Friday, November 15, 2013

Sara and Her Babe

When twenty-six year old Sara Weed died in childbirth, her husband William commissioned William Gray to create this monument.  The soaring marble shaft bears the words Sara and Her Babe and it is topped by a figure of a robed woman cradling a bottle close to her face. 

The touching to a tribute to a wife and stillborn child was described by Edward Fitzgerald wrote in his Handbook For The Albany Rural Cemetery:

Many ridiculous notions have prevailed concerning the meaning of the figure by which it is surmountedIt is intended to illustrated some Scriptural ideal; but what that ideal is, we have been unable to discover.  The memorial is very neat and appropriate.

The ridiculous notion mentioned by Fitzgerald refers to the publication of a cheap paperback novel entitled Sara and Her Babe.  The book told the sordid tale of a lovely young woman who met an early death thanks to a love of rum.  According to the book, the statue of Sara cradling her bottle of rum and that her grieving husband erected the monument to warn others of the dangerous of drink.
The bottle held by the marble lady is actually a "tear bottle."  Also known as a lachyrmatory, these vessels were used to collect a mourner's tears.  They were popular in Ancient Rome and again came into fashion for a time in the 19th-century.  It's certainly not a bottle of rum!

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