"Reason, however we flatter ourselves, hath not such despotic Empire in our Minds, that it can, with imperial Voice, hush all our Sorrow in a Moment"

— Fielding, Henry (1707-1754)

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Printed for the Author
"Reason, however we flatter ourselves, hath not such despotic Empire in our Minds, that it can, with imperial Voice, hush all our Sorrow in a Moment"
Metaphor in Context
What shall I do? Shall I abandon myself to a dispirited Despair, or fly in the Face of the Almighty! Surely both are unworthy of a wise Man; for what can be more vain than weakly to lament my Fortune, if irretrievable, or, if Hope remains, to offend that Being, who can most strongly support it: But are my Passions then voluntary? Am I so absolutely their Master, that I can resolve with myself, so far only will I grieve? Certainly no. Reason, however we flatter ourselves, hath not such despotic Empire in our Minds, that it can, with imperial Voice, hush all our Sorrow in a Moment. Where then is its Use? for either it is an empty Sound, and we are deceived in thinking we have Reason, or it is given us to some End, and hath a Part assigned it by the All-wise Creator. Why, what can its Office be, other than justly to weigh the Worth of all Things, and to direct us to that Perfection of human Wisdom, which proportions our Esteem of every Object by its real Merit, and prevents us from over or undervaluing whatever we hope for, we enjoy, or we lose. It doth not foolishly say to us, be not glad, orbe not sorry, which would be as vain and idle, as to bid the purling River cease to run, or the raging Wind to blow. It prevents us only from exulting, like Children, when we receive a Toy, or from lamenting when we are deprived of it. Suppose then I have lost the Enjoyments of this World, and my Expectation of future Pleasure and Profit is for ever disappointed; what Relief can my Reason afford! What, unless it can shew me I had fixed my Affections on a Toy; that what I desired was not, by a wise Man, eagerly to be affected, nor its Loss violently deplored; for there are Toys adapted to all Ages, from the Rattle to the Throne. And perhaps the Value of all is equal to their several Possessors; for if the Rattle pleases the Ears of the Infant, what can the Flattery of Sycophants do more to the Prince. The latter is as far from examining into the Reality and Source of his Pleasure as the former; for if both did, they must both equally despise it. And surely if we consider them seriously, and compare them together, we shall be forced to conclude all those Pomps and Pleasures, of which Men are so fond, and which, through so much Danger and Difficulty, with such Violence and Villany they pursue, to be as worthless Trifles as any exposed to Sale in a Toyshop. I have often noted my little Girl viewing, with eager Eyes, a jointed Baby; I have marked the Pains and Solicitations she hath used, till I have been prevailed on to indulge her with it. At her first obtaining it, what Joy hath sparkled in her Countenance! with what Raptures hath she taken the Possession; but how little Satisfaction hath she found in it! What Pains to work out her Amusement from it! Its Dress must be varied; the Tinsel Ornaments which first caught her Eyes, produce no longer Pleasure; she endeavours to make it stand and walk in vain, and is constrained herself to supply it with Conversation. In a Day's time it is thrown by and neglected, and some less costly Toy preferred to it. How like the Situation of this Child is that of every Man! What Difficulties in the Pursuit of his Desires! What Inanity in the Possession of most, and Satiety in those which seem more real and substantial! The Delights of most Men are as childish and as superficial as that of my little Girl; a Feather or a Fiddle are their Pursuits and their Pleasures through Life, even to their ripest Years, if such Men may be said to attain any Ripeness at all. But let us survey those whose Understandings are of a more elevated and refined Temper, how empty do they soon find the World of Enjoyments worth their Desire or attaining! How soon do they retreat to Solitude and Contemplation, to Gardening and Planting, and such rural Amusements, where their Trees and they enjoy the Air and the Sun in common, and both vegetate with very little Difference between them. But suppose (which neither Honesty nor Wisdom will allow) we could admit something more valuable and substantial in those Blessings, would not the Uncertainty of their Possession be alone sufficient to lower their Price. How mean a Tenure is that at the Will of Fortune, which Chance, Fraud, and Rapine are every Day so likely to deprive us of, and the more likely, by how much the greater Worth our Possessions are of! Is it not to place our Affections on a Bubble in the Water, or a Picture in the Clouds! What Mad-man would build a fine House, or frame a beautiful Garden on Land in which he held so uncertain an Interest. But again, was all this less undeniable, did Fortune, like the Lady of a Manor, lease to us for our Lives; of how little Consideration must even this Term appear? For admitting that these Pleasures were not liable to be torn from us; how certainly must we be torn from them! Perhaps To-morrow,--Nay or even sooner: For as the excellent Poet says,
(III, pp. 196-201)
Searching "empire" and "mind" in HDIS (Prose)
At least 13 entries in ESTC (1743, 1754, 1758, 1763, 1774, 1775, 1782, 1785, 1793, 1795).

Text from Miscellanies, by Henry Fielding, 3 vols. (London: Printed for the Author, 1743). [Jonathan Wild in Vol. 3] <Link to LION>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.