« PreviousContinue »
The Magisterial Mantle.
it is in the shape of an elaborate essay on a new and easy mode of reducing the national debt; it is very short, only some fifty pages of manuscript; but the author proposes to wait upon his Lordship, and explain, more fully than he can do in such a brief form, his views upon this all-important subject. What an imperishable monument will his Lordship raise for his memory if he accomplish this great work ; and the author is prepared to demonstrate that, by the most trilling outlay on the part of his Lordship, the enterprise may be set on foot. If one finds it difficult to settle down calmly to ordinary routine of business after having thus soared amid the loftiest flights of genius, there is surely some excuse. But there is a still greater change effected by this wondrous mantle, for it has only to be placed upon the shoulders of the infant Provost when there appears to be gently distilled into his heart feelings of the most unbounded charity and generosity-a true, sterling benevolence unattained by any ordinary mortal; and, curious to say, by some similar magical influence, the possession of this virtue at once becomes known to every individual upon whom fortune has not Destruction of Letters.
cast a favourable eye, and that, too, though he may be far beyond the limits within which a narrow conventionality has prescribed the civic boundaries. The benevolence of the Chief Magistrate knows no such limits; it is privileged with appeals from every quarter of the globe ; the more it is appealed to, the more brightly it burns; in fact, it is inextinguishable.'
People act very differently with reference to the destruction of their letters.
While some persons have a strong tendency to preserve every letter they receive, others go to the opposite extreme, and systematically indulge in their wholesale extinction. How frequently it happens that the inconsiderate destruction of a letter ultimately proves the source of very great inconvenience! Most sensible persons endeavour to make a selection-retaining their more important letters, and committing the great mass of their correspondence to the flames; but it is sometimes very difficult to draw the line.
Handwriting In an essay on letters and letter-writers, a few words on the subject of handwriting will
1 See Appendix No. VII.
The C. S. Commissioners
probably not be considered out of place. In these days of extended education, it appears to be somewhat doubtful whether sufficient attention is paid, in any class of society, to each of the three immortal R-s. Probably, in most instances, due prominence is given to arithmetic; but I am disposed to think that the vast importance of good reading and writing is very frequently overlooked. Even in our pulpits and our courts of justice-English as well as Scotch, -a really good reader is by no means common; and in ordinary life, a clear, articulate, pleasing enunciation is the characteristic of one in a thousand. The disadvantages which result from such an unfortunate state of things are quite incalculable ; and it is surprising to find so much indifference on the subject. In like manner, the most superficial observer must have been struck with the rarity of good writing. The Civil Service Commissioners make the following remarks on the subject of handwriting in their Ninth Annual Report (1864) :—' In our former Reports we have observed upon the importance which we attach to good handwriting, as one of the most useful accomplishments which a clerk can possess, and one which any young man has it in on Handwriting
his power to acquire. We believe that the effect of our examinations has been, upon the whole, to improve the general style of writing for official purposes. There is, however, room for much further improvement. In consequence, probably, of the insufficient attention paid to the subject in schools, the quantity of bad handwriting which comes before us is still very great, and we are therefore unable, without causing inconvenience to the public departments by delay in supplying vacancies, to enforce so high a standard in this respect as we should desire. It is almost superfluous to state that we do not demand or desire that the writing should be of any particular style, provided that it possesses the main characteristic of legibility. What we require, as candidates are invariably informed, is “the clear formation of the letters of the alphabet." In the appendix to our Fourth Report, we printed a facsimile of documents written in one of the public offices; and we have inserted in the present volume a collection of similar specimens. Representing, as they do, the ordin198
1 According to Lord Chesterfield, 'every man who has the use of his eyes and his right hand, can write whatever hand he pleases.
Opinions of the Author
ary current work of the writers, they are not given as free from faults; but we think that they will show that the essential quality of distinctness may be obtained without the sacrifice of other desirable elements of a good official hand.' In the specimens referred to, the handwriting is of a neat, round character ; every word being distinctly written, and consequently quite legible.
The learned author of Friends in Council, in alluding to the subject of handwriting, puts the following sensible words into the mouth of the philosophic Milverton :- It is certainly astonishing to see how very few people write legibly. I can't think how it is that bad writers make up their minds to lose so much force as they do by bad writing. If you address anything to a correspondent, you want him to understand it at
You want it to come with its full force upon his mind. Accordingly, if you write a word badly, you had better erase it, and write the word over again carefully. You do not wish your friend to puzzle over what you are imparting to him.
Bad writers cannot now plead great examples for bad writing. It is a curious thing, but going back for a long period,