Sunday, November 30, 2008

Josiah Manning

Josiah Manning, one of the most prolific gravestone carvers in eastern Connecticut during the 18th century, carved his own gravestone. It does not appear to be particularly special — there are more than a dozen stones in Windham Center cemetery that are very similar stylistically. If you did not know that Manning was a carver, you might walk by without noticing anything unusual unless you noticed the message on the back:
This Monument
I made in ye year
1800 in my 76th
year    JM

I'm not sure who carved the specifics on the front — perhaps one of Manning's sons or apprentices.

Josiah Manning also carved a stone for his wife, Mary, who died in 1796. Unlike Manning's own stone, Mary's stone is stylistically distinct from the bulk of Manning's work. The wings are feathered and point downward instead of the distinctive bat-like wings of other Manning stones. The face is different as well — it lacks the on-end hair and surprised eyes common on other Manning stones. It seems that Josiah may have been attempting to carve a portrait of his beloved wife.
Mary's is the only hand-carved stone in the graveyard (other than Josiah's own) that is carved on both sides:
 The LORD gave & ye LORD
hath taken away blessed be
ye name of the LORD, for
Lover & friend hast thou
put far from me & mine
acquaintance into darkness
In ye Cold mansions of ye 
silent Tomb, Oh how full ye
solitud[e] how deep ye gloom,
Here sleeps her dust,
unconscious, close Confin'd
but far far Distant Dwells
the Immortal Mind.
This is a mash-up of Job 1:21, Psalm 88:18, and an epitaph found all over New England ("In ye Cold mansions . . .").

2 comments:

RJO said...

Some very lovely versifying on those stones. I was struck by "dust and a shadow" -- it appears to come originally from Horace, which many New Englanders would have known, and Google books records a version of it on a few other gravestones from this general period. "Pulvis et umbra sumus" -- we are dust and shadow.

Cranky Yankee said...

Ah! I see you were in my neck of the woods. Josiah and his sons, Rockwell and Frederick, are my favorite carvers. One thing you might notice at Windham Center is at sundown, the gravestones glow!

It's due to the high mica content in the stones. The stones reflect the light when the sun sets. They take on a nice red color in the fall, probably because of the angle of the sun.