Friday, January 06, 2012

Write on Edge-Epitaph

Lemmington, England 1840

Charlotte was wandering through the church yard cemetery toward the bench where she often enjoyed sketching the church and parish school where her husband, Edward was vicar.  Edward had mentioned yesterday at tea about an unusual epitaph, so now she zig-zagged through the stones and monuments looking for the grave stone.  She soon found it in the older section of the cemetery, where stones had been up turned, lopsided and weathered.  The dates around it were of the last century.  No name was carved on the stone, only a verse:

Here lies a miser who lived for himself, who cared
for nothing but gathering wealth.
Now where he is and how he fares;
nobody knows and nobody cares

“How wry and pitiable to be known; only as a miserly man. “  She thought aloud. There was a pretty aspect of the parsonage in the distance, so she set about sketching it quickly.  She wanted to get back to the parsonage and show it to Edward, before tea time.

Charlotte and Edward had been married just a short six months. She had met him ten years ago when he first arrived in the village of Newburn as Deacon of the parish.   She was but a child of twelve.  With her parents long dead, she and her brother John resided with their spinster aunt, in a small cottage at the edge of Newburn Hall.   With her tiny income, Aunt Jane was able to teach them to read and enjoy books from the circulating library. She encouraged Charlotte’s drawing and sent John to the Parish Day School for several years.  That was where they made the acquaintance of the young deacon, Edward Stephenson. 

Aunt Jane would often tell them reminiscences of her youth when she and their mother were young ladies of wealth and standing in the neighbourhood, but nothing was said of how they became so impoverished.  However, she was silent on the circumstances of their parent’s marriage and death. One of the stories that neighbours told, was that Aunt Jane and their mother had been at the mercy of a miserly relative who did nothing to put them forward in society, leaving them nothing but the cottage and a tiny inheritance. 

As the years passed, her brother eventually went to work clerking for the Newburn Railway. This supplemented the small income of their aunt and by living carefully, they enjoyed a satisfactory life with a small circle of friends. With no dowry, she had little expectations of making a good marriage.  So everyone was surprised when, after receiving a church living of his own, Edward proposed.

Charlotte now securely ensconced in the parsonage of Holy Saviour Church, Lemmington, seemed unconcerned by the circumstances of her former life.  She opened her book to look again at the sketch before showing Edward her drawing. She observed the gravestone in the forground, thinking it ruined the sketch of her lovely home and began to fill it in with flowers and grasses. 'That is much better," she thought.

For this week, write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece in which an epitaph features prominently. I found mine at The Epitaph Browser.  It is from Lemmington, England. found under Anonymous. I found a Lemington in Northumbria near Newcastle and an appropriate parish in which I set my story.



  1. Loved your use of this epitaph. Also the ending made me want to read more. Well done.

  2. This is great. I really enjoyed it. I appreciated your description of how you pieced the story together. Somehow, that made it even more appealing. The ending is slightly abrupt (those darn word limits!) Maybe you could soften it by being more oblique and driving home the point from the epitaph, that essentially nobody cares about the miser. She could ponder the head stone and simply return to her drawing, leaving the inferred connection to the reader. Just a thought, though. I really, really like this one. The images are going to stick with me.

  3. Oh, I really enjoyed the twist at the end! I like, too, how the reader knows more than the protagonist--that's not an easy strategy to pull off, but you did it very well!

  4. I saw that epitaph too on the website :) I was tempted to play with it in my prompt.

    I love how this particular person could be a relation of hers, an interesting twist.

    Small critique: there are a lot of commas that aren't necessary. Some quick editing should fix the problems. And in one of the last paragraphs you begin a couple of sentences the same way. Maybe try to reword them.

  5. ooh! I'd love to hear some more please.

    Your comment on my blog is so very much appreciated.

  6. I'd read the book. It's got a decidedly Austenian flair. You've established a lot of the backstory in this, I'd love to see what happens now the action begins!

  7. Thanks Carrie for the suggestions, I tend to puncuate too much, since grammer was a long time ago.

  8. I loved it! The language is very colloquial--it made me feel like we were having tea with the vicar!

    **I goofed and forgot about the prompt today, so I am just reading for today!

  9. I like that fact that we are there with her in this story. You can almost feel the dampness of the grass.

  10. I enjoyed meeting Charlotte... in the last sentence I love how you have her remove the cemetery as if she had control.

  11. Love this. Charlotte not caring that she is whimsical in a time when those about her would expect an extreme seriousness, especially as a vicar's wife, makes her an easy protag to love.

  12. The stone was that of the miserly relative? Charlotte seems happy and secure and well able to deal with the possibility...

  13. Here's what I love about this: how thoughtfully you set up the backstory, and the air of mystery.

    I like how the character tries to stuff her pain away, literally flower it up.

    And all that is unsaid.

    Very compelling!

  14. How did I miss this? This was great

    I liked the first part of establishing character. The epitaph was almost like a background thing. It was seemless.

    The ending is terrific. well done