Character Writings of the 17th Century online

. (page 35 of 37)
Online LibraryVariousCharacter Writings of the 17th Century → online text (page 35 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Is a peculiar fantastic that has a wonderful natural affection to some
particular kind of folly, to which he applies himself and in time
becomes eminent. 'Tis commonly some outlying whimsy of Bedlam, that,
being tame and unhurtful, is suffered to go at liberty. The more serious
he is the more ridiculous he becomes, and at the same time pleases
himself in earnest and others in jest. He knows no mean, for that is
inconsistent with all humour, which is never found but in some extreme
or other. Whatsoever he takes to he is very full of, and believes every
man else to be so too, as if his own taste were the same in every man's
palate. If he be a virtuoso, he applies himself with so much earnestness
to what he undertakes that he puts his reason out of joint and strains
his judgment; and there is hardly anything in the world so slight or
serious that some one or other has not squandered away his brains and
time and fortune upon to no other purpose but to be ridiculous. He is
exempted from a dark room and a doctor, because there is no danger in
his frenzy; otherwise he has as good a title to fresh straw as another.
Humour is but a crookedness of the mind, a disproportioned swelling of
the brain, that draws the nourishment from the other parts to stuff an
ugly and deformed crup-shoulder. If it have the luck to meet with many
of its own temper, instead of being ridiculous it becomes a church, and
from jest grows to earnest.


Sets the psalm, and all his party sing after him. He is like a figure in
arithmetic; the more ciphers he stands before the more his value amounts
to. He is a great haranguer, talks himself into authority, and, like a
parrot, climbs with his beak. He appears brave in the head of his party,
but braver in his own; for vainglory leads him, as he does them, and
both, many times out of the King's highway, over hedges and ditches, to
find out by-ways and shorter cuts, which generally prove the farthest
about, but never the nearest home again. He is so passionate a lover of
the Liberty of the People that his fondness turns to jealousy. He
interprets every trifle in the worst sense, to the prejudice of her
honesty, and is so full of caprices and scruples that, if he had his
will, he would have her shut up and never suffered to go abroad again,
if not made away, for her incontinence. All his politics are speculative
and for the most part impracticable, full of curious niceties, that tend
only to prevent future imaginary inconveniences with greater real and
present. He is very superstitious of having the formalities and
punctilios of law held sacred, that, while they are performing, those
that would destroy the very being of it may have time to do their
business or escape. He bends all his forces against those that are above
him, and, like a free-born English mastiff, plays always at the head. He
gathers his party as fanatics do a church, and admits all his admirers
how weak and slight soever; for he believes it is argument of wisdom
enough in them to admire, or, as he has it, to understand him. When he
has led his faction into any inconvenience they all run into his mouth,
as young snakes do into the old ones, and he defends them with his
oratory as well as he is able; for all his confidence depends upon his
tongue more than his brain or heart, and if that fail the others
surrender immediately; for though David says it is a two-edged sword, a
wooden dagger is a better weapon to fight with. His judgment is like a
nice balance that will turn with the twentieth part of a grain, but a
little using renders it false, and it is not so good for use as one that
will not stir without a greater weight.


Saves the devil a labour and leads himself into temptation, being loth
to lose his good favour in giving him any trouble where he can do the
business himself without his assistance, which he very prudently
reserves for matters of greater concernment. He governs himself in an
arbitrary way, and is absolute, without being confined to anything but
his own will and pleasure, which he makes his law. His life is all
recreation, and his diversions nothing but turning from one vice, that
he is weary of, to entertain himself with another that is fresh. He
lives above the state of his body as well as his fortune, and runs out
of his health and money as if he had made a match and betted on the
race, or bid the devil take the hindmost. He is an amphibious animal,
that lives in two elements, wet and dry, and never comes out of the
first but, like a sea-calf, to sleep on the shore. His language is very
suitable to his conversation, and he talks as loosely as he lives.
Ribaldry and profanation are his doctrine and use, and what he professes
publicly he practises very carefully in his life and conversation; not
like those clergymen that, to save the souls of other men, condemn
themselves out of their own mouths. His whole life is nothing but a
perpetual lordship of misrule and a constant ramble day and night as
long as it lasts, which is not according to the course of nature, but
its own course; for he cuts off the latter end of it, like a pruned
vine, that it may bear the more wine although it be the shorter. As for
that which is left, he is as lavish of it as he is of everything else;
for he sleeps all day and sits up all night, that he may not see how it
passes, until, like one that travels in a litter and sleeps, he is at
his journey's end before he is aware; for he is spirited away by his
vices and clapped under hatches, where he never knows whither he is
going until he is at the end of his voyage.


Is a civil mutineer, and as all mutinies for the most part are for pay,
if it were not for that he would never trouble himself with it. His
business is to kindle and blow up discontents against the Government,
that, when they are inflamed, he may have the fairer opportunity to rob
and plunder, while those that are concerned are employed in quenching
it. He endeavours to raise tumults and, if he can, civil war - a remedy
which no man that means well to his country can endure to think on
though the disease were never so desperate. He is a State mountebank,
whose business is to persuade the people that they are not well in
health, that he may get their money to make them worse. If he be a
preacher, he has the advantage of all others of his tribe, for he has a
way to vent sedition by wholesale; and as the foulest purposes have most
need of the fairest pretences, so when sedition is masked under the veil
of piety, religion, conscience, and holy duty, it propagates wonderfully
among the rabble, and he vents more in an hour from the pulpit than
others by news and politics can do in a week. Next him, writers and
libellers are most pernicious, for though the contagion they disperse
spreads slower and with less force than preaching, yet it lasts longer,
and in time extends to more, and with less danger to the author, who is
not easily discovered if he use any care to conceal himself. And
therefore, as we see stinging-flies vex and provoke cattle most
immediately before storms, so multitudes of those kinds of vermin do
always appear to stir up the people before the beginning of all
troublesome times, and nobody knows who they are or from whence they
came, but only that they were printed the present year that they may not
lose the advantage of being known to be new. Some do it only out of
humour and envy, or desire to see those that are above them pulled down
and others raised in their places, as if they held it a kind of freedom
to change their governors, though they continue in the same condition
themselves still, only they are a little better pleased with it in
observing the dangers greatness is exposed to. He delights in nothing so
much as civil commotions, and, like a porpoise, always plays before a
storm. Paper and tinder are both made of the same material, rags, but he
converts them both into the same again and makes his paper tinder.


Is an Ostro-Goth or Northern Hun, that, wheresoever he comes, invades
and all the world does overrun, without distinction of age, sex, or
quality. He has no regard to anything but his own humour, and that, he
expects, should pass everywhere without asking leave or being asked
wherefore, as if he had a safe-conduct for his rudeness. He rolls up
himself like a hedgehog in his prickles, and is as intractable to all
that come near him. He is an ill-designed piece, built after the rustic
order, and all his parts look too big for their height. He is so
ill-contrived that that which should be the top in all regular
structures - _i.e._, confidence - is his foundation. He has neither
doctrine nor discipline in him, like a fanatic Church, but is guided by
the very same spirit that dipped the herd of swine in the sea. He was
not bred, but reared; not brought up to hand, but suffered to run wild
and take after his kind, as other people of the pasture do. He takes
that freedom in all places, as if he were not at liberty, but had broken
loose and expected to be tied up again. He does not eat, but feed, and
when he drinks goes to water. The old Romans beat the barbarous part of
the world into civility, but if he had lived in those times he had been
invincible to all attempts of that nature, and harder to be subdued and
governed than a province. He eats his bread, according to the curse,
with the sweat of his brow, and takes as much pains at a meal as if he
earned it; puffs and blows like a horse that eats provender, and crams
his throat like a screwed gun with a bullet bigger than the bore. His
tongue runs perpetually over everything that comes in its way, without
regard of what, where, or to whom, and nothing but a greater rudeness
than his own can stand before it; and he uses it to as slovenly purposes
as a dog does that licks his sores and the dirt off his feet. He is the
best instance of the truth of Pythagoras's doctrine, for his soul passed
through all sorts of brute beasts before it came to him, and still
retains something of the nature of every one.


Is a congregation or assembly of the States-general sent from their
several and respective shops, stalls, and garrets. They are full of
controversy, and every one of a several judgment concerning the business
under present consideration, whether it be mountebank, show, hanging, or
ballad-singer. They meet, like Democritus's atoms, _in vacuo_, and by a
fortuitous jostling together produce the greatest and most savage beast
in the whole world; for though the members of it may have something of
human nature while they are asunder, when they are put together they
have none at all, as a multitude of several sounds make one great noise
unlike all the rest, in which no one particular is distinguished. They
are a great dunghill where all sorts of dirty and nasty humours meet,
stink, and ferment, for all the parts are in a perpetual tumult. 'Tis no
wonder they make strange Churches, for they take naturally to any
imposture, and have a great antipathy to truth and order as being
contrary to their original confusion. They are a herd of swine possessed
with a dry devil that run after hanging instead of drowning. Once a
month they go on pilgrimage to the gallows, to visit the sepulchres of
their ancestors, as the Turks do once a week. When they come there they
sing psalms, quarrel, and return full of satisfaction and narrative.
When they break loose they are like a public ruin, in which the highest
parts lie undermost, and make the noblest fabrics heaps of rubbish. They
are like the sea, that's stirred into a tumult with every blast of wind
that blows upon it, till it become a watery Apennine, and heap mountain
billows upon one another, as once the giants did in the war with heaven.
A crowd is their proper element, in which they make their way with their
shoulders as pigs creep through hedges. Nothing in the world delights
them so much as the ruin of great persons or any calamity in which they
have no share, though they get nothing by it. They love nothing but
themselves in the likeness of one another, and, like sheep, run all that
way the first goes, especially if it be against their governors, whom
they have a natural disaffection to.


Is a retailer of oaths, a deposition-monger, an evidence-maker, that
lives by the labour of his conscience. He takes money to kiss the
Gospel, as Judas did Christ when he betrayed Him. As a good conscience
is a continual feast, so an ill one is with him his daily food. He plies
at a court of justice, as porters do at a market, and his business is to
bear witness, as they do burdens for any man that will pay them for it.
He will swear his ears through an inch-board, and wears them merely by
favour of the Court; for, being _amicus curiae_, they are willing to let
him keep the pillory out of possession, though he has forfeited his
right never so often; for when he is once outed of his ears he is past
his labour, and can do the commonwealth of practisers no more service.
He is false weight in the balance of justice, and, as a lawyer's tongue
is the tongue of the balance that inclines either way according as the
weight of the bribe inclines it, so does his. He lays one hand on the
Book, and the other is in the plaintiff's or defendant's pocket. He
feeds upon his conscience, as a monkey eats his tail. He kisses the Book
to show he renounces and takes his leave of it. Many a parting kiss has
he given the Gospel. He pollutes it with his lips oftener than a
hypocrite. He is a sworn officer of every court and a great practiser,
is admitted within the Bar, and makes good what the rest of the counsel
say. The attorney and solicitor fee and instruct him in the case, and he
ventures as far for his client as any man to be laid by the ears. He
speaks more to the point than any other, yet gives false ground to his
brethren of the jury, that they seldom come near the jack. His oaths are
so brittle that not one in twenty of them will hold the taking, but fly
as soon as they are out. He is worse than an ill conscience, for that
bears true witness, but his is always false; and though his own
conscience be said to be a thousand witnesses, he will outswear and
outface them all. He believes it no sin to bear false witness for his
neighbour that pays him for it, because it is not forbidden, but only to
bear false witness against his neighbour.


Is a piece of base metal with the King's stamp upon it, a fog raised by
the sun to obscure his own brightness. He came to preferment by unworthy
offices, like one that rises with his bum forwards, which the rabble
hold to be fortunate. He got up to preferment on the wrong side, and
sits as untoward in it. He is raised rather above himself than others,
or as base metals are by the test of lead, while gold and silver
continue still unmoved. He is raised and swells, like a pimple, to be an
eyesore and deform the place he holds. He is borne like a cloud on the
air of the Prince's favour, and keeps his light from the rest of his
people. He rises, like the light end of a balance, for want of weight,
or as dust and feathers do, for being light. He gets into the Prince's
favour by wounding it. He is a true person of honour, for he does but
act it at the best; a lord made only to justify all the lords of
May-poles, morrice-dances, and misrule; a thing that does not live, but
lie in state before he's dead, such as the heralds dight at funerals.
His Prince gives him honour out of his own stock, and estate out of his
revenue, and lessens himself in both: -

"He is like fern, that vile unuseful weed,
That springs equivocally, without seed."

He was not made for honour, nor it for him, which makes it sit so
unfavouredly upon him. The fore-part of himself and the hinder-part of
his coach publish his distinction; as French lords, that have _haute
justice_ - that is, may hang and draw - distinguish their qualities by the
pillars of their gallows. He got his honour easily, by chance, without
the hard, laborious way of merit, which makes him so prodigally lavish
of it. He brings down the price of honour, as the value of anything
falls in mean hands. He looks upon all men in the state of knighthood
and plain gentility as most deplorable, and wonders how he could endure
himself when he was but of that rank. The greatest part of his honour
consists in his well-sounding title, which he therefore makes choice of,
though he has none to the place, but only a patent to go by the name of
it. This appears at the end of his coach in the shape of a coronet,
which his footmen set their bums against, to the great disparagement of
the wooden representative. The people take him for a general grievance,
a kind of public pressure or innovation, and would willingly give a
subsidy to be redressed of him. He is a strict observer of men's
addresses to him, and takes a mathematical account whether they stoop
and bow in just proportion to the weight of his greatness and allow full
measure to their legs and cringes accordingly. He never uses courtship
but in his own defence, that others may use the same to him, and, like a
true Christian, does as he would be done unto. He is intimate with no
man but his pimp and his surgeon, with whom he keeps no state, but
communicates all the states of his body. He is raised, like the market
or a tax, to the grievance and curse of the people. He that knew the
inventory of him would wonder what slight ingredients go to the making
up of a great person; howsoever, he is turned up trump, and so commands
better cards than himself while the game lasts. He has much of honour
according to the original sense of it, which among the ancients, Gellius
says, signified injury. His prosperity was greater than his brain could
bear, and he is drunk with it; and if he should take a nap as long as
Epimenides or the Seven Sleepers he would never be sober again. He took
his degree and went forth lord by mandamus, without performing exercises
of merit. His honour's but an immunity from worth, and his nobility a
dispensation for doing things ignoble. He expects that men's hats should
fly off before him like a storm, and not presume to stand in the way of
his prospect, which is always over their heads. All the advantage he has
is but to go before or sit before, in which his nether parts take place
of his upper, that continue still, in comparison, but commoners. He is
like an open summer-house, that has no furniture but bare seats. All he
has to show for his honour is his patent, which will not be in season
until the third or fourth generation, if it lasts so long. His very
creation supposes him nothing before, and as tailors rose by the fall of
Adam, and came in, like thorns and thistles, with the curse, so did he
by the frailty of his master. His very face is his gentleman-usher, that
walks before him in state, and cries "Give way!" He is as stiff as if he
had been dipped in petrifying water and turned into his own statue. He
is always taking the name of his honour in vain, and will rather damn it
like a knighthood of the post than want occasion to pawn it for every
idle trifle, perhaps for more than it is worth, or any man will give to
redeem it; and in this he deals uprightly, though perhaps in
nothing else.


Has a strange natural inclination to all ill intents and purposes. He
bears nothing so resolutely as ill-will, which he takes naturally to, as
some do to gaming, and will rather hate for nothing than sit out. He
believes the devil is not so bad as he should be, and therefore
endeavours to make him worse by drawing him into his own party offensive
and defensive; and if he would but be ruled by him, does not doubt but
to make him understand his business much better than he does. He lays
nothing to heart but malice, which is so far from doing him hurt that it
is the only cordial that preserves him. Let him use a man never so
civilly to his face, he is sure to hate him behind his back. He has no
memory for any good that is done him; but evil, whether it be done him
or not, never leaves him, as things of the same kind always keep
together. Love and hatred, though contrary passions, meet in him as a
third and unite, for he loves nothing but to hate, and hates nothing but
to love. All the truths in the world are not able to produce so much
hatred as he is able to supply. He is a common enemy to the world, for
being born to the hatred of it, Nature, that provides for everything she
brings forth, has furnished him with a competence suitable to his
occasions, for all men together cannot hate him so much as he does them
one by one. He loses no occasion of offence, but very thriftily lays it
up and endeavours to improve it to the best advantage. He makes issues
in his skin to vent his ill-humours, and is sensible of no pleasure so
much as the itching of his sores. He hates death for nothing so much as
because he fears it will take him away before he has paid all the
ill-will he owes, and deprive him of all those precious feuds he has
been scraping together all his lifetime. He is troubled to think what a
disparagement it will be to him to die before those that will be glad to
hear he is gone, and desires very charitably they might come to an
agreement like good friends and go hand-in-hand out of the world
together. He loves his neighbour as well as he does himself, and is
willing to endure any misery so they may but take part with him, and
undergo any mischief rather than they should want it. He is ready to
spend his blood and lay down his life for theirs that would not do half
so much for him, and rather than fail would give the devil suck, and his
soul into the bargain, if he would but make him his plenipotentiary to
determine all differences between himself and others. He contracts
enmities, as others do friendships, out of likenesses, sympathies, and
instincts; and when he lights upon one of his own temper, as contraries
produce the same effects, they perform all the offices of friendship,
have the same thoughts, affections, and desires of one another's
destruction, and please themselves as heartily, and perhaps as securely,
in hating one another as others do in loving. He seeks out enemies to
avoid falling out with himself, for his temper is like that of a
flourishing kingdom; if it have not a foreign enemy it will fall into a
civil war and turn its arms upon itself, and so does but hate in his own
defence. His malice is all sorts of gain to him, for as men take
pleasure in pursuing, entrapping, and destroying all sorts of beasts and
fowl, and call it sport, so would he do men, and if he had equal power
would never be at a loss, nor give over his game without his prey; and
in this he does nothing but justice, for as men take delight to destroy
beasts, he, being a beast, does but do as he is done by in endeavouring
to destroy men. The philosopher said, "Man to man is a god and a wolf;"
but he, being incapable of the first, does his endeavour to make as much
of the last as he can, and shows himself as excellent in his kind as it
is in his power to do.


Is like a tooth-drawer, that maintains his own teeth in constant eating
by pulling out those of other men. He is an ill moral philosopher, of
villainous principles, and as bad practice. His tenets are to hold what
he can get, right or wrong. His tongue and his heart are always at
variance, and fall out like rogues in the street, to pick somebody's
pocket. They never agree but, like Herod and Pilate, to do mischief. His
conscience never stands in his light when the devil holds a candle to
him, for he has stretched it so thin that it is transparent. He is an
engineer of treachery, fraud, and perfidiousness, and knows how to
manage matters of great weight with very little force by the advantage
of his trepanning screws. He is very skilful in all the mechanics of
cheat, the mathematical magic of imposture, and will outdo the
expectation of the most credulous to their own admiration and undoing.
He is an excellent founder, and will melt down a leaden fool and cast
him into what form he pleases. He is like a pike in a pond, that lives
by rapine, and will sometimes venture on one of his own kind, and devour
a knave as big as himself. He will swallow a fool a great deal bigger
than himself, and, if he can but get his head within his jaws, will
carry the rest of him hanging out at his mouth, until by degrees he has
digested him all. He has a hundred tricks to slip his neck out of the

Online LibraryVariousCharacter Writings of the 17th Century → online text (page 35 of 37)