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

On this day (August 16) in the year 1846, the following short story appeared in the "Daily Delta" (New Orleans.) The story is reprinted verbatim, with original errors of spelling, grammar, and degrading ethnic references typical of the time and place. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * THE MAN WITH THE NOSE: Or, the Jilted Volunteer About noon yesterday, a tall, pasteboard-formed fellow, in the custody of one of our city artists, surrounded by a detachment of discharged volunteers and people generally about town, and flanked by a brigade of little and big "niggers," was taken to the police office. The policeman, who stood at the door of the dock, opened it as if by instinct, and in the great captured walked. The artist carried with him one of his show-framed cases, in which were set a diversity of Daguerreotyped likenesses. The prisoner had a poetic eye--an eye performing maddening revolutions--or, as the poet has it, "in a fine phrenzy rolling"; his forehead was high and retreating, though it never retreated so far as not to keep within a respectable distance of his nose--it had what phrenologists would call "imagination, large"--and was overhung by a profusion of black hair, that would be a fortune to a melo-dramatic performer; his face was pale and beardless, and his nose was plump, prominent and red, looking like a light-house on a barren island. His toggery literally looked as if it had just been "up the spout," and his tout ensemble presented that of a man who had seen better days, or, if he had not, his life must have been passed in utter misery. He had not been long in the box when the Sergeant of the watch went over to him, and in a cold, catechistical tone, asked him--"What is your name?" Red Nose.--'Tis a blank: -------But whence my name And lineage long, it suits me not to say: Suffice it, that perchance they were of fame, And had been glorious in another day. "What is that he says?" inquired the Recorder. "Why, he says, your Honor, as how his name is Blank," said the officer; "but I b'lieve he aint right in his head, because as how he speaks poetry, and Deacon Wells always said that next to hydrophoby, poetry was the wust kind o' madness." Red Nose. --No--no, by heavens! I am not mad. The Recorder here, in a peremptory tone, called "silence!" and every official in the court echoed the call. He beckoned the artist to him, who still held in his hand the "pictures," and told him to state what charge, if any, he had against the prisoner. He said that he was in his study, when he heard the cry of "stop thief!" that he ran down stairs, and on looking at the door, found that his case of specimen daguerreotypes was gone. He followed with the crowd and arrested the prisoner, who was running away with it. The Recorder having heard the charge, addressed the prisoner, asking, "What is your name?" The Prisoner--(giving a Brougham twirl to his red, overgrown nose)-- Reuben Rodolph sits before you. The Recorder--Then Reuben Rodolph will, out of respect to the Court, rise. You are charged, as you have just heard, with stealing this case of portraits. Have you any explanation to give, or defence to make, in relation to the charge? Mr. Rodolph's nose assumed a tint of more than its native scarlet hue, the reflection of which diffused itself over his pale, bloodless face. "The charge is false," said Mr. Rodolph--"false as h---," said he, striking his open hand down on the moulding of the paling before him, like an orater at a spouting club. "The charge involves an imputation on my honored name, which, if true, would sully an escutcheon up to this time stainless. Sir, I repeat, the charge is false and calumnious." Recorder--Then will you be good enough, Mr. Rodolph, to explain to the court how you came to have in your possession the portraits? "Sir," said Rodolph, "it is a story over which I would wish to throw the veil of secrecy, but that were now impossible, so you shall have it. The sound of the clarion of war that summoned freemen to arms in defence of brother freemen had not well died away when I rushed to the ranks of the volunteers. Behind me I left a lady whom I loved passing well, and believed that the feeling was fondly reciprocated. Angelic Charlotte! to paint whom even a pencil of light, and that pencil guided by the eye of the sun, has been found insufficient-- Not in those climes where I have late been straying, Though beauty there had long been matchless drem'd; Not in those visions to the heart displaying Forms which it sighs but to have only dream'd Hath aught like---- Recorder.--Suppose, Mr. Rodolph, you postpone singing the praises of your lady-love to some more convenient season and proceed to account for your possession of the portraits; this is a court of Law, not of Cupid. Mr. Rodolph.--I shall be guided by the instructions of the court. Then, sir, to come to the point; at her request-for although warned by my uncle of her incincerity, a doubt of her love rested not on my mind-- O, my prophetic uncle!--at her request I had both our likenesses daguerreotyped--I say that I, for it was I who paid the artist. Mine I gave to her, adjuring her, whatever my fate, to part with it but at death; hers I kept in my knapsack, registering a vow that in life it should remain with me--in death it would be found by me. Recorder. --What has all this to do with the taking of the case of portraits? Rodolph.--If the court bears with me for a moment it shall be informed: as I was saying, I had determined whatever should betide-- whether consigned to a Mexican dungeon, slain on the battlefield or crowned with laurels and elevated to high rank as a reward of my bravery--to make that portrait my inseparable companion. Because, sir, I abhor the ficle and inconstant doctrine promulgated by the poet when he says-- Oh! 'tis sweet to think that, wherever we rove We are sure to find something blissful and dear; And that when we're far from the lips we love, We have but to make love to the lips we are near! That I have kept my resolve, sir, you may see here is the portrait of my beloved but inconstant Charlotte; and here Mr. Rodolph drew from his bosom a morocco case, from which he took a gilt-framed daguerreotype of a young lady, with a very lacadaisical countenance, her hair falling down over her shoulders in corkscrew curls. There, sir, is she.-- O fatal beauty! why art thou bestow'd On hapless woman, still to make her wretched! Betrayed by thee, how many are undone! Now, sir, where is she?--where is my fair but false Charlotte? Eloped, sir, eloped with a vulgar Irish adventurer. And where is my portrait? It is there, sir, there, said Mr. Rodolph, pointing the index finger of his right hand dramatically towards the case of portraits, which the artist still held under his arm--the likenesses next his body. There it is, sir; and there it was put to direct the finger of ridicule towards me, which was but adding insult to injury. The artist now turned out the likenesses--the bystanders crowded to see that, on copper, of Mr. Rodolph, and they set up a simultaneous laugh which the Court with difficulty suppressed. "There, there!" said Mr. Rodolph, "you now see the effect of the exhibition that has been made. Why, since I set my foot on the Levee yesterday, on my return from the seat of war, I have been assaulted by diminutive dandies, vulgar dray-men, slatternly black wenches, and grinning negroes, with the cry of 'There goes the man with the nose!"-- 'See the man with the nose!'--'That's the original of the daguerreotyped nose!' Why, one impudent coxcomb had the assurance to tell me to move my nose out of the way, and permit him to pass. Another told me that I was violating the ordinance by blocking up the sidewalk with my nose! Now, sir, all this comes from the faithlessness of Charlotte, and from having my portrait exposed to vulgar gaze; to which I was determined to put a stop by this morning removing the cause. I therefore think, sir, that an action for damages lies against that gentleman, for having held me up to public ridicule, instead of my being subject to the charge of larceny. The Recorder, thinking that Reuben Rodolph made out a tolerable good case for himself, and that misfortunes fell thick and heavy enough upon him, without being sent to prison, he ordered that his likeness be taken out of the frame, and given to him; and that he be discharged. It was done.--Reuben put his own portrait in the morocco case, which before held that of the lady with the corkscrew curls. This he dashed on the ground, violently stamping it under his foot, and exclaiming, "thus perish every memento that reminds me of the inconstant Charlotte!" The parties then left the Court. - - - - - - - - - - - - Note from Gary: The story was reprinted in "The "Daguerreian Annual 1993" with the following note by Thomas R. Kailbourn: "This tale of a daguerreotype's role in an affair of forsaken love originally appeared in the New Orleans Daily Delta of August 16, 1846. The story's hapless protagonist, Reuben Rodolph, contrives amidst a flood of flowery oratory to sketch a delightful metaphor of the daguerreotype as "the pencil of light... guided by the sun." Although the author is unknown, this story has the earmarks of the distinctive literary style of the then-nationally-known Delta correspondent George H. Tobin. Educated in the classics at Trinity College, Dublin, Tobin wrote in a strange conglomeration of erudite wit, classical and poetical allusions, and Irish banter, leavened with a devilish frontier sense of humor no doubt refined during his service as an officer of Louisiana and Texas volunteers in the Mexican War. (It may or may not be of significance that Tobin was in New Orleans between military hitches at the time this article was first published.) We herewith reprint this story verbatim, complete with degrading ethnic references typical of the time and place. Note: the "Recorder" mentioned in the story was a police justice." ----------------------------------------------------------------- 08-16-96

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