Stranger Fruit

Sharing a photo

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Above is not (see comments) a picture of Charles Darwin, taken obviously in his later years. He commented that “I like this photograph much better than any other which has been taken of me.” The original is in the Beinecke Library at Yale.

Comments

  1. #1 John Wilkins
    February 21, 2006

    Ummm… I don’t know who that is, but it ain’t Chuck. Haeckel perhaps?

  2. #2 John Lynch
    February 21, 2006

    The photo appeared in the Nov/Dec 2005 edition of Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society in an article by Ed Larson. I’m guessing that it’s kosher. I – and they – could be wrong though.

    All these old Victorians with beards look the same after awhile!

  3. #3 coturnix
    February 21, 2006

    Looks like Michael Ruse in costume.

  4. #4 PZ Myers
    February 21, 2006

    Hmmm. If you search the Beinecke image collection, that image does turn up, and it is labeled “Darwin”. I’ve never seen it before, though.

    The hair is weird. The mustache is trimmed way, way back, the beard is cropped oddly, and that fly-away stuff on his head is distracting. But that nose…it could be him.

  5. #5 John Lynch
    February 21, 2006

    Here is a direct link to the picture at the Beinecke.

  6. #6 John Lynch
    February 21, 2006

    I think I really like this picture. I don’t know why, just that I do. Perhaps it’s because he looks less “iconic” and more “human”. Umm.

  7. #7 Nick (Matzke)
    February 22, 2006

    No way that’s Chuck. Someone has screwed up somewhere, or is playing a joke. I was at Down House in the UK a few weeks back, and they had a portrait or photo on the wall, with that exact script below it — but it definitely wasn’t that photo.

    I will do a little digging.

    Nick

  8. #8 Nick (Matzke)
    February 22, 2006

    I think this is the correct photo that goes with the inscription:
    http://www.photography-museum.com/darwinlg.html

    Note that the actual Darwin note is “I like this photograph *very* much better than any other which has been taken of me.” Googling the quote lacking the word “very” brings up only references to the bogus photo, whereas the actual quote brings up the above photo and lots of hits to pages mirroring the Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. 2.

    Nick

  9. #9 John Lynch
    February 22, 2006

    The plot thickens. If you look at the original at the Beinecke, it too has written – in what looks like Darwin’s writing – “I like this photograph very much better than any other which has been taken of me”. It too is by Julia Margaret Cameron.

  10. #10 Nick (Matzke)
    February 22, 2006

    Well, looking through the Yale archives for Julia Margaret Cameron’s photos…
    http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/SearchExecXC.asp?srchtype=CNO

    …the alleged “Darwin” photo looks kind of like another photo in the Cameron collection, of one Thoby Prinsep:
    http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/photoneg/oneITEM.asp?pid=39002041693129&iid=4169312&srchtype=CNO

    …short mustache, right length beard, frizzy hair on bald head — the Mystery Photo certainly looks more like Prinsep than Chuck.

    I think we’ve got a major blogscoop here if both Yale and Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society have screwed this one up. Someone blog it if they figure it out definitively.

    PS: One of Darwin’s children took some candid family photos, this could conceivably be one, but I think I would have seen it before.

  11. #11 Nick (Matzke)
    February 22, 2006

    Well, looking through the Yale archives for Julia Margaret Cameron’s photos…
    http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/SearchExecXC.asp?srchtype=CNO

    …the alleged “Darwin” photo looks kind of like another photo in the Cameron collection, of one Thoby Prinsep:
    http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/photoneg/oneITEM.asp?pid=39002041693129&iid=4169312&srchtype=CNO

    …short mustache, right length beard, frizzy hair on bald head — the Mystery Photo certainly looks more like Prinsep than Chuck.

    I think we’ve got a major blogscoop here if both Yale and Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society have screwed this one up. Someone blog it if they figure it out definitively.

    PS: One of Darwin’s children took some candid family photos, this could conceivably be one, but I think I would have seen it before.

  12. #12 Nick (Matzke)
    February 22, 2006

    Hey John,

    I sent another post that requires moderation with my guess at who is in the photo (Thoby Prinsep, another subject of Julia Margaret Cameron in the database). Probably I sent too many posts in a short time.

    Nick

  13. #13 John Lynch
    February 22, 2006

    Nick,

    Yeah, I think you are right. It looks like Prinsep. Would be interesting to find the source for the photo. If I get a chance, I’ll email the library and see what they say.

  14. #14 John Lynch
    February 23, 2006

    Mystery solved … sort of.