"Pox on their philosophy! Instead of demonstrating the immortality of the soul, they have plainly proved the soul is a chimæra, a will o' the wisp, a bubble, a term, a word, a nothing!"

— Smollett, Tobias (1721-1777)

Place of Publication
Printed for Robinson and Roberts
"Pox on their philosophy! Instead of demonstrating the immortality of the soul, they have plainly proved the soul is a chimæra, a will o' the wisp, a bubble, a term, a word, a nothing!"
Metaphor in Context
[...] It was the nature of Fika-kaka to be impatient and impetuous. Perceiving that none of his Bonzes had any communication with the devil, and that many of them doubted whether there was any such personage as the devil, he began to have some doubts about his own soul: "For if there is no devil (said he), there is no soul to be damned; and it would be a reproach to the justice of heaven to suppose that all souls are to be saved, considering what rascally stuff mankind are made of." This was an inference which gave him great disturbance; for he was one of those who would rather encounter eternal damnation, than run any risque of being annihilated. He therefore assembled all those among the Bonzes who had the reputation of being great philosophers and metaphysicians, in order to hear their opinions concerning the nature of the soul. The first reverend sage who delivered himself on this mysterious subject, having stroked his grey beard, and hemmed thrice with great solemnity, declared that the soul was an animal; a second pronounced it to be the number three, or proportion; a third contended for the number seven, or harmony; a fourth defined the soul the universe; a fifth affirmed it was a mixture of elements; a sixth asserted it was composed of fire; a seventh opined it was formed of water; an eighth called it an essence; a ninth, an idea; a tenth stickled for substance without extension; an eleventh, for extension without substance; a twelfth cried it was an accident; a thirteenth called it a reflecting mirrour; a fourteenth, the image reflected; a fifteenth insisted upon its being a tune; a sixteenth believed it was the instrument that played the tune; a seventeenth undertook to prove it was material; an eighteenth exclaimed it was immaterial; a nineteenth allowed it was something; and a twentieth swore it was nothing.--By this time all the individuals that composed this learned assembly, spoke together with equal eagerness and vociferation. The volubility with which a great number of abstruse and unintelligible terms and definitions were pronounced and repeated, not only resembled the confusion of Babel, but they had just the same effect upon the brain of Fika-kaka, as is generally produced in weak heads by looking stedfastly at a mill-wheel or a vortex, or any other object in continual rotation. He grew giddy, ran three times round, and dropped down in the midst of the Bonzes, deprived of sense and motion. When he recovered so far as to be able to reflect upon what had happened, he was greatly disturbed with the terror of annihilation, as he had heard nothing said in the consultation which could give him any reason to believe there was such a thing as an immortal soul. In this emergency he sent for his counsellor Mura-clami, and when that lawyer entered his chamber, exclaimed, "My dear Mura, as I have a soul to be saved!--A soul to be saved!--ay, there's the rub!--the devil a soul have I!--Those Bonzes are good for nothing but to kiss my a---se;---a parcel of ignorant asses! --Pox on their philosophy! Instead of demonstrating the immortality of the soul, they have plainly proved the soul is a chimæra, a will o' the wisp, a bubble, a term, a word, a nothing!--My dear Mura! prove but that I have a soul, and I shall be contented to be damned to all eternity!"--"If that be the case, (said the other) your Quambucuship may set your heart at rest: for, if you proceed to govern this empire, in conjunction with Taycho, as you have begun, it will become a point of eternal justice to give you an immortal soul (if you have not one already) that you may undergo eternal punishment, according to your demerits." The Cuboy was much comforted by this assurance, and returned to his former occupations with redoubled ardour. He continued to confer benefices on his back-friends the Bonzes; to regulate the whole army of tax-gatherers; to bribe the tribunes, the centurions, the decuriones, and all the inferior mob-drivers of the empire; to hire those pipers who were best skilled in making the multitude dance, and find out the ablest artists to scratch their long ears, and tickle their noses. These toils were sweetened by a variety of enjoyments. He possessed all the pomp of ostentation; the vanity of levees, the pride of power, the pleasure of adulation, the happiness of being kicked by his sovereign and kissed by his Bonzes; and, above all, the delights of the stomach and the close-stool, which recurred in perpetual succession, and which he seemed to enjoy with a particular relish: for, it must be observed, to the honour of Fika-kaka, that what he eagerly received at one end, he as liberally refunded at the other. But as the faculties of his mind were insufficient to digest the great mess of power which had fallen to his share, so were the organs of his body unable to concoct the enormous mass of aliments which he so greedily swallowed. He laboured under an indigestion of both; and the vague promises which went upwards, as well as the murmurs that passed the other way, were no other than eruptive crudities arising from the defects of his soul and body. (pp. 206-12)
Searching in HDIS (Prose)
7 entries in the ESTC (1769, 1786, 1795, 1797, 1799).

Tobias Smollett, The History and Adventures of an Atom, 2 vols. (London: Robinson and Roberts, 1769). <Link to ECCO>
Date of Entry

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