The Dumb Philosopher

A Letter from Oxford

Daniel Defoe


Being informed that you speedily intend to publish some memoirs relating to our dumb countryman, Dickory Cronke, I send you herewith a few lines, in the nature of an elegy, which I leave you to dispose of as you think fit. I knew and admired the man; and if I were capable, his character should be the first thing I would attempt.

Yours. &c.

.     .     .     .     .

An Elegy, in Memory of Dickory Cronke, the Dumb Philosopher.

———Vitiis nemo sine nascitur; optimus ille est,
Qui minimus urgetur.—————————


If virtuous actions emulation raise,
Then this good man deserves immortal praise.
When nature such extensive wisdom lent,
She sure designed him for our precedent.
Such great endowments in a man unknown,
Declare the blessings were not all his own;
But rather granted for a time to show,
What the wise hand of Providence can do.
In him we may a bright example see
Of nature, justice, and morality;
A mind not subject to the frowns of fate,
But calm and easy in a servile state.

He always kept a guard upon his will
And feared no harm because he knew no ill.
A decent posture and an humble mien,
In every action of his life were seen.
Through all the different stages that he went,
He still appeared both wise and diligent:
Firm to his word, and punctual to his trust,
Sagacious, frugal, affable, and just.

No gainful views his bounded hopes could sway,
No wanton thought led his chaste soul astray.
In short, his thoughts and actions both declare,
Nature designed him her philosopher;
That all mankind, by his example taught,
Might learn to live, and manage every thought.
Oh! could my muse the wondrous subject grace,
And, from his youth, his virtuous actions trace;
Could I in just and equal numbers tell
How well he lived, and how devoutly fell,
I boldly might your strict attention claim,
And bid you learn, and copy out the man.

J. P.

Exeter College,
August 25th, 1719.

.     .     .     .     .


The occasion of this epitaph was briefly thus:—A gentleman, who had heard much in commendation of this dumb man, going accidentally to the churchyard where he was buried, and finding his grave without a tombstone, or any manner of memorandum of his death, he pulled out his pencil, and writ as follows:—

Pauper Ubique Jacet.

Near to this lonely unfrequented place,
Mixed with the common dust, neglected lies
The man that every muse should strive to grace,
And all the world should for his virtue prize.
Stop, gentle passenger, and drop a tear,
Truth, justice, wisdom, all lie buried here.

What, though he wants a monumental stone,
The common pomp of every fool or knave,
Those virtues which through all his actions shone
Proclaim his worth, and praise him in the grave.
His merits will a bright example give,
Which shall both time and envy too outlive.

Oh, had I power but equal to my mind,
A decent tomb should soon this place adorn,
With this inscription: Lo, here lies confined
A wondrous man, although obscurely born;
A man, though dumb, yet he was nature’s care,
Who marked him out her own philosopher.

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