A Critical Essay on Characteristic-Writings by Henry Gally

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Page 1

EMMETT L. AVERY, _State College of Washington_
BENJAMIN BOYCE, _Duke University_
LOUIS BREDVOLD, _University of Michigan_
JAMES L. CLIFFORD, _Columbia University_
ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, _University of Chicago_
EDWARD NILES HOOKER, _University of California, Los Angeles_
LOUIS A. LANDA, _Princeton University_
SAMUEL H. MONK, _University of Minnesota_
ERNEST MOSSNER, _University of Texas_
JAMES SUTHERLAND, _University College, London_
H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., _University of California, Los Angeles_


EDNA C. DAVIS, _Clark Memorial Library_

* * * * *


Henry Gally's _A Critical Essay on Characteristic-Writings_, here
reprinted, is the introductory essay to his translation of _The Moral
Characters of Theophrastus_ (1725). Of Gally's life (1696-1769) little
is known. Apparently his was a moderately successful ecclesiastical
career: he was appointed in 1735 chaplain-in-ordinary to George II. His
other published works consist of sermons, religious tracts, and an
undistinguished treatise on the pronunciation of Greek.

His essay on the character, however, deserves attention because it is
the first detailed and serious discussion by an Englishman of a literary
kind immensely popular in its day. English writers before Gally had, of
course, commented on the character. Overbury, for example, in "What A
Character Is" (_Sir Thomas Overbury His Wife..._ 1616) had defined the
character as "wit's descant on any plain-song," and Brathwaite in his
Dedication to _Whimzies_(1631) had written that character-writers must
shun affectation and prefer the "pith before the rind." Wye Saltonstall
in the same year in his Dedicatory Epistle to _Picturae Loquentes_ had
required of a character "lively and exact Lineaments" and "fast and
loose knots which the ingenious Reader may easily untie." These remarks,
however, as also Flecknoe's "Of the Author's Idea of a Character"
(_Enigmaticall Characters_, 1658) and Ralph Johnson's "rules" for
character-writing in _A Scholar's Guide from the Accidence to the
University_ (1665), are fragmentary and oblique. Nor do either of the
two English translations of Theophrastus before Gally--the one a

Budgell's _The Moral Characters of Theophrastus_ (1714)--touch more
than in passing on the nature of the character. Gally's essay, in which
he claims to deduce his critical principles from the practice of
Theophrastus, is both historically and intrinsically the most
important work of its kind.

Section I of Gally's essay, thoroughly conventional in nature, is
omitted here. In it Gally, following Casaubon,[2] theorizes that the
character evolved out of Greek Old Comedy. The Augustans saw a close
connection between drama and character-writing. Congreve (Dedication to
_The Way of the World_, 1700) thought that the comic dramatist Menander
formed his characters on "the observations of Theophrastus, of whom he
was a disciple," and Budgell, who termed Theophrastus the father of
modern comedy, believed that if some of Theophrastus's characters "were
well worked up, and brought upon the British theatre, they could not
fail of Success."[3] Gally similarly held that a dramatic character
and Theophrastan character differ only in

the different Manner of representing the same Image. The _Drama_
presents to the Eyes of a Spectator an Actor, who speaks and acts as
the Person, whom he represents, is suppos'd to speak and act in real
Life. The _Characteristic_ Writer introduces, in a descriptive manner,
before a Reader, the same Person, as speaking and acting in the same

Section III of Gally's essay, like Section I thoroughly conventional,
is also omitted here. Gally attributes to Theophrastus the spurious
"Proem," in which Theophrastus, emphasizing his ethical purpose,
announces his intention of following up his characters of vice with
characters of virtue. At one point Gally asserts that Theophrastus
taught the same doctrine as Aristotle and Plato, but

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