« VorigeDoorgaan »
cover the art of writing, like the invention of language, in a divine original; and from the tablets of stone which the Deity himself delivered, they trace their German broad text, or their fine running-hand.
One, for “the bold striking of those words, Vive la Plume," was so sensible of the reputation that this last piece of command of hand would give the book which he thus adorned, and which his biographer acknowledges was the product of about a minute,-(but then how many years of flourishing had that single minute cost him!) that he claims the glory of an artist, observing,
" We seldom find The mun of business with the artist join'd.” Another was flattered that his writing could impart immortality to the most wretched composi. tions!
“ And any lines prove pleasing, when you write." Sometimes the caligrapher is a sort of hero: “ To you, you rare commander of the quill,
Whose wit and worth, deep learning, and high skill,
Speak you the honour of GREAT Tower Hill!" The last line became traditionally adopted by those who were so lucky as to live in the neigh
bourhood of this Parnassus. But the reader must form some notion of that charm of caligraphy which has so bewitched its professors, when,
“ Soft, bold, and free, your manuscripts still please.” “ How justly bold in Snell's improving hand
The Pen at once joins freedom with command !
And artful most, when not affecting art.”
6 Command Even by the gentle motion of his hand," all the speciosa miracula of caligraphy !
l'hy tender strokes inimitably fine,
And sporting round the margin charm the sight." One Massey, a writing-master, published, in 1763, “The Origin and Progress of Letters.” The great singularity of this volume is " A new species of biography never attempted before in Eng
lish.” This consists of the lives of “ English Penmen,” otherwise writing-masters! If some have foolishly enough imagined that the sedentary lives of authors are void of interest from deficient incident and interesting catastrophe, what must they think of the barren labours of those, who, in the degree they become eminent, to use their own style, in their art of “dish, dash, long-tail fly," the less they become interesting to the public; for what can the most skilful writingmaster do but wear away his life in leaning over his pupil's copy, or sometimes snatch a pen to decorate the margin, though he cannot compose the page? Montaigne has a very original notion on WRITING-MASTERS: he says that some of those caligraphers, who had obtained promotion by their excellence in the art, afterwards affected to write carelessly, lest their promotion should be suspected to have been owing to such an ordinary acquisition!
Massey is an enthusiast, fortunately for his subject. He considers that there are schools of writing, as well as of painting or sculpture; and expatiates with the eye of fraternal feeling on “ a natural genius, a tender stroke,
a grand performance, a bold striking freedom, and a liveliness in the sprigged letters, and pen ciled knots and flourishes;” while this Vasari of writing-masters relates the controversies and the libels of many a rival pen-nibber. “ George SHELLEY, one of the most celebrated worthies who have made a shining figure in the commonwealth of English caligraphy, born I suppose of obscure parents, because brought up in Christ's hospital, yet under the humble blue-coat he laid the foundation of his caligraphic excellence and lasting fame, for he was elected writing-master to the hospital. SHELLEY published his “Natural Writing;" but, alas! SNELL, another blue-coat, transcended the other. He was a genius who would “ bear no brother near the throne."-"I have been informed that there were jealous heart-burnings, if not bickerings, between him and Col. Ayres, another of our great reformers in the writing com] monweal, both eminent men, yet, like our most celebrated poets Pope and Addison, or, to carry the comparison still higher, like Cæsar and Pompey, one could bear no superior, and the other no equal.” Indeed, the great Snell practised a little stratagem against Mr. SHELLEY, which, if writing-masters held courts - martial, this hero ought to have appeared before his brothers. In one of his works he procured a number of friends to write letters, in which Massey confesses "are some satyrical strokes upon Shelley,” as if he had arrogated too much to himself in his book of “ Natural Writing.” They find great fault with penciled knots and sprigged letters. SHELLEY, who was an advocate for ornaments in fine
penmanship, which Snell utterly rejected, had parodied a well-known line of Herbert's in favour of his favorite decorations:
“ A Knot may take him who from letters flies,
These reflections created ill-blood, and even an open difference amongst several of the superior artists in writing. The commanding genius of Snell had a more terrific contest when he published his “Standard Rules,” pretending to have demonstrated them as Euclid would.
« This proved a bone of contention, and occasioned a terrific quarrel between Mr. Snell and Mr. CLARK. This quarrel about · Standard Rules' ran so high between them, that they could scarce forbear scurrilous language therein, and a treat