Category Archives: thanatos

On the Bancroft-Tyszkiewicz Account

I was first drawn to this family saga by seeing Clara Peabody Bancroft’s over-the-top memorial at Pere Lachaise:


PereLachaise9

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:

Bancroft2

Edward Bancroft

Departed this life at
Naples Italy
in the morning of Sunday
February 19 1865 Aged 42
By his own request his body
reposes here

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


Bancroft1
upon which are inscribed the names of the various Bancrofts, but only Edward is actually in residence, and all of them enjoyed post-mortem travels (Edward’s wife Clara died in Switzerland but is interred at Pere Lachaise; their daughter Clara died in Switzerland but reposes in Czerwony Dwor, the seat of the Tyszkiewicz family).

Bancroft3

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 [1884] et du Photo-club de Paris [1898]).

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.

Family

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.

v2.0 sent off to Blurb

Montparnasse56

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.

Bancroft and Tyszkiewicz

For the last few days I’ve been transfixed by a skein of mysteries connected to a grave site in Père Lachaise:
Clara's tomb
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.

Siblime and Ridiculous grade into each other

Lowell Cemetery

I spent the weekend in Massachusetts, much of the time skulking in graveyards with intent to depict. Lots of food for thought in my Flickr photostream, as I try to work out where this Remembered project is headed.

I visited the South Duxbury graveyard which was my own introduction to such spaces, probably before 1950.

Myles Standish grave

I remember that I was impressed that Myles Standish was an Ancestor, dead almost 300 years (at the time, he having died in 1656) but still alive and well to me because of the nearby Standish Monument, not half a mile from the place we spent summers in the 40s and 50s, and about the same distance from the site of his house on the shore. Of course there was a healthy dose of bogosity in the whole Longfellow-induced Standishmania thing, but I didn’t know that then.

I stopped to check on the house where I had summered and was astounded to find it gone, replaced by a town-owned park. The vastly ancient cedar tree on the shore is all that remains, and a herd of goats had been brought in to eradicate the infinitude of cat briars that infested the woods when I was last there, probably 8 years ago. It’s a lovely site, and far better that it’s a park than replaced by another of the mogul homes that have sprung up all over Duxbury. Still, it does put one through Changes (as they used to say) to find the world changed out from under. The tree as it was in 1947 is behind the Author:


early yoga

The passing of Billy the Painter

Obituaries are gold mines of socio-cultural Data, especially when one alters the focus from the facts presented about the deceased to the context in which he or she lived. I first started to accumulate Nova Scotia obituaries 35+ years ago, with an eye to demographic details (especially re: migration), and I regret that I was less than systematic in pursuit of these delicious data. My friend Carolyn Littlejohns forwarded this one, a gem of the genre from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald of Thursday Jan 31, replete with Canadianisms and Maritime syntax:


MacDONALD, William Alexander “Billy the Painter” – 88, 17 Sylvan Valley Rd., Antigonish Co., died Tuesday, January 29, 2008, in St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, Antigonish. Born in Antigonish, he was a son of the late James “Jim the Painter” and Jessie Ann (MacRae) MacDonald. Bill received his education at Morrison School, Antigonish, where he also enjoyed playing hockey. He joined the Canadian Army in 1939 and was stationed in Auld’s Cove, St. John’s and Botwood, N.L. In 1943 he went overseas and was seriously wounded in Falaise, France. Upon returning to Canada, Bill was employed as a painter. While painting the R.K. MacDonald Guest Home, the scaffolding collapsed which left him unable to walk. However, with grit and determination, he overcame this obstacle and walked again. He loved hunting, fishing, fly tying, horse racing and playing the bagpipes. He retired from the federal government after over 25 years of service. He was a member of Arras Branch No. 59, Royal Canadian Legion, Antigonish, the Antigonish Pipe Band and St. Ninian’s Parish. Bill will be very much missed by his family, Charlie the cat, and the “boys at the mall”. Surviving are his wife, the former Nan MacPherson; daughters, Barbara, Saudi Arabia; Alexina, Halifax; Lynn (Brian Quinlan), Scarborough, Ont.; son, John (Joy), Antigonish; grandchildren, Jessa, Alexander, Jade, Brooke; brothers, James, Antigonish; Jobie, North Grant, Antigonish Co.; Lewis, Clydesdale, Antigonish Co.; sisters, Mary LaBrosse, Antigonish; Roberta McFadden, Woburn, Mass.; Jessie Sears, Antigonish; a number of nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by sisters, Sarah Lonergan, Gertye MacPherson, Teresa DuFresne; two brothers in infancy. The family would like to give a thank you to the VON and the nurses at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital for their help and support. Visitation 2-4, 7-9 p.m. today in MacIsaac Funeral Home, 61 Pleasant St., Antigonish. Mass of Christian Burial will be Friday at 11 a.m. in St. Ninian’s Cathedral, Antigonish, Rev. Martin MacDougall presiding. Burial at a later date in St. Ninian’s Cemetery. Memorial donations to St. Ninian’s Restoration Fund. (source)

It’s all here: his sibling set stayed in Antigonish, except for a sister who escaped to the Boston States; his children left Antigonish (all but one) for various greener pastures. In an environment where there are scores of people named “William MacDonald” it’s common to have specifiers like “the Painter” (“the Dancer”, “the Piper”) added to make it quite clear which Billy is the focus of a story. If I had nothing else to do, I’d get out the box of collected obits and extract a few more stories…