Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scottish Victorian Photographer David Octavius Hill (1802-70)

“The rough and unequal texture throughout the paper is the main cause of the calotype failing in details before the Daguerreotype…and this is the very life of it. The look like the imperfect work of man…and not the much diminished perfect work of God” David Octavius Hill in a letter dated January 17, 1848

David Octavius Hill (1802-70) was a respected painter and secretary of the Royal Scottish Academy before he entered into the famous partnership with Robert Adamson becoming a photographer as well. A handsome, sociable and cheerful man, Hill was much loved within Edinburgh society. In 1837 he married his first wife, Ann Macdonald, who died in 1841, leaving him a widower with an only child. Charlotte, nicknamed Chatty, was born in 1839 but died in her early twenties.
This photograph shows the affection Hill felt for his daughter. At the same time, this particular pose provided a practical way of holding the child still, as exposure times for the early calotypes could run into several minutes.

Hill used a medium of photography referred to as Calotype meaning ‘beautiful image’.  To make a calotype, high-quality writing paper was first coated with a solution of silver nitrate. After dying, the paper was treated with potassium iodide. Before exposure, a mixture of acetic and gallic acids and silver nitrate was applied. The image caught on the resulting negative was talent, requiring development with silver nitrate, acetic and gallic acids. Once completed, the negative was placed on top of a second sheet of treated paper and both were left in direct sunlight. This form of contact printing meant that the print size correlated to that of the negative. Waxing the negative increased its transparency and strengthened the durability of the paper. Calotypes could be likened to engravings or mezzotints because the image was soaked into the paper fibers causing a slightly blurred almost painterly effect.  

David Octavius Hill was born on 20 May 1802 in Perth, Scotland, the eighth of 12 children to Thomas Hill, a bookseller and publisher, and Emilia Murray. 

Hill studied drawing at Perth Academy under David Junor and was admitted to the School of Design in Edinburgh in 1818, where he studied painting under Andrew Wilson. Hill began as a landscape painter, publishing lithographs, Sketches of Scenery in Perthshire, an album published in Scotland under his father’s imprint.  During the 1820s, Hill exhibited at the Royal Institution several times. From 1831 to 1840 he earned a reputation as a book illustrator, sketching and painting, for some of Scotland’s famous authors including Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. He achieved success in 1840 with his popular painting of 61 landscapes, The Land of Burns, setting his status as secretary of the Royal Scottish Academy (1830-1869). 

 A fateful meeting in 1843 with Robert Adamson was to change Hill’s life forever. They formed  a partnership from 1843 to 1848 producing commissioned portraits and selling prints through Alexander Hill’s gallery on Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. They produced about three thousand photographs and exhibited at the Board of Manufacturers in 1843, the Royal Scottish Academy in 1844/45, and after Adamson’s death in 1848, their last exhibit took place at the Crystal Palace where Hill exhibited solo in 1851.
Adamson never married and died in St. Andrews on 14 January 1848. Hill became a member of the Photographic Society of Scotland in 1856 and ran a studio with Alexander McGlashan from 1861 to 1862 publishing Some Contributions Towards the Use of Photography as an Art. Hill sold the remnants of his studio with Adamson in 1869. He married Ann McDonald in 1837 and had two daughters, though only one survived birth. His wife died in 1841 and in 1862 he married the sculptor Amelia Robertson Paton. David Octavius Hill died on 17 May 1870 at Newington Lodge, Mayfield Terrace, Scotland.
The studio that Hill and Adamson used was called Rock House in Calton Hill, as the building stands today.

This was the first photograph to capture my attention; aptly titled, 'A Difficult Passage in Tennyson,' David Octavius Hill (Scottish, Perth 1802–1870 Edinburgh),Date: 1861–62. The inscription reads:   Label adhered to mount, recto, BL, printed in green ink: "No. 1, - A DIFFICULT PASSAGE IN TENNYSON./INSCRIBED TO J.E. MILLAIS, A.R.A."

DAVID OCTAVIUS HILL and ROBERT ADAMSON. The Misses Binny and Miss Monro, c. 1845. Calotype

Miss Ellen Milne, Miss Mary Watson, Miss Watson, Miss Agnes Milne, and Sarah Wilson

Edinburgh Ale: James Ballantine, Dr. George William Bell, and D.O. Hill (far right)

I wanted to share just a few of some beautiful 19th century photographs that I think give an accurate representation and feel for the Scottish lifestyle during the Victorian era.  The lives of Hill and Adamson were fascinating yet sad. What I realized was that essentially the British had Julia Margaret Cameron's photographs representing themes of Tennyson's poetry and the Scottish had Hill and Adamson providing themes of their author friends Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

One of the final photographs of David Octavius Hill later in life

Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography, Volume 1, By John Hannavy.
Hill and Adamson: In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by David Octavius Hill, J. Paul Getty Museum, Robert Adamson.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On January 29, 1845 Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven was first published

Etching of Edgar Allan Poe by Henri-Emile Lefort, New York Public Library

On this day in 1845 Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven was published. An ad in the local paper, New York Evening Mirror included the poem in full as well as a note: 

1845 - January 29 (Wednesday) (vol. I, no. 97)

"The Raven" (poem, first printing) (p. 4, col. 1, top)  (reprinted in WM of February 8, 1845)  (This is, technically, the first printing of "The Raven," probably appearing just before the February issue of The American Whig Review was available.)

Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven” [Text-04], Evening Mirror (New York), January 29, 1845, p. 4, col. 1

We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication) from the 2d No. of the American Review, the following remarkable poem by EDGAR POE. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of “fugitive poetry” ever published in this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift and “pokerishness.” It is one of these “dainties bred in a book” which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it. 

The Raven.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had tried to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore —
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore —
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“ ’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door; —
This it is, and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you” — here I opened wide the door; —
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”
Merely this, and nothing more.
Then into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; —
’Tis the wind, and nothing more.”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door —
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning — little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door —
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered — not a feather then he fluttered —
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “Other friends have flown before —
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster — so, when Hope he would adjure,
Stern Despair returned, instead of the sweet Hope he dared adjure —
That sad answer, “Nevermore!”
But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust, and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite — respite and Nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind Nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil! —
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted —
On this home by Horror haunted — tell me truly, I implore —
Is there — is there balm in Gilead? — tell me — tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us — by that God we both adore —
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore —
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting —
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! — quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted — nevermore!
The introductory text is presumed to have been written by Poe’s friend, Nathaniel Parker Willis.
Considerable discussion has been spent on the burning bibliographical question as to whether the present item, or that in the American Review, is technically the first publication of “The Raven.” Although the introductory note above states that the poem is being printed “in advance of publication,” magazines of that era were typically printed and sent out a week or more prior to the month of issue to ensure delivery. It is possible that this issue of the Evening Mirror did indeed appear just before the February issue of the American Review was available, but it is equally possible that the American Review for February was out on the street by mid-January. A copy of the January issue in the Gimbel Collection of the Philadelphia Free Public Library includes a printed note (“To the subcribers and friends of the ‘American Review’), presumably by the publishers and now bound as part of the volume, that the February issue would be available “early in January,” the January issue having actually been distributed in a preliminary form, as a way of soliciting subscribers for the new periodical, as early as November 1844.

The final stanza of The Raven written in Poe's own hand

 This above illustration shows what the Upper West Side of NYC looked like during the year Poe lived there in 1844 where he wrote The Raven. I discuss details and descriptions in my previous article, Edgar Allan Poe

However, another fascinating fact is that the building where Edgar Allan Poe was living during the year 1845-1846 still stands and is located at 85 W. 3rd Street. Locals call it Poe House. He wrote The Cask of Amontillado and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar here.

(CUNY) City University of New York advertisement for a reading Poe gave. 

So Happy Publication Day to Edgar Allan Poe and his poem The Raven 

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My Review of Arresting Beauty by Heather Cooper

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