It can hardly be said that Sterne was an unfortunate person during his lifetime, though he seems to have thought himself so. His childhood was indeed a little necessitous, and he died early, and in debt, after some years of very bad health. But from the time when he went to Cambridge, things went on the whole very fairly well with him in respect of fortune; his ill-health does not seem to have caused him much disquiet; his last ten years gave him fame, flirting, wandering, and other pleasures and diversions to his heart’s content; and his debts only troubled those he left behind him. He delighted in his daughter; he was able to get rid of his wife, when he was more than usually fatigatus et aegrotus of her, with singular ease. During the unknown, or almost unknown, middle of his life he had friends of the kind most congenial to him; and both in his time of preparation and his time of production in literature, he was able to indulge his genius in a way by no means common with men of letters. If his wish to die in a certain manner and circumstance was only bravado—and borrowed bravado—still it was granted; and it is quite certain that to him an old age of real illness would have been unmitigated torture. Even if we admit the ghastly stories of the fate of his remains, there was very little reason why anyone should not have anticipated Mr. Swinburne’s words on the morrow of Sterne’s death and said, “Oh! brother, the gods were good to you,” though even then he might have said it with a sort of mental reservation on the question whether Sterne had been very good to the gods.
Nemesis, for the purpose of adjusting things, played him the exceptionally savage trick of using the intervention of his idolised daughter. Little or nothing seems to be known of “Lydia Sterne de Medalle,” as she was pleased to sign herself; “Mrs. Medalle,” as her bluff British contemporaries call her. But that she must have been either a very silly, a very stupid, or an excessively callous person, appears certain. It would seem, indeed, to require a combination of the flightiness and lack of taste which her father too often displayed, with the stolidity which (from rather unfair inference through Mrs. Shandy) is sometimes supposed to have characterised her mother, to prompt or permit a daughter to publish such a collection of letters as those which were first given to the world in 1775. Charity, not unsupported by probability, has trusted that Madame de Medalle could not read Latin, but she certainly could read English; and only an utterly corrupted heart, or an incurably dense or featherbrained head, could hide from her the fact that not a few of the English letters she published were damaging to her father’s character. Her alleged excuse—that her mother, who was then dead, had desired her, if any letters should be published under her father’s name, to publish these, and that the “Yorick and Eliza” correspondence had appeared—is utterly insufficient. For Mrs. Sterne, of whose conduct we know nothing unfavourable, and one or two things decidedly to her credit, could only have meant “such of these as will put your father in a favourable light,” else she would have published them herself. Yet though Lydia could, while taking no editorial trouble whatever, go out of her way to make a silly missish apology for publishing a passage in which her charms and merits are celebrated, she seems never to have given a thought to what she was doing in other ways. Nor were Sterne’s misfortunes in this way over with the publication of these things; for the subsequently discovered Fourmentelle correspondence sunk him, with precise judges, a little deeper. No doubt Tristram Shandy, the Sentimental Journey, and the curious stories or traditions about their author, were not exactly calculated to give Sterne a very high reputation with grave authorities. But it is these unlucky letters which put him almost hopelessly out of court. Even the slight relenting of fortune which gave him at last, in Mr. Percy Fitzgerald, a biographer very good-natured, very indefatigable, and with a natural genius for detecting undiscovered facts and documents, only made matters worse in some ways. And the consequence is, that it has become a commonplace and almost a necessity to make up for praising Sterne’s genius by damning his character. Johnson, while declining to deny him ability, seems to have been too much disgusted to talk freely about him; Scott’s natural kindliness, warm admiration for my Uncle Toby, and total freedom from squeamish prudery, seem yet to have left him ill at ease and tongue-tied in discussing Sterne; Thackeray, as is well known, exceeded all measure in denouncing him; and his chief recent critical biographer, Mr. Traill, who is probably as free from cant, Britannic or other, as any man who ever wrote in English, speaks his mind in the most unsparing fashion.
For my own part, I do not hesitate to say that I do not think letters of this kind ought to be published at all; and though it may seem paradoxical or foolish, I am by no means sure that, if they are published, they ought to be admitted as evidence. That which is not written for the public, is no business of the public’s; and I never read letters of this kind, published for the first time, without feeling like an eavesdropper.1 Unluckily, the evidence furnished by the letters fits in only too well with that furnished by the published works, by his favourite cronies and companions, and by his general reputation, so that “what the prisoner says” must, no doubt, “be used against him.”
It may be doubted whether it was accident or his usual deliberate fantasticality that made Sterne, in the well-known summary of his life which (very late in it) he drew up for his daughter, devote almost the whole space to his childhood. Perhaps it may be accounted for, reasonably enough, by supposing that of his later years he thought his daughter knew quite as much as he wished her to know, while of the middle period he had little or nothing to tell. In fact, of the two earlier divisions we still know very little but what he has chosen to tell us in one of the most characteristic and not the least charming excursions of his pen. Laurence Sterne was, with two sisters, the only “permanent child” (to borrow a pleasant phrase of Mr. Traill’s) out of a very plentiful but most impermanent family, borne in the most inconvenient circumstances possible by Agnes Nuttle or Herbert or Sterne, a widow, and daughter or stepdaughter of a sutler of our army in Flanders, to Roger, second son of Simon Sterne of Elvington, in Yorkshire, who was the third son of Dr. Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York. The Sternes were of a gentle if not very distinguished family, which, after being seated in Suffolk, migrated to Nottinghamshire. After the promotion of the archbishop (who had been a stout cavalier, as Master of Jesus at Cambridge, in the bad times), they obtained, as was fitting, divers establishments by marriage or benefice in Yorkshire itself. Very little endowment of any kind, however, fell to the lot of Roger Sterne, who was an ensign in what ranked later as the 34th regiment. Laurence, his eldest son, was born at Clonmel, in Ireland, where his mother’s relations lived, and just after his father’s regiment had been disbanded. It was shortly reestablished, however, and became the most “marching” of all marching corps; for though its headquarters were generally in Ireland, it was constantly being ordered elsewhere, and Roger Sterne saw active service both at Vigo and Gibraltar. In this latter station he fought a duel of an extremely Shandean character “about a goose.” He was run through the body and pinned to the wall; whereupon, it is said, he requested his antagonist to be so kind as to wipe the plaster off the sword before pulling it out of his body. In despite of this thoughtfulness, however, and of an immediate recovery, the wound so weakened him that, being ordered to Jamaica, he took fever and died there in March 1731. As Lawrence had been born on November 24, 1713, he was nearly eighteen; and the family had meanwhile been increased by four other children who all died, and a youngest daughter, Catherine, who, like the eldest, Mary, lived. Till he was about nine or ten the boy followed the exceedingly fluctuating fortunes of his family, which he diversified further on by falling through, not a millrace, but a going mill. Then he was sent to school at Halifax, in Yorkshire, and soon after practically adopted by his cousin Sterne of Elvington, who, when the time came, sent him to Jesus College at Cambridge, the family connection with which had begun with his great-grandfather. He was admitted there on July 6, 1733, being then nearly twenty, and took his degree of B.A. in 1736, and that of M.A. in 1740. The only tradition of his school career is his own story that, having written his name on the school ceiling, he was whipped by the usher, but complimented as a “boy of genius” by the master, who said the name should never be effaced. This anecdote, as might be expected, has not escaped the aqua fortis of criticism.
We know practically nothing of Sterne’s Cambridge career except the dates above mentioned, the fact of his being elected first to a sizarship and then as founder’s kin to a scholarship endowed by Archbishop Sterne, and the incident told by himself that he there contracted his lifelong friendship with a distant relative and fellow Jesus man, John Hall, or John Hall Stevenson, of whom more presently. But Sterne had further reason to acknowledge that his family stood together. He had no sooner taken his degree, than he was taken up by a brother of his father’s, Jaques Sterne, a great pluralist in the diocese of York, a very busy and masterful person, and a strong Whig and Hanoverian. Under his care, Sterne took deacon’s orders in March 1736 at the hands of the Bishop of Lincoln; and as soon as, two years later, he had been ordained priest, he was appointed to the living of Sutton-on-the-Forest, eight miles from York. The uncle and nephew some years later quarrelled bitterly—according to the latter’s account, because he would not write “dirty paragraphs in the newspapers,” being “no party man.” That Sterne would have been particularly squeamish about what he wrote may be doubted; but it is certain that he shows no partisan spirit anywhere, and very little interest in politics as such. However, for some years his uncle was certainly his active patron, and obtained for him two prebends and some other special preferments in connection with the diocese and chapter of York, so that he became, as Tristram shows, intimately acquainted with cathedral society there.
It has been a steady rule in the Anglican Church (if not, as in the Greek, a sine quâ non) that when a man has been provided with a living, he should, if he has not done so before, provide himself with a wife; and Sterne was a very unlikely man to break good custom in this respect. Very soon at least after his ordination he fell in love with Elizabeth Lumley, a young lady of a good Yorkshire family, and of some little fortune, which, however, for a time she thought “not enough” to share with him, but which, as she told him during a fit of illness, she left to him in her will. On the strength of two quite unauthenticated and, I believe, not now traceable portraits seen by this or that person in printshops or elsewhere, she is said to have been plain. Certain expressions in Sterne’s letters seem to imply that she had a rather exasperatingly steady and not too intelligent will of her own; and some twenty or five and twenty years after the marriage, M. Tollot, a gossiping Frenchman, with French ideas on the duty of husbands and wives going separate ways, said that she wished to have a finger in every pie, and pestered “the good and agreeable Tristram” with her presence. But Sterne, despite his reckless confessions of conjugal indifference, and worse, says nothing serious or even ill-natured of her; and one or two traits and sayings of hers, especially her refusal to listen to a meddlesome person who wished to tell her tales about “Eliza,” seem to argue sense and dignity. That in the latter years she cared little to be with a husband who had long been “tired and sick” of her is not to her discredit. Their daughter, with the almost invariable ill-luck or ill-judgment which seems to have attended her, printed certain letters of this courtship time, though she gave nothing for many years afterwards. The use made of these Strephon or Damon blandishments, in contrast with the expressions used by the writer of his wife, and of other women, long afterwards, is perhaps a little unfair; but it must be admitted that though far too characteristic and amusing to be omitted, they are anything but brilliant specimens of their kind. In particular, Thackeray’s bitter fun on the ineffably lackadaisical passage, “My L. has seen a polyanthus blow in December,” is pretty fully justified.
If, however, the marriage, which, difficulties being removed, took place on Easter Monday, March 30, 1741, did not bring lasting happiness to Sterne, it probably brought him some at the time, and it certainly brought him an accession of fortune; for in addition to what little money Miss Lumley had, a friend of hers bestowed the additional living of Stillington on her husband. These various sources of income must have made a tolerable revenue, which, after the publication of Tristram, was further supplemented by yet another benefice given him by Lord Falconbridge at Coxwold, a living of no great value, but a pleasant place of residence. Add to this the profits of his books in the last eight years of his life, which were for that day considerable, and it will be seen that, as has been said above, Sterne might have been much worse off in this world’s goods than he was. He seems, like other people, to have made some rather costly experiments in farming; and his way of life latterly, what with his own journeys and sojourns in London, and the long separate residence of his wife and daughter in France, was expensive. But he complains little of poverty; and though he died in debt, much of that debt was due to no fault of his, but to the burning of the parsonage of Sutton.
It is all the more remarkable in one way, though the absence of any pressure of want may explain it in another, that Sterne’s great literary gifts should have remained so long without finding any kind of literary expression, unless it was in the newspaper way, in respect to which he first obliged and afterwards disobliged his uncle. There is, I believe, no dispute about the fact that he distances, and that by many years, every other man of letters of anything like his rank—except Cowper, whose affliction puts him out of comparison—in the lateness of his fruiting time. All but a quarter of a century had passed since he took his degree when Tristram Shandy appeared; and, putting sermons aside, the very earliest thing of his known, The History of a Good Watch Coat, only antedated Tristram by two years or rather less. He was no doubt “making himself all this time;” but the making must have been an uncommonly slow process. Nor did he, like a good many writers, occupy the time in preparing what he was afterwards to publish, unless in the case of a few of his sermons. It is positively known that Tristram was written merely as it was published, and the Journey likewise. Nor is even the first by any means a long book. It is as nearly as possible the same length as Fielding’s Amelia when printed straight on; and even then more allowance has to be made, not merely for its free and audacious plagiarisms, but for its constantly broken paragraphs, stars, dashes, and other trickeries. If it were possible to squeeze it up, as one squeezes a sponge, into the solid texture of an ordinary book, I doubt whether it would be very much longer than Joseph Andrews.
It will probably be admitted, however, that the idiosyncrasy of the writings of Sterne’s last and incomplete decade, even if it be in part only an idiosyncrasy of mannerism, is almost great enough to justify the nearly three decades of Lehrjahre (starting from his entrance at Cambridge) which preceded it. It is true that of the actual occupations of these years we know extremely little—indeed, what we know as distinguished from what is guesswork and inference is mostly summed up by Sterne’s own current and curvetting pen thus: “I remained near twenty years at Sutton, doing duty at both places [i.e., Sutton and Stillington]. I had then very good health. Books, painting, fiddling, and shooting were my amusements;” to which he adds only that he and the squire of Sutton were not very good friends, but that at Stillington the Croft family were extremely kind and amiable. From other sources, including, it is true, his own letters—though the dates and allusions of these are so uncertain that they are very doubtful guides—we find that his chief crony during this period, as during his life, was the already-mentioned John Hall, who had taken to the name of Stevenson, and was master of Skelton Castle, a very old and curious house on the border of the Cleveland moors, not far from the town of Guisborough. The master of “Crazy” Castle—he liked to give his house this name, which he afterwards used in entitling his book of Crazy Tales—his ways and his library, have usually been charged with debauching Sterne’s innocent mind, which I should imagine lent itself to that process in a most docile and morigerant fashion; but whether this was the case or not, it is clear that Stevenson bore no very good reputation. It is not certain, but was asserted, that he had been a monk of Medmenham. He gathered about him at Skelton a society which, though no such imputations were made on it as on that of Wilkes and Dashwood, was of a pretty loose kind; he was a humourist, both in the old and the modern sense; and his Crazy Tales were, if not very mad, rather sad and bad exercises of the imagination.
Amid all this dream- and guesswork, almost the only solid facts in Sterne’s life are the births of two daughters, one in 1745, and the other two years later. Both were christened Lydia; the first died soon after she was born, the second lived to be the darling of both her parents, the object of the most respectable emotions of Sterne’s life, the wife of an unknown Frenchman, M. de Medalle, and, as has been said, the probably unwitting destroyer of her father’s last chance of reputation.
Our exuberant nescience in matters Sternian extends up to the very publication of Tristram, as far as the determining causes of its production are concerned. It is true that in passages of the letters Sterne seems to say that his experiment with the pen was prompted by a desire to make good some losses in farming, and elsewhere that he was tired of employing his brains for other people’s advantage, as he had done for some years for an ungrateful person, that is to say, his uncle. This last passage was written just before Tristram came out; but at no time was Sterne a very trustworthy reporter of his own motives, and it would seem that the quarrel with his uncle must have been a good deal earlier. At any rate, the year 1759 seems to have been spent in writing the first two volumes of the book, and The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent., published by John Hinxham, Stonegate, York, but obtainable also from divers London booksellers, appeared on the 1st of January 1760. I wish Sterne had thought of keeping it till the 1st of April, which he would probably then have done.
The comparatively short last scenes of his life were as busy and varied as his long middle course had been outwardly monotonous. Although his book was nominally published at York, he had gone up to London to superintend arrangements for its sale there, perhaps not without a hope of triumph. If so, Fortune chose not to play him her usual tricks. In York, the extreme personality of the book excited interest of a twofold and dubious kind; but, to play on some words of Dryden’s, “London liked grossly” and swallowed Tristram Shandy whole with singular avidity. Its author came to town just in time to enjoy the results of this, and was one of the chief lions of the season of 1760, a position which he enjoyed with a childish frankness that is not the least pleasant thing in his history. One, probably of the least important, though by accident one of the best known of his innumerable flirtations, with a Miss Fourmentelle, was apparently quenched by this distraction when it was on the point of going such lengths that the lady had actually come up alone to London to meet Sterne there. He was introduced to persons as different as Garrick and Warburton, from the latter of whom he received, in rather mysterious circumstances, a present of money. He haunted Ministers and Knights of the Garter; he was overwhelmed with invitations and callers; and, as has been said, he received one very solid present in the shape of the living of Coxwold. Tristram went into a second edition rapidly; its author was enabled to announce a collection of “Sermons by Mr. Yorick” in April; and he went to his new living in the early summer, determined to set to work vigorously on more of the work that had been so fortunate. By the end of the year he was ready with two more volumes, again came up to town, and again, when vols. iii and iv had appeared, at the end of January 1761, was besieged by admirers. For these two he received £380 from Dodsley, who had fought shy of the book earlier. They were quite as successful as the first pair; and again Sterne stayed all the spring and earlier summer in London, returning to Yorkshire to make more Shandy in the autumn. He was still quicker over the third batch, and it was published in December 1761, when he was again in town, but he now meditated a longer flight. His health had been really declining, and he obtained leave from the archbishop for a year certain, and perhaps two, that he might go to the south of France. He was warmly received in Paris, where his work had obtained a popularity which it has never wholly lost, and the framework of fact (including the passport difficulties) for the Sentimental Journey, as well as for the seventh volume of Tristram, was laid during the spring. His plans were now changed, it being determined that his wife and daughter (who had inherited his constitution) should join him. They did so after some difficulties, and the consumptive novelist, having spent all the winter in one of the worst climates in Europe, that of the French capital, started with his family in the torrid heats of July for Toulouse, where at last they were established about the middle of August.
Toulouse became Sterne’s abode for nearly a year, his headquarters for a somewhat longer period, and the home of his wife and daughter, with migrations to Bagnères, Montpellier, and a great many other places in France, for about five years. He himself—he had been ill at Toulouse, and worse at Montpellier—reached England again (after a short stay in Paris) during the early summer of 1764. Nor was it till January 1765 that the seventh and eighth volumes of Tristram appeared. As usual Sterne went to town to receive the congratulations of the public, which seem to have been fairly hearty; for though the instalment immediately preceding had not been an entire success, the longer interval had now had its effect not merely on the art and materials of the caterer, but on the appetite of his guests. He followed this up with two more volumes of Sermons, of a much more characteristic kind than his earlier venture in this way, and published partly by subscription. These, however, were not actually issued till 1766. Meanwhile, in October 1765, Sterne had set out for his second attempt in travel on the Continent, which was to supply the remaining material for the Sentimental Journey, and to be prolonged as far as Naples. Little is known of his winter stay at that city and in Rome. On his way homeward he met his wife and daughter in Franche-Comté, but at Mrs. Sterne’s request left them there, and went on alone to Coxwold.
He reached England in extremely bad health, and never left it again; but he had still nearly two years of fairly well filled life to run. The ninth, or last volume of Tristram occupied him during the autumn of 1766, and was produced with the invariable accompaniment of its author’s appearance in London during January 1767. This visit, which lasted till May, saw the flirtation with “Eliza” Draper, the young wife of an Indian official, who was at home for her health, an affair which exalted Sterne in the eyes of eighteenth-century sensibility, especially in France, about as much as it has depressed him in the eyes not merely of the propriety, not merely of the common sense, but of the romance of later times. He was very ill when he got back to Coxwold, but recovered, and in October was joined by his wife and daughter. Even then, however, the community was a very temporary and divided one, for he took a house for them at York, and they were not to stay in England beyond the spring. He himself finished what we have of the Sentimental Journey, and went to London with it, where it was published rather later than usual, on the 27th February 1768. Three weeks later its author, at his lodgings at 41 New Bond Street, in the presence only of a hired nurse and a footman, who had been sent by some of his friends to inquire after him, took a journey other than sentimental, and so far unreported. Some odd but not very well authenticated stories gathered round his death, which occurred on Friday the 18th March. It was said, and it is probable enough, that his gold sleeve-links were stolen by his landlady. After his funeral, scantily attended, at the burying-ground of St. George’s, Hanover Square, opposite Hyde Park (which used to be known by the squalid brown of its unrestored, and afterwards made more hideous by the bedizened red of its restored chapel), his body is said to have been snatched by resurrection men. And the myth is rounded off by the addition that the remains, having been sold to the professor of anatomy at Cambridge, were dissected there in public, one of the spectators, a friend of Sterne’s, recognising the face too late, and fainting.
His affairs, which had never been managed in a very businesslike manner, were in considerable disorder. Some years before, the carelessness of his curate had caused or allowed the parsonage at Sutton to be burnt to the ground; and Sterne, besides losing valuable effects of his own, was of course liable for the rebuilding. He managed to put this off till his death, after which his widow and administratrix was sued for dilapidations. These, as she was in very poor circumstances, had to be compounded for sixty pounds only, but they probably ranked for a much larger sum in the £1,100 at which Sterne’s indebtedness was reckoned. His widow had a little money of her own: £800 was collected for her and her daughter at York races; there must have been profits from the copyrights; and a fresh collection of Sermons was issued by subscription. But though very little is known about the pair, they are said to have been ill off. They applied first to Wilkes and then to Stevenson to write a life of Sterne to prefix to his Works, but neither complied. Mr. Fitzgerald, who seldom deserves the curse laid on those who use harsh judgment, is very severe on both for this. Yet surely each, considering his own reputation, must have felt that he was the last person to set Sterne right with the stricter part of society, and that to write a “Crazy” or “Shandean” life of him would be a cruel crime. It is not known exactly when Lydia married, or when either she or her mother died. Mrs. Sterne must have been dead by 1775, the date of the publication of the letters; Lydia is said to have perished in the French Revolution.
Beginning authorship very late in life, having schooled himself to an intensely artificial method, both in style and in construction, and not allowed by Fate more than a few years in which to write at all, Sterne, as is natural, displays a great uniformity throughout his work. Indeed, it might be said that he has written but one book, Tristram Shandy. The Sentimental Journey (as to the relative merits of which, compared with the earlier and larger work, there is a polemos aspondos between the Big-endians and the Little-endians of Sternism) is after all only an expansion of the seventh book of Tristram, with fioriture, variations, and new divertisements. The sermon which occurs so early is an actual sermon of “Yorick’s,” and a sufficient specimen of his more serious concionatory vein; many, if not most of his letters might have been twined into Tristram without being in the least degree more out of place than most of its actual contents. And so there is more propriety than depends upon the mere fact that Tristram Shandy is the earliest and the largest part of its author’s work, in making no extremely scholastic distinction between the specially Shandean and the generally Sternian characteristics; for, indeed, all Sterne is in it more or less eminently.
No less a critic than M. Scherer has given his sanction to the idea that in Sterne we have a special, if not even the special, type of the humourist; and probably few people who have given no particular thought or attention to the matter, would refuse to agree with him. I am myself inclined rather to a demur, or, at any rate, to a distinction, though few better things have been written about humour itself than a passage in M. Scherer’s essay on our author. Sterne has no doubt in a very eminent degree the sense of contrast, which all the best critics admit to be the root of humour—the note of the humourist. But he has it partially, occasionally, and, I should even go as far as to say, not greatly. The great English humourists, I take it, are Shakespeare, Swift, Fielding, Thackeray, and Carlyle. All these—even Fielding, whose eighteenth-century manner, the contemporary and counterpart of Sterne’s, cannot hide the truth—apply the humourist contrast, the humourist sense of the irony of existence, to the great things, the prima et novissima. They see, and feel, and show the simultaneous sense of Death and Life, of Love and Loss, of the Finite and the Infinite. Sterne stops a long way short of this; les grands sujets lui sont défendus in another sense than La Bruyère’s. It is scarcely too much to say that his ostentatious preference for the bagatelle was a real, and not in the least affected fact. Nowhere, not in the true pathos of the famous deathbed letter to Mrs. James, not in the, as it seems to me, by no means wholly true pathos of the Le Fever episode, does he pierce to “the accepted hells beneath.” He has an unmatched command of the lesser and lower varieties of the humorous contrast—over the odd, the petty, the queer, above all, over what the French untranslatably call the saugrenu. His forte is the foible; his cheval de bataille, the hobbyhorse. If you want to soar into the heights, or plunge into the depths of humour, Sterne is not for you. But if you want what his own generation called a frisk on middle, very middle-earth, a hunt in curiosity-shops (especially of the technically “curious” description), a peep into all manner of coulisses and behind-scenes of human nature, a ride on a sort of intellectual switchback, a view of moral, mental, religious, sentimental dancing of all the kinds that have delighted man, from the rope to the skirt, then have with Sterne in any direction he pleases. He may sometimes a very little disgust you, but you will seldom have just cause to complain that he disappoints and deceives.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent. (which, as it has been excellently observed, is in reality based on the life of the gent’s uncle, and the opinions of the gent’s father), is the largest and in every way the chief field for these diversions. The apparatus, and, so far as there can be said to have been one, the object with which Sterne marked it out and filled it up, are clear, and even the former must have been clear enough to anybody of some reading and some intelligence long before the excellent Dr. Ferriar, in the spirit of a reverent iconoclast, set himself to work to point out Sterne’s exact indebtedness to Rabelais, Burton, Beroalde (if Beroalde wrote the Moyen de Parvenir), Bruscambille, and the rest. Of this particular part of the matter I do not think it necessary to say much. The charge of plagiarism is usually an excessively idle one; for when a man of genius steals, he always makes the thefts his own; and when a man steals without genius, the thefts are mere fairy gold which turns to leaves and pebbles under his hand. No doubt Sterne “lifted” in Tristram, and still more in the Sermons, with rather more freedom and audacity than most men of genius; but when we remember that he took Burton’s denunciation of the practice and reproduced it (all but in Burton’s very words) as his own, it must be clear to anyone who is not very dull indeed that he was playing an audacious practical joke. Where he is best, he does not steal at all, and that is the only point of real importance.
It is somewhat more, I think, the business of the critic (who is here more especially bound not to look only at the stopwatch) to note the far more striking way in which Sterne borrowed, not actual passages and words, but manner and style. Here, perhaps, we shall find him accountant for a greater debt; and here also we may think that though his genius is indisputable, he gives more reason to those who should deny him the highest kind of genius. Beyond doubt not merely his reading, but his temper and his characteristics of all kinds, inclined him to the style to which the French fifteenth and sixteenth centuries gave the name of fatrasie, or pillar-to-post divagation, with more or less of a covert satiric aim. But if we compare the dealing of Swift with Cyrano de Bergerac, the dealing of Fielding with the romance and novel as it existed before his time, nay, the dealing of Shakespeare with the Marlowe drama, we shall note a marked difference in Sterne’s procedure. Nobody, even in his own day, who knew Rabelais at all could fail to detect the almost servile following of manner in great things and in small which Tristram displays. No one—a much smaller designation—who knows the strange, unedifying, but very far from commonplace book of which, as I have hinted, I never can quite believe that Beroalde de Verville was the author, can fail to detect an even closer, though a somewhat less obvious and, so to speak, less verifiable following here.
In another region—the purgatory of all Sterne’s commentators—we can trace this corrupt following as distinctly at least, though it has, I think, been less often definitely attributed. Sterne’s too celebrated indecency, is, with one exception, sui generis. No doubt much nonsense has been and is talked about “indecency” in general literature. When it is indulged, as it has been, for instance, in French of late, it becomes a nuisance of the most loathsome kind. It is always perhaps better left alone. But if it be a sin to laugh now and then frankly at what were once called “gentlemen’s stories,” then not merely many a gallant, noble, and not unwise gentleman, but I fear not a few ladies, both fair and fine, are damned, with Shakespeare and Scott and Southey, with Margaret of Navarre and Marie de Sévigné, to keep them in countenance. Yet to merit indulgence, this questionable quality, in addition to being treated as genius treats, must have certain sub-qualities, or freedoms from quality, of its own. It must not be brutal and inhuman, since the quality of humanity is the main thing that saves it. It must not be underhand and sniggering. It must be frank and jovial, or frank and passionate. Perhaps, in some cases, it may be saved, as Swift’s is to a great extent, by the overmastering pessimism of despair, which enforces its contempt of man and man’s fate by bringing forward these evidences of his weakness. But Sterne can plead none of these exemptions. He has neither the frank laughter of Aristophanes and Rabelais, nor the frank passion of Catullus and Donne. He was incapable of feeling any sæva indignatio whatever. The attraction of the thing for him was, I fear, merely the attraction of the improper, because it is improper; because it shocks people, or makes them blush, or gives them an unholy little quiver of sordid shamefaced delectation. His famous apology of the child playing on the floor and showing in innocence what is not usually shown, was desperately unlucky. For his displays are those of educated and economic un-innocency. And he took this manner, I am nearly sure, wholly and directly from Voltaire, who enjoys the unenviable copyright and patent of it.
The third characteristic which Sterne took from others, which dyed his work deeply, and which injured more than it helped it, was his famous, his unrivalled, Sensibility or Sentimentalism. A great deal has been written about this admired eighteenth-century device, and there is no space here for discussing it. Suffice it to say, that although Sterne certainly did not invent it—it had been inculcated by two whole generations of French novelists before him, and had been familiar in England for half a century—he has the glory, such as it is, of carrying it to the farthest possible. The dead donkey and the live donkey, the latter (as I humbly but proudly join myself to Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Traill in thinking) far the finer animal; Le Fever and La Fleur; Maria and Eliza; Uncle Toby’s fly, and poor Mrs. Sterne’s antenuptial polyanthus; the stoics that Mr. Sterne (with a generous sense that he was in no danger of that lash) wished to be whipped, and the critics from whom he would have fled from Dan to Beersheba to be delivered;—all the celebrated persons and passages of his works, all the decorations and fireworks thereof, are directed mainly to the exhibition of Sensibility, once so charming, now, alas! hooted and contemned of the people!
And now it will be possible to have done with his foibles, all the rest in Sterne being for praise, with hardly any mixture of blame. We have seen what he borrowed from others, mostly to his hurt; let us now see what he contributed of his own, almost wholly to his credit and advantage. He had, in the first place, what most writers when they begin almost invariably and almost inevitably lack, a long and carefully amassed store, not merely of reading, but of observation of mankind. Although his nearly fifty years of life had been in the ordinary sense uneventful, they had given him opportunities which he had amply taken. A “son of the regiment,” he had evidently studied with the greatest and most loving care the ways of an army which still included a large proportion of Marlborough’s veterans; and it has been constantly and reasonably held that his chief study had been his father, whom he evidently adored in a way. Roger Sterne is the admitted model of my Uncle Toby; and I at least have no doubt that he was the original of Mr. Shandy also, for some of the qualities which appear in his son’s character of him are Walter’s, not Toby’s. It would have required, perhaps, even greater genius than Sterne possessed, and an environment less saturated with the delusive theory of the “ruling passion,” to have given us the mixed and blended temperament instead of separating it into two gentlemen at once, and making Walter Shandy all wayward intellect, and Tobias all gentle goodness. But if it had been done—as Shakespeare perhaps alone could have done it—we should have had a greater and more human figure than either. Mr. Shandy would then never have come near, as he does sometimes, to being a bore; and my Uncle Toby (if I may say so without taking the wings of the morning to flee from the wrath of the extreme Tobyolaters) would have been saved from the occasional appearance of being something like a fool.
Still, these two are delightful even in their present dichotomy; and Sterne was amply provided by his genius, working on his experience, with company for them. His fancy portrait of himself as “Yorick” (his unfeigned Shakespearianism is one of his best traits) is a little vague and fantastic; and that of Eugenius, which is supposed to represent John Hall Stevenson, is almost as slight as it is flattering. But Dr. Slop, who is known to have been drawn (with somewhat unmerciful fidelity in externals, but not at all unkindly when we look deeper) from Dr. Burton, a well-known Jacobite practitioner who had suffered from the Hanoverian zeal of Yorick’s uncle Jaques in the ’45, is a masterpiece. The York dignitaries are veritable etchings in outline, more instinct with life and individuality than a thousand elaborately painted pictures; all the servants, Obadiah, Susannah, Bridget, and the rest, are the equals of Fielding’s, or of Thackeray’s domestics; and though Tristram himself is the shadow of a shade, I confess that I seem to see a vivid portrait in the three or four strokes which alone give us “my dear, dear Jenny.” Mr. Fitzgerald, succumbing to a not unnatural temptation, considering the close juxtaposition in time, approximates this to the “dear, dear Kitty” of the letters to Miss Catherine de Fourmentelle. But this, taking all things together, would be a rather serious scandalum damigellarum; and I do not think it necessary to identify, though the traits seem to me to suit not ill with the few genuine ones in the letters about Mrs. Sterne herself. That the “dear, dear” should be ironical more or less is quite Shandean. All these, if not drawn directly from individuals (the lower exercise), are first generalised and then precipitated into individuality from a large observation (which is the infinitely higher and better). I fear I must except Widow Wadman, save in the sentry-box scene, from this encomium. But then Widow Wadman is not really a real person. She is partly an instrument to put my Uncle Toby through some new motions, and partly a cue to enable Sterne to indulge in his worst foible. As for Trim, quis vituperavit Trim? The lover of the “popish clergywoman” is simply perfect, with a not much less good heart and a much better head than his master’s, and in his own degree hardly less of a gentleman.
The manner in which these delightful persons (I observe with shame that I had omitted the modest worth of Mrs. Shandy, nearly the most delightful of them all) are introduced to the reader, may have suffered a little from that corrupt following of which enough has been said. I can only say, that I would compound for a good deal more corruption of the same kind, allied with a good deal less genius. It can scarcely be doubted that there was a real preestablished harmony between Sterne’s gifts and the fatrasie manner; certainly this manner, if it sometimes exhibited his weaknesses, gave rare opportunities to his strength. And the same may be said of his style. He might certainly have given us less of the typographical tricks with which he chose to bedizen and bedaub it, and sometimes in his ultra-Rabelaisian moods—I do not mean of gauloiserie but of sheer fooling—we feel the falsetto rather disastrously. It is constantly forgotten by unfavourable critics of Rabelais that his extravagances were to a great extent, at any rate, quite natural outbursts of animal spirits. The Middle Ages, though it has become the fashion with those who know nothing about them to represent them as ages of gloom, were probably the merriest time of this world’s history; and the Reformation and the Renaissance, with their pedantry and their puritanism, and worst of all their physical science, had not quite killed the merriment when Rabelais wrote. But though animal spirits still survived in Sterne’s day, it cannot be said that in England, any more than elsewhere, there was much genuine merriment of the honest, childish, medieval kind, and thus his manner perpetually jars. Still the style, independently of the tricks, was excellently suited for the work. It is a moot point how far the extremely loose and ungirt character of this style, which sometimes, and indeed often, reaches sheer slovenliness and solecism, was intentional. I think myself that it was nearly as deliberate as the asterisks, and the black and marble pages. We know from the Sermons that Sterne could write carefully enough when he chose, and we know from the MS. of the Journey that he corrected sedulously. Nor is it likely that he had the excuse of hurry. The shortest time that he ever took over one of his two-volume batches was more than six months; and looking at the practice, not of miracles of industry and facility like Scott, but of rather dilatory writers like Thackeray, one would think that the quantity (which is not more than a couple of hundred pages of one of these present volumes) might be written in little more than six weeks. At any rate, the style, conversational, unpretentious, too easy to be jerky, and yet too broken to be sustained, suits subject and scheme as few others could.
But there is perhaps little need to say more about a book which, though some say that few read it through nowadays, is thoroughly well known in outline and in its salient passages, and which will pretty certainly lay hold of all fit readers as soon as they take to it. Of its writer a very little more may perhaps be said, all the more so because those who, not understanding critical admiration, think that biographers and editors ought not only to be just and a little kind, but extravagantly partial to their subjects, may conceive that I have been a little unjust, or, at any rate, a little unkind to Sterne. If so, they have not read his own extremely ingenious, and in general, if not in particular, very sound attack on the adage de mortuis. But if not nil nisi, there is yet very much bonum to be said of Sterne. He was not merely endowed with a singular and essential genius; he was not merely the representative and mouthpiece, in a way hardly surpassed by anyone, of a certain way of thought and feeling more or less peculiar to his time. These were his merits, his very great merits as a writer. But he had others, and great, if not very great ones, as a man. Though never rich, he seems to have been free from the fault of parsimony; and albeit he died in debt, not deeply tainted with that of extravagance in money matters. For most of his later expenditure was on others, and he might justly calculate on his pen paying, and more than paying, his shot. Little love as there was lost between him and his wife, he always took the greatest care to provide for her wants in the rather costly severance of their establishments, and never even in his most indiscreet moments hints a grumble at her expenditure, a vice of which some people of much higher general reputation have been known to be guilty. Though he was certainly pleased at the attentions of “the great,” I do not know that there is any just cause for accusing him of truckling to, or fawning on them beyond the custom and courtesy of the time. For all his reckless humour, there was no ill-nature in him. His worst enemies have admitted that his affection for his daughter was very pretty and quite unaffected; and his letters to and of Mrs. James show that he could think of a woman nobly and wholesomely as a friend, for all his ignoble and unwholesome ways of thought in regard to the sex. If it had not been for the cruel indiscretion of his Lydia (which, however, has something of the old virtue of conveying the balm as well as the sting), he would probably have been much better thought of than he is. And considering the delightful books here once more presented, I think we may consent to forgive the faults which, after all, were mainly his own business, for the merits by which we so largely benefit and for which he reaped no over-bounteous guerdon.
Ταράσσει τοὺς Ἀνθρώπους οὐ τὰ Πράγματα,
Ἀλλὰ τὰ περὶ τῶν Πραγμάτων Δόγματα.
Sir,—Never poor Wight of a Dedicator had less hopes from his Dedication, than I have from this of mine; for it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom, and in a retir’d thatch’d house, where I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles,⸺but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life.
I humbly beg, Sir, that you will honour this book, by taking it⸺(not under your Protection,⸺it must protect itself, but)⸺into the country with you; where, if I am ever told, it has made you smile; or can conceive it has beguiled you of one moment’s pain⸺I shall think myself as happy as a minister of state;⸻perhaps much happier than anyone (one only excepted) that I have read or heard of.
I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly consider’d how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost;⸺Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,⸺I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world from that in which the reader is likely to see me.—Believe me, good folks, this is not so inconsiderable a thing as many of you may think it;—you have all, I dare say, heard of the animal spirits, as how they are transfused from father to son, etc., etc.—and a great deal to that purpose:—Well, you may take my word, that nine parts in ten of a man’s sense or his nonsense, his successes and miscarriages in this world depend upon their motions and activity, and the different tracts and trains you put them into, so that when they are once set a-going, whether right or wrong, ’tis not a halfpenny matter,—away they go cluttering like hey-go mad; and by treading the same steps over and over again, they presently make a road of it, as plain and as smooth as a garden-walk, which, when they are once used to, the Devil himself sometimes shall not be able to drive them off it.
Pray, my Dear, quoth my mother, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?⸻Good G⸺! cried my father, making an exclamation, but taking care to moderate his voice at the same time,⸺Did ever woman, since the creation of the world, interrupt a man with such a silly question? Pray, what was your father saying?⸻Nothing.
⸻Then, positively, there is nothing in the question that I can see, either good or bad.⸺Then, let me tell you, Sir, it was a very unseasonable question at least,—because it scattered and dispersed the animal spirits, whose business it was to have escorted and gone hand in hand with the Homunculus, and conducted him safe to the place destined for his reception.
The Homunculus, Sir, in however low and ludicrous a light he may appear, in this age of levity, to the eye of folly or prejudice;—to the eye of reason in scientifick research, he stands confess’d—a Being guarded and circumscribed with rights.⸺The minutest philosophers, who, by the bye, have the most enlarged understandings (their souls being inversely as their enquiries), show us incontestably, that the Homunculus is created by the same hand,—engender’d in the same course of nature,—endow’d with the same locomotive powers and faculties with us:—That he consists as we do, of skin, hair, fat, flesh, veins, arteries, ligaments, nerves, cartilages, bones, marrow, brains, glands, genitals, humours, and articulations;—is a Being of as much activity,—and, in all senses of the word, as much and as truly our fellow-creature as my Lord Chancellor of England.—He may be benefited,—he may be injured,—he may obtain redress;—in a word, he has all the claims and rights of humanity, which Tully, Puffendorf, or the best ethick writers allow to arise out of that state and relation.
Now, dear Sir, what if any accident had befallen him in his way alone!—or that, through terror of it, natural to so young a traveller, my little Gentleman had got to his journey’s end miserably spent;—his muscular strength and virility worn down to a thread;—his own animal spirits ruffled beyond description,—and that in this sad disordered state of nerves, he had lain down a prey to sudden starts, or a series of melancholy dreams and fancies, for nine long, long months together.—I tremble to think what a foundation had been laid for a thousand weaknesses both of body and mind, which no skill of the physician or the philosopher could ever afterwards have set thoroughly to rights.
To my uncle Mr. Toby Shandy do I stand indebted for the preceding anecdote, to whom my father, who was an excellent natural philosopher, and much given to close reasoning upon the smallest matters, had oft, and heavily complained of the injury; but once more particularly, as my uncle Toby well remember’d, upon his observing a most unaccountable obliquity (as he call’d it) in my manner of setting up my top, and justifying the principles upon which I had done it,—the old gentleman shook his head, and in a tone more expressive by half of sorrow than reproach,—he said his heart all along foreboded, and he saw it verified in this, and from a thousand other observations he had made upon me, That I should neither think nor act like any other man’s child:—But alas! continued he, shaking his head a second time, and wiping away a tear which was trickling down his cheeks, My Tristram’s misfortunes began nine months before ever he came into the world.
—My mother, who was sitting by, look’d up,—but she knew no more than her backside what my father meant,—but my uncle, Mr. Toby Shandy, who had been often informed of the affair,—understood him very well.
I know there are readers in the world, as well as many other good people in it, who are no readers at all, who find themselves ill at ease, unless they are let into the whole secret from first to last, of everything which concerns you.
It is in pure compliance with this humour of theirs, and from a backwardness in my nature to disappoint any one soul living, that I have been so very particular already. As my life and opinions are likely to make some noise in the world, and, if I conjecture right, will take in all ranks, professions, and denominations of men whatever,—be no less read than the Pilgrim’s Progress itself—and in the end, prove the very thing which Montaigne dreaded his Essays should turn out, that is, a book for a parlour-window;—I find it necessary to consult every one a little in his turn; and therefore must beg pardon for going on a little farther in the same way: For which cause, right glad I am, that I have begun the history of myself in the way I have done; and that I am able to go on, tracing everything in it, as Horace says, ab Ovo.
Horace, I know, does not recommend this fashion altogether: But that gentleman is speaking only of an epic poem or a tragedy;—(I forget which),—besides, if it was not so, I should beg Mr. Horace’s pardon;—for in writing what I have set about, I shall confine myself neither to his rules, nor to any man’s rules that ever lived.
To such, however, as do not choose to go so far back into these things, I can give no better advice, than that they skip over the remaining part of this chapter; for I declare beforehand, ’tis wrote only for the curious and inquisitive.
Shut the door. I was begot in the night, betwixt the first Sunday and the first Monday in the month of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighteen. I am positive I was.—But how I came to be so very particular in my account of a thing which happened before I was born, is owing to another small anecdote known only in our own family, but now made publick for the better clearing up this point.
My father, you must know, who was originally a Turkey merchant, but had left off business for some years, in order to retire to, and die upon, his paternal estate in the county of ⸻, was, I believe, one of the most regular men in everything he did, whether ’twas matter of business, or matter of amusement, that ever lived. As a small specimen of this extreme exactness of his, to which he was in truth a slave,—he had made it a rule for many years of his life,—on the first Sunday-night of every month throughout the whole year,—as certain as ever the Sunday-night came,⸺to wind up a large house-clock, which we had standing on the backstairs head, with his own hands:—And being somewhere between fifty and sixty years of age at the time I have been speaking of,—he had likewise gradually brought some other little family concernments to the same period, in order, as he would often say to my uncle Toby, to get them all out of the way at one time, and be no more plagued and pestered with them the rest of the month.
It was attended but with one misfortune, which, in a great measure, fell upon myself, and the effects of which I fear I shall carry with me to my grave; namely, that from an unhappy association of ideas, which have no connection in nature, it so fell out at length, that my poor mother could never hear the said clock wound up,⸺but the thoughts of some other things unavoidably popped into her head—and vice versa:⸺Which strange combination of ideas, the sagacious Locke, who certainly understood the nature of these things better than most men, affirms to have produced more wry actions than all other sources of prejudice whatsoever.
But this by the bye.
Now it appears by a memorandum in my father’s pocketbook, which now lies upon the table, “That on Lady-day, which was on the 25th of the same month in which I date my geniture,⸺my father set out upon his journey to London, with my eldest brother Bobby, to fix him at Westminster school;” and, as it appears from the same authority, “That he did not get down to his wife and family till the second week in May following,”—it brings the thing almost to a certainty. However, what follows in the beginning of the next chapter, puts it beyond all possibility of doubt.
⸻But pray, Sir, What was your father doing all December, January, and February?⸺Why, Madam,—he was all that time afflicted with a Sciatica.
On the fifth day of November, 1718, which to the æra fixed on, was as near nine calendar months as any husband could in reason have expected,—was I Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, brought forth into this scurvy and disasterous world of ours.⸺I wish I had been born in the Moon, or in any of the planets (except Jupiter or Saturn, because I never could bear cold weather) for it could not well have fared worse with me in any of them (though I will not answer for Venus) than it has in this vile, dirty planet of ours,—which, o’ my conscience, with reverence be it spoken, I take to be made up of the shreds and clippings of the rest;⸺not but the planet is well enough, provided a man could be born in it to a great title or to a great estate; or could anyhow contrive to be called up to publick charges, and employments of dignity or power;⸺but that is not my case;⸺and therefore every man will speak of the fair as his own market has gone in it;⸻for which cause I affirm it over again to be one of the vilest worlds that ever was made;—for I can truly say, that from the first hour I drew my breath in it, to this, that I can now scarce draw it at all, for an asthma I got in scating against the wind in Flanders;—I have been the continual sport of what the world calls Fortune; and though I will not wrong her by saying, She has ever made me feel the weight of any great or signal evil;⸺yet with all the good temper in the world, I affirm it of her, that in every stage of my life, and at every turn and corner where she could get fairly at me, the ungracious duchess has pelted me with a set of as pitiful misadventures and cross accidents as ever small Hero sustained.
In the beginning of the last chapter, I informed you exactly when I was born; but I did not inform you how. No, that particular was reserved entirely for a chapter by itself;—besides, Sir, as you and I are in a manner perfect strangers to each other, it would not have been proper to have let you into too many circumstances relating to myself all at once.—You must have a little patience. I have undertaken, you see, to write not only my life, but my opinions also; hoping and expecting that your knowledge of my character, and of what kind of a mortal I am, by the one, would give you a better relish for the other: As you proceed farther with me, the slight acquaintance, which is now beginning betwixt us, will grow into familiarity; and that, unless one of us is in fault, will terminate in friendship.—O diem præclarum!—then nothing which has touched me will be thought trifling in its nature, or tedious in its telling. Therefore, my dear friend and companion, if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out—bear with me,—and let me go on, and tell my story my own way:—Or, if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road,—or should sometimes put on a fool’s cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along,—don’t fly off,—but rather courteously give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside;—and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do anything,—only keep your temper.
In the same village where my father and my mother dwelt, dwelt also a thin, upright, motherly, notable, good old body of a midwife, who with the help of a little plain good sense, and some years full employment in her business, in which she had all along trusted little to her own efforts, and a great deal to those of dame Nature,—had acquired, in her way, no small degree of reputation in the world:⸺by which word world, need I in this place inform your worship, that I would be understood to mean no more of it, than a small circle described upon the circle of the great world, of four English miles diameter, or thereabouts, of which the cottage where the good old woman lived, is supposed to be the centre?—She had been left, it seems, a widow in great distress, with three or four small children, in her forty-seventh year; and as she was at that time a person of decent carriage,—grave deportment,—a woman moreover of few words, and withal an object of compassion, whose distress, and silence under it, called out the louder for a friendly lift: the wife of the parson of the parish was touched with pity; and having often lamented an inconvenience, to which her husband’s flock had for many years been exposed, inasmuch as there was no such thing as a midwife, of any kind or degree, to be got at, let the case have been never so urgent, within less than six or seven long miles riding; which seven said long miles in dark nights and dismal roads, the country thereabouts being nothing but a deep clay, was almost equal to fourteen; and that in effect was sometimes next to having no midwife at all; it came into her head, that it would be doing as seasonable a kindness to the whole parish, as to the poor creature herself, to get her a little instructed in some of the plain principles of the business, in order to set her up in it. As no woman thereabouts was better qualified to execute the plan she had formed than herself, the gentlewoman very charitably undertook it; and having great influence over the female part of the parish, she found no difficulty in effecting it to the utmost of her wishes. In truth, the parson join’d his interest with his wife’s in the whole affair; and in order to do things as they should be, and give the poor soul as good a title by law to practise, as his wife had given by institution,—he chearfully paid the fees for the ordinary’s licence himself, amounting in the whole, to the sum of eighteen shillings and four pence; so that betwixt them both, the good woman was fully invested in the real and corporal possession of her office, together with all its rights, members, and appurtenances whatsoever.
These last words, you must know, were not according to the old form in which such licences, faculties, and powers usually ran, which in like cases had heretofore been granted to the sisterhood. But it was according to a neat Formula of Didius his own devising, who having a particular turn for taking to pieces, and new framing over again, all kind of instruments in that way, not only hit upon this dainty amendment, but coaxed many of the old licensed matrons in the neighbourhood, to open their faculties afresh, in order to have this wham-wham of his inserted.
I own I never could envy Didius in these kinds of fancies of his:—But every man to his own taste.—Did not Dr. Kunastrokius, that great man, at his leisure hours, take the greatest delight imaginable in combing of asses tails, and plucking the dead hairs out with his teeth, though he had tweezers always in his pocket? Nay, if you come to that, Sir, have not the wisest of men in all ages, not excepting Solomon himself,—have they not had their Hobbyhorses;—their running horses,—their coins and their cockleshells, their drums and their trumpets, their fiddles, their pallets,—their maggots and their butterflies?—and so long as a man rides his Hobbyhorse peaceably and quietly along the King’s highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him,—pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?
—De gustibus non est disputandum;—that is, there is no disputing against Hobbyhorses; and for my part, I seldom do; nor could I with any sort of grace, had I been an enemy to them at the bottom; for happening, at certain intervals and changes of the moon, to be both fidler and painter, according as the fly stings:—Be it known to you, that I keep a couple of pads myself, upon which, in their turns, (nor do I care who knows it) I frequently ride out and take the air;—though sometimes, to my shame be it spoken, I take somewhat longer journies than what a wise man would think altogether right.—But the truth is,—I am not a wise man;—and besides am a mortal of so little consequence in the world, it is not much matter what I do: so I seldom fret or fume at all about it: Nor does it much disturb my rest, when I see such great Lords and tall Personages as hereafter follow;—such, for instance, as my Lord A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, and so on, all of a row, mounted upon their several horses;—some with large stirrups, getting on in a more grave and sober pace;⸺others on the contrary, tucked up to their very chins, with whips across their mouths, scouring and scampering it away like so many little party-coloured devils astride a mortgage,—and as if some of them were resolved to break their necks.⸺So much the better—say I to myself;—for in case the worst should happen, the world will make a shift to do excellently well without them; and for the rest,⸺why⸺God speed them⸺e’en let them ride on without opposition from me; for were their lordships unhorsed this very night—’tis ten to one but that many of them would be worse mounted by one half before tomorrow morning.
Not one of these instances therefore can be said to break in upon my rest.⸺But there is an instance, which I own puts me off my guard, and that is, when I see one born for great actions, and what is still more for his honour, whose nature ever inclines him to good ones;—when I behold such a one, my Lord, like yourself, whose principles and conduct are as generous and noble as his blood, and whom, for that reason, a corrupt world cannot spare one moment;—when I see such a one, my Lord, mounted, though it is but for a minute beyond the time which my love to my country has prescribed to him, and my zeal for his glory wishes,—then, my Lord, I cease to be a philosopher, and in the first transport of an honest impatience, I wish the Hobbyhorse, with all his fraternity, at the Devil.
“I maintain this to be a dedication, notwithstanding its singularity in the three great essentials of matter, form, and place: I beg, therefore, you will accept it as such, and that you will permit me to lay it, with the most respectful humility, at your Lordship’s feet,—when you are upon them,—which you can be when you please;—and that is, my Lord, whenever there is occasion for it, and I will add, to the best purposes too. I have the honour to be,
I solemnly declare to all mankind, that the above dedication was made for no one Prince, Prelate, Pope, or Potentate,—Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, or Baron, of this, or any other Realm in Christendom;⸺nor has it yet been hawked about, or offered publicly or privately, directly or indirectly, to any one person or personage, great or small; but is honestly a true Virgin-Dedication untried on, upon any soul living.
I labour this point so particularly, merely to remove any offence or objection which might arise against it from the manner in which I propose to make the most of it;—which is the putting it up fairly to public sale; which I now do.
⸺Every author has a way of his own in bringing his points to bear;—for my own part, as I hate chaffering and higgling for a few guineas in a dark entry;—I resolved within myself, from the very beginning, to deal squarely and openly with your Great Folks in this affair, and try whether I should not come off the better by it.
If therefore there is any one Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, or Baron, in these his Majesty’s dominions, who stands in need of a tight, genteel dedication, and whom the above will suit, (for by the bye, unless it suits in some degree, I will not part with it)⸺it is much at his service for fifty guineas;⸺which I am positive is twenty guineas less than it ought to be afforded for, by any man of genius.
My Lord, if you examine it over again, it is far from being a gross piece of daubing, as some dedications are. The design, your Lordship sees, is good,—the colouring transparent,—the drawing not amiss;—or to speak more like a man of science,—and measure my piece in the painter’s scale, divided into 20,—I believe, my Lord, the outlines will turn out as 12,—the composition as 9,—the colouring as 6,—the expression 13 and a half,—and the design,—if I may be allowed, my Lord, to understand my own design, and supposing absolute perfection in designing, to be as 20,—I think it cannot well fall short of 19. Besides all this,—there is keeping in it, and the dark strokes in the Hobbyhorse, (which is a secondary figure, and a kind of background to the whole) give great force to the principal lights in your own figure, and make it come off wonderfully;⸺and besides, there is an air of originality in the tout ensemble.
Be pleased, my good Lord, to order the sum to be paid into the hands of Mr. Dodsley, for the benefit of the author; and in the next edition care shall be taken that this chapter be expunged, and your Lordship’s titles, distinctions, arms, and good actions, be placed at the front of the preceding chapter: All which, from the words, De gustibus non est disputandum, and whatever else in this book relates to Hobbyhorses, but no more, shall stand dedicated to your Lordship.—The rest I dedicate to the Moon, who, by the bye, of all the Patrons or Matrons I can think of, has most power to set my book a-going, and make the world run mad after it.
If thou art not too busy with Candid and Miss Cunegund’s affairs,—take Tristram Shandy’s under thy protection also.
Whatever degree of small merit the act of benignity in favour of the midwife might justly claim, or in whom that claim truly rested,—at first sight seems not very material to this history;⸺certain however it was, that the gentlewoman, the parson’s wife, did run away at that time with the whole of it: And yet, for my life, I cannot help thinking but that the parson himself, though he had not the good fortune to hit upon the design first,—yet, as he heartily concurred in it the moment it was laid before him, and as heartily parted with his money to carry it into execution, had a claim to some share of it,—if not to a full half of whatever honour was due to it.
The world at that time was pleased to determine the matter otherwise.
Lay down the book, and I will allow you half a day to give a probable guess at the grounds of this procedure.
Be it known then, that, for about five years before the date of the midwife’s licence, of which you have had so circumstantial an account,—the parson we have to do with had made himself a country-talk by a breach of all decorum, which he had committed against himself, his station, and his office;—and that was in never appearing better, or otherwise mounted, than upon a lean, sorry, jackass of a horse, value about one pound fifteen shillings; who, to shorten all description of him, was full brother to Rosinante, as far as similitude congenial could make him; for he answered his description to a hair-breadth in everything,—except that I do not remember ’tis any where said, that Rosinante was broken-winded; and that, moreover, Rosinante, as is the happiness of most Spanish horses, fat or lean,—was undoubtedly a horse at all points.
I know very well that the Hero’s horse was a horse of chaste deportment, which may have given grounds for the contrary opinion: But it is as certain at the same time, that Rosinante’s continency (as may be demonstrated from the adventure of the Yanguesian carriers) proceeded from no bodily defect or cause whatsoever, but from the temperance and orderly current of his blood.—And let me tell you, Madam, there is a great deal of very good chastity in the world, in behalf of which you could not say more for your life.
Let that be as it may, as my purpose is to do extra justice to every creature brought upon the stage of this dramatic work,—I could not stifle this distinction in favour of Don Quixote’s horse;⸺in all other points, the parson’s horse, I say, was just such another,—for he was as lean, and as lank, and as sorry a jade, as Humility herself could have bestrided.
In the estimation of here and there a man of weak judgment, it was greatly in the parson’s power to have helped the figure of this horse of his,—for he was master of a very handsome demi-peak’d saddle, quilted on the seat with green plush, garnished with a double row of silver-headed studs, and a noble pair of shining brass stirrups, with a housing altogether suitable, of grey superfine cloth, with an edging of black lace, terminating in a deep, black, silk fringe, poudré d’or,—all which he had purchased in the pride and prime of his life, together with a grand embossed bridle, ornamented at all points as it should be.⸺But not caring to banter his beast, he had hung all these up behind his study door:—and, in lieu of them, had seriously befitted him with just such a bridle and such a saddle, as the figure and value of such a steed might well and truly deserve.
In the several sallies about his parish, and in the neighbouring visits to the gentry who lived around him,—you will easily comprehend, that the parson, so appointed, would both hear and see enough to keep his philosophy from rusting. To speak the truth, he never could enter a village, but he caught the attention of both old and young.⸺Labour stood still as he pass’d⸺the bucket hung suspended in the middle of the well,⸺the spinning-wheel forgot its round,⸺even chuck-farthing and shuffle-cap themselves stood gaping till he had got out of sight; and as his movement was not of the quickest, he had generally time enough upon his hands to make his observations,—to hear the groans of the serious,—and the laughter of the lighthearted;—all which he bore with excellent tranquillity.—His character was,—he loved a jest in his heart—and as he saw himself in the true point of ridicule, he would say he could not be angry with others for seeing him in a light, in which he so strongly saw himself: So that to his friends, who knew his foible was not the love of money, and who therefore made the less scruple in bantering the extravagance of his humour,—instead of giving the true cause,—he chose rather to join in the laugh against himself; and as he never carried one single ounce of flesh upon his own bones, being altogether as spare a figure as his beast,—he would sometimes insist upon it, that the horse was as good as the rider deserved;—that they were, centaur-like,—both of a piece. At other times, and in other moods, when his spirits were above the temptation of false wit,—he would say, he found himself going off fast in a consumption; and, with great gravity, would pretend, he could not bear the sight of a fat horse, without a dejection of heart, and a sensible alteration in his pulse; and that he had made choice of the lean one he rode upon, not only to keep himself in countenance, but in spirits.
At different times he would give fifty humorous and apposite reasons for riding a meek-spirited jade of a broken-winded horse, preferably to one of mettle;—for on such a one he could sit mechanically, and meditate as delightfully de vanitate mundi et fugâ sæculi, as with the advantage of a death’s-head before him;—that, in all other exercitations, he could spend his time, as he rode slowly along,—to as much account as in his study;—that he could draw up an argument in his sermon,—or a hole in his breeches, as steadily on the one as in the other;—that brisk trotting and slow argumentation, like wit and judgment, were two incompatible movements.—But that upon his steed—he could unite and reconcile everything,—he could compose his sermon—he could compose his cough,⸺and, in case nature gave a call that way, he could likewise compose himself to sleep.—In short, the parson upon such encounters would assign any cause but the true cause,—and he withheld the true one, only out of a nicety of temper, because he thought it did honour to him.
But the truth of the story was as follows: In the first years of this gentleman’s life, and about the time when the superb saddle and bridle were purchased by him, it had been his manner, or vanity, or call it what you will,—to run into the opposite extreme.—In the language of the county where he dwelt, he was said to have loved a good horse, and generally had one of the best in the whole parish standing in his stable always ready for saddling; and as the nearest midwife, as I told you, did not live nearer to the village than seven miles, and in a vile country,—it so fell out that the poor gentleman was scarce a whole week together without some piteous application for his beast; and as he was not an unkind-hearted man, and every case was more pressing and more distressful than the last,—as much as he loved his beast, he had never a heart to refuse him; the upshot of which was generally this, that his horse was either clapp’d, or spavin’d, or greaz’d;—or he was twitter-bon’d, or broken-winded, or something, in short, or other had befallen him, which would let him carry no flesh;—so that he had every nine or ten months a bad horse to get rid of,—and a good horse to purchase in his stead.
What the loss on such a balance might amount to, communibus annis, I would leave to a special jury of sufferers in the same traffick, to determine;—but let it be what it would, the honest gentleman bore it for many years without a murmur, till at length, by repeated ill accidents of the kind, he found it necessary to take the thing under consideration; and upon weighing the whole, and summing it up in his mind, he found it not only disproportioned to his other expenses, but withal so heavy an article in itself, as to disable him from any other act of generosity in his parish: Besides this, he considered that with half the sum thus galloped away, he could do ten times as much good;—and what still weighed more with him than all other considerations put together, was this, that it confined all his charity into one particular channel, and where, as he fancied, it was the least wanted, namely, to the childbearing and child-getting part of his parish; reserving nothing for the impotent,—nothing for the aged,—nothing for the many comfortless scenes he was hourly called forth to visit, where poverty, and sickness, and affliction dwelt together.
For these reasons he resolved to discontinue the expense; and there appeared but two possible ways to extricate him clearly out of it;—and these were, either to make it an irrevocable law never more to lend his steed upon any application whatever,—or else be content to ride the last poor devil, such as they had made him, with all his aches and infirmities, to the very end of the chapter.
As he dreaded his own constancy in the first—he very chearfully betook himself to the second; and though he could very well have explained it, as I said, to his honour,—yet, for that very reason, he had a spirit above it; choosing rather to bear the contempt of his enemies, and the laughter of his friends, than undergo the pain of telling a story, which might seem a panegyrick upon himself.
I have the highest idea of the spiritual and refined sentiments of this reverend gentleman, from this single stroke in his character, which I think comes up to any of the honest refinements of the peerless knight of La Mancha, whom, by the bye, with all his follies, I love more, and would actually have gone farther to have paid a visit to, than the greatest hero of antiquity.
But this is not the moral of my story: The thing I had in view was to show the temper of the world in the whole of this affair.—For you must know, that so long as this explanation would have done the parson credit,—the devil a soul could find it out,—I suppose his enemies would not, and that his friends could not.⸺But no sooner did he bestir himself in behalf of the midwife, and pay the expenses of the ordinary’s licence to set her up,—but the whole secret came out; every horse he had lost, and two horses more than ever he had lost, with all the circumstances of their destruction, were known and distinctly remembered.—The story ran like wildfire—“The parson had a returning fit of pride which had just seized him; and he was going to be well mounted once again in his life; and if it was so, ’twas plain as the sun at noonday, he would pocket the expense of the licence, ten times told, the very first year:—So that everybody was left to judge what were his views in this act of charity.”
What were his views in this, and in every other action of his life,—or rather what were the opinions which floated in the brains of other people concerning it, was a thought which too much floated in his own, and too often broke in upon his rest, when he should have been sound asleep.
About ten years ago this gentleman had the good fortune to be made entirely easy upon that score,—it being just so long since he left his parish,—and the whole world at the same time behind him,—and stands accountable to a Judge of whom he will have no cause to complain.
But there is a fatality attends the actions of some men: Order them as they will, they pass thro’ a certain medium, which so twists and refracts them from their true directions⸺that, with all the titles to praise which a rectitude of heart can give, the doers of them are nevertheless forced to live and die without it.
Of the truth of which, this gentleman was a painful example.⸺But to know by what means this came to pass,—and to make that knowledge of use to you, I insist upon it that you read the two following chapters, which contain such a sketch of his life and conversation, as will carry its moral along with it.—When this is done, if nothing stops us in our way, we will go on with the midwife.
Yorick was this parson’s name, and, what is very remarkable in it (as appears from a most ancient account of the family, wrote upon strong vellum, and now in perfect preservation) it had been exactly so spelt for near,⸺I was within an ace of saying nine hundred years;⸺but I would not shake my credit in telling an improbable truth, however indisputable in itself;⸺and therefore I shall content myself with only saying⸺It had been exactly so spelt, without the least variation or transposition of a single letter, for I do not know how long; which is more than I would venture to say of one half of the best surnames in the kingdom; which, in a course of years, have generally undergone as many chops and changes as their owners.—Has this been owing to the pride, or to the shame of the respective proprietors?—In honest truth, I think sometimes to the one, and sometimes to the other, just as the temptation has wrought. But a villainous affair it is, and will one day so blend and confound us altogether, that no one shall be able to stand up and swear, “That his own great grandfather was the man who did either this or that.”
This evil had been sufficiently fenced against by the prudent care of the Yorick’s family, and their religious preservation of these records I quote, which do farther inform us, That the family was originally of Danish extraction, and had been transplanted into England as early as in the reign of Horwendillus, king of Denmark, in whose court, it seems, an ancestor of this Mr. Yorick’s, and from whom he was lineally descended, held a considerable post to the day of his death. Of what nature this considerable post was, this record saith not;—It only adds, That, for near two centuries, it had been totally abolished, as altogether unnecessary, not only in that court, but in every other court of the Christian world.
It has often come into my head, that this post could be no other than that of the king’s chief Jester;—and that Hamlet’s Yorick, in our Shakespeare, many of whose plays, you know, are founded upon authenticated facts, was certainly the very man.
I have not the time to look into Saxo-Grammaticus’s Danish history, to know the certainty of this;—but if you have leisure, and can easily get at the book, you may do it full as well yourself.
I had just time, in my travels through Denmark with Mr. Noddy’s eldest son, whom, in the year 1741, I accompanied as governor, riding along with him at a prodigious rate thro’ most parts of Europe, and of which original journey performed by us two, a most delectable narrative will be given in the progress of this work; I had just time, I say, and that was all, to prove the truth of an observation made by a long sojourner in that country;⸺namely, “That nature was neither very lavish, nor was she very stingy in her gifts of genius and capacity to its inhabitants;—but, like a discreet parent, was moderately kind to them all; observing such an equal tenor in the distribution of her favours, as to bring them, in those points, pretty near to a level with each other; so that you will meet with few instances in that kingdom of refined parts; but a great deal of good plain household understanding amongst all ranks of people, of which everybody has a share;” which is, I think, very right.
With us, you see, the case is quite different:—we are all ups and downs in this matter;—you are a great genius;—or ’tis fifty to one, Sir, you are a great dunce and a blockhead;—not that there is a total want of intermediate steps,—no,—we are not so irregular as that comes to;—but the two extremes are more common, and in a greater degree in this unsettled island, where nature, in her gifts and dispositions of this kind, is most whimsical and capricious; fortune herself not being more so in the bequest of her goods and chattels than she.
This is all that ever staggered my faith in regard to Yorick’s extraction, who, by what I can remember of him, and by all the accounts I could ever get of him, seemed not to have had one single drop of Danish blood in his whole crasis; in nine hundred years, it might possibly have all run out:⸺I will not philosophize one moment with you about it; for happen how it would, the fact was this:—That instead of that cold phlegm and exact regularity of sense and humours, you would have looked for, in one so extracted;—he was, on the contrary, as mercurial and sublimated a composition,—as heteroclite a creature in all his declensions;—with as much life and whim, and gaité de cœur about him, as the kindliest climate could have engendered and put together. With all this sail, poor Yorick carried not one ounce of ballast; he was utterly unpractised in the world; and, at the age of twenty-six, knew just about as well how to steer his course in it, as a romping, unsuspicious girl of thirteen: So that upon his first setting out, the brisk gale of his spirits, as you will imagine, ran him foul ten times in a day of somebody’s tackling; and as the grave and more slow-paced were oftenest in his way,⸺you may likewise imagine, ’twas with such he had generally the ill luck to get the most entangled. For aught I know there might be some mixture of unlucky wit at the bottom of such Fracas:⸺For, to speak the truth, Yorick had an invincible dislike and opposition in his nature to gravity;—not to gravity as such;—for where gravity was wanted, he would be the most grave or serious of mortal men for days and weeks together;—but he was an enemy to the affectation of it, and declared open war against it, only as it appeared a cloak for ignorance, or for folly: and then, whenever it fell in his way, however sheltered and protected, he seldom gave it much quarter.
Sometimes, in his wild way of talking, he would say that Gravity was an errant scoundrel, and he would add,—of the most dangerous kind too,—because a sly one; and that he verily believed, more honest, well-meaning people were bubbled out of their goods and money by it in one twelvemonth, than by pocket-picking and shoplifting in seven. In the naked temper which a merry heart discovered, he would say, there was no danger,—but to itself:—whereas the very essence of gravity was design, and consequently deceit;—’twas a taught trick to gain credit of the world for more sense and knowledge than a man was worth; and that, with all its pretensions,—it was no better, but often worse, than what a French wit had long ago defined it,—viz. A mysterious carriage of the body to cover the defects of the mind;—which definition of gravity, Yorick, with great imprudence, would say, deserved to be wrote in letters of gold.
But, in plain truth, he was a man unhackneyed and unpractised in the world, and was altogether as indiscreet and foolish on every other subject of discourse where policy is wont to impress restraint. Yorick had no impression but one, and that was what arose from the nature of the deed spoken of; which impression he would usually translate into plain English without any periphrasis;—and too oft without much distinction of either person, time, or place;—so that when mention was made of a pitiful or an ungenerous proceeding⸺he never gave himself a moment’s time to reflect who was the hero of the piece,⸺what his station,⸺or how far he had power to hurt him hereafter;⸺but if it was a dirty action,—without more ado,—The man was a dirty fellow,—and so on.—And as his comments had usually the ill fate to be terminated either in a bon mot, or to be enlivened throughout with some drollery or humour of expression, it gave wings to Yorick’s indiscretion. In a word, tho’ he never sought, yet, at the same time, as he seldom shunned occasions of saying what came uppermost, and without much ceremony;⸺he had but too many temptations in life, of scattering his wit and his humour,—his gibes and his jests about him.⸺They were not lost for want of gathering.
What were the consequences, and what was Yorick’s catastrophe thereupon, you will read in the next chapter.
The Mortgager and Mortgagée differ the one from the other, not more in length of purse, than the Jester and Jestée do, in that of memory. But in this the comparison between them runs, as the scholiasts call it, upon all-four; which, by the bye, is upon one or two legs more than some of the best of Homer’s can pretend to;—namely, That the one raises a sum, and the other a laugh at your expense, and thinks no more about it. Interest, however, still runs on in both cases;—the periodical or accidental payments of it, just serving to keep the memory of the affair alive; till, at length, in some evil hour,—pop comes the creditor upon each, and by demanding principal upon the spot, together with full interest to the very day, makes them both feel the full extent of their obligations.
As the reader (for I hate your ifs) has a thorough knowledge of human nature, I need not say more to satisfy him, that my Hero could not go on at this rate without some slight experience of these incidental mementos. To speak the truth, he had wantonly involved himself in a multitude of small book-debts of this stamp, which, notwithstanding Eugenius’s frequent advice, he too much disregarded; thinking, that as not one of them was contracted thro’ any malignancy;—but, on the contrary, from an honesty of mind, and a mere jocundity of humour, they would all of them be cross’d out in course.
Eugenius would never admit this; and would often tell him, that one day or other he would certainly be reckoned with; and he would often add, in an accent of sorrowful apprehension,—to the uttermost mite. To which Yorick, with his usual carelessness of heart, would as often answer with a pshaw!—and if the subject was started in the fields—with a hop, skip, and a jump at the end of it; but if close pent up in the social chimney-corner, where the culprit was barricado’d in, with a table and a couple of armchairs, and could not so readily fly off in a tangent,—Eugenius would then go on with his lecture upon discretion in words to this purpose, though somewhat better put together.
Trust me, dear Yorick, this unwary pleasantry of thine will sooner or later bring thee into scrapes and difficulties, which no after-wit can extricate thee out of.⸺In these sallies, too oft, I see, it happens, that a person laughed at, considers himself in the light of a person injured, with all the rights of such a situation belonging to him; and when thou viewest him in that light too, and reckons up his friends, his family, his kindred and allies,⸺and musters up with them the many recruits which will list under him from a sense of common danger;⸺’tis no extravagant arithmetick to say, that for every ten jokes,—thou hast got an hundred enemies; and till thou hast gone on, and raised a swarm of wasps about thine ears, and art half stung to death by them, thou wilt never be convinced it is so.
I cannot suspect it in the man whom I esteem, that there is the least spur from spleen or malevolence of intent in these sallies⸺I believe and know them to be truly honest and sportive:—But consider, my dear lad, that fools cannot distinguish this,—and that knaves will not: and thou knowest not what it is, either to provoke the one, or to make merry with the other:⸺whenever they associate for mutual defence, depend upon it, they will carry on the war in such a manner against thee, my dear friend, as to make thee heartily sick of it, and of thy life too.
Revenge from some baneful corner shall level a tale of dishonour at thee, which no innocence of heart or integrity of conduct shall set right.⸺The fortunes of thy house shall totter,—thy character, which led the way to them, shall bleed on every side of it,—thy faith questioned,—thy works belied,—thy wit forgotten,—thy learning trampled on. To wind up the last scene of thy tragedy, Cruelty and Cowardice, twin ruffians, hired and set on by Malice in the dark, shall strike together at all thy infirmities and mistakes:⸺The best of us, my dear lad, lie open there,⸺and trust me,⸺trust me, Yorick, when to gratify a private appetite, it is once resolved upon, that an innocent and an helpless creature shall be sacrificed, ’tis an easy matter to pick up sticks enough from any thicket where it has strayed, to make a fire to offer it up with.
Yorick scarce ever heard this sad vaticination of his destiny read over to him, but with a fear stealing from his eye, and a promissory look attending it, that he was resolved, for the time to come, to ride his tit with more sobriety.—But, alas, too late!—a grand confederacy, with ***** and ***** at the head of it, was formed before the first prediction of it.—The whole plan of the attack, just as Eugenius had foreboded, was put in execution all at once,—with so little mercy on the side of the allies,—and so little suspicion in Yorick, of what was carrying on against him,—that when he thought, good easy man! full surely preferment was o’ ripening,—they had smote his root, and then he fell, as many a worthy man had fallen before him.
Yorick, however, fought it out with all imaginable gallantry for some time; till, overpowered by numbers, and worn out at length by the calamities of the war,—but more so, by the ungenerous manner in which it was carried on,—he threw down the sword; and though he kept up his spirits in appearance to the last, he died, nevertheless, as was generally thought, quite brokenhearted.
What inclined Eugenius to the same opinion was as follows:
A few hours before Yorick breathed his last, Eugenius stepped in with an intent to take his last sight and last farewell of him. Upon his drawing Yorick’s curtain, and asking how he felt himself, Yorick looking up in his face took hold of his hand,—and after thanking him for the many tokens of his friendship to him, for which, he said, if it was their fate to meet hereafter,—he would thank him again and again,—he told him, he was within a few hours of giving his enemies the slip forever.—I hope not, answered Eugenius, with tears trickling down his cheeks, and with the tenderest tone that ever man spoke.—I hope not, Yorick, said he.⸺Yorick replied, with a look up, and a gentle squeeze of Eugenius’s hand, and that was all,—but it cut Eugenius to his heart,—Come—come, Yorick, quoth Eugenius, wiping his eyes, and summoning up the man within him,—my dear lad, be comforted,—let not all thy spirits and fortitude forsake thee at this crisis when thou most wants them;⸺who knows what resources are in store, and what the power of God may yet do for thee?⸺Yorick laid his hand upon his heart, and gently shook his head;—For my part, continued Eugenius, crying bitterly as he uttered the words,—I declare I know not, Yorick, how to part with thee, and would gladly flatter my hopes, added Eugenius, chearing up his voice, that there is still enough left of thee to make a bishop, and that I may live to see it.⸺I beseech thee, Eugenius, quoth Yorick, taking off his nightcap as well as he could with his left hand,⸺his right being still grasped close in that of Eugenius,⸺I beseech thee to take a view of my head.—I see nothing that ails it, replied Eugenius. Then, alas! my friend, said Yorick, let me tell you, that ’tis so bruised and mis-shapened with the blows which ***** and *****, and some others have so unhandsomely given me, in the dark, that I might say with Sancho Pança, that should I recover, and “Mitres thereupon be suffered to rain down from heaven as thick as hail, not one of them would fit it.”⸺Yorick’s last breath was hanging upon his trembling lips ready to depart as he uttered this:⸺yet still it was uttered with something of a Cervantick tone;⸺and as he spoke it, Eugenius could perceive a stream of lambent fire lighted up for a moment in his eyes;⸺faint picture of those flashes of his spirit, which (as Shakespeare said of his ancestor) were wont to set the table in a roar!
Eugenius was convinced from this, that the heart of his friend was broke: he squeezed his hand,⸺and then walked softly out of the room, weeping as he walked. Yorick followed Eugenius with his eyes to the door,—he then closed them,—and never opened them more.
He lies buried in the corner of his churchyard, in the parish of ⸻, under a plain marble slab, which his friend Eugenius, by leave of his executors, laid upon his grave, with no more than these three words of inscription, serving both for his epitaph and elegy.
Alas, poor Yorick!
Ten times a day has Yorick’s ghost the consolation to hear his monumental inscription read over with such a variety of plaintive tones, as denote a general pity and esteem for him;⸺a foot-way crossing the churchyard close by the side of his grave,—not a passenger goes by without stopping to cast a look upon it,—and sighing as he walks on,
Alas, poor Yorick!
It is so long since the reader of this rhapsodical work has been parted from the midwife, that it is high time to mention her again to him, merely to put him in mind that there is such a body still in the world, and whom, upon the best judgment I can form upon my own plan at present,—I am going to introduce to him for good and all: But as fresh matter may be started, and much unexpected business fall out betwixt the reader and myself, which may require immediate dispatch;⸺’twas right to take care that the poor woman should not be lost in the meantime;—because when she is wanted, we can no way do without her.
I think I told you that this good woman was a person of no small note and consequence throughout our whole village and township;—that her fame had spread itself to the very out-edge and circumference of that circle of importance, of which kind every soul living, whether he has a shirt to his back or no,⸺has one surrounding him;—which said circle, by the way, whenever ’tis said that such a one is of great weight and importance in the world,⸺I desire may be enlarged or contracted in your worship’s fancy, in a compound ratio of the station, profession, knowledge, abilities, height and depth (measuring both ways) of the personage brought before you.
In the present case, if I remember, I fixed it about four or five miles, which not only comprehended the whole parish, but extended itself to two or three of the adjacent hamlets in the skirts of the next parish; which made a considerable thing of it. I must add, That she was, moreover, very well looked on at one large grange-house, and some other odd houses and farms within two or three miles, as I said, from the smoke of her own chimney:⸺But I must here, once for all, inform you, that all this will be more exactly delineated and explain’d in a map, now in the hands of the engraver, which, with many other pieces and developements of this work, will be added to the end of the twentieth volume,—not to swell the work,—I detest the thought of such a thing;—but by way of commentary, scholium, illustration, and key to such passages, incidents, or innuendos as shall be thought to be either of private interpretation, or of dark or doubtful meaning, after my life and my opinions shall have been read over (now don’t forget the meaning of the word) by all the world;⸺which, betwixt you and me, and in spite of all the gentlemen-reviewers in Great Britain, and of all that their worships shall undertake to write or say to the contrary,—I am determined shall be the case.—I need not tell your worship, that all this is spoke in confidence.
Upon looking into my mother’s marriage-settlement, in order to satisfy myself and reader in a point necessary to be cleared up, before we could proceed any farther in this history;—I had the good fortune to pop upon the very thing I wanted before I had read a day and a half straight forwards,—it might have taken me up a month;—which shows plainly, that when a man sits down to write a history,—tho’ it be but the history of Jack Hickathrift or Tom Thumb, he knows no more than his heels what lets and confounded hindrances he is to meet with in his way,—or what a dance he may be led, by one excursion or another, before all is over. Could a historiographer drive on his history, as a muleteer drives on his mule,—straight forward;⸺for instance, from Rome all the way to Loretto, without ever once turning his head aside either to the right hand or to the left,⸺he might venture to foretell you to an hour when he should get to his journey’s end;⸺but the thing is, morally speaking, impossible: For, if he is a man of the least spirit, he will have fifty deviations from a straight line to make with this or that party as he goes along, which he can no ways avoid. He will have views and prospects to himself perpetually soliciting his eye, which he can no more help standing still to look at than he can fly; he will moreover have various
Accounts to reconcile:
Anecdotes to pick up:
Inscriptions to make out:
Stories to weave in:
Traditions to sift:
Personages to call upon:
Panegyricks to paste up at this door;
Pasquinades at that:⸺All which both the man and his mule are quite exempt from. To sum up all; there are archives at every stage to be look’d into, and rolls, records, documents, and endless genealogies, which justice ever and anon calls him back to stay the reading of:⸺In short, there is no end of it;⸺for my own part, I declare I had been at it these six weeks, making all the speed I possibly could,—and am not yet born:—I have just been able, and that’s all, to tell you when it happen’d, but not how;—so that you see the thing is yet far from being accomplished.
These unforeseen stoppages, which I own I had no conception of when I first set out;—but which, I am convinced now, will rather increase than diminish as I advance,—have struck out a hint which I am resolved to follow;⸺and that is,—not to be in a hurry; but to go on leisurely, writing and publishing two volumes of my life every year;⸺which, if I am suffered to go on quietly, and can make a tolerable bargain with my bookseller, I shall continue to do as long as I live.
The article in my mother’s marriage-settlement, which I told the reader I was at the pains to search for, and which, now that I have found it, I think proper to lay before him,—is so much more fully express’d in the deed itself, than ever I can pretend to do it, that it would be barbarity to take it out of the lawyer’s hand:—It is as follows.
“And this Indenture further witnesseth, That the said Walter Shandy, merchant, in consideration of the said intended marriage to be had, and, by God’s blessing, to be well and truly solemnised and consummated between the said Walter Shandy and Elizabeth Mollineux aforesaid, and divers other good and valuable causes and considerations him thereunto specially moving,—doth grant, covenant, condescend, consent, conclude, bargain, and fully agree to and with John Dixon, and James Turner, Esqrs. the above-named Trustees, etc. etc.—to Wit,—That in case it should hereafter so fall out, chance, happen, or otherwise come to pass,—That the said Walter Shandy, merchant, shall have left off business before the time or times, that the said Elizabeth Mollineux shall, according to the course of nature, or otherwise, have left off bearing and bringing forth children;—and that, in consequence of the said Walter Shandy having so left off business, he shall in despight, and against the freewill, consent, and good-liking of the said Elizabeth Mollineux,—make a departure from the city of London, in order to retire to, and dwell upon, his estate at Shandy Hall, in the county of ⸻, or at any other country-seat, castle, hall, mansion-house, messuage or grainge-house, now purchased, or hereafter to be purchased, or upon any part or parcel thereof:—That then, and as often as the said Elizabeth Mollineux shall happen to be enceint with child or children severally and lawfully begot, or to be begotten, upon the body of the said Elizabeth Mollineux, during her said coverture,—he the said Walter Shandy shall, at his own proper cost and charges, and out of his own proper monies, upon good and reasonable notice, which is hereby agreed to be within six weeks of her the said Elizabeth Mollineux’s full reckoning, or time of supposed and computed delivery,—pay, or cause to be paid, the sum of one hundred and twenty pounds of good and lawful money, to John Dixon, and James Turner, Esqrs. or assigns,—upon trust and confidence, and for and unto the use and uses, intent, end, and purpose following:—That is to say,—That the said sum of one hundred and twenty pounds shall be paid into the hands of the said Elizabeth Mollineux, or to be otherwise applied by them the said Trustees, for the well and truly hiring of one coach, with able and sufficient horses, to carry and convey the body of the said Elizabeth Mollineux, and the child or children which she shall be then and there enceint and pregnant with,—unto the city of London; and for the further paying and defraying of all other incidental costs, charges, and expenses whatsoever,—in and about, and for, and relating to, her said intended delivery and lying-in, in the said city or suburbs thereof. And that the said Elizabeth Mollineux shall and may, from time to time, and at all such time and times as are here covenanted and agreed upon,—peaceably and quietly hire the said coach and horses, and have free ingress, egress, and regress throughout her journey, in and from the said coach, according to the tenor, true intent, and meaning of these presents, without any let, suit, trouble, disturbance, molestation, discharge, hindrance, forfeiture, eviction, vexation, interruption, or incumbrance whatsoever.—And that it shall moreover be lawful to and for the said Elizabeth Mollineux, from time to time, and as oft or often as she shall well and truly be advanced in her said pregnancy, to the time heretofore stipulated and agreed upon,—to live and reside in such place or places, and in such family or families, and with such relations, friends, and other persons within the said city of London, as she at her own will and pleasure, notwithstanding her present coverture, and as if she was a femme sole and unmarried,—shall think fit.—And this Indenture further Witnesseth, That for the more effectually carrying of the said covenant into execution, the said Walter Shandy, merchant, doth hereby grant, bargain, sell, release, and confirm unto the said John Dixon, and James Turner, Esqrs. their heirs, executors, and assigns, in their actual possession now being, by virtue of an indenture of bargain and sale for a year to them the said John Dickson, and James Turner, Esqrs. by him the said Walter Shandy, merchant, thereof made; which said bargain and sale for a year, bears date the day next before the date of these presents, and by force and virtue of the statute for transferring of uses into possession,—All that the manor and lordship of Shandy, in the county of ⸻, with all the rights, members, and appurtenances thereof; and all and every the messuages, houses, buildings, barns, stables, orchards, gardens, backsides, tofts, crofts, garths, cottages, lands, meadows, feedings, pastures, marshes, commons, woods, underwoods, drains, fisheries, waters, and watercourses;—together with all rents, reversions, services, annuities, fee-farms, knights fees, views of frankpledge, escheats, reliefs, mines, quarries, goods and chattels of felons and fugitives, felons of themselves, and put in exigent, deodands, free warrens, and all other royalties and seigniories, rights and jurisdictions, privileges and hereditaments whatsoever.⸺And also the advowson, donation, presentation, and free disposition of the rectory or parsonage of Shandy aforesaid, and all and every the tenths, tythes, glebe-lands.”⸺In three words,⸺“My mother was to lay in, (if she chose it) in London.”
But in order to put a stop to the practice of any unfair play on the part of my mother, which a marriage-article of this nature too manifestly opened a door to, and which indeed had never been thought of at all, but for my uncle Toby Shandy;—a clause was added in security of my father, which was this:—“That in case my mother hereafter should, at any time, put my father to the trouble and expense of a London journey, upon false cries and tokens;⸺that for every such instance, she should forfeit all the right and title which the covenant gave her to the next turn;⸺but to no more,—and so on, toties quoties, in as effectual a manner, as if such a covenant betwixt them had not been made.”—This, by the way, was no more than what was reasonable;—and yet, as reasonable as it was, I have ever thought it hard that the whole weight of the article should have fallen entirely, as it did, upon myself.
But I was begot and born to misfortunes:—for my poor mother, whether it was wind or water—or a compound of both,—or neither;—or whether it was simply the mere swell of imagination and fancy in her;—or how far a strong wish and desire to have it so, might mislead her judgment:—in short, whether she was deceived or deceiving in this matter, it no way becomes me to decide. The fact was this, That in the latter end of September 1717, which was the year before I was born, my mother having carried my father up to town much against the grain,—he peremptorily insisted upon the clause;—so that I was doom’d, by marriage-articles, to have my nose squeez’d as flat to my face, as if the destinies had actually spun me without one.
How this event came about,—and what a train of vexatious disappointments, in one stage or other of my life, have pursued me from the mere loss, or rather compression, of this one single member,—shall be laid before the reader all in due time.
My father, as anybody may naturally imagine, came down with my mother into the country, in but a pettish kind of a humour. The first twenty or five-and-twenty miles he did nothing in the world but fret and teaze himself, and indeed my mother too, about the cursed expense, which he said might every shilling of it have been saved;—then what vexed him more than everything else was, the provoking time of the year,—which, as I told you, was towards the end of September, when his wall-fruit and green gages especially, in which he was very curious, were just ready for pulling:⸺“Had he been whistled up to London, upon a Tom Fool’s errand, in any other month of the whole year, he should not have said three words about it.”
For the next two whole stages, no subject would go down, but the heavy blow he had sustain’d from the loss of a son, whom it seems he had fully reckon’d upon in his mind, and register’d down in his pocketbook, as a second staff for his old age, in case Bobby should fail him. The disappointment of this, he said, was ten times more to a wise man, than all the money which the journey, etc., had cost him, put together,—rot the hundred and twenty pounds,⸺he did not mind it a rush.
From Stilton, all the way to Grantham, nothing in the whole affair provoked him so much as the condolences of his friends, and the foolish figure they should both make at church, the first Sunday;⸺of which, in the satirical vehemence of his wit, now sharpen’d a little by vexation, he would give so many humorous and provoking descriptions,—and place his rib and self in so many tormenting lights and attitudes in the face of the whole congregation;—that my mother declared, these two stages were so truly tragicomical, that she did nothing but laugh and cry in a breath, from one end to the other of them all the way.
From Grantham, till they had cross’d the Trent, my father was out of all kind of patience at the vile trick and imposition which he fancied my mother had put upon him in this affair—“Certainly,” he would say to himself, over and over again, “the woman could not be deceived herself⸺if she could,⸺what weakness!”—tormenting word!—which led his imagination a thorny dance, and, before all was over, play’d the duce and all with him;⸺for sure as ever the word weakness was uttered, and struck full upon his brain—so sure it set him upon running divisions upon how many kinds of weaknesses there were;⸺that there was such a thing as weakness of the body,⸺as well as weakness of the mind,—and then he would do nothing but syllogize within himself for a stage or two together, How far the cause of all these vexations might, or might not, have arisen out of himself.
In short, he had so many little subjects of disquietude springing out of this one affair, all fretting successively in his mind as they rose up in it, that my mother, whatever was her journey up, had but an uneasy journey of it down.⸺In a word, as she complained to my uncle Toby, he would have tired out the patience of any flesh alive.
Though my father travelled homewards, as I told you, in none of the best of moods,—pshawing and pishing all the way down,—yet he had the complaisance to keep the worst part of the story still to himself;—which was the resolution he had taken of doing himself the justice, which my uncle Toby’s clause in the marriage-settlement empowered him; nor was it till the very night in which I was begot, which was thirteen months after, that she had the least intimation of his design: when my father, happening, as you remember, to be a little chagrin’d and out of temper,⸺took occasion as they lay chatting gravely in bed afterwards, talking over what was to come,⸺to let her know that she must accommodate herself as well as she could to the bargain made between them in their marriage-deeds; which was to lye-in of her next child in the country, to balance the last year’s journey.
My father was a gentleman of many virtues,—but he had a strong spice of that in his temper, which might, or might not, add to the number.—’Tis known by the name of perseverance in a good cause,—and of obstinacy in a bad one: Of this my mother had so much knowledge, that she knew ’twas to no purpose to make any remonstrance,—so she e’en resolved to sit down quietly, and make the most of it.
As the point was that night agreed, or rather determined, that my mother should lye-in of me in the country, she took her measures accordingly; for which purpose, when she was three days, or thereabouts, gone with child, she began to cast her eyes upon the midwife, whom you have so often heard me mention; and before the week was well got round, as the famous Dr. Manningham was not to be had, she had come to a final determination in her mind,⸺notwithstanding there was a scientific operator within so near a call as eight miles of us, and who, moreover, had expressly wrote a five shillings book upon the subject of midwifery, in which he had exposed, not only the blunders of the sisterhood itself,⸺but had likewise superadded many curious improvements for the quicker extraction of the fœtus in cross births, and some other cases of danger, which belay us in getting into the world; notwithstanding all this, my mother, I say, was absolutely determined to trust her life, and mine with it, into no soul’s hand but this old woman’s only.—Now this I like;—when we cannot get at the very thing we wish⸺never to take up with the next best in degree to it:—no; that’s pitiful beyond description;—it is no more than a week from this very day, in which I am now writing this book for the edification of the world;—which is March 9, 1759,⸺that my dear, dear Jenny, observing I looked a little grave, as she stood cheapening a silk of five-and-twenty shillings a yard,—told the mercer, she was sorry she had given him so much trouble;—and immediately went and bought herself a yard-wide stuff of tenpence a yard.—’Tis the duplication of one and the same greatness of soul; only what lessened the honour of it, somewhat, in my mother’s case, was, that she could not heroine it into so violent and hazardous an extreme, as one in her situation might have wished, because the old widwife had really some little claim to be depended upon,—as much, at least, as success could give her; having, in the course of her practice of near twenty years in the parish, brought every mother’s son of them into the world without any one slip or accident which could fairly be laid to her account.
These facts, tho’ they had their weight, yet did not altogether satisfy some few scruples and uneasinesses which hung upon my father’s spirits in relation to this choice.—To say nothing of the natural workings of humanity and justice—or of the yearnings of parental and connubial love, all which prompted him to leave as little to hazard as possible in a case of this kind;⸺he felt himself concerned in a particular manner, that all should go right in the present case;—from the accumulated sorrow he lay open to, should any evil betide his wife and child in lying-in at Shandy-Hall.⸺He knew the world judged by events, and would add to his afflictions in such a misfortune, by loading him with the whole blame of it.⸺“Alas, o’day;—had Mrs. Shandy, poor gentlewoman! had but her wish in going up to town just to lye-in and come down again;—which, they say, she begged and prayed for upon her bare knees,⸺and which, in my opinion, considering the fortune which Mr. Shandy got with her,—was no such mighty matter to have complied with, the lady and her babe might both of them have been alive at this hour.”
This exclamation, my father knew, was unanswerable;—and yet, it was not merely to shelter himself,—nor was it altogether for the care of his offspring and wife that he seemed so extremely anxious about this point;—my father had extensive views of things,⸺and stood moreover, as he thought, deeply concerned in it for the publick good, from the dread he entertained of the bad uses an ill-fated instance might be put to.
He was very sensible that all political writers upon the subject had unanimously agreed and lamented, from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign down to his own time, that the current of men and money towards the metropolis, upon one frivolous errand or another,—set in so strong,—as to become dangerous to our civil rights,—though, by the bye,⸺a current was not the image he took most delight in,—a distemper was here his favourite metaphor, and he would run it down into a perfect allegory, by maintaining it was identically the same in the body national as in the body natural where the blood and spirits were driven up into the head faster than they could find their ways down;⸺a stoppage of circulation must ensue, which was death in both cases.
There was little danger, he would say, of losing our liberties by French politicks or French invasions;⸺nor was he so much in pain of a consumption from the mass of corrupted matter and ulcerated humours in our constitution, which he hoped was not so bad as it was imagined;—but he verily feared, that in some violent push, we should go off, all at once, in a state-apoplexy;—and then he would say, The Lord have mercy upon us all.
My father was never able to give the history of this distemper,—without the remedy along with it.
“Was I an absolute prince,” he would say, pulling up his breeches with both his hands, as he rose from his armchair, “I would appoint able judges, at every avenue of my metropolis, who should take cognizance of every fool’s business who came there;—and if, upon a fair and candid hearing, it appeared not of weight sufficient to leave his own home, and come up, bag and baggage, with his wife and children, farmer’s sons, etc., etc., at his backside, they should be all sent back, from constable to constable, like vagrants as they were, to the place of their legal settlements. By this means I shall take care, that my metropolis totter’d not thro’ its own weight;—that the head be no longer too big for the body;—that the extremes, now wasted and pinn’d in, be restored to their due share of nourishment, and regain with it their natural strength and beauty:—I would effectually provide, That the meadows and cornfields of my dominions, should laugh and sing;—that good chear and hospitality flourish once more;—and that such weight and influence be put thereby into the hands of the Squirality of my kingdom, as should counterpoise what I perceive my Nobility are now taking from them.
“Why are there so few palaces and gentlemen’s seats,” he would ask, with some emotion, as he walked across the room, “throughout so many delicious provinces in France? Whence is it that the few remaining Châteaus amongst them are so dismantled,—so unfurnished, and in so ruinous and desolate a condition?⸺Because, Sir,” (he would say) “in that kingdom no man has any country-interest to support;—the little interest of any kind which any man has anywhere in it, is concentrated in the court, and the looks of the Grand Monarch: by the sunshine of whose countenance, or the clouds which pass across it, every French man lives or dies.”
Another political reason which prompted my father so strongly to guard against the least evil accident in my mother’s lying-in in the country,⸺was, That any such instance would infallibly throw a balance of power, too great already, into the weaker vessels of the gentry, in his own, or higher stations;⸺which, with the many other usurped rights which that part of the constitution was hourly establishing,—would, in the end, prove fatal to the monarchical system of domestick government established in the first creation of things by God.
In this point he was entirely of Sir Robert Filmer’s opinion, That the plans and institutions of the greatest monarchies in the eastern parts of the world were, originally, all stolen from that admirable pattern and prototype of this household and paternal power;—which, for a century, he said, and more, had gradually been degenerating away into a mix’d government;⸺the form of which, however desirable in great combinations of the species,⸺was very troublesome in small ones,—and seldom produced anything, that he saw, but sorrow and confusion.
For all these reasons, private and publick, put together,—my father was for having the man-midwife by all means,—my mother by no means. My father begg’d and intreated she would for once recede from her prerogative in this matter, and suffer him to choose for her;—my mother, on the contrary, insisted upon her privilege in this matter, to choose for herself,—and have no mortal’s help but the old woman’s.—What could my father do? He was almost at his wit’s end;⸺talked it over with her in all moods;—placed his arguments in all lights;—argued the matter with her like a christian,—like a heathen,—like a husband,—like a father,—like a patriot,—like a man:—My mother answered everything only like a woman; which was a little hard upon her;—for as she could not assume and fight it out behind such a variety of characters,—’twas no fair match:—’twas seven to one.—What could my mother do?⸺She had the advantage (otherwise she had been certainly overpowered) of a small reinforcement of chagrin personal at the bottom, which bore her up, and enabled her to dispute the affair with my father with so equal an advantage,⸺that both sides sung Te Deum. In a word, my mother was to have the old woman,—and the operator was to have licence to drink a bottle of wine with my father and my uncle Toby Shandy in the back parlour,—for which he was to be paid five guineas.
I must beg leave, before I finish this chapter, to enter a caveat in the breast of my fair reader;—and it is this,⸺Not to take it absolutely for granted, from an unguarded word or two which I have dropp’d in it,⸺“That I am a married man.”—I own, the tender appellation of my dear, dear Jenny,—with some other strokes of conjugal knowledge, interspersed here and there, might, naturally enough, have misled the most candid judge in the world into such a determination against me.—All I plead for, in this case, Madam, is strict justice, and that you do so much of it, to me as well as to yourself,—as not to prejudge, or receive such an impression of me, till you have better evidence, than, I am positive, at present can be produced against me.—Not that I can be so vain or unreasonable, Madam, as to desire you should therefore think, that my dear, dear Jenny is my kept mistress;—no,—that would be flattering my character in the other extreme, and giving it an air of freedom, which, perhaps, it has no kind of right to. All I contend for, is the utter impossibility, for some volumes, that you, or the most penetrating spirit upon earth, should know how this matter really stands.—It is not impossible, but that my dear, dear Jenny! tender as the appellation is, may be my child.⸺Consider,—I was born in the year eighteen.—Nor is there anything unnatural or extravagant in the supposition, that my dear Jenny may be my friend.—Friend!—My friend.—Surely, Madam, a friendship between the two sexes may subsist, and be supported without⸻Fy! Mr. Shandy:—Without anything, Madam, but that tender and delicious sentiment, which ever mixes in friendship, where there is a difference of sex. Let me intreat you to study the pure and sentimental parts of the best French Romances;—it will really, Madam, astonish you to see with what a variety of chaste expressions this delicious sentiment, which I have the honour to speak of, is dress’d out.
I would sooner undertake to explain the hardest problem in geometry, than pretend to account for it, that a gentleman of my father’s great good sense,⸺knowing, as the reader must have observed him, and curious too in philosophy,—wise also in political reasoning,—and in polemical (as he will find) no way ignorant,—could be capable of entertaining a notion in his head, so out of the common track,—that I fear the reader, when I come to mention it to him, if he is the least of a cholerick temper, will immediately throw the book by; if mercurial, he will laugh most heartily at it;—and if he is of a grave and saturnine cast, he will, at first sight, absolutely condemn as fanciful and extravagant; and that was in respect to the choice and imposition of christian names, on which he thought a great deal more depended than what superficial minds were capable of conceiving.
His opinion, in this matter, was, That there was a strange kind of magick bias, which good or bad names, as he called them, irresistibly impressed upon our characters and conduct.
The hero of Cervantes argued not the point with more seriousness,⸺nor had he more faith,⸺or more to say on the powers of necromancy in dishonouring his deeds,—or on Dulcinea’s name, in shedding lustre upon them, than my father had on those of Trismegistus or Archimedes, on the one hand—or of Nyky and Simkin on the other. How many Caesars and Pompeys, he would say, by mere inspiration of the names, have been rendered worthy of them? And how many, he would add, are there, who might have done exceeding well in the world, had not their characters and spirits been totally depressed and Nicomedus’d into nothing?
I see plainly, Sir, by your looks (or as the case happened), my father would say—that you do not heartily subscribe to this opinion of mine,—which, to those, he would add, who have not carefully sifted it to the bottom,—I own has an air more of fancy than of solid reasoning in it;⸺and yet, my dear Sir, if I may presume to know your character, I am morally assured, I should hazard little in stating a case to you,—not as a party in the dispute,—but as a judge, and trusting my appeal upon it to your own good sense and candid disquisition in this matter;⸺you are a person free from as many narrow prejudices of education as most men;—and, if I may presume to penetrate farther into you,—of a liberality of genius above bearing down an opinion, merely because it wants friends. Your son,—your dear son,—from whose sweet and open temper you have so much to expect.—Your Billy, Sir!—would you, for the world, have called him Judas?—Would you, my dear Sir, he would say, laying his hand upon your breast, with the genteelest address,—and in that soft and irresistible piano of voice, which the nature of the argumentum ad hominem absolutely requires,—Would you, Sir, if a Jew of a godfather had proposed the name for your child, and offered you his purse along with it, would you have consented to such a desecration of him?⸺O my God! he would say, looking up, if I know your temper right, Sir,—you are incapable of it;⸺you would have trampled upon the offer;—you would have thrown the temptation at the tempter’s head with abhorrence.
Your greatness of mind in this action, which I admire, with that generous contempt of money, which you show me in the whole transaction, is really noble;—and what renders it more so, is the principle of it;—the workings of a parent’s love upon the truth and conviction of this very hypothesis, namely, That was your son called Judas,—the sordid and treacherous idea, so inseparable from the name, would have accompanied him through life like his shadow, and, in the end, made a miser and a rascal of him, in spite, Sir, of your example.
I never knew a man able to answer this argument.⸺But, indeed, to speak of my father as he was;—he was certainly irresistible;—both in his orations and disputations;—he was born an orator;—Θεοδίδακτος.—Persuasion hung upon his lips, and the elements of Logick and Rhetorick were so blended up in him,—and, withal, he had so shrewd a guess at the weaknesses and passions of his respondent,⸺that Nature might have stood up and said,—“This man is eloquent.”—In short, whether he was on the weak or the strong side of the question, ’twas hazardous in either case to attack him.—And yet, ’tis strange, he had never read Cicero, nor Quintilian de Oratore, nor Isocrates, nor Aristotle, nor Longinus amongst the antients;—nor Vossius, nor Skioppius, nor Ramus, nor Farnaby amongst the moderns;—and what is more astonishing, he had never in his whole life the least light or spark of subtlety struck into his mind, by one single lecture upon Crackenthorp or Burgersdicius, or any Dutch logician or commentator;—he knew not so much as in what the difference of an argument ad ignorantiam, and an argument ad hominem consisted; so that I well remember, when he went up along with me to enter my name at Jesus College in ****,—it was a matter of just wonder with my worthy tutor, and two or three fellows of that learned society,—that a man who knew not so much as the names of his tools, should be able to work after that fashion with them.
To work with them in the best manner he could, was what my father was, however, perpetually forced upon;⸺for he had a thousand little sceptical notions of the comick kind to defend⸺most of which notions, I verily believe, at first entered upon the footing of mere whims, and of a vive la Bagatelle; and as such he would make merry with them for half an hour or so, and having sharpened his wit upon them, dismiss them till another day.
I mention this, not only as matter of hypothesis or conjecture upon the progress and establishment of my father’s many odd opinions,—but as a warning to the learned reader against the indiscreet reception of such guests, who, after a free and undisturbed entrance, for some years, into our brains,—at length claim a kind of settlement there,⸺working sometimes like yeast;—but more generally after the manner of the gentle passion, beginning in jest,—but ending in downright earnest.
Whether this was the case of the singularity of my father’s notions—or that his judgment, at length, became the dupe of his wit;—or how far, in many of his notions, he might, though odd, be absolutely right;⸺the reader, as he comes at them, shall decide. All that I maintain here, is, that in this one, of the influence of christian names, however it gained footing, he was serious;—he was all uniformity;—he was systematical, and, like all systematick reasoners, he would move both heaven and earth, and twist and torture everything in nature, to support his hypothesis. In a word, I repeat it over again;—he was serious;—and, in consequence of it, he would lose all kind of patience whenever he saw people, especially of condition, who should have known better,⸺as careless and as indifferent about the name they imposed upon their child,—or more so, than in the choice of Ponto or Cupid for their puppy-dog.
This, he would say, look’d ill;—and had, moreover, this particular aggravation in it, viz., That when once a vile name was wrongfully or injudiciously given, ’twas not like the case of a man’s character, which, when wrong’d, might hereafter be cleared;⸺and, possibly, some time or other, if not in the man’s life, at least after his death,—be, somehow or other, set to rights with the world: But the injury of this, he would say, could never be undone;—nay, he doubted even whether an act of parliament could reach it:⸺He knew as well as you, that the legislature assumed a power over surnames;—but for very strong reasons, which he could give, it had never yet adventured, he would say, to go a step farther.
It was observable, that tho’ my father, in consequence of this opinion, had, as I have told you, the strongest likings and dislikings towards certain names;—that there were still numbers of names which hung so equally in the balance before him, that they were absolutely indifferent to him. Jack, Dick, and Tom were of this class: These my father called neutral names;—affirming of them, without a satire, That there had been as many knaves and fools, at least, as wise and good men, since the world began, who had indifferently borne them;—so that, like equal forces acting against each other in contrary directions, he thought they mutually destroyed each other’s effects; for which reason, he would often declare, He would not give a cherrystone to choose amongst them. Bob, which was my brother’s name, was another of these neutral kinds of christian names, which operated very little either way; and as my father happen’d to be at Epsom, when it was given him,—he would ofttimes thank Heaven it was no worse. Andrew was something like a negative quantity in Algebra with him;—’twas worse, he said, than nothing.—William stood pretty high:⸺Numps again was low with him:—and Nick, he said, was the Devil.
But, of all the names in the universe, he had the most unconquerable aversion for Tristram;—he had the lowest and most contemptible opinion of it of anything in the world,—thinking it could possibly produce nothing in rerum naturâ, but what was extremely mean and pitiful: So that in the midst of a dispute on the subject, in which, by the bye, he was frequently involved,⸺he would sometimes break off in a sudden and spirited Epiphonema, or rather Erotesis, raised a third, and sometimes a full fifth above the key of the discourse,⸺and demand it categorically of his antagonist, Whether he would take upon him to say, he had ever remembered,⸺whether he had ever read,—or even whether he had ever heard tell of a man, called Tristram, performing anything great or worth recording?—No,—he would say,—Tristram!—The thing is impossible.
What could be wanting in my father but to have wrote a book to publish this notion of his to the world? Little boots it to the subtle speculatist to stand single in his opinions,—unless he gives them proper vent:—It was the identical thing which my father did:—for in the year sixteen, which was two years before I was born, he was at the pains of writing an express Dissertation simply upon the word Tristram,—showing the world, with great candour and modesty, the grounds of his great abhorrence to the name.
When this story is compared with the title-page,—Will not the gentle reader pity my father from his soul?—to see an orderly and well-disposed gentleman, who tho’ singular,—yet inoffensive in his notions,—so played upon in them by cross purposes;⸺to look down upon the stage, and see him baffled and overthrown in all his little systems and wishes; to behold a train of events perpetually falling out against him, and in so critical and cruel a way, as if they had purposedly been plann’d and pointed against him, merely to insult his speculations.⸺In a word, to behold such a one, in his old age, ill-fitted for troubles, ten times in a day suffering sorrow;—ten times in a day calling the child of his prayers Tristram!—Melancholy dissyllable of sound! which, to his ears, was unison to Nincompoop, and every name vituperative under heaven.⸺By his ashes! I swear it,—if ever malignant spirit took pleasure, or busied itself in traversing the purposes of mortal man,—it must have been here;—and if it was not necessary I should be born before I was christened, I would this moment give the reader an account of it.
⸻How could you, Madam, be so inattentive in reading the last chapter? I told you in it, That my mother was not a papist.⸺Papist! You told me no such thing, Sir.—Madam, I beg leave to repeat it over again, that I told you as plain, at least, as words, by direct inference, could tell you such a thing.—Then, Sir, I must have miss’d a page.—No, Madam,—you have not miss’d a word.⸺Then I was asleep, Sir.—My pride, Madam, cannot allow you that refuge.⸺Then, I declare, I know nothing at all about the matter.—That, Madam, is the very fault I lay to your charge; and as a punishment for it, I do insist upon it, that you immediately turn back, that is, as soon as you get to the next full stop, and read the whole chapter over again. I have imposed this penance upon the lady, neither out of wantonness nor cruelty; but from the best of motives; and therefore shall make her no apology for it when she returns back:—’Tis to rebuke a vicious taste, which has crept into thousands besides herself,—of reading straight forwards, more in quest of the adventures, than of the deep erudition and knowledge which a book of this cast, if read over as it should be, would infallibly impart with them⸺The mind should be accustomed to make wise reflections, and draw curious conclusions as it goes along; the habitude of which made Pliny the younger affirm, “That he never read a book so bad, but he drew some profit from it.” The stories of Greece and Rome, run over without this turn and application,—do less service, I affirm it, than the history of Parismus and Parismenus, or of the Seven Champions of England, read with it.
⸻But here comes my fair lady. Have you read over again the chapter, Madam, as I desired you?—You have: And did you not observe the passage, upon the second reading, which admits the inference?⸺Not a word like it! Then, Madam, be pleased to ponder well the last line but one of the chapter, where I take upon me to say, “It was necessary I should be born before I was christen’d.” Had my mother, Madam, been a Papist, that consequence did not follow.2
It is a terrible misfortune for this same book of mine, but more so to the Republick of letters;—so that my own is quite swallowed up in the consideration of it,—that this selfsame vile pruriency for fresh adventures in all things, has got so strongly into our habit and humour,—and so wholly intent are we upon satisfying the impatience of our concupiscence that way,—that nothing but the gross and more carnal parts of a composition will go down:—The subtle hints and sly communications of science fly off, like spirits upwards,⸺the heavy moral escapes downwards; and both the one and the other are as much lost to the world, as if they were still left in the bottom of the ink-horn.
I wish the male-reader has not pass’d by many a one, as quaint and curious as this one, in which the female-reader has been detected. I wish it may have its effects;—and that all good people, both male and female, from her example, may be taught to think as well as read.
Un Chirurgien Accoucheur, represente à Messieurs les Docteurs de Sorbonne, qu’il y a des cas, quoique très rares, où une mere ne sçauroit accoucher, & même où l’enfant est tellement renfermé dans le sein de sa mere, qu’il ne fait parôitre aucune partie de son corps, ce qui seroit un cas, suivant les Rituels, de lui conférer, du moins sous condition, le baptême. Le Chirurgien, qui consulte, prétend, par le moyen d’une petite canulle, de pouvoir baptiser immediatement l’enfant, sans faire aucun tort à la mere.⸺Il demand si ce moyen, qu’il vient de proposer, est permis & légitime, & s’il peut s’en servir dans les cas qu’il vient d’exposer.
Le Conseil estime, que la question proposée souffre de grandes difficultés. Les Théologiens posent d’un côté pour principe, que le baptême, qui est une naissance spirituelle, suppose une premiere naissance; il faut être né dans le monde, pour renaître en Jesus Christ, comme ils l’enseignent. S. Thomas, 3 part, quæst. 88, artic. II, suit cette doctrine comme une verité constante; l’on ne peut, dit ce S. Docteur, baptiser les enfans qui sont renfermés dans le sein de leurs meres, & S. Thomas est fondé sur ce, que les enfans ne sont point nés, & ne peuvent être comptés parmi les autres hommes; d’où il conclud, qu’ils ne peuvent être l’objet d’une action extérieure, pour reçevoir par leur ministére, les sacremens nécessaires au salut: Pueri in maternis uteris existentes nondum prodierunt in lucem ut cum aliis hominibus vitam ducant; unde non possunt subjici actioni humanæ, ut per eorum ministerium sacramenta recipiant ad salutem. Les rituels ordonnent dans la pratique ce que les théologiens ont établi sur les mêmes matiéres, & ils deffendent tous d’une maniére uniforme, de baptiser les enfans qui sont renfermés dans le sein de leurs meres, s’ils ne font paroître quelque partie de leurs corps. Le concours des théologiens, & des rituels, qui sont les régles des diocéses, paroit former une autorité qui termine la question presente; cependant le conseil de conscience considerant d’un côté, que le raisonnement des théologiens est uniquement fondé sur une raison de convenance, & que la deffense des rituels suppose que l’on ne peut baptiser immediatement les enfans ainsi renfermés dans le sein de leurs meres, ce qui est contre la supposition presente; & d’un autre côté, considerant que les mêmes théologiens enseignent, que l’on peut risquer les sacremens que Jesus Christ a établis comme des moyens faciles, mais nécessaires pour sanctifier les hommes; & d’ailleurs estimant, que les enfans renfermés dans le sein de leurs meres, pourroient être capables de salut, parcequ’ils sont capables de damnation;—pour ces considerations, & en egard à l’exposé, suivant lequel on assure avoir trouvé un moyen certain de baptiser ces enfans ainsi renfermés, sans faire aucun tort à la mere, le Conseil estime que l’on pourroit se servir du moyen proposé, dans la confiance qu’il a, que Dieu n’a point laissé ces sortes d’enfans sans aucuns secours, & supposant, comme il est exposé, que le moyen dont il s’agit est propre à leur procurer le baptême; cependant comme il s’agiroit, en autorisant la pratique proposée, de changer une regie universellement établie, le Conseil croit que celui qui consulte doit s’addresser à son evêque, & à qui il appartient de juger de l’utilité, & du danger du moyen proposé, & comme, sous le bon plaisir de l’evêque, le Conseil estime qu’il faudroit recourir au Pape, qui a le droit d’expliquer les régles de l’eglise, & d’y déroger dans le cas, ou la loi ne sçauroit obliger, quelque sage & quelque utile que paroisse la maniére de baptiser dont il s’agit, le Conseil ne pourroit l’approuver sans le concours de ces deux autorités. On conseile au moins à celui qui consulte, de s’addresser à son evêque, & de lui faire part de la presente décision, afin que, si le prelat entre dans les raisons sur lesquelles les docteurs soussignés s’appuyent, il puisse être autorisé dans le cas de nécessité, ou il risqueroit trop d’attendre que la permission fût demandée & accordée d’employer le moyen qu’il propose si avantageux au salut de l’enfant. Au reste, le Conseil, en estimant que l’on pourroit s’en servir, croit cependant, que si les enfans dont il s’agit, venoient au monde, contre l’esperance de ceux qui se seroient servis du même moyen, il seroit nécessaire de les baptiser sous condition; & en cela le Conseil se conforme à tous les rituels, qui en autorisant le baptême d’un enfant qui fait paroître quelque partie de son corps, enjoignent néantmoins, & ordonnent de le baptiser sous condition, s’il vient heureusement au monde.
Mr. Tristram Shandy’s compliments to Messrs. Le Moyne, De Romigny, and De Marcilly; hopes they all rested well the night after so tiresome a consultation.—He begs to know, whether after the ceremony of marriage, and before that of consummation, the baptizing all the Homunculi at once, slapdash, by injection, would not be a shorter and safer cut still; on condition, as above, That if the Homunculi do well, and come safe into the world after this, that each and every of them shall be baptized again (sous condition)⸺And provided, in the second place, That the thing can be done, which Mr. Shandy apprehends it may, par le moyen d’une petite canulle, and sans faire aucun tort au père.
⸺I wonder what’s all that noise, and running backwards and forwards for, above stairs, quoth my father, addressing himself, after an hour and a half’s silence, to my uncle Toby,⸺who, you must know, was sitting on the opposite side of the fire, smoking his social pipe all the time, in mute contemplation of a new pair of black plush-breeches which he had got on:—What can they be doing, brother?—quoth my father,—we can scarce hear ourselves talk.
I think, replied my uncle Toby, taking his pipe from his mouth, and striking the head of it two or three times upon the nail of his left thumb, as he began his sentence,⸺I think, says he:⸺But to enter rightly into my uncle Toby’s sentiments upon this matter, you must be made to enter first a little into his character, the outlines of which I shall just give you, and then the dialogue between him and my father will go on as well again.
Pray what was that man’s name,—for I write in such a hurry, I have no time to recollect or look for it,⸺who first made the observation, “That there was great inconstancy in our air and climate?” Whoever he was, ’twas a just and good observation in him.—But the corollary drawn from it, namely, “That it is this which has furnished us with such a variety of odd and whimsical characters;”—that was not his;—it was found out by another man, at least a century and a half after him: Then again,—that this copious storehouse of original materials, is the true and natural cause that our Comedies are so much better than those of France, or any others that either have, or can be wrote upon the Continent:⸺that discovery was not fully made till about the middle of King William’s reign,—when the great Dryden, in writing one of his long prefaces, (if I mistake not) most fortunately hit upon it. Indeed toward the latter end of Queen Anne, the great Addison began to patronize the notion, and more fully explained it to the world in one or two of his Spectators;—but the discovery was not his.—Then, fourthly and lastly, that this strange irregularity in our climate, producing so strange an irregularity in our characters,⸺doth thereby, in some sort, make us amends, by giving us somewhat to make us merry with when the weather will not suffer us to go out of doors,—that observation is my own;—and was struck out by me this very rainy day, March 26, 1759, and betwixt the hours of nine and ten in the morning.
Thus—thus, my fellow-labourers and associates in this great harvest of our learning, now ripening before our eyes; thus it is, by slow steps of casual increase, that our knowledge physical, metaphysical, physiological, polemical, nautical, mathematical, ænigmatical, technical, biographical, romantical, chemical, and obstetrical, with fifty other branches of it, (most of ’em ending as these do, in ical) have for these two last centuries and more, gradually been creeping upwards towards that Ἀκμὴ of their perfections, from which, if we may form a conjecture from the advances of these last seven years, we cannot possibly be far off.
When that happens, it is to be hoped, it will put an end to all kind of writings whatsoever;—the want of all kind of writing will put an end to all kind of reading;—and that in time, As war begets poverty; poverty peace,⸺must, in course, put an end to all kind of knowledge,—and then⸺we shall have all to begin over again; or, in other words, be exactly where we started.
⸻Happy! thrice happy times! I only wish that the æra of my begetting, as well as the mode and manner of it, had been a little alter’d,⸺or that it could have been put off, with any convenience to my father or mother, for some twenty or five-and-twenty years longer, when a man in the literary world might have stood some chance.⸺
But I forget my uncle Toby, whom all this while we have left knocking the ashes out of his tobacco-pipe.
His humour was of that particular species, which does honour to our atmosphere; and I should have made no scruple of ranking him amongst one of the first-rate productions of it, had not there appeared too many strong lines in it of a family-likeness, which showed that he derived the singularity of his temper more from blood, than either wind or water, or any modifications or combinations of them whatever: And I have, therefore, ofttimes wondered, that my father, tho’ I believe he had his reasons for it, upon his observing some tokens of eccentricity, in my course, when I was a boy,—should never once endeavour to account for them in this way: for all the Shandy Family were of an original character throughout:⸺I mean the males,—the females had no character at all,—except, indeed, my great aunt Dinah, who, about sixty years ago, was married and got with child by the coachman, for which my father, according to his hypothesis of christian names, would often say, She might thank her godfathers and godmothers.
It will seem very strange,⸺and I would as soon think of dropping a riddle in the reader’s way, which is not my interest to do, as set him upon guessing how it could come to pass, that an event of this kind, so many years after it had happened, should be reserved for the interruption of the peace and unity, which otherwise so cordially subsisted, between my father and my uncle Toby. One would have thought, that the whole force of the misfortune should have spent and wasted itself in the family at first,—as is generally the case.—But nothing ever wrought with our family after the ordinary way. Possibly at the very time this happened, it might have something else to afflict it; and as afflictions are sent down for our good, and that as this had never done the Shandy Family any good at all, it might lie waiting till apt times and circumstances should give it an opportunity to discharge its office.⸺Observe, I determine nothing upon this.⸺My way is ever to point out to the curious, different tracts of investigation, to come at the first springs of the events I tell;—not with a pedantic Fescue,—or in the decisive manner of Tacitus, who outwits himself and his reader;—but with the officious humility of a heart devoted to the assistance merely of the inquisitive;—to them I write,⸺and by them I shall be read,⸺if any such reading as this could be supposed to hold out so long,—to the very end of the world.
Why this cause of sorrow, therefore, was thus reserved for my father and uncle, is undetermined by me. But how and in what direction it exerted itself so as to become the cause of dissatisfaction between them, after it began to operate, is what I am able to explain with great exactness, and is as follows:
My uncle Toby Shandy, Madam, was a gentleman, who, with the virtues which usually constitute the character of a man of honour and rectitude,⸺possessed one in a very eminent degree, which is seldom or never put into the catalogue; and that was a most extreme and unparallel’d modesty of nature;⸺though I correct the word nature, for this reason, that I may not prejudge a point which must shortly come to a hearing, and that is, Whether this modesty of his was natural or acquir’d.⸺Whichever way my uncle Toby came by it, ’twas nevertheless modesty in the truest sense of it; and that is, Madam, not in regard to words, for he was so unhappy as to have very little choice in them,—but to things;⸺and this kind of modesty so possessed him, and it arose to such a height in him, as almost to equal, if such a thing could be, even the modesty of a woman: That female nicety, Madam, and inward cleanliness of mind and fancy, in your sex, which makes you so much the awe of ours.
You will imagine, Madam, that my uncle Toby had contracted all this from this very source;—that he had spent a great part of his time in converse with your sex; and that from a thorough knowledge of you, and the force of imitation which such fair examples render irresistible, he had acquired this amiable turn of mind.
I wish I could say so,—for unless it was with his sister-in-law, my father’s wife and my mother⸺my uncle Toby scarce exchanged three words with the sex in as many years;—no, he got it, Madam, by a blow.⸺A blow!—Yes, Madam, it was owing to a blow from a stone, broke off by a ball from the parapet of a horn-work at the siege of Namur, which struck full upon my uncle Toby’s groin.—Which way could that effect it? The story of that, Madam, is long and interesting;—but it would be running my history all upon heaps to give it you here.⸺’Tis for an episode hereafter; and every circumstance relating to it, in its proper place, shall be faithfully laid before you:—’Till then, it is not in my power to give farther light into this matter, or say more than what I have said already,⸺That my uncle Toby was a gentleman of unparallel’d modesty, which happening to be somewhat subtilized and rarified by the constant heat of a little family pride,⸺they both so wrought together within him, that he could never bear to hear the affair of my aunt Dinah touch’d upon, but with the greatest emotion.⸺The least hint of it was enough to make the blood fly into his face;—but when my father enlarged upon the story in mixed companies, which the illustration of his hypothesis frequently obliged him to do,—the unfortunate blight of one of the fairest branches of the family, would set my uncle Toby’s honour and modesty o’bleeding; and he would often take my father aside, in the greatest concern imaginable, to expostulate and tell him, he would give him anything in the world, only to let the story rest.
My father, I believe, had the truest love and tenderness for my uncle Toby, that ever one brother bore towards another, and would have done anything in nature, which one brother in reason could have desir’d of another, to have made my uncle Toby’s heart easy in this, or any other point. But this lay out of his power.
⸺My father, as I told you, was a philosopher in grain,—speculative,—systematical;—and my aunt Dinah’s affair was a matter of as much consequence to him, as the retrogradation of the planets to Copernicus:—The backslidings of Venus in her orbit fortified the Copernican system, called so after his name; and the backslidings of my aunt Dinah in her orbit, did the same service in establishing my father’s system, which, I trust, will forever hereafter be called the Shandean System, after this.
In any other family dishonour, my father, I believe, had as nice a sense of shame as any man whatever;⸺and neither he, nor, I dare say, Copernicus, would have divulged the affair in either case, or have taken the least notice of it to the world, but for the obligations they owed, as they thought, to truth.—Amicus Plato, my father would say, construing the words to my uncle Toby, as he went along, Amicus Plato; that is, Dinah was my aunt;—sed magis amica veritas⸺but Truth is my sister.
This contrariety of humours betwixt my father and my uncle, was the source of many a fraternal squabble. The one could not bear to hear the tale of family disgrace recorded,⸺and the other would scarce ever let a day pass to an end without some hint at it.
For God’s sake, my uncle Toby would cry,⸺and for my sake, and for all our sakes, my dear brother Shandy,—do let this story of our aunt’s and her ashes sleep in peace;⸺how can you,⸺how can you have so little feeling and compassion for the character of our family?⸺What is the character of a family to an hypothesis? my father would reply.⸺Nay, if you come to that—what is the life of a family?⸺The life of a family!—my uncle Toby would say, throwing himself back in his arm chair, and lifting up his hands, his eyes, and one leg.⸺Yes, the life,⸺my father would say, maintaining his point. How many thousands of ’em are there every year that come cast away, (in all civilized countries at least)⸺and considered as nothing but common air, in competition of an hypothesis. In my plain sense of things, my uncle Toby would answer,⸺every such instance is downright Murder, let who will commit it.⸺There lies your mistake, my father would reply;⸺for, in Foro Scientiæ there is no such thing as Murder,⸺’tis only Death, brother.
My uncle Toby would never offer to answer this by any other kind of argument, than that of whistling half a dozen bars of Lillabullero.⸺You must know it was the usual channel thro’ which his passions got vent, when anything shocked or surprised him:⸺but especially when anything, which he deem’d very absurd, was offered.
As not one of our logical writers, nor any of the commentators upon them, that I remember, have thought proper to give a name to this particular species of argument,—I here take the liberty to do it myself, for two reasons. First, That, in order to prevent all confusion in disputes, it may stand as much distinguished forever, from every other species of argument⸻as the Argumentum ad Verecundiam, ex Absurdo, ex Fortiori, or any other argument whatsoever:⸺And, secondly, That it may be said by my children’s children, when my head is laid to rest,⸺that their learn’d grandfather’s head had been busied to as much purpose once, as other people’s;—That he had invented a name,—and generously thrown it into the Treasury of the Ars Logica, for one of the most unanswerable arguments in the whole science. And, if the end of disputation is more to silence than convince,—they may add, if they please, to one of the best arguments too.
I do therefore, by these presents, strictly order and command, That it be known and distinguished by the name and title of the Argumentum Fistulatorium, and no other;—and that it rank hereafter with the Argumentum Baculinum and the Argumentum ad Crumenam, and forever hereafter be treated of in the same chapter.
As for the Argumentum Tripodium, which is never used but by the woman against the man;—and the Argumentum ad Rem, which, contrarywise, is made use of by the man only against the woman;—As these two are enough in conscience for one lecture;⸺and, moreover, as the one is the best answer to the other,—let them likewise be kept apart, and be treated of in a place by themselves.
The learned Bishop Hall, I mean the famous Dr. Joseph Hall, who was Bishop of Exeter in King James the First’s reign, tells us in one of his Decads, at the end of his divine art of meditation, imprinted at London, in the year 1610, by John Beal, dwelling in Aldersgate-street, “That it is an abominable thing for a man to commend himself;”⸺and I really think it is so.
And yet, on the other hand, when a thing is executed in a masterly kind of a fashion, which thing is not likely to be found out;—I think it is full as abominable, that a man should lose the honour of it, and go out of the world with the conceit of it rotting in his head.
This is precisely my situation.
For in this long digression which I was accidentally led into, as in all my digressions (one only excepted) there is a masterstroke of digressive skill, the merit of which has all along, I fear, been overlooked by my reader,—not for want of penetration in him,—but because ’tis an excellence seldom looked for, or expected indeed, in a digression;—and it is this: That tho’ my digressions are all fair, as you observe,—and that I fly off from what I am about, as far, and as often too, as any writer in Great Britain; yet I constantly take care to order affairs so that my main business does not stand still in my absence.
I was just going, for example, to have given you the great outlines of my uncle Toby’s most whimsical character;—when my aunt Dinah and the coachman came across us, and led us a vagary some millions of miles into the very heart of the planetary system: Notwithstanding all this, you perceive that the drawing of my uncle Toby’s character went on gently all the time;—not the great contours of it,—that was impossible,—but some familiar strokes and faint designations of it, were here and there touch’d on, as we went along, so that you are much better acquainted with my uncle Toby now than you was before.
By this contrivance the machinery of my work is of a species by itself; two contrary motions are introduced into it, and reconciled, which were thought to be at variance with each other. In a word, my work is digressive, and it is progressive too,—and at the same time.
This, Sir, is a very different story from that of the earth’s moving round her axis, in her diurnal rotation, with her progress in her elliptick orbit which brings about the year, and constitutes that variety and vicissitude of seasons we enjoy;—though I own it suggested the thought,—as I believe the greatest of our boasted improvements and discoveries have come from such trifling hints.
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;⸺they are the life, the soul of reading!—take them out of this book, for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them;—one cold eternal winter would reign in every page of it; restore them to the writer;—he steps forth like a bridegroom,—bids All-hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to fail.
All the dexterity is in the good cookery and management of them, so as to be not only for the advantage of the reader, but also of the author, whose distress, in this matter, is truly pitiable: For, if he begins a digression,—from that moment, I observe, his whole work stands stock still;—and if he goes on with his main work,—then there is an end of his digression.
⸺This is vile work.—For which reason, from the beginning of this, you see, I have constructed the main work and the adventitious parts of it with such intersections, and have so complicated and involved the digressive and progressive movements, one wheel within another, that the whole machine, in general, has been kept a-going;—and, what’s more, it shall be kept a-going these forty years, if it pleases the fountain of health to bless me so long with life and good spirits.
I have a strong propensity in me to begin this chapter very nonsensically, and I will not baulk my fancy.—Accordingly I set off thus:
If the fixture of Momus’s glass in the human breast, according to the proposed emendation of that arch-critick, had taken place,⸺first, This foolish consequence would certainly have followed,—That the very wisest and very gravest of us all, in one coin or other, must have paid window-money every day of our lives.
And, secondly, That had the said glass been there set up, nothing more would have been wanting, in order to have taken a man’s character, but to have taken a chair and gone softly, as you would to a dioptrical beehive, and look’d in,—view’d the soul stark naked;—observed all her motions,—her machinations;—traced all her maggots from their first engendering to their crawling forth;—watched her loose in her frisks, her gambols, her capricios; and after some notice of her more solemn deportment, consequent upon such frisks, etc.⸺then taken your pen and ink and set down nothing but what you had seen, and could have sworn to:—But this is an advantage not to be had by the biographer in this planet;—in the planet Mercury (belike) it may be so, if not better still for him;⸺for there the intense heat of the country, which is proved by computators, from its vicinity to the sun, to be more than equal to that of red-hot iron,—must, I think, long ago have vitrified the bodies of the inhabitants, (as the efficient cause) to suit them for the climate (which is the final cause); so that betwixt them both, all the tenements of their souls, from top to bottom, may be nothing else, for aught the soundest philosophy can show to the contrary, but one fine transparent body of clear glass (bating the umbilical knot)—so that, till the inhabitants grow old and tolerably wrinkled, whereby the rays of light, in passing through them, become so monstrously refracted,⸺or return reflected from their surfaces in such transverse lines to the eye, that a man cannot be seen through;—his soul might as well, unless for mere ceremony, or the trifling advantage which the umbilical point gave her,—might, upon all other accounts, I say, as well play the fool out o’doors as in her own house.
But this, as I said above, is not the case of the inhabitants of this earth;—our minds shine not through the body, but are wrapt up here in a dark covering of uncrystalized flesh and blood; so that, if we would come to the specific characters of them, we must go some other way to work.
Many, in good truth, are the ways, which human wit has been forced to take, to do this thing with exactness.
Some, for instance, draw all their characters with wind-instruments.—Virgil takes notice of that way in the affair of Dido and Æneas;—but it is as fallacious as the breath of fame;—and, moreover, bespeaks a narrow genius. I am not ignorant that the Italians pretend to a mathematical exactness in their designations of one particular sort of character among them, from the forte or piano of a certain wind-instrument they use,—which they say is infallible.—I dare not mention the name of the instrument in this place;—’tis sufficient we have it amongst us,—but never think of making a drawing by it;—this is ænigmatical, and intended to be so, at least ad populum:—And therefore, I beg, Madam, when you come here, that you read on as fast as you can, and never stop to make any inquiry about it.
There are others again, who will draw a man’s character from no other helps in the world, but merely from his evacuations;—but this often gives a very incorrect outline,—unless, indeed, you take a sketch of his repletions too; and by correcting one drawing from the other, compound one good figure out of them both.
I should have no objection to this method, but that I think it must smell too strong of the lamp,—and be render’d still more operose, by forcing you to have an eye to the rest of his Non-naturals.⸺Why the most natural actions of a man’s life should be called his Non-naturals,—is another question.
There are others, fourthly, who disdain every one of these expedients;—not from any fertility of their own, but from the various ways of doing it, which they have borrowed from the honourable devices which the Pentagraphic Brethren4 of the brush have shown in taking copies.—These, you must know, are your great historians.
One of these you will see drawing a full-length character against the light;—that’s illiberal,—dishonest,—and hard upon the character of the man who sits.
Others, to mend the matter, will make a drawing of you in the Camera;—that is most unfair of all,—because, there you are sure to be represented in some of your most ridiculous attitudes.
To avoid all and every one of these errors in giving you my uncle Toby’s character, I am determined to draw it by no mechanical help whatever;⸺nor shall my pencil be guided by any one wind-instrument which ever was blown upon, either on this, or on the other side of the Alps;—nor will I consider either his repletions or his discharges,—or touch upon his Non-naturals—but, in a word, I will draw my uncle Toby’s character from his Hobbyhorse.
If I was not morally sure that the reader must be out of all patience for my uncle Toby’s character,⸺I would here previously have convinced him that there is no instrument so fit to draw such a thing with, as that which I have pitch’d upon.
A man and his Hobbyhorse, tho’ I cannot say that they act and react exactly after the same manner in which the soul and body do upon each other: Yet doubtless there is a communication between them of some kind; and my opinion rather is, that there is something in it more of the manner of electrified bodies,—and that, by means of the heated parts of the rider, which come immediately into contact with the back of the Hobbyhorse,—by long journeys and much friction, it so happens, that the body of the rider is at length fill’d as full of Hobbyhorsical matter as it can hold;⸺so that if you are able to give but a clear description of the nature of the one, you may form a pretty exact notion of the genius and character of the other.
Now the Hobbyhorse which my uncle Toby always rode upon, was in my opinion a Hobbyhorse well worth giving a description of, if it was only upon the score of his great singularity;—for you might have travelled from York to Dover,—from Dover to Penzance in Cornwall, and from Penzance to York back again, and not have seen such another upon the road; or if you had seen such a one, whatever haste you had been in, you must infallibly have stopp’d to have taken a view of him. Indeed, the gait and figure of him was so strange, and so utterly unlike was he, from his head to his tail, to any one of the whole species, that it was now and then made a matter of dispute,⸺whether he was really a Hobbyhorse or no: but as the Philosopher would use no other argument to the Sceptic, who disputed with him against the reality of motion, save that of rising up upon his legs, and walking across the room;—so would my uncle Toby use no other argument to prove his Hobbyhorse was a Hobbyhorse indeed, but by getting upon his back and riding him about;—leaving the world, after that, to determine the point as it thought fit.
In good truth, my uncle Toby mounted him with so much pleasure, and he carried my uncle Toby so well,⸺that he troubled his head very little with what the world either said or thought about it.
It is now high time, however, that I give you a description of him:—But to go on regularly, I only beg you will give me leave to acquaint you first, how my uncle Toby came by him.
The wound in my uncle Toby’s groin, which he received at the siege of Namur, rendering him unfit for the service, it was thought expedient he should return to England, in order, if possible, to be set to rights.
He was four years totally confined,—part of it to his bed, and all of it to his room: and in the course of his cure, which was all that time in hand, suffer’d unspeakable miseries,—owing to a succession of exfoliations from the os pubis, and the outward edge of that part of the coxendix called the os illium,⸺both which bones were dismally crush’d, as much by the irregularity of the stone, which I told you was broke off the parapet,—as by its size,—(tho’ it was pretty large) which inclined the surgeon all along to think, that the great injury which it had done my uncle Toby’s groin, was more owing to the gravity of the stone itself, than to the projectile force of it,—which he would often tell him was a great happiness.
My father at that time was just beginning business in London, and had taken a house;—and as the truest friendship and cordiality subsisted between the two brothers,—and that my father thought my uncle Toby could no where be so well nursed and taken care of as in his own house,⸺he assign’d him the very best apartment in it.—And what was a much more sincere mark of his affection still, he would never suffer a friend or an acquaintance to step into the house on any occasion, but he would take him by the hand, and lead him upstairs to see his brother Toby, and chat an hour by his bedside.
The history of a soldier’s wound beguiles the pain of it;—my uncle’s visitors at least thought so, and in their daily calls upon him, from the courtesy arising out of that belief, they would frequently turn the discourse to that subject,—and from that subject the discourse would generally roll on to the siege itself.
These conversations were infinitely kind; and my uncle Toby received great relief from them, and would have received much more, but that they brought him into some unforeseen perplexities, which, for three months together, retarded his cure greatly; and if he had not hit upon an expedient to extricate himself out of them, I verily believe they would have laid him in his grave.
What these perplexities of my uncle Toby were,⸺’tis impossible for you to guess;—if you could,—I should blush; not as a relation,—not as a man,—nor even as a woman,—but I should blush as an author; inasmuch as I set no small store by myself upon this very account, that my reader has never yet been able to guess at anything. And in this, Sir, I am of so nice and singular a humour, that if I thought you was able to form the least judgment or probable conjecture to yourself, of what was to come in the next page,—I would tear it out of my book.
I have begun a new book, on purpose that I might have room enough to explain the nature of the perplexities in which my uncle Toby was involved, from the many discourses and interrogations about the siege of Namur, where he received his wound.
I must remind the reader, in case he has read the history of King William’s wars,—but if he has not,—I then inform him, that one of the most memorable attacks in that siege, was that which was made by the English and Dutch upon the point of the advanced counterscarp, between the gate of St. Nicolas, which inclosed the great sluice or water-stop, where the English were terribly exposed to the shot of the counter-guard and demi-bastion of St. Roch. The issue of which hot dispute, in three words, was this; That the Dutch lodged themselves upon the counter-guard,—and that the English made themselves masters of the covered-way before St. Nicolas-gate, notwithstanding the gallantry of the French officers, who exposed themselves upon the glacis sword in hand.
As this was the principal attack of which my uncle Toby was an eyewitness at Namur,⸺the army of the besiegers being cut off, by the confluence of the Maes and Sambre, from seeing much of each other’s operations,⸺my uncle Toby was generally more eloquent and particular in his account of it; and the many perplexities he was in, arose out of the almost insurmountable difficulties he found in telling his story intelligibly, and giving such clear ideas of the differences and distinctions between the scarp and counter-scarp,—the glacis and covered-way,—the half-moon and ravelin,—as to make his company fully comprehend where and what he was about.
Writers themselves are too apt to confound these terms; so that you will the less wonder, if in his endeavours to explain them, and in opposition to many misconceptions, that my uncle Toby did ofttimes puzzle his visitors, and sometimes himself too.
To speak the truth, unless the company my father led upstairs were tolerably clearheaded, or my uncle Toby was in one of his explanatory moods, ’twas a difficult thing, do what he could, to keep the discourse free from obscurity.
What rendered the account of this affair the more intricate to my uncle Toby, was this,—that in the attack of the counterscarp, before the gate of St. Nicolas, extending itself from the bank of the Maes, quite up to the great water-stop,—the ground was cut and cross cut with such a multitude of dykes, drains, rivulets, and sluices, on all sides,—and he would get so sadly bewildered, and set fast amongst them, that frequently he could neither get backwards or forwards to save his life; and was ofttimes obliged to give up the attack upon that very account only.
These perplexing rebuffs gave my uncle Toby Shandy more perturbations than you would imagine: and as my father’s kindness to him was continually dragging up fresh friends and fresh enquirers,⸺he had but a very uneasy task of it.
No doubt my uncle Toby had great command of himself, could guard appearances, I believe, as well as most men;—yet anyone may imagine, that when he could not retreat out of the ravelin without getting into the half-moon, or get out of the covered-way without falling down the counterscarp, nor cross the dyke without danger of slipping into the ditch, but that he must have fretted and fumed inwardly:—He did so; and the little and hourly vexations, which may seem trifling and of no account to the man who has not read Hippocrates, yet, whoever has read Hippocrates, or Dr. James Mackenzie, and has considered well the effects which the passions and affections of the mind have upon the digestion—(Why not of a wound as well as of a dinner?)—may easily conceive what sharp paroxysms and exacerbations of his wound my uncle Toby must have undergone upon that score only.
—My uncle Toby could not philosophize upon it;—’twas enough he felt it was so,—and having sustained the pain and sorrows of it for three months together, he was resolved some way or other to extricate himself.
He was one morning lying upon his back in his bed, the anguish and nature of the wound upon his groin suffering him to lie in no other position, when a thought came into his head, that if he could purchase such a thing, and have it pasted down upon a board, as a large map of the fortification of the town and citadel of Namur, with its environs, it might be a means of giving him ease.—I take notice of his desire to have the environs along with the town and citadel, for this reason,—because my uncle Toby’s wound was got in one of the traverses, about thirty toises from the returning angle of the trench, opposite to the salient angle of the demi-bastion of St. Roch:⸺so that he was pretty confident he could stick a pin upon the identical spot of ground where he was standing on when the stone struck him.
All this succeeded to his wishes, and not only freed him from a world of sad explanations, but, in the end, it proved the happy means, as you will read, of procuring my uncle Toby his Hobbyhorse.
There is nothing so foolish, when you are at the expense of making an entertainment of this kind, as to order things so badly, as to let your criticks and gentry of refined taste run it down: Nor is there anything so likely to make them do it, as that of leaving them out of the party, or, what is full as offensive, of bestowing your attention upon the rest of your guests in so particular a way, as if there was no such thing as a critick (by occupation) at table.
⸺I guard against both; for, in the first place, I have left half a dozen places purposely open for them;—and in the next place, I pay them all court.—Gentlemen, I kiss your hands, I protest no company could give me half the pleasure,—by my soul I am glad to see you⸻I beg only you will make no strangers of yourselves, but sit down without any ceremony, and fall on heartily.
I said I had left six places, and I was upon the point of carrying my complaisance so far, as to have left a seventh open for them,—and in this very spot I stand on; but being told by a Critick (tho’ not by occupation,—but by nature) that I had acquitted myself well enough, I shall fill it up directly, hoping, in the meantime, that I shall be able to make a great deal of more room next year.
⸻How, in the name of wonder! could your uncle Toby, who, it seems, was a military man, and whom you have represented as no fool,⸺be at the same time such a confused, pudding-headed, muddleheaded, fellow, as—Go look.
So, Sir Critick, I could have replied; but I scorn it.—’Tis language unurbane,—and only befitting the man who cannot give clear and satisfactory accounts of things, or dive deep enough into the first causes of human ignorance and confusion. It is moreover the reply valiant—and therefore I reject it: for tho’ it might have suited my uncle Toby’s character as a soldier excellently well, and had he not accustomed himself, in such attacks, to whistle the Lillabullero, as he wanted no courage, ’tis the very answer he would have given; yet it would by no means have done for me. You see as plain as can be, that I write as a man of erudition;—that even my similies, my allusions, my illustrations, my metaphors, are erudite,—and that I must sustain my character properly, and contrast it properly too,—else what would become of me? Why, Sir, I should be undone;—at this very moment that I am going here to fill up one place against a critick,—I should have made an opening for a couple.
⸺Therefore I answer thus:
Pray, Sir, in all the reading which you have ever read, did you ever read such a book as Locke’s Essay upon the Human Understanding?⸺Don’t answer me rashly—because many, I know, quote the book, who have not read it—and many have read it who understand it not:—If either of these is your case, as I write to instruct, I will tell you in three words what the book is.—It is a history.—A history! of who? what? where? when? Don’t hurry yourself⸺It is a history-book, Sir (which may possibly recommend it to the world) of what passes in a man’s own mind; and if you will say so much of the book, and no more, believe me, you will cut no contemptible figure in a metaphysick circle.
But this by the way.
Now if you will venture to go along with me, and look down into the bottom of this matter, it will be found that the cause of obscurity and confusion, in the mind of a man, is threefold.
Dull organs, dear Sir, in the first place. Secondly, slight and transient impressions made by the objects, when the said organs are not dull. And thirdly, a memory like unto a sieve, not able to retain what it has received.—Call down Dolly your chambermaid, and I will give you my cap and bell along with it, if I make not this matter so plain that Dolly herself should understand it as well as Malbranch.⸺When Dolly has indited her epistle to Robin, and has thrust her arm into the bottom of her pocket hanging by her right side;—take that opportunity to recollect that the organs and faculties of perception can, by nothing in this world, be so aptly typified and explained as by that one thing which Dolly’s hand is in search of.—Your organs are not so dull that I should inform you—’tis an inch, Sir, of red seal-wax.
When this is melted, and dropped upon the letter, if Dolly fumbles too long for her thimble, till the wax is over hardened, it will not receive the mark of her thimble from the usual impulse which was wont to imprint it. Very well. If Dolly’s wax, for want of better, is beeswax, or of a temper too soft,—tho’ it may receive,—it will not hold the impression, how hard soever Dolly thrusts against it; and last of all, supposing the wax good, and eke the thimble, but applied thereto in careless haste, as her Mistress rings the bell;⸺in any one of these three cases the print left by the thimble will be as unlike the prototype as a brass-jack.
Now you must understand that not one of these was the true cause of the confusion in my uncle Toby’s discourse; and it is for that very reason I enlarge upon them so long, after the manner of great physiologists—to show the world, what it did not arise from.
What it did arise from, I have hinted above, and a fertile source of obscurity it is,—and ever will be,—and that is the unsteady uses of words, which have perplexed the clearest and most exalted understandings.
It is ten to one (at Arthur’s) whether you have ever read the literary histories of past ages;—if you have, what terrible battles, ’yclept logomachies, have they occasioned and perpetuated with so much gall and ink-shed,—that a good-natured man cannot read the accounts of them without tears in his eyes.
Gentle critick! when thou hast weighed all this, and considered within thyself how much of thy own knowledge, discourse, and conversation has been pestered and disordered at one time or other, by this, and this only:—What a pudder and racket in Councils about οὐσία and ὑπόστασις; and in the Schools of the learned about power and about spirit;—about essences, and about quintessences;⸺about substances, and about space.⸺What confusion in greater Theatres from words of little meaning, and as indeterminate a sense! when thou considerest this, thou wilt not wonder at my uncle Toby’s perplexities,—thou wilt drop a tear of pity upon his scarp and his counterscarp;—his glacis and his covered way;—his ravelin and his half-moon: ’Twas not by ideas,—by Heaven; his life was put in jeopardy by words.
When my uncle Toby got his map of Namur to his mind, he began immediately to apply himself, and with the utmost diligence, to the study of it; for nothing being of more importance to him than his recovery, and his recovery depending, as you have read, upon the passions and affections of his mind, it behoved him to take the nicest care to make himself so far master of his subject, as to be able to talk upon it without emotion.
In a fortnight’s close and painful application, which, by the bye, did my uncle Toby’s wound, upon his groin, no good,—he was enabled, by the help of some marginal documents at the feet of the elephant, together with Gobesius’s military architecture and pyroballogy, translated from the Flemish, to form his discourse with passable perspicuity; and before he was two full months gone,—he was right eloquent upon it, and could make not only the attack of the advanced counterscarp with great order;⸺but having, by that time, gone much deeper into the art, than what his first motive made necessary, my uncle Toby was able to cross the Maes and Sambre; make diversions as far as Vauban’s line, the abbey of Salsines, etc., and give his visitors as distinct a history of each of their attacks, as of that of the gate of St. Nicolas, where he had the honour to receive his wound.
But desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it. The more my uncle Toby pored over his map, the more he took a liking to it!—by the same process and electrical assimilation, as I told you, through which I ween the souls of connoisseurs themselves, by long friction and incumbition, have the happiness, at length, to get all be-virtu’d—be-pictured,—be-butterflied, and befiddled.
The more my uncle Toby drank of this sweet fountain of science, the greater was the heat and impatience of his thirst, so that before the first year of his confinement had well gone round, there was scarce a fortified town in Italy or Flanders, of which, by one means or other, he had not procured a plan, reading over as he got them, and carefully collating therewith the histories of their sieges, their demolitions, their improvements, and new works, all which he would read with that intense application and delight, that he would forget himself, his wound, his confinement, his dinner.
In the second year my uncle Toby purchased Ramelli and Cataneo, translated from the Italian;—likewise Stevinus, Moralis, the Chevalier de Ville, Lorini, Cochorn, Sheeter, the Count de Pagan, the Marshal Vauban, Mons. Blondel, with almost as many more books of military architecture, as Don Quixote was found to have of chivalry, when the curate and barber invaded his library.
Towards the beginning of the third year, which was in August, ninety-nine, my uncle Toby found it necessary to understand a little of projectiles:—and having judged it best to draw his knowledge from the fountainhead, he began with N. Tartaglia, who it seems was the first man who detected the imposition of a cannonball’s doing all that mischief under the notion of a right line—This N. Tartaglia proved to my uncle Toby to be an impossible thing.
⸺Endless is the search of Truth.
No sooner was my uncle Toby satisfied which road the cannonball did not go, but he was insensibly led on, and resolved in his mind to enquire and find out which road the ball did go: For which purpose he was obliged to set off afresh with old Maltus, and studied him devoutly.—He proceeded next to Galileo and Torricellius, wherein, by certain Geometrical rules, infallibly laid down, he found the precise part to be a Parabola—or else an Hyperbola,—and that the parameter, or latus rectum, of the conic section of the said path, was to the quantity and amplitude in a direct ratio, as the whole line to the sine of double the angle of incidence, formed by the breech upon an horizontal plane;—and that the semiparameter,⸺stop! my dear uncle Toby⸺stop!—go not one foot farther into this thorny and bewildered track,—intricate are the steps! intricate are the mazes of this labyrinth! intricate are the troubles which the pursuit of this bewitching phantom Knowledge will bring upon thee.—O my uncle;—fly—fly, fly from it as from a serpent.⸺Is it fit⸺good-natured man! thou should’st sit up, with the wound upon thy groin, whole nights baking thy blood with hectic watchings?⸺Alas! ’twill exasperate thy symptoms,—check thy perspirations—evaporate thy spirits—waste thy animal strength,—dry up thy radical moisture, bring thee into a costive habit of body,⸺impair thy health,⸺and hasten all the infirmities of thy old age.⸺O my uncle! my uncle Toby.
I would not give a groat for that man’s knowledge in pencraft, who does not understand this,⸺That the best plain narrative in the world, tacked very close to the last spirited apostrophe to my uncle Toby⸺would have felt both cold and vapid upon the reader’s palate;—therefore I forthwith put an end to the chapter, though I was in the middle of my story.
⸻Writers of my stamp have one principle in common with painters. Where an exact copying makes our pictures less striking, we choose the less evil; deeming it even more pardonable to trespass against truth, than beauty. This is to be understood cum grano salis; but be it as it will,—as the parallel is made more for the sake of letting the apostrophe cool, than anything else,—’tis not very material whether upon any other score the reader approves of it or not.
In the latter end of the third year, my uncle Toby perceiving that the parameter and semiparameter of the conic section angered his wound, he left off the study of projectiles in a kind of a huff, and betook himself to the practical part of fortification only; the pleasure of which, like a spring held back, returned upon him with redoubled force.
It was in this year that my uncle began to break in upon the daily regularity of a clean shirt,⸺to dismiss his barber unshaven,⸺and to allow his surgeon scarce time sufficient to dress his wound, concerning himself so little about it, as not to ask him once in seven times dressing, how it went on: when, lo!—all of a sudden, for the change was quick as lightning, he began to sigh heavily for his recovery,⸺complained to my father, grew impatient with the surgeon:⸺and one morning, as he heard his foot coming upstairs, he shut up his books, and thrust aside his instruments, in order to expostulate with him upon the protraction of the cure, which, he told him, might surely have been accomplished at least by that time:—He dwelt long upon the miseries he had undergone, and the sorrows of his four years melancholy imprisonment;—adding, that had it not been for the kind looks and fraternal chearings of the best of brothers,—he had long since sunk under his misfortunes.⸺My father was by: My uncle Toby’s eloquence brought tears into his eyes;⸺’twas unexpected:⸺My uncle Toby, by nature was not eloquent;—it had the greater effect:⸺The surgeon was confounded;⸺not that there wanted grounds for such, or greater marks of impatience,—but ’twas unexpected too; in the four years he had attended him, he had never seen anything like it in my uncle Toby’s carriage; he had never once dropped one fretful or discontented word;⸺he had been all patience,—all submission.
—We lose the right of complaining sometimes by forbearing it;—but we often treble the force:—The surgeon was astonished; but much more so, when he heard my uncle Toby go on, and peremptorily insist upon his healing up the wound directly,—or sending for Monsieur Ronjat, the king’s serjeant-surgeon, to do it for him.
The desire of life and health is implanted in man’s nature;⸺the love of liberty and enlargement is a sister-passion to it: These my uncle Toby had in common with his species;⸺and either of them had been sufficient to account for his earnest desire to get well and out of doors;⸺but I have told you before, that nothing wrought with our family after the common way;⸺and from the time and manner in which this eager desire showed itself in the present case, the penetrating reader will suspect there was some other cause or crotchet for it in my uncle Toby’s head:⸺There was so, and ’tis the subject of the next chapter to set forth what that cause and crotchet was. I own, when that’s done, ’twill be time to return back to the parlour fireside, where we left my uncle Toby in the middle of his sentence.
When a man gives himself up to the government of a ruling passion,—or, in other words, when his Hobbyhorse grows headstrong,⸺farewel cool reason and fair discretion!
My uncle Toby’s wound was near well, and as soon as the surgeon recovered his surprise, and could get leave to say as much⸺he told him, ’twas just beginning to incarnate; and that if no fresh exfoliation happened, which there was no sign of,—it would be dried up in five or six weeks. The sound of as many Olympiads, twelve hours before, would have conveyed an idea of shorter duration to my uncle Toby’s mind.⸺The succession of his ideas was now rapid,—he broiled with impatience to put his design in execution;⸺and so, without consulting farther with any soul living,—which, by the bye, I think is right, when you are predetermined to take no one soul’s advice,⸺he privately ordered Trim, his man, to pack up a bundle of lint and dressings, and hire a chariot-and-four to be at the door exactly by twelve o’clock that day, when he knew my father would be upon ’Change.⸺So leaving a banknote upon the table for the surgeon’s care of him, and a letter of tender thanks for his brother’s—he packed up his maps, his books of fortification, his instruments, etc., and by the help of a crutch on one side, and Trim on the other,⸺my uncle Toby embarked for Shandy-Hall.
The reason, or rather the rise of this sudden demigration was as follows:
The table in my uncle Toby’s room, and at which, the night before this change happened, he was sitting with his maps, etc., about him—being somewhat of the smallest, for that infinity of great and small instruments of knowledge which usually lay crowded upon it—he had the accident, in reaching over for his tobacco-box, to throw down his compasses, and in stooping to take the compasses up, with his sleeve he threw down his case of instruments and snuffers;—and as the dice took a run against him, in his endeavouring to catch the snuffers in falling,⸺he thrust Monsieur Blondel off the table, and Count de Pagan o’top of him.
’Twas to no purpose for a man, lame as my uncle Toby was, to think of redressing these evils by himself,—he rung his bell for his man Trim;⸻Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, prithee see what confusion I have here been making—I must have some better contrivance, Trim.⸺Can’st not thou take my rule, and measure the length and breadth of this table, and then go and bespeak me one as big again?⸺Yes, an’ please your Honour, replied Trim, making a bow; but I hope your Honour will be soon well enough to get down to your country-seat, where,—as your Honour takes so much pleasure in fortification, we could manage this matter to a T.
I must here inform you, that this servant of my uncle Toby’s, who went by the name of Trim, had been a corporal in my uncle’s own company,—his real name was James Butler,—but having got the nickname of Trim in the regiment, my uncle Toby, unless when he happened to be very angry with him, would never call him by any other name.
The poor fellow had been disabled for the service, by a wound on his left knee by a musket-bullet, at the battle of Landen, which was two years before the affair of Namur;—and as the fellow was well-beloved in the regiment, and a handy fellow into the bargain, my uncle Toby took him for his servant; and of an excellent use was he, attending my uncle Toby in the camp and in his quarters as a valet, groom, barber, cook, sempster, and nurse; and indeed, from first to last, waited upon him and served him with great fidelity and affection.
My uncle Toby loved the man in return, and what attached him more to him still, was the similitude of their knowledge.⸺For Corporal Trim (for so, for the future, I shall call him), by four years occasional attention to his Master’s discourse upon fortified towns, and the advantage of prying and peeping continually into his Master’s plans, etc., exclusive and besides what he gained Hobbyhorsically, as a body-servant, Non Hobbyhorsical per se;⸺had become no mean proficient in the science; and was thought, by the cook and chambermaid, to know as much of the nature of strongholds as my uncle Toby himself.
I have but one more stroke to give to finish Corporal Trim’s character,⸺and it is the only dark line in it.—The fellow loved to advise,—or rather to hear himself talk; his carriage, however, was so perfectly respectful, ’twas easy to keep him silent when you had him so; but set his tongue a-going,—you had no hold of him—he was voluble;—the eternal interlardings of your Honour, with the respectfulness of Corporal Trim’s manner, interceding so strong in behalf of his elocution,—that though you might have been incommoded,⸺you could not well be angry. My uncle Toby was seldom either the one or the other with him,—or, at least, this fault, in Trim, broke no squares with them. My uncle Toby, as I said, loved the man;⸺and besides, as he ever looked upon a faithful servant,—but as an humble friend,—he could not bear to stop his mouth.⸺Such was Corporal Trim.
If I durst presume, continued Trim, to give your Honour my advice, and speak my opinion in this matter.—Thou art welcome, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby—speak,⸺speak what thou thinkest upon the subject, man, without fear. Why then, replied Trim (not hanging his ears and scratching his head like a country-lout, but) stroking his hair back from his forehead, and standing erect as before his division,—I think, quoth Trim, advancing his left, which was his lame leg, a little forwards,—and pointing with his right hand open towards a map of Dunkirk, which was pinned against the hangings,⸺I think, quoth Corporal Trim, with humble submission to your Honour’s better judgment,⸺that these ravelins, bastions, curtins, and horn-works, make but a poor, contemptible, fiddle-faddle piece of work of it here upon paper, compared to what your Honour and I could make of it were we in the country by ourselves, and had but a rood, or a rood and a half of ground to do what we pleased with: As summer is coming on, continued Trim, your Honour might sit out of doors, and give me the nography—(Call it ichnography, quoth my uncle)⸺of the town or citadel, your Honour was pleased to sit down before,—and I will be shot by your Honour upon the glacis of it, if I did not fortify it to your Honour’s mind⸺I dare say thou would’st, Trim, quoth my uncle.—For if your Honour, continued the Corporal, could but mark me the polygon, with its exact lines and angles—That I could do very well, quoth my uncle.—I would begin with the fossé, and if your Honour could tell me the proper depth and breadth—I can to a hair’s breadth, Trim, replied my uncle.—I would throw out the earth upon this hand towards the town for the scarp,—and on that hand towards the campaign for the counterscarp.—Very right, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby:⸺And when I had sloped them to your mind,⸺an’ please your Honour, I would face the glacis, as the finest fortifications are done in Flanders, with sods,⸺and as your Honour knows they should be,—and I would make the walls and parapets with sods too.—The best engineers call them gazons, Trim, said my uncle Toby.⸺Whether they are gazons or sods, is not much matter, replied Trim; your Honour knows they are ten times beyond a facing either of brick or stone.⸺I know they are, Trim, in some respects,⸺quoth my uncle Toby, nodding his head;—for a cannonball enters into the gazon right onwards, without bringing any rubbish down with it, which might fill the fossé (as was the case at St. Nicolas’s gate), and facilitate the passage over it.
Your Honour understands these matters, replied Corporal Trim, better than any officer in his Majesty’s service;⸺but would your Honour please to let the bespeaking of the table alone, and let us but go into the country, I would work under your Honour’s directions like a horse, and make fortifications for you something like a tansy, with all their batteries, saps, ditches, and palisadoes, that it should be worth all the world’s riding twenty miles to go and see it.
My uncle Toby blushed as red as scarlet as Trim went on;—but it was not a blush of guilt,—of modesty,—or of anger,—it was a blush of joy;—he was fired with Corporal Trim’s project and description.⸺Trim! said my uncle Toby, thou hast said enough.—We might begin the campaign, continued Trim, on the very day that his Majesty and the Allies take the field, and demolish them town by town as fast as—Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, say no more. Your Honour, continued Trim, might sit in your armchair (pointing to it) this fine weather, giving me your orders, and I would⸺Say no more, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby⸺Besides, your Honour would get not only pleasure and good pastime,—but good air, and good exercise, and good health,—and your Honour’s wound would be well in a month. Thou hast said enough, Trim,—quoth my uncle Toby (putting his hand into his breeches-pocket)⸺I like thy project mightily.—And if your Honour pleases, I’ll this moment go and buy a pioneer’s spade to take down with us, and I’ll bespeak a shovel and a pickaxe, and a couple of⸺Say no more, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, leaping up upon one leg, quite overcome with rapture,—and thrusting a guinea into Trim’s hand,—Trim, said my uncle Toby, say no more;—but go down, Trim, this moment, my lad, and bring up my supper this instant.
Trim ran down and brought up his master’s supper,⸺to no purpose:—Trim’s plan of operation ran so in my uncle Toby’s head, he could not taste it.—Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, get me to bed.—’Twas all one.—Corporal Trim’s description had fired his imagination,—my uncle Toby could not shut his eyes.—The more he considered it, the more bewitching the scene appeared to him;—so that, two full hours before daylight, he had come to a final determination, and had concerted the whole plan of his and Corporal Trim’s decampment.
My uncle Toby had a little neat country-house of his own, in the village where my father’s estate lay at Shandy, which had been left him by an old uncle, with a small estate of about one hundred pounds a-year. Behind this house, and contiguous to it, was a kitchen-garden of about half an acre; and at the bottom of the garden, and cut off from it by a tall yew hedge, was a bowling-green, containing just about as much ground as Corporal Trim wished for;—so that as Trim uttered the words, “A rood and a half of ground to do what they would with,”—this identical bowling-green instantly presented itself, and became curiously painted all at once, upon the retina of my uncle Toby’s fancy;—which was the physical cause of making him change colour, or at least of heightening his blush, to that immoderate degree I spoke of.
Never did lover post down to a beloved mistress with more heat and expectation, than my uncle Toby did, to enjoy this selfsame thing in private;—I say in private;—for it was sheltered from the house, as I told you, by a tall yew hedge, and was covered on the other three sides, from mortal sight, by rough holly and thickset flowering shrubs:—so that the idea of not being seen, did not a little contribute to the idea of pleasure preconceived in my uncle Toby’s mind.—Vain thought! however thick it was planted about,⸺or private soever it might seem,—to think, dear uncle Toby, of enjoying a thing which took up a whole rood and a half of ground,⸺and not have it known!
How my uncle Toby and Corporal Trim managed this matter,⸺with the history of their campaigns, which were no way barren of events,⸺may make no uninteresting under-plot in the epitasis and working-up of this drama.—At present the scene must drop,—and change for the parlour fireside.
⸺What can they be doing, brother? said my father.—I think, replied my uncle Toby,—taking, as I told you, his pipe from his mouth, and striking the ashes out of it as he began his sentence;⸺I think, replied he,—it would not be amiss, brother, if we rung the bell.
Pray, what’s all that racket over our heads, Obadiah?⸺quoth my father;⸺my brother and I can scarce hear ourselves speak.
Sir, answered Obadiah, making a bow towards his left shoulder,—my Mistress is taken very badly.—And where’s Susannah running down the garden there, as if they were going to ravish her?⸺Sir, she is running the shortest cut into the town, replied Obadiah, to fetch the old midwife.—Then saddle a horse, quoth my father, and do you go directly for Dr. Slop, the man-midwife, with all our services,⸺and let him know your mistress is fallen into labour⸺and that I desire he will return with you with all speed.
It is very strange, says my father, addressing himself to my uncle Toby, as Obadiah shut the door,⸺as there is so expert an operator as Dr. Slop so near,—that my wife should persist to the very last in this obstinate humour of hers, in trusting the life of my child, who has had one misfortune already, to the ignorance of an old woman;⸺and not only the life of my child, brother,⸺but her own life, and with it the lives of all the children I might, peradventure, have begot out of her hereafter.
Mayhap, brother, replied my uncle Toby, my sister does it to save the expense:—A pudding’s end,—replied my father,⸺the Doctor must be paid the same for inaction as action,⸺if not better,—to keep him in temper.
⸺Then it can be out of nothing in the whole world, quoth my uncle Toby, in the simplicity of his heart,—but Modesty.—My sister, I dare say, added he, does not care to let a man come so near her ****. I will not say whether my uncle Toby had completed the sentence or not;⸺’tis for his advantage to suppose he had,⸺as, I think, he could have added no One Word which would have improved it.
If, on the contrary, my uncle Toby had not fully arrived at the period’s end,—then the world stands indebted to the sudden snapping of my father’s tobacco-pipe for one of the neatest examples of that ornamental figure in oratory, which Rhetoricians stile the Aposiopesis.⸺Just Heaven! how does the Poco piu and the Poco meno of the Italian artists;—the insensible more or less, determine the precise line of beauty in the sentence, as well as in the statute! How do the slight touches of the chisel, the pencil, the pen, the fiddlestick, et cætera,—give the true swell, which gives the true pleasure!—O my countrymen;—be nice;—be cautious of your language;—and never, O! never let it be forgotten upon what small particles your eloquence and your fame depend.
⸺“My sister, mayhap,” quoth my uncle Toby, “does not choose to let a man come so near her ****.” Make this dash,—’tis an Aposiopesis.—Take the dash away, and write Backside,⸺’tis Bawdy.—Scratch Backside out, and put Cover’d way in, ’tis a Metaphor;—and, I dare say, as fortification ran so much in my uncle Toby’s head, that if he had been left to have added one word to the sentence,⸺that word was it.
But whether that was the case or not the case;—or whether the snapping of my father’s tobacco-pipe, so critically, happened through accident or anger, will be seen in due time.
Tho’ my father was a good natural philosopher,—yet he was something of a moral philosopher too; for which reason, when his tobacco-pipe snapp’d short in the middle,—he had nothing to do, as such, but to have taken hold of the two pieces, and thrown them gently upon the back of the fire.⸺He did no such thing;⸺he threw them with all the violence in the world;—and, to give the action still more emphasis,—he started upon both his legs to do it.
This looked something like heat;—and the manner of his reply to what my uncle Toby was saying, proved it was so.
—“Not choose,” quoth my father, (repeating my uncle Toby’s words) “to let a man come so near her!”⸺By Heaven, brother Toby! you would try the patience of Job;—and I think I have the plagues of one already without it.⸺Why?⸺Where?⸺Wherein?⸺Wherefore?⸺Upon what account? replied my uncle Toby, in the utmost astonishment.—To think, said my father, of a man living to your age, brother, and knowing so little about women!⸺I know nothing at all about them,—replied my uncle Toby: And I think, continued he, that the shock I received the year after the demolition of Dunkirk, in my affair with widow Wadman;—which shock you know I should not have received, but from my total ignorance of the sex,—has given me just cause to say, That I neither know nor do pretend to know anything about ’em or their concerns either.—Methinks, brother, replied my father, you might, at least, know so much as the right end of a woman from the wrong.
It is said in Aristotle’s Master Piece, “That when a man doth think of anything which is past,⸺he looketh down upon the ground;⸺but that when he thinketh of something that is to come, he looketh up towards the heavens.”
My uncle Toby, I suppose, thought of neither, for he look’d horizontally.—Right end! quoth my uncle Toby, muttering the two words low to himself, and fixing his two eyes insensibly as he muttered them, upon a small crevice, formed by a bad joint in the chimneypiece⸺Right end of a woman!⸺I declare, quoth my uncle, I know no more which it is than the man in the moon;⸺and if I was to think, continued my uncle Toby (keeping his eye still fixed upon the bad joint) this month together, I am sure I should not be able to find it out.
Then, brother Toby, replied my father, I will tell you.
Everything in this world, continued my father (filling a fresh pipe)—everything in this world, my dear brother Toby, has two handles.⸺Not always, quoth my uncle Toby.⸺At least, replied my father, everyone has two hands,⸺which comes to the same thing.⸺Now, if a man was to sit down coolly, and consider within himself the make, the shape, the construction, come-at-ability, and convenience of all the parts which constitute the whole of that animal, called Woman, and compare them analogically⸺I never understood rightly the meaning of that word,—quoth my uncle Toby.—
Analogy, replied my father, is the certain relation and agreement which different⸺Here a devil of a rap at the door snapped my father’s definition (like his tobacco-pipe) in two,—and, at the same time, crushed the head of as notable and curious a dissertation as ever was engendered in the womb of speculation;—it was some months before my father could get an opportunity to be safely delivered of it:—And, at this hour, it is a thing full as problematical as the subject of the dissertation itself,—(considering the confusion and distresses of our domestick misadventures, which are now coming thick one upon the back of another) whether I shall be able to find a place for it in the third volume or not.
It is about an hour and a half’s tolerable good reading since my uncle Toby rung the bell, when Obadiah was ordered to saddle a horse, and go for Dr. Slop, the man-midwife;—so that no one can say, with reason, that I have not allowed Obadiah time enough, poetically speaking, and considering the emergency too, both to go and come;⸺though, morally and truly speaking, the man perhaps has scarce had time to get on his boots.
If the hypercritick will go upon this; and is resolved after all to take a pendulum, and measure the true distance betwixt the ringing of the bell, and the rap at the door;—and, after finding it to be no more than two minutes, thirteen seconds, and three fifths,—should take upon him to insult over me for such a breach in the unity, or rather probability of time;—I would remind him, that the idea of duration, and of its simple modes, is got merely from the train and succession of our ideas,⸺and is the true scholastic pendulum,⸺and by which, as a scholar, I will be tried in this matter,—abjuring and detesting the jurisdiction of all other pendulums whatever.
I would therefore desire him to consider that it is but poor eight miles from Shandy-Hall to Dr. Slop, the man-midwife’s house;—and that whilst Obadiah has been going those said miles and back, I have brought my uncle Toby from Namur, quite across all Flanders, into England:—That I have had him ill upon my hands near four years;—and have since travelled him and Corporal Trim in a chariot-and-four, a journey of near two hundred miles down into Yorkshire,⸺all which put together, must have prepared the reader’s imagination for the entrance of Dr. Slop upon the stage,—as much, at least (I hope) as a dance, a song, or a concerto between the acts.
If my hypercritick is intractable, alledging, that two minutes and thirteen seconds are no more than two minutes and thirteen seconds,—when I have said all I can about them; and that this plea, though it might save me dramatically, will damn me biographically, rendering my book from this very moment, a professed Romance, which, before, was a book apocryphal:⸺If I am thus pressed—I then put an end to the whole objection and controversy about it all at once,⸺by acquainting him, that Obadiah had not got above threescore yards from the stable-yard before he met with Dr. Slop;—and indeed he gave a dirty proof that he had met with him, and was within an ace of giving a tragical one too.
Imagine to yourself;—but this had better begin a new chapter.
Imagine to yourself a little squat, uncourtly figure of a Doctor Slop, of about four feet and a half perpendicular height, with a breadth of back, and a sesquipedality of belly, which might have done honour to a serjeant in the horse-guards.
Such were the outlines of Dr. Slop’s figure, which,—if you have read Hogarth’s analysis of beauty, and if you have not, I wish you would;⸺you must know, may as certainly be caricatured, and conveyed to the mind by three strokes as three hundred.
Imagine such a one,⸺for such, I say, were the outlines of Dr. Slop’s figure, coming slowly along, foot by foot, waddling thro’ the dirt upon the vertebrae of a little diminutive pony, of a pretty colour⸺but of strength,⸺alack!⸺scarce able to have made an amble of it, under such a fardel, had the roads been in an ambling condition.⸺They were not.⸺Imagine to yourself, Obadiah mounted upon a strong monster of a coach-horse, pricked into a full gallop, and making all practicable speed the adverse way.
Pray, Sir, let me interest you a moment in this description.
Had Dr. Slop beheld Obadiah a mile off, posting in a narrow lane directly towards him, at that monstrous rate,—splashing and plunging like a devil thro’ thick and thin, as he approached, would not such a phænomenon, with such a vortex of mud and water moving along with it, round its axis,—have been a subject of juster apprehension to Dr. Slop in his situation, than the worst of Whiston’s comets?—To say nothing of the Nucleus; that is, of Obadiah and the coach-horse.—In my idea, the vortex alone of ’em was enough to have involved and carried, if not the doctor, at least the doctor’s pony, quite away with it. What then do you think must the terror and hydrophobia of Dr. Slop have been, when you read (which you are just going to do) that he was advancing thus warily along towards Shandy-Hall, and had approached to within sixty yards of it, and within five yards of a sudden turn, made by an acute angle of the garden-wall,—and in the dirtiest part of a dirty lane,—when Obadiah and his coach-horse turned the corner, rapid, furious,—pop,—full upon him!—Nothing, I think, in nature, can be supposed more terrible than such a rencounter,—so imprompt! so ill prepared to stand the shock of it as Dr. Slop was.
What could Dr. Slop do?⸺he crossed himself +—Pugh!—but the doctor, Sir, was a Papist.—No matter; he had better have kept hold of the pummel—He had so;—nay, as it happened, he had better have done nothing at all; for in crossing himself he let go his whip,⸺and in attempting to save his whip betwixt his knee and his saddle’s skirt, as it slipped, he lost his stirrup,⸺in losing which he lost his seat;⸺and in the multitude of all these losses (which, by the bye, shows what little advantage there is in crossing) the unfortunate doctor lost his presence of mind. So that without waiting for Obadiah’s onset, he left his pony to its destiny, tumbling off it diagonally, something in the stile and manner of a pack of wool, and without any other consequence from the fall, save that of being left (as it would have been) with the broadest part of him sunk about twelve inches deep in the mire.
Obadiah pull’d off his cap twice to Dr. Slop;—once as he was falling,—and then again when he saw him seated.⸺Ill-timed complaisance;—had not the fellow better have stopped his horse, and got off and help’d him?—Sir, he did all that his situation would allow;—but the Momentum of the coach-horse was so great, that Obadiah could not do it all at once; he rode in a circle three times round Dr. Slop, before he could fully accomplish it anyhow;—and at the last, when he did stop his beast, ’twas done with such an explosion of mud, that Obadiah had better have been a league off. In short, never was a Dr. Slop so beluted, and so transubstantiated, since that affair came into fashion.
When Dr. Slop entered the back parlour, where my father and my uncle Toby were discoursing upon the nature of women,⸺it was hard to determine whether Dr. Slop’s figure, or Dr. Slop’s presence, occasioned more surprise to them; for as the accident happened so near the house, as not to make it worth while for Obadiah to remount him,⸺Obadiah had led him in as he was, unwiped, unappointed, unannealed, with all his stains and blotches on him.—He stood like Hamlet’s ghost, motionless and speechless, for a full minute and a half at the parlour-door (Obadiah still holding his hand) with all the majesty of mud. His hinder parts, upon which he had received his fall, totally besmeared,⸺and in every other part of him, blotched over in such a manner with Obadiah’s explosion, that you would have sworn (without mental reservation) that every grain of it had taken effect.
Here was a fair opportunity for my uncle Toby to have triumphed over my father in his turn;—for no mortal, who had beheld Dr. Slop in that pickle, could have dissented from so much at least, of my uncle Toby’s opinion, “That mayhap his sister might not care to let such a Dr. Slop come so near her ****.” But it was the Argumentum ad hominem; and if my uncle Toby was not very expert at it, you may think, he might not care to use it.⸺No; the reason was,—’twas not his nature to insult.
Dr. Slop’s presence at that time, was no less problematical than the mode of it; tho’ it is certain, one moment’s reflection in my father might have solved it; for he had apprized Dr. Slop but the week before, that my mother was at her full reckoning; and as the doctor had heard nothing since, ’twas natural and very political too in him, to have taken a ride to Shandy-Hall, as he did, merely to see how matters went on.
But my father’s mind took unfortunately a wrong turn in the investigation; running, like the hypercritick’s, altogether upon the ringing of the bell and the rap upon the door,—measuring their distance, and keeping his mind so intent upon the operation as to have power to think of nothing else,⸺commonplace infirmity of the greatest mathematicians! working with might and main at the demonstration, and so wasting all their strength upon it, that they have none left in them to draw the corollary, to do good with.
The ringing of the bell, and the rap upon the door, struck likewise strong upon the sensorium of my uncle Toby,—but it excited a very different train of thoughts;—the two irreconcileable pulsations instantly brought Stevinus, the great engineer, along with them, into my uncle Toby’s mind. What business Stevinus had in this affair,—is the greatest problem of all:⸺It shall be solved,—but not in the next chapter.
Writing, when properly managed (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation. As no one, who knows what he is about in good company, would venture to talk all;⸺so no author, who understands the just boundaries of decorum and good-breeding, would presume to think all: The truest respect which you can pay to the reader’s understanding, is to halve this matter amicably, and leave him something to imagine, in his turn, as well as yourself.
For my own part, I am eternally paying him compliments of this kind, and do all that lies in my power to keep his imagination as busy as my own.
’Tis his turn now;—I have given an ample description of Dr. Slop’s sad overthrow, and of his sad appearance in the back-parlour;—his imagination must now go on with it for a while.
Let the reader imagine then, that Dr. Slop has told his tale—and in what words, and with what aggravations, his fancy chooses;—Let him suppose, that Obadiah has told his tale also, and with such rueful looks of affected concern, as he thinks best will contrast the two figures as they stand by each other.⸺Let him imagine, that my father has stepped upstairs to see my mother.—And, to conclude this work of imagination—let him imagine the doctor washed,—rubbed down, and condoled,—felicitated,—got into a pair of Obadiah’s pumps, stepping forwards towards the door, upon the very point of entering upon action.
Truce!—truce, good Dr. Slop:—stay thy obstetrick hand;⸺return it safe into thy bosom to keep it warm;⸺little dost thou know what obstacles,⸻little dost thou think what hidden causes, retard its operation!⸺Hast thou, Dr. Slop,—hast thou been entrusted with the secret articles of the solemn treaty which has brought thee into this place?—Art thou aware that at this instant, a daughter of Lucina is put obstetrically over thy head? Alas!—’tis too true.—Besides, great son of Pilumnus! what canst thou do?—Thou hast come forth unarm’d;—thou hast left thy tire-tête,—thy new-invented forceps,—thy crotchet,—thy squirt, and all thy instruments of salvation and deliverance, behind thee,—By Heaven! at this moment they are hanging up in a green bays bag, betwixt thy two pistols, at the bed’s head!—Ring;—call;—send Obadiah back upon the coach-horse to bring them with all speed.
⸺Make great haste, Obadiah, quoth my father, and I’ll give thee a crown!—and quoth my uncle Toby, I’ll give him another.
Your sudden and unexpected arrival, quoth my uncle Toby, addressing himself to Dr. Slop (all three of them sitting down to the fire together, as my uncle Toby began to speak)—instantly brought the great Stevinus into my head, who, you must know, is a favourite author with me.—Then, added my father, making use of the argument Ad Crumenam,—I will lay twenty guineas to a single crown-piece (which will serve to give away to Obadiah when he gets back) that this same Stevinus was some engineer or other,—or has wrote something or other, either directly or indirectly, upon the science of fortification.
He has so,—replied my uncle Toby.—I knew it, said my father, though, for the soul of me, I cannot see what kind of connection there can be betwixt Dr. Slop’s sudden coming, and a discourse upon fortification;—yet I fear’d it.—Talk of what we will, brother,⸺or let the occasion be never so foreign or unfit for the subject,—you are sure to bring it in. I would not, brother Toby, continued my father,⸻I declare I would not have my head so full of curtins and hornworks.—That I dare say you would not, quoth Dr. Slop, interrupting him, and laughing most immoderately at his pun.
Dennis the critic could not detest and abhor a pun, or the insinuation of a pun, more cordially than my father;—he would grow testy upon it at any time;—but to be broke in upon by one, in a serious discourse, was as bad, he would say, as a fillip upon the nose;⸺he saw no difference.
Sir, quoth my uncle Toby, addressing himself to Dr. Slop,—the curtins my brother Shandy mentions here, have nothing to do with bedsteads;—tho’, I know Du Cange says, “That bed-curtains, in all probability, have taken their name from them;”—nor have the hornworks he speaks of, anything in the world to do with the horn-works of cuckoldom:—But the Curtin, Sir, is the word we use in fortification, for that part of the wall or rampart which lies between the two bastions and joins them—Besiegers seldom offer to carry on their attacks directly against the curtin, for this reason, because they are so well flanked. (’Tis the case of other curtains, quoth Dr. Slop, laughing.) However, continued my uncle Toby, to make them sure, we generally choose to place ravelins before them, taking care only to extend them beyond the fossé or ditch:⸺The common men, who know very little of fortification, confound the ravelin and the half-moon together,—tho’ they are very different things;—not in their figure or construction, for we make them exactly alike, in all points;—for they always consist of two faces, making a salient angle, with the gorges, not straight, but in form of a crescent:⸺Where then lies the difference? (quoth my father, a little testily).—In their situations, answered my uncle Toby:—For when a ravelin, brother, stands before the curtin, it is a ravelin; and when a ravelin stands before a bastion, then the ravelin is not a ravelin;—it is a half-moon;—a half-moon likewise is a half-moon, and no more, so long as it stands before its bastion;⸺but was it to change place, and get before the curtin,—’twould be no longer a half-moon; a half-moon, in that case, is not a half-moon;—’tis no more than a ravelin.⸺I think, quoth my father, that the noble science of defence has its weak sides⸺as well as others.
—As for the horn-work (high! ho! sigh’d my father) which, continued my uncle Toby, my brother was speaking of, they are a very considerable part of an outwork;⸺they are called by the French engineers, Ouvrage à corne, and we generally make them to cover such places as we suspect to be weaker than the rest;—’tis formed by two epaulments or demi-bastions—they are very pretty,—and if you will take a walk, I’ll engage to show you one well worth your trouble.—I own, continued my uncle Toby, when we crown them,—they are much stronger, but then they are very expensive, and take up a great deal of ground, so that, in my opinion, they are most of use to cover or defend the head of a camp; otherwise the double tenaille—By the mother who bore us!⸺brother Toby, quoth my father, not able to hold out any longer,⸺you would provoke a saint;⸺here have you got us, I know not how, not only souse into the middle of the old subject again:—But so full is your head of these confounded works, that though my wife is this moment in the pains of labour, and you hear her cry out, yet nothing will serve you but to carry off the man-midwife.⸺Accoucheur,—if you please, quoth Dr. Slop.⸺With all my heart, replied my father, I don’t care what they call you,—but I wish the whole science of fortification, with all its inventors, at the devil;—it has been the death of thousands,—and it will be mine in the end,—I would not, I would not, brother Toby, have my brains so full of saps, mines, blinds, gabions, pallisadoes, ravelins, half-moons, and such trumpery, to be proprietor of Namur, and of all the towns in Flanders with it.
My uncle Toby was a man patient of injuries;—not from want of courage,—I have told you in a former chapter, “that he was a man of courage:”—And will add here, that where just occasions presented, or called it forth,—I know no man under whose arm I would have sooner taken shelter;⸺nor did this arise from any insensibility or obtuseness of his intellectual parts;—for he felt this insult of my father’s as feelingly as a man could do;—but he was of a peaceful, placid nature,—no jarring element in it,—all was mixed up so kindly within him; my uncle Toby had scarce a heart to retaliate upon a fly.
—Go—says he, one day at dinner, to an overgrown one which had buzzed about his nose, and tormented him cruelly all dinnertime,—and which after infinite attempts, he had caught at last, as it flew by him;—I’ll not hurt thee, says my uncle Toby, rising from his chair, and going across the room, with the fly in his hand,⸺I’ll not hurt a hair of thy head:—Go, says he, lifting up the sash, and opening his hand as he spoke, to let it escape;—go, poor devil, get thee gone, why should I hurt thee?⸺This world surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me.
I was but ten years old when this happened: but whether it was, that the action itself was more in unison to my nerves at that age of pity, which instantly set my whole frame into one vibration of most pleasurable sensation;—or how far the manner and expression of it might go towards it;—or in what degree, or by what secret magick,—a tone of voice and harmony of movement, attuned by mercy, might find a passage to my heart, I know not;—this I know, that the lesson of universal goodwill then taught and imprinted by my uncle Toby, has never since been worn out of my mind: And tho’ I would not depreciate what the study of the Literæ humaniores, at the university, have done for me in that respect, or discredit the other helps of an expensive education bestowed upon me, both at home and abroad since;—yet I often think that I owe one half of my philanthropy to that one accidental impression.
☞ This is to serve for parents and governors instead of a whole volume upon the subject.
I could not give the reader this stroke in my uncle Toby’s picture, by the instrument with which I drew the other parts of it,—that taking in no more than the mere Hobbyhorsical likeness:⸺this is a part of his moral character. My father, in this patient endurance of wrongs, which I mention, was very different, as the reader must long ago have noted; he had a much more acute and quick sensibility of nature, attended with a little soreness of temper; tho’ this never transported him to anything which looked like malignancy:—yet in the little rubs and vexations of life, ’twas apt to show itself in a drollish and witty kind of peevishness:⸺He was, however, frank and generous in his nature;⸺at all times open to conviction; and in the little ebullitions of this subacid humour towards others, but particularly towards my uncle Toby, whom he truly loved:⸺he would feel more pain, ten times told (except in the affair of my aunt Dinah, or where an hypothesis was concerned) than what he ever gave.
The characters of the two brothers, in this view of them, reflected light upon each other, and appeared with great advantage in this affair which arose about Stevinus.
I need not tell the reader, if he keeps a Hobbyhorse,⸺that a man’s Hobbyhorse is as tender a part as he has about him; and that these unprovoked strokes at my uncle Toby’s could not be unfelt by him.⸺No:⸻as I said above, my uncle Toby did feel them, and very sensibly too.
Pray, Sir, what said he?—How did he behave?—O, Sir!—it was great: For as soon as my father had done insulting his Hobbyhorse,⸻he turned his head without the least emotion, from Dr. Slop, to whom he was addressing his discourse, and looking up into my father’s face, with a countenance spread over with so much good-nature;⸺so placid;⸺so fraternal;⸺so inexpressibly tender towards him:—it penetrated my father to his heart: He rose up hastily from his chair, and seizing hold of both my uncle Toby’s hands as he spoke:—Brother Toby, said he,—I beg thy pardon;⸺forgive, I pray thee, this rash humour which my mother gave me.⸺My dear, dear brother, answered my uncle Toby, rising up by my father’s help, say no more about it;—you are heartily welcome, had it been ten times as much, brother. But ’tis ungenerous, replied my father, to hurt any man;⸺a brother worse;⸺but to hurt a brother of such gentle manners,—so unprovoking,—and so unresenting;⸺’tis base:⸺By Heaven, ’tis cowardly.—You are heartily welcome, brother, quoth my uncle Toby,⸻had it been fifty times as much.⸺Besides, what have I to do, my dear Toby, cried my father, either with your amusements or your pleasures, unless it was in my power (which it is not) to increase their measure?
⸺Brother Shandy, answered my uncle Toby, looking wistfully in his face,⸺you are much mistaken in this point:—for you do increase my pleasure very much, in begetting children for the Shandy family at your time of life.—But, by that, Sir, quoth Dr. Slop, Mr. Shandy increases his own.—Not a jot, quoth my father.
My brother does it, quoth my uncle Toby, out of principle.⸺In a family way, I suppose, quoth Dr. Slop.⸺Pshaw!—said my father,—’tis not worth talking of.
At the end of the last chapter, my father and my uncle Toby were left both standing, like Brutus and Cassius, at the close of the scene, making up their accounts.
As my father spoke the three last words,⸺he sat down;—my uncle Toby exactly followed his example, only, that before he took his chair, he rung the bell, to order Corporal Trim, who was in waiting, to step home for Stevinus:—my uncle Toby’s house being no farther off than the opposite side of the way.
Some men would have dropped the subject of Stevinus;⸺but my uncle Toby had no resentment in his heart, and he went on with the subject, to show my father that he had none.
Your sudden appearance, Dr. Slop, quoth my uncle, resuming the discourse, instantly brought Stevinus into my head. (My father, you may be sure, did not offer to lay any more wagers upon Stevinus’s head.)⸺Because, continued my uncle Toby, the celebrated sailing chariot, which belonged to Prince Maurice, and was of such wonderful contrivance and velocity, as to carry half a dozen people thirty German miles, in I don’t know how few minutes,⸺was invented by Stevinus, that great mathematician and engineer.
You might have spared your servant the trouble, quoth Dr. Slop (as the fellow is lame) of going for Stevinus’s account of it, because in my return from Leyden thro’ the Hague, I walked as far as Schevling, which is two long miles, on purpose to take a view of it.
That’s nothing, replied my uncle Toby, to what the learned Peireskius did, who walked a matter of five hundred miles, reckoning from Paris to Schevling, and from Schevling to Paris back again, in order to see it,—and nothing else.
Some men cannot bear to be out-gone.
The more fool Peireskius, replied Dr. Slop. But mark, ’twas out of no contempt of Peireskius at all;⸺but that Peireskius’s indefatigable labour in trudging so far on foot, out of love for the sciences, reduced the exploit of Dr. Slop, in that affair, to nothing:—the more fool Peireskius, said he again.—Why so?—replied my father, taking his brother’s part, not only to make reparation as fast as he could for the insult he had given him, which sat still upon my father’s mind;⸺but partly, that my father began really to interest himself in the discourse.⸺Why so?⸺said he. Why is Peireskius, or any man else, to be abused for an appetite for that, or any other morsel of sound knowledge: For notwithstanding I know nothing of the chariot in question, continued he, the inventor of it must have had a very mechanical head; and tho’ I cannot guess upon what principles of philosophy he has atchieved it;—yet certainly his machine has been constructed upon solid ones, be they what they will, or it could not have answered at the rate my brother mentions.
It answered, replied my uncle Toby, as well, if not better; for, as Peireskius elegantly expresses it, speaking of the velocity of its motion, Tam citus erat, quam erat ventus; which, unless I have forgot my Latin, is, that it was as swift as the wind itself.
But pray, Dr. Slop, quoth my father, interrupting my uncle (tho’ not without begging pardon for it at the same time) upon what principles was this selfsame chariot set a-going?—Upon very pretty principles to be sure, replied Dr. Slop:—And I have often wondered, continued he, evading the question, why none of our gentry, who live upon large plains like this of ours,—(especially they whose wives are not past childbearing) attempt nothing of this kind; for it would not only be infinitely expeditious upon sudden calls, to which the sex is subject,—if the wind only served,—but would be excellent good husbandry to make use of the winds, which cost nothing, and which eat nothing, rather than horses, which (the devil take ’em) both cost and eat a great deal.
For that very reason, replied my father, “Because they cost nothing, and because they eat nothing,”—the scheme is bad;—it is the consumption of our products, as well as the manufactures of them, which gives bread to the hungry, circulates trade,—brings in money, and supports the value of our lands:—and tho’, I own, if I was a Prince, I would generously recompense the scientifick head which brought forth such contrivances;—yet I would as peremptorily suppress the use of them.
My father here had got into his element,⸺and was going on as prosperously with his dissertation upon trade, as my uncle Toby had before, upon his of fortification;—but to the loss of much sound knowledge, the destinies in the morning had decreed that no dissertation of any kind should be spun by my father that day,⸺for as he opened his mouth to begin the next sentence.
In popped Corporal Trim with Stevinus:—But ’twas too late,—all the discourse had been exhausted without him, and was running into a new channel.—You may take the book home again, Trim, said my uncle Toby, nodding to him.
But prithee, Corporal, quoth my father, drolling,—look first into it, and see if thou canst spy aught of a sailing chariot in it.
Corporal Trim, by being in the service, had learned to obey,—and not to remonstrate;—so taking the book to a side-table, and running over the leaves; An’ please your Honour, said Trim, I can see no such thing;—however, continued the Corporal, drolling a little in his turn, I’ll make sure work of it, an’ please your Honour;—so taking hold of the two covers of the book, one in each hand, and letting the leaves fall down, as he bent the covers back, he gave the book a good sound shake.
There is something falling out, however, said Trim, an’ please your Honour;—but it is not a chariot, or anything like one:—Prithee, Corporal, said my father, smiling, what is it then?—I think, answered Trim, stooping to take it up,⸺’tis more like a sermon,⸻for it begins with a text of scripture, and the chapter and verse;—and then goes on, not as a chariot, but like a sermon directly.
The company smiled.
I cannot conceive how it is possible, quoth my uncle Toby, for such a thing as a sermon to have got into my Stevinus.
I think ’tis a sermon, replied Trim;—but if it please your Honours, as it is a fair hand, I will read you a page;—for Trim, you must know, loved to hear himself read almost as well as talk.
I have ever a strong propensity, said my father, to look into things which cross my way, by such strange fatalities as these;—and as we have nothing better to do, at least till Obadiah gets back, I shall be obliged to you, brother, if Dr. Slop has no objection to it, to order the Corporal to give us a page or two of it,—if he is as able to do it, as he seems willing. An’ please your Honour, quoth Trim, I officiated two whole campaigns, in Flanders, as clerk to the chaplain of the regiment.⸺He can read it, quoth my uncle Toby, as well as I can.⸺Trim, I assure you, was the best scholar in my company, and should have had the next halberd, but for the poor fellow’s misfortune. Corporal Trim laid his hand upon his heart, and made an humble bow to his master;—then laying down his hat upon the floor, and taking up the sermon in his left hand, in order to have his right at liberty,⸺he advanced, nothing doubting, into the middle of the room, where he could best see, and be best seen by his audience.
—If you have any objection,—said my father, addressing himself to Dr. Slop. Not in the least, replied Dr. Slop;—for it does not appear on which side of the question it is wrote;⸺it may be a composition of a divine of our church, as well as yours,—so that we run equal risques.⸺’Tis wrote upon neither side, quoth Trim, for ’tis only upon Conscience, an’ please your Honours.
Trim’s reason put his audience into good-humour,—all but Dr. Slop, who turning his head about towards Trim, looked a little angry.
Begin, Trim,—and read distinctly, quoth my father.—I will, an’ please your Honour, replied the Corporal, making a bow, and bespeaking attention with a slight movement of his right hand.
⸺But before the Corporal begins, I must first give you a description of his attitude;⸺otherwise he will naturally stand represented, by your imagination, in an uneasy posture,—stiff,—perpendicular,—dividing the weight of his body equally upon both legs;⸺his eye fixed, as if on duty;—his look determined,—clenching the sermon in his left hand, like his firelock.⸺In a word, you would be apt to paint Trim, as if he was standing in his platoon ready for action.—His attitude was as unlike all this as you can conceive.
He stood before them with his body swayed, and bent forwards just so far, as to make an angle of 85 degrees and a half upon the plain of the horizon;—which sound orators, to whom I address this, know very well to be the true persuasive angle of incidence;—in any other angle you may talk and preach;—’tis certain;—and it is done every day;—but with what effect,—I leave the world to judge!
The necessity of this precise angle, of 85 degrees and a half to a mathematical exactness,⸺does it not show us, by the way, how the arts and sciences mutually befriend each other?
How the duce Corporal Trim, who knew not so much as an acute angle from an obtuse one, came to hit it so exactly;⸺or whether it was chance or nature, or good sense or imitation, etc., shall be commented upon in that part of the cyclopædia of arts and sciences, where the instrumental parts of the eloquence of the senate, the pulpit, and the bar, the coffeehouse, the bedchamber, and fireside, fall under consideration.
He stood,⸺for I repeat it, to take the picture of him in at one view, with his body swayed, and somewhat bent forwards,—his right leg from under him, sustaining seven-eighths of his whole weight,⸻the foot of his left leg, the defect of which was no disadvantage to his attitude, advanced a little,—not laterally, nor forwards, but in a line betwixt them;—his knee bent, but that not violently,—but so as to fall within the limits of the line of beauty;—and I add, of the line of science too;—for consider, it had one eighth part of his body to bear up;—so that in this case the position of the leg is determined,—because the foot could be no farther advanced, or the knee more bent, than what would allow him, mechanically to receive an eighth part of his whole weight under it, and to carry it too.
☞ This I recommend to painters:—need I add,—to orators!—I think not; for unless they practise it,⸻they must fall upon their noses.
So much for Corporal Trim’s body and legs.⸺He held the sermon loosely, not carelessly, in his left hand, raised something above his stomach, and detached a little from his breast;⸺his right arm falling negligently by his side, as nature and the laws of gravity ordered it,⸺but with the palm of it open and turned towards his audience, ready to aid the sentiment in case it stood in need.
Corporal Trim’s eyes and the muscles of his face were in full harmony with the other parts of him;—he looked frank,—unconstrained,—something assured,—but not bordering upon assurance.
Let not the critic ask how Corporal Trim could come by all this.⸺I’ve told him it should be explained;—but so he stood before my father, my uncle Toby, and Dr. Slop,—so swayed his body, so contrasted his limbs, and with such an oratorical sweep throughout the whole figure,⸺a statuary might have modelled from it;⸺nay, I doubt whether the oldest Fellow of a College,—or the Hebrew Professor himself, could have much mended it.
Trim made a bow, and read as follows:
“Trust!⸺Trust we have a good conscience!”
[Certainly, Trim, quoth my father, interrupting him, you give that sentence a very improper accent; for you curl up your nose, man, and read it with such a sneering tone, as if the Parson was going to abuse the Apostle.
He is, an’ please your Honour, replied Trim. Pugh! said my father, smiling.
Sir, quoth Dr. Slop, Trim is certainly in the right; for the writer (who I perceive is a Protestant) by the snappish manner in which he takes up the apostle, is certainly going to abuse him;—if this treatment of him has not done it already. But from whence, replied my father, have you concluded so soon, Dr. Slop, that the writer is of our church?—for aught I can see yet,—he may be of any church.⸺Because, answered Dr. Slop, if he was of ours,—he durst no more take such a licence,—than a bear by his beard:—If, in our communion, Sir, a man was to insult an apostle,⸺a saint,⸺or even the paring of a saint’s nail,—he would have his eyes scratched out.—What, by the saint? quoth my uncle Toby. No, replied Dr. Slop, he would have an old house over his head. Pray is the Inquisition an ancient building, answered my uncle Toby, or is it a modern one?—I know nothing of architecture, replied Dr. Slop.—An’ please your Honours, quoth Trim, the Inquisition is the vilest⸺Prithee spare thy description, Trim, I hate the very name of it, said my father.—No matter for that, answered Dr. Slop,—it has its uses; for tho’ I’m no great advocate for it, yet, in such a case as this, he would soon be taught better manners; and I can tell him, if he went on at that rate, would be flung into the Inquisition for his pains. God help him then, quoth my uncle Toby. Amen, added Trim; for Heaven above knows, I have a poor brother who has been fourteen years a captive in it.—I never heard one word of it before, said my uncle Toby, hastily:—How came he there, Trim?⸺O, Sir! the story will make your heart bleed,—as it has made mine a thousand times;—but it is too long to be told now;—your Honour shall hear it from first to last some day when I am working beside you in our fortifications;—but the short of the story is this;—That my brother Tom went over a servant to Lisbon,—and then married a Jew’s widow, who kept a small shop, and sold sausages, which somehow or other, was the cause of his being taken in the middle of the night out of his bed, where he was lying with his wife and two small children, and carried directly to the Inquisition, where, God help him, continued Trim, fetching a sigh from the bottom of his heart,—the poor honest lad lies confined at this hour; he was as honest a soul, added Trim, (pulling out his handkerchief) as ever blood warmed.⸺
—The tears trickled down Trim’s cheeks faster than he could well wipe them away.—And dead silence in the room ensued for some minutes.—Certain proof of pity!
Come, Trim, quoth my father, after he saw the poor fellow’s grief had got a little vent,—read on,—and put this melancholy story out of thy head:—I grieve that I interrupted thee; but prithee begin the sermon again;—for if the first sentence in it is matter of abuse, as thou sayest, I have a great desire to know what kind of provocation the apostle has given.
Corporal Trim wiped his face, and returned his handkerchief into his pocket, and, making a bow as he did it,—he began again.]
“Trust!⸺Trust we have a good conscience! Surely if there is anything in this life which a man may depend upon, and to the knowledge of which he is capable of arriving upon the most indisputable evidence, it must be this very thing,—whether he has a good conscience or no.”
[I am positive I am right, quoth Dr. Slop.]
“If a man thinks at all, he cannot well be a stranger to the true state of this account;⸺he must be privy to his own thoughts and desires;—he must remember his past pursuits, and know certainly the true springs and motives, which, in general, have governed the actions of his life.”
[I defy him, without an assistant, quoth Dr. Slop.]
“In other matters we may be deceived by false appearances; and, as the wise man complains, hardly do we guess aright at the things that are upon the earth, and with labour do we find the things that are before us. But here the mind has all the evidence and facts within herself;⸺is conscious of the web she has wove;⸺knows its texture and fineness, and the exact share which every passion has had in working upon the several designs which virtue or vice has planned before her.”
[The language is good, and I declare Trim reads very well, quoth my father.]
“Now,—as conscience is nothing else but the knowledge which the mind has within herself of this; and the judgment, either of approbation or censure, which it unavoidably makes upon the successive actions of our lives; ’tis plain you will say, from the very terms of the proposition,—whenever this inward testimony goes against a man, and he stands self-accused, that he must necessarily be a guilty man.—And, on the contrary, when the report is favourable on his side, and his heart condemns him not:—that it is not a matter of trust, as the apostle intimates, but a matter of certainty and fact, that the conscience is good, and that the man must be good also.”
[Then the apostle is altogether in the wrong, I suppose, quoth Dr. Slop, and the Protestant divine is in the right. Sir, have patience, replied my father, for I think it will presently appear that St. Paul and the Protestant divine are both of an opinion.—As nearly so, quoth Dr. Slop, as east is to west;—but this, continued he, lifting both hands, comes from the liberty of the press.
It is no more, at the worst, replied my uncle Toby, than the liberty of the pulpit; for it does not appear that the sermon is printed, or ever likely to be.
Go on, Trim, quoth my father.]
“At first sight this may seem to be a true state of the case: and I make no doubt but the knowledge of right and wrong is so truly impressed upon the mind of man,—that did no such thing ever happen, as that the conscience of a man, by long habits of sin, might (as the scripture assures it may) insensibly become hard;—and, like some tender parts of his body, by much stress and continual hard usage, lose by degrees that nice sense and perception with which God and nature endowed it:—Did this never happen;—or was it certain that self-love could never hang the least bias upon the judgment;—or that the little interests below could rise up and perplex the faculties of our upper regions, and encompass them about with clouds and thick darkness:⸺Could no such thing as favour and affection enter this sacred Court:—Did Wit disdain to take a bribe in it;—or was ashamed to show its face as an advocate for an unwarrantable enjoyment: Or, lastly, were we assured that Interest stood always unconcerned whilst the cause was hearing—and that Passion never got into the judgment-seat, and pronounced sentence in the stead of Reason, which is supposed always to preside and determine upon the case:—Was this truly so, as the objection must suppose;—no doubt then the religious and moral state of a man would be exactly what he himself esteemed it:—and the guilt or innocence of every man’s life could be known, in general, by no better measure, than the degrees of his own approbation and censure.
“I own, in one case, whenever a man’s conscience does accuse him (as it seldom errs on that side) that he is guilty; and unless in melancholy and hypocondriac cases, we may safely pronounce upon it, that there is always sufficient grounds for the accusation.
“But the converse of the proposition will not hold true;—namely, that whenever there is guilt, the conscience must accuse; and if it does not, that a man is therefore innocent.⸺This is not fact⸻So that the common consolation which some good christian or other is hourly administering to himself,—that he thanks God his mind does not misgive him; and that, consequently, he has a good conscience, because he hath a quiet one,—is fallacious;—and as current as the inference is, and as infallible as the rule appears at first sight, yet when you look nearer to it, and try the truth of this rule upon plain facts,⸺you see it liable to so much error from a false application;⸺the principle upon which it goes so often perverted;⸺the whole force of it lost, and sometimes so vilely cast away, that it is painful to produce the common examples from human life, which confirm the account.
“A man shall be vicious and utterly debauched in his principles;—exceptionable in his conduct to the world; shall live shameless, in the open commission of a sin which no reason or pretence can justify,⸺a sin by which, contrary to all the workings of humanity, he shall ruin forever the deluded partner of his guilt;—rob her of her best dowry; and not only cover her own head with dishonour;—but involve a whole virtuous family in shame and sorrow for her sake. Surely, you will think conscience must lead such a man a troublesome life; he can have no rest night or day from its reproaches.
“Alas! Conscience had something else to do all this time, than break in upon him; as Elijah reproached the god Baal,⸺this domestic god was either talking, or pursuing, or was in a journey, or peradventure he slept and could not be awoke.
“Perhaps He was gone out in company with Honour to fight a duel: to pay off some debt at play;⸺or dirty annuity, the bargain of his lust; Perhaps Conscience all this time was engaged at home, talking aloud against petty larceny, and executing vengeance upon some such puny crimes as his fortune and rank of life secured him against all temptation of committing; so that he lives as merrily”⸺[If he was of our church, tho’, quoth Dr. Slop, he could not]—“sleeps as soundly in his bed;—and at last meets death as unconcernedly;—perhaps much more so, than a much better man.”
[All this is impossible with us, quoth Dr. Slop, turning to my father,—the case could not happen in our church.—It happens in ours, however, replied my father, but too often.⸺I own, quoth Dr. Slop, (struck a little with my father’s frank acknowledgment)—that a man in the Romish church may live as badly;—but then he cannot easily die so.⸺’Tis little matter, replied my father, with an air of indifference,—how a rascal dies.—I mean, answered Dr. Slop, he would be denied the benefits of the last sacraments.—Pray how many have you in all, said my uncle Toby,⸺for I always forget?⸺Seven, answered Dr. Slop.⸺Humph!—said my uncle Toby; tho’ not accented as a note of acquiescence,—but as an interjection of that particular species of surprise, when a man in looking into a drawer, finds more of a thing than he expected.⸺Humph! replied my uncle Toby. Dr. Slop, who had an ear, understood my uncle Toby as well as if he had wrote a whole volume against the seven sacraments.⸺Humph! replied Dr. Slop (stating my uncle Toby’s argument over again to him)⸺Why, Sir, are there not seven cardinal virtues?⸺Seven mortal sins?⸺Seven golden candlesticks?⸺Seven heavens?—’Tis more than I know, replied my uncle Toby.⸻Are there not seven wonders of the world?⸺Seven days of the creation?⸺Seven planets?⸺Seven plagues?⸺That there are, quoth my father with a most affected gravity. But prithee, continued he, go on with the rest of thy characters, Trim.]
“Another is sordid, unmerciful,” (here Trim waved his right hand) “a strait-hearted, selfish wretch, incapable either of private friendship or public spirit. Take notice how he passes by the widow and orphan in their distress, and sees all the miseries incident to human life without a sigh or a prayer.” [An’ please your honours, cried Trim, I think this a viler man than the other.]
“Shall not conscience rise up and sting him on such occasions?⸺No; thank God there is no occasion, I pay every man his own;—I have no fornication to answer to my conscience;—no faithless vows or promises to make up;—I have debauched no man’s wife or child; thank God, I am not as other men, adulterers, unjust, or even as this libertine, who stands before me.
“A third is crafty and designing in his nature. View his whole life;—’tis nothing but a cunning contexture of dark arts and unequitable subterfuges, basely to defeat the true intent of all laws,⸺plain-dealing and the safe enjoyment of our several properties.⸺You will see such a one working out a frame of little designs upon the ignorance and perplexities of the poor and needy man;—shall raise a fortune upon the inexperience of a youth, or the unsuspecting temper of his friend, who would have trusted him with his life.
“When old age comes on, and repentance calls him to look back upon this black account, and state it over again with his conscience—Conscience looks into the Statutes at Large;—finds no express law broken by what he has done;—perceives no penalty or forfeiture of goods and chattels incurred;—sees no scourge waving over his head, or prison opening his gates upon him:—What is there to affright his conscience?—Conscience has got safely entrenched behind the Letter of the Law; sits there invulnerable, fortified with Cases and Reports so strongly on all sides;—that it is not preaching can dispossess it of its hold.”
[Here Corporal Trim and my uncle Toby exchanged looks with each other.—Aye, aye, Trim! quoth my uncle Toby, shaking his head,⸻these are but sorry fortifications, Trim.⸻O! very poor work, answered Trim, to what your Honour and I make of it.⸺The character of this last man, said Dr. Slop, interrupting Trim, is more detestable than all the rest; and seems to have been taken from some pettifogging Lawyer amongst you:—Amongst us, a man’s conscience could not possibly continue so long blinded,⸺three times in a year, at least, he must go to confession. Will that restore it to sight? quoth my uncle Toby.⸺Go on, Trim, quoth my father, or Obadiah will have got back before thou hast got to the end of thy sermon.⸺’Tis a very short one, replied Trim.⸺I wish it was longer, quoth my uncle Toby, for I like it hugely.—Trim went on.]
“A fourth man shall want even this refuge;—shall break through all their ceremony of slow chicane;⸺scorns the doubtful workings of secret plots and cautious trains to bring about his purpose:⸺See the barefaced villain, how he cheats, lies, perjures, robs, murders!—Horrid!—But indeed much better was not to be expected, in the present case—the poor man was in the dark!⸻his priest had got the keeping of his conscience;⸺and all he would let him know of it, was, That he must believe in the Pope;—go to Mass;—cross himself;—tell his beads;—be a good Catholic, and that this, in all conscience, was enough to carry him to heaven. What;—if he perjures!—Why;—he had a mental reservation in it.—But if he is so wicked and abandoned a wretch as you represent him;—if he robs,—if he stabs, will not conscience, on every such act, receive a wound itself?—Aye,—but the man has carried it to confession;⸺the wound digests there, and will do well enough, and in a short time be quite healed up by absolution. O Popery! what hast thou to answer for?⸺when, not content with the too many natural and fatal ways, thro’ which the heart of man is every day thus treacherous to itself above all things;—thou hast wilfully set open the wide gate of deceit before the face of this unwary traveller, too apt, God knows, to go astray of himself; and confidently speak peace to himself, when there is no peace.
“Of this the common instances which I have drawn out of life, are too notorious to require much evidence. If any man doubts the reality of them, or thinks it impossible for a man to be such a bubble to himself,—I must refer him a moment to his own reflections, and will then venture to trust my appeal with his own heart.
“Let him consider in how different a degree of detestation, numbers of wicked actions stand there, tho’ equally bad and vicious in their own natures;—he will soon find, that such of them as strong inclination and custom have prompted him to commit, are generally dressed out and painted with all the false beauties which a soft and a flattering hand can give them;—and that the others, to which he feels no propensity, appear, at once, naked and deformed, surrounded with all the true circumstances of folly and dishonour.
“When David surprised Saul sleeping in the cave, and cut off the skirt of his robe—we read his heart smote him for what he had done:⸺But in the matter of Uriah, where a faithful and gallant servant, whom he ought to have loved and honoured, fell to make way for his lust,—where conscience had so much greater reason to take the alarm, his heart smote him not. A whole year had almost passed from the first commission of that crime, to the time Nathan was sent to reprove him; and we read not once of the least sorrow or compunction of heart which he testified, during all that time, for what he had done.
“Thus conscience, this once able monitor,⸺placed on high as a judge within us, and intended by our Maker as a just and equitable one too,—by an unhappy train of causes and impediments, takes often such imperfect cognizance of what passes,⸺does its office so negligently,⸺sometimes so corruptly—that it is not to be trusted alone; and therefore we find there is a necessity, an absolute necessity, of joining another principle with it, to aid, if not govern, its determinations.
“So that if you would form a just judgment of what is of infinite importance to you not to be misled in,—namely, in what degree of real merit you stand either as an honest man, an useful citizen, a faithful subject to your king, or a good servant to your God,⸺call in religion and morality.—Look, What is written in the law of God?⸺How readest thou?—Consult calm reason and the unchangeable obligations of justice and truth;⸺what say they?
“Let Conscience determine the matter upon these reports;⸺and then if thy heart condemns thee not, which is the case the apostle supposes,⸺the rule will be infallible;”—[Here Dr. Slop fell asleep]—“thou wilt have confidence towards God;⸺that is, have just grounds to believe the judgment thou hast past upon thyself, is the judgment of God; and nothing else but an anticipation of that righteous sentence which will be pronounced upon thee hereafter by that Being, to whom thou art finally to give an account of thy actions.
“Blessed is the man, indeed, then, as the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus expresses it, who is not pricked with the multitude of his sins: Blessed is the man whose heart hath not condemned him; whether he be rich, or whether he be poor, if he have a good heart (a heart thus guided and informed) he shall at all times rejoice in a chearful countenance; his mind shall tell him more than seven watchmen that sit above upon a tower on high.”—[A tower has no strength, quoth my uncle Toby, unless ’tis flank’d.]—“In the darkest doubts it shall conduct him safer than a thousand casuists, and give the state he lives in, a better security for his behaviour than all the causes and restrictions put together which lawmakers are forced to multiply:—Forced, I say, as things stand; human laws not being a matter of original choice, but of pure necessity, brought in to fence against the mischievous effects of those consciences which are no law unto themselves; well intending, by the many provisions made,—that in all such corrupt and misguided cases, where principles and the checks of conscience will not make us upright,—to supply their force, and, by the terrors of gaols and halters, oblige us to it.”
[I see plainly, said my father, that this sermon has been composed to be preached at the Temple,⸺or at some Assize.—I like the reasoning,—and am sorry that Dr. Slop has fallen asleep before the time of his conviction:—for it is now clear, that the Parson, as I thought at first, never insulted St. Paul in the least;—nor has there been, brother, the least difference between them.⸺A great matter, if they had differed, replied my uncle Toby,—the best friends in the world may differ sometimes.⸺True,—brother Toby, quoth my father, shaking hands with him,—we’ll fill our pipes, brother, and then Trim shall go on.
Well,⸺what dost thou think of it? said my father speaking to Corporal Trim, as he reached his tobacco-box.
I think, answered the Corporal, that the seven watchmen upon the tower, who, I suppose, are all centinels there,—are more, an’ please your Honour, than were necessary;—and, to go on at that rate, would harrass a regiment all to pieces, which a commanding officer, who loves his men, will never do, if he can help it, because two centinels, added the Corporal, are as good as twenty.—I have been a commanding officer myself in the Corps de Garde a hundred times, continued Trim, rising an inch higher in his figure, as he spoke,—and all the time I had the honour to serve his Majesty King William, in relieving the most considerable posts, I never left more than two in my life.⸺Very right, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby,—but you do not consider, Trim, that the towers, in Solomon’s days, were not such things as our bastions, flanked and defended by other works;—this, Trim, was an invention since Solomon’s death; nor had they horn-works, or ravelins before the curtin, in his time;⸺or such a fossé as we make with a cuvette in the middle of it, and with covered ways and counterscarps pallisadoed along it, to guard against a Coup de main:—So that the seven men upon the tower were a party, I dare say, from the Corps de Garde, set there, not only to look out, but to defend it.—They could be no more, an’ please your Honour, than a Corporal’s Guard.—My father smiled inwardly, but not outwardly;—the subject being rather too serious, considering what had happened, to make a jest of.—So putting his pipe into his mouth, which he had just lighted,—he contented himself with ordering Trim to read on. He read on as follows:]
“To have the fear of God before our eyes, and, in our mutual dealings with each other, to govern our actions by the eternal measures of right and wrong:⸺The first of these will comprehend the duties of religion;—the second, those of morality, which are so inseparably connected together, that you cannot divide these two tables, even in imagination (tho’ the attempt is often made in practice) without breaking and mutually destroying them both.
“I said the attempt is often made; and so it is;⸺there being nothing more common than to see a man who has no sense at all of religion, and indeed has so much honesty as to pretend to none, who would take it as the bitterest affront, should you but hint at a suspicion of his moral character,⸺or imagine he was not conscientiously just and scrupulous to the uttermost mite.
“When there is some appearance that it is so,—tho’ one is unwilling even to suspect the appearance of so amiable a virtue as moral honesty, yet were we to look into the grounds of it, in the present case, I am persuaded we should find little reason to envy such a one the honour of his motive.
“Let him declaim as pompously as he chooses upon the subject, it will be found to rest upon no better foundation than either his interest, his pride, his ease, or some such little and changeable passion as will give us but small dependence upon his actions in matters of great distress.
“I will illustrate this by an example.
“I know the banker I deal with, or the physician I usually call in”—[There is no need, cried Dr. Slop (waking), to call in any physician in this case]⸺“to be neither of them men of much religion: I hear them make a jest of it every day, and treat all its sanctions with so much scorn, as to put the matter past doubt. Well;—notwithstanding this, I put my fortune into the hands of the one:—and what is dearer still to me, I trust my life to the honest skill of the other.
“Now let me examine what is my reason for this great confidence. Why, in the first place, I believe there is no probability that either of them will employ the power I put into their hands to my disadvantage;—I consider that honesty serves the purposes of this life:—I know their success in the world depends upon the fairness of their characters.—In a word, I’m persuaded that they cannot hurt me without hurting themselves more.
“But put it otherwise, namely, that interest lay, for once, on the other side; that a case should happen, wherein the one, without stain to his reputation, could secrete my fortune, and leave me naked in the world;—or that the other could send me out of it, and enjoy an estate by my death, without dishonour to himself or his art:—In this case, what hold have I of either of them?—Religion, the strongest of all motives, is out of the question;—Interest, the next most powerful motive in the world, is strongly against me:⸻What have I left to cast into the opposite scale to balance this temptation?⸻Alas! I have nothing,⸺nothing but what is lighter than a bubble⸻I must lie at the mercy of Honour, or some such capricious principle—Strait security for two of the most valuable blessings!—my property and myself.
“As, therefore, we can have no dependence upon morality without religion;—so, on the other hand, there is nothing better to be expected from religion without morality; nevertheless, ’tis no prodigy to see a man whose real moral character stands very low, who yet entertains the highest notion of himself in the light of a religious man.
“He shall not only be covetous, revengeful, implacable,—but even wanting in points of common honesty; yet inasmuch as he talks aloud against the infidelity of the age,⸺is zealous for some points of religion,⸺goes twice a day to church,—attends the sacraments,—and amuses himself with a few instrumental parts of religion,—shall cheat his conscience into a judgment, that, for this, he is a religious man, and has discharged truly his duty to God: And you will find such a man, through force of this delusion, generally looks down with spiritual pride upon every other man who has less affectation of piety,—though, perhaps, ten times more real honesty than himself.
“This likewise is a sore evil under the sun; and I believe, there is no one mistaken principle, which, for its time, has wrought more serious mischiefs.⸻For a general proof of this,—examine the history of the Romish church;”—[Well, what can you make of that? cried Dr. Slop]—“see what scenes of cruelty, murder, rapine, bloodshed,”⸺[They may thank their own obstinacy, cried Dr. Slop]⸺“have all been sanctified by a religion not strictly governed by morality.
“In how many kingdoms of the world”—[Here Trim kept waving his right hand from the sermon to the extent of his arm, returning it backwards and forwards to the conclusion of the paragraph.]
“In how many kingdoms of the world has the crusading sword of this misguided saint-errant, spared neither age nor merit, or sex, or condition?—and, as he fought under the banners of a religion which set him loose from justice and humanity, he showed none; mercilessly trampled upon both,—heard neither the cries of the unfortunate, nor pitied their distresses.”
[I have been in many a battle, an’ please your Honour, quoth Trim, sighing, but never in so melancholy a one as this,—I would not have drawn a tricker in it against these poor souls,⸺to have been made a general officer.⸺Why? what do you understand of the affair? said Dr. Slop, looking towards Trim, with something more of contempt than the Corporal’s honest heart deserved.⸺What do you know, friend, about this battle you talk of?—I know, replied Trim, that I never refused quarter in my life to any man who cried out for it;⸺but to a woman or a child, continued Trim, before I would level my musket at them, I would lose my life a thousand times.⸺Here’s a crown for thee, Trim, to drink with Obadiah tonight, quoth my uncle Toby, and I’ll give Obadiah another too.—God bless your Honour, replied Trim,⸺I had rather these poor women and children had it.⸺Thou art an honest fellow, quoth my uncle Toby.⸺My father nodded his head, as much as to say,—and so he is.⸺
But prithee, Trim, said my father, make an end,—for I see thou hast but a leaf or two left.
Corporal Trim read on.]
“If the testimony of past centuries in this matter is not sufficient,—consider at this instant, how the votaries of that religion are every day thinking to do service and honour to God, by actions which are a dishonour and scandal to themselves.
“To be convinced of this, go with me for a moment into the prisons of the Inquisition.”—[God help my poor brother Tom.]—“Behold Religion, with Mercy and Justice chained down under her feet,⸺there sitting ghastly upon a black tribunal, propped up with racks and instruments of torment. Hark!—hark! what a piteous groan!”—[Here Trim’s face turned as pale as ashes.]⸺“See the melancholy wretch who uttered it”—[Here the tears began to trickle down.]⸺“just brought forth to undergo the anguish of a mock trial, and endure the utmost pains that a studied system of cruelty has been able to invent.”—[D⸺n them all, quoth Trim, his colour returning into his face as red as blood.]—“Behold this helpless victim delivered up to his tormentors,—his body so wasted with sorrow and confinement.”⸺[Oh! ’tis my brother, cried poor Trim in a most passionate exclamation, dropping the sermon upon the ground, and clapping his hands together—I fear ’tis poor Tom. My father’s and my uncle Toby’s heart yearned with sympathy for the poor fellow’s distress; even Slop himself acknowledged pity for him.⸺Why, Trim, said my father, this is not a history,⸺’tis a sermon thou art reading; prithee begin the sentence again.]⸺“Behold this helpless victim delivered up to his tormentors,—his body so wasted with sorrow and confinement, you will see every nerve and muscle as it suffers.
“Observe the last movement of that horrid engine!”—[I would rather face a cannon, quoth Trim, stamping.]—“See what convulsions it has thrown him into!⸺Consider the nature of the posture in which he now lies stretched,—what exquisite tortures he endures by it!”—[I hope ’tis not in Portugal.]—“ ’Tis all nature can bear! Good God! see how it keeps his weary soul hanging upon his trembling lips!” [I would not read another line of it, quoth Trim, for all this world;—I fear, an’ please your Honours, all this is in Portugal, where my poor brother Tom is. I tell thee, Trim, again, quoth my father, ’tis not an historical account,—’tis a description.—’Tis only a description, honest man, quoth Slop, there’s not a word of truth in it.⸺That’s another story, replied my father.—However, as Trim reads it with so much concern,—’tis cruelty to force him to go on with it.—Give me hold of the sermon, Trim,—I’ll finish it for thee, and thou may’st go. I must stay and hear it, too, replied Trim, if your Honour will allow me;—tho’ I would not read it myself for a Colonel’s pay.⸻Poor Trim! quoth my uncle Toby. My father went on.]—
“⸺Consider the nature of the posture in which he now lies stretched,—what exquisite torture he endures by it!—’Tis all nature can bear! Good God! See how it keeps his weary soul hanging upon his trembling lips,—willing to take its leave,⸺but not suffered to depart!—Behold the unhappy wretch led back to his cell!”⸺[Then, thank God, however, quoth Trim, they have not killed him.]—“See him dragged out of it again to meet the flames, and the insults in his last agonies, which this principle,—this principle, that there can be religion without mercy, has prepared for him.”⸺[Then, thank God,⸺he is dead, quoth Trim,—he is out of his pain,—and they have done their worst at him.—O Sirs!—Hold your peace, Trim, said my father, going on with the sermon, lest Trim should incense Dr. Slop,—we shall never have done at this rate.]
“The surest way to try the merit of any disputed notion is, to trace down the consequences such a notion has produced, and compare them with the spirit of Christianity;⸺’tis the short and decisive rule which our Saviour hath left us, for these and suchlike cases, and it is worth a thousand arguments⸺By their fruits ye shall know them.
“I will add no farther to the length of this sermon, than by two or three short and independent rules deducible from it.
“First, Whenever a man talks loudly against religion, always suspect that it is not his reason, but his passions, which have got the better of his Creed. A bad life and a good belief are disagreeable and troublesome neighbours, and where they separate, depend upon it, ’tis for no other cause but quietness’ sake.
“Secondly, When a man, thus represented, tells you in any particular instance,⸺That such a thing goes against his conscience,⸺always believe he means exactly the same thing, as when he tells you such a thing goes against his stomach;—a present want of appetite being generally the true cause of both.
“In a word,—trust that man in nothing, who has not a Conscience in everything.
“And, in your own case, remember this plain distinction, a mistake in which has ruined thousands,—that your conscience is not a law:—No, God and reason made the law, and have placed conscience within you to determine;⸺not, like an Asiatic Cadi, according to the ebbs and flows of his own passions,—but like a British judge in this land of liberty and good sense, who makes no new law, but faithfully declares that law which he knows already written.”
Thou hast read the sermon extremely well, Trim, quoth my father.—If he had spared his comments, replied Dr. Slop,⸺he would have read it much better. I should have read it ten times better, Sir, answered Trim, but that my heart was so full.—That was the very reason, Trim, replied my father, which has made thee read the sermon as well as thou hast done; and if the clergy of our church, continued my father, addressing himself to Dr. Slop, would take part in what they deliver as deeply as this poor fellow has done,—as their compositions are fine;—[I deny it, quoth Dr. Slop]—I maintain it,—that the eloquence of our pulpits, with such subjects to enflame it, would be a model for the whole world:⸺But alas! continued my father, and I own it, Sir, with sorrow, that, like French politicians in this respect, what they gain in the cabinet they lose in the field.⸺’Twere a pity, quoth my uncle, that this should be lost. I like the sermon well, replied my father,⸺’tis dramatick,—and there is something in that way of writing, when skilfully managed, which catches the attention.⸺We preach much in that way with us, said Dr. Slop.—I know that very well, said my father,⸺but in a tone and manner which disgusted Dr. Slop, full as much as his assent, simply, could have pleased him.⸺But in this, added Dr. Slop, a little piqued,—our sermons have greatly the advantage, that we never introduce any character into them below a patriarch or a patriarch’s wife, or a martyr or a saint.—There are some very bad characters in this, however, said my father, and I do not think the sermon a jot the worse for ’em.⸺But pray, quoth my uncle Toby,—who’s can this be?—How could it get into my Stevinus? A man must be as great a conjurer as Stevinus, said my father, to resolve the second question:—The first, I think, is not so difficult;—for unless my judgment greatly deceives me,⸺I know the author, for ’tis wrote, certainly, by the parson of the parish.
The similitude of the stile and manner of it, with those my father constantly had heard preached in his parish-church, was the ground of his conjecture,—proving it as strongly, as an argument à priori could prove such a thing to a philosophic mind, That it was Yorick’s and no one’s else:—It was proved to be so, a posteriori, the day after, when Yorick sent a servant to my uncle Toby’s house to enquire after it.
It seems that Yorick, who was inquisitive after all kinds of knowledge, had borrowed Stevinus of my uncle Toby, and had carelessly popped his sermon, as soon as he had made it, into the middle of Stevinus; and by an act of forgetfulness, to which he was ever subject, he had sent Stevinus home, and his sermon to keep him company.
Ill-fated sermon! Thou wast lost, after this recovery of thee, a second time, dropped thro’ an unsuspected fissure in thy master’s pocket, down into a treacherous and a tattered lining,—trod deep into the dirt by the left hind-foot of his Rosinante inhumanly stepping upon thee as thou falledst;—buried ten days in the mire,⸺raised up out of it by a beggar,—sold for a halfpenny to a parish-clerk,⸺transferred to his parson,⸺lost forever to thy own, the remainder of his days,⸺nor restored to his restless Manes till this very moment, that I tell the world the story.
Can the reader believe, that this sermon of Yorick’s was preached at an assize, in the cathedral of York, before a thousand witnesses, ready to give oath of it, by a certain prebendary of that church, and actually printed by him when he had done,⸺and within so short a space as two years and three months after Yorick’s death?—Yorick indeed, was never better served in his life;⸻but it was a little hard to maltreat him after, and plunder him after he was laid in his grave.
However, as the gentleman who did it was in perfect charity with Yorick,—and, in conscious justice, printed but a few copies to give away;—and that I am told he could moreover have made as good a one himself, had he thought fit,—I declare I would not have published this anecdote to the world;⸺nor do I publish it with an intent to hurt his character and advancement in the church;⸺I leave that to others;—but I find myself impelled by two reasons, which I cannot withstand.
The first is, That in doing justice, I may give rest to Yorick’s ghost;⸺which—as the country-people, and some others, believe,⸺still walks.
The second reason is, That, by laying open this story to the world, I gain an opportunity of informing it,—That in case the character of parson Yorick, and this sample of his sermons, is liked,⸺there are now in the possession of the Shandy family, as many as will make a handsome volume, at the world’s service,⸺and much good may they do it.
Obadiah gained the two crowns without dispute; for he came in jingling, with all the instruments in the green bays bag we spoke of, slung across his body, just as Corporal Trim went out of the room.
It is now proper, I think, quoth Dr. Slop (clearing up his looks), as we are in a condition to be of some service to Mrs. Shandy, to send upstairs to know how she goes on.
I have ordered, answered my father, the old midwife to come down to us upon the least difficulty;—for you must know, Dr. Slop, continued my father, with a perplexed kind of a smile upon his countenance, that by express treaty, solemnly ratified between me and my wife, you are no more than an auxiliary in this affair,—and not so much as that,—unless the lean old mother of a midwife above stairs cannot do without you.—Women have their particular fancies, and in points of this nature, continued my father, where they bear the whole burden, and suffer so much acute pain for the advantage of our families, and the good of the species,—they claim a right of deciding, en Souveraines, in whose hands, and in what fashion, they choose to undergo it.
They are in the right of it,⸺quoth my uncle Toby. But, Sir, replied Dr. Slop, not taking notice of my uncle Toby’s opinion, but turning to my father,—they had better govern in other points;⸺and a father of a family, who wishes its perpetuity, in my opinion, had better exchange this prerogative with them, and give up some other rights in lieu of it.⸺I know not, quoth my father, answering a little too testily, to be quite dispassionate in what he said,—I know not, quoth he, what we have left to give up, in lieu of who shall bring our children into the world, unless that,—of who shall beget them.⸻One would almost give up anything, replied Dr. Slop.—I beg your pardon,⸺answered my uncle Toby.—Sir, replied Dr. Slop, it would astonish you to know what improvements we have made of late years in all branches of obstetrical knowledge, but particularly in that one single point of the safe and expeditious extraction of the fœtus,⸺which has received such lights, that, for my part (holding up his hands) I declare I wonder how the world has⸺I wish, quoth my uncle Toby, you had seen what prodigious armies we had in Flanders.
I have dropped the curtain over this scene for a minute,⸺to remind you of one thing,⸺and to inform you of another.
What I have to inform you, comes, I own, a little out of its due course;⸺for it should have been told a hundred and fifty pages ago, but that I foresaw then ’twould come in pat hereafter, and be of more advantage here than elsewhere.—Writers had need look before them, to keep up the spirit and connection of what they have in hand.
When these two things are done,—the curtain shall be drawn up again, and my uncle Toby, my father, and Dr. Slop, shall go on with their discourse, without any more interruption.
First, then, the matter which I have to remind you of, is this;⸺that from the specimens of singularity in my father’s notions in the point of christian-names, and that other previous point thereto,—you was led, I think, into an opinion (and I am sure I said as much), that my father was a gentleman altogether as odd and whimsical in fifty other opinions. In truth, there was not a stage in the life of man, from the very first act of his begetting,⸺down to the lean and slippered pantaloon in his second childishness, but he had some favourite notion to himself, springing out of it, as sceptical, and as far out of the highway of thinking, as these two which have been explained.
—Mr. Shandy, my father, Sir, would see nothing in the light in which others placed it;—he placed things in his own light;—he would weigh nothing in common scales;—no, he was too refined a researcher to lie open to so gross an imposition.—To come at the exact weight of things in the scientific steelyard, the fulcrum, he would say, should be almost invisible, to avoid all friction from popular tenets;—without this the minutiæ of philosophy, which would always turn the balance, will have no weight at all. Knowledge, like matter, he would affirm, was divisible in infinitum;⸺that the grains and scruples were as much a part of it, as the gravitation of the whole world.—In a word, he would say, error was error,—no matter where it fell,⸺whether in a fraction,—or a pound,—’twas alike fatal to truth, and she was kept down at the bottom of her well, as inevitably by a mistake in the dust of a butterfly’s wings,⸺as in the disk of the sun, the moon, and all the stars of heaven put together.
He would often lament that it was for want of considering this properly, and of applying it skilfully to civil matters, as well as to speculative truths, that so many things in this world were out of joint;⸺that the political arch was giving way;⸺and that the very foundations of our excellent constitution, in church and state, were so sapped as estimators had reported.
You cry out, he would say, we are a ruined, undone people. Why? he would ask, making use of the sorites or syllogism of Zeno and Chrysippus, without knowing it belonged to them.—Why? why are we a ruined people?—Because we are corrupted.—Whence is it, dear Sir, that we are corrupted?⸺Because we are needy;⸺our poverty, and not our wills, consent.⸺And wherefore, he would add, are we needy?—From the neglect, he would answer, of our pence and our halfpence:—Our bank notes, Sir, our guineas,—nay, our shillings take care of themselves.
’Tis the same, he would say, throughout the whole circle of the sciences;—the great, the established points of them, are not to be broke in upon.—The laws of nature will defend themselves;—but error⸺(he would add, looking earnestly at my mother)⸺error, Sir, creeps in thro’ the minute holes and small crevices which human nature leaves unguarded.
This turn of thinking in my father, is what I had to remind you of:—The point you are to be informed of, and which I have reserved for this place, is as follows.
Amongst the many and excellent reasons, with which my father had urged my mother to accept of Dr. Slop’s assistance preferably to that of the old woman,⸺there was one of a very singular nature; which, when he had done arguing the manner with her as a Christian, and came to argue it over again with her as a philosopher, he had put his whole strength to, depending indeed upon it as his sheet-anchor.⸺It failed him; tho’ from no defect in the argument itself; but that, do what he could, he was not able for his soul to make her comprehend the drift of it.⸺Cursed luck!⸺said he to himself, one afternoon, as he walked out of the room, after he had been stating it for an hour and a half to her, to no manner of purpose;—cursed luck! said he, biting his lip as he shut the door,⸺for a man to be master of one of the finest chains of reasoning in nature,—and have a wife at the same time with such a headpiece, that he cannot hang up a single inference within side of it, to save his soul from destruction.
This argument, though it was entirely lost upon my mother,⸺had more weight with him, than all his other arguments joined together:—I will therefore endeavour to do it justice,—and set it forth with all the perspicuity I am master of.
My father set out upon the strength of these two following axioms:
First, That an ounce of a man’s own wit, was worth a ton of other people’s; and,
Secondly (Which by the bye, was the groundwork of the first axiom,⸺tho’ it comes last), That every man’s wit must come from every man’s own soul,⸺and no other body’s.
Now, as it was plain to my father, that all souls were by nature equal,⸺and that the great difference between the most acute and the most obtuse understanding⸺was from no original sharpness or bluntness of one thinking substance above or below another,⸺but arose merely from the lucky or unlucky organisation of the body, in that part where the soul principally took up her residence,⸺he had made it the subject of his enquiry to find out the identical place.
Now, from the best accounts he had been able to get of this matter, he was satisfied it could not be where Des Cartes had fixed it, upon the top of the pineal gland of the brain; which, as he philosophized, formed a cushion for her about the size of a marrow pea; tho’, to speak the truth, as so many nerves did terminate all in that one place,—’twas no bad conjecture;⸺and my father had certainly fallen with that great philosopher plumb into the centre of the mistake, had it not been for my uncle Toby, who rescued him out of it, by a story he told him of a Walloon officer at the battle of Landen, who had one part of his brain shot away by a musket-ball,—and another part of it taken out after by a French surgeon; and after all, recovered, and did his duty very well without it.
If death, said my father, reasoning with himself, is nothing but the separation of the soul from the body; and if it is true that people can walk about and do their business without brains,—then certes the soul does not inhabit there. Q.E.D.
As for that certain, very thin, subtle and very fragrant juice which Coglionissimo Borri, the great Milanese physician affirms, in a letter to Bartholine, to have discovered in the cellulæ of the occipital parts of the cerebellum, and which he likewise affirms to be the principal seat of the reasonable soul (for, you must know, in these latter and more enlightened ages, there are two souls in every man living,—the one, according to the great Metheglingius, being called the Animus, the other, the Anima;)—as for the opinion, I say, of Borri,—my father could never subscribe to it by any means; the very idea of so noble, so refined, so immaterial, and so exalted a being as the Anima, or even the Animus, taking up her residence, and sitting dabbling, like a tadpole all day long, both summer and winter, in a puddle,⸺or in a liquid of any kind, how thick or thin soever, he would say, shocked his imagination; he would scarce give the doctrine a hearing.
What, therefore, seemed the least liable to objections of any, was that the chief sensorium, or headquarters of the soul, and to which place all intelligences were referred, and from whence all her mandates were issued,—was in, or near, the cerebellum,—or rather somewhere about the medulla oblongata, wherein it was generally agreed by Dutch anatomists, that all the minute nerves from all the organs of the seven senses concentered, like streets and winding alleys, into a square.
So far there was nothing singular in my father’s opinion,—he had the best of philosophers, of all ages and climates, to go along with him.⸺But here he took a road of his own, setting up another Shandean hypothesis upon these cornerstones they had laid for him;⸺and which said hypothesis equally stood its ground; whether the subtlety and fineness of the soul depended upon the temperature and clearness of the said liquor, or of the finer network and texture in the cerebellum itself; which opinion he favoured.
He maintained, that next to the due care to be taken in the act of propagation of each individual, which required all the thought in the world, as it laid the foundation of this incomprehensible contexture, in which wit, memory, fancy, eloquence, and what is usually meant by the name of good natural parts, do consist;—that next to this and his christian-name, which were the two original and most efficacious causes of all;⸺that the third cause, or rather what logicians call the Causa sine quâ non, and without which all that was done was of no manner of significance,⸺was the preservation of this delicate and finespun web, from the havock which was generally made in it by the violent compression and crush which the head was made to undergo, by the nonsensical method of bringing us into the world by that foremost.
⸺This requires explanation.
My father, who dipped into all kinds of books, upon looking into Lithopædus Senonesis de Partu difficili,5 published by Adrianus Smelvgot, had found out, that the lax and pliable state of a child’s head in parturition, the bones of the cranium having no sutures at that time, was such,⸺that by force of the woman’s efforts, which, in strong labour-pains, was equal, upon an average, to the weight of 470 pounds averdupois acting perpendicularly upon it;—it so happened, that in 49 instances out of 50, the said head was compressed and moulded into the shape of an oblong conical piece of dough, such as a pastry-cook generally rolls up in order to make a pye of.—Good God! cried my father, what havock and destruction must this make in the infinitely fine and tender texture of the cerebellum!—Or if there is such a juice as Borri pretends,—is it not enough to make the clearest liquid in the world both feculent and mothery?
But how great was his apprehension, when he farther understood, that this force acting upon the very vertex of the head, not only injured the brain itself, or cerebrum,—but that it necessarily squeezed and propelled the cerebrum towards the cerebellum, which was the immediate seat of the understanding!⸺Angels and ministers of grace defend us! cried my father,⸺can any soul withstand this shock?—No wonder the intellectual web is so rent and tattered as we see it; and that so many of our best heads are no better than a puzzled skein of silk,⸺all perplexity,⸺all confusion within-side.
But when my father read on, and was let into the secret, that when a child was turned topsy-turvy, which was easy for an operator to do, and was extracted by the feet;—that instead of the cerebrum being propelled towards the cerebellum, the cerebellum, on the contrary, was propelled simply towards the cerebrum, where it could do no manner of hurt:⸺By heavens! cried he, the world is in conspiracy to drive out what little wit God has given us,⸺and the professors of the obstetric art are lifted into the same conspiracy.—What is it to me which end of my son comes foremost into the world, provided all goes right after, and his cerebellum escapes uncrushed?
It is the nature of an hypothesis, when once a man has conceived it, that it assimilates everything to itself, as proper nourishment; and, from the first moment of your begetting it, it generally grows the stronger by every thing you see, hear, read, or understand. This is of great use.
When my father was gone with this about a month, there was scarce a phænomenon of stupidity or of genius, which he could not readily solve by it;—it accounted for the eldest son being the greatest blockhead in the family.⸺Poor devil, he would say,—he made way for the capacity of his younger brothers.⸺It unriddled the observations of drivellers and monstrous heads,⸺showing à priori, it could not be otherwise,⸺unless **** I don’t know what. It wonderfully explained and accounted for the acumen of the Asiatic genius, and that sprightlier turn, and a more penetrating intuition of minds, in warmer climates; not from the loose and commonplace solution of a clearer sky, and a more perpetual sunshine, etc.—which for aught he knew, might as well rarefy and dilute the faculties of the soul into nothing, by one extreme,—as they are condensed in colder climates by the other;⸺but he traced the affair up to its spring-head;—showed that, in warmer climates, nature had laid a lighter tax upon the fairest parts of the creation;—their pleasures more;—the necessity of their pains less, insomuch that the pressure and resistance upon the vertex was so slight, that the whole organisation of the cerebellum was preserved;⸺nay, he did not believe, in natural births, that so much as a single thread of the network was broke or displaced,⸺so that the soul might just act as she liked.
When my father had got so far,⸻what a blaze of light did the accounts of the Caesarian section, and of the towering geniuses who had come safe into the world by it, cast upon this hypothesis? Here you see, he would say, there was no injury done to the sensorium;—no pressure of the head against the pelvis;⸺no propulsion of the cerebrum towards the cerebellum, either by the os pubis on this side, or the os coxygis on that;⸻and pray, what were the happy consequences? Why, Sir, your Julius Caesar, who gave the operation a name;—and your Hermes Trismegistus, who was born so before ever the operation had a name;⸺your Scipio Africanus; your Manlius Torquatus; our Edward the Sixth,—who, had he lived, would have done the same honour to the hypothesis:⸺These, and many more who figured high in the annals of fame,—all came sideway, Sir, into the world.
The incision of the abdomen and uterus ran for six weeks together in my father’s head;⸺he had read, and was satisfied, that wounds in the epigastrium, and those in the matrix, were not mortal;—so that the belly of the mother might be opened extremely well to give a passage to the child.—He mentioned the thing one afternoon to my mother,⸻merely as a matter of fact; but seeing her turn as pale as ashes at the very mention of it, as much as the operation flattered his hopes,—he thought it as well to say no more of it,⸺contenting himself with admiring,—what he thought was to no purpose to propose.
This was my father Mr. Shandy’s hypothesis; concerning which I have only to add, that my brother Bobby did as great honour to it (whatever he did to the family) as any one of the great heroes we spoke of: For happening not only to be christened, as I told you, but to be born too, when my father was at Epsom,⸺being moreover my mother’s first child,—coming into the world with his head foremost,—and turning out afterwards a lad of wonderful slow parts,⸺my father spelt all these together into his opinion: and as he had failed at one end,—he was determined to try the other.
This was not to be expected from one of the sisterhood, who are not easily to be put out of their way,⸺and was therefore one of my father’s great reasons in favour of a man of science, whom he could better deal with.
Of all men in the world, Dr. Slop was the fittest for my father’s purpose;⸺for though this new-invented forceps was the armour he had proved, and what he maintained to be the safest instrument of deliverance, yet, it seems, he had scattered a word or two in his book, in favour of the very thing which ran in my father’s fancy;⸺tho’ not with a view to the soul’s good in extracting by the feet, as was my father’s system,—but for reasons merely obstetrical.
This will account for the coalition betwixt my father and Dr. Slop, in the ensuing discourse, which went a little hard against my uncle Toby.⸺In what manner a plain man, with nothing but common sense, could bear up against two such allies in science,—is hard to conceive.—You may conjecture upon it, if you please,⸺and whilst your imagination is in motion, you may encourage it to go on, and discover by what causes and effects in nature it could come to pass, that my uncle Toby got his modesty by the wound he received upon his groin.—You may raise a system to account for the loss of my nose by marriage-articles,—and show the world how it could happen, that I should have the misfortune to be called Tristam, in opposition to my father’s hypothesis, and the wish of the whole family, Godfathers and Godmothers not excepted.—These, with fifty other points left yet unravelled, you may endeavour to solve if you have time;⸺but I tell you beforehand it will be in vain, for not the sage Alquife, the magician in Don Belianis of Greece, nor the no less famous Urganda, the sorceress his wife, (were they alive), could pretend to come within a league of the truth.
The reader will be content to wait for a full explanation of these matters till the next year,⸺when a series of things will be laid open which he little expects.
Multitudinis imperitæ non formido judicia; meis tamen, rogo, parcant opusculis⸻in quibus fuit propositi semper, a jocis ad seria, a seriis vicissim ad jocos transire.—Joan. Saresberiensis, Episcopus Lugdun.
⸺“I wish, Dr. Slop,” quoth my uncle Toby, (repeating his wish for Dr. Slop a second time, and with a degree of more zeal and earnestness in his manner of wishing, than he had wished at first6)⸺“I wish, Dr. Slop,” quoth my uncle Toby, “you had seen what prodigious armies we had in Flanders.”
My uncle Toby’s wish did Dr. Slop a disservice which his heart never intended any man,—Sir, it confounded him⸺and thereby putting his ideas first into confusion, and then to flight, he could not rally them again for the soul of him.
In all disputes,⸺male or female,⸺whether for honour, for profit, or for love,—it makes no difference in the case;—nothing is more dangerous, Madam, than a wish coming sideways in this unexpected manner upon a man: the safest way in general to take off the force of the wish, is for the party wish’d at, instantly to get upon his legs—and wish the wisher something in return, of pretty near the same value,⸺so balancing the account upon the spot, you stand as you were—nay sometimes gain the advantage of the attack by it.
This will be fully illustrated to the world in my chapter of wishes.—
Dr. Slop did not understand the nature of this defence;—he was puzzled with it, and it put an entire stop to the dispute for four minutes and a half;—five had been fatal to it:—my father saw the danger—the dispute was one of the most interesting disputes in the world, “Whether the child of his prayers and endeavours should be born without a head or with one:”—he waited to the last moment, to allow Dr. Slop, in whose behalf the wish was made, his right of returning it; but perceiving, I say, that he was confounded, and continued looking with that perplexed vacuity of eye which puzzled souls generally stare with—first in my uncle Toby’s face—then in his—then up—then down—then east—east and by east, and so on,⸺coasting it along by the plinth of the wainscot till he had got to the opposite point of the compass,⸺and that he had actually begun to count the brass nails upon the arm of his chair,—my father thought there was no time to be lost with my uncle Toby, so took up the discourse as follows.
“—What prodigious armies you had in Flanders!”⸺
Brother Toby, replied my father, taking his wig from off his head with his right hand, and with his left pulling out a striped India handkerchief from his right coat pocket, in order to rub his head, as he argued the point with my uncle Toby.⸺
⸺Now, in this I think my father was much to blame; and I will give you my reasons for it.
Matters of no more seeming consequence in themselves than, “Whether my father should have taken off his wig with his right hand or with his left,”⸺have divided the greatest kingdoms, and made the crowns of the monarchs who governed them, to totter upon their heads.⸺But need I tell you, Sir, that the circumstances with which everything in this world is begirt, give everything in this world its size and shape!—and by tightening it, or relaxing it, this way or that, make the thing to be, what it is—great—little—good—bad—indifferent or not indifferent, just as the case happens?
As my father’s India handkerchief was in his right coat pocket, he should by no means have suffered his right hand to have got engaged: on the contrary, instead of taking off his wig with it, as he did, he ought to have committed that entirely to the left; and then, when the natural exigency my father was under of rubbing his head, called out for his handkerchief, he would have had nothing in the world to have done, but to have put his right hand into his right coat pocket and taken it out;⸺which he might have done without any violence, or the least ungraceful twist in any one tendon or muscle of his whole body
In this case, (unless, indeed, my father had been resolved to make a fool of himself by holding the wig stiff in his left hand⸺or by making some nonsensical angle or other at his elbow-joint, or armpit)—his whole attitude had been easy—natural—unforced: Reynolds himself, as great and gracefully as he paints, might have painted him as he sat.
Now as my father managed this matter,—consider what a devil of a figure my father made of himself.
In the latter end of Queen Anne’s reign, and in the beginning of the reign of King George the first—“Coat pockets were cut very low down in the skirt.”—I need say no more—the father of mischief, had he been hammering at it a month, could not have contrived a worse fashion for one in my father’s situation.
It was not an easy matter in any king’s reign (unless you were as lean a subject as myself) to have forced your hand diagonally, quite across your whole body, so as to gain the bottom of your opposite coat pocket.⸺In the year one thousand seven hundred and eighteen, when this happened, it was extremely difficult; so that when my uncle Toby discovered the transverse zig-zaggery of my father’s approaches towards it, it instantly brought into his mind those he had done duty in, before the gate of St. Nicolas;⸺the idea of which drew off his attention so entirely from the subject in debate, that he had got his right hand to the bell to ring up Trim to go and fetch his map of Namur, and his compasses and sector along with it, to measure the returning angles of the traverses of that attack,—but particularly of that one, where he received his wound upon his groin.
My father knit his brows, and as he knit them, all the blood in his body seemed to rush up into his face⸺my uncle Toby dismounted immediately.
⸺I did not apprehend your uncle Toby was o’ horseback.⸻
A man’s body and his mind, with the utmost reverence to both I speak it, are exactly like a jerkin, and a jerkin’s lining;—rumple the one,—you rumple the other. There is one certain exception however in this case, and that is, when you are so fortunate a fellow, as to have had your jerkin made of gum-taffeta, and the body-lining to it of a sarcenet, or thin persian.
Zeno, Cleanthes, Diogenes Babylonius, Dionysius, Heracleotes, Antipater, Panætius, and Posidonius amongst the Greeks;⸺Cato and Varro and Seneca amongst the Romans;⸺Pantæonus and Clemens Alexandrinus and Montaigne amongst the Christians; and a score and a half of good, honest, unthinking Shandean people as ever lived, whose names I can’t recollect,—all pretended that their jerkins were made after this fashion,—you might have rumpled and crumpled, and doubled and creased, and fretted and fridged the outside of them all to pieces;⸺in short, you might have played the very devil with them, and at the same time, not one of the insides of them would have been one button the worse, for all you had done to them.
I believe in my conscience that mine is made up somewhat after this sort:⸺for never poor jerkin has been tickled off at such a rate as it has been these last nine months together,⸺and yet I declare, the lining to it,⸻as far as I am a judge of the matter,⸺is not a threepenny piece the worse;—pell-mell, helter-skelter, dingdong, cut and thrust, back stroke and fore stroke, side way and long way, have they been trimming it for me:—had there been the least gumminess in my lining,—by heaven! it had all of it long ago been frayed and fretted to a thread.
⸻You Messrs. the Monthly reviewers!⸻how could you cut and slash my jerkin as you did?⸺how did you know but you would cut my lining too?
Heartily and from my soul, to the protection of that Being who will injure none of us, do I recommend you and your affairs,—so God bless you;—only next month, if any one of you should gnash his teeth, and storm and rage at me, as some of you did last May (in which I remember the weather was very hot)—don’t be exasperated, if I pass it by again with good temper,—being determined as long as I live or write (which in my case means the same thing) never to give the honest gentleman a worse word or a worse wish than my uncle Toby gave the fly which buzz’d about his nose all dinnertime,⸻“Go,—go, poor devil,” quoth he,—“get thee gone,—why should I hurt thee? This world is surely wide enough to hold both thee and me.”
Any man, Madam, reasoning upwards, and observing the prodigious suffusion of blood in my father’s countenance,—by means of which (as all the blood in his body seemed to rush into his face, as I told you) he must have reddened, pictorically and scientifically speaking, six whole tints and a half, if not a full octave above his natural colour:—any man, Madam, but my uncle Toby, who had observed this, together with the violent knitting of my father’s brows, and the extravagant contortion of his body during the whole affair,—would have concluded my father in a rage; and taking that for granted,—had he been a lover of such kind of concord as arises from two such instruments being put in exact tune,—he would instantly have skrew’d up his, to the same pitch;—and then the devil and all had broke loose—the whole piece, Madam, must have been played off like the sixth of Avison Scarlatti—con furia,—like mad.—Grant me patience!⸺What has con furia,⸺con strepito,⸺or any other hurly burly whatever to do with harmony?
Any man, I say, Madam, but my uncle Toby, the benignity of whose heart interpreted every motion of the body in the kindest sense the motion would admit of, would have concluded my father angry, and blamed him too. My uncle Toby blamed nothing but the taylor who cut the pocket-hole;⸺so sitting still till my father had got his handkerchief out of it, and looking all the time up in his face with inexpressible goodwill⸺my father, at length, went on as follows.
“What prodigious armies you had in Flanders!”⸺Brother Toby, quoth my father, I do believe thee to be as honest a man, and with as good and as upright a heart as ever God created;—nor is it thy fault, if all the children which have been, may, can, shall, will, or ought to be begotten, come with their heads foremost into the world:⸺but believe me, dear Toby, the accidents which unavoidably waylay them, not only in the article of our begetting ’em⸺though these, in my opinion, are well worth considering,⸺but the dangers and difficulties our children are beset with, after they are got forth into the world, are enow—little need is there to expose them to unnecessary ones in their passage to it.⸺Are these dangers, quoth my uncle Toby, laying his hand upon my father’s knee, and looking up seriously in his face for an answer,⸺are these dangers greater now o’ days, brother, than in times past? Brother Toby, answered my father, if a child was but fairly begot, and born alive, and healthy, and the mother did well after it,—our forefathers never looked farther.⸺My uncle Toby instantly withdrew his hand from off my father’s knee, reclined his body gently back in his chair, raised his head till he could just see the cornice of the room, and then directing the buccinatory muscles along his cheeks, and the orbicular muscles around his lips to do their duty—he whistled Lillabullero.
Whilst my uncle Toby was whistling Lillabullero to my father,—Dr. Slop was stamping, and cursing and damning at Obadiah at a most dreadful rate,⸻it would have done your heart good, and cured you, Sir, forever of the vile sin of swearing, to have heard him; I am determined therefore to relate the whole affair to you.
When Dr. Slop’s maid delivered the green bays bag with her master’s instruments in it, to Obadiah, she very sensibly exhorted him to put his head and one arm through the strings, and ride with it slung across his body: so undoing the bowknot, to lengthen the strings for him, without any more ado, she helped him on with it. However, as this, in some measure, unguarded the mouth of the bag, lest anything should bolt out in galloping back, at the speed Obadiah threatened, they consulted to take it off again: and in the great care and caution of their hearts, they had taken the two strings and tied them close (pursing up the mouth of the bag first) with half a dozen hard knots, each of which Obadiah, to make all safe, had twitched and drawn together with all the strength of his body.
This answered all that Obadiah and the maid intended; but was no remedy against some evils which neither he or she foresaw. The instruments, it seems, as tight as the bag was tied above, had so much room to play in it, towards the bottom (the shape of the bag being conical) that Obadiah could not make a trot of it, but with such a terrible jingle, what with the tire tête, forceps, and squirt, as would have been enough, had Hymen been taking a jaunt that way, to have frightened him out of the country; but when Obadiah accelerated his motion, and from a plain trot assayed to prick his coach-horse into a full gallop⸺by Heaven! Sir, the jingle was incredible.
As Obadiah had a wife and three children⸺the turpitude of fornication, and the many other political ill consequences of this jingling, never once entered his brain,⸺he had however his objection, which came home to himself, and weighed with him, as it has ofttimes done with the greatest patriots.⸺“The poor fellow, Sir, was not able to hear himself whistle.”
As Obadiah loved wind-music preferably to all the instrumental music he carried with him,—he very considerately set his imagination to work, to contrive and to invent by what means he should put himself in a condition of enjoying it.
In all distresses (except musical) where small cords are wanted, nothing is so apt to enter a man’s head as his hatband:⸺the philosophy of this is so near the surface⸺I scorn to enter into it.
As Obadiah’s was a mix’d case⸺mark, Sirs,⸺I say, a mixed case; for it was obstetrical,⸺scriptical, squirtical, papistical⸺and as far as the coach-horse was concerned in it,⸺caballistical⸺and only partly musical;—Obadiah made no scruple of availing himself of the first expedient which offered; so taking hold of the bag and instruments, and griping them hard together with one hand, and with the finger and thumb of the other putting the end of the hatband betwixt his teeth, and then slipping his hand down to the middle of it,—he tied and cross-tied them all fast together from one end to the other (as you would cord a trunk) with such a multiplicity of roundabouts and intricate cross turns, with a hard knot at every intersection or point where the strings met,—that Dr. Slop must have had three-fifths of Job’s patience at least to have unloosed them.—I think in my conscience, that had Nature been in one of her nimble moods, and in humour for such a contest⸺and she and Dr. Slop both fairly started together⸺there is no man living who had seen the bag with all that Obadiah had done to it,⸺and known likewise the great speed the Goddess can make when she thinks proper, who would have had the least doubt remaining in his mind—which of the two would have carried off the prize. My mother, Madam, had been delivered sooner than the green bag infallibly⸺at least by twenty knots.⸺Sport of small accidents, Tristram Shandy! that thou art, and ever will be! had that trial been for thee, and it was fifty to one but it had,⸺thy affairs had not been so depress’d—(at least by the depression of thy nose) as they have been; nor had the fortunes of thy house and the occasions of making them, which have so often presented themselves in the course of thy life, to thee, been so often, so vexatiously, so tamely, so irrecoverably abandoned—as thou hast been forced to leave them;⸺but ’tis over,⸺all but the account of ’em, which cannot be given to the curious till I am got out into the world.
Great wits jump: for the moment Dr. Slop cast his eyes upon his bag (which he had not done till the dispute with my uncle Toby about midwifery put him in mind of it)—the very same thought occurred.—’Tis God’s mercy, quoth he (to himself) that Mrs. Shandy has had so bad a time of it,⸺else she might have been brought to bed seven times told, before one half of these knots could have got untied.⸺But here you must distinguish—the thought floated only in Dr. Slop’s mind, without sail or ballast to it, as a simple proposition; millions of which, as your worship knows, are every day swimming quietly in the middle of the thin juice of a man’s understanding, without being carried backwards or forwards, till some little gusts of passion or interest drive them to one side.
A sudden trampling in the room above, near my mother’s bed, did the proposition the very service I am speaking of. By all that’s unfortunate, quoth Dr. Slop, unless I make haste, the thing will actually befall me as it is.
In the case of knots,—by which, in the first place, I would not be understood to mean slipknots—because in the course of my life and opinions—my opinions concerning them will come in more properly when I mention the catastrophe of my great uncle Mr. Hammond Shandy,—a little man,—but of high fancy:—he rushed into the duke of Monmouth’s affair:⸺nor, secondly, in this place, do I mean that particular species of knots called bowknots;—there is so little address, or skill, or patience required in the unloosing them, that they are below my giving any opinion at all about them.—But by the knots I am speaking of, may it please your reverences to believe, that I mean good, honest, devilish tight, hard knots, made bona fide, as Obadiah made his;⸺in which there is no quibbling provision made by the duplication and return of the two ends of the strings thro’ the annulus or noose made by the second implication of them—to get them slipp’d and undone by.—I hope you apprehend me.
In the case of these knots then, and of the several obstructions, which, may it please your reverences, such knots cast in our way in getting through life⸺every hasty man can whip out his penknife and cut through them.⸺’Tis wrong. Believe me, Sirs, the most virtuous way, and which both reason and conscience dictate⸺is to take our teeth or our fingers to them.⸺Dr. Slop had lost his teeth—his favourite instrument, by extracting in a wrong direction, or by some misapplication of it, unfortunately slipping, he had formerly, in a hard labour, knock’d out three of the best of them with the handle of it:⸻he tried his fingers—alas; the nails of his fingers and thumbs were cut close.⸺The duce take it! I can make nothing of it either way, cried Dr. Slop.⸺The trampling overhead near my mother’s bedside increased.—Pox take the fellow! I shall never get the knots untied as long as I live.⸺My mother gave a groan.⸺Lend me your penknife⸺I must e’en cut the knots at last⸺pugh!⸺psha!—Lord! I have cut my thumb quite across to the very bone⸺curse the fellow—if there was not another man-midwife within fifty miles⸺I am undone for this bout—I wish the scoundrel hang’d—I wish he was shot⸺I wish all the devils in hell had him for a blockhead!⸻
My father had a great respect for Obadiah, and could not bear to hear him disposed of in such a manner—he had moreover some little respect for himself—and could as ill bear with the indignity offered to himself in it.
Had Dr. Slop cut any part about him, but his thumb⸺my father had pass’d it by—his prudence had triumphed: as it was, he was determined to have his revenge.
Small curses, Dr. Slop, upon great occasions, quoth my father (condoling with him first upon the accident), are but so much waste of our strength and soul’s health to no manner of purpose.—I own it, replied Dr. Slop.—They are like sparrow-shot, quoth my uncle Toby (suspending his whistling), fired against a bastion.⸺They serve, continued my father, to stir the humours⸺but carry off none of their acrimony:—for my own part, I seldom swear or curse at all—I hold it bad⸺but if I fall into it by surprise, I generally retain so much presence of mind (right, quoth my uncle Toby) as to make it answer my purpose⸺that is, I swear on till I find myself easy. A wise and a just man however would always endeavour to proportion the vent given to these humours, not only to the degree of them stirring within himself—but to the size and ill intent of the offence upon which they are to fall.—“Injuries come only from the heart,”—quoth my uncle Toby. For this reason, continued my father, with the most Cervantick gravity, I have the greatest veneration in the world for that gentleman, who, in distrust of his own discretion in this point, sat down and composed (that is at his leisure) fit forms of swearing suitable to all cases, from the lowest to the highest provocation which could possibly happen to him⸺which forms being well considered by him, and such moreover as he could stand to, he kept them ever by him on the chimneypiece, within his reach, ready for use.—I never apprehended, replied Dr. Slop, that such a thing was ever thought of⸺much less executed. I beg your pardon, answered my father; I was reading, though not using, one of them to my brother Toby this morning, whilst he pour’d out the tea—’tis here upon the shelf over my head;—but if I remember right, ’tis too violent for a cut of the thumb.—Not at all, quoth Dr. Slop—the devil take the fellow.⸺Then, answered my father, ’Tis much at your service, Dr. Slop—on condition you will read it aloud;⸺so rising up and reaching down a form of excommunication of the church of Rome, a copy of which, my father (who was curious in his collections) had procured out of the leger-book of the church of Rochester, writ by Ernulphus the bishop⸺with a most affected seriousness of look and voice, which might have cajoled Ernulphus himself—he put it into Dr. Slop’s hands.⸺Dr. Slop wrapt his thumb up in the corner of his handkerchief, and with a wry face, though without any suspicion, read aloud, as follows⸻my uncle Toby whistling Lillabullero as loud as he could all the time.
Ex auctoritate Dei omnipotentis, Patris, et Filij, et Spiritus Sancti, et sanctorum canonum, sanctæque et intemeratæ Virginis Dei genetricis Mariæ,—
⸻Atque omnium cœlestium virtutum, angelorum, archangelorum, thronorum, dominationum, potestatuum, cherubin ac seraphin, & sanctorum patriarchum, prophetarum, & omnium apostolorum & evangelistarum, & sanctorum innocentum, qui in conspectu Agni soli digni inventi sunt canticum cantare novum, et sanctorum martyrum et sanctorum confessorum, et sanctarum virginum, atque omnium simul sanctorum et electorum Dei,⸺Excommunicamus, et anathematizamus hunc furem, vel hunc malefactorem, N. N. et a liminibus sanctæ Dei ecclesiæ sequestramus, et æternis suppliciis excruciandus, mancipetur, cum Dathan et Abiram, et cum his qui dixerunt Domino Deo, Recede à nobis, scientiam viarum tuarum nolumus: et sicut aquâ ignis extinguitur, sic extinguatur lucerna ejus in secula seculorum nisi resipuerit, et ad satisfactionem venerit. Amen.
Maledicat illum Deus Pater qui hominem creavit. Maledicat illum Dei Filius qui pro homine passus est. Maledicat illum Spiritus Sanctus qui in baptismo effusus est. Maledicat illum sancta crux, quam Christus pro nostrâ salute hostem triumphans ascendit.
Maledicat illum sancta Dei genetrix et perpetua Virgo Maria. Maledicat illum sanctus Michael, animarum susceptor sacrarum. Maledicant illum omnes angeli et archangeli, principatus et potestates, omnisque militia cœlestis.
Maledicat illum patriarcharum et prophetarum laudabilis numerus. Maledicat illum sanctus Johannes Præcusor et Baptista Christi, et sanctus Petrus, et sanctus Paulus, atque sanctus Andreas, omnesque Christi apostoli, simul et cæteri discipuli, quatuor quoque evangelistæ, qui sua prædicatione mundum universum converterunt. Maledicat illum cuneus martyrum et confessorum mirificus, qui Deo bonis operibus placitus inventus est.
Maledicant illum sacrarum virginum chori, quæ mundi vana causa honoris Christi respuenda contempserunt. Maledicant illum omnes sancti qui ab initio mundi usque in finem seculi Deo dilecti inveniuntur.
Maledicant illum cœli et terra, et omnia sancta in eis manentia.
Maledictus sit ubicunque fuerit, sive in domo, sive in agro, sive in viâ, sive in semitâ, sive in silvâ, sive in aquâ, sive in ecclesiâ.
Maledictus sit vivendo, moriendo, ⸻ ⸻ ⸻ ⸻ ⸻ ⸻ ⸻ ⸻ ⸻ manducando, bibendo, esuriendo, sitiendo, jejunando, dormitando, dormiendo, vigilando, ambulando, stando, sedendo, jacendo, operando, quiescendo, mingendo, cacando, flebotomando.
Maledictus sit in totis viribus corporis,
Maledictus sit intus et exterius.
Maledictus sit in capillis; maledictus sit in cerebro. Maledictus sit in vertice, in temporibus, in fronte, in auriculis, in superciliis, in oculis, in genis, in maxillis, in naribus, in dentibus, mordacibus, sive molaribus, in labiis, in guttere, in humeris, in harnis, in brachiis, in manubus, in digitis, in pectore, in corde, et in omnibus interioribus stomacho tenus, in renibus, in inguinibus, in femore, in genitalibus, in coxis, in genubus, in cruribus, in pedibus, et in inguibus.
Maledictus sit in totis compagibus membrorum, a vertice capitis, usque ad plantam pedis—non sit in eo sanitas.
Maledicat illum Christus Filius Dei vivi toto suæ majestatis imperio.⸺
⸺et insurgat adversus illum cœlum cum omnibus virtutibus quæ in eo moventur ad damnandum eum, nisi penituerit et ad satisfactionem venerit. Amen. Fiat, fiat. Amen.
“By the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and of the holy canons, and of the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour.” I think there is no necessity, quoth Dr. Slop, dropping the paper down to his knee, and addressing himself to my father⸺as you have read it over, Sir, so lately, to read it aloud⸺and as Captain Shandy seems to have no great inclination to hear it⸻I may as well read it to myself. That’s contrary to treaty, replied my father:⸻besides, there is something so whimsical, especially in the latter part of it, I should grieve to lose the pleasure of a second reading. Dr. Slop did not altogether like it,⸻but my uncle Toby offering at that instant to give over whistling, and read it himself to them;⸻Dr. Slop thought he might as well read it under the cover of my uncle Toby’s whistling⸻as suffer my uncle Toby to read it alone;⸺so raising up the paper to his face, and holding it quite parallel to it, in order to hide his chagrin⸻he read it aloud as follows⸺⸺my uncle Toby whistling Lillabullero, though not quite so loud as before.
“By the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and of the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour, and of all the celestial virtues, angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, cherubins and seraphins, and of all the holy patriarchs, prophets, and of all the apostles and evangelists, and of the holy innocents, who in the sight of the Holy Lamb, are found worthy to sing the new song of the holy martyrs and holy confessors, and of the holy virgins, and of all the saints, together with the holy and elect of God,⸺May he” (Obadiah) “be damn’d” (for tying these knots)⸺“We excommunicate, and anathematize him, and from the thresholds of the holy church of God Almighty we sequester him, that he may be tormented, disposed, and delivered over with Dathan and Abiram, and with those who say unto the Lord God, Depart from us, we desire none of thy ways. And as fire is quenched with water, so let the light of him be put out for evermore, unless it shall repent him” (Obadiah, of the knots which he has tied) “and make satisfaction” (for them) “Amen.”
“May the Father who created man, curse him.⸺May the Son who suffered for us, curse him.⸺May the Holy Ghost, who was given to us in baptism, curse him (Obadiah)⸺May the holy cross which Christ, for our salvation triumphing over his enemies, ascended, curse him.
“May the holy and eternal Virgin Mary, mother of God, curse him.⸻May St. Michael, the advocate of holy souls, curse him.⸺May all the angels and archangels, principalities and powers, and all the heavenly armies, curse him.” [Our armies swore terribly in Flanders, cried my uncle Toby,⸻but nothing to this.⸻For my own part I could not have a heart to curse my dog so.]
“May St. John, the Præcursor, and St. John the Baptist, and St. Peter and St. Paul, and St. Andrew, and all other Christ’s apostles, together curse him. And may the rest of his disciples and four evangelists, who by their preaching converted the universal world, and may the holy and wonderful company of martyrs and confessors who by their holy works are found pleasing to God Almighty, curse him” (Obadiah).
“May the holy choir of the holy virgins, who for the honour of Christ have despised the things of the world, damn him⸺May all the saints, who from the beginning of the world to everlasting ages are found to be beloved of God, damn him⸻May the heavens and earth, and all the holy things remaining therein, damn him” (Obadiah) “or her” (or whoever else had a hand in tying these knots).
“May he (Obadiah) be damn’d wherever he be⸺whether in the house or the stables, the garden or the field, or the highway, or in the path, or in the wood, or in the water, or in the church.⸺May he be cursed in living, in dying.” [Here my uncle Toby, taking the advantage of a minim in the second bar of his tune, kept whistling one continued note to the end of the sentence.⸺Dr. Slop, with his division of curses moving under him, like a running bass all the way.] “May he be cursed in eating, and drinking, in being hungry, in being thirsty, in fasting, in sleeping, in slumbering, in walking, in standing, in sitting, in lying, in working, in resting, in pissing, in shitting, and in bloodletting!”
“May he” (Obadiah) “be cursed in all the faculties of his body!
“May he be cursed inwardly and outwardly!⸻May he be cursed in the hair of his head!⸺May he be cursed in his brains, and in his vertex” (that is a sad curse, quoth my father), “in his temples, in his forehead, in his ears, in his eyebrows, in his cheeks, in his jawbones, in his nostrils, in his fore-teeth and grinders, in his lips, in his throat, in his shoulders, in his wrists, in his arms, in his hands, in his fingers!
“May he be damn’d in his mouth, in his breast, in his heart and purtenance, down to the very stomach!
“May he be cursed in his reins, and in his groin” (God in heaven forbid! quoth my uncle Toby), “in his thighs, in his genitals” (my father shook his head), “and in his hips, and in his knees, his legs, and feet, and toenails!
“May he be cursed in all the joints and articulations of his members, from the top of his head to the sole of his foot! May there be no soundness in him!
“May the Son of the living God, with all the glory of his Majesty”⸺[Here my uncle Toby, throwing back his head, gave a monstrous, long, loud Whew—w—w⸺⸺something betwixt the interjectional whistle of Hay-day! and the word itself.⸻
⸺By the golden beard of Jupiter—and of Juno (if her majesty wore one) and by the beards of the rest of your heathen worships, which by the bye was no small number, since what with the beards of your celestial gods, and gods aerial and aquatick—to say nothing of the beards of town-gods and country-gods, or of the celestial goddesses your wives, or of the infernal goddesses your whores and concubines (that is in case they wore them)⸻all which beards, as Varro tells me, upon his word and honour, when mustered up together, made no less than thirty thousand effective beards upon the Pagan establishment;⸺every beard of which claimed the rights and privileges of being stroken and sworn by—by all these beards together then⸺I vow and protest, that of the two bad cassocks I am worth in the world, I would have given the better of them, as freely as ever Cid Hamet offered his⸺to have stood by, and heard my uncle Toby’s accompanyment.]
⸺“curse him!” continued Dr. Slop,—“and may heaven, with all the powers which move therein, rise up against him, curse and damn him” (Obadiah) “unless he repent and make satisfaction! Amen. So be it,—so be it. Amen.”
I declare, quoth my uncle Toby, my heart would not let me curse the devil himself with so much bitterness.—He is the father of curses, replied Dr. Slop.⸺So am not I, replied my uncle.⸺But he is cursed, and damn’d already, to all eternity, replied Dr. Slop.
I am sorry for it, quoth my uncle Toby.
Dr. Slop drew up his mouth, and was just beginning to return my uncle Toby the compliment of his Whu—u—u—or interjectional whistle⸺when the door hastily opening in the next chapter but one⸺put an end to the affair.
Now don’t let us give ourselves a parcel of airs, and pretend that the oaths we make free with in this land of liberty of ours are our own; and because we have the spirit to swear them,⸺imagine that we have had the wit to invent them too.
I’ll undertake this moment to prove it to any man in the world, except to a connoisseur:⸺though I declare I object only to a connoisseur in swearing,⸺as I would do to a connoisseur in painting, etc., etc., the whole set of ’em are so hung round and befetish’d with the bobs and trinkets of criticism,⸺or to drop my metaphor, which by the bye is a pity,⸺for I have fetch’d it as far as from the coast of Guiney;—their heads, Sir, are stuck so full of rules and compasses, and have that eternal propensity to apply them upon all occasions, that a work of genius had better go to the devil at once, than stand to be prick’d and tortured to death by ’em.
—And how did Garrick speak the soliloquy last night?—Oh, against all rule, my lord,—most ungrammatically! betwixt the substantive and the adjective, which should agree together in number, case, and gender, he made a breach thus,—stopping, as if the point wanted settling;—and betwixt the nominative case, which your lordship knows should govern the verb, he suspended his voice in the epilogue a dozen times three seconds and three-fifths by a stopwatch, my lord, each time,—Admirable grammarian!⸺But in suspending his voice⸺was the sense suspended likewise? Did no expression of attitude or countenance fill up the chasm?⸺Was the eye silent? Did you narrowly look?⸻I look’d only at the stopwatch, my lord.—Excellent observer!
And what of this new book the whole world makes such a rout about?⸺Oh! ’tis out of all plumb, my lord,⸺quite an irregular thing!—not one of the angles at the four corners was a right angle.—I had my rule and compasses, etc., my lord, in my pocket.—Excellent critick!
⸺And for the epick poem your lordship bid me look at⸺upon taking the length, breadth, height, and depth of it, and trying them at home upon an exact scale of Bossu’s⸺’tis out, my lord, in every one of its dimensions.—Admirable connoisseur!
⸺And did you step in, to take a look at the grand picture in your way back?—’Tis a melancholy daub! my lord; not one principle of the pyramid in any one group!⸺and what a price!⸺for there is nothing of the colouring of Titian—the expression of Rubens—the grace of Raphael—the purity of Dominichino—the corregiescity of Corregio—the learning of Poussin—the airs of Guido—the taste of the Carrachis—or the grand contour of Angela.—Grant me patience, just Heaven!—Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world—though the cant of hypocrites may be the worst⸺the cant of criticism is the most tormenting!
I would go fifty miles on foot, for I have not a horse worth riding on, to kiss the hand of that man whose generous heart will give up the reins of his imagination into his author’s hands⸺be pleased he knows not why, and cares not wherefore.
Great Apollo! if thou art in a giving humour—give me—I ask no more, but one stroke of native humour, with a single spark of thy own fire along with it⸺and send Mercury, with the rules and compasses, if he can be spared, with my compliments to—no matter.
Now to anyone else I will undertake to prove, that all the oaths and imprecations which we have been puffing off upon the world for these two hundred and fifty years last past as originals⸺except St. Paul’s thumb⸺God’s flesh and God’s fish, which were oaths monarchical, and, considering who made them, not much amiss; and as kings’ oaths, ’tis not much matter whether they were fish or flesh;—else I say, there is not an oath, or at least a curse amongst them, which has not been copied over and over again out of Ernulphus a thousand times: but, like all other copies, how infinitely short of the force and spirit of the original!—It is thought to be no bad oath⸺and by itself passes very well—“G⸺d damn you.”—Set it beside Ernulphus’s⸺“God Almighty the Father damn you—God the Son damn you—God the Holy Ghost damn you”—you see ’tis nothing.—There is an orientality in his, we cannot rise up to: besides, he is more copious in his invention—possess’d more of the excellencies of a swearer⸺had such a thorough knowledge of the human frame, its membranes, nerves, ligaments, knittings of the joints, and articulations,⸺that when Ernulphus cursed—no part escaped him.—’Tis true there is something of a hardness in his manner⸺and, as in Michaelangelo, a want of grace⸺but then there is such a greatness of gusto!
My father, who generally look’d upon everything in a light very different from all mankind, would, after all, never allow this to be an original.⸺He considered rather, Ernulphus’s anathema, as an institute of swearing, in which, as he suspected, upon the decline of swearing in some milder pontificate, Ernulphus, by order of the succeeding pope, had with great learning and diligence collected together all the laws of it;—for the same reason that Justinian, in the decline of the empire, had ordered his chancellor Tribonian to collect the Roman or civil laws all together into one code or digest⸺lest, through the rust of time⸺and the fatality of all things committed to oral tradition—they should be lost to the world forever.
For this reason my father would ofttimes affirm, there was not an oath, from the great and tremendous oath of William the Conqueror (By the splendour of God) down to the lowest oath of a scavenger (Damn your eyes) which was not to be found in Ernulphus.—In short, he would add—I defy a man to swear out of it.
The hypothesis is, like most of my father’s, singular and ingenious too;⸺nor have I any objection to it, but that it overturns my own.
⸺Bless my soul!—my poor mistress is ready to faint⸺and her pains are gone—and the drops are done—and the bottle of julap is broke⸺and the nurse has cut her arm—(and I, my thumb, cried Dr. Slop,) and the child is where it was, continued Susannah,—and the midwife has fallen backwards upon the edge of the fender, and bruised her hip as black as your hat.—I’ll look at it, quoth Dr. Slop.—There is no need of that, replied Susannah,—you had better look at my mistress—but the midwife would gladly first give you an account how things are, so desires you would go upstairs and speak to her this moment.
Human nature is the same in all professions.
The midwife had just before been put over Dr. Slop’s head—He had not digested it,—No, replied Dr. Slop, ’twould be full as proper, if the midwife came down to me.—I like subordination, quoth my uncle Toby,—and but for it, after the reduction of Lisle, I know not what might have become of the garrison of Ghent, in the mutiny for bread, in the year Ten.—Nor, replied Dr. Slop, (parodying my uncle Toby’s hobbyhorsical reflection; though full as hobbyhorsical himself)⸻do I know, Captain Shandy, what might have become of the garrison above stairs, in the mutiny and confusion I find all things are in at present, but for the subordination of fingers and thumbs to ******⸻the application of which, Sir, under this accident of mine, comes in so apropos, that without it, the cut upon my thumb might have been felt by the Shandy family, as long as the Shandy family had a name.
Let us go back to the ******⸺in the last chapter.
It is a singular stroke of eloquence (at least it was so, when eloquence flourished at Athens and Rome, and would be so now, did orators wear mantles) not to mention the name of a thing, when you had the thing about you in petto, ready to produce, pop, in the place you want it. A scar, an axe, a sword, a pink’d doublet, a rusty helmet, a pound and a half of pot-ashes in an urn, or a three-halfpenny pickle pot—but above all, a tender infant royally accoutred.—Tho’ if it was too young, and the oration as long as Tully’s second Philippick—it must certainly have beshit the orator’s mantle.—And then again, if too old,—it must have been unwieldy and incommodious to his action—so as to make him lose by his child almost as much as he could gain by it.—Otherwise, when a state orator has hit the precise age to a minute⸺hid his bambino in his mantle so cunningly that no mortal could smell it⸺and produced it so critically, that no soul could say, it came in by head and shoulders—Oh Sirs! it has done wonders—It has open’d the sluices, and turn’d the brains, and shook the principles, and unhinged the politicks of half a nation.
These feats however are not to be done, except in those states and times, I say, where orators wore mantles⸺and pretty large ones too, my brethren, with some twenty or five-and-twenty yards of good purple, superfine, marketable cloth in them—with large flowing folds and doubles, and in a great style of design.—All which plainly shows, may it please your worships, that the decay of eloquence, and the little good service it does at present, both within and without doors, is owing to nothing else in the world, but short coats, and the disuse of trunk-hose.⸺We can conceal nothing under ours, Madam, worth showing.
Dr. Slop was within an ace of being an exception to all this argumentation: for happening to have his green bays bag upon his knees, when he began to parody my uncle Toby—’twas as good as the best mantle in the world to him: for which purpose, when he foresaw the sentence would end in his new-invented forceps, he thrust his hand into the bag in order to have them ready to clap in, when your reverences took so much notice of the ***, which had he managed⸺my uncle Toby had certainly been overthrown: the sentence and the argument in that case jumping closely in one point, so like the two lines which form the salient angle of a ravelin,⸺Dr. Slop would never have given them up;—and my uncle Toby would as soon have thought of flying, as taking them by force: but Dr. Slop fumbled so vilely in pulling them out, it took off the whole effect, and what was a ten times worse evil (for they seldom come alone in this life) in pulling out his forceps, his forceps unfortunately drew out the squirt along with it.
When a proposition can be taken in two senses—’tis a law in disputation, That the respondent may reply to which of the two he pleases, or finds most convenient for him.⸺This threw the advantage of the argument quite on my uncle Toby’s side.⸺“Good God!” cried my uncle Toby, “are children brought into the world with a squirt?”
—Upon my honour, Sir, you have tore every bit of skin quite off the back of both my hands with your forceps, cried my uncle Toby—and you have crush’d all my knuckles into the bargain with them to a jelly. ’Tis your own fault, said Dr. Slop⸺you should have clinch’d your two fists together into the form of a child’s head as I told you, and sat firm. I did so, answered my uncle Toby.⸺Then the points of my forceps have not been sufficiently arm’d, or the rivet wants closing—or else the cut in my thumb has made me a little aukward—or possibly—’Tis well, quoth my father, interrupting the detail of possibilities—that the experiment was not first made upon my child’s headpiece.⸻It would not have been a cherrystone the worse, answered Dr. Slop.—I maintain it, said my uncle Toby, it would have broke the cerebellum (unless indeed the skull had been as hard as a granado) and turn’d it all into a perfect posset.⸻Pshaw! replied Dr. Slop, a child’s head is naturally as soft as the pap of an apple;—the sutures give way—and besides, I could have extracted by the feet after.—Not you, said she.⸺I rather wish you would begin that way, quoth my father.
Pray do, added my uncle Toby.
⸺And pray, good woman, after all, will you take upon you to say, it may not be the child’s hip, as well as the child’s head?⸻’Tis most certainly the head, replied the midwife. Because, continued Dr. Slop (turning to my father) as positive as these old ladies generally are—’tis a point very difficult to know—and yet of the greatest consequence to be known;⸺because, Sir, if the hip is mistaken for the head—there is a possibility (if it is a boy) that the forceps * * * * * *
⸺What the possibility was, Dr. Slop whispered very low to my father, and then to my uncle Toby.⸺There is no such danger, continued he, with the head.—No, in truth, quoth my father—but when your possibility has taken place at the hip—you may as well take off the head too.
⸺It is morally impossible the reader should understand this⸺’tis enough Dr. Slop understood it;⸺so taking the green bays bag in his hand, with the help of Obadiah’s pumps, he tripp’d pretty nimbly, for a man of his size, across the room to the door⸻and from the door was shown the way, by the good old midwife, to my mother’s apartments.
It is two hours, and ten minutes—and no more—cried my father, looking at his watch, since Dr. Slop and Obadiah arrived—and I know not how it happens, brother Toby—but to my imagination it seems almost an age.
⸺Here—pray, Sir, take hold of my cap—nay, take the bell along with it, and my pantoufles too.
Now, Sir, they are all at your service; and I freely make you a present of ’em, on condition you give me all your attention to this chapter.
Though my father said, “he knew not how it happen’d,”—yet he knew very well how it happen’d;⸺and at the instant he spoke it, was predetermined in his mind to give my uncle Toby a clear account of the matter by a metaphysical dissertation upon the subject of duration and its simple modes, in order to show my uncle Toby by what mechanism and mensurations in the brain it came to pass, that the rapid succession of their ideas, and the eternal scampering of the discourse from one thing to another, since Dr. Slop had come into the room, had lengthened out so short a period to so inconceivable an extent.⸺“I know not how it happens—cried my father,—but it seems an age.”
⸺’Tis owing entirely, quoth my uncle Toby, to the succession of our ideas.
My father, who had an itch, in common with all philosophers, of reasoning upon everything which happened, and accounting for it too—proposed infinite pleasure to himself in this, of the succession of ideas, and had not the least apprehension of having it snatch’d out of his hands by my uncle Toby, who (honest man!) generally took everything as it happened;⸺and who, of all things in the world, troubled his brain the least with abstruse thinking;—the ideas of time and space—or how we came by those ideas—or of what stuff they were made⸺or whether they were born with us—or we picked them up afterwards as we went along—or whether we did it in frocks⸺or not till we had got into breeches—with a thousand other inquiries and disputes about infinity, prescience, liberty, necessity, and so forth, upon whose desperate and unconquerable theories so many fine heads have been turned and cracked⸺never did my uncle Toby’s the least injury at all; my father knew it—and was no less surprised than he was disappointed, with my uncle’s fortuitous solution.
Do you understand the theory of that affair? replied my father.
Not I, quoth my uncle.
—But you have some ideas, said my father, of what you talk about?—
No more than my horse, replied my uncle Toby.
Gracious heaven! cried my father, looking upwards, and clasping his two hands together⸺there is a worth in thy honest ignorance, brother Toby⸺’twere almost a pity to exchange it for a knowledge.—But I’ll tell thee.⸺
To understand what time is aright, without which we never can comprehend infinity, insomuch as one is a portion of the other⸺we ought seriously to sit down and consider what idea it is we have of duration, so as to give a satisfactory account how we came by it.⸺What is that to anybody? quoth my uncle Toby.8 For if you will turn your eyes inwards upon your mind, continued my father, and observe attentively, you will perceive, brother, that whilst you and I are talking together, and thinking, and smoking our pipes, or whilst we receive successively ideas in our minds, we know that we do exist, and so we estimate the existence, or the continuation of the existence of ourselves, or anything else, commensurate to the succession of any ideas in our minds, the duration of ourselves, or any such other thing coexisting with our thinking⸺and so according to that preconceived⸻You puzzle me to death, cried my uncle Toby.
⸻’Tis owing to this, replied my father, that in our computations of time, we are so used to minutes, hours, weeks, and months⸺and of clocks (I wish there was not a clock in the kingdom) to measure out their several portions to us, and to those who belong to us⸺that ’twill be well, if in time to come, the succession of our ideas be of any use or service to us at all.
Now, whether we observe it or no, continued my father, in every sound man’s head, there is a regular succession of ideas of one sort or other, which follow each other in train just like⸻A train of artillery? said my uncle Toby⸺A train of a fiddlestick!—quoth my father—which follow and succeed one another in our minds at certain distances, just like the images in the inside of a lanthorn turned round by the heat of a candle.—I declare, quoth my uncle Toby, mine are more like a smoak-jack.⸻Then, brother Toby, I have nothing more to say to you upon that subject, said my father.
⸺What a conjecture was here lost!⸺My father in one of his best explanatory moods—in eager pursuit of a metaphysical point into the very regions, where clouds and thick darkness would soon have encompassed it about;—my uncle Toby in one of the finest dispositions for it in the world;—his head like a smoak-jack;⸺the funnel unswept, and the ideas whirling round and round about in it, all obfuscated and darkened over with fuliginous matter!—By the tombstone of Lucian⸺if it is in being⸺if not, why then by his ashes! by the ashes of my dear Rabelais, and dearer Cervantes!⸻my father and my uncle Toby’s discourse upon time and eternity⸺was a discourse devoutly to be wished for! and the petulancy of my father’s humour, in putting a stop to it as he did, was a robbery of the Ontologic Treasury of such a jewel, as no coalition of great occasions and great men are ever likely to restore to it again.
Tho’ my father persisted in not going on with the discourse—yet he could not get my uncle Toby’s smoak-jack out of his head—piqued as he was at first with it;—there was something in the comparison at the bottom, which hit his fancy; for which purpose, resting his elbow upon the table, and reclining the right side of his head upon the palm of his hand⸺but looking first stedfastly in the fire⸺he began to commune with himself, and philosophize about it: but his spirits being wore out with the fatigues of investigating new tracts, and the constant exertion of his faculties upon that variety of subjects which had taken their turn in the discourse⸻the idea of the smoak-jack soon turned all his ideas upside down—so that he fell asleep almost before he knew what he was about.
As for my uncle Toby, his smoak-jack had not made a dozen revolutions, before he fell asleep also.⸺Peace be with them both!⸺Dr. Slop is engaged with the midwife and my mother above stairs.⸺Trim is busy in turning an old pair of jackboots into a couple of mortars, to be employed in the siege of Messina next summer—and is this instant boring the touch-holes with the point of a hot poker.⸺All my heroes are off my hands;—’tis the first time I have had a moment to spare—and I’ll make use of it, and write my preface.
No, I’ll not say a word about it⸺here it is;—in publishing it—I have appealed to the world⸺and to the world I leave it;—it must speak for itself.
All I know of the matter is—when I sat down, my intent was to write a good book; and as far as the tenuity of my understanding would hold out—a wise, aye, and a discreet—taking care only, as I went along, to put into it all the wit and the judgment (be it more or less) which the great Author and Bestower of them had thought fit originally to give me⸻so that, as your worships see—’tis just as God pleases.
Now, Agelastes (speaking dispraisingly) sayeth, That there may be some wit in it, for aught he knows⸺but no judgment at all. And Triptolemus and Phutatorius agreeing thereto, ask, How is it possible there should? for that wit and judgment in this world never go together; inasmuch as they are two operations differing from each other as wide as east from west⸻So, says Locke⸺so are farting and hickuping, say I. But in answer to this, Didius the great church lawyer, in his code de fartendi et illustrandi fallaciis, doth maintain and make fully appear, That an illustration is no argument⸺nor do I maintain the wiping of a looking-glass clean to be a syllogism;⸺but you all, may it please your worships, see the better for it⸻so that the main good these things do is only to clarify the understanding, previous to the application of the argument itself, in order to free it from any little motes, or specks of opacular matter, which, if left swimming therein, might hinder a conception and spoil all.
Now, my dear anti-Shandeans, and thrice able criticks, and fellow-labourers (for to you I write this Preface)⸻and to you, most subtle statesmen and discreet doctors (do—pull off your beards) renowned for gravity and wisdom;⸺Monopolus, my politician—Didius, my counsel; Kysarcius, my friend;—Phutatorius, my guide;⸺Gastripheres, the preserver of my life; Somnolentius, the balm and repose of it⸺not forgetting all others, as well sleeping as waking, ecclesiastical as civil, whom for brevity, but out of no resentment to you, I lump all together.⸻Believe me, right worthy,
My most zealous wish and fervent prayer in your behalf, and in my own too, in case the thing is not done already for us⸺is, that the great gifts and endowments both of wit and judgment, with everything which usually goes along with them⸻such as memory, fancy, genius, eloquence, quick parts, and whatnot, may this precious moment, without stint or measure, let or hindrance, be poured down warm as each of us could bear it—scum and sediment and all (for I would not have a drop lost) into the several receptacles, cells, cellules, domiciles, dormitories, refectories, and spare places of our brains⸻in such sort, that they might continue to be injected and tunn’d into, according to the true intent and meaning of my wish, until every vessel of them, both great and small, be so replenish’d, saturated, and filled up therewith, that no more, would it save a man’s life, could possibly be got either in or out.
Bless us!—what noble work we should make!⸺how should I tickle it off!⸺and what spirits should I find myself in, to be writing away for such readers!⸺and you—just heaven!⸺with what raptures would you sit and read—but oh!—’tis too much⸺I am sick⸺I faint away deliciously at the thoughts of it—’tis more than nature can bear!—lay hold of me⸺I am giddy—I am stone blind—I’m dying—I am gone.—Help! Help! Help!—But hold—I grow something better again, for I am beginning to foresee, when this is over, that as we shall all of us continue to be great wits—we should never agree amongst ourselves, one day to an end:⸺there would be so much satire and sarcasm⸺scoffing and flouting, with raillying and reparteeing of it—thrusting and parrying in one corner or another⸺there would be nothing but mischief among us⸺Chaste stars! what biting and scratching, and what a racket and a clatter we should make, what with breaking of heads, rapping of knuckles, and hitting of sore places—there would be no such thing as living for us.
But then again, as we should all of us be men of great judgment, we should make up matters as fast as ever they went wrong; and though we should abominate each other ten times worse than so many devils or devilesses, we should nevertheless, my dear creatures, be all courtesy and kindness, milk and honey—’twould be a second land of promise—a paradise upon earth, if there was such a thing to be had—so that upon the whole we should have done well enough.
All I fret and fume at, and what most distresses my invention at present, is how to bring the point itself to bear; for as your worships well know, that of these heavenly emanations of wit and judgment, which I have so bountifully wished both for your worships and myself—there is but a certain quantum stored up for us all, for the use and behoof of the whole race of mankind; and such small modicums of ’em are only sent forth into this wide world, circulating here and there in one bye corner or another—and in such narrow streams, and at such prodigious intervals from each other, that one would wonder how it holds out, or could be sufficient for the wants and emergencies of so many great estates, and populous empires.
Indeed there is one thing to be considered, that in Nova Zembla, North Lapland, and in all those cold and dreary tracts of the globe, which lie more directly under the arctick and antarctick circles, where the whole province of a man’s concernments lies for near nine months together within the narrow compass of his cave—where the spirits are compressed almost to nothing—and where the passions of a man, with everything which belongs to them, are as frigid as the zone itself—there the least quantity of judgment imaginable does the business—and of wit⸺there is a total and an absolute saving—for as not one spark is wanted—so not one spark is given. Angels and ministers of grace defend us! what a dismal thing would it have been to have governed a kingdom, to have fought a battle, or made a treaty, or run a match, or wrote a book, or got a child, or held a provincial chapter there, with so plentiful a lack of wit and judgment about us! For mercy’s sake, let us think no more about it, but travel on as fast as we can southwards into Norway—crossing over Swedeland, if you please, through the small triangular province of Angermania to the lake of Bothnia; coasting along it through east and west Bothnia, down to Carelia, and so on, through all those states and provinces which border upon the far side of the Gulf of Finland, and the northeast of the Baltick, up to Petersbourg, and just stepping into Ingria;—then stretching over directly from thence through the north parts of the Russian empire—leaving Siberia a little upon the left hand, till we got into the very heart of Russian and Asiatick Tartary.
Now throughout this long tour which I have led you, you observe the good people are better off by far, than in the polar countries which we have just left:—for if you hold your hand over your eyes, and look very attentively, you may perceive some small glimmerings (as it were) of wit, with a comfortable provision of good plain household judgment, which, taking the quality and quantity of it together, they make a very good shift with⸻and had they more of either the one or the other, it would destroy the proper balance betwixt them, and I am satisfied moreover they would want occasions to put them to use.
Now, Sir, if I conduct you home again into this warmer and more luxuriant island, where you perceive the spring-tide of our blood and humours runs high⸻where we have more ambition, and pride, and envy, and lechery, and other whoreson passions upon our hands to govern and subject to reason⸻the height of our wit, and the depth of our judgment, you see, are exactly proportioned to the length and breadth of our necessities⸻and accordingly we have them sent down amongst us in such a flowing kind of descent and creditable plenty, that no one thinks he has any cause to complain.
It must however be confessed on this head, that, as our air blows hot and cold—wet and dry, ten times in a day, we have them in no regular and settled way;—so that sometimes for near half a century together, there shall be very little wit or judgment either to be seen or heard of amongst us:⸺the small channels of them shall seem quite dried up⸺then all of a sudden the sluices shall break out, and take a fit of running again like fury⸺you would think they would never stop:⸺and then it is, that in writing, and fighting, and twenty other gallant things, we drive all the world before us.
It is by these observations, and a wary reasoning by analogy in that kind of argumentative process, which Suidas calls dialectick induction⸻that I draw and set up this position as most true and veritable;
That of these two luminaries so much of their irradiations are suffered from time to time to shine down upon us, as he, whose infinite wisdom which dispenses everything in exact weight and measure, knows will just serve to light us on our way in this night of our obscurity; so that your reverences and worships now find out, nor is it a moment longer in my power to conceal it from you, That the fervent wish in your behalf with which I set out, was no more than the first insinuating How d’ye of a caressing prefacer, stifling his reader, as a lover sometimes does a coy mistress, into silence. For alas! could this effusion of light have been as easily procured, as the exordium wished it—I tremble to think how many thousands for it, of benighted travellers (in the learned sciences at least) must have groped and blundered on in the dark, all the nights of their lives⸺running their heads against posts, and knocking out their brains without ever getting to their journies end;⸺some falling with their noses perpendicularly into sinks⸺others horizontally with their tails into kennels. Here one half of a learned profession tilting full but against the other half of it, and then tumbling and rolling one over the other in the dirt like hogs.—Here the brethren of another profession, who should have run in opposition to each other, flying on the contrary like a flock of wild geese, all in a row the same way.—What confusion!—what mistakes!⸺fiddlers and painters judging by their eyes and ears—admirable!—trusting to the passions excited—in an air sung, or a story painted to the heart⸺instead of measuring them by a quadrant.
In the foreground of this picture, a statesman turning the political wheel, like a brute, the wrong way round⸺against the stream of corruption—by Heaven!⸺instead of with it.
In this corner, a son of the divine Esculapius, writing a book against predestination; perhaps worse—feeling his patient’s pulse, instead of his apothecary’s⸺a brother of the Faculty in the background upon his knees in tears—drawing the curtains of a mangled victim to beg his forgiveness;—offering a fee—instead of taking one.
In that spacious hall, a coalition of the gown, from all the bars of it, driving a damn’d, dirty, vexatious cause before them, with all their might and main, the wrong way!⸺kicking it out of the great doors, instead of in⸺and with such fury in their looks, and such a degree of inveteracy in their manner of kicking it, as if the laws had been originally made for the peace and preservation of mankind:⸺perhaps a more enormous mistake committed by them still⸻a litigated point fairly hung up;⸻for instance, Whether John o’Nokes his nose could stand in Tom o’Stiles his face, without a trespass, or not—rashly determined by them in five-and-twenty minutes, which, with the cautious pros and cons required in so intricate a proceeding, might have taken up as many months⸺and if carried on upon a military plan, as your honours know an action should be, with all the stratagems practicable therein,⸻such as feints,⸺forced marches,⸺surprises⸺ambuscades⸺mask-batteries, and a thousand other strokes of generalship, which consist in catching at all advantages on both sides⸻might reasonably have lasted them as many years, finding food and raiment all that term for a centumvirate of the profession.
As for the Clergy⸻No⸺if I say a word against them, I’ll be shot.⸺I have no desire;—and besides, if I had—I durst not for my soul touch upon the subject⸺with such weak nerves and spirits, and in the condition I am in at present, ’twould be as much as my life was worth, to deject and contrist myself with so bad and melancholy an account—and therefore ’tis safer to draw a curtain across, and hasten from it, as fast as I can, to the main and principal point I have undertaken to clear up⸺and that is, How it comes to pass, that your men of least wit are reported to be men of most judgment.⸺But mark—I say, reported to be—for it is no more, my dear Sirs, than a report, and which, like twenty others taken up every day upon trust, I maintain to be a vile and a malicious report into the bargain.
This by the help of the observation already premised, and I hope already weighed and perpended by your reverences and worships, I shall forthwith make appear.
I hate set dissertations⸺and above all things in the world, ’tis one of the silliest things in one of them, to darken your hypothesis by placing a number of tall, opake words, one before another, in a right line, betwixt your own and your reader’s conception—when in all likelihood, if you had looked about, you might have seen something standing, or hanging up, which would have cleared the point at once—“for what hindrance, hurt, or harm doth the laudable desire of knowledge bring to any man, if even from a sot, a pot, a fool, a stool, a winter-mittain, a truckle for a pully, the lid of a goldsmith’s crucible, an oil bottle, an old slipper, or a cane chair?”—I am this moment sitting upon one. Will you give me leave to illustrate this affair of wit and judgment, by the two knobs on the top of the back of it?—they are fastened on, you see, with two pegs stuck slightly into two gimlet-holes, and will place what I have to say in so clear a light, as to let you see through the drift and meaning of my whole preface, as plainly as if every point and particle of it was made up of sunbeams.
I enter now directly upon the point.
—Here stands wit—and there stands judgment, close beside it, just like the two knobs I’m speaking of, upon the back of this selfsame chair on which I am sitting.
—You see, they are the highest and most ornamental parts of its frame—as wit and judgment are of ours—and like them too, indubitably both made and fitted to go together, in order, as we say in all such cases of duplicated embellishments⸺⸺to answer one another.
Now for the sake of an experiment, and for the clearer illustrating this matter—let us for a moment take off one of these two curious ornaments (I care not which) from the point or pinnacle of the chair it now stands on—nay, don’t laugh at it,—but did you ever see, in the whole course of your lives, such a ridiculous business as this has made of it?—Why, ’tis as miserable a sight as a sow with one ear; and there is just as much sense and symmetry in the one as in the other:⸺do⸺pray, get off your seats only to take a view of it.⸺Now would any man who valued his character a straw, have turned a piece of work out of his hand in such a condition?—nay, lay your hands upon your hearts, and answer this plain question, Whether this one single knob, which now stands here like a blockhead by itself, can serve any purpose upon earth, but to put one in mind of the want of the other?—and let me farther ask, in case the chair was your own, if you would not in your consciences think, rather than be as it is, that it would be ten times better without any knob at all?
Now these two knobs⸻or top ornaments of the mind of man, which crown the whole entablature⸺being, as I said, wit and judgment, which of all others, as I have proved it, are the most needful⸺the most priz’d—the most calamitous to be without, and consequently the hardest to come at—for all these reasons put together, there is not a mortal among us, so destitute of a love of good fame or feeding⸺or so ignorant of what will do him good therein—who does not wish and stedfastly resolve in his own mind, to be, or to be thought at least, master of the one or the other, and indeed of both of them, if the thing seems anyway feasible, or likely to be brought to pass.
Now your graver gentry having little or no kind of chance in aiming at the one—unless they laid hold of the other,⸺pray what do you think would become of them?⸺Why, Sirs, in spite of all their gravities, they must e’en have been contented to have gone with their insides naked⸺this was not to be borne, but by an effort of philosophy not to be supposed in the case we are upon⸺so that no one could well have been angry with them, had they been satisfied with what little they could have snatched up and secreted under their cloaks and great perriwigs, had they not raised a hue and cry at the same time against the lawful owners.
I need not tell your worships, that this was done with so much cunning and artifice⸺that the great Locke, who was seldom outwitted by false sounds⸻was nevertheless bubbled here. The cry, it seems, was so deep and solemn a one, and what with the help of great wigs, grave faces, and other implements of deceit, was rendered so general a one against the poor wits in this matter, that the philosopher himself was deceived by it—it was his glory to free the world from the lumber of a thousand vulgar errors;⸺but this was not of the number; so that instead of sitting down coolly, as such a philosopher should have done, to have examined the matter of fact before he philosophised upon it⸺on the contrary he took the fact for granted, and so joined in with the cry, and halloo’d it as boisterously as the rest.
This has been made the Magna Charta of stupidity ever since⸺but your reverences plainly see, it has been obtained in such a manner, that the title to it is not worth a groat:⸺which by the bye is one of the many and vile impositions which gravity and grave folks have to answer for hereafter.
As for great wigs, upon which I may be thought to have spoken my mind too freely⸻I beg leave to qualify whatever has been unguardedly said to their dispraise or prejudice, by one general declaration⸺That I have no abhorrence whatever, nor do I detest and abjure either great wigs or long beards, any farther than when I see they are bespoke and let grow on purpose to carry on this selfsame imposture—for any purpose⸺peace be with them!—☞ mark only⸺I write not for them.
Every day for at least ten years together did my father resolve to have it mended—’tis not mended yet;—no family but ours would have borne with it an hour⸺and what is most astonishing, there was not a subject in the world upon which my father was so eloquent, as upon that of door-hinges.⸺And yet at the same time, he was certainly one of the greatest bubbles to them, I think, that history can produce: his rhetorick and conduct were at perpetual handy-cuffs.—Never did the parlour-door open—but his philosophy or his principles fell a victim to it;⸺three drops of oil with a feather, and a smart stroke of a hammer, had saved his honour forever.
⸺Inconsistent soul that man is!⸺languishing under wounds, which he has the power to heal!—his whole life a contradiction to his knowledge!—his reason, that precious gift of God to him—(instead of pouring in oil) serving but to sharpen his sensibilities—to multiply his pains, and render him more melancholy and uneasy under them—Poor unhappy creature, that he should do so!⸺Are not the necessary causes of misery in this life enow, but he must add voluntary ones to his stock of sorrow;—struggle against evils which cannot be avoided, and submit to others, which a tenth part of the trouble they create him would remove from his heart forever?
By all that is good and virtuous, if there are three drops of oil to be got, and a hammer to be found within ten miles of Shandy Hall⸻the parlour door hinge shall be mended this reign.
When Corporal Trim had brought his two mortars to bear, he was delighted with his handy-work above measure; and knowing what a pleasure it would be to his master to see them, he was not able to resist the desire he had of carrying them directly into his parlour.
Now next to the moral lesson I had in view in mentioning the affair of hinges, I had a speculative consideration arising out of it, and it is this.
Had the parlour door opened and turn’d upon its hinges, as a door should do—
Or for example, as cleverly as our government has been turning upon its hinges⸺(that is, in case things have all along gone well with your worship,—otherwise I give up my simile)—in this case, I say, there had been no danger either to master or man, in Corporal Trim’s peeping in: the moment he had beheld my father and my uncle Toby fast asleep—the respectfulness of his carriage was such, he would have retired as silent as death, and left them both in their armchairs, dreaming as happy as he had found them: but the thing was, morally speaking, so very impracticable, that for the many years in which this hinge was suffered to be out of order, and amongst the hourly grievances my father submitted to upon its account—this was one; that he never folded his arms to take his nap after dinner, but the thoughts of being unavoidably awakened by the first person who should open the door, was always uppermost in his imagination, and so incessantly stepp’d in betwixt him and the first balmy presage of his repose, as to rob him, as he often declared, of the whole sweets of it.
“When things move upon bad hinges, an’ please your lordships, how can it be otherwise?”
Pray what’s the matter? Who is there? cried my father, waking, the moment the door began to creak.⸺I wish the smith would give a peep at that confounded hinge.⸺’Tis nothing, an’ please your honour, said Trim, but two mortars I am bringing in.—They shan’t make a clatter with them here, cried my father hastily.—If Dr. Slop has any drugs to pound, let him do it in the kitchen.—May it please your honour, cried Trim, they are two mortar-pieces for a siege next summer, which I have been making out of a pair of jackboots, which Obadiah told me your honour had left off wearing.—By Heaven! cried my father, springing out of his chair, as he swore⸺I have not one appointment belonging to me, which I set so much store by as I do by these jackboots⸺they were our great grandfather’s, brother Toby—they were hereditary. Then I fear, quoth my uncle Toby, Trim has cut off the entail.—I have only cut off the tops, an’ please your honour, cried Trim⸺I hate perpetuities as much as any man alive, cried my father⸺but these jackboots, continued he (smiling, though very angry at the same time) have been in the family, brother, ever since the civil wars;⸺Sir Roger Shandy wore them at the battle of Marston-Moor.—I declare I would not have taken ten pounds for them.⸺I’ll pay you the money, brother Shandy, quoth my uncle Toby, looking at the two mortars with infinite pleasure, and putting his hand into his breeches pocket as he viewed them⸺I’ll pay you the ten pounds this moment with all my heart and soul.⸺
Brother Toby, replied my father, altering his tone, you care not what money you dissipate and throw away, provided, continued he, ’tis but upon a siege.⸺Have I not one hundred and twenty pounds a year, besides my half pay? cried my uncle Toby.—What is that—replied my father hastily—to ten pounds for a pair of jackboots?—twelve guineas for your pontoons?—half as much for your Dutch drawbridge?—to say nothing of the train of little brass artillery you bespoke last week, with twenty other preparations for the siege of Messina: believe me, dear brother Toby, continued my father, taking him kindly by the hand—these military operations of yours are above your strength;—you mean well, brother⸺but they carry you into greater expenses than you were first aware of;—and take my word, dear Toby, they will in the end quite ruin your fortune, and make a beggar of you.—What signifies it if they do, brother, replied my uncle Toby, so long as we know ’tis for the good of the nation?⸺
My father could not help smiling for his soul—his anger at the worst was never more than a spark;—and the zeal and simplicity of Trim—and the generous (though hobbyhorsical) gallantry of my uncle Toby, brought him into perfect good humour with them in an instant.
Generous souls!—God prosper you both, and your mortar-pieces too! quoth my father to himself.
All is quiet and hush, cried my father, at least above stairs—I hear not one foot stirring.—Prithee, Trim, who’s in the kitchen? There is no one soul in the kitchen, answered Trim, making a low bow as he spoke, except Dr. Slop.—Confusion! cried my father (getting up upon his legs a second time)—not one single thing was gone right this day! had I faith in astrology, brother (which, by the bye, my father had), I would have sworn some retrograde planet was hanging over this unfortunate house of mine, and turning every individual thing in it out of its place.⸺Why, I thought Dr. Slop had been above stairs with my wife, and so said you.⸺What can the fellow be puzzling about in the kitchen!—He is busy, an’ please your honour, replied Trim, in making a bridge.⸺’Tis very obliging in him, quoth my uncle Toby:⸻pray, give my humble service to Dr. Slop, Trim, and tell him I thank him heartily.
You must know, my uncle Toby mistook the bridge—as widely as my father mistook the mortars;⸺but to understand how my uncle Toby could mistake the bridge—I fear I must give you an exact account of the road which led to it;—or to drop my metaphor (for there is nothing more dishonest in an historian than the use of one)⸺in order to conceive the probability of this error in my uncle Toby aright, I must give you some account of an adventure of Trim’s, though much against my will, I say much against my will, only because the story, in one sense, is certainly out of its place here; for by right it should come in, either amongst the anecdotes of my uncle Toby’s amours with widow Wadman, in which corporal Trim was no mean actor—or else in the middle of his and my uncle Toby’s campaigns on the bowling-green—for it will do very well in either place;—but then if I reserve it for either of those parts of my story⸺I ruin the story I’m upon;⸺and if I tell it here—I anticipate matters, and ruin it there.
—What would your worships have me to do in this case?
—Tell it, Mr. Shandy, by all means.—You are a fool, Tristram, if you do.
O ye powers! (for powers ye are, and great ones too)—which enable mortal man to tell a story worth the hearing⸻that kindly show him, where he is to begin it—and where he is to end it⸺what he is to put into it⸺and what he is to leave out—how much of it he is to cast into a shade—and whereabouts he is to throw his light!—Ye, who preside over this vast empire of biographical freebooters, and see how many scrapes and plunges your subjects hourly fall into;⸺will you do one thing?
I beg and beseech you (in case you will do nothing better for us) that wherever in any part of your dominions it so falls out, that three several roads meet in one point, as they have done just here⸺that at least you set up a guidepost in the centre of them, in mere charity, to direct an uncertain devil which of the three he is to take.
Tho’ the shock my uncle Toby received the year after the demolition of Dunkirk, in his affair with widow Wadman, had fixed him in a resolution never more to think of the sex—or of aught which belonged to it;—yet corporal Trim had made no such bargain with himself. Indeed in my uncle Toby’s case there was a strange and unaccountable concurrence of circumstances, which insensibly drew him in, to lay siege to that fair and strong citadel.⸺In Trim’s case there was a concurrence of nothing in the world, but of him and Bridget in the kitchen;—though in truth, the love and veneration he bore his master was such, and so fond was he of imitating him in all he did, that had my uncle Toby employed his time and genius in tagging of points⸺I am persuaded the honest corporal would have laid down his arms, and followed his example with pleasure. When therefore my uncle Toby sat down before the mistress—corporal Trim incontinently took ground before the maid.
Now, my dear friend Garrick, whom I have so much cause to esteem and honour—(why, or wherefore, ’tis no matter)—can it escape your penetration—I defy it—that so many playwrights, and opificers of chitchat have ever since been working upon Trim’s and my uncle Toby’s pattern.⸺I care not what Aristotle, or Pacuvius, or Bossu, or Ricaboni say—(though I never read one of them)⸺there is not a greater difference between a single-horse chair and madam Pompadour’s vis-à-vis; than betwixt a single amour, and an amour thus nobly doubled, and going upon all four, prancing throughout a grand drama⸺Sir, a simple, single, silly affair of that kind—is quite lost in five acts;—but that is neither here nor there.
After a series of attacks and repulses in a course of nine months on my uncle Toby’s quarter, a most minute account of every particular of which shall be given in its proper place, my uncle Toby, honest man! found it necessary to draw off his forces and raise the siege somewhat indignantly.
Corporal Trim, as I said, had made no such bargain either with himself⸺or with anyone else⸺the fidelity however of his heart not suffering him to go into a house which his master had forsaken with disgust⸺he contented himself with turning his part of the siege into a blockade;—that is, he kept others off;—for though he never after went to the house, yet he never met Bridget in the village, but he would either nod or wink, or smile, or look kindly at her—or (as circumstances directed) he would shake her by the hand—or ask her lovingly how she did—or would give her a ribbon—and now-and-then, though never but when it could be done with decorum, would give Bridget a—
Precisely in this situation, did these things stand for five years; that is, from the demolition of Dunkirk in the year 13, to the latter end of my uncle Toby’s campaign in the year 18, which was about six or seven weeks before the time I’m speaking of.⸺When Trim, as his custom was, after he had put my uncle Toby to bed, going down one moonshiny night to see that everything was right at his fortifications⸺in the lane separated from the bowling-green with flowering shrubs and holly—he espied his Bridget.
As the corporal thought there was nothing in the world so well worth showing as the glorious works which he and my uncle Toby had made, Trim courteously and gallantly took her by the hand, and led her in: this was not done so privately, but that the foul-mouth’d trumpet of Fame carried it from ear to ear, till at length it reach’d my father’s, with this untoward circumstance along with it, that my uncle Toby’s curious drawbridge, constructed and painted after the Dutch fashion, and which went quite across the ditch—was broke down, and somehow or other crushed all to pieces that very night.
My father, as you have observed, had no great esteem for my uncle Toby’s hobbyhorse, he thought it the most ridiculous horse that ever gentleman mounted; and indeed unless my uncle Toby vexed him about it, could never think of it once, without smiling at it⸺so that it could never get lame or happen any mischance, but it tickled my father’s imagination beyond measure; but this being an accident much more to his humour than any one which had yet befall’n it, it proved an inexhaustible fund of entertainment to him.⸺Well⸺but dear Toby! my father would say, do tell me seriously how this affair of the bridge happened.⸺How can you tease me so much about it? my uncle Toby would reply—I have told it you twenty times, word for word as Trim told it me.—Prithee, how was it then, corporal? my father would cry, turning to Trim.—It was a mere misfortune, an’ please your honour;⸺I was showing Mrs. Bridget our fortifications, and in going too near the edge of the fosse, I unfortunately slipp’d in⸺Very well, Trim! my father would cry⸺(smiling mysteriously, and giving a nod—but without interrupting him)⸺and being link’d fast, an’ please your honour, arm in arm with Mrs. Bridget, I dragg’d her after me, by means of which she fell backwards soss against the bridge⸺and Trim’s foot (my uncle Toby would cry, taking the story out of his mouth) getting into the cuvette, he tumbled full against the bridge too.—It was a thousand to one, my uncle Toby would add, that the poor fellow did not break his leg.⸻Ay truly, my father would say⸺a limb is soon broke, brother Toby, in such encounters.⸺And so, an’ please your honour, the bridge, which your honour knows was a very slight one, was broke down betwixt us, and splintered all to pieces.
At other times, but especially when my uncle Toby was so unfortunate as to say a syllable about cannons, bombs, or petards—my father would exhaust all the stores of his eloquence (which indeed were very great) in a panegyric upon the battering-rams of the ancients—the vinea which Alexander made use of at the siege of Troy.—He would tell my uncle Toby of the catapultæ of the Syrians, which threw such monstrous stones so many hundred feet, and shook the strongest bulwarks from their very foundation:—he would go on and describe the wonderful mechanism of the ballista which Marcellinus makes so much rout about!—the terrible effects of the pyroboli, which cast fire;⸺the danger of the terebra and scorpio, which cast javelins.⸺But what are these, would he say, to the destructive machinery of corporal Trim?⸺Believe me, brother Toby, no bridge, or bastion, or sally-port, that ever was constructed in this world, can hold out against such artillery.
My uncle Toby would never attempt any defence against the force of this ridicule, but that of redoubling the vehemence of smoaking his pipe; in doing which, he raised so dense a vapour one night after supper, that it set my father, who was a little phthisical, into a suffocating fit of violent coughing: my uncle Toby leap’d up without feeling the pain upon his groin—and, with infinite pity, stood beside his brother’s chair, tapping his back with one hand, and holding his head with the other, and from time to time wiping his eyes with a clean cambrick handkerchief, which he pulled out of his pocket.⸺The affectionate and endearing manner in which my uncle Toby did these little offices—cut my father thro’ his reins, for the pain he had just been giving him.⸺May my brains be knock’d out with a battering-ram or a catapulta, I care not which, quoth my father to himself—if ever I insult this worthy soul more!
The drawbridge being held irreparable, Trim was ordered directly to set about another⸻but not upon the same model: for cardinal Alberoni’s intrigues at that time being discovered, and my uncle Toby rightly foreseeing that a flame would inevitably break out betwixt Spain and the Empire, and that the operations of the ensuing campaign must in all likelihood be either in Naples or Sicily⸺he determined upon an Italian bridge—(my uncle Toby, by the bye, was not far out of his conjectures)⸺but my father, who was infinitely the better politician, and took the lead as far of my uncle Toby in the cabinet, as my uncle Toby took it of him in the field⸻convinced him, that if the king of Spain and the Emperor went together by the ears, England and France and Holland must, by force of their pre-engagements, all enter the lists too;⸺and if so, he would say, the combatants, brother Toby, as sure as we are alive, will fall to it again, pell-mell, upon the old prizefighting stage of Flanders;—then what will you do with your Italian bridge?
—We will go on with it then upon the old model, cried my uncle Toby.
When Corporal Trim had about half finished it in that style⸺my uncle Toby found out a capital defect in it, which he had never thoroughly considered before. It turned, it seems, upon hinges at both ends of it, opening in the middle, one half of which turning to one side of the fosse, and the other to the other; the advantage of which was this, that by dividing the weight of the bridge into two equal portions, it impowered my uncle Toby to raise it up or let it down with the end of his crutch, and with one hand, which, as his garrison was weak, was as much as he could well spare—but the disadvantages of such a construction were insurmountable;⸺for by this means, he would say, I leave one half of my bridge in my enemy’s possession⸺and pray of what use is the other?
The natural remedy for this was, no doubt, to have his bridge fast only at one end with hinges, so that the whole might be lifted up together, and stand bolt upright⸻but that was rejected for the reason given above.
For a whole week after he was determined in his mind to have one of that particular construction which is made to draw back horizontally, to hinder a passage; and to thrust forwards again to gain a passage—of which sorts your worship might have seen three famous ones at Spires before its destruction—and one now at Brisac, if I mistake not;—but my father advising my uncle Toby, with great earnestness, to have nothing more to do with thrusting bridges—and my uncle foreseeing moreover that it would but perpetuate the memory of the Corporal’s misfortune—he changed his mind for that of the marquis d’Hôpital’s invention, which the younger Bernouilli has so well and learnedly described, as your worships may see⸻Act. Erud. Lips. an. 1695—to these a lead weight is an eternal balance, and keeps watch as well as a couple of centinels, inasmuch as the construction of them was a curve line approximating to a cycloid⸻if not a cycloid itself.
My uncle Toby understood the nature of a parabola as well as any man in England—but was not quite such a master of the cycloid;⸺he talked however about it every day⸺the bridge went not forwards.⸺We’ll ask somebody about it, cried my uncle Toby to Trim.
When Trim came in and told my father, that Dr. Slop was in the kitchen, and busy in making a bridge—my uncle Toby⸺the affair of the jackboots having just then raised a train of military ideas in his brain⸺took it instantly for granted that Dr. Slop was making a model of the marquis d’Hôpital’s bridge.⸺’Tis very obliging in him, quoth my uncle Toby;—pray give my humble service to Dr. Slop, Trim, and tell him I thank him heartily.
Had my uncle Toby’s head been a Savoyard’s box, and my father peeping in all the time at one end of it⸺it could not have given him a more distinct conception of the operations of my uncle Toby’s imagination, than what he had; so, notwithstanding the catapulta and battering-ram, and his bitter imprecation about them, he was just beginning to triumph⸺
When Trim’s answer, in an instant, tore the laurel from his brows, and twisted it to pieces.
⸺This unfortunate drawbridge of yours, quoth my father⸺God bless your honour, cried Trim, ’tis a bridge for master’s nose.⸺In bringing him into the world with his vile instruments, he has crushed his nose, Susannah says, as flat as a pancake to his face, and he is making a false bridge with a piece of cotton and a thin piece of whalebone out of Susannah’s stays, to raise it up.
⸺Lead me, brother Toby, cried my father, to my room this instant.
From the first moment I sat down to write my life for the amusement of the world, and my opinions for its instruction, has a cloud insensibly been gathering over my father.⸺A tide of little evils and distresses has been setting in against him.—Not one thing, as he observed himself, has gone right: and now is the storm thicken’d and going to break, and pour down full upon his head.
I enter upon this part of my story in the most pensive and melancholy frame of mind that ever sympathetic breast was touched with.⸺My nerves relax as I tell it.⸺Every line I write, I feel an abatement of the quickness of my pulse, and of that careless alacrity with it, which every day of my life prompts me to say and write a thousand things I should not.⸺And this moment that I last dipp’d my pen into my ink, I could not help taking notice what a cautious air of sad composure and solemnity there appear’d in my manner of doing it.⸺Lord! how different from the rash jerks and hair-brain’d squirts thou art wont, Tristram, to transact it with in other humours—dropping thy pen⸺spurting thy ink about thy table and thy books—as if thy pen and thy ink, thy books and furniture cost thee nothing!
⸺I won’t go about to argue the point with you—’tis so⸺and I am persuaded of it, madam, as much as can be, “That both man and woman bear pain or sorrow (and, for aught I know, pleasure too) best in a horizontal position.”
The moment my father got up into his chamber, he threw himself prostrate across the bed in the wildest disorder imaginable, but at the same time in the most lamentable attitude of a man borne down with sorrows, that ever the eye of pity dropp’d a tear for.⸺The palm of his right hand, as he fell upon the bed, receiving his forehead, and covering the greatest part of both his eyes, gently sunk down with his head (his elbow giving way backwards) till his nose touch’d the quilt;⸺his left arm hung insensible over the side of the bed, his knuckles reclining upon the handle of the chamberpot, which peep’d out beyond the valance—his right leg (his left being drawn up towards his body) hung half over the side of the bed, the edge of it pressing upon his shinbone—He felt it not. A fix’d, inflexible sorrow took possession of every line of his face.—He sigh’d once⸺heaved his breast often—but uttered not a word.
An old set-stitch’d chair, valanced and fringed around with party-coloured worsted bobs, stood at the bed’s head, opposite to the side where my father’s head reclined.—My uncle Toby sat him down in it.
Before an affliction is digested—consolation ever comes too soon;—and after it is digested—it comes too late: so that you see, madam, there is but a mark between these two, as fine almost as a hair, for a comforter to take aim at: my uncle Toby was always either on this side, or on that of it, and would often say, he believed in his heart he could as soon hit the longitude; for this reason, when he sat down in the chair, he drew the curtain a little forwards, and having a tear at everyone’s service⸺he pull’d out a cambrick handkerchief⸺gave a low sigh⸺but held his peace.
⸺“All is not gain that is got into the purse.”—So that notwithstanding my father had the happiness of reading the oddest books in the universe, and had moreover, in himself, the oddest way of thinking that ever man in it was bless’d with, yet it had this drawback upon him after all⸻that it laid him open to some of the oddest and most whimsical distresses; of which this particular one, which he sunk under at present, is as strong an example as can be given.
No doubt, the breaking down of the bridge of a child’s nose, by the edge of a pair of forceps—however scientifically applied—would vex any man in the world, who was at so much pains in begetting a child, as my father was—yet it will not account for the extravagance of his affliction, nor will it justify the unchristian manner he abandoned and surrendered him self up to.
To explain this, I must leave him upon the bed for half an hour—and my uncle Toby in his old fringed chair sitting beside him.
⸺I think it a very unreasonable demand—cried my great-grandfather, twisting up the paper, and throwing it upon the table.⸺By this account, madam, you have but two thousand pounds fortune, and not a shilling more—and you insist upon having three hundred pounds a year jointure for it.⸻
—“Because,” replied my great-grandmother, “you have little or no nose, Sir.”—
Now before I venture to make use of the word Nose a second time—to avoid all confusion in what will be said upon it, in this interesting part of my story, it may not be amiss to explain my own meaning, and define, with all possible exactness and precision, what I would willingly be understood to mean by the term: being of opinion, that ’tis owing to the negligence and perverseness of writers in despising this precaution, and to nothing else⸺that all the polemical writings in divinity are not as clear and demonstrative as those upon a Will o’ the Wisp, or any other sound part of philosophy, and natural pursuit; in order to which, what have you to do, before you set out, unless you intend to go puzzling on to the day of judgment⸺but to give the world a good definition, and stand to it, of the main word you have most occasion for⸺changing it, Sir, as you would a guinea, into small coin?—which done—let the father of confusion puzzle you, if he can; or put a different idea either into your head, or your reader’s head, if he knows how.
In books of strict morality and close reasoning, such as this I am engaged in—the neglect is inexcusable; and Heaven is witness, how the world has revenged itself upon me for leaving so many openings to equivocal strictures—and for depending so much as I have done, all along, upon the cleanliness of my readers’ imaginations.
⸺Here are two senses, cried Eugenius, as we walk’d along, pointing with the forefinger of his right hand to the word Crevice, in the one hundred and seventy-eighth page of the first volume of this book of books;⸻here are two senses—quoth he—And here are two roads, replied I, turning short upon him⸺a dirty and a clean one⸺which shall we take?—The clean, by all means, replied Eugenius. Eugenius, said I, stepping before him, and laying my hand upon his breast⸺to define—is to distrust.⸺Thus I triumph’d over Eugenius; but I triumph’d over him as I always do, like a fool.⸺’Tis my comfort, however, I am not an obstinate one: therefore
I define a nose as follows—intreating only beforehand, and beseeching my readers, both male and female, of what age, complexion, and condition soever, for the love of God and their own souls, to guard against the temptations and suggestions of the devil, and suffer him by no art or wile to put any other ideas into their minds, than what I put into my definition—For by the word Nose, throughout all this long chapter of noses, and in every other part of my work, where the word Nose occurs—I declare, by that word I mean a nose, and nothing more, or less.
⸺“Because,” quoth my great-grandmother, repeating the words again—“you have little or no nose, Sir.”⸻
S’death! cried my great-grandfather, clapping his hand upon his nose,—’tis not so small as that comes to;⸺’tis a full inch longer than my father’s.—Now, my great-grandfather’s nose was for all the world like unto the noses of all the men, women, and children, whom Pantagruel found dwelling upon the island of Ennasin.⸻By the way, if you would know the strange way of getting akin amongst so flat-nosed a people⸺you must read the book;⸺find it out yourself, you never can.⸺
—’Twas shaped, Sir, like an ace of clubs.
—’Tis a full inch, continued my grandfather, pressing up the ridge of his nose with his finger and thumb; and repeating his assertion⸺’tis a full inch longer, madam, than my father’s⸺You must mean your uncle’s, replied my great-grandmother.
⸻My great-grandfather was convinced.—He untwisted the paper, and signed the article.
⸺What an unconscionable jointure, my dear, do we pay out of this small estate of ours, quoth my grandmother to my grandfather.
My father, replied my grandfather, had no more nose, my dear, saving the mark, than there is upon the back of my hand.
—Now, you must know, that my great-grandmother outlived my grandfather twelve years; so that my father had the jointure to pay, a hundred and fifty pounds half-yearly—(on Michaelmas and Lady-day),—during all that time.
No man discharged pecuniary obligations with a better grace than my father.⸻And as far as a hundred pounds went, he would fling it upon the table, guinea by guinea, with that spirited jerk of an honest welcome, which generous souls, and generous souls only, are able to fling down money: but as soon as ever he enter’d upon the odd fifty—he generally gave a loud Hem! rubb’d the side of his nose leisurely with the flat part of his fore finger⸺inserted his hand cautiously betwixt his head and the cawl of his wig—look’d at both sides of every guinea as he parted with it⸺and seldom could get to the end of the fifty pounds, without pulling out his handkerchief, and wiping his temples.
Defend me, gracious Heaven! from those persecuting spirits who make no allowances for these workings within us.—Never—O never may I lay down in their tents, who cannot relax the engine, and feel pity for the force of education, and the prevalence of opinions long derived from ancestors!
For three generations at least this tenet in favour of long noses had gradually been taking root in our family.⸻Tradition was all along on its side, and Interest was every half-year stepping in to strengthen it; so that the whimsicality of my father’s brain was far from having the whole honour of this, as it had of almost all his other strange notions.—For in a great measure he might be said to have suck’d this in with his mother’s milk. He did his part however.⸺If education planted the mistake (in case it was one) my father watered it, and ripened it to perfection.
He would often declare, in speaking his thoughts upon the subject, that he did not conceive how the greatest family in England could stand it out against an uninterrupted succession of six or seven short noses.—And for the contrary reason, he would generally add, That it must be one of the greatest problems in civil life, where the same number of long and jolly noses, following one another in a direct line, did not raise and hoist it up into the best vacancies in the kingdom.⸻He would often boast that the Shandy family rank’d very high in King Harry the VIII’s time, but owed its rise to no state engine—he would say—but to that only;⸺but that, like other families, he would add⸺it had felt the turn of the wheel, and had never recovered the blow of my great-grandfather’s nose.⸺It was an ace of clubs indeed, he would cry, shaking his head—and as vile a one for an unfortunate family as ever turn’d up trumps.
⸻Fair and softly, gentle reader!⸻where is thy fancy carrying thee?⸺If there is truth in man, by my great-grandfather’s nose, I mean the external organ of smelling, or that part of man which stands prominent in his face⸺and which painters say, in good jolly noses and well-proportioned faces, should comprehend a full third⸺that is, measured downwards from the setting on of the hair.⸺
⸺What a life of it has an author, at this pass!
It is a singular blessing, that nature has form’d the mind of man with the same happy backwardness and renitency against conviction, which is observed in old dogs—“of not learning new tricks.”
What a shuttlecock of a fellow would the greatest philosopher that ever existed be whisk’d into at once, did he read such books, and observe such facts, and think such thoughts, as would eternally be making him change sides!
Now, my father, as I told you last year, detested all this—He pick’d up an opinion, Sir, as a man in a state of nature picks up an apple.—It becomes his own—and if he is a man of spirit, he would lose his life rather than give it up.
I am aware that Didius, the great civilian, will contest this point; and cry out against me, Whence comes this man’s right to this apple? ex confesso, he will say—things were in a state of nature—The apple, as much Frank’s apple as John’s. Pray, Mr. Shandy, what patent has he to show for it? and how did it begin to be his? was it, when he set his heart upon it? or when he gathered it? or when he chew’d it? or when he roasted it? or when he peel’d, or when he brought it home? or when he digested?—or when he⸺?⸺For ’tis plain, Sir, if the first picking up of the apple, made it not his—that no subsequent act could.
Brother Didius, Tribonius will answer—(now Tribonius the civilian and church lawyer’s beard being three inches and a half and three eighths longer than Didius his beard—I’m glad he takes up the cudgels for me, so I give myself no farther trouble about the answer).—Brother Didius, Tribonius will say, it is a decreed case, as you may find it in the fragments of Gregorius and Hermogines’s codes, and in all the codes from Justinian’s down to the codes of Louis and Des Eaux—That the sweat of a man’s brows, and the exsudations of a man’s brains, are as much a man’s own property as the breeches upon his backside;—which said exsudations, etc., being dropp’d upon the said apple by the labour of finding it, and picking it up; and being moreover indissolubly wasted, and as indissolubly annex’d, by the picker up, to the thing pick’d up, carried home, roasted, peel’d, eaten, digested, and so on;⸺’tis evident that the gatherer of the apple, in so doing, has mix’d up something which was his own, with the apple which was not his own, by which means he has acquired a property;—or, in other words, the apple is John’s apple.
By the same learned chain of reasoning my father stood up for all his opinions; he had spared no pains in picking them up, and the more they lay out of the common way, the better still was his title.⸺No mortal claimed them; they had cost him moreover as much labour in cooking and digesting as in the case above, so that they might well and truly be said to be of his own goods and chattles.—Accordingly he held fast by ’em, both by teeth and claws—would fly to whatever he could lay his hands on—and, in a word, would intrench and fortify them round with as many circumvallations and breastworks, as my uncle Toby would a citadel.
There was one plaguy rub in the way of this⸺the scarcity of materials to make anything of a defence with, in case of a smart attack; inasmuch as few men of great genius had exercised their parts in writing books upon the subject of great noses: by the trotting of my lean horse, the thing is incredible! and I am quite lost in my understanding, when I am considering what a treasure of precious time and talents together has been wasted upon worse subjects—and how many millions of books in all languages, and in all possible types and bindings, have been fabricated upon points not half so much tending to the unity and peace-making of the world. What was to be had, however, he set the greater store by; and though my father would ofttimes sport with my uncle Toby’s library—which, by the bye, was ridiculous enough—yet at the very same time he did it, he collected every book and treatise which had been systematically wrote upon noses, with as much care as my honest uncle Toby had done those upon military architecture.⸺’Tis true, a much less table would have held them—but that was not thy transgression, my dear uncle.—
Here⸺but why here⸺rather than in any other part of my story⸺I am not able to tell:⸻but here it is⸻my heart stops me to pay to thee, my dear uncle Toby, once for all, the tribute I owe thy goodness.⸺Here let me thrust my chair aside, and kneel down upon the ground, whilst I am pouring forth the warmest sentiment of love for thee, and veneration for the excellency of thy character, that ever virtue and nature kindled in a nephew’s bosom.⸺Peace and comfort rest for evermore upon thy head!—Thou enviedst no man’s comforts⸺insultedst no man’s opinions⸺Thou blackenedst no man’s character—devouredst no man’s bread: gently, with faithful Trim behind thee, didst thou amble round the little circle of thy pleasures, jostling no creature in thy way:—for each one’s sorrow thou hadst a tear,—for each man’s need, thou hadst a shilling.
Whilst I am worth one, to pay a weeder—thy path from thy door to thy bowling-green shall never be grown up.⸺Whilst there is a rood and a half of land in the Shandy family, thy fortifications, my dear uncle Toby, shall never be demolish’d.
My father’s collection was not great, but to make amends, it was curious; and consequently he was some time in making it; he had the great good fortune however, to set off well, in getting Bruscambille’s prologue upon long noses, almost for nothing—for he gave no more for Bruscambille than three half-crowns; owing indeed to the strong fancy which the stall-man saw my father had for the book the moment he laid his hands upon it.⸺There are not three Bruscambilles in Christendom—said the stall-man, except what are chain’d up in the libraries of the curious. My father flung down the money as quick as lightning⸺took Bruscambille into his bosom⸺hied home from Piccadilly to Coleman-street with it, as he would have hied home with a treasure, without taking his hand once off from Bruscambille all the way.
To those who do not yet know of which gender Bruscambille is⸻inasmuch as a prologue upon long noses might easily be done by either⸻’twill be no objection against the simile—to say, That when my father got home, he solaced himself with Bruscambille after the manner in which, ’tis ten to one, your worship solaced yourself with your first mistress⸻that is, from morning even unto night: which, by the bye, how delightful soever it may prove to the inamorato—is of little or no entertainment at all to bystanders.⸺Take notice, I go no farther with the simile—my father’s eye was greater than his appetite—his zeal greater than his knowledge—he cool’d—his affections became divided⸺he got hold of Prignitz—purchased Scroderus, Andrea Paræus, Bouchet’s Evening Conferences, and above all, the great and learned Hafen Slawkenbergius; of which, as I shall have much to say by and by—I will say nothing now.
Of all the tracts my father was at the pains to procure and study in support of his hypothesis, there was not any one wherein he felt a more cruel disappointment at first, than in the celebrated dialogue between Pamphagus and Cocles, written by the chaste pen of the great and venerable Erasmus, upon the various uses and seasonable applications of long noses.⸻Now don’t let Satan, my dear girl, in this chapter, take advantage of any one spot of rising ground to get astride of your imagination, if you can any ways help it; or if he is so nimble as to slip on—let me beg of you, like an unback’d filly, to frisk it, to squirt it, to jump it, to rear it, to bound it—and to kick it, with long kicks and short kicks, till, like Tickletoby’s mare, you break a strap or a crupper and throw his worship into the dirt.—You need not kill him.—
—And pray who was Tickletoby’s mare?—’tis just as discreditable and unscholarlike a question, Sir, as to have asked what year (ab. urb. con.) the second Punic war broke out.—Who was Tickletoby’s mare?⸺Read, read, read, read, my unlearned reader! read—or by the knowledge of the great saint Paraleipomenon—I tell you beforehand, you had better throw down the book at once; for without much reading, by which your reverence knows I mean much knowledge, you will no more be able to penetrate the moral of the next marbled page (motly emblem of my work!) than the world with all its sagacity has been able to unravel the many opinions, transactions, and truths which still lie mystically hid under the dark veil of the black one.