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Grief: 1915

Grief: 1915

Washington, D.C., circa 1915. "Grief monument, Rock Creek cemetery." The timeless memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. National Photo. View full size.


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"Good Grief, Augustus," said Mr. Adams

While frequently called "Grief," this name, and other such colloquial names, was abhorred by the statues patron. The title given to it by its sculptor is "The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding."

Henry Brooks Adams, the man who commissioned the monument to his late wife Marian "Clover" Hooper Adams, wrote the following in 1924 to Homer Saint-Gaudens (the sculptor's son).

"Do not allow the world to tag my figure with a name! Every magazine writer wants to label it as some American patent medicine for popular consumption - Grief, Despair, Pear's Soap, or Macy's Mens' Suits Made to Measure. Your father meant it to ask a question, not to give an answer; and the man who answers will be damned to eternity like the men who answered the Sphinx."

Henry Adams, a grandson of U.S. President John Quincy Adams, was a historian, and a political journalist. He died in 1918, and his memoirs won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize. He was buried beside his wife. The memorial was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Note that there is an unauthorized copy of the Saint-Gaudens statue which was once located at the grave site of Brigadier General Felix Angus and known as the "Black Aggie" (it was on gray marble base instead of the light pink marble of the original). This version, sculpted by Edward Pausch, was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1967 by the Angus family because of the unwanted attention it brought to the Angus grave site after the statue's location was said to be haunted. The "Black Aggie" currently resides in the rear courtyard at the Dolley Madison House in Washington, D.C.

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