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The Inscriptions from
The Temple of British Worthies

Stowe: The Elysian Fields




Michael Leslie, Professor of English at Rhodes College, was kind enough to provide me with the text of the inscriptions on the Temple of British Worthies. These appear below, beginning with the figures of contemplation at the north end and ending with the figures of action on the south.


Alexander Pope
Who uniting the Correctness of Judgement to the Fire of Genius,
by the Melody & Power of his Numbers
gave Sweetness to Sense, & Grace to Philosophy.
He employ'd the pointed Brilliancy of Wit to chastise the Vices,
and the Eloquence of Poetry to exalt the Virtues of human Nature;
and being without a Rival in his own Age,
imitated and translated, with a Spirit equal to the Originals,
the best Poets of Antiquity.

Sir Thomas Gresham
Who by the honourable Profession of Merchant,
having enrich'd himself, and his Country,
for carrying on the Commerce of the World,
built the Royal Exchange.

Ignatius [Inigo] Jones
Who, to adorn his Country,
introduc'd and rival'd the Greek and Roman Architecture.

John Milton
Whose sublime and unbounded Genius equal'd a Subject
that carried him beyond the Limits of the World.

William Shakespeare
Whose excellent Genius open'd to him the whole Heart of Man,
all the Mines of Fancy, all the Stores of Nature;
and gave him Power, beyond all other Writers,
to move, astonish, and delight Mankind.

John Lock[e]
Who, best of all Philosophers,
understood the Powers of the human Mind,
the Nature, End, and Bounds of Civil Government;
and with equal Courage and Sagacity, refuted
the slavish systems of usurp'd Authority
over the Rights, the Consciences, or the Reason of Mankind.

Sir Isaac Newton
Whom
the God of Nature made to comprehend his Works;
and from simple Principles, to discover the Laws never known before,
and to explain the Appearance never understood,
of this Stupendous Universe.

Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam
Who by the Strength and Light of a superior Genius,
rejecting vain Speculation, and fallacious Theory,
taught to pursue Truth, and improve Philosophy
by a certain Method of Experiment.

King Alfred
The mildest, justest, most beneficent of Kings;
who drove out the Danes, secur'd the Seas, protected Learning,
establish'd Juries, crush'd Corruption, guarded Liberty,
and was the Founder of the English Constitution.

Edward, Prince of Wales [the Black Prince]
The Terror of Europe, the Delight of England;
who preserv'd, unalter'd, in the Height of Glory and Fortune,
his natural Gentleness and Modesty.

Queen Elizabeth
Who confounded the Projects, and destroy'd the Power
that threaten'd to oppress the Liberties of Europe;
took off the Yoke of Ecclesiastical Tyranny;
restor'd Religion from the Corruptions of Popery;
and by a wise, moderate, and a popular Government,
gave Wealth, Security, and Respect to England.

King William 3d
Who by his Virtue and Constancy,
having saved his Country from a foreign Master,
by a bold and generous Enterprize,
preserv'd the Liberty and Religion of Great Britain.

Sir Walter Raleigh
A valiant Soldier, and an able Statesman;
who endeavouring to rouze the Spirit of his Master,
for the Honour of his Country, against the Ambition of Spain,
fell a Sacrifice to the Influence of that Court,
whose Arms he had vanquish'd, and whose Designs he oppos'd.

Sir Francis Drake
Who, through many Perils, was the first of Britons
that adventur's to sail round the Globe;
and carried into unknown Seas and Nations
the Knowledge and Glory of the English Name.

John Hampden
Who with great Spirit, and consummate Abilities,
begun a noble Opposition to an arbitrary Court,
in Defence of the Liberties of his Country;
supported them in Parliament,
and died for them in the Field.

Sir John Barnard
Who distinguish'd himself in Parliament by an active & firm
Opposition to the pernicious and iniquitous Practice of Stock jobbing;
at the same Time exerting his utmost Abilities to encrease the Strength
of his Country by reducing the Interest of the National Debt; which
he proposed to the House of Commons in the Year 1737, and, with
the Assistance of Government, carried into Effect in the Year 1750; on
Terms of equal Justice to Particulars & to the State; notwithstanding
all the Impediments which
private Interest could oppose to publick Spirit.

[The Temple of British Worthies has its light-hearted moment, however: in the center rear of the monument is one last memorial, to Signor Fido, whose life was unblemished by any vices:]

To the Memory
of
Signor Fido,
an Italian of good Extraction;
who came into England,
not to bite us, like most of his Countrymen,
but to gain an honest Livelyhood.
He hunted not after Fame,
yet acquir'd it;
regardless of the Praise of his Friends,
but most sensible of their Love.
Tho' he liv'd amongst the Great,
he neither learnt nor flatter'd any Vice.
He was no Bigot,
Tho' he doubted of none of the 39 Articles.
And, if to follow Nature,
and to respect the Laws of Society,
be Philosophy,
he was a perfect Philosopher;
a faithful Friend,
an agreeable Companion,
a loving Husband,
distinguish'd by a numerous Offspring,
all which he liv'd to see take good Courses.
In his old Age he retir'd
to the House of a Clergyman in the Counry,
where he finish'd his earthly Race,
and died an Honour and Example to the whole Species.
Reader,
this stone is guiltless of Flattery,
for he to whom it is inscrib'd
was not a Man,
but a
Grey-Hound.


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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, jtatter@bsc.edu