En Face

The only approved picture of Emily Dickinson is a daguerreotype her sister would have given to one Austin Baxter Keep in 1890s. It now belongs with Emily Dickinson collections at Amherst College.

I do not like ■→this daguerreotype simply as a negligent image of a human being. A considerable proportion of the poet’s head would be missing, on shoulders unnaturally narrow, if to supplement the line of the hair. Lip asymmetry might imply a stroke, or another set of lips imposed on a retouched jaw. Having had a closer look, it would not be corrective surgery, to ask a plastic surgeon to make one look the one.

I wanted to process the daguerreotype for a pencil script in PaintShop, to have a more agreeable picture. I came across the yellow layer. It looked a bit as if there were another set of features in it, or another face, if you please.

CMYK layer Y, yellow, is where we can expect to find the influence of sunshine, as well as traces of image “doctoring”.

Feel welcome to click and enlarge.

The daguerreotype shows a person quite dissimilar, to compare noses and eyes in the Dickinson family. I have now done more or less what I wanted to do about the daguerreotype — on a picture of Edward Dickinson, the father: Dragan on CMYK layer B, black. Features have become emphasized.

Next, we may compare Ms. Lavinia Dickinson, the poet’s sister, in a picture by MyHeritage. Ms. Lavinia would be the child, the woman — Mrs. Norcross-Dickison, the mother? It remains to ponder when photography got invented, or to continue with the features. I choose the latter. Right next, we may compare the brother, Austin, and Ms. Lavinia in an image acknowledged by Amherst College.

The daguerreotype for Emily Dickinson does stand out. Of a caring sister, to give the only picture away would have been extremely strange (maybe except ■→suspicion of “witchcraft”). I had my first careful look and understood it was disposed of as faulty, and daguerreotypes overall must have brought plenty of customer complaints. ■→Wikipedia notes, new processes were developed for “more readily viewable images”, and the word “acceptable” matches with the adjective “ready”.

However, there are no other pictures of Emily Dickinson. I removed layer Y scratches, nose enlargement, extra lips, compared family features and processed for pencil. The result is here. I do not mean it for the true Emily Dickinson. I am leaving it unfinished. But well, we do not have to stick to the daguerreotype, for the belle of Amherst.


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The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.

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Świat może i nigdy nie widział jej oryginalnego pisma, jeśli jej umiejętność została wzięta za nadnaturalną. Zapraszam do Wierszy Emilii Dickinson w przekładzie Teresy Pelka: zwrotka tematyczna, notki o inspiracji greką i łaciną, korelacie z Websterem 1828 oraz wątku arystotelesowskim, Rzecz perpetualna — ta nie zasadza się na czasie, ale na wieczności.

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268 stron, $21.91