even if the bones have to be carted there in a brandy cask, the way Nelson came home from Trafalgar.
Yes, Wolfe had to come home to Asheville. Yes, T.S. Eliot belongs in East Coker. I'm caught between respect for the writer's wishes, and the stubborn pull of the land itself. Byron lies with his ancestors, but he would have preferred Greece: "I am sure my bones would not rest in an English grave or my clay mix with the earth of that country. I believe the thought would drive me mad on my deathbed could I suppose that any of my friends would be base enough to convey my carcass back to your soil."
Where should Washington Irving sleep but under the little curved age-sunk stone in Sleepy Hollow beside the old Dutch Church? In the deep arborous shade of that hilly graveyard, the same "drowsy, dreamy atmosphere seems to hang over the land" that snuggled Rip Van Winkle to his 20 years' sleep; there by the same Hudson, Tarrytown catnaps "just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green."
Where in the world could William Faulkner be but Oxford, Miss., that languidly busy town, still unaware that it is only a figment of the imagination of its "Sole Owner and Proprietor"? Where could Thoreau be but Concord?
I'd like to see Bret Harte brought back to America. What's the author of "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" doing outcast in Limley, England? Even Henry James -- who chose to be a British subject, for God's sake -- was shipped home to Massachusetts.
I notice that my feeling for the heart's home burial was shared by Frieda Lawrence, who went to great and miserable lengths to have D.H. Lawrence dug up in Vence, France, and transported (in ashes) to Taos, N.M. He lies embedded in the altar of a most apotheosical-looking shrine at Kiowa Ranch, where the two had lived briefly as Mabel Dodge Luhan's guests. It may be that Mrs. Lawrence felt some ambivalence about her husband's return to his patroness, since she lost the urn in the New York customs shed, and left it behind twice, once on a train platform and once at a friend's house. But she wanted him where he wanted to be.
Peace to the souls inearthed in land they loved; to Frost in Old Bennington, Vt.; to Sandburg up in the Blue Ridge at Flat Rock, N.C.'s St. John of the Wilderness Church. Peace to Hemingway among the hunting mountains and fishing streams of Ketchum, Idaho. I don't mind losing Edith Wharton to France, or Stevenson to Samoa: Under the wide and starry sky, Here he lies where he longed to lie. Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill.
But it bothers everybody in Hannibal, Mo., that Mark Twain isn't interred there, when the whole town is a Disneyland mosque in his honor. The Hanniballeans think they have the prior claim on Sam Clemens, and see no reason why he should be stuck up in Elmira, N.Y., just because his wife's family summered there. In fact, a native, ushering at their extravagant outdoor drama (an angel brings the dead Twain back to Hannibal and shows him the whole story of "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" mixed together), told me that Mark Twain was buried there, up in the park overlooking the Mississippi. When I suggested otherwise, she told me, "Nah, you got him mixed up with somebody else. One of those other big writers probably."