Saturday, November 8, 2008

101 Ways, Part 62: Made His Exit

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

Samuel Jones, Concord, MA (1806):

Men drop so fast, 'ere life's mid stage we tread
Few know so many friends alive as dead."
This monumental stone is
Erected in memory of
who made his exit Nov. 6
1806 aged 36 years.
His virtues were too many to be
enumerated here; but they gained him
the love of all who knew him and
are too deeply engraved on their mem
ories to be forgotten.
Early he departed this life; and has gone 
as we trust to the bosom of his 
Heavenly Father.

Commenter RJO provides this photo of a nearly identical gravestone from Fitchburg, MA, showing that the Dwight workshop, like many others, offered standard templates with minor variations in the details:


Robert J. said...

This is fascinating. That stone is almost an exact duplicate of the 1807 stone of Gen. James Reed in Fitchburg. It shows how the workshops followed particular templates at particular times, and yet varied the details (not merely the inscription). These stones are certainly from the Dwight workshop in Shirley, and this Concord stone (unlike the Reed stone) happens to preserve the border of "Dwight drops" along the tympanum that was characteristic of John Dwight's work many years before, even though most of the rest of the style has changed. There are a few minor design elements that appear here and reappear in other Dwight stones in different sizes or arrangements also.

Is this stone in the Concord center cemetery along the ridge?

This was clearly the template for the Dwight "luxury model" of circa 1806 -- the Reed stone is at least 5' tall. Interestingly, it was originally in South Street Cemetery, Fitchburg's oldest, but at some point it was moved to the newer Laurel Hill Cemetery a few blocks away, where it stands in perfect condition today. I'll email a photo to you and you can post it here for comparison purposes if you like. The lettering style is identical also: very good in the individual letterforms, but awkward in its centering.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

Thanks for the great connection!

Yes, this stone is in the graveyard in the center of Concord. If I remember correctly, it is over the crest of the hill and down toward the back, near the John Jack stone.

Robert J. said...

In checking my notes on the 1807 Reed stone I see I had found another near match for it: the 1809 John White stone in Dorchester, which is #3525 and 3525D in the Farber collection. So the pattern is reinforced -- a luxury model from the Dwight shop in the 1805-1810 range. (And John Dwight learned his trade in association with the Fosters of Dorchester, so it's not unreasonable that his work continued to appear there.)

The Farber collection is an absolutely extraordinary resource and having it online is invaluable, but it's a pain the neck to use. Having said that, I'd also be the first to recognize that when it was put online in the early days of the web, it was years ahead of its time in accessibility. It's just that the web has advanced, and the old heavy interface of the Farber collection is still in place. Someone needs to apply for a grant to build a new database underneath it and a new interface on top of it.

On this little collection of matching stones: it's fascinating to see that while the carver was obviously working from a pattern, it can't have been something like a drawn sheet of paper with a design that was traced onto multiple stones, because nearly every detail on the stones is different. If you compare the stylized trees on the 1806 Jones and 1807 Reed stones, for example, at a glance they look the same but in fact they are not: no two of them are the same, each having been drawn uniquely. Likewise the columns are similar, but they were clearly original creations for each particular stone. So what did the carver have in hand? It must have been a small sketch of a general pattern, and then in preparing each stone he realized the details of that pattern uniquely, drawing each element as if it were for the first time.

One element that's on your Concord stone but not on the Reed stone is the little compass-drawn six-pointed fleuron at the top. Although that doesn't appear on the Reed stone, it does appear often on other large Dwight stones from the same period, linking them into this whole family of designs.