"Does the soul (one would be almost tempted to ask) contract and shrivel up with old age, like the body?"

— Mulso [later Chapone], Hester (1727-1801)

November 10, 1750
"Does the soul (one would be almost tempted to ask) contract and shrivel up with old age, like the body?"
Metaphor in Context
How little likelihood is there, that a man who, with all the assiduity, all the compliance, all the arts which the desire of pleasing inspires him with, whilst a lover, cannot obtain a favourable thought, should at once become amiable in those very eyes which before regarded him with aversion, and dear to that heart which shrunk at his approach, from the moment that he is adorned with the title of husband! When from the humble, crawling slave, who dreaded her frown, the mean wretch begins to strut about, full of the sense of his new prerogatives, and puffed up almost to bursting, with the pride of having a creature every way his superior in his power, and bound to obey him. Oh Sir, you who could paint so well the man of wisdom tugging at the leading-strings of his pretty fool, to restrain her from embracing a serpent; paint, I beseech you, the lovely, the wise, the noble, the good Clarissa, not in leading-strings, but in chains; (for tyranny is the triumph of low minds, and almost the sure consequence of power in the hands of a fool) her hands manacled, her feet fettered down to earth, her head bowed down with shame and dejection of soul, and her face covered with blushes for the ridiculous, contemptible appearance and behaviour of her husband. Her shoulders heavy laden with her marriage yoke, and her agreeable yoke-fellow leaving the whole weight of it to her, whilst he affects to look big, and to put on an air of superiority and command, which increases in proportion to her meekness and readiness to obey; no way for her to oblige him, since he looks on the most painful compliances as her duty, and his due. The constant drudgery of dissimulation which she must submit to, in order to behave as she ought, and to appear to perform her engagement to , either effectually deceives him, (and then he plumes himself on her fondness, thinks his irresistible charms have captivated her, and that let him behave as he will, the poor, fond fool cannot help loving him), or else, if he sees through her struggles to oblige him, and perceives the force she puts upon herself, he has not delicacy enough to be hurt by it, but building on her virtue and conscience, cares not to please her, or to soften her slavery; well knowing that let her hate him as she will, she will still do her duty by him. This is the lot, of which you say that you will not think highly of that woman's prudence, who, after a while, could not reconcile herself tolerably to it; especially if children follow the marriage. Alas! children which are the greatest blessings in a happy marriage, would in this case bring with them fresh grief and mortification to the unhappy mother, who would see them absurdly, if not cruelly treated; and if her husband interfered at all in their education, see their minds poisoned with the mean notions and bad maxims, as well as by the example of their father; and her own instructions, if she gives them any, must be directly opposite to his. Prudence may enable her to behave with decency and patience in such calamities, but will it prevent her feeling them? Will it restore that inward peace and joy, which her implicit obedience has robbed her of ? Yet such is the eligible condition in which the wise, the experienced part of the world, take such infinite pains to place their children; such the Lord to whom they would sell and enslave the darling of their hearts, for whom they have treasured up their gain, and from whom, as from a rising sun, they expect to have lustre and gladness cast on the winter of their days. Is it possible that experience should produce error, and that the exemption of old people from the passions of youth, should be no better a privilege than to leave room for the love of money, which seems then to engross the whole soul, and to fill up the place of all the other passions! Does the soul (one would be almost tempted to ask) contract and shrivel up with old age, like the body? And can time wither even virtue?
(pp. 58-61)
Hester Mulso Chapone, The Works of Mrs. Chapone: Now First Collected, Vol. iv, Life and Correspondence (London: John Murray, 1807). <Link to Google Books>
Date of Entry

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