Thursday, December 01, 2005

I Told You I Was Sick

Here's the jacket blurb from Nigel Rees' new book, I Told You I Was Sick – A Grave Book of Curious Epitaphs — due out in the U.S. momentarily:

A guided tour of some 150 remarkable epitaphs that reveals that the graveyard and family vault are not so much places of the spooky terrors of the night…but of curiosity, fascination – and more than a little humour.

Author Nigel Rees brings to bear upon the strange and sometimes surprising world of the epitaph his formidable skills as an ‘archaeologist’ of the sources of quotation and phrases: each epitaph is explained and located, and its source and context described as fully as possible. I Told You I Was Sick continues the centuries-old custom of epitaph collecting and brings it right up to date.

From 1960’s rock star Jim Morrison’s much-visited grave in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, Paris, to a little-known memorial stone in the Church of the Holy Cross in Haltwhistle, Northumberland (which translates from the Latin as ‘After a short, difficult and useless life, Here rests in the Lord, Robert Tweddle’). And from the gravestone of a ‘tiny marmoset’ near Henley-on-Thames to the resting place of Maggie, an army mule somewhere in France (‘who in her time kicked two colonels, four majors, ten captains…and one Mills bomb’). Notably, the book discovers what happens when people like the comedian Spike Milligan expressed a wish that the joking words ‘I told you I was ill’ (or ‘sick’) should be put on their gravestones.

I Told You I Was Sick is a diverting selection that will both intrigue and entertain – a quirky Collection of Curious Epitaphs, including:

None could hold a candle to him
- John Edwards who perished in a fire 1904 (from the burial ground near Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral)

On the whole I’d rather be in Philadelphia
- W.C Fields (Suggested epitaph for himself)

Exit Burbage
- Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage

Dorothy Cecil Unmarried As Yet
- Epitaph for a spinster

Born a dog. Died a gentleman
- Victorian epitaph from an unidentified pet’s cemetery

Weif ov Mr Eizak Pitman Fonetik Printer
- Wife of Isaac Pitman, inventor of Pitman’s shorthand system

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