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If the handwriting of the male sex is characterized by its individuality, that of the ladies, on the other hand, appears to be no less remarkable for the very opposite quality-to wit, the painful uniformity of its style. Occasionally, no doubt, we meet with a lady's handwriting which is distinguished by its boldness and freedom; but I think it cannot be denied that stiff, formal angularity has long been the prevailing characteristic. It is by no means improbable that the largely extended use of steel pens may have something to do with the peculiarity in question; and possibly, in the course of time, the same cause may produce a greater uniformity in the handwriting of the male sex. As an example of a fine female hand, I may mention that of the Queen, whose signature is peculiarly bold and dignified. The handwriting of most of the literary ladies who figure in my collection of autographs is by no means remarkable for its beauty. While Miss Ferrier, Mrs. Trollope, Miss Mitford, and Miss Martineau all write very ordinary hands, those of L. E. L.' and Mrs. Norton, although by no means pretty,
have the merit of being both regular and
Character from Handwriting. 217
legible. As tolerably favourable examples, I may mention the Countess of Blessington, Lady Eastlake, Helen Faucit (Mrs. Martin), Mrs. Godwin, Lady Charlotte Bury, and Adelaide Kemble-the handwriting of the three last, although very different in character, being bold and decided; while that of Charlotte Brontë may be referred to as remarkable for its legibility, notwithstanding its excessive minuteness.
Character from Handwriting.
It has long been a pretty prevalent opinion that the leading points of a person's character may be deduced from his handwriting; and most of us are probably familiar with the advertisements of professed interpreters which from time to time appear in the public prints in something like the following terms: Send 13 postage stamps, along with a specimen of your ordinary handwriting, to the subjoined address, and in the course of a few days you will receive a full and correct description of the principal features in your character.' I have occasionally heard of very good shots being made by these learned professors. Their
descriptions, besides being somewhat vague, are generally so very comprehensive that it frequently happens that some of the qualities specified are perfectly correct. In most cases, moreover, the opinion' embraces a large proportion of favourable attributes, which the amiable applicants complacently appropriate without the smallest hesitation. The following is a copy of a tolerably truthful reply which a friend received, several years ago, from a female diviner rejoicing in the name of Mrs. Gedoin Jenkins:- A busy and anxious person-a strong and active mind-the intellect ever at work-it is no easy life this character leads the mental energy is ever jolting over difficulties—the nature quick and sententious— the temper excitable and solicitous-the disposition hasty and impetuous, ready with expedient, prompt in action-but there is ever too much of impatience-a lively imagination prompts to unusual diligence. This character must find the world very slow.-There is little he meets that keeps pace with his desiresthe ability is close and vigorous—a practical genius-a mind that devotes itself to usefulness -a worker of difficult things, and of inflexible perseverance-the will is restless and unsettled
Temperament and Handwriting. 219
-it will have its way-but it hardly knows what that way is.-The taste is acquisitivethere is a natural tendency to thrift, an economist from principle; much readiness of talent, but all turned to one purpose-liberality is all screwed down to practical proof-the judgment is ever on the rack-we have here the rough side of wisdom-strong and fastidious, pertinacious and inflexible-the leading feature is restless ability-the weak point, too anxious a temperament.'
I am inclined to believe that, in a general way, a certain relation exists between character and handwriting. Upwards of twenty years ago, an article on 'Autography' appeared in Chambers's Journal, in which reference is made to a writer in the Northern Journal of Medicine (the late Dr. William Seller ?), who furnishes a physiological reason, viz., temperament, for the diversities in handwriting. The author of the article considers that the two extremes of natural temperament or complexion are well known to every one. 6 We shall take,' he says, 'a man with light auburn hair, blue sparkling eyes, a ruddy complexion, ample chest, and muscular, well-rounded, agile frame. . . . When such a man sits down to write, he makes short
220 Fair and Dark Complexions.
work of it. He snatches the first pen that comes in the way, never looks how it is pointed, dabs it into the ink, and then dashes on from side to side of the paper in a full, free, and slipslop style, his ideas or at all events his words -flowing faster than his agile fingers and leaping muscles can give them a form. . . . On the contrary, select a man with deep black hair, black eyes, brown or sallow complexion, and thin spare form. . . . After weighing well his subject in his mind, he sits down deliberately, selects and mends his pen, adjusts his paper, and in close, stiff, and upright characters traces with a snail's pace his well-weighed and sententious composition.' He then refers to the intermediate shades of temperament, and gives a classified table embracing six different heads, to each of which a special style of handwriting is assigned.
L'art de juger du Caractère des Hommes sur leur Ecriture is the title of a little French work on the subject under consideration. The author gives several interesting facsimiles of handwriting, including that of Voltaire, Chateaubriand, Queen Elizabeth of England, and her unfortunate sister,' Mary Queen of Scots. In referring to the two royal autographs, he says,