“It is distressing for visitors to see mounds of human ash.”

A display called “The End?” looks at the way some admirers seek total communion, even in death. The curators quote a letter from the director of Jane Austen’s House Museum, who in 2008 implored Janeites not to direct their heirs to scatter their ashes on the grounds.

“It is distressing for visitors,” she noted, “to see mounds of human ash.”

But the Folger itself is a mausoleum. As the show notes, the ashes of Henry Clay Folger and Emily Folger, the library’s founders, are interred in the nearby reading room behind a plaque paying tribute to “the glory of William Shakespeare and the greater glory of God.”

“With that kind of idolatry, your first instinct may be to snicker,” Ms. Barchas said. “But then you have to stop and think seriously about what it is that you yourself love about literature.”

–Jennifer Schuessler, ‘Will and Jane’: Two Literary Superheroes, United in Pop Culture


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