Charles Irving Thornton

Charles Irving Thornton Tombstone
Location West of Cumberland on Oak Hill Rd., Cumberland State Forest, near Cumberland, Cumberland County, Virginia
Coordinates 37°29′33″N 78°18′49″W / 37.49250°N 78.31361°W / 37.49250; -78.31361Coordinates: 37°29′33″N 78°18′49″W / 37.49250°N 78.31361°W / 37.49250; -78.31361
Built 1842
NRHP Reference # 80004186
VLR # 024-0054
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 25, 1980[1]
Designated VLR June 17, 1980[2]

Charles Irving Thornton (January 20, 1841 – March 12, 1842) was an American infant from the state of Virginia. His tombstone, located in Cumberland State Forest in Cumberland County, Virginia, is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as one of only two gravestones in the world, and the only one in the United States, known to exist with an epitaph by Charles Dickens.


Charles Irving Thornton was the son of Anthony and M. I. Thornton of Cumberland County. He died on March 12, 1842, at the age of 13 months and 19 days. A Dr. Deane was attending to the child, and upon his death was moved to write to Dickens to request an epitaph to be placed on the child's grave. Dickens had recently visited Virginia as part of his tour of the United States, but by mid-March had moved on to Ohio. The author's reasons for complying with the doctor's request remain unclear, especially given that he expressed extreme distaste that Virginia still relied on slavery for much of its economic base; to explain his possible motivations, some historians have attempted to establish a genealogical link between Dickens, the Thorntons, and Washington Irving.

Thornton's grave may still be visited today; it is in a difficult-to-find area of the state forest, but park rangers are willing to direct people to the site.


The epitaph was edited slightly from the one provided by Dickens. It reads:


a Little Child
whom God in his goodness
Called to a Bright Eternity
when he was very young.
Hard as it is
For Human Affection
To reconcile itself
To Death
In any shape
[and most of all, perhaps
at First
In this]
Can even now believe (sic)
That it will be a Consolation to them
Throughout their lives
and when they shall have grown old
and grey
always to think of him
as a Child
"And Jesus Called a little Child unto
him, and set him in the midst of them."
He was the son of ANTHONY and M.I. THORNTON
He was born on the 20 th day of January 1841,
and he died on the 12 th day of March 1842.
Having lived only 13 months and 19 days.


  1. National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
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