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Sheila Lowe Article Excerpt

From Crimespree Issue 37


From Poe to King—Uncovering the Mysteries in their Handwriting
By Sheila Lowe


Edgar Allan Poe, the man whose Murders in the Rue Morgue earned him the title “father of the modern mystery,” was himself something of an enigma. His parents, who died when he was two, were traveling stage actors; he married a 13-year-old cousin, made an enemy of Rufus Griswold, (an editor who defamed Poe after his too-early death), and died in as strange a manner as you might expect from one of his stories.
But what about the man himself? Griswold wrote that few would be grieved by Poe’s death, yet his mother-in-law described him as “great and good.” Others infer personality traits from his various literary works, but those of us who make stuff up for a living, as Poe did, don’t necessarily reflect our true character in the pages we write. So what is the truth about who Poe was as a person? Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on guesswork, as samples of his handwriting can reveal far more about him than his storyteller’s voice does.
Handwriting analysis has been around for a long time, and I was surprised and delighted to learn that Poe himself was interested in it. He analyzed the handwriting of some literary greats of his day, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Greenleaf Whittier, among many others. In “Chapter on Autography,”[1] which he published in 1841, he wrote:
…the mental features are indicated (with certain exceptions) by the hand-writing; … Next to the person of a distinguished man-of-letters, we desire to see his portrait—next to his portrait, his autograph. In the latter, especially, there is something which seems to bring him before us in his true idiosyncrasy—in his character of scribe.
What followed was a series of autographs and Poe’s analysis of each writer’s handwriting. He praised Whittier’s[2] ability in verse, while comparing his chirography (penmanship) to “an ordinary clerk’s hand.” Of Longfellow[3] he says, “…The man who writes thus may not accomplish much, but what he does, will always be thoroughly done.” He calls Emerson’s handwriting[4] “bad, sprawling, illegible and irregular—although sufficiently bold.”
Given those remarks, it seems fitting that we take a peek at Poe’s own handwriting using two of the many samples available for viewing on the Internet[5].

For the rest of the article pick up the latest Crimespree Here

Sheila Lowe is a court-qualified handwriting expert and the author of the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries featuring forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose (www.claudiaroseseries.com). Her non-fiction works include Handwriting of the Famous and Infamous and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis (www.sheilalowe.com).