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to all such phrases as Requiescat, or prayers
that the earth may lie light, or even prayers
for peace to the ashes. We do not believe, in
this century, in the possibility of the Manes of
a friend being disturbed or restless. We
believe that the body has returned to the
earth of which it is made, and the spirit
returned to God who gave it. This is the basis
of our convictions regarding the state of the
dead ; and all use of hacknied phrases which
imply, when examined, quite different views
to those of our national religion are out of
place, not to say impious and nonsensical.

Wordsworth is of opinion that a " distinct
conception should be given of the individual
lamented." This remark touches the very
heart of the question. One must have
constantly observed in our cemeteries a use of
certain conventional epitaphial phrases
applicable to one person as much as to another;
or rather, perhaps, transferred from some
notable epitaph to a dozen ordinary tombs.
This is our most prevailing fault. It makes
a burial ground precisely what it should
never be, common-place. The simplest, rudest
phrase that seems to come from the heart
affects you more than the most ingenious lines
applied indiscriminately; which, indeed, read
like an irrelevant quotation. Dr. Johnson
makes an objection, which also I ought to
preserve here. He says " that it is improper
to address the epitaph to the passenger."
This is very just. The Romans addressed a
"Siste, viator! Stop, traveller," to a traveller;
for they had their monuments along the Great
Appian and Flaminian waystheir public
roads. The effect was moral, and in the
highest degree beautiful and natural. But we
depart from Nature when we imitate the
Romans, and so miss all due effect

It is, perhaps, a minor question whether the
inscription ought to read as addressed to you
by the dead, or by the survivor. The use of
the first of these, is, indeed, as Wordsworth
observes, a " tender fiction." It grew up
naturally enough. But I may note that this
particular form is abused too frequently, in a
peculiar way. It is made the vehicle of the
most extraordinary presumption too often.
What think you, reader, of a " GONE HOME!"
stuck briefly under a name, like the "return
directly " on a lawyer's door ? Or, what say
you to warning those who read, to imitate the
deceased person, in a stern dictatorial way,
when nothing has been said of the deceased
but a lump of commonplace laudation? These
are not the offences of ignorance, but of
something worse. Correlative to these is the fault
of impertinence, to speak strictly: the statement
of matters unsuited to the occasion.
For example, I once saw a monument of
handsome and costly exterior, where you were
informed that the young lady buried there
had died from a cold brought on " by the
misconduct of the people where she was at
school." A gravestone is no place for anger,
or for taking your revenge for misconduct.
The epitaph, properly considered, has not to
deal with the accidental side of the death, as
caused by this or the other mishap. It deals
properly with death under its religious aspect,
on the side of it as a mystical and transcendental
fact, over which we can only wonder,
and weep, and hope. The composition should
be elevated above all vulgarity.

I object to a statement of common-place
matter, such as the survivor's address, profession,
or trade. The mention that the deceased
was the son, or wife, &c. of John So-and-so,
"Pork Butcher in Smith Street," is intolerable.
What business has an advertisement in such
a place ? In the same way too great length
in the detail of ordinary matters is absurd: as,
that the defunct was Chairman of the
Pigwiggin Committee; many years Secretary
to the Turnip Society; a Member of the
Early Rising Club; and so on. This provokes
laughter. If we are to have laughter, we
might at once be professedly comic, like the
French husband, with his
              Here lies my wife,
                  A fact that must tell
              For her repose
                  And for mine as well ? "

Comic and satirical epitaphs do not belong
to my present subject. But, when we consider
how much our national taste is impeached in
so many matters, and that one cannot stroll
along in our beautiful suburban cemeteries
without seeing too great reason for it, I
hope that my remarks may help to pave the
way to something of a reform in a very
interesting and important matter.


LOITERING upon the old stone bridge over
the Medway, in the town of Maidstone, early
in a misty autumn morning, I miss the
ancient church and row of poplars, which I
know should be somewhere near upon the
left. It is of no use looking. They will not
come out of their white shroud until noon;
and if then, perhaps, only to enfold themselves
in it again an hour or two after. The water
flows on, smooth and noiseless, till it splits
upon the sharp wedges of the piers, and runs
away whispering under the arches; but
beyond this, not a ghost of a noise is abroad.
All Maidstone is asleep, except a railway
porter, a man driving a cow who went over
the bridge a minute or two ago, and myself.
There may be somebody up at the baths
behind me: I cannot see. But the old,
bruised, and battered coal-barge, moored
alongside the wharf, in which I believe live
a man and his wife, seems to have nobody
aboardfor no smoke ascends from the stove-
pipe at the helm. Slowly creeping down this
waya thin ghost at first, then a dusky
spectre, then a green and yellow bargecomes