"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, July 30, 2016

John Howard Payne


This 1883 bust of John Howard Payne (1791-1852) by an unknown artist stands as his memorial in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, DC.
"John Howard Payne (1791-1852) was first known as an actor, but went on to write several plays with Washington Irving. The song from his play, 'Clari, the Maid of Milan' entitled 'Home, Sweet Home!' became a big hit during the 19th century. Payne later was appointed to the U.S. Foreign service by President Tyler and from 1842-1845 served as the U.S. consul in Tunis. President Fillmore reappointed him to that post in 1851, and it was in Tunis that Payne died in 1852. He was buried in Tunis, but W. W. Corcoran, founder of Oak Hill Cemetery and friend of Payne, had the body brought back and buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. Corcoran ordered the bust of Payne to depict him with a beard as he appeared in a Matthew Brady photograph. After the burial, rumor had it that Payne never wore a beard and the beard was shaved off of the bust by a Washington stonemason." -- SIRIS


The Washington Star, August 24, 1930, carried this image of the re-interment of Payne at Oak Hill on June 9, 1883.

Final interment of the remains of John Howard Payne in Oak Hill Cemetery, Jun 9, 1883.

Payne's Tunis tombstone lying nearby is unreadable.

 
SIRIS gives this attempt at a transcription:
"Behind the gravestone is the marker from Payne's Tunis gravestone. The inscription on this marker reads: In memory /of/ John Howard Payne./Twice consul of/(?) United States of America/for (?) city and kingdom of Tunis,/this stone is here placed/by a grateful country/ (?)ed at the American consulate/ (?)s city after a tedious illness./April (inscription illegible )1852,/(?) as born at city of Boston,/state of Massachusetts./(...inscription illegible) June 8th (...inscription illegible) 2./(?) it as a poet and dramatist/(?)nown wherever the English (...inscription illegible) through his celebrated ballad/of/Home Sweet Home/and his popular Trac (...inscription illegible)/(...inscription illegible)."
Charles H. Brainard in his 1885 book John Howard Payne, a Biographical Sketch of the Author of "Home, Sweet Home" supplies the complete text (including the incorrect dates of birth and death):

E PLURIBUS UNUM
(Shield and Eagle)
In memory
 of
Col. John Howard Payne
twice Consul of
The United States of America,
for The City and Kingdom of Tunis,
this stone is here placed
by a grateful country.
He died at the American Consulate
in this city after a tedious illness
April 1st, 1852.
He was born at the City of Boston,
State of Massachusetts,
 June 8th, 1792.
His fame as a Poet and Dramatist
is well known wherever the English Language
is spoken through his celebrated Ballad
of
"Home sweet Home"
and his popular tragedy
of "Brutus" &c and other similar productions.

Gabriel Harrison gives us this illustration of Payne's Grave in Tunis.


The poem that runs around the rim of the marble slab is by  R. S. Chilton clerk of the consular bureau at Washington, DC and a close friend of Payne. The same poem that is on the back of the Oak Hill Tomb.


 Sure When Thy Gentle Spirit Fled
To Realms Beyond the Azure Dome.
With Arms Outstretched God's Angels Said
"Welcome to Heaven's 'Home, Sweet Home'".
 In 1809, in Boston,  Payne became the first American actor to play Hamlet. When he played Romeo soon thereafter, opposite him, as Juliet, was Elizabeth Poe, the mother of Edgar Allan Poe. As Arthur Hobson Quinn says “Mrs. Poe was chosen as Payne's leading woman, playing Palmyra to his Zaphna, Irene to his Achmet, and Sigismunda to his Tancred, and, when Payne took his benefit, she played Juliet to his Romeo and David played Laertes!”

This image of Payne playing “Young Norval” in John Home's play “Douglas” in 1809 at the Washington Theater appeared in the Washington Sunday Star, August 24, 1930. Payne was 18 years old in 1809. 


The Folger Shakespeare Library has this 1813 print by Flor, of Payne playing Hamlet. 

John Howard Payne, Esq, as Hamlet

In 1812 he was on the side of his friend Alexander Contee Hanson when the federalist newspaper editor was attacked by a mob in Baltimore.  Payne was scouting for the anti-war federalists when the pro-war mob broke into the jail where Hanson and his party were being held. General Lingan was murdered and “Light Horse” Harry Lee (Robert E. Lee's father) was so badly injured that he died later of his wounds. (See Grace Overmyer. 1906.)
  
In 1823, Payne re-wrote the words to a “Scilian air” by Sir Henry Bishop the words to which had been written by Thomas Bayly, entitled “To the Home of My Childhood.” The song, “Home, Sweet Home,” with words by Payne was sung by Maria Tree in “Clari, or the Maid of Milan,” an opera by Bishop and Payne, first performed at Covent Garden Theater on May 8, 1823. Although "Clari" left very little mark, “Home, Sweet Home” became wildly famous. Charles E. Tracewell tells the story in a review of an exhibit at the Library of Congress, in 1923.
  
In 1835, Payne visited Cherokee Chief John Ross and was arrested by Georgia authorities for "suspicious intervention"; He was quickly released. An historical marker in Spring Place, Georgia locates the place of Payne's imprisonment. David Tibbs' photo appears on HMdb.

John  Howard Payne
Author of "Home,Sweet Home,"
suspected as a spy
of the Cherokee Indians
was imprisoned here in 1835,
but released.

Erected by Old Guard of Atlanta
Oct. 6, 1922;
Jos. A. McCord; Commandant


 

John Kelly of the Washington Post remarked on the Oak Hill statue.
"Above John Howard Payne's grave in Georgetown's Oak Hill Cemetery is a large statue of the American actor, writer and diplomat, who achieved fame for penning 'Home, Sweet Home,' the song that includes the immortal line: 'Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.'

Payne's white marble bust is famous for another reason: It might be the only statue in Washington to have received a shave.

It was first carved depicting a bearded Payne, but before the monument was dedicated in 1883, a cemetery official worried that Payne hadn't sported chin hairs after all. The official ordered a stonemason to chip away the beard. Today, Payne's chin and neck are as smooth as a baby's bottom (although he does sport a '70s porn star-style 'stache)." -- John Kelly, Washington Post, February 24, 2009
According to Goode, the statue was based on a Brady photograph. He gives us this 1883 picture of the unshaven statue.


Rand McNally's 1900 Pictorial Guide to Washington included this image of the bearded Payne statue.


Although they misidentified it's location. Elsewhere in the guide book they correctly locate the monument at Oak Hill Cemetery.

This image of Payne from Gabriel Harrison's 1875 book The Life and Writing of John Howard Payne, shows him in beard and mustache.


Ben: Perley Poore describes the bearded Payne this way:
His finely developed head was bald on the top, but the sides were covered with light brown hair. His nose was large, his eyes were light blue, and he wore a full beard, consisting of side-whiskers and a moustache, which were always well-trimmed. He was scrupulously neat in his dress, and usually wore a dark brown frock coat and a black vest, While his neck was covered with a black satin scarf, which was arranged in graceful folds across his breast. 

This 1850 daguerreotype, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, confirms Perley's description down to the satin scarf.

Owing to his precocious rise to fame, many contemporary pictures show him as a beardless youth. 

John Wesley Jarvis'  portrait of Payne, formerly in the Corcoran Gallery,  shows the youthful actor in 1812.

John Howard Payne 1812 Oil on wood panel by John Wesley Jarvis

This 1913 image of a youthful Payne by W.F. Hopson sports neither beard nor " 'stache". It derives from an 1812 painting by Joseph Wood.

“I remember him a rosy-cheeked boy, with his collar open, and tied with a black ribbon.” The New York MIRROR, November 24, 1832. Mr. Theo. S. Fay, describing John Howard Payne as he remembered him in 1807, -- “Five and twenty years ago.”  From The Early Life of John Howard Payne, with contemporary letters heretofore unpublished by Willis T. Hanson, 1913.

Appleton's Cylod√¶dia give the following description and a portrait also derived from Joseph Wood's. 

Of Payne's appearance at this period a contemporary wrote: “Nature bestowed upon him a countenance of no common order, and though there was a roundness and fairness which but faintly express strong turbulent emotions or display the furious passions, these defects were supplied by an eye which glowed with animation and intelligence. A more extraordinary mixture of softness and intelligence were never associated in a human countenance, and his face was a true index of his heart.” -- Appleton's

Harper's Weekly used this portrait of Payne to illustrate a poem written by Will Carleton  “On the removal of the remains of John Howard Payne to this country.”


The same picture appears in Harper's Encyclopædia. The last few verses of Carleton's poem are oft quoted. (See Coming Home at Last, by Will Carleton, Harper's Feb. 10 1883.)
The man who wrote Home’s sweetest song
    Shall have a home at last!
And he shall rest where laurels wave
    And fragrant grasses twine;
His sweetly kept and honored grave 
    Shall be a sacred shrine.
And pilgrims with glad eyes grown dim
    Will fondly bend above 
The man who sung the triumph hymn
    Of earth’s divinest love.


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