Tag Archives Mathew Brady


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On October 15th 1851,

a Wednesday, in Hyde Park, London,

the Great Exhibition – official sponsor

Schweppes – closed. In Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace

of glass and wood and cast iron – incorporating

untouched the park’s trees, and itself perhaps

the chief exhibit – amid the palms and the lamps

and the rest of the world’s ingenuity,

the best of Britain’s design, engineering,

and manufacture had been displayed:

for example, Minton’s majolica

from Stoke, a papier maché piano

from Birmingham. Among the visitors

were Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson

and Lewis Carroll. Enclosing the park’s trees

had a cost. Sparrows flew as freely

as ever, despoiling all stands equally:

from Samuel Colt’s breech-loading revolvers

to Mathew Brady’s daguerreotypes.

Queen Victoria was concerned. ‘Sparrow Hawks,

Ma’am!’ advised the Duke of Wellington,

the veteran of diverse battlefields.


In London, three days later, the Saturday,

Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick or The Whale’

was published: that Odyssean tale

of an illimitable zealotry

and self-hatred, and of optimism.

‘I thought I would sail about a little

and see the watery part of the world.

It is a way I have to drive off the spleen…’


Is the closeness of significant events

zeitgeist, or merely haphazard happenstance –

human affairs, like leaves, falling where they may?

Making connections (as the Iron Duke did

and Schweppes), like the making of metaphors,

has made us even more successful than rats.


Here is a tale of the technology

of conjunctions: somewhere south of the Azores

the only sounds are the lap of the swell

on the clinkers, and the shearwaters mewing,

circling above…the harpoon readied…

the rope’s end lashed tight to the foot of the mast…

the men still, their breaths long, slow, pulses high…

waiting for the leviathan to rise

with its capitalist bounty – the oil

rendered from its blubber – the carcass

becoming noisome jetsam, brief pickings

for frenzies of seabirds…




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