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COLLECTION OF EPITAPHS,
AN ESSAY ON EPITAPHS AND OTHER MONUMENTAL INSCRIP-
THOMAS JOSEPH PETTIGREW, F.R.S., F.S.A.
"The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
But from its loss. To give it then a tongue,
Is wise in man."-Young.
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Robert Withing Tou
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Ir is remarkable that so little has been written, in the English language, on Epitaphial Inscriptions. With the exception of a short Essay,' by Dr. Johnson, there is scarcely anything to be found in relation to the subject-nothing at all approaching to the character of a history. I have, therefore, thought it not unworthy of attention to trace Monumental Inscriptions generally, from the earliest period to the present time, and have endeavoured to make such a Collection of Epitaphs belonging to our own country as should mark the diversity of taste prevailing at different periods of our history. This, I believe, to be effected in the following pages. It has been my purpose to present the examples as they were originally written, and are in many instances still to be found, not allowing myself to make any alteration either in regard to their composition, arrangement, orthography, or punctuation. In this respect I have followed in the steps of a contributor2 to Hearne's "Collection of Curious Discourses," in which, upon the publication of some epitaphs, he observes, "I will here but briefly collect some fewe which are remarkable, partly for their antiquity, partly for their brevytie, partly for their rarenesse, partly for their excellencye, partly to shewe the manner of stile of those ages in which they were composed, and partly to recreate the mynde with the simplicytie of their inventions."
1 Prefixed to a collection of Epitaphs and Monumental Inscriptions. Lond. 1806, 2 vols. 12mo. 2 Thynn, vol. 1, p. 251.
In many of the inscriptions upon monuments in the Latin language will be found much that is unintelligible. Perhaps, in some cases, the masons employed share equally with the authors in regard to these defects. Epitaphs, it must, however, be observed, will not admit of any severe test of criticism; their metre in the English language is often strangely incorrect. It is to the sentiment they are intended to convey that our attention should be chiefly directed: thus, the moral lesson to be derived from the following may be valued, although the disregard of metrical rules renders the lines harsh to the ear:
"Gentle reader, who standest by, my grave to view,
I was on earth, much the same as you:
And as I am, so you must be;
Therefore, I say, prepare to follow me."
Here we have in the first line twelve syllables; in the second, nine; in the third, eight; and in the fourth, ten.
I have been anxious to avoid all fictitious epitaphs, though a curious chapter might be made of them, and have, therefore, as far as in my power, given the dates and places of all that compose the present collection. Although "Time corrodes our epitaphs and buries our very tombstones," yet the number preserved has rendered the selection a matter of no little difficulty and labour. My aim has been to mark the style of the period to which they belong, and, at the same time, to record such as are remarkable for elevation of sentiment or tenderness of language. In these particulars I fear we shall be found far behind the ancients. The seventeenth century will be seen to present lamentable effusions in regard to Monumental Inscriptions: as we advance in the eighteenth, an improvement is observable, and the later specimens, if not very remarkable in themselves, are yet, at least, free from the ribaldry and folly of the preceding age. The substance of the present volume was originally intended
to form one of a series of Introductory papers to a new edition of "Gough's Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain ;" a work I was most anxious to republish, in accordance with the desire of the author, who, for that express purpose, bequeathed to the trustees of the Bodleian Library his collections, together with the original Copper Plates, and his very valuable Topographical Library. When, therefore, in 1853, I proposed to carry out the wish of Mr. Gough (which had remained in abeyance since his demise in 1809) I was unprepared to meet a difficulty with which I was made acquainted by the Rev. Dr. Bandinel, the Librarian, who required, on the part of the Trustees, that payment should be made for the use of the Copper Plates!-a condition which at once precluded the possibility of my engaging upon so extensive and uncertain. an undertaking.
ONSLOW CRESCENT, BROMPTON,
T. J. P.