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Title: The Characters of Theophrastus - A Translation, with Introduction
Author: Theophrastus
Language: English
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A Translation, with Introduction



Professors in Cornell University

Longmans, Green, and Co.
91 and 93 Fifth Avenue, New York
London and Bombay

Copyright, 1902, by
Longmans, Green, and Co.

All rights reserved

[October, 1902]

The University Press
Cambridge, U. S. A.

         In Profound Esteem_


This translation of _The Characters_ of Theophrastus is intended not for
the narrow circle of classical philologists, but for the larger body of
cultivated persons who have an interest in the past.

Within the last century only three English translations of _The
Characters_ have appeared; one by Howell (London, 1824), another by Isaac
Taylor (London, 1836), the third by Professor Jebb (London, 1870). All
of these have long been out of print, a fact that seemed to justify the
preparation of the present work.

The text followed has been, in the main, that of the edition published
in 1897 by the _Leipziger Philologische Gesellschaft_. A few coarse
passages have been omitted, and occasionally a phrase necessary to the
understanding of the context has been inserted. Apart from this the
translators have aimed to render the original with as much precision and
fidelity as is consistent with English idiom.

                                                      CHARLES E. BENNETT.
                                                      WILLIAM A. HAMMOND.

ITHACA, N.Y., _August, 1902_.



    INTRODUCTION                      xi

    EPISTLE DEDICATORY                 1

    THE DISSEMBLER (I.)[1]             4

    THE FLATTERER (II.)                7

    THE COWARD (XXV.)                 11

    THE OVER-ZEALOUS MAN (IV.)        14

    THE TACTLESS MAN (XII.)           16

    THE SHAMELESS MAN (IX.)           18

    THE NEWSMONGER (VIII.)            21

    THE MEAN MAN (X.)                 24

    THE STUPID MAN (XIV.)             27

    THE SURLY MAN (XV.)               29


    THE THANKLESS MAN (XVII.)         35


    THE DISAGREEABLE MAN (XX.)        39

    THE EXQUISITE (XXI.)              41

    THE GARRULOUS MAN (III.)          46

    THE BORE (VII.)                   48

    THE ROUGH (VI.)                   51

    THE AFFABLE MAN (V.)              54

    THE IMPUDENT MAN (XI.)            56

    THE GROSS MAN (XIX.)              58

    THE BOOR (IV.)                    60

    THE PENURIOUS MAN (XXII.)         63

    THE POMPOUS MAN (XXIV.)           66

    THE BRAGGART (XXIII.)             68

    THE OLIGARCH (XXVI.)              71

    THE BACKBITER (XXVIII.)           74

    THE AVARICIOUS MAN (XXX.)         77

    THE LATE LEARNER (XXVII.)         81

    THE VICIOUS MAN (XXIX.)           84

[1] Numerals in parenthesis give the corresponding numbers of the
characters as published in the edition of the Leipziger Philologische


“What stories are new?” asks Thackeray, subtle observer of men.

[Sidenote: _The Antiquity of Modern Character-Types_]

[Sidenote: _Accidental and Essential Types_]

“All types of all characters march through all fables: tremblers and
boasters; victims and bullies: dupes and knaves; long-eared Neddies,
giving themselves leonine airs; Tartuffes wearing virtuous clothing;
lovers and their trials, their blindness, their folly and constancy.
With the very first page of the human story do not love, and lies too,
begin? So the tales were told ages before Æsop; and asses under lions’
manes roared in Hebrew; and sly foxes flattered in Etruscan; and wolves
in sheep’s clothing gnashed their teeth in Sanscrit, no doubt. The sun
shines to-day as he did when he first began shining; and the birds in the
tree overhead, while I am writing, sing very much the same note they have
sung ever since there were finches. There may be nothing new under and
including the sun; but it looks fresh every morning, and we rise with it
to toil, hope, scheme, laugh, struggle, love, suffer, until the night
comes and quiet. And then will wake Morrow and the eyes that look on
it; and so _da capo_.” All this is very true; the changes which may be
observed in human nature are small, and the old types of Theophrastus are
all about us nowadays and really look and act much the same as they did
to the eyes of the ancient Peripatetic. Offices and institutions have
somewhat changed, and many character-types due to new vocations have come
into being since then, _e.g._ the newsboy, the bishop, the reporter,
the hotel-clerk, and the jockey. But these are only accidents of
civilization, and the peculiarities of office or the type or professional
character do not touch the vital essence of human nature, although they
may modify its expression.

When one speaks of a coward, one means an intrinsic quality in human
kind which is essentially the same whether found in a hoplite or in a
modern infantryman, but which may express itself differently in the two
cases. The types described by Theophrastus are types of such intrinsic
qualities, and his pictures of ancient vices and weaknesses show men much
as we see them now. They are not merely types of professions or callings.

[Sidenote: _Similarity between Greek and Modern Types_]

[Sidenote: _The Flatterer_]

[Sidenote: _The Officious Man_]

Apart from slight variations of local coloring and institutions, the
descriptions of the old Greek philosopher might apply almost as well
to the present inhabitants of London or Boston as to the Athenians of
300 B.C. Then, as now, the flatterer plied his wily trade, indulging in
smooth compliment of his hero’s person or actions. “As he walks with
an acquaintance, he says: ‘Behold! How the eyes of all men are turned
upon you! There is not a man in the city who enjoys so much notice as
yourself. Yesterday your praises were the talk of the Porch. While above
thirty men were sitting there together and the conversation fell upon the
topic: “Who is our noblest citizen?” they all began and ended with your
name.’” “If his friend essay a jest, the flatterer laughs and stuffs his
sleeve into his mouth as though he could not contain himself.” But the
flatterer of old could be subtle too. “He buys apples and pears, carries
them to his hero’s house, and gives them to the children, and in the
presence of their father he kisses them, exclaiming: ‘Chips of the old
block!’” and “while his talk is directed to others in the company, his
eye is ever fixed upon his hero.” Then as now there existed the officious
man, always over-ready to undertake the impossible or to interfere in the
affairs of others. “At a banquet, he forces the servants to mix more wine
than the guests can drink. If he sees two men in a quarrel, he rushes
in between, even though he knows neither one.” “If the doctor leave
instructions that no wine be given the patient, he administers ‘just a
little’ on the plea that he wants to set the sufferer right.”

[Sidenote: _The Tactless Man_]

There existed, of course, then as now, the tactless person, who “selects
a man’s busiest hour for a lengthy conference, and who sings love
ditties under his sweetheart’s window as she lies ill of a fever.” “At
a wedding, he declaims against womankind, and when a friend has just
finished a journey, he invites him to go for a walk.” “If he happens to
be standing by when a slave is flogged, he tells the story of how he once
flogged a slave of his, who then went and hanged himself.”

[Sidenote: _The Mean Man_]

There was the mean man, too, who, if his servant broke a pot or plate,
deducted its value from the poor fellow’s rations. “He permits no one
to take a fig from his garden or cross his field, or even to pick up
windfalls under his fruit trees. He forbids his wife to lend salt or
lamp-wicks or a pinch of cummin, marjoram, or meal, observing that these
trifles make a large sum in a year.”

[Sidenote: _The Thankless Man_]

There was also the thankless man whose pessimism is so gloomy as to
cloud all view of his blessings. “When a friend has sent him something
from his table, he says to the servant who brings it: ‘He grudged me a
dish of soup and a cup of wine, I suppose, and so couldn’t invite me to
dinner.’” “If he secures a slave at a bargain after long dickering with
the owner, he says: ‘I imagine I haven’t got much at this price.’ And to
the person who brings him the glad tidings that a son is born to him, he
retorts, ‘If you only add: “And half your fortune’s gone,” you’ll hit

[Sidenote: _Petty Vanity_]

Then we have the man who is ostentatious in trivial things. “When he has
sacrificed an ox, he winds the head and horns with fillets, and nails
them up, opposite the entrance of his house.” “When he parades with the
cavalry he gives all his accoutrements to his squire to carry home, and
throwing back his mantle stalks proudly about the market-place in his
spurs.” When he is master of the prytany, he craves the privilege of
announcing to the people the result of the sacrifice; and as soon as he
has delivered to the people the momentous intelligence that the sacrifice
has resulted well, he hies him home and recounts his triumph to his wife
in an ecstasy of joy.

The foregoing are but illustrations of the happy skill with which
Theophrastus has delineated a number of character-types which are as
universal as human nature and know no limits of age or of country.
Here and there we meet a type in the Greek for which we have no exact
counterpart in our customary modern modes of thought. Such a type may be
seen in Theophrastus’s “The Disagreeable Man,” a person who seems a sort
of general nuisance with a touch of the bore and the braggart. As a rule,
however, the types are singularly like those we know to-day, and it is
not difficult at once to provide them with appropriate modern labels.
The treatment, though almost invariably brief, is invariably vigorous
and trenchant. With a few bold strokes the character is drawn. There is
absolutely no pretense of style, as we ordinarily understand it; yet each
type is in its way a gem. Through them all runs that fidelity to truth
which was the unfailing inspiration of all Greek art. It is this which
makes _The Characters_ a unique creation and vindicates their position as
a part of the world’s literature.

[Sidenote: _The Earliest Attempt at Character-writing_]

It is largely for this reason that these slight sketches are here
produced in English, exhibiting as they do, when we compare them with
what we see around us, the essential identity of human nature in
ages widely separated from each other in time and manners.[2] There
is, furthermore, an accidental interest in the work of Theophrastus,
due to the fact that it is the first recorded attempt at systematic
character-writing. Characters, to be sure, are portrayed in Homer and
in the tragedians, but they are incidental to the narrative or to
the dramatic plot, whereas in Theophrastus the business is with the
delineation of a character as such.

[Sidenote: _The Influence of Theophrastus_]

He tells us what a man does, simply as an illustration of what he is, and
this method of writing had a very intimate bearing on the evolution of
the New Comedy under the leadership of Menander. There is a tradition,
in fact, that Theophrastus was the teacher of Menander, who in turn
furnished models for Terence in his delineation of conventional dramatic
types. The influence of Theophrastus was further directly and potently
exerted on the so-called character-writers of the seventeenth century in
England and France. The simple methods of these character-writers and
their uninvolved sketches were succeeded by the more elaborate art of the
novelists, in whose works individuals rather than types are described
by exhibiting their development in long periods of time and under great
diversity of circumstances.

[Sidenote: _The Youth of Theophrastus_]

[Sidenote: _Theophrastus and Aristotle_]

[Sidenote: _Theophrastus Chosen by Aristotle to be President of the

[Sidenote: _Death of Theophrastus_]

[Sidenote: _His Writings and Genius_]

[Sidenote: _His Will_]

We have little information as to the personal history of Theophrastus,
beyond what we learn from the extant fragments of his writings and from
the meagre biography of Diogenes of Laërte. He was born at Eresus, a
village on the island of Lesbos, in 371 B.C., and his father was one
Melantas, a fuller by trade. He first went to school to Alcippus in his
native island, but afterwards travelled to Athens, the intellectual
metropolis, and became a pupil of Plato at the Academy, with whom he
appears to have studied until the Master’s death. Theophrastus was then
in his twenty-fifth year. At that time he attached himself to Aristotle,
who was some twelve years his senior and who had also been a member of
the Academy, until Plato died _scribens_. During the twelve years which
elapsed from the death of Plato until Aristotle established the new
school of the Lyceum (in 335 B.C.), Theophrastus was probably with his
new leader, at least part of the time, in Stagira or at the Macedonian
court, where the youthful Alexander was under the tutorial discipline
of Aristotle. Theophrastus was an intimate friend of Callisthenes,
the unfortunate fellow-student and companion of Alexander, and it is
probable that the two studied together at Pella. The story is told that
Aristotle, in speaking of these two pupils, said: “Callisthenes needs a
spur, but Theophrastus,[3] a bridle.” Many years later, when Aristotle
was dead and Cassander (see _Character_ VII.) had gained control of
Alexander’s throne, Theophrastus was invited to an office at the court
where he had spent his student days, and Ptolemy Soter, Cassander’s
political ally, sent him an invitation to the court of Egypt. But he
declined these calls into the social and political world, and maintained
steadfastly his devotion to philosophy. It was a fashion for the rectors
or presidents of the great schools of Athens, such as the Cynosarges,
the Academy, and the Lyceum, before their death to name their successors
in office. And so when Aristotle was asked who should succeed him in
the presidency of the Lyceum, tradition tells of the delicate way in
which he left record of his wish. His two most distinguished pupils were
Theophrastus of Lesbos and Eudemus of Rhodes. Aristotle replied to the
question as to his successor by asking for two sorts of wine,—Lesbian and
Rhodian. After tasting of them he said: “They are both excellent; but
the Lesbian is the sweeter.” Thereby it was known that he had decided
in favor of Theophrastus, who on the death of Aristotle (322 B.C.)
succeeded to the presidency of the Lyceum, over which he continued to
preside for thirty-five years. His administration was one of almost
unparalleled success. Diogenes Laertius reports that two thousand
students thronged to him. Although not born at Athens, he was one of the
most popular and beloved members of that somewhat exclusive community.
This is illustrated by the story of Agonides, who preferred against him
a charge of atheism,—a charge similar to that which brought Socrates to
martyrdom and drove Aristotle into exile and caused his early death; but
instead of injuring Theophrastus, Agonides narrowly escaped paying a
fine for his folly. Amongst his contemporaries Theophrastus was a great
personal force by reason of his amiable character, his charities and
lavish benefactions, the amenity of his manners, his great erudition, and
gifts of oratory. He died in 287 B.C. in the eighty-fifth year of his
age, and Diogenes Laertius says that “the whole population of Athens,
honoring him greatly, followed him to the grave.” Theophrastus was one
of the greatest polygraphs of antiquity. Two hundred and twenty-seven
works[4] are attributed to him. The range of his learning is similar
to that of Aristotle’s, with the emphasis laid rather more strongly
on the side of natural science. His genius, however, is not marked by
Aristotle’s profundity. He served his age rather as a great popularizer
of science; he was not an originator of epoch-making ideas or theories.
Yet as a local and popular force he surpassed Aristotle. His influence on
subsequent ages, however, is less marked. Of the 227 works (containing
232,908 lines) attributed to Theophrastus, fragments of nine only are
now extant, excluding certain insignificant remains.

It is doubtless true, however, that he influenced his own time as much
by his administrative ability in the conduct of the Lyceum and by his
oral utterances as by his written treatises. His prodigious industry
was no doubt partially inspired by Aristotle as well as by the swift,
stirring movement of the age immediately preceding and following the
death of Alexander, in which his literary manhood was passed. “Time,”
he says, “is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” He expressed
his sense of the value of order in the apothegm: “Better trust a horse
without bridle than a discourse without arrangement.” His estimate of
oral converse at table is recorded in a rather brusque and un-Athenian
remark said to have been made by him to a silent neighbor at dinner:
“Sir, if you are an ignorant man, your conduct shows wisdom; but if you
are a wise man, you act like a fool.” The genuinely kind character of
Theophrastus, however, is amply illustrated by the provisions of his
will, which evidences also his very considerable wealth. He had inherited
from Aristotle the largest private library then known. This library, to
which he had himself made notable additions, he bequeathed to Neleus,
his nephew (Theophrastus never married), and by Neleus it was taken to
Asia Minor, where it was hidden in a cellar to avoid the rapacity of the
agents of the Attalid dynasty, who were seizing all available books for
the Royal Library at Pergamon. And hereby hangs the curious old story of
the loss of Aristotle’s works for one hundred and fifty years, until they
were rediscovered, worm eaten, in the cellar of Neleus at Scepsis. A
Museum,—temple of the muses,—had been built by Theophrastus as the home
of the Lyceum. In his will he provided that this should be maintained
and beautified, that statues of the illustrious dead (particularly
of Aristotle) should be completed, for which commissions had already
been given to the renowned sculptor Praxiteles; further, that tablets
with maps of the world engraved on them should be erected in the lower
colonnade. In acknowledgment of the claims of religion, he also directed
that an altar should be placed there. He devised the garden, promenade,
and houses adjoining the garden to the joint control of Hipparchus,
Neleus, Strato, and their successors, as a trust, enjoining that a school
of philosophy should be maintained in them, and that the property should
never be alienated from this purpose nor claimed as private possession.
After piously making provision for certain friends and the support of
faithful attendants, he further directed that he should be buried in the
school garden without unnecessary expense or ceremony.

[Sidenote: _The Characters_]

[Sidenote: _A Fragment from a Larger Work_]

[Sidenote: _Mimetic Delineations of Moral and Social Defects_]

[Sidenote: _Realism_]

Theophrastus is more generally known for his character sketches than
for his scientific work, although his treatises on botany represented
the highest attainments made by science in that field during antiquity
and the Middle Ages. The treatise here translated (ἠθικοὶ χαρακτῆρες)
sets forth thirty types of character striking to the Greek mind. They
are probably a fragment or extract made by some epitomator from a
larger treatise which was suggested by the abstract ethical analyses of
Aristotle, as exhibited in the _Nicomachean Ethics_, and by the concrete
dramatic representations of the New Comedy. The stage suggests the form,
and Aristotle’s treatise the content. They represent moral and social
defects and weaknesses, though not revolting vices, but they do this in
a mimetic way by exhibiting persons as acting or speaking. Theophrastus
was a contemporary of Philemon and Menander, and his life was spent in
the era of the revival of comedy and the elaboration of current moral
types for humorous presentation on the stage. So the characters of
Theophrastus are, as it were, _dramatis personae_ of his time. He shows
us how a given type of man speaks and acts; the dramatization of his
characters would require scarcely anything more than stage setting. His
portrayal is not satire, but imitation; not caricature, but realistic
delineation from life. Moreover, this description of generic types rather
than of individuals belongs to the literary fashion of his age. Looked
at from this mimetic point of view, _The Characters_ of Theophrastus are
historically all the more important, because our knowledge of Menander,
the “tenth muse,” is so meagre, resting, as it does, upon scanty Greek
fragments and a few Latin adaptations.

[Sidenote: _Greek Notion of Vice_]

These thirty sketches at the beginning of the post-classical age do not
represent, properly speaking, vices, and yet they were vices to the mind
of the Greek, who measured his morality largely by the canons of good
form. Any violation of good taste or breach of courtesy was morally
vicious. The disposition was to maintain in close unity the natures of
beauty and goodness (καλοκἀγαθία); moderns discriminate sharply between
the æsthetic and the moral. The social virtues of gentle breeding and
the graces of politeness toward their fellow men had for the classical
Greeks an ethical nature, as is witnessed in Aristotle’s _Ethics_.
Manners and morals were not sundered. What we call a social weakness, or
defect, or boorish crudity, Theophrastus called a vice. It is necessary
to bear this in mind when one reads the “_moral_ characters,”[5] as they
are called in the Greek title.

[Sidenote: _Virtues not Delineated_]

[Sidenote: _The Subject-matter of the Sketches_]

Amongst these characters there are no virtues, and one may ask: Why is it
that in his portrayal of types Theophrastus has altogether omitted any
description of good men? The answer is not to be found in the supposition
that such characters were originally included in the work, but have since
perished. The real ground for the omission is probably to be discovered
in the nature of the conditions under which Theophrastus wrote. These, as
we have already indicated, were closely connected with the development of
the New Comedy. The portrayal of a good character may be edifying, and
may serve the conditions of tragedy, but it does not suit the purposes or
surroundings of the comic stage, where the ludicrous elements of weak,
eccentric, or faulty personalities are the materials employed. The aim
of Theophrastus is both to amuse and to instruct, but his instruction
is given by exposing to ridicule certain faults which he elevates into
the striking tangibility of concrete character. The serious dignity and
excellence of the good man, while it may suit the heroic conditions of
the epic, the grave purpose of tragedy, or the aims of moral allegory,
offers no material for such sketches as these. Theophrastus has no
concern either with the grossly immoral or with the helplessly weak; the
former awaken only disgust and hate, while the latter stir only feelings
of pity, and neither of these emotions can be kept active in the true
art of comedy. Rightly speaking, the art of Theophrastus has to do only
with folly or with such eccentricities and weaknesses as have a humorous
aspect. And it is only moral imperfections of this sort that we actually
find in _The Characters_.

[Sidenote: _Ridicule as an Instrument of Instruction_]

As to the serious function of instruction which Theophrastus no doubt
aims to combine with that of entertainment, there is no more skilful
mode of inducing moral betterment than the discovery and exposure of the
ludicrous. Most men would rather incur the charge of immorality than be
exposed to the belittling laugh or derision of a community; they would
rather be rogues than fools. The portrait-painter of moral life makes
use of the ludicrous when he desires to catch the popular attention, and
there is nothing, one may safely say, that makes society at large prick
up its ears and fall to gossiping so much as a satire in which some
well-known person is subjected to ridicule.

[Sidenote: _Moral Folly_]

Moral folly is much the same everywhere; it is only the fool’s costume
that changes in different countries. The folly of the miser is seen in
his cheating himself of the real goods of life and in robbing himself of
the respect of his fellows; the folly of the coward, in gaining personal
safety by losing reputation for manliness; the folly of the flatterer,
in his shallow self-serving which men see through, while they nudge
their fellows and laugh at his weakness; the folly of the vain man, in
the way in which he assumes impressive proportions to his own magnifying
eye, while to others his personality looks as small as it is; the folly
of the tactless man, in consulting his own convenience rather than his
neighbor’s, whereby he becomes a butt for his _gaucherie_; the folly of
the boor, in his trampling awkwardly on the established usages of the
polite world and thereby drawing upon himself the smilingly derisive
attention of all observers. Throughout the list these characters
represent some type of social foible or folly.

[Sidenote: _The Literary Art of Theophrastus_]

[Sidenote: _The Canons of his Art_]

In regard to the literary art of Theophrastus, as exhibited in these
sketches, it must be looked at from the standpoint of an innovation in
Greek letters; it is rare that any man both begins and perfects an art.
There is nothing in the world so interesting as a character, but there is
also nothing that is so difficult to portray briefly. Theophrastus was
an acute observer and he was a plain realist. His art consists in the
truthfulness of his vision and in the direct simplicity with which he
gives it expression. He does not seek to create a laugh by exaggeration
or by the trick of a ludicrous situation that has no moral significance.
His art is not possible without wit, keenness, and fineness of feeling.
There is no exhibition of the satirist’s lash, but his criticism is made
with that geniality which is more telling than the severest invective.
These are not individual portraits. They lack, therefore, the detailed
finish of such a portrait as is given in the much-elaborated modern novel
with its varied facilities for exhibiting the individuality of one or
several persons. On the contrary, these are merely outline sketches,
as Theophrastus himself calls them, and are descriptive of a class,
not of an individual. A simple line, however, does not constitute a
sketch; to exhibit a character, the sketch must not only be clear but
complete. The coward, _e.g._, is sketched in his fear at sea, where
his timid imagination invents dangers, and he wishes to be put ashore;
he is sketched on the field of battle, where he tries to impress his
comrades by a courage that he does not feel; but when he hears the
shouts of war and sees the soldiers fall, he shrinks faint-hearted to
his tent and there searches for the sword he has himself hid; and again
when the danger is over he resumes his bold exterior and proclaims his
daring rescue of a comrade. We have here a pictorial sketch which, with
its life and action, appeals to the reader’s eye. The coward is shown
from various points of view, always in new lights, but he is always the
coward. The canons of this species of literary art may be summarized
as follows: 1.—_Faithfulness to reality_: The character must be an
accurate report of nature and not a caricature. It must be executed
in the spirit of realism. 2.—_Brevity_: It must be slight and swift,
essentially of the nature of a sketch. 3.—_Humor_: It must have the
sprightliness of statement that amuses while it instructs. 4.—_Type_: It
must be illustrative of a generic or typical fault. In other words, the
character must give embodiment to some fault that touches human nature
in an essential and universal way. 5.—_Concreteness_: The fault as an
abstraction must be translated by the artist’s power into a concrete
personal form. The foible must be revealed in a genre picture of a living

[Sidenote: _Imitators of Theophrastus_]

[Sidenote: _La Bruyère_]

Since Theophrastus, this form of character-writing has been cultivated
at various times, but it flourished most amongst the minor essayists of
the seventeenth century. It is of too slight a nature in itself to make a
serious impression on any literary epoch. It suited, however, the temper
of the seventeenth century, as the sprightly essay possessing no serious
depth and aiming to touch life at many points. The chief imitators of
Theophrastus and exponents of character-writing at this time were Bishop
Hall, Bishop Earle, Sir Thomas Overbury, Nicholas Breton, Samuel Butler,
and La Bruyère. Bishop Hall, contrary to the example of Theophrastus,
includes virtues as well as vices in his book entitled _Characters
of Vertues and Vices_ (London, 1608). In the general structure of
his composition he follows the model of Theophrastus closely. In the
description of vices, however, he is much more entertaining than in his
sketches of virtues, which are rather homilies and, as the panegyrics of
a tedious preacher, provoke one to yawn. Virtue is not fitting material
for this species of writing. The brilliant but ill-starred Sir Thomas
Overbury, in his _Characters or Witty Descriptions of the Properties
of Sundry Persons_ (London, 1614; went through eighteen editions),
departs from the usage of Theophrastus in depicting for the most part
amusing accidents of character and humorous peculiarities of trades and
professions. Bishop Earle, on the other hand, in his _Micro-cosmographie_
(London, 1628) confined his character delineation to _mores hominum_, to
ethical types of men as such, in a spirit similar to that of his Greek
model. The best known of all the imitators of Theophrastus, if he can
be called an imitator at all, is La Bruyère, in his _Les caractères ou
les mœurs de ce siècle_ (Paris, 1688). The _caractères_ of La Bruyère
are really satires on certain thinly disguised contemporaries of his
own and are executed in a spirited method totally different from that
of Theophrastus, but to which a translation of _The Characters_ of
Theophrastus is added. La Bruyère was a lover of the ancient classics,
although his translation or paraphrase was hardly more than a pretext for
writing down his own description of the manners of his time. It furnished
him, perhaps, the first suggestion and the first impulse to the portrayal
of the vices and weaknesses of his contemporaries on a much larger scale
than Theophrastus had attempted.

[2] “I gather, too, from the undeniable testimony of his [Aristotle’s]
disciple, Theophrastus, that there were bores, ill-bred persons, and
detractors even in Athens, of a species remarkably corresponding to the
English, and not yet made endurable by being classic; and, altogether,
with my present fastidious nostril, I feel that I am the better off for
possessing Athenian life solely as an inodorous fragment of antiquity.”
George Eliot in _Theophrastus Such_, p. 27, Cabinet Edition.

[3] The original name of Theophrastus, according to tradition, was
Tyrtamus, but owing to his divine speech Aristotle gave him the name
which has come down to us.

[4] The following treatises are extant, either entire or in considerable
parts: _On Sensation_, 1 bk.; _On Smells_, 1 bk.; _Moral Characters_, 1
bk.; _History of Plants_, 2 bks.

[5] A character (χαράσσειν “to engrave”) is the individuality which is
engraved by habits and temperament on a man or group of men, and in a
literary sense (as used by Theophrastus) it is the verbal delineation of
this individuality.

_Characters of Theophrastus_

_Epistle Dedicatory_


Many a time ere now I have stopped to think and wonder,—I fancy the
marvel will never grow less,—why it is that we Greeks are not all one
in character, for we have the same climate throughout the country, and
our people enjoy the same education. I have studied human nature a long
time, my dear Polycles, for I have lived nine and ninety years;[6] I
have conversed with many men of divers characters, and have been at
great pains to observe both good and bad. I have fancied, therefore, I
ought to set down in writing how men live and act. I shall describe their
characters, each after its kind, and show you their besetting weaknesses.
I dare say, Polycles, our children will be the better, if we leave them
memorials of this sort; and as they study these patterns of good[7] and
ill, they will elect, I think, to live and hold communion with men of the
highest type. In this way they will strive to maintain the level of the
highest. I turn now to my task. Yours it is to follow me and see if what
I say is true. I begin my book with a description of the _Dissembler_,
omitting any preface and details about the word. And first of all I
shall lay down a definition of dissembling, and with this in view shall
describe the dissembler in his character and manner of life, exhibiting
in such clearness, as I can, his various traits.

[6] This dedication is now thought to be spurious. _The Characters_ were
probably written in 319 B.C., at which time Theophrastus was not more
than fifty-three years of age.

[7] This allusion to patterns of good men is a further proof of the
spuriousness of the _Epistle Dedicatory_; no such types seem to have been
written by Theophrastus. See Introduction, p. xxxi f.

I _The Dissembler_


Dissembling, generally speaking, is an affectation, whether in word or
action, intended to make things seem other than they really are. The
dissembler is a man, for instance, who accosts his enemies and engages
readily in talk with them, to show that he bears no grudge, and who
praises to their faces the very men he slanders behind their backs;
and when these lose a suit at court, he professes sympathy for their
misfortune. When men malign him, or the opposition’s loud, he is ever
ready with forgiveness.

When others have suffered such ill-treatment as to have just cause for
indignation, his comments on their wrongs are couched in non-committal
terms. And when a man is anxious to have an interview with him, he bids
him come again, pretending that he has just reached home, that the hour
is late, or that his health is too feeble to bear the strain.

He never admits anything he is doing, but at most will say that he is
considering it. When a friend would borrow of him, or would solicit his
contribution, he says “Business is dreadfully dull”; though at other
times, when business is really dull, he reports a thriving trade. If he
has received a bit of news, he will not admit he has heard it; and when
he has witnessed an occurrence, he will not admit he has seen it; or if
he does admit it, he protests he can’t recall it. And of one matter, he
says he will examine it; of another, that he doesn’t know; of others,
that he is amazed; of yet others, that he had thought of that himself
before. In short, he is a master of phrases like these: “I can’t believe
it”; “I fail to comprehend”; “I’m dumfounded”; “By your account the
fellow has become a different man”; “He certainly didn’t tell _me_ that”;
“The thing’s improbable”; “Tell that to the marines!”; “I’m at a loss how
I can either doubt your story or condemn my friend”; “But see whether
you’re not too credulous.”

II _The Flatterer_


Flattery is a cringing sort of conduct that aims to promote the advantage
of the flatterer. The flatterer is the kind of man who, as he walks with
an acquaintance, says: “Behold! how the people gaze at you! There is
not a man in the city who enjoys so much notice as yourself. Yesterday
your praises were the talk of the Porch. While above thirty men were
sitting there together and the conversation fell upon the topic: ‘Who is
our noblest citizen?’ they all began and ended with your name.” As the
flatterer goes on talking in this strain he picks a speck of lint from
his hero’s cloak; or if the wind has lodged a bit of straw in his locks,
he plucks it off and says laughingly, “See you? Because I have not been
with you these two days, your beard is turned gray. And yet if any man
has a beard that is black for his years, it is you.”

While his patron speaks, he bids the rest be silent. He sounds his
praises in his hearing and after the patron’s speech gives the cue for
applause by “Bravo!” If the patron makes a stale jest, the flatterer
laughs and stuffs his sleeve into his mouth as though he could not
contain himself.[8]

If they meet people on the street, he asks them to wait until master
passes. He buys apples and pears, carries them to his hero’s house and
gives them to the children, and in the presence of the father, who is
looking on, he kisses them, exclaiming: “Bairns of a worthy sire!” When
the patron buys a pair of shoes, the flatterer observes: “The foot is of
a finer pattern than the boot”; if he calls on a friend, the flatterer
trips on ahead and says: “_You_ are to have the honor of his visit”; and
then turns back with, “I have announced you.” Of course he can run and do
the errands at the market in a twinkle.

Amongst guests at a banquet he is the first to praise the wine and, doing
it ample justice, he observes: “What a fine cuisine you have!” He takes a
bit from the board and exclaims: “What a dainty morsel this is!” Then he
inquires whether his friend is chilly, asks if he would like a wrap put
over his shoulders, and whether he shall throw one about him. With these
words he bends over and whispers in his ear. While his talk is directed
to the rest, his eye is fixed on his patron. In the theatre he takes the
cushions from the page and himself adjusts them for the comfort of the
master. Of his hero’s house he says: “It is well built”; of his farm: “It
is well tilled”; and of his portrait: “It is a speaking image.”

[8] “A piece of witte bursts him with an overflowing laughter, and hee
remembers it for you to all companies.” Earle’s _Micro-cosmographie_,
“The Flatterer.”

III _The Coward_


Cowardice is a certain shrinking of the heart. A coward is a man who,
as he sails along, imagines that the cliffs in the distance are pirate
ships; if the waves are high, he asks if there’s anybody in the ship’s
company who has not been initiated into the mysteries.[9] He bends over
toward the helmsman and inquires whether he intends to keep to the high
sea, and what he thinks of the weather; and to his companion says that he
is in terror in consequence of a dream he has had; and he takes off his
tunic and gives it to his slave, and begs to be set on shore.

In a campaign, when the infantry march forth, he bids his comrades stand
by him and look sharp, urging the importance of finding out whether
yonder object be the foe or not. When he hears the sound of battle, and
sees men fall, he says to those about him that, in his haste, he has
forgotten to take his sword; then he runs back to his tent, sends his
servant out and bids him see where the enemy are; meanwhile he hides his
weapon[10] under his pillow, and then wastes a long time hunting for it.
While in his tent, seeing one of his companions brought wounded from
the field, he runs out, bids the fellow “Cheer up!” and lends a hand to
carry the stretcher. And then he stays to tend the sufferer, washes his
wounds, and sits by his side driving away the flies,—anything but fight
the enemy.

When the trumpeter sounds the signal for a fresh onset, he exclaims as he
sits in his tent: “Plague take him! He won’t let the poor fellow get to
sleep with his eternal bugling.” Then, staining himself with blood from
the other’s wound, he meets the troops as they return from battle, and
pretending to have been in the thick of the fight, he exclaims, “I’ve
saved a comrade!” And then he takes his demesmen and tribesmen into the
tent, and assures each one of them that he himself brought the wounded
man to the tent with his own hands.

[9] Apparently the reference is to the Samothracian mysteries, initiation
in which was thought to ensure protection at sea in time of danger.

[10] “The sight of a sword wounds him more sensibly than the stroke, for
before that comes hee is dead already.” Earle’s _Micro-cosmographie_,
“The Coward.”

IV _The Over-zealous Man_


Over-zealousness is an excess in saying or doing,—with good intentions,
of course. The over-zealous man is one who gets up in public and engages
to do things which he cannot perform. In cases where no doubt exists in
the mind of anyone else, he raises some objection—only to be refuted.

At a banquet, he forces the servants to mix more wine than the guests can
drink. If he sees two men in a quarrel, he strives to part them though
he knows neither one. Leaving the main road he leads his friends upon a
by-path and presently cannot find his way. He accosts his commander and
inquires when he is going to draw up the troops for battle, and what
orders he intends to issue for day after to-morrow.

He goes and tells his father that his mother is already asleep in her
chamber. If the doctor gives instructions that no wine be given a
patient, he administers “just a little,” on the plea that he wants to set
the sufferer right. And when a woman dies, he has carved on the tombstone
her husband’s name, and her father’s and her mother’s, along with the
woman’s own name and her native place, and adds: “Worthy people, all of
them.” In court, as he takes the oath, he remarks to the bystanders, “I
have done this many a time before.”

V _The Tactless Man_


Tactlessness is the faculty of hitting a moment that is unpleasant to the
persons concerned. The tactless man is the sort of person who selects a
man’s busy hour to go and confer with him. He serenades his sweetheart
when she has a fever. If an acquaintance has just lost bail-money on a
friend, he hunts him up and asks him to be his surety. After a verdict
has been rendered he appears at the trial to give evidence. At a wedding
where he is a guest he declaims against womankind.

When a friend has just finished a long journey he invites him to go for a
walk. He has a faculty for fetching a higher bidder for an article after
it has been sold; and in a group of companions he gets up and explains
from the beginning a story which the others have just heard and have
completely understood. He is anxious to give himself the trouble to do
what nobody wants done, and yet what nobody likes to decline.

When men are in the midst of religious offerings and are making outlay
of money, he goes to collect his interest. If he happens to be standing
by when a slave is flogged, he tells the story of how he once flogged a
slave, who then went away and hanged himself. If he is arbitrator in a
dispute, he sets both contestants by the ears just at the moment when
they are ready to settle their differences. When he wants to dance he
takes a partner who is not yet merry.

VI _The Shameless Man_


Shamelessness may be defined as contempt for decency, joined with
meanness of purpose. Your shameless fellow is one who robs a man and then
returns to borrow money of him. He sacrifices a victim to the gods, and
instead of making his supper from it, he salts the meat down and then
gets a meal at the house of a friend. He calls a servant, and, taking
bread and meat from the table, says in a voice that all can hear: “Try
that, Tibios!”

When he goes to market, he reminds the butcher of all the patronage
he has given him, and as he stands by the scales, throws in an extra
piece, if he can, or if not, a soup-bone. If he secures these, he rests
content. If he fails, he snatches a piece of tripe from the bench and
makes off with it laughing. He buys theatre tickets for friends that are
staying in town and goes along with them to the performance, but does not
contribute his share of the expense; and the next day you’ll find him
taking his children and their tutor, too.

When anybody has found a bargain in any line, he demands to have a share.
He goes to the neighbors and borrows barley, or sometimes even bran, and
actually endeavors to make those who lend him these articles deliver them
at his house. A favorite trick of his is to march up to the tubs in a
private bath-house, draw a bucket of warm water, dash it over his head,
despite the loud protests of the attendant, and then say, as he leaves:
“That’s a good bath; no thanks to you!”

VII _The Newsmonger_


Newsmaking is the concoction of false stories of what people say and do,
at the gossip’s caprice. The newsmonger is one who straightway strikes
an attitude and assumes a smiling air when he meets a friend, and asks:
“Where have you been? What news? How is the situation? Have you any fresh
word about it?” and then going straight on, he asks: “Is there no later
report? Well! the current rumors are good.”

And without letting his friend reply, he keeps right on: “What! you
haven’t heard a word about it! Then I think I have a feast of news for
you.” He always has in readiness some unheard-of soldier or a slave
belonging to one Asteus, a piper, or Lycon, an obscure contractor, just
back from the battle-field; and it is from one of these that he has
heard the tidings. The authorities for his reports are of the sort that
you can never get hold of. Such are the men he quotes when he tells how
Polyperchon and the king carried the day and Cassander was taken prisoner.

If anybody asks: “Do _you_ believe this?” he replies, “Why the story is
noised all about the city, is constantly gaining ground, and the whole
population is of one mind; everybody is agreed about the battle; it must
have been a regular Death’s feast.” He reads a proof of it too in the
faces of men in authority; for they all wear a changed look. He says he
overheard that a man had come from Macedonia who knows the whole history
of the battle, and that he has been concealed now five days in a house
with the authorities. There is a convincing pathos in his voice—you can
imagine it!—as he tells his story and exclaims: “Luckless Cassander![11]
ill-starred hero! Lo! the fickleness of fortune! Vain it was that he rose
to power. But what I say is strictly between ourselves.” Then he trips
off and repeats the story to every man in town.

[11] Cassander, the son of Antipater (died 319 B.C.) became involved in a
struggle with Polyperchon, whom Antipater on his deathbed had appointed
regent. Cassander met with many reverses, but finally (301 B.C.) secured
undisputed possession of Macedonia and Greece.

VIII _The Mean Man_


Meanness is undue sparing of expense. The mean man is the sort of person
who will go to a creditor’s house and demand a half-penny interest before
the month is up. At dinner he counts the glasses each guest drinks, and
amongst his fellow banqueters he pours the smallest offering to Artemis.

He counts up the price a friend pays for a cheap purchase, exclaiming
that it takes his last penny. If a servant breaks a pot or plate he
deducts its value from his rations. If his wife has lost a three-farthing
piece, he turns the furniture, beds, and cupboards round and round, and
hunts between the boards of the floor. When he has anything to sell he
puts the price so high that the buyer gets no bargain. He permits no one
to take a fig from his garden or to cross his field, or even pick up an
olive or a date that has fallen to the ground. He examines his boundary
marks every day to see that they have not been touched.

And he is always ready in case of default to use the right of seizure and
to collect compound interest. When he gives a banquet to his townsmen
he cuts the meat in small pieces and sets a portion before each guest.
He goes to market, but buys nothing. He forbids his wife to lend salt
or a lamp-wick or a pinch of cummin, marjoram, or meal, a fillet or a
sacrificial wafer, observing that these trifles make a large sum in the
course of a year.

In a word, one may see that the mean man’s money chest is mouldy from
being unopened, the key rusty, his cloak too scant to reach his thigh;
that he uses a mean little oil jar, has his hair cropped to the scalp;
he does not wear his boots until midday, and charges the fuller to use
plenty of earth on his coat to keep it from soon getting soiled again.

IX _The Stupid Man_


Stupidity one may define as sluggishness in what a man says or does.
The stupid man computes a sum, sets down the total, and then asks his
neighbor: “How much does it all make?” When he is defendant in a suit
and should go to court, he forgets all about it and puts off to his
farm. When he goes to a play at the theatre he is the only spectator
that is left behind on the benches asleep. He gets up in the night to
go out, after he has gorged himself, and is bitten by the neighbor’s
dog. He takes a thing and puts it away, but when he comes to look for
it he cannot find it. If the death of a friend is announced to him
that he may go to the funeral, with a sorrowful air and tears in his
eyes he says: “Thank God!” When he goes to receive payment of a debt,
he takes witnesses with him. In the winter season he quarrels with his
slave because cucumbers have not been provided. He forces his children
to wrestle and to run until they fall into a fever. When he is roughing
it in the country and himself cooks the vegetables, he puts salt in the
pot twice and so makes the dish impossible. When it rains and others
declare that the sky is darker than pitch, he exclaims: “How sweet it is
to consider the stars!” And if he is asked, what is the mortality of the
city,—how many bodies have passed through the Sacred Gates,—he replies:
“Would that you and I had as many.”

X _The Surly Man_


Surliness is sullen rudeness of speech. The surly man is one who, when
you ask him, “Who is that gentleman?” retorts “Don’t bother me!” and when
you greet him on the street refuses to return your salutation. When he
has anything for sale, he will not tell the purchaser what he charges,
but instead inquires, “How much do I get for it?” When one would show him
some attention and sends him a gift for the holidays, he says he is not
in need of presents.

He accepts no excuse when by accident you smutch his clothes, or push
against him in a crowd, or chance to tread upon his foot. If you ask
for his contribution to some object, he refuses to make one, though
afterwards he may bring it around, declaring, however, that he’s throwing
the money away. Sometimes he stumbles in the street, and then he curses
the stone that tripped him up.

And he’s not a man to tarry many minutes for a friend who has an
appointment with him. Singing, declamation, and dancing are amusements
for which he has no taste; and it’s exactly like him to refuse to join
even in prayer to the gods.

XI _The Superstitious Man_


Superstition is a crouching fear of unseen powers. The superstitious man
is the sort of person who begins the day only after he has sprinkled
himself, washed his hands with holy water, and taken a sprig of laurel
in his mouth. If a weasel cross his path, he will not go a step further
until some one else has crossed, or until he has thrown three stones
over the way. If he sees a snake in his house, he prays to Sabazius[12]
(provided it is a copperhead) or, if it be a sacred serpent, he
straightway builds a shrine upon the spot.

As he passes by the consecrated stones at the cross-roads, he pours oil
on them from his flask, falls on his knees, and prays before he goes
further. If a mouse should gnaw through a leather flour-bag, he goes to
the seer and asks what he shall do. If the seer bids him give the bag to
the cobbler to be sewn up, he pays no heed to him, but goes his way and
offers up the bag as a holy sacrifice.

He is given to purifying his house often by religious rites and insists
it is haunted by Hecate. When he takes a walk and hears an owl hoot, he
is terrified and cries out: “Athena! thine is the power!” and so walks
on. He will not step on a grave, nor go up to a corpse, nor to a woman
in confinement, but says it is not well to risk pollution. He orders his
domestics to mull the wine on the fourth and seventh of the month, while
he goes out and buys myrtle, incense, and holy cakes; on his return he
spends the livelong day in crowning the images of Hermaphroditus.

When he has had a vision, he goes to the soothsayer, the seer, or the
augur, to ask to what god or goddess he must pray. He goes to the Orphic
mysteries to be initiated into them. You will be sure to find him amongst
the people who frequent the beach to besprinkle themselves. Every month
he goes there with his wife, or if his wife is busy, then with the nurse
and children.

If he observes any one at the cross-roads crowned with garlic, on his
return he washes himself from head to foot, summons a priestess, and
gives orders to celebrate rites of purification either with an onion or
a small dog. Whenever he sees a madman or an epileptic, he shakes with
terror and spits in his bosom.

[12] A Thracian and Phrygian deity, whose worship was introduced at
Athens in the fifth century. Sabazius represented the active powers of
nature, and hence was often identified with Dionysus.

XII _The Thankless Man_


Thanklessness is an improper criticism of what one receives. The
thankless man, when a friend has sent him something from his table,
says to the servant who brings it, “He grudged me a dish of soup and a
cup of wine, I suppose, and so wouldn’t invite me to dinner.” When his
sweetheart kisses him, he says, “I wonder if you really do love me so in
your heart.”

He blames Zeus, not for raining, but for not raining before. When he
picks up a purse in the street, he says, “But I never found a treasure!”
If he secures a slave at a bargain after long dickering with the owner,
he says, “I imagine I haven’t got much at this price.” To the person who
brings the glad tidings that a son is born to him, he retorts, “If you
only add, ‘And half your fortune’s gone,’ you’ll hit it.”

When he wins his case in court and secures a unanimous verdict, he abuses
his attorney for having omitted many points in his brief. When his
friends make him up a purse, and wish him joy, “Why so?” he exclaims.
“Is it because I shall have to pay you all back and be grateful into the
bargain, as though you had done me a favor?”

XIII _The Suspicious Man_


Suspicion is a kind of belief that everybody is fraudulent. The
suspicious man is the sort of person who sends a servant to market and
then sends another to watch him and find out the price he pays. When he
carries the money himself, he sits down every hundred yards and counts it
over. After he is in bed he asks his wife whether she locked the chest
and shut the cupboard, and whether the hall-door bolt was pushed well
in. If she answers “Yes!” he gets up, nevertheless, and lights a lamp;
naked and barefoot he goes around and examines everything. Even then he
finds it hard to go to sleep. When he goes to collect interest, he takes
witnesses along, lest his debtors deny the claims. He has his cloak
dyed, not by the best workman, but by the fuller who can furnish good
security. If any one asks the loan of a wine-set, he prefers not to lend
it; but if a member of his family or a near relative wants it, he makes
the loan; yet he scarcely does so until he has had it assayed and weighed
and has received a guarantee for its safe return. He orders his footman
not to fall behind him, but to go in front so that by watching him he
may prevent his running away. If a purchaser has bought goods of him and
says: “Charge the amount to me; I have no time now to send the money,” he
replies: “Do not trouble yourself about it; when you have finished your
business, I will go with you and get my pay.”

XIV _The Disagreeable Man_


Disagreeableness we may define as a kind of conduct which is annoying,
although it may not be injurious. The disagreeable man will go to a
friend and wake him out of a sound sleep to have a talk with him. He
detains passengers who are on the point of embarking; others who have
come to see him he bids wait until he has taken his walk. He takes the
baby from its nurse, chews its food for it and feeds it, dandles it on
his knee while he cooes to it and calls it “Papa’s little rascal!”

At table he tells the company how he once took hellebore and was
physicked through and through, and how his bile was blacker than the soup
on the table. And he asks before the family: “I say, mammy, what day was
it when you were confined and I was born?” He says he has cool cistern
water at his house and a garden full of tender vegetables; that his cook
is a perfect _chef_, and that his house is a regular hotel, for it is
always full of company, and his guests are like leaky sieves,—do the best
he can, it is impossible to fill them.

When he gives a dinner he exhibits his jester and shows him off before
the company. To enliven his guests over their cups, he says that further
pleasures have been arranged for them.

XV _The Exquisite_


Exquisiteness is a striving for honor in small things. The exquisite when
invited to dinner, is eager to sit by his host. When he cuts off his
son’s hair for an offering to the gods, no place but Delphi will answer
for the ceremony. His attendant must be an Ethiopian.[13] When he pays a
mina[14] of money he makes a point of offering a freshly minted piece. If
he has a pet daw in the house, he must needs buy it a ladder and a brazen
shield, that the daw may learn to climb the ladder carrying the shield.

When he has sacrificed an ox, he winds the head and horns with fillets,
and nails them up opposite the entrance, in order that those who come
in may see what he has been doing. When he parades with the cavalry, he
gives all his accoutrements to his squire to carry home, and throwing
back his mantle stalks proudly about the market-place in his spurs.
When his pet dog dies, he raises a monument to the creature, and has a
pillar erected with the inscription: “Fido, Pure Maltese.”[15] In the
Asclepieion[16] he dedicates a brazen finger,[17] polishes it, crowns it
with flowers, and anoints it every day with oil.

And he has his hair cut frequently. His teeth are always pearly white.
While his old suit is still good, he gets himself a new one; and he
anoints himself with the choicest perfumes.

In the agora he frequents the banker’s counters. If he visits the
gymnasia, he selects those in which the ephebi[18] practise; and, when
there’s a play, the place he chooses in the theatre is close beside the

He makes few purchases for himself, but sends presents to his friends at
Byzantium, and Spartan dogs to Cyzicus, and Hymettian honey to Rhodes;
and when he does these things, he tells it about the town. Naturally,
his taste runs to pet monkeys, parrots, Sicilian doves, gazelles’
knuckle-bones, Thurian jars, crooked canes from Sparta, hangings
inwrought with Persian figures, a wrestling-ring sprinkled with sand, and
a tennis-court. He goes around and offers this arena to philosophers,
sophists, fighters, and musicians, for their exhibitions; and at the
performances he himself comes in last of all, that the spectators may say
to one another, “That’s the gentleman to whom the place belongs.”

And, of course, when he is a prytanis[19] he demands of his colleagues
the privilege of announcing to the people the result of the sacrifice;
then putting on a fine garment and a garland of flowers, he advances and
says: “O men of Athens, we prytanes have made sacrifice to the mother
of the gods;[20] the sacrifice is fair and good. Receive ye each your
portion.” When he has made this announcement, he returns home and tells
his wife all about it in an ecstasy of joy.[21]

[13] Among the Athenians, Ethiopian slaves were evidently highly prized.

[14] About $18 of our money.

[15] This breed of dogs is still known to dog-fanciers.

[16] The temple of Asclepios (Aesculapius).

[17] Fingers or hands of marble or metal were common among the Athenians
as votive offerings.

[18] Young men between eighteen and twenty years of age, who were in
training for the duties of citizenship.

[19] One of the committee of fifty which, in rotation, were charged with
the administration of affairs at Athens.

[20] Cybele.

[21] A portion of Character XIX has been incorporated here, as belonging
more fitly in this connection.

XVI _The Garrulous Man_


Garrulity is incessant heedless talk. Your garrulous man is one, for
instance, who sits down beside a stranger, and after recounting the
virtues of his wife tells the dream he had last night, and everything he
ate for supper. Then, if his efforts seem to meet with favor, he goes
on to declare that the present age is sadly degenerate, says wheat is
selling very low, that hosts of strangers are in town, and that since the
Dionysia[22] the weather is good again for shipping; and that, if Zeus
would only send more rain, the crops would be much heavier, and that he’s
proposing to have a farm himself next year; and that life’s a constant
struggle, and that at the Mysteries[23] Damippus set up an enormous
torch;[24] and tells how many columns the Odeon has, and “Yesterday,”
says he, “I had an awful turn with my stomach,” and “What day’s to-day?”
and “In Boëdromion[25] come the Mysteries, and in Pyanopsion[25] the
Apaturia, and in Poseideon[25] the country Dionysia,” and so on; for,
unless you refuse to listen, he never stops.

[22] The festival of Dionysus.

[23] The religious celebration held in honor of Demeter (Ceres).

[24] Ancient works of art often exhibit representations of votive
torches. They are usually depicted as wound with serpents.

[25] Various months of the Attic year.

XVII _The Bore_


We may define a bore as a man who cannot refrain from talking. A bore
is the sort of fellow who, the moment you open your mouth, tells you
that your remarks are idle, that he knows all about it, and if you’ll
only listen, you’ll soon find it out. As you attempt to make answer,
he suddenly breaks in with such interruptions as: “Don’t forget what
you were about to say”—“That reminds me”—“What an admirable thing talk
is!”—“But, as I omitted to mention”—“You grasp the idea at once”—“I
was watching this long time to see whether you would come to the same
conclusion as myself.” In phrases like this he’s so fertile that the
person who happens to meet him cannot even open his mouth to speak.

When he has vanquished a few stray victims here and there, his next move
is to advance upon whole companies and put them to flight in the midst
of their occupations. He goes upon the wrestling ground or into the
schools, and prevents the boys from making progress with their lessons,
so incessant is his talk with the teachers and the wrestling-masters.

If you say you are going home, he’s pretty sure to come along and escort
you to your house.

Whenever he learns the day set for the session of the Assembly he
noises it diligently abroad, and recalls Demosthenes’s famous bout with
Aeschines in the archonship of Aristophon. He mentions, too, his own
humble effort on a certain occasion, and the approval which it won among
the people. As he rattles on he launches invectives against the masses,
in such fashion that his audience either becomes oblivious or begins to
doze, or else melts away in the midst of his harangue.

When he’s on a jury he’s an obstacle to reaching a verdict, when he’s
in the theatre he prevents attention to the play; at a feast he hinders
eating, remarking that silence is too much of an effort, that his tongue
is hung in the middle, and that he couldn’t keep still, even though he
should seem a worse chatterer than a magpie; and when he’s made a butt by
his own children, he submits,—when in their desire to go to sleep they
say, “Papa, tell us something, in order that sleep may come.”

XVIII _The Rough_


Roughness is coarse conduct, whether in word or act. The rough takes
an oath lightly and is insensible to insult and ready to give it. In
character he is a sort of town bully, obscene in manner, ready for
anything and everything. He is willing, sober and without a mask, to
dance the vulgar cordax[26] in comic chorus. At a show he goes around
from man to man and collects the pennies, quarrelling with the spectators
who present a pass and therefore insist on seeing the performance free.

He is the sort of man to keep a hostelry,[27] or brothel, or to farm the
taxes. There is no business he considers beneath him, but he is ready
to follow the trade of crier, cook, or gambler. He does not support his
mother, is caught at theft and spends more time in jail than in his home.
He is the type of man who collects a crowd of bystanders and harangues
them in a loud brawling voice; while he is talking, some are going and
others coming, without listening to him; to one part of the moving crowd
he tells the beginning of his story, to another part a sketch of it, and
to another part a mere fragment. He regards a holiday as the fittest time
for the full exhibition of his roughness.

He is a great figure in the courts as plaintiff or defendant. Sometimes
he excuses himself on oath from trial but later he appears with a bundle
of papers in the breast of his cloak, and a file of documents in his
hands. He enjoys the rôle of generalissimo in a band of rowdy loafers; he
lends his followers money and on every shilling collects a penny interest
per day. He visits the bake-shops, the markets for fresh and pickled
fish, collects his tribute from them, and stuffs it in his cheek.

[26] A lewd dance.

[27] Inn-keepers were in ill-repute in antiquity.

XIX _The Affable Man_


Affability is a sort of demeanor that gives pleasure at the sacrifice of
what is best. The affable man is the kind of person who hails a friend
at a distance, and after he has told him what a fine fellow he is, and
has lavished brimming admiration on him, seizes both his hands, and is
unwilling to let him go. He escorts the friend a step on his way, and as
he asks “When shall we meet again?” tears himself away with praises still
falling from his lips.

When summoned to court he wishes to please not merely the man in whose
interest he appears, but his adversary too, that he may seem to be
non-partisan; and of strangers he says that they pronounce juster
judgment than his townsmen. If he’s invited out to dinner he asks his
host to call in the children, and when they come, he declares they’re as
like their father as one fig is like another, and he draws them toward
him, kisses them, and sets them by his side. Sometimes he joins in their
sports, shouting “Strike!” and “Foul!”; and sometimes he lets them go to
sleep in his lap in spite of the burden.[28]

[28] The remainder of the Greek text of this character has been thought
to belong more properly with “The Exquisite,” No. XV.

XX _The Impudent Man_


Impudence is easy to define; it is conduct that is obtrusively offensive.
The impudent man is one who, on meeting respectable women in the street,
insults them as he passes. At a play, he claps his hands after all the
rest have stopped, and hisses the players when others wish to watch in
silence. When the theatre is still, he suddenly stands up and disgorges,
to make the audience look around. When the market-place is crowded, he
steps up to the stalls where nuts, myrtle-berries, or fruits are for
sale, and begins to pick at them as he talks to the merchant; he calls
by name people whom he doesn’t know, and stops those intent upon some
errand. When a man has just lost an important case and is now leaving
the court, he runs up and tenders his congratulations.

He buys his own provisions,[29] too, and hires his own musicians,
showing his purchases to every man he meets and inviting him to come and
share the feast. Again, he takes his stand before a barber’s booth or a
perfumer’s stall, and proclaims unblushingly his intention of getting

[29] To do one’s own marketing was considered a sign of niggardliness;
hence such business was ordinarily delegated to slaves.

XXI _The Gross Man_


Grossness is such neglect of one’s person as gives offence to others.
The gross man is one who goes about with an eczema, or white eruption,
or diseased nails, and says that these are congenital ailments; for his
father had them, and his grandfather, too, and it would be hard to foist
an outsider upon their family. He’s very apt to have sores on his shins
and bruises on his toes, and to neglect these things so that they grow

His armpits are hairy like an animal’s for a long distance down his
sides; his teeth are black and decayed. As he eats, he blows his nose
with his fingers. As he talks, he drools, and has no sooner drunk wine
than up it comes. After bathing he uses rancid oil to anoint himself; and
when he goes to the market-place, he wears a thick tunic and a thin outer
garment disfigured with spots of dirt.

When his mother goes to consult the soothsayer, he utters words of evil
omen; and when people pray and offer sacrifices to the gods he lets the
goblet fall, laughing as though he had done something amusing. When
there’s playing on the flute, he alone of the company claps his hands,
singing an accompaniment and upbraiding the musician for stopping so soon.

Often he tries to spit across the table,—only to miss the mark and hit
the butler.

XXII _The Boor_


Boorishness is ignorance of good form. The boor is the sort of man who
takes a strong drink and then goes to the Assembly. He insists that myrrh
has not a whit sweeter smell than onions. His boots are too big for his
feet and he talks in a loud voice.

He distrusts even friends and kinsmen, while his most important secrets
are shared with his domestics, and he tells all the news of the Assembly
to his farm hands. Nothing awakens his admiration or startles him on the
streets so much as the sight of an ox, an ass, or a goat, and then he
stands agape in contemplation.[30] He is the sort of man who snatches a
bite from the pantry and drinks his liquor straight.

He has clandestine talks with the cook and helps her grind the meal for
his household. At breakfast he throws bits to the animals about the
table. He answers the knock at the door himself and then whistles for his
dog, takes him by the nose, and says: “Here’s the keeper of my house and
grounds!” When a man offers him a coin he declines it, saying it is too
worn, and takes another piece in its stead.

After loaning a plough, basket, sickle, or sack, he goes after it, unable
to sleep for thinking of it. When he goes to town he inquires of any
chance passer-by: “What are hides selling for? What’s the price of bacon?
Does the celebration of New Moon come to-day?” Then he remarks he must go
down street and have his hair cut, and while in town must also run into
the shop of Archias and buy the bacon. He sings in the public baths and
wears hob-nailed boots.

[30] “Hee is sensible of no calamitie but the burning of a stacke of
corne or the overflowing of a medow, and thinks Noah’s flood the greatest
plague that ever was, not because it drowned the world, but spoyl’d the
grasse.” Earle’s _Micro-cosmographie_, “A Plaine Country Fellow.”

XXIII _The Penurious Man_


Penuriousness is the grudging of expense and is due to great love of
money and little love of honor. The penurious man, after a victory on
the tragic stage, sets up a wooden chaplet to Dionysus, on which he
inscribes his own name. If contributions from the public are asked for,
he is silent or rises and quits the company. When he gives his daughter
in marriage, he sells the sacrificial offerings, excepting the parts that
belong by law to the priests. At the wedding, he employs only servants
who will eat at home.

As trierarch[31] he takes the pilot’s blankets and spreads them on deck
for himself, while he puts his own away. He is the sort of man who keeps
his children from school when a festival comes, and makes excuses for
them on the plea of ill-health, that he may avoid the fee for tuition.

When he goes to market, he brings the meat home with him, carrying the
vegetables in the folds of his cloak. He stays indoors when he sends his
tunic to the cleaner. If he catches sight of a friend coming towards
him and soliciting contributions, he sneaks off through a by-street and
goes home by a roundabout way. He employs no maid for his wife, although
she brought him a dowry, but hires a child from the woman’s market to
accompany her on her errands.

He keeps his patched shoes until they are twice worn out, saying they
are still good, and tough as horn. When he gets up, he dusts the house
and makes the beds, and when he sits down he lays aside the coat he is
wearing in order to spare it.

[31] Commander of a galley.

XXIV _The Pompous Man_


Pompousness is contempt for everybody save one’s self. If you have urgent
business, the pompous man will tell you that he will meet you after
dinner on his walk. If he has done you a favor, he reminds you of it.
When elected to office he declines, saying under oath he has no leisure.
He is not disposed to make the first call on anybody. Tradesmen and hired
men he orders to come to him by daybreak.

As he passes along the street, he does not greet the men he meets; he
lowers his eyes and when it suits him raises them again. If he entertains
friends he does not dine with them, but instructs some of his underlings
to attend to the duties of entertainment.

He sends a messenger ahead when he makes a call, to say that he
approaches. He allows no one to enter while he is at his oil-rub, his
bath, or his dinner. When he is casting an account, he instructs a slave
to set down the items, foot up the total, and arrange it in a statement
for him. He does not write in a letter: “You would do me a favor,” but
“I want this done,” and “I have sent for this and wish to have it,” and
“See to it that my orders are followed precisely,” and “Have this done

XXV _The Braggart_


Bragging is pretending to have excellences that one does not really
possess. The braggart is the man who stands on the wharf and tells the
bystanders how much capital he has invested in ships at sea, and tells
how extensive is his business of loaning money, and how much he has made
and lost by different ventures. As he talks thus magnificently, he sends
his slave to his banker, where he has—exactly one shilling to his credit.
On a journey he imposes on his travelling companion by telling him that
he once served with Alexander, and how intimate were their relations, and
how many jewelled cups he brought back from his campaigns.

As regards the Asiatic artists, he counts them better than those
in Europe. And all this he tells you without having once set foot
outside his native city. He claims further to have three letters from
Antipater[32] bidding him come to Macedonia; but he declares that, though
he has been guaranteed the privilege of exporting wood free of duty, he
has refused to go, simply to avoid being suspected by his fellow-citizens
of foreign leanings. The Macedonians, he says, in urging him so to come,
ought to have considered this point.

In time of famine, he says, his expenditures for the poor amounted to
over five talents; for he hadn’t the heart to refuse. When he’s with
strangers, he often bids some one place the reckoning counters on the
table, and computing by six hundreds and by minae, glibly mentioning the
names of his pretended debtors, he makes a total of twenty-four talents,
saying that the whole sum had gone for voluntary contributions, and that,
too, without including subscriptions for the navy or for other public

At times he goes to the horse-market where blooded stock is for sale, and
makes pretence of wanting to buy; and stepping up to the block, he hunts
his clothes for two talents, upbraiding his servant for coming along
without any money. Though he lives in a rented house, he represents it to
those who do not know as the family homestead; yet adds that he thinks of
selling it as being too small for the proper entertainment of his friends.

[32] A general of Alexander. Upon Alexander’s death he became king of

XXVI _The Oligarch_


Oligarchy is a love of power that clings tightly to personal advantage.
The oligarch rises in the people’s councils, when assistants to the
archon are elected for the management of a fête, and says: “These men
must have absolute control.” And although others have suggested ten, he
insists that _one_ is enough, but he must be a _man_. The only line of
Homer that stays in his memory is: “A crowd’s rule is bad; let there be
one ruler.” He knows no other verse. He is, however, an adept at such
phrases as this: “We must hold a caucus and make our plans; we must cut
loose from mob and market; we must throw aside the annoyance of petty
office and of insult or honor at the masses’ whim; we or they must rule
the state.”

At midday he goes out with his mantle thrown about him, his hair dressed
in the mode and his nails fashionably trimmed; he promenades down Odeon
Way ejaculating: “Sycophants have made the city no longer habitable. What
outrages we endure in court from our persecutors! Why men nowadays go
into office, is a marvel to me. How ungrateful the mob is! although one
is always giving, giving.”

If, at the Assembly, a naked, hungry vagabond sits next to him, he
complains of the outrage. “When,” he asks, “is a stop to be put to this
ruin of our property by taxation for fêtes and navy? How odious is this
crew of demagogues! Theseus,” he says, “was the forefront of all this
offending, for out of twelve cities, he brought the masses into one, to
overthrow the monarchies. He met his just reward,—he was the first to
fall a victim at their hands.” This is the way he talks to foreigners and
to citizens of his own temper and party.

XXVII _The Backbiter_


Backbiting is a disposition[33] to vilify others. When the backbiter is
asked “Who is so and so?” he begins, like the genealogists, with the
man’s ancestry. “His father’s name was originally Sosias,[34] but amongst
the soldiers it became Sosistratus, and upon registration in the deme, it
was again changed to Sosidemus. His mother was a Thracian,—gentle blood!
you see. At any rate this jewel’s name was Krinokoraka. Women of that
name _are_ of gentle blood in Thrace, so people say! The man himself,
with an ancestry like that, is a foul fellow fit for the whipping-post.”
In a company where his companions are maligning a man, he of course takes
up the attack and says: “For my part I hate him of all men. He is a bad
character, as one may see from his face, and as for his meanness, it has
no parallel and here is a proof: His wife brought him a dowry of talents
of money and yet after the birth of their first child, he gave her but
three pence a day for household expenses and forced her to bathe in
cold water on the festival of Poseidon in midwinter.” When he is seated
with a group, he loves to talk about an acquaintance who has just risen
and gone, and his biting tongue does not spare even the man’s kinsfolk.
Of his own relatives and friends, he says the vilest things and even
maligns the dead. Backbiting is what he calls frankness of speech,
democracy, and freedom; and there is nothing he enjoys so much.

[33] “Scandal, like other virtues, is in part its own reward, as it gives
us the satisfaction of making ourselves appear better than others, or
others no better than ourselves.” Benj. Franklin, _Works_, ed. Sparks,
II., p. 540.

[34] Apparently a slave’s name.

XXVIII _The Avaricious Man_


Avarice is greedy love of gain. When the avaricious man gives a dinner,
he puts scant allowance of bread on the table. He borrows money of a
stranger who is lodging with him. When he distributes the portions
at table, he says it is fair for the laborer to receive double and
straightway loads his own plate. He engages in wine traffic, and sells
adulterated liquors even to his friend. He goes to the show and takes
his children with him, on the days when spectators are admitted to the
galleries free. When he is the people’s delegate, he leaves at home the
money provided by the city, and borrows from his fellow commissioners.

He loads more luggage on his porter than the man can carry, and provides
him with the smallest rations of any man in the party. When presents are
given the delegates by foreign courts, he demands his share at once, and
sells it. At the bath he says the oil brought him is bad, and shouts:
“Boy, the oil is rancid;” and in its stead takes what belongs to another.
If his servants find money on the highway, he demands a share of it,
saying: “Luck’s gifts are common property.” When he sends his cloak to be
cleaned, he borrows another from an acquaintance and keeps it until it is
asked for. He also does this sort of thing: he uses King Frugal’s measure
with the bottom dented in, for doling out supplies to his household and
then secretly brushes off the top. He sells underweight even to his
friend, who thinks he is buying according to market standard.

When he pays a debt of thirty pounds, he does so with a discount of four
shillings. When, owing to sickness, his children are not at school the
entire month, he deducts a proportionate amount from the teacher’s pay;
and during the month of Anthesterion he does not send them to their
studies at all, on account of the frequent shows, and so he avoids
tuition fees. If he receives coppers from a slave who has been serving
out, he demands in addition the exchange value of silver. When he gets a
statement from the deme’s[35] administrator, he demands provision for his
slaves at public cost.

He makes note of the half-radishes left on the table, to keep the
servants from taking them. If he goes abroad with friends, he uses their
servants and hires his own out; yet he does not contribute to the common
fund the money thus received. When others combine with him to give a
banquet at his house, he secretly includes in his account the wood,
figs, vinegar, salt, and lamp-oil,—trifles furnished from his supplies.
If a marriage is announced in a friend’s family, he goes away a little
beforehand, to avoid sending a wedding present. He borrows of friends
such articles as they would not ask to have returned, or such as, if
returned, they would not readily accept.

[35] The deme was a local division.

XXIX _The Late Learner_


The late learner has a fondness for study late in life. He commits whole
passages of poetry to memory when sixty years of age; but when he essays
to quote them at a banquet his memory trips. From his son, he learns
“Forward march!” “Shoulder arms!” “’Bout face!” At the feast of heroes he
pits himself against the boys in the torch-race; and of course when he is
invited to the temple of Hercules, he throws aside his mantle, and makes
ready to lift the steer, that he may bend back its neck. He goes to the
wrestling-grounds and joins in the matches.

At the shows he stays one performance after another until he has learned
the songs by heart. If he is dedicated to Sabazius, he is eager to be
declared the fairest; if he falls in love with some damsel, he makes an
onset on her door, only to be assaulted by a rival and hauled before
the court. He makes a trip to the country on a mare he has never before
ridden, and, essaying feats of horsemanship on the road, he falls and
breaks his head.

He joins a boys’ club too, and entertains the members at his house; he
plays “ducks and drakes” with his servant, and competes at archery and
javelin-throwing with his children’s tutor, and he expects the tutor, as
though ignorant of these sports, to learn them from him. He wrestles at
the baths, turning a bench nimbly about to create the impression that
he has been well trained in the art; and if women happen to be standing
near, he trips a dance, whistling his own music.

XXX _The Vicious Man_


Viciousness is love of what is bad. The vicious man is one who associates
with men convicted in public suits, and who assumes that, if he makes
friends of these fellows, he will gain in knowledge of the world, and so
will be more feared.

Of upright men, he declares that no one is by nature upright, but that
all men are alike, and he even reproaches the man who is honorable. The
bad man, he asserts, is free from prejudice, if one will but make the
trial, and, while in some respects he admits that men speak truly of such
a man, in others he refuses to allow it. “For,” says he, “the fellow is
clever, companionable, and a gentleman;” in fact, he maintains that
he never met so talented a person. He supports him, therefore, when he
speaks in the assembly or is defendant in court, and to those sitting in
judgment he’s apt to say that one must judge not the man, but the facts;
and he declares that his friend is the very watch-dog of the people, “for
he watches out for evil-doers”; and he adds: “We shall no longer have men
to burden themselves with a care for the common weal, if we abandon men
like him.”

It’s the vicious man’s way to constitute himself the patron of all
worthless scamps and to support them before the court in desperate cases;
and, when he passes judgment, he puts the worst construction on the
arguments of the opposing counsel.

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