Frances Sheridan, Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph (1767), p. 86

I will acknowledge to you, my sister, that it was not without a struggle I reduced my mind to this frame. My heart (foolish thing!) industrious to perplex itself, would fain have suggested some palliating circumstances in Mr. Faulkland's favour; but I forbid it to interpose. Trifler, said I, let your guardian, your proper guide, judge and determine for you in this important cause, whereon so much of your future depends. It sighed, but had the virtue to submit; and I arraigned Faulkland before a little tribunal in my breast, where I would suffer reason only to preside. The little felon, love, knocked at the door once or twice, but justice kept him out; and after a long (and I think fair) trial, he was at length cast; and in order to strengthen my resolves, and justify my mother's, as well as my own conduct, these are the arguments which I have deduced from the evidences against him...

Is this the kind of sensibility of which Mary Wollstonecraft would approve? Sidney Bidulph exhibits the kind of rational self-control that critics of sensibility advocated as the partner of intense feeling and imagination. Sidney is the sensibilious type who is not absorbed in her own sensations, but who supplements her emotional responses with attention to the feelings of others-- in this case, to those of Miss Burchell. She gives up the man she loves both for propriety's sake and because to claim him, to privilege her own feelings over those of another, would be to destroy the hopes, the happiness, and the honor of Miss Burchell. The virtuous heart is the one that knows that it is the mind which is ultimately in command.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography