By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Critical Essay on Characteristic-Writings - From his translation of The Moral Characters of Theophrastus (1725)
Author: Gally, Henry, 1696-1769
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Critical Essay on Characteristic-Writings - From his translation of The Moral Characters of Theophrastus (1725)" ***

[Transcriber's Note:
This e-text includes a few phrases in accented Greek. It should look
like this:
  Λυδὲ γένος, πολλῶν βασιλεύ, μέγα νήπιε Κροῖσε
    (Ludè génos, pollôn basileú, méga nêpie Kroîse)
If it does not display properly, use the transliterated (Latin-1)
version instead. ]

       *       *       *       *       *

         The Augustan Reprint Society

                  HENRY GALLY

  A Critical Essay on Characteristic-Writings

            from his translation of

     The Moral Characters of Theophrastus


            With an Introduction by
             Alexander H. Chorney

             Publication Number 33

                 Los Angeles
    William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
           University of California

       *       *       *       *       *


H. RICHARD ARCHER, _Clark Memorial Library_
RICHARD C. BOYS, _University of Michigan_
ROBERT S. KINSMAN, _University of California, Los Angeles_
JOHN LOFTIS, _University of California, Los Angeles_


W. EARL BRITTON, _University of Michigan_


EMMETT L. AVERY, _State College of Washington_
BENJAMIN BOYCE, _Duke University_
LOUIS BREDVOLD, _University of Michigan_
JAMES L. CLIFFORD, _Columbia University_
ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, _University of Chicago_
EDWARD NILES HOOKER, _University of California, Los Angeles_
LOUIS A. LANDA, _Princeton University_
SAMUEL H. MONK, _University of Minnesota_
ERNEST MOSSNER, _University of Texas_
JAMES SUTHERLAND, _University College, London_
H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., _University of California, Los Angeles_


EDNA C. DAVIS, _Clark Memorial Library_

       *       *       *       *       *


Henry Gally's _A Critical Essay on Characteristic-Writings_, here
reprinted, is the introductory essay to his translation of _The Moral
Characters of Theophrastus_ (1725). Of Gally's life (1696-1769) little
is known. Apparently his was a moderately successful ecclesiastical
career: he was appointed in 1735 chaplain-in-ordinary to George II. His
other published works consist of sermons, religious tracts, and an
undistinguished treatise on the pronunciation of Greek.

His essay on the character, however, deserves attention because it is
the first detailed and serious discussion by an Englishman of a literary
kind immensely popular in its day. English writers before Gally had, of
course, commented on the character. Overbury, for example, in "What A
Character Is" (_Sir Thomas Overbury His Wife..._ 1616) had defined the
character as "wit's descant on any plain-song," and Brathwaite in his
Dedication to _Whimzies_(1631) had written that character-writers must
shun affectation and prefer the "pith before the rind." Wye Saltonstall
in the same year in his Dedicatory Epistle to _Picturae Loquentes_ had
required of a character "lively and exact Lineaments" and "fast and
loose knots which the ingenious Reader may easily untie." These remarks,
however, as also Flecknoe's "Of the Author's Idea of a Character"
(_Enigmaticall Characters_, 1658) and Ralph Johnson's "rules" for
character-writing in _A Scholar's Guide from the Accidence to the
University_ (1665), are fragmentary and oblique. Nor do either of the
two English translations of Theophrastus before Gally--the one a
rendering of La Bruyère's French version,[1] and the other, Eustace
Budgell's _The Moral Characters of Theophrastus_ (1714)--touch more
than in passing on the nature of the character. Gally's essay, in which
he claims to deduce his critical principles from the practice of
Theophrastus, is both historically and intrinsically the most
important work of its kind.

Section I of Gally's essay, thoroughly conventional in nature, is
omitted here. In it Gally, following Casaubon,[2] theorizes that the
character evolved out of Greek Old Comedy. The Augustans saw a close
connection between drama and character-writing. Congreve (Dedication to
_The Way of the World_, 1700) thought that the comic dramatist Menander
formed his characters on "the observations of Theophrastus, of whom he
was a disciple," and Budgell, who termed Theophrastus the father of
modern comedy, believed that if some of Theophrastus's characters "were
well worked up, and brought upon the British theatre, they could not
fail of Success."[3] Gally similarly held that a dramatic character
and Theophrastan character differ only in

  the different Manner of representing the same Image. The _Drama_
  presents to the Eyes of a Spectator an Actor, who speaks and acts as
  the Person, whom he represents, is suppos'd to speak and act in real
  Life. The _Characteristic_ Writer introduces, in a descriptive manner,
  before a Reader, the same Person, as speaking and acting in the same

Section III of Gally's essay, like Section I thoroughly conventional,
is also omitted here. Gally attributes to Theophrastus the spurious
"Proem," in which Theophrastus, emphasizing his ethical purpose,
announces his intention of following up his characters of vice with
characters of virtue. At one point Gally asserts that Theophrastus
taught the same doctrine as Aristotle and Plato, but

  accommodated Morality to the Taste of the _Beau Monde_, with all the
  Embellishments that can please the nice Ears of an intelligent Reader,
  and with that inoffensive Satir, which corrects the Vices of Men,
  without making them conceive any Aversion for the Satirist.

It is Gally's concept of the character as an art-form, however, which
is most interesting to the modern scholar. Gally breaks sharply with
earlier character-writers like Overbury who, he thinks, have departed
from the Theophrastan method. Their work for the most part reflects
corrupted taste:

  A continued Affectation of far-fetched and quaint Simile's, which
  runs thro' almost all these Characters, makes 'em appear like so many
  Pieces of mere Grotesque; and the Reader must not expect to find
  Persons describ'd as they really are, but rather according to what
  they are thought to be like.

And Gally attacks one of the favorite devices of the seventeenth-century

  An Author, in this Kind, must not dwell too long upon one Idea; As
  soon as the masterly Stroke is given, he must immediately pass on
  to another Idea.... For if, after the masterly Stroke is given, the
  Author shou'd, in a paraphrastical Manner, still insist upon the same
  Idea, the Work will immediately flag, the Character grow languid, and
  the Person characteris'd will insensibly vanish from the Eyes of the

One has only to read a character like Butler's "A Flatterer" to
appreciate Gally's point. The Theophrastan method had been to describe
a character operatively--that is, through the use of concrete dramatic
incident illustrating the particular vice. The seventeenth-century
character is too often merely a showcase for the writer's wit. One
frequently finds a succession of ingenious metaphors, each redefining
from a slightly different angle a type's master-passion, but blurring
rather than sharpening the likeness.

Gally insists that the style of the character be plain and easy,
"without any of those Points and Turns, which convey to the Mind nothing
but a low and false Wit." The piece should not be tediously rambling,
but compact. It must have perfect unity of structure: each sentence
should add a significant detail to the portrait. The manner ought
to be lively, the language pure and unaffected.

As for the character-writer's materials, they are "Human Nature, in its
various Forms and Affections." Each character should focus on a single
vice or virtue, yet since "the Heart of Man is frequently actuated by
more Passions than one," subsidiary traits ought to be included to round
out the portrait (e.g., the covetous man may also be impudent, the
impudent man generous). Budgell had expressed a similar conception. A
character, he wrote, "may be compared to a Looking-glass that is placed
to catch a particular Object; but cannot represent that Object in its
full Light, without giving us a little Landskip of every thing else
that lies about it."[4] By Gally's time writers like Pascal, La
Rochefoucauld, and La Bruyère had done much to show the complex
and paradoxical nature of human behaviour. Gally, who praises La
Rochefoucauld as the one modern as well equipped as Theophrastus to
compose characters, reacts with his age against the stale types which
both comedy and the character had been retailing _ad nauseam_. Human
nature, says Gally, is full of subtle shadings and agreeable variations
which the character ought to exploit. He quotes Temple to the effect
that England is richer than any other nation in "original Humours" and
wonders that no one has yet attempted a comprehensive portrait-gallery
of English personality. Those writers who have come closest to Gally's
idea of how "humour" ought to be handled are the "great Authors" of the
_Tatlers_ and _Spectators_, with their "interspers'd Characters of Men
and Manners compleatly drawn to the Life."

In admiring the Roger de Coverley sketches, Gally typifies the
increasingly tolerant attitude of the Augustans toward eccentric
behavior.[5] Like Sterne and Fielding he is delighted by people whose
idiosyncracies are harmless and appealing. As for the harsh satiric
animus of a character-writer like Butler, it is totally alien to Gally,
who would chide good-naturedly, so as "not to seem to make any Attacks
upon the Province of Self-Love" in the reader. "Each Man," he writes,
"contains a little World within himself, and every Heart is a new
World." The writer should understand and appreciate, not ridicule,
an individual's uniqueness.

Of course, the character as Theophrastus wrote it described the type,
not the particular person. Gally, who sets up Theophrastus as his model,
apparently fails to realize that a "humourist" like Sir Roger verges on
individuality. Indeed, while discussing the need for writers to study
their own and other men's passions, he emphasizes that "without a
Knowledge of these Things, 'twill be impossible ever to draw a Character
so to the Life, as that it shall hit one Person, and him only." Here
Gally might well be talking of the Clarendon kind of portrait. If a
character is "one Person, and him only," he is no longer a type, but
somebody peculiarly himself.

Gally, then, is not as Theophrastan as he professes to be. True, he
harks back to Theophrastus in matters of style and technique. And he
does not criticize him, as does La Bruyère,[6] for paying too much
attention to a man's external actions, and not enough to his "Thoughts,
Sentiments, and Inclinations." Nevertheless his mind is receptive to
the kind of individuated characterization soon to distinguish the
mid-eighteenth century novel. The type is still his measuring-stick, but
he calibrates it far less rigidly than a Rymer analyzing Iago or Evadne.
A man can be A Flatterer or A Blunt Man and still retain a private
identity: this private identity Gally recognizes as important. Gally's
essay thus reflects fundamental changes in the English attitude toward
human nature and its literary representation.

Alexander H. Chorney
Fellow, Clark Library
Los Angeles, California

  Notes to the Introduction

  1. _The Characters, Or The Manners of the Age. By Monsieur De La
  Bruyère of the French Academy. Made English by several hands. With the
  Characters of Theophrastus..._ 1699. 2 vols.

  2. Isaac Casaubon's Latin edition of Theophrastus appeared in 1592 and
  was reprinted frequently during the seventeenth century.

  3. Eustace Budgell, _The Moral Characters of Theophrastus_ (1714),
  Preface, sig. a5.

  4. _Ibid._, sig. a6 verso.

  5. For a full account of the shift in attitude see Edward Miles
  Hooker, "Humour in the Age of Pope," _Huntington Library Quarterly_,
  XL (1948), 361-385.

  6. "A Prefatory Discourse concerning Theophrastus," in _The
  Characters, Or The Manners of the Age_, II, xxii.

       *       *       *       *       *

                Moral Characters


                Translated from
             The Greek, with Notes.
              To which is prefix’d

                CRITICAL ESSAY

        By Henry Gally, M.A. Lecturer of
         St. Paul’s Covent-Garden, and
      Rector of Wanden in Buckinghamshire.

  Respicere exemplar vitæ morumque jubebo
  Doctum imitatorem, & vivas hinc ducere voces.
                       Hor. in Art. Poet.

    Printed for John Hooke, at the _Flower-
 de-luce_ over-against St. _Dunstan’s_ Church in
          _Fleet-street_. MDCCXXV.

       *       *       *       *       *



The following Papers, which I now commit to the Public, have lain by
me unregarded these many Years. They were first undertaken at the
Request of a Person, who at present shall be nameless. Since that
Time I have been wholly diverted from Studies of this Nature, and
my Thoughts have been employed about Subjects of a much greater
Consequence, and more agreeable to my Profession: Insomuch, that I had
nothing in my Mind less than the Publication of these Papers; but some
Friends, who had perus’d them, were of Opinion, that they deserv’d to
be publish’d, and that they might afford an agreeable Entertainment
not without some Profit to the Reader. _These_ Motives prevailed upon
me to give _them_ a second Care, and to bestow upon them so much
Pains, as was necessary to put them in that State, in which they now

The first Piece that the Reader will meet with is, _A Critical
ESSAY on Characteristic-Writings_: It treats of the Origin of those
Writings: It points out the general Laws to be observ’d in such
Compositions, and it contains some Reflexions on _Theophrastus’s_ and
Mr. _de la Bruyere’s_ Performances in this Way. The Design of this at
least is, I think, new. Mr. _Fabricius_ mentions a [A]Book, which, by
its Title, shou’d bear some Relation to this Essay, but tho’ I have
enquir’d after it pretty strictly, yet I never cou’d get a Sight of
it, nor have I conversed with any Person that had perus’d it.

  [A: Georgii Paschii Professoris Kiloniensis Diatriba de
  philosophia Characteristica & Parænetica. 4to. _Kilonie._ 1705.
  Vid. Fabric. Bib. Græc. L. 3. p. 241.]

The next Piece is a Translation of the _Moral Characters of
Theophrastus_ from the _Greek_. This is not the first Time that
_Theophrastus_ has appeared in a modern Dress. Mr. _de la Bruyere_
translated him into _French_: And this was the Foundation of those
Characters, which he himself compos’d, and which gave Rise to those
many Performances, that were afterwards attempted in the same Way.
[B]Mr. _Menage_ has highly extoll’d this Translation. _Elle est_, says
he, _bien belle, & bien françoise, & montre que son Auteur entend
parfaitement le Grec. Je puis dire que j’y ay vu des Choses, que,
peut etre, Faute d’Attention, je n’avois pas vues dans le Grec._ This
is great; and it must be own’d that Mr. _Menage_ was a Man of very
extensive Learning, and a great Master of the _Greek_ Tongue; but that
his Judgment was always equal to his Knowledg of Words, will not be so
readily allow’d. Besides, the Credit of the Books ending in _ana_ runs
very low, and in particular the _Menagiana_ have been disown’d by Mr.
_Menage’s_ own [C]Relations, as being injurious to the Merit and
Memory of that great Man. And therefore it must still be left to the
inquisitive and judicious Reader to determine, whether those Faults,
which I have observ’d in Mr. _de la Bruyere’_s Translation are justly
censur’d or not.

  [B: Menagiana. Ed. _Paris._ 1715. T. 4. p. 219.]

  [C: Mr. _du Tremblay_. Traité des Langues. ad fin.]

The _Characters_ of _Theophrastus_ have been twice translated into
_English_. The former Translation is _anonymous_, and the latter was
done by the ingenious Mr. _Eustace Budgell_. It will be expected that
I shou’d say something of these two Translations. And I shall be the
more ready to do this, because I shall hereby insensibly lead the
Reader to the Reasons which induc’d me to undertake a

The anonymous _English_ Translation is said to have been done upon
the _Greek_. But this is only a Pretence, and a low Artifice of the
ignorant Translator: For in reality ’tis no more than a mean and
insipid Translation of the _French_ of Mr. _de la Bruyere_, revis’d
upon the _Latin_ of _Casaubon_, which answers almost verbally to the
Original _Greek_. If this were a Matter of Importance, I wou’d here
fully demonstrate it: For the Fact is so glaring, that tho’ the
Translator is wholly unknown to me, yet I can aver what I have
asserted to be Truth, almost as certainly, as if I had been an Eye
Witness to the doing of it_.

Mr. _Budgell_’s Translation must be own’d to be polite: But politeness
is not the only Qualification that is required in such a Translation.
The learn’d Reader, who understands the Original, will consider it in
a different View. And to judg of it according to those Rules which
Translators ought to observe, it must be condemned. In general, it is
not exact and accurate enough; but what is far worse, Mr. _Budgell_
gives, in too many Instances, his own Thoughts instead of representing
the true Sense of _Theophrastus_. This is perverting the _Humour_ of
the Original, and, in Effect, making a new Work, instead of giving
only a Translation. Mr. _Budgell_ ingenuously confesses, that he has
taken a great deal of Liberty; but when a Translator confesses thus
much, it does but give the Reader good Reason to suspect that instead
of taking a great deal, he has in reality taken too

Antient Authors (when they are translated) suffer in nothing more,
than in having the Manners and Customs, to which they allude,
transformed into the Manners and Customs of the present Age. By this
Liberty, or rather Licenciousness of Translators, Authors not only
appear in a different Dress, but they become unlike themselves, by
losing that peculiar and distinctive Character in which they excel.
This is most palpable in those Authors, whose Character consists in
_Humour_. Let any one read _Terence_, as he is translated by Mr.
_Echard_, and he will take him to have been a Buffoon: Whereas
_Terence_ never dealt in such a Kind of low Mirth. His true Character
is, to have afforded to his Spectators and Readers the gravest, and,
at the same Time, the most agreeable, most polite Entertainment of
any antient Author now extant. This is, in some Measure, the Case of
_Theophrastus:_ He has been transformed; and he has suffer’d in the
Transformation. What I have endeavoured is, to do him that Justice
which, I think, he has not hitherto met with, by preserving the native
Simplicity of his Characters, by retaining those antient Manners and
Customs which he alludes to, and keeping up the peculiar _Humour_ of
the Original as nearly, as the Difference of Language wou’d allow.
This is the Attempt; how far I have succeeded, must be let to the
judicious and curious Reader to determine. Thus much I thought
necessary to say concerning former Translations, in order to justify
my own Undertaking, which will not acquire an intrinsic Merit from the
Censures, that I have pass’d upon others. No: The Faults of others
cannot extenuate our own; and that Stamp, which every Work carries
along with it, can only determine of what Kind it really

The Reader will expect that I shou’d here say a Word or two
concerning the _Notes_ which follow the _Characters_. Some Authors or
Commentators (call them which you will) out of a vain Ostentation of
Literature, lay hold of the slightest of Opportunities to expose all
their Learning to the World, without ever knowing when they have said
enough: Insomuch, that in most Commentaries upon antient Authors, one
may sooner meet with a System of Antiquities, than with Solutions of
the real Difficulties of the Text. Consider’d barely as a Translator,
I lay under no immediate Necessity of writing _Notes_, but then as
I was highly concern’d, even in that Capacity, to lay before the
_English_ Reader, what I took to be the true Sense of the _Greek_,
and as I farther propos’d to preserve that particular _Humour_ of the
Original, which depends on those Manners and Customs which are alluded
to, I found, my self necessitated to add some _Notes_; but yet I have
endeavoured to shun that Fault, which I have already censur’d, by
saying no more, but what was immediately necessary, to illustrate
the Text, to vindicate a received Sense, or to propose a new one.

I am not conscious of having made any great Excursions beyond the
Bounds which these Rules prescrib’d to me, unless it is in the Chapter
concerning _Superstition_. And even here, unless the Commentary had
been somewhat copious, the Text it self wou’d have appear’d like a
motly Piece of mysterious Nonsense. Thus much I thought my self
oblig’d to do in Justice to _Theophrastus_; and as for the
Enlargements which I have made, over and above what wou’d have
satisfy’d this Demand, they will not, ’tis hop’d, be unacceptable to
the curious Reader. They are Digressions I own; but I shall not here
offer to make one Digression to execute another, or, according to the
Custom and Practice of modern Authors, beg a thousand Pardons of the
Reader, before I am certain of having committed one Offence. Such a
Procedure seems preposterous. For when an Author happens to digress,
and take a Trip ὑπὲρ τὰ ἐσκαμμένα, beyond the Bounds prescrib’d;
the best, the only consistent thing he can do, is to take his Chance
for the Event. If what he has said does not immediately relate to the
Matter in Hand, it may nevertheless be _a propos_, and good in its
Kind; and then instead of Censure, he will probably meet with Thanks;
but if it be not good, no prefatory Excuses will make it so: And
besides, it will ever be insisted on, that ’tis an easier Matter to
strike out bad Digressions, than it is to write good

One Word more, and then I have done. Since Mr. _Budgell_ has thought
fit to censure Mr. _de la Bruyere_, for troubling his Reader with
_Notes_, I think my self oblig’d, in order to justify both Mr. _de la
Bruyere_ and my self, to shew that this Censure is very unreasonable,
and very unjust.[D] Mr. _Budgell’s_ Words are as follow.

  _Theophrastus_, at the Time he writ, referr’d to nothing but what
  was well known to the meanest Person in _Athens_; but as Mr. _Bruyere_
  has manag’d it, by hinting at too many _Grecian_ Customs, a modern
  Reader is oblig’d to peruse one or two _Notes_, which are frequently
  longer than the Sentence it self he wou’d know the meaning of. But if
  those Manners and Customs, which _Theophrastus_ alludes to, were, in
  his Time, well known to the meanest _Athenian_, it does not follow
  that they are now so well known to a modern Reader.

  [D: Preface to his Translation of _Theophrastus_.]

_Mr. _de la Bruyere’s_ Fault does not consist in having put _Notes_
to his Translation, but rather in not having put enough. When a
Translator of an antient Author intends to preserve the peculiar
Character of the Original, _Notes_ become absolutely necessary to
render the Translation intelligible to a modern Reader. The Learn’d
may pass them over; and those, for whom _Explanatory Notes_ are
chiefly designed, must not think it too much Trouble, to bestow a
second Reading on the Text, after they have given a First to the
Whole. This Trouble (if any thing ought to be call’d so that conveys
Instruction) is no more than what many persons, who have attained to
no small share of Knowledg in the learn’d Languages, must submit to,
at the first Perusal of an Original Author. If in a translated Author
any Difficulties occur, on this Head, to a modern Reader, and the
Translator has taken Care to clear up those difficulties by adding
_Notes_, the modern Reader ought to thank him for his Pains, and not
think his Labour superfluous.

’Tis hop’d then that the _Notes_, that I have added, will be kindly
receiv’d. The Reader will nevertheless be at full Liberty to peruse
them, or to pass them over. If he if but so favourable as to approve
of the Translation it self, this will be a sufficient Satisfaction to
the Translator, and be looked upon as no finall Commendation of the
Performance. For a Translation, if it be well performed, ought in
Justice to be receiv’d as a good Commentary_.


There is no Kind of polite Writing that seems to require a deeper
Knowledge, a livelier Imagination, and a happier Turn of Expression
than the Characteristic. Human Nature, in its various Forms and
Affections, is the Subject; and he who wou’d attempt a Work of this
Kind, with some assurance of Success, must not only study other Men;
he has a more difficult Task to perform; he must study himself. The
deep and dark Recesses of the Heart must be penetrated, to discover
how Nature is disguis’d into Art, and how Art puts on the Appearance
of Nature.--This Knowledge is great; ’tis the Perfection of Moral
Philosophy; ’tis an inestimable Treasure: But yet if it shou’d fall
into the Hands of one, who wants proper Abilities to communicate his
Knowledge to the World, it wou’d be of no Service but to the Owner: It
wou’d make him, indeed, an able Philosopher, but not an able Writer of

The Mind has its peculiar Features as well as the Body; and these
must be represented in their genuine and native Colours, that so the
Picture may strike, and every Reader, who is concern’d in the Work,
may presently discover himself; and those, who are unconcern’d may,
nevertheless, immediately perceive a just Correspondence between that
Piece and Nature.

Every Action has its proper Thought, and every Thought its proper
Expression. And these Correspondences are not imaginary, but have a
real Foundation in Nature: For when any one of these is wanting, the
whole is lame and defective, but when they all meet and conspire
together, the Character is then genuine and compleat, the Thing
or Person design’d is drawn to the Life, and the Reader is left
uncertain, whether the Character, that lies before him, is an Effect
of Art, or a real Appearance of Nature.--A Master-Piece of this Kind,
requires the Hand of one who is a Critic in Men and Manners, a Critic
in Thoughts, and a Critic in Language.

A superficial Knowledge of human Nature, will never qualify a Man to
be a Writer of Characters. He must be a Master of the Science; and
be able to lead a Reader, knowingly, thro’ that Labyrinth of the
Passions, which fill the Heart of Man, and make him either a noble or
a despicable Creature. For tho’ some, who have never attempted any
thing of this kind, may think it an easy Matter to write two or three
Pages of Morality with Spirit, to describe an Action, a Passion, a
Manner; yet had they made the Experiment, the Event wou’d not have
answer’d their Expectation, and they wou’d have found, that this easy
Work was more difficult than they, at first, imagin’d.

The Features of every single Passion must be known; the Relation which
that Passion bears to another, must be discover’d; and the Harmony and
Discord which result from them must be felt. Many have studied these
Things, but few have thoroughly understood them. The Labour is vast;
’tis almost infinite; and yet without a Knowledge of these Things,
’twill be impossible ever to draw a Character so to the Life, as that
it shall hit one Person, and him only.

We have all of us different Souls, and our Souls have Affections
as different from one another, as our outward Faces are in their
Lineaments. Each Man contains a little World within himself, and
every Heart is a new World. We cannot therefore attain to a perfect
Knowledge of human Nature, by studying others or our selves alone, but
by studying both. ’Tis this Knowledge which sets the Philosopher above
the Peasant, and gives the Preference to one Author above another.
This Knowledge has a Force, something like to that of Magic Charms: by
the help of it one, who is Master of the Science, can turn Men inside
outwards, and expose them to the Eyes of the World, as they really
are, and not as they wou’d fain appear to be. By the help of this
Knowledge an intelligent Writer can form to his Reader the most
agreeable, most instructive Entertainment that can possibly be
desir’d; transport him, with the greatest Ease imaginable, from the
Solitude of his Chamber to Places of the greatest Concourse; there to
see and learn the Virtues of Men; there to see and shun their Vices,
without any danger of being corrupted by the Contagion of a real

How absolutely necessary a thorough Insight into the Heart and
Passions of Man is to a Writer of Characters, will be more evident by
descending to some Particulars, and pointing out some of those nice
Circumstances, which a Writer of Characters must accurately observe,
and by which his Capacity in this Way may be easily judg’d

It must be observ’d then, that the Heart of Man is frequently actuated
by more Passions than one: And as the same Object does, by its
different Position, afford to the Spectator different Representations,
so does the same Affection of the Mind, by exerting it self after a
different manner, lay a real Foundation for so many distinct
Characters. The under Passions may, by their various Operations, cause
some Diversity in the Colour and Complexion of the Whole, but ’tis the
Master-Passion which must determine the Character.

Since therefore the under Parts of a Character are not essential, they
may or may not be reciprocal. A covetous Man may be impudent, or he
may have some share of Modesty left: On the other Hand, an impudent
Man may be generous, or his Character may be stain’d by Avarice. And
therefore to make the Features of one Virtue or Vice enter, as under
Parts, into the Character of another Virtue or Vice, is so far from
being a Transgression of the Nature of Things, that, on the contrary,
all the Beauty of _Characteristic-Writing_, and all the Beauty which
arises from the Variety of an agreeable Mixture, entirely depends on
_this_. The main Difficulty consists in making the Master-Passion
operate so conspicuously throughout the Whole, as that the Reader may,
in every step of the Performance, immediately discover

The Truth of it is, that there are some Affections of the Mind, which
not only constitute of themselves a distinct Virtue or Vice, but are
also the Foundation of many others. Avarice is of this extensive
Nature; it constitutes, of it self, a distinct Character, and it
enters into the Competition of several others. St. _Paul_ says, that
_the love of money is the root of all evil_; which Maxim the spurious
_Phocylides_ has express’d in the following Verse,

  Ἡ φιλοχρημοσύνη μήτηρ κακότητος ἁπάσης.

This Doctrine may be made yet more sensible by applying it to the
Practice of _Theophrastus_, whose Conduct, in this Respect, ought
to be look’d upon as an authentick Pattern. Rusticity, Avarice and
Impudence, are in their own Nature distinct Vices, but yet there is a
very near Relation between them, which has a real Foundation in the
Actions of Men. And, as on the one Hand, _Theophrastus_ has drawn
distinct Characters of these Vices, so, on the other Hand, he has made
the peculiar Features of one or more of these Vices enter into the
Characters of the other. This is Matter of Fact; and if the Reader
will be at the Pains to compare the _6th_, _9th_, and _11th_,
Chapters, as he will be perswaded of the Truth of what is here
asserted, so will he be convinc’d, at the same Time, that
_Theophrastus_ has not confounded by this Mixture the real Nature
of Things, or transgress’d thereby, in any wise, the Rules of

Again; Loquacity and an ill-tim’d Behaviour are two very different
Vices in common Conversation; but yet _Theophrastus_ has concluded his
Character of Loquacity, with the same Stroke which begins that of an
ill-tim’d Behaviour; because tho’ these Vices are of a different
Nature, yet do they not exclude each other; and the Actions of Men
manifestly prove, that they are frequently to be found in the same

The nice Reader therefore, instead of being offended to find the
peculiar Features of one Vice interspers’d in the Character of
another, ought, on the contrary, to admire the Judgment and Accuracy
of _Theophrastus_ in this Respect: For this Mixture does not proceed
from Inaccuracy, but is founded in Nature: And ’tis the Work of a
sagacious Head, as well to discover the near Relations that are
between different things, as to separate those Things, which by
Nature are nearly related, but yet are really distinct.

The Beauty of every Kind of Writing arises from the Conformity
which it bears to Nature; and therefore the Excellency of
_Characteristic-Writings_ must consist in exact Representations of
human Nature.--This Harmony between Art and Nature may be call’d
Justice: And tho’ the Boundaries of it may be more extensive in those
Works, in which a greater Range is allow’d to the Imagination, yet
still, Invention and Fiction must be admitted in _Characteristic-
Writings_, when the Characters design’d are of a general Nature;
for then the Writer does not copy from an individual Original, and
all the Extravagances of Nature are natural, when they are well

It requires, I own, a great deal of Penetration to hit exactly this
Point of Reality: But then it must be confess’d, that as the great
difficulty of _Characteristic-Writing_ consists in this, so does the
main Beauty and Force of it too: For Objects are apt to affect and
move us according to their Presence or Absence; and a Character will
naturally strike us more forcibly, the more the Images, which it
consists of, are lively and natural; because the Object is then most
present to our Mind.

Since every Feature must be drawn exactly to the Life, great Care must
be taken, that the Strokes be not too faint, nor yet too strong: For
Characteristic-Justice is to be observ’d as strictly by the Writers of
this Kind, as Poetic-Justice is to be by Poets. That Medium must be
copied, which Nature it self has mark’d out; whatever falls short of
it is poor and insipid, whatever is above it is Rant and

  [E] _Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi._

    And whatsoever contradicts my Sense,
    I hate to see, and never can believe.
      Ld. _Roscommon_.

  [E: Horat. Art. Poet. _v._ 188.]

A consummate Delicacy of Sentiments, and an exquisite Judgment are the
very Soul of _Characteristic-Writing_; for every particular Stroke, as
well as the whole Character, has a proper Degree of Perfection. To
attain this Point, and to bring the several Parts, as well as the
Whole, exactly to this Pitch, is the Work of a sagacious Head, and
of a perfect Judgment.--An Author, in this Kind, must not dwell too
long upon one Idea: As soon as the masterly Stroke is given, he must
immediately pass on to another Idea. This will give Life to the Work,
and serve to keep up the Spirit of the Writing, and of the Reader too:
Forif, after the masterly Stroke is given, the Author shou’d, in a
paraphrastical Manner, still insist upon the same Idea, the Work will
immediately flag, the Character grow languid, and the Person
characteris’d will insensibly vanish from the Eyes of the

An honest Writer, who has the Profit as well as the Pleasure of his
Reader in View, ought always to tell the Truth. But as he is at
Liberty to chuse his manner of telling it, so that Method of
Instruction ought to be observ’d in _Characteristic-Writings_,
which will keep up the good Humour of the Reader, altho’ he is, at
the same Time, made sensible of his Errors. And this Artifice ought
industriously to be pursu’d, since the proper Management of it is so
necessary to the Success of _Characteristic-Writings_. For those who
love and admire Truth themselves, must yet be sensible that ’tis
generally unwelcome, both to themselves and to others, when the Point
of Self-Interest is concern’d. And the Reason of it is, not because
Truth is really ugly and deform’d, but because it presents to our View
certain Inconsistencies and Errors, which Self-Love will not allow us
to condemn. And therefore the great Art and Difficulty, in making
Truth pleasant and profitable, is so to expose Error, as not to seem
to make any Attacks upon the Province of Self-Love.

  [F] _Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico
  Tangit, & admissus circum præcordia ludit,
  Callidus excusso Populum suspendere naso._

  [F: Persius Sat. I. V. 116, &c.]

      ----With conceal’d Design,
    Did crafty _Horace_ his low Numbers join:
    And, with a sly insinuating Grace,
    Laugh’d at his Friend, and look’d him in the Face:
    Wou’d raise a Blush, where secret Vice he found;
    And tickle, while he gently prob’d the Wound.
    With seeming Innocence the Crowd beguil’d;
    But made the desp’rate Passes, when he smil’d.
      Mr. _Dryden_.

This was the Character of one of the greatest _Roman_ Poets; and in
this Art, amongst the Moderns, [G]_Benserade_ particularly excell’d,
if we may believe his Successor and Panegyrist _Pavillon_.

  [G: Dictionaire de _Bayle_. Artic. _Benserade._ Not. L.]

What is the proper Style for _Characteristic-Writings_ is briefly laid
down by [H]_Libanius_ in the following Words. Ἐργάση τὴν ἠθοποιίαν
χαρακτῆρι σαφεῖ, συντόμῳ, ἀνθηρῷ, ἀπολύτῳ, ἀπηλλαγμένῳ πάσης πλοκῆς
τε καὶ σχήματος. “When you describe Manners you must use a plain,
concise, florid, easy Style, free from all artificial Turns and
Figures.” Every Thing must be even, smooth, easy and unaffected;
without any of those Points and Turns, which convey to the Mind
nothing but a low and false Wit, in which our Moderns so much abound,
and in which they seem to place their greatest Beauties.

  [H: Ap. _Is. Casaub._ Proleg. ad Theophrast.]

The primary Standard for Style is the Nature of the Subject: And
therefore, as _Characteristic-Writings_ are professed Representations
of Nature, an Author in this Way is immediately concern’d to use a
simple and natural Style: Nor has he any Reason to fear, that this
will any ways prejudice his Performance, and make it appear low, flat
and insipid; for in Reality there is nothing more noble than a true
Simplicity, and nothing more beautiful than Nature, when it appears in
the easy Charms of its own native Dress.

In _Characteristic-Writings_ both the Way of Thinking and the Style
must be Laconic: Much must be contained in a little Compass. Brevity
of Diction adds new Life to a good Thought: And since every perfect
Stroke ought to be a distinct Representation of a particular Feature,
Matters shou’d be so order’d, that every perfect Sentence may contain
a perfect Thought, and every perfect Thought may represent one

Many other Particulars might have been observ’d and recommended to
those, who wou’d attempt a Performance in this Kind, with some
Assurance of Success. The Laws of good Writing, in general, may and
ought to be applied to _Characteristic-Writing_, in particular, as far
as the Nature of it will bear. But to pursue these Things accurately,
wou’d carry me beyond the Bounds which the Title of this Work
prescribes to me. To shew the peculiar Nature; to point out
the principal Beauties, and to lay down the general Laws of
_Characteristic-Writing_, is all that was propos’d. Besides, I shall
have Occasion, in the Sequel of this Essay, to make some further
Observations relating to the Constitution of _Characteristic-Writings_;
which, to prevent Repetitions, I forbear mentioning here; but if the
Reader be religious in the Observance of a strict Method, he is at
full Liberty to alter the Situation of them, and to refer them to this


Mr. _de la Bruyere_ has given us a Translation of the Characters of
_Theophrastus_; to which he has annex’d what he calls the Characters
or Manners of the present Age. This Work was receiv’d with Applause,
and the Author gain’d by it a great Reputation amongst Men of polite
Literature. And if to make a great deal of Noise in the World, and to
undergo several Editions, were infallible Proofs of the intrinsick
Merit of a Book, Mr. _de la Bruyere_’s Performance would, upon both
these Accounts, sufficiently recommend itself to our Approbation.
--I confess, there are very considerable Beauties in this Piece: but
yet if it should be examin’d by those Rules of Characteristic-Writing,
which I have already mention’d, and which I take to be essential to
Performances in this Kind, I am afraid it would not be able, in every
Respect, to stand the Test of an impartial Examination.

I do not intend to enter upon an exact Critique of this Piece; the
intended Brevity of this Essay will permit me to take Notice of but
some few Particulars.--I have no Design or Desire to derogate from the
Reputation of the deceas’d Author; but this I take to be a standing
Rule in Critical Writings, as well as in judicious Reading, that we
ought not to be so struck with the Beauties of an Author, as to be
blind to his Failings; nor yet so prejudiced by his Failings, as to
be blind to his Beauties.

The original Design of Characteristic-Writings is to give us real
Images of Life. An exact Imitation of Nature is the chief Art which is
to be us’d. The Imagination, I own, may be allow’d to work in Pieces
of this Kind, provided it keeps within the Degrees of Probability; But
Mr. _de la Bruyere_ gives us Characters of Men, who are not to be
found in Nature; and, out of a false Affectation of the Wonderful, he
carries almost every thing to Excess; represents the Irregularities of
Life as downright Madness, and by his false Colours converts Men into

[I]_Troilus_ is a very supercilious Man: And ’tis no ways inconsistent
with this Character to suppose, that he may entertain a natural
Antipathy against an ugly Face, or a bad Voice; but our Author
represents him as labourirg under this Distemper to such a Degree of
Excess, as, I believe, has never been observ’d in any Man. I do not
know by what Name it may be call’d. _Troilus_ conceives an immediate
Aversion against a Person that enters the Room where he is; he shuns
him, flies from him, and will throw himself out at the Window, rather
than suffer himself to be accosted by one, whose Face and Voice he
does not like.--Is this Humour, or, rather, are not these the genuine
Symptoms of Madness and Phrenzy? And if _Troilus_ does really act
after this manner, is he not rather an Object of Pity, than a Subject
for Humour and Ridicule?

  [I: De la Societè & de la Conversation. Ad init.]

The Character of _Cleanthes_, in the same [K]Chapter, is a
Misrepresentation of Nature.--“_Cleanthes_ is a very honest Man; he
has chosen a Wife, who is the best and the most reasonable Woman in
the World: They, each of them, in their respective Ways, make up all
the Pleasure and Agreeableness of the Company they are in: ’Tis
impossible to meet with more Probity or Politeness. They part to
Morrrow, and the Deed of their Separation is ready drawn up at the
Notary’s. There are, certainly, some Kinds of Merit that were never
made to be together, and some Virtues that are incompatible.” But
those who are endow’d with such good Qualities, as Mr. _de la Bruyere_
ascribes to _Cleanthes_ and his Wife, can never agree to a willful
Separation. Nay, ’tis a Contradiction to their Character to suppose
that either of ’em is faln into those Circumstances, which only can
make a Separation become lawful and just. ’Tis true, some Virtues and
Accomplishments, as well as some Vices, may be inconsistent with each
other. But to apply this Maxim to the present Case must betray a great
Want of Judgment and Knowledge in the Nature of Things: For where can
one expect to meet with a more perfect Harmony of Virtues, than in the
reciprocal Honesty, Reason and Good-breeding of _Cleanthes_ and his

  [K: Ibid. fere.]

An absent Man often acts out of the Way of common Life, when the Fit
of Absence is upon him; but that this Fit should dwell upon a Man,
so long as it does upon Mr. _de la Bruyere_’s[L] _Menalcas_ I confess,
passes my Belief.--_Menalcas_ rises in the Morning; and from that Time
till he goes to Bed again, he never recovers from his Fit of Absence:
The Distractions of his Mind admit of no Cessation or Interruption:
His whole Life is a continued Series of the greatest Follies.
_Menalcas_ is really never _Menalcas_; he has no lucid Intervals;
he is always another Man.

  [L: C. de l’Homme.]

If we consult the Operations of our Soul, to discover the proper
Causes of what is call’d _Absence of Mind_, we shall perceive that
the Powers of it are sometimes contracted within themselves by a
Multiplicity of Thought: In these Cases the inward Exercise of the
Soul makes it unable to attend to any outward Object. But at other
Times the Soul wanders from itself; and in these Cases the Soul being
conversant about remote Objects, cannot immediately recover itself, so
as to reflect duly on those which are present. So that this Absence of
the Mind must proceed, either from a Fulness and Intention of Thought,
or from a Want of Reflexion. If it proceeds from a Fulness of Thought,
I say ’tis impossible for the Mind to keep bent so long, as that of
_Menalcas_ does: It must necessarily have some Relaxations. If it
proceeds from a Want of Reflexion, it must be confess’d, that he who
can live so many Hours without reflecting, must be either wholly
stupid, or some Degrees below the Species of Mankind.

But what makes the Character of _Menalcas_ still more ridiculous
and unnatural is, that he is stupid and sensible at the same
Time.--_Menalcas_ is in the Drawing-Room at Court; and walking very
majestically under a Branch of Candlestics; his Wig is caught up by
one of them, and hangs dangling in the Air. All the Courtiers fall a
laughing.--_Menalcas_ unluckily loses his Feeling, but still retains
the Use of his Ears. He is insensible that his Wig is taken off his
Head; but yet is so happy as to hear the loud Mirth of the Courtiers,
and has still so much good Humour left as to join in Company with
them.--_Menalcas_ plays at Backgammon.--He calls for a Glass of Water;
’tis his Turn to throw; he has the Box in one Hand and the Glass in
the other; and being extremely dry, and unwilling to lose Time, he
swallows down both the Dice and almost the Box, and at the same
Time throws the Glass of Water into the Tables.--If this is not
to overstrain the Bow, to carry Things to an unnatural Excess and
Extravagance, and to make no Distinction between Absence of Mind and
Insensibility, or downright Folly, I confess, I know not what is. _Mr.
de la Bruyere_ should have consider’d, that a Man, who has lost his
Feeling, is not, in that Respect, a proper Subject for Ridicule,
and that ’tis no Jest to take away a Man’s Senses. Extravagances of
this Nature are no Beauties in any Kind of Writing, much less in
Characteristics. In Performances of this Kind there must be Spirit and
Strength, but especially there must be Justice. The real Images of
Life must be represented, or the Probabilities of Nature must strictly
be observ’d.

  [M] _Respicere exemplar vitæ morumque jubebo
  Doctum imitatorem, & vivas hinc ducere voces._

    These are the likeliest Copies, which are drawn
    By the Original of human Life.
      Ld. _Roscommon_.

  [M: Horat. in Art. Poet. _v._ 317, &c.]

The Strokes which compose a Character must be bold, but not
extravagant. Nature must not be distorted, to excite either Ridicule
or Admiration. Reason must hold the Reins of the Imagination: Judgment
must direct the Fancy; otherwise we shall be apt to miscarry, and
connect inconsistent Ideas, at the very Time, when we think we hit the
Point of Humour to the Life.

The only Thing that can be said to excuse Mr. _de la Bruyere_ on this
Head, is what the Abbot _Fleury_ has alledg’d to his Praise; namely,
[N]that his Characters are sometimes loaded, on purpose that they
might not too nearly resemble the Persons design’d.

  [N: On trouve dans ses Characteres une severe Critique, des
  Expressions vives, des Tours ingenieux, des Peintures quelquefois
  chargeés exprés, pour ne les pas faire trop ressemblantes.
  _Discours prononcé dans l’Academie Française._ 1696.]

’Tis very dangerous, I confess, to make free with the Characters of
particular Persons; for there are some Men in the World, who, tho’
they are not asham’d of the Impropriety of their own

Manners, yet are they easily offended at the public Notice which is
taken of ’em. But tho’ Mr. _de la Bruyere_ might have very good
prudential Reasons for not making his Characters too particular, yet
those Reasons cannot be urg’d, as a just Plea for his transgressing
the Bounds of Characteristic-Justice, by making his Images unnatural.

In every Kind of Writing there is something of an establish’d Nature
which is essential to it. To deviate from this, is to deviate from
Nature it self. Mr. _de la Bruyere_ is not the only _French_ Man who
is guilty in this Point. Others of his Country-Men have committed much
the same Fault in Pastoral and Comedy. Out of a vain Affectation of
saying something very extraordinary and remarkable, they have departed
from the nature of Things: They have given to the Simplicity of the
Country, the Airs of the Town and Court, introduced upon the Stage
Buffoonry and Farce instead of Humour; and by misrepresenting the real
Manners of Men, they have turn’d Nature into Grimace.

The main Beauty of _Characteristic-Writings_ consists in a certain
Life and Spirit, which the Writer ought to endeavour to keep up, by
all the Arts which he is Master of. Nothing will contribute to this
more, than the Observance of a strict Unity in the very Conception of
a Character: For Characters are Descriptions of Persons and Things, as
they are such: And, as [O]Mr. _Budgell_ has very judiciously observ’d,
“If the Reader is diverted in the midst of a Character, and his
Attention call’d off to any thing foreign to it, the lively Impression
it shou’d have made is quite broken, and it loses more than half its
Force.” But if this Doctrine be applied to the Practice of Mr. _de la
Bruyere_, it will find him Guilty. He sometimes runs his Characters
to so great a Length, and mixes in ’em so many Particulars and
unnecessary Circumstances, that they justly deserve the Name, rather
of Histories than Characters.--Such is the [P]Article concerning
_Emira_. ’Tis an artful Description of a Woman’s Vanity, in pretending
to be insensible to the Power of Love, merely because she has never
been exposed to the Charms of a lovely Person; and there is nothing in
this Character, but what is agreeable to Nature, and carried on with a
great deal of Humour. But the many Particulars which Mr. _de la
Bruyere_ has drawn into the Composition of it, and which, in Truth,
are not essential to the main Design, have quite chang’d the Nature of
the Character, and converted it into a History, or rather a little
Romance.--’Tis true, Histories are Pictures as well as Characters; but
yet there will ever be as wide a Difference between ’em, as there is
between a Picture at full Length, and one in Miniature.

  [O: Preface to _Theophrastus_.]
  [P: C. des Femmes. ad fin.]

The [Q]Characters of _Giton_ and _Phebon_ are humorous enough. And
they are allow’d to be kept within the just Bounds of Probability. But
Mr. _de la Bruyere_ has heap’d up so many Particulars and unnecessary
Circumstances, which do not convey any new Ideas, that the Characters
grow languid and tedious.--_Giton_ is respected; every thing that he
says or does is approved of. _Phebon_ is despis’d; no Notice is taken
of what he says or does. The Reason of this Difference is not so
mysterious, but that it may be told in less than two or three Pages.
_Giton_ is rich, and _Phebon_ is poor.

  [Q: C. id. ibid. feré.]

Sometimes there is such a Confusion in Mr. _de la Bruyere’s_ Designs,
that one cannot easily discover whether he intended to draw the
Character of a particular Person, or to make a Picture of some
prevailing Vice, or only a moral Reflexion.--Such is the [R]Article of
_Zenobia_. Was it design’d for the Character of _Zenobia_? But ’tis
rather a Description of the Magnificence, and beautiful Situation of
the Palace, which she was then building. Or was it design’d to censure
and lash the Publicans of the Age, for the Extortions which they
practis’d, and the immense Riches which they amass’d by Fraud and
Oppression? But this Satir comes in only by the by, and in a very
jejune Manner. Or lastly, was it intended only for a moral Reflexion
on the sudden Revolutions and Vicissitudes of Fortune? But the Length
of this Article is inconsistent with the nature of a Reflexion; and if
any thing like this was intended, it must come in as the ἐπιμύθιον,
the Moral of the Fable; which will make the Contents of this Article,
still more different from the nature of a Character, than any thing
that has yet been mentioned.

  [R: C. des Biers de Fortune. sub fin.]

’Tis not enough that a Character be drawn conformable to that
Existence which it really has, or probably may have in Nature: It must
further be cloath’d in proper Sentiments, and express’d in a simple
and natural Style. But Mr. _de la Bruyere_, consider’d as a Writer of
Characters, is too affected in his way of Thinking, and too artificial
in the Turn of his Expressions.

The previous Apology which he made for himself in this Point, is so
far from the Purpose, that nothing is more so.

  Recollecting, [S]says he, that amongst the Writings ascrib’d to
  _Theophrastus_ by _Diogenes Laertius_, there is one which bears the
  Title of _Proverbs_, i.e. of loose unconnected Observations, and
  that the most considerable Book of Morality, that ever was made,
  bears that Name in the sacred Writings; we have been excited by
  such great Examples to imitate, according to our Capacity, a like
  Way of Writing concerning Manners.

--’Tis true, that in the Catalogue of _Theophrastus _ his Works,
preserv’d by [T]_Diogenes Laertius_, there is one Book under the Title
περὶ παροιμιῶν concerning _Proverbs_: But that, probably, was nothing
but a Collection of some of those short, remarkable, useful, pithy
Sayings, which are of common Use in the World, and which every Nation
has peculiar to it self. However, tho’ we cannot exactly tell, what the
Nature of that Performance was, because the Book is now lost, yet we are
certain, on the other Hand, that the Design of _Solomon_ was not to
write Characters, but to deliver some Maxims of Morality by way of
Advice and Instruction. So that for a profess’d Writer of Characters,
to take a Book of _Proverbs_ for a Model, is as inconsistent, as if any
one, who intended to compose an Oration, shou’d form his Diction upon a
Poem. _Proverbs_ consist of short Sentences, which contain in themselves
a full and compleat Sense; and therefore they do not essentially require
a strict Relation and Correspondence; but _Characteristic-Writings_
do require such a strict Relation and Correspondence. And Mr. _de la
Bruyere_ is so faulty in this Point, that almost every where he has no
visible Connexion. --_Characteristic-Writings_ ought, I own, to have a
lively Turn, and a Laconic Air: but there is a wide Difference between
using a concise Manner, and writing as many Aphorisms as

  [S: Discours sur _Theophraste_.]
  [T: Lib. 5. Segm. 45.]

How far Mr. _de la Bruyere_ is defective as to Propriety of Style and
Justness of Expression, I chuse to set down in the Words of one of his
[V]Countrymen, a very judicious Writer, and a better Judge in this
Matter than I pretend to be.

  [V: Melanges de Vigneul Marville. _Edit. Rot._ T. 1. p. 336.]

  Mr. _de la Bruyere_, qui n’a point de Style formé, ecrivant au
  hazard, employe des Expressions outrées en des Choses tres communes;
  & quand il en veut dire de plus relevées, il les affoiblit par des
  Expressions basses, & fait ramper le fort avec le foible. Il tend
  sans relache a un sublime qu’il ne connoit pas, & qu’il met tantot
  dans les choses, tantot dans les Paroles, sans jamais attraper le
  Point d’Unité, qui concilie les Paroles avec les choses, en quoi
  consiste tout le Secret, & la Finesse de cette Art merveilleux.

--This is the Censure which an ingenious Author, under the feign’d
Name of _Vigneul Marville_, has pass’d upon Mr. _de la Bruyere’s_
Style. However, I think my self oblig’d in Justice to inform the
Reader, that Mr. _Coste_, in his Defence of Mr. _de la Bruyere_, has
endeavour’d to prove that this Censure is ill grounded. But I will not
pretend to decide in a Case of this Nature. Matters relating to Style
are the nicest Points in Learning: The greatest Men have grosly err’d
on this Subject. I only declare my own Opinion on the Matter, that Mr.
_de la Bruyere_’s Style appears to me forc’d, affected, and improper
for Characteristic Writings. Several ingenious _French_ Gentlemen, who
have themselves writ with Applause in this Language, entertain the
same Sentiments, and have ingenuously confess’d to me, that they could
never read ten Pages together of Mr. _de la Bruyere_, without feeling
such an Uneasiness and Pain, as arises from a continued Affectation
and a perpetual Constraint. But the Reader is still left free. To form
a right Judgment on Correctness is an easy Matter by the ordinary
Rules of Grammar, but to do the same concerning the Turn and Air, and
peculiar Beauties of Style, depends on a particular Taste: They are
not capable of being prov’d to those who have not this Taste, but to
those who have it, they are immediately made sensible by a bare
pointing out.

The running Title which Mr. _de la Bruyere_ has given to his Book
does, by no Means, square with the several Parts of it. With Relation
to my present Purpose I observe, that, strictly speaking, this
Performance is, but in Part, of the Characteristic-Kind. The
Characters, which are interspers’d in it, being reducible to a very
narrow Compass, and the main Body of it consisting of miscellaneous
Reflexions. And these are not confin’d, as is pretended, only to the
present Age, but extend themselves both to past and present Times. So
that if Mr. _de la Bruyere_ had, with his View, chosen another Title
for his Book, tho’ it wou’d not have been so uncommon, yet wou’d it
have been more proper than the present Title; and the Performance it
self wou’d then, in some Measure, have less deserv’d

Tho’ Mr. _de la Bruyere’s_ Work is not perfect in that Kind, in which
it is pretended to excel, it must nevertheless be confess’d, that it
has many Beauties and Excellencies. To deny this, wou’d be an Affront
to the Judgment of the Gentlemen of the _French_ Academy: But yet our
Complaisance ought not, cannot go so far, as to prejudice our own
Judgment. We cannot think, as [X]some of ’em did, that Mr. _de la
Bruyere_ has excell’d _Theophrastus_, the great Original which he
propos’d to himself. Mr. _de la Bruyere_ had a more modest Opinion
of himself: He wou’d have been proud of the Title of _little
Theophrastus_. And in Truth, it deserves no small Share of Praise, to
come up to _Theophrastus_ in any Degree of Comparison.--If then Mr.
_de la Bruyere_ has committed some Faults, ’tis nothing but what
others have done, both before and since him: But if he has, as I have
already allow’d him to have, some considerable Beauties; ’tis more
than a great many other Authors have, tho’ of greater Bulk: And these
Excellencies ought in Justice to be admitted as some Excuse for those

  [X: Discours de l’Abbé Fleury deja cité.]


Theophrastus has not only prevented, but he has also out-done the
Moderns in _Characteristic-Writings_. Yet Mr. _de la Rochefoucault_
had an extraordinary Genius. He seems to be the only one, amongst
all the Moderns, who was equal to so great a Work. He had studied Man
in himself; and, in a small Collection of moral Reflexions, he has
laid open the various Forms and Folds of that Heart, which by Nature
is deceitful above all Things. He has given us, as it were, the
Characters of all Mankind, by discovering those secret Springs of Self
Love, which are the Source of all our _Actions_.--Self Love is born
with us; and this great Author has shewn, that there is no Principle
in human Nature so secret, so deceitful: ’Tis so Hypocritical, that it
frequently imposes on it self, by taking the Appearances of Virtue for
Virtue it self. It borrows all the Disguises of Art: It appears in a
thousand Forms, and in a thousand Shapes; but yet the Principle of
Error is still the same.

  [Y] ---- _Velut Silvis ubi passim
  Palantes Error certo de Tramite pellit,
  Ille sinistrorsum, hic dextrorsum abit: unus utrique
  Error, sed variis illudit Partibus._

    As Men that lose their Ways in Woods, divide,
    Some go on this, and some on t’other Side.
    The Error is the same, all miss the Road,
    Altho’ in different Quarters of the Wood.

        Mr. _Creech_.

  [Y: Horat. Lib. 2. Sat. 3. v. 48, _&c_.]

’Tis true Mr. _de la Rochefoucault_’s Design was too general, and his
Piece cannot properly be reckoned among _Characteristic-Writings_. But
tho’ he did not professedly write Characters, yet this Work shews that
he was very able to do it; and it may be of very great Service to
those, who wou’d attempt any thing in this Kind.

I have often wonder’d that no _English_ Writer has ever professedly
attempted a Performance in the Characteristic-Way. I mean, such a
profess’d Performance, as wou’d extend it self to the different
Conditions of Men, and describe the various Ends which they propose to
themselves in Life; as wou’d take in the chief Branches of Morality
and Behaviour, and, in some Measure, make a compleat Work: For as to
loose Attempts and Sketches in this Kind, there are many Years since
we had some; the most considerable of which, I mean of those that bear
the Title of Characters, are printed together with Sir _Thomas
Overbury_’s Wife. These are said to have been written, partly by that
unfortunate Knight, and partly by some of his Friends. And if the
Editor had not taken Care to give us this Notice, yet still that great
Disparity which appears but too visibly in them, wou’d manifestly
prove that they were compos’d by very different Hands.--There are,
I confess, many good Things to be met with in these Characters, but
they are very far from making a compleat Work: And really this was not
intended. Besides, nothing can possibly be more contrary to the Nature
of _Characteristic-Writings_, than the corrupted Taste which prevail’d
in the Age. A continued Affectation of far-fetch’d and quaint
Simile’s, which runs thro’ almost all these Characters, makes ’em
appear like so many Pieces of mere Grotesque; and the Reader must
not expect to find Persons describ’d as they really are, but rather
according to what they are thought to be like.

This Censure may be thought hard; but yet it leaves Room for some
Exceptions: And that I may do Justice to Merit, where it is really
due, I shall here set down one of those Characters, which seem’d to me
to be exquisite in its Kind. And this I shall the rather do, because
the Book it self is not in every body’s Hands. The Image is taken from
low Life; ’tis a beautiful Description of Nature in its greatest
Simplicity, and ’tis the more beautiful because ’tis natural.

  A fayre and happy MILKE MAID.

  Is a Country Wench, that is so farre from making herselfe
  beautifull by Art, that one Looke of hers is able to put all
  _Face-Physicke_ out of Countenance. Shee knowes a fayre Looke is but
  a dumbe Orator to commend Vertue, therefore mindes it not. All her
  Excellencies stand in her so silently, as if they had stolne upon her
  without her Knowledge. The Lining of her Apparell (which is her selfe)
  is farre better than Outsides of Tissew: for tho’ shee be not arraied
  in the Spoyle of the Silke Worme, shee is deckt in Innocency, a far
  better Wearing. Shee doth not, with lying long a Bed, spoile both her
  Complexion and Conditions; Nature hath taught her, _too immoderate
  Sleepe is rust to the Soul_: She rises therefore with _Chaunticleare_
  her Dames Cocke, and at Night makes the Lambe her _Corfew_. In milking
  a Cow, and straining the Teates through her Fingers, it seemes that so
  sweet a Milke-Presse makes the Milke the whiter, or sweeter; for never
  came Almond Glove or Aromatique Oyntment on her Palme to taint it. The
  golden Eares of Corn fall and kisse her Feete when shee reapes them,
  as if they wisht to be bound and led Prisoners by the same Hand that
  fell’d them. Her Breath is her owne, which sents all the Yeere long
  of _June_, like a new made Hay-cocke. Shee makes her Hand hard with
  Labour, and her Heart soft with Pitty: And when Winter Evenings fall
  early (sitting at her merry Wheele) she sings a Defiance to the giddy
  Wheele of Fortune. Shee doth all things with so sweet a Grace it
  seemes _Ignorance_ will not suffer her to do Ill, being her Minde is
  to do Well. Shee bestowes her Yeeres Wages at next Faire; and in
  chusing her Garments, counts no Bravery i’th’ World, like Decency. The
  Garden and Bee-hive are all her Physicke and Chyrurgerie, and shee
  lives the longer for’t. Shee dares goe alone, and unfold Sheepe i’th’
  Night, and feares no manner of Ill, because shee meanes none: Yet to
  say Truth, shee is never alone, for shee is still accompanied with old
  Songs, honest Thoughts, and Prayers, but short ones; yet they have
  their Efficacy, in that they are not pauled with insuing idle
  Cogitations. Lastly, her Dreames are so chaste, that shee dare tell
  them; onely a Fridaies Dreame is all her Superstition; _that_ she
  conceales for feare of Anger. Thus lives shee, and all her Care is
  shee may die in the Spring-Time, to have Store of Flowers stucke upon
  her winding Sheet.

What makes me wonder that no _English_ Writer has ever attempted a
profess’d Performance in the _Characteristic-Way_ is, that we are,
certainly, more able to undertake a Work of this Nature than any other
Nation; because our Countrymen afford a greater Variety of Subject
Matter than any other People.--Human Nature, as I observ’d before, in
its various Forms and Affections, is the Subject of _Characteristic-
Writings_: And from this Diversity of Manners arises that, which is
properly call’d _Humour_, and which, upon a double Account, seems to
be peculiar to our Nation; not only because there is no Word in any
other Language so expressive, but also because there is no Nation, in
which we can find a greater Variety of original _Humour_, than amongst
the _English_. Sir _William Temple_, speaking of the Dramatic
Performances of the Stage, expresses himself after the following

  [Z: Essay on Poetry, p. 355, _&c_.]

  In this the _Italian_, the _Spanish_, and the _French_, have all had
  their different Merit, and receiv’d their just Applauses. Yet I am
  deceiv’d, if our _English_ has not in some Kind excell’d both the
  Modern and the Antient; which has been by Force of a Vein, natural
  perhaps to our Country, and which with us is call’d _Humour_, a Word
  peculiar to our Language too, and hard to be express’d in any other;
  nor is it (that I know of) found in any Foreign Writers, unless it be
  _Moliere_, and yet his it self has too much of the Farce, to pass for
  the same with ours. _Shakespear_ was the first that opened this Vein
  upon our Stage, which has run so freely and so pleasantly ever since,
  that I have often wonder’d to find it appear so little upon any
  others; being a Subject so proper for them, since _Humour_ is but
  a Picture of particular Life, as Comedy is of general; and tho’ it
  represents Dispositions and Customs less common, yet they are not
  less natural than those that are more frequent among Men.

_Humour_ is the only genuine Source of all that agreeable Variety of
original Characters, which is so entertaining to a Spectator and
Reader: And Sir _William Temple_ proceeds to observe, that in this
Point the Moderns in general, and the _English_ in particular, have
far excell’d the Antients. This Observation is very just, however
partial it may seem to a Foreigner, and the Reason of it is very
obvious. I shall represent ’em both in Sir _William_’s own Words. The
Passage is somewhat long, but the Goodness of it will amply pay the
Reader for his Trouble in perusing it.

  It may seem a Defect (says he) in the antient Stage, that the
  Characters introduc’d were so few, and those so common, as a
  covetous old Man, an amorous young, a witty Wench, a crafty Slave,
  a bragging Soldier. The Spectators met nothing upon the Stage, but
  what they met in the Streets, and at every Turn. All the Variety is
  drawn only from different and uncommon Events; whereas if the
  Characters are so too, the Diversity and the Pleasure must needs be
  the more. But as of most general Customs in a Country, there is
  usually some Ground, from the Nature of the People or Climat, so
  there may be amongst us for this Vein of our Stage, and a greater
  Variety of _Humour_ in the Picture, because there is a greater
  Variety in the Life. This may proceed from the native Plenty of our
  Soil, the Unequalness of our Climat, as well as the Ease of our
  Government, and the Liberty of professing Opinions and Factions,
  which perhaps our Neighbours may have about them, but are forc’d to
  disguise, and thereby they may come in Time to be extinguish’d.
  Plenty begets Wantonness and Pride, Wantonness is apt to invent,
  and Pride scorns to imitate; Liberty begets Stomach or Heart,
  and Stomach will not be constrain’d. Thus we come to have more
  Originals, and more that appear what they are; we have more
  _Humour_, because every Man follows his own, and takes a Pleasure,
  perhaps a Pride, to shew it.

--_Shakespear_, _Johnson_, _Shadwell_, _Etherege_, and _Wycherly_ have
shewn the Richness of this Source: They excell’d in the Variety and
_Humour_ of the Characters which they exhibited; and in this they have
receiv’d just Applauses: But yet they did not exhaust the Spring from
whence they drew: The ingenious Mr. _Congreve_ has pursu’d the same
Vein of _Humour_; and he has imitated his Predecessors so well, that
he has by far out-done ’em all. In his Dramatic-Pieces there is the
greatest Variety of _Humour_ and of original Characters, set off by
the greatest Delicacy of Sentiments, and adorn’d with the Beauties of
the justest Diction that can possibly be imagined. Mr. _Dryden_ must
be allow’d to be a competent Judge in an Affair of this Nature, and he
has given us the true Character and Panegyric of Mr. _Congreve_ in the
following Lines.

  In him all Beauties of this Age we see;          }
  _Etherege_ his Courtship, _Southern_’s Purity;   }
  The Satir, Wit and Strength of manly _Wicherly_. }

’Tis true, there is some Difference between the Characters which
enter into the Composition of Dramatic Pieces, and those which are
represented by _Characteristic-Writers_; but this Difference is so
small, that I doubt not but he, who is an able Master in one of these
Kinds, would as successfully perform in the other. For, in reality,
the essential Parts of the Characters, in the _Drama_, and in
_Characteristic-Writings_, are the same. They are both an Image of one
Life; a Representation of one Person: All the Diversity lies in the
different Manner of representing the same Image. The _Drama_ presents
to the Eyes of a Spectator an Actor, who speaks and acts as the
Person, whom he represents, is suppos’d to speak and act in real Life.
The _Characteristic_ Writer introduces, in a descriptive manner,
before a Reader, the same Person, as speaking and acting in the same
manner: And both must be perform’d in such a natural and lively
manner, as may deceive the Spectator and Reader, and make them fancy
they see the Person represented or characteris’d.

But tho’ no _English_ Author has attempted a Performance in this Kind,
yet it must be confess’d that in some late diurnal Papers we have had
excellent Specimens in the Characteristic-Way. The Papers, which I
mean to point out, are the _Tatlers_ and the _Spectators_. They are of
the miscellaneous Kind, and were design’d for the universal Delight
and Instruction of the _British_ Nation. In these Papers are contained
Abundance of true Wit and _Humour_, lively Descriptions of human
Nature in its various Forms and Disguises, the Praises of Virtue,
and pointed Satir against Vice; and here and there are interspers’d
Characters of Men and Manners compleatly drawn to the Life.--If the
great Authors, who were concerned in the Composition of those Papers,
would have join’d their Abilities to form a Work of this Kind, I doubt
not but it would have been inimitable, and deserv’d the next Place,
in Point of Fame, to that of _Theophrastus_: For this is the highest
Pitch to which Moderns can aspire. A greater Design would be
Presumption, and would only serve to shew the greater Vanity of the
Attempt. An establish’d Reputation of above two thousand Years cannot
be easily shaken. _Theophrastus_ is, and ever will be, an Original in
_Characteristic-Writings_. His Fame still lives in our Memory, and the
Main of his Characters still subsists in our Actions.


       *       *       *       *       *

              FIRST YEAR (1946-47)

[Transcriber’s Note:
Many of the listed titles are or will be available from Project
Gutenberg. Where possible, the e-text number is given in brackets.]

Numbers 1-4 out of print. [#13484, #14528, #14973]

5.  Samuel Wesley’s _Epistle to a Friend Concerning Poetry_ (1700)
    and _Essay on Heroic Poetry_ (1693).

6.  _Representation of the Impiety and Immorality of the Stage_
    (1704) and _Some Thoughts Concerning the Stage_ (1704). [#15656]

SECOND YEAR (1947-1948)

7.  John Gay’s _The Present State of Wit_ (1711); and a section on
    Wit from _The English Theophrastus_ (1702). [#14800]

8.  Rapin’s _De Carmine Pastorali_, translated by Creech (1684).

9.  T. Hanmer’s (?) _Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet_ (1736).

10. Corbyn Morris’ _Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of Wit,
    etc._ (1744). [#16233]

11. Thomas Purney’s _Discourse on the Pastoral_ (1717). [#15313]

12. Essays on the Stage, selected, with an Introduction by Joseph
    Wood Krutch.

THIRD YEAR (1948-1949)

13. Sir John Falstaff (pseud.), _The Theatre_ (1720).

14. Edward Moore’s _The Gamester_ (1753). [#16267]

15. John Oldmixon’s _Reflections on Dr. Swift’s Letter to Harley_
    (1712); and Arthur Mainwaring’s _The British Academy_ (1712).

16. Nevil Payne’s _Fatal Jealousy_ (1673).

17. Nicholas Rowe’s _Some Account of the Life of Mr. William
    Shakespeare_ (1709).

18. “Of Genius,” in _The Occasional Paper_, Vol. III, No. 10 (1719);
    and Aaron Hill’s Preface to _The Creation_ (1720). [#15870]

FOURTH YEAR (1949-1950)

19. Susanna Centlivre’s _The Busie Body_ (1709).

20. Lewis Theobold’s _Preface to The Works of Shakespeare_ (1734).
    [In Preparation]

21. _Critical Remarks on Sir Charles Grandison, Clarissa, and
    Pamela_ (1754).

22. Samuel Johnson’s _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ (1749) and Two
    _Rambler_ papers (1750). [#13350]

23. John Dryden’s _His Majesties Declaration Defended_ (1681). [#15074]

24. Pierre Nicole’s _An Essay on True and Apparent Beauty in Which
    from Settled Principles is Rendered the Grounds for Choosing and
    Rejecting Epigrams_, translated by J.V. Cunningham.

FIFTH YEAR (1950-51)

25. Thomas Baker’s _The Fine Lady’s Airs_ (1709). [#14467]

26. Charles Macklin’s _The Man of the World_ (1792). [#14463]

27. Frances Reynolds’ _An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of
    Taste, and of the Origin of Our Ideas of Beauty, etc._ (1785).

28. John Evelyn’s _An Apologie for the Royal Party_ (1659); and
    _A Panegyric to Charles the Second_ (1661).

29. Daniel Defoe’s _A Vindication of the Press_ (1718). [#14084]

30. Essays on Taste from John Gilbert Cooper’s _Letters Concerning
    Taste_, 3rd edition (1757), & John Armstrong’s _Miscellanies_
    (1770). [#13464]

31. Thomas Gray’s _An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard_ (1751);
    and _The Eton College Manuscript_. [#15409]

32. Prefaces to Fiction; Georges de Scudéry’s Preface to _Ibrahim_
    (1674), etc. [#14525]

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library: University of California


_General Editors_

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

University of Michigan

University of California, Los Angeles

University of California, Los Angeles

The Society exists to make available inexpensive reprints (usually
facsimile reproductions) of rare seventeenth and eighteenth century
works. The editorial policy of the Society continues unchanged. As in
the past, the editors welcome suggestions concerning publications. All
income of the Society is devoted to defraying cost of publication and

Publications for the sixth year [1951-1952]

(At least six items, most of them from the following list, will be

Thomas Gray: _An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard_ (1751).
Introduction by George Sherburn. [#15409]

James Boswell, Andrew Erskine, and George Dempster: _Critical
Strictures on the New Tragedy of Elvira_ (1763). Introduction by
Frederick A. Pottle. [#15857]

_An Essay on the New Species of Writing Founded by Mr. Fielding_
(1751). Introduction by James A. Work.

Henry Gally: _A Critical Essay on Characteristic Writing_ (1725).
Introduction by Alexander Chorney.

[John Phillips]: _Satyr Against Hypocrits_ (1655). Introduction by
Leon Howard.

_Prefaces to Fiction._ Selected and with an Introduction by Benjamin
Boyce. [#14525]

Thomas Tyers: _A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Samuel Johnson_ ([1785]).
Introduction by Gerald Dennis Meyer.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Problems Noted by Transcriber:

p. xv, xvii, xxiv
  judg; knowledg
    _spellings as in original_

p. 16
  is said to have been done upon
    _original has_ is sa d to...

p. 78
  and in a very / jejune Manner
    _original has_ ...j june Manner

p. 88
  yet this Work shews
    _original has_ ye  this Work... (_with extra space_)

List of ARS Publications:
  20. Lewis Theobold’s _Preface to The Works of Shakespeare_ (1734).
    _so in original: correct spelling is_ Theobald

Publications for the sixth year:
  ...Gray’s _Elegy_ and ..._Prefaces to Fiction_)
    _so in original: see titles 31 and 32, fifth year_ ]

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Critical Essay on Characteristic-Writings - From his translation of The Moral Characters of Theophrastus (1725)" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.