Old, Curious and Unusual Epitaphs

Some Selections From “Here Lies” A Book About Graveyard Epitaphs

This book from 1900 whose full title is: Here Lies: Being a Collection of Ancient & Modern, Humorous and Queer Inscriptions from Tombstones compiled and edited by W.H. Howe, published by The New Amsterdam Book Company contains 197 pages of fascinating epitaphs, mostly from Great Britain. It was originally published in England in 1891 as Everybody’s Book of Epitaphs.

It’s difficult to believe that hundreds of years ago people were this creative about their own demise. Probably in many cases it was the friends and relatives of the deceased who were responsible for these final words etched in stone. Do you know what you would want written as your epitaph?

Here are a few of the better ones from this out of print gem:

Stephen Remnant

Here’s a Remnant of life, and a Remnant of death,
Taken off both at once in a remnant of breath;
To mortality this gives a happy release,
For what was a Remnant proves now the Whole piece.

 

Mr. Edward Pardon (a bookseller)

Here lies poor Ned Pardon, from misery freed,
Who long was a booksellers hack;
He led such a damnable life in this world,
I don’t think he’ll ever come back.

 

John Berry 

How! How! who’s buried here?
John Berry. Isn’t the younger?
No the elder-Berry.
An elder-Berry buried? surely must
Rather rise up and live, than turn to dust.
So may our Berry, whom stern death has slain,
Be only buried to rise up again.

 

Thomas Huddlestone

Here lies Thomas Huddleston. Reader, don’t smile!
But reflect as this tombstone you view
That death, who kill’d him, in a very short while
Will huddle a stone  upon you.

 

In Sevenoaks Churchyard Kent 

Grim death took me without any warning
I was well at night, and died in the morning.

 

From Shoreditch Churchyard

We must all die, there is no doubt;
Your glass is running- mine is out.

 

In Exeter Cathedral

Here lies the Body of Captain Tully
Aged an hundred and nine years fully;
And threescore years before, as Mayor,
The sword of this city he did bear;
Nine of his wives do with him lie,
So shall the tenth when she doth die.

 

In a Churchyard near Warwick

Poorly lived
And poorly died
Poorly buried
And no one cried.

 

From Worcestershire

Here lies a poor woman
Who was always tired,
For she lived in a house
Where help was not hired.
Her last words were:
“Dear friends, I am going
Where washing ain’t done,
Nor sweeping, nor sewing!
“And everything there
Is exact to my wishes:
For where they don’t eat,
There’s no washing of dishes.
“I’ll be where loud anthems
Will always be ringing,
But having no voice,
I’ll get clear o’ the singing.
“Don’t mourn for me now-
Don’t mourn for me never-
I’m going to do nothing
Forever and ever!”

 

From Wolstanton on Annie Jennings

Some have children, some have none;
Here lies the mother of twenty-one.

 

In Burlington Churchyard, Massachusetts

Sacred to the memory of Anthony Drake,
Who died for peace and quietness sake;
His wife was constantly scolding and scoffin’,
So he sought for repose in a twelve-dollar coffin.

 

Owen Moore

Owen Moore is gone away.
Owin’ more than he could pay.

 

From a churchyard near London

Stop, reader! I have left a world
In which there was a world to do;
Fretting and stewing  to be rich – 
Just such a fool as you.

 

Johnnie Scott

Beneath this stone lies Johnnie Scott
Who lived like a fool and died like a sot,
But it is needless to argue
Whether he was so or not;
He as a man was despised,
And soon will be forgot.

 

From Bath Abbey

Here lies Ann Mann;
She lived an old Maid and she died an old Mann.

 

In Bellington Churchyard, Durham

Poems and epitaphs are but stuff;
Here lies Robert Burrows, that’s enough.
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2 thoughts on “Old, Curious and Unusual Epitaphs

  1. Linda Rae Seigel

    I ran across this book about 20 years ago in my mid 20s. There was one epitaph that really struck home. I rarely memorize anything. I generally look for the concept in what I am learning then assimalte it into my brain and move on but I memorized this epitaph. Granted it is short and rhythmic. It actually became a foundation principle of mine. It forces me to socialize when my social anxiety kicks in. I don’t want this to be the testament of my life. Plus when I went to college in a Rhode Island I spent a great deal of time in Warwick – go figure.

    In a Churchyard near Warwick

    Poorly lived
    And poorly died
    Poorly buried
    And no one cried.

    Reply
    1. Hannah K. Post author

      Thanks for sharing that story. I wondered who actually had this as their epitaph. Just because there is no name in the book, the person should not linger on in anonymity. I checked online and at Lillington in Warwickshire England I found the monument belongs to John Treen. His relatives choice of a wry epitaph made sure visitors would be alerted to a life not well spent.

      Reply

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