The First Violet.

I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog. 

The First Violet.

SPRING has come, dear mother!
I’ve a violet found,
Growing in its beauty
From the cold, dark ground.

You are sad, dear mother,
Tears are in your eye ;
You’re not glad to see it :
Mother, tell me why ?
I remember, –Last year,
Where our Willie lies,
Grew the earliest violet,
Blue as were his eyes.

Then you told me, mother,
That the flowers would fade,
And their withered blossoms
On the earth be laid.

But you said, as springtime
Would their buds restore,
Willie would in heaven
Be forevermore.

Weep no more, dear mother !
Violets are in bloom ;
And your darling Willie
Lives beyond the tomb.

Change Of Worlds. by Rev. J. N. Maffit.

I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog. 

Reverend John Newland Maffit was born in Ireland 1795. He emigrated to the United States in 1819 and became an increasingly successful preacher establishing the Western Methodist or Christian Advocate Church in 1833. He rose to national recognition with political influence. It is reported that he was a charismatic orator, with an engaging and dramatic flair; from his evocative, powerful prose below, I can believe this. His son of the same name was a famous Confederate Naval Officer in the American Civil War.

The introductory quote is taken from a hymn called Psalm 23 by the famous English hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748).

Change of Worlds.

“Though I walk through the gloomy vale,
Where death and all its terrors are,
My heart and hope shall never fail,
For God my shepherd’s with me there.”

THE shafts of death fall thick around us, and this charming world, like the field of strife, is strewn with the dead and dying. The mourners go about the street ; they follow the young, the lovely, the beautiful, the good, to their long home, — the silent grave. The mournful knell chimes to their measured pace, and mingles its sepulchral tone with the burst of sorrow.
But in all the circumstances of woe, attendant on the departure of those we love from the busy scenes of life, there is to the Christian much consolation, when he feels assured that they had witnessed a good confession. Seeing they have escaped these storms and billows of life’s tempestuous sea, and conscious that they are safe in the port of endless bliss, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are forever at rest, we feel resigned, — knowing that our loss is their infinite gain. Indeed, we rejoice, rather than mourn ; for truly our separation will be a very short one, and our meeting with happy connections, O how joyful ! Then shall we breathe our native air, and taste the fruit of that delightful clime where all is fertile, rich, and fragrant.
Among the many evidences of the power of Christianity, nothing can be more convincing than the last hours of a dying saint who bears a bright testimony to the truth of its doctrines. What a sublime scene ! Behold him on the margin of a river, wrapped about with the garments of salvation, and preparing to step into its cold waters. He enters, singing as he goes. The ministering angels pilot him over. He gains the opposite shore. Sister spirits welcome him home. He joins the celestial company. He mounts, he flies, he soars. He reaches his eternal home. He is forever at rest.

Smitten Of God. Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?

I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog. 

I find this lovely piece of prose quite fascinating. There is no author listed and no date, but the text appears to be referring to a number of deaths which occurred in the community within a few days. I suspect, as the author refers to the deceased as ‘tender flowers’, that they were possibly children. It is very moving.

The quotes used are not cited, but “why stand ye gazing up into heaven ?” is taken from Acts 1:11, two men (angels) in white robes ask this to the disciples who are still gazing skyward after Jesus’ rather rapid ascension. In full it reads: ‘Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manners as ye have seen him go into heaven.’ The quote “smitten of God, and bereaved” is from Isaiah 53:4. However, the quote “a gloom on the face of Nature” is a little more intriguing. It actually originates from a letter published in The Massachusetts Spy (a newspaper published by Isaiah Thomas). The letter was describing the infamous day of May 19, 1780 known as New England’s Dark Day. The Boston Chronicle of June 8 1780 quoted the Massachusetts Spy and in full it reads: ‘During the whole time a sickly, melancholy gloom overcast the face of nature. Nor was the darkness of the night less uncommon and terrifying than that of the day; notwithstanding there was almost a full moon, no object was discernible, but by the help of some artificial light, which when seen from the neighbouring houses and other places at a distance, appeared through a kind of Egyptian darkness, which seemed almost impervious to the rays. This unusual phenomenon excited the fears and apprehensions of many people. Some considered it as a portentous omen of the wrath of Heaven in vengeance denounced against the land, others as the immediate harbinger of the last day when ‘the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not giver her light.’ ” The last line is a quote from Mark 13:24. The writer is actually describing the effects of what sounds like a massive forest fire which occurred in Canada but whose thick smoke travelled south and darkened the sky of New England in what sounds like a most dramatic way. Many people interpreted this natural phenomenon as a religious warning. Therefore, the quote below does not necessarily date the prose to 1780, but could have been much later as this event of the Dark Day turned into folklore, and even more significantly, local religious discourse which would still have been familiar decades later. How utterly fascinating.

Smitten Of God.

“Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”

WHO has not felt, when one dearly beloved has been snatched away, an inclination to forget all the things of earth, and to stand idle, helpless, stricken, on the shores of Time ; gazing, longing after the lost, regardless of all that is left ; all love, all remembrance, all hope, swallowed up in the one agonized sense of bereavement ?
” Smitten of God, and bereaved ;” was not this, too written by one who knew of what he spoke ? who had felt the bitter pang of parting ; the awful sense of God’s agency in earthly sorrow ; the struggle between passionate regret and holy submission.
The human soul knows no variety in sorrow for the dead. Whatever else may change in the course of time, this remains the same throughout the ages. Paul, the sainted, the subdued, wrote not those tender words without a swelling of he heart ; and many a mourner since responds to them with tears.
Death has been busy, of late. Many a tender flower, many a “shining mark,” many a household stay and comfort, has he snatched away within a few short days. To many of our friends and fellow-citizens the bright spring heavens seem hung in black, and all the joyous associations that came up with the warm sunshine are changed to images of sadness and despondency. The idea of “a gloom on the face of Nature” is not a mere poetic fiction. To the mourner whose grief is in its fresh bitterness, there seems an absolutely perceptible shadow, like a pall of dark vapor, spread over the gayest objects. Nothing looks as it used. The heart sees not like the careless eyes. We feel as if the sun could never shine again for us.

Memento Mori in Jewellery: Anachronistic 1780s White Enamel Ring

Here is a re-posting of an indepth analysis of a spectacular and unique ring circa 1780 which Hayden Peters wrote for his fabulous site Art of Mourning. This ring, dedicated to Ann Staneway, is from my personal collection of mourning jewellery.  Enjoy!

Click here to read the post Memento Mori in Jewellery: Anachronistic 1780s White Enamel Ring Where Memento Mori Meets Neo-Classicism.

Anne Staneway 1780 OB 18 Mar 1780 AE 20

Ann Staneway OB 18 Mar 1780 AE 20

How Society Entered Mourning: c. 1680 – 1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring

Here is a re-posting of a terrific analysis of an early memento mori ring Hayden Peters wrote for his reference site Art of Mourning. This exquisite ring is from my own personal collection of mourning jewellery, and is a true delight to have.  Enjoy!

Click here to read How Society Entered Mourning.

A Memento Mori Mourning Ring c. 1680

A Memento Mori Mourning Ring c. 1680

Mourning, History & Jewellery in Boston

Mourning ring made for John Gray, the infant son of John and Mary (Otis) Gray, who died six days after his birth in September 1763. The ring is made of gold, with three joined enameled scrolls and large square crystal over gold foil skull set into raised, rayed mount flanked by two small round facet-cut crystals. Scrolls contain text in raised gold Roman capitals in black cloisonné enamel.: "J:GRAY OB.17.SEP.1763.AE 6D."

Mourning ring made for John Gray, the infant son of John and Mary (Otis) Gray, who died six days after his birth in September 1763. The ring is made of gold, with three joined enameled scrolls and large square crystal over gold foil skull set into raised, rayed mount flanked by two small round facet-cut crystals. Scrolls contain text in raised gold Roman capitals in black cloisonné enamel.: “J:GRAY OB.17.SEP.1763.AE 6D.”

Before it closes on the 31st January 2013 you must go and visit the exhibition In Death Lamented at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston – that is, if you are lucky enough to live close by!

Unfortunately we are based on the other side of the world, but I was wise enough to purchase a copy of the accompanying publication which I had to review on Amazon. I couldn’t help myself, I do that sort of thing.

Sarah Nehama I am proud to say has contributed to this blog. She is a jeweller herself and an avid collector of mourning jewellery, many pieces of hers you will see in the collection. She also authored the book. Here is a fascinating interview with her discussing mourning jewellery and items in the exhibition.

If you have seen the exhibit please let me know what you thought of it below in the comments. As a collector of mourning jewellery I would have loved to have seen it myself!

For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow: A portrait miniature

Here is a re-posting of a short piece I wrote for the fabulous site Art of Mourning. This portrait miniature of a very pink cheeked gent is from the MOLAM collection of yours truly. I’ve always felt kindly toward him, he seems so happy, and is a fitting face to wish all readers a  Happy New Year to all! Enjoy!

Click here to read the post For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow

A portrait miniature of a gentleman with hair verso, C. 1780 – 1810?