Thursday, July 29, 2010


Funeral of a Lover of Horace

The London Magazine: or, Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer (1733), pp. 264-265 (May 6):
This Night was buried at Whittlesea, Mr. John Underwood, of Nassington; of whose Funeral we had the following odd Account from Whittlesea, viz. He was brought to the Grave at Five, and as soon as the Burial Service was over, an Arch was turned over the Coffin, in which was placed, over his Breast, a small Piece of white Marble, with this Inscription, Non omnis moriar, J. Underwood, 1733. When the Grave was filled up, and the Turf laid down, the six Gentlemen who followed him to the Grave sung the last Stanza of the 20th Ode of the 2d Book of Horace: Every Thing was done according to his Desire; no Bell was toll'd, no one was invited, but the six Gentlemen, and no Relation follow'd his Corpse; the Coffin was painted Green, according to his Direction, and he was laid in it with all his Cloaths on; under his Head was placed Sanadon's Horace, at his Feet Bentley's Milton; in his right Hand a small Greek Testament, with this Inscription in Golden Letters, εἴ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ, J. U. in left Hand a little Edition of Horace, with this Inscription, Musis Amicus, J.U. and Bentley's Horace under his Arse. After the Ceremony was over they went back to his House, where his Sister had provided a very handsome cold Supper; the Cloth being taken away, the Gentlemen sung the 31st Ode of the 1st Book of Horace, and drank a chearful Glass, and went home about Eight. He left near 6000 l. to his Sister, upon Condition of her observing this his Will. He order'd his Sister, to give each of the Gentlemen ten Guineas, and desired that they would not come in black Cloaths. Then follows a Direction about his Burial, as above; and the Will ends thus — which done, I would have them take a chearful Glass, and think no more of John Underwood.
I owe knowledge of Underwood's funeral to Penelope Wilson, "Horace and eighteenth century commentary," in L.B.T. Houghton and Maria Wyke, Perceptions of Horace: A Roman Poet and His Readers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 271-289 (at 276, with n. 10), who quotes only a bit of an account from The London Evening Post no. 849, 8-10 May 1733.

The Greek εἴ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ is from Galatians 6:14, "But God forbid that I should boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..." The inscription Non omnis moriar ("I shall not completely die") is from Horace, Odes 3.30.6, and Musis amicus ("A friend to the Muses") is the opening of Horace, Odes 1.26. The last stanza of Horace, Odes 2.20, sung at the graveside, is:
absint inani funere neniae
    luctusque turpes et querimoniae;
        compesce clamorem ac sepulcri
        mitte supervacuos honores.
In John Conington's translation:
No dirges for my fancied death;
  No weak lament, no mournful stave;
All clamorous grief were waste of breath,
  And vain the tribute of a grave.
Horace, Odes 1.31, sung after the funeral, starts Quid dedicatum poscit Apollinem — a somewhat odd choice, as I would have expected one of the convivial odes, not a hymn to Apollo, to precede "a chearful Glass". The hostility to Richard Bentley is noteworthy ("at his Feet Bentley's Milton" and "Bentley's Horace under his Arse").

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