Novel Minds pp 32-57 | Cite as

Locke: Metaphorical Romances

  • Rebecca Tierney-Hynes
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


John Locke, perhaps more than any other eighteenth-century philosopher, becomes the topic of tales of reading and misreading almost from the moment of the Essay’s publication in 1690. From Catharine Trotter’s spirited defence of his credentials as a Christian in 1702, to Addison’s satirical assessment of Locke’s female readers, to Swift’s play on his theory of language in book three of Gulliver’s Travels (1726), to Walter Shandy’s associationist psychology, eighteenth-century thinkers assessed the reading of Locke’s Essay, in particular, to be definitive of character, but more importantly, to be definitive of the reading experience. Locke’s simultaneous reputation for accessibility and for genius makes the question of who can and should read philosophy, who may aspire to be concerned with the great questions of human understanding, almost as significant as the content of the treatise.


Human Identity Figurative Language Ideal Style Visual Metaphor Pleasant Picture 
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  1. 1.
    Catharine Trotter Cockburn, A Defence of Mr. Locke’s Essay of Human Understanding... in Philosophical Writings, ed. Patricia Sheridan (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2006), 35.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Richard Steele, Spectator 37, in Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, The Spectator, 5 vols, ed. Donald F. Bond (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), I: 153Google Scholar
  3. 25.
    Mary Astell, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, ed. Patricia Springborg (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2002), 197.Google Scholar

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© Rebecca Tierney-Hynes 2012

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  • Rebecca Tierney-Hynes

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