Pen Portraits of Prominent People
Touched with Satire
Written by Henry J. Mahoney
Editor, Cambridge Sentinel - 1923


THESE studies in personality are aimed to amuse and to edify if may be. "Truth hath a quiet breast," and when no malice is intended, it is apt to believe that not a few of the subjects will take some profit from these pictures in prose and poetry, and by seeing themselves as others see them, qualify for discretion, modesty, reticence and the other virtues that lie in the possession of a clear knowledge of one's own limitations, and an equally clear determination to keep them prudently in the background.

Wit is nearer allied to good nature than many people are aware of, and if these portraits interest it is hoped it will be as much for their amiable intent as truth to character.


HE has the face of a philosopher, with a touch of Carlylean grimness to it, tempered with searching eves that twinkle with a cold, intellectual glitter, and yet can, when occasion is apt, soften into a mellow glow that suggests quite another man.

His personality is impelling: the slender figure, resemblant in motion of a sapling bending before a gale. There is no slant, however, in the mental downrightness of the man. A rigid idealist in opinion, he is implacable in the matter of morals, whether public or private, which discloses an exemplary Puritanical trait.

As a judge he was full of "wise saws and modern instances," while the severe eyes, and beard of formal cut, would appear to round out the Shakesperean description, with the notable exception, that he is absolutely without rotundity.

There is much humor as well as humaneness in him, despite a distant manner and seeming air of causticity. With his intimates he is urbane, witty, ranging readily from grave to gay, from lively to severe, and in every mood disclosing a fine mind, clear, resolute, and saturated with equity.

Unavoidably the dignity that doth hedge a judge is in his deportment; and that stern aspect, that was wont to stir into a restless ecstacy the culprit conscience, can relax into a smile suggesting a childlike simplicity; and again, baffle with a clear hint of the sardonic. Years upon the bench have not cultivated in him the oracular style so common to those who may talk professionally without being answered in kind.

He is positive in his views, yet the mind is open to discussion. He is ardent in disputation, yet fair, and in the vocal heat, a quaint squeak, reminiscent of Roosevelt, proclaims the tense individuality of the man.

Cambridge esteems him as a citizen of an elder and finer school.


THE quality of mental acidity is highly developed in Mr. Ammidon. He is nothing, if not critical, and the best of him is that his ideas are spun out of his own brain, rather than hypothecated from others. His is a most stimulating tartness in speech, because of the challenging note in it.

It is much easier to argue with this provocative person, than to put him to silence, such is the extent of his resources in this field.

It is no simple matter to know him well, as a talent for diplomacy is not included among the conceded Ammidon assets. He would scorn to accept appreciation for other than what he is and the discerning alone are competent to take a correct measure of his merits.

Human nature is divided into two groups –the positive and the negative. He would read character to little true purpose who would fail to place Mr. Ammidon decidedly in the first class. "Methinks he hath a lean and hungry look," quoth Caesar in criticism of the restless Cassius, and assuredly there is a distinct trace of the touchy Roman in Mr. Ammidon. The nervous energy, active mind, crisp speech, the suggestion of a "vinegar aspect," the frowning brow, the keenly peering eyes and serious mouth, occasionally lightened with a satirical smile, all depict a personality at once original, competent, self-reliant, and presents much more than a hint of fitness viewed from any angle.

Complacent he assuredly is, but he is far too shrewd to protrude the ego which is ingrained in positive men, and best of all he can see a foible even in himself and smile at it.

The Ammidon manner is friendly in rather a circumspect way. His sociability is qualified by reservations which bring out the native caution of the man, but his intelligence is self-evident.

He is full of solid matter, and justifies study.


RATHER distinctive is this aspect, after a lean, lithe, eager and persistent type. Napoleon, who liked to think that character lurked in the nose, would at a glimpse have plucked him from the ranks to bear a marshal's baton. Alert, definite and graceful in motion, he is diplomatic in manner, in no wise suggestive of pose, but the natural expression of a being wherein discretion is an ample essence.

Here are no abrupt angles either of mind or matter, to weaken the appeal of a pleasant personality. The features in repose are reflective and angular in respect to profile, just the kind that would stand out upon a medallion. There is no metallic hardness, however, to the smile that frequently illumines a face that relaxes where there is a plausible occasion.

Sense dominates his mental processes; he acknowledges the eternal verity of fact and has a rare faculty of ever seeming to know more than he would impart.

This is not, as in fatuous natures, the effect of ego, but an instinctive prudence that would ever keep an intellectual nest-egg in reserve, like an inactive account at a bank.

An erect, self-reliant figure, with all his resources at command, he invites confidence, because he never over acts his role, nor strives to exceed his place in the picture.

He is as full of opinion as an observant traveller may well be, yet he is not opinionated, leaving to impolitic others the dubious practice of absorbing all the conversation within hearing.

A man of tact is this Atkinson, as well as sincere, one whose name rings respectful on the tongues of men.
Unavoidably the dignity that doth hedge a judge is in his demeanor.


HIS pensive posture is positively no indication of a native penchant for posing — rather is it a fleeting glimpse into character expressed in a countenance of aristocratic paleness, matured sagacity, and patrician poise. In point of fact, barring a decided slant in the direction of embonpoint, he is not without a certain easiness and grace; hence, there is little about the highly self-contained Mr. Apsey that argues the plebian.

Dignity, and not too excessive assurance, is clearly mapped in a manner which is breezy without familiarity. He is the most discreet of men, apt without intrusiveness, fluent without verbosity, with a bustling air about him that signifies mental avidity. He has the politic, pushing spirit, for the lack of which many good men seem to get nowhere.

There is in this personality no invidious hint of a calculated desire to take undue advantage of trusting simplicity. If there is in his manner, at times, a suggestion of bland condescension, it is most agreeably counterpoised by a frankness, when occasion serves; a bluntness, that lacks nothing in point of vigor, and which is never concerned with the vague.

In moments of quietude he is placid, without betraying pliability; severe without even a hint of the insensate: while in action – emphasis, gesticulation, and an obdurate curling of a decided nether lip, bespeak a positive, restless acquiring mind, firmly convinced that he is right most of the time, and politely willing to discuss the point without conceding assailibility. There is much more than mere seeming back of that expressive brow, which modesty may not dwell upon, that is inescapable to a discerning eve. It has been poetically said that this is no world to hide virtues in, and if Mr. Apsey is reticent, even reluctant in this respect, he may sweetly revel in the choice and selective applause of the judicious, rightly contemptuous of the strident homage of the many.


OF a positive pugnacious, and puissant nature is Mr. James T. Barrett of East Cambridge, orator, politician, poet, and enthusiast. There is nowhere a trace of the negative in his makeup. Witty in a distinctly caustic way, his tongue is as sharp as his mind is keen, while his humorous sense, though shrewd, pungent, and often acrid, is not without an occasional gleam of that Irish geniality which makes him a most stimulating associate.

There are a sort of men, alert, combative, opinionative, confident, who, when their argumentative pistol misses fire, do not scruple to knock you down with the butt end of it. There you have a salient Barrett quality, sharpened to a keen point through constant practice and an inherited racial instinct.

His mind moves with so rapid a stride that at times his facile tongue cannot keep pace with it, hence, at moments of vivid mental stress his words struggle for coherency. Edmund Burke was just like that when riding an emotional storm – it is a trait of the race.

There are many sides to Mr. Barrett; one discloses the close and varied reader of books, the student of Irish poetry, with an apt stanza ever bubbling from facile lips; another is the public servant with a deep knowledge of government, both practical and as to the theory of it; still another, the politician, sapient, critical, pushing, sophisticated, reliant, conciliatory when nothing is to be lost by giving way to a native good temper, but with all the fighting qualities of the unmistakable Celt. Many like him, others do not, but nobody of intelligence would think of ignoring so arresting, so positive, even brilliant a personality.


A BLYTHE spirit is deeply resident in the winning personality of J. Edward Barry; an optimistic faculty, which absorbs all slings and arrows of a not too outrageous fortune, and leaves him ever smiling, debonair, but by no means demure.

The salient Barry qualities: serenity, poise, loquacity, graciousness, urbanity, an inborn desire to please, are most attractive in a setting that includes a well-set-up figure of heroic mould, most impressive in the upper torso, and carried with an air at once self-reliant and conciliatory.

There is no withstanding the charm of the Barry manner, with its irrepressible tendency to pun, its native geniality, which delights to revel in the give and take of social amenities, while maintaining a dignity and mental poise that repels familiarity by setting an emulative example of decorum. Though he is not profound,
there is a verity about him, both as to mind and character, which inspires respect – a feeling that his frank, open nature accentuates into a regard entertained by a host of friends.

Some there are who look upon the world as a stage where all must play a part; some prefer a sad role, others a pretentious one, while others, rich in the possession of self knowledge, take the part of blithe, amiable gentility and by imitating nature make a hit.

A most companionable person is this Barry, with a facile tongue, untouched with malice; a ready wit, without a trace of acid in it ; and a clear, receptive mind which, were it not wanting in a faculty for sustained and intensive study, would make him a nonpareil among men. As he is, he presents a fine specimen of nature's handiwork, a most creditable product, with a lesser share than most men of her inevitable statutes of limitations.


HERE is a face that fairly beams with social spirit. It is placid in outline, full chinned, and positive, without egotism, placable, self-respecting, pleasing, mobile, and in all candor an honest reflection of a personality, as full of modesty as merit.

There is no hypocrisy lurking just back of that beaming countenance with the easy smile, and sensible, whimsical, and curious eyes. Here is one that is what he seems to be, and a high authority has given to men no finer occasion for merit than that they should be what they seem.

He never disconcerts by excursions into the impolitic. A disposition to agree has not killed a fine faculty for for self thinking. He will not press his own ideas on reluctant ears, and an indulgent nature moves him to sympathetic silence, rather than puncture the vanity or hurt the sensibilities of those who stress every occasion to talk when they in reality have little or nothing to say.

His humor is kindly disposed, as this picture would indicate. It would not willingly trespass where the feelings are delicate, but fun, if it is wholesome and human, finds in him an active expositor.
No poseur here, no candidate for ridicule by presuming to display traits that are not a part of him, but a man equipped to wear well in the give and take of every day contact.

Dependability is better in the long run than the more flashy attributes that attract the unthinking, as any gaudy color fixes the roaming attention of the infant eye.

It is remotely possible that here is a man of faults, both grievous and many, who simply has not been found out – but why pursue the vagaries of imaginative conjecture when the facts are so clear. It is not a matter of mere compliment that he satisfies those capable of understanding the worth of character, because nature has said it, and there's an end.


THERE is in this blandly self-reliant countenance no hint of a nature diffident, confiding or soulfully indulgent. No trace here of the "poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling," but the steady glint that reflects a cool sagacity, not to mention a sophisticated spirit and the serenest confidence in the extent and variety of the Bean resources under any or every emergency.

Tho coldly intelligent, he is not without a certain subdued ardor of manner, which suggests a deeply hidden fire within, carefully banked for economy's sake, and wisely calculated to sustain a persistent desire to deserve well of his fellows as a public official.

Ambition's sin thru which, it is related, fell the angels, has no terrors for this resolute and acquisitive person. Fully convinced that aspiration, far from being a faulty thing, is a positive virtue, he pursues an even and observant path ever upward and onward like a true disciple of Excelsior.

A very stimulating study in character is this gentleman with the delicately chiseled face of an artist, and the temperament of a prosaic man of affairs. There are no vagaries, no doubts, no hesitancy or irresolution in this quietly positive person, with his moods that range from a still shrewd watchfulness to an impressive fluency in discussing points about which ever radiate the convictions and the hopes of the high-reaching James W. Bean.

The ego of the strong in nature is in both the warp and woof of his character. If he ever admitted committing an error, contemporary history will record that it must have been to himself, couched in the form of a soliloquy. He is an arresting, tho not a disturbing presence in the community, admired for divers traits that go with a mentality of most respectable quality, and the man is far from being as coldly complacent as he would seem.

He is full of matter, and invariably matter of fact.


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Last edited on March 25, 2007