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Darwin Correspondence Project

3.13 Edwards 'Representative Men'

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A sequel to Portraits of Men of Eminence appeared in 1868, published by the London firm of Alfred William Bennett and again edited by Edward Walford. It was titled Representative Men in Literature, Science, and Art. The Photographic Portraits from Life by Ernest Edwards, B.A. The introduction explains, ‘Any single Biography and Portrait may be had separately, price 1s 6d’: it is clear that this unpaginated compilation was, despite its grand title, an ad hoc reissue of photographs and articles selected from earlier works by Walford -- works which could be bought in parts as well as in volume form. Darwin makes an appearance among the scientists, and the accompanying text is largely a reprint of the one in Men of Eminence. It is significant, then, that a new photograph of him was supplied, perhaps in tacit acknowledgement of the shortcomings of the profile portrait in the earlier publication.  

As the preface to Representative Men is dated December 1867, Edwards’s new photograph must have been taken during that year or early in 1868. It is a three-quarter-length portrait: Darwin sits in his characteristic pose – hands clasped, legs crossed – and as usual there are no accessories. The expression of his eyes is strikingly intense, but at the same time anxious or uneasy: he still lacks the aplomb of most of the other sitters. Nevertheless, Edwards, profiting from Darwin’s growing fame and prestige, reissued this photograph in several different formats as a ‘carte de visite’, often cropped to waist length or in the form of a vignette. It existed as a stereoscopic photograph, one example of which survives in the Wellcome Library (Edwards’s London business was latterly called ‘The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company’). When Edwards emigrated to America c. 1872, he evidently took the negative with him. The image then reappeared as a lantern slide (one is now in the collection of Professor Kentwood Wells, previously attributed to George Washington Wilson), the dimensions of which indicate that it was of American manufacture; it would probably have been used in lectures on Darwinism. 

  • physical location Cambridge University Library. Other copies exist in the Wellcome Library and the British Library. 

  • accession or collection number li.5.58 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image Ernest Edwards 

  • date of creation 1867 

  • computer-readable date c. 1867-01-01 to 1867-11-30 

  • medium and material albumen photographic print 

  • references and bibliography National Portrait Gallery online catalogue of portraits of Darwin, nos. x5935, x134603, and Ax 17797. Gertrude Mae Prescott, ‘Fame and photography: portrait publications in Great Britain, 1856–1900’, PhD thesis, University of Texas, 1985 (copy in the Wellcome Library). Janet Browne, ‘”I could have retched all night”: Charles Darwin and his body’, in Christopher Lawrence and Steven Shapin (eds), Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 240–287 (pp. 269–271). Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. Volume II of a Biography (London: Jonathan Cape, 2002), pp. 272–273. Kentwood D. Wells, ‘The Lincoln–Darwin Bicentennial 1809–2009’, The Magic Lantern Gazette, 20:4 (Winter 2008), pp. 3–12 (p. 8); my thanks to Professor Wells for information about the lantern slide of Darwin. Browne, ‘Looking at Darwin: portraits and the making of an icon’, Isis, 100:3 (Sept. 2009), pp. 542–570 (pp. 563–564). [Geoffrey Belknap], ‘Darwin’s photographic portraits’, online at the Darwin Correspondence Project, accessed February 2020. J. van Wyhe, ‘Iconography’, pp. 166–167.   


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