Friday, August 29, 2008

101 Ways, Part 13: Submiting Her Self to ye Will of God

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here

According to her epitaph, Martha Jue of Watertown, MA exhibited exemplary Christian virtues: faith, patience, meekness, love, and submissiveness.
Although these adjectives might call to mind the specific duties of a virtuous wife, I think that they are probably meant to praise Martha as a good Christian rather than as a good woman. The language of patience and submission is evocative of Christian virtues, but is markedly different from the terms in which parts of the Bible describe good wives. In particular, I am thinking of Proverb 31:10-31, which praises the virtuous woman for her industry and managerial skills, not her meekness. While the wives of the Old Testament are generally obedient, they are also resourceful, productive, and courageous. The Puritans were big on the Old Testament, so I think that if the author of this epitaph wanted to praise Martha Jue as a wife, he would have extolled her good works. Instead, he turned to the language of the New Testament and praised her as a Christian.

As far as I can tell, this stone was carved by the man Harriette M. Forbes identified as "The Stone Cutter of Boston." The lightbulb-shaped head, curled eyebrows, and layered feathers on the wings are characteristic of his style.

I'm having some trouble finding Martha Jue in the available histories of Watertown, MA. If anyone has any information on her, please let me know.


Robert J. said...

The name "Jue" intrigued me also. I looked in a few references I had at hand and can't find anything either. I wonder if we might pronounce it as "Tue" or "Chew" (as when the modern BBC announcers talk about looking at a video on YouChewb). There was a woman in Watertown whose maiden name was Judith Tue; she married William Knopp/Knapp who died in Watertown in 1658. But they were married in England before immigrating, and I don't see the name Tue in Massachusetts.

Someday it would be great fun to take a shot at identifying "The Stonecutter of Boston" again. I don't know if anyone has tried since Forbes, and certainly knowledge of the 17th-century Boston population must have improved since then. Perhaps if I win the lottery I will take this up as one of my many projects, to be carried out from my townhouse overlooking Boston harbor.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

After reading your suggestions, I went back and looked in the Watertown genealogies. I couldn't find any Chews or Tues, but I did find an Ives. "Miles" doesn't seem to have been a common name in the area, and there is a Miles Ives. After poking around a bit, I found the Ives Family History Blog, which mentions Miles Ives and his wife, Martha. So I guess that settles it: "Jue" = "Ives."

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this picture and linking to it from my blog. It is always interesting to find new information through the blog. I like what you are doing. It is unclear if I ma related to Miles and Martha. It would have to be a connection from England. Bill

Robert J. said...

Excellent! We both took the J to be correct and the V to stand for a U. But the V was a V and the J really an I, for IVE.

"Strangers [me and thee] strolled and spelled at the lone orthography of the elder dead."

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

This epitaph has a "U" that is really a "U" ("SUBMITING"), a "U" that is really a "V" ("LOUING"), and a "V" that is really a "v" ("JUE"). It also uses "J" to mean "I" when it occurs at the beginning of a word, but "I" for "I" in the middle of a word.

I'll have to look at some other works by this carver to see if this typographical pattern shows up elsewhere.

Robert J. said...

I think there's a lot of room for research into typographical patterns and trends in individual carvers and carver groups. (Or better "orthographical" since this isn't type.) The Park family, for example, were real writing-masters: they knew all the conventions of typography and routinely used caps, small caps, italic, and Roman, all with great skill. The early Dwight stones have several idiosyncrasies, but generally work within the details of the typographic tradition also.

"The Stone Cutter of Boston" is liberal in his use of ligatures. There are almost certainly statistical patterns in there, given a long enough chronological series for analysis.