**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Autograph Hunter
by [?]

Some morning you find beside your plate at breakfast an imposing parchment with a great gold seal in the upper left-hand corner. This document–I am relating an actual occurrence–announces with a flourish that you have unanimously been elected an honorary member of The Kalamazoo International Literary Association. Possibly the honor does not take away your respiration; but you are bound by courtesy to make an acknowledgment, and you express your insincere thanks to the obliging secretary of a literary organization which does not exist anywhere on earth.

A scheme of lighter creative touch is that of the correspondent who advises you that he is replenishing his library and desires a detailed list of your works, with the respective dates of their first issue, price, style of binding, etc. A bibliophile, you say to yourself. These interrogations should of course have been addressed to your publisher; but they are addressed to you, with the stereotyped “thanks in advance.” The natural inference is that the correspondent, who writes in a brisk commercial vein, wishes to fill out his collection of your books, or, possibly, to treat himself to a complete set in full crushed Levant. Eight or ten months later this individual, having forgotten (or hoping you will not remember) that he has already demanded a chronological list of your writings, forwards another application couched in the self-same words. The length of time it takes him to “replenish” his library (with your books) strikes you as pathetic. You cannot control your emotions sufficiently to pen a reply. From a purely literary point of view this gentleman cares nothing whatever for your holograph; from a mercantile point of view he cares greatly and likes to obtain duplicate specimens, which he disposes of to dealers in such frail merchandise.

The pseudo-journalist who is engaged in preparing a critical and biographical sketch of you, and wants to incorporate, if possible, some slight hitherto unnoted event in your life–a signed photograph and a copy of your bookplate are here in order–is also a character which periodically appears upon the scene. In this little Comedy of Deceptions there are as many players as men have fancies.

A brother slave-of-the-lamp permits me to transfer this leaf from the book of his experience: “Not long ago the postman brought me a letter of a rather touching kind. The unknown writer, lately a widow, and plainly a woman of refinement, had just suffered a new affliction in the loss of her little girl. My correspondent asked me to copy for her ten or a dozen lines from a poem which I had written years before on the death of a child. The request was so shrinkingly put, with such an appealing air of doubt as to its being heeded, that I immediately transcribed the entire poem, a matter of a hundred lines or so, and sent it to her. I am unable to this day to decide whether I was wholly hurt or wholly amused when, two months afterward, I stumbled over my manuscript, with a neat price attached to it, in a second-hand bookshop.”

Perhaps the most distressing feature of the whole business is the very poor health which seems to prevail among autograph hunters. No other class of persons in the community shows so large a percentage of confirmed invalids. There certainly is some mysterious connection between incipient spinal trouble and the collecting of autographs. Which superinduces the other is a question for pathology. It is a fact that one out of every eight applicants for a specimen of penmanship bases his or her claim upon the possession of some vertebral disability which leaves him or her incapable of doing anything but write to authors for their autograph. Why this particular diversion should be the sole resource remains undisclosed. But so it appears to be, and the appeal to one’s sympathy is most direct and persuasive. Personally, however, I have my suspicions, suspicions that are shared by several men of letters, who have come to regard this plea of invalidism, in the majority of cases, as simply the variation of a very old and familiar tune. I firmly believe that the health of autograph hunters, as a class, is excellent.