a shocking <character> of warfare

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Senior Member
Chinese - China
Like Napier before him, he seems genuinely to have believed in the purgative benefits (to both sides) of a short, sharp, clean war: ‘I feel assured’, he wrote on 11 April,
that the single mode of saving the coasts of the empire from a shocking character of warfare, both foreign and domestic, will be the very prompt and powerful intervention of Her Majesty’s government for the just vindication of all wrongs, and the effectual prevention of crime and wretchedness by permanent settlement.

Excerpt From
The Opium War
Julia Lovell

Hi. What does the word “character” mean here? Can I rephrase the underlined part into “a warefare of shocking character” to mean the same thing?
Thank you.
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Character = aspect or trait. It seems odd to me that he should use the indefinite article. He presumably has a particular aspect of warfare in mind and I would have expected it to have previously mentioned it, so "this" ought to be more appropriate than "a". Alternatively, he could have said "the shocking character of warfare", in which case character = nature, or the combination of traits.

    You cannot swap the terms over either side of "of", and your rephrasing changes the meaning entirely. Whatever "a shocking character" is meant to refer to, the warfare part is simply warfare, no more or less shocking than warfare usually is.
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