Sayles is a multi-use space prominently used for lectures. Camille Paglia and Graham Chapman spoke there (or tried to) during my years on campus.
If you look at the image of the interior (figure 2) you will see at far left a painting of Vartan Gregorian (figure 3), who was university president in the day.
The Richardsonian Romanesque building was designed by Alpheus C. Morse and erected in the years 1878-1880. The building was funded by a 1878 gift from William F. Sayles in honor of his son, William C. Sayles (1855-1876), who was a student at Brown when he died. The inscription over the door states, “FILIO PATER POSUIT MDCCCLXXX” (the father erected this for his son, 1880). There is a rather full account of the building and the Sayles’ involvement and the prized organ within the building in the Encyclopedia Brunoniana.
What of these Saylesmen? I recently came across their extensive memorial plot in Providence’s Swan Point Cemetery. The plot is so large, occupying a coveted circular plot, that I could not back up far enough to photograph it entirely with a 24 mm lens (figure 4).
Many members of the family cluster around the two principal monuments within the complex. On the right, in a Greek(-ish) temple (or canopy) is Sayles pater, and on the left, marked by a bronze statue, is Sayles filius.
The inscription on the obverse of the stela inside the monument is (figure 6):
Frederick Clark Sayles
July 17 1835
January 5 1903
Deborah Cook Wilcox
November 26 1841
November 25 1895
October 31 1871
May 30 1873
Caroline Sayles Chittenden
January 14 1866
March 10 1910
On the left of the plot is the monument of William C. Sayles (figure 7):
William Clarke Sayles,
William F. and Mary W.
Oct. 12, 1855 • Feb. 13, 1876.
On a short plinth stands a statue, and on the sides of the plinth are cut the following words (/ = transition to new side):
Ego sum resurrectio et vita. / Qui credit in me, / Etiam si mortuus fuerit vivet. / Non censet Lugendam esse mortem Quam immortalitas sequatur.
That’s John 11:25 followed by an adapted snippet from Cicero’s De Senectute 73-4 offering Cicero’s explanation for a quotation of Ennius:
Sed haud scio an melius Ennius :
nemo me lacrumis decoret, neque funera fletu faxit.
Non censet lugendam esse mortem, quam immortalitas consequatur.
“But maybe Ennius [expressed the thought] better:
‘Let no one honor me with tears, nor make a weepfest out
of my funeral.’
He thinks that a death followed by immortality ought not to be mourned.”
A monkish, bookish, thoughtful, barefooted lad was William C.! The statue was created by Henry Baerer in 1878.
The statue is really quite good, an idealized portrait conveying Sayles minor’s devotion to his studies. Only his school chums could tell us if that idealized portrait veers into fantasyland in order to soothe a grieving parent. My lived experience was that Brown undergraduates had a pretty good time—alongside, I hasten to add, their chaste and monkish studies.