Thursday, 19 September 2013

A Lesson in Graphology

While the use of graphology in the field of genealogy and family history has become more prominent in recent years this pseudoscience has been discussed for a long time as this article from 1900 shows.

THE following six "hands," displaying widely different characteristics, have been selected for such comment as may enable the uninitiated to understand the lines upon which the graphologist proceeds to interpret the character of an individual as revealed in his or her handwriting. 

This specimen has been taken from the superscription of the envelope which contained the correspondent's example. The manner of the superscription shows foresight, inasmuch as care was taken, when writing the address, to commence well over on the left-hand side in order to avoid jumbling the final letters or abbreviating the concluding word. Foresight almost invariably bespeaks the capacity for forming sound judgment on matters which interest the possessor of so valuable a gift. The writing reproduced above shows that, not alone was foresight exercised in commencing to write the address on the envelope at the left-hand margin, but judgment was displayed in filling and spacing each line to a nicety. If one reflects for a moment it will be apparent that the foresight and judgment which enable a writer to produce an evenly-written epistle, a regular space between each word, the whole presenting an agreeable impression to the eye, establish a title to good taste. Individuality is shown in the formation of the "f" in "of" and the "B" in "Buildings," because both letters are unconventionally written. Candour and conscientiousness are evident from the clearness with which each letter is formed and the care exercised in dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t." The semi-blind "e's" in "The" and "Commercial" indicate that the writer can keep her own counsel whenever it becomes necessary to do so. One of the marked peculiarities of this writing is that some of the letters are disconnected from those preceding and following them in the same word, viz., "a" in "Lady," "s" in "House," "l" and "d" in "Buildings." This denotes the critical faculty; a habit of dissecting things, but it is usually associated with a lack of steady persevering effort. It is obvious that the writing was done briskly, hence we are correct in assuming that its author is energetic, and this opinion is strengthened by the strong stroke crossing the "t." Finally, to sum up this lady's character, I should say she possesses, according to the illustration given, foresight, good judgment, caution, excellent taste, individuality, candour, conscientiousness, power to criticise justly, and an energetic temperament.

Even those who throw doubt upon the possibility of delineating character from handwriting would recognize that there is considerable difference between the temperaments of the writers of the first and second specimens inserted in this column. The quick, decisive formation of the first script is in striking contrast to the leisurely hesitancy of the second example. The latter might be taken to be the caligraphy of a youth instead of a young lady, and, for that reason, I hold that the writer prefers the society of the opposite sex to her own, not because she seeks admiration, but because she is, at heart, a tom-boy. I read the character as a modest one, in the sense that, whatever element of self-esteem it cherishes is well concealed beneath the surface. There is neither the vigour nor flourish in the hand commonly associated with the writing of the self-conscious, I-know-my-own-worth type. As pointed out in the analysis of the first specimen, the clear formation of each letter in the second illustration indicates candour and conscientiousness. Here also we have careful dotting of the "i's" and crossing of the "t's," denoting conscientiousness and a memory above the average. With all this lady's candour she is likely to be misunderstood, and could, no doubt, corroborate this statement from her own personal experiences. I infer this from the ambiguous "d" at the end of the word "enclosed." In fact, wherever "d" has been written it can only be distinguished from "a" by the context, except in "handwriting" where it appears to have been raised to its proper altitude as an after-thought. A similar weakness occurs in two instances where "w" is the initial letter. It is dangerously like an "n." A very remarkable example of unconscious ambiguity is the "e" in "character," where the stroke of the "t" has created a hybrid. The general easy-going formation of this writing, the "g" at the end of the word "handwriting," the short strokes across the "t's," and the rudimentary tails at the end of terminal letters, all combine to indicate an ease-loving disposition that is constitutional rather than acquired. It is, in short, the writing of one whose character has not yet been fully developed. Youth and inexperience are so apparent in the rather elementary character of the writing that the writer's life must have been spent amidst singularly uneventful surroundings, if she be anywhere near thirty years on this planet.

My third subject differs in many respects from the ladies already dealt with. Here we have to deal with a temperament that finds the pen a slow instrument for transmitting ideas to paper. I gather from her communication that this lady has an aptitude for literary work. Well, granting such to be the case, she would employ a shorthand-writer to dictate "copy" to, and revise it herself when typed if she were in a position to do so. That is a natural inference from the rapidly written, businesslike specimen of the lady's writing which we now reproduce:-- 

The writer pays attention to detail, as people always do whose writing is on the small side. This example displays sensitiveness by the slope pervading every letter and affection loops that are present in the "l's," "h's," and "fs." The continuity with which each word is written indicates great perseverance in the pursuit of any object the writer has in view, and, as well, constancy in affection. Here also we have conscientiousness indicated in the same way as in the two earlier specimens; but with regard to energy, mental and physical, the subject now under notice is the most remarkable. As it is with the writing, so is it with the individual. If the three specimens be examined it should be palpable that the third one was written at greater speed than either of the other two. I hold it would be quite the same with regard to the conduct of affairs generally. The writer of number three is what the Americans call a "hustler," who would accomplish a task whilst others, smart people too, were thinking of how they would set about doing it. From the contrast between the superior formation of some words and the comparatively inferior writing of others, I deduce that the lady has strong likes and dislikes. The writing shows plenty of self-confidence in the freedom and certainty with which each word is set down, and I should be surprised if she does not achieve success in her literary efforts.

I reproduce the next specimen in full, because the advice contained therein is valuable. The lady's writing shows great self-possession. It is a reflex of her own deliberate and decisive manner. There is great energy in the writing, as evidenced in the long strokes to the "t's," but it is of the refined order. There are indications of great force of character in the firmness and undeviating sameness of the writing from start to finish -- an enviable stock of sound common-sense that should be readily discerned in the freedom from ornamentation of any kind. Foresight and judgment are shown, as in the first example, by the avoidance of overcrowding at the end of any line, whilst resourcefulness is revealed in the contracted "&," which has been utilized in the penultimate one. Secretiveness is more in evidence in this specimen than in any of the others -- blind "e's" are the rule. With such exceptional mental ability as the writer undoubtedly is blessed with, it is rather a cause of surprise to find her desirable comment framed exactly as it appears --

Here is an example of what most of my readers will regard as an exasperating "hand" --

The Civil Service Commissioners might justifiably engage the writer of above example to write puzzle MS. for candidates to transcribe correctly. It may be interpreted as -- "You so much. I shall be delighted to go. Will be with you about 2 o'clock." The lady will keep her appointment, because, notwithstanding her eccentric caligraphy, there are indications of orderliness in spacing the words and of method in adjusting the number of words in each line. The eccentricity in writing is, to my mind, a reflex of marked peculiarities: a subject of comment amongst her friends. There is much conversational ability revealed in the impatient formation of the writing, as if the pen were too slow a method for conveying the writer's ideas. There is always a great deal of self-esteem about people who write in this confused form, taking no pains to lighten the task of those who have to decipher their manuscript. As I have no conception whatever of the lady's identity, I do not hesitate to say that she is as contradictory and erratic as her writing. She will be your friend to your face, generous in deed, anticipatory in thought, and yet, if she has the least cause for being envious of you, she will not be equally considerate of you in conversation with third persons. She has a pronounced weakness for revealing your private affairs so far as she is aware of them. This absence of conscientiousness is obvious in the malformation of "m" in "much," of the letters "h," "b," "w," etc. The physical activity and indomitably obstinate will of the writer is displayed in the nervous energy of the thick, ruggedly formed, continuous writing of each word. There is no depth of affection shown in the writing, and I believe the blind "e's" indicate reticence respecting incidents in the writer's career about which, her friends have remarked her to be peculiarly silent, that is, when taken in conjunction with the generally erratic character of the writing, which is full of a life's struggle and combat with difficulties.

It is a refreshing pleasure to look upon the next specimen submitted:--

because it exhibits a splendid energy and decision of character in the heavy and superfluous stroking of the "t's." Note the ingenuity this lady reveals so readily to the patient student of graphology. The dotting of the "i" in "being" has been made the starting point for the "m " in the next word; the "g" in "graphology" has been happily utilized to give the final touch to the last letter of the preceding word; the rather egotistical and individuality-marking "I" has been cunningly linked with "h" in the "have" which follows, whilst the "t" in "with" has contributed to "m" in the succeeding word "much." The ingenuity of the writer is patent, but it is displayed in such a form that it denotes premeditated action and a capacity for looking ahead that is confirmed by the avoidance of over-running the words on any line. The critical faculty is here also, in the separate formation of certain letters in some words. Large writing, like the above, liberally spaced, denotes great generosity. In this particular "hand" I judge the temper to be good, and life is pleasanter than with the majority of people; a circumstance that undoubtedly tends to preserve equability of temperament. I fear, however, there is a disposition to "seek fresh fields and pastures new" -- a love of variety and change -- that may ultimately cause much discomfort to the gifted writer, if it be not checked.

I have always found, when judging character from handwriting, that it is a tactical blunder to tell people their faults even when they invite you to do so. I once had an opportunity of submitting some admirable specimens of my own writing to a lady graphologist at a bazaar in Dublin, and shall never forget how poignantly I felt her accusation that I was "not overburthened with affection." I felt it all the more keenly when those near and dear to me emphasized and reiterated that clause of the written analysis when reading it aloud for the amusement and instruction of a family circle. The lady was certainly correct in her delineation, remarkably so, but I still feel that she was a little unjust on my affective life. Yet, if right in every other respect, how could she be wrong in that one? -- From The Lady of the House, by courtesy of whose proprietors the specimens of handwriting appear.

This article was originally published in "The Open Window Illustrated - Literary Annual and Year Book of Local Annals" in 1900 which was centred on the Newry area. 


  1. Couldn't be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Wow. Awesome article. Please do more articles like this in the future. Very informational and knowledgeable. I will expect more from you in the future. For now i will just bookmark your page and surely I'm gonna come back later to read more. Thank you to the writer!