A character/conduct certificate or a testimonial is an important document esp. when joining an educational institution as a student or as a teaching faculty. It is also an important item for employers when they take in their candidates. In recent times, the 'Character Certificate' is reduced to a proforma that is filled up and submitted after signatures and seals.
In the earlier times, it was written by hand in full usually by the person himself. I have a few with me from my forefathers' time. Reading them is a real pleasure. Just read to feel the beauty of the language used in them. Click on the images to enlarge to be able to read. For convenience, I've reproduced some excerpts in italics.
This is from Marrimallappa's School, Mysore, issued by the then Head Master, none other than the great M.Venkatakrishnayya [also renown as Thathayya and grand old man of Mysore]. It was issued to my great grandfather, Mylar Rao [also 'Malhari Rao'] in 1888, when he left that school after teaching Arithmetic. I handed over a copy of this document that has Thathayya's signature to the School in 2008 much to their delight. He writes ".... He mixes with the boys like a friend, solves their difficulties and proves himself a very acceptable teacher. Notwithstanding this, he maintains the discipline of his class. His conduct and qualifications are praiseworthy."
From there, he joined The Hindu Theological High School in Madras [now Chennai] which he left in 1891. It has the original signature of the founder of that reputed school which still exists today. I had the pleasure of sending the above letter and a certificate [original] to the school which they really liked, because of the signature of the much revered Head Master!! Read my separate blog on this. In the above it is written beautifully thus: "In consideration of the circumstances mentioned in your letter of that date, I regret to have to accept your resignation of your post here, with effect from the 1st Proximo, signed by R.Sivasankara Pandiyaji, Head Master.
Mylar Rao had passed his B.A. at Central College, Bangalore in 1886-87. R.H.Piggott, M.A, writes [1st October, 1888] thus:
Mr."K.Malhar Rao BA, was my pupil in English and Mathematics during the last two years of his college course. His diligence and courtesy were always exemplary and he acquitted himself with credit in his final examination. He speaks English with unusual clearness and accuracy, and his mathematical knowledge is sound and substantial. I have formed a high opinion of his personal character and am confident tht he will prove a conscientious, popular and successful teacher."
J.Cook writes ".....from his very good and moral character, and gentlemanly manners I should say he was specially fitted for such an institution [which in fact was the one in Madras as above], and I have much pleasure in recommending him for the managers of the Theological High School. I am sure he would be a great favourite with pupils and I have no doubt he would do his utmost to discharge his duties to the satisfaction of the managers."
Same J.Cook writes another: "...... He is a young man of good appearance and good manners and I have a very high opinion of his general character and abilities. I have no doubt he will do well in whatever line of life he may follow: and I have every hope that he will maintain the good name he has borne in this college. He has a good physique and was an ardent cricketer and a general favourite with his classmates. He has my best wishes for his future career."
This was by A.Narasim Iyengar, Durbar Bakshi to HH The Maharaja of Mysore on 27th Sept. 1888. "I am glad that I know K.Mylari Rao for the last 7-8 years [He was 20 yrs old in 1888]. He was drawing a scholarship from the Palace till he passed his B.A.degree examination held in the years 1887 and 88. I have invariably been having very good accounts of his college life in which he has never had a single failure. His behaviour and character have been exceptionally praiseworthy and I am confident he will prove himself to be a very useful hand to any institution which may avail itself of his services."
In this one, T.R.Venkataswami Iyer writes: "......... I had ample opportunity to watch his progress and character. He has a good taste for the subject and very fair ability and a habit of doing his work with great neatness. And as for conduct, I have never come across a more well-behaved student. I am confident that he will do any High School Mathematical teaching most satisfactorily and shall be very glad to hear of his securing a place."
In 1888, Mylar Rao was 20 and had finished his B.A. He was collecting testimonials for furthering his career.
This is a certificate issued to my father by Mr.S.V.Ranganna, the renown University Professor in English. [Click on letter to read, fully legible]. He was also our relative.
This one was issued by P.Raghavendra Rao, Retired First Member of Council, Mysore State, to my grandfather when he was looking for a govt. job in 1927.
In those days, not everyone gave testimonials to all and sundry. When someone wrote one, it carried its weight and so it was valued much.