They say that we shouldn't speak ill of the dead. But for as long as people have been dying and others have been recording their epitaphs in stone there have been those who haven't been able to resist having literally the last word. Many of these gems found their way to headstones in graveyards on both sides of the Atlantic. Others never made it to the stone-mason's work bench. But they all carry the same malignant message eternally from this world to the next.
On Viscount Castlereagh:
'Posterity will ne'er survey,
A nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss.' Lord Byron
'Here lies Cynthia, Steven's wife,
She lived six years in calm and strife.
Death came at last and set her free,
I was glad and so was she.' Hollis, New Hampshire, U.S.A.
'Here lies one who for medicine would not give a little gold;
and so his life was lost.
I fancy that he'd wish again to live
Did he but know how much his funeral cost.' Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Epitaph for a poet:
'Here lies a poet where's the great surprise?
Since all men know, a poet deals in lies.
His patrons know, they don't deserve his praise:
He knows, he never meant it in his lays:
Knows, where he promises, he never pays.
Verse stands for sack, his knowledge for the score;
Both out. he's gone where poets went before:
And at departing, let the waiters know
He'd pay his reckoning in the realms below.'
On one John Young:
Those that knew him best deplored him most.' Staten Island, New York, U.S.A.
Epitaph for a wife:
To follow you I'm not content. How do I know which way you went?'
The mortal remains of JohnBrindle;
After an evil life of 64 years
Died June 18th, 1822,
And lies at rest beneath this stone.' London
Epitaph for a banker, Abraham Newland:
'Beneath this stone old Abraham lies; Nobody laughs and nobody cries. Where he's gone and how he fares Nobody knows and nobody cares.'
This stone was raised by Sarah's lord.
Not Sarah's virtues to record
For they're well known to all the town
But it was raised to keep her down.' Kilmurry, Ireland
'Beneath this stone,
a lump of clay Lies Arabella Young
Who on the 21st of May
Began to hold her tongue.' Hatfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
'Here lies the body of Richard Hind,
Who was neither ingenious, sober or kind.' Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.
Epitaph for a historian:
'Misplacing mistaking Misquoting misdating Men, manners, things, facts all, Here lies Nathan Wraxall.'
Epitaph for a lawyer:
'Beneath this smooth stone by the bone of his bone Sleeps Master John Gill; By lies when alive this attorney did thrive, And now that he's dead he lies still.'
'Charity, wife of Gideon Bligh,
Underneath this stone doth lie.
Nought was she e'er known to do
That her husband told her to.' Devonshire
Epitaph for Dr. Samuel Johnson:
'Here lies poor Johnson. Reader! have a care,
Tread lightly, lest you rouse a sleeping bear.
Religious, moral, gen'rousand humane,
He was, but self-conceited, rude and vain:
Ill-bred, and overbearing in dispute,
A scholar and a Christian, yet a brute.
Would you know all his wisdom and his folly,
His actions, sayings, mirth, and melancholy,
Boswell, Thrale, retailers of his wit,
Will tell you how he wrote, and talk'd, and spit.' Soame Jenyns
Epitaph for a wife:
'Here lies my wife, a sad slattern and a shrew. If I said I regretted her, I should lie too.'
'Here lies my wife in earthly mold, Who when she lived did naught but scold. Peace! Wake her not, for now she's still, She had; but now I have my will.' Bayfield, Mississippi, U.S.A.
Epitaph on Lord Coningsby:
'Here lies Lord Coningsbybe civil, The rest God knowsso does the Devil.' Alexander Pope