From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The first person to be interred there was Geoffrey Chaucer, whose burial in the abbey owed more to his position as Clerk of Works of the Palace of Westminster than to his fame as a writer. However, the erection of a magnificent tomb by Nicholas Brigham to Chaucer in the middle of the sixteenth century and the nearby burial of Edmund Spenser in 1599 started a tradition that is still upheld, although the area also houses the tombs of several Canons and Deans of the abbey. Also buried here is Thomas Parr, who it is said died at the age of 152 in 1635 after having seen ten sovereigns on the throne.
Burial or commemoration in the Abbey did not always occur at or soon after the time of death. Lord Byron, for example, whose poetry was admired but who maintained a scandalous lifestyle, died in 1824 but was not given a memorial until 1969. Even William Shakespeare, buried at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1616, was not honoured with a monument until 1740 when one designed by William Kent was constructed in Poets' Corner.
- While Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive,
- No generous patron would a dinner give;
- See him, when starv'd to death, and turn'd to dust,
- Presented with a monumental bust.
- The poet's fate is here in emblem shown,
- He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone.