"She taught me to cultivate simplicity, and to guard my mind against every the smallest degree of affectation"

— Fielding, Sarah (1710-1768) and Jane Collier (bap. 1715, d. 1755)

Place of Publication
Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall Mall
"She taught me to cultivate simplicity, and to guard my mind against every the smallest degree of affectation"
Metaphor in Context
Portia. It was the error of your judgment, Cylinda, and not a malicious heart, that caused your desire of leading my imagination in the same road with your own: but thankfully must I again applaud the goodness and wisdom of the parent under whom I was educated, and the mercy of God in preserving me from such evils. At the early age of six years old I lost my father; yet his precepts were the principal foundation of all the instructions I afterwards received: for young as I was, he perceived (he said) the openings of a lively imagination; which, if directed into a right channel, would turn to my advantage, and be a real blessing; but if left to rove in the [Page 107] bewildered paths of error, would only serve to render my life a tumultuous hurricane, and would be indeed my greatest curse. He left it as a request to my mother, that I might have all the learning I was capable of attaining, and this for a very uncommon reason; namely, that I might not look up to it with a preposterous admiration as if it was something dwelling in the clouds, and the whole center of true wisdom. To persuade men against too high an admiration of any worldly and transitory advantages seems the whole drift of an eminentb[1] ethical heathen writer; how much more then should a christian look with indifference on the trifling acquisitions which are no way productive of the happiness promised by his Saviour! My father kindly resolved that I should not have the Herculean labour of cleansing the Augean: stable, or what is much worse, a corrupted mind. He took care therefore in the [Page 108] beginning, that wrong principles, the foulest of corruption, should not be planted in my young and tender bosom. My mother made it her whole employment to follow the directions of a beloved husband, in her care of the only offspring of their mutual love. She taught me to cultivate simplicity, and to guard my mind against every the smallest degree of affectation. The fear of false ridicule was from my infancy plucked up by the roots; for such a fallacious timidity puts it in the power of every buffoon delighter in burlesque to damp each rising virtue, and to drive us into vice by our want of courage to stand an ill-placed laughter. Altho' a wilful ignorance, and the perversely shutting my eyes against any instruction, would have been highly reprimanded in me, yet was I taught fearlessly and without a blush, where no such obstinacy was in the mind, to use the words "I cannot tell." For indeed it is the fear of pronouncing these few dreaded words, that frightens half mankind from ever attaining any real knowledge. Instead of being terrified with the [Page 109] fear of being made a dupe, I was told that shame only properly belonged to the having acted a cunning and treacherous part towards another. It was my father's desire and my mother's practice to prevent the entrance of error, and then they made no doubt but truth would find room to inhabit my well-taught mind. Another reason which my father gave for having me instructed in as many languages as my memory could retain, was, that I might be a real agreeable companion as a wife, to any man of sense.
Searching in HDIS (Prose)
2 entries in ESTC (1754).

See Fielding, Sarah and Jane Collier, The Cry: A New Dramatic Fable, 3 vols. (London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall Mall, 1754). <Link to ESTC>
Date of Entry

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