1 Mooguzuru

Samuel Johnson Essay On Epitaphs For Mothers

Epitaphs are the inscriptions on headstones.

As many epitaphs are not written by the person who is being honoured, the format shall be as follows:

  • Honouree (author) - Year of birth - Year of Death
    • Text of Epitaph
      • Citation to a published source
      • More explanation text

Sorted alphabetically by lastname.



  • Ayrton Senna (Extracted from the Holy Bible)
    • "Nada pode me separar do amor de Deus"
      • Translation: "Nothing can separate me from the love of God".


  • Robert Baden-Powell (by himself) 1857 - 1941
    • "Chief Scout of the World"
      • This is followed by the trail sign for "gone home" (a circle with a dot in the middle).
  • Clyde Barrow (unknown) - 1909 - 1934
    • "Gone but not forgotten."
      • Buried beside, and sharing a tombstone with, his brother Marvin (aka "Buck").
      • Outlaw, bank robber and partner of Bonnie Parker
  • Hilaire Belloc (unknown) - 1870 - 1953
    • "When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read."
      • From Sonnets and Verse 'On His Books'
  • Jakob Bernoulli (by himself) - 1654-1705
    • "Eadem mutata resurgo"
      • Translation: "Though changed I shall arise the same"
      • Referring to the accompanying inscription of a logarithmic spiral, which remains the same after mathematical transformations. He considered it a symbol of resurrection. CLARIFICATION: Bernoulli called the logarithmic spiral Spira mirabilis, "the marvelous spiral", and wanted one engraved on his headstone. Unfortunately, an Archimedean spiral was placed there instead (picture).
  • Mel Blanc (by himself) - 1908 - 1989
    • "That's all, folks!"
      • Trademark line of cartoon character Porky Pig, whose voice was provided by Blanc for many years.
  • William Bligh (unknown) - 1754 - 1817
    • "Sacred
      To The Memory Of
      William Bligh, Esquire F.R.S.
      Vice Admiral Of The Blue,
      The Celebrated Navigator
      Who First Transplanted The Breadfruit Tree
      From Otahette To The West Indies,
      Bravely fought The Battles Of His Country
      And Died Beloved, Respected, And Lamented
      On The 7th Day Of December, 1817
      Aged 64"
  • Ludwig Boltzmann (by himself) - 1844-1906
    • "S = k log W"
      • The formula for entropy of a system. Boltzmann committed suicide after failing to convince contemporary scientists of the validity of the formula. Grave in the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna.
  • John Brown (unknown)
    • "Stranger! Approach this spot with gravity!
      John Brown is filling his last cavity."
      • Referencing his occupation in life as a dentist: [1]
  • Samuel Butler (by Samuel Wesley) - 1612-1680
    • "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."


  • George Carlin (suggested by himself)
    • "Jeez, he was just here a minute ago."
      • This was his suggestion for an epitaph. In reality he was cremated and his ashes scattered.
  • Andrew Carnegie (unknown)
    • "Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself."
  • George Washington Carver (unknown)
    • "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world."
  • Walter Chiari (by himself)
    • "O friends, don't cry - it's just unused sleep."
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge (by himself)
    • "Stop, Christian Passer-by! - Stop, child of God,
      And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
      A poet lies, or that which once seem'd he.
      O, lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C.;
      That he who many a year with toil of breath
      Found death in life, may here find life in death!
      Mercy for praise - to be forgiven for fame
      He ask'd, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!"
  • Ian Curtis (Himself)
    • "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
      • Singer/Songwriter of the band Joy Division
      • Chosen for his headstone by his wife Deborah Curtis.


  • Somebody's Darling (William Rigney)
    • "Somebody's Darling Lies Buried Here"
      • In February 1865 a body was found at Horseshoe Bend in the Clutha River (in the South Island of New Zealand).
  • Jefferson Davis (unknown)
    • "At Rest
      An American Soldier
      And Defender of the Constitution"
  • Sammy Davis Jr. (by Altovise Davis and his children)
    • "The Entertainer. He Did it All."
      • In addition to Altovise Davis, his children-Tracey, Mark, Jeff and Manny--are also mentioned in his grave.
  • Cecil Day-Lewis (himself)
    • "Shall I be gone long?
      For ever and a day.
      To whom there belong?
      Ask the stone to say.
      Ask my song."
  • John Donne (Himself)
    • "He lies here in the dust but beholds Him
      whose name is Rising."
  • Claude Duval (unknown)
    • "Here lies Duvall; Reader, if male thou art,
      Look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart."
  • Diophantus of Alexandria (Metrodous, 4th century CE)
    • "This tomb holds Diophantus. Ah, what a marvel! And the tomb tells scientifically the measure of his life. God vouchsafed that he should be a boy for the sixth part of his life; when a twelfth was added, his cheeks acquired a beard; He kindled for him the light of marriage after a seventh, and in the fifth year after his marriage He granted him a son. Alas! late-begotten and miserable child, when he had reached the measure of half his father's life, the chill grave took him. After consoling his grief by this science of numbers for four years, he reached the end of his life." (Greek Anthology, 14.126)


  • Wyatt Earp (unknown)
    • Nothing's So Sacred As Honor
      Nothing's So Loyal As Love.
  • Eazy-E (Eric Wright)
    • We loved him a lot. But God loved him more.
  • Edward I of England (unknown)
    • "Hic est Edwardvs Primus Scottorum Malleus"
      • Translation: "Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots"


  • William Faulkner (unknown)- 1897-1962
    • "William Cuthburt Faulkner
      Born Sept. 25 1897
      Died July 6, 1962"
    • Belove'd Go With God.
  • W.C. Fields (unknown)- 1880-1946
    • "W. C. Fields 1880 - 1946"
      • In a 1925 article in Vanity Fair Fields had proposed the epitaph "Here lies W.C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia." because of his long-standing jokes about Philadelphia (he was actually born there), and the grave being one place he might actually not prefer to be. This is often repeated as "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." which he might have stated at other times, and sometimes is distorted into a last dig at Philadelphia: "Better here than in Philadelphia." His actual tomb at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California simply reads as above.
  • Benjamin Franklin (himself)
    • "The Body of B. Franklin, printer
      Like the Cover of an old Book
      Its Contents torn out
      And stripped of its Lettering & guilding
      Lies here food for worms
      For, it will as he believed appear once more
      In a new and more elegant edition
      Corrected and improved by the Author."
  • Robert Frost (himself)
    • "I had a lover's quarrel with the world"
  • R. Buckminster Fuller (himself)
    • "Call Me Trimtab"
      • A trimtab is the smallest part of a rudder for a ship or airplane, and controls the direction of the craft.


  • Rene Gagnon (unknown) 1925 - 1979
    • "For God And His Country
      He Raised Our Flag In Battle
      And Showed A Measure Of His
      Pride At A Place Called "Iwo Jima"
      Where Courage Never Died"
  • John Gay (himself) 1635 - 1732
    • "Life's a jest, and all things show it;
      I thought so once, and now I know it."
  • Mahatma Gandhi1869 - 1948
    • "Hey Ram"
      • Translated "O, lord!", supposed last words after being shot. As he was cremated, the epitaph appears on his samadhi, a black marble platform that marks the site of his cremation.
  • Betty Grable (Victoria James, her daughter) 1916 - 1973
    • "Betty Grable James, 1916-1973"
      • Betty Grable was married to bandleader Harry James from 1943 until 1965. She is buried at Inglewood (California) Park Cemetery, between her parents. Her father, Conn Grable, is buried below her, while her mother is buried above her crypt.
  • Kenneth Grahame (Anthony Hope, his cousin) 1859 - 1932
    • "To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the River on the 6 July 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him the more blest for all time".
  • Merv Griffin (by himself)
    • "I will not be right back after this message"
      • He ended the final episode of his talk show, which ended in 1986, with these words.


  • Alexander Hamilton - 1757 - 1804
      Alexander Hamilton,
      The CORPORATION OF TRINITY CHURCH Has erected this
      in Testimony of their Respect
      The PATRIOT of incorruptable INTEGRITY.
      The SOLDIER of approved VALOUR.
      The STATESMAN of consummate WISDOM.
      Whose TALENTS and VIRTUES will be admired
      Grateful Posterity
      Long after this MARBLE shall be mouldered into DUST
      He died July 12th 1804. Aged 47.
      • Alex rests at the far south side facing Wall Street (his wife Eliza is next to him, his son Philip is nearby in an unmarked grave)


  • Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton - 1757 - 1854

Born in Albany
August 9th 1757
Died at Washington
November 9th 1854

Interred HERE

  • Her husband Alexander is next to her and her son Philip is nearby in an unmarked grave


  • Rita Hayworth (Rebecca Welles)
    • "Beloved mother
      To yesterday's companionship and tomorrow's reunion"
      • Rita is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Rebecca Welles is the daughter of Hayworth from her marriage to Orson Welles.
  • Henry II (by Ralph of Diceto)
To me Diverse realms were subject, I was duke and count of many provinces.
Eight feet of ground is now enough for me, whom many kingdoms failed to satisfy.
Who reads these lines, let him reflect, upon the narrowness of death.
And in my case behold, the image of our mortal lot.
This scanty tomb doth now suffice,
For whom the Earth was not enough."
  • Werner Heisenberg (unknown)
    • "He lies here, somewhere."
      • This is a joke about the famous Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which implies that one may not know the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously.
  • George Hill
    • "Against his will,
      Here lies George Hill,
      Who from a cliff
      Fell down quite stiff.
      When it happen'd is not known,
      Therefore not mentioned on this stone."
  • Richard Hind
    • "Here lies the body of Richard Hind,
      Who was neither ingenious, sober, nor kind."
  • Robin Hood (mythological; sometimes identified with Robert of Huntingdon)
    • Inscription on a grave in Kirklees Priory, attributed to Robin Hood:
      "Hear underneath dis laitl stean
      Laz robert earl of Huntingtun
      Ne’er arcir ver as hie sa geud
      An pipl kauld im robin heud
      Sick utlawz as he an iz men
      Vil england nivr si agen."
      • Modern English equivalent:
        "Here underneath this little stone
        Lies Robert, Earl of Huntingdon.
        No archer were as he so good
        And people called him Robin Hood.
        Such outlaws as he and his men
        Will England never see again."
  • Jack Horkheimer, presenter of the popular astrononomy programme Star Gazer
    • "Keep Looking Up was my life's admonition. I can do little else in my present position." [4]


  • Vladislav Illich-Svitych - 1934 - 1966
    • "K̥elHä wet̥ei ʕaK̥un kähla
      k̥aλai palhʌ-k̥ʌ na wetä
      śa da ʔa-k̥ʌ ʔeja ʔälä
      ja-k̥o pele t̥uba wete"
      • A poem in Proto-Nostratic language, probably spoken several millennia ago, which was reconstructed by Illich-Svitych.
        English translation:
        "Language is a ford through the river of time,
        It leads us to the dwelling of those gone before;
        But he cannot arrive there,
        Who fears deep water".


  • Jesse James (by his mother) 1847 - 1882
    • " Murdered by a traitor and a coward whose name is not worthy to appear here"
  • Thomas Jefferson (by himself) 1743 - 1826
    • " Author of the Declaration of American independence
      of the statute of Virginia for religious freedom
      and father of the University of Virginia"
      • Despite his being the 2nd Vice-President and 3rd President of the USA, these are not mentioned. He had said that he wanted to be remembered for what he gave to America, and not what America had given to him.
  • George Johnson (unknown)
    • " Here lies George Johnson
      Hanged by mistake, 1882
      He was right
      We was wrong
      But we strung him up
      And now he's gone"
      • Found on Boot Hill, Tombstone, AZ
  • Jeremiah Johnson (unknown)
    • " I told you I was sick."
  • John Jones (by Himself)
    • " Hold my drink, you're gonna' love this."
  • Carl Jung (unknown) 1875 - 1961
    • "Vocatus atque non vocatus
      Deus aderit"
      • Translation: "Invoked or not invoked, God will be present."


  • Nikos Kazantzakis (by himself)
    • "Then elpizo tipota. The fovamai tipota. Eimai eleftheros." ("Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα. Δε φοβάμαι τίποτα. Είμαι ελεύθερος")
      • Translation: "I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free."
  • John Keats (by himself and his friends) - 1795-1821
    • "This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a Young English Poet, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water."
      • Keats desired only the phrase "Here lies one whose name was writ in water" to be on his tombstone. However his friends, Joseph Severn and Charles Brown, added the rest.
    • "K-eats! if thy cherished name be "writ in water"
      E-ach drop has fallen from some mourner's cheek;
      A-sacred tribute; such as heroes seek,
      T-hough oft in vain - for dazzling deeds of slaughter
      S-leep on! Not honoured less for Epitaph so meek!"
      • Written on a small plaque, on the cemetery wall nearby.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I'm Free At Last."
      • Lyrics of an old African American Spiritual he frequently quoted.
  • Ernie Kovacs (by Edie Adams) 1919-|1962
    • "Nothing in Moderation. We all loved him."
      • Kovacs, Adams and their daughter, Mia Susan, are interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Their epitaphs are variations of the second sentence as above; Mia Susan's epitaph reads, "Daddy's girl. We all loved her too."


  • Brandon Lee (by Paul Bowles) 1965 - 1993
    • "Because we do not know when we will
      die, we get to think of life as an
      inexhaustible well. And yet everything
      happens only a certain number of times,
      and a very small number really.
      How many more times will you
      remember a certain afternoon of your
      childhood, an afternoon that is so
      deeply a part of your being that you
      cannot conceive of your life
      without it? Perhaps four, or five times
      more. Perhaps not even that. How
      many more times will you watch the
      full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And
      yet it all seems limitless.
For Brandon and Eliza
Ever Joined in True Love's Beauty."
  • Jack Lemmon (by himself)
    • "In"
      • 30's- 60's Hollywood Comedian
  • John Locke (unknown)
      I know there is truth opposite to
      falsehood that it may be
      found if people will
      & is worth the
      • Nearby the following appears: "Stop Traveller! Near this place lieth John Locke. If you ask what kind of a man he was, he answers that he lived content with his own small fortune. Bred a scholar, he made his learning subservient only to the cause of truth. This thou will learn from his writings, which will show thee everything else concerning him, with greater truth, than the suspect praises of an epitaph. His virtues, indeed, if he had any, were too little for him to propose as matter of praise to himself, or as an example to thee. Let his vices be buried together. As to an example of manners, if you seek that, you have it in the Gospels; of vices, to wish you have one nowhere; if mortality, certainly, (and may it profit thee), thou hast one here and everywhere." (translated from the original Latin).
  • Jack London (Psalm 118:22)
    • "The Stone the Builders Rejected"


  • Rob Roy MacGregor (unknown)
    • "Despite them"
      • At the time of Rob Roy's fame, the MacGregor name became banned and was never allowed to be heard or seen by law. The epitaph phrase in full, "Rob Roy MacGregor, despite them" is a last standing testament to defy that law.
  • Jayne Mansfield (either her fans or family) 1933 - 1967
    • "We live to love you more each day"
      • Appears at her headstone at the Pen Argyl (Pennsylvania) Cemetery and at her cenotaph at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
  • Dean Martin (by himself) 1917 - 1995
    • "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime"
      • Title of one of his songs.
  • Groucho Marx (by himself)
    • "Groucho Marx - 1890 - 1977
      • In an interview, he jokingly suggested his epitaph read "Excuse me, I can't stand up.", but his mausoleum marker bears only his stage name and years of birth and death.
  • Karl Marx (by himself) - 1818 - 1883
    • "Workers of all lands unite. The philosophers have only
      interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."
  • Leonard Matlovich (by himself) - 1943 - 1988
    • "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."
  • John Laird McCaffery ("your friends") - 1940 - 1995
    • "John
      Free your body and soul
      Unfold your powerful wings
      Climb up the highest mountains
      Kick your feet up in the air
      You may now live forever
      Or return to this earth
      Unless you feel good where you are!
      —Missed by your friends"
      • Mr. McCaffery is buried in Montreal. The epitaph is an acrostic poem, in that the first letters of each line spell out, "F-U-C-K Y-O-U" The motive of his "'friends'" is unknown. However, the Montreal Mirror quoted the gravestone's engraver as saying that the stone was ordered by McCaffery's "ex-wife and mistress... They said the message represented him. It was a thing between the three of them."[5]
  • H. L. Mencken (by himself) - 1880 - 1956
    • "If after I depart this vale you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner, and wink your eye at some homely girl"
  • Russ Meyer
    • "King of the Nudies
      I Was Glad to Do It
  • Spike Milligan (by himself) - 1918 - 2002
    • Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite.
      • Translation from Irish: "I told you I was ill."
  • Lester Moore (unknown)
    • "Here lies
      Lester Moore
      four slugs
      from a 44
      no Les
      no more"
      • On Grave stone in Idaho State Penitentiary, Lester Moore died while attempting escape. Lester Moore is the only Inmate buried on the grounds of the Idaho State Pen.
  • Jim Morrison (unknown) - 1943 - 1971
      • Translation from Greek: "Truth to your own spirit" His body is buried in Paris's famous Père LaChaise cemetery in the company of many other celebrities. Next to him in the "Poet's Corner" are buried many celebrated writers, including Balzac, Molière, Oscar Wilde and Frédéric Chopin.
  • Matthew Mudd (unknown) from Massachusetts:
    • "Here lies Matthew Mudd,
      Death did him no hurt;
      When alive he was only Mudd,
      But now he's only dirt."
  • Audie Murphy (unknown) 1926 - 1971
      DSC - SS & OLC
      LM - BSM & OLC
      PH & 2 OLC"


  • Isaac Newton (Alexander Pope)
    • On his tombstone, "Hic depositum est, quod mortale fuit Isaaci Newtoni," which is translatable as "here is deposited what was mortal of Isaac Newton"
    • On the adjacent monument "Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
      God said, 'Let Newton be!' and all was light."
  • Joshua A. Norton
    • "Norton I
      Emperor of the United States
      Protector of Mexico"


  • Osho
    • "Never Born // Never Died // Only Visited this Planet Earth between // Dec 11 1931 – Jan 19 1990".
      • As quoted in Laughing Gods, Weeping Virgins : Laughter in the History of Religion (1997) by Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, p. 143.
  • Peter O'Toole (himself)
    • "It distresses us to return work which is not perfect."
      • Written when O'Toole was still alive, possibly a planned epitaph.
        • O'Tool's wife sent an old and much stained leather jacket to the cleaners and they returned it, having done their best, with a note pinned to the lapel which read, "It distresses us to ect..." This amused O'tool so much he declared it would be on his "tomb stone".


  • Bonnie Parker (Unknown) 1910 - 1934
    • "As the flowers are all made sweeter by
      the sunshine and the dew, so this old
      world is made brighter by the lives
      of folks like you."
      • Outlaw, bank robber and partner of Clyde Barrow
        • Reportedly taken from one of Bonnie's poems.
  • Dorothy Parker - 1893 - 1967
    • "Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967) Humorist, Writer, Critic, Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph, she suggested "Excuse My Dust". This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between Black and Jewish people. Dedicated by The National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, October 20, 1988." (On a memorial plaque).
  • Rosa Parks (by herself)
    • "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement"
      • Parks is remembered for her involvement in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, which began the Civil Rights movement. In her last decades she lived in Detroit, Michigan; she is buried as Oakwood Cemetery in that city.
  • Penn and Teller (by themselves)
    • "Is this your card?" and a graphic of a card of the 3 of clubs.
      • From the Book "Penn and Teller's How to play in traffic" ISBN 1572972939 - Penn and Teller bought a cenotaph (an epitaph without a grave beneath it) and placed it in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood. They invite people touring there to use it to surprise their friends as a punchline for a card trick.
  • Fernando Pessoa (himself)
    • "Fui o que não sou"
      • Translation: "I was what I am not."
  • James Louis Petigru (unknown) - 1789-1863
    • "In the admiration of his Peers;
      In the respect of his People,
      In the affection of his Family,
      His was the highest place."
  • Sylvia Plath (Ted Hughes) 1932 - 1963
    • "Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted."
      • Variously attributed to Journey to the West and the Bhagavad Gita
  • Edgar Allan Poe (himself) 1809 - 1849
    • "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'"
      • From his poem "The Raven". This inscription appears on his original grave marker. The current marker, in the same cemetery, bears just his name.
  • Fritiof Nilsson Piraten (by himself) - 1895-1972
    • "Här under är askan av en man som hade vanan att skjuta allt till morgondagen. Dock bättrades han på sitt yttersta och dog verkligen den 31 januari 1972."
      • Roughly translated: "Here lie the ashes of a man who had the habit of postponing everything until tomorrow. However, at the end of his life he improved, and actually died on the 31st of January 1972."
  • Ernie Pyle
    • "At this spot the 77th Infantry Division lost a buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945.


  • He had the 2nd fastest draw. Only bettered by Slow Draw Shaw.


  • Johnny Ramone (aka John Cummings)
    • "If a man can tell he's been successful in his life by having great friends, then I have been very successful."
  • Will Rogers (himself)
    • "If you live life right
      death is a joke
      as far as fear is concerned"
  • William P. Rothwell (unknown) from Rhode Island:
    • (carved into a boulder) "This is on me."
  • Babe Ruth (Cardinal Spellman)
    • "May
      That Divine Spirit
      That Animated
      to Win the Crucial
      Game of Life
      Inspire the Youth
      of America"


  • Selena - (Isaiah) - 1971-1995
    • English; "He will actually swallow up death forever, and the sovereign lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces"
    • Spanish: "El realmente se tragará a la muerte para siempre, y el señor soberano Jehová ciertamente limpiara las lagrimas de todo rostro.
  • Seikilos, between 200 BC and 100 AD
    • "Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
      μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
      πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
      τὸ τέλος ὁ xρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.
      • "While you live, shine
        Don't suffer anything at all;
        Life exists only a short while
        And time demands its toll."
      • Parallel with the text, the stone also contains the oldest surviving complete notated musical composition
  • William Shakespeare - baptized April 26, 1564 - April 23, 1616
    • "Good frend, for Iesvs sake forbeare
      To digg the dvst encloasèd heare.
      Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones,
      And cvrst be he yt moves my bones."
      • Modern English equivalent:
        "Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
        To dig the dust enclosed here.
        Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
        And cursed be he that moves my bones."
  • Sam Suryawanshi AKA Vazir (by himself) - 1985-2011
    • "I forgive everything you did to me, but I never forgot anything.
      You never cared for what I did for you
      I was obedient to my word; everything I said still stands true"
      - To his beloved"
  • Harry Edsel Smith (unknown) - 1903-1942
    • "Looked up the elevator shaft
      To see
      If the car was on the way down.
      It was."
  • The 300 Spartans (Simonides) - 480 BC
      • Translation: "Go Tell the Spartans, Stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."
  • Robert Louis Stevenson (by himself) - 1850-1894
    • "Under the wide and starry sky
      Dig the grave and let me lie,
      Glad did I live and gladly die
      And I laid me down with a will.
      This be the verse you grave for me:
      Here he lies where he longed to be.
      Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
      And the hunter home from the hill."
      • This epitaph also prefaces the Robert Heinlein story "Requiem" and serves as the protagonist's epitaph; use for Stevenson reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 235.
  • Harold J. Story (1919 - 1993)
    • "Before you jump in here with me,
      make sure you bring good memories.
      For here they're all we have to trade,
      and where you are is where they're made."
  • Arthur Sullivan1842-1900 (by W. S. Gilbert)
    • "Is life a boon?
      If so it must befall
      That death when e're he call
      Must call too soon."
      • This epitaph is on the monument to Sullivan in Victoria Embankment Gardens, not on his grave in St Paul's Cathedral.
  • Jonathan Swift (unknown) 1667 - 1745
    • "Here lies the body of Jonathan Swift,
      Professor of Holy Theology, for thirty
      years Dean of this cathedral church,
      where savage indignation can tear his
      heart no more. Go, traveller, and if you
      can imitate one who with his utmost
      strength protected liberty. He died in the year 1745, on the 19th of October,
      aged seventy-eight"
  • Lucius Cornelius Sulla (by himself) - died 78 BC
    • "No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full."


And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar."
  • This poem ("Crossing the Bar") is included at the end of every collection of his works.
  • Studs Terkel (Suggested by himself)
    • "Curiosity did not kill this cat."
In Memory of Thomas Thetcher
a Grenadier in the North Reg.
of Hants Militia, who died of a
violent Fever contracted by drinking
Small Beer when hot the 12th of May
1764. Aged 26 Years.
In grateful remembrance of whose universal
good will towards his Comrades, this Stone
is placed here at their expence, as a small
testimony of their regard and concern.
Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier,
Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer,
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall
And when ye're hot drink Strong or none at all.
This memorial being decay'd was restord
by the Officers of the Garrison A.D. 1781.
An Honest Soldier never is forgot
whether he die by Musket or by Pot.
The Stone was replaced by the North Hants
Militia when disembodied at Winchester,
on 26th April 1802, in consequence of
the original Stone being destroyed.
And again replaced by
The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1966.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien:
    • "Beren"
      • Beren was a famous human hero during the First Age of Tolkien's fictional world Middle-earth. Beren's love was the immortal Elven maid Lúthien who chose the fate of mortality to be able to follow Beren after he died. The name "Lúthien" is inscribed underneath the name Edith Tolkien on the pair's headstone.

Unknown- As you are now, I once was As I am now, you will be


  • Verginius Rufus
    • Hic situs est Rufus, pulso qui Vindice quondam imperium asseruit non sibi sed patriae.
      • "Here lies Rufus, who after defeating Vindex, did not take power, but gave it to the fatherland"
      • From: Plinius Secundus Minor, Epistulae, liber VI, 10.


  • George Washington (unknown) 1732 - 1799
    • "Looking into the portals of eternity teached that
      The Brotherhood of Man is inspired by God's Word;
      Then all prejudice of race vanishes away."
  • John Wayne (himself) 1907 - 1979
    • "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."
  • Hank Williams (his wife)
    • "Thank you for the love you gave me
      There could be nobody stronger
      Thank you for many beautiful songs
      They will live long, and longer"
  • Christopher Wren (by his son)
    • "Lector, si monumentum requiris circumspice."
      • Translation: "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around."
      • Wren is buried in St Paul's Cathedral, London, which he designed.
  • Virginia Woolf (by herself)
    • "Against you I will fling myself
      unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!"



  • William Butler Yeats (by himself)
    • "Cast a cold eye
      On life, on death.
      Horseman, pass by!"
      • This epitaph is from Under Ben Bulben, one of Yeats' last poems. The last section of Under Ben Bulben describes Yeats' resting-place-to-be. See W.B. Yeats at Wikisource and Wikipedia


Epitaphs in fiction[edit]

  • Jean Valjean, Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
    • "Il dort. Quoique le sort fût pour lui bien étrange,; Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n’eut plus son ange,; La chose simplement d’elle-même arriva,; Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s’en va."
    • He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange, he lived. He died when he had no longer his angel. The thing came to pass simply, of itself, as the night comes when day is gone.
  • King Menethil II
    • Here lies King Terenas Menethil II -- Last True King of Lordaeron.
      Great were his deeds -- long was his reign -- unthinkable was his death.
      "May the Father lie blameless for the deeds of the son.
      May the bloodied crown stay lost and forgotten."
      • Source: WarCraft
      • Note: He was murdered by his son, and the kingdom of Lordaeron fell.
  • Edmund Blackadder (by himself)
    • "Here lies Edmund Blackadder, and he's bloody annoyed."
  • "A Jacobite's Epitaph" (Thomas Babington Macaulay)
    • To my true king I offer'd free from stain
      Courage and faith; vain faith, and courage vain.
      For him I threw lands, honours, wealth, away,
      And one dear hope, that was more prized than they.
      For him I languish'd in a foreign clime,
      Gray-hair'd with sorrow in my manhood's prime;
      Heard on Lavernia Scargill's whispering trees,
      And pined by Arno for my lovelier Tees;
      Beheld each night my home in fever'd sleep,
      Each morning started from the dream to weep;
      Till God, who saw me tried too sorely, gave
      The resting-place I ask'd, an early grave.
      O thou, whom chance leads to this nameless stone,
      From that proud country which was once mine own,
      By those white cliffs I never more must see,
      By that dear language which I spake like thee,
      Forget all feuds, and shed one English tear
      O'er English dust. A broken heart lies here."
  • Baldur's Gate
    • "Stranger, Tread this ground with gravity
      Dentist Mark B is filling his last cavity."
  • Bonduca.
    • Lie lightly on my ashes, gentle earthe.
      • John Fletcher, Bonduca (1611–14; published 1647), Act IV, scene 3. ("Sit tibi terra levis," familiar inscription).
  • Scrooge McDuck (Keno Don Rosa)
    • "Fortuna favet fortibus"
      • Translation: "Fortune favours the brave"
      • Appears on an (unpublished) drawing by author Keno Don Rosa
  • Jenny Sparks (unknown)
    • "Bugger this. I want a better world."
  • David St. Hubbins (himself)
    • "Here lies David St. Hubbins...and why not?"
      • From "This is Spinal Tap". Suggested when asked what he'd want as his epitaph.
  • From Fable (game)
    • "Blimey it's darker than I thought in here."
    • "No man can hold his breath for ten minutes."
    • "What you lookin' at?"
    • "You're standing on my head."
    • "Rover was a true friend and pet, but ran in thunderstorms when wet."
    • "Not dead only sleeping, buried me anyway. Unlucky."
    • "I finished before you in the human race."
    • "Anyone want to swap places?"
    • "Thank you for reading this grave now bugger off!"
    • "Let me out!"
  • Senator Vrooman (Ambrose Bierce)
    • "Here lies the bones of Senator Vrooman
      Whose head was as hard as the heart of a woman
      Whose heart was as soft as the head of a hammer
      Dame Fortune inspired him to eminence, damn her!
      • Fictional future senator used as one of five examples under "Epitaph", from The Devil's Dictionary.
  • Van Ruijven
    • "He Painted Me."
      • In reference to painter Jan Vermeer; from the film Girl with a Pearl Earring.
  • Royal Tenenbaum (At his suggestion)
    • Royal O'Reilly Tenenbaum (1932–2001) Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Wreckage Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship
  • Arcanum
    • "He had six bullets but he needed seven."
  • Charles Xavier (Age of Apocalypse version)
    • "Any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for."
  •              Balin
    Uzbad Khazad-dumu
    Balin son of Fundin Lord of Moria


  • From a Canadian WWI Memorial (Rudyard Kipling)
    • "From little towns in a far land we came
      To save our honour and a world aflame.
      By little towns in a far land we sleep
      And trust the world we won for you to keep."
  • From Ireland
    • "Tears cannot
      Restore her:
      Therefore I weep."
  • From a grave in Muçum, Brazil
    • Do escuro vieram, nas trevas viveram e para o além se foram.
      • Translation: From the dark they've come, among obscurity they've lived and to the hereafter they've gone.
  • Adult's grave in Rome, Italy
    • "Quello che siete fummo, quello che siamo sarete"
      • Translation: "What you are we were and what we are you will become"
  • Child's grave in Miami, FL (by Edmund Waller)
    • "What small amount of time they share
      Who are so wondrous sweet and fair"
      • From Waller's poem "Go, Lovely Rose"
  • Infant
    • "Since I am so quickly done for
      I wonder what I was begun for?"
  • Infant in Vermont
    • "Here lies our darling baby boy
      He never cries or hollers
      He lived for one and twenty days
      And cost us forty dollars."
  • From Tasmania, Australia
    • "Stop ye travellers as you pass by
      As you are now, so once was I
      As I am now, soon you shall be -
      Prepare yourself to follow me."
      • Graffiti response:
        "To follow you
        I am not content --
        How do I know
        which way you went?"
  • From Perth, Scotland
    • "Reader one moment stop and think,
      That I am in eternity and you are on the brink."
  • From Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
    • "Death is a debt to Nature due
      Which we have paid and so must you."
  • From Nanuet, New York
    • "Remember man as you walk by,
      As you are now so once was I,
      As I am now, so to you shall be,
      Bow your head and pray for me."
  • From Évora, Portugal, in the Chapel of Bones
    • "Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos" - "We, bones that here lie, for yours we wait"
  • On a grave in a Kent cemetery
    • "Grim death took me without any warning
      I was well at night and dead at nine in the morning"
  • On a grave in New York
    • "je ne me souviens pas - or, here lies one whose name was writ in air"

Unknown Soldiers[edit]

  • "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."
    • Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia; also used in other American War cemeteries, such as the ones in Normandy.
  • British Soldier, in Westminster Abbey
    • Beneath this stone lies the body
      of a British warrior
      Unknown by name or rank
      brought from France to lie among
      the most illustrious of the land
      and buried here on Armistice Day
      11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of
      His Majesty King George V
      His Ministers of State
      the Chiefs of his Forces
      and a vast concourse of the nation.

      Thus are commemorated the many
      multitudes who during the Great
      War of 1914-1918 gave the most that
      Man can give Life itself
      for God
      for King and country
      for loved ones, home and empire
      for the sacred cause of Justice and
      the Freedom of the world.

      They buried him among the kings because he
      had done good toward God and toward
      his house.
  • British Soldier, Tobruk Commonwealth Cemetery, Libya
    • At the going down of the sun
      And in the morning
      We will remember them
  • Australian soldier whose body is held in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra,Australia. By former Australian Prime MinisterPaul Keating
    • We do not know this Australian's name and we never will. We do not know his rank or battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how he died … We will never know who this Australian was … he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front … one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who died in wars this century. He is all of them. And he is one of us.

Quotes about epitaphs[edit]

  • Shrine of the mighty! can it be,
    That this is all remains of thee?
  • After your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.
  • Either our history shall with full mouth
    Speak freely of our acts, or else our grave,
    Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth,
    Not worshipp'd with a waxen epitaph.
  • And if your love
    Can labour aught in sad invention,
    Hang her an epitaph upon her tomb
    And sing it to her bones, sing it to-night.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 229-35.
  • Here lies the remains of James Pady, Brickmaker, in hope that his clay will be remoulded in a workmanlike manner, far superior to his former perishable materials.
    • Epitaph from Addiscombe Church-yard, Devonshire; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 229.
  • Stavo bene; per star meglio, sto qui.
Grave of Robert Baden-Powell
J.R.R.Tolkien and his wife's tomb.

Samuel Johnson, the premier English literary figure of the mid- and late eighteenth century, was a writer of exceptional range: a poet, a lexicographer, a translator, a journalist and essayist, a travel writer, a biographer, an editor, and a critic. His literary fame has traditionally—and properly—rested more on his prose than on his poetry. As a result, aside from his two verse satires (1738, 1749), which were from the beginning recognized as distinguished achievements, and a few lesser pieces, the rest of his poems have not in general been well known. Yet his biographer James Boswell noted correctly that Johnson's "mind was so full of imagery, that he might have been perpetually a poet." Moreover, Johnson wrote poetry throughout his life, from the time he was a schoolboy until eight days before his death, composing in Latin and Greek as well as English. His works include a verse drama, some longer serious poems, several prologues, many translations, and much light occasional poetry, impromptu compositions or jeux d'esprit. Johnson is a poet of limited range, but within that range he is a poet of substantial talent and ability.

Johnson, the son of Sarah and Michael Johnson, grew up in Lichfield. His father was a provincial bookseller prominent enough to have served as sheriff of the town in 1709, the year of Samuel's birth, but whose circumstances were increasingly straitened as his son grew up. Samuel was a frail baby, plagued by disease. He contracted scrofula (a tubercular infection of the lymph glands) from his wet nurse, which left him almost blind in one eye and nearsighted in the other, deaf in one ear, and scarred on his face and neck from the disease itself and from an operation for it. He also was infected with smallpox. These early and traumatic illnesses presaged the continuing physical discomfort and ill health that would mark his entire life.

The Johnson household was not a particularly happy one, for financial difficulties only exacerbated his parents' incompatibilities. The serious psychological problems Johnson experienced throughout his life were undoubtedly connected in part with the troubled domestic situation of his childhood. Johnson's major advantage from the beginning was his mind, for the intellectual powers that were to astonish his associates throughout his life appeared early. He excelled at the Lichfield Grammar School, which he attended until he was fifteen.

According to his boyhood friend Edmund Hector, Johnson's first poem, "On a Daffodill, the first Flower the Author had seen that Year," was composed between his fifteenth and sixteenth years (in 1724). Written in heroic quatrains, the poem is largely an accumulation of traditional lyric conventions typical of poets from Robert Herrick to Matthew Prior. At moments, however, its weighted seriousness, and particularly the melancholy sense of process and the moral that ends it, suggests some of the points where the poetic strengths of the mature Johnson would focus. The poem poses no serious challenge to William Wordsworth but is not an entirely inauspicious beginning. Hector later told Boswell that Johnson "never much lik'd" the poem because he did not feel "it was ... characteristic of the Flower." Significantly, even so young, Johnson recognized the need for the concreteness and specificity that in his later poems would infuse the more abstract intellectual conceptions that dominated his first effort.

Johnson spent the next year at Stourbridge. Initially he made a protracted visit to his older cousin Cornelius Ford, enjoying the company of this genial, witty, and worldly relative and access to a social world significantly wider than life at Lichfield had offered. Later Johnson worked at the Stourbridge Grammar School with the headmaster, John Wentworth. About a dozen of Johnson's poems from this period survive, mainly translations. Most of them were school exercises, such as his translations of Virgil's first and fifth eclogues and the dialogue between Hector and Andromache in the sixth book of the Iliad. Johnson later told Boswell that Horace's odes were "the compositions in which he took most delight," and he had already translated the Integer vitae ode (I:xxii) before studying with Wentworth. At Stourbridge he translated three other odes (II: ix, xiv, and xx) and two epodes of Horace's (II and XI). All are capable and fairly accurate performances, although the epodes show more energy. The most interesting of his early translations is that of Joseph Addison's Latin poem "The Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes" (1698), for it anticipates the vigor, the sympathetic involvement and resulting moral poignance, and the ability to revivify known truths that are characteristic of Johnson's greatest poems.

Two more school exercises, "Festina Lente" (Make Haste Slowly) and "Upon the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude," are original poems. The latter, written in the stanzaic form that Christopher Smart would employ over three decades later in the Song to David (1763), is singular among Johnsonian poems for what it terms "extatick fury," and it shows his youthful willingness to experiment with verse forms and varieties of poetic expression. Despite its interest, it is in many ways the "rude unpolish'd song" that it claims to be, and it suggests that Johnson's decision to confine himself to couplets and quatrains was not unwise. Wentworth's preservation of Johnson's early pieces reflects his high opinion of his pupil's talent and skill, and the early poems show an increasing command of diction and rhythm. W. Jackson Bate has pointed out that although merely school exercises, they are "as good as the verse written by any major poet at the same age."

Johnson returned to Lichfield in the fall of 1726 and spent two more years there, working and also reading in his father's bookshop. Once again he found a mentor, this time Gilbert Walmesley, a scholarly, sophisticated, hospitable lawyer who was registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court at Lichfield. In 1728, when Johnson was nineteen, his parents managed to scrape together enough money to send him to Pembroke College, Oxford. In his first interview he impressed his tutor by quoting Macrobius, and with the wide knowledge he had accumulated over his years of reading, he continued to impress members of the college with his intellectual prowess. Although a desultory and often irresponsible student, he loved college life. His reading of William Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728) during this period led him to think seriously about religion, and he gradually developed the deep, though troubled, acceptance of the Christian faith and its principles that marked his life.

As a youth in Lichfield, Johnson had first attempted Latin verse in a now-lost poem on the glowworm, but several of his Latin poems composed as college exercises survive. Of these the most important is a translation of Alexander Pope's Messiah (1712), made as a 1728 Christmas exercise at the suggestion of his tutor. Working through Isaiah, Virgil, and Pope, Johnson produced his own Latin poem of 119 lines at remarkable speed, writing half of it in an afternoon and completing the rest the next morning. This kind of facility in poetic composition was characteristic of Johnson, whether he was writing original poetry or translating, just as he later wrote prose with incredible speed. He could effectively organize and even edit in his mind; he later explained to Boswell that in composing verses, "I have generally had them in my mind, perhaps fifty at a time, walking up and down in my room; and then I have written them down, and often, from laziness, have written only half lines." The manuscript of The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) reflects this practice, for the first half of many lines is written in different ink than the last half.

The translation of The Messiah was received enthusiastically at Pembroke. Although the extant evidence is conflicting, one close friend said that Johnson's father had it printed without his son's knowledge and even dispatched a copy to Pope. Johnson, who had always experienced difficulties in getting along with his father, was furious at the interference, for he had his own plans for having the poem presented properly to the English author. Whatever actually happened in this connection, the translation was Johnson's first published poem, for in 1731 it was included in A Miscellany of Poems, edited by John Husbands, a Pembroke tutor. But by the time it appeared, lack of money had forced Johnson to leave Oxford and return once more to Lichfield.

Johnson's early translations and his Latin verse reflect two poetic modes that he would pursue for the rest of his life. Other poems extant from his earlier years show his abilities in the kind of occasional or impromptu verses that appear in large numbers in his later writings. In addition to the more serious and substantial "Ode on Friendship," there are the complimentary verses "To a Young Lady on Her Birthday" and "To Miss Hickman Playing on the Spinet," along with "On a Lady leaving her place of Abode" and "On a Lady's Presenting a Sprig of Myrtle to a Gentleman," the latter composed hastily to help a friend. A Latin quatrain, "To Laura," resulted when a friend proposed a line and challenged Johnson in company to finish it; he complied instantly. Finally, an epilogue written for a play acted by some young women at Lichfield presages his later theatrical pieces, while "The Young Author" prepares for the future treatment of a similar theme in one of his great verse satires. Almost the entire range of Johnson's mature poetic interests is represented in his early pieces.

Barred from returning to Oxford because of his family's increasingly desperate financial situation, Johnson lacked an occupation, had no prospects of one, and faced a bleak future on his return to Lichfield. Worst of all was his psychological state. For him the early years of the 1730s were a period of despair, ultimate breakdown, and only gradual recovery. Indolence had always been a problem for him; indeed, it would plague him throughout his life. But during this period, despite his best efforts to pull himself together and focus his life, he could not break the terrible lassitude afflicting him. Deeply depressed, paralyzed with gilts and fears, he suffered a massive emotional collapse that lasted for about two years and left him unsteady for three more. He later dated his constant health problems from this period, writing in a letter in his early seventies that "My health has been from my twentieth year such as seldom afforded me a single day of ease" (Letters of Samuel Johnson, II: 474). In addition, during this time he developed the convulsive gestures, tics, and obsessional mannerisms that contributed to making his demeanor so odd. Johnson was a large, powerful man, but his awkwardness, his scrofula and smallpox scars, and his compulsive mannerisms, combined with his disheveled and slovenly dress, created a grotesque initial impression.

After failing in attempts to secure several positions, Johnson was briefly employed in 1732 as an undermaster at Market Bosworth Grammar School in Leicestershire. He hated the job and particularly the chief trustee who controlled the school, and he quit during the summer. In the autumn he visited his old friend Hector in Birmingham and lived there for over a year, still trying to settle his mind and his life. By 1734 he managed to complete a translation of Father Jeronymo Lobo's account of Abyssinia, Johnson's first published book (1735). He had not forgotten poetry. Returning to Lichfield, he published proposals for a subscription edition of the Latin poems of the fifteenth-century writer Politian, with a history of Latin poetry from the age of Petrarch to Politian. Like most of his endeavors during this bleak period, the project failed.

In July 1735 Johnson married Elizabeth Jervis Porter, whom he referred to as "Tetty," a widow twenty years his senior. To this unusual marriage, which he always described as a love match, she brought a substantial amount of money, and with it Johnson began a small school at Edial. It opened in the fall with only three students, among them David Garrick, who was to become the greatest actor of the century. As the school rapidly declined, Johnson decided to try to earn money—and perhaps to make a name for himself—by writing a blank-verse tragedy, a historical drama in the vein that Addison's Cato (1713) had popularized. Usually a rapid writer, this time he was unable to proceed with any celerity on his ill-fated play Irene (not published until 1749). He had completed only half of it when the school failed. With Tetty's resources now steadily diminishing, he decided to go to London, where he hoped to find work writing for journals and translating and to complete and sell Irene. Tetty stayed behind. On 2 March 1737 Johnson and young Garrick set out for London, sharing a single horse between them. In London and then in Greenwich, Johnson continued to work on Irene, but in the summer he returned to Lichfield, and after three months there he finally finished the drama. No evidence exists to indicate that any other work cost Johnson as much effort as Irene. The manuscript of his first draft is extant, and it shows his extensive research, his careful organization, and his detailed descriptions of scenes and characters.

Johnson and Tetty moved back to London in October, and Johnson sought unsuccessfully to get Irene produced. Meanwhile he began to do some work for Edward Cave on the Gentleman's Magazine. In March 1738 his first contribution to it appeared, an elegant and dignified Latin poem, "To Sylvanus Urban" (Cave's editorial pseudonym), which defended Cave against current attacks by rival booksellers. Other poems that year included light complimentary verses to Elizabeth Carter and Lady Firebrace, and Latin and Greek epigrams to Carter, Richard Savage, and Thomas Birch.

As he worked for Cave, Johnson also sought something to write on his own that might sell. A natural choice was the "imitation," a popular contemporary poetic form. Dryden in his Preface to Ovid's Epistles (1680) had described the imitation as a kind of translation, "where the translator (if now he has not lost that name) assumes the liberty not only to vary from the words and sense, but to forsake them both as he sees occasion; and taking only some general hints from the original, to run division on the groundwork, as he pleases." Johnson himself would later define it in the Life of Pope (volume 7 of Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, 1779-1781) as "a kind of middle composition between translation and original design, which pleases when the thoughts are unexpectedly applicable and the parallels lucky." Pope, whose Imitations of Horace had been appearing during the 1730s, was the acknowledged master of the mode, which had been developed extensively during the Restoration by such poets as Abraham Cowley, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and John Oldham and had also been employed by Swift. Johnson turned to the Latin poet Juvenal and imitated his Satura III on urban life inLondon. Late in March 1738 he sent a copy of the poem to Cave, with a letter in which he claimed to be negotiating for a needy friend who had actually composed the poem. He even offered to alter any parts of it that Cave disliked. Cave printed London and arranged for Robert Dodsley, who was well known for his abilities to promote poetry, to publish it. From Dodsley, Johnson received ten guineas for the copyright, because, as he explained to Boswell years later, the minor poet Paul Whitehead had recently gotten ten guineas for one of his pieces, and he would not settle for less than Whitehead had earned. London was published on 13 May 1738.

In Juvenal's third satire his friend Umbricius pauses at the archway of the Porta Capena to deliver a diatribe against city life as he leaves Rome forever for deserted Cumae. Johnson's Thales in London similarly rails as he waits on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich to depart for Wales. (Much ink has been spilled over whether or not Thales is modeled on Johnson's friend Savage, but the best evidence suggests that Johnson had not met Savage at the time he wrote the poem.) Following the example of Pope and others, Johnson insisted that the relevant passages from Juvenal's satire be published with his own poem at the bottom of the pages, because he believed that part of any beauty that London possessed consisted in adapting Juvenal's sentiments to contemporary topics. Thus Juvenal's work provides a natural point of departure for evaluating Johnson's achievement.

Between an introduction and conclusion, Juvenal's original satire is broken into two major sections. The first focuses primarily on the difficulties faced by an honest man trying to make a living in the city, while the second part considers the innumerable dangers of urban life (falling buildings, fires, crowds, traffic, accidents, and crimes). Johnson in general follows Juvenal's structure, but as he reworks the subject, the sections he retains and those he alters reveal his own particular concerns.

Johnson when he wishes can capture Juvenal's meanings exactly. "SLOW RISES WORTH, BY POVERTY DEPREST" is a classic example, as he powerfully restates Juvenal's "haud facile emergunt quorum virtatibus obstat / Res angusta domi" (it is scarcely easy to rise in the world for those whose straitened domestic circumstances obstruct their abilities). Johnson can also use balance and antithesis in the couplet to juxtapose for satirical effect in a manner reminiscent of Pope; a fawning Frenchman, for example, will "Exalt each Trifle, ev'ry Vice adore, / Your Taste in Snuff, your Judgment in a Whore." But Johnson does not usually concentrate either on details or on close rendition of Juvenal, and because of his different satiric emphases, London becomes in important ways his own poem.

First of all, Johnson's treatment of country life includes significant additions to Juvenal. Early in London, with no Juvenalian basis whatsoever, he adds two lines describing what Thales expects to find in the country: "Some pleasing Bank where verdant Osiers play, / Some peaceful Vale with Nature's Paintings gay." This couplet sets the tone for Johnson's subsequent rural depictions. In Satura III Juvenal lauds the country not for its beauty or the ease of life there, but as the only possible alternative to the city. Johnson, however, takes Juvenal's simple descriptions of country life and produces a combination of eighteenth-century garden (with pruned walks, supported flowers, directed rivulets, and twined bowers) and Miltonic Paradise (including nature's music, healthy breezes, security, and morning work and evening strolls). Such idealization of the country is totally incongruous with Johnson's views; he loved the bustling life of London and, like George Crabbe, always emphasized that human unhappiness emanates from the same causes in both the city and the country. His treatment of the country in London reflects prevailing poetic convention rather than conviction; his predominantly conventional additions to Juvenal in this area highlight the extent to which London is very much the work of a young poet eager to please, who played to contemporary tastes accordingly.

If Johnson's additions to Juvenal in the rural depictions are significant, his omissions in portraying the wretched life of the urban poor are even more telling. "SLOW RISES WORTH," justly the best-known line in the poem, has had impact enough to obscure the fact that Johnson's general treatment of poverty in London is cursory, particularly when compared to Juvenal's. He leaves out fully half of Juvenal's section on the general helplessness of the poor in making a living in the city. In surveying urban vexations, he omits Juvenal's sections on crowds, traffic, accidents, and thefts, leaves out the falling buildings (although collapsing older houses were a frequent hazard in eighteenth-century London), and condenses the fight scene. In the process he loses some of Juvenal's most telling episodes, for urban life is, of course, made intolerable not so much by huge disasters as by incessant small annoyances. The noise, the loss of sleep, and the difficulties in getting from one place to another disappear in Johnson's version because he is not interested in the small personal perils of city life.

No one, however, could accuse Johnson of not caring deeply about the conditions of the urban poor. He told Boswell that the true test of civilization was a decent provision for the poor, and he personally offered such provision to unfortunates whenever he could. Although his passages on the poor in London are usually competent and occasionally eloquent, he drastically condensed Juvenal's treatment because he wanted to focus his own poem on political rather than personal conditions."

The accuracy of Boswell's description of London as "impregnated with the fire of opposition" is clear from the many political references that Johnson adds to Juvenal. He expands Juvenal's introductory section to include nostalgic references to the political and commercial glories of the Elizabethan age and several times in the poem opposes Spanish power. In elaborating Juvenal's passage on crimes and the jail, he manages to attack Walpole's misuses of special juries and secret-service funds, the House of Commons, and the king himself. Johnson never forgets politics in London, even when he is at his most conventional. For example, the lines on the country include references to the seat of a "hireling Senator" and the confections of a "venal Lord."

Johnson's emphasis on politics in London was undoubtedly due to factors in the contemporary political scene as well as his personal life at the time. The year 1738 was one of widespread popular unrest, and the nation, already in ferment over the court and Walpole's ministry, was outraged over alleged Spanish suppression of British commerce. In the midst of the uproar Johnson, a newcomer to London, unsure of himself and his ability to achieve success anywhere, associated with various acquaintances who opposed the government as he eked out the barest of livings in the great capital. Young and frustrated, he was understandably eager enough to view the current political situation as the direct cause of adverse personal as well as national conditions. During his first few years in the city he produced the most violent political writings of his life. The year after London, he published Marmor Norfolciense (1739), a feigned prophetical inscription in rhymed Latin verse with a translation and long commentary attacking Walpole. This satire was so virulent that, according to Johnson's early biographer James Harrison, even a government inured to invective issued a warrant for his arrest.

London in many places shows Johnson's technical proficiency in employing the heroic couplet. It is an exuberant poem, full of life and high spirits. London does not finally bring out all of Johnson's powers, because the satire is weakened in places by the false stances into which he is forced by convention and political themes. But it is an impressive performance, and certain passages, such as the description of the dangers of friendship with great men, reflect Johnson's full poetic abilities. The final lines of this passage show Johnson rising above the specific poetic situation to present the overview of the moralist. The movement of satire into reflection here, buttressed by the enlargement and extension of the particular into the general, is characteristic of Johnson at his best. Indeed, these movements from satire to meditation and from the particular to the general combine a decade later with a more mature view, sometimes savage about life itself but always sympathetic to the struggles of suffering individuals, to produce The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749), Johnson's second Juvenalian imitation.

Pope's One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty Eight, another of his Horatian imitations, was published—also by Dodsley—a few days after London, and the two poems were favorably compared. Boswell reports that Pope himself responded generously to his putative rival; he asked Jonathan Richardson to try to discover who the new author was, and when told that he was an obscure man named Johnson, Pope commented that he would not be obscure for long. The popular success of the poem seemed to support Pope's prediction. Within a week a second edition was required, a third came out later that year, and a fourth in the next year. It was reprinted at least twenty-three times in Johnson's lifetime. However, the political topicality and the poetic conventionality that contributed so much to the contemporary success of London considerably lessened its later appeal. Its status as a major Johnsonian poem has always been secure and its substantial poetic power recognized. But it has also suffered from inevitable comparisons with The Vanity of Human Wishes. Modern readers have uniformly preferred the second poem for its moral elevation, its more condensed expression, and its treatment of more characteristic Johnsonian themes and ideas. Many of these elements are present in London, but to a lesser degree.

During this early period in London it was increasingly clear that Johnson's marriage was in trouble. Bruised by this second marriage to which she had brought so much and which had so reduced her circumstances, Tetty was retreating steadily from Johnson and also from life in general. The two gradually began to live apart much of the time, as Tetty steadily deteriorated, ultimately taking refuge in alcohol and opium and in her final years seldom leaving her bed. Johnson did all that he could to support her, writing furiously and stinting himself to provide for his wife. He sometimes walked the streets all night because he lacked money for even the cheapest lodging. For the next fifteen or twenty years he was a journalist and a hack writer of incredible productivity and variety. He became a trusted assistant to Cave on the Gentleman's Magazine from 1738 until the mid 1740s, writing many reviews, translations, and articles, including a long series of parliamentary debates from 1741 until 1744. He helped to catalog the massive Harleian Library and worked on the eight volumes of The Harleian Miscellany (1744-1746). In addition to a series of short biographies for Cave, he contributed biographical entries to A Medicinal Dictionary (1743-1745) by his friend Dr. Robert James, for whom he had composed the Proposals for the work (1741). His own Account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage, a short masterpiece of biography, appeared in 1744. In 1745 he published a proposal for a new edition of Shakespeare, composing Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth to illustrate his critical approach. This project did not materialize, but a greater one did. The next year he signed a contract with a group of publishers to produce an English dictionary, on which he labored for the next seven years in the garret of the house he rented at 17 Gough Square. Even as he worked on it, however, he always continued with many other miscellaneous writing projects.

During these years Johnson wrote substantially more prose than poetry, but he did publish various minor poems in the Gentleman's Magazine. An epitaph on the musician Claudy Phillips, composed almost extemporaneously and years later set to music, appeared there in September 1740. He revised several of his early poems (the Integer Vitae ode, "The Young Author," the "Ode to Friendship," and "To Laura") and published them in the Magazine in July 1743, along with a Latin translation, described as "the casual amusement of half an hour," of Pope's verses on his grotto. When Cave needed a revision of Geoffrey Walmesley's Latin translation of John Byrom's "Colin and Phebe" in February 1745, Johnson and Stephen Barrett alternated distiches, rapidly passing a sheet of paper between them "like a shuttlecock" across the table. In 1747, when the editor of the poetry section of the magazine was away and the copy available for the May issue was insufficient, Johnson contributed some half-dozen poems. Most were light occasional pieces written years before, including "The Winter's Walk," "An Ode" on the Spring, and several complimentary poems to ladies, but a more substantial English poem loosely based on the Latin epigraph of Sir Thomas Hanmer also appeared.

In the same year Johnson also supplied a prologue for the celebration of the reopening of the Drury Lane Theatre under his friend Garrick's management. He had already helped Garrick out by writing a preface for his first play, Lethe, for a benefit performance for Henry Gifford in 1740. The Prologue Spoken at the Opening of the Theatre in Drury-Lane was a much more considerable piece. Johnson later said that the whole poem was composed before he put a line on paper and that he subsequently changed only one word in it, making that alteration solely because of Garrick's remonstrances. The Drury Lane prologue offers an overview of the history of English drama, tracing it from "immortal" Shakespeare's "pow'rful Strokes" through Ben Jonson's "studious Patience" and "laborious Art" and the "Intrigue" and "Obscenity" of Restoration wits to the playwrights of his own age. After censuring contemporary tragedy and the taste for pantomimes and farces, he speculates pessimistically on the future of the stage, closing by reminding the audience that "The Stage but echoes back the publick Voice" and urging them to "bid the Reign commence / Of rescu'd Nature, and reviving Sense". The prologue is a fine poem that reflects premises Johnson would later employ in his dramatic criticism, particularly in his edition of Shakespeare. When published a few weeks after the opening, it did not bear Johnson's name, and the public was left to assume that Garrick was the author.

In each of the next three decades Johnson wrote one prologue, and they can be considered as a group, despite their chronological dispersion. In 1750 Johnson learned that John Milton's only surviving granddaughter, Elizabeth Foster, was living in poverty, and he convinced Garrick to put on a benefit performance of Comus (1637) to aid her. The new prologue Johnson composed lauds "mighty" Milton's achievement and the fame he has garnered, but characteristically Johnson also praises "his Offspring" Mrs. Foster for "the mild Merits of domestic Life" and "humble Virtue's native Charms." Late in 1767 he wrote a prologue that he had promised long before to Oliver Goldsmith for his comedy, The Good Natur'd Man (1768). With a parliamentary election approaching, Johnson, in a rather gloomy piece that, unsurprisingly, was not very popular, compared the pressures on the playwright and the politician to please the rabble. Thomas Harris, the manager of Covent Garden, solicited Johnson's last prologue in 1777 for a performance of Hugh Kelly's A Word to the Wise (1770) to benefit the author's widow and children. When first produced in 1770 the play had been disrupted by Kelly's political enemies, and Johnson's conciliatory and well-received prologue asked the audience to "Let no resentful petulance invade / Th' oblivious grave's inviolable shade." All Johnson's prologues resulted from the generosity to friends and to those in need so characteristic of him throughout his life. All of them are competent examples of the genre, while the poem for the opening of the Drury Lane Theatre, and to a lesser extent the prologue for Comus, rise to real excellence. The Drury Lane prologue has long remained one of Johnson's best-known poems.

In the fall of 1748 Johnson had returned to Juvenal, and in The Vanity of Human Wishes, an imitation of Juvenal's tenth satire, he wrote his greatest poem. He later said that he wrote the first seventy lines of it in one morning, while visiting Tetty at Hampstead. Like the Drury Lane prologue, the entire section was composed in his head before he put a line of it on paper. He also mentioned to Boswell in another connection that he wrote a hundred lines of the poem in one day. A receipt in Johnson's handwriting dated 25 November 1748 assigns the copyright of The Vanity of Human Wishes to Robert Dodsley for fifteen guineas, and it was published on 9 January 1749. Significantly, it was the first of Johnson's works in which his name appeared on the title page.

Satura X is Juvenal's greatest satire, and in The Vanity of Human Wishes Johnson produced a poem of equal worth. He directly shares some of Juvenal's concerns, for both use the theme of the folly of human desires and petitions for wealth, power, long life, and beauty, and early in each poem both emphasize the importance of using reason to guide one's choices. As they focus on various wishes, each poet introduces the theme of the liabilities inherent in the process of desiring. In both Satura X and The Vanity of Human Wishes fulfillment of desire is followed by envy from others and ultimately by personal dissatisfaction with the gain. Although inherent in Juvenal, this latter theme of the insatiability of the human imagination is emphasized much more in Johnson, who is concerned with general psychological factors, with the human mind and heart, while Juvenal is more interested in specific events and their influences on individuals. Johnson amplifies Juvenal's initial four-and-a-half lines to eleven lines, to present through images of moving and crowding the effect and extent of the emotions produced by the imagination, and he also specifically names some of these emotions. In considering each of these desires later in his poem he explores the additional theme of their treachery and their betrayal of the human being's best interests.

In The Vanity of Human Wishes Johnson followed Juvenal's basic structure, as he had in London, altering it to emphasize the concerns of his own poem. Juvenal's Satura X has 365 lines; that Johnson managed to imitate it in only 368 lines suggests his massive and masterly condensation, particularly since couplet verse often requires expansion and amplification. Both poems contain seven sections: an introduction and a conclusion enclose five sections on politics, eloquence or learning, war, long life, and beauty. The relative importance of the topics in each poem is clear from the amount of attention devoted to them by the two poets.

Juvenal throughout Satura X emphasizes the physical, the sensuous, and the licentious, while Johnson in The Vanity of Human Wishes is most concerned with the spiritual and the psychological. He is not particularly interested in the sins of the flesh. In the section on old age, for example, Juvenal dwells at length on physical decrepitude, while Johnson refers only briefly to such infirmities and presents the avarice of an old man, a vice not mentioned by Juvenal. Significant differences also appear in the passages on beauty in the two poems. Juvenal presents a long section on masculine beauty, centered on graphic details of scandalous individual misconduct, which Johnson omits completely, preferring to focus on more general human problems. On the other hand, in the passages on female pulchritude, Juvenal contents himself with brief references to the dangers that beset beautiful women, while Johnson traces the complete moral disintegration of a beautiful young woman by using abstract terms (for example, "The Guardians yield, by Force superior ply'd; / By Int'rest, Prudence; and by Flatt'ry, Pride"). The whole passage exemplifies Johnson's careful development of the theme of the treachery of human desires, which lead people astray while they remain until the end ignorant of their gradual destruction.

Juvenal's orator becomes in The Vanity of Human Wishes Johnson's scholar, in part for autobiographical reasons. At some point near the time he left Oxford, Johnson had written a poem entitled "The Young Author," which in revised form he had published in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1743. This poem in many ways anticipates the mature treatment of the quest for scholarly renown in The Vanity of Human Wishes. Hester Thrale (later Piozzi) wrote that years later, when reading The Vanity of Human Wishes to the family and a friend at Streatham, Johnson burst into tears while reading the section on the scholar. Events in his life also dictated one famous emendation in the passage. Johnson had originally listed the problems besetting the scholarly life as "Toil, Envy, Want, the Garret, and the Jail." Boswell indicates that after experiencing difficulties with Lord Chesterfield over his putative patronage of Johnson's Dictionary, Johnson in his 1755 revision of the poem (in Robert Dodsley's Collection of Poems by Several Hands, volume 4) changed "the Garret" to "the Patron."

In the last passage of his poem Johnson amplifies Juvenal's succinctly abrupt "nil ergo optabunt homines?" (Is there nothing, therefore, that people should pray for?) to six lines of deeply moving rhetorical questions about human fate. This amplification again shows the plethora of emotions produced by the human imagination, and in addition emphasizes another theme of the poem, the overwhelming human desire to be free from the emotions that simultaneously bind and blind. Juvenal becomes flippant, but Johnson turns fervently serious when each advises turning to prayer. Juvenal's Stoicism and Johnson's Christianity dominate the endings of their respective poems. Both urge leaving individual destiny to heaven, and both assert that higher powers know what is best for human beings. Both poets urge people to pray for endurance, for acceptance of death, and for a healthy mind. (Johnson omits the last half of Juvenal's famous "mens sana in corpore sano" [a sound mind in a sound body], in part because he knew from personal experience that humans can endure despite the most debilitating physical ailments.) But Juvenal's Stoicism prompts him to say that humans themselves can do all that is necessary to have a tranquil life—"monstro quod ipse tibi possis dare" (I am pointing out what you are able to do for yourself)—while Johnson emphasizes the Christian concept of dependence on God: "celestial Wisdom calms the Mind, / And makes the Happiness she does not find." Johnson's closing lines emphasize that the human desire to free the self from the many treacherous emotions generated by the imagination can be fulfilled only by going beyond the self and worldly concerns and by relying on divine omniscience in order to compensate for the limitations in human knowledge that lead to folly.

Thus The Vanity of Human Wishes includes biblical as well as classical overtones. As its title suggests, it has close affinities with the Book of Ecclesiastes and shares many of its themes. The insufficiency of earthly goods and values and the concomitant need for religious faith as the only bulwark are traditional arguments in Christian apologetics from Augustine on, including Jeremy Taylor and the Renaissance divines whose works Johnson knew so well, and also William Law, whose Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life so deeply influenced the young Johnson.

Juvenal in his poetry assumes a dual persona. On the one hand he writes as a stern moralist castigating wrongdoing, but he also writes as a rhetorician and particularly as a wit, delighting in invective, exaggeration, and filth. Johnson recognized these two sides when he wrote in the Life of Dryden (Volume 1 of Prefaces, Biographical and Critical) that Juvenal was "a mixture of gaiety and stateliness, of pointed sentences [epigrams], and declamatory grandeur." Johnson in his own imitation chose to reproduce mainly Juvenal's "stateliness" and "declamatory grandeur." Johnson's slow and dignified couplets abound in vivid personified abstractions that with characteristic compression render an impression of philosophic generality. The Vanity of Human Wishes is marked by a moral elevation and seriousness that Satura X does not, on the whole, share. Juvenal delights in the narrowly personal; for example, hilarious conversations following Sejanus's fall vividly depict personal reactions. Johnson, in contrast, uses no dialogue in his poem, for he is concerned with general human feelings on a broader scale. He does, of course, use individual men and women as examples, and his replacement of Juvenal's classical personalities with more contemporary figures (Charles XII for Hannibal, for instance, and Marlborough and Swift for Marius, Pompey, and the Catilinian conspirators) is masterfully done. However, Johnson does not name individuals nearly as often as Juvenal does, and in many sections, such as the early stanzas on wealth, Johnson deals in generalities while Juvenal freely intersperses specific names.

The moral elevation and large vision so characteristic of The Vanity of Human Wishes are one reflection of the ways that Johnson moves from Satura X as a base to take his own poem beyond satire. Johnson's anger, his aggressiveness, and his capacity for savage and brutal wit made him eminently suited for writing satire, but his satiric urges were indulged more in his conversation than in his writings. Mrs. Thrale wrote that Johnson did not "encourage general satire," and that he had an "aversion" to it—an aversion that accounts in part for his unfairness to Swift in the Lives of the Poets (Prefaces, Biographical and Critical). Johnson's personal struggles to control his aggressive tendencies, to maintain good humor, and to be good-natured made him leery of releasing a satiric urge that might be so strong that it could only be destructive rather than constructive. Moreover, because of his recognition of his own pride, fears, vanity, and anxieties, he felt a sympathy with others that prevented him from attacking them too harshly. His keen understanding of his own shortcomings led him to the kind of sense of participation that makes strong, vicious satire impossible.

Johnson was finally more comfortable as a moralist than as a satirist. Bate has called Johnson's characteristic procedure in many of his great writings "satire manqué," or "satire foiled," a process in which satiric potential dissipates through understanding and compassion. Bate describes it as "a drama of thought and expression always moving from the reductive to explanation and finally to something close to apology." Johnson's tendency to employ satire manqué is shown at some points in London, but in that poem his youthful exuberance and self-consciousness, along with the political focus and obeisance to contemporary poetic practices, led him to a greater proportion of actual satire. The fact that The Vanity of Human Wishes is much more satire manqué than satire accounts for a great deal of its power.

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