Mr. Whittlestaff was a tall, thin man, not quite six feet, with a face which a judge of male beauty would hardly call handsome, but which all would say was impressive and interesting. We seldom think how much is told to us of the owner's character by the first or second glance of a man or woman's face. Is he a fool, or is he clever; is he reticent or outspoken; is he passionate or long-suffering;-nay, is he honest or the reverse; is he malicious or of a kindly nature? Of all these things we form a sudden judgment without any thought; and in most of our sudden judgments we are roughly correct. It is so, or seems to us to be so, as a matter of course, --that the man is a fool, or reticent, or malicious; and; without giving a thought to our own phrenological capacity, we pass on with the conviction. No one ever considered that Mr. Whittlestaff was a fool or malicious; but people did think that he was reticent and honest. The inner traits of his character were very difficult to be read. Even Mrs. Baggett had hardly read them all correctly. He was shamefaced to such a degree that Mrs. Baggett could not bring herself to understand it. And there was present to him a manner of speech which practice had now made habitual, but which he had originally adopted with the object of hiding his shamefacedness under the veil of a dashing manner. He would speak as though he were quite free with his thoughts, when, at the moment, he feared that thoughts should be read of which he certainly had no cause to be ashamed. His fellowship, his poetry, and his early love were all, to his thinking, causes of disgrace, which required to be buried deep within his own memory. [20]

Through his short dark-brown hair the grey locks were beginning to show themselves-signs indeed of age, but signs which were very becoming to him. At fifty he was a much better looking man than he had been at thirty,-so that that foolish, fickle girl, Catherine Bailey, would not have rejected him for the cruelly sensuous face of Mr. Compas, had the handsome iron-grey tinge been then given to his countenance. He, as he looked at the glass, told himself that a greyhaired old fool, such as he was, had no right to burden the life of a young girl, simply because he found her in bread and meat. That he should think himself good-looking, was to his nature impossible. His eyes were rather small, but very bright; the eyebrows black and almost bushy; his nose was well-formed and somewhat long, but not so as to give that peculiar idea of length to his face which comes from great nasal prolongation. His upper lip was short, and his mouth large and manly. The strength of his character was better shown by his mouth than by any other feature. He wore hardly any beard, as beards go now,-unless indeed a whisker can be called a beard, which came down, closely shorn, about half an inch below his ear. 'A very common sort of individual,' he said of himself, as he looked in the glass. [20-21]


Anthony Trollope. An Old Man's Love. [1884] London: Penguin, 1993.

Last modified 23 December 2006