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AN ESSAY ON EPITAPHS.
BY DR. JOHNSON.
TEMPLE OF THE MUSES,
THE compiler of this work having, for a long series of years, derived considerable amusement from 'visiting the “ silent mansions of the dead," and transcribing therefrom such inscriptions as he deemed most worthy of preservation, is induced to offer the produce of his industry to the public, in the hope that it may prove neither uninstructive nor unentertaining in the perusal.
But while he humbly claims some merit for the large portion of original matter that will be found exclusively in these volumes, he cannot withhold his obligations from the more early collectors, Toldervey, Hackett, and others, from whose labours he has derived many valuable additions, which, from the perishable nature of the originals, are, with the subjects they commemorate, falling hourly into oblivion.
The editor has preferred the melange to that of a classification of subjects, and if he shall thereby occusionably beguile the serious of a smile, or the volatile of a few moments' steady reflection,
who, otherwise, would have restricted their reading to the department most in unison with their sentiments, his object will be fully accomplished.
Translations, of such as were originally written in foreign languages, are given in this collection, and Dr. Johnson's celebrated Essay on Epitaphs, and Addison's remarks on the same subject, are likewise given, as properly introductory to the work.
London, June 10, 1806.
- E P I T A P H. S.
Though criticism has been cultivated in every age of learning, by men of great abilities and extensive knowledge, till the rules of writing are become rather burthensome than instructive to the mind; though almost every species of composition has been the subject of particular treatises, and given birth to definitions, distinctions, precepts, and illustrations ; yet no critic of note, that has fallen within my observation, has hitherto thought sepulchral inscriptions worthy of a minute examination, or pointed out, with proper accuracy, their beauties and defects,
The reasons of this neglect it is useless to enquire, and, perhaps, impossible to discover; it might be justly expected that this kind of writing would have been the favourite topic of criticism, and that selflove might have produced some regard for it, in those authors that have crowded libraries with elaborate dissertations upon Homer ; since, to afford a subject for heroic poems is the privilege of very few, but every man may expect to be recorded in an epitaph, and therefore finds some interest in providing that
memory may not suffer by an unskilful pane.