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196 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.1 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 ordin

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 once. 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,


Friends in Council.


you may notice that, with few exceptions, Prime Ministers have been remarkably good writers. Canning, I am told, wrote an exquisite hand; the Duke of Wellington, a clear and noble one; Sir Robert Peel, a most legible hand, a thought, perhaps, too mercantile for beauty, but still an excellent hand. Lord Palmerston's handwriting is a model of good penmanship; Lord John Russell's, forcible and distinct; and I might continue to give a long list of eminent men who have not disdained to take much pains with their handwriting. I mention these statesmen because all of them had, or have, to write a great quantity in the course of most days, and might fairly be excused if they wrote badly. I am sorry to condemn bad writing, for it hits some of my best friends very hard-men who seem to do everything well but their writing;

yet I must confess that bad handwriting is

a blemish.'

Mr. Helps reiterates his views on the subject of handwriting in one of the most recent of his 'Short Essays' contributed to the columns of Good Words. In a company of friends, he produces four or five letters of very eminent men, all more or less illegible, which their col


Excellent Penmanship

lective ingenuity could only partially decipher. In at least two instances, no one could make out the signature, which, in the case of one of the letters, was generally thought to resemble the first step of a centipede after it had crawled out from an ink-bottle!'

Not many years ago, a writer in the timehonoured columns of Blackwood, expressed the same favourable opinion as Mr. Helps regarding the penmanship of British statesmen :—' We are bound to add,' he says, 'that the present race of statesmen are, on the whole, distinguished by excellent penmanship. Lord Derby's handwriting is beautiful-equally elegant and legible. Lord Stanley's is as legible as large pica, but certainly not elegant. Lord Palmerston's is free, pleasant, and by no means obscure. The Duke of Newcastle writes an excellent handlong, well-formed letters, and very distinct. Lord John Russell's penmanship is not unlike the Colonial Minister's, but on a smaller scale. Other instances might be cited, but it is more to the purport of the present paper to say that the East India Company, nearly all through the present century, have been remarkably fortunate in the caligraphy of their chief servant, the

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