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Lamb on Handwriting.
In one of Charles Lamb's last letters, addressed to his old schoolfellow, George Dyer, he amusingly touches upon the subject of handwriting. You always wrote hieroglyphically,' he says ; ‘you ever wrote what I call a Grecian's hand. Your boy-of-genius hand and your mercantile hand are various. By your flourishes, I should think you never learned to make eagles or corkscrews, or flourish the governors names in the writing school ; and by the tenor and cut of your letters, I suspect you were never in it at all. By the length of this scrawl, you will think I have a design upon your optics ; but I have writ as large as I could, out of respect to them; too large, indeed, for beauty. Mine is a sort of
a Deputy-Grecian's hand; a little better, and more of a worldly hand, than a Grecian's, but still remote from the mercantile.' 1
Signatures. It frequently happens that where the body of a letter is clearly and legibly written, the signature of the writer is what has been aptly termed Illegible Signatures.
1 'Grecian' and `Deputy-Grecian' denote the higher forms of the boys at Christ's Hospital.
'a hopeless puzzle of intemperate scratches.' All collectors of autographs are familiar with illegible signatures ; and before the abolition of Franking, the Post-Office authorities were frequently applied to for information as to the names of the privileged writers. As illustrative examples, I may mention the Parliamentary signatures of Lord Hotham, Sir James Weir Hogg, Mr. James Johnston of Straiton, Sir M. Folkes, and General Sharpe of Hoddom. But probably the most eccentric signature that ever appeared upon a frank is that of Mr. Richard Hodgson, which bears a striking resemblance to a bad impression of a wild bird's claw, and consequently, is about as like the writer's name as the most mysterious Egyptian hieroglyphic. I happen to possess facsimiles of thirty different signatures of the first Emperor Napoleon, some of which are certainly very extraordinary productions; but the most peculiar of the series is entirely eclipsed by that of Mr. Hodgson.
A few years ago, a lamented medical friend received an invitation to dinner in something like the following terms :—EDINR., 17th Novr. -MY DEAR SIR,—Will you favour me with your company at dinner on Friday next, the
Lord Glasgow's Adventure.
25th inst., at half-past six ? Yours very truly,
- Then followed a series of 'intemperate scratches,' by way of signature, which my friend failed to decipher; and as he was unacquainted with his correspondent's handwriting, and the writer's place of abode was not specified in the note, he was unable to send a reply.
Even where a signature is quite distinct, an amusing misunderstanding, in the case at least of a Peer, may sometimes arise regarding it. Not many years before his death, the late Earl of Glasgow had occasion to travel from London to Glasgow, and on taking his ticket at the booking-office of the railway station, tendered a £10 note in payment. Before giving change, the clerk, in accordance with the usual custom, requested him to indorse the note with his name; and on his Lordship’s complying with the proposal and returning the note to the official, the latter, after a contemptuous glance at the signature Glasgow,' tossed it back to the owner, exclaiming indignantly, with the air of a man whose time was too precious to be trifled with, 'Put your own name to it, and not the name of the place you want to go to !'
There has been a good deal of discussion as
Early Royal Signatures.
to which of our English kings was the first to sign his own name. If the point is to be decided by the evidence afforded in the recently published facsimiles of National Manuscripts, Richard II. would appear to be entitled to the distinction, in a document bearing the date of 1386. An earlier writing exhibits the wellknown motto of his father, the chivalrous * Black Prince, but it is difficult to determine whether the curious signature attached to it is autograph or not. The first holograph letter in the same collection is an epistle, in French, to Richard de Clifford from the pen of another Prince of Wales, afterwards Henry V. (1413-22.)
Speaking of signatures, some interesting conclusions as to the state of elementary instruction in this country may be deduced from our marriage registers. Thus it appears from the last detailed Report of the Registrar-General, applicable to the year 1866, that of the 23,688 couples married in Scotland during that year, 21,032 bridegrooms, and 18,483 brides, signed their names in full ; while 2656 bridegrooms, and 5202 brides signed by mark. In other words, 88.78 per cent. of the men, and 78:50 per cent. of the women, signed in full ; while 11:22
Bridegrooms and Brides.
per cent. of the men, and 22.0 per cent. of the women signed by mark. In England, during the same year, only 78:4 per cent. of the men, and 70'0 per cent. of the women, were able to write their names in the marriage register. Accordingly, it would appear that, in respect to the accomplishment in question, the gentlemen of England are slightly behind the ladies of Scotland! and the statistics of previous years exhibit similar results. In some districts, the proportion of signatures by mark is very much larger than in others. In the case of certain counties-chiefly in the south-west of Scotland—this circumstance is, to a great extent, accounted for by the large number of Irish who are intermixed with the native population. Too much importance, however, ought not to be attached either to the absence or the presence of the signature in full. In the case of many persons, the capacity of writing is confined to the signing of their names; and even the signature itself is sometimes a matter of considerable difficulty. Others again may be able to write a little who cannot sign their names; and on the all-important occasion of marriage we may reasonably suppose that, in