Heart

Introduction:

Like so many terms in the literature of sensibility, "heart" carries both a physiological meaning (the bodily organ) and a rich emotional resonance. If the philosophy of sensibility argued for the innate goodness in human nature, as many critics contend, then the heart is conceivably the lodging for that inner quality. One with a "sensibility of heart" is susceptible to other's emotions, imbued with that important quality of fellow-feeling. Yet the "heart" also dictates moral principles, for one's innate goodness allows one to take directives from one's own body. "In the promptings of the heart are combined will, judgement, and feeling" (Mullan 64).

The heart often finds itself in a binary relation with the mind and with the senses, with the heart usually getting priority billing. Werther despairs that the prince values his mind over his heart; Hume argues that moral consideration comes from the "heart" as opposed to the reason. The heart and writing are often closely associated, particularly in Richardson, notes Erickson: "In an analogy with the physiological operation of the circulatory system as it was understood after [Sir William] Harvey, in which the heart both receives and discharges the blood, the cultural ideal of the good woman or good man, for Richardson and many of his contemporaries, is represented by a friendly, undesigning, innocent, worthy, feeling heart (adjectives drawn from Richardson's correspondence), a heart capable of receiving the most refined impressions, but a heart which also hides nothing and which expresses itself with uncommon openness, spontaneity, and lucidity, whether speaking or writing--especially writing" (Erickson 18).

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