The Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story is one of the most evocative stone carvings of the late nineteenth century. It became so famous that the term has become synonymous with many grave stones erected in Story’s style. William Wetmore Story was born in 1819 in Boston, educated at Harvard and his father was Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. A child of privilege; as his life developed he was surrounded by influential people like Robert Browning, Thackeray, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hans Christian Anderson, Henry James, and James Russell Lowell. William had a successful law career and was a published poet and essayist, but also pursued sculpture as a hobby. The hobby took on new meaning in 1845, when he was commissioned to execute a monument in memory of his father. This commission combined with a bout of typhoid fever caused Story to leave his law practice and pursue sculpting full time.
|William W. Story ca. 1885|
William Story married the love of his life Emelyn Eldredge in 1843. Together they had three accomplished children and their home in Rome became world famous for its hospitality. Their hospitality was helped by the fact that their “home” was a forty room apartment in the Barberini Palace, one of the most important examples of Baroque architecture in Rome. It was begun in 1625 and built according to the desires of Urban VIII, the Barberini pope.
In 1884, William Story penned a letter to: My Dear Mrs. Ben-Hur. In this letter Story noted how touched he had been by a letter from Susan Wallace and he apologized for his delay in responding. He blamed his delay on the desire to finish reading Ben-Hur before writing. He said that with all of the interruptions of his life he just could not find time for the book until he and his wife decided to read the story aloud to each other. They developed a deep and sustained interest in the vivid prose and both felt great regret as they finished the last page.
The relationship continued through letters between the families. In 1886, Mrs. Story wrote in a long letter to Susan Wallace: “Many a time, impatient of the silence which has come between us, have I wished to break it on my side, but so vague was my knowledge of your whereabouts that I was frightened about launching into infinite space my little skiff. Your most kind letter came and helps me to find you out. . . . The book of books [Ben-Hur] of this age read aloud for the second time has lost none of its rare charm and it is beyond words to say how greatly we prize it. All our English friends to whom we have introduced it join in this chorus and its reputation is fast growing there as in America. . . . I do not like you to think that being snugly settled in your old home, ‘outre mer,’ we are not likely soon to see you in Rome, but we cling to the hope that it is not impossible. . . .How pleasant had we hope of seeing you there [Plazzo Barberini] this winter, I do not like to wait too long for my good things, but am impatient in my old age to snatch them up lest the escape me altogether.”
|Angel of Grief created by William W. Story|
to mark the grave of his wife.
Letter from Anne Hampton Brewer to Susan Wallace, March 11, 1883
Articles by Joann Spragg, Journal Review, August 18, 2000 & September 21, 2000
Susan Wallace, Along the Bosphorus, Rand McNally & Co., New York & Chicago, 1898.
The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.