The Daguerreian Society


Today's post is somewhat long, but this account--in the form of a poem--provides a glimpse into the ordeal of daguerreotyping a large group.  With thanks to Mr. Chris Steele of Boston, for locating these tworelated texts.* * * * * * *On this day (October 28) in the year 1846, the following notice appeared in the "Daily Evening Transcript" (Boston; p. 2):  A Daguerreotype, which we consider the mostperfect we have ever seen, was shown to us yes-terday.  It is the family of the Honorable WilliamJackson of Newton--father, mother, and four-teen children--done by John A. Whipple of thelate firm of Litch & Whipple, 113 Washingtonstreet.    [Atlas.* * * * * * *This text appears along with an illustration of the subject daguerreotype in "The Daguerreian Annual 1994," pp. 58-60.  Poem by Mrs. Marian Jackson in Gilbert Cornelia Jackson, coll., "Poems of the Jackson Homestead" (Boston: W. M. Jackson, 1903), pp. 38-3.The DaguerreotypeNow, answering to our parent's call,We muster in the artist's hall.O what a set of laughing faces!What an array of shining graces!See, Whipple hastes with anxious care,All things in order to prepare,That Sol may all our faces fixJust as we look in forty-six;But consternation and surpriseAnd doubt are painted in his eyes!The parents, with their progeny,He has prepared himself to see;But thought the children young, and smallAnd hoped his lens would take them all;But while he hastened to prepare,And placed his frame with jealous careFor fourteen romping boys and girls,Alackaday, his reason whirls,To see all ages, small and great,From nine years old to thirty-eight!To group so many side by sideOn the same plate, he never tried.With glowing cheek, and modest air,He bids the patriarchal pairBe seated by each other's side,Behind the centre table wide;Then, clustering round on either hand,Gather the mirthful, happy band;Arranged with skill, the artist's tasteEach in his proper seat has placed.Tim and Louise at chess are playing;Hannah is near, the game surveying,While Mary, Frank, and brother EdAre standing back of mother's head;Cornelia next--the pet--you see,Then Caroline, and sister Kee;On a small stool, at father's feet,Our Stephen has his quiet seat.Willie! where shall we look for him?Ah! on the sofa, next to Tim.Sarah on father's left, and nearIs Marian--now all are here;But say, can Sol his task complete?Widespread the fame of such a feat.Can sixteen, all so full of wit,Keep silence, and not move a bit?'Twas never yet; but we will seeIf, for a moment, it could be.Hush! All be quiet now; and willEach thought to silence--check each nervous thrill,And say, to every feeling, now,--be still!'Tis over!--what relief! Now, breathe,--give ventTo all that for a moment has been pent.But hush! for see, the patient artist comesPointing his finger at two guilty ones!Yes, two have moved; Stephen and Mary thereStand like a blot upon the picture fair.It will not do; so now the artist fainWould have us straightaway fix ourselves again;But while we sober down, that we may beMost justly handed to posterity,Wit, merriment, and smiles, but ill suppressed,Break from the less sedate, infecting all the rest.In vain our sire proclaims his will,Urging fresh efforts to be still,For in his eye and forehead wideMirthfulness seeks in vain to hide;And from his own sage lips bursts forthE're and anon fresh food for mirth.At last unmoving are we allAnd silence reigns throughout the hall.Oh what a lengthened, tedious minute!How many thoughts were pent up in it!But now, 'tis past; we wait in fearTill Mr. Whipple's step we hear;Each one, half springing from his seat,Asks if the picture is complete.Not yet--not yet! ah, once more try,I'll tell you where to fix your eye.Full on that hat must Ellen look,And Stephen on the open book;The rest at spots upon the wall,Or where the eye may easy fall.He might have said, no matter where,But shun each other's eyes with care!For I am sure, mirth ill suppressedFilled me, in common with the rest.But once more now our breath we hold'Till sixty seconds could be told:Once more we brace ourselves, and tryFirmly to keep the watery eye;Resolved, this time at least, we will,If it is possible, be still.'Tis done! and to our glad surprise,The artist now, with glowing eyes,Holds up to our delighted viewThe pictured group; so strictly true!Each one upon the plate is thereSketched with the most discerning care.There sits our sire; upon his browThe frosts of years are gath'ring now,While lines of deep and anxious careHave made themselves a dwelling there!Oh, while I gaze upon that face,How sadly now does memory traceUpon my thoughts the bygone days,When thoughtless of his love and care,I've helped to put those furrows there!Close on his right hand sits our mother;In all the world there is no otherWho willingly would sit and shareThe tolls and cares that cluster there!E'en as she sits, she seems to say,"Oh! must we mark the Christian way;Must all these children, by our hand,Be guided to that better land?""Yes, wife, and we will try our best;God and our faith will do the rest!"Ah! he has blessed! go look around;Can such a circle e're be foundWhere happiness and health abound?True, there is one, upon whose headHer heavenly Father's hand is laid;Who now with deep affliction pressedReturns in the vain search for rest,As when, in childhood's griefs, she hiedTo her beloved father's side.Mysterious are the doings of His will,But to our murmuring hearts we say, "Be still!"The rest few trials have yet known;Few thorns are on their pathway strewn;Louise and Tim in quiet play.Are passing a spare hour away,While Frank behind them seemed to say,"I wish that I might learn to play."But just one glance at Mary's faceAnd clearly there reproof she'll trace;Her downcast eyes and solemn airMost plainly say, "Beware! beware!Your precious hours are chased awayAnd thoughtless feet led far astray!"Not so severe is Hannah's eye,Who stands so calm and pensive by;Her face would say, "Well, I don't seeIn playing chess, what harm can be.You need not be so melancholy;I think you overnice, Miss Molly!"Lucretia, Caroline, and Pell,Ed, and Corneille, look very well;Stephen, good boy, with downcast eyeSits reading there so quietly;While "last, not least," is Willie--placedOn the same seat by mother graced.But, stop a minute, and look here,I want to whisper in your ear;Look sharp at Willie's foot and seeThat shoe, ragged as it can be,To show to his posterity!Well, I suppose that they'll conclude,With fourteen children--such a brood--They could not surely always chooseBut take their turns with ragged shoes.Here, then, we are, and here we must remain.Fashions will go their rounds, and come again;Changes will fall on everything beside,But we, and we alone, unchanged abide!And now one word to all our future storeOf children's children, doubtless many a score;Look gently on, if nature has deniedThe faults of figure and of face to hide;We do not share the sin--the mind and heartto free from errors--this must be our part.--------------------------------------------------------------Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     --------------------------------------------------------------10-28-97


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