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The Characters of Theophrastus A Translation, with Introduction

The Characters of Theophrastus
A Translation, with Introduction
Author: Theophrastus
Title: The Characters of Theophrastus A Translation, with Introduction
Release Date: 2018-11-06
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Characters of Theophrastus, byTheophrastus, Translated by Charles E. (Charles Edwin) Bennett and WilliamA. (William Alexander) Hammond

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Title: The Characters of Theophrastus

A Translation, with Introduction

Author: Theophrastus

Release Date: November 6, 2018 [eBook #58242]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8



E-text prepared by Turgut Dincer
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The Characters of

A Translation, with Introduction

Charles E. Bennett
William A. Hammond

Professors in Cornell University

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


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

All rights reserved

[October, 1902]

The University Press
Cambridge, U. S. A.



In Profound Esteem




This translation of The Charactersof Theophrastus is intendednot for the narrowcircle of classical philologists, but forthe larger body of cultivated personswho have an interest in the past.

Within the last century only threeEnglish translations of The Charactershave appeared; one by Howell (London,1824), another by Isaac Taylor(London, 1836), the third by ProfessorJebb (London, 1870). All ofthese have long been out of print, afact that seemed to justify the preparationof the present work.


The text followed has been, in themain, that of the edition publishedin 1897 by the Leipziger PhilologischeGesellschaft. A few coarsepassages have been omitted, andoccasionally a phrase necessary tothe understanding of the context hasbeen inserted. Apart from this thetranslators have aimed to render theoriginal with as much precision andfidelity as is consistent with Englishidiom.

Charles E. Bennett.

William A. Hammond.

Ithaca, N.Y.,August, 1902.



Introduction xi
Epistle Dedicatory 1
The Dissembler (I.)[1] 4
The Flatterer (II.) 7
The Coward (XXV.) 11
The Over-zealous Man (IV.) 14
The Tactless Man (XII.) 16
The Shameless Man (IX.) 18
The Newsmonger (VIII.) 21
The Mean Man (X.) 24
The Stupid Man (XIV.) 27
The Surly Man (XV.) 29
The Superstitious Man (XVI.) 31
The Thankless Man (XVII.) 35
[x]The Suspicious Man (XVIII.) 37
The Disagreeable Man (XX.) 39
The Exquisite (XXI.) 41
The Garrulous Man (III.) 46
The Bore (VII.) 48
The Rough (VI.) 51
The Affable Man (V.) 54
The Impudent Man (XI.) 56
The Gross Man (XIX.) 58
The Boor (IV.) 60
The Penurious Man (XXII.) 63
The Pompous Man (XXIV.) 66
The Braggart (XXIII.) 68
The Oligarch (XXVI.) 71
The Backbiter (XXVIII.) 74
The Avaricious Man (XXX.) 77
The Late Learner (XXVII.) 81
The Vicious Man (XXIX.) 84

[1] Numerals in parenthesis give the corresponding numbersof the characters as published in the edition of the LeipzigerPhilologische Gesellschaft.



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

The AntiquityofModernCharacter-Types
Accidentaland EssentialTypes

“All types of all charactersmarch through all fables:tremblers and boasters; victimsand bullies: dupes andknaves; long-eared Neddies, givingthemselves leonine airs; Tartuffeswearing virtuous clothing; loversand their trials, their blindness, theirfolly and constancy. With the veryfirst page of the human story do notlove, and lies too, begin? So thetales were told ages before Æsop;and asses under lions’ manes roaredin Hebrew; and sly foxes flatteredin Etruscan; and wolves in sheep’sclothing gnashed their teeth in Sanscrit,no doubt. The sun shines[xii]to-day as he did when he first beganshining; and the birds in the treeoverhead, while I am writing, singvery much the same note they havesung ever since there were finches.There may be nothing new underand including the sun; but it looksfresh every morning, and we risewith it to toil, hope, scheme, laugh,struggle, love, suffer, until the nightcomes and quiet. And then willwake Morrow and the eyes that lookon it; and so da capo.” All this isvery true; the changes which may beobserved in human nature are small,and the old types of Theophrastusare all about us nowadays and reallylook and act much the same as theydid to the eyes of the ancient Peripatetic.Offices and institutions havesomewhat changed, and many character-typesdue to new vocationshave come into being since then,e.g. the newsboy, the bishop, thereporter, the hotel-clerk, and the[xiii]jockey. But these are only accidentsof civilization, and the peculiaritiesof office or the type or professionalcharacter do nottouch the vital essence ofhuman nature, although they maymodify its expression.

When one speaks of a coward, onemeans an intrinsic quality in humankind which is essentially the samewhether found in a hoplite or in amodern infantryman, but which mayexpress itself differently in the twocases. The types described by Theophrastusare types of such intrinsicqualities, and his pictures of ancientvices and weaknesses show menmuch as we see them now. Theyare not merely types of professionsor callings.

SimilaritybetweenGreek andModernTypes
The OfficiousMan

Apart from slight variationsof local coloring and institutions,the descriptions of theold Greek philosopher mightapply almost as well to the present[xiv]inhabitants of London or Boston asto the Athenians of 300 B.C. Then,as now, the flatterer plied his wilytrade, indulging in smooth complimentof his hero’s person or actions. “Ashe walks with an acquaintance, hesays: ‘Behold! How the eyes ofall men are turned uponyou! There is not a manin the city who enjoys somuch notice as yourself. Yesterdayyour praises were the talk of thePorch. While above thirty menwere sitting there together and theconversation fell upon the topic:“Who is our noblest citizen?” theyall began and ended with yourname.’” “If his friend essay a jest,the flatterer laughs and stuffs hissleeve into his mouth as though hecould not contain himself.” Butthe flatterer of old could be subtletoo. “He buys apples and pears,carries them to his hero’s house, andgives them to the children, and in[xv]the presence of their father he kissesthem, exclaiming: ‘Chips of the oldblock!’” and “while his talk isdirected to others in the company,his eye is ever fixed upon his hero.”Then as now there existed the officiousman, always over-ready toundertake the impossible orto interfere in the affairsof others. “At a banquet,he forces the servants to mix morewine than the guests can drink. Ifhe sees two men in a quarrel, herushes in between, even though heknows neither one.” “If the doctorleave instructions that no winebe given the patient, he administers‘just a little’ on the plea that hewants to set the sufferer right.”

The TactlessMan

There existed, of course, then as now,the tactless person, who “selects aman’s busiest hour for alengthy conference, and whosings love ditties under his sweetheart’swindow as she lies ill of a[xvi]fever.” “At a wedding, he declaimsagainst womankind, and when afriend has just finished a journey, heinvites him to go for a walk.” “Ifhe happens to be standing by whena slave is flogged, he tells the storyof how he once flogged a slave of his,who then went and hanged himself.”

The MeanMan

There was the mean man, too, who,if his servant broke a pot or plate,deducted its value from thepoor fellow’s rations. “Hepermits no one to take a fig from hisgarden or cross his field, or even topick up windfalls under his fruittrees. He forbids his wife to lendsalt or lamp-wicks or a pinch of cummin,marjoram, or meal, observingthat these trifles make a large sumin a year.”

The ThanklessMan

There was also the thankless manwhose pessimism is so gloomy as tocloud all view of his blessings.“When a friendhas sent him something from his[xvii]table, he says to the servant whobrings it: ‘He grudged me a dishof soup and a cup of wine, I suppose,and so couldn’t invite me todinner.’” “If he secures a slave ata bargain after long dickering withthe owner, he says: ‘I imagine Ihaven’t got much at this price.’And to the person who brings himthe glad tidings that a son is born tohim, he retorts, ‘If you only add:“And half your fortune’s gone,”you’ll hit it.’”


Then we have the man who is ostentatiousin trivial things. “When hehas sacrificed an ox, hewinds the head and hornswith fillets, and nails them up, oppositethe entrance of his house.”“When he parades with the cavalryhe gives all his accoutrements to hissquire to carry home, and throwingback his mantle stalks proudly aboutthe market-place in his spurs.”When he is master of the prytany,[xviii]he craves the privilege of announcingto the people the result of thesacrifice; and as soon as he hasdelivered to the people

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