Alfred, Lord Tennyson once described Charles Hay Cameron as "a philosopher with his beard dipped in moonlight." As Cameron sits in an armchair facing his wife's camera, his white hair is drenched in brilliant natural light. Although it is winter and he is bundled in an overcoat, his eyes express tender warmth.
This portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron is a rare study of her husband, and one of the first she made after taking up photography. In her later allegorical images, Charles Hay Cameron's patriarchal appearance made him a convincing King Lear and Merlin. But in real life, he fit the Victorian archetype of "genius" with his unruly white hair, as did many of the scholarly men his wife photographed. Cameron attended Eton College and served a distinguished law career in British colonial India. He shared a passion for literature and philosophy with his wife and friends. He also had a tendency to be reclusive. Here, he is portrayed simply as himself–a gentle and solitary man.