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he would despair of fixing on the right one, all appearing to have come from the same rollingpress. Even brothers of different tempers have been taught by the same master to give the same form to their letters, the same regularity to their line, and have made our hand-writings as monotonous as are our characters in the present habits of society. The true physiognomy of writing will be lost among our rising generation : it is no longer a face that we are looking on, but a beautiful mask of a single pattern; and the fashionable hand-writing of our young ladies is like the former tight-lacing of their mothers' youthful days, when every one alike had what was supposed to be a fine shape!
Assuredly Nature would prompt every individual to have a distinct sort of writing, as she has given a peculiar countenance-à voice and a manner. The flexibility of the muscles differs with every individual, and the hand will follow the direction of the thoughts, and the emotions and the habits of the writers. The phlegmatic will portray his words, while the playful haste of the volatile will scarcely sketch them; the slovenly will blot and efface and scrawl, while the neat and orderly minded will view themselves in the paper before their eyes. The merchant's clerk will not write like the lawyer or the poet. Even nations are distinguished by their writing; the vivacity and variableness of the Frenchman, and the delicacy and suppleness of the Italian, are perceptibly distinct from the slowness and strength of pen discoverable in the phlegmatic German, Dane, and Swede. When we are in grief, we do not write as we should in joy. The elegant and correct mind, which has acquired the fortunate habit of a fixity of attention, will write with scarcely an erasure on the page, as Fenelon and Gray and Gibbon; while we find in Pope's manuscripts the perpetual struggles of correction, and the eager and rapid interlineations struck off in heat. Lavater’s notion of hand-writing is by no means chimerical; nor was General Paoli fanciful, when he told Mr. Northcote, that he had decided on the character and dispositions of a man from his letters, and the hand-writing.
Long before the days of LAVATER, SHENSTONE in one of his letters said, “ I want to see Mrs. Jago's hand-writing, that I may judge of her temper.” One great truth must however be VOL. II. (New Series.)
conceded to the opponents of the physiognomy of writing ; general rules only can be laid down. Yet the vital principle must be true, that the · hand-writing bears an analogy to the character of the writer, as all voluntary actions are characteristic of the individual. But many causes operate to counteract or obstruct this result. I am intimately acquainted with the handwritings of five of our great poets. The first in early life acquired among Scottish advocates a hand-writing which cannot be distinguished from that of his ordinary brothers; the second, educated in public schools, where writing is shamefully neglected, composes his sublime or sportive verses in a school-boy's ragged scrawl, as if he had never finished his tasks with the writing-master; the third writes his highlywrought poetry in the common hand of a merchant's clerk, from early commercial avocations; the fourth has all that finished neatness, which polishes his verses ; while the fifth is a specimen of a full mind, not in the habit of correction or alteration; so that he appears to be printing down his thoughts, without a solitary erasure. The hand-writing of the first and third poets,
not indicative of their character, we have accounted for; the others are admirable specimens of characteristic autographs.
Oldys, in one of his curious notes, was struck by the distinctness of character in the handwritings of several of our kings. He observed nothing further than the mere fact, and did not extend his idea to the art of judging of the natural character by the writing. Oldys has described these hand-writings with the utmost correctness, as I have often verified. I shall add a few comments.
Henry the Eighth wrote a strong hand, but as if he had seldom a good pen.”—The vehemence of his character conveyed itself into his writing ; bold, hasty, and commanding, I have no doubt the assertor of the Pope's supremacy and its triumphant destroyer, split many a good quill.
Edward the Sixth wrote a fair legible hand.”—We have this promising young prince's diary, written by his own hand; in all respects he was an assiduous pupil, and he had scarcely learnt to write and to reign when we lost him. Queen Elizabeth writ an upright hand, like the bastard Italian." She was indeed a most elegant caligrapher, whom Roger Ascham had taught all the elegancies of the
The French editor of the little autographical work I have noticed has given the autograph of her name, which she usually wrote in a very large tall character, and painfully elaborate. He accompanies it with one of the Scottish Mary, who at times wrote elegantly, though usually in uneven lines ; when in haste and distress of mind, in several letters during her imprisonment which I have read, much the contrary.
The French editor makes this observation : “ Who could believe that these writings are of the same epoch? The first denotes asperity and ostentation; the second indicates simplicity, softness, and noble
The one is that of Elizabeth, queen of England; the other that of her consin, Mary Stuart. The difference of these two hand-writings answers most evidently to that of their characters.”
“ James the First writ a poor ungainly character, all awry, and not in a straight line.” James certainly wrote a slovenly scrawl, strongly indicative of that personal negligence which he