February in Maine means stoking the fires several times a day. These days it’s just one woodstove, but still a fair amount of wood moves from woodshed to house every day. Each piece has some specifics, like species (mostly maple, oak, birch) and mass (a 15 lb knot burns longer than 3 5 lb sticks), and of course there’s an art to placement and draft adjustment. In addition, there’s the occasional personality who takes refuge in the carefully-stacked woodpile. I choose to think of such visitors as looking forward to the transcendence that immolation brings, and to their further lives into which their constituent atoms are recycled (and one might apply the same expectation to other forms of organic life too…). So here are some of today’s potential immolatees:
As I work on a project (photographic or otherwise) I’m continuously wondering why—seeking for reasons, bits of insight, overarching whithers. What is it about gravestones that keeps me returning to cemeteries? It turns out that the answers are many, and not simple, forever unfolding into new revelations of the depths and varieties of Form. For me, so much of the pleasure is in reading (that is, imagining, chasing, constructing) the Story contained in any instance of the Form.
This stone is from Querpon, at the northern tip of the western shore of Newfoundland. ‘Killed by dogs’ is not a phrase found on many gravestones, but we surmise that Murray Roberts might have been teasing tied-up sled dogs (there were not many snowmobiles in Querpon in 1967) who got loose and took revenge. I had a chance to find out, but muffed it: also visiting the tiny graveyard the day I was there was a man of more or less my age who was “visiting the parents” and told me he’d left Querpon in 1962 to join the Canadian Forces and only returned to Querpon when he retired… but he’d have been a teenager at the time, and would surely have remembered the incident. And it’s not unlikely that Murray was a shirt-tail cousin, Querpon being about 20 households.
This double stone, from Isle aux Morts at the southwestern tip of Newfoundland, sketches a tale that it turns out we can fill in details on. We begin with two brothers, a disaster to a named boat, a precise date, even some detail on their marital status:
Straits Pride II went down in a storm 29 years ago, and the incident was thoroughly investigated by the Transportation Safety Board:
On 17 December 1990, the F.V. “STRAITS PRIDE II”, inbound to St. John’s, Newfoundland, from
the fishing grounds with a two-third load of round (ungutted) codfish stowed in the fish hold,
encountered adverse weather, capsized and sank throwing the six-person crew into the ice-cold waters. Three crew members who managed to board the inflatable liferaft were subsequently rescued, but the remaining three lost their lives.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada determined that the vessel continued to fish after learning of a forecasted storm warning and that the combined effects of the weather, shipped seas, stowage of the catch, free surface effect of liquids, loss of the port paravane, and downflooding caused the vessel to capsize and sink by the stern. The suddenness of the capsizing precluded efforts by three of the crew to successfully abandon the vessel, displacing them into the sea. As they were wearing only normal winter clothing with approved lifejackets, their survival time was limited. The other three crew members boarded the liferaft from the sea and were rescued some eight hours later in a mildly hypothermic condition. (see the detailed report of the incident)
and there’s more, in the form of a song:
I also learned (via Google) that Russell Bond’s wife Darlene died in February 2019, and that Russell had found a life-ring from the Ocean Ranger in 1982:
Officials at the Search and Rescue Center said Friday that a life-ring found on Newfoundland’s south coast was not from the Ocean Ranger oil rig that sank in February but from a Greek vessel bearing the same name. The ring was discovered on the beach at Burnt Islands, near Newfoundland’s southwest corner, last week by Russell Bond, a local fisherman. Bond turned the life-ring over to the RCMP and told local reporters he was certain it had come from the giant oil rig that sank Feb.15 on the Grand Banks, killing all 84 crew aboard.
Small things, bits of drama from lives lived quietly, of no great significance, but fascinating for their essential humanity.
I’m at an age where I pay more attention than formerly to texts on health and Thanatos. Among the authors I seem to be engaged with are Atul Gawande, Sherwin Nuland, Jerome Groopman, Jenny Diski, and most recently Colm Tóibín. I’m especially interested in the grace and wit these writers apply to the direst of subject matter. Thus Tóibín in a recent article in London Review of Books:
A week later the phone rang and I was told that I had a cancer of the testicles that had spread to a lymph node and to one lung. Instead of seeing the urologist, I would now need to see an oncologist. For a few days I comforted myself by pretending that, because of my abiding interest in the mysteries and niceties of Being, I had to see an ontologist… (18 April 2019, page 3)
The art of the grim jest, the sardonic and the mordant, is not to everyone’s taste. Once again, Amazon seems to be reading my mind: as I wrote the last sentence, email binged a come-on for Tony Moyle’s The End of the World is Nigh (“If you love books about con-men, conspiracies, Renaissance history, massive agitated boar, exploding beds, marmalade and historical satire then this is the book for you…”). Did I succumb? Of course.
Two tasty bits from a Book of the Moment, Floating Worlds: the letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer:
yesterday I happened to notice in the mirror that while I have long since grown used to my beard becoming very grey indeed, I was not prepared to discover that my eyebrows are becoming noticeably shaggy. I feel the tomb is just around the corner. And there are all these books I haven’t read yet, even if I am simultaneously reading at least twenty… (pg 128)
I tell myself not to remember the past, not to hope or fear for the future, and not to think in the present, a comprehensive program that will undoubtedly have very little success. (pg 130)
The book brims with such gems.
and here’s a quasi-relevant image to accompany the above:
A visit to Hope Cemetery in Barre VT is pretty much a necessity for anybody interested in the artistic side of gravestones. All of the stones come from the various granite sheds in town, and showcase about 130 years of the carvers’ evolving styles and techniques. Quite a few are memorials to carvers (mostly of Italian origin) who died at young ages, of the silicosis that was epidemic in the trade until ventilation was greatly improved in the sheds in the 1930s.
Hope Cemetery has been thoroughly documented (there’s a list of more than 6,000 interments at findagrave.com, a nice introduction via Vermonter.com, another feature story from The Boston Globe, and many excellent photographs by Christine Anne Piesyk). Several of the memorials are regularly cited in articles on the cemetery, particularly Louis Brusa’s own:
I was especially impressed by examples of portraiture in granite:
(the lattermost is Elia Corti, an especially gifted sculptor who was gunned down in 1904 in a struggle between socialist and anarchist workers).
Also of great interest is the remarkable design and the refined calligraphy and decoration:
There are some especially opulent excesses:
and my favorite, for the appropriateness of the surname Vanetti:
During the Civil War Samuel Clemens spent several years in and around Virginia City (see a Wikipedia article for some rather surprising details), and it was there that he first used the pen name Mark Twain.
The cemeteries at Virginia City include some bits worthy of Twain’s descriptive and narrative genius. Here’s a small sample:
(and see more about her via findagrave.com)
My fascination with cemeteries continues, each locale presenting novel styles and unprecedented content, enlarging my sense of cultural and temporal variety.
Each image fits somewhere in an emerging construction, the outlines of which are pretty clear (having to do with the Memorial and the Marmorial: with both the impulse to Remember and the [seeming] compulsion to make the Remembering as permanent as materials permit), but the details of linkage and explanation unfold bit by bit, as more images join the corpus. I’m not sure what the ultimate destination will turn out to be for this project, and it’s possible that it is in fact bottomless, but it proceeds site by site, and insight by insight.
As with so many others in my stable of enthusiasms, this project asks the question: How shall we account for what we see, what we encounter? Each bit [image, text fragment, etc.] is a holographic fragment of a grand edifice, and each fragment is productively considered as fundamentally linked to every other. We may explore the bonds, the implications, the entanglements, but grasping the whole seems to be beyond our meagre and measly powers.
The cemetery (actually cemeteries: the Catholic Calvary cemetery and the Shoshone graveyard are adjacent but separate) at Austin NV (a 19th century mining boom town) includes these elements [click on an image to embiggen]:
Native American surnames:
people who came from far away (Cornwall, Scotland, named counties in Ireland):
the ever-present deaths of children:
evidence of active grave tending, next to the forgotten:
opulent displays imported from afar side-by-side with the most basic and temporary of materials:
and sometimes bits of stories of the decedents’ lives. Google tells me that one young man died in a SCUBA accident in Monterey Bay, but was brought to Austin for burial:
And of course there’s lots more that I may eventually distill from the photographs I took during the visit to Austin cemeteries.
I was first drawn to this family saga by seeing Clara Peabody Bancroft’s over-the-top memorial at Pere Lachaise:
We can interpret the memorial variously: it’s an opulent sculpture of an elegant lady, modishly dressed and replete with possibly allegorical rose-strewing; or perhaps it’s the opening paragraph of a story, the sort that Somerset Maugham or Saki might have turned into something eternal. Or a puzzle of parvenus and arrivistes, of money and society. Or it can be read as a series of family calamities, or medical missteps. The elements of each of these scenarios seem to be gloriously present.
Clara Peabody was born in New Hampshire in 1826, and married Edward Bancroft in 1845. Edward was from Worcester, and became a Boston banker and broker (perhaps specializing in cotton), but the details of his occupation are pretty sketchy so far. Their sole surviving child Clara Elizabeth was born in 1857, and Edward died in Naples in 1865.
Here is Edward’s rather modest headstone in Mount Auburn Cemetery:
Departed this life at
in the morning of Sunday
February 19 1865 Aged 42
By his own request his body
I have not been able to discover how Edward came to die in Naples, or what took Clara to Europe (her own passport was issued in 1866, and includes her daughter and a servant), or when Clara returned to her residence in Newton Center (where the 1870 census records her as having a Personal Estate of $200,000).
Clara Elizabeth married Count Benoit Tyszkiewicz in Newton MA in 1874 (she was 18, he 22). Just how he came to be in Boston is a mystery, but in 1875 he and his bride had returned to Europe, and he commissioned a schooner at Havre:
In 1875, the Polish Count Tyszkiewicz Benoit, then aged 23, would have a sea vessel for his travels. He has spent two years in Boston, where he was impressed by the big American schooners . Back in France, he ordered Jacques Augustin Normand, Director of Augustin Normand shipyards in Le Havre, the Zemajteij which will become known as Velox. From the specifications drawn up by the count, Mr. Normand will design a schooner quite innovative that will mark his time and influence the plans of the future construction of yachts, both American and English. The design of its hull, in particular, is revolutionary : the Velox is the first ship to combine the breadth of American yachts with the depth of the English shells. This gives it great rigidity to the fabric and allows it to carry more sail area than the competition. The hull construction is also original: Jacques Augustin Normand will use the method of triple-lined (2 longitudinal and diagonal) which brings lightness and rigidity. This is a first for a vessel of this size. The stability is provided by a ballast 87 tons.
(Wikipedia, translated from the French)
It’s not clear when Clara Bancroft relocated to Europe, but her grandsons Benoit and Edouard were born in 1875 and 1880, and she herself died in Switzerland in 1883. She was first buried in Passy, but was moved to Père Lachaise the next year. A plaque on the magnificent tomb says
Son gendre et ses petits enfants pour accomplir les dernières volontés de sa fille la comtesse Tyszkiewicz ont élevé ce monument témoignage d’un vieux souvenir.
(Her son-in-law and grandchildren, to fulfill the last wishes of her daughter the countess Tyszkiewicz, have raised this monument in witness of an old memory)
The old memory may be of Clara strewing rose petals, and clearly it was the count who commissioned Henri Chapu’s sculpture.
But the story continues. Clara’s will specified that her daughter should be the beneficiary of a $100,000 trust, which would pass to her children if she should die. Clara Elizabeth did in fact die (of pneumonia) less than a year after her mother, just a few months after the birth of her third child.
The Bancroft plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery has a memorial
Just who had the monument erected is another mystery.
There was a court case in Boston in 1904, the Tyszkiewicz children seeking distribution of the principal of the trust, and their maternal kin desiring that the original terms of the trust continue. The children lost the judgement, and I can find no further information on their lives. (See the text of the judgement).
Count Benoit Tyszkiewicz lived until 1935. According to the Almanach de Gotha, he married the princess Marie Lubomirski in 1885. He seems to have been active in the development of sugar beet cultivation on his Polish estate, and his avocations included photography (membre de la Société française de photographie  et du Photo-club de Paris ).
Further detail, translated from Polish Wikipedia:
Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz
Date and place of birth December 11, 1852
Date and place of death May 13, 1935, Menton
Father Michał Tyszkiewicz
Mother Maria Wanda Tyszkiewicz
Wife Klara Elżbieta Bancroft
Children Benedict John, Edward, Elisabeth Maria
Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz, Leliwa (born December 11, 1852 in Diam , May 13, 1935 in Menton , France) is a Polish photographer .
Son of Michał Tyszkiewicz (died 1854) and Maria Wanda of Tyszkiewicz (died 1860). After premature death of parents (both died of tuberculosis) from the age of 8 brought up by Benedykta Tyszkiewicz , grandfather from the mother, patron and collector, owner of the Red Court , marshal of the Kaunas gubernian .
Tyszkiewicz’s sports interest in the early years of his life made him travel to the Seine on a ship belonging to Grandfather Benedict, as well as a trip to the United States, where he was in contact with the family of the wealthy owners of the Peabody ships. Benedict developed not only sailing passions, but also (in 1874) married a representative of the family, young Elzbieta-Klara Bankroft.
In 1875, a naval architect, Żak Augustyn Normand, designed the costume of the Count “his yacht of dreams” (42.2 meters long and 7.2 meters wide), in honor of Benedict’s property in Lithuania and Żmudzi was named “Żemajtej” . The Count was planning to take a trip around the world on his award-winning world exhibition in Paris (1878). Due to the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War, however, it reached only Gibraltar and Algeria . Until 1881, the Count was a member of the Nice Regiment Committee .
During his stay in Lithuania he remained a patron of Polish sports organizations, and also contributed to the establishment of Sokol gymnastics company.
Tyszkiewicz debuted in 1876 at an exhibition in Philadelphia, where he presented a reportage from a trip to Algeria . In Poland his works were presented in 1894. His works consist of photographs from foreign trips and works made in the atelier, mainly portraits. His work has enjoyed international recognition, which was reflected in the achievement of the 1899 gold medal at the Berlin exhibition. He was a member of the Paris Photo Club. The artist’s work and most of his work were destroyed during the First World War.
The surviving photographs are held by the Musée Nicéphore Niepce in Chalon-sur-Saône , France, and have been exhibited in Lithuania in 1999.
Benedict Tyszkiewicz, like other members of his family, including his grandfather Benedict, remained a collector and patron of the arts. The Tyszkiewicz Collection from the Red Court, owned by Tyszkiewicz, was one of the richest family archives in Lithuania. It counted 20,000 documents, 12,000 letters, over 10,000 books. The collection at Red Castle in Kaunas included a rich gallery of paintings by Polish and foreign painters Canaletto , Bacciarelli , Czechowicz , Wańkowicz , Rust , a collection of slippers (destroyed in the Warsaw Uprising), tapestries and makat . Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz was also known as the painting buyer Stefan Batory at Pskov’s Jan Matejko for 60 000 francs, which decorated one of the rooms in a residence in Red Dwor.
Benedict Tyszkiewicz was a very wealthy man, not only the numerous travels, but also the residence of Wiala (Wiała) in the Minsk district. Not only was it decorated with a magnificent garden, but also enormous game and hunting pavilions. The cost of their maintenance greatly affected the state of Benedict Tyszkiewicz’s finances, which eventually decided to liquidate them.
Benedykt Tyszkiewicz from a short-lived (9-year) marriage with Klara Bancroft (died 1883 in Chur , Switzerland ) had three children: the heir of the Red Court of Benedictine John , married to ???, Edward Branicki, married to Adel Dembowska, and Elżbieta Maria, wife of Stanisław Witold Plater Zyberk.
Literature [ edit ]
L. Narkowicz, Tyszkiewicz’s Ordinance in Zatrocz , Warsaw 2007, p. 30, 87-88.
A. Snitkuviene, Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz (1852-1935) from the Red House – a forgotten photographer , “Dagerotyp” 6 (1997).
A. Snitkuviene, Exhibition of Benedicts Henryk Tyszkiewicz and John Batho in Lithuania , “Dagerotyp” 9 (2000).
T. Zielińska, Polish Aristocratic Family Order , Warsaw 1997.
Flea Market Treasure. Photography by Benedict Tyshkevich
Benedykt Tyszkiewicz (fotografiakolekcjonerska.pl)
W. Chomański, Kovno “Sokol” , “Our Time” 11/2005 (661)
Glossary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic countries, Volume XIII
Tyszkiewicz Palace and Park complex
and more on the Red Court (translated froma Polish site):
Attractions of the Red Court near Kaunas
In the recently renovated Tyszkiewicz Palace in Red Dwor near Kaunas, every day, up to the Three Kings, trips, entertainment for children and adults, and tasting of Tyszkiewicz dishes are organized. Raudondvaris castle and chapel is a monument of Renaissance architecture from the beginning of the 17th century. The palace rises on the upper terrace of the Niewiazy River, 9 km from Kaunas in the direction of Jurboks. The main building of the palace complex in Czerwony Dwor is a castle from the second half of the 17th century with a tower. The manor house consists of a palace, a 3.8 ha park with two outbuildings, an orangery, stables and a glacier.
The construction of the castle in Czerwony Dwor in the second half of the 16th century began by Wojciech Dziewałtowski, the Kaunas subcommittee. Later the castle-palace complex was successively owned by the most famous Lithuanian magnates: Jan Eustachy Kossakowski, Janusz Radziwiłł, Jan Karol Worlowski, Antoni, Józef, Henryk, Kazimierz Zabiello, Michał, Benedict Emanuel and Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz. The architecture of the castle-palace complex in Czerwony Dwor is the most visible traces of the activities of the Tyszkiewicz, the last owners of the palace. After a fire in 1831, in which wooden court buildings burned down, Count Benedict Emanuel Tyszkiewicz built a new palace, brick. The castle became then a magnificent residence, where rich collections of paintings, works of art, rare books, exotic plants and animals were collected.
The palace and court buildings in Czerwon Dwór have been restored in the last few years. The Kaunas Tourist Information Center is currently operating in the former ice rink. In the palace they found headquarters: Juozasa Naujalis, Museum of Culture and Court Painting, Office of Civil Status. There are conference rooms, a hotel and – in basements – ballrooms. In the stables and coaching room the Art Incubator has opened with a theater and concert hall for 500 seats, there is a gallery of photography and art, studios and apartments for temporary artists staying.
During the Christmas holidays there are many interesting projects in Red Dwor. In the Art Incubator there are concerts. For children and adults, trips are organized on the grounds of the former Tyszkiewicz estate, during which the Old Keyman talks about the castle and its inhabitants, the tasting of the Tyszkiewicz cuisine is taking place in the cellars of the palace. Santa Claus is waiting for the children in Red Court. The cycle of Christmas attractions will last until 5 January inclusive.
I’ve been revising my cemeteries/graveyards book, yclept Remembered, and just sent it off to Blurb for a test print. It’s the first I’ve composed with InDesign (and yes, I DID finally solve the vexatious Adobe/Amazon snaggle, by getting my “subscription” via Adobe, a deal with Lucifer himself… but not without many calls to Customer Service and much grinding of back teeth). Remembered v2.0 can be downloaded (it’s a BIG file, a pdf of 150 pages) by any enthusiasts out there. I’m sure it will be further revised once I can see it in print, and in the light of future skulkings in graveyards.
For the last few days I’ve been transfixed by a skein of mysteries connected to a grave site in Père Lachaise:
The questions at issue have changed as I’ve excavated bits of fact and built new conjectures from successive discoveries, and I need to go beyond the summary I’ve been writing for the currently-under-development v2.0 of Remembered: a graveyard book v1.0. The actors in this particular drama are:
- Clara Elizabeth Peabody Bancroft (1826-1882), the lady of the statue
- Edward Payson Bancroft (1823-1865), her husband
- Elizabeth Bancroft Tyszkiewicz (1857-1883), their daughter (also known as Klara Elżbieta Tyszkiewicz – Łohojska)
- Count Benoit [Benedyk Henryk] Tyszkiewicz (1852-1935), husband of Elizabeth Bancroft Tyszkiewicz
- their children Benedykt Jan Tyszkiewicz (1875-1948), Edward Tyszkiewicz (1880-1951), and Elizabeth Marie Tyszkiewicz Plater-Zybeck (1882-1969)
- …and several other relatives of the above
The dates of death of the first three are the armature of the unfolding saga: it seems that Edward and Clara Bancroft were touring Europe in 1865, when Edward died in Naples (of what we don’t know, but he was subsequently interred in Mount Auburn cemetery). Clara herself was a wealthy widow when she died in Paris in 1882, and her daughter Elizabeth inherited a bundle but died in Switzerland in 1883, but (according to the plaque on Clara’s monument) her last wishes were that her mother’s tomb include a statue depicting her strewing roses:
Son gendre et ses petits enfants pour accomplir les dernières volontés de sa fille la comtesse Tyszkiewicz ont élevé ce monument témoignage d’un vieux souvenir
Her son-in-law and grandchildren, to fulfill the last wishes of her daughter the countess Tyszkiewicz, have raised this monument in witness of an old memory
The very opulence of the statue is reason enough to inquire further, but it’s as difficult to know where to start as when to stop the inquiry. Among the questions that arise (and that Google isn’t quite helpful enough with): how did Clara Peabody (a daughter of a mildly distinguished New Hampshire family) and Edward Bancroft (a very young Boston “broker”, possibly of stocks but maybe of Civil War-era cotton) meet and come to marry? What made the considerable fortune that Clara Bancroft inherited on her husband’s death? How did their daughter come to meet and subsequently marry a very young Polish count? Of what did the Countess Tyszkiewicz die (possibly TB? or some after-effects of the birth of her daughter?) and where is she buried? What happened afterwards in the lives of the Count and his children? How did the Count’s estates fare in the catastrophes of 20th century Poland?
As I’ve said in Remembered, this is all the stuff of a story that might be written by Somerset Maugham or Saki, and just the sort of digression that I’m susceptible to. Along the way I’ve been enticed into exploring the worlds of 19th century Polish nobility, Civil War banking in Boston, naval architecture (the Count commissioned the construction of a moderately famous yacht), sugar beets (the Count was evidently deeply involved in their cultivation on his estates in the 1890s), lawsuits (the three Tyszkiewicz children attempting unsuccessfully to get at the principal of their grandmother’s trust fund, of which they were the beneficiaries), and the online versions of the Almanach de Gotha. Each of those raises more questions than it answers, and a passage I read just this morning seems especially trenchant:
Archeology is always an encounter between a fixed past and a shifting present; we bring to it our fantasies, prejudices, and predilections—this year different from last year, next year different again. (Charlotte Higgins, New Yorker blog, 3 June 2016)
The trouble, or perhaps it’s the wonder, or the joy, is that pretty much each photograph in Remembered inspires or demands similar searchings and findings. That being the case, the revision of Remembered is proceeding more slowly than I’d wish.