On Mrs. Corbet, who died of a Cancer in her Breast.
Here rests a woman, good without pretence,
Blest with plain reason, and with sober sense;
No conquest she, but o'er herself, desired;
No arts essayed, but not to be admired.
Passion and pride were to her soul unknown,
Convinced that Virtue only is our own.
So unaffected, so composed a mind,
So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refined,
Heaven, as its purest gold, by tortures tried;
The saint sustained it, but the woman died.
I have always considered this as the most valuable of all Pope's epitaphs; the subject of it is a character not discriminated by any shining or eminent peculiarities; yet that which really makes, though not the splendour, the felicity of life, and that which every wise man will choose for his final and lasting companion in the languor of age, in the quiet of privacy, when he departs weary and disgusted from the ostentatious, the volatile, and the vain. Of such a character, which the dull overlook and the gay despise, it was fit that the value should be made known and the dignity established. Domestic virtue, as it is exerted without great occasions, or conspicuous consequences, in an even unnoted tenor, required the genius of Pope to display it in such a manner as might attract regard and enforce reverence. Who can forbear to lament that this amiable woman has no name in the verses?
If the particular lines of this inscription be examined, it will appear less faulty than the rest. There is scarce one line taken from commonplaces, unless it be that in which only virtue is said to be our own . I once heard a lady of great beauty and excellence object to the fourth line that it contained an unnatural and incredible panegyric. Of this let the ladies judge.