Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thomas Hinde

Most authors have at one time or another been advised to remove from their book delicious pieces of corroborative detail. The editor’s argument for pruning is usually irresistible. This makes it worse. More often than not those picturesque details were the product of long days spent squinting into the gloom of an ancient, grubby microfilm reader. And when cut from the final text, they seem destined to be lost forever, unless…

Unless you seize the opportunity to dust them off, and post them on your blog. For example, the following item had to be removed from a book of mine about nineteenth-century British painting. It is an epitaph in the churchyard at Bolsover, Derbyshire. Recorded by William Andrews in his indispensible Curious Epitaphs Collected From the Graveyards of Great Britain and Ireland, with Biographical, Genealogical and Historical Notes (London: Hamilton, Adams, 1883), the stone inscription brings into startling focus that pious, essentially resilient, and surprisingly good-humored manner in which the Victorians faced calamity, in this case the sudden death of a young man of considerable promise:
Here lies, in a horizontal position, the outside case of Thomas Hinde, clock and watch-maker, who departed this life, wound up in hope of being taken in hand by his master, and being thoroughly cleaned, repaired, and set a-going in the world to come, on the 15th of August, 1836, in the 19th year of his age.

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