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SECTION I. -FAMILIAR CHARACTERS.
423. By the character of a person is meant the possession of peculiar qualities, habits, or dispositions which distinguish him from others. These are known to exist only by a man's actions, conversation, and general bearing. The extent of our accuracy in forming an estimate of another's character must evidently depend upon our competency, honesty, and opportunities of arriving at a proper conclusion.
424. In studying character the points of examination will be as various as are the objects of the observers. Thus, the man of business, in contemplating the merchant who has arrived at honour and affluence, will naturally direct his attention to. those modes and habits of business which have mainly contributed to wealth and influence. The mental philosopher will consider his subject chiefly under those circumstances which tend to develop and strengthen the understanding. The philanthropist fixes on those principles and incidents which elicit the tear of benevolence and the sympathies of human nature.
425. In depicting character for the perusal of others, the young writer must, in the first place, carefully impress on his own mind the precise object which he wishes to accomplish. Thus, were he to recommend as worthy of imitation an individual eminent for his goodness, he should adduce the most striking instances of this quality. So, in describing the character of a man remarkable for wisdom and sagacity, it would be necessary to furnish proofs of his judgment and discretion.
426. Before proceeding to connected description of character, we shall present a few detached points of view accompanied with examples, which the Pupil may be required to reproduce,
427. DETACHED DESCRIPTION.— RULE 1. Sometimes the description may be confined to the early condition of an individual, his training or education, and the difficulties which he experienced in the outset of life.
428. Example.— Mr. Samuel Parkes, the well-known author of the “Chemical Catechism,” was born in 1761, at Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, where his father was a small grocer. At five years of age he was sent to a preparatory school in his native town; at the age of ten he was removed to another at Market-Harborough ; but, after remaining only a short time, he was taken away and apprenticed to a grocer at Ross, in Herefordshire. This person, being a man of some education and possessed of a few books, kindly endeavoured to form in his apprentice a taste for reading, but was not able, it is said, to gain much of his attention. It does not appear how long
young Parkes continued in this situation ; but at last his master having failed, he returned home to his father. We now hear no more of him till he had reached his thirty-second year, up to which time, it seems, he remained at home, assisting his father in the shop. It is probable, from the resources which he afterwards displayed, that the foundation of many of his acquirements was laid during this interval. Perhaps he had also saved a little money ; for he now went to Stokeupon-Trent, began business on his own account as a soapboiler, and married. The new line upon which he entered shows that lie had been already directing his attention to practical chemistry. But, after persevering for ten years in this business, he met with so little success as to be obliged to give it up; and at the age of forty-two he came up to London with no property in the world except ten pounds, which had been lent him by his father. It was hard enough to be obliged, as it were, to begin the world again at this time of
but there was no help for it, and he set to work resolutely. Some friends whom he had made lent him a little assistance, and he began manufacturing muriatic acid for the use of dyers. It is very evident, that, although he had come to town without much money in his pocket, he had brought with him some useful knowledge-one fruit, at least, of the labours of his previous life, of which fortune had not been able to despoil him. This he now turned to excellent account. To his muriatic acid he soon added other chemical preparations, his skill in manufacturing which was not long in being generally appreciated, and these eventually procured him a large trade and a high reputation.
429. RULE 2. Sometimes the description is confined to the figure, countenance, and general appearance of the individual.
430. Example. — Edward I. was a prince of very dignified bearance, tall in stature, regular and comely in his features,
with keen piercing eyes, and of an aspect that commanded reverence and esteem. His constitution was robust; his strength and dexterity perhaps unequalled in his kingdom ; and his shape was unblemished in all respects, but that of his legs, which are said to have been too long in proportion to his body ;. whence he derived the epithet of Long Shanks.
431. RULE 3. Sometimes the description is confined to the manners and general habits of the individual.
432. Example.—Henry II. was temperate in his meals, even to a degree of abstinence, and seldom if ever sat down, except at supper ; he was eloquent, agreeable, and facetious ; remarkably courteous and polite ; compassionate to all in distress ; so charitabie that he constantly allotted one-tenth of his household provisions to the poor ; and in the time of dearth, he maintained ten thousand indigent persons, from the beginning of spring till the end of autumn.
433. RULE 4. - Sometimes the description refers chiefly to the mental capacity, attainments, and labours of the individual.
434. Example. - Boerhaave's fame as a teacher was sustained, during the continuance of his career, by the works which he issued, though it was only by personal intercourse that the great beauty of his character could be fully known and appreciated. “Some, though few," says his disciple Haller, “ may rival him in erudition ; his divine teniper, kind to all, beneficent to foes and adversaries, detracting from no man's merits, and binding by favours his daily opponents, will never perhaps be paralleled.” Such was the man whom his pupils almost idolized ; the teacher, whom they listened to with admiration, was not less worthy. Clear definitions and lucid ideas, bound together in one methodical chain, were presented to his hearers in simple and natural order, and
with an elocution forcible, brilliant, and varied, while, at the same time, he possessed the happy and rare art of accommodating his instructions to the precise degree of knowledge attained by those whom he instructed. In private, his converse was characterized by ease and familiarity, and he regarded his pupils with the kind interest of a parent.
Connected Description. 435. FAMILIAR DESCRIPTION OF CHARACTER. In Familiar Description of Character, intended for instruction and improvement, attention must be paid to the following particulars :
RULE. - 1. Let those traits and peculiarities of character be selected which are the most interesting, and best calculated to make a permanent impression on the mind of the reader.
2. Let the statement of facts be just and sufficiently ample, and the estimate of the character candid and discriminating:
3. Let the incidents be arranged in the order of time,
4. Let the language be easy, perspicuous, and correct.
436. MODE OF EXERCISE. 1. An Analysis, in the pupil's own words, of the leading traits or principles exhibited, with brief remarks either on the style of composition, or on the correctness or incorrectness of the writer's views.
2. Reproduction of the Example from recollection.
8. A Comparison between the two, in which all deviations must be noticed.