Character Writings of the 17th Century online

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before he be ripe, else he is gathered to his friends at Wapping.


Is the husbandman of valour; his sword is his plough, which honour and
_aqua vita_, two fiery-metalled jades, are ever drawing. A younger
brother best becomes arms, an elder the thanks for them. Every heat
makes him a harvest, and discontents abroad are his sowers. He is
actively his prince's, but passively his anger's servant. He is often a
desirer of learning, which once arrived at, proves his strongest armour.
He is a lover at all points, and a true defender of the faith of women.
More wealth than makes him seem a handsome foe, lightly he covets not,
less is below him. He never truly wants but in much having, for then his
ease and lechery afflict him. The word peace, though in prayer, makes
him start, and God he best considers by His power. Hunger and cold rank
in the same file with him, and hold him to a man; his honour else, and
the desire of doing things beyond him, would blow him greater than the
sons of Anak. His religion is, commonly, as his cause is, doubtful, and
that the best devotion keeps best quarter. He seldom sees grey hairs,
some none at all, for where the sword fails, there the flesh gives fire.
In charity he goes beyond the clergy, for he loves his greatest enemy
best, much drinking. He seems a full student, for he is a great desirer
of controversies; he argues sharply, and carries his conclusion in his
scabbard. In the first refining of mankind this was the gold, his
actions are his amel. His alloy (for else you cannot work him perfectly)
continual duties, heavy and weary marches, lodgings as full of need as
cold diseases. No time to argue, but to execute. Line him with these,
and link him to his squadrons, and he appears a most rich chain
for princes.


Is a creature made up of threads that were pared off from Adam, when he
was rough cast; the end of his being differeth from that of others, and
is not to serve God, but to cover sin. Other men's pride is the best
patron, and their negligence a main passage to his profit. He is a thing
of more than ordinary judgment: for by virtue of that he buyeth land,
buildeth houses, and raiseth the set roof of his cross-legged fortune.
His actions are strong encounters, and for their notoriousness always
upon record. It is neither Amadis de Gaul, nor the Knight of the Sun,
that is able to resist them. A ten-groat fee setteth them on foot, and a
brace of officers bringeth them to execution. He handleth the Spanish
pike to the hazard of many poor Egyptian vermin; and in show of his
valour, scorneth a greater gauntlet than will cover the top of his
middle finger. Of all weapons he most affecteth the long bill; and this
he will manage to the great prejudice of a customer's estate. His
spirit, notwithstanding, is not so much as to make you think him man;
like a true mongrel, he neither bites nor barks but when your back is
towards him. His heart is a lump of congealed snow: Prometheus was
asleep while it was making. He differeth altogether from God; for with
him the best pieces are still marked out for damnation, and, without
hope of recovery, shall be cast down into hell. He is partly an
alchemist; for he extracteth his own apparel out of other men's clothes;
and when occasion serveth, making a broker's shop his alembic, can turn
your silks into gold, and having furnished his necessities, after a
month or two, if he be urged unto it, reduce them again to their proper
subsistence. He is in part likewise an arithmetician, cunning enough for
multiplication and addition, but cannot abide subtraction: _summa
totalis_ is the language of his Canaan, and _usque ad ultimum
quadrantem_ the period of all his charity. For any skill in geometry I
dare not commend him, for he could never yet find out the dimensions of
his own conscience; notwithstanding he hath many bottoms, it seemeth
this is always bottomless. And so with a _libera nos a malo_ I leave
you, promising to amend whatsoever is amiss at his next setting.


Is a diseased piece of apocalypse: bind him to the Bible, and he
corrupts the whole text. 'Ignorance and fat feed are his founders; his
nurses, railing, rabies, and round breeches. His life is but a borrowed
blast of wind: for between two religions, as between two doors, he is
ever whistling. Truly, whose child he is is yet unknown; for, willingly,
his faith allows no father: only thus far his pedigree is found, Bragger
and he flourished about a time first. His fiery zeal keeps him
continually costive, which withers him into his own translation; and
till he eat a schoolman he is hide-bound. He ever prays against
non-residents, but is himself the greatest discontinuer, for he never
keeps near his text. Anything that the law allows, but marriage and
March beer, he murmurs at; what it disallows and holds dangerous, makes
him a discipline. Where the gate stands open, he is ever seeking a
stile; and where his learning ought to climb, he creeps through. Give
him advice, you run into traditions; and urge a modest course, he cries
out counsel. His greatest care is to contemn obedience; his last care to
serve God handsomely and cleanly. He is now become so cross a kind of
teaching, that should the Church enjoin clean shirts, he were lousy.
More sense than single prayers is not his; nor more in those than still
the same petitions: from which he either fears a learned faith, or
doubts God understands not at first hearing. Show him a ring, he runs
back like a bear; and hates square dealing as allied to caps. A pair of
organs blow him out of the parish, and are the only glyster-pipes to
cool him. Where the meat is best, there he confutes most, for his
arguing is but the efficacy of his eating: good bits he holds breed good
positions, and the Pope he best concludes against in plum-broth. He is
often drunk, but not as we are, temporally; nor can his sleep then cure
him, for the fumes of his ambition make his very soul reel, and that
small beer that should allay him (silence) keeps him more surfeited, and
makes his heat break out in private houses. Women and lawyers are his
best disciples; the one, next fruit, longs for forbidden doctrine, the
other to maintain forbidden titles, both which he sows amongst them.
Honest he dare not be, for that loves order; yet, if he can be brought
to ceremony and made but master of it, he is converted.


Is the best shadow to make a discreet one show the fairer. He is a
_materia prima_ informed by reports, actuated by statutes, and hath his
motion by the favourable intelligence of the Court. His law is always
furnished with a commission to arraign his conscience; but, upon
judgment given, he usually sets it at large. He thinks no language worth
knowing but his Barragouin: only for that point he hath been a long time
at wars with Priscian for a northern province. He imagines that by sure
excellency his profession only is learning, and that it is a profanation
of the Temple to his Themis dedicated, if any of the liberal arts be
there admitted to offer strange incense to her. For, indeed, he is all
for money. Seven or eight years squires him out, some of his nation less
standing; and ever since the night of his call, he forgot much what he
was at dinner. The next morning his man (in _actu_ or _potentia_) enjoys
his pickadels. His laundress is then shrewdly troubled in fitting him a
ruff, his perpetual badge. His love-letters of the last year of his
gentlemanship are stuffed with discontinuances, remitters, and uncore
priests; but, now being enabled to speak in proper person, he talks of a
French hood instead of a jointure, wags his law, and joins issue. Then
he begins to stick his letters in his ground chamber-window, that so the
superscription may make his squireship transparent. His heraldry gives
him place before the minister, because the Law was before the Gospel.
Next term he walks his hoopsleeve gown to the hall; there it proclaims
him. He feeds fat in the reading, and till it chance to his turn,
dislikes no house order so much as that the month is so contracted to a
fortnight. Amongst his country neighbours he arrogates as much honour
for being reader of an Inn of Chancery, as if it had been of his own
house; for they, poor souls, take law and conscience, Court and
Chancery, for all one. He learned to frame his case from putting riddles
and imitating Merlin's prophecies, and to set all the Cross Row together
by the ears; yet his whole law is not able to decide Lucan's one old
controversy betwixt Tau and Sigma. He accounts no man of his cap and
coat idle, but who trots not the circuit. He affects no life or quality
for itself, but for gain; and that, at least, to the stating him in a
Justice of Peace-ship, which is the first quickening soul superadded to
the elementary and inanimate form of his new tide. His terms are his
wife's vacations; yet she then may usurp divers Court-days, and has her
returns in _mensem_ for writs of entry - often shorter. His vacations are
her termers; but in assize time (the circuit being long) he may have a
trial at home against him by _nisi prius_. No way to heaven, he thinks,
so wise as through Westminster Hall; and his clerks commonly through it
visit both heaven and hell. Yet then he oft forgets his journey's end,
although he look on the Star-Chamber. Neither is he wholly destitute of
the arts. Grammar he has enough to make termination of those words which
his authority hath endenizoned rhetoric-some; but so little that it is
thought a concealment. Logic, enough to wrangle. Arithmetic, enough for
the ordinals of his year-books and number-rolls; but he goes not to
multiplication, there is a statute against it. So much geometry, that he
can advise in a _perambulatione fadenda_, or a _rationalibus divisis_.
In astronomy and astrology he is so far seen, that by the Dominical
letter he knows the holy-days, and finds by calculation that Michaelmas
term will be long and dirty. Marry, he knows so much in music that he
affects only the most and cunningest discords; rarely a perfect concord,
especially song, except _in fine_. His skill in perspective endeavours
much to deceive the eye of the law, and gives many false colours. He is
specially practised in necromancy (such a kind as is out of the Statute
of Primo), by raising many dead questions. What sufficiency he hath in
criticism, the foul copies of his special pleas will tell you. Many of
the same coat, which are much to be honoured, partake of divers of his
indifferent qualities; but so that discretion, virtue, and sometimes
other good learning, concurring and distinguishing ornaments to them,
make them as foils to set their work on.


A mere scholar is an intelligible ass, or a silly fellow in black that
speaks sentences more familiarly than sense. The antiquity of his
University is his creed, and the excellency of his college (though but
for a match at football) an article of his faith. He speaks Latin better
than his mother-tongue, and is a stranger in no part of the world but
his own country. He does usually tell great stories of himself to small
purpose, for they are commonly ridiculous, be they true or false. His
ambition is that he either is or shall be a graduate; but if ever he get
a fellowship, he has then no fellow. In spite of all logic he dares
swear and maintain it, that a cuckold and a town's-man are _termini
convertibles_, though his mother's husband be an alderman. He was never
begotten (as it seems) without much wrangling, for his whole life is
spent in _pro et contra_. His tongue goes always before his wit, like
gentleman-usher, but somewhat faster. That he be a complete gallant in
all points, _cap-à-pie_, witness his horsemanship and the wearing of his
weapons. He is commonly long-winded, able to speak more with ease than
any man can endure to hear with patience. University jests are his
universal discourse, and his news the demeanour of the proctors. His
phrase, the apparel of his mind, is made of divers shreds, like a
cushion, and when it goes plainest it hath a rash outside and fustian
linings. The current of his speech is closed with an _ergo_; and,
whatever be the question, the truth is on his side. It is a wrong to his
reputation to be ignorant of anything; and yet he knows not that he
knows nothing. He gives directions for husbandry, from Virgil's
"Georgics;" for cattle, from his "Bucolics;" for warlike stratagems,
from his "Æneids" or Caesar's "Commentaries." He orders all things and
thrives in none; skilful in all trades and thrives in none. He is led
more by his ears than his understanding, taking the sound of words for
their true sense, and does therefore confidently believe that Erra Pater
was the father of heretics, Radulphus Agricola a substantial farmer, and
will not stick to aver that Systemo's Logic doth excel Keckerman's. His
ill-luck is not so much in being a fool, as in being put to such pains
to express it to the world, for what in others is natural, in him (with
much ado) is artificial. His poverty is his happiness, for it makes some
men believe that he is none of fortune's favourites. That learning which
he hath was in non age put in backward like a glyster, and it's now like
ware mislaid in a pedlar's pack; a has it, but knows not where it is. In
a word, his is the index of a man and the title-page of a scholar, or a
puritan in morality - much in profession, nothing in practice.


Is a movable, for he hath no abiding-place; by his motion he gathers
heat, thence his choleric nature. He seems to be very devout, for his
life is a continual pilgrimage, and sometimes in humility goes barefoot,
thereon making necessity a virtue. His house is as ancient as Tubal
Cain's, and so is a renegade by antiquity: yet he proves himself a
gallant, for he carries all his wealth upon his back; or a philosopher,
for he bears all his substance about him. From his art was music first
invented, and therefore he is always furnished with a song, to which his
hammer keeping tune, proves that he was the first founder for the
kettledrum. Note, that where the best ale is, there stands his music
most upon crochets. The companion of his travels is some foul sun-burnt
quean, that, since the terrible statute, recanted gipseyism and is
turned pedlaress. So marches he all over England with his bag and
baggage. His conversation is unreprovable, for he is ever mending. He
observes truly the statutes, and therefore he can rather steal than beg,
in which he is unremovably constant in spite of whip or imprisonment;
and so a strong enemy to idleness, that in mending one hole he had
rather make three than want work, and when he hath done, he throws the
wallet of his faults behind him. He embraceth naturally ancient custom,
conversing in open fields and lowly cottages. If he visit cities or
towns, 'tis but to deal upon the imperfections of our weaker vessels.
His tongue is very voluble, which with canting proves him a linguist. He
is entertained in every place, but enters no further than the door, to
avoid suspicion. Some will take him to be a coward, but believe it, he
is a lad of metal; his valour is commonly three or four yards long,
fastened to a pike in the end for flying off. He is provident, for he
will fight but with one at once, and then also he had rather submit than
be counted obstinate. To conclude, if he escape Tyburn and Banbury, he
dies a beggar.


Is a chick of the egg abuse, hatched by the warmth of authority; he is a
bird of rapine, and begins to prey and feather together. He croaks like
a raven against the death of rich men, and so gets a legacy
unbequeathed. His happiness is in the multitude of children, for their
increase is his wealth, and to that end he himself yearly adds one. He
is a cunning hunter, uncoupling his intelligencing hounds under hedges,
in thickets and cornfields, who follow the chase to city suburbs, where
often his game is at covert; his quiver hangs by his side stuffed with
silver arrows, which he shoots against church-gates and private men's
doors, to the hazard of their purses and credit. There went but a pair
of shears between him and the pursuivant of hell, for they both delight
in sin, grow richer by it, and are by justice appointed to punish it;
only the devil is more cunning, for he picks a living out of others'
gains. His living lieth in his eye, which (like spirits) he sends
through chinks and keyholes to survey the places of darkness; for which
purpose he studieth the optics, but can discover no colour but black,
for the pure white of chastity dazzleth his eyes. He is a Catholic, for
he is everywhere; and with a politic, for he transforms himself into all
shapes. He travels on foot to avoid idleness, and loves the Church
entirely, because it is the place of his edification. He accounts not
all sins mortal, for fornication with him is a venial sin, and to take
bribes a matter of charity; he is collector for burnings and losses at
sea, and in casting account readily subtracts the lesser from the
greater sum. Thus lives he in a golden age, till death by a process
summons him to appear.


Is the worst part of an astronomer; a certain compact of figures,
characters, and ciphers, out of which he scores the fortune of a year,
not so profitably as doubtfully. He is tenant by custom to the planets,
of whom he holds the twelve houses by lease parol; to them he pays
yearly rent, his study and time, yet lets them out again with all his
heart for 40s. per annum. His life is merely contemplative; for his
practice, 'tis worth nothing, at least not worthy of credit, and if by
chance he purchase any, he loseth it again at the year's end, for time
brings truth to light. Ptolemy and Tycho Brahe are his patrons, whose
volumes he understands not but admires, and the rather because they are
strangers, and so easier to be credited than controlled. His life is
upright, for he is always looking upward, yet dares believe nothing
above _primum mobile_, for 'tis out of the reach of his Jacob's staff.
His charity extends no further than to mountebanks and sow-gelders, to
whom he bequeaths the seasons of the year to kill or torture by. The
verses of his book have a worse pace than ever had Rochester hackney;
for his prose, 'tis dappled with ink-horn terms, and may serve for an
almanac; but for his judging at the uncertainty of weather, any old
shepherd shall make a dunce of him. He would be thought the devil's
intelligencer for stolen goods, if ever he steal out of that quality. As
a fly turns to a maggot, so the corruption of the cunning man is the
generation of an empiric; his works fly forth in small volumes, yet not
all, for many ride post to chandlers and tobacco shops in folio. To be
brief, he falls three degrees short of his promises, yet is he the key
to unlock terms and law days, a dumb mercury to point out highways, and
a bailiff of all marts and fairs in England. The rest of him you shall
know next year, for what he will be then he himself knows not.


Is a gilded pill, composed of two virtuous ingredients, natural
dishonesty and artificial dissimulation. Simple fruit, plant, or drug he
is none, but a deformed mixture bred betwixt evil nature and false art
by a monstrous generation, and may well be put into the reckoning of
those creatures that God never made. In Church or commonwealth (for in
both these this mongrel weed will shoot) it is hard to say whether he be
physic or a disease, for he is both in divers respects.

As he is gilt with an outside of seeming purity, or as he offereth
himself to you to be taken down in a cup or taste of golden zeal and
simplicity, you may call him physic. Nay, and never let potion give
patient good stool if, being truly tasted and relished, he be not as
loathsome to the stomach of any honest man.

He is also physic in being as commodious for use as he is odious in
taste, if the body of the company into which he is taken can make true
use of him. For the malice of his nature makes him so
informer-like-dangerous, in taking advantage of anything done or said,
yea, even to the ruin of his makers, if he may have benefit, that such a
creature in a society makes men as careful of their speeches and actions
as the sight of a known cut-purse in a throng makes them watchful over
their purses and pockets. He is also in this respect profitable physic,
that his conversation being once truly tasted and discovered, the
hateful foulness of it will make those that are not fully like him to
purge all such diseases as are rank in him out of their own lives, as
the sight of some citizens on horseback make a judicious man amend his
own faults in horsemanship. If one of these uses can be made of him, let
him not long offend the stomach of your company; your best way is to
spue him out. That he is a disease in the body where he liveth were as
strange a thing to doubt as whether there be knavery in horse-coursers.
For if among sheep, the rot; amongst dogs, the mange; amongst horses,
the glanders; amongst men and women, the Northern itch and the French
ache, be diseases, an hypocrite cannot but be the like in all States and
societies that breed him. If he be a clergy hypocrite, then all manner
of vice is for the most part so proper to him as he will grudge any man
the practice of it but himself; like that grave burgess, who being
desired to lend his clothes to represent a part in a comedy, answered:
No, by his leave, he would have nobody play the fool in his clothes but
himself. Hence are his so austere reprehensions of drinking healths,
lascivious talk, usury, and unconscionable dealing; whenas himself,
hating the profane mixture of malt and water, will, by his good will,
let nothing come within him but the purity of the grape, when he can get
it of another's cost. But this must not be done neither without a
preface of seeming soothness, turning up the eyes, moving the head,
laying hand on the breast, and protesting that he would not do it but to
strengthen his body, being even consumed with dissembled zeal, and
tedious and thankless babbling to God and his auditors. And for the
other vices, do but venture the making yourself private with him or
trusting of him, and if you come off without a savour of the air which
his soul is infected with you have great fortune. The fardel of all this
ware that is in him you shall commonly see carried upon the back of
these two beasts that live within him, Ignorance and Imperiousness, and
they may well serve to carry other vices, for of themselves they are
insupportable. His Ignorance acquits him of all science, human or
divine, and of all language but his mother's; holding nothing pure,
holy, or sincere but the senseless recollections of his own crazed
brain, the zealous fumes of his inflamed spirit, and the endless labours
of his eternal tongue, the motions whereof, when matter and words fail
(as they often do), must be patched up to accomplish his four hours in a
day at the least with long and fervent hums. Anything else, either for
language or matter, he cannot abide, but thus censureth: Latin, the
language of the beast; Greek, the tongue wherein the heathen poets wrote
their fictions; Hebrew, the speech of the Jews that crucified Christ;
controversies do not edify; logic and philosophy are the subtilties of
Satan to deceive the simple; human stories profane, and not savouring of
the Spirit; in a word, all decent and sensible form of speech and
persuasion (though in his own tongue) vain ostentation. And all this is
the burden of his Ignorance, saving that sometimes idleness will put in
also to bear a part of the baggage. His other beast, Imperiousness, is
yet more proudly laden; it carrieth a burden that no cords of authority,
spiritual nor temporal, should bind if it might have the full swing. No
Pilate, no prince should command him, nay, he will command them, and at
his pleasure censure them if they will not suffer their ears to be
fettered with the long chains of his tedious collations, their purses to
be emptied with the inundations of his unsatiable humour, and their
judgments to be blinded with the muffler of his zealous ignorance; for
this doth he familiarly insult over his maintainer that breeds him, his
patron that feeds him, and in time over all them that will suffer him to
set a foot within their doors or put a finger in their purses. All this
and much more is in him; that abhorring degrees and universities as
reliques of superstition, hath leapt from a shop-board or a cloak-bag to

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