Frances Wilson writes in Guilty Thing that Thomas De Quincey “was the only Romantic to have had his photograph taken.” The daguerreotype was done by James Howie in Edinburgh in 1850. De Quincey was around sixty-five years old at the time. An engraving was subsequently made from it by Frank Croll.
In a letter to the Editor of The Instructor dated September 21, 1850, De Quincey gives his amusing opinion on the likeness:
My Dear Sir,—I am much obliged to you for communicating to us (that is, to my daughters and myself) the engraved portrait, enlarged from the daguerreotype original. The engraver, at least, seems to have done his part ably. As to one of the earlier artists concerned, viz. the sun of July, I suppose it is not allowable to complain of him, else my daughters are inclined to upbraid him with having made the mouth too long.
One thought on “A Photograph of Thomas De Quincey”
Brian Dillon reports all this in a well-turned little essay on a sentence from de Quincey’s Suspiria de Profundis. Dillon’s essay is in his collection Suppose a Sentence, an anthology of gorgeous tight discussions of gorgeous tight sentences. So glad to see this image here. Dillon’s collection is of the type that makes you want to look up everything he references.