My dear,

Real character is not measured by what a man does in public, where he’ll be seen – and rewarded for good behavior.

The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.

For in the light we all smile, and put on our masks of perfect character. But in the dark, where there is no light to reveal, a man’s true character comes out.

Will the darkness reveal that the man is evil? Or saintly? Hard to know. For that is the paradox. If we knew, it wouldn’t be true darkness, and that man could still be wearing a mask.

For the most part, only the man can measure his own character, for only he knows what face he’s making behind that mask.

Falsely yours,
Thomas Babington Macaulay