Handwriting And Expression
No work dealing with the study of handwriting would be complete unless
it recognised that phase of it which touches on the delineation of
character by an examination of the caligraphy.
That many valuable clues can be picked up by the expert who applies the
principles on which the graphologist works is indisputable, nor is it
necessary to accept all the theories claimed as reliable by those who
practice this interesting branch of the art of writing-analysis.
There is no doubt that many persons have attained a remarkable degree of
proficiency in deducing from the hand-gestures of an unknown person a
very accurate estimate of his or her character, and this fact should
prove that the principles of the art of graphology are based on
scientific grounds, or at least that the rules on which the student
works are regular and not, as some suggest, mere guess-work or
The elder d'Israeli, in his fascinating work, the "Curiosities of
Literature," devotes considerable space to the subject. Among other
things, he says:--
"Assuredly nature would prompt every individual to have a distinct sort
of writing, as she has given a peculiar countenance, 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 with signs of labour and
deliberation, 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 distinguished 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 Gibbon; while we find in Pope's manuscripts the perpetual struggle
of correction, and the eager and rapid interlineations struck off in
heat. Lavater's notion of handwriting is by no means chimerical; nor was
General Paoli fanciful when he told Mr. Northcote he had decided on the
character and disposition of a man from his letters and the handwriting.
"Long before the days of Lavater, Shenstone in one of his letters said,
'I want to see Mrs. Jago's writing that I may judge of her temper.'
"One great truth must, however, be conceded to the opponents of the
physiognomy of handwriting. 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 characteristic
of the individual."
* * * * *
Professor Foli, in his very useful work, "Handwriting as an Index to
Character" (London: C. A. Pearson, Ltd.), says:
"The changes which handwriting undergoes as maturity is reached prove
how directly it is influenced by the nervous condition of the writer.
"The writing proper to childhood is large, round and accompanied by a
laboured pen movement; whereas that which is normal as manhood or
womanhood is attained is smaller, and turned off by a more rapid and
fluent motion of the hand.
"Illness, again, affects the writing. As the hand is charged with more
or less of the nerve fluid, so the writing is stronger or weaker, firmer
or feebler, as the case may be.
"This goes to show the important influence which the nerve current
exerts in fashioning the handwriting. Small wonder that our handwriting
alters day by day. Yet it does not alter either. So far as its general
appearance is concerned I grant it _seems_ to do so. But look at the
really significant points of the writing written at different times.
Give a glance at the height at which the '_i_' is dotted, the way in
which the '_t_' is barred, the manner in which the letters are, or are
not, connected and finished off. These things will crop up with unerring
uniformity time after time.
"You do, of course, get a studied handwriting now and then, just as you
sometimes meet with a formed facial expression. But that does not
express the true character, simply because the control over the feelings
or the power of disguising what is felt is a salient point in the
character; and this very fact will serve to show that there is truth in
"That the pen, whether it be a fine or a broad pointed nib, plays a
certain part in determining the thickness or thinness of the strokes, I
am willing to allow, but here again we have no argument against
graphology, for most people have their favourite nib--just as they
prefer one occupation to another--and this is the one which will best
serve to define their characteristics. The same with the surface of the
paper upon which they write; some will select a smooth, others a rough
kind, but whatever that may be which is adopted with comfort, it will be
typical of the writer."
The following are some of the more marked signs of the character they
indicate. For a fuller exposition of their application it would be well
to study the work of Foli, before mentioned, and of Rosa Baughan (Upcott
Gill, London, 2_s._ 6_d._), with the scholarly work of J.
Crépieux-Jainin, entitled, "Handwriting and Expression," translated by
J. Holt Schooling.
* * * * *
_General Characteristic._--The fineness of an organism will be revealed
by a fine light penstroke. Coarse, low natures make heavy blurred
_Activity_ is denoted by the length of the letters. Where it is feeble
the letters will be widely spaced and rounded.
_Excitability_ is shown by sharp strokes and stops. The more acute and
irregular the pen-strokes the greater the intensity of feeling.
_Aggression_, which is the inclination to attack, the destructive force,
is indicated by the final strokes of letters and the cross-bars of _t_'s
advancing well forward, the dots of the _i_'s placed well forward. In
such a word as "time" the dot would probably be between the _m_ and _e_.
The style is angular and well and evenly spaced, altogether a forward,
_Economy_, or acquisitiveness, is shown by the finishing strokes being
turned backwards, and inwards; by a cramped hand, a disposition to
curtail strokes, particularly the endings of letters, as if the
expenditure of ink was begrudged.
_Secretiveness_, or extra caution, has its sign in the narrow,
tightly-closed form of the body of the letters _a_, _d_, _g_, _o_, _q_,
the _a_ and _o_ often being merely a narrow _v_. The general tendency of
the writing is to compression, the final strokes being very short. When
very marked, the letters dwindle into an indistinct unformed condition.
The substitution of dashes for punctuation is another symptom.
_Insincerity._--Beware of the man or woman whose writing is a fine, wavy
line, upright, with short, stumpy and indistinct tops and tails, words
running at their end to an almost straight line, the letters merely
indicated. The flatter, finer and more perpendicular this writing, the
greater the insincerity. Such a writer would probably be a polite,
pleasing and plausible person, but double-faced as Janus.
_Love of praise_, glory, ambition are shown by a tendency to write
upwards, the lines of writing trending towards the right-hand corner of
the paper. The signature will usually have a curved line below it, with
a degree of flourish.
_Self-esteem_, to which is allied conceit and ostentation, shows itself
in proportion to the size of the writing, the taller and more flourished
the upstrokes and the longer the downstrokes, the greater the
self-assertiveness. The flourish beneath the signature will be very
pronounced, often an elaborate spider's web of interlaced lines. The
writing is more or less angular with the finals turned backwards and
_Will power_ is shown by firm bars to the _t_, with a tendency to
descend from left to right, bludgeon-like downstrokes to tailed letters,
writing rather angular than rounded, and the final strokes finished by
a heavy pressure. Straight, firm, downward strokes take the place of the
tails to _y_, _g_, _f_, _q_.
_Sympathy_, good nature, kindness of heart are shown by a flowing open
hand, the finals of the letters being extended and thrown out with an
expansive movement. The tailed letters are long and looped, and often
turned up the right side of the letter. The letters are well apart but
not necessarily unconnected, and the style is curved. As a general rule
hard matter-of-fact natures incline to an angular style; the artistic
and softer nature affects rounded, gracefully curved strokes, and avoids
straight perpendiculars or horizontals.
_Constructiveness_, which implies the ability to combine and connect
words and phrases, is shown by joining the words together, several being
written without lifting the pen from the paper. The more simple and
ingenuous the method of attaching the words, the greater will be the
ability. When this joining of words is carried to extremes, it may be
taken as a sign of good deductive judgment.
_Observation_, by which is implied the keen, penetrating, inquiring mind
(which in excess becomes curiosity), is marked by angularity of the
strokes and finals; a small, generally neat, handwriting, with the
_Punctuation_ affords a very valuable clue to character-reading, for
reasons set out in the chapter "How to Study a Handwriting." They are
the most mechanical and unpremeditated of hand-gestures, and are,
therefore, the more valuable.
When, for example, a dot is thick and heavy, we infer that the pen has
been driven across the paper with a strong, decided movement of the
hand, which would be consistent with extreme energy and will power;
whereas, when the dot is light and faintly indicated we may be certain
that only a moderate force has been expended upon its production, which
would be compatible with less resistance and endurance in the character.
Again, a dot whose outlines were blurred would show a certain
sensuousness of character--strong passions and a want of restraint over
the lower propensities; whereas, a dot whose edges were sharply defined
would tell of refinement and a loathing against all that was coarse or
Careful attention to punctuation indicates neatness, order, method and
love of arrangement; nor is it necessary that the punctuation should be
strictly correct, for the art is but imperfectly mastered by most
people, even the best educated.
Stops that partake of the appearance of a comma indicate a degree of
impetuosity; well rounded stops imply calmness and tranquility of
temperament. When the full stops are fashioned after the form of a comma
and droop towards the right hand they indicate a tendency to sulkiness.
When they are merely angular we may infer impatience and a "peppery"
Flourishes are always indicative of a certain amount of assertiveness.
The simpler the flourish the less artificial this self-insistence; the
more elaborate, the greater the desire to seem what one is not.
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