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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

I've been fairly silent recently, primarily due to a broken computer at home, and on-going computer problems at work as well. To make up for this silence, today's post will be one of the milestones of daguerreian poetry, first published during the month of May in the year 1841. The poem has two accompanying illustrations. I should have this text, with illustrations, available on the web soon. . .I'll be sure to let you know. - - - - - - - - - PHOTOGRAPHIC PHENOMENA, OR THE NEW SCHOOL OF PORTRAIT-PAINTING. "Sit, cousin Percy; sit, good cousin Hotspur!"--HENRY IV. "My lords, be seated."--Speech from the Throne. 1.--INVITATION TO SIT. Now sit, if ye have courage, cousins all! Sit, all ye grandmamas, wives, aunts, and mothers; Daughters and sisters, widows, brides, and nieces; In bonnets, braids, caps, tippets, or pelisses, The muff, mantilla, boa, scarf, or shawl! Sit all ye uncles, godpapas, and brothers, Fathers and nephews, sons, and next of kin, Husbands, half-brother's cousin's sires, and others; Be you as Science young, or old as Sin: Turn, Persian-like, your faces to the sun! And have each one His portrait done, Finish'd, one may say, before it's begun. Nor you alone, Oh! slight acquaintances! or blood relations! But sit, oh! public Benefactors, Whose portraits are hung up by Corporations. Ye Rulers of the likeness-loving nations, Ascend you now the Photographic throne, And snatch from Time the precious mornings claim'd By artists famed (In the Court Circular you'll find them named). Sit too, ye laurell'd Heroes, whom detractors Would rank below the statesman and the bard! Sit also, all ye Actors, Whose fame would else die with you, which is hard; Whose Falstaffs here will never Slenders prove, So true the art is! M.P.'s, for one brief moment cease to move; And you who stand as Leaders of great Parties, Be sitting Members! Ye intellectual Marchers, sit resign'd And oh! ye Authors, men of dazzling mind, Perchance with faces foggy as November's, Pray sit! Apollo turned R.A. The other day, Making a most decided hit, They say. Phoebus himself--he has become a Shee! (Morning will rank among the Knights full soon) And while the Moon, Who only draws the tides, is clean outdone, The Stars are all astonishment to see Earth--sitting for her portrait--to the Sun! II.--THE PROCESS OF THE PORTRAITURE. It's all very fine, is it not, oh! ye Nine? To tell us this planet is going too fast, On a comet-like track through the wilderness vast Instead of collision, and chances of splitting In contact with stars rushing down the wrong line, The world at this moment can't get on--for sitting: And Earth, like the Lady enchanted in Comus Fix'd fast to her chair With a dignified air, Is expecting to sit for a century there; Much wondering, possibly, half in despair, How the deuce she's to find her way back to her domus. "Keep moving," we know, was the cry long ago; But now, never hare was "found sitting," I swear, Like the crowds who repair To old Cavendish Square, And mount up a mile and a quarter of stair, In procession that beggars the Lord Mayor's show! And all are on tiptoe, the high and the low, To sit in that glass-cover'd blue studio; In front of those boxes, wherein when you look Your image reversed will minutely appear, So delicate, forcible, brilliant, and clear, So small, full, and round, with a life so profound, As none ever wore In a mirror before; Or the depths of a glassy and branch-shelter'd brook, That glides amidst moss o'er a smooth-pebbled ground. Apollo, whom Drummond of Hawthornden styled "Apelles of flowers," Now mixes his showers Of sunshine, with colours by clouds undefiled; Apelles indeed to man, woman, and child. His agent on earth, when your attitude's right, Your collar adjusted, your locks in their place, Just seizes one moment of favouring light, And utters three sentences--" Now it 's begun,"-- "It's going on now, sir,"--and "Now it is done; And lo! as I live, there's the cut of your face On a silvery plate, Unerring as fate, Worked off in celestial and strange mezzotint, A little resembling an elderly print. "Well, I never!" all cry; "it is cruelly like you!" But Truth is unpleasant To prince and to peasant. You recollect Lawrence, and think of the graces That Chalon and Company give to their faces; The face you have worn fifty years doesn't strike you! III.--THE CRITICISMS OF THE SITTERS--THE MORAL. "Can this be me! do look, mama Poor Jane begins to whimper; "I have a smile, 'tis true ;--but, pa! This gives me quite a simper." Says Tibb, whose plays are worse than bad, "It makes my forehead flat ;" And being classical, he'll add, "I'm blow'd if I'm like that." Courtly, all candour, owns his portrait true; "Oh, yes, it's like; yes, very; it will do. Extremely like me--every feature-- but That plain pug-nose; now mine's the Grecian cut!" Her Grace surveys her face with drooping lid; Prefers the portrait which Sir Thomas did; Owns that o'er this some traits of truth are sprinkled But views the brow with anger--"Why, it's wrinkled!" "Like me! cries Sir Turtle; "I'll lay two to one It would only be guess'd by my foes; No, no, it is plain there are spots in the sun, Which accounts for these spots on my nose." "A likeness! cries Crosslook, the lawyer, and sneers; "Yes, the wig, throat and forehead I spy, And the mouth, chin, and cheeks, and the nose and the ears, But it gives me a cast in the eye ------------------ Thus needs it the courage of old Cousin Hotspur, To sit to an artist who flatters no sitter; Yet Self-love will urge us to seek him, for what spur So potent as that, though it make the truth bitter! And thus are all flocking, to see Phoebus mocking, Or making queer faces, a visage per minute; And truly 'tis shocking, if winds should be rocking The building, or clouds darken all that's within it, To witness the frights Which shadows and lights Manufacture, as like as an owl to a linnet. For there, while you sit up, Your countenance lit up, The mists fly across, a magnificent rack; And your portrait's a patch, with its bright and its black, Out-Rembrandting Rembrandt, in ludicrous woe, Like a chimney-sweep caught in a shower of snow. Yet nothing can keep the crowd below, And still they mount up, stair by stair; And every morn, by the hurry and hum, Each seeking a prize in the lottery there, You fancy the "last day of drawing" has come. L. B. (The following text accompanies the second of the two illustrations:) [All the World and his Wife must recollect that they are not figuring before a mere mortal artist with whom they may all the while laugh and chat. Here you must sit mute and motionless. You may wink; you may perhaps just put on a smile; but you must not laught; for if you do, one half of your head will go off!] A few notes on the text: The illustrated poem, "Photographic Phenomena," first appeared in the May 1841 issue of "GEORGE CRUIKSHANK'S OMNIBUS" (London: Tilt & Bogue.) Edited by Laman Blanchard, Esq., the publication was first issued in nine monthly parts from May 1841 to January 1842. The bound volume (consisting of all the monthly parts) was published in 1842 (London: Tilt & Bogue) and later as a "New Edition" in 1870 (New York: Scribner, Welford, & Co.) To my knowledge, the poem has never been reprinted in its entirety, nor has the source of the often-reproduced illustration been correctly and completely cited. Both Gernsheim (1) and Newhall (2) offer only edited versions of the poem. The first of the two illustrations depicts Richard Beard's studio that opened 23 March 1841 atop the Royal Polytechnic Institute in London. Cruikshank was certainly among the first visitors to Beard's studio. The poem was cited in American press beginning with a selection of lines that appeared in the August 1841 issue of The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, & Art (Philadelphia: E. Littell & Co.; Vol. XIV-- New Series. page 501.) This latter selection of lines also appeared in the 10 September 1841 issue of The Boston Daily Evening Transcript. 1. Gernsheim, Helmut and Alison, The History of Photography From the Camera Obscura to the Beginning of the Modern Era (London: Thames and Hudson, 1969; pp. 137-8) 2. Newhall, Beaumont, On Photography; A Source Book of Photo History in Facsimile (Watkins Glen: Century House, 1956; pp. 57-9) -------------------------------------------------------------- 05-27-99

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