Character Writings of the 17th Century online

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goes with mean. He takes occasion to show jewels given him in regard of
his virtue, that were bought in St. Martin's; and not long after having
with a mountebank's method pronounced them worth thousands, impawneth
them for a few shillings. Upon festival days he goes to court, and
salutes without resaluting; at night in an ordinary he canvasseth the
business in hand, and seems as conversant with all intents and plots as
if he begot them. His extraordinary account of men is, first to tell
them the ends of all matters of consequence, and then to borrow money of
them; he offers courtesies to show them, rather than himself, humble. He
disdains all things above his reach, and preferreth all countries before
his own. He imputeth his want and poverty to the ignorance of the time,
not his own unworthiness; and concludes his discourse with half a
period, or a word, and leaves the rest to imagination. In a word, his
religion is fashion, and both body and soul are governed by fame; he
loves most voices above truth.


Is the truth of the true definition of man, that is, a reasonable
creature. His disposition alters; he alters not. He hides himself with
the attire of the vulgar; and in indifferent things is content to be
governed by them. He looks according to nature; so goes his behaviour.
His mind enjoys a continual smoothness; so cometh it that his
consideration is always at home. He endures the faults of all men
silently, except his friends, and to them he is the mirror of their
actions; by this means, his peace cometh not from fortune, but himself.
He is cunning in men, not to surprise, but keep his own, and beats off
their ill-affected humours no otherwise than if they were flies. He
chooseth not friends by the Subsidy-book, and is not luxurious after
acquaintance. He maintains the strength of his body, not by delicates
but temperance; and his mind, by giving it pre-eminence over his body.
He understands things, not by their form, but qualities; and his
comparisons intend not to excuse but to provoke him higher. He is not
subject to casualties, for fortune hath nothing to do with the mind,
except those drowned in the body; but he hath divided his soul from the
case of his soul, whose weakness he assists no otherwise than
commiseratively - not that it is his, but that it is. He is thus, and
will be thus; and lives subject neither to time nor his frailties, the
servant of virtue, and by virtue the friend of the highest.


Hath surveyed and fortified his disposition, and converts all occurrents
into experience, between which experience and his reason there is
marriage; the issue are his actions. He circuits his intents, and seeth
the end before he shoot. Men are the instruments of his art, and there
is no man without his use. Occasion incites him, none enticeth him; and
he moves by affection, not for affection. He loves glory, scorns shame,
and governeth and obeyeth with one countenance, for it comes from one
consideration. He calls not the variety of the world chances, for his
meditation hath travelled over them, and his eye, mounted upon his
understanding, seeth them as things underneath. He covers not his body
with delicacies, nor excuseth these delicacies by his body, but teacheth
it, since it is not able to defend its own imbecility, to show or
suffer. He licenseth not his weakness to wear fate, but knowing reason
to be no idle gift of nature, he is the steersman of his own destiny.
Truth is the goddess, and he takes pains to get her, not to look like
her. He knows the condition of the world, that he must act one thing
like another, and then another. To these he carries his desires, and not
his desires him, and sticks not fast by the way (for that contentment is
repentance), but knowing the circle of all courses, of all intents, of
all things, to have but one centre or period, without all distraction,
he hasteth thither and ends there, as his true and natural element. He
doth not contemn Fortune, but not confess her. He is no gamester of the
world (which only complain and praise her), but being only sensible of
the honesty of actions, contemns a particular profit as the excrement of
scum. Unto the society of men he is a sun, whose clearness directs their
steps in a regular motion. When he is more particular, he is the wise
man's friend, the example of the indifferent, the medicine of the
vicious. Thus time goeth not from him, but with him; and he feels age
more by the strength of his soul than the weakness of his body. Thus
feels he no pain, but esteems all such things as friends that desire to
file off his fetters, and help him out of prison.


Is a thing that hath been a man in his days. Old men are to be known
blindfolded, for their talk is as terrible as their resemblance. They
praise their own times as vehemently as if they would sell them. They
become wrinkled with frowning and facing youth; they admire their old
customs, even to the eating of red herring and going wetshod. They cast
the thumb under the girdle, gravity; and because they can hardly smell
at all their posies are under their girdles. They count it an ornament
of speech to close the period with a cough; and it is venerable (they
say) to spend time in wiping their drivelled beards. Their discourse is
unanswerable, by reason of their obstinacy; their speech is much, though
little to the purpose. Truths and lies pass with an unequal affirmation;
for their memories several are won into one receptacle, and so they come
out with one sense. They teach their servants their duties with as much
scorn and tyranny as some people teach their dogs to fetch. Their envy
is one of their diseases. They put off and on their clothes with that
certainty, as if they knew their heads would not direct them, and
therefore custom should. They take a pride in halting and going stiffly,
and therefore their staves are carved and tipped; they trust their
attire with much of their gravity; and they dare not go without a gown
in summer. Their hats are brushed, to draw men's eyes off from their
faces; but of all, their pomanders are worn to most purpose, for their
putrified breath ought not to want either a smell to defend or a dog
to excuse.


Is a thing, out of whose corruption the generation of a Justice of Peace
is produced. He speaks statutes and husbandry well enough to make his
neighbours think him a wise man; he is well skilled in arithmetic or
rates, and hath eloquence enough to save twopence. His conversation
amongst his tenants is desperate, but amongst his equals full of doubt.
His travel is seldom farther than the next market town, and his
inquisition is about the price of corn. When he travelleth he will go
ten miles out of the way to a cousin's house of his to save charges; he
rewards the servant by taking him by the hand when he departs. Nothing
under a subpoena can draw him to London; and when he is there he sticks
fast upon every object, casts his eyes away upon gazing, and becomes the
prey of every cutpurse. When he comes home, those wonders serve him for
his holiday talk. If he go to court it is in yellow stockings; and if it
be in winter, in a slight taffety cloak, and pumps and pantofles. He is
chained that woos the usher for his coming into the presence, where he
becomes troublesome with the ill-managing of his rapier, and the wearing
of his girdle of one fashion, and the hangers of another. By this time
he hath learned to kiss his hand, and make a leg both together, and the
names of lords and councillors. He hath thus much toward entertainment
and courtesy, but of the last he makes more use, for, by the recital of
my lord, he conjures his poor countrymen. But this is not his element;
he must home again, being like a dor, that ends his flight in
a dunghill.


Is the cinnamon tree, whose bark is more worth than his body. He hath
read the book of good manners, and by this time each of his limbs may
read it. He alloweth of no judge but the eye: painting, bolstering, and
bombasting are his orators. By these also he proves his industry, for he
hath purchased legs, hair, beauty, and straightness, more than nature
left him. He unlocks maidenheads with his language, and speaks Euphues,
not so gracefully as heartily. His discourse makes not his behaviour;
but he buys it at court, as countrymen their clothes in Birchin Lane. He
is somewhat like the salamander, and lives in the flame of love, which
pains he expresseth comically. And nothing grieves him so much as the
want of a poet to make an issue in his love. Yet he sighs sweetly and
speaks lamentably, for his breath is perfumed and his words are wind. He
is best in season at Christmas, for the boar's head and reveller come
together. His hopes are laden in his quality; and, lest fiddlers should
take him unprovided, he wears pumps in his pocket; and, lest he should
take fiddlers unprovided, he whistles his own galliard. He is a calendar
of ten years, and marriage rusts him. Afterwards he maintains himself an
implement of household, by carving and ushering. For all this, he is
judicial only in tailors and barbers; but his opinion is ever ready, and
ever idle. If you will know more of his acts, the broker's shop is the
witness of his valour, where lies wounded, dead rent, and out of
fashion, many a spruce suit, overthrown by his fantasticness.


Is a creature born to the best advantage of things without him; that
hath the start at the beginning, but loiters it away before the ending.
He looks like his land, as heavily and dirtily, as stubbornly. He dares
do anything but fight, and fears nothing but his father's life, and
minority. The first thing he makes known is his estate, and the
loadstone that draws him is the upper end of the table. He wooeth by a
particular, and his strongest argument is all about the jointure. His
observation is all about the fashion, and he commends partlets for a
rare device. He speaks no language, but smells of dogs or hawks, and his
ambition flies justice-height. He loves to be commended; and he will go
into the kitchen but he'll have it. He loves glory, but is so lazy as he
is content with flattery. He speaks most of the precedency of age, and
protests fortune the greatest virtue. He summoneth the old servants, and
tells what strange acts he will do when he reigns. He verily believes
housekeepers the best commonwealths-men, and therefore studies baking,
brewing, greasing, and such, as the limbs of goodness. He judgeth it no
small sign of wisdom to talk much; his tongue therefore goes continually
his errand, but never speeds. If his understanding were not honester
than his will, no man should keep good conceit by him, for he thinks it
no theft to sell all he can to opinion. His pedigree and his father's
seal-ring are the stilts of his crazed disposition. He had rather keep
company with the dregs of men than not to be the best man. His
insinuation is the inviting of men to his house; and he thinks it a
great modesty to comprehend his cheer under a piece of mutton and a
rabbit. If he by this time be not known, he will go home again, for he
can no more abide to have himself concealed than his land. Yet he is (as
you see) good for nothing, except to make a stallion to maintain
the race.


Is the oyster that the pearl is in, for a man may be picked out of him.
He hath the abilities of the mind in _potentia_, and _actu_ nothing but
boldness. His clothes are in fashion before his body, and he accounts
boldness the chiefest virtue. Above all men he loves an herald, and
speaks pedigrees naturally. He accounts none well descended that call
him not cousin, and prefers Owen Glendower before any of the Nine
Worthies. The first note of his familiarity is the confession of his
valour, and so he prevents quarrels. He voucheth Welsh a pure and
unconquered language, and courts ladies with the story of their
chronicle. To conclude, he is precious in his own conceit, and upon St.
David's Day without comparison.


He treads in a rule, and one hand scans verses, and the other holds his
sceptre. He dares not think a thought that the nominative case governs
not the verb; and he never had meaning in his life, for he travelled
only for words. His ambition is criticism, and his example Tully. He
values phrases, and elects them by the sound, and the eight parts of
speech are his servants. To be brief, he is a Heteroclite, for he wants
the plural number, having only the single quality of words.


Is a creature, which, though he be not drunk, yet is not his own man. He
tells without asking who owns him, by the superscription of his livery.
His life is for ease and leisure, much about gentleman-like. His wealth
enough to suffice nature, and sufficient to make him happy, if he were
sure of it, for he hath little, and wants nothing; he values himself
higher or lower as his master is. He hates or loves the men as his
master doth the master. He is commonly proud of his master's horses or
his Christmas; he sleeps when he is sleepy, is of his religion, only the
clock of his stomach is set to go an hour after his. He seldom breaks
his own clothes. He never drinks but double, for he must be pledged; nor
commonly without some short sentence nothing to the purpose, and seldom
abstains till he comes to a thirst. His discretion is to be careful for
his master's credit, and his sufficiency to marshal dishes at a table,
and to carve well; his neatness consists much in his hair and outward
linen; his courting language, visible coarse jests; and against his
matter fail, he is always ready furnished with a song. His inheritance
is the chambermaid, but often purchaseth his master's daughter, by
reason of opportunity, or for want of a better, he always cuckolds
himself, and never marries but his own widow. His master being appeased,
he becomes a retainer, and entails himself and his posterity upon his
heir-males for ever.


Is the kernel of a sign; or the sign is the shell, and mine host is the
snail. He consists of double beer and fellowship, and his vices are the
bawds of his thirst. He entertains humbly, and gives his guests power,
as well of himself as house. He answers all men's expectations to his
power, save in the reckoning; and hath gotten the trick of greatness, to
lay all mislikes upon his servants. His wife is the common seed of his
dove-house; and to be a good guest is a warrant for her liberty. He
traffics for guests by men-friends' friends' friends, and is sensible
only of his purse. In a word, he is none of his own; for he neither
eats, drinks, or thinks, but at other men's charges and appointments.


Is a thing that scrubbeth unreasonably his horse, reasonably himself. He
consists of travellers, though he be none himself. His highest ambition
is to be host, and the invention of his sign is his greatest wit, for
the expressing whereof he sends away the painters for want of
understanding. He hath certain charms for a horse mouth, that he should
not eat his hay; and behind your back he will cozen your horse to his
face. His curry-comb is one of his best parts, for he expresseth much by
the jingling; and his mane-comb is a spinner's card turned out of
service. He puffs and blows over your horse, to the hazard of a double
jug, and leaves much of the dressing to the proverb of _muli mutuo
scabient_, one horse rubs another. He comes to him that calls loudest,
not first; he takes a broken head patiently, but the knave he feels it
not; utmost honesty is good fellowship, and he speaks northern, what
countryman soever. He hath a pension of ale from the next smith and
saddler for intelligence; he loves to see you ride, and hold your
stirrup in expectation.


He hath a soul drowned in a lump of flesh, or is a piece of earth that
Prometheus put not half his proportion of fire into. A thing that hath
neither edge of desire nor feeling of affection in it; the most
dangerous creature for confirming an atheist, who would swear his soul
were nothing but the bare temperature of his body. He sleeps as he goes,
and his thoughts seldom reach an inch further than his eyes. The most
part of the faculties of his soul lie fallow, or are like the restive
jades that no spur can drive forward towards the pursuit of any worthy
designs. One of the most unprofitable of God's creatures, being as he is
a thing put clean beside the right use; made fit for the cart and the
flail, and by mischance entangled amongst books and papers. A man cannot
tell possibly what he is now good for, save to move up and down and fill
room, or to serve as _animatum instrumentum_, for others to work withal
in base employments, or to be foil for better wits, or to serve (as they
say monsters do) to set out the variety of nature, and ornament of the
universe. He is mere nothing of himself, neither eats, nor drinks, nor
goes, nor spits, but by imitation, for all which he hath set forms and
fashions, which he never varies, but sticks to with the like plodding
constancy that a mill-horse follows his trace. But the Muses and the
Graces are his hard mistresses; though he daily invocate them, though he
sacrifice hecatombs, they still look asquint. You shall note him
(besides his dull eye, and lowering head, and a certain clammy benumbed
pace) by a fair displayed beard, a night-cap, and a gown, whose very
wrinkles proclaim him the true genius of familiarity. But of all others,
his discourse and compositions best speak him, both of them are much of
one stuff and fashion. He speaks just what his books or last company
said unto him, without varying one whit, and very seldom understands
himself. You may know by his discourse where he was last; for what he
heard or read yesterday, he now dischargeth his memory or note-book
of - not his understanding, for it never came there. What he hath he
flings abroad at all adventures, without accommodating it to time,
place, or persons, or occasions. He commonly loseth himself in his tale,
and flutters up and down windless without recovery, and whatsoever next
presents itself, his heavy conceit seizeth upon, and goeth along with,
however heterogeneal to his matter in hand. His jests are either old
fled proverbs, or lean-starved hackney apophthegms, or poor verbal
quips, outworn by serving-men, tapsters, and milkmaids, even laid aside
by balladers. He assents to all men that bring any shadow of reason, and
you may make him when he speaks most dogmatically even with one breath,
to aver poor contradictions. His compositions differ only _terminorum
positione_ from dreams; nothing but rude heaps of immaterial,
incoherent, drossy, rubbishy stuff, promiscuously thrust up together;
enough to infuse dulness and barrenness in conceit into him that is so
prodigal of his ears as to give the hearing; enough to make a man's
memory ache with suffering such dirty stuff cast into it. As unwelcome
to any true conceit, as sluttish morsels or wallowish potions to a nice
stomach, which whiles he empties himself, it sticks in his teeth, nor
can he be delivered without sweat, and sighs, and hems, and coughs
enough to shake his grandam's teeth out of her head. He spits, and
scratches, and spawls, and turns like sick men from one elbow to
another, and deserves as much pity during his torture as men in fits of
tertian fevers, or self-lashing penitentiaries. In a word, rip him quite
asunder, and examine every shred of him, you shall find of him to be
just nothing but the subject of nothing; the object of contempt; yet
such as he is you must take him, for there is no hope he should ever
become better.


Is a man's best movable, a scion incorporate with the stock, bringing
sweet fruit; one that to her husband is more than a friend, less than
trouble; an equal with him in the yoke. Calamities and troubles she
shares alike, nothing pleaseth her that doth not him. She is relative in
all, and he without her but half himself. She is his absent hands, eyes,
ears, and mouth; his present and absent all. She frames her nature unto
his howsoever; the hyacinth follows not the sun more willingly.
Stubbornness and obstinacy are herbs that grow not in her garden. She
leaves tattling to the gossips of the town, and is more seen than heard.
Her household is her charge; her care to that makes her seldom
non-resident. Her pride is but to be cleanly, and her thrift not to be
prodigal. By her discretion she hath children not wantons; a husband
without her is a misery to man's apparel: none but she hath an aged
husband, to whom she is both a staff and a chair. To conclude, she is
both wise and religious, which makes her all this.


Is a strayer from the drove: one that Nature made a sociable, because
she made him man, and a crazed disposition hath altered. Unpleasing to
all, as all to him; straggling thoughts are his content, they make him
dream waking, there's his pleasure. His imagination is never idle, it
keeps his mind in a continual motion, as the poise the clock: he winds
up his thoughts often, and as often unwinds them; Penelope's web thrives
faster. He'll seldom be found without the shade of some grove, in whose
bottom a river dwells. He carries a cloud in his face, never fair
weather; his outside is framed to his inside, in that he keeps a
decorum, both unseemly. Speak to him; he hears with his eyes, ears
follow his mind, and that's not at leisure. He thinks business, but
never does any; he is all contemplation, no action. He hews and fashions
his thoughts, as if he meant them to some purpose, but they prove
unprofitable, as a piece of wrought timber to no use. His spirits and
the sun are enemies: the sun bright and warm, his humour black and cold;
variety of foolish apparitions people his head, they suffer him not to
breathe according to the necessities of nature, which makes him sup up a
draught of as much air at once as would serve at thrice. He denies
nature her due in sleep, and nothing pleaseth him long, but that which
pleaseth his own fantasies; they are the consuming evils, and evil
consumptions that consume him alive. Lastly, he is a man only in show;
but comes short of the better part, a whole reasonable soul, which is
man's chief pre-eminence and sole mark from creatures sensible.


Is a pitched piece of reason caulked and tackled, and only studied to
dispute with tempests. He is part of his own provision, for he lives
ever pickled. A fore-wind is the substance of his creed, and fresh water
the burden of his prayers. He is naturally ambitious, for he is ever
climbing; out of which as naturally he fears, for he is ever flying.
Time and he are everywhere ever contending who shall arrive first; he is
well-winded, for he tires the day, and outruns darkness. His life is
like a hawk's, the best part mewed; and if he live till three coats, is
a master. He sees God's wonders in the deep, but so as rather they
appear his playfellows than stirrers of his zeal. Nothing but hunger and
hard rocks can convert him, and then but his upper deck neither; for his
hold neither fears nor hopes, his sleeps are but reprievals of his
dangers, and when he wakes 'tis but next stage to dying. His wisdom is
the coldest part about him, for it ever points to the north, and it lies
lowest, which makes his valour every tide overflow it. In a storm it is
disputable whether the noise be more his or the elements, and which will
first leave scolding; on which side of the ship he may be saved best,
whether his faith be starboard faith or larboard, or the helm at that
time not all his hope of heaven. His keel is the emblem of his
conscience, till it be split he never repents, then no farther than the
land allows him, and his language is a new confusion, and all his
thoughts new nations. His body and his ship are both one burden, nor is
it known who stows most wine or rolls most; only the ship is guided, he
has no stern. A barnacle and he are bred together, both of one nature,
and it is feared one reason. Upon any but a wooden horse he cannot ride,
and if the wind blow against him he dare not. He swerves up to his seat
as to a sail-yard, and cannot sit unless he bear a flagstaff. If ever he
be broken to the saddle, it is but a voyage still, for he mistakes the
bridle for a bowline, and is ever turning his horse-tail. He can pray,
but it is by rote, not faith, and when he would he dares not, for his
brackish belief hath made that ominous. A rock or a quicksand plucks him

Online LibraryVariousCharacter Writings of the 17th Century → online text (page 3 of 37)