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Photographic Phenomena, or the new school of portrait painting
Published in "George Cruikshank's Omnibus" (London: Tilt and Bogue, 1842), p.29.
I. INVITATION TO SIT.
Now sit, if ye have courage, cousins all!
Sit, all ye grandmamas, wives, aunts, and mothers;
Daughters and sisters, widows, brides, and nieces;
In bonnets, braids, caps, tippets, or pelisses,
The muff, mantilla, boa, scarf, or shawl!
Sit all ye uncles, godpapas, and brothers,
Fathers and nephews, sons, and next of kin,
Husbands, half-brother's cousin's sires, and others;
Be you as Science young, or old as Sin:
Turn, Persian-like, your faces to the sun !
And have each one
His portrait done,
Finish'd, one may say, before it's begun.
Nor you alone,
Oh! Slight acquaintances! Or blood relations !
But sit, oh ! Public Benefactors,
Whose portraits are hung up by Corporations.
Ye Rulers of the likeness-loving nations,
Ascend you now the Photographic throne,
And snatch from Time the precious mornings claim'd
By artists famed
(In the Court Circular you'll find them named).
Sit too, ye laurell'd Heroes, whom detractors
Would rank below the statesman and the bard !
Sit also, all ye Actors,
Whose fame would else die with you, which is hard :
Whose Falstaffs here will never Slenders prove.
So true the art is !
M.P.'s, for one brief moment cease to move;
And you who stand as Leaders of great Parties,
Be sitting Members !
Ye intellectual Marchers, sit resign'd !
And oh ! Ye Authors, men of dazzling mind.
Perchance with faces foggy as November's.
Apollo turned R.A.
The other day,
Making a most decided hit.
Phoebus himself he has become a Shee '.
(Morning will rank among the Knights full soon)
And while the Moon,
Who only draws the tides, is clean outdone,
The Stars are all astonishment to see
Earth sitting for her portrait to the Sun !
II. THE PROCESS OF THE PORTRAITURE.
It's all very fine, is it not, oh ! Ye Nine ?
To tell us this planet is going too fast,
On a comet-like track through the wilderness vast :
Instead of collision, and chances of splitting
In contact with stars rushing down the wrong line,
The world at this moment can't get on for sitting :
And Earth, like the Lady enchanted in Comus,
Fix'd fast to her chair
With a dignified air,
Is expecting to sit for a century there;
Much wondering, possibly, half in despair.
How the deuce she's to find her way back to her domus.
"Keep moving," we know, was the cry long ago;
But now, never hare was " found sitting," I swear,
Like the crowds who repair
To old Cavendish Square,
And mount up a mile and a quarter of stair.
In procession that beggars the Lord Mayor's show!
And all are on tiptoe, the high and the low,
To sit in that glass-coverd blue studio;
In front of those boxes, wherein when you look
Your image reversed will minutely appear,
So delicate, forcible, brilliant, and clear,
So small, full, and round, with a life so profound,
As none ever wore
In a mirror before;
Or the depths of a glassy and branch-shelter'd brook,
That glides amidst moss o'er a smooth-pebbled ground.
Apollo, whom Drummond of Hawthornden styled
" Apelles of flowers,"
Now mixes his showers
Of sunshine, with colours by clouds undefiled;
Apelles indeed to man, woman, and child.
His agent on earth, when your attitude's right,
Your collar adjusted, your locks in their place,
Just seizes one moment of favouring light,
And utters three sentences " Now it's begun,"
" It's going on now, sir," and " Now it is done;"
And lo ! As I live, there's the cut of your face
On a silvery plate,
Unerring as fate,
Worked off in celestial and strange mezzotint,
A little resembling an elderly print.
" Well, I never ! " all cry; " it is cruelly like you ! "
But Truth is unpleasant
To prince and to peasant.
You recollect Lawrence, and think of the graces
That Chalon and Company give to their faces;
The face you have worn fifty years doesn't strike you !
III. THE CRITICISMS OF THE SITTERS THE MORAL.
" Can this be me ! Do look, mama !"
Poor Jane begins to whimper;
" I have a smile, 'tis true; but, pa!
This gives me quite a simper."
Says Tibb, whose plays are worse than bad,
" It makes my forehead flat;" And being classical, he'll add,
" I'm blow'd if I'm like that."
Courtly, all candour, owns his portrait true;
Extremely like me every feature but
That plain pug-nose; now mine's the Grecian cut!
Her Grace surveys her face with drooping lid;
Prefers the portrait which Sir Thomas did;
Owns that o'er this tome traits of truth are sprinkled;
But views the brow with anger " Why, it's wrinkled!"
" Like me .'" cries Sir Turtle; " I'll lay two to one
It would only be guess'd by my foes;
No, no, it is plain there are spots in the sun,
Which accounts for these spots on my nose."
" A likeness !" cries Crosslook, the lawyer, and sneers;
" Yes, the wig, throat and forehead I spy,
And the mouth, chin, and cheeks, and the nose and the ears,
But it gives me a cast in the eye !"
Thus needs it the courage, of old Cousin Hotspur,
To sit to an artist who flatters no sitter;
Yet Self-love will urge us to seek him, for what spur
So potent as that, though it make the truth bitter !
And thus are all flocking, to see Phoebus mocking,
Or making queer faces, a visage per minute;
And truly 'tis shocking, if winds should be rocking
The building, or clouds darken all that's within it,
To witness the frights
Which shadows and lights
Manufacture, as like as an owl to a linnet.
For there, while you sit up,
Your countenance lit up,
The mists fly across, a magnificent rack;
And your portrait's a patch, with its bright and its black,
Out-Rembrandting Rembrandt, in ludicrous woe,
Like a chimney-sweep caught in a shower of snow.
Yet nothing can keep the crowd below,
And still they mount up, stair by stair;
And every morn, by the hurry and hum,
Each seeking a prize in the lottery there,
You fancy the " last day of drawing " has come.