possessions. The most celebrated collection formed in England in recent years is that of the late Mr Alfred Morrison, which still remains intact, and which is well known by means of the sumptuous catalogue, with its many facsimiles, compiled by the owner.
The rivalry of collectors and the high prices which rare or favourite autographs realize have naturally given encouragement to the forger. False letters of popular heroes and of popular authors, of Nelson, of Burns, of Thackeray, and of others, appear from time to time in the market: in some instances clever imitations, but more generally too palpably spurious to deceive any one with experience. Like the Shakespearean forgeries of Ireland, referred to above, the forgeries of Chatterton were literary inventions; and both were poor performances. One of the cleverest frauds of this nature in modern times was the fabrication, in the middle of the 19th century, of a series of letters of Byron and Shelley, with postmarks and seals complete, which were even published as bona fide documents (Brit. Mus., Add. MS. 19,377).
AUTOLYCUS, in Greek mythology, the son of Hermes and father of Anticleia, mother of Odysseus. He lived at the foot of Mount Parnassus, and was famous as a thief and swindler. On one occasion he met his match. Sisyphus, who had lost some cattle, suspected Autolycus of being the thief, but was unable to bring it home to him, since he possessed the power of changing everything that was touched by his hands. Sisyphus accordingly burnt his name into the hoofs of his cattle, and, during a visit to Autolycus, recognized his property. It is said that on this occasion Sisyphus seduced Autolycus's daughter Anticleia, and that Odysseus was really the son of Sisyphus, not of Laertes, whom Anticleia afterwards married. The object of the story is to establish the close connexion between Hermes, the god of theft and cunning, and the three persons—Sisyphus, Odysseus, Autolycus—who are the incarnate representations of these practices. Autolycus is also said to have instructed Heracles in the art of wrestling, and to have taken part in the Argonautic expedition.
AUTOLYCUS OF PITANE, Greek mathematician and astronomer, probably flourished in the second half of the 4th century B.C., since he is said to have instructed Arcesilaus. His extant works consist of two treatises; the one, Περὶ κινουμένης σφαίρας, contains some simple propositions on the motion of the sphere, the other, Περὶ ἐπιτολῶν καὶ δύσεων, in two books, discusses the rising and setting of the fixed stars. The former treatise is historically interesting for the light it throws on the development which the geometry of the sphere had already reached even before Autolycus and Euclid (see Theodosius of Tripolis).
AUTOMATIC WRITING, the name given by students of psychical research to writing performed without the volition of the agent. The writing may also take place without any consciousness of the words written; but some automatists are aware of the word which they are actually writing, and perhaps of two or three words on either side, though there is rarely any clear perception of the meaning of the whole. Automatic writing may take place when the agent is in a state of trance, spontaneous or induced, in hystero-epilepsy or other morbid states; or in a condition not distinguishable from normal wakefulness. Automatic writing has played an important part in the history of modern spiritualism. The phenomenon first appeared on a large scale in the early days (c. 1850–1860) of the movement in America. Numerous writings are reported at that period, many of considerable length, which purported for the most part to have been produced under spirit guidance. Some of these were written in “unknown tongues.” Of those which were published the most notable are Andrew J. Davis’s Great Harmonia, Charles Linton’s The Healing of the Nations, and J. Murray Spear’s Messages from the Spirit Life.
In England also the early spiritualist newspapers were filled with “inspirational” writing,—Pages of the Paraclete, &c. The most notable series of English automatic writings are the Spirit Teachings of the Rev. W. Stainton Moses. The phenomenon, of course, lends itself to deception, but there seems no reason to doubt that in the great majority of the cases recorded the writing was in reality produced without deliberate volition. In the earlier years of the spiritualist movement, a “planchette,” a little heart-shaped board running on wheels, was employed to facilitate the process of writing.
Of late years, whilst the theory of external inspiration as the cause of the phenomenon has been generally discredited, automatic writing has been largely employed as a method of experimentally investigating subconscious mental processes. Knowledge which had lapsed from the primary consciousness is frequently revealed by this means; e.g. forgotten fragments of poetry or foreign languages are occasionally given. An experimental parallel to this reproduction of forgotten knowledge was devised by Edmund Gurney. He showed that information communicated to a subject in the hypnotic trance could be subsequently reproduced through the handwriting, whilst the attention of the subject was fully employed in conversing or reading aloud; or an arithmetical problem which had been set during the trance could be worked out under similar conditions without the apparent consciousness of the subject.
Automatic writing for the most part, no doubt, brings to the surface only the débris of lapsed memories and half-formed impressions which have never reached the focus of consciousness—the stuff that dreams are made of. But there are indications in some cases of something more than this. In some spontaneous instances the writing produces anagrams, puns, nonsense verses and occasional blasphemies or obscenities; and otherwise exhibits characteristics markedly divergent from those of the normal consciousness. In the well-known case recorded by Th. Flournoy (Des Indes à la planète Mars) the automatist produced writing in an unknown character, which purported to be the Martian language. The writing generally resembles the ordinary handwriting of the agent, but there are sometimes marked differences, and the same automatist may employ two or three distinct handwritings. Occasionally imitations are produced of the handwriting of other persons, living or dead. Not infrequently the writing is reversed, so that it can be read only in a looking-glass (Spiegelschrift); the ability to produce such writing is often associated with the liability to spontaneous somnambulism. The hand and arm are often insensible in the act of writing. There are some cases on record in which the automatist has seemed to guide his hand not by sight, but by some special extension of the muscular sense (Carpenter, Mental Physiology, § 128; W. James, Proceedings American S.P.R. p. 554).
Automatic writing frequently exhibits indications of telepathy. The most remarkable series of automatic writings recorded in this connexion are those executed by the American medium, Mrs Piper, in a state of trance (Proceedings S.P.R.). These writings appear to exhibit remarkable telepathic powers, and are thought by some to indicate communication with the spirits of the dead.