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Theophrastus (c. 372—287 bc) Greek philosopher and scientist

Joseph Hall (1574—1656) bishop of Norwich, religious writer, and satirist

Isaac Casaubon (1559—1614) classical scholar and ecclesiastical historian

Jean de la Bruyère (1645—1696) French writer and moralist

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Books of ‘characters’ were popular in the 17th cent., and many were based, though some loosely, on Theophrastus translated by Casaubon in 1592 and by Healey (printed 1616, but previously circulated). The first was published in 1608 by J. Hall, followed by Overbury in 1614, the Satirical Essays, Characters and Others of J. Stephens in 1615, Geffray Mynshul's Certain Characters and Essays of Prison and Prisoners in 1618, Earle's Microcosmographie (1628), Richard Brathwaite's Whimzies (1631), and others. The ‘characters’ gave generalized but detailed descriptions of the behaviour and appearance of a class or type; they were on the whole short, succinct, pointed, and less discursive than the essay, also a popular literary form of the period.

Subjects: Literature.

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