| What a spectacle! In whatever direction you turn your peering gaze, you see naught but human faces! There they stretch, from floor to ceilinghundreds of them. Ah! what tales might those pictures tell if their mute lips had the power of speech! How romance then, would be infinitely outdone by fact. Here is one nowa handsome female, apparently in a bridal dress. She was then, perhaps, just married. Her husband has brought her to get her likeness; and a fine one he must have had, if this is a correct duplicate of it. Is he yet the same tender husband? Another, near by, is the miniature of an aged matron, on whose head many winters have deposited their snowy semblance. But what a calm serene bearing! How graceful she looks in her old age!|
Even as you go in by the door, you see the withered features of a man who has occupied the proudest place on earth: you see the bald head of John Quincy Adams, and those eyes of dimmed but still quenchless fire. There too, is the youngest of the Presidents, Mr. Polk. From the same case looks out the massive face of Senator Benton. Who is one of his nearest neighbors? No one less than the Storm-King of the piano, De Meyer. Likewise Chancellor Kent and Alexander H. Everett.
Persico's statuary of the drooping Indian girl, and the male figure up-bearing a globe, is in an adjoining frame, true as the marble itself. Thence, too, beams down the Napoleon-looking oval face of Ole Bull, with his great dreamy eyes. Among the others in the same connection, (and an odd connection, enough!) are Mrs. Polk, her niece Miss Walker, Marble the comedian, Mayor Mickle, George Vandenhoff, Mrs. Tyler, and Mr. Buen, a most venerable white-haired ancient, (we understand, just dead!) On another part of the wall, you may see Mrs. J. C. Calhoun, the venerable Mesdames Hamilton and Madison, and Miss Alice Tyler. There, also, are Mike WalshRobert Owen, with his shrewd Scotch face, but benevolent lookHorace Greeleythe "pirate" BabeGrant ThorbornAudubon, the ornithologist, a fiery-eyed old man and Mr. Plumbe himself. Besides these, of course, are hundreds of others. Indeed, it is little else on all sides of you, than a great legion of human faceshuman eyes gazing silently but fixedly upon you, and creating the impression of an immense Phantom concoursespeechless and motionless, but yet realities. You are indeed in a new worlda peopled world, though mute as the grave. We don't know how it is with others, but we could spend days in that collection, and find enough enjoyment in the thousand human histories, involved in those daguerreotypes.
There is always, to us, a strange fascination, in portraits. We love to dwell long upon themto infer many things, from the text they preachto pursue the current of thoughts running riot about them. It is singular what a peculiar influence is possessed by the eye of a well-painted miniature or portrait.It has a sort of magnetism. We have miniatures in our possession, which we have often held, and gazed upon the eyes in them for the half-hour! An electric chain seems to vibrate, as it were, between our brain and him or her preserved there so well by the limner's cunning. Time, space, both are annihilated, and we identify the semblance with the reality.And even more than that. For the strange fascination of looking at the eyes of a portrait, sometimes goes beyond what comes from the real orbs themselves.
Plumbe's beautiful and multifarious pictures all strike you, (whatever their various peculiarities) with their naturalness, and the life-look of the eyethat soul of the face! In all his vast collection, many of them thrown hap-hazard, we notice not one that has a dead eye. Of course this is a surpassing merit. Nor is it unworthy of notice, that the building is fitted up by him in many ranges of rooms, each with a daguerrian operator; and not merely as one single room, with one operator, like other places have. The greatest emulation is excited; and persons or parties having portraits taken, retain exclusive possession of one room, during the time.