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Magazine, of the New Yorker, and more lately of the
Signal and New World, he has exerted an influence
scarcely second to that of any editor in the country.
This influence Mr. B. owes to no single cause, but to his
combined ability, activity, causticity, fearlessness, and
independence. We use the latter term, however, with
some mental reservation. The editor of the World is


A Chapter on Autography

it any nice finish in the writer's compositions; nor is
this nice finish to be found. The letters now before
us wy remarkably in appearance; and those of late
date are not nearly so well written as the more an
tique. Mr. Irving has travelled much, has seen many
vicissitudes, and has been so thoroughly satiated with
fame as to grow slovenly in the performance of his
literary tasks. This slovenliness has affected his hand
writing. But even from his earlier MSS. there is little
to be gleaned, except the ideas of simplicity and pre
cision. It must be admitted, however, that this fact,
in itself, is characteristic of the literary manner, which,
IUffc*ifct8^^ very remarh

V.- hedl v ja< ues Reicl rom the painl ':. ' y r R I. sli


For the fcMt * * ' ** nave occu "

pied a more de ^* among us than Mr.

Benjamin. A* r <* the American Monthly

Magazine, ot tn* flew Yorker, and more lately of the
Signal and New World, he has exerted an influence
scarcely second to that of any editor in the country.
This influence Mr. B. owes to no single cause, but to his
combined ability, activity, causticity, fearlessness, and
independence. We use the latter term, however, with
mental reservation. The editor of the World is

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independent so far as the word implies unshaken
resolution to follow the bent of one's own will, let the
consequences be what they may. He is no respecter
of persons, and his vituperation as often assails the
powerful as the powerless: indeed, the latter fall rarely
under his censure. But we cannot call his indepen
dence at all times that of principle. We can never be
sure that he will defend a cause merely because it is
the cause of truth, or even because he regards it as
such. He is too frequently biased by personal feelings
feelings now of friendship, now of vindictiveness.
He is a warm friend, and a bitter but not implacable
enemy. His judgment in literary matters should not
be questioned, but there is some difficulty in getting at
his real opinion. As a prose writer, his style is lucid,
terse, and pungent. He is often witty, often cuttingly
sarcastic, but seldom humorous. He frequently in
jures the force of his fiercest attacks by an indulgence
in merely vituperative epithets. As a poet, he is en
titled to far higher consideration than that in which
he is ordinarily held. He is skilful and passionate, as
well as imaginative. His sonnets have not been sur
passed. In short, it is as a poet that his better genius
is evinced; it is in poetry that his noble spirit breaks
forth, showing what the man is, and what, but for
unhappy circumstances, he would invariably appear.

Mr. Benjamin's MS. is not very dissimilar to Mr.
Irving's, and, like his, it has no doubt been greatly


A Chapter on Autography

modified by the excitements of life, and by the neces
sity of writing much and hastily, so that we can predi
cate but little respecting it. It speaks of his exquisite
sensibility and passion. These betray themselves in
the nervous variation of the MS. as the subject is
diversified. When the theme is an ordinary one the
writing is legible and has force; but when it verges
upon any thing which may be supposed to excite, we
see the characters falter as they proceed. In the MSS.
of some of his best poems this peculiarity is very re
markable. The signature conveys the idea of his
usual chirography.

Mr. Kennedy is well known as the author of
low Barn, Horse'Shoe Robinson, and Fob of the
Bowl, three works whose features are strongly and
decidedly marked. These features are boldness and
force of thought (disdaining ordinary embellishment,
and depending for its effect upon masses rather than
upon details), with a predominant sense of the pic
turesque pervading and giving color to the whole. His
Swallow Barn in especial (and it is by the first effort
of an author that we form the truest idea of his mental
bias) is but a rich succession of picturesque still-life
pieces. Mr. Kennedy is well to do in the world and
has always taken the world easily. We may therefore


A Chapter on Autography

expect to find in his chirography, if ever in any, a full
indication of the chief features of his literary style,
especially as this chief feature is so remarkably promi
nent. A glance at his signature will convince any one
that the indication is to be found. A painter called
upon to designate the main peculiarity of this MS.
would speak at once of the picturesque. This charac
ter is given it by the absence of hair-strokes, and by
the abrupt termination of every letter without taper
ing; also in great measure by varying the size and slope
of the letters. Great uniformity is preserved in the
whole air of the MS., with great variety in the con
stituent parts. Every character has the clearness,
boldness, and precision of a wood-cut. The long let
ters do not rise or fall in an undue degree above the
others. Upon the whole, this is a hand which pleases
us much, although its bizarrerie is rather too piquant
for the general taste. Should its writer devote him
self more exclusively to light letters we predict his
future eminence. The paper on which our epistles are
written is very fine, clear, and white, with gilt edges.
The seal is neat, and just sufficient wax has been used
for the impression. All this betokens a love of the
elegant without effeminacy.

The handwriting of Grenville Mellen is somewhat
peculiar, and partakes largely of the character of his

A Chapter on Autography

signature as seen on page 89. The whole is highly
indicative of the poet's flighty, hyperfanciful character,
with his unsettled and often erroneous ideas of the
beautiful. His straining after effect is well paralleled
in the formation of the preposterous G in the signature,
with the two dots by its side. Mr. Mellen has genius
unquestionably, but there is something in his tempera
ment which obscures it.

No correct notion of Mr. Paulding's literary pecul
iarities can be obtained from an inspection of his MS.,
which no doubt has been strongly modified by adven
titious circumstances. His small " a's," " t's," and
" c's " are all alike, and the style of the characters
generally is French, although the entire MS. has much
the appearance of Greek text. The paper which he
ordinarily uses is of a very fine, glossy texture, and of
a blue tint, with gilt edges. His signature is a good
specimen of his general hand.


Mrs. Sigourney seems to take much pains with her
MSS. Apparently she employs black lines. Every " t "
is crossed and every "i" dotted with precision, while the


A Chapter on Autography

punctuation is faultless. Yet the whole has nothing
of effeminacy or formality. The individual characters
are large, well, and freely formed, and preserve a per
fect uniformity throughout. Something in her hand
writing puts us in mind of Mr. Paulding's. In both
MSS. perfect regularity exists, and in both the style is
formed or decided. Both are beautiful, yet Mrs.
Sigourney's is the most legible, and Mr. Paulding's
nearly the most illegible, in the world. From that of
Mrs. S. we might easily form a true estimate of her
compositions. Freedom, dignity, precision, and grace,
without originality, may be properly attributed to her.
She has fine taste without genius. Her paper is usu
ally good, the seal small, of green and gold wax, and
without impression.

Mr. Walsh's MS. is peculiar, from its large, sprawl
ing, and irregular appearance rather rotund than
angular. It always seems to have been hurriedly
written. The " t's " are crossed with a sweeping
scratch of the pen, which gives to his epistles a some
what droll appearance. A dictatorial air pervades the
whole. His paper is of ordinary quality. His seal is
commonly of brown wax mingled with gold, and bears
a Latin motto, of which only the words trans and
mortuus are legible.

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Mr. Walsh cannot be denied talent, but his reputa
tion, which has been bolstered into being by a clique,
is not a thing to live. A blustering self-conceit be
trays itself in his chirography, which upon the whole
is not very dissimilar to that of Mr. E. Everett, of
whom we will speak hereafter.

Mr. Ingraham, or Ingrahame (for he writes his
name sometimes with and sometimes without the " e,"
is one of our most popular novelists, if not one of our
best. He appeals always to the taste of the ultra-
romancists (as a matter, we believe, rather of pecuni
ary policy than of choice), and thus is obnoxious to
the charge of a certain cut-and-thrust, blue-fire melo-
dramaticism. Still, he is capable of better things. His
chirography is very unequal, at times sufficiently clear
and flowing, at others shockingly scratchy and un
couth. From it nothing whatever can be predicated
except an uneasy vacillation of temper and of purpose.

Mr. Bryant's MS. puts us entirely at fault. It is
one of the most commonplace clerk's hands which we


A Chapter on Autography

ever encountered, and has no character about it be
yond that of the day-book and ledger. He writes, in
short, what mercantile men and professional penmen
call a fair hand, but what artists would term an abom
inable one. Among its regular up-and-down strokes,
waving lines and hair-lines, systematic taperings and
flourishes, we look in vain for the force, polish, and
decision of the poet. The picturesque, to be sure, is
equally deficient in his chirography and in his poetical

Mr. Halleck's hand is strikingly indicative of his
genius. We see in it some force, more grace, and
little of the picturesque. There is a great deal of free
dom about it, and his MSS. seem to be written currente
calamo, but without hurry. His flourishes, which are
not many, look as if thoughtfully planned and delib
erately yet firmly executed. His paper is very good,
and of a bluish tint ; his seal of red wax.

Mr. Willis when writing carefully would write a
hand nearly resembling that of Mr. Halleck, although


A Chapter on Autography

no similarity is perceptible in the signatures. His
usual chirography is dashing, free, and not ungrace
ful, but is sadly deficient in force and picturesqueness.
It has been the fate of this gentleman to be alternately
condemned ad infmitum, and lauded ad nauseam, a
fact which speaks much in his praise. We know of
no American writer who has evinced greater versa
tility of talent, that is to say, of high talent often
amounting to genius, and we know of none who has
more narrowly missed placing himself at the head of
our letters.

The paper of Mr. Willis's epistles is always fine and
glossy. At present he employs a somewhat large seal,
with a dove or carrier-pigeon at the top, the word
" Glenmary" at the bottom, and the initials "N. P.
W." in the middle.

Mr. Dawes has been long known as a poet, but his
claims are scarcely yet settled, his friends giving him
rank with Bryant and Halleck, while his opponents
treat his pretensions with contempt. The truth is that
the author of Getaldme and Athenia of Damascus has
written occasional verses very well, so well that some
of his minor pieces may be considered equal to any of
the minor pieces of either of the two gentlemen above
mentioned. His longer poems, however, will not


A Chapter on Autography

bear examination. Athenia of Damascus is pompous
nonsense, and Geraldine a most ridiculous imitation of
Don Juan, in which the beauties of the original have
been as sedulously avoided as the blemishes have been
blunderingly culled. In style he is perhaps the most
inflated, involved, and falsely figurative of any of our
more noted poets. This defect, of course, is only fully
appreciable in what are termed his " sustained efforts,"
and thus his shorter pieces are often exceedingly good.
His apparent erudition is mere verbiage, and were it
real would be lamentably out of place where we see it.
He seems to have been infected with a blind admira
tion of Coleridge, especially of his mysticism and cant.


H. W. Longfellow (Professor of Moral Philosophy
at Harvard) is entitled to the first place among the
poets of America certainly to the first place among
those who have put themselves prominently forth as
poets. His good qualities are all of the highest order,
while his sins are chiefly those of affectation and imi
tationan imitation sometimes verging upon down
right theft.

His MS. is remarkably good, and is fairly exempli
fied in the signature. We see here plain indications of


A Chapter on Autography

the force, vigor, and glowing richness of his literary
style ; the deliberate and steady finish of his composi
tions. The man who writes thus may not accom
plish much, but what he does will always be thoroughly
done. The main beauty, or at least one great beauty
of his poetry, is that of proportion ; another is a free
dom from extraneous embellishment. He oftener
runs into affectation through his endeavors at sim
plicity than through any other cause. Now, this rigid
simplicity and proportion are easily perceptible in the
MS. which, altogether, is a very excellent one.

The Rev. J. Pierpont, who, of late, has attracted so
much of the public attention, is one of the most ac
complished poets in America. His Airs of Palestine is
distinguished by the sweetness and vigor of its versifi
cation and by the grace of its sentiments. Some of
its shorter pieces are exceedingly terse and forcible, and
none of our readers can have forgotten his Lines on
Napoleon. His rhythm is at least equal in strength
and modulation to that of any poet in America. Here
he resembles Milman and Croly.

His chirography, nevertheless, indicates nothing

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beyond the commonplace. It is an ordinary clerk's
hand, one which is met with more frequently than any
other. It is decidedly formed ; and we have no doubt
that he never writes otherwise than thus. The MS. of
his school-days has probably been persisted in to the
last. If so, the fact is in full consonance with the
steady precision of his style. The flourish at the end
of the signature is but a part of the writer's general

Mr. Simms is the author of Martin Faber, Atalantis,
Guy Rivers f The Partisan, Mellichampe, The Yemas*
see, The Damsel of Darien, The Black Riders of the
Congaree, and one or two other productions, among
which we must not forget to mention several fine
poems. As a poet, indeed, we like him far better than
as a novelist. His qualities in this latter respect re
semble those of Mr. Kennedy, although he equals him
in no particular except in his appreciation of the
graceful. In his sense of beauty he is Mr. K.'s su
perior, but falls behind him in force, and the other
attributes of the author of Swallow Barn, These
differences and resemblances are well shown in the

VOL. X. 7.

A Chapter on Autography

MSS. That of Mr. S. has more slope and more uni
formity in detail, with less in the mass, while it has
also less of the picturesque, although still much.
The middle name is Gilmore : in the cut it looks like

The Rev. Orestes A. Brownson is chiefly known
to the literary world as the editor of the Boston Quar**
terly Review, a work to which he contributes, each
quarter, at least two thirds of the matter. He has pub
lished little in book-form, his principal works being
Charles Edwood and New Views. Of these, the former
production is, in many respects, one of the highest
merit. In logical accuracy, in comprehensiveness of
thought, and in the evident frankness and desire for
truth in which it is composed we know of few theo
logical treatises which can be compared with it. Its
conclusion, however, bears about it a species of hesi
tation and inconsequence which betray the fact that
the writer has not altogether succeeded in convincing
himself of those important truths which he is so
anxious to impress upon his readers. We must bear
in mind, however, that this is the fault of Mr. Brown-
son's subject, and not of Mr. Brownson. However
well a man may reason on the great topics of God and
immortality, he will be forced to admit tacitly, in the


A Chapter on Autography

end, that God and immortality are things to be felt
rather than demonstrated.

On subjects less indefinite, Mr. B. reasons with the
calm and convincing force of a Combe. He is, in
every respect, an extraordinary man, and with the
more extensive resources which would have been
afforded him by early education, could not have
failed to bring about important results.

His MS. indicates, in the most striking manner, the
unpretending simplicity, directness, and especially the
indef atigability of his mental character. His signature
is more petite than his general chirography.

Judge Beverly Tucker, of the College of William and
Mary, Virginia, is the author of one of the best novels
ever published in America, George Balcombe, although
for some reason the book was never a popular favor
ite. It was, perhaps, somewhat too didactic for the
general taste.

He has written a great deal also for the Southern
Literary Messenger at different times; and at one
period acted in part, if not altogether, as editor of that
magazine, which is indebted to him for some very racy
articles, in the way of criticism especially. He is apt,
however, to be led away by personal feelings, and is


A Chapter on Autography

more given to vituperation for the mere sake of point
or pungency than is altogether consonant with his
character as judge. Some five years ago there ap
peared in the Messenger under the editorial head, an
article on the subject of the Pickwick Papers and some
other productions of Mr. Dickens. This article, which
abounded in well-written but extravagant denuncia
tion of everything composed by the author of The Old
Curiosity Shop/ and which prophesied his immediate
downfall, we have reason to believe was from the pen
of Judge Beverly Tucker. We take this opportunity
of mentioning the subject, because the odium of the
paper in question fell altogether upon our shoulders,
and it is a burden we are not disposed and never in
tended to bear. The review appeared in March, we
think, and we had retired from the Messenger in the
January preceding. About eighteen months pre
viously, and when Mr. Dickens was scarcely known
to the public at all, except as the author of some brief
tales and essays, the writer of this article took occa
sion to predict in the Messenger f and in the most
emphatic manner, that high and just distinction which
the author in question has attained. Judge Tucker's
MS. is diminutive, but neat and legible, and has much
force and precision, with little of the picturesque. The
care which he bestows upon his literary compositions
makes itself manifest also in his chirography. The
signature is more florid than the general hand.


A Chapter on Autography

Mr. Sanderson, Professor of the Greek and Latin
Languages in the High School of Philadelphia, is well
known as the author of a series of letters entitled The
American in Paris, These are distinguished by ease
and vivacity of style, with occasional profundity of
observation, and, above all, by the frequency of their
illustrative anecdotes and figures. In all these par
ticulars Professor Sanderson is the precise counterpart
of Judge Beverly Tucker, author of George Balcombe.
The MSS. of the two gentlemen are nearly identical.
Both are neat, clear, and legible. Mr. Sanderson's is
somewhat the more crowded.

About Miss Gould's MS. there are great neatness,
picturesqueness, and finish, without over-effeminacy.
The literary style of one who writes thus will always
be remarkable for sententiousness and epigrammatism ;
and these are the leading features of Miss Gould's poetry.

Professor Henry, of Bristol College, is chiefly known
by his contributions to our quarterlies, and as one of
the originators of the New York Review in conjunction


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with Dr. Hawks and Professor Anthon. His chirog-
raphy is now neat and picturesque (much resemb
ling that of Judge Tucker), and now excessively
scratchy, clerky, and slovenly, so that it is nearly im
possible to say anything respecting it, except that it
indicates a vacillating disposition with unsettled ideas
of the beautiful. None of his epistles, in regard to
their chirography, end as well as they begin. This
trait denotes fatigability. His signature, which is bold
and decided, conveys not the faintest idea of the gen
eral MS.

Mrs. Embury is chiefly known by her contributions
to the periodicals of the country. She is one of the
most nervous of our female writers, and is not desti
tute of originality, that rarest of all qualities in a
woman, and especially in an American woman.

Her MS. evinces a strong disposition to fly off at a
tangent from the old formulae of the boarding acad
emies. But in it, and in her literary style, it would be
well that she should no longer hesitate to discard the
absurdities of mere fashion.

Miss Leslie is celebrated for the homely natural
ness of her stories and for the broad satire of her


A Chapter on Autography

comic style. She has written much for the magazines.
Her chirography is distinguished for neatness and fin
ish, without over-effeminacy. It is rotund and some
what diminutive, the letters being separate and the
words always finished with an inward twirl. She is
never particular about the quality of her paper or the
other externals of epistolary correspondence. From
her MSS. in general, we might suppose her solicitous
rather about the effect of her compositions as a whole
than about the polishing of the constituent parts.
There is much of the picturesque both in her chirog
raphy and in her literary style.

Mr. Neal has acquired a very extensive reputation
through his Charcoal Sketches, a series of papers or
iginally written for the Saturday News of this city, and
afterward published in book form, with illustrations
by Johnston. The whole design of the Charcoal
Sketches may be stated as the depicting of the wharf
and street loafer; but this design has been executed
altogether in caricature. The extreme of burlesque
runs throughout the work, which is also chargeable
with a tedious repetition of slang and incident. The
loafer always declaims the same nonsense in the same
style, gets drunk in the same way, and is taken to the


A Chapter on Autography

watch-house after the same fashion. Reading one
chapter of the book we read all. Any single descrip
tion would have been an original idea well executed,
but the dose is repeated ad nauseam, and betrays a
woful poverty of invention. The manner in which
Mr. NeaPs book was belauded by his personal friends
of the Philadelphia press speaks little for their inde
pendence or less for their taste. To dub the author
of these Charcoal Sketches (which are really very ex
cellent police reports) with the title of " the American
Boz " is either outrageous nonsense or malevolent

In other respects Mr. N. has evinced talents which
cannot be questioned. He has conducted the Penn
sylvanian with credit, and, as a political writer, he
stands deservedly high. His MS. is simple and legi
ble, with much space between the words. It has
force, but little grace. Altogether, his chirography is
good ; but as he belongs to the editorial corps, it would
not be just to suppose that any deductions in respect
to character could be gleaned from it. His signature
conveys the general MS. with accuracy.

Mr. Seba Smith has become somewhat widely cele
brated as the author, in part, of the Letters of Major
Jack Downing. These were very clever productions,


A Chapter on Autography

coarse, but full of fun, wit, sarcasm, and sense. Their
manner rendered them exceedingly popular, until their
success tempted into the field a host of brainless imi
tators. Mr. S. is also the author of several poems;
among others, of Powhatan s A Metrical Romance t
which we do not very particularly admire. His MS. is
legible, and has much simplicity about it. At times
it vacillates and appears unformed. Upon the whole,

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