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 any one (one only excepted) that I have read or heard of.
I am, Great Sir, (and, what is more to your Honour) I am, Good Sir, Your Well-wisher, and most humble Fellow-subject,
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, &c. &c. — 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 tracks and trains you put them into, so that when they are once set a-going, whether right or wrong, ’tis not a half-penny 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 scientific research, he stands confessed — 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) shew us incontestably, that the Homunculus is created by the same hand — engendered in the same course of nature — endow’d with the same loco-motive 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 benefitted — 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 disorder’d 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 every thing 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 every thing 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 before-hand, ’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 every thing 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 back-stairs 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 —& 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 pocket-book, 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 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 a 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 aera fixed on, was as near nine kalendar months as any husband could in reason have expected — was I Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, brought forth into this scurvy and disastrous 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 any how contrive to be called up to public 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 praeclarum! — 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 any thing — 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 said seven 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 cheerfully 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 Hobby-Horses; — their running horses — their coins and their cockle-shells, their drums and their trumpets, their fiddles, their pallets — their maggots and their butterflies? — and so long as a man rides his Hobby-Horse 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 Hobby-Horses; 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 Hobby-Horse, with all his fraternity, at the Devil.
‘My Lord, 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, My Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient, and most devoted, and most humble servant, Tristram Shandy.’
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 Hobby-Horse, (which is a secondary figure, and a kind of back-ground 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 Hobby-Horses, 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.
Bright Goddess, 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 every thing — 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 exact 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-peaked 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, poudre 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 light-hearted; 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 fit mechanically, and meditate as delightfully de vanitate mundi et fuga faeculi, 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 every thing — 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 with-held 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 in 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 expences, 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 child-bearing 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 expence; 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 shew 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 expences 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 wild-fire. —‘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 noon-day, he would pocket the expence of the licence ten times told, the very first year:— So that every body 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 all together, 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 houshold understanding amongst all ranks of people, of which every body 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 gaite de coeur 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 twelve-month, than by pocket-picking and shop-lifting 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 Mortgagee differ the one from the other, not more in length of purse, than the Jester and Jestee 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 expence, 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 arm-chairs, 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 arithmetic 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 tear 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 broken-hearted.
What inclined Eugenius to the same opinion was as follows:
A few hours before Yorick breathed his last, Eugenius stept 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 for ever. — 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 night-cap 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 Panca, 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 church-yard, 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 church-yard 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 mean time; — 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 inuendos 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 shews 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 have 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 solemnized 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, &c. &c. — 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 free-will, 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 expences 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, hinderance, 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 Dixon, 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 water-courses; — 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 expence 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 any body 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 expence, which he said might every shilling of it have been saved; — then what vexed him more than every thing 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 pocket-book, 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, &c. 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 tragi-comical, 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 super-added many curious improvements for the quicker extraction of the foetus 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 ten-pence 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 midwife 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 arm-chair, ‘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, &c. &c. 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 corn fields 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 Chateaus 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 any where 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 houshold 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 any thing, 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 every thing 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 any thing 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 any thing, 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 immediatly 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 Nicodemus’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 shew 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 forbid 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; —(Greek). — 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 subtilty 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 systematic reasoners, he would move both heaven and earth, and twist and torture every thing 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 cherry-stone 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 oft-times 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 names in the universe he had the most unconquerable aversion for Tristram; — he had the lowest and most contemptible opinion of it of any thing in the world — thinking it could possibly produce nothing in rerum natura, 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 any thing 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 — shewing 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. (The Romish Rituals direct the baptizing of the child, in cases of danger, before it is born; — but upon this proviso, That some part or other of the child’s body be seen by the baptizer:— But the Doctors of the Sorbonne, by a deliberation held amongst them, April 10, 1733 — have enlarged the powers of the midwives, by determining, That though no part of the child’s body should appear — that baptism shall, nevertheless, be administered to it by injection — par le moyen d’une petite canulle — Anglice a squirt. —’Tis very strange that St. Thomas Aquinas, who had so good a mechanical head, both for tying and untying the knots of school-divinity — should, after so much pains bestowed upon this — give up the point at last, as a second La chose impossible — ‘Infantes in maternis uteris existentes (quoth St. Thomas!) baptizari possunt nullo modo.’— O Thomas! Thomas! If the reader has the curiosity to see the question upon baptism by injection, as presented to the Doctors of the Sorbonne, with their consultation thereupon, it is as follows.)
It is 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 self-same 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 example, may be taught to think as well as read.
Memoire presente a Messieurs les Docteurs de Sorbonne Vide Deventer. Paris Edit. 4to, 1734, p. 366.
Un Chirurgien Accoucheur, represente a Messieurs les Docteurs de Sorbonne, qu’il y a des cas, quoique tres rares, ou une mere ne scauroit accoucher, & meme ou l’enfant est tellement renferme dans le sein de sa mere, qu’il ne fait paroitre aucune partie de son corps, ce qui seroit un cas, suivant les Rituels, de lui conferer, du moins sous condition, le bapteme. Le Chirurgien, qui consulte, pretend, par le moyen d’une petite canulle, de pouvoir baptiser immediatement l’enfant, sans faire aucun tort a la mere. — Il demand si ce moyen, qu’il vient de proposer, est permis & legitime, & s’il peut s’en servir dans les cas qu’il vient d’exposer.
Le Conseil estime, que la question proposee souffre de grandes difficultes. Les Theologiens posent d’un cote pour principe, que le bapteme, qui est une naissance spirituelle, suppose une premiere naissance; il faut etre ne dans le monde, pour renaitre en Jesus Christ, comme ils l’enseignent. S. Thomas, 3 part. quaest. 88 artic. II. suit cette doctrine comme une verite constante; l’on ne peut, dit ce S. Docteur, baptiser les enfans qui sont renfermes dans le sein de leurs meres, & S. Thomas est fonde sur ce, que les enfans ne sont point nes, & ne peuvent etre comptes parmi les autres hommes; d’ou il conclud, qu’ils ne peuvent etre l’objet d’une action exterieure, pour recevoir par leur ministere, les sacremens necessaires au salut: Pueri in maternis uteris existentes nondum prodierunt in lucem ut cum aliis hominibus vitam ducant; unde non possunt subjici actioni humanae, ut per eorum ministerium sacramenta recipiant ad salutem. Les rituels ordonnent dans la pratique ce que les theologiens ont etabli sur les memes matieres, & ils deffendent tous d’une maniere uniforme, de baptiser les enfans qui sont renfermes dans le sein de leurs meres, s’ils ne sont paroitre quelque partie de leurs corps. Le concours des theologiens, & des rituels, qui sont les regles des dioceses, paroit former une autorite qui termine la question presente; cependant le conseil de conscience considerant d’un cote, que le raisonnement des theologiens est uniquement fonde sur une raison de convenance, & que la deffense des rituels suppose que l’on ne peut baptiser immediatement les enfans ainsi renfermes dans le sein de leurs meres, ce qui est contre la supposition presente; & d’un autre cote, considerant que les memes theologiens enseignent, que l’on peut risquer les sacremens que Jesus Christ a etablis comme des moyens faciles, mais necessaires pour sanctifier les hommes; & d’ailleurs estimant, que les enfans renfermes dans le sein de leurs meres, pourroient etre capables de salut, parcequ’ils sont capables de damnation; — pour ces considerations, & en egard a l’expose, suivant lequel on assure avoir trouve un moyen certain de baptiser ces enfans ainsi renfermes, sans faire aucun tort a la mere, le Conseil estime que l’on pourroit se servir du moyen propose, dans la confiance qu’il a, que Dieu n’a point laisse ces sortes d’enfans sans aucuns secours, & supposant, comme il est expose, que le moyen dont il s’agit est propre a leur procurer le bapteme; cependant comme il s’agiroit, en autorisant la pratique proposee, de changer une regle universellement etablie, le Conseil croit que celui qui consulte doit s’addresser a son eveque, & a qui il appartient de juger de l’utilite, & du danger du moyen propose, & comme, sous le bon plaisir de l’eveque, le Conseil estime qu’il faudroit recourir au Pape, qui a le droit d’expliquer les regles de l’eglise, & d’y deroger dans le cas, ou la loi ne scauroit obliger, quelque sage & quelque utile que paroisse la maniere de baptiser dont il s’agit, le Conseil ne pourroit l’approver sans le concours de ces deux autorites. On conseile au moins a celui qui consulte, de s’addresser a son eveque, & de lui faire part de la presente decision, afin que, si le prelat entre dans les raisons sur lesquelles les docteurs soussignes s’appuyent, il puisse etre autorise dans le cas de necessite, ou il risqueroit trop d’attendre que la permission fut demandee & accordee 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 meme moyen, il seroit necessaire de les baptiser sous condition; & en cela le Conseil se conforme a tous les rituels, qui en autorisant le bapteme d’un enfant qui fait paroitre quelque partie de son corps, enjoignent neantmoins, & ordonnent de le baptiser sous condition, s’il vient heureusement au monde.
Delibere en Sorbonne, le 10 Avril, 1733. A. Le Moyne. L. De Romigny. De Marcilly.
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 aucune tort au pere.
— 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, smoaking 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 out-lines 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 store-house 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, aenigmatical, 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 Akme 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 aera 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 shewed 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, oft-times 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 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 or 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 any thing 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 any thing 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 for ever hereafter be called the Shandean System, after his.
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 Scientiae 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 Lillebullero. — You must know it was the usual channel thro’ which his passions got vent, when any thing shocked or surprized him:— but especially when any thing, 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 for ever, 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 for ever 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 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 master-stroke of digressive skill, the merit of which has all along, I fear, been over-looked 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 out-lines 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 balk 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 bee-hive, 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, &c. — 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 shew 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 Aeneas; — 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 aenigmatical, 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 Brethren (Pentagraph, an instrument to copy Prints and Pictures mechanically, and in any proportion.) of the brush have shewn 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 Hobby-Horse.
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 Hobby-Horse, tho’ I cannot say that they act and re-act 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 Hobby-Horse — by long journies and much friction, it so happens, that the body of the rider is at length fill’d as full of Hobby-Horsical 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 Hobby-Horse which my uncle Toby always rode upon, was in my opinion an Hobby-Horse 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 Hobby-Horse 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 Hobby-Horse was a Hobby-Horse 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 up stairs to see his brother Toby, and chat an hour by his bed-side.
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 any thing. 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 eye-witness 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 counterscarp — 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 oft-times puzzle his visitors, and sometimes himself too.
To speak the truth, unless the company my father led up stairs were tolerably clear-headed, 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 oft-times 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 — and could guard appearances, I believe, as well as most men; — yet any one 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 Hobby-Horse.
There is nothing so foolish, when you are at the expence 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 any thing 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 mean time, 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, muddle-headed, 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 chamber-maid, 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 bees-wax, 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 shew 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 (Greek); 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, &c. 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 be-fiddled.
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 fountain-head, he began with N. Tartaglia, who it seems was the first man who detected the imposition of a cannon-ball’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 cannon-ball 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 path 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 — goodnatured 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 pen-craft, 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 any thing 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 semi-parameter 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 up stairs, 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 any thing 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 shewed 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 fire-side, 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 Hobby-Horse grows headstrong — farewell cool reason and fair discretion!
My uncle Toby’s wound was near well, and as soon as the surgeon recovered his surprize, 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 bank-note 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, &c. 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, &c. 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 Pagon 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 nick-name 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, &c. exclusive and besides what he gained Hobby-Horsically, as a body-servant, Non Hobby Horsical per se; — had become no mean proficient in the science; and was thought, by the cook and chamber-maid, to know as much of the nature of strong-holds 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 hornworks, 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 fosse, 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 — and’ 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 cannon-ball enters into the gazon right onwards, without bringing any rubbish down with it, which might fill the fosse, (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 arm-chair (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 pick-axe, 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 day-light, 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 self-same 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 thick-set flowering shrubs:— so that the idea of not being seen, did not a little contribute to the idea of pleasure pre-conceived 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 fire-side.
— 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 expence:— 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 statue! How do the slight touches of the chisel, the pencil, the pen, the fiddle-stick, et caetera — 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 any thing 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 any thing 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 chimney-piece — 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 eyes 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.
Every thing in this world, continued my father (filling a fresh pipe)— every thing in this world, my dear brother Toby, has two handles. — Not always, quoth my uncle Toby. — At least, replied my father, every one 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 out-lines 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 phaenomenon, 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, shews 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 any how; — 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 surprize 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 reflexion 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 — common-place 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 up stairs 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-tete — 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 you 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 horn-works. — 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 beadsteads; — tho’, I know Du Cange says, ‘That bed-curtains, in all probability, have taken their name from them;’— nor have the horn-works he speaks of, any thing 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 fosse 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 a 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 shew 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 over-grown one which had buzzed about his nose, and tormented him cruelly all dinner-time — 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 good-will 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 Literae 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 Hobby-Horsical 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 any thing which looked like malignancy:— yet in the little rubs and vexations of life, ’twas apt to shew 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 Hobby-Horse — that a man’s Hobby-Horse 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 Hobby-Horse — 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 shew 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 self-same 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 child-bearing) 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 any thing 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 shew 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, &c. shall be commented upon in that part of the cyclopaedia of arts and sciences, where the instrumental parts of the eloquence of the senate, the pulpit, and the bar, the coffee-house, the bed-chamber, and fire-side, 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:
Hebrews xiii. 18.
— For we trust we have a good Conscience.
‘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. — A 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.)
Hebrews xiii. 18.
— For we trust we have a good Conscience. —
‘Trust! trust we have a good conscience! Surely if there is any thing 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 shew 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 for ever 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 and 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 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 surprize, 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 has 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 bare-faced 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 surprized 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 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 watch-men 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 law-makers 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 watch-men 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 fosse 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 that 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 or merit, or sex, or condition? — and, as he fought under the banners of a religion which set him loose from justice and humanity, he shewed 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 loose my life a thousand times. — Here’s a crown for thee, Trim, to drink with Obadiah to-night, 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 Trims’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 how 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 such like 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 every thing.
‘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 has 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 a 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 carelesly 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 thru’ 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 for ever 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 baize bag we spoke of, flung 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 up stairs 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 letter 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 any thing, 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 foetus — which has received such lights, that, for my part (holding up his hand) 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 high-way 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 steel-yard, the fulcrum, he would say, should be almost invisible, to avoid all friction from popular tenets; — without this the minutiae 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 wing — 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 matter 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 head-piece, 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 ground-work 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 organization 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 Milaneze physician affirms, in a letter to Bartholine, to have discovered in the cellulae 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 tad-pole 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 head-quarters 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 corner-stones they had laid for him; — and which said hypothesis equally stood its ground; whether the subtilty and fineness of the soul depended upon the temperature and clearness of the said liquor, or of the finer net-work 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 sina qua non, and without which all that was done was of no manner of significance — was the preservation of this delicate and fine-spun 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 Lithopaedus Senonesis de Portu difficili, (The author is here twice mistaken; for Lithopaedus should be wrote thus, Lithopaedii Senonensis Icon. The second mistake is, that this Lithopaedus is not an author, but a drawing of a petrified child. The account of this, published by Athosius 1580, may be seen at the end of Cordaeus’s works in Spachius. Mr. Tristram Shandy has been led into this error, either from seeing Lithopaedus’s name of late in a catalogue of learned writers in Dr. . ., or by mistaking Lithopaedus for Trinecavellius — from the too great similitude of the names.) 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 avoirdupois 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 seculent 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 listed 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 every thing 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 phaenomenon 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 — shewing a 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 common-place solution of a clearer sky, and a more perpetual sunshine, &c. — 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; — shewed 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 organization of the cerebellum was preserved; — nay, he did not believe, in natural births, that so much as a single thread of the net-work 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 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 side-way, 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 shew the world how it could happen, that I should have the misfortune to be called Tristram, 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 Alquise, 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.
—‘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 first (Vide.))—‘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 every thing in this world is begirt, give every thing 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 intirely 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, Panaetius, and Possidonius amongst the Greeks; — Cato and Varro and Seneca amongst the Romans; — Pantenus 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 three-penny piece the worse; — pell-mell, helter-skelter, ding-dong, 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 dinner-time — ‘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 good-will — 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 way-lay 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, for ever 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 baize 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 bow-knot, 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 any thing 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 tete, 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 oft-times 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 hat-band:— the philosophy of this is so near the surface — I scorn to enter into it.
As Obadiah’s was a mixed case — mark, Sirs — I say, a mixed case; for it was obstetrical — scrip-tical, 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 hat-band 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 round-abouts 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 which 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.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13