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

On this day (August 19) in the year 1843, the following poem appeared in "The Illustrated London News" (Vol. 3, No. 68; page 125). The poem is accompanied by a wood engraving illustration taken from the daguerreotype of Jabez Hogg making a portrait in Richard Beard's studio (the daguerreotype is reproduced in Stephen Richter "The Art of the Daguerreotype" [London: Viking, 1989]). ------------------------------------------------------------------------ LINES WRITTEN ON SEEING A DAGUERREOTYPE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. BY MISS ELIZABETH SHERIDAN CAREY. "To the artist and true connoisseur, the mere vehicle employed will be a matter of little importance, and he will be delighted with whatever is excellent of its kind."--D.C. Read. Preface to the Catalogue of his Etchings. Wondrous it is! Form, face, and air, Dress, attitude, are pictured there! Nay, pictured not--why prate of Art Where Nature, only, plays the part? No gifted touch could this excel; No pencil breathe so sweet a spell! Not Reynolds, in his "noon of fame," Could put this magic head to shame, Nor with the splendour of his hues, O'er canvas, worthier traits diffuse; Not Lawrence, with his suasive line, His pearly shades, and soft carmine; Not Hayter, who, with wizard hand, Limns forth the "Layde of the Land," And shows how fair, how all serene, In sov'reign beauty shines a Queen; Not one with chalk, and ductile oil, And varied tints, and patient toil, Back'd by the love of ancient schools, Their hints, their practice, sleight, and rules,-- Could in veracity surpass(1) A portrait truer than the glass. Here is no feature half awry, Too large a nose, too small an eye, No forehead just an inch too low, No faulty stroke, no faithless glow;(2) And, best of all eulogia! here No false deceiving charms appear; But the fair face as Nature made it, So hath the regal sun portray'd it! The cordial, frank, old English air Sits nobly on the features there; And shrewd and bland, with cheerful wile She seems to seek an answ'ring smile. That is her turn--you may compare it,-- And that her very glance--I'll swear it! There is her brow, sans cap or wimple, And there her mirth-enjoying dimple-- That comely cheek, and rounded chin-- To mar them were a mortal sin! There clusters each bright waving tress, And there's, I vow, her last new dress-- A shaded silk, each stripe and fold; And, as I live! The chain of gold Whose glitt'ring circles lightly deck the alabaster of that neck; And, see, the brooch--that petted snake, More happy than in flow'ry brake. Most marvellous! So soft, so true! A priceless pearl--a rare bijou! So much herself--keep it beside you, Nor time, nor tide can e'er divide you; Or place it, in the sun, before you, And strangest fancies will creep o'er you; Those sportive eyes will seem to glisten-- That little ear, well pleased, to listen-- That arch and coaxing smile to play, And snare your very heart away-- Those lips to breathe, to move, to talk, And, with a gentle aspiration, To share their owner's morning walk, Give you right courteous invitation. Oh! Hence-immortaliz'd Daguerre-- The fair La Creevy's(3) dark despair! Whoe'er shall wisely wish to be Portray'd in pure reality, And in the likeness of his friend, Would have no borrow'd beauties blend; Nor yet, by clumsy art defaced, Find charms and much-lov'd traits erased, And view, disgusted, crude outline-- Vile colour, attitude, design-- With bold pretence assume the place Of beauty, intellect, and grace:(4) Whoe'er, in short, seeks life and truth, In health or sickness, age or youth, And need not beg "some pow'r to gie 'em To see themselves as other see 'em"-- Will to the sunny roof repair, And start to find their shadow there; But wither'd beau, and wrinkled belle, Whose mirrors fatal tidings tell; Who fret and fume, and peak and pine O'er youth and beauty's long decline, And ban the glass that e'er declares Their shrunken mien and silver hairs-- Those tott'ring knights and ancient dames Who still aspire to kindle flames, And dream of love and Cupid's darts, And Hymen's bonds, and bleeding hearts, And think it very hard to show 'em As all the world has chanced to know'em; And they, though young, of homely air, Who die to be esteem'd most fair, Who, closely wrapt in self-conceit, Believe themselves perfection sweet, And loathe the pictures that disclose Not tints of lily and of rose, Nor in the false, obsequious line Make Venus or Adonis shine-- Of fop, and fool, and sere old maid, Of truth's unflatt'ring forms afraid, Hope not the patronage, Daguerre. With them thy art is foul, not fair, "Mere trick!" and "stuff!" and "imposition!" "Unfit for any exhibition!" "Black, dirty daubs!" "Faugh! Coarse and vile!" "Old, ugly things that never smile!" And "why the Good Queen Dowager Should mount to Claudet's studi--o, And Louis Philippe come to err So much as to the Baron go. They cannot for their lives declare!" So hate ye, Beard, Claudet, Daguerre.(5) Take back the picture now, Lucrece (Reluctantly we must resign it!); And, doating on its ev'ry trace, Ere in its casket you enshrine it, Whene'er you gaze, and gaze and feel Its mystic influence o'er you steal And seem to commune, though apart, With the sweet sister of your heart, Bethink you she would prize, like you, A sister's faithful semblance too. We wot a certain hazel eye, Bright as the star I yonder eye, Bright as the star in yonder sky-- A pencill'd brow, a forehead fair-- And glossy braids of raven hair-- A merry glance--a sunny smile, Whose playful sweetness doth beguile-- a winning, heart-illumin'd face, Where goodness hath imprest her trace, Proclaiming o'er each flexile trait Her own supreme eternal sway. But why these items here recall? Peep in your glass, you'll see them all; And, if you would "dear Sarah" please, Send her the portraiture of these-- A sparkling, speaking, fond reflection, For ever priz'd by pure affection. E.S.C. Our engraving represents the photographic process at Mr. Beard's establishment, Parliament-street, Westminster. ______________________________________________________________________ (1) Nothing can be further from my intention than to decry the brilliant productions of these masters, or to snatch from painting the highest honours awarded to it by its most ardent admirers--among who I desire to be ranked; I refer only to that unerring accuracy of resemblance which, unattainable by the pencil, renders the Daguerreotype invaluable in portraiture. (2) Defects "plenty as blackberries" in the productions of the La Creevy school. (3) Who can have forgotten the warm-hearted little miniature- paintress, Miss La Creevy, afterwards Mrs. Tim Linkinwater, in "Nicholas Nickleby?" (4) The dazzling, but often fugitive, lights of expression, which not infrequently elude the practised and accomplished pencil, are rarely, if ever, caught by an inferior hand. To copy the features is a task of little difficulty; but to inform them with the character, and animate them with the expression of the sitter, require gifts and attainments not possessed by the ordinary face-painter. Here the Daguerreotype is unrivalled, and preserves, for ever, the fleeting sunbeam of a smile. (5) It is impossible to purge poor human nature of conceit. "Amour- propre aime les portraits;" but, as the Daguerreotype tells "the truth-- the whole truth--and nothing but the truth," they who, innocent of the attributes, pretend to youth, beauty, grace, and intellectual character, and to whom many years' close consultation of the glass has failed to dispel the "dear delusion," are ludicrously dismayed when they espy their honest resemblances, and as they can be in no wise persuaded of the unpalatable fact that the Daguerreotype is infallible, they fall foul on it, and denounce it with a heat and vindictiveness unspeakably amusing. It is needless to say that such aspirants only can be disappointed by a discovery that cannot be too highly estimated by the social affections. What treasure can we possess more coveted than the perfect likeness of the friend or relative most dear to our heart, and when did the pencil thoroughly satisfy the expectations of the eye familiar with the form, air, and bearing of the portrayed? (Original symbols used for footnotes have been revised to numbers. -G.E.) ----------------------------------------------------------------- 08-19-95

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