THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
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M DCCC LXIII.
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[Transcriber's note: Converted page numbers to issue numbers.]
American, An, in the House of Lords Francis Wayland, Jr. 70.
Brothers, The Louisa M. Alcott 73. Burke, Edmund, Interesting Manuscripts of Charles Sumner 71.
Carlyle, Thomas, A Letter to D.A. Wasson 72. Civic Banquets Nathaniel Hawthorne 70. Claims, The, to Service or Labor Robert Dale Owen 69. Continents, The Growth of Prof. Louis Agassiz 69. Cuba, The Conquest of C.C. Hazewell 72.
Deacon's Holocaust, The J.P. Quincy 72. Debby's Debut Louisa M. Alcott 70. Delacroix, Eugene W.J. Stillman 74. De Quincy, Thomas Henry M. Alden 71. Doings of the Sunbeam O.W. Holmes 69.
English Naval Power and English Colonies C. Reynolds 69.
Fleur-de-Lis, The, at Port Royal F. Parkman 69. Fleur-de-Lis, The, in Florida F. Parkman 70. Freedmen, The, at Port Royal Edward L. Pierce 71. French Struggle for Naval and Colonial Power, The G. Reynolds 73.
Gala-Days Gail Hamilton 69. Geological Middle Age, The Prof. Louis Agassiz 70. Glacier, Internal Structure and Progression of the Prof. Louis Agassiz 74. Glaciers, The Formation of Prof. Louis Agassiz 73. Great Air-Engine, The Author of "Margret Howth" 74. Great Instrument, The O.W. Holmes 73.
Harvard's Heroes Walter Mitchell 71.
Lamb's, Charles, Uncollected Writings J.E. Babson 72. Legend, The, of Monte del Diablo F.B. Harte 72. Letter to a Peace Democrat Francis Wayland, Jr 74. Life without Principle H.D. Thoreau 72. Literary Life in Paris 74. Longfellow George W. Curtis 74.
Man without a Country, The Edward E. Hale 74. Mather Safe, The J.P. Quincy 71. Monograph from an Old Note-Book Charles Sumner 73. Mr. Martin's Disappointments 71. Mrs. Lewis Mrs. C.A. Hopkinson 71, 72, 73. Musician, The Miss L. Hale 69.
Night and Moonlight H.D. Thoreau 73.
Our Domestic Relations Charles Sumner 72. Our General 69. Outside Glimpses of English Poverty Nathaniel Hawthorne 69.
Paul Blecker Author of "Margret Howth" 69. Political Problems and Conditions of Peace Woodbury Davis 70. Puritan Minister, The T.W. Higginson 71.
Sam Adams Regiments, The, in the Town of Boston Richard Frothingham 73. Schumann, Robert and Clara M.D. Conway 71. Side-Glances at Harvard Class-Day Gail Hamilton 70. Something about Bridges H.T. Tuckerman 74. Spaniard, The, and the Heretic F. Parkman 73. Sympathetic Lying 74.
Tertiary Age, The, and its Characteristic Animals Prof. Louis Agassiz 71.
United States Armory, The G.B. Prescott 72.
Wet-Weather Work Donald G. Mitchell 70, 73. Who is Roebuck? W.J. Austin 71. Winthrop's, Theodore, Writings Charles Nordhoff 70.
Andante A. West 73.
Barbara Frietchie John G. Whittier 72. Birds of Killingworth, The H.W. Longfellow 74. By the River J.T. Trowbridge 69.
Equinoctial Mrs. A.D.T. Whitney 72.
Her Epitaph T.W. Parsons 69. Hilary Lucy Larcom 70.
In an Attic Mrs. Paul Akers 74.
King's Wine, The T.B. Aldrich 73.
Love's Challenge T.W. Parsons 70. Loyal Woman's No, A 74. Lyrics of the Street Mrs. Julia Ward Howe 71.
My Palace A. West 72.
New Sangreal, The Rose Terry 71. No and Yes Theodore Tilton 71.
Pewee, The J.T. Trowbridge 72.
Seaward Mrs. A.D.T. Whitney 70. Something Left Undone H.W. Longfellow 73.
Thoreau's Flute Louisa M. Alcott 71. Two Scenes from the Life of Blondel James Russell Lowell 73.
Voluntaries R.W. Emerson 72.
Weariness H.W. Longfellow 73. White-Throated Sparrow, The A. West 70. Wraith of Odin, The H.W. Longfellow 69.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Cullum's Systems of Military Bridges 74.
Dicey's Six Months in the Federal States 71.
Fuller's Good Thoughts in Bad Times 74.
Hospital Transports 71. Howitt's History of the Supernatural 71.
Kemble's, Frances Anne, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation 70. Kirk's History of Charles the Bold 74.
Livermore's Historical Research 70. Long's Translation of the Thoughts of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus 72. Lyell's Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man 69.
Mitchell's Astronomy of the Bible 69.
Phillips's, Wendell, Speeches, Lectures, and Letters 74.
Richter's Levana 72.
Spurgeon's Sermons 69. Substance and Shadow 69.
Ticknor's History of Spanish Literature 73.
Washburn on the American Law of Easements and Servitudes 69.
RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS 69, 70, 73, 74.
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THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
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VOL. XII.—JULY, 1863.—NO. LXIX.
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DOINGS OF THE SUNBEAM.
Few of those who seek a photographer's establishment to have their portraits taken know at all into what a vast branch of commerce this business of sun-picturing has grown. We took occasion lately to visit one of the principal establishments in the country, that of Messrs. E. & H.T. Anthony, in Broadway, New York. We had made the acquaintance of these gentlemen through the remarkable instantaneous stereoscopic views published by them, and of which we spoke in a former article in terms which some might think extravagant. Our unsolicited commendation of these marvellous pictures insured us a more than polite reception. Every detail of the branches of the photographic business to which they are more especially devoted was freely shown us, and "No Admittance" over the doors of their inmost sanctuaries came to mean for us, "Walk in; you are heartily welcome."
We should be glad to tell our readers of all that we saw in the two establishments of theirs which we visited, but this would take the whole space which we must distribute among several subdivisions of a subject that offers many points of interest. We must confine ourselves to a few glimpses and sketches.
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The guests of the neighboring hotels, as they dally with their morning's omelet, little imagine what varied uses come out of the shells which furnished them their anticipatory repast of disappointed chickens. If they had visited Mr. Anthony's upper rooms, they would have seen a row of young women before certain broad, shallow pans filled with the glairy albumen which once enveloped those potential fowls.
The one next us takes a large sheet of photographic paper, (a paper made in Europe for this special purpose, very thin, smooth, and compact,) and floats it evenly on the surface of the albumen. Presently she lifts it very carefully by the turned-up corners and hangs it bias, as a seamstress might say, that is, cornerwise, on a string, to dry. This "albumenized" paper is sold most extensively to photographers, who find it cheaper to buy than to prepare it. It keeps for a long time uninjured, and is "sensitized" when wanted, as we shall see by-and-by.
The amount of photographic paper which is annually imported from France and Germany has been estimated at fifteen thousand reams. Ten thousand native partlets—
"Sic vos non vobis nidificatis, aves"—
cackle over the promise of their inchoate offspring, doomed to perish unfeathered, before fate has decided whether they shall cluck or crow, for the sole use of the minions of the sun and the feeders of the caravanseras.
In another portion of the same establishment are great collections of the chemical substances used in photography. To give an idea of the scale on which these are required, we may state that the estimate of the annual consumption of the precious metals for photographic purposes, in this country, is set down at ten tons for silver and half a ton for gold. Vast quantities of the hyposulphite of soda, which, we shall see, plays an important part in the process of preparing the negative plate and finishing the positive print, are also demanded.
In another building, provided with steam power, which performs much of the labor, is carried on the great work of manufacturing photographic albums, cases for portraits, parts of cameras, and of printing pictures from negatives. Many of these branches of work are very interesting. The luxurious album, embossed, clasped, gilded, resplendent as a tropical butterfly, goes through as many transformations as a "purple emperor". It begins a pasteboard larva, is swathed and pressed and glued into the condition of a chrysalis, and at last alights on the centre table gorgeous in gold and velvet, the perfect imago. The cases for portraits are made in lengths, and cut up, somewhat as they say ships are built in Maine, a mile at a time, to be afterwards sawed across so as to become sloops, schooners, or such other sized craft as may happen to be wanted.
Each single process in the manufacture of elaborate products of skill often times seems and is very simple. The workmen in large establishments, where labor is greatly subdivided, become wonderfully adroit in doing a fraction of something. They always remind us of the Chinese or the old Egyptians. A young person who mounts photographs on cards all day long confessed to having never, or almost never, seen a negative developed, though standing at the time within a few feet of the dark closet where the process was going on all day long. One forlorn individual will perhaps pass his days in the single work of cleaning the glass plates for negatives. Almost at his elbow is a toning bath, but he would think it a good joke, if you asked him whether a picture had lain long enough in the solution of gold or hyposulphite.
We always take a glance at the literature which is certain to adorn the walls in the neighborhood of each operative's bench or place for work. Our friends in the manufactory we are speaking of were not wanting in this respect. One of the girls had pasted on the wall before her,
"Kind words can never die."
It would not have been easy to give her a harsh one after reading her chosen maxim. "The Moment of Parting" was twice noticed. "The Haunted Spring", "Dearest May", "The Bony Boat", "Yankee Girls", "Yankee Ship and Yankee Crew", "My Country, 'tis of thee", and—was there ever anybody that ever broke up prose into lengths who would not look to see if there were not a copy of some performance of his own on the wall he was examining, if he were exploring the inner chamber of a freshly opened pyramid?
We left the great manufacturing establishment of the Messrs. Anthony, more than ever impressed with the vast accession of happiness which has come to mankind through this art, which has spread itself as widely as civilization. The photographer can procure every article needed for his work at moderate cost and in quantities suited to his wants. His prices have consequently come down to such a point that pauperism itself need hardly shrink from the outlay required for a family portrait-gallery. The "tin-types," as the small miniatures are called,—stanno-types would be the proper name,—are furnished at the rate of two cents each! A portrait such as Isabey could not paint for a Marshal of France,—a likeness such as Malbone could not make of a President's Lady, to be had for two coppers,—a dozen chefs d'oeuvre for a quarter of a dollar!
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We had been for a long time meditating a devotion of a part of what is left of our more or less youthful energies to acquiring practical knowledge of the photographic art. The auspicious moment came at last, and we entered ourselves as the temporary apprentice of Mr. J.W. Black of this city, well known as a most skilful photographer and a friendly assistant of beginners in the art.
We consider ourselves at this present time competent to set up a photographic ambulance or to hang out a sign in any modest country town. We should, no doubt, over-time and under-tone, and otherwise wrong the countenances of some of our sitters; but we should get the knack in a week or two, and if Baron Wenzel owned to having spoiled a hat-full of eyes before he had fairly learned how to operate for cataract, we need not think too much of libelling a few village physiognomies before considering ourselves fit to take the minister and his deacons. After years of practice there is always something to learn, but every one is surprised to find how little time is required for the acquisition of skill enough to make a passable negative and print a tolerable picture. We could not help learning, with the aid that was afforded us by Mr. Black and his assistants, who were all so very courteous and pleasant, that, as a token of gratitude, we offered to take photographs of any of them who would sit to us for that purpose. Every stage of the process, from preparing a plate to mounting a finished sun-print, we have taught our hands to perform, and can therefore speak with a certain authority to those who wish to learn the way of working with the sunbeam.
Notwithstanding the fact that the process of making a photographic picture is detailed in a great many books,—nay, although we have given a brief account of the principal stages of it in one of our former articles, we are going to take the reader into the sanctuary of the art with us, and ask him to assist, in the French sense of the word, while we make a photograph,—say, rather, while the mysterious forces which we place in condition to act work that miracle for us.
We are in a room lighted through a roof of ground glass, its walls covered with blue paper to avoid reflection. A camera mounted on an adjustable stand is before us. We will fasten this picture, which we are going to copy, against the wall. Now we will place the camera opposite to it, and bring it into focus so as to give a clear image on the square of ground glass in the interior of the instrument. If the image is too large, we push the camera back; if too small, push it up towards the picture and focus again. The image is wrong side up, as we see; but if we take the trouble to reverse the picture we are copying, it will appear in its proper position in the camera. Having got an image of the right size, and perfectly sharp, we will prepare a sensitive plate, which shall be placed exactly where the ground glass now is, so that this same image shall be printed on it.
For this purpose we must quit the warm precincts of the cheerful day, and go into the narrow den where the deeds of darkness are done. Its dimensions are of the smallest, and its aspect of the rudest. A feeble yellow flame from a gas-light is all that illuminates it. All round us are troughs and bottles and water-pipes, and ill-conditioned utensils of various kinds. Everything is blackened with nitrate of silver; every form of spot, of streak, of splash, of spatter, of stain, is to be seen upon the floor, the walls, the shelves, the vessels. Leave all linen behind you, ye who enter here, or at least protect it at every exposed point. Cover your hands in gauntlets of India-rubber, if you would not utter Lady Macbeth's soliloque over them when they come to the light of day. Defend the nether garments with overalls, such as plain artisans are wont to wear. Button the ancient coat over the candid shirt-front, and hold up the retracted wristbands by elastic bands around the shirt-sleeve above the elbow. Conscience and nitrate of silver are telltales that never forget any tampering with them, and the broader the light the darker their record. Now to our work.
Here is a square of crown glass three-fourths as large as a page of the "Atlantic Monthly," if you happen to know that periodical. Let us brush it carefully, that its surface may be free from dust. Now we take hold of it by the upper left-hand corner and pour some of this thin syrup-like fluid upon it, inclining the plate gently from side to side, so that it may spread evenly over the surface, and let the superfluous fluid drain back from the right hand upper corner into the bottle. We keep the plate rocking from side to side, so as to prevent the fluid running in lines, as it has a tendency to do. The neglect of this precaution is evident in some otherwise excellent photographs; we notice it, for instance, in Frith's Abou Simbel, No. 1, the magnificent rock-temple facade. In less than a minute the syrupy fluid has dried, and appears like a film of transparent varnish on the glass plate. We now place it on a flat double hook of gutta percha and lower it gently into the nitrate-of-silver bath. As it must remain there three or four minutes, we will pass away the time in explaining what has been already done.
The syrupy fluid was iodized collodion. This is made by dissolving gun-cotton in ether with alcohol, and adding some iodide of ammonium. When a thin layer of this fluid is poured on the glass plate, the ether and alcohol evaporate very speedily, and leave a closely adherent film of organic matter derived from the cotton, and containing the iodide of ammonium. We have plunged this into the bath, which contains chiefly nitrate of silver, but also some iodide of silver,—knowing that a decomposition will take place, in consequence of which the iodide of ammonium will become changed to the iodide of silver, which will now fill the pores of the collodion film. The iodide of silver is eminently sensitive to light. The use of the collodion is to furnish a delicate, homogeneous, adhesive, colorless layer in which the iodide may be deposited. Its organic nature may favor the action of light upon the iodide of silver.
While we have been talking and waiting, the process just described has been going on, and we are now ready to take the glass plate out of the nitrate-of-silver bath. It is wholly changed in aspect. The film has become in appearance like a boiled white of egg, so that the glass produces rather the effect of porcelain, as we look at it. Open no door now! Let in no glimpse of day, or the charm is broken in an instant! No Sultana was ever veiled from the light of heaven as this milky tablet we hold must be. But we must carry it to the camera which stands waiting for it in the blaze of high noon. To do this we first carefully place it in this narrow case, called a shield, where it lies safe in utter darkness. We now carry it to the camera, and, having removed the ground glass on which the camera-picture had been brought to an exact focus, we drop the shield containing the sensitive plate into the groove the glass occupied. Then we pull out a slide, as the blanket is taken from a horse before he starts. There is nothing now but to remove the brass cap from the lens. That is giving the word Go! It is a tremulous moment for the beginner.
As we lift the brass cap, we begin to count seconds,—by a watch, if we are naturally unrhythmical,—by the pulsations in our souls, if we have an intellectual pendulum and escapement. Most persons can keep tolerably even time with a second-hand while it is traversing its circle. The light is pretty good at this time, and we count only as far as thirty, when we cover the lens again with the cap. Then we replace the slide in the shield, draw this out of the camera, and carry it back into the shadowy realm where Cocytus flows in black nitrate of silver and Acheron stagnates in the pool of hyposulphite, and invisible ghosts, trooping down from the world of day, cross a Styx of dissolved sulphate of iron, and appear before the Rhadamanthus of that lurid Hades.
Such a ghost we hold imprisoned in the shield we have just brought from the camera. We open it and find our milky-surfaced glass plate looking exactly as it did when we placed it in the shield. No eye, no microscope, can detect a trace of change in the white film that is spread over it. And yet there is a potential image in it,—a latent soul, which will presently appear before its judge. This is the Stygian stream,—this solution of proto-sulphate of iron, with which we will presently flood the white surface.
We pour on the solution. There is no change at first; the fluid flows over the whole surface as harmless and as useless as if it were water. What if there were no picture there? Stop! what is that change of color beginning at this edge, and spreading as a blush spreads over a girl's cheek? It is a border, like that round the picture, and then dawns the outline of a head, and now the eyes come out from the blank as stars from the empty sky, and the lineaments define themselves, plainly enough, yet in a strange aspect,—for where there was light in the picture we have shadow, and where there was shadow we have light. But while we look it seems to fade again, as if it would disappear. Have no fear of that; it is only deepening its shadows. Now we place it under the running water which we have always at hand. We hold it up before the dull-red gas-light, and then we see that every line of the original and the artist's name are reproduced as sharply as if the fairies had engraved them for us. The picture is perfect of its kind, only it seems to want a little more force. That we can easily get by the simple process called "intensifying" or "redeveloping." We mix a solution of nitrate of silver and of pyro-gallic acid in about equal quantities, and pour it upon the pictured film and back again into the vessel, repeating this with the same portion of fluid several times. Presently the fluid grows brownish, and at the same time the whole picture gains the depth of shadow in its darker parts which we desire. Again we place it under the running water. When it is well washed, we plunge it into this bath of hyposulphite of soda, which removes all the iodide of silver, leaving only the dark metal impregnating the film. After it has remained there a few minutes, we take it out and wash it again as before under the running stream of water. Then we dry it, and when it is dry, pour varnish over it, dry that, and it is done. This is a negative,—not a true picture, but a reversed picture, which puts darkness for light and light for darkness. From this we can take true pictures, or positives.
Let us now proceed to take one of these pictures. In a small room, lighted by a few rays which filter through a yellow curtain, a youth has been employed all the morning in developing the sensitive conscience of certain sheets of paper, which came to him from the manufacturer already glazed by having been floated upon the white of eggs and carefully dried, as previously described. This "albumenized" paper the youth lays gently and skilfully upon the surface of a solution of nitrate of silver. When it has floated there a few minutes, he lifts it, lets it drain, and hangs it by one corner to dry. This "sensitized" paper is served fresh every morning, as it loses its delicacy by keeping.
We take a piece of this paper of the proper size, and lay it on the varnished or pictured side of the negative, which is itself laid in a wooden frame, like a picture-frame. Then we place a thick piece of cloth on the paper. Then we lay a hinged wooden back on the cloth, and by means of two brass springs press all close together,—the wooden back against the cloth, the cloth against the paper, the paper against the negative. We turn the frame over and see that the plain side of the glass negative is clean. And now we step out upon the roof of the house into the bright sunshine, and lay the frame, with the glass uppermost, in the full blaze of light. For a very little while we can see the paper darkening through the negative, but presently it clouds so much that its further changes cannot be recognized. When we think it has darkened nearly enough, we turn it over, open a part of the hinged back, turn down first a portion of the thick cloth, and then enough of the paper to see something of the forming picture. If not printed dark enough as yet, we turn back to their places successively the picture, the cloth, the opened part of the frame, and lay it again in the sun. It is just like cooking: the sun is the fire, and the picture is the cake; when it is browned exactly to the right point, we take it off the fire. A photograph-printer will have fifty or more pictures printing at once, and he keeps going up and down the line, opening the frames to look and see how they are getting on. As fast as they are done, he turns them over, back to the sun, and the cooking process stops at once.
The pictures which have just been printed in the sunshine are of a peculiar purple tint, and still sensitive to the light, which will first "flatten them out," and finally darken the whole paper, if they are exposed to it before the series of processes which "fixes" and "tones" them. They are kept shady, therefore, until a batch is ready to go down to the toning room.
When they reach that part of the establishment, the first thing that is done with them is to throw them face down upon the surface of a salt bath. Their purple changes at once to a dull red. They are then washed in clean water for a few minutes, and after that laid, face up, in a solution of chloride of gold with a salt of soda. Here they must lie for some minutes at least; for the change, which we can watch by the scanty daylight admitted, goes on slowly. Gradually they turn to a darker shade; the reddish tint becomes lilac, purple, brown, of somewhat different tints in different cases. When the process seems to have gone far enough, the picture is thrown into a bath containing hyposulphite of soda, which dissolves the superfluous, unstable compounds, and rapidly clears up the lighter portions of the picture. On being removed from this, it is thoroughly washed, dried, and mounted, by pasting it with starch or dextrine to a card of the proper size.
The reader who has followed the details of the process may like to know what are the common difficulties the beginner meets with.
The first is in coating the glass with collodion. It takes some practice to learn to do this neatly and uniformly.
The second is in timing the immersion in the nitrate-of-silver bath. This is easily overcome; the glass may be examined by the feeble lamp-light at the end of two or three minutes, and if the surface looks streaky, replunged in the bath for a minute or two more, or until the surface looks smooth.
The third is in getting an exact focus in the camera, which wants good eyes, or strong glasses for poor ones.
The fourth is in timing the exposure. This is the most delicate of all the processes. Experience alone can teach the time required with different objects in different lights. Here are four card-portraits from a negative taken from one of Barry's crayon-pictures, illustrating an experiment which will prove very useful to the beginner. The negative of No. 1 was exposed only two seconds. The young lady's face is very dusky on a very dusky ground. The lights have hardly come out at all. No. 2 was exposed five seconds. Undertimed, but much cleared up. No. 3 was exposed fifteen seconds, about the proper time. It is the best of the series, but the negative ought to have been intensified. It looks as if Miss E.V. had washed her face since the five-seconds picture was taken. No. 4 was exposed sixty seconds, that is to say, three or four times too long. It has a curious resemblance to No. 1, but is less dusky. The contrasts of light and shade which gave life to No. 3 have disappeared, and the face looks as if a second application of soap would improve it. A few trials of this kind will teach the eye to recognize the appearances of under- and over-exposure, so that, if the first negative proves to have been too long or too short a time in the camera, the proper period of exposure for the next may be pretty easily determined.
The printing from the negative is less difficult, because we can examine the picture as often as we choose; but it may be well to undertime and overtime some pictures, for the sake of a lesson like that taught by the series of pictures from the four negatives.
The only other point likely to prove difficult is the toning in the gold bath. As the picture can be watched, however, a very little practice will enable us to recognize the shade which indicates that this part of the process is finished.
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We have copied a picture, but we can take a portrait from Nature just as easily, except for a little more trouble in adjusting the position and managing the light. So easy is it to reproduce the faces that we love to look upon; so simple is that marvellous work by which we preserve the first smile of infancy and the last look of age: the most precious gift Art ever bestowed upon love and friendship!
It will be observed that the glass plate, covered with its film of collodion, was removed directly from the nitrate-of-silver bath to the camera, so as to be exposed to its image while still wet. It is obvious that this process is one that can hardly be performed conveniently at a distance from the artist's place of work. Solutions of nitrate of silver are not carried about and decanted into baths and back again into bottles without tracking their path on persons and things. The photophobia of the "sensitized" plate, of course, requires a dark apartment of some kind: commonly a folding tent is made to answer the purpose in photographic excursions. It becomes, therefore, a serious matter to transport all that is required to make a negative according to the method described. It has consequently been a great desideratum to find some way of preparing a sensitive plate which could be dried and laid away, retaining its sensitive quality for days or weeks until wanted. The artist would then have to take with him nothing but his camera and his dry sensitive plates. After exposing these in the camera, they would be kept in dark boxes until he was ready to develop them at leisure on returning to his atelier.
Many "dry methods" have been contrived, of which the tannin process is in most favor. The plate, after being "sensitized" and washed, is plunged in a bath containing ten grains of tannin to an ounce of water. It is then dried, and may be kept for a long time without losing its sensitive quality. It is placed dry in the camera, and developed by wetting it and then pouring over it a mixture of pyrogallic acid and the solution of nitrate of silver. Amateurs find this the best way for taking scenery, and produce admirable pictures by it, as we shall mention by-and-by.
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In our former articles we have spoken principally of stereoscopic pictures. These are still our chief favorites for scenery, for architectural objects, for almost everything but portraits,—and even these last acquire a reality in the stereoscope which they can get in no other way. In this third photographic excursion we must only touch briefly upon the stereograph. Yet we have something to add to what we said before on this topic.
One of the most interesting accessions to our collection is a series of twelve views, on glass, of scenes and objects in California, sent us with unprovoked liberality by the artist, Mr. Watkins. As specimens of art they are admirable, and some of the subjects are among the most interesting to be found in the whole realm of Nature. Thus, the great tree, the "Grizzly Giant," of Mariposa, is shown in two admirable views; the mighty precipice of El Capitan, more than three thousand feet in precipitous height,—the three conical hill-tops of Yo Semite, taken, not as they soar into the atmosphere, but as they are reflected in the calm waters below,—these and others are shown, clear, yet soft, vigorous in the foreground, delicately distinct in the distance, in a perfection of art which compares with the finest European work.
The "London Stereoscopic Company" has produced some very beautiful paper stereographs, very dear, but worth their cost, of the Great Exhibition. There is one view, which we are fortunate enough to possess, that is a marvel of living detail,—one of the series showing the opening ceremonies. The picture gives principally the musicians. By careful counting, we find there are six hundred faces to the square inch in the more crowded portion of the scene which the view embraces,—a part occupied by the female singers. These singers are all clad in white, and packed with great compression of crinoline,—if that, indeed, were worn on the occasion. Mere points as their faces seem to the naked eye, the stereoscope, and still more a strong magnifier, shows them with their mouths all open as they join in the chorus, and with such distinctness that some of them might readily be recognized by those familiar with their aspect. This, it is to be remembered, is not a reduced stereograph for the microscope, but a common one, taken as we see them taken constantly.
We find in the same series several very good views of Gibson's famous colored "Venus," a lady with a pleasant face and a very pretty pair of shoulders. But the grand "Cleopatra" of our countryman, Mr. Story, of which we have heard so much, was not to be had,—why not we cannot say, for a stereograph of it would have had an immense success in America, and doubtless everywhere.
The London Stereoscopic Company has also furnished us with views of Paris, many of them instantaneous, far in advance of the earlier ones of Parisian origin. Our darling little church of St. Etienne du Mont, for instance, with its staircase and screen of stone embroidery, its carved oaken pulpit borne on the back of a carved oaken Samson, its old monuments, its stained windows, is brought back to us in all its minute detail as we remember it in many a visit made on our way back from the morning's work at La Pitie to the late breakfast at the Cafe Procope. Some of the instantaneous views are of great perfection, and carry us as fairly upon the Boulevards as Mr. Anthony transports us to Broadway. With the exception of this series, we have found very few new stereoscopic pictures in the market for the last year or two. This is not so much owing to the increased expense of importing foreign views as to the greater popularity of card-portraits, which, as everybody knows, have become the social currency, the sentimental "green-backs" of civilization, within a very recent period.
We, who have exhausted our terms of admiration in describing the stereoscopic picture, will not quarrel with the common taste which prefers the card-portrait. The last is the cheapest, the most portable, requires no machine to look at it with, can be seen by several persons at the same time,—in short, has all the popular elements. Many care little for the wonders of the world brought before their eyes by the stereoscope; all love to see the faces of their friends. Jonathan does not think a great deal of the Venus of Milo, but falls into raptures over a card-portrait of his Jerusha. So far from finding fault with him, we rejoice rather that his affections and those of average mortality are better developed than their taste; and lost as we sometimes are in contemplation of the shadowy masks of ugliness which hang in the frames of the photographers, as the skins of beasts are stretched upon tanners' fences, we still feel grateful, when we remember the days of itinerant portrait-painters, that the indignities of Nature are no longer intensified by the outrages of Art.
The sitters who throng the photographer's establishment are a curious study. They are of all ages, from the babe in arms to the old wrinkled patriarchs and dames whose smiles have as many furrows as an ancient elm has rings that count its summers. The sun is a Rembrandt in his way, and loves to track all the lines in these old splintered faces. A photograph of one of them is like one of those fossilized sea-beaches where the raindrops have left their marks, and the shellfish the grooves in which they crawled, and the wading birds the divergent lines of their foot-prints,—tears, cares, griefs, once vanishing as impressions from the sand, now fixed as the vestiges in the sand-stone.
Attitudes, dresses, features, hands, feet, betray the social grade of the candidates for portraiture. The picture tells no lie about them. There is no use in their putting on airs; the make-believe gentleman and lady cannot look like the genuine article. Mediocrity shows itself for what it is worth, no matter what temporary name it may have acquired. Ill-temper cannot hide itself under the simper of assumed amiability. The querulousness of incompetent complaining natures confesses itself almost as much as in the tones of the voice. The anxiety which strives to smooth its forehead cannot get rid of the telltale furrow. The weakness which belongs to the infirm of purpose and vacuous of thought is hardly to be disguised, even though the moustache is allowed to hide the centre of expression.
All parts of a face doubtless have their fixed relations to each other and to the character of the person to whom the face belongs. But there is one feature, and especially one part of that feature, which more than any other facial sign reveals the nature of the individual. The feature is the mouth, and the portion of it referred to is the corner. A circle of half an inch radius, having its centre at the junction of the two lips will include the chief focus of expression.
This will be easily understood, if we reflect that here is the point where more muscles of expression converge than at any other. From above comes the elevator of the angle of the mouth; from the region of the cheek-bone slant downwards the two zygomatics, which carry the angle outwards and upwards; from behind comes the buccinator, or trumpeter's muscle, which simply widens the mouth by drawing the corners straight outward; from below, the depressor of the angle; not to add a seventh, sometimes well marked,—the "laughing muscle" of Santorini. Within the narrow circle where these muscles meet the ring of muscular fibres surrounding the mouth the battles of the soul record their varying fortunes and results. This is the "noeud vital"—to borrow Flourens's expression with reference to a nervous centre,—the vital knot of expression. Here we may read the victories and defeats, the force, the weakness, the hardness, the sweetness of a character. Here is the nest of that feeble fowl, self-consciousness, whose brood strays at large over all the features.
If you wish to see the very look your friend wore when his portrait was taken, let not the finishing artist's pencil intrude within the circle of the vital knot of expression.
We have learned many curious facts from photographic portraits which we were slow to learn from faces. One is the great number of aspects belonging to each countenance with which we are familiar. Sometimes, in looking at a portrait, it seems to us that this is just the face we know, and that it is always thus. But again another view shows us a wholly different aspect, and yet as absolutely characteristic as the first; and a third and a fourth convince us that our friend was not one, but many, in outward appearance, as in the mental and emotional shapes by which his inner nature made itself known to us.
Another point which must have struck everybody who has studied photographic portraits is the family likeness that shows itself throughout a whole wide connection. We notice it more readily than in life, from the fact that we bring many of these family-portraits together and study them more at our ease. There is something in the face that corresponds to tone in the voice,—recognizable, not capable of description; and this kind of resemblance in the faces of kindred we may observe, though the features are unlike. But the features themselves are wonderfully tenacious of their old patterns. The Prince of Wales is getting to look like George III. We noticed it when he was in this country; we see it more plainly in his recent photographs. Governor Endicott's features have come straight down to some of his descendants in the present day. There is a dimpled chin which runs through one family connection we have studied, and a certain form of lip which belongs to another. As our cheval de bataille stands ready saddled and bridled for us just now, we must indulge ourselves in mounting him for a brief excursion. This is a story we have told so often that we should begin to doubt it but for the fact that we have before us the written statement of the person who was its subject. His professor, who did not know his name or anything about him, stopped him one day after lecture and asked him if he was not a relation of Mr. ——, a person of some note in Essex County.—Not that he had ever heard of.—The professor thought he must be,—would he inquire?—Two or three days afterwards, having made inquiries at his home in Middlesex County, he reported that an elder member of the family informed him that Mr. ——'s great-grandfather on his mother's side and his own great-grandfather on his father's side were own cousins. The whole class of facts, of which this seems to us too singular an instance to be lost, is forcing itself into notice, with new strength of evidence, through the galleries of photographic family-portraits which are making everywhere.
In the course of a certain number of years there will have been developed some new physiognomical results, which will prove of extreme interest to the physiologist and the moralist. They will take time; for, to bring some of them out fully, a generation must be followed from its cradle to its grave.
The first is a precise study of the effects of age upon the features. Many series of portraits taken at short intervals through life, studied carefully side by side, will probably show to some acute observer that Nature is very exact in the tallies that mark the years of human life.
The second is to result from a course of investigations which we would rather indicate than follow out; for, if the student of it did not fear the fate of Phalaris,—that he should find himself condemned as unlifeworthy upon the basis of his own observations,—he would very certainly become the object of eternal hatred to the proprietors of all the semi-organizations which he felt obliged to condemn. It consists in the study of the laws of physical degeneration,—the stages and manifestations of the process by which Nature dismantles the complete and typical human organism, until it becomes too bad for her own sufferance, and she kills it off before the advent of the reproductive period, that it may not permanently depress her average of vital force by taking part in the life of the race. There are many signs that fall far short of the marks of cretinism,—yet just as plain as that is to the visus eruditus,—which one meets every hour of the day in every circle of society. Many of these are partial arrests of development. We do not care to mention all which we think may be recognized, but there is one which we need not hesitate to speak of from the fact that it is so exceedingly common.
The vertical part of the lower jaw is short, and the angle of the jaw is obtuse, in infancy. When the physical development is complete, the lower jaw, which, as the active partner in the business of mastication, must be developed in proportion to the vigor of the nutritive apparatus, comes down by a rapid growth which gives the straight-cut posterior line and the bold right angle so familiar to us in the portraits of pugilists, exaggerated by the caricaturists in their portraits of fighting men, and noticeable in well-developed persons of all classes. But in imperfectly grown adults the jaw retains the infantile character,—the short vertical portion necessarily implying the obtuse angle. The upper jaw at the same time fails to expand laterally: in vigorous organisms it spreads out boldly, and the teeth stand square and with space enough; whereas in subvitalized persons it remains narrow, as in the child, so that the large front teeth are crowded, or slanted forward, or thrown out of line. This want of lateral expansion is frequently seen in the jaws, upper and lower, of the American, and has been considered a common cause of caries of the teeth.
A third series of results will relate to the effect of character in moulding the features. Go through a "rogues' gallery" and observe what the faces of the most hardened villains have in common. All these villanous looks have been shaped out of the unmeaning lineaments of infancy. The police-officers know well enough the expression of habitual crime. Now, if all this series of faces had been carefully studied in photographs from the days of innocence to those of confirmed guilt, there is no doubt that a keen eye might recognize, we will not say the first evil volition in the change it wrought upon the face, nor each successive stage in the downward process of the falling nature, but epochs and eras, with differential marks, as palpable perhaps as those which separate the aspects of the successive decades of life. And what is far pleasanter, when the character of a neglected and vitiated child is raised by wise culture, the converse change will be found—nay, has been found—to record itself unmistakably upon the faithful page of the countenance; so that charitable institutions have learned that their strongest appeal lies in the request, "Look on this picture, and on that,"—the lawless boy at his entrance, and the decent youth at his dismissal.
The field of photography is extending itself to embrace subjects of strange and sometimes of fearful interest. We have referred in a former article to a stereograph in a friend's collection showing the bodies of the slain heaped up for burial after the Battle of Malignano. We have now before us a series of photographs showing the field of Antietam and the surrounding country, as they appeared after the great battle of the 17th of September. These terrible mementos of one of the most sanguinary conflicts of the war we owe to the enterprise of Mr. Brady of New York. We ourselves were on the field upon the Sunday following the Wednesday when the battle took place. It is not, however, for us to bear witness to the fidelity of views which the truthful sunbeam has delineated in all their dread reality. The photographs bear witness to the accuracy of some of our own sketches in a paper published in the December number of this magazine. The "ditch" is figured, still encumbered with the dead, and strewed, as we saw it and the neighboring fields, with fragments and tatters. The "colonel's gray horse" is given in another picture just as we saw him lying.
Let him who wishes to know what war is look at this series of illustrations. These wrecks of manhood thrown together in careless heaps or ranged in ghastly rows for burial were alive but yesterday. How dear to their little circles far away most of them!—how little cared for here by the tired party whose office it is to consign them to the earth! An officer may here and there be recognized; but for the rest—if enemies, they will be counted, and that is all. "80 Rebels are buried in this hole" was one of the epitaphs we read and recorded. Many people would not look through this series. Many, having seen it and dreamed of its horrors, would lock it up in some secret drawer, that it might not thrill or revolt those whose soul sickens at such sights. It was so nearly like visiting the battlefield to look over these views, that all the emotions excited by the actual sight of the stained and sordid scene, strewed with rags and wrecks, came back to us, and we buried them in the recesses of our cabinet as we would have buried the mutilated remains of the dead they too vividly represented. Yet war and battles should have truth for their delineator. It is well enough for some Baron Gros or Horace Vernet to please an imperial master with fanciful portraits of what they are supposed to be. The honest sunshine
"Is Nature's sternest painter, yet the best";
and that gives us, even without the crimson coloring which flows over the recent picture, some conception of what a repulsive, brutal, sickening, hideous thing it is, this dashing together of two frantic mobs to which we give the name of armies. The end to be attained justifies the means, we are willing to believe; but the sight of these pictures is a commentary on civilization such as a savage might well triumph to show its missionaries. Yet through such martyrdom must come our redemption. War Is the surgery of crime. Bad as it is in itself, it always implies that something worse has gone before. Where is the American, worthy of his privileges, who does not now recognize the fact, if never until now, that the disease of our nation was organic, not functional, calling for the knife, and not for washes and anodynes?
It is a relief to soar away from the contemplation of these sad scenes and fly in the balloon which carried Messrs. King and Black in their aerial photographic excursion. Our townsman, Dr. John Jeffries, as is well recollected, was one of the first to tempt the perilous heights of the atmosphere, and the first who ever performed a journey through the air of any considerable extent. We believe this attempt of our younger townsmen to be the earliest in which the aeronaut has sought to work the two miracles at once, of rising against the force of gravity, and picturing the face of the earth beneath him without brush or pencil.
One of their photographs is lying before us. Boston, as the eagle and the wild goose see it, is a very different object from the same place as the solid citizen looks up at its eaves and chimneys. The Old South and Trinity Church are two landmarks not to be mistaken. Washington Street slants across the picture as a narrow cleft. Milk Street winds as if the cowpath which gave it a name had been followed by the builders of its commercial palaces. Windows, chimneys, and skylights attract the eye in the central parts of the view, exquisitely defined, bewildering in numbers. Towards the circumference it grows darker, becoming clouded and confused, and at one end a black expanse of waveless water is whitened by the nebulous outline of flitting sails. As a first attempt it is on the whole a remarkable success; but its greatest interest is in showing what we may hope to see accomplished in the same direction.
While the aeronaut is looking at our planet from the vault of heaven where he hangs suspended, and seizing the image of the scene beneath him as he flies, the astronomer is causing the heavenly bodies to print their images on the sensitive sheet he spreads under the rays concentrated by his telescope. We have formerly taken occasion to speak of the wonderful stereoscopic figures of the moon taken by Mr. De la Rue in England, by Mr. Rutherford and by Mr. Whipple in this country. To these most successful experiments must be added that of Dr. Henry Draper, who has constructed a reflecting telescope, with the largest silver reflector in the world, except that of the Imperial Observatory at Paris, for the special purpose of celestial photography. The reflectors made by Dr. Draper "will show Debilissima quadruple, and easily bring out the companion of Sirius or the sixth star in the trapezium of Orion." In taking photographs from these mirrors, a movement of the sensitive plate of only one-hundredth of an inch will render the image perceptibly less sharp. It was this accuracy of convergence of the light which led Dr. Draper to prefer the mirror to the achromatic lens. He has taken almost all the daily phases of the moon, from the sixth to the twenty-seventh day, using mostly some of Mr. Anthony's quick collodion, and has repeatedly obtained the full moon by means of it in one-third of a second.
In the last "Annual of Scientific Discovery" are interesting notices of photographs of the sun, showing the spots on his disk, of Jupiter with his belts, and Saturn with his ring.
While the astronomer has been reducing the heavenly bodies to the dimensions of his stereoscopic slide, the anatomist has been lifting the invisible by the aid of his microscope into palpable dimensions, to remain permanently recorded in the handwriting of the sun himself. Eighteen years ago, M. Donne published in Paris a series of plates executed after figures obtained by the process of Daguerre. These, which we have long employed in teaching, give some pretty good views of various organic elements, but do not attempt to reproduce any of the tissues. Professor O.N. Rood, of Troy, has sent us some most interesting photographs, showing the markings of infusoria enormously magnified and perfectly defined. In a stereograph sent us by the same gentleman the epithelium scales from mucous membrane are shown floating or half-submerged in fluid,—a very curious effect, requiring the double image to produce it. Of all the microphotographs we have seen, those made by Dr. John Dean, of Boston, from his own sections of the spinal cord, are the most remarkable for the light they throw on the minute structure of the body. The sections made by Dr. Dean are in themselves very beautiful specimens, and have formed the basis of a communication to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in which many new observations have been added to our knowledge of this most complicated structure. But figures drawn from images seen in the field of the microscope have too often been known to borrow a good deal from the imagination of the beholder. Some objects are so complex that they defy the most cunning hand to render them with all their features. When the enlarged image is suffered to delineate itself, as in Dr. Dean's views of the medulla oblongata, there is no room to question the exactness of the portraiture, and the distant student is able to form his own opinion as well as the original observer. These later achievements of Dr. Dean have excited much attention here and in Europe, and point to a new epoch of anatomical and physiological delineation.
The reversed method of microscopic photography is that which gives portraits and documents in little. The best specimen of this kind we have obtained is another of those miracles which recall the wonders of Arabian fiction. On a slip of glass, three inches long by one broad, is a circle of thinner glass, as large as a ten-cent piece. In the centre of this is a speck, as if a fly had stepped there without scraping his foot before setting it down. On putting this under a microscope magnifying fifty diameters there come into view the Declaration of Independence in full, in a clear, bold type, every name signed in fac-simile; the arms of all the States, easily made out, and well finished; with good portraits of all the Presidents, down to a recent date. Any person familiar with the faces of the Presidents would recognize any one of these portraits in a moment.
Still another application of photography, becoming every day more and more familiar to the public, is that which produces enlarged portraits, even life-size ones, from the old daguerreotype or more recent photographic miniature. As we have seen this process, a closet is arranged as a camera-obscura, and the enlarged image is thrown down through a lens above on a sheet of sensitive paper placed on a table capable of being easily elevated or depressed. The image, weakened by diffusion over so large a space, prints itself slowly, but at last comes out with a clearness which is surprising,—a fact which is parallel to what is observed in the stereoscopticon, where a picture of a few square inches in size is "extended" or diluted so as to cover some hundreds of square feet, and yet preserves its sharpness to a degree which seems incredible.
The copying of documents to be used as evidence is another most important application of photography. No scribe, however skilful, could reproduce such a paper as we saw submitted to our fellow-workman in Mr. Black's establishment the other day. It contained perhaps a hundred names and marks, but smeared, spotted, soiled, rubbed, and showing every awkward shape of penmanship that a miscellaneous collection of half-educated persons could furnish. No one, on looking at the photographic copy, could doubt that it was a genuine reproduction of a real list of signatures; and when half a dozen such copies, all just alike, were shown, the conviction became a certainty that all had a common origin. This copy was made with a Harrison's globe lens of sixteen inches' focal length, and was a very sharp and accurate duplicate of the original. It is claimed for this new American invention that it is "quite ahead of anything European"; and the certificates from the United States Coast-Survey Office go far towards sustaining its pretensions.
Some of our readers are aware that photographic operations are not confined to the delineation of material objects. There are certain establishments in which, for an extra consideration, (on account of the difficilis ascensus, or other long journey they have to take,) the spirits of the departed appear in the same picture which gives the surviving friends. The actinic influence of a ghost on a sensitive plate is not so strong as might be desired; but considering that spirits are so nearly immaterial, that the stars, as Ossian tells us, can be seen through their vaporous outlines, the effect is perhaps as good as ought to be expected.
Mrs. Brown, for instance, has lost her infant, and wishes to have its spirit-portrait taken with her own. A special sitting is granted, and a special fee is paid. In due time the photograph is ready, and, sure enough, there is the misty image of an infant in the background, or, it may be, across the mother's lap. Whether the original of the image was a month or a year old, whether it belonged to Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Robinson, King Solomon, who could point out so sagaciously the parentage of unauthenticated babies, would be puzzled to guess. But it is enough for the poor mother, whose eyes are blinded with tears, that she sees a print of drapery like an infant's dress, and a rounded something, like a foggy dumpling, which will stand for a face: she accepts the spirit-portrait as a revelation from the world of shadows. Those who have seen shapes in the clouds, or remember Hamlet and Polonius, or who have noticed how readily untaught eyes see a portrait of parent, spouse, or child in almost any daub intended for the same, will understand how easily the weak people who resort to these places are deluded.
There are various ways of producing the spirit-photographs. One of the easiest is this. First procure a bereaved subject with a mind "sensitized" by long immersion in credulity. Find out the age, sex, and whatever else you can, about his or her departed relative. Select from your numerous negatives one that corresponds to the late lamented as nearly as may be. Prepare a sensitive plate. Now place the negative against it and hold it up close to your gas-lamp, which may be turned up pretty high. In this way you get a foggy copy of the negative in one part of the sensitive plate, which you can then place in the camera and take your flesh-and-blood sitter's portrait upon it in the usual way. An appropriate background for these pictures is a view of the asylum for feeble-minded persons, the group of buildings at Somerville, and possibly, if the penitentiary could be introduced, the hint would be salutary.
The number of amateur artists in photography is continually increasing. The interest we ourselves have taken in some results of photographic art has brought us under a weight of obligation to many of them which we can hardly expect to discharge. Some of the friends in our immediate neighborhood have sent us photographs of their own making which for clearness and purity of tone compare favorably with the best professional work. Among our more distant correspondents there are two so widely known to photographers that we need not hesitate to name them: Mr. Coleman Sellers of Philadelphia and Mr. S. Wager Hull of New York. Many beautiful specimens of photographic art have been sent us by these gentlemen,—among others, some exquisite views of Sunnyside and of the scene of Ichabod Crane's adventures. Mr. Hull has also furnished us with a full account of the dry process, as followed by him, and from which he brings out results hardly surpassed by any method.
A photographic intimacy between two persons who never saw each other's faces (that is, in Nature's original positive, the principal use of which, after all, is to furnish negatives from which portraits may be taken) is a new form of friendship. After an introduction by means of a few views of scenery or other impersonal objects, with a letter or two of explanation, the artist sends his own presentment, not in the stiff shape of a purchased carte de visite, but as seen in his own study or parlor, surrounded by the domestic accidents which so add to the individuality of the student or the artist. You see him at his desk or table with his books and stereoscopes round him; you notice the lamp by which he reads,—the objects lying about; you guess his condition, whether married or single; you divine his tastes, apart from that which he has in common with yourself. By-and-by, as he warms towards you, he sends you the picture of what lies next to his heart,—a lovely boy, for instance, such as laughs upon us in the delicious portrait on which we are now looking, or an old homestead, fragrant with all the roses of his dead summers, caught in one of Nature's loving moments, with the sunshine gilding it like the light of his own memory. And so these shadows have made him with his outer and his inner life a reality for you; and but for his voice, which you have never heard, you know him better than hundreds who call him by name, as they meet him year after year, and reckon him among their familiar acquaintances.
* * * * *
To all these friends of ours, those whom we have named, and not less those whom we have silently remembered, we send our grateful acknowledgments. They have never allowed the interest we have long taken in the miraculous art of photography to slacken. Though not one of them may learn anything from this simple account we have given, they will perhaps allow that it has a certain value for less instructed readers, in consequence of its numerous and rich omissions of much which, however valuable, is not at first indispensable.
* * * * *
THE WRAITH OF ODIN.
The guests were loud, the ale was strong, King Olaf feasted late and long; The hoary Scalds together sang; O'erhead the smoky rafters rang. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The door swung wide, with creak and din; A blast of cold night-air came in, And on the threshold shivering stood An aged man, with cloak and hood. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The King exclaimed, "O graybeard pale, Come warm thee with this cup of ale." The foaming draught the old man quaffed, The noisy guests looked on and laughed. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Then spake the King: "Be not afraid; Sit here by me." The guest obeyed, And, seated at the table, told Tales of the sea, and Sagas old. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
And ever, when the tale was o'er, The King demanded yet one more; Till Sigurd the Bishop smiling said, "'T is late, O King, and time for bed." Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The King retired; the stranger guest Followed and entered with the rest; The lights were out, the pages gone, But still the garrulous guest spake on. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
As one who from a volume reads, He spake of heroes and their deeds, Of lands and cities he had seen, And stormy gulfs that tossed between. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Then from his lips in music rolled The Havamal of Odin old, With sounds mysterious as the roar Of billows on a distant shore. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
"Do we not learn from runes and rhymes Made by the Gods in elder times, And do not still the great Scalds teach That silence better is than speech?" Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Smiling at this, the King replied, "Thy lore is by thy tongue belied; For never was I so enthralled Either by Saga-man or Scald." Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The Bishop said, "Late hours we keep! Night wanes, O King! 't is time for sleep!" Then slept the King, and when he woke, The guest was gone, the morning broke. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
They found the doors securely barred, They found the watch-dog in the yard, There was no foot-print in the grass, And none had seen the stranger pass. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
King Olaf crossed himself and said, "I know that Odin the Great is dead; Sure is the triumph of our Faith, The white-haired stranger was his wraith." Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
* * * * *
The descent from Patmore and poetry to New York is somewhat abrupt, not to say precipitous, but we made it in safety; and so shall you, if you will be agile. New York is a pleasant little Dutch city, on a dot of island a few miles southwest of Massachusetts. For a city entirely unobtrusive and unpretending, it has really great attractions and solid merit; but the superior importance of other places will not permit me to tarry long within its hospitable walls. In fact, we only arrived late at night, and departed early the next morning; but even a six-hours' sojourn gave me a solemn and "realizing sense" of its marked worth,—for, when, tired and listless, I asked for a servant to assist me, the waiter said he would send the housekeeper. Accordingly, when, a few moments after, it knocked at the door with light, light finger, (See De la Motte Fouque,) I drawled, "Come in," and the Queen of Sheba stood before me, clad in purple and fine linen, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes. I stared in dismay, and perceived myself rapidly transmigrating into a ridiculus mus. My gray and dingy travelling-dress grew abject, and burned into my soul like the tunic of Nessus. I should as soon have thought of asking Queen Victoria to brush out my hair as that fine lady in brocade silk and Mechlin lace. But she was good and gracious, and did not annihilate me on the spot, as she might easily have done, for which I shall thank her as long as I live.
"You sent for me?" she inquired, with the blandest accents imaginable. I can't tell a lie, pa,—you know I can't tell a lie; besides, I had not time to make up one, and I said, "Yes," and then, of all stupid devices that could filter into my soggy brain, I must needs stammer out that I should like a few matches! A pretty thing to bring a dowager duchess up nine pairs of stairs for!
"I will ring the bell," she said, with a tender, reproachful sweetness and dignity, which conveyed without unkindness the severest rebuke tempered by womanly pity, and proceeded to instruct me in the nature and uses of the bell-rope, as she would any little dairy-maid who had heard only the chime of cow-bells all the days of her life. Then she sailed out of the room, serene and majestic, like a seventy-four man-of-war, while I, a squalid, salt-hay gundalow, (Venetian blind-ed into gondola,) first sank down in confusion, and then rose up in fury and brushed all the hair out of my head.
"I declare," I said to Halicarnassus, when we were fairly beyond ear-shot of the city next morning, "I don't approve of sumptuary laws, and I like America to be the El Dorado of the poor man, and I go for the largest liberty of the individual; but I do think there ought to be a clause in the Constitution providing that servants shall not be dressed and educated and accomplished up to the point of making people uncomfortable."
"No," said Halicarnassus, sleepily; "perhaps it wasn't a servant."
"Well," I said, having looked at it in that light silently for half an hour, and coming to the surface in another place, "if I could dress and carry myself like that, I would not keep tavern."
"Oh! eh?" yawning; "who does?"
"Mrs. Astor. Of course nobody less rich than Mrs. Astor could go up-stairs and down-stairs and in my lady's chamber in Shiraz silk and gold of Ophir. Why, Cleopatra was nothing to her. I make no doubt she uses gold-dust for sugar in her coffee every morning; and as for the three miserable little wherries that Isabella furnished Columbus, and historians have towed through their tomes ever since, why, bless your soul, if you know of anybody that has a continent he wants to discover, send him to this housekeeper, and she can fit out a fleet of transports and Monitors for convoy with one of her bracelets."
"I don't," said Halicarnassus, rubbing his eyes.
"I only wish," I added, "that she would turn Rebel, so that Government might confiscate her. Paper currency would go up at once from the sudden influx of gold, and the credit of the country receive a new lease of life. She must be a lineal descendant of Sir Roger de Coverley, for I am sure her finger sparkles with a hundred of his richest acres."
Before bidding a final farewell to New York, I shall venture to make a single remark. I regret to be forced to confess that I greatly fear even this virtuous little city has not escaped quite free, in the general deterioration of morals and manners. The New York hackmen, for instance, are very obliging and attentive; but if it would not seem ungrateful, I would hazard the statement that their attentions are unremitting to the degree of being almost embarrassing, and proffered to the verge of obtrusiveness. I think, in short, that they are hardly quite delicate in their politeness. They press their hospitality on you till you sigh for a little marked neglect. They are not content with simple statement. They offer you their hack, for instance. You decline, with thanks. They say that they will carry you to any part of the city. Where is the pertinence of that, if you do not wish to go? But they not only say it, they repeat it, they dwell upon it as if it were a cardinal virtue. Now you have never expressed or entertained the remotest suspicion that they would not carry you to any part of the city. You have not the slightest intention or desire to discredit their assertion. The only trouble is, as I said before, you do not wish to go to any part of the city. Very few people have the time to drive about in that general way; and I think, that, when you have once distinctly informed them that you do not design to inspect New York, they ought to see plainly that you cannot change your whole plan of operations out of gratitude to them, and that the part of true politeness is to withdraw. But they even go beyond a censurable urgency; for an old gentleman and lady, evidently unaccustomed to travelling, had given themselves in charge of a driver, who placed them in his coach, leaving the door open while he went back seeking whom he might devour. Presently a rival coachman came up and said to the aged and respectable couple,—
"Here's a carriage all ready to start."
"But," replied the lady, "we have already told the gentleman who drives this coach that we would go with him."
"Catch me to go in that coach, if I was you!" responded the wicked coachman. "Why, that coach has had the small-pox in it."
The lady started up in horror. At that moment the first driver appeared again, and Satan entered into me, and I felt in my heart that I should like to see a fight; and then conscience stepped up and drove him away, but consoled me by the assurance that I should see the fight all the same, for such duplicity deserved the severest punishment, and it was my duty to make an expose and vindicate helpless innocence imposed upon in the persons of that worthy pair. Accordingly I said to the driver, as he passed me,—
"Driver, that man in the gray coat is trying to frighten the old lady and gentleman away from your coach, by telling them it has had the small-pox."
Oh I but did not the fire flash into his honest eyes, and leap into his swarthy cheek, and nerve his brawny arm, and clinch his horny fist, as he marched straightway up to the doomed offender, fiercely denounced his dishonesty, and violently demanded redress? Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro, and eagerness and delight on every countenance, and a ring formed, and the prospect of a lovely "row,"—and I did it; but a police-officer sprang up, full-armed, from somewhere underground, and undid it all, and enforced a reluctant peace.
* * * * *
And so we are at Saratoga. Now, of all places to stay at in the summer-time, Saratoga is the very last one to choose. It may have attractions in winter; but, if one wishes to rest and change and root down and shoot up and branch out, he might as well take lodgings in the water-wheel of a saw-mill. The uniformity and variety will be much the same. It is all a noiseless kind of din, narrow and intense. There is nothing in Saratoga nor of Saratoga to see or to hear or to feel. They tell you of a lake. You jam into an omnibus and ride four miles. Then you step into a cockle-shell and circumnavigate a pond, so small that it almost makes you dizzy to sail around it. This is the lake,—a very nice thing as far as it goes; but when it has to be constantly on duty as the natural scenery of the whole surrounding country, it is putting altogether too fine a point on it. The picturesque people will inform you of an Indian encampment. You go to see it, thinking of the forest primeval, and expecting to be transported back to tomahawks, scalps, and forefathers; but you return without them, and that is all. I never heard of anybody's going anywhere. In fact, there did not seem to be anywhere to go. Any suggestion of mine to strike out into the champaign was frowned down in the severest manner. As far as I could see, nobody ever did anything. There never was any plan on foot. Nothing was ever stirring. People sat on the piazza and sewed. They went to the springs, and the springs are dreadful. They bubble up salts and senna. I never knew anything that pretended to be water that was half as bad. It has no one redeeming quality. It is bitter. It is greasy. Every spring is worse than the last, whichever end you begin at. They told apocryphal stories of people's drinking sixteen glasses before breakfast; and yet it may have been true; for, if one could bring himself to the point of drinking one glass of it, I should suppose it would have taken such a force to enable him to do it that he might go on drinking indefinitely, from the mere action of the original impulse. I should think one dose of it would render a person permanently indifferent to savors, and make him, like Mithridates, poison-proof. Nevertheless, people go to the springs and drink. Then they go to the bowling-alleys and bowl. In the evening, if you are hilariously inclined, you can make the tour of the hotels. In each one you see a large and brilliantly lighted parlor, along the four sides of which are women sitting solemn and stately, in rows three deep, with a man dropped in here and there, about as thick as periods on a page, very young or very old or in white cravats. A piano or a band or something that can make a noise makes it at intervals at one end of the room. They all look as if they were waiting for something, but nothing in particular happens. Sometimes, after the mountain has labored awhile, some little mouse of a boy and girl will get up, execute an antic or two and sit down again, when everything relapses into its original solemnity. At very long intervals somebody walks across the floor. There is a moderate fluttering of fans and an occasional whisper. Expectation interspersed with gimcracks seems to be the programme. The greater part of the dancing that I saw was done by boys and girls. It was pretty and painful. Nobody dances so well as children; no grace is equal to their grace: but to go into a hotel at ten o'clock at night, and see little things, eight, ten, twelve years old, who ought to be in bed and asleep, tricked out in flounces and ribbons and all the paraphernalia of ballet-girls, and dancing in the centre of a hollow square of strangers,—I call it murder in the first degree. What can mothers be thinking of to abuse their children so? Children are naturally healthy and simple; why should they be spoiled? They will have to plunge into the world full soon enough; why should the world be plunged into them? Physically, mentally, and morally, the innocents are massacred. Night after night I saw the same children led out to the slaughter, and as I looked I saw their round, red cheeks grow thin and white, their delicate nerves lose tone and tension, their brains become feeble and flabby, their minds flutter out weakly in muslin and ribbons, their vanity kindled by injudicious admiration, the sweet child—unconsciousness withering away in the glare of indiscriminate gazing, the innocence and simplicity and naturalness and child-likeness swallowed up in a seething whirlpool of artificialness, all the fine, golden butterfly-dust of modesty and delicacy and retiring girlhood ruthlessly rubbed off forever before girlhood had even reddened from the dim dawn of infancy. Oh! it is cruel to sacrifice children so. What can atone for a lost childhood? What can be given in recompense for the ethereal, spontaneous, sharply defined, new, delicious sensations of a sheltered, untainted, opening life?
Thoroughly worked into a white heat of indignation, we leave the babes in the wood to be despatched by their ruffian relatives, and go to another hotel. A larger parlor, larger rows, but still three deep and solemn. A tall man, with a face in which melancholy seems to be giving way to despair, a man most proper for an undertaker, but palpably out of place in a drawing-room, walks up and down incessantly, but noiselessly, in a persistent endeavor to bring out a dance. Now he fastens upon a newly arrived man. Now he plants himself before a bench of misses. You can hear the low rumble of his exhortation and the tittering replies. After a persevering course of entreaty and persuasion, a set is drafted, the music galvanizes, and the dance begins.
I like to see people do with their might whatsoever their hands or their tongues or their feet find to do. A half-and-half performance of the right is just about as mischievous as the perpetration of the wrong. It is vacillation, hesitation, lack of will, feebleness of purpose, imperfect execution, that works ill in all life. Be monarch of all you survey. If a woman decides to do her own housework, let her go in royally among her pots and kettles and set everything a-stewing and baking and broiling and boiling, as a queen might. If she decides not to do housework, but to superintend its doing, let her say to her servant, "Go," and he goeth, to another, "Come," and he cometh, to a third, "Do this," and he doeth it, and not potter about. So, when girls get themselves up and go to Saratoga for a regular campaign, I want their bearing to be soldierly. Let them be gay with abandonment. Let them take hold of it as if they liked it. I do not affect the word flirtation, but the thing itself is not half so criminal as one would think from the animadversions visited upon it. Of course, a deliberate setting yourself to work to make some one fall in love with you, for the mere purpose of showing your power, is abominable,—or would be, if anybody ever did it; but I do not suppose it ever was done, except in fifth-rate novels. What I mean is, that it is entertaining, harmless, and beneficial for young people to amuse themselves with each other to the top of their bent, if their bent is a natural and right one. A few hearts may suffer accidental, transient injury; but hearts are like limbs, all the stronger for being broken. Besides, where one man or woman is injured by loving too much, nine hundred and ninety-nine die the death from not loving enough.
But these Saratoga girls did neither one thing nor another. They dressed themselves in their best, making a point of it, and failed. They assembled themselves together of set purpose to be lively, and they were infectiously dismal. They did not dress well: one looked rustic; another was dowdyish; a third was over-fine; a fourth was insignificant. Their bearing was not good, in the main. They danced, and whispered, and laughed, and looked like milkmaids. They had no style, no figure. Their shoulders were high, and their chests were flat, and they were one-sided, and they stooped,—all of which would have been of no account, if they had only been unconsciously enjoying themselves; but they consciously were not. It is possible that they thought they were happy, but I knew better. You are never happy, unless you are master of the situation; and they were not. They endeavored to appear at ease,—a thing which people who are at ease never do. They looked as if they had all their lives been meaning to go to Saratoga, and now they had got there and were determined not to betray any unwontedness. It was not the timid, eager, delighted, fascinating, graceful awkwardness of a new young girl; it was not the careless, hearty, whole-souled enjoyment of an experienced girl; it was not the natural, indifferent, imperial queening it of an acknowledged monarch: but something that caught hold of the hem of the garment of them all. It was they with the sheen damped off. So it was not imposing. I could pick you up a dozen girls straight along, right out of the pantries and the butteries, right up from the washing-tubs and the sewing-machines, who should be abundantly able to "hoe their row" with them anywhere. In short, I was extremely disappointed. I expected to see the high fashion, the very birth and breeding, the cream cheese of the country, and it was skim-milk. If that is birth, one can do quite as well without being born at all. Occasionally you would see a girl with gentle blood in her veins, whether it were butcher-blood or banker-blood, but she only made the prevailing plebsiness more striking. Now I maintain that a woman ought to be very handsome or very clever, or else she ought to go to work and do something. Beauty is of itself a divine gift and adequate. "Beauty is its own excuse for being" anywhere. It ought not to be fenced in or monopolized, any more than a statue or a mountain. It ought to be free and common, a benediction to all weary wayfarers. It can never be profaned; for it veils itself from the unappreciative eye, and shines only upon its worshippers. So a clever woman, whether she be a painter or a teacher or a dress-maker,—if she really has an object in life, a career, she is safe. She is a power. She commands a realm. She owns a world. She is bringing things to bear. Let her alone. But it is a very dangerous and a very melancholy thing for common women to be "lying on their oars" long at a time. Some of these were, I suppose, what Winthrop calls "business-women, fighting their way out of vulgarity into style." The process is rather uninteresting, but the result may be glorious. Yet a good many of them were good, honest, kind, common girls, only demoralized by long lying around in a waiting posture. It had taken the fire and sparkle out of them. They were not in a healthy state. They were degraded, contracted, flaccid. They did not hold themselves high. They knew that in a marketable point of view there was a frightful glut of women. The usually small ratio of men was unusually diminished by the absence of those who had gone to the war, and of those who, as was currently reported, were ashamed that they had not gone. The few available men had it all their own way; the women were on the look-out for them, instead of being themselves looked out for. They talked about "gentlemen," and being "companionable to gen-tlemen," and "who was fascinating to gen-tlemen," till the "grand old name" became a nuisance. There was an under-current of unsated coquetry. I don't suppose they were any sillier than the rest of us; but when our silliness is mixed in with housekeeping and sewing and teaching and returning visits, it passes off harmless. When it is stripped of all these modifiers, however, and goes off exposed to Saratoga, and melts in with a hundred other sillinesses, it makes a great show.
No, I don't like Saratoga. I don't think it is wholesome. No place can be healthy that keeps up such an unmitigated dressing.
"Where do you walk?" I asked an artless little lady.
"Oh, almost always on the long piazza. It is so clean there, and we don't like to soil our dresses."
Now I ask if girls could ever get into that state in the natural course of things! It is the result of vile habits. They cease to care for things which they ought to like to do, and they devote themselves to what ought to be only an incident. People dress in their best without break. They go to the springs before breakfast in shining raiment, and they go into the parlor after supper in shining raiment, and it is shine, shine, shine, all the way between, and a different shine each time. You may well suppose that I was like an owl among birds of Paradise, for what little finery I had was in my (eminently) travelling-trunk: yet, though it was but a dory, compared with the Noah's arks that drove up every day, I felt, that, if I could only once get inside of it, I could make things fly to some purpose. Like poor Rabette, I would show the city that the country too could wear clothes! I never walked down Broadway without seeing a dozen white trunks, and every white trunk that I saw I was fully convinced was mine, if I could only get at it. By-and-by mine came, and I blossomed. I arrayed myself for morning, noon, and night, and everything else that came up, and was, as the poet says,—
"Prodigious in change, And endless in range,"—
for I would have scorned not to be as good as the best. The result was, that in three days I touched bottom. But then we went away, and my reputation was saved. I don't believe anybody ever did a larger business on a smaller capital; but I put a bold face on it. I cherish the hope that nobody suspected I could not go on in that ruinous way all summer,—I, who in three days had mustered into service every dress and sash and ribbon and rag that I had had in three years or expected to have in three more. But I never will, if I can help it, hold my head down where other people are holding their heads up.
I would not be understood as decrying or depreciating dress. It is a duty as well as a delight. Mrs. Madison is reported to have said that she would never forgive a young lady who did not dress to please, or one who seemed pleased with her dress. And not only young ladies, but old ladies, and old gentlemen, and everybody, ought to make their dress a concord and not a discord. But Saratoga is pitched on a perpetual falsetto, and stuns you. One becomes sated with an interminable piece de resistance of full dress. At the sea-side you bathe; at the mountains you put on stout boots and coarse frocks and go a-fishing; but Saratoga never "lets up,"—if I may be pardoned the phrase. Consequently you see much of crinoline and little of character. You have to get at the human nature just as Thoreau used to get at bird-nature and fish-nature and turtle-nature, by sitting perfectly still in one place and waiting patiently till it comes out. You see more of the reality of people in a single day's tramp than in twenty days of guarded monotone. Now I cannot conceive of any reason why people should go to Saratoga, except to see people. True, as a general thing, they are the last objects you desire to see, when you are summering. But if one has been cooped up in the house or blocked up in the country during the nine months of our Northern winter, he may have a mighty hunger and thirst, when he is thawed out, to see human faces and hear human voices; but even then Saratoga is not the place to go to, on account of this very artificialness. By artificial I do not mean deceitful. I saw nobody but nice people there, smooth, kind, and polite. By artificial I mean wrought up. You don't get at the heart of things. Artificialness spreads and spans all with a crystal barrier,—invisible, but palpable. Nothing was left to grow and go at its own sweet will. The very springs were paved and pavilioned. For green fields and welling fountains and a possibility of brooks, which one expects from the name, you found a Greek temple, and a pleasure-ground, graded and graced and pathed like a cemetery, wherein nymphs trod daintily in elaborate morning-costume. Everything took pattern and was elaborate. Nothing was left to the imagination, the taste, the curiosity. A bland, smooth, smiling surface baffled and blinded you, and threatened profanity. Now profanity is wicked and vulgar; but if you listen to the reeds next summer, I am not sure that you will not hear them whispering, "Thunder!"