The Daguerreian Society


On this day, May 4, the following two items appeared in their respective 
publications. In both cases, the writer has taken opportunity to use the 
nature of the daguerreotype to construct a moral lesson.  Allow me to 
self-indulge in a phrase from a lecture I gave a couple years back: "If 
we are to understand the daguerreotype, we must not be afraid of its 
language." Although this sort of moralizing is rather foreign to us 
today, yet passages such as these help us to understand the "language of 
the daguerreotype."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
in the 1840  "Essex Register" (Salem, Vol. XL No. 36):

            From the Churchman.
                 L I N E S 
       AT THE DAGUERREOTYPE EXHIBITION.

Apples of gold in pictures of silver.--Prov XXV ii.

                     I.
      O what if thus our evil deeds
        Are blazoned in the sky;
      And every scene of our wild lives
        Daguerreotyped on high!

                  II.
      I know some angel chronicleth
        Each living mortal's name;
      But what if thus our vital breath
        Be painting out our shame!

                  III.
      O lowly live on earth, and let
        Thine alms, unseen as air,
      Be golden fruitage in the skies,
        And silver pictures there!


(-from the files of Chris Steele. The "exhibition" likely refers to the 
Boston exhibition/lectures of Francois Gouraud.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * (more...)
from the 1844 "New-York Observer" (Vol. 22, No. 18):

            For the New York Observer.
          T H E   D A G U E R R O T Y P E.

   The philosopher fixes his plate in the camera, and by the aid of 
chemistry, and the light of heaven, a most faithful resemblance of the 
object before it is fixed upon the polished plate.
   Does a smile play upon the lip of the sitter, it is faithfully 
transferred to the likeness.  Does a frown becloud the brow!  With the 
same unerring truthfulness it is fixed forever on the portrait.  The 
winking of an eye is a risk to the picture, the moving of a feature 
blurs it to its ruin.  No flattering pencil gives fire to an inanimate 
eye, or supplies a bright tint to the faded cheek.  No friendly touch 
half hides the faults, and makes the lion seem the lamb; but the 
daguerrotype, like the faithful historian, takes us--just as we are.
  And it is equally true that our moral image is sitting for its 
portrait to the great daguerrotype of Heaven, and on that page which 
will be unfolded hereafter, will we behold the very workings of our 
hearts, the actions of our lives, as they have transpired from day to 
day, each thought, each deed, whether good or evil, transferred with 
fearful faithfulness to the great portrait gallery of eternity.
   And it will be very easy to discover in these pictures a most 
striking family likeness.  To which ever of two great personages it will 
nearest assimilate, will mark the family to whom each belongs.  Is the 
foul filled with love of rapine and murder?  It is one of the family of 
that "roaring lion who goeth about seeking whom he may devour."  Is it 
filled with ambition, malice, deceit, deceiving and being deceived."  It 
is a child of the arch deceiver, the father of lies.  Is it filled with 
an overpowering love for fiches and joys and favor of this world!  He 
too is a son of the 'God of this world,' of the "prince of the power of 
the air."
   And has that soul been "just and devout" in its course on earth!  Has 
strict equity been the rule of his business hours, and ardent devotion 
the delight of his leisure moments!  Has that heart yearned with 
compassion for the distressed and needy; that soul, been filled with 
care for dying souls, and with self-denying love, put forth an energetic 
hand to relieve and save the miserable!  Ah!  This bears the likeness of 
the elder Brother, yes, this soul belongs to the family of the Father of 
our spirits, and reflects the very image of Him who died for lost and 
ruined man.                   ----------------            M. C.

(original spelling of "daguerrotype" maintained. - G.E.)
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Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       
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05-04-96


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