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Eminent Autographs.


1866, relative to the autographs of some other eminent persons, chiefly of an earlier age :

QUEEN ELIZABETH.-While princess she wrote a beautiful engrossing hand-clear and regular, almost, as an engraving of letters. After she had been Queen a long time, a melancholy change occurs. The letters are thin, spiteful; the lines irregular; an ugly old maid's version of her former hand, and the signature is a thing to make one bless one's-self.

MARTIN LUTHER.-Firm and legible, though not very equal nor very straight.

SIR THOMAS MORE.-By no means displaying the calm firmness he possessed; the lines crooked, and tumbling down hill.

RUBENS. Manly, bold; with a careless ease and clearness denoting mastery of hand.

LORD BACON.-Very like an elegant modern shorthand. Clear, neat, and regular. The signature involved with broken lines, as if a fly had struggled and died in a spider's web.

VOLTAIRE. Very clear, regular, steady, and straight; evidently not written rapidly, but with a continuous ease.

OLIVER CROMWELL.-Large, bold, legible, steady, sharp, and straight. The signature made up of halberds and pointed palisades. But another letter is not at all. of this character. It displays a perplexed and undecided mind at the time it was written.

PRINCE DE CONDE.-Not at all in accordance with the strong expression and buffalo features of his face.

CHARLOTTE CORDAY.-Firm, clear, steady, but not without emotion.

CUVIER. Very like the writing of Charlotte Corday, but not so strong and compact.

DANTON.-Wilful, daring, without method or care.


Development of Individualism.

GEORGE THE FOURTH.-Not at all the very gentlemanly hand most people would expect—rather like a housemaid's.

POPE.-Very bad, small, full of indecision; a very hedgerow of corrections and erasures.

CARDINAL WOLSEY.-A good hand, disturbed only by nervous energy and self-will.

PORSON.-Correct and steady; the reverse of his personal appearance and habits.

SHAKESPEARE.-A very bad hand indeed, confused, crowded, crooked in the lines, scarcely legible.

NAPOLEON.-Still more illegible. No letters formed at all; the signature a mere hasty' scrimmage' with the pen.

In the second volume of the facsimiles of the National Manuscripts already referred to, the gradual discontinuance of Gothic characteristics, and the development of individualism in handwriting, constitute two prominent features. As good illustrations of the latter, a recent critic in the North British Review selects three letters from Thomas Ruthall, Bishop of Durham, to Cardinal Wolsey, in the memorable year 1513; of which the first is in a professional hand, corrected by the Bishop, while the two others are in his own cursive handwriting. They have, in their way,' he says, 'as much individuality as the human countenance itself, . . . which could only grow when writing had become a life-long habit, . . . and above all, where men

Individuality and Legibility.


write for themselves, and with the abandon of men writing their own thoughts. Even in the present day,' he truly continues, 'the clerkly hand of those who write officially is, except in the upper grades of the profession, chiefly characterized by the lack of individuality.' It does not necessarily follow that individuality in handwriting implies illegibility, although, no doubt, as a general rule, the most decidedly characteristic hands present no very striking resemblance to copperplate. For the ordinary purposes of life, however, if it come to be a question between legibility without individuality, and individuality without legibility, I confess that I am very much disposed to prefer the former, even in the case of 'men of genius;' on the simple ground that few occupations are more aggravating than a tedious and uncertain effort to decipher a page of hieroglyphics, whether they happen to be the handiwork of a perfect stranger or of one's dearest friend.

In his recent work on Animals and Plants under Domestication, Mr. Darwin makes the following interesting observations on the subject of handwriting: On what a curious combination of corporeal structure, mental character,


Hereditary Handwriting.

and training, must handwriting depend! Yet every one must have noted the occasional close similarity of the handwriting in father and son, although the father had not taught the son. A great collector of franks assured me that in his collection there were several franks of father and son hardly distinguishable except by their dates. Hofacker, in Germany, remarks on the inheritance of handwriting; and it has even been asserted that English boys, when taught to write in France, naturally cling to their English manner of writing.'

I have sometimes been struck with the peculiarity here referred to, particularly in the case of signatures; and in those families where the same Christian name has prevailed throughout a series of generations, the resemblance is occasionally very striking. The signature of the late Lord Palmerston was remarkably similar to that of his father.

The members of the medical profession are not celebrated for their caligraphy-if, at least, we may form an opinion from their prescriptions, which, however, their patients are probably not intended to understand; but, prescriptions apart, my observation leads me to

Authors' Manuscript.


conclude that, in respect to handwriting, they are surpassed by both lawyers and clergymen. Authors also have the reputation of writing badly; but, so far as my experience goes, they are certainly not below the average. Thackeray, for example, was remarkable both for the clearness of his handwriting and for the general neatness of his manuscripts; and little more than a year ago, our old friend Sylvanus Urban' pronounced a very favourable verdict on the handwriting of two other distinguished authors. After acknowledging that 'Dickens's manuscript is what printers call bad copy,' he goes on to say that Shirley Brooks writes plainly, and with very little revision; while Douglas Jerrold's copy was almost as good as copperplate.' He further informs us, however, that Tom Taylor writes as if he had wool at the end of his pen; and that 'Lord Lyttleton, who moved a clause to the Reform Bill, that nobody should have a vote who could not write a legible hand, writes so illegibly that the clerks at the table could not read the resolution which he handed in."1


1 'Christopher Kenrick,' in Gentleman's Magazine for December 1868.

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