Thomas Anson's Relief, Shugborough Inscription

The Shepherd’s Monument was commissioned by Thomas Anson (1695-1773), a member of the Dilettanti (Dilettante) Society and Divan Club. Its inscription contains only ten letters in two lines. Above the inscription is a relief of mirrored Et in Arcadia Ego by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). It seems that Anson tried to reflect something by that relief.

Crossword Puzzle

Dot in the middle has no common agreed usage, so we must define it. In the upper line it can be treated as the space for a letter, and in the lower as an abbreviation. The first line can be treated as a crossword puzzle.


Only few words can match with this condition, like cojurors, populous, via, vive, viva, etc. Cojurors via vive is one possible solution. Here letter C, R, I, E, are used to fill the line, or the four letters being suppressed by Anson. Later we’ll see his logic in selecting them.

Cojuror is one who takes an oath along with another. Vive means affecting the mind in a lively or vivid manner. The two words help to solve the D. and M. The last V without a dot can balance the line, so inserting a letter before the first O will not be too strange. This design, •O•U•O•S•V•A•V•V•, may rigid but simplify the cipher.

D. M.

The two letters below have larger space than the first line. They look like two abbreviations. Cojurors hints at some members under oath, like Dilettante Society, Divan Club, or Mason. The Dilettante and Divan were vive at that time. This cipher itself says that Anson knew the masonic style, though Anson might not be a freemason himself. The M as Mason is mainly derived from his name’s anagram.

Thomas Anson can be converged to Th’Mason. Word players know well their own names. It’s a one-way anagram but converges perfectly, which may be the original idea of this riddle, to hide some letters, as from Thomas Anson to ---m-- a-son. However, random length suppression cannot be a code in such short line, so this inscription hides only one letter alternatively.

The tomb in the painting as a stone work may be a hint on mason, and shepherds reflect the vive Dilettante or Divan members, the reason for a mirrored relief. Combining “D. cojurors via vive Mason” and Et in Arcadia Ego, Anson’s riddle can be solved, Cojurors of the D. via the vive Mason (masonic way), even in Arcadia I am.

Divan cojurors via vive Mason, Et in Arcadia Ego.

Dilettante is a lover of the fine arts as the Dilettanti Society. Divan is a council-chamber or a room having one side entirely open towards a garden or some prospect. This monument could be a remembrance of the Divan Club’s termination in 1746. Its structure fits to the divan’s definition of a room towards a prospect. The D and N in Divan cover the whole sentence, and iva in the middle of Divan is an anagram of via, which explains why Anson selected the word.


From word’s logic Divan fits better than Dilettante here. Divan and Mason can balance the sentence. From word’s meaning, Dilettante seems to reflect Anson’s life more, but we cannot judge that for him. Perhaps Anson wanted both.

Hidden Cry and Relief

Anson’s logic in selecting cojurors and vive may be based on the letters (C, R, I, E) not in his name. The word vive is rarely used, and its two v’s can limit the search. The same can be applied to cojurors.

Cry is printed as crie in Shakespeare’s first folio sometimes (and j as i usually), so this monument is also saying, no cry in Thomas Anson here, or his cry hidden in Arcadia, or other more profound meanings. Relief can mean the projection of a design to give a solid appearance, and alleviation. Anson may have found his relief in his Arcadia.

Other Solutions or Secrets

Latin solutions or a reading from right to left might work, if reasonable result can be found. Thomas Anson wanted the world to read his mind. Right answer cannot be confirmed by him anymore, and he might never intend to reveal that. We can have various good or better solutions. If this is a fair game, the best one will be Anson’s wish.

Peter Scheemakers was the sculptor of Anson’s Shepherd’s Monument, and the statue of Shakespeare designed by William Kent in Westminster Abbey (1740). Kent’s design was copied in Wilton House in 1743. Anson’s monument tells his own secret. It’s a coincidence that his relief of Et in Arcadia Ego is connected to another secret about Shakespeare’s monument.

Principle of Anson’s code is similar to the one-way anagram by Wilton House poets. The later needs extra effort to find the location of the code, and the context around the code that supports the answer, for it randomizes the selection of letters.