"When we first take our place about a man, the receptacles of the pericranium are immediately searched. In his, I found no one ordinary trace of thinking; but strong passion, violent desires, and a continued series of different changes, had torn it to pieces."

— Steele, Sir Richard (1672-1729)

Work Title
Saturday, May 7, to Tuesday, May 10, 1709
"When we first take our place about a man, the receptacles of the pericranium are immediately searched. In his, I found no one ordinary trace of thinking; but strong passion, violent desires, and a continued series of different changes, had torn it to pieces."
Metaphor in Context
Much hurry and business had to-day perplexed me into a mood too thoughtful for going into company; for which reason, instead of the tavern, I went into Lincoln's Inn Walks; and having taken a round or two, I sat down, according to the allowed familiarity of these places, on a bench; at the other end of which sat a venerable gentleman, who speaking with a very affable air, "Mr. Bickerstaff," said he, "I take it for a very great piece of good fortune, that you have found me out." "Sir," said I, "I had never, that I know of, the honour of seeing you before." "That," replied he, "is what I have often lamented; but I assure you, I have for many years done you good offices, without being observed by you; or else, when you had any little glimpse of my being concerned in an affair, you have fled from me, and shunned me like an enemy; but however, the part I am to act in the world is such, that I am to go on in doing good, though I meet with never so many repulses, even from those I oblige." This, thought I, shows a great good nature, but little judgment in the persons upon whom he confers his favours. He immediately took notice to me, that he observed by my countenance I thought him indiscreet in his beneficence, and proceeded to tell me his quality in the following manner: "I know thee, Isaac, to be so well versed in the occult sciences, that I need not much preface, or make long preparations to gain your faith that there are airy beings, who are employed in the care and attendance of men, as nurses are to infants, till they come to an age in which they can act of themselves. These beings are usually called amongst men, guardian angels; and, Mr. Bickerstaff, I am to acquaint you, that I am to be yours for some time to come; it being our orders to vary our stations, and sometimes to have one patient under our protection, and sometimes another, with a power of assuming what shape we please, to ensnare our wards into their own good. I have of late been upon such hard duty, and know you have so much work for me, that I think fit to appear to you face to face, to desire you would give me as little occasion for vigilance as you can." "Sir," said I, "it will be a great instruction to me in my behaviour, if you please to give me some account of your late employments, and what hardships or satisfactions you have had in them, that I may govern myself accordingly." He answered: "To give you an example of the drudgery we go through, I will entertain you only with my three last stations: I was on the 1st of April last, put to mortify a great beauty, with whom I was a week; from her I went to a common swearer, and have been last with a gamester. When I first came to my lady, I found my great work was to guard well her eyes and ears; but her flatterers were so numerous, and the house, after the modern way, so full of looking-glasses, that I seldom had her safe but in her sleep. Whenever we went abroad, we were surrounded by an army of enemies: when a well-made man appeared, he was sure to have a side-glance of observation: if a disagreeable fellow, he had a full face, out of mere inclination to conquests. But at the close of the evening, on the sixth of the last month, my ward was sitting on a couch, reading Ovid's 'Epistles'; and as she came to this line of Helen to Paris,

She half consents who silently denies;

entered Philander, who is the most skilful of all men in an address to women. He is arrived at the perfection of that art which gains them, which is, to talk like a very miserable man, but look like a very happy one. I saw Dictinna blush at his entrance, which gave me the alarm; but he immediately said something so agreeable on her being at study, and the novelty of finding a lady employed in so grave a manner, that he on a sudden became very familiarly a man of no consequence; and in an instant laid all her suspicions of his skill asleep, as he almost had done mine, till I observed him very dangerously turn his discourse upon the elegance of her dress, and her judgment in the choice of that very pretty mourning. Having had women before under my care, I trembled at the apprehension of a man of sense, who could talk upon trifles, and resolved to stick to my post with all the circumspection imaginable. In short, I prepossessed her against all he could say to the advantage of her dress and person; but he turned again the discourse, where I found I had no power over her, on the abusing her friends and acquaintance. He allowed indeed, that Flora had a little beauty, and a great deal of wit; but then she was so ungainly in her behaviour, and such a laughing hoyden—Pastorella had with him the allowance of being blameless: but what was that towards being praiseworthy? To be only innocent, is not to be virtuous. He afterwards spoke so much against Mrs. Dipple's forehead, Mrs. Prim's mouth, Mrs. Dentifrice's teeth, and Mrs. Fidget's cheeks, that she grew downright in love with him: for it is always to be understood, that a lady takes all you detract from the rest of her sex to be a gift to her. In a word, things went so far, that I was dismissed, and she will remember that evening nine months, from the 6th of April, by a very remarkable token. The next, as I said, I went to was a common swearer: never was creature so puzzled as myself when I came first to view his brain; half of it was worn out, and filled up with mere expletives, that had nothing to do with any other parts of the texture; therefore, when he called for his clothes in a morning, he would cry, 'John—?' John does not answer. 'What a plague! Nobody there? What the devil, and rot me! John, for a lazy dog as you are.' I knew no way to cure him, but by writing down all he said one morning as he was dressing, and laying it before him on the toilet when he came to pick his teeth. The last recital I gave him of what he said for half an hour before, was, 'What, a pox rot me! Where is the washball? Call the chairmen: damn them, I warrant they are at the ale-house already! Zounds, and confound them.' When he came to the glass, he takes up my note—'Ha! this fellow is worse than me: what, does he swear with pen and ink?' But reading on, he found them to be his own words. The stratagem had so good an effect upon him, that he grew immediately a new man, and is learning to speak without an oath, which makes him extremely short in his phrases; for, as I observed before, a common swearer has a brain without any idea on the swearing side; therefore my ward has yet mighty little to say, and is forced to substitute some other vehicle of nonsense to supply the defect of his usual expletives. When I left him, he made use of, 'Oddsbodikins!' 'Oh me!' and, 'Never stir alive!' and so forth; which gave me hopes of his recovery. So I went to the next I told you of, the gamester. When we first take our place about a man, the receptacles of the pericranium are immediately searched. In his, I found no one ordinary trace of thinking; but strong passion, violent desires, and a continued series of different changes, had torn it to pieces. There appeared no middle condition; the triumph of a prince, or the misery of a beggar, were his alternate states. I was with him no longer than one day, which was yesterday. In the morning at twelve, we were worth four thousand pounds; at three, we were arrived at six thousand; half an hour after, we were reduced to one thousand; at four of the clock, we were down to two hundred; at five, to fifty; at six, to five; at seven, to one guinea; the next bet, to nothing: this morning, he borrowed half a crown of the maid who cleans his shoes; and is now gaming in Lincoln's Inn Fields among the boys for farthings and oranges, till he has made up three pieces, and then he returns to White's into the best company in town." This ended our first discourse; and it is hoped, you will forgive me, that I have picked so little out of my companion at our first interview. In the next, it is possible he may tell me more pleasing incidents; for though he is a familiar, he is not an evil spirit.
Over 50 entries in the ESTC (1709, 1710, 1711, 1712, 1713, 1716, 1720, 1723, 1728, 1733, 1737, 1743, 1747, 1749, 1750, 1751, 1752, 1754, 1759, 1764, 1772, 1774, 1776, 1777, 1785, 1786, 1789, 1794, 1795, 1797).

See The Tatler. By Isaac Bickerstaff Esq. Dates of Publication: No. 1 (Tuesday, April 12, 1709.) through No. 271 (From Saturday December 30, to Tuesday January 2, 1710 [i.e. 1711]). <Link to ESTC>

Collected in two volumes, and printed and sold by J. Morphew in 1710, 1711. Also collected and reprinted as The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.

Consulting Donald Bond's edition of The Tatler, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987). Searching and pasting text from The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff Esq: Revised and Corrected by the Author (London: Printed by John Nutt, and sold by John Morphew, 1712): <Link to Vol. 1><Vol. 2><Vol. 3><Vol. 4><Vol. 5>. Some text also from Project Gutenberg digitization of 1899 edition edited by George A. Aitken.
Date of Entry

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