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MONUMENTAL Inscriptions excited the attention of the ancients, and are regarded by the moderns as sources of amusement, information and admonition.
Epitaphs are not simply memorials that on the wing, that every rank and age must fall a prey to his depredations, that the moments of life are too precious to be squandered away on trifles, that religion is the only support against the horrors of death, and the only guide to the joys of eternity."
Epitaphs are brief biographical memoirs, the outlines of characters which have appeared in the drama of human life.
The desire of gaining some clue to the knowledge of our predecessors, is secondary only to the wish of transmitting to posterity some token of our existance.
Men in a few instances have employed a part of their lives in preparing for themselves memorials to
to rescue their names from oblivion, but custom generally assigns the office to friendship; hence elogium frequently emblazons the virtues and conceals the faults of the deceased. However amiable the maxim "speak not ill of the dead;" praise for excellencies never possessed is poignant satire in the eyes of those who are well informed, and culpable imposition on the credulity of strangers.
Complimentary Epitaphs, the effusions of courtesy, are far less estimable than those which characterize the wise, the great, and the good.
That species of composition, Epigramic Epitaphs. which consist in satirical description, ironical eulogy, or the wit of the punster-although seldom if ever admitted to counteract the solemnity which meditation. amongst the tombs produces; does not appear out of place in a collection adapted to readers of different temperatures, and intended to amuse, inform and instruct.
A collection of Epitaphs in the learned languages would be "acceptable to learned men, and useful to students.
But in this compilation, no inscriptions in Latin, &c. are inserted, because, to the greater number of readers they present a dead letter, and the rehearsal of
virtues in a language intelligible only to scholars, must fail to excite general emulation.
The following pages contain the Epitaphs of many whose lives have been the most distinguished in the annals of fame or longevity, whose excellencies, or eccentricity, have called forth the exertions of the powers of varied genius.
The editor has endeavoured to render his publication interesting by historical and biographical notes, and consigns it to the candour of the public.