The Daguerreian Society

Selected text from the tale, "Mrs. Daffodil's Shopping Expedition", in Godey's Lady's Book (Philadelphia) Vol. 54 (June 1857) pp. 500-503. This text is also available, in its entirety, as a PDF file.



   “Mrs. Daffodil, I must have your daguerreotype,” said George, as we left Madam’s. “Will you sit for it now?”
  “Sit now? What on?” said the old lady, looking round for a convenient resting-place.
  “At Mr. Root’s. I want you to go with me this morning, and let him take your daguerreotype.”
   “I haven’t got any for him to take.”
   “Mr. George wants you to sit for your picture, ma,” said Pete. “Don’t you want mine, Miss Annie? It will console you for my absence when I return to my native hills. It will comfort me too to think I have left you something to make you feel less miserable when you miss the music of my voice.
   “Pete,” said George, “where did you learn sentiment and love-making?”
   “That’s telling,” said Pete, looking quizzically at me.
   “This is Root’s gallery,” said George.
   “Root’s what?” cried the old lady; “gal-lery.”
   “Similar to a Turkish harem, said Pete, gravely. “Walk up, ladies and gentlemen. Here you will see the only living specimen of—”
   “Little Pickle,” said George.
   Mrs. Daffodil took up one of the pictures lying on the table in the show-room, and tried in vain to see what was on the plate. She turned it upside down, sideways, crosswise, every way but inside out, and could only see it when George held it for her in the proper position. It was some time before she would promise to have her face pictured in that way. She “wasn’t dressed up enough, for one thing; and, besides, she knew she would be nothing but an ugly old woman after all.” At length, after much discussion, she consented to sit if we would all sit first, and let her take George and me home with her in a morocco case. George sat first to show Pete how, he said; and the old lady was in ecstasies over the plate.
   “Lors, Mr. George! wasn’t it done quick? How on airth did he do it? And it looks nateral enough to speak. May I go up when Pete does?”
   Permission being given, we went to the room where the impression is taken. Pete sat down opposite the instrument where the plate is placed.
   “Lors, Pete! Pete! get up! it’ll go off!” cried his mother.
   “The little cannon. I see how they do it so quick. They shoot the piece of tin at you; and, when it hits you in the face, it rubs off a picture. My Pete sha’n’t sit there.”
   George and the operator were in such convulsions of laughter that it was some time before any one contradicted this original idea. It was useless to endeavor to persuade her to let Pete sit; and, when I proposed to go next, she pathetically entreated me not to do so.
   “It might explode, or something, Miss Annie; and then, if it don’t, the tin might not come straight; and, if a corner went into your eye, it will blind you for life. Please don’t go.”
   While I was sitting, she watched me with nervous apprehension, and stood ready to rush to the rescue in case of an explosion. Her amazement, when the picture was shown to her, was most amazing; and she consented to let Pete sit down opposite the fearful engine, first carefully inspecting it through her glasses.
   “Look through here, Mrs. Daffodil,” said George, taking her behind it, and showing her the reversing glass.
   “Lors!” she cried; “Pete’s standing on his head! Pete!”
   “Yes, ma.”
   “Get down off your head. You’ll be having conflagration of the brain, if you do so.”
   The operator, coming with the plate, interrupted her survey.
   Pete sat down. “You are sure it won’t go off?” he said, with a good imitation of his mother’s frightened voice.
   “Yes, sir, it’s perfectly safe. Will you sit down?”
   “No; I thank you; I prefer standing. Mother, will you please stand out of my sight, and you, too, Miss Annie? I’m bashful; and it discomposes my nerves to have ladies looking at me.”
   We all left him, and saw no more of Pete until he came with the operator to show the picture.
   Such a complete caricature I never saw. He had struck an attitude of extreme fear; and, with a most ludicrous expression of exaggerated fright, his eyes open to their full extent, his mouth partly so, his hands raised, and his hair pushed up so as to stand on end, he made the best comic picture I have seen for a long time. George insisted upon its being preserved, though his mother said he was just “discouraging Pete’s tantrums.”
   “Tain’t a tantrum, ma. I was afraid it would go off.”
   It was now the old lady’s turn; and she sat down.
   “You must keep perfectly still, madam,” said the operator, noticing that she kept shifting her position.
   “Miss Annie,” said the old lady, “how would you be taken? Seraphina Maria Jenks has her picture taken so.” And she leaned her head upon her hand, and looked up with the most lackadaisical expression imaginable.
   “Sit as you always do at home,” said George—“naturally.”
   It was some time before she had her position as she wanted it; but at length she succeeded, and promised to keep perfectly still. The first picture was a failure. As the old lady alternately raised and cast down her eyes, opened and shut her mouth, the impression of these features was somewhat indistinct.
   “You must keep your features perfectly still,” said George. “Don’t move your eyes or mouth at all.”
   After many efforts, a good impression was secured, and we left the gallery. As it was then dinner-time, we concluded to postpone our further shopping until the next day; and we returned home, the old lady declaring she was “tired to death, and e’en-a’most starved.”

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

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