« PreviousContinue »
destruction; in the other, the returning sun, doubly prolific after the storm, nurtured those flowers of wit and genius, which form no inconsiderable figure in the annals of English literature.
The same effects from the same causes may be observed to have taken place in the latter years of William's reign, and more particularly during that of Queen Anne (deservedly esteemed the Augustan age of Great Britain); and from that period, though perhaps the same day has not seen the united excellences of so many distinguished men, our visible refinements on luxury will be sufficient evidence of our progress in civilization. Innumerable are the conveniences, nay, superfluities of life in this opulent kingdom, which in the beginning of this century were totally unknown; and which, though they may feed cynical spleen, or offend the severity of a stoic, if they tend to add one more link to the chain of society, to awaken one more liberal emotion in the heart, or to humanize, into a citizen of the world one more malcontent (as from their tendency we have evident reason to suppose they do), the temporal evil is by no means equivalent to the lasting good; and the man who advances civilization to its highest polish, is the most beneficial member of the community.-C.
NOTES to CORRESPONDENTS. I cannot comply with the request of Numa, as it would be highly presumptuous in me to engage in any religious controversy. ALFRED shall be attended to, but may depend upon proper inquiry being made at the Heralds' Office, with regard to the performance of his promise.-CHRISTOPHER CUTJOKE shall appear.
No 14. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1787.
Locus est et pluribus umbris.—Horace.
Still I have room.-FRANCIS. ACCORDING to my promise made in a former paper, I shall dedicate this to the favours of correspondents. They will see that I have been careful to abridge nothing, but what was necessary to reduce their letters to a more convenient size.
To the MicroCOSMOPOLITAN. "SIR, * An ingenious paper of yours, containing some acute and just observations on epitaphs, induced me to offer for your inspection the following remarks on that subject.
• We need no other witness than our own conscience, to convict us of that inordinate love of famė, 80 predominant in all orders and ranks of men. - If then in the prime of life, this passion prevails over every other consideration, and outbalances all objections thrown into the opposite scale by virtue or religion; if those moralists are to be credited, who contend, not without some shadow. of reason, that the passions operate on the human mind in a greater degree, as we draw nearer to our end; thus, above all others, must consequently have greater influence at that awful period; since its sole aim is to be the topic of praise and admiration to its own and succeeding generations. Why do the “ short and simple annals of the poor,” in the country church yard, court the tribute of a tear from the sympathetic traveller? Why do we behold with wonder and astonishment, the monumental records of the rich and noble in that vast pile of antiquity, where
the princes and prelates, the heroes and poets of this land, lie mouldering together? For the same reason; that desire of being distinguished, even after death, from the common herd of mortals, formed of the same perishable materials as ourselves. The unlettered rustic exults as much in his ill-shaped rhymes, which afford matter of conversation to the humble tenants of his native hamlet, as the trophied general in the superb folly of a stupendous mausoleum; both feel a proportionable degree of happiness, if they die with the hopes that their name shall escape the canker-worm of oblivion.
“In the gradual rise therefore and progress of different states, we may observe with what judgment the legislators selected this passion, as the hinge on which many of their principal laws seem to turn; no incentive to virtue was found so efficacious, as in. scribing the actions of the dead on their monuments : thus inciting future heroes to similar exertions, by holding up to their eyes the laurels of their ancestors.
• The Lacedemonians indeed thoroughly understood the force and policy of this last tribute to the memory of the dead, and enacted a law, prohibiting all in their realm from making epitaphs on any persons except those who had surrendered up their lives for the service of their country: and in what did the bulwark and glory of Sparta consist? In military valour! which she endeavoured to strengthen by a reward the most endearing and grateful to the soul of man; a certainty that his fame should survive the frailty of human nature.
• When therefore we reflect on their utility, we cannot but lament the paucity of good epitaphs ; though it is indeed a kind of writing so generally cultivated in all nations, that certainly there must be some in every country which redound as well to the honour of the author, as to the glory of those whom they immortalize. I wave mentioning many in our own language, which, though excellent, are obvious to every one; but cannot help claiming your attention to one not so generally known, and at the same time remarkable for its elegance and simplicity. Drayton was a poet, who lived in the sixteenth century.
Doe, pious marble, let thy readers know,
An everlasting monument to thee. • How different are the epitaph-writers of these days, when every tomb-stone bears the strongest contradiction to truth and reason,: To be assured of this, only take a survey of the burial places within the bills of mortality, and at the same time a retrospect of the lives of those, whose bones are adorned with this miserable and faithless descant on their virtues; and you will find every day some fresh proof, how frequently
. Some kind friend supplies, Hic jucet, and a hundred lies. • The notoriety indeed of their misuse is so flagrant among the French, that “ Menteur comme un epitaph,” passes for a proverb with them. But not to detain you any longer on this subject, I shall present you with the following, as a specimen of honesty and integrity in an epitaph rarely to be foună. It is written on an amphibious animal, vulgarly called a marine; and I suspect it to be the production of some true-hearted tar, both from the originality and peculiar bluntness of the composition; but I leave that to the decision of the learned.. į Here lies retired from busy scenes,
A first Licutenant of Marines,
Who lately lived in health and plenty,
He rises not till farther orders. * But to return to my subject, and to apply it more particularly to those for whom it was intended, will prove on trial a more difficult and important matter, than at first it appeared to be. For there are certain followers of Democritus, who maintain, that every thing serious is ridiculous. Paradoxical as this doctrine seems, there are not wanting those, even in our lesser world, who laugh reflection out of countenance, merely because it comes not within the sphere of their comprehension. But I shall consider myself as addressing those who are unhackneyed in the ways of this sect; the lovers of contemplation, and you, who have exhibited by your weekly Lucubrations a fondness and attachment to literature, highly meritorious, and leave them to enjoy their laugh, though at my expense.
Are the young and inexperienced to admire an epitaph on a distinguished and noble character, for the elegance and perspicuity of the style; for the harmony of the periods alone? does the entombed glory of Chatham suggest to the contemplative mind no other ideas than those, which are fleet and transient as the morning dew before the sun? No, “E'en from the tomb the voice of nature cries,” while we contemplate with regret the loss of a great and noble hero, “go and do thou likewise.”
I cannot better comply with the request of the young lady to whom I am indebted for the following letter, than by publishing her case in her own words.