Smollett, Humphry Clinker (1771), p. 45

Jery Melford to Sir Philip Watkins:

I was once apt to believe [my uncle] a complete Cynic; and that nothing but the necessity of his occasions could compel him to get within the pale of society--I am now of another opinion. I think his peevishness arises partly from bodily pain, and partly from a natural excess of mental sensibility; for, I suppose, the mind as well as the body, is in some cases endued with a morbid excess of sensation.

Three motives for Matt Bramble's disposition are suggested: willful cynicism, bodily pain, and mental sensibility. Note that bodily sensations and mental sensations are differentiated; cynicism, illness, and mental sensibility are all in play behind Matt Bramble's mask, but they are not the same condition; any one of them would produce the same effect, but they are in conflict rather than concord with each other. Most interesting is Jery's suggestion that mental sensibility actually lures Bramble into society. While society can only agitate a misanthropic cynicism, it looks here as if it is both the cause AND the cure for a peevishness drawn from sensibility. Is solipsism ever a refuge for the sensible character? (I suspect not)

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography