"Angels and Ministers of grace defend us! cried my father,--can any soul withstand this shock?--No wonder the intellectual web is so rent and tatter'd as we see it; and that so many of our best heads are no better than a puzzled skein of silk,--all perplexity,--all confusion within side."

— Sterne, Laurence (1713-1768)


Date
1760-7
Metaphor
"Angels and Ministers of grace defend us! cried my father,--can any soul withstand this shock?--No wonder the intellectual web is so rent and tatter'd as we see it; and that so many of our best heads are no better than a puzzled skein of silk,--all perplexity,--all confusion within side."
Metaphor in Context
My father, who dipp'd into all kinds of books, upon looking into Lithop├Ždus Senonesis de Partu difficili, published by Adrianus Smelvgot, had found out, That the lax and pliable state of a child's head in parturition, the bones of the cranium having no sutures at that time, was such,--that by force of the woman's efforts, which, in strong labour-pains, was equal, upon an average, to a weight of 470 pounds averdupoise acting perpendicularly upon it;--it so happened that, in 49 instances out of 50, the said head was compressed and moulded into the shape of an oblong conical piece of dough, such as a pastry-cook generally rolls up in order to make a pye of.---Good God! cried my father, what havock and destruction must this make in the infinitely fine and tender texture of the cerebellum!--Or if there is such a juice as Borri pretends,--is it not enough to make the clearest liquor in the world both feculent and mothery?

But how great was his apprehension, when he further understood, that this force, acting upon the very vertex of the head, not only injured the brain itself or cerebrum,--but that it necessarily squeez'd and propell'd the cerebrum towards the cerebellum, which was the immediate seat of the understanding.--Angels and Ministers of grace defend us! cried my father,--can any soul withstand this shock?--No wonder the intellectual web is so rent and tatter'd as we see it; and that so many of our best heads are no better than a puzzled skein of silk,--all perplexity,--all confusion within side.
(II.xix, pp. 172-4)
Provenance
Contributed by Neal Curtis
Citation
At least 82 entries in ESTC (1759, 1760, 1761, 1762, 1763, 1765, 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1776, 1777, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, 1786, 1788, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1798, 1799, 1800). Complicated publication history: vols. 1 and 2 published in London January 1, 1760. Vols. 3, 4, 5, and 6 published in 1761. Vols. 7 and 8 published in 1765. Vol. 9 published in 1767.

See Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 9 vols. (London: Printed for D. Lynch, 1760-1767). <Link to ECCO><Link to 1759 York edition in ECCO>

First two volumes available in ECCO-TCP: <Vol. 1><Vol. 2>. Most text drawn from second (London) edition <Link to LION>.

For vols. 3-4, see ESTC T14705 <R. and J. Dodsley, 1761>. For vols. 5-6, see ESTC T14706 <T. Becket and P. A. Dehondt, 1762>. For vols. 7-8, see ESTC T14820 <T. Becket and P. A. Dehont, 1765>. For vol. 9, <T. Becket and P. A. Dehondt, 1767>.

Reading in Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism, Ed. Howard Anderson (New York: Norton, 1980).
Date of Entry
11/24/2015

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