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Profile portrait of William Beckford, 1797 Oil and gold on reverse of glass 7 1/8 x 6 1/4 inches (framed)

Profile portrait of William Beckford, 1797
Oil and gold on reverse of glass
7 1/8 x 6 1/4 inches (framed)

William Beckford



Bath, Oct. 1822.

Mr. Editor,

          In my rambles about this neighbourhood, I collected the following Verses from the tombstones of different Churchyards. Some of the most whimsical, though nearly effaced, are still to be found in the cemetery of a considerable town on the high road from London to Bristol, and are probably the production of the same goose-quill; but whether wielded by the sexton, clerk, or even parson of the Parish, I could not learn: all I discovered upon the subject was, that some of them have been inscribed a good many years ago, apparently enough before the dawn of our present most wonderful poetical Æra.
I remain, Mr. Editor, &c. &c.



That thou would’st pity take I humbly pray,
O Lord, on this my wretched lump of clay—
A broken pitcher do not cleave in twain,
But let me rise, and be myself again.


I went and listed in the Tenth Hussars,
And gallopped with them to the bloody wars—
“Die for your sovereign, —for your country die!”
To earn such glory feeling rather shy,
Snug I slipped home; but Death soon sent me off,
After a struggle with the Hooping cough.


Here lye in the blessed hope of a joyful resurrection, the

bodies of Prudence


Aged one—two—and three years.

Three children small
Composed my all—
But envious death
Has stopped their breath,
And left, d’ye see,
My wife and me,
Above the knee,
In sorrow’s slough—
To help us through
The Lord alone,
Who hears our groan,
Knows how and when!
Amen, Amen.


There down at Katherines* I kept a school
Vended small wares, caught rats, and carded wool;
My wife excelled in making British wine,
But she’s alive and is no longer mine;
For I am dead and she wont follow—
I can no longer whoop and hollow—
Reader, if thou dost wish to know
The name of him here lying low,
Look down upon this stone, and see
Wilcox conjoined with Timothy.

*A village near Bath Easton


Tread soft, good friends, least you should spring a mine!
I was a workman in the powder line.
Of true religion I possessed no spark
Till Christ, he pleased to stop my gropings dark.
The Rev’rend Vicar seconded the plan,
(A temperate, holy, charitable man,
Who left the foxes to enjoy their holes,
And never hunted aught but human souls)
To this Director’s care ‘twas kindly given
To point my spirit, bolt upright, to heaven.


Here lies John Adams who received a thump
Right in the forehead from the Parish Pump,
Which gave him his quietus in the end,
For many Doctors did his case attend.


Shadowed with doubts and agonized with fears,
I float to God upon a tide of tears!—
Afar the Beacon! yet I see it shine—
Despond, avaunt—Faith makes the haven mine.


Near this stone are deposited the mortal remains of

Mrs. Elinor Parkins, who kept the “Red Lion” in this
Town with great credit more than 16 years.

Assigned by Providence to rule a Tap,
My days passsed glibly—til an awkward rap,
Some way like Bankruptcy, impelled me down;
But up I got again, and shook my gown
In gamesome gambols quite as brisk as ever—(Sic)
Blithe as the lark, and gay as sunny weather—
Composed with creditors at five in pound,
And frolicked on till laid in holy ground.
The debt of Nature must, you know, be paid—
No trust from her—God grant extent in aid.


Here lies Gregory Tapps, Esquire, of this town—
Brewer ;
who bequeathed the sum of Twenty Pounds to the
Church-wardens, in trust for the Parish Poor, upon
condition, that the following Inscription should be cut
in golden letters upon his Monument, accompanied by
the device of a Serpent, with its tail in its mouth.

When all runs out and naught runs in,
The end of all things will begin—
This is Eternity I shrewdly guess,
If you know better, make a better mess.


To the Memory of
Thomas and Richard Fry,
who were crushed to Death, August the 25th, 1776,
by the slip-down of a wall they were in the act of
building. Thomas was aged 19—and Richard 21 years.
“They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and
in death they were not divided. Blessed are they who
die in the Lord, for their works follow them.”

A Sacred truth! now learn our awful fate!
Dear friends we were, first cousins and what not—
To toil as masons was our humble lot;
As just returning from a house of call,
The Parson bade us set about his wall—
Flushed with good liquor, cheerfully we strove
To place big stones below, and big above—
We made too quick work, down the fabric came,
It crushed our vitals—people bawled out Shame!
But we heard nothing—mute as fish we lay,
And shall lay sprawling till the judgment day—
From our misfortune this good moral know:
Never to work too fast, or drink too slow.


In Memory of
Sarah Palmer, who departed this life March 16, 1782,
in the 91 year of her age—leaving children, grand
children, great grand children, and treble grand
children, 166—

By his kind help, who sits on Heaven’s throne,
I reached the reverend age of ninety-one—
At eighty-seven I had a broken shin—
At eighty-nine, I halved my doze of gin,
And being come to ripe maturity,
Placed all my thoughts upon futurity;
Thinking I heard a blessed angel say,
Cheery, old soul, pack up, and come away.

WILLIAM BECKFORD (1760–1884), excessively rich, was the inhabitant of Fonthill Abbey, one of the great monuments of the Gothic Revival. Both collector and writer, his novel Vathek, with the Episodes of Vathek was reissued in an exemplary edition of Broadbriar in 2001. His Biographical Memories of Extraordinary Painters remains one of literature’s greatest spoofs. Epitaphs is perhaps the scarcest item in the Beckford canon; only three copies are known to exist.

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