"Rein in, on these important subjects, your imagination."

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

January 3, 1750-51, 1807
"Rein in, on these important subjects, your imagination."
Metaphor in Context
Well! now I have done with quarrelling, I will go back to the letter. Whereabouts was I? Oh dear ! what shall I do now! I have opened your letter just at the place where that sad paragraph is, that made me cry out so before! I intended never to have read it again, that I might have forgot it. Why had not I the heart to take a penknife and scratch it out, that it might not thus have obtruded itself on my sight? Why!--Because it came from my dear Mr. Richardson, and, however severe it may appear, there is kindness under every word, and sweet instruction mixed with the bitterness of reproof. Live then upon the paper, and upon my memory, every stroke of his pen! For there is no gall in his ink, but only precious balm, and honied drops of salutary counsel. And now let me try to extract this honey, and not be afraid of the stings of self-condemnation. "But I am really sorry, my dear Miss Mulso, to find you, on more occasions than one, depreciate the understandings of parents; rein in, I beseech you, my dear child, on these important subjects, your charming imagination." See here! He calls me my dear child, and is sorry for my faults! Is not this kindness? But did I depreciate the understandings of parents, AS parents? Did I mean to cast contempt on the paternal character? My heart boldly answers, NO. But did I seem to mean it? Mr. Richardson says yes. Well then, scratch out of my letter that vile passage, that seemed to mean so vile a design; tell it not in Gath nor proclaim it in the streets of Askalon, that your child ever wrote it, and believe not that she ever meant it. Whilst I, on the other hand, preserve, and often read over this wholesome admonition, "Rein in, on these important subjects, your imagination." Your wild silly imagination, you foolish girl you! How is poor Mr. Richardson discomfited! He who has been a constant advocate for the reading and writing ladies, how is he, by my sad example, discomfited ! But here indeed, dear Sir, you have mixed a sneer with your rebukes that should not have been there, however audacious and peremptory I may have been, whatever sagacity I may have seemed to assume, and however contrary my doctrines may have been to truth and reason--however wanting I may have been in the characteristic graces of my sex, in meekness, patience, resignation, submission; let not, I beseech you, the reading and writing ladies suffer for this; I never was a writing lady till you made me one; I am far from being a reading lady; I have read very little; and half of what I have read has been romances and novels and trumpery that did me more harm than good. Let it not then, on my account, be made a doubt whether "our forefathers were not in the right when they bestowed so little attention on the education of girls." Forbid it science! Forbid it justice! that the sex, and the cause of learning, should thus suffer for the faults of one ignorant girl! For if I have erred, you should impute it rather to my ignorance than knowledge. Miss Carter says, (and she is herself a proof of the truth of her assertion) 'tis certain that every accession of understanding, whether in man or woman, in its natural tendency, leads to the improvement of the heart. [...] (pp. 130-3)
See volume IV of The Works of Mrs. Chapone: Now First Collected (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.