A Chapter On Autography

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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, but in very bad taste.

Mr. Dawes has been long known as a poet; but his claims are scarcely yet settled. … His longer poems … will not bear examination. “Athenia of Damascus” is pompous nonsense, and “Géraldine” 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. … 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 admiration of Coleridge—especially of his mysticism and cant.

The handwriting of Grenville Meilen is somewhat peculiar, and partakes largely of the character of his signature as seen above. The whole is highly indicative of the poet’s flighty, hyper-fanciful 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 byits side. Mr. Meilen has genius unquestionably, but there is something in his temperament which obscures it.

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 “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.

HW. 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 imitation—an imitation sometimes verging upon downright theft.

His MS . is remarkably good, and is fairly exemplified in the signature. We see here plain indications of the force, vigor, and glowing richness of his literary style; the deliberate and steady finish of his compositions. The man who writes thus may not accomplish much, but what he does, will always be thoroughly done. …

The MS . of Mr. Irving has little about it indicative of his genius. Certainly, no one could suspect from it any nice finish in the writer’s compositions; nor is this nice finish to be found. … 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 precision. It must be admitted, however, that this fact, in itself, is characteristic of the literary manner, which, however excellent, has no prominent or very remarkable features.

Mr. Everett’s MS . is a noble one. It has about it an air of deliberate precision emblematic of the statesman, and a mingled grace and solidity betokening the scholar. Nothing can be more legible, and nothing need be more uniform. The man who writes thus will never grossly err in judgment, or otherwise; but we may also venture to say that he will never attain the loftiest pinnacle of renown. …

Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson belongs to a class of gentlemen with whom we have no patience whatever—the mystics for mysticism’s sake. Quintilian mentions a pedant who taught obscurity, and who once said to a pupil, “this is excellent, for I do not understand it myself.” How the good man would have chuckled over Mr. E.! His present rôle seems to be the out-Carlyling Carlyle. …

His love of the obscure does not prevent him, nevertheless, from the composition of occasional poems in which beauty is apparent by flashes . …