"No, Sir; violent pain of mind, like violent pain of body, must be severely felt."

— Boswell, James (1740-1795)

Place of Publication
Printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly
"No, Sir; violent pain of mind, like violent pain of body, must be severely felt."
Metaphor in Context
On Monday, March 25, we breakfasted at Mrs. Lucy Porter's. Johnson had sent an express to Dr. Taylor's, acquainting him of our being at Lichfield, and Taylor had returned an answer that his post-chaise should come for us this day. While we sat at breakfast, Dr. Johnson received a letter by the post, which seemed to agitate him very much. When he had read it, he exclaimed, "One of the most dreadful things that has happened in my time." The phrase my time, like the word age, is usually understood to refer to an event of a publick or general nature. I imagined something like an assassination of the King--like a gunpowder plot carried into execution--or like another fire of London. When asked, "What is it, Sir?" he answered, "Mr. Thrale has lost his only son!" This was, no doubt, a very great affliction to Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, which their friends would consider accordingly; but from the manner in which the intelligence of it was communicated by Johnson, it appeared for the moment to be comparatively small. I, however, soon felt a sincere concern, and was curious to observe, how Dr. Johnson would be affected. He said, "This is a total extinction to their family, as much as if they were sold into captivity." Upon my mentioning that Mr. Thrale had daughters, who might inherit his wealth;--"Daughters, (said Johnson, warmly,) he'll no more value his daughters than--" I was going to speak.--"Sir, (said he,) don't you know how you yourself think? Sir, he wishes to propagate his name." In short, I saw male succession strong in his mind, even where there was no name, no family of any long standing. I said, it was lucky he was not present when this misfortune happened. Johnson. "It is lucky for me. People in distress never think that you feel enough." Boswell. "And Sir, they will have the hope of seeing you, which will be a relief in the mean time; and when you get to them, the pain will be so far abated, that they will be capable of being consoled by you, which, in the first violence of it, I believe, would not be the case." Johnson. "No, Sir; violent pain of mind, like violent pain of body, must be severely felt." Boswell. "I own, Sir, I have not so much feeling for the distress of others, as some people have, or pretend to have: but I know this, that I would do all in my power to relieve them." Johnson. "Sir, it is affectation to pretend to feel the distress of others, as much as they do themselves. It is equally so, as if one should pretend to feel as much pain while a friend's leg is cutting off, as he does. No, Sir; you have expressed the rational and just nature of sympathy. I would have gone to the extremity of the earth to have preserved this boy."
(p. 624-5)
5 entries in ESTC (1791, 1792, 1793, 1799).

See The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order; a Series of His Epistolary Correspondence and Conversations With Many Eminent Persons; and Various Original Pieces of His Composition, Never Before Published. The Whole Exhibiting a View of Literature and Literary Men in Great-Britain, for Near Half a Century, During Which He Flourished. In Two Volumes. By James Boswell, Esq. 2 vols. (London: Printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, 1791). <Link to ESTC><Vol. I in ECCO-TCP><Vol. II>

My main reading text is James Boswell, The Life of Johnson, ed. Claude Rawson, (New York: Knopf, 1992). Also reading in David Womersley's Penguin edition, 2008.

First edition in Google Books, <Vol. I><Vol. II>. See also Jack Lynch's online e-text, prepared from the 1904 Oxford edition <Link>.
Date of Entry

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