Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796), p. 18

He was a man of noble port and commanding presence. His stature was lofty, and his features uncommonly handsome. His nose was aquiline, his eyes large black and sparkling, and his dark brows almost joined together. His complexion was of a deep but clear Brown; Study and watching hand entirely deprived his cheeck of colour. Tranquility reigned upon his smooth unwrinkled forehead; and Content, expressed upon every feature, seemed to announce the Man equally unacquainted with cares and crimes. He bowed himself with humility to the audience: Still there was a certain severity in his look and manner that inspired universal awe, and few could sustain the glance of his eye at once fiery and penetrating. Such was Ambrosio, Abbot of the Capuchins, and surnamed, "The Man of Holiness."

Other than fairly conspicuous foreshadowing (he is "unacquainted with cares and crimes"-- but not for long...), what does this description of Ambrosio offer us? Both his physiognomy and the knowledge that he has spent his life indoors, sedentary and studious, are clues for the student of eighteeth-century medical writings. Ambrosio is a casebook example of the type of man thought, at the time, to be susceptible to melancholy and hypochondria-- not of the sort associated with an exaggerated concern for one's own ailments, but a special eighteeth-century variety which designated a man of intense feeling, quick wit, and weak nerves. These attributes are both the strengths and the weaknesses of Ambrosio-- they are the features which mark him as a man of sensibility, but, because he is unable to hold them in check, they are those which also lead to his demise.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography