« PreviousContinue »
Who ne'er knew joy, but friendship might divide,
'How vain is reason, eloquence how weak!
This epitaph is principally remarkable for the artful intro- 402 duction of the name, which is inserted with a peculiar felicity, to which chance must concur with genius, which no man can hope to attain twice 3, and which cannot be copied but with servile imitation.
I cannot but wish that, of this inscription, the two last lines 403 had been omitted, as they take away from the energy what they do not add to the sense.
On JAMES CRAGGS, Esq.,
REGI MAGNE BRITANNIÆ A SECRETIS
ET CONSILIIS SANCTIORIBVS
PRINCIPIS PARITER AC POPVLI AMOR ET
VIXIT TITVLIS ET INVIDIA MAJOR,
ANNOS HEV PAVCOS, XXXV.
son, began to prattle before I came away.' Swift's Works, ii. 234.
Gay, in Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece, thus describes the son, who outlived the verses but a few months at most:
'Harcourt I see, for eloquence renown'd,
The mouth of justice, oracle of law.
Another Simon is beside him found, Another Simon like as straw to straw.'
Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), v. 175.
For earlier instances of this conceit see ib. iv. 383.
2 This line had originally stood:
'Statesman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere,
Who broke no promise, serv'd no private end',
Prais'd, wept, and honour'd, by the Muse he lov'd.'
405 The lines on Craggs were not originally intended for an epitaph; and therefore some faults are to be imputed to the violence with which they are torn from the poem that first contained them. We may, however, observe some defects. There is a redundancy of words in the first couplet: it is superfluous to tell of him who was sincere, true, and faithful, that he was in honour clear.
There seems to be an opposition intended in the fourth line, which is not very obvious: where is the relation between the two positions, that he gained no title and lost no friend?
It may be proper here to remark the absurdity of joining in the same inscription Latin and English, or verse and prose3. If either language be preferable to the other, let that only be used; for no reason can be given why part of the information should be given in one tongue and part in another on a tomb, more than in any other place on any other occasion; and to tell all that can be conveniently told in verse, and then to call
ters; the Dean officiated. Ib. xxi. 183, 327]; ante, POPE, 123 n.
* They were intended for a medal. 'Then shall thy Craggs (and let me call him mine)
On the cast ore, another Pollio,
Epistle to Addison, 1. 63.
'Is this a motto for a medal or a mill-stone?' asked Concanen, one of The Dunciad heroes. Hawkins's Johnson, p. 538.
'Il est absurde de faire une déclamation autour d'une médaille, ou au bas d'un tableau.' BOILEAU,Œuvres, iii. 73.
3 Post, POPE, 438. On Johnson's monument in St. Paul's there is a mixture of Greek and Latin. Boswell's Johnson, iv. 445.
in the help of prose, has always the appearance of a very artless expedient, or of an attempt unaccomplished. Such an epitaph resembles the conversation of a foreigner, who tells part of his meaning by words, and conveys part by signs.
Intended for Mr. RowE.
'Thy reliques, Rowe, to this fair urn we trust,
Of this inscription the chief fault is that it belongs less to 409 Rowe, for whom it was written, than to Dryden, who was buried near him*; and indeed gives very little information concerning either.
To wish Peace to thy shade is too mythological to be admitted 410 into a christian temple: the ancient worship has infected almost all our other compositions, and might therefore be contented to spare our epitaphs. Let fiction, at least, cease with life, and let us be serious over the grave 5.
1 Ante, ROWE, 26. 'Pope altered this epitaph much for the better, as it now stands on the monument in the Abbey.' Warburton, vi. 76. In the amended epitaph, which is given there (also in Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), iv. 385), only the third couplet is retained.
2 Ante, DRYDEN, 156 n.
3 The 'grateful woman,' writes Malone, was Rowe's widow, 'who married, not long afterwards, Colonel Deane; and, as Lord Hailes informed me, was the widow supposed to be alluded to by Pope in the following lines: "Find you the virtue, and I'll find the verse.
But random praise-the task can ne'er be done;
Each mother asks it for her booby son,
Each widow asks it for the best of
Malone's Dryden, i. 386.
Dean Stanley, in his Westminster Abbey, 1868, 2nd ed. p. 294, absurdly says:-'So completely had Dryden's grave come to be regarded as the most interesting spot in Poets' Corner, that when Pope wrote the epitaph for Rowe, the highest honour he could pay to him was that his tomb should point the way to Dryden's.' Pope was not honouring Dryden, but reproaching those who had so long left him covered by a 'rude and nameless stone.'
On Mrs. CORBET1,
who died of a Cancer in her Breast.
So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refin'd,
I have always considered this as the most valuable of Pope's epitaphs; the subject of it is a character not discriminated by any shining or eminent peculiarities, yet that which really makes, though not the splendour, the felicity of life, and that which every wise man will choose for his final and lasting companion in the languor of age, in the quiet of privacy, when he departs weary and disgusted from the ostentatious, the volatile, and the vain. Of such a character, which the dull overlook and the gay despise, it was fit that the value should be made known, and the dignity established 2. Domestick virtue, as it is exerted without great occasions or conspicuous consequences in an even unnoted tenor, required the genius of Pope to display it in such a manner as might attract regard, and enforce reverence. Who can forbear to lament that this amiable woman has no name in the verses 3?
If the particular lines of this appear less faulty than the rest. from common-places, unless it is said to be our own. I once and excellence object to the
one writing on the subject of a general
In the north aisle of St. Mar-
inscription be examined it will There is scarce one line taken be that in which only Virtue heard a lady of great beauty fourth line, that it contained
2 The best subject for epitaphs is private virtue; virtue exerted in the same circumstances in which the bulk of mankind are placed and which therefore may admit of many imitators.' JOHNSON, Works, v. 265. 3 Ante, POPE, 396.
Miss Molly Aston, according to Mrs. Piozzi. John. Misc. i. 258.
an unnatural and incredible panegyrick. Of this let the ladies judge.
On the Monument of the Hon. ROBERT DIGBY, and of his Sister 414
'Go! fair example of untainted youth,
Just of thy word, in ev'ry thought sincere,
Who knew no wish but what the world might hear:
Of softest manners, unaffected mind,
Lover of peace, and friend of human kind:
Go, live! for heav'n's eternal year is thine,
'And thou, blest maid! attendant on his doom,
Steer'd the same course to the same quiet shore 2,
'Yet take these tears, Mortality's relief,
'Tis all a father, all a friend can give!'
This epitaph contains of the brother only a general indis- 415 criminate character, and of the sister tells nothing but that she died 3. The difficulty in writing epitaphs is to give a particular and appropriate praise. This, however, is not always to be performed, whatever be the diligence or ability of the writer, for the greater part of mankind 'have no character at all,' have little
I 'This can scarcely have been the case, for Mary died of small-pox on April 5, 1729. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), iv. 386. Perhaps her epitaph was an addition.
'My father,' writes Warton, 'who was contemporary at Magdalen College, Oxford, with Mr. Digby, was always saying that this character was not overdrawn. Warton, ii. 374. 2 To die is landing on some silent shore,
Where billows never break nor
GARTH, The Dispensary, iii. 225.
'Most women have no characters
POPE, Moral Essays, ii. 2.