My best essays

I publish nothing at Syngrammata that is not fun for me to write and think about, and I hope that everything I write finds at least a small suitable audience. Still, some of my posts are weightier than others. Some, I think, are actually quite good. The following are what I’d recommend if you want to chew on something fairly substantial: they are my best.

The Astonishing Sons of Maryland Monument in Loudon Park National Cemetery, Baltimore.

Kaspar Buberl created an astonishing series of terra cotta relief panels for the Pensions Office (now the National Building Museum) in Washington. Several of these panels were taken and lightly adapted for a much smaller but still striking monument in Loudon Park National Cemetery. I think mine is the first detailed treatment of the monument.

The Brevitt Glaize portrait in Mt. Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, VA.

I don’t think anyone had treated this monument in any detail before I did. It’s a must-see work in a great, great cemetery.

Pocahontas!

Who calls their kid Pocahontas? Well, lots of people, and we can chart the rising (and falling) tide of the name’s popularity.

Charles Ladislaus Council Rogers Bass funerary portrait.

I solved a thorny epigraphical problem: Ladislaus is the correct reading for the stone’s mangled Ladiolans.

Some notes on Jerry Goldsmith’s Poltergeist score.

The final track as the Freelings leave suburbia contains a dark ostinato theme that’s an inversion of the chipper initial suburbia theme. I don’t think anyone ever saw that before.

A Sullivanesque mausoleum in Bala Cynwyd.

I think mine is the first conscious and detailed comparison of this West Laurel Hill mausoleum with Sullivan’s work.

The artist, the grave, and the sonnet.

One of my favorites. A lot of my pet interests come together in this essay.

Monumentum mortuis ignotis Terrae Mariae qui bello civili ceciderunt dedicatum.

If you’re up for some Latin, this is, I think, a good essay on the monument to Maryland’s unknown civil war dead in Loudon Park National Cemetery.

Laurel Glen Mausoleum.

This astonishing mausoleum is a hoary stop for taphophiles, but I have given what I think is the first accurate description of the interior.

The corner problem.

This essay is your chance to learn about (wait for it) “the corner problem,” a genuinely interesting development in Greek architecture still very much felt today.

Hurrah for Harrah!

Two genuinely important nineteenth-century portrait busts reside behind closed doors in West Laurel Hill. Luckily I was able to get photos through cracks in the doors.

An interesting and malleable monument type.

I am fascinated by this important monument design and have tracked down numerous examples. It’s a work in progress, and I will be superseding it with a more formal treatment soon.

Aspirations.

I found a hitherto unreported variant of this important statue by Harriet Frischmuth in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, MD. I collect some old evidence for other, now largely forgotten versions, too.

Phidippides and the victory motive.

The palm and the laurels are constant symbols of victory. An unstudied statue by Hans Schuler in Druid Ridge in Pikesville, MD, offers a perfect opportunity to explore this motive in detail.

The Liscum monument.

An understudied but very great monument in Arlington National Cemetery compared with sources for its design.

The Darians, the Eloi, and the Golgafrinchans.

If you like Space: 1999 and other space-ark stories, you’ll find this really interesting.

Santa Costanza in Rome and San Michele Arcangelo in Perugia.

Although set out in ordinary language, this is one of the two or three most scholarly works I’ve published here. In sum, I argue that the Perusine church consciously looks back to the Roman one as a design source.

Carr-nival!

Julian Shakespeare Carr was the creater of one of the most complicated and interesting “project” gravesite ensembles known to me. A “project” results when a bereaved throws a sack of money at commemoration out of misdirected grief and self-regard.

Siegesgöttin.

I trace the hitherto unremarked ancient origin of the iconography of a modest tomb in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, N.Y.

What Robert E. Lee can learn from Mussolini.

This is the best thing I’ve written here, an extended meditation on what to do about old monuments out of step with the times. Some may find my argument not to destroy or displace monuments, even ones to Confederates, to be quixotic.

Missteps.

A detailed examination of the most elaborate vernacular “project” gravesite I know of. It actually must be seen and studied to be believed!

Old Mortality.

A relief on a funerary monument in Wilkes-Barre’s Hollenback Cemetery was directly influenced by the original in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery, which commemorates Sir Walter Scott’s character “Old Mortality,” from the story of the same name.

Latrobe, step aside!

Benjamin Latrobe famously created tobacco-leaf and corn-cob capitals for the U.S. Capitol. These are routinely celebrated as America’s sole contributions to classical architectural forms. But in fact, I found two examples of a third American classical motif, the oak leaf capital. Have a look at this original contribution to the study of American classical architecture.

The most wonderful mausoleum in the world.

The Mathews mausoleum in Nisky Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania contains an astounding and significant giant colored glass photographic positive window in the rear of the mausoleum. It appears to show a turn of the twentieth-century boating expedition by members of the deceased’s family. This is the first significant treatment of this important work of art which must be preserved, the more so since somebody has already put a bullet through it.

Notre Dame de Scranton.

Scranton unexpectedly has a revival of a high-Gothic cathedral complete with flying buttresses. I was in danger of driving off the road when I first saw it.

John Mitchell Monument, Scranton.

Not to the luckless attorney general but a mining union organizer. The Mitchell monument sports a significant relief on its rear, for which I offer the first detailed treatment.

The Rev. Leonard Black Monument.

Black led a fascinating life from birth into slavery in 1820 to death as a widely admired pastor in 1883. His monument in People’s Memorial Cemetery is one of a very few (at most) nineteenth-century funerary portraits of a Black American and demands careful attention.

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