"Edgar Allan Poe Analyzes Handwriting : A Chapter On Autography"
Edgar Allan Poe, graphologist? It's not how most people think of the author of "The Raven", "The Pit and the Pendulum" and other gothic works. But then few today know him as a critic, either. In fact, he was both, and his "A Chapter On Autography" uses handwriting analysis as a pretext for critiques of his fellow writers - critiques that were not always well-received at the time. (One journalist called his remarks "a colossal piece of impertinence".) As well-known as he is today, at the time (1841) he was a young editor and critic with a growing, but hardly established, reputation. Yet he did not hesitate to say of the revered 'Sage of Concord', "Mr.
Ralph Waldo Emerson belongs to a class of gentlemen with whom we have no patience whatever." or of the widely popular Washington Irving, "Mr. Irving …has been so thoroughly satiated with fame as to grow slovenly in the performance of his literary tasks." He also stirred things up by criticizing writers like Theodore Sedgwick Fay. "Who?", many modern readers will ask. But Fay was prominent at the time. The same can be said of many other writers who Poe chose to include.
"A Chapter On Autography" offers a panorama of figures who were well-known then, but have fallen into obscurity. Which is not to say they were uninteresting. Sarah Josepha Hale, the first female editor of an American magazine, wrote a book on distinguished women since the start of time, and…"Mary Had a Little Lamb". Henry William Herbert, a successful novelist, was also the first sportswriter in America. Catherine Maria Sedgwick, once America's most famous American novelist, later wrote Married or Single?, questioning - in 1857 - whether a woman should marry if she wanted a career (she chose not to.) Jeremiah Reynolds wrote one article which Poe used for a story and another which may have inspired Melville's title for Moby Dick.A new edition of this work not only offers Poe's text with images of well over one hundred signatures, but provides a Biographical Dictionary of Poe's Subjects, so that readers can look up unfamiliar names and learn more about these once famous figures.
The new version, from Chez Jim Books (http://www.chezjim.com/books), is titled "Edgar Allan Poe Analyzes Handwriting: A Chapter On Autography." It includes brief introductory text by Jim Chevallier, exploring how Poe's approach to 'autography' relates to modern graphology and how his own ideas on writing are reflected in his remarks on other writers. The work itself begins with Poe's own introduction, which reveals a mischievous humor not often associated with this 'morbid' writer. In it, Poe also outlines his goals in writing the work (which originally appeared in Graham's Magazine in 1841): "Our design is threefold:-In the first place, seriously to illustrate our position that the mental features are indicated (with certain exceptions) by the handwriting; secondly, to indulge in a little literary gossip; and, thirdly, to furnish our readers with a more accurate and at the same time a more general collection of the autographs of our literati than is to be found elsewhere."Poe's statement of purpose suggests how much his work offers to different audiences. For those with an interest in graphology, the work not only gives a rare example of early handwriting analysis, but provides well over a hundred images of signatures. For students of nineteenth century American literature, the work provides a unique overview of literary figures of the period.
Students of Poe's own work will find glimpses of his literary values in Poe's remarks on his contemporaries' work. The general reader may be intrigued simply to discover another side of Poe. Slim as the new volume is (72 pages), it is rich in content, presenting a rare and unique work from one of America's greatest authors. "Edgar Allan Poe Analyzes Handwriting: A Chapter on Autography by Edgar Allan Poe" with an introduction and a Biographical Dictionary of Poe's Subject by Jim Chevallier available on-line at http://www.chezjim.com/booksAbout Chez Jim Books Chez Jim Books offers an eclectic mix of original, translated and reissued books, including two monologue books - "The Monologue Bin" and "Monologues for Teens and Twenties" -, a new translation of a medieval cookbook - "How to Cook a Peacock: Medieval Recipes from Taillevent's Le Viandier" and a planned series of photographic chapbooks.