We live in a different era now, and for many of us, name and life dates, and perhaps that we were a mother, father, daughter, son etc would be all we would want on our memorial. Not so in the eighteenth century when ostentation was evident not only in dress, manners and fashion. Bath Abbey has a terrific set of wall plaques that show how pious, good natured and strong in adversity its’ citizens were at the time! Charles Symmonds shown on the right, was gentle in manner, high minded and disinterested (!). Charles was fond of retirement and literary pursuits, richly endowed with talents and learning but careless of worldly advancement. And if this wasn’t enough he was charitable, warm-hearted, sincere and fearless in the disclosure of his opinions (hmm, could this be a chink in his overall virtue, I wonder?). A real paragon of virtue surely.
However, he is not alone. Hannah Alleyne was ‘amiable for the many virtues she possessed’. She was patient, resigning herself to the divine will during a tedious and painful illness which she bore with great fortitude, and died aged 35 sincerely lamented as she was beloved.
Richard Ford died at the age of 67, but he too was a most worthy man being a vigilant magistrate, and affectionate husband and a tender father, a daily frequenter of public worship and a generous promoter of every good work.
Rebecca Bowen’s sister put up her memorial after she died at the age of 73 years. Rebecca had a lively faith while her ‘charities’ were liberal and unostentatious. Despite having a long and painful illness her friendships were warm and constant and her patience exemplary throughout her difficulties.
The memorial for William Meyler, who was a bookseller, a tradesman and the editor of a public newspaper, a magistrate and a member of the common council of Bath, notes that he was deservedly esteemed for his integrity of conduct and consistency of principle. His memory will also, it is written, be long cherished in the hearts of those who knew him best.
The words at the end of Anne Finch’s memorial are very telling – ‘the first real occasion of greif (sic) she gave her sorrowful mother was her death’. In life she was ‘an excellent person, well-natur’d, discreet, and vertuous most affectionately beloved by her relations and most justly esteemed by all that knew her.’ She also had an illness, during ‘the flower of her age’.
And lastly, ‘If polished manners, inflexible integrity, and the warmest benevolence of heart, form a character which claims the tear of surviving friendship, reflect, O Reader on the distress of conjugal affection, and pity the fond endeavour which in seeking to alleviate perpetuates its sorrows by inscribing this marble to the memory of Robert Sutton’.