“All Tombs Around Are in Its Splendor Lost”

The remarkable gothic revival, self-designed memorial to Victorian teenage paragon Charlotte Canda was a much-visited tourist attraction during the Victorian age.

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Monument to Charlotte Canda, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. One half of a stereoscopic card, circa 1880. “Published by E. & H. T. Anthony & Co., Emporium of American and Foreign Stereoscopic views, chromos, albums, Magic Lanterns, and slides, 591 Broadway, opposite Metropolitan Hotel, New York.” Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

Charlotte Canda (3 Feb., 1828-3 Feb., 1845) was the daughter of Frenchman Charles Francis A. Canda (1792-1866), of Amiens, Somme, Picardie, and Adele Louisa Theriott (1804-1871), whom he wed 10 May, 1824.

Charlotte’s mother’s ancestors were early French settlers of New York. Adele was the daughter of Gabriel L. Theriott and sister of Augustus B. Theriott (1808 – 1866), who inherited their father’s dry-goods business circa 1823 when he was still a teenager.

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New York Times, February 11, 1886.

It has been put forth that Charlotte’s father was an officer in Napoleon’s army and that he was a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo, after which he sailed for America. However, this is likely untrue. There was a Canda in the Battle of Waterloo, which occurred in June 1815, but that man was Charles’s brother, Louis-Joseph-Florimond Canda, who served many years as an officer in the French army, married Angeline, daughter of the Marquis De Balbi-Piovera from Genoa, emigrated to the United States, was an early settler of Chicago, and died there in 1886. The purported military backstories of both Candas are told almost identically in varying sources, indicating that Charles and Florimond have been conflated.


These portrait miniatures are likely Charlotte Canda’s paternal grandparents. They were offered for sale by Boris Wilnitsky Fine Art, which stated that they carry a reverse inscription identifying them as Charles Canda of Amiens and his wife. The miniatures were likely brought by Florimond Canda to the United States.

Florimond’s younger brother and father’s namesake likely came to America with him in 1818. We know that from 1818 to 1820, Charles was a teacher in the classical department of Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall High School, according to 1906’s The Chronicles of Erasmus Hall. An entry in the New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920, notes that Canda was a professor of drawing there. He was also a skilled painter, as is proved by a Canda landscape dating to 1822 that was sold by Sotheby’s New York in May 2000.

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An Italianate landscape with figures at a classical column by a town, painted by Charles Canda in 1822.

After leaving Erasmus Hall, Canda likely taught painting and drawing privately. He was definitely doing so in November 1835, when he advertised in the New York Evening Post that his at-home classroom in Leonard Street was again open after a temporary closure. Later advertisements make clear Canda also instructed drawing at various ladies’ boarding schools in the city.

By 1837, Charles and Adele Canda had opened their own school, first located at 15 Amity Street, near Broadway. Later, they and the school moved to 17 Lafayette Place. It successfully drew both female boarding and day students who were educated and instructed in the attributes befitting a proper lady of the era.

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New York Evening Post, 26 August, 1837.

It has been asserted that Charlotte Canda was not Charles and Adele Canda’s biological child, but an adopted foundling. I can find no evidence to prove this. That she was an only child is true—however, her father had a much younger sister named Clemence (b. 1816), who lived with the family and with whom Charlotte almost certainly had a sisterly relationship, as Clemence was only nine or ten years older than her niece.

No identified painting,  portrait miniature, or daguerreotype of Charlotte appears to exist, but she was reputedly attractive. According to a 6 February, 1845 New York Evening Post article, “Nor had beauty, too, been withheld by the lavish hand of nature, to crown the rare union of charms and qualities which made her the idol of her parents, the delight of her friends, and one of the loveliest ornaments of society.” The only face we can put to Charlotte is that of the statue incorporated into her tomb, which would later please her family and so must capture at least some of her physical presence.

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Charlotte Canda. Photo by James P. Fisher III.

Charlotte grew up in her parents’ school, which developed a fine reputation; intellectually and artistically, she benefited. It is certain that Charlotte was instructed in drawing by her father, an art for which she showed strong natural talent. According to a 6 February, 1845 New York Evening Post article about her funeral, “To a singular brightness and sweetness of character, she united great quickness of mind, and an unusual degree of cultivation…. She was the familiar mistress of six languages [(English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Danish)] besides being an accomplished musician and proficient of much … skill in drawing.”

On Saturday, 23 November, 1844, Clemence Canda died at age 26 or 27. Her cause of death is not known, but a reasonable speculation is Consumption (Tuberculosis). She was greatly grieved by the loss of Clemence, and in her sketchbook, Charlotte quietly designed a grand memorial for her young aunt.

Charlotte may have been consoled by the man whom it is said intended to wed her, Charles-Albert Jarret de la Mairie, who was born 2 November, 1818, at Château de Bordes, Pontign, France. Ten years her senior, he was the son of Chevalier Henri-Rene-Louis Jarret, Seignoir de la Mairie (1778-1858), and his wife Augustine-Marie Le Gouz du Plessis (1780-1849). The family was minor French nobility, his paternal grandmother being Philippe-Madeleine de Boisjourdan, Dame de Chânay (1751-1840), and his paternal grandfather Chevalier Henri-Réne-Julien Jarret, Seigneur de la Mairie et de l’Epine (1751-1781). We know little else about Charles-Albert and nothing about his relationship with Charlotte, but we will read more of him later.

As of the day that Clemence Canda died, Charlotte Canda had less than three months to live.

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Charlotte’s 17th birthday fell on Monday, 3 February, 1845. According to the Morning Post of the following day, she had been invited to a small gathering of friends at a house on Eleventh Street, probably partly in her honor, but had followed the wishes of her parents and declined to go. At some point during the evening, at least one of these friends came around to the Canda home and begged her to join them, as the party “was nothing without her.”

Her parents had not wanted her to go out because, the Morning Post reported, “every one of her birthdays had been marked by some cross or mishap, frustrating the ordinary pleasant celebration of the day.” Now, however, Charlotte begged Charles and Adele to reconsider because it had been a good day thus far and “she wished to conclude it an agreeable manner.” Faced with the pleas of their beautiful and adored daughter, the Candas relented—the newspaper noting that, in retrospect, “every circumstance appears to have occurred that could give the keenest poignancy to the agonies of such a blow to the hearts of her parents.”

Reportage from the Evening Post of 5 February provided its readers with full details: After making the decision to let Charlotte go, Charles Canda “engaged a cab at the livery stable of Patrick Rooney, in Fourth Street, to convey him, his daughter … and a young lady residing at no. 29 Waverley Place, to the house of a friend on Eleventh Street. Canda rode with them and returned in the cab at 11 p.m. to escort the two partygoers home. The first stop was Charlotte’s friend’s house, which they reached around 11:30 p.m.

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This daguerreotype, which is the oldest known image of New York City, was taken of the Unitarian Congregational Church of the Messiah on the east side of Broadway (nos. 728-730) near Waverly Place in the fall of 1839 or winter of 1840. Charlotte would be fatally injured in just this area some five years later. The image has been flipped to show the actual view. Courtesy National Museum of American History.

“The driver, Patrick McCormick, alighted to open the carriage door, leaving the reigns of the horses loose on the seat. Mr. Canda got out of the carriage and went into the house … with the lady, leaving Miss Canda in the carriage, and the driver standing in the door awaiting the return of Mr. Canda. After the lapse of a few minutes, the horses suddenly started off and ran to Broadway, then to Fourth Street, and thence to the stable, where they came to a stand, with no other injury to the carriage than the leaves of the steps damaged,” the Post reported.

When the horses at stopped running and the driver caught up to them, Charlotte was no longer in the carriage. She had either jumped or was thrown out and struck her head near the intersection of  Broadway and Waverley Place. Two gentlemen found her unconscious in the snowy street and carried her to the New York Hotel at 715 Broadway, where medical aid was summoned.

After some confusion, Charles Canda deduced what had happened and hurried to the hotel. There he found his daughter insensible. “She had sustained such injuries as caused her death in about a half hour after the occurrence,” noted the Post. It has been put forth that Charlotte died in her parents’ arms, but there is no indication that Mrs. Canda knew her daughter had been mortally injured or that she would have had time to arrive at the hotel before Charlotte expired. It is possible that she did pass away in the arms of her father, but no primary source material I have found indicated this happened.

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The New York Hotel (left) pictured in 1875. Charlotte Canda died there late on the night of 3 February, 1845. Today, it is the site of the Tisch School of the Arts.

The following day, Charlotte was laid out at her parent’s Lafayette Place home-cum-school. While funeral arrangements were being made, a Coroner’s Inquest was held, probably in the family’s parlor where the coffin rested. The Evening Post reported, “The jury rendered the following verdict: that the deceased came to her death in consequence of the injuries received by jumping or being thrown from the carriage, with which the horses in the charge of Patrick McCormick started and ran from No. 29 Waverly Place … the said Patrick McCormick  having carelessly left the reins lying on the seat, instead of holding them, as he should have done, while he was standing at the side of the carriage, whereby he might have prevented the horses from running away.”

The funeral was held on 6 February at the Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul on Broadway at Canal Street. The Post described it thusly: “The church was throughout hung with black, and all the light being excluded from without, it was illuminated with tapers within. A grand mass for the dead was performed, and a requiem chaunted, with funeral music of the most impressive character. Notwithstanding the severity of the weather and the encumbrance of the street with snow, the funeral was attended by a great concourse of our most respectable citizens, walking on foot from the residence of Mr. Canda to the church.”

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This 1861 print shows Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its graveyard., Charlotte Canda was either buried in the cemetery or within the church itself for several years before being removed to Green-Wood.

Charlotte was interred at the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Prince and Mott streets in Manhattan and the Candas took what little comfort they could in the familiarity of Charlotte’s possessions around them.

When they explored her portfolio, they found several surprises.

First, in the book Green-Wood: A Directory for Vistors by Nehemiah Cleaveland, the author writes as a friend of the Candas who has been allowed to inspect Charlotte’s belongings: “In the portfolio which contains most of her drawing, there are two which possess a touching interest. They are the last she executed. The first is an attempt to depict Cromwell in the act of looking into the coffin of King Charles.” A few days later, she drew the scene again in more detail and wrote beneath it in French, ‘Death! I must learn to look thee in the face!'”

Second, her parents found Charlotte’s designs for Clemence’s tomb. Her father added to the plans some personal symbols representative of his daughter and commissioned sculptor Robert Launitz, who worked with another sculptor, John Franzee, to create a tomb at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood. Canda was said to have paid for the memorial with the dowery he had put aside for Charlotte’s marriage, but this may be another heartrending embellishment to her story.

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The tomb of Charlotte Canda in Green-Wood Cemetery. The rest of her family, including her young aunt, Clemence, are buried or entombed there as well. Photo by James P. Fisher III.

Charlotte—and presumably Clemence—was reinterred or entombed (it is unclear to me whether the Canda memorial is comprised of burial plots or is a family tomb) at Green-Wood on 29 April, 1848, and tomb construction finished. The cemetery describes the resulting Gothic Revival structure as “in the form of a tabernacle, standing at a prominent intersection of avenues in the Cemetery. An open, arched canopy flanked by two slender spires containing a portrait statue of the young woman wearing a garland of seventeen rose buds representing the years of her life. Above her head, a star symbolizes her immortality and a stylized butterfly with extended wings in the interior of the arch denotes her liberated spirit. An ornamental parapet encloses the sarcophagus set before the tabernacle…. The exquisite carving of the tomb preserves the love, devotion, and grief of the parents for their beloved daughter, taken from them at such a special time in her life.”

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By 3 March, Charles Canda had risen in spirit enough to place an ad in the Evening Post:

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The Candas’ school kept the fire of youth around them and their pupils brought them solace, purpose, and hope. Charlotte’s fiance, Charles-Albert Jarret de la Mairie, did not fare so well, however. After Charlotte’s death, he traveled to Rome, where he met and fell in love with a married woman. Having apparently acted on this passion, he was mortified by the social disgrace that followed. Jarret fled Rome for New York in September 1847.

On 18 October, at around noon, Jarret turned up at the home of his one-time prospective father-in-law, Charles Canda. He seemed, Canda later told a Coroner’s Inquest, “under great mental excitement. During the conversation he asked me if I had the same opinion of him as my sister—he fancied that my sister despised him. I tried to ascertain the cause of his strange conduct and asked him if he had committed any crime.”

The young man denied this but “asked a great many strange questions and said he intended to destroy himself…. I told him that he had friends and that I would like him to come back later” when a Catholic priest could minister to him. “He left me at half-past four o’clock,” Canda recalled, adding, “While at my house he showed us a pistol and alarmed my family very much.” (Source: New York Municipal Archives; NY County Coroner’s Inquests, Roll No. 35 Sept-Dec 1847.)

Jarret returned to a hotel at Broadway and Reade Street run by Frenchman Antoine Vignes, who was also deposed by the Coroner. “I asked him if he would have some dinner. He replied, ‘No,’ then went to his room, and soon after this he came downstairs and asked for a carriage to return to France.”

Thus began a series of frenetic goings and comings throughout the evening…. Jarret returned for the last time around 10 p.m. and went to his guest chamber. Vignes stated that, at one point, he entered Jarret’s room and found him holding a loaded barrel revolver. “I asked him what he was going to do,” Vignes recalled. “He said he was going to blow his brains out so that he did not disgrace his family.” (Source: Ibid.)

Within mere minutes, Jarret did just that.

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Buffalo Commercial, 19 October, 1847.

The 28-year-old left three suicide notes. To his brother, Louis-Marin-Augustin Jarret de la Maire (1816-1882), he wrote, “Farewell my good Louis. Farewell forever. Farewell, likewise my good Agatha. I dare no longer write to my father or mother, neither to Henry or his wife.”

To Augustine-Marie Le Gouz du Plessis: “To my Mother: There are two pistols that I have fired without being able to kill myself. Farewell, forgive me.”

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The grave of Charles-Albert Jarret de la Mairie. Photo by Tim Milk.

Finally, to no one, or everyone: “Before dying, I ask for forgiveness of those I have rendered so unhappy, and particularly to the person who brought me here.”

As a Catholic who’d killed himself, Jarret could not be buried on consecrated ground, but Charles Canda would still have him near the family that might once have been his own. He rests in Green-Wood just outside their plot.

Charlotte’s parents appeared on the 1850 census at the helm of their still-prosperous school. There were about 20 girls in residence, as well as a number of teachers and servants. The state of New York conducted another census in 1855, in which the Candas were again enumerated at their school, which then was comprised of about 30 female students and more than a dozen teachers and domestics.

Charles Canda was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on 5 June, 1849, at the Marine Court of the City of New York. His intent to do so had been registered by the city on 13 July, 1839.

In June 1855, Charles Canda applied for a passport. In the application, it was noted that he was 5’7″ in height with a medium forehead, gray eyes, a Roman nose, a medium mouth, a round chin, dark brown hair, a dark complexion, and an oval face. In the application, he attested, “I, Charles F. A. Canda, do solemnly, sincerely, and truly swear that I am a citizen of the United States, having been naturalized in the city of New York.” Scrawled on the side of the application is a note reading, “To be accompanied by his wife, Adele Canda, age 50 years.” The assumption is that the Candas traveled to France.

On 10 September, 1858, the New York Times mentioned the Candas as professional references in an ad for a young ladies school run by Madam K. F. Canchois.

Five years later, in July 1860, Canda again applied for a passport to undertake more travel accompanied by Adele. His physical description remained the same, save that his hair was no longer dark brown, but gray. Earlier that year, the Candas had been enumerated on the 1860 U.S. Census of New York City. Their school was closed and Charles and Adele lived in retirement with two servants.

Charles Canda died, aged 74, on 27 September, 1866. He was buried at Green-Wood on 29 September. Charlotte’s mother lived until 1871, dying in France.

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A drawing of Charlotte’s tomb from 1850’s Greenwood Cemetery Visitors Directory.

For many years after Charlotte’s death, her magnificent tomb was a well-known tourist attraction—one of the official highlights of a visit to Green-Wood. Generations learned the sad story of her tragic end and shed a tear for the beautiful teen as they stood before her statue.

In 1899, more than 50 years after she died in the New York Hotel, poet Daniel Pelton rhapsodized after a visit to the park-like cemetery:

“Turn’d to the left, I seek the intricate round,
Where Charlotte Canda decorates the ground,
Like Sirius, fairest of the starry line.
Yet death seems setting on that heavenly shrine;
All tombs around are in its splendor lost,
And all must bow before its mighty cost.
Yet who would envy, who would take her place,
Though not possessed of any wealth or grace.
The dread of pain, tenacity of life,
Increase with woe, and feed on mortal strife;
In vain the roses round her bloom,
Vain may the polished marble shine,
In vain the sculptured image show
Charlotte in life almost divine.
Still, all is night beneath the gorgeous tomb,
And the black grave wears the same dismal gloom.
Thou lovely flower, too delicate for Earth,
‘Tis only strange such beauty here had birth;
Supine it fell before the autumnal blast
To rise to Heaven when wintry storms have passed.” Ω

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Stereoview of the statue of Charlotte Canda, circa 1880. Courtesy Library of Congress.