The Daguerreian Society



Selected text from The New-Yorker (New York) Vol. 7, No. 4 (13 April 1839) pp.49-51.


                    From Blackwood's Magazine for March.

NEW DISCOVERY IN THE FINE ARTS.

   Where are we going? Who can tell? The phantasmagoria of inventions passes rapidly before us—are we to see them no more?—are they to be obliterated? Is the hand of man to be altogether stayed in his work?—the wit active—the fingers idle? Wonderful wonder of wonders!! Vanish aqua-tints and mezzotints—as chimneys that consume their own smoke, devour yourselves. Steel engravers, copper engravers, and etchers, drink up your aquafortis and die! There is an end of your black art—'Othello's occupation is no more.' The real black art of true magic arises and cries avaunt. All nature shall paint herself—fields, rivers, trees, houses, plains, mountains, cities, shall all paint themselves at a bidding, and at a few moment's notice. Towns will no longer have any representatives but themselves. Invention says it. It has found out the one thing new under the sun; that by virtue of the sun's patent, all nature, animate and inanimate, shall be henceforth its own painter, engraver, printer, and publisher. Here is a revolution in art; and, that we may not be behindhand in revolutions, for which we have so imitative a taste no sooner does one start up in Paris, but we must have one in London too. And so Mr. Daguerre's invention is instantly rivaled by Mr. Fox Talbot's. The Dagueroscope and the Photogenic revolutions are to keep you all down, ye painters, engravers, and, alas! the harmless race, the sketchers. All ye, by whom the 'Flumen Rhenum, aut pluvius, discubilur arcus,' before whose unsteady hands towers have toppled down upon the paper, and the pagodas of the East have bowed, hide your heads in holes and corners, and wait there till you are called for. The 'mountain in labor' will no more produce a mouse; It will reproduce itself, with all that is upon it. Ye artists of all denominations that have so vilified nature as her journeymen, see how she rises up against you, and takes the staff into her own hands. Your mistress now, with vengeance, she will show you what she really is, and that the cloud is not 'very like a whale.' You must positively abscond. Now, as to you, locality painters, with your towns and castles on the Rhine, you will not get the 'ready rhino' for them now—and we have no pity for you. Bridges are far too arch now to put up with your false perspective. They will no longer be abridged of their due proportions by you; they will measure themselves and take their own toll. You will no longer be tolerated. You drawers of churches, Britton, Pugin, Mackenzie, beware lest you yourselves be drawn in. Every church will show itself to the world without your help. It will make its wants visible and known on paper; and, through vestry and church-warden quash the church rates, every steeple will lift up its head and demand proper repair.

"Mox reficit rates
Quaassas, indocilis pauperiem pati."

   Ye animal painters, go no more to the Zoologicals to stare the lions out of countenance—they do not want your countenance any more. The day is come for every beast to be his own portrait painter. 'None but himself shall be his parallel.' Every garden will publish its own Botanical Magazine. The true 'Forget-me-not' will banish all others from the earth. Talk no more of 'holding the mirror up to nature'—she will hold it up to herself, and present you with a copy of her countenance for a penny. What would you say to looking in a mirror and having the image fastened!! As one looks sometimes, it is really quite frightful to think of it; but such a thing is possible—nay, it is probable—no, it is certain. What will become of the poor thieves, when they shall see handed in as evidence against them their own portraits, taken by the room in which they stole, and in the very act of stealing! What wonderful discoveries is this wonderful discovery destined to discover! The telescope is rather an unfair telltale; but now every thing and every body may have to encounter his double every where, most inconveniently, and thus every one become his own caricaturist. Any one may walk about with his patent sketch-book—set it to work—and see in a few moments what is doing behind his back! Poor Murphy outdone!—the weather must be its own almanac—the waters keep their own tide-tables. What confusion will there be in autograph signs manual! How difficult to prove the representations of a forgery, if nobody has a hand in it!!
   Mr. Babbage in his (miscalled ninth Bridgewater) Treatise announces the astounding, as a very sublime truth, that every word uttered from the creation of the world has registered itself, and is still speaking, and will speak for ever in vibrations. In fact, there is a great album of Babel. But what too, if the great business of the sun be to act registrar likewise, and to give out impressions of our looks, and pictures of our actions; and so, if with Bishop Berkley's theory, there be no such thing as anything, quoad matter, for aught we know to the contrary, other worlds of the system may be peopled and conducted with the images of persons and transactions thrown off from this and from each other; the whole universal nature being nothing more than phonetic and photogenic structures.

(The text continues for some length with H. Fox Talbot's letter to the editor of the Literary Gazette.)

(End of text. Please refer to our textnote regarding this text.)

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