10 of the Best Short Literary Epitaphs

The best epitaphs of famous writers

Writers love to have the final word, and many great poets have composed their final lines, the lines that will crown their lifetime’s achievement and adorn the stones marking their final resting place. Some of the most memorable literary epitaphs are also the briefest, and remain witty, moving, or memorable – or all three – thanks to this brevity. Here, then, are ten of the finest short literary epitaphs that commemorate the lives, and deaths, of ten great writers.

William Shakespeare. We may as well begin with the greatest poet in the English language. Surely Shakespeare penned one of the greatest literary epitaphs that the world can boast? Well, it’s certainly memorable, threatening to bring down a curse upon anyone who disturbs his tomb.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Goethe

Fun trivia about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

1. One of the first poems Goethe ever wrote was in English. Although Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German poet, novelist, and philosopher, he began writing poetry in the English language from an early age. One of his earliest efforts is, fittingly enough, about wanting to become a poet: ‘And other thought is misfortune / Is death and night to me: / I hum no supportable tune, / I can no poet be.’ But poet he would be – although not in English.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Francois Villon

Fun facts about the French medieval poet

1. François Villon was a murderer, thief, and member of a criminal brotherhood. Villon was born in Paris in 1431; in 1449 he went to study at the University there, and was made a master of arts three years later. However, three years after that, he was involved in a fracas that ended with him killing a priest with his sword. He was quitted a year later on the grounds that he had acted in self-defence, but Villon’s brush with the law doesn’t seem to have deterred him from a life of crime. The same year he was involved in a robbery at the College of Navarre, and, fearing arrest, fled. He somehow ended up being taken under the wing of Duke Charles d’Orléans, a gifted poet (in English as well as French). It may have been the Duke who turned Villon onto poetry: he wrote his masterpiece, Le Testament, during this period, as well as the (sadly lost) poem ‘The Romance of the Devil’s Fart’.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Sir Richard Burton

Interesting trivia about the Victorian explorer

1. Sir Richard Burton was a Victorian explorer, translator, author, spy, diplomat, poet, soldier, cartographer … the list goes on.

Sir Richard Burton (1821-90) has a claim to being the most remarkable Victorian of them all. His Times obituary called him ‘one of the most remarkable men of his time’. Not only did he publish some 47 books during his own lifetime, including many studies of various cultures and tribes in Africa and Asia, but he also travelled widely around the world, and spoke nearly thirty languages.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Aphra Behn

Interesting facts about a groundbreaking writer

1. Aphra Behn wrote one of the first novels in English. However, which of her works qualifies for the title ‘early novel’ is a tricky issue. The mantle usually goes to Oroonoko, her 1689 ‘true history’ of a ‘Royal Slave’, about a prince from Africa who is sold into slavery in South America, organises an uprising against the slave-owners, and is defeated and executed. But Oroonoko is short – only around 70 pages – so is often excluded from the ranks of the ‘novel’ proper. However…

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