Ackermann is referenced in Wallace Stevens’ essay “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,” in The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination (1951) when Stevens compares past Victorian sensibility and “the comfortable American state of life,” erased by the new, violent reality of war, social change, and politics, to a “volume of Ackermann’s colored plates . . ." (659). [1]

Boat upset medium-1-

A Squall: The Boat Upset--Color Plate

Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) was a German carriage designer who immigrated to England in his youth and discovered aquatint. Ackermann promoted and marketed this form of illustration and generated a lucrative business of selling gift books filled with colored plates.  The plates illustrate topography, caricatures, and outdoor sporting activities. [2] Stevens’ reference to the book of colored plates perhaps alludes to the caricatures, for his comparison of former simple life that was “taken for granted” also is compared to “one of Töpfer’s books of sketches from Switzerland” within the same passage. [1] The Geneva-born Rodolfe Töpffer (1799-1846) was a cartoonist and caricaturist, as well. [3]

While Stevens states clearly that the life “disposed of” (658) was vital, he also believes that this former life has been replaced by a new, vital reality which remains subject to change and is far from indifferent. [1] The violence that pushes this new reality into being and forces the past to appear as a two-dimensional caricature of itself, upon advice from Stevens in his essay, must be resisted by aspiring poets who are called to share their imaginations with others.  


1. Stevens in Kermode and Richardson 658-59.

2. Rudolph Ackermann

3. Rodolphe Topffer


Roldolphe Töpffer

Rudolph Ackermann

Stevens, Wallace. "The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words." The Necessary Angel. (1951). Rpt. in Wallace

      Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose. Ed. Frank Kermode and Joan Richardson. New York: Libary of

America, 1997. 47. Print.