The Art of the Diddle: Autography 04

The collecting of autographs has been a great rage among people of fashion for some years past in England; and even among the learned it seems to have succeeded to the old passion of book collecting. There are few women of ton in London who have not their autograph-books to produce for the amusement of their visiters. The fondness for these trifles seems to be extending to this country; and we know of several ladies who are forming collections.


— Anonymous, New York Mirror (New York, NY), vol. 20, no. 1, January 1, 1842, p. 3, cited Accessed 2 November 2021.


“The Good Old Goldsmith School”

from Autography 04

Graham’s Magazine December 1841

Mr. BRYAN has written some very excellent poetry, and is appreciated by all admirers of “the good old Goldsmith school.” He is, at present, postmaster at Alexandria, and has held office for many years, with all the good fortune of a Vicar of Bray.

His MS. is a free, sloping, and regular one, with more boldness than force, and not ungraceful. He is fond of underscoring his sentences; a habit exactly parallel with the augmentative nature of some of his best poems.


But there’s another Oliver Goldsmith, and a different kind of “good old Goldsmith school” in town now.

Handsome young Oliver B. Goldsmith opens his school of penmanship in Brooklyn at age 23, later moving to Broadway, near Canal Street.


The Evening Post, New York, New York, Fri Jul 19, 1839, p. 3. Copyright ©



333 Broadway.

  MR. GOLDSMITH respectfully announces to the Ladies and Gentlemen of New York and Brooklyn, that his Writing and Book Keeping Academy is now open during the day and evening for the reception of pupils and visitors.

Mr. G. begs to assure all those who may felI [sic] themselves deficient in the most useful and elegant accomplishment of Penmanship, that he can impart to them with certainty,


a masterly command of the Pen, and an accurate acquaintance with the systematic principles which his own specimens and practical exemplifications will demonstrate, that they cannot possibly ever lose in their future practice.

Mr. G. has received the first premiums for the best specimens of OffHand Penmanship, exhibited at the two last Fairs of the American Institute, and will always feel gratified to illustrate his qualifications as a Teacher of Penmanship, by writing for his visitors.

Mr G. continues to qualify young gentlemen for Teachers of Penmanship in its various branches.

  For sale at the Academy, a superior article of Metallic Pens.


MR. GOLDSMITH —This gentlemen who is now permanently established in our city, is certainly one of the finest penman we have ever seen. He stepped into our office the ether day, and executed some specimens of plain business and ornamental writing, each excellent of its kind, with a despatch [sic] and facility that showed him to be a perfect master of that little instrument,

“ Foredoomed, alas ! to aid the mental throes

Of brains that labor big with verse or prose.”

We think the judges in awarding to Mr G the premium for best off-hand writing at the last two Fairs of the American Institute, did him no more than justice. — We cheerfully refer our readers to his advertisement. — N. Y. Times, Dec. 8.


PENMANSHIP. — We have now in this city a most accomplished professor and master of Penmanship — it is Mr. Goldsmith, of Broadway. We have seen him striking off with a facility that was perfectly enviable, the most complicated figures, in a manner truly beautiful. So skillful a performer cannot but make a good instructor. He professes to teach his act in a few lessons. There is no quackery about Goldsmith — try him.

S. M. Atlas

GOLDSMITH, Oliver B. Goldsmith’s Gems of Penmanship, containing various examples of the Caligraphic [sic] Art. New York: published by the author, 1846. In fine original wrappers. Second edition. Oblong folio (364 x 295mm). Author portrait after a daguerrotype, 19 lithographed calligraphic plates (foxing, a little offsetting). Original cloth-backed lithographed blue wrappers, with calligraphed designs on both covers (a few minor spots). gems-penmanship-467/150249?ldp_breadcrumb=back. Accessed 15 August 2022.

Examine Prof. Goldsmith’s work at leisure: enlarge the image and meditate on the art of his penmanship, look for the traces of his fluid grace in composure that Poe sees.

Notice of “Goldsmith’s Gems of Penmanship”, from the Evening Mirror (New York), December 30, 1844, vol. 1, no. 72, p. 2, col. 3, middle:


GOLDSMITH’S GEMS OF PENMANSHIP. — This is decidedly the most beautiful, useful, comprehensive work of the kind ever published in this country. The system by which Mr. Goldsmith has gained such a high reputation as a teacher of Penmanship, is clearly laid down and exquisitely illustrated by examples in this volume. The engraver has copied the manuscript of the author with great fidelity; and though it would seem almost impossible for the burin to trace the beautiful hair lines which so rapidly follow the sweep of Mr. Goldsmith’s pen; the artist, nevertheless, succeeded admirably. The work is a large Quarto, richly bound; and, besides a great variety of specimens of writings and off-hand pen-drawings, contains a lecture on penmanship, and other interesting articles, in letter press. The price, we believe, is five dollars. And is for sale at the author’s rooms, 189 Broadway. Accessed 15 August 2022.

Hull may not be convinced, but the tone is Poe’s, and we note his excitement during the sweep of the writing moment at hand in creating a work of calligraphic art as well as the praise of the system. What impels the words is what separates a clerky hand from an artist’s expression. Goldsmith teaches regularity and method as well, in his courses for bookkeepers.


The Broadway Journal Vol. 1 No. 09 1845




One would think that a clerk’s hand would not flourish, yet Poe writes of Wetmore’s “clerky flourishes” below.

Autography 05

Graham’s Magazine January 1842: 44-49

The name of Mr. PROSPER M. WETMORE is familiar to all readers of American light literature. He has written a great deal, at various periods, both in prose and poetry, (but principally in the latter) for our Papers, Magazines, and Annuals. Of late days we have seen but little, comparatively speaking, from his pen.

His MS. is not unlike that of Fitz-Greene Halleck, but is by no means so good. Its clerky flourishes indicate a love of the beautiful with an undue straining for effect — qualities which are distinctly traceable in his poetic efforts. As many as five or six words are occasionally run together; and no man who writes thus will be noted for finish of style. Mr. Wetmore is sometimes very slovenly in his best compositions.

Correct Position for holding the Pen in Flourishing

Gems of Penmanship, J.D. Williams and S.S. Packard, 1867.



From Sykes’s Manual of Penmanship, Manchester: Henry Blacklock & Company, Limited, n.d.




Sykes’s Manual of Penmanship, c. 1885   


From Benjamin Franklin Foster’s Penmanship, Theoretical and Practical 1843




B. F. Foster, Practical Penmanship 1830 (PDF)  

B. F. Foster, Penmanship, Theoretical and Practical 1843 (PDF)  


What caused the academy to close? It re-opens several times.

Broadway Journal vol. 2 no. 25 1845, 392


RE-OPENING OF GOLDSMITH’S WRITING ACADEMY, 289 Broadway—La Farge Buildings, Corner of Reade street. Terms reduced to Three Dollars, and no extra charge.

Mr. Oliver B. Goldsmith respectfully informs the citizens of New York and Brooklyn, that his rooms are now open, during the day and evening, for Pupils and Visitors. Mr. G’s. specimens of


have received the First Premium Five Years, from the American Institute, and he guarantees to all, in TEN EASY AND INTERESTING EXERCISES, a free and elegant style of writing, that the pupils cannot possibly ever lose in tneir future practice.

For sale, at the Academy, GOLDSMITH’S GEMS OF PENMANSHIP.

Ladies’ Class meets daily at 11 o’clock. Gentlemen’s day and evening. See circular.

The advertisement in the Post is virtually identical to that in the Journal, except that Mr. Goldsmith’s typographical proclivities have been followed perhaps more closely here.

The Evening Post (New York, New York) · 29 Sep 1845, Mon · Page 3

John J. Audubon creates this watercolor image of a marsh hawk circa 1828-37:

Accessed 21 August 2022.

Heidi Taylor-Caudill, curator of the John James Audubon State Park Museum, writes:

Goldsmith’s large calligraphic drawing, Marsh Hawk, is a demonstration of his creative and technical skills in offhand flourishing. Incredibly difficult to accomplish without lots of practice, confidence, and an eye for design, pictures made from flourishes are often done in one shot. The artist controls the motion of their arm and hand to precisely and rapidly draw graceful strokes, curves, and ovals across the surface of the page. This combination of form and movement produces intricate designs. Accessed 21 August 2022.


Visualize Poe watching Goldsmith’s flashing hand on stage. See his eyes track the sweeping yet precise, near-orchestral moves of “the Professor’s” arm. What is the professor wearing? A jacket would restrict. A vest?

Oliver B. Goldsmith, Marsh Hawk [detail] circa 1838-1860. L. S. Tyler Collection, JJA.1938.1262. Pen and ink on paper, 30.187″x 22″ Accessed 21 August 2022.

There is a trade art, and a fine art of chirography. Note the “transliteration” of the color Audubon sketch details into Goldsmith’s stylized black on white (“default”) flourishes. Both artists use pen and ink. Is Audubon’s work more legitimate than Goldsmith’s, more ... Art? Goldsmith travels in a universe of signage. Poe and he are fellow travelers, tYpoGraPhiCaL tOuRists.Closed“In the late 1880s American founders began to print in-jokes about disreputable characters (“gay cats”) in black “thousand-mile” shirts, out of date frock coats, worn shoes, and battered stovepipe hats, who would wander into small town print shops looking for work. These were worldly (& wordy) men who could set type swiftly and accurately, write an editorial, set up a poem from memory to fill a space, whittle a needed letter for a headline on the back of an old sort, make rollers, adjust the press — in short they could do any part of the work in a printing office. Their conversation was full of quotations from Shakespeare, the Bible and Horace Greeley.” 

Is the transliteration to binary (black/white) art reductive in any meaningful sense other than color? Do we betray a snobbery in our ranking if it is less ... Art? [The worst house in the best neighborhood, surely a poor investment.] We needn’t rhapsodize about compaction of signal.


Lion made up of flourishes. From Gaskell’s Complete Compendium of Elegant Writing: Comprised in a New Series of Beautiful Copy-slips for Self Intstruction in the Couting Room, the Office and at the Home Fireside. Manchester NH: G. A. Gaskell, Gaskell’s College, n.d. [c. 1875]


Star-Gazette (Elmira, New York) · 21 Mar 1935, Thu. p.11. Copyright © 2022.

One Louise Rice promotes herself as the Dean of American Graphologists in 1935. How many are there?


Detail from advertisement above.

“ — but, my dear, yours is not a cold disposition, as your writing tells me. And your boy friend is wrong in saying so. Try another boy friend — “


“You can win the very large degree of success which you want if you will take up the line of work which I recommend for you. You should — “




Poe and the Writing Hand