As I once walked the grounds of Mt. Hebron contemplating my mortality, I spotted a boy sitting on one of the monuments in the distance. Scenting a treasure and coming closer, I discovered the heilige Kuh! monument (figure 1) of David Brevitt Glaize, only child of David S. and Elizabeth B. Glaize, 1888-1905. He died about a fortnight after his 17th birthday. His obituary (figure 14) notes that “his parents idolized him.”
The grief of a parent for a dead child is compounded, as they say, by the overturning of nature’s normal order. The Glaizes worked through their grief by erecting a monument to Brevitt (as he was called), and luckily for us, they were the sort of people who confounded sentiment with conspicuous consumption.
A plinth on a granite base holds two inscriptions, one anagraphic (figure 10), one a hymn (figure 12). Both testify to the culture of the family, as we’ll see. Above the plinth is a (I think) monolithic marble monument, the centerpiece of which is a life-size standing portrait of Brevitt. The monument is in great need of a gentle but thorough cleaning.
It’s a fine portrait, and two childhood photos (figures 2-3), taking age into account, appear to confirm that it is more-or-less lifelike—all three images seem to reveal an overbite, for example.
As we would perhaps expect, the Glaizes have had their son carved with the outward signs of their wealth—Senior was a businessman. In commemorating Brevitt, he was also emphatically commemorating the social position of his family. One notes that the Glaize family were pioneers in the Shenandoah and are, as they say, “in the book,” the Debrett’s Guide, if you will, of Frederick County, Virginia (figure 4).
Brevitt’s head has a cap of hair parted in the middle (over the inner corner of the left eye, actually) and slicked back in long strands. The hair is cut very short around the ears. We might call it “The Mencken” (figure 5).
Like Mencken, Brevitt’s gaze and the way he holds his face give nothing away. The face is thin and longer than Mencken’s, and still exhibits some baby fat around the jowls (figure 1).
Brevitt’s collar is much like Mencken’s, though the latter has his tie pulled up tighter and Brevitt’s collar looks to me very slightly rounded at the points. The dimples below the tie’s knot are the same. If I am not mistaken, the way Brevitt’s tie is somewhat pulled inward at the bottom of the knot betrays the notional presence of a fashionable tie pin.
The clothing is deeply layered, showing off a maximum of soft, luxuriant cloth with varying textures (figure 6). There is a shirt, of course, and then a vest, followed by a coat and an overcoat.
It is a great pity the statue is so dirty, because the sculptor has been quite diligent about rendering fabric texture, seams and hems (figure 6). The thick cloth rolls, and the overcoat has cloth-covered buttons. One recalls the family portrait above with Brevitt, age 5 with a miniature walking stick (figure 3).
The figure is carved so that the stance is delicate. The hands are shown lightly draped on the stone, not laboriously supporting or stabilizing the figure (figure 7).
The shoes are carried out with the same attention as the clothing, and the pant legs break perfectly over them (figure 8). A similar shoe may be seen in the Simpson Company’s fall-winter 1918-19 catalog (figure 9).
The sculptor has taken the weight off the left leg (figures 1, 8), which is in repose so as to permit an interesting play of folds in the pant leg. As with the hand lightly draped on the rock, the foot is attached to the ground, but the ground is raised. The point in both was the technical one of keeping the stone connections as robust as possible for stability’s sake, while trying to make the extremities seem to float or just graze the surfaces.
The anagraphic inscription (figure 10) was somewhat spoiled when the Glaizes placed their own monument right in front of it. The bare dates are given above, but there is a quotation from the early Romantic poet Anna Laetitia Barbauld‘s poem Life: “Say not ‘good night’ but in some brighter clime, bid me ‘good morning’” (figure 11).
On the square end of the monument is an abridgment of the hymn Confided by the not uninteresting John Banister Tabb (figures 12, 13). The Pedia of Wiki notes: “Born into one of Virginia’s oldest and wealthiest families, he became a blockade runner for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and spent eight months in a Union prison camp . . . . he converted to the Roman Catholic Church in 1872, and began to teach Greek and English at Saint Charles College (Ellicott City, Maryland) in 1878.” In fact, he was imprisoned in the infamous Point Lookout Prisoner of War Camp according to the article on him in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
You can see why David S. Glaize found Tabb congenial: both were from wealthy Virginia families, both served in the great (Civil) war, and both were interned in Union prison camps (Glaize in Camp Chase, near Columbus, Ohio). Why drop the last line of Tabb’s poem on the tomb? (cf. figures 12, 13) My surmise is that whereas the poem as written reveals in the final line that the mother of the dead child is the speaker, on the tomb the Glaizes, conscious of their mutual grief, pulled back and left the speaker indeterminate, or rather, let it potentially be either of them.
The plaque notionally resting against the front of the monument reading BREVITT (figure 15) points to his extinction, but given his parents’ obvious culture, it might well have been a word play on the Latin adjective brevis, ‘short.’
Still, maybe we can take this a little further. What is the occasion on which we witness Brevitt on his monument? I think if we assemble the clues, we might be able to figure it out. The obituary vaguely mentions “spinal trouble,” which carries the subtext ‘paralysis.’ Brevitt, on the other hand, has been painstakingly rendered as graceful and nimble in his pose, shifting his weight on one foot, and delicately holding the rock with his hands. It says nothing so much as ‘paralysis defeated’ or ‘defied.’
There is also the problem posed by the BREVITT plaque on the monument (figure 15). The word is askew, so that the plaque doesn’t seem to be intended to be read as an actual rectilinear ticket reading BREVITT.
Rather, it seems more like a stylized broken part of an architectural structure that bore the name. It seems to me that that structure must be Brevitt’s notional tomb. He’s broken from the tomb in resurrection, nimble and free of paralysis, and the shards of his former life as a cadaver lie tossed aside at his feet. That he appears to emerge from a rock-cut tomb has Christ-ian implications.
As a final palate cleanser, see the tombstone of Brevitt’s parents in figure 16.