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WORTHY AND HONORED FRIEND,
THOMAS LE GROS,
OF CROSTWICK, ESQ.
When the funeral pyre was out, and the last valediction over, men took a lasting adieu of their interred friends, little expecting the curiosity of future ages should comment upon their ashes; and having no old experience of the duration of their relics, held no opinion of such after-considerations.
But who knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried ? Who hath the oracle of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered? The relics of many lie, like the ruins of Pompey's,* in all parts of the earth; and these may seem to have wandered far, when they
Pompeios juvenes Asia atque Europa, sed ipsum terra tegit Libyæ.
arrive at your hands, who, in a direct and meridian travel, have but a few miles of known earth between yourself and the pole. *
That the bones of Theseus should be seen again in Athens, † was not beyond conjecture and hopeful expectation ; but that these should arise so opportunely to serve yourself, was a hit of fate and honor beyond prediction.
We cannot but wish these urns might have the effect of theatrical vessels, and great Hippodrome urns in Rome, to resound the acclamations and honor due unto you. But these are sad and sepulchral pitchers, which have no joyful voices, silently expressing old mortality, the ruins of forgotten times, and can only speak with life, how long in this corruptible frame some parts may be uncorrupted, yet able to outlast bones long unborn, and noblest pile among us.
We present not these as any strange sight or spectacle unknown to your eyes, who have be. held the best of urns and noblest variety of ashes ; who are yourself no slender master of antiquities, and can daily command the view of so many imperial faces; * which raiseth your thoughts unto old things and consideration of times before you, when even living men were antiquities; when the living might exceed the dead, and to depart this world could not be properly said to go unto the greater number ; + and so run up your thoughts upon the ancient of days, the antiquary's truest object, unto whom the eldest parcels are young, and earth itself an infant, and without Egyptian account makes but small noise in thousands.
* Little directly but sea between your house and Greenland.
+ Brought back by Cimon. Plutarch.
+ The great urns in the Hippodrome at Rome, conceived to resound the voices of the people at their shows.
We were hinted by the occasion, not catched the opportunity to write of old things, or intrude upon the antiquary. We are coldly drawn unto discourses of antiquities, who have scarce time before us to comprehend new things, or make out learned novelties. But seeing they arose as they lay, almost in silence among us, at least in short account suddenly passed over, we were very unwilling they should die again and be buried twice among us.
Besides, to preserve the living, and make the dead to live, to keep men out of their urns, and discourse of human fragments in them, is not impertinent unto our profession, whose study
* Worthily possessed by that true gentleman, Sir Horatio Townshend, my honored friend. † Abiit ad plures. Which makes the world so many years old.
is life and death, who daily behold examples of mortality, and of all men least need artificial mementos or coffins by our bed-side to mind us of our graves.
'Tis time to observe occurrences, and let nothing remarkable escape us. The supinity of elder days hath left so much in silence, or time hath so martyred the records, that the most industrious heads do find no easy work to erect a new Britannia. *
'T is opportune to look back upon old times and contemplate our forefathers. Great examples grow thin, and to be fetched from the passed world. Simplicity flies away, and iniquity comes at long strides upon us. We have enough to do to make up ourselves from present and passed times, and the whole stage of things scarce serveth for our instruction. A complete piece of virtue must be made up
from the centos of all ages, as all the beauties of Greece could make but one handsome Venus.
When the bones of King Arthur were digged up,t the old race might think they beheld therein some originals of themselves. Unto these of our urns none here can pretend relation, and can only behold the relics of those
* Wherein Mr. Dugdale hath excellently well endeavoured.
t In the time of Henry the Second. Cambden.