“It was natural enough that her short and unfinished dialogue with Kit should leave a strong impression on her mind, and influence her dreams that night and her recollections for a long, long time. Surrounded by unfeeling creditors, and mercenary attendants upon the sick, and meeting in the height of her anxiety and sorrow with little regard or sympathy even from the women about her, it is not surprising that the affectionate heart of the child should have been touched to the quick by one kind and generous spirit, however uncouth the temple in which it dwelt. Thank Heaven that the temples of such spirits are not made with hands, and that they may be even more worthily hung with poor patch-work than with purple and fine linen!”

Excerpt From The Old Curiosity Shop Chapter 11

1 Answer 1


It is a metaphor, that is the meaning (a building for the worship of a God, and often considered to be the home of a god) carried over to refer to something else.

In this case it does refer to someone's body. It carries the sense of "A physical space which is inhabited by a spirit" from the literal sense to the metaphorical sense.

This metaphor is often used, and there is a phrase "My body is a temple", which means "I will treat my body with respect and not harm it (with bad food, drugs, alcohol etc). The metaphorical use in the extract assumes familiarity with the phrase.

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    I don't think it's her (Nell's) body, but that of the uncouth but kindly Kit. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 7:52
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    I think the original metaphor quite possibly comes from the King James Bible: 1 Corinthians, 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 8:47

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