Saturday, January 10, 2009


The following excerpts are from "An Appendix of Autographs" (sometimes referred to as the "Autography" series) by Edgar A. Poe - January 1842 issue of Graham's Magazine. The issue reproduced autographs from well-known figures in American letters and Poe took the opportunity to sort of psychoanalyze them (if you'll pardon the anachronism) based on their writing. How (or if) Poe became an expert on signatures is unknown, but he makes sure to stick in a couple of good left-handed compliments.

Cornelius Mathews

Mr. Cornelius Mathews is one of the editors of "Arcturus," a monthly journal which has attained much reputation during the brief period of its existence. He is the author of "Puffer Hopkins," a clever satirical tale somewhat given to excess in caricature, and also of the well-written retrospective criticisms which appear in his Magazine. He is better known, however, by "The Motley Book," published some years ago - a work which we had no opportunity of reading. He is a gentleman of taste and judgment, unquestionably.

His MS. is much to our liking - bold, distinct and picturesque - such a hand as no one destitute of talent indites. The signature conveys his hand.

Charles Fenno Hoffman

Mr. Charles Fenno Hoffman is the author of "A Winter in the West," "Greyslaer," and other productions of merit. At one time he edited, with much ability, the "American Monthly Magazine" in conjunction with Mr. Benjamin, and, subsequently, with Dr. Bird. He is a gentleman of talent.

His chirography is not unlike that of Mr. Matthews [sic]. It has the same boldness, strength, and picturesqueness, but is more diffuse, more ornamented and less legible. Our fac-simile is from a somewhat hurried signature, which fails in giving a correct idea of the general hand.

Horace Greeley

Mr. Horace Greeley, present editor of "The Tribune," and formerly of the "New-Yorker," has for many yeras been remakred as one of the most able and honest of American editors. He has written much and invariably well. His political knowledge is equal to that of any of his contemporaries - his general information extensive. As a belles-lettres crtiic he is entitled to high respect.

His MS. is a remarkable one - having about it a peculiarity which we know not how better to designate than as a converse of the picturesque. His characters are scratchy ad irregular, ending with an abrupt taper - if we may be allowed this contradiction in terms, where we have the fac-simile to prove that there is no contradiction in fact. All abrupt MSS., save this, have square or concise terminations of the letters. The whole chirography puts us in mind of a jig. We can fancy the writer jerking up his hand from the paper at the end of each word, and, indeed, of each letter. What mental idiosyncracy lies perdue beneath all this, is more than we can say, but we will venture to assert that Mr. Greely [sic] (whom we do not know personally) is, personally, a very remarkable man.

Washington Allson

The name of "Washington Allston," the poet and painter, is one that has been long before the public. Of his paintings we have here nothing to say - except briefly, that the most noted of them are not to our taste. His poems are not at all of a high order of merit; and, in turth, the faults of his pencil and of his pen are identical. Yet every reader will remember his "Spanish Maid" with pleasure and the "Address to Great Britain," first published in Coleridge's "Sybilline Leaves," and attributed to an English author, is a production of which Mr. Allston may be proud.

His MS. notwithstanding an exceedingly simple and even boyish air, is one which we particularly admire. It is forcible, picturesque and legible, without ornament of any description. Each letter is formed with a thorough distinctness and individuality. Such a MS. indicates caution and precision, most unquestionably - but we say of it as we say of Mr. Peabody's, (a very different MS.) that no man of original genius ever did or could habitually indite it under any circumstances whatever. The signature conveys the general hand with accuracy.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, of Boston, late Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Dartmouth College, has written many productions of merit, and has been pronounced, by a very high authority, the best of the humorous poets of the day.

His chirography is remarkably fine, and a quick fancy might easily detect, in its graceful yet picturesque quaintness, an analogy with the vivid drollery of his style. The signature is a fair specimen of the general MS.

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