Epitaphs: A Dying Art, Samuel Fanous, 2016 

In this fascinating, slim volume from Bodleian Library Press in Oxford, Fanous has gathered gravestone epitaphs from around the world (though overwhelmingly English) about the famous, infamous, and unknowns.  St. Augustine, Samuel Johnson, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and others lead the cast of the famous, while my favorite ‘unknown’ was Emily Wiling Davison (1872-1913) who perished when she stepped in front of the King’s horse on opening day at Ascot to protest for women’s suffrage:  Deeds not Words.  Other favorites included Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) in the NAACP’s Memorial Garden in Baltimore dedicated to her as a defender of civil rights.  Parker’s epitaph on her grave reads “Excuse My Dust”.  From the dozens of other clever, funny, notable, and moving words, I’ll only quote a couple:  Sir John Strange, a lawyer:  Here lies an honest lawyer/That is Strange;  Ludolph van Ceulan (1540-1610), the first one to calculate pi’s value which was first published on  his tombstone; Winston Churchill (1875-1965), “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”, and my favorite from Ben Franklin’s  (1706-1790) pen:  The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer/Like the cover of an old book/its contents torn out,/and stripped of its lettering and gilding,/lies here, food for worms./But the work shall not be wholly lost,/for it will, as he believed, appear once  more,/in a new and more perfect edition, corrected and amended/by the Author.”  Wise words and a reminder that we will all end up GONE.