"Another method of conquering this enemy [the passions], is to abstract our minds from that attention to trifling circumstances, which usually creates this uneasiness."

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

Place of Publication
Printed by H. Hughs, For J. Walter
"Another method of conquering this enemy [the passions], is to abstract our minds from that attention to trifling circumstances, which usually creates this uneasiness."
Metaphor in Context
Peevishness, though not so violent and fatal in its immediate effects, is still more unamiable than passion, and, if possible, more destructive of happiness, inasmuch as it operates more continually. Though the fretful man injures us less, he disgusts us more than the passionate one; because he betrays a low and little mind, intent on trifles, and engrossed by a paltry self-love, which knows not how to bear the very apprehension of any inconvenience. It is self-love then, which we must combat, when we find ourselves assaulted by this infirmity; and, by voluntarily induring inconveniences, we shall habituate ourselves to bear them with ease and good-humour, when occasioned by others. Perhaps this is the best kind of religious mortification; as the chief end of denying ourselves any innocent indulgences, must be to acquire a habit of command over our passions and inclinations, particularly such as are likely to lead us into evil. Another method of conquering this enemy, is to abstract our minds from that attention to trifling circumstances, which usually creates this uneasiness. Those, who are engaged in high and important pursuits, are very little affected by small inconveniences. The man, whose head is full of studious thought, or whose heart is full of care, will eat his dinner without knowing whether it was well or ill dressed, or whether it was served punctually at the hour or not: and though absence from the common things of life is far from desirable--especially in a woman--yet too minute and anxious an attention to them seldom fails to produce a teasing, mean, and fretful disposition. I would therefore wish your mind to have always some object in pursuit worthy of it, that it may not be engrossed by such as are in themselves scarce worth a moment's anxiety. It is chiefly in the decline of life, when amusements fail, and when the more importunate passions subside, that this infirmity is observed to grow upon us; and perhaps it will seldom fail to do so, unless carefully watched, and counteracted by reason. We must then endeavour to substitute some pursuits in the place of those, which can only engage us in the beginning of our course. The pursuit of glory and happiness in another life, by every means of improving and exalting our own minds, becomes more and more interesting to us, the nearer we draw to the end of all sublunary enjoyments. Reading, reflection, rational conversation, and, above all, conversing with God, by prayer and meditation, may preserve us from taking that anxious interest in the little comforts and conveniences of our remaining days, which usually gives birth to so much fretfulness in old people. But though the aged and infirm are most liable to this evil--and they alone are to be pitied for it--yet we sometimes see the young, the healthy, and those who enjoy most outward blessings, inexcusably guilty of it. The smallest disappointment in pleasure, or difficulty in the most trifling employment, will put wilful young people out of temper, and their very amusements frequently become sources of vexation and peevishness. How often have I seen a girl, preparing for a ball, or for some other public appearance--unable to satisfy her own vanity--fret over every ornament she put on, quarrel with her maid, with her clothes, her hair; and growing still more unlovely as she grew more cross, be ready to fight with her looking-glass for not making her as handsome as she wished to be! She did not consider, that the traces of this ill-humour on her countenance would be a greater disadvantage to her appearance than any defect in her dress, or even than the plainest features enlivened by joy and good-humour. There is a degree of resignation necessary even to the enjoyment of pleasure: we must be ready and willing to give up some part of what we could wish for, before we can enjoy that which is indulged to us. I have no doubt that she, who frets all the while she is dressing for an assembly, will suffer still greater uneasiness when she is there. The same craving restless vanity will there endure a thousand mortifications, which, in the midst of seeming pleasure, will secretly corrode her heart; whilst the meek and humble generally find more gratification than they expected, and return home pleased and enlivened from every scene of amusement, though they could have staid away from it with perfect ease and contentment.
(II, pp. 19-27)
At least 32 entries in ESTC (1773, 1774, 1775, 1777, 1778, 1783, 1786, 1787, 1790, 1793, 1797, 1800).

See Hester Chapone, Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, Addressed to a Lady, 2 vols. (London: Printed by H. Hughs for J. Walter, 1773). <Link to ECCO> <Vol. 1 in Google Books><Project Gutenberg Edition>
Date of Entry

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