"Where all is novelty, the attention, the exercise of the mind is too violent."

— Reynolds, Joshua (1723-1792)

Place of Publication
Printed for Thomas Cadell
December 10, 1778; 1779
"Where all is novelty, the attention, the exercise of the mind is too violent."
Metaphor in Context
It requires no long disquisition to show, that the dispositions which I have stated actually subsist in the human mind. Variety reanimates the attention which is apt to languish under a continual sameness. Novelty makes a more forcible impression on the mind, than can be done by representation of what we have often seen before; and contrasts rouse the power of comparison by opposition. All this is obvious; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered, that the mind, though an active principle, has likewise a disposition to indolence; and though it loves exercise, loves it only to a certain degree, beyond which it is very unwilling to be led, or driven; these qualities therefore may be carried to excess. When variety entirely destroys the pleasure proceeding from uniformity and repetition, and when novelty counteracts, and shuts out the pleasure arising from old habits and customs, opposes too much the indolence of our disposition; the mind therefore can bear with pleasure but a small portion of novelty at a time. The main part of the work must be in the mode to which we have been used; an affection to old habits and customs I take to be the predominant disposition of the mind, and that novelty comes as an exception; where all is novelty, the attention, the exercise of the mind is too violent.
(pp. 3-4)
From 1769 to 1772 Reynolds' lectures were delivered annually, with each discourse published shortly after its delivery. After 1772, the lectures were delivered biennially. The first seven discourses were collected and published together in 1778. In 1797, the first collected edition of all fifteen appeared, with a second edition issued in 1798. See the ODNB.

Text from A Discourse Delivered to the Students of the Royal Academy, on the Distribution of the Prizes, December 10, 1778. By the President. (London: Printed for Thomas Cadell, 1779). <Link to ECCO>
Date of Entry

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