Character Writings of the 17th Century online

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active in the world without disquiet, and careful without misery; yet
neither engulfed in his pleasures, nor a seeker of business, but has his
hour for both. A man that seldom laughs violently, but his mirth is a
cheerful look: of a composed and settled countenance, not set, nor much
alterable with sadness of joy. He affects nothing so wholly, that he
must be a miserable man when he loses it; but fore-thinks what will come
hereafter, and spares fortune his thanks and curses. One that loves his
credit, not this word reputation; yet can save both without a duel.
Whose entertainments to greater men are respectful, not complimentary;
and to his friends plain, not rude. A good husband, father, master; that
is, without doting, pampering, familiarity. A man well poised in all
humours, in whom nature shewed most geometry, and he has not spoiled the
work. A man of more wisdom than wittiness, and brain than fancy; and
abler to any thing than to make verses.


Is a far finer man than he knows of, one that shews better to all men
than himself, and so much the better to all men, as less to himself;[77]
for no quality sets a man off like this, and commends him more against
his will: and he can put up any injury sooner than this (as he calls it)
your irony. You shall hear him confute his commenders, and giving
reasons how much they are mistaken, and is angry almost if they do not
believe him. Nothing threatens him so much as great expectation, which
he thinks more prejudicial than your under-opinion, because it is easier
to make that false, than this true. He is one that sneaks from a good
action, as one that had pilfered, and dare not justify it; and is more
blushingly reprehended in this, than others in sin: that counts all
publick declarings of himself, but so many penances before the people;
and the more you applaud him the more you abash him, and he recovers not
his face a month after. One that is easy to like any thing of another
man's, and thinks all he knows not of him better than that he knows. He
excuses that to you, which another would impute; and if you pardon him,
is satisfied. One that stands in no opinion because it is his own, but
suspects it rather, because it is his own, and is confuted and thanks
you. He sees nothing more willingly than his errors, and it is his error
sometimes to be too soon persuaded. He is content to be auditor where he
only can speak, and content to go away and think himself instructed. No
man is so weak that he is ashamed to learn of, and is less ashamed to
confess it; and he finds many times even in the dust, what others
overlook and lose. Every man's presence is a kind of bridle to him, to
stop the roving of his tongue and passions: and even impudent men look
for this reverence from him, and distaste that in him which they suffer
in themselves, as one in whom vice is ill-favoured and shews more
scurvily than another. An unclean jest shall shame him more than a
bastard another man, and he that got it shall censure him among the
rest. He is coward to nothing more than an ill tongue, and whosoever
dare lie on him hath power over him; and if you take him by his look, he
is guilty. The main ambition of his life is not to be discredited; and
for other things, his desires are more limited than his fortunes, which
he thinks preferment though never so mean, and that he is to do
something to deserve this. He is too tender to venture on great places,
and would not hurt a dignity to help himself: If he do, it was the
violence of his friends constrained him, how hardly soever he obtain it
he was harder persuaded to seek it.


Is like one that spends on the stock without any revenues coming in, and
will shortly be no wit at all; for learning is the fuel to the fire of
wit, which, if it wants this feeding, eats out itself. A good conceit or
two bates of such a man, and makes a sensible weakening in him; and his
brain recovers it not a year after. The rest of him are bubbles and
flashes, darted out on a sudden, which, if you take them while they are
warm, may be laughed at; if they are cool, are nothing. He speaks best
on the present apprehension, for meditation stupefies him, and the more
he is in travail, the less he brings forth. His things come off then, as
in a nauseateing stomach, where there is nothing to cast up, strains and
convulsions, and some astonishing bombast, which men only, till they
understand, are scared with. A verse or some such work he may sometimes
get up to, but seldom above the stature of an epigram, and that with
some relief out of Martial, which is the ordinary companion of his
pocket, and he reads him as he were inspired. Such men are commonly the
trifling things of the world, good to make merry the company, and whom
only men have to do withal when they have nothing to do, and none are
less their friends than who are most their company. Here they vent
themselves over a cup somewhat more lastingly; all their words go for
jests, and all their jests for nothing. They are nimble in the fancy of
some ridiculous thing, and reasonable good in the expression. Nothing
stops a jest when it's coming, neither friends, nor danger, but it must
out howsoever, though their blood come out after, and then they
emphatically rail, and are emphatically beaten, and commonly are men
reasonable familiar to this. Briefly they are such whose life is but to
laugh and be laughed at; and only wits in jest and fools in earnest.


Is one that will be a man to-morrow morning, but is now what you will
make him, for he is in the power of the next man, and if a friend the
better. One that hath let go himself from the hold and stay of reason,
and lies open to the mercy of all temptations. No lust but finds him
disarmed and fenceless, and with the least assault enters. If any
mischief escape him, it was not his fault, for he was laid as fair for
it as he could. Every man sees him, as Cham saw his father the first of
this sin, an uncovered man, and though his garment be on, uncovered; the
secretest parts of his soul lying in the nakedest manner visible: all
his passions come out now, all his vanities, and those shamefuller
humours which discretion clothes. His body becomes at last like a miry
way, where the spirits are beclogged and cannot pass: all his members
are out of office, and his heels do but trip up one another. He is a
blind man with eyes, and a cripple with legs on. All the use he has of
this vessel himself, is to hold thus much; for his drinking is but a
scooping in of so many quarts, which are filled out into his body, and
that filled out again into the room, which is commonly as drunk as he.
Tobacco serves to air him after a washing, and is his only breath and
breathing while. He is the greatest enemy to himself, and the next to
his friend, and then most in the act of his kindness, for his kindness
is but trying a mastery, who shall sink down first: and men come from
him as a battle, wounded and bound up. Nothing takes a man off more from
his credit, and business, and makes him more recklessly careless what
becomes of all. Indeed he dares not enter on a serious thought, or if he
do, it is such melancholy that it sends him to be drunk again.


Is the grave of the living,[78] where they are shut up from the world
and their friends; and the worms that gnaw upon them their own thoughts
and the jailor. A house of meagre looks and ill smells, for lice, drink,
and tobacco are the compound. Plato's court was expressed from this
fancy; and the persons are much about the same parity that is there. You
may ask, as Menippus in Lucian, which is Nireus, which Thersites, which
the beggar, which the knight; - for they are all suited in the same form
of a kind of nasty poverty. Only to be out at elbows is in fashion here,
and a great indecorum not to be thread-bare. Every man shews here like
so many wrecks upon the sea, here the ribs of a thousand pound, here the
relicks of so many manors, a doublet without buttons; and 'tis a
spectacle of more pity than executions are. The company one with the
other is but a vying of complaints, and the causes they have to rail on
fortune and fool themselves, and there is a great deal of good
fellowship in this. They are commonly, next their creditors, most bitter
against the lawyers, as men that have had a great stroke in assisting
them hither. Mirth here is stupidity or hardheartedness, yet they feign
it sometimes to slip melancholy, and keep off themselves from
themselves, and the torment of thinking what they have been. Men huddle
up their life here as a thing of no use, and wear it out like an old
suit, the faster the better; and he that deceives the time best, best
spends it. It is the place where new comers are most welcomed, and, next
them, ill news, as that which extends their fellowship in misery, and
leaves few to insult: - and they breath their discontents more securely
here, and have their tongues at more liberty than abroad. Men see here
much sin and much calamity; and where the last does not mortify, the
other hardens; as those that are worse here, are desperately worse, and
those from whom the horror of sin is taken off and the punishment
familiar: and commonly a hard thought passes on all that come from this
school; which though it teach much wisdom, it is too late, and with
danger: and it is better be a fool than come here to learn it.


Is one of the makings up of a gentleman as well as his clothes, and
somewhat in the same nature, for he is cast behind his master as
fashionably as his sword and cloak are, and he is but _in querpo_[79]
without him. His properness[80] qualifies him, and of that a good leg;
for his head he has little use but to keep it bare. A good dull wit best
suits with him to comprehend commonsense and a trencher; for any greater
store of brain it makes him but tumultuous, and seldom thrives with him.
He follows his master's steps, as well in conditions as the street: if
he wench or drink, he comes him in an under kind, and thinks it a part
of his duty to be like him. He is indeed wholly his master's; of his
faction, - of his cut, - of his pleasures: - he is handsome for his credit,
and drunk for his credit, and if he have power in the cellar, commands
the parish. He is one that keeps the best company, and is none of it;
for he knows all the gentlemen his master knows, and picks from thence
some hawking and horse-race terms,[81] which he swaggers with in the
ale-house, where he is only called master. His mirth is evil jests with
the wenches, and, behind the door, evil earnest. The best work he does
is his marrying, for it makes an honest woman, and if he follows in it
his master's direction, it is commonly the best service he does him.


Is a fellow newly great and newly proud; one that hath put himself into
another face upon his preferment, for his own was not bred to it; one
whom fortune hath shot up to some office or authority, and he shoots up
his neck to his fortune, and will not bate you an inch of either. His
very countenance and gesture bespeak how much he is, and if you
understand him not, he tells you, and concludes every period with his
place, which you must and shall know. He is one that looks on all men as
if he were angry, but especially on those of his acquaintance, whom he
beats off with a surlier distance, as men apt to mistake him, because
they have known him: and for this cause he knows not you 'till you have
told him your name, which he thinks he has heard, but forgot, and with
much ado seems to recover. If you have any thing to use him in, you are
his vassal for that time, and must give him the patience of any injury,
which he does only to shew what he may do. He snaps you up bitterly,
because he will be offended, and tells you, you are saucy and
troublesome, and sometimes takes your money in this language. His very
courtesies are intolerable, they are done with such an arrogance and
imputation; and he is the only man you may hate after a good turn, and
not be ungrateful; and men reckon it among their calamities to be
beholden unto him. No vice draws with it a more general hostility, and
makes men readier to search into his faults, and of them, his beginning;
and no tale so unlikely but is willingly heard of him and believed. And
commonly such men are of no merit at all, but make out in pride what
they want in worth, and fence themselves with a stately kind of
behaviour from that contempt which would pursue them. They are men whose
preferment does us a great deal of wrong, and when they are down, we may
laugh at them without breach of good-nature.


Is the first draught of a friend, whom we must lay down oft thus, as the
foul copy, before we can write him perfect and true: for from hence, as
from a probation, men take a degree in our respect, till at last they
wholly possess us: for acquaintance is the hoard, and friendship the
pair chosen out of it; by which at last we begin to impropriate and
inclose to ourselves what before lay in common with others. And commonly
where it grows not up to this, it falls as low as may be; and no poorer
relation than old acquaintance, of whom we only ask how they do for
fashion's sake, and care not. The ordinary use of acquaintance is but
somewhat a more boldness of society, a sharing of talk, news, drink,
mirth together; but sorrow is the right of a friend, as a thing nearer
our heart, and to be delivered with it. Nothing easier than to create
acquaintance, the mere being in company once does it; whereas
friendship, like children, is engendered by a more inward mixture and
coupling together; when we are acquainted not with their virtues only,
but their faults, their passions, their fears, their shame. - and are
bold on both sides to make their discovery. And as it is in the love of
the body, which is then at the height and full when it has power and
admittance into the hidden and worst parts of it; so it is in friendship
with the mind, when those _verenda_ of the soul, and those things which
we dare not shew the world, are bare and detected one to another.

Some men are familiar with all, and those commonly friends to none; for
friendship is a sullener thing, is a contractor and taker up of our
affections to some few, and suffers them not loosely to be scattered on
all men. The poorest tie of acquaintance is that of place and country,
which are shifted as the place, and missed but while the fancy of that
continues. These are only then gladdest of other, when they meet in some
foreign region, where the encompassing of strangers unites them closer,
till at last they get new, and throw off one another. Men of parts and
eminency, as their acquaintance is more sought for, so they are
generally more staunch of it, not out of pride only, but fear to let too
many in too near them: for it is with men as with pictures, the best
show better afar off and at distance, and the closer you come to them
the coarser they are. The best judgment of a man is taken from his
acquaintance, for friends and enemies are both partial; whereas these
see him truest because calmest, and are no way so engaged to lie for
him. And men that grow strange after acquaintance seldom piece together
again, as those that have tasted meat and dislike it, out of a mutual
experience disrelishing one another.


Is one to be held off still at the same distance you are now; for you
shall have him but thus, and if you enter on him farther you lose him.
Methinks Virgil well expresses him in those well-behaved ghosts that
√Жneas met with, that were friends to talk with, and men to look on, but
if he grasped them, but air.[82] He is one that lies kindly to you, and
for good fashion's sake, and 'tis discourtesy in you to believe him. His
words are so many fine phrases set together, which serve equally for all
men, and are equally to no purpose. Each fresh encounter with a man puts
him to the same part again, and he goes over to you what he said to him
was last with him: he kisses your hands as he kissed his before, and is
your servant to be commanded, but you shall intreat of him nothing. His
proffers are universal and general, with exceptions against all
particulars. He will do any thing for you, but if you urge him to this,
he cannot, or to that, he is engaged; but he will do any thing. Promises
he accounts but a kind of mannerly words, and in the expectation of your
manners not to exact them: if you do, he wonders at your ill breeding,
that cannot distinguish betwixt what is spoken and what is meant. No man
gives better satisfaction at the first, and comes off more with the
elegy of a kind gentleman, till you know him better, and then you know
him for nothing. And commonly those most rail at him, that have before
most commended him. The best is, he cozens you in a fair manner, and
abuses you with great respect.


Is a man and a fiddle out of case, and he in worse case than his fiddle.
One that rubs two sticks together (as the Indians strike fire), and rubs
a poor living out of it; partly from this, and partly from your charity,
which is more in the hearing than giving him, for he sells nothing
dearer than to be gone. He is just so many strings above a beggar,
though he have but two; and yet he begs too, only not in the downright
'for God's sake,' but with a shrugging 'God bless you,' and his face is
more pined than the blind man's. Hunger is the greatest pain he takes,
except a broken head sometimes, and the labouring John Dory.[83]
Otherwise his life is so many fits of mirth, and 'tis some mirth to see
him. A good feast shall draw him five miles by the nose, and you shall
track him again by the scent. His other pilgrimages are fairs and good
houses, where his devotion is great to the Christmas; and no man loves
good times better. He is in league with the tapsters for the worshipful
of the inn, whom he torments next morning with his art, and has their
names more perfect than their men. A new song is better to him than a
new jacket, especially if bawdy, which he calls merry; and hates
naturally the puritan, as an enemy to this mirth. A country wedding and
Whitsun-ale are the two main places he domineers in, where he goes for a
musician, and overlooks the bag-pipe. The rest of him is drunk, and in
the stocks.


Is one that has nothing to do with his business, and yet no man busier
than he, and his business is most in his face. He is one thrusts himself
violently into all employments, unsent for, unfeed, and many times
unthanked; and his part in it is only an eager bustling, that rather
keeps ado than does any thing. He will take you aside, and question you
of your affair, and listen with both ears, and look earnestly, and then
it is nothing so much yours as his. He snatches what you are doing out
of your hands, and cries "give it me," and does it worse, and lays an
engagement upon you too, and you must thank him for this pains. He lays
you down an hundred wild plots, all impossible things, which you must be
ruled by perforce, and he delivers them with a serious and counselling
forehead; and there is a great deal more wisdom in this forehead than
his head. He will woo for you, solicit for you, and woo you to suffer
him; and scarce any thing done, wherein his letter, or his journey, or
at least himself is not seen: if he have no task in it else, he will
rail yet on some side, and is often beaten when he need not. Such men
never thoroughly weigh any business, but are forward only to shew their
zeal, when many times this forwardness spoils it, and then they cry they
have done what they can, that is, as much hurt. Wise men still deprecate
these men's kindnesses, and are beholden to them rather to let them
alone; as being one trouble more in all business, and which a man shall
be hardest rid of.


Is the best antiquity, and which we may with least vanity admire. One
whom time hath been thus long a working, and like winter fruit, ripened
when others are shaken down. He hath taken out as many lessons of the
world as days, and learnt the best thing in it; the vanity of it. He
looks over his former life as a danger well past, and would not hazard
himself to begin again. His lust was long broken before his body, yet he
is glad this temptation is broke too, and that he is fortified from it
by this weakness. The next door of death sads him not, but he expects it
calmly as his turn in nature; and fears more his recoiling back to
childishness than dust. All men look on him as a common father, and on
old age, for his sake, as a reverent thing. His very presence and face
puts vice out of countenance, and makes it an indecorum in a vicious
man. He practises his experience on youth without the harshness of
reproof, and in his counsel is good company. He has some old stories
still of his own seeing to confirm what he says, and makes them better
in the telling; yet is not troublesome neither with the same tale again,
but remembers with them how oft he has told them. His old sayings and
morals seem proper to his beard; and the poetry of Cato does well out of
his mouth, and he speaks it as if he were the author. He is not apt to
put the boy on a younger man, nor the fool on a boy, but can distinguish
gravity from a sour look; and the less testy he is, the more regarded.
You must pardon him if he like his own times better than these, because
those things are follies to him now that were wisdom then; yet he makes
us of that opinion too when we see him, and conjecture those times by so
good a relic. He is a man capable of a dearness with the youngest men,
yet he not youthfuller for them, but they older for him; and no man
credits more his acquaintance. He goes away at last too soon whensoever,
with all men's sorrow but his own; and his memory is fresh, when it is
twice as old.


Is the picture of a friend, and as pictures flatter many times, so he
oft shews fairer than the true substance: his look, conversation,
company, and all the outwardness of friendship more pleasing by odds,
for a true friend dare take the liberty to be sometimes offensive,
whereas he is a great deal more cowardly, and will not let the least
hold go, for fear of losing you. Your mere sour look affrights him, and
makes him doubt his cashiering. And this is one sure mark of him, that
he is never first angry, but ready though upon his own wrong to make
satisfaction. Therefore he is never yoked with a poor man, or any that
stands on the lower ground, but whose fortunes may tempt his pains to
deceive him. Him he learns first, and learns well, and grows perfecter
in his humours than himself, and by this door enters upon his soul, of
which he is able at last to take the very print and mark, and fashion
his own by it, like a false key to open all your secrets. All his
affections jump[84] even with yours; he is before-hand with your
thoughts, and able to suggest them unto you. He will commend to you
first what he knows you like, and has always some absurd story or other
of your enemy, and then wonders how your two opinions should jump in
that man. He will ask your counsel sometimes as a man of deep judgment,
and has a secret of purpose to disclose to you, and, whatsoever you say,
is persuaded. He listens to your words with great attention, and
sometimes will object that you may confute him, and then protests he
never heard so much before. A piece of wit bursts him with an
overflowing laughter, and he remembers it for you to all companies, and
laughs again in the telling. He is one never chides you but for your
virtues, as, _you are too good, too honest, too religious_, when his
chiding may seem but the earnester commendation, and yet would fain
chide you out of them too; for your vice is the thing he has use of, and
wherein you may best use him; and he is never more active than in the
worst diligences. Thus, at last, he possesses you from yourself, and
then expects but his hire to betray you: and it is a happiness not to
discover him; for as long as you are happy, you shall not.


Is one that looks like a proud man, but is not: you may forgive him his
looks for his worth's sake, for they are only too proud to be base. One
whom no rate can buy off from the least piece of his freedom, and make
him digest an unworthy thought an hour. He cannot crouch to a great man
to possess him, nor fall low to the earth to rebound never so high
again. He stands taller on his own bottom, than others on the advantage

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