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reasons, we made no attempt at classification or ar
rangement, either in reference to reputation or our
own private opinion of merit. Our second article will
be found to contain as many of the Dii majorum

VOL. X. JO. ,|-

A Chapter on Autography

gentium as our first; and this, our third and last, as
many as either, although fewer names, upon the
whole, than the preceding papers. The impossibility
of procuring the signatures now given, at a period suf
ficiently early for the immense edition of December,
has obliged us to introduce this Appendix.

It is with great pleasure that we have found our
anticipations fulfilled in respect to the popularity of
these chapters, our individual claim to merit is so
trivial that we may be permitted to say so much, but
we confess it was with no less surprise than pleasure
that we observed so little discrepancy of opinion mani
fested in relation to the hasty critical, or, rather, gos
siping, observations which accompanied the signatures.
Where the subject was so wide and so necessarily per
sonal, where the claims of more than one hundred
Utetati, summarily disposed of, were turned over for
readjudication to a press so intricately bound up in
their interests as is ours, it is really surprising
how little of dissent was mingled with so much of
general comment. The fact, however, speaks loudly
to one point to the unity of truth. It assures us
that the differences which exist among us are differ
ences not of real, but of affected, opinion, and that
the voice of him who maintains fearlessly what he
believes honestly is pretty sure to find an echo (if
the speaking be not mad) in the vast heart of the
world at large.


A Chapter on Autography

The Writings of Charles Sprague were first col
lected and published about nine months ago by Mr.
Charles S. Francis of New York. At the time of the
issue of the book we expressed our opinion frankly in
respect to the general merits of the author, an opinion
with which one or two members of the Boston press
did not see fit to agree, but which, as yet, we have
found no reason for modifying. What we say now is,
in spirit, merely a repetition of what we said then.
Mr. Sprague is an accomplished belles-lettres scholar,
so far as the usual ideas of scholarship extend. He is
a very correct rhetorician of the old school. His versi
fication has not been equalled by that of any American
has been surpassed by no one living or dead. In
this regard there are to be found finer passages in his
poems than any elsewhere. These are his chief merits.
In the essentials of poetry he is excelled by twenty of
our countrymen whom we could name. Except in a
very few instances he gives no evidence of the loftier
ideality. His Winged Worshippers and Lines on the
Death of M, S. C, are beautiful poems ; but he has
written nothing else which should be called so. His
Shakespeare Ode f upon which his high reputation
mainly depended, is quite a second-hand affair, with

A Chapter on Autography

no merit whatever beyond that of a polished and vig
orous versification. Its imitation of Collins's Ode to
the Passions is obvious. Its allegorical conduct is
mawkish, passe, and absurd. The poem, upon the
whole, is just such a one as would have obtained its
author an Etonian prize some forty or fifty years ago.
It is an exquisite specimen of mannerism, without
meaning and without merit ; of an artificial, but most
inartistical, style of composition, of which conven
tionality is the soul, taste, nature, and reason the
antipodes. A man may be a clever financier without
being a genius.

It requires but little effort to see in Mr. Sprague's
MS. all the idiosyncrasy of his intellect. Here are
distinctness, precision, and vigor, but vigor employed
upon grace rather than upon its legitimate functions.
The signature fully indicates the general hand, in
which the spirit of elegant imitation and conversation
may be seen reflected as in a mirror.

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


A Chapter on Autography

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 the hand.

Mr. Charles Fenno Hoffman is the author of A
Winter in the West f Greyslaer t 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. Mathews.
It has the same boldness, strength, and picturesque-
ness, but is more diffuse, more ornamented, and less
legible. Our facsimile is from a somewhat hurried sig
nature, which fails in giving a correct idea of the
general hand.

Mr. Horace Greeley, present editor of the Ttibune t
and formerly of the New Yorker t has for many years


A Chapter on Autography

been remarked as one of the most able and honest of
American editors. He has written much and invari
ably well. His political knowledge is equal to that of
any of his contemporaries, his general information
extensive. As a belles-lettres critic he is entitled to
high respect.

His manuscript is a remarkable one, having about it
a peculiarity which we know not how better to desig
nate than as a converse of the picturesque. His char
acters are scratchy and irregular, ending with an abrupt
taper, if we may be allowed this contradiction in terms,
where we have the facsimile to prove that there is no
contradiction hi 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 idiosyncrasy lies perdu beneath all this
is more than we can say, but we will venture to assert
that Mr. Greeley (whom we do not know personally) is,
personally, a very remarkable man.

The name of Mr. Prosper M. Wetmore is familiar
to all readers of American light literature. He has
written a great deal, at various periods, both in prose


A Chapter on Autography

and poetry (but principally in the latter) for our papers,
magazines, and annuals. Of late days we have seen
but little, comparatively speaking, from his pen.

His MS. is not unlike that of Fitz-Greene Halleck,
but is by no means so good. Its clerky flourishes in
dicate a love of the beautiful with an undue straining
for effect, qualities which are distinctly traceable in
his poetic efforts. As many as five or six words are
occasionally run together; and no man who writes
thus will be noted for finish of style. Mr. Wetmore is
sometimes very slovenly in his best compositions.

Professor Ware, of Harvard, has written some very
excellent poetry, but is chiefly known by his Life of
the Saviour, Hints on Extemporaneous Preaching, and
other religious works.

His MS. is fully shown in the signature. It evinces
the direct, unpretending strength and simplicity which
characterizes the man, not less than his general com

The name of William B. 0. Peabody, like that of
Mr. Wetmore, is known chiefly to the readers of our

A Chapter on Autography

light literature, and much more familiarly to Northern
than to Southern readers. He is a resident of Spring
field, Mass. His occasional poems have been much

His chirography is what would be called beautiful
by the ladies universally, and, perhaps, by a large
majority of the bolder sex. Individually, we think it
a miserable one too careful, undecided, tapering, and
effeminate. It is not unlike Mr. Paulding's, but is
more regular and more legible, with less force. We
hold it as undeniable that no man of genius ever wrote
such a hand.

Epes Sargent, Esq., has acquired high reputation as
the author of Velasco, a tragedy full of beauty as a
poem, but not adapted perhaps not intended for
representation. He has written, besides, many very
excellent poems ; The Missing Ship, for example, pub
lished in the Knickerbocker, the Night Storm at Sea,
and, especially, a fine production entitled Shells and
Sea'Weeds, One or two theatrical addresses from
his pen are very creditable in their way, but the way
itself is, as we have before said, execrable. As an
editor, Mr. Sargent has also distinguished himself. He
is a gentleman of taste and high talent.


A Chapter on Autography

His MS. is too much in the usual clerk style to be
either vigorous, graceful, or easily read. It resembles
Mr. Wetmore's, but has somewhat more force. The
signature is better than the general hand, but conveys
its idea very well.

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 all of a high order of merit ;
and, in truth, the faults of his pencil and of his pen are
identical. Yet every reader will remember his Span*
ish Maid with pleasure; and the Address to Great
Britain, first published in Coleridge's Sibylline Leaves,
and attributed to an English author, is a production of
which Mr. Allston may be proud.

His MS., notwithstanding an exceedingly simple and
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 thor
ough distinctness and individuality. Such a MS. in
dicates 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

A Chapter on Autography

or could habitually indite it under any circumstances
whatever. The signature conveys the general hand
with accuracy.

Mr. Alfred B. Street has been long before the public
as a poet. At as early an age as fifteen, some of his
pieces were published by Bryant in the Evening Post /
among these was one of much merit, entitled a Winter
Scene. In the New "York Book, and in the collections
of American poetry by Messieurs Keese and Bryant,
will be found many excellent specimens of his maturer
powers. The Willewemock f The Forest Tree, The
Indian's Vigil, The Lost Hunter, and White Lake we
prefer to any of his other productions which have met
our eye. Mr. Street has fine taste and a keen sense
of the beautiful. He writes carefully, elaborately, and
correctly. He has made Mr. Bryant his model, and
in all Mr. Bryant's good points would be nearly his
equal, were it not for the sad and too perceptible stain
of the imitation. That he has imitated at all or
rather that, in mature age, he has persevered in his
imitations is sufficient warranty for placing him
among the men of talent rather than among the men
of genius.

His MS. is full corroboration of this warranty. It

A Chapter on Autography

is a very pretty chirography, graceful, legible, and neat.
By most persons it would be called beautiful. The
fact is, it is without fault, but its merits, like those
of his poems, are chiefly negative.

Mr. Richard Penn Smith, although perhaps better
known in Philadelphia than elsewhere, has acquired
much literary reputation. His chief works are The
Forsaken, a novel; a pseudo-autobiography called
Colonel Crockett's Tour in Texas, the tragedy of Caius
Marias, and two domestic dramas entitled The Dis*
owned and The Deformed, He has also published two
volumes of miscellanies under the titles of The Actress
of Padua and Other Tales, besides occasional poetry.
We are not sufficiently cognizant of any of these works
to speak with decision respecting their merits. In a
biography of Mr. Smith, however, very well written, by
his friend, Mr. McMichael, of this city, we are informed,
of The Forsaken, that " a large edition of it was speed
ily exhausted " ; of The Actress of Padua, that it " had
an extensive sale and was much commended " ; of the
Tour of Texas, that " few books attained an equal
popularity " ; of Caius Marius, that " it has great
capabilities for an acting play " ; of The Disowned and

A Chapter on Autography

The Deformed that they " were performed at the
London theatres, where they both made a favorable
impression " ; and of his poetry in general, " that it
will be found superior to the average quality of that
commodity." " It is by his dramatic efforts," says the
biographer, " that his merits as a poet must be deter
mined, and judged by these he will be assigned a place
in the foremost rank of American writers." We have
only to add that we have the highest respect for the
judgment of Mr. McMichael.

Mr. Smith's MS. is clear, graceful, and legible, and
would generally be called a fine hand, but is somewhat
too clerky for our taste.

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, of Boston, late Pro
fessor of Anatomy and Physiology at Dartmouth Col
lege, 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 pictur
esque quaintness, an analogy with the vivid drollery
of his style. The signature is a fair specimen of the
general MS.


A Chapter on Autography

Bishop Doane, of New Jersey, is somewhat more
extensively known in his clerical than in a literary
capacity, but has accomplished much more than suffi
cient in the world of books to entitle him to a place
among the most noted of our living men of letters.
The compositions by which he is best known were pub
lished, we believe, during his professorship of Rhetoric
and Belles-Lettres in Washington College, Hartford.

His MS. has some resemblance to that of Mr. Greeley
of the Tribune, The signature is far bolder and alto
gether better than the general hand.

We believe that Mr. Albert Pike has never pub
lished his poems in book form; nor has he written
anything since 1834. His Hymns fo the Gods and
Ode to the Mocking Bird, being printed in Blackwood,
are the chief basis of his reputation. His lines To
Spring are, however, much better in every respect, and
a little poem from his pen, entitled Ariel, originally
published in the Boston Pearl, is one of the finest of
American compositions. Mr. Pike has unquestionably
merit, and that of a high order. His ideality is rich
and well disciplined. He is the most classic of our

A Chapter on Autography

poets in the best sense of the term, and, of course, his
classicism is very different from that of Mr. Sprague,
to whom, nevertheless, he bears much resemblance in
other respects. Upon the whole, there are few of our
native writers to whom we consider him inferior.

His MS. shows clearly the spirit of his intellect. We
observe in it a keen sense not only of the beautiful
and graceful, but of the picturesque neatness, pre
cision, and general finish, verging upon effeminacy.
In force it is deficient. The signature fails to convey
the entire MS., which depends upon masses for its
peculiar character.


Dr. James McHenry, of Philadelphia, is well known
to the literary world as the writer of numerous articles
in our reviews and lighter journals, but more espe
cially as the author of The Antediluvians, an epic poem
which has been the victim of a most shameful cabal
in this country and the subject of a very disgraceful
pasquinade on the part of Professor Wilson. What
ever may be the demerits, in some regard, of this poem,
there can be no question of the utter want of fairness,
and even of common decency, which distinguished the
philippic in question. The writer of a just review of


A Chapter on Autography

The Antediluvians the only tolerable American epic
would render an important service to the literature
of his country.

Dr. McHenry's MS. is distinct, bold, and simple,
without ornament or superfluity. The signature well
conveys the idea of the general hand.


Mrs. R. S. Nichols has acquired much reputation
of late years by frequent and excellent contributions
to the magazines and annuals. Many of her com
positions will be found in our pages.

Her MS. is fair, neat, and legible, but formed some
what too much upon the ordinary boarding-school
model to afford any indication of character. The sig
nature is a good specimen of the hand.

Mr. Richard Adams Locke is one among the few
men of unquestionable genius whom the country pos
sesses. Of the " Moon Hoax " it is supererogatory to
say one word not to know that argues one's self un
known. Its rich imagination will long dwell in the
memory of every one who reads it, and surely if

A Chapter on Autography

the worth of anything
Is just so much as it will bring

if, in short, we are to judge of the value of a literary
composition in any degree by its effect then was the
" Hoax " most precious.

But Mr. Locke is also a poet of high order. We
have seen nay, more, we have heard him read
verses of his own which would make the fortune of
two thirds of our poetasters ; and he is yet so modest
as never to have published a volume of poems. As
an editor, as a political writer, as a writer in general,
we think that he has scarcely a superior in America.
There is no man among us to whose sleeve we would
rather pin, not our faith (of that we say nothing), but
our judgment.

His MS. is clear, bold, and forcible, somewhat modi
fied, no doubt, by the circumstance of his editorial
position but still sufficiently indicative of his fine in

Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson belongs to a class of
gentlemen with whom we have no patience whatever
the mystics for mysticism's sake. Quintilian men
tions a pedant who taught obscurity, and who once
said to a pupil, " This is excellent, for I do not under


A Chapter on Autography

the worth of
Is just so much as it will bring

if, in short, we are to judge of the value of a literary
composition in any degree by its effect then was the
" Hoax " most precious.

But Mr. Locke is also a poet of high order. We
have seen nay, more, we have heard him read
verses of his own which would make the fortune of
two thirds of our poetasters ; and he is yet so modest
as never to have published a volume of poems. As
an editor, as a political writer, as a writer in general,
e think thata* * * America.

rather pin, not

our judgment.

His MS. to
fied, no dm
position but

say nothing), but


is fine in*

Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson belongs to a class of
gentlemen with whom we have no patience whatever
the mystics for mysticism's sake. Quintilian men
tions a pedant who taught obscurity, and who once
said to a pupil, " This is excellent, for I do not under-


A Chapter on Autography

stand it myself." How the good man would have
chuckled over Mr. E.! His present role seems to be
the out-Carlyling Carlyle. Lycophron Tenebrosus is a
fool to him. The best answer to his twaddle is cui
bono / a very little Latin phrase very generally mis
translated and misunderstood cm bono / to whom
is it a benefit ? If not to Mr. Emerson individually,
then surely to no man living.

His love of the obscure does not prevent him, never
theless, from the composition of occasional poems in
which beauty is apparent by flashes. Several of his
effusions appeared in the Western Messenger / more
in the Dial, of which he is the soul, or the sun, or the
shadow. We remember The Sphynx, The Problem,
The Snow Storm f and some fine old-fashioned verses,
entitled O Fair and Stately Maid Whose Eye,

His MS. is bad, sprawling, illegible, and irregular,
although sufficiently bold. This latter trait may be,
and no doubt is, only a portion of his general affecta


Anastatic Printing

T is admitted by every one that of late there
has been a rather singular invention, called
Anastatic Printing, and that this invention
may possibly lead, in the course of time, to some
rather remarkable results, among which the one chiefly
insisted upon is the abolition of the ordinary stereotyping
process ; but this seems to be the amount, in America
at least, of distinct understanding on this subject.

" There is no exquisite beauty," says Bacon, " with
out some strangeness in the proportions." The phi
losopher had reference, here, to beauty in its common
acceptation, but the remark is equally applicable to
all the forms of beauty, that is to say, to everything
which arouses profound interest in the heart or intel
lect of man. In every such thing, strangeness in
other words, novelty will be found a principal ele
ment; and so universal is this law that it has no
exception even in the case of this principal element
itself. Nothing unless it be novel, not even novelty


Anastatic Printing

itself, will be the source of very intense excitement
among men. Thus the eanaye who travels in the hope
of dissipating his ennui by the perpetual succession of
novelties will invariably be disappointed in the end.
He receives the impression of novelty so continuously
that it is at length no novelty to receive it. And the
man, in general, of the nineteenth century more espe
cially of our own particular epoch of it is very much
in the predicament of the traveller in question. We
are so habituated to new inventions that we no longer
get from newness the vivid interest which should ap
pertain to the new, and no example could be adduced
more distinctly showing that the mere importance of
a novelty will not suffice to gain for it universal atten
tion than we find in the invention of anastatic print
ing. It excites not one fiftieth part of the comment
which was excited by the comparatively frivolous in
vention of Sennef elder; but he lived in the good old
days when a novelty was novel. Nevertheless, while
lithography opened the way for a very agreeable pas
time, it is the province of anastatic printing to revolu
tionize the world.

By means of this discovery anything written, drawn,
or printed can be made to stereotype itself, with abso
lute accuracy, in five minutes.

Let us take, for example, a page of this Journal,
supposing only one side of the leaf to have printing on
it. We damp the leaf with a certain acid, diluted, and


Anastatic Printing

then place it between two leaves of blotting-paper to
absorb superfluous moisture. We then place the
printed side in contact with a zinc plate that lies on
the table. The acid in the interspaces between the
letters immediately corrodes the zinc, but the acid on
the letters themselves has no such effect, having been
neutralized by the ink. Removing the leaf at the end
of five minutes we find a reversed copy, in slight relief,
of the printing on the page, in other words, we have
a stereotype-plate, from which we can print avast
number of absolute facsimiles of the original printed
page, which latter has not been at all injured in the
process; that is to say, we can still produce from it (or
from any impression of the stereotype-plate) new
stereotype-plates ad libitum, Any engraving, or any
pen-and-ink drawing, or any MS. can be stereotyped in
precisely the same manner.

The facts of the invention are established. The
process is in successful operation both in London and
Paris. We have seen several specimens of printing
done from the plates described, and have now lying
before us a leaf (from the London Art-Union) covered
with drawing, MS., letterpress, and impressions from
woodcuts, the whole printed from the anastatic
stereotypes, and warranted by the Art-Union to be
absolute facsimiles of the originals.

The process can scarcely be regarded as a new in
vention, and appears to be rather the modification and


Anastatic Printing

successful application of two or three previously ascer
tained principles those of etching, electrography,
lithography, etc. It follows from this that there will
be much difficulty in establishing or maintaining a
right of patent, and the probability is that the benefits
of the process will soon be thrown open to the world.
As to the secret, it can only be a secret in name.

That the discovery (if we may so call it) has been

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Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 10) → online text (page 9 of 21)