The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre by Dominic Smith
A Novel

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When the vision came, he was in the bathtub. So begins the madness of Louis Daguerre. In 1847, after a decade of using poisonous mercury vapors to cure his daguerreotype images, his mind is plagued by delusions. Believing the world will end within one year, Daguerre creates his "Doomsday List" -- ten items he must photograph before the final day. The list includes a portrait of Isobel Le Fournier, a woman he has always loved but not spoken to in half a century.

In this luminous debut novel, Dominic Smith reinvents the life of one of photography's founding fathers. Louis Daguerre's story is set against the backdrop of a Paris prone to bohemian excess and social unrest. Poets and dandies debate art and style in the cafés while students and rebels fill the garrets with revolutionary talk and gun smoke. It is here, amid this strange and beguiling setting, that Louis Daguerre sets off to capture his doomsday subjects.

Louis enlists the help of the womanizing poet Charles Baudelaire, known to the salon set as the "Prince of Clouds," and a jaded but beautiful prostitute named Pigeon. Together they scour the Paris underworld for images worthy of Daguerre's list. But Louis is also confronted by a chance to reunite with the only woman he's ever loved. Half a lifetime ago, Isobel Le Fournier kissed Louis Daguerre in a wine cave outside of Orléans. The result was a proposal, a rejection, and a misunderstanding that outlasted three kings and an emperor. Now, in the countdown to his apocalypse, Louis wants to understand why he has carried the memory of that kiss for so long.

About Dominic Smith

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Dominic Smith grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Austin, Texas. He holds an MFA in writing from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly.His awards include the Dobie Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize, and the Gulf Coast Fiction Prize. In 2006, his debut novel The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre received the Steven Turner Prize for First Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters.Dominic serves on the fiction faculty in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and has taught recently at the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University. Find out more at
Published January 9, 2007 by Washington Square Press. 338 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre

Kirkus Reviews

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Isobel slipped out of his life the year he went to Paris as apprentice to a scene painter, but Louis remained haunted by his lost love as he pursued his goal of capturing the world around him with a realism beyond painting.

Dec 15 2005 | Read Full Review of The Mercury Visions of Louis ...

The New York Times

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And Smith is fascinating when he dramatizes, in a series of nicely rhythmic flashbacks, Daguerre's apprenticeship to a Parisian stage designer and the remarkable steps by which he discovered how to create a lasting photograph.

Mar 19 2006 | Read Full Review of The Mercury Visions of Louis ...

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Austin Chronicle

In his debut novel, Dominic Smith describes Daguerre spending a year using a camera obscura to paint an exact replica of the view from his terrace.

Mar 10 2006 | Read Full Review of The Mercury Visions of Louis ...

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