Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “A Chapter on Autography - part II,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. XV: Literati and Autography (1902), pp. 209-246


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[page 209:]

A CHAPTER ON AUTOGRAPHY.

BY

Edgar A. Poe

II.

[Text: Graham’s Magazine, December, 1841.]

[In this, our second “Chapter on Autography,” we conclude the article and the year together. When we say that so complete a collection has never been published before, we assert only that which is obvious; and we are pleased to see that our. exertions upon this head have been well received. As we claim only the sorry merit of the compiler, we shall be permitted to say that no Magazine paper has ever excited greater interest than the one now concluded. To all readers it has seemed to be welcome — but especially to those who themselves dabble in the waters of Helicon: — to those and their innumerable friends. The diligence required in getting together these autographs has been a matter of no little moment, and the expense of the whole undertaking will be at once comprehended; but we intend the article merely as an earnest of what we shall do next year. Our aim shall be to furnish our friends with variety, originality, and piquancy, without any regard to labor or to cost.]

F. W. Thomas

F. W. THOMAS, who began his literary career at the early age of seventeen, by a poetical lampoon upon certain Baltimore fops, has since more particularly distinguished himself as a novelist. His “Clinton Bradshaw” is perhaps better known than any of his [page 210:] later fictions. It is remarkable for a frank, unscrupulous portraiture of men and things, in high life and low, and by unusual discrimination and observation and respect to character. Since its publication he has produced “East and West” and “Howard Pinckney,” neither of which seems to have been so popular as his first essay; although both have merit.

“East and West,” published in 1836, was an attempt to portray the every-day events occurring to a fallen family emigrating from the East to the West In it, as in “Clinton Bradshaw,” most of the characters are drawn from life. “Howard Pinckney” was published in 1840.

Mr. Thomas was, at one period, the editor of the Cincinnati “Commercial Advertiser.” He is also well known as a public lecturer on a variety of topics. His conversational powers are very great. As a poet, he has also distinguished himself His “Emigrant” will be read with pleasure by every person of taste.

His MS. is more like that of Mr. Benjamin than that of any other literary person of our acquaintance. It has even more than the occasional nervousness of Mr. B.’s, and, as in the case of the editor of the “New World,” indicates the passionate sensibility of the man.

T. G. Spear

THOMAS G. SPEAR is the author of various poetical pieces which have appeared from time to time in our [page 211:] Magazines and other periodicals. His productions have been much admired, and are distinguished for pathos and grace. His MS. is well shown in the signature. It is too clerky for our taste.

R. M. Morris

Mr. MORRIS ranks, we believe, as the first of our Philadelphia poets since the death of Willis Gaylord Clark. His compositions, like those of his late lamented friend, are characterised by sweetness rather than strength of versification, and by tenderness and delicacy rather than by vigor or originality of thought. A late notice of him in the “Boston Notion” from the pen of Rufus W. Griswold, did his high qualities no more than justice. As a prose writer, he is chiefly known by his editorial contributions to the Philadelphia “Inquirer,” and by occasional essays for the Magazines.

His chirography is usually very illegible, although at times sufficiently distinct. It has no marked characteristics, and like that of almost every editor in the country, has been so modified by the circumstances of his position, as to afford no certain indication of the mental features. [page 212:]

E. Holden

EZRA HOLDEN has written much, not only for his paper, “The Saturday Courier,” but for our periodicals generally, and stands high in the public estimation, as a sound thinker, and still more particularly as a fearless expresser of his thoughts.

His MS. (which we are constrained to say is a shockingly bad one, and whose general features may be seen in his signature,) indicates the frank and naive manner of his literary style — a style which not unfrequently flies off into whimsicalities.

Benjm. Matthias

Mr. MATTHIAS is principally known by his editorial conduct of the “Saturday Chronicle” of Philadelphia, to which he has furnished much entertaining and instructive matter. His MS. would be generally termed a fine one, but it affords little indication of mental character. [page 213:]

Geo. R. Graham

Mr. GRAHAM is known to the literary world as the editor and proprietor of “Graham’s Magazine,” the most popular periodical in America, and also of the “Saturday Evening Post,” of Philadelphia. For both of these journals he has written much and well.

His MS. generally, is very bad, or at least very illegible. At times it is sufficiently distinct, and has force and picturesqueness, speaking plainly of the energy which particularly distinguishes him as a man. The signature above is more scratchy than usual.

W. L. Stone

Colonel STONE, the editor of the New York “Commercial Advertiser,” is remarkable for the great difference which exists between the apparent public opinion respecting his abilities, and the real estimation in which he is privately held. Through his paper, and a bustling activity always prone to thrust itself forward, he has attained an unusual degree of influence in New York, and, not only this, but what appears to be a reputation for talent. But this talent we do not remember ever to have heard assigned him by any honest man’s private opinion. We place him among our literati, because he has published certain books. Perhaps the best of these are his “Life of Brandt,” and [page 214:] “Life and Times of Red Jacket.” Of the rest, his story called “Ups and Downs,” his defence of Animal Magnetism, and his pamphlets concerning Maria Monk, are scarcely the most absurd. His MS. is heavy and sprawling, resembling his mental character in a species of utter unmeaningness, which lies like the nightmare, upon his autograph.

Jared Sparks

The labors of Mr. SPARKS, Professor of History at Harvard, are well known and justly appreciated. His MS. has an unusually odd appearance. The characters are large, round, black, irregular, and perpendicular — the signature, as above, being an excellent specimen of his chirography in general. In all his letters now before us, the lines are as close together as possible, giving the idea of irretrievable confusion; still none of them are illegible upon close inspection. We can form no guess in regard to any mental peculiarities from Mr. Sparks’ MS., which has been no doubt modified by the hurrying and intricate nature of his researches. We might imagine such epistles as these to have been written in extreme haste, by a man exceedingly busy, among great piles of books and papers huddled up around him, like the chaotic tomes of Magliabecchi. The paper used in all our epistles is uncommonly fine. [page 215:]

H. S. Legare

The name of H. S. LEGARE is written without an accent on the final e, yet is pronounced as if this letter were accented, — Legray. He contributed many articles of high merit to the “Southern Review,” and has a wide reputation for scholarship and talent. His MS. resembles that of Mr. Palfrey of the “North American Review,” and their mental features appear to us nearly identical. What we have said in regard to the chirography of Mr. Palfrey will apply with equal force to that of the present Secretary.

R. W. Griswold

Mr. GRISWOLD has written much, but chiefly in the editorial way, whether for the papers, or in books. He is a gentleman of fine taste and sound judgment. His knowledge of American literature, in all its details, is not exceeded by that of any man among us. He is not only a polished prose-writer, but a poet of no ordinary power; although, as yet, he has not put himself much in the way of the public admiration.

His MS. is by no means a good one. It appears unformed, and vacillates in a singular manner; so that nothing can be predicated from it, except a certain unsteadiness of purpose. [page 216:]

George Lunt

Mr. GEORGE LUNT of Newburyport, Massachusetts, is known as a poet of much vigour of style and massiveness of thought. He delights in the grand, rather than in the beautiful, and is not unfrequently turgid, but never feeble. The traits here described impress themselves with remarkable distinctness upon his chirography, of which the signature gives a perfect idea.

Jos. R. Chandler

Mr. CHANDLER’S reputation as the editor of one of the best daily papers in the country, and as one of our finest belles Iettres scholars, is deservedly high. He is well known through his numerous addresses, essays, miscellaneous sketches, and prose tales. Some of these latter evince imaginative powers of a superior order.

His MS. is not fairly shown in his signature, the latter being much more open and bold than his general chirography. His handwriting must be included in the editorial category — it seems to have been ruined by habitual hurry. [page 217:]

Fitzg. Tasistro

Count L. FITZGERALD TASISTRO has distinguished himself by many contributions to the periodical literature of the day, and by his editorial conduct of the “expositor,” — a critical journal of high merit in many respects, although somewhat given to verbiage.

His MS. is remarkable for a scratchy diminutiveness, and is by no means legible. We are not sufficiently cognizant of the literary character, to draw any parallel between it and his chirography. His signature is certainly a most remarkable one.

H. T. Tuckerman

H. T. TUCKERMAN has written one or two books consisting of “Sketches of Travel.” His “Isabel” is, perhaps, better known than any of his other productions, but was never a popular work. He is a correct writer so far as mere English is concerned, but an insufferably tedious and dull one. He has contributed much of late days to the “Southern Literary Messenger,” with which journal, perhaps, the legibility of his MS. has been an important, if not the principal recommendation. His chirography is neat and distinct, and has some grace, but no force — evincing, in a remarkable degree, the idiosyncrasies of the writer. [page 218:]

Dan. Bryan

Mr. BRYAN has written some very excellent poetry, and is appreciated by all admirers of “the good old Goldsmith school.” He is, at present, postmaster at Alexandria, and has held office for many years, with all the good fortune of a Vicar of Bray.

His MS. is a free, sloping, and regular one, with more boldness than force, and not ungraceful. He is fond of underscoring his sentences; a habit exactly parallel with the augmentative nature of some of his best poems.

L. A. Godey

Mr. GODEY is only known to the literary world as editor and publisher of “The Lady’s Book,” but his celebrity in this regard entitles him to a place in this collection. His MS. is remarkably distinct and graceful; the signature affording an excellent idea of it. The man who invariably writes so well as Mr. G. invariably does, gives evidence of a fine taste, combined with an indefatigability which will ensure his permanent success in the world’s affairs. No man has warmer friends or fewer enemies. [page 219:]

John S. Du Solle

Mr. DU SOLLE is well known through his connection with the “Spirit of the Times.” His prose is forcible, and often excellent in other respects. As a poet, he is entitled to higher consideration. Some of his Pindaric pieces are unusually good, and it may be doubted if we have a better iersifer in America.

Accustomed to the daily toil of an editor, he has contracted a habit of writing hurriedly, and his MS. varies with the occasion. It is impossible .o deduce any inferences from it, as regards the mental character. The signature shows rather how he can write than how he does.

J. S. French

Mr. FRENCH is the author of a “Life of David Crockett,” and also of a novel called “ Elkswatawa,” a denunciatory review of which, in the “Southern Messenger,” some years ago, deterred him from further [page 220:] literary attempts. Should he write again, he will probably distinguish himself, for he is unquestionably a man of talent. We need no better evidence of this than his MS., which speaks of force, boldness, and originality. The flourish, however, betrays a certain floridity of taste.

Theo. S. Fay

The author of “Norman Leslie” and “The Countess Ida” has been more successful as an essayist about small matters, than as a novelist. “Norman Leslie” is more familiarly remembered as “The Great Used Up,” while “The Countess” made no definite impression whatever. Of course we are not to expect remarkable features in Mr. FAY’S MS. It has a wavering, finicky, and over-delicate air, without pretension to either grace or force; and the description of the chirography would answer, without alteration, for that of the literary character. Mr. F. frequently employs an amanuensis, who writes a very beautiful French hand. The one must not be confounded with the other.

J. K. Mitchell

Dr. MITCHELL has published several pretty songs which have been set to music, and become popular. He has also given to the world a volume of poems, of [page 221:] which the longest was remarkable for an old-fashioned polish and vigor of versification. His MS. is rather graceful than picturesque or forcible — and these words apply equally well to his poetry in general. The signature indicates the hand.

G. P. Morris

General MORRIS has composed many songs which have taken fast hold upon the popular taste, and which are deservedly celebrated. He has caught the true tone for these things, and hence his popularity — a popularity which his enemies would fain make us believe is altogether attributable to his editorial influence. The charge is true only in a measure. The tone of which we speak is that kind of frank, free, hearty lentiment (rather than philosophy) which distinguishes Beranger, and which the critics, for want of a better term, call nationality.

His MS. is a simple unornamental hand, rather rotund than angular, very legible, forcible, and altogether in keeping with his style.

G. H. Calvert

Mr. CALVERT was at one time principal editor of the “Baltimore American,” and wrote for that journal some good paragraphs on the common topics of the day. He has also published many translations from [page 222:] the German, and one or two original poems — among others an imitation of Don Juan called “Pejayo,” which did him no credit. He is essentially a feeble and common-place writer of poetry, although his prose compositions have a certain degree of merit. His chirography indicates the “common-place” upon which we have commented. It is a very usual, scratchy, and tapering clerk’s hand — a hand which no man of talent ever did or could indite, unless compelled by circumstances of more than ordinary force. The signature is far better than the general manuscript of his epistles.

J. Evans Snodgrass

Dr. SNODGRASS was at one time the associate of Mr. Brooks in the “Baltimore Museum,” a monthly journal published in the City of Monuments some years since. He wrote for that Magazine, and has occasionally written for others, articles which possessed the merit of precision of style, and a metaphysical cast of thought. We like his prose much better than his poetry. His chirography is bad — stiff, sprawling and illegible, with frequent corrections and interlineations, evincing inactivity not less than fastidiousness. The signature betrays a meretricious love of effect. [page 223:]

J. McJilton

Mr. McJILTON is better known from his contributions to the journals of the day than from any book publications. He has much talent, and it is not improbable that he will hereafter distinguish himself, although as yet he has not composed anything of length which, as a whole, can be styled good. His MS. is not unlike that of Dr. Snodgrass, but it is somewhat clearer and better. We can predicate little respecting it beyond a love of exaggeration and bizarrerie.

W. D. Gallagher

Mr. GALLAGHER is chiefly known as a poet. He is the -author of some of our most popular songs, and has written many long pieces of high but unequal merit. He has the true spirit, and will rise into a just distinction hereafter. His manuscript tallies well with our opinion. It is a very fine one, — clear, bold, decided and picturesque. The signature above does not convey, in full force, the general character of his chirography, which is more rotund, and more decidedly placed upon the paper. [page 224:]

Rich. H. Dana

Mr. DANA ranks among our most eminent poets, and he has been the frequent subject of comment in our Reviews. He has high qualities, undoubtedly, but his defects are many and great.

His MS. resembles that of Mr. Gallagher very nearly, but is somewhat more rolling, and has less boldness and decision. The literary traits of the two gentlemen are very similar, although Mr. Dana is by far the more polished writer, and has a scholarship which Mr. Gallagher wants.

McMichael

Mr. MCMICHAEL is well known to the Philadelphia public by the number and force of his prose compositions, but he has seldom been tempted into book publication. As a poet, he has produced some remarkably vigorous things. We have seldom seen a finer composition than a certain celebrated “Monody.”

His MS., when not hurried, is graceful and flowing, without picturesqueness. At times it is totally illegible. His chirography is one of those which have been so strongly modified by circumstances that it iB nearly impossible to predicate any thing with certainty respecting them. [page 225:]

N. C. Brooks

Mr. N. C. BROOKS has acquired some reputation as a Magazine writer. His serious prose is often very good — is always well-worded — but in his comic attempts he fails, without appearing to be aware of his failure. As a poet he has succeeded far better. In a work which he entitled “Scriptural Anthology” among many inferior compositions of length, there were several shorter pieces of great merit; — for example “Shelley’s Obsequies” and “The Nicthanthes.”(1)

Of late days we have seen little from his pen.

His MS. has much resemblance to that of Mr. Bryant, although altogether it is a better hand, with much more freedom and grace. With care Mr. Brooks can write a fine MS. just as with care he can compose a fine poem.

Thos. H. Stockton

The Rev. THOMAS H. STOCKTON has written many pieces of fine poetry, and has lately distinguished himself as the editor of the “Christian World.”

His MS. is fairly represented by his signature, and bears much resemblance to that of Mr. N. C. Brooks of Baltimore. Between these two gentlemen there [page 226:] exists also, a remarkable similarity, not only of thought, but of personal bearing and character. We have already spoken of the peculiarities of Mr. B.’s chirography.

C. W. Thomson

Mr. THOMSON has written many short poems, and some of them possess merit. They are characterised by tenderness and grace. His MS. has some resemblance to that of Professor Longfellow, and by many persons would be thought a finer hand. It is clear, legible, and open — what is called a rolling hand. It has too much tapering, and too much variation between the weight of the hair strokes and the downward ones, to be forcible or picturesque. In all those qualities which we have pointed out as especially distinctive of Professor Longfellow’s MS. it is remarkably deficient; and, in fact, the literary character of no two individuals could be more radically different.

W. E. Channing

The Reverend W. E. CHANNING is at the head of our moral and didactic writers. His reputation both at home and abroad is deservedly high, and in regard [page 227:] to the matters of purity, polish and modulation of style, he may be said to have attained the dignity of a standard and a classic. He has, it is true, been severely criticised, even in respect to these very points, by the Edinburgh Review. The critic, however, made out his case but lamely, and proved nothing beyond his own incompetence. To detect occasional, or even frequent inadvertences in the way of bad grammar, faulty construction, or mix-usage of language, is not to prove impurity of style — a word which happily has a bolder signification than any dreamed of by the Zoilus of the Review in question. Style regards, more than anything else, the tone of a composition All the rest is not unimportant, to be sure, but appertains to the minor morals of literature, and can be learned by rote by the meanest simpletons in letters — can be carried to its highest excellence by dolts, who, upon the whole, are despicable as stylists. Irving’s style is inimitable in its grace and delicacy; yet few of our practiced writers are guilty of more frequent inadvertences of language. In what may be termed his mere English, he is surpassed by fifty whom we could name. Mr. Tuckerman’s English, on the contrary, is sufficiently pure, but a more lamentable style than that of his “Sicily” it would be difficult to point out.

Besides those peculiarities which we have already mentioned as belonging to Dr. Channing’s style, we must not fail to mention a certain calm, broad deliberateness which constitutes force in its highest character, and approaches to majesty. All these traits will be found to exist plainly in his chirography, the character of which is exemplified by the signature, although this is somewhat larger than the general manuscript. [page 228:]

L. A. Wilmer

Mr. WILMER has written and published much; but he has reaped the usual fruits of a spirit of independence, and has thus failed to make that impression on the popular mind which his talents, under other circumstances, would have effected. But better days are in store for him, and for all who “hold to the right way,” despising the yelpings of the small dogs of our literature. His prose writings have all merit — always the merit of a chastened style. But he is more favorably known by his poetry, in which the student of the British classics will find much for warm admiration. We have few better versifiers than Mr. Wilmer.

His chirography plainly indicates the cautious polish and terseness of his style, but the signature does not convey the print-like appearance of the MS.

J. E. Dow

Mr. Dow is distinguished as the author of many fine sea-pieces, among which will be remembered a series of papers called “The Log of Old Ironsides.” His land sketches are not generally so good. He has a fine imagination, which as yet is undisciplined, and leads him into occasional bombast. As a poet he has done better things than as a writer of prose.

His MS., which has been strongly modified by circumstances, gives no indication of his true character, literary or moral. [page 229:]

H. Hastings Weld

Mr. WELD is well known as the present working editor of the New York “Tattler” and “Brother Jonathan.” His attention was accidentally directed to literature about ten years ago, after a minority, to use his own words, “spent at sea, in a store, in a machine shop, and in a printing-office.” He is now, we believe, about thirty-one years of age. His deficiency of what is termed regular education would scarcely be gleaned from his editorials, which, in general, are unusually well written. His “Corrected Proofs” is a work which does him high credit, and which has been extensively circulated, although “printed at odd times by himself, when he had nothing else to do.”

His MS. resembles that of Mr. Joseph C. Neal in many respects, but is less open and less legible. His signature is altogether much better than his general chirography.

Andrew McMakin

Mr. McMAKIN is one of the editors of the “Philadelphia Saturday Courier,” and has given to the world several excellent specimens of his poetical ability. His MS. is clear and graceful; the signature affording a very good idea of it. The general hand, in fact, is fully as good. [page 230:]

M. St. Leon Loud

Mrs. M. ST. LEON LOUD is one of the finest poets of this country; possessing, we think, more of the true divine afflatus than any of her female contemporaries. She has, in especial, imagination of no common order, and unlike many of her sex whom we 3 could mention, is not content to dwell in decencies forever

While she can, upon occasion, compose the ordinary metrical sing-song with all the decorous proprieties in which are in fashion, she yet ventures very frequently into a more ethereal region. We refer our readers to, a truly beautiful little poem entitled the “Dream of the Lonely Isle,” lately published in this Magazine.

Mrs. Loud’s MS. is exceedingly clear, neat and forcible, with just sufficient effeminacy and no more.

Pliny Earle

Dr. PLINY EARLE, of Frankford, Pa., has not only distinguished himself by several works of medical and general science, but has become well known to the literary world, of late, by a volume of very fine poems, the longest, but by no means the best of which, was entitled “Marathon.” This latter is not greatly inferior to the “Marco Bozzaris” of Halleck; while some of the minor pieces equal any American poems. His chirography is peculiarly neat and beautiful, giving indication of the elaborate finish which characterises his compositions. The signature conveys the general hand. [page 231:]

Jno. McCabe

Dr. JOHN C. MCCABE, of Richmond, Virginia, has written much and generally well, in prose and poetry, for the periodicals of the day — for the “Southern Literary Messenger” in especial, and other journals.

His MS. is in every respect a bad one — an ordinary clerk’s hand, meaning nothing. It has been strongly modified, however, by circumstances which would scarcely have permitted it to be otherwise than it is.

Jno. Tomlin

JOHN TOMLIN, Esq., Postmaster at Jackson, Tennessee, has contributed many excellent articles to the periodicals of the day — among others to the “Gentleman’s” and to “Graham’s” Magazine, and to several of the Southern and Western Journals.

His chirography resembles that of Mr. Paulding in being at the same time very petite, very beautiful, and very illegible. His MSS., in being equally well written throughout, evince the indefatigability of his disposition. [page 232:]

David Hoffman

DAVID HOFFMAN, Esq., of Baltimore, has not only contributed much and well to monthly Magazines and Reviews, but has given to the world several valuable publications in book form. His style is terse, pungent, and otherwise excellent, although disfigured by a half comic half serious pedantry.

His MS. has about it nothing strongly indicative of character.

S. D. Langtree

S. D. LANGTREE, has been long and favorably known to the public as editor of the “Georgetown Metropolitan,” and, more lately, of the “Democratic Review,” both of which journals he has conducted with distinguished success. As a critic he has proved himself just, bold and acute, while his prose compositions generally, evince the man of talent and taste.

His MS. is not remarkably good, being somewhat too scratchy and tapering. We include him, of course, in the editorial category.

R. T. Conrad

Judge CONRAD occupies, perhaps, the first place among our Philadelphia literati. He has distinguished [page 233:] himself both as a prose writer and a poet — not to speak of his high legal reputation. He has been a frequent contributor to the periodicals of this city, and, we believe, to one at least of the Eastern Reviews. His first production which attracted general notice was a tragedy entitled “Conrad, King of Naples.” It was performed at the Arch Street Theatre, and elicited applause from the more judicious. This play was succeeded by “Jack Cade,” performed at the Walnut Street Theatre, and lately modified and reproduced under the title of “Aylmere.” In its new dress, this drama has been one of the most successful ever written by an American, not only attracting crowded houses, but extorting the good word of our best critics. In occasional poetry Judge Conrad has also done well. His lines “On a Blind Boy Soliciting Charity” have been greatly admired, and many of his other pieces evince ability of a high order. His political fame is scarcely a topic for these pages, and is, moreover, too much a matter of common observation to need comment from us.

His MS. is neat, legible, and forcible, evincing combined caution and spirit in a very remarkable degree.

J. Q. Adams

The chirography of Ex-President ADAMS (whose poem, “The Wants of Man,” has, of late, attracted so much attention,) is remarkable for a certain steadiness of purpose pervading the whole, and overcoming even the constitutional tremulousness of the writer’s hand. Wavering in every letter, the entire MS. has yet a firm, regular, and decisive appearance. It is also very legible. [page 234:]

P. P. Cooke

P. P. COOKE, Esq., of Winchester, Virginia, is well known, especially in the South, as the author of numerous excellent contributions to the” Southern Literary Messenger.” He has written some of the finest poetry of which America can boast. A little piece of his, entitled “Florence Vane,” and contributed to the “Gentleman’s Magazine” of this city, during our editorship of that journal, was remarkable for the high ideality it evinced, and for the great delicacy and melody of its rhythm. It was universally admired and copied, as well here as in England. We saw it not long ago, as original, in Bentley’s Miscellany. Mr. Cooke has, we believe, nearly ready for press a novel called “Maurice Werterbern,” whose success we predict with confidence. Elis MS. is clear, forcible, and legible, but disfigured by some little of that affectation which is scarcely a blemish in his literary style,

T. R. Dew

Prof. THOMAS R. DEW, of William and Mary College in Virginia, was one of the able contributors who aided to establish the “Southern Literary Messenger” in the days of its delut. His MS. is precisely in keeping with his literary character. Both are heavy, massive, unornamented and diffuse in the extreme. [page 235:] His epistles seemed to have been scrawled with the stump of a quill dipped in very thick ink, and one or two words extend sometimes throughout a line. The signature is more compact than the general MS.

J. Beauchamp Jones

Mr. J. BEAUCHAMP JONES has been, we believe, connected for many years past with the lighter literature of Baltimore, and at present edits the “Baltimore Saturday Visiter,” with much judgment and general ability. He is the author of a series of papers of high merit now in course of publication in the “Visiter,” and entitled “Wild Western Scenes.”

His MS. is distinct, and might be termed a fine one; but is somewhat too much in consonance with the ordinary clerk style to be either graceful or forcible.

Chas. J. Peterson

Mr. CHARLES J. PETERSON has for a long time been connected with the periodical literature of Philadelphia, as one of the editors of “Graham’s Magazine” and of “The Saturday Evening Post.”

His MS., when unhurried, is a very good one — clear, weighty, and picturesque; but when carelessly written is nearly illegible, on account of a too slight variation of form in the short letters. [page 236:]

W. E. Burton

Mr. BURTON is better known as a comedian than as a literary man; but he has written many short prose articles of merit, and his quondam editorship of the “Gentleman’s Magazine” would, at all events, entitle him to a place in this collection. He has, moreover, published one or two books. An annual issued by Carey and Hart in 1840, consisted entirely of prose contributions from himself, with poetical ones from Charles West Thompson, Esq. In this work many of the tales were good.

Mr. Burton’s MS. is scratchy and petite, betokening indecision and care or caution. The whole chirography resembles that of Mr. Tasistro very nearly.

Richard Henry Wilde

RICHARD HENRY WILDE, Esq., of Georgia, has acquired much reputation as a poet, and especially as the author of a little piece entitled “My Life is like the Summer Rose,” whose claim to originality has been made the subject of repeated and reiterated attack and defence. Upon the whole it is hardly worth quarrelling about. Far better verses are to be found in every second newspaper we take up. Mr. Wilde [page 237:] has also lately published, or is about to publish, a “Life of Tasso,” for which he has been long collecting material.

His MS. has all the peculiar sprawling and elaborate tastelessness of Mr. Palfrey’s, to which altogether it bears a marked resemblance. The love of effect, however, is more perceptible in Mr. Wilde’s than even in Mr. Palfrey’s.

G. G. Foster

G. G. FOSTER, Esq., has acquired much reputation, especially in the South and West, by his poetical contributions to the literature of the day. All his articles breathe the true spirit. At one period he edited a weekly paper in Alabama; more lately the “Bulletin” at St. Louis; and, at present, he conducts the “Pennant,” in that city, with distinguished ability. Not long ago he issued the prospectus of a monthly magazine. Should he succeed in getting the journal under way, there can be no doubt of his success.

His MS. is remarkably clear and graceful; evincing a keen sense of the beautiful. It seems, however, to be somewhat deficient in force; and his letters are never so well written in their conclusion as in their commencement. We have before remarked that this peculiarity in MSS. is a sure indication of fatigability of temper. Few men who write thus are free from a certain vacillation of purpose. The signature above is rather heavier than that from which it was copied. [page 238:]

Lewis Cass

LEWIS CASS, the Ex-Secretary of War, has distinguished himself as one of the finest belles-lettres scholars of America. At one period he was a very regular contributor to the “Southern Literary Messenger,” and even lately he has furnished that journal with one or two very excellent papers.

His MS. is clear, deliberate, and statesmanlike; resembling that of Edward Everett very closely. It is not often that we see a letter written altogether by himself. He generally employs an amanuensis, whose chirography does not differ materially from his own, but is somewhat more regular.

James Brooks

Mr. JAMES BROOKS enjoys rather a private than a public literary reputation; but his talents are unquestionably great, and his productions have been numerous and excellent. As the author of many of the celebrated Jack Downing letters, and as the reputed author of the whole of them, he would at all events be entitled to a place among our literati.

His chirography is simple, clear and legible, with little grace and less boldness. These traits are precisely true of his literary style. [page 239:]

Jack Downing

As the authorship of the Jack Downing letters is even still considered by many a moot point, (although in fact there should be no question about it,) and as we have already given the signature of Mr. Seba Smith, and (just above) of Mr. Brooks, we now present our readers with a facsimile signature of the ” veritable jack” himself, written by him individually in our own bodily presence. Here, then, is an opportunity of comparison.

The chirography of “the veritable Jack” is a very good, honest sensible hand, and not very dissimilar to that of Ex-President Adams.

J. R. Lowell

Mr. J. R. LOWELL, of Massachusetts, is entitled, in our opinion, to at least the second or third place among the poets of America. We say this on account of the vigor of his imagination — a faculty to be first considered in all criticism upon poetry. In this respect he surpasses, we think, any of our writers (at least any of those who have put themselves prominently forth as poets) with the exception of Longfellow, and perhaps one other. His ear for rhythm, nevertheless, is imperfect, and he is very far from possessing the artistic ability of either Longfellow, Bryant, Halleck, Sprague, or Pierpont. The reader desirous of properly estimating the powers of Mr. Lowell will find a very beautiful little poem from his pen in the October [page 240:] number of this Magazine. There is one also (not quite so fine) in the number for last month. He will contribute regularly.

His MS. is strongly indicative of the vigor and precision of his poetical thought. The man who writes thus, for example, will never be guilty of metaphorical extravagance, and there will be found terseness as well as strength in all that he does.

L. J. Cist

Mr. L. J. CIST, of Cincinnati, has not written much prose, and is known especially by his poetical compositions, many of which have been very popular, although they are at times disfigured by false metaphor, and by a meretricious straining after effect. This latter foible makes itself clearly apparent in his chirography, which abounds in ornamental flourishes, not illy executed, to be sure, but in very bad taste.

T. S. Arthur

Mr. ARTHUR is not without a rich talent for description of scenes in low life, but is uneducated, and too fond of mere vulgarities to please a refined taste. He has published “The Subordinate,” and “Insubordmation,” two tales distinguished by the peculiarities [page 241:] above mentioned. He has also written much for our weekly papers and the “Lady’s Book.”

His hand is a commonplace clerk’s hand, such as we might expect him to write. The signature is much better than the general MS.

Jas. E. Heath

Mr. HEATH is almost the only person of any literary distinction residing in the chief city of the Old Dominion. He edited the “Southern Literary Messenger” in the five or six first months of its existence; and, since the secession of the writer of this article, has frequently aided in its editorial conduct. He is the author of “Edge-Hill,” a well-written novel, which, owing to the circumstances of its publication, did not meet with the reception it deserved. His writings are rather polished and graceful, than forcible or original; and these peculiarities can be traced in his chirography.

Thos. H. Chivers

Dr. THOMAS HOLLEY CHIVERS, of New York, is at the same time one of the best and one of the worst poets in America. His productions affect one as a wild dream — strange, incongruous, full of images of more than arabesque monstrosity, and snatches of sweet unsustained song. Even his worst nonsense (and some of it is horrible) has an indefinite charm of sentiment and melody. We can never be sure that there is any meaning in his words — neither is [page 242:] there any meaning in many of our finest musical airs — but the effect is very similar in both. His figures of speech are metaphor run mad, and his grammar is often none at all. Yet there are as fine individual passages to be found in the poems of Dr. Chivers, as m those of any poet whatsoever.

His MS. resembles that of P. P. Cooke very nearly and in poetical character the two gentlemen are closer akin. Mr. Cooke is, by much, the more correct, while Dr. Chivers is sometimes the more poetic. Mr. C. always sustains himself; Dr. C. never.

Joseph Story

Judge STORY, and his various literary and political labors, are too well known to require comment.

His chirography is a noble one — bold, clear, massive, and deliberate, betokening in the most unequivocal manner all the characteristics of his intellect. The pram, unornamented style of his compositions is impressed with accuracy upon his hand-writing, the whole air of which is well conveyed in the signature.

J. Frost

Mr. JOHN FROST, Professor of Belles Lettres in the High School of Philadelphia, and at present editor of “The Young People’s Book,” has distinguished himself by numerous literary compositions for the periodicals of the day, and by a great number of published [page 243:] works which come under the head of the utile rather than of the dune — at least in the estimation of the young. He is a gentleman of fine taste, sound scholarship, and great general ability.

His chirography denotes his mental idiosyncrasy with great precision. Its careful neatness, legibility, and finish are but a part of that turn of mind which leads him so frequently into compilation. The signature here given is more diminutive than usual.

James F. Otis

Mr. J. F. OTIS is well known as a writer for the Magazines; and has, at various times, been connected with many of the leading newspapers of the day — especially with those in New York and Washington. His prose and poetry are equally good; but he writes too much and too hurriedly to write invariably weld. His taste is fine, and his judgment in literary matters is to be depended upon at all times when not interfered with by his personal antipathies or predilections.

His chirography is exceedingly illegible and, like his style, has every possible fault except that of the common-place.

J. N. Reynolds

Mr. REYNOLDS occupied at one time a distinguished position in the eye of the public on account of his great [page 244:] and laudable exertions to get up the American South Polar expedition, from a personal participation in which he was most shamefully excluded. He has written much and well. Among other works, the public are indebted to him for a graphic account of the noted voyage of the frigate Potomac to Madagascar.

His MS. is an ordinary clerk’s hand, giving no indication of character.

William Cutter

Mr. WILLIAM CUTTER, a young merchant of Portland, Maine, although not very generally known as a poet beyond his immediate neighborhood, (or et least our of the Eastern States,) has given to the world numerous compositions which prove him to be possessed of the true fire. He is, moreover, a fine scholar, and a prose writer of distinguished merit.

His chirography is very similar to that of Count Tasistro, and the two gentlemen resemble each other very peculiarly in their literary character.

David Paul Brown

DAVID PAUL BROWN is scarcely more distinguished in his legal capacity than by his literary compositions. As a dramatic writer he has met with much success His “Sertorius” has been particularly well received both upon the stage and in the closet. His fugitive productions, both in prose and verse, have also been numerous, diversified, and excellent.

His chirography has no doubt been strongly modified [page 245:] by the circumstances of his position. No one can expect a lawyer in full practice to give in his MS. any true indication of his intellect or character.

E. C. Stedman

Mrs. E. CLEMENTINE STEDMAN has lately attracted much attention by the delicacy and grace of her poetical compositions, as well as by the piquancy and spirit of her prose. For some months past we have been proud to rank her among the best of the contributors to “Graham’s Magazine.”

Her chirography differs as materially from that of her sex in general as does her literary manner from the usual namby-pamby of our blue-stockings. It is, indeed, a beautiful MS., very closely resembling that of Professor Longfellow, but somewhat more diminutive, and far more full of grace.

John G. Whittier

J. GREENLEAF WHITTIER is placed by his particular admirers in the very front rank of American poets. We are not disposed, however, to agree with their decision in every respect. Mr. Whittier is a fine versifier, so fir as strength is regarded independently of modulation.. His subjects, too, are usually chosen with the view of affording scope to a certain vivida vis of expression which seems to be his forte; but in taste, and especially in imagination, which Coleridge has justly styled the soul of all poetry, he is ever remarkably deficient. His themes are never to our liking. [page 246:]

His chirography is an ordinary clerk’s hand, affording little indication of character.

Ann S. Stephens

Mrs. ANN S. STEPHENS was at one period the editor of the “Portland Magazine,” a periodical of which we have not heard for some time, and which, we presume, has been discontinued. More lately her name has been placed upon the title-page of “The Lady’s Companion” of New York, as one of the conductors of that journal — to which she has contributed many articles of merit and popularity. She has also written much and well, for various other periodicals, and will, hereafter, enrich this magazine with her compositions, and act as one of its editors.

Her MS. is a very excellent one, and differs from that of her sex in general, by an air of more than usual force and freedom.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 225:]

1.  Nyctanthes? [[— ED.]]

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (A Chapter on Autography - part II)