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Thomas Brown

Essayist and satirist Thomas Brown was buried in the east cloister of Westminster Abbey, near Edmund Berry Godfrey's monument, on 22nd June 1704. His grave, a few yards away from that of his friend and fellow writer Aphra Behn, has a faint inscription just with his name and dates of birth and death.

James Drake, M.D. wrote an epitaph for his stone but this was never inscribed. It was set out in the guidebook to the Abbey published in 1722 and the translation from the Latin reads:

Next to this are deposited the remains of Thomas Brown, a poet not the least among those most celebrated to whom he did not yield in wit and excelled in learning. On whom, while he was alive, Nature lavished much, Fortune only a little from the envy and wrongs of evil men, with which while he was alive he was most familiar, not even Death spared him. Afflicted with abundant wit, he rightly gave out punishments to buffoons, not as it was deserved, but with impunity. The author of wondrous dialogues, he left so many charming drolleries, and abundant witticisms. As well as poems and letters; light pieces indeed, but which exude the genius of their author. Through the similar indulgence of the Muses he was as comfortable in Latin as in English: from this the illustrious cultivator of these sisters reaped only one fruit; That because of their patrons, he was carefully buried and rests among those equally honoured. Sprung from the soil of Staffordshire, he died on the 16th day of June in the year 1704. Move on reader, pursue wit, shun fortune.

He was baptised in 1663 in Newport, Shropshire, son of William Brown, a farmer, and his wife Dorothy. (So his intended epitaph gives a different county for his birth). At school he was known as a good linguist and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. Threatened with expulsion by the Dean, Dr Fell, he wrote this well known epigram 'I do not love thee Dr Fell, The reason why I cannot tell: But this I know and know full well, I do not love thee Dr Fell'. He taught at a school in Kingston upon Thames and then wrote for a living including prose works, humorous verse and dramas. He was imprisoned for a while for a verbal attack on the French king and in 1699 his Miscellany Poems was published.

Further reading

"Tom Brown of facetious memory..." by B. Boyce, 1939

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Died

16th June 1704

Buried

22th June 1704

Occupation

Writer

Location

Cloisters; East Cloister

Memorial Type

Grave

Thomas Brown
Thomas Brown grave

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Related commemorations

You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

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