I’ve just spent a little bit of time in the United States, including my first visit to the great city of Boston. While looking round the Granary Burying Ground in central Boston (in which a number of famous historical figures are buried) I spotted a great headstone belonging to the grave of Increase Sumner (of whom, I confess, I’d never previously heard). The inscription reads as follows:
Here repose the remains of Increase Sumner.
He was born at Roxbury November 27th 1746 and died at the same place June 7th 1799 in the 53rd year of his age.
He was for some time a practitioner at the Bar;
and for fifteen years an associate judge of the Supreme Judicial Court;
was thrice elected Governor of Massachusetts; in which office he died.
As a lawyer, he was faithful and able;
as a judge, patient, impartial and decisive;
as a chief magistrate, accessible, frank and independent.
In private life, he was affectionate and mild;
in publick life, he was dignified and firm.
Party feuds were allayed by the correctness of his conduct;
calumny was silenced by the weight of his virtues;
and rancour softened by the amenity of his manners.
In the vigour of intellectual attainments and in the midst of usefulness he was called by divine providence to rest with his fathers;
and went down to the chambers of death, in the full belief that the grave is the pathway to future existence.
As in life he secured the suffrages of the free and was blessed with the approbation of the wise.
So in death he was honored by the tears of the patriotick and is held in sweet remembrance by a discerning and affectionate people.
Most of us would be pretty pleased to have just half of those adjectives posthumously applied to us.