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and perished, as in fact he did, in the one of the profession (and there are but glorious company of the great explorer. two in London, who almost divide the
To enumerate all the cases in which work) that within the last four years he father or son, and sometimes both, bave has been entrusted with more than six played an important part would be to hundred cases from different parts of the enumerate most of the causes célèbres of country, in connection with certainly not the last forty years. Among the most two hundred of which has he had to ap. famous may be mentioned that of Roupel, pear publicly. The rest are compromised the member for Lambeth, the son of the or hushed up, or in many instances never notorious smelter and founder of Roupel even go so far as that, for often the con. Park, at Brixton, whose name he forged sulting parties only want their own suspi. indiscriminately for ten years to deeds of cions confirmed for their own satisfaction, gist, conveyances, and wills, and who was without any intention of taking further duly sentenced to penal servitude for life action. They are for the most part matri. after squandering more than three hun. munial disputes ; scandalous communica. dred thousand pounds; the Tichborne tions from disappointed suitors, secretly case in its earliest form, when in 1867 the thrust under the front door; abusive and Hon. Mr. Stourton, one of the infant heir's threatening letters; erasures in and sustrustees, brought letters of the claimant pected signatures to wills; and — strange and the real Sir Roger for comparison, that a day of universal love and harmony aod when the expert gave his decided should be so desecrated ! – no Valentine's opinion that they could not both have Day passes that does not bring with it come from the same hand; the will of ball-a-dozen letters, poesies, or pictures, Jonathan Armstrong of Carlisle, where as to the authors of which the recipients the writing was so identical that the for. show an angry and a lively curiosity. Ocgery was only discovered by the fact of a casionally the experi's opinion will be stamp having been used of a later date asked on a difficulty which arose before than the will itself bore, recalling that in the profession attained its present emi. genious scene in Miss Edgeworth's “ Pat. nence - on the validity of a signature to ronage,” when the date of a sixpence that a will, for instance, signed forty years ago, had been placed under the seal is equally and, though at the time suspected, never useful in proclaiming fraud; the remarka. legally impugned. “Only the other day,” ble trial known as Ring's Codicil, where a said the authority in question to us, “I clergyınan was suspected of forgery, the was taken to see one of these wills. The result being a compromise; and, not to moment I set eyes on it I knew it as a weary with a distasteful record of crime, rank forgery. Nothing could be done, nor the case of Miss Edmunds of Brighton. ever can be done in cases where the parThis last is incidentally strange as afford. ties are all dead and the property has long ing one of the many instances of the as changed hands. The consequence is that, tutest criminals who overreach themselves in my own experience, I bave met again by a lapse into carelessness. Miss Ed. and again with instances of estates and muods had bought strychnine of the incomes held under a title founded on the chemist under the name of Wood, in most indisputable forgeries, but which no which name she signed the register of the one at the time had the courage or the sale of poisons. At the time of the in- money to take into court.”. quest on the child who died of eating the And now that we have for the moment poisoned chocolate, she forged a letter turned to the subject of the expert's ex. from the coroner requesting the loan of amination of papers written many years the chemist's book for inspection at the before, it will not be uninteresting to refer inquiry: The chemist gave up the book to the late Mr. Chabot's opinion on the to the boy who brought the letter, who vexed question of the authorship of Jun. carried it to Miss Edmunds, who tore out, ius, founded on a minute comparison of as she believed, the entry. It appeared, many handwritings and embodied in an however, on the trial that the abstracted exhaustive publication, edited and pret. entry referred to another Miss Wood, and aced by the Hon. Edward Twistleton that the true criminal's remained. The the whole, to our mind at aoy rate, conclu. expert proved to the satisfaction of the sive of the difficulty. The subject had court that the letter and the sigoature been previously soniewhat similarly deals were in Miss Edmunds's handwriting. with in “ Junius Identified," writien by
But these cases that come before the Mr. Taylor in 1816; where, though not to public do not represent one-third of the the same extent on the ground of identity expert's practice. We are informed by of handwriting, subsequently more fully treated in a supplement to the same book in support of his opinion on its beauty, published in the following year, the author Mr. Blake quoted the well-knowo lines had come to a similar decision. Under the from "The Giaour,” beginning “ He who various well-considered and well-sustained hath bent him o'er the dead." Sir Philip heads of verbal agreement in phrases, un pish'd and pooh'd, and taking up a pen common phrases, metaphorical phrases, extracted a string of words from ihe quoparticular doctrines, opinions, cautions, tation as more or less meaningless and maxims, and rules of conduct, peculiar inapposite, ending with a word of his own sentiments, words similarly italicized, sim- senseless – to all which he subscribed ilar quotations, manner and personifica. bis initials between the two dashes. Then tion, Mr. Taylor makes out a very strong said Mr. Blake, being well acquainted case against Sir Philip Francis, and in with the two same dashes of Junius from fact, so far as it be true that le style c'est Mr. Taylor's book, “ Pray will you allow Chomme, there can be little doubt, after me to ask you, Sir Philip, do you always reading the book and verifying the com. sign your initials in that manner?” To parisons, that Sir Philip Francis and Jun- which Sir Philip, scowling and growling, ius are the same.
answered, “ I know what you mean, sir!” But Mr. Chabot set himself seriously to and throwing down the pen strode away. work to examine and compare the hand. This happened forty-eight years after May writing of all who have ever been sus. 3, 1769 - the date of the Junius letter in pected of the authorship, from the calmer which the signature beiween the two point of view of the expert who has neither dashes first occurs. political nor family interest in the matter; It seems strange that a love-letter should after giving a month to the study of forty supply yet another link in fixing the autwo letters of Sir Philip's and making him. thorship of the most scathing invective self perfectly familiar with their principal and the bitterest sarcasm in the language. features and subtle peculiarities, he turned But there is published at the end of Mr. first to the specimens of Junius preserved Chabot's book, as the work of another by his printer, Woodfall, and then to the well-known expert, Mr. Netherclift, the manuscripts in the British Museum, and facsimile of an epistle to a lady, in a dis. in Junius found so many oi the character. guised upright hand of Sir Philip's that is istics of Sir Philip reproduced as to pre. identical with the disguised upright hand clude any supposition of accidental coin. of Junius. It was written at Baih in the cidence. The signature of Junius - a winter of 1770 to a Miss Giles, the daugh. C between two dashes - completes the ter of one of the officials of the Bank of chain with one as emarkable as any. England, afterwards governor when in the You have only to look at one of these C's time of Mr. Pitt the bank stopped pay. with its accompanying marks and com- ment. In those days it was customary at pare it with the dash above and below the the Assembly Rooms for a lady to retain initials P. F., to see that the resemblance her partner during the whole of the even. could not be more perfect. Whosesoever ing, and for several evenings Mr. Francis might have been the brain that prompted and Miss Giles danced together. The the dictation, if it be true that it is merely result of it was a very tolerable copy of the handwriting and not the authorship verses, delivered to Miss Giles with an that is identical — and yet, from what we anonymous letter, wherein the writer de know of Francis, his was scarcely the clared that, having found the verses, which temper to submit to any man's diciation were unaddressed, he could not conceive
ihere can be no earthly doubt that the for whom they were meant unless for her. hand that wrote the letters 10 his brother. At the time the young lady suspected the in-law, Mackrabie, in Philadelphia, is the author but said nothing, and it was not till same that wrote the manuscript, so often years afterwards when, though the wife of and so secretly sent to Woodfall. And Mr. King of Taplow, she still kept the à propos of these accompanying dashes papers, that a scrap of Junius's writing there is a curious story told, not in itself was being handed round the company in perhaps of any first-rate value as evidence, which she happened to be. “Why!"ex: but certainly supplying what lawyers claimed Mrs. King, when the paper came would call an adminiculum of proof. The to her, “I know that writing. The perincident happened in 1817, after the pub. son who wrote that wrote me some verses lication of ** Junius Identified," when a and a letter.” And on comparison, though certain Mr. Blake staying in a country the verses were plainly by another hand, house with Sir Philip, the conversation the letter was as plainly in the hand of turned on the poetry of Lord Byron, and, Junius. The verses, Sir Philip's com.
position, were afterwards proved to have ness of certain signatures on a family been dictated to his friend Tilghman, who pedigree made in 1751. And the pedigree spent the winter of 1770 with him at Bath: was ultimately proved by the family solicin one of whose letters from America partitor, who had for thirty years been acquir. of a verse is jokingly quoted, in proof of ing knowledge of the writing in question Francis's capacity for poetry of the highest by constant familiarity with title-deeds, order.
account-books, and other business papers That Sir Philip publicly and in the in his possession. In 1853 the report of strongest terms denied the authorship is the Common Law Procedure Commission. very well known, but by that denial one is ers recommended the abolition of these only reminded of the reply said to have exclusions, and in civil cases the restricbeen made under similar circumstances tioos were abolished in the following year by the author of " Ecce Homo," "Why, by the Common Law Procedure Act (17 & if I had written it, you know I should cer. 18 Vict. c. 125), by Section 27 of which it tainly say I hadn't.''
is enacted that “comparison of a disputed The first expert had other difficulties to writing with any writing proved to the contend with than those merely of want of satisfaction of the judge to be genuine public recognition, and chief among them shall be permitted to be made by wit. was the extreme narrowness of the rule nesses; and such writings and the evi. that in the law courts limited the reception dence of witnesses respecting the same of his evidence. In the Ecclesiastical may be submitted to the court and the Courts, where a judge sat without a jury, jury as evidence of genuineness or other. the comparison of handwritings was al-wise of the writing in dispute." By Secways permitted, but until the common tion 103 this applies to every court of civil Law Procedure Act of 1854 no such evi jurisdiction; and the statute 28 Vict. c. dence (with two exceptions) was admissi. 18, by Sections 1 and 8, extends the proble at Nisi Prius; and for these reasons visions to criminal cases. — first, because the writings offered for The expert now, therefore, as far as the comparison might be spurious, and so courts of law are concerned, has a clear cause inconvenience by raising the col. field before him; and, though he comlateral issue of proving their geouineness; plains occasionally of a want of fairness second, because the specimens might not from the public and the press, who laugh be fairly selected, and only such as would at his failures and pay no heed to his sucbest serve the purpose of the party processes, his position is at all events fully ducing them; third, because the jury recognized, and he is even retained and might not be able to read. The two ex-employed by government. His favorite ceptions where the rule was relaxed were, practice lies among the county courts; first, in favor of documents already in evi. for there, in the absence of the Nisi Prius dence in the cause, admitted or proved to jury, to whom it is difficult to point out in. be in the handwriting of the supposed dividually the various points and niceties writer, which might be compared with the of resemblance, he is brought into the disputed handwriting; and second, in closest connection with the judge, and, favor of ancient documents, the writer of seated by his side, can easily make plain which was dead, for lex non cogit impossi- that which from the witness box appears bilia, and the author could not come and confused. His value was never speak to them himself. But even to these strikingly exemplified than in a recent exceptions there was the further limita case of forgery, one of the inost ingenious tion, though it was not always rigidly ob- and daring that has ever occupied the at. served, that the witness who gave his tention of a court of law, the perpetrators opinion must have gained his koowledge of which have been convicted of the crimes io the ordinary course of his business, and of forgery and conspiracy at the Old Bainot from having studied the handwriting ley; a case which, though it may be still in dispute for the purpose of speaking to fresh in the public mind, will nevertheless the identity of the writer. In the case of bear the retelling, especially from the the Fitzwalter peerage (in abeyance sioce point of view of an expert, many of whose 1756 and resuscitated in 1843) the evi. observations were not fully reported. dence of the inspector of franks at the The document in question was a will, General Post Office was rejected because the signature to which was undoubtedly his knowledge of the disputed handwriting genuine; the whole of which, indeed, to could not have been acquired in the ordi. all appearance was in regular form and nary course of his business, since he was duly witnessed. It dealt with some sev. called to give an opinion on the genuine lenty thousand pounds, the greater part
left by the testator to the man in whose Early in the inquiry the will had been house he was lodging, five thousand glazed and liamed, and now, left to itself, pounds only being bequeathed to his only the paper as it were began to speak and son alive, to whose knowledge and to declare itself otherwise than what it whom, by a later will (never found and seemed. They were not pencil marks, but presumably destroyed), there was a be. the hollows and shades where pencil quest of almost the entire property. On marks had been, and soon they took the the face of a document apparently so un- form of words and fragments of words, impeachable there was nothing for it but and by the aid of a powerful magnifying to submit, and the unfortunate son, under glass could even be read, sufficieotly the form of a compromise, was glad to clearly too for the expert to be able to say fall back upon the generosity of the prin- that they were in the handwriting of one cipal legatee and accept something more of the attesting witnesses and principal than his five thousand pounds, with the un- legatee, the prime mover, as it afterwards derstanding that he kept quiet; but on the appeared, in the fraud. It has long been thieves beginning to quarrel about their known to those who have had experience shares in the booty among themselves, of palimpsests that time will often recall a one of the discontented began to talk, writing long believed to have been oblit. was encouraged to continue, and finally erated. Erase the writing carefully as gave enough information to warrant an you will, till all trace of pencil or pen be application in the Probate Court to set gone, yet with most kinds of paper all aside the compromise as based on a fraud. that will be erased will be the immediate The whole modus operandi was then made marks of the plumbago or the ink; there clear, and proved to have been almost will still remain the indentations on the exactly as ihe expert had suspected; to paper, which at the time filled up, like whom at the beginning of the proceedings cart-ruts, with the dust and surface of the the will had been entrusted for examina material rubbed across them, will in time tion, and who had made the following ob- gradually clear themselves and reappear. servations upon it. In the first place, the Here, then, was clearly a palimpsest of one signatures were all genuine, and the doc. kind or another, an ink-writing over penument itself in the hand of one of the cil; apparently, from what could be deci. attesting witnesses - a fact fully admit-phered, a letier, for at the head of the ted. The testator's signature was at the document traces of my dear could be seen bottom, and the attesting clauses rather - a suspicious fact, to which the date curiously cramped at the side, from their under the signature also pointed in cor. position giving rise to the idea in the ex: roboration. And that is precisely what pert's mind ihat they had been added had occurred, for the testator, believing subsequently with a view to accommodat. I himself to be in extremis, desired the presing the signature. The signature itself, ence of his son, and at his request the too, had a date under it, a peculiarity of principal legatee had written for him the the testator's in writing a letter, but never letter, taking the precaution of writing it found elsewhere. On further examina. in pencil, while he was equally careful that tion of the body of the will there appeared the signature should be in ink. Then the a certain variation of the spacing between pencil was rubbed out, as it seemed enthe lines, as though the writer had begun tirely, and over the precious signature the in the belief that there was ample room; / will was written, dividing the property then he had narrowed the intervening among the attesting witnesses and lega. spaces, had pressed more words into the tees, and practically disinheriting the son. line, and finally, finding there was still No work conveying instruction on the paper to be covered, nad spread out again comparison of handwritings has ever aptowards the end. In short, everything peared in this country, nor do we in this seemed to point to a will written over and brief paper presume to make even the at. round a signature, and not to a signature tempt to supply the deficiency. We can naturally written at the bottom of a will, only string together as connectedly as to say nothing of the suspicious circum- possible the few notes and observations stance of the date. In the mean time we have been enabled to make in reler. there began to appear in different parts of ence to a profession which, in these days the paper, steadily and sureiy, like growths of steel pens and voluminous corresponthat would not be denied, certaio marks dence, is, we venture to think, of some and formations, as though underneath all importance. In the old days of the quill, this fair show the suspected fraud were when the mere fact of a man being able after all bent on making itself visible. I to write at all was sufficient for bim to plead his benefit of clergy in answer to right to keep; but we may say that he crime, and so escape the extreme penalty desires all papers to be submitted to him of the law, there were so few who pos- entirely without instructions or a mention sessed the accomplishment, that the ex- of suspicions, that he looks above all for pert, if he had existed, would have found similarities and not for dissimilarities, but small employment. He has not even and that there are certain letters, certain yet been established sufficiently long for unusual letters, he proceeds at once to ex: contemporary references, except in the amine as more likely to be peculiar to and occasional form of leading articles, to be distinctive of the writer then any others, easily found, though to be sure he does Nor, notwithstanding Maria's boast in in one instance, and one only as far as “ Twelfth Night” in reference to Olivia, we know, play an important part in a work on a forgotten matter we can hardly of fiction. That instance will be found in make distinction of our hands," does he the romance of “ Foul Play," by the late believe it possible for any individual so Mr. Charles Reade, where, under the thin to disguise his or her hand as to escape disguise of Mr. Undercliffe, one of the detection. best-known experts of the day aids mate- Experts have often been somewhat cay. rially in detecting the villain, who till then alierly treated, both by judge and jury, has triumphed. Those curious in the but (as far as judges at any rate have been matter will find at the end of the third concerned) that was never a treatment volume a vivid portrait of this gentleman characteristic of the late Lord Chief Jus. at work at his lithography and facsimiles, tice Cockburn, who perhaps had more whence he is summoned to examine the occasions of dealing with their evidence in forged note and the specimens of hand. important cases than any other authority writing which, together with the ingenious on the bench. No one can read his analy. report (well worth studying by all who sis of the different handwritings in the desire to understand the experi's method Tichborne case, on the nineteenth day of of examination and work), are fully set out, the summing up, without feeling he fully and were really the fabrications of the recognized the value of the test; for there authority to whom we are indebted for is nothing, he very truly says, in which men much of our information. He was also, differ more than in handwriting, and noth. we may add, consulted by the novelist on ing which a man is less likely completely the occasion of the correspondence he even to lose or even greatly to alter, unless originated in one of the daily papers, deal- in sickness or old age; so far that is, of ing with our neglect of the left hand, and course, as its leading features are con. was the means of drawing his attention to cerned. Put a man down to write whose the fact that after Nelson lost his arm he identity is in question, and it will go some wrote better with the left hand than he way to settle any doubts there may be. had ever done with the right.
And in an earlier case -- Cress well v. In conclusion, let us repeat it is clear Jackson, reported in the fourth volume of that without the previous apprenticeship Foster aod Finlason - the view of Cockof lithography and facsimile.making there burn, chief justice, as he then was, on the can be no good expert, for by them the value of expert evidence is so fairly put eye is trained to the thousand peculiari. that it may well be adopted by all whose ties of penmanship, the different values of minds are not yet fully made up on the the hair-line and the body-stroke, and, subject. “The evidence of professional from a multitude of instances, to the innu. witnesses is to be viewed with some demerable formations of that ordinary abbre-gree of distrust, for it is generally with viation for and known by the strange and some bias. But within proper limits it is inexplicable name of the ampersand, to a very valuable assistance in inquiries of which it will be remembered the school. this kind. The advantage is that habits master, Bartle Massey, refers, in " Adam of handwriting – as shown in minute Bede," as in shape very like one of his points which escape common observation, scholar's eccentric pictures of the letter but are quite observable when pointed out Z, "of which poor Jacob had written a - are detected and disclosed by science, pageful, all with their tops turned the skill, and experience. And it is so in the wrong way.” The method of the expert comparison of handwriting by the assist. when documents are first put into his hand ance of experts. Take this into consid. we have not thought proper fully to dis- eration with all the other circumstances in close, as one of the secrets of the profesihe case.” sioo the practitioners have a complete