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Tombstones and epitaphs have been collectors' cherished items for centuries. Not only are they full of conscious and unconscious whimsy, fancy, fantasy, and, I suppose we all would guess, a good deal of benignant prevarication; but they also serve as a commentary on the social kaleidoscope of the changing times and customs of a people. For the mass of inarticulate men, a tombstone often enough memorialized them as they might have been. Here is a logical place for one to say his say. Certainly it is the last word; but few write their own epitaphs. Occasionally one is jolted by the stunning frankness of the anonymous compositor, obviously not the one who is honored.
Mann and Greene have collected epitaphs from sundry graveyards in New England and arranged them in sequence for the 300-year span which includes the pioneer and colonial life through 1775; War, Reason and Revivalism, 1776-1815; "The
Bean WB. Over Their Dead Bodies: Yankee Epitaphs and History. Arch Intern Med. 1963;112(5):791–792. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03860050178029
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