+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

have spoken to us out of the hard silver.
Here a face was invisible: there it burst
suddenly into view, and seemed to peep at us.
Beautiful women smiled out of metal as
polished and as hard as a knight's armour on
the eve of battle. Young chevaliers regarded
us with faces tied and fastened down so that,
as it seemed, they could by no struggle get
their features loose out of the very twist and
smirk they chanced to wear when they were
captured and fixed. Here a grave man was
reading on for ever, with his eyes upon the
same line of his book; and there a soldier
frowned with brow inanely fierce over a
rampart of moustachios.

The innumerable people whose eyes seemed
to speak at us, but all whose tongues
were silent; all whose limbs were fixed
(aIthough their faces seemed in a mysterious
way to come and go as the lights shifted on
the silver wall) what people were these?
Had they all trodden the steps by which we
had ourselves ascended? Had they all
breathed and moved, perhaps, about that very
room. "They have," answered the genius of
the room, "they have all been executed here.
If you mount farther up you also may be

The figures in the room were not all figures
of enchantment. There were present four
unmetamorphosed people; three of them
were ladies, of whom of course it would be
rude flatly to say that there was nothing of
enchantment in their figures; but the fourth
was a belted soldier with a red coat, a large
cocked hat, and a heavy sword. Imprudently
he had come out without even so much
weapon as an umbrella.

The taker of men himself came down to us,
affable enough; but smiling faces have been
long connected with mysterious designs. The
soIdier was, in fact, a man of peace, a lamb in
wolf's clothing; an army doctor, by whose
side, if army regulations suffered it, there
wlould have hung a scalpel, not a sword.
And the expert photographerthe magic of
whose art is fostered by no worse feeling
than vanity, or by a hundred purer sentiments
was followed very willingly upstairs. It
was all wholesome latter-day magic that we
went up to see practised under a London

Light from the sky is, in fact, the chief part
of the stock-in-trade of a photographer.
Other light than the sun's can be employed;
but, while the sun continues to pour down to
us a daily flow of light of the best quality, as
cheap as health (we will not say as cheap as
dirt, for dirt is a dear article), sunlight will
be consumed by the photographers in
preference to any other. A diffused, mellow light
from the sky, which moderates the darkness
of all shadows, is much better suited to the
purpose of photography than a direct
sunbeam; which creates hard contrasts of light
and shade. For in the picture formed by
light, whether on metal, glass, or paper, such
hard contrasts will be made still harder.
Lumpy shadows haunt the chambers of all
bad photographers.

He who would not be vexed by them and
would produce a portrait in which the features
shall be represented with the necessary
softness, finds it generally advantageous not only
to let the shades be cast upon the face in a room
full of diffused raysthat is to say, under a
skylightbut also by the waving of large
black velvet screens over the head to moderate
and stint the quantity of light that falls on
features not thrown into shadow. For this
reason few very good photographic pictures
can be taken from objects illuminated only
by a side light, as in a room with ordinary
windows. The diffused light of cloudy
weather, if the air be free from fog, hinders
the process of photography only by lengthening
the time occupied in taking impressions.
Light, when it is jaundiced by a fog, is quite
as liable as jaundiced men to give erroneous
views of mankind.

Photography, out of England, has made its
most rapid advances, and produced its best
results in the United States and in France; but,
although both the French and the Americans
have the advantage of a much purer and
more certain supply of sunlight, it is
satisfactory to know that the English
photographers have thrown as much light of their
own on the new science as any of their

Led by the military gentleman, whose cocked
hat elevated him in our civilians' eyes to
something like the dignity of general, we
mounted to the door; through which we poured
our forces into the room under the skylight,
where we found several defences thrown
up in the shape of folding screens, and faced
an unusually heavy fire from a round tower
of a stove. To maintain a high and dry
temperature is customary in the room used
by the daguerreotypist for his operations;
partly in order to protect more thoroughly
the delicate surface of the plates carried
about in it, partly to ensure to the sitter so
much warmth as shall make perfect repose
of all the features, in the most natural way,
quite easy. For while the work of the
photographer is done with an astonishing rapidity,
he is one of the few men who especially
desire of those with whom they have to deal
that they should not look sharp.

A group was to be made of Doctor
Sword, and one lady, his wife. Another
lady, probably his mother-in-law, declared
candidly that when her turn came she must
be held in some way, for she was too nervous
to sit still. A younger lady, a friend to
Mrs. Doctor S., looked interested. The group
of two was to be first executed. Now
the lady's dress was not at all ill chosen
for a photographic sitting or a masquerade.
It included extensive scalp-fixings of a savage
style introduced lately into this country,
consisting of a ragged tuft of streamers,