Laurence Irving is the son of Henry Irving, the famous actor and theater owner who inspired one of Bram Stoker’s characters in Dracula (and for whom Bram Stoker worked). Laurence had a short life and tragic end, perishing in 1914 in a maritime disaster on the St. Lawrence River (an irony that I’m sure was lost on him). I’m guessing that in this photo he must have been in his 20s, so this would have been taken sometime in the 1890s.
Also fascinating is the photographers’ description of the studio address: 20 UPPER Baker Street, 20 doors north of Baker Street Station. Which puts it across the street more or less from 227 B Baker Street, the fictive home of Sherlock Holmes.
I have a photo of his father, Henry Irving, already in my collection:
Here’s another rather rare image – a portrait of what appears to be an actor by Camille Silvy. Camille Silvy was a French photographer who moved to London in 1858 and opened a studio at 38 Porchester Terrace, Bayswater. He photographed society clients, including many members of the British royal family, as well as royals of other nations (the queen of Hawaii among others). According to Wikipedia,
He closed his studio and returned to France in 1868. He himself believed that his nervous system had been damaged by exposure to potassium cyanide in the darkroom but it more likely that he suffered from manic depression. The last thirty years of his life were spent in a succession of hospitals, sanatoria and convalescent homes.
So he had a working career in London of approximately 10 years, in which he made over 17,000 sittings – rather productive for a short career. That’s about six portraits a day, 300+ days a year. According to the Wikipedia entry, the National Portrait Gallery in London has his daybooks, which include 12,000 photo illustrations to accompany the records of sittings. I’d love to visit them and see if I could find out who this actor was. Maybe next year when I return the favor to visit my friends Peter and Mirza who came to see me in Paris.
Here is Henry Irving, the celebrated English thespian, who owned and operated the Lyceum Theater in London. He was the first actor ever to receive knighthood. He hired Bram Stoker to be his stage manager at the Lyceum, and is allegedly the inspiration for the stage manager character in Stoker’s Dracula novel (a character notably absent from all the Dracula movies).
You’ll notice on the verso of the carte the coat-of-arms for the Order of the Garter. From my biographical research on Mr’s Elliot & Fry, they ran a very successful high-end studio in London, doing portraits of public and social, artistic, scientific and political eminences of the Victorian era. The studio operated for over 100 years before being bought out by another notable photographic firm. Most of their negatives were lost during the bombings of London in WW II. Neither Mr. Elliot or Mr. Fry were members of the Order, so the logo on their card must have been a sales pitch to their clientele to suggest the status by association. For those not in the know, the Order of the Garter is the highest possible social honor one can receive from the Queen of England. At any moment in time there are no more than 24 members of the order plus the Queen/King and the Prince of Wales. Membership is by nomination from current members, and at a minimum qualification you must already be knighted by the Queen.
I’ve been a little overzealous in my collecting lately, so it’s going to go on hiatus. Well, unless I come across some nice Washington DC based CDVs at bargain prices. See, collecting is an addiction. Fortunately, unless you get into the realm of hoarding, it’s one addiction that doesn’t require interventions or support groups.
Anyway, back on topic, here’s a rather special CDV worthy of being the pausing point (the pause that refreshes?). Napoleon III, last Emperor of France. Taken in London at the studios of W. & D. Downey, photographers to Her Majesty.