Isaac Disraeli.

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of Byng, which was soon followed by a pack. I am in-
formed of an ancient pack of cards which has caricatures of
all the Parliamentarian Grenerals, which might be not un use-
fully shuffled by a writer of secret history. We may be
surprised to find the grave Sully practising this artifice on
several occasions. In the civil wars of France the Duke of
Savoy had taken by surprise Saluces, and struck a medal ;
on the reverse a centaur appears shooting with a bow and
arrow, with the legend Opportune! But when Henry the
Fourth had reconquered the town, he published another, on
which Hercules appears killing the centaur, with the word
Opportumus. The great minister was the author of this
retort ! A medal of the Dutch ambassador at the court of
France, Van Beuninghen, whom the French represent as a
haughty burgomaster, but who had the vivacity of a French-
man and the haughtiness of a Spaniard, as Voltaire charac-
terizes him, is said to have been the occasion of the Dutch
war in 1672 ; but wars will be hardly made for an idle
med^ Medals may, however, indicate a preparatory war.
Louis the Fourteenth was so often compared to the sun at its
meridian, that some of his creatures may have imagined
that, like the sun, he could dart into any part of Europe as
he wiUed, and be as cheerfully received. The Dutch min-
ister, whose christian name was Joshua, however, had a
medal struck of Joshua stopping the sun in his course, in-
ferring that this miracle was operated by his little republic
The medal itself is engraven in Van Loon's voluminous
Histoire MedaUique du Pays Bos, and in Marchand*s Dic^
tionnaire Historique, who labours to prove against twenty
authors that the Dutch ambassador was not the inventor ; it

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was not, however, unworthy of him, and it conveyed to the
world the high feeling of her power which Holland had then
assumed. Two years after the noise about this medal, the
republic paid dear for the device; but thirty years after-
wards this very burgomaster concluded a glorious peace, and
France and Spain were compelled to receive the mediation
of the Dutch Joshua with the French Sun.* In these
vehicles of national satire, it is odd that the phlegmatic
Dutch, more than any other nation, and from the earliest
period of their republic, should have indulged freely, if not
licentiously. It was a republican humour. Their taste was
usually gross. We owe to them, even in the reign of Eliza-
beth, a severe medal on Leicester, who, having retired in
disgust from the government of their provinces, struck a
medal with his bust, reverse a dog and sheep,

" Ncn gregemj ted ingratot invittu deaero / "

on which the angry juvenile states struck another, represent-
ing an ape and young ones ; reverse, Leicester near a fire,
" Fugimifumvm^ incidit in ignem."

Another medal, with an excellent portrait of Cromwell, was
struck by the Dutch. The protector, crowned with laurels,
is on his knees, laying his head in the lap of the common-
wealth, but loosely exhibiting himself to the French and
Spanish ambassadors with gross indecency : the Frenchman,
covered with^ewr* de lis, is pushing aside the great Don, and
disputes with him the precedence — Retire-toy ; Vhonneur ap^
partient au roy mon maitre, Louts le Grand. Van Loon is
very right in denouncing this same medal, so grossly flatter-
ing to the English, as most detestable and indelicate ! But
why does Van Loon envy us this lumpish invention ? why
does the Dutchman quarrel with his own cheese ? The
honour of the medal we claim, but the invention belongs to
his country. The Dutch went on, commenting in this man-

* The history of this medal is useful in more than one respect; and
may be found in Prosper Marchand.

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ner on English affairs, from reign to reign. Charles the
Seoond declared war against them in 1672 for a malicious
medal, though the States-General offered to break the die, by
purchasing it of the workman for one thousand ducats ; but it
served for a pretext for a Dutch war, which Charles cared
more about than the mala bestia of his exergue. Charles
also complained of a scandalous picture which the brothers
De Witt had in their house, representing a naval battle with
the English. Charles the Second seems to have been more
sensible to this sort of national satire than we might have
expected in a professed wit ; a race, however, who are not
the most patient in having their own sauce returned to their
lips. The king employed Evelyn to write a history of the
Dutch war, and " enjoined him to make it a little keen, for the
Hollanders had very unhandsomely abused him in their pic-
tures, books, and libels." The Dutch continued their career
of conveying their national feeling on English affairs more
triumphantly when their stadtholder ascended an English
throne. The birth of the Pretender is represented by the
chest which Minerva gave to the daughters of Cecrops to
keep, and which, opened, discovered an infant with a ser-
pent's tail : Infantemque vident apporrectumque draconem ;
the chest perhaps alluding to the removes of the warming-
pan ; and, in another, James and a Jesuit flying in terror, the
king throwing away a crown and sceptre, and the Jesuit
carrying a child, Ite missa est, the words applied from the
mass. But in these contests of national feeling, while the
grandeur of Louis the Fourteenth did not allow of these ludi-
crous and satirical exhibitions ; and while the political idolatry
whiph his forty academicians paid to him, exhausted itself in
the splendid fictions of a series of famous medals, amounting
to nearly four hundred ; it appears that we were not without
our reprisals : for I find Prosper Marchand, who writes as a
Hollander, censuring his own country for having at length
adulated the grand monarque by a complimentary medal.
He says, " The English cannot be reproached with a similar

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debonair ete,^^ After the famous victories of Marlborough,
they indeed inserted in a medal the head of the French mon-
arch and the English queen, with this inscription, Ludoviciut
Magnus, Anna Major. Long ere this one of our queens had
been exhibited by ourselves with considerable energy. On
the defeat of the Armada, Elizabeth, Pinkerton tells us,
struck a medal representing the English and Spanish fleets,
Hesperidum regent devidt virgo, Philip had medals dis-
persed in England of the same impression, with this addition,
Negaiur. Est meretrix vulgi. These the queen suppressed,
but published another medal, with this legend :

" Hesperidum regem devicit virgo; negatur,
Est meretrix vulgi; res eo deterior.'*

An age fertile in satirical prints was the eventful sera of
Charles the First : they were showered from all parties, and
a large collection of them would admit of a critical historical
commentary, which might become a vehicle of the most curi-
ous secret history. Most of them are in a bad style, for they
are allegorical ; yet that these satirical exhibitions influenced
the eyes and minds of the people is evident, from an extra-
ordinary circumstance. Two grave collections of historical
documents adopted them. We are surprised to find prefixed
to Rushworth's and Nalson's historical collections, two such
political prints I Nalson's was an act of retributive justice ;
but he seems to have been aware, that satire in the shape of
pictures is a language very attractive to the multitude ; for
he has introduced a caricature print in the solemn folio of the
trial of Charles the First. Of the happiest of these political
prints is one by Taylor the water-poet, not included in his
folio, but prefixed to his " Mad fashions, odd fashions, or ^ the
emblems of these distracted times." It is the figure of a man
whose eyes have left their sockets, and whose legs have
usurped the place of his arms ; a horse on his hind legs is
drawing a cart ; a church is inverted ; fish fly in the air ; a
candle bums with the flame downwards ; and the mouse and
rabbit are pursuing the cat and the fox !

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The animosities of national hatred have been a fertile
Bource of these vehicles of popular feeling — which discover
themselves in severe or grotesque caricatures. The French
and the Spaniards mutually exhibited one another under the
most- extravagant figures. The political caricatures of the
French, in the seventeenth century, are numerous. The
hadauds of Paris amused themselves for their losses, by
giving an emetic to a Spaniard, to make him render up all
the towns his victories had obtained : seven or eight Span-
iards are seen seated around a large turnip, with their frizzled
mustachios, their hats en pot-d-beurre ; their long rapiers, with
their pummels down to their i^Qt^ and their points up to their
shoulders ; their ruffs stiffened by many rows, and pieces of
garlick stuck in their girdles. The Dutch were exhibited in
as great variety as the uniformity of frogs would allow. We
have largely participated in the vindictive spirit, which these
grotesque emblems keep up among the people ; they mark
the secret feelings of national pride. The Greeks despised
foreigners, and considered them only as fit to be slaves ; *
the ancient Jews, inflated with a false idea of their small ter-
ritory, would be masters of the world : the Italians placed a
line of demarcation for genius and taste, and marked it by
their mountains. The Spaniards once imagined that the
conferences of Grod with Moses on Mount Sinai were in the
Spanish language. If a Japanese become the friend of a
foreigner, he is considered as committing treason to his
emperor ; and rejected as a false brother in a country
which, we are told, is figuratively called Tenka^ or the
Kingdom under the Heavens. John BuUism is not pecu-
liar to Englishmen ; and patriotism is a noble virtue, when
it secures our independence without depriving us of our

* A passage may be fonnd in Aristotle's Politics, vol. i. 0. 8-7 ; where
Aristotle advises Alexander to govern the Greeks like his subjectSj and the
barbarians like slaves ; for that the one he was to consider as companions,
and the other as creatures of an inferior race.

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The civil wars of the League in France, and those in
England under Charles the First, bear the most striking
resemblance; and in examining the revolutionary scenes
exhibited by the graver in the famous Satire Menippee, we
discover the foreign artist revelling in the caricature of his
ludicrous and severe exhibition; and in that other revolu-
tionary period of La Fronde, there was a mania for political
songs ; the curious have formed them into collections ; and
we not only have " the Rump Songs *' of Charles the First's
times, but have repeated this kind of evidence of the public
feeling at many subsequent periods. Caricatures and polit-
ical songs might with us furnish a new sort of history ; and
perhaps would preserve some truths, and describe some par-
ticular events, not to be found in more grave authorities.


The art of judging of the characters of persons by their
handwriting can only have any reality, when the pen, acting
without restraint, becomes an instrument guided by, and
indicative of the natural dispositions. But regulated as the
pen is now too often by a mechanical process, which the
present race of writing-masters seem to have contrived for
their own convenience, a whole school exhibits a similar
handwriting; the pupils are forced in their automatic motions,
as if acted on by the pressure of a steam-engine ; a bevy of
beauties will now write such fac-similes of each other, that in
a heap of letters presented to the most sharp-sighted lover,
to select that of his mistress — though like Bassanio among
the caskets, his happiness should be risked on the choice — he

» A small volume which T met with at Paris, entitled " L*Art de juger
du Caractere des Hommes sur leurs Ecritures," is curious for its illustra-
tions, consisting of twenty-four plateSy exhibiting fac-similes of the writing of
eminent and other persons^ correctly taken from the original autographs.

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would despair of fixing on the right one, all appearing to
have come from the same rolling-press. Even brothers of
different tempers have been taught by the same master to
give the same form to their letters, the same regularity to
their line, and have made our handwritings as monotonous
as are our characters in the present habits of society. The
true physiognomy of writing will be lost among our rising
generation : it is no longer a face that we are looking on, but
a beautiful mask of a single pattern ; and the fashionable
handwriting of our young ladies is like the former tight-
lacing of their mothers' youthful days, when every one alike
had what was supposed to be a fine shape !

Assuredly Nature would prompt every individual to have
a distinct sort of writing, as she has given a peculiar counte-
nance — a voice — and a manner. The flexibility of the
muscles differs with every individual, and the hand will
follow the direction of the thoughts, and the emotions and
the habits of the writers. The phlegmatic will portray his
words, while the playful haste of the volatile will scarcely
sketch them ; the slovenly will blot and efface and scrawl,
while the neat and orderly-minded will view themselves in
the paper before their eyes. The merchant's clerk will not
write like the lawyer or the poet. Even nations are dis-
tinguished by their writing; the vivacity and variableness
of the Frenchman, and the delicacy and suppleness of the
Italian, are perceptibly distinct from the slowness and strength
of pen discoverable in the phlegmatic German, Dane, and
Swede. When we are in grief, we do not write as we should
in joy. The elegant and correct mind, which has acquired
the fortunate habit of a fixity of attention, will write with
scarcely an erasure on the page, as Fenelon and Gray and
Gibbon ; while we find in Pope's manuscripts the perpetual
struggles of correction, and the eager and rapid interlinea-
tions struck off in heat Lavater's notion of handwriting is
by no means chimerical; nor was General Paoli fanciful,
when he told Mr. Northcote, that he had decided on the

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character and dispositions of a man from his letters, and tlie

Long before the days of Lavater, Shenstone in one of his
letters said, " I want to see Mrs. Jago's handwriting, that I
may judge of her temper." One great truth must however
be conceded to the opponents of the physiognomy of writing;
general rules only can be laid down. Yet the vital principle
must be true that the handwriting bears an analogy to the
character of the writer, as all voluntary actions are charac-
teristic of the individual. But many causes operate to
counteract or obstruct this result. I am intimately ac-
quainted with the handwritings of five of our great poets.
The first in early life acquired among Scottish advocates a
handwriting which cannot be distinguished from that of his
ordinary brothers ; the second, educated in public schools,
where writing is shamefully neglected, composes his sublime
or sportive verses in a school-boy's ragged scrawl, as if he
had never finished his tasks with the writing-master; the
third writes his highly-wrought poetry in the common hand
of a merchant's clerk, from early commercial avocations ; the
fourth has all that finished neatness, which polishes his
verses ; while the fifth is a specimen of a full mind, not in
the habit of correction or alteration ; so that he appears to
be printing down his thoughts, without a solitary erasure.
The handwriting of the first and third poets, not indicative
of their character, we have accounted for; the others are
admirable specimens of characteristic autographs.

Oldys, in one of his curious notes, was struck by the dis-
tinctness of character in the handwritings of several of our
kings. He observed nothing further than the mere fact, and
did not extend his idea to the art of judging of the natural
character by the writing. Oldys has described these hand-
writings with the utmost correctness, as I have often verified.
I shall add a few comments.

" Henry the Eighth wrote a strong hand, but as if he
had seldom a good pen." — ^The vehemence of his character

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conveyed itself into his writing ; bold, hasty, and command-
ing, I have no doubt the assertor of the Pope's supremacy
and its triumphant destroyer, split many a good quill.

" Edward the Sixth wrote a fair legible hand." — We have
this promising young prince's diary, written by his own
hand ; in all respects he was an assiduous pupil, and he had
scarcely learnt to write and to reign when we lost him.

" Queen Elizabeth writ an upright hand, like the bastard
Italian." She was indeed a most elegant caligrapher, whom
Roger Ascham had taught all the elegancies of the pen.
The French editor of the little autographical work I have
noticed has given the autograph of her name, which she
usually wrote in a very large tall character, and painfully
elaborate. He accompanies it with one of the Scottish
Mary, who at times wrote elegantly, though usually in un-
even lines ; when in haste and distress of mind, in several
letters during her imprisonment which I have read, much
the contrary. The French editor makes this observation :
"Who could believe that these writings are of the same
epoch? The first denotes asperity and ostentation; the
second indicates simplicity, softness, and nobleness. The
one is that of Elizabeth, queen of England ; the other that
of her cousin, Mary Stuart. The difference of these two
handwritings answers most evidently to that of their char-

" James the First writ a poor ungainly character, all awry,
and not in a straight line." James certainly wrote a slovenly
scrawl, strongly indicative of that personal negligence which
he carried into all the little things of life ; and Buchanan,
who had made him an excellent scholar, may receive the
disgrace of his pupil's ugly scribble, which sprawls about his
careless and inelegant letters.

" Charles the First wrote a fair open Italian hand, and
more correctly perhaps than any prince we ever had."
Charles was the first of our monarchs who intended to
have domiciliated taste in the kingdom, and it might have

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been conjectured from this unfortunate prince, who so finely
discriminated the manners of the different painters, which
are in fact their handwritings, that he would not have been
insensible to the elegancies of the pen,

" Charles the Second wrote a little fair running hand, as
if wrote in haste, or uneasy till he had done/' Such was
the writing to have been expected from this illustrious vaga-
bond, who had much to write, often in odd situations, and
could never get rid of his natural restlessness and vivacity.

" James the Second writ a large fair hand.'* It is charac-
terized by his phlegmatic temper, as an exact detailer of
occurrences, and the matter-of-business genius of the writer.

"Queen Anne wrote a fair round hand;" that is the
writing she had been taught by her master, probably without
any alteration of manner naturally suggested by herself ; the
copying hand of a common character.

The subject of autographs associates itself with what has
been dignified by its professors as caligraphy, or the art of
beautiful writing. As I have something curious to com-
municate on that subject, considered professionally, it shall
form our following article.


There is a very apt letter from James the First to Prince
Henry when very young, on the neatness and 'fairness of his
handwriting. The royal father suspecting that the prince's
tutor, Mr., afterwards Sir Adam, Newton, had helped out
the young prince in the composition ; and that in this speci-
men of caligraphy he had relied also on the pains of Mr.
Peter Bales, the great writing-master, for touching up his
letters ; his majesty shows a laudable anxiety that the prince
should be impressed with the higher importance of the one
over the other. James shall himself speak. "I confess I

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long to receive a letter from you that maj be wholly yours,
as well matter as form ; as well formed by your mind as
drawn by your fingers ; for ye may remember, that in my
book to you I warn you to beware with (of) that kind of wit
that may fly out at the end of your fingers ; not that I com-
mend not a fair handwriting ; sed hoc facito, iUud non
omittito: and the other is rrmlio magis prcecipuumJ^ Prince
Henry, indeed, wrote with that elegance which he borrowed
from his own mind; and in an age when such minute
elegance was not universal among the crowned heads of
Europe. Henry IV., on receiving a letter from prince
Henry, immediately opened it, a custom not usual with him,
and comparing the writing with the signature, to decide
whether it were of one hand, Sir George Carew, observing
the French king's hesitation, called Mr. Douglas to testify to
the fact ; on which Henry the Great, admiring an art in
which he had little skill, and looking on the neat elegance of
the writing before him, politely observed, "I see that in
writing fair, as in other things, the elder must yield to the

Had this anecdote of neat writing reached the professors
of caligraphy, who in this country have put forth such pain-
ful panegyrics on the art, these royal names had unquestion-
ably blazoned their pages. Not indeed that these penmen
require any fresh inflation ; for never has there been a race
of professors in any art, who have exceeded in solemnity
and pretensions the practitioners in this simple and mechani-
cal craft. I must leave to more ingenious investigators of
human nature, to reveal the occult cause which has operated
such powerful delusions on these " Vive la Plume ! " men,
who have been generally observed to possess least intellec-
tual ability, in proportion to the excellence they have ob-
tained in their own art. I suspect this maniacal vanity is
peculiar to the writing-masters of England ; and I can only
attribute the immense importance which they have conceived
of their art, to the perfection to which they have carried the

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art of shorthand writing; an art which was always better
understood, and more skilfully practised, in England, than in
any other country. It wiU surprise some, when they learn
that the artists in vers^ and colours, poets and painters, have
not raised loftier pretensions to the admiration of mankind.
Writing-masters, or caligraphers, have had their engraved
" effigies,** with a Fame in flourishes, a pen in one hand, and
a trumpet in the other ; and fine verses inscribed, and their
very lives written 1 They have compared

" The nimbly-turning of their silver quill,"

to the beautiful in art and the sublime in invention ; nor is
this wonderful, since they discover the art of writing, like
the invention of language, in a divine original ; and from
the tablets of stone which the Deity himself delivered, they
trace their Grerman broad text, or their fine running-hand.
One, for " the bold striking of those words, Vtve la Plumej^
was so sensible of the reputation that this last piece of com-
mand of hand would give the book which he thus adorned,
and which his biographer acknowledges was the product of
about a minute, — (but then how many years of flourishing
had that single minute cost him !) — that he claims the glory
of an artist ; observing, —

" We seldom find
The man ofhunnest with the ar(M< joined."

Another was flattered that his writing could impart immor-
tality to the most wretched compositions I —

*• And any lines prove pleasing, when you write."

Sometimes the caligrapher is a sort of hero : —

" To you, you rare conmiander of the quill,
Whose wit and worth, deep learning, and high skill,
Speak you the honour of Great Tower Hill ! '*

The last line became traditionally adopted by those who
were so lucky as to live in the neighbourhood of this Par-

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nassus. But the reader must form some notion of that charm
of Caligraphy which has so bewitched its professors, when,

Online LibraryIsaac DisraeliCuriosities of literature → online text (page 4 of 43)