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If the Pain (as well observes) were before the Pleasure, no man would be tempted by it, but the Pleasure being first and sensible, and the Torment coming after, and as yet invisible, this allures so many to destruction.

was understood to refer to "imagination" or "thought" or "mental activity." The fact that so many of the earliest recorded uses of the phrase in Google Books search results come from religious figures suggests that "tickle the fancy" was not understood at the outset to allude to anything beyond its obvious figurative meaning.

And if you were but well awakened out of that Spirit of Slumber, into which your intoxication hath cast you, and out of that pleasant Dream in it, which hath so tickled your fancy, you would be ashamed and confounded before God and Men, that ever you should be so strangely deluded, and prevailed upon as you have been, to trouble the World with your whimsies and fancies, and thereby to bring a scandal upon the Christian Religion, and make sport for them that have no mind seriously to consider the things of the Gospel, and to encourage Romish Agents in their design against the Reformation.The Book (like the pack of Ulysses, made up of toyes for Women, and Arms for a Heroe,) though checquer'd with a pleasing variety of accidents to tickle the fancy of the lightest wits, consists chiefly of Generous Examples of solid vertue, to kindle emulation in the bravest Spirits: ...[that is, the Sirens] have most enchanting, charming Voices, and frequent pleasant green Medows, but heaps of dead mens Bones are always found where they haunt: that which tickles the Fancy stabs the Soul.Stack Exchange network consists of 175 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow, the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.Visit Stack Exchange English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Sign up to join this community I was pretty much convinced that the idiom was quintessentially British, and that few American speakers had heard of it, let alone used it in their everyday conversation.

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