never speak ill of the dead

never speak ill of the dead
Cf. Gr. τὸν τεθνηκότα μὴ κακολογεῖν, speak no evil of the dead (attributed to the Spartan ephor [civil magistrate] Chilon, 6th cent. BC); L. de mortuis nil nisi bonum, say nothing of the dead but what is good.

1540 R. TAVERNER tr. Erasmus’ Flores Sententiarum A6 Rayle not vpon him that is deade.

1609 S. HARWARD MS (Trinity College, Cambridge) 81v Speake not evill of the dead.

1682 W. PENN No Cross, No Crown (ed. 2) xix. Speake well of the dead.

1783 S. JOHNSON Lives of Poets (rev. ed.) IV. 381 He that has too much feeling to speak ill of the dead..will not hesitate..to destroy..the reputation..of the living.

1945 F. THOMPSON Lark Rise xiv. ‘Never speak ill of the dead’ was one of their maxims.

2002 K. HALL PAGE Body in Bonfire viii. 201 Faith remembered the conversation she’d overhead. No need to speak ill of the dead. But devastating as it might be, his wife’s death had solved a major problem for the headmaster.


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