The Angel of Grief
By Jay Jensen
Although their names are not widely known, William Wetmore Story and his wife, Emelyn Story, lived a remarkable life together. William was always destined for greatness, though many around him were surprised by the unorthodox path he took to attain it. The son of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, William was groomed for an elite career in law. His Harvard education, feverish work ethic and bewildering intelligence gave him all the advantages necessary to build a life of great eminence. He was admired for his essays and sculptures by such well-known people as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and even Pope Pius IX, but it was in Emelyn that William found his equal.
Married in 1843, the couple moved to Rome in the 1850s and resided in a 40-room apartment in the Barberini Palace. The hospitality they extended to visiting American diplomats and luminaries became renowned the world over. It seems that Emelyn was Williams partner in all of his artistic endeavors and the one who spurred him on to greatness. In a remembrance of William, Henry James recalled that Emelyn was a presence indefatigably active and pervasive, in a large measure of what was best and happiest in Williams career. William was fond of telling James that Emelyn was My life, my joy, my star and help in all things.
In an era when marriages were based in the consolidation of property as much as of affections, and when most died before they reached 50, it was rare for a couple so deeply in love to share such a long life together. Surely, the Storys comprehended the unusual nature of their happiness. And so, when Emelyn died in 1895 at the age of 74, Williams children beseeched him to erect a monument to her memory. Paralyzed with grief, William struggled to craft a statue to match the enormity of his loss. Bereft of his muse, the master sculptor had the stamina for one remaining deed.
Shortly after completing his haunting statue of the Angel of Grief, William died.
The statue still rests beside Emelyns grave in the Protestant cemetery in Rome, and has been the source of inspiration for dozens of replicas around the world. In this way, the bereaved pose of the angel could be said to extend far beyond Emelyns tomb.
At Oakland Fraternal Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas one impressive replica mourns over the Steen family. Sadly, unlike Williams statue for Emelyn, the story behind the Steen Monument in Little Rock is largely lost to history.
Replicas can be found in Houston and one, even in Dallas, Waco, Dennison, Brenham and Scottsville Texas.
The original Angel of Grief monument stands at the Protestant Cemetery, Rome, below is a list of replicas from around the world.
- British Columbia- North Vancouver Cemetery Vancouver
- Quebec – Remillard family monument, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery in Mt. Royal Park, Montreal
- Cementerio General, San José, Costa Rica
- Bettendorf-Hausse monument, Notre-Dame Cemetery, Limpertsberg
- Arkansas – Steen monument, Oakland Cemetery, Little Rock
- Henry Lathrop monument, profile view, at Stanford University
- Chapel of the Chimes, Hayward – Dr. Mary S. Ertl cenotaph (she is interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale), Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood
- Henry Lathrop monument, Stanford Arboretum, Stanford University. Brother to Jane Stanford, Stanford University co-founder. The original replica was built in 1901, but was severely damaged in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, leading to its replacement in 1908. After years of neglect, the 1908 replacement was fully restored in 2001.
- Jennie Roosevelt Pool monument, Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma. Cousin of Theodore Roosevelt.
- Simpson family monument, Chico Cemetery, Chico
- Actor Victor Mature’s family monument, St. Michael Cemetery, Louisville
- Philanthropist Chapman H. Hyams’ family tomb, Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans
- Hayen family monument, Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore
- Maria Hooper monument, Hingham Cemetery, Hingham
- McMillan family monument, Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery, Aberdeen
- Teasdale family monument, Friendship Cemetery, Columbus
- Hyland-Carney family monument, Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis
- Trorlicht family monument, Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis
- Marion Groze Monument, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Florence
- Cassard family monument, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
- O’Donohue monument, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
- DiCesare family monument, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Rochester
- Blair Ciallela monument, Longwood Cemetery, Kennett Square
- Frey monument, Prospect Hill Cemetery, York
- Desrochers monument, Precious Blood Cemetery, Woonsocket
- Blakeney monument, Grove Hill Cemetery, Dallas
- Davila monument, Holy Cross Cemetery, Waco
- Rosa Lee Eissler monument, Prairie Lea Cemetery, Brenham
- Pastore family monument, Calvary Cemetery, Denison
- William Youree monument, Scottsville-Youree Cemetery, Scottsville. Son of Shreveport banker Peter Youree.
- Gloria L. Cheng monument, Glenwood Cemetery, Houston
- Hill family monument, Glenwood Cemetery, Houston
- Melcher monument, Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, Houston
- Gutierrez monument (pre-need?), Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, Houston
- Presbyterian Cemetery. Lynchburg, Virginia
- Kelly Lee Loose Reynolds Bustamante monument. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia