Text: Michael J. Deas, “The ‘Cornwell’ Daguerreotype,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), p. 150 (This material is protected by copyright)


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The “Cornwell” Daguerreotype

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 67)
The Cornwell Daguerreotype
[Illustration on page 150]

This finely preserved copy of the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype (fig. 67) first came to light about 1880 in the possession of Dr. Henry Sylvester Cornwell, a reclusive poet and physician who lived for many years in New London, Connecticut. How Cornwell acquired the daguerreotype is uncertain, although it seems likely that he obtained it through Sarah Helen Whitman, with whom he had exchanged a number of letters and verses. In 1880 Cornwell himself stated the daguerreotype had been made by Samuel Masury (d. 1874), of the Providence firm of Masury & Hartshorn.(6)

Cornwell was a devoted admirer of Poe's works, and the daguerreotype is said to have been among his most cherished possessions. In a letter to Poe scholar E. C. Stedman, Cornwell remarked, “The aspect [of the likeness] is one of mental misery, bordering on wildness, disdain of human sympathy, and scornful intellectual superiority. There is also in it, I think, dread of imminent calamity, coupled with despair and defiance, as of a hunted soul at bay.”(7) In late 1879 or early 1880 Cornwell allowed his daguerreotype to be copied by the noted engraver Timothy Cole; the completed engraving (fig. 46) accompanied E. C. Stedman's essay “Edgar Allan Poe,” published in the May 1880 issue of Scribner's Monthly. Shortly before his death in 1886, Cornwell presented the daguerreotype to his friend John Clark Turner, poetry editor of the New London Telegram. The plate remained in Turner's possession for at least twenty years, eventually passing to his niece, Mrs. Christine Smith Rawson.(8) In 1933 Mrs. Rawson sold the daguerreotype to a group of twenty Poe enthusiasts who on October 7, 1933, presented the plate to its current owners, the Poe Museum in Richmond.(9)






[S:1 - PDEAP, 1989] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (M. J. Deas) (The Cornwall Daguerreotype)