"Hence infinite space, endless numbers, and eternal duration, fill the mind with great ideas."

— Blair, Hugh (1718-1800)

Place of Publication
London and Edinburgh
Printed for W. Strahan; T. Cadell; and W. Creech
"Hence infinite space, endless numbers, and eternal duration, fill the mind with great ideas."
Metaphor in Context
IT is not easy to describe, in words, the precise impression which great and sublime objects make upon us, when we behold them; but every one has a conception of it. It consists in a kind of admiration and expansion of the mind; it raises the mind much above its ordinary state; and fills it with a degree of wonder and astonishment, which it cannot well express. The emotion is certainly delightful; but it is altogether of the serious kind: a degree of awfulness and solemnity, even approaching to severity, commonly attends it when at its height; very distinguishable from the more gay and brisk emotion raised by beautiful objects.

THE simplest form of external Grandeur appears in the vast and boundless prospects presented to us by nature; such as wide extended plains, to which the eye can see no limits; the firmament of Heaven; or the boundless expanse of the Ocean. All vastness produces the impression of Sublimity. It is to be remarked, however, that space, extended in length, makes not so strong an impression as height or depth. Though a boundless plain be a grand object, yet a high mountain, to which we look up, or an awful precipice or tower whence we look down on the objects which lie below, is still more so. The excessive Grandeur of the firmament arises from its height, joined to its boundless extent; and that of the ocean, not from its extent alone, but from the perpetual motion and irresistible force of that mass of waters. Wherever space is concerned, it is clear, that amplitude or greatness of extent, in one dimension or other, is necessary to Grandeur. Remove all bounds from any object, and you presently render it sublime. Hence infinite space, endless numbers, and eternal duration, fill the mind with great ideas.
(Vol. I, Lecture III, pp. 55-6)
29 entries in ESTC (1783, 1784, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1793, 1796, 1798). See also Heads of the Lectures on Rhetorick, and Belles Lettres (1767, 1771, 1777) and abridgments of the lectures as Essays on Rhetoric (1784, 1785, 1787, 1789, 1793, 1797, 1798).

See Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. By Hugh Blair (London: Printed for W. Strahan; T. Cadell; and W. Creech, in Edinburgh, 1783): <Link to ESTC>. See also Dublin edition of same year in ECCO-TCP: <Link to Vol. I><Vol. II><Vol. III>. Revised and corrected for second edition of 1785.

Reading Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, eds. Linda Ferreira-Buckley and S. Michael Halloran (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2005). Text based on second edition of 1785.
Date of Entry

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