Since 1987 I have thought Sayles Memorial Hall (figure 1) the finest building on the campus of Brown University.

Figure 1. Sayles Hall, Brown University, Providence, RI. Photo: Kenneth Zirkel. CC-BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Figure 2. Sayles Hall interior, Brown University, Providence, RI. Photo: Kenneth Zirkel. CC-BY-SA 4.0. Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Figure 3. Portrait of President Vartan Gregorian in Sayles Memorial Hall, Brown University, Providence, RI. Photo: author.

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).

Figure 4. Sayles plot, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI. Photo: author.

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.

Figure 5. William F. Sayles monument. Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI. Photo: author.

The inscription on the obverse of the stela inside the monument is (figure 6):

Frederick Clark Sayles
July 17 1835
January 5 1903
————
His Wife
Deborah Cook Wilcox
November 26 1841
November 25 1895
————
Their Son
Benjamin Paris
October 31 1871
May 30 1873
————
Their Daughter
Caroline Sayles Chittenden
January 14 1866
March 10 1910

Figure 6. Stela in William F. Sayles monument. Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI. Photo: author.

On the left of the plot is the monument of William C. Sayles (figure 7):

William Clarke Sayles,
son of
William F. and Mary W.
Sayles.
Oct. 12, 1855 • Feb. 13, 1876.

Figure 7. William C. Sayles monument. Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI. Photo: author.

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.”

Figure 8. William C. Sayles monument. Statue. Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI. Photo: author.

A monkish, bookish, thoughtful, barefooted lad was William C.! The statue was created by Henry Baerer in 1878.

Figure 9. William C. Sayles monument. Inscribed name of sculptor. Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI. Photo: author.

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.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: