3 April 2012

Character

Edward Everett Hale, who was born on this day in 1822, in What career? (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1878), pp.162-3:
The word character is true still to its derivation. It is a Greek word wholly unchanged which the Greeks derived from the word which we pronounce harass which they pronounced charass but which had the meaning then that it has now. They spoke then of a coin in the mint which was hammered and tortured by the sharp edges of the die as being stamped upon indeed as a poor charassed thing -- as bearing a character. Its character came to it because it was beaten, pounded by this tremendous hammer. The more it was beaten the more distinct character it had. I believe all our words of similar import have a similar derivation. Thus when we say a man is of this "type" of manhood or that "type" of manhood the original meaning is that he has been beaten into that shape by the blows of life which have passed over him. And it is true that a man's character begins when he is born and changes or does not change accordingly as he bears the pounding which life gives him. Burns says "The rank is but the guinea's stamp." This means, at bottom, that a "pound" is metal which has been pounded. And there are metals which improve in quality all the time you stamp and hammer them. Just the same is true of man, if he have the true heat, the true life, and make himself master of the circumstance instead of slave.